Sunday, January 9, 2011

Everybody Out!

Most of today was taken up with moving horses from A to B. I can now report that every horse we own can be haltered and led. (It's all I did all day, endlessly.) It's a start!

Our plan was to check out Journey's willingness to be haltered in a small area, and if it was possible then we would introduce both her and Ranger to the other horses with a view to turning them out. We achieved our plan! 

I had some trouble catching Dove. Hunter has latched onto her, in the same way he previously did with Dakota and Scooter. He likes to have a "friend" to herd around and doesn't want anyone to touch them, and his friend is not allowed to leave him unless he says so!  Hunter has been pretty easy to catch the past few months, and I think it's because it's just been him and the Fells. Obviously they won't play his games. But now that he has Dovey it's another story. Fortunately we managed to get them separated, and then Dove was much better. However, she'd lost her softness again. I was a little disappointed that yesterday's magic didn't last, but I'll get it working, I'm sure.

It only took Mark a minute or two to convince Journey that it would be okay to be haltered. He did put the lead rope over her neck first, as she was skeptical, but he wasn't sneaky. He let her sniff the halter and rope, rubbed her head for a bit and talked to her and that was that. Halter on, and here's your cookie!

Meanwhile, I installed Ranger in the arena with a flake of hay on a tarp. That's become my method for introducing new horses to the herd. I wouldn't use this method with every herd boss, but Bruce is so confident and seems to have a policy of using only the minimum force necessary to make his point. So I put one pile of hay out, and it's easy to tell when an agreement has been reached. Even so, I was a little concerned about Bruce and Ranger. Ranger is a very big, athletic boy. Playful, pushy and like Bruce, a former stud. I would be very upset if Bruce got hurt. 

Ranger had a few bucks and  rears while tearing around the arena, before I brought Bruce in. I let him settle a bit and find the hay. Bruce was really more interested in the hay than he was in Ranger, and ignored him a lot of the time. He even let him eat some peripheral strands of hay. After awhile Bruce drove Ranger around the arena for a bit. Ranger kicked him once and after that Bruce drove him from a couple of feet further back. They ate a bit more hay and then started playing with the hay tarp and abusing the arena obstacles like a couple of hooligans, so I guess Bruce has a new friend.

I put Iona in with them and she couldn't even be bothered to kick Ranger. Honestly, I think Bruce and Iona meet so many new horses that they just don't care anymore. I also like to think that the peaceful atmosphere here and plenty of space and Parelli helps. So I gathered up Ranger and Iona and put them in pens and introduced Journey to Bruce. Another non event, as was putting Iona back in. Ranger's reappearance started to stir things up a bit, as he now had "his" mare (Journey) to protect. So there was a bit of running around and posturing. I don't think Journey is any more interested in being rounded up by other horses than she is in being rounded up by humans, though. 

Hunter certainly tried to round her up when I put him in. That set them all of on a mad gallop around. Journey was too funny, taking off with Hunter and Ranger in hot pursuit. She can really move fast, but braking seems to be limited to a series of stiff legged bounces. Wouldn't like to ride that! Bruce was wildly excited by this time, bucking and high blowing, galloping sometimes and doing fancy trots. But also conserving energy by making smaller circles further inside the arena while the big ones did laps on the rail. 

Iona mostly stood in the middle and watched. Sometimes Bruce just stayed in the middle and bucked. Now Bruce and Iona don't always like to move their feet that much, it's true. But I also wondered if I was seeing a bit of learned behavior. The center of the arena being the sweet spot. The honeycomb exercises they've done on courses where you get to stop if you go to the middle. I wonder.

I put Dove in last, and she and Journey paired up, leaving Hunter without his hostage/friend. They all calmed down and I picked up the tarp and barrels that had been tossed around, so that they don't blow away in the next storm. I opened the gate. and got the Fells moving out and down the track. Everybody followed us until we reached the grazing cell gate. So we now have everyone out. I'm so happy for them. That's where horses belong.

The weatherman says we're now due for another big freeze up, so I don't know how much we'll get done with horses the next few days. I sure won't miss the constant hay net stuffing and pen cleaning, though! 

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