Lucas with a Friend
GRATITUDE FOR AN AMAZING HORSE
By Karen Murdock
"Lukas is such a lucky horse. He should be so grateful to you, Karen, for everything you've done for him".
Gratitude is something on everyone's mind around this time of year. Especially for me. I receive over one-hundred e-mails a day about Lukas, from all over the world, and many are similar to the one above.
Granted, Lukas has come a long way since leaving the racetrack after three unmemorable back-of-the-pack finishes and two bowed tendons. After changing hands several times, he ended up in a yard with a family that had no horse experience and severely neglected and underfed him.
When I purchased Lukas as a ten-year-old, green, project horse from the lady who had rescued him, I was hoping to be able to show him in some lower level local shows. However, within a month of competition training with the person who was then my barn's instructor, Lukas quickly became surly, aloof, and dangerous. He began bucking, bolting, and spooking. Before long, he was unsafe even in his own stall.
At that low point, I decided to fall back on my trick-training experience to try and bridge the gap between us. Over the years, I had put tricks on horses as a way to help them find homes, establish a connection, and improve their concentration. I have found it to be a very fun, interactive, and creative process that promotes confidence, trust, and performance.
The foundation of my system is based on kindness and patience, using positive reinforcement to shape desirable behaviors and extinguish what I don't want. Certainly, though, dangerous behaviors receive a correction based on the offense.
We started with the smile trick. As our lessons progressed, I began to notice a definite improvement in Lukas's attitude and behavior. He became an eager and willing partner, happy to cooperate and initiate games. Our relationship deepened to love.
His ability to learn, his curiosity and personality flourished to the point that only four short months ago, friends and family urged (insisted) that Lukas was too special not to share with others. I agreed to have his videos posted on You-Tube and have since then, posted shorter clip versions, in hopes that it would increase awareness of horse rescues and thoroughbred ownership. The rest is history, as they say.
To date, Lukas is able to do all liberty moves: smile, pose, nod yes, shake his head no, yawn, catch, kiss (dry and wet), fetch, cross his front legs, wave, curtsy, bow, park out, push a cart, passage, Spanish walk (front and back), jambet (3 legged 180 pivot), act lame, put his legs all together, lie down and let me sit on him, rear, stay and come and go to a mark, pedestal work, hide-and-seek, and be "blindfolded". He can spell and count and identify shapes and discriminate colors.
We have been privileged to be on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, HLN (along with many non-affiliates), and Equisearch globally. The Associated Press released a feature story on Lukas last month, and it is still being picked up nationally.
His amazing story has also been included in many magazines, newspapers, forums, blogs, and on numerous websites. He has over 4,000 Facebook friends. He is currently listed both on Yahoo and Google as "The World's Smartest Horse" (living) and is being compared to Beautiful Jim Key.
I am most proud of his association with The California Thoroughbred Breeder's Association -- an organization dedicated to correct breeding and promotion of Thoroughbreds. Lukas is the official "Spokeshorse" of Canter -- a wonderful group committed to finding homes for ex-racehorses. In addition, we are associated with Heal with Horses, a program to aid trauma victims through equine-assisted therapy.
To date, Lukas's invitations include The Grand Prix HITS Desert Circuit, The Equine Affaire, The International Equestrian Festival, The Western States Horse Expo, and America's Family Pet Expo.
So, as you may have already guessed, it is I who am grateful to have such an incredible equine partner. His resilience, ability to forgive, zest for life and learning, sense of humor, trust, and love are a daily inspiration to me. Now he also inspires so many others.
Visit www.playingwithlukas.com to see photos and videos of Lukas.
Karen Murdock is a retired psychiatric nurse who has been fixing problem horses for over 30 years. She uses a combination of shaping techniques, a specialized version of clicker training, and positive reinforcement. Her unique approach uses games and play as a way to connect and bond with horses to develop confidence, increase focus, improve performance, and build willingness and trust. All of her services and proceeds go to benefit horses. Visit www.playingwithlukas.com to see videos, photos, and read more about Lukas.
SOMETHING TO THING ABOUT:
Have you befriended an animal who showed remarkable intelligence that others hadn't seemed to notice.