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Zan's Story: Weaning, a New Friend, and the Cross ties

 (October 2003)



I have a new friend named Willy.  He is a Thoroughbred gelding and he plays with me.  In truth, he’s a lot more fun than my horse mom, Rosie, ever was. I have known him for a while as he lives in the stall next to me and sometimes we play head games.  You know, those games where you stand facing each other and try to bite the other horse’s head.  This summer Rosie, and I were turned out during the day and Willy was in this stall which looks out into my field. He goes out at night and sleeps during the day. But he doesn’t always sleep and sometimes he stands with his head in his doorway and plays with me. We stand there trying to bite each other. I play head games with Rosie all the time, but she won’t bite back so I would rather play with Willy as he seems to like the game better. He’s pretty quick and sometimes he gets me on the nose.  Of course sometimes I get him too, but he’s a lot taller than me, so he can lift his head up out of range. I am learning to rear. That way I can still bite him when he puts his head up.


Well, today Willy came out with us. It wasn’t my idea. It was Rosie’s idea. Rosie and Willy are good friends and used to be turned out together before I was born. Maybe she missed him and wanted him to come out with us. He was just standing in his stall and she went up and unlatched his door and opened it. So he came out. I was so excited to have him come out to play, but then Rosie wouldn’t let me. Every time I tried to go see him, she would block me and send me away from him. I tried and tried, but eventually I gave up. So we all went out into the field and grazed together, with Rosie keeping herself between me and Willy.  I did keep an eye on him, just in case he did anything interesting but all he did was roll and eat grass.  Here is Rosie chasing me away from him:




And here we are once we all settled down:




Now that I have a new friend, I don’t spend all my time with Rosie. One day I went out into the field and when I came in, our nice big stall had a wall in the middle of it so that it was two stalls. That night when I got my dinner, I ate in one stall and Rosie ate in another. I got a little worried but I could see her through the bars and the doors were open so it was ok. Besides, this way she doesn’t steal my grain if she finishes before me. 


Over the next month I spent more time with Willy and less time with Rosie. I was worried at first and spent some time hanging around near Rosie, but after a while that got boring so I started going out into the field with Willy. Katie spent a lot of time with me too and she took me for lots of walks and sometimes just kept me company.  I was glad she was around.


To take my mind off things, Katie started teaching me to tie and stand in the wash stall on the cross ties.  She started teaching me to tie by looping a rope through a metal ring on the wall. One end was hooked to my halter and she held the other end.  She let the rope stay slack and just went about brushing me as usual. If I pulled back or forward to make the rope tight, then she asked me to move to put the slack back in the rope. If I put the slack back in the rope, she said “good” and I got a treat.   I don’t like having the rope tight so I was happy to move. It just took me a while to figure out how to put the slack back in the rope.


Once I was good at this, then Katie took me into the wash stall.  She put a long rope through the ring on one side and back and then held me with a rope on the other side of my halter too. If I stood quietly she would say “good” and give me a carrot. This was pretty easy so I got lots of carrots. I think it’s pretty easy to stand on the cross-ties. The hardest part is going into the wash stall as it’s like walking into a wall. I didn’t like it at first. I just didn’t see the point of walking into somewhere when I just had to turn around and go out.  Katie let me just stand there and look around and then she clicked me for every step forward. When I say she clicked me, I mean she said “good” and gave me a carrot. She uses the word “good” with me because it was too confusing for Rosie to have Katie clicking her and me at the same time.  Katie says that Rosie is very sensitive and she didn’t want to confuse her, especially when she was anxious about her foal. Katie was thrilled that Rosie would let her play with me so much me that she didn’t want to make her upset so she used a different marker word for me.  She says “good” in a very special way and I know it means I have done the right thing. 


Once I was more comfortable on the cross-ties with the ropes looped, Katie started tying me on one side. She also taught me that she could move me around when I was on them. If I get too far to the front and start to lean on the ropes, then she backs me up and clicks me. If I stay back and keep the ropes slack for a while, then she clicks me for that. I have lots of ways to earn carrots in the wash stall so I have decided that it’s a good place.


After I was really comfortable standing in the wash stall, Katie started hooking me up to the regular cross ties on both sides.  She always stays with me and makes sure that I don’t get bouncing around too much.  She spends a lot of time grooming me there as she says she likes to make me look nice.  I have gotten so I kind of like it there. I get lots of carrots and I know that the other horses go there too so it makes me feel like a big horse.


The next story is Meeting the vet and shots.





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