Saturday, February 6, 2010

Trouble in the Stall

Miranda had some trouble in the stall with our PM feeding lady a day ago. She came back to the barn later after feeding time to pick something up and decided, since she was there, to check if any of the horses needed water. She turned on the lights - it had been dark - and went down the line, and Miranda needed water in her heated bucket. So she went into Miranda's stall, closing herself in - Miranda had escaped into the aisle one day last week when she left the door ajar - and while she was at it, moved the feed pan into the corner. Then she stood there and thought about whether she should pour water from the unheated into the heated bucket. All of a sudden, she noticed that Miranda had her head at the door - trying to get out, we think, which mean her butt was turned to our barn lady - and the next thing she knew Miranda had clipped her in the knee with a hind foot kick. Miranda hasn't been stalled much, and we don't know her history - she may have bad experiences, even abuse, in the stall - but we think she was panicked in some way by someone in the stall where she didn't understand what was going to happen and couldn't get out. Our PM feeding lady escaped from the stall, and is a little bit bruised but otherwise OK. This is obviously not a good thing. It's increasingly clear that Miranda isn't that happy in the stall - she's nervous, and there's lots of circling, and even pawing at the door. I'm thinking it may be a good idea to move her to an outdoor paddock with shed for the nighttime, where she is free to move around - this is the sort of arrangement she had at the other barn my daughter had her at.

I spent some time in Miranda's stall that evening with her (with her haltered - she's OK when haltered and doesn't get defensive), rubbing her head and ears. She was somewhat disturbed by being in the stall, and would have preferred to be out. I wanted her to spend time in there so it wouldn't be so scary. I may move her outside tonight. For now, we have a strict "do not enter" policy for her stall and paddock - I'm the only one who can go in. This brings home to me how difficult it is to work with a horse that has serious behavioral problems for whatever reason - abuse or otherwise - and how careful one has to be in those circumstances. I'm not worried about handling her, but I need to be always aware and alert to what's going on.

I like the mare, and want her to continue to make progress in dealing with her fears. Our Norman (now retired in Tennessee) also had serious issues - he had been seriously abused, we believe, and could be very aggressive. But he was much smaller than Miranda. We never cured him completely of his behaviors and defensiveness - particularly in an enclosed space - but he was comfortable enough most of the time that he wasn't much of a problem. I hope Miranda can get to this place - not only do I not want any people to be injured, but I want the horse to feel safe and comfortable as well. I don't know if we'll get there, but I'll keep working on it for now.


  1. Glad she didn't hurt anyone. It's so hard when you don't know their history.

    You should have seen Pokey the one and only time I tried to put him in cross ties. You'd have thought we were going to draw & quarter him. We finally got him to calm down as a matter of principle, but I'd never do it again. Fortunately, there's no need; he'll stand for hours.

  2. I'm really glad your pm feeding lady wasn't seriously hurt. Getting caught in stall with a scared horse can be very bad.

  3. Glad your p.m. feeding lady was too injured. We've had this problem with two of our horses. Dusty, as she had never been in a stall, would 'threaten' to kick when we first got her,but never actually did. She still has little of the ear pinning when she's eating, but we're working on that. She wouldn't let you put a blanket or saddle on in the stall, she's fine with that now. In order to get her used to this we would tack her up on cross-ties, same goes for blanketing. I think it was just a matter of her getting used to the routing.

    Donnie was a little more sensitive to being in a stall. He came from out west and was clearly abused. He would stall walk and his floor would look like soup in the morning. The halter had to be unbuckled and put over his muzzle and be re-buckled. Blankets on cross - ties also.He also spent 2 years living in the outside shed with the rest of the herd. This helped him tremendously to build some confidence in himself and just be a horse. It was lots of work until he felt comfortable in his own skin and trusted us. Donnie still has a lot of problems but we are working through them one piece at a time. The good news: last week he was sleeping at night check and didn't even get up for his carrot, so I just fed him where he was laying down. He never moved a muscle and went right back to sleep.

  4. At least you know that no other person should enter Miranda's stall for now. With your knowledge and patience I have a feeling that you will make great progress with her.
    It will be interesting to see how she does outside.

    Before Dream moved to our farm she could go in and out 24/7. Here, she is in at night, but she has a huge area...a 16x16 stall plus the rest of the run in section of the barn (an L shaped area 16x20). It is all open and she is next to Winnie's stall so she has company. I'm not sure how she would have been in a regular stall. This has worked out beautifully.

  5. Good idea to have only one handler ,I adds to your work but I found with Jewel, the one thing that would send her right over the edge is if someone was in the pan with me or someone she didn't know . took a loong time for her to accept anyone but me.they have to have confidence and total trust in 1 person at a time it seems

  6. Sorry that this happened , and glad your night feeder wasn't seriously hurt, but it's good to know how much "change" is too much for Miranda, at least right now--Her momentary confusion led to panic led to instinctive defensive behavior.

    I worry about my young ones when they sell, as, here, they have 24/7 access to the outside. I rarely lock them in, unless they are sick or injured.
    As a yearling, Amy threw a fit at the fairgrounds when I left her in a stall, rather than tied to the trailer--she was just a baby, and it was her first trip "to town." But she settled down after a couple of hours.
    Jackson also hated being locked in, even for his grain, before I got the creep feeder set up.
    We had one prospective buyer who took Maddie on a trial basis, but brought her back the next day when they saw her "crib" once in the new 10X10 stall, after a two hour trailer trip to a new, very busy barn, before they gave her anything to eat. They admitted that she didn't suck air or chew the wood, just put her mouth on the stall wall, and they only saw it the one time. But they "just couldn't have a cribber!" (I think the gal was a little intimidated by Maddie in other ways--it may have been their excuse.)
    I wonder if it's something I should work with them on...

  7. Whew, glad your night feed woman wasn't hurt seriously. You are wise in your decision about keeping people out of Miranda's stall and putting her into a turnout situation.

    My PJ would attack when I would go into the stall with a shavings fork in my hand when I got him. I'm guessing someone tormented him at the track. It was years before I was able to go in with a tool without having him react. Even so, I always warned barn workers to be careful with him, even 10 years later because every now and then, he'd have a kind of "flashback" and react.

    Just be careful with Miranda. It seems she's had some really bad handling in her past.

  8. I'm glad the lady was not overly banged up. We always have to remember that it can happen with any horse at any time, even the ones we would least expect it from. I'm certainly guilty of forgetting that and getting lazy, not that this was the case with Miranda today. Poor girl, she just needs to keep sorting out her issues, and I'm sure she will.

  9. Oh no! Good thing she wasn't badly injured.

    You know more of how to handle this than I ever would, but I suspect letting her out in a paddock will be the best solution.

    I hope the precautions you've put in place will be enough to keep everyone out of harms' way - Feeders, You, and Miranda.

  10. I am so glad that the gal did not get hurt worse...Miranda has untold stories that she lives out violently... just like my mare does sometimes. I know what hers are does not make it any easier for her...
    The outdoor space sounds good. I have found that My mare does tremendously well now- being able to come into a small space on her own, instead of being locked in.

  11. Late chiming in here Kate (sorry...) Miranda's behavior reminds me of a gelding Dear Husband worked with for a while, shortly after we met. Big horse. Big, big, BIG horse. (18.3 hands) The horse had been raised out loose in a field for almost 3 years. Minimal handling- not gelded until he was 3 1/2. Powerhouse of a horse. The herd he ran with had large shelters available, but no actual *stalls*. When we went to stall him, post castration, we learned the hard way--- the big horse was claustrophobic more so than "typical".

    It took months of Dear Husband messing with him, but... he did get better. Never great- just... better.

    Sure hope that you are able to progress with your daughter's mare, and that she is able to settle in. I'm hoping it is merely going to be a case of your style of calm, consistent handling, showing her day in and day out that she is indeed in a Really Good Place, and can let go of the past.

    Stay warm!

  12. Sorry to hear about Miranda's troubles.

    I would think having only you interacting with her could help, that way she's getting consistent handling and knows what to expect.

    As well, I've seen significant behavior changes when horses have turn out time increased or decreased. Nighttime turnout could be beneficial for her.

    Change is routine is really hard for some horses. I hope she is able to settle in and become more trusting of you and those at your barn.



Thank you for commenting - we appreciate it. No spam or marketing comments will be published.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.