Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cooler Temperatures Means Hotter Horses

With the cooler temperatures, my horse care routine has changed. I now not only have to get the horses out of their stalls in the morning before work, but I must remove their blankets first. At night, I can't just toss the horses some hay. I have to muck out the stalls, put the horses in their clean stalls, toss them their hay, attach their blankets, and then lay out their breakfast in the paddock so that I can start work on time the next day.

Gabbrielle, being my youngest, has trouble controlling all that energy she has on a cool morning when she's hungry for breakfast. Our routine goes something like this: I have all the hay laid out in the paddock from the night before -- one flake in each feed trough, one feed trough per horse, and each horse knows which feed trough belongs to it.

I enter Bombay's stall first, because his trough is furthest away and if I let him out last, the girls will kick him to Kingdom Come when he runs past them. He holds still while I remove his blanket. He has the urge to barge while I'm opening the stall door, so I have to be firm with my WHOAs. I usually stand with my arms spread blocking him from running out until he relaxes. I then step aside and let him trot to the other side of the paddock to his feed. (I don't recommend that others stand between a horse and its feed to teach it patience. I do it because I want to be able to control my horses' movements and manners without the help of tools, and I know my horses very well. If one of them so much as considers plowing me down, I'll know it before they know it.)

Next I enter Lostine's stall. She stands for the most part, but shifts around a bit while I remove her blanket. She is very polite about not barging. She automatically turns her head to the side to communicate to me that she won't run me down. I step aside, and she then walks or trots to her feed.

Next I approach Gabbrielle's stall. By now my neighbor, who is running a horse boarding business a few feet beyond my barn, has alerted to the fact that I am feeding my horses. For some reason she feels she must feed her horses at the exact same time that I feed mine. I guess she doesn't want them feeling jealous that my horses have hay and hers do not. Gabbrielle sees everyone being fed except for her, and she begins running back and forth between her stall door and stall window, rearing every now and then. She's smart enough not to rear so high that she hits her head, but she is rearing none-the-less. She anxiously looks out toward my neighbor as the woman feeds her horses, and there's not a whole lot I can do to get Gabbrielle's attention on me.

At this point I'm debating whether to turn around and walk all the way back to the tack room to get a halter, or to just enter the stall and take command of this horse. Because my muscles are so stiff in the morning, every step hurts and I want to keep my steps down to a minimum. I usually opt to enter the stall and holler WHOA and just keep yanking on the collar of that blanket until she stops and lets me remove it. I don't even attempt to prevent her from barging through the door, because on these mornings, her energy exceeds her common sense. She'd trample me in a heartbeat and regret it later. Maybe.

I know I need to automatically halter her and teach her some manners by making her not budge while I remove her blanket, and forcing her to walk from her stall to her feed, but my memory sucks. I can never remember to grab that halter on my way out to the stalls in the morning. So, after a bit too much wrestling the other morning, I grabbed a halter on my way in, dropping it right where I would have to trip over it on my way out the next morning. Wouldn't you know it -- the next morning Gabbrielle was a complete angel and I didn't need to use the halter at all.

The funny thing about Gabbrielle is that cool mornings when she is hungry are the only times she gives me trouble. Otherwise, she's very easy to work with. I've put all my energy into learning how to ride better and taking my older horses off the property this summer. Now it is time for me to return to working on Gabbrielle's ground training. I've been studying Clinton Anderson's Downunder Horsemanship in both book and video form. Thankfully, RFD-TV has been showing videos that match what I'm reading in his book. I'll be creating posts on how those lessons are going. I suspect that my filly will be much easier to handle on these cool, hungry mornings after she's experienced a few of Clinton's lessons.

Ha ha! Just as I was wrapping up writing this post, I read Equine Mine's post. It looks like she has been using Clinton's techniques with Maddy and is pleased with the results.


dp said...

We don't have stalls, but Raven has a feeding enclosure and she can get damned pushy about being let out under certain circumstances. I keep a rope halter on a hook by the gate of her enclosure at all times so that I can use it if I need it. Maybe you could do the same for Gabrielle?

Clinton Anderson's methods have worked wonders for Raven. She is a completely different horse than she was 6 months ago.

Tj and Mark said...

I have RFD TV envy. We don't have TV, overall a good choice, but I do miss the horse shows! I feed my horses according to their pecking order, If I don't feed then in descending order all hell is liable to break loose. Good luck with yours.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

It's never a dull moment at your place with three gorgeous, spirited Arabians feeling the cooler temps with an ache of hunger in their bellies, eh?

I always find it interesting how my neighbor's 3 Arabians react when it's time to eat or be let out in the arena. They prance and run and are so excited.

On the other hand, my mare is as calm and level-headed as a board and just walks slow as molasses when it's time for her to eat.
I wonder if it's because she doesn't have to compete for food or maybe because of her Quarterhorse background, or both?

I've often thought I might like to see her get excited about being let out or being fed, but after reading about your adventures, maybe not so much now! lol :)

Oh and I love watching Clinton Anderson on RFD-TV.
I can't wait until you write more about your training sessions using his techniques.


Jenn said...

The angel horses sure can turn bratty when the weather turns colder! All mine get friskier, but by the time the real cold settles in, they are done being frisky and working on conserving that energy!

I second the suggestion to keeping a halter near her stall. Just in case. Isn't it funny how silly they can be at feeding time? You know they know they are going to be fed, but they act like they expect you to STARVE them! Silly beasts.

I expect my horses to behave the same way I expect my dogs to behave at feeding time: No pushing, barging, ear laying, teeth baring or other nastiness while I fill feed tubs. I also require them to wait for me to tell them they can eat before they dive in. Just because I can and it reminds them that I'm the Boss Mare, no one else.

Denise- LessIsMore17 said...

Cold temps and blankets all ready?! I won't tell ya our temps, lol.
Why do they have to act so crazy about food! I mean how many times have we ever just been like, OK tonight/today you just don't get to eat- hah. and I just don't understand the pissy attitude, I mean you shoudl be HAPPY I'm bringing you food not mad!

Lulu said...

I love hearing the horse routines of others!

Personally, I've managed to maintain quite a bit of control when it comes to feed time at my place.

One big difference we have...my mares have to be haltered and led out for their daily turn out - versus just opening stall doors. Maybe if you haltered and led your youngest out for a while, she would better understand?

Callie said...

Misty always waits patiently, Kola on the other hand can act like a jackalope! However I will say this, when I step in to feed, the antics subside and a simple "Back!" moves her out of my space, Then they are allowed to eat! Silly aren't they, but tis' the season for cool weather antics!

Abraham Lincoln said...

Gabbrielle sounds like a cranky kid before school.