As we head into early fall, Ruby is becoming more rambunctious. She does not want to stand for fly spraying and does not want to lift her feet. She resists being haltered to the point where I often fear getting hurt. I attempt to halter her by leaning in from the outside of the stall - over the half wall. This does not work very well. I wonder how much of her antagonistic behavior has to do with my two week absence in August. Maybe, she is just totally frustrated that no one will play with her. When Crystal comes over after school one day, I have her stand on the outside of the stall, holding Ruby's lead where she cannot get stomped or nipped, while I fly-wipe and spray her in her stall. When we are done, she leads fairly nicely from her stall to Zena's - but she just cannot resist hopping around. I feel badly that Crystal is, for good reason, visiting the barn less often.
Ruby is now four-months-old, and the weather is hot and humid. I can lead her between her and her mother’s stalls, but she has little interest otherwise in tolerating the lead. Amanda Richards visits and we decide to walk Ruby on TWO leads—one of us on each side. If Ruby pounces or tries to shove either of us, the other can offer opposition. It works surprisingly well as we lead Ruby in figure-eights in the arena. We finish with a grooming that all three of us enjoy.
When I adopted Zena, I promised her two things: That she would never again have a bit in her mouth, and that she could decide when to wean her baby. So, now, Ruby is still nursing, but I decide to cut back on grain rations for both of them. They’re in good physical shape and maybe a little less grain will result in a little less emotional energy. Ruby is a smart girl—backs when I ask; comes when I ask. I’d just like her to do it with a little less drama.
The sixth of September is a great day. If my parents were alive, it would be their seventy-eighth wedding anniversary. Gary and I work on building a closet to insulate our water spigot for the coming winter.
Kim brings Ava and Lucca to ride Sara and Sparky and, later, Ruby behaves well when I ask her to follow me on a long lead. I will call this a great day.
It is the second week in September and still hot. Ruby allows me to fly-spray her in her stall; and is accepting her halter reasonably well. When she manages to grab the bottom of the chin strap in her mouth, she is fairly pleasant about letting it go, so that I can slip the halter over her ears. In the outside pen in the evening, I walk up to her in the very dark to remove her halter, and she is polite. I am grateful. But, the next evening, she is a rascal and it takes me much time to remove the halter. Geez!
Amanda Richards visits again and we enjoy a short trail ride with Sara and Sparky. Then, we saddle Zena. Amanda walks her around the arena and outside pens. It is the most we have ridden her under saddle yet - in the nine months she has been here.
Before leaving, she helps me once again walk Ruby with a lead on each side, in the indoor arena. Amanda has a naturally quiet way with the horses. She is studying to become a social worker. I expect she will be a good one.
The next morning, Ruby is wonderful. There is that word again. Wonderful. I sit on the log in the outside pen while the girls eat their hay around me. My decades old friend, Charlie Hardaker, and Belinda arrive with Charlie's flatbed trailer. We drive two hours west to pick up five-foot-high by sixteen-foot-long hard mesh horse panels. We are going to built a new horse pen! I am very excited.
The next morning, Ruby is a bit testy about putting on her halter. But, all day long, the yard is filled with fence-building noise - the roar of the gasoline auger, the shouting of the workmen - and Ruby is totally curious but well-behaved. Day two finds me sitting with Ruby while the guys work. It is a perfect day. The next is the same - lots of commotion to keep Ruby's interest with no nasty nippy. I spend the entire day pulling nails from old fence boards. Ruby stays close by, ever curious, all day long.
It is the end of September. Gary and I travel to Lake Superior Provincial Park in Canada for a week. He is retired and wants to travel - and I LOVE this Canadian park. If you have never been, you must go - north over Michigan's Mackinaw Bridge, east to the edge of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, over the Sault Ste. Marie bridge (the Soo) into Canada, and north one hour - don't forget to stop to play on the Sand River - to Twilight Resort at the south end of the park. But ... I just do not want to leave the horses. My life is TOO good.
When I return, my fifteen-year-old grand-niece, Emily, spends a day at the stable. She halters Ruby lickity-split - because like Amanda and unlike me - she is a quiet natural around horses. I know. I've offered lessons for thirty-five years. I have prepared riders for state champions. That is different.
Emily takes her first, albeit short, ride on Zena, cleans the three older girls’ hooves, leads and grooms Ruby, and (barely) cleans Ruby’s feet. She is the first person, other than Bill and I, to ask Ruby to lift her feet.
We tie Ruby to the wall for the first time with a loosely looped rope. I know that most trainers wall-tie their foals when they are very young and let them figure it out (fight it out). Elephant trainers do the same with baby elephants. The result is that, later, when the animal is large enough to put up a real fight, they will have already learned that it is useless. I know there is sense in that. I’ve done it myself with other foals. But, I just spent over four-hundred dollars to listen to James French, and he would hardly call that a Trust-Technique.
Before she leaves, Emily helps me sort the old, used fence boards stored at the far end of the arena. She is happy with the day and I am happy with her.