Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Liam is Home!

Liam is home!!!

Unsure about his life.

It was rather... exciting? The trip rattled him A LOT and we had a mishap in the trailer during unloading. Everyone is fine, except the trailer... Note: Liam will double barrel kick when scared. Do not stand behind him.

He walked off the trailer like a gentleman, despite being visibly upset and soaked with sweat. There is no media, sorry people. Unloading him safely was first priority. He walked around the parking lot like a gem, and then very cautiously walked into the barn. He was surprised by the concrete floor and then the other horses (concrete floors are VERY distracting). He became instant best friends with one of the horses he shares a wall with, a Dutch Warmblood who is also chestnut and very chromey.

So sweaty.

Of course at this point, I am FREAKING OUT. "What have I done?!" went through my head multiple times- I just took possession of a 2 year old who is large and rude and will double barrel kick. I was panicking that I'm in over my head with a baby horse, and we haven't done anything yet! This was on top of the "new mom" emotions that go something like this: "OMG it's like a new baby, 'here you go, make sure it grows up healthy and well mannered!' and they hand you the horse and drive away!" #responsibilities

I took Madonna for a quick spin while Liam settled- which he did beautifully. After sniffing both neighbors, he settled in to eat hay long before I went out to ride. He did scream a small amount- he's got such a high pitched whinny! It's very baby like. It stopped when no one answered him, all of the other horses were too busy stuffing their faces with hay.


After the indoor cleared out, I pulled Liam back out in a rope halter and 12' cowboy lead rope to go walk around- if he was going to try to get away from me, I'd have 12' before he managed it, plus closed arena doors. I also put on my helmet. I felt like a proper pony clubber! (even though I only did one year of pony club)

Everything is an adventure for him! Walking out of the stall onto concrete. Looking at the forge. Looking at the sink. Looking at the other horses. OMG look the concrete becomes dirt. OMG there's THINGS in the dirt. Mounting block. Poles. Cavaletti blocks. A pole WITH FLOWERS IN IT. Muck buckets. Chairs.

He was SUPER.

The first thing I did was try to get his focus on me, even though he'd only been on the farm for 2.3 seconds. I couldn't even walk him around because his shoulder kept coming over me and he was puffing up... and well, he's way too big for that. He'd clobber me if he decided to bolt. Something I learned from the Friesian I vetted is a spot on the chest to make them back up: where the neck comes into the chest, make a C with your hand a poke the horse right there, with the curve of the C going around the neck where it attaches into the chest. I've found a very light poke will cause a correct reaction in most horses.

So I'd stop walking, he'd keep going and walk into the rope halter, and I'd poke my hand into his chest right there. He'd stop immediately and swing his head back to look at me. I'd then make him back up by poking him until he had an eye solidly on me, and give him a big scratch on the neck and tell him he was so smart. I'd take the same C shape and poke him in the neck when he'd throw his neck at me. It took 5 min tops for me to easily get his attention for at least 5 seconds, and he'd respond immediately to my prompts to pay attention, even if I had to lather, rinse, repeat every five seconds. Eventually I didn't feel unsafe walking next to him.

Next we investigated THE THINGS. He's rather brave for a baby horse who had his world turned upside down. Maybe that has to do with a baby horse's curious nature?

Very scary.

The first thing we investigated was the pole raised on cavaletti with fake flowers in it. Liam snorted and thought about leaving, but I held my ground and walked towards it a second time and gave him tons of scratches and reassurance. He did some side stepping and hid behind me at one point (a boarder who does a lot of more advanced groundwork went in with me to help me keep my brain in my skull said that), but eventually dove into the flowers like a kid doing a cannonball into a pool. My brain quickly changed gears to "OH GOD, DON'T EAT THEM! I've only had you for a few hours, NO EMERGENCY VET VISIT!" But he's a good baby who doesn't feel the need to mouth everything in sight yet, so he smelled the shit out of every fake flower bunch on the pole before swinging his head back around to me and putting his nose on my chest for scratches.

The rest of our short indoor adventure went a lot like that. I'd decide where we would walk to, doing focus checks every 3 seconds, and giving lots of scratches and encouragement. He is SO BRAVE and so curious. He'd look to me for encouragement and then investigate everything with his nose before coming right back for more scratches and reassurance. He hid behind me many more times. We were only in there for 10ish minutes, because I started having trouble getting his focus back and he'd been very good.

New media is required of it, stat.

By the time he got back to his stall, his eye was very soft and his posture more relaxed. He started doing the snuggly things I loved about him: making faces when I scratched all the itchy spots on his chest, neck and whithers (he got rocking and nearly pushed me over when I scratched his chest), and sniffing people faces and blowing air into said faces. There were 4 of us cuddling him and he seemed to think it was divine. There is zero mouthiness to the face sniffing, he just gets right up in there to properly snuffle you.

Our little indoor arena adventure and post adventure cuddling reminded me of why I liked him so much and I instantly felt better about him. He is a thinking horse and very personable. His world was turned upside down, and an hour or so after arriving he was able to focus on me and even learn a little. After working him a little in hand, he was already less pushy in the stall and better about his feet not invading personal space. I want to carefully encourage his bravery and curiosity. I want him to feel capable of ANYTHING so he'll stand his ground when he's afraid. Hopefully that will be enough to keep those hind feet on the ground!

Husband and I planned a trip this upcoming weekend for our 6th anniversary, which unfortunately means leaving Liam for a few days (we planned it long before Liam was in the picture). The barn is also hosting a biomechanics and groundwork clinic this Saturday with an exceptional trainer. I talked to BO about handling Liam in the workshop afternoon session (the morning is a lecture) to get his groundwork going. She's handled a bunch of babies and started several, so he will be in good hands that can give me a lesson when I come back!

Me, for the last week!


  1. I LOVE HIM!! Welcome home, baby horse!

  2. he really is so friggin cute <3 and i totally know what you mean about the "dear god, what have i done?!?" feelings haha... but i promise, that's a totally normal part of the new horse (esp baby!) journey. he sounds like such a nice sweet sensible baby!

    1. I have to remember I've uprooted him and that he's being incredibly sensible!

  3. Good baby horse! RIP trailer. 😂 Honestly, I've had lots of horses that kicked in the trailer but wouldn't DREAM of kicking otherwise. I'm sure he'll be fine. And by the time you're done with him, he'll think trailers are awesome!

    1. Trailers will be fine eventually! He was just terrified and he doesn't have enough training to get through prey animal brain. We'll get there!

  4. Oh gosh, the "WHAT HAVE I DONE?!" part is normal. Just remember he has a lot of growing up to do, and now, you get to influence that :) And I'm sure as time goes on he'll be more willing and happier in the trailer. One step at a time!

    1. Yea, I have to remember that I liked getting him as a baby so I could bring him how I want. Creating a gentleman from an early age!

  5. Oh my gosh I’m so happy for you!! Baby horses can be brats sometimes but I’m 100% sure you’ve got this :)

    1. I just have to remember I've got this, then it'll be fine!