Saturday, May 10, 2008

Big Boy Haircut

Argus is curious about the horse trailer and the mysterious comings and goings of Ginger the pony, Ridge and Odie, the three who trailer out the most. This morning, as we left for a Pony Club mounted meeting, he called wistfully to the lone Odie as we rattled down the bumpy gravel driveway, following our progress by running alongside the fence until he ran out of pasture. He stood and watched sadly as we disappeared from view.

Hours later, when we returned, the same process, but in reverse. Argus ended up making his way from the farthest corner of Neighbor Jim's pasture back to the barn, where I had parked the trailer. He watched Odie unload. It made me wonder what they talk about when a horse returns from a trip off the property. Does Odie entertain the horses with tales of Pony Club rallies and horse shows? Does Ridge brag about his great dressage scores? Does Half Pint bore them with tales of his 3+hour trailer rides to the lameness specialist in Oakdale?

Today, I decided to take Argus to visit the horse trailer ---- just to take a look-see. He blew suspiciously at it, and shook a little. I threw a hay bag onto the ramp, encouraging him to eat and relax. He spooked a bit at the hay bag (never seen one before) and peered inside the trailer. I patted him and chattered away happily, telling him what a wonderful thing our trailer can be. We investigated the tack compartment (scary), and Argus took a meek step on the ramp (WAY scary), after which he took a big sigh and looked bored. That was our first trailering lesson.

Next, we tackled tying. For five months (that's how long Argus has been here), I have been teaching Argus to lead, and to respond to halter pressure lightly. That's the cornerstone of successful tying. Many times, we have "pretend" tied, me looping his lead rope loosely through a tie ring, and holding the stray end, ready to let go if panic hits. Working up to being tied is a big deal. I have seen so many horses injured permanently by a bad pull-back accident (that's where they panic while tied and pull back in a violent fit.) So I'm a bit conservative in the typing department these days: I use safety halters, and we tie to baling twine loops. Horses learn to lead, and lead well before they are tied hard.

Feeling ready, I brought Argus into the barn aisle and casually looped his lead through a baling twine loop. I picked up some brushes and went to work. He pulled gently against his leadrope, and to my great pleasure, moved forward nicely each time he felt resistance from the halter and lead. So for the first time ever, Argus stood tied today for grooming.

A thorough brushing, and a mane trim. Competition horses have their mane properly pulled. Here at the farm, once you are retired from all that, you get "the scissors." Manes are shortened the quick and dirty way: by cutting.

This was the first time since Argus' first day out of prison that he's had his mane trimmed. It had grown out nearly SIX inches since December, making him look a bit scruffy and in need of a "big boy haircut." While Argus stood tied quietly, I combed and brushed and snipped. Then I trimmed his fetlock hair (that's the knobby joints just above the hooves) and brushed out his stumpy, but recovering, tail (we found out recently that it was a local VET who cut off his tail when he became entrapped in it while still in prison. SHAME on that vet for not reporting this to the authorities!! I also found out that it was only two months before Animal Control finally extracted Argus from prison that his tail was removed).

Argus stood happily. He loves attention, and he LOVES LOVES LOVES to be groomed. A bodyworker who came to see Argus told me that in Traditional Chinese Medicine, such a deep love of touch is a sign of deficiency. At any rate, Argus will stand quietly all day if you are touching him. He has a wonderful mind, and tries so hard to cooperate.

When I was done with my scissors and brushes and comb, I stood back to admire my work. Before me stood a stately grey sporthorse who looked so proud of his haircut. Half Pint stood in the fatty stall, watching, his nose to Argus. They seemed to be deep in some silent horse conversation. About what, I do not know.


Funder said...

OH MY GOD, tell me you DIDN'T! You whacked off Argus's beautiful mane?!?

:Funder faints:

There are two kinds of horse people: sporthorse/dressage/jumper people, and western-type people. I'm a western-type person. The only possible silver lining I could see to Argus's Hell was "well at least he's got a lovely mane." And now you've destroyed that!

(Please don't misunderstand me - my horses all have long scraggledy manes that get pulled out on trees and fences and each others' teeth. I refuse to lock any of my horses up in solitary confinement for any period of time just to satisfy my ego... but I'm still a little envious of perfect long flowing manes! And you just CUT ARGUS'S OFF!!)

Argus' foster mom said...

>>>The only possible silver lining I could see to Argus's Hell was "well at least he's got a lovely mane." And now you've destroyed that!<<<

Funder, the "original" mane was whacked off in December, out of necessity and kindness. It was more than 30 inches long, and so badly dread-locked that it was not salvageable. The matted mane filled TWO gallon-size Ziplock bags that now sit in my tackroom.

For Argus, the long tangled mane and tail aren't symbols of beauty or freedom --- they were sad evidence of his suffering and neglect. They were his "hair coat."

Argus could not bear to wear his hair coat any longer. He had suffered enough.

My observation is that our horses, especially the compromised ones, feel better when they look smart. Everyone here gets trimmed and clipped regularly. I guess I'm just a "high and tight" kind of gal. Argus, being a TB, and a skinny one at that, looks nicer with a short mane.

Anonymous said...

Well Katie, as we see here, there are different opinions and ideas on horse care. I confine my horses, yes dispite my "ego". There they can get away from insects, rain, snow, wind and the heat of the sun. There, they can lay in a cleaned 2x a day bedding and know they are safe. The doors are never closed, they may go into their paddocks at any time. I too trim my horse's manes. Katie, guess we are ego maniacs! LOL (to each his own, I guess)

topcterv said...

i must be a high and tight girl also... think my boy loves how he looks (and i do too ) with a "hunter-style" mane... as we are only in this for pleasure i resorted to the dreaded scissors also... i still like a pulled mane better but seems silly to ask him to stand for that... mean as i am i just roached my mini, who's extra long and extremely thick mane was just too hot for her to handle!!! she seems quite happy with her new style...and much more comfortable... guess to each his own!!! wish i was close enough to visit mr argus, the updates are wonderful but sure would love to give him some love in person!!! thanks katie for all your work and keeping us up to date (although not always quickly enough :))))

Anonymous said...

call me an egomaniac, but I'm all for a fashionable trim. AND i use scissors on my manes, too - there's tricks to making them look pulled without the aching fingers and uncomfortable horse...

and i'm all "western-type" - no english in my blood!

i bet he looks fantastic with his haircut, and proud to be the fashionable gentleman he was always meant to be!

Susan said...

I am an English girl through and through. My western friends cringe because the first thing I want to do is shorten manes ;)) I too cut, in a week or so, you can't tell it from a pulled mane. I suspect that Argus looks at the big picture and the length of his mane is of very little concern to him. He is showered with love, attention and fresh food-the rest is small stuff to him.

barbara said...

What fantastic preparation you provided so Argus could enjoy his grooming and trimming and fixin' up. And, the time you take to show him the trailer that leaves and returns with his buddies. I bet they talk about stuff and talk about you LOTS!

Zhuria said...

I pull my filly's mane - she LOVES it! Anything I do to her mane - combing, trimming, pulling, braiding, she goes right to sleep and sometimes sighs contentedly. And considering she's usually pretty high-strung, it's a nice activity for us to do together and just relax.

I'd never pulled before I got my Susie, but I must be good at it since she enjoys it so much :p

Anonymous said...

Alright! I bet Argus looks great in his new 'do. :-)
And I think he will be loading on that trailer before too long. You are doing such a lovely job of giving Argus back his life.

Anonymous said...

Ohh Funder,I'm sure you meant well... but gee - what an aweful thing to say :(

shakes head

To Argus' mom - keep up the great work, we love to hear the updates! :)

Anonymous said...

Katie-------if it makes Argus Happy, that's what counts-----and he is loving the attention, which for too long he didn't get! You go, Katie!

spotteddrafter said...

I too check this blog several times a day, hoping for an update. To have so many in a row? WOO HOO!

I have been reading this since Fugly featured it on her board. I just love what you're doing for Argus, and I love reading all the updates.

You have such a talent for writing, I can see it all through your words. Thanks so much for taking us along on his journey..but more than that, thanks for everything you're doing for Argus.

Now, seeing as I'm a draftie girl - would love to see some pics of Half Pint. :)

Jess said...

Yay! I had almost given up hope of more entries. I was checking back here 3 times a day at one point. :) I checked on a whim today and got to read 3 new entries! Made my day. I'm so glad Argus has found your safe farm. Keep up the wonderful updates and pictures.

Oh and I like short manes too... LOL So far this year I'm trying the long look, but I'm sure it'll only last a short while. Imagine having all that hot hair on your neck while it's 100 degrees out!

Denise- LessIsMore17 said...

What a great blog, love all the pics of Argus and his buddies...

p.s. sometimes I shorten my horses mane with the clippers:-p

Anonymous said...

I just read this article and this horse sounded almost exactly like you described Argus!