Sunday, December 27, 2009

In the pasture

Today I escaped the full body velcro of my family for two and a half hours and headed to the barn.

It was a beautiful day, if a little chilly. Fortunately I have finally figured out the right combination of clothes to keep me warm - I don't really have cold weather gear since we get about 10 days of really cold (under 40 degrees is where I draw the "really cold" line) weather. Who needs gear when you can walk with your hands under your armpits for 10 days.

But, after pulling chilly weather luck on yet another horse feeding morning, I decided to figure out how to stay warm. Tights, jeans, socks, four shirt layers, a vest and the biggest coat my husband has, along with a hat, rabbit lined gloves and scarf. Toasty.

When I pulled up to the barn I was surprised to see an empty paddock where four geldings (including mine) should be. Then I realized that the "gate" was down and they were out in the pasture.

The pasture at our barn is not a large flat field. It's more of the sloped rocky hill side so common here in the Texas Hill Country. But I was undeterred. I was confident that I'd find my horse and bring him up without a problem.

Have I mentioned I'm an optimist?

I headed down the hill and saw Cibolo, head down in the sparse grass, grazing away with his BFF, Arab-Amigo. Two other geldings, the sorrel, Amigo, and the roan, Chico (known for his reluctance to canter) were grazing off to the side.

I clicked my tongue and Cibolo looked up and then headed straight for me at a quick walk.

This is a rather dramatic turn of events. Starting (as near as I can tell) with the time we began doing the sacking out, Cibolo has stopped trying to evade me at the urging of his BFF. This was the third time in a row he walked up to greet me, and Arab Amigo came too. I delivered a carrot to each (I thought I'd need an incentive if we had to play chase the horses on the hillside) and, with halter on, began leading Cibolo up.

Then everyone thought this was the dinner bell and began to head up the hill too. Cibolo didn't follow them, though, staying at the proper distance on his lead and calmly following me up.

To me, gathering a horse out of the herd can be the most dangerous time. I'll never forget reading about a champion barrel racer who was killed by her horses who got worked up when she was setting them out to pasture. So I keep a careful eye on what messages the herd is sending.

Sorrel Amigo and Arab Amigo ran up the hill. Arab Amigo was clearly surprised that Cibolo was hanging with me. Behind us Chico was making his way up as well.

Then I saw it coming. Arab Amigo ran down to herd everyone up the hill. I dissuaded him once, but he made another pass, convincing Chico to run and I prepared to let go of the rope and get out of the way as Cibolo pulled to go forward. I knew the pressure this time was too intense.

But before I let go I pulled quick on the rope, then let go, calmly stepping aside.

Cibolo, who had started to run, turned, tense, and faced me. His lead rope was slack at his feet.

His muscles were tight, ready to go but he looked at me. He wasn't sure, but he stood there, still looking like he wanted to bolt. But he didn't bolt.

He looked and waited for me to tell him what to do. Like I was in charge.

"It's okay, Cibolo. Good."

I picked up the lead rope and gave him a rub. And we walked up, him following respectfully and calmly, and together we headed out to do some work.

And proceeded to have a nice time.


Veronica Foale said...

Wow, that's a great outcome!

And completely unrelated, but your page crashes my browser. Lots. I get lots of freezing and not responding while I am trying to read here. Not sure if it is just me or not.

Gail said...

Now that is a true success story!

Leah Fry said...

What an excellent turn of events. Frankly, I could use one of those.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Congratulations! He chose you.

Happy Holidays!

Unknown said...

You're amazing! That is a wonderful story and a wonderful achievement. Woo! Hoo! Carmon

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Whew! I could feel the tension as you waited to see what Cibolo's reaction would be. Good for you and him that he stayed with you. It's great when they choose their human over the equine herd, isn't it?


Anonymous said...

Very cool - he wants to be with you and also trusts you to keep him safe when the others are running! I spend lots of time handling multiple horses and also with groups of horses in a turnout situation - and you're sure right, it's a time to be careful and keep your wits about you.

Unknown said...

Veronica - I removed the snow, let me know if that works.

Gail - Thanks!!

Leah - I hope you see a good turn. Unfortunately they seem to be coming for no discernible reason. Which is why I'd be a lousy teacher.

FV - Isn't it exciting?!

Carmon - It's a step, right?

Lisa - I never thought I'd be at this point. Hopefully I can maintain the progress...

Kate - I do think he is trusting me more. But we have a long way to go in the saddle.

Unknown said...

Good job - you are getting through to him. Progress is always encouraging.

Jocelyn said...

Wow, what a good boy! Somedays Star comes running and other days she stand in the middle of the herd of mares and I have to get out the "listen stick".

Jocelyn said...

oh and the full body velcro?
I totally get that.

That was hilarious!

allhorsestuff said...

I firstly LOVED the comment you made,..." But I was undeterred."...
That is simply the best and would be a great Blog name!
You are so wise in knowing that the heard in it's own domain can be a fearful dangerous thing to be in the middle of! I am so pleased he chose YOU..that really was a nice posting sweet!
HAPPY NEW YEAR with your horseface!
KacyK with Wa mare~

Michelle said...

Wow! That's so cool. It sounds like you have an amazing bond with your boy and a great understanding of herd dynamics.