Thursday, July 19, 2012

How Fragile It All Is

It has been quite a long while since I have been able to work with Bay Girl, and I've been a bit worried about her returning to a semi-wild state because of it. The Red Pest makes it literally impossible to do anything with her - he is constantly on top of me whenever I'm around her, and anytime I make an aggressive move towards him to chase him off, it scares her to death. Unfortunately, not working with her is doing about the same level of damage as working with her with a Red Pest floating around had been - she no longer waits for me at the gate at the end of the day, and on Monday even had a moment of regression into uncatchable-ness.

Every day at breakfast, I put on Bay Girl's flymask before she gets her flake of alfalfa (the broodies live out with a roundbale and get supplemental alfalfa, according to the feeding standards at the place where I work). Up until now, this had never been a problem, but on Monday I unfortunately had the mask on inside-out when I went to first put it on. I also, very unfortunately, poked her in the eye with it as I went to put it on. Most horses react with a short of "ahh, ouch" whenever something like this happens, but they quickly get over it and move on with their lives. Bay Girl, suspicious as she is, react with more of an "AHH, DEAR GOD HELP ME!" and threw her head into the air in a panic. I managed to get the mask back off, and back on again... only to realize that, once again, it was still inside out. I took it off for a second time, and Bay Girl decided that she had had enough. She turned tail and left, and didn't want to be caught again. Instead of worrying her further, I simply turned around and left as well, leaving her to wait at the gate for her alfalfa and a second attempt at trying to rectify what was quickly turning into a flymask fiasco. After about 10 minutes, I came back for another try, and managed to catch her and put her flymask on with quite a lot less fuss, but when I tried to offer a handful of her alfalfa to her afterwards as a peace offering, she refused to take it. Historically, when she refuses any sort of food that I know she normally likes and will eat, it means she is sending me a clear message: "I don't trust you right now."

Things got even worse when I went to catch and halter her to bring her in for the farrier in the late afternoon. Once again, she turned and walked away from me like she didn't want to be caught. This only lasted for a few seconds, and she stopped and let me catch no problem afterwards, but it made my heart sink nonetheless. It felt like a very enormous step backwards... it is hard to explain to a formerly abused horse that poking her with a flymask was an accident and that you still love her. Someday, she'll understand that if any accidents happen, they aren't deliberate... but for now, still in her fragile state, she can't separate the two.

I seem to have regained her trust with many cookies, pets, and scratches over the past two days. She is once again following me around like a little puppy dog, but I feel strongly that she really needs to be worked with on a very consistent basis if I want to really keep her from going backwards while the colt is still at foot. I just don't know quite how I am going to do that without needing to scold him and scaring her in the process. Perhaps I can find a way to lock him up inside his creep feeder....

God, she just looks like CRAP. My boss and I were discussing the other day how she still had an enormous potbelly and no topline and ribs showing... she shouldn't still be looking like this four months postpartum. I am definitely a bit worried about it, and not sure of what to do - or what I can do when she isn't mine.


  1. Oh man, I feel you on the backsliding feeling. So emotionally draining to get "rejected" by your hrose - hard not to take it personally.

    For the exercise, anything is better than nothing. I say just halter her up, trot her up and down her pen (with little man following, no doubt - just ignore him if you can) for a few minutes, then play a stretch-for-treats game with her.

  2. Bugger, how frustrating. You made such good progress with her before though that surely once she is yours to spend time and love on [sans red pest] you'll make quick inroads again. I do hope there isn't a serious underlying issue with her condition though.. I bet too that her owner company wouldn't be interesting in spending money to get her healthy if there was, either. :(

  3. That colt is huge. I know some people think four months is early to wean, but really, he's huge!

    The creep feeder idea sounds very possible, especially if he and Bay Girl could still see each other when you're working with her. They would be less likely to freak out that way.