Toffee Pops is the newest member of our family. We bought him for our 4yr old daughter, but like most horses that come into my life, he has a few problems. When I look at Toffee, I don’t think of him as a “problem” horse, however I would not have advised any of my clients or students to buy him, which certainly puts him in the problem horse category!
Toffee is an 11’2 hand 6 yr old gelding that was purchased from Applebys Horse Fair this year. The woman we bought him from had him for 3 weeks, and hadn’t actually listed him for sale, however by the beauty of facebook, he came to my attention.
A quick chat on the phone, and I was told of some of his issues. He was extremely hard to catch and brilliant with children, but nervous of adults. She was very honest, which can be rare enough when buying a horse, and I didn’t feel there was any reason not to at least go have a look at him.
When we arrived, he was still in the field. Hard to catch was an understatement, he was impossible to catch! He was out with 2 other hard to catch horses, all was mayhem.
Even though he ran every time anyone got near him, it was not tail up, manic running. It was somewhat relaxed and calculated. I could tell he wasn’t “crazy”, and he was very clever.
Eventually the other 2 were lured in with buckets, and he eventually followed them down the road. Once in a smallish area, he was easily head collared and her daughter rode him bareback to the yard. I was impressed with the ability to go from running around the field to being ridden with no attitude.
She then tacked him up and rode him up and down a very busy road. He remained at a walk, no jigging, balking or napping despite cars, lorries and bikes flying by. He certainly knew his job when it came to riding.
Then it was my daughters turn. Once I approached to lead him, he got tense and his eyes got big. I felt I was holding him back and he really just wanted away. He didn’t do anything, but there were issues there.
Back to the yard. I was very much back and forth in my mind. I really liked the pony, but didn’t like the vibe while lead reining him. The catching wasn’t an unfixable problem, but a problem all the same.
We sat and chatted while my daughter brushed him. Once we were away, and it was just him and her, his whole attitude changed. He relaxed, closed his eyes and nuzzled his face around her shoulder. She hugged him, and he was nearly hugging her back. That was the deciding factor for me. So gentle with her, everything else I could fix.
We bought him. I thought I’ve either made a terrible mistake or found a fantastic diamond in the rough.
We have had him for about 4 weeks now, and he has been a very interesting pony. I have discovered other issues, most relating to his upbringing.
He was bought from some children at Applebys. He loves children and is fearful of adults. He has obviously spent more time with kids then adults.
He was terrified of having his stable cleaned. Brushing the floor, flipping the shavings around, flinging dung into the wheelbarrow. I suspect he has never lived in the stable.
He was very sticky to the touch. Obviously rarely groomed, and sweated up frequently. We washed him, he was terrified of the hose.
Issues with being around or touching the hind legs. Never threatened, but would choose to move away, flinch, and sometimes tremble.
He initially hated being groomed. More because it required people being very close to him, on both sides.
Hated anything being done on his left side (the on side). Opposite any other horse I have ever worked with. When entering his stable he would move very close to the wall, blocking access to his left side. I suspected pain, but once we (attempted) to shoe him, my farrier told me most travellers work from the opposite side of traditional horse people, so that explained that.
Attempted to shoe him in week 2, he would not allow it, trying to rear and run away. This had obviously never been done. His feet were very tidy, so has had trims.
Jumpy and nervous of unexpected things, sounds and movements.
Uncatchable. I suspect he has spent a lot of time tethered, and freedom is just so much more fun!
Shew! A lot of things to work on.
I’ve made significant progress with some of his problems (he comes to me in the field now), but others (like his general nervousness) are going to take a while.
Do I regret my decision? Not for a second. He adores my daughter to no end, and no matter what is going on, he is always very careful and caring of her. We walk him down the road almost daily and he is a perfect gentleman.
We have all grown very fond of Toffee and I am very happy he has come to live with my family, because who knows where he may have ended up. He is such a sweet and pretty little pony, and has the heart of a super star. Stay tuned, my next post will be about his retraining and progress.