Horses, Life, A Touch of Geek

Archive for the ‘Horse Behavior’ Category

What’s Up With Milton

Getting back to SSF trips for Milton. In the small ring, he’s awesome: relaxed, rideable, unflappable. In other places, he is still awesome, but more dubious.

He prefers the semi-enclosed, covered ring to the fenced-in, coverless big ring.

He prefers both to being outside of a ring.

This is problematic creates a learning opportunity for a horse whose dancecard includes marathon and cross-country.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Stall Rest Decisions


Milton has spoken:

I do not drink bucket water. I only drink trough water. Please attend to me at regular intervals so that I may hydrate.

I do not pee in my stall. I only pee in the field. Please attend to me at regular intervals so that I may unhydrate.

In addition, I require hay, cookies, and carrots. You may snuggle me, but only when I am feeling punk. You may also pat me when I am feeling lonely. Otherwise, you are dismissed. I have important horse business to address. But don’t go too far. I may require you again.

That will be all.

Milton the Magnificent

Switching Horses


Rodney -> Milton is no problem. Milton is perfectly happy for me to ride correctly [Rodney as Word Processing Software].

Milton -> Rodney is problem. Rodney is a subtle beast. I am not. Neither is Milton.

Milton is not lazy, not school-horse lazy. Milton is … considerate. He wants to be sure that you mean what you say.

Rider/Driver: Milton, trot.
Milton: Really?
Rider/Driver: Milton, trot.
Milton: Seriously?
Rider/Driver: Milton, trot.
Milton: Okay.

I have an electric seat. It keeps Milton moving along. On Rodney, an electric seat translates as Go! GO! GO NOW! I have to recalibrate.

Rodney never gets bored. We are up to 20+ minutes of mounted stand exercise. He doesn’t shuffle his feet; nor does he zone out. He stands, quiet and relaxed, engaged in surveying his world. He does standing meditation better than most people.

Rodney is alive to nuance. I need to be as well.

If you ride two (or more) horses, do you switch mindsets when you switch horses? If so, how?

You may be sensing a sameness in my recent Rodney photos.


Welcome to my world. We do more on the weekends, but not much. Festina lente, emphasis on the lente.
[Rodney as Word Processing Software]
[Rodney’s Schedule?]

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

The Adventure of the Missing Hay Pile

This is a hay pile.

This is not a hay pile.

Milton does not look for his hay. He waits for Rodney to find a pile and then pushes him off. This becomes a problem when Rodney can’t find the hay.

After breakfast, the horses eat their morning hay in the pasture. Lately, I have been putting the two piles high up on the hill to get the horses in the sun/keep them out of the mud. It has not been an easy transition.

First day: Rodney mills around the usual service area. I walk up to the pile and rattle it. Rodney comes over.

Second day: I decide that I wouldn’t show Rodney the hay pile. I want him to solve the problem for himself. I stand back. Rodney searches the breakfast area. Milton comes around the corner. He stands looking at Rodney, ‘Dude, you had one job …’

Rodney continues to mill, looking gormless and lost.

Milton gives up with palpable disgust, walks up the hill, spots a hay pile, starts eating.

Seeing that Milton has hay, Rodney walks as far as the first pile. Milton is not interested in sharing. Rodney circles Milton, looking longingly at the hay, occasionally lipping at stands of dead grass, ‘Why is there only one pile today? Gee, I wish there was another pile of hay for me to eat.’

I start playing hot/warm/cold with Rodney, trying to herd him up toward the second pile. He cuts around me to get back to Milton and the first pile. I consider the possibility of administering horse IQ tests. Milton continues to eat.

Finally, I push Rodney far enough up the hill. He sees the second pile. ‘Oh look, more hay.’

Third day: Rodney goes straight to the hay.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

All Better. For Now.

tldr: Rodney had a tummyache. He is back on ulcer meds. I am riding again.

Back in the saddle. The tongue thing is new.

As I’ve said before [Rodney’s Feet], one of Rodney’s tells for pain is to act scared. He was doing this, but only in the barn. Out in the pasture, he was galloping about without a care in the world. Put a halter on him: Sky is falling! Sky is falling! I took this personally, leading to gloomy posts such as this [The December Dismals] and this [Looking Back 2017, Home Team].

We were increasing his feed yet having to tighten his girth. In hindsight, duh. But hindsight is like that.

I took him for a simple, in-hand walk around the field. He was awful. He was so awful that I gave up halfway back to the barn, removed his halter, and allowed him to run off. I could have wrestled him home, but to what end? I tweeted my medical advisor. He heard the frustration behind the tweet. The options for problems were muscular-skeletal or digestive. The former was clearly out, so perhaps his gut had gone funky again. Medical Advisor came home, got the leftover bottle of pills from the shelf, put them in my hand, and said, “One month.”

I thought we had put Rodney’s stomach issues behind us [Zeno’s Horse Training]. Wrong. Apparently, if one is a super-special snowflake who feels the world deeply, one can have flare ups.

After one dose, Rodney was noticeably better, i.e. happier. I retraced the walk that he had done so poorly. Success. After two walks, I sat on him again. We are now doing mini-micro dressage moves and ridden walks around the field within sight of the barn. I’m thrilled. It’s not much on a grand scale, but at least the vector is back to pointing in the correct direction.

Was it the new feed? Probably not. It’s been over a year [Feed Adventures] and Rodney was fine earlier in the year [We Leg Yield, Who Knew?]. For a long while, I blamed the massages [Massage Day, Dismals]. Sorry Molly. My current thinking is the sand colic pellets [Sand Colic?]. Since it had done great things for Milton [QR], we tried Rodney on a week’s worth. Perked him right up. So we repeated it the next month. Wrong. I hypothesize that the scouring action of cleaning out his gut was okay once, but too harsh on a regular basis. Rather like using strong toothpaste on my sensitive teeth. I have no idea if this theory has any bearing on Rodney’s digestive reality. Any equine physiologists out there?

So, we are back to grinding pills and dosing him with a syringe [Say Aaaah!, Rodney Update] We won’t keep him on ulcer meds. They are expensive if he doesn’t need them all the time, and, more importantly change his attitude [Zeno]. He’ll probably get a maintenance dose one week each month, as Milton does with the sand stuff. Do they need it? Who knows. For now we are not messing with success.

Why change one variable when you can contaminate the experiment by changing multiple variables at once?

We reinstituted naps to give Rodney alone time.

We added probiotics. Medical Advisor has been reading data that suggests probiotics are more than mere manure additives.

We acutely dose Rodney with an oral syringe of antacid – the white stuff not the pink stuff – before each ride.

We ordered new brushes. While Rodney is less fearful in the barn, he is still prone to sudden spooks. We think he might be unusually affected by static. Either he generates more shocks, or he is more sensitive to them, or both. His winter grooming kit now consists of a hoof pick and a cotton towel. I wear leather gloves. I thought a rubber curry comb was safe. Turns out electric insulator and generating static electricity are two different properties. We have ordered static-free brushes. More on these once they have been judged by the staticee. Super-duper-special snowflake.

Something in this avalanche of changes is working.

Right now Rodney is behaving better under saddle than in the barn, which is unusual for any of my horses.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Rodney, The December Dismals

The relationship between Rodney and me has completely cratered.

It could be him. He’s been jumpy since his first massage back in October [Massage Day]. As if the bodywork stirred up physical issues. He was more accepting of his second massage – when he didn’t think it was ultra-weird – but still jumpy after. Or winter is coming. Rodney’s tension level always goes up as the temperature goes down. Or …

It could be me. I believe horses like to have a job. OTOH, Rodney is currently delighted with time off and isn’t coping well with the little bit of standing and riding that we do. He’ll run away when I go to catch him in the field. That’s new. In turn, I am not coping well with this change in attitude. I feel that I have put so much work into this horse and gotten so little in return. Maybe he doesn’t want to be near the scary, angry person. Or …

It could be both of us. Dark. Cold. A time of dormancy.

In the grand scheme of things, never riding your horse is tiny. It feels big to me.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Holiday: Rodney in Residence

What did Rodney do while Milton was gadding about the countryside [Milton on the Move]? He ate hay.

This is huge.

It’s huge because Rodney ate hay in the pasture, not in the stall. Until last weekend, we had been putting Rodney up while Milton was away. We didn’t want Rodney to spend the entire time galloping the fenceline screaming for his missing roommate.

After successive approximations and closely monitoring Rodney’s behavior, we took a deep breath and left Rodney out when we drove off with Milton. Rodney’s response? ‘Via con Dios. Don’t let the gate hit your butt on the way out.’ This means that when Milton goes to a multi-day show, we don’t have to bring Rodney (problematic) or keep him in a stall for days on end (un-ideal).

Rodney going to a show? Don’t wanna talk about it. Wanna bask in the victories we have.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott