Tookie belongs to our landlord, and I have been drooling over him since before we moved in.
Let's see how many reader questions I can address at once!
Who and what is Tookie?
Tookie is nine year old Anglo Arabian. He was bred by Pam Weidel of Boxwood Farm. He is by her well known stallion, Barkon, out of a Two Punch mare whose name I would have to look up. Pam specialized in breeding endurance horses and Tookie's bloodlines combine some of my favorite lines from two breeds I love. He is well built, a beautiful mover, and smart, sensible, and friendly to boot. I am not a fan of keeping horses in tact in general, but he's an example of a stallion I would consider not cutting if he had any sort of performance record.
So why hasn't Tookie done anything in nine years? Why is he still a stallion? Is he breeding? Are there plans to breed him?
Our landlord is in his 70's. He got Tookie as a baby.
So Tookie got to grow up, and then our landlord started to work with him. He installed ground manners, taught him to tie and pick up his feet, etc. He even planned to start him under saddle and began to lay the foundation for that. Our landlord is a very experienced horseman, and his super-broke gelding, Oreo (who you saw Mike riding a few weeks ago) is a testament to his ability to produce a reliable, sane, responsive mount.
But then our landlord got hurt (not related to the stallion) and spent a long time in the hospital. As far as I know, he hasn't been on a horse since, and Tookie has sat since then.
As for the gelding aspect of it all...
Turns out it's damn near impossible to get someone to do the gelding at home any more. Due to liability reasons and the proximity of several hospitals, vets prefer to do it in a sterile clinic setting these days. This seems bizarre to me since I grew up at the track, where the vet would come in and go down the line, gelding one colt after another right in their stalls. However, I can understand how these less than sterile procedures can pose a liability issue, and nobody wants to get sued.
Getting a horse gelded at the hospital would be cost prohibitive for many people, but it turns out that having one done at home, if you can find a vet to do it, isn't much cheaper in these parts! A former client of mine just got her new four year old colt gelded and it cost her $800 and over two months of planning to get it done at her barn!
(Moral of the story... buy a gelding.)
In the mean time, Tookie isn't bothering anyone, has good manners, and lives with a gelding with no problems to speak of. I can totally understand why my landlord never got him cut.
No he's not breeding. No there are no plans to breed him.
Aside from the fact that I've been itching to play with this horse since I first laid eyes on him over two years ago, we have a deal worked out with our landlord. When we moved in, we did not pay a security deposit on our apartment. Our lease states that I would put 60 days on Tookie in lieu of a security deposit, with the stipulation that Tookie would be cut first.
Mike and I moved here in February 2014 and, quite simply, I haven't had the time to do a damn thing with the horse since then. After all, I have bills out the wazoo, and paying clients take priority (which our landlord totally gets). I didn't feel too bad since Tookie hadn't been gelded so I wasn't legally obligated. Still, this nagging part of me wanted nothing more than to play with the pretty dappled pony.
I did manage to get one mini session in last fall, in which I caught Tookie to determine what he knows. The short version is pretty much nothing. He is halter broke and leads quietly and respectfully. He is fine with being handled all over. He is generally not a spooky horse and tries hard to please. He is smart and a quick study in general. With the help of our gorgeous round pen, I was able to get him lunging pretty well in just one session (though he seemed a bit offended that I would dare come chase him!)
With Booger out of commission and Jupiter moving on to the next step in his journey, I suddenly had free time again! Still, I didn't want to start torturing Tookie while it was blistering hot out. In my head, I set September 1st as the date that Tookie would begin training.
Of course, the universe, the weather in particular, has this way of ganging up on me any time I try to put a timeline on anything. We have now been in a state of monsoon all week, and doesn't appear to have any plans of clearing up until Hurricane Joaquin does or does not make landfall.
Still, I got five very productive sessions in this month.
During the first session, we worked on the basics of round penning. Disengage hindquarters. That was easy. Disengage forequarters. Less easy, but we got it done. Circling on the lunge line came along pretty quickly as well. I let Tookie go at whatever gait was comfortable as long as he went forward in the direction of my choosing. Check.
So we tried some free lunging. As I figured, Tookie started off pretty sassy.
|"I am a wild stallion! You cannot tame me!"|
I finished up with some very basic desensitizing, which went over without a hitch. I had a feeling it wouldn't be a big deal since I'd casually thwapped him with a grocery bag a few weeks prior, and he seemed more interested in figuring out if I had a treat than anything else.
After our session, I hosed Tookie off. I don't think he's ever officially had a bath, but he took an immediate liking to it, and stood quietly while I rinsed him off. The nice thing about working with a clean slate is that it doesn't have random holes in it.
During our second session, I introduced the saddle for the first time. I had asked my landlord how far he'd gotten with Tookie and he replied, "Just treat him like he's never been handled." When I specifically asked about the saddle, he said that he's had one on his back, but had never been girthed.
With that in mind, I went back down to the round pen with the stallion in one hand and the saddle in the other. I rubbed and patted his girth area, then tested with my lunge line to see how he responded to some pressure in the general vicinity. He didn't seem bothered.
I flapped my saddle pad in the air, and Tookie didn't even blink. This was a good sign. The first time Booger saw a saddle pad as a two year old, she almost flipped over (I wasn't anywhere near her with it.)
I waved my saddle in the air, jangled the girth, and thumped the stirrups. Tookie, in a rope halter on a loose lead, still didn't budge. I placed the saddle on his back. He cocked a foot. I fastened the girth on one side. He actually yawned.
After walking around to Tookie's other side, I passed the girth under his belly, holding it loosely in my left hand and waiting for a reaction. Nothing. He had puffed up a bith, and I told him, "Exhale. I know for a fact that you are not bigger around than Ozzy is." I kept testing the girth with a little more pressure each time, until I was able to reach the bottom hole on the billets.
I quietly fastened the girth on its loosest setting and took a step back. It was clear that Tookie was in fact going to react to being girthed for the first time. His eyes were growing wide, and I silently unclipped the lead rope and stepped to the middle of the round pen, while he stood, rigid, at the edge.
Once I was safely out of the way, I clucked and swung my whip.
Tookie was off like a shot, and as soon as he broke into a canter, he started bucking, which is what I figured he would do. He went around and around the pen, throwing his feet way up in the air while I thought, "Gee, I hope he doesn't do that when I'm on him." I'm pretty bummed that I didn't think to wear my helmet cam. He's an athletic bugger...
|Not from the same session, but he is pretty...|
We resumed round penning just like we had before. Tookie was on point with all his cues. We revisited yielding his shoulders and haunches (and even took some baby lateral steps), going in the chosen direction, stopping on command, and changing sides when I requested by coming through the middle. Awesome!
That day, I also hosed his face, and he actually seemed to enjoy it.
Next up was introducing the bridle. I was able to put it on him easily, but he was instantly not thrilled. It's pretty clear that he's never had a bit in his mouth, and he rolled his tongue and gaped his jaw for several minutes before settling down. I will say that he looked very handsome in it.
This time, he only bucked once or twice when I put the saddle on him. By this point, he was really doing a great job with all the round penning and free lunging basics.
|I wish he would stay dark like this.|
|Watching my hand signals.|
|Totally not bothered by the girth any more.|
|Love his body language in this one.|
As you can see, he's more bothered by the bit than the whip.
Our fourth session was more of the same, with a few new concepts thrown in. We worked on tying in the barn, and I tacked him up restrained for the first time. He didn't care. I girthed him up like an old pro, and there was exactly zero bucking that day. He willingly took the bit, and fussed less with it, though he's clearly still not a big fan.
In the round pen that day, I started to work on associating voice commands with the various gaits. Trot and canter were easy, but Tookie was clearly frustrated with the patience it takes to walk. Typical half Arab.
Then I introduced bending and the parking brake. I have not asked him to bend with the bit yet, and I won't do it until he's completely comfortable having it in his mouth. (I also switched him to my preferred full cheek snaffle instead of the D-ring.) Still, Tookie quickly figured out how to give to the pressure of the rope halter and was a bendy noodle by the end of our session.
I think my favorite part of working with Tookie that day was the fact that Oreo didn't stop watching us the entire time we were out there. His expression was a mixture of, "Hey, I know how to do that, let me!" and, "Better you than me, bro. Just do what she says."
By our fifth session, Tookie was really starting to get it. What I like best about him so far is that he seems to really have a work ethic. The entire time we're working, he is completely focused on me. He tries very hard to please, and even when he doesn't understand something, you can see him trying to get the pieces to fit. Good man.
That day, I cross tied Tookie in the barn, groomed him, and tacked him up. We walked quietly down to the round pen, where he lunged like a saint in both directions at the walk, trot, and canter. He changed directions quietly and obediently.
His mouth was quiet and still.
I brought him in the middle and practiced bending. He nailed it. I flexed him both directions, first towards me, then away from me.
Then I introduced what I call my 'untangling exercise', in which I teach horses to follow pressure to unravel themselves from the lunge line. The horse has to learn to give his head and neck, then yield his hind end and shoulders to perform a 360 degree turn. The exercise is great for assessing a few things... softness, ability to listen instead of guess, willingness to move off pressure, calmness... It's also the basis to steering with a rider on board as well as some more advanced ground work. Tookie had no problems with this either.
With all the basics in place, it was time to introduce the mounting block. As always, I tossed it unceremoniously in his general direction. Nothing. I stomped all over it. Nothing. I stood on the mounting block and repeated our bending exercises. Tookie stood quietly. I repeated everything on the other side.
The chances of me ever actually mounting from the right are pretty slim due to my own range of motion and coordination issues, but I still believe every horse should be fine with being mounted from both sides. In fact, I teach everything equally in both directions every time.
Since things were going so well, I decided to lean across Tookie. I didn't think this would be a problem either. I've reached across him while sitting on the fence several times over the last year and a half, and he does. not. care.
So I did my usual thumping the stirrups from both sides and brushing flanks and hindquarters with no warning.
Then I just simply laid across his back.
More thumping stirrups and flailing limbs. Still no response on the stallion's part.
And that's how I ended up sitting on Tookie for the first time on our fifth session together. I hadn't planned on climbing on board just yet, but there was no reason not to. As usual, it was a non event. I firmly believe that if a horse is started correctly, he should think nothing of it by the time you swing a leg over.
The first time, Tookie did walk off a few steps. He was totally fine, but I hopped down anyway because I want horses to learn to stand totally still by the mounting block before they ever learn to walk off. So we tried it again, and the second time it went perfectly.
There are still several things I want to work on before I'll actually ride Tookie, but I think he's off to a good start. I want him to really be comfortable with the bit (one or two more sessions should do it). I want him to learn to bend from the bit instead of the halter, and then spend some time ground driving him so he really gets steering and brakes before I'm on him for real.
Now you guys are caught up though!
So there you have it. My newest project.