Friday, August 8, 2008

And then there were two....

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar. ~ Raymond Lindquist

When I made the decision to adopt Argo, I had to quickly decide where to house him. My facility houses about 23 horses at any one time. Of that number, three are mature stallions. Housing stallions, mares and geldings on a 20 acre farm can be a challenge to make sure everyone is safe and sound.

One of my stallions, Flash, suffered a serious injury six years ago. He fractured his shoulder and elbow in a freak accident. He found himself relegated to stall rest for a year, and then he was allowed a small paddock for a few months and then was allowed the flattest pasture I had, which believe me in Western Pennsylvania is no easy feat to find. Flash has had a long recovery and has come through it like a trooper. Through that time he has had pasture mates from time to time, whether they are geldings or bred mares. This past winter though I had no companion for Flash to share his field with. (I strongly believe stallions should have daily turnout and if possible have a pasture mate. They are herd animals, not solitary creatures to be locked up.)

Well back to Argo, the safest place to house Argo was going to be in a round pen inside my stallion paddock, Flash’s pasture. Now what to do with Flash…. I obviously could not put Flash in the same field with Argo for some time. So I made the tough decision to stall Flash for the long haul. Flash is an extremely special stallion, not only in temperament but in his courage and will to survive. If any horse could handle long term confinement Flash could. While Argo has been residing in Flash’s pasture, Flash has been relegated to the indoor arena and weekly riding under saddle, glaring at the stranger living in his pasture. Flash has once again though enjoyed hand walking and grazing. This time gave me an opportunity to appreciate Flash in a whole new light. He has become a handsome, mature stallion who easily adapts to the environments he is presented with.

A couple of weeks ago, I began to notice a longing in Argo’s eyes. He does not give the other horses much of his attention, but I catch him watching them when they are not paying attention. I used this want for companionship to help me with him, to connect with him so to speak. As my previous post explained, I had a major success with Argo.

I felt it was time to introduce Flash back into the pasture, to give them both the opportunity for companionship. Of course, my brain went into overdrive as I thought of all the horrible things that could happen. Would Flash feel he would have to challenge Argo through the pen? Would I watch Argo draw on his wild instincts and forget he had a 6 foot panel in front of him? And the debate went on in my head for several days. Finally, I made my mind up and put a 22 foot lead on Flash. My plan was if things went badly I would rely on Flash’s obedient nature to listen to me no matter what, and pray that all the intelligence I have seen in Argo would hold true. Well I don’t know what I was so worried about. Flash did his normal, puff up like a peacock, to impress Argo. Argo unthreatened, looked at him and blew at him as loud as I have heard him yet, but it was not an alarm blow, it was a “puhh!!! That’s supposed to impress me?!” Argo then turned on his heel and walked away. Oh the look on Flash’s face was priceless. He was infuriated, hurt and blown away all at the same time. Flash has always felt a need to announce his arrival to the other horses as he walks into the barn, and after one of his bellows you could hear a pin drop. Well, Argo was not impressed one bit and Flash was totally put out.

I took the next step and unhooked the lead from Flash’s halter. Typically, I never leave a halter on, but under the circumstances I felt I should if anything were to happen. As soon as Flash felt my hand leave the halter, he took off like a bullet to the round pen. I watched and waited. Flash began to circle the round pen like a hungry lion. I watched Argo’s ears and body movement. Argo never wavered and never changed his stance. He kept his rear end facing Flash the whole time and never once did he acknowledge Flash was even there. Flash of course, not to be ignored began to snake his head toward the ground. This is a typical stallion behavior when a stallion is trying in earnest to get a mare to mind him. Again, Argo ignored all of Flash’s stallion behaviors and began to eat his hay. I watched Argo some more and was pleased that Argo was not threatened by Flash’s antics, nor did he feel a need to challenge Flash.
Argo basically was non-impressed by Flash and Flash quickly tired of the fact that Argo was not going to bow down to him and went off to graze in his pasture.

Flash spent the night in the field and I watched a new calm come over Argo, a satisfaction so to speak. Flash spends every other day with Argo now. When Argo sees Flash coming out to the field, he calls to him, as if to say “Where have you been, we have so much to catch up on.” Flash will answer, but not in his normal announcement of his arrival, with his puffed up chest, but in a whinny that says, “The food lady said I had to stay in to give you some space, but man do I have some stuff to tell you about what happened in the barn.” Flash and Argo will hang out together catching up on gossip for a while and then they go their separate ways. Argo off to eat his hay, and Flash off to graze. Usually, Flash will come back to hang out with Argo several times throughout the evening. They both seem content with each other.

What I have observed with Argo is he is very comfortable in his own skin. He is not at all rattled by a younger, testosterone pumping, teenage stallion. He is very stately and exudes wisdom. I think he enjoys bestowing his knowledge on a younger horse, someone to share his stories with. Flash also enjoys having someone to talk to; I’m sure he points out all the mares to Argo and tells him who his favorite is and asks Argo for advice with the ladies.

I sit back and watch my two boys gab to each other and I think how courageous they both are in their own unique ways. Flash showed courage as a two year old with a severe debilitating injury, he never lost his cool during confinement; he came back from it and was put under saddle, again courage to try something that no one thought possible for him, he never argued, just tried to please. Argo has shown so much courage, he has had his world turned upside down in the past year. Everything he knew is gone, but yet here he is calmly and quietly dealing with what life has handed him, and flourishing. He has so much to teach me and Flash and he seems happy to do so.


Angela said...

How wonderful to see Argo get a companion along his fenceline....I'm so happy for him! And of course glad that Flash's exile from his paddock is over! I'm sure they will become best buds! It's so nice to see someone who breeds horses recognize that it's a great idea for their stallions to be able to experience life in something other than a 12x12 stall every day! Kudos to you!

Holly said...

The stallions I know that are normal have pasture companions. Bred mares do best with some, geldings with others but .all. have time to be just horses. I think Argo is a social advanced horse. He probably spent his entire life in the company of mature stallions, bachelor bands and maybe with some mares who taught him a tiny bit about space restrictions, equine interactions and polite herd behavior. All of that means he's self confident around Flash and they can both enjoy each other.

Anonymous said...

What a great story. You are really tuned in to your horses. I think that both horses are better for the companionship. Like you said, "horses are herd animals."

Callie said...

Nice post. So glad that things are turning out well. They need their pals. Nice that the stallion is able to get out of the stall and enjoy.

water_bearer said...

Hi. Just wondering how everything is going and if there are any updates / breakthroughs to speak of or if you have more pictures. Hope all is well with you and yours, and with Argo. Thanks.

Meg said...

Hello! I've enjoyed reading the blog about Argo. I'm from the area, and love reading about his journey! What a beautiful horse! Are there any new updates?

Paigeley said...

Argo reminds me of the oldest of about five siblings that is about 60 years old and likes to tell the younger ones that they are not all that and follows up by embaressing the socks off of them :D
happy horseing around!!