Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sheza and Rambo on Walkabout--and More

First, I give you nap time on the Youngsters' Side, yesterday:
And now, Oohh and Aahh at the wondrous red filly having a go up her favorite hill. Sheza does this 5-10 times a day, every day. I am trying to be cautious and not jinx myself, but my inner endurance monkey is capering with glee watching her put this amazing base on herself.
Not to be outdone, Blaze offers up his best Blue Steel. He doesn't do lefts, okay. 
Yesterday my friend L brought over some of my weenie dogs' relatives for an evening of fun--and learning manners, for the youngsters. I have 6 dogs, and now 6 Arabians (oops), and the parallels between training them is really forefront in my mind. Timing, consistency and exposure to a multitude of environments and situations are probably the 3 Keystones to training a dog or a horse in my opinion. It's always fun to take animals you think are well behaved to a new situation and watch things potentially unravel! And then get to shape their wonderful sharp brains in other directions and turn them into better citizens. 

People often marvel that we have 6 dogs from wiener dogs on up through a  mid size Lab/Pit mix to a 100 lb Catahoula mix, all loose with our 5 cats and flock of chickens, and all completely un-phased by my constant comings and goings with horses of various temperaments. To them I say this: Listen to your animals, but also have very clear expectations. I simply don't allow for certain behavior and I almost don't even let it into my brain, and I swear that translates to my animals. That's not to say I don't have to verbally or physically correct all of them at various times, but I believe in the power of the mind when coupled with timing and consistency. If you have that expectation of bad behavior in your mind, there is a chink in your Leader armor, and a smart animal will exploit that. 

It also works the opposite. Our 7 year old Lab/pit mix mentioned, Tady, doesn't like to swim, and has no formal training beyond what my husband and I have done. My husband started guiding duck hunting this season and hey, Tady is half black Lab or looks it, why couldn't he be the retriever for work? Cue water hating pit mix fetching up to 40 birds a day for clients like a professionally trained Lab, because he loves and trusts his master and that successful endeavor was expected of him.

 Here's another example, something someone had queried me on, regarding keeping your mare from being a squealy heinous brat with geldings. My take is, my mare is free to squeal and be a ho-bag at liberty when she is being a horse, but if I approach her with another horse, even if she is at liberty, or if she is under tack with me, there will be no squealing or foolishness. All I usually have to do at this point with Desire is say "MARE" or point a finger if I see that wrinkle in her eyebrow and she will instantly look innocent. She is not a particularly tractable or charming mare, but neither am I, and I am boss. After being charming to Rambo the first day, and sweetly snuffling Sheza this morning, not 30 minutes later Desire rushed the fence squealing like a stuck pig when I walked up with Rambo, to which I instantly ROARED back at her and slapped the fence with the lead rope. She flew backwards, trotted a snarky circle, and walked back politely and nuzzled Rambo without another peep. Yep, definitely have to reinforce in a timely and consistent manner once in a while! And that goes for every dog and horse here. Sometimes it even works with husbands, but you might as well skip trying to train goats or chickens.

After that training tangent, I'll come back to a cool thing that happened as L and I wrapped up our evening of horse touring and dog disciplining. She heard a hummingbird hitting the window screen in my house so I ran in and caught it in two cupped hands against the screen. It sat like this in my hand for maybe 30 seconds, blinking and getting it's bearings:
 All of a sudden I felt it's little engines kick over as it started to hum, thrum, then vibrate strongly against my hand and BOOM it flew straight up and away.  Cool!

So now to the title of the post, I guess the previous could have been a separate post? Whatever. Sheza was great today. Gigantic and great. Very much in heat, squatting and squirting at the geldings when in pasture but still giving baby mouth rather than going the squealy route. Good thing I already have a plan for that behavior when it rears it's head, Eh?!

Desire loving on her baby and Blaze wondering if she is old enough for his harem yet..
 I was short on time and wanted to get Rambo out too so I just trimmed Sheza's fronts and dewormed her. She was really good for her feet, even coming back to me and quieting down when her brain momentarily exited the premises to join Rambo and Napoleon the mini who were running wildly, snorting and blowing, in the pasture. As we left the cross ties she had a different sort of purpose to her stride and instead of heading the safe route back to her pasture like she usually automatically tries to, she marched the other direction and went sniffing things that usually make her leap and snort. She grazed next to the travel trailer that she wouldn't come within 15 feet of before, and this is her grazing on the slight uphill right next to the barn, who's proximity usually gives her the shimmy shakes.
 THEN she headed away from her pasture and back to the damn horse trailer, where she sniffed and leaned and investigated and was *thisclose* to loading herself. I just sort of trailed at the end of the lead rope and let her do all this, as I am all for any lessening of drama and shows of bravery.

I see horses come and go in this thing, and seems like they get really good snacks afterwards every time...hmmm..
Sheza actually trailers nicely already, but it's always been with a buddy and she certainly has never tried to randomly load herself before. I find it interesting that this adult brained behavior is showing up when she's very much in heat and a new horse arrived 5 days ago. She certainly is growing up.
Rambo was at my shoulder as I closed the gate on Sheza, so I put the halter on him and took him for a walk. He sniffed everything hard, like a bloodhound, which was laugh out loud funny at times. The only other horse I have seen sniff the ground and air so obviously and like a dog--is Scrappy. Go figure. 

Rambo thought maybe the squealy scary white chick wanted a roommate..yeah buddy, don't go there!
He was definitely uncertain, and a couple of times just froze at the end of the lead rope, but he is so clearly thinking when he freezes that I just let him do it, talked to him, and within a few seconds he reached his nose out to me, snuffed hard, and stepped forward again.

"I'm not really sure, but I'm willing to try"
 I know he loves his groceries so I walked him around back to the hay barn and brought him into the hay barn even, which is actually just a long low tin roofed building broken into 1/3s: chicken house third, tools third, hay third. Oh and the hay third has a side that has a flappy tarp. So yeah, he wasn't wild about walking in there! AND Scrappy and Sheza were doing hot laps being ridiculous in his vision all of a sudden, so he got a little amped. His version of amped? Trottin, trottin, trotting in place! It was kind of hilarious. His little feet were tapping away but he wasn't actually moving. Still, I walked out of the barn with flakes of hay on one arm and his leadrope on the other, at a brisk walk to match his pace, but nothing unreasonable. Again, expectations. What do I expect out of an unknown green young Arab project horse? I expect them to not kill me, and that's about it, initially. I let them tell me where they are mentally, and I work with that, but I never expect them to just KNOW THINGS, or respond to the same methods that another project horse does, even another Arabian. They are just too individual.  Was Rambo walking totally politely and where I expect him to, at my dictation, in the future? No. Could I reasonably have asked him to do that in that moment, without starting a pointless fight? No. Today I wanted Rambo to see the property, and not kill me in the process. Mission accomplished!  Still, did I let him get rude? No. He spooked into my space twice and immediately met a firm thumb in his chest. While he was nervous and just getting acclimated and needed to get his feet moving for both our good at moments, he absolutely may not come at me as a response, especially in fear. So, it's all a balance of listening very carefully to the horse, and adapting and acclimating, but never letting them question that you are the Leader. 

Perhaps I should go back and rename this post Endless Tangents. Hope you guys enjoyed wandering through my brain with me ;-)


  1. OMG, Sheza is a beast. I know you said other stuff - other important stuff! - but I'm so distracted by that picture of her grazing that I can't concentrate. A BEAST.

  2. I think we must have talked about training at some point. We have very similar philosophies of not asking more than the animal is capable of doing. That being said I have expectations and guidelines like you (like staying out of my personal space....) that are established from tge beginning. Tig's manner box will get smaller over time. Eventually I wont allow her to freeze and look so often.

  3. Crackin' up real hard over your reprimand of Desire and her resulting behavior. What a card!