Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Transformation of Niko, Part One

A Series by Michelle Grimmer

In the ever-evolving quest for self-betterment and the improvement of training for my horses, I am constantly searching for ways to enhance my program with the horses that I am working with. A big part of this has been to involve Freedom Farm and all it has to offer.

Horses arrive into this world and humans decide on the path that they are going to take. Sometimes they get it right and the horse lives a good life, relatively pain free, while developing healthy working partnerships with their humans. Unfortunately, sometimes this is not the case. The horse grows up a bit, the humans get ambitious, things don't work out well, the horse gets passed along while each trainer/dentist/ saddler/farrier takes a crack at him and he becomes an unsound, twisted mess. It is a predictable scenario which goes on around the world in every equestrian discipline.

There is definitely no shortage of horses to rehab, and I am no stranger to taking them on. With this in mind, one fine sunny day during a momentary episode of apparent insanity, I put a call out to the Facebook universe to send me a "SMALL thoroughbred cheap or free." I wanted a project of my own. Very soon I became the proud owner of a NOT SMALL (in fact, very LARGE), somewhat broken one named Niko.

My new project was an "off-the-track-thoroughbred" (OTTB) who had been training as a jumper. I can only assume that the "trainers" that initially started him after his brief racing career saw big dollar signs when they picked him up. He's mighty pretty with big extravagant movement. Not long after he began training for his post-racing career, he was sold to a promising young rider as her next show jumper, and it was after this that Niko began to encounter some serious problems, which had probably begun while he was training for the track.

As his training proceeded, the wheels started falling off and injuries got in the way. The veterinarian prescribed stall rest, during which, ironically, Niko became increasingly violent towards his handlers, who understandably decided that it would probably be safer to put him out to pasture. There, presumably he would be happier and could finish his "recovery." 

After his recovery was deemed complete and he was given the green light to resume training, I arrived on the scene. It was soon apparent to me that Niko was far from recovered.

To be continued.....

My new horse Niko, boots on, October 2013.
(Originally published July 2014)