Desensitize, Friendly, Head of the Herd, Cinch & Saddle, Porcupine, Halter
Dealing with a mare in heat kind of sucks.
I started off Thursday morning as usual with some grooming and friendly game, then took her back out to the pasture. We had a bit of a breakthrough during grooming, as she allowed me to pick her hooves without a struggle and gave me free rein with a gloved hand under her belly except her inner thigh.
About an hour later, I set up the track like I did last week. I thought that if it is just presented like it was before everything would be fine and it would just become a thing, not a BIG thing.
I even set up the camera on a tripod so that I could get some shots of us as we passed each thing on the track – this time it was the temporary cinch, then the saddle blanket, then the real cinch.
While it could have ended worse than it did, it didn’t end like I wanted it to. The wind was really blowing. This is flat countryside, so it is fast and hard. The cattails were literally whistling and the sound coming from the tall swamp grass on the end of the track was loud.
We did the little snippet of video you see above at the 1/8th mile mark (the track is a 1/2 mile track that is graded and banked around the curves), then proceeded to walk around the track. When we got the the quarter mile mark and the real cinch, she put her nose to it but lost any and all focus. All of the sudden I was dealing with a quarrelsome nasty bucking bronco. She started pushing against me and wouldn’t give me her head. I don’t think it was the cinch itself. I’ve been introducing it to her in the barn for a couple of weeks and she is always fine with it. It sits on the tack wall across from her stall and she sees/smells it often.
I noticed that she was a little more hesitant and pushy when we entered the track, but chalked it up to the strong winds and the curve I brought her in on. She doesn’t like walking sideways on any incline and acts like she is going to fall down – sometimes tripping herself and spooking in the process.
When I tried to redirect her by disengaging her hind quarters, she worked with me on yo-yo ground work for maybe 30 seconds and then around she turned and up went those hind legs 5 feet from my face. Luckily I am using a 20 foot lead and can give her some flex. I did not retreat, but it was tough to stand my ground and still be safe.
As soon as she went up and came back down, she would snort, cross in front of me and start eating grass.
I wasn’t sure what to do – I wanted to take that damn carrot stick and beat her all the way back to the barn.
But I didn’t. I mentioned before that I don’t want to wrestle with her and get hurt. So I thought I would let her think that she is getting her way all the while working my way back to the barn. In hindsight, I should have changed direction and worked back to the other side of the track. So when she would circle in front of me, I would lead her back to my side having taken 5 or 10 steps. It is something like an equestrian Spirograph, I thought.
Once we got back to the yard and she saw the pasture, she was better. Once she saw the barn door, she was fine.
Because I didn’t want the session to end on a negative, I walked her up and down the asphalt driveway and in and out of the round pen a couple of times before taking her back into the barn. I took the lead rope off and let her hang out with me in the barn for a while as I alternately worked and did friendly stuff with her.
Then I noticed that she clings to the stall doors of the two geldings in the barn – Chief and Boomer. I asked Cynda what was up with that and she sighed and said that Kameo must be in heat. When I explained the whole thing she said “Oh, yeah. She’s in heat. This is why a lot of people don’t like dealing with mares.”
As the two days played out, I noticed what can and won’t happen when she is in heat.
She will work with me in the barn aisle or in the pasture, but leaving the male horses is out of the question. She tuns into a real jerk. I have never paid any attention to horses in heat before, and let me tell you: It ain’t pretty. She is such a little clingy slut! Constantly lifting her tail and “winking” in front of the geldings… who really can’t be bothered to notice. In fact, Chief kind of torments her by grabbing anything hanging from the ceiling around her and rattling it so that she startles.
So it turns out I am going to have to make lemonade out of some lemons. Gross, winking lemons.
We did the rest of our work in the barn with her lingering next to the stalls of the males. We actually got a lot done.
You can see in this video that the males are more interested in playing with each other that her. If you watch Chief (his is the stall she is standing in front of. He is a retired racing and polo thoroughbred.) you can see that he likes to grab the cross-tie chain outside his stall and swing it at her. When I am working with her, he will do it when her back is to him to startle her.
Since I am incorporating a lot of cinch and saddle work into our friendly play time without actually expecting her to bear weight, she is fine with it. I am going to make sure that at least twice a day when I’m on the farm she is blanketed, cinched, and saddled. I think we will even spend just some hangout time with her fully dressed.
So what did we get done, even with her in heat and grumpy?
- We have been able to get her in a bridle.
- She has been introduced to a bit.
- She can deal with the sound of plastic.
- She can take a saddle, pad, and cinch with minimal fuss.
- She can give me her hooves without a fight.
- She can, after about 30 minutes of grooming, be touched anywhere except her inner thigh.
So not too bad!
The end result of our two days: