Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cold But Beautiful, With Wild Horses

This morning it was -1F with a wind chill of -10F when I went to the barn - I drove again. By the time I got home it was up to 6F with a wind chill of -7F. Bright sun, though, and it was beautiful. As the sun rose, there were some scattered clouds to the east, and the colors were extraordinary - roses, peaches and pale yellows.

I turned my horses out while we were doing stalls, and Sugar's owner turned out Sugar and Misty, as well as Fred and Fritz. Many of the horses were crazed. Maisie bolted from the gate when I let her go, and ran to the round bale. Then she saw something outside the pasture that she thought was spooky, and proceeded to run loops around the pasture, with her tail flagged - if it hadn't been for the tailflap on her blanket, I think her tail would have been straight up! In all the years I've had Maisie, no matter how crazed she's been, I've never seen her flag her tail - I guess today was special.

Sugar's owner took out Sugar and Misty, and when she let Sugar into the pasture, Sugar did an all-four-feet-off-the-ground flying leap through the gate opening - I wish I'd had a photo - but at least didn't run into her owner in the process. I took Misty and moved her back from the gate area so Sugar's owner could work this through. We're very careful to maintain Sugar's leading training, as she came to us a number of years ago with some very dangerous leading behaviors that were partly fear-based. She's been very good for the most part since her retraining, but we make sure she never looses ground by being very particular about how she leads. So Sugar had to go through the gate probably 10 times, interspersed with some standing around and head-down work, before she held it together sufficiently to count as a success. When her owner let her go, she galloped off bucking.

Dawn, on the other hand was very good at turnout - she even walked from the gate, and when I brought her back in, she was well-behaved even though Noble was galloping down the fence line next to us. But we did have to have a conversation about a manners issue. While I was filling water tanks, I noticed that Dawn's neck cover had come partially loose and her blanket had shifted somewhat to one side. Since I was just standing there watching the tank fill, I went out to adjust her blanket. She doesn't like this, and so when I tried, she would pin her ears and move away from me - I didn't appreciate this. So I walked back to the gate, got her halter, haltered her and adjusted the blanket, no problems. I took her halter and started to walk away. I could see her shadow on the snow, lunging in my general direction. I think she was actually going after Misty, but Dawn has been known to look sweet when you're facing her and then pin and even make biting gestures behind your back, without making contact - she can be a little sly about this. But even if she was only going for Misty, I didn't appreciate that when I was so close - I don't care about horse-on-horse aggression when I'm not in the vicinity, but if I'm leading a horse or among the loose horses I don't tolerate it. The job of all my horses is to stay out of my personal space unless I approach or invite them in, to not show aggression to or crowd a horse I have on the lead, and to take account of where I am at all times.

So when I saw the moving shadow, I immediately turned around and took the lead and swung it to have Dawn move away at my direction. We did this around the round bale a couple of times - she was very annoyed and did a bunch of kickouts, until I moved her away from the bale and kept her there for a moment. Then I let her go back to the bale, and approached and gave her a face rub to let her know we were on good terms again.

Noble was very eager to get out, and very full of himself. When I let him go, he galloped from the gate at a pretty good clip for an old guy, doing some nice lead changes on the way. When he was younger, up until his mid-20s, he was probably the fastest horse at the barn and loved to gallop. He's slowed down a little but he's still pretty spry. He continued cantering around a bit, herding Fred and kicking up his heels a little from time to time. It's great to see him feeling good again!

After we were done with stalls, we brought the horses back in. After lunch, I'll go back and give them a little more turnout - by then the wind chills might be above zero.

Have a wonderful Sunday, and may it include horses!


  1. Quite a wild morning there, but you seem to have kept it under some kind of control, good "herd boss" that you are.

    Noble sounds to be feeling good again.

    My PJ used to love to gallop. I was told by more than one barn owner where I boarded that he used to walk all the way to the far end of the pasture at least once every day and then come racing back up to the front as if it were part of a personal exercise program. Until he started having more chronic lameness issues after I brought him home here to live, he was always ready to join in a herd gallop, but he too lost speed as he got older.

  2. Thanks for the insight on your work with Dawn. I do expect everyone to be on their best behavior and don't like to see other horses getting pushed around when I'm in range.

    An exciting morning at the turn out to be sure!

    BTW I love your new header...

  3. You know Kate, I think this is where my adamancy about 'respect' with the horses comes in. Every single day, twice a day, I am out with the horses feeding them, putting their feedbags on when they are loose in groups. I absolutely expect (Just being honest, it is not a request), mainly through body language but also through tone of voice if needed, that I am treated as the ultimate alpha herd leader while I am feeding them. No one comes into my space without being invited, and no horse to horse aggression is allowed while I am out there, period. I think this is the most dangerous activity I do, and I do it with multiple groups of horses every day, hence my hang up on 'respect,' I guess because so many of my horse interactions each day are in this setting. It just shows your point again about how we each own our own story!

    Thankfully most of the horses learn the rules quickly and feeding time is typically quiet and orderly with the horses eating peacefully. I have to make this activity as safe for the humans involved as possible and I think I honestly do a good job at it without being a crazy witch in the process!

  4. your horses are beautiful. i am always racing around the country but it would be cool to photograph your horses someday. i live in woodstock. all the best to you in 2010.
    nikonsniper steve

  5. Sounds like the cold is definitely putting the wind up their kilts! I did smile when I read that Noble was hooning around, that's great to hear even if it could have been distracting *lol*

  6. Cold enough here today that my camera wouldn't work. Brought it inside and it worked fine.

    Cleaned the guys up a little, picked feet, checked them out.

    Glad Noble is feeling better.

  7. Sounds like everyone had a little wind under their tails this morning.

    Glad you and Dawn sorted it out through some relevant discussions about her behavior.

    Noble is wonderful, so happy he is feeling good enough to take a little run for himself.

  8. Kate, I am the same way as you and Melissa -- no horse-on-horse aggression when I am present. I normally don't have to worry about this with Panama, because he is so submissive with other horses, but it's something I have had to teach the other horses at every barn I've been at -- to leave him alone when I'm doing something with him. Unfortunately I think the only thing more tempting than a submissive horse is a submissive horse on a lead rope, and it tends to be a difficult message to get across.

  9. Nice to know it wasn't just our horses being goofy, by evening all was back to norm. Something was definitely in the morning air.


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