The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

George is Very Sweet

You know you're on a different track from most horse people when you can't wait to tell someone:  "Today my horse asked me to scratch his butt!"

Well, George used to be very uncomfortable about people being around his quarters and his flanks, which made people (me) feel uncomfortable being there. Today he gently swung around and parked his tail in front of me so I could scratch it - definitely a first.

He also did something very, very sweet.  He is fond of sliding me into a spot along his flank just behind his shoulder.  Once I'm there, I always lean up against him, as it feels nice and warm and cozy. Tonight, he slid me into the usual spot and then sidestepped closer, pressed his side against me, and stayed there for a few moments.

Interestingly, this was right after he'd found my foot (contained in a tasty sneaker) on the ground and thought he'd give it a munch to see what it felt like.  My "ouch" was quite loud and emphatic - maybe he was trying to put us back on a good footing (ha!) by his kind gesture. The other night he was very keen on holding the flashlight in his mouth.  I think I need to bring George some interesting objects to play with. For some reason, a hula hoop strikes me as a good idea, and possibly an old shoe.

By the way, if anyone wonders how I manage to spend so much time with the horses and then more time writing about them and conjectures that I have nothing else/better with which to occupy myself, this is only partially true.

George is Gentle(ish), and Bridget Experiments

Last night the moon was high again, and I went out late to be with the horses.

George was in the mood for a quiet nap standing next to me.  He was indulgent toward Chloe and allowed her to stand close enough for me to scratch her while he dozed.  Rose and Bridget, on the other hand, were kept at a distance with glares and ear pinning.  At one point, he left to shoo them off further and then came back. When he was done with his rest, he drove Chloe off and followed her.  Methinks I ought to have my wits about me and prevent this behaviour in my vicinity.  I reckon me and my radius ought to be a Safe Zone, whence nobody is chased without my say-so.

After George left, he stayed away for the rest of the time I was in the field and didn't interfere with my interactions with the others.

Rose came up to say hello, but I spent most of the time with Bridget.  As I've said before, Bridget is only two, but she is rather careful and thoughtful (if goofy).  She knows I'm not a horse; I think she's trying to figure out just what kind of a creature I am.  She appears to be trying various things out on me to see what will happen. Last night, as well as doing a huge amount of "yawning" for some reason, she experimented with biting me.  I don't mean a sudden "Ha, now I've bitten you!" kind of bite.  Not at all, more like:

"Ok, I'm opening my mouth now.  Oh look, here comes my mouth.  Whaddya know, my mouth is on your arm.  Ok, now I'm closing my teeth on your arm..."

At which point I say (ok, maybe I squawk a little bit), "No!" It doesn't actually hurt.  It's just that horse teeth clamping on one's person never seems like such a great idea.

After we'd established that teeth clamping was verboten, Bridget spent a few moments nosing and licking my arm.  Then she had a nap. However, later on, as I was leaving, she did another couple of "bites," this time more quickly.

Last night I also tried the tapping-on-the-opposite-point-of-hip thing which we'd done earlier.  This time, however, Bridget had a better idea.  She went, "Ok, how about I do this?"  and she picked up the hind leg closest to me.  It was a very deft, sudden movement, placing her hoof right under her belly.  It startled me - one has an instinctive (although possibly inappropriate in this case) reaction against horse hind legs making sudden movements. I couldn't argue with it, though - she was freestyling, which is fine, because after all, we're not doing "training" here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Messing About With the Horses

This morning, I let Chloe out to wander while I drank my tea sitting on the kitchen steps.  She got to eat her breakfast on the lawn, while the other horses had theirs behind the fence.

George was insistent that he needed to come out too, so I put him with Chloe in the barn pasture across the drive.  They ran around and checked everything out, paying especial attention to the run-in shed (half of which needs Serious Work) before settling down to eat some lush grass.

Bridget was trying to dismantle the fence by this time, so I put her halter on and brought her out.  She kept circling away from Rose in the pasture and then circling back.  She spent some time mowing the lawn, tried to eat some paint, chewed on and pawed at sundry objects, and viewed other interesting items, such as the picnic table, from a safe distance. At one point, in a daredevil mood (inspired by photos of Imke Spilker), I leaned onto her back and kind of sprung up a little.  Astonished, but not at all alarmed, she backed up and stuck her head in my chest as if to say, "My goodness, what was that about?"

After I released Bridget back into her field, I practiced asking her to move her quarters toward me when I tap.  Then I thought I'd try something really advanced - I reached over and tapped on the point of her opposite hip to ask her to move away.  She kept coming toward me or going forward, until all of a sudden she stopped and moved away.

I tried asking Rose if she'd like to go out.  Again, when she saw me coming with the halter, she walked off.  I put the halter away and tried with just a rope.  No thanks.  So I put the rope away, and she was happy for me to approach and scratch her head.

By this time, I was hungry for breakfast, so I put Chloe and George back in with the others, and headed into the house in search of human food.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


This is the result of Chloe scratching me a little too enthusiastically. Although when I see the horses grooming each other as vigorously as they do (if applied to me, the adverb would be "abusively"!), I realize they make a considerable effort to be cautious when scratching me.

And when I came in from a midnight moonlit meander the night before last, this is what I found on my leg:
It looks much worse now!  I have no recollection of being hurt in any way, but I suspect Miss Bridget playing the Harpo leg gag may be the culprit.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bridget is Bold

And this is why Chloe is the only one allowed unsupervised off-site playtime privileges.

I was looking out of the kitchen window and saw Bridget staring at the house, so I opened the door and shouted out, "Hello, Bridget." A few minutes later, when I looked through the window again, Bridget was standing with one foot on the gate.

Well, I can take a hint. I went out, put Bridget's halter on and let her loose on this side of the gate. I figured she'd want to stick close to the house and to where the other horses were. Ha. She skedaddled down the driveway toward the road, the other horses in hot pursuit on their side of the fence.

I ran after her. Down on the road, there was a Big Scary Tractor heading our way. When Bridget saw it, she turned around and came right to me: "Maybe you should put my leadrope on now." After the BST had passed, she snooped around and inspected such interesting items as a piece of white tape tied to a single-strand wire fence. I encouraged her to go a little further than she initially wanted, and then led her back to the field.

Bridget's boldness leads me to hope that we'll soon be able to go for a long walk. The farmer has just harvested the winter wheat he was growing on our big field, and I told him, now that we're back in residence, we want to keep a trail open all round the edge of the field. So there will be plenty of places to explore.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Evening with the Horses

I don't have any favorites, really I don't.  But there may be a certain pony, after whom this blog may be named, whose seniority and personality afford her a degree of precedence and privilege.

This evening, the horses were milling about by the gate, looking at me.  At times like these, I feel like I ought to put them all in car seats and take them out for ice cream or something. Chloe was looking at me in a particularly pointed manner.  I went in amongst them holding Chloe's halter.  This time she was determined she was going to have her halter on and get out of the field.  Despite George and Bridget pressing in upon her, she stood her ground so I could put the halter on, and she made a dash for the gate as soon as it was opened.

I took the leadrope off and let her loose to amuse herself while I went in to make dinner in the kitchen, whence I could keep an eye on her through the windows. She mosied about, finding choice grasses, while George, Rose and Bridget hovered enviously on the other side of the fence before giving up and going off to graze in the middle of the field. I left Chloe until it was almost dark.  When I went out to get her, she came right over to the gate when she saw me, so that I could let her back into the field.

After I'd let Chloe back into the field and had given everyone treats, I spent some time with George, who is becoming much more communicative (or else I'm a better listener). He positioned me in different places next to him, in accordance with some George algorithm which is rather a mystery to me. He groomed me a little. We walked together a bit.

I don't speak the same language as these horses, and yet they are so willing to compromise and accommodate - not only willing, but eager.  I feel we are on much more of a solid foundation now than we were before.  Allowing them to be comfortable allows me to comfortable with them.  I don't push them; they don't push back at me - we're in a zone together, and we both recognize it, even if we don't always understand each other. I don't worry so much any more about "What Are We Going to Do Next?" I don't try to interpret everything or find significance in what's going on.  It reminds me of being with my kids when they were little - you could poke them in the shoulder, chew on their ear, tickle them and say something silly, and then sing a bit of a song and have a snack - it was all about companionship and fun. A state of innocence.

Missed Opportunity

Today I was standing outside the house chatting with a friend, a little distance from the horses' fence.  George came over and stuck his head over the fence.  I think he wanted to be introduced, but I was distracted, and as my friend isn't a horsey person, I didn't take her over. After a minute, he wandered off.

I should have responded to his interest by taking her over to talk to him.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Everyone Has a Turn

Bridget hasn't had a chance to get out of the field yet, so today I put her halter on and we ventured down to the road, where she led us hither and thither for a little while.  I let her pick our route, apart from  dissuading her from tromping over some freshly cut hay on the other side of the road. After coming back up the driveway, I opened the gate into another pasture opposite the horses' current abode, and we went in to explore and eat. Finally Bridget said it was time to go home.

George was waiting to be taken out.  We followed a similar route to Bridget's, and George wanted to stay out for a similar amount of time.

Then it was Chloe's turn.  When she saw me coming with her halter, she started to try and position herself so that we could get together, but George was pressuring her, and she kept moving.  When my "get-out-of-here-George" was finally convincing enough to both him and Chloe, she circled toward me, giving George a wide berth.

I think she was just happy to have the rope on, as it makes her feel secure.  But I had more elaborate plans and managed to coax her to come to the gate with me.  I find she doesn't take it amiss if I go to the end of the leadrope, turn my back to her and just lean away from her a little bit.  The pressure is mild enough that she can easily resist, but usually she'll follow me, which she did. As we neared the gate, George hove into view, making Chloe scurry forward to get through the gate before he could interfere.

When she first started coming out of the pasture in Mississippi, she needed to know that she could hurry back home any time she wanted.  Today, after being out of the field for a few minutes, she turned and trotted back to the gate.  And as before, when she saw that I was willing to let her back in if she wanted, she decided to continue her outing instead.

She ventured into the other pasture to check it out and graze and then led us out back onto the driveway.  I saw some enticing shade at the edge of the lawn and went towards it to the end of the leadrope and leaned away from her .  When she didn't budge, I looked back and saw her turn her head back toward the opening into the other pasture.  As her idea was as good as mine, I followed her back in for another look around.

Chloe stayed out, I would guess, about the same amount of time as George and Bridget before wanting to go home - maybe 15 or 20 minutes.

After Chloe was released, I took Rose's halter and walked over to her.  When she saw that I had the halter, she walked away from me.  So I hung the halter back on the fence and went over again.  When Rose saw I didn't have the halter, she came right up to me, and I scratched her for a while.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Feeding Time

I can't believe the horses arrived a week ago today.  It seems longer.

They have sorted out a routine for eating together harmoniously.  At first, George had to drive all the mares away from their food and insist on his superior claim to everyone's share, before settling down to one portion and allowing the mares to drift back to theirs.

Now the routine is:  George gets his portion, then Bridget, then Rose; then as I start to give Chloe her portion, Bridget leaves hers and comes over to try and steal Chloe's.  I wave my arms emphatically at Bridget to shoo her away (usually takes a couple of tries), whereupon she returns to her own pile of food, Chloe settles down to hers, and harmony reigns.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Chloe and I have been trying to spend time alone together, but she is still reluctant to venture outside the field by herself, and she feels pressured by the others while inside.

Late last night, I put treats in my pocket, picked up a flashlight, and went into the field to visit the horses.  In the dark, I couldn't see anyone, but as I opened the gate, I heard a soft nicker, and Chloe came towards me.

The other horses were nowhere to be seen, and Chloe and I spent a long time together.  I gave her some treats and scratches.  Then she found a little pile of leftover feed nearby and ate it up while I sat beside her.

My eyes adjusted, the moon became bright enough, and I turned off the flashlight.  Chloe dozed a little, and we just stayed quietly. After a while, she woke up and started pawing at me.  As in the past I taught her to "shake hands" in exchange for a treat, I took this as a request for me to share the rest of the contents of my pocket.  I gave her a few treats-for-handshakes, got her to do her spinning-in-a-circle trick, then gave the rest of the treats gratis.  After she knew the treats were gone, she started giving me her foreleg again; so I'm not sure if it really was a request for food in the first place.

Finally, a growing rumble announced the approach of Bridget, George and Rose.  Chloe bustled off in their direction to, as I thought, rejoin the group. Not so.  She was trying to drive them away, especially Rose.  Her animosity to Rose is strong enough to slightly compensate for the size differential, and the psychological pressure was enough to keep Rose at bay.

I walked down the field with the Bridget following me.  We stopped, and she kept giving me her foreleg, over and over again.  It can't mean, "Please scratch me," I don't think, because she'll start doing it even mid-scratch.

Chloe came up too, and the three of us stood, with Chloe scratching Bridget's neck, and me scratching Chloe and Bridget at the same time, and Bridget scratching me. Then it was time to head home.

My daughter appeared at the kitchen door:  "Mom, where are you?"

"Over here!"

"Are you crazy?  It's midnight!"

Well, only a teeny little bit crazy.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rose Refuses, and George Ventures Forth

I should have known better.  When Youngest Daughter decided to try a ride with George this evening, Daughter No. 3 decided to ride Rose.  Now today was the very first time that Rose came up to me and let me scratch her head over the fence.  Probably not a good idea to throw on a saddle and say, 'Hey, guess what, time for a ride!'

However, hating to say no, I let my daughter get Rose saddled up; after all she had ridden her before at Rose's old barn.  Rose didn't flip out or anything like that, but it was more than clear that she thought the whole thing was a bad idea.  Daughter #3  had the good sense to not want to be on a horse who didn't want her aboard, but failed to see the brilliance of my suggestion that she just put a halter on her and take her for a walk instead. Oh well.

George, on the other hand, was raring to go.  Youngest Daughter put on his new (to us) Wintec Endurance saddle with the Cair panels (minus stirrups, which we'd forgotten to attach), and I gave her a leg up. We set off down the drive, with me walking beside.  At the end of the drive, my daughter let George pick which way to go.  Now, she doesn't hold with all my crazy ways and is rather afraid I'm going to turn all the horses into spoiled brats.  However, I explained to her that the goal is not to produce the horse equivalent of the Me Generation but to offer them the opportunity to communicate, thereby engendering in them a sense of responsibility and encouraging them to become fully functioning members of society. I told her the wonderful stories about the horse Thunder which Kris McCormack relates in a recent blog entry:  "Taking a Closer Look at a Very Bad Habit".

So she decided to let George decide when to turn around and go home.  At one point she asked him if he wanted to go back.  Back at our place, the mares had thrown themselves into a tizzy and were charging up and down whinnying.  But George scorned their weak sentimentality and declared that he preferred to continue along the road. The next time my daughter suggested he might like to turn back, he agreed.  But on noticing an inviting farm track leading off away from the road, he turned up it to explore.  As it was getting late, we had to cut off exploration before we'd gotten very far, and we headed home.

There's a difference in George - hard to put my finger on - but he seems more confident, more interactive, more mature.

Home is Where the Horse Is

Yesterday, my daughter took George out of the field for a walk, with Chloe following after.  As part of the excursion, George was led up to the kitchen door to receive a treat.

Later, I looked out of the kitchen window and saw Bridget and my daughter playing the Harpo leg game in the field.

When unpacking boxes becomes too tedious, I can pop out and enjoy a few minutes R&R with the horses./

It is nice to all live in the same place.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moving Up, etc.

Rose now has first-dibs-on-food seniority over both Bridget and Chloe.  I'm hoping she will not come to out-rank George, as we think the responsibility of being the boss is good for him.  Up til now, he's always been pastured with at least one more dominant gelding.

Rose initiates grooming with Bridget a lot.  George has started to offer to groom me, which is a new development, and Bridget and Chloe are grooming each other too.

Bridget is obsessed with offering me her forelegs.  We're working on our Harpo Marx routine.  I'm Margaret Dumont, or maybe I'd rather be Groucho.

Chloe comes up to me a lot, but drifts away very quickly - presumably because she feels pushed by the others. I'm hoping she'll decide to come out of the field for some one-on-one peace and quiet and/or exploration.

George is delightful.  He often comes up and slides me into his shoulder zone.  He follows his young mistress around when she goes in to visit him.

Rose came up to my daughter but has so far not come closer to me than a couple of feet.

They like it when I carry Susie the Westie over to them.  (She can't be left on the ground around so many horse legs.)  They snuffle her fur, and she doesn't mind as long as she's mentally prepared. The other dogs refuse to venture into the field.  I think maybe they associate horse pastures with electric fences.

The horses love their shade trees.  Once or twice they've all galloped across the field together - so lovely to see!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Animal Crackers

I've finally figured out what Bridget is up to:


Shifting Alliances

This morning, Bridget and Rose were grooming each other.

Later, at breakfast, Bridget chased Chloe away from their shared pile of food, and I had to give Chloe her own.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


This evening, when it was almost dark, I went out into the field.  The horses came up to join me, and I ran down to the end of the field by the road, where they had not so far ventured to explore.  The horses followed, and we stood at the fence, looking over toward the mountain.  I wished we could climb up there together and explore what is beyond that dark ridge.

As I was heading toward the house, leaving the herd grazing in the growing darkness, Chloe crept over and found me alone by the gate.  I knelt down and scratched her chest while she nibbled my shoulder.  Before long George came over, and Chloe moved away.  Goodnight, horses.


After a tour-de-force 18-hour drive by Melissa and her stalwart co-pilot, the horses arrived safely last night after midnight.  It was not the time for niceties, so we turned them straight out into the field, where they disappeared into the darkness. Later, after the drivers had left, I set off into the field armed with a flashlight, and after wandering around for a while, I saw them coming towards me out of the shadows - first Chloe, then Bridget, then George.  Rose was nowhere to be seen, but I figured that as she's not part of the gang yet, she was probably off by herself and doing fine.  In the dark, as my fingers made contact with the horses' skin, it struck me how smooth and soft their coats were, the last vestiges of winter having been shed out since the last time I saw them. After we had greeted each other, the horses followed me to the water trough.  Although a little more alert to sounds than usual,  they were remarkably placid, considering that they had found themselves beamed down into a strange field in the middle of the night.

This morning, sure enough, there was Rose, grazing at a little distance from the others.

I brought everyone some feed and discovered that Bridget and Chloe are such good buddies that they will eat out of the same pile of feed without arguing.

Bridget and Chloe share a meal

There is a new dynamic in the group with the addition of George.  He tolerates Chloe, who seems to have rather a thing for him.  Bridget, however, is the object of his ire.  The three stay pretty close. At the moment Rose keeps to herself in a very calm, self-contained manner, although at one point today I did observe Bridget leave the group and follow Rose, who used to be her pasture-mate at the rescue barn.

Every time I come out of the house, Chloe looks over expectantly.  However, when I offered to let her out the gate, she declined.  Several times I've come out to find the horses all staring over the fence at the house as if to say, "Ok, we've checked out the new field - what's next?" George very much wanted to come out of the field this afternoon.  I put his halter on and took him for a walk around the house.  He found the experience quite taxing for his nerves, and after rounding the corner of the house and coming into view of his friends again, he whinnied and was very eager to be put back.

When I go into the field, Chloe is usually the first one to come over, but she acts as if she's worried George or Bridget will push her away.  George looks daggers at Bridget but doesn't become aggressive toward her if I'm standing with her.  I haven't approached Rose yet and plan to wait until she decides to approach me. Her current status was manifest by Chloe chasing her away from the remains of her dinner this evening.

Thanks to the cows who have been keeping the pasture warm while the horses were away, the bushes and poison ivy which used to grow in the tree line have all disappeared.  At the same time, the trees have grown considerably, providing an avenue of shade for the horses to rest in during the heat of the day.
George and Chloe graze with Cove Mountain in the background

A drink and a yawn

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Call Me Crazy

The horses are speeding northward up the interstate as I write - Chloe, Bridget, George and, yes, a fourth horse:  Rose!

Melissa, the manager of the rescue barn, is kindly chauffeuring our little troop up to Pennsylvania.  I was talking to her on the phone the other day and found myself agreeing to let her bring us another horse.  Well, Rose is such a dear, and there's lots of room on that six-horse trailer, and Melissa wouldn't charge any extra, and of course we don't pay board here.  And the Mississippi climate doesn't agree with Rose, who the vet said would do much better in the north.

The clincher came when I took one of my older daughters to visit her.  My daughter, who is very intuitive and rather picky about horses, took an instant liking to her, and that was that.

So we will have the challenge of getting to know a new horse, who will have the even greater challenge of getting accustomed to her new surroundings and new companions.  She is a former pasture-mate of Bridget, however, which should ease the transition for her.

Rose is a thoroughbred from polo stock.  We went online and looked at pictures of polo ponies, and indeed she resembled them rather a lot.  Rose is quite beautiful of course, but her neck is, well, shortish.  I found it odd that the polo pony sites all talk about how a long neck is desirable for a polo pony, while at the same time depicting only short-necked creatures.  Maybe I'm missing something.

She is rather reserved.  I went several times to their pasture to visit Bridget before Rose came up to greet me.  I confess to referring to Tellington-Jones in the matter of her almond eyes - according to the great T, such eyes mean a fundamentally very cooperative character who takes time to let down her guard. Sounds good to me.

All right.  Four's enough.  Don't nobody let me get a donkey.