All of our 2007 fillies are over 4 months old now, which means that it's weaning time.
Glory is the finest quality foal we produced this year. Her full name is "Gloria In Excelsis Deco." She was born exactly at sunrise on Easter morning, the daughter of the world-famous Dutch Warmblood Art Deco and my excellent Spotted Draft mare, Benedict Bonnie.
She has floating gaits that'll take your breath away. I had been planning to sell her until I saw her extended trot for the first time. Then I knew she was too good to sell! She'll stay here and be bred to our stallion, Senter, when she's old enough.
But she is also my "problem child"--willful and too smart for my own good. It took me five hours working her in the round pen to get a halter on her, and she managed to get it off again within an hour. It's not that she's head shy. I can handle her face and head all I want, grab her nose, pull on her ears. She lets me lift all of her feet without having to be restrained. But she knows what that halter is and does not want it on her face.
I should have worked on this with her ages ago, but I got busy with other tasks and never got around to another five-hour session in the round pen. It's better to halter train foals when they are young, since when they are smaller they are easier to control. But since Glory's staying here on our farm and not being sold, the only one who's going to suffer from the delay is me.
So I decided that Glory would be weaned first, and I would take that time to work with her daily to complete her halter training. The first step, so I thought, was to get her out to the round pen so I could get the halter on her.
I brought Glory's mom Bonnie out of the pasture, and Glory followed. I led Bonnie toward the round pen, letting her graze on the grass along the way. Glory arched her neck and started doing her amazing extended trot back and forth around the yard, but when she saw where we were heading, she abandoned her mother and flew back toward the pasture where the other horses were.
Fine. Clearly she remembered our previous round pen session and didn't want a repeat. I'd just put her and Bonnie into the front paddock. It's small enough that I can use some round pen techniques in there, even though it isn't round.
Glory was deeply suspicious of this new direction. It took leading her mom into the paddock two steps at a time, and feeding Glory a mouthful of grain every step she followed, to get her in there. Even then she nearly changed her mind and bolted at the last minute before I got the gate shut.
When she and Bonnie were safe in the paddock, I just let them alone for a couple of hours to get used to the area. Then I put Callisto, who will be Glory's weaning buddy, into the paddock and took Bonnie away.
A weaning buddy is an adult horse (not the foal's mother) who stays with the youngster to set a good example and keep her calm during the scary coming-of-age time while the foal learns to be without her mother.
I chose Callisto for this job because she had been so kind to our colt Shane when he was weaned last year, and because she has such an unflappable temperament I knew she would discourage the baby from charging around like an idiot and possibly hurting herself.
Predictably, Glory trotted around with her head in the air, fussing and whinnying. Bonnie, back in the front pasture with the rest of the herd, could not have cared less that her baby was gone. If anything, she seemed relieved.
Callisto, surprisingly, fussed a little bit at being removed from the herd to play babysitter, but as soon as we put food in front of her, she decided all was well.
When Glory was charging nervously around and crowded too vigorously close, Callisto lifted one hind leg and rather than KICKING the youngster, just placed the hoof against her and PUSHED. A firm but painless shove to tell the baby, "Knock it off. You're acting like a fool."
Now they have had their supper and are spending the night in the paddock together. Glory's first night away from mom. It's official. She's a big girl now.