Zealous Tale’s Story

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Valenti Equestrian Club Resident Zealous Tale began as a Thoroughbred with a very bright future. As the son of leading sire, Tale of the Cat, Zealous Tale has an impressive pedigree. He was fast and featured a unique racing style. However, a misstep during training caused a fractured sesamoid. After healing from surgery, Resident Zealous Tale returned to training with well-known Southern California trainer Doug O’Neill, two-time Kentucky Derby winner and winner of several BC Championship races. After returning to training, Zealous Tale came up sore after a workout. His former owners, Abbondanza Racing, the race horse owner partnership with horse Goodyearforroses running in the Breeders’ Cup & Great Friends Stable, run by Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Vice President Craig Dado, gracefully retired him. Owner Bing Bush, Jr. then began training him as a hunter jumper for his second career. Today, Zealous Tale lives and trains at the Valenti Estate.

Note: MOST horses that retire from racing now get wonderful homes and second chances, thanks to several Thoroughbred aftercare groups – many of which are supported by TCA.

Saving Horses – Valenti Foundation and Rolls-Royce La Jolla – San Diego Events

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Valenti Foundation and Rolls-Royce La Jolla PHOTOS BY FARIMA TABRIZI

Valenti Foundation and Rolls-Royce La Jolla

On a stunning February morning in Rancho Santa Fe, the Valenti Equestrian Club hosted a fundraiser for the Love of Horses to Benefit Saving Horses, Inc. (SHI), a nonprofit organization that rescues horses and provides equine-assisted therapy programs. The benefit serves to preserve the lives of precious horses that are in desperate need. Guests sampled a variety of light hors d’oeuvres, gourmet chocolates and mimosas.

Read more here.

Valenti Equestrian Club provides prime boarding/training facility

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The Valenti Equestrian Club, located in the Covenant of Rancho Santa Fe, is a hidden equine oasis that offers boarding and training services for dressage and hunter jumper aficionados. Within close proximity to the Del Mar Racetrack, the gated facility is located on 20 maturely wooded acres with riding trails that connect to the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant trail system.

The Valenti Equestrian Club offers boarding and training services for dressage and hunter jumper aficionados.

The Valenti Equestrian Club offers boarding and training services for dressage and hunter jumper aficionados.

The expansive grounds include a variety of amenities, such as a competition-legal 20m x 60m dressage court with mirrors, extensive sprinkler system and exceptional footing that dries expediently during the rainy season; in/out barns, stalls and pipe corral accommodations; galloping track, grass and sand turnouts, large jumping ring and warm-up track, round pen; tack room, kitchen and laundry facilities, hot wash racks and stall cleaning two-times per day; private lakeside trail within the property boundaries; free WiFi; on-site horse trailer parking, security cameras and on-site staffing, 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The club is located within a short distance to the restaurants and retail establishments in the villages of Rancho Santa Fe, Solana Beach and Del Mar, with easy access to the I-5 freeway.

Perhaps one of the most significant features of the Valenti Equestrian Club is the world-class professional trainers that are headquartered within the compound that offer their expertise to club members and boarders. Of particular note, Lena Nordlof-Davis was born and raised in Sweden and learned dressage skills from top riders. She actively competes and succeeds at FEI Grand Prix level events and has a passion for her dressage training business.

In addition, the Horsemanship Academy at the Valenti Equestrian Club is a boutique riding school under the direction of Kajsa Wiberg, teaching the European traditions of horsemanship to both adults and children. Rounding out the training talent at the club is Guillermo Obligado, who has firmly etched a place for himself in the sport representing his native Argentina at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany and the World Cup Finals in Kuala Lumpur. He imparts his hunter jumper expertise to students who aspire to reach competition-level skills.

According to Valenti Equestrian Club Founder, Irene Valenti, “We have one of the most unique equestrian facilities in all of San Diego County in which riders of all levels can enjoy the picturesque surroundings of the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant. What I enjoy most is the camaraderie we have amongst all of our boarders and trainers; we host regular events that bring the equestrian community together and often raise awareness and funds for worthy causes. Our members embrace the ambience we have created and they look forward to sharing it with other horse enthusiasts.”

To learn more about the Valenti Equestrian Club, visit or call 858-759-9239 for information or a tour of the facilities.

#ValentiEquestrianClub #SaddleClub #Equestrian #RanchoSantaFe #horses #dressage #DressageTrainer #FairBanksRidingClub #GrandPrixDressage #DelMar #DelMarRaceTrack #Valenti #ValentiInternational

Valenti Equestrian Club provides prime boarding/training facility

Valenti Equestrian Club provides prime boarding/training facility

Horsemanship Academy at Valenti Equestrian Club hosts Halloween Costume Parade

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The Horsemanship Academy, located at the Valenti Equestrian Club in Rancho Santa Fe, hosted a Halloween Costume Parade on Oct. 23 for families and guests of children enrolled in the Academy. Academy students created themes, decorated their horses and dressed in corresponding

costumes. The event included an abundance of Halloween candy and a freestyle dressage performance set to music.

The Horsemanship Academy is a boutique riding school teaching the European traditions of horsemanship. Visit



Red Bucket Rescue Proudly Presents Jax!

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Red Bucket Rescue Proudly Presents Jax!


Red Bucket Proudly Presents Jax!
He is every little girl’s fantasy…heck, every big girl’s fantasy…truly a dream come true. Before we alienate our gentlemen friends, we should clarify that in this case we are talking about a 16 hh Palomino gelding sporting 4 white socks and a perfect blaze. Pretty impossible to compete with, even on the best of days. We might add that he is dreamy in every way…and not just a perfect horse for the ladies, but very suitable for all family members. Jax is trained…pretty much ready to pack his proverbial saddle bags and head for a forever home that has plenty of treats…and is flush with beauty products! This gentle 18-year-old gelding does flying lead changes with the blink of an eye, is a patient schoolmaster, craves attention and love…and has plenty of love to give in return. Our only regret is that we will not get to know him better, as he will not be here for very long. Oh, did we mention….he is gorgeous!!!


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Red Bucket Equine Rescue Proudly Presents: Greer and Grammer

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Red Bucket Equine Rescue Proudly Presents: Greer and Grammer

Greer and Grammer

Greer and Grammer12243300_969914883069558_264675620816549273_n12249964_969914886402891_1818377265665781379_n

We continue to be puzzled and heartbroken by the tremendous number of innocent, beautiful and amazing equines that find themselves tragic victims of the slaughter industry. Our two beautifully matched mules…full brother and sister…were fortunate to be rescued directly from the imminent shipment to a Mexican Slaughter Plant. Greer and Grammer (lovingly named after our beautiful and talented friend and star of “Emma’s Chance”, Greer Grammer) have settled into their new life at Red Bucket. While they appear to be pinching themselves at their newly found good fortune, we know that the dream will come true when Greer and Grammer transition into their loving forever home! In the meantime, we fully expect that we will continue to be enchanted by their charming, comical and affectionate personalities!

We would also like to thank the Ark Watch Foundation for rescuing these precious animals from the kill pen and sending them to Red Bucket for their second chance.


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Horse Rescue Stories

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In reality, ALL horses rescued are success stories. However, some are more involved. Some of our incoming horses are in such bad shape when we get them that the change we see, with a little love, care, feed and water, is AMAZING!

Bonus Before PicBonus was four weeks old and laying in a pen with a stallion who was trying to protect her and a bull. She couldn’t raise her head and all of her natural sucking mechanism was gone. She was too dehydrated. We believed it was too late to save her.

I insisted she come home to die in loving arms and stayed with her and continued giving her goats milk until she fought me. After ten days and a lot of salve on her nose for the blisters from dehydration it was clear that she wanted to live.

Bonus Today PicThe first picture is after three weeks. I think she was rotten even then. Bottle babies form an attachment with what they think is their mother and she did just that. Too young to know she was a horse, she still thinks she is a human. She is up for adoption if the right person with enough attitude to match hers comes along. Until then she can be sweet, she can be rotten, and she can be both at the same time.

Our beautiful rotten cremello baby with the prettiest blue eyes!


Bug Before PicBug

Bug came to us through our local humane society. When she arrived she was just skin and bones. She would not have made it much longer if not for the rescue. She was so hungry for a scratching that you couldn’t get rid of her, hence the name “bug”. Her owner had not cared for her and she had not had her teeth done, probably EVER. Besides doing a general “float”, we pulled one nasty infected molar that was poisoning her system.

Within three months she had put weight on except for her topline which comes slower when they are older. Bug is easy to catch, loves to be touched and rides nice but she may not be suitable as a child’s horse.


Callie day onecallie after picCallie was a sheriff’s pull from another rescue. She came to us starved and dehydrated, covered in rain rot, and scratches on all four legs. Even with all of those issues, she has shown a great will to survive. Here at Spring Creek she has healed and grown. She has learned to halter/bath/trim/ride and is happy to be alive.


colton before pic Colton came to us three weeks after a dog had chased him through a fence. He was half the size a yearling should be, severely starved, terribly scared of humans, in pain from his injury, wormy and dehydrated.

Our vet cut off the flesh from his wounds, cleaned up what was left of his back legs and left us with LOTS of antibiotics. Never having been handled, the activity in the barn sent him to the corner to cower. Although he moved away from any human, he watched with amazing interest everything going on. When his legs had started to heal and the weather grew warmer, it was time to start haltering, handling and worming. Some of the other colts were first, Colton stood in the corner of the barn and watched. After three of the other horses were introduced to the chute, haltered and touched, the humans were tired. We figured Colton had already been through so much that we would leave him for another day. As we began to put things away, pleased with the progress the other colts had made, Colton came forward, looked at us, and put himself in the chute! The intelligence and understanding he demonstrated was AMAZING. Although he cringed when touched, he dropped his head, licked and chewed, and let us groom both sides and halter him. After six months his legs are still healing. He’ll never grow to his full height due to early malnutrition but can be happy and healthy living here at the rescue.

ColtonUpdate: Colton became a gelding on 1/07. He has become one of the most social horses at the rescue and is our greeter for every new horse that arrives, especially the ladies. He now asks for attention from his human caretakers, likes to be groomed, and hates to be ignored. We expect him to really blossom this summer and become all that he can be.

Updated – May 2008: At this time Colton still has big trust issues and continues to have a fear level above normal. For the time being he will continue to be a permanent resident here at Spring Creek until he can trust multiple people.

Update – February 2013: Colton has matured in size and really looks like a horse now. His call still sounds like that of a 2 year old, and he still does not trust everyone, but his fear level tapers as the years go by.

Update – January 2015: Colton has matured into a great looking gelding. It’s hard to believe he is 10 years old now! He has mellowed some with his age, but can still be quite a booger to catch (when he’s in the mood-ONLY). The Rescue is in a quieter place now and his attitude reflects this. He is not quite as spooky and not quite as fast to just run when he encounters something he’s not quite sure of. He’s still very social but still has the fear of being hit – although it is less. He still loves his butt scratches and begs for attention from ALL – not just his “person” – so we are gaining.


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10 Fascinating Facts About Horses

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Horses have accompanied humans for thousands of years and they show no sign of going away. As such, they’re an instantly recognizable and familiar sight, even though increasingly many of us only ever really see them on television. It’s a shame, really, because these mighty animals are well worth all the attention they can get. Today, let’s honor them by taking a look at some of the more interesting aspects of their life and history.

10 The “Horse Laugh”

You may have seen a horse making a strange expression where it curls its upper lip and bares its teeth into a wide grin. This makes the animal look like it’s laughing. In reality, this is part of a special nose-enhancing technique called a flehmen response.

Horses pull this amusing face in order to direct scents floating in the air toward special olfactory glands that are located at the end of the horse’s nasal passage. The lip-curling and the slight tilting of head help the animal to waft these smells toward these glands. The horse isn’t laughing at you, it’s just trying to determine whether you smell bad.

The flehmen response is far more common in male than female horses. Much like giraffes, stallions often sample the urine of mares this way to check if they’re in heat.

9 The Horse Industry

For people who have never been involved with horses, it’s easy to assume all they need is some hay every now and then, a field to run around on, and a preteen girl or two to swoon over them. This could not be further from the truth.

Horses are used for various competitions and sports, breeding, recreation, and plain old work. It takes a lot more than just a farmer and a plow to keep the show running. In fact, horses are a massive business. Approximately 4.6 million Americans work in the horse industry in one way or another. The US horse industry is estimated to have an economic effect of $39 billion—annually.

That’s just the measly nine million American horses. There are approximately 58 million horses in the world and the vast majority of them are cared for by humans.

8 Police Horses

Police horses have been used in peacetime law enforcement since the 17th century and the first official mounted police unit was established in 1805. This London-based unit was a massive success, and in a few years, both Australia and America had adopted the idea.

Police horses have always been much more than a mere method of transportation. The benefits of a horseback cop are obvious—after all, a police officer riding a huge animal commands a very different kind of respect than one on foot. That’s why the horses selected for the job tend to be large geldings (castrated horses), who are both imposing and level-headed enough for the potentially stressful job.

The number of police horses is slowly waning due to the advent of police motorcycles and other modes of light transport, but many countries still keep a few mounted units around for public relations and crowd-control purposes.

7 Eyes

Horses have fairly good eyesight, thanks to their very peculiar eyes. At a diameter of roughly 5 centimeters (2 in), they are the largest of any land mammal. When measured in volume, a horse’s eye is up to nine times larger than that of a human. Legend has it that this means horses see things as bigger than humans, which is why they sometimes startle easily, but this is not true.

The horse eye has three eyelids—two ordinary ones and a third called the nictitating membrane—which is located in the inner corner of the eye and occasionally sweeps the eye, lubricating and cleaning it if need arises. Horses can’t properly focus their eyes like humans do. Instead, the lower parts of their retina see objects at a distance, and the upper ones are for closer viewing. This means that if you want to know where a horse is looking, you should pay attention to how it’s holding its head. If you see a horse standing on a field and it’s doing that thing where it’s standing with its head held up high and ears pricked forward, it’s not just showboating—the animal is probably just looking at something interesting in the distance.

6 Equid Hybrids

Equid hybrids are, as the name tactfully suggests, hybrid animals that are bred from the three equid species—zebras, donkeys, and horses. Most people know about the mule (also known as “john” or “molly” depending on the gender), the cross of a donkey male and a horse female. However, it is only one of the many, many equid hybrids out there.

One such combination is the offspring of a horse father and a donkey mother called a “hinny.” Zebras and horses can be bred into “zorses” and “hebras”, which are also known as golden zebras because, frankly, those names make the poor creatures sound like science fiction characters. Adding ponies to the mix brings even more hilarious sounding options, such as “zonies” and “zetlands.”

Equid hybrids have been created since the start of the 20th century. Scientists started the work by crossbreeding zebras and donkeys, but quickly moved on to horses, presumably because they got too embarrassed to call their creations names like “zebra ass.”

5 Horse Shoes

Everyone knows most horses are fitted with horseshoes, but most people aren’t aware that these curved pieces of metal are not just to protect the hoof. The hard parts of horse hooves are made of keratin—the same sturdy protein that comprise horns, nails, and hair—and therefore leave a lot to be desired when it comes to things like traction. Imagine running around a wet, paved street wearing horns as shoes and you can see the problem.

Fitting the hoof with a shoe fixes this issue. The shoe improves the traction of the hoof and provides extra shock absorption, which you may recognize as the exact same benefits your running shoes give you. That’s right—horseshoes are, more or less, equine Air Jordans. Horse shoes also share another similarity with the sports shoe industry—there is a ridiculously huge selection of different types, such as pronation-correcting support shoes, “natural balance” shoes, and even super lightweight aluminum shoes for serious racing horses.

4 Horse Names

If you’ve ever been to a horse race, you probably know that most horse names are ridiculous. Cats and dogs are usually given cute, powerful, or human-like names, but horses tend to end up with names like “Seabiscuit”, “Horlicks” or “Ohnoitsmymotherinlaw.” As random as this may seem, there are actually many traditions and superstitions associated with naming horses.

Many breeders name their horses to respect its pedigree, which can lead to some unfortunate variations over time. After all, it doesn’t take many generations to twist “Binky” into “Flunky.” Naming a horse after a family member is generally avoided, because if the horse you named after your mother turns out to be a failure, Mom probably isn’t going to be too happy. Many owners prefer powerful names like “Man O’War,” because it is believed this brings the horse good fortune in the races. On the other hand, naming a horse “The Winner” is a sure fire way to create a horse that will never win a race in its life, so some owners just decide to have a bit of fun with the name.

Of course, there are also actual rules governing the naming tradition. Otherwise, a horse race program would read like a list of the usernames of a particularly insane Internet discussion forum. These rules vary depending on your area. For instance, The Jockey Club of Louisville limits name length to 18 characters; forbids names that are obscene, racist, or too similar to actively competing horses; and does not allow names that are entirely made of numbers. If a horse gets famous enough, its name might be pulled from use altogether, much in the same way some sports retire the numbers of particularly legendary athletes.

3 Arabian Horses

Most horses can be quite beautiful creatures when they put their mind to it, but many people consider the Arabian horse the most majestic of all. We know that they first appeared at least 4,500 years ago, which also makes them one of the oldest horse breeds. It is generally assumed that the Bedouin, who are noted for their passion for horse breeding, are behind the creation of the Arabian breed.

With its wiry, “desert” look and immediately recognizable silhouette, an Arab horse is easy to tell apart from other breeds. As peculiar as its high-tailed look and unique head shape are, things actually get even stranger when you look a little deeper. Arabian horses have a skeletal structure that is quite different from all other horses. Its ribs are much wider, stronger, and deeper, and it usually has one fewer horses normally have. It also has fewer lumbar bones and tail vertebrae. These “missing pieces” do nothing to slow it down, though—Arab horses are considered some of the strongest endurance runners in animal kingdom, capable of running over 160 kilometers (100 mi) without rest.

2 Horse Meat

Despite recent scandals that indicate otherwise, horse meat is considered a delicacy in many countries. France in particular is extremely partial not only to horse meat, but also horse brains and horse heart. The French are not alone, either. In fact, horses have been eaten as long as they’ve been around. During times of war, horses have served as an important—and relatively cheap—source of protein. In times of peace, it’s eaten because it just happens to taste good.

The only countries that have never really managed to jump in the hippophage (horse-eater) wagon are also the two most influential English-speaking ones. Despite the fact that both the US and the UK are among the biggest horse meat exporters in the world, both historically scoff at horse meat as food. As such, what is not exported is usually used as pet food.

1 Memory

Have you ever laughed at a horse with a funny name? Or made fun of one when it twists its face in flehmen? If you have, that’s too bad—that horse may well remember your insult for the rest of its life.

A 2010 study revealed some very surprising results about horse intelligence, especially memory. Not only does our equine friend understand our words far better than we have previously anticipated, its memory is at least as good as that of an elephant. If a horse is treated kindly, it will remember the person as a friend for as long as it lives. The horse will instantly resume friendship when it sees them again, regardless of how long they have been apart. They also remember places very well—most horses become nervous when they’re taken to a place where they’ve had a startling experience.

The good memory and relatively powerful intellect of horses is not always a good thing, though. If they get bored, they can accidentally figure out how to untie themselves from posts and open latches and grain bins. Once they learn these methods of mischief, they’ll never, ever forget.


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Understanding Horse Behaviour

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The first step to building a strong relationship with your horse is to understand why he is the way he is, what makes him react the way he does and basically- how the world looks from his eyes. A horse is not a human and to try applying the rules that govern our human society to the equine world is not only foolhardy and dangerous, but it is also cruel.

It may not make sense to us why he does some of the things he does, but to him it makes perfect sense. This is why we need to understand horse psychology in order understand our horse and once we understand him, maybe then and only then can we begin to teach and train him.

Today we will begin to explain the dynamic that is the horse and his herd.

Understanding Horse Behaviour

Horses originally lived on wide open plains and would spread out to graze a long way from one another.  The best way to communicate quietly and quickly when you’re a prey animal in such a situation is with body signals.

Horses developed small signals rather than sounds to communicate with each other.  When we learn to recognise what these signals mean, we too can understand horse behaviour.

Horses Don’t Tell Lies

Horses don’t lie to one another. When one horse wants another to move away, he will use a series of signals, until he gets what he wants. He may start with a look, a twitch of the ear or a flick of the tail. If that doesn’t work, he will threaten to bite or kick and will carry out that threat if necessary.

Each horse knows that after the threat will come the action. The other horse has a choice. He can stand his ground and get kicked- or he can move off.


Because we know there are certain facts that are true about horses as a species, we need to consider some facts and how these relate directly to what we observe our horses doing. These facts lead to a series of practical applications that we use in riding, training and communicating with our horses. Lets begin!

FACT: Horses are prey animals.
Which means that their instinct is to run away from danger and not seek it out. They avoid aggression towards things that they think might endanger their lives. This instinct to run is their “means for survival”. It has made their bodies and senses develop in such a way, that when they sense danger, their bodies can react quickly and …run fast.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: By exposing a horse to a multitude of experiences in a positive way, the horse learns to distinguish that which is life threatening and that which is just new and curious. If on the other hand, a horse reacts by trying to run or avoid something and we react with fear or anger, this reinforces the notion that every time he sees this “something” he will associate it negatively and want to run or get away even more. We are reinforcing negative horse behaviour.

FACT: Because horses have many predators they have a very keenly developed sense of:

  1. 1.     Hearing 
  2. 2.     Sight 
  3. 3.     Smell
  4. 4.     Awareness of movement under foot.

With these keenly developed senses, horses may react to things that are not perceptible to us. People call this ‘spooking’ or ‘shying’. The person may not see or sense what the horse is reacting to and negatively reacts to the horse’s action.

It is essential for good communication to know whether the horse is ‘reacting’ instinctively or ‘acting’ disobedient.

FACT: Horses can sense fear.
If a horse senses fear or indecision in a human he will feel threatened and fearful himself. This will lead to the horse challenging the human and ultimately negative horse-behavior.

It is crucial for the trainer or handler to “feel” confident (not fearful) in the presence of horses.

FACT: Horses are most vulnerable when they are eating or drinking.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: The horse is most approachable when he lowers his head, chews softly and simulates eating. This is because in the wild horses will only put their heads down and graze if they ‘feel’ safe. When communicating with a horse, you know that the horse has “understood”, or is comfortable with what is going on, when he demonstrates positive horse-behavior as in lowering his head, chewing softly etc.

FACT:  Horses are animals of habit that have GREAT memories.
This can work in a positive or negative way for us. They remember the good AND the bad and categorize things into something that causes fear and pain or something that doesn’t.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: In order to try to adapt a horse to a man made environment he needs to be exposed to it in a way that will leave fear-less and pain-less memories and promote positive horse-behavior.

 FACT: Horses are inherently curious.
Horses are willing to check out new and unusual things that seem interesting but not threatening. In order to survive they know instinctively that they cannot run from everything forever. It is the curiosity inherent in horse-behavior that allows us to teach them and allows them to learn (not unlike children).

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Good training techniques take advantage of this curiosity and the horse’s willingness to observe new things.

 FACT:  Horses live in herds that have a very sophisticated social order.
Each herd is lead by mare who is at the top of the ‘pecking’ order. This dominant mare is usually older and wiser. She is the one that controls the herd’s eating, traveling and drinking. She also signals when she senses danger and it is time to flee.

When living in herds, young horses and less experienced ones, will learn from the dominant mare what to flee from and what to ignore.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: When we bring an untrained horse into the man made environment we must substitute for the dominant mare. We need to teach the horse to ignore or associate positively to certain, smells, noises and things that they see.
To train a horse the horse must be willing to accept the trainer as the dominant herd member.

FACT:  After the dominant mare, the rest of the herd is also divided into a social order or “pecking order”.
Again wisdom, age, (as long as the horse is not physically feeble) and respect determine this.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: The higher up in the pecking order a human finds himself in his horse’s ‘herd’ the more successful he will be in communicating with the horse and altering the ‘instinctive’ horse-behavior.

**When in a situation where there is not a dominant mare, a stallion or gelding may take over as the dominant horse. But the same is true about portraying wisdom, respect and security. 

FACT:  Dominance among horses is not determined by aggressive behavior.
Aggressive horse-behavior is usually punished by ostracizing the herd member to the periphery of the herd where he is in most danger.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Aggressive behavior in humans towards horses produce fearful ‘hard to handle horses’ that can become dangerous to humans.

FACT:  Dominance in a herd is demonstrated by one horse being able to make another horse move OR stop it from moving.
This is accomplished through different methods of communication mainly body language. Biting and kicking may occur when the dominant horse is challenged by the other horse not moving, or responding aggressively.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: This ability to control the movement (stop or go) of a horse is another key ingredient in a trainer’s ability to obtain respect and the higher position in the pecking order.

FACT:  Body language is the way horses communicate. A prick of the ear, a position of the head etc.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: The ability to read this body language and control your own body language is important to be able to communicate successfully.



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Experience: my horse saved me from a raging cow

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It was a beautiful summer’s day, towards the end of July. I was busy in the kitchen of my Castle Douglas farmhouse, making tea for my two-year-old niece, Zara, and husband, Matt, who was working on our second dairy farm a mile away. Matt phoned to ask me to move a cow and its calf out of the paddock, which is only about 200 meters from the house, as there were other cows about to give birth there. Thinking nothing of it, I left Zara watching a DVD, with some potatoes simmering on the stove for tea as I assumed I’d just be briefly popping out.

Raging Cow Story

The thing is with dairy cows, you have to separate the mothers from their calves when they are very young. It sounds horrible, but this is just what happens on a farm. You walk the two of them down to a special calf house, but then the mother is returned, on her own, to the milking parlour. So I began to walk behind the two-day-old calf to cross over the field. It was a little thing with its back reaching my knees, its head thigh high. Normally we’d expect the mother to just happily follow.

As they are nosey creatures, the other five cows in the paddock, all waiting to give birth, had gathered to saunter around the calf. Although I was huddled in by huge cows (I could just see over their enormous backs), I wasn’t alarmed as dairy cows are notoriously placid. I’m used to gently shifting them on with a pat. But as I was trying to move the calf, they became a bit flighty.

The confused calf started to bellow. Its three-year-old mother, in a panic, ploughed into my left side. With her head she butted my shoulder, knocking me to the ground.

I’m a townie, but at that point in my life I’d been working with cows for more than 20 years. I’d always felt safe around them but now I became very wary. I’d been taught that once someone is on the ground dairy cows have been known to group together and attack en masse – to kill. I knew I had to be on my feet.

But the cow wouldn’t let me get back up. She kept pushing me back into the ground with her head. I was screaming but there was no one around to hear me. I shouted and tried to hit the beast’s face, but she was so powerful I couldn’t push her away.

The cow, 600kg and angry, was intent on attacking me. If I could have reached the barbed wire and electric fence about 15ft away I’d be safe, but she wouldn’t let me move. She was straddling me, and all I could see was her massive body looming over me. Instinctively, I knew she was about to crush me. Terrified, I realised that escape was impossible, so I just gave up. All I could do was curl up into a little ball. I tucked my head under my arms to protect my neck, as I couldn’t bear the idea of the cow breaking it.

But then the cow moved away. I was stunned to see that my horse, Kerry Gold (who’d been in the same paddock), had galloped over and started kicking the cow with her back hooves. Recognising I was in trouble, she continued to lash out at the cow as I crawled away to safety under the electric fence. The cow left and Kerry stood protectively beside me as I cowered under the fence. My back was painful and I was sore all over, bruised and in tears. I needed to check on my niece, but was too scared to move. I stayed there for about a quarter of an hour until Matt, whom I’d managed to ring from the mobile I was carrying, came to help. Luckily, Zara, absorbed in her DVD, remained oblivious to it all.

I was tearful for days after, but had no lasting injuries – just cuts and bruises and a tender back. We rewarded Kerry Gold with extra apples and carrots, and she continued to protect me, and anyone else who entered her field, by walking along beside them like a bodyguard. It has been eight years since the incident – Kerry Gold died two years ago.

At the time, I suggested to my husband we have the cow shot. He disagreed – after all, it was one of his best.


Originally Published with Photo: