I’ve been starting horses and restarting horses off the track for many years now. Decades, actually. I’m getting old! But the upside to getting old is that I’ve learned a lot of things and one is that horses don’t lie.
Horses don’t lie.
I freely admit that it took me a while to really believe this. It went along with horses don’t think about you when you’re gone, horses don’t plot to spook and dump you, horses don’t have an agenda or think about dressage when you’re gone. Ok, I have one horse who does perhaps think about dressage but he’s a freak. Most horses want to eat grass and have friends to hang out with.
But over the years I’ve come to realize they don’t lie. Some of them SCREAM at you that there’s a problem by bucking or rearing but some of them are quiet about it.
This picture is one of two caps taken off a three year old in training here. His teeth were done a little less than six months before, so his mouth is being well cared for… this is not the product of neglect. It simply is how a horses mouth develops. Adult teeth are formed under caps and caps come off when the adult tooth pushes it off. But they don’t always just come off. Sometimes they stay on and wear into points – or daggers, as you see here. This horses mouth had bloody holes where the caps had dug into his gums.
A week before I went to bridle this normally cheerful guy and he refused the bit. He just turned his head away. I turned it back and tried again. Nope. I got a little more assertive and he pinned his ears and threw his head up.
I’ve never seen him do this before. Horses don’t lie. So I put the bridle away and we went for a walk into the river bed instead.
What would have happened if I had insisted? There’s no telling. He’s a pretty good natured baby horse so he might have just sucked it up. Or maybe he would have acted out and I would have disciplined him for it, teaching him that he cannot communicate to me that he is in pain and get relief. It’s likely it would have caused at least some small problem that he might have carried around mentally his whole life.
This is how quirks start.
We do dentals here every six months without exception. In his case, he should go to three months as he is retaining one more cap that was not quite ready to come off yet. When a horse comes here for any reason we do their teeth, get them chiropracted and have their feet straightened out before we ever get on them. So many problems are caused by not attending to the details of correct care. This lovely little guy may have learned to rear and flip over backwards if he’d hit one of those sharp points at the wrong moment.. we could have both been injured or died over something routine and simple not being done.
Resistance in training is inevitable. If you have done your due diligence you can be confident that when you are in the saddle you can train through it. We only accept horses in training whose owners put the horses comfort and happiness first – the owners who know that horses don’t lie. Good owners are our partners in training and earn my respect for being patient and keeping their eyes on the prize – a quiet, willing, trustful partner.