Tuesday, December 22, 2009


After searching for over a year, I actually found and was able to buy (barely) my dream horse. He's an eight year old, 16.2 hand, dapple gray Andalusian gelding.

JJ kindly agreed to give Shadowfax a test ride when I asked for her opinion before buying him. I didn't have anyone to take pictures when I was riding him, but JJ said that I looked good on him.

I can't believe that I actually found an Andalusian that I could afford that was healthy, sound and sane. He even has dressage training. Okay, he doesn't have the best conformation, and he has a little arthritis in his hocks, and yes, he is young to already have arthritic changes. But he is still sound enough for what I want to do according to the vet, and should remain that way for many years with proper maintenance. He is also still somewhat inexperienced since after being started under saddle and ridden for a couple of years, he was then put out to pasture and had nothing done with him for about two years. But after being back under saddle for only a little over a month, he was easy and comfortable for me to ride. He's a little lazy, but that might get better with more consistent riding. I didn't have any trouble getting him to trot and canter, though I did have a little trouble keeping him cantering. But just a little extra push with my outside leg and inside hip kept him going. Considering that I'm still learning how to canter myself and that I am just coming back from several months off of riding because of my surgery, it's a pretty good sign that I was able to ride him that easily.

His registered name is Mi Romeo, but neither Foxfire nor I really wanted to call him Romeo so I was trying to come up with another name for him. I was out in the pasture with him and suddenly realized that I had just called him Shadow. So I asked, "Is Shadow your name?" and he walked toward me. Of course any time he hears my voice, he walks toward me(Yes, he already comes to me any time I go out in the pasture. He really WAS meant for me.) But Foxfire liked the name Shadow, so we tentatively started calling him Shadow. However, we already have a cat named Shadow and I also wanted a name with a little more distinction for my horse, so after thinking about it for a while, I decided that I would call him Shadowfax. I know it's a bit presumptuous to name him after Gandalf's stallion in Lord of the Rings, but he is an Andalusian, which is the breed of horse they used for Shadowfax in the movie. And it just seems like the right name for him.

I admit that I'm still a little nervous about having spent so much on a horse. But even though he is not perfect (no horse is), I think he is the right horse for me. I'm still sort of getting used to the idea of having my own horse. I don't think it's really sunk in yet. Maybe once I get a chance to ride him here it will finally sink in. I haven't been able to ride him at home yet because my husband's very mild mannered horse, Ziggy, has turned into a fire-breathing herd protector. Ziggy will not let Shadowfax anywhere near HIS donkeys. The problem is the donkeys (and Ziggy to some extent) are used to coming up to me anytime I go into the pasture in order to get petted and scritched. So anytime I go out in the pasture to try and spend time with Shadowfax, the donkeys and Ziggy come over and chase Shadowfax away. I can't put Ziggy in his stall because when we tried to do that, Ziggy went absolutely balistic and started charging his stall door. We were afraid that he'd hurt himself (and destroy the stall) so we had to let him out.

Foxfire and I have tried several different things to get Ziggy to accept Shadowfax. It's not like we just turned everyone loose in the pasture together. When we brought Shadowfax home, we had Ziggy in his stall and the donkeys and goats in the goat pen. We led Shadowfax around the property and let him see and smell everything. (BTW, Shadowfax behaved very well throughout everything. He was curious and looking around, but not nervous or aggressive.) Then I led Shadowfax up to Ziggy's stall to let them sniff noses. And that's when the drama began. Ziggy took one sniff then snapped at Shadowfax. Shadowfax naturally stepped back, but that's all he did. He didn't snap back or get excited, he just got out of reach of Ziggy. I waited a few seconds and let Ziggy just look at Shadowfax and when he seemed calmer, I led Shadowfax up to him again. Again Ziggy snapped at him. So I decided to leave Ziggy alone for a bit and led Shadowfax over to the goat pen and let him sniff noses with the donkeys through the fence. Tessla, of course, immediately came over and said, "Hi". After seeing Tessla interacting safely with the big gray horse, Kanny and eventually Marie came over and they all sniffed noses. Shadowfax actually seemed to like the donkeys. Maybe he just appreciated that they weren't pinning their ears and snapping at him.

When Shadowfax seemed to lose interest in sniffing the donkeys, I let him wander around a bit on his own. I was still holding his lead rope, but I let him go where he wanted to. He soon found the water trough and took a long drink. After that I decided to try Ziggy again. Same result. Foxfire thought that maybe Ziggy would be friendlier if he weren't stuck in his stall, so I led Shadowfax a good distance away, and Foxfire haltered Ziggy and led him out. We carefully led the two horses closer to let them sniff noses again. This time Ziggy not only snapped at Shadowfax, he reared up a little and sort of thrashed his front hooves at him, accidentally racking Foxfire in the process. Foxfire was okay, just not real happy. Shadowfax remained surprisingly calm and just stepped back out of reach. Foxfire backed Ziggy up and I kept Shadowfax at a bit of a distance and we just let the horses look at each other for a while. Then very carefully we again let them get closer. Again Ziggy displayed very aggressive behavior. Ziggy wasn't actually biting or kicking Shadowfax, but he was putting on one hell of a threat display. We, Foxfire, the previous owner, her trainer and I, finally decided that the two horses would have to just work it out themselves. So I took Shadowfax to one end of the pasture and Foxfire took Ziggy to the other end and we turned them loose.

Shadowfax immediately trotted towards Ziggy who was standing by the goat pen with the donkeys in it. Ziggy charged at Shadowfax and chased him away. As soon as Shadowfax was a good distance away from the donkeys in the goat pen, Ziggy stopped chasing him and went back to the donkeys. This pattern repeated itself several times during which we figured out that Ziggy apparently saw Shadowfax as a threat to his herd (the donkeys). Poor Shadowfax just wanted to join the herd, but Ziggy absolutely refused to let him near. Since Ziggy was behaving so aggressively, we decided to just leave the donkeys and the goats in the pen for a while and see if in a few hours things had calmed down. Watching Ziggy behaving so aggressively was actually pretty frightening. He'd always been such a non-dominant horse before, but now his behavior was really scary. I'll repeat that neither Ziggy when he was attacking nor Shadowfax when he defended himself actually bit or kicked the other horse. It was just a lot of really aggressive display. But even though no one was actually getting hurt. It was distressing to watch.

Unfortunately, even hours later, Ziggy was still chasing Shadowfax away from the goat pen any time he came near. However, both horses were completely lathered and probably exhausted, and the chases were getting shorter and less intense, so we decided to try feeding everyone since it was about time for their evening meal. Shadowfax was quite willing to go into his new stall to get fed and enthusiastically gobbled up his grain. Ziggy had to be haltered and led into his stall and after taking only a few bites started pacing his stall, pinning his ears at Shadowfax in the stall next to him, snaking his head around the stall wall and snapping at Shadowfax. He even started charging his stall gate. At this point, because we were afraid that Ziggy would hurt himself, we had to let him out of his stall. He ran over and checked on the donkeys, then started charging at Shadowfax's stall. Foxfire and I would clap and yell at him and make him turn away, but it was still frightening Shadowfax. For the first time, Shadowfax started displaying nervous behavior. Completely understandably. Foxfire managed to chase Ziggy far enough off so that I could let Shadowfax out of his stall. Once Shadowfax was out of his stall he calmed down. However, Ziggy would still chase him away any time he came near his little herd. Poor Shadowfax.

Once it got completely dark, things seemed to settle down a bit. Every once in a while, Shadowfax would ease up toward the herd and Ziggy would chase him away, but things weren't nearly as dramatic. Since Ziggy hadn't finished his grain which is a very bad thing because he has a history of ulcers, I led Shadowfax into the goat pen and stayed with him so that Foxfire could bring Ziggy's feed bucket to where he was standing with the donkeys and encourage him to eat. Ziggy eventually finished most of his grain, and I let Shadowfax back out. Foxfire and I finally got our own dinner and settled down to watch some tv. But we would go outside every once in a while to check on everyone. Ziggy still wouldn't let Shadowfax join his herd, but at least there were no more big dramatic chases.

Anyway, that was the first day of having my new horse. Which was Sunday, by the way, I'm a little behind in posting this entry. I'll try to post what went on on Monday and today either later tonight or more likely tomorrow.

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