I am breathing hard and fit to be tied! I just got in from rounding up horses for the evening. Our horses, the well-behaved ones, were fairly easy to lead into the paddock. Peanut, our boarder horse, was a nightmare! I love her but I was ready to ring her neck because of her refusal to cooperate with me.
In the spring, horses can hardly wait to get their first taste of fresh grass after a long winter of nothing but hay. They have no idea that, if left to themselves, they would eat till they die. New spring grass is rich grass, high in natural sugars. Horses digestive systems are quite sensitive and cannot handle sudden dietary changes. They must be introduced to spring pasture very gradually so their systems can adjust. Left to graze without limits, horses would eat too much and suffer either colic—a dangerous, life-threatening form of equine indigestion—or laminitis, a life-threating hoof disease. For horses, richer is not better. In fact, it has the potential to be harmful and even deadly.
Peanut was determined not to come off pasture today. All the other horses were safely corralled in the paddock but Peanut was a pig, not a horse! Every time I approached her, she looked at me and trotted away, eluding capture. When horses refuse to be caught, the strategy is to keep their feet moving until they decide to stop playing their “hard-to-get” game. After all, they weigh approximately 1000 pounds and run much faster than us humans. We’re really not going to make them do anything. We have to help them decide to do what we want by making what they want uncomfortable and what we want more comfortable.
So, I kept Peanut moving instead of eating. She circled around me so many times I thought I would get dizzy. Although she had three acres to run, she stayed close and ran around me in circles, grabbing a few mouthfuls of grass whenever she could. I kept my feet moving to keep her feet moving. She stopped, turned, and faced me several times. This was a good sign, I thought. She was ready to get caught. WRONG! Every time she faced me and I approached, she ran away from me and began the circling routine again. This went on for thirty minutes when I was supposed to be inside getting ready for a hot date with my husband. I was NOT amused until I decided that I had no other option but to keep going until she decided to let me lead her into the paddock. If I gave up, she would get very sick and maybe die. So, while circling and keeping her feet moving I prayed. I prayed that she would let herself get caught or trot on her own into the paddock. I prayed that God would give me some spiritual insight to turn my irritation into inspiration.
Finally, Peanut got the message. Either she could decide to enter the paddock where she saw the other horses resting or she could keep running around getting nowhere but tired—all for a couple mouthfuls of grass every now and then. She’s a smart, though prodigal, horse! She did the cost/benefit analysis and decided it was finally in her best interest to do things my way. She ran to the gate, let me open it, and ran in. As usual, all horses were rewarded with sweet feed as soon as they were all safely corralled.