Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘horse behavior

Slowly Becoming

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We sat beside one of the gates to the large paddock with friends yesterday afternoon and looked in on the four horses as they grazed. They showed awareness of our presence, but little in the way of interest in interacting with us. There have been enough other interactions where they chose to walk near us as we stroll around the perimeter of their pastures that we sense the early hints of a relationship between us.

In the weeks they have been here we have become increasingly aware of the differences between these horses and our previous herd of four well-loved Arabians.

One issue that Mix is experiencing is food aggressive behavior around feeding time that could easily be a relic of being starved sometime in her past.

Our old herd would commonly show up at a gate for social interaction and treats when people would visit. These mares show no sense whatsoever of this concept of “treats.” It’s a little sad to imagine the neglect they might have endured that has left them so uninterested in what humans might have to offer.

I suspect that too much of their experience with people in the last half of their lives has been negative.

These rescued Thoroughbreds have now become familiar with all the borders of their new confines and appear more than satisfied with the accommodations. They seem to understand that we clean up after them and serve pans of feed pellets for supplemental nutrition. Also, they now sense we aren’t a threat, but I don’t know that they are interested in making any hasty leap toward framing us as completely trustworthy.

While I was standing in the field among them around nap time the other day and three of them decided to lie down, I pulled out my camera to record the moment. While I was filming Light and Swings in front of me, I started hearing some strange sounds from behind me.

When I turned around to check, I found Mia’s snout was resting on the ground and it was causing a sort of whistle on her inhale, and then she snorted upon exhale. She was sleeping so soundly, she was snoring!

I took that as a great sign she was thoroughly comfortable with her surroundings and also, my benign presence in the middle of all of them.

We are slowly becoming connected to this herd and they are slowly becoming adjusted to us and our fields.

I anticipate this summer will provide plenty of opportunities to use idle time to continue deepening our precious connections.

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Written by johnwhays

May 3, 2021 at 6:00 am

Steaming Pile

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The new manure pile is already cooking! Given the near-freezing temperatures we have been enduring of late, the heat from the pile of composting manure was clearly visible in the form of steam wafting up out of it.

It’s not completely obvious in the image above, but there’s a little fogginess around the upper edges. The composting process is underway. We’ll have more fertile soil for Cyndie’s vegetable garden in about six weeks if I studiously work this pile. Not that we have a critical need.

Based on previous experience, I tend to miss a few key time intervals when it comes to composting, so I don’t think we ever achieved getting useable compost in the shortest possible time. Since we don’t have our compost area covered, I can’t protect the piles from getting too wet when weather is rainy. I am also prone to missing a day or two of checking the piles, so they can become too compacted or over-dry before I finally notice.

As a result, my composting has usually been more of a stuttering on-and-off process that ultimately falls short of locking in maximum nutrients and thoroughly killing weed seeds and fly larva. That is the promise when paying precise attention to detail, or so I’ve read.

The horses are doing a fabulous job of grazing the back pasture to make sure we will have no shortage of manure. They continue to look increasingly comfortable with their new surroundings. Cyndie and I reinstalled one gate yesterday afternoon that allows us to break the paddocks into two during the short period when we set out pans of feed. This served to prevent the horses from chasing each other off their pans.

With two horses on each side, they settled down and ate with no fuss.

On my way down to the barn from the house, I stopped off to check the unauthorized nest Cyndie found. No eggs for one day. We’ll keep an eye on it and see how long that lasts.

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Written by johnwhays

April 22, 2021 at 6:00 am

Settling In

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Despite innumerable projects that deserve our attention this time of year, we preserved much of the day yesterday for just being with the horses. We continue to gain insight into the significant difference between these horses who have been rescued from a variety of situations and histories, and the four pampered Arabians who lived with us previously.

As we were sitting in chairs beside a gate to the large paddock mid-morning, the four mares were finding themselves inclined toward taking a nap. A real lying down nap. All four at the same time.

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A short while later, since naps on the ground tend to only last about 5-minutes, they remained spread out and took to calmly grazing where they stood.

Slowly, but surely, Light made her way toward my feet at the gate, closing the distance by halves, then inch by inch as she munched. I purposely left my boot where it was, protruding beneath the gate in the direct path of grass she was working.

 

When she got to my boot, she pressed it gently, as if to make a connection with me. Then she just kept on munching grass just beyond it.

There has been very little drama between the mares, but as they crowd around the overhang when we are about to set out feed, we’ve seen Mix get a little testy with those around her. We’ve also noticed Swings having some bouts of anxiety that cause her to pace back and forth in one specific spot near the first gate they entered.

We watched as Light appeared to intervene one time to help interrupt the routine, getting Swings to break the pacing and walk calmly away with her. 

Cyndie reported this morning there is already a worn path along that fence that is beginning to get muddy.

We have been a little concerned about how much newly greening grass was available to them in the paddocks, but their digestive systems appear to be handling it thus far. Yesterday we dumped the inaugural wheelbarrow load of manure into the compost area. Cyndie and I embarrassingly held a small celebratory moment over the occasion.

Rocky showed up soon after to start scratching into it, knocking down the nice shape I had created.

Elysa and Ande stopped by to greet the horses and then I successfully installed the pump in our landscape pond to restart the soothing sounds of the falling water.

With that chore completed, I feel justified to now spend even more time helping our horses get comfortable with us and their new surroundings. The grass in the paddocks is already grazed to such an extent we are considering opening the gate to the back pasture for them this afternoon.

They’ve already demonstrated interest several times by standing at that very gate and ogling the greenery spread out before them.

I am happy to be able to say we are all settling in nicely to our new, mutually beneficial relationships.

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Written by johnwhays

April 18, 2021 at 9:36 am

Crazy Things

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I have finally seen the first egg laid without a shell. On Monday, Cyndie came from collecting eggs at the coop and showed me the crazy thing. The shell-less membrane was sturdy enough to be gently handled without rupturing, and as visible in the image, looked full-sized and held the shape of a regular egg.

We had read about this happening, but I could never picture what it would be like. Now I know. Very interesting.

I experienced another first yesterday, and it was a crazy thing, too.

Cayenne bit me on the shoulder while I was scooping poop under the overhang. That is a very uncharacteristic behavior from the sweetest of our three horses. My startled response and yelp made all the horses jump, but my amped up angry energy directed unmistakably toward her chased her out from under the overhang and pushed her trotting down the slope toward the waterer.

We all quickly went back to grazing, but I was much less generous about sharing space with them while I worked. None of the three were subsequently allowed the usual close quarters they are normally granted while I do the housekeeping chore.

I’m not sure what message she meant to send with that nip of my shoulder, but I get the impression that all three of the horses are feeling a little out of sorts lately. Don’t know if it might be the changing weather, or their continued uncertainty about a herd leader, or accumulated frustration over their restricted diet.

A diet which, by the way, has produced noticeable results in their weight this summer. Maybe they are feeling ornery because of the cooler temperatures and shorter days, and as a result they want to bulk up a little before it starts to get really cold. Cayenne may have been trying to urge me to stop with the clean up already and get on with serving some dinner.

I finished the evening with one last crazy thing just before bedtime. I went out in the dark and worked with Cyndie to load the foosball table top into the back of my car to deliver to a buyer who found it on Craigslist.

I’d actually forgotten about the listing that I put up the same time as the lawn tractor that sold in a few days. The one and only call of interest in the foosball table came around dinner time yesterday, and the proximity of my workplace in Plymouth turned out to be a convenient meeting place.

Pretty lucky for an ad that reported River Falls, WI as the location.

You might even call it, crazy.

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Different Behavior

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Yesterday was the second time in two weeks that I noticed something uncharacteristic about Legacy’s behavior. I’m not a guy with any history of horse experience, but after living with our herd for the last 4 years, I am able to perceive when their behavior changes.

Not knowing enough to make an educated guess, all I have to rely on is my intuition.

Last week, I came upon the three chestnuts grazing and lounging out in the hay-field, without their herd leader. Where was he?

Standing up under the barn overhang.

It was odd. I got the impression that he just didn’t want to walk all that way. Or, he’d rather stay out of the sun. I got the sense maybe he was feeling old.

It might be a reflection of my own issues, I’ll admit, but he is getting on in years. Not crazy old, but old enough that his arthritis might be sapping his interest in staying connected with the rest of the herd non-stop when they choose to venture so far away.

Yesterday, the oddity was more profound.

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I came out with a wheelbarrow full of hay to fill the box where Legacy always stands. I usually have to shoosh him away while I work, and he always starts eating before I can finish latching the chain over the grate. This time, I was surprised to find him down by the waterer, just standing, as if lost in thought.

My presence, with a fresh load of hay, didn’t engage his attention whatsoever.

Desirea almost didn’t know what to do with first access. She usually has to wait until he lets her in.

Legacy’s aloof behavior was so uncharacteristic, it startled me into taking pictures of the occasion.

I’m hoping Cyndie will be able to spend some quality time with the herd this week to see what she senses. Maybe she will be able to learn what is on Legacy’s mind.

It would be great if he would just tell her.

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Written by johnwhays

December 11, 2017 at 7:00 am

Cayenne’s Magic

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One of the truest sayings is that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. For some reason the last couple of days for Cayenne, it had become downright irresistible.

On Thursday evening, after we had walked the trash bin down to the end of the driveway with Delilah, Cyndie decided to open one of the paddock gates to the hay-field for the horses. They are well-familiar with the timing of being given access to the grass after the sun gets low, and calmly joined her as she neared the gate.

I stood on the driveway with Delilah and watched as the horses stepped out. Cayenne immediately walked up to the arena web fence, almost as if she was going to go right through it, then stopped and leaned over in attempt to graze.

I chuckled and commented over the obvious display of her interest. We know they like the short grass, and we keep the arena space closely cropped, but with the entire hay-field –now also cut short and open to their access– one would think they would be satisfied with the availability of the wide open acreage.

Regardless, Cayenne kept her focus on the arena grass. The other horses seemed satisfied with the grass right beneath their feet in the alleyway, but Cayenne moved along the web, continuing to seek access to the shortest grass.

I saw trouble coming the instant she put her head between the two lines of web and warned Cyndie, who was already trying to get around the other horses to redirect Cayenne’s attention. Before Cyndie arrived to back her up, Cayenne managed to make a mess of things, bending a step-in post and popping the web off in a mini-panic to extricate herself.

It was safest at this point to let her proceed forward, instead of getting her to back out. Of course, now the rest of the horses wanted in, so when Cyndie opened the access point to move Cayenne out, they all pushed in to join the fun. After some grumbly coercion, Cyndie got them all out and fixed up the fence.

We thought that was that on the issue, …until yesterday morning.

After breakfast, as we wandered down the driveway toward our first project of the day, we found Cayenne all by herself in the middle of the arena, looking guilty as hell while trying to project an aura of innocence. What was most shocking about it was that the web fence was perfectly intact and the access closed.

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Did she jump over to get in? Did she figure out how to step her four feet over without snagging the web? We have no idea.

The mystery will go down as simply being Cayenne’s magic.

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Written by johnwhays

September 23, 2017 at 8:46 am

Field Open

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The weather forecast for our area indicates we are in a stretch of dry, sunny days that could last a week. If we had hay to cut and bale, this would be a good time. Instead, we have a freshly mowed field that, yesterday, we opened to the horses for grazing.

For all the times they indicated a strong interest in getting out on that grass, I had visions of them racing out into the big space, jumping and kicking with glee. Cyndie asked me if I wanted to film the moment, but I seemed to know better.

I murmured that the horses would probably step out of the paddock gate and stand right there to munch.

Lo, and behold, they did pretty much that. I encouraged Hunter to join me in a run out into the wide open space, but he didn’t take the bait.

They stood in what we call the alley way, the space between the paddocks and the arena, and meandered aimlessly while chomping away. I moved a wheelbarrow around the paddock and cleaned up manure while they grazed. Eventually, I spotted Dezirea and Hunter had made their way just beyond the previous border, but they had turned to face in toward me and the other horses, appearing to intentionally turn their backs on the promised land.

You can lead horses to the open field they so badly craved, but they will decide when to take advantage of it.

When Cyndie went out this morning to serve up their tiny portions of nutrition feed, she said there was no manure under the overhang. They stayed out in the field all night long.

They got what they wanted, just on their own time.

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Written by johnwhays

September 9, 2017 at 8:43 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Horse Love

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It’s time our horses get a little love from the Relative Something blog, don’t you think? They’ve been a little short-changed here because energy for them has been directed toward the Facebook page of late. The lines get a little blurry sometimes, and I forget which hat I am wearing, blogger or Wintervale post-er.

I’ve got a fix for that today. To see this fun snippet of the herd nom-nom munching on the high grass of the middle pasture, I’m linking back to the Wintervale FB page.

If you don’t have time for the video, I’m including two snapshots of our crew in graze-mode for your enrichment. Enjoy!

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They are getting along well as the summer slowly winds down for them. We’ve noticed they have grown comfortable enough with being under the barn overhang now that even when rain roars on the metal roof, they stay beneath it and keep dry.

I like that better than when they preferred to stand as far as possible from the cover it offered, choosing instead to droop their heads down and get soaking wet, looking like sorry sad sacks.

Their health has been stable and good, although Cayenne still is working on growing out her hooves after a bout of laminitis. George has been kind enough to provide her an extra session of trimming between the normal span of time for the rest of the herd, which is helping to hasten a return to a desired hoof shape and less painful weight-bearing.

Shelby has been exercising the horses once a day, continuing a process that she started after Cyndie’s shoulder surgery in June. It has been a great help toward getting the horses ready for the workshops underway while Dunia is here.

One other thing the horses have adjusted nicely to this summer is the presence of three very friendly chickens who demonstrate a frequent preference to share the cozy space under the overhang, even though it sometimes means their meager ration of twice-daily nutrition pellets gets poached by the greedy birds.

Doesn’t seem to matter. The horses know they are still the stars of our show.

Makes me love them all the more.

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Written by johnwhays

August 30, 2017 at 6:00 am

Storm Preparations

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On Saturday morning, when we realized we should delay our scheduled appointment to pickup hay due to the looming storm, I hung around the barn and hay shed to finish preparing space to stack the new bales. Of course, that is when I made a wonderful arrangement of bales on pallets in the barn, which would eventually need to be tossed aside in a panic to allow the trailer to fit.

As the front edge of the thunderstorm slowly approached, I stepped out under the overhang to check on the horses. Spotting plenty of manure, I decided to go out and clean it up before it got rained on. Methodically toiling away as the heavy weather arrived provided a unique opportunity to witness the horses behavior under the threatening conditions.

In addition to scooping poop, I decided to move fans inside and close the barn door to shut out some of the racket made by the rain on the metal roof. While I worked, the horses randomly wandered down toward the willow tree, out from under the overhang, and then Hunter came back up again.

IMG_iP1473eI should point out that we generally find the horses huddled together in a low spot at the far side of the paddock whenever it is raining heavily. I had yet to witness the actual exercise of them getting there.

It makes sense that they might find the roar of the rain on the roof to be too much, but I keep hoping the opportunity to stay dry might provide inspiration to overcome the noise issue.

Then I spotted Legacy coming up to get Hunter out with the rest of them. The first drops were starting to fall and the initial burst of wind was kicking up. It was quickening my pulse.

I don’t know what the trigger was, but all at once they seemed to realize it was time to go, and together they hustled out toward the bottom of the big paddock. There was a little jostling for position, and then some romping around, but the drill ended in classic form with their butts to the wind and their heads down as the clouds let loose and the barn roof roared.

IMG_iP1479eThey made it look so routine, despite the unpredictable drama of wicked weather.

Many hours later, after I had successfully backed the trailer of hay into the barn while the second cloudburst of the day was underway, I stepped out to check on the horses and found them taking advantage of the overhang. And they were doing this despite the clamor of the drops pounding the roof over their heads, just as I’d hoped.

Well, mostly, anyway. Dezirea will often appear indecisive about things and was standing half under shelter, as if she couldn’t make up her mind.

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Written by johnwhays

July 25, 2016 at 6:00 am