Well, today was one of those days when you see how situations with horses can change in a heartbeat. A safe, calm situation can easily turn to a cluster in a second. Yesterday, Rocky spent the day with Buddy, the goat, and a good share of the day was also spent with Patches, one of our miniature horses. Rocky was nervous, although Patches mainly ignored him, but everything was fine and there was not much interaction.
Rocky, although he is only about 10 weeks old (approx.), is showing the attitude of a much older baby. He is demonstrating behavior we usually see in babies that are a good 4 - 6 weeks older. Like his daddy, Bubba, the well known and magnificent stallion, Rocky is one of a kind. He already thinks he should be the "king", and running his own band. He has attitude and then some, and it is a must that he is worked with every day and that he is not allowed any unsuitable behavior that is not immediately corrected. As we all know, one of the hardest things about raising an orphan, (besides the long hours and numerous worries that come along with just keeping them alive), is to make sure they learn the appropriate behaviors that their mom, dad and their numerous aunties in the herd would teach them. Misbehavior is not an option in the herd, as it could result in death and destruction. So babies are taught how to mind, and most of all to mind immediately when they are told to do something. This is often the difference between survival and not. We work with the babies most every day to make sure they know their "space boundaries", that appropriate behavior does not include rearing, chasing, nipping or kicking when they are interacting with humans. But nothing can replace what they learn from being with horses. So every foal we have spends time with the older horses once they are rehabbed and old enough.
So it is very important that these babies are integrated with horses to learn the basic behaviors. Rocky, due to his evolved state of mind, needs to be with real horses right now. He also needs simply to have someone to play with so he learns that although rearing and kicking and biting are acceptable play when he is with his own kind, that it is not acceptable behavior with humans.
On goes the story........... DaBubbles, who comes up to Rocky's belly (maybe), is the same age as Honey Bandit, (going on two years old in July). He was brought in to socialize with Rocky today. We spent several hours with them, watching to make sure that it was going well and no one would get hurt. DaBubbles chased Rocky around for awhile. It was actually quite surprising, as he was just calmly following Rocky, with no aggressive behavior or stances, but Rocky was scared as could be and ran from him as though DaBubbles was threatening him. After awhile Rocky seemed to realize that DaBubbles wasn't actually going to kick at him, or bite him or do anything else aggressive. So we went inside. Now this is when it is difficult not to play "mommy", and put away the mean little horsey that was scaring our "poor baby", even though the mean horse is barely two feet tall. But that is where you make the correct decision and know that if he is not around "real horses" and doesn't learn what he needs to know, that eventually someone will get hurt down the road. Whether it be a person that he accidentally hurts because he does not know the proper space boundaries and respect them, or whether he gets hurt because he does something to a person that was cute when he was tiny but is dangerous when he is a big horse, and the person goes crazy and hurts him because he did the wrong thing and inadvertently hurt the person.
Not too long after, I heard Rocky squealing in that "Mommy - I am scared for my life" voice. When you spend 24/7 with them in the beginning, you know the difference. Realizing right away that something was actually wrong, we raced outside. To my horror, I saw that Rocky was on the other side of the fence, in with Pete, Honey Bandit and Patches.
My first thought was disbelief. They were in a pen with no climb horse fence that is 4 feet high. Apparently - Rocky can jump! and do it well. Matt and I went about the task of separating him from the other three, and bringing him out. Well, we had Rocky racing back and forth, squealing as if he was going to die, and the other three caught up in the commotion. We ended up in a big cluster by the mini's stalls, and then all heck broke loose. Pete, the full size horse, started being more and more aggressive. We couldn't tell if he wanted to get to Rocky to "teach him a horsey lesson" or just to "get everyone else away from him". I was pretty sure he was more interested in getting everyone else away from Rocky, but couldn't be sure. Whatever his intention, when Matt stopped him from getting to Rocky, and gave him pressure to move off, he wheeled and kicked. ( I told him in a case like that, you make sure you are not in a position to be hurt, and we deal with what happens afterward.) But being the awesome husband and protector he is, he was thinking about Rocky or myself getting hurt, and didn't stop to think what would happen if a horse wasn't taught not to kick when he was young. He wasn't expecting him to kick in that situation because all of the horses he has been around would have just moved off, but you can never be sure, as was demonstrated today. It was one of those moments when your realize what is happening but don't have time to stop it. As soon as Matt lifted his arm to send him away, I turned and ducked as the horse whipped around, feet flying I had been watching to make sure that I had a way out, and it all happened so fast. Matt was simply afraid that Rocky and I were in danger and didn't think of the consequences, and certainly did not expect what happened. (After spending 8 years working around and with wild horses at a local sanctuary, I had seen first hand how easy it was to be in the wrong place when the horses were running around and in a frenzy. But if you haven't experienced a situation like we were in, it is not always easy to know exactly how to keep safe and accomplish what you are trying to do.)
In so many situations, it is clear where mistakes were made and where better decisions should be made. However, as humans, we often react differently during the situation than we would if we had time to plan everything out. So although Matt has a bruised leg, the lesson that was learned will not be forgotten. We all have that "save the baby" instinct within us, but once again, this shows how important it is and that we simply have to be safe first and foremost. As I have been told lately, if something bad happened to us because we made the wrong choice, who would be here to take care of our "kids" after the fact. So the lesson here is to always put human life and safety first. Everyone and everything turned out fine, (aside from Matt's bruise), but we could have had some serious consequences. A hoof to the head could mean the end.
We just wanted to share this with ya'll, as it really reminded us of just how fast things can change, and how much danger can be found in a horse's tiny, power packed hoof. From a quiet afternoon to a few minutes of adrenalin filled activity, all because Rocky jumped a single fence. (Rocky is doing fabulous and has not even a single scratch or bump from his little flight into the big corral.)
So we need to make sure that we are always safe, even in times of crisis! Looking back, it happened so fast and although we were staying pretty calm, it took so little to make it dangerous. Giving one moment of "pressure" to send a horse away, while not being in a safe position. Honestly, I know that we all have had those "moments" with our critters, but I would rather learn from what others share, more than from actually witnessing or experiencing it. (haha). So hopefully this will help someone else not make the same mistake........... Today, once again, we are thanking God for His blessings, and for keeping us safe, and for giving me such a great and loving hubby! And even though it's embarrassing when we goof up, we like to share the good and the bad, especially if it will keep somebody else from making that same mistake... :)
God bless ya'll and Stay Safe!
Hugs to ya'll,
Matt, P & the gang!