Pauline Harkin: Playing mind games *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Getting a horse fit is one thing, but managing his mind is another. Buying horses on a budget means I’ve often been landed with horses that no one else wanted. Most came from big yards where they aren’t treated as individuals and they fall into two categories: the robot or the downright quirky.

    I found that the quirky ones are normally the easiest as their issues tended to be pain-related, so a visit from the dentist or chiropractor usually does the trick. The robots with the hard sulky eye, however, were tricky.

    When horses are overtrained, whipped in races when they are trying their best and then not rewarded for their efforts, it takes a long time to reverse the damage.

    Getting a horse to want to win again is the hardest challenge, but sometimes just a pat and a “good boy” instead of a lash with the whip is all that is needed to build up their self-belief and confidence.

    It can take years and sometimes it cannot be done at all, but seeing a horse prick his ears and want to race again after seasons of sullenness is so satisfying.

    It’s these horses who reward us in abundance for our time and patience.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 11 May 2017