Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring = Grumpy

Although we are still hovering around the -2C mark, they are predicting warmer weather as the week progresses. The Canada geese have started arriving in droves and I have seen robins at my bird feeders the last two weeks, so that means Spring is here. Yay!! :-)

With Spring, comes a change in routine at the stables. Recently, Gem has not been getting the same amount of turnout that he is used to. A week ago, LA brought in the herd from the pastures to allow the ground and grass to recover. The herd is now in the small field behind the barn. The gate leading to the field is right out the back door of the barn next to Gem's stall, so he can see and smell the herd when the door is open. The other horses that are not turned out with the herd (Gem included) are now taking turns with the paddock and round pen. This means that Gem is only getting a couple of hours of turnout each day. That, coupled with seeing the herd so close at hand, has made Gem a very grumpy boy. Can you spell B-R-A-T??

The last couple of times I have seen him, we have had some issues with him knocking me with his head and chewing the halter and pulling it out of my hands when I am trying to put it on him. He gets squirmy when I groom him. I have to remind him not to rush me when we are walking to the arena. He’s not only pushy, but his mouthiness has caused some problems. One of the ladies who takes care of the morning chores was sweeping in front of Gem’s stall. This woman loves Gem and they have a morning ritual. He started to mouth the back of her jacket….not an unusual thing for him to do to her apparently. But this time, when he didn’t get the attention he wanted, he bit her shoulder!! I was absolutely devastated when LA told me. I almost felt sick to my stomach. For the time being, Gem has to have the top part of his stall door closed. He has company in the barn when it comes to badly behaved horses, but I never thought he would be joining their ranks. :-(

It was extremely windy yesterday. After struggling with tacking up a jiggly horse, we stepped out into the sunshine, me first then Gem. As I started to walk Gem around me so I could turn and close the barn door, he spooked. I mean reared up a couple of times and backed away from me. Fortunately, I didn’t loose the reins and had the good sense to give him some length so that he didn’t pull me off balance. I suspect that it was LA’s daughter moving around near the old barn that caught him off guard. The swirling wind didn’t help. In any case, I talked softly to him and shortened the length of the reins to get closer to him and touch him. I walked him around the yard so he could see that there were no horse eating monsters about. His nostrils were big and he was snorting. I have never seen him do that. Once I thought he was calm enough, I opened the gate and led him down to the arena. I have to admit that I was quite pleased with myself with the way I was able to calm him. I am not a freaker-outer; you want me in your corner if there is an emergency. So, I was glad he responded to me even when I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Yesterday’s ride was a 2 on a scale of 10. He was hard to keep focused. He was full of beans for sure, but he just didn’t want to work! I had brought my dressage whip with me (everyone, including LA keeps telling me that it is my friend!), but I put it down 5 minutes after I got on him. In retrospect, that was probably a mistake. He did not respond to any of my cues the first or second time and I ended up kicking a lot, which I hate. If I had had the whip, he response time may have improved. He just has to see the whip and he has an attitude adjustment. We basically fought for over an hour. I know I caved on disciplining him on numerous occasions, but I was exhausted and I sensed that he recognized this weakness. He knows that through his physical strength and stubbornness, he can tire me out. It is times like these I do feel my age and wish that I had started riding 30 years ago!

So, Spring may be here but it also means that I will probably have to put up with Gem’s grumpiness for another month while the pastures dry out. Wish me luck. Sigh…..

What was I thinking….?


  1. It sounds like it's going to be a long couple of weeks with Gem until he gets full days out again. They do get grumpy when they have their privileges taken away from them. I can't even imagine what brats my herd would be if they were in limited turnout for a few weeks. If I'm even a half hour late for turnout they start throwing halters and leads and whatnot down the aisle to show their disapproval of my tardiness. Wishing you good luck.

  2. :( Not enough turn out makes Gem a grumpy boy. He sounds frustrated- I'd venture to guess that the whip wouldn't have helped if you'd kept it.

    Can you spend some extra time just hand grazing him?

  3. GHM - You know, he was grumpy last year, too, but I don't remember it being this bad. The change is still new, so I am hoping he adjusts quickly.

    Shannon - You are probably right, the whip wouldn't have made a bit of difference. Unfortunately, there is nothing for him to graze and everywhere else is mud. I am contemplating asking LA if I can let him run around like a maniac in the arena if I can swing leaving work early some time this week.

  4. It's that time of year; our greys are getting a bit grumpy, too (cut down on the dog park because it was a swamp, and then a frozen swamp). Everyone is waiting for spring!

  5. I went through that at one barn (the best barn I have ever had a horse at). All the horses were pulled off the pasture and turned out in dry lots for about a month early in the spring. It meant there would be pasture all year instead of letting the horses trample all the new growth and turn everything to mud. But some, including mine, got grumpier everyday. EVERYONE was relieved when the pastures were re-opened. Hang in there ;-)

  6. Ayup. You're not alone, for sure. Lack of turnout (or even if they are out, like Miles, they are pretty much just standing around) equals the crazies. It's all about how you handle it though, right? It sounds like you did just fine:) This too shall pass....

  7. I do think you may have to firm up on the head knocking. Your space has to be sacred or you might get hurt.

    But we would all have cabin fever if we were locked up for so long.

  8. Anyone, animal or person, would be grumpy when cooped up for so long; and seeing the other horses having 'out-and-about' time surely isn't helping. Sounds like Gem needs some play-time to get his angst out of his system. Is it possible to go on a trail ride or isn't it safe yet?
    Btw, I'm in awe of your handling his spooked behaviour -- well done, you.
    Don't get too down {hugs}, wishing you TONS OF LUCK!!!

  9. Morning!

    I have to say that I am relieved to see that I am not alone when it comes to Spring grumpiness. I know that it's only for a few weeks and then everything will be back to normal. Thanks very much for the sanity check, everyone!

    Breathe - I agree with your comment re head knocking. It will be addressed.

    Joy - Unfortunately the trails are just mud right now, so we need to wait until it dries out a bit before we can go out. Thanks for the "well done" re spook! :-)

  10. Poor Gem! And poor Wolfie!
    I hope you all get some nice, warm and windy weather so that the ground dries up quickly.

  11. Hello HoC! - My instructor actually rode Gem on Monday afternoon and let him burn off some steam. He was much better during lesson last night; still grumpy, but better. :-)

  12. Be careful. That head knocking thing is dangerous. It only takes once just right for a major head injury. I deal with that with my youngsters and they learn fast it's not allowed. Spring grumpies are no excuse for doing dangerous things. I want to be sure my daughter is safe because she can't afford being knocked in the head, not that any of us can.

    I'm glad you got some help from your instructor riding Gem. Sure that will go along way to getting him out of his spring mad.