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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Training

It is time.

Time for Peaches to learn how to act like a lady while on the lead rope.

Over 300 lbs. now, this little girl still hasn't learned to enjoy the touch of humans, and it is somewhat difficult for me to do anything to her (put a fly mask on; treat her for something, etc.) seeing as the scales are uneven when it comes to weight and size. She's really good about standing still to have her fly mask put on, but that's only if I manage to shoo her into a kidding stall. There's no touching her if she's out of the 6'x8' pen. I've gotten her on the lead rope a few times before but only to then be dragged or have the rope ripped out of my hands. Peachy dear, this ain't workin'.

   So I am putting my nose to the grindstone and the two of us are learning together.

I'm starting really slowly right now (some might say too slow), but that's okay. Just as long as we've got these dance steps figured out before she's milking (which will be like 18 months away...)! I start my evening chores at 8 p.m. and finish milking, feeding, and watering by 9 to 9:15 p.m. Once that hour has slipped by, and everyone is nodding off, I pull out my best brushes and the trusty lead rope.

 This is always where Peaches gets bug-eyed. Her gaze furtively goes from the rope in my right hand, to the brushes in the left hand, and trots over to a corner to hide her head. That cow is wickedly smart, let me tell you. The brushes are stowed momentarily, and we begin our nightly waltz. I slowly walk up to her, lead rope clasp extended and ready to clip onto the halter. She takes one look and hightails it to the other side of the pen. I walk to the other side of the barn only to watch her skitter back to where we started. She watches me, I watch her. Neither one of us makes a sound, save for our footsteps in the deep bedding. The goats get underfoot, the broiler chicks peep nearby (and side note: they were put back in the brooder a couple days ago due to a freak frost alert. They're fixin' to go back outside), the rafters creak. The sounds of footsteps in straw is the melody of this barn song. A soft "swoosh, swoosh, swoosh", is harmonized by living beasts under the same roof. I still say nothing, only watching her body movement and anticipating her next move. Peaches shows no fear, she just wants to lie down and chew her cud. She dodges me with supreme grace and hopes I will tire of our slow, repetitive dance. She is like a toddler; only after much gentle, firm persistence will they heave a sigh of defeat and consent to your wishes (or at least toddlers are supposed to be like that!). After five minutes, Peaches stands still. Her eyes are gentle and she is relaxed. 

Then comes the fun part: tying her. I've never been able to get her tied before, simply because I can never seem to get her near a post before she goes berserk. Tonight I managed somewhat! Granted, she had three and a half feet of lead rope to wander around on, but at least I got the last 1/2 foot tied to a the post. I walked back to get the brushes and tried to hide my smile as I watched Peaches learn just what pressure is. She backed up, not realizing yet that she was now attached to a post, and then stopped short. Something was holding her back...

Her eyes got wide and her body went rigid. But she did nothing. The poor dear had no idea what to make of this. Her stance made me think of the main character in the movie, 'Elf' as he goes up an escalator for the first time:

Photobucket
'Elf'
I chuckled as I watched her, knowing she would eventually learn that moving forward would help her plight. Brushed were pulled out and I gave this lady the best grooming she has ever had. I've swiped her with a brush a couple times, but she's never gotten a real thorough brushing. It was time to see what was hiding under this shaggy, shedding coat. After a few minutes, Peaches relaxed, but still wouldn't move forward, so she let her head hang where it was; the lead rope and halter acting as a hammock. 

Ten minutes later, I stood back and surveyed my work. Wow. There was a beautiful cow hiding beneath the peach colored fuzz! She was slick and shiny; new muscle showing beneath her skin where there was once only flab. Having lost the fuzz, she was now a warm, buttery color, and not so much a fuzzy peach. She glowed. Holy kohlrabi, this cow is mine!

I nudged her forward so she would learn how much comfier it is to stand with a loose lead, and brushed her a couple more minutes.

 Content with the night's work, I loosed her. I had not said a word, she had not made a sound. The goats got underfoot, the broiler chicks peeped nearby, the rafters creaked. The final verse of the night's barn song is heard and I bid everyone good night...

1 comment:

nancy said...

Sneaky Peaches, she'll probably learn to love her grooming and contact with you :)