With another week of terrible wind and preparing for yet another weekend of flooding, Shorty has spent her week getting her daily feeds, in and out the stable and lots of scratches. Shorty’s hair loss is improving leaps and bounds and has new hair nearly all over the bald patch.
Let’s hope the weather holds and the ground dries up enough to do some work with her.
I think this may be my shortest update ever. So here’s something to read if you have a bit of time, be kind to your horse.
An outlaw horse is somewhat rare, but every now and then
A seeming brute will come along that will test the best of men
He just will not be broken, though many men will try
To bend the will of the horse to theirs and pay for it with their life
On a station in the Territory by the name of Mungandeer
Such a horse was in the mob to be broken in that year
Sixteen hands of perfect horse, coal black with a white hind sock
He stood out from the rest of the mob, he'd come from Waler stock
Watching with interest the goings on in the yard where among much mirth
One by one the rest of the mob had been broken to bit and girth
Then his turn came to be roped and pulled along the narrow race
Where he stood and eyed the breaker in all his majestic grace
A test of wills would be fought here, the breaker could see it in his eye
Here was a horse that was different, with a spirit that may not say die
The breaker sent him round the pen setting a cracking pace
He was feeling a little dubious, but no sign showed upon his face
Direction reversed and still no sign of submission from the colt
The breaker decided it was the time to apply a frontal assault
He roped the colt and choked him down, no gentleness applied
Then left him lying there in the dust with front and back legs tied
A bit then forced into his mouth, he was at last allowed to his feet
A saddle was mounted on his back, the breaker prepared to take his seat
Three burly ringers held the horse and waited to watch the show
The breaker took position and then called out "Let go"
The colt just stood for a moment and then exploded with all his might
The breaker gripped with all he could and felt the first sense of fright
For he'd never ridden a horse like this, such power and spirit in one
But the contest would soon be over and either horse or man would have won
The colt he bucked and twisted and pig rooted round the yard
The breaker stayed with him all the way and gripped the saddle hard
When the colt could not shift the weight he reared over on his back
The breaker now beneath him, the ringers heard his neck go crack
Since that time breakers have come and gone and many tried their hand
At riding the horse known as Outlaw that became known throughout the land
A purse was offered to the man who could ride him to a halt
Many tried, some even died, but the winner was always the colt
Then one day a tall quietly spoken stockman rode into have a go
He looked saddle wise from the way he walked with very little show
With only a book and chair he just sat in the middle of the yard
Just reading the book he ignored the horse who by now was battle scarred
An hour went by, then another and the colt just trotted around
This was confusing, the stockman ignored him, he stopped to paw the ground
Then the stockman felt the horse's breath on the hairs at the back of his neck
He grinned a wry smile to himself, but still kept himself in check
A little nudge from the colt and slowly the stockman raised his hand
He patted the colt upon the nose, never done before by man
The colt leaned forward as the stockman rubbed his hand between his eyes
A bond developing between man and horse, where before this was just a guise
The stockman rose, the colt stood still while he ran his hand along his back
Then he walked across to the yard rail, the colt followed in his track
He took the bridle from the post and rubbed the horse's head
Whilst still a little nervous, the colt had lost his fearful dread
Slowly along his back he went and then down the sides as well
Proving to the colt there was no need for fear, then giving it to him to smell
With thumb in the corner of his mouth he slid the bridle over his ears
The colt took the bit and chewed thoughtfully, it seemed there was nothing to fear
The blanket next, the colt sniffed at it as it was raised and put in place
All the while the stockman talked quietly, reassuring the colt he was safe
The saddle next, the colt wary now, it would be the real test
The stockman still talking quietly, but would the colt protest
But no, the colt was trusting him as he reached through for the girth
And slowly tightened the buckles up, ensuring it didn't hurt
Then rubbing the colt all over, talking quietly as he checked the gear
The horse just stood and relaxed, where before there'd been nothing but fear
He took the reins and rubbed the horse, soothing words he spoke all the time
Then put weight on the stirrup, leaned over the saddle and rubbed the other side
He mounted then and just sat there while the colt listened to him talk
Then with a gentle pull on the rein he moved the colt off at a walk
The ringers looked on amazed just waiting for the show
But clearly this stockman was different and it wasn't to be the go
He rode the colt in circles at the walk and trot and canter
Backed him, dismounted then mounted again ignoring the ringer's banter
The colt was started, he trusted this man, that was all he needed to do
To find a man who would show him respect and he would do the same thing too
So let this be a lesson for if applied it can never fail
Force and toughness rarely win, but kindness will always prevail.
© Ric Raftis - February 2003
Well this was a Short week for Shorty. Shorty had one day of work! Due to the pending rain a lot of my time was taken up flood proofing and moving horses around the property.
The day we worked together was great. Shorty was a lot happier with everything we had done in previous sessions and I decided to take a step further by introducing the saddle pad. I know in my last write-up I said I wasn’t going to do any work with a pad or saddle due to her hair loss, but I just wanted to see exactly where the pad would sit. The pad overlaps onto the area where the pad/saddle will sit, so I’ll be waiting until it has completely healed to start the full saddle prep work. I don’t want to give her any reason to feel scared/pain/irritation with her first experiences.
Shorty happily had the saddle pad on and off her back and walked around me nicely at close contact wearing it. I’ll explain a bit more about close contact work in later write-ups. She spent the rest of the week in-between the stable and her paddock while we got hit with around 300mm of rain.
The rain brought some more flooding to our property and took the creek from 10 meters wide to around 100 meters wide. We are used to the creek flooding and always try preparing as best we can. After the rains had stopped and the sun came out, we started the big job of tidying the place up, completely emptying flooded stables and yards and repairing broken fences from the flood debris.
The flood also took the life of our beloved dog and irreplaceable family member Cebbie. Very sad times here at Mick Masons Horses. Broken hearted but we will be back on track next week. Shorty and I will have lots to report about.
Thanks again for reading,
This week Shorty and I have been working at a nice steady pace. She is coming around to the fact that I’m not so bad. Even though she can still be quite ‘bracey’ and tense, we moved on with some rubbing down of the front legs, ropes work and a play around with a big flag. We’ve also been working on getting a nice steady walk around me, left and right. Shorty is very responsive. Even when she gets a fright, she feels the lead rope, stops and comes to me. Other than that, its been much of the same - plenty of walks out and rock picking!
Because of Shorty’s hair loss on her back I won’t be putting saddle blankets on her, or going anywhere near her with a saddle for a while (not that she’s anywhere near ready anyway). It gives me the much-needed time to get her happy and comfortable with all parts of being a domestic horse.
I feel like something may have triggered Shorty while being here that brought back a bad memory for her. Her fear had almost completely gone after the first week, but then it seemed to come back and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Shorty didn’t have the easiest start to domestic life... she was trapped in Kosciusko National Park with other Brumbies and ended up at Echuca sales where the knackery bought her. The Victorian Brumby Association and the public stepped in and bought her (and her Brumby mates) back off the knackery. Then Shorty and her mates were loaded up and sent back to Echuca, where they were picked up again to go back to VBA headquarters to wean/foal down/geld. I think she may have a few extra reasons not to trust humans.
I am very glad she is here, so I can show her that life with the right humans isn’t so bad. She is improving every day and letting her guard down enough to enjoy the sessions we work together.
Turning a worrier into a warrior. The bond is getting stronger every day.
Thanks again for reading,
What a week! After last week’s update I did decide to leave Shorty to herself for the weekend to give her a bit of space and let her fully relax. After her weekend off, I went into the paddock to collect her. I didn’t have to go far as she met me about 5 meters from the gate. I put the halter on and took her to the working yard for a groom, a bit of work asking her left and right around me, and then out for a pick down by the creek. I was very happy she let me halter her first go in the big paddock; I feel that is always a turning point, with any horse.
It has been much of the same for the next few sessions. Shorty can still be a bit reactive and really doesn’t like being told what to do (10-year-old mare!). I don’t blame her, she would normally be the one calling the shots, telling other horses what the rules are. So I really need the trust to set in with this mare. She needs to be able to look for answers herself but also learn that its ok for me to guide her in the right direction.
There was a night where Shorty managed to get herself out the stable, and was grazing quite happily in-between paddocks in the laneway when I found her in the morning. When I went to collect her to put her into a paddock, she was having none of it. When I approached to halter, she would turn away and walk the other direction. Not wanting to turn this into a bad thing, I grabbed a bucket of feed and walked her to the working yard.
Ahhh, now she’s had a taste of being wild again! It took a few minutes for Shorty to allow me to put the halter on again, but once on, she was very happy to do some work. It was a little disheartening, but I won’t take it personally. I’ve just got to make it a sweeter deal to come and do some work with me, rather than grazing in the laneways.
The next couple of sessions were interesting to say the least. Shorty had become snorty and very reactive and almost scared to come anywhere near me! I have to say, I’ve never really had a horse go further back (in the space of a day) than when they came here. As nothing has really changed, I put it down to her ever growing hair loss at her loins that is creeping to the middle of her back. It must be really irritating her, and possibly painful. It is a reaction to the back line that was applied before the journey to our property.
I had 2 options here,
1. Leave her alone until she has got over her reaction
2. Go back to the very beginning and go through everything again
I chose option 2 and saw it as an opportunity to build a bit more trust with her. So, we went back through the whole haltering process again and after a couple of sessions she was nearly back to where we left off. I treat the bare areas of hair with some white ointment (which I think she liked) and left it at that for this week.
It is very true that every horse is an opportunity to learn something new. I don’t really know if it was Shorty being in pain or whether I had just peeled off a layer of her personality that caused the snorty evasive behaviour, but I’m very happy I’ve got the stoic Shorty back on board.
I’m very excited to see what this mare has planned for me next…
Thanks again for reading,
At the start of the week I worked on getting Shorty to follow me around the yard more freely and with less hesitation. She progressed nicely, so I moved on to some halter work. Shorty already lets me touch and brush her on both sides from her rump to her mouth, so the only new part was introducing a piece of rope.
I rubbed the rope over her cheek and neck, and when she was comfortable with that I moved on to passing the rope over and under her neck to let her get the feel for it. Next was rope over the nose, which she wasn’t too sure about at the start, but after a couple of minutes she (accidently I think) put her nose in the halter. I tied it off and let her feel what it was like with a halter on for the first time. She shook her head around a little bit, and then went back to her ‘stoic Shorty pose’. I took the halter off, and that was it until the next day.
At the start of the next session, I went through all the haltering steps. Shorty wasn’t as confident as she was the day before and really didn’t want the halter going over her nose. This told me more work was needed in the haltering prep; which is where I put a loose rope over the nose and behind the ears, so that the horse is calm and confident with each step that comes with wearing a halter. I took Shorty back through all these steps and made sure every part was concrete before putting the halter on again.
In the next session, Shorty was much more confident with everything about haltering. I also sweetened the deal with a handful of Lucerne hay when the halter was on. After a few repeats of halter on and off, her work was done. 10 minutes of a good thing is all that’s needed.
With the haltering sorted, I moved on to leading around the stable yard and laneway where she has been roaming for the last couple of weeks. In previous sessions, I had already taught Shorty to follow me around the yard with a simple ‘click click’ of the tongue (a sound I use to ask her to move her feet). So she took to leading very well- all I had to do was add the ‘click click’ with the lightest amount of pressure on the lead rope, and we were off!
The rest of the sessions for the week were spent walking around the property; through gateways, along fence lines with other interested horses coming to say hello, and we found sweet spots of grass to stop and pick at. I was very happy with how Shorty took everything in her stride this week. I finished the week by leading Shorty into a paddock (just by herself for now) with other horses just next door, took the halter off and let her relax for the rest of the day (and maybe even the weekend).
My main goal with any horse is to build a solid bond, with trust being the first layer. I’m after a partnership with Shorty, not a dictatorship. I do the teaching, but the horse sets the schedule!
Thanks for reading ,
VBA SHORTCAKE MICK MASON Week 1
So here we go again! At first I was torn about applying for the 2020 Brumby Challenge, but with all the amplified controversy surrounding the Brumby ‘situation’ in the country right now, I felt there was no better time than now to show what these amazing horses are capable of.
I have been given a roughly 10-year-old chestnut mare. Her name is Shortcake... Or as we like to call her, Shorty!
Shorty travelled well, and like most Brumbies she needed some time to settle in. She was snorty and jumpy to start with (which is expected), so like most horses that come here, I gave her a few days to get used to her new surroundings. The only interaction with her was feeding and cleaning her yard, with the occasional car, human, dog or cat travelling past.
After the settling in period, we got to work. Shorty was still very jumpy at the start, but she also seemed stoic at times.
I did short sessions over the next few days; asking her to turn her body and drawing her towards me. Soon she allowed me into her ‘bubble’. From there she let me scratch her on the cheek, and she is gradually becoming more and more comfortable with me being closer to her. She is starting to enjoy our sessions and is showing a bit of a curious side.
A short week for Shorty, but making this mare comfortable before haltering is very important. Everything I am doing now will prep this mare not only for the handling part of her training, but for all parts of her domestic life, including ridden work.
Well done Shorty, and welcome to Braidwood!