This month's Stable Talk features a sweet thoroughbred gelding by the name of Squid. We first met Squid's owners, Kathryn Christieson and Norm Hocking, at Farmworld 2017, where they were stocking up on our Masta rugs to cater for some cheeky little rug wreckers they had in their paddock. One of those rug wreckers was Squid. Many of you may know Kathryn and Norm as they run Firenza Park Equine Services in Gippsland, Victoria, and will know that they are just about the nicest couple on the planet!! And Kathryn happens to be an exceptional farrier too! So we have kept an eye on Squid ever since then and were so pleased recently to see him doing amazingly well with Norm at their first ever horse trials. We decided then that we needed to know more about this clever pony and his lovely humans.
How long have you been with your human Norm and what were you doing before you found each other?
I was brought to the property as a foal with my horse mum. I was owned by someone else at that time and sold at Pakenham Sales but ended back in the same paddock with the person that bought me. That person eventually left but I remained at the property. Kat has been around as long as I can remember, she taught me about the halter and lead, and held my hoof when the vet did bad things. Norm came into my life about five years ago.
How did you get the name “Squid”?
Kat told me stories about my dad when I was young. His name was Sharkbite and so she called me Squid.
You have recently starting competing in horse trials and we see you are doing really well. Tell us about your achievements and what phase you enjoy the most.
We are currently competing in Grade 5 Horse Trials for Tonimbuk Equestrian Club.
We have spent the last year doing a few dressage comps and we have come home with a few shiny blue ribbons, Norm feeds me carrots when we do, so I like the blue ribbons. We have also done a few showjumping comps, I think there are some seriously scary things out there, but I’m getting so much better now and recently won champion in the open at Drouin Pony Club Championships.
We have only been to two horse trials so far. At Rosedale Horse Trials we led through the dressage, show jumping and cross country phases to come home with first place. A couple of weekends later we competed at Smythedale Horse Trials. At Smythedale we led through the dressage and showjumping but I may have had a little run out during cross country. Norm is taking the blame for that one though, phew! We still managed to come home with a 6th place overall.
I’m rather good at the dressage, but the cross country is my favorite, getting to run fast and jump is the best!!
Your achievements at your first few competitions have been especially impressive because they have also been Norm’s first time competing in horse trials. Did either of you get excited or nervous? How did you help each other through?
Norm might get nervous but he’s really good at hiding it. Once he’s in the saddle it’s all work. He had never competed before he had me, but he is doing a pretty good job of showing me how it’s done and we make a pretty good team.
He made a rule at horse trials that we aren’t allowed to check the results through the day, only after we have finished all three disciplines which helps us keep a level head. He doesn’t tend to eat before a competition so I try to eat for the two of us.
We heard that your human used to chase cows before he swapped to riding Olympic disciplines. Does he ever try any “cowboy stuff” with you? Are there any other things you like to do together?
Norm learnt a lot about horsemanship from his past with cow horses. We haven’t been chasing cows exactly but we sometimes work on exercises he learnt from other disciplines.
My brother, Spud, is a quarterhorse x stockhorse and Norm still takes him to clinics to work on his horsemanship.
We understand that both Norm and Kathryn, are both horse trainers and give lessons in horsemanship. What important things have they taught you?
Well.... they have taught me everything that I know. Kat is very particular with the way I behave when I come in from the paddock and my mindset when I’m working. Norm was the first human to ever sit on me.
I am pretty chilled though. On my fourth ride we went on an adventure and I had my first ‘dressage lesson’. I think the biggest thing they have taught me is how to relax through my work and not get nervous. Norm does that for both of us on comp days.
Tell us about your paddock mates at Firenza Park. Do you have any paddock besties or frenemies? Does everyone get along?
I’m paddocked with my two mates. We get along pretty well and it’s been the three of us for a couple of years. Spud and I are the bestest of friends, we like to play fight and run around pretending we are running the Melbourne Cup. I’m much faster than he is. Roger and I go out on adventures sometimes but I think he’s a bit moody. When we are away from home we are best friends but at home he’s an old grumpy man who chases me away from the feed bin.
You are extremely lucky that Kathryn is a farrier. What is involved in keeping your hooves in tip top condition?
Kathryn is the best! She is really particular about my feet. I have my shoes replaced every 5-6 weeks and Norman checks them each day when he rides. In winter he cleans and disinfects my feet to make sure I don’t get any yuckies. She’s been away in America for a couple of months studying so I’m sure things might change when she gets home.
Do you have any special talents and/or strange quirks?
I enjoy playing. I like to throw my feeder around and spread my food everywhere. Norm doesn’t overly appreciate it. Spud and I also like to tear rugs. Not on purpose of course, but sometimes it happens. Last year we had a bit of a bad spree and were going through a rug or two a day which made Norm and Kat very unhappy. Now that I’m being worked each day I’m too tired by the time I get back to the paddock, but I still like to play.
What are you favourite things in the world?
I love my human. We get on really well. If he comes out to the paddock I beg him to bring me in. I was spelled through winter as Norm had to have surgery and I got so bored! I also have a love for food, hard feed is great, but carrots are even better!
If you were a human celebrity, who would you be and why?
Well I’m not sure about being a human, seems like a lot of stress! But I think if I was I’d be Jack Black, because seriously that dude is hilarious and I reckon I’m pretty funny.