INFORMATION ON X RACE HORSE PERSONALITIES
QUESTION: I have recently purchased a 7 year old Standardbred mare. She had 30 days saddle training once she came off the race track. Some things are puzzling me. First, she is so "Timid" with my other horses. They all run her off from the feed and she is really afraid of them? Second, if I lock her up by herself, she immediately gets stressed, chews wood and cribs? And third, she is quiet to catch, handle, groom, saddle but always is looking off in the distance, she makes no attempt to get to know me? It is like her eyes are just "Blank", no emotion showing? Is something wrong with her?
You have described a horse that was bred to race, trained to race and/or raced 100% perfectly.
WHY? Because the horse was kept confined in a boxstall and........................
(1) Not socialized with other horses as they are not turned out together in case they kick or hurt each other causing an injury that would prevent them from winning on the race track. This results in a horse once off the track often having no social skills with other horses. They don't know how to be a member of the pecking order, plain and simple. They may be either overly Timid/Submissive or overly Aggressive with other horses.
(2) During those months or perhaps years confined to that boxstall, many horses develop severe mental problems from sheer "Boredom" such as cribbing, weaving, pawing, head nodding, wind sucking, etc. etc.
These problems often resurface when the horse is put back into confinement. They immediately get stressed thinking they are back, locked up except for an hour or so a day when they maybe didn't even enjoy what was done with them when out of their confinement for such a short time. Turn out paddocks of any decent size simply do not exist at a race track. No freedom for a race horse!!! No fun, just being a horse time for them when on the track............................
(3) Although usually well cared for and handled on a daily basis briefly, they were just a number, not a living creature with social needs to the people caring for them at the track. Many submit to handling easily but simply do not BOND with people. They were not expected to Bond with the grooms or trainers. So they just stand there without emotion. OR they are just the opposite and quite ignorant to handle because they fought their Boredom by striking out and/or becoming nervous wrecks. Consider yourself lucky, the "Nervous Wrecks" ones are the ones so difficult to handle and/or retrain.
So, with dedication on the new owners part (I call it Love, not just basic caring for the horse) they can and often do eventually Bond with humans. In a large enough pasture, they can learn social skills eventually. In a large enough area, they can get away from the other horses (stay out of the other horses space) or in the case where the horse is not timid but aggressive, the other horses can stay out of their space until the horse learns how to fit into the Pecking Order of a herd. Note: Even 2 horses constitutes a herd.