Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Horse Shenanigans- Video Footage

We are surrounded by several other  "mini- farm", 5 acre properties. Most with horses of their own just like us. But I have noticed something. Our horses are the only ones that you ever see running and playing. It seems all the neighbors horses are happy to do nothing. Dull, lifeless, just hanging around , rarely used or visited by their humans. Rare is the case I see the neighbors horses running about yet our horses do their own version of victory laps atleast once a day, when the footing is decent , and sometimes, even when it's not.. (much to my chagrin) Neighbors have come by and asked what kind of horses we have , what kind of food we give them and commented on how much they enjoy watching some of their shenanigans.

It's kind of sad, really,  to see those other horses so dull. I have often wondered, does more human interaction make horses happier? Maybe its not  more interaction necessarily,   but the type of interaction? Does a regular connection with a person make them more active?

Even when it's limited riding time  ( or no riding time) for me because of weather,  I atleast take some time while doing evening chores to scratch on my horses, talk to them, sometimes groom one or two of them. If I go outside, out of any door, one of the horses is watching me, many times, one  of them will call to me.

It seems our horses are always 'Tuned" in to our comings and goings. When I was working at an office and would come home at approximately the same time every day, the would hear me coming. As I turned the corner into our road, they were watching and would often  run along the fence line as I drove in. I loved that greeting!! It's almost better than a dog greeting!

Our horses are even able to distinguish our diesel truck from the myriad of others that drive by every day. Our neighbor to the west has told us many times that  he always knows when we are about a mile from home with the truck because our horses will come to attention and start looking.

So  this time of year where thing are pretty inactive  due to footing, (but improving thanks to the unseasonably warm weather) the horses are bored, bored, bored.

We have made a few enhancements to help out.

The barn now has a plastic bottle filled with gravel hanging from the rafters of the shed.

Otto spent three days playing with that.. somehow it has managed to survive his attempts to kill it. Inadvertently, I realized it did wonders to teach him about seeing things up above his back, (like a rider) and behind his head. He would get that thing flinging back and forth and then stand underneath it while it was swinging around, sometimes bopping himself in the head.. or neck.. He apparently thought that was pretty cool.. because he kept doing it to himself..

But, the new has worn off and he is on to other things..

He found his long lost , half squished jolly ball now that alot of snow has melted away.  So far , that thing still seems to reign most popular.

There is a big blue plastic barrel out in the pasture.. the only time he is interested in it is if I am out there... and roll it towards him. He will try to bite it and pick it up but he can't get a good enough grip so he looses interest. I could probably use it to target with for clicker training and teach him to roll it with his nose.

The other day I grabbed a retired burlap coffee bean bag from one of the local coffee roasters and filled it with plastic bags, and other plastic containers. It makes all kinds of weird noises. Then I did a very fancy sewing job using a pair of needle nose pliars (needle) and  baling twine (thread) and tossed it into the pasture..

Here  is a short clip of Otto and Cassidy playing with their new home made horse Sized bean bag.

Cassidy is pretty sure if he shakes it hard enough , grain will come out. And if that fails, chew a hole in it.

Otto just wants to play get away with it. He routinely shakes it and hits himself in the head with it.

I think it's serving to desensitize him  on all kinds of things. He steps on it, and over it... ( wait, I though horses weren't supposed to like to step on squishy things????), he kicks it, he flings it, he bites it and so on. He is the most gregarious colt I have yet to meet.

I can see the bag is not going to last long. Within 5 minutes they already had a hole in it . I only throw it out to them when I know I am going to be able to keep an watchful eye on things. Otto was not happy when I took it away this morning but quickly went back to find his smashed Jolly ball.

In time, when the weather improves I will get Otto going with more training and things to keep his mind occupied.  I will start him in lines and over ground poles. I have plans to build a fake water obstacle. He will be ponied along on trail rides this summer.There are all kinds of things to do as the days get longer and the weather improved.

But in the meantime, I do wonder.

 Does giving him toys like this a  good thing  or bad thing ?  Does it encourage unruly behavior? Or does it give him a good outlet? Does it develop part of his personality that wouldn't otherwise?? It's hard to say. All I do know for sure is that if a horse is bored , they will find things to do, like chew on wood, or crib.
I guess the way I see it is that I  would rather try to direct that boredom to something other than having the horse develop unpleasant and unhealthy vices.

I can't imagine a horse like Otto being stalled. He would be a monster!


irish horse said...

love the video, they are both so cute! I think anything they want to play with is good, as long as it is safe. Major loves to take things apart, so I leave things he can drag into the paddock (like feed pans, lead ropes). Having a buddy is so much fun, what a lucky space you have!

People down the street at the stall-boarding facility said they didn't want to board where my horse is because they often saw the horses running around. Really? Hearing that my horse has been running around makes me happy!

Jonna said...

Horses are made to move.. the more they move the better.! Sounds like those people have it all backwards!

I have lost several dollars in feedpans over the years because our horses not only like to play with them, but also tear them apart, into shreds..

tarps have worked well, for a while and so have sections of hose with all metal parts cut off..