A trainer named Junior

Here’s a true story for you to smile about :)

A trainer named Junior
by Paula Turner
My 14-3 hand Quarter horse, Junior, couldn’t see over the fences we were jumping his last two years of consistently beating the big boys in international level 3-day eventing. Three hours a day dressage and endurance training kept him well occupied. Too dad-gum smart, I always called him my farm manager. Upon first moving back to NC, I filled in for a friend mananging/training at S.P. farm ‘til they got a replacement. Without the full-time job of event training, JR had to find other ways to occupy himself.

Now, I told the farm owner it wasn’t a great idea to feed yearlings loose in the field from buckets hanging on the fence; whoever’s boss hoss eats from everybody’s bucket and just lords it over them. And it’s a dangerous invitation for injury. Ah, but she couldn’t afford the extra help that required. Sometimes you just simply have to zip the lips, as in If you can afford breeding, raising, and training racehorses, this high-fallotin’ farm with miles of good fencing, a barn ‘lotta folks would like to live in—and everything else I see around here, you can darn well afford to have somebody bring those youngun’s in for meals, peaceful and separate from each other… No, the diplomat says, “I recommend bringing the weanlings and yearlings in to eat their meals separately. They will each get the right amount of feed, and they’ll eat in peace without having to fight for food. Otherwise your dominant yearlings could get more aggressive—from too much feed—while the weaker ones get weaker—physically and mentally—because the dominant ones steal their food—not to mention beat them up at any sign of resistance. Somebody could easily get hurt too…” But hey, what did I know? –This was how they’d always done it, and that was not about to change. Besides, what’s an occasional busted knee or leg?

Anyway, since Junior never found a fence that could stop him, he pretty much went wherever he darn well pleased. And boy, did he ever enjoy feeding time… He’d eyeball the groom, who went around putting out feed—four buckets along the fence in three paddocks. By the time she got to the third paddock, he would have jumped into the first and started chowing down—after domineering the heck out of some colt. Seeing this, the groom climbs across two fences and heads for him. Unperturbed, JR keeps eating ‘til she’s right on him, then moves to another bucket—and so on. Eventually he gets her running the fence line trying to keep him away. –At which point, JR—still chewing a mouthful of steamed, crimped oats—trots to the opposite fence (that the groom last climbed across) pops over like it’s a stick on the ground, and resumes his ritual at the nearest feed bucket… He loved leading the groom a merry chase, jumping back and forth from paddock to paddock—sampling everybody’s food—while the groom got exhausted and frustrated to the point of tears.

When asked for help I told her, “You gotta beg.”

She looked at me like I was nuts. “BEG?”

“Yeah, beg. Don’t just go after him thinkin’ you got an ice cube’s chance in hell. You have to stop, call him and say please.”

Her face said I was still nuts.

Nevertheless, next day—right before feeding time—I saw her head toward JR, who grazed—innocently—near the weanlings’ paddock. Thinking to outsmart one of the hands-down smartest beings I ever knew, she carried a bucket—with feed—to entice him. My head shook. Oh yeah, right… good luck. Shaking the bucket, she neared my boy, but JR didn’t allow her within the thirty-foot penalty zone. Grazing paused, he gave her a “you think I’m an idiot?” look, turned, took two steps, casually air-lifted over the fence, and resumed grazing on touchdown. I stifled the laugh and hid behind a shrub.

Her voice was loud. “JUNIOR!” I chose to resume some vital task in the barn, but peaked out often. Twenty minutes and several jumps later, I looked out to see the groom on her knees—hands clasped in front—pleading with her tormentor. “Junior, please… you’re such a good boy… please, please let me get you.” JR grazed closer. She continued pleading—on her knees—until JR decided she’d learned her lesson, came for the grain and let her bring him in.

Thanks for sending it Paula.

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