Well, somehow he managed to escape again yesterday. I am not sure of the details but it had something to do with having to turn off part of the fence because of the water tub heater or some such thing. Never a problem in the past, but within that 10-15 minute period, Gem found the right spot and made his escape. LA didn't realize he was gone (the fence had been turned back on long ago) until she heard DH softly whinny at the turnout fence when she was walking up to the house. She checked it out, discovering that Gem had escaped again. Sigh. He was with the herd for at least a couple of hours before he was brought back in.
When I first became Gem's partner, he had been turned out 24/7, but was by himself. When he came to LA's facility, he had to learn to be in a stall and he had to learn to make friends with The Boys in the back turnout. It was different when he was being ridden, and I have never worried about him being aggressive to other horses during lesson. We tried him out with the herd initially, but he was too dominate and because of his size, LA was worried he could injure one of the other horses.
Now, two years later, LA is wondering if we should try him with the herd again. LA assured me she would observe him, making sure that the dominate, bullying attitude he exhibited when he first arrived doesn't reappear and cause any serious scuffles. If everything is OK, then he would be able to frolic with everyone else. My heart started to pound a bit, my anxiety level started to rise as she talked about the possibility. I think I have an idea of how a mother feels when their child is boarding the school bus for the first time. :-)
Me: (slightly whiny tone) When I came here, I told you that I would hate traipsing around the fields looking for my horse. I still feel that way. If he's turned out with the herd, I will be covered in snow going out to get him. I could fall!
LA: We can make sure that he's in the back turnout or his stall on the days you come here.
Me: I will be adding another day to my routine, but I don't know which day.
LA: You can call ahead and we will make sure he's in from the fields.
Me: He will turn into a lunatic, wanting to be with his new buddies, when we are out on the trail! Just when I am getting the hang of trail riding! I will be thrown or the other horses will charge me!
LA: I think you are being a bit dramatic.
Gem is smart, and in LA's opinion, he's a bit bored and looking to get into mischief, hence finding the weak spots in the fence. He knows the barn routine, and he will probably be waiting for her to turn off that portion of the fence. It's like a game to him now. Because of this, she will have to change the routine to turn him out later, after she is done warming the water tub. I am guessing that Gem will not be happy with this arrangement.
I liked Gem being in the back turnout area because I could easily call to him and he would come. I liked that bite marks were few and far between. I liked that he had his own private apple orchard. I liked that I could stand and easily watch him interact with DH. I liked that he had his own water supply close at hand. I liked that he had his own hay and I knew how much he was eating.
I whined my way through these "likes" with LA and we agreed to have him turned out with the herd on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It will break up the week for him. I see him every Sunday, lesson on Tuesday, out with the herd Wednesday and Thursday, I see him Friday or Saturday. I am nervous about this, but I can see how he would benefit mentally and physically if he's able to wander and socialize with the others. Expand his horizons, so to speak.
When I arrived for lesson last night (rescheduled from Tuesday because of -20C weather), I carefully checked him out for bumps. I found four big bite marks; two on each butt cheek. No damage anywhere else. I asked one of the ladies who works at the barn if she was the one to bring him in from the field yesterday after his escape. She responded that she found him chowing down at the big bale of hay, the only one eating while the other horses stood around him, watching. Hmmm.....perhaps that bullying attitude has not left completely....
* * * * *
Last night I picked up Jean and we drove to lesson together. We drove on roads that were still a bit treacherous from the recent freezing rain. We managed to skate up and down the lane way at the barn a few times without falling. We led our horses down the dark, icy lane way to the arena without incident. Had a great lesson on frisky horses and then had to lead them back up the skating rink to the barn. No problemo! I removed my helmet and coat and I untacked Gem. As I was carrying my saddle blanket back to the tack room, the little saddle pad that I use under the blanket slipped and dropped in front of me, causing my feet to get tangled up and I went down....hard.... My shoulder took the brunt of the fall, then my elbow. I was fortunate that the saddle blanket softened the blow in some ways and my head did not connect with the cement. Jean and LA's mother had to help me up.
On the way home, Jean and I experienced a whiteout on the highway - my first. It was like driving into a wall of white. We both said "Holy Sh--! at the same time. I had no point of reference to indicate where I was on the four-lane road. We were both very nervous.....OK, we were scared! :-) I managed to crawl along and eventually saw the haze of a street light, indicating civilization, that we used as our beacon. Whew!
So, I managed icy roads and lane ways....walked my horse on skating rink conditions...and survived a terrifying white out. But it was a stupid saddle pad that got me! I can barely lift my arm today, my shoulder hurts that much. Fortunately, it's my left shoulder/arm so I was able to put my makeup on with no problem. ;-) Be careful out there.....you never know what's going to get you!
Have a great weekend, everyone!