Monday, March 14, 2011

Bonding Magic

How can I bring back the magic I once knew with my first mare, long ago? Sometimes I feel too tired to enjoy my horses. Too many of them, too much work, not enough time to ride and have fun, and I'm getting older. What can I do to find that magic with Lady?

I know the secret. It is an easy thing.

To find the best in a relationship, spend more time with your girl. It should be time enjoyed, quietly and without any agenda, just being together, talking and walking together, taking her out for grass, taking care of her. Girls like time together.

One trainer recommends sitting in the pasture reading a book until the horse comes to be with you. I don't have time for that. But I can be with her in her stall, or walking down the road, or just being us together wherever we are, without pressure or need to do anything but relax and enjoy each others company, even for 5 or 10 minutes.

Try it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Another Chance for Lady

For five years, I’ve kept Lady separate from our other two horses. Why? Because she previously seemed determined to kick the daylights out of any horse put with her! I watched one day as she ran across the paddock and planted both back feet on Sammy’s chest as he got up from rolling. No reason, I’m sure, other than her being a mare in heat. I had lost my first mare when she charged another horse, earning a defensive kick that broke her leg. I didn’t want to lose another horse that way.

Lady is what we call an “alpha,” a lead mare, the one whose hormones tell her she is in charge of the herd—with the need to tell other horses to respect her place of leadership. While some mares say it with strong facial expressions, Lady uses her back feet!

For safety reasons, therefore, Lady has the paddock in the morning and our two geldings are out in the afternoon. Not the easiest arrangement, especially if the weather is good only part of the day and someone gets robbed of their time outside. Recently, I read an article that explained how important it is that horses have contact with other horses, since they are basically herd animals. It was a very convincing article.

So last week, I decided to give Lady another chance.

She has mellowed some in the past five years. When she kicked Sammy, those two had a horsey love affair going, and I believe she was mad at him for not giving her the right kind of attention. Sammy is no longer with us. Now it’s old Traveller and young Rocky. Traveller doesn’t move as fast as he used to, and I’m not taking a chance on him getting hurt. Rocky, on the other hand is agile, and he can take care of himself without being aggressive.

Before bringing Lady in, I put Rocky out with her and watched. Before long they were running all over the paddock. Part of the time Lady was chasing Rocky and then they were running together. She did run backward once, right at him, but Rocky easily avoided contact and ran around her kicking up his heels as if to say, I’m not scared of you, Lady!

The next day, I again put them out together a few minutes before bringing her in. They ran again, touched noses a few times, and Lady squealed once. Again, she backed up with the apparent determination to kick, and again Rocky avoided contact.

On the third day, when Rocky went out, she walked over to him, and they touched noses. Rocky walked out into the paddock and Lady came to the door where I waited. And that was it. Wow. I let her in.

Fourth day. I put them together and watched a few minutes, then went to fill water buckets. A short time later, I heard running and looked out. Lady was chasing Rocky, then they were running side by side. I noticed she seemed to be pushing him toward the fence. Rocky suddenly stopped, letting her run past him as he crossed over behind her. I had to smile at his smart maneuvering. Lady had met her match!

While other horse owners at our stable put their horses out together all the time—even though they often come in with bite marks and hoof prints—I have been too scared to let mine enjoy their horsey fellowship. My memory of losing one mare because of her aggressive nature has kept Lady from enjoying her job as herd leader. Am I that over-protective Mom who deprives her kids of growing up with proper exposure to the world?

I’d love to hear from other mare owners with dominant females. Have you had any bad experiences putting a bossy mare with other horses? Does it make a difference if they are kept with other mares or with geldings? Or do you keep them separate? How much can we protect our animals without depriving them of healthy social growth? Please share!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shed Hair and Stress at the same time!

Coming back home after three days of the Illinois Horse Fair, I was full of ideas and plans, but found myself way behind in everything! Where to begin! I was taking an online writing course and the final assignment was due. I hoped to catch up on everything Monday morning. But you know the saying about the best made plans...well, my DSL had a problem and I couldn't get online. Needless to say, the morning was full of great stress and frustration. And then I had to go to the barn.
I had planned to ride Lady, but I wasn't in any mood to be her calm confident leader! I ended up brushing the dirt and hair from her coat and combing her snarled mane. I even worked on cleaning up her face. As I brushed, she moved her head up and down to help me. The pile of hair on the floor was growing. I LOVE to see a horse shedding--it just says SPRING better than anything I know. Except maybe the daffodils that are ready to pop open.
Lady stood there quietly, obviously loving the attention. As I worked on her, my frustration and tenseness loosened up and seemed to fall on the floor along with all her shedding black dirty hair. Good therapy! An hour with Lady and my clothes were covered with hair and dust, but I felt much better. Now I felt ready to ride, but that would wait until another day when I had more time. Just being with Lady had eased my stress.
Lady is more than a horse I ride. She is my partner and my friend. And sometimes grooming her is good for both of us. Many horse owners spend more time taking care of their horse than they do in the saddle. That's OK. Our relationship with a horse is more than riding. I don't think men understand that. And that's OK, too. We deserve to enjoy our own special thing. Don't we?

Friday, March 4, 2011

New beginnings...

I always talk to my horses. Especially to Lady. I promised her yesterday that I would soon get back to giving her more attention, and riding again. She looked up from her supper grain at me with a possible, "I'm ready when you are." I am leaving this morning for a weekend of the Illinois Horse Fair! And when I come back, I hope to be all pumped up to be a real horsewoman again, after feeling so distant over the winter. Spring is coming and I'm going to start over and do better! Like someone has said, if the Good Lord is willing, I'll be back to fulfull my promise! I am glad that He gives us a new beginning each morning. Lamentations 3"22-23 tells us "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, Great is Your faithfulness!"