Yesterday, I pulled Palisades out of his lovely digs and took him down to flirt with mares, for the second time since his arrival. I wasn't expecting much, but Petit Point promptly assumed the position, then cast a flirtatious eye at Palisades and shuffled around so her butt was facing him directly. Well, that wasn't subtle. Neither was the happy uproar he was making (tip: when teasing mares, either wear earplugs or stay a couple feet away from the stallion's head), so I put him away as fast as possible and went to call the helpful vet (who had volunteered to come by after work and help me breed the two. As she put it, breeding horses is like moving a couch: child's play for two people and a real pain in the ass for one).
It was 5:09pm on a Friday. So much for reaching the helpful vet. I left messages everywhere I could reach.
Since I had been lackadasical about checking the mares daily, I had no idea whether she had just come in heat or was just on her way out, or something in the middle. Thus, I was wanting rather urgently to breed her before she decided her heat cycle was over, as such rituals are usually punctuated with flying hooves.
(My helpful neighbor asked why I didn't just turn them loose together. I pointed out that Palisades is 21 and irreplaceable. I did not point out that he himself had a mare kicked while pasture-breeding, so badly that she is no longer rideable.)
So I thought. I thought, mmmmaybe, I could tie up Petit Point and then devote both hands to dealing with Palisades. (First mistake: I did not also tie up Capucine.) So I readied Petit Point, and then went hiking back up the hill to find Palisades in a literal lather from all the excitement. We had an exciting five minutes or so, descending the hill, since I was rigidly enforcing the "don't crowd me" rule. Nine hundred pounds of hormone-soaked mania on the other end of a string... yeah, I'd rather he didn't try to hurl himself downhill past me and at the mare.
Some stallions are very slow about breeding, and very flirty. These are good for reassuring shy mares, but can be frustrating to handle on a heavy breeding schedule. Some stallions will hurl themselves at anything -- in heat or not, male or female, with absolutely no foreplay. I think this is symptomatic of poor equine socialization, a common problem with stallions. Palisades is somewhere in the middle, but definitely towards the "breed anything that will stand still long enough" end of the scale. In his defense, he hasn't had much experience, and I'm hoping that we all live long enough to get to the point where he's acting less like a sex-crazed teenager and more like a sex-crazed forty-year-old. :-)
In any case, Capucine, hanging out near Petit Point, took great offense at Palisades (I think he was daring to consume oxygen within fifty feet of her august presence), flattened her ears and damn near came over the fence to dismantle him. Jeanne Craver comments that the attitude of some pregnant mares towards stallions reminds her of Bill Cosby's routine about his wife having their first child: "You! YOU did this to me!" I decided retreat was clearly the better part of valor, since I needed at least three hands, and preferably six, to do my juggling here.
Okay. Who do I know who is less than an hour away and can handle a horse? emeraldas to the rescue! She came by this morning and, after breakfast, we got down to business, and even had enough hands free to attend to some of the niceties, like washing the stallion and twitching the mare. (I think Petit Point was more offended by the twitch than distracted. Have to remember that for next time.)
But, you know, hardly anything is as simple as it could be. I chose the gravel apron by my lower barn as the safest, most level area available. Except that the helpful neighbor and his daughter were busy in the barn, preparing to paint her old VW. (I'd given them permission to use the barn for this purpose weeks ago, and I'd been wondering when the fuck they were getting that thing out of my barn.) The neighbor's half-grown, untrained Heeler pup (chases cars, nips people's ankles) was also hanging around with them.
After the deed was done and I pulled the twitch off of Petit Point, she was ready to move. I'd been planning to walk her a bit, but she wasn't interested in anything that sedate, so I said to hell with it, and turned her loose in the pasture.
She and Capucine took off at a full gallop, and the neighbor's dog took off right after them. I've never seen Petit Point kick and run at the same time before, but she didn't connect with the dog, and I was positively sorry. I was fairly sure the mares could take care of themselves, so I was mostly watching them gallop, which I don't get to see very often. The neighbor -- well, this is ranch country, and a dog that chases livestock is the stock owner's lawful prey, which he knows as well as (if not better than) I. He went yelling after the dog, and the dog didn't pay him a blind bit of notice, which is about what I would expect. Then he armed himself with a club (a fallen tree limb), assured me twice that if the dog ever chased horses again he'd drop the dog himself ("He never chases mine!") and headed over the fence to catch the dog. I decided I had nothing further to contribute here, and headed up to meet with emeraldas and Palisades.
I was about at the top of the hill when I heard the dog yelping. Right. Catch the dog and then whale the shit out of the dog for coming to you. As I said to emeraldas, there is more stupidity in the world than one person can safely combat, and sometimes you just gotta walk away.
I keep saying I need to learn how to shoot, and I haven't yet. But if I catch the dog chasing my horses again, I will invite the neighbor to make good on his offer, or I'll jump the dog into my truck and take him to the nearest vet. The shame and sin of it is, if the dog were trained, he wouldn't have these problems, because he'd know when he was being asked to herd, and he'd have a job to do. The law permits me to shoot the dog, but not train him. And the one in ardent need of training is the neighbor. Geesh.