Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Field Trip: Out of the Pen

Yesterday was a big, big day for Skeeter.  She learned a lot and finally got to step foot outside her pen.

I've been wanting to get her out of her "holding cell" for a few days, but don't want to turn her loose out in the big pen quite yet.  The BLM guidelines say that they can be turned out after they are easily approached and caught, so technically, I could turn her out.  However, there is a whole lot of nothing outside of the big pen and if she got it in her mind to just leave, I could be in trouble.  After yesterday, the big pen is for working and the holding cell is for living: eating, sleeping, etc.  Once she's more comfortable in the big pen, we'll let her loose in it, but that will be a few days yet.

Mom and Bill were down to go to Kyzzer's end of the year band concert and came over to L.E.'s early enough to help me with Skeeter.  Because I want Skeet to be comfortable with multiple people handling her, I asked Bill to halter her while I changed out of my scrubs and into jeans.  From the tack room, where I was changing, I could hear Mom laughing and hoped that Skeeter wasn't giving Bill too bad a time.  Apparently, Mom was laughing at Bill because he was being fumble-fingers trying to figure out the rope halter.  We usually use the flat, nylon halters, but Skeeter's in a rope training halter.  By the time I got changed and out to the pen, Bill had her haltered and was leading her around the holding cell with a big ol' grin on his face.  She was doing so well for him.

He handed her off to me and I lead her out of the holding cell to the big pen.  I wish I could say it went off without a hitch, but that would be a lie.  We got out of her holding cell and her ears went up, then her neck went up, and then she started trying to bob her head away from the halter.  When I put more pressure on the halter the Battle Royale began.  We had about a ten second battle, with her backing up, yanking on the lead rope and dragging me across the pen until she remembered her manners and I remembered to stop being defensive and go on the offensive.  As soon as I got big and started moving her backward, instead of allowing her to drag me, her whole demeanor changed.  While Mom has video of our Battle Royale, she does not have video of me winning.  When I asked her about it today, she muttered something about turning it off in case there was a wreck.

After I "won" and re-established that I make the rules, she lead nicely.

This, I can do.

What do you mean I can't eat the green stuff while we're working?
 I handed her off to Bill, who took a turn leading her around.

Once she realized we really were in control and that no means no (so much temptation with all that green stuff she saw Uncle Ranger eating), we had to work on stay out of my space.  It didn't take long for her to realize that she had to stay an arm's length away from me while turning toward me (left).

See? I can be a good girl.

We checked out the water tank from the outside of the holding pen.  I hadn't topped off the tank yet, so I put the hose in the tank and turned on the water.  I'll be darned if that mare didn't trace the water flow from the spigot, down the hose to the tank, and back three or four times.  It was like she was discovering where it came from.  You could almost hear her thinking: this handle goes up, it makes a funny noise, and I can trace it down this white snake, into the metal pond.

That mare, she's a smart one!

Smart enough that when I wanted to take her back through the gate to the holding cell, just for practice going in and out of the gate, she knew she didn't want to go back in there.  We didn't quite have a Battle Royale, but we did have a discussion.  I took my time with her and she'd eek up to the threshold of the gate and then refuse.  If she refused and acted like she was going to pull back, she got in trouble, so she'd just stop.

But I like it out here!

Bill got another lead rope and started swinging it around behind her. She flinched and looked at him, all four legs still firmly planted.

Mom got the "flag" out to flag her in.  Nope.  Not scared of the flag anymore.  She flinches and then looks at you like, "what?" when you try to flag her. 

Only one thing left to try.


I had Bill hold her while I went and got a flake of hay.  I walked past her with the flake, into her pen, and put it on her food.  She watched me very carefully the whole time.  When I took the lead rope back from Bill she followed me into the pen like we had done it a million times.

After she had a bite or two, we went back out of the gate and back in.  Then we walked back out and did some circles in the big pen, then back in the pen.  She's got this gate thing down now.

I'm a pro!

Remember the destroyed hay bag?  And how I said she needed toys?  Well, Mom and Bill brought her a couple of toys: an old sturdy juice jug filled with water that she can kick or toss around and a rope dog toy to play with.  Of course, Bill had to torture her with the dog toy.

Ok, I'll play along for Grandpa Beel.

I told her to have some dignity and not allow him to do that shit, otherwise they'd stick her in antlers or an elf hat come Christmas time, but she didn't listen.  Of course not, why would she listen to Mom?  What do I know?

Digger was with us all afternoon and wanted to spend time with her, so he got out the brush and curry comb and gave her a mini spa day.  He might be her new favorite human.  I brush her quickly, like we're getting ready for a ride.  I guess years of saddling lots of horses in a very short period of time has made my grooming a bit matter-of-fact.  If Skeeter had been a cat, she would have been purring with Digger.  He took his time and just enjoyed being with her.

I like my brother, Mom.
I thought we were done.  After all, Skeeter had a really big day.  We did a lot and she had a lot of new experiences.  But as we were getting ready to leave, Mom remembered she had her weight tape in her vest, so back into the holding cell I went.  Mom called out a warning that the fluttering tape might be an issue.  Skeeter and I just laughed at her, as Skeeter stood like an old seasoned horse through the whole thing.

According to the tape, Skeeter is 14.3hh (I had eyeballed her at 14.2hh, so close) and 902# (again, I had guessed 900#).  I'd better start doing yoga or something so I'll be flexible enough to mount her from the ground if I ever have to.

(We did actually get a better measurement once she squared up)
We must have tired her out, because when I went over to feed this morning, it was obvious that she had slept hard last night.


Brigid said...

She's beautiful and will be in good care with you.

Allison B said...

I know you have just begun with her, but it is so much fun to read about the progress you are already making. You two are going to have so much fun together!

Dreaming said...

I agree with Allison - great fun to read about what you are doing.
You gave her a ton to think about - I can understand her being exhausted!

Shirley said...

Smart girl! She'll keep you on your toes.

TjandMark Chapman said...

you two are doing great. enjoying you updates

achieve1dream said...

She's only 14.3hh?? She looks so much taller than that lol. She's absolutely gorgeous by the way. I watched the video of battle Royale and I have no idea how you managed that without rope burns with no gloves!!!