If you follow our Facebook page or website, it may seem that every horse we bring on takes to cattle like the proverbial duck to water...and in 2013, we have definitely had quite a few easy ones like Duck, Automobile, Marcade and Jaden. But every horse is unique and they each have their own quirks, personality differences, likes and dislikes.
One horse that presented us a unique challenge this year was Remember Shiny, aka Shiny. Shiny came to us this past spring, born of the bluest of bloods and from one of the most storied farms in the Bluegrass, Hermitage Farm. He was an unraced 3-year-old gelding listed on the Canter KY website and we couldn't help but like his build and of course, his pedigree. By the A.P. Indy son and leading Argentianian sire before he came to stand in the US, Indygo Shiner and out of the incredible mare, Remember the Day, Shiny has siblings that have absolutely eaten up the racetrack.
His half sister C.S. Silk, by Medaglia d'Oro, won the Grade 1 Just A Game Stakes as well as two other stakes races enroute to a career that saw her earn over $780,000. When she retired, she was sold for $1.45 million to Shadai Farm in Japan. Other foals out of Shiny's dam include stakes winners Memory Tap and Remember Sheikh as well as stakes placed Remember the Party. His half sister Sunshine Song produced one of this year's Kentucky Derby hopefuls, Den's Legacy. In all, his family has proven themselves on the racetrack and big things were hoped in Shiny's case but it was not to be.
With little interest in being a racehorse, Hermitage Farm decided that Remember the Day's babies had already given them so much that there was no reason to push the gangly bay gelding. They turned him out and asked Canter KY to list him on their website. That is where we saw him and added him to our team last spring.
As only a three-year-old, Dale decided that it would be best to continue what Hermitage had started, namely just turn Shiny out for the summer and let him continue to grow up. They had given him a solid foundation under saddle and we were not worried about him missing lessons. But we soon discovered we had a whole other issue to deal with.
Shiny was totally and utterly terrified of cattle. All cattle. Anywhere.
Soon after he arrived, he was turned out in a small pasture with two other geldings that adjoined another pasture where we keep our roping cattle. The two pastures have a shared waterer and a shared fenceline. We noticed that first day that Shiny was staying in the far corner of the pasture, even when his buddies moved on. It is odd for any horse to not stay with the herd and especially odd for a new, young horse. We soon discovered why. Shiny's fear of cattle was so deep that he couldn't be within 200 yards of them. He wouldn't go to the waterer, wouldn't graze with his pasture mates (who paid the cattle no mind) and only felt safe in the farthest corner he could hide himself away in. Something had to be done.
Dale brought Shiny back up to the main corrals and a plan was formulated. Never before had we encountered a horse whose fear was so entrenched that he could not even be penned next to cattle. Indeed, one the main ways that Dale gets fearful horses used to the presence of cattle is to let them watch them through a fence for a week or a month...learned their movements naturally and discovering there is little to fear. Since Shiny's fear was so deep that he couldn't eat or drink if cattle were near, that obviously wouldn't work. So Dale had to take it to the next step.
First Dale spent some time in the round pen with Shiny, establishing trust and letting him learn to look to him as a leader. Then he put a halter and a long cotton lead rope on the gelding and took him into a corral next to the cattle. Shiny was ready to leave the country the second he realized those cattle were next door. He was having no part in being that close to the evil demon beasts! Dale refocused his attention and convinced him that they could at least stand in the corner of the corral of watch the cattle together. And that is where the lesson ended the first day.
Over the next several days, Dale worked up Shiny's confidence bit by bit. First convincing him to follow him to the fence in between them and the steers, then into the far corner of the corral the steers were in. Soon Dale had Shiny following him slowly while they walked the cattle around the perimeter. It didn't take too long for Shiny to figure out that cattle would move away from him if he walked towards them. As his knowledge of how cattle worked, so did his confidence. Soon, Shiny was the one in front of Dale, seemingly enjoying this new game of "let's make these strange creatures RUN!".
By the end of the week, Dale gave Shiny his big test: He turned him out alone in the cattle corral to see if he could handle the situation on his own. And handle it he did! Not only was his fear gone, he flagged his tail and danced around after the cattle...fully realizing his new found powers as a cattle mover! A new chapter in Shiny's life had begun!
After establishing Shiny's confidence to a level that he could not only peacefully co-exist with cattle but perhaps enjoy the process as well, we turned him back out for the summer to continue growing up. Yesterday, it was finally time for Shiny to join the training group for the first time and it was a very good day. After a bit of long-lining in the round pen, Dale got on and found that not only do we have a great little gelding that enjoys cattle, he is absolute gentleman under saddle. Willing, kind and a horse that works hard to please. Hermitage Farm did a wonderful job starting this horse and Dale was actually able to open and close a gate from horseback on that first ride! Well done Shiny!
We are looking forward to the weeks ahead with Shiny and getting to teach him about all the OTHER fun things they get to do with cattle. We will keep everyone posted with updates!
We answer your questions about retraining Thoroughbreds for off-track careers and share the stories of the horses on the ranch.
Gate to Great Geldings
A Division of Horse Creek Thoroughbreds
Newell, SD 57760