Friday, August 10, 2012

SAMO (Suddenly Appearing Moving Objects), and a Horse with a Plan

My fall off Pie made me think more about what causes him to spook.  Now, Pie's not really a spooky horse - he doesn't really care about things that sometimes scare or worry other horses.  He's generally a laid-back kind of guy.  When he sees a strange object, he will take it in and just go on his way - in fact, on the trail, he often gives other horses a lead if they're scared of something we have to pass.  He doesn't worry about bangs or crashes or heavy equipment.  I don't think this is because of any specific desensitizing, I just think that's how he is.

What gets Pie is the SAMO - the Suddenly Appearing Moving Object, particularly if the sudden appearance is due to it coming out from behind something else - a bush, the corner of a building, or in a window or doorway.  It wasn't there and then suddenly it was . . .  Things that suddenly come into view but that aren't moving don't have the same effect on him - he might look hard and even snort a little, but that's all.  And for some reason - it may well be coincidence - all the big spooks he's had have involved things moving rapidly on his left side.  (A horse running out of its paddock shelter, bikes with flags coming from behind a bush, passing a yard where a lady came walking fast from behind a bush - hmm, guess those bushes can be dangerous and there weren't too many of them where he grew up in Montana.) And he doesn't associate the place where the object jumped out with being worried - yesterday when I rode him (after buying my new helmet, and only briefly - several of my body parts were complaining) he could have cared less about the doorway where he'd been startled yesterday.  I'd taken him in hand before I rode into the doorways from the arena and banged and flapped things that we encountered, and of course he just looked at me like I'd lost my mind - "why are you opening and slamming that door and flapping that plastic bag?  Yawn . . ."

There's another category - the UMO - Unpredictable Moving Object - in Pie's case, running small children, particularly if they're also screaming, or jumping, or waving their arms.  We once confronted a whole class of these creatures on the trail, and Pie's reaction, even though they hadn't appeared suddenly, was to head for the hills.

Red's been getting up to some mischief in the pasture.  Both the barn owner and one of the trainers said they'd seen him harrassing - herding, nipping and chasing - one of the other geldings - one of the big guns in the gelding pasture.  Red's a horse with a plan - he's started making moves on the higher-ranking horses, taking on one at a time and moving right on up.  I've seen him doing that exact same behavior with other dominant geldings - once he's done with one he moves on to the next one.  By my count, he's only got one or two geldings left to go before he's made it to alpha status in the herd.  The funny thing is that all the dominant geldings in the herd are very big - some well over 17 hands - but little Red has no trouble bossing them around. So far no damage done, but if he starts getting more aggressive with anyone we'll consider another depo-provera shot, although I'd like not to make that a regular treatment.  So far it's just geldings being geldings and everyone seems to be taking it as that.

I took Red out for a big of lungeing yesterday, since the leg was looking very good - no swelling around the Achilles tendon or point of hock and very tight and clean in the lower leg as well.  He was happy to work at the walk, and even volunteered the trot, so we took a look at that.  When moving slowly or making a downwards transition, he's still a bit gimpy with the left hind, but when he's moving out in a straight line he looks almost 100%.  This is improvement, although slow improvement.  He did at one point stumble and trip in front while trotting - not sure what that was all about but it didn't look like it had anything to do with the hind end.  I won't ask him to trot on the line until Sunday, to see if things are still improving . . . keeping fingers crossed. . .

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