Sunday, December 6, 2009


It's ridiculously cold (13 degrees) and snowy today. We only got an inch or so here, but appparently they're getting harder hit closer to the mountains, so I may not be going to the barn today.

But my thoughts are never far from my horse, so despite being all wrapped up in blankets and a bathrobe on the couch, I've been pondering certain subjects. Foremost on my mind (considering the weather) is how easy it has been to blanket Panama since I moved him.

For those of you who didn't follow my blog last winter, Panama developed a fear of his blankets that lasted consistently all through the winter — despite having been blanketed the winter before with no problems. In fact, two years ago he could be blanketed while standing in his stall, untied, and he had no problems with it at all.

Last winter was a different story. I moved him in October to a quiet residential horse property — the same one I left in a hurry this October, because of problems ranging from the owner's chronic drinking to part of the property being foreclosed on.

Anyway, from the very beginning Panama wouldn't let this guy halter or blanket him. He tried the first time, and couldn't, so I had to come over and do it. Panama was so worked up that he ran from me for an hour before he'd let me catch him.

Always after that, he had a fear of the blanket. I had to tie him up every time I put it on or took it off. When I brought the blanket over to where he was tied, if I didn't bundle it up in my arms to be as small and nonthreatening as possible, he would pull back and struggle to free himself. And when I took it off, he would tense up, hump his back, and then explode to the side to get out from under it sooner.

After moving Panama to the new place this fall, he behaved similarly the very first time I blanketed him... but only that time. Ever since, he has been perfectly fine with the blanket. I can toss it over his back without scaring him. (He was scared the first time he heard the buckles hit the wall by accident, but after the first time he was okay with that too.) I can pull it off without worrying about him losing his sh*t. It's like last winter never even happened.

I knew at the time that he was probably sensing something about Rick — whether that he wasn't a horse person, or that he drank too much, I don't know. But Panama doesn't often dislike someone, so I should have taken it more seriously than I did. (The only other time he has outright disliked someone, there is also a question as to whether it was based on personality or the smell of beer.)

I've come to suspect that even after I told the owner not to try blanketing or unblanketing Panama, that I would do it, he continued to attempt it on a regular basis. I know of a few instances, because once or twice he successful managed to remove Panama's blanket, and called to tell me so (much to my dismay). But I now suspect he was attempting it regularly, and the only times I actually heard about were the few times he was successful.

My other reason for thinking he was still trying to blanket/unblanket Panama was that he seemed to feel rather... unmanned (for lack of a better word) by Panama's refusal to let him catch him. He would do silly things like stand next to Panama when he was eating his grain and "hold up" his leg when he lifted it — something he always does when eating grain — as if to prove to himself (and me) that Panama trusted him. Or he would make a show of walking up to Panama when he was eating his hay, and saying, "See? He trusts me."

I know hindsight is always 20/20, but it's clear now that Panama was telling me something and I completely missed it. He was telling me he didn't feel safe there, at least regarding blanketing, and perhaps regarding other things as well. I'll never know exactly what went on at that place when I wasn't around, but next time friendly Panama lets it be known that he doesn't like someone, I'll know to listen!



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