Thursday, February 25, 2010

Creepy Crawly

As things continue to warm and the ground begins to thaw, I start wrinkling my nose when I step out to do chores. Springtime on a horse farm gets a little .. uh. pugent.. shall we say.. as the snow and ice disappear, giving way to a couple weeks of mud and muck. This time of year also gets me thinking about worms . You know, those nasty little creatures that can cause a myriad of health issues such as colic, heart problems, weight loss and even behavior issues. The mere mention of things like Strongyles or Ascarids makes my skin crawl just thinking about it!

Spring time worming is just around the corner and normally, like thousands of other horse owners across the country, I would be getting ready to dose everyone with a syringe full of whatever I had on the rotational 10-12 week worm schedule.

.....Not this year folks. This year, I am taking a little different approach and I invite all of you to consider doing the same.

40 years ago, when effective wormers entered the market, worming became part of the regimented schedule of equine health care maintenance.. Initially, the vet came out twice a year, wrestled with your horse to stick a tube down his nose and then poured some foul looking liquid into his stomach. Life got easier for everyone shortly thereafter, when paste dewormers came available. All you had to do was read the directions and figure out when to rotate the wormer type every 8-10 weeks. A few people took this one step further and thought well, if a little is good, a lot is better….

All that enthusiastic deworming has now caused us a bit of a problem.

Research has shown that the worms have developed resistance to deworming drugs, of which fenbendizole (Panacur), oxibendizole (anthelcide) and oxfendazole, have seen the most widespread resistance. So, as resistance increases, the ability to use these drugs effectively decreases… What goes up, must come down….

I decided to see how my little herd was fairing in this department. The last thing I want to deal with is issues in my herd with heavy worm loads due to drug resistance. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention…

What’s a responsible horse owner to do?? Well for starters, only deworm when necessary and in order to determine when that is??? Contact your vet and have them do an FEC, or Fecal Egg Count.

I have made arrangements with my vet to do an FEC for each one of my 6 horses. It will be a bit pricey but I suspect in the long run, it will be offset by what I spend in wormer over the course of time. Unfortunately, there is some strategy to getting this done. In order to get the best results from an FEC is all about timing. Based on the last time I wormed and with what product, I have to wait so many weeks beyond that time for the vet to be able to do the testing at the potential heaviest egg count, if there is one…Mid to late March is the window for me.

So, in a couple of short weeks, that time will arrive and I will start the tedious process of collecting a fistful of manure from each individual (with gloves ofcourse) I hope the kids will cooperate in supplying those samples on command (cough) but if not , I am prepared to wait them out... glove and baggie in hand.

I hope that the FEC will shed some light on which of our horses needs worming more , or less, and if we have any resistance. This new information , combined with our pasture management methods will certainly give me a little less to worry about.

Here is a link on the subject that I thought was interesting to share.

So, bloggers....Have any of you done FEC studies on your herds/horses? What have you found? I would love to hear about it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Sunshine, More Miles

The day started out on the chilly side but the sun was out. I would take JB out first. Things got off on the wrong foot while I was trying to get him ready. His deep seated fear of motorcycles, 4 wheelers, snowmobiles, (or anything in that category ) came bubbling to the surface when a neighbor from down the road came by our house on a scooter. JB happened to be tied to the trailer, far out of harms way , but it doesn't matter with him. It could be a mile away and he gets worried about it. He paced frantically at the trailer as the scooter passed by. I am not sure how I am ever going to get this horse through this now. He was actually doing quite well until last fall when he was traumatized at the ride in Washington when we had to pass right through the middle of a dirt bike rally.Anyways, I could see that the scooter set things in motion for our ride today and I almost decided against going since I was a bit on the edgy side now, and I knew I had seen a couple other 4 wheelers go by earlier. If I went out, there was a good chance I might run into one of them. I really didn't want to give JB another bad experience but at the same time, I need to continue to expose him to it and hope that eventually I can get him over this fear. I took my time saddling and and getting him ready trying to decide what to do. I decided to handwalked him up and down my dead end road for about 15 minutes to see if he would settle in a bit(and it would give me a chance to settle my nerves) It seemed to work and he started relaxing a bit. I walked him up the road until I hit the dirt road and then got on. JB was pretty tense but after about a mile, he settled in. No dirtbikes or 4 wheelers to be seen.
Most of the vehicles that came by were courteous today and slowed way up. Ofcourse, I stop my horse and face the oncoming car. It seems to send the message loud and clear to "slow down"! Not sure why it works but I am going to keep doing it. We made it back and the last mile of the 4 we completed was probably the best. Just as we were coming over the last little hill before my house came in to sight, the 4 wheeler came down the road. JB ofcourse locked on and tension ripped through him again. Luckily the 4 wheeler went the other way.. thank goodness. JB relaxed again and we made it home with no further incident.

Since the sun was still shining, I quick grabbed a snack and caught Maggie.
The photos posted below in the reverse order that I wanted them to post in. I tried everything and cannot resort them on the page. I even tried refreshing my blog by clearing my cache, but it didn't work. I gave up after fiddling with it for a half hour. (If anyone has any suggestions, please do tell because it's absolutely maddening not to be able to organize the photos the way I want to)

Anyways, Maggie is saddled and ready to go in the first photo. I have to ride her in my western because its the only saddle I have that fits her table back. She is ridiculously broad. Scroll down to see the before and after She was an absolute mess when I caught her. She apparently has been enjoying the mud a little too much.

Maggie and I went about 4.5 miles. This was the second time I have had ridden her with out a companion. She's very honest when she is unsure about something. She just stops short(very short) and looks. Sometimes she shies a bit but so far nothing too out of control. All in all, I was quite proud of her today.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Conditioning in Full Swing

I love long weekends but I usually come out of them totally exhausted because I crammed so many things into the schedule. This past weekend was no different. Now, I am feeling the effects of just that. I guess the conditioning season has officially started for me, but I am afraid to even say it, lest there be a snow storm to stop the progress I feel as thought I am making. (knock on wood) Compared to the last two years, I am getting riding time in way earlier than usual.

First order of business; ....News to share
The weekend started off busy with non-riding activities. The distance riders group I am a member of, Hooves and Company, has started the planning process for the July endurance ride that will be held in this area. Guess who is part of that planning process? We’re a small group so it takes all of us to get things accomplished. Since I plan to ride both days, my contribution will be in pre planning instead of volunteering this year! The ride is on the AERC website as Hooves & Company for the NW region. CHECK IT OUT! The location is new for the ride this year and if you haven’t ever been to this area for an endurance ride, consider putting this one on your ride calendar. It’s July 17th and 18th. The scenery, trails and camping accommodations are going to be fantastic. If you want more info, email me. I will be glad to tell you what I know, which at this point, isn’t much but stay tuned!! I should be getting some first hand knowledge over the next several weeks. Here’s the scoop; We were granted permission to use a large guest/cattle ranch west of town, which is surrounded by National Forest. This is new territory from where we have held the endurance races in the past. Given the new territory, Hooves and Company members have lot of new trail to identify. Thank goodness for Google Earth, GPS and nice ranch owners!.

Back to the riding part of the weekend;

Riding was first on the list for Sunday. I wanted to get both JB and Maggie out for some miles. Tom, also getting the spring riding itch, decided to come along for a ride when I took Maggie out. I was happy to have the support and company of him and Cassidy. Maggie started out a little strong and ramped up but listened well when I asked her to check back. Of course, being young, she had to be reminded frequently for the first 2 miles. After that, she seemed to catch on and realize we didn’t need to hurry. She only argued with me once when I asked her to stop and wait for a truck to come by. Her argument was a shake of her head. For the rest of the ride, she settled into a nice flat footed steady walk, on a loose rein! This mare definitely has some “smoke” so my focus with her is keeping things quiet and relaxed. She has a real knack for going from 0-60 in nothing flat! Tom tells me it’s pretty common in these little Lippitt Morgan’s. I guess he’d be the expert having raised and trained them for as many years as he did. She is surprisingly very responsive to half halts and is responding well when I ask her to “chew the bit” down and travel long and low. Overall, I think we are off to a great start.

Focus area with her:
Be choosy about who I ride with, when I ride her . No fast rides! No nervous riders!
Continue to keep the rides quiet and easy
Exposure to new things to help build her confidence
Do not get caught up in enjoying her speed!!! (We’ll save that for later)

One thing that stands out to me about Maggie is that she has such a willingness to go, and keep going, that I will have to be careful about distance. Her strength, both mental and physical, can be deceiving on how tired she truly might be. We went 6 slow easy miles with her felt like a good starting point for her fitness level. I will keep her between 5-8 mile rides over the next several weeks and pay careful attention on her recovery. As soon as my arena is snow free, we’ll be back at working on basics. She is still very green so basic training will take precedence over distance work. If all goes well, I hope to have her ready for her first limited distance at the July ride. Our plan is to get the turtle award.

By the time I finished with Maggie, grabbed a snack, rehydrated and got my self geared up to go back out and do it again, the day was getting away from me. I saddled and booted JB in a big hurry. We only went 3.5 miles. I would be meeting a friend the next day for a longer ride so I wasn’t too concerned about mileage. I just wanted to get him out to stretch his legs a bit. My ride on him had me working full time to keep him between the “navigational lines”. He wanted to look everywhere but straight ahead and we looked like a drunken sailor as we wandered back and forth along the road. After about a mile and a half of this ever so fun exercise in patience (on my part) he finally settled in and started listening. He has developed a nice rhythmic walk. The trot however is a different story these days. A year ago, I was peddling him along, fighting for forward every step of the way. Looking back, I know this had to do with how his feet were feeling and that he was also stallion. While he still gets a bit concerned about who were leaving and often tries to look behind us, the need for peddling has long since gone away. JB has found his big horse trot and Sunday’s ride had us cruising along pretty nicely. As much of a thrill it is to ride him in this big trot (which is amazingly smooth) it is early in the season and I don’t want any injuries!!

Monday’s ride we completed 6 miles of mostly trot work. Other than his melt down with having to get by a grain truck filling up at the silos, and the noise and sight of the auger, he was a real trooper. I worked on switching from leading to following with Debbie and her horse and maintaining a steady pace.

Focus areas for JB:
Develop various speeds within the trot
RATING, RATING, RATING ( if you had asked me a year ago about having to do this with him, I would have laughed at you)

That’s all folks.. now back to work…

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I know alot of endurance riders around the county are getting anything but spring weather, like Endurance Granny, who keeps getting hit with huge amounts of snow. For whatever reason, things seem to be moving in the right direction here in Northwest Montana. I am hoping it continues on that path.

Just the other night, I noticed one of the first signs. It's a yearly event that I eagerly wait for. Y'know, that time of year when you go to pet your horse and your glove becomes one big mat of horse hair??? Well, it's happening here at Acer Farm. The horses are shedding and I am ecstatic. (they say it's the small things , right?)

Ofcourse, in another month , when every garment I own has remnants of horse hair, I may not be so ecstatic.

Time to dig out the curry combs and face mask....

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

1st Ride Away from Home

Yesterday there was achange in my schedule and I had an unexpected , but welcome gap of time available. So, when given the choice of what to do with a free afternoon, what would one trying to condition two horses for endurance do??? Boogie home, change and halter up Maggie for a ride, but ofcourse!
She was not expecting to see me and I interupted her afternoon nap. I don't think she was all too pleased about it either. I had to halter her while she was laying down and it took some coaxing to convince her to get up. Eventually she groaned, stood up and looked at me as if to say.."thanks alot"
I decided that I would put the saddle on her today and see about actually making her carry me for today's ride. I hand walked her until I got to the gravel road, about a 1/8 of a mile, tightened the girth and proceeded to try to climb on. Maggie decided right about then that maybe it was time we turn back to the calling companions we had just left. As I was in mid swing with my right leg, she did a nice quick turn and pivot. I managed to land fairly squarely in the saddle, keep myself from plunking down, and got her stopped and turned back , all in one not so graceful motion. My saddle was also turned.
........... "All I need now is someone to come by with a truck and scare her" I thought to myself.
I got everything situated, took a deep breath and we set off at a brisk walk, pondering how it would be riding this mare over distance. She has absolutely NO withers. She's as table backed, mutton withered as they can come.. Getting on her without twisting the saddle is nearly impossible, even with an athletic leap to launch myself, and a good handful of mane.. the darn thing still comes over. "Deal with it...."
Up ahead was our first obstacle to get through. A truck with a flatbed trailer parked in the middle of the road. Its occupants were mulling back and forth, trying to fix something on the trailer.
.................Walk, stop, look, head up like a Giraffe, step, step.. stop...look... blow....
This is how we proceeded towards this horse eating monster, while I tried to gently talk to her , encouraging her it was okay. As we got closer, I decided, based on the tension rippling through every muscle in her body, and remembering the saddle rolling issue, it might be best if I just hopped off and led her through this. I didn't have much room to squeeze by them and the last thing I wanted was for her to decide to stop and spin and potentially running into the truck or trailer. Ofcourse, I had to really think twice; was it worse to get off and have to fight the saddle again or take my chances I could get us both through this while staying mounted. The logical side of my brain won out, wanting to make sure I do everything I can to build her confidence in sticky situations. I reluctantly hopped off and we walked by, said hello and made it through with no incident. I've learned that pride will often get a person hurt.
Shortly thereafter, I did the mounting dance once again, using a snow bank as an assist. As we made our way down the road, she began to settle in a bit and I took a deep sigh, which in fact prompted her to stop holding her breath as well. (funny how that works). This was our first ride away from home afterall. So I was a bit tense.. ok I admit it...
We got to a long straight stretch of road and I asked her up into a trot. What started out as a nice quiet easy jog started to build into a bigger, more impulsive, famous Morgan road trot.
......."damn hard wired genetics..." I was really hoping she would be reluctant to get into that big trot that is so bred into her, atleast for a little while!
As much as I was enjoying the impulsion and burst of effortless speed, I realize this mare needs to be contained a bit. She needs more encouragement to stay quiet and relaxed at this point. Forward is NOT a problem with her, the total opposite of JB. She can tend to get "caught up" and has way more go than I need or want with her at this point. I must say though, I think I'm in love!!!

The rest of the ride went fairly well. There was one other point in the ride that I opted to hop off again, as we were passing a narrow section of woods , woods that were making crunching sounds, which were apparently alarming. Nevertheless, she is much more brave and confident when I am out in front and I have no problem letting that be the case for now.

We managed to go four miles and she had adequate (ok more than adequate) energy at the end of it. She got warm but did not sweat, which was good since it was only 32 degrees out and she has a coat like a big brown bear! She got a good rub down, a mud removal scrub and a couple carrots.

Mission successfully accomplished.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Legging up again...

I did stick to the plan and get out out with JB for our first real "condition" ride of the season. A friend came over to join me with her horse , also her first ride of the season. JB was being pretty well behaved considering. He got a little ramped when Rena, the friends mare, starting jigging. Both horses were feeding off each other's energy and it would not have taken much and they would have been at a full run. Note to self, first few rides out, go it alone maybe....

It took some time but he did settle back into a walk, a fast walk, but a walk nonetheless. It wasn't the warmest day but I had bundled up well enough , only my feet got a bit cold. We ended up turning back at 2.5 miles up the road, since we started running into ice. Besides, 5 miles for the first time out was probably sufficient. I was pleased with JB , he felt quite strong after being off for a solid 3 months. He could have gone another couple miles with out any trouble but we'll take our time legging up and getting back into condition. I didn't get to use my heart rate monitor because I was so excited about just getting out to ride, I completely forgot. Next time though. It will be a busy week and I likely won't be doing much riding until next weekend again...

darn it.....

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Heart Break

Sad news this evening. JB's only filly, Mazie, passed away suddenly as a result of an Aortic Rupture. It happened quickly and there was nothing that could have been done. She was only 3 and a half, much too young.
Mazie was a real doll and will be missed dearly by her owner, who adored her.
Aortic ruptures are a rare thing and are usually fatal in horses. In some cases if the rupture is within the heart, sometimes the horse can survive but it usually only a matter of weeks. Since they are so rare, there has been very little research done on it. They aren't able to link to much of anything like age, breed, genetics , etc. There is some that believe it might be related to a type of strongyle infestation that ruptures the wall of the vessel but it hasn't been studied to be proven.
Its just not fair.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Test Drive

You met Maggie last June. I did this post when she arrived ( previously known as April) arrived at Acer Farm. She was here strictly for one reason; , that was to be bred toJB. The breeding never occurred because an unexpected offer lay on the table ; April's owner at the time, due to health issues, said he would like me to have her, but if I couldn't take her, she was headed to Oregon, with what sounded like a questionable future. And so, over dinner, we made the deal and the Doe eyed Diva stayed put. I had no idea , really , at the time if she would really do much in the way of endurance but something about her peaked my curiousity..... The first order of business however, was to get her dry lotted. She was terribly overweight and on the verge of founder. She was herd bound with her damn, who she arrived with. She was all attitude... and I liked it....

Over the next several months, we got to know each other during round pen or arena sessions, working on the basics. We made leaps and bounds in the bonding process because she hated being confined to her pen and seemed to looked forward to the distraction of our sessions.

So, 8 months later I am seeing a slimmer, more mannerly version of the same horse out in the pasture and we have started some very initial spring training. In the last week or so I have pulled her out of the pasture, done a cursory brushing, slapped on JB’s older Epics and took her along with me and my dog for a walk. May as well kill two birds with one stone, right?

Normally, my preferred choice of getting a colt out and about is to pony them, but I am a total chicken about the footing right now. It’s still slick in many areas along the roads I use for conditioning. No sense putting me and two horses at risk. So we walk and sometimes we stop, we look, we carry on..

Hand walking certainly has it’s benefits. It's like a test drive, get a feel for things and play it on the safe side. Since I only got the chance to take her out on the trail once last summer and she had a buddy along, I wasn't sure how she would handle leaving the herd, deal with passing vehicles, any of the other distractions we might happen upon. I wanted to set things up so Maggie could begin to look to me for confidence. Hand walking seems to be a great way to do that.

It also gives me opportunity to work with her on leading, manners on the lead and getting her to respond to voice cues. We pass the miles , when we are n't stopping to gawk at something, working on whoa, walk, walk up, trot. It's a good thing she doesn't have to chew gum and walk at the same time because she doesn't seem to be able to multi task yet!

The trotting in hand sessions have been kind of entertaining. She has a nice little jog that I can easily keep up with for some time on my own two legs, a job that I can picture riding along to for miles on end; but she tends to get caught up in the moment and shifts down a gear , or two , and gets into her big Morgan road trot(that thankfully isn’t totally developed). I have to stop her because I can’t keep up. Obvioulsy Stupidly, I have tried, atleast given it my best shot but the short legs don't stand a chance. She just kicks it down again and goes faster... (I think she likes to race!) Not sure where her final gear might be, but I suspect as she gets in better shape, she might find a few more... good for later, bad for now...

On our last walkabout, during one of these trotting sessions, it hit me like wall. I suddenly realized what it was.... the thing that I saw in her early on.. but couldn't quite put my finger on...her power. It resonates off of her, travels down the lead line and hits me like a bolt of lightening. This I think , will make a fine endurance mount.

As for JB, no I haven't forgotten him. His turn will be this weekend.. He's healthy, strong and has been vibrating for weeks. It's time to rechannel that energy into something productive. If he comes out of spring at all like he did last year, I might need to find my Hi Ho Silver Costume first.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Something’s happening... there is something in the air; the horses are acting out all over the place.

Maybe they sense the teetering of spring about to show it’s welcome face, maybe it’s the pull of the moon or maybe it’s just that their as bored and tired of the weather as I am. For the last several weeks, the snow, melt, snow pattern has created layer after layer of ice and frankly, it’s wearing on all our nerves. The horses tip toe around trying to walk on the mounds of snow where it has drifted to avoid the large patches of ice. I can’t blame them if they are going a little stir crazy. Winter in the Flathead is a tough season. Unless you get to the top of Whitefish Mountain to get above the inversion and clouds, we don’t see the sun for months. S.A.D. is real phenomenon here.

So , while I am ready to crawl into a tanning bed and order up a Prozac smoothie, the horses have different ideas about things and giving me their own dose of anti-Seasonal Affective Disorder.
They have recently seen fit to make a gate a new pasture toy. This gate allows access between pasture, water and barns for three of the horses, Rebel, JB and Brego, aka, the Renegades.

Every morning, the gate is closed, and someone is locked out from access to water and shelter. I am not shutting the gate. Not only is the gate closed, it’s latched, which is not an easy thing to do, given the configuration of the gate. This little bit of playfulness was comical in the beginning, but honestly, it’s beginning to grow old when I no sooner go out to re open it and an hour later, it's shut again. At first it seemed like Rebel and JB were always locking themselves in and leaving Brego out, with no access to water or shelter. But I was wrong. It’s been Brego all along. I caught him in the act. He probably does it to be left alone, since he is the low man in the group. Of course, I wonder if he realizes he can’t access the good stuff when he shuts the gate?? Oh well, I guess he’s willing to sacrifice for a few hours of peace. The gate also happens to be a homemade wooden gate, and a nice one at that, at least it was….. Wood doesn’t hold up to horses teeth real well, so the top of the gate is chewed up. Looks like a bunch of beavers got a hold of it. Very LARGE beavers.. This past weekend, I finally had had enough of the antics and got out a drill, drilled a hole in the side of the barn, and tied the gate off, using baling twine of course!! It was all I had handy at that moment… We’ll see how long it takes Rebel now to untie it….

But that’s not all that has been going on. It seems they have also found a new game that they find most amusing; it’s something akin to a treasure hunt for JB’s feed pan. They hide it, I go hunting for it... Repeat....

and it’s rarely ever in the same place.

Every evening, I separate JB into the small corral so he can get his ¼ can of oats with his Farriers formula. Then later at night, I go back out and open the gate (different gate then mentioned above) so he can go back out to join Rebel and Brego in the pasture. Sometimes, I forget to grab the feed pan and put it back in the feed room while I am out there. (it's usually after 10:00 p.m. and I am tired and not thinking by then!!) The next evening's chore, it’s usually a 10 minute hunt for the feed pan.

I swear I can hear the three of them snickering at me as I wander around mumbling to myself, trying to find the feed pan.

On several occasions I have given up and just grabbed another feed pan, knowing the next day I will have a 50/50 shot of finding at least one of them. I will give them credit, they are very creative with their game. I have found the pan in some very strange places, like on the roof of the small run-in shed, (guess their working on their spiral throw or something) in the neighbor’s yard (going for distance there or trying to kill their Shepard possibly) in our ditch, buried in a corner of the barn under a pile of manure, and their most favorite..... at the bottom of the water tank…. Nothing I like to do better than go fishing in 40 degree water…

During one of the more recent sub zero days, I came home to find that they did some “remodeling” of things.... again… There is a wire gate that blocks the aisle way of the corrals from the north pasture. It’s not the best set up but its electrified wire and the fencer is working... They don’t ever touch it. Well, I have a feeling they were romping around, and judging from the hoof skid marks, bumped into it, and popped the whole thing apart. They have done this before. They have 3 acres to run, but they have to rush up to the gate …Luckily since its smooth wire and not a heavy gauge, it broke easily and there were no injuries. I was happy to see that. Of course, it is an aisle way, which means a long narrow passage. It’s about 10 feet wide, enough to get a skid steer through; but pile three rambunctious horses into that?? I am sure you can imagine. In all the commotion, someone must have gotten crowded a bit and managed to kick one of the lower rails and make it look like matchsticks. Fine job they did. No fixing that easily… So with frozen fingers, in the dark (just out of where the barn light shines of course) I set to work with my fencing bucket to reattach the wire gate…( note to self: First Spring project, get a new tall metal gate to put in place of the wire gate). Do you know how well wire bends in 10 below weather?? In my efforts to repair it to a somewhat workable condition, the new wire snapped 3 times trying to get it around the insulator, before I finally got something patched together enough. It would have to wait for a better job of it for a warmer day. I was thankful for the aisle way that day, because it has yet another gate, which is a metal gate that kept them from getting loose and running through the neighborhood.

Just noticed the daylight poking through the back of the large loafing pen as I pulled in the drive yesterday afternoon, in the shape of a perfect little hoof….

(deep sigh) Add it to the list of repairs…..Hope there’s something left standing of this place by the time spring does actually roll around…

Monday, February 1, 2010

Horse Sense: Does Learning ability correlate with certain Personality Traits?

So it's time. Tiime to put this series to bed. I'll finish with one last hurrah on the subject of horse behavior. While the series didn't necessarily answer the original question posted here that prompted me to write this review, I do hope it sparked some ideas or encouraged you to ask more questions, and then go looking for answers. Knowledge is power afterall..Or maybe, it answered some questions that you have had for a long time about your own observations of your own horses.

In Budiansky's book, it seems there is no proof in any studies to show that dominance in a herd indicates a higher level on intelligence. The same is true of age, body condiition or size. "There is some evidence that indicates that some horses that are less emotional and calmer are faster learners". "This suggests that learning has more to do with temperment than with intelligence." ...hmmm, interesting....a highly emotional horse is harder to deal with??? Nah.....couldn't possibly be...Maggie doesn't fit that description at all (mumbling to self under breath)

Ofcourse there are those horses that are very difficult to train that also show high levels of intelligence. These are where the horse has figured out how to train the trainer… discovering the behavior that gets the lesson or work to stop short…

Rebel happens to fit in this category. While he is the one horse on our place that has an uncanny ability get out of most gates, untie even a bowline, lock other horses out when there is food to be had (they say a horse can't rationalize but I wonder about this one) so he can have the lion's share, pull fly masks off, you name it, he has never been the easy horse on the place to train. Not even close.

What about Breed to Breed Intelligence?

(because here at Acer farm, we certainly have uh, well, diversity you could say with Barbs, Morgans, Morgan/Barb crosses, and Rebel, Mr Heinz 57...)

Apparently there hasn’t been much done to compare the intelligence between different breeds. I was surprised by this. The little bit of research that Budiansky makes note of showed that Quarter Horses chose a correct door for a food reward 80% of the time more quickly than a TB, indicating the QH was a better learner. So are Quarter horses more driven by food or positive reinforcements ??? Or are they just quicker studies? Well, I will say, an awful lot of trainers do prefer to train a Quarter Horse over, let's say a mustang for example. There's a good reason for this but I'll leave my opinions out of this discussion on the reasons why that might be...

Intelligence is funny thing with horses I think. I don't think it can be clearly defined to be honest. I am told JB, my Barb, is supposed to be more intelligent than other breeds. I would say that might be true, in the area of self preservation but some of the things he does??? Well, most times it has me scratching my head wondering if maybe something got lost in the genetics.

Reviewing Budiansky's book, The Nature of Horses, has been a good gap filler for the pause between the holiday season and when I can begin focusing on spring conditioning. It won't be long now when the neverending cold, dark dreary winter days of the Flathead begin to lose their grip to smells of green things breaking through the cold, the sound of dripping water as trees begin to thaw and the days begin to lengthen more and more. Yes, I am ready to shift focus once again. I am ready to climb back in that saddle.