Friday, June 8, 2012

Dreamin' and Trust

        Our pony Diamond lays down five or six times a day. He curls into what we call “a little sleeping dragon position”. All of our male horses sleep like this, I have never seen any of the mares do it, they all sleep flat on their sides.
        As he lay there his friend Rhia groomed and braided his mane (she is human-). With his little nose smoonched in the ground he fell into REM sleep and began to nicker quiety! He was out cold but talking in his sleep, with a little human child right beside him touching him. Horses are, for the most part, terrified of being helpless and unable to escape. They have a strong flight or fight instinct. Horses don't ever lay down to sleep unless they feel safe. We will often see four or five of our of horses down while a few are standing and watching out for “predators”. The sleepers feel safe, then they swap around.
        Diamond had grown up from a very early age with a family who loved him. Though he was a bit of a leader himself in that family, he knew what love was. He hung out with his humans. He would go under the fence in the morning to eat breakfast with them and was generally a beloved family member. He spent that part of his life with an old mare and lived with out conflict from others. He learned to trust that humans and other horses were good and that he was safe in his space in time.
         He came to us when his beloved family lost their home. His ancient mare friend was euthanized, rather than moving her away from her life long home as she was blind and very ill with age related problems. This was a supreme act of kindness on the part of her family. The choice was difficult but she was given the last gift, a peaceful end of life in the loving arms of her friends.
         Diamond is a young pony and it seemed that he might be happier with a new family, as our horses are all geriatric, blind, crippled or mentally damaged. Not a lot of fun for such a guy. He was not getting much attention at EOTS either as the healthy ones are less demanding and tend to need less time from us humans.
So he was placed with a trusted friend who has three huge geldings. To make a long story short – geldings are not very nice to each other. They constantly spar for dominance, the lead horse bullies the others. There is a pecking order and the low man out is constantly pounded on by the others. Our little diamond was second to last in the order, and though he got in some good kicks on the bottom dude, it was a bad situation. In the end, I believe because he never got to sleep, he became grumpy and exhausted. When asked to do anything for humans, he rebelled, he began to bite when asked to do pony rides for the children. The one leading him had to constantly avoid his teeth. After one last act of violence to a human, he was returned to us. Labeled a “bad spoiled pony”, he will never leave again.
         At first we were very cautious around hm, waiting for him to be “bad” again. But after dealing with Moon and Gabriel and our two other resident “bad boys”, Diamond was a walk in the park. We found that he was pretty beat up from his time away from us. A lot of places on his body were sore to the touch and a hoof shaped indentation in his rib cage told the story.
         At EOTS we have determined that good fences make good neighbors. Horses should never be allowed to fight – not ever.
         Our horses groom each other over the fence, but except for those who prove they can get along as a group, they have their own little turn outs where they do very well. Their own little territory where they eat in peace, and nap when necessary, with out being pounded on by others. They each have their own stall which is cleaned daily, with food and water readily available and no controversy from others, they are a very happy bunch.
          Even though our farm is a ramshackelly little place, no where near as beautiful as his temporary foster home, Diamond is content with the simple little things in life. He shares a two-stall barn with Jessica's premarin “foal” Tank and they are good friends. He comes and goes in his own little area and socializes with the others who are turned out around him in the day time. Horses are simple- they really don't need much- but sleep is terribly important.
         If your horse seems grumpy, maybe he's just tired. Mare sure he has a place to sleep undisturbed, where he feels safe. We have some horses that never lay down in the presence of humans, so you may never actually see them sleep. The tell tale signs though is bedding in their hair or manure stains. You may find though, that your horse is much happier after a good night's sleep. Just like us, it is easier to work when we're not exhausted.
           So Diamond will spend his life with us as he is now considered a liability and can not be “trusted” out in the world. That is not a problem with us – he can just join the ranks of the rest of us damaged souls at EOTS.