Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dog and Herd Updates

Scrappy is turning out to be the best dog patient in the world.  He makes my job of nursing him back to health so easy.  He eats everything I put in front of him, including cheese balls that thinly disguise pain pills and antibiotics, without spitting out the pills.  He happily wolfs down his anti-inflammatory liquid tainted dog food and doesn't complain about the funny taste.  I find it amazing that he can eat anything at all after what he's been through.

The horses are now being left together unsupervised because Gabbrielle has demonstrated that she can be a leader and not an aggressor.  She has learned that she can just pin her ears back and chase Rock off  in a few steps without having to chase him for miles, biting and kicking along the way.  Rock has learned that when he starts chasing all the other horses around while rooting in their tails and nipping their rumps, everyone, including me, gets angry with him.  He's been like a horny teenage boy cut loose in a girls' locker room for the past couple of weeks, and is now finally relaxing and behaving like a gentleman.

The herd integration process is all about finding balance.  I learned that if I kept Gabbrielle under wraps, then Rock would terrorize Lostine and Bombay.  I'd get so irritated with Rock's immature behavior that I'd cut Gabbrielle loose and let her dive-bomb him.  I'd open the gate to her stall and yell, "Send in the lions!"  She'd take off at a gallop with her ears pinned and her neck snaked out, and Rock would head for the hills.  I was just basically waiting for Rock to make the connection that when he annoyed the other horses, he'd be forced out of the herd.  Therefore, if he wanted companionship, he needed to behave like the other horses.

Once he stopped approaching the herd to pester them after being chased off by Gabbrielle, and he chose to go lay down somewhere out of the way, I knew I no longer had to be the hovering mother and could go do some laundry or something without worrying about which horse I'll be doctoring next.  As long as Rock left the other horses alone, they would leave him alone.

Any desire I had to protect the newcomer dissipated quickly when I realized that if it weren't for Gabbrielle attacking Rock, he'd be causing all kinds of trouble and probably injure Bombay and Lostine.  I knew that Gabbrielle's role as disciplinarian was necessary, because Rock had no clue how to behave in a herd of horses.  He strikes me as having been raised by humans without a whole lot of exposure to other horses.  I love his personality, but he's got to gain some social skills with his own kind.

I find it interesting that Lostine flees from Rock, but when she feels that Gabbrielle is being too aggressive toward Rock, Lostine will insert herself between them and chase off Gabbrielle.  It's really hard to tell who the alpha mare is, because Lostine rarely disciplines Rock, and even gravitates toward him, but she has no qualms with pushing the one horse around who can keep Rock in line.

You'd think Rock would pick up on the fact that everyone respects Lostine and does what she says, but he still would chase her around and bite her on the rump.  I was horrified the first time it happened, thinking that Lostine would nail him to the fence, but she just ran around all wide-eyed looking at me as if saying, "Help, this juvenile delinquent is hassling me!  Get him off my butt!  Get him off my butt!"

Yet when Rock is being pushed out away from the rest of them by Gabbrielle, Lostine's maternal instincts take over and she wanders over beside Rock to soothe him.  I guess she understands that he's just a kid who doesn't know any better.  The difference between her and Gabbrielle is that Lostine has given birth to and raised five foals, while Gabbrielle is still a maiden.

This afternoon Lostine backed into Gabbrielle and very deliberately forced Gabbrielle to stand next to Rock without biting or kicking him.  It's like Lostine was saying, "Enough is enough.  It's time you let this guy into your space."

I think it's really cool how horses teach each other how to behave.  Lostine has been one of the best alpha mares I could ask for over the years.  Any mare who could keep Bombay in line when he was a young pup has my respect.

The next step I'm really looking forward to is when Gabbrielle gets past her jealousy of seeing Rock and Bombay play together.  I know that Rock and Bombay will make great friends for each other due to their similar personalities, but for a while Gabbrielle wouldn't let Rock near Bombay.  I'd occasionally lock her up just to give the boys a chance to play, and even then she'd run back and forth in her stall like she wanted to jump the railing and break them up.  We're pretty close to meeting that goal now, because Gabbrielle will stand by without interfering when Rock and Bombay play Bitey Face together, but as soon as Rock gets too annoying, she chases him off.

I think of all the boarding and training stables I've put Bombay in over the years, and how he got along so well with the geldings stalled next to him.  Now I wonder if perhaps there had been a little sparring through and over the fence when I wasn't around in the beginning when they were first introduced.

I can see that Gabbrielle has had quite an effect on Rock, because not only does he do everything that Gabbrielle tells him to do, but he's actually been a bit jumpy lately.  The first week he was so calm and insensitive that I couldn't train him to stop leaning on me when I took him for walks.  I'd try to slap him out of my space or whack him with the stick or lead rope, and he'd just smile like nothing had happened or give me a friendly nudge with his nose.  Then he'd get silly and try to make a game out of it by thinking that if I smacked him to get him off me, that was his cue to bite me to make me jump away from him.  Now I walk up to him and raise my hand to pet him, and he jumps back or sideways to get out of my space.  That wasn't my doing.  That was Gabbrielle's doing.  He seems to have swung to the other extreme from having no reaction to over-reacting, and I'll know that things will be totally settled once he's offering the appropriate reactions.

Rock has been improving in leaps and bounds with his groundwork.  The first time P.S. and I lunged him, it was like trying to lunge a rock.  We couldn't get him to move in any direction without us having to work up a sweat.  Now all we have to do is point or push with our hands in the air, and he goes where we tell him to go.  He's a fast learner.  I can't wait for his saddle to arrive.  So far all we got was the pad.  I chose a color called "Buckaroo Sunset" believing it would have oranges and purples in it, but the pad is just tan and brown.  I guess they got tan and brown sunsets in smoggy L.A., but the people who pick these colors and their names really need to see the sunsets in Arizona.


fernvalley01 said...

Glad things are leveling out

lytha said...

buckaroo sunset? oh man.