The trouble with Rebel

Rebel moved into the barn about two months ago.

Rebel isn’t his real name, but it is his real game. Julie, his owner, is a timid, mousey little thing. She’s very retiring, doesn’t say much. She’s, oh, in her early 40’s, I think. I don’t think she’s new to horses, but I think Rebel is something more than just a horse, to her. I think Rebel has become the problem she can fix, so that she can avoid facing up to problems she has elsewhere.  I don’t know this. However, rumor has it that Rebel has been in several other boarding barns, and Julie’s always been forced (by his misbehavior) to leave after a few months.

It’s plain that Rebel has had other owners. A large, heavy bodied Azteca (QH/Andalusian cross), it’s believed that he’s trained in both English and Western equitation. I say it’s ‘believed’, because Julie hasn’t been able to do much with him. She knows how to ride. However, she has no idea how to deal with a rebellious horse.

If Rebel were a kid, he’d be in juvie.

He’s not mean, not always. It’s just that he has no respect for anyone save himself.

In the two months that he’s been in the barn, he’s done some mean things. Jorge, the lead barn hand, had just brought him into the stall from his all day turn out when Rebel suddenly rushed into the stall, hit Jorge with his left flank and pinned the man against the wall. And began to PUSH.

(I didn’t see this. Jorge told me).  Jorge is a hefty guy, but when 1200 pounds of horse purposefully pins you, you stay pinned. Jorge was alone at the time. He managed to escape Rebel by punching him in the eye.

Now, if you’re the type of person that thinks that one should never hit a horse, you go right ahead and be all mad. I don’t believe in hitting a horse that is hurting you out of fear or self-defense. You’d better be a good enough horseman to understand the difference between fear and meanness.

But don’t bother commenting on how I’m wrong. When a horse is attacking you for no reason other than it is aggressive, you have the right to defend yourself by any means possible. If this makes you angry, then I suppose you should just stop following my blog.

As much as I love animals, no animal has the right to hurt you…and no horse owner has the right to defend the actions of such a horse and sue you if you defend yourself against her horse’s actions.

Because that’s what Julie’s reaction was. Instead of inquiring about Jorge’s well being, she blew up. She was furious that Jorge had “beaten’ her horse. She demanded that Curt and Rae fire Jorge…a Mexican man who is here legally, works his butt off for horribly inadequate pay, and is really very good at handling horses.

It was the first time most of us at the barn had ever heard a peep out of Julie. She was angrily defending Rebel. Jorge must have incited Rebel to crush him. Rebel must have had a reason to do that. Jorge shouldn’t be handling horses. Rebel was a ‘rescue’, you see, and had emotional problems from being mistreated. He is ‘very sensitive, very intuitive and trusting.” He’d ‘been betrayed”. He’d been left in a field with a bunch of other horses that beat him up.

You’re not supposed to ‘beat’ animals, it’s illegal. Jorge should be deported.

Curt and Rae declined to fire Jorge. They offered to refund the boarding fee for the month if Julie moved Rebel out of it. Julie decided to keep Rebel there. But ‘they’d better keep an eye on Jorge’.

When one of the boarders, a woman who is not known for being tactful, very diplomatically asked Julie how she would like to pay for Jorge’s medical bills? And support his rather large family should Rebel have killed him?

That shut Julie up.

For a while.

That’s when I began watching how Julie handles Rebel.

It’s apparent to me that she’s one, crazy in love with him and is, two, afraid of him. She is the type that thinks, if I’m nice to him, he’ll be good. (doesn’t this sound like an abusive husband type of thing? It does to me).

He knows it. He has her completely cowed.

Of all the horses in the barn, he’s the only one that is always haltered. That’s because if Rebel doesn’t want to be caught up, he’s not going to be caught up. He can run all day in his paddock, and you’ll see Julie trudging after him, begging him to be good, please, Rebel, I love you, please come here.

Only when she gives up does the horse literally trot over, grabbing for the treats she’s been offering him all that time. Only when SHE submits does he ‘obey’. She’ll then snap the lead rope to his halter and lead him out.

Sometimes he minds his manners, when it suits him. Sometimes you will see her riding him in a western saddle in the arena. He has very nice gaits, and is rather tall for an Azteca. He’s also very well trained. The Western Equitation riders in the barn don’t think he’s any good because he refuses to put his head way down and “moves too fast for a western horse’.  But he has a lovely flowing canter (not a lope) that makes you think, this is what it must have looked like when the knights were riding into battle. That heavy neck and long flowing mane just look stunning.

But those days of willingness and eager to please are few and far between.

It’s when Julie tries to ask him for anything other than what he wants to do that he gets ugly.

Any contact whatsoever gives him the reason to argue. He will root to the spot if Julie takes up the reins to the slightest degree. No. he says, No.  He won’t buck, but he stops. Just stops and stays rooted to the spot. If she drops the reins, then he’ll move off, doing what HE wants (which is usually a dead run).  Anything less…a met with sullen resistance and pouting.  No. YOU carry me. I don’t want to step up under myself. I don’t want to listen to your leg. I want to run around the arena as fast as I can, and you can’t stop me.

I asked her, once, if she’d tried putting him in a hackamore?

“It’s not the bit. Besides, hackamores are cruel. They pinch that nerve in their face.”

Maybe he needs  floating?

“It’s not his teeth.”

Um…have you checked his saddle?

It’s not the saddle.

It’s his attitude. He is boss hoss.  If he feels like doing something she asks, he’ll do it, but it’s only when HE decides.

Tonia, the ‘resident’ Western Equitation trainer, saw Rebel as a challenge. Obviously, Julie was a complete novice, and she was going to bag another monthly or weekly paycheck by stepping in to ‘help’ Julie with lessons.

Julie objected, saying she knows how to ride, and thank you, but I do know what I’m doing. This horse has emotional issues. People have given up on him, and it’s hurt his feelings, and he doesn’t trust anyone to be there for him.

But Tonia had the bit in her teeth and insisted that she be allowed to at least find out what Rebel’s problems are.

Julie submitted. OK, but you’re doing this for free.

Fortunately, Tonia took Rebel into the solid walled round pen, instead of just saddling him and going into the arena.

I don’t think Rebel had ever been round penned before, which probably worked to Tonia’s advantage.

She led a saddled (but not bridled) and suspicious Rebel into the round pen and…took off his halter.

Rebel immediately bolted, only to discover that he could run fast, but he couldn’t run away.

I believe that Tonia thought she could get him to listen.

But she was dealing with a horse that had no respect for her. Tonia, Julie and Rae (again, I wasn’t there) watched Rebel run in circles. Finally, he stopped, panting and blowing, looking over the high walled round pen.

Tonia entered the round pen with a small dressage whip.  Rebel looked at her, quietly, ears pricked, nostrils wide.

“Walk on” she told him.

Rebel CHARGED Tonia.

The walls of the round pen are much too high for a human to jump over from a standing start, but she tried. Tonia clung to the side of the round pen and Rebel raced along the wall. As he passed Tonia, he hit her a glancing blow, dislodging her from the wall.  She fell, staggered and fell into the sand. Rebel stopped, looking at her, curiously, with a smirk in his eye. He fully expected her to give up.

I’ll give her credit…Tonia has balls. “That’s ENOUGH” she shouted. She picked herself amidst shouts of “are you okay” from Rae. Julie, apparently, was silent.

“I’m effing fine, I think, ” she said, “but you, my bully boy, are not.”

“Gimme a lunge whip” she shouted, and Rae tossed it to her.

“Don’t you whip my horse” Julie snapped.

“Your horse hit me and you’re worried about HIM?”

“You’re scaring him.”

Rae, for once, stepped into the argument.

“Tonia won’t hurt him. Julie, he’s not scared. He’s just too full of himself. He  he needs to learn some respect.”

Julie submitted.

Rebel saw that, and thought it meant Tonia had submitted, as well.

“Walk on” Tonia said.

Rebel refused.

“Rebel, WALK on.”

Rebel smirked. Tonia cracked the lunge whip low to the ground.

Rebel charged her again.

This time Tonia was ready for him, and literally side stepped as he passed. I wish I’d seen it. Then as he passed, she cracked the whip again, right under his tail. She began to chase HIM, cracking the whip loudly whenever he thought of slowing or stopping.

After several rounds at a full out gallop, he began to lick his lips. Tonia allowed him to stop.

“Walk on” she said, and he stepped off in a nice, proper walk. He walked for several minutes until his breathing had returned to normal.

“Whoa”, she said, and Rebel obeyed. He turned to face her.

Tonia said, “OK, bring me the bridle.”

“No, he’s had enough” Julie whined. “You’re scaring him.”

Tonia had had enough.

“Julie, LISTEN. This horse is smart. He has you all figured out. Every time he disobeys you cave, and this is why you can’t ride him.”

“I CAN ride him. You’re just mean and I don’t want you to ever touch him again.”

“That’s fine by me.” Tonia snapped, and walked out of the round pen.

“Aren’t you going to halter him? He won’t let me catch him without his halter.”

“You just told me to never touch him again. I won’t. I PROMISE you I will never touch that horse again. In fact, if I’m hurt worse than I feel, I may have you pay my hospital bills.” Tonia snapped and kept walking.

Julie entered the round pen.  Rebel allowed her to bridle him and she rode him several times in circles within the pen. Rae watched and said that Rebel actually allowed himself to be reined. After a few rounds Julie dismounted, haltered him and took him into the barn for the night.

I’m sure Julie has convinced herself yet again, that she is the only one who understands this horse.

It’s going to be interesting. I just hope he doesn’t hurt anyone.








About subodai213

Retired U.N.C.L.E agent. Living in Laurasia.
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3 Responses to The trouble with Rebel

  1. magreenlee says:

    Sounds like a nightmare scenario. Like you said, I just hope he doesn’t injure someone.

  2. subodai213 says:

    And here I thought I’d had every book ever printed! Thank you, I’ll look Young’s book up and see what he has to say.
    I’m currently reading “Dancing with Your Dark Horse” by Chris Irwin. Again, he’s a writer…and a ‘horse trainer’ I’d never heard of. I like his attitude very much. He says things like “To err is human, to forgive is equine.” Wow.

  3. saraannon says:

    You might enjoy reading John Richard Young’s ‘Schooling for Young Riders’. He was the horse’s advocate long before it was popular (starting in the 1950’s) and remains one of the best spoken friends of the horse.

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