Day 2 with my Thoroughbred
Published 02-09-2012 9:59 AM | Fernanda Camargo
After my first attempt at starting to fit Tony after his winter break, I came back home and ordered a cotton lunge line. My old lunge line is nylon, and since I had misplaced my gloves (which have since been found), my hands were not appreciative of me. My new cotton lunge line hasn't arrived just yet. But the next day I still had to exercise him. So I put on my gloves and used my old nylon lunge line.
I had previously used a rope halter on him, which is what I use in every horse I lunge. The rope halter has the knots strategically located to provide some control over the horse. Tony, being so full of energy, did not regard the knots and that halter did not deliver the desired effect. Mind you, I love rope halters, have used them all my life, and every horse I owned, including 2 Arabians, respected the halter. But not Tony.
I am a horse woman, have grown up with horses, cannot remember a time in my life when horses were not present, but I am not a horse trainer. I have always sent my colts to professional trainers for the first 30-60 days, and took over their training after that. Let's just say that I like it when someone else takes the buck out of my colts.
Anyway, back to Tony.... Tony has been ridden for 2 years, which means that he has already been started.... but how much does starting/training a racehorse compare to training another kind of performance horse? Well, I guess I'm about to find out!
So on day 2 I put on my thinking hat... the practice of using chains over the horses noses is very common in racetracks, as it is common in many disciplines. A chain is simply not my first tool to use when leading or lunging a horse. I guess I give them the benefit of the doubt first and use a chain just when needed. But it hadn't occurred to me that Tony may need a chain, until his previous day's behavior.
So I armed myself with the lunge line that has the chain and fitted the chain over his nose. I think I heard him sigh of contentment. This horse walked from the barn to the arena looking and acting like an angel. I never once had to jerk on the chain. He did not mind Mattie's opposition to his leaving her behind, nor the neighbors' horses going crazy and teasing him. He was a different horse: calm, quiet and respectful.
I lunged him for about 20 minutes, and he did not throw the monumental fits he had thrown the day before.
My conclusions after this episode: Tony is used to the chain... that's home for him. He feels more secure having the chain on his nose. Just like a dog feels secure being crated. I had never crated any of my dogs and I used to think that crating was cruel. Until I got a dog that loves her crate. It's her home, it's where she goes to take a nap. She simply likes to be crated, and does not do well when I leave the house without crating her. I would love for her to feel fine being loose.... but she simply doesn't. That's how I see Tony with the chain. I would like for him to not need a chain, but I actually think he prefers to have the chain over his nose. This is how he has been trained.
Is the chain cruel? absolutely not. The chain is only cruel in the hands of a cruel person, or a person who does not know how to use a chain. Right now the chain means safety for both me and him.... and I like to be safe. I plan to gradually not have to use the chain and go back to the rope halter, but it may take a while. As of right now, we will continue to use the chain until he learns some manners!