Friday, January 20, 2012

Separation Anxiety.....and Danger Lurks

So, some long time readers may remember Gem's escapades a couple of winters ago, when he managed to find a way to get out of his turnout area. Well, he's at it again. LA mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Gem found the only spot in the electric fencing tape that did not work and pushed through it and joined the herd at the far side of the property. DH stood at the opening but did not go through. His forlorn look as LA was walking past made her stop and check things out. Gem was not gone long; he was easily caught and both he and DH were brought in and stalled. The electrician was called and he replaced the faulty electric fencing tape.

Well, somehow he managed to escape again yesterday. I am not sure of the details but it had something to do with having to turn off part of the fence because of the water tub heater or some such thing. Never a problem in the past, but within that 10-15 minute period, Gem found the right spot and made his escape. LA didn't realize he was gone (the fence had been turned back on long ago) until she heard DH softly whinny at the turnout fence when she was walking up to the house. She checked it out, discovering that Gem had escaped again. Sigh. He was with the herd for at least a couple of hours before he was brought back in.

When I first became Gem's partner, he had been turned out 24/7, but was by himself. When he came to LA's facility, he had to learn to be in a stall and he had to learn to make friends with The Boys in the back turnout. It was different when he was being ridden, and I have never worried about him being aggressive to other horses during lesson. We tried him out with the herd initially, but he was too dominate and because of his size, LA was worried he could injure one of the other horses.

Now, two years later, LA is wondering if we should try him with the herd again. LA assured me she would observe him, making sure that the dominate, bullying attitude he exhibited when he first arrived doesn't reappear and cause any serious scuffles. If everything is OK, then he would be able to frolic with everyone else. My heart started to pound a bit, my anxiety level started to rise as she talked about the possibility. I think I have an idea of how a mother feels when their child is boarding the school bus for the first time. :-)

Me: (slightly whiny tone) When I came here, I told you that I would hate traipsing around the fields looking for my horse. I still feel that way. If he's turned out with the herd, I will be covered in snow going out to get him. I could fall!
LA: We can make sure that he's in the back turnout or his stall on the days you come here.
Me: I will be adding another day to my routine, but I don't know which day.
LA: You can call ahead and we will make sure he's in from the fields.
Me: He will turn into a lunatic, wanting to be with his new buddies, when we are out on the trail! Just when I am getting the hang of trail riding! I will be thrown or the other horses will charge me!
LA: I think you are being a bit dramatic.
Me: Sigh.




Gem is smart, and in LA's opinion, he's a bit bored and looking to get into mischief, hence finding the weak spots in the fence. He knows the barn routine, and he will probably be waiting for her to turn off that portion of the fence. It's like a game to him now. Because of this, she will have to change the routine to turn him out later, after she is done warming the water tub. I am guessing that Gem will not be happy with this arrangement.

I liked Gem being in the back turnout area because I could easily call to him and he would come. I liked that bite marks were few and far between. I liked that he had his own private apple orchard. I liked that I could stand and easily watch him interact with DH. I liked that he had his own water supply close at hand. I liked that he had his own hay and I knew how much he was eating.

I whined my way through these "likes" with LA and we agreed to have him turned out with the herd on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It will break up the week for him. I see him every Sunday, lesson on Tuesday, out with the herd Wednesday and Thursday, I see him Friday or Saturday. I am nervous about this, but I can see how he would benefit mentally and physically if he's able to wander and socialize with the others. Expand his horizons, so to speak.

When I arrived for lesson last night (rescheduled from Tuesday because of -20C weather), I carefully checked him out for bumps. I found four big bite marks; two on each butt cheek. No damage anywhere else. I asked one of the ladies who works at the barn if she was the one to bring him in from the field yesterday after his escape. She responded that she found him chowing down at the big bale of hay, the only one eating while the other horses stood around him, watching. Hmmm.....perhaps that bullying attitude has not left completely....

* * * * *

Last night I picked up Jean and we drove to lesson together. We drove on roads that were still a bit treacherous from the recent freezing rain. We managed to skate up and down the lane way at the barn a few times without falling. We led our horses down the dark, icy lane way to the arena without incident. Had a great lesson on frisky horses and then had to lead them back up the skating rink to the barn. No problemo! I removed my helmet and coat and I untacked Gem. As I was carrying my saddle blanket back to the tack room, the little saddle pad that I use under the blanket slipped and dropped in front of me, causing my feet to get tangled up and I went down....hard.... My shoulder took the brunt of the fall, then my elbow. I was fortunate that the saddle blanket softened the blow in some ways and my head did not connect with the cement. Jean and LA's mother had to help me up.

On the way home, Jean and I experienced a whiteout on the highway - my first. It was like driving into a wall of white. We both said "Holy Sh--! at the same time. I had no point of reference to indicate where I was on the four-lane road. We were both very nervous.....OK, we were scared! :-) I managed to crawl along and eventually saw the haze of a street light, indicating civilization, that we used as our beacon. Whew!

So, I managed icy roads and lane ways....walked my horse on skating rink conditions...and survived a terrifying white out. But it was a stupid saddle pad that got me! I can barely lift my arm today, my shoulder hurts that much. Fortunately, it's my left shoulder/arm so I was able to put my makeup on with no problem. ;-) Be careful out there.....you never know what's going to get you!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

24 comments:

  1. Oh, I am so sorry about the fall and I hope you are feeling better. Imagine... all of those places where it would be natural to fall... you got through the gauntlet, only to be felled by a saddle pad. I HATE it when I have stupid blunders like that!
    I am also one who hates going to collect a horse in the field. It's very strange, because I'm not inherently lazy. I just can't figure it out!

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    1. Dreaming - I felt so silly! Still sore today. It was an Advil weekend!

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  2. Love the new banner pic. It is the essence of riding in Canada in the winter :) I hope you are feeling better soon after that fall. Ouch! I still have not driven during whiteout conditions. I do not know how this Floridian would fare!

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    1. Golden - I think I am wearing about 4 layers in that picture! It was snowing that day - so beautiful....

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  3. It seems I always do stuff like that. Make it through the worst possible things and then Kaboom something trivial gets me. Hope you are feeling better soon and can ride without pain. I've driven in whiteout conditions and really bad foggy times with a horse trailer. Scared the hell out of me. Glad you made it home in one piece.

    As for Gem being turned out with the herd,I think you should do it and see how it goes. It's a good cure for boredom. I don't think it will affect your trail rides, he may make friends and have more fun going out with them. Also, everyone be it horse or human needs a few mental health days and he will fit in eventually and enjoy the contact with his own species. If it doesn't work out he can always go back to watching the humans and the electric fence and outsmarting them. Good luck.

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    1. GHM - Perhaps it's the little things that get us because we don't pay as much attention to them??? I cannot imagine driving in whiteout conditions with a horse trailer!!!! OMG! I am getting butterflies just thinking about it. I like your "mental health" days reference. You're right...I have my fingers crossed that it works out.

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  4. Ooo Wolfie!! Hope you're feeling better. Typical isn't it, the 'little' thing ends up hurting the most. But, go you, driving through that white-out - chicken that I am, I'd have pulled over in a panicky, whiny way!
    Again, I stand back in amazement at Gem's intelligence. Like the 'picture' of him chowing down while the others stand & watch *lol* Good luck, I'm sure it'll all work out - first few days at 'school' are usually a bit tricky :D

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    1. Glad you're not too banged up. Anti-inflammatories are your friend. :)

      It's amazing how horses exploit the weaknesses in electric fences. Boredom (or romance) brings out the smartypants in them.

      I bet Gem will enjoy the company now and again. Hopefully he'll learn to share. ;)

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    2. Joy - I am feeling better today, but it was a sore weekend! I have to admit that when I brought up a mental image of Gem eating while the others watched, I smiled. :-)

      CFS - You are correct - anti-inflammatories were my best friend this weekend! Just when I think I have a routine figured out, Gem proves to me once again then he's smarter than I give him credit for. :-)

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  5. Sounds like Gem is a leader since they let him eat like that. I was in a white out once--actually, a cloud of dust from the farm fields swept over the freeway and we couldn't see anything. We were afraid to stop dead in the road in case other cars kept going and hit us. It's a horrible feeling. Glad you made it home safely.

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    1. Hi Linda - I was afraid to stop completely for the same reason. The whiteout almost made me feel claustrophobic. It really shook me up.

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  6. Winter driving makes me nervous at the best of times, fortunately I've never been behind the wheel during a whiteout.

    It's so hard, I know it's good for them to be out with the others but I hate it when they get into scuffles. Dee's herd of 3 got expanded to 4 recently and I noticed a bit ol' chunk taken out of her hip yesterday. Not happy! And then there is the trudging through the snow to get her and she's not always the most cooperative about being caught. Husband keeps telling me "she's a horse, let her be a horse" but I still want to wrap her in bubble wrap!

    I have a little award for you back at my blog. :)

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    1. Story - I have to say that I was a little anxious when I saw those bite marks on his butt! Is it vain not to want him to look beat up?? :-) I love awards - thanks!!!

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  7. It always seems like the 'accidents' come when we have both feet on the ground!
    Also, I'm probably giving you the same award as Story, but I gave you a blog award. My page has details if you're interested! It's the "Leibster" award. :)

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    1. Hi Mona - Nice to hear from you! I will be visiting your site soon for my award!! Yay! Thanks!

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  8. Yikes! Its the little things that always seem to get you! I think the extra time with the herd will be good for Gem in the end. :)

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    1. Justaplainsam - I hope being with the herd will be beneficial to him. Keep your fingers crossed!

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  9. Ouch! Glad you are okay and you didn't go head-first into the cement. Hope you feel much better soon! Gem is a clever horse, I hope he isn't sporting more bum bites any time soon. Good luck Wolfie, take it easy and be careful.

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    1. Landers - I think I would have had a concussion if my head had connected with the pavement. I may have to start wearing my helmet inside the barn, too!! Gem is a clever horse....I wish he would use his smarts for good instead of evil!!! :-)

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  10. Oh geez, didn't you just have shoulder surgery? Feel better, okay?

    I don't think you need to worry about Gem getting hurt in the herd, sounds like he put them all in their place.

    Also, I've driven in one of those whiteouts and I almost peed myself in fear. Seeing nothing but white past my windshield is not an experience I would like to repeat!

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    1. Shannon - I just hope none of the other horses get hurt while they are working things out. :-) It was good that Jean was with me in the car during the whiteout because it made me a little "braver". I probably would have peed myself if I had been alone!

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  11. Isn't that typical? It isn't the thousand pound animal or nature that gets you, it's the little man-made item. I hope you're doing better!

    The bite marks on Gem should happen less and less the longer he's out in the herd, once they've sorted out the dominance issue, especially since he doesn't sound like a horse who will let others pick on him.

    I've been in whiteouts in the car and on horseback, they're pretty unavoidable out here in the prairies. They are so terrifying though, and honestly, I prefer being on horseback than in the car. They still manage to get you home even though you can't see a thing.

    And sorry this comment is so late, your blog hasn't been working on my computer! I don't know why, my computer does stupid things like that every now and then.

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    1. Holy crap, Cjay. You are in white-outs in a car and a horse????!! I can see your point about letting the horse get you home. I hope the bite marks don't become the norm with Gem. I am used to him looking pristine. :-) My shoulder is still really sore, but it's slowly getting better.

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  12. I had the same problem as Cjay, I couldn't leave comments on your blog for ages! Had to make a new profile. My two girls are brilliant escape artists, and electric fences don't stop them, they just jump them. That is one of the reasons why they usually have the run of my property, it's easier that way, although my husband is not impressed with the state of the lawn (lawn, what lawn?). Gem was just telling you where he wanted to be, and once his position in the herd is established, you might actually find him even more level headed!

    We don't have snow white outs here, but impenetrable fog probably comes close. Last time I drove in one I was towing a trailer and I was absolutely terrified.

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