Monday, July 30, 2007

Extreme Cowboy? Trail Challenge?

The other day we were watching RFD TV when a program that was new to me came on. It was called Extreme Cowboy Competition, and man did it ever look like fun! Cowboys were competing in a timed event that took them over obstacles that you may find on a ranch setting, from water to downed trees to dragging a log and loading into a trailer.

Another competition that is new to me is the Trail Challenge. From the little online information I've been able to come up with, it would appear to be similar to the above competition in that it's a timed event over obstacles you'd find on a trail. This rather excites me, as back in the day (before children and graying hairs), trail was my favorite class to compete in. When my horse and I would show up, the others would begin quivering in their boots. Okay, maybe not. But I did tend to place high and was known as one of those to beat. I LOVE TRAIL! I'm going to have to look into this type of competition a little further and see if there are many here in my area.

I've got a natural advantage here, of course, as my horses get exposed to all sorts of goofy things that arena horses don't even know exist. For example, my girl's get pastured with the sheep. A couple of years ago while at the fair, the horse superintendent came over and asked if she could borrow a couple of my sheep for their trail class. Horses were scattering every which way when they saw my woolly little hay burners; they had no clue what could be so fluffy and so noisy.

Sunny gets up close and personal with Pokey

Naturally, it takes more than an introduction to other livestock to make a good trail horse. Living in the woods allows for our horses to become accustomed to walking with branches swaying overhead; probably why the whole flag or bag on a stick thing just isn't a priority for me. We've got a trail that leads back to the neighbor's pasture which not only takes us through the trees, but across the creek as well. The horses have no problems going through natural elements such as this when they know there's lush, green grass on the other side!

Darling leads Quiet Storm into the trees.

Of course, there are unnatural obstacles that one will face in a trail class. Things such as streamers that are trying to simulate trees. So to get my girls used to having something less than natural floating above their faces, I've draped fabric and jackets over the paddock gate.

Sunny gives me the "You must be joking, right?", look as she passes under my scary set up.

For my birthday last month, City Boy and the kids bought me a tent to store my hay in this winter. Cool, eh? It's set up behind the barn, right at the entrance to our trail which leads to the pasture. I snapped this pic the day it went up; the box was still sitting there on the other side of the path. Not a single one of my girls had seen the tent there before, and all three passed by it without batting an eye. And because they never go to the pasture with each other, they're learning that it's okay to be alone; there are no herd bound issues here. They learn to rely on me for company and guidance instead of each other.

Super Scary tent creates narrower than usual entrance to the trail.

The other night I saddled Jet, then brought her out into the yard to help me fill all the water buckets. She's not so sure about that long, green, water spitting snake; she doesn't mind the water so much, just the snake like appearance. But after a few sideways steps she decided it wasn't going to eat her after all. While I filled tubs and buckets, she stopped to graze.

This is the sort of stuff we do here on a daily basis. It doesn't amount to a whole lot of time, and sometimes it's hard to picture leading a horse to pasture as training, but it all counts towards something in the end.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Up, Up, and Away!

Darling cinches up the girth

With my working on Sunny and Jet, Darling once again began thinking of mounting her filly, Quiet Storm. She hasn't been on her since the first time, which was when? About a month ago? So out into the pasture she went to fetch up her horse.

Typically, Quiet Storm is pretty laid back. Actually, laid back might be just a little on the excited side for this girl...she's got the energy level of a door stop more often than not. Which means I haven't got to worry too much about Darling, who's just 13, working around a two year old. She can bring her in, tie her up, groom her and saddle her up without my intervention. However, when she hollered over to me, "I suppose you won't let me get on without being here?", my answer was something like, "You bet yer sweet patootie I need to be there!" After all, a two year old with a second ever mounting? Doesn't matter how laid back they are, mom is going to be there. Mosty because y'all said you wanted pictures next time!

So I came over and noted that as Darling was leading Quiet Storm around before mounting she appeared a little lighter on her feet than usual. Darling agreed, but the filly was still far more sensible than most. Which is why it took both of us by complete surprise when she began bucking as Darling tried swinging her leg over top of the saddle. I grabbed the reins (actually the lead rope) and told Darling to get off, but of course it took a couple of jumps before Darling's feet both hit the ground.

A bit shaken, I decided that Quiet Storm should do a bit of ground work right then and there. Darling climbed the fence rail and took over the camera. A couple of circles and we were back in action.

Quiet Storm practices her merry go round look

I climbed on first, just to be sure she wasn't going to do anything stupid. I didn't want to; I'd hoped Darling would be able to do most of this on her own. But reality is as reality does...or something like that. I'd rather not have my kid get scared this early in the process. I got on, tried to get her to take a few steps, then dismounted. Forward motion isn't Quiet Storm's forte for the most part, and obviously that little buck was a fluke. Still, I was concerned that Darling would be nervous.

Turns out I needn't have worried, as Darling was eager to jump back into the saddle. The filly stood there like an old broke plow horse once again. We've no idea what set her off the first time. Perhaps seeing that the pig had been moved from the trees to alongside the paddock? Maybe. Whatever it was, it wasn't a problem any longer. Darling was in the saddle, Quiet Storm was quiet once more, and I got a picture for the scrapbook.

Second ride; Darling on Quiet Storm

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I just love an uneventful ending, don't you?

Jet was a bit nervous about my attempt to mount from the ground yesterday, stepping away and backing up a couple steps.

Because I'd been able to get my leg across her back while standing on the rail the night before, I decided to climb the fence again and slip onto her that way. She was a lot more relaxed this time and stood still as I sat there scratching her neck.

I didn't try to make her walk anywhere. Just got off and led her to the center of the paddock. I tried again to mount her from the ground, and again she stepped away. This time I didn't give up, but gave it a second attempt, which ended up successful.

So ends the uneventful story of mounting up for the first time. I just love an uneventful ending, don't you?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The sun came out yesterday...

I've complained long and hard about my muddy footing here. We sit on clay, so even with the slightest rain things can get mighty slick. I've been toying with the idea of creating mud know, rather like ice skates, but for slick mud? The winter mud was bad enough; it got up to three inches deep at one point. But it was far easier to navigate than this slick stuff I've got now.
Which is why the sunshine is so welcome, and I hope it stays dry for more than just a couple of days so I can utilize my paddock. I can't very well send horses trotting around in it if they're likely to slip and fall now, can I?

The slick mud had me hesitant to saddle up Sunny, as I wasn't certain how she'd react. I didn't want her diving off the deep end, so to speak, and getting herself hurt. As previously mentioned, I've not worked a whole lot on tying her due to her head shyness, but yesterday figured I'd see how she reacted. Not a problem. I realized I didn't have my camera with me, so ran into the house and left her there. Came back and she was just fine.

Grabbed the saddle, wondering how she'd react to being tied and not able to circle me as I approached with it. She dove backwards as expected, but once she hit the end of the lead rope, she stood and accepted first the blanket, then the saddle. And with things going so smoothly, I had reach under her for the girth. She stiffened up, but tolerated every move I made. The saddle was cinched up just snug enough for it not to slide around if she jumped. Sunny stood there like a pro; not really enjoying it, but not having a hissy fit, either. I let her stand and relax a few moments, then untied her and led her around, having her turn on both fore and hind quarters, letting her become accustomed to the feel of the girth around her middle.

Not a bit of anxiety, so I took it a little further and lifted my foot to the stirrup. Now that got a reaction! She dove off to the side just as quick as you please. I scratched her neck and talked to her some, reached my foot up again, and once again she jumped. I had her nose turned to face me, but of course that didn't keep her tail from turning! But on the third attempt she stood there and let me put my foot into the stirrup while rocking the saddle a bit.

I'm not really sure if I'll mount Sunny and ride her. There's a part of me that wouldn't mind at all climbing on board by the end of the summer. But another part of me says 'leave it for the person who wants to adopt her'. There's something magical about being the first one on, especially when you can say you were the first to mount a wild mustang. Especially if you're a kid, and that's likely Sunny's destination. But for now she's going to be working on all things from the ground.

Spurred on by my successful workout with Sunny, I grabbed Jet from the pasture and decided it was time to saddle her up completely as well. As you can see, she's horribly troubled by that spooky old saddle on her back. Yes, she is. Look at that wild, frightened eye there!

Okay, so she didn't get too worked up, not even when it got cinched up. She did lift her head and look out of the corner of her eye at me, wondering what the whole thing was about. But she didn't object any more than that. On both Jet and Sunny, I took my time getting that girth cinched up. I let them feel my hand under their bellies first, then drew the girth up underneath, rubbing and letting them feel it before I began tightening it. This is because I don't want to be caught somewhere in between loose and snug enough to keep the saddle from slipping should they suddenly panic.

A horse I had years ago panicked when she felt the girth tighten up. My mom had been holding her, but the horse bolted right out of her hands. Thankfully, the saddle was tight enough not to slip around the horse and end up under her belly. That taught me two lessons; A) take things a little slower, getting the horse accustomed to the feel before pulling it up tight, and B) never have my mother holding the horse when they're being saddled for the first time. Okay...B could just as easily be having the horse tied securely to a post :)

But back to Jet. She was wonderful. The saddle was tightened up just enough. She dropped her head so I could rub it, and we began walking around the paddock. I rocked the saddle back and forth, swung the stirrups and let them bounce back to her sides. She didn't care. I even gave her a pat on the rear end, something that would have sent her to the moon a month ago, but she didn't mind at all last night.

Which, of course, led to putting a foot into the stirrup.
And you know me, I just can't leave well enough alone. I led her to the paddock rail. One of the things I like about being able to pony a young horse is that you get to mount up onto that other horse with your youngster right there. They get accustomed to seeing you go up and down above their head. But with no riding horse available, I decided to make use of the fence.
Jet didn't mind my being up above her head at in the least. And you know how badly I want to things popped into my mind at this point. City Boy was at work, so if for some reason I should get tossed off there wouldn't be a responsible adult at home to pick up the pieces. Then there was the little issue of a helmet...which I never used to bother with, but Darling is required to wear one, therefore I must set a good example. close, and yet so far!

Now...if you've managed to get this far in this lengthy post today, I'll let you in on a little something. Over at Carpenter Creek I'm hosting a caption contest. Offer up the winning caption and you could find yourself the winner of a free T Shirt.'s only one, Wednesday, so better hurry!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Extreme Mustang Makeover

My list to the right there is growing! I've only included trainer's who've got sites that are showing progress so that we can all follow along. I enjoy following along, don't you? Well, you must be a glutton for that, or you wouldn't be here, lol!

There's a slight break in the weather at the moment, so perhaps outside is where I belong, instead of sitting in here complaining about the rain to whom ever will listen.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Jet and Quiet Storm enjoy a lazy afternoon

Will this rain ever end?

Well, at least there's no rush to get things done in terms of training, although it would be nice to move Sunny a little further along so I could begin searching out a new home for her. But as everyone here is still a two year old, it's not like I'm loosing ground. Just anxious to hear that old saddle squeaking under my weight and feel the old familiar movement of a horse again...

One bit of progress has been Jet allowing me to pick up both front feet. Some folks would go for that a little sooner rather than later, but later works, too. Not as late as Sunny, though! I'll have to call Cheryle and have her come trim Jet. She doesn't really want me hanging onto the back ones just yet, but does let me run my hand down to her paster without flipping out, so it's not going to be tough to get her beyond that.

Speaking of Sunny and her feet; I've been able to work my hand down to her pastern on the left foreleg, and after a bit of dancing around I got down to the knee on the right side. That girl just does not want to give up. Thankfully I've got this blog that enables me to make trips down memory lane and remind me just how bad things were early on :)

I always wonder if people think me totally incompetent; Lord knows I've wondered myself sometimes with this horse! But if nothing else, watching a few of the gurus helped me ease my fears of being horse stupid, lol! I'm sure a lot of folks could have gotten futher, faster, but I'm feeling okay with what we've managed to accomplish. She's still a baby, after all, and other than helping her get over her fears so she can get into a new home and be successful, there's really no rush.Sunny's 'training' session; meeting the sheep face to face!

Isn't she lovely? So different than when she first came...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I want to ride...

...I want to ride so bad I can taste it!

I haven't spent as much time with Jet as I would have liked to, mostly because Sunny has taken so much of my time. Jet gets petted and patted (she likes to be stroked and didn't like that thumping of the hand), she gets out to visit Pig (someday I'll need to take pics), and basically just hangs out at my side as I walk around the yard. It's been enough for her to settle in and relax, as the thumping of the hand no longer causes her any concern.

A week ago I decided to pull off my jacket and toss it onto her back. Fueled by a successful session with Sunny, I also brought the saddle out and set it on her. As I mentioned before, she was more interested in the grass beneath her feet than the saddle upon her back.

I just came in from ten or so minutes with her. Same sort of stuff, just walking around, over the tarp, then standing at the rail. I tossed the blanket and saddle up there; just the second time it's been up but the first time without her grazing. She actually had to absorb that a foreign object was perched atop her back. She looked at it, but wasn't frightened. Not at all the sensitive baby she came home as six weeks ago.

I rocked the saddle back and forth, dropped the right stirrup down, then the girth. Interest, but no major concern. Like Sunny, she's a little ticklish behind the elbows, but I reached under her belly and brought up the girth. I didn't tighten it because with the past few days of rain the paddock is nothing but slick clay. We were outside in the yard, and I didn't figure I'd take the chance of her jumping away should she spook at the feel of it. I could have tied her, but then I'd have a torn up yard, and if you knew how particular City Boy is about his lawn, even alongside the horses, you'd understand :)

But with the saddle sitting up there, I did climb the rail and sat above Jet's head. I wanted so badly to be able to swing my leg over her back!

A little more ground work~and a few days of sun to dry up that paddock~ and I'll do it. She's ready from an emotional standpoint. A nice easy walk around the paddock...I can feel that old saddle beneath me already.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How do you feel about...

...carrot sticks, bamboo poles and those sticks with flags at the end?

I must admit I was feeling out of the loop. I've had a decade off, and when I came back to horses there was all this talk about 'natural' horsemanship. And I was left thinking...what the heck are they talking about? People kept telling me, "It's different than when we were growing up!"

And they kept using these sticks with flags or plastic bags at the ends of them. "Teaches your horse to face their fears!" Er...okay...

Sunny faces a fear...but without me shoving it into her face

Of course, I made the jump back into horses by adopting wild...and I didn't want to screw up my horse, right? And all the wild horse folks seemed to be jumping on the natural stick with a flag wagon, so I figured I'd give it a try with my new horse.

My new horse wasn't impressed. Nope, she was not. Tried to kill it. Since I was at the end of it, I decided this wasn't a good game to be playing and set the stick aside.

Since then, I've seen a Parelli video and read about countless mustang trainers using the stick. They were all waving flags and bags in their wild horse's faces. In the meantime, I've adopted two more wild horses, both of whom thought I was trying to kill them with that stick with a flag or a bag at the end.

I am apparently a stick with a flag or a bag failure, as none of my girl's are passing the face your fear test with it. I probably couldn't crawl out of a Parelli Level 1 bag with such an obvious lack of skills!

We don't need no stinkin' sticks, mom, as long as we've got hands and ropes!

But that's okay, because I've found I don't need a stick in my hands to get my girls to face their fears. I need my hands on their bodies, touching them in places they've never been touched. I need the end of my lead rope rubbing up against them, or flipping over their backs. I need chickens and dogs running under their feet. Basically, what I need is for them to realize that I'll never put them in a place that is a threat to them; rushing them with a plastic flag or bag shortly after adopting them isn't the way to do that.
Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but just hanging out will never hurt me.

For my horses, facing their fears meant coming to terms with an item that was left nearby. You may recall the saddle being left on the rail of the corral for Quiet Storm; she was afraid of it, but went to Darling for comfort because she trusted Darling. Had we pushed the saddle on her, we would have become part of the fear equation, but instead we provided moral support by giving her a pat and continuing our chores as though the saddle was no big deal. By the time Darling climbed onto her back, Quiet Storm had no fear left. She trusts Darling; they've developed a bond.

All of my horses are able to face their fears. Some, of course, have come about it more quickly than others. They'll all walk over plastic tarps, past squealing pigs and through water; not because they want to, but because they trust that I'm not going to put them in danger. None, however, has needed a savvy flag, string or stick to get the job done.

What are your thoughts regarding flags on a stick?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You just can't even know... puffed up proud this makes me feel!

I sure wish this horse were four inches taller, as there's no way I'd part with her. As much trouble as she's given me in terms of learning to trust, she's just so remarkable in too many other ways. Totally tense and tight, she let me drop that right stirrup down while she leaned into me for moral support.

Yes, that's right, she leaned into me! Didn't take off forward and try to escape, but pushed up against me as though making sure it was going to be alright. At that moment I was glad she wasn't four inches taller, lol! Normally I wouldn't like a horse getting so up close and personal, but for Sunny? I'll tolerate just about anything!

After the stirrup was dropped down I led her around the paddock. You can see the girth is still sitting atop the saddle; she's just a wee too cinchy and I didn't want to push her too far. I did rub my hand all over behind her elbows, however, while the saddle was perched on top of her and I think we'll be able to tighten it up before too long.

When I took Sunny on, it was as a resale project. After that expensive hoof trimming I doubt I'll ever get my money back out of her, but she's taught me so much in the meantime that it's worth it. I've never had a horse so riddled with fear, but given time to develop a bond and trusting relationship have made all the difference. I can't imagine what Sunny's life would have been had she ended up with some heavy handed trainer that didn't want to give her the time and space she needed. Undoubtedly she'd have ended up lashing out in fear and someone would have been hurt, and she'd have been labeled another untrainable mustang. I'm so happy to have her here, and pray that I'll be able to find her the perfect home when she's ready.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Just foolin' around!

Darling and I drove to Arlington today to watch a bit of a reining show. We took tons of pictures, but this is by far my favorite :) Actually, this poor horse had his mouth wide open far too much while his owner was out warming him up. Too much bit, too heavy a hand. Sad, really. He looks like a carousel horse in both Darling's and my photos.

Sunny and I had a good day. Early this morning I went out and put the blanket on her back with minimal fuss. Picked up the saddle and, although she watched a bit nervously, she allowed me to set it up onto her back without jumping away. I had her take a few steps, then crossed over to her right side and put the stirrup down. Remember, her right side is her weak side, and the sight of the saddle going over her back gave her the heebie jeebies without the stirrup. But this morning she allowed me to bring it down and then once more followed me around the paddock.

Tonight I went out and she didn't even step away when I went to catch her! That is an all time first. Probably won't hold true again tomorrow, but I was happy enough about tonight. I led her through the trees and down the road where I let her graze while I sat in the grass watching baby grasshoppers. All in all, a very good day. She even let me stroke her muzzle without objection.

MiKael, hope you had a terrific open house today!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saddle up!

It's not much of a saddle, as saddles go. It's old and in pretty tough shape. But the tree is still good, and the stirrups aren't going to fall off any time soon. It's just not the prettiest saddle on the block, that's all. If I were to show up to any sort of organized event with it, I'd likely get laughed at.

Still, it has it's purpose. I'm certainly not going to toss a fancy $2000 saddle up onto my youngsters, not knowing if they'll just stand there placidly or try to kill it. Quiet Storm was frightened when she first saw it, but once she'd looked at it a couple of days, it wasn't nearly so bad and she allowed it to plop down onto her back with little fuss.

Sunny, on the other hand...

Sunny's seen that saddle for a couple of months, now. She's really not cared one way or the other when we've moved it from rail to rail out there in the paddock. (Another great thing about this saddle is I don't feel guilty leaving it sit out in the rain!) And since she's been handling the saddle blanket being tossed onto her back without a big blow up, I got brave and decided now was as good a time as any to toss that old saddle up onto her back as well.

Now, Sunny still is apprehensive about me getting close, so don't go thinking that we've somehow, miraculously, moved into the placid old mare stage since our hoof trimming experience earlier in the week. No, not at all. But we didn't lose any ground, either. She still likes to circle me a few times before I can catch her, and she still lets me know that she's not 100% comfortable with what's going on. However, I see no reason not to push her a little further outside of her comfort zone.

So there we were, finished with the Sunny Two Step. I had a short lead so that she couldn't jump too far away. The saddle blanket was in place and I led her to the rail with the saddle. Once I picked it up, she snorted and jumped backwards. I let her begin circling again until she could come to terms with the saddle in my hands. When she finally stopped I set it on her back.

Before I could really set it down completely, Sunny bolted as far as that 12 inches of lead rope would take her. It was far enough for her body to come out from under the saddle and have it land on the ground at my feet. Her eyes were wide, but she stopped as soon as the saddle was off her back.

We did it again. And again. And again. Three times Sunny jumped out from under the saddle. Three times she looked at me like I was crazy, but didn't let fear take her to the point where I was unable to work her. So up went the saddle a fourth time, and this time Sunny stood still. Apprehensive, yes, but still. The right stirrup was up over the horn of the saddle so that it wouldn't bump her right side, but it did squeak and she wasn't too fond of that. But she tolerated me rocking the saddle back and forth a few times without bolting, and within a couple of minutes the horrible leather monster was off her back.

Sunny has survived her first session with the saddle. She's terribly sensitive when it comes to being touched behind her elbows, so it'll be awhile before any cinching goes on. But I'm quite happy to have been able to at least get this far.

Fueled by my success with Sunny, I brought Jet out into the yard and tossed the saddle blanket on her back. Then, up went the saddle. Her response? Mom, I'm trying to get at this green grass and clover...could you give me a little more lead?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Three Hundred Dollars Later...

It was the big day. The day that Sunny had an appointment with both the farrier and the vet. Still not willing to allow me access to her feet, the vet needed to be called in to administer a tranquilizer so that she'd relax enough for Cheryle, the farrier, to trim those long over due toes.

We'd discussed using Ace, a mild tranquilizer that slows down an anxious horse, or whether or not the option to just put her completely under would need to be used. When Cheryle called me the other day, she told me she'd twisted her ankle and her doctor had her in a leg brace. It seemed that putting Sunny all the way under was going to be the best option. However, when Cheryle arrived it was without the brace and she was willing to give keeping Sunny on her feet a try.

The trouble with Ace is that while it works well on a horse who's issues are high energy, it doesn't work as well with horses who are dealing with fear. Sunny's problems are fear based, not due to an over abundance of energy, so we weren't sure just how effective it was going to be on her. The drug would take ten to twenty minutes before she'd begin to feel it. In the meantime, we gave Quiet Storm her vaccinations.

Quiet Storm did not like the vet. He smelled funny! But it was just a quick jab on the left, then another on the right, and it was all over for her. Lucky girl...

Meanwhile, the drug was beginning to take effect on Sunny. Her head was dropping and there was a bit of drool dripping from her lips. She hadn't liked the poor vet, either. He was just an unpopular guy, no matter that he was there to help. Even with the Ace, Sunny wasn't too certain she wanted strangers up close and personal, so Dr. Anderson administered yet another drug. This one started with a T, but I don't recall what it was. He wanted to try to keep her on her feet if he could as things would be easier all the way around if she didn't need an IV. Easy is good!

Sunny feels drowsy...look at the angle of those hind legs! I thought she was going to fall over and land on Dr. Anderson.

Once Sunny began relaxing even more, we went to work. Dr. Anderson held up the hoof while Cheryle worked with the nippers to shorten the toes. Sunny couldn't balance without Dr. A holding her up, but at the same time, this made it difficult for Cheryle to see the hoof. Thankfully, a pretty job isn't what we were after. We started easy, meaning the left front hoof. The left is Sunny's easy side, and of course one doesn't get kicked by a front foot. From the left front, we then worked our way to the right front. Having strangers on her right side brought Sunny back to life, but she honestly didn't have the energy to fight and it was just a few moments before she was back to her droopy headed drugged out state.

Trying to nip off the tip of the toe from an unusual angle

The back end was a different story. Since they were on the right side, they naturally gravitated towards her right rear, and again Sunny bounced back to life as Dr. A attempted to pick up her hind foot. She didn't attempt to kick, but she was frightened and yanked her leg out of his grasp as she made an attempt to jump away. I suggested perhaps moving back to her left side where we knew she'd be more comfortable with them.

To help take her mind off the fact that they were working on her hind feet, Dr. Anderson grabbed her tail and brought it up over her back. I think it may have helped hold her too, like a rope, lol! But mostly it helped shift her attention to the opposite side they were working on so that she wasn't focusing on what was happening to her feet. No sense getting Cheryle kicked in the face, that would never do!

We must have looked like a 3 ring circus, with me holding the head, Dr. A holding the tail and hind leg, while Cheryle chomped away at overgrown toes.

It took about an hour, probably a bit more, to get the whole thing done. The drug would begin to wear off, we were told, after about 45 minutes, but it seemed to be taking longer than that. It was quite some time before I was able to get her back to her paddock. Of course, we left her alone and didn't pester her any more except to bring her a pan of grain last night (normally not thought of as pestering, but I held it while she ate, and to Sunny that's a bit of a bother.) I'll give her a day or two to relax and forget about the negatives before I begin work with her again.

Darling took pics throughout the process and more than once found herself having to jump back as Sunny went careening off to one side or another in an attempt to escape what was happening. Thanks, Darling, for doing such a terrific job! You're going to make a wonderful photographer!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sunny Makes a Choice

Sunny let's me reach over her neck and put on her halter.

When I put Sunny into the paddock last week, I took her halter off from her figuring it was a small area and I'd likely be able to get it back on. If nothing else, I could toss the lariat over her head, and to be honest I figured that's what I'd have to do the first couple of times. I was delighted on Friday, however, she she allowed me to rub her neck and then slip the halter on without much of a fuss.

She was such a good girl that I decided she needed to go on a little field trip around the yard with me. City Boy was going to mow, so I brought Sunny along and let her graze as I picked up things like the hose, a lawn game and a few golf balls. She didn't mind when they were drug, tossed and carried, so I decided to take things a step farther and have her help me feed the pig.

It's been several weeks since Pig was moved into the trees to do some clearing of the underbrush, so Sunny hasn't seen her for quite some time. Not only did she have to navigate the under brush, she had to stand near a squealing pig while I fed and watered. Although not completely sure this was the smartest thing to do, she was a very good girl and followed my lead.

With her doing so well, I decided to kick things up a notch. We walked back to the creek, and while it's nothing more than a trickle, Sunny didn't bat an eye as I walked her across it. We then walked through the neighbor's field and out to the road where the recently painted stripes startled her. But since they didn't reach up to bite, she bravely strode forward, head lifted high and nostrils flared to capture every new scent that was coming her way. We then turned into another neighbor's driveway where I led her into the pasture where my sheep are spending the summer. Here, I allowed her to graze contentedly for the next half hour. She was one happy girl to get out there with all that grass, and I was pleased as punch at how well she negotiated so many new experiences.

Fastening the halter; she's still not so sure it's a good idea, but stands for it just the same!

Thursday, July 5, 2007


I'm a pretty girl!

It's warm again today. I don't do heat, at least not when it's mixed with humidity. Around here, there's always humidity.

I won't do much with Sunny until evening, but I did take Jet out for a walk this afternoon. Training consists mostly of walking around in areas that provide visual stimulation. You know, horse eating lawn mowers, chickens who run under your feet and good stuff like that. I'm not as young as I used to me, so I want my horses to be as desensitized as possible before I ever climb on board. Jet's not terribly concerned about most things, and even challenged the old lawnmower to a lawn mowing competition. Of course, it wasn't running, so she won hooves down.
After our walk about the yard, I worked with her for a few minutes on moving off pressure. She's very sensitive, so it didn't take much to have her pivoting on both the fore and hindquarters. Lovely cross over on those long front legs of her's, too. I'm excited about what this horse may be able to do once I start riding her. For now, though, it's just a bit of ground work and trust building exercises, followed by a good run about the pasture. Hope you enjoy the show she put on!
An lovely floating trot

Want to talk natural headsets?


...and turn...

...and run around some more!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Finally, Sunshine!

The sun has finally begun to shine here in the northwest. Too bad the humidity has to come along with it!

Yesterday, Darling grabbed the halter and went outside to play with Jet. Jet's still not sure about having the halter put on, and she lifts her head up when you go to reach around her neck. This causes a bit of a problem when you're not six feet tall, as that neck can go pretty high. It took Darling a couple tries, but she did manage to halter the filly without causing her to trot away. While she led Jet around and worked on getting her used to being touched and pet, I was working on Sunny.

Sunny's feet are in horrible shape. In the past few weeks her front feet have shot forward and flattened out. The farrier is unable to make it out until Monday, July 9. I had to coordinate that visit with the vet coming out, as there's no way we'll be able to do anything without a tranquilizer. We're going to try some Ace and see how that works. If it doesn't, she'll need to be put completely under.
The vet was originally going to just give me the Ace to administer myself, but after years of horse ownership, I've yet to do my own vaccinations. Dogs, sheep, yes. Horses? Nope. And I didn't really want to use Sunny as my guinea pig. We could have tried the pour on variety, but it's not as effective. So I'm facing a farm call on top of the farrier. I figure as long as I've got the vet here for the ace, we can also vaccinate both Sunny and Quiet Storm. Then we'll see if the Ace is strong enough to do the trick for the feet. If not, the vet will be here and be able to knock her out completely.
In the meantime, Sunny is in the paddock instead of out on grass. One front hoof has chipped away completely, the other is close to losing that center 'toe'. By next week we may just need back feet done!

Cathcing has improved so much that not only can she be caught out in the pasture (it takes a bit of work, but it can be done), but now that she's in the paddock I've taken the halter off. I'll bet it feels great not to have it on.
I've been treating Sunny for a fungus that has shown up under her forelock. She'd lost a huge patch of hair, and of course the fact that I'm not handling her face every day meant that I didn't catch it right away. I asked the vet about using tea tree oil, and he said that should do the trick. They have a product that works well, he said, but it was rather pricey and of course there's the drive up to the clinic...and with gas prices that would just add another $10 to the cost. So I've made an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial salve and have applied it every couple of days for a week. It must be working, because when I checked yesterday her hair was nearly all grown back.

Sunny's big training step yesterday was allowing me to touch her with the saddle blanket. Still caught somewhere between distrust and stubbornness, she wasn't terribly comfortable with the thought of me carrying that blanket around while she was attached to me via the lead rope. But we walked a few circles, then I began working my way into a smaller circle, getting closer and closer. I kept myself even with Sunny's shoulder, and let her circle me for the most part. When she finally stopped, I'd also stop and let her relax. Then I'd take step closer, and the circling would begin again.

I feel like a square dancer when Sunny and I do this. It's the same dance we have when I try to catch her and she doesn't want me to touch her face. But eventually she tires of the game and gives in, and the same was true of the saddle blanket yesterday. She sighed, I reached over and touched her, then she relaxed as I ran it up and down her side, rubbing her all over. When her head dropped and she was completely relaxed, I stepped away and put the blanket back on the rail.

The entire 'workout' lasted about ten minutes from start to finish, and it ended on a good note with Sunny totally relaxed. I removed her halter and walked away, leaving her to mull over how easy it really could be.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Mount your horses, please!


I came home inspired to ride after seeing Ruben this weekend. Of course, I've got a pasture full of two year olds, so no riding for me. However, Quiet Storm was certainly in need of some additional ground work, so I picked on her.

Now that Jet and Sunny can go out into the pasture, I can bring Quiet Storm into the paddock for some training sessions, and saddling is one of those lessons that needs learning. She'd had the saddle sitting on her back before, but never tightened up. Darling and I saddled her up for the first time on Thursday, tight girth and all, and she behaved herself beautifully.

So now that I was inspired, I went outside and began asking her to flex and give, pivot on the front and back, and back up. She was pretty darned good at it; she keeps her hind end planted when pivoting on the hindquarters and crosses over nicely with her front legs.

And since she did it so well so quickly, there wasn't much else to do, so I grabbed the saddle. About this time Darling came out of the house and wondered (for the bazillionth time) when she'd finally be able to ride her horse.

Now, as I said, Quiet Storm is just two. Darling knows that it'll be at least a year before much light riding happens, but I did tell her she'd be able to mount up later this summer and perhaps take a walk around the paddock or field. However, when I answered her question with, "As soon as you get your helmet on," she was just a wee bit surprised!

Which means we've entered a new phase of training here. Darling is learning now how to make Quiet Storm move and respond from the ground so that when she mounts up and really begins to ride, the horse will know what's expected. In the meantime, an occasional trip around the paddock will fill her need to get on her horse as well as start a foundation of trust in Quiet Storm.

I love you, too!
Of course...I'm still without a steed to fulfill my desires to ride...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Extreme Mustang Makeover

Jet is coming along nicely enough considering the lack of time I've spent with her. Between the non-stop northwest rains and putting up new fences, not to mention my late in the year lambing, I've not done much with her. However, I just came inside from spending a few moments hanging on her, running my hand down her front legs, and scratching her neck. She loves having her neck scratched right there at the crest where her mane grows out, and while scratching there she allows me also to scratch back on her hip. She's just a bit over sensitive to touch, so leaning up against her side today while scratching was a stretch for her. But she's just so danged sweet that her biggest protest is to lift her head up and back away from whatever is bothering her. Not a determined back, just enough to let you know she's not entirely comfortable with the situation.

I've been checking out a few of the Extreme Mustang Makeover websites. These folks have gotten their horses shortly after I brought Jet home, so it'll be interesting to see how they progress as I work with her. Of course, their horses are three and four year olds, and Jet is only two, so saddle work isn't a big issue for me like it will be for them. Here's one of the contestants for you to check out: Otter B Good. I'll try to post a new one every so often so you can see what's going on out there in the mustang world. This is something I'd like to give a try at some point...quite the challenge, though!

Today, Darling and I are headed to a clinic with Ruben Villasenor, of Horsemen's Western Dressage. We missed the first day because I had the Farmer's Market, but hopefully we'll be able to glean a bit today.