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.


  1. What an interesting lesson! So glad you have the opportunity to work with someone who gets you and your horse.
    Awwww puppy! So sweet, and what a good fit.
    And hey- you are a winner, speaking of babies!

  2. What a great lesson. That baby photo of T is so adorable. And congrats on the new puppy.

    1. Thank you! She’s keeping me busy. Puppy therapy.

  3. Sounds like a great lesson. Love the puppy,so adorable. She's found her forever home and looks content with all the love and attention she's getting. Love her name too.

  4. Whoops, forgot to wish Tumbleweed a Happy Birthday. Can't believe he's 3 already seems like you only just got him doesn't it.

  5. Wow, those are some detailed lessons. I don't think I could remember all the steps, until it became second nature. You can always tell the (good) trainers that work with kids. They know how to break it down, have patience of gold and focus on safety. Great photos of you with your new pup! She is so sweet, enjoy all the puppy cuddles.

    1. I tried to write down everything I remembered right after the lesson. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work on it here at home. I like that it doesn’t require a lot of lunging. I’m always looking for the best way to get his attention that doesn’t put too much stress on his body. This was good for that.


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