Thursday, May 24, 2018

Two Blogs Intersect With a Tumbleweed

Tumbleweed & Me & Rosalee.

"Cowgirls need a little love sometime."
Tumbleweed, won't  you hurry please
And bring your love on home."

I've followed Shirley's horses for years over at her blog Ride a Good Horse.  There was one baby, Rio, that I just fell in love with, but I wasn't looking for a horse at that time.  Then, things changed.  Cowboy is 23 and his days as a trail horse are numbered.  It was time to think about the future.

I decided to breed Cowgirl, which would put me at about a four year countdown--which would make Cowboy 27 and Leah at about 17.  That would be a good time to introduce what may be my final horse into the lineup.  But then, I chickened out of breeding Cowgirl.  I didn't feel up to the task.

It was time to meet Tumbleweed.

I had been really busy riding horses and away from my blog for two weeks, so Shirley stopped by to ask if I was okay.  Instantly I was like--OH MY GOSH, I wonder if Rosalee's baby was born?!?  I ran to her blog, and VOILA--there was little Tumbleweed, only three days old.  He was so cute, I figured she must be keeping him or he was already sold, but no--as luck would have it--he was available.

And the rest was fate.  Turns out, Shirley and I live pretty dang close to one another--separated only by the border of the USA and Canada. It was time for a ROAD TRIP to meet her--and Beamer (Shirley's heart horse, so I knew he was golden)--and Rosalee (who I had been admiring since Shirley first thought of getting her!)--and Tumbleweed (the cutest baby ever).

I'll tell the rest of the story through photos--some mine, some Shirley's.

I didn't want to scare him or be disrespectful to his mama, Rosalee, who I knew would be wanting to protect the baby she worked so hard to bring into the world.  So, I tried to be as gentle as I could with him.

An ear on me, and an ear on mama.

But Rosalee warmed right up and decided we were okay.

So, we soon progressed to some serious butt scratching.

To tell you the truth, my decision had mostly been made before I ever went up there.  I knew all I needed to know about Beamer and Rosalee--and that Shirley was a good honest person and excellent horsewoman.  I'd watched her with horses and I'd seen how her other babies excelled in their new homes.  Meeting Tumbleweed only confirmed in my heart what I already knew. 

I see a few more trips to Canada in my future!  Shirley has invited me to come up whenever I can and work with Tumbleweed on some basic training.  I will certainly take her up on that.

It was surreal in a way to meet Shirley, after all this time on the internet together.  But what you see on her blog is what she really is.  Her horses are just how she describes them, too.  For me, it was seamless.

Now, I have a little work to do to prepare to get our baby from Canada to the USA!  And Shirley has a little work to do to keep our baby safe from himself.  I certainly have the easier job!  But I think Tumbleweed is smart enough to do pretty well.  He learns fast!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Trail Rides, And What I've Learned

There comes a time, you have to put your preparation to work for you, and that time has come for Leah and me.  I haven't been writing much because we've been on the trail a lot.  Instead of practice bridges, we have real bridges.  Instead of practice polls, we have real logs to cross.  Instead of puddles, we have rivers, creeks, and lakes.

We've been exposed to new horses, new trails, and new challenges. Each ride has been a learning experience.  On this one, we practiced bridges, and things that go over bridges--like runners, walkers, and fast bikes.

The river is high, so we practiced wading out into it.  With caution!  A couple weeks after this picture was taken I had a friend who got a horse stuck in the same area.  She said it was like quick sand.

I inspected it pretty well as we waded into it, and I didn't expect her to stand in it because I could see her feet sinking when we stood still too long.

We were in and out.

The balsamroot was abundant on that trip.  Now, there are even more wildflowers, so I will start packing a plant and flower guide in my saddle bags.  The one I use is, "Plants of the Southern Interior British Columbia and the Inland Northwest" by Parish, Couple, Lloyd.

Mother's Day brought a mother/daughter/son-in-law/husband ride.  Be still my heart!!  

On this ride I learned to take my time and help everyone get their fresh horses thinking before we took off.  I planned for a long, long ride because two of the horses hadn't been on the trail yet this year.  We started at the round pen and progressed from there.  It made for a wonderful ride!

I also learned that my daughter makes the best trail partner and the best friend.

And my husband isn't shabby either!!!  I love this man.

The cowboy boot was the theme of my Mother's Day.  This one was from my daughter.

And this one, for the outside, was from my husband.  They didn't coordinate.

Lots of rides with friends.  We're just taking it easy and getting our horses in shape.  Different day, same trail, but this particular route is a really good one for exposing horses to many kinds of stimulus-dogs, people, bikes, water, trees, cliffs, logs, etc.

It's always nice to practice tying to the tree afterward while the girls have lunch.

This was the most recent ride from Wednesday.  It was wet and buggy.  What I learned is that I need to pack a lightweight, trail fly mask, fly spray, OFF (for me), and a roll-on fly spray for my horse's face.  My trail partner had taken a roll-on deodorant bottle and filled it with fly spray.  

Here is what I pack in my saddle bags:

phone (often on my hip)
flower/plant book
fly spray
fly mask
lightweight gloves

We had a tough creek crossing on this ride, but I learned it's okay to jump off and get your boots wet!  I'm trying to avoid a fight on the trail.  And by that, I mean I'm trying to get better at figuring out when Leah's no means NO.  I don't want her to feel like she has to notch it up a peg to get her point across.  She looked as if she was going to flip around and run, so I dismounted and played with her in the creek for a while. She has no problem doing anything if she sees me doing it first.  Silly girl.

It has been raining a lot, but this is my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

No pictures, but I have been taking lessons with Bee.  One was at the park--worked her, then rode  her in the roundpen, then drove her over the trail obstacle course.  The second was here at home, where we did pretty much the same.

Also, I've decided NOT to breed Cowgirl.  I just don't feel like taking the risk with her, and I don't feel qualified.  The next horse I get is going to be, most likely, my last, and I prefer to meet it on the ground, rather than taking a chance and rolling the dice.

I hate leaving Cowboy behind, but his head shaking is at its worst in spring, so I've been letting him rest a bit.  I do hope to ride him more as spring progresses and he gets better.  That's looking to be real soon.

Oh, and at DAY 93, I had reached my half way point to my goal.  That is good news for me because we aren't half way through the year yet!  We have a month and almost a half left--which means I should be ahead of schedule.  Woot!  Woot!

I hope you're all doing well and getting in lots of time with your herd!  Congratulations to Shirley on her new little Tumbleweed!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Leah Crosses a Deep Creek

Well, Leah continues to be a rock star trail horse, making me further scratch my head and ask, wha-wha-why did we have that setback?!?  Last Thursday we explored a new trail with some friends.

This is the creek she had to cross both coming and going.  No problem!

The only issue I can really say we have right now are occasional refusals when she sees a scary path, to somewhere she’d rather not go, and going down hills slower. Right now she just barrels down hills, and I don’t feel comfortable with that. Something to work on.

Here are some more photos of the horses from today.

Beautiful looking all mustangy.

The horses are back on pasture for part of the day.

Little Joe is back with the girls.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What a Difference a Week Makes

After I realized Leah's refusal to go forward was a behavioral, rather than a pain, decision, I decided to address it calmly, but firmly on Monday morning.

My response was simple: when Leah would try to stop with her head held high, I'd anticipate it, catch it before it happened, turn her into a circle, and ask her to yield her hindquarters, then return to the line we were walking. I had to do it about ten times, but soon I was able to move on to picking an imaginary line where I wanted her head to be carried, and if she raised it above that line, I'd circle her again.  We also practiced stopping, with her head in a lower position--and backing.  She responded to that intervention very fast, and we soon had our partnership back.


That night, I went back out to see if she'd partner with me even when the mare herd was grazing outside of the arena.

She did.

The true test, of course, was the trail, and we did that yesterday.

Leah did great!  I give her a 90%!  (Less than 100% because she did have a couple of refusals on trails she knew were steep and difficult.  She was like, I'd rather not.)

The trail to this view was one of those trails, but boy was it pretty on top.  We stopped and let them graze as a reward.  In fact, my friend's horse is very green and had a bad experience at the park last week, so we really wanted it to be positive for him.  I thought it would really help him to pause a lot on the trail and let them graze until  he would relax--then expose him again--then pause, rest and relax, etc.  It worked very, very well. He had a positive experience, and so did Leah.

My friend took some pictures of us.

Today, we're going to explore a new stretch of trail at Riverside State Park, Inland Empire to Deep Creek.

When I left for the ride yesterday, I let Little Joe and Cowboy out into the big pasture for the first time.  The mares weren't very happy.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Leah’s Week of Refusing to Go Forward

I had a major set back last week, she stopped going forward.  Just stopped.

Like anyone who has a problem with their horses, I scoured the Internet for answers. Apparently, it is a common issue. Unfortunately, there are not easy answers. It could be physical pain or it could be behavioral issues. Both possibilities loomed large. On the one hand, I had been asking her to do a lot these last few weeks, so there could be pain.  On the other hand, she’s surrounded by spring grass she can’t get to, which could be frustration.  I found out my husband was accidentally graining her--possibility of pain.  But it started in response to the loping training--behavioral.

This was particularly odd because I had a long ride with her Wednesday morning and she did great. We worked on obstacles and then rode out in the pasture.  All the pictures in this post are from that very morning!

That night, I had a loping lesson with my trainer—our second. I worked Leah on the ground, all was good. Then, my trainer got on and Leah started to refuse to go forward. She’d just stop. If she asked her to go, she’d throw her head up. All of this was at the walk, and my trainer is a believer in listening to your horse and not creating fights and/or bad habits, so she suggested we stop until we could figure out if it was pain or behavioral.

I was shocked at the change from morning to night, so I asked to switch places. Leah went through some obstacles for me and then did the same thing. She was done.

The other horses were grazing at the edge of the arena, and she was having to work, so I highly suspected it was frustration with not being able to also eat. I worked her on the ground a bit and then tied her up for an hour and a half as I did other things. I did that so she didn't get the impression her action won her any special treats.

Questions, questions.  Was it because she knew the trainer would ask her to lope and she doesn’t want to lope? Because of her physical history, it could be that she is only suitable for light work—trails and obstacles. Knowing the trainer was there to ask more, maybe she decided to let us know her limits.

Maybe not.

Thursday morning, I went back out to body check her again. Nothing found. And ride her. She still refused forward and still threw her head up. I drove her in bridle from the ground. No problems.  So, teeth were probably not the issue. I decided to give her a few days of stall rest.

And, then I started to feel dreadfully sorry for myself.  All my time.  All my training.  All my hope.  All my heart.  And, what was worse?  I had finally seen Leah give me her own heart after all that waiting!  All of you can attest to how long I've waited for it.  And finally, she was doing so damn well--winning the admiration of everyone who saw her.

All of it...possibly....gone.

But a slight glimmer of hope.

Sunday, yesterday, I rode Leah bareback and let her go anywhere she wanted. I didn’t even ask for forward. I just sat on her, ready for whatever she'd choose--stand, walk, trot.  Hopefully, no head throwing or rearing--but I was ready for that, too.

I brought her to the mounting block.  She stood still and close enough for me to easily swing a leg over--a good sign she was willing.  As soon as I was situated, she was waiting for the cue to move.  I didn't give it to  her, but I didn't restrain her either.  She moved out. We meandered around the obstacle course.

She was doing so well that I decided to add in leg and neck rein. She thought about balking, and began to bring her head up, but then she corrected herself, as if she had thought it through and decided to partner up.

We did a little more and then I dismounted and praised her.  I didn't want to push my luck.

Today, I’m taking her to the trail because she loves that work and it’s the best place to get forward. Arenas can make horses sour, ESPECIALLY when they see their buddies right next to them feasting on green grass.  It can be hard, tedious work for horses, and I think it is a breeding ground for behavior issues--especially in horses who struggle with conformation.

At this point, if I had to guess, I’d guess it was a behavior issue.  She was great on the ground and standing tied. She is very respectful—extremely respectful on the ground. Personally, I think she was telling me what her limits are. I’m not the type to “make her” do things. It’s a partnership. What she does, she does because she wants to, and she likes being with me and accomplishing new things. We’ve worked in small increments to get where we are today, and we got here based on trust. I’m going to be doing some soul searching to find out exactly what that means for us going forward. I think one thing for sure is that I have to do the training myself and Leah will tell me when she’s ready for each new step.  I'll find out a lot today on the trail.

The question in my mind: How much of what our horses do for us is only because they WANT to do it?


That BS was behavioral!  I went out to work with her today at home, rather than at the trail, and she started grinding her teeth as soon as I put pressure with my legs on to ask her to move out.  Then, I sat on her back and shifted around to see if there was any pain--I couldn't detect any and I'd already worked on the ground and gave her an all over massage/checkout--so I asked her to move in circles.  She did.  Pretty soon, she snapped that head up and tried to come to a stop, but I pulled her head in tight, kicked her haunches over, and had her do a circle.  We moved out, and she tried it again, I repeated it.  Every time she'd look out at the mares and see them eating, or we'd pass the gate, she'd snap the head up in a halt--but before she'd get it all the way up, I'd circle her. 

Pretty soon it ended, and she was moving out nicely again.  I realized when I used to whoa her, she'd come to a stop with her head snapped up high, so we worked on whoaing with the head low.  During our work, I chose a height that I felt was acceptable and whenever her head even slightly passed that imaginary mark, we circled tight and came back around on our line.

We went over our obstacles, to the gate, walk and trot transitions, backing, and ended on a very positive note.

After our work, I tied her to the trailer and came in here.  I'm going to leave her tied until I go to work at 1:30.