Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
i got home just in time to teach my afternoon riding lessons. So having caught grey girl,in record time, i decided to bring her to the barn for the afternoon. It was her turn to watch the comings and goings inside the stables. Like i said in my last blog. As long as you show them there nothing to be afraid of, they don't learn that they should be fearful. So it was with the girl, i left her loose in her stable and allowed her just to watch the kids running around the place and the lesson ponies coming and going. She stood right back in the corner of her stall, but ears pricked watching the whole thing. No big deal. I didn't act scared the other horses were happy and relaxed. Grey girl accepted that this situation wasn't dangerous. by the end of the day she had her head hanging over the stable door, children running almost right under, or into her nose at times.
I let the lesson kids be kids, they run, jump make loud noises, and the horses just learn that this is no big deal. Rather than try and teach the kids to be quiet and calm. the wild horses just learn that this activity is just as ordinary as anything else in life. Although the kids are forbade from actually approaching the horses or feeding them tit-bits at the end like they do with the lesson ponys. Grey, allowed her time to watch and assess the situation took her time but was definitely perfectly calm with it all in the end. You just got to let them take the time it takes.
Bay boy was desperate to get to his stable after riding lessons had finished. Waiting for me at gate as soon as he saw i was coming to get him. How quickly they come to enjoy there 'creature comforts'. Shelter, warmth and food they don't have to forage for. He seems to love it and grows physically as well getting more and more calm and confident every day. While i was in the city, i happened to read a article about article about teaching a horse tricks.....maybe this will be what i do with the boy until he old enough to actually be ridden? who knows..im home and i feel inspired to try new things and keep up training these little wild things.
Monday, June 28, 2010
It a 3 hour drive to the city, so i had plenty of time to think on the drive down. A few people i have talked to over the past days, have asked me about the worming of the horses. Asking if i had to twitch them? did it take a man to hold them while i administered the medicine? were they scared of me after? No, no and no. Horses are pretty simple creatures, i think really they only become fearful of what humans (usually inadvertently) teach them to be afraid of. The wild ones had never been wormed before, they didn't know what a tube of worm medicine was, or to be afraid of it, having had no prior experience. They're not afraid of it now. It is how humans as their trainers react that teaches a horse what it should be afraid of.
So to worm them i just got the tube, and first just rubbed it over their body and face. When they were happy with the bright green tube touching them. i put the tube in there mouth and took it out a gain as soon as they accepted it. did this a couple of times and then as just squirted the medicine down there throats. No problem, no reaction at all accept to swallow the paste in their mouth. then went back to rubbing the green tube all over there face. So that there last experience with it wasn't associated with getting fowl tasting paste in their mouth. If i had just walked up shoved a tube full of foul tasting paste down there throats and left again then yes, next time they probably wouldn't have fond memories of the worming experience for next time.
I had a Friend who wanted to worm her weanling. So the first thing she did was put a twitch on it. A twitch if you don't know is usually a loop of string attached to a stick. The string is then twisted around the horses upper lip. Its painful with idea that the horse will stand still as to stop the twitch from inflicting more pain. she did this every time she wormed her horse until after about 6 months she couldn't get near it when she was holding the tube of worming paste. All the horse had remembered was that when that tube of worm er was around, his lip got twisted in a painful way. So in his mind he wouldn't let anyone with that tell tale little tube near him because he associated it with pain . So he reared,kicked, ran or did anything he could to get away from the person come to worm him. The sad thing was is that she would never had these trouble if she just taken the time to make it a good experience in the first place. Even sadder the girl couldn't work out why her horse had such an aversion to being wormed....
I have a about a million examples of people doing things like this....If you just take the time to teach them things are'nt scary then horse wont ever find them frightening.....its only ever what we teach them
Friday, June 25, 2010
So the 2 wild ponies were both drenched in the last two days. Which they both handled with ease. In fact they seemed to like the worm medicine far more than any of the horse feed presented to them! Now came the fun job of checking to see just what worms came out.
I've herd that the wild horses carry a very high worm load. You know the ads for sponsoring a starving child in Africa? they show those skeletal looking children with the same bloated, pot bellied look as these two ponies have. But seeing the evidence in front of you is a very different thing than hearing about it. For the 24 hours since worming i have been doing the highly glamorous job of prodding each poo produced to see what worms were in it.
Answer...Hundreds and hundreds of dead worms....i was stunned... i knew there would be worms....but not in this quantity. All different types too. And there still coming poo after poo filled with dead, disgusting parasites. But both horses are already starting to lose that big pot bellied look so that's a bonus. i think my next month they will be much healthier and fatter looking animals.
And this afternoon after prodding what felt like the hundredth horse poo with a stick...i thought...maybe i have been on the farm to long, Ive been starring at piles of shit all day. so tonight i chucked a dress and my high heels on and went out to dinner. sometimes you gotta make sure you haven't lost the plot completely......i am normal... promise
Thursday, June 24, 2010
I know when i was working in a dressage barn learning myself , and trying to train my horse as well. It seemed like i was always at the same level all the time. You were always pushing for that next little step forward in your training, always trying to be better. I would always feel like i was never actually any closer to the end goal. Then one day my mother came to watch, for the first time in about 6 months. She couldn't believe how far id come. she Was stunned at the level my horse and i were now at. It was only then that i realized id come a hell of a long way in a short time. That id improved meteorically.The work i had struggled with 6 months ago, i now sailed through and now what i was working on was miles more advanced. I think that day to day improvements are sometimes so subtle, you take them for granted. You never notice really how far you've come until you look back.
So with the wild horses it is the same. Day to day there is improvement. You realise your making progress. But is only as i sit and write this that i realise how far my two wild ponies and i have come. three weeks ago they were wild, skinny and untouchable. 3 hours ago i was relaxing and leaning against the grey as she grazed down the driveway. I can now pat her all over, legs and head included. She can be lunged (go in a circle for the non-horsey people), she knows all the ground manners and each morning shes waiting at the gate to be caught. Shes even be drenched for worms. funnily enough she didn't mind that, horse feed though still doesn't even register interest.
The bay boy, is the absolute picture of sweetness these days. Like the girl he can be patted all over, he knows all his ground manners and like her has been drenched for worms and also still wont touch horse feed. The boy though seems to have fully embraced domestic bliss. If I'm ever there in the paddock, filling troughs etc, there he is a step behind me watcthing everything. when i let him loose in the morning he follows me down the fence until he hits the end of the paddock. The funniest as well as the sweetest of all, today was watching him investigating the electric fencing unit. Until the inevitable happened and he got a shock, at which stage he came back to me at full speed and stood at my side snorting at the thing that had shocked him. From then on he was stuck to me like glue until i left the paddock.
So really even though progress from day to day is very small steps, overall my two wild ponies have come a long way. I cant actually believe that it was less than a month ago that they arrived and you couldn't get near them. Sometimes you just have to look back to realise how far you've come...I cant wait to be looking back from even further down the track to see how much more we have progressed...
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The boy was in stables yesterday while all the lesson kids came for horse riding. He just stood calmly in the corner and watched everything that went on. Seemingly fascinated by everything he saw. They both continue to amaze me with their ability to quietly take in everything goin on around them.
The girl, gets more interactive everyday. You can now pat her all over. More and more she chooses to come to me instead of me to her. Every night i spend 10 minutes grazing her on the driveway so she gets a bit of extra grass. Photos on last post are from yesterdays grazing.
Soon hopefully i can pick up there feet and brush them....it all take time though...
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Luckily i seem to being going OK (at the moment). Yesterday morning i had a break through with the grey girl and today step by small step we continued making progress. The girl i catch everyday and tie her under a tree near the barn. Where she gets a hay net to eat all day, as well as watching the comings and goings of all the other horses.
usally each morning it takes a few minutes to get her relaxed enough with me, to catch her again. Although each day it's been taking a little bit less time. Baby steps. yesterday though i went into the paddock and was just doing some maintenance, fixing bits of fence and checking water troughs. The Grey just started following a few metres behind, around the paddock. This is the first time shes chosen to interact with me, usually i have to go to her. I had my back to her and just kept wandering around the paddock. She just following. until finally she was right behind me. I could feel her sniffing up and down the back of my jacket, just checking me out.
After a while when i could tell she was comfortable and wasn't checking me out anymore. i slowly turned around and there she was not a foot away, just watching me. From their it was easy to catch her ....
Baby steps, you have to let them get used to one thing at a time. First they have to get used to you at the end of the rope (8ft). That is the very first little step. Both of the horses were happy with that by the time i brought them home. then it is the next few trembling steps to teach them to move away, come towards you, back up and respond to pressure on the rope. Its never as easy as 'now you got a rope on it you can just mach right up to them'. But they are getting there. Funny thing is that once you can teach them how to move away from you, what your body language means, that is when they start wanting to come to you.
today another little baby step of progress. I'm getting that little bit closer. Grey has always been less interested in me, as well as a lot more cautious. although i can catch her until the last few days i still couldn't get to close, unless she came to me.
Today though i can rub her head and down her neck. But its tiny steps of progress that get you there. Every time i put my hand near her head she would move away and move away never really wanting to check it out or let it near her. so i just kept it near her. the moment she stopped moving away and accepted my hand near her, i dropped my hand. I repeated this process until she wouldn't move away. This way she learned it was no big deal, the hand near her didn't cause any harm, and as soon as she accepted it the hand left. Same process until i could touch her face. then neck. it is these time baby steps that you have to take that will turn her into a good happy horse. From the tiny step of letting my hand near she became comfortable enough to let me actually touch her neck and face.
Baby steps are the key, i never would have gotten to touch the grey at all. If id just walked straight up and tried to touch her, she would probably think i was a predator trying to kill her. It is those tiny baby steps that send you on the way to running.....you cant walk before you can crawl.
Friday, June 18, 2010
But what about between species? Everything changes again, but to some extent most of us can kind of understand the very basics. Think of a dog you can tell when hes happy, sad, hungry or aggressive. Dogs though, share a lot of similarities with ourselves. They are hunters, to some extent foragers, they work in packs, and they form very strong emotional bonds to whoever is in their pack (human or dog). Also like us they are usually apex predators at the top of the food chain. But what about horses? They are prey animals. They are in herds, but there is no herd effort to locate food like with dogs hunting. They re evolved to b ready to run from threats always be aware of the slightest change in their environment. If whatever is scary to them is within range they kick bite then get out the area They are not at the top of the food chain. They are so so different from us. Can we as apex predators, at the very top of the food chain ever relate to another species that is prey? How many people who own, love or work with horses even try? How many 'horse people' even understand or try? Yet we want these animal to do our every request, even carry us on their backs and hand their complete control over to us.
As long as your willing to try and learn to communicate in a language they know, horses can be the best pupils. They are easy to train. As long as your aware of what your training them to do. Their are some fabulous horse trainers in this world who can get horses to do amazing things. But both horse and people have to learn to speak the same language first.
So after our little quarrel over who was top horse so to speak, my little bay boy has been an
angel. The very next morning, getting him out of his stable he was nothing but submissive in his body language. Now with that little hurdle out of the way he's progressing in leaps and bounds. This is where it starts to get exciting. Ten days ago he was as wild as they come. Now we are starting to talk the same language. He's not domesticate yet but he's well on the way. You can run your hand all over him. He will move anyway you ask and his eyes never leave you. Were both starting to speak the same language, but neither of ever say a word.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
So had a bit of plan B failure on Monday. The original plan was to have the bay boy in a paddock with my domestic boys. But because i didn't have two paddocks with wild horse proof fencing,and i was going to be away for the day. Thought that putting him in with the grey girl would be OK. I'd seen her boss him around in the stockyards. So thought he wouldn't get to cocky with her around.How wrong a person can be.
So yesterday morning i turned the boy loose in the paddock. The grey watching from the hill. i watched them for a while and whenever the boy got to close to the grey, or she didn't like what he was doing. He got a kick pretty fast. The boy was just behaving like any horse, nothing stallionish, so i went off to run errands, and do all the jobs around the farm that id been neglecting every since the wild ones got here.
How wrong you can be..So didnt get home til well after dark that night. i thought that I'd just leave the horses as they were. trying to bring the bay back to the barn in the dark didn't seem like a good idea. So he was left in the paddock with the girl. Plus i have heard of people putting young stallions in with already pregnant mare so that the mares knock some manners into them.
Yesterday morning when i went to catch the bay, i realised the error of my judgement. I've noticed over the last few days that the boy getting fatter and less hungry has been getting much bolder, while the mare less desperate for food is starting to exercise i bit more caution. As i walked over to the horses they both looked up, the girl just watching as normal. But the boy came marching over. As a horse person you become aware of a horse body language. He wasn't just coming to investigate he was coming over like he was going to threaten me..
Interesting, overnight the testosterone had kicked in.Gone was the church mouse timid little thing, now he was behaving like any male his age.. Think of young teenage boys where the get that swagger, get little bit cocky try to look like their real confident. A big show because they don't really know what to do yet. This was the impression i got from the boy as he came towards me. So he was marching up all cocky, which is fine but the moment he put his ears back in aggression instead of stepping back i waved my arms and yelled at him. And because it was all show, more of a test to see what he could get away with. he ran off as soon as i called his bluff.
So my next plan of attack, because i didn't really want to get into a battle with him, plus the paddock wasn't really the place to teach him some respect. I called in the reinforcements. In the form of milo the pony. Milo is a stout boy a bit bigger than the wild pony's. He's leader of the domestic boys, and had already shown little bay some authority in the stables. So he went into the paddock.
Horses are very good about personal space if there the dominant horse other horses just don't bother them. Little bay would definitely not have been anywhere near the top of the pecking order in the wild.Milo quickly sorted him out whenever little bay tryed to act like the protector of the grey and challenge Milo, He got kicked. Whenever he tried to chase Milo off the best grass, he got kicked. When ever he got in Milo's personal space, he got kicked. When ever he exhibited any behaviour that wasn't submissive, he was quickly set straight. But as long as his behaviour was in line he was left alone. Horses are simple, if their in each others space the less dominant gets told to move, but if their behaving they're not hasseled. black or white.
Anyway after a few hours with Milo, little bay was behaving himself again. So this time i went back into the paddock, this time carrying a little stick, just in case. This time though, he wasn't aggressive at all, having being stripped of his title of man of the paddock by Milo, he felt no need to threaten me. So catching him again was easy.
Soon as i had him again i decided it was definitely time to establish some ground rules. If you know what your doing horses are the easiest animals in the world to train ( but that's another blog). In no time at all he knew not just to follow when i pulled on the lead rope. But how to back up , how to turn his hind quarters away from me, how to going around me. All the little things that show him that I'm boss, so that he gets out of my way, not me out of his. This is all horses need they just want to know who's boss.
Next morning as i got him out of the stable he was back to his old sweet self and his big brown eyes followed me everywhere. Moral of story, boys will be boys and from now on little wild bay colts will have to behave with manners, and will not be allowed anywhere near girl horses.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
The grey girl is now happily eating grass in my paddock at home. I doubt whether shes lifted her head up from the paddock now even hours later, so happy was she she to be eating green stuff. This is probably the first real grass of her entire life. Having come from tussock and shrub covered plateau to stock yards and now finally a paddock with real grass.
Today i led her home from the stockyards (about 1km). No problems even though she had to pass through peacocks, chickens, a pack of 6 little yapping dogs which all rushed out at her from the neighbors, one of which bit me on the leg i might add, and a creek crossing. Which if you know horses is quite an acheivement even for one used to people.Nothing phased her. In fact the hardes part was getting her to take the first step out of the stockyards where she felt safe, into this strange new world. After that she never worried.although i let her take her time along the way, even coming across my 8 horses tied at the barn didn't worry her. as long as there was grass she was happy Just sticking her head down to eat any chance she got. finally loose in the paddock all she did was eat..
Although the whole experience was very quiet and settled the adrenalin rush for me was huge! In four days i have taken a completely wild horse caught her haltered her and had her following me happily and calmly. This a wild animal! Was just amazing to watch her accept everything..Saying this shes not tame yet, i can lead and get her to go where i want, but i still cant get to near her. Soon though and I'm sure she will accept me in her space..
A big thanks to Charlotte who came and helped me today and led my old arab home for the grey to follow. Having a someone else who also has great horsemanship and advice was invaluable help.
Its the boy's turn tomorrow..for me this just gets more exciting every day....
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Have been feeding them 3 times a day just going in and out of the pen getting them used to me. Letting them eat out of my hands so they associate me with food. Generally getting them used to having me around. This morning as they ate their hay i tryd just rubbing the brown boy on the bum...he didn't seem to mind to much flicking his ears back and forth in suspicion but then just carried on eating.
Have been worried about the conditions of the yards and keeping the horses in there for much longer. The yard itself is pretty small, being winter its also muddy. Not good for the horses health as its bad for their hooves to be constantly submerged in mud. So because of this i decided to crack on and see if i can get halters on these little guys so i can handle them and get them into better conditions....
So at lunch i went down to the yards. First things first, i needed to separate them. There was no way i wanted to deal with two horses in such a confined space. As this would probably lead to me being kicked to pieces.....definitely to be avoided. The yard narrows into a little box at one end so the idea was to separate them so i had room to work with one horse at the larger end while the other was locked away at the other. So after i separated them i just pushed a few of my jumping pole through and tied them in place. this took a couple of goes as the grey mare was super quick to duck under the pole when i didn't get them in soon enough. Was actually amazing to see how quickly she could get down and under a gap you would think far to low for her height!
Next i hoped down into the pen with the boy waited for him to settle. slowly i just started rubbing him with the stick i was carrying. Starting with his bum then along his back and finally up to his head until he was relaxed. Every time he accepted the stick touching him i would take it away for a few seconds, let him relax and think about it for a few seconds then go back to rubbing him. This seemed to work as pretty soon he was sniffing me and licking his lips, chewing and lowering his head ( a sign the horse is thinking things through and not just frozen in fear). Next step i just worked my way closer until he was happy with me near him, then started the process again of rubbing him all over this time with my hand. Once i got to his shoulder this seemed to be all he could handle so i backed off again and decided to leave him for the day.
So on to plan B, decided that the mare in the smaller pen would be an easier task to catch as she had less room to move around. But there was no way i was getting down in the pen with her as she was definitely one that would try in kick me to shreds (fair enough she is wild and has no reason to think I'm not some predator come to eat her). So with her i got a rope and just put it over her back until she was happy with that...then slipped it over her head. As fast as i could i secured the other end to a post and......zilch......she just stood there eyeballing me then licked her lips and relaxed...Huh....where was the rearing fighting and trying to escape????
So i tugged on the rope and she turned her head..i let go the rope and let her think...pulled on it again and got her to take a step and left her again. She seemed to take it all in her stride. So i tied the rope tight enough she couldn't rear over backwards or hurt herself and left her to get used to the rope with a bag full of hay for an hour. When i came back i started rubbing her neck then around her ears again taking my hand away each time she relaxed. finally she accepted my hand on her face so i slipped a halter on her and....nothing she pulled back a few steps til she hit the end of the rope..paused and came back to eating hay....Easiest job 'I've ever had putting a halter on a horse for the first time...
So far so good....tomorrow i will do the process all over again with the brown boy. Hopefully the grey will be quiet enough that i can get a halter on again and bring her home to a paddock so she can work on gaining weight and feeding that baby growing inside her.
Lastly hopefully this will be one of the only essay length blogs that i write...short and sweet from now on...
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
First thing this morning i drove down to deliver breakfast (hay) to my wild ponys.. Just to see what would happen i held a bunch of hay through the fence, expecting them not to come near until i dropped it and walked away. But low and behold the little grey girl walked right up and started eating out of my hand. The bay watched from a distance for a while before timidly coming up and having a sniff, then tucked in to the hay. Food conquers all. I think the stress of traveling and there general thinness, and the fact the mare is pregnant making her hungry has left them both with huge appetite. .
Just wanting to see how quiet or maybe hungry they really were i climbed the fence carrying hay and stood on the side of the pen with them. First they just watched from the corner and then the boy who had been so timid before, walked right up and started eating, even gave me a sniff up and down. The grey not so brave once she already had a bit of food in her belly watched for a while then cautiously came up and tucked in too.So they're happy to take any food they can get from any source. This is defiantly to my advantage, they are going to be a lot easier to handle if they come to me for food and get used to being around me. Rather than having to chase them around and around trying to just get near them
After a couple minutes i climbed out and left them to eat alone....
I'm stunned i didn't expect them to be bolting maniacs who were trying to kick the yards pieces or anything like that...but didn't expect them to be that quiet either.... I feel almost deflated that my wild ponys don't seem to be that wild...Although these could be famous last words...Maybe i shouldn't count my chickens before they hatch....Maybe i will wait until after i have a halter on them before i complain about how quiet they are...
O and i noticed as the boy ate out of my hand he has a tiny whit fleck on his forehead just hidden behind his forelock. He's not just brown after all. Yahh!
Monday, June 7, 2010
At 11am this morning 2 wild ponys staggered off a truck into my stockyards..bedraggeled and skinny and looking a little shell shocked by the hole experiance. But sensible and quiet. You cant get to close to them but they wer'nt flighty or fiesty. obviously living this long in the wild has given them a sense of self preservation and common sense that can sometimes be lacking in our domesticated animals...
Magically though the two stallions i was told i was getting on friday...turned into a two year old colt and a pregnant mare as they got off the truck today..This is a slight set back to my plan. I now have a mare thats halfway through her pregnacy. So until shes foaled, and her foal is old enough to be weaned theres not much i can do with her. Minimum of a year before any real training can start...
And a little bay colt that cant be much over two. To young to do to much with for now. Tiny just a little pony at moment and timid as anything. Cute. But so skinny and malnurished. It really justifys the mustering and culling of the wild horses if they are in this condition.
But overall i love my two little ponys....So cute. the grey girl looks pretty brave and has 4 white socks and a blaze. The bay just plain and looks like a scared little mouse
so now i have my wild horses the project can really begin..
Saturday, June 5, 2010
luckily dad dropped by for a visit, saw my sorry state of things...and hired someone to come help me.....then mum took pity and helped dig post holes and drag gorse.....so ended up with lots of help and got lots done. yahhh!!
so by tomorrow i will have a real paddock with real fences that should hopefully be able to contain two real wild horses...
but for today i got hands that feel more filled with prickles than skin and am soaked to bone for hours. Not complaining though huge relief to finally have one paddock fixed and have help fixing yahhh
Friday, June 4, 2010
the plan is to fix it up in time for the two new arrivals....i still have a few days up my sleeve
# a few posts replaced
# a few post holes dug for the posts
# mutliple wires restrung
# fence battens replaced and restrung or whatever you do with fence battens
# electric outriggers on all fence posts...
# electric wires strung through outriggers
# electric fencing unit attached
i managed to attach about 15 outriggers...harder than thought to hammer theses into the top of posts...only about 30 more to go....
not beatn yet though i will have at least one paddock stallion proof in time for the arrival of my wild boys
Thursday, June 3, 2010
only a few days now...
and i realise that although they are getting delivered to my neighbors cattle yards this is very tempoary holding for them....
i have a farm with run down fences that struggle to even keep my domestic horses in. no wooden yards of my own to hold horses. no real horse training facilities whats so ever..... And 2 completely wild stallions arriving very soon
i may be out of my depth.....
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
In 4 days two never been touched wild stallions will be arriving at my farm. they will have been mustered by helicopter from the ranges where they run wild, chased into stock yards loaded onto cattle trucks and delivered around the country, including to my lonely stockyard a few hundred kilometres north from there home range
So the plan is to take a this wild horse that has spent his hole life running free and to train it to do highest level of dressage. To take a completely wild, completely untouched by humans,free, independent horse and to teach it the the most demanding and disciplined form of equestrian sports. Not to compete but to just challenge myself and see what i can train a horse to do willingly.
this is the wild horse project........