a preponderance of punctuation marks (reedrover) wrote,
a preponderance of punctuation marks

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Goats in Harness

A while ago, I bought a harness and wagon with the idea that Sancho would finally have a job besides keeping everyone company and fighting with Crystal. It's a really nice, if simple, nylon-n-padding draft harness for pulling. (This is opposed to the complex and often leather "driving" harnesses and bridles.) On Friday night I finally opened the box and looked at the harness, resolving that, if Saturday was nice, I would finally get around to trying this out on Sancho

I found a slice of time on Saturday afternoon to try the harness on Sancho. I pushed all the does, sheep and kids into the blacksmith yard and closed that gate. Armed with a bucket o' bribery and the harness, halter and a leash, I got Sancho out of the Bachelor pad(dock) into the doe-yard. My theory was to use the bucket to move him around and treat him at every step of the process of putting on the halter and harness, and then adjusting the harness.

What I didn't bank on is just how attitudinal Sancho has gotten. We let him keep his horns (and nothing else), and didn't worry much about him being pushy toward the other goats. Maybe letting him go this long without being required to stand still or obey specific commands was a bad idea. Pygmies are one of the most attitudinal goat breeds, and Sancho got just as much attitude from his La Mancha mom as from his absent dad. And lately, with Jared to pick on, Sancho has gotten plenty of superiority stored up.

Sancho started throwing a small fit about the halter almost immediately. I had the halter clipped to a leash with the leash handle hooked over a fence post. Sancho has worn the halter before, so I should have realized his mood at this point. I talked to him and treated him and he still wasn't happy.

Then I put the harness on him -- I slid the harness over his head with the girth undone (and dragging on the ground), with the intent of closing the girth after I adjusted the chest and back areas. He did not want anything to do with me touching his barrel. He started slashing/swinging his head sideways to catch me with his horns while I was messing with adjusting the top/back area of the harness. And he fought the halter even harder.

I talked to Sancho and gave him handsful of grain to try to calm him down. And then I made a mistake:

I leaned over his side to close the girth strap.

Oh, no. This was not a happening event, because it requires me to touch his barrel (chest/stomach area). He flipped his head sideways with the intent to get my face. I was fast enough to throw an arm in the way, and have a welt to prove it. I stopped being nice and started being mean. I grabbed him by the chin whiskers and bent his head out of the way, yanked the girth on, and stepped back. He was mad. He didn't want grain or scritching, he wanted blood on his horns. He fought the leash and halter, and tried to tear the harness off. When neither of those worked, he started into slashing sideways at me with his horns.

We danced around for a bit as I tried to talk him into accepting the harness and letting me touch it, then I lost patience with him. I admit I slapped him. Hard. A couple of times. Then I tried to take the harness off. We had another round of slash-n-block. Despite the lack of dignity, a death grip on his beard was the best method of restraint. I finally got the harness and halter off, and decided to be petty. I clipped a little goat bell to Sancho's collar and put him back in his field. So now, not only is he a literal bell-wether, I can call him a ding-a-ling with malice and truth together.

Summary of damage from Sancho: One huge hot welt on my arm, one small-but-gloriously-colored bruise on my tricep (both on the right arm) and a stab-bruise on the inside of my left kneecap that is causing issues with walking up stairs. And a pissed off Sancho with a goat-bell clipped to his collar.

At this point, I was pretty unhappy. Sancho was going to take a long long time to break to harness, if ever, and my feelings about him were pretty negative (would he make a nice rug? a good stew?).

deep breath. deep breath.

All this time, Jared watched silently from the other side of the fence. Ever since he came, he has been a bit shy and quiet, but not scared of me. I wanted instant gratification with my harness idea, and I wanted to show Sancho up. So I brought Jared out and tried the harness on him.

Such an improvement! Jared was a little unhappy with the halter, which was a terrible fit and kept sliding down his nose. However, he only tossed his head a little at the noseband, and gave up. I talked him out of worrying about it and cinched it up a bit in back so that it wasn't falling over the end of his nose.

The harness didn't bother Jared one bit. He had no trouble with me closing the girth, and no trouble with the chest band either. I fussed around with the harness to get a good fit on him, while he just stood there and waited patiently for his next handful of grain.

Wow. Success.

So I pressed onward. I took the two training straps and hooked them to the harness and then to the fence. (Picture him trying to pull the fence out of the ground.) I took the leash off of the fence so that nothing was holding his head back, and picked up the bucket of grain. I held the bucket in front of him and far enough away from the fence that Jared had to lean into the chest band to get to the bucket. While I offered the bucket I said "Forward." I let him leaningly eat a few mouthsful and then took the bucket away. As I moved the bucket over his head, I said "Stop." Holding the bucket over his head caused him to lean back and let the training straps go slack. I repeated this process until most of the grain was gone. Then I undid everything, offered him the rest of the grain and some praise, and put him back in the field with Sancho.

Jared just rocks. Thanks again, everyone.

Picture an angora buck in full fleece pulling a cart decorated for Christmas that has a small happy child in it. That's my goal now (f-you, Sancho), and I think it just might happen. Hopefully I'll have the wagon assembled by next weekend so we can try the whole deal. If Jared freaks out, then we will go back to pulling on the fence and then maybe walking around with me next to him and nothing behind him.

If you are having trouble picturing a goat pulling anything, there are pictures of a meat goat in harness here: http://www.hoeggergoatsupply.com/carts.html.

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