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RU Levi

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Photo by S. Ralston
  • BLM Freezebrand 08605185
  • Bay 3-year-old Gelding
  • Mustang # 5185
  • Born Summer 2008
  • Captured from the Bald Mountain HMA, NV on January 7, 2009
  • Will be registered with the Wild Horse and Burro Association
  • Sponsors: Liz Durkin
  • Students: Jackie Teson and Brianna Stafford
  • Practicum Student: Sam DiMaria

March 2011

        Levi is still fantastic to work with, his enthusiasm and happy nature always puts a smile on my face. On March 17, 2011 all of the mustangs were moved from Ryders Lane to College Farm. I unfortunately wasn’t able to be there, but according to other students Levi was very good. He walked on and off the trailer without any problems.

        Levi is more eager than ever to go outside. He loves the huge A field, it’s a big change from the paddocks at Ryders lane. He rips through them with his buddy RU Koda. They love to rear and buck at each another. I think if Levi had more coordination, he would give Koda a real challenge. Levi is running so much in the new fields that he is starting to lose his baby fat and really look nice. He is shedding out too; his once dense and fluffy winter coat is now almost gone, leaving short sleek hair in its wake. Levi’s dapples are starting to come out too.

        Initially, Levi was more timid in the new venue. Jackie and I worked with him, walking him through the barn and exposing him to his new surroundings and the objects that encompass it. The process of throwing hay in the feeder spooked him and he was afraid of the large fan next to the scale. Most recently, he was shown the spray bottle and talking toy bird, “bird brain”. I wasn’t there to see him with the spray bottle, but Jackie said he didn’t seem to mind and wanted to drink from it. The first time he saw “bird brain” he was startled, but I can’t say that I blame him, it is really annoying! But now he turns on the toy’s voice himself by nosing the controls; I think he enjoys spooking the other horses in the barn. Despite these scary things, Levi has returned to his old self, pulling jackets off chairs or playing with plastic bags to scare the other horses. He has made so much progress with his confidence since the move. He now walks onto the scale without hesitation, taking no notice to the fan and he is starting to eat out of his hay feeder more.

         Levi walks into the wash stall quietly and will stand as long as asked. Yesterday, he spooked briefly in response to RU Santana getting startled while he was in there, but he was sensible about it and stood still. I led him out to investigate and he decided everything was safe. Levi was led into the wash stall once more and he was great! As a reward, we played soccer together. Levi will actually kick the ball and toss it with his mouth. It has become one of Levi’s favorite things to do. I have never seen a horse this playful and happy, Levi is truly a special horse.

Written by Brianna Stafford

February 2011

          Levi remains friendly, curious, and playful.  When someone enters his stall he comes right up to say hello.  Even though Levi never grew a very thick winter coat, he is beginning to shed somewhat.  Even with his winter coat, he still shines up easily and looks quite handsome.   Everyone who meets him comments on how cute he is. Levi is extremely intelligent.  He picks up new behaviors very quickly and we are constantly looking for new things to teach him so that he does not get bored.   Sometimes it is hard to keep up with him!  Levi is the most playful horse outside, constantly trying to get the others to play with him.  The horses at New Bolton are definitely going to get more exercise when he arrives!

            In preparation for his career at New Bolton, we have been working extensively with Levi on desensitization and ground manners.  We want to be sure that he will be as prepared as possible to work in a teaching setting.   Levi can sometimes be impatient, especially when he sees the other horses going outside and he is left in the barn.  We have been intentionally working with him in these situations in order to teach him that being alone is still safe and that he still needs to focus.  He usually calms down within five minutes and is willing to work.   Last week, Levi cross-tied in the aisle for the first time.  He did very well with this and could have cared less about the cross ties.  He moved around a little bit, but this was more due to the fact that he was impatient about going outside with the rest of the horses.  However, he quieted down quickly and I was able to brush him all over while he was tied.  Most mustangs are very sensitive to plastic bags, because whips with plastic bags attached at the ends (“wild rags”) were used to herd them at the BLM facilities.  Levi is learning that plastic bags are safe.  Brianna and Robin were working with him on this last week, and Levi became comfortable enough to wear the bag draped over his ear!    

On February 9th, Levi was visited by Lyn Kamer, a massage therapist.  She performed raindrop therapy on him, purportedly to help realign his spine and “detoxify” him (We were grasping at straws at that point to try to help him).  Raindrop therapy is a type of aromatherapy in which scented oils are dripped on a horse’s skin (like raindrops).   I had never seen aromatherapy performed before, so this was very interesting.  Lyn was also very informative and gave us lots of reading material.  Levi seemed to enjoy the therapy and got very relaxed at points.   At the end of the session, Lyn put hot towels on him to help “activate” the oils and put a cooler over the towels.   This was Levi’s first experience with any sort of blanket and overall he did very well.  He moved away from the cooler at first, but after some rubbing, sniffing, and nibbling, he allowed it to be put on.   I have not noticed a significant change in Levi since the therapy, but he seemed to be in a good mood the next day and was walking a little more freely.  At the very least, he certainly smelled nice for a few days after the therapy—everyone who walked past him in the aisle commented on the pleasant smell emanating from his stall the next morning. 

The Equine Science Center seminar took place on the 13th, and Levi enjoyed meeting all of the new people.  He was not scared of the crowd at all.  Dr. Jill Beech from New Bolton Center was there and evaluated him. She also asked me to trot him in hand.  I was very proud that he behaved well for this and trotted calmly down the barn aisle while the crowd watched.  He had not trotted in hand since early January, so I was pleased that he was so well behaved.   I think he finds it very exciting when he is allowed to trot in the barn—I imagine that it is like being allowed to roller skate in the house!   

            Our study this semester compares the horses’ behavior on oats versus corn.   We are looking to see if one makes the horses “hotter” than the other.   Levi has already completed his week on corn.  Overall, the group of horses on corn did not demonstrate more reactivity to stimuli than when fed the total mixed ration that they normally are fed.  However, I feel that Levi was more impatient to go outside and had more trouble standing still to be brushed while he was on the corn.  He will begin his trial on oats next week, and I am interested to see if the behaviors he exhibited on the corn will return. 

Written by Jackie Teson

February 2011

Photo by C. Painter

        This is apparently an old injury. The severity of the misalignment of Levi's vertebrae is such that it can not be corrected. But he certainly is in no pain and gets around quite well! In fact he is one of the most active horses, always trotting/cantering somewhere, trying to get the others to play with him.

January 2011

        I have just started working with Levi this semester. Levi rarely seems to walk anywhere-He takes off at a snappy trot every time he is turned loose and tries to get the others to join in a game of tag. Levi and Sunny are often seen gallivanting in the snow, either rearing or Sunny chasing Levi at a run with Levi’s tail in his mouth!

            Levi is extremely intelligent; he picks up on new things almost instantly. I have been working with one of the trainers, Robin Rivello, on a regular basis. We have worked on getting him comfortable with new situations so that when he encounters something scary or different he can maintain focus on whoever is working with him. He now will stand in the barn while the barn crew is cleaning and making loud, scary noises without a fuss. Levi still doesn’t enjoy working with us without another horse in the barn, but he is beginning to get used to it and now only seems to get mildly agitated for the first five minutes. We are also beginning to teach him how to ground tie. Within fifteen minutes Levi would stand for durations of around a minute without moving. I’m confident he will be able to master this skill very soon. We are also getting him used to being rubbed with towels. A massage therapist is coming to work on him next week and we want him to be ready for her. All the effort we put into him seems to return ten-fold, I realize how hard some things are for him, but he still tries his hardest and gets the job done to the best of his abilities.

            I enjoy every minute I get to work with Levi, he has broadened my understanding of how to properly handle a horse. Despite growing up around horses, Levi has showed me a great deal within the past few weeks. I never realized how much a person could affect their horse’s response with such subtle movements. He has taught me to become much more aware of my body and surroundings.      

Written by Brianna Stafford

December 2010

Levi is doing very well.  We are able to groom him all over, pick out his hooves, walk behind him, and brush his mane and tail.  He was previously very worried about people going behind him, but he has made great progress in this area.  With the help of Robin, we have been able to show Levi that someone walking behind him does not mean that he needs to move forward, especially when tied or on a lead rope.  We can now walk behind him in the stall and the aisle.  He still seems nervous about walking past people when they stand by the gate when he comes in or out, but he does not try to run and remains responsive to cues by the handler.  Overall, Levi is a very sensitive horse.  When leading, he will almost always stop or begin walking when the handler does with little or no pressure. He is very smart as well.  When I need him to move back, I first ask him to “back” verbally, then apply light pressure to ask him to move if the verbal cue does not work.  He picked this up very quickly and now rarely needs to be asked using pressure.  He has picked up the cue for “over” in the same way.  

        He has been visited by the dentist, farrier, and chiropractor.  He was exceptionally well behaved for both the farrier and the dentist.  He hardly moved a muscle during both appointments and we were all extremely proud of him.  Sometimes it is hard to believe he is the same horse we brought home three months ago.  During the chiropractor appointment Levi kicked out once, but we believe it was because he was sore in the area the chiropractor was palpating (the girth), and that it was more of a reflexive kick than an aggressive one.  After the kick he quieted down significantly and became much easier to work with.  We are worried there may be some residual problems with his neck that we will get radiographed in the next week or so. 

        Levi is now on the experimental diet, which is 10% corn.  He seems to greatly enjoy the corn, as he is very excited to eat in the morning and nearly always finishes his entire bucket of cubes.  He has taken to dunking his cubes in his water, so he uses one water bucket for dunking and the other bucket for drinking.  Levi has not had any behavior tests yet while on the higher energy diet yet, but I am interested to see the results.  I am curious to see if his change in behavior when receiving food is possibly related to having more energy as a result of the diet or simply to enjoying the taste or texture of the cubes more. 

        Levi has gained so much confidence, and our focus has shifted from trying to earn his trust to refining his manners and teaching him new cues.  In September, we needed to appear very nonthreatening and neutral.  Now we must be more confident and focus more on properly giving cues and maintaining his good manners.  

Written by Jackie Teson

November, 2010

       Levi is such a sweet horse who’s come a really long way since he arrived. Jackie mentioned in the previous update that Levi was just getting to know us, not yet comfortable enough to let us pet past his withers. Now, he enjoys being groomed all over and we can even pick up his feet! He greets people with curiosity when they come by his stall instead of staying all the way in the corner at the back. Our trainer, Robin Rivello, has been working with him and I learn a great deal from watching and following her training methods.

    All of the horses are able to be turned out now. Levi is doing very well with leading and has the most polite manners. He is sensitive to the slightest commands and is a quick learner. The behavior tests have also started and Levi went through the preliminaries with flying colors. One test involved presenting a novel object (an umbrella) and observing the horse’s reaction and behavior towards it. Levi was not afraid and even approached the umbrella, which was a delight to see, since he was so fearful when we first got him. 

Written by Willa Gao

October, 2010

    RU Levi is a two year old bay mustang gelding.  He was captured from Bald Mountain, Nevada in the same gather as RU Rambling Rose, a 2009-2010 Rutgers graduate.  Levi is very shy but continues to become braver and more curious every day.  He loves to investigate the muck bucket and rake while I am mucking his stall and will sometimes nuzzle the back of my shirt when he thinks I am not paying attention.  Levi was very nervous about letting people touch him at first, but has now discovered that rubs and scratches can be very nice.   While he is not ready to let us rub and scratch past his shoulders yet, I feel confident that we will be able to progress beyond these areas soon.  Levi is also learning to lead on a lead rope.  He takes this one step at a time and sometimes the going is slow, but he improves with each attempt.  Levi has some unusual quirks.  For instance, he is very much a “front end” horse, meaning he much prefers to be approached from his head rather than from the shoulder.  Levi never ceases to amaze me—or keep me on my toes!  I must communicate with him correctly or he gets confused or stressed.  Working with Levi will teach me much about proper cues and body language and I am sure that I will be able to apply this knowledge in the rest of my horse career.

Written by Jackie Teson

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