Friday, January 13, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

Winter Makes a Move

Seems the winter blogs turn into weather reports more often than not. Same here, I fear.

I woke up to the sound of sleet--heavy sleet--hitting the skylight in the sunroom.  Once fully conscious, I could hear it beating down outside my window as well. Weather forecast called for rain. Darn it.

Yesterday was in the mid forties F with calm, still air.  Today? Sun in, sun out, snow showers now and then, the sleet attack, of course, and then wind.  All off and on, reminding us all that winter in New Jersey is a fickle  visitor, not sure whether to sit down to make a statement or to hurry through with quick comments.

I'm not sure which I prefer, sometimes. I switched the Boys back into their insulated blankets this morning, putting the sheets aside for the time being. Each Boy poses his own challenge. Chance simply refuses to stand still when he is free in his stall for a clothes change.  He walks about in a circle or makes a break through the gate into the barn aisle to meander about with straps hanging before I've managed to do them up.

Now, I could to the right thing and put each horse on the crossties to change blankets, but it's just as easy to do the work when they are eating.  And, for the most part, they tolerate it pretty well.  I've always made it a point to bother my horses now and then when they are eating anyhow. While I can understand that they do like to focus on the food, I also want them to know that I am in charge and though food may be their priority, accepting both my presence and my control at all times is a part of their lives.

Toby and Tucker take a rather dim view of this idea. At least Tucker does. While I try to buckle blanket straps on him, I get his "snake face," a tossing head, and some pretty good efforts on his part to bite me. Biting is not his option, of course. I correct that by "biting" him sharply--usually on the neck--with my stiff fingers. If I can get a little pinch in there it makes the point even more effectively and he usually stops. The best reward is when his ears go up and he assumes an innocent expression as if to say, "OK, Boss! Who, me? Nope, I'd never bite you."

Toby, if eating is fine, but when he is engaged in his cribbing, as he was this morning, he too will react with an annoyed snap at the air in my direction. Depending on how much he's actually aiming, and how much of it is intentionally in the air, I will either use the finger bite or a simple verbal reprimand. He is herd boss and understands the responsibility of power, so he does not challenge me as much as "wannabe herd boss," Tucker.  And, Toby has a much more sensitive personality than Tucker. He will overreact to things much more quickly.

It is an interesting contrast in personalities and reflects each horse's reaction to "The Ball."

Chance was not at all intimidated and though he spooked a little from it at first soon just ignored it, even when it bounced into his legs. Instead of interacting, he just kind of wandered away, off on his own "walkabout," despite "The Ball's" presence.

Tucker, was at once fixated on "The Ball" and alternately spooked wildly or did repeated approach and retreat. He simply could not leave the strange pink thing alone and needed to touch it and eventually push it around, taking charge of its presence in his life.

Toby wanted nothing to do with "The Ball."  It spooked him and still spooks him. It is "something dangerous," to be watched out for and avoided. But, I am sure that if "The Ball" went after him in earnest--say if it trapped him in his stall or a round pen--he would try to kill it. That is exactly what he did when Kenny Harlow challenged him with a mylar balloon. Despite the fact that Kenny introduced the balloon and got Toby to accept it, when he turned his back and the balloon trailed to the ground on the end of its string, Toby attacked full force with two incredibly quick and accurate forefeet and blew the balloon to smithereens.

It's for that very reason, that despite all his super ground manners, I always use a little extra caution when working around Toby. The key is not to corner him so that neither he nor I have an escape route. Kenny told me to always be careful if there was something Toby was afraid of, and I am.  "The Ball" will eventually become something Toby accepts, but I am not pressing the point. So far, he has eaten a carrot off "The Ball" even though his body was in "I am going to fly back in a split second of that thing moves," but I have not challenged him further.

Today is not the day. The wind would make "The Ball" a lively adversary.

I'll wait until winter decides to leave the room again.


  1. This weather is crazy. So nice yesterday and today the house sounds like the wind is going to knock it down. Few flurries on and off too. Oh well, it is winter.

    It's always good to know your horses personalities and what you can expect from them in different situations. I get so annoyed when people say horses are all alike or just livestock with no individuality. As we've all seen each one is an individual and reacts differently to circumstances.

  2. Crazy weather here too. Dry so dry. We have to hose down the arena like in summer, there is dust everywhere!!!

    It is freezing in the morning, groudn and all, then it is warm around 1 pm, then freezing again by night fall. ???? Really mad!

  3. I enjoyed this post - so interesting to hear about their different personalities and how they react to different stimuli. You know them well and act accordingly. That ball makes me a little nervous with Toby like he is. I know you will be careful but even once he is used to it, if he is surprised...