Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

Tip over Tail

Once in a while, you run across a horse that can’t be fixed.  Whatever has made it become the horse it is, is too dangerous a problem to ever risk trying to fix.  When the unfixable horse isn’t yours, but you’ve been hired to train and put work on it, the problem amplifies tenfold.  This is the problem I ran into when I was but sixteen years old.  I was fortunate to be hired to train three, quarter horse mares for one family, one quarter horse gelding owned by the son who lived next door, and a quarter horse mare owned by their neighbour.  Back in those days, I trained my own at the property I rented, and trained horses like these, where they lived.  Have pickup, will travel.

I had been working with the horses for about a month, and they were all doing amazingly well.  Moving from the parent’s to the son’s place, after working the three mares, I was just getting started on the big gelding, when it came to my attention that I had a flat tire on my old truck.  I decided to quickly change it before working Chad, the gelding.  It made sense to get it out of the way, so it wasn’t nagging at me, the whole time I was riding.  Changing a tire wasn’t a big deal.  It wouldn’t take long at all to deal with, then I could put my whole focus on the horse, where it belonged.

Jack up the pickup, off with the flat, on with the spare.  Let the jack down.  Oh no, the spare is also flat!  No problem.  I had a second spare.  Unfortunately, a quick thump on the second spare, said that it was also flat.  Over the time they’d travelled around with me, both tires had lost all their air.  I borrowed their phone and did what one did when they were only sixteen, and ran into a big problem.   I called mom.  Maybe fifteen or twenty minutes later, mom arrived with a couple more spares.  Yup, I said a couple.  After all, why bring only the one, when there were two available? Even back then, I had the theory that if some was good, assuredly more was better.  As it turned out, it was a good thing mom brought both spares from home.  One was too low, but the other was, as they say, just right.  The tire situation finally dealt with, I turned my attention back to the matter at hand, riding Chad.  This was one of my last days on him, and I wanted to show off how quiet he was, to his owners.

It had rained the night before, and there were little, muddy puddles still sitting here and there.  After riding him all over the area, Chad suddenly decided that he simply couldn’t, absolutely wouldn’t, cross a somewhat muddy area.  It was the most ridiculous thing, as he’d travelled over that exact spot, several times in the last half hour, with not a single issue.  There was no way I was about to let him get away with such nonsense.   I wouldn’t allow him to go around the muddy patch, which also extended behind and around us, and pressured him to move forward.  He was being obstinate.  I was even more so.  Chad had a month of steady work on him.  This was not acceptable behaviour.  As I squeezed my legs against his sides and pressed him forward, he did something he’d never done before.  He reared.   Rearing is something horses do.  They rear from sheer joy and exuberance.   They rear when playing with a buddy.  They rear when threatening another horse, in an effort to intimidate, and sometimes, they rear, to avoid doing something they’re not keen on.  The latter was what Chad chose to do that day.  I felt him gather under me, then that big front end came off the ground.  I wasn’t at all impressed with this bad, unexpected behaviour.  As soon as he dropped down, we were going to have a serious discussion about this nonsense he was pulling.  I knew better than to pull back or put him off balance.   Such a thing could easily result in pulling the horse right over onto yourself.  That was not something i wanted to experience.  The problem was, the big horse continued to rise higher and higher.  I know it probably happened in a flash, yet it felt like slow motion.  There was a point when I realized we were past the point of a simple rear.  Chad was going over, and taking me along with him.  He was allowing himself to fall over backwards, something any horse should have a natural adversion to.  Vivid memories still come to mind of that day.  How beautiful and sunny it was.  How I had to change multiple tires.  My mom’s expression as she reacted with horror and fear, and the way all my spectators were rising from their seats in reaction.  I heard the fear in my mother’s voice when she called out my name.  Though it still felt like slow motion, I had to act, and fast.  At the last second, I pulled his head to one side, and the big horse landed with a great thud, mostly on my right side and leg, instead of my whole being.  That the ground was muddy and soft, helped to save my leg a little, and I was grateful for small favours.  Chad got to his feet again, seemingly unperturbed by what had happened.  I got to mine, hobbled a bit, walked it off then yes, I climbed back on.  I wasn’t dead or seriously maimed.  Of course I had to ride him more.  Chad had to know that such actions, didn’t result in a reward.  I rode him a while longer, then again for the rest if his training period, and chalked it up as a ‘one of’, coupled with poor balance and bad luck.

The following year, Chad came to me for a bit of a refresher course.   After the first week, I advised his owners that he was a dangerous horse, and someday, someone would be seriously injured or killed by him.  If he turned just a little, too sharply or unexpectedly, he would fall down.  When I was out riding him, he balked and when I pressured him to move forward, he reared and went over on me, again!  He was gentle, and sweet, and wonderful to work with on the ground, yet he was incredibly dangerous.  For some strange reason, he had no qualms about falling or falling tip over tail.  No matter how collected, he simply let himself go.  Against my advice, he was sold to a young family, and I heard the problems continued.  I learned that not all horses could be fixed, and have a bum knee to remind me of it.  I don’t believe he did what he did because he was a bad horse.  To all appearances, he just didn’t possess a sense of self-preservation.

This was in stark contrast, to a horse I met many years later.  An acquaintance asked me to go with her to look at a horse.  Of no particular breed, the gelding was a substantial animal with excellent conformation and manners.  The owner had ridden it bareback all over with a simple halter and lead, which appealed greatly to my friend.  He was bridled, she was boosted up, and we were pretty certain, she’d found her new horse.  Still, as well-trained as he clearly was, it was always a good idea to feel him out a bit.

“Maybe just walk around a,” I didn’t get the chance to get out another word.  Her fingers just barely touched the rein, and he coiled like a cat ready to pounce, then flung himself over backwards.  It happened so fast, there wasn’t time to react.  She was lucky she was bareback, and somehow threw herself to one side, or was thrown, and all she suffered was a horribly sore lower leg and foot.

The horse, well he simply got back to his feet and stood as if nothing had happened.   It was clear that he’d acted in purpose.  This wasn’t the first time he’d done this.  Thankfully, the correct decision was made, and this dangerous horse would not have the opportunity to risk lives in the future.  A horse that rears over backwards, is a dangerous one indeed.  I’ve known a few who have been seriously injured by them, a few lost their lives, and I as well as my friend, were very lucky.  The point of this story?  You can’t fix them all.

  1. I totally agree with you …. not all horses can be fixed and it is definitely smart to realize which ones they are …. thankfully I have found them to be very rare, but they do exist. And the flipping over backwards horse is one I just never bothered to take on … only to warn against. And sadly at least once when my warning was ignored, it cost both the person AND eventually, as followed, the horse’s lives. So sad.

    • There are so many good and worthwhile horses that need homes that there’s no reason to keep the dangerous ones.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB