Thursday, April 19, 2007

When Love isn't Enough

Some folks think love is all you need. They get a wild animal and figure if they can touch it, that's good. If it let's them rub and scratch on it, they've done done a fine job.

Then reality sets in. Suddenly you're faced with a wild animal that insists upon things being done their way. They take what you give, and force you to give more. And if you don't give it, you can find yourself in a difficult and dangerous position. Such was the case with our first mustang, Sassy. She was spoiled, taking food from the hands of her family, biting when they didn't have anything to give.

Today I was at a feed store when the woman at the counter saw my sweatshirt. I was wearing one of the Mustang Diaries shirts, and her eyes lit up when she realized I had mustangs. A customer had come in saying they had a yearling mustang from one of the reservations and they wanted to give her away. They'd had a halter on her, but couldn't handle her feet. Plus, the woman had been kicked twice. Since she wasn't far away, I drove over.

The filly is pretty. She stood on the other side of her round pen and enjoyed the scratching we did. The woman had bought her at auction; there'd been a tuckload of horses that had come in, and most of them went to the meat buyer. She had a soft spot for this filly and brought her home. Her intentions were good, but she's now realized that she's in over her head.

The filly, unfortunately, was easy to gentle. When horses are easy like that, and a bit less sensitive to touch, they can get pushy real fast unless the person handling them knows to prevent it. It's our nature to try to nurture, but with animal it creates a spoiled child effect. We do it with our dogs, and these folks were in the process of doing it with this filly.

We got the halter on her, though, and I led her around a bit. She'd pin her ears back, and she was a bit jumpy. Not scared, but she was using little things as an excuse to be stupid. Such as, the quiet hum of a nearby saw. There was very little sound, but the owner had her husband turn it off so the horse wouldn't spook. The filly had been tip-toed around so much that she was like a fussy princess. At one point she got upset, so I gave a yank on the lead rope to get her attention. She flew backwards and would have flipped herself onto her back if she hadn't been caught by the round pen panels.

While the rope gave me a bit of a burn, I didn't let go. Instead I took up the slack as much as I could so she couldn't try to wheel away. I made her walk around once more, made her back up and try to focus on me. At this point she was getting agitated, but she did manage to do what I asked. I then led her towards the gate and unbuckled her halter. She thought that meant she was done, so I put it back on her. I did that a couple of times, scratching her to get her to relax. Then she thought something scary might be out there, so she took a big lunge off to the side while the halter was unbuckled. Too bad, because that wasn't a good learning experience. Still, she'd probably been asked for more in that five minutes than she had been all along.

Because of her somewhat alpha temperament, I've decided she wouldn't be a good fit here. I'd be up for the challenge, but Sunny is already taking a lot of my time, and she's not a horse I'd feel comfortable having Darling walk around at feeding time.

I will, however, be contacting a few more horse savvy folks who may be capable of handling her. She's going to be a lot of work, because she has very little respect for people right now. A firm hand, a round pen, and a determination to keep her from trying to be a buddy (at least for now.)


Pony Tail Club said...

One of the best horses at our barn is a mustang. He's an awesome jumper and beautiful dressage horse, and, he has a great heart.

iz said...

This was a really interesting post to read. As an animal lover I too tend to believe thatyou can love any animal into being gentle. This was a learning experience.

Tracey said...

Pony Tail, I know someone who's got a mustang mare and is doing fantastic in her Pony Club division (I'm not a PCer, so don't know the terminology, lol!)

Iz, it's so easy, isn't it? To just pamper and spoil? I've got a spoiled dog here, but he's little so I ignore it. Shame on me! Harder with a horse, though, as they're big and dangerous!