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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hay, Eyes, and oh yes, here we go again, Dominance

We came close to running out of hay, but are now back in business - phew!

A very nice farmer and his wife, who live nearby, brought it over, stacked to a perilous height on the back of their pick up truck. Mr. Burkman must be seventy if he's a day, and he scampered over the roof of his pick up, scaling the tower of hay like a mountain goat, to undo the ropes and then throw the bales down. We'll run out again in another month or two, but he said he'd have hay for sale until spring. It's nice clean, dry brome hay. He lets it dry for three days before baling, and frowns on farmers who bale sooner than that.

The horses prefer our own hay and will eat it first if I put both out, probably just because they're used to it. The bought hay is better quality, I think. Ours got a little damp due to its forcible removal from the barn during the wedding. It was in wagons and covered in tarps, but there was some severe rain during that time. Only a few bales actually got mouldy, but the rest ended up a little dusty.

Next year I'm hoping our own hay will last through the winter, because:
1) with any luck a severe drought won't make me have to start feeding hay in August;
2)  a neighboring farmer spread manure on our hay field, and we had some new seed drilled in, so we should get a better crop; and
3)  I'm planning to take back three of the acres which we have been renting out during our absence in Mississippi. It currently has alfalfa growing, which I'm planning to overseed with a grass mixture - giving us some alfalfa/grass hay mix to ration out to the horses in the colder weather. (Of course, I belong to the Blanche Dubois School of Farming, depending on the kindness of strangers to effect these little miracles on my behalf.)

Rose's eye is looking a little better. I have been mixing the Chinese herbs with a little apple sauce and serving them up in bowls. If I then pour the goop onto my hand, that's even more acceptable.

She will eat up all of her uveitis remedy in this way, but refuses the immune booster.

This prompted me to bring out the pendulum again and re-test the herbs. The uveitis formula produced the same reaction as before - alternate vigorous swings clockwise and counter-clockwise. However, the immune booster formula caused a different reaction - a strong back-and-forth swing, followed by a vigorous counter-clockwise swing, following by a short, weak clockwise swing, and then a halt. Ok, I won't insist on the immune formula.

I believe Chinese herbs really ought to be prescribed by someone who can check the meridian pulses, or whatever the heck they're called. However, I take comfort in the fact that the eye is improving, that Rose seems to enjoy the uveitis formula, and that the pendulum says, um, I don't know, that it's in balance or something .... ?

My good friend, who has slightly divergent opinions from me, was over and we hung out in the field with the horses. Last time she came over our different approaches led to a confusing and slightly upsetting situation. However, this time, I found I was able to listen to her, even follow her suggestions, and because I have a better connection to the horses, it was possible to try a little bit of doing things her way without losing that connection in the process.

She was trying to get me to move Bridget's shoulder over.  She saw me moving her hindquarters over, and remarked that the real test is moving the shoulder. She poked her finger (gently but significantly) into a spot on Bridget's shoulder. Bridget just about jumped out of her skin. My friend is trying to achieve what she sees other, more dominant, horses do - namely obtain instant obedience by a look or gesture. She is actually extremely good at this, and her own horses are devoted to her, as well as being very friendly and confident. So I wouldn't want anyone to think that she's really on a very different tack from me.

I agreed to try what she was suggesting. But it was confusing to me and to Bridget. As I am not trying to obtain instant obedience, I don't feel an immediate need to overcome initial resistance from the horse. So when I sense Bridget's reluctance to cede her shoulder, my instinct is to stop and re-assess rather than press forward to compliance. I believe she needs to take her time and agree to what I ask because she trusts me rather than because I'm mimicking mean old George. My attempts to do what my friend was suggesting only ended up with Bridget resisting or becoming anxious.

The next day, when I was out in the field on my own, I reprised the shoulder yielding exercise. I gave it some more thought and remembered how I obtained a good result with George. It is easier to cede the shoulder from movement than from a standstill. So I asked Bridget to move forward a little and at the same time indicated that I'd like her shoulder to move away from me. She moved away beautifully, even crossing one front leg over the other. A second attempt was much more muddy, and I called it a day.

Here's what I've been thinking: there's a difference between insisting and making. My friend has noticed that when she, or one of her riding students, is able to control the horse's movements at will, the horse becomes more confident. I would not disagree, and that's what Carolyn Resnick talks about. However, it is possible to insist without becoming coercive. I think that's what brought about the recent change in George - that I finally figured out it was ok to insist, and that it's possible to insist without forcing. I mean, gosh, isn't that what I've been doing as a mother for the past 24 years?

The difference between me and my friend is that I draw the line between insisting and forcing in a slightly different place, although actually we're not far off each other.

I think when you sense resistance in a horse, you have to try to get inside what's going on and unravel it from within, rather than trying to overcome it by remote control.

And here's another thing. This cold weather business. It makes it much less appealing to go out and just spend time, share space. I need to invest in some serious cold weather clothing. This won't help George, though, who is a little uptight in the cold. My friend, who knows a lot, says that the cold weather makes the fascia get tight, and tight fascia don't like to be touched. George is a tight guy at the best of times, and the cold weather exacerbates it. Still, he might like the company. So, I need long johns, vests, scarfs, balaclavas, down jackets ... oh well, Christmas is coming.


  1. Interesting thoughts June. I think it is so important to avoid becoming coercive, because I think it brings up the worst in us (in me anyway). But insisting is fine. Horses know the difference I think. And sometimes it is fine to give way gracefully too. It all depends on the circumstances of that particular moment, don't you think?

    I am glad Rose's eye seems to be responding to treatment.

  2. Yes, I agree, it's important to give in sometimes too. You have to think, just as with your own kids: Is it worth it? Is it important, or am I just trying to get my own way as a matter of principle? Or, is it the right moment to try and get this across?

  3. Interesting, June. Now that I think of it, it seems that every time I ask Olga to do a task for me, she first hesitates or even says No, just to see how I react. She has teached me to keep my cool while I think it over, and so that I don't use more force. She wants me to be sure of what I am asking for, and not get bossy if (when) she doesn't work like a robot. Wow. I hadn't thought of that.