Captain Morgan, the Horse with a Problem

 

It would be a month before I heard the black horse had a nickname: Widow Maker. He was not a popular horse. He had bucked off a lot of people. He just exploded and dumped them. I rode him a few times but he was nervous, short tempered, barely tolerating leg pressure. Unmistakably, he was ready to explode. He vet-checked sound so it was up to me to work the emotional kinks out of him. I needed to find out where the previous training had de-railed.

My first impression was he was either started too young or had an overall immature personality. The flower essences I tried on him were Impatiens for more patience with himself, his surroundings, and others; Passion Flower for comfortable correction allowing him to see the opportunity in the moment; Clematis to sharpen up his focus when I was asking something of him; and Chestnut Bud for sorting through the requests. However, within the following days, none of these made any difference to his comfort level. He was still edgy, uncomfortable, and unpredictable. This never happened to me. I was disappointed, dismayed, and nervous, asking myself, “Now what do I do?”

I gave him flower essences and homeopathic remedies for post-trauma and relaxation: Arnica essence and homeopathic 30x increasing to 200c when no bodily changes were evident. Additionally, I used Echinacea and Yarrow essences for negative memories associated with a particular environment, also used for horses who don’t like arena riding or riding on the trail away from the herd. These are the same essences and remedies I used for horses trapped and injured after a weeklong firestorm in southern California 7 years ago and also rescuing post-Katrina in 2005.

Plus I continued giving him lots of Impatiens essence as this was his biggest personality deficiency: patience with himself and others. Homeopathic Chamomila 6x was given and added to his bath water. Star Tulip for grounding was another important essence used at this time, since nothing seemed to be immediately helping.

I quit riding him until I had a definitive answer to the erratic and dangerous behavior, working him at liberty in a large 80’ round pen. The new training goal was to maintain a good attitude, focusing his attention on me, waiting for my signals and meeting my requests in a timely manner. My requests were simple: Don’t break gait – if trotting, stay trotting; and Don’t reverse without being asked. He rebelled at my requests by striking the air several times in my direction. He picked up the pace, so I encouraged it. He did have stamina equal to his determination.

As he worked himself on the rail, I began to hear the sound of distant gunfire. He twitched his ears, slowed his pace, and looked a bit concerned. The sound got louder, more consistent. He started galloping with his hindquarters drifting just to the inside, off the rail. When the gunfire erupted again, he spooked, bucked, and kicked out a few times. This is when I realized that the gunfire was coming from him. It was gas emissions!

It had been 35 minutes including warm-up. He could go another 5-10 minutes before his cool-down period. He went 10 more minutes and he rifled out gas the entire time. Finally, he started to move more relaxed, head bowed, throat latch untroubled, belly soft and pliant, all 4 legs hitting the ground equally. His ears were actively twitching, flicking in all directions. His eyes were now more expressive, active, and blinking more often.

He had been working hard but his comfortable posture was much more than post-exercise. He had released all that build-up of painful bloat. He was darn near a puppy dog after that. I worked him several more days at liberty, let him roll as much and as often as he needed (which was a lot), made sure there was no sugar in his feed, and one day re-saddled him. His behavior improved when the gas (which had been continually replacing itself either from stress or diet) was at last eliminated. I put 2 weeks on him in the arena and on the trail riding up to 4 hours daily, without incident.

 

Always more to the story

A year later, leaning over my new neighbor’s fence talking horses, he questioned me about the markings on this bucking black Morgan Horse doubting it could be the same Widow Maker that had bucked off some of the best Cowboys in North County including several at his ranch.

“Yes, he was black with a white snip on his forehead. Yes, he had a piece of white above one front hoof. Yes, he was short.” I answered all his questions except my clients name.

After a lengthy conversation, my Cowboy neighbor was now convinced that I had, indeed, put 30 days on the infamous Widow Maker. His parting comment to me was:

“Yes, maybe you did ride him 30 days.

But, you didn’t ride him 31.

Now, did you?”