Update: The Third InSTALLment...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 29th
The horrible pun in the title is compliments of Meghann at Little Studio Jewels (I told her I was going to borrow it; awful though it may be :o)

We managed to "box it all in" last night before we ran out of daylight - methinks we're getting warmer...we may even finish this project in time for Christmas. Okay, perhaps that was just a tad sarcastic (but it already feels like we've been working on this for a month, although I know good and well we haven't).

We made a run of three boards all the way down each side. The ends as well as the sections between the stalls will be made using 2x6's for extra stability, but we used 2x4's to run the outside length. This helps us to keep the cost down (I'm not quite sure why, but the pressure treated 2x6's are close to twice the price of a 2x4).

When we've finished putting it all up, we will take down that section of electric fence (you can just see it in the photo above, left)

Our favorite "building inspector" returned, but since there was no auger involved in today's labor she quickly lost interest. She decided she would snack and supervise instead.

Here's the other end of the stalls (photo: above left). The photo on the above right shows the new stalls in conjunction with the training/demonstration area, which is located directly next to the stalls. We left some space between the two, so people would be able to walk down the length of the stalls and see the horses.

All in all, I think it's turning out rather well (of course I don't think we'll win any prizes for beauty, but it works for us! :o) Oh, and thanks for reading this far...

Body Language 101 - Part Three: The Head and Neck

Sunday, June 28, 2009

This is the third posting in a series on equine body language, which I consider to be the single most important thing you can learn about horses. If you haven't already, please read Part One and Part Two (it all kind of goes together, you see :o)

Because the head and neck work in tandem, I've opted to discuss them that way. Often times it is the slight shift in either the head or neck position that differentiates what the horse is saying.
A form of inflection, if you will.

The Arched Neck - Hesitant or mildly alarmed curiosity (new object/new horse), anticipation and excitement, or flirtation (as in stallion to mare).

Head Up (beyond normal position) - Fear/alarm or extreme agitation (just as a clamped tail indicates a kick is next on the agenda; the head flung high and pulled back will preface a rear if they are unable to flee to a "safe" distance).

Head to the Side (ears pinned back) - Very angry, generally a "leave me alone" statement.

Head Tilted - Thinking (ears laid back, nose may be slightly in - see Bella's earlier photo, above); Requesting (head extended, ears laid back, nose out).

Head Down/Chin Tucked - Anger/aggression (nose out, glaring eye and ears pinned or chin toward neck, glaring eye and ears pinned) or requesting permission to enter space of another horse or a person (nose out, worried eye, ears laid back). Requesting permission is often mistaken for aggression (to the horse's detriment).

The Arch

Bella (L) is anticipating her treat for giving me a kiss (note the ear flick acknowledging the photographer); The horse on the right, however, appears slightly alarmed, but still curious, over whatever is in the bucket (I'm thinking it's probably not supper :o)

Startled vs. Scared

Both these horses have flared nostrils and the whites of the eyes are showing indicating alarm. Notice the difference, however, in ears and head positions. The horse on the left is still curious about what startled him, whereas the ears of the horse on the right show uncertainty and he has flung his head up in the air indicating a more intense degree of alarm. The horse on the right will likely either bolt or rear (without room to run away) if the source of his fright is not removed.

An Equine Request

I think it's pretty obvious what this horse is asking his person for (she has a handful of treats). Ears are laid back, nose is out and head is ever so slightly tilted; is that not the sweetest expression?

Head to the Side and Chin Tucked

This horse (L) is clearly none to keen on sharing his hay (M-I-N-E); while the horse on the right seems to have had just about enough of Mr. Photographer (note the pinned ears, pinched nostrils and whites of his eyes). This horse will likely behave aggressively toward anyone that approaches him (I'd pass - yikes).

Next Up: The "Tail End" (a.k.a. your pony's punctuation :o)

Body Language 101 - Part Two: The Eyes and Nose

Friday, June 26, 2009

This is the second posting in a series on equine body language, and the single most important thing you can learn about horses. If you haven't already, please read Part One (it all kind of goes together, you see :o)

The Eyes Have It

A horse has beautiful eyes; when the eye is calm it seems to hold an expression of utter peace and tranquility.

The Worry Line - A series of wrinkles that appear above the eye. It occurs when the horse is worried (obviously), uncomfortable, feeling pain, depressed, distressed, or concerned. This is often the very first sign a horse will display out of all body language.

Whites Showing - Fear, alarm (accompanied by flared nostrils, ears pointed toward the source of the distress or flicking, and the head is up and pulled back) or anger (accompanied by pinched nostrils, pinned ears and a lowered head with nose thrust forward, chin tucked or head to the side).

Frightened vs. Fretting

While both horses in the picture above are showing worry lines, the horse on the left has his head up (showing fear). The horse on the right, however, has worry lines that are more clearly pronounced, his head is down and his chin is pulled in toward the chest (indicating distress).

Appaloosa vs. Afraid

It is important to note that while both these photos show the whites of the eye, only the horse on the right is afraid. The sclera (white part) of the Appaloosa's eye is visible but it's an identifiable characteristic of the breed. He does appear to be somewhat "concerned" about the photographer though (note the ears and worry line).

The Nose Knows

The nose is usually a secondary sign and almost always paired with other body language. The more pinched the nose, the more intense the feeling and the more pronounced the wrinkles become just behind the nostril (toward the eye).

Flared - Alarm, fright, after heavy exercise, or the obvious strong/unusual odor (see "Startled vs. Scared photo (L) further down this lens :o)

Pinched - Anger, pain or very serious business (at feeding time Lady will follow me to her stall with ears laid back and nostrils pinched; mealtimes ARE serious business (we're talking food here, don'tcha know :o)

Pinched vs. Plain Jane

The pinched nose (the dirty one on the left :o) can sometimes be harder to spot than some of the other language (note the teeny tiny wrinkle that appears behind the nostril).


Not only are this horse's nostrils pinched, he appears to be grinding his teeth. Someone obviously got on HIS last nerve today, and he is giving it some serious thought (note the wrinkle behind the nose and the additional wrinkles around his mouth :o)

Photo courtesy of: Photos of horses


This horse has probably been working hard for awhile; note the reddish hue inside the nostril.


Take a pair of pinched nostrils, throw in a couple of pinned ears and what do you get? A pretty peeved pony. I don't know what has aggravated this pretty girl, but she looks mad.

Up Next: Part Three....

Updates: Stalls for The Girls

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 22nd

My daughter managed to talk a friend into joining us tonight (we decided she must be really bored at her house :o) We were able to easily move the second frame; it sure was a piece of cake to maneuver with four people instead of three!

Then it was back to work with the auger to get the second frame anchored in place. The girls took turns running the auger with Rickey, and for awhile all three of them were running it (if you've ever used a pair of post hole diggers, you can see why the auger can become a bit of a novelty to run). Of course Taya came hot-footing it down the hill the minute she heard Rickey crank up the auger (I'm not quite clear on her obsession with it, but she is definitely fascinated :o)

When it was all anchored, we called the girls back down the hill to let them see exactly what was changed (this is infinitely safer than allowing it to be a surprise in the dark, don'tcha know :o) Lady marched straight down the middle, and parked herself in the first stall (which will be hers).

June 26th

Rickey & I decided to put the new (to us anyway - it was a yard sale find :o) gate in and finish up the watering trough tonight. We took a quick trip to a metal roofing plant that has a salvage yard for roofing materials; it's about an hour away. We spoke to the sales manager who had some discontinued materials, so we are praying he will get back to us with either a materials donation or a super good price. I'm pretty sure everybody is a bit tired of dining "al fresco".

We had such fun putting in the gate (sarcastically speaking, that is :o), we decided to go ahead and put the end on Lady's stall while we still had some daylight left.

Then it was time to call the Girls back down the hill to let them know what was where, so nobody went bump in the night. Bella opted to scope things out from the sidelines but Taya - who wasn't the slightest bit interested in the real reason we called her down the hill - made a beeline for her favorite toy: the auger :o)

Ladies First: We are hard at work building new stalls for The Girls

June 21st

If you didn't get here via our website, allow me to bring you up to speed on our recent challenges (you know, those character building episodes that make you say repentable words? :o) In May of this year, Rina and Taya lost the roof of their temporary quarters in a severe storm. The storms caused major damage throughout the entire state of Alabama.

In June, we had another severe storm (one that came up out of nowhere FAST) accompanied by strong winds. It was during this storm that Bella's roof went POOF (sigh).

Would you believe that somewhere in between these two exciting events the farm truck blew two tires? (just one would have been enough to hurt our feelings :o)

EFA (Etsy for Animals) came to our aid by naming us their Charity of the Month for May; we were generously nominated by Little Studio Jewels (thank you Meghann!) With their kind donations, we were able to go ahead and begin working on new stalls for The Girls. We are, however, recycling as much of the wood from their old ones as possible.

We started work on the stalls today. Thankfully, the frames are still in good shape and we were able to reuse them. We decided to put them in a line instead of the L shape they had been in (a much better arrangement all the way around :o)

Our daughter's favorite piece of equipment was the two man
auger we purchased from a friend last year. Wow, what a lifesaver it is. Sure beats the heck out of those post hole diggers we were using!

We were able to move one of the frames on today and hopefully we'll be able to move the other one tomorrow. We anchored the frames with posts set deep in the ground. Wouldn't you know it? We are experiencing record temperatures here in the south, so we've been working in the evenings after DH gets home from work; it's only in the upper 90's by then (and golly, break out the jackets right??? :o)

Of course The Girls just had to come down the hill to see what on earth we were up to...

They poked around everything; Taya was absolutely fascinated by the auger (every time we turned around she was right there with her little nose checking it out :o) All in all we had a good night's work: One down, one to go!

MINI POST: I Rode Today (all by myself :o)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Now maybe to some of you, that's not an earth shattering statement but it is to me. In December of last year I found myself barely able to walk; the diagnosis was Dermatomyositis (a rare muscle disease). It was quite an experience to go from easily slinging 50lb bags of feed to struggling to lift a gallon of milk in the space of a year, but that's how long it took for my diagnosis. Anyway, I felt well enough today to take my favorite handsome man (Shadow) out for a spin. It may not have been a very long ride, (but it was a start!) If you'd like to read more about my adventures with Dermatomyositis, click here.

My daughter and Champ went with us, and (ever one to multi-task) we decided to work on our horse skills and vocabulary at the same time.

Our Shadow may have thoroughly enjoyed his scratches, (you can just see his top lip poking out) but it was Champ who gave us the new and improved definition of the phrase "Happy Trails"...

Some days I just looooove my cameraphone :o)

Body Language 101 - Part One: Intros and Ears

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'm not an expert by any means, but I consider body language to be the single most important thing we can learn when it comes to being around horses. Horses are inherently honest and forthright communicators and just as we expect them to learn to understand us, so should we make the same effort to understand them. It is the "failure to communicate" that so often causes problems between people and horses. By the time a horse kicks or bites, he has usually run through several milder attempts to communicate his feelings to us which were either ignored or (more likely) went completely unnoticed. How many times have you heard someone begin relating an incident with, "I don't know WHAT happened..."

The more I've studied horse's body language (both at home with our own and out and about at various places) the more fascinated I become as to the depths and the degrees of it. Watching horses and other people interacting with horses at public events can help you gain an even clearer understanding.

I've used my own photos where possible and tried to find as many additional photographs as I could for you (without infringing on copyrights or stepping on toes) and I hope you find it every bit as amazing as I do - I just LOVE this stuff! :o)

PHOTO: Cinnamon (L) and Katie (R) We really miss Katie's antics; she was a little stinker and always managed to get into trouble (she was sold back to her previous owner, who decided he wanted her back).

Although equine body language can be pretty easy to understand superficially, it is actually a very complex topic. I have tried hard to share the subtleties and nuances of what I've learned on this lens (without being too confusing) and hopefully have managed to make it kid friendly and easy enough to understand to include those with little to no horse knowledge too. I didn't want anybody to feel left out :o)

Protocol Please: Introduce Yourself

Would you ever consider running up to a stranger on the street, grabbing them in an enthusiastic bear hug and then giving them a big smacking kiss on the cheek? Of course not! As ridiculous as that example may sound, that's just what we're doing when we march right up to a horse, plant ourselves in their personal space and start petting them without so much as a by-your-leave.

Now don't get me wrong, horses are pretty tolerant of our "lack of manners", but that's no reason for us not to practice them. Almost all horses (with a few rare exceptions) love to have attention from people; it's only that they would prefer to be asked first. This is easy enough to accomplish: simply walk up to the horse and give them a moment to check you out (extend your hand with fingers curled under if you like; this somewhat mimics another horse extending his nose in friendship or greeting). That's all there is to it!

PHOTO: Champ exchanging introductions with one of our "unofficial" visitors :o)

Body Language Basics

Horses are masters of subtlety, which oftentimes cause problems for we humans (as masters of large bricks). The horse is primarily a visual communicator (we are primarily auditory), and they are capable of communicating a vast array of thoughts and feelings through body language. Just as we use voice inflection and volume to talk-Talk-TALK, so do horses engage in specific degrees of body language. Communication can be talking - using one or two specific areas, e.g. the head and ears; a more emphatic statement - using several areas at once, e.g. ears, nose & head; or the horse's equivalent of shouting - e.g. pinning the ears back, a pinched nose, rapid swishing of the tail, and moving the head backwards and to the side to indicate extreme anger (the last group of signs often preface a kick-see photo).

You didn't listen to what I said, and you didn't listen to what I Said, Sooooo...

The Ears

The direction of a horse's ears, when paired with other body language, can indicate what that horse is thinking or feeling in addition to where his attention is. With the exception of additional body language, a horse's primary focus tends to be wherever his ears are pointing.

Pricked (Forward) - Alert or awake. Can indicate interest in an object or sound; curiosity, and/or happiness (just watch how they ping to attention when you approach with a feedbucket :o)

Drooping/Floppy - Dozing, content, relaxed and/or happy.

Laid Back - Requesting something (nose out), listening to or focusing on something behind him (head usually up), or concentrating intently (head lowered slightly and nose pulled in toward chest). Just as we may furrow our brow and frown when we are seriously focused on a task, so do they.

Pinned Back - Annoyance or anger. If the horse is mildly annoyed, he may pin them back for a moment (this is usually accompanied by the head moving back and to the side slightly) before pointing them forward again; if he is very angry, they will all but disappear into his mane.

Multidirectional - Hesitancy or confusion (flicking forward-back-forward or forward-side-forward) or listening in two directions at once.

The Ear Flick - An acknowledgment (when one ear pops back to you and returns to its previous position; I liken this to our "uh-huh").

Here I am introducing Bella to Mr. Rain Slicker (L):

Note the change of direction in Bella's ears when I place the rain slicker on her back. She is still paying attention to me, but she is also focused on the slicker (the slight tilt of her head in the photo on the right indicates she is definitely thinking about this).

Relaxed and Happy

Lady is dozing (L) and Shadow is all but cross-eyed with equine ecstasy from getting his chest scratched.(R)

Laid Back (L) vs. Pinned (R)

The horse on the left is either dozing or listening to something behind him, but the pony on the right is obviously angry about something (note the pinch
ed nostrils). Chances are, an attempt to pet this cranky little guy would result in either a snap or a bite (ouch).

Pricked (L) and Multidirectional (R)

If you read the Farm Day blog post, you may recognize this big lug (it's Champ): He was very curious and eager to "meet" the the strange new creature in the photo on the left (ears are up, nose is out, nostrils are flared and neck is arched). He was not quite as sure, however, about the piglet (notice how his ears are flicking front to back, indicating his uncertainty; his neck is straight, plus his head is a little higher and pulled back slightly).

The Ear Flick

For some reason, this particular movement is my favorite (maybe because every time I see it I hear "Uh-Huh" or " 'Kay " in my head :o)

STAY TUNED: Up next will be a post on the eyes and nose (they're considerably shorter than this one).

Hope you enjoyed the post, stay tuned for the next installment!
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