Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Birth of a Foal: Complication, Retained Placenta

 

There is really something special about witnessing a foal being born to your prized mare. My daughter, Shiloh, bought Cowgirl as a weanling, and has paid for her care all these 17 years. She found her on DreamHorse. She spent her own savings to purchase her. When she was in school, she had to always pay half of her care, and when she moved out on her own, took over 100% of her upkeep. She is her heart horse. Cowgirl, in some ways, helped raise Shiloh, since Shiloh was only 12 when their lives merged together. Many a day, I would sit at our window and watch them race through the wheat fields, (after harvest they'd be a sea of stubble), behind our house. 

When Shiloh moved out on her own, the care of Cowgirl reverted mainly to me, because I'm here and she's not, but we have always charged her board and upkeep, and she has dutifully paid Cowgirl's way and stops by as often as possible to see her--which is quite a lot! (Tip for parents who want to see their grown kids--keep their horse for them!)

So, this breeding was 100% Shiloh's desire to have a piece of Cowgirl that she can take further into her future. She bred her to a stallion of our friend, and trainer, who also shaped Shiloh's young life in a very profound way. We were all very close, and rode together everyday, and had women's lunches together--which Shiloh was always a part of. Shiloh trusted, and still trusts, Sarah's opinion in all things horse, and life, and potential studs. The joining of their two horses in many ways joined them, too.

All this is to say, it was not my choice to breed a horse and, as wonderful as it was to see the birth, at this point, I don't think I'd do it again.

In some ways, I worry to much. In other ways, too little. The problem with "worry", is that it can't anticipate everything. You worry about your mare rejecting her foal (I did), and she retains her placenta instead, and becomes the most wonderful mother you have ever seen! Mother nature is miraculous like that. She takes a 17 year old maiden mare and somehow gives her all the tools and knowledge she needs to raise her foal. When and where to birth it. (At night, perfect weather, in the clean grass). The baby hits the ground, she recovers from the shock and pain of the birth, then returns to clean off, and eat, the afterbirth around the foal. She nudges it. She smells and nuzzles it. She pushes it to its feet, and moves away, so the foal will have to follow. She gently pushes the foal toward her teats. It finds her tail instead. She moves around, and around, and around--guides, and guides--until the baby latches on.

There is what they call the 1,2,3 rule. Foal should stand in 1 hour. Foal should nurse by 2 hours. And the placenta should be expelled by 3 hours. We got 1 and 2, but not 3.

*****

Let me backtrack to earlier in the day, after I had written my last post about her milk dripping / leaking, and the mares all gathering around like something big was going to happen. (Foxy has been a mama, and it turns out she knew what all that meant.) But we didn't. It could mean foaling, or maybe not. Our vet had told us that mares can drip milk even a month before they deliver. In retrospect, this did seem different. It seemed like the leaking was happening with contractions, but at the time, we didn't know.

A friend had given me some test strips with her foaling kit and told us that they had accurately predicted her foals, within 12 hours of delivery, every time. While Cowgirl was leaking, I took the opportunity to catch a bit of her milk and test it. I used the Mother Nature Mare Foaling Kit. As you can see by the center strip, the one with milk, it was a perfect match for BABY COMING SOON! (The right side strip is a strip with no milk on it, for comparison.)

I called my daughter and she packed her bags and came over with her husband. My son and his wife also showed up with hands full of board games--we were expecting to have a long, fun night of foal watch.

We had a waning full moon that Friday night, and it cast light out over the horizon until quite late. But when that light began to fade, down Cowgirl went in her stall, as we watched from the house on our cameras. Shiloh walked out to the barn to see what was happening while we popped popcorn for our fun game night. Shiloh came back to the house and ended the play--"It's coming! I saw it!" She looked quite shocked, as she didn't really believe my milk test strips were accurate, and she said later, I have cried wolf a few times.

It was hard to know what to do. When we went to the barn, she got up and left. We didn't want to get too much in her way, but we also wanted to see it. We ended up standing way back, outside of the fence, just Shiloh and I, while the others watched on the cameras from inside the house. Cowgirl chose a spot that was very dark, and isolated, and the baby plopped out into the grass. Cowgirl then walked away about 25 feet and went into a kind of shock. She stood there, looking out opposite her foal, and stomping one bag leg involuntarily. The afterbirth was hanging from her vulva in a long, thick strip.

At that point, we finally entered the turnout and got the photo at the top of this post. When Cowgirl saw us by he foal, it triggered her out of her shock, and she returned to it and began to clear the afterbirth and perform the motherly duties I told you about above. Nudging. Nurturing. Licking. Guiding.

****

After 3 hours, the afterbirth had not expelled, so we called our vet and woke him up at 2:20 am. (Baby was born at 11:20 pm.) He thanked us for waking him (not) and told us to tie the afterbirth in two knots and wait to see if it expelled by morning. I tied it into three knots, to get it far up off the ground from where it was still leeching bacteria, and germs, and bringing it back to the mare's uterus.

We then went back inside and got 3 hours of sleep, and woke to find it had not shed.

After another call to the vet, they told us to bring mama and baby into the clinic.

****


Getting mama and baby into a horse trailer, right after delivery, is not ideal. However, baby does like to follow mama, and being loose while mama was tied, it gave her access to more milk. She trailered like a champ.

I didn't go with them to the vet clinic because someone needed to stay at home with the puppy, but my husband drove with Shiloh and her husband going along. 

They were able to reach into her uterus and suction out the placenta, then clean it out with saline water. From the stories they told me, it was extremely messy. The contents of the uterus--blood and muck--blew out all over the veterinarian. Shiloh came home firmly believing VETS ARE NOT PAID ENOUGH!

But they got it all out.


They administered oxytocin, banamine, and SMZ's, and sent us home to do the same in followup. We had to give Cowgirl shots of oxytocin every four hours until 1:45 am this morning, to make sure she expelled whatever was left, plus the water they'd introduced. 

The foal check was a success. Epona, the name of the new filly, had already received enough colosutrum. Yay! She came home and got even more. Foals can only absorb colostrum for the first 24 hours, so this was our biggest concern. All of her vitals were good, and her body parts strong and healthy.

She slept through the checkup.

Epona was very tired yesterday afternoon, and she slept a lot. By night, however, she had recharged, and was learning to run her mama in circles.


I continue to be on high alert for any potential complications with mama and foal, and we're treating Epona's umbilicus 3 times per day with a chlorhexidine solution mixed with distilled water. We have sealed in their private turnout so that the wolfhounds can't get in and chase her around, and we continue to administer SMZ's to Cowgirl to guard against infection. I am on poop patrol, and as a side note--Cowgirl's massive manure production almost ended on the day she went into labor. Apparently, they clean themselves out ahead of delivery--so that's another sign baby is coming--and then it takes a while for new manure to be produced. I was getting very worried about her lack of production, but it is quite normal for them to poop less after they give birth.

I think Shiloh hit the lottery with this filly! She has color and chrome, and she loves people. She came to us as soon as she was on her feet, and again the next morning. She loves people, and is quite smart, calm, and gregarious.

The birth of a foal is a miraculous experience to witness. It's fraught with potential problems, and a bit nerve-wracking, but when it's going right, it's amazing.

Here are some parting photos of Epona's first day of life.











Friday, May 28, 2021

Waiting...

(The mares know something is happening, especially Foxy Mama. We put up temporary panels so the baby doesn't slip under the fence. Like the twine job?)

(From yesterday) We are still waiting for the foal, but many changes have occurred which make us think it will be soon. 

1. Remember the “teat training” we were doing? Well, yesterday, Cowgirl did a complete about-face. Only the day before it was almost impossible to wrap her tail or touch around that area without her threatening to kick, and then out of the blue, she became a complete sugar pie who wants to be scratched around the teats. She gets that goofy look like when you find their perfect itchy spot. That is Mother Nature stepping in to get her ready, and eager, for the foal nursing. 

2. She is dripping more milk. 

3. She’s becoming very soft around the tail as her body prepares for delivery. 

We added a grassy area to her turnout, and hope she will deliver there. The whole space is quite large and will give the foal plenty of room to run. It also shares a gate to the North pasture, where they will rotate in and out. 

I’m ready to have this behind us. The hourly checks are taxing, and I’m sleep deprived. I’m also worried for her safety, and the safety of the foal. I keep hearing sad stories, and I don’t want to be one. 

We’ve done all we can do, with regular vet checks and shots, so now it is what it is. I just hope and pray it’s a healthy delivery. 


YouTube flagged the next vide as inappropriate, but if you're interested in what this dripping / leaking of milk looks like (I would be!) click on the link.

Update: today I went out and found her leaking milk in streams, and it was somewhat clear. Went out later and it had stopped, and teats were waxy.


****

I had another lesson with Tumbleweed, and we did similar work as in the last session, but at the trot. Basically, keep the head straight, ask for trot, open the rein for the turn, push with opposite leg while lifting opposite rein to chest. All of this is done with the hands high, just above his head, and in quick succession. It accomplishes the same thing as the 4-point turn, but in saddle. 

We worked on it at home, and was a bit more difficult with his buddies in the pasture, but we succeeded. 

It’s still very awkward. He prefers the obstacle work to the trot work. Give him a bridge, and he’s a happy camper. Trotting circles...not so much. 

While I was lunging him at the training barn, I dropped my line when he was at the lope. I had visions of him running free like a wild child, but no, he stopped and waited for me to pick it up. 

That was impressive. 

I hope my next post will be an update on a newborn foal—a healthy delivery, a happy addition to our herd. ❤️🙏

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Tumbleweed turns 3! (And a New Puppy)

 


Oh, sweet Tumbleweed. I just love this photo by Shirley, (his first people mama.)

All those fun road trips to Canada to bond with him. The bonus was getting to meet Shirley in person.

Another of Shirley's photos--the night he was born and tumbled into her arms.

We had our first lesson together up here at the Busy Bee Ranch with Regina Ahern. Oh my, she is a good trainer! 

She has done so much work with kids through the Pony Club and 4H and private lessons over many years, that she can break everything down without making you feel incompetent. 

For example, she asked me what I think we need to work on, and I told her that he needs work transitioning to new places and being okay with that.

Environmental pressure, she said, and agreed.

Then, I said we need help communicating. Sarah does so much naturally, that it's hard for me to replicate her system, which leaves me off balance and Tumbleweed unsure what I'm asking.

Again, she agreed with my assessment, and at that point she told me she had reviewed my videos and could see where the confusion was occurring. (If she had said that ahead of time, I may have got my feelings hurt, but she let me say it first.)

As we walked from trailer to arena for the lesson, T gave her the perfect opportunity to work on the environmental pressure he was feeling. He wasn't paying attention past some rocks, and he got nervous. She stopped me right there and had me work on the 4 point turn.

To be honest, I'm not sure why it's called a 4-point turn, but I'll ask her at the next lesson. I assume it is because you are moving all 4 points.  She broke it down for me as this:

1. Standing in the "neutral position" at his side near the latigo / fender, turn your body toward the hind end, walk towards it, have him disengage away from you. When he does it, while planting his front feet, return to the neutral position and wait for him to stop and release. Rub his body with both hands--front and hind--as a way of saying okay and getting him used to things touching him on the hind.

2. Add a disengagement on the forehand. This part twisted me up. I wasn't sure how to ask it from the neutral position, so I moved to his other side. Wrong answer. She wanted me to stay put, and ask him to back up, then ask for movement away onto the circle.

Repeat. Repeat.

When she does it, it looks seamless. Same with Sarah. Tumbleweed immediately tuned into Regina, like oh, you're the boss.  Okay, what next. And with work, he did the same for me.

I love the return to "neutral." I hadn't been doing that, and it was easy for Regina to see that Tumbleweed wanted me in front of him for support, where he could see me, and he was pushing me there. Regina wants him to get used to not seeing me, more like it will be in the saddle. As a bonus, this teaches them to stand still for mounting. Thus, the power of the neutral position.

Do I have his attention? Yes. Mount up.

Now, there were other lessons going on in the arena when I went to saddle up. One of the lessons was being conducted over a loudspeaker. 

Excellent opportunity to practice environmental pressure!

We practiced the fine art of putting my body where it needed to be, and waiting for him to adjust his body to where it needed to be---squared up. For this, I simple sat up straight (so that "if someone put a level on my shoulders, it would be straight") and tipped out my hip--opening it up--to ask for Tumbleweed to come into it and straighten up.

Next, we used it for the turn--the one rein stop.

1. Position your body.

2. Ask with rein.

3. Tumbleweed pivots around pressure of hip which is slightly pressed down.

4. Release.

We got some beautiful turns.

The last exercise we did was keeping his whiskers lined up with tail--in other words, straight, and then urging him forward at the walk. The rule here is to always keep his head straight, but allow him to walk wherever he wants to go. (We practiced it first at the stand still, and she cautioned me that if a horse is to UP, you may want to do something else. But T was calm, just interested in all the other ruckus.) He was a bit sneaky at peeking at the other horses, but when I saw that slight tilt of eye and head, I straightened him back out. For a while he walked in circles, but discovering that was too much work, he eventually walked out in a line.

It was interesting to see how that exercise changed the dynamic. It's like we met in the middle. Where he had been looking to me for every little direction, he stepped up and started carrying himself with more confidence. It took more concentration on his part, and less leaning on me for support. 

Our next lesson will be all those things, but doing the last exercise at the trot.

It was a great feeling to have his attention in such a busy environment, and to feel safe every step of the way. Priceless.

As soon as my puppy wakes up and I can address her needs and put her back down for a nap, I'm heading out to practice all of this work with T.

*****

Yes, a new puppy. A very young puppy. My husband and I decided we wanted another lab, like our sweet Maggie Mae, who passed two years ago. We always try to keep three dogs at a time, staggering them somewhat, so that one dog is never left alone, should one pass. It helps when we travel that they have each other. And since some of our kids live far away, traveling is a must.

So, we knew we wanted a yellow lab, with a liver nose, and we wanted her after our last trip, because we're going to be home for baby watch--foal and grandbaby--and won't be traveling again for a long time. Whew!

Well, the exact perfect fit plopped into our lives this week. I had been searching ads for the right dog, and spoke to quite a few breeders, and found a situation that was perfect for where I'm at in life right now--pups needing early placement, due to health of mama and inability of the breeders to meet all the pup's needs.

Lucy Mae will be six weeks in two days. That is very, very young. Added to that, she was also the runt of her litter. Such a tiny thing. And they told me she is very timid and would wait until all the others ate to eat her own portion or drink her water. They said she sat back from the rest, and would probably need the most amount of time and attention. 

I was a little worried when we arrived at their home in rural Idaho, and she was so small. She was even still a little wobbly when I set her down. Ideally, pups don't go to homes until they're 8 weeks. The problem with taking them so early is that they need lots of small meals a day, lots of cuddling, like they'd do with their mama and siblings, and lots of potty breaks. Most people don't have the time to do all that, but I do.


Well, to our surprise, when we pulled away from her house, she just fell right asleep and cuddled into us for the ride home. When we arrived home, I set her in the grass, and she did her business. She spent the rest of the day cuddling with us, playing, like she would with her litter mates, and sleeping in our arms.

Timid? Not one bit.  It was like she had returned home.

We slept with her last night, and she'd wake up, lick my nose, and let me know when she needed to go potty and get a drink of water.  We were up three times, and then she'd go right back to sleep. Today, I put her in her kennel for the first time, after she ate, drank, and played, and she feel right back asleep.

Young puppies sleep a lot. 

It's like having a newborn baby, and I am really enjoying her. So far, she seems very healthy, and she's really smart about going potty on the potty pad or in the grass. She eats solid food, some soaked in Kefir, and she is good about drinking water.


 The theme for 2021 is BABIES! And I love it.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Tumbleweed is Perfect AND I Got the Covid Vaccine


Gosh, I could just eat this horse up!  I am guilty of hugging him entirely too much. But he's so sweet. 

Each day has gotten easier to keep his attention.  I do less, and get more.  The blank slate that I started with, basically, being handed off to me as well brought up, loved baby--which I was able to continue, and then the added solid training from Sarah--has developed Tumbleweed into a trusting, thinking, gentle, human-loving soul.

I tie him as I clean stalls, and even though Cowgirl threatens him over the bars, he just moves away, looks over at me, and then rests assured, knowing he's safe.


He has been turned out with Little Joe and Leah at about 1/2 and 1/2. He spends the days out and the nights in. That seems to have worked well to give him the structure and discipline of the herd and then the fun and learning I invite him into every afternoon.

There's an eagerness and joy in our work so far. I don't ever want to lose that. Tomorrow is our first lesson, where I'll share my goals with Regina, the trainer up here.

Cowgirl continues to progress well, and we're preparing to make her birthing stall solid on all sides, and then expand her turnout to partial pasture.  I hope she'll choose to have the baby in the grass, but to be safe, we will soon change out her shavings for straw. 

My friends keep sharing posts for nurse mares who lost foals and / or foals who need nurse mares, and I won't lie--I am nervous. But Shiloh knew the risks and felt it was worth the chance. And to be honest, Cowgirl seems happier being pregnant.

****

A change of subject, I thought I'd share my experience getting the Pfizer Covid vaccine. First, I want to say, I'm not a vaccine-pusher.  Our state is trying to create Vaccinated versus Un-Vaccinated sections at events, and I think that's horrendous. If I'm ever faced with that choice, I will sit in the unvaccinated section, even though I'm vaccinated. Either that, or I'll refuse to attend the event.  I believe you should convince people to take it, not force them and / or shame them.

I don't want to get into any discussions about it here, but I do want to tell you why I decided to get it, and how it's going.

First, I have a family composed of many providers, all ages, varying political views--but for the most part, they all made the decision to get the vaccine as soon as it was offered.  One of them even volunteered to put shots in arms, and because of that, had first hand experience with hundreds of people getting the vaccine.  He didn't have a single adverse reaction. It's a topic all of us have discussed at length for about a year, or at least since the vaccines began being developed. In fact, I invested in the companies producing the vaccine--Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna. But I sold all the stock after they were released, and at this point, I have no monetary interest in them.

Early on, I had decided to take it, and if I'd had the chance, I probably would have joined their study group. I wasn't afraid of getting Covid--I was more cautious than afraid, but I wanted to get the vaccine to end the shutdowns and do my part to stop the spread. I see businesses closing and / or struggling, drug overdose deaths up 33%, because people are starting to despair, suicides, depression, anxiety, children missing school, my country sinking into debt, liberties being eroded, friends and neighbors turning against each other--and on and on. My personal feeling is that I need to do my part to stop this nightmare.  That, and I believe in the vaccines. 

Also, I have high risk people I'm around.  Vaccines aren't a 100% guarantee, but they help me feel better about being around my friends and family who are fragile.

As a Libertarian, I have caught my share of hell from both sides.  But I'm used to it.  The same thing happened with masking. I don't know if they're super effective, but if it makes people feel safer, and keeps some of my germs attached to my own mouth--why not? That, and a private business has the right to tell you to wear a mask if they want to, and you have a right not to shop there. Likewise, if a person isn't required to wear one, and doesn't want to, I don't take issue with that either, especially now that vaccines are available for everyone who wants them. (At least here in our state).  And I've never worn a mask outside, away from people. Why would I?  In my opinion, masking needs to have an END date.  Life doesn't come with 100% guarantees. We need to be cautious as we move forward, but we need to move forward.  As you can imagine, my stance on masks makes neither side happy either. I think this is because vaccines and masking were politicized.

So, back to my personal experience. My husband received both doses of the Moderna and had zero side effects with either dose. I have received my first dose of Pfizer, and had zero side-effects with it. I say "zero," even though my arm was slightly sore. As my husband and I joked later, we've bumped our arms into so many gates and other horse-related obstacles--the slight pain from the shot seemed miniscule.  I'll be eligible for the second in a week, but even the first dose provides 80-87% protection after the second week. 

If I were a policy-maker, I'd encourage those with vaccine hesitancy to get just one--then, work on them getting the second.  I've talked to a lot of young people who do NOT want to get the vaccine, but would consider getting one dose.  Most of them have seen people get the second and have reactions like fever or tiredness, so they're afraid. The best way to overcome fear is to work in small steps--kind of like I do with Tumbleweed, right?--start small, and build. It's better to get one dose than none. 

My thoughts on pregnant women and children, however, are different.  I do know of a pregnant young woman who got the vaccine and also developed a blood clot. I believe she's doing okay, and studies show that it's a rare occurrence. At any rate, those choices are more complicated, and I think very personal. I wouldn't want to encourage or discourage. In fact, I don't want to encourage or discourage anyone.  It's your life, and you have to weigh the risks and advantages.  I'm sharing my experience only as an antidote. I haven't grown a third eye...yet. 

Oddly, I felt better after I got the vaccine. I had more energy for the week afterward. Not sure why.  Maybe they added Prozac into the injection...lol...just kidding. But I did feel more energetic.  Placebo? Who knows. The week I got it was also the week we painted our house and had the gender reveal. I had planned to be incapacitated, but quite the opposite reaction occurred. (The gender reveal was outside, and almost everyone there was vaccinated.)

I'll have to let you know how the second shot goes. I expect it will go well.  

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Simple Rule Goes Both Ways

Yesterday was a complete turnaround for Tumbleweed. I placed one of the herd leaders into the stall next to him, and when I came out the next morning, T was back to himself--soft eyes, gentle, respectful, and in his thinking mind. His back leg had a bad scrape, as if he'd kicked out at a panel, so I imagine there was a little drama during the night. Whatever happened, it resulted in a 180 turnaround in his behavior.

Still, I worked him without his saddle, then with his saddle on, with that one simple question in mind:

Do I have his full attention?



There are so many ways that one simple concept has been said, but for some reason, it finally took root with me. If you don't have their attention, don't get on. Sheesh, it's not complicated.

But the flipside of that is, if you know the fundamentals are there, (and they are), then when you have his full attention, you can trust that it is time to mount up.



I kept our work simple, going over obstacles and asking him for very precise foot placement--that general rule of being able to move every foot, or ask it to stop and wait. It was all there.

My goals for this week are simple: work on regaining our partnership, keep up the fundamentals, and prepare him for our lesson this coming Tuesday.

Cowgirl is now over 300 days, and I'm watching her closely.

Does this look like wax? Her due date, if there can be said to be one, is the end of May.



Thursday, May 6, 2021

A Simple Rule

 Before I left with Tumbleweed, Sarah gave me some words of advice:

1. Always remember he's young, and be ready for anything. 

2. Always be able to get his head around and unlock his hips, just in case he does try to bolt or run. Constantly work on that, so it's there when you need it.

3. Never push him too far, but build on his successes.

4. Don't get into fights with him, as it will only escalate, but be firm and consistent in what you are asking and always enforce the boundaries.

5. Do something with him every day, even if it's just tying him up while I work around the barn.

But most important of all, and the most simple--

6. NEVER get on him unless I have his full attention.

I thought back to my work with Beautiful, and how well it was going, until the day of her blow up, and I remember very well it was windy, she'd had a week off, was amped and nervous away from the herd, and I did NOT have her attention.  For some reason, I made a conscious decision to work through it in saddle, probably because I'd just returned from auditing a Buck clinic, and I wanted to work on what I'd seen there before I forgot. I got into a fight with her that escalated, and I paid the price.


Another way you could put this is, are they in the trust side of their brain with you, or are they relying on fear and instinct? If the answer is fear and instinct, you are taking a major risk if you mount up.

When I think back, I remember all the clinics I've attended, and how, at the end of the day, I'm floating on cloud 9 with my horse. I think it's because we took so much time with them, and made sure we were tuned into each other, every step of the way. You get home with your horse, you have a million things to do, and only an hour to ride--you skip steps.

Yesterday was Tumbleweed's first day home, and he was nervous, agitated, and tuned into the herd. He had a hard time standing still for the farrier, and he whinnied all day for his buddies, who were out grazing. He was in the fear and instinct part of his brain. Since I haven't been working with him much these last two months, we are essentially starting over as a team. So, why would he trust me?

I had hoped to ride him at home the first day, but I remembered Sarah's words of caution, and decided just to saddle him, work him over obstacles, and do basic groundwork--then evaluate. I was able to get some of his attention, but not enough, so I ended it with that, and put him back in his stall. 

A little bit later, I decided to close the pasture gates and let him into the turnout with Leah for some exercise and slow introduction. He let loose!  There was running, bucking, whinnying, running, super fast running, crazy fast running, more whinnying--and basically, a little bit of tornado mixed into it all. 

Leah looked like, WHAT THE HELL?!?  Put me back in my stall! I opened her gate, and she ran right in.  Then I opened Tumbleweed's gate, and he ran right back in. So yeah, I made the right call about not riding him.

I've made a decision not to let him out with the herd this week because I want to work with him everyday, and I need to build a foundation before our next lesson. I told Sarah that plan before I left, and she thought it was a good idea to build my connection with him before I release him. Also, I don't want him sustaining any injuries. 

One thing I don't intend to do is NOT ride him. If it takes me hours and hours and hours and days and days to get his attention and trust, I will do it. I WILL get my boy's full attention. And I imagine, once he settles in again, it will come fast. I saw what he should be like when he was with Sarah, and I have that in my mind as the standard:

Soft eyes. Relaxed head. Respect. Trust.

That's what I'm going for.




Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Learning to Use Our Wings

I brought Tumbleweed home today. We didn’t have time for a trail ride, but we did work on the one rein stop, collected trot, posting, and the lope.  

Like the swallows, who hatch in our barn every spring, and one day we go out to find them fluttering from rafter to rafter, (they’re not quite ready for the wider world, but they are learning about the strength of their wings), that's us. 

In the above video, we were working on bringing the energy down to get him to slow to a stop, or slow to a trot from the lope.


We didn't get a trail ride in because I couldn't get there early enough, and she was waiting for two new horses to arrive.

But that's okay. We did enough that I feel ready now to continue the training.

He will need a lot of exposure on the trails.  Apparently, she was ponying him through a muddy creek a few days ago and when he felt the sinking into the mud he propelled himself into the bushes. Luckily, he didn't get hurt. Mud has always been Cowboy's fear, too, and it's really hard to create an obstacle that mimics it. You have to purposely look for mud, preferably in an open, safe space, and work them through it. (In many ways, he is a lot like Cowboy!)

He wears out easily going up hills, which she likes because it provides something to do if his energy gets too up. If he starts to lose attention, I can always find a hill and work him up and down until his mind gets back into the game.

We will need to continue to work on collection, which is something my trainer up here is good at, and the basics of staying safe by always being able to bring his head around and disengage his hips. 

My new/old saddle is completely set up, and I added my sheepskin seat cover so that it's super comfy. The saddle is well-made with a rawhide tree, but it's also super light and easy to swing up. I think I told you how much the saddle maker liked it, well, Sarah liked it a lot, too. She joked about taking it from me. I don't know why I haven't been using it all along!  It was just sitting there collecting dust. In fact, I almost sold it. So glad I didn't!

I found our old yacht rope mecate with slobber straps, and she got that set up, too.

The mecate is an interesting tool. I've always struggled with the loose end and knowing what to do with it. Sarah wraps it around the horn, but she said you can also tuck it loosely into your belt, in case you get thrown off, you'll still have your rope to keep the horse with you. The gentlemen who owns the barn where she trains is 81, and has raised and trained world champion Arabians. He has so many trophies and ribbons, but he also has a WEALTH of knowledge, as many of the old-timers do. He was watching some of the lesson and showed me how he tucks the end of the rope into his belt. 

Here is a video by Dennis Moreland that is a GREAT reference! And he looks a lot like the cowboy who owns Sarah's barn! This video demonstrates a 3rd way of keeping the rope tucked in your strings.


I was telling Sarah that at this point, I just have to get my hands on my horse to get the feel for him, and she agreed.  Unfortunately, training can't be handed over seamlessly, because we're all different, but it does lay a solid foundation.  I was able to walk, trot, lope, side pass, back him up, and everything else she'd entered into his young mind.

You can't ask for much more than that.

He whinnied to his new herd as we drove away, but the 2 1/2 hour ride was otherwise safe and uneventful. When we entered our property he whinnied for his old herd and they all came running. There was a lot of running around and bucking.  Even old man, Cowboy, got into the shenanigans.

Tumbleweed is home.