Monday, November 14, 2011

How I Handle the Pasture

Since it's come up again, here's what happened late last year. Simply put, every single time I read a blog about someone getting kicked, or nearly getting kicked, I shudder. Every time I see a video of "that adorable horse" running free in a small pasture lot, kicking up their heels, I catch my breath.

WHAT are you people thinking?!?!?!?!

I was kicked, it damaged my heart, I could have died. Heart Attack. 32 years old, healthy, take my vitamins, drink my milk, exercise at least 4 days a week riding, eat a balanced diet, and nearly died. Afterwards, it took months before I could take a deep breath without medication and NOT feel pain.

Use the Thinking Side of your Brain, readers. STOP Playing games in the pasture. Refuse to enter a pasture when the herd is bucking, kicking up, and running like wild children. Buy a longe whip, and USE the stupid thing. Snap it at your horses, I don't care how "cuddly and adorable" they are. DEMAND respect, and if you're not getting it, GET your brilliant mind OUT of the pasture.

Here's how we handle things at my house... When I was finally able to feed and blanket my own horses again (reality check - I couldn't do it myself for over a month... and when I did, it hurt, like hell!), I didn't do anything unhaltered. My guys all have their own pasture lots. At the time, there were two horses on the property - Harley and Romeo. I began demanding that Mo give me his two eyes, face front, and I did NOT walk behind him. I will probably NEVER walk behind him unless he's tied. Even then, I stand very close, hand on his butt, so he knows full well I'm there.

We also don't "play games" free in the pasture, or in the arena, and we never will again. Mo wanted desperately about two weeks ago to have a "gallop day" in the arena loose. Instead, I made him run like a madman ON the longe line. When I do longe, "whoa" for Romeo used to mean "come up to me". After about a month of hard work, he now stops and turns his neck and nose towards me, without stepping up. There is no invitation into my personal space. I walk up to him, and he's no longer allowed to come within 5' of me unless I have a halter in my hand loose in pasture. I don't approach from the back, and when I feed, I get two eyes, or I don't dump the grain. No games, no playing, and absolutely zero disrespect. I haven't needed a whip in my hand in the pasture, but I won't be bashful grabbing one either.

[[ Exception ... When I catch Boss, some of the time, I carry a dressage whip. NOT because he's goofy and playful when I catch him. It's because once he nose-dives into his halter, he likes to anxiously drag me to the trailer to be saddled. One or two light taps on the chest with the dressage whip, he usually settles behind me. The last three times I've caught him, he's followed along behind me, about 1.5' back. ]] Understand here, Boss is HUGE, and he likes to remind me he's huge.

ey are horses. One Thousand Pound, Kick you into next month, destroy your face, break ribs and hearts, bust an arm or a leg, HORSES. These are not oversized puppy dogs, I promise.

How do you handle the herd? How many horses, on what size lot? What do you do when they're kicking up running and playing?


GunDiva said...

WV: hello

So I thought I'd start with that :)

I've got zero tolerance for ill-mannered, disrespectful horses. I do handle the horses unhaltered, but I make sure I've got their full attention.

I'm sorry you got kicked, but it now puts you in a position to help remind other people about the dangers. It happens in every industry; familiarity breeds complacency. Thanks for the reminder.

Hemi said...

I've got one horse. He respects me, i respect him. I am the leader. Always. He knows this. When i walk into that pasture both eyes are on me. I don't need a whip. I move his hips, shoulders, nose, neck, and legs with one soft turn of my head to look at a piece of him. I glance at his hip with a simple demanding click and it moved. Shoulder? Click, moves. All four feet backwards? Moves them...quickly. Whoa means whoa, come here means come here. He and i do all sorts of liberty work. I free lunge him in his 1/2-3/4acre pasture with no halter and no line. MOSt times i DO take my buggy whip in when I do this "play" with him, but i do not use it unless i am asking him to back up. He slides to a stop, spins into or away from me, slows down, switched directions like a cutting horse, free. Nothing attached...all with my body language. I can also have him come forward to me 4 trotting strides, have him stop hard, and back up to the fenceline without me moving my feet a step. My boy runs and bucks and farts and has a grand old time with me in the pasture, but the second i look at his hip when he's running, he spins in and gives me both eyes. Quick. Right then. Not 2 steps later. Then.So yes, i do think that respect and caution is neccassary, but i also think, as horse owners, we need to learn to read our horses and teach them to read us. :)