“Prince Thorbro” blue print for the life of a racehorse.

My old man was a punter and a pretty serious one at one stage. As I got more and more involved in horses Dad and one of our mates, Thorny, decided they would breed a racehorse. Dad decided he wanted to enjoy the journey, a good idea considering most horses bred to race don’t even make it to the track.

Dad got into it, researching bloodlines and decided what he wanted to breed. It so happened that a girl I was working with was looking to lease her thoroughbred mare as a broodmare for a season so Dad looked at the breeding and it suited the stallion he wanted to use. Now truth be known, all thoroughbreds trace back to four stallions and it wouldn’t matter which bloodline you follow, it will lead you to some champion who did something impressive within a generation or two.

So we picked up the mare, she was small, not 15 hands but she was solid. We put her on the float and drove her to the stallion up in the Hunter Valley. This was all an adventure for Dad who hadn’t had much hands-on experience with horses. We met the stallion, a big solid fella of 16 hands. County was his name and as Dad constantly reminded us, he was the son of Vain and he was by the great Wilkes. Didn’t mean much to me but it had Dad psyched.

You should have seen the excitement when we got news of a positive pregnancy test, champaign all round! We picked the mare up and bought her back from the Hunter. She spent the rest of her pregnancy in a paddock full of massive shire horses at a friend’s property in Kangaroo Valley. Dad visited her every couple of weeks and gave us in-depth reports of how the pregnancy was going. As the big day approached, Dad moved down to the farm and stayed on his own with the mare, he wanted to be there for the birth “in case there were any issues” not that he would have known what to do in any case. He got there 10 days before the birth because “they do sometimes come early”. 10 days after the due date, Dad was still waiting. Finally, it looked like this would be the day, the mare was waxed up and things were looking imminent. Dad sat with her in the heat all day long. The foal didn’t arrive so he sat there all night; still no foal, he was starting to worry. At 6.00 am he went to bed exhausted, at
7.00 am the caretaker woke him up to say “Congratulations you have a new foal.”

The excitement cancelled out the disappointment of missing the birth. “Prince Thorbro” had arrived. There was much conjecture over the name but it had to have the word Prince in it, one of our friend’s big draft mares had died in foal a couple of days earlier, her name was Princess and Dad had nursed her through her final hours.

I was with Prince as early as I could be on the day he was born. I wanted to implement some imprinting principles. Ideally you want to be there at the birth, but you can only do your best. I sat with Prince and his mum all day, by the end of the day I could handle him all over, I could restrain him, move him around with finger pressure and touch him all over. He had had the clippers on him a halter and was leading gently, he was happy to be with me and his mum was fine with it.

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In the first week I put him on and off the float, bagged him down and put a girth on him. After a week, I left him alone with mum to do as he pleased. My friend wanted to separate him from the herd so he wouldn’t get hurt, but I wanted him to have the opportunity to live as naturally as possible. No one educates horses as well as other horses. Prince spent the next six months with mum at Kangaroo Valley in the herd of giant Shires playing with foals his age that were as big as his mum.

At around six months, we brought him to Sydney with mum, we had a paddock in Coogee believe it or not. In the middle of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, backing onto a Defence Force property, I had about five horses there, a round yard, a massive dam and a full cross country course which I had built to train on.

Prince was an independent little fella who didn’t hang around with his mum, but spent time with the other horses. He ate with mum and this worked well because she was a great eater, he learnt that if he didn’t eat up, he missed out. Being a good eater is imperative for a good racehorse, you can’t run without fuel.

Prince spent less and less time with his mum. At the same time, I had a half draft mare in the paddock, she was to have foaled but it had turned out she had a phantom pregnancy. She went through the whole process and nothing happened, she did however produce plenty of milk, which Prince discovered. I’m not sure who adopted who, but Prince was soon feeding happily from the big girl, he was happy with his wet nurse, she was happy with her surrogate foal and mum got rid of that pesky foal who was eating all of her tucker and ruining her boobs. Shortly after, we returned Prince’s mum to her owner. Mum didn’t fret, Prince didn’t fret and it was the easiest weaning you could ever ask for. Dad spent more and more time with Prince, he hand fed him and spent day on end just hanging around with him, it was good for both of them.

I did loads of groundwork with him over the next year or so and I think he saw me as his big brother, the imprinting done at birth was worth every minute, he trusted me implicitly, farriers, vets, dentists none could believe how easy he was to deal with. On one occasion, when someone left the gate open, Prince, my leopard Appaloosa, our son’s miniature pony Tuppence and Archie the shire horse; and at that time the biggest horse in the southern hemisphere, decided to go exploring. I was working at the Mounted Police at the time and we got a call to say that there were horses running loose on Anzac Parade. The location was about halfway between my paddock and Randwick Racecourse. I had my fingers crossed that the runaways were horses from the track. No such luck; the motley crew had galloped for about three kilometres down the medium strip on Anzac Parade in peak hour traffic. Anyone who knows Sydney, knows how busy that road is in the morning. Luckily no one was hurt and Prince made the papers before he even started racing. I rode the big draft horse home with the motley crew following behind.

 

It was about this time that tragedy befell my family. My younger brother, aged only 27, died of cancer. It was devastating. We all have to deal with this stuff in our lives, but things like this really do change who we are, sometimes for a while, sometimes forever. My Mum and Dad did it tough, you’re not supposed to outlive your kids. Prince became a bit of a crutch for Dad and he spent every minute he could at the paddock, sometimes just sitting and quietly watching and sometimes hand feeding or fixing fences. Prince was a great distraction – something to focus on. I just made myself busy. Prince was a part of that, I just kept busy as it stopped me thinking; I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being busy since.

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As a result of our constant hands-on contact with Prince, he was like part of the family. He was the centre of every conversation – he was something positive we could all share. By the time Prince had reached the age to be broken in, he was so well handled it was just a matter of getting on and riding him. I worked and educated him as I would one of my eventers, or a Police horse. He worked around the streets of the eastern suburbs calmly in the traffic, he built a nice dressage foundation and popped over a few fences. To get him used to working confidently amongst other horses, we did troop drill with the Mounted Police. We worked in a section of four and even did a practice for the Police Musical Ride with the Police Band. We did light half-pace gallop work around a local Australian Rules football field. His dressage was going so nicely I decided to enter him into a competition. He performed admirably at a local show and came home with a first place ribbon. He competed up to elementary level.

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Occasionally I rode him to Maroubra beach before light and did laps at the canter in the soft sand, before coaching a rowing crew at the same beach and then going to work at the Mounted Police followed by working my competition horses in the afternoon. As I said, I kept busy. We did the same thing at Brighton beach. When we lost our paddock at Coogee, we kept Prince at an abandoned lawn bowling club at St George in Sydney’s south; a few warm up laps on the green, a 10 minute trot through parks and along grass verges to the beach. When the tide was out we could gallop half pace on the firm sand or in ankle deep water for 15 minutes without having to stop, it was a bit hairy in the dark but what a wonderful experience on a warm summer’s morning. We went swimming in Botany Bay once a week, right next to the runway at Sydney airport, he didn’t even sweat jumbo jets taking off and landing beside him.

Finally it was time for Prince to become a racehorse. One of my friends, Karen from the Mounted Police, was married to a vet who had decided to take up training racehorses. Karen was a great rider and horsewoman, short-listed for the Sydney Olympics. She was to ride Prince in his trackwork, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Prince floated from the trainer’s place where he lived, to Rosehill racecourse for work each day, with Dad turning up regularly to watch him work and keep us up to speed on his progress. Prince lived in a paddock, no stressed-out stable life for him, he was very happy. His training came along nicely and when he spelled he came back to me and when possible we snuck in another dressage day, even race-fit he was obedient and relaxed.

The day came when Prince was ready to race. He was to start at Cessnock, a country track in the
Hunter Valley. Myself, Dad and our mate Thorny, the Thor in “Prince Thorbro” traveled three hours in the car, it was a stinking hot day in the high thirties. Prince arrived and was more fired up than I had ever seen, pawing and anxious in the tie up stalls. Karen got him out of the stall and walked him around the parade ring and we went to checked him out; he was in awesome condition. However, as he was not stabled, his coat was bleached out and he had gone from a dark bay to a wishy-washy light brown colour – almost buckskin. Two experts stood beside us as we watched him parade, “Now you can tell this one hasn’t got a hope, look at his coat you can tell he isn’t healthy, probably shouldn’t be here, looks wormy.”

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They went to the barriers, one horse played up for a long time, refusing to go in. Prince stood sensibly until the troublemaker was scratched. The tension was terrible it was like your first kid’s first day at school, all excitement and pride and still concern for how he will cope.

They were off. Prince jumped well and went to the front immediately, he had led in a race. We heard his name over the loud speaker! “Prince Thorbro leads by a length and a half.” We looked at each other with a satisfied smile; the journey had finally come to the racetrack. Prince was battling on, Dad and Thorny, as seasoned punters, were concerned, could he hold on? I was choked up with the emotion of my baby running in a race. They hit the straight, Prince still had the lead, the finish line was looming and it looked like he was gonna win! Was he gonna win? He is gonna win!! He is gonna win!!! Woooohoooooo!! He Won!!! He Won!!!! He Won!!!!!

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Now to say we were excited was a serious understatement, I lost all control of my emotions; I was like another person, I was almost speaking in tongues. My gosh, we had won a maiden at Cessnock, there was no doubt in my mind that the serious, hands-on approach of breeding, raising, breaking and pretraining Prince made the experience all the more emotional but what must it feel like to win the Melbourne Cup? I don’t think I have another level of emotion to go to, I fear I would just spontaneously combust into a pile of ash on the ground.

I can’t imagine owners who have just paid the bills and seen a few track work sessions could possibly feel the way Dad and I had felt that day, what a sense of achievement. Prince pulled up well and we celebrated well into the night. Prince went on to win a couple of races and at one stage someone offered us four times what we thought he was worth but we were never going to take it. What a joy it was to be involved to such an extent.

Prince retired as a four year old and went on to do a few more dressage comps. Almost from the day he stopped racing, I used him to give lessons, such was his education and the trust I had in him. I gave my kids and others lessons on him and he would lunge beautifully with constant rhythm and tempo allowing total novices to develop their seat or pop over jumps kindly and calmly, coping with clumsy hands or lack of balance.

One of my students, who particularly loved Prince and had many lessons on him, was moving to the country. She was a vet student and had spent a year with me learning horsemanship and riding skills. Prince went with her, as I knew he would be well looked after.

Prince is now in his 20s and is fat, happy and gets ridden occasionally and life is good.

This is how the life of a racehorse should read. I learnt a lot from Prince and he helped our family through a tough time, we couldn’t have done it better.

“Prince Thorbro” blue print for the life of a racehorse.

My old man was a punter and a pretty serious one at one stage. As I got more and more involved in horses Dad and one of our mates, Thorny, decided they would breed a racehorse. Dad decided he wanted to enjoy the journey, a good idea considering most horses bred to race don’t even make it to the track.

Dad got into it, researching bloodlines and decided what he wanted to breed. It so happened that a girl I was working with was looking to lease her thoroughbred mare as a broodmare for a season so Dad looked at the breeding and it suited the stallion he wanted to use. Now truth be known, all thoroughbreds trace back to four stallions and it wouldn’t matter which bloodline you follow, it will lead you to some champion who did something impressive within a generation or two.

So we picked up the mare, she was small, not 15 hands but she was solid. We put her on the float and drove her to the stallion up in the Hunter Valley. This was all an adventure for Dad who hadn’t had much hands-on experience with horses. We met the stallion, a big solid fella of 16 hands. County was his name and as Dad constantly reminded us, he was the son of Vain and he was by the great Wilkes. Didn’t mean much to me but it had Dad psyched.

You should have seen the excitement when we got news of a positive pregnancy test, champaign all round! We picked the mare up and bought her back from the Hunter. She spent the rest of her pregnancy in a paddock full of massive shire horses at a friend’s property in Kangaroo Valley. Dad visited her every couple of weeks and gave us in-depth reports of how the pregnancy was going. As the big day approached, Dad moved down to the farm and stayed on his own with the mare, he wanted to be there for the birth “in case there were any issues” not that he would have known what to do in any case. He got there 10 days before the birth because “they do sometimes come early”. 10 days after the due date, Dad was still waiting. Finally, it looked like this would be the day, the mare was waxed up and things were looking imminent. Dad sat with her in the heat all day long. The foal didn’t arrive so he sat there all night; still no foal, he was starting to worry. At 6.00 am he went to bed exhausted, at
7.00 am the caretaker woke him up to say “Congratulations you have a new foal.”

The excitement cancelled out the disappointment of missing the birth. “Prince Thorbro” had arrived. There was much conjecture over the name but it had to have the word Prince in it, one of our friend’s big draft mares had died in foal a couple of days earlier, her name was Princess and Dad had nursed her through her final hours.

I was with Prince as early as I could be on the day he was born. I wanted to implement some imprinting principles. Ideally you want to be there at the birth, but you can only do your best. I sat with Prince and his mum all day, by the end of the day I could handle him all over, I could restrain him, move him around with finger pressure and touch him all over. He had had the clippers on him a halter and was leading gently, he was happy to be with me and his mum was fine with it.

image

In the first week I put him on and off the float, bagged him down and put a girth on him. After a week, I left him alone with mum to do as he pleased. My friend wanted to separate him from the herd so he wouldn’t get hurt, but I wanted him to have the opportunity to live as naturally as possible. No one educates horses as well as other horses. Prince spent the next six months with mum at Kangaroo Valley in the herd of giant Shires playing with foals his age that were as big as his mum.

At around six months, we brought him to Sydney with mum, we had a paddock in Coogee believe it or not. In the middle of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, backing onto a Defence Force property, I had about five horses there, a round yard, a massive dam and a full cross country course which I had built to train on.

Prince was an independent little fella who didn’t hang around with his mum, but spent time with the other horses. He ate with mum and this worked well because she was a great eater, he learnt that if he didn’t eat up, he missed out. Being a good eater is imperative for a good racehorse, you can’t run without fuel.

Prince spent less and less time with his mum. At the same time, I had a half draft mare in the paddock, she was to have foaled but it had turned out she had a phantom pregnancy. She went through the whole process and nothing happened, she did however produce plenty of milk, which Prince discovered. I’m not sure who adopted who, but Prince was soon feeding happily from the big girl, he was happy with his wet nurse, she was happy with her surrogate foal and mum got rid of that pesky foal who was eating all of her tucker and ruining her boobs. Shortly after, we returned Prince’s mum to her owner. Mum didn’t fret, Prince didn’t fret and it was the easiest weaning you could ever ask for. Dad spent more and more time with Prince, he hand fed him and spent day on end just hanging around with him, it was good for both of them.

I did loads of groundwork with him over the next year or so and I think he saw me as his big brother, the imprinting done at birth was worth every minute, he trusted me implicitly, farriers, vets, dentists none could believe how easy he was to deal with. On one occasion, when someone left the gate open, Prince, my leopard Appaloosa, our son’s miniature pony Tuppence and Archie the shire horse; and at that time the biggest horse in the southern hemisphere, decided to go exploring. I was working at the Mounted Police at the time and we got a call to say that there were horses running loose on Anzac Parade. The location was about halfway between my paddock and Randwick Racecourse. I had my fingers crossed that the runaways were horses from the track. No such luck; the motley crew had galloped for about three kilometres down the medium strip on Anzac Parade in peak hour traffic. Anyone who knows Sydney, knows how busy that road is in the morning. Luckily no one was hurt and Prince made the papers before he even started racing. I rode the big draft horse home with the motley crew following behind.

 

It was about this time that tragedy befell my family. My younger brother, aged only 27, died of cancer. It was devastating. We all have to deal with this stuff in our lives, but things like this really do change who we are, sometimes for a while, sometimes forever. My Mum and Dad did it tough, you’re not supposed to outlive your kids. Prince became a bit of a crutch for Dad and he spent every minute he could at the paddock, sometimes just sitting and quietly watching and sometimes hand feeding or fixing fences. Prince was a great distraction – something to focus on. I just made myself busy. Prince was a part of that, I just kept busy as it stopped me thinking; I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being busy since.

image

As a result of our constant hands-on contact with Prince, he was like part of the family. He was the centre of every conversation – he was something positive we could all share. By the time Prince had reached the age to be broken in, he was so well handled it was just a matter of getting on and riding him. I worked and educated him as I would one of my eventers, or a Police horse. He worked around the streets of the eastern suburbs calmly in the traffic, he built a nice dressage foundation and popped over a few fences. To get him used to working confidently amongst other horses, we did troop drill with the Mounted Police. We worked in a section of four and even did a practice for the Police Musical Ride with the Police Band. We did light half-pace gallop work around a local Australian Rules football field. His dressage was going so nicely I decided to enter him into a competition. He performed admirably at a local show and came home with a first place ribbon. He competed up to elementary level.

image

Occasionally I rode him to Maroubra beach before light and did laps at the canter in the soft sand, before coaching a rowing crew at the same beach and then going to work at the Mounted Police followed by working my competition horses in the afternoon. As I said, I kept busy. We did the same thing at Brighton beach. When we lost our paddock at Coogee, we kept Prince at an abandoned lawn bowling club at St George in Sydney’s south; a few warm up laps on the green, a 10 minute trot through parks and along grass verges to the beach. When the tide was out we could gallop half pace on the firm sand or in ankle deep water for 15 minutes without having to stop, it was a bit hairy in the dark but what a wonderful experience on a warm summer’s morning. We went swimming in Botany Bay once a week, right next to the runway at Sydney airport, he didn’t even sweat jumbo jets taking off and landing beside him.

Finally it was time for Prince to become a racehorse. One of my friends, Karen from the Mounted Police, was married to a vet who had decided to take up training racehorses. Karen was a great rider and horsewoman, short-listed for the Sydney Olympics. She was to ride Prince in his trackwork, I couldn’t have asked for more.

Prince floated from the trainer’s place where he lived, to Rosehill racecourse for work each day, with Dad turning up regularly to watch him work and keep us up to speed on his progress. Prince lived in a paddock, no stressed-out stable life for him, he was very happy. His training came along nicely and when he spelled he came back to me and when possible we snuck in another dressage day, even race-fit he was obedient and relaxed.

The day came when Prince was ready to race. He was to start at Cessnock, a country track in the
Hunter Valley. Myself, Dad and our mate Thorny, the Thor in “Prince Thorbro” traveled three hours in the car, it was a stinking hot day in the high thirties. Prince arrived and was more fired up than I had ever seen, pawing and anxious in the tie up stalls. Karen got him out of the stall and walked him around the parade ring and we went to checked him out; he was in awesome condition. However, as he was not stabled, his coat was bleached out and he had gone from a dark bay to a wishy-washy light brown colour – almost buckskin. Two experts stood beside us as we watched him parade, “Now you can tell this one hasn’t got a hope, look at his coat you can tell he isn’t healthy, probably shouldn’t be here, looks wormy.”

image

 

They went to the barriers, one horse played up for a long time, refusing to go in. Prince stood sensibly until the troublemaker was scratched. The tension was terrible it was like your first kid’s first day at school, all excitement and pride and still concern for how he will cope.

They were off. Prince jumped well and went to the front immediately, he had led in a race. We heard his name over the loud speaker! “Prince Thorbro leads by a length and a half.” We looked at each other with a satisfied smile; the journey had finally come to the racetrack. Prince was battling on, Dad and Thorny, as seasoned punters, were concerned, could he hold on? I was choked up with the emotion of my baby running in a race. They hit the straight, Prince still had the lead, the finish line was looming and it looked like he was gonna win! Was he gonna win? He is gonna win!! He is gonna win!!! Woooohoooooo!! He Won!!! He Won!!!! He Won!!!!!

image

Now to say we were excited was a serious understatement, I lost all control of my emotions; I was like another person, I was almost speaking in tongues. My gosh, we had won a maiden at Cessnock, there was no doubt in my mind that the serious, hands-on approach of breeding, raising, breaking and pretraining Prince made the experience all the more emotional but what must it feel like to win the Melbourne Cup? I don’t think I have another level of emotion to go to, I fear I would just spontaneously combust into a pile of ash on the ground.

I can’t imagine owners who have just paid the bills and seen a few track work sessions could possibly feel the way Dad and I had felt that day, what a sense of achievement. Prince pulled up well and we celebrated well into the night. Prince went on to win a couple of races and at one stage someone offered us four times what we thought he was worth but we were never going to take it. What a joy it was to be involved to such an extent.

Prince retired as a four year old and went on to do a few more dressage comps. Almost from the day he stopped racing, I used him to give lessons, such was his education and the trust I had in him. I gave my kids and others lessons on him and he would lunge beautifully with constant rhythm and tempo allowing total novices to develop their seat or pop over jumps kindly and calmly, coping with clumsy hands or lack of balance.

One of my students, who particularly loved Prince and had many lessons on him, was moving to the country. She was a vet student and had spent a year with me learning horsemanship and riding skills. Prince went with her, as I knew he would be well looked after.

Prince is now in his 20s and is fat, happy and gets ridden occasionally and life is good.

This is how the life of a racehorse should read. I learnt a lot from Prince and he helped our family through a tough time, we couldn’t have done it better.

Part 9 re training the ex racehorse

Once the work in hand has been established it can be extended to lunge work, utilising the same principles, consolidating the outside reign contact with more forward impedus. Working to the horses easiest side initially, generally the left, the best side should have become obvious during the flexion in halter work, fix a long side reign between the girth and the bit on the right side. The side reign should be adjusted so that when the horse is standing relaxed there is no contact on his mouth this will encourage the horse to reach long and low when he seeks out the outside rein contact. Take a long rope lead, slide it through the ring of the bit on the left side and attach it back to the girth on the same side. Holding the lead reasonably close to the bit ask the horse to flex to the inside then ask him to step across with the inside hind leg. Basically we are now working the horse in hand but with only the inside reign available to us, the outside fixed side reign becomes our consistent outside reign. Walk the horse forward applying all of the earlier described principles developed in the work in hand section, as long as the flexion can be maintained to the inside and contact on the outside reign, the distance the handler is from the horse can be gradually increased. Eventually the horse should be lunging around the handler at the walk on the end of the long lead. Once this is consolidate the horse can be moved into trot.

for further and more detailed information see, “Horses from courses” retraining the thoroughbred ex racehorse,  by Scott Brodie on E book available from Apple I books, kindle, Amazon and other E book suppliers.

 

Part 8 re training the ex racehorse

As the horse is moving around you in leg yield ask him to halt at the time he is closest and parallelto a fence or wall. This needs to be solidly established, utilising both voice command and a physical halt aid initiated and support by inside flexion. By breaking the alignment of the horses spine with inside flexion and bend and a slight leg yield we reduce the horses ability to resist and with well timed reward will promote submission leading to to soft and obedient halts and eventually transitions in general . Eventually you will be able to move along the wall periodically flexing to a halt combined with voice command. Utilising the whip and voice commands ask the horse to walk forward and then halt repeatedly until it becomes
conditioned reflex.

Horses From Courses
by Scott Brodie

Available for purchase on Apple iBooks, Google Books, Amazon Kindle, Kobo and other online ebook vendors.

Every year thousands of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses, 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 NSW Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust and 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.

Scott Brodie author of Horses From Courses is Manager of the RacingNSW 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.

“Bazaconi” part 14 finding his calling.

We had set up a portable round yard very similar to the one at home and I had seen Bazaconi

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gallop around in there a hundred times, so I knew he would put on a spectacular display when we put him in and let him go. After reassurance to some of the participants that I wouldn’t over face them, and that no-one had to do anything they weren’t comfortable with, we got hands on.

I did a little demonstration using Baz. By this time, with me, our join up sessions were not all that exciting. If I didn’t chase him away he would stick to me like glue. I gave the soldiers a rundown on how it worked. I sent Bazaconi out by creating some energy, in this case I used a lunge whip, but what you use to create energy is irrelevant, throw your arms around, chase them, use a Parelli carrot stick or even a dressage whip with a plastic bag tied to the end.

Keep the energy levels up until the horse believes you are pushing him, not him just running away from you, there is a huge difference.

Bazaconi was great, not too crazy and still having a nice canter, he had one ear on me at all times waiting for a command, pretty good in a strange environment. There is a school of physiology called “gestalt” put forward by a guy called, you guessed it, Gestalt. It revolves loosely around how all creatures are affected by our environment and in part, it concluded that we are instinctively relaxed in our most familiar environment with constant cues and surroundings. With Bazaconi, I had become his gestalt, it didn’t matter where we went as long as I was there giving the well worn cues and constant aids, he could relax, he was safe. This is how you need your horse to be if you want to have him with you when you go out to competitions and such. For instance, this is super important for a police horse. So as soon as I stopped applying pressure, Baz came running to me. As I walked around the arena giving my description on how things worked, he was constantly within touching distance. I watched an awesome example of this once with horses in the paddock and I wish I had videoed it.

I have a big Warmblood gelding named Snippy, posh name, Millfield Samurai. He is
17.3 hands and 700kg. Snippy is very dominant and is often in the paddock with the thoroughbreds and does a good job of teaching them manners. Most have no idea of paddock etiquette. When they come of the track, most have never been on their own with an adult horse in a herd situation since they left their mothers, maybe as long as 10 years. Snippy is a very good teacher as he does a lot of biting around feed time. No-one questions him but they all want to be with him – normal herd behaviour.

On this one occasion, I put a pretty little mare in the herd and she wanted nothing to do with the geldings, turning and kicking and squealing every time they came near. She did it to Snippy once, and then he went to work, giving her a hard bight on the rump when she presented to kick. She kicked again, he bit harder and off she went with Snippy giving chase. Now with Snippy’s size chasing a nimble little thoroughbred filly around a two acre paddock is bloody hard work, she must have been a real good sort. Every time she kicked, he raised his head to avoid getting hit and bit her bum at every opportunity. He chased her for about five minutes flat out, eventually she started to get sick of it, but Snippy persisted in making her run. It’s about this time that most horse owners panic “quick get her out, he is going to kill her” two more bursts of chase and then Snippy let her stop. The mare walked briskly up to Snippy putting her nose into his shoulder, and she was never more than touching distance
away from Snip for the next two months. A perfect join up, she was distraught every time I took him to work.

So that’s how it worked with Baz and I. Bazaconi would be suspicious of the soldiers when
they came into the yard and if they didn’t take control of the situation, he wouldn’t respect them. Too passive no result, too aggressive no result. I stood with the first girl when she came in so I could talk quietly to her and direct her. With two of us in the yard, Baz’s gestalt was broken and I got my student to cut him off and make him change direction in order to regain his attention.  Initially when she went toward the side of the round yard to cut him off, she didn’t allow enough time to get in front of him and he rushed past even faster. He, felt like he was running away from her, it was imperative that he believed she could direct him. In a small round yard with Baz cantering pretty fast, she needed be looking at Baz, turn at least 180 degrees and head quickly to the far side of the arena. Don’t worry that you feel like you are moving away from the horse, he will very quickly be there. Create energy in front of his eyeline and send him back in the other direction, she couldn’t believe how much influence she could have on such a powerful wild looking creature. A few more quick changes of direction and then the tell tale sign of Bazaconi’s inside ear came to her – he was listening, concentrating. He started to anticipate her changes of direction, she now only needed to threaten to move to the side of the arena and he responded. Her energy and anxiety levels were able to drop and as she was becoming constant with her communication, Baz focused more. Now, by relieving the pressure by turning away, lowering body height, relaxing shoulders, and talking in a calming tone, she could show Baz that she was no longer making him run, Bazaconi stopped and faced her. She was relieved and a little exhausted. Baz was switched on, focused with both eyes and both ears. She sent him off again, stopped him again and Baz came to her. You have never seen such a smile; she looked like she would burst with pride.

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I was proud of Bazaconi, he followed her around like a puppy dog. She gave him a good old pat, first lesson complete. Bazaconi’s increasing intelligence and focus made him a great teacher and he responded immediately to every minor cue either correct or incorrect.

One soldier down, six more to go. I decided I would use Bazaconi for all of them. Yes he knew the game better and better with each soldier, and he penalised them if they got it wrong, but he rewarded them generously if they got it right. Just like a good horse trainer, Bazaconi had learnt well how to train his humans. Every one of the soldiers got a good join up by the end of the session and Baz seemed to love it at the end of each job as he got real love from someone who felt they had made a real connection with another creature. Some soldiers had not had this connection since they had returned from their armed service. Wow, they were all beaming. What a great start to the week. Baz was a star.

End part 14

“Bazaconi” part 13 a devil in paradise ?

I arrived at “The Cedars” at kangaroo valley with Bazaconi and young lucky. Seriously you have to see this place to believe it.
It’s like a landscape out of Jurassic park, emerald green fields, lush sub tropical rain forest all framed on both sides buy an incredible stone escarpment, cliffs hundreds of meters high, the valley is so deep the sun rises there hours after the rest of the world. Wildlife abounds, if you ever had to take a tourist anywhere to show them Australia this is it. Kangaroos wallabies, echidna, wombats, platypus and the most incredible array of bird life, in the morning the kookaburras are deafening, latter in the day it’s the shrill of the bell birds and at night I have sat and identified 10 different frog calls with millions of them calling at once. It’s somewhere most Australians won’t get the chance to see.

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To top it off they breed prehistoric looking shire horses up t0 19 hands and 1000kg, absolutely magnificent. If you ever get the chance to check it out do so, in fact I might run a horsemanship weekend down there at some stage. Seriously, any interest ?

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So. nice place!.
The soldiers i would be working with had fought in various theatres of war, they had a variety of issues, they had all been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and where at different places in dealing with their issues. These guys and girls go off to war after being trained to firstly keep themselves alive and secondly kill when required. They are brainwashed to be good at what they do, they need to be, its life and death. One of them described the stress of being in Afghanistan when things were at the worst he said ” if you sleep, you wake up stressed, everything you do throughout the day is stressful, if you leave the base you are constantly on guard, if you are in the base you are constantly on guard” now we all have stressful days but try and deal with that for 6 months, every minute of your waking day stressed to the max, not one minute where you think I can finally relax.
In my opinion, anyone who goes to an active war zone is effected, as are cops, fireys and rescue personnel it’s just a matter of how much.
The soldiers, when they return, are constantly on guard, the instinct to be watching all the time, assessing, never leaves some of them. Everyone is a potential threat as is every circumstance in our, day to day boring lives, your nerves can only deal with this for so long, many withdraw, we have had guys that haven’t left there houses in 3 years, alcohol and drugs become a crutch, marriage breakdown is standard, I in 10 homeless people are ex service personnel.
Their issues effect at least an entire generation after them. My dads dad came back from Borneo at he end of the Second World War in a hospital ship suffering battle fatigue, he had been following the Japanese army as they retreated and was often the first to come in contact with the atrocities they had committed on Dutch settlers in that region, he saw stuff we aren’t meant to see. He spent two years having shock treatment, he never came back to dads mum, he went off married again, to wives at once, was a terrible womanise,r alcoholic and brutal to his children his children suffered, I think my dad was lucky he left, his children’s children had issues and his children’s children had issues, one was one of the most difficult juvenile offenders in the state. So,four generations effected, most of us are effected in some way by the Second World War, imagine places where they have constantly been at war for hundreds of years? What a mess.

Most of the guys had never dealt with horses before, when they saw Bazaconi and his mate galloping around like wild crazy things, I’m sure their stress levels went through the roof. I hoped I hadn’t bitten of more than I could chew bringing Baz, these guys needed to finish up feeling good about themselves not come away worse then when they arrived.

We talked through general horse and herd behaviour and spent the night at he camp fire getting to know each other. I recited a little banjo Patterson, we had a lovely dinner, they were starting to relax, this was all out of their comforter zones, as I said, just being out of there homes was a big deal for some. Pills to go to bed, pills to wake up, and god knows what other pills, most of our first night revolved around discussion about the best pain killers you can get.

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Tomorrow would be the beginning of the rest of their lives for as many of these guys as I could get hooked on horses, hopefully Bazaconi was going to help not hinder. The mental health of these good people was relying on us.

end part 13

“Bazaconi” part 12, a new direction

When I got bazaconi Home we went back to work.
It was like he hadn’t left. I was considering prepairing him for a dressage competition, I had decided that if I couldn’t tie down a future for him immediately, I would start to compete him. It would be good for the the TRT, it would bring further credibility to the program and improve Baz’s chances of finding another home.
I continued to consolidate his work, the period of light work with the failed new home had been good for him, his back had relaxed, it would be in better physical condition to move on with his education. I started to work on more accurate two track movements, I began to encourage some extension in his trot. He still needed to be ridden proactively at the canter but as long as he felt he was being ridden forward he was pretty good. Eventually his back got strong enough to cope with some longer periods of sitting trot.

At about this time I was due to hold a week long course for ex service personnel suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, it was to be held at the glorious “Cedars at kangaroo valley” I run these courses from time to time it’s considered experiential therapy and helps these guys and girls dramatically, it is quite inspirational. Horses are great teachers

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Bazaconi’s new students, ex service personnel from the “the Cedars equine experience ” kangaroo valley. With facilitators Scott Brodie and Barry digger on the beautiful shire horse, bred at the stud on the property. The equine assisted therapy sessions at the cedars are creating new hope for service personnel suffering the depilitating effects of PTSD. 

How can horses help soldier with PTSD ?
The horse is a social animal existing in extended family groups with complex friendships and relationships. In many ways equine society mimics primitive human society though, unaffected by our modern emotions, 1st world problems and preconceived moral and community boundaries.
Many of our raw natural instincts are still present, bubbling below the surface of the superficial day to day issues of modern life.
Instinct never ceases to exist unless there is a reason for it to do so.
For instance body language which we still use extensively, sometimes subconsciously, is still exhibited and deciphered every day of our lives. Our fight or flight response which is rarely called upon in our daily existence is still strong, under pressure it will rise to the surface.
Horses exhibit and survive by these instincts which for 50 million years have served them well.
There is ample opportunity for humans, when placed in a position where they have to communicate with these majestic, and on the surface completely different beings to get in touch with their primitive, but incredibly similar and influential instinctive responses.
When communicating with horses, humans are forced to get in touch with there ability to read subtle, but once recognised, obvious body language, they need to understand the effects of applying and relieving pressure with a prey animal, who has existed for millennia constantly under the threat of attack by predators, their senses adapted to detect the slightest change in environment or attitude.
The social hierarchy and order in the equine world is complex, for humans to interact successfully we need to slot ourselves into that hierarchy, portray ourselves as leaders and partners rather than threats and danger.
The rules are complex, horses thrive on leadership, contrary to common belief herds are lead by dominant mares they make the decisions and demand the most respect, this respect is often obtained in what we will perceive as extremely violent and aggressive fashion. Strangely this assertive behaviour draws horses to it, earning a strange but powerful reverence.
Working with horses, and recognising the strengths and weaknesses we live with on a day to day basis, helps us to unravel who we are, how we tick and how things that have effected our past lives influence and effect our here and now. Empathy, confidence, communication, assertiveness, respect and friendship are all things taught well by horses with their unaffected way of being, a portal to our long forgotten past which lies just below the surface of our modern un perceptive existence.

I would take a couple of ex racehorses with me to use on the course. The soldiers relate to the issues of the former race horse, both have been trained for a specific purpose only to find at the end of their careers that the training done in the past is negative to their ongoing lives.
I guess you could say Bazaconi suffered from a form of post traumatic stress, certain situation triggered negative reactions which he had no control over,I’m no therapist but I could see the similarities, I knew the soldiers would. Bazaconi would be a great candidate for the course he would be difficult for the soldiers to work with but they need to see some contrast, I decided to take another young horse who was super quite and very easy to handle, this would allow the soldiers to get a win and feel like they had achieved a result. Bazaconi, though difficult, would invoke empathy one of our goals in the course, even if most of them would fail to join up with him they would defiantly recognise and empathise with his issue.

end part 12

“Bazaconi” part 11, false start

 

 

After Bazaconi left, I went back to working some our other less chalanging horses, the lessons I had learnt from Baz would help every horse I trained from this day forward.
12 months had passed and I always say “no news is good news” wrong !
I got as message from Baz’s new owner saying she was having some issues.  ASAP I went out to see if I could help. I always make myself as available as possible to new owners, I am happy to ride the horse in the new home for the first time, I am happy help out with a tune up from time to time at the beginning of the new partnership, I am always available to answer questions and give direction.
When Baz had arrived at his new home he had been in work for 6 weeks and was jumping out of his skin. I advised that he should be let down for a few weeks. I always give fit horses coming out of the stable at least a two week break. In the first week they gallop around like maniacs and just get fitter, in the second week they start to relax, they get rid of any training soreness, their heads get a break from the mental work of training and they always come back better for the rest.
Baz had his two weeks break, coming back into work in the new environment needed to be done carefully, work in hand, lunging, systematically bringing him back to where he had been when he left me.
He would then need to be ridden calmly in the marketharborough. Any way!  the new owner had the support of the high level eventing instructors, they would help her get things on track she had all the information and I had told her so many times to take things slowly.
Issue number 1 the instructors had fallen through.
Issue number 2 marketharborough’s aren’t always readily available and everyone ” who knows” , will tell you “they do the same thing as rings/martingale”, wrong wrong wrong, the marketharborour used correctly on a horse trained for its use is way more effective than a martingale and works very differently.

So, no instructor, plus no marekharborour, plus no support = trouble for Bazaconi. Without instruction, the new owner had lunged Baz for couple of weeks, solid start, apparently he had been “up” in the new environment, expected. She hadn’t been able to get his attention on the lunge as he needed, correct answer, “call Scott” incorrect answer,  “just get on with it as he is.”

After two weeks of bringing  Baz back to full fitness rushing around on the lunge she got on, wrong!
If you don’t have their attention from the ground what makes you think you will get it on their back.
Anyway as you would expect, head in the air, no steering or breaks, now first you have to stay calm, Could you ? No. Off she came, broken arm and broken confidence.” Better call Scott”, No.
To her credit she battled on, got him working at the trot and walk but her nerves were shot.

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Baz with his new owner, if things had gone more smoothly at the start I believe she could have gotten the job done, I’m convinced my original opinion was correct regarding her suitability.

So she worked on for some time with out support. It was a big effort but doomed to failure without help. Eventually she moved Baz to an equestrian centre where she could get some assistance,  with the damage to both her and Baz’s confidence she was really behind the 8 ball.

Anyone who didn’t know the effort that had gone into Baz would think he was a hopeless case. And seeing the new owner with her confidence down would give anyone the impression this combination was not going to work, they would be right.
So 12 months after he had left, with a lot of water under the bridge, I turned up to see what I could do. I expected a mess. Bazaconi looked well, he had no doubt been looked after. This was his second or third home since he left me so he had never really had the chance to settle into a routine. Prior to my arrival he hadn’t been ridden for weeks.
I took him into the arena, it was out in the open in the bush, with horses in yards and paddocks all around, his next door neighbour was calling to him. Hardly the perfect environment to investigate, and or sort out issues. Bazaconi’s concentration was all over the place, I took the lead and gave it one quick firm tug, immediately he focused on me, both eyes and both ears fixed in my direction. We went to work, exactly what I had done with him the last time I had worked him. Straight back into it, he was focused, he obviously recognised me and I still had his respect. I was so pleasantly surprised, I had expected a handful of tangled fishing line, the work we had done had not been undone, what an intellect, but so sensitive to inconsistency, I think he was pretty happy to see me.
The owner of the equestrian centre seemed shocked at what he was capable of, reasonably so ,they had never seen him work as he could. The new owner was releaved that he had worked well, she conceded that she had bitten off more than she could chew, not only that, her circumstances had changed substantially from the day I decided she could make it work, she offered Baz back to me.

Baz was coming home and I would get to spend more time with him, I was now more certain he had a future.

 

 

 

 

 

“Bazaconi” part 10,If you love them let them go.

 

When I finally let a Bazaconi go. He would go with loads of verbal and written instruction.
I tell you, I live this stuff. If I have given a recommendation as to how a horse should be managed, it isn’t just some throw away line, it is very considered sometimes agonised over, I can assure you, horses keep me awake at night. Bad management, feeding, handling on the ground, training regemes, ruin more horses than poor riding.

I use as much emotional and mental energy on every horse as I do with every one of my trainers. Every horse is like a good friend that needs a hand. In every  training session I carry out or observe, I watch like a hawk, I don’t miss much!

If a new owner gets advice on a horse from me, I have thought it through thoroughly. Taking into account the horses training and temperament, the riders abilities and weaknesses, the riders support structure, age, experience,fitness, mum and dads knowledge, where they will keep the horse, what they will feed the horse what are their ambitions ( not to be confused with capabilities😀 they often are) what kind of float do they have and on and on and on.
This is not like some passing advice you get from a mum at pony club, who is really only interested I her kids horse, or some horse bitch at he stables who takes delight in seeing you struggle, or even some well meaning cowboy who learnt to ride from an 80 year old aboriginal stock man, roping steers in the Northern Territory . I am giving advice on this particular horse in this particular situation, I know the horse intimately, hopefully, I have a pretty good understanding of the new rider, I’m a pretty good judge of a rider and read between the lines very well, remember this has kept me awake at night.

When bazaconi’s time had come I was full of hope for his future, the girl who was taking him was intelligent, mature and had some fairly good riding potential. Most importantly she assured me she had a strong support base, people who were eventing at the highest level would instruct her and Baz, she had full confidence in them, they lived just over the back fence. Though I knew of them ,I didn’t know them personally, if they were competing at the level they were and instructing and training for a living I couldn’t ask for much more on Baz’s behalf.

I would like to introduce the last important piece of the puzzle that I believed would get the combination across the line. I have no doubt this will cause a little controversy amongst the less thoughtful and know all section of the audience, but I think I’ve made my point, I don’t do anything lightly.
The marketharborour is a piece of harness I was introduced to me at the mounted police. For the. Mounties it is compulsory equipment whilst on patrol, it has been in use there for at least 30 years probably much longer, you would like to suppose they would have ironed out any issues with this priece of equipment in 30 years don’t you think. Well I think they had a pretty good idea of how useful the marketharborour could be and I reckon I have put hundreds of hours since leaving the Mounties into what I think of it and it’s pros and cons in relation to helping riders and horses.I could write an entire book on the use of the marketharborour, I personally don’t use it as general rule, either do my staff, we don’t need to, except to ensure the horse can work safely in it but with good knowledge and understanding it is an exceptionally useful tool and piece of safety equipment.

The marketharborour attaches to the horses girth via a strap an inch wide, it travels forward between the horses front legs where it then splits into two thinner straps which pass through the rings on the side of the bit, it then runs along the reins where it attaches to small rings fixed to the reins, say a third of the length of the reins up from the bit. The market harbour can be adjusted to the particular horse so that the horse carries himself in a correct frame. The marketharborour doesn’t come into play unless the rider or horse make a minor infringement in relation to maintaining the correct frame it then makes an instant correction, much more quickly that most riders can, as the horse has been trained to respond to the correction he does so and life goes on safely, the marketharborour releases immediately, it is no longer engaged, this all happens in a split second, most of the time the rider won’t even recognised it has occurred.

Horses should not be put into a marketharborour until they achieved the ability to carry themselves in a good working frame, the market harbourour used in this way is a safety net not a training device.
Now, when a horse goes into a new environment he will be less attentive than he has been in his regular comfortable daily working environment. It might take a month for horses to settle into their new environment, the market harbourour takes the rough edges off nervous riders and helps the horse by guiding him with the established non confusing aids he has learnt in his training to this point.
Put shortly, it is a great bridging tool to help horses and rider get to know each other in less than perfect conditions. It has saved the backside of many a mounted police officer when things go pear shaped, and the you know what hits the fan.

I had introduced the marketharborour to Baz and his new rider in the last weeks of his training and recommended, with loads of other advice, that he should be ridden in it until it was absolutely boring for both horse and rider.

Finally the day came, I loaded Baz up and drove him to his new home. I really did love this big fiery bastard, I hoped things would work out for him. I don’t generally get sad when I let horses go, after all this is my objective, it’s a happy day for me, or so I kept telling myself, I send them off with hope that they will be happy, healthy and loved for the rest of their days. Bazaconi had become one of my i portent equine teachers, you get them in your horse life, I’ve had several but he was right up there. The process we had gone through was not far removed from my normal day to day work but his issues tested my knowledge,skill  and instincts at every turn. I owed him and no doubt he owed me. I can asure you Bazaconi would never be let down by me .

end of part 10

 

Bazaconi just minutes after arriving at his new home.I send them off with hope that they will be happy, healthy and loved for the rest of their days I can sure you Bazaconi would never be let down.

“Bazaconi” part 9 ,trust and canter

 

Ok. With full confidence in my training program and instincts it was time to get this party started.
Each of Baz’s sessions commenced with at least ten minutes of work in hand, in this way I could put him under graduated pressure, ask him to compress and then reach, halt calmly, work in a deeper frame, rein back and reward him for every incremental improvement in his attention and obedience, it was a great way to re enforce our relationship and his trust in the fact that there was an answer to every question that I asked,  I wouldn’t ask him to do something he couldn’t do.
He had awesome focus, if only this had been done when he was broken in what an amazing horse he would have been.
The next part of Baz’s workout was to work on the lunge, increase and then decrees the size of the circle asking for more then less engagement of his hind quarters, transitions, walk to trot, trot to walk, trot to halt, halt to trot. Keeping him mentally and physically with me. Canter transitions on the lunge had become fairly good by this time, consolidating the voice command was of the utmost importance as this would give him a Cue which he understood, to be coordinated with the physical aid for the canter transition which at this point he didn’t understand. They would gradually join and become part of the same aid.
Under saddle, some bending and flexing consolidating his understanding of, and desire to reach for, the outside rein more trust that I wouldn’t smack him in the mouth. Walk trot transitions, at this stage he didn’t have a great understanding of lengthening his trot, if I asked to lengthen the trot too much he would threaten to jump into canter, if I felt he would cope with it I would have let him go, but I knew he needed more support and guidance than this.
Now that the preparation is complete here we go, I expect this to work, I’ve done everything right. A steady rhythmic trot, good contact and attention. Reduce the size of the circle, not more than he can cope with easily, I don’t want to loose the tempo and rhythm, leg yield out at my speed, not falling but moving forward sideways at my rate this is done on the incorrect diagonal, it makes him step under himself that much further with the inside hind leg toward the outside rein contact. I need to be able to release that inside rein and still have him maintain the bend, flexion and forward I have set up, as well as the connection between the inside leg and the outside rein. I know If I push the trot gently, ask him to extend a little, he will be inclined to canter, I need to co ordinate the voice aid, “canter up!” With the leg aids and the increase in lengthening, in this way I am giving him a number of cue’s for the same thing. One more important Cue for an ex racehorse at this stage is for the rider to take a light seat, most won’t cope with deep sitting at this point and the movement forward to the light 2 point seat is similar to that made by a jockey when he wants the horse to move forward out of trot when on the track. All this on Baz’s better direction, set him up for success not failure.
Pop! away he went calmly and controlled I could feel some enthusiasm bubbling underneath but if I stayed calm so would he, half a lap, gentle voice command ” aaand trot ” done! Mission accomplished, call this a win and a big step forward.
The next several rides were exactly the same, gradually working to the more difficult side, never asking for too long, ensuring it was my decision to come back to trot while things were going well, always walking away when I felt like I wanted to do some more. If I walked away thinking I had gone too far it would be a very negative experience for me and Baz.


How rewarding, knowing where he had come from, I only wish I had some footage of the first few dangerous out of control rides, no one will ever understand what this fantastic horse had achieved, I couldn’t be more proud of him and more satisfied with my commitment. I could feel a real bond forming with Baz, I really liked him and I could see that he trusted me, I could actually keep this one, we would be great for each other. But the job was to find him a home and hopefully. He was now ready to move on.

end of part 9