On the first of August, Ruby decides to fight me when I attempt to halter her. Maybe, she is just trying to play with me, but it does not seem so. She is fussy all day, but settles in the evening.
Gary and my thirty-fourth anniversary is drawing near and I will be leaving town with him for two weeks. I would like to look forward to enjoying the Michigan "Up North" cabin, but do not want to leave my horses. I especially do not want to be away from Ruby for two full weeks. Belinda Esterline, a close friend and trusted horse handler, will be staying at the house.
When I return, Ruby is thirteen weeks old and weighs three-hundred and ten pounds. She does not want to stand still for her fly spray, and gives me angst when I try to lift her feet. I worry that the break was not a wise idea. If I am just grooming, the next week passes with pleasant mornings, hot afternoons, and wonderful evenings. But, she has not had her halter on for two weeks and is now giving me an increasingly hard time with it. When I manage to get it in place without being nipped, I decide to leave it on all day, hoping the feel will become natural for her. I purchase a large, hard rubber dog bone and hold it on both ends as she chews on it. I am absolutely sure she is teething; and she clearly enjoys the bone. Why do owners talk about their puppies teething, but not their foals?
When I roll the wheelbarrow to pick the pens morning and evening, I have to keep a switch with me - a three-foot-long light-weight and willowy show whip commonly used in English pleasure halter classes. Otherwise, Ruby will rush me from behind. She is growing into major play. The three adult mares ignore her tactics. She soooo needs another foal who is willing to romp. For now, one day she will be friendly - follow me around and stand quietly near me. The next day, she will be nasty and nippy. On the light side, I discover she has been playing in the tractor tire. There are tiny little hoof prints in the center.
I have been reading aloud to Gary for years - over a hundred and fifty books. We are currently reading Of Human Bondage, so I ask Gary to sit with me outside Ruby's stall. I read for an hour and it clearly calms Ruby. But, I have to admit this classic novel, Of Human Bondage, is pretty darn depressing.
The next day, I switch Ruby from her foal halter to a new weanling size. When I try to put it over her head, she prefers to play - repeatedly trying to bite the chin strap; making the process absolutely frustrating. It takes me ten minutes to get it on; but we manage the task without fighting. In the evening, Gary and I read outside her stall for forty-five minutes. The next day, it only takes five minutes to get the halter on, and I leave it on until the afternoon. Ruby stands quietly as I remove it. We read by her stall again in the evening.
The next morning, it takes a full half-hour to halter Ruby. Our farrier, Bill, is coming to trim feet. She refuses to stand quietly for Bill, so he convinces me to let him tie her to the stall post. Ruby struggles and flips over backward twice. This is not what I want. I should not have been remiss about lifting all four feet every morning and every night. I try to justify my lack of consistency by thinking that Bill is just moving too quickly.
Bill has a horrible - truly horrible - scar on his arm from a time when he decided to back a misbehaving seven-year-old rescue stallion into a stall, and the horse came out fighting. This was a horse that, according to Bill, had a history of being abused. At the request of the new owners, he had ridden him a couple of weeks earlier. But, now, the newly gelded horse grabbed Bill's arm and, lifted him off the ground, sinking his teeth right down to the bone. He threw Bill to the ground and, if it weren't for the stupendously fast action of both owners, he would have been stomped to death.
The stallion had been recently removed from a pasture of horses he had known for years, moved to a home where he was stalled and castrated in the company of horses he did not know. Bill determined that he was just testing his new territory and needed to learn who was boss. I think he had gone insane.
Regardless, today, Bill has a schedule to keep, and it is not his job to have Ruby ready. He tells me to have her behaving better the next time he comes. And, he notes signs of a right front club foot - just like her mother. I am truly disappointed to hear that.
On August 18, Doc Jim comes by to check on Sara. He is happy with what he sees. I am, too.
As August comes to an end, Ruby seems to be coming around. I can lead her the forty feet from her stall to the tack room. She is willing to back a step when I ask; and picks up all four feet for me. But, she is not as comfortable with me - nor I with her - as I would like. I had been envisioning a cuddly foal like my others. But, Ruby clearly has a dominant personality. When I find her too unruly, I ponder whether it is because of her age, or because of how I have been caring for her.