Friday, May 29, 2009

Winning the Heart of a Horse (Continued)

Just got back from our ride and my first thought is....thank goodness for spandex riding pants! With all the company we've had lately, I seem to have gained a few pounds. Nothing worse than trying to squeeze extra pounds into tight jeans when you're riding a horse.

No need--I have spandex! (Well, actually, they're mostly cotton and only 8 percent Spandex.) They're boot cut, faux jeans with knee patches--by Kerrits. Love 'em. I bought them last year on sale at the Foxy Horse and Hound, but they don't seem to make them anymore. The closest thing is this:

Back to my pony project. I wanted to follow-up with some specifics about what I've done so that you can offer me up some of your advice--if you're willing.

This is my M.O.:

1.) I go out with halter to get Jasmine from her stall and pen--her run is about 24x24 and her stall is 12x12. I keep the halter in full sight. Jasmine pops her head up and moves her feet. She circles her run and then enters her stall. Most always, she stops at that point and allows me to halter her--on HIGH alert. Once haltered, she relaxes a bit.

2.) I walk her out and groom her. She flinches a lot, but will allow me to do this. She doesn't like any touching of the ears or anywhere around the ears. So, I put my hand on her forehead and leave it there--rub her forehead a bit--touch the ears with my fingertips. Then I do the same thing starting at the base of her mane and moving up--lots of hand sitting still until she relaxes. I might get some chewing--but more often I see the eye relax and take that as a cue to go further.

3.) Then, I lead her around and sometimes let her graze.

4.) Since I can catch her in her pen--I want to work on catching her in larger areas--in preparation for releasing her in the pasture again. So, I take her to the roundpen and release her there. And, here's where it gets hairy. To roundpen or not to roundpen? I have been choosing not to roundpen aggressively. Instead, I've been walking up to her with the halter, and if she takes off I work her quietly and let her rest when she stops moving--then approach with the halter. She always takes off. (She's a pony, she's learned that her strength is in evading capture!!)

5.) At this juncture, if I aggressively roundpen her, I will eventually--maybe after an hour--get her to stop and take the halter. But this year I've done it differently because that didn't seem to be doing me any long term good. This season, I've been walking away and coming back in an hour to do it again--then again--until without aggressively moving her around, she will stand and let me halter her.

She's really smart, and she wants back in the barn with the others, so she will eventually think it through and make the right decision. Sometimes it takes until the next day, though, and she has to spend the night in the roundpen--I take her food and water there.

So my big areas are being able to touch her ears and have her relax with my hand around her head--and to be able to catch her in large areas.

When your hands are around her head her eyes pretty much bug out--and you can see the whites. Which is why I started to wonder if she had eye problems, but that doesn't seem to be the case. She's so sensitive that I made the decision to keep my hand quiet on her and start from there this year.

I'm getting ready to go out with her right now--so I'll update this post in about an hour. Any thoughts about this? Maybe I'm making the wrong decision not to roundpen her. I guess it could be argued that if I ask her to stand for the halter, I better stick it out until it's done, or else I'm possibily rewarding her evasion. Hmmmm...


Went out with Jasmine and got a brainstorm! I took her to the roundpen, but tied her to the long line and let her go. Essentially, she was free to move--and she did--but it allowed me to catch her when enough was enough, so that I don't spend the whole day doing that. Instead, I was able to put another rope and halter all around and over her head (she was very scared).

I also worked on calling her to me and signalling with my hand, then gently guiding her. For the most part, she did it by herself. I want her to form a new habit--coming to humans, rather than running from them. This method is in the Parelli "games".

All in all, it worked pretty good. I know a teenager worked with her when she was at Tina's--and I know she had made progress around her head by tying ribbons to the halter to desensitize. What I'm doing is similar--but I'm using a rope and halter--the items I use every day. I also threw the rope over her back--which made her nervous. So, around the back, over her head, all over her body--so that she knows it's not a terrible snake or whatever it is she thinks it is.

I had wondered if all this evasion was pure fear or just knowing she wasn't caught anymore, but she knew she was essentially caught today on the long line, and she still ran--so I think it's 80 percent fear and 20 percent bad habit.

No Hay This Year

If you weren't born on a farm, and you want to grow hay, consult your local Extension agency. They are the most helpful, knowledgeable people you'll talk to, and they are there to help.

Yesterday, my husband called ours and found out we won't be getting any hay this year (you may not like their answer!) He told us that we'll have to spend all of this year on weed control and allowing what grass is there to establish itself. He wants us to fertilize this fall right before the rainy season--around Halloween.

Can we graze our horses late summer?

No, The grass needs to rest and the hooves are too hard on it.

< Insert crying sounds--I love to see my horses graze. >

Update on horse projects: Pony got a bath, did great. Cowgirl is favoring her front left hoof--couldn't find anything--although she uses that one to bang on the panels to tell me to feed her every morning--could there be a connection? Working on Beautiful's feet--picking them up like the farrier does--need someone to hold her head--maybe Shiloh since she'll have more free time now. Going on a ride this morning with a friend--it should be in the 80's here and let me tell you--it is PERFECT right now! Working with Lea on prizes for the Mustang Days--thinking custom ribbons will do the trick.

Happy Trails--enjoy the sunshine!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Creating A Heart for Humans

I have another horse project at my house that is dear to my heart--my Jasmine project. She's a pony, so you could call it my pony project.

Jasmine is a beautiful, small-sized pony I received from my friend almost two years ago. We don't know anything about her history really, except what we've tried to do for her at our homes--and that she had to have been severely mishandled when she was young. We've all had varying degrees of success.

Tina did a lot for her--a teenage girl did a lot for her--I've done a lot for her, there have probably been other humans who tried to heal her along her path, but I think it's safe to say that none of us have won her heart.

It's disappointing.

But I won't give up.

You know, what's amazing about her is how obedient she is and also how gentle she is. She wouldn't kick or bite a person to save her life--literally. When she's on a lead rope, she's excellent. She picks up her feet nicely, too.

But all you have to do is look in her eye to see that she does not love us. She doesn't really like us.

Now, my old horse, Red, when we first got him--he didn't have the look of love either. He was Mr. Obedient--which really got me thinking--which is most important? Obedience seemed pretty darn good, that's for sure! I had other horses with big hearts toward humans that weren't nearly as obedient as my stoic Mr. Red. In what I imagined of my perfect horse world, I guess I wanted both.

I think it took about five years for me to see what I would consider an attachment to us. It was after my colt, who he was surrogate dad to, died. I used to go stand out in the pasture where they had stood and tell my troubles to Red. He seemed to understand me, soften toward me, lean in to me, and since that time I feel like we've had a real relationship--above and beyond obedience. I can see it in his eyes when he looks at me. We have a true friendship now.

Horses say a lot through their eyes, don't they?

With Jasmine I've thought a million things at different times--I've even asked myself the question--does she have a sight problem or a true mental problem? Basically, could there be a physical issue at play? But then, I watch her with the other horses--who she really does love--and she is a vital member of their herd. She developed a strong attachment, like they all do, to Red--they ALL love Red. Her eye is soft and receptive to them.

So, how do you turn a horse's heart toward humans? How do I get toward us what she gives so easily to others of her kind?

Beautiful, a wild Mustang, was easy to turn. Having not really seen too much bad from humans, she was quick to accept us when she understood we humans put horses on a pretty high pedestal. All we want to do is feed them, clean up after them, pet and groom them, and eventually ride them. Beautiful figured out pretty quick that a life with humans was a life of being treated like Royalty.

Not so with Jasmine. She likes our food. She likes the comfort of her herd. But she has yet to seek me out on her own.

Each day, now that the weather's nice, I go out and sit in her area. She goes away from me and watches and watches. Her full attention is always on me until I leave. What I want is for her to come to me willingly. I want her heart.

I don't know how long I'll have to wait to get it--another year, two, three, four, five?

This is a subject for which I welcome any and all advice and your own experiences with winning the hearts of your horses.

And, if you could only have ONE thing--complete and total obedience--a push-button, respectful horse--or the heart of the horse--which would you rather have?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beautiful's Adoption Paperwork

A few days ago, I finally received Beautiful's adoption paperwork! It came Thursday, I believe, but I have been very busy entertaining our out of town family who came to visit, and have only just now had time to blog.

Now that the weather is nice, blog entries may become few and far between. I'm sure it will be that way with everyone. We've got to take advantage of this good weather when we can.

I've been catching up with all my favorite blogs today, which has been great! It's so good to see what everyone has been doing.

Besides the adoption paperwork--we also had the farrier come out last Tuesday. Not good! It was a horribly windy day--it felt like the barn was going to blow down. The windiest day of the year so far, and guess what--it was my scheduled day for the farrier!

It's so hard to schedule--and they needed it so bad--I figured I'd better tough it out. Plus, they do need to learn that life goes on--even when it's windy.

Well, they were all antsy--but Beautiful did her worst ever. The front feet were great--but those backs--Ay yi yi! Bad! She didn't try to kick, but she did put down ALL, and I mean ALL, of her weight. The farrier couldn't hold her--which knocked him off his balance and put a lot of stress on his back.

She has a stubborn streak in her a mile long and didn't give up the good fight for about fifteen minutes. At which point, you could FINALLY see her eye soften, licked her lips, and relaxed.

Since then she has been as good as gold--almost as if she's trying hard to make amends to me. She is ten times more tuned in to my comings and goings--like Hey, are we still friends since that time I tried to kill your farrier?

And of course, my farrier wasn't too impressed with my progress with Beautiful. I didn't even try to justify it by saying that I'd done this or that or the other--which I have!--because in the end, it doesn't really matter. When things settled down I did offer up some explanation by telling him rather than doing nothing (as he assumed) I'd been doing much more with her in the roundpen and out leading in the fields. All of which does NOT explain how she could have taken so many steps backward. Except the fact that it was a windy day and, for a wild horse especially, wind can mean danger.

So, we both agreed that he should do Beautiful's feet every four weeks when he comes out because 1.) She needs more interaction with him, and 2.) she grows heel fast!

That's about it for now--more later! Hope you're all enjoying your Memorial Day!

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Most Beautiful Spring Day in May

This is the best weather we've had all year! I'm sitting out in the sun with shorts on, no less, listening to the horses finish up their breakfast in the barn and watching them emerge from their stalls to soak up the sun.

I'm birdwatching again, and I have a delimma. 42 is a cat, and she wants to do this:

To these:

Same story, different day: she wants to kill the Killdeer. But I did get a picture of the broken wing display they use to trick cats away form their young. It works great!

Still, I just wanted to relax and enjoy the sunshine and take pictures--not watch birds get killed. So, I put 42 in the house. She protested, and then I thought--what am I doing? This is the natural order of things--cats kill mice and birds and coyotes kill cats--and it all goes round and round. I let her out about fifteen minutes ago and haven't seen her since.

Off of my deck, I can see the horses and my newly planted trees which are attracting more birds to the area. These little American Goldfinch just showed up. They also call this bird the "wild canary", which is what I thought it was when I first saw it. I have a wonderful little Field Guide for identifying birds.

Well, time to go let the horses out. This will be a good day to get a ride in!

Happy Trails!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pictures & Updates

It's been busy since returning from Walla Walla. I got to spend the afternoon of Mother's Day with my own mom in Lewiston. One of my sisters hosted a bbq at her house for us.

Last night we volunteered at a Palisade's Park cleanup. We gave the guys chainsaws and sent them to cut out dead or crowded trees in an effort to thin the growth and keep down the threat of a wildfire. (Guys LOVE chainsaws, I noticed).

What a great group of people. We love to volunteer with them when we can, but we have been so busy lately, and out of town a lot, it's tough to find the time.

Here's a picture of some alfalfa growing in the field. Horses LOVE alfalfa!! This is what I bring to Beautiful each day.

The Plum trees are finally starting to bloom here! Maybe we will get a Spring.

I had a load of woodchips delivered the other day. They make great bedding. It's nice to have clean, comfy stalls again.

We're almost out of hay. I think we're down to a measly 10 bales! So, we're having 4 tons delivered from Kettle Falls on Saturday. Kettle Falls is 2 hours away, so I'm surprised the grower would deliver to us. It sounds like good hay, too. He's been doing it for 30 years and knows to bale at night when the dew is on the field so that the leaves don't blow out of the bales. (Some old farmer's wisdom).

I've closed the horses into their stalls to get a better feel for where they're at. They didn't winter as well as last year. Red looks a little ribby to me--though he did shed out great this year and his water intake looks normal. (So, probably not Cushing's). I think, at his age, he eats slow--so separating him out and giving all he wants to eat, plus his Allegra Senior, I should see some good results.

I've continued to take piano lessons. It's one of the best things I've done for myself in a long time. I have a wonderful teacher. I'm working on a couple of Chopin Preludes right now--trying to get the rhythms down. It's tough, and I've found that you have to train your brain slowly to move in these ways. I practice--get as far as I can--sleep--dream about it--listen to the songs played on MP3--then practice again. Each day I get slightly better. It's like learning a foreign language--I need total immersion and time.

I've downloaded some of the songs onto my Blackberry (Mother's Day gift)--I can listen to the piece and play along. Also, the metronome--nothing is better for clicking out a rhythm than the metronome.

Before lessons, I was lazy about rhythms--but I've discovered that without it, music has no backbone. It's like a lump of limbs with nothing to support it. Rhythm stands a song up and helps it move. This also relates to poetry--my favorite form of writing--poetry also needs rhythm. So, I look at these lessons as piano and poetry lessons.

Beautiful eating breakfast this morning. The farrier comes Tuesday for her, so I want to work hard this week around her feet. I also want to work on trailer loading. We'll have a good weekend for it--good weather and finally HOME! Hopefully, someone will be around to take pictures of this process. I've usually not had a problem teaching my horses to trailer load, but Beautiful does like to go UP, UP, UP--and that could pose a problem. We'll soon see....

These pictures were ALL taken today. Each angle gives her a little different look.

As always, 42, the cat, follows me to the barn like a dog. Except the Killdeer, protecting their nests on the ground, saw her coming and did the broken wing display.

Unfortunately, she didn't fall for their heroic masquerade and went right for the babies instead. Killdeer babies are born with their eyes open and ready to run. Their only weakness is, they can't fly. My 42 saw the babies and went right to them, but the one she was nearest froze--like a smart little Killdeer should, and 42 stopped the chase long enough for me to swoop in and get her. Kill Mice, 42!! Not the sweet Killdeer who, bless their little bird souls, don't know better than to nest on the ground.

Here's a picture of a Killdeer pretending to have a broken wing as the one today did. I thought 42 had wounded it somehow, even though she was no where near it. When it saw 42 pass by and go for the nest, it corrected itself and its mate took over trying to lure us away.

The Killdeer I pictured--they are hard to capture!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day, Horse Races, and Hot Air Balloons

Happy Mother's Day!

This is what I woke up to this morning.

I'm at the 2009 Hot Air Balloon Stampede in Walla Walla, WA

While at the Balloon Festival--I discovered they also had horse races. I have mixed feelings about racing horses, but I could have spent all day there with them. I've never seen a live race. I found myself holding my breath that the horses wouldn't trip over each or themselves--but the power when they come around the corner in the final stretch--breath-taking.

In the fourth race, this is the horse I chose-- Sting 'Em Fast --a 4-year-old Quarter Horse. I chose him based upon the strength and balance of his build--and he looked like he had a long, powerful stride.

He came in first place, so I patted myself on the back. (I didn't wager).

What a build on Sting Em Fast--he reminds me of my old horse, Red. (When he was younger).

In the fifth race I chose this horse, Meadow Slew.

I liked the look of the dapple gray (below), which may have won--but I'm not positive because my kids wanted to leave before I found out his eventual number. The dapple gray, which I think is Tayo's Tiger, was working himself up by prancing around. He wanted to go!

My pick here, #5, Meadow Slew, came in 3rd. He's a good-looking boy though, isn't he--and calm?

(This might be Tayo's Tiger--the horse that won--but he seemed so excited, I thought he'd wear himself out before he got to the race. He is also built with a long stretch--and was very tall. The other thing that impressed me about him were his hooves. They were huge! Which made me think he had some bone in there--which is always a good sign of strength and, sometimes, balance. I think he was #7 (the winning number) because he was the last to go to his space--and the #7 space was empty. But I wish I knew for sure.)

I hope you're all having a Happy Mother's Day as well!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Growing, Growing..

More for Beautiful's Baby Book--approximately 2 years old--May 8, 2009 (almost a year since adoption!!!)

It's been so long since I posted a picture of Beautiful, you were probably starting to wonder if I still had her! I do, and here's Beautiful's update. (Sorry for the picture quality, they were taken spur of the moment from my Blackberry).

Tonight I went out to fly spray and groom her because the mosquitoes really picked up from, seemingly, out of no where. (A sign that maybe the weather's warming up.) She stood for the spray better than my five domestics did! She's a brave soul--very proud.

We have a ritual now, which is that each day when I come out to her, I bring her fresh picked alfalfa from around the property. I started it last year and then started it up again this Spring. Tonight, I was so set on getting her sprayed, I forgot to bring my alfalfa bouquet--however, she didn't act like a brat--as she might have since "treating" her could be akin to "spoiling" her. Instead, she gave me some sweet, subtle--maybe even subliminal signs--and I figured it out and brought her over some.

She has almost completely shed off now--just a little white--as you can see in the picture--to come off yet. Her color is "buttermilk"--perfect buttermilk. I look at her and say to myself, "Oh, that's what they mean by 'buttermilk buckskin!" (Dun.)

On the way to the roundpen she did a little bit of a rear because she was so excited at the good weather we had this evening. I turned around and said, "NO!", and she came down and stayed down--like she just had to be reminded.

She's really good at standing still after I unhalter her. I hold her there for a minute or two and pet her, so she gets in the habit of waiting until I push her off from me to leave. It's something I do with all my horses to keep myself from getting kicked.

As you can see in the picture, she's butt high again. I think I wrote earlier about how it was hard to get the weight on her lately--but now she's filling out again. I feed her double what I feed the rest since she appears to be in the middle of another growth spurt. (For those who aren't around horses a lot and wonder what we mean when we say "butt-high"--Horses grow in a see-saw motion--hind--then front--hind--then front catches up and so on until they get their full height. Many people say Mustangs grow later than domestics. Horses, in general, can grow until they're five--and if their nutrition was poor in early life, they may catch up in their later adolescence.)

She's not huge, by any means, but she is taller than the pictures make her look. When she lifts her head up, she's taller than me, but we stand pretty well head to head. I had a friend who showed me a trick about how to measure with a piece of twine and figure out what their eventual height would be--but I can't remember how it went. Does anyone else know?

Maybe when she finally gets her height, she can start working on her breadth! She's going to need some if she's going to pack me around the hills!!

Enjoy the sunshine tomorrow, everyone!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Controversy in Waitsburg

This has nothing to do with my dear Mustang, Beautiful, but a little over a week ago, my mom and sister and I met in Waitsburg, WA for lunch and a bit of shopping. (Yes, there is shopping in Waitsburg).

Next to this quaint little building with a cat lounging at the cash register, no less--
(BTW--thumbs up on the cat at the register, Waitsburg--LOVE it!)

Here's the "quaint" building:

There was this--

Prompting me to ask the painters of the flag what it was going to be. "What do you think it should be?" Was their reply. Hmmmm...I thought. Good question. A bar? I dunno. Bye.

But then, today, traversing the Internet looking for information on the "Farm Sale" that will transpire this weekend in Waitsburg (just a heads up!)--I found this article, "Huge controversy over flag painting in small town". (Click to read entire, hilarious article).

Apparently, the day we arrived, Sunday, was the day the town was first introduced to this "little" flag, and the controversy that ensued was picked up by the Seattle Times. To tell you the truth, I didn't know anyone was worked up about it. I just thought, WOWZER, that's a big flag! And, I appreciate odd things, so I took a picture as we pulled away. Other than that, I would characterize Waitsburg as a sweet, sleepy, old-fashioned town--kind of like stepping back in time--ohhhh---sixty or so years. (And, I mean that as a compliment).

What do you think? Does this desecrate the flag? Destroy the investment ($600,000) in the downtown? Or, on the other hand, is it a sight-worth-seeing?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Riding Old Red

I had a wonderful weekend with family, one highlight of which was sharing my love of horses with my horse-crazy grandaughter.

We've been putting her up on Old Red, the perfect mount for young ones, since she was about two. He's 29 and has done his share of instilling confidence in many a young rider.

This weekend was the first time I ponied her by herself. Last year I'd put her up there and then run along her side, leading him at a trot. I wanted to be there unless she lost her balance. Being able to pony her behind another horse was much easier on me.

There were about 20 family and extended family members here off and on throughout the weekend, and many of them got to go out and see Beautiful. Besides almost killing one dog who thought chasing her around the roundpen was fun--she was really sweet with all the human company.

There has been a lot of rain lately, which is producing some growth out in the pastures. It looks like a lot of hay is actually coming up--also some spots of dense weed. Our plan is let the grass grow to about four inches and then come behind and spray for weeds. I don't expect to get a large crop of hay from this first cutting, but as we continue to plant seed and spray, we should reclaim the land.

Oh, I also found ticks on the outside fur of Old Red the other day. I sprayed him and Cowboy, now I have to go out spray all the others. That seems to be the only way to protect them.

Hope you all had a great weekend, too! Oh, don't forget to stop by my Emily Dickinson's Garden blog--the drawing for the Teleflora Bouquet is TODAY!