The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I learned something yesterday. Don't bother to try and flatter an Appaloosa. He will not be impressed, and he knows he's cool already.

I trimmed three Appaloosas this week. The first was Raspberry, the camp horse; he was rather sensitive and did not fit the stereotype. But the other two Appaloosas were alike, not only in appearance, and in hoof quality, but in their distinctive - what I take, and stories describe, to be - Appaloosa personality.

The first was a big, handsome Appaloosa called Cracker - rescued last fall from an auction as a poor, sick, scrawny, abused creature. He is now healed, well filled-out, and trusting of his new family. The past abuse, however, did not made him timid - when he arrived at his new home, he was wont to bite and kick. He is past that now, although clearly he has never been a horse to shrink back from provocation, but to meet it head-on.

He has great feet - wide heels, big healthy frog, good concavity, little or no flaring.

His owner, her husband, son, and a friend stood chatting while I trimmed - telling stories of their horses, and the horses they'd known in the past. It was fun.

The horse was not inclined to listen to me much. Perhaps his background made him leery of strangers. One of the guys suggested that he was used to men trimming his feet and was testing me. He did ok, but wasn't cooperating with the hind feet. Something about the way he was reacting to me made me think he just couldn't be bothered. So I finally just held on and wouldn't let go, despite him kicking and waggling his leg. I stretched his leg out for him and relaxed it back to a bent position to rest on the hoofjack. We worked it out, got his feet finished, and the owner was happy.

It was interesting, though - the difference between this horse and some others. Mostly, you feel like they tune in and pretty much stay tuned in. This guy wasn't all that keen on tuning in. I don't know if the man was right and he was testing me. Maybe that's not the way I would look at it, but - despite his background - he didn't seem to want or need reassurance, and as a woman, I guess it's easier and more natural for me to offer reassurance than to make demands. Rather than deliberately testing me, possibly he was just ignoring me because I didn't seem worth paying attention to. So hanging on and refusing to let go was perhaps one way of showing that I could not be ignored. And let me say that holding on to a big horse's hind foot is a lot easier than holding onto a tiny little spitfire of a 36" mini.

One of the observers at this trimming asked me to come and do his horses the next day. I was delighted to find that the two horses in question were familiar to me by sight, as I'd been driving past them for years and had always wondered about them. Buck is another tall, handsome Appaloosa with spectacular feet, big bones - and that personality again. I was trimming away, making reassuring noises and telling him he was a "good boy," when it struck me that it was way too condescending to be calling him good boy. So I apologized for calling him that, and tried to be more business-like. I don't know if it helped, but we managed.

Buck's buddy, "Chubby," is a 3/4 Arab. His feet are also very nice, if a little narrower and with a slightly greater tendency to contracted heels (always a danger with rock-hard feet, I guess). Their owner has been trimming their feet himself and has been doing a good job, it seems. He likes to get them done by a professional (who? me?) every once in a while.

Both Buck and Chubby were resistant to resting their feet, especially their hind feet, on the hoofjack to work on the underside of the hoof. I guess it's unfamiliar to them, as they're used to the old-fashioned way, where you wedge the foot between your legs - which I ain't doing, cos my back'd give out.

I gave them treats when they were done. Got them both finished in under an hour and a half, so that wasn't too bad. But they were a little bit of a challenge.

Buck and Chubby's owner just loves those guys. He's had them for years and trained them himself. He's fond of saying that people call Appaloosas mean and crazy, but that he's never had any problem with Buck, except he's a little stubborn at times. He says that when he's trimming Buck, if he's taking too long, Buck'll turn around and give him a little nip - not hard, just to register his complaint. The owner will just say, "Buck - quit." And Buck will stop. Now, some people might turn around and yell, or smack the horse. And with that strong personality, if he was treated that way, I think pretty quickly that horse could turn into something you might call mean.

Buck's owner says that Appies are known for being fond of children, and also for being loyal to just one person or family. I wonder if Raspberry and the other Appaloosa I trimmed a few weeks ago tuned into me better because they were not particularly bonded with the person who was handling them and so had a frequency open for me to connect into.

I need to figure out how to treat this kind of horse with proper respect, but not let them treat me like a doormat. The "King" (the Hempfling type) requires respect, but is susceptible, in a Lear-like kind of way, to flattery. They like you to affirm their kingliness. But the Appaloosa knows who he is and doesn't need your affirmation.

Working with these guys reminded me of the Appaloosa mare we owned for a short while (before she died prematurely). She found it almost impossible to stand on three legs for the farrier. But she was super-smart and cooperative. She figured out that if she rested her hind quarters back against the wall, propped her head on someone's shoulder while simultaneously leaning sideways onto one or two other people, then the farrier could pick up a leg on the opposite side. It would never do to be condescending toward her, or baby her in any way - she was an adult and wished to be treated as such.

Here's something else I learned. Buck's owner says that you should monitor the color of the pupil of the horse's eye. Blue is normal; if there's a yellow tint, the horse is scared; and if there's a red tint, the horse is angry.

No photos of these horses, but here's something cute in Buck's barn.

Two litters bunking in together.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I haven't dealt with appaloosas much so I don't know anything about stereotypes for them. My gelding is a bit like Buck though, he knows exactly who he is and expects his due respect. I sometimes have a job of it reminding him that I'm due some respect too.

    That eye stuff sounds interesting, I'll have to check my mare for that yellow tint.