Horses, Life, A Touch of Geek

Archive for the ‘Horse Behavior’ Category

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


Hippity Hoppity

Fortunately this ended well.

During Greg’s most recent driving lesson at Stepping Stone Farm, we over-adjusted some of the straps, apparently. As soon as Milton moved off, he started bucking in harness. Not a sight one wants to see. Coach Courtney gave swift but calmly-voiced instructions. Greg handled it. In retrospect, it was a few bucks over a short distance. Milton recovered immediately. The rest of us took a while longer.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott



I’ve mentioned it passing [CAA Repercussions]. I want to state it outright. We have solved Milton’s NQR. (Greg modifies this with – to the extent one ever can with a horse. He doesn’t want Milton to feel the need to rise to a challenge.)

For years we’ve been wondering if Milton is Not Quite Right. The problem is the “quite”. Not right is easy. Lame. Losing weight. Radical behavior change. These are easy to spot. Diagnosis might be problematic, but you know you are looking for the root of a problem. We didn’t even know if there was a problem to find the root of.

The answer is Alabama.

But seriously folks. Current thinking is that something in our grass/soil/whatever either caused or aggravated a hind gut ulcer. Was it a serious problem? No. Is he a drama queen? Yes. It was just enough to make him a little bit cranky, degrade his movement, make him a little bit touchy.

Would he have been 100% way back when if we’d gone straight to this [Sand Colic]? Who knows. Perhaps some of the other stumbles of our drunkard’s walk took care of other issues. I know Fairy Godmother has been wondering what we did to the nice horse she sent down. Well, we finally found that horse.

Now – cross fingers – Milton’s only problems will come as a result of being a green racehorse owned by amateurs. That was also the case with Previous Horse, and he didn’t have a bad life.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

In Chains

Once again, Rodney takes years to master what other horses handle as a matter of course.

You may have missed the important part of this picture [Trailer Training]. Or perhaps you were wondering about the 2-rope system. Until now, we have not been able to put a chain over Rodney’s nose. He would get hysterical, making the situation worse instead of better.

Then, I noticed when he was misbehaving about the trailer recently [ibid], he was being pushy rather than upset. Hmm. Time to try a chain again? It took some convincing to get it on the first time: alarm, head tossing, running about. I moved slowly and finally got it on and wrapped around the halter. FWIW, I like to run the chain up the side of the halter rather than just over the nose. That way the halter isn’t pulled into the off-side eye when you tug – ever so gently – on the leadshank. Rodney did not like the rattling sound, but he lived. I guess 7 years have built up some trust.

The second line is plain rope with a snap, used – in essence – as a snaffle lead, with the leather-and-chain as the curb lead. Sigh.

I wished we lived in a unFallen world wherein we could direct horses with the power of love alone. We don’t. When 1/2-ton of horse has a hissy fit about cows next to the show ring, the only thing that keeps the kite on the ground is control of the snoot. I’ve noticed that the first thing the warm, fuzzy horse gurus do is put a chain/rope over the nose, or sell you a special halter that does essentially the same thing

One year, we had just arrived at Nationals. I took Alvin for a walk to stretch his legs after the trailer ride. All we had were chain shanks. I dislike holding the bare chain, so I put it over his nose, even though I didn’t need it. This was Alvin. How bad could he be? HA. I barely kept control even with the chain. Old man was ready to party!

So, we are one step closer to taking Rodney places. I had been reluctant to step out into the world without emergency brakes. Will this lead to anything? Will he ever become my awesome show horse? Who knows. At least it’s progress.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Trailer Training

More stand lessons [Here We Stand 2013, Rodney Lately 2017]. This time, we are standing near/in the trailer.

Since the incident [Dubious Future], Rodney gets goofy when he leaves the pasture. When I went to get him for the farrier, he refused to leave the field. He broke his ground tie while I unchained the gate – he never does this – and ran to the far end of the pasture. When I hauled him back up, he would stop every 50 feet, ‘Don’t wanna.’ Walk. Pause. ‘Ain’t gonna.’ Walk. Pause. He thought he was headed for the trailer. Once out, he kept staring over his shoulder. Trying to keep his eye on the hideous white box?

First remedial session: No. Not hysteria, just no. Got on with inducement in the form of showing him the buggy whip. Second remedial session: no inducement, front feet on. Third (or maybe the fourth? I’ve lost count.) remedial session: stood on trailer eating hay. Backed off. Got on. Stood on trailer eating hay. Backed off. And so on.

In the Department of Silver Linings, it’s nice to be doing something I’m good at. Riding? Show nerves? No idea what happens inside my own head. Teaching a horse to be a happy-loading pony? I got this.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Leading Him On

On our walks, Milton has graduated from a chain over his nose to a plain leadrope. Okay, the ears are still back, but it’s more ‘Whatever, Dude.’ and less plotting misbehavior.

Milton has also relaxed sufficiently to be on a leadrope at Stepping Stone. Although we always pack a chain leadshank, just in case.

Chain posts
[Milton 2.0]
[Milton’s Moods] Photo source, last year.
[Milton’s Remediation]
[Proper Walk Protocol] Still on a chain in late May, this year.

Does this photo shoot come with cookies?

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Cookie Ball!

Nose-It! Equine Ball Flat Fill Treat Dispenser
via Amazon (not available direct)

I don’t usually buy cat/dog/horse toys. I am concerned they will become unused, decorative lumps of plastic. We bought what we call the “Cookie Ball” after watching Bliss and Jewel play with theirs at CAA [Show Report]. At one point, Bliss heard Jewel playing with the ball – the rattling treats make a distinctive sound – and got offended that someone else had HER ball.

Our guys love it. No ramp-up time. We presented the cookie ball. They each say, ‘Ah ha! Treats!’ and began to whack it around. Any horse who has ever flipped over a feed pan knows how to do this. I think humans underestimate the power of smell. Note, we have to fill it with “good” treats. They did not feel it is worth the effort for mediocre treats.

Rodney gets the cookie ball with a baker’s dozen of horse cookies as a stall toy when Milton goes to Stepping Stone. He empties all but one or two. In his defense, that last one is hard to fish out.

Comments: There is a small drainage hole on the bottom, opposite the treat hole, for cleaning. It is a clever design but I find I still have to mop out the last bit of water. Our area is bad for fire ants and mice, so I clean the ball each time and keep it in the house. YMMV.

Disclosure: no contact with company other than as a customer.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott