A dangerous horse is tamed by love, pain lifts


As the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle once said: “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” Jessica Morthole is a strong soul. – HfH


From: Off-Track Thoroughbreds
By: Susan Salk

Elusive-Sky-21Elusive Sky was a dangerous horse.

Desperate to evade the touch of humans, the darkly brooding animal flinched away from the brush, pinned his ears if someone got too near, and even cow-kicked CANTER Mid Atlantic volunteer Jessica Morthole to the ground.

But the impeccably bred 16.1 hand dark bay wasn’t a bad horse, Morthole says. He was a body sore horse. And that was the big difference.

“When he arrived last spring (at my farm) for retraining, I realized immediately that though he was sound, he was super body sore to the point that you couldn’t even run a brush down his side,” Morthole says. “And he quickly became sore all over his body to the point that he experienced what we call ‘the racehorse crash.’

“He quickly dropped 200 pounds and looked so bad that we jokingly said we should hide him behind the barn” so nobody could see him.”

Though there’s no telling what hurt or why—all his x-rays and ultrasound reports were normal—Morthole suspects that the abrupt change from track life, and change in feed and any medications he may have been on, caused a strong withdrawal reaction.

“I’d given him a month off, but when I tried to get on him, he was violent,” she says. “You couldn’t put your legs near him. One day I was standing on the mounting block next to him and he kicked me really badly; he was that angry. He knocked me off the block” onto the ground.

When she stood back up and brushed the arena dirt from her britches, Morthole decided a change in plan was in order. With all the potential she saw, she wouldn’t give up on him. But instead, shipped him to a trainer who could teach him to behave at the mounting block.

“My friend spent a month just getting on and off him,” she says. “He was still at that point really body sore, and he looked very bad. There was nothing you could put your finger on to explain it. Just everything hurt him.”

But hidden beneath the pain and the bad attitude lurked the robust heart of a willing sport horse and cuddly equine friend.

While nobody else could see any good that could come of Sky, not Morthole’s associates who stopped by her barn, nor prospective buyers, Morthole and her friend Amanda Froelich were certain that beneath the rough exterior was a gem of an animal.

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AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
1 Comment
  • Mustangman

    Congratulations to a successful or what appears to be a successful turnaround of a TB. I would be more heart warmed though if people would step back and take a moment to realize that retraining does not consist of getting on the back or riding but teaching the horse from the ground FIRST, something none of these horses is ever given in the Racing world. I am so glad to see that someone realized thought that 5 minutes sometimes is all that is needed or should be done. That in itself is a highlight of this story. It should never be thought of as what the horse can be “good” for when retrained but what is good for the horse in the first place, then to see what he/she is willing to do after that trust is built up. Overall, though, it’s a great job, 1 down 17,000 a year to go 🙂

    November 21, 2013