Monday, February 21, 2011

Who's the Teacher?

The final laugh was on me. Last Saturday, I was bragging to everyone who'd listen about how well nine month old Danny is doing with his lead line training. Between the weather (which is now beautiful but for weeks seemed to be freezing and wet) and the nearly two weeks that the flu had me laid low, I haven't been working with him like I should have. I've been worried that I'd fall too far behind with his training to catch up but Huston kept reassuring me that I had plenty of time. This weekend, I had to play doctor for a sore he'd gotten on his nose from an imbedded hay splinter that had become infected. In between the steps of betadine, water and antibiotic, I would attach the rope to his halter and work on leading. I was so pleased with how well he was doing because as I said, I haven't been working with him that much. I was happy with him and happy with myself for learning how to stay calm and keep my energy low, so we both did well. After the antibiotic, I decided to try something before I removed his halter. I removed the lead line and  gave him voice commands: come on (Huston told me to cluck instead so that is what we're doing now), whoa, back, side (which is how I tell him to turn but I have to come up with something new since we only turn one way at the moment, lol). Without a lead rope and with those simple word commands, he performed perfectly and he backed at least six feet straight back before I asked him to whoa which he did immediately. I was so darn proud that I was calling Huston and Steve and like I said before, anyone who'd listen, lol, to tell them how perfect and smart my baby is. I don't know about the others but of course Huston and Steve agreed with me. 
Well, fast forward to yesterday; the wind and Danny joined forces to give me a lesson in humility. It was so windy that I could barely see between the hay, dust and hair that were blowing across my face. Just taking care of his nose was almost more than I could handle. Danny was jumpy, dancing and throwing his head around fighting the rope and halter. When I started leading him, he repeatedly balked and he was easily distracted. He didn't appear to be paying the least attention to me and he'd suddenly walk away as if neither I nor the rope were there. I kept correcting him but he'd just try something new and I could already tell that this was a futile task. I was embarrassed that Steve was present to watch all of this especially after all of the lauding I'd been doing the day before.  Steve was of course supervising, playing armchair quarterback or maybe cowboy and so I asked, if he wanted to give it a try. I knew of course that Danny would be even worse for him. I'm beginning to think Dan's going to be a one person horse because he won't do anything for Steve. Which is why I let him try getting Danny to pay attention and behave, I didn't want to be alone in my misery and humiliation, hehehe. I did make certain that I ended on a good note by making Danny back  then stand still for a few minutes and lower his head for me to remove the halter (true that isn't so important now but if he keeps growing it one day will be.)Today, it's windy again and I'm not even going to try working with him until it is calmer. I was the only one who learned anything on Sunday and my biggest lesson learned was....I now know not to boast too quickly because children will always make a liar out of you if given half a chance. ;-)
the sore in Danny's nose
It's much better now but at first I was certain that it was a Sebaceous Cyst or Atheroma. My vet is right, I do google way too much. Doctor Hamilton told me that it was most likely a thorn or hay splinter. The moisture is from the antibiotic ointment which remains on the spot about two seconds. Most of this application was already on my sweater when I took this photo. It appeared on Friday which was when this shot was taken. It is healing nicely today, Monday. I've been cleaning and applying ointment to the now open wound twice daily. Danny is being very cooperative although I have to use a bit of persuasion to apply the ointment which in my mind would be the least painful step. I'm thinking it must be the way it smells to his horsey nostrils which are far more sensitive than mine.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Personalities Plus

I've been reading a lot lately about horse personalities. It seems there are four different, distinct types and I appear to have one of each.

Mouse is a dominant. She's confident, strong willed and independent. She's very intelligent and learns quickly. She loves to be challenged and she loves to compete. I know from experience that I have to keep control over Mouse and make certain that all of my decisions are precise and clearcut because I'm certain that if I ever give her a choice, she will know that she knows better than I do....and honestly, she probably does. But, by making certain that Mouse always knows I'm in charge, we've formed a wonderful partnership and my "push button" horse is sheer pleasure to ride. She is always attentive.

Riley is a faithful horse, sweet and gentle, but he is a bit standoffish and avoids attention. He became head shy after someone left his halter on when he was turned out and he became caught on something. This incident not only frightened him but also left him with terrible sores on his face and an ear that was sliced from on side to the other. It took weeks to heal his wounds but even longer to heal the psychological damage. I started gaining his trust again by just feeding him a little sweet feed while scratching his withers until he stood still for me and didn't move away.  Then I moved to his neck and head area until I was able to wrap my arms around his neck. Eventually, he began to move his head toward me instead of away and then hugged me with his neck. Haltering can still be a trial but is no longer extremely difficult if not impossible like it was right after the incident. Still, this is the one horse that I didn't need this happening to because he wasn't the horse who would seek out human's attention or companionship in the first place and he is a thinker so I doubt he will ever forget the injury completely. Riley is also the horse that you have to complete every task with; there are no partial victories with him. You must always be gentle and patient with him but you never quit until you win. He is an amazing trail horse and I think he would walk through fire as long as his rider is confident.

Django is my eternal baby. He is the life of the party, loves people, loves attention, seeks out the attention of humans, and makes friends easily. He loves to play, is always friendly and affectionate. He is a beauty and a charmer and everyone falls in love with him. He is the horse who will walk up and drop his head into the halter. He's ready to work and ride or as he calls it play. He makes up games like chase the other horses with the water hose but he is gentle with the other horses and always submissive. He is also energetic and a bit jumpy. He's a great ride with lots of go but you always have to be aware of your surroundings when you are riding him and ready to react to his spooks. The other horses react to a loud noise with cautious curiosity first but Django's first reaction is have no doubt, run away run!

Brandy is my sweet old girl. She came to live with me when she was twenty-five because her owner had too many horses and could no longer care for her. That will be six years ago in October. She has an easy going personality with both horses and humans. She's low energy, never flustered, and in the days when I rode her and allowed others to (she's retired now), she was bomb proof. She is the only horse I own that is not a Missouri Fox Trotter. She's a red roan Appaloosa. She's also very wise and intelligent in her old age and still has plenty of kick left in her when needed. When Riley and Django first arrived on the farm, she sized their personalities up quickly. She was immediately affectionate with Django and never saw him as a threat. Riley is more dominant and she realized that, too. She would chase him all over the pasture in reverse, backing up and threatening to kick him. That worked for quite a while until Mouse returned and took over the role of alpha mare in the herd and Riley realized that he was second in the pecking order. Now, poor Brandy is paying for her early bluffs but usually manages to avoid Riley and his aggressiveness quite well.

Danny is still a mystery. I see a little bit of all of the personalities above in him. He is loving and affectionate and also seems to be developing into a playful clown and trickster like his big brother, Django. He is sweet and low key like his unrelated by blood, Aunt Brandy. Truth be told, he has been in love with Brandy since he was a new born. He would follow her along the fence that divided them in those early days and try to give her gifts, which were objects he'd usually stolen from me...ala Django. I think he will be a leader like Riley and since it appears he will be much larger physically than Riley, I think Riley should rethink his current often aggressive behavior toward baby Dan. He has his mother's confidence and intelligence but also shows signs of having at least a touch of her occasional stubborness.  I think he also takes very much after a horse that does not live on our farm, his sire, who is a very personable, easy going and intelligent horse.....and also quite beautiful. Huston tells me that even Danny doesn't know who he is yet and I will influence and shape him as much as the other horses will. Watching him grow, learn and develop into Travelers Sensational Flyby is proving to be both enjoyable and exciting. Can't wait to see who he becomes.