Welcome to Fern Valley

Here in central Alberta prime farm country,my husband Martin and I work together raising beef cattle and Appaloosa horses. Fern valley appaloosas have long been known for their quality of temperament conformation and color.I have recently rediscovered a love of writing and have published 2 collections of poetry. "Telling Tails" and Tails Trails and Campfire stories" . I look forward to a future spreading my wings as an author and as a horse woman .

Monday, 17 October 2011

everybody hurts sometimes,

Hang in there gang!I have been thinking again!!!

I believe almost everyone I know, in my home life and online who has worked with livestock , has been hurt as one time or another, From, a whoops out of the saddle, onto our pride, to a first class wreck!
Handling livestock, be it horse cattle ,swine ,etc. can be hugely rewarding , and it can leave a mark.
One of our blogging buddies , has  had a few wrecks over the summer and is still in the healing process from the last one. (I have not named her , because it is her story to tell and not mine ) She commented the other day about having some difficulty maneuvering around her super friendly and hungry horses at feeding time. A few of us talked about establishing boundaries ,and I thought now was as good as any time to talk about it . I have 2 colts in stalls right now I am working with , and a yearling gelding Dandy. Dandy and I had a pretty big discussion of boundaries in Jan  when he tried to assert some authority over me . suffice to say , he now asks permission to come into my space !
For the sake of our fellow blogger who is healing and ourselves , lets talk a little about how we establish boundaries and safe practices with our stock.
The first thing I am going to say about any of it  though is , no matter how long you have been at it , and how much we think we know , every individual ,can get hurt , at any time . Animals are not machines , and they  can be unpredictable . That said , there are some ways to mitigate the risks .

1. Always ,Always , always , be mindful of where you are , in relation to the animal , or if there are many (in a pasture catching a horse or on a pen working cattle .)where they all are , and where your safe exit is .
 Many years ago I was in a pen checking on a cow calf pair , quiet cow, I had no concerns , I turned briefly to move a fork out of the pen, the next thing I knew momma was ramming me against the barn wall , she kept at me until I literally crawled on my belly out of there. What did I do wrong? I was aware of her , but had not noticed that the calf had gotten around me , she perceived me as a threat to her baby and took action.

A second example
When Johnnie was a yearling , I was walking through the pen he and several others were in . Johnnie had not had a lot of work at that point , but was very friendly . The other horses began running and he spooked. Right into me ! I had half turned to protect myself , but still took 2 boards off the fence one with the back of my head and one with my behind.What did I do wrong??at that point , my mistake was a) I had not taught Johnnie enough to be respectful of my space , even in a panic, he should have been taught to go around me or stop , not crawl in my lap, and b) not mindful of my personal area, I had essentially put myself in a corner and given myself no escape.
I will tell you my darling Johnnie ,learned whoa and BACK off ! and damn fast , I believe even before my head stopped spinning !!!! which leads me to my next point...

2. Be mindful of your own abilities/disabilities .If you are sick or injured, be aware of your limitations regarding mobility . If you can get help do so , if not  find some alternative ways to get things done. Or maybe some things can wait .
Just last winter I had a flare up , and was in pretty tough shape. I did chores , very slowly, and did not go in any pens . Yes that meant feed went on the ground and not in feeders , but when I say I wasn't well ,I am not kidding , My sister had to come over later in the morning after I had showered to dry and comb my hair ! (I could not lift my arms at all ) That was not a day to push my limits and try to go right into a pen, if a horse  had bolted or pushed me I would have been on the ground under foot, and whole lot worse off! (that time I got it right )
a few years before , I had been discharged from hospital the night previous , and  we had a mare to breed . Cactus was a little jacked up, and clearly sensed that I was not altogether OK. He got quite rammy with me . I panicked and jerked him off balance  and no one got hurt ,but... I was immediately very aware of how wrong It could have gone , because I was not thinking clearly !

3.(could be 1,2and 3. PAY ATTENTION!!!!! I don't care if this is your first horse ever or , you have been at it since you were in diapers, complacency leads to disaster !
nuff said here right?

4. TAKE YOUR TIME ! ,the only thing that happens in a hurry , with livestock is a wreck!
I have a favorite saying "if you are in a hurry , hurry home , YOU ARE DONE"

In the interest of not having a 4 hr post here I will stop at this .Over the next little while I would like to do a series , on how I teach  some boundaries with my horses. I am not a Trainer. just a decent hand with a horse. I am also hoping that a few of you will do so as well. either on your own blogs and let me know so I can link to it , or here in the comments if you chose . I am hoping more for your own blogs , and maybe some of you techies will ad video?
I think my standard "Stay safe " is very fitting here!
so my friends , please do STAY SAFE!


Shirley said...

Great post- and a timely one too, as we head into fall and winter, and in more contact with our horses at feeding time.
# 3 is tops! Never take things for granted, that's how you get hurt.
I might take you up on the challenge and post on this. Let me think about it for a couple of days.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wonderful post and I appreciate you sharing some of your own personal mistakes around livestock. So many folks never do, maybe because they don't want to show they are capable of mistakes. But they could help so many others, just like you do, just by sharing and being honest.

That said, I love your favorite saying: "if you are in a hurry , hurry home , YOU ARE DONE".

So true!

One of the safe things I do now, when preparing to feed Apache, is to tell her to move away from the gate and go stand and wait in the area that I typically feed her. I used to just push through the gate and squeeze past her while she crowded me and stole bites of hay from the flake of hay in my arms. I often felt vulnerable and it felt like she was herding me to her feeding area.
Now she has to do what I say and wait until I. AM. READY. And I take my time, too. It's good for her to learn some patience.

I'm looking forward to reading what you write in your series on how you teach boundaries with horses.


aurora said...

Great advise Fern! I too look forward to reading more. Thanks for sharing.

Jeni said...

Perfect timing! As my boarding has changed to partial care, I am the one feeding night feeding almost every day. Last night I noticed some of the bad habits instilled by careless handling from the old place. Pushing me around when I walked into their pen to feed them.

Pretty scary situation with a horse as big as Rosie trying to push me around.

RoeH said...

I loved this post. I haven't been around horses my whole life, but I learned early on that they spook at nothing and to never get ... and I liked your wording ... complacent. 1000+ pounds is nothing to take casually. Thanks for this. There's so much I could learn about them.

Anonymous said...

All very good advice. The only times I've been hurt on the ground were when I wasn't paying enough attention or was rushing (and therefore not paying enough attention). And whenever I hear that little voice "this isn't a good idea . . . " I stop what I'm doing and rethink. I do a lot of work with my horses on staying out of my space, even when they spook, and they've all got that pretty much down. I'm also very careful when around loose horses as horse on horse stuff can quickly become a problem with a person nearby.

Crystal said...

Very good post, I may have to post on this too, cause its so important and yet overlooked by so many people who want thier animals to love them (and think they would never be hurt by them cause their horse loves them)

Safety is very important, and I find its ussually the quietest or tamest animal that will hurt you (especially with cows)

Cut-N-Jump said...

Another time when you will likely get hurt- when you are showing off. Watch this, is usually the start of a bad thing. So yeah, watch this, and then please call the appropriate emergency responders for me would ya? lol

Great post and good timing. I think we have all been in those situations and no matter how big the stall or pen, when the horses are headed your direction the walls, fencing or space seems to close in. This is not a slow process either.

Ami said...

I wonder if any of these tips would work with my herd of children at work... hmmm.

Wolfie said...

Excellent advice and a good reminder not to become too complacent. I have been a health and safety rep at a couple of workplaces and the experience has helped me look at things with safety in mind (drives my husband crazy!). Having said that, as you mentioned, we are working with beings that have a personality of their own and can be unpredictable. We must always be aware of what's going on around us.

kestrel said...

Also, do an honest and realistic evaluation of your animals. Find someone you trust, who has well mannered creatures, to help you.

I have seen too many people hurt by truly bad tempered animals that the owner kept making excuses for, instead of confronting or confining them. Dogs that growl at children, horses that bite or strike when things don't go their way, an animal that is in pain or senile, are going to hurt someone sooner or later if the underlying problem is not recognized and addressed realistically.

Linda said...

A very well written, wise post....something we should all think about ALL the time when working with animals.

C-ingspots said...

Very well-written post. No matter how much or how little we may or may not know in regards to animals, it never hurts to hear it again and "take it from the top". We never stop learning! Sherry, I would usually take the sage advice from a well-rounded "horseman" over a "trainer" anyday. In my experience, there are way too many people out there referring to themselves as trainers with absolutely no credentials or business calling themselves that...just sayin'
That said: there are always exceptions.

Janice said...

Great post Sherry. I can't really add anything except about complacency....you couldn't be more right. Complacencey is just another word for "disaster" in the making.Loved your two other posts to. You get so far ahead off me....makes for good reading though.

lytha said...

This is good - I recently asked mugwump to make her old post "Staying safe on the ground" available because it is so important for people to learn.

I have a very lucky situation - my horse is not greedy at all and never crowds or pushes me as I bring him his mash. I've never had to make him back off from food, and he nickers but he waits and I feed him a handful as we walk together to where I hang his bucket. If he ever tried to push me I'd have to do some training but he's 26 and never has. I realize how odd this is - most horses push for food when allowed. Yesterday he was especially hungry and we both made it to the stall door at the same time and I thought, "oh here we go, he's gonna push past me!" but oddly, he didn't. He doesn't automatically back out of my space bubble, but he never intrudes it unless invited. Maybe that helps. Every morning and night as he digs in to his first bite of mash, I carefully gather his forelock out of his eyes and put it in the middle of his forehead. The day he looks annoyed at me doing this, well, then we'll work. But for now he just watches me. I think it was Jessica Jahiel who said we shouldn't pester our horses while they're eating, (but if we have to, they should let us).

Thanks for the great post.

Laura said...

Great post, reminds me of when I was younger and I was taking my horse out to the field when I remembered I hadn't picked his feet out. I got someone to hold him and ran down to get the hoof pick. I then ran up behind my horse and picked up his back leg! This resulted in me getting a kick in the thigh and it was definitely all my fault! Being in a rush definitely wont help anything!