My Zambia Chimpanzee Chronicles, Part V (Sally the Horse)

3:30 PM–We drove down to Siddle’s son’s end of the ranch. Tony and Linda run the cows, 800 head of Brahma! They have a feedlot for fattening cattle and showed me the feed. A mixture of corn bran and chicken manure, which contains a very high level of protein. Tony also explained their milking style. They milk in the morning only and leave the calf on the cow. The calves don’t do well, they say, taken off the cow. Thankfully, there there is no market for veal …. lucky calves!

HORSES: Yesterday I worked with “Sally,” a two-year-old half Arab, half Thoroughbred filly. Sally’s 20-year-old dam was given to Tony on her way to the butcher three years ago. Her owner had not been successful in breeding her for many years. Tony brought her home and put her in the pasture with an 11-month-old Arab stud colt and, bingo! she produced Sally.

Tracy asked me to help her with the young mare since Tracy’s experience is with sheep in England, not horses, and Sally had taken advantage of her several times, and had not led well at all. Out we went into the pasture, down to the rivers edge to bring up the four horses. Three of the four horses are 20 years old: an ex-polo horse, and a broken down race horse with enormous ocelots and arthritic knees. We brought the 20-year-old up with Sally, since she gets hysterical and stubborn when alone. Tony had been shown by a visitor who had trained horses in Australia how to teach a horse to lead by jerking its head around until the horse faces you. Tony had done this to Sally. The outcome was that she had reared, spun away, and kicked out, and managing to get away on several occasions.

Sally was easy to catch, but not easy to lead. The horses were down on the edge of the river, surrounded by the usual white egrets, long legged birds always following cattle or horses. Sally had pulled back and broken her nylon halter, which was twined together under the chin. David had given me some half inch hard rope, which I fastened over the nose as though it were a chain. I wished I had the lead shank and chain in my suitcase, which I’d left in airport storage back in Zurich. We cut several foot light bamboo sticks for a wand. Sally did not know how to lead. Apparently she had been more or less dragged reluctantly along. I stroked her hock several times and tapped her croup, while giving a tug on her head. No response. Our usual “Dingo” signal was not clear. I turned her head slightly tapping her on the side of the thigh, and she took a few steps forward and stopped.

After repeating this several times, she began to listen mostly to the taps, and I was able to transfer the taps from the thigh, from which she instinctively responded by moving her leg and thereby stepping forward, to the tap on the top of the croup, which she must think about.

Since she normally gets upset when brought out of the pasture alone, we fashioned a half hitch rope halter on the head of Sally’s dam, and brought her along to keep Sally reasonably calm until she learned to lead, and could enjoy being with humans. She was only separated for a week as a yearling, at weaning time, and otherwise had never been away from the horses and was rarely handled. We had to tap and tug every few steps, because Sally would stop when she wasn’t being pulled. We got the horses up to the road, through the gate, and proceeded to a pile of bamboo poles about 9 feet long. From these we made a labyrinth, doubling up the bamboo to get enough length.

Ten minutes in the maze and Sally responded well to the Dingo, and the Dancing Cobra. We did some work on picking up her front feet and I showed Tony how to keep them up without her struggling and losing her balance. Tony had been pushing his shoulder into hers, the traditional way of getting up a horse’s foot, and then holding it by the hoof. Sally would naturally drop her weight onto the bent fetlock joint and lose her balance. By holding the leg by the fetlock joint she kept her balance and stopped struggling. We did a little work on the hind feet but she was very nervous about them, and tended to kick. So I mostly stroked them with the bamboo stick for today, and finished up with a few circles on the front feet. (I showed them how to work the ears for colic, and do the belly lifts. Sally liked the ear work and the TTouch on her face.)

Tony and Tracy were thrilled. She’d never lead so well or stayed so calm. When Tracy went to brush her at feeding time she whinnied and stood much quieter than usual.

Stay tuned…there’s more.

© 2011, Linda Tellington-Jones. All rights reserved.

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