I’m beginning a new blog series about our retired racehorse, Johnny Hurricane. Johnny had a bit of a rough summer last year transitioning from track life. He had a rough “let down” period in which is hair was frazzled and he developed ulcers. He then developed a very bad abscess in his left front hoof. When the abscess blew from the coronet band, it resulted in a huge hole that took nearly 9 months to completely grow out. Throughout that time he had off and on lameness, so he lived the good life. After the abscess hole grew out and it was time to get back to work, he wasn’t so keen.
One of the challenges of working with a horse that has been through so much physically is that you’re never really sure if the pain is gone. So, when they act grumpy or don’t want to work, you’re worried there’s still pain. But, then there’s the problem of them learning new tricks to get out of work and that’s been the case with Johnny. He’s very healthy, fat and happy. His hoof has an odd shape to it and it can be a little tender, but other than that, he’s perfectly fine. There’s no reason he can’t get back into work. He just really doesn’t want to, because he’s lazy! He’s learned all sorts of little tricks like nipping at your leg, shaking his head up and down and pawing to show his displeasure at having to work. And honestly, the work is not hard. It’s walking and turning the direction he’s told. Simple stuff that I know he knows because I know who trained him to start with!
My breakthrough came when a girl came out to try him that I was considering trading her Johnny for her mare. She is a seasoned eventer and used to putting up with shenanigans. A little time in the round pen with her, we had him all figured out. It was all talk his little fits he was throwing. It was something that I really needed to see for myself to get my confidence back up and to know that he really isn’t in pain, he’s just being lazy.
The challenge now is that I have to be his cheerleader and make work fun for him, so he’ll want to do it. He’s a bit buddy/barn sour, which can make things a little more challenging. I believe that once we get comfortable with each other from a riding perspective, he will begin to put more trust in me and not be so worried about his friends in the barn. Although, I know he loves to stand in his stall where the fan hits him just right. Hence the face I get when I take a picture!
So far since the day he was ridden by the eventer, I have ridden him three times. The first time I was very impressed. He moved off right away with no fuss. He did have his little hissy fit moments when he would stop and not want to move, but with some prodding, he would continue on. Second ride, similar to the first but fewer hissy fits. Third ride, even better. I could even feel him thinking about the trot. I’m not sure I even want to push him there at this point because he can still be a little rough in his steering, but knowing the will was there was a good sign.
Johnny is a super sweet horse. He loves kids and he’s very quite on the ground. I’m excited to see how he progresses as we work through these mental blocks of his.