Friday, June 13, 2008

A Hard Lesson

When I was picking my daughter up from school, I stopped to talk to a woman whom I knew that also owns horses. We are only casual acquaintances, so just to make conversation, I asked, “How are your horses?” She launched into a story that I’ve been thinking about all night.

Here’s what she told me: This woman wanted to compete on a higher level. In order to buy a horse of the caliber she felt she needed, she sold her other three horses, took out a loan and spent almost $100,000 on a mare. This mare was selected for the woman by her trainer, who knew another trainer who was selling the horse. In the beginning, things were fine, but after several months, the horse began to resist everything she was asked to do. She wouldn’t let anyone tighten her girth or put a bit in her mouth. She exploded when the woman was riding her. Fearing the horse, the woman tried to sell her. No luck. Finally, the horse went up for auction, and the trainer who originally sold her the horse bought it back for a third of the price. The woman had lost over $60,000 and now had no horse. With tears in her eyes, she told me that she still loved the horse and was really worried because she just heard that it was being sold again to a young rider.

How many of you know a similar story? There probably isn’t as much money involved, but the suffering of the horse and the heartbreak of the owner who couldn’t handle the horse is a familiar saga. I came home and opened my email to find photos someone sent me of four beautiful foals that need to be rescued or they will be sent to slaughter. There are so many “lost” horses in the world. Looking out my window, I could see my girls eating hay, fat and happy in their corral. It all seemed so overwhelmingly sad.

The ambiguities of the situation are complicated. I’ll bet the trainer who sold the woman the horse and then bought it back for so much less believes that was a noble thing to do. Selling it to another person who is too inexperienced to handle the horse is probably not something that ever weighs on the trainer’s mind. Silk’s life story is similar, being sold eventually to someone who got so frustrated about not being able to control her that he beat her. She was too much horse for me too until I dedicated myself to gaining her trust. It takes a huge leap of faith to not give up on building a relationship with a horse that resists everything and does dangerous things. I don’t know what made me do it, and I certainly understand if someone says that they can’t work through the fear.

As the woman ended her story, I knew I needed to say something. What popped out of my mouth is, “Have you ever heard of Carolyn Resnick?” I just thought that it might help her to learn about Carolyn and her philosophy of training horses. This woman already has a new horse, a four-year old gelding. I hope that the next time I see her, she’ll have a better tale to tell.


LJB said...

I, too, hope this woman has a better story to tell. It is so sad for the people, and so sad for the horses. Both horses and humans want to get along, then fear and defensiveness gets in the way.

I was talking with a colleague yesterday about how much easier it is for a horse to let go of hard feelings (that is so descriptive! "hard feelings"!) than it is for a person to let go. Let's hope this woman finds clear direction of how to proceed with her four year old -- it is way too easy for us to create confusion and worry in our horses, totally accidentally but there nonetheless!

ell said...

This does happy at all levels! It is a shame. Bravo to you for giving good advice. I had not heard of carolyn Resnick. I am checking hermethod out already and intrigued! Thanks!
I must add that I know a lot of trainers who care very much about properly pairing owners and horses.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I can't believe this woman would sell her three horses and take out a loan to buy a horse for 100 thousand dollars just to compete at a higher level. I feel sorry for all of her horses past and present. My guess is she got a good horse, no one is going to get that amount of money for a bad, unrideable, dangerous horse. I can only wonder if she and her trainer weren't prepared or qualified to own and train a horse this good. Maybe the expensive horse she had to auction off suffered from a physical problem they never investigated.
Perhaps, she should have kept the horses she already owned and stayed at the level of riding where she was competent. Now she has another four year old gelding and my hunch is this one won't work out either in the long run until she gets another trainer who is qualified to teach her and her horse what they need to know to compete at a higher level.

I'm sorry if I seem a little hostile about this but some people will do anything for their own egos and it always seems a horse gets mistreated in one way or another.
Silk was lucky you found her, I hope the horse she auctioned off can have the same happy ending you and Silk did.

djbrown said...

I used to ride one of the horses owned by a wealthy woman who repeatedly overmounted herself, thinking she would win the next big dressage title. She never got beyond "Irene, Irene, the training level queen," and she went through several marvelous, talented and sensitive horses. The trainers laughed all the way to the bank.

Victoria Cummings said...

LJB - Yes, I like "hard feelings" as a way of describing it. What a gift the horses give us to be able to let go of all the bad things that people do to them.
Ell - I don't think I really gave her any advice except to try to steer her in the direction of someone who is kind and gives the horse an opportunity to share equally in the experience.
Arlene -You said it all. I thought of you the whole time I wrote this post and I've been waiting for your response. I know I can't help every horse, but at least I can write this blog and advocate for them.
DJ - I've been around those kind of people. You can only hope that the trainers have some integrity and kindness for the horses.

Bones said...

Wow, that just so bums me out. The one bright spot, as you say, is that you and Silk found each other.

I can't understand how someone could sell her horses--didn't they mean anything to her? Didn't they have a friendship or emotional bond? To compete on a higher level, sure, go for it if that's what you want to do, but to sell your friends to get there? That's so unbelieveably cold.

I must now go cuddle with my kitties.

Pony Girl said...

It would be interesting to know more of the story here. Like Arlene said, why did this horse start being a problem? Was it a physical issue? A rider or training issue? I am sure the horse was not this way to begin with, or she would not have paid so much for it!? I just get sad that horses get passed around. It must be tough for them.

Gecko said...

I've always thought that in the case of 'difficult' horses, the people who give up on them are one of two kinds. Those who can't be bothered working through the problems, and those who simply cannot find that connection with the horse, no matter how hard they try. I don't even hold anything against those who can't be bothered working through the problems, it's those who try to take shortcuts by forcing and beating the horse into complience that I have the problem with. The fact is some horse-person pairs just don't meld together. And I guess some horses simply have, like you said, lost their way. But some are lucky, such as Silk to find someone they can trust and connect with.

Transylvanian horseman said...

When people view horses merely as a commodity, the horses suffer. Hasn't horse dealing always been a province populated by those of dubious ethics? Add an egocentric rider who thinks that money brings success, and someone will be disappointed.

There are a number of very expensive horses in the barn where I keep my cheap horses ($1,500 and $1,000) and I wonder about "average" riders who have spent between $25,000 and $75,000 (at current exchange rates from Sterling) basically to acquire a fairly talented horse that someone else has trained.

It worries me when the owner of such an expensive horse is told not to bring her dog to the barn because she can't ever train it to "sit" or "come".

Callie said...

I can't grasp it, somehow. But I don't compete, nor do I have that desire. I have to "ditto" Arlene's comment there. I feel that she was selfish in her own desire to win. I feel sorry for the horses. If she lost that money and spent that money, then she deserves what she got, however the horses do not! Sorry. It's assenine behavior.

Stina said...

Its sad to read about the woman who thought that the expensive horse was the answer to success. And sad for the horse to be passed around. I hope the woman could get in contact with Carolyn Resnick or another good horsewoman/man around so she could see that she needed to educate herself.

I got almost for free a bunch of rescue horses, and with Carolyns help they are now doing very good

Us riders and horse keepers need to understand that its up to us the success - so we need to educate ourselves

Kind regards Stina

Victoria Cummings said...

HI Stina - Thanks for coming to visit! For those of you who haven't seen Stina's videos, please check out her beautiful work with horses on YouTube: stinahumana and "horses condition with Liberty Training". It makes me feel good every time I watch!

Victoria Cummings said...

Corrrection: It's "Connect with your horse at Liberty Training" - Sorry.

Sue said...

What a sad story :(

Having just rescued 4 horses I am sometimes overwhelmed by how many horses in need there are.

Of my little herd two were starved almost to death at a "rescue" (one of those with a neglected horrible tooth/nasal abscess), one was on her way to slaughter, and one was beaten by a drunken owner. They are in a great home here now and I am loving finally having horses after waiting until I could afford them :)

I love your site...I just dealt with a hoof abscess in one of the girls' feet and your post in 2007 about Life Lessons from Hoof Abscesses was exactly what I needed to read :)

If you want to see my sweeties, I just made a little video of them here:

I keep a doggie and horse blog (I have 6 rescued dogs as well). It was all about dogs but now they share their blog with their hooved sisters :)

I'll be visiting your blog regularly! It's always nice to get tips from other horse people who clearly love their horses!

Woofs and whinnies,
Sue, The Yahoos, and The Flowers, too