Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bad Day for the Pasture

I took the horses out to pasture because we are getting low on hay and the grass is getting mighty long. This was not a lesson in herd separation. I simply wanted them to eat. I did remember to tie the one horse that was left behind in the paddock while we were in the process of moving three horses with two handlers, but there is no safe place to tie the horses that are released in the pasture. The fencing is vinyl and the posts are not set in concrete. I'll probably have to install a tying post there since the two horses I released to pasture started galloping around and bucking while waiting for the third horse to arrive.

Once all three were delivered to pasture and settled, I went in the house. Just a few minutes later I heard the most bone-chilling screaming coming from one of my horses. It was unlike any horse sound I have ever heard. I imagined that one of the horses got severely injured, and I busted out the front door as fast as I could. My body could barely keep up with my feet, so I was tripping and stumbling all the way out to the pasture.

I looked up to see a man on a motorcycle driving off my property away from my pasture fence. Apparently, he thought it would be a good idea to drive his noisy hog right up to the horses to pet them, but was taken by surprise when they went berserk. Lostine was galloping in circles and doing all the screaming. Bombay was doing the bunny hop right behind her, and Gabbrielle was just kind of wandering around trying to avoid getting plowed down by the two more excited horses.

I tried to get them to slow down with whoas in a low, calm, but firm voice, but they were out of their minds and totally ignoring me. Lostine tripped and fell several times. She was creating divots by galloping around, and then stepping in them and stumbling. I could see a broken leg on the horizon, so I ran for the grain buckets. That seemed to be the only thing that could get their attention and get them to stop.

It worked. They settled into eating and I walked away again, only to have the boarders next door come riding their horses up the street, which got my horses all riled up again. They left their grain and started galloping around whinnying. Once the mounted horses were gone, my pastured horses returned to their buckets. Then a hot rod with a souped up engine came roaring up the street and set them off again. That driver realized his mistake and drove much slower on his return trip.

Then a truck hauling a trailer loaded with horses pulled out of my neighbors' place, and the ruckus started again. Once it was gone, they returned to the grain. Then a veterinarian driving a truck showed up, and somehow the horses knew that he was going to the neighbor's house to see their horse friends, and they got excited again.

The silly thing about all of this is that I had waited until the house painters next door packed up their equipment and left before taking the horses to pasture. I knew the loud crashing would scare the horses. However, it didn't matter. Today was just one of those days when there was more activity in the neighborhood than I could control. I know the horses will get used to it and settle down eventually, and I know this is all a part of their exposure training, but that poor pasture is ripped to shreds now.

Despite having all that green grass inside the fence, Lostine wouldn't eat any of it. She just paced the fence line and stuck her head under the fence to reach for whatever was on the other side. I'm not sure what she was so attached to back at the barn that would prevent her from eating, unless she is now herd-bound to the neighbors' horses too.

Bringing the horses back to the paddock wasn't much fun either, as every neighbor within eyesight decided that very second would be a good time to get in their cars and drive. They were driving up and down the street, pulling into and out of the mailbox turnout, which is right up against my pasture, pulling in and out of driveways. It was bizarre. I mean, how many minutes are there in a day, and what are the chances that every one of them would get in their cars and drive the very minute that I am bringing my horses out from pasture?

I said to my daughter, "I think this is officially the busiest day in the history of this neighborhood."

There was a lot of bolting and spooking on the end of the lead ropes going on. Gabbrielle then completely froze up and wouldn't move forward because I left Bombay back at the pasture and he was calling out to her. I had to put on my mean face to get her to move forward. It was kind of like trying to lead a herd of horses through a fire or a violent thunderstorm, yet it was a perfectly clear, calm, beautiful day. Once the horses get the grass acclimated into their diets, I think I'm just going to turnout one horse to pasture per day, and let them rip up that grass and scream all they want until they learn that independence isn't such a bad thing, nor is all the activity that goes on around them in the neighborhood.

They were actually settling down for a while there, but I couldn't keep up the routine of taking them to pasture because of one thing or another getting in the way. Either I had an appointment and didn't have the time, or I needed to water the pasture, or the house painters were especially noisy that day, or I couldn't pry myself away from my job for a few minutes to take care of it. That small gap of time was enough for force me to have to start all over in breaking their herd-bound behaviors.


Cheryl Ann said...

Oh, my! WHAT a day! I'm sorry that things went downhill...the best laid plans...Gosh! I didn't realize your street was so busy!

Kate said...

You have one busy neighborhood! Leading two horses at once doesn't seem like an option at this point - that's how we lead our horses to pasture (some over 1/4 mile away) but it takes some time to train them to do it. The good news is: Horses OK, pastures torn up but OK, you're OK - not a bad outcome! You changed the routine and they got excited by the whole thing - if you can establish a routine, they'll get used to it and be fine.

fernvalley01 said...

Sounds rotten ,I have horses in larger areas all the time , but there is an awful lot of dashing about whaen spring comes and the head out of winter quarters ,also my niehgbors have peacocks and a kid with a dirt bike so I find I am jumpy about all the extra noises , the horses ...not so much

Breathe said...

We had dirt bikes next door to the old stables and I tell you what, every horse would (eventually) just hang out with those things going crazy. There was also a gun range nearby. So the good news, if the hells angels ever has a trail ride, Canyon's ready.

Hang in there!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I think a lot of it is that people tend to hibernate in the winter, so the horses get used to it being quiet. Then once the weather warms up, everyone comes out. We've not only got our neighbors roving here and there and doing construction projects, but we've suddenly got tourists, motorcycle convoys, RVs, construction trucks and tractors all out on the road at the same time. It's like someone opened up the floodgates at the California border and all these tourists and people looking for a new place to live spill over into Nevada all at once. The change in the environment is disturbing to me, and horses are way more sensitive than I am, so it must be disturbing to them too. It's over stimulation.

Paint Girl said...

What a day, seems like whatever can go wrong, will go wrong! I am so sorry! You will get a routine down, and hopefully the neighborhood will slow down a little! Geesh!

City girl turned Country Girl said...

WOW you did have a lot going on in your neighborhood today!! I can't believe that the motorcycle guy did that!! I think you need some peace and quiet!!

Kate said...

NuzzMuzz - thank you for your comment on my blog - the question you raise is a very interesting one. I left you a reply there. Thanks for visiting!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Oh my, that's just crazy! All that commotion and it never ends for you!!!

Do you have any place besides the pasture to turn them out to run in? I think they're craving a good run.

Lulu said...

I think your idea of turning the horses out separately is a great idea. Yes, your pasture will suffer a bit a first, but the lesson will be worth it.

Andrea said...

What a crazy day. It seems to be like that when ever I work my horses. I want to ride and my father in law will start to feed all the other horses. It's so aggravating. But it does help to have your horses around all sorts of sounds. My four year old could care less about my son's dirt bike. My father in law rides his draft horse hooked to a wagon right by us and he doesn't flinch. It's good to let them hear things and be around things. Just take deep breaths and they will be alright. Herd bound horses are hard to deal with. I hear your pain!!

Once Upon an Equine said...

Goodness Gracious, what a lot of activity. Great exposure, but would have been nice if everyone in the neighborhood was on a more staggered schedule with their comings and goings on that day. Glad none of your horses hurt themselves.

Callie said...

Good Grief! What chaos! glad no one was hurt!