Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Licked clean

The Fourth of July is one of our least favorite holidays, so we usually don't do much to celebrate. One of the main reasons is that our white shepherd, Grace, is terrified of fireworks, so it doesn't seem right to leave her alone. The last few years, we have developed a routine: I go to the barn and check on Panama around firework time, and Michael stays home to keep Grace company.

This Fourth, Panama was the most upset I've ever seen him. There was a bad storm, and it was raining buckets when I arrived. The sound of the rain on the tin roof of his shelter was like a hundred people hammering on it all at once. At first none of the horses would go inside, but eventually the mares decided scary and loud was better than wet. Panama, however, remained out in the rain, looking miserable: back hunched, head down, trying desperately to figure out which way the rain was blowing so that he could turn his butt into it.

Finally the rain stopped, and I walked around the barn to check on all the other horses. The indoor horses were fine, but all of the outdoor horses (corrals and stalls with runs) were pretty spooked. I went back into Panama's corral to be with him.

He was acting extremely needy, which he tends to do when he is scared or upset. He kept trying to mouth, which he knows he's not supposed to, so I was scolding him for it — but then I saw him licking Daisy's neck. It occurred to me that licking or grooming another horse is probably soothing, so I held out my hands, palms up and fingers spread, and he started licking them.

Pretty soon he moved on to licking the sleeve of my jacket. I just stood there and let him. He licked me all the way up both sleeves, then moved on to my jeans. He licked me almost from head to toe. It was an amazing experience.

It definitely soothed him, and he started feeling a bit frisky. He chased off Daisy, who had been licking my flashlight — I think he was telling her I was his mom — and then started testing me with little nips at my jacket sleeves. He lost his licking privileges at that point, needless to say, but it had still been a wonderful bonding experience for both of us.

Happy Fourth!



At July 6, 2010 at 12:22 PM, Blogger Sydney_bitless said...

Indigo is such a licker. I have never figured out why. You can shoo her away until the cows come home but she will keep coming back and get that big slobbery tongue of hers on you one way or another. Luckily no teeth are ever involved.

At July 7, 2010 at 1:04 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

That's so funny. Panama isn't normally a big licker, but he does like licking water from my water bottle (and, more rarely, Sprite) out of my hand. He does really like to lick pipe pen fencing and other horses, though, so he probably doesn't lick me much because I was so stern in teaching him not to mouth when he was a baby.


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