Thursday, October 14, 2010

Baby's First Lessons

For many years, I have had the rule "no baby animals." God has obliged, and all the dogs and cats that have wandered into our lives have been young adults. And then I brought home a 7-month old horse. Just as with human kids, being a grandma or auntie is a lot less work than being Mom.

It occurred to me last night as I was playing cafeteria lady that (God willing) this baby and I could see old age together: when he's thirty, I'll be close to ninety. My own mortality smacks me squarely upside the head.

Daltrey is a sensible youngster. He watches his nannies and emulates them. Life at the farm has taught him that when a gate opens, good things happen, so he can be a little exuberant around gates. Stall door opens = play time outside and/or grazing. Arena gate opens = back to the barn and food. Now, I've had Poco and Jaz scoot out our gate before, so I've adopted the habit of ignoring them when I'm coming and going. I don't talk to them; I don't even look at them, and they haven't rushed the gate in years. Yesterday morning, Daltrey was lying down 20-30 feet from the gate as Poco and Jaz stood guard. It was still dark, but I could see their eyes glowing in my headlights. Poco and Jaz didn't move. Daltrey looked, but didn't get up.

Our first dinner time with all three horses was downright scary. At Iron Ridge, Daltrey was either fed in a stall, or from a bucket clipped to the fence, well distanced from the other two horses. I use rubber pans and the horses are only 10-20 feet apart. Poco and Jaz know to wait politely by their pans. They don't get fed until they are still and where they should be. Daltrey tried to jump into my arms to stick his head in a bucket. Kicks to the chest resulted in a step back, then immediately back in my space. "What about now?" Hell, he weighs more than 500 lbs. already! Next day and every day since, I carry a crop for my own safety.

He's learning. He still follows me as I feed the other two, but a tap on the chest and he's out of my space. He knows where his pan is, and it won't be long until he gets with the program. He has the annoying baby habit of flinging his food. Two nights ago, he pawed and flipped the pan, scattering the entire contents into the sand. Thank goodness for Sand Clear. Last night, he had the urge to paw, but I could see the wheels turning as he'd lift a foot, resist, and pull it back away from the food. He couldn't resist the urge completely, but less food ended up spilled.

Horses being horses and me lacking an easy way to separate them, I still have to watch over them so Poco doesn't take everyone else's food. And now that Jaz has somebody lower than he is, I have to ward him off, too. I stand guard until there are a few morsels left, then let them play musical food pans. But I noticed last night that rather than run Daltrey off, Poco just "helped" him.

I've been using dinner time to check everyone out, brush them, give everyone some individual attention. For Daltrey, that also includes touching him all over. I hope eventually to get him to drop when I handle his junk.

So far, it also seems like the big Boyz are teaching him the invisible perimeter around the house, within which you don't poop. That's the only good habit Poco has to pass on.

And I'm learning, too. After almost 10 weeks of freedom from my equine responsibilities, I'm having to relearn and revamp my routine. Thank God, I'm teachable. Sorry for no pix, but for the present at least, dealing with three horses takes two hands.


Anonymous said...

If you're teachable and he's teachable - what more do you need? Other than patience, persistence, . . .

Jeni said...

Thank You from one draft owner to another for teaching him to stay out of your place!!

Have fun wit the boys home =)

morningbrayfarm said...

Smart boys - and smart you! Hmmm... you just made me think about it. When Bernard is 40, I'll be 80.

Poco and Ellsworth are the same in the food department. It's so kind of them to want to help others eat, isn't it?

Sherry Sikstrom said...

Sounbds like you have it well in hand.Enjoy!

Crystal said...

sounds like he is gonna grow up with good manners!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Good on you for teaching him manners early on.

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