I’m down with the Venusian Death Plague here, and it’s Horseblog time. What to do? Why, Horseblog Classic, of course!
As it happens, spring never fails to liven things up around here, and what was true three years ago is just as true today. (With squealing, kicking, and much high drama.)
So, with no more ado: a taste of spring among the equines.
Life on a horse farm is always interesting, but when the farm has all genders represented, it’s just a little bit more interesting in the spring.
The English-speaking world has a distinct preference for geldings as riding horses. Entires–mares as well as stallions–suffer from a fair degree of sexism and overall negative bias. Mares are “mareish,” moody, hormonal. Stallions are hormone-crazed monsters. Geldings are, as the adage says, from heaven.
Not that there isn’t a grain of truth in that. It certainly is restful to be around the geldings. If they’re cranky, they’re cranky all the time. And they don’t tend toward nearly the level of all-systems-GO! that one will get with the hormone team.
A well-socialized, civilized, trained stallion, while he takes managing (he always will, instinctively, put the ladies of his own species first; hence the civilizing and the training), can be a joy. He’s also a constant source of entertainment.
Especially in the spring.
So this spring, for the first time in two years, the local owner of the optional equipment is fully sound and ridable. He had a bad injury in the fall of 2011 that kept him off the training roster for much of the following year, then managed a different injury that laid him up for several more months. Now he seems to have decided he’s made his point and can get back to work again. Finally.
A stallion in work, if the work suits his personality and skills, is much happier and more cooperative than one who has nothing much to do but simmer in his hormones. If he’s actively breeding, which this one hasn’t in a while (the economy has done a number on the market for horses even of rare and highly prized breeds), being ridden and worked helps him stay in overall good shape, and also focuses his mind away from the mares. If he’s not breeding, it’s even more important for him to have an outlet for his energies–and having to cooperate with the human means he’s safer as well as happier to be around.
So we’ve been able to keep him in work lately, weather permitting. This is Arizona; while we had snow in February, it’s been a whole lot warmer and drier for the most part since. Last week a three-day howling gale took his shelter apart and forced him to spend a couple of days in the backup accommodations, as well as making work difficult to impossible–it’s kind of hard to stay on the back of even a short horse when the wind is blowing 60mph.
Finally after more than a week, he got his saddle! Joy! And the prospect of a ride! Joy joy!
But first, because of the more than a week and the exciting weather and the mares driving him nutty (stallions are reactive–if the mares are not in season, they’re generally mellow, but if one or more is singing her come-hither song, it’s Miller Time, baybeeee), the safest course of action was to let him take ownership of the riding arena.
Usually I do this with him on a longeline–25 feet of line with a six-foot whip with a six-foot lash added to that, so that if he gets excited, he can do it with me out of killing range. This time, he made it clear that he would really like to have some Me Time, please.
I turned him loose. And he did what a stallion does in a new or reclaimed territory: he walked the entire perimeter, sniffing at manure piles and mare-marking sites, investigating changes since the last time he was in there, and generally taking ownership of the space.
Then he headed over to the side where the mares were lined up in stalls–a safe 12 feet of distance between stall walls and fenceline, so no touching or climbing over to get at one another.
They were rapt. He arched his neck and boing-boing-boinged and made studly noises. He ran up and down. He tossed his head (mane flying–ladies love that).
Then, because he Owned That Space, he boinged over to the middle, flung himself down, and rolled like a rolling thing.
Then as he came up, he opted for a classic choice: rear and paw the air.
That’s the Size Matters maneuver. I am bigger! Than anything! And I conquer it! With the hammers of my hooves!
The ladies were suitably impressed. And then he was ready to come to my hand (and my cookie) and get his lovely layer of ook scraped off and his saddle on and his mind into work mode. With just a little further excitement: Boing! Boing! past the line of the ladies, and a rumble through the whole center of him, which is a bit like riding a motorcycle with a bad muffler, and a bit like the moment when the warp engines engage. But he’s a civilized equine personage, and can be persuaded to get his mind back on his work.
Still with the warp engines. But under pilot’s control.
Oh, and mares? Just as lively. Slightly less electric in general, but that’s mostly because they don’t see the point. Mares have more important things to do in this life.