Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hungry Growing Bratty 2 year old


We have been throwing as much feed (hay) at Otto as he will eat.. and eat he does. My GAWD this horse has an appetite. I think he outdoes JB in the appetite department , and I never thought I would live to see another horse put away groceries like JB does. JB is not a big horse either.  Ofcourse, in Otto's case, he is growing and he is alot bigger. His weight is still , in my opinion a little light but I think I am going to fight that for a while yet. At the same time, he doesn't have ribs showing anymore and he has "thickened" up a bit. I guess I will just continue to throw huge amounts of hay at my Hoover vacuum horse and be thankful we purchased an extra 5 ton of hay we didn't think we would need.. because now we probably will!
Early November

Early December
His energy levels are more than adequate and I think he feels really good, considering all of his antics in the pasture. 

Regarding his growth, I was curious and wanted to see how typical or Atypical his growth rate was. The last time I had him into the vet on November 22nd for his last round of catch up vaccines, he was 760 lbs. That was 100 lbs heavier than September when I took him in the first time.  I found this chart to give me a visual representation of where he was at for his breed. According to the ranges listed he should be somwhere between the  2 or 3. Surprisingly, his growth rate fell closer to the range 2. I thought he was alot bigger than "average" for his breed and age (19 months when I did this) but according to this, he isn't. 

embiggen to see the stars indicating his weight. 

Bratty  2 Year Old

He has gotten more challenging to handle in the last few weeks as the stud attitude has only increased. I was hoping to avoid this but it seems he is one of those colts that has the potential to be very studdy.  He is very mouthy and wants to bite alot. He isn't mean about it.. no ear pinning or anything, but those hormones are just telling him that is what he should do to greet people these days.. uggh.. 
How do I get lucky enough to get a colt who is exhibiting two of the habits I hate the most.. rearing and biting.. gheez!!!

I am somewhere between trying to  not make a huge issue out of the biting and trying to ignore it when possible , and also correcting it. 
Sometimes with the "bitiness" behavior, it's tricky. It can  easily  create a bigger issue when trying to correct it.  Horses can get to where they think biting is a game. When a horse goes to bite, what is our natural reaction?? well for me, it's yell  something like.. "hey" or "Knock it off", and then smack the horse in the shoulder or wherever I can make contact, sans the eye area. 
It's just that , a natural reaction , but I don't think it's necessarily the right reaction.  If this cycle continues , it sometimes turns into a cat and mouse game for the horse,, try to nip the human before they scream and smack them.   I really want to avoid that.  

So, what is the right thing to do ??  I am still working that out in all honesty and would welcome any insights but here is what I have implemented in the meantime. 

I use the flag. 
***As a important thing to note here,  I have done alot of flag work with Otto already to set the ground work. He understands that the flag is not something to fear. Correct application of the flag is all  about intent. 

Using the flag for Otto's biting issue is to keep him a safe distance from me, which in turn  seems to negate  the temptation for him to bite, especially whenever I feed him. He respects the flag and understands that he is to stay away,  but he did test things out the first few times,  turning his butt and backing up to me with his hind quarters. 

Not cool buddy..not cool.. 

 He got the business end of the flag right on the rump and quickly realized that wasn't the answer. 
He is a quick study, I will give him that!..  

When I bring his grain bucket in, he stays away , about 4-5 feet, until I have the bucket attached to the hanger and ready . 

Then I "ask" or invite him to come in, ears forward, and I allow him to eat. 

If he is the least but pushy, I send him off again with a shake of the flag. 

I only shake the flag with as little energy as needed until he moves off. No need to get crazy waiving it around and creating a big reaction in  him.  I just want him to yield and try something different than coming in like a bully.  He has this figured out and as a result, he is a perfect gentleman now.

I also make sure that once he is eating, I can rub him all over with the flag. He understands that  I can ask different things with the flag. That is key and I find it works best to often reinforce this idea. It's easy to get caught up in using the flag to send a horse off. I try to be pretty specific about how I use the flag. My queue to invite the horse in is to drop the flag (plastic bag end) in the downward pointing position at my side. 

This is all great for the time being but it doesn't solve everything . The down side is that it dlimits my interactions with him. Anytime I come in close, the biting attempts begin and the boy parts start dropping. 
I am pretty sure I don't look like or smell like a  mare.. good grief .

For now, I am limiting my interactions in close with him. No, it isn't ideal,  but the way I see it, until I can get him gelded , the less negative interactions and the less likely the biting will become a habit. 
Don' t get me wrong, I still halter him , brush him, pick up his feet, but we limit the time I am doing that for now. He's pretty sure that everything needs to go in his mouth 

If there was ever a bratty 2 year old stage, he has definitely hit it. 

The vet really wants me to hold off on his gelding until the footing is better.. That won't be until March. Hopefully we can manage until then...


Mel said...

You echo my thoughts on biting exactly, walking the line bewteen ignoring and game playing and esculation. Ml was more mouthy then most fillys ive worked with but not nearly as bad as you describe otto. A combination of ignoring her, redirecting attention and energy, and discipline a few times when it was appropriate (reached around and bit my back while trimming got a thump from me combined with some aggressive round pen stuff - we were in the roundpen at the time). I thought perhaps it had gone away on its own, but I notoce her sometimes taking liberties with people not me so I do think my actioms improved the situation rather than being completley neutral towards eventual outcome.

The weight chart is interesting! According to the chart ml was normal expectes even though she was by far the tallest two year old arab I had seen. But didnt have a lot of substance so based purely on weight she was probably normal. I wonder what it would have looked like if this chart was based on height instead of weight. Probably a lot more variation?

Jonna said...

It's unusual for fillies to be mouthy but it can happen I suppose. Yikes, bit your back?? Otto will try to reach around and bite when I am trying to pick up his hooves.. so for now, it requiring a second set of hands to make sure we keep his attitude in check.. He seems to escalate easily so I definitely feel like I am walking a line with him. Wish I had a cranky bred mare around right about now!!

Julie Goodnight has addressed this topic of biting with colts in some of her writings. Basically from what I can tell, her approach is to establish dominance and personal space... which is essentially what I am trying to do. I don't know about the dominance part, but maybe more like respect. She talks about pinching the shoulder , like a mare would bite but she claims there is a 3 second window of opportunity for correction or it's lost. She claims biting is person caused in most cases, because people let the horse nuzzle, or get too close , or hand feed.. I know the previous owners had taught him to kiss.. that could have been the beginning of things.. I certainly haven't done anything to encourage biting since I was anticipating he might get that way.. and WAS trying to avoid it!

The growth chart would likely look alot different if it were based on height! How tall is ML? I need to stick Otto but I would bet he is approaching 15 hands at mach speed.