Guest Post: Larry Hannon
After hearing his story, I took it upon myself to talk to this little ‘wild eyed’ colt every time I would feed him and clean out his stall. He could care less!
When I went to feed he would go out into his run and wait until I had given everyone their feed and left. Then he would come in and eat. When I cleaned his stall he would go out into his run and stand at the far corner, looking back into the barn at me while I worked. When I picked his run, he would run back into the barn and stand in the far corner with his butt to me.
Shortly after the end of the month, Miss Caroline met me when I came out to work, and she informed me she now owned that colt! Seems the guy showed up late in the night and was proceeding to beat the hell out of the horse when she showed up with her Colt 45 and politely told him to sign the horse over into her name. He signed the paperwork she had in hand, and she informed him to never set foot on her property again. I had to laugh at her, she was a petite little lady, but tougher than whang leather and a pure delight to Sharon B. and I.
I asked her what she was going to do with the colt, she looked me in the eye and said, “He’s for sale. Do you want him?” Here I am a 2 striper in the US Air Force, my wife is expecting and we didn’t have two nickels to rub together, much less money to buy a horse. But, yeah, I wanted him.
I explained the situation to Miss Caroline, and she said I could work him off. I asked her how much she wanted for him and she replied $125.00 to pay off his room and board. Then she said, “You can keep him here for free if you will buy his feed and continue to work here”. The deal was done!
She asked me what I was going to name him, and I told her Jiggs. She liked the name, and said she was going to enjoy seeing how I got along with him. In fact she said,” You’ve got your hands full young man.” That little lady paid me the greatest compliment I had ever received to that point. One day she told me she had never seen anyone who could work a horse so quiet and easy like me.
When I finished my work every evening, I would spend time with Jiggs. Actually I would stand in the stall doorway looking at him looking back at me. I would talk softly to him, telling him I understood what he had been through. If I stepped out into his run, he would run inside his stall and leave me standing outside. Eventually he would allow me to come back into the stall with him, but he would stand there trembling while I talked to him. This went on for two weeks or longer. Sharon got a few pictures of this performance and we have them stored away in a box somewhere.
Finally, he allowed me to slowly approach him one evening. I kept talking softly to him and taking small steps. With every step he would shudder and tremble! I finally stood at his left shoulder and kept talking to him softly. I didn’t even offer to reach out and touch him, I just talked to him for bout 10 or 15 minutes. Then I slowly backed away from him and just stood there, watching and waiting. He finally turned his head, looked at me and licked his lips. We left it at that.
I was simply using the technique my dad had taught me years ago in earning this colts trust! He always told me I was never to break a horse’s spirit, but rather make them a partner. I had always used this method in starting each colt for the ranch remuda, but they were nothing like this colt. He was to teach me a whole lot before we totally connected. I thought I was pretty savvy, but he made me stop and think over and over, again and again!
I knew we had taken a big step and figured day 2 would be even better. Wrong! He wasn’t about to trust in me, not just yet anyway. Because I was a man, and he had been mistreated by another man. To him I was no different! We must have repeated that first day a dozen times before he finally let me touch him, with just a soft stroke on his neck.
That was how it went for every step we made together. One step at a time, and wait for him! I now know that his personality was a Metal as Dr. Ward so aptly notes in her Horse Harmony book. It was a slow, pains taking process, but it reaped a great relationship.
Photo credit: Flickr via creative commons