Posts Tagged ‘bad habits’

“That Damn Yankee”

June 30, 2009

DSC_5802Some of you may remember me talking about Yankee, our little black quarter horse.  Well, his register name “That Damn Yankee” now seems to be even more appropriate.

When we first got Yankee, we found that he had some rather frightening habits.  I can remember the trainer we used calling me just after we got him and telling me.  “I’m going to kill your horse!”  She wasn’t serious of course, but she was truly upset.  You see, Yankee had some stall issues.  If he was in his stall, and you, or anyone, went in to get him, he would do several things.  He would pin his ears back (a really bad sign), turn his back end to you (an equally bad sign), and then spin around so that his back end was always pointed in your direction (a potential sign or things to come, ie. a good kick in the gut!)  The first time I walked into the stall with him he did the same thing.  I of course, being the person who feels the need to fix things, decided to try some of the “horse whisperers” techniques I’d seen in a movie!  I turned my back to him and stood by the stall door.  I was amazed when it worked.  Yankee turned towards me and eventually let me approach him.  Wow, I’m a miracle worker.  Not really, but it did help me to realize that I didn’t have to be afraid of Yankee no matter how scary he acted.  Mrs. Hernandez can attest to that.  I think she would have dragged me out of Yankee’s stall (if she hadn’t been too afraid) the first time she saw me go in.  What I eventually deduced was that Yankee was trying to hide when a person approached him in the stall, He wasn’t actually turning his back to you in order to kick you, he was turning his face away from you in a effort to disappear, (if he can’t see you, then you must not be able to see him.)

The situation became even worse when our trainer let Yankee out in a paddock.  I arrived at the barn and the first thing the trainer said to me was “Go catch your horse!”  You see, once Yankee was let out of his stall, the last thing he wanted was to go back in!  I could have bribed him with a bucket of carrots and he wouldn’t have gotten close enough for anyone to catch him.  We eventually had to literally corral him into a corner to catch him.  This led to Yankee not being allowed out of his stall unless it was for exercise or riding.

Something had happened to Yankee that made him this way, and it probably happened in a stall.  Maybe he was beaten, or abused in some other way that made him behave this way.  His anger, or fear ended up making his life a lot more restricted than all the other horses at the barn.  He never got to go out and just run, or feel free.

Eventually Yankee seemed to get over the bad habits when we moved him to a new barn.  He was still afraid when someone walked up to him with something in their hands (camera, hat, etc.) but he would go into his stall at feeding time, and he would let you walk into the stall without acting like he was going to try to kick the crap out of you.  DSC_3213

Things got even better when we brought him to our new house.  There were no stalls, and Yankee got to run free with our other two horses.  He became the sweetest animal.  He would be the first horse to come to you.  He’d lick your hand, and follow you around.  Things were going great, until we realized that Yankee was losing weight because Ben, our bully horse, was not allowing Yankee to eat all his feed.

We decided to build a stall for Yankee to eat in.  This would keep Ben from pushing him away from his food.  Yankee could eat in peace.  Unfortunately, it has also brought out Yankee’s bad habits again.  Last night, we went out to feed the horses, and spray them with fly spray to keep the flies from biting them.  (Flies attack a horses eyes, and can cause a lot of pain and problems.)  Yankee would not let us catch him to put the fly spray on.  My husband finally managed to get his arm around Yankees neck (an approach used to halter a horse,) but when he tried to lead him out of the stall, Yankee jerked so hard that he slammed my husband into the stall wall.  It was frightening,  Yankee weighs over 1000 lbs. and can do a lot of damage.  I decided to try to catch him.  I closed the stall door so he couldn’t get out and tried to approach him.  He turned his back to me.  This continued for several minutes.  I finally started purposely trying to shoe him away from me.  I stood along his side, and waved my arms at him.  We ended up going around in a comical circle for quite a while.  After this went on for several minutes, I simply stopped following him around.  This surprised Yankee, and he stopped spinning and turned to look at me.  It was then that he allowed me to approach him and attach a lead rope.

The lead rope seemed to be the key because Yankee allowed me to walk him out of the stall.  Our problems weren’t over though.  As soon as Jim (my husband) started to spray him with the fly spray, Yankee tried to bolt, jerking the lead rope almost out of my hand.  I was able to hold him but at the expense of some considerable pain in my hand.

Afterwards, Jim and I talked about what had happened.  He told me that when I was in the stall alone with him.  He was imagining how he would get me out if Yankee attacked and hurt me.  He was seriously afraid for me.  I think that Jim is very close to being ready to get rid of Yankee.  I have a hard time thinking about that.  What might happen to this sweet horse if he gets into the hands of someone who thinks that beating a horse is the way to make a horse behave.  Believe me, there are many people out there that would do exactly that.

Yankee definitely has some serious issues.  Where those issues started I can only assume.  Unfortunately, the habits he has developed as a result of those issues, may become his biggest down fall.  Jim and I were really trying to help him last night with the fly spray, but Yankee’s fear and anger almost kept us from doing that.  That same fear and anger may force us to give him up.  Something I really don’t want to have to do. DSC_3232

Kids, the same type of thing can happen to some of you.  Fear and anger can lead to some very bad habits.  Those habits can keep you from some of the good things that might come.  We were trying to help Yankee, make his life better, but he was too afraid/angry to let us.  I’ve seen that same thing in some of you.  You won’t listen even when someone is trying to make things easier for you.  You don’t trust adults enough to let them lead you in a positive direction.  Your anger, fear, and bad habits push away the very people who could do you the most good.  Most adults want to help make your life the best it can be.  Give us the chance to do that.

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