General Lee's Favorite War Horse
Yes there are, or rather were, two “L’s” in Traveller, which was the English spelling back when people were writing about him. And what a memorable horse he was, as there are many anecdotes and descriptions of Confederate General Robert E Lee’s favorite war horse. We know not only what he looked like, but how he behaved and what he meant to the humans who knew him.
He was born in Greenbrier County, in what is now West Virginia, and as a colt, he took first prizes at the local fair. He was purchased for $175 (approximately $5,000 today) in 1861 while General Lee was commanding a small force in Western Virginia and at that time was named “Greenbrier.”
There are numerous paintings and photographs of Traveller that leave no doubt that he was physically beautiful; a gray American Saddlebred with a dark mane and tail, 16 hands tall. Compactly built, with almost a Spanish horse body shape, not long and lanky.
He was an immediate success, as Major Thomas L. Broun recalled:
“He was greatly admired in camp for his rapid, springy walk, his high spirit, bold carriage and muscular strength. He needed neither whip nor spur, and walked his five or six miles an hour over the rough mountain roads of West Virginia with his rider sitting firmly in the saddle and holding him in check by a tight rein, such vim and eagerness did he manifest to go right ahead as soon as he was mounted.”
Oh – ouch. Ridden in a leverage bit on a tight rein at all times. Makes me wince. But this isn’t an attack on General Lee or horse trainers of that time who did things differently than we do.
Saving a Shut Down Horse
Crystal Messer wanted to buy a safe, reliable trail horse, and she thought she found what she was looking for on line: a lovely big bay and white paint/draft cross named Ace. He was advertised as a horse that would willingly go out on the trail, and had even been entered in trail competitions. She was able to see photos and videos of him in action; he didn’t spook, buck, kick or rear. She was unable to travel from her home in Arizona to North Carolina in order to ride him herself, but she did all the homework she could to determine that Ace would be a good match for the lifestyle she planned to share with him.
Then she experienced one of the worst things that can happen to a new horse owner; the horse that she purchased, when unloaded off the trailer at her house, bore little resemblance to the horse that was advertised.
Ace meets Warwick Schiller for the first time in 2015
How to recognize and fix it.
The definition of “destination addiction” as it applies to human beings is: a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.
Another name for this behavior issue might be the “if only” syndrome. If only this was different, if only that would happen, if only that other person would change.
While horses don’t have the intellect to embrace the “idea” of happiness, they know what feels comfortable to them and what doesn’t, and they experience equine destination addiction with commonly seen manifestations such as “gate addiction,” “buddy sour,” “barn sour,” etc. They can suffer from anxiety and they are thinking if only I could get to the gate, or if only I could get back to the barn, or if only I could go stand near that other horse, my anxiety would go away.
In other words, there is someplace else they would rather be than Here and Now, with us, their owners and riders.
The palomino horse doesn't want to be away from his buddy, the paint horse.
. . . . from my notes at a Warwick Schiller clinic.
In the round pen during groundwork, or in the saddle in the arena, if the horse moves out without waiting to be asked, that is anticipation that is undesirable and can even be dangerous. When the rider has one foot in the stirrup and is only halfway on is NOT when the horse should decide it’s OK to start walking off. (Yes, this is acceptable for many people, but not for me. If a horse can’t control himself at the standstill, why would I expect him to control himself at the walk, trot or canter?)
But there are other times when we want our horse to anticipate. If he canters at the sound of a kiss, it is because he learned through anticipation that a backup application of leg or whip will result if he doesn’t pick up the canter.
At his 2016 clinic in Mesa, Arizona, Warwick Schiller explained the difference between the two forms of anticipation, and how to prevent the “bad” one and create the “good” one. This was a concept totally new to me, and as usual with everything that Warwick teaches, it's based on common sense and keen observation of equine behavior. My notes on this are only a couple of sentences long, so I have tried to expand a bit to encompass what I learned while watching and listening in person.
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