Thursday, December 11, 2008

Galloping on Air

I wish I could hold a thought in my head for more than two seconds. I had plans to take a picture of the horses waiting to be let out of their stalls this morning, and instantly forgot to take my camera out with me. I'm a creature of habit. I'm thinking about tying a notepad around my neck and checking it to see what I'm forgetting. One thing I would write on it is to grab a halter before letting the horses out.

We've had this conversation before. Many people told me to hang a halter from the stall doors or the gate, but the horses would just chew it up, so I keep all my tack stashed in my horse trailer where their nibbling lips can't reach it. Over the past few months, I have managed to train the horses to hold still while I remove their blankets without a halter, and to wait for me to say it is okay before they bust out the stall door into the morning sun.

In Bombay's case, I also trained him to back out of the stall window and approach me so that I can remove his blanket easier without him pressing his chest against the wall beneath the window. At first I had to say "Back!" while tapping his neck and chest until he got his head out of that window, and then I praised him and said "Whoa!" to keep him from going back to the window while I removed the blanket. Eventually, I could walk into his stall and just say the word "Back!" Now all I have to do is walk into his stall, and he instantly backs out of the window, walks up to me and holds still. The only time he gets obnoxious is when he wants a hug. He starts bobbing his head up and down over my shoulder, giving me no choice but to wrap my arms around his neck.

Lostine has never been any trouble, while Gabbrielle can be unpredictable when she's hungry. Some mornings she approaches me quietly and holds still while I remove the blanket. Other mornings she jumps and spins in her stall when I enter. The other morning she actually reared in her stall. I gave her a stern "No!" Fortunately, she's always aware of where her head is in relation to the ceiling, so she never rears high enough to konk herself on the noggin. That happened to her once when she was a yearling, and she quickly learned from her mistake.

When she gets rambunctious I kick myself for forgetting that halter. I have Bombay and Lostine at a point where I can place my hand on their chest while I open the stall door, and they will wait. Only when I pull my hand back, step out of the way, and say "Okay" do they leave their stalls for the hay in their trough. Gabbrielle took a while longer, but I got her to that point too. It's just not consistent yet, and when I do give her permission, she gallops like a horse busting out of a starting gate. I've decided that I'm going to use the halter along with the other cues to hold her back, and then work on getting her to walk quietly out the stall door before I will allow her to eat. She's already caught on to the fact that I won't open the door until she holds still.

In the meantime I have taped a note to the sliding glass door I must exit to get to the barn that says, "HALTER". Our night-time routine is finally flawless. I simply open each stall door and the right horse walks in. Not so long ago I was having to either herd the horses into their stalls or catch them with a rope and lead them in. A lot of times one horse would go into another horse's stall or all three would go into one stall. It was crazy, but now they all know exactly what to do to speed up the delivery of their evening meal. I just have this one last challenge with Gabbrielle in the morning, and once that is fixed, everything should go like clockwork. Here's a picture of the frisky girl from a few years ago. She has all four hooves off the ground.


Andrea said...

She has a little spring to her step!! Just a little one!! She is such a pretty girl.

That is awesome about their morning manners. Horses are definalty creatures of habbit. They are really smart. I am sure Gabbrielle just needs a few reminders and she will be good to go in no time. Or good to stand still.

It's sure scary when they rear and you are standing right there. Glad you are okay!!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Horses are so crazy, especially Arabs, huh?

My horses are much calmer since they've been on a grass hay diet. They used to be frantic at feeding time-like they're starving!

I open Nadia's gate first and she calmly strolls out to the arena. She has an outside entrance right next to the arena gate.

Then I go into the barn and open Annie's and Scout's doors and then I stand back.

Scout trots out and always grabs a mouthful of hay from the haystack on his way out of the barn and usually trots or runs to the arena just before Annie.

Annie always hesitates coming out of her stall and then trots out of the barn after Scout and gallops around the turn to the gate of the arena. She always stops and wheels at least once, sometimes twice, and then bolts through the gate to the hay piles where she always bucks a few good ones before settling down to eat.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Way to go, NM!! You and your horses have really come a long way, eh? It must feel so good to have come this far. I'm proud of you...and Lostine and Bombay and Gabbrielle, too.
She's on her way to become an awesome, well-mannered pretty mare.

And I really love that cool photo of her flying with all 4 hooves up off the ground. What magic!

I won't even talk much about Baby Doll's feeding routine. She's as laid back as grass. I've never seen her run or buck for food.
She does love it, though. I could get her to do just about anything with the promise of treats. :)

New Mexico

Vaquerogirl said...

Flying horses! That's in my new book!

Shirley said...

Ah, those youthful high spirits! Sounds like you have a good program going. Persistence, patience, and perfect practice, as John Lyons says. Horses love a routine. Peppy comes a-running when he sees me drive up and gets quite fidgety if I don't give him his Frisky Foal pellets before I feed Beamer.

Lulu said...

How old is Gabbrielle again?

It sounds to me like she really wants to be herd boss, and since Lostine won't let that happen, she tries to do so with you.

My coming 2 year old and I still have discussions about the same sort of thing. She wants to be the herd boss but the older mare won't allow it. I have to constantly remind her that I am her herd boss to and that she can use her manners. Youngsters!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Gabbrielle is almost 4 years old. She's definitely been vying for the top spot. Nothing intimidates her, and Lostine gave up trying to chase her off, so now she just shares her food with her on occasion. Gabbrielle never gets aggressive with me or Lostine, though -- just Bombay, and I discipline her whenever she does.

I used the halter today and all went smoothly with the exception of her prancing sideways while I walked her instead of walking calmly. That will come, though. My true goal is just to get her to walk out of her stall calmly without the help of a halter. She needs to learn that the hay will still be there whether she reaches it two-seconds or ten-seconds from now.

Because I feed my horses together in the same general location, they are competitive. I know that feeding time would be a breeze if they were kept in seperate pens, but that's not how I choose to manage them. I haven't had any problems with one horse being too fat and the others too skinny. They distribute the hay amongst themselves pretty well and once they settle in to eating, they share. They mainly get anxious in the process of getting from their stall to their feed. You'd think they'd learn that everyone does get fed, so there's no reason to worry.