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The owner says his horse is never like that at home ...

and quiet home environment. Babies are the most difficult. Frequently at breed shows and inspections, weanlings are turned loose when they or their dams are judged. While the ensuing antics provide great comic material, their actions can be heart-stopping. “Babies think they’re playing with you. They try to kick

your feet in play, which can knock you off balance. You try to get them to be comfortable and trust you as fast as possible and then get out of their way! When handling baby and mom together, it’s important to have a good assistant because it can get scary out there when you’re lodged in between the two,” explains Bruce. Michael agrees. “You have to go with the flow with

babies. Sometimes hind legs go flying or they buck and feel good. You just have to run along with it and not stop the motion; if they hop, you hop. “On the triangle, you try to get babies on the inside, so the judge can see them better,” continues Michael. “It takes some technique to figure out how to set yourself up that way. You can’t look for the baby when you’re running. So it helps to have someone work with you from behind who knows where the baby is.” Working with stallions and younger horses takes its

own expertise. “Stallions get bored easily. You need to keep them interested. At home, I don’t work them for long,” says Michael. “The younger the horse the shorter the attention span. If in five minutes they’ve got it, the reward is we stop and they get to go in the field to be a young horse again.” “You have to have good horse sense, think ahead of

Nick Phillips presenting the P.R.E. stallion Faralay II owned by Chris and

Betsy Ketcham. Photo courtesy Nick Phillips

them and be aware of the surroundings,” Nick advises. “If the horse is tense, figure out why. If he might spook, be prepared to fly. Be quick on your feet. Most accidents happened when the horse gets ahead of the handler, and the handler can’t keep up.” “It can be scary out there,” describes Bruce. “Often

you’re one step from being crushed. Or you get a horse that’s rearing and doesn’t want to behave. The owner says his horse is never like that at home and I remind the owner that he’s not at home.”

KEYS TO SUCCESS

As with any trainer-client relationship, issues come up. A horse may be overweight or under-conditioned or improperly fed, making it more difficult for the handler to turn a frog into a prince. “I try to be upfront with my clients without being rude,”

says Michael. “Sometimes after an inspection you think ‘I had the best horse,’ but judges have preferences, and it’s a show. So you go home and work to improve. Some young horses may look great two weeks before and then by show time, they’re butt high. I might comment that the horse has started growing, and this might hinder the horse from having a good show. Then it’s up to the owner to withdraw. On the other hand, a lot of owners like their horses to have to show experience and they will go to the show anyway.” Handling styles vary a bit, but the good ones follow a similar pattern. You might hear some handlers using

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