Millie was Angel’s baby. Angel was no angel, but, her terrific breeding made her a great race horse. Millie inherited her mom’s sour disposition, but she also inherited her racing talent. To help her be manageable, I spent time handling her and playing with her beginning after her birth.
Since mother horses can be protective and dangerous, I tied Angel when I entered her stall to play with Millie. Then, I chased Millie around the stall and under her mother until I caught her. Daily I rubbed her entire body, picked up her feet and tapped her hooves, and held her to train her to stop struggling. In preparation for placing a harness on her, I lifted her tail and placed my arm under it where the tail piece of the harness sits. I brushed her and played with her- always talking to her. After a while, she trusted me. Even the toughest girls can be won over by love and patience.
When Millie was a yearling, it was time to train her to the equipment so she could train and race. My partner made the first attempt at putting a harness on her. Millie exploded and kicked at him. I took the harness, walked up to her, and put it on her – the tail piece as well as the girth around her belly and the chest pieces. She never fussed for me. I think it was because I was her human mommy and the trust that developed between us was a great asset.
Millie did everything I asked her to. She broke to the equipment and cart with ease. She trained well and raced like the wind. One day she became ill with a condition I never saw before and still don’t know what it was. She may have been poisoned by something she ate. I am not certain. She seemed to have pain in her abdomen like a horse with colic, but all the horses I treated for this improved in a day or so. It took five days for Millie to recover. She wanted to lay down and roll and I couldn’t let her because when horses roll, they are in danger of twisting their intestines. If she twisted her intestines, she would not survive and surgery to untwist them was not an option for us.
I watched her day and night for five long days. When she was quiet and resting peacefully in her stall, I wrapped her lead rope around my leg and slept for short periods on the floor of the barn outside her stall. I did this so when she began to thrash, she pulled the rope around my leg, waking me. When she was restless, I kept her on her feet -which can be challenging with a 1,100 pound animal, medicated her for pain, and walked her for hours. After those five tortuous days Millie and I weathered together, thankfully she recovered and raced for many years.
I once thought horses did not form bonds with their humans like dogs and cats, but one night, when I arrived home from work, I turned on the lights in the barn and discovered Millie and another horse opened their stall doors and were loose. This is a concern because horses can be injured or killed on roads if hit by cars or trucks. As I entered the barn, Millie and the other horse casually walked into the back door of the barn and came to me like little puppies as if to ask, “Where you been, mom?” I patted their necks and returned them to their stalls – safe and sound. My trainer once told me the horse knows the person who feeds them and the person who plays with them. I was both and they were my girls.
My horses were my pets first and my racing girls second.
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