Monday, September 20, 2010

When it's good, it's really good, and when it's bad I go to pieces

One day last week my son fed the horses in the late afternoon before I got home from work so that I could ride in the evening. Usually, when I get home 6:30ish they are so hungry that all I can do is feed them. Thursday night however, they were finishing up their dinner when I came home. I quickly changed clothes and went out to the barn.

I haltered and led Yalla! out of the arena and tied her up to a post outside the barn while I groomed and saddled Scout inside the barn. I figured it would be good training for her to grow a little patience; outside, alone. Lately, she has turned into such a little devil. She is going through the  'terrible yearlings' or something. I realize that a lot of it has to do with her doting "alpha" mother and her inherited herd position but I'm wondering what to do about it? She terrorizes Nadia and bullies Scout, kicking out at them whenever she is displeased or feeling extra feisty. And she's doing it to me too. She is still very friendly, although she may be a bit too forward, always pushing in if I am petting and talking to the other horses. She loves to be hugged and rubbed all over but I am always wary of her. Actually, I think one should never let their guard down around a young horse because they are so unpredictable. Sometimes, she gets a whim and takes off, kicking out as she goes. She's even kicked out at me. I try to always keep something in my hands now when I go in to her because I don't want her to accidentally kick me. She only kicks out randomly, and I don't think she intends to hurt me, but it can get dangerous. I have read that a yearling often goes through this stage of testing her dominance over others. Unfortunately, I can't seem to "get her" to put her in her place because I never have the crop in my hands when she chooses to do it. I can see it in her eyes when she is going to kick out as she wheels around but usually there's not enough warning to stop her when I'm trying to get out of her way. I yell at her and if I could I'd whip her, but I don't want to be directly behind her at the time. I really hope it's a passing phase and she outgrows it soon but I wonder what I can do. She only does this when she's loose and it's so random that I really can't prepare and prevent it.

Okay. so anyway, I think I need to give her attitude adjustment and show her that I can control her. That's one of the reasons why I chose to tie her up away from everybody else. She pawed a bit and wheeled back and forth a few times but she is also learning to stand quietly. I want her to be able to tie up easily.

Any other ideas?

When Scout was ready to go, I put Yalla! back out into the arena with Annie. Then I mounted Scout and we rode out through the gate to the field behind my house. Sandy was hanging around the barn with me and she came along when we rode out. I was half expecting a really bad ride because Scout has been getting very buddy sour this past summer. He gets anxious and neighs back to the girls when I ride him out and he becomes very unpredictable. On this night however, he was a perfect gentleman. Maybe it was because Sandy was company, or he was feeling well fed. I had run all the horses earlier, before I saddled up so, on a whim, figuring he was already warmed up, I broke all my rules about warming up for ten minutes, and just trotted and cantered out from the field next to the barn. Maybe that actually calmed him down. Then we walked and walked and sometimes I'd ask for a trot or a canter. He responded well and then easily settled down to his nice, fast paced, 'trails' walk. Usually, he has to hustle to keep up with Nadia so he's learned to pick up the pace a bit.

 I don't know why he was so good, but it was wonderful. We could hear the girls back at the barn calling to us, er, him. He'd prick his ears and just walk along pleasantly; relaxed and quiet. Sandy would run to keep up and then take off after a rabbit. Then she'd come tearing back through the brush to us and he'd give a little half-hearted spook. Sandy sometimes followed right at Scout's heels and once she was out front about ten feet and stopped. We almost ran her over. It was great fun to go riding with my horse and my dog again. Many years ago, I would ride with my Dalmatian, Cassidy, another stray that adopted us, running along beside, in front, or behind the horse and I.

I didn't have my camera along so, alas, no pictures. We rode around the back forty until dark, a good hour or so, going down all the side roads back and forth. There's actually one very large field with trees, and two side roads so that we could switch directions and reroute without backtracking. Not once did Scout get antsy or want to hurry back to the barn although Sandy was acting rather winded after we trotted and cantered.

I brought Scout back to the barn and unsaddled him. Then I brushed him down - no sweat- and noticed how he was shedding some of the new hair he's been growing. It's cold at night here already. Then I gave all the horses some treats and turned him out with the others. All in all, it was a very good night.

When it's good, it's really good, and when it's bad I go to pieces - song: Candidate, artist: David Bowie, album: Diamond Dogs


fernvalley01 said...

Sounds like a wonderful ride. With Yalla don't be afraid to pop her on the but with your crop and "squeal"/ yell at her (if you need too) she is treating you like she is alpha to you , so show her she isn't . A hand clap or a sharp NO! followed by a slap on the but won't do her a lick of harm

Paint Girl said...

Glad you had a good ride!
Chance has done that dominance thing with me when she is loose in her pasture. I get after her and make sure it is known that I am the dominant one. She has never tried to kick me though. She just has come up to me trying to "play". I don't allow that. It takes a bit of work but you will get Yalla! to learn that you are the boss!

Leah Fry said...

Thanks for the baby warning. I'll definitely take that one to heart because of the size Daltrey promises to be. The last thing I need is to be kicked by a weanling that's almost as tall as my Appy.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Yeah, I'd love to pop her one as she runs off but I never have the whip in hand. I have no qualms about the thirty second rule when my life is in danger except that it could cause a bigger kick reaction so the timing needs to be right.

Her mother was a real kicker when we first got her. She kicked all the other horses all the time. She even kicked me once. Now I trust her completely.

I wonder if this is an inherited trait? I don't remember Scout ever kicking out. But even as a tiny foal Yalla! had a "buck button" on the top of her rump. Every time we touched it she'd give a little buck. It was cute then. Hopefully, Yalla! will outgrow this and soon.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

I might just try that hand clapping idea. I do yell. Hmmm, maybe I'll dig out my leather bat. I used to use it for barrel racing. It's two pieces of flat leather sewn together partways down so when you hit it makes noise and feels like a slap. Not nearly as harsh as a crop and it's easy to carry.

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

Val, I know it's hard to find time given your schedule, but I think you need to work alone with Yallah as often as you can. Take her out in the arena or for walks, just the two of you. Make her move her feet often, back her up, move her hindquarters -- anything that establishes you in her mind as the alpha mare. You can't dictate what she does with the other horses - herd dynamics usually takes care of that - but she needs to learn quickly that whenever you're around she's always number two.

Just my two cents. Good luck.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Yalla sounds like a pistol. I'm sure you'll get her behaving soon. The sound of a whip on the ground(longeing whips are good) could help too.

Glad you had a great ride.Love this weather.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Isn't it nice when you can get in a good relaxing ride? Love those days.

Yes, I have noticed that kicking can be genetic. But we have never had any problems getting them over their genetic instinct to kick out.

Sydney_bitless said...

I've dealt with horses like this what Yalla! has is called a false sense of dominance. Older horses let the babies crawl and kick and bite and jump all over them because well, they are babies. Much like an adult that would let a kid joke around and fake punch them but would put a person their own age in their place.
If you look at it from a horses POV they normally don't make contact unless the other horse did not heed previous warnings. I find giving them a few "come to me jesus" moments are useful. For instance when they do something like that I would holler, bang, clap and make threatening quick movements in their direction. Anything to startle the crap out of them and associate that with the bad behaviour. Our 2 year old had a bad habit of crowding your space. Shes a complete sweetheart and never once offered to kick or bite but she will try and crawl into your lap. The other day after I was done riding her I was talking to the neighbor over the round pen fence and she pushed me right into the rail. I got after her in a second, waving my arms and shaking the lead wile yelling and she shot backwards so quick, not expecting that because normally I didn't correct her like I should have. She tried it once more and I did the same thing with the same response from her but this time she stayed back a few feet. It's time for her to go to school and theres no more pocket foal allowed because shes a big girl, I dont need 900 pounds of big girl squashing me or stepping on my toes.

achieve1dream said...

Sounds like a fun and relaxing ride. Glad you had fun.

I'm surprised Yalla is acting that way although I shouldn't be. Chrome tests me sometimes, but not as bad as she is. Mares may be worse than stallions/geldings. I have noticed though when Chrome tries to initiate a game of bitey face with me and I tell him no he runs to Zep and terrorizes him instead LOL! I've also read somewhere that colts bite and fillies kick, which comparing our two appears to be true. :) Chrome has gotten pushy lately. He'll sometimes try to turn around and hits me with his butt. I just started popping him with the rope and he doesn't do that anymore. Maybe you could try yielding exercises? To help teach her to keep her butt away from you. Like Clinton Anderson says, reward two eyes and do ground work for two heels until you get two eyes or something like that. I can't remember lol. If I think of anything else I'll let you know!

Breathe said...

We are having similar issues with the baby at our barn. I don't go in his paddock area without a crop any more because he's pretty rambunctious.

The ride sounds fantastic! I wonder if a dog would be enough to give him confidence or if he was just glad to get away from Yalla! LOL

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Thanks for all the great advice. I will certainly look into Clinton Anderson's yielding exercises and also work on leading her around by herself.

I was in a store the other day and this woman was holding a young baby. She let the baby pull her Daddy's hair and he just turned around and smiled at her. And then the baby began poking and pushing on her mother's face. The mother just smiled and took it. I was amazed to see what they were teaching their child.

Just like I keep telling the horses to fight back and not indulge Yalla! anymore. She's growing up a brat!