Mar 18, 2012

Notebook, check. Pencil, check. Subject, Equus Erratus, check.

It was so strange watching him that day. He didn’t seem upset or hysterical. He actually looked quite businesslike as he went back and forth, never changing his rhythm or his posture. He clearly didn’t want the company of the other horses; his neighbors had come over to give a horsie hello and he didn’t seem to see them or respond in any way. ‘Places to go! Things to do! No time for chitchat!’ he might have said. He didn’t care to eat and roll on the grass. You really couldn’t tell *what* he wanted, if anything. But it was clear that none of the usual management nostrums were going to work with Bryan.  I had a feeling that I was in uncharted territory.

But for the first time since he had arrived I felt calm, interested, and intrigued. That near death experience, my unexpected and happy survival, and my acceptance of the task in front of me had utterly dismissed my previous discouraged feeling of God Help Us! Knowing that I would help him, either by rehabilitation or mercy killing, gave me a goal.

So, there he was. I remembered from Lisa that he was also…er…unnerved when she first got him but that he had eventually (note to self: ask Lisa how long 'eventually' was...) settled in to her routine. I would work him, ride him, clip him, and deal with him like any of the other boys, and get to the bottom of him, or that would be that. I would now consider all of our interactions Data Gathering, and go from there.

And so, Bryan Data Point #1. Does he evince this repetitive behavior in all turnout situations?

Experiment A: Place Bryan in other turnouts.

Experiment A: Issue #1: Catch subject.

Retrieving the halter from the gate, I walked over to his line of travel. He trotted by. I didn’t mention that while trotting his head was always, always facing the barn. He just went past me, over and over, to either side. He was the river, I was the rock. I tried all kinds of things…putting up my arms, trying to body block him, he never broke that rhythmic trot. Finally I placed myself in a position, halter raised just so, and caught him on the fly. It worked, he slowed and stopped after a few steps. He never took his eyes off the barn.

That afternoon I put him in four different turnouts. One west of the barn, one south of the barn, and the original one to the east. The last one I tried was south of the barn but from which he could not *see* the barn. This triggered running the fencelines on all four sides. Several times one way, several times the other way, with some very rapid trotting on the northern fence line interspersed, over and over. It was clear that in what passed for Bryan’s brain, Must See Barn was his Overwhelming Purpose. Each time I caught him I had to do the catch on the fly halter toss. Every time I let him go I had to undo the leadrope, not the halter; if I reached up to unbuckle the halter he’d fly backward, an equine shrimp.

And yet, when, Turnout Experiment #1 was over and we went *back* to the barn, he did a slightly less crazed repeat of his first day there. It was clear that he really didn’t know what he wanted, but that he was determined to get it, regardless.


  1. Mark Rashid wrote about a very similar experience with a horse in his latest book. I'll look it up and give you the rundown.

  2. Abby: I know this is off topic but I just received a warning regarding an enormous earthquake due to hit the Pacific this Thursday caused by the earth shifting. Have you heard anything regarding?

  3. Reminds me of the utube videos of William the Hackney horse. He was so hysterical over the farrier he actually shook with his leg raised. So sad. Sometimes abused horses need lots of time alone to reset their nervous systems. Some just need to be allowed to be a horse and socialize. I don't think they ever forget the former cruelty, but they do move on. Like a bad divorce.

  4. Hey! No I hadnt but I looked it up and you are certainly right. Some good geo sites are predicting activity this week. Yike! Well, I will avoid overpasses but other than that not sure what to doo..I have water stored and canned food and lots of hay, so will cross my fingers and hope for the best. We are in a low risk area, according to one map. Thank you for thinking of me and sending the warning prediction info to Katie!

  5. What's all this talk about earthquakes, get back to the Brian story! :o) :o)

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