Madigan Learns To Horse

After Madigan made his debut at a Future Event Horse class last year, he went back in the pasture to eat, grow, and learn to live in a small herd. I handled him at least a little bit every day. Most of the handling was super basic- haltering and leading, picking up and cleaning his hooves, brushing him. He took it all in stride; when I put a blanket on him for the first time, he barely lifted his head from his feed pan.


Now that he’s approaching his second birthday, he’s looking and acting more like an adult than a timid baby. His favorite activity is playing bitey-face with Moe (who is thoroughly sick of him). When he gallops around with Candy, he looks like he knows what he’s doing and not like he’s going to fall down. He had a growth spurt and is now the same height as Moe, just over 15 hands. (Which is great- I was paranoid that he would end up large pony size forever.) Madigan is still friendly and easygoing, too.

Earlier this year, it seemed like it was time for Madigan to start learning some new things, like how to wear a bridle and how to self-load in a trailer. My friend next door has a super reputation for starting youngsters, so it was an easy decision to start bringing him over for groundwork lessons. Richal is patient, consistent, and fair with babies and greenies, and it’s been fun to see her work with Madigan.

Nothing terribly exciting happens in their weekly lessons. He always needs a refresher on personal space- he wants to be right next to the people (because the people scratch him and pet him and feed him cookies sometimes). He’s learning how to walk and trot on the line. Last week, Richal introduced him to the mounting block and a saddle. Madigan remains cheerful and curious- he seems to like investigating all the new things.

Who needs grooming when you can remove your winter hair on the grass?

I’m excited about the future with him. He’s sensible and pleasant, and it’s nice to know he’s getting good training from the start!

Madigan’s First Show

Madigan went to his very first show on Friday and while the show itself was a hot mess, Madigan himself was a very good boy.

The hot mess kicked off a couple of weeks ago. The closing date for the show was July 23; I waffled on whether or not to enter him, but finally did so while I was in Kansas City for work on July 21. I paid for his USEA number, filled out an entry via Xentry, paid the entry fee, and e-signed the form. When the show entry status page updated in early August, Madigan’s name was missing. I searched through my emails for the confirmations of payment and signatures and found them. And noticed at the bottom of one email something about this event not accepting online entries, only mailed entries.

After a brief profanity-laced rant in my car, I accepted that this was my fault for not reading closely enough. I emailed the show secretary to explain the error and asked if I could be added to the show or obtain a refund. She got me entered right away. Crisis averted! Money not wasted!

The show required every horse to have a health certificate, so I made an appointment at the vet clinic for the Tuesday before the show. The week before I took him down there, I called the clinic his breeder used to ask for a copy of his medical records so my clinic could have them. You would have thought I was asking for nuclear codes! I was informed that only his breeder could authorize the release of his records; when I told them his breeder had already done so (or at least told me she’d done so), the clinic insisted they’d heard no such thing and wouldn’t send me anything. (I guess they eventually called his breeder or decided the horse didn’t have a right to privacy, as the records showed up in my mailbox last week.)

On Wednesday, I felt positively about the upcoming show. Madigan had a shiny new Coggins and health certificate. He was listed as entered. Ride times were supposed to be published that day. All was well! However, at noon, ride times were not published. At 5 PM ride times were not published. At 8 PM, the facility’s Facebook page posted that ride times would be published within the hour. A post with ride times was never actually published (nor did I get an email with them); I found the times by guessing the URL of the ride times page based on the URL of the entry status page.

Baby horse or very small giraffe?

Madigan was scheduled to go at 3:12 PM on Friday. After conferring with Madigan’s show squad, I decided to leave at 11 AM. It’s a 2.5 hour drive to the venue, and everyone felt like extra time was better than too little time. I decided to have my friend next door handle Madigan at the show. She’s experienced with showing horses in hand and has presented lots of young horses at inspections. Plus, she runs way faster than I do! Another friend came to act as assistant handler (to wave the longe whip at him to get him to trot) and a third friend came for moral support. It was fun to have a group and useful to have all the extra hands!

We arrived around 2 PM and I headed to the show office to check in. Madigan unloaded a little wide-eyed but settled down quickly once he was parked in front of a hay bag. Assistant handler braided him, and she and my neighbor changed into their very professional-looking matching outfits. We all trekked down to the triangle with Madigan in tow. The triangle was set up in a field that was also being used as a schooling/warm-up area. It was busy, but not too wild. Horses were being ridden and led around and some were screaming like banshees, but Madigan was perfect. He let out one or two little baby whinnies and spent most of his time grazing.

We (and several other young horses and their handlers) waited around for about half an hour past the scheduled start of Future Event Horse. The judge never appeared. Someone eventually went to the show office to inquire about the delay, at which point we were informed the in-hand classes had been pushed back until 5 PM! I was super irritated about this- the ride times were apparently updated at 6:30 AM Friday morning, but I didn’t receive an email, there was nothing posted on the venue’s Facebook page or the show secretary company’s, and no one in the show office thought to mention it when I checked in and stated I was there for Future Event Horse. Back to the trailer we went. Madigan was unfazed. He was quiet and calm and spent an hour and half grazing (and attempting to trim the facility’s trees).

Trotting like a good boy.

Madigan’s spin around the triangle was uneventful. He was a little fussy about standing still- he didn’t do anything bad, just fidgeted a little and stood in the most awkward possible ways. That did not help him look his best, but the judge was understanding. Madigan walked perfectly and trotted with minimal encouragement from the longe whip. The judge complimented his relaxed demeanor and mentioned his athleticism and confidence on the score sheet. He ended up with a 71.11, which was good enough for second place behind a nice Oldenburg/Arabian colt. It took forever for the results to be posted; we left as soon as we could grab the ribbon and a photo and I pulled into my driveway at 10:15 PM.

Second place for a good boy!

I could not be more pleased with Madigan’s first outing. He stood around like an old pro, never got upset about anything, and traveled like a champion. It was a VERY long day, especially for a baby horse. I’m really impressed with his temperament- he’s such a sensible horse!

Best Baby Horse

I was busy working at a dressage show this weekend but managed to fit in some time with Madigan anyway. He’s the quietest, most agreeable creature I’ve ever met.

On Friday evening, I took him over to my neighbor’s indoor arena to hang out. Things were busy- three riders were in the ring, horses were moving to their nighttime locations, and people were coming and going. Madigan seemed interested in the all the activity but not particularly excited. He stood in the middle of the ring with me and enjoyed pats and admiration from everyone. Once the riders left the arena, I led him around. He sniffed ground poles and blocks with mild curiosity, and then stood politely while I sat on a mounting block.

Look at that cute face!

Eventually, I looped his lead rope around the arena rail and grabbed some brushes. Madigan stood quietly while I curried him all over- he didn’t move an ear when I rubbed his belly and legs. He fell asleep when I brushed out his long mane. (I have to trim it; the length makes me cringe.) He eventually perked up and got bored with standing around. He wandered off into the arena dragging his lead rope.

Let me digress for a moment and tell you a story about Moe. He’s always been an easygoing and polite horse, unfazed by much. As a kid, I used to take a book outside, park myself under a tree in the front yard, and let one horse at a time graze while I read. I’d keep their halter and lead on for easy catching, and the horses would crop the lush yard grass and I’d finish a couple of chapters. The first time I did this with Moe, he grazed peacefully until he stepped on his lead rope. When he tried to move and found himself restrained, he FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. Like reared up, flailed backwards, and nearly fell over. It took him a long time to stop doing that.

So every time I see a horse drag a lead rope, I assume they’ll have Moe’s reaction. I mean, he was an otherwise mannerly and quiet animal. If he freaked out at that, they’ll all freak out at that, right? Madigan, who has been alive for ONE YEAR, stepped on his trailing lead rope and did not freak out. He stopped, shuffled his feet until he got off the rope, and resumed walking. What a sensible horse!

Copying Uncle Moe

He’s also very easy to catch- he walks right up and stands for haltering. He leads easily, and if he’s not sure about something, he stops, looks, and then proceeds. The only thing he’s not a fan of is fly spray. He’s not bad about it- he just kind of swings away from the spray. I don’t know if it’s the noise or the sensation or some combination of the two. I’ve always heard that Mannhattan offspring have nice, amateur-friendly temperaments. I’m so pleased to find this to be true in Madigan’s case! It’s exciting to think about riding a horse that isn’t a total loon (looking at you, Candles).

He has a great start with ground manners and skills, and I plan to build on them. On my list of things to get him comfortable with are tying, bathing, and clipping. Baby horse people, I would love to hear your tips and tricks for teaching these things!

Welcome, Madigan!

I picked up the newest addition to my herd from his breeder yesterday! Meet Madigan von Benestar, a 2018 Westfalen gelding.

Last week, a friend tagged me in his sale ad on Facebook. I’d seen him pop up in various local sales groups over the last couple of months, but his price was out of my range. But the newest ad had him listed at very affordable price; his breeder is downsizing.

I sent Johnny a screenshot of the ad and joked, “Can I have this horse instead of a new car?” He replied, “Yeah, that is fine.” I wasn’t about to ask twice!

Madigan’s breeder (The Benestar Ranch in Lindsay, OK) called me a couple of hours after I sent a message inquiring about him. She was friendly and courteous and very easy to talk to. She emailed a sales contract and invoice, I paid for him, and made arrangements to pick him up!

I’m really excited! Madigan is bred very much like Marrakesh. He’s by Mannhattan and out of a Thoroughbred mare whose bloodlines were similar to Gina’s. He seems very low-key and sensible. When I picked him up yesterday, he walked right onto the trailer as if he’d been doing it every day for his entire life. Once we arrived at home, he unloaded quietly and settled into my paddock to graze. He is happy to be petted and brushed, and it’s clear that he’s had lots of gentle handling already.

Moe has been called upon to babysit, which he is Not Happy about. I’ve never seen him look so peeved. He ignores Madigan for the most part and stares mournfully over the fence towards the front pasture and the mares. When Madigan approaches him, he isn’t mean or violent; he sometimes pins his ears to push him away. Madigan has been calm and quiet since his arrival- no running around, no whinnying, just grazing.

Hanging out under the overhang

The mares seem intrigued by the new arrival. They can’t see him super well, but that hasn’t stopped Candy from pacing and peering over the fence. Gina seems unperturbed.


For now, the plan is to keep Madigan with his crabby babysitter Moe and handle him in some way every day. He desperately needs a nickname; Madigan is a mouthful. Johnny calls him Moe Moe Junior Junior. Other suggestions have included Mad Benny, Steve, Doppler, Alex, Sutton, and Star. Any suggestions?