Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nice and Naughty

This is a tale of my two horses --the nice one and the naughty one. Can you guess which is which? Some days, I wish that Siete wasn’t quite so smart. You might even say that I long for a dull, boring horse. I’ll get into that in a minute.

First, I want to tell you about this lovely little ritual that Silk has created with me. When I was in the barn, cleaning the stalls a few weeks ago, she came over to stand in the ditch in the pasture and stare at me. She clearly was asking me a question. I realized that she wanted to drink out of the big bucket that was on the other side of the fence inside the corral. Seeing that she couldn’t reach it, I brought her a small bucket with the hose in it that kept filling so she could really slurp up a lot of water. Both my horses enjoy drinking water out of a bucket while I hold it for them, and I know that if I approach them with it, they act like they’re getting a treat. So, there was something really warm and satisfying for both me and Silk as we stood on either side of the fence. I held and filled the bucket and she drank and drank and drank. Then, she nuzzled my hand that was holding the bucket with her wet nose to thank me. And I got some horsey kisses.

Every day since then, Silk does the same thing when she sees me in the barn. She waits until I clean Siete’s stall and then wanders over to her spot along the fence. It’s my cue to stop what I’m doing and bring the small bucket and the hose to her. There’s a full bucket of water about ten feet away from her in the pasture, but it’s just not the same. Some people will undoubtedly tease me about how I spoil her. I don’t see it that way at all. Silk knows that I take care of her, and she obviously appreciates it, When I’m riding her, she takes care of me. It makes us both really happy when I hold the bucket for her, like we’re having a secret meeting.

Now, her daughter is definitely feeling better. Going out to the pasture this morning, Siete pranced around impatiently and let out some little, excited squeals while I unlocked the gate. We had to wait and back up, which she did without exploding. As soon as I stepped out of the way and closed the gate, she began bucking and running in circles. Her mama ignored the whole performance when I led her out. Coming back into the barn yesterday with my husband, Siete tried to race into her stall and pitched a hissy fit because she was dying to get to her lunch. He wouldn’t let her, and she was not a happy camper. I had a feeling that I was in for more of that nonsense when I brought her in today.

Sure enough, Siete began carrying on as soon as I opened the pasture gate. Silk stood perfectly still, ground tied. The little horse danced and I stopped her and backed her until she was calm, over and over. Finally, we made it all the way into the stall, facing the back window, before she decided she couldn’t stand it one more moment and had to buck. I knew it was coming, so I was ready for it. What’s difficult is to let her know that it’s not okay, settle her down and then turn her around in this small enclosed space. She’s smart enough to have figured that out, so she times her misbehaving for the exact moment when claustrophobic me is up against the wall. I think we’ll have maybe one more attempt at this on Siete’s part before it sinks in that she’s not going to win. Call it the change of season, with the cold weather, or the willful challenge of a healthy young mare, I don’t look forward to these punky horse games. I keep reminding myself that when I first got Siete’s mother, Silk used to pull these stunts and look how good she is now. It only took us eleven years to work it all out.


Lori Skoog said...

Victoria...Everyday I am getting to see a little more of your property in your photos. Thanks.
Horses are so much like children...once you let them do something it is hard to get out of it. So...if it makes them happy and you happy and you don't mind doing it, go for it. I never feel guilty about how much or how little I do with my horses...we enjoy each other and they get good care. At the moment, they are standing out in the rain with their sheets on, and don't know enough to go into the indoor or under a 60' shed roof. The temperature is dropping now and we may see some snow flakes.

the7msn said...

They never stop testing us, do they? The photo of Siete just says "I'm a little stinker"...reminds me of a certain 7-year-old gelding I know. But I'm so glad she's feeling better, willfulness and all.

Grey Horse Matters said...

It's good that Siete feels well enough to buck and squeal and carry on with her antics. On the other hand I think she is testing a bit to see what she can get away with, unfortunately for her, I think she is finding out she's not going to have her own way. Which is a good thing.
Silk is a treasure. I think the bond you have with her is so special. Just the fact that she knows you will read her mind and give her what she needs is an amazing communication between the two of you. Hopefully, Siete will be keeping an eye on mama and start to emulate her one day.

Janet Roper said...

HA! Siete has that 'who, me?' look mastered, doesn't she? One thing about horses, they keep us humble and grounded. Thanks for sharing your stories!
Janet & Shiloh

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

That photo of Seite is just so beautiful. Her blaze makes her so unique. What a silly exhuberant girl she is.
How old is she now?
I was giggling when you said that it ONLY took 11 yrs for Silk to be the calm, level-headed lady she is today.

Your bucket games are such a special way to spend time with your horses. I admire you.

My special time with my mare is when I just sit out in the paddock with her reading a book while she eats. She really seems to enjoy my presence. And of course, I enjoy hers :)


Pony Girl said...

I love that last picture of Siete! ;) Cute little pill! I hope it doesn't take 11 years for My Boy to get over his catching issue, LOL!
Hang in there, the weather sure does change their spirits a bit!

Cactus Jack Splash said...

I am here to ask you to help bunches and bunches of us blog for peace. It is an important part of my campaign for President.


I do so hope you have time it's a wonderful project.


Anonymous said...

That is so cute for Silk to want your attention at that time. My daughter's show horse used to look forward to our little ritual of an evening walk while the girl was cleaning her stall. Makes ya want to hug 'em!

billie said...

I don't consider your bucket ritual spoiling at all! It's communicating and building the strong relationship you obviously already have with Silk.

We don't do turn-in/out quite the way you do, so we don't really have the rushing issues - but we have had them before when we boarded, with the pony. A really good cure for him has been to teach him to take only one step at a time, in sync with us, like a dance. Then as you approach the stall/feed tub/gate/etc. you simply slow your own steps and he slows his. It becomes more of a dance than a "you have to slow down" moment.

Another thing my daughter did was to back him into his stall! I thought that was a little extreme at first, but it shifted the dynamic, forced him to work with daughter to not bump the sides of the door, and he was intrigued on some level. I think the smart ones need to know you have many options up your sleeve - it engages their brains and gives them something to do in that sphere rather than allowing it to burst out physically.

It's so nice that you have Silk to remind you what is possible when you build the relationship and keep the limits firm.

Victoria Cummings said...

Thanks, Everyone - My Siete has a BIG personality - which is why we love her - that expression in the photo says it all right now.
Billie - That's a good idea to back her into the stall. I think that she might actually realize it gets her to her food bucket faster. It certainly would be safer for me, and I'm always looking for reasons to ask my horses to back up.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy reading about you and your horses. My 'fix' since I no longer have my own. Each time I'm fortunate to do a photo shoot with horses, I jump at it. I've been away from reading blogs (busy outdoors) so it was a treat to return to yours.


LJB said...

How about... helping her settle before going into the stall. If she needs to blow out some extra energy, no big deal 'but do it there not here'. She can gain entry into her stall after she has settled. And not just her feet still, but her mind and emotions... I would think that might feel safer to you plus give her the chance to act out her feelings without any disturbance from you, and give her the chance to figure out how to regulate her emotions better.

Victoria Cummings said...

LJB - I do stop with her in the corral and settle her down before we walk into the stall. When she's in this kind of mood,even though she's calmed down outside the door of the barn, as soon as we go forward, she just tries to rush in and get to her feed bucket. That's why I always make her stop and wait again in the stall before we turn around and I let her go to the bucket. That's the problem - She doesn't want to wait one more second. I keep telling her that no one else is going to take her food, so just relax. Luckily, she's stopped trying to do this in the last few days.

goatgirl said...

I was thinking about Siete's name and then I saw her blaze on her face and a lightbulb went off. I get it!
What beautiful horses.

LJB said...

Well, maybe think about her progress into the stall as one step at a time, and think about her giving up the thought of rushing to her food, not just standing still outside her stall door. She can do it, of this I'm certain! *g*