Besides Sterling, my Andalusian stallion who is now 4 years old, I have a 19 year old thoroughbred gelding who is his pasture mate. The boys live inside of the track system that the girls live on and they can travel the property together separated by the fence. You can see the dirt track behind Sterling in the photo below. If I have a complaint about Sterling it’s that his right front foot is so difficult to trim because he cannot, or I believe will not just stand there and hold it up for me to trim it. He pulls it forward and paws. This is not something he does when he stands tied, waiting, only when I want to trim it. If you have followed my blog, you’ll know I have spoke of this before. Currently I am steeped in Linda Kohanov’s book “The Power of the Herd.” I likely have been reading it’s parts for a year now because I believe its information is applicable every day in every situation. In fact In the Company of Horses has a workshop based in these understandings. Yesterday when I went to get Sterling to trim , Harley came right along with us. I tied Sterling to the hitching rail, gathered my stuff and began trimming. If he was attentive and thoughtful with his feet and my trimming, every few minutes he would get praise and a cookie, if he was not, a no and no cookie. Well, Harley caught on to this pretty quick and came over to get a cookie, but the price was to get a foot trimmed first. Now Harley has no problems getting his feet trimmed but Sterling watched as I talked and worked with Harley at liberty to get his feet trimmed, just one at a time and I made a big fuss telling him he was a good boy, lots of rubs and a cookie. Then I would go to one of Sterling’s easier feet and do the same. If he pulled any of them away at any time, I just let it go, said no and went back to Harley to trim another foot, lavish him with praise and cookies and then back to Sterling again. Happily Harley has 4 feet to trim because it took that much back and forth for Sterling to catch on and stand, holding his foot up and waiting with attention and thoughtful behavior, being careful of me, while getting his feet trimmed, getting tons of “good boys” and of course cookies! Wearing shorts and sneakers is another good incentive for a girl to not fight with a big horse to get his feet trimmed!
It’s February now and Sterling is coming 4 years old. He acted in a more stallion like way than I have seen before and I can see by his behavior how he would be attractive to mares.
So, there were goose hunters collecting white snow goose decoys at dusk and all the horses were on high alert because they were jumping in and out of the ditch and looking sneaky even though they were 1000 yards away from us. I came out to feed in the middle of this attention. I got all the food ready and called the girls to come in and all but Summer gave up on the hunters and came to dinner. She and Sterling were looking with high intent at the hunters. Summer turned to run into the barn but couldn’t stay in her stall to settle and eat, she just turned around and ran out at full attention to watch the predators.
I waited on her and invited her in and stayed with her until she settled and could eat. Then I went out to feed the boys. They live together inside of the track the girls live on. Harley is the bay gelding.
As always I brought out the boys buckets and proceeded to the round pen where Harley eats. He followed me right over while Sterling watched the hunters. I poured Harley’s food in his bowl and he began to eat and I went to feed Sterling. As soon as I exited the round pen, Sterling let out a loud blow of air with a big woosh; that got Harley’s attention and now he too was on high alert.
I continued to walk to Sterling ‘s bowl and he tracked with me all the way to the back though 150 yards away. He was very animated in his movement looking every bit like a stallion, blowing hard and loud on high alert and letting everyone know it. While he was breath taking, I was staying very grounded appreciating his concern and attention yet not feeding it, afterall, I knew there was no real danger to us. I put his food in the bowl and got focused on the hunters making sure he knew I also knew and used our Social Intelligence (or collective knowing) to help him relax. I was not close to him, just standing calmly, breathing slowly and intentionally, he trotted himself right over to me and we stood together watching but only for a moment when I turned to walk toward his dinner.
We stopped about 10 feet from the bowl where Sterling was now calm and present to dinner, we shared a soft slow connected touch of “all is right in the world” and went to his dinner together.
I turned to leave but he instantly came with me, so I walked over to a jump in the field about 20 feet from him and sat facing the hunters. He was able to eat in peace. Each time I glanced back at him, he was eating while watching me.
I was eventually able to walk away while he finished eating. The hunters began to look less concerning when they began to walk to their truck. I looked back to Sterling and when he was done, he galloped right over to me. I did not have a concern in the world, he sidled up right next to me and we watched the hunters together. I stayed with him for a long time while they got in their truck and left.
Then a couple of interesting things happened, when the danger was over. I went in to let the girls out from dinner and Summer came out first, she ran right over to Sterling and for the first time put her nose over the fence to visit with him. Anyone who knows the relationship that my horses have know Summer is the only one of the mares who has had no interest in Sterling whatsoever. I believe it is because as a thoroughbred broodmare, she did not have, well, any say in the matter of stallions. Summer has never, since Sterling came as a 6 month old had any interest in him. But this protective Stallion that showed up seemed to interest her! I mean, how much experience does a domesticated mare actually have with stallions outside of the domesticated way we breed them? Usually stallions are kept far away from mares and the mares seem to be frustrated by the geldings they get to interact with! Ladies, what is attractive to us?
This is Summer.
So, I could not find Sterling anywhere in his field or in the woods. If you have followed my blog at all, you know he has become quite the explorer this year. So I was calling and I saw him down in the creek eating something. He reminded me of a moose in the water. That rope that crosses the creek in the following photo is the only thing that keeps him off the track where the girls live. I will modify that, but it does look like he would need to limbo underneath it. So, I called him and he came out of the creek to visit with me which is very easily accessed from the woods when the leaves and brush are not growing, like in the Autumn.
Then, like he was showing me what he found, he went back in the water and decided to walk down the stream. This is not anything the girls or any other horses have done for that matter in my space! He is a brave explorer! Then off he goes.
He went around the corner and out of sight! I was hopeful that he would come back. Happily I noticed a large tree had fallen across the creek and he was not interested (at least on this day) in jumping it!
Without any trouble he came back and then I started the video on my phone as he played in the water. Sorry about turning the phone, I didn’t know I couldn’t and I don’t know how to fix it now!
At the end there when he scales the opposite bank, effortlessly I might add, that is why I can no longer use the creek as a fence. I thought there really was no inviting place on the other side of the creek to cross. Or at least there wasn’t before there was!
This is the bridge we build for the boys to cross the creek. And, until now this is how they always crossed over into the woods. You know what they say about idle hooves!
He had been out on the track all day and just came into the space where we had a horsemanship workshop, there were many distracting piles on the way to dinner!
This is my first attempt at uploading a video! I hope it works.
The flowers are blooming and the grass is green. The annual shedding ritual has come and gone and only a few remnants of winter remain. My boy is growing into the most lovely man. Strong; bold; athletic; interested and attentive. Attentive to me, his gelding friend and his herd of seven mares. He holds himself and carries himself in the most attractive ways. He is officially three years old now! Oh how time flies.
Happily during a recent horsemanship workshop at my house where there were new horses coming and going, Sterling did the right thing and stayed quietly with his herd or by his gelding friend Harley in their woods field. He was quiet, and all the while attentive and calm. I could not ask for anything more.