Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Horse Virus MeMe Strikes Again !

' Horse Quirks '

Victoria at Teachings of the Horse has asked for volunteers for the new horse virus afflicting the blogosphere, so I am volunteering in the hopes I will not be “tagged” by other bloggers. Below is a list of quirks that distinguish each member of our herd as an individual.


Blue is kind of a loner – he has almost no “herd instinct;” sometimes when he’s out in the back field by himself, it will take him an hour or two to realize the rest of his herd is already in the barn and eating dinner.

Blue can often be found with his head stuck in a bush for no apparent reason. We’re convinced he’s practicing his meditation.

He is a stealth escape artist. Say you are bringing hay into the field on the back of a truck; you look around and no sign of horses. But, if there is a gate open in the paddock for even a minute, rest assured Blue is hiding behind a bush or a shed somewhere, watching. When he sees an opening, he’ll come tearing “out of the blue” and through the gate… to freedom!

Blue is one-with-the-deer. While living out, all of the horses will come into the shed at feed time and hang out there eating their hay for a good portion of the night. But Blue is not one of them. Instead, he’s usually to be found right in the middle of a herd of deer. The deer seem to take no notice of him, and he seems to be more at home among them than the other horses sometimes.

Birds regularly perch on his hindquarters while he’s out grazing, making him resemble a rhinoceros of the Serengeti.

When Blue can’t be bothered to come in from the back field, we leave the gates open for him and eventually he will come moseying into his stall; though when allowed to wander into his stall from the paddock, he will occasionally make a detour to climb into the dumpster and just stand there.

If you turn Blue out in an indoor full of jumps, he will voluntarily jump an entire “course” on his own – think of a jump-off with lots of turns and lots of speed!

Blue apparently can’t eat his grain until his bucket is arranged “just so” – he works it out so that one of the snaps kinks and holds that side of his bucket up higher than the other. Not until his feed bucket is properly tilted can Blue commence his feeding frenzy.

He will not drink anything but fresh water; if his bucket is filled during the day, it’s no good. He has to watch you fill it before he’ll drink.

He will not put his halter on to go out in the morning until he has relieved his bladder

Blue can sleep through anything. In his stall, he likes to bury his head under one of his banks and it’s Lights Out! But, even at his first show – which was an away show during which he was stabled in an indoor arena for a week – he slept – and I mean, lying down – while a stranger braided him for the first time.


Donnie is a cheeky monkey. He is always up for roughhousing, games and other mischievous antics – even when no one else is in the mood, somehow, Donnie always convinces the herd to play along.

Even though he is a shy, cautious horse, his curiosity and intelligence usually get the better of him. He can dismantle a round pen (the kind with chains, though I’m sure, he could remove pins as well…) and free any horse imprisoned within. He can also open gate and stall latches, and when that fails, he can pop out fence boards with his chest.

For Donnie, being the lowest status horse in the herd does not inhibit his ability to get in a few cheap shots on his buddies – he simply waits until they are on the ground rolling to make his sneak attack… no one is safe.

He is the all-time reigning champion at “halter tag” – he can break or otherwise remove the halter from any other horse at any time. He also enjoys leading other horses around by their halters. Needless to say, we don’t turn out with halters these days…. He’s pretty good with blankets, too.

Donnie play-fights like a zebra – he goes for his opponent’s legs and then sits down or kneels to protect his own. He’s a dirty little fighter!

Donnie is phobic about anyone touching his ears while putting his halter on, but loves it when you stick your fingers into them and scratch!

Donnie was abused before we got him and used to be extremely shy. Now he is the barn mascot and talks to everyone who enters the barn. And his reaction to people he likes? He gently grabs them by the sleeve or the front of their jacket (never pinching the skin) and pulls them over to the front of his stall to play.


Mellon has a phobia about paper cups. Don’t walk past his stall with a coffee cup in your hand unless you’d like him to ricochet off the back wall of his stall, and don’t even try to get a drink of water while mounted at a hunter pace checkpoint!

Though not a fan of having body clippers actually on his body, he loves to have his face clipped with the body clippers. Same goes for the hose; he’ll do his best to prevent you from getting his legs or body wet, but he’ll absolutely insist you soak his head.

He is quick with his feet – at one barn where there was a rat problem; we’d muck out several flattened rats every morning. We had a similar problem with horseshoe crabs at the beach (we tried to explain that “horseshoe” was just a nickname and that they weren’t going to become attached to his feet, but he wasn’t buying it.) The same is true with hoof oil cans; leave one near his feet and then surprise him with the hoof-oil brush at your own peril! Try cleaning an exploded can of hoof varnish off the walls once and you’ll never make that mistake again.

Mellon could be the most regal – even prissy - horse you will ever meet, but he cannot resist covering his entire head with bran mash when he’s lucky enough to have one for dinner. In fact, it gets in his ears, his mane and even his on shoulders. Not really sure how he does it… or why… but, it makes him happy…

Mellon always has to be first – first to eat, first to come in, first to go out or he’ll become hysterical. I recall the first barn where he was stabled had low ceilings and, because his stall was on the end, he was turned out last. there were hoof prints on the ceiling!

Mellon lives for grooming – preferably with other horses. He sets up shop - “Mel’s Fabulous Manes” - and will stand in one spot in a run in shed, and the rest of the herd will line up and wait for their grooming appointment. He’ll also groom humans – Mellon thinks people look best with huge dreadlocks of hair sticking off the sides of their heads, preferably held in place by copious amounts of horse slobber – his own line of styling product, if you will…

After the water trough has been scrubbed and refilled, Mellon will sometimes take up a post as the sole guardian of the water. He can spend hours standing over it. Maybe he’s guarding against slobbery backwashers? Or keeping the birds from mistaking it for a bath? No one but Mellon knows for sure…


Nate is a little like a trained elephant at a circus – put a block or any other solid object in front of him, and he’ll stand on it with as many of his feet as he can manage. This includes trying to get onto the mounting block with you, or standing on your step stool while you are pulling his mane. We like to ride in the field and once left a mounting block out there – when we came out in the morning, we found Nate standing proudly with both of his front feet on the top step. We have no idea how long he had been standing like that….

Don’t ever bend over in front of Nate or he will ram your backside with his head like a goat, sending you flying across his stall to do a face-plant in the shavings. Or, alternatively, he will amuse himself by grabbing the waistband of your pants and lifting you off the ground – the equine equivalent of an atomic wedgie. Always best to pick out his front feet on the cross-ties…

Nate will try to remove your shoes with his teeth (and is sometimes successful!) If his nose is near the ground, don’t stand still for too long!

If you’re not paying attention while you’re riding, Nate will turn around and grab the end of your dressage whip, pull it out of your hand, put the other end under his foot and snap it in half. We’ve lost a lot of whips that way… Also, one icy day when we turned out in the indoor, he picked up a longe whip lying on the ground and chased another horse around the arena with it!

Nate will try to fit his head into any opening he encounters – sometimes with disastrous results – he will also try to squeeze under things clearly not designed to accommodate his 17.2hh frame – stall guards, tree limbs, and even an entire fallen tree in his paddock… going down hill… at a full gallop…

Nate can be in a 40 acre field of lush pasture, but will be the only horse sticking his head through the fence by the road to nibble on dirty weeds.

Nate likes to dismantle things – grooming kits, tack trunks, jumps, flower boxes, radios, telephones – anything he can get his teeth and hooves on.

Nate loves to jump things out in the field. If no actual jumps are available, he’ll look for interesting hills to fly off of or puddles to leap over!

Nate’s idea of “playing” involves three things: chewing on another horse’s chin (I know, it’s a little odd), clamping his jaws over the other horse’s mane and not letting go, and hovering over the other horse’s back with his jaws open in the annoying big-brother gesture of “I’m not touching you, I’m not toooouuuuching you, heheheheheheh…..”

Nate, the barn mayor, can finagle food from even the most stingy of herd-mates. When dining out in the field, Nate has been known to casually visit each horse’s bucket, take a taste and move on. Oddly enough, no one seems to mind, including Mellon. After all, he’s just being “Nate.”


Dusty thinks she’s Marilyn Monroe reincarnated. She must be groomed endlessly, and when she’s had enough of her adoring public, will slam her stall door shut. Then, when she hears the feed bucket or the hay cart come out, she’ll whip open her door and emerge from her stall again.

Likes: stomping in muddy puddles, stuffing all of her hay into her water buckets, snorkeling in same water buckets, trotting as fast as her legs will go, her breastplate (it enhances her cleavage!), and cameras (so she has something to pose for.)

Dislikes: standing still, following anyone (she has to be in front!), waiting for people to mount (let’s go already!) foreign objects in her mouth (like bits) and of course, those stupid boys!

Until next time

Quote for Today

Horses have as much individuality and character as people.

- C.W. Anderson

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