"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Tiger, the Witch and the Lily

I didn't post any photos of Lily over the weekend because I was in freak mode.

She was in full-blown raging heat, and as herd-bound as I have EVER seen her...to a single mare: Circe, Sally's beautiful new red-headed girl.

Circe is a minor goddess (or nymph, sorceress or witch) of magic in Greek mythology. Sally named her appropriately: she is a sorceress for sure, casting a powerful spell on several of the mares in the barn, including my own and Tally in the paddock across the way from Lily's field.

Circe the Enchantress
Painting by J.W. Waterhouse
It was an interesting dynamic to watch from a distance. However, I had never seen my mare as affected as this by another horse in a long time, not since our brief stint at the Parkland barn in FL, which was almost 2 years ago. She was completely unpredictable at the time. The first time she reared with me on her was during that time. Oh, and she did it right in the middle of the street! I had never seen her act out so much nor so badly any time before or since. During that time, she was worse when she was in heat, yes, but the obsessive behavior continued even after. The second we returned to our old barn, she was 100% back to her normal self.

So you can imagine my concern when I went to get Lily out of the field and she would barely eat, she was stressing so much about Circe being out of sight. This happened Saturday, Sunday and Monday. On Sunday I took her up to the arena and had her work, to see if she was capable at all of concentrating. She was NOT. She balked going up the driveway and kept zig-zagging behind me, trying to look over her shoulder to see where Circe had gone. It didn't help when the chestnut mare started screaming for Lily and she had to whinny back at her. Once in the arena, Lily tore around and kept trying to stop at the gate or at the corner nearest the driveway. At least she shut up and eventually trotted and cantered when asked...but going back down the hill, she wanted to drag me along. She got backed uphill several times.

On Tuesday I really started to freak out when I found Lily by the gate, looking forlornly towards the barn despite Gracie's company. (Circe is on stall board, so she is only out at night). I put her halter on and she tried plowing ahead to get to the barn. No you don't, ma'am. She got lunged in a tight circle around me as we neared the barn. *sigh*

I cross-tied her in the main barn, away from the red mare, where she stood impatiently, rolling her eyes and looking all over for Circe.
JESUS                 CHRIST            MARE

Dr. R was there for Jezebel's final ultrasound (cleared! Jez has been cleared for riding and full turnout!) and to give Lily, Circe and Jez their first round of botulism shots (recommended if horses are on round bales; they are extremely susceptible and it is lethal if they get it.) Lily was so obsessed that she didn't even notice when she got her shot.

I turned her out in the arena, gave her a dose of oral ace, and then had her work at liberty for a good 15 minutes. (More pretty barn photos, Dom. :) )

I love how her whole way of carrying herself has changed. She did not use to look like this when cantering at liberty.

By the end, she had settled down considerably and was paying attention to me.

I took her out, hosed her off to cool her down, then put her in one of the back hospital paddocks (they have some wonderful shade trees over them and there was a nice cool breeze blowing) with a flake of hay. Since she only gets hay once a day for now in the field (they still have plenty of grass. Round bales won't come until the grass is gone), she is really fixated on hay right now. She dug right in, and I prepared her grain and supplements, which I also gave her. Then I sat down to talk with Kathy, Phoebe and Sally while waiting for the oral ace to kick in (it takes an hour.) And yes, I'm cheating. But any kind of training is pointless when the hormones take over. As anyone who reads this blog can see, my mare is awesome when she is in her Lily state of mind. When Tiger takes over every 21 days or so, all bets are off.


The sequence of events was absolutely deliberate: drugs, exercise, shower, rest and a full tummy. It worked beautifully. By the end of the hour, Lily was 100% relaxed and had completely forgotten about her girl crush. I took her into the main barn and tacked up with Kathy.

We went on a long trail ride out to Four Corners, which Kathy had not seen yet.

Like I had mentioned in a previous post, Four Corners is a spot where 4 dirt roads meet.
This is the view facing the direction from where we had come. Redneck Park sprawls out towards the horizon in the other 3 directions.
Love this photo of Kathy and Queenie.
Her reins appear long because she had been encouraging her girl to have a bite to eat so we could enjoy the view for a moment.

Queenie says, "Okay, enough, let's get moving!"
Queenie takes the lead on the way home. She was doing a slow running walk part of the way which is fast enough that Lily had to trot a couple of times to keep up. :)

We walked home mostly uneventfully. As we were walking through the corn field, Queenie suddenly gaped her mouth open. Kathy had her stop, and when I looked over, we realized the cheekpiece on her bridle had completely come undone! There was nothing holding the bit in Queenie's mouth on the right side of her face. I hopped off Lily and we tried making do with Queenie's rope halter, putting it over the bridle to hold the bit in place, but at the same time this would make the bit uneffective. The chicago screw on the cheek piece had fallen off, so basically all we needed was a small strap to hold it together. We tried an assortment of clips that Kathy had in her saddle bag with no luck, and then she remembered some thin leather pieces the NH trainer had told her to attach to her saddle. She cut off a piece (she even carries a knife in her bags! Seriously, I need to get saddle bags...) and handed it over. This worked perfectly! I threaded the leather through the holes in the cheek piece and voila! Functional bridle.

Riding through the woods, we took the short cut through the new trail so we could go up The Hill of Doom. The last time we had gone this route while riding together, I had asked Lily to trot and Queenie had just continued to walk fast up the hill. After checking with Kathy to make sure it was okay to trot again, Lily and I took off ahead. She actually cantered part of the way up and I heard Kathy laugh behind us. At the top, I turned around as Kathy was giving Queenie a pat on the neck...Queenie had not only cantered up the hill, she had hopped over one of the fallen trees on the path!

We laughed and joked about Queenie becoming an independent fox hunter so Kathy could enjoy the food and wine while her little mare gallivanted through the woods over ditch and stream in pursuit of the hounds.

Back on the bridle path, Kathy asked Queenie to gait on the straightaway before the last turn, something which they often do. I had Lily wait so there would be room between her and the other mare, then from a walk cued the canter. Lily picked it right up and did a slow, relaxed canter. We came back down to a walk when we were a horse length behind Queenie. We continued our way walking together, but Kathy's girl is definitely a fast walker. There was this much distance between us on the homestretch:

We untacked and both mares got a bath. The horses were in the process of being turned out, so I put Lily in one of the stalls to eat hay while drying off.

Earlier, I had talked to the BO about switching Lily's evening turnout situation. We were going to try her out in Queenie's and Deja's field. It would serve to separate her from the source of her obsession (Circe) when the stalled horses were out. During the day when the stalled horses were brought in, she would go back out in her field with Gracie.

It started out as a complete non-event. We put Lily in the field and off she went to graze in a corner. Queenie and Deja looked at her then continued minding their own business, and Tiger, an Arabian gray gelding that was in the stall next to Lily's when she was initially in the barn, went over to investigate. Jazz, the 4th horse in the field and the only one Lily had not met prior, didn't even acknowledge the fact that there was a newcomer.

Later, I stopped by to leave Lily's halter on the fence hooks and was witness to this:

Lily and Queenie were nuzzling each other while Tiger oversaw.
I didn't see exactly what started it, but 2 minutes later the horses were doing this:

I stayed and watched to make sure it didn't escalate. Basically what was happening was that Tiger seemed to be trying to get the 3 mares to play together. Lily was all for being friendly with the two other ladies - she even nickered at them at one point. But Deja was upset over Lily stealing her boyfriend (Tiger is Deja's bf) and any friendliness on Lily's part was met with pinned ears. Lily of course immediately backed off; she's used to being low woman on the totem pole and she's never cared to challenge a herd leader. She usually ends up winning everyone over anyway simply by being sweet and submissive. I knew they would figure it out, but thought it was interesting that Tiger was herding them to make them run together. Jazz initially trotted around with them, but Tiger cut him out of the running, a very clear, "This is not about you." Jazz was happy to continue grazing.

Our NH trainer had talked about this (making the horses run together so they become a herd) when we introduced Lily to Tally, but it was the first time I saw it happening without human encouragement.

After about 5 minutes of running around, all 4 horses settled down to graze again, Lily and Tiger on one end of the field, Deja and Queenie in the other.

I told Phoebe and Kathy about what had happened before I went home. All was at peace when I drove past the field.

The problem was that this happened at least twice more, and the dynamic changed a bit: Deja started herding Jazz and Queenie away from Lily and Tiger, and Tiger got a little aggressive with Queenie.

Next morning all of the horses were tired. Even Deja was napping in her stall. Kathy and Phoebe were ok with the running around the previous night - other than being tired, the horses were all absolutely fine. However, the BO was worried and suggested trying Lily out in another turnout that evening. She is the sweetest and was just trying to keep boarders and horses happy. We discussed the situation between all of us, and it was decided to continue putting Lily out with Deja and Queenie. We knew they would all eventually settle down, especially since Lily is not competitive in the herd and I knew she had to be very close to the end of her heat cycle: Tiger would lose interest in her soon enough and Deja would have her boyfriend back. I felt bad, though...I hate being the PITA boarder with the PITA horse, and crossed my fingers that everything would be okay.

Things did not go according to plan, however.

Rolando, the barn manager, knew to switch Lily from one field to the other. However, he turned the other mares out first before pulling Lily, and of course, once Lily saw her girlfriend Circe, she hightailed it away from Rolando.

I had an early dinner with Charles and a coworker. I checked my e-mail on the way home and had an update from Kathy letting me know what had happened with Miss Infatuation. I dropped Charles off at the apartment and headed back out to the barn, armed with my bucket of Stud Muffins.

If she were a person, Lily would totally tattoo this on her butt.
Lily was, of course, standing with Circe in the field. BUT Gracie was standing with them. It wasn't just Lily and the redhead off by themselves anymore. Lily turned to me with ears pricked when she saw me coming, and walked right over to me, despite me having her halter slung over my shoulder. Circe and Gracie followed close behind.

Lily got a Stud Muffin for letting me halter her, and she happily walked right next to me as I led her towards the gate. I was surprised when I looked behind us and saw that Circe had stayed back with the mare herd - it was Gracie following us.

Gracie stayed in the field and I took Lily with me, deciding to take her the long way around to Queenie's field. Lily stayed right next to me, attention on me. No looking behind her shoulder, no distractions, no screaming for Circe...and Circe wasn't screaming for her either. I looked back, and Circe was far away, happy hanging out peacefully with the older ladies of the herd. She didn't care that her buddy was gone: apparently having taken Lily out for a night allowed her integration into the herd to happen.

On a whim, I continued on towards the barn, where I cross-tied Lily in the middle of the barn aisle and left her there just to see what she would do.

I went to say hi to Kathy and chit-chatted with her and the BO. Going back into the barn, I discovered Lily quietly standing, one hind foot cocked. Completely relaxed, eyes calm. Her heat cycle was done, and with it, her obsession was gone.

I changed my mind.

Back out she went with her original mare herd. I led her all the way out into the middle of the field, taking her back to Circe and Gracie, and was tickled pink when, upon removing her halter, Lily turned around and followed me right back to the gate, all by herself. At the gate, I gave her a hug and thanked her, and breathed a sigh of relief. No need to switch her from one field to another anymore.

The spell was broken, and everyone lived happily ever after. For now, at least. :)



  1. Dear. God.

    At least she's moving freer and better than ever before ;-) Yay for your trimming techniques + turnout + diet!!

    1. Lol! Yay indeed! I need to post more hoof pics sometime - you can see where the new growth on her walls since I took over her trimming is nice and tight. There were definite ridges prior. They're almost all gone now!

  2. Glad things are settled and she is no longer infatuated.

  3. Goodness! I hate when they get herd bound like that.