Friday, August 28, 2009

Two Mares

Our two mares have completely different personalities - it's always delighted me how completely different each horse is from another - this goes a long way to explain why one-size-fits-all training methods need some customization to fit the individual horse.

To use the old saying, a picture's worth a thousand words. Here are two pictures of Dawn:

And here is Maisie:

The pasture the mares are in this week has an exterior gate - one that doesn't lead into the long aisle which has its own gate at the barn end. We no longer use this gate, which is closed with a chain and a clip, except for mowing equipment - there's another gate to the short aisle that leads by the small paddocks. Every day when I turn the mares out in this pasture, I look at the gate to be sure it is closed and also at some point walk all the way down there to be sure the clip is properly attached. This is handy for taking a walk by my community garden plot as well.

This morning, I stopped and rested my arms on the fence by the gate just to watch the mares grazing. Maisie raised her head - she always does this when she sees me nearby - and then purposely walked all the way over to say hello - she did her sweet "snuff-a-whuff" to my hands - I had no treats. She stayed there for a moment and then went off to graze. I tried to call Dawn over, she ignored me. But then I noticed that as she grazed, every bite was a little bit closer, and soon she was grazing by the fence, still ignoring me. Finally she briefly acknowledged my presence by raising her head for a moment and sniffing my hands.

This evening I wanted to do carrot stretches with both mares - our arena is a lake due to the 3 1/2 inches of rain we've had in the past two days so not much riding is going on. I brought the carrots to the barn in a plastic bag - Noble got some too even though he wasn't part of the program. Dawn is terrified of plastic bags, balloons, paper cups, you name it, she's terrified of it - this is something we're going to work on a lot - I'm not planning to desensitize so much as show her that she can be concerned about an object - whether she's seen one like it before or not - and still realize that she's safe and not about to die and get over her concern without fleeing. I held out a carrot through the stall bars - she stretched as far as she could and then retreated to the back of her stall. Maisie - I can take the bag in the stall, rustle and rattle it - she could care less, she's really not very spooky at all - for which I'm grateful. Maisie did her carrot stretches in the stall - she's a pro as we've done them a lot before - she turns her head around and reaches towards her hip, pretty well on both side.

I've finally figured out a good way to greet Maisie - she'll let you touch her forehead but doesn't really like her face stroked and is, as we call it, "nose-shy" - she really dislikes having her nose touched, although she'll permit it if you insist. I greet her now by standing by the side of her head and reaching my hand under her jaw in the throatlatch area to the other side, and stroke the opposite side of her jaw - she "snuff-a-whuffs" her approval of this and arches her neck.

I took Dawn out of her stall to give her a quick grooming and pick her feet on cross ties. I only work with Dawn or pick her feet when someone else is around, since I got kicked several months ago - better safe than sorry. When I was grooming, she did allow me to cradle her head for a while, which is something my daughter used to do with her. She also does the "shoulder rest", where she puts her chin on your shoulder and just rests her head - very heavy! - for a long time and almost falls asleep. Then I took her outside to do carrot stretches - it took her a moment to get the idea - she kept turning around rather than stretching, but after a few tries she figured it out. She stretches much better to the left than to the right, and there seems to be an area of tight muscles just in front of and below her withers on the left that may be inhibiting her motion - I'll have to see if she will let me massage it - she was a bit touchy there when I was grooming.

I think the individuality of each horse is just marvelous, and delightful!


  1. I love the way each horse seems to have a favorite "scratch" spot. My old guy used to love "chinnies" where I scratched under his chin. My first horse loved to be scratched at the elbow and would move in next to me to line my hand up with his girth.

    As physical beings, horses tend to communicate so much with their bodies, so, that too becomes an intergral part of their individual personalities. Your girls are so lucky you are sensitive to their body language and treat them accordingly.

    My Toby tends to be afraid of plastic, rustling bags too. I have a feeling I know why, but even some 15-16 years after the initial trigger, I still have to be careful around him.

  2. Your mares are sooo sweet looking Kate!
    Cute how Dawn just kinda mosied over, doing her thing. Wa would have not been left behind if someone else came first..she is so insecure that way.

    I love the differances in all horses. They sure do need people to understand them, as you said, for the unique personalities that they are.

  3. Awwww, sounds like some special moments out with the girls. And what beautiful girls they are, too. :)


  4. The love you show horses by being slow and patient is fabulous. Dawn and Maisie are very lucky to have you as their person.

  5. At the moment we're dealing with eight different personalities and it always amazes me how unique each of the horses are.

    Your girls are beautiful and lucky to have you understand their different personalities.

  6. Cibolo loves to have his jowls rubbed, Lily falls asleep if you stroke her ears.

    Those pictures really conveyed their personalities. Any time I see white around the eyes of a horse, I think that wariness is engaged.

  7. All of the horses here are very unique individuals. I love to watch them interacting with each other. As you've mentioned before it makes me realize how insignificant we are to their world when they have the choice of bonding with their herd and living more naturally.

    I had never had a horse be scared of the plastic bag of carrots until Cuff Links came. They told me he didn't like opaque plastic bags but I completely forgot about it as he is so quiet and laid back. I usually just have treats in my pockets but one day I had a bag of carrots and he was terrified of it. Of course he did manage to eat a carrot anyway!


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