Today I decided to wean Grace, the last of this year's foals. At first, I thought it was going to be easy.
I waited until the herd came up from pasture of their own volition, to drink at the water troughs I'd just refilled. Grace's mother, Char, was easy to catch as usual. I just walked up and snapped a lead rope on her.
Just as I'd hoped, as I led Char away from the herd, Grace followed closely, while all the other horses remained behind, busily scavenging the last few wisps of yesterday's hay out of the hay feeder.
With Grace following close behind, I led Char out of the pasture and into the weaning pen---much to the excitement of the other fillies, who crowded around, eagerly making the submissive, chomping, "baby mouth" gestures towards Char, essentially reminding her, "We are babies, don't hurt us!"
Grace trotted into the group of other fillies, and as soon as she was safely away from the gate and momentarily distracted, I led Char back out of the weaning paddock and returned her to the front pasture with the rest of the herd.
She's had babies before, so I got the impression she understood what was going on. She didn't seem to mind leaving her baby behind. After all, she's worked hard being a mom for the past 5 months. She deserves a break now.
At first, Grace was relatively calm and quiet. She trotted back and forth in the weaning pen, not really making much noise or
seeming too upset.
That's been the pattern with the weanlings this year. They're not too disturbed at first, because they think it's just a momentary inconvenience separating them from their moms. It takes a few minutes for them to realize that this time the separation is more serious.
With Grace, the gradual increase of tension was not obvious right away. One minute, she was just trotting around, looking over the fence and occasionally whinnying. The next...
Up, up, and away... she jumped the fence!
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, Grace IS the daughter of Art Deco, who is famed worldwide for his athletic ability as well as his spectacular good looks. And Grace's mother Char DID jump out of this very same paddock one time, shortly after she arrived on our farm.
Still, it's a four foot tall fence with a slightly uphill takeoff and not much room to get a running start. And even though Grace is exceptionally tall for her age, she is still only 5 months old.
So, yeah, I was just a bit surprised!
Fortunately, not only did she get over the fence without hurting herself, she also happened to choose a spot that led into the back pasture.
So, rather than jumping out into the yard and trying to run back to her mother, which is what she probably intended, she actually just jumped into an empty pasture where she could run around all by herself and not get into any trouble.
At that point, she'd gotten her adrenaline going, so I decided just to let her run it off... and take advantage of the opportunity to take some nice action photos of her moving.
She ran and ran for quite a long time. When it finally looked like she was starting to get tired enough that it didn't look like she would try any more funny stuff (like jumping another fence), I had Ken open the weaning paddock gate and let the other fillies out with her.
They all ran around together for a few minutes, but the other fillies weren't as interested in strenuous exercise on a warm, sunny afternoon, so before long, I had Ken shake the grain bucket and lure them all back into the weaning pen, and I shut the gate behind them.
All in all, it didn't go all that badly. Just a little bit of excitement mixed in to keep things interesting.
Now the four fillies are in the weaning pen together, trying to sort out what the new herd pecking order will be. Glory is determined that she is going to be boss of everyone. Libby and Penny don't really care enough to bother arguing with her about it.
But Grace is at least a hand taller than Glory, so once she adjusts to being without her mother, she could easily take over leadership of the group. Glory knows this, so she's taking every opportunity while Grace is distracted and worried to be as vicious and nasty as she possibly can, hoping that by the time Grace calms down, submitting to Glory will have become a habit.
Grace's mom Char is undisputed boss of the broodmare herd. Glory's mom Bonnie would LIKE to be boss, but just doesn't have what it takes to overthrow Char.
Will Grace inherit her mother's leadership role? Or will Glory achieve the Queenship her mom can only aspire to?
I guess we'll find out as the rest of this horsey soap opera unfolds!
In addition to the photos above, I also got a few video clips.
Unfortunately, I had the camera turned off when Grace jumped the fence, so I didn't capture that moment. But in this clip, taken about a minute before the jump, you can see the place where she's about to jump, right where she's looking over the fence in the first few frames of the video. (Incidentally, if you've been following the saga of Trouble the Runaway Lamb, you can hear her in the background of this video, bleating in reply every time Grace whinnies).
Here's another clip of Grace running around in the pasture just after she jumped the fence. What a pretty girl, even if that was a naughty thing to do!
And here's one of the whole gang of fillies playing in the field together before we shut them back up in the weaning pen.