Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chief Learns His Lesson

Good evening, everyone.  It's been a long day and looks like it's going to be a long week if all goes as scheduled on the calendar.  Sometimes I wonder what I'm thinking when I schedule weeks like this.  Today's main event was a visit from our blacksmith.  Another name for a blacksmith is a farrier.  I use the farrier title for Bob.  His assistant is Andy.  Those two are a mobile comedy show, not to mention talented farriers.

First I had to head out to Mack the large animal vet's office to get special wormer for Chief.  Chief is going to have a big week, too. I'll save the wormer story for later.  Mack owns the large animal veterinary practice I use.  In his practice are also Lucy and Cassy, both wonderful vets.  You've heard me mention Cassy before when she nicknamed Donkey Kong, "Big Mac's Donkey."  Lucy is on vacation this week and Mack is out-of-town for business. I feel sorry for poor Cassy.  I remember times like that at the mental health center.  Seems like when the Universe knows you're alone, the problems double--at least.

So, in a mad dash, I made it back to the farm before Bob and Andy arrived uncharacteristically early and uncharacteristically on time.  Bob usually operates on Bob Time, which I've yet to actually figure out, but it's always later than he's scheduled to be here.  Ruthie has all of the horses inside and ready to go for them.

My horses are "barefoot" which means they do not wear horseshoes-- or they are "unshod."  No, horses do not have to wear horseshoes in order to be ridden in some environments.  One good thing about living in a sandy area, maybe the only good thing, is that horses do not have to wear shoes here.  Horses need shoes if they are ridden in rocky areas or on pavement.  They also need shoes if ridden in steep areas so that they won't slide as easily.  For this use, the horseshoes have a cork "filler" that gives them more traction.  Horses may also wear therapeutic shoes to help with injuries.  There are more kinds of horseshoes and reasons for them than I can tell you or than you'd like to hear, but my horses don't wear them.  How's that?

So, what the heck does Bob need to do with the horses if not shoe them?  Horses' hooves grow like our finger nails and must be trimmed about every 6 weeks or so.  That answers your question.  Trimming causes no more pain to the horse than does trimming your own finger nails.  Horses, however, do not like being unable to flee at any given moment.  Trusting someone with their feet can be a big deal to some of them, but mine are usually fine.  They know Bob and Andy and they get in and get it done without much fanfare.  Except today...

Remember I told you the only horse that behaves perfectly all of the time and never changes is a carousel horse? Chief is normally fine for the farrier, except today.  About once a year, usually in the winter, Chief decides he's going to see if Bob is really in charge of this process.  Bob is not a shy man and you'd think Chief would have learned his lesson by now.  No, Chief needed his annual lesson from Bob.

Ruthie brought Chief in as the last horse to be trimmed.  I'd asked her to turn him out for a while to run off all of his pent-up energy from being inside all night.  He'd been out probably an hour or two, plenty of time to get a grip.  Chief comes in, Ruthie gets him in position, Bob grabs a foot to start trimming and BAM...attack of Paint horse stupidity.  Ruthie's eyes get big and she hands the lead rope to me.  Then, BAM...Chief starts kicking.  I hand the rope to Andy because I know Bob is about to teach Chief a lesson.  BAM...another attack of stupidity.  Now, Bob has the rope himself and the teaching moment has begun for good ol' Chief.

Bob and Chief go flying backwards down the barn hall.  Bob still has the rope much to Chief's dismay.  Bob whips his farrier's apron off and throws down his tools.  He means business.  Andy calmly follows him down the hall moving his things out of the path of "teaching."  I'm calling out, "Bob, what do you need?"  No answer. I send Ruthie for the lunge whip.  It enables Bob to have an extension of his arm and be out of Chief's striking distance.  Finally, he says to Andy he wants the stud chain.  I head for my personal tack room to get the good stud chain, just as Ruthie hands me the lunge whip to hand to Andy who gives it to Bob. By this time, Bob and Chief have come back up the length of the barn and are in the parking area.

While the lunge whip exchange is going on, and I'm inside, Chief apparently kicks the crap out of Andy.  Andy is not phased. Andy has more scars on him than pretty much anyone I've ever seen.  I've also seen more of Andy from the waist up than I really should.  He's forever telling stories and then pulling up his shirt to show the scar that resulted from that particular story.  These are tough guys.

I'm back with the stud chain...a stud chain is a lead rope, or in this case a leather lead or shank,  with a very sturdy chain on the end.  It is run through the halter--equipment on the horse's head used to lead him--and across the horse's nose to attach on the other side of the halter.  The chain allows the person using it to apply pressure as needed to a rambunctious horse.  No, it does not hurt them, but it definitely gets their attention.

Now, Bob has the stud chain on Chief and the lead rope and the lunge whip in one hand.  Chief is still hard at it.  He's pulling back, he's kicking, he's trying to charge Bob.  Chief mistakenly thinks he can win this battle of wills.  I wonder if he has amnesia?  Hey Chief, what about that extra long horse memory you're supposed to have?  I suppose he just wants to see if Bob is as tough this year as he was last year.

After a great deal of challenging and challenges met, Chief acts like a real horse and goes back in the barn.  As soon as the trimming process looks like it's going to begin...you got it...Chief acts like a bucking idiot again.  And, back down the barn hallway they go, Bob and Chief at it again.  Andy is calmly standing by as am I and Ruthie is doing an admirable job of feigning calm, though her eyes give her away.  Ruthie's eyes are really big by now.  This is definitely not a typical day at the farm.

Finally, finally, finally, Chief behaves himself long enough to get his feet trimmed.  I bet that fight took a good 30-45 minutes.  Bob hands the lead and the stud chain to Ruthie.  Ruthie's eyes are still big.  He offers to walk Chief out with her.  She readily agrees.  I've already decided to put him in with Tar for the rest of the day.

When Chief has these moments, Tar helps him sort it out.  Tar is a very good teacher and Chief is in desperate need of schooling today.  Tar outweighs Chief by 600 lbs, as well.  Nothing like a horse the size of a Mack truck coming towards Chief to help him learn.

Bob spends some time with Ruthie on horse handling at the gate and Tar is standing by waiting for his student.  I tell Andy as he and I are standing at the barn, "When Chief did this last year, I put him out with Tar.  Tar was fine as long as Chief stayed in the corner of the paddock.  If Chief came near Tar's hay or water, Tar would chase him, kicking and biting."    Andy chuckled.  I don't know that Chief got much hay or water those three days, but he learned he wasn't as mighty as he'd thought.  It was time for Tar to remind him again.

So, out come Bob and Ruthie and here comes Tar after Chief.  It's a show for sure.  Tar chases Chief all over the paddock.  The ground shakes when Tar's at a gallop.  The schooling is on.  Tar chases and bucks and Chief runs like hell.  Chief had met his match today, both horse and human.

I left Chief with Tar all day.  I had things to do and Ruthie left at noon--remember I'm solo on Tuesday afternoons.  No permanent damage was going to come to him, but he needed to be taken down a few pegs.

When I went to get Chief to come inside this evening, Tar took exception.  Chief started coming to me and here comes Tar, "Mine! She's MINE!" And, the chase is on again.  Chief doesn't come back so easily this time.  He's learning.  He remembers that everything belongs to Tar Heel, The Great and Powerful.

I was going to have to take Tar out of the paddock completely to get Chief out. Ok. Tar complicated this by his discovery of a few sprigs of green grass just outside of his paddock gate.  He had one butt cheek and one foot just enough inside the gate that I couldn't get it closed.  And, now, Chief is back to investigate what's so yummy.  Crap!  There's just enough room between the gate and the post for Chief to force his way out if he wants to.  I have a vision of Tar chasing Chief around the entire farm and the havoc that would ensue as the other horses joined in the chase along their paddock fences.  It was not a pretty vision at dusk.

So, I'm pulling on the gate whacking Tar with it.  He doesn't care.  He doesn't even seem to notice.  Then, I take the lead rope and smack the crap out of him.  "I doooon't heeeeear yooooou." I imagine Tar thinking.  Smack him again.  Nothing.  I imagine people from the road at rush hour are seeing me "beat" this "sweet" horse.  Ok, folks, there are no marks on him and you see how deeply disturbed he is, right?  Ah! A break!  Tar lifts his head with a mouthful of grass and I'm able to move him just enough to close the gate.  Thank God!  One hand on the rope with him and one hand holding that gate as close to shut as I could get it was not giving me the leverage I needed to move him.

I get Tar up to the cross ties and tie him up to stand.  He broke away from the ties one time and he looks like he remembers that right now.  He broke away to eat grass that time and he looks like it would be worth another try.  "Stop thinking about it, Tar!"  I say sternly to him.  "Nah, not worth the effort right now," he turns his head and stands like a good horse. "I need to save my strength to school Chief some more tomorrow."

I get Chief out and as I'm walking him in the barn, Tar glares at him.  Chief feels a little nervous on the rope.  I'm thinking, "Chief, come on, I'm really short and I weigh a whole lot less than you.  You can't hide behind me."  I get him in his stall and he looks out the window at Tar, seeming to wonder if he's really safe in there.

I take Tar back to his paddock without incident, although he gives Chief a hard glare just for good measure.  I think I heard him say,"Just wait till tomorrow, meat! You're mine!"  Chief looks a little worried.  Good, he ought to be.

We'll see tomorrow if Chief learned his lesson today.  Poor Rose is here tomorrow.  I think I'll take Chief out and turn him over to Tar in the morning.  I think that may be too much horse drama for Rose at this stage of the game.  I've penciled in three hours a week to work with Rose on horse handling.  Let's hope it works--on both counts. 

Good night everyone.  Be good.  Don't make me send Bob and Tar after you!  Just kidding.  Sleep tight.  Thanks for reading.

P.S. I've abandoned the serious surviving the economy essays for now.  But, my answer to last week's question is...surprise, surprise...my animals.  You guys seem to be enjoying the funny stories much more, so I'll give you what you like.

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