Today was Part I of Vaccination Day. You will recall that last year we finally decided there was a better way to handle Vaccination Day. Instead of doing it all in one long marathon day we decided to break it up into two days. We do the four pastures on the front half the farm on one day and the three pastures on the back half of the farm on day two. The other thing we started doing last year was using step-in posts and electric tape to pen the horses up at the front of their pastures by the gates.
I think we like the temporary pens the best because it pretty much eliminates the runners. When there is nowhere to run it certainly ruins the thrill of being chased for the horses. While I was feeding breakfast and putting on halters Jason was running a temporary strand of electric fence to keep everyone from leaving. Just like last year, the looks on the horses’ faces were priceless when their march to the farthest corner of their pasture was halted in its tracks by the temporary fence.
This was very upsetting to them. They all had their halters on so they knew that it was imperative to exit stage left immediately. They stared at the electric tape. They walked their new “fenceline” back and forth and back and forth. They milled around at the temporary fence and generally looked disgusted. Then they would come back up to the gate and and give us questioning stares.
Duesy, Lucky, Lightning and Slinky staring us down. “Hey, do you not realize we can’t leave? Do you realize we can’t go galloping away from you across the pasture? Help a horse out here.”
Duesy and Bruno standing at the temporary fence dejectedly. Remmy and Hesse decided that when all else fails you can entertain yourself with halter removal games.
However the best part of Vaccination Day, Part I was vaccinating Timbit. No, I’m not being my usual sarcastic self when I say that. For anyone who has forgotten, vaccinating Timbit was a total rodeo last year. This was our first time vaccinating him and we learned that he wanted No Part of It. He reared, he spun around and double-barrel kicked, he ran backwards, he charged. Even with four people attempting to vaccinate the mini we barely got it done, and we didn’t actually finish. Although we got him vaccinated we were never able to pull blood to update his coggins. It wasn’t going to happen. We had no idea what we were in for when we innocently walked up to Timbit to vaccinate him.
This picture from last year absolutely does not accurately portray the fight that Timbit put up. He was in it to win it, and he won.
It was such a horrible and dangerous experience I knew something had to be different this year. A few days ago I bought a clicker and a bunch of toothpicks and started working with Timbit. I have successfully rehabilitated one other needle-phobic horse with clicker training. However Timbit’s dislike of needles put the other horse’s reactions to shame so I had my doubts that it would work.
For several days we clicked and treated and clicked and treated. We got the concept of the click and what it meant down. The we moved on to working on the issue and out came the toothpicks. We broke a lot of toothpicks. A lot. But things kept improving. By yesterday the only objection he was offering was shaking his head, and he didn’t even do that every time.
While we were waiting for the vet today I made Jason do some practice with him. Jason participated against his will while I reassured him “he’s good now. He won’t attack you.” Jason unhappily took the clicker and toothpicks, and fearing for his life, touched Timbit with a toothpick. Timbit stood there while I yelled “push the clicker! PUSH THE CLICKER!” Each time Jason survived touching Timbit with the toothpick he got braver and put a little more pressure into the next touch.
The vet arrived while Jason and Timbit were clicking away. The vet was also doubtful of the whole arrangement but I told him to just touch Timbit with one of the needles with the cap still on. He did and Timbit stood there quietly and got a click and a treat. We then proceeded to vaccinate Timbit AND pull blood for his coggins with little fanfare. Timbit threw in a few headshakes and walked in one circle but that was it. It took maybe a minute to vaccinate him. No one was kicked at, charged at, drug backwards or struck at by a rearing mini. It was certainly a refreshing change from last year.
We proceeded to vaccinate the rest of the horses without issue. When we were done with each pasture we released them back into the wild. Or so one would think given the way they went charging off when their temporary fences were removed.
We get to to it all again on Thursday, with a date with the dentist sandwiched in between the two Vaccination Days. Even by our standards we are having another very busy week at the farm.
In other news Jason was having withdrawals so he had a few more loads of gravel added to the driveway.
Lightning and Slinky
Duesy, Hesse, Remmy and Merlin
Flyer and Silver
Walon, Johnny and Stormy
Coming on the run to eat. Clayton, Toledo, River and Johnny in the front; Donovan, Largo, Rocky and Kennedy in the back
Lotus and Lofty were being wild before breakfast
Timbit and Griselle
Asterik and Faune (Gus and Romeo hiding behind them)
Donneur, Romeo and George