Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Snow, I will pretend you are not falling from the sky and trailer my horse the 10 miles down the road anyway!  Yesterday dawned sun-filled and gorgeous; I thought to myself: "Yes!  This is it!  A great day to move Red."  Pretending to be a responsible adult, I spent the morning working on the computer before heading out to ride one last time on the farm trails, in the deep fresh snow (a normal winter sees lots of deep snow riding, but this winter it hasn't happened a single time yet).

By the time I arrived at the barn, it was overcast.  Red came to me at the gate, because he knew he was getting a snack (I've been intermittently feeding him a beet pulp mash when I've been able to - he's gotten a little thin this winter and switching to Gesa's where he'll be getting beet pulp twice daily, I wanted to introduce his system to it gradually), and I let him munch away while I loaded my stuff up.  Boarding there for nearly 9 years, I think I found everything, but I won't be surprised to get an email at one point saying, "Hey, you forgot __________!"

Mounting up for our farewell tour of the farm, Red walked out eagerly along the plowed trail, which went as far as the "graveyard" of discarded farm bits, a spot with many memories attached to it.  Red recognizes every new item added, missing item, or change in item position and walks through on alert.  When we first came to board here, Red was incapable of conquering his fear of "Monster Alley" and I had to abandon my plans to ride on multiple occasions because he would not pass through to get to the secluded trails out back.

Hitting the end of the plowed path, I expected to have to encourage him to cross the snowbank to get to the pristine, virgin, untouched expanse of deep snow awaiting us on the trails.  I was wrong - he motored right across it and was forward and happy to be out adventuring.  It was a winter wonderland out there, and with Kelso struggling along in our wake (I really shouldn't have brought him - the snow was just too deep), we took a peaceful look-see loop around some of the main trails.
Kelso, weighed down with snowballs on all four legs and his belly, takes a rest in  the trail Red and I have broken.

Red eagerly surveying our much-beloved farm trails.

Goodbye cows!  Thanks for being part of Red's desensitization training. 

Goodbye Rusty, Jimmy, Peepers, Jaws, and Playboy!  Red will miss his buddies.

Goodbye silly barn rooster. 

Goodbye barn kitties.
Heading back to the barn just as it began to snow, I reflected on how much I will miss having these trails to ride on.  Except during deer season or extremely icy conditions, I have been able to ride out here year-round.  It's not a lot of trail in mileage, but it includes a few nice hills and is enough just to get out and ride, especially in the winter.

Gesa and I were planning to meet at 3:30 to hook up the trailer and head over to fetch Red.  It was 2:30 when I finished riding, and snowing big fat flakes rather vigorously.  I could see the road, which had been relatively clear, rapidly becoming snow-covered.  As it was already alternate moving day number three, and the rest of the week was going to be impossible due to schedule conflicts, I knew we had to just do it, as long as Gesa was willing.

Our labor paid off, as the snow released the trailer from its grip with hardly a fuss, and we were ready!  I will admit to some apprehension about this whole endeavor - moving horses is a stressful business for us and them.  I wanted "perfect" conditions in which to do it; if I could have wished away the new snow falling from the sky and the deep banks everywhere in the pasture limiting the horses' mobility, I would have done it.  But, without a genie in my pocket, I had to make do with what Mother Nature has given us, and just do it.

I drove up first, as Red has the eagle eye for a truck pulling a trailer and will play hard-to-catch if I haven't gotten him haltered before the rig pulls into the driveway.  He is a funny boy, because he trailers just fine and loads better than Rhio, but he will run around like a ninny for a bit and not allow me to catch him if he sees the trailer.

He loaded nicely, and for the first time in my life, I picked out hooves while he was standing on the trailer.  He had snowballs on his fronts and the rubber mats in the trailer had a little bit of ice on them, which I thought was a bad combination.  I've never practiced picking up both right and left legs from the left side, and it was easily accomplished for his fronts, but he couldn't quite grasp that I was standing on his left but asking him to lift his right hind.  He offered his left hind repeatedly, and after a minute or two I decided one foot with a little snow in it wasn't going to matter (a new project to work on!).  We left the slant divider secured to the wall so that he could adopt whatever position he preferred, and headed out caravan-style to make our way slowly home.  Gesa did a great job of driving carefully for both the road conditions and the little bit of ice beneath Red's hooves in the trailer, and the trip was totally uneventful.

We unloaded him, and he looked around with great interest, as horses do when unloaded in a new place.  The rest of the herd was in their stalls, so that we could walk Red through the pasture and to the small paddock.  Red got to briefly meet everyone, whose heads were hanging eagerly out of their stalls to see the new guy, on our way through the barn.
Sniffing noses with Sefi for the first time.
I walked him around the pasture and the run-in shed, and he spotted the neighbor horses, who didn't seem to notice him.  We then visited the paddock that would be his for now, and I walked him in and out of the run-in shed there.  He sampled the water from the automatic waterer, and grabbed some hay right away, looking for all outward appearances like a perfectly composed horse used to living here.

One by one, we let the other horses out, in reverse order of the herd hierarchy.  Paco was first, meeting and greeting over the fence, then seeming to lose interest and wander off.  Gimi was next, and was very interested in the new guy.  Paco didn't like this, and came over with his ears back to drive Red off.  Rhio was next, and came trotting out looking for trouble, neck arched and nostrils flared.  The two of them have actually lived together briefly shortly after I'd bought Rhio;  I had him at Red's barn for the month of November (deer season) so that I could use the indoor arena and the hayfield to do some training.  And, they've ridden together and trailered together numerous times.  We'll see how their relationship develops, as Rhio has become more dominant and Red more submissive in their respective herds.  The pretty mare, Sefi, was last and they took an immediate shine to each other.  This is fairly common, and I expect that Sefi will probably go into heat, with the introduction of a new gelding.  It's been several years since Red's lived with a mare, and the last two he lived with wouldn't give him the time of day.  If Sefi likes him, he'll probably be in seventh heaven for awhile and fall immediately in love.  Hopefully the boys won't argue too much over the girl...
Red and Rhio were pretty intense over the fence, but no antics.
Everyone settled down to eating hay pretty quickly, considering, and I was able to get Red's hand-me-down blanket (from Cricket) fitted so that it would be ready if necessary.  He is not used to wearing blankets, having only done so at rides where he was confined, so hopefully blanket-wearing will be a non-issue.  I don't anticipate him needing one much, but he's probably not going to be allowed in the shed with the herd, at least for awhile, so once they are together and left out in marginal weather, we will probably cover him.

It was time to head inside for a cup of tea to warm our chilled extremities, and after an hour or so, I headed back out to check on everyone.  I found Red and Sefi sidled up along the gate nuzzling each other.  Oh boy.  Love at first sight.

My late evening update from Gesa was that Red threw a fit when the horses (especially Sefi) went into the barn for their supper, and wouldn't eat his.  He settled down when they came back out, and did then eat.  As of this morning, he is reported to be "full of pent up energy."  Oops... I should have warned her - he gets "pent up" really quickly when confined, and in fact the only time he's ever tried to kick anyone was one winter when the horses had been confined in the paddock for a week or so due to ice.  My farrier came and Red just couldn't contain himself, and kicked (but didn't connect, thank goodness).

I'll be on my way out there soon, and will let Red and Rhio out together to kick up their heels while the others are in their stalls for a bit.  I am relieved to have the physical move over, but also a bit anxious about the whole integration and acclimation period with the new herd and new environment.  I am looking forward to seeing more of him, since he is closer and I won't have to divide my horse time between two barns anymore.

Stay tuned!
He looks a little bewildered. 
P.S. No, he is not being quarantined before being introduced to the herd.  In reality, the best way to do it is a two week period with no contact between the new horse and the herd; this time allows any latent infectious disease to show itself in the new horse, so that you can prevent it from being transmitted to the resident horses.  I can tell you that in the nine years Red lived at his old place, we haven't had a single incident of infectious disease in the horses.  Not once.  The only two horses that were off the property in the last year were Rusty, who's been home since October, and Red.  So, the risk is negligible.  Being a vet, though, it's not a very good example to set, is it?  "Do what I say, not what I do."  Oops.

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