Monday, February 13, 2006

Acting his age

Today was a picture postcard crisp Minnesota winter day. Both Ian and I have been working with Cairo, our 20-month-old purebred Arabian stud colt, on his ground manners. He’s very good when being groomed. He stands quietly now when cross-tied and he is calmer about having his hooves picked up for cleaning. Generally, he and his stable mate the Thoroughbred mare Bentley are out in the pasture from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. In the afternoon we bring both in to their cleaned boxed stalls (they are side-by-side in 12 x 14 foot stalls) where they enjoy hay, water and a bucket of oats mixed with whole kernel corn.

This afternoon after grooming Cairo we decided to take him for a bit of a walking lesson in the driveway area in front of the barn. He can be a handful and he likes to test the handler. I would say since we brought Cairo home just before Christmas he has grown another hand (“a hand” equals four inches) to 14 hands and weighs a muscular 800 pounds. As an adult he could be as tall as 15 hands (5 feet even to his withers) and weigh 1000 pounds. Now is the time to instill manners and he’s come a long way since we got him.

Ian has never owned a horse, but has ridden for years and is a confident rider. He is more accustomed to English riding and says Western saddles are like comfy armchairs. Ian handles both Bentley and Cairo and both like to test him. Ian is strong, but the horses are stronger and sometimes they are very single minded. Ian takes direction very well from me and Cairo is learning quickly he cannot act up just because the lead rope has changed hands. Today Cairo pushed, pulled and even reared a bit with Ian, the little devil, but Ian gave him hell and Cairo snapped right back in line to stand and walk calmly on the lead. When a horse is acting up and can be put in its place quickly by nonviolent means (no whips or anything harmful) it’s a nice feeling of accomplishment. When Cairo tries to dominate the situation he is forced to back up several steps in quick succession. Backing up is work for a horse and they will quickly associate the undesirable behavior (e.g., nipping, crowding, rearing, etc.) with having to work. Behavior modification works!

In the weeks to come we will have our farrier, Chuck, (, who doubles as a horse trainer, come and give the three of us some lessons. These lessons and homework coupled with having him gelded in April will make Cairo more of a gentleman (

Speaking of fixing animals, Lady is scheduled to be spay this Thursday. It is day surgery; in at 8, home at 5. She will also be given all her necessary shots and tests. I imagine Friday will be a lay about day for our sweet Labrador.

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