Archive for the horses Category

Big Blind Man the Stubborn

Posted in horses, Musings, Personal Life with tags on September 23, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Have you ever haltered a horse? Not too bad, right? Just a handful of floppy straps that go around that big head. No big deal.

Ever done it while the horse had his nose stuck up into the stratosphere? How about on a horse big enough that the head is literally 6+ feet in the air? Yeah, bigger deal. Not insurmountable, but annoying.

What about a horse so head-shy that, if you touch his ears, he goes into orbit, usually taking the halter with him and flinging it halfway across the pasture? Been there, done that, and OW. Because in the moment it takes to let go of the halter, your arms get about a foot of stretch.

And yet, all of these pale next to the ultimate haltering nuisance: the evader. Evaders come in all shapes, sizes and strengths. Some simply fidget so much that you might as well give up and go bob for apples in the ocean, because it’s going to be easier. Others, well, you can’t even get within reach of them.

I’ve had many of that latter group. Pastures are conducive to halter-olympics. We had a neurotic half-thoroughbred gelding who would literally run in circles for an hour, rather than let us get close to him. He wasn’t spooked, wasn’t afraid of anything. He was just being… special. And he infected the other horses too. So let’s just say that I’ve had a great deal of practice in approaching and haltering the horses that won’t be caught.

Yes, as you might have guessed, Big Man decided to be an Evader Monday. Apparently, his halter had come off the day before. And he was not going to have it put back on. Monica had spent half an hour with him already, and he wasn’t spooky about it, he just didn’t want it back. He’d gotten rid of it. Not a game of fetch people, I don’t want it back.

I think we were in the pasture for about 40 minutes. About 15 of those were spent chasing him around. Three people, not a huge pasture. No dice.

Again, this is where the uncertainty comes in. He’s blind. His ears and nose and sixth-sense (which all good horses have in annoying abundance anyways) are off the charts. He’s fairly easy to approach, but it has to be the right kind of approach. With the halter on, he’s easy. Without it, heh.

Bring on the food. A bucket of feed under his nose, and the games get serious. He didn’t want to be petted, because he’d figured out that it was a prelude to haltering. I’ve had that issue before. We put the feed down, and I stood next to the bucket. I wouldn’t approach him, he’d approach me. That makes a huge difference. He had to get into my space to get to the bucket.

I’d like to make a quick note here… I’d never recommend doing this, especially not with a territorial horse. If it’s a stallion, it’s frikkin suicide if you don’t know exactly what’s going on. Big Man is more gentle than any stallion I’ve worked with, and it’s still a risk. He would be quite at rights to bite or kick the competition away from his food. Don’t ever, no matter how good the horse, lose focus on the situation for a single second! I’m fool-hardy and able to fend off a big animal. It’s still a bad idea.

Anyways, at first, I put my fingers against his mane. He jumped away, came back, and let me put my hand on his neck. Lots of wither-scratching, sweet-talking and no movement later, I could pull the rope off of my shoulder and start rubbing him with that. About five, ten minutes later, the rope was behind his ears, and he was cool with that. I looped it around his neck, carefully took the halter from my friend, and repeated the scratching and talking. This time, when the halter got down to his head, he did spook. This is why the rope was around his neck, I brought him right back. The halter was in the food bucket, he had to eat around it.

I led him away from the feed twice before I brought the halter with us. Each time, he had to stand politely for a few moments. Monica held the rope, and we went prancing around the pasture for a few minutes. It is NOT comfortable, dangling off a horse’s head like that. A stallion’s neck is incredibly strong, and I’ve had them lift me off my feet before. Finally haltered, he calmed right down and let us praise the hell out of him.

After that, he got a bit of grooming, we played with his feet and tied him to the trailer. Remember the first time I talked about the trailer? How he wouldn’t go anywhere near it? He tied right up, and stood playing with the rope and generally being a brat. He’s officially not worried anymore. And that’s where I saw the most wonderful thing I will ever see with him. The day will come when he’s bomb-proof, can be ridden with just a halter, anything, and it won’t be half as lovely as this.

He stood, tied the the trailer. His head dropped even with his back, he was resting on three legs, his ears were flopping sideways, his lower lip was loose and flappy, and his eyes were soft and half-hooded.

Why is this so great? Horses show their emotions in body and eyes. When he first went to the trailer, his head was stiff and high. All four feet were braced, his ears were back. His lower lip was tight to his teeth and his eyes were wrinkled and hard. He looked scared, and rightly so.

Monday, he was the picture of a trusting, healed horse. He has a long ways to go, but there were three people and a trailer in his personal space, and he was stoned on good feelings. That’s more than I could ever have asked for from a horse with his past, and especially that soon.

After that, things got a bit wild. He’s put on weight and muscle. He has a stallion’s deep barrel chest, thick neck and some powerful haunches. His conformation is quite sturdy, and for being a relatively short horse, he’s no pushover. He’s also feeling good, is fat and sassy, and therefore spends half of the training time being a brat. Cooler weather isn’t helping.

Monica put the blanket on him. He launched. Big Man launching leaves holes in the ground and puts a rabbit to shame. Unfortunately, he was so focused on the blanket that he launched straight into me. I took his shoulder to the torso, and he landed square on my left foot. And I will love him forever, because he immediately forgot the blanket, realized he’d run over one of his humans, and shifted his weight right off. My foot is barely bruised!

However, a lot more dancing was required that evening. Monday was one of those days that is simultaneously immensely gratifying and downright frustrating! He spooked at the basics, but we got a cinch around his girth, over a blanket. We started the basics of lunging him, he went in circles we weren’t asking for. He was completely engaged and listening, but still hauls off at every movement. Because there were three of us, and he is a lot stronger now, I spent a lot of time trying to keep him from running a human, the trailer, the tree, the saddle, the kid, the dog or the next county over. Trust me, that’s one place I’m a good dancer!

And he made up for that when he put his nose against the side of my neck and nuzzled ever so gently. I trust very few horses to do that, and a lot of them won’t do it. He rested his muzzle on my shoulder for a moment, and the feeling of a gentle horse’s breath is one of the most heart-comforting things in the world.

On another note, he’s lost a lot of his ragged look, and the change is startling. He’s always been handsome, but now he has no resemblance to a grade horse. Monica and I think he’s probably half quarter-horse, half Arab. He certainly has the movement, face, curved ears and general shape of an Arab, but on a slightly larger scale that usually means Quarter Horse. He also has the insane curiosity, playfulness and temper that the Arabs of my experience have. Whatever the blood, he’s a show horse.

And he’s going to be ok. It’s still a long, hard road, but the starving, terrified, abused stallion who suffered about the worst any human could hand to him is going to be ok.

I couldn’t ask for more.

Duel: Last Legs

Posted in fifthwind forums, Freewrite, horses with tags , , on September 22, 2009 by Jaym Gates

A long time ago, we had a duel over at Fifthwind Forums. The theme was ‘Last Legs’. Now, back then, I had some aspirations of figuring out how to write humor. Please note that I no longer hold with such pipe dreams.

Last Legs

“DAMN!! Ok, this really sucks. I spend 1000 gold on you, after the “expert” told me you were the strongest, fastest, most enduring animal in the world. Oh no, your journey won’t be a problem, he could run for a hundred miles! And what do I get? Less than a third of the way into my trip, and the bloody beast is staggering and WHIMPERING!! How the bloody mother of hell does a horse whimper?!? The expert left out the fact that you were trained in theatrical arts as well. Beast could make a living on his acting skills. I mean come on, he CAN’T be dying, not yet! He should hardly be warmed up! Ok, so I don’t know much about horses, but really now, this is just excessively pathetic. I could have walked faster than we are going. No, oh no you don’t! You are not collapsing! I paid a thousand gold coin for you, you can walk a few more steps! I’ve got to get to Flamen this week! And I am NOT leaving you here in the middle of this luscious green cow pasture. I want my money back, and I’m sure with your talents, you would get yourself gored by some two month old heifer! Damn you, WALK! Ok, fine, just lie down. Don’t go anywhere. Die on me. Sure, you are absolutely on your last legs. I understand. But the merchant is taking you back if I have to shove you down his throat! He’s fat enough to do that actually. Well, I’m not leaving you here…”

With that, the man dismounted, removed the bridle and trudged toward town. The horse snorted, looking down at the slowly moving ground. This had worked out pretty well! He reached out and grabbed a mouthful of grass, staring at the milepost announcing that Flamen was two miles away.

“Hey! I’m not carrying you so that you can eat and get heavier!”

Ouch, ow and owie

Posted in horses, Personal Life on September 22, 2009 by Jaym Gates

I don’t know how I’ve stayed on my feet the past few weeks, but if I make it through September, I can make it through anything.

I’ve done 2 over-nighters this last week. 1 for work. 1 for fun and getting lost. A tip from one with experience? Never, NEVER try and navigate South Carolina when you are on the other side of exhausted. Just a bad, bad idea.

I finally made it back out to work with Blind Man today. I’ll talk about it more tomorrow, but for now… There are some days when you just have to remember how much progress you actually HAVE made. The Man got his halter off last week, so almost an hour was spent bribing, chasing, and finally, sweet-talking the hell out of him. Let me tell you, being completely relaxed is a bloody hard task! He’s sensitive enough to pick up on the slightest tense.

Anyways, we took it a little easier with him today. ‘Easier’, however, left my already sore body with some more dents. The Ducati was a gentle mistress compared to the stallion.

Tally: strained wrists, knee, shoulder, back. Stomped foot that is now aching. Multiple body-slams. Shoulder wrenches.

Basically, he launches, and lord help me if being the 150 pound anchor of a 1000 pound animal isn’t a humbling feeling. Especially when said animal lands on your foot.

Oh well. Working with him is one of the most exhilarating feelings there is. Bar none.