Wooden Phone is our most famous racehorse here. He won over $830,000 — his biggest win was the $500,000 Strub Stakes in 2001. Jim and Marilyn Helzer and Tom Durant donated him to LOPE. With his incredible history, Wooden Phone is staying here — he is a wonderful “spokeshorse” for LOPE.
But like many big-money winners, Wooden Phone can be somewhat of a diva. Before he came here, he had a reputation for being difficult — especially with other horses. It took awhile, but we finally figured out the right group of gelding buddies for Wooden Phone. The good news is that he now easily mingles with other horses in the pasture.
The bad news is that he has become a little herd sour — he becomes upset when separated from his friends.
So it’s time to start working with Wooden Phone more. Because he hasn’t been ridden much since his racing days, I decided to go slow and start with some groundwork.
A couple of days ago, I haltered Wooden Phone and led him out of his pasture. Although he nickered a few times at his buddies (who ignored him completely), he led pretty well. But when we got too far away (in his opinion), he puffed up like a big dragon and began prancing around, squealing for his best friend (Vienna Circle, who was too busy cribbing to notice).
Anyway, I ignored Wooden Phone’s dragon moves — fortunately, we were close to the round pen, so I could lead him in there. He flew around the pen, agitated, calling more loudly for Vienna (who was still cribbing).
After watching Wooden Phone canter frantically for several minutes, I climbed into the round pen with him. To my surprise, he focused on me right away. Although somewhat excited, Wooden Phone seemed to come to me for help — which I really appreciated, since the dragon imitation had been kind of scary.
He round penned well, slowing his gait when asked, maintaining a respectful distance and halting quietly. When I invited him, he even walked into the center of the pen with me.
Impressed with the change, I haltered him and ended the session with some grooming (which he loved). He led quietly back to his pasture and stood politely when I took off his halter.
Wooden Phone is an interesting horse — sometimes he seems to throw conflicting signals. But he is very intelligent and I am beginning to understand his diva moods better.
I’ll be posting more about Wooden Phone as we continue working together — stay tuned!