Monthly Archives: November 2014

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Okay, so I went to see this filly.

When I went there, I was ready to see an angry filly with her ears flat back, showing me her teeth, and knowing how to use them, steam coming out of her ears, and fire out of her nostrils.  After all, she had tossed two people, knocked them down, putting her stamp of disapproval on their bodies.  Trust me, I have known horses from hell.  They are few and far between, but they do exist.  Usually caused by man-made problems, but there were a few that just seemed possessed.

I walked in the barn and saw her with her head over the stall door, ears forward, looking with excitement for someone to come visit her.  It was one of the coldest days we’ve had so far.  One red flag.  Six month old, who had been weaned the day she was brought into the stall, a month ago.  Three more red flags.  She’s kept in the barn with no other animal for company.  Red flag.  The question is – was she really interested in company, or her next victim.  As I walked closer I noticed she had bright kind eyes, with a happy excited expression.  Never once did her ears flick back.  I approached her sideways and let her sniff my shoulder, and then she moved up to my hair.  I kept a close watch on her, out of the corner of my eye.  She showed no signs of aggression, or fear.  I showed her my hand, and let her smell it, and then gently touched her.  She didn’t pull away, and seemed to invite more.  So I went into her stall, and let her check me out.  She was okay with that, so I started scratching her gently.  She told me what she felt was acceptable for now, and I was okay with that.  The more time I spent, the more she trusted me and allowed me to do.  She didn’t give her trust easily.  She made you take one step at a time.  She knew my girlfriend better, so I instructed her on how to work her way around this fillies body, rubbing, scratching, touching, and working her way down the legs until the filly allowed her to pick up her feet.  She agreed to allow us to rub her ears, eyes, and lift her lip.  She actually started to love the attention, and thought we could be her new best friends.

It seems that no one ever asked her permission to touch her.  They just came in and man-handled her.  I know sometimes vets are on a tight schedule, but it doesn’t take that long to rub her a little, and speak soft, kind words to her.

Let’s look at it from her perspective.  You’re a young child.  You’ve been brought into a hospital room, your mother has been removed from the room, and some strange man comes in.  He approaches your bed and starts grabbing your arms and legs, and starts injecting needles into your body.  He never calmly tells you who he is, or what he is planning to do.  More important he never tells you that everything will be alright, and that he is your friend.  You have pain and swelling, and he starts poking at the sore area.  You may cry, scream, or thrash around.  Sounds logical to me.

Now we are talking about a fight or flight animal.  If a child is going to kick and scream, why are we amazed when this foal behaves the same way.

By the time I was ready to leave, she was all over me.  Happy as a clam to find people who were kind, and were interested in who she was, and how she felt.  It was a simple case of asking permission.  Now some people will think “I don’t need permission, this is just nonsense”, but is it?

Horses are like woman, some women love the caveman type, but most want a gentle soul, who will to take the time to understand them, and reassure them that they will be safe in their care.  There was a country western song a few??? years back, that said “I want a man with a slow hand, I want a lover with an easy touch.”  Hello! so do horses.

Each case is different.  You must always be calm, assertive, and confident.   But you must also know when it’s the right time to be “touchy, feely.”

Nothing With Horses Is Cast In Stone

I’ve said this before; what works with one horse may not work with another.

I know some people who do not believe in the “Touchy Feely” approach.  That’s their opinion, and if it works for them, great.  They’re not interested in trying any other way but theirs.  Okay, whatever works for you.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but so am I.

I believe that you try different methods, and see what works with that particular horse.  Sometime you have to be aggressive, and sometimes “touchy feely”,  sometimes both, depends on where the horse is coming from, and what you are trying to accomplish.  Rules, boundaries, limitations, and consistency are a must no matter what approach you take.  You wouldn’t use a cast, if a band-aid would work, would you?

Drugs vs natural.  Both have their benefits, and drawbacks.  Anyone who has watched TV lately, has seen the drug commercials.  By the time they finished running the disclaimer, you wonder why anyone would take that drug to begin with.  I watched when my mother was alive, and now with my husband, the doctors just keep prescribing drugs.  One after another to counteract the side effects of the previous drug.  The amazing thing is that they never seem to remove them, when you don’t need them anymore.  There is just something wrong with all of this.  Don’t just accept this.  Ask questions, monitor the drugs effects (good and bad) and don’t be afraid to say NO!, what other options do I have?  This goes not only for you, but with your animals.  Read the side effects, and watch closely.  If you notice anything unusual, make that call immediately.

I have a friend who called me today saying “help!”  She works at a Thoroughbred breeding farm, and has a 6 month old Thoroughbred filly who has had major stifle issues.  She must be stall kept.  Red Flag!  When my Clydesdale was a baby she had leg and health issues, she had to be stall kept.  With the Clyde baby it was no big deal.  My Jack Russell and I would sit in the stall with her, and I would sing to her while she laid her head on my lap and napped.  Now we’re talking TB baby.  Whole different ball game.  After a month in the stall, she’s a time bomb waiting to go off.   She may not necessarily be a bad horse, just bad circumstances.  Not going to sit in a stall with this one.  From the conversation I’ve had with my friend, I’ve determined that she’s smart, bored, frustrated, and angry that she’s being confined.  Add colder weather and you’ve got quite a set up for excess energy.  She was never fond of people before, and certainly has not changed her opinion of them now.  She’s lashing out at anyone who tries to man-handle her.  Truthfully, seeing things from her perspective, I would too.

I’ve given her a few ideas on entertainment to work with until I get to go see her.  Big screen TV, Netflix, I phone, Skype, only kidding!  They’ve already started her on drugs.  I’m not totally for that.  Depends on what they are giving her, and how much.  Why do people feel the need to drug the horse instead of finding the basis of the problem, and fixing it?  At that age I’d rather do something more natural.  Some acupuncture, herbs, things to calm her mind, and body.  She just needs a program, to teach her things she can learn in the stall, that will help her when she gets her “Get Out Of Jail Free” card, something to get her thinking, and keep her busy.

Teach and reward may be an idea for now.   You can teach them a whole lot in small spaces.  But then again, this filly may not be in the mood to learn anything.  I’ll find out.

As for teaching some people new tricks, it’s like teaching pigs to sing – it just wastes your time, and annoys the pigs.  That IS cast in stone, end of discussion.

You Can’t Break-Up A Stallion Fight With A Broom

Or at least it’s not a good idea.

Amy tried it on the TV series Heartland, and it didn’t work out well for her either.

My girlfriend was a little crazed after watching it.  “What is the matter with the writers?  Don’t they know that it’s just pure craziness, and no one in their right mind would do that?  Amy should have quit after she got the one stallion in the stall.”  Well it’s TV and that’s what happened to work for the show.  But, not necessarily in real life.

I’m not going off on how to handle stallions.  Some people just shouldn’t have them, because they are not knowledgeable enough.  You need to be a responsible stallion owner, and some people aren’t even a responsible horse owner.  Some stallions are wonderful, and you wouldn’t even know they were stallions.  Some are just bad, and need to have some body parts removed, so the brain can return to its rightful place.

But this really isn’t about stallions at all.  It’s about using the right equipment for the right job, and learning how to use it properly.

When I was a kid I asked the woman, who owned the barn where I grew up, what a certain piece of equipment was used for.  I had seen it at one of the major tack stores in Manhattan.  Her words stay with me today.  “If you don’t know what it is, you don’t need it.”

So many times I see people rush out and purchase the latest contraption for their horses.  They have no idea how to use it properly, don’t know if their horse actually needs it, and can do more harm than good.  As I’ve said before, a simple snaffle can become abusive in the wrong hands.

If your horse is having a problem, seek professional help.  Get the right equipment, and learn how to use it the way it was meant to be used.  But mostly educate yourself, and your hands, to use any piece of equipment properly, to the best of its intended use.

Years ago as I was driving along a busy interstate, I saw a “cowboy” (a person who watched too many westerns when he was a kid, obviously not Gene, Roy or John Wayne) riding along the road.  It was a really bad situation, and my heart went out to the horse.  He had a severe bit with a curb chain, bad hands that were hauling on the horse’s mouth to hold him back, a very short tie-down with a brain chain, which the horse’s head was up to the limit, and rowel spurs that were constantly digging into the horse’s side.  I just stopped and yelled (I was young and stupid and nobody carried a Uzi back then) “if you would get your heels out of his side, and get off his mouth, you wouldn’t need all that garbage on your horse.”  He just kicked his horse, and ran off into the sunset.  I don’t yell anymore, I’m more into making suggestions like “let’s try this and see if it works.”  People do shoot people over road rage now.

Bottom line is, don’t go buying the latest fads.  Determine what may help your horse to be better, and borrow this “thing” before you buy it.  Learn what it’s supposed to do, and learn the proper way to use it.  If it doesn’t work, you’re not out any money.  If it does, by all means, go out and get yourself one.

If you don’t know – ask.

If you don’t know what it is – you don’t need it.  Thank you Adele Franzreb.