Rocking and Rolling

I was reminded, today, of the first time I trailered Freedom, at the end of January in 2005. I’d agreed to take him on as a foster for CANTER New England, and had driven to Rhode Island to pick him up with a friend. Freedom had been returned from his first adoptive home — from what I remember, he was too high strung for the woman who adopted him. Once she got nervous, he got more nervous. It wasn’t going to work.

Freedom 2005
Here’s Freedom in January of 2005. I’d had him for a couple of weeks and he was still looking pretty scrawny.

Luckily for him, the director of CANTER drove to North Carolina to bring him back to New England. He was a mess. Skinny, bad feet, and terrified. It took some coaxing to get him my trailer. About half an hour into the trip, I decided to stop and get a bite to eat. We parked in the lot of some fast food restaurant where I could watch the trailer from the window.

Almost immediately, he started to weave. Aggressively. The trailer, in response, started to shake. A lot. It was rocking and rolling side to side. People started to notice and I’m sure they wondered what kind of wild animal(s) were in there! I started to question whether fostering this horse was a good idea and gave some thought to bringing him right back. Needless to say, we ate quickly and got back on the road. Thankfully, once we started to move, he stood quietly.

These days, Freedom loves to go for rides. He loads like a dream and stands patiently. He will still weave occasionally when he’s stressed, like when he’s waiting to be fed or we take one of his girls away for a ride. But never in the trailer. It took many months and many trips to get him to that point. It’s fun to look back at how he was and see how far he’s come.

10 thoughts on “Rocking and Rolling

  1. That’s one handsome horse. Did you enjoy being a foster? I just entered the foster world in September and have two lovely old OTTBs in my backyard keeping my own boy company.

    1. I loved fostering. I was able to do it a couple of times. The last one I fostered was a real war horse. He had more than 100 starts and was still sound. He did have a few screws loose, though! If you tightened the girth too quickly he’d go straight up (wish someone had warned me) and when we started taking him out on the trails, he proved that he could go backwards faster than any other horse! We ended up ponying him off my TB for awhile until he realized that nature wasn’t scary.

      1. I can only imagine what 100 starts will do to a horses psyche. Amazing about his soundness, I wish people bred more for that than the speed.

      2. Me, too. There’s so much emphasis now on breeding a horse that can run as a 2 year old, with no thoughts to how they will stand up over the long term. Freedom had 28 starts and even that is a lot of wear and tear. I also had a mare who had 65 starts. She came out of it remarkably sound, but she also didn’t win a lot . . . to the point where I’m not sure why they kept racing her.

      3. Whats worse is the thought that if they race them at “2” they break them at “1” and depending on when they were born I wonder if they were even one at all! 🙁

  2. Hmmm, I wonder if the weaving is a TB thing? I leased an Alydar son and when he’d get stressed…for instance, when the barn next to his was being re-roofed..he’d shove his head into a corner of his box and weave so much he’d be sweating.
    I managed to get him through some bad times by massaging him gently and singing to him. No one will ever, ever say I’ve got a good voice, but I’ve found that singing a simple tune over and over again seems to calm even the most fretful of horses.

  3. That’s funny! I used to sing to Freedom to calm him down, too. When I first started riding him he used to spend the first ten minutes literally bouncing. Singing to him got him to relax. He will sometimes let me massage him but he’s not a big fan of being touched. When he does give in, he will show all the big releases — licking and chewing, yawning, etc. But to get there? I’ve had him professionally massaged and at least once the lady almost gave up because he was striking at her. I do think that TBs are more prone to the OCD vices. After all, they aren’t bred for temperament and at the track, they mostly live in stalls. Freedom came with all the vices — cribbing, weaving and stall walking.

  4. You’re right…TB’s are bred to run. And most of them spend the vast majority of their lives in a stall. Maybe it’s better now that more women are in the breeding and in the shedrows as trainers and owners…but when I was a teenager walking hots, racing was run by men who didn’t give a rat’s ass about their help being attacked by their horses. I was routinely bit, nipped, and struck at.All the owners/trainers were interested in was is he going to win today. I was a smart kid, by the way, because even at the age of 16, I discovered that, at the track, there were more animals outside the stalls than in them. I was never hurt or assaulted, but it was only because I kept my wits about me and didn’t invite any attention. That, and looking butch as hell probably helped…;-)

    I massaged professionally for years. Most of my horses were Arabs (endurance riders) and warmbloods (dressage). I think I worked on one TB in all that time, but he had never been raced and was an eventer…and didn’t give me any trouble. I think that’s because he’d watched me massage another horse every month for a year, and by then he knew who I was and what I did.

  5. When I was a teen I wanted to exercise horses at Belmont. My father absolutely refused. Instead I worked at a hunter/jumper barn. That was an interesting experience! Some of those trainers were very predatory but at least the took good care of the horses. Not enough turnout, but that’s something I hadn’t figured out yet. No one bothered me. They knew my Dad was a lawyer.

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