Two weeks ago today our little boy, Toby graduated with honors from Almosta Ranch’s beginning course. You can read more about Toby, the little colt that could, here.
To say that Toby was a fighter is a gross understatement. Rejected by his mother at birth, we didn’t expect him to live out the first few days of his life, but he fooled us. He was all heart and determination as he fought to stay alive. For the first week Mel and I had fed him and when he refused to take milk from a bottle, we figured that was the end. In desperation, we switched from a large bottle to pouring the milk mixture into a regular feeding pail and that did the trick….he lapped the milk up. What is amazing about this is the fact that colts that young are not supposed to know HOW to drink milk that way.
As a result of all of Toby’s issues and his determination to survive, he ended up having an accelerated “childhood”. Normally a colt’s mother doesn’t wean him until he is about six months old as that is about the age they finally learn to eat solid food.
At two months old Toby was eating grain and hay and we were able to send his wet-nurse home.
Normally Mel and I spend a good six months doing lunge and lead work with a young colt to get them ready to move on to their new home. By the time they leave here they are well behaved and polite teenagers, ready to learn the saddle and bridle and open to learning new things.
Again, Toby got the short stick. Because of our health problems the past three or four months, neither Mel nor myself were able to work Toby like he should be worked. In fact, we only had one opportunity, where our health allowed us to give him a lesson. We managed to get a halter on Toby and a lead-rope and spent about an hour introducing him to leading and following a lead. Not nearly enough time.
Unfortunately, neither Toby nor us had any time left. You see, he was already sold. A young lady who had seen Toby’s picture and heard his story had fallen in love with the young colt and she just HAD to have him….right now. Normally we would not even think of letting such a young animal go but we knew this girl was an excellent horsewoman who followed the same teaching philosophy we did when it came to horses. She was also in much better shape than we were and was able to give Toby the time and effort it would take to teach him well.
So two weeks ago Toby’s new owner arrived with her horse trailer…something else Toby knew nothing about…and was ready to take her little boy to his new home. I warned her that putting Toby on the lead rope and trying to get him to load into the trailer was going to be a chore. He was probably going to fight the rope and resist being put into that strange contraption he had never seen before.
Here is where Toby surprised this old man.
Mel and the girl walked into Toby’s pen. He was standing at the far corner and when they entered, his little ears perked forward and he nickered softly at Mel who had become his “Momma” since his birth.
He trotted over to them and stood quietly as his new owner spent quite a long time rubbing and petting him and talking softly in his ear. He stood quietly…a little tense…as Mel slipped the lead rope onto his halter then handed the rope to the young girl.
To my complete amazement Toby didn’t fight the rope at all, but walked quietly between the two women. When they got to the trailer I was all set to bodily shove the little fellow through the open doors.
As it turns out, my help was not needed. Toby stopped at the open doors of the trailer, sniffed it curiously then looked at Mel as if he understood what was happening and he was saying goodbye to his mom, then he hopped into the trailer like he had been doing it all his life.
I damn near cried. Such a little fighter, so whip-smart. Toby is going to make a wonderful horse and a loved companion for his new owner who will enjoy a good twenty years of riding adventures up on his back.
Mel and I talked about it later that evening and came to the conclusion that the reason Toby did so well leading and loading onto the trailer was that he trusted us completely. He wasn’t sure what we wanted but he knew we were not going to hurt him. He had bonded not only with us, but with humans in general. It is this trust that we, as humans have to build with all horses and when we have that, we have not a pet, but a partner that will be willing to do anything we ask of it.
That’s what we do here on Almosta Ranch.