Breeches & Boat Shoes asks: What are some quirks, naughty or nice, that your horse has and do you love or hate them?
I admit it, I love this topic! My horse is a weirdo. Again I say, work in progress. The list of Eli’s quirks is not short …
Takes a Moment — Before stepping out of his stall. Before stepping into the cross-ties. Before stepping into the wash rack. Before stepping out of the barn and up to the mounting block. Consistently. Like, never doesn’t do it. He just stops for a second, and then we keep walking. I don’t know if he is mentally preparing himself for the upcoming activity or what.
The Quirk I Trained Out of Him and Replaced with Another Quirk — Out with the vicious snapping, in with the nosy nuzzling. It’s mouthiness, either way, so, no, it is not ideal behavior. But now, for example, instead of pinning his ears and snapping at my hand with the brush in it, he nuzzles my hand for cookies. Nuzzles my pocket for cookies, nuzzles my shoulder for cookies when I walk in front of him. I can be brushing up by his withers and in his girth area, and he will stretch and bend his neck all the way back to nuzzle my hand that has the brush in it. He pretty much contorts himself so much that he can do so while cross-tied, and it isn’t like the cross-ties are elastic or super-loose. He does this when I put saddle pads and the saddle on, too, so I kind of have to do it all at once or the saddle might slip off his right side he’s so bent around me. I am now working with him on facing forward while I saddle him. The nuzzling is definitely an improvement over the vicious snapping!
Drinks Out of the Hose — I don’t think that’s that weird, although another amateur who takes lessons thought it was funny. I’ve bathed lots of horses who do that, though.
Halfheartedly Tries to Kick Me — Usually while I’m brushing out his tail. He’ll just kind of, sort of, casually, slowly starts to pick up a hind hoof and flex his hock and that’s right about when I tap his haunch with the brush and he puts his hoof back down. This also is a major improvement over past behavior. He used to actually try to kick the shit out of me–or anyone else–if I–or anyone else–did anything near his hind end. He’s kicked my coach, but that was before I had started leasing him. He will definitely have to be heavily drugged for a sheath cleaning.
Can’t Make Up His Mind — About having his face brushed/towel-dried/baby-wiped. He likes it, he likes it not, he likes it … you get the idea.
Regularly Skins Just the Hair Off of Himself — See pics. I have no idea how he actually does this.
Scratches His Ear with His Hind Hoof — How does he not fall over.
Has Random Swelling — I’m talking beyond a little stocking up. This weirdness I DO NOT LIKE. However, it has only happened a couple of times thankfully, and a day off, hand-walking, and wraps usually fix him back to normal in less than a day. And it’s random. One time all he did the day before was regular turnout and a light hack. That’s it. No unusual activity, nothing strenuous, nothing he doesn’t do regularly, and both his back legs were like tree trunks below the hocks. Couldn’t find any cuts or scrapes, either. He was otherwise fine, had normal vitals. But the next day after the above walking and wrapping, he was totally back to normal, no heat, sound and ready to go. Baffling.
Loses His Shit If Sprayed with Anything — I stick with spraying a brush and brushing fly spray or show sheen into his coat. It’s pretty sad how distressed he gets if something sprayed out of a spray bottle touches his coat or skin. His reaction is bad enough and dramatic enough that I have doubts about whether I will ever be able to spray fly spray directly on to him. He doesn’t at all mind bathing or being sprayed with water out of a hose. He doesn’t mind if I spray something onto his sole or frog, either (like hydrogen peroxide or whatever), so it’s not the noise.
As for quirks under saddle he doesn’t especially do anything weird, he’s just spooky at times, but rarely spooks of he’s in regular work. Certainly when I first started riding him, he was clueless as to how to go under saddle, and definitely had the rather dangerous habit of head flipping — I think primarily it was an evasion tactic, as he almost never does it now and there is usually an obvious reason now when he does do it. For a while we just worked on forward and straight. But that’s not really a quirk, that’s just a confused horse. He is so much more pleasant to hack around now. He’ll throw a lazy buck if he’s feeling fresh, or if he’s especially proud of something he just did, but I don’t see that as a problem in a jumper. Clapping does make him jump out of his skin, and I get the impression he doesn’t like yelling, because he can get kind of tense if I am riding him in the arena while someone else is having a lesson with an instructor I don’t train with. It’s not even mean yelling, just raising her voice so her student can hear her. I just reassure him that he’s not getting yelled at or clucked at and try to relax him by stroking his neck with my inside hand. He definitely gets lots of reassuring and rewarding pats.
Even if I don’t love all these weird things, I definitely find them endearing. I knew what I was getting into when I bought him. My horse is a weirdo, and I love him.