The Speckled Hen Inn Got a Horse!

Ben - Standard Thoroughbred Horse


The Speckled Hen

has a new feature in the pasture –

We got a horse!

Meet our newest addition, Ben – (surname Smokin’ Ben on his registration papers).  Although we’re not sure he ever actually raced, he still has the tattoo on his neck, and when he runs around the pasture, his form is magnificent.  He came to us by accident, actually, when my niece was looking to re-home him because she had taken in too many horses and wanted to scale down.

She posted him on Facebook and our son saw the post and asked me if we might be interested.  We were, so we called her and got the scoop.  Apparently Standard Thoroughbreds and Draft horses are highly desirable for Amish farms due to their endurance and strength, and that’s where he spent most of his life.  He was born in Ontario, Canada, but was later purchased by an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania, who had him for many years.  But when a horse has reached its maximum potential and can no longer perform to the high standards expected on a traditional Amish farm, they are sold – often to kill pens which result in the meat market.  This beautiful boy was spotted by my niece and she just knew she had to rescue him.  So she took him in, as she has with so many other horses as well as dogs.  But horses are expensive to maintain, not to mention time consuming, and after too many rescues, she had some hard decisions to make.

Fortunately for Ben, it worked out for both of us, and he initially went to my sister’s farm in Algoma for 6 months, and then when we had all the preparations made, he was transported here.

However, the transition wasn’t as smooth as we thought it would be.  We thought Lilly (our llama and shepherd to all the sheep) would be the dominant one and take charge.  But when we released Ben into the pasture, he immediately claimed dominance and chased poor Lilly all over the pasture, scaring her half to death.  Fortunately, we had already purchased some m0vable electric fencing so it had to be assembled quickly in order to separate them.  So even today, the pasture is divided with Ben having the majority of pasture with access to his shelter and water, and the sheep and Lilly having a smaller portion of the pasture with access to the barn.

The sheep are very spoiled in that they don’t like heat and retreat inside the barn during very warm or rainy weather.  Ben, on the other hand, prefers being outside with just a shelter.  After all, horses are prey animals, and they don’t like to be cooped up.  All predatory animals have eyes that look straight ahead, but all prey animals have eyes on the sides of their heads so they can be on the lookout at all times.

When Ben first got here, we had the vet out right away to be checked over.  He got his teeth floated (this means that he is sedated and his teeth are examined and then filed down because horses teeth continue to grow and can become scraggly with sharp ragged edges which can cause improper chewing, mouth injuries, and dietary problems if not cared for).  He had blood tests done, and we even had a horse chiropractor come out to make sure he was rideable.  The farrier also came and trimmed his hooves, so after he was vetted and cleared, we decided to try riding him.

Ben initially was open to being ridden, and I prefer to ride bareback, but he is very boney and when he trots, he has very little mane to hang onto, so it’s a rough ride.  He decided at some point he didn’t want to be ridden anymore and started bucking when I got on, so we decided to see if he preferred pulling since he had been pulling carriages and other farm equipment for the Amish for so long.  We hired a wonderful driving trainer who came to our property and even loaned us all the equipment so we could practice with Ben during the winter.  And although Ben was obviously familiar with the harness and equipment that has to be put on, even after a couple months of practicing with cones in the pasture, he decided he was bored with that as well and began laying down and rolling whenever we put the equipment on him.

I know what you’re thinking – we should just make him do what we want.  But we aren’t that kind of people.  We really love our animals and don’t use physical means to discipline them.  In addition, when we were using the whip as a guide during the driving lessons, Ben had such an adverse reaction to it, we knew he had been beaten in his former life, so we decided that was no longer an option.  We don’t believe in using physical force to discipline our animals, but rather positive reinforcement for desired behaviors, and neutral reinforcement (ignoring) bad behaviors.  It’s worked well for all our other animals.

So then I tried just playing with him in the pasture.  He really seemed to enjoy it in the colder months, following me and running behind me, whether it was around the cones, or just playing.  But even that got boring to him, and he seemed to say to us, “Look, I’ve had a long hard life and I’d really just appreciate retirement at this point”, so we said okay.  So now, Ben is a beautiful addition in the pasture, and gets regular hoof cleaning, farrier visits, and lots of brushing.  We even have fly predators delivered by Spalding Labs on a monthly basis to minimize the number of flies that are naturally attracted to horses because we are all about organic!

We think Ben has settled in nicely and is very happy.  He even gets frequent visits by the lambs, who sneak through the gate to come and say hi and graze next to him.  So if you’re a guest at The Speckled Hen Inn and you want to say hi to Ben, let us know and we’ll give you an apple or a carrot to make his day!