Our new guy Star is settling in well to the day-to-day routine at Safe Harbor. We have not pushed him too hard, given his age, but we have assessed him for soundness and temperament. For the most part, he is easy to handle and can be safely lead and groomed, bur he does tend to be on the “pushy” side. His behavior makes us think he may have been a late cut stallion, which explains some of his attitude towards people. Consistency and fairness are making a world of difference for Star, and we have already seen a lot of very good changes.
It can be a little upsetting working with horses like Star…because this could be the first time in his entire life that he’s been asked to behave a certain way. You have the best intentions, trying to give the horse some boundaries that will keep everyone safe, but it takes discipline and you end up feeling like a big meanie. We take in plenty of horses who have gotten away with walking all over people. They’re not “bad” horses; they just don’t know any better. Since Star didn’t feel he could trust people to keep him safe, he resorted to taking things into his own hands. This results in the pushiness and overreaction we have seen and in Star’s case, might have resulted in his previous owner being knocked down and injured. The good news is that with horsemanship work, we can show him an easier way. By always offering him a “good deal” first, we have the opportunity to support better behavior and experiences with humans that leave him feeling successful and peaceful from the interactions, instead of alone, afraid, or reactive.
On top of the extensive training needed to help him become a quiet riding mount, Star has fibrotic myopathy in his hind left leg. This is a mechanical lameness of the hind limb. The gait change is caused by a mechanical limitation on movement of the hind limb. Luckily this is scar tissue is not painful but the irregularity of the gait can cause other aspects of the body to be strained from compensation of the irregular movement in the hind. Star’s injury is in the hamstring muscles in the upper hindquarter. This causes him to slap his left hind down when he walks or trots. There is surgery that can be done to remove the scar tissue but since the lameness is not painful, this is not something SAFE would want to put this older gelding through.
So where do we go from here? We are faced with a sensitive, 22 year old Arabian who needs a lot of good horsemanship work to help him make better decisions. We will continue to help give Star the tools he needs to be a gentle horse. Right now, he is working with one of our Horsemanship volunteers to tune up his ground manners, lightly exercise him, and give him love and attention while he is at Safe Harbor. Already we have seen great improvement in his responsiveness and relaxation. We will also assess his interactions with other horses to see how he is for group turnout and what personality type he is within the herd dynamic. This will help us better place him in a home where he can be loved and cared for as a companion. He is currently available for adoption. His new home will need to have skills dealing with sensitive horses. Overall, Star is a good boy and when handled correctly, is no trouble. He would not be suitable for an elderly owner or child without adult supervision. An experienced horse person won’t have trouble with him and, to the right home, he will make a great addition to someone’s family.