“Lukas is such a lucky horse – he should be so grateful for everything you’ve done for him.” Gratitude is on everyone’s mind this time of year, especially for me. I receive over one hundred e-mails a day about my horse Lukas from all over the world, and get many comments like the one above. Granted, he’s come a long way since leaving the race track with leg injuries after three forgettable back-of-the-pack finishes. After changing hands several times, he ended up sorely neglected and emaciated in a yard. When I purchased him as a nine-year-old “Inexperienced project horse” from his rescuer, I was hoping to compete him in beginner classes. However, within a month of competition training (by another trainer – I was then working full-time as a nurse), Lukas quickly became resistant and dangerous. He began bucking, bolting and spooking, and was unsafe even in his own stall.
At that low point, I decided to fall back on my trick training experience to try to bridge the gap between us. We started with the smile and as time went on I began to notice a definite improvement in Lukas’ attitude and behavior. He became an eager and willing partner, happy to cooperate and initiate games and our relationship deepened to love. Our lessons progressed from liberty (free/loose) movements to cognitive tasks and we never looked back.
To date, Lukas is able to smile, pose, nod yes, shake his head no, yawn, catch, kiss, fetch, cross his front legs, wave, curtsey, bow, push a cart, passage (like skipping), Spanish Walk (high step), jambette (three legged pivot), act lame, sit, put his legs all together, lay down, rear, stay and come, do pedestal work, play hide and seek and be blindfolded. Most of his acclaim comes from his abilities to spell, count, identify shapes and discriminate colors and he understands object permanence, same/different, spatial relationships, proportion and absentness. Moreover, our bond has received the most attention from animal lovers world-wide.
Lukas has been on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, HLN and Inside Edition and the Associated Press and America On Line released feature articles about him. He has been in magazines, newspapers, forums, blogs and newsletters all over the world and his story has been heard on RFD-Radio, Animal Radio, Pet Talk Radio, Pet Talk Live radio and Pet Place Radio among many others. He was nominated for the 2010 Equine Vision Award sponsored by Pfizer and American Horse Publications.
Also, the World Records Academy recognized him as the World’s Smartest Horse and Guinness approved his record “Most numbers correctly identified by a horse in one minute: nineteen.” Lukas is the Spokeshorse for After The Finish Line, a group dedicated to finding homes for ex-racehorses. I n addition, we are associated with the Human-Equine Alliance for Learning (HEAL), a program to aid trauma victims through equine assisted therapy.
His second-edition book Playing With Lukas (available at Amazon) and his stunning Documentary were just released in October 2010 and you can watch it directly at http://bit.ly/WatchLukas.
So, as you may have already guessed, it is I who am grateful to have such an incredible friend.
Copyright 2011 Karen Murdock is a retired psychiatric nurse, who has been fixing problem horses for over 30 years. Owner of PlayingWithLukas.com. She uses a combination of shaping techniques, a specialized version of clicker training and positive reinforcement. Her unique approach uses games and play as a way to connect and bond with horses to develop confidence, increase focus, improve performance as well as build willingness and trust. All of her services and proceeds go to benefit the horses.