Thursday, March 10, 2011

ahh the glamourous life

Urghh! i just got back from my one social outing of the year, and still in my party dress, changed the oil on the generator, in the dark. Started the motor, so i could get some electricity all the way to my house, and managed to finally turn my computer on, so i could have some connection to the civilised world, through this great invention called the Internet. After a long day of loading and unloading hay, worming horses, treating one very unhappy and large foal, then scrapping dried wormer out of my hair and skin at the end of theday, doing all those things that people don't envision, when you tell them you ride horses for a career.As much as i feel so privileged to be able to live the life i lead, its not all galloping your horse across wide open fields, with your hair blowing gracefully in the wind. Its hard slog most of the time, especially when you start getting involved in the breeding side of things, young horses are a lot more work than i think most people realise.

Its that time of year when all animals need drenching. We also have one foal (not the wild one), who unfortunately has had a hernia operation, which hasn't quite gone according to plan, requiring a bit more care than anticipated.Poor big sick foal, had to have her belly sprayed with iodine, and a antibiotic injection in her neck, neither is a pleasant procedure for her, and teaching her to stand somewhat still for it, is always a challenge, but it must be done. Again trying to hold a struggling, strong foal, as you try to spray her belly, is not what people envision when working with horses.

Now foals are defiantly cute little things, but they grow big and strong fast, and like children they have to learn a whole bunch , and you as the human are the one in charge of teaching them, and making these first crucial lessons the right ones. If your inclined to be a bit on the soft side of discipline you can quickly end up with a baby horse who has learnt all the wrong things, trust me i worked with enough spoilt foals, these things can be truly monsters.
Wrong lessons that horses can learn quickly, or really any animals, and are so preventable, it is just simple stuff. Not letting, them nibble on you, or push or shove even in play, when you first halter them they cant learn that they can pull loose and be free, or turn their hind end toward you in aggression. These little things that seem harmless at first turn into bug deals later on.the sick foal had to learn to stand still for injections, and today's lesson, for all three babies, they had to learn to allow themselves to be wormed.

The wild foal, is a great study in what a animal learns from its mother. Sonny exhibits the same reactions as his mother, in just about every situation. They use the same expressions when meeting other horses, both when worried instinctively turn away form you, rather than turn and face you, and many more funny little things. I know these are learned behaviours, because i have watched Sonny develop them over time.

His mother Fern is almost head shy, but shes actually happy to be rubbed all over, if allowed though, would much rather be looking the opposite direction. She doesn't like her nose being touched, i have taught her this is something she must just deal with, and it wont last forever. Sonny didn't have this behaviour to begin with, but the more he observed mum, the more he copied, its not a horrible flaw, just a funny little quirk they have, but one they learn to deal with, as you must be allowed to touch there nose. Sonny is happy to be haltered, but screws up his face, and looks away for just a second, as the halter slides, on or off his nose.

So worming, where your putting a big tube right in their mouth, is something that put both mother and son well out of their comfort zone. Fern though, has had it before and while not enjoying the experience,stood quietly for it. Sonny on the other hand was distressed. happy to have the big tube touch him, but rolling his eyes right back, and trying to move away as it came near his face. But the worst thing you can do in these situation is reward this behaviour by taking the 'scary' item away. So i just kept the tube there, until he stopped moving his feet, then took it away for a few seconds, rewarding the action of him standing still. Repeating this a couple more times, until he didn't move, even when the terrifying tube touched his nose, he was soon relaxed about the whole thing, blinking and licking his lips. next step was easy, tube in mouth, push the trigger, worming done. he pulled a sour expression, but stood quietly. it really is simple as that. None of these jobs have to be hard, but people make them hard, because they don't want to take the time, or don't want to be the 'mean' one.

But isn't that what being a horse person is, especially when you want to be the owner of one of those "O so Cuuuute" baby horses. You put in the miserable hours stacking hay, take the time to teach the lessons, treat the wounds, give the injections, do the time, so you can enjoy those blissful carefree moments of riding freely, in harmony with your horse wherever your heart takes you??