Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Little Bit Calmer

Last night when Drifter came in from turnout, he was wringing wet - all sweated up from a combination of anxiety and activity - and the temperatures were only in the 50sF.  He didn't want to leave the herd, though - to get him in I had to ask him to make small circles around me all the way down to the barn.  Once in his stall, though, he settled down a bit and ate some hay and his dinner - although he was wet he wasn't hot anymore.  I gave him a good rubdown, which he seemed to appreciate as he was itchy.  I didn't work him, as he was clearly close to exhausted. After feeding time, he went outside for the night with Pie in the paddock opposite.  He was a little bit nervous at first, but settled down pretty quickly to eat his hay.

This morning I brought him in from the paddock to the barn to eat his breakfast.  Although he clearly wanted in, he led perfectly.  Pie came in too.  After feeding, Jill and I turned out the horses.  She had the good idea of turning all the other geldings out first, partly so they could get a good drink before Drifter got out there - we don't think he's keeping them from drinking as a dominance gesture, it's more that the water tank is located right next to the mares.  We also waited until last to turn the mares out as they seem to get him into guarding mode - Dawn's still in heat and now Sugar is too.  Drifter led up to the dry lot perfectly, but the odd thing was that when I went to lead him out of his stall, he was very reluctant to leave it, even though Fritz was calling for him from the dry lot - it took some urging on my part to get him to step out into the aisle.  Once he got started he was fine.  I think he found yesterday very stressful, and the stall is one of his "safe" places, as is his paddock.  Although he appears to be the alpha of the gelding herd, he's a bit unsure of himself, too, as I had suspected from the degree of his aggression - a good part of it was defensive.  It'll be interested to see how things develop.

Once he got out there, he did sniff noses briefly with Fritz and Fred, and all that happened was very small "acknowledgement" grunt/squeals.  Then Drifter took up his position on the fenceline with the mares and started nibbling grass.  When I left the barn, the other four geldings were grazing very close to him, and he only moved one away - much less aggressively than yesterday - if they tried to approach the mares.  I'll be interested to see what he does at grass turnout time - does he go out with the geldings or try to stick on the fenceline with the mares?

With tonight's feed I'm starting him on a different calming supplement - I've been giving him magnesium oxide but now I'm going to try the MMX supplement also from HorseTech - it has magnesium oxide and also B1 and tryptophan (the same stuff that's in turkey and makes you sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner).  If it helps him calm down a bit and relax, that'll be good.  And I'm going to try to work him a bit in the late afternoon - this is a time he's used to working so that'll be familiar.  I think once his routine is established, he'll be more comfortable.  I'll all for breaking up routines and moving a horse's work time around so they learn to deal with different situations and don't become routine-bound, but Drifter needs to feel a bit safer and more certain of what's going to happen to him before I need to do that with him.  He needs some good, calmer work experiences to build on.  I'd like to move towards doing less free lungeing with him first and moving directly to working, but I'll only do that in stages as he's able to do it - he'll let me know.

11 comments:

  1. I think you are feeding ulcer meds too? If not, Drifter sounds to be a prime candidate. If his tummy bothers him, some of his behavior could be related--especially leaving his "safe" places.

    He is definitely going to be a challenge.

    Another thing to consider....I had a friend who had a "gelding" that turned out to be a rig. He was very difficult. She had a hormone test done and finally another surgery. Unfortunately, he did hurt her before he fully forgot his old ways.

    Just wondering about all this as Drifter does not physically appear to be the kind of horse to get so easily rattled.

    Still, you are making progress, so that's good.

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  2. Jean - I started him on ulcer meds when he first got here as a precaution. But he doesn't show any other signs of ulcer type behavior - he isn't girthy or touchy and eats both his hay and grain well.

    I don't think he's actually "studdy" - I've watched carefully - when he's near the mares, even when they're peeing for him, he never drops. He also doesn't have any obvous studlike conformation points like a crest or heavy musculature. I think he's mostly uncertain and defensive and for some reason finds mares a bit safer - I think his prior turnout buddies may have only been mares and he may have been in a no-turnout situation before that. Other than the leading issues - which of course are important - I haven't found him difficult to deal once I'm clear and consistent about what I want him to do.

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  3. Jean - but when my vet's out next - we're having a couple of horses microchipped - I'll probably have her pull a blood test on him just to rule out any hormonal issues. Some of the Doc Bars are known for being somewhat high strung, and the Three Bars - he's heavily Three Bars - can be nervous too - both my Noble and Joe who was at our barn were multiple Three Bars and were somewhat nervous horses - he has the same look they did. Noble could also be somewhat aggressive with other geldings and we once caught him mounting a mare and doing the full deal, but he was fine with people. I think Drifter may turn out to be quite a bit like Noble.

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  4. As always I believe being consistant is the best way. Sounds like you are making good progress with Drifter. I only have 2 geldings and 1 mare that are pastured together and when the mare is in season she tries everything to get the guys attention but they ignore her...which I am very glad to see.

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  5. A horse version of "As The World Turns."

    A good read.

    Dan

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  6. Sounds like he is setteling in. Intrersting that he didn't want to leave his stall.

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  7. Sounds good to me. I kind of thought you had covered most of the bases with Drifter.

    Don't know much about QH breeding lines. I "think" a mare I used to work was from the Three Bars line, but we never were quite sure her papers were honest. She was sold before I got to know her well.

    Interesting if Drifter is more used to mares than geldings. From what I have seen, the herd dynamics between the sexes is very different. He may really just be trying to figure out how to behave.

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  8. I do think the stall becomes a safe place. When our horses aren't doing well, they prefer to be in their stall instead of with the herd. I think its just more peaceful when they aren't up to the work of herd dynamics. We use HorseTech products as well and have been very pleased with them.

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  9. He does sound a little nervous and unsure of himself or his place in the herd right now. I think the more he gets used to the routine the more he'll fit in and get along with everyone in the herd.

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  10. He sounds soooo much like Miles when he first came to Michigan. Had no use for geldings, OBSESSED with mares, particularly if he shared a fenceline with them, and totally insecure. It took just under a month for him to feel secure in his surroundings and be able to work with people-like, real, arena work. Today he is a superstar and could care less.

    Drifter will get there too, but it is very stressful to watch THEM be so stressed out, at least it was for me. I look forward to reading about his progress!

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  11. Herd dynamics are definitely interesting. I've been following along over the past couple days and hope Drifter gets things figured out soon so he can start to settle in.

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