by Laurie Berglie
Laurie Berglie is a frequent contributor to Retired Racehorse and also writes at her blog, The Sassy Grey.
After reading Natalie Keller Reinert’s article, “You Can’t Hug a Thoroughbred,” I had to laugh! Of course I completely agreed with her that you could hug a racehorse, that you could, in fact, hug any horse. But after reading this, I was reminded of my own OTTB mare, Misty, and how, at first, I couldn’t hug her.
Unlike Natalie, I didn’t grow up around Thoroughbreds. My mom is a Western rider partial to Paints and Quarter Horses, so I spent most of my life riding those “safe” breeds. She, for quite simply a lack of knowledge/first hand experience, always told me that Thoroughbreds were “crazy” and “on drugs.”
So I’m not sure if it was my mother’s disapproval or just the sheer, raw beauty of the Thoroughbred, but I wanted one. (Also, it may have been Joanna Campbell’s Thoroughbred book series too – I was severely addicted to them as a child).
Interestingly, however, until Misty I had never ridden a Thoroughbred. But then on a hot day in July of 2008, there was Misty, standing in a small paddock on my farm, having just been dropped off by her current trainer. I stared at her; she stared at me. What was I going to do with this horse?
Oh well, I thought – let’s just get started. I began treating her like any other horse. I gave her some time to adjust to her new surroundings before I rode her, but I was there every day, grooming her, getting to know her.
But I’ll never forget that first night. I was getting ready to leave and went into Misty’s stall one final time to say goodnight. I went to her side and hugged her, threw my right arm over her withers, my left arm around her chest, and laid my head on her shoulder – and she…turned around and tried to bite me! It wasn’t a serious effort – more of a “hands off lady!” nip at the air.
I was shocked! So I leaned in to hug her again – same reaction! By this time, my mom was laughing as both mine and Misty’s expressions must have been priceless.
“You know,” my mom suggested, “Maybe she’s never been hugged before. She probably doesn’t know what you’re doing.”
Oh! All of a sudden, I felt bad for my new horse. Had she never been shown any real affection? Was my hug the first she’d ever received? (Or maybe she was just a touch-me-not kind of girl!)
I believe my response was something like, “Well I’m just going to force myself on her until she loves me.”
Very mature, I know.
But that’s what I did! Every night before I’d leave, I’d hug my Thoroughbred. She went from fake-biting at me to just tossing her head a little to full acceptance (or tolerance) of my affection. She has even hugged me back a few times.
So can you hug a Thoroughbred? Absolutely. Can you hug a mare? Sometimes.