Wednesday, June 10, 2015


The horses created some good comedy today.  I chased them out of the barn and hung the rope at the end of the aisle to keep them out.  I looked over to see Gabbrielle with the rope in her mouth raising her head higher and higher until the rope was over Rock's head.  Rock had his ears pinned forward watching me while the rope slid down his poll onto his neck.  I could tell that he was just waiting for me to look away so that he could slip the rest of the way into the barn.  I pumped my palms toward him and he backed out from underneath the rope, and then I tied it tighter.

Next thing I knew, Rock was trying to untie the knot I just tied, and he got it halfway undone by the time I noticed.  Then Gabbrielle pushed her chest against the rope and just started walking forward to see if she could walk through it or loosen it or break it.  I made her back up and chased both she and Rock off.  I wish I had my camera, because a video of their behaviors would have been hilarious.  It always cracks me up when the horses work as a team to do something they know they are not supposed to be doing.

When I finished cleaning stalls, I filled each barrel with hay.  My intention was to call one horse at a time to go under the rope while I hold it up, and then go into his or her assigned stall to eat.  It was an exercise in orderliness and trust.

I called Lostine first, but she wouldn't come.  I think she was afraid of the rope.  Bombay stepped forward and looked ready, so I called his name to give him permission to go to his stall.  He lowered his head and walked under the rope, but he went into Gabbrielle's stall because it was closest.  I pointed at his stall and chased him out, but he ran into Lostine's stall.  Again, I pointed at this stall and chased him out, and that time he finally settled into his assigned stall.

I tried calling Lostine again since she had just seen Bombay walk confidently under the rope, but she was still hesitant, so I called Rock.  Each time I called Rock, he'd inch forward and stop.  He didn't trust me, I guess.  I was persistent in calling him and holding the rope up for him and right when he was about to walk under, Gabbrielle barged forward and tried running under the rope without my permission.

I had to think fast.  What was more important?  Letting Rock through now that he was finally trying?  Or stopping Gabbrielle from being aggressive and running into the barn without my permission?  I dropped the rope and she ran into it.  Unfortunately, so did Rock.  Rock looked at me like he was saying, "See?  I knew I couldn't trust you to hold that rope up for me."

So, I chased Gabbrielle off, and tried again with Rock.  This time right when he was walking under the rope, the water hose flew out of the water trough and sprayed all over the place, then started flooding Bombay's stall.  I let Rock through and dropped the rope to block Gabbrielle while I ran for the hose.  I threw it into another water trough and turned around to find that Rock was chasing Lostine out of her stall, Lostine was chasing Bombay out of his stall, and Gabbrielle was busting down the rope with her chest again.  The rope fell and Gabbrielle ran in.  All four horses were running around trying to chase each other away from their hay.

So, much for orderliness.  All it takes is one second of me being distracted and the horses take advantage.  I keep getting into these Catch 22s where I start training the horses to do something new while I'm waiting for the water troughs to fill, and then either the trough starts overflowing or the hose flies out right at a crucial time in the training process, and then all hell breaks loose.  I guess I just have to choose between babysitting the water hose or training the horses, because I obviously can't do both at the same time.

I herded them into their assigned stalls and shut the gates -- something I should have been doing after each horse went into the correct stall the first time around.  I decided to just work on getting each horse to come when I call, and I did that by standing on the opposite end of their stalls from where they were eating hay, and calling their names while beckoning to them with a carrot in my hand.  Baby steps.  Break it down.  They were all happy to leave their hay to come get their carrots.

Of course, by letting the horses walk under the rope, I taught them that they could go under it.  If they had any doubt that they'd fit before, they know they fit under it now.  I'm sure it will lead to more problems with them trying to sneak under it, but my goal is to get them to differentiate between when I want them to stay out of the barn, and when I am giving them permission to go into their stalls.

I'm dealing with the aisle guard solution later when I have more time to experiment and think about it.  I've been in a time crunch with several deadlines this week.  I got the new, improved version of my second novel published.  Now I am preparing for a real estate photo shoot and a visit from the vet and equine dentist.  Bombay clearly needs to have his teeth floated ASAP, because he takes twice as long to eat as all the other horses and he's getting skinny again.  I find that when the horses are between 16 and 20 years of age, they need a lot of extra, specialized dental work.  After 20, the growth of their teeth slows down.  I've been wanting to ride Bombay, but don't want to put a bit in his mouth until he gets the dental work done.  He gets such sharp points that he cuts up the inside of his cheeks.

The weather has been all over the map with sunshine, clouds, rain, wind, no wind, humidity, etc. and it's been changing by the minute.  I go outside one moment and think, "Wow.  It's nice and cool.  I love this breeze.  I'm going to do some yard work..." and two minutes later I'm practically crawling back into the house dripping with sweat and unable to breath through such thick, stale air.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

You published the revised version of Is of Iris already? Is it available on Amazon? I want to read it!

Your horses are so funny!! I'm sure it's really frustrating to deal with though. I think the way you are doing it will work out in time. That's how they did it at the barn where I used to feed. It does help to close the stalls once the right horse is in them. It seems like even when they know which stall is theirs it's too tempting to chase another horse out lol.