Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 87

Col is on turning into a regular Houdini!  Last night he got out of his stall again and this time when Becky backed him out of the feedroom, she discovered that the chains across both his doors were intact.  Either Col is learning how to undo and rehook his chain or he crawled under.  Is that even possible?  He is quite a big horse... I don't know.  In any case, he got out!  We are going to have to start keeping the gate between the stall aisle and the rest of the barn closed at all times.  Although, I don't think that will stop him from getting out, as I suspect he is trying to make a point about what he thinks about stall living... :-)  And he will keep making this point until his point has been heard.

Becky had her weekly jumping lesson today.  This gave Little Love and me a chance to practice trailer "loading".  We had four goes at it and each time Little Love walked all the way up the ramp until her feet were right at the threshold of the actual trailer.  Twice she stuck her head in as far as she could reach, with the whites of her eyes flashing and her nostrils the size of dinner plates.  She was nervous, but also a bit curious, which is a whole new development when it comes to the trailer.  I was very happy with her effort!. 

When Col left, both horses called out frantically.  Little Love was running circles in her stall, banging on the door in between each lap.  This is the first time Col has trailered out in the morning, as usually Becky's lesson is in the afternoon and the horses have had a good six hours of pasture time before they are separated.  Little Love likes routines and this change in schedule definitely set her off.  I gave her a moment before I pulled her out.  She practically ran over me when I opened the stall, she was in such a hurry to go outside and see for herself that Col was gone.  I took her into the arena where she trotted around with her head up high for about ten minutes, after which she came to the conclusion that she was alright without Col. 

We went out the gate and set off on our usual walk.  Little Love seemed completely fine until we started to cross the field to get to the edge of the forest.  By the time we were halfway down the field she started to trot next to me.  I tried to walk fast to keep up with her.  This seemed to make her pace even more, so I thought maybe she would calm down a bit if I let her graze.  Yeah, right.  She grabbed some grass, chewed on it frantically and that was it, the "freak out" switch went off in her head.  She bolted forward, then spun to the left plowing into me and tried to canter home.  It was as if I no longer excisted.  She actually managed to drag me down the field a few feet before I got my balance in the mud.  It took some major asserting from my part to get her to remember I was actually there with her and that I didn't want to get dragged home.  For a brief moment I had visions of Little Love getting loose and cantering home across the big road - yikes. I pushed those thoughts aside as it was more productive to focus on the here and now than the what if's. 

Little Love screamed in panic, trying to look back to the barn.  Despite the severe cold I have, I tried running forward.  This completely backfired on me, as it made Little Love take another dash past me towards the barn.  This time I was ready for it and I managed to hold my ground.  We must have been a sight!

Once we got the road (don't ask me how, somehow I managed to scramble forward and drag her with me despite the fact that about 90% of her attention was elsewhere) she calmed down a fraction.  I kept walking, pulling her with me.  She gave up looking back at the barn and tried trotting past me, but I waved the lead rope in front of her face and used my voice to tell her to slow down. This helped and she would slow down only to pick up another trot.  After about seven trots, she sighed and chewed and started walking with me.

We walked back without incident and actually stopped for 15 minutes to graze on some new grass.  Little Love was totally calm and 100% present.  No sign of the earlier horse that dragged me down the field in a frenzy.  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I say.  Luckily it seems like there is less and less of Mr. Hyde.

As we walked up the driveway, I wondered what Lilo would do when we arrived at the barn and Col would still be gone.  There was no need to worry.  I took her into the barn, took her halter off to give her the choice of going into her stall, Col's stall or outside.  She walked into the back yard, had a drink from the bucket out there and parked herself in the sun.  She didn't want to go into the big pasture without Col, but seemed completely comfortable dozing off outside the backdoor.  That is where she stood, sunbathing, while I mucked the stall, prepped the feed for the evening and filled the waters.  When it was time for me to go, I went over to her.  She touched my hand with her nose, then my chest.  I told her I was going and she told me she was alright. She was obviously waiting for Col to get back, and she was waiting with patience.  I told her he would be back in about 30 minutes.  She sighed and chewed and closed her eyes, going off for a nap. As I walked to my car, I could not but marvel (despite her Mr. Hyde act in the field) over how far she has come from those days at the old barn where I couldn't even put her outside by herself in the paddock next to the barn full of horses.


  1. This is a perfect example of the times when our horses need us to be strong for them. Some things seems universal to me, and hysteria is one of them. So you had to find a way to reach in and snap Little Love out of it, and then she was grateful that you did, finally finding calmness. Good job.

  2. We have a little Haflinger that just struts under the rope, easily enough done but our 3 year old Hanovarian does it too! She lowers her head until she feels tension on the rope and tests it, then pushes slowly forward until she feels the rope passing over her back, then voila'! Sneaky and intelligent.
    So glad you were there for Little Love during this time of uncertainty and eventual panic. It's obvious you were the constant that helped calm her down and bring her back into her body. She'll remember this now as part of her experience and know that she's ok. Good work you two!