Friday, January 20, 2012

The trouble with 'smart' horses...

Trygve -- One of my favorites [image: ajuell]
6 Panels in 107.2

Part I

I think everybody who has worked with horses has a favorite.  If you're like me and work with thousands of horses over many decades, you probably have quite a few.  Especially if you hold horses in higher regard than most people.  No, that's not quite as severe a statement as you might think.  See, we all have 'circumstances' in our lives that ultimately cement the foundation of our viewpoint -- good or bad.  Most of these are not of our own choice necessarily, but rather the result of what we can derive from the environment around us.  And if we're quite young, perhaps unskilled in the nuances of human behavior, we may draw the wrong conclusions.  Hardly matters.  We still must draw some conclusion from our experiences.  Survival alone demands that much.  But sadly, that search very  often consumes its own collection of extremely priceless years and in the interim, we could sure use a friend or two.  And some horses just naturally step up to the plate, especially when horse and human discover a common bond:  we were both a couple of outliers. 

Trygve was part of a 3-1 package that the farm purchased from a Kentucky breeder in the late 1970's.  He was sired by Groton and arrived at our farm still on his dam, a Bupers mare that had never raced herself.  She was also carrying a foal by *The Axe II and both ended up half-brothers to a suddenly rising star:  Shadycroft Lady.  Good for us, you could say.

The mother was an odd sort though.  Not particularly fond of humans, though not in the sense of being fearful -- perhaps like myself, suspicious of those intentions that weren't always obvious to a bystander.  And as mothers sometimes do, she shared this skill with her offspring.  Farm managers always appreciate that sort of parental guidance.  So Trygve, unnamed at that stage of his life, became one of my problem children.  And not because he was recalcitrant, naturally stubborn or just a knot head, but because he was smart.  As a rule, trainers don't appreciate 'smart' in a horse.  They figure that for $100 a day or more, one genius in the barn is more than sufficient.  But of course, the racetrack was still two-years off in a future that is always muddy at best.

With the success of Shadycroft Lady, a whole new scenario had opened up.  After a good deal of thought, consternation and downright angst, it was decided that business logic should prevail and the colt would be sold at the WTBA Select Yearling Sale.  I personally disagreed with that decision, though I both understood the reasoning as well as the financial burdens that face most small breeding farms.  By the time Trygve was a year old, he already looked the part and more...much more.  This was clearly substantiated when the inspection scores were revealed for that year's sale.  He was the only yearling in the history of the sale's venue to receive a 10.  That made me nervous and the owner of the farm insane -- well, a little anyway.  Both of us.  It was obvious that he would top the sale and quite likely set a new standard.  Interest was being expressed as far away as California and Kentucky -- agents.  Not the kind of folks who drool over a pretty face and straight legs.  This colt had speed and maturity written all over him.  And the looks.  He shined like black gold -- ultimately to my everlasting chagrin.  You see, the Gods of hubris decided to get playful.

TomorrowJust how playful?

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