Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dogs get jealous; do horses too?

Several weeks ago, Michael emailed me this story, which talks about a study that found that dogs are capable of jealousy.

It makes me laugh that it actually requires a scientific study in order to "prove" this. I see jealousy in our dogs on almost a daily basis. Emma (our first dog, and for the first five years our only dog) gets jealous all the time when Grace (who we got a year and a half ago) plays with her rope. Emma looks very uncomfortable and worried while Grace plays, and as soon as Grace drops the rope, Emma gets it and lies down with it.

I've also seen clear demonstrations of jealousy from my horse, and I'm sure most other horse owners have too. One day last summer, I stood for about an hour and talked to a woman who leased one of the horses at our old barn. She had the horse in the cross ties, and since Panama's stall was directly behind the wash rack, he could see me petting the other horse while I talked to my friend.

For a long while Panama just stood there and glared daggers at me. When that didn't work, he started to act out, misbehaving in ways he wouldn't normally because he knew they were bad: chewing on the stall wall, kicking the wall with his front foot, basically anything he could think of to try to reclaim my attention. He was apparently still sulking when my friend left and I finally got him out of his stall, because he continued to behave badly even then.

So no, it doesn't surprise me that they have suddenly "discovered" that dogs can feel jealousy. Those of us who live with animals and pay close attention to their behaviors already know this anyway. But I guess in the name as science, they should probably run the same study on horses, so that they can also "discover" equine jealousy!

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Not something you see every day

I'm not sure which this video is a stronger argument against: horse-drawn carriages or keeping stallions. Though of course, there's no guarantee this was a stallion — I've seen geldings get awfully excited and even mount mares. Apparently it doesn't take testicles to know when the ladies are in season.

Anyway, here is the video:



It cracks me up how the rider keeps yelling "Whoa!" — as if that's going to do any good! — but I was horrified when they started kicking the poor horse in the genitals.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Abusive horse training?

I discovered this video through a blog I just started reading, Fugly Horse of the Day. The trainer in the video is attempting to cure a horse of a chronic bucking problem.



It seems to me that a horse bucks because of one of three reasons: They don't trust people, they are in pain or have experienced pain under saddle, or they have figured out that it works. What exactly does tying up a horse's leg and riding him like that do to resolve either of the first two problems? And in fact, if it's a trust issue, you're actually worsening the problem by taking away one of his legs.

And if the problem is the third — that the horse has just figured out that it works — there is no guarantee that even the harshest punishment will resolve it. Horses are smart; they know when they can get away with different things with different people.

What I think this horse needs is to be owned and retrained by someone who is 1) willing to take the time to build a trusting relationship, 2) willing to take precautions to ensure the horse is not in pain under saddle (i.e., vet checks, taking it easy, etc.), and 3) a good enough rider to stay on, or at least get right back on if they get bucked off.

There are obviously many different schools of thought in the horse world, and a lot of variance within each. However, I personally feel that no matter what school of thought you go with, if you don't like and respect horses, they are not going to like or respect you either.

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Stalls vs. pasture

On Fugly Horse of the Day a couple of people commented too much stall time is abusive to horses. I agree to a point, but I also think in this respect some consideration has to be given to the horse's preferences (which, yes, they can make known) and the horse's lifestyle.

I have had my horse stabled in both pasture and stall environments, as well as a combination of both. He lived the first two years of his life (before I brought him to Denver) in pasture with no shelter, and I can't say that he ever looked terribly happy about it when he was out in a rainstorm or a snowstorm, no matter how close to his natural habitat that is.

Panama spent the first few months in Denver at a barn that didn't do turnout. I came on a daily basis and turned him out to let him graze, played chase with him in the arena, and worked him (with my trainer's guidance). I could tell he missed the herd interaction, but I could also tell that he really liked his stall — specifically, a clean stall — which he had never experienced until then.

After that, we spent about eight months at a barn that put the horses in stalls at night, and turned them out during the day. I think this is my favorite setup, and the way I will do it if I ever have horse property of my own.

The place we are at now has a barn in the middle of a pasture, with open doors on the stalls so the horses can come and go as they please. I like this setup too, but it does lack the routine that Panama seems to do best on. Also, the horses don't run around and play, surprisingly; so unless I work Panama he doesn't get enough exercise, even being in a pasture.

Personally, I feel that both pasture and stall environments can be abusive if the horses are neglected. Horses in both environments need food, clean water, a comfortable environment, vet care, exercise, and attention. So when you look at the big picture of things, I'm not so much concerned about whether a horse is in a pasture or stall, but instead whether their needs (including human interaction) are being met.

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Majestic moment

On Sunday afternoon as my husband and I were driving out to visit his family (who live in horse country about an hour outside of Denver), we were stopped by a buck in the road.

Mule deer are fearless creatures in comparison to the white-tailed deer most people are acquainted with. They tend to look at you with more curiosity than fear, and won't run off or startle easily. Out where my in-laws live, you frequently see them moseying across the road, unconcerned about the cars that are forced to slow down for them.

As we approached the buck, we noticed he was behaving strangely. He stood halfway across the road and stared at us; took a few steps, stopped, and stared at us again. He did this several times, and Michael was forced to slow the car to avoid hitting him.

The buck finally moved off onto the shoulder, and Michael crept forward until we were even with him. To our surprise, a doe stood behind him, partially hidden by the brush. The buck stared straight at us without blinking, a mere eight or ten feet away, blocking our path to the doe.

We were astonished to realize that the buck had been facing off with our car in order to protect the doe. He met our gazes fearlessly and defiantly with huge brown eyes that gleamed caramel in the sunlight.

I've never looked straight into the eyes of a deer like that before, and I was surprised by how much his steady, direct, brown-eyed gaze reminded me of my horse. Perhaps it was that when I met his eyes, I experienced the same feeling I get sometimes when I look into Panama's eyes: the sense of his thoughts racing just below the surface, tantalizingly just out of reach.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stockings and treats for the horses

I mentioned in an earlier post that to celebrate Christmas I was making stockings and treats for all of the horses at the barn.

The stockings took the longest. I bought four cheap stockings at Target, sewed brown felt "horseshoes" on them with heavy red thread, and wrote each horse's name on a stocking with holiday-colored 3-D paint. Sewing the horseshoes on was time-consuming, but the stockings all looked great when I was finished!

The treats were pretty easy to make. I used the last recipe on this list of homemade horse treats, because it called for peppermint extract rather than crushed peppermint candies. I also left out the food coloring, because the horses don't care what color their treats are, and because I don't think artificial dyes are good for horses (or us, for that matter).

The treats contain flour, Grape Nuts cereal, corn syrup, cooking oil, and peppermint extract. The mixture is a little dry, so you do have to use your hands to shape the treats into balls. The recipe doesn't make very many — about 30 quarter-sized balls, I would estimate — so I doubled it. Without food coloring they look a little bland, but they smell fantastic, even to me!

Homemade peppermint horse treats

Panama, who has never had anything this pepperminty before, loves the treats. The first few times I gave them to him, he did that enthusiastic head-bob that horses do when they eat something they have never tasted before. He is not normally very mouthy (not mouthing was one of the first things I taught him), but he loves these treats so much that he forgets his manners and goes looking through my pockets!

I stuffed the stockings with ziplock baggies full of treats for the horses, and Christmas cards for their owners. In this picture you can see the stockings hanging on the peg board in the tack room:

Christmas stockings for the horses

Decorating stockings and making horse treats was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed having something to give everybody. Next year maybe I'll also hang up some tinsel in the tack room (where the horses can't get it).

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

A run of 'warm' winter weather?

I've blogged before about how cold it has been in Denver recently, setting new record temperatures and making 30 degree days seem warm in comparison.

Now it seems we might have a run of "warm" temperatures: It is supposed to be around 50 degrees tomorrow, 30 degrees tomorrow night, and continue on like that into the middle of next week. It even looks like it will reach 60 degrees on Monday!

This is what I love about living in Colorado. We may have just had an unseasonal bout of cold weather (usually we get the coldest temperatures in January and February), but Mother Nature makes it up to us by giving us an equally unseasonal 60-degree day.

And I plan to take full advantage by spending it out at the barn!

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Pony Tales Blog book giveaway winners!

Sorry for the delay in announcing the results of the book giveaway, but I've been a little busy with Christmas stuff!

There were an even six entrants in each drawing. To choose a winner in each, I wrote everyone's names on little slips of paper, folded them up, and put them in a shoebox. Then I shook the shoebox and chose the first slip of paper I touched. I drew for the Horses of Half Moon Ranch books first, and that winner was removed from the list of names for the second drawing.

The winners of the Pony Tales Blog holiday book giveaway are as follows:

Cheryl Ann of the very cool Desert Horses blog won book 1 and 2 of Jenny Oldfield's series The Horses of Half Moon Ranch. Check out her blog — she has some beautiful photographs on the front page right now!

Pam, who has commented here as RedDunAppy, won The Everything Horse Book by Cheryl Kimball. Pam also has some great pictures and commentary on her blog, which has the delightful name of There is a Horse in My Bubblebath.

Congratulations to both winners — I will mail your books next week. Also, thanks to everyone else who entered the drawings. I wish I had books for all of you — I got so many nice notes and comments. It was wonderful to meet some of my readers!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The fun never ends

I went back to the barn yesterday to reblanket Panama during daylight, and it's a good thing I did: He was still jittery from his blanket mishap in the morning.

Basically, when I brought out the clean blanket, Panama freaked out and pulled back, finally snapping the lead rope (which had been getting frayed from him doing that frequently). I didn't think it was that close to breaking, but I guess that goes to show how strong a horse can be, even a little 750-pound horse like Panama.

Luckily I have a spare lead rope, so I grabbed it and went and caught Panama again. Carrying the clean blanket (which is a different color and pattern) out the tack room door was obviously freaking him out, so I laid it on the ground across the doorstep and let him look at it until he decided it wasn't a monster. Then I picked it up and let him smell it. As he relaxed — a little bit; he was still pretty tense — I slowly lifted it and laid it over his back.

Usually even if he gets a little nervous when I bring out the blanket, he is fine by this point — but not last night. He remained tense even after I got him all buttoned up and untied him.

I'm not sure what made him so ridiculously jumpy yesterday, but I hope he gets back to normal soon. I don't want to have to repair or replace anything else right now!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A discouraging day

Whether because a storm is coming, or because I haven't worked with him enough lately, my horse was acting like a complete idiot today.

I took Panama's blanket off later than intended today. It was still too cold at 8:00 this morning, when I was on my way home from dropping Michael off at work, and I fell back asleep after getting home. So it was after 11:00 in the morning, and more than 30 degrees outside, when I finally made it to the barn to take off the blanket.

Panama seemed pretty willing to stand still for me, so I started taking off the blanket without first tying him up. Unfortunately, when I was almost done (one buckle left to go) he decided to take off running for no apparent reason. He was pretty much out of control as he ran around the barn — I could hear the buckles hitting the side of the barn or the fence. As he emerged from the other side he started to run harder, fell, and slid six or eight feet on the blanket. This broke the buckle that was still fastened, because when he got up and started running again the blanket came right off.

I immediately picked up the blanket and threw it over the fence to inspect it for damage. Panama did a number on that blanket, but I'm hoping our local tack shop can repair it: He ripped one of the gusset seams out, tore a little bit of the lining, broke the buckle, and broke the fastener on one of the belly straps. Luckily I have two blankets, so the other one is going on him tonight.

Panama stood on the other side of the pasture watching me, his head up and his ears pricked. I thought he would be okay with me catching him, but apparently he was still pretty worked up because I had to run him for a little bit first. Finally he stood still so I could halter him, and somewhat reluctantly followed me to the hitching post.

I'm not sure if this was still from his deblanketing experience or because of some other reason, but Panama was very jumpy while I had him tied up. Three or four times, he freaked out and tried to pull back on the rope. (He usually stops when I scold him.) At this rate I will need to get a new lead rope for him soon, because this one is starting to fray in the middle from all the abuse!

I groomed Panama as best I could, and even used the massager on his back along his spine (which he loves). That relaxed him a bit, but he was still a nervous wreck. This jumpy, jittery behavior is quite discouraging. I don't know if it is due to the lack of work, but I'm going to start grooming and lunging him more often and see if that helps. However, I'll wait to ride him until he stops freaking out every time the wind blows...

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Monday, December 22, 2008

A "warm" day and a lunging session

It's been so cold lately that when it got up around 20 degrees this morning, it actually felt warm — probably partly because it was also nice and sunny.

I went to the barn around noon to remove Panama's blanket. (I only blanket under 15 degrees, because I want him to maintain his winter coat.) He was being a bit of a jerk at first and kept walking away from me when I tried to approach him, but he didn't hold out for very long. I think now that he's learned it works with some people (i.e., the property's owner), he's testing me to see if he can get away with it, but every time he puts less effort into it.

I'm also thinking part of the cause may be that I'm not messing with him enough, so I decided that the (relatively) nice weather made a perfect opportunity to rectify the problem. I tied him up to remove his blanket, and then I shifted directly into our grooming routine. I brushed his coat, brushed his mane, and picked out his feet. Although the braid in his tail is getting fuzzy, I decided not to rebraid it just yet, as he was still acting a bit jumpy.

After grooming Panama, I tried to play with him a little bit, but he wouldn't run — he just stood there and stared at me. So I grabbed the lunge line and took him into the back pasture to work him a little — just to make sure he remembers what "trot" means!

We lunged for about fifteen minutes — not long, but long enough. The pasture is covered in snow and the ground is frozen solid, so I wasn't going to have him canter, but he was behaving so well that I changed my mind. He rewarded me with a remarkably controlled canter (considering how long it's been since I've worked him) and only slipped his footing twice, despite the snow.

I can tell when Panama is enjoying his "work," and this was one of those times. He carried his tail high the whole time, and tossed his head playfully the first couple of times he cantered. Every time I praised him, he looked immensely proud of himself.

Unfortunately, tomorrow isn't supposed to be as nice, but Wednesday and Thursday (Christmas) are, so I'm hoping to be able to lunge or even ride him again soon!

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Celebrating Christmas at the barn

This is the first time I have felt like I'm part of a barn at Christmastime. (Last Christmas I had just moved to a new barn, and although that barn — before the manager changed — turned out to be like one big happy family, the first barn I was at never had that feeling of cohesiveness.)

I decided I wanted to do something nice for everyone (and their horses) at the barn this Christmas. To that end, I bought cheap stockings at Target — the ones that are made out of colored batting and are very plain — to decorate. I also bought brown felt, which I've cut into horseshoe shapes, and bright red thread, for sewing a horseshoe onto each stocking. Each horse's name will be written along the top of his or her stocking with red 3-D paint.

Of course, the stockings are more for the owners than the horses, since the horses really don't care about stuff like that. What they do care about is treats, so I'll be making homemade peppermint horse treats to fill each stocking.

I decided to make the very last recipe on this list of homemade horse treats, because it was the only recipe that didn't call for crushed peppermints. Hard candy contains gelatin, which is made from animal keratin, i.e., cow and horse bones and hooves. Since my horse is not a carnivore and certainly not a cannibal, I didn't think he would appreciate snacking on his less fortunate friends. (I'm also leaving out the food coloring.)

I'm in the middle of making the stockings now, and I'll be making the treats sometime in the next couple of days. Christmas at the barn is going to be so much fun!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The sufferings of carriage horses in the winter

The issue of horse-drawn carriages — in New York City as well as in other areas — has been on my radar since I first heard about the documentary Blinders.

Two days ago an activist in NYC videotaped the horses working during a snowstorm. I was horrified to see them covered in snow and trotting on slippery streets, while the drivers bundled up and carried umbrellas:



Maybe I just spoil my horse, since I blanket him any time it's under 15 degrees, and won't work him if the ground is too slippery with mud or snow... But don't the things in this video seem a little like the other extreme?

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy holidays from Pony Tales Blog!

In honor of the holidays I would like to give away several books to Pony Tales Blog readers. I will be giving away three books to two different readers.

The first two books go together: Wild Horses and Rodeo Rocky, the first two books from Jenny Oldfield's series The Horses of Half Moon Ranch. The publisher sent me these books several months ago to review, and now I want to pass the freebie on to someone else who would enjoy them. I am careful with my books, so both books look brand new, and would even make a nice gift for a horse-crazed girl.

The other giveway is a basic information book on horses: The Eveything Horse Book by Cheryl Kimball. I found it very useful, but I have two of these books with essentially the same information, so I'm giving away one of them. This book is also in new condition.

To choose the two lucky winners, I will draw names out of a hat. Winning the first drawing disqualifies you from the second. I will draw for The Horses of Half Moon Ranch first.

If you would like your name to be entered into the "hat," please send me an email using the contact form on my main website. Be sure to let me know which drawing (or both) you want to be entered in. Since I will be paying for shipping, I will only ship within the continental United States.

The deadline for entering is 11:59 PM EST on Christmas Eve. I'll announce the winners on Christmas Day, along with a link to your site or blog if you'd like.

Happy holidays from Pony Tales Blog, and thanks to all my readers for making this such a successful first year!

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Record temperatures in Denver

It's hard to believe that just a few days ago it was 50 degrees. Right now we're in the middle of a record-breaking cold spell: I don't think yesterday got above 5 degrees, and today was perhaps 10 at the most. Overnight lows have been below zero.

Here's an excerpt from a Denver Post article about the below zero temperatures:

The temperature in Denver dipped to a record 19 below zero at about 2:30 a.m. Monday, breaking the previous Dec. 15 record of minus 6 set in 1951.

My dad heard that this temperature was recorded at Denver International Airport, on the edge of the plains to the east of Denver, which tend to get colder temperatures and harsher weather than the city itself. Still, the overnight low in our area was most definitely below zero!

When I went to visit Panama today, he was warm under his blanket, but his armpits (where you usually check to see whether a horse is warm enough) were cooler than they normally would be. I can only imagine how cold he would be without that blanket on!

Another article today discussed how to protect pets during freezing temperatures. I'm glad they ran the article, because so many people (for some reason) don't realize how vulnerable outdoor cats and dogs can be to the cold.

Of course, the article doesn't mention taking care of horses — too uncommon! But my advice would be this: Even if you don't normally blanket your horse, consider it during abnormally cold weather. It may not be a matter of life and death, but it'll definitely make your horse comfortable... and if you're like me, it'll make you feel better, too!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

More trouble blanketing my horse

Yesterday evening, several hours after I'd left from visiting my horse, the barn's owner called to tell me that he was once again having trouble catching Panama to blanket him. Since it was supposed to be ridiculously cold overnight — and even colder today — I went out there to help catch him and make sure he got his blanket on.

Blanketing Panama went smoothly last night; I did it myself since Rick's dogs had gotten out, and he had to leave to try to find them. But this morning Rick called to let me know that Panama had a strap hanging loose on his blanket, and wouldn't let him get near to fix it.

So I drove out to the barn this morning on snowy roads, to chase down my horse in zero-degree weather. Luckily he gave me plenty of exercise to keep me warm!

Recognizing that I needed to get Panama to the point where he'd let Rick catch and halter him, I decided to stand with Panama to keep him from running off while Rick haltered him. That didn't work out quite as I'd planned, however: Three times we tried that only to have Panama to bolt, and after the third time he wouldn't let even me catch him.

Panama has never before run away from me when I was trying to catch him, so I wasn't about to let him get away with it. So I started chasing him every time he would run. When he showed a bit of submission (usually slowing down — especially after he got tired — or the lick-and-chew thing Monty Roberts talks about) I'd ask him to whoa, and try walking up to him.

Unfortunately, Rick's dogs decided to join the fun, which gave me a break but wore poor Panama out. Eventually he decided this whole rebellion thing wasn't working out for him, and started showing less and less inclination to run from me when I tried to halter him. When I finally caught him, he was still pretty revved up, but with some patience I was able to get close enough to pet and halter him.

As part of his reward for allowing me to catch him, I held the lead rope and let Panama eat for five or ten minutes. Then I had Rick practice slipping another halter over his, just so Panama could get used to Rick handling him. I also discovered what had him so freaked out — Rick was putting one arm around the back of Panama's neck when he tried to halter him, instead of going underneath like I do, which made Panama panic. I pointed that out to Rick and we practiced a few times with him going underneath, until Panama seemed calmer and more amenable to Rick handling him.

Hopefully Panama will be better behaved tomorrow, when Rick attempts to take off his blanket!

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Thwarted plans

I didn't go back to the barn on Friday to work more with Panama and the horse trailer, but I should have: When Michael and I went on Saturday, the snow in the back pasture (where the trailer is parked) had finally melted, making the ground into a muddy, mucky mess.

Since I wanted to work with Panama on something, and the mucky ground meant I wouldn't be able to ride either, we took Panama into the field across the street. There was a scary moment (for him) when a car passed while we were waiting to cross, but luckily he is well-mannered enough not to run off or knock me over when I'm holding the lead rope.

It was only the second time he'd been out in the field, but he did pretty well. At first he tried to lean on me (he still treats me like his mom or an older horse when he's uncertain or frightened). However I was able to get him to stop pretty quickly with a combination of lots of walking and stopping and turning (to make him focus on my commands rather than his fears), and letting him graze periodically on the winter grass.

When I felt we had done enough work in the field, I took Panama back into the pasture and tied him up. Because the back pasture was muddy I had to tie him up in the front pasture with the other horses around, and sure enough one horse tried to go between Panama and the post. There was a tense moment while Panama pulled back on his halter in panic, but then the other horse figured it out and went a different way.

It was our last good day before the cold weather kicked in again, so I was glad to have some time with Panama, even if we couldn't work on what I'd originally planned!

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Friday, December 12, 2008

More practice loading onto a trailer

I blogged recently about practicing loading Panama onto a trailer. Well, yesterday I finally got out there again to practice some more.

I was lucky that I arrived shortly before the horses were to be grained. I took Panama, my tack box, and his grain into the back pasture with me, which is where my trainer's trailer is parked.

Panama was eager to get to his grain, so I put it all the way back in the trailer. Then I got into the trailer myself on the other side, passing the lead rope across the partition so that I could guide Panama into the trailer.

Panama hesitated to step into the trailer at first, but his hesitation didn't last long. He really wanted that grain! At first he would put both front legs into the trailer to get a few bites to eat, then back out again while he chewed. Gradually he started staying inside the trailer for longer each time. I think he stepped up into the trailer about a dozen times total by the time his grain was finished, and seemed much more comfortable with it by the end. He never put his back legs in (he didn't have to, to reach his grain), but he got the rest of him in!

This time was much more successful than last time. I was so pleased with our progress that I didn't try to push him any further — I just let him enjoy his success. I'll try a little more next time.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A farrier visit and my neglected horse

I feel like my horse has been rather neglected lately. I haven't ridden him in about three weeks, and although I've still been visiting him a couple of times a week, most times I haven't been able to stay long.

This morning Panama had a farrier appointment. Originally I was intending to stay for a while afterward and spend some time with him, but as it turned out in order to pay for the farrier appointment I had to come home and work.

I was amazed at how well Panama stood for the farrier today. Pretty much all of his uneasiness with the farrier is gone these days, which is saying a lot considering his history with farriers. (A farrier twitched him on his second-ever trim; and considering his injuries in the trailer accident, for a long time after that he became a real bear anytime anyone messed with his feet.)

After the farrier left, Panama followed me around a little bit. He's started doing this lately when I try to leave, so I know he's noticed that I'm not spending as much time there. I'm hoping to be able to spend a while with him tomorrow to try to make up for not being able to stay today — if I get enough additional work done tonight.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blanketing my horse for the first time this winter

My horse was blanketed tonight for the first time so far this season.

Last year, I blanketed Panama anytime it got down to 20 degrees or colder, which was usually just overnight. (Only once or twice last winter was it that cold during the day.) However, last year Panama was also in a stall overnight, which meant that he was standing still with no room to move around and get warm. This year, Panama is in a pasture where he can be more active on cold nights, so I am blanketing him at 15 degrees and colder instead.

Unfortunately, Panama was behaving skittishly tonight. The property owner, who will be doing the blanketing for me, called me around 4:45 this afternoon to tell me that he couldn't catch Panama to blanket him. Apparently he first tried to walk right up to Panama with the blanket, and Panama freaked out and ran away — and continued running when Rick put the blanket away and tried to catch him with a halter.

So I drove down there to catch Panama and blanket him. He was definitely very jumpy — he shied away from me at first when I was trying to put on the halter, though a few stern words made him stop.

After haltering Panama, I tied him up and brought out a towel to dry him off — but the towel spooked him too! Never mind that he has seen towels plenty of times in the past. He pulled back hard on the lead rope, but I yelled at him to whoa and he quit. He was still a little jumpy after that, but I moved slowly and spoke encouragingly, and was able to rub him down with the towel.

Then I brought the blanket out. Panama seemed wary at first, but I let him sniff the blanket a lot, and did the same little dance of moving slowly closer until I was in position to put the blanket on. Ultimately he was okay with this too.

Once I got the blanket fastened and secure, I let Panama go back to his hay (it was just after feeding time). I gave him a few treats and left.

I'm not sure what made Panama so jumpy tonight. It could easily be the change in weather — after all, it dropped forty degrees in two days. It could also have been the fact that Rick approached him with the blanket first, or the fact that it was dusk (which seems to make horses more nervous, probably because they can't see as well). Whatever it is, I hope he is better next time Rick tries to blanket him!

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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

It's been snowing lightly all day today — our second all-day snowstorm in a week, but really only our second real stowstorm of the season in the Denver Metro area. It means I won't be able to get out to the barn today, but in the meantime I'm thinking of how to celebrate the holidays around the barn.

Last year we took funny pictures of me putting a Santa hat on Panama, and used those for our Christmas cards. This year I'm thinking of making the horses Christmas presents: homemade horse treats. There is a ton of recipes on this page for homemade horse treats, so I just have to decide which recipe sounds best (and, I admit, easiest!).

Since there are only four horses (including Panama), I am also considering getting every horse an inexpensive stocking to fill with goodies and hang in the tack room. The horses may not understand Christmas, but they definitely understand getting treats!

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Practicing with the trailer

I have to admit I haven't been out to see Panama much lately — work and end-of-the-month deadlines kept me away more often than not throughout the last two weeks of November. I did manage to stop by on Thanksgiving, but didn't have enough time to do more than give him an apple and spend a few moments with him.

Apparently Panama has missed me as much as I've missed him: When I arrived yesterday, he walked right up to me and followed me around, something he usually only does toward the end of my visits. He walked right into the back pasture with me, too!

The ground was kind of slippery still from the snow we got on Sunday, so I decided to work with Panama on loading onto the trailer, rather than getting a ride in first as I had originally planned. As incentive to load, I put a little of Panama's grain in his dish and set it in the trailer. I then walked into the trailer and stood on the far side of the grain, holding the lead rope.

At first this worked really well. Panama smelled everything, put both front feet in the trailer, and ate about half his grain. He wasn't entirely comfortable with it, and stopped eating to look around a couple of times, but he was more or less okay. But then one of his front feet, which was right on the edge, slipped off and startled him. After that, I couldn't get him to put his front feet in the trailer again.

My plan is to start messing with the trailer almost every day until Panama feels a little more comfortable with it. As he begins to relax a little, I'll start pushing him harder until I can get him to load up. I just didn't want a "do or die" attitude yesterday, since during his most recent trailer experience he was literally dragged in!

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