Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Herd Integration and Socializing Challenges

Socializing within horse herds comes quite naturally.  Horses are curious creatures.  They enjoy sniffing noses with new acquaintances and getting to know one another...to a point.  But, when you talk about integrating an outsider into an established and close-knit herd.  Well, that's another can of worms entirely. 

See this guy down below?  That's Shad.  Shad is our little herd's "lord and ruler".  We call him the "herdmeister".  Shad takes his job very seriously. 

 We've had the same horses at our little farm give or take a few that have passed away, for 14 years and in some cases, more.  That results in a very, very tight little family unit.  They have established a very consistent social heiarchy within that realm of personalities.  Every single horse knows exactly where that individual stands.  Shad's the boss.  Period.  He rules by intimidation and everyone accepts that without question.  Even the neighbor horses, more or less, accept Shad's authority.  Shad accepts his position of authority with grace for the most part.  He hasn't had anyone ever challange his position, and the occasional newcomer has always ran away.  Shad is, for the lack of a better explanation...quite animated and very dramatic in his body language.  It's always sufficed.  Always.

Until now.  We've had Eagle for a little more than 2 weeks now.  We haven't even tried to put all the horses together in the same pasture yet.  Frankly, we're terrified to try this.  For a few reasons.  For one, Harley is almost completely blind now.  He relies on mostly Katie to be his eyes, but he will stick close to both of the other horses periodically as well.  Without knowing where his herdmates are at, Harley is uneasy and cannot relax until he's reunited with everyone.  Siri used to call out when Harley yelled for his companions, thereby indicating where at least, she was at.  So far, nobody else has stepped up and accepted the "town cryer" position for Harley since Siri's demise. 

The other day, I accidentally left the gate open during feeding time...Eagle spotted the open gate and proceeded calmly and directly to where Kadie was eating.  Kadie gave him her best "scally look", but Eagle was unimpressed and continued eating alongside Kadie.  Kadie accepted and continued to eat.  No big deal.  Ladde could have cared less about Eagle.  Ladde is all about the food, and was satisfied that he had his ration and all was well within his world.  Harley was completely unaware that Eagle had joined the dinner table...

Shad however...did one of those comical "doubletakes" like..."what the????", and proceeded straight as an arrow to where Eagle was, all puffed up like a peacock, neck arched, spun around and presented his big, red butt and bellowed like a bucking bronc and began a kicking match on the intruder.  Eagle responded in kind.  Eagle was not impressed, nor was Eagle intimidated.  At all.  Eagle has great guns and gave whack for whack.  I was in a state of sheer panic and grabbed the, now frightened Harley, and got him the heck out of there before he could get caught in the crossfire.  Hubby comes running with the lunge whip and gets everybody's attention and breaks up the kicking match.

When the dust settles, Kadie's in the corner with Shad protecting her like armour.  Ladde's in front of Shad, and Harley's running around in the corral wondering what the heck is going on?  Eagle is standing calmly, butt facing the trio in the corner, about 20 feet away.  Everybody's thinking things over, it seems.  I walk up to Eagle, halter him and get him out of there before round 2 gets started.

Now, I'm still not sure whether what I did was the right thing to do, or not.  I did not want anybody getting seriously hurt.  I wanted to check everybody out and see if any damage had already been done.  But...if we were'nt there to intervene, would that have been it?  Or, would they have gone at it again?  We'll never know for sure, but my bet's on round 2. 

We've had the horses where they've been able to sniff and squeal and get acquainted for just over 2 weeks now, and we need and want to get Eagle integrated into the herd.  That's quite obviously what Eagle wants.  Shad, on the other hand, likes things the way they are - thank you very much!  *sigh*  What to do???  I know at some point, we are going to have to let them do what they will.  I remember Ray Hunt telling me that "you have to go through it, to get past it".  True, but scary at times.  For me; this is one of those times because one well-placed kick could mean a broken bone.  That, I don't want. 

Does anyone have any experience dealing with a situation like this?  What have you done when integrating a new horse into an established "equine family"?  Do you remove the herd boss and let that horse work out things with the new guy first?  Or, do you just let everybody out together at the same time? 

I do know one thing for certain.  Harley will have to be removed for his own protection.  He cannot see to avoid a situation and would almost certainly get hurt.  Kadie's an aged mare and doesn't move as quickly as she once did.  Plus, she's as close to "married" as any horse possibly can be...and to Shad.  It's his duty to protect Kadie at all costs.  Even if there's nothing to protect her from - Shad sees things differently than we do.  Like I said before, Shad takes his job very, very seriously...and he is the protector.

Ladde, undoubtedly will be the easiest.  He's already had a squabble with Eagle and has learned that the powerful, even if smaller, Mustang has..."great guns".  Ladde's butt shows Eagle's perfect hoof mark as a reminder.  And, as second in command, Ladde will follow Shad's lead.

I'd definitely appreciate any advice that you can offer.  Life's experiences can provide great insight and wisdom...we're open to any and all of your thoughts.

Blessings all,

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sunny daze

We'd been having a picture-perfect summer up until a couple of weeks ago...then it turned HOT!!!  A pox upon all of you complainers about our mild summer... sure hope you're all happy now!!  I've been wilting like an english rose.  I used to love the heat, but simply cannot tolerate it anymore.  I get light-headed, dizzy, feel exhausted and sometimes sick to my stomach if it's too warm.  It's a problem.  But...summer is fleeting, so I shan't complain anymore!!  Fall's just around the corner and it'll be sweatshirt weather and frost on the pumpkin before ya know it.  I love fall.  It's my favorite time of year.  Summer's pretty sweet too!!

So glad it's Friday.  It's been the week from hell at work...so slow I think I may lose my mind!  This translates to long days feeling like I'm a caged animal.  Hate that!!  Could be worse - I could not have a job to be bored at.  Ok, I'll shut up about that.  Anyway, the weekend is here and we're picking some peaches at a nearby farm (yum!!), organizing our camper for a possible upcoming camping trip (our first this summer) and attending a life-long friend's 50th birthday bash.  Should be fun!  And, according to our local weatherman, this might be the end of our record-setting heatwave.  Next week it should be back down in the mid 70's and lower 80's.  Now that's my kinda summer weather - perfection!! 

 My boy Harley with my girl Kadie.  Harley will always groom on command.  Must be nice huh?  Harley would do anything for Kadie...he loves her.  Kadie pretends this annoys her.  :)

 The adorable Annie having a good back scratch after her bath with the garden hose.  She dislikes baths intensely, but you cannot keep this dog out of the water otherwise.  Must be the soap...

 My brother-in-law, my niece Kendall and her daughter, Lilly (on the left) and Faith, my other niece Rachelle's daughter.  They recently celebrated their first birthdays.  They're about a month apart in age.  Pretty adorable babies huh??  They're polar opposites from each other.

 Beautiful, naked babies in the pool...adorable!!

From the trail the dogs and I walked a couple of weeks ago in the Jefferson Wilderness.  The trail was 2.3 miles up, up, up...I was a hot, tired gal and so were the pups.  Fun walk and very peaceful though.  We hiked into Pamelia Lake and the dogs had an energizing swim as their reward.  I found a hat and used it as a bug swatter.  Remember, "ask and ye shall receive". 

 Come on mom!!!!  It's so cute how the dogs always come back and check on me...they probably walk triple the distance that I do.  Ruby recently turned 1 year old...cannot believe that we've had her almost a year already.  Again - time flys!!  I cannot believe it. 

 This is Duncan...trail horse/packing horse extraordinaire sneaking through camp headed for the water bucket after hauling these steel culverts out from a "you slip - you die" trail.  He is phenomenol!!!  Call me a coward, but you will NEVER catch me on those kinds of trails ever again!!  I like land on both sides of the trail - thank you very much!!

Kate, Duncan and Eagle arriving back in camp.  Eagle got lucky and only had to haul the oxygen and acetylene tanks in one way.  He's not quite as experienced as Duncan and those heavy, very cumbersome culverts might have been a wee bit too much for him to handle.  Awesome experience for him though.  This was the day we brought him home.  He's been living the life of riley since arriving at our place. 

Hope you all have a spendid weekend!  Make the most of it because summer's waning...

Blessings to all,

Friday, August 19, 2011

He's all mine...

...or maybe I should have titled this post something like, Caution:  May cause drooling.  Ya, that's it!  Because he's even more gorgeous than I'd remembered and HE'S ALL MINE!!!  And, he's home with us at long last!!

The last several weeks I'd spent many an hour doubting my decision to get another horse.  That's what I do.  I hash and I re-hash.  I toss and turn and can't sleep.  One minute, I'm super excited and the next I'm crying because I'm unsure and doubting, doubting, questioning my every motive and chastising myself for being foolish.  *sigh*  I HATE being indecisive!!! 

You see, over a year ago when I first laid eyes on this horse, I went ga-ga.  Uh-huh...head-over-heels stupid ga-ga over this horse.  You'd think I was a silly teenager or something.  I spent an hour on the phone with Kate (his current owner) learning everything I possibly could about him.  And, then I did what I'm so very good at doing...I started to question the soundness of getting another horse when we already had 5 horses and a llama to feed and to buy hay for, pay for farrier expenses, veterinary costs, bedding supplies and on and on and on...you know the story.  Horses are expensive.  Horses are a lot of work.  My hubby and I are not spring chickens anymore.  My hubby and I are both gainfully full-time employees outside the home, aka tired when we get home to second horse-caretaking job, not to mention property owners, home owners, fence builders and maintainers, landscapers, cooks and chief bottle-washers...*sigh* ...sheesh, I'm getting tired just thinking about all we have to do.  And, I wonder why we never have any money.  And...why we can never afford to take nice vacations etc etc etc...the list goes on and on and on...  you get the drill.

Anyway, after a week or so of heart-wrenching doubting and questioning of myself and my motives; I made the phone call to Kate and told her of my decision to postpone acquiring another horse at that time.  I tried to forget about said horse.  I even did - for a little while.  But...no matter how hard I tried, somehow I never quite could...

Months and months go by, over a year actually.  Things change, life happens...old friends die.  Our beloved and precious resident "little old lady" coliced unexpectedly and we now had only 4 horses in our humble little abode.

After the initial grieving process, a tiny little (guilt-ridden) feeling of relief began to creep in...maybe our hay supply we'd bought just might last through the winter for 4 horses.  Just maybe we won't have to buy a few more tons to get us by, the farrier bill will be just a tad less every couple of months, less vaccines to buy, one less stall to clean...don't get me wrong, I was never relieved at Siri's death.  Not for one single minute!  But, the more practical side of my brain began to emerge.

And then, I remembered Eagle.  And the Wild Horse Expo was coming up.  I'd put that on my calendar hoping we'd be able to attend, months earlier.  I sent an e-mail to Kate inquiring, if perchance, she just might be attending, and if so, was she bringing Eagle to the event???  All perfectly innocent questions, right???  RIGHT???  

Kate responds with a resounding "YES"!!  "I'll bring Eagle with you in mind!".  My heart starts pounding wildly in my chest, I start getting all emotional like a ninny and...well, you know.  Shit happens!!!  I had hoped that once I met him in person, I'd see that he was just another horse.  No big deal, horses come along every single day.  Finally, I could get him out of my head (and out of my heart).  End of story...


He looked me squarely in the eye and I melted like a cube of butter in the noonday sun. 

God help me...I was a goner.

Can't explain it.  I don't even try.  For those people out there who have never fallen in love with a horse at first sight, you couldn't possibly understand.  But, just maybe there are those of you out there who know exactly what I'm talking about.  Some things in life you just can't explain.  Some things in life don't have to make perfect sense.  And some things are just bigger than we are.


I think we were destined to be together...cool, huh?

Friday, August 5, 2011

For the love of summer

Yes, I doooo love summer and all that it entails.  Long days, warm nights, sunshine, everything!!  So, for once I don't have a lot to say and thought I'd just post a bunch of pictures taken over the last month of so.  Our summer so far...

Homemade strawberry jam...YUM!!!
 Swimming in the lake...................

 Fishin' - even if it is just for pretend!!

Bathing and spending time with the horses just because you love them!!!  This is my grandson David and our beautiful little mare "Kadie".  She loves attention...don't most girls??

"Ladde"  after just having his first bath of the summer and showing off those spots that otherwise go un-noticed unless he's all wet.  I think he's beautiful...er, I mean handsome!!

 Ya just gotta admire a gorgeous horsey butt!!  This is Harley, doing what Harley loves best...

Herd shot...with the head herdmeister - "Shad"

Naps with an old friend - what's not to love about that!!??

My berry patch!!  This is the first year I've got berries, and they're a little out of control...like so many other things in my garden.  But those berries are delicious!!!

A super weekend breakfast made especially tasty with freshly homemade raspberry topping with berries just picked my my berry patch!!!  Hmmmmm...

My gorgeous wild rose hedge that keeps growing bigger and better with each summer...I love it!!

Summer projects that are enjoyed for years to come...
Thank you honey!!

Making new friends...

And lastly, but forever at the tops of my loves list...another shot of Ladde feeling especially dashing after his bath.  He knows he's gorgeous!!  And, there's my beloved hubby trying to hide behind the Laddmonster!!  Sorry, not a chance!!  :)

Hope you're all enjoying your summer.  We're off to Costco to buy some ribs and chicken breasts for a BBQ this weekend at our house with the family and a few friends.  I'm gonna make a killer (I hope) boysenberry cobbler with some of the berries that I picked last night.  Hmmm, served with homemade whipped cream/mascarpone cheese topping...oh my!!!  Hope everybody's weekend is fun, relaxing and oh-so-tasty too!!!!