A continuation from Horses 101, this post is all about appreciating horses, and here at Red Horse Mountain Dude Ranch we feel that learning more about them is another way to make your experience at a dude ranch the best it can be! Learning about all aspects of horse care can make any rider appreciate their horse that much more. Just before our 2012 season, we were given the amazing gift of a baby horse named Kahlua. Kahlua was a big hit all summer, not only did she excite the kids but she also captivated the adults that fell in love with her and her mother. As our guests and staff made their way to the tack barn every day for their rides, they got to walk past the pair and say hello, and although Kahlua was a little shy at first, she came around quite quickly as an outgoing little filly!
While Kahlua provided a lot of joy for our guests this summer at Red Horse Mountain Ranch, it is important to know that taking care of a yearling requires a lot of effort, and our staff worked hard to make Kahlua assimilate well to her new home! Just like humans, socialization is a crucial part of a little filly or colts development. Kahlua spent the summer and fall in a pen with her mother, learning how to behave like a horse! Having other horses surrounding her in the adjacent pens also helped her to observe other horses interacting and made her comfortable in the corral. While being around other horses is essential for behavioral development, spending time with humans is just as important! Our staff spent a great deal of time getting to know Kahlua and getting her used to being handled by people, taking her for walks and short runs in the pasture with her mom, and simply spending time in the pen with her, it also helped that she was so popular with our guests. Exercise is extremely important for a rapidly growing horse!
Another aspect of horse socialization involves getting the horse accustomed to having its hooves handled and trimmed at an early age, especially with their rapid growth. That’s why we had our farriers spend time with Kahlua as well, and although she was a bit reluctant, they began to give her regular trimmings and help make her comfortable with this routine. This is also important for later in life when regular shoeing and trimming is required, and helps them feel a bit more comfortable if there are vetting needs that calls for the handling of their hooves or legs.
Getting baby Kahlua accustomed to wearing a halter was also a major part of getting her ready for ranch life. A properly fitted halter for such a young horse is extremely important, as it is their first introduction to wearing one and being handled in this manner by their owners. A horse that has not been halter broken at a young age may be quite difficult to train if introduced at an older age, however baby Kahlua proved to be quite cooperative! All of these interactions build bonds that also help in the weening process and to make it less traumatic for the foal.
While raising a new filly or colt may require a lot work, time, and love, it is extremely rewarding to see them grow and become the social animal that they were meant to be! Kahlua is now spending her first winter enjoying the snow and socializing with some of our older horses, still learning, but not quite ready to join the herd. Thanks to Kahlua and her mom Bailey for allowing many to observe and enjoy this great experience, and we look forward to being able to continue to watch her grow!