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 .

Friday, 16 November 2012

Re post, reminders on Safety

I am re posting a couple of  posts from last year, there are additional  posts linked from  other bloggers under the tab Boundaries at the top of the page . As we head into winter feeding it seems  timely to remind ourselves of the risks and safety measures we can and should be aware of. Feel free as alway to add your input to this 

Post #1 everybody hurts sometimes,

re posted from October 17 2011
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!

Post #2 Becoming the Boss mare

 originally posted  October 18  2011
My apologies to the gentlemen who read this , and the owners of geldings . The premise is similar for male horses /and handlers.It is just best described  with mares.There is no one better at the dynamics of herd management than a boss mare.
To Quote Dr Phil"If momma ain't happy,ain't nobody happy!"

So who is the boss in your herd?
Well hopefully YOU! but beyond that figuring out the "boss mare" in your herd is a matter of observation.Who she is NOT, is the silly one who rushes around stirring up crap and kicking at every little thing,nor is she the food obsessed filly who tries to steal from the submissive ones and must eat from every pile . She is not the one who goes into a pen or receives a new horse "guns a blazing" aggressively approaching all new comers . She is not necessarily the largest or the oldest ,or the fastest . But she is the wisest, and she is who you want to model .
This horse is often quite quiet in the herd until things get out of hand , she  doesn't vie for position at feeding time , because she doesn't need to , she knows her status and is calm and sure in the knowledge . The horse is calm and confident.
When a new horse comes in to the herd , she will often observe , not approaching the new herd member , rather allowing the horse to approach her . This is where you need to really watch and take heed. This mare will not become hugely aggressive , but will display very clear behaviors specifically designed to assert her authority .
She becomes "larger than life" Body language is very important , she will seem to ,well just get taller and larger carrying herself in a manner that exudes confidence and authority. When to new horse approaches , she will acknowledge them ,and sniff in greeting , but if that new horse comes into her personal space too quickly , she will warn, a foot stomp, a squeal(and from Ritchie it will curl your hair to hear it , that is often all it takes )a nip, and if all else fails she will rear and strike or as a last resort turn to kick. Unless she is confronted with an other Alpha mare ,it likely wont get much past the squeal stage . Now the remainder of the herd will jockey for position to be higher in the pecking order than the new horse , depending on the nature and skill level of the new horse ,it will be interesting to see where the dust settles . At this point a really good boss mare ,can keep the excitement to a minimum, as all of the others will still respond to her as well. A well timed Whinney from Rich , and everyone stops!

So how do you get to be boss?
Well we have identified what not to do , which to recap is , do notrush, do not challenge ,
 Do observe.
Do exude confidence
Do ,use appropriate body language to establish authority .
What is that body language?
Well you are not going to rear or strike, as such. But modeling that behavior, a foot stomp can be a hand clap(brisk clear assertive) a hand raised with a clearly stated WHOA! rearing and striking ? a raised hand , flat palm out and again a clearly stated command , (this is not where you sweet talk them , this is where you say NO, WHOA ,BACK, etc)
A nip? a lead rope or your flat palm, a quick sting essentially , a slap on the neck or shoulder . (you are not hurting them , you are  seriously not strong enough to do damage with the flat of your hand ,or a snap/sting  with the rope end of a lead.
Keep in mind you are not  anywhere near as big as a horse ,( no matter how big your thanksgiving dinner felt! )So another trick in showing a horse especially one who is questioning your authority , is be Big in your mind , and be willing to move into them each time , but obliquely, angling your body so that if they do rush you , you can let yourself bounce off the shoulder , and move out of the way .SAFETY IS THE #1 priority
I am going to stop here , for now . I am hoping a few fellow bloggers will add thier input and post as well in this regard. I hope I have been clear in my explanation . and to close I want to remind you of a couple things.
1. I am not a trainer,nor do I claim to be . I have had and worked horses for a long time , but I am by no means advocating my way is the only way.
2. Something Crystal said  reminded me of this .
Remember it is not personal! your horse is not hurting you or pushing boundaries , because they do or don't love you . Any more than your kids would . It is not  a matter of love , it is a matter of SAFETY

Big plans for the weekend here, hope to have a new post up by Sunday , but meanwhile stay safe  my friends


C-ingspots said...

Big plans huh? Well that sounds interesting...hope all goes as planned! :)
Safety is always a good thing to be reminded of. We can be hurt in a flash and wonder what the heck happened? Just the other day, I was working with Eagle and had a little gal on top the round pen fence observing. She moved a leg when Eags was very tuned on to me. He spooked and jumped away from the offender and right towards me. He stopped when we were eyelash to eyelash! Since it happened so quickly, I had no time to react. No time at all. I didn't move a muscle, but got a very good look into those big browns of his...thank God and thank Eagle that our working together is showing much progress at establishing boundaries. I have no doubt that if this had taken place 6 months ago...I'd have been knocked to the ground like a bug. My boy is learning. *happy dance*
Thanks for reminding us Sherry. Hope your weekend is grand!!

IanH said...

Thanks for the reminders, Sherry. I have learned a few of them the hard way,but seem to have most of them worked out by now. I agree whole heartily about knowing the situation and having an escape route.

My App had a bad habit of rearing when first mounted. A slap did not cure it, but a fist applied hard to the back of the head when she was on the way up cured it. In four years, she has never done it again. It was necessary, as I could not let that continue with a bunch of grand kids and others wanting to ride her. First time (and last) that i have ever hit a horse hard. It stunned her, but the alternate was to sell her. Turns out, she is the best horse I've got, and all the kids enjoy riding her.

Anonymous said...

Always good to have a reminder of safety issues.

Reddunappy said...

Great reminder!!

Because of my balance issues and how exuberant my Emma is, especially when loose! I carry my carrot stick with me to reinforce my space, with her. My old mares are very respectful, but as you say, always always keep and eye on them!!

Crystal said...

Good reminder, I like the way you describe the boss mare, sounded exactly like you were dexcribing my Razz! You really have to watch to see her make a move at another horse (at least in my herd) but when she does, oftentimes just a flick of an ear and they are jumping to attention, lol. I tend to get laid back with my older horses I have had a while which I should not do cause then it makes me frusterated when they do something they are not allowed to do, even though I just let it slide so many times to them it was like saying it was ok.

Shirley said...

Watching Coyote Belle control the other mares is always worth a chuckle; a pinned ear or a glare sends them scrambling!
Safety can never be stressed enough, and it's usually something that's learned the hard way.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Boss mare says, "Jump."

The rest of the herd asks, "How high?" while in the air.

Yep. She's in charge. They know it. Life is good.