Monday, March 31, 2008

Sandy Explodes!

I've never experienced anything like it...

I'm not sure I ever want to again...

Absolutely unbelievable...

There's hair everywhere! Big, huge clumps of Sandy hair covering every square inch of the paddock...and me. It looks like he was blown to smithereens out there. (What exactly is a smithereen, anyway? And why does spell check say there's no such thing as the singular form?)

What, you thought when I said explode, I meant in a wild horse sort of way? No....just his shedding coat. Everywhere.

I felt bad about tying him the other day. It's not something I'd normally do with a wild horse, but for whatever reason, that was my gut reaction to the situation. Scaring a horse isn't me, and if you've been around long enough you know that. But as readership has quadrupled since the Makeover began, I know I'm getting a lot of new readers, and half of them are probably aghast by what they read. I emailed a couple of trainers I know, one who's an acquaintance as well as a BLM volunteer and has done countless demos at adoptions. I think I gave her the impression that I snub horses to get them used to me. I felt bad.

Since Saturday was a mess with the weather, I left Sandy alone for the most part. On Sunday we were back at it. And guess what? He led. I mean, right there next to me like a broke horse would lead. We worked on getting the shoulders loosened up and moving, asking him for some forward motion so that he could do some cross overs, and although it was a bit slow in coming, he tried his hardest to figure out what I was after. He let me lean on both sides of his body, and we worked at giving to pressure on his barrel (my hip acting like a leg) and tried for some forward motion. We didn't get very forward, but we did get movement. Everything I asked him for, he gave, and he did it without pulling back or getting scared.

Then I pulled out the rake, and although he tried to evade it at first, he didn't do his usual ducking into the corner and it wasn't more than a couple of minutes before he'd given up outrunning it and stood for me to rake his body. Which is when the hair began to fly! I worked a lot on his belly, where he's normally super touchy, and he stood there with his head hanging as I pulled off mound after mound of hair. I worked to his back end, which he's really unsure about. The left side he was fine, but the right side took some work. In the end, however, I could run the rake up and down both hind legs and in between them as well. I really want to get him desensitized there, not only so I can work at picking up feet, but because I want to get him a blanket and I'm not sure how he'll react to the leg straps back there. But now we're well on our way to being civilized!

The weather is back to snow this morning. I've got a riding lesson that I'm not really wanting to drive to. They're promising 50 degrees and no precipitation this week. I'll believe it when I see it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sandy's Third Week

My Kingdom for a DRY Horse!

This morning I woke up to yesterdays left over snow plus a thick, wet fog. Fog isn't good news for me as being out in it for any length of time tends to give me respiratory problems. Last spring while sitting out with Sunny one day, my lungs breathed in this fog and I coughed for six week afterwards. Hopefully I won't have any complications this year.

I stepped back a notch with Sandy's training this past week, avoiding the saddle (until Friday) and working on building trust. To do that, I used grain. I was never a big treat person, and neither Firecracker or Sunny, my two distrusting souls, would take treats. But Sandy hasn't got the head shyness both of them did, so he's been more willing to reach out for a treat. Brushing isn't his thing, at least for now, as he's still a bit too shy about having his body touched. So if grain works, that's what works and it's what I'll use.

Our accomplishments seem small and few, but in Sandy's world, they're big.

1) He looks for the hand out while I'm with him. He's not aggressive, but curious and interested. This has helped him remain relatively calm as we progress with new steps in our training.

2) He lets me lean my body on his side. Even when I could reach my hand over to his withers or back, he wouldn't stand still for my body to brush up against him. Pretty necessary in order to mount, so that was a big accomplishment.

3) He lets me into his circle with the mop, even when he's not got a halter and lead on. It's not super easy to get there, but it's easier each time.

4) I was able to attach the running martingale between his legs. Another seemingly small, but really huge trust issue for this boy who's scared to have me touch him below the elbow.

5) When I stop while leading him, he can now be coaxed into moving up alongside me rather than hanging back.

6) His pivot on the hindquarters is starting to take shape, and he crosses over beautifully with his front feet.

A slow week, to be sure, but one that set up some important stepping stones for me. I've begun to rethink where I had City Boy place the round pen. It seemed so practical to have it out in the pasture where I could walk to and from while still fenced in. But now I'm thinking maybe he had the right idea about putting it alongside the driveway. Where it sits now, it'll be mid summer before a truck can haul in any sort of footing. Alongside the driveway I can have footing delivered any time and start using it right away. Any bets on whether or not City Boy is going to want to kill me now that he's hauled all those panels out through the mud into the pasture?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Muddy

The Good:

I placed an order with Cafe Press last week, and our goodies came in the mail! I ordered a sign to put out at the end of my driveway so that when I have little fundraisers here, people will know where to stop. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I had the wrong dates until I hit the submit button. I did go back and change it on the Cafe Press site, but of course by then it was too late for the items we'd ordered.

In addition to the sign, I ordered a big banner (no date on it) that can go on Sandy's stall in Sacramento, or hang from the trailer when we go places so that people will know who he is. Darling and I also got sweatshirts. We look right spiffy!

The Bad:

Is snow ever good? The only redeeming value this stuff has today is the bike race in our valley was canceled because of the weather. I hope they don't reschedule. The only thing worse than snow in my opinion is a bike race...makes me want to go bowling for bicycles. I know, I have a problem. Just don't ride on my road and you won't find your hiney smacked with a car door. We'll all get along just fine if you can remember that. And someone, please turn off the snow!

The Muddy:

I promised to drag you through the mud with me, did I not? Well, hustle your little selves on over to my place and help me clean up this saddle, will you?

Sandy has a problem. He was standing so nicely in his stall with me yesterday, doing such a big, brave boy job. I just don't know what got into him. We started our training session well enough. He led with his head almost in the correct position. He's really trying. He let me get close with the mop and didn't panic. I saddled him, and although he backed away a couple of steps, it's been over a week since he's seen the saddle, so I was right proud of him. I even convinced him to stand still enough to get the running martingale on, which meant I had to put my hand down between his legs and under his belly to fasten it to the girth. And he did great!

But then something happened. We were standing there unsaddling, I'd just finished uncinching (thankfully) when Sandy flew backwards in a panic. I'd been holding the lead rope, and when he came to the end of it he flung himself up into the air and sideways. His feet came out from under him and he rolled over onto his side in the mud.

How the saddle stayed on his back until the landing is beyond me, and I'm thankful it didn't get hurt. But it is darned muddy, to be sure.

I have absolutely no idea what set him off. The saddle isn't an issue for him, never is. Did a bird fly by the window in his stall and startle him? Whatever got him spooked seems to have originated from the front, not the side. Either way, this can't go on. I've never had a rearing horse before and this is certainly not the one I wanted to have it happen on. Then again, I'm being forced to work through my own weak areas while dealing with Sandy's.

I immediately resaddled him, and he was fine. I took it off, put it on, took it off. Nothing. Not an inkling of whatever had set his hiney out of the stall so quickly.

Then I got tough. Sandy will stand tied patiently, but if I'm close to him and trying to brush or saddle, he gets upset and pulls and rears. Not safe for me to be close when he does this, but he doesn't do it when I'm not there. So out came the dreaded rake while he was tied with his belly rope. He reared, flung himself from side to side, reared some more and worked up a pretty good sweat out there in the rain and snow and mud. At one point he flung himself in my direction and I was lucky not to get hurt. But after what seemed an eternity (five minutes?) he gave up. I raked him good all over. I pet his face and offered him a treat which he gladly accepted.

There are days when I wonder why God sent me home with this horse. Moments like this have me thinking I may be in over my head. And yet, somehow both Sandy and I seem to survive each other's inadequacies. He's stretching me, making me reach beyond my own comfort zone. Between Sandy and Curt, I may just turn into a horse trainer yet.

Friday, March 28, 2008

This is the Way We Mop Our Horse

How to Mop a Mustang

Step 1) Find a mustang. Having it in a secured area is helpful, as if it is still out on the range it may run away.

Step 2) Find a mop. I've decided this might just be a window washer, but it works the same.

Step 3) Approach mustang. He may not like this step as mops eat mustangs.

Step 4) Begin to gently mop your mustang's hiney with the rubber blade. When he realizes it's not an eating utensil, he will relax and you'll be able to use the blade to remove excess winter hair as it sheds out. The distance between you and the mustang is helpful as you will only consume half of the hair, thereby reducing the amount of hair balls you'd suffer had you used something like a rubber curry.

I believe I need to patent this technique. Any suggestions on a good name for my mustang mopping utensil?

Sponsor me in the Mustang Makeover!

Join the Hay Burner's Club and donate $15 towards Sandy's upkeep and I'll send you a 5x7 photo (once the horse is here, of course.) Or buy advertising space in the form of a button.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Can We Just Have a Little Sun, Please?

Yesterday morning we woke up to a very, very dark sky. It's been light enough in the mornings for Darling to easily find her way to the end of the driveway and wait for the bus, but the clouds were so black that she had to ask if perhaps we had the wrong time? Before she made it to the end of the driveway it began to snow. Big, fluffy, two inch flakes came down in a flurry, circling our heads, driving into our faces and making us completely miserable; Darling while she waited for the bus and me while I carried hay to horses. And although it stuck to the ground and had me convinced I was in for a blizzard, half an hour later it was gone.

Sandy and I worked on his weak area yesterday; that is, reaching out at him with a foreign object. I started with the rake, but it was too short. I just couldn't quite reach him, and my goal was to set it on his rump and scratch his shedding hair so that he'd relax. But as it never made it all the way to his body, I gave up. All I was doing was sending him around, creating more mud beneath his feet and frustrating him. I looked around for my long stick, but it had managed to find itself drug out into the mud by one of the horses (Jet and her curious mouth?) where it was abandoned and stomped on...and broken.

Then I spotted something on top of the sheep shed. An old mop! I know...don't even ask how it got there. I don't mop the sheep shed, but that's where it was and it was what I needed, so I tried not to dwell on why it was there. It had a six foot handle and it was one of those spongie ones, not the kind with the long tails you make dolls out of . Are those the technical terms for mops? Spongie mops and doll head mops? It doesn't really matter. What matters is that it was long enough to reach out and sit on Sandy's hiney.

Sandy was none to pleased with this new, long reach of mine, but rather than spend his energy escaping it (which he seemed to be doing with the short handled rake), he gave up once he realized he couldn't out run it. In the meantime, however, we managed to splatter mud on just about every surface there was, including the outside of the barn. Don't even ask how that happened...maybe I should mop it?

Sandy wasn't the only one who got a workout yesterday. Firecracker found herself back in training as well. She took her first walk outside of the pasture and got to graze on some green grass. She also practiced standing tied patiently while I cleaned the paddock around her feet. She let me brush her entire body without problem. After I was done cleaning and brushing I came inside and sent Darling out to play with her horse. Firecracker, it was reported back, allowed Darling to hug her, and that made for one happy teenager. She even put a few braids in FC's mane. Too bad I didn't take a picture for you, eh?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Round and Round We Go

Monday's lesson was good. They're all good, actually. I'm riding a red filly that I call Rhonda (on account of her halter has a tag on it with that name, but it was really her former owner's name.) Rhonda and I get along well. Her level of training is higher than any horse here, but she's green enough for me to learn new tricks on. Green, for those of you who are just learning about horses, means that they're not seasoned, or well broke, not that they're leprechauns.

As Curt was giving me things to do, he decided that maybe we needed to go back to the round pen. He's been giving me a bag of tricks, basically, to help me get Sandy (or any young horse) started and moving well in the bridle. He figured I'd better see how it felt in the round pen, which is smaller by far than the indoor arena. He asks me all the time about my round pen. Have I got one? How big is it? Does it have a roof over it so I can ride in the poor weather? A person can't ride more than a few months up in the northwest unless they've got cover over their heads, after all.
Timbers inside Curt's round pen

And while I do have a round pen up (thanks to City Boy's hard work), there of course is no roof over it. It's wet and sloppy and until this weather begins to cooperate (it's snowing right now), the footing isn't safe for mounting up and riding. It's been helpful in leading Sandy back and forth and encouraging him to go through gates. I can turn him loose in it while I clean his paddock and he's got a blue barrel to stare at. But we've not got a roof and the ground is too soft to haul in anything for footing.

Curt mulled it over a bit. Then he told me he had some left over timbers, enough to do a second round pen roof. If I wanted to stick around after lessons and do some saddling for him, he'd trade me the timbers. Now, just what do you suppose my answer to that was? Heck, I'd have paid the man extra to be able to hang out with him all day! So round pen roof timbers are soon to be mine. Not that we're in a position to build the rest of an enclosed pen anytime soon. And first, well...maybe I ought to invest in a horse trailer? But at least the timbers will be here. And maybe next year I can go round and round like a merry go round right here on my own property!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ouch! He Bit Me!

It wasn't his fault, really. He didn't mean to catch my finger between his teeth. It just sort of... happened.

Sandy had a visitor today. City Boy's barber, Ms. Dianne, came to visit. She wanted to see the horses and she even tried to shear the sheep. Sandy was relatively relaxed considering his limited time here and how snorty he can be. He stood at a safe distance, just out of arm's reach as Dianne tried her best to coax him up close. I went and grabbed some grain and we went inside with him, and it wasn't long before she had him eating out of her hand.

But then Jet, the butterfly brain, came over to demand that she, too, get fed. And of course Dianne couldn't say no, so she went to the fence to feed Jet, leaving me with a handful of grain that I carelessly held out to Sandy while paying more attention to Jet and Dianne. And he bit me. Grabbed the tip of my finger along with his corn.


But it's okay. Looks like it may bruise there at the fingernail, but I'll survive and Sandy was sorry, and Dianne was happy it was me and not her perfectly manicured nails.

After Ms. Dianne left, Sandy and I went to work. He's becoming friendlier with the bribe offering of grain, which is quite nice. He's still unsure of himself, but he's looking for that treat and approaches a bit quicker than he has been.

I still wanted to keep things a bit relaxed, so I locked the girls into their paddock and took Sandy out for his first real walk. Of course, that meant crossing through the dreaded mud which has caused so much trouble, but since the belly rope day he's not given me any trouble. We walked out around the round pen, under tree branches and over fallen branches. He never once tried to pull free or refused to come with me. We walked out, then into the paddock, then back out, then in, then out...three trips in and out so that he knew he could do it.

Things were going so well that I couldn't stop. I pulled out tool number two, the rake, and tried to get into his space with it. This proved to be the biggest challenge we've faced yet, but one that I'm going to really need to work on. He's still very unsure about my presence alongside of him, especially near the hind quarters. In an effort to desensitize him, I'm using the rake to rub and scratch where he's uncomfortable and where I could end up kicked if he were to get too worried. He's not a mean horse, but he's lashed out in fear a couple of times the first week here, so I'm trying to find that comfort level and only push as far as I can without sending him into the wrong behavior.

The rake, however, was not on Sandy's list of things to do. In fact, it scared him. He shot around like he was trying to win the roses at the Kentucky Derby. And once he started, we couldn't stop until he'd realized it wasn't going to eat him. The trouble with my little rake is that it's just four and half feet long, and it's hard to keep it sitting on his back as he circles me. When he first came we'd used the long branch and he'd gotten over it in no time, so it surprised me that the rake took such an effort.

One of Sandy's funny quirks is that he prefers to have things touch his face before they touch the rest of his body, so when he finally slowed down, I rubbed the rake on his face before slipping down along his neck. Eventually I managed to touch both sides, but he's very leery of the left side being rubbed on. I guess I know what my work will be this week, eh?

Look, MiKael! I have an Arabian Horse!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Second Week

Sandy's biggest struggle continues to be his lack of confidence. As mentioned yesterday, I'm working on that through food motivation this weekend. Despite what seemed like progress yesterday, this morning I was still greeted with a snort and a spook. Still, he did approach a bit quicker than he had yesterday when he was offered a handful of food. With church this morning and then going to Grandma's for Easter dinner, I probably won't spend much time with him today. Plus, it's pouring down rain and blowing as well. I think just a few trips out with a handful of goodies is all I will have the time or desire for.

Sandy's progress this week includes:

Walking out to the round pen and back. Hesitantly at first, then with more confidence once he figured out the whole belly rope thing.

Wearing a saddle, all cinched up, and having no problems walking around with it on his back. He's even graduated from the small, light weight training saddle to my nearly too heavy to lift Billy Cook. He'll do a 360 turn when asked and doesn't mind the feel of the cinch around his tummy in the least.

He stood while I put my foot in the stirrup and shifted the saddle around.

He let me brush his leg all the way down to his hoof. Granted, it's just the left front, but it's a start, right?

He's worn the snaffle a few times. He's a bit hesitant about taking the bit and his head goes up rather high, making it hard for me to get it on at first. He's not mouthing it anymore, though, and he's not worried about the headstall going over his ears.

Stepping over a white PVC pipe placed in his paddock. He didn't snort or spook at it, just looked and stepped. Piece of cake!

I can work my way lower on his body than I could a week ago, but it's still very slow going. I brushed back to his hips and a little on his haunches. He's still ticklish back there and insecure about what may happen to him if I touch him, but it's getting better.

He took a few steps yesterday close enough to me that I could keep my right hand on his neck while we were leading in the round pen. This is what I've been waiting for! For him to walk confidently alongside of me. When he can do that, and not be worried about my touching his side as we move along, then I know he'll be ready to start mounting. Other things are falling into place; the saddle, the flexing and giving to the bit...that's all there. He just needs to feel confident enough in our relationship to know I'm there for him, even if it's alongside or on top.

As for me and my horse, we will follow the Lord!

Celebrate the Risen Lord!

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sandy's Weekend

Sandy wears his 'belly rope'. Please ignore the mud...

Sandy will have a lazy horse weekend. Not because I'll be off doing some super Easter stuff, but because I've decided to try and lure him into my space with handful's of grain, the only string attached being that he needs to come to me. So far, it's working out quite well for both of us.

I started yesterday afternoon. Once finished with our little workout, I brought in some COB. For those not in the know, thats Corn, Oats and Barley, a very popular blend. When I first offered him grain a week or so ago, he didn't know what to do with it. He'd lip some into his mouth, then let it fall back out. Yesterday I had it mixed in with a bit of alfalfa pellets. That was too funny to watch, as he'd decided the COB tasted good, but the texture of the pellets was just a little odd. So in went a mouthful of the blend, and out came all the, two, three...they fell to the ground in a slobbery mess as his tongue carefully manipulated all the grains and tastes in his mouth. It truly was remarkable that I saw no corn coming out, just green globs of alfalfa.

Today I just offered the COB. He was thrilled at the little hands full that continued to be offered as I worked around him in the paddock. He let me put on the halter with relative ease and I led him (with MiKael's round the middle rope trick) easily out through the mud and into the round pen where he received another mouthful for his effort. Life, he decided, was pretty darned good today!

This afternoon I went out to catch him in the round pen, offering another handful of grain. The halter went on relatively smoothly, and this time, without the aid of his belly rope, he walked like a gentleman out of the pen. A completely different experience from yesterday! He even stood nicely and waited for me to close the gate behind him before we walked through the muck and the mud back to his paddock. He never questioned, balked, or hesitated.

Good Boy, Sandy!

Join the Hay Burner's Club and donate $15 towards Sandy's upkeep and I'll send you a 5x7 photo (once the horse is here, of course.) Or buy advertising space in the form of a button.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pretty Nifty

I like it out here and you can't make me leave!

That deal that MiKael posted the other day regarding the rope that ran around the horse's belly...that was pretty helpful to me yesterday. Here's the scoop:

I led Sandy (slowly) out to the round pen yesterday. Both girls were loose in the pasture this time, but neither came running over and acted stupid, thankfully. Sandy was slow moving, just as he was before, not wanting to get his feet muddy. Eventually, after several minutes, we made it out to the round pen. There'd been a hard rain all night long, so no chance of working him in there unless I wanted to create a muddy mess. Instead I decided to toss him a flake of hay to munch on while I cleaned out his paddock. The girls each got a flake on the outside as well, and everyone seemed very content to be left alone with their feed.

Once the paddock was clean, I came back out with the halter and attempted to lead Sandy back to drier ground (the paddock) where I could spend some time saddling him. He didn't want to go. He led around the pen fine, but when he got to the gate he planted his 1000 pounds deep in the ground and wouldn't budge. No way can I out wrestle him and no amount of sweet talk could convince him, so I made a loop and tossed it over his hind end to help encourage him forward.

That didn't work. Rather than step forward, he flung his head up, followed by his shoulders and the rest of his body, doing a 180 degree turn and pulling himself right out of my hands. He then ran to the other side of the round pen and looked at me like I was a mad woman. I tried a second time with the same result, up in the air he went. Certainly not something I want to have become a habit!

I pondered my predicament for a moment. There was no one else home to get behind him with a flag to encourage forward movement. How to solve the problem? And then I remembered MiKael's rope trick. I had my long rope with the O ring on the end with me, so I slipped it over his back and around his belly, then slid the end through the ring. He was now lassoed around the middle. I had him step over the long part of the rope (he won't let me put my hand between his legs just yet) so that the end was now coming out between the front legs. I now ran it through his halter, forming a tied down of sorts, just like MiKael had posted on her blog.

Now when I stepped forward, Sandy felt pressure around his barrel and behind his elbows. We've already practiced walking with the rope around his legs, so giving to this pressure wasn't difficult for him to pick up. Wish I'd had the camera...he looked like a puppet on a string, unable to control his movements and completely baffled. With his head not being able to lift up high without causing some discomfort around his middle, he walked pleasantly out through the gate and all the way back through the mud to his paddock. Not one single hitch. It was absolutely glorious!

Sponsor me in the Mustang Makeover!

Join the Hay Burner's Club and donate $15 towards Sandy's upkeep and I'll send you a 5x7 photo (once the horse is here, of course.) Or buy advertising space in the form of a button.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

77 days left...

The sun was still trying to peek out from behind March clouds for the better part of the day yesterday. Sandy and I decided to take our first walk outside the paddock since he's arrived. I wasn't too sure what to expect. Would he walk nicely behind me? Or would he be looking in all different directions with a long rubber neck? Would he snort? Or would he decide to bolt and make a run for it like Firecracker had?

The answer was none of the above. He stalled. He stopped and pointed out that there was mud that might get up inside his frog. He looked for the best route through the muck and followed hesitantly from the paddock gate to the round pen, where he sized up the situation (there's a bar on the ground under the gate, you know, that must be stepped over and carefully contemplated before taking any rash actions.) He then stepped quietly inside and stood as I closed the gate behind us. I led him in a circle so he could get a feel for the panels and the footing, then turned him loose.

I thought perhaps Sandy would take advantage of the extra room. Not that there's much more space than his paddock area has; perhaps an extra ten or fifteen feet. Still, it's enough to encourage a buck or two from most horses. But not this guy. He just stood and looked at me, wondering just what it was I was expecting from him. I gave him a wee bit of grain and let him hang out for a bit. He was disappointed in the lack of grass, and as you can see from the picture above, we're dealing with less than ideal footing out there. Being the sensible sort, he ate the grain and waited for me to come back rather than jump and slip around.

I drug the old training saddle out to the pen after that and saddled him up. Again, no problems with the feel of the cinch, but approaching him is still a bit of an issue. Sandy noticed something about the saddle that none of the other horses have; there are stirrups hanging down! He didn't get scared or spook, but he did notice it swinging back and forth lightly as he moved, and turned his head a little to look at it. After a few minutes of leading, he ignored it. We began to work on pivots on the hindquarters, which he struggles with as they require forward motion. Forward is going to be a big issue, I'm thinking, as he likes to back away from things he's not familiar with.

Ten minutes into ground work and I took the long, coiled up rope into my left hand and placed it on his neck. I then picked up the stirrup with my right hand. He stood still, not moving, and not overly tense. I slipped my foot into the stirrup and pulled it out. No reaction. Back into the stirrup and some movement, then back out. Still nothing. I put a little weight into the stirrup, but didn't bounce; just lifted myself up onto my right toe and applied more pressure to the left foot in the stirrup.

I suppose if I were a real trainer, I'd have gone for it. He wasn't completely relaxed, but more than he's been in many instances. He may have been fine. Instead I left him standing out there and went to grab the snaffle. When putting on the bosal last week, he'd panicked over having the head stall slip over his ears. Not yesterday. He was too busy wondering what the heck I'd put into his mouth to worry about his ears!

Later in the day, just before dinner, I brought Sandy back to his stall and paddock. Firecracker was loose and standing not far from his gate. I wasn't sure how either of them would react to the other. FC just stood and Sandy stopped, not wanting to move past her. I reached out and gave FC a scratch and pat on the rump to encourage her to move off, which she did. As she moved out of the way, Sandy politely stepped off to the side and barely gave her a passing glance, instead following me like a gentleman back through the muck and into his little cozy home.

Sponsor me in the Mustang Makeover!

Join the Hay Burner's Club and donate $15 towards Sandy's upkeep and I'll send you a 5x7 photo (once the horse is here, of course.) Or buy advertising space in the form of a button.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lots of Progress

What do weathermen know?

MiKael commented yesterday on how I sure wasn't getting a break in the weather and that she'd heard it was supposed to continue in the 'showers with sun breaks', or whatever it is the weathermen like to say. Personally, I don't listen to the weather reports as they're so often wrong. Besides, what difference does it make? You go outside and work no matter what it's doing; hearing that it's going to rain only brings a person down.

But MiKael just had to come along and tell me that they were calling for more rain. Lovely. More mud. You made day, MiKael! Not.

The weathermen, I'm happy to say, were wrong. The sun came out and it was simply glorious! A light breeze kicked up and I swear the paddock began to dry out. Oh, sure, it's still wet, but that pond has shrunk down to a large puddle. The mud was a little less muddy. And the horses were more than happy to take naps in the afternoon sun.

A lot of progress was made yesterday, but not necessarily with Sandy. I did spend some time with him and he did learn something new. Grain tastes good! He hasn't been to sure about it up until now, but since the ram seemed to like it, Sandy decided to give it another try. And wouldn't you know that rather than dump it out, this time he gobbled it all up. And he wanted more! I think this is going to go a long way towards making a friend.

The real progress yesterday happened when City Boy and I got the round pen up! Well...City Boy got it up. I just directed from the sidelines. But it's up, and Jet went batty trying to figure out how to get inside. She paced around and around; it's the best mustang puzzle she's been presented with. As soon as she sees me open the gate, there'll be no stopping her lips from playing with the latch. I'll need to get a chain around it to keep her either in or out.

The sun is still shining this morning. I'm hoping to take Sandy for his first walk outside his paddock this afternoon and out to the round pen where he can stretch his legs a bit more than he's been able to the past week. And I'm really looking forward to being able to get some real work done on both Jet and Firecracker. That is, if the weather holds up!

Sponsor me in the Mustang Makeover!

Join the Hay Burner's Club and donate $15 towards Sandy's upkeep and I'll send you a 5x7 photo (once the horse is here, of course.) Or buy advertising space in the form of a button.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Just Training In The Rain...I'm Training In The Rain!

But it's not exactly a glorious feeling...

The Peanut Gallery

The peanut gallery watches intently during Sandy's training sessions. Usually it's just Firecracker standing there, but yesterday Jet decided to join in as well.

As you can easily see from the photos, the rain is creating quite a mess of mud around here. But no stopping the training sessions on account of a little drizzle. Or a downpour, either, for that matter. The show must go on, and yesterday was no exception. Heck...there's not been an exception all week!

Sandy's working at standing tied. His first attempt the other day had him mildly frustrated and he pawed the ground. Yesterday was better. He stood patiently as I walked away, never fighting the light pull of the rope when he felt it. I went inside to grab my camera and returned to find him in the same position.

And what is that we see back there on Sandy's back? Yes, indeed it is a saddle. And yes again, it's been tightened up around his tummy. And yes, one more time, I left him standing there tied with the saddle on, and he didn't seem to mind one little bit. Good boy, Sandy! He's probably too depressed about leaving sunny CA and living in all this rain to care, eh?

No, I don't ride with my stirrups upside down...why do you ask?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wet, But Good

Yesterday was good. Wet, but good. I've done some rearranging out in the paddocks; Firecracker and Jet are sharing the first two stalls and paddock, the one under water. They were always walking into the same stall together anyway, so I figured I might as well put them over there where they'd share a paddock. They've got their own stalls to eat out of, but it never fails I'll find them both standing in one when I go out to feed. Now, don't fret; they're not standing in water. The stalls are high and dry and the paddock gate opens out into the field for them. It's just a bit soggy trying to get there.

With the girls over on the wet side of things, I've been able to open up Sandy's paddock to include Jet's former run. Not a huge amount of room, just 12 more feet, but it's allowing just a bit more space to work in.

The lopsided Spanish Walk is beginning to diminish. It's not gone, but I've been working at taking just one or two steps at a time, then stopping so that he doesn't really get the opportunity to reach out. After doing that a few minutes, we went back to walking across the paddock and he seemed a lot more relaxed. He still struggles getting himself up alongside me, but we did see progress as he did take a few steps with his head at my shoulder.

Our really big step yesterday was setting the saddle on his back. He steps away and wants me at his head at first, and we do a funky little dance for a step or two, but then he stands (tight and ready to flee, no doubt) as I lift it onto his back, then take it back off. I lifted it up twice in the morning, then twice more in the afternoon. The stirrup wasn't hanging down on the off side, however, as I wanted to make it as painless as possible for him. A friend loaned me her wintec English saddle to try out and I think that'll be a nice way to introduce both girth and stirrups.

Darling came out and shot some video, but I haven't seen it yet. While she was there I had her reach out and touch his nose, then ask him to move a step or two. He didn't really lead, but did pivot both left and right for her and didn't freak out at a second, relatively unknown person at the helm. City Boy said he'd go out this afternoon. I'll bring my camera.

My target date for mounting is April 1. I need him to gain some confidence by then =)

Sponsor me in the Mustang Makeover! Join the Hay Burner's Club and donate $15 towards Sandy's upkeep and I'll send you a 5x7 photo (once the horse is here, of course.) Or buy advertising space in the form of a button.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Week One Update

Click to Mix and Solve

I figured it'd be good to have a weekly update so that I'd have something to look back at each week and see just what we'd managed to accomplish. I really enjoyed Kitty's weekly updates and found them to be very helpful (as I've already mentioned), and it could be that these can be used as well by someone in the future who wants a bit of a measuring stick.

Sandy has allowed me to move from directly in front of his face, to around the side and to his shoulder. He's still insecure about my body getting too close; I can rub his withers, but my body isn't allowed to touch him (yet!)

I can run my hand down as far as his knee without him feeling overwhelmed.

I can rub his chest now.

He's worn a saddle blanket. He lets me rub it over his head and down his neck, or just toss it over his back from either the left or right side.

He's following more than leading, but by yesterday (Saturday) his head was a lot closer to my shoulder.

He's working on doing a pivot on his haunches while leading; he's getting very close to doing a 180 flawlessly.

He follows his nose to do a 360 turn. I do this with the long rope, having the lead come over his neck on the opposite side of his body from where I'm standing. I then slip the rope back towards his hind end and behind his tail a bit...kinda tricky while I'm standing up near his face, but since he likes me at his face he stands while I flip the rope backwards. Once it's behind him I step away and pull. He wasn't sure what I was after the first time, but now he follows his nose right around, both directions, with no problem.

He can be haltered.

I ran the rope over his back and up under his belly to simulate a tightening cinch and he didn't mind.

He let me carry the saddle up to him and sniffed it, then was brave enough to let me touch his right shoulder with it.

He stood tied for five minutes while I puttered around doing other things. He never pulled back or tested the rope; he tried to turn a couple of times, but when he felt the pressure he stopped. He does tend to be a bit of a digger, though, so will need to learn some patience.

All in all, not a bad first week. Certainly not the easy horse I'd dreamed of, but that's okay. He's got the heart of a warrior inside, he just doesn't know it yet. I tell him that when we're out there together, but I don't think he believes me. When he's confident enough to step out alongside me, or try to lead the way, then I know he'll have figured it out.

I'm hoping this week to find an old bareback pad that someone can loan me so we can get the feel of being cinched up while moving out of the way before the saddle goes on. I've never done it like that before, but figure it sure doesn't hurt. I'd like to get the saddle on his back. And it'd be nice if he'd figure out how to lead properly.

I'd like to say Thank You to those who've sponsored me so far (you can see the hay burners to the left and the other sponsors to the right.) This week both Baker Bear Grocery and Gas and Laurel Farm and Western Supply have joined the list. If you're up in the northwest and headed to Mt. Baker, stop in and say hello to Bonnie and Baker Bear (and fill up your tank.) And if you're needing feed or shopping for a new saddle, stop in and see the folks at Laurel; they've got a great store and knowledgeable folks to help.

Sponsor me in the Mustang Makeover!

Join the Hay Burner's Club and donate $15 towards Sandy's upkeep and I'll send you a 5x7 photo (once the horse is here, of course.) Or buy advertising space in the form of a button.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It All Looks Like Too Much Fun!

I stumbled across a website this morning that has me hankering to try some Ranch Horse Versatility. They've got their own association and you don't need to be a registered quarter horse to compete. You get to drag logs and cross bridges and open gates, cut cows, and have a pleasure class that doesn't include rolling a peanut around with your nose. It's called the American Ranch Horse Association, and I think I'm interested in getting a chapter started up here in WA. Any competition that allows for different breeds to be shown against each other with only their ability in mind is one I'm happy to be part of. Of course, the bulk of them are still quarter horses, but they're not circle trotters, right??? And I don't see a single mustang listed, so you know I really need to join!

Sandy and a buddy wait in the corrals to be loaded.

Sandy's day yesterday consisted of being groomed with the rubber curry comb and letting me put a halter on him. Unlike each day up until this point, he never once tried to avoid me walking up to him. He's still worried, he still does his lopsided Spanish Walk, but the no flight when approached is a welcome change. And to be honest, I'm thrilled that we got the halter on and he let both of my hands up alongside his face at the same time to do the buckle. That was a big step for Firecracker as well, and it took her longer. Of course, she was dealing the the whole poll injury, so we'll cut her some slack.

Other than a few random trips out just to be friendly, I left Sandy alone yesterday. I'm trying to muck out Firecracker's side of the paddock, and it's not going so well. With the addition of gravel in Jet and Sandy's paddocks, it's left a low spot where the water collects on FC's side of things, and collect it has. It's about three inches deep, 8 feet long and three feet wide. It's not muddy, it's just wet; the rain water just has no where to drain as the ground is too hard beneath the compact gravel and clay to go anywhere. It's a regular little cement pond, just like the Beverly Hillbillies had. Around the edge of the pond, the clay has begun to work it's way up and combine with the manure that got pelted by heavy rains, making a real mess of things as the water collects. Thankfully Firecracker can be turned out into the pasture or I'd be in a world of hurt. She and Jet spend more time out than in, meaning things should be a wee bit easier come dry weather to clean than if they were cooped up. At least that's what I keep telling myself!
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Friday, March 14, 2008


The rains have been hounding us the past few days, and today it's bone chilling cold out there. The hill across the road is completely submerged in clouds and I suspect once they clear we'll see fresh snow up there.

Visit Mustang Fever to find this image and more!

I suspect when you visit the websites of blogs of some trainers, you'll be seeing the very best of each situation. I know I've already heard about folks saddling and mounting, and how wonderful their horses are. Some will no doubt only tell you the good things, as they're thinking about that commission when their horse is sold.

I'm thinking about that commission, too. However, around here, when I get dirty, you get dirty. When I get drug through the mud, you'd better be sure you wipe your feet before you walk through your house, cuz I'm gonna drag you with me! That's right, there's no cleaning up the story here on this blog. No polishing it until is shines. Here at the Diaries, you get the good, the bad, and the ugly all rolled up together.

Thankfully for both of us, there's been no major catastrophe to report. I've decided that the lip issue with Sandy is like a nervous tick. When my son was little, he had a nervous tick. The doctor told me not to correct it or it'd just manifest itself in some other form. Better to just ignore it and let it ride it's course until he got over it. Obviously, I couldn't let Sandy just continue to nip, but yesterday I found it had come back in it's new form. Sandy does the Spanish Walk. But only with his left foot. Which, as luck would have it, is the side I'm trying to lead him from. When he was nipping, it was also only to the left. I've decided to just be careful with the foot as it reaches out and concentrate on things other than him walking right beside me for the time being.

Aside from discovering his natural one sided walk yesterday, Sandy had a pretty productive day. We wore the saddle blanket. The approach to the side wasn't as smooth as it was when I lifted it to his face and ran it over his head. Silly boy. But hey, you take what you got, right? So that's how the blanket made it on the first time. After that, it was a lesson in patience and trust as he learned to accept it coming not only from the left, but the right side. He did great.

Next I pulled out the bosal. Sandy doesn't like things on his nose. I slipped the bosal on and off his muzzle a few times so that he could get used to that motion. Then I went to slip it over his ears. I've been messing with the top of his head so it shouldn't have been a big deal, but he was tossing a bit in anxiety just the same. I slipped it over his left ear, but before we could get the right ear done he bolted. Of course I still had a rope on him so he didn't get far. I had no choice but to finish the job, and of course the bosal had slipped all the way off at this point, so I was starting from scratch with a horse who was now 100% opposed to what I was doing. Still, after a couple of minutes of convincing him nothing would eat him, I slipped it on. He got a good boy pat and I took it right off.

So two big things for him yesterday, after which we discovered the walk. Rather than do a second training session later in the day, I went out to visit a few times and just talked to him and touched him, reassuring him that it was all good. By dinner time he'd relaxed, and this morning he let me come in and touch him again at breakfast. Normally I have a hard time getting up to him during our first visit of the day. Just before lunch I went back out with a rubber curry comb and brushed him with that. It was his first experience with that little black curry and while he didn't melt in my hands, he did stick around and let me brush his neck and shoulders. That's what today will be comprised of; just talking and touching and relaxing. It's been a big week, after all!

Oh...and did I mention we took the halter off yesterday? So all his touching and brushing yesterday afternoon and today has been without the benefit of anything restricting his movement. That's right, the boy is nude.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thank You, Kitty!

If it weren't for Kitty's video's from last years Extreme Makeover, I may just be feeling as though I were falling behind.

Now deep down I know that's not the case. And I know you take each horse along at the speed they're capable of moving. I've done it before and know they're all different. And I've encouraged others who've posted in the past about not being as quick about getting into the saddle on their competition horses. I know better. Still, you read about those who're in the saddle by the second or third day and you're left wondering if you really are going to be able to lay that foundation quickly enough to give your horse half a shot at a competitive ride.

So just to give myself a boost, I went back to Kitty's website and watched Ranger's week one video. He learned to lead. He got ponied. He worked at lunging. And he was flagged. His start wasn't rushed, and in the end, he placed second.

Sandy is doing well. He's also lunging. He leads nicely in his small pen. I wish I had a pony horse, but we'll just have to manage without. And you know how I just love flagging my horses, so we'll skip that and find other methods. But overall, after four days he's doing well. Still concerned about me crossing that invisible line, and you can see in his photo below that he's got a nervous look. He's allowing me into his space a bit more readily each day.

We seem to have conquered the 'stud lips' issue of day three. Evidently his little experience with the rope caught unexpectedly behind him caused him to believe he'd better keep his lips and teeth to himself. Funny, when you think about it. It was all a result of his actions, like tipping over that first domino in a long row. He took a nip, retaliated with a small, half hearted rear when I scolded him. When I got after him for that and sent him off in circles, he made a wrong turn and got the rope behind him. That really got him moving, and in the end he thought the whole thing was a result of active lips. And it was, of course...but he managed to carry out the punishment himself in a most effective way.

Day four saw him still hesitant to have me alongside of him. He tends to want to back up alongside fences and walls for security while I touch him, and I don't have any problems with that. Everyone needs a security blanket, right? But as I ran my hand down his back, something triggered a violent reaction and he lashed out with his hind feet. He didn't kick at me; he could have turned his body or kicked forward for that. Instead, he kicked straight back. And what a racket he made when those legs hit the panels! Naturally, I got after him at the same time, and in his mind it all tied together. In his mind, kicking caused me to smack him with panels, which not only made noise, but I'm sure they stung a bit, too. On top of which, he found himself working in more circles. Needless to say, he was a well behaved boy for the remainder of our session.

One of the things I'm working on is having him lift his front legs with a rope. He's nervous having me touch him below the elbow, so the rope helps him become accustomed to the feel of something down there without me sticking my head down low where I increase the odds of getting hurt. As you can see, he's pretty good at lifting his leg when pressure is applied. I worked both left and right legs, asking him to pick them up and step forward towards me. He did it quite willingly without any rebellion.

After the rope tricks, I decided to push him a bit. I grabbed the saddle blanket (which, along with the saddle, sits on the rail in his stall) and walked around giving it little shakes. Frightened a bit at first, after a couple of snorts Sandy reached out to sniff it. A couple small circles later and he was letting me touch his shoulders and rub his neck with it. A bit timid, a little worried, but his feet stayed still. With such a huge leap of faith on his part, I had to put the blanket away and tell him what a good boy he was. One quick pet on the neck and I was out of there.

When I went out to feed last night, Sandy didn't try to leave as I walked into his paddock. He stood and let me rub on his face and even allowed me to walk to his shoulders and scratch on them. He came a long way on day four!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Sandy waits patiently in the loading chute

I always get questions about how we load a wild horse. Do they just lead right into the trailer? Well, that would be nice! But no, they don't lead anywhere. At least, mine never have. And while I've posted the loading process before, I'll do it again to catch others up to speed.

The horses are cut out of the herd and sent down an alley way made of panels which narrows into a chute. There is a gate in front and a gate behind which keeps the animal still while halters are being put on. Halters, by the way, are optional and not everyone wants to start with one. If you're a new mustang owner, though, I'd recommend it. Heck, this is #5 for me and I still wanted one. Although this time I had City Boy make me a shorter lead so that it wouldn't be stepped on so easily.

Halter is dropped down into chute and slipped over Sandy's head.

Halter is buckled as Sandy wonders just what's going on.

A quick pat on the neck once the crown piece is buckled.

Each horse reacts a bit differently to the haltering process. Some are calm, cool and collected while others try to jump over the panels and out of their skin. Sandy did one small rear, but that was it. As you can see in his photos, he stood pretty still and accepted his fate without much of a fuss.

There are two panels, one on each side, that lead out of the chute to the trailer. Once the trailer is backed into place, the chute gate opens and most horses hop right into the trailer without much thought. They're just happy to be out of the chute. For those who hesitate, the people standing to the sides will wave arms or flags to encourage some forward motion. Sandy trotted right in.

Unloading at home can sometimes be a challenge as the horses haven't ever stepped down from a trailer before. Combine that with two days of travel and a horse with sea legs, not land legs, and you've got quite a show! City Boy had panels set up for unloading so it was a straight shot from trailer to his new home. Sandy came out easily enough, but the poor boy looked like a drunken sailor. He was certain the ground was going to give way beneath his feet and walked on his tip toes (never have I seen a ballerina horse before!) and cautiously entered his paddock. His legs shook for the next 30 minutes as he adjusted to life on firm ground.

On his second day here, Sandy is still working on his confidence issues. He's drawn an invisible line in front of himself and insists I stay there on my side and not cross onto his. He likes me in front of him where he can keep an eye on me; I'm definitely a predator in his eyes and must be kept in a safe place. He doesn't mind the touching sensation, he's just not happy with my body moving alongside his. I can rub him all over with the long branch, and if my arm were a couple feet longer he'd let me rub on him. But I haven't got Go Go Gadget arms, unfortunately, so yesterday was spent getting into his space. He hasn't got an ounce of kick in him, thankfully, but he does get to chomping with his teeth when he's nervous. Who can blame him? He was on the bottom of the totem pole and has bite marks all over his body. So as soon as my body wanders back into forbidden territory, his nose bends around and he tries to grab at my arm in an effort to keep me away.

I've never had to discipline a 1000 pound wild horse less than 48 hours from unloading. There are some interesting thoughts that cross your mind. Thoughts like, "He could kill me just for looking at him wrong," and "I'm standing right in front of this big boy's face...what if he strikes out at me or lunges at me with those teeth?" and "Was I on crack when I signed up for this???" But obviously I couldn't let him bite me, so I just kept popping his nose, either with my hand or by giving small jerks on the lead to remind him that teeth are not acceptable. I sent him in circles around me until he finally decided it was easier to give in than to work tight circles or bite, and eventually managed to brush his sides while he stood enjoying it.

He's a nice boy, really. It's just going to take a bit of time to gain some confidence and realize I'm not planning on having him for dinner.

Sponsor me in the Mustang Makeover! Join the Hay Burner's Club and donate $15 towards Sandy's upkeep and I'll send you a 5x7 photo (once the horse is here, of course.) Or buy advertising space in the form of a button.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Kiss My Big, Fat, Hairy...


I think it's a good idea to start out with a new training method when you're up against a 90 day time frame and the biggest competition of your life, don't you? Such as rather than using a long rope, or even an 8' lead, putting a short, 3 1/2 foot rope on your new wild horse that prevents you from reaching down and picking up the end of it, thus speeding up the gentling process. Perfect time to try something new!

At the end of the first day, Sandy has begun kissing. Blowing in my face, really. He's curious, but lacks confidence. At the bottom of the horsey pecking order and with chunks missing from that lovely bay coat of his, he tends to approach things a bit cautiously. Despite that, he's learning to lead, giving to both the left and right, plus following along behind as I walk forward. He also let me touch his nose. That's a first for me; the girls were all nervous about noses and preferred me to approach shoulders instead.

On our way down to Sacramento to pick Sandy up, we made a very special stop to visit a dear old friend...Quiet Storm! Short, fat and hairy; she was the same sweet girl we love and miss. She's doing well in her new home with Stephanie, though, where she's well cared for and loved.

BFF...Best Friends Forever!

Sponsor me in the Mustang Makeover!

Join the Hay Burner's Club and donate $15 towards Sandy's upkeep and I'll send you a 5x7 photo (once the horse is here, of course.) Or buy advertising space in the form of a button.