A Horse of Course 2…

How did I become a horse person almost overnight?

Here I am researching behaviours, best cleaning methods, bathing pros and cons even innate habits that may or may not be reasons why a horse behaves in a particular way.

I’ve just gone horse crazy!

My son and his wife own WTTW, a non profit, educational native bird company.  They work hand in gauntlet with natural behaviours and don’t force their birds to do anything unless it’s behavioural.

They reward them when they notice something they want to include in one of their Free Flight Programmes.  They keep working the behaviour until the bird does it when ‘asked’.  The ‘asking’ could be anything from holding out a hand or a subtle change in body posture.

I’ve adopted this positive re-enforcement with the horses I’m around each week.

I keep treats handy for good behaviour, when they give me their foot for picking out, when they let me brush away the mud from between their ears, when they stand still while I polish their hooves, when they walk without dragging me over to a succulent patch of grass to graze… or just when they paw the ground and look at me coyly.

The most recent fact I’ve learned is the meaning of the term ‘warm blood’.  Surely all mammals are warm bloods?

But that’s not what it means in horse-eze.

It refers to temperament, rather like ‘cool-headed’ or ‘hot-headed’ in humans.

Hot Bloods are thoroughbreds, popular racehorses.  They’re spirited, agile and fast.

Cold Bloods are work horses, they were used on the battlefields to haul heavy loads.  They’re steady, strong, loving and unflappable.

Mix them and hey presto, Warm Bloods, who have the same placid temperament of the cold bloods with a touch of the feisty, hot bloods.

Stu is a warm blood gelding who has the spirit of his Arabian heritage mixed with the calm demeanour of a work horse.  He’s one of three magnificent greys that I have the honour to groom and tack regularly.


The grey coat may be stunning but it is not an easy colour to maintain, I use blue shampoo on them and have to get a good lather on the grass stains on their knees so I can lift the green.   No bleach products or Goo Gone allowed here!  Once I get them all sparkly and their manes and tails conditioned the first thing they do when I turn them out is gracefully kneel down in the grass and roll!  All my hard work out the window in a moment!

At least they still smell good!

Stu stands at 16 hands and when he lifts his super long, elegant head as high as he can his Andalucian neck makes him seem so much taller.

He likes the decision to be harnessed to be his.

As a large gelding who was intact for many years he naturally rules the roost; old habits die hard.  From his paddock he can oversee most of his coterie and often enters his adjacent stall to check out what’s going on and who’s in his barn when I go up there to groom or the Farrier pays a visit.


Charm, Skittles and Findley in the line-up

A few weeks ago he casually sauntered out of his stall – the door had been inadvertently left open – and off he trotted to strut his stuff to all the other horses contentedly munching grass in their fields.  He kicked up his legs and showed them what he was made of stopping to look around and take in the admiration before dashing off again.  The whole place was in an uproar!

A bucket of grain and a halter finally brought him under human control and now I have a new respect for this gentle giant.

I don’t take it for granted that he decides to walk docilely by my side when I go and collect him.

Thankfully he knows I’m the treat Diva..and gives me his best pleading look whenever I pass.


“Just one more carrot?”

Berlin is the lead mare.  She gets worried when her fellow farm-mates are moved around or taken on a field trip,

“Where is she going?

“When will he be back?

“Will she be back?”

or when she perceives something is amiss.

Worries bounce around in her head making her agitated and pre-occupied.

The horse trailer pulled around to the barn causes her to fret.  As I’m grooming her she pulls back, paces from side to side, won’t concentrate at all.   To calm her down I have to close the sliding metal door and hide the enemy trailer.

Vehicles parked in ‘her’ arena, sheltering from a forecast hail storm the night before, caused her to refuse to come out of the lean-to in her paddock for her breakfast.

‘Whoa!  What are those!’

her body language screamed!


She had to be brought to the barn to calm her down.

When she’s not being a mare and mother, stressing about everything, she’s a darling,.

All the horses love her and even though she trains at a fancy stable in Fort Worth and competes in equestrian events around Texas, she’s still a horse who loves a roll in the mud as much as any of the others.

Mrs. Grunge!


Out comes my trusty blue shampoo and I give her a good violet lathering with some elbow grease to remove the grass and mud and stubborn manure and urine stains.

After a good scrubbing she looks all shiny and sparkly…


but not for long!

Off she goes and rolls in her favourite spot.

Absolutely no appreciate for all my hard work!

She’s a horse of course!

Findley  is the youngest horse I groom, filly of the grey, Berlin, whom Daughts and I visited when she was just weeks old.

Adorable of course, and with a much easier coat to maintain!


Now, four years later, she has made it to 16 hands and is just as gentle and soft as ever.

She loves to be loved, apparently more than getting treats, although I don’t know…she won’t turn her nose up at apples!

Over she comes shaking her mane,

“Yay!  A friend!” she neighs when she hears me at her gate!


Ben was the owner’s oldest horse, born in her front yard 18 years ago.  A very well possessed, grey, warm blood.

His Dad was a paint and he was born a chestnut, but over the years he developed this  beautiful grey coat with speckled skin underneath that showed through more clearly when he was wet.


My friend had retired him about 6 years ago when he won a blue ribbon for her in dressage.  He was one of my favourites to practise my grooming and hoof picking skills on.

Sadly his life came to an abrupt end a couple of weeks ago when he fell ill during the night and had to be released from this life.

A sudden and shocking end for both him and his owner and the young horse, Findley, his paddock pal.

She had developed a very strong attachment to Ben and would run up and down the field, whinnying and worried when I collected him to groom.  In the end I’d take them both to the barn together.

Have you ever walked between a pair of 16 hand horses?

Findley was distraught for a couple of desperate days.

“Time will heal us both,” my friend said.

When I went to groom her she was so happy to get out and about, trotting tall beside me and looking around the farm to see if she could spot her beloved Ben.

How can anyone explain loss and sorrow to a horse?


Ben staying bug free with a light coat

Through all this I’ve learned that despite their size, horses are very delicate creatures that need a lot of care.  Between vets and farriers, saddles and shows, acupuncture and massages, feeding and cleaning they cost a pocketful of money and take hours of commitment.

They are herd animals, as prey there’s safety in numbers.

They spend their life trying to be top horse.  They’ll bite and kick to defend their position in the hierarchy.

Although Stu and Charm are delightful with me they need an electric wire to keep them from fighting.

Notice their ears saying…’stay away from me…’


I’m so blessed to have been able to enjoy these large, hoofed creatures with no strings attached!

I may be able to check, ‘get to know horses’ off my bucket list, but it’ll always be one of my favourite ways to be outdoors, unwind and refresh my spirit.

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2021-04-27 15:33:14 Reply

Great Article!

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