Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Little Runaway.

I can't remember if I blogged about this or not so I'm sorry if this is a repeat...

One evening (probably less than two months ago) before a lesson I went into the stall, put his halter on and clipped him to the wall tie. I walked out of the stall and went over to grab my brushes and I hear the "clip clop" of my horse in the AISLE heading towards the open door and there is no one there to stop him or to yell LOOSE HORSE at. Everyone else in the barn was behind me. I THOUGHT I clipped him... I panicked, of course and had visions of not being able to catch him and of him getting onto the road and hit by a car, etc. I calmly walked behind him saying "whoa, whoa" and calling his name but he was so pleased with himself he jogged down the aisle towards the door. He stopped, looked left and then headed right. There was grass right outside the door so he dropped his head but as soon as I got a few feet from him he moved off. Now, just in front of him were two choices: open (NO FENCE) hay field with yummy alfalfa (then corn field and woods...), and the mud-lot he's been turned out in often. He chose to go into the mud lot THANK HEAVEN!!! I went over and shut the gate and shook my head. I went back into the barn and got my rope. He let me catch him fine and I have been MUCH more careful about making sure He is actually clipped to the wall before I walk out of the stall. I was so scared that he was going to really run away. What a shit.

So why am I telling this now? Because it happened again...sort of. I could tell that KAT had ridden him today. He looked like he'd been hosed off/sweated up and his blanket was damp on the bottom. We had to ride in the indoor because the outdoor is too wet right now. It was SOOO humid in the indoor it was awful. We rode for 25 minutes and we were both dripping. I figured with a show 3 days away and a weather report of thunder storms from tomorrow until Saturday it might be a good chance to get him bathed. Most of the folks at my barn just hold their horses to bathe but I much prefer to have him tied because I don't have a show mom to hold him for me. The hose was hooked up to the other end of the barn from the wash rack, though so I was going to have to move the hose and then put it back and I was so hot it just seemed like so much work and I wanted to get him wet asap to help him cool off. I grabbed my bucket and shampoo and filled it up, got Junior and headed outside. He danced around me while I hosed him off...wishing I had put the chain over his nose and wondering if I should go back and get it, but he got better and better and eventually he was just standing with the rope over his neck like a good boy. I got his body all clean and stuck his tail in the bucket. I put the bucket down to work on his tail and he started to walk away. I reached for the rope but he walked faster, JUST like the day he escaped from his stall. I know running faster will only make HIM go faster so I just walked along calmly behind him. He went into the other hay field (fenced on three sides so I wasn't as worried) and dropped his head into the lovely alfalfa. He stepped on his rope a few times but he's not a panicker. I walked up and grabbed him and led him back to the barn. I called Max's mom outside and asked if she would hold him while I finished rinsing him, just in case. At least I know he's going to go to grass and not necessarily RUN off. I'm not sure what he'd do if that happened on a showgrounds, though, and I don't want to find out!

I know his previous owner would just open his stall door when sending him out to the pasture and I'm sure he equates an open door or not being held in place as permission to go find the grass. Nothing wrong with that. It's how my first barn worked; we'd open the door to the pasture, close the other doors, then open the stall doors and the horses would go out. We'd do the same thing when it was time for feeding, close all the other doors, open the pasture door, call them in and then shut them into their stalls as they ate.

Both of these instances were him taking advantage of a little freedom. He's never tried to get away from me. He's needed to be reminded when being led out to pasture (if he hasn't been in a while) that he needs to BE LED and not be the leader, but if someone's got the lead he knows to behave. I've been thankful that he's only gone only so far and allows me to catch him and lead him back with no real issues, but what it makes me a little nervous. Maybe it'll just make me more careful?

I have a lesson tomorrow night and am riding with my English tack, including the Myler bit I'm borrowing from a barn mate. She isn't showing this weekend because her horse is recovering from some hoof issues so I can use it until then. KAT said she rode him with a ported bit the other day and he was fine so I'm not as worried about using this one on him. KAT is under the philosophy that you should use milder bits at home and use slightly stronger ones at shows so they respond quicker but don't become desensitized to the more severe bit. Sounds pretty good to me. If this bit works I think I'll buy one but only use it to show, staying with the slow-twist D-ring at home. We'll see.

I bought a project shirt but I won't be able to get it worked on for this weekend's show. I found a simple white lycra button-up shirt with collar and french cuffs. It's a sheer stripe (worn over a tank, of course) so it'll be cooler for summer shows. I found it at a thrift store (while shopping for work) for $1.99 and I have a ton of crystals left over from my purple pattern shirt. I haven't come up with any inspiration yet, but I might go crazy with it and do some hand painting, or just some stone work. Not sure yet. The shirt has several small pulls, but they won't be noticeable in the saddle. We'll see if I ever get to it, though, or if it sits in my closet for years.


  1. I just hate that feeling - walking along behind a loose horse and begging him to stand still!! Been there. Sounds like your boy is not a runaway though - that's so nice.

  2. Have you tried teaching him to ground tie? I have a mare who used to be a big fidget - moving around, walking off - until I taught her to ground tie. It was easy, I dropped the rope, and every time she moved I asked her to move in an energetic circle around me until I saw her offer to stop, then I dropped the rope again, and repeat . . . In a very short time she was deciding on her own to stand still, and now she stands like a rock whenever I drop the rope, no matter where she is or what else is going on.

  3. Kate, I spent a lot of time over the winter teaching him to ground tie. Not with the circling you suggest, just by a halter tug and placing him back where I wanted him and using the vocal command "stand." He learned pretty well and I could groom, tack and clip him that way. His biggest issue is that he's so ADD that if he sees something else he'd rather nose (a cat, a person, grass...) he'll still walk off and if I'm far enough from the rope he sort of wins. I REALLY wish he would WHOA under any circumstances, but we're not there yet.