Friday, August 27, 2010

Day one, Successes and Failures

Since I want Sage to be used to all the goings on around the farm, I spent a lot of time with the horses today. I filled the water buckets several times so she could hear the sound of the hose sputtering and squirting water everywhere. She seemed to be doing reasonably well, but despite the fact that I could interest her in the water in general, she still only brushed the top of it with her lips and didn't drink.

So I thought I'd put Luna (who is very quiet) in the corral with her to spend some time eating and hopefully demonstrate that the water bucket is safe. I figured that in the wild, Sage was not the one who found watering holes and started drinking first--most likely she followed elders' examples.

Luna was a little nervous about being in the corral because she wasn't with her buddies, but I thought she'd be quiet and just be fine. Boy was I wrong. I watched them for about 15 minutes, and they were pretty much nuzzling nicely with each other, or Luna was ignoring Sage. I went inside for a little while, and when I came back, Luna was covered in sweat and bleeding from several cuts and scrapes. Sage was at the edge of the pen, and the water bucket was completely destroyed.

I noticed that Brandy and Gabby had walked to the far side of the pasture, where Luna could barely see them. Despite her lameness issues keeping her mostly at a walk, she had clearly been trotting around the pen in circles the whole time I was inside. At some point, she had met the water bucket at an awkward angle and maybe even stepped on/in it and fought her way out.

The poor girl was hurting quite a bit, both from her suspensory ligament damage and having been trotting as well as a spot on her barrel where it looks as though she fell down and banged herself pretty good. Otherwise, aside from her being upset, the cuts and scrapes are just in the skin. She has been healing incredibly slowly recently, and I was thinking the last few days she has looked worse than ever, so I never should have risked putting her in there. Sage didn't do anything, but it was still not the smartest thing to do.

While I cleaned up Luna and tried to get her to eat some grain and Bute, I put Brandy in the corral (with a new water bucket), and sometime during that time, she must have convinced Sage to drink; the next time I looked up I saw Sage taking a big sip of the new water. Maybe she wanted a black bucket instead of a green one?? Who knows. She got along reasonably well with Brandy, though she was definitely the boss. I think it was good for Brandy, who had always been the bottom of the totem pole until she came home to find two horses even lower in the pecking order than her. Brandy needed a bit of a wake up call on the topic of her NOT ruling the world.

Well, Luna very much appreciated her bath, and I put her back into the pasture with Gabby. I think that the best thing to do in future will be to group Gabby and Luna together and Brandy and Sage, when Sage is mature enough to be turned out with real fences. I hope that is before school starts--I'd like to have her halter broke and be able to handle her feet at that point, too.
After the excitement was over, Sage seemed interested in me again. I had spent some time earlier playing approach and retreat, and she was so quick to pick up on things that now she'll turn and face me if I cluck at her and step back.

Since she seemed pretty quiet, and since we'd had several moments where she had almost let me get my hand up to her nose, I decided to try technique of "touch with stick." It's kind of a popular thing to do with mustangs. It's where you reach out and touch them for the first time with something like a long pole (or a lunge whip, in my case). It's safer than being in the kick zone when they first make contact, and it's something I used on Gabby back in the day when she was untouchable.

Sage gave one snort at the lunge whip when I brought it out, but we played the trot and turn game, and she quickly realized it was just a part of me. I asked her to face me, and I reached the end of the whip out towards her nose. The first touch was easier than I thought! She didn't even flinch--only once a few minutes later when she surprised herself by running into it--and she let me rub the whip all over the side of her face, down her neck, to her shoulder. She tends to give me her left side more often, so I made her turn around and did the same thing on the right. Although she was also good, she kept trying to turn back around. Her right side is something I've got to work on, that's for sure.

But she walked around the corral, with the whip touching/running down her neck, back, and shoulders on both sides. When she stood still, I would reward her by taking it away, although she seemed to really like it. I think she's kind of itchy from dried sweat and it actually feels good. Several times she tried to stop and eat in the middle of our session.

Once she realized that the whip was just me, she offered me her nose to my hand. Her muzzle brushed my fingers two times. She licked and chewed. After that, I asked her to face me as I left, and I ended the day--one big failure and one big success!

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