I’ve taught several horses over the years to do various tricks. The one I most fondly remember is “Justar Dust“, a.k.a Justin. He was a registered half Arabian/Quarter cross. I had always read, Arabians become your best friends. A single mother, trying to raise 1 son, and working 2 jobs. A special friend was exactly what I needed. I must have been around 25 years old when he came in to my life. He was 5 1/2 months old when I purchased him. Justin was a real eye catcher, even at his age. A beautiful chestnut color. His only marking was a perfectly formed diamond between his eyes. His head was striking but lacked the dish so characteristic of Arabians. It was more quarter horse in proportion. His eyes were soft and silky. They looked like crushed velvet is to the touch. Justin was well put together. His neck was long and curvy, a lovely top-line, with long slender shapely legs. He was very light on his feet, and would take flight at a moments notice. Prancing around me, lifting his nose in the air, and throwing his tail over his loins. Justin was majestic to watch.
It didn’t take me long, to figure out he was special. Justin absorbed any and everything I tried to teach him. When he was a young horse, I took a part-time job at an Arabian horse farm called “Zodiac Arabians”. This was my second introduction to the breed. It was a perfect opportunity to become more familiar with this type of horse. I was just a groom. My job involved the daily grooming of horses assigned to my list. They consisted of mostly young horses less than 2 years old. All of them had been handled from birth. I started out my day haltering young colts, hot walking them, cross-tying them and currying their coats. If they needed bathing or clipping, this was done also. All of this was done early in the morning. I usually finished up between 10:30-11:00am. Normally I hung around to watch the trainer ride the 3-4 year old colts. I learned a great deal from his method of horsemanship. It was something that carried over when it was time for Justin’ first ride.
Justin’ training was easy. I began teaching him to work on a lunge-line when he was a yearling, and it didn’t take long before we became bored with the rhetoric. Justin was never very far from me at any one time. He closely followed my every move. The next thing on my agenda was liberty training. I mean, what the hell. If circus people could do it, so could I! Using food for motivation wasn’t something I had knowledge of back then, but Justin was a shmuck for alfalfa cubes. Those tiny sage green little bales of hay were mouth-watering morsels. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t get him to do. Just the smell of my hands after handling them, were enough to get his motor running. I began to circle him, run from him, crawl under him and dangle them above his head. His nose always on my flank. Training him much like a dog, using only my hands to cue him. It wasn’t to long before he knew how to bow, shake his head yes or no, count, shake hands, pick up a buggy whip, sit on his butt like a dog, lay down and play dead, rear up on his hind legs and walk several feet. By the time he was ready to ride, he was putty in my hands. He never knew he wasn’t suppose to be ridden. He was a living masterpiece!
Those days are long gone now, but I’ll never forget Justin. Having had several horses since then. None was as smart or as willing as Justin, until now. Mouse, my perfectly proportioned pocket pony. He has that same willingness to please, and nothing motivates Mouse more than food. Just dangle a tasty morsel in front of his nose and he follows you any where. Makayla was watching me mess with Mouse one afternoon. She was intrigued by my ability to move him without any mechanical aid. I just laughed at her when she tried to mimic me. Grandma!, I can’t get him to do it. Makayla had no idea there was a piece of good eats in the palm of my hand. That’s why Mouse wouldn’t focus on what she was trying to do to him. He’s not as goofy as he looks, I replied, he’s knows who has the knowledge to move his feet. Makayla asked, if I would show her how to teach him to bow. I began telling her, there was more to teaching a horse tricks. You have to be their friend. That merely going to the barn, feeding and riding them wasn’t how horses learn exceptional behavior.
Soon, Mr. Mouse, you’ll be Makaylas’ masterpiece.