Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bringing Up Baby

Danny had one of those landmark moments in his young life yesterday afternoon, his first visit from the veterinarian and his first shots. You know what they say, all's well that ends well. This did end up being a good experience with our vet, Dr Melissa Hamilton, saying that he was a perfect gentleman but the time leading up to her visit did not go as smoothly and he certainly was not a gentleman during the last five minutes before the vet arrived.

It did start well. Dr Hamilton was due to arrive at 4:00 PM. I went to the pasture at 3:00 to fill water troughs and feed hay. After those chores were completed, I called Huston and gleaned his vast horse knowledge for about 30 minutes while I waited until the last minute to put on Danny's halter and walk him down to the gate to meet the vet. Danny did well with that trip. It was the first time I'd actually led him any distance outside of the round pen where a few feet of pull free travel is considered a great victory and I was pleased with how easily Danny came with me and how he backed up quickly on voice command. The one problem was that he was still crowding me and when Nancy called to tell me that Dr. Hamilton was going to be delayed, I let Danny go back to the herd and used the time to place another call to Huston to ask his advice on this problem. He told me how to handle the problem and make Danny respect my space.
After I said goodbye to Huston, I walked to the top of the hill where I could keep an eye on Danny who was still wearing his halter. I don't like to leave the halter on any of my horses when they are at liberty. My husband always says that horses and dogs are both like little boys, if there is trouble to be gotten into, they will find it. I found Danny playing with the geldings. At least that was his plan until they each grew tired of his pestering and ran him away. He then chased poor, old Brandy in tight circles, nibbling at her neck until she finally squealed and cow kicked him away. He returned to Riley for a while but after a few minutes of irritating him, Danny turned and came galloping up the hillside to me. Thankfully, the slow command, signaled by raising my arm and flattened palm toward him, is one that he has learned well because he slowed to a gentle trot as soon as I raised my hand and then walked slowly up to stop a respectful distance from me. He was very good, no nibbling or nipping, so evidently the pop I gave him on Saturday had some effect. He stood with me for a while but soon grew bored with me as well and ran off to be with the other horses again.
Although his attention span is getting longer all of the time, I was soon to learn that his patience level and tolerance to being restrained are still in need of improvement. Melissa called to say that she'd be at my place in ten minutes. Plenty of time I thought to walk Danny down to the gate and honestly, the walk down was a breeze. It was only after we reached the gate and were standing there for what seemed like only ten seconds that Danny started to paw the ground. I jerked on the halter rope and told him to, "Cut that out!" Correction usually doesn't have the desired results the first time with Danny. Second attempts are usually more successful but the first time with any correction usually results in anger from Danny not compliance. The second correction usually gets better results but this time however  the jerk on the halter rope after his second paw only appeared to make him angrier. He glared at me and then he gave me what should have been a warning, he suddenly looked up as if he saw something that startled him and stared off across the pasture in the direction of the woods with wide eyes. I looked and didn't see a thing and I really think there was nothing to see; I've seen this trick before from his mom. Danny is already showing that he's a thinker like Mom. Like her, he never appears to be scared or startled by much but he does seem to use the appearance of being spooked when it suits his needs. The tell is that when the spook doesn't give the desired result, usually his freedom from your restraint, he gets angry instead of scared. So, with this obvious tell, I should have been on guard more. If I had been prepared for what came next, my nose would not be swollen and still occasionally leaking blood this morning. But I was standing there relaxed and not as alert as I should have been when from being dead still and calm, Danny suddenly blew up. He turned toward me suddenly and then went straight up in the air, catching me under the nose and sending me backwards. I literally saw stars but I managed to hold on to him. Thankfully this episode didn't last long because as soon as he saw that this method wasn't going to give him the escape he wanted, I could see his brain working to devise another plan. So one after another, he tried different techniques to free himself from me and the rope but I cow girled up and held on as he and I went in circles with him rearing and twisting while I dug in my heals and gripped that rope for dear life. I managed to get him over the heavy gate post just as Dr. Hamilton came driving up the road. It was a pleasant cool day but I was sweating and disheveled by the time I wrapped the rope around the post and pulled tight. Still, he acted like he'd never seen a truck before when Melissa pulled up. He tried to rear up again and then twisted sideways almost pushing me into the electric fence that I'd stupidly failed to disconnect. Dr. Hamilton apologized for spooking him and I told her that he wasn't scared; I don't think he's scared of anything. Good grief, he practically climbs into my truck when I pull it into the field. In fact, I think the only thing keeping him out is my closing the door because he does reach into any open truck window he finds and sniffs around and explores. So, it was experience as well as the glare in his eyes and the flattened ears that told me that this was anger not fear that he was displaying. Thankfully though that was his last fuss. Evidently he realized that although he might be stronger than me, he was no match for that big post. Melissa brought her twitch with her because she said that she'd just finished with a young filly that had to be twitched during her exam and shots. It turned out though that the twitch was not needed. Danny stood there like this was all something he'd experienced a hundred times. He didn't even flinch with most of the shots or drawing blood for his coggins test. He did give a little jump when the needle in his rump evidently hit a nerve but it was very little reaction. He stood while Melissa examined him and lifted his feet. He did roll his eyes at me when she examined his emerging testicles but she told him he better get use to that if he wants to keep them, lol. She commented on what a muscular, well built boy he is, saying that he is extremely well formed and large for his age. She also commented on how calm and well behaved he is. That please me but I couldn't help thinking, would she still think that if she'd been there to see Danny's angry outburst before her arrival instead of only observing my own anger that it caused. Oh well, like I said in the beginning, all's well that ends well and now that is one "first" experience that is behind us.

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