Working With the Kids

We’ve been working with the yearlings at work lately. Winchester and Freeman. Winchester is Loula’s foal from last year.  He was the only foal we had that year, and when weaning time came around, he needed a friend. Freeman was a leftover from the Woodbine sale. He didn’t sell and his owners gave him to my boss for free (thus “free”man). They are best friends of course.

So lately, we’ve been bringing them in to eat in the evenings, and handling them a little bit afterwards.  Winchester, who is a classically handsome and very amiable chestnut with a narrow tidy blaze has been a perfect gentleman. He looks a little puzzled at our requests. But he’s willing to go along with it all so long as he gets some pats and a scratch on the neck. “Sure… seems crazy, but if you guys want to pick up my feet? Go ahead.”  He has quietly accepted a surcingle and a bit in his mouth without any anxiety or resistance at all. He seems to mostly be happy with all the attention. And in fact has gotten more friendly when he’s out in the field since we started. Comes sauntering up to greet me whenever I’m out there. “So, wanna scratch my neck again? You can pick up my feet or something if you want?”  He strikes me as a very classy kind of guy. I suspect he’s going to be a good boy his whole life.

Winchester is another one of our Raj Waki kids who have turned out to have superb temperaments (Monster, William, Victoria, Chatty, Paris… only Paris is kind of nutty, and she gets that from her mama). Raj himself was rather famous for being an amiable, classy guy. He used to stand at stud and during the rest of the season was used as a pony (for leading fractious horses to the track and back) at Woodbine Racetrack.  Sometimes he was used to pony his own daughters to and from the track. He’s still alive, and is in retirement at Gardiner Farms.

Freeman has also been a star. And that’s a good deal more surprising given his personality. He’s by a horse called One Way Love, and it seems that his kids are not all that steady minded. His mama was apparently a little reactive and nutty. And he definitely has that tendency too. When he first arrived, we were all sort of horrified at his legs, which were frighteningly crooked. And at his strange reactions to things, which were very extreme and unpredictable.  For a long time we couldn’t get hold of his halter.  If he lost a halter, everyone’s heart would sink, because it was likely to take an hour or two to find a way to trap him and get another one on him.  I spent a lot of time working with him in the spring, trying to get him comfortable with ropes and halters around his head. I used clicker training, which I know the boss disdained initially. But after a week of that, Freeman had an epiphany about halters “Wow, I’m a very smart guy! Check out the cookies that appear when I stick my head in this halter thing!”  So I used that to teach him to pick up his feet too. I didn’t touch his back feet, because the little lunatic could kick faster than you could blink. But he got really good with the front feet.

So we were very very careful about Freeman. The boss picked up his feet slowly and with lots of praise. Took a couple of extra days before actually doing the surcingle up. Took another couple of days letting him get used to that before moving on to a bit in his mouth. But Freeman has been terrific. All the extra time and care with him seems to be paying off.  He is walking calmly in his tack. Totally unconcerned.

His legs, although not beautiful, have straightened up quite a bit. Boss is trying to think of names for these two. For Freeman, so far he’s thought of “Don’t Look Down”, and “Love is Blind”.  Both of them make me laugh. Much too appropriate 🙂


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