|Horse Stories: Baby
By Karen Nelson
Last Updated: February 25, 2009
The story of Niki started out the story of Tango, so it makes sense to write about Tango's early years next. Tango was
born July 1995. She is out of Nikkel and her sire is the Westphalian Stallion, Money Talks. Tango was born during the
River Valley horse show so I was very fortunate to have her boarded with a vet who treated her as those he was his own
horse. The earliest picture I have of Tango is from when she was 1 day old. Even that young you could already see that
she would going to be grey as she had the classic greying around the eyes and muzzle.
|Tango and Niki. Tango is 1 day old.
|Tango and Niki. Tango is 6 weeks old.
If you look closely there is one of
Tango's early friends bathing in the
pond...a rather silly Rottweiler!
|Tango at about 4.5 months old. She had the
strangest winter coat and I called her a baby
buffalo. Her ears were so orange, her legs
were very grey, and the rest of her body was a
combo. The oddest thing was her coat though;
it felt more like a cat than a horse and would
get matted. I think it was because of how late
she was born in the year.
You can see Niki's expanding baby belly in the
Niki's friend Piper had aborted her foal earlier that year, so Tango ended up being the only foal at the farm that year.
She was a pretty outgoing foal and she did well with other adult horses, but I think she lost out by not having other baby
horses to play with. As she was so outgoing, the Gales would often let her out in the yard so she could hang out with
them while they gardened or did work in the yard. As long as you got her back to her mom before she got hungry, she
was quite happy in the company of people.
About the time Tango was to be weaned, the Gales got in a shipment of PMU babies to raise. It made sense to put
Tango in with these other weanlings. She was the youngest of the bunch, but still the tallest so they figured she would
do well with them. What we didn't expect was that the other horses would be afraid of her! Poor Tango would try to visit
and they would run off into the trees, even though we never saw her be mean to the other horses. Poor Tango
continued to look to people for companionship. I remember trying to toss hay in to their pasture and Tango would not
leave the fence line to go eat, and would continually be in the way of the hay being tossed in, so she would end up with
hay on her back. The other babies were afraid to come eat with her, so we would have to make sure the hay was spread
extra far apart.
Eventually we decided it made sense to move Tango so she could see more of the world. When she was a year old we
took her to Amberlea to take in the sights and sounds of a busy barn. Tango took it all in stride, with her only fear being
puddles on cement!
|Tango and my sister Janice at
Amberlea Meadows in September of
1996. Tango was 14 months old, and
quite tall. She was a very pretty grey,
but still had bright orange ears on the
Tango just spent a month or so at Amberlea before heading down the road to a clients farm. I looked after their horses
while they were away in exchange for Tango living there. It would have been an ideal arrangement, but Tango did NOT
get along with their Llama's and would chase them off of their food. She ended up moving to Sue's parents farm. It was
a long drive, but Sue was allowing me to board there for free in exchange for the fact I had been paying for Niki's board
At their farm Tango finally made a friend; another grey warmblood filly that was only a couple months older than her.
The two girls were very different in that Tango was very confident and people friendly, whereas the other filly was
skittish and very passive. I didn't like that I wasn't able to see Tango very much, but I was confident she was being well
taken care of and I liked that she had a friend.
Tango hung out and grew until she was about 3.5 years old. At this point both her and her friend came into Amberlea to
learn some basics such as lunging and wearing tack. Tango was amazingly easy to deal with, and it didn't take long for
her to get used to wearing a saddle, bridle, and to lunge and walk, trot and canter. I don't know why we didn't just start
her under saddle ourselves, as she was so easy going, but Sue and Clark had me convinced that Amberlea was not a
barn well suited to starting a young horse, and that I should send her to an expert to give her the best possible chances.
In the past we had sent horses to western trainers to be started, but they came back not under standing english leg and
rein cues, so we thought it made sense to send her and her buddy to a trainer who was an english rider. The trainer
Sue chose was in Red Deer. I knew of him from shows, and hadn't noticed anything bad about him, so I took her
suggestion and off the two fillies went for 2 months training.
The trainer reported back to Sue on a regular basis. At first the reports back were that Tango was an exceptionally
quiet and sensible filly, but that the other one treated everything like she was a deer caught in the headlights. Then the
reports changed; now Tango was described as stubborn and thick, whereas the other filly was responsive and bright. I
didn't like hearing that, but thought that perhaps I had spoiled her.
When it was finally time for the two girls to come home, a friend and I took the horse trailer and went to get them. I had
arranged to watch Tango go before we loaded them. The trainer took her into the indoor ring and tried to show me what
she could do, but Tango would not stop spooking at the mounting block and the radio. This really surprised me as
Tango had not been a spooky horse, and had taken all the sights at Amberlea in stride. I forget how the trainer
explained this to me though, other than that she was "a typical thick headed warmblood".
We got the two horses home in one piece, and I was eager to start riding Tango. Right away I noticed something odd;
she would turn as though to kick if you approached her with a leg wrap, saddle pad or blanket. She didn't care if you
took these things off her, but anytime you approached her with one of these items in hand, she would turn her bum as
though to kick.
I later learned why: this trainer felt that one of the elements to training was that the horse had to learn not to pull back.
In order for them to learn not to pull back, he felt he had to make them pull back, so they would fight the rope, and learn
that the fighting was useless. Tango didn't find the things he was waving at her spooky, so she would not pull
back...hence why he described her as stubborn and thick. As he felt this was an integral part to her training, he just kept
at her until she finally lost it and pulled back.
How this made sense to him I do not know, but I do know it took YEARS for her to get over her fear of any sort of
material coming her way. She still hates blankets, but to a lesser extent. I cannot comprehend how someone would think
forcing a sensible horse to pull back was in any way beneficial and I feel like the trust that Tango had in people was
broken at that point.
I think this explains to a large part why Tango has a certain amount of inexplicable spookiness to this day; she was
taught early on that spooking was how you got the trainer to stop harassing you.
|Tango at Amberlea after returning
from Training. She is 4 years old and
quite a big mare, I don't think she did
much growing after this.
I have no idea why I wasn't wearing a
helmet, nor why she is wearing such a
short standing martingale.
I had Tango at Amberlea for a few months after she came back from training, and took her into a walk/trot dressage
show. As you will read in the next chapters, things had become awkward for me at Amberlea, and I didn't feel like I
belonged there anymore. My dream of finally having a nice jumper and being a client at the barn I had worked so hard
at, just wasn't going to be.
I decided to move Tango, and wanted to find somewhere with a decent indoor arena, but that had the option of outside
board. The best place I could find was Sherwood Meadows, so Tango moved that fall. I was very strange to be at a
different barn where I knew no one, but it was also very relaxing and in some ways liberating, and I could again go back
to just treating Tango like a friend and doing things my own way. She had most of that winter off, and I brought her back
into serious work the next year, in the spring of her 5 year old year.