The Gentleman’s Club

Managing the herd dynamic is one of the top priorities at any barn. Horses, like people, are predisposed to like and dislike others according to their own personality and character.

While horses will identify their own pecking order, it is important for the barn owner to understand their horses well enough to know who should and shouldn’t be turned out together and encouraged to mix. Ensuring the horses are grazing among others of like mind and character is key to reducing the risk of injury and possible upset among the herd.

Bear, as we’ve discovered, is the horse-about-town type. He wants to, and does, get along with everyone. It makes him a natural leader. His experience with Zu Zu is a case in point. Now that she has left, however, we’ve had to find him other friends that share his particular easy-going life philosophy.

For the past three weeks or so he’s been enjoying the company of old campaigner Konnor, and a young FEI dressage prospect, Dream. They’ve been getting along famously. In fact, Dream and Bear are often to be found playing and grazing together as if they’ve been friends for life, while Konnor hovers in the background ready to mediate if needed. He likes the ex officio role ~ doesn’t need to be in charge all the time, but will step in if required.

Bear and Dream share a tender morsel ...

Bear and Dream share a tender morsel …

 

They’re such a polite trio I’ve dubbed them “The Gentleman’s Club.”

Last week a new horse moved into the barn.  Midas, at age 19, is an older fellow and another retired dressage horse. The day after his arrival I was approached  about introducing Midas to our gentlemanly herd. We discussed the proposed change at some length. We knew the established herd was functioning well together, but wondered what would happen if we introduced someone new. Would it alter the dynamic? Would it be a good fit?

Every herd introduction is a social experiment. While J had her own concerns because of past injuries Midas had experienced, she assured us he was a peace-loving horse and, if anything, preferred to keep to himself. Her main concern was that he be in with a quiet group who wouldn’t bully or chase him around.

The facts were this: Konnor is 20 and the paddock peace keeper. Dream is eight and, having had two colic surgeries of his own, needs quiet companionship and civilized play as well as all-day turnout. Bear is 12 and just wants to be everyone’s friend. Taking all of this into consideration, a well as Midas’ disposition, we agreed there was little harm in seeing if they would get along. After all, you don’t know if something is going to work until you give it a go. So, Midas was introduced into The Gentleman’s Club.

As Bear was still enjoying his after-ride grooming session, Midas met the other two members first.

It is normal, when introducing horses to each other for the first time, to witness a cacophony of squeals and grunts and screams as necks arch and noses touch in greeting. It’s all part of the initial interview. There’s the occasional pawing at the ground and some ear pinning too but, if all goes well, this is the extent of the discussion.

By the time I lead Bear to the paddock it was apparent that Midas had passed muster. But Bear and Midas still had to meet.

While Bear was  lead into the paddock I grabbed my camera and documented his interaction with the potential new club member.

Herewith my interpretation, in words and pictures, of Midas’ admission interview with Bear.

 ~*~

Hello, Midas. My name is Shakespeare, but you can call me Bear ...

“Hello, Midas. My name is Shakespeare, but you can call me Bear …”

~*~

Now, then ... let's get a closer look at you ...

“Now, then … let’s get a closer look at you …”

 ~*~

Now, the other side, if you please ...

“That’s good. Now, the other side, if you please …”

~*~

 

(I like him so far, mom ...)

(So far so good, mom …)

~*~

 

Here, let me show you the water barrel ...

“Now, if you’ll come this way, I’ll show you the club’s water barrel …”

~*~

Uh huh, you're good over here too ...

“Just so you know, it’s first come, first serve after me, buddy …”

~*~

Now, over here is club hay ...

“And over here we have some of the club’s select hay. Over here, I said …”

~*~

Good, good ... I like what I'm seeing. Your patience shall be rewarded ...

“Thanks for waiting. Your manners are excellent. I like that …”

~*~

Please ... help yourself ...

“Please, try some for yourself. Do note its superior quality …”

~*~

Here ... let me help you ...

“Here, let me help you with that …”

~*~

"Thank you," says Midas ...

“No need to thank me just yet … “

~*~

"I like him, boys, what do you think?"

“I like him, boys, what do you think?”

~*~

Admission granted ...

Admission granted …

~*~

The interview took all of 10 minutes and we watched in awe as it all unfolded. J said she’d never seen Midas relax so quickly into a group.

Well, it is The Gentleman’s Club after all. 😉

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

Pick On The New Kid Day

Well, it had to happen that at some point Bear would get his initiation.

Yesterday was that day.

Naughty Jerome was the culprit.

When I arrived at the barn I was curious to see Bear out in his “underwear” aka his stable sheet. Normally in these wintry conditions he wears his lovely new outdoor blanket as well. Still, I thought nothing of it figuring that Marianne, who was on barn duty, would know something I didn’t.

When I asked her about it and went to the blanket room to show what Bear could wear on balmier days I was surprised to see that his new blankie wasn’t hanging up on its hook either. The other lighter blanket that I was going to  show her was there, but that was all.

Marianne assured me that no one else was wearing the blanket and that she had put a blanket on Bear that morning.

Confused, I took a look outside. My survey of the paddocks confirmed that no other horse was wearing his blanket. So, where, if not on Bear, could it be? Surely it hadn’t been stolen.

And then, the light bulb moment as I looked out into Bear’s paddock, where he and Jerome and Zu Zu were munching hay. There, in the distance in a crumpled heap on the ground was Bear’s blanket.

~*~

... See that speck in the distance? That's Bear's blanket ...

… See that speck in the distance off centre left? That’s Bear’s blanket …

~*~

Naughty Jerome who, as I was to learn, has been guilty of this high jinx before, had pulled the blanket over Bear’s head during a tussle.

My boy had been pantsed!

And then, when I went to bring Bear into the barn, Naughty Jerome had a little hissy fit, backed Bear into the fence, where he couldn’t escape, and started kicking at him.

Mom to the rescue!!!!

No harm done. But it explains why Bear was so glad to see me.

It was “pick on the new kid day” and he needed his mommy. 🙂

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

A Change in the Weather

While I continue to tweak the next instalment of Confessions of a Coaching Intern, here’s another missive by one Shakespeare the “Equine” whose own blog I have yet to update.

As he would say: “The day hath only so many hours.”

As well, change is in the wind.

Stay tuned.

~*~

Our new official portrait ~ Photography by Cary Andrew Penny

Our new official portrait ~ Photo: Cary Andrew Penny

~*~

Sonnet II

Fall on us falls with glowing gasps of gold

O’er wooded hills in splotches splished and splashed,

And red and amber textures big and bold

Are vari-coloured leaves all smished and smashed.

My feathered friends profess a fond farewell

As to the south their beaks they point with glee,

And flap in happy vees through cloudy cells,

It seems, at last, they have abandoned me.

*

And so turn I my thoughts to season’s plight

Of colder rains and winds that blast and blow.

And wish for August’s warmth with all my might —

Though forecast doth, alas, predict, first, snow.

No choice now but to weather Winter’s pain

Bow I my head and whimper in my grain.

~*~

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

The Escape Artist …

Something a little light-hearted from the hallowed aisle of Bear’s barn abode.

*

The boy has proven, yet again, that he belongs in the Houdini Hall of Fame.

Either he is supremely, easily and utterly bored after dark … or too smart for his own good.

I believe it’s a combination of both, which is interesting because ol’ rubber lips has worked out the combination of moves required to, once again, make mischief.

It appears that during the still of the night when all is quiet and there isn’t a meddling human in sight, my darling all-too-clever-German-bred-boy-wonder has figured out how to open the feed door to his stall.

Bear and his neighbour, Robert, enjoy a chin wag

Bear and his neighbour, Robert, enjoy a chin wag. … Note, his feed door is open. How smooth and debonair he looks … like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. … Yeah, right … 😉

Perhaps it’s my own fault.

I have, over the years, indulged Bear’s social nature by making a habit of opening his feed door so he can stick his head out and engage with the world while I’m there. This is particularly true in winter when he spends more time indoors.

From here, Bear enjoys visiting his neighbour, Robert. He also eagerly awaits the filling of his bucket, which hangs on a hook beneath the feed door, with his beloved carrots. I, being his doting mother, of course, am only too happy to oblige. I just want my baby to be happy.

Recently, however, there’s been a development …

Bear has, indeed, figured out how to open this lever-less door on his own.

In and of itself this not a huge problem.

What has become an issue is the fact that my closet mechanical engineer has also figured out how to unlatch Robert’s door and push it wide open … all from his perch at the feed door.

So, not only is Bear adept at creating his own escape opportunities (see The Party Animal) he is all too willing, and able, to create these opportunities for others.

Fortunately, Robert is too old to be bothered with making a run for it and has, in fact, been discovered in the morning standing at the back of his stall, perhaps a little confused as to why his stall door is open at all.

How to curb Shakespeare’s quick wit?

Management has put a chain in place so Bear, while he’s still able to dislodge the mechanism, can no longer push open the door and lean over to mess with Robert’s latch.

Robert indicates the chain now in place to thwart naughty Bear's attempts at mischief ...

Robert indicates the chain now in place to thwart naughty Bear’s attempts at mischief …

However, don’t be too concerned …

… cos Bear certainly isn’t …

Here's laughing at you, kid

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

*

Next time … the next instalment of Confessions of a Coaching Intern

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

The Party Animal

So, apparently, Bear is a party animal.

When Christine entered the small barn early one morning last week to feed the hungry hordes their morning hay ration, she was greeted, quite unexpectedly, by the blanketed derriere of an escapee … my Bear.

“How did you get out?” she asked astonished.

It was a good question.

Now, it’s not unusual for the bored and resourceful horse to pop his head over the half-door and fidget with the fastened latch. Their lips, practiced at maneuvering edibles, are strong and flexible and easily grab hold of all kinds of [forbidden] objects.

Several of the 10 horses living in Bear’s cozy barn have proven adept at unfastening their stall doors and so are now on lock-down at night.

My “butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth” Bear happens to be one of them.

I didn't do it!

This is because a few years ago he made his first, and supposedly last, great escape. He was discovered, one morning, chowing down on the contents of a 50 lb sack of carrots, evidence of his one-horse aisle party littered all about him. You could tell where he’d been and which of the other horses he’d visited by the trail of hay and manure left in his wake.

Thus, to curb his lust for channeling Houdini, a stall security system was devised that could not, under any circumstances, be manipulated by wandering equine lips.

Security System

So, it was, indeed, a great surprise to find, once again, that he’d been making the rounds as the quintessential party animal — feasting upon the morning’s stored ration of hay, fertilizing the poured concrete floor and fraternizing with his barn buddies. He was enjoying a conversation with his old pal, Doc, when Christine intervened.

But how the heck had he escaped in the first place?

Later that day a small herd of barn mom’s congregated around Bear’s stall door and studied the latch for several minutes.

One enterprising horse mom, Bears “gammy,” took a step stool into his stall, climbed upon it and, when we had closed the door behind her, proceeded to pretend to be Bear by leaning over the door and a) reaching for the latch to fiddle with the lock with her fingers as a horse might with his lips, and b) rattling the door by leaning her body against it repeatedly and thus some how releasing the mechanism.

We deduced, after a good laugh, that it would have been impossible for him to tamper with the latch. No amount of door rattling or lip gymnastics would have given him an out.

The only conclusion we could reach was that the door must not have been properly latched in the first place. Bear, being the rich opportunist that he is, would have noticed this when leaning on the door some time during the night and taken full advantage of the situation by pushing it all the way open to let himself out.

Party!

Still, no harm done, except that Bear was rather dopey that day, standing in the paddock catching up on zzzz’s instead of voraciously eating, which is his usual habit. Something, I think it can safely be said, that is true of party animals the world over.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

*

Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Horse Crazy After All These Years …

It occurred to me this morning, for some reason, that I don’t have a single photograph from my childhood of me with a favourite pony. Not a one!

My mother, a single-parent earning her living as an opera singer, rehearsed and performed odd hours during the week. She was too busy, too tired, too distracted providing for my brother and I (including paying for riding lessons) to attend too closely my equestrian exploits.

My father (rather a deadbeat), and the rest of the extended family, lived thousands of miles away in Canada. Thus, there was no one around to capture my moments of triumph or my sheer joy of being with the ponies.

All I have are memories.

I don’t feel sorry for myself … just sad, in a way.

I suppose that’s why this image, that I’ve posted in this blog many times before, is so important to me. My first official portrait, as a “mature” horse crazy girl, with a horse; my horse.

I revisit my memories fondly. Learning to ride in England was a special experience. Britain’s culture is steeped in the horse and I was rapt by it.

The other day a good friend forwarded a link to a comedy sketch poking fun at the culture of the horse crazy girl. It features brilliant British comedic actresses Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, and is called simply “Ponies.”

If you haven’t seen it before, please check it out via the link below. It’s a lark laced with the truth and innocence of a young girl’s love of horses. When I view it I laugh so hard it brings tears to my eyes.

It brings back so many memories — of the old stable yard (a little more sophisticated than depicted here) where I first learned to ride; the frustrations of trying to catch ponies that just won’t be caught; and yes, playing “show jumping” over the jumps while the horses are otherwise occupied (usually eating.)

The memories are so thick around me it feels like just yesterday I was a young girl lost in pony novels, immersed in Follyfoot Farm on the television and galloping across a huge field and jumping ditches while on the back of a dark bay pony called Bimbo. Never mind the fact I have nothing on photo paper to confirm any of it.

Girls and ponies. Women and horses. Nothing changes. I am just as delighted to be spending time with Bear now as I was as a little girl with all the other ponies and horses that captured my heart. Only now, of course, I am that horse crazy girl with one to call my own.

Please enjoy …

Ponies

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

*

Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2012

Poll: You and horses …

… Did you participate in the poll? … Enquiring minds need to know …

Before I can have an effective connection with my horse I need to understand what makes him tick.

Similarly, it’s my desire to have a better understanding of your experience with horses so I can create an effective connection with you through this blog.

So please, take a teeny, weeny moment to click on the statement below that best reflects your experience with horses. Leave comments if you wish. In ensuing posts I will muse upon and write about each of the statements, share stories, etc. to demonstrate that you are not alone, whatever your experience with, or interest in, horses may be.

Obviously you have some interest, or you wouldn’t be here, right?

So, go ahead … don’t be bashful … 😉 …

Thank you soooo much!

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

Ham Horse Gallery … Dissecting The Shakespearean Roll

I’m feeling a little lost for words this week. Lots on my mind and nothing particularly orderly.

So, I thought instead, to treat you to a little Shakespeare “The Equine.” Fresh from Poet’s Paddock and ready to roll (as it were …)

Please enjoy this play-by-play of one of Shakepeare’s aka Bear’s favourite paddock pastimes  — the Shakespearean role  roll.

The commentary is all his …

Greetings!

Scene I: … The key to an inspired Shakespearean roll beginneth with the stage. Seek the darkest and muckiest of spots, soft from early spring showers that refresheth. Yonder hay, though dry, may looketh inviting but is best left untouched. One must not play with one’s food. …

Scene II: … With the utmost delicacy and decorum drop gracefully to thy knees and grunt …

Scene III: … Silence, stillness doth punctuate the moment. Rest briefly to recoup thy dignity …

Scene IV: … At last, to collapse in Mother Earth’s sweet muddy embrace and delight in the warmth of Father Sun. … A part to be savoured. …

Scene V … Sustained, perchance another moment’s meditation before the next soliloquy …

Scene VI: … Wh … hoo!! …

7) … Tis a fact well known among this poet’s circle that only steeds of superior intellect, such as I, can rolleth all the way over and …

Scene VIII: … back again. …

Scene IX: … Ah! Of a certainty that feeleth much better …

Scene X: … This roll created for myself is well played! …

Scene XI: … but when it’s over, alas, tis over. … And yet, tis worth remembering … the play’s the thing … See you anon in Poet’s Paddock!

12) The End …

Nice play, Shakespeare!

Nurture what you love…

Dorothy
“Horse Mom”

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012

Ham Horse Gallery

My horse Bear (aka Shakespeare) is a classic ham who endears himself to all who meet him and enjoys being the centre of attention. Herewith the first of a series of mini galleries to run intermittently in this blog, featuring the antics of my very own “comic” Shakespeare. Enjoy!

Right: Recently I took my new Nikon D7000 out for a spin at the farm. Bear and his buddy, Sam, were in the paddock minding their own business when I strolled into view. As if on cue they stopped chomping on hay and most obligingly embarked in a game of halter tag for my benefit.

In this image both have their eye on me as if to ask, “Hey, are you getting this?” As you can see, it was almost a miss …

Left: Bear has a treat habit, thus he always expects there to be something in his bucket, especially when I’m around. On this particular day last summer his bucket was empty and he had an opinion about it he felt inclined to share with me.

In the warmer months he spends a lot of the day outside, so I will amuse him with apple bobbing at the water trough (one apple cut into segments — he’s bobbing, not me … I just facilitate) and then put a healthy serving of carrots and a stud muffin into his bucket for him to discover when he comes in. I cover his treats with hay to keep the flies out, and he gets to dig for his treat treasure. He’s so easily amused …

On this occasion Bear was extremely disappointed to discover his bucket empty. So, (and I watched him do it) he grabbed a large helping of hay from the generous pile in his stall as if to show me what was missing and then dumped it into the aisle beneath the door through which his grain and other tender morsels are delivered to his bucket.

Almost instantly a bemused look crossed his face, as if he’d realized that he’d just thrown the baby out with the bath water. This image depicts his effort to retrieve the discarded hay. In the end I had to help him, silly horse …

Right: Summer at the farm is a lovely time, however flies pose a particularly annoying menace. Deer flies, horse flies, bots, mosquitoes (you name it) are a nasty warm weather nuisance and are particularly hard on our pampered equine friends.

However, there are only so many things that can be done to protect the darlings from flying predators. I have adopted two — a liberal spraying all over Bear’s body with a naturally formulated fly repellant every time he goes outside, and a fly mask to keep the little blighters out of his eyes.

In this image Bear (the brat) models his brand new fly mask which sports the latest in synthetic mesh visors and black fake fleece trim. Not spoiled at all, is he?

Did I mention he’s a ham?

Stay tuned for more from the Ham Horse Gallery in future posts of “Musings of a Horse Mom.”

Nurture what you love ….

Dorothy
“Horse Mom”

The Call of the Satsuma

Curious One

I wish I had a photo of the long fuzzy face that begged for a segment of my satsuma on New Year’s Eve. (The photo here will have to do … it’s a close facsimile thereof … )

It was the way Bear’s big, baby browns rolled back in his head while his nostrils twitched and fluttered, fascinated and amused by the intriguing new citrus scent that flooded his senses, that tickled me. He’s normally a ham, but this was ridiculous … and really, really cute.

I was standing in front of his stall, holding in my hand a freshly peeled satsuma for my own consumption when Bear caught a whiff of its fruity fragrance. He finished his mouthful of hay and, leaning against the lead shank strung across the open doorway as a loose barrier between him and me, telescoped his neck and extended his muzzle as far as it would go toward my hand. He took a deeper sniff. His top lip curled back approvingly. His long eyelashes fluttered their charm. Through his nostrils he snorted.

That was the cue. Bear wanted a piece of my orange.

Now, I’m not the kind of owner/mother to indulge my horse with much beyond the regular diet. He’s a dietarily low maintenance guy who gets his supplements, grain, hay, an apple, carrots and a stud muffin every day. I’ve recently introduced sugar cubes as a reward during training, but that’s about it. I do know people who feed bananas to their horses occasionally; chocolate cake on birthdays. But I’m just not into that. So, when Bear showed a genuine interest in my satsuma I wrestled with myself a bit about whether or not I even wanted to go there.

But he was so cute. And it was New Year’s Eve. And I’m adopting a new, more open attitude toward life so … I caved.

There was not even the slightest hesitation on Bear’s part when I offered him a piece of the juicy fruit. He pinched the tiny orange segment gently between his lips and lifted it carefully from my hand. Then he expertly tucked it back into his mouth and began to chew, gingerly, as if savouring every last squirt of citrus.

I could see by the glazed-over look in his eye the pleasure he was taking from this new sensate experience. And, after swallowing he was instantly back for more.

The whole experience gave me the giggles, and every day since then Bear’s had his own satsuma.

Oh dear … what have I started???

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom