Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I have talked extensively about my trusted helper…my faithful helper…the chick that I grab and say, “Hey! I need some help over here.” I believe everyone should have at least one, if not two of this type of person in their life. I can’t speak on more than two because I have only ever had two.  I suppose at some point, if your number of helpers became so great, it may not be beneficial any longer. Let’s say if you have 5 helpers, it may get confusing on who to call on.  Who is the best help for the job?  There may even be jealousy among the ranks.  I could see a number of things that could go wrong.  Regardless, I can confidently recommend one, if not two, is sufficient.

Up to this point, I have only written about one of my helpers. That is due to the fact that the other one has chosen to live in another town. It may have something to do with the unrelenting torture that I put her through when she lived at home, or it may be because she is in search of a higher education. I am not sure at this point. I can tell you that when she does decide to come home, I try to encourage her to work on at least one project with me. I do this for two reasons: one, to give my full-time help a break, and two, because as a part-timer, she should.

I mean really, it is the least that she can do.

The other night there was an incident in the barn that made me realize that there are some facts about my helpers that you are missing out on. I recently wrote about a reluctant helper that did not want to be involved with the healing of a poor chicken toe, you can read more here on How to Vermin proof a pole barn?  When she realized her services were not needed she sprinted at record speed to flee the scene. Now when she read that, she was like, “I did not sprint at record speed.” At which point I had to stop and explain to her that, “Yes, you did!” and then I had to follow that up with an, “It is okay. Running is your signature move.” Now, this started a whole debate, but it was one that I could easily win because she knows that I am right. It also started this story brewing in my brain. If you know me at all, you know that things brewing in my brain, greatly compromise all other brain activity. So, I must get this out.

When you have horses, you quickly become acquainted with the fact that they have a “Flight Instinct”.  Now for those of you who don’t have horses, what this means is that in a situation where a horse feels scared or threatened, they run. Sometimes they kick and then run, but they definitely run. It is bred into them, and it is what they do in the wild. Now, don’t get in a panic, they can be taught to overcome this instinct, and to stand their ground and face things that make them uncomfortable. All of this happens by building trust, and when they trust you, they stand with you. This story isn’t really about horses. This story is about running.

My full-timer has always been a runner. I don’t mean in High school on the track team, although she did that too. I mean from the time her little legs could hold her and she could balance on them, she has had a “Flight Instinct” that could rival any Wild Mustang. I never really could figure out why, but I did finally just learn to expect it. If there was a loud noise, and I mean anything, she was out of there. At a dead run! Like the biggest bear in the woods was right on her heels. This instinct was mostly triggered by noises that revolved around an engine or a tool, but it could be anything.

If we had company over, and we walked someone out to say good-bye?

The minute they got behind the wheel - I had a hand reaching for her. If I didn’t grab her, she would be gone once the vehicle was started.

Working on a project with a power tool?

You had better let her know it was going to be loud or you would find yourself running after her.

Doing any yard work?

Not a sign of her.

Fireworks show?

Are you kidding me?

It was just a fact of life. I would say that this went on until she was at least 6 or 7 years old. I guess we must have then entered a period of trust because she just learned to hold her ground and quit running. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at things, she never let go of the speed.

When horses and skunks and possums came into our lives, my helper fell back on the old reliable stand-by… RUN! Now this is not a complaint on my part, just merely stating the facts here. If there is something wrong, you can usually spot her heading at top speed in the opposite direction. Some examples would be…

We had a horse tied to the trailer once, and she was acting like an idiot and fell. I am vague on the details because I was not there. I was actually on the other side of two barns, and the Man in Charge was well, in charge. I heard all sorts of noises and banging coming from the area and ran in that direction just in time to spot my help running the opposite way. This is always a sign to me that things must be really bad. Somehow the horse was on the ground, and she had her leg under the trailer which is what she was banging on as she was trying to get up. Again, not sure on how it all happened, but it did work out in the end and there were no major injuries.

I know that one time she came face to face with a skunk in our horse barn, and then screamed and ran as fast as she could to the house to get me. I am in no way faulting her for this because I have repeatedly told everyone that when it comes to skunks – you better move! I will not hesitate to run you over, knock you down, tackle you, whatever it takes. Forget mothering, it becomes every man for himself. This incident worked out okay because apparently she scared the skunk more than it scared her.

There are countless other examples of things going wrong and there she goes, but I can’t recite them all here. I can tell you that the other night brought all the memories back.

I have introduced you to our Stallion, Deuce.  I explained that on cold nights he gets a little frisky when he comes in, and then somehow you have to manage to get his blanket on him. Now, we have not had any major excitement like I have had with his sister. I haven’t gotten the thing stuck on his head or anything like that. I did manage to learn that lesson on her, but he is a Stallion, and I do know that I have to always be aware of what he is doing.

We have had a stretch of cold days the last few weeks, and every night they have been blanketed. I always halter Deuce when I go in to put his blanket on, only because he seems to know I mean business if he has his halter on. If I don’t put it on him, he is more likely to goof around and he won’t really stand still as well. The Man in charge never halters him – I always halter him. I am not interested in chasing him around trying to get his stinking blanket on.

The task goes something like this…

He walks to the door. I slip the halter over his head.

He backs up. I open the door and go in.

I put him where I want him and tell him to stand still.

I throw the lead rope over his neck.

He may or may not try me and take a few steps forward.

If he does, I back him up and tell him to stand still.

At this point, he gives in and starts sticking his tongue out, playing with it or yawning.

I throw the blanket over his back and get it centered.

I put my hand on his nose and pull the neck opening over his head.

Once his head is through the opening, I straighten the blanket on him.

I reach around his left hind leg and pull the strap through and attach it.

I move up his left side, squat down reaching the strap on the opposite side of his belly and attach it to the left side. This maneuver is always tricky because he is flexible enough to reach around and bite me if he wants to. He hasn’t ever bitten me, but I don’t kid myself.  It isn’t because he won’t. It is because I won’t let him. So this is all done with one eye on him.  This makes me flexible, too.

Then I move to the right side and I have to reach around his hind leg and pull that strap through and attach it.

Now it is on this last move that things have been getting interesting. He has decided that he wants to move that leg around. I do not like this. It is a vulnerable position to be in, because if he kicks and I am bent over right there, he will kick me in the face or if I am not bent over he will very likely take out my knee cap. Either way, I am not interested in having this experience with him. The technical term for this is a Cow-kick. I tried to look it up to see why they call it that and the definition I found was:

Cow-kick - A forward kick with a hind limb, dangerous to the mounting rider of a horse, or to the clinician examining a cow.

It is a forward kick with the hind leg, and I guess that cows and horses are the ones that do it. I haven’t really experienced it being a danger to a mounting rider as much as I have experienced it being dangerous to the Farrier when he is trimming their hooves, or in this situation, where I want to put my arm around his back leg.

So, being cautious and observant, I make him move away and get in a position where he has his weight on that leg, and to let him know that this is not a game that we are going to play. Now this new added exercise went on for several days, and each day he moved, and each day I moved him away from me and repositioned him.

Of course, you should know that I don’t usually go to the barn and do this by myself. I like to have someone with me in the event that things go south.

Well, can you guess who was with me the other night?

You got it!

My faithful helper and I headed to the barn for our nightly chores of rounding up and counting chickens, running Deuce in and blanketing both horses, checking water, and feeding everyone. Some of you will make fun of me for this, but on nights when it is really cold, like in the 20’s, we carry hot water to the barn and warm up the horse’s drinking water. Horses don’t like to drink cold water, and they will drink less. This isn’t always a good idea because it can cause a horse to colic, and that is not something you want to spend a cold night dealing with. I won’t go into those details at this time, but after a few cold winter nights in the barn with a horse in pain because of colic, I have decided that we can carry buckets of hot water…not a problem.

I got Blaze blanketed and my help followed with two buckets of water. I moved on to Deuce and she headed back to the house to grab some more water. Everything went as usual. I got him haltered and he stood where I put him. His blanket went on, got pulled over his head, and was straightened. The strap on the left leg was done, the belly strap was done, and then I moved to the right side. He sort of picked his leg up. This was day four or five of this new game, and I was over it. I popped him on the rear at the same time I was telling him to move and then he Cow-kicked at me.

I went ballistic.

This is unacceptable behavior and I am not having it.  I am not really sure of what happened next. It was very fast and I am sure a little more than excessive, but I was yelling, cussing, whipping him with the end of his lead rope, and it was a full on throw down. When I was certain that he had gotten my point, I put him back where I wanted him standing and grabbed his halter so that we could see eye to eye.

Now a lot of people think that horses don’t have personalities or understand what you are saying, but I can tell you that when this horse gets it, and when he understands that he has done wrong, and he is uncertain of what to do next – He blinks. Yes, blinks. He blinks his eyelids so hard that you can hear them. And when he blinks loudly he just stands there and waits for you to tell him it is alright and what he should do. It is safe to say that we were at this point when we came eye to eye. I was slowing my breathing down and talking in a low, calm voice, and we discussed that this was unacceptable, and that we weren’t going to have it anymore.

It was at this point that I noticed that my help was standing just inside the doorway of the barn. When I quit talking to him, she very quietly asked me if everything was alright. I answered that I thought so for now, and asked what she had heard. I was sure it wasn’t pretty, but I couldn’t really recall what I had been saying. She said she didn’t hear specifics, but just a lot of noise as she came across the yard and she was certain that someone was getting a spanking.

Now at this time, I noticed that she still had her hand on the door.

Was she getting ready to run for help? 

Or, was she getting ready to run for the hills?  

I do know that eventually she would get help, but I was questioning just how much running would take place first?

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