Thursday, July 31, 2014

From Dating to Living Together

Jay and I moved onto the same property that Skeeter is on over the weekend and it's already obvious that the move is going to change our relationship with Skeeter.

Before, when we lived away, going to visit was like dating.  It was a to-do.  I had to make sure I had an hour to "work" with her, I had to make time every day to go feed and I felt guilty when all I had time for was feed her.  I really enjoy and love Skeeter, but we didn't have a lot of "hanging out" time.  I felt pulled in two directions: I had Jay at home (who, by no means ever put any pressure one me) that I wanted to spend time with and I had Skeeter at L.E.'s who needed me to spend time with her.  No matter where I was, I felt like I was cheating one or the other.

Seeing Skeeter's head pop up when she heard my car come up the road and seeing her come running to the fence always made me happy.  It really was like having a 900# dog. (If the video loads sideways, I apologize, I don't know how to fix it without uploading it to YouTube.)

She got a rude awakening on Saturday when people showed up and didn't immediately run to her pen to fawn over her.  Instead, the truck and trailer pulled up and people completely ignored her while our things were unloaded.  It was a travesty, just ask her.  Oh, she hollered for a good half an hour before she gave up.  Welcome to not dating anymore, sweetheart.

When I woke up on Sunday, I couldn't wait to get out to talk to her and see what her reaction would be.  She appeared to me to be confused and wasn't quite sure how to react.  I was there, but I didn't drive up, which is not how things had been. 

We're easing into the living together thing and I think we're both going to enjoy it.  The other night I felt like going out and brushing her, so I did.  It wasn't a big to-do.  I got up off the couch, slipped into my shoes and went out to the pen.  It was so much nicer to be spontaneous and not have to worry about the whole process of leaving the apartment to go spend five whole minutes with her.

She has a deer fly who is loving to chew her to bits, so I've been putting first aid mud on it.  And it's not a big to-do.  I go out, grab the tube of mud, slather it on her, give her a kiss and go back inside.  It's bliss, I tell you!

Jay and I discovered this morning that she can hear us with those big old bat ears of hers, so we spent some time torturing her by standing in the bedroom and calling her name.  Since she can't see us, she didn't think it was a very fun game, but we did.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

What I Need to Learn

Yesterday was a big day for Skeets.  We brought in a lot of hay and had a lot of people there to help.  I'm finding that Skeeter and I are a lot alike in certain ways.  Neither of us is a fan of loud, sudden noises or crowds of people.

From the beginning, Skeeter has done well with people, but yesterday we had A LOT of people, which meant A LOT of activity.  When the crowd and activity is outside her pen, she does really well.  However, yesterday, she had to be tied to the trailer so we could bring the truck in to unload the hay.  Jay and I have done this before and she stood like she had been doing it her whole life, so I didn't think much about it.

I tied her to the trailer and didn't think twice about it.  I showed my brother  where to take the panels apart to get into her hay storage, pointed out to Mr. Nebalee where to dismantle the outside panels to drive the truck in and we all got to work.  When we swung the panels around the hay storage out, they made a loud pop/creak.  Skeeter had been doing okay with the activity, but the sudden loud noise was more than she could take.

She pulled back hard on the trailer and started fighting the tie.  Holy cow, I thought she was going to topple the trailer, she was fighting so hard.  We don't have a lightweight trailer, either.  The trailer is easily 30 years old and steel.  It is heavy and I wouldn't have thought she would have been strong enough to make it budge.  I looked up and hollered, "Skeeter! Stand!"  She quit fighting, but was still pulling back on the tie. I started her way, but saw Bill out of the corner of my eye already halfway there, so I let him go soothe her. 

Knowing she was in good hands, I went back to doing what needed to be done.  There were people unloading and stacking the hay, so I scooped poop.  I should have gone to stay with my horse, which I thought about, but I would have felt guilty "sitting around" while other people were working on behalf of my horse.  Instead, now I feel guilty about letting Bill be the one to keep her calm, when I'm supposed to be her person.  Sometimes I feel like I just can't get it right.  (And, for the record, I know Bill didn't mind babysitting at all judging by the big grin on his face.)

He sat with her and talked with her until she relaxed and then started messing with her.  At one point, I looked up to see that despite all of the noise and activity, he was messing around with her feet.  He had her standing quietly, still tied to the trailer, and was walking around, picking up her feet and banging on them with a rock.  She never flinched.  This is the horse, who just a few minutes earlier was a wide-eyed monster.

When we were all done in her pen, and the panels were all put back in place, he untied her and walked her around a bit before turning her loose.  As usual, she wanted to be right where all the action was, so she hung out by the fence while we stacked the hay that didn't fit into her hay storage.

You can see her in the background watching everyone.
Bill would occasionally "mess" with her.  Go over, pick up her feet (on time, she fell over!) and then go back to whatever he was doing.

After we were done with the hay, we were just sitting around under the shade tree, drinking adult beverages and eating very healthy snacks of chips and dip.  Bill would get up, go into her pen and mess with her some more.  Sometimes, he'd kick her big red ball at her.  Sometimes, he'd stick his fingers in her ears.  Oh, and her face, he grabbed her top and bottom lip and pulled them wide, made funny faces with her.

Always, he'd just spend a minute or two and then come back and join us.  Then he'd be back in her pen, spraying her with the hose.  Or kicking the ball at her.  Or pulling her mouth open.  Or sticking his fingers in her ears.

That's what I need to learn to do.  I'm so afraid of screwing her up or doing something "wrong", that I don't just mess around with her.  Maybe it's the teacher in me, but I always feel like I have to have a "lesson plan" when we "work".  Bill got more accomplished with her yesterday buy just being a pest than I would get done in a week.   And she loves it!  Grandpa Bill is her favorite toy.  He knows when to draw the line with her behavior, but mostly just makes it fun to be around him (he does this with the two-legged grandkids too).

She'll do pretty much anything for Grandpa Bill.  Including having a drink of his beer, which she didn't really enjoy, but tried it anyway.

What's that, Grandpa?

Sure, I'll try it.

You drink this?!
My take-away from yesterday: play with Skeeter more, worry less.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Introducing the Big Red Ball

This could, perhaps, be the most boring introduction to a scary object you'll ever see.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

She does have a good head on her shoulders, that's for sure.

Jay got approved for his mustang within just a couple of days.  We mailed his application on Saturday, he got the call on Tuesday morning that he was approved.  This time around, it will be Jay, his mom, my mom and me going down to Canon City.  Skeeter will be getting a new brother in the middle of August.

Speaking of brother - take a look at this guy.  He really could be Skeeter's brother!  One of the ladies from a Mustang page that I follow has gotten special permission to take pictures at Canon City.  Very rarely is anyone allowed in with a camera, so it was a treat to see all of the great pictures she came out with.

Photo credit: Amanda Wilder

Except that his "happy sperm" hasn't been squished like hers, and he has more chrome.  I'm not sure we'll end up with matching horses, as there were a LOT of pictures that we fell in love with.

Photo cred: Amanda Wilder

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Bit of Excitement

First, the big news: Jay mailed off his application to adopt a BLM mustang. 

The previous plan had been for him to adopt one of the "oops" mustang-cross babies, but the babies got sold (they were supposed to have been given away) and it appears the person pocketed the money.  Every time we tried to find out when the babies would be coming to our side of the mountain, we got put off.  It maybe should have been a hint.

So, instead, Jay went with his back-up plan of adopting a mustang.  Thanks to Skeeter, we have the set-up (which we just dismantled and will have to put back up!).  Now that we've been through the process once, it's less nerve-wracking than the first time.  He should hear from the BLM next week and we want to go to the August 8 auction.  This time, it's Mom's turn to go.  Bill got to go last time, so it's only fair that Mom go this time.  We also invited Jay's mom to go, as it will be her first grand-horse. :)

The mosquitoes have been brutal within the last week, and poor Skeets is getting eaten alive.  I went to one of the mustang groups I belong to and asked for advice.  Holy cow!  Everyone's got a cure for mosquitoes, ranging from simple to complex.  I choose to go with the cheapest, easiest to implement (for me): a teaspoon of granulated garlic in her feed.  Now, I don't feed anything other than grass hay.  On occasion I gave her a coffee cup full of black oil sunflower seeds just because, but it's not part of her feeding regimen.

Whole oats are cheap and good for horses, so I figured I could feed her a couple of cups of oats just to get the granulated garlic in her.  I also wanted to get an automatic bug fogger for her shed, so I put that on my list of things to buy.  Off to town we went.

The farm and ranch store didn't have the automatic bug fogger (I'll end up buying it from Amazon, probably), but we did run across this cool biological mosquito control called Mosquito Bits.  I got excited when I read the description, because they work like the Fly Predators.  Only they're not other insects that eat the larvae, the Mosquito Bits are a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis that infect the mosquito larvae.  Similar, in that the larvae are destroyed, dissimilar in that one (the predators) is an insect and the other is a bacteria.

Anyway, the science geek in me got really excited about that.  And then the horse owner in me got really excited because it means that Skeeter can have her swimming pool after all!

We finally made out way out to Skeeter after all of our in town errands were done and Jay's mom and brother met us out there to watch me "work" her.  I didn't have big plans for working her other than to brush her out really well - more to scratch all of her itchy spots than for any training - and to pick up her feet.  Bill's picked up her feet before, but I haven't yet.

Skeeter was her usual charming self, mugging for them, then following Jay and I around in turn. She unhooked from Jay when I called her and came right over to get her halter put on.  I was so proud of her for behaving well.  I tied her to the fence in front of Jay's mom and brother so I could talk to them while I was brushing her.  Tying hasn't been much of a problem, so I didn't think twice about it.  I brushed her out and then grabbed her tail to spray it.  I've sprayed her tail with detangler several times and she's never even batted an eye.

This afternoon, she took exception to it, and pulled back.  Normally, not a big deal.  I tie her to the trailer or to the panels around her hay storage, but I've never tied her to the fence.  Our "fence" is really just panels strung together, rather like a very large round pen.  It really stays standing based on the honor system.  We have some t-posts braced up against the really lean-y over sections so that if she leans on it, it won't topple over.  We didn't, however, plan on her pulling on the fence.

She pulled back and the fence gave, so she continued to back up, pulling the fence along with her.  In horror, I watched the fence fold like an accordion as she peeled it back from the side of the shelter.  She backed up quickly, more surprised than afraid that the fence was following her.  After my second or third order to "stand!", it finally sunk in her pea-brain and she stopped.  My "stand" command was probably helped by the fact that the fence had finally accordioned around her like a chute; had she continued to back up, she would have completely blocked herself in a very small space.

I'm very lucky that she's not a big panicker, because the afternoon could have very quickly turned south and involved large vet bills.  Once she stopped moving, I went over and untied her from the fence, backed her out and moved her away from the thirty foot opening in the fence.  I kept her moving, and her mind occupied until Jay and his brother got the fence put back in place.

Just to reinforce the "tie", I took her to the trailer and tied her there for a few minutes, the whole time afraid that she'd pull back.  She didn't, so I took her away from the trailer and back to the fence.  She showed no fear of it, thank goodness, and allowed me to finish brushing her.

My hope is that the lesson that solidifies in her brain is "don't pull on the fence, because it will trap you" and NOT "hey, if I pull on the fence, I can get out".  I don't think she realized that she could have gotten out to the big ole world since I kept her moving away from the gap and didn't let her watch them put the fence back where it belonged.  I think it was good that she wasn't able to get untied (in this instance): pulling back didn't get her out of the situation, it put her in a worse one.  Please, please, please let the lesson be "don't pull back".

We'll be driving a t-post in the next day or two and will chain the panels to it so it is much harder for her to peel the fence away from the shelter.  Until then, I won't be tying her to the fence again.  We'll also be rigging a more permanent hitching post.

Not exactly the kind of impression I wanted to give my in-laws of my "wild" mustang, but they definitely got their money's worth.  I'm glad they were there, actually, because if this had happened when I was alone, I'm not sure how I would have fixed the fence by myself.