Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The importance of discipline.

I know that in this post, I am actually preaching to the choir.  The people who read my blog already know all about what am I about to say, but some one someday, years from now, might run across this blog and read this and take it to heart.  

Besides, I want to tell you how I spent my lunch break.
WARNING:  if you are squeamish, you'd better stop here.

If you read my post about "Some People" then you know the story of the gal with the mare and the torn ligament.
Rose, is a very pretty mare.

With a "I am the boss" attitude.  You would think a horse in this much pain, with only three legs would have a  hard time asserting her position as boss.  If you thought that, you thought wrong...as did I.

"Poor thing" probably hasn't really slept in a week. She has been standing on three legs for a week. She can't lie down, if she tried I doubt she could get back up.

Her leg was wrapped tightly to limit mobility.  Bruce, my vet who x-rayed her, is scheduled to come back this Thursday.  Today the mutual friend, Cheryl,  texted me and said Rose's leg had burst open.

They decided to get some antibiotics to give her.  I asked if they needed help. They said yes, so I went there on my lunch break.  They had told me she was pretty good for shots, so I figured it would be no problem.
We pulled the bandage off and cleaned it up.

The hole in the back is where it is oozing from.  I got the syringe ready, and had Cheryl try to hold her, while Michelle the owner stood outside.  Cheryl was not strong enough, and the bossy mare basically just ran my butt over.  Never even got the needle in.

We opted to try for the butt, figuring that being on 3 legs kicking was unlikely.  We figured wrong.  I saw the warning tail flick, and the leg start to come up and I backed off.  All I needed was an angry, hurt horse to fall on top of me while I have a 16G needle in my hand.

We tried the neck again, with Cheryl giving her treats to keep her distracted, same thing, dang near pinned me against the wall.

Sorry folks, I'm not getting myself hurt because of your unruly horse.

Most horses try to move away when you give a shot, but she was headed straight for me.  It could be the confined area, it could be that she wanted to head toward the gate. I don't know for sure, but I wasn't about to let myself end up with a broken foot, or worse.

We tried a couple of the local vets, to see if anyone would come out, the refuse to work on her unless they can shute her, which requires getting her into a trailer. A three legged horse in a trailer is going to have issue, but one vet was close and a slant load with panels might have done the trick  BUT, she hasn't been trailered since the day she brought her home. Heck if we could get her in the trailer we could give her the shot there.   Finally one vet agreed to come and try a shot of Bantamine to maybe calm  her down some.  Then Cheryl will try the shot of Penicillin again.

Meanwhile I gave Michelle a task to do while she waited till three for the vet.

Grab the halter and hold on. The minute she stops fighting, let her go and give her a treat. Keep doing this until you can hold her without her fighting you.

I doubt she will do it, but it was the best advice I have for her.

I had sent one of these pictures to Bruce who called me shortly after I got back to work.  He is worried. Worried because the horse is so hard to treat due to her lack of discipline. Worried because she should not have this much pus pouring out of her leg over a torn ligament.  Worried that there is more going on here than what he originally thought.

So what is our lesson from the story of Michelle and Rose?

An undisciplined horse is a dangerous horse.

Even pet horses need rules.

A person may think they are being nice to their horse by never subjecting them to something they don't like, but the reality is that someday, that lack of training is going to come back to haunt them.

Boundaries are vital when dealing with an animal that outweighs you by more than a thousand pounds.

Our horses are not our babies, but they need the same leadership and stability that our children need in order to keep them safe and to help them function in our human society.

I watched the pain in Michelle's eyes as she realized that the reason her horse is suffering so badly is because she never took the time to teach her anything.  She is helpless right now to help this mare that she loves so much.  Her mistakes were not out of neglect but out of ignorance.  Her heart is breaking, she is learning the lesson in one of the hardest ways I can imagine.

I remember a time when I was very much like her. I was lucky and found a friend who taught me the proper way to own a horse, and I listened.

Hopefully when this is all said and done, if the mare survives (doubtful) she will take the time to work with her everyday,teaching her respect and boundaries,  and seek out advice from someone who knows more than she does.  If Rose doesn't survive, then hopefully Michelle will turn her attention to her other horse (yes she has two) and learn from her mistakes.

The one thing I know for sure....I learned a ton from watching this little 3 ringed circus.

My horses are pretty respectful, and well behaved, and in an emergency I can give them shots or Bute or what ever, pretty much with out incident.   But I have seen my own tendency to focus on one horse at a time and let the others sort of do their own thing.  Sometimes I get so focused on that one, I slack off on my time with the rest, which gives them plenty of time to revert back to their pushy, bossy selves.

Danny gets bossy at feeding time, snaking his head at me, and pawing at the ground.  Sassy likes to sling her head sideways into mine at feeding time, and point her butt at me when it is time to halter her. Trax becomes a solitary soul and impossible to catch.  Killian gets even more lazy and stubborn and then pretends he is afraid of things he isn't to get out of working.

If I'm going to have 4 horses I need to remember that 4 horses need my attention. Even if it is only a minute a day.  I have to go up and rub Trax everyday, I have to force Danny to be respectful at dinner, Killian needs to move when I say, Sassy needs to keep her head and butt out of my face. They all need that constant contact...just like my kids.


  1. I feel so badly for your friend. It's a hard realization to have to come to in this circumstance, and I can only imagine how she must feel.
    But, your words are so true...an undisciplined horse will pay the price for their uninformed owners someday. The best deal we can offer our horses is by providing them with a good, basic foundation/education and respect for humans. It is exactly the same with children. No discipline means some very hard lessons later in life. Could they medicate her with an oral antibiotic any easier? Penicillin is a difficult task for most people, even with a respectful horse.

  2. Just thought of something else, if she is 3-legged lame and cannot get relief on that other front foot, they'd better get some kind of padding and support for the weight bearing foot. Otherwise, she'll be foundering in her good leg. If that happens, she's probably a dead horse for sure. Would hate to see that happen, she's a nice looking mare.

  3. That is the problem, you can't do anything oral, you can't do shots, you can't do anything period. The minute you touch her halter she is gone gone gone. I spent a good amount of time just holding her, forcing her to accept it, just to get her used to it. The problem is that the ONLY time this horse gets haltered is to have something "bad" done.

  4. That is so frustrating. That poor mare! I really hope the owner has this as a wake up call and gives her other horse the basic training that she needs.

    I used to lease a horse at a private residence. The woman that lived there had Oreo (the one i was riding) her daughters horse, and her own OTTB mare. I helped out doing chores and whatever needed to be done. When I had to go into the OTTB's stall, it always made me nervous. She had been trained and was being ridden by a trainer for a long time, until she could no longer afford it. She was a super sweet mare but she was clearly not respectful of people, and it always made me so thankful that nothing happened on my watch.

    The woman that lived there was around 80, and had the OTTB as a pasture pet, but I remember a similar situation, when she went to put her blanket on and she started fly kicking at her stomach because she wanted to eat, so the solution was to simply not put her blanket on. Stuff like that, clearly just disrespect for humans.

  5. Ahh nuts!!! what a mess there is an oral antibiotic that goes in feed they will usually take it called uniprim , mix it with grain and it is pretty palatable . 2 other things, neither are your problem but I get the sense you will help where you can .,, when trying to give a rotten horse a shot , turn the head toward you and keep circling tightly as you administer, kind of a challenge as antibiotics are a larger shot(you can get someone you trust to hold the horse and move with you),but doable . second ,she needs both legs wrapped or the other one is at risk for compensatory founder . Good of you to try to help I know how frustrating that can be, hope the poor mare is Ok

  6. That's really sad. I hope it has a good outcome.

    I know my lack of training bit me in the butt at the vet once when we had to clip under Bella's jaw. She was terrified and struck out - something I NEVER thought she'd do, but she had no other options, she was being held so tight. She didn't hit anyone, thankfully. Recently I've been thinking about that. Time to get out the clippers and do some training with all of mine. I wonder what the donkeys will think of it.

  7. The update on the Rose is that she was given a shot of Banamine yesterday, and then they used oral antibiotics mixed in Root Beer, which she did not turn her nose up at. I have never heard of using root beer. I guess they used Michelles other horse to keep Rose distracted while she got her shot. Brilliant!
    I suggested to Michelle, that she shake the carbonation out of the root beer first before giving her more today. I don't know that it would bother a horses digestion, but I'd sure not want to find out the hard way. Instinct tells me that since a horse can't burp, carbonation could be bad.
    I don't know why I feel like I need to help. I guess because working with horses is what I love to do. Plus this girl is obviously lost.