Thursday, September 4, 2008

Handsome Hank

When Lyle was just a yearling and his mama died (click here for those details), I was rushed to find another horse to: 1) teach Lyle how to be a horse, 2) keep Lyle company, and 3) be my riding horse until Lyle was old enough and saddle-trained.

Hank was advertised on the internet: Looking for a new partner? This may be the one! Cochise is an 8 year old 15.1 hand bay Paint gelding, ridden and shown Western and English by a young girl, who has moved on to jumping. A breeze to load and clip, he's a healthy easy keeper with a sweet and calm disposition. He's great on the trails and gets along well with other horses.

He turned out to be most of those things and a few more: barn sour, always walks off when you try to mount, sees dead people along the trail. In the seven years we've been together, Hank has taught me to be a horseperson. I had no choice. It was either that or die.

Soon after the third time Hank arrived home without me on his back, I hauled him to our first training clinic, with a local horseman named Randall Davis. There were about 20 participants, each with their own problem horse. Randall wanted to try something at the beginning of the clinic, but only if all participants agreed. If even one of us said no, we wouldn't do the exercise. He wanted to turn all the horses loose in the arena.

I was certain my handsome boy Hank would get kicked, maimed or otherwise hurt very badly, and I was the lone hold-out. Randall assured me he would stay in the arena and keep all the horses moving so none of them would get injured. I relented. All of us unhaltered our horses and stepped out of the arena.

Within the first few minutes, as the horses ran around sniffing, snorting, bucking, farting, and otherwise carrying on, the herd sorted itself out. And without so much as one kick, Hank had established himself as the leader, the alpha, the don't-you-dare-mess-with-me-'cause-I'm-in-charge-here horse. I was stunned. Randall came over to me and said, "Hank is the 5-star general out there. You know what that means?" I shook my head no. "It means you have to be the commander in chief."

To train Hank and to get along with him, I would have to be a stronger leader than he was. Yikes. That was a tall order. But finding this out at the beginning of our partnership was the most valuable lesson I could learn. We had our ups and downs those first couple of years – literally – but are best buddies now.


  1. Hank is certainly a Handsome Boy!
    I love that photo. I voted for you too. :)

  2. Wow, what a great history you have with Hank. He's quite a looker, too, I might add.

    I LOVE the 'exercise' Randall did with all the horses. Absolutely beautiful in its simplicity and very revealing. And, of course you got the 5-star general. Ha! That made me laugh.

    Oh well, who better to teach Lyle how to be a horse, hmmm?

  3. what a beautiful horse. I love horses, a little scared of them, but love them just the same. I think he would have gotten the best of me... smile.

  4. Your photography is so amazing, Rancher Woman. The images you take always look so brilliant and vivid.
    And with photo ops and subjects such as you have hanging aound the 7MSN, you just never run out of good material, eh?

    Good ole Hank. He really does exude that quiet strength of a 5 Star General. I'm so honored to have gotten the opportunity to just sit on his big, strong back.
    Of all the photos I took last week, why didn't I think to get a picture of that, hmm? :)

    Anyway, I appreciate your post today, especially after writing my own blog post about the issues Baby Doll and I are having. Looks like I just need to cowgirl up and these problems CAN be worked out eventually.
    If you can do it, my friend, I will just believe that I can too.

    Thanks :)

  5. Having had the outstanding pleasure of riding Handsome Hank earlier this spring - under your careful tutelage, sis - it's easy to see the wonderful bond the two of you have. Thank goodness! I'm sure he would have left me in the dust without you beside us. Can't wait to come back for more bonding and riding next spring.

    Congrats on winning yesterday's contest, Hank pretty boy! I voted for you, too.

  6. I know there's ever so much more to this story, but the little you told is enthralling! I was captivated after the first sentence. I hope you'll continue telling this story of when Hank first came to you.
    What does it mean to be "barn sour"? He doesn't like it in there?

  7. Wonderful picture. Wonderful story.

  8. Wow.....What a story! Beautiful picture of Hank!

    I love animals and people alike with strong spirits. Makes me want to be a stronger person when I'm around 'em.

  9. What a brilliant picture; what camera? Such a handsome boy!

    Loved the story too! Ha, it is a tall order to be the leader of a 1,000 pound animal. I learned that at the age of about 11, when I was riding a horse who could totally take advantage of me.

    Keep writing- I enjoy your pictures and blog!

  10. Thank you all for the nice things you had to say about Hank the heart throb.

    Danni, "barn sour" is really a misnomer - it means all he wants to do is go back to the barn. Despite being the general around here, Hank is a big sissy - when I leave the ranch riding Lyle, all we hear for miles is Hank carrying on and calling out for his buddy. I've always assumed he's calling for Lyle, but maybe he's calling for me? I wish!

    Ranch kiddo, the camera is a Nikon D80.

  11. He is one handsome paint. I love paints. He reminds me of the best horse we ever had. Who was also the leader of the pack, I find that paint horses are very smart and take no guff. We had to establish who was boss and I can tell you he was the most well behaved horse in the world. He had some issues with wheels though, especially motorcycles and bikes, they were pretty spooky. Your horse reminds me of him alot, he even looks like him. It sounds like you two have bonded and I'm sure he will be your best friend in the saddle or out.

  12. Love the 5-star general and commander in chief comment!

    My daughter's painted pony is a little bit like that. He's not the herd leader, but he always fancies himself second in line to the top and he will push for the top status when he can. (bear in mind he's 12.2h and the others are 15.3h and up)

    Daughter has definitely had to be commander in chief to deal with him. I have watched him do a dirty run-out at a jump, unseat her but not completely, and she cantered him around the arena with one foot in the stirrup, both legs on the same side of his body, and balanced in that one stirrup until she could get her leg back over his back. She rode him right at the jump again and he took it that time. :) He has come to respect her - I think her sheer stubbornness and refusal to give up got his attention. He pretty much adores her.

  13. It was a pleasure to read such a well-written story.

  14. What a gorgeous photo, and a lovely story too. Sometimes you just have to let go and trust your horses in herds, I find sometimes people are too controlling of herd situations...that's what happens in nature, and unless a horse is getting really badly injured or bullied, I think they should work it out themselves.

  15. Hank is so handsome. It sounds like you learned a lot from Randall Davis. I'd be curious to read more. And to learn more about what you did to stop Hank from walking off while mounting. My mom has that problem with her gelding!

  16. Congratulations on winning with your photo of Hank! I'm always attracted to those 5-star general types. Every day, you have to prove to them that you're a contender. Let's hear more of this story, please.