Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Improvising - Don't Try This at Home

Thanks to my daughter for taking this photo of the horses while I was chained to my desk all day taking order after order after order...

Anyway, this morning my daughter rolled up her shade and saw Bombay laying on the ground. She said to me, "Bombay is down. I'm going to go see if he's okay."

I said, "Take a camera and try to get a picture before he stands up."

I was imagining that he was resting in the shade with his legs folded under him, but when I looked out the window I was shocked to see him laying flat on his side by the gate in the full sun, not moving. It didn't look good, but as soon as my daughter stepped outside, he jumped up and seemed fine the rest of the day. It's very rare for Bombay to lay down and stay down. He'll roll in the dirt, but he sleeps standing up.

The flies have been crawling around the horses' eyes and causing their eyelids to swell. I can't put fly masks on them, because they rip each other's masks off. So, I brought out the fly spray and started spraying their legs, bodies, and necks. Then I wiped some fly spray on their faces. Then I wet a rag and cleaned out their eyes.

However, Gabbrielle wasn't going to let me near her with that wet rag. She kept turning her butt at me to block me from being able to reach her face. She wasn't threatening to kick me, but turning her butt at me may as well mean the same thing. It's bad manners that I don't want my horses to have. It's disrespectful too. How can I successfully train a horse under saddle that feels comfortable turning her butt to me?

I decided to teach her a lesson and I whacked her on the rump with that wet rag. She was taken by surprise and took off running. I knew the next time, she'd be on guard and might actually try to kick, so I soaked the rag so that it was dripping wet, then when I approached her to clean out her eyes and she turned her butt to me, I stepped back out of kicking range and flicked the rag in the direction of her rump so that it got sprayed with water. She took off running again.

I repeated this process of spraying her butt a few times before she got the idea that she didn't get sprayed if she faced the rag, and she did get sprayed if she turned her butt to it. She then resorted to backing up to get away from the rag, but not turning away from it. That was progress.

I then held the rag at my side and approached her from the side to stroke her neck. She held still for that. Then I brought the rag up to her muzzle and encouraged her to sniff it. She did. Then I rubbed the cool rag around her muzzle, and she realized that felt nice. Eventually, I worked my way up to her eyes and wiped them down with a clean corner of the rag.

Of course, I know I could have easily cleaned her eyes had I put a halter on her and tied her to a post, but I would have missed the opportunity to teach her manners. Sometimes I need to work with my horses quickly without having to rely on ropes. Gabbrielle has this habit of always turning her butt to Lostine when they eat. It's her way of saying, "If you come near my food, I'll kick you."

She never does, because Lostine is in charge, but I want her to learn that it's not a good habit to always be blocking people and other horses with your hind end. One of these days, Lostine might just decide to bite her on the rump. However, since Lostine hasn't ventured deep into that thought, I decided to mimic a horse bite with my wet rag and further Gabbrielle in her etiquette education.


Breathe said...

What is it about towels? Have that many horses been eaten by towels?

Sounds like she came around (pun intended) quickly.

When I've had horses turn their butts to me we have a nip on the butt - usually in the form of a slap on the butt. Seems like every horse will try it. Once.

Have you tried clicker stuff with Gabrielle? You don't have to use treats and I bet she'd really respond well.

fernvalley01 said...

It always worries me when I se them dwn for too long. My rule of thumb is if it makes you look twice ,the LOOK Twice or three times if you need to (meaning get out there and look close)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Good idea! Always use every opportunity to train and work with a horse.
Just this morning, I decided to spray fly spray on Apache while she was eating her breakfast. I figured it would be the best time because she would be distracted by her grain and not be interested in the fly spray. And like you, I prefer to do most daily things without a halter or rope.
Well Apache though I waqs spraying acid on her and she kept running away, even inside her stall. I kept following her spraying her when I could and then she'd turn away from me.
I decided to work on getting her to stand still, then I'd stroke her, spray a little, then tell her what a good girl she was, stroke her some more, spray some more...and so on.

This worked better than chasing her while trying to sneak in a few sprays and even though she still quivered when the spray touched her, she stood still and calm for me.
I think Apache would do anything for me if I use my gentle, reassuring technique.

But it was still interesting that she'd rather me do that, than just let her eat her breakfast while I sprayed her down.

I'm glad Bombay was ok and just seemed to be basking in the sun.


word verification: bitin

Flies are a bitin around here! eek!

Paint Girl said...

Ahh, the ole butt turn around trick! Fritzy does that a lot! Since she is so dominant, she turns her butt towards human or horse, a lot. She gets in trouble for that. The other day I was putting Brandy back in the pasture, I went to take Brandy's halter off and Fritzy turned her butt and tried to squish me in between her and Brandy, oh no you don't! I don't trust her, she can and will kick. So she gets in trouble for that kind of behavior.
I love how you took the time to use that as a training lesson. It is definitely better to nip that in the bud, the sooner the better!!
Glad to hear that Bombay was okay! He must have decided it was better to sleep laying down! Silly horses, always trying to scare us with something!

Jeni said...

Uh oh.. I hope Bombay is ok. Scary when they are down out of character.

What is about towels and fly spray bottles?? My two are sure there is something extremely horrid about both that is sure to cause them bodily injury.

The heat and flies are bad everywhere I guess.

Sydney_bitless said...

When it is nice out every horse will lay on their sides flat out in the sun. I see it so much at my barns. They are just stretching and enjoying the nice heat. Plus it means they are comfortable enough to put themselves in such a position of danger
Bad Gabrielle. I have yet to hear of towels and things like that eating horses. Indigo could care less about all that stuff. One day I was cleaning harness with a rag and she was out grazing around the yard loose. She comes over sniffin to see what I was doing and insisted on eating where I was sitting so I hung a towel on her head and over her eyes. Her head shot up as if to say "WHAT THE HECK!?" she looked left, then right and went back to grazing LOL!

Crystal said...

LOL, Breathe, the comment about towels eating horses, that was too funny! I agree though, they are afraid of the silliest things sometimes untill they see theres nothing to be froghtened of. I do quite a bit of stuff without halters as well, and its nice when they are trained enough to stand and tolerate all the crazy stuff people do for them.

baystatebrumby said...

There is nothing more rewarding than a mannerly horse! It sounds like in your lesson you made the right thing easy and the wrong thing annoying! hah! I can understand your panic about seeing a horse all flat on the ground. One time my horse guy looked in his big pasture to see all five horses laying down just like that. It was so strange that they would all be down like that. It was hunting season and he had a momentary crazy thought that someone had shot all of his horses-- that's how still they were! But in the end, they were just snoozing.

Cheryl Ann said...

Nuzz, Cali had flies bother her eyes so badly and so often that they ended up laying larvae in her eyes! They were all goopy and one was swollen. When the vet came out to give them their shots, he looked at her eyes, sedated her, and had to scrape the larvae out! ACK! She is now in a separate corral with a fly mask and I've given her eyedrops for 3 days now. Lesson learned...$$$