Over the years I have met with a type of horse which does not bow easily to man. I call them ‘Tough Hombres’. They are not aggressive in that they bite or strike out, nor need they be permanently ‘difficult’ and often they have redeeming features but they are horses which call for special handling. They are for competent, experienced riders only.
These are the horses one often meets in the hunting field fitted with double rein bridle sets incorporating fierce bits. How the horse gets to be as they have become will vary but usually it boils down to the fact that somewhere in their lives the horse has met with an unsuitable owner. Such ‘difficult’ horses get passed on regularly by owner to owner.
I once owned such a horse named ‘Joe’.
He’d been bred by gypsies and sold on as a youngster to a trekking centre. Whilst only 15h2 he was tough – cart horse tough - but with little feather. He showed lots of bone, a powerful butt and a thick neck. Relate him to a car and you would define him as a 4WD, 5 litre, turbo charged diesel, pick up truck. He was a lot of horse. He wasn’t fast, he wasn’t tall but he was as tough as old boots and it was noticeable that other horses were wary of him although I never saw him fight them.
I acquired him largely because he was unsuitable for trekking work. If he was used by a heavy handed novice then during the ride Joe would revolt. He’d balk (refuse to move), he’d allow the rider time to dismount, then if the rider persisted in staying in the saddle, Joe would go down on his knees , then onto his side and begin slowly to roll over - even if the rider was still on his back. He never actually hurt a rider, but he broke several saddles. Invariably the rider dismounted and quickly once it was realised what was happening. At first the disobedience was just with the heavy handed or badly sitting novice but gradually it got to the stage where the riding centre could no longer use Joe for paying customers. But not all of the trek leaders were competent to cope with Joe, so he had to go.
Eventually he found his way to me, who knew him and who felt Joe was worth the effort. He was an extremely sure footed horse even on the steep slopes of the hillsides. He was also fearless in traffic. He had his good points and I loved him for them. But a few years down the line he nearly killed me in the process of whirling, and bolting down a steep tarmacced lane. Over a couple of years with me and my wife Joe had morphed into becoming what used to be known as ‘lawless’. Once he had discovered a rider’s weakness, he stored it up for a rainy day. Put simply he became unfit for use in a modern environment where close control over the horse is mandatory at all times. Joe and Tough Hombres like him need special handling, understanding and training.
What eventually destroyed him was a torn check ligament, but that is only the last chapter of his story. I can publish his story on a thread but the tale will amount to a few thousand words.