IN MEMORY OF OREO VAN TYKE,
A TRULY GREAT HORSE
He lives on in his offspring.
Diary of Oreo Van Tyke
His training and Experiences
as related by Eileen Tidwell
(Probably best described as his partner, or maybe even his employEE!
... J "Owner" sounds pretentious when used in conjunction with this horse!)
1996 ¯ Kelly Van Twist foals a horse colt. The amount of white on this foal make him easy to notice. The sire of the foal is American Paint Horse Champion Van Tyke, who is also the sire of Kelly.
Erna Ginkel, the owner of these horses, is casting a critical eye at this startlingly white foal, expressing disappointment that he does not have more color (spots). But she is happy that the spots he does have will be black. At this point they look greyish.
I have gone over to see the new addition and I
keep telling her, "Hey, I LOVE the way he is colored; he's so
(black and white paints have never been my favorites... I like the bay paints. But this little guy really grabbed me.)
"Plus," I say, "This is as good a foal as I have ever seen. Truly."
This foal had a hip and shoulder that were unreal. Plus a cute head; well, he was just doggone good all over!
Now, I am a Quarter Horse breeder. I have had a paint or two, but not in a long time. At home I have some outstanding colts of my own.
I add, "I hope you hurry up and sell him because he is going to be worth too much money and I can't afford him!" (This is a very good foal, a very well-bred foal, and at the height of the black and white boom, he has the right colors. Sure he is worth more than I can afford!!)
Besides, I don't need another breed of horse and I don't need a stallion right now..... I'm trying to convince myself to just forget this colt!
By weaning time, she has sold him for a pretty decent sum (more than I could have scraped up!), to a veterinarian who already owns two Van Tyke stallions.My pocketbook sighs with relief; my heart sort of sags.
In the spring of 1997 I see Oreo again. (Erna named him Oreo because, naturally, of his black and white color...plus, I suspect, she thinks the big marking on one hip and flank, looks a bit like a large Oreo cookie that is missing a couple of bites.)
He is still a smashing looking colt and is still playful and friendly and seems exceptionally bright. I congratulate the veterinarian on this colt that I am so enamored of.
In December of 1997 I am told that Oreo is for sale!!
My guess is that three stallions, all brothers, are beginning to be a bit much for this busy veterinarian.
I inquire what the bottom dollar is. I gulp when I'm told. The price is a bargain, actually, it is just that it is beyond my means, especially since I am unemployed!
But I keep thinking about it. Can't get that colt out of my mind.
I call and make an offer.
Eventually we come to a price that I can manage...if I can get 3 of my other horses sold. And raise some money to go with that...IF IF.......
So in January 1998 Oreo becomes my horse and immediately goes to my favorite trainer, Rick Smith. I have sold 3 horses, including my reining horse, plus I have sold my vintage 1964 Cadillac. Now I am broke, but Oreo is mine.
The grapevine hears that I have this paint stallion. People begin coming by to see him, calling to see if I am booking mares.
Booking Mares?!!! He wasn't even two yet! Mercy.
No, I am saying, I am not booking mares. I am not standing him to the public. This paint colt is for me to enjoy. Hopefully he will prove to be a good sire eventually, but probably never stand to the public. Too much hassle. Too much trouble. No. I'm going to train and ride and enjoy this horse and hopefully even show him a little. In a perfect world, he would be a good reining horse. I can at least work toward that goal. I do love to train an intelligent, athletic young horse.
I leave Oreo with Rick for 3 months; I want this colt completely gentle and used to the unexpected. I am sixty years old and I don't break youngsters any more. I just want to do their serious training.
I watch him being ridden and love his gorgeous action. He moves as nicely as any horse I have ever owned.
By mid March, I have gone out to Rick's and caught the colt up, saddled and ridden him alone. I feel comfortable with him.
I bring the colt home April 1st, going nicely in a snaffle bit, quiet for the most part and still the fun-loving character he has always been. He is gentle and well started, with very little buck.
Now we begin his serious training.
June through August
During the summer I have ridden Oreo probably an average of twice a week. I have gone slow with his training because I constantly remind myself that this is only a two year old colt, regardless of how far along he is and how mature he looks.
His fun and games emphasize the colt thing, for sure. This is a hilarious horse.
I see him playing with all kinds of makeshift toys. One of his favorites is an orange traffic cone he found on the place. He loves to grab it in his teeth and run, waving it over his head.
He thoroughly enjoys ropes too and will take a rope in his teeth and nod his head until he gets the rope to spinning wildly. This goes on and on.
One day I spotted him chasing one of our calves and waving a tree limb as they raced around the trap they were sharing.
Several times I have spied him doing these things as I sit at the computer in my studio but by the time I grab the video camera, check the tape and run outside, he has gone on to something else. He needs to be on film or tape. He has to be one of America's funniest pets.
He has had a nice start with the green breaking that I have had done with a trainer, but he doesn't back well at all. Part of what I do during the summer is work on his backing.
My method is to use a gag bit, a snaffle that is on a bridle that pulls through the bit, putting pressure on the mouth corners and also behind the ears. This is a very, very mild bit, but can exert considerable leverage. To teach a horse to back, I hold both reins steady with enough contact to prevent the horse from moving forward and I ask for the backup with leg pressure....he knows to move from pressure, but he can't go forward so logically he will back. However, Oreo balks and leans back only grudgingly moving a leg when he has to.
So in his case, I see-saw the bit....I keep steady pressure on both reins, but then I put slightly more pressure on one side, squeezing with legs and saying "back." He has to take a step back on the side that is getting the extra pressure. I immediately release the extra pressure on that side. Then, still maintaining fairly light pressure on BOTH reins, I apply extra pressure to the other side. When he moves one or both legs on that side, I release.
At first I am only asking for one or two steps on each side, then I release all pressure and place my hand on his neck and let him stand quietly.
In a few sessions, he has quit bowing his neck and leaning into his haunches and is willingly backing quietly.
Along with those lessons, I have been working on getting a 180 degree turn around on the rear end. I "lead" with the inside rein and apply some pressure low toward the shoulder with the outside rein...His nose is being led into the turn, but the pressure on the corner of the mouth on the outside is pushing his shoulder over as well. My outside leg bumps him to keep the whole body following into the turn.
He is coming along quite well.
I give him two short sessions on tracking calves, a start for cutting or working cow horse. I put my two calves in the pen and just follow them around the first time...a total of maybe 5 or 6 minutes.
The next time I start "heading" them on the fence....following along with them, and then taking a short cut to pass by them and turn to face them, making them turn back up the fence.
At the end of these two sessions, he is actually trying to anticipate their moves himself.
I unsaddle him thinking to myself, this could be a $50,000 cutting horse if he just had the opportunity!
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OREO VAN TYKE