Friday, July 29, 2011

The Sunday I Almost Sold My Horse

In the last post I mentioned going to war with my horse.

Let's just say in retrospect it was more like a 5 minute bicker over who forgot to put the milk back in the fridge.

The real war happened a few days later, last Sunday afternoon. That was a 4 hour battle.

That is how long it took to get a halter on my horse in his pasture.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the history, my 17 year old gelding has had issues with being caught that has stemmed several previous owners that I know of. My former farrier even said he used to have to corner him in a stall and catch him to shoe him for one of his owners. I have battled the issue off and on for 4 years but finally gave up and just kept a turnout halter on him. I'd take out a bucket of treats, he'd eat them, I'd clip on the leadrop and that was that. He was none the wiser.

However, since My Boy is now in my backyard, I decided to start working on this issue. Two weeks ago the turnout halter had slipped over one ear. When I went to adjust it in the pasture, he pulled back out of the halter and broke free. It took me about 20 minutes to get it back on him, hardly a problem.

Skip ahead a week and I decided to just take off the turnout halter completely. The next time I went to catch him, it took about 45 minutes of driving him around the pasture before he gave in but I got him caught.

Rewind to last Sunday. Middle of the day, hottest day of the summer.  I have no idea what I was thinking other than, "Gee, it's pretty warm, I bet My Boy won't want to run around much before he gives up. If it took 45 minutes last week, it'll probably only take about 20 minutes today!" Ha. Ha. Ha.

After 3 hours, yes, 3 hours of driving him around (me drinking two bottles of water and a Dr. Pepper) I was done. I could not go further without risk of getting heat exhaustion. I had My Boy driving around me, at times he'd face up and I thought he was ready to relent. Or he'd let me stroke his neck or even get his nose in the halter, then he'd turn and run off. At times he'd trot in a 20 ft. circle around me like he was on the longe line. I'd say whoa and he'd just walk on. I kept his feet moving, offering him relief peridocially to be caught. Truth be told his pasture isn't huge but it was big enough that keeping his feet moving at all times was just too hard on a hot summer summer day.

Exasperated, I called Paint Girl. She said to keep trying until dark! I totally agreed that I could not let him win this battle! But I said I told her that I just didn't have the energy in this heat to go any further. I decided plan B would be to not feed him dinner and try again later. If he refused, then he'd go hungry overnight. Maybe a hungry horse would be a little more willing to come out of his pasture to eat. Luckily Ranch Boy stepped in to try, fresh feet. After twenty minutes, our horsey neighbors who were watching the fiasco came over to help. More fresh feet and good horse experience. Finally, within half an hour My Boy gave up at his gate and let Ranch Boy and his mom get the halter on. He was dripping sweat head to tail. I had warmed him up, and they had worn him down.

Seriously, you'd think the horse thought I was shipping him off to slaughter the way he was fighting to be caught.

I walked him out, cooled him out, hosed him down, then moved him to a smaller corral on the ranch.

By the way, after I took care of my horse that night, I made pasta and sauce for dinner then couldn't eat a bit of it as I was pretty dehydrated and got a migraine from the whole stinkin' horse chasing afternoon. I ended up getting sick that night.

My Boy has been in the smaller corral since last Sunday. In this space I have been catching and haltering him with no problem. He walked away from me twice the first day, but quickly realized there was just no place to go. I think My Boy would do better being kept in a small corral, the catching wouldn't be an issue. However, I don't want him to be in a small corral, I like him to be in a small pasture where he can wander all day, nibbling on grass and keeping his arthritic hocks moving. He doesn't do well standing in one place all day, he can stock up in his hind fetlocks.

MB, pre-catching fiasco. In this photo, taken just before dusk, I was trying to capture the beautiful nearly-full moon as My Boy ate his dinner. Unfortunately, the moon was not showing up in any of the photos!

So after a few days of conversation with others, I've come to the conclusion that at his age, My Boy may never get over his catching issue. Past history has shown this behavior to recycle itself. Oh sure, I could try round-penning him (but I don't have a round-pen.) I already do a lot of groundwork with him and he's very respectful on the ground. People say, "Try putting the leadrope around his neck before haltering him." A leadrope does not hold my 1100 lb. horse when he decides he wants to pull back and away from my 104 lb. self. Trust me, I've tried it.

I think he's well-worth keeping despite this extremely frustrating habit (let me tell you last Sunday I was about ready to list him on!) I can keep a turn-out halter on him and got back to the treat method. It may seem like a cop-out but sometimes you just have to pick your battles.

Two days after the catching fiasco I had the best arena ride I've had in years on My Boy. We loped both directions, slow and on a loose rein, I kept my butt down and was more relaxed. We even did a simple lead change (he can do flying lead changes I just haven't done them with him in years.) It felt good and gave me a lot of confidence especially at the lope!

Funny story to close this post on- I had to find a new farrier for My Boy when I moved him. I opted to use the same farrier Ranch Boy uses. When the farrier got out of the truck he took one look at My Boy and said dead-pan: "I charge more for Appys." Hee hee. Let's just say I was proud that My Boy was PERFECT for that shoeing! The farrier also said his hooves should be in much better shape after about 6 months in the drier climate he is in. Right now he is at about 5 weeks from his last appointment and already in dire need of a reset. I usually go 7-9 weeks. His hooves are in such bad shape I am hoping they hold up through the summer.

I still get many compliments on My Boy! Many people who see him always comment on how cute and handsome he is.

But I already know that, despite how much of a stinker he can be to catch.

Ranch Girl


Sares said...

He's lucky you don't own a gun. The little sh**! I bet you were frustrated! Good thing he is so cute.

cdncowgirl said...

I SO relate to this post! My mare was a total B!tch to catch when I first got her. Thankfully she was only 12 and we worked it out. There was one hot summer day though that I had an epic battle like yours... she was being called 'dog food' by the time I caught her. Walking a horse down in a 40 acre pasture, in the heat, for such a long time really makes you wonder why the heck you love the silly beast!

Story said...

Oh my goodness, my first horse was like this. Only treats didn't work either. He saw that bucket and knew exactly what it was all about! I would stand in that pasture bawling, him trotting away from me yet again! Very tough being a horse crazy 12 year old girl who's horse had no interest in returning the affection. Fortunately, though, he only hated me. I could pretty much always send someone else out to go get him and he'd cooperate perfectly. The devil!

Anonymous said...

It could be that he's going to do it forever.

There's another technique that I've used with success - no idea if it will work for him - not driving (high energy and sometimes high emotion is communicated by driving the horse), instead lowering the energy as low as you can get it and "cutting 'em off at the pass". As the horse walks away, just calmly walk towards where he is pointed - not towards him - at an angle that would get you there at the same time as him. As he changes direction or pace, you just keep walking to the point he's heading to. Horses just go "dang!, she's right where I was going" - it's funny to see them think about it.

I learned this one from Mark Rashid - he says he used to do the chase, "make the horse work" routine but found it didn't work that well and also didn't communicate the calmness he wanted the horse to feel. It's never failed to work for me, even in a large pasture, but who knows if it will for you?

Kara said...

LOL! My first horse was an appy (well, a POA) and he was an absolute bugger that catch too! He was alone in a pretty large pasture, but my setup was it also had a smaller corral attached to the barn. He often loafed in the barn, so my way to catch him was to sneak over and shut hte corral gate, locking him into the smaller area. In a small area, he was easy to catch. The unfortunate times were when he saw me sneaking and ran out of the corral, or was not in the corral at all to begin with. I remember the day it took me two hours to catch him, chasing him around the pasture. I was so mad! If someone would have walked up and offered me a dollar for him, I would have taken it and said "good riddance!!!". But I did finally catch him and the moment the halter was on, he was super well behaved, and I loved him again. Thankfully, if he stood long enough to get the lead rope around him neck, he respected me enough to not pull away at that point. He just wouldn't let me get that close even. And I was a kid when I had that horse, and I dind't know any other way to work with him other than what I did. He was also older. I agree that you need to pick your battles. Just set it up to be as easy as possible to catch him. Maybe he just needs a smaller area in a larger pasture and you can feed him in that smaller corral. If he spends a lot of time there, you can shut the gate and close him in when you go to catch him.

Ranch Girl Diaries said...

{Kara & Kate}
Great ideas! Actually Kate, the Mark Rashid thoughts are ones I had! I think most of his sweat at the end was nerves/emotional he was SO worked up over it! There was little calmness which makes me think the whole experience was just as awful for him!
I like the smaler corral idea too. Ranch Boy and I are building a run-in shed later this summer and I am thinking making a smaller corral around it that I can close off when I feed him in the a.m. gives me a smaller area to catch him in when I pull him out for a ride later!
ranch girl xo

Sydney said...

Ok I've had this issue don't give up! Maybe it takes a person stronger than you to hold that lead when he decides to leave dodge. Try leaving his halter on, clipping the lead to it then putting another halter over it, which seems to be his "trigger" My pony used to be HORRIBLE about haltering, especially in the paddock. He pulled back worse than any horse I have seen but I was also strong enough to hold him when he went to get the hell out of dodge. Maybe recruiting someone strong enough to hold him there.

fernvalley01 said...

I agree , choose your batles and enjoy your horse.And of course he gets compliments! Lokk at him what a beautiful boy

Mikey said...

What a stinker! I bet you were MAD, lol. I would have been furious. You've got way more patience than I do, but I'm glad you stuck it out.

Tammy said...

Yeah - big frustration. Haven't been there so no advice other than can you make a catch pen in your pasture so you can drive him into it?

If your heat is as bad as our eat, you must have been dying!

Reddunappy said...

It is so frustrating when they are hard to catch!! I remember when I was 10 or so, my Dad had a big 17H gelding, he looked like a Cleveland Bay, and when I would want to ride him I would have to walk clear down to the bottom ( 2 acres LOL) of our pasture with his halter, put it on him, walk halfway up the pasture with him and tie him to a tree, then go in the barn and get his bridle with the bit. Proceed to go back out and put the bridle on him and then be able to lead him up to the barn. If I didnt go through all this, the big lug would drag me back down to the bottom of the field!!! LOL The solutions we come up with to catch them!! LOL

Now Emma,my Appy, when she gets loose, all I have to do is go in the barn and rattle the grain barrel, and watch out!!!! as she runs in the barn to get grain LOL LOL She has never been hard to catch.She is way motivated by food!
I think some of the higher strung horses are harder to catch, out of my three only Easy is hard to catch, I usually have to run her into a smaller pen.

baystatebrumby said...

Oh yes, that would be very infuriating to me as well. One time there was a horse in the pasture that tried to keep my horse (and all the other ones) running away whenever I came near. I was so mad at that horse for doing that, I wanted to spank him so hard, but he was very full of himself and was not bothered one bit by me being mad at him, or being unable to capture my own horse. So, I know that feeling, Ranch Girl, and to think it went on for hours--I feel for you greatly. At least you have a support system. Just think, what if Your Boy was all all ugly to boot? Maybe his cuteness saves him!? Hahaha! I do love an appy--I know people say they are crazy and maybe some of them are. I love them anyway.

Maia said...

I'd keep a halter on him, 24/7. He may be too old to change and you certainly don't need another day like that.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Oohhhhh-BAD Boy!

I remember when you first talked about his hard-to-catch and iffy-to-halter attitude.

You are so right though, at this's better to just pick your battles and use 'tricks' to make your life and his easier.

Moon and his 1/2 brother can be bears to catch if they aren't in the mood. Fifteen acres feels huge, I can't imagine 40. I've actually walked off and left them because I get so mad that I want to get the pickup and just run them over. LOL

Now I just make sure to keep Moon up the night before. He always comes to the gate at supper time. There is more than one way to skin a cat. ;-)

(And I've had people tell me to round pen Moon doesn't translate. LOL...Moon is a perfect gentleman in the round pen or his pen. Horses that decide they don't want to be caught are not dumb...they know perfectly well that all they have to do is keep moving in a big area and you are at their mercy. LOL)

SquirrelGurl said...

I've been there too! Miss Buttercup could be a royal PITA when it came to catching her in the pasture. Hour plus battles were not uncommon and many a time I would have taken any offer that came my way for her during those moments. Sometimes I swear she thought it was funny. She would wait until you just got to her head and then *snort* run away with tail flagging.

Now that shes retired we dont have that problem anymore. She meets you at the gate with a whinny. Funny how things change!

Crystal said...

I agree, sometimes its better to pick your battles, just leave the halter on him and then you will always be happy when you can catch him quickly ;)

Ranch Girl Diaries said...

{Sydney}~ Thanks for the reminder about haltering over the halter. I have done that in the past and it's funny he'll go to pull back but once he realizes I "have" him with a lead on the turnout halter, he's fine. I may start doing that again.
In the last week in the corral, he has been totally fine to catch, go figure! ;-)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Love the farrier comment about charging more for Appys. lol! They truly have earned that term Appy-Tude, haven't they? hehe!

But I agree about choosing your battles. You don't ever want to suffer from heat exhaustion again after many hours chasing down a horse. Sounds like it didn't even solve the problem anyway. My Boy has just chosen this one issue to put his hoof down for.
But yes he is one handsome dude.