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Tales from the Dark Side

By Cindy Hale

Thursday, February 24, 2011

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Do you ever consider the flip side of our horses’ souls? Certainly some of them are pure angels, but there are more than few who have flirted with the dark side of The Force. Wally, I’m afraid, is one of them, and I was reminded of this yesterday.

I was just finishing a ride that took us clear to the other side of town. Like a good citizen, Wally had stood patiently at the intersection, waited for the signal to change, and then cruised along trails that coursed through streets lined with pepper trees. I had been thinking about what a cool horse he was, and how lucky I was to have him.

About a block from home we crossed paths with none other than his former trainer. I’ll call her “Amy.” She didn’t select Wally for the people who owned him before me. Those clients—a mom and her young daughter—bought Wally on their own. They arrived at Amy’s with the horse in tow and said, “Here. We bought this pretty gelding, and my daughter wants to show him.”

It soon became apparent that Wally wasn’t suitable for the timid girl and her mom. He learned right away how to bully them and quickly earned a reputation as an evil beast.

I knew all this before, but yesterday I was treated to a very special Wally War Story. I guess Amy still finds it intriguing that I am in love with Wally. The more I gush over him the more she tells me about his nefarious past.

“One time the girl decided to take him in a showmanship class at a Paint show,” Amy said. “Wally was always a little mouthy at home, but we’d been working on that and she’d practiced a lot with him and done well. But at the show, after she’d worked the showmanship pattern and was standing him up for the judge, he reached over and bit her, hard, right on her boob. There was this big, wet bite mark on her shirt. Of course, I’m on the rail just telling her to get after him, but it hurt so bad she just stood there crying.”

Oh, Wally! Bad, bad Wally! And here I thought it was naughty that he occasionally grabs the lead rope when I halter him.

Fortunately, Wally has been reformed. While he’d never be a good match for a naïve novice or someone looking for a “pet”, he is a lovely horse for me. But the whole recounting of that ugly episode reminded me how we have to keep an eye on our horses’ behavior, especially those horses that are aggressive or domineering in temperament. You never know when they’re going to go a little outlaw on you. Want another example involving human body parts?

My mom was recently sharing some pleasant horse tales with a few acquaintances. The mood changed abruptly when someone else told how their relative was visiting a backyard horse farm. She was patting the horses, feeding them carrots, and went to stroke the face of one gelding. He bit her nose off. Yes, you read that right: He bit her nose. Off her face.

Now you understand why I am committed to nipping (pardon the expression) Wally’s threatening behavior in the bud whenever it presents itself. I don’t mind if he acts cocky. He can go ahead and think he’s “all that.” But he is not allowed to revisit the dark side, ever again. I happen to like my nose.

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Reader Comments

Madeline    Janesville, WI

3/7/2011 5:28:35 AM

There was one horse at my old barn that was known as Jack 1. He took my friend by the hair and threw her up into the air! After that they sold him and got Jack 2, who was much nicer!

CINDY HALE    HORSE CHANNEL, CA

3/1/2011 9:43:01 AM

I LOVE ALL THE COMMENTS. THANKS FOR SHARING! I GUESS YOU ONLY HAVE TO BITTEN, KICKED AT OR STEPPED ON ONCE TO REALIZE THAT HORSES ARE NOT GIANT DOGS AND THAT WE HAVE TO KEEP AN EYE ON THEIR BODY LANGUAGE AND HOW THEY "SEE" THEMSELVES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH US HUMANS.

BUT I BET YOU ALL GRABBED YOUR NOSE WHILE READING THIS, DIDN'T YOU?

Naomi    Davisburg, MI

3/1/2011 2:51:00 AM

My sister used to board horse at her farm & there was a girl that had a lovley horse he just loved to give kisses. Well that would have been fine except one day he was kissin her face & oh something smelled so good to him that he bit her cheek & lips which turned out quite nasty for her as the lips & part of her cheek were bitten off.

Nicole    Port Townsend, WA

2/28/2011 2:52:56 PM

Yes, we have to be the herd leaders...a horse that leads a herd would not tolerate being touched by the lips of another horse without having invited them into that space.

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