Our friend Donny, drove to Michigan in January 2011, and brought back a TB Mare named Betty. This mare raced just a few times when she was young, but after that her life is a bit of a mystery. The best we can tell she just stood around, and I think she had a few foals. Betty is a bitch. No other word for it. She hates everything, and lets you know it. Brush her, she will try to bite you, tighten a girth and teeth are coming at you, enter her stall and watch out for flying limbs. I don't know why, but we love her.
Donny has had Chiro work done, several vet checks, and put her on all the supplements one can think of. She has the most expensive and best farrier around. All of this made her feel better, but did not improve her mood. Although it did wonders for her speed. Betty can run, and loves it. Oh Boy, can this Bitch pick up some speed. Donny has spent the last year doing his best to make Betty a Hunter Horse, but Betty will have none of it. She will give him one course at medium speed, but then she is off to the races. It is Nascar time, and she takes off like a shot. Just all out hand gallop hunter jumper style. Donny has had a hard time controlling her, and was he not such an excellent rider (with velcro breeches) it would be disaster after disaster. I kept saying to him that she just does not get it, and she just disagrees with him, strongly, about the need for slow controlled canters. Some people suggested she become a Jumper, or an XC horse, but she is is just too fast, and strong, to control. After our weekend at Chagrin, Donny was heartbroken, after having to send her towards the wall to stop her.
So how about barrels? I know, a TB running barrels? Well, we just thought she would like it. At first we joked about it, although secretly I was serious. I have watched this horse for a year, gritting her teeth and trying to show Donny that fast is just better. Her frustration at his unwillingness to learn was palpable. I felt her irritation, and she held a grudge, cursing him every time he held her back. If slow is good, FAST IS BETTER!!! They way she handled herself, reminded me of a chomping at the bit QH Barrel racer.
So on Saturday he tacked her up western. And gave it a whirl. First he let her warm up, and then worked on some sharp turns. Turn and Burn style. Betty was thrilled. Ears forward, pounding the ground, neck low, ripping it up like she loves to do. If she could have, we would have heard a rip roaring "WooHoo" or a "Hell Yeah." Betty was allowed to run all out, and really let go. (side note; Donny has lunged her extensively, let her run, and not run, to see if anything would stop her penchant for speed, to no avail.)
We then set up a barrel pattern, and this is one of her is her first run around those:
She was killing it, and as you can see she even started doing the signature barrel horse hop. Digging in with both hind legs and hopping around that barrel. TB's can be a bit stiff to bend (IMO), but look at the sharp turns she does. With even the lightest tap, she would step out or in. Between runs, and they only did 5-6, she was breathing hard, but was calmly waiting to go again. After two runs, the objective was crystal clear to her, and she was just going for it. Slowing for the barrels, and shooting out between.We were amazed! Jaws dropped, goofy grins for everyone.
Donny asked me what I thought, and I just was smiling like a goof ball, with tears in my eyes. Betty seemed like a different horse, and I was thrilled that she had found her purpose. Donny had not been sure what to do with her before Saturday, as he could not sell her without fear of her killing someone. But now he had his barrel horse. Donny started out as a Contest rider, but never found the right mount. Then fell in love with Hunters, but still dabbles when possible in speed events. Who knew that his dream Barrel Horse would be a grouchy old TB Mare?
After he cooled her down, we all walked, still in awe speaking over each other, to untack her. For the first time ever, Betty stood quietly while tack was being removed. She even allowed Donny to brush her all over, and stood quietly while he rinsed off her legs. She was happy and content, and yawned as though it was all in a days work.
Later Betty told the herd all about how you really should put the time into your human, and not give up. Sometimes they surprise you, even though it may take a year, and finally get what you have been trying to teach them. I know Pippi agreed whole heartedly saying; "Oh I know, can you believe mine thought I was a western horse? Stupid Humans, Right?"