I took the truck and trailer down to Woodbine Racetrack this morning and picked up my Monster. And… as of today, he really is MY Monster. I need another horse like I need a hole in the head. But it’s Monster.
I met Monster an hour or so after he was born. He was the most gorgeous foal I’ve ever seen. Perfect, chiseled head. Small, shapely ears, full of darling little curls. His mane and tail were all fluffy waves and ringlets. He was correct and balanced from birth, and stayed that way through all the normally awkward stages. He is 16.2hh, with big, solid bone and strong, healthy feet. The very image of a classy Thoroughbred. He has been my favorite of all the horses at work from the moment we met.
He went down to the track last year for the first time as a four-year old. He caught a very nasty virus and was really sick for a long time. He lost a lot of training time to the virus, and also to sore shins. Ana (who was his groom last year) thinks his stifles might have been sore too, and that seems likely, given his size. So he never ended up racing. This year, he’s been looking very good. He was showing that he had some talent. But unfortunately, also showing that he didn’t really want to be a racehorse.
A few days ago, he made a complete ass of himself at the starting gate, and sent the boss to hospital with a dislocated shoulder. Apparently he was jumping all over the pony who was dragging him, against his will, over to the gate (for gate practice). The gate guys got hold of him and shoved him bodily into the gate and, from the sounds of it, they hit him as all this was going on. When the gate was sprung, Monster came out and turned hard left. Then right. Then left again. There may have been a buck or two involved. The boss made it through one or two zigs, but missed a zag and came off hard. Witnesses said it was very bad. Monster was focused, determined, and angry.
Monster does not take being hit very well (and never has reacted well to it… since he was a wee little guy). He’s ejected a few exercise riders, and it was always some variation on Monster refusing to do something he was asked to do, the rider hitting him, and Monster dropping them in the nearby shrubbery. He’s efficient and quick, and very very powerful.
I’ve worked with Monster a lot, and honestly, I have NO clue how this behaviour developed. I never had much trouble with him (other than the standard hormonal rudeness that all the colts have before they are gelded). He’s a big, calm galoot of a horse. He is not afraid of anything. Not at all spooky. He’s kind of slow-moving, but he never ever refused to do anything I asked him to do. Of course I never actually rode him. Just did groundwork, trailer loading practice, lungeing, etc. But I did work with him every day for years. I really never expected anything like this from him.
Linda (who owned him), promised me from the beginning that when he was done racing I could have him. Everyone at the track is just done with him. The boss won’t get on him again and neither will the other riders he’s dropped. Everyone is pretty mad at him, but despite that, Linda doesn’t want him going off to strangers who might try to get after him with a whip and get hurt. There was no shortage of people who wanted him. Both last year and this year, various people mentioned that they’d be interested in him when he retired. The boss doesn’t actually want ME to get hurt and is quite opposed to me having him. But – not his decision. And I’ve gotten a lot more cautious in my old age. I have no intention of jumping blithely on him without doing a TON of basic training. I don’t have the skills that the riders at the track have, so I have to work out the difficulties before I get on him. Maybe it won’t work out and he really won’t be safely rideable. But I do love that horse, and I have to try to figure out what’s wrong.
Monster loaded up perfectly (though he’d been tranq’d, so he was very slow to amble up the ramp). The trailer is really much too small for a horse the size of Monster. But he generally carries his head low, and he didn’t fuss at all. We had taken out the back divider and converted the two standing stalls to a box stall for him, and he wedged himself in at an angle.
Once we got home, he was still perfectly calm. But he really didn’t want to get off the trailer. I think with the tranquilizer, he didn’t feel competent to step down the ramp. So he just stood there for a long time. Maybe 15 minutes or so. No fighting or dancing around. Just not moving. Since that is pretty much his default resistance, I didn’t want to get into a confrontation before he even got off the trailer at his new home. So we waited until he was ready. Eventually he decided to come down. He was very slightly unsteady, and the ramp is very steep, but he managed it without taking a header.
He’s in the little side paddock for now. He’s being really good. Calmly eating his hay and wandering around in between mouthfuls to investigate. After he settles in a bit, he will go out on the pasture with the rest of the herd for a month or two to just be a horse. Then I guess we will start groundwork. And of course… when (and if) I get around to riding him, I won’t be hitting him… that seems like a no-brainer.
Ana is pretty excited to have Monster here as well. She can’t afford another horse. But Monster was also her favorite last year when she worked down at the track. She has dreams of learning to jump, and riding Monster in schooling shows. We’ll have to see how he progresses of course, but if he gets over his issues, that would be good for him. He’s not likely, given his size, to make an endurance horse. But perhaps he’ll enjoy jumping.