Archive for June, 2012

Nippy McNipperson

Jax and me last week.

Jax has suddenly developed a new hobby – nipping. I know where it’s coming from, and it’s actually good and bad. He and his pasturemate Harley play constantly, which in the horse world, involves a good deal of nipping.

As Jax has bonded more and more with me, he’s started being more affectionate, soliciting scratches and rubs, calling to me when he sees me, etc. And now that’s started to include some playing – and nipping.

Today’s milestone was that I was actually able to pick out his front feet (his behavior with this improved dramatically as a result of his positive hoof trim experience). We also went for a walk down by the road, and he handled a pickup loudly towing a big scary pontoon boat with only a little spook. Pretty cool. But he also tried to eat my watch, and to nip at my hand a couple of times. Mouthed the lead rope, too, and grabbed my shirt once.

The good side of this is that he’s actually feeling comfortable enough to be naughty, and is trying to play with me. The downside is that nipping is, well, nipping, and unacceptable. We had a few “Don’t bite Mommy” discussions tonight. We also worked on opening his mouth for me (without biting), and checked out the big scary orange wheelbarrow. All in all a good day, but I’ve put the barn on notice that Nippy McNipperson needs to be dealt with.

Funny pic from yesterday. After all the toys I’ve gotten the little guy, what does he choose to play with? The old collapsible traffic cones at the barn:

Just like a human kid.

He’s starting, believe it or not, to look a little less like a yak, and a little more like one cute little gelding:


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Well, second, actually, but he wasn’t conscious for the first. That one also came with his gelding, so I’m pretty glad he doesn’t remember it.

I was prepared with twitch and Ace (a tranquilizer) in order to make things as smooth as possible, but amazingly, it turned out that we didn’t need either. The credit for that goes to a great farrier, an amazing little gelding, and a friend – Diane, another boarder at the farm.

We started out in the aisle, but Mr. Jax wasn’t real happy with that idea. Laura, the farrier, suggested we move into the stall to continue. He was still a little freaked out and rammy, not aggressive at all but trying to get away. Laura took him at that point, telling me that for right now, she’d just get him used to her, and then would call me back in. She walked Jax around the stall, just getting him used to her and paying attention to her. Amazingly, she did his front feet with little trouble.

Laura trims a front hoof.
Jax is staring at me the whole time as if to say,
“MOM! She’s touching me!”

This is the first time I’ve used Laura as a farrier. Diane recommended her. Diane’s horse is an OTTB who can be a little skitchy come shoeing time, and I’ve seen how good Laura is with her. No complaints about my usual farrier, but I’ve heard from multiple sources that he isn’t always the most patient with horses who aren’t well-behaved. Dakota is a piece of cake. Jax is young, inexperienced, and uncomfortable with the process. Not one to take chances, I went with the recommendation to use Laura, since she has a lot of experience with young and challenging horses. In addition, I found out that day, she has also worked with some BLM horses. Boy am I glad I chose her.

MOM! She’s STILL touching me!

Some of the work I’ve done with Jax is channelling his energy when he gets fearful. He tended, initially, to want to bolt, so I would just steer him in a circle around me. This way, he gets to move, but he doesn’t get to bolt off or get loose. Now, he just runs himself in a little circle when he gets nervous. I think he wore a little circular path in the stall.

Laura just kept at it, bringing him back to where she wanted him, keeping his attention on her, and refocusing him when he decided to tour the stall. He still got his feet trimmed, so he learned he wasn’t going to get out of it, but he wasn’t getting ‘punished’ for being scared:

Diane held him while Laura did the back feet. The reason I did this is that Diane has more experience with young horses, knows how Laura works, and because I was anxious and didn’t want to make Jax more nervous. Horses can, and do, pick up on our anxiety, and it can make things a lot worse. I stayed outside the stall to document the event.

Great thing about my super little gelding is that not once did he get mean. He did a couple of little kicks with one of his back feet – what Laura called “a little F.U.” but nothing that was even near connecting with anyone. Once straight back, and once as if he was shaking something off his foot. This little guy doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.

After he was done, Diane’s mare came in.  Laura took care of her right outside Jax’s stall, so he could observe.  He was very interested at first, and kept looking at the mare with these wide eyes “RUN!  They’re gonna touch your feet!”  Finally, he calmed down, lost interest, and headed over to his hay bag.

I was so impressed with Laura that I had her take care of Dakota too, and have decided to continue to use her.  All in all, a very exciting day, and another great success with Jax. He really is incredible.

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