Once Bitten…

I’m going to put this here, not sure I want to share it to the fb page where people actually see it. People get on there and are so quick to judge, so sure they know everything.

We got home from town yesterday afternoon. I was tired. Shopping with kids is not fun. Rusty was standing at the gate whickering softly to me as we unloaded groceries. What could be more relaxing after a stressful day than seeing my favorite pony? With groceries hauled inside at least, if not yet put away, I grabbed a coat and went to visit.

I was a little disappointed to see that Heildorf/HellDwarf had come to visit. Not because I don’t like him but because it wouldn’t make our visit peaceful. Rusty has gotten so jealous since Coyote has been gone. His whole personality has changed. Coyote was always The Boss. Rusty was happy and easy going in the middle of the herd. With The Boss gone he has been thrust into the roll. He is uneasy and insecure in it.

The new Rusty frantically chases any horse I get near. He has always wanted to be with me, he’s been mouthy and pushy. Now he stands on top of me and has grabbed my coat sleeve with his teeth to remind me to pay attention to him. I’ve been making a conscious effort to pay attention to him. To give him time and understanding while he adjusts to loosing his friend. To reinforce good manners and only using his teeth on things besides me.

I thought we were having a good lesson, despite Hieldorf, because of and including him. I was rewarding Rusty for standing next to me, not killing HellDwarf. Loading the clicker more for Hieldorf. I stood between them as they stood nose to nose a couple of feet apart. I clicked and rewarded Rusty every time his ears weren’t back. There was lots of scratching and visiting in between.

I had worked with HellDwarf (I’m still undecided on the spelling, trying both ways out to see what I like) I had worked with him the day before while Rusty watched, indignant, over the fence. I was trying to make up for it. Things were going so nicely. I had two cookies left in my pocket. I wanted to do some more scratching and visiting before I left and save the cookies for just before I left.

The next thing I knew Rusty lunged past in front of me. My hand must of been up from the last scratch or going for the next. Unfortunately it was in front of his mouth as he lunged at HellDwarf. All I remember is the feel of it clamped between his teeth. Pinching and rather worrisome. There was no way I could get it out. It seemed like a long time my finger was in there probably no more than a second.

Then he let go. I was screaming at him, cursing him as he went past, probably still after Hieldorf. I remember Hieldorf being gone out the gate and leaving quickly as Rusty turned and stood in the gate looking at me confused, as I fumbled my way out the other gate.

Once I determined the finger wasn’t gong to fall off and had time to think about it I started trying to think of the causes. It was an accident. I do not believe Rusty was trying to bite me. He came with issues, biting was one of them. Not bad or often, but he didn’t see any reason not to. I still don’t think this was on purpose.

I think this was a case of trigger stacking. Having Hieldorf around has been stressing him. Me working with Hieldorf has been stressing him. Coyote being gone has been stressing him. All of this then I was standing between them feeding him AND Hieldorf. He snapped. He just meant to get rid of that obnoxious horse and my hand was in the way.

So if I’ve decided on a cause I’m fairly sure about the next step is figuring out what can be done about it.

Not trying to work with the two of them together seems like a safe place to start. Rusty needs a lifetime of manners training. Clicker training has worked wonders on him, I have to remind myself sometimes that I didn’t used to be able to walk down the driveway leading him, but the old him still shows sometimes. He is ridiculously mouthy and we’ve been doing lots of work on picking things up, fetching, using his mouth on things. The more we do that the more I need to be extra careful to emphasize not using his mouth on me. I think more time too, time for the herd to get settled again, time for him to get used to Hieldorf, time for him to feel settled and comfortable again.

It’s going to be a little bit before I do too much with Rusty. My hand is fairly well out of commission for awhile. When we do start back up maybe we will start with some protected contact until I get comfortable again. Regaining confidence is not just for riding. I will be doing my best to remember gloves. I always say that. Every time he takes treats with excessive enthusiasm and nips a finger. It is going to have to be my every time safety device. Then lots of treat manners.

Taking responsibility for all things that go wrong can seem daunting sometimes. But if we take it as a chance to improve ourselves and our horses it can be very empowering.

5 thoughts on “Once Bitten…

  1. Tellingson

    Wow, looks like that hurts. Did you ever hear how Justin was feeding the horses and one took a bite of hay he was throwing. Got his finger in the bite. He couldn’t look at it and asked Stef if his finger was gone. Those horses sure bite hard.
    After starting out saying everybody knows every thing I’m pretty sure you dont want advice. Seems to me though, this wasn’t really him trying to bite you, just bad luck. They say horses live in the moment, I dont think I would give him time to get over Coyote. You be the boss of the herd, please dont handle them loose, together. I am sorry you got hurt. Dang young horses!

    1. Neversummer Post author

      Thank you, we will get there eventually. I’m used to regaining confidence in the saddle after a fall. Rebuilding confidence in petting my horse is a new one for me though 😉

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