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Interview With Marley The Lesson Horse

Updated on January 10, 2019
Ellison Hartley profile image

Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.

Marlboro Red a.k.a Marley
Marlboro Red a.k.a Marley | Source


I spend a lot of time wishing horses could talk. Mostly so that we can help them when they are lame or sick. What if they could talk? Would we want to hear what they had to say?

This is my interpretation of how it would go if my lesson horses could, in fact, talk to me, and I interviewed them.

Marley being painted at summer camp
Marley being painted at summer camp | Source

Ellison Hartley Interview with Marlboro Red a.k.a. Marley

This is my interpretation of how it would go if my lesson horses could, in fact, talk to me, and I interviewed them.

EH-Here we are with Marley, one of the most popular lesson horses, how are you today Marley?

Marley- I'm doing fine thanks since I'm out here eating my hay, if anyone comes to get me out to ride, I plan on running away from them until they pick someone else!

EH-Is this usually a successful tactic for you to avoid working?

Marley- It really depends on the person. With little kids, it definitely works if they don't have help. If it is adults, I will let them chase me a little, just to make a point, and then let them catch me.

EH- Do you consider yourself an easy horse to ride?

Marley- It's like this I'm lazy, but I'm also lazy about putting up a fuss, so if my rider is good and assertive, I will do anything. Well, almost anything.

EH- I have noticed that you seem very wary of people touching your head when you are on crossties, why is that?

Marley- You noticed right. It isn't only when I'm on crossties, it is just more noticeable on crossties. Since I can break off them and get away if I need to.

EH- Why would you need to get away?

Marley-How would you feel if someone was constantly sticking their hands in your face? For one it startles me and then the crossties tighten and I don't like that. Second, when I get too close to people or touch people how they don't like it, I get disciplined for it. So why should I let people do something to me that they won't let me do to them? For some reason, just because we are horses, people don't consider the fact that we might not like to be touched in a certain place. Or that because of our vision, we get startled when all of a sudden hands are coming at our face.

EH- Fair enough, good answer, thank you! So just to clarify on the subject of you breaking off crossties, why do you do it if the rider tries to put the reins over your head while you are still tied? Usually, instructors want students to do that so they have a way to hold the horse when they take the halter off. It seems like you won't allow that, is that the case?

Marley-Yep! If the majority of people were more careful and gentle about it then I would be alright with it. It just seems like no matter how many times riders are told, they just fling the reins at my head, and I'm sorry, but that startles me. I have even been hit in the eye by accident a few times, and just because it is an accident doesn't make it hurt any less. Let's put it this way, I'd rather be safe than sorry!

EH- Hopefully some of your riders are listening to our interview and will be more careful from now on!

Marley-I certainly hope so, but I doubt it, especially kid riders, they get so excited and rushed that they don't pay attention. It's all good though if they scare me I will just break off.

EH- We have been told that you suffer from heaves? What is that and what causes it?

Marley- Heaves is basically when I have trouble breathing. I heard the vet comparing it to asthma in people. Sometimes it is exercise-induced, especially if the air is extremely cold or extremely humid. If it gets bad it can lead to pneumonia, but that has only happened to me once. As long as the people give me the medication when they notice my breathing is labored I'm okay. Also, if they notice that I'm breathing hard at rest, they know not to try to ride me.

EH-Sounds straightforward enough? Heaves doesn't keep you from being able to work?

Marley- I need a day off from time to time, especially when the weather is super hot and humid, but since I take medication for it, I don't get to miss that many days work. Besides, I don't want to miss too many days work or then I have to hear complaints from the other horses that have to cover for me.

EH- Do you have any advice for riders that might ride you?

Marley- Well, I think any horse would tell you not to kick and pull at the same time! We hate that. Since you asked though, I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

EH-Great! I'm all ears!

Marley- Everyone thinks that I "won't" pick up my right lead. If they would ride me correctly I would.

EH-What are your riders doing wrong that is keeping you from agreeing to pick up your right lead?

Marley- The trick is that I pick up the canter by pushing with my hind end. My hind end needs to be going in the direction of the lead you want me to pick up. In other words if you want me to pick up my right lead, you have to push me to the right with your left leg.

EH-That's it? It is really that simple?

Marley-Basically, the only other thing is that they need to ride me straight. For some reason, everyone always tends to override my inside rein, which makes my head come way too far in and my haunches way far out. How can you expect me to pick up the right lead if you have me all jacked up and my body going to the left?

EH-Hopefully, your riders were paying attention. There is no better way to hear the advice, than from the horse's mouth!

Marley-Yep and the instructors say it over and over I'm not going out of my way to help the riders if they don't listen to the instructors!

EH-Thank you so much, Marley for taking the time to talk with me today. I think all your riders should have learned a lot about you and understand you better now. Is there anything that you would like your riders and owners to know?

Marley- As long as the kids are gentle with their hands and don't kick and pull at the same time, I will tolerate just about anything. I like getting treats after my lessons too, I kind of count on that.

EH-Before we go, can you tell us one thing about yourself that many may not know?

Marley-I came from the middle of nowhere in Orange, VA. I wasn't very well trained aside from trail riding. Now, look at all I can do! Since I have a gentle disposition and am so handsome my owners took a chance on me. I just want everyone to know that you can always learn new things, and if you have the right attitude, someone will always give you a chance!

Crossing the river
Crossing the river | Source

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