Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Getting Direction Control & The Horses Fighting at Feeding Time (Video)

After I wrote today's blog post about "Road Blocks," I had an idea that maybe the problem is my lack of confidence in controlling her--should she decide to run off or do something equally, or more, dangerous.  I mean, how much control do I have with a halter and rope?

Rebecca did recommend that I work on passing the rope back and forth over her head, which I did, but that didn't seem enough. Then, I remembered that Andrea, from Mustang Saga, had made me a special halter--one with loops on the cheeks for reins, that would be much better for right/left communication and bending.  I've had it for years, but I've never used it!

I ran out to my trailer to see if I could find it--and Ta-Da!

I worked with her bending left, right, and backing up.  She bends WAY better than Leah or Cowboy.  I also did it from the top of the mounting trough.  I did lay on her back, but I didn't sit on her back.  The new gear was throwing her off just enough to make her a bit antsy.  I figured better safe than sorry.  And, I want every step to be POSITIVE.  Beautiful Girl is the type of horse that if she feels  you're being fair and she understands and can do what you're asking--she will do it.

Here are some videos I took.  1.) Allowing Beautiful to explore her new gear. and 2.) The amazing craziness at feeding time today.  It was actually kind of scary, but you can really see the dynamics of our herd.  Cowgirl protects Red and lets him eat in peace--Penny tries to keep the peace--Cowboy instigates--Leah and Beautiful Girl jostle for position--the goats scramble--the pony goes wherever she can find a safe place.  Cowgirl has a set of kickers on her, that's for sure.  I would  not want to be in the way of those missiles.

Horses Fighting at Feeding time: (Forgive my sniffling.  I have a cold.  But I still got out for my 100 Days of Blessings, gosh-darn-it!  Hope I'm not blessed with pneumonia!)

 And, exploring her new tack, then attacking me!


Getting Past a Road Block

For those of you who have stuck with my blog since its inception, you may have thought--hasn't she been here before?

And, the answer is, yes, I have.

I get to the point of sitting on Beautiful Girl's back, but I'm unable to take it to the next step. This video was, I believe, taken in Fall 2011, about five years ago.

Here is Beautiful's first time EVER being ponied.  This year, we're going to take it a step further by ponying her, first, in the arena at Riverside State Park, and then on the trails there.


As I was searching old posts to get these tidbits, I ran across a post about my depression when Cowboy was first diagnosed with Head Shaking Syndrome.  It took all the passion away from working with my horses and may have contributed to my not getting past the road block.  It was also about the same time that I started doing the online radio show that consumed almost every waking moment for three years.

In any case, I did stop, and now I'm here at the same point I left off.  Each day, I go out and get Beautiful in the snow and take her to the arena and mounting trough.  At this point, I've sat on her back--mounting from both sides--and petted her.  She has stood still.

Yesterday, before I went out, I saw her nip at Cowboy and chase him away from the hay.  She was grumpy.  As I was leading her, she spooked and bolted.  So, there was a lot of information to tell me not to push it too far, and I listened.

But I am going to have to get past this point.  Somehow.

My training will be on hold though, for a few days, as my husband and I take a little trip.

Oh, I did give Loki a bath yesterday, too.  I don't know how, but he finds a way to get stinky even in the winter!

And more pictures of the snow--before it melts with the upcoming heat wave.

I was trying to capture the snow gently blowing off this Heritage Birch.

And, the Weeping Birch.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rebecca Suggests a Plan for Beautiful Girl & Me

I asked, Rebecca, my trainer, to come over on Thursday and watch me with Beautiful Girl and then give me some suggestions about how to proceed.

This is my plan:

1. Continue putting my weight on her back--first laying over, then kicking leg partially over, sit on top of her & pet her, let her move where she pleases while I'm on her. Rebecca also suggested placing things along the fence line that she can meander over to and explore--so that she doesn't get too bored with the whole process. Do this from BOTH sides.

2. As soon as the roads are clear, practice hauling her in the trailer to the next door farm, and back and forth--unloading and loading.

3. Pony her at home and on the trail, preferably with the horse she most looks to and respects--Cowgirl.

4. Never proceed to the next step until she is confident and bored with the step she's on.  We're trying to avoid her emotional side and strengthen her ability to console herself and build courage away from the herd.

Today was my 13th day of blessings, and working with Beautiful Girl lends itself well to these small training sessions.  My goal was to throw a leg over and sit on her back today.

Her back.  I've been seeing a lot of this from the mounting trough.  She has become really good at standing there and letting me jump on.

That is what she thought of me laying over her back--zzzzzzz-, so I proceeded to throw the leg partially over--and eventually, fully over.

It went well and it was so warm.  (More incentive to be on your horse, rather than leading it.)  I did it from both sides and then put her back with the other horses.

Here are some more photos from the last few days.

More bareback riding. The snow actually was hard on Cowboy's shins--rubbed them a little raw.  So, I'm slowing it down until the snow softens up.

Out our front door last night.

Out our front door this morning.

 The view from on top of Beautiful girl today--the rest of the herd in the fog.

Beautiful Girl stands, or comes to me now, when I approach her with the halter and lead.  This next picture was not one of those times, but this is how she usually looks.

A sign of relaxation and comfort.  Same look she had today when I was on her back.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

100 Days of Blessings

The way a crow 
shook down on me
The dust of snow 
from a hemlock tree
Has given my heart 
a change of mood
And saved some part 
of a day I had rued.

Robert Frost

I typed the Robert Frost poem above from memory, and it was all correct. Yay, for keeping my memory!  It's one I refer back to in my mind on snowy days--like today.

While I was out riding Cowboy bareback in the snow and sun--I realized--this is not a 100 Day "Challenge"--

This is 100 days of Blessings!

I have been blessed every day, except one, since 2017 began, which makes this my 10th day of blessings.

If it weren't for my horses, I could easily be depressed about all this snow and cold, but because of them, I get out in it and find that it's not all that bad.  I bundle up--layer after layer after layer--and roll myself out to the barn.  They're all in good moods and happy to play.  They seem to like the snow!

Cowboy was a little off on his bad foot today.  I've noticed him holding it out more because of the cold weather and its affect on his arthritis. I've been giving him Bute to help that.  Riding is good for him though.  He really needs to keep moving.

I took Beautiful Girl out and put my weight on her back again--she did much, much better. I wiggled around and kicked my feet up.  She bent around to smell them and seemed quite relaxed and curious.

Oh, let me tell you how she really blessed me today!  ....

After I put Cowboy away and gave him some grain, I went back out to the turnout to get Beautiful.  She was in an open run.  So, I walked way out, holding the rope and halter, and called to her--just wondering if she'd give it a try.

Guess what?

She came out of the run and walked over to me!

It's little things like that that make my heart melt.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Picking Up Their Weapons...Safely

 “And when you're alone there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.”

                                           Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go

The farrier called and said he was going to be late today, so that gave me an hour to work with the horses.  I decided to make my training about issues that would help my farrier--picking up their feet, and, I chose my two worst horses in that department as my pupils--Cowgirl (my daughter's horse) and Lily (the spoiled pony.)  


Many years ago I boarded at a large facility and one day, when my daughter and I went out to visit our horses, a young lady had just been taken away by ambulance.  She was preparing her horse for barrel racing and it kicked her in the face.   Her family was well-known and well-respected in the horse world as trainers, racers, and ropers.  They knew what they were doing.  The way I looked at it, if that could happen to her, it sure as heck could happen to me or my family members.  The horse had smashed in the front of her face, but the girl did survive.  Why the horse kicked, I never found out.

Days afterward, hoping to avoid a similar fate, I called my farrier and asked if he'd give my daughter, husband and I a class on how to properly handle our horse's feet.  I offered to pay him the price of a shoeing.  He accepted.

What I learned, and have done ever since, is to face opposite the horse.  If he's pointing west, I'm pointing east, and I never turn around to look at him or his legs.  Instead, he taught us how to face the opposite direction and do everything we needed to do--pick up the legs and place them in between our own, and pick out the hooves.  He also taught us, and demonstrated to us, how to keep ourselves in a position where we could easily push away from the horse if things went badly.  

Twelve years later, so far, so good.

But let's face it, handling those feet can be dangerous and scary.  It was the LAST thing Beautiful Girl, my mustang, gave me--her weapons, as my farrier called them.  And, can you blame them for wanting to keep control of them?  Those feet are the most important elements to their survival.  And, they are deadly.


Cowgirl is an alpha--with the horses--and people.  There is almost always one foot she refuses to pick up and, if you push her, you're going to get a fight.  Today, it was the back left.  When I got to it, she planted it firmly on the ground, tensed her body, and had a hard eye. Her body was saying, Just try to pick it up! I Dare you! This sh** is FUN for me!

There's a time when I would have pulled on it and simultaneously pushed her with my left shoulder to knock her off balance so that she'd have to shift--thus, freeing up the foot.  That used to work really well for me until I realized I want my horses to choose to do everything.  Choosing is much safer than forcing, in my opinion. 

I want them to lift the foot as soon as I move toward it, and  most of my horses are very good at that.  So much so, that sometimes it seems as if they're getting ready to kick me as I move around.  In reality, they're shifting and freeing the foot for me to pick up.  They're thinking ahead and anticipating where I'm going next.  (I try to mix it up so that they can't always predict it.)

Back to Cowgirl.  I asked for the left back--the one she had planted firmly on the ground--repeat, FIRMLY.  She didn't budge.  I got up and went to her head and wiggled it back and forth a couple of times, to soften her.  Went back to the foot, still wouldn't budge.  Went back to the head, wiggled the muzzle a bit.  She shifted, licked her lips, and lifted the left foot for me.  Many times it's just about getting them out of that fixed mindset.  They don't really want to be jerks--it's just what they do in the herd--a dominance thing.  We have to snap them out of it.  Hello.  Hello.  It's me.  I pick your feet.  Make you feel better.  Remember?  Hello, in there.

Oh yeah, what was I thinking, grand-mum, here you go.

I worked with Lily and Cowgirl for about 30 minutes--lifting & picking their hooves, grooming, and then doing it all over again.  Lily did great for the farrier--much better than she's ever done before.  Cowgirl initially resisted on that same left back foot, but she quickly thought about it, corrected, and gave it to him.
Whew!  All seven were awesome for the farrier today!  Win-Win!


Yesterday I worked alone with Beautiful Girl--putting my weight on her back.  She did better, but we still have some work to do.  Here's what it looked like from my vantage point.  

 I'm not digging that eye.  It doesn't look happy.

Here are some more photos from our day:

Frosty the Mustang!

The snow is so dense, it's difficult to see variation in it.  This is the view as Beautiful and I walked toward the arena.

 It's either this deep...or deeper.  Beautiful looks longingly back toward the barn.

The view looking down on her back from my mounting place.

Cowgirl and Leah.

Since it's January, all the horses are officially one year older.

Here are my horse's ages:

Beautiful Girl--10
Lily--Age unknown.  Approximately 15. 

Here's a post from 2008 where I introduced our herd and their ages.

Happy birthday to all the horses out there!