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thethinker42
06-03-2012, 10:42 PM
I almost feel dumb for asking this, since I spent a good chunk of my life working with show horses, but it's been a while. I also haven't worked with abused horses in a long time, and I've never worked with a Tennessee Walker, so I want to make sure I get this right. Better to sound dumb here than in the book, so...

My character has just gotten a pair of Walkers who were badly mistreated during their show careers. One is about 3, the other is 8. He's looking to rehabilitate them so they're physically and mentally sound enough to be ridden and eventually sold.

What kinds of realistic behaviors and problems would a horse have after being rescued from that kind of environment that would create obstacles for the trainer? I'm assuming they would generally be afraid of people as well as certain implements (chains, whips, even saddles and bridles, having their feet worked on, etc), which would manifest as timidity in some horses and aggression in others. Would it be realistic for either horse to be (at least until the trainer earned his trust) unsafe to ride? Would it be realistic for either horse to be too unsound to ride? What kinds of physical problems would the horses have, and how permanent/debilitating would they be?

Also, does training/showing as a "big lick" Walker cause problems with the running walk gait when the horse gets older? i.e., after he's retired (or rescued, as the case may be), would he be able to go back to the natural, plantation walker gait, or would that require extensive retraining? (I've never worked with gaited horses, so I'm clueless in that department lol)

Any help would be appreciated here. This is sort of a secondary plot in the story, but I want to make sure I don't screw it up. (And yes, I'm doing research elsewhere too, but it never hurts to ask here :D)

Horserider
06-03-2012, 11:55 PM
I don't have enough personal experience with Tennesee Walkers to go into very much detail, but look up stacked shoes. The X-rays I've seen of them are kind of horrifying and they can definitely cause a horse to be unsound enough that it couldn't be ridden.

thothguard51
06-04-2012, 12:01 AM
My mother had a rescued TW and it took her years to straighten him out so he was ride-able. If I remember right, she said the first year was just getting him to trust her and she did not ride him at all...

If you character plans on a quick turn around with this horse, I am not sure that will be believable. But then, it depends on how bad the horse was abused and the type of trainer your character is. So anything is possible...

thethinker42
06-04-2012, 12:05 AM
I don't have enough personal experience with Tennesee Walkers to go into very much detail, but look up stacked shoes. The X-rays I've seen of them are kind of horrifying and they can definitely cause a horse to be unsound enough that it couldn't be ridden.

It's unbelievable, isn't it? :( I've seen the damage to their feet and legs up close...not pretty. Poor things. :(


My mother had a rescued TW and it took her years to straighten him out so he was ride-able. If I remember right, she said the first year was just getting him to trust her and she did not ride him at all...

If you character plans on a quick turn around with this horse, I am not sure that will be believable. But then, it depends on how bad the horse was abused and the type of trainer your character is. So anything is possible...

It won't be a quick turnaround for the one that's badly abused. I may not even have the characters riding either horse during the course of the book, just making some slow, steady progress on the ground.

Fins Left
06-04-2012, 12:08 AM
A trainer has just pled guilty or been convicted. If you google TWH and abuse, you'll probably find a lot of articles. You might be better off talking to the rescues that were involved with those horses. TWH abuses can vary a lot.

firedrake
06-04-2012, 12:12 AM
My very limited experience of Tennessee Walkers is that the top show horses always seemed to be very 'amped up' to the extent that I could never imagine that they were ever ridden anywhere except inside a show ring.

My guess is that if you were rehabilitating a horse like that it would be similar to rehabilitating an ex-racehorse. Give it a good year off to get it's back down. Change the feed to a low-energy type, or heck, even hay and water for a while.

shaldna
06-04-2012, 12:21 AM
I almost feel dumb for asking this, since I spent a good chunk of my life working with show horses, but it's been a while. I also haven't worked with abused horses in a long time, and I've never worked with a Tennessee Walker, so I want to make sure I get this right. Better to sound dumb here than in the book, so...

My character has just gotten a pair of Walkers who were badly mistreated during their show careers. One is about 3, the other is 8. He's looking to rehabilitate them so they're physically and mentally sound enough to be ridden and eventually sold.

What kinds of realistic behaviors and problems would a horse have after being rescued from that kind of environment that would create obstacles for the trainer?

It depends on the type and severity of the abuse.

I've seen some walkers who were frightened of their own feet, having never gotten over the chain anklets.

The shoes can also be a massive problem, being bigger and heavier they tend to cause more stress to the legs, causing the legs to balance in a way that puts too much strain on the bone and joints, causing a higher incidence of stress fracutres and compaction lameness than in other horses.


I'm assuming they would generally be afraid of people as well as certain implements (chains, whips, even saddles and bridles, having their feet worked on, etc), which would manifest as timidity in some horses and aggression in others.

Not necessarily.

It's a common belief that neglected or abused horses are afraid of people or are violent, and that, in my experience with many of them from all walks of life, isn't always the case. Yes, some of them have behavioural issues including fear and violence. But the violence is almost always caused by fear, and the fear can triggered by anything or nothing.

I have a rescue mare who, 99.9% of the time is sweet and kind, however, she doesn't want to be cuddled or patted or made a fuss of. She doesnt' like it and feels crowded. When you are trying to 'love' her, it freaks her out and she will give you a kick if you don't back off. If you treat her with distance and respect she's fine, but shes' not a pet. She doesn't want love and attention, for the most part she just wants to be left alone to get on with things.

I had another rescue when I was at college who would have followed your everywhere. He hated being alone and he was scared of other horses to the point where he had to be kept alone. Yet he thrived on human company.

Another rescue I worked with had been badly abused and was terrified of everything. She wasn't mean, but she would have lashed out in fear and that made her dangerous.



Would it be realistic for either horse to be (at least until the trainer earned his trust) unsafe to ride?

Yes. In fact many rescue horses are never going to be safe to ride again for a variety of reasons, some psychological, some physical.

My rescue mare came to us because I'm a soft touch and could bare to see her be put down. No one had had on her for 13 years. I had her six weeks and I was able to sit on her. Some months down the line and I was able to take her out on her own to ride. The mare owes me nothing. I took her on expecting nothing from her and wanting nothing from her. For her to trust me enough to let me sit on her is a privilege, not an expectation.



Would it be realistic for either horse to be too unsound to ride? What kinds of physical problems would the horses have, and how permanent/debilitating would they be?

Again, it depends. I've seen horses with fractures that made them permanently unsound - most common in racing ponies, walkers or long distance horses, especially badly shod ones.

Neglect can also be caused by too much care - horses with laminitis, for instance, because their owners let them have far too much rich grazing, thinking they were going a good thing. Horses with azortuia who have ignorant owners who think it's just a strain to walk off - never realising that they are making it worse.

Horses fed on a too high grain diet tend to develop ulcers. My sister in laws horse was an exracehorse who had a stomach ulcer as a result of his diet and when it burst he ended up having to be put down.

rainsmom
06-04-2012, 12:53 AM
I hung out with a friend yesterday who has a rescued saddlebred. Different breed, but there's some overlap in the torture inflicted. This particular horse was human aggressive. She got him, because he was going to be put down. Not only was his mind warped, but he was also lame because they'd had him dragging a logging chain so he'd hurt himself if he kicked.

There is serious, serious abuse in the horse show world.

jclarkdawe
06-04-2012, 09:43 AM
Repeat Shaldna's answer here.

You should also be aware that breeding nicks are an issue. Breeding nicks are where breeding is worked to produce specific results (hopefully). For example, in Thoroughbreds, there is the Northern Dancer nick. Very good race horses, they're also very aggressive and not the sanest of horses.

All breeds have this issue to a greater or lesser extent, as breeders try to produce particular results that are show winners. One common complaint is halter-class horses that are fundamentally unsound.

But in Tennessee Walkers, the issue with some of the horses is producing a level of animation in the horse. TWs were originally bred as a quiet, sane horse that you could ride all day in comfort. You could check out your plantation without working up a lot of sweat.

Well, quiet horses don't show well for TWs. What the judges are looking for are animation and leg action. Instead of the original calm horses, shows look for horses with a lot of alertness and leg action. Or another way of saying this, the judges are looking for spirited horses.

As a result, a fair number of TWs are bred looking for that animation, which admittedly does produce a very showy horse. But horses in that sort of nick also tend to be dingbats, spooking at the images in their minds. And there's not much you can do with them. They'll always be a spooky horse, and will be like playing with dynamite.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

shaldna
06-04-2012, 12:08 PM
Repeat Shaldna's answer here.

You should also be aware that breeding nicks are an issue. Breeding nicks are where breeding is worked to produce specific results (hopefully). For example, in Thoroughbreds, there is the Northern Dancer nick. Very good race horses, they're also very aggressive and not the sanest of horses.

I've had a couple of those in my time- my elderly mare is by Lyphard, who is by Northern Dancer. She's very detached and would give you a kick if you crowded her for sure.

It's completely true about breeding - Cruising, for example, produces very talented offspring, but they are bastards to deal with. They excel at showjumping and eventing and competitors love them

Saddlers Wells, on the other hand, produces very nice foals, but no where near his own talent.


All breeds have this issue to a greater or lesser extent, as breeders try to produce particular results that are show winners. One common complaint is halter-class horses that are fundamentally unsound.

For sure. All breeds have issues - TBs have notoriously bad feet, like they just crumble.

Arabs have a whole host of genetic conditions, the worst being SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency), not to mention a tendency towards epilepsy.

With Walkers you get much MUCH higher cases of Azortuia / EPSSM (Equine polysaccharide storage myopathy)


But in Tennessee Walkers, the issue with some of the horses is producing a level of animation in the horse. TWs were originally bred as a quiet, sane horse that you could ride all day in comfort. You could check out your plantation without working up a lot of sweat.

Isn't it always the case that folks try to build on perfection only to make things worse?


Well, quiet horses don't show well for TWs. What the judges are looking for are animation and leg action. Instead of the original calm horses, shows look for horses with a lot of alertness and leg action. Or another way of saying this, the judges are looking for spirited horses.

I see this in Hunter showing and dressage too. It's not enough that the horse is calm, rideable, obedient and correct. It should have 'personality' too.

I once had a great big hunter that lady judges loved. He was a huge clart of thing, wide as he was tall, perfect conformation, the sweetest, calmest manners, willing and safe. But I was once told by a male judge (who all seemed to hate the horse in question) that he was 'boring'. Seems they wanted something more lively rather than safe. I hunt a lot, and I know which one I'd prefer. #sigh


As a result, a fair number of TWs are bred looking for that animation, which admittedly does produce a very showy horse. But horses in that sort of nick also tend to be dingbats, spooking at the images in their minds. And there's not much you can do with them. They'll always be a spooky horse, and will be like playing with dynamite.

Also, you have to look at HOW the trainers are getting that action. Sometimes it's very, very cruel.

I don't know about the states, but over here we have had a massive problem with rapping in showjumpers and eventers. This is where two assistants stand beside a jump, and, as the horse gets airborne, they lift the pole up another foot or two so the horse rapps it with it's front legs.

The theory behind it is that the horse will hurt itself and will jump higher next time - this is why you end up with horses who are jumping two feet over the top of a fence. Needless to say, it fucks the legs, and the horses mental health.

I've see worse - I've seen (and reported) trainers who wrapped poles in barbed wire, or metal tape connected to a car battery (electric shock) for the same reasons.

I've also seen horses who've had their tail muscles nicked to make them carry them higher, or, for other classes, have them nerve blocked (paralyzed) to make them lie flat and close to the body.

I've seen horses have their bridle under laced with fishing wire to give invisible, severe control.

I've seen unsound horses given a nerve block so they could compete, and some show horses who were starved before they showed so they would be alert and agitated and 'spirited'.

It's sad. And it's a massive, massive problem.

firedrake
06-04-2012, 12:35 PM
Useful link here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Walking_Horse)

My friend had a Tennessee Walker mare. She used to show her in the Saddle Seat classes and never really got anywhere because she wanted a riding horse, not a show horse so she didn't resort to the crap that other people would do. The end result was a lovely, comfortable sensible hack who never placed in Saddle Seat classes.

Yeah, breeding. Green Desert's progeny also have their quirks. Sometimes the quirks are amusing, sometimes they're downright dangerous.

thethinker42
06-04-2012, 05:57 PM
Great, thanks everyone!

And my God, do I know about the breeding nicks. I worked with Morgans for most of my life, and there were some lines...yeah. >.<

veinglory
06-04-2012, 07:17 PM
Walkers are nice tractable horses. If the soring wasn't severe they can return to a normal gait pretty quickly. I can see a horse that was only sored a short time and not stewarded getting over initial fear and settling in fairly quickly.

pandaponies
06-05-2012, 04:56 AM
Totally true about the breeding. I have a halter Arab - I hear SO MANY COMMENTS about Arab halter about how they're all abused and yadda yadda and the horses are obviously abused to look that "SCARED" all the time and look how terrified they are all of the whip... actually, they're just bred to be fire-breathing dragons from the second they hit the ground. :P Mine, at home, is GENERALLY pretty calm/normal (sweet as pie, a huge love bug, actually), but he will never be a bombproof kids' horse like the auction ponies I grew up on. It's just not in his blood. Show horses in the "animated" breed worlds are a very unique ball game.

That said, on a more relevant note, I had an ex-show TWH who was totally sweet and puppyish on the ground, but he had major separation anxiety (would get so worked up he broke out in hives). Riding-wise... he started getting antsy when you went to tack him up, was okay to be mounted, but the second you touched the reins he lost his mind. BIG rears, FLYING backward with NO response to any cues (backed himself straight into the side of the barn once), bolting like a maniac if he felt too pressured, etc. (I ended up rehoming him to a lady who had rescue experience and loved/specialized in TWHs and last I heard he was doing very well).