Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Horse Has Changed, And That's A Good Thing, I Think

With good health, and training, my horse is getting a bit of an attitude.

A couple days ago, I was putting Cowboy away, and I spotted Leah, from the periphery,  moving at a brisk pace to enter his stall before I closed the gate.  Leah knows that when I bring them in, she gets to escape the mare herd (the mean girls) and get her supplements, so she's always eager to return to her stall, but she is usually easy to push away.  I put my arm in her path to redirect her--ask her to wait her turn and....

I got it ripped off.

She committed.

She dove in with all 1,200 pounds of her body.

The devil himself wasn't going to stop her.

It was one of those moments when you look at your arm--banged up, maybe broken, skin ripped off the elbow, as you realize your leg  hurts, too--and think--that was dumb.  REALLY dumb.  And, then you wonder why, why would you have decided to put your arm and leg in between an open stall (food) and a 1,200 pound animal.  It happened so fast, I could only go with my instincts and experience.  BUT one variable was off--experience.

Leah had changed.

My arm wasn't broken, though it is still sore and scraped.  I don't even remember how it got scraped or what it got scraped on--it happened in such a flash.

That night, I took Leah for a ride to the neighbor's barn.  Her different, "Girl Power!," attitude showed in everything we did.  First, she didn't let me mount, or more accurately, she started to take off as I threw my leg over.  We were in the neighbor's pasture when she was doing that, and she could see the other members of her herd grazing, so she was definitely mad that she wasn't with them and was acting out quite purposely.  I mounted and dismounted over and over and over, until she got it right.  The ride went well, and we headed home.  Once again, she saw the herd grazing--and she tried to break away.  I circled her back.  Turned for home, she tried bolting away.  Circled her back, and so on.

When we arrived at the barn, I figured that was a good time to work her in the arena--so she doesn't get the idea that coming home and eating is always the end game.  My husband had ran the tractor into my arena gate a couple weeks before, and it wouldn't shut without great effort, so I left it open and figured I'd test her and see if she bolted to it.  I figured she would give me enough of a warning that I could adjust and redirect her away, should she decide to break for the opening.

She did break for the open gate--and I did NOT have any warning when she decided to go.  So, we went through the gate and I got her into a circle and back into the arena--where I dismounted and CLOSED the gate.

All this is to say, my sweet Leah has changed--and that's a good thing.  She is no longer anywhere near obese.  In fact, you can see her ribs--a thing I never, ever imagined I'd let happen to one of my horses.  Now, after her obesity founder, a little rib has become quite a wonderful look to me.  And, it has made a world of difference to her.  Her new weight is changing her body, and her new body is changing her athleticism, and the athleticism is changing her sense of herself and what she can do.

Remember Little Joe, the horse my friend gave me.  He foundered last year, too--at her house. He recovered sometime during the year, but right after I got him, in spring, he developed an abscess. (I suspect it was the way he was trimmed.  Her farrier had left a lot of sole on the foot, probably as a protective measure, and my farrier took it out to return the foot to normal--but that transition may have caused the abscess.)  I poulticed and soaked it--got it to drain a little, but it would come back in the same place--or never fully go away. Eventually, I stopped soaking it, and decided to let time do it's thing while I continued him on a restricted diet with supplements.

Well, his abscess seems to have finally fully broke and he, too, is feeling good and staying thin.  Unfortunately, he is proud cut, and I have to constantly remove him from the mare herd, but he is a well trained little guy and will be a lot of fun to ride.  I'm going to saddle him up this morning and see what he can do.

Tonight will be Beautiful Girl's 3rd lesson/ride.

13 comments:

  1. It sounds like you have a good game plan with your sassy mare. When Lucy is in a particularly sassy mood, I carry a whip while walking her -- more to provide direction and as a barrier (holding it out flat in front of me if she rushes).

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    1. It's probably a good idea to carry a crop whenever I go into the herd to move them around. Good suggestion.

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  2. Whenever I see a drastic change in a horse's personality, I often wonder what happened in the herd while I was away. Last night I was shocked to see Rock pin his ears at Bombay and bite him hard on the rump over nothing. I chastised Rock, and he made sure to hold his innocent expression for the duration of my presence in the barn. He watched me closely, almost as if he was waiting for me to leave so that he could go back to being a jerk. I wonder of Leah raised herself up a notch in the pecking order, and that gave her extra confidence along with some disrespect toward others. I hope your arm feels better soon.

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    1. Thanks, my arm does feel better today, finally. She does seem to be up there in the herd OR a bit outside on the periphery. They care more about keeping proud cut boy in his place than keeping Leah in hers.

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  3. I am glad that you arm is not broken. The new found confidence is a good thing even though it will be a challenge for a bit.

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    1. Yeah, I'm always happy to see confidence and acting out. I prefer to know what's under the hood--good and bad--so I'm prepared on the trail. Plus, it ups my game.

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  4. Glad to hear you're arm is not broken. It's always a surprise when they pull a stunt like that. She seems to have gained quite a bit of confidence and an attitude lately. It might be a passing fancy where she's testing you or not. We can really never know what they're thinking. Looks like she's going to challenge you for a while but I'm sure you'll come out on top. Be careful.

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    1. Thanks!:Yes, horses are so unpredictable. I've always known riding at home or from home is harder than the trail. I think she is learning all the evasions of a herd bound, barn sour horse who sees the others eating while she's working.

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    2. I can sure relate to that!

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  5. Glad you only lost a little skin. Accidents can happen to any of us!
    Did you read Anna Blake's post titled "My Horse Betrayed Me, Part 1"? Anna is such a good writer & her lifetime of insight just knocks me out sometimes; your story today just made me think of her piece right away (a GOOD thing). :-)
    https://annablakeblog.com/relaxed-forward-blog/

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    1. I hadn't heard of her, but I just read it. I agree, you can see a horse building up to an action. Leah, though, was loose in the turnout as I was letting Cowboy into his stall. She rushed for the gate and I incorrectly thought I could get in between her. I didn't feel betrayed at all. I felt like I had let down my guard and misjudged her reaction. Honestly, I never feel betrayed by my horses. I always blame myself and look to where I went wrong. I probably felt that sense of betrayal when I was a kid and thought of my horses as machines. That changed long, long ago.

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  6. When Coulee pins her ears, and gives Rosalee the stink eye, I make sure to get out of the way- Rosalee will knock me over to escape, having been bitten several tomes by Coulee. I'm glad the damage to your arm wasn't too serious, and now you know to be on the alert with Leah's new 'tude. Sounds like she is ready for a serious job now. Hope the next ride on Beautiful goes well!

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  7. It's easy to not be fully present 100% of the time, we all try to - but it happens to the best of us. Glad your injury wasn't worse. I like to think they don't mean it, and made a bad judgement call - altho it's more likely testing the waters. I used to take something with me when I fetched my lesson horse many years ago. No shame in properly used props. She was in a large herd not visible from the barn, with a bunch of unknown horses (to me) and some I knew had attitudes. Never needed to use it, but it only takes once to wish you had some type of helpful aide with you. Perhaps your herd is still sorting out the changes of alpha/newcomers.

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Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.