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.