This month's Stable Talk features beautiful big Irish Sport Horse Winsley Taj, from Winsley Park. Winsley Taj first came to our attention when his lovely human mum, Annemare Irwin, bought him a whole swag of Protechmasta infrared therapy products. We then discovered that in addition to the Protechmasta therapy, Taj gets regular Equilibrium massage pad, Masterton Method, massage and myofascial release therapy. Not to mention chiropractic treatments. We decided then that we wanted to be one of Annemarie's horses! We then decided we needed to get to know this big charismatic grey and his dedicated human better...
Official name: Winsley Taj
Stable name: Taj
Nicknames: Tajy, Tajywajy, Boofhead
Human: Annemarie Irwin
Breeding: Irish Sport Horse
Discipline: Show Jumping and the odd show class (formerly Eventing)
Annemarie had been eventing two horses she had brought along herself and she had just sold one to a pony club family because it wouldn’t jump as high as Annemarie wanted to. She came to look at three horses on the day she found me. Of course I was the best and she had to take me home. The vet who did my pre-purchase exam wanted to buy me too. I mean, who wouldn’t?
Annemarie has had me since January 2016, but for some reason says she thought it felt like longer. She also rolled her eyes when she said that. Maybe she had some hay in them. I think it feels much shorter than that. I was very tense when she first got me and it has only taken me until, um, today to start being more relaxed.
What have you and your human done together so far and what are your human’s aspirations for your future?
We have done lots together. Annemarie has taken me on a couple of trail rides, but they were scary. She has taken me to riding clubs, clinics, horse trials, shows, dressage competitions (they’re really scary), but best of all she has taken me to show jumping competitions.
I lurve show jumping! I just love it! I get to go fast and high and wheeeeee! It’s so much fun. I even try to jump extra jumps when I’m in the ring because I love it so much. I don’t know why Annemarie pulls one rein and says ‘No!’ when I do that. Don’t we get bonus points or something? Plus I look very pretty as I fly over the show jumps, and everyone is watching me from the side of the ring, so they can see how pretty I look from up close, and they can cheer for me and I can bask in their admiration.
Annemarie wouldn’t let me jump high for ages - something about me not listening and I had to do it properly. I was a bit annoyed that it took so long to do some of the more impressive jumps, because people clap and cheer more if you do those ones, but secretly I was glad Annemarie made me do lots and lots of little jumps.
My previous owners thought I’d be able to do some big jumps at my first ever competition. I pretended I was okay with that and I let them think that I knew what I was doing, but when I got in the ring I panicked because I really didn’t understand. It was very scary. Now I get it and I lurve it. Sometimes I forget bits of it, though, and I’m not allowed to jump big for awhile until I remember.
Occasionally Annemarie has let me jump some much bigger jumps, like a 1.05m+ course at a Training Day, but that’s only when I’m being very good. The only thing I like better than show jumps are cross country water jumps. I lurve cross country water jumps because I go fast and then I jump and go wheeeeeee! and then splash! And then I canter off. I could do water jumps all day. Wheeeeeee! Splash! Canter. Wheeeeeee! Splash! Canter. Why don’t we make a phase called Water Jumps? I’d win that one for sure. I don’t like flower box cross country jumps. They’re scary.
Annemarie has given up on her high level dressage and eventing hopes for me. I’ve convinced her that I’m best suited to straight show jumping, so now she wants to make me the best show jumper I can be.
We see on social media that your human does a lot to keep you in tip top physical condition, with Protechmasta infrared therapy, Equilibrium massage and Masterton Method treatments, which you seem to really enjoy. Did it take you a long time to train her to pamper you that well, or was she already well trained?
She was already well trained but I perfected her training. Straight away I was getting regular myofascial release therapy sessions, red light therapy and kinesiology taping.
Out of the blue I decided to walk weirdly one day, and it lasted several weeks and confused a couple of vets. I went on an eight week long waiting list to see a special vet who put an end to my weird walking. I see him for quarterly tune ups which include veterinary, chiropractic, prolotherapy, acupuncture and saddle fitting. I had a cranio sacral therapist for a while.
Annemarie learnt the Masterson Method and some myofascial release therapy so she could be even more proactive about maintaining my health. She bought the Equilibrium Massage Pad and Mitt for me but the other horses sometimes steal it. If they look like they’re enjoying it too much I lift my leg or flick my tail at them, just to remind them whose it really is. She bought the Protechmasta infrared therapy gear just for me and I’m not going to let the other horses use it.
Your human describes you as having a “big personality”? Why do you think she describes you this way?
Well, I’m big. Annemarie calls me a giraffe sometimes. And I have a personality, so I guess that’s why. And I like it when people admire me. I used to passage and piaffe on my way to the dressage rings, just because I could.
Annemarie liked that I could do those movements but said something about not when I was supposed to be walking. I think she rolls her eyes when she says that, too. I’ve had a really scary experience in dressage that I can’t even tell Annemarie about, even though she’s tried all the usual things to help me. So to cope with the pressure of it all I just feel the beat inside and the need to Dance! Not that sand-dancing stuff, though; it’s soooo boring. No. I’m talking about interpretive dance. I just get this feeling that I need to express myself in new and interesting ways. ‘Dance!’ yells the voice in my head and I do! It’s so invigorating. I just break out into a sudden sideways leap, a squealing spin on my haunches, a canter-buck-canter on the spot. I’ve got a really vivid imagination and I just let it all flow out through me whenever I enter a dressage ring. Bystanders have given me a dressage/dance name. They call me ‘The Wild Grey’.
Annemarie says I’m not allowed to go in dressage anymore, so I save my interpretive dance for warm up rings and when she first rides me after a spell, instead. Warm up rings are scary.
We also see on social media that your human recently had a few months out of action due to injury… were you involved in that injury?
I wasn’t involved in this one. In fact, people always think that I am involved in Annemarie’s injuries. I wonder why? The only times I’ve accidentally broken Annemarie are when I had a last minute panic about a show jump filler and wheeled away from the jump on take off, breaking her ankle. Another time, I broke her brain a bit when I slipped on wet ground at a Stuart Tinney Eventing clinic. She got catapulted from the saddle when I fell and her head bounced a couple of times along the ground. She had something called amnesia and concussion and wasn’t allowed to ride for a month.
This time it had nothing to do with me. I heard she was riding a friend’s horse that was sensitive and had issues and Annemarie got bucked off, landing face first, shoulder second, on a fence post. She came home in a sling and with a bandage on her face. The feeds took her longer than usual.
Did you miss being ridden while your human was recovering from her injury? What’s the plan for you both to get back into it and regain your fitness?
I like coming in and spending time with humans, so I did miss Annemarie a bit, but she still used the massage pad, fed me twice a day and scratched me in my favourite spot, so it wasn’t too bad.
Annemarie keeps going on about wanting me to stay calm, so I think it’s baby steps at first. I hope I’ll prove to her that I’m being good so that she’ll let me do big jumps again. I think we’re going to an Alan Mitchell Show Jumping Clinic and then doing some training and Freshmans days at some EA clubs, with a return to competition jumping hopefully in a couple of months.
Annemarie is very methodical about building me back up after a spell, so everything will be done gradually. Plus, I’ll get lots of massages. Annemarie hasn’t lost much of her fitness, she said it has got something to do with being our slave, and she rode three of us horses yesterday, so she’s picking up from where she left off.
Do you have any quirks or habits that your human says are strange or annoying?
Without fail, every single time I go in the float I put my lead rope on my head. I like to wear it as a crown, or as a scarf, or as a hat. The options are endless, really. I think it’s an underrated accessory. Annemarie calls me ‘spaghetti head’ or ‘weirdo’ when I do that. I think it means she likes it.
Almost every night, I paw at my feed bucket three times and tip it over. I don’t think Annemarie likes that, though. Also, when I get itchy back legs I like to scratch them on the side of the water trough or sometimes I back up into a pile of twigs and scratch them there.
Oh, and I don’t like cows. They jump over fences and charge straight at you and they’re scary. Plus, there are more flies when there are cows around. The cows up at the pony club grounds try to steal my food. Nope, there’s nothing good about cows.
Bundy sometimes dares me to do crazy things like pull all of the hay out my hay bag and throw it around in the float. He thinks he knows everything, though. When he tries to tell me how I should run the paddock I just lift my back leg at him or shove him with my big head and pretend I know better.
Winsley Belle (aka Winny) is also my bestest horse friend in the whole world, except when she’s angry with me. She gets angry with me when I push her around the paddock with my big head. Or sometimes just when I look at her. Annemarie says not to worry. Apparently it’s a chestnut mare thing.
What do you enjoy doing most with your human?
I love my massages and the Masterson Method sessions Annemarie does. And I’ve trained her to give me lots of treats. The best thing is probably when she finds my fave scratching spot.
What are you favourite things in the world?
Treats, show jumping, water jumps, scratchies and my human.
Do you have any other special skills or talents?
I’m very good at human-watching. I stand as close as I can to them and watch them all day. They do lots of interesting things and if they see me human-watching they will sometimes bring me treats. Also, I feel frustrated because I don’t have hands and opposable thumbs and can’t do all the things humans do, so I use my teeth and hooves instead.
If you were a human celebrity, who would you be and why?
I’d be myself, because I was born a celebrity, obviously, but I’d have hands and opposable thumbs. It’d be great! Oh, but walking on two legs would be scary. If I was human I might own a dog, but they can be scary. If I was human, I definitely wouldn’t own cows. They’re scary and there’s nothing good about them