Da@# – broke my streak!

Mean old Mr. Gravity wins again. Whitman thinks that if another horse spooks, he should “one up” that horse by spooking and bucking and rearing. The first time was a few days ago. Flynn made a minor spook at the wind battering the arena and Whitman took off down the long side bucking. This time, it was basically the same thing but a different ending. I was chatting with Ellie and walking Whitman on a long rein and Flynn spooked at the mounting block and Whitman simply erupted. To the best of my recollection, I went lurching off to the right. At one point I was really trying to hang on since I was dangling in front of his front legs and did not want to get stepped on. Then, honest to goodness, I thought I was about back in the tack and then the next thing I knew it was dark and I was trying to balance my entire weight on my left cheekbone. Don’t worry, dear reader – I did not get knocked unconscious, I was just nosed into the arena sand. I think I must have gotten my arms in front of me, judging by the fact that I was no longer in possession of my horse and feel as if my arms did a hundred push-ups.

I think what I am most irritated with is that I broke an 11 year streak of riding nut job training horses and training level eventing and even bigger stadium courses and always managed to keep my butt in the tack (yes, I recognize the humble brag, but it was well earned). Ellie is probably wondering why my falling off and her mother having to ride her own butt off to keep the red mare under control turned into her getting a lecture on appropriate language and the importance of always wearing a helmet, but such is life.

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Thank goodness horses don’t use facebook a/k/a herd dynamics

Reader beware – anthropomorphism ahead!

Trying to describe the various dynamics in our small barn herds is difficult. Trying to do it succinctly is pretty darn challenging.

There are fourteen horses on the property and they are divided into three turnout groups currently. The “Belgian group” is made up of Hank, Belle, Liberty, Quinn, Sam, and Fred (when he is able). Overall, they are a fairly herd bound group. Belle is the mother of Liberty and Quinn. The moment Quinn was born, Belle forgot about Liberty. Quinn was weaned around six months, but Belle never got the memo. Her main concerns are keeping tabs on Quinn and Hank. Belle likes to have a boyfriend, but is not necessarily picky. Any big lug of a draft will do. Belle is quite the butt kicker despite a weak hind end and does not take gruff off of anything. Liberty is keeping tabs on the situation and challenges her mother in terms of Hank’s affection and bossing her brother around. Liberty and Quinn, like human siblings, will tiff with each other but are a united front against any perceived threat. Sam has mellowed in his advanced old age. If Sam manages much longer, we will have to divide his life into epochs. Sam was old when he arrived ten years ago and is somewhere around 30. Sam has never made a decision he did not follow through on with bull headed determination. Sam loves to test how small an opening he can ram himself through. The doors and gates in the barn have been grateful for Sam’s physical aging. However, Sam can be turned out with anyone and not bully or be beaten up himself. We use him as the test buddy for every new horse.

The boarder group is the most fluid and currently consists of Webster, Flynn, Sky, Rosie, and Cosmo. Flynn is the undisputed leader and no one messes with her. Even the horses know about the red mare stereotype. Flynn is confident in her alpha mare status and actually causes very little trouble and is pretty friendly to other horses. Here the drama begins. Sky is Flynn’s henchmen and guards his number two status very carefully. As long as he knows Flynn is present, he can be rather aggressive towards Rosie and Cosmo. If Flynn is in, Sky courts Rosie with determination and is quite the Cassonova. When he with just the boys, Sky will play face-grab and wrestle all day long.¬† Rosie is still figuring out this social group setting and stays back from everyone but Cosmo, unless it is just her and Flynn out. Webster, like Sky, would make a great overzealous correction officer in a movie. Web feels that turn out revolves around one fact and that is eating. Web will gleefully bully anyone that he can, but cannot be bothered to leave food for long. He is very deferential to Flynn and tries to keep his distance. He and Sky spend a lot of their time pinning their ears at each other to maintain number two status. Fortunately they are both smart enough to not actually engage and risk injury.

Cosmo also goes out with Ries, Rio and Whitman – at least when Whitman is on parole. Cosmo turns into a bully toward Ries, so he may lose his nighttime turnout privileges. Ries is by and large a pansy. Whitman can occasionally goad Ries into kicking him, but only with extra annoying. Rio is a stitch. Rio will play “biteface” with anyone. He pretty much goes up on his hind legs like a meer cat and engages with whomever is game. I’d worry about his stifles, but if it has not affected him yet, its probably not going to. Overall, they are a pretty peaceful group. Whitman and Ries seem to be extra susceptible to Murphy’s Law, but maybe its just because I own him.

Fred is currently on limited turnout. He has mellowed with age but spent much of his life being very aggressive. He can be turned out with any mare, but tends to be a piranha  towards other geldings. A severe butt kicking by Belle has kept him in is place for about the last seven years. Fred has a patented blanket ripping technique with biting that relegates him to turn out with the drafts who rarely ever wear blankets. Fred currently is living a life akin to that of a barn cat and seems quite content.

Brrr

I am not really complaining about the cold. After months of mud, having everything clean and white is wonderful. I went out to do morning chores in full Carhartt regalia and was acutely aware that my gloves were not up to par with the rest of my winter armor. Regardless of the cold, one of my favorite morning routines is checking on the horses in the pasture on cold mornings. The Belgians are back to being blonde and this weather keeps them quite active. Hank does his best to make it clear that the Budweiser Clydesdales have nothing on him.

We were able to return to overnight turnout again. My preference is to have horses out when it is this cold. The wind dies down, the outdoor water is heated, they have unlimited hay and can move around to warm up. It is also really fun to see the various “nests” created in the snow – the equine version of snow angels. Rio, Ries, and Cosmo all get along very well and no one gets pushed out. This morning I decided to put Whitman out with them. Whitman has been on restricted turnout since trying to destroy his knee. He was being turned out with just Riesling, but if Whitman has a super power it is being really annoying. Ries is a saint, but Whitman kept coming in with kick marks all over his front legs. Whitman has perfected his ability to stand behind any pasture mate and irritate them into kicking. This only seems to phase Whitman’s owner and not Whitman. Guess which one of us pays the bills? However, Whitman just paces the fence if he is by himself and that is damaging as well. So today, with apologies, I turned NitWhit out with the boys and hung around to babysit. My current hope is that with three horses, Whitman will not focus his super power on any one poor victim. Ries and Rio both looked at my like I had to be kidding and Cosmo seems to view this with his usual nervous stoicism. If you know Cosmo, ‘nervous stoicism’ is not an oxymoron in his case.

I will get into our pasture and herd dynamics, but that will take up its own post.