Stories

About people, places and beautiful horses we have found around the world


Warrior and Jim

These two magnificent Shire geldings live in Aberdeenshire in Scotland.

 

I met them one day when I was supposed to be watching two, fairly new, fairly small, very ladylike, hoofcarers who had been asked to do a “first trim” on the horses over a year after the farrier refused to come because the horses were Too Big and Too Dangerous.

Both these horses have been in the “rescue system” for so long that they are on their last chance… If they go back to the “shelter” again, they would go down.

The current owner (or carer) has had them for a few years and really loves them and wants to do the best for them but is certainly not able to do their hoofcare herself.

And so the hoofs were terrible…

But this story is not about the technical details of their feet… even though we may briefly mention that they both had a problem, which is very common in heavy horses, of the hoofs deforming to resemble a cloverleaf or make the horses resemble three-toed Sloths.

This story is about how two beautiful, gentle creatures had been beaten and emotionally traumatised, year after year, by handlers (not their current carer) who thought that the only way to get big animals to “behave” is to physically intimidate them with anger, aggression and pain.

And it is partly true; not many humans can stand hanging on to the enormous hoofs of these creatures if they are rearing kicking and biting…  So some humans use the only way they know to “show the big fellas who is Boss”.

But the story is also about one day when two horses learned that this is NOT how all humans treat horses.

 

Warrior

Warrior came first to have his feet trimmed.

 

His owner joked that his name should have been 'Worrier' as his nervous tension was easily seen in his posture and facial expressions… He had been through this before and he kept looking around for the team of big strong men who would hold him still while they “did things” which he could not understand, to his feet.

But we did not have a team of big strong men… we had one very young and small lady, one more mature lady who was even shorter, though not quite as fit or slim, and one fat, bald, tired, old hoofbloke.

Under the circumstances we decided to give the job of holding the horse to the biggest person there… we gave that job to Warrior!

But he had never been treated as a person before, let alone being trusted with such an important job!

 

 

He was a bit nervous at first but soon learned that he was quite capable of doing, and being, what was required and did a marvellous job.

He learned to relax and trust, and help as the humans took turns exhausting themselves trying to correct the deformities in his feet that were caused by years of neglect…

 

And at the end he was very proud to have been a part of the hoofcare team team.

 

Jim

Jim is an Old Horse…

 

In years he is only perhaps in his late twenties… 
but in terms of scars on his body and mind he has lived a long, hard, life.

 

 

He had seen it all, and he did not want to listen to this crazy old man who insisted that he was the ruler of all horses and that he could take control of Jim’s hoofs and heart.

 

 

His feet were even worse than Warrior’s.  He had physical discomfort and emotional issues that made him “glue his feet to the ground” and not lift them to be trimmed.

If I asked him to “give” a front foot he would put all his (considerable) weight on that leg so there was nothing I could do to move it.

 

 

We solved this problem first by asking one of the trimmers to ask for the right foot, and when Jim had put all his weight on that foot I would use my secret hoofbloke tricks to lift, and possess, his left foot. Then we did the same on the other side.

 

 

 

After this we taught Jim to stand his front feet on a piece of wood (3”x2” or 75mm x50mm) that was about a foot or two long so I could trim around the outside of the hoof

 

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When we came to ask for a hind foot Jim had had enough… No one was going to do that to him and he kicked (once) to let that old two legger know he meant business!

Now very few horses kick the king of all horses more than once, and my response was obviously very different to what he had received in the past and kicking me went off the agenda…  (We are not discussing training here but suffice to say it is all about how quickly we get up to the “cuddle”… I do not accept that behaviour, but I do accept You, Dear!)

Instead Jim kicked the ground twenty or thirty times

So I tried the “could you please stand on the piece of wood” trick with his hind foot.

Jim smashed his foot down on it, again and again, until it was turned into kindling.

I asked him; “Jim, What is the matter?  What has happened to you to make you react this way?”

 

 

Like a hurt child, he cried; “ It is too hard.  I cannot even bear to think, or talk about it.  Please do not take me there.”

So we did not…

Our job is never to trim the hoofs and damage the heart.

 

Instead I spent an nearly hour kneeling under those enormous hind legs, completely trusting that Jim would not hurt me.  I trimmed the outside of those deformed hoofs as best as I could to be part of the long process of healing.

Each time he lifted one heel, to rest a leg, I would gently pretend to rasp, or scrape, the bottom of that hoof to let him know why I wanted him to lift his feet.

When I had finished trimming I asked for each hind foot and both times he offered them instantly.  As soon as he lifted each foot, I thanked him, in seconds, and gave it back…

I may never see Jim again (I hope that I can) but he has started on the road to restoring his trust, his responsibility, and his hoofs.  Fortunately, my friend Anni Stonebridge, who is one of the best hoof people that I know in the world lives in Aberdeenshire and is there to mentor for the two ladies who were with me that day…  Anni is also one of the best horse trainers that I know and I can trust that she will give the support to the trimmers, the owner, and to Jim to make his next years better than the past.

 

 

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