Back to FG's Homepage

horse logo

(graphic designed by Siep Kroonenberg)

The Kasper Chronicles -- Part 2

First Steps

Date : Mon Oct 30, 14:07
Whew! it's no challenge to enjoy Kasper, and to do my regular work, but it IS challenging to find time to keep up with my notes on Kasper... Playing the clarinet and going to the airfield to soar are two activities that do suffer a drastic lowering on the priority list.

Also, the family seems to be more geared towards fast food and irregular dinner times since Kasper arrived. French fries (`Those awful fries they call French', wrote Nabokov) and pseudo-Chinese Indonesian takeaway, deep frozen health food store pizzas... our menu is shifting towards these as we spend more time around Kasper than we do in the kitchen.

The subject of this Kasper Chronicle installment is a recent observation of Jacoline's when we got Kasper from the pasture. The first week, he half-heartedly tried to make it a little hard for us to get him, striding away from us in a lazy circular path. Then he stopped walking away but, grazing or pretending to graze, chose to ignore our call and approach as long as possible. A few days ago, he lifted his head as we came near and actually stepped towards us. He might have been unthinkingly following his nose, maybe he was curious to find out if we had any sweet little pear or apple in our hands but we chose to romantically interpret it as a friendly greeting. After a relaxed and sunny day on the pasture with the other horses, here came the friendly humans again.

As he walked with us to the pasture exit, Jacoline looked at him and told me: `He looks like he is content with his existence here wih us.' Kasper had figured out his place in the herd on the pasture and his relationship with our family that's coming to take care of him every day. The new environment which may have looked fickle and filled with the unexpected, was turning out to be simpler and more relaxed every day.

Kasper appreciates the meticulous way we clean his stall. A few times, after riding, on his return to his stall where a high and almost fluffy layer of pale dry straw was crisply laid out, he has been thoroughly enjoying the first pee on the virginal cover, right after I unleashed his saddle's girth. A long, long pee that made him softly snore in prudish satisfaction --- nearest to the real thing he, being a gelding, is likely to get.

The first week, we only wheelbarrowed out the straw that looked shitty and provided a new cover of fresh straw but although it *looked* smart, in the end it didn't smell the way it looked. We were tricked to appreciate the beautiful golden beer-commercial blush that slightly wet straw takes on and we neglected to dig to the bottom where eventually I discovered a tight layer of piss pudding stuck to the brick floor...

Since then, we take care every morning, after giving Kasper his breakfast, to first drastically get out all golden-moist and poop-caked spots. Then we push the really dry straw to the sides and use a broom to collect the wet plucks. If this is done every day, it's easy to brush clean the wet spots of the floor. We leave those open to dry for as long as Kasper is out on the pasture. There's a brick gutter in the back of the stall and I pour a bucket of fresh water over it, brushing it all through the drainage hole in the wall. All that time, Kasper is munching away, sometimes trying if he is allowed to walk away through the open stall doors which he isn't. Kasper isn't trying hard and it takes little strength to hold him back, but he keeps testing every time if he remembers about it.

After he has eaten all of his granola and some of his hay, I put on his halster, tie him to a bar in his stall and begin the early morning groom. He still distrusts the wet sponge that I use to clean the corners of his eyes from sleep and the inside of his nostrils from granola dust, but it's merely the aversion to cold water and cleanliness that grown boys and young men sometimes have. Then his soft body with a hard rough brush that's actually a plastic oval with blunt teeth, followed by a smaller one made of rubber and after that a long haired real brush that's also used for his head and legs (I find that my hands are more sensitive, comfortable and secure to use on his head than a brush though).

Requesting his hooves for picking is never a problem anymore, but holding on to them requires physical strength and vocal perseverance as he tries to jerk back a hoof when I'm working on it. Holding on to the hoof and calmly jerking back is easier than letting go, avoiding a kick and then getting it back up from the floor. Meanwhile, I am finding more comfortable ways to stand and support the leg and Kasper slowly gets me to understand which parts of his hooves are more sensitive than others as I clean them thoroughly. Aromatically it's more pleasant to pick an afternoon pasture hoof than an early morning menure hoof.

Putting his bridle on him is getting almost easy for me and Lore. Jacoline is finding out how to endure his initial play of refusal. When she stands with her back to his breast and she *almost* has the bit in, he suddenly lifts up his head so high it's way out of reach. He does that on me too but initially, Jacoline reacted by turning 180 degrees, towards him and then when he lowers his head, there's no way she can slip on his bridle. Since Jacoline realized this strategy, she has worked to overcome her impulse to be scared of his sudden and powerful motion and she stands still. When the head lowers (Kasper doesn't keep his head high, it's just one huge nod, up and down), there's a good opportunity to get him to take the bit or, if he had already had taken it, to slip the bridle over his ears in one go.

Veerle, being smaller in size and more hesitant, has yet to try her succes at this but she has been more successful with hoof picking than Jacoline so far. Lore is clever enough to accept my assistance only insofar as she feels she needs it. She kindly asked me to step back when I wanted to take over on her second bridling try and no sooner had I retreated than she had securely put on his bridle!

Strolling to the pasture, Kasper is getting the feel of our preferred walking speed. He used to try to hasten our step and hanging on to him was a little tiresome at first. At the end of the day it's the other way around: his favorite ground speed then is zero meters per second. Pulling him forward in the longitudinal axis from tail to nose is little successful -- it merely invites him to lean back a notch and relax his back. Pulling him sideways is effective, but luckily he's never really stubborn at this freeloading-game. The home path isn't wide enough to go meandering all over the path home! I also tried bringing along the whip or picking up a stick and this makes Kasper lose all interest in lagging behind. One probing touch with the stick on his left buttock, a featherlight touch already set him into a trot around me on the short leash as if we were training on the longe!

As you see, not just Kasper is comfortably settling in his new routine. So are we in ours.

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)

First Hops

Date : Tue Oct 31, 10:09
Thursday evening last week, at the end of the dressage lesson, instructor Janneke suggested that Kasper and another young gelding, Kay, could try some initial jumping exercises during the first part of the next jumping class, which is on monday evenings!

I first called Marijke and Wilfred from the Vlieland riding school who own Kasper. Wouldn't want to do anything special before they agree. Marijke was all for it!

Coincidentally, Jacoline had her first jumping exercises at the other riding school yesterday morning, on a horse peculiarly named `Black Devel' (sic), which is not a name to tell to a person who's too new in riding... They trotted over wooden beams laid out on the sand.

After taking Kasper to the pasture yesterday to play with the other twenty horses, I assisted Janneke by taking a new horse, Sultan, out to a pasture that she usually reserves for her own horses that she rides competitions with. Sultan arrived in the stall next to Kasper's last sunday and his owner is Theo, a man in his fourties. With the arrival of Sultan and Theo, the number of men riding in the club has doubled... And the average size of the horses in residence has risen: aged 16, dark Sultan measures 1.73cm! Kasper, almost 4 years old, is 4 cm behind on this one. Sultan, being used to wearing a blanket, has managed to keep a wonderfully satin coat which makes him feel cuddly in his impressiveness. Although his bloodline and stature would have made him fit for shows and competitions, Theo keeps Sultan for recreational use only. A younger female friend looks after Sultan (and rides him too) if and when Theo lacks the time.

In the past ten years, Theo boarded Sultan in a stall without the luxury of a proper pasture so life in a herd out in the open is completely new for Sultan. That's why Janneke chose to have Sultan taste the pleasures of pasture life on a smaller scale. In this way she could find out if Sultan instinctively knows how to behave with others on a pasture and not terrorize them or be terrorized through the barbed wire himself.

When Janneke lead the way with her Fleurie, me following with Sultan, I was relieved to feel how calm Sultan walked with me, being a stranger for him, towards the unknown. In the pasture, I let go of Sultan first and then Janneke released Fleurie. The two didn't rush along the pasture but galloped calmly, observing each other and soon they stood close, carefully sniffing and sensing each other's nose. Fleurie apparently took a shine to Sultan as she cuddled her nose along Sultan's neck and rested against his manes, half-proposing he do the same with her. Sultan chose not to get intimiate that fast and turned away, grazing. Then Janneke fetched her Palomino, officially named `J&F Exclusive' but called `Palomino' in everyday life.

With the `dritte im Bunde' released, the pasture rankings needed a reshift and this time, the three horses went into a flying, snorting gallop in all directions, with sudden stops and new dashes away. Sultan went from trot into a thundering run, heading for collision with the other two that ran away, while Fleurie protectively kept herself between the Palomino and Sultan. Janneke kept calm and merely said `Whoa...' from our standing point just outside the entrance. The horses remained well within the borders of the pasture and five minutes later all had turned calm again. Fleurie and the Palomino grazed as usual, close together, and a little way off Sultan was remembering how to roll on the grass, first scraping the grass with his fore hooves, then nibbling at his forelegs, kneeling and letting himself fall over.

In the stables, Sultan's stall is between Kasper's and Kay's. Kay and Sultan have their stall doors immediately adjoining, so they have plenty of headway to get acqainted. Thanks to their long necks and great curiosity, Sultan and Kasper can just barely touch noses and both nibble away at the wooden lid on Sultan's feed chest.

So yesterday evening, when I was excited about the upcoming `jumping' lesson, I brushed the coat of an equally excited Kasper who was busy following all the goings-on in the stable, with the new neighbour and people coming in to see Sultan and shake hands with Theo, chatting, clattering and laughing. It seemed Kasper was pulling back his hooves more than usual during hoof picking and I was clumsy putting on his bridle. It felt like his face had grown or the leather strap had shrunk that goes around his nose just in front of (covering a little) the bit rings. It felt difficult to fasten it as tight as I have done before. Maybe I found out that I used to put it too tight, with Kasper making clear that he resents this. Theo felt the strap and told me it was tight enough and could even allow a little more leeway. Kasper appreciated this advice to me and he couldn't have said it better himself.

Eagerly, I walked Kasper to the jumping paddock where one lesson was ending and ours was about to commence. Ellen followed soon with Kay and three of four other, more advanced students were there already. We walked around the paddock, looking at the beams lying on the ground in pairs of two or three. Once, when I steered Kasper over two beams, he, with his shuffly stride, resonantly bumped his hooves against one so Janneke told me to stay clear of the beams until the lssson started.

When the lesson started, we first walked over the beams and it went best if I kept Kasper in an active, forward stride and not let him fall back to his dreamy-stroll. I didn't get the impression he payed much attention to the beams and stepped over them as if he'd done it often.

Then we went into a trot and I tried to understand what posture is required from the rider when going over a beam. Kasper did better than I did. Once, he made a little jump over one beam but the rest of the time he merely lifted his legs a little. I had a hard time to get the feel of how to sit, or rise my hind.

After that, Janneke created a low x-formed bar in the middle of the paddock and the two beginners were asked to trot right behind a more experienced combination. I followed Debbie, riding her beautiful, shining and muscular Ingmar. To Kasper it still seemed like a piece of cake --- he is so *willing*, in a silent mood. My own riding style must have looked like Kasper was carrying a bag of not-so-fresh potatoes. Still, I had great fun and did my best.

Our part of the lesson was coming to a close when Janneke lifted the X to 20 cm. We `jumped' it twice and Kasper pushed off a beam once, before Ellen and I took Kay and Kasper to the dressage paddock, where Ellen stepped off to prepare Kay for his stall. She told me she has the habit to stop when she is happy about Kay's work, and stops rather than pushing him farther until irritation can arise from reaching the point where both fail.

There is something to say for that, but I was so happy that I wanted to play a little more before Kaspers bedtime. We trotted some, I tried to ride wide circles (which isn't going well most of the time yet since I haven't yet mastered the ways to prevent Kasper to make ever tighter curves), practiced full stops (which is improving all the time) and then changes in trot speed.

For the first time I was successful in that. Last week, when I told Janneke that I managed to get Kasper to trot with a fast long stride with the help of juch a touch of whip instead of a series of mild heel thumps, Janneke took my invitation to ride Kasper. `Now look', she said, `how easy it can be if you just relax!' Kasper went into a fast trot for her without any visible clue to me as to how she did it. `Now I'll hold my back and legs a little stiff', Janneke announced and Kasper promptly reacted by falling back into the slow trot that I'm more used from him. When she relaxed again, a mere press from her calves sent Kasper back in proper speed.

Now, with the jumping lessons commencing over higher bars in the paddock next to ours, I tried to follow Kasper's bounce and not touch him with my calves and ankles. And YES -- the immediate reward was that Kasper's responsiveness improved greatly. I felt like I was successfully pretending to be a pro, there unseen in the misty dark! Praising Kasper profusely, I practiced the difference a few more times and then we just silently and happily walked this way and that, watching the jumps and then the cooling-off in the other paddock. For some minutes after their last jump, Ingmar left a trail of steam from his nostrils and warm sweaty coat as he walked, calming down. It had been a nice sight, Debbie and him at work. Sometimes, when the riding is not going well, Debbie who is blond-haired can look as dark as Ingmar's coat is and then, with her voice soft and low, her whip whizzes off her frustration. This time, her whip was used sparingly, just two languid lashes if he stopped short for the bar instead of jumping it.

Kasper and I only went for the stall after the others had well left their paddock.

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)

Horse Noises

Date : Thu Oct 26, 08:33
From : Laurie Alexander Neely 
Boomer... um, farts. He is famous for it in our barn... tooting along as we go. Gail swears she can follow me around the ring by following the sweet (!) sounds he emanates. And no, he has no particular gastric problems, just one of those things I guess. Now Kiowa, farts and sneezes at the same time... One of these days we expect to see him be propelled straight upwards by the force of the opposing air currents! He also purrs. Makes a soft sound with his upper lip not quite like any other horse's. And then, at grain time there's a chorus of `wucka wucka..hhmmmppfff...ffllllrrr, uhuhuh..' all through the barn... 15 horses each making his or her own happy feeding time noises. I love that sound. But my favorite sound of all is the one that is made by all the horses at once, late at night in the darkened barn. The combination of wuffs, swishes, stomps, snores, munches and slurps of the mostly sleeping horses is the most peaceful, calming sound I know.
Date : Wed Oct 25, 10:51
From : Sally Barns 
Our barn owner tells the story of the time her mom was the only one at the stable (they have a Rule that there is someone on the premises at all times), was checking out the horses, and one mare was lying on her side in her stall, motionless but making the most gawd-awful groaning noises. Mom panicked and called the vet who came, examined, and gently broke it to her: "Don't know how to tell you this, ma'am, but your horse is, well, ASLEEP."

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)

First solo flight

Date : Tue Dec 05, 12:59                                                   loc
From : Frans Goddijn 
*** yesterday evening I made my first free fall from a horse! ***

It was pleasant and my left wrist is *relatively* fine...

When Jacoline and I arrived at the stalls last night, bicycling past the riding arena, we greeted about seven of the girls riding their horses in a cold that, due to the wind, felt more fierce than it was. Kasper whinnied softly as he does these days when he notices us opening the gate to the row of stalls where he occupies the first and largest room. We groomed him well and quickly, getting ourselves warmed up with the exercise and he was lovely and cooperative in it all, even, for me picking it, promptly lifting his left forehoove, the only hoove he usually plays games with to try which is stronger, his muscle or our will.

As we entered the arena, all other horses and their girls had left for the wind free stalls. Only Debbie and Jacoline came with me and laid out poles to trot over. Debbie offered to instruct me as instructor Janneke is down with the 'flu.

(Last week, in a cold fog, Janneke, badly coughing, stubbornly wanted to teach even when everybody urged her to go home and go to bed. Kasper, once he gets warmed up, enjoys jumping and after one jump he wants to rush around and give it another go. I seem to be the only factor sometimes hampering him, as my steering often is less than straight, and my seat isn't very well balanced. Sometimes, at jumps of about 40 centimeters and upwards, he wants to wave off to a side or even try to dash sideways instead of jumping but most of the time it suffices for him to just lift his long legs a little higher and trot over the hurdle. One of the last jumps the other week went almost perfect for beginners like us: `Yes!', Janneke remarked, `THAT was a JUMP, with a moment of SOARING in it!')

So yesterday, Kasper was especially lucky to be the only horse in the arena -- no waiting! But also, since he was the only one there, he lacked a reference for spookiness. Now and then, when we rounded the path on the north end where the wind breaks around a low building with the kanteen and smaller stalls, the wind hitting him and leaves rustling around the dark corner set him off into a faster pace. Debbie and Jacoline stood with their backs against the adjoining haystack building. Kasper and I trotted over the six beams they had laid out and after some time of that we jumped over a low X-beam which Jacoline and Debbie sometimes raised a little higher. The jump works better if I support it with my legs in the final approach, but I notice that my right ankle finds Kasper more easily and stronger than my left, and in effect Kasper wavers off to the left, which I provisionally correct with my right hand...

And, when we go increasingly fast towards the hurdle, Kasper really makes a JUMP of it which feels light and wonderful. Landing feels fine as well, but after that I often lack a good planning. Going straight on is hard, and on top of that, at one point my habit of gripping the reins a little loose got back to me.

I let the reins slip from my left hand after landing, and since the control was then only on the right hand, Kasper turned right towards the kanteen and a short, very fat tree standing like a boduguard in front of one of its small windows. We were going there very fast, since I was not at all effectively controlling Kasper's speed (instead, I was probably bouncing in my saddle, beginning to grope for the reins with my left hand). `Going to fall off', I recall thinking to myself, and `thick tree, no good', so I pulled the right reins again. Kasper lowered his head, put down both his forelegs and pushed himself off to the right. I was able to partly follow that sharp turn, but was hanging to his left and slipped off after the turn, landing on my forehead (cap!), nose and left hand. Three point touch down.

Quite a neat landing for horse riding (in soaring this would NOT qualify me for solo flight...) I got up and called: `WELL DONE!' to Kasper. He was standing a short distance away, wondering what was wrong here. I walked up to him and hugged him, which may have helped comfort us both. Debbie proposed I go on him again and do some more jumps which I was keen to do. We jumped a lower hurdle a few times, the higher one twice more and then we called it a day. Debbie and Jacoline went off fast towards the kanteen for hot chocolate as Kasper and I strolled, one beside the other. After all, that's the best part of the day. We talk, sometimes Kasper stops to listen to a distant horse whinnying and he answers with an ear-numbing whinny himself. Then we stride on. If I walk too slowly, he steps on my feet, pushes me forward with his head or shrugs the side of his head to my shoulder. I play with him, wrapping my arm from below around his nose... in short, we have shameless fun in the afterplay of another fine day.

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)

Friends with Durbin

Date : Thu Dec 07, 13:32
On November 16, I began this entry but never got around to finishing it... here's it finally.

Maybe today (that was Nov. 16, fg) was the last day that the horses at the stable with Kasper will be out on the pasture. It's not too cold yet, but the grass is eaten so short the soil is showing everywhere and it's been raining drizzle off and on for two days now which makes for a very slippery path towards the pasture and a soaked field. If they stay there much longer, there won't be much left to grow next year.

On our way there I let Kasper walk behind me as I lead the way on the outer margin of the path where the clay is held together somewhat by grass and twigs. Kasper treads carefully, his hooves making a slipping, sucking sound. Once, when he slipped, this spooked him tremendously and he tried to *run* out of the little hole that his feet had pushed into the ground. It might have been a funny sight to a beholder, but not for me as I was holding him on a rope... since then I take care to make Kasper walk on the best spots and if in doubt I walk in the deeper mud myself, leading him next to me where he can get better grasp. If I slip and fall it's just a few kilos but I'd hate to have him wham over next to me...

Going from the stall to the pasture is not only a spacial transport, it also takes Kasper from the world of people to a realm of horses. There is something on that field when other horses are there that I can't feel the same way Kasper does. Going through the entrance calmly, turning towards me so that I can take off the rope from his halter, he is still under my jurisdiction so to say and he complies with what I want him to do. Then after I let him go, I pat him on the neck, wish him a pleasant day and he turns away from me. Sometimes he walks away, but mostly he trots off and sometimes he gallops and I don't think any force could get him back to me right away then.

Two days ago I walked to the pasture with Monique who was taking two smaller horses there, white "Iwan" and brown "Lady". Lady hadn't been out the day before and she was very excited, jumpy almost so Monique had her hands more than full with them. I was following with Kasper and even Kasper got the impression that something special was about to happen. When we got to the entrance of the pasture, Monique hesitated and wondered what she'd do best; she needed one hand free to open the electric-wire gate when both horses kept her very busy. With the gate about to be opened, Iwan and Lady were each trying to het the best start position at the cost of Moniques toes...

The following events took only a second or two. Monique opened the gate and at the same time let go of Lady who was almost impossible to hold back anymore. Lady dashed through the entrance and started to race which mentally pulled Iwan irresistably with her so Monique pulled Iwan's cord off as well. Now, I was standing a few yards off with Kasper who was uncontrollably keen not to be late for the show! I wouldn't let him rudely jump past Monique so I walked and ran along him, trying to hold the rope. Kasper sped up so fast that, after we past Monique, I was unable to reach forward to the lock of the rope to let go. I wasn't even able to keep his pace and while I pulled, the rope slipped. `Let go!' Monique shouted and I did.

A few minutes, and a few rounds of galloping later I could approach Kasper to take the rope from his halter. Luckily, he had not tripped over it (he's so tall, the rope barely touches the ground)!

It struck me that, no matter how calm, well-behaving and gentle Kasper basically is with people, his temperament can change greatly when his mood synchronizes with other horses near him. And not even very near him...

Late in the afternoon, I came back to bring Kasper from the pasture to his cleaned stall. I walked over the pasture to where he was quietly grazing with Durbin. Durbin and Kasper always go together in the herd since Durbin, a mare, chose Kasper as her buddy. Kasper seems to take the friendship passively, just like on the first day when they met in the riding arena. That evening, Christa, who rides Durbin, was surprised how suddenly, after seeing Kasper, Durbin changed her pace to a high, dancing trot, tail raised and generally making herself a pretty as possible for the newcomer. Kasper didn't seem to notice or understand it very well, but in the following weeks usually moved around close to Durbin when both were out on the pasture.

So this afternoon as well, I could easily spot Kasper as the taller of two dark horses together. It seems there is a certain invisible airspace around Kasper --- when I am out of it, he perfectly ignores my existence, no matter how sweet or loud my calling his name, when I am in it, he lifts his head, turns towards me and walks slowly in my direction. The critical distance that changes his attitude is about 25 metres. I wonder of others have similar observations?

Even when he moves towards me, after I enter the close circle, he is not weaned from the herd. I can't influence the speed of his slow, relaxed stroll but any horse on the pasture that starts running at that point can set them all off, including Kasper. When we meet and I pat his head, clicking on the rope to his halter, he usually stands still and refuses to take one further step. Roped, he gives me the initiative but overdoes it in a teasing way. I convince him to start walking and we leave the pasture.

This time, as usual, it felt as if it was very easy to take control of him; the changeover from herd authority to human authority symbolically took place at the click of the rope lock. Still, after we had left the pasture and were a few hundred metres away from it, Kasper stopped and turned his head, listening carefully and watching the distant equine figures. Durbin must've noticed as she whinnied and Kasper answered with a long, loud whinny of his own. It impressed me greatly as it made Kasper stand taller than he already is. This, the marvellous volume of his hollering and the utter meaninglessness of it to me was a thrill. After his call, he walked with me again, but after a while the events repeated. This time Durbin called first and Kasper halted to reply with an urgent undertone. I kept a slack in the rope so I could admiringly observe Kasper's unhampered behaviour.

A minute later it happened again but now I was really loosing Kasper's consideration of my presence and he was about to jump, reel and run back to the pasture. I shouted and gave a few hard pulls on the rope to get back Kasper's attention and reluctantly he focused his mind back on the two of us. Only then did he mentally leave the pasture...

We approached the stalls and heard the soft, hoarse whinnying of Sultan, the gelding lodged next to Kasper's stall. Kasper replied calmly until the two could see each other as we stepped through the doorway.

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)

The Bite -- New horse owner blues

Date: Tue, 5 Dec 1995 08:18
From: grace kuo jui chin (<gchin@INDIANA.EDU>)

Hello Everyone!

Thanks for all the advice on saddle sizes.

I know I shouldn't be bummed because Draga is healthy and we've been spending a lot of time together, and I know I'm taking this too personally, but....I find that he tries to bite me more and more often.

I tread on egg shells when I'm around him now. I try to move very slowly, keeping my a hand on him when I move around him so that he knows where I am. Talk to him in a low soothing voice, etc. But when I get near his head, he always tries to bite me. Before, it was really only when I touched his chest. Now it's when I try to blanket him. When I try to take off/put on his halter, when I try to put on his bridle,etc. Even though I do everything as gently as possible.

So I end up feeling like he's just darn annoyed with me. Or that he doens't like me. With Saki, I could throw my arms around his neck and even "rough him up" a little like I do when I play with my dog, but I'm so timid now around Draga and afraid to touch him in a way that would bother him that I always feel very distant from him. Like we're not connecting at all. (esp. because everybody is always saying what a sweet heart he is...and I guess he is because he leads well, is easy to catch in the pasture, etc. but why don't I feel like he's so sweet?)

I only slap him (on the neck) if he actually gets a piece of me in his mouth. But aother times when he snaps and misses, I just scold him and maybe give him a jerk on his halter.

I'm Probably taking this too personally, huh? Still, I wish I could just hug and touch him like I did with Saki. Draga is still just such a stranger to me. But then, maybe this is how most horses are. And Saki was just an anomoly.

Thanks for listening!

Grace Profatilo
& Saki (I'm her teddy bear.)
& Draga (Don't touch me.)

Date: Tue, 5 Dec 1995 08:31
From: Kirsti Stephenson (<>)

Grace, it's time to get tough! Draga (or the vast majority of horses) won't ever respond to a simple slap on the neck. The next time, scare the livin' sh*t outta him! He out weighs you by more than half a ton, he's a bunch taller than you too and he's established a pecking order with you not being the alpha mare ;) Carry a crop with you so you can make contact and alot of noise and *smack* him a good one. Everytime he attempts to bite or nip, get him! Don't let this behaviour continue, someone is gonna get hurt...

Kirsti (hopes the water treatment will last another 6 months) Stephenson

Date: Tue, 5 Dec 1995 08:37
From: Joanne McAndrew (<MCANDREW@ENDO.DREB.UAB.EDU>)

Grace, I agree with Kirsti. Chloe started doing the same thing with me recently when I went to brush her. At first I got more and more timid with her and she got worse and worse. Once I realised I wasn't hurting her and it was a dominance thing I had to be a lot tougher to get her to stop than if I had handled it firmly in the first place. Chloe even got to the point where she was threatening to swing her butt round and kick me so you need to nip this in the bud now. Joanne and Chloe

Date: Tue, 5 Dec 1995 08:05
Judith Tarr(<capriole@INDIRECT.COM>)

Hugs, Grace! The honeymoon is over, alack. Capria tried to take my kneecap off when ours wore off--and started rearing and striking at me. You're lucky Draga is just biting.

What's happening from what I can tell is that you're too gentle and too tentative with him, and he, being a boy, is pushing his machismo. You have to be loving but firm, and THINK SUPERIOR. You -are- his alpha mare. No matter what. He is not to nip at you, which is a male dominance trick. Give him a reprimand for every tiniest nip, NO MATTER WHAT. Cut him NO slack in this department. And whatever else you do, don't show fear. The more afraid you are, the more he is going to dominate you. It's law of the jungle. Draga being a schoolmaster is probably highly intelligent and very good at spotting targets, and he's decided you're a target.

You do not have to continue with large red concentric circles painted on your back. Just stand up to him and don't be afraid. He won't hurt you if you are firm and positive with him (and prepared to leap and strike if he bites).

You might get the basic TTEAM tape and study the methods. There are some techniques there that will help you with getting him to let you touch him. John Lyons is good, too, though you need an open space for that, preferably a round pen. See Inge's post about `My horse won't listen' with the forward from the Natural Horseman list. There's a technique that will help, too.

I've gone through a bit of this with Khepera, because he's a boy. Mares are more apt to kick. Boys bite. He grabbed my down vest this morning, in fact, when I gave him his morning hug. By now he knows the rules, and when I said Don't You DARE, he backed off and didn't try it again. A baby stallion has to keep trying, you know, and hoping he'll get by on cute. Draga doesn't have that excuse. What works with babies but not often with big horses is to `bite' back: pinch hard on whatever part you can reach. It keeps them from getting head-shy but it does deter them. Supplement with a firm NO!

Good luck. It's upsetting to love our horses so much and to have them trying to clobber us--but horses are horses. They need a hierarchy, and if you aren't dominant they will be. It's all about respect and about maintaining your superior position in the herd. If you can do that your horse will do anything for you. Marita's been a sweet love since I spent two days nailing her to the wall for nearly killing Capria (after she challenged me and got no satisfaction). I used the Lyons method there, with TTEAM to back it up. No force, little physical contact until she listened to me. Just continual You Will Move Where I Say, without letup, till she -always- moved when and where I said. It's held on for two months now, with one or two slippages--immediately corrected--and no problems. She hasn't touched the other horses since, either. Not her job. MY job.

You just have to be consistent, firm, and unafraid. You ARE in charge. Always. Think that way, carry yourself that way. DON'T wimp out! You've lost the war then.

Judy in Tucson

Capria (right, and I thought I was safe till I got a
            little too pushy and She pushed ME around --
            I'm *good* at sneakily pushing my envelope,
            but not quite good enough, bummer)
Marita (She is Alpha and that is That--I don't even touch
            hay right in front of me if She says NO) and
Khepera (She's awful, I do something and she laughs and
            says Cute! and then nails me anyway)
Judith Tarr

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)

Kasper is having A BALL!

Date : Tue Dec 19, 19:08
Frans Goddijn(<>)

The Dutch winter days have arrived. A few weeks ago, when I was riding my bicycle to Kasper, I saw the cold pulling a sheet of ice over a canal, twigs and some late autumn leaves getting caught in the frost. Since then, the ice has gone and returned. One day, one sees some brave skaters testing the thin layer of ice, and the next day the ice is melting, with phantom footsteps and skate marks in the middle of the mushy canal surface.

Early last week, I lost my footing on the iced brick yard of the stalls and flipped flat on my back. Ouch! That was MUCH more painful than falling off Kasper on soft, thick arena sand...

On the fifth of december, we celebrate the birthday eve of Sinterklaas and everyone gets presents. Sinterklaas may translate to Santa Claus, but ours is a Spanish roman catholic bishop and he rides a white horse over the roofs, followed by black moor helpers who push presents down the chimney. He comes and goes on a steam boat.

Kasper got a ``Big Red Apple'', (produced by DMG products, 7764 Poplar Ave, Suite 30, Citrus Heights, CA 95621, phone (916) 726-4564). The yellow note with the red apple claims that ``The Big Red Apple has been known to curb horses of bad habits such as cribbing, windsucking, digging holes, weaving and chewing wood.'' They further explain that ``This attractive, non-toxic playtoy is both safe and calming for your horse. Research has confirmed that scents play an important part in the emotional stability of animals, and it's been discovered that an apple aroma has a calming effect on horses.''

They claim quite a lot, and although I like to read and collect such would-be scientific notes, I take it with a grain of salt.

The good punch line they give says ``Give it a try --- your horse will love you for it!'' Now which vulnerable person with money on him can resist such a call? I sure couldn't and purchased the ball immediately, on behalf of the roman catholic bishop person.

A friend helped us hang it in his stall while I took care to have Kasper outside of it for a minute --- wouldn't want anyone standing on a ladder over Kasper while he is spooked by the sudden appearance of a red plastic ball smelling of apple! When I brough Kasper back in, he first didn't notice the apple, but when he did, he froze. Then he carefully avoided any contact with it, treading meticulously to evade the spot it hung above. It keeps amazing me how a huge animal like Kasper kan be scared like a mouse.

Then, a few days later, we heard that a few other horse owners had had a great time one night, watching Kasper play the ball. He snapped at it, making the ball pop away from him and when the ball swung back, lightly hitting his head, Kasper jumped. Then, Kasper hit the ball with his nose and when it returned it's swing, Kasper ducked so it missed. Smart! This game went on for some ten minutes and Kasper ignored the bystanders who laughed and had as much fun as he himself had.

We haven't seen him playing ball yet. Once, Veerle and I peeked around the corner of the main stall door and could see him gnaw on the rope that the apple is hanging on. His neck was stretched up and half turned so he could grip the vertical rope well. Then when he let go, he pushed the ball away, noticed us and stopped playing. Jacoline once saw the ball swing when she arrived, but it seems that once Kasper finds out we arrive, he forgets the ball and directs all his attention to us and any feeding that might come from us... a big heavy winter carrot, or a REAL apple!

(There's a story index on the top of this page.)

This page is linked to the home page of Frans Goddijn.
Frans Goddijn, Postbus 30196, 6803 AD Arnhem, fax +31 (0)26 3211759
Updated Nov 16, 1998