Monday, February 7, 2011

Horses are Disasters Waiting to Happen

One positive thing I can say about winter is that it keeps me from working with my horses, and as a result, there are no mishaps.  Sunday's temperatures reached 60 degrees and I was itching to take care of some things that need to get done around the ranch.  At first I tried shoveling some manure, but my nosy neighbors were hovering about.  So, I tried spreading some manure on my front lawn where they couldn't see me, but some other neighbor's dogs climbed up on their roof and wouldn't stop barking at me, and then the dog owner came out and started blasting circus music at 9:00 in the morning from his car stereo, probably to try to cover up the sound of his dogs barking.  It was just too early after my morning coffee for me to be patient and tolerant, so I threw down my rake and yelled, "I don't want to have to listen to your music!"

The guy actually turned it off for a minute, only to turn it back on when I headed into the house.

Once both my nosy neighbors and my noisy neighbors left, I decided I had to make riding a horse a priority, because otherwise I'll wear myself out with chores and be too sore and tired to ride.  So, I walked into the paddock with the halter and decided to ride whichever horse let me catch him or her.  Much to my shock, Lostine, who always runs from the halter, started to run, but then thought better of it, turned around, and trotted right up to me.  So, I saddled her and rode.

There was this big mud puddle in one corner of the round pen that she kept slipping in, so she started making tighter circles to avoid it.  As is the case coming out of every winter hiatus, she wouldn't listen to any of my cues.  If she decided to lope, I just had to ride it out.  Whoa was not in her vocabulary despite all the lunging I've been doing with her lately, rewarding her with treats when she stops when I say whoa.  I guess in her mind the rules no longer apply if I'm in the saddle.  Probably because she knows that I can't reach her mouth from the saddle, and therefore she won't get any treat.

At one point she was alternating between trotting fast and cantering in tight circles and bouncing me little by little down the side of the saddle.  I was trying to haul myself back upright with the horn, one leg sticking out to the side with no stirrup when my neighbor, who is a reputable horse woman, came driving up the street and had to witness my embarrassing predicament.  I managed to stay in the saddle, but Lostine was still out of control.  In the meantime, my neighbor turned her place into grand central station as more and more trucks drove past my round pen.  There was a vet, a farrier, a hay delivery, and several friends and relatives all showing up within 30-seconds of one another while I was riding my wildfire, wondering when the ride would be over and whether my dismount would be voluntary or involuntary. 

Once Lostine threw every one of her ornery tricks my way and realized that she wasn't going to get me out of that saddle, she finally put her ears forward, relaxed, started listening to me, and seemed to be enjoying the exercise and our time together.  The timing of her sudden decision to cooperate couldn't have been better, because I pulled the rookie move of dropping a rein.  I forgot that you lose feel of the reins with gloved hands and it's easy to let one slip loose.  I said whoa, and she immediately stopped to allow me to collect it.  That was probably the shortest breaking in period we've had yet.  I got her back to her old self in one ride.  Usually, we have to have at least 3 or 4 sessions in the round pen before I feel like I have any control of her whatsoever.  I think she's ready for the trails.  (I see you rolling your eyes.)

Next I trimmed her whiskers and bridle path, then switched her out with Bombay.  He had this black tar-like substance all over his legs, hip, and belly, and he either rubbed the silver paint off the chain-link fence or someone shot him in the butt with a paintball gun again.  He was a mess, so I had to bathe him.

People are always telling me to tie my horses tighter to posts, because they always manage to little by little pull the rope longer until they can lower their heads to graze, then they get a leg over the rope, raise their head, pull the leg up with the rope, panic, and start rearing.  So, in order to avoid that, I tied him so that there was only one-foot of rope between his head and the post.  But, that had its own hazards.

See that gate bolt sticking out from the side of the post?  Well, in Bombay's attempt to untie his lead rope from the post with his teeth, he got his halter caught on the bolt.  I was in the middle of washing his tail when he leaned back into me to rear up.  I jumped out of the way and he struggled, trying to free his head for about 20-seconds.  I was saying whoa, but a horse never listens to whoa when it is in a panic.

I resigned myself to the fact that he was going to break the halter, cut up his face, and have yet one more phobia among all of his phobias.  He broke free and instantly relaxed.  I examined both him and the halter, and both were fine.  He stretched out the halter, but didn't break it.  You can see by the picture below that it's not sitting correctly on his face.

Obviously, I'll have to find a new place to tie the horses now any maybe look into breakaway halters.  I'm running out of places to tie.  Gabbrielle was able to rip the tie bolt right off the side of the trailer a couple of years ago.  There are other posts, but they are either next to our electrical stump, which the horses have kicked and electrocuted themselves on more than one occasion, or the posts are blocked by something like the manure pile or the horse trailer, and this is the only place I can park the horse trailer.  I can install a tie bolt on the side of the barn, but that means I'll have to lock up the other horses so that they won't hassle me and get themselves tangled in the lead rope while I'm working with another horse that is tied.  Plus the barn is closest to the street, so I'll have to deal with all the spooks from speeders and loud trucks driving past.  I just need a larger piece of property.

Even after washing the tar-like stains with two different kinds of whitening shampoo, Bombay's butt, belly and forelegs were still stained.

He looks a lot better, though.  I didn't even take any pictures of him before the bath, because he was so disgusting.  I wonder how long all my hard work will last.


Linda said...

Lucky you that you can wash your horses. Mine need it so bad, but it's that in-betweener time of the year where things are starting to melt (ie. mud), but it's too cold to get them soaked in water. So, they look ratty.

I have the same issue with good places to tie. Most of my horses are the kind you can tie all day long, but my Mustang is more unpredictable. I had my husband dig me three post holes and I'm going to have a center tall one and two shorter (but still tall) side ones with a rail in between both so they can't swing around.

Katharine Swan said...

I have a funny story about breakaway halters. Once Panama figured out he could break them, he made a habit of it. Suddenly everything was "scary," which to me is proof that horses fake their spooks sometimes! After he broke his halter 3 times in ONE WEEK, I switched back to a regular halter. He's never been able to break those, so it -- excuse the pun -- broke him of the habit pretty quickly.

Paint Girl said...

That's great that Lostine came around in the one ride. I am dreading the day I finally get to ride one of mine again, they've been off for 4 months. Hopefully when I get back from Scottsdale the weather will finally cooperate.
Tying is a hassle here too. Since I use my garage as my tack room, I tie my horses to the tractor shed, which really needs new posts. But I have no where else to get them ready. So I deal with it. Brandy pulls back too, although I did buy one of those Blocker tie rings for her and it works great! Fritzy will stand tied all day, but she will dig a hole to China, she is so impatient!

Dreaming said...

My guys desperately need a bath, too. Their flaxen manes and tails look more like their sorrel color...and greasy?! Bleech!
We haven't gotten beyond talking about a larger hitching post near the barn...maybe someday it will happen!

Jeni said...

Glad you rode out Lostine and she didn't get you off!

jealous you are able to bathe horses... that won't happen for at least another month here.

Rising Rainbow said...

Sounds like you had quite a ride in the roundpen. Glad it ended well.

I'd like to have a strong pole like maybe a railroad time deep into the ground, say a couple feet just for a tying post. I don't care if it's a long a fence line or what, just as long as it's independent of the fence itself. I'm thinking that way I might avoid any of the pitfalls around gates or such. We'll see, I guess.

You know with a gray horse, that bath is never going to hold. Facts of life, 101 LOL

achieve1dream said...

Ahhhhh don't show me that!!! Chrome is going to turn flea bitten remember? :D

I'm glad Bombay wasn't hurt and nothing was broken. I wish you could move to a larger place. Working with horses was just not meant to be done in tight places. Maybe someday.

I'm glad you got a pretty day so that you could mess with them some. And that Lostine settled down and didn't manage to dislodge you. :) Maybe she was just trying to get you warmed up and relaxed LOL! Oh and I didn't roll my eyes! I promise!

Great post. Glad everything turned out okay and you can laugh . . . you are laughing right . . . laugh! See makes it all much better right? :D

P.S. Sorry I'm in a silly mood. :)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

achieve1dream - I am laughing, especially after your comment about Lostine trying to get me warmed up and relaxed. Very clever. That mare does try to teach me, though. I think the only way we can survive together is if we view each other as equals, because both of us always want to be in charge.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow! It must really be warm there to be able to give baths. It snowed here yesterday and our temps got down to about 15 below zero. Brrr!

I'm always cautious about tying a horse to anything now because of what happened with Baby Doll. I thought the pipe rail was securely welded, but it doesn't matter when 1,000+ lbs of horse is pulling back.

I don't move as fast as you either. I bet I would have been knocked to the ground if Bombay had done that rearing panic thing while I was washing his tail. gah!

Sometime this summer/spring I want to take a railroad tie and dig a hole, fill it with concrete and place the tie inside. Then get a blocker tie ring to attach to it, so I have a safer, more secure place to tie my horse.