Dali - A Slovenian horse story

Dali came from Slovenia near the coast. His breeder told me he was raised like a Mustang, with little real contact with humans for the first few years of his life. He blamed himself for ruining Dali in a way - as keeping him entire meant that his father (a thoroughbred called Daliash) would bully him ferociously, and often attack him from behind while he was grazing.

The mistake he said, was keeping two stallions in the same area with the mares, and it meant that Dali spent his early years terrified of any noise behind him due to the savage beatings his father gave out.

From knowing very little about Dali, I now have a good idea of his upbringing, his breeding and how he came to be ours which does help tremendously with training.

We originally were drawn to Dali's sister - a leggy grey 5-year-old. I had a bad habit of buying horses 'I would like' instead of horses that were useful as trail mounts - and so we decided that 7-year-old chunky Dali was a better option. We were looking for a calmer replacement for Biscotto, who was up for sale due to his somewhat aggressive nature when he was with the mares, and lookalike Dali seemed perfect. We paid for him sight unseen, and our friend organized to bring him down a month later.

His arrival was rife with problems. The day he was supposed to travel down he didn't load - he arrived a week later after who knows what sort of dramas (the only thing I knew was that he was heavily sedated to get him on the tiny float he arrived in) and that the whole transport was then delayed as they had to wait for him to 'come around' to drive him down.
He arrived at 3am on a Saturday night.

The poor horse that had grown up semi-wild, was severely traumatized by the trip. The float was far too small, and the travel far too long in the heat of August... if I had known he would have been put through such a trip, I would have asked for a transporter to bring him down, but sadly these are things I can only regret now as I struggle to find a solution to his mental block with floating.

Dali was beautiful though - much more so than his original photo had shown.

The night he stepped off the horse trailer, he looked like a wild black stallion. Slick with sweat, he glistened in the moonlight. His tail was held high and his eyes were wide. Snorting and stomping he was a beautiful but very scared sight.

The next day I saw him in a calmer state, feeling much more at home in his new field; dappled and nicely rounded with a long shiny mane and tail -Biscotti his Maremmano paddock mate looked terribly plain in comparison.

Maya was still quite small when he arrived, so it was difficult to find time to ride. He was (and still is) very cinchy/girthy, and hated any type of pressure. He had to be sedated to have his feet done the first month, and on his early rides, he would run when he saw anything new. Our first meetings with pigs were extreme, to say the least, and I have some hilarious memories watching him leap into the river Sieve the first time with all four feet in the air in true Lipizzaner style!

Dali's most famous incident was the swimming pool. After escaping his paddock down the valley (we kept our horses for one season in a huge field with rivers, terraces, olive trees and forests - but the same field was in the middle of the national park and was a favourite mud bath for the local Cinghiale or wild boars.

Dali was terrified of these furry brown monsters and would leap out of the field and flee to the higher paddocks on multiple occasions. One day Paolo was out on a ride to the national park at the summit of Monte Giove, and I was due to meet everyone at the restaurant for lunch. I knew that Dali had been escaping, so drove up to landlord "Liz's"house to check first whether Dali was in his paddock below her olive groves or not.

Liz was in the driveway this particular day, and I ended up stuck talking to her. In the end, I ran short of time and quickly told her to call me if she saw a big brown horse, as there had been lots of boars about lately. He was nowhere near a road, and I figured the worst he would do was graze in our hay paddock up the top.

I was wrong!!

Off I went to the restaurant, where I met our riders and fed the horses in the stalls with Paolo. That day we were dining with a group of German riders and Pavi's guide from the riding centre on the other side of Rufina, so with two separate groups of riders, a warm fire and great food; things were lovely.

Then Liz arrived...
She came racing in with wild red hair all around her face and started screaming at Carlo that she needed all the men to come with her. I raced out to see what was up, and Liz started screaming that there was a horse in her pool and that she needed all the men.

On arrival, Dali looked like the loch ness monster. His tiny wet brown head was moving back and forth as he did laps of the pool surrounded by strips of the 400 euro pool cover that Liz had paid for only weeks earlier. We managed to pull the cover out first, and spent hours trying to get the bloody horse out of that pool. He was freezing cold and was shivering like a wet puppy. Liz (who says she talks to dead people) was praying at the side of the pool to Archangel Micheal(no joke). Liz's four smelly dogs were barking and carrying on, and the German man was taking countless photos on his phone in-between carrying out orders in English and Italian. Eventually, the men made a ramp out of bits of wood in the shed, that was then weighed down by large rocks from the original medieval barn. It took about three goes to get the blasted horse to put his feet on the ramp, and in the end he literally reared himself out of the pool...gaining momentum from the ramp. We got him out, and that was the main thing.

Dali was fine after his ordeal, and we rugged him up and put him in a top paddock away from the boars, which he stayed in all through the olive harvest. Liz called him her special horse but usually got him mixed up with Biscotto who quickly realized she brought down apples and treats and made the most of his look-alike status. We had to clean the pool out and pay for a new cover - but in general, everyone was pretty lucky. The pool was not damaged, the horse was ok - and it was a funny experience for the German man to write home about :)

Luckily with time, Dali did change with consistent work and 'understanding'. Here he is below, on one of our trail rides together.