Thursday, March 29, 2012
Herd dynamics fascinate me. So why did it take me so long so realize I was part of it?
It dawned on me one bleary morning as I trudged out to feed breakfast hay in my bathrobe and Carhartt sweatshirt. (As if you needed further confirmation that I am a bit hick.)
I witnessed the top-down, trickle-down dynamics as the horses shuffled for position in the new order. I moved Brooke. Brooke moved Shea. Shea moved Pep. Pep moved Comet. It was a fluid pecking order. Everyone knew her position and I was at the top.
Over the next few days, I paid more attention to their movements when I arrived. They didn’t need to move the next horse down the line. They seemed to do it simply to assert their new position, after I’d inserted myself at the top.
Speaking of Herd Movement:
Ever watch a really good tennis player against a lesser player? The good player barely moves as he hits his shots. The lesser player chases those shots all around the court and uses tons of energy.
That’s what higher ranked horses do, too. They can move others without lifting a hoof. All it takes is a pursing of the lips, pinning of the ears, or swish of the tail.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Today, Declan Gregg, a nine-year old boy from Greenland, New Hampshire is meeting President Obama. He will give him Denise Brown’s book, Wind, Wild Horse Rescue and urge him to consider today’s Million Horse March and the Slaughter House Prevention Act of 2012.
It’s part of an on-going effort to keep horses out of the slaughter stream. At the moment, unwanted mustangs and domestic horses alike get loaded on trailers bound for the slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico.
Concerned horse lovers are tackling this sad scenario in a number of ways:
- Some advocate for humane transport.
- Some want to make sure facilities don’t resume horse slaughter in the U.S.
Wind, Wild Horse Rescue is a children’s story about the plight and rescue of a mustang. The New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is using it as a teaching tool.
- Some work to keep as many mustangs on the range and out Bureau of Land Management hands altogether.
"Declan’s a great kid," said Brown, the author. "The future of wild horses is in the children's hands today."
In Iowa, there are 19 million hogs and 54 million chickens kept inside buildings, more than any other state in the country. Folks trying to ensure their good treatment lost an important tool last month when the state made it illegal to secretly record video of animal abuse.
Farmers say there are plenty of safe guards for welfare of their animals.
Advocates don’t think so.
"Iowans deserve to know where their food is coming from. They deserve to know how the animals they're consuming have been treated. They deserve to have the farms held accountable for the conditions in these facilities," said Suzanne McMillan, spokeswoman for the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
It’s no surprise that Governor Terry Branstad signed the law. He has strong ties to the agricultural industry. Agri-lobbyists say those legitimately employed can report abuse at these facilities. Uh-huh.
You gotta think: If these farmers are so humane to their animals, what do they have to hide? Other states are already introducing similar legislative bills.
Ok, so these aren't horses we're talking about.
But it surely could be.
I suppose that's the silver-lining with horse abusers: they usually commit their crimes in open air.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
When dozens of tornadoes ripped through Kentucky and surrounding states, they left the area looking like a surreal warzone.
And out of that crazy devastation came strange stories. One particular horse owner had the roof ripped off his house. Then his palomino gelding was lifted out of his pasture and deposited in said house.
In the kitchen, to be precise.
Click here for a local report, including vet interview.
Red Wings Horse Sanctuary is the largest horse rescue facility in Great Britian. They posted a video recently of donkeys being released to a spring pasture. A wee bit excited, they were. And I thought all Brits were refined and humorless. Check it out!
Thursday, March 15, 2012
‘Wait a minute and it will change.”
-- That’s what they say about the weather and how arbitrary it can seem around the Northeast.
But the phrase came to mind as I considered the blanket protocol from one farm to the next on a recent trip through northern New Hampshire, Vermont, and upstate New York.
It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the 30s and we passed farm after farm throughout the White and Green Mountain ranges.
-- One farm would have the horses bundled up like babies.
-- At the next farm, there wasn't a blanket in sight.
The weather was the same.
The horses all looked the same - your average quarterhorse type.
So I could only guess that it had less to do with the horse’s needs and more to do with the owner’s perception of the horse’s needs.
Click here for related story. (And please don’t call me a Blanket Nazi!)
Projecting is one of those favored therapist terms. That's what they call it when we project our own unpleasant feelings onto someone else and blame them for having thoughts that we really have. Or sumthin' like that.
So, can horses do it?
If so, I surely witnessed it in Comet. She’s the most bullied horse in my herd. And I think she gets a little weary and frustrated by this position.
The other day, my dog, Ruby, was hanging out with the horses. She sniffed absent-mindedly in the pasture, minding her own business (which is eating manure, of course). I watched as Comet approached the dog.
Ruby ignored her.
Comet stealthily maneuvered around the dog and positioned herself to get the most out of a double barrel kick to Ruby’s midsection.
I yelled. Comet, seemingly caught in the act, quickly stepped away and skulked off.
I’d be ok with thinking I was imagining things, but the big girl did it again today!
So I’m thinking I should have a little discussion with Comet about how this action will really not help how she feels about being at the bottom of the pecking order.
To cover my bases, I’ll also have a chat with Ruby to give her the heads up that she’s being targeted.
National Public Radio has a really fun running contest called "Three Minute Fiction."
Contestants have certain parameters and entries must be limited to 600 words.
Last year, I entered one of the contests. Entries had to have the words "plant, trick, fly, button." I thought my story was great. They didn't. CLICK HERE to read it. Judge for yourself. Heck, it'll only take three minutes!
It was super fun to enter and even moreso to read all the other entries.
This week's contest asks you to begin the story with the sentence: "She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door."
Where does she go?
Click here to read more about the contest. You've got 'til March 25. If you enter, let us know. We would love to read it.
And stay tuned for my entry. We will post all stories after the contest is over. And everyone who submits a story will receive a NickerNews t-shirt!
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Horse books usually don't make much of a splash, except perhaps when folks are drawn to them by movies like Seabiscuit, The Horse Whisperer, and most recently, Buck.
But Evidence-Based Horsemanship, the scientist-cowboy collaboration between Dr. Steve Peters and Martin Black, is already pulling ahead of the crowded field of horse non-fiction titles.
Since its release just last week, the book climbed all the way to Number Two among Horse books in the science-related field.
EBH has surpassed all books by Pat Parelli, Buck Brannaman, Mark Rashid, Monty Roberts, and others.
Of the nearly two million titles offered by Amazon, EBH ranks in the top 8,000. And it sits at the TOP SELLER among "Hot Releases" about horses.
Wow. That's ahead of a big Western Horseman feature article on laying down a horse which draws heavily on Peters' comments on the neuroscience involved when one performs this action with a horse.
Monday, March 05, 2012
When friends mentioned this crazy adventurer named Tim Cope, an Australian who took up riding and promptly set out on a 6,000 mile trek, I thought: ‘Wow, there must be a hitch…another bogus, spoofy reality adventure kind-of-thing.”
But Cope is for real.
Over three years with three horses, he retraced the journey of Ghengis Khan and traveled across the largely unfenced steppes from Mongolia to Hungary.
There’s a nifty map of his trip by clicking here to go to his website.
And a short video summarizing his travels by clicking here to go to his website.
It may not be a Tim Cope Journey, but it’ll be a heckuva fun challenge for me and Steve:
That's what I was thinking last month when I visited him in Iowa. He lives not far from the airport. And as my plane came in for the landing, I was sure I spotted his modest farmhouse and accompanying pasture, a dot among many similar dots on the beautiful Iowa landscape. Maine and Iowa both have a lot of rural to them. There's three million Iowans but they are spread across the state to just 54 per square mile. Maine has 43 folks per square mile.
Needless to say, there are a lot of pastures and farmhouses. (In Maine, there are a lot of trees.)
So, the next morning, I figured out how to get back to the airport via back roads and fields instead of the highway. It’d be six miles there, mostly on dirt.
Wouldn’t that be sumthin’ to get picked up from the airport by horseback? Or dropped off?
The timing would have to be good, ‘cause you wouldn’t want to pay for parking.