Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I have a Thoroughbred stallion named Biskit. Well, his actual, registered name is Mustabeencrazy. He is by Valid Expectations out of a mare that was not terribly well bred, but a hard runner who did win some money. People always ask me if he's a Quarter horse - he and his sire look a lot more like stock horses than race horses:  here is a picture of his daddy and an article about how he, this year, became Texas' all time leading sire by progeny earnings.

Biskit looking winter scruffy
I did not set out to obtain a stallion. I'd heard terrible things about what horrendous creatures they can be and I'd had some bad experiences with evil tempered colts. However, I had also met some colts that were fairly well behaved so, when I got a call from the racetrack asking me to take in a 2 year old stud colt with a fractured sesamoid, and when the caller assured me he was a darling to handle and would make a great horse for a kid, I decided to go check him out.

another scruffy photo of my stallion

He had been taken back to the owner's farm to recuperate and was, indeed, as docile as they claimed. They told me his name was "Biskit" for Seabiscuit - he was smallish and had slightly crooked front legs like the famous racehorse. I brought him home, and he was put on stall rest to recover from his fracture. I think he had to be kept in for about three months. During that time, he continued to be easy to handle and, anyway, I couldn't have him gelded while he was on stall rest - the newly gelded horse must be able and encouraged to move around to facilitate healing. The recuperation started in the spring. By the time he was allowed minimal turnout, it had gotten hot and the flies had arrived - also not a good time for gelding. Biskit was turned out with another horse recovering from an injury, my "miracle colt," Forbes, and continued to act as if he was already a docile gelding. My students led him around and groomed him, he paid no attention to mares whatsoever, he was better behaved than some of my geldings, and so gelding him was never a real priority.

A few years later, I was contemplating whether or not I should just go ahead and take care of the little operation, and one of my vet friends asked if I would be willing to let him breed a few mares first. By this time, Biskit had developed quite a reputation for his fantastic temperament. This particular friend was interested in breeding polo ponies, and thus Biskit's sprinting pedigree and compact, muscular build was ideal. We weren't too worried about Biskit's slightly crooked front legs - his sire has perfect legs and his dam raced many times, so we're pretty sure she must have been fairly sound. Just in case, Todd decided to breed just one mare as a test. This baby was born the following spring and was named Dr. Jones, after the doctor caring for Todd's wife, who was battling cancer at the time.
mug shot of baby Dr. Jones

  Dr. Jones snoozing
Dr. Jones had straight legs, a stocky build like his sire, and also turned out to have Biskit's super, friendly, docile temperament. Dr. Jones is two now, has been gelded, and is soon to be sent for some initial training. I have been told that he is quiet, smart and a very quick learner.
Dr. Jones at just a few days old
Dr. Jones with his momma

Last spring, when Dr. Jones was a yearling, I brought Biskit over to Todd's farm for a few months again to pasture breed a small herd of mares. This year, those foals were born. They are a lovely crop of babies, nicely built, and all seem to have their daddy's winning personality.

I hereby present Biskit's 2013 foal crop:

This is the oldest, a colt named St. Patrick born on - you guessed it - St. Patrick's Day. He is a flashy bay with lots of white and he absolutely loves people. He is very curious and outgoing.

Patrick, just a few days old, with Kayla

Patrick at approximately 2 months old

Posing with one of Todd's sons

This is the filly, Sarah, I believe she was second born. She is a flashy light bay or chestnut - I think she will end up being a chestnut like Dr. Jones. I was worried about her when I first saw her a few days after she was born - she had really long spider legs and her butt was far higher than her front end. She has leveled out nicely at approximately 2 months of age.
Sarah, about 2 weeks old

with her mom

Sarah around 1  1/2 months old

Next we have Cubed, Todd's favorite - a feisty bay filly, very well put together and stocky, perhaps a little hotter than her father but becoming sweeter and more people-oriented by the day.

Cubed, less than 2 weeks old, posing on the hillside

She wouldn't let me touch her

Stocky little baby girl

Cubed and her flashy Paint mom

Cubed just under 2 months old

The attitude is still there

She thinks she's the real deal

And here is the surprise filly, Brisket (yes, I know - I had no say in the naming of the babies and tried to veto this particular name, though they claim it's an homage to her daddy!). She is a lovely chestnut out of one of Todd's best polo mares, who apparently broke down a fence to get into the pasture with Biskit and produced an unexpected foal to everyone's surprise (apparently she didn't even look pregnant, just a little chunky!)

Surprise filly Brisket with her mom at around a week old

Brisket having a drink at about 1 1/2 months old

And finally we have Telulah, a pretty little bay filly who has had a rocky start. She and her mom had to be sent to a clinic soon after birth - her mom foundered and also stepped on poor Telulah's leg. The tough little filly is in a cast and seems to be recovering well. She has some way to go to catch up to her siblings, but has a strong will to live and loves the attention she's getting - I was told she much prefers people to horses. Mom is doing a little better, but is a long way from recovery.
Telulah sleeping in the sun soon after her arrival home from the hospital, just a week or two old

I have no idea how that black box got there or how to remove it!

Telulah around 5 or 6 weeks old, showing off her cast

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wee Willie

Several horses have come to my farm, Equutopia, after suffering past abuse and/or neglect. In the cases I’ve dealt with personally, the physical damage has been far easier to undo than the psychological injuries. Interestingly enough, the horses I’ve received in the worst physical condition have all been sweet and very easy to handle, a testament to the generally forgiving nature of the horse.

Willie, a small, bay hackney pony, has been my toughest psychological rehabilitation case thus far. He was genuinely afraid of people and very difficult to catch when he first arrived. I kept him in a fairly small paddock and, with time and patience, earned some measure of trust. Catching him was a very time consuming procedure at first: I had to approach him walking very slowly, looking down at the ground, facing sideways. It usually took many approaches before I could touch him but, once I could start patting him, he’d stand still for me to slip a lead around his neck and get hold of his halter. Eventually, I got to the point with him where I just stood in the middle of the paddock, called him, stretched my arm out and stared at the ground and he would trot right up to me. I think he figured out that it was easier that way, that I wasn't going to just leave him alone.

Willie and Copper (sorry, terrible pic but only one I have of them!)

Handling Willie was another challenge. He was never mean – he would just freeze and tremble in fear. Again, with lots of patience and gentle grooming, he came to realize that I wasn’t all that bad. He was always reluctant to let me touch his right side – I have no idea why, and was never able to completely overcome this issue. I suspect that the vision in his right eye may have been bad.

One moment in particular with Willie will be etched in my memory forever. I had him loose in a stall and was just trying to make friends with him, patting and stroking his neck. I was standing sideways to him with eyes downcast, arm fully outstretched to reach him while standing as far away as possible. Willie seemed to be relaxing and accepting the attention, so I decided to see what would happen if I stepped away. I slowly lowered my arm and took a step away. Then I waited. After a few moments, Willie took a sideways step toward me, and I resumed my attentions. It was the first real breakthrough and brought tears to my eyes.


I trimmed his feet myself. It took some time before he would even let me pick them up, and then he would extend the foot toward me and freeze, trembling, displaying a horrible, resigned fear. That, too, improved with time. He acted the same way for veterinary ministrations – he just steeled himself in preparation for the

Handling led to leaning, then sitting astride his back. I did this several times, feet almost touching the ground on the small pony. Again, you guessed it, the freezing and trembling. He would not take a step with me on his back. Perhaps with time and persistence he would have become rideable, but I felt he would be better off as a pet. He was around 4 when I got him, and I had him for about 3 or 4 years.

I had the good fortune to meet a wonderful lady, Julie, through my job at the time. She told me all about her hackney pony, Zoe, who was also a victim of past abuse. Julie was able to successfully rehabilitate Zoe, and she was clearly a pampered pet. Unfortunately, Zoe was very old and had some age-related health issues and eventually had to be put down. Julie was heartbroken.

After some time, I suggested that she might like to adopt Willie, and she did, along with two other ponies I had on the farm at the time, Willie's buddies, Copper and Sammie. Julie made progress with Willie as well, but we agree that he will never completely trust people.