Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bringing up Baby

Wednesday afternoons after work now officially belong to Daltrey. This works well, since I don't have much energy and he has an attention span to match. The one thing I like about the heat is that the horses have little inclination to be stupid and jumpy, not that he normally is.

I tied Daltrey, ostensibly to groom him, but in fact it was more to gauge his mood and attention span. He stood well (for a baby), even for brushing his mane and tail, which aren't his favorite things. He's still a little heavy and wobbly when you pick up his feet.

Daltrey was more concerned about being in the arena by himself than anything I asked him to do. I led him around from both sides. We stopped, started, turned, and backed. I led him through a narrow channel someone had built from ground poles. His turns were sloppy, but he wasn't bothered by it. I did the whole "carrot stick" thing all over. Didn't even flinch, no matter how wildly I flailed it over his head, wrapped it round his legs, etc. Tried terrorizing him with a plastic grocery bag, and although he gave me a few wide-eyed looks (his startling eye color makes all his looks seem wide-eyed), he didn't move his feet. Then I brought out a black trash bag and about wore myself out shaking it, filling it with air, etc. Nada. Laid it on the ground and he sniffed and pawed, then walked right over it. I guarantee Jazu the Wonder Pony would have had no part of that!

My now 17-month old baby has entered that stage in draft baby development where he is conformationally an unholy mess — a Frankenhorse. He shot up again, and the last time Heather sticked him, he measured 14.2, but that was a month ago, so no telling now. He's ribby, butt high, hollow hipped, cow-hocked, his neck's too short, and his head's too big. Regardless of how much food you pump into him, he'll likely be gangly and out of proportion until he's at least three. All that is easy to overlook because of that wonderful drafty temperament.

We've discovered that his hearing is not impaired to the degree we once thought it was. It seems to be only lower-range sounds he can't hear. Even if he's at the far end of the pasture, he comes a-running when I call him.

Daltrey still doesn't understand that every being is not a horse. He's a bit of a cookie monster, and he likes to get in your space. So far, this is the worst I have to deal with, so you'll get no complaints here.

Caught a few minutes of a show on RFD where some guy (prolly a BNT) was out in a large pasture with mares and near weanlings. He was talking about herd dynamics and casually mentioned that all the babies were born in the pasture and didn't get haltered for the first time until they were weaned. I don't know nuthin' about nuthin', but that sure seems to me like the hard way to do things for both owner and baby. When you're talking drafts and draft crosses, they're frikken' huge by the time they're weanlings! They're too darn big NOT to start working with them from Day One. Besides, I think that's a lot of stress on a baby to be taken away from its mama, a strange thing put on its face, and being yanked around by the two-leggeds.

How do you feel about it? Leave them be or stick a halter on them as soon as you can? When do you start messing with them, teaching them to lead, yield, etc.?


Fantastyk Voyager said...

I think they need to be worked with the sooner the better, in baby steps, of course.

Anonymous said...

I think a foal needs to be imprinted right away. Why wait? We don't with our cats and dogs when they are kittens and puppies.

Pinzgauer said...

I believe that while nursing the foals should be trained as they show an interest. Baby wants to see what humans are, well human pets baby and does nice things. Baby starts to pester humans all the time, well human puts thing on head and starts to show baby manners.

Granted, I also have "baby time" where I make a point of just being available for the foals. And I also am here all the time, so that makes me able to do this. But I've tried following a schedule with the babies, and they are... well... just too immature to get it. When I make it something that their own curiosity starts then they seem to love it.

Daisy said...

Right away. They're so curious while babies. It's a great time to use their curiosity to get (while they have no idea) training done.
My experience says that then later in your life your problems with your horse are things like that horse "being in your space" as you mentioned in this post. I prefer that to a stand-off-fish horse who has fears issues with me.

Cactus Jack Splash said...

I think the more you mess with them from day one the better. However it needs to be quality messing...

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I don't think it ever hurts to handle a baby from the day they are born, but I have been told that Icelandic Horses that are raised in Iceland aren't handled or haltered until after the first or second year of their a Mustang taken from the wild. They do seem to do well just focusing on growing and enjoying their babyhood and learning how to live within a herd. When they are finally taken in by humans they seem to be well adjusted because of all that time they spent learning and growing and just being a horse.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

And I meant to say that I wonder if some of the problems that many foals end up having (not respecting humans, crowding, being pushy, kicking, biting etc) might be learned by being around humans too much? We see this a lot when animals are taken from their Mothers and hand-raised/bottle fed. There are cases of male llamas that have went rogue on humans because they were bottle babies who were given loads of attention and affection and never learned to respect humans or have boundaries or learn how to be a llama.
It would seem that permitting baby horses to spend most, if not all, of their babyhood within a herd environment would be a healthy and important learning environment for them. We see this when Mustangs are captured from the wild and then gentled by humans.
When a baby horse is allowed to live in a herd without excessive handling by humans, the adult horses can be the ones to teach the babies manners and respect, which will end up making our job that much easier and a lot safer for us humans, too.

Just my 2 cents,

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I dunno...we've done it both ways and not noticed any difference in the end. I think it has more to do with the how vs. the when.

If imprinting was 'necessary' people would not be able to take wild horses off the range when they were mature and turn them into domesticated horses.

That being said though, I do enjoy handling my babies from as early an age as possible. It's more for my pleasure than really thinking I am going to raise any better of a horse in the long run.

Of course my experience is limited to light-horse types. The very little I know about draft/draft-crosses is that size can become an issue and the old-timers I knew that used to use them to work with always said you had to handle them from an early age because they could get a little rank as they got older. I have no idea if they meant size or attitude. ??

Leah Fry said...

I just love it when I get lots of perspectives! Great stuff.

Lisa, that's a good observation about the llamas and makes sense. Daltrey is pastured with other horses and believe me, they get their point across. He gets banged up being taught manners by his herd.

I don't advocate training them beyond the basics when they're young and when they're ready.

AareneX said...

Small lessons, a few minutes long, as often as you can manage.

Lather rinse repeat.

As horse gets older/more experienced, add a little time or a little bit more "newness." But probably not both on the same day, if you can manage.

Lather rinse repeat...for life.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

AareneX said...

Also, and FYI about Icelandics:

A friend of mine who raises Iceys in America says that the breed has NO PREY RESPONSE left in them. There aren't any horse-eating predators in Iceland. "Gentling" them is a matter of offering food. I don't know of any other group of horses that has been similarly isolated from predators for so many generations, so I'd bet that you can do stuff with Icey's that are not recommended for "regular" horses.

ezra_pandora said...

I think all the advice you've gotten basically says the same, good advice. Do something with them, but don't push too hard. We've got a 4 month old quarter horse now. She leads really well (in consideration of her age), likes to be brushed and will pick up her feet nicely (for enough time to brush them out, no picking yet). We do all this with mom around, and mom lets us know when she or when she thinks baby's had enough. Usually after about 10 min or so. Good luck with it all! You're lucky to have the gentle drafty :)

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