Saturday, June 26, 2010

Too tense to be undone

I was out in the field the other day, visiting my horses as they grazed, when I decided to ride Scout. I put his bridle on and climbed up, using the nearby gate as a mounting block. I'm just not limber enough to jump up and climb on anymore like I used to and I worry too much about re-injuring my knee.

I used to ride Scout around the field last summer and Nadia would follow us. Or I'd ride Nadia and Scout would follow. Anyway, once I was on Scout's back, Annie decided it was time to take off running away from us, down the field. Sometimes I think she does this as a test- "who's with me?"

Nadia and Yalla! took off after her and Scout became panicked as they disappeared out of view. He danced and wheeled and I was seriously worried about getting unseated. However, I had to wait until he stood still to safely get off... What a predicament! I decided right then and there that he was a spoiled brat and far too herdbound to be safe. Anyway, he stopped to listen for them and I dismounted quickly to the side. Then the girls came running back.

I was angry and walked Scout out of the field and back to the barn leaving the other horses behind. He was stressed and neighed and neighed while Yalla! and Annie neighed back. I decided that I couldn't leave them separated overnight, as much as I wanted to, because the neighbors wouldn't want to hear horse screams all night long, so I waited a couple of hours and brought the girls in.

The next morning, I took Annie and Yalla! out to the field and left Scout and Nadia in the barn. Even though Scout had Nadia and the neighbor horses with him he ran around and screamed endlessly for Annie and Yalla! who ran up and down the field calling back to him. I had to go to work but my daughter took Scout and Nadia out to the field a few hours later. That evening, I went out to visit some really tired horses. Of course, you'd never know it the way they came running over to me. Shame on my daughter for leaving Nadia's and Scout's halters on! She certainly knows better.
And Yalla! had obviously run through a couple of cactus plants. This is her knee. Three of her legs looked like this. Sorry for the blurry photo; she wouldn't stand still. I pulled out one of the thorns from her leg and it spurted and dripped blood. WOW! I couldn't believe how much a little cactus thorn hole bled!

I figured that I'd better get them to the barn before I pulled any more cactus thorns out so that I could dose it with some Wound Kote to cauterize it and stop the bleeding if I needed to. I walked them all in together down the little lane and through the field behind my barn. We've met dogs, campers, and dumpsters on our little walks to and from the barn. Annie walks very lightly on a lead and Scout and Nadia follow behind or off to the sides. I keep Yalla! also on a short lead but she is learning to walk more and more easily. I am always aware of where everybody is and I try to keep Scout and Nadia to the outside with Annie and Yalla! at each arm's length. Everybody walks quite calmly and the only trouble I really have is when we stop (everybody gets tangled up) to open and close gates. Also, Yalla! got rather fidgety once when one of the long lead ropes (Scout or Nadia) got under her tail by accident. And every once in a while, Annie will close in on me and step into my heel by accident, I think I have a nice little bruise forming on the back side of my ankle, because there is one place just outside of the barnyard where Annie and Yalla! don't like my parked flat trailer and sidestepped me.

I always find it interesting how calm my horses get when we walk. Arabians lead like lambs and ride like lions. Someone told me that once and I think it is true. Although, in shows, they get all hyped up. I think they like to act crazy because that is what the crowd wants. My Annie was always extremely calm and well behaved when I took her to the vet's office repeatedly for her breeding a few years ago, even though she'd never been away from the barn previously and it was all strange to her. I remember leading my Thoroughbred mare years ago and it was like a freight train when she wanted to go someplace, walking with my elbow in the shoulder and pulling back on the lead. My Paint, Dude, could yank the lead out of my hands. And yet, Annie can come running up to me at full speed with her head up and then she just drops it when the halter goes on. Shahreen, my half Arabian was just like that. Nadia ponies and leads with almost no control needed. Even Yalla! is fairly light on the lead although she needs to learn "whoa" a little better.

When I walk the four of them together, I feel like the herdmaster. I can even stop them all when I want to, along the way. Scout steals mouthfuls of grass and weeds where he can, but he is willing to pick his head up and keep the pace rather than fighting to graze. See, even he is easy to lead with the Arabian blood, although he needs more active direction, from that Appy and Paint blood.

Anyway, since the horses were tired and I was not happy about Scout's herd anxiety behavior, I decided to ride him. I saddled him up and we rode over to the pasture. I got off at the water pump and intended to take the hose across the lane to fill the water tank when he got all jittery again, not because of the hose, but because he was away from his companions. I nixed the watering plan and tried to get on him. He wouldn't stand still. The neighbor was out walking his dog down the road and as he approached us he picked up the dog. I thanked him and proceeded to turn Scout around in circles until we were both dizzy. Then, when he stood still for a second, I climbed into the stirrup and jumped up quickly. Scout settled a bit and we rode around. He neighed once, back at Yalla!'s constant calling and then seemed to finally remember his manners. For the whole rest of the ride, he kept his mouth shut. We had a really nice ride through all the neighborhood lanes as the sun set and the moon rose. He walked calmly at a nice clip (not too slow or fast) with his head down even though I could feel he was still a little tense. We even trotted and cantered a little. I enjoy riding Scout because he is always alert but he is usually well behaved, like when the turkeys suddenly gobbled as we walked past and he never even flinched. We rode long after the sun went down but the moon was so bright there were shadows on the ground. It was almost 10PM when I finally went inside for the night after settling the horses down for the night.

I am going to keep on working at his herd anxiety because he demonstrates extremely risky behavior at times. I realize that if I ever plan on going trail riding with him, I need to teach him to be a loner. I have spoiled him in recent years by ponying Nadia along with us.

In parting- here's my little whirlwind. Since she has been turned out to pasture for the last couple of weeks, I've noticed that she seems to have grown. She is shed out now and muscling up nicely. She shows lots of spirit and loves to run the long field, still doing circles and figure eights around everybody. It must be her daddy's working cow horse genes ;). She has a wonderful shine to her black/brown coat and her everchanging star on her forehead is now looking more and more like an "f' again, even though I just told my mom I thought it looked more like a feather plume and less like an "f". It's so covered up by her thick forelock it really doesn't matter, I guess. She is also going to school these days. More on that later...

Too tense to be undone - song: Get Real, artist: David Bowie


Shirley said...

There's no doubt that horses do require a lot of maintenance. I need to work on Velvet's manners, I always lead her with Chickory when I take them to and from pasture. She is improving, and she's so big it's hard to think of her as still a baby; she's only a yearling.
Yalla! is going to be a lovely horse, that last photo is really cute.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

We go through the same thing with our horses getting buddied up.

The worst one we have ever had is Megan's Strawberry. He got attached to a mare I had and we absolutely could not take both of them to the same show. It was guaranteed poor Meg would have a miserable time trying to show him if that mare was there.

The rest may call a couple of times but eventually settle in-either at home or at shows. But I am much more conciencious of moving everyone around and turning different horses together if there is the slightest indication that someone is getting unreasonably buddied up.

Good luck getting Scout back on track. It can be frustrating.

Leah Fry said...

Oh man, I hear ya on the her bound crap. I used to only get it from Poco, but lately Jaz has even started it. I speak sternly when the one I'm riding starts yelling. The other one can yell his fool head off, but when we're riding, I expect him to focus on me.

I'm surprised they carry on like that when you have other horses. I always expected that mine would be okay if only they weren't alone, but I guess they have their favorites, too.

fernvalley01 said...

Those cactus thorns look like porcupine quills almost ! Poor Yalla

fernvalley01 said...

Herd bound behavior can really suck. good on you to get working him before it gets worse

Anonymous said...

Herd boundness can be very scary. When a horse is herd bound, I think they're not being bad, they just are overwhelmed by the emotions of being separated from the herd and act out those emotions - they can't help it. It takes a lot of careful work to get them so they can safely come and go from the herd and keep their attention on you. Take care of yourself, and take it slowly.

Jocelyn said...

I agree herd bound behavior is very dangerous. Star an act like a ninny sometimes, but not nearly as bad as she used to be.

I get scared when she starts because once she starts she is a hellion.

Good fo ryou fo rnipping it in the bud and keeping yourself safe.

Dunappy said...

I'm really glad at the moment none of my riding horses have a herd bound issue. Ladybug is by far the easiest as she is already an outsider in the herd and she doesn't mind at all leaving her buddies behind. Baby girl is not doing so bad either with leaving the herd.

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

There's no question that Morgunn and Sugar are herd bound. But, I guess that's a common problem with a lot of horses.


CTG Ponies said...

Sounds like a good ride, after some chaos. Those cactus thorns look nasty.

allhorsestuff said...

Isn't it a shock..when it reappears again.. just when you thought you'd be okay to ride in on Scout!

Yea, Last year..I was unseated quite a few times-due to the ugly nature of this "Herd bound" issue. I'd never really experienced it before. My mare was always boarded alone and only had her stall mate, never a pasture mate.

Leading her..when she is uppity and "Freight Train like"...I carry a crop...or if not I grap a longer branch or goes behind my back, as I walk. I say, "Easy" a couple I flick it..if my mare is close enough to get flicked in the becomes her I have laid out the ground rules.
It seems to work with repetition, of course..every time I get off..then, the times I have nothing...I slightly-giggle the reins or lead rope,saying "Easy", and that suffices.

You will always have something to practice..with one horse or always with a herd, as you do have!!!
Have fun!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Yes. I heard him. He screamed pretty much all day, louder than the bray of a donkey. lol! Didn't bother me any, though.

Funny thing is that I went up to check on Etta Bay and Apache in the early afternoon and they were standing along the fence beside Nadia's pen, watching Scout make a fool out of himself. Here he had three ladies to flirt with and keep him company, especially Nadia, his buddy, and he couldn't stop screaming for Annie and Yalla!.
Nadia is a good girl, like always and didn't once call out for your herd when they were all out in the field last week either.

I don't allow Apache to get away with screaming for other horses when I'm on her back. I think it's disrespectful and shows a horse isn't solely paying attention to you. The few times she's tried to neigh to other horses while I've ridden her, I firmly tell her "No, cut that out!".

After I tell her that talking to other horses while I'm riding her is not allowed, she doesn't call out for the other horses again.

Good luck.


achieve1dream said...

Naughty Scout! Glad he settled down for his ride.

Poor Yalla. I couldn't imagine having those cactus needles in my legs. Yikes! I can't wait to hear about her schooling and to see more pictures. I'm looking forward to turning Chrome out on the forty acres so he can run and get in shape too. :)