Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What's Working

Though the geldings are still on their destructive streak shredding everything they can get their teeth into, costing me money and driving me batty, there are a few adjustments I've made that have been working.  The first is that as long as I lock Rock up in his stall at night, there are no more injuries or blood spilled come morning.  I still have to put Bombay in timeout in a stall throughout the day because he just doesn't know when to quit.  I had P.S. lunge both of the boys at the faster paces for a long time the other morning, and that was probably the quietest day I've had in weeks because those horses were just too dang tired to cause mischief.

I'm thinking that at some point I will tie a bunch of plastic bags along the railings of the stalls and fence to get the horses to focus on some common problem, so that they will stop bickering with each other.  

The other thing that has been working is the new feeding routine of making each horse get into its assigned stall and wait to be fed.  The rules are that they cannot leave the stall and go push some other horse out of the way to eat its food, they cannot snatch hay out of the wheelbarrow as I bring it in, they cannot crowd me, and they have to wait until I say the word "okay" before they can approach their barrel and begin eating.  

They are smart cookies.  They figured it out really fast.  In fact, they all stand at the far corner of their stalls facing me while I dole out the rations.  Rock is learning that pawing the ground and kicking the railings not only doesn't get him fed faster, but it actually gets him fed last.  

But... there always has to be a but... I've learned that this process only goes smoothly if I am 100% focused on the activity.  As soon as I get distracted by my phone ringing or someone talking to me, the horses swoop in to break the rules, taking advantage of my inattention.  So, the good days and bad days are directly related to my presence of mind.  Distractions are the enemy of progress.

I've also switched over from putting hay in the little wheelbarrow to putting it in the big wagon, because the other night I was racing around trying to get the horses fed so that we could go out for my son's birthday dinner, and I had to return to the hay barn three times to get enough hay to feed all four horses while everyone waited for me in the house.  By the time I got done I smelled so bad from sweating that I had to change my clothes.  I knew I needed to cut the number of trips between the hay barn and the horse stalls down to just one per meal.  The horses don't seem to mind that the same vehicle I use to haul their manure out is now being used to haul their hay in.  The wagon is a little more difficult to maneuver than the wheelbarrow, but since the horses now wait patiently for their feed, I can take all the time I need to get it in and out of the stalls.  The name of the game in this intense heat is to conserve energy.

Bombay and Rock like to play Tug of War over Jolly Balls, and Bombay has had his muzzle cut up and his jaw dislocated on more than one occasion because of this.  He's stubborn.  Whenever he starts feeling like Rock is getting the upper hand and might take the ball away, Bombay chases Rock off.  I've been trying to teach Bombay that it's okay if Rock gets the ball away from him.  I cheer and applaud when it happens, and Rock races around the arena with the ball in his mouth, jumping and bucking with joy.  Then Bombay does the same thing and I cheer for him.  He's realizing there's more to the game than just keeping the ball between his teeth while teasing Rock with it.

Though the boys can get extremely silly, and that makes me laugh, I've come to really appreciate the solid nature of mares.  My foot has been hurting me more and more, so I wrapped it up today and stuck it in an orthopedic shoe.  The mares immediately noticed the different shoe and that I was limping.  They stood on each side of me as if to shield me from getting run over while the geldings chased each other around.  Gabbrielle poked my foot gently with her muzzle.  Lostine pinned her ears back if the boys got too close.  Rock spotted my funny looking shoe and tried sneaking up on it.  Gabbrielle chased him away, and then returned to my side.  I stood there with an arm around each mare, and they seemed content to have my company.


Once Upon an Equine said...

Children do like boundaries, even if they won't admit it. :-) Glad it is working with the boys. Sweet mares. I love my mares too.

Promise said...

I swore I would never own a mare and then fell in love with one. I'm not sure I would ever own anything else after having Promise.