Saturday, April 4, 2015

Saturday encore ~ Handsome Hank

I've been asked how Hank came into my life so I went way back in the blog archives 
and found this post from September 2008. 


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 together in the arena. 

Since I was certain my handsome Hank would get kicked, maimed or otherwise hurt very badly, I was the lone hold-out. But 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 established himself as the leader of all 20 horses – 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.

p.s. And I finally taught him to stand still - here's the link to that post.


  1. What an interesting morning I have had -- reading through your early days with Lyle and Hank. Have to stop and get going, so I saved the last post I read so I can continue reading later. Thanks for all your diligence in recording your adventures.

  2. I didn't know that about him, though I should have guessed from the way he commands the herd with a look. He's a handsome general.

  3. And he leads the herd. That is his job as he sees it. And he seems happy that you figured it out. Beautiful Hank.

  4. I love this story and thanks for digging it out of the archives for us, this was before i started following your blog...

  5. Happiness - an old post I haven't yet read! And I went back and also read "How I taught Hank to stand still". Can't believe the simplicity of that technique - something to be learned for everyone training animals.

  6. Hank is so handsome and such a great horse. I did try the mounting exercise with Dusty and it works! Unfortunately, if she isn't ridden for a while she does seem to forget all she's ever learned so we start all over again.But it does work once we start riding consistently. Thanks for the link it really helped. And give Hank a hug from me. I just love him.

  7. That is an amazing photograph of one beautiful boy! I was a rookie when I got my first horse at age 37. Ended up with 6 and three of them were started here at our farm (by trainers). Once they were backed, it was not long before I had to get on. Talk about a learning experience. In the long run, I think it was worth it. Sounds like you are quite a team.

  8. "Sees dead people along the trail" ((giggle, snort, snort)).
    I'm laughing because I have SO been there! My boy was evidently the Commander in Chief despite my best efforts to start a coup and unseat him from power.

  9. So glad I didn't miss this one! So interesting. Love how that trainer looked at all the horses natural dispositions. Always knew Hank was in charge at 7MSN but didn't know that he was truly an alpha horse. He is so handsome. I am going to read the other linked posts now :)

  10. An American in Tokyo4/5/15, 8:46 PM

    I love your & Hank's story!
    AND, it was educational for me because I often have problems with horses walking off when mounting!
    But unfortunately, these horses that walk off are the riding club school horses so I can't train them like you trained
    If we only had a round pen, I would like to try to see if it works on some of those school horses...ha ha!

  11. What a wonderful post - so funny, wry, and touching. I don't think I knew this history of handsome Hank. <3

  12. Great post. He sure was a handsome horse and still is.
    "Sees dead people on the path" mmm that's interesting. Cool story
    Thanks for sharing