Sunday, June 21, 2009

Back to the horses

Things at the farm have really grown while I was gone to Isle Royale (which was really really awesome BTW, if you wanna hear about it, check out this link)

After I got back, I discovered that in 1 week, the grass around my flowers had totally shaded them out (because I wasn't picking it every day to give to Griffin). The garden, likewise, has really taken off. We even have radishes that are big enough to eat already! And the flies have also really taken off. I've never seen them so bad on horses eyes before. All three of my horses have red inflamed areas on the skin around their eyes. I got two fly masks today (two different brands), to see which fits better. I'll be returning the one and getting two more of the others tomorrow. I think they'll really appreciate that. It's been so hot and humid, and add the flies onto that and my horses are miserable. Even when we are out riding, the horse and deer flies are starting to get thick. I'm going to have to douse them in fly spray before I ride too. In Idaho, I very rarely used fly spray and they didn't need fly masks. Wisconsin might have lots of grass to make inexpensive hay, but it definitely has its downsides for horse ownership. Not only are there LOTS of bugs, but the grass is generally too rich and they all get fat, and it's pretty darn humid.

I have plans to ride with my distant cousin and my dad this weekend, so I'm trying to get my horses somewhat tuned up and in shape. I've been riding one and leading another to get two workouts in one. It's going well. Today, I lost my cell phone in the grass somewhere along my ride, so I had to take my third fresh horse out to backtrack and find my phone. Amazingly, I found it! Good thing it is red. It makes it more visible when I lose it.

So, Kachina and Griffin are doing great. They are both really settling down and neither is showing signs of being sick anymore. I think they've finally gotten over it! The quarantine thing still holds though, since she'll be shedding the bacteria for several more weeks yet. AND my horses never did get sick. Yay!

Today, I decided to try to work with Kachina. She will let me walk up and extend my hand for a sniff, but she won't let me touch her anywhere else. She'll jump if she accidentally touches my hand with her nose. So, I wanted to try the bamboo pole method with her, since I don't have a full size round pen to use. When I brought the pole into her pen, she immediately started racing around and around me. Finally, she slowed and then stopped and looked at me, but it took a while. All this time I was just standing in the center holding the pole straight up in the air. If I moved, then she'd start running all over again. She is absolutely scared to death of the pole. So finally, I tried to set it on her back. She crashed around almost going into the panels at first, but after a couple laps, she came off the fence, but was still racing crazily around the little pen area that she has, with me holding the pole on her back. She just kept running and running and running. She did eventually start to slow her trot (not really enough room in this pen to canter), but I think it was only because she was really becoming winded. She attempted to almost slow to a walk a few times, but she couldn't. She just kept going. Finally, I decided she'd had enough. I tried to step in front of her drive line and see if she'd stop, but all that really ended up happening is that she'd speed up to squirt by me. She'd been racing around for at least 20 minutes straight, was dripping sweat, and was not really showing any signs that she was going to stop, just that she was becoming fatigued, so I pulled the pole off her and just stood in the middle. She did a couple more laps, but then slammed on the breaks and stared at me. I let her puff for a while, then I put the pole away and just tried to approach her. She'll let me approach her and almost sniff my hand, but by this time, she was all nerved up, so she was quite jumpy if I did anything funny. So after she'd aired up, I just did some mini-round penning with her. I asked her to move off, then stop and look at me, let me approach and sniff my hand. But that was as far as she'd let me go. I want to touch her so bad, but she won't stand for it!

I'm not really sure exactly what to do next. Should I continue with the pole and hope that she'll get over her deathly fear of it? In Kitty Lauman's videos, the mustangs she worked with did not run nearly so much! They ran a little at first, but then they stopped! I don't think that Kachina was going to stop until her lungs gave out! Maybe I should do it a couple days in a row and see if she can handle it better.

Or maybe I should continue with the roundpenning techniques and just not scare her with the pole beforehand and then maybe she'll let me touch her? I know she's gonna love it when she finally realized that I can scratch all her itches (poor thing is still getting eaten by bugs).

It would be so nice to have a halter and lead rope on her right now, but I'm glad that we didn't have one put on her in the beginning. It just would have gotten so nasty with all the pus and mud it would have been dragging through.

I've also been thinking about the "squeeze chute" that Arlene is using with Echo. If all else fails, I'll see if I can't get my hands on her that way.


Anonymous said...

I think you'll get there with her, but it may take more time that with most horses - don't worry about how long any step takes, just keep working slowly and patiently and don't wear a watch! She's a pretty mare, but she' not very sure about people being safe yet. She also just may not be able to handle much pressure yet.

What would happen if you sat on a chair in the middle of the round pen and didn't do anything? Sometimes if you look like you're ignoring them, they will get curious and approach. In any event, she'd have a chance to get more used to you.

nikki said...

I think all of the methods you have mentiond could work. I would try each one and see which she seems to like/respond to best. I also like what you have been doing with the grass. Maybe you could try grain or grass in a bucket that hangs on the panel and approach her while she's eating.

Another thought is to try attaching more pannels to the outside of her pen to create a smaller pen to work with her in?

Andrea said...

I'd be tempted to forget about the bamboo pole, mostly because I don't like high-pressure gentling unless there's no other way. I'd try to get her to hook on instead. But either way would probably work if you stuck with it.

Looks like you had a great trip! What fun!

Pony Girl said...

One thing that is interesting is that although she might have been running, she doesn't look terrorized in in fear. I don't have enough experience with Mustangs to give you advice. I do think time will tell. And I hope the itchies stop soon!
I have a red phone, too!