I discovered something sort of cute about Archie the other day. I pulled into the driveway and saw his pasturemate was not in the field with him. He was buried in the haypile as usual, but as I drove by I stopped, and rolled down the window. “Archiiiieeeee!!! Hi ArchiiieeeeEEEE!!!” Up came his enormous buffalo face, and he talked back to me. He’s got this great, deep, low pitched breathy greeting neigh, and it about melted my heart with the cute. The only other horse that ever “talked” back to me like that is Allie’s amazing horse Phinny (who is pictured on this page – he is magic, pure and simple!).
In any case, this was the weekend of the attempted de-fuzzing of Archie. I intended to give him a bigger clip than I usually do (normally I do a rough “bib clip” sort of thing) but my clippers couldn’t handle the yak hair. The blades are dull and his coat is amazingly thick and long – plus he is recovering from a case of skin funk, so there’s some difficult going in there. My clippers were heating up too much and he was getting irritated, so the only thing he got clipped was his chest and the lower part of his neck up to his jaw.
I managed to trim down a lot of the excess hair off his jaws. I didn’t want to shave his face, or accidentally take chunks of hair off, so this was a pretty delicate operation. Overall I managed to do an OK job – I wouldn’t take him to a show tomorrow, but his face looks a lot less like a buffalo now.
After that I hopped on for his first official ride in our indoor. He was fine to get on, stood at the mounting block like a champ, and then we wandered around for a bit. He takes a fair amount of leg to keep going, and is much more typically “green TB” than Kat was, in terms of how he goes. He tends to want to go in a big oval instead of going straight, then turning and bending, and going straight again. The canter is obtainable – it’s a bit of a big push at this point, especially the left lead (to the left he wants to lean in and cut the turns much more than he does to the right. Which could be him but is also probably a lot to do with me, too!)
The other hilarious thing he does is try to attack his reflection. My own horse, sometimes, will snake his head and bare his teeth at other horses while we are in the ring (bad boy!) – Archie does the same thing… to himself. Every time we went by the big mirror at a speed faster than walk, he pinned his ears at himself and went “GRRRRRR!!!!” (well, if a horse was capable of such a noise, that’s what he did). His head would come up and he would act all ferocious. The first few times he did it, I didn’t even realize what was happening – I thought he was just having a tantrum about bit contact, or something. It took a while for me to catch on but by the end of the ride I couldn’t stop laughing.
I also think part of him cutting off half the ring to the left was seeing his reflection in one of the end mirrors – he could see this “other” dark bay horse coming at him, and wanted no part of a head on collision. That took some working through, and I’m still not sure he gets it.
It’s funny, psychologist types who study brains and animals and behavior often will remark on the ability to see the reflection and understand it as a sign of intelligence. Like, rats generally don’t understand their reflection, but chimps do. It’s a sort of self awareness thing. Horses are interesting because some of them seem to get it (Kat – when she saw something else in the mirror, besides her, she knew enough to turn around to see it in ‘real life’) and others don’t (Archie). But I’m not sure it’s a sign of intelligence, because Archie seems to learn very quickly and retains things well (I can tell that in the short time he was with Jess he still has some “buttons” from her, and it’s been quite a while!).
After the ride I tried to continue the defuzzing by doing some mane pulling, but Archie is NOT a fan. I will probably work on this over a few weeks and see if I can get him to stand the way I got my horse to (he HATES it – but essentially I rewarded him with a treat every time he kept his feet still, until he stopped trying to move around. He’s allowed to do whatever he wants with his head and neck, as long as the feet stay put. It was a long process). I will probably clean it up with scissors (gasp!!!) and a thinning comb, but will work on this as it’s something that helps his adoptability
I also took some other ‘before’ photos, for the record. I really think as he gains muscle and sheds, he’s going to be a really pretty horse. For now, the masses of 6″ long yak hair are sort of hiding that fact, but you watch! He’ll look great in a month or two!