Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where's Jackson?

Flash and I had three outings in a row two weekends ago; all between rain storms.  In a way it was like three day eventing, only difference being it was  in Flash's and my world.

Day #1 was on Friday when I fed Flash at 0530 and left with him in the trailer at 0645 for a 4 hour trail ride in a nature preserve in Irvine Ranch.  There was a total of 10 horses, none of which Flash knew.  He was very good and didn't care if he was in front, in the middle or in the back.  The only time he expressed his opinion about anything was when we stopped to open a locked gate and had to wait for the docent to unlock it.  He thinks that stopping means turn around and head back.  We discussed it over a sharp slap of the reins on his haunches, and he decided it was best to go forward.  On the way back the group walked on a concrete road which went over a swift creek running about 60' wide and 18" deep.  I decided to take Flash off the road and down the embankment to cross thru the water instead.  There was no hesitation in leaving the other horses.  We went down the embankment and he walked right into the water.  There were 3 large pipes about 2' in diameter which the creek flowed through under the road.  Flash walked right up to them, checked them out, and continued walking over the boulder strewn creek bed and out the other side.  Good boy.  We got home just before the first rain storm hit.

Day #2 was Saturday.  Up and feeding at 0500 and leaving at 0600 for a posse training day in Chino.  The training was "emergency care for a horse" put on by an outstanding vet.  It was 4 hours in the classroom, a break for lunch, and 4 more hours of hands on training.  The vet wanted 6 "demo" horses for the group to practice on, and Flash volunteered to be one of them.  Good boy.  I put him in a strange stall surrounded by strange horses during the classroom portion, and he didn't even blink.  The hands on part consisted of using hoof testers, wrapping bandages, pulse and respiration check, gut sounds for colic with a stethoscope, dental check in the mouth, and of course the old favorite, temperature taking.  Flash just stood there while he was wrapped and unwrapped, had his gums checked, was twitched, and had a thermometer placed up his rectum numerous times.  I think he even liked it because he was "dropped down" most of the time.  Typical gelding.  One good thing was that the vet checked his dental work and was really impressed with the doctor who had done the work several months ago.  We finished the day at 1600 hours and got home at 1730 just in time for dinner.  The entire day was spent dodging rain drops.

Day #3 was Sunday.  Day of rest?  Not for Flash and I.  Up and feeding at 0430 and this time leaving with both Flash and Jackson at 0600.  We were out the gate and down the block when Jackson remembered that we had forgot Annette.  Back to the house, picked up Annette and her coffee, then off to San Diego, (2 hour drive), for a sensory clinic before the next rain storm.  When we got there and took the horses out of the trailer, I could tell that Flash was a little hyped up.  He normally excels with in these clinics, but today was different.  Things were ok until the group of about 15 horses in the arena had to trot down the rail about two horse lengths apart.  Jackson doesn't do well in an arena setting with other horses, so his trot became VERY extended.  Annette maneuvered Jackson to the inside and began passing other horses.  This upset Flash and he kept asking, "where is Jackson going"?  I kept holding Flash back until we were cantering in place, both of us getting upset with each other.

We then lined up in columns of two to march into the other arena where the obstacles were set up.  Annette and I were the leaders or the "guide".  Jackson didn't like being stirrup to stirrup and kept moving away.  "Where's Jackson going?" asked Flash. " Don't worry, you know how to do this", I said.  But worry he did.  When we got to the other arena and started doing obstacles, Jackson took the imitative and went first.  Flash became more upset when Jackson was leaving before him.  At the obstacles Jackson was really good , this being his first time.  He would study and diagram them, then formulate a plan of attack, reconsider and evaluate, then eventually go through, most of the time. Then he and Annette would leave for the next obstacle and Flash and I would be left behind.  Normally Flash would care less being the alpha horse of his herd, but today was different.  Soon as Jackson left it was "where's Jackson?" "He's right over there", now go through the obstacle.  ":No, I need to be near Jackson".  "No, go through the damn obstacle".  We played this scene over and over.  Flash eventually went through every obstacle the first time, never balking, but always asking, "where's Jackson?"  Other horses had trouble crossing through the tray of water or over the baby crib mattress or popping balloons.  Flash seemed to say, "alright, I'll go through, but where is Jackson?"  The only obstacle he didn't do was the pole on the barrel.  Flash has done this before several times with no problem, but not this day.  His only concern was "where is Jackson?"

It was not a good day for us.  I was upset with the way Flash acted, and Annette was upset with the way I was acting towards Flash.  She told me he was just having a bad day.  He's tired and this is the third day in a row for him she said.  All valid points, but I knew he could do better.  I just don't understand why he needed to be near Jackson.  It's always the other way around. Flash wasn't insecure, I don't know what his problem was.  If anybody out there has any ideas, please let me know.

Several days later I went down to Home Depot and bought two trash cans and a 10' long PVC pole to practice the barrel thing with.  I set it up in our arena, tacked up Flash and got on him.  He walked right over to the pole on the trash cans, sniffed it, then knocked it off the cans with his nose.  I got off, put the pole back up, got back on Flash and approached the pole.  Flash just stood there calmly while I picked up the pole.  Then we walked in a big circle around the trash can with the pole on top three or four times, just using my legs to turn him.  We changed directions while holding onto the pole and did it four times the other way.  Never once did Flash ask, "where is Jackson?"

Funny horse, full of compost.


  1. A full weekend and impressive work!

    I think Flash picked up on Jackson's nervousness. Horses are very tuned in to what their herd mates are feeling. Because Jackson is the only horse Flash knew there, when he got nervous about moving in the group Flash picked up on it and wanted to stay with him. Horses are herd animals, when something happens they want to seek the security of their herd. Flash was thinking: "Hey, maybe Jackson's onto something, here. Maybe there's a scary monster and Jackson knows about it. I better stick near him and maybe it will eat him first!"

  2. Shannon - that's a very interesting observation. I didn't think about that but I bet you're right. Flash was calm when we went into the arena at first. It wasn't until Jackson and I started zipping around the arena doing the camel imitation that Flash got upset. ...and then he just never settled back down, even though Jackson did. Horses!

  3. Wow, you had a very busy few days! No rest for the wicked, I guess. :-) It's wonderful how you and Flash work together. Not that I am a horse expert, but I agree with Shannon that Flash picked up on Jackson's nervousness.

  4. I kind of like Shannon's explanation. Also, as alpha horse, Flash might also have been worried that Jackson "needed" him. My alpha worries every time I take one of the other Boys out for a ride. He's not upset for himself, but upset that he cannot watch over his herd. I've always felt he had an active imagination so he'd be dreaming up all kinds of disasters happening to the others when he couldn't protect them.

    If so, then Jackson's nervousness would certainly impact his "guardian angel." Either way, Flash's training still carried him through. Maybe he wasn't perfect but he did nearly everything.

    And, as I recall, that pole on the barrels was Jackson's "gift" to his Mom, so Flash was probably just being polite by not doing the obstacle--so Jackson could show off his "present." *G*