“Bazaconi” part 6 ,so close and yet so far.

 

Poor Baz, the memories of racing were going to die hard. Every time I mounted him, the head went up in that same twisted way and he threatened to take off out of control, all it would take at this stage was an unforgiving hand and all of the work done so far would have gone out the window.
He hadn’t bucked at all and considering the tension and weakness in his back that was a fair effort.
He was bold, often horses with all of bazaconi’s issues turn to shying at everything, when they are confused with what is  going on with the rider, it seems everything in the world is scary. Baz had not shied once in all the time I had been working him, he was showing at least a couple of admirable traits.

No, bazaconis answer to any question to which he didn’t have the answer was “run” it didn’t really solve his problem because jockeys don’t often come off, the problem wasn’t going away, “run” hadn’t worked for him, and though I was doing everything I could to convince him there were other alternatives, every time I mounted him I could feel that “run “was his first thought.
All he was doing at the moment was walking off quickly with a rushed panicky feel but to most riders this is a signal to pick up the reins and hold on, for Bazaconi’s education this would have been a recipe for disaster.
Human nature is a funny thing, most cues our brain gives us about riding are absolutely the opposite of what we really need to do. A bit like baz running away we tend to go toward self preservation, not in a considered way but in a a panicky primitive way. We are concerned with regaining our own balance,not considering that of the living creature below us, we grip with our legs, that says to the horse “go!” we grip tighter, “go faster!” we hold the reins tighter and tighter, head In the air, back hollow, more panic,” run away from the lion on your back”
Have you ever tried to paddle on a very narrow kayak or maybe to row a single skull, they are so tippy, very very difficult to “sit up”, most people who would try to sit on one of these craft without instruction and probably someone physically holding on to it, would finish up in the water in less than a second, the boat tips one way, we overcompensate the other and in we go, less than a second. These overcompensation are just as influential to the horse the only difference whilst riding is we don’t finish up in the water, we need to consider our responses or we will, finish up on the ground and the horse at the pet food factory.

What about this example you stand In front of a boxer, he or she don’t have to be very good, “hold your hands up protect your face at all cost” they say, one quick fake to the mid section, you drop your hands to protect you tummy and before you can pick them up again the second punch has bopped you on the nose, they told you what to do and your instinct just wouldn’t let you do it, a little like instructions from a fairly average riding instructor.

So Bazaconis required very considered responses by his rider. To a professional horse person these responses come as conditioned reflex, I can generally ride most horses most of the time with my body reacting as I need it too, conditioned reflex, no more thought involved than picking up food on a fork and placing it in my mouth. This makes riding for the professional much less stressful than for the average rider.
Bazaconi made me think. If I was not constantly on my game he would take advantage of every opportunity to do something unexpected, Rush forward , head up , twist and turn, for every shift in weight or inconsistency in contact on the rein he would punish me, not dangerously but with a loss of connection and control. He was not helping me in any way shape or form. At this stage it was up to me to call all of the shots and ensure I made them very accurate.
The job of the rider is to sit still in a balanced position and give clear accurate aids to the horse, we would like the horse to listen, but in time we should expect him to do more, he should help. By maintaining tempo and rhythm he helps us maintain our stillness while everything around us is moving, if we should momentarily loose connection with the rein contact he should seek it. If we are both working toward the same goal the ride is much more enjoyable for both of us.
Baz wasn’t helping, I needed to get him on my team. The tempo and rhythm were starting to come but trying to build enough confidence in the bit so  that Baz would seek it all the time even when I wasn’t helping, was going to be a fair ask.
Consistency and accuracy are the only answers, keep doing the correct things consistently, let the horse feel and learn that Being ridden is not confusing, in fact done well it is incredibly consistent.

Horses learn good stuff and bad stuff just as quickly, they come from racing with lots of bad stuff, riding horse wise, generally undoing damage done is like starting at -20 rather than zero, Baz started at about -50, it was a long road forward but the same rules of consistency  and accuracy would apply.
Consolidation over and over again. Teach him to relax rather than run when confused, teach him to consider his responses.image
Time passed ,consolidation was gradually occurring, Baz would travel along quite nicely as far as the uninitiated was concerned but look closely, Baz was not particularly happy, it would take some time before he began to find it easy, there was always slight head nodding at any inconsistency, remember I am talking about inconsistency in me! 30 years as a professional rider, riding with all the accuracy and care that I could, totally aware of Baz’s issues, this wasn’t inconsistency as in, riding on the trail and gathering up the reins a handful at a time Whilst talking to the person riding next to me. This was finite inconsistency and he let me know with that little bob of the head at every opportunity that I needed to be better. This may seem pedantic but I was acutely  aware that unless Baz was unquestionably working toward helping the rider, all of the careful work I was doing would fall apart and quickly. Little bobs of the head  and dropping of the bit for me would soon turn into head up and rushing for most riders.

end part 6

“Bazaconi “the instructor . Part 5

 

Attention gained, check, Foundation more consolidated, check, rhythm and tempo heading toward establishment,check, time to try riding again.
I mounted Bazaconi, immediately he put his head in the air twisted it and hollowed his back he moved off abruptly, I had to stay calm, he was expecting to get what he had always gotten from his rider, a meaningless pull on the mouth and a confusing fight, I gently took up the inside rein and asked him to move his hindquarter to the outside, initially he didn’t respond but I was not being drawn into the fight, I would sit and wait for him to recognise that what I was doing on his back was exactly what I had done from the ground whilst working in hand, finally he dropped his nose to the inside, he kept walking in a small circle but he had responded in a positive way to the bit, I gently took up the outside rein and started to proactively influence him, he would react to me not me by him.
He shook his head violently and put it up in his usual twisted way. Stay relaxed, keep asking gently, reward him at every opportunity. He Softend again poll relaxed, with little to no outside leg I asked him to step in exaggerated way toward the outside rein with his inside hind leg, softer, voice command, .”and halt” this is the voice command I had used all the way along, “and” being the precautionary aid_”get ready get ready”, long and with a downward inflection “aaannnd halt” . He understood and he stopped, he stood in a correct frame and breathed out in a heaving kind of way. It was as if he said “oh I get it”
I picked up the new inside rein and went through the same process again. Now I applied my outside leg and encouraged him to walk forward out of the circle, he did it but with the straightness came tension in his back, he was inclined to rush forward which at times threw me off balance, it was all I could do not to hit him in the mouth with the bit as I regained my position. Had I clumsily taken up the rein, the head would have gone up and the battle would have re started.
Baz needed lots of walking on small circles but I didn’t want to be on his back until it started to ache, it was a whole new way of going and it would take him some time to get used to it, like a swimmer starting running training. Very fit but in all the wrong places for what we wanted.
He would get his physical exercise on the lunge, at the same time developing strength, rhythm and tempo and I would snake around the arena at the walk on his back being very obvious and consistent with my aids for 10 minutes each ride.

Gradually he developed the understanding of the aids, he spent more time in a correct frame than not, I could feel he was starting to reach for the outside rein after all these years of avoiding it he finally reached for it, he was accepting and maybe even seeking the support.

image
On his good side I eased him into the trot, immediate tempo and fairly good Rhythm, and still moving into that outside rein, the contact had to be obvious but elastic and sympathetic or he would panic, God he was good for my riding, who needs to pay hundreds of dollars  for lessons. This was his good side and he was happy to step under my weight with the inside hind leg. I knew the other side would be harder, for a start it was naturally his week side, it had been made weaker by years of not using it correctly, secondly, it is his racing direction ,there was bound to be conditioned reflex and bad memories, there was, up went the head and the speed and out the window went the understanding. Again I stuck to my guns “let the horse be influenced by you, don’t be influenced by the horse” I kept asking him correctly and calmly. With his hollow back and head in the air he was very unbalanced, he had struggled to carry a rider on the track in a straight line let alone a 20 metre circle but he needed to work on the circle so I could help him find the feeling we needed. Breaking the alignment of his spine by working on the circle takes away his ability to fight and encourages him to relax. I have felt some unbalanced horses in my time but Baz was so bad he was very close to falling over on many occasions, this just spooked him more, voice commands were overruled by fear and confusion I needed to get his attention I moved his hind quarters across dramatically with my leg, backed up by the dressage whip, he felt even more likely to fall, I had to help him find some comfort by discovering his balance, I asked and asked with the inside rein for him to at least look to the inside, this has to be done without holding, if you hold he will hold back and flex more to the outside, I persisted carefully but somewhat demandingly, riding on the incorrect diagonal will cause the horse to step more dramatically underneath himself as he strives to get his balance, this is a very effective technique in stopping a horse from falling in and helping him take up the outside rein contact, I could feel some improvement .
Finally he dropped his head to the inside and stepped under our combined weight with his inside hind leg, now, weather it was because of the aids or because he could see the ground coming up at him or just by accident, it didn’t matter I rewarded him immediately by taking away all pressure “aaannnd walk” and he walked.
I let him enjoy it for a few moments then went back to the same exercise, this time it only took a couple of circles before he dropped his nose to the inside, he was tentative, no, terrified to take the contact on the outside rein at this stage but he had flexed and bent to a down transition. Back to his  good side, no drama, I gave him a few easy wins in relation to attaining his reward, back to the hard side, better than before, Baz had now worked out that he could let the pressure off by relaxing that’s what I needed. He was learning to relax rather than panic when things got difficult. Back to the walk, piece of cake. Lovely changes of direction snaking around forward into the outside rein, the epiphany at the trot had Helped to consolidate the walk no end.
End of part 5

 

bazaconi”consolidation” part 4

imageAfter lots of gentle work, making the required outcomes very obvious, Bazaconi started to work with me rather than against me. Not many people put the effort into ground work that I do when working with horses off the track. You can’t underestimate the value of ground work and a systematic approach, you need to have short and long-term goals. Up until now the short-term goals and steps of the system for BAZ have been.

Respect my space.
Pay attention
Listen to voice commands
Accept the bit as communication on the ground.

If I had simply jumped on his back without these foundations he would put his head in the air, twisted and turned it to the left and run into the fence.
So now I wanted some Consolidation of all the steps. To this point, Baz thrived on consistency as most horses do, the more sensitive they are the more they need it. Consistency and confidence from the handler, the same as they get from another horse in the paddock. Dominant or senior horses if you like, display a certain confidence to their subordinates, handlers need to have the same thing, you can’t really fake it, horses will catch you out, be confident with what you do.

Most horses, 90% are followers, they thrive on confident leadership. In a herd there is the stallion and the lead mare everyone else is a follower. A healthy happy herd environment is determined by the success of the stallion and the lead mare, they will both be far more dominant than you can ever dream of being and will receive unquestionable respect from the followers.

All of the work I had done to this point was consolidated every day with Bazaconi, to this I now added steady correct lunging.
Lunging is an extension of the work I had already carried out whilst training in hand except now it would be done from five metres away, Baz would feel he had a certain degree of freedom so it was imperative to maintain his attention. I started lunging him on a very short lead so if need be I could touch him gently with the whip. As I was confident I had his attention I gradually let him out onto a longer rein. At times it got too much for him and he would become over excited, slow him down shorten the rein and gradually build up again.
In time I could lunge him on the long lead his attentiveness was crazy and so my control of myself needed to be immaculate. One false move and he would react too dramatically.

image

Lunging is a good magnified reflection of how a person rides. I can usually predict what kind of rider you will be based on how you lunge. Clumsiness, carelessness, over reaction, too much hand, too much leg, or not enough will all show up on the lunge.
I could tell by the way Baz lunged that he was going to test my riding and concentration, I was starting to look forward to the challenge, I now new Baz understood the basics, applied correctly on his back they should transfer to the same result I had from the ground.
Lunging was going to help Baz develop physically, the muscles which had not be developed in racing and atrophy those that had been developed that were not required as a quality riding horse.

 

Calm lunging for short periods in each direction in a correct frame developing tempo and rhythm, this was the next step and short-term goal in the system. For a horse like Baz who couldn’t run on a straight line, a 10-20 meter circle is a major effort. Horses never travel on a circle this small in the paddock, it’s not natural, the strength to do so for an extended period must be developed slowly and sympathetically, no more than five minutes at a time in each direction for as long as it takes for the horse to really relax over the back and seek the rein contact. Often with Baz I would feel like I had almost achieved the goal only to have him excited by some outside influence which would add another 10 minutes to the process. It’s funny, 40 minutes seems to be the magic number with horses with real issues, be they physical, mental or emotional.
Once I could get reasonable periods of quality work on the lunge it would be time to get on and ask for the same thing carrying my 90 odd kilograms.
End of part 4

For those who keep telling me I should write a book ! “Horses from courses” re training a horse off the track.

image

Every year thousands of thoroughbred ex race horses, often referred to as OTTB, (off the track thoroughbreds) retire from the racing industry, their future uncertain. Many well-meaning horse enthusiasts seek to take these horses and retrain them for sport and recreational purposes. This book takes the accumulated experience and knowledge of horse trainer Scott Brodie—manager of the New South Wales Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust, re-trainer of hundreds of ex racehorses—and allows the novice trainer to tap into this valuable source of information previously unattainable for the average horse enthusiast. The book is available in E book format from Apple I books and Amazon for under $10 

image

Scott Brodie is Manager of the Racing NSW Thoroughbred Retraining Program. A NSW Mounted Police horse trainer and classically trained rider, Scott has a unique spin on the retraining of retired racehorses. Utilising a surprisingly smooth synergy of natural horsemanship and the practical application of classical dressage, Scott’s systematic approach to this often difficult and dangerous endeavour ensures the smoothest and fairest transition for the horse from racing machine to a pleasurable riding partner. 
 
A qualified Instructor with the Equestrian Federation of Australia, Scott has trained under many Olympians and world class instructors. He has competed to Advanced level in eventing and has schooled horses from break-in to the Grand Prix movements in dressage. Scott is an advocate and accomplished practitioner of ‘Natural Horsemanship’ techniques.
 
As a serving Mounted Police Officer, Scott was selected to represent Australia in the Royal Pageant of the Horse, at Windsor Castle for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He won numerous police horse events at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, and was presented the prestigious “Silver Spurs Award” for outstanding horsemanship and service to the NSW Police Force by the Police Commissioner. Scott was also the recipient of a Bravery Citation for incidents that occurred in 1999. Scott is currently a contract horse trainer and instructor with the NSW Mounted police, implementing his training system for the education of police re mounts.
As Thoroughbred Retraining Manager with Racing NSW, Scott has appeared on television and printed media as spokesperson for the program and held demonstrations statewide. He mentors a first class team of horse trainers who implement the program on a daily basis, as well as supervising the training of corrective services staff and inmates involved in the program. Scott is also the facilitator of a program of equine assisted therapy for returned service personal recovering from Post traumatic stress disorder. He has personally overseen the retraining and rehoming of hundreds of ex race horses

Scott Brodie is far more than an outstanding horseman. He has dedicated his life to coaching not just in many sports but for many people in life skills

Scott has been attending the St Heliers Correctional Centre for numerous years, working with inmates including some violent offenders, and coaching them in horsemanship skills. Many of these inmates have never had role models in their lives and look to Scott’s mentorship as an opportunity to help them become better people and productive members of society. The skills in horsemanship taught by Scott transfer into life skills as the men learn empathy, commitment, control, and communication skills.
The training system utilised and designed by Scott is easily passed onto inmates and returned service personnel suffering from post traumatic stress disorder ,who Scott also works with, some of whom have had very little to no horse involvement previously.
Some of the skills taught in Scott’s training system relate to day-to-day life skills include reading body language, utilising body language as a means of communication, problem solving, patience, and calm decision making. The transformation from hardened, career criminals or damaged service personnel into caring and responsible community members with focus and direction is amazing and the recidivism levels of inmates completing the program is zero.
The experienced gained though all of the previously mentioned fields along with a 30 year history as a coach and mentor have given Scott a great insight into how horses can improve lives.

Bazaconi “language and communication class” part 3

.

 

So, “Bazaconi gump” had finally stopped running. There  was no doubt he now recognised me. He new ,when he was with me, he didn’t have to gallop, that was a start but there was no doubt the running thing would raise its head again.

With all the handling and a basic education on, what was my space and what was his, Bazaconi seemed to be settling whilst in my company. Race days were still going to be an issue_ more than likely for ever.

Back to the round yard. As he had settled considerably I decided to give the saddle another go, no problem, though a little anxious he stayed on his feet. When I let him go he through in a couple of bucks, not unusual with this bigger heavier saddle, then off he went, back to the gallop. This time he lasted about 10 minutes before he came to me, today was the day we were moving on.
The first thing I needed was to have his undivided attention.
This time when he came to me I sent him back out again pushed him for a lap and then sat down again, sure enough he came back. Now I could get rid of my milk create. I sent him out invited him back, sent him out invited him back. With a little adjustment of my energy levels I was able to have him walking stopping, trotting walking, changing direction, his focus was incredible no matter what he did he always had one ear on me. Often I will use a lunge whip to create some energy when working with green horses with Bazaconi all I needed was my finger. It’s imperative at this stage that the horse believes he is moving because you have asked him to ,you have to be honest with yourself as a handler, if the horse is running away from you you haven’t achieved anything. Even if the aid to go forward is as fine as raising your finger you need to believe you are making the decisions. Never underestimate how closely they are watching if you have truly gotten their attention. Horses in the paddock communicate through body language, a slight change of posture, ear position, body position even facial expression “never underestimate what they notice” all of your movements become part of the language between you and you horse, when you are with him make your language clear and concise, talking on the mobile phone whilst lunging is confusing, not having accurate control of you lunge whip is confusing sometimes even swatting at flies is confusing, if you are in a bad mood and your shoulders are tense, that is confusing. Baz wouldn’t have coped with any of these, I really needed to be on my game.

So with baz responding to my body language and now voice commands I began preparing him for the lunge., there is no better way to passively  start to develop the muscles required to carry weight than by working the horse calmly and correctly on the lunge. It give you the chance to develop your voice control, asses the horses movement, pick up physical issues and develop calm tempo and rhythm.
It was also the opportunity for Baz to have the bit in his mouth and work with out having to fight.
Well, Baz was not a great fan of the bit. As soon as it went into his mouth he started to chew and grind, wrestle with his tongue,  his head twisted up and to the left, that was his preferred position whilst the bit was in his mouth, no rein or riding pressure required, head up and to the left.

When I stated to ask him to accept some contact it was total confusion, now most race horses have no idea of the grey areas between stop and go when it comes to the bit. It’s very simple in the racing world ” bit off” = go “bit on” = stop,if you like. Stop, if not understood can become 50kg of angry rider leaning back with all their might. An old bushy once said to me “those track workers have hands like black fellas feet” referring to the hard calloused feet aboriginals develop from years of walking bear foot in the bush. Not particularly politically correct but it paints a picture.
I don’t think baz was there the day they learnt stop. He defiantly had the go thing down pat.

The bit was a total mystery and misery to him he twisted and turned his head trying to avoid it, more contact resulted in more twist and more again meant go harder. He gaged and worked his tongue with his mouth wide open. He really did seem to resent the bit across his tongue. I decided to try something different I purchased a bit with a large port that avoided tongue contact at all, it still worked on the bars of his mouth as required but left space for his tongue to sit commortably “hey presto mouth closed” shame that wasn’t thought of 5 years ago, once again, one size doesn’t fit all.
So, working against him had been, a poor basic education, very uncomfortable mouth, conformation that led to head in the air and hollow back, in the racing stable that equates to “that horse is a bastard I hate riding him” mmm that’s not gonna fix it.
Now Baz was more comfortable in the mouth, he had stopped fainting, he knew about my personal space he was starting to understand my body and voice language. It was time to re introduce the new bit in a new simple, understandable way. After a number of weeks of gentle instruction Baz started to get it.

 

He started to trust and respect me, he new I wouldn’t hurt him but he also new I was in charge of the partnership, yep, it was definitely becoming a partnership. Gradually he started to seek out the bit, recognising it was one of our important means of communication, finally he reached for it, in doing so he lowered his head and released the tension in his tangled back, it must have been such a relief. You know that feeling when you have pain some where and feel like you have to walk around tensed protecting the effected area, its exhausting you finish up angry and irritable. “Bazaconi”

End of part 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Bazaconi” friend of foe ? Part 2

I know there are plenty of readers out there who will say, “oh that’s like the thoroughbred I had”, “that’s what so and so used to do”. No, this horse was different. I think I could confidently say that anywhere else he would have been euthanised at best, at worst sold for pet meat.

We have had almost 300 horses enter the TRT and I have trained many more. This guy was different, very lucky to have had such a caring owner. I guess when I started with Bazaconi we had trained around 100 horses at the TRT, I thought he was pretty tricky. Now we have had nearly 300 and I know he was very tricky.

Some horses are limited by their conformation—certain types of confirmation lend themselves to certain training issues. Looking at Bazaconi as a horse, his neck is set very high, that is, it seemed to come up steeply out of his withers so before a rider even gets on, his head is carried high.
image
This is fine if he is just to live in the paddock and eat grass, but to carry weight the horse needs to develop the muscles in his back. When the rider jumps in the middle of the back of a horse with this confirmation, his head will go up further, his back is more uncomfortable, and he panics. What do horses do when they panic? The same thing they have done for 50 million years, they run. Panic, fear, discomfort, pain and confusion from all of these things and the horse will run. It’s what he is designed to do. Once he starts to run, he is not designed to assess the situation, he does that when he has run away from the issue. If the issue is on his back, he keeps running and panicking, then the rider tries to control him, so he pulls the rein this way and that, resulting in more confusion and more panic. With a sensitive horse this situation is magnified. This was Bazaconi—he had been head-in-the air confused and running away all his life.

Now I had to gain his confidence, convince him that the lion on his back was not going to eat him and that the pulling, seesawing piece of steel in his mouth was trying to tell him something. If I was breaking him in as a clean slate, I would consider his sensitivity and his conformation and choose my methods of training carefully. Unfortunately, most racehorse breakers have a one size fits all philosophy it certainly didn’t fit Bazaconi. It has never ceased to amaze me that people will pay $1,000000 dollars for a horse and then $1500 to have him broken in, in just 2 weeks.

Bazaconi’s first struggle was coming to terms with the fact that though he was at the racecourse he didn’t have to race. The TRT operates from Canterbury racecourse in Sydney, and race meeting are held at least fortnightly and weekly at times during summer. Baz didn’t cope well at all. On race days he was a mess, he walked his box until he was a lather of sweat, he refused to eat or drink and by the end of the day he was a mental wreck, standing with his head in the corner of his stable he would then scour for the next two days.

Early in his ground work period (which with the TRT generally lasts about 6 weeks) he struggled with being tacked up, believing he was going down to the track. Now I’ve seen cold backed horses fall to the ground when girthed up too tightly. I’ve even seen them damage themselves fatally in the process. I am always careful to girth horses very, very carefully, particularly if they are showing signs of stress. Racehorses are girthed up very tightly by stable hands for track work or racedays—the life of the rider depends on the person who has tacked the horse up. This tight girthing often stays with racehorses for sometime after retiring from racing, some for life.

Bazaconi’s issue with saddling up was very unusual. On regular occasions he would freeze as a cold backed horse often does, then he would faint. Yes, I said faint. He would just drop unconscious to the ground, he would lay there for a number of seconds then get up and he would be fine. At that time I had never seen this—I since have on occasion. I had the vet come and told him what was happening, he asked if it would happen if I saddled him now so I took him into the arena saddled him up and sure enough down he went. The vet had never seen it before, he went over him, checked all his vitals, nothing out of the ordinary, he had just fainted. I assume like a soldier on parade, in coming to attention and standing in this state for a long period the blood vessels to the brain are constricted, this limits blood to the brain and the soldier falls over. I’ve seen it plenty of times in the police service while some dignitary makes a speech that seems to go on for days but never in a horse. To say he was tense was something of an understatement.

So back to work on join up. No saddle, no bridle, just me and the horse at liberty in the round yard. Baz wanted nothing to do with it, he galloped out of control around the yard, often to the point where I feared he would fall over disunited in his cantor/gallop or completely on the wrong lead, head turned as far away for me as he could get. At one end of the round yard he could see the race track, and here he would accelerate sometimes with his tail tucked between his legs. Just me standing in the yard was way too much for Baz to cope with. Usually in join up, the idea is to place pressure on the horse, keep him moving and each time he faces you, let the pressure off, however with Baz so fired up and galloping so hard, this wasn’t going to work—the potential for him to hurt himself was too great. I took a milk create and sat on it in the middle of the round yard and just let Baz go. Thoroughbreds have great endurance probably because of the strong Arab influence in their bloodlines, obviously a great benefit to the racing fraternity. Baz went around and around and around, rarely changing direction. For a week of more all I could do was take him into the round yard and sit on my milk crate while he burnt off steam. In the early sessions I would have to bring him out before he ran himself into the ground he didn’t seem to have any respect for fatigue and I was sure he would do himself damage if I let him go until he could go no more .

Each day I got him out groomed him, let him run around washed him and put him back into his box. He was a bugger to wash, wouldn’t stand still, head as high as he could put it or rubbing it vigorously on anything he could reach. He danced and stomped, striking for minutes on end on the concrete ground and then at every opportunity tried to rub all over you. This is not on, rubbing all over you is a mark of serious disrespect with a sharp jerk away from me on the rope halter I let him know I would not accept the rubbing. Every time I led him he tried it on and every time he got the same result from me. He picked it up in a couple of days and understood not to come into my space uninvited. So many horse owners love the horse rubbing all over them, I can assure you the dominant horse in the paddock does not let other horses rub all over him uninvited. By letting him do this he puts you below himself in the pecking order, not to mention the potential danger of having your head split open by an over enthusiastic rubber with a steel bit in his mouth.

So the first thing Baz learnt was to respect my space. I extended this into don’t rub on anything when I am in control, “you get what you accept so only accept what you want”. Smart horse, he now stood like a statue when I told him to and the second I relaxed or walked away he would rub like a maniac over whatever was closest including people. No one was to handle Bazaconi but me.

One day in the round yard Baz just stopped. It was like that scene out of the movie Forrest Gump when Forrest after running for years just stops, for no apparent reason he has just finished running. Baz looked out at the race track, looked back at me sitting in the sun on my milk create covered in flies, walked straight to me and stood quietly in front of me. Sounds a bit like a scene out of some corny horse movie, like he had made a decision, was it to be racing or me, he chose me. Yeah, that’s a bit corny but he finally stopped. I stood up, put his halter on and took him straight from the yard, that day he stood more quietly in the wash bay. The next day he galloped for two laps and came straight to me. He had worked out that he didn’t need to gallop, there was nothing to fear and nothing to be gained, he had learnt that by coming to me he could stop and I would take him out. Finally, some sort of mutual connection. Yes, there was something in it for him, but he wanted to be with me. Now we could really start to work.
End of Part Two.

The story of “Bazaconi” part 1 one out of the box,

.

The thoroughbred horse is an exceptional animal, a supreme athlete with considerable intelligence, agility, strength, endurance and beauty.
I would personally describe the thoroughbred as a moderately sensitive breed of horse. Sensitivity, in my opinion, equates to intelligence so far as training is concerned.  A sensitive horse will respond to minimal aids which makes it relatively simple to influence, this sensitivity also lends itself to confusion when faced with an inaccurate, clumsy or inconsistent handler—less sensitive breeds tend to put up with more clumsy lines of communication.

The thoroughbred, thrives on consistency and is easily influenced by a
confident, accurate and assertive handler. Unfortunately not many horse handlers possess all of the aforementioned qualities. The thoroughbred race horse, whilst in the racing environment, receives little consistency  in the way of handlers and is, most often, handled only in such a way as to get the days work done in the easiest and most time efficient way possible.

Horses in racing are given limited education and are often ridden by whoever is available on the day. Many track riders possess rudimentary riding education at best which in general is sufficient to carry out the task at hand, to get the horse fit enough to run the required distance at maximum speed. One could debate, that better preparation, in relation to education, balance and strength could provide a better result from the race horse.

I have become very proficient at re training horses off the track and I can assure they all have issues that need to be fixed if they are to become quality riding or competition horses. Most are pretty standard, but
occasionally one comes from the racing industry which has been so affected by the experience that is not suitable for re training as a riding horse. They are either physically or mentally damaged to the extent that they will either not hold up to work or pose a danger to someone trying to help them through their issues. Generally these horses don’t come to me—as a rule we won’t take them on. Most race trainers recognise the horses issues and don’t pass them on, unfortunately sometimes euthanasia is the safest and or most humane answer.
image.jpg
Bazaconi came to me at the end of his racing career, a beautiful dark bay horse with that intelligent looking white eye that seems to say I’m watching you at every moment. He was a striking horse with incredible movement. A glamour.

His previous owner and racing trainer was a friend of mine and she was forthcoming with Bazaconi’s issues. He had been an erratic racer, very difficult to handle at the track and very inclined to take the bit at the end of a race and continue to go, sometimes for another full lap of the track before he wore himself out. Now I often get these stories only to see horses come to hand very easily with  constancy of handling.

Bazaconi’s previous owner had trained Baz off the track because of his anxiety issues, unfortunately galloping him on bush tracks had resulted in two broken clavicals. Prior to coming to this owner, Bazaconi had had a short racing career interstate, he had not been very successful and was then used as an extra in a racing movie “The Cup” unfortunately, many many takes of short sprints up the home straight didn’t agree with Bazaconi’s sensitive and intelligent temperament, why would it, it just didn’t make sense, gallop for a couple of hundred yards as hard as you could, fight with your rider for a couple of minutes and then gallop a couple of hundred yards again. I’m sure Bazaconi wasn’t the only horse that came out of this experience with issues. After the film Bazaconi found himself at the tried horse sales he was purchased for $300, the going rate for the pet food market.

Luckily for him he was purchased by my friend who could see where he was headed should she leave him at the sales. His second racing career followed, he found some minor success in country racing, luckily for him he found an owner who was determined to see that he got a fair chance at life after racing and he came to us at the Thoroughbred  Rehabilitation  Trust.

When Bazaconi arrived he was not recognised by his action or demeanour as a horse that would cause any more drama than the next. There was no doubting his outstanding movement and striking presence. I was recovering from an injury when he arrived so I had little to do with his initial ground training—we do several weeks of ground work before we start riding them. He was a little rushy on the lunge and did not accept contact well when worked in hand. Had I had more involvement with Baz I would have recognised his issues in the early stages.

At this time we had a 100% success rate in the retraining of horses off the track and I assumed Bazaconi would just be another, maybe a little tricky but just another horse. I was wrong. The first time I mounted Baz, he put his head in the air as high as he could, twisted his neck and took off across the arena crashing into the fence on the other side. I don’t know if you have ever ridden a camel but as a horse person I found it a horrible experience, the camels neck reaches off into the distance, it weaves and bends like a snake and there is no senesce of connection or oneness, such that you feel when riding even a moderately educated horse. That’s what Baz felt like though he was endowed with a little more power and grunt than the average camel.

He was a mess. Normally when we ride our horses for the first time they work well, their frame and posture has been established and they are ready to go on with. The correct frame is imperative, it gives the horse the correct posture to carry weight. No one rides a horse at our training centre unless it has an understanding of maintaining correct posture. It’s not fair to ask a horse to carry weight and be expected to work with his back hollowed and his head in the air. I would not allow a young weight lifter to lift any serious weight without developing his technique, so why would I ask it of a horse ? The classic round dressage frame, developed through the action of a horse engaging his core and back muscles, is the correct frame for the horse to carry weight on its back. We don’t work them in this frame because it looks good, it has practical foundations. It just so happens that it looks beautiful as well, an old saying is “you will know if you are riding your horse well because he will become more and more beautiful if he doesn’t you aren’t”. You might see the correct classical frame in a magnificent statue or painting of horse and rider.

Horses weren’t designed to carry weight, they were designed to eat grass. We weren’t designed to carry weight either probably less than a horse with our upright stance and bipedal walk, however some people carry weight for a living and do it until a ripe old age, if they develop the correct muscles it is possible, if they don’t they will finish up on workers compensation. We don’t want our horses on workers comp before their time so we need to help them develop the required muscles to do the job we want them to do. Horses trained correctly will work well  into their twenties, horses not conditioned for their work will break down too early. They may not necessarily break down in the back, but by compensating for poor posture they will break down somewhere.

Bazaconi’s posture was appalling, that of most race horses is poor but this guy had spent so much time resisting and twisting that he had built muscles that were working against him, his carrying muscles had atrophied, his body was twisted, his neck was twisted there was no way of creating a decent connection to allow communication. No wonder he was hard work on the track, all his pre race photos show him being led. He really couldn’t be ridden, just loaded into the barriers, pointed in the right direction and fired.

image.jpg

Now, loads of horse owners would say get a chiropractor, acupuncture or massage… my experience tells me that the best thing for horses with these kind of issues is quality and correct riding. Get the muscles to work the way we want them to work and just about all muscular damage can be reversed.

He was going to need unusually extensive ground work to prepare him for riding. I took him on personally. I went way back to the beginning of his re training. He needed to understand that the bit was not an enemy but a means of communication, he needed to get to the point where he sought the bit rather that avoiding it. This was starting to look like a real challenge, not just gaining his confidence but getting past real physical issues which had developed and consolidated over a number of years.

Thoroughbreds are smart, they pick things up very quickly so communication wouldn’t be a problem. Once clear lines can be established, muscle takes time to build, there are no short cuts, it’s one thing knowing what the rider wants, it is another thing being able to physically do it consistently and with ease. There are plenty of people who can espouse the correct theory of riding but very few can physically do it.

The groundwork would start in earnest and only time would tell.

End of Part One.

Horses with accents, fact or fiction?

image

Tina Womelsdorf still enjoying her wine these days

I spent all of the 90s with Tina womelsdorf as my instructor, to me it was like some kind of religious experience when I found her, she was amazing. She is now in her 90s I recently shared a bottle of wine with her, and I must do it again. Tina once said to me, though she had been in Australia for 40 years or so, that she still thought in German, occasionally in a lesson when she was thinking fast I would cop a German expletive I’m sure. She used to call me a “blighter” when she didn’t like what I did, who uses the word blighter, I’m sure it wasn’t so polite when translated to German.
Tina’s language discussion got me thinking, Ebony who is one of my students and staff is Finish, she said the other day that she now confuses Fin with English and sometime there is no translation from one to the other so she speaks some mongrel hybrid, finglish it isn’t quite that bad but it is interesting.
Last week ebony came with me for her first lesson with Miguel Tavora. Now Miguel is Portuguese and though I wouldn’t say it to his face, (he can be a fiery little rooster), it is sometimes very difficult to work through his accent, so when hybrid finglish speaking ebony met the difficulties of “kunter, kunter ” (translation “counter canter”) with Miguel it was quite an amusing experience.
Ebony was riding down the long side. “Too straight” said Miguel ebony rode onto a curve” too straight “called Miguel, ebony rode a small circle “too straight!!!” demanded Miguel.
I have to say I was totally confused, Miguel jumped up from his seat “stop stop stop stop Ebony”. Ebony stopped “kin you no ear mi” now I’m sure ebony could hear him but I knew she wouldn’t say she couldn’t understand him, “sometime it is not so issy mate” replied Ebony, Miguel turned on his sound system, now she was in real trouble, the Sound system is a shocker, it distorts every word and the louder he yells the worse it gets, to make it worse still, some times when you are at the far end of the arena and you are following the odd sentence it cuts out, Miguel keeps talking like a character in a silent movie for the next 10 seconds and your lost again.

“Ok, ride de diagona let im stretch”, ebony responded “too straight ebony”, ebony rode a curve “relax ebony too straight” called Miguel. Well at this point it dawned on me what he wanted, Ebony was too stiff in her position, he wanted her to soften and relax, “too straight” yelled Miguel. Ebony rode onto another circle she was exasperated and gave up trying to understand, she shrugged her shoulder and slumped in the saddle her legs hanging relaxed on the horses sides,” that’s eet that’s eet vedi good eponi vedi good” Ebony turned to look at him with a confused expression, anyway the lesson progressed Miguel weaved his magic and ebony left very happy and motivated.

It got me thinking about how when ex racehorse come to us they come with a language, let’s call it “racing” now if the horse is not taught another language he will speak racing for the rest of his life. If he is ridden spasmodically he may pick up a little ” pigeon trail” but raceing is still his preferred tongue. If some one rides him regularly but they are uneducated as riders he will start to speak some broken “Equis” somewhere between human and horse. Remember as with Tina womelsdorf and German, his first language is” racing” and under pressure that’s what he may speak. Most riders who haven’t ridden track work don’t understand “racing” and they have no idea what he is saying, so they get frustrated yell and scream in broken “equis” and an argument ensues. Someone may get hurt simply from bad communication it can be a very serious issue. I wonder if that’s what happened between Turkish air command and the Russian pilot ?
Anyway if we take the ex race horse and put him through a systematic Language course, start with ” how do you do” and gradually, without over facing him, lead him along on the course of “classical equis” he will eventually get it, we both will, he may still have a “racing” accent but with careful work on his pronunciation we can have him fluent. Just like our own Pygmalion or for the younger readers “women in red” if you are too young for these use google.
So now he speaks fluent “equis” and life is good but remember we have a responsibility to speak clearly and eloquently as well, if we don’t he may well scream” you blighter!!!!.

 

finglish v spanglish

Scott Brodie author of” Horses from courses “is Manager of the Racing NSW Thoroughbred Retraining Program. A NSW Mounted Police horse trainer and classically trained rider, Scott has a has a generously empathetic philosophy to handling horses and a unique spin on the retraining of retired racehorses. Utilising a surprisingly smooth synergy of natural horsemanship and the practical application of classical dressage, Scott’s systematic approach to this often difficult and dangerous endeavour ensures the smoothest and fairest transition for the horse from racing machine to a pleasurable riding partner. 
Purchase as an e book from Amazon or I books store. Under $10

last service for a service horse

 

TheCedar-Brochure

archie and helene

So we arrived at the Beautiful Cedars Shire Stud in Kangaroo Valley, a 2 hour drive southwest of Sydney, for a week long equine assisted therapy program with 7 ex service personnel. The guys were all returned vets, all suffering at different levels from Post Traumatic Stress disorder. They all had different  issues but as they explained to me, “Black is Black” there is no “I’m worse off then you” amongst these guys.

One of the guys had been housebound for 3 years, one had a companion dog with him 24/7, the dog stopped his crazy nightmares. They had seen, done or had done to them things some wanted to discuss some didn’t.

Ive spent nearly 30 years going to this unique part of the world, one of the true beauties of Australia, one that most will never have the pleasure of seeing, I’ve been spoilt but the awe of this place never escapes me.

In all of my years of association with the cedars one of the constants was Archie. Archie was a 19 hand black shire gelding he weighed in at 1000Kgs, he was once credited as the biggest horse in the Southern hemisphere. A gentle giant and the first shire horse born in Australia for a century. Shire horses are the English version of the Scottish originated Clydesdale. Shires are generally bigger and in my opinion better proportioned than the Clydies. If you shaved of the immense dense feathers from around their massive legs and trimmed there beatnik beards they would just resemble a big riding horse and in fact they do ride quite nicely.

I had known Archie since he was a baby, I was the first to sit on him unbroken. I started him under saddle, rode him through the rain forests of the property, waded through the rivers, galloped like some sort of midevil knight across the never ending green paddocks. I introduced Archie to the mounted police where i rode him all around the streets of Sydney on patrol, taught him to be steered by the stirrups while carrying the drums for parade work, sat on his back with two other police mounted on my shoulders during vaulting work, and won prizes at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, we had plenty of history.

At the end of what had been a particularly cold winter, old Archie now 28 years of age, was looking every bit of those years, not through neglect, for never was a horse better cared for than Archie by his owner/mother Helene Scarfe. No, Archie was very old, most shires only live into there teens. He had dropped off in condition even whilst hand fed and on the lushest of pasture improved grass. It saddened me to see this most majestic of creatures so obviously nearing the end of his days. What a servant he had been, to the shire breed, now numbering some 300 registered animals in Australia, to the people of NSW, as a police horse and as an ambassador for horses in general, in his days of fame as the gentle giant at shows and media events all over the state.

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

Archie was a big part of my Journey as a horseman he was Truly a part of my life and that of my family, all 5 of my sons had sat upon his mighty back, on occasion 3 at a time..

At the start of the PTSD course I had been told that the previous week Archie had not been able to raise himself from the ground and had only gotten back to his feet with the use of a tractor. On first look I new Archie was ready to to go. I felt it could be any day and hoped it wouldn’t be too long, like looking at a loved relative in the last stages of cancer, one wants them to stay but knows it is inevitable that they must go.

On the second day of the Course one of the Soldiers found Archie down and unable to get up in the corner of his paddock, he lay beside a grove of massive Cedar trees from which the property gained its name, draft horses had hauled the valuable timber from these secluded valleys for more than a hundred years until they were replace by tractors and trucks. there were no struggle marks Archie had just lay down and couldn’t get up.

Archies hauling days were done. the soldiers gathered with me and as a group we struggled to try and get the big fella too his feet, for an hour we toiled, managing to raise his front end but unable to get his hind quarters to take any weight. Time and time again we pushed and pulled only to have him lay back on his side with a forlorn groan. The time had come, even with the the use of the tractor we couldn’t get him to rise.

The guys had been told of Archies history and there was no doubt that they felt an affinity with this great beast who had served his community as they has theirs, there was a feeling of mutual respect by all of us toward this grand old man.

The cedars is a working farm, and as on all farms, animals from time to time need to be Humanly put down, Greg the owner of the farm looked at me and i looked at him “its time mate i said” Archies beloved Helene was away for the day, Greg struggled with the thought that she wouldn’t be able to say goodbye but to leave him in this state would be unfair.

I tuned to to the men, sweaty and exhausted from the efforts of the last hour. “Lets give this morning a miss fellas, you go back to your rooms while greg and and i deal with this, you have all done your bit and we really appreciate your efforts, we will gather again for a debrief this afternoon.” I had no idea what might be the result if these scarred soldiers were allowed to watch while Greg carried out the task of ending Archies life.

The men stood fast, they were going no where, one spoke “we have been here through this and we will stay until the end it only seems right that we give him the honour of a proper send off”. Still unsure of how this would effect the group, I could see that it wouldn’t matter what i said, they were staying. Greg went to get his gun while we stayed with Archie, some patting the huge mass of horse helpless on the ground, some standing in contemplation, no doubt each effected in their own way, some maybe recalling other memories some lost in this very moment.

Greg returned,  as i stood beside him with my hand on his shoulder the soldiers took up a position behind us standing quietly some at attention, some at ease. Greg looked to the sky for a long moment, He had known Archie longer than me. Greg had been at his birth and helped Helene tend to him while his mother lay on the ground for weeks suffering from extreme foal founder, Archie all 11 hands of him fed from her where she lay.

With one loud shot the job was done. As the echo bounced from cliff to cliff for what seemed an eternity, I stood with my arm around greg and we both wept, there was not a dry eye amongst us.

A send off fit for such a special creature, a troop of men honoured his life of service, gathered  in a Cedar grove with one of the most magnificent backdrops in the world, the ancient stone escarpment reaching to the heavens above the lush rainforest and emerald green of the thickly grassed paddocks. We all stood quietly for some time.

After a while greg broke the silence,” ill take him and bury him now”, a grave had been prepared in anticipation of this sad day. The serviceman where not finished, they gently attached a harness to Archies limp body so he could be lifted by the tractor and carried to the grave site. The men either clambered onto the tractor or walked in procession behind it as Archie was carried to his final resting place.

An hour later we gather to de brief what we had been through. How would the course progress from here? could it ?

The first man spoke. “I served in Somalia, I have seen piles of bodies and body parts, I dealt with them like a zombi, I feel like what we have just been through today has allowed me to behave the way humans should behave in this kind of situation. It hurt and it should hurt.” Another spoke of Archies service to the community a parallel to that of the men gathered. I told of my memories and cried some more.

There was no doubt we had been brought close together by Archies passing, as a result we went on to have a wonderful and fruitful week of horse experience, story sharing, unloading by the campfire and helping each other honestly and intimately. Strangely a band of brothers for the week helped on by the mutual respect for a great and majestic draught horse who left us all better for the experience. That which does not kill us makes us strong.

image

Band of brothers with one of Archie’s nephews.

In memory of Cedars Archibold.

A solution to “Windsucking” ??? A miserable obsessive compulsive habit

image

Windsucking is a debilitating obsessive compulsive condition exhibited by horses of all breeds, it is particularly prevalent in horses who have spent extended periods locked in small stables or yards with no mental stimulation. The horse places his top front teeth on a hard surface and sucks air into his stomach in an obsessive manner similarly to obsessive habits in humans, chain smoking obsessive cleaning irrational phobias.

Over  the years I have seen many miserable examples of horses wind sucking, the anxiety it causes me personally never ceases to catch me by surprise, it really does make me feel physically ill.
It’s not the action of the horse wind sucking, it’s the thought that humans have put young horses in situations where they are so mentally stressed that they resort to this disturbing behaviour.
From my experience Young horses so mentally effected rarely recover to any great extent.
Owners try all sorts of draconian methods to stop the incessant unconscious habit of Sucking air into the horses stomach. A surgery has now been used with some success in stopping the action but the surgery and collars and electric surfaces don’t deal with issues which have caused the condition.
Often with riding I see people working feverishly on symptoms rather that eliminating the causes. People spend so much time for instance trying to stop a horse falling to the right whilst on a circle, the symptom is falling to the right, the problem is not going forward straight on the ridden line, fix the problem and there is no symptom.

Recently in our thoroughbred rehabilitation program at St heliers prison in the hunter valley, we had a young horse who was as bad a wind sucker as I have ever seen in my nearly 30 years as a professional horse person. He stood constantly sucking on poles in his 5 acre paddock stopping so rarely to eat that his feed was taken by his paddock mates and his condition dropped to a miserable level. Collars were tried to no avail and he was placed in a paddock by himself which seemed to stress him even more, he still did not eat well and did not graze, preferring to suck poles all day. He was starving to death. The vet and our staff were very concerned and at a loss as to how to solve the problem there was no way we could place this horse, there was no interest in taking on such a bad case of mental scaring.
Consideration was given to euthanising this horse who was basically dieing slowly and miserably.

On one of my visits to the prison to work with the inmates a young cowboy came to watch me work with the inmates and horses in the program. He was a tough looking guy as many of the inmates are, he had the look of a fella that was comfortable in the prison environment. He sat on the top rail of of the round yard as I worked the horses, he did ask if it was ok but no doubt it was a challenge to see if I could cope with the distraction to the horses,” no worries” I said.
He watched for an hour or so as I instructed one of the newer inmates as to how I wanted the horses worked and what his objectives were.
After I had concluded the cowboy came to me, “I like what your doing” he said “I learnt a bit there” not an easy admission for a guy who had found his place in the works as the “tough cowboy guy” who new his stuff.
“I’m working with a young horse, will you have a look at him ?” “Sure” I said “go and grab him”.
He came back with a chunky young bay thoroughbred saddled in a stock saddle. “He goes alright but he’s got a few issues, I’m helping the old bloke over there with him.” a thin face older inmate stood intently in his prison greens at the side of the round yard his eyes wide, he was struggling to listen to every word of the conversation. Let’s call him Con. “Old con wants to ride him” said the cowboy. “Good stuff, lets have a look at him”. “Can I have a feel of him before you start.” “Sure” said the cowboy.
I worked the horse in hand, he was a lump of a thing with a good temperament, fairly relaxed about what I was asking him to do considering he hadn’t done anything like that before, it’s interesting how real horse people know what they need achieve to get the best out of their horse it’s amazing how close different styles of riding, done well, really are .
After I worked the horse the cowboy jumped up on his back, he cantered the horse off rolled back on the fence, slid to a fairly, mouth opened halt, and reigned back. Not my idea of a warmup but it’s not my roll to lecture people on how to ride their horses. I gave hIm my thoughts on preparing the horse for Con. ” what’s the horses back ground ? ” I asked “this is the wind sucker they were going to put down”. I was in shock I had seen this horse standing in a yard for over two hours and hadn’t seen him wind suck once, I couldn’t believe it was the same horse, I was beaming ” how did you get him to this point ? ” the old blokes done all the work” replied the cowboy.

It turns out that on  the day a decision was to be made on the fate of the wind sucker Con put up his hand to take the horse on and give him one more try. Though all and sundry thought there was no hope for the improvement of this horse no body wanted to see a young otherwise healthy horse put down.
Con was an elderly man, an ex Vietnam vet. He was in jail for a particularly violent and harrowing crime of passion. Con had suffered terribly from post traumatic stress syndrome as a result of situations he had found himself in whilst in the armed services.
At the time of his conviction he had not been diagnosed with PTSD though he was being treated for depression.
Other inmates had spoken of how, even now he screamed at night in his sleep haunted by his past no doubt compounded by the remorse and memory of his crime.
With my recent involvement with ex service personnel retuning from conflict with PTSD and Equine assisted experiential therapy, I had run a number of week long courses and was daily involved with people in Cons situation. I understood where Con was, 50 years on still suffering and untreated.
Con though not a trainer but was part of the thoroughbred retraining program he had a love for horses and liked to be around them they helped him hold some of his demons at bay.
Con had had a fairly solid Involvement with horses as a younger man, he recognised the mental anguish of the young wind sucking horse and convinced the vet and staff to allow him to work with him.
Con had no strategy, he would spend time with the horse, hand feed it sit with it while he read the paper, talk to him, groom him, walk him like a dog, con lived with him as often as he could, he had no shortage of time or empathy.

I have never seen a horse truly stop wind sucking. But in the two hours I was with this horse he did not wind suck once that I observed. As I new him previously he wouldn’t have lasted two minutes without attaching himself to a pole. The horse had gone from a bag of bones with serious mental issues to a solid healthy relaxed useful animal and Con had gone a long way to dealing with some of his painful baggage , he had a purpose and a mate.
The old man had produced an amazing result, his goal on release from gaol is the ride this horse from Sydney to Melbourne to raise funds for thoroughbred rehabilitation and ex serviceman suffering from PTSD. I personally will support him, he is currently considering an appeal to reduce his sentence and charge on the grounds of PTSD.

Wind sucking is a miserable symbol of how we sometimes disregard the welfare of horses, I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to fix but now I can say I’ve seen it done.