And so I snapped. What’d he expect? The same boring drills every day. And no sooner did I get something right than he’d turn around and want more. This so-called trainer who never so much as hummed or looked for a little spot that needed a rub or two. Just like at the racetrack – no matter how much you gave it was never enough. Why wouldn’t he go away and leave us alone? Karen and I were so happy without him and all of his ridiculous tactics that he tried to foist on me. Bending, he calls it! Like I can’t reach my own hock clear behind me to bite a fly already and I need his help to flex me? I think not. I don’t need to be pushed around; I’ll gladly cooperate for reasonable requests. Why couldn’t he see that? Some people look only as far as their egos.

To snap. This is a very serious condition for animals. We are taught from birth to keep our wits about us and not lose control. Even wild horses feint and simulate attacks to prevent injury. It’s risky to go all out in a confrontation – wounds and broken bones make us prime targets for hunters. Usually, animals are able to settle disputes civilly through threats and bluffing – no sense getting all banged up for nothing. Oh, I’d heard about the dire effects of snapping – wild horses running off cliffs from panic when chased by helicopters, stallions that refused to be contained in “holding pens” and impaling themselves on wooden fence stakes while trying to escape.

The last thing I remember is the flick of the whip and his telling Karen that I needed to be “more supple and engaged.” I never meant to fall. Besides snapping, falling is a most hazardous event for horses – we aren’t safe sprawled on the ground and all that weight crashing down is dangerous. But everything went blank and the next thing I knew my foot was caught on the pole. Ordinarily this wouldn’t pose a problem as horses jump over seven feet with air to spare. The angle – I was bent all right, crooked as a sidewinder – and my rage made it impossible to catch myself. I hit the ground hard and I heard the so-called trainer swear at me. All I could think about was getting away.

Running is something they can never take away from us; it’s all I had left now. And so I ran, blindly and wildly around the arena dodging jumps and hands grabbing for my reins. Past startled riders trying to steady their frightened mounts. I could see the alarmed look in their eyes as I careened past them. A mixture of pity and horror – a traitor to the serious atmosphere and submissive monotony. Surrounded, I stood trembling in a corner and the so-called trainer reached me first. I had been the only horse to ever unseat him and I braced myself for the confrontation I knew was coming. All eyes on us now, everyone awaiting the clash.

The blow was not the worst I’ve felt. I’ve probably rubbed and accidentally thwacked myself harder than the so-called trainer could swing. It was the hatred and indignity of it – the black emotions behind this slap in the face. That I was a thing to be used and punished – dealt with like an object. In that moment my mind shut closed. All that I had thought before was gone. In a haze I could see Karen stride up and take the reins from his hands, felt her slide her hands over my legs to check for injuries as she motioned for him to follow us. Still shaking and gasping for breath, I wobbly went with her back to the barn.

“We are done,” she simply said to him. The so-called trainer gave me one last look of disgust and nodded, “I understand.” What would happen next? I was too numb to celebrate and too weary to care.

Author's Bio: 

Copyright 2012 Karen Murdock is a retired psychiatric nurse, who has been fixing problem horses for over 30 years. Owner of She uses a combination of shaping techniques, a specialized version of clicker training and positive reinforcement. Her unique approach uses games and play as a way to connect and bond with horses to develop confidence, increase focus, improve performance as well as build willingness and trust. All of her services and proceeds go to benefit the horses.