Monday, January 19, 2009


Siete is a restless little girl. I think she’s got the horsey version of “cabin fever”. Even though I’ve managed to let the horses out in the pasture for an hour or two every day, they don’t really try to run around. Siete takes out all that energy swirling inside her on the rest of us. I’ve been separating the two horses more in their stalls, giving them each some alone time. It’s really so Silk can have a break from being annoyed by her pushy baby.

Yesterday, my husband helped me bring the girls in from the paddock. Siete tried to rear up as he led her to the gate of the corral. He handled it well, but it was too slippery to turn her in circles, so he ended up just getting her to the door of her stall and letting her charge in to get to her feed bucket. I’m glad because I was worried that he might get hurt, but warning bells went off in my head. I’ve been thinking all night about what to do to remind Siete of her manners.

On the one hand, I see her surliness is a sign that she’s feeling better and wants to up her standing in the herd pecking order. After months of having a moping, listless horse, I’m actually glad that she’s perky again. At the same time, I intend to nip this ear-pinning, punky behavior in the bud. A couple of times this week, she’s looked like she might try to bite me when I feed her. I’ve joked with her that she knows better than to bite the hand that feeds her. I adapted one of Carolyn Resnick’s Waterhole Rituals to use in the stall. When I’ve given her a flake of hay and she starts to eat, I ask her to step away from the hay and back up. She does it, and I praise her and invite her to come back to eat some more.

Ever since we moved here, I’ve tried to spend time with my horses in their stalls. I don’t want them to be territorial about the space. I knew that during these cold months, I would need to do things with them inside and being somewhat claustrophobic, I wanted to feel safe in a small enclosed room with them. I remembered that this was about the time last year that I discovered Clicker Training for just these reasons, so I dug out the clicker yesterday when I got back in the house.

This morning, I’ve had a really hard time sitting still. I can’t seem to find anything that holds my attention. Trying to clear my mind and just be relaxed in one place is too difficult. Suddenly, I realized that I was mirroring Siete, and I felt a huge wave of compassion for her. I’m stuck in a nice warm house with many rooms and books and computers and plenty of interesting things to do. She’s out there for yet another day, in the barn and the corral, waiting for the short amount of time when she gets to explore a freezing cold pasture that’s deep with snow where she is offered the same old flakes of hay that she gets in the barn. Still, she’s got a very good life compared to other horses. But when you’re a “teenager”, having someone tell you that you’re better off than most is a lesson that you don’t want to hear. It's boring here, Mom!

So my goal is to come up with things to do with Siete in her stall and the corral to occupy her mind and make her feel good about herself. Any suggestions?


Lori Skoog said...

Victoria....why are the horses out for only a short time each day? We have had wicked temperatures, and mine have been out all day everyday. When the wind took it below zero, I put a sheet on top of their winter blankets and they were fine. Can your girls go in and out? Mine would go nuts inside...are you are getting a break in the weather? It is not so bad here now.

Beth Donovan said...

Awww, I wish everyone with a horse was lucky enough to have the land I do. My horses can come in and out of the barn and into their stalls at will. They have 40 acres to play in, and even when our temps were below 0 last week, they preferred to stay outside.

I've found that by letting them stay out almost all the time, their hoofs are healthier, they are stronger and rarely catch a cold. I don't blanket them, God has given them a perfectly lovely velvety coat for winter, but I do make sure that I have a round bale of hay out for them at all times and I up their horse chow portions.

But I'm just really lucky to have my 80 acres that allows me to do this.

Victoria Cummings said...

Lori - Silk gets really cold and upset if she stays outside much longer - she's an old lady. And Siete doesn't have snow pads on her front feet, so she comes and waits at the gate ready to come in after an hour or two. There's really nothing for them to do out there but eat the hay I leave for them. Because of our drainage ditch, we have no gate between the corral and the pasture. I'd love to put one in, but my husband swears it will be a disaster. They can go back and forth between each other's stalls and in the front and back corrals, so they're not really cooped up. Most of the time, putting them in the pasture just gives them a sense of psychological movement. They could run around there if they wanted, but right now, they don't venture far from the fence. These are California girls, so if it's snowing or windy, they hide in the barn - especially Silk.

Victoria Cummings said...

Beth - It sounds perfect. You're very lucky!

billie said...

I wonder if making a path for them to follow with the hay, even putting some in various buckets or troughs, in the various spaces they go to during the day might help extend the turn-out time. Particularly for Siete, who seems to be asking for some activity.

And perhaps when you bring them in, Silk could go in and have some alone time while you do something with Siete - I know with the snow/ice it's harder, but even working with her on things like turns on the forehand/haunches, putting her head down, backing up one step at a time, doing neck and leg stretches, etc. would occupy her mind and give her a sense of "work" - which would also help with the punky adolescent attitude.

Probably not the time to do it with snow/ice on the ground, but it might also be a good thing to try giving Siete extra time in the pasture, even if it's by herself. If Silk wants to come in, and Siete is still full of beans, she could have a longer turn-out.

In the stall - jme recommended the small mesh hay net when Rafer J. needed stall time for his leg, and someone else recommended one of those rolling treat dispensers, hanging a jolly ball, etc.

Mine too would all go crazy if they had to stay in. Even Keil Bay will abandon his routine of coming in at dark, etc., if he sees I'm not ready - so maybe the waiting by the gate thing is their adherence to the routine, but if you push the time longer, once they realize that, they'll adjust accordingly.

Victoria Cummings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Victoria Cummings said...

Billie - Thanks - those are good ideas. I have a "Lik-It" that I hung up last year for Siete to play with, but I didn't do it this winter because I don't want her to have any sugar. I do intend to work with her as you suggested now that we're back to reasonable temperatures and it's not snowing. I also think that using the clicker with her asking her to listen to me and do what I request, like touch things with her nose or lower her head or reach back and stretch will help. I already make a path with the hay so they move around and don't fight over it. I'm going to try to give Siete some longer turn out today.

Cactus Jack Splash said...

I have put turnips in with horses who get bored. They like to eat them and the fact that the turnip keeps rolling away keeps them busy. I have one horse that I even put turnips out in the pasture with just so he won't eat the rail fencing, he gets bored easy. See if that will help.

detroit dog said...

Hi Victoria,

Our dogs are going bonkers inside so much (we got 6 inches of snow on Saturday!). We've been letting them outside more often for shorter periods of time. And we've put their Wiggly-Giggly ball outside and they just love it. Perhaps Siete would like a Wiggly-Giggly? They make them for horses.

It's tough when the kids get restless. At least your horses don't stand there and bark at you!


Callie said...

What about one of those hanging aplle lick balls for her to play with. I've done that in the past. Actually I might do that a agian to ward off any winter blues.

Victoria Cummings said...

Cactus Jack - Your DOR is a very clever lady - Thanks for the great idea - let's see if Ms. Finicky Pants Siete will like turnips - maybe if I sprinkle cinnamon on them. Or vanilla yogurt.

Victoria Cummings said...

Cactus Jack - Your DOR is a very clever lady - Thanks for the great idea - let's see if Ms. Finicky Pants Siete will like turnips - maybe if I sprinkle cinnamon on them. Or vanilla yogurt.

Grey Horse Matters said...

All good suggestions for a bored little horse. She'll probably like the turnips without anything extra on it, my guys like them too.

I think a little more turnout and some clicker training would be good for her. There might be one thing more to keep her mind and body occupied. Doing a series of controlled stretches with her on a regular basis would not only get her mind off her boredom but would benefit her overall conditioning. I once recommended a book on my rider fitness post called:' The Path to Perfect Suppleness' by Karin Blignault, it's a great book, check it out on Amazon. Silk might like it too, she may not be bored but it might help her older aching joints. I know I did some stretches this morning and feel better for it.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I know just how Siete feels, Victoria. But ironically I do have a computer, books and some knitting projects, but am bored and restless with all of them. Ironically these are things I eagerly waited to partake any chance I got, before I fell and had surgery.

It's almost like giving a bucket of candy to a kid, they eat it all, and then you offer them another bucket full of candy, and they say, 'no thanks'.

It's too much of a good thing, I suppose.

The past few days have been in the 40's and 50's and I'm still not able to move very well and get tired easily. So, I just lay in this bed strapped up to this CPM machine 8 hours a day.

I feel bad for Siete. I hope your snow melts soon and the ground dries up so she can get outside to run, buck and play again :)


Victoria Cummings said...

Callie - I did manage to get Siete and Silk to run around in the snow today. They had fun and tired themselves out.
Arlene - I'm definitely going to get that book. Thanks!
Lisa - I know how you feel about not being able to settle into anything. I hope that your knee feels better soon - I'm so sorry that it's been so difficult to heal.

It's snowing again and I just tucked the girls in for the night. Siete seemed much happier after her romp today. And it's so beautiful outside - really magical. Not as cold - 20 F degrees seems balmy now.

Victoria Cummings said...

DD - A Wiggly Giggly for horses? Wow. That's something I can see Siete really enjoying. I'll check it out - thanks!

deejbrown said...

I used to work around a border's nasty Morgan horse but discovered he melted when I put a favorite CD on. Perhaps William Congreve was on to something when he wrote: "Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast...."

Michelle said...

I second the hay net idea. I've been using Nibble Nets, and love them, they slow down how fast they finish their hay, which keeps them occupied and their bellies full longer.

I also think you may want to consider the possibility that Siete has ulcers. Her behavior sounds very "ulcer-ish" to me. The grumpyness, ear-pinning, and charging for food.

Rising Rainbow said...

My usual things for bored horses have all been mentioned here. The only thing I would add is if you go for the hanging toys, my horses seem to prefer the one that is the apple with the ball hanging under it. I have the ones that are just the apple treat (which only a couple of my horses even lick on) but they really play with the other one with the ball hanging underneath. I've noticed in watching them play that the one that has the two components moves differently. It is more animated and that seems to intrigue them into playing with it. I even have had them watch each other play in sort of a dueling game where they watch the other, then run back to their toy to kick it higher or farther.......who knows, but it's fun to watch them play like that.

I, too, have a bad case of cabin fever, so I can sure relate.

Pony Girl said...

Have you considered hand-walking Siete, in the pasture? That way if she does anything really silly or manages to get away from you, she'll be in an enclosed area (I'm not sure if you have an areana.) Then she can get her legs stretched, and you could also work on some of the ground manners. I've found using my 12 ft. Parelli line is great for working on ground manners. I feel like an 8 foot lead is just too short now! Hopefully you'll find some tricks to relieve Siete's antsiness, sounds like readers have some great suggestions too. I think it's just that time of year where horses are worked less and everyone, including their humans, get a little of that cooped up feeling!

Angie said...

I've been lurking around for a while just reading and enjoying your blog. I have one horse like your girls that prefers to stay in during nasty weather and two that will stand out in a rain or snow storm. They all have their own unique needs.

I have an award for you on my blog today. Hope you will stop by!