Saturday, January 31, 2009

Steve Holt!, week 8

It's rather like wishing on a star, or blowing out your candles and telling people what your wish is...the fear of it not coming true keeps your lips sealed! But lips are not fingers...are they?

Steve Holt! has so many things going for him over Sandy, yet Sandy had things going for him that Steve Holt! does not. Mainly, he was so incredibly balanced that he could bluff his way into the spotlight. Steve Holt!, however, is more athletic and has a more disciplined mind when it comes to learning.

All this to say that I'm in search of music to use should we make the finals. Did I type that out loud? Yes, I think I did...and it really puts me out there. What if we dive bomb? Could happen...he could totally fall apart. But there's no point in thinking of all the things that could go wrong; I want to be prepared should all the things go right. But golly, the musical choices have given me a headache!

As I was telling Darling, I like the 40's swing music; Candyman and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy are so much fun! I'd have to dress the part, though...meaning I'd need a stomach girdle. It'd need to be cinched up tight to give me one of those tiny 40's waists. Darling is certain I'd not be able to breath. Of course, climbing on top of my horse is already difficult and stepping into the stirrup could cause me to pass out. I may need to use stairs...or a crane to lift me up onto him. I'd probably need to go on a diet, or do sit ups to help prepare. Perhaps 40's music and a tiny waist are over rated.


Are you ready for Steve Holt!'s week in review?

1) We got to watch buffalo work! Of course, he nearly fell asleep, but I suppose that's better than hanging off the rafters, eh?

2) We've been for 2 trail rides. First was a solo around the bottom of the tree farm. We also went out with Darling and Sandy. That story is coming as soon as the video is ready.

3) We had a reporter and photographer come to visit. I'm not sure how that's making headway in training, but it was fun!

4) Steve Holt!'s trot is beginning to slow down, and his lope really is beginning to take shape.

5) Good golly...are you ready? He can actually stop! Well, from the walk or trot, that is. Loping can be tricky as it depends on his frame of mind. But we're getting there.

It was a good week for bonding. We're going to continue to work on our whoa and hopefully make those lead changes a little smoother this week.

What are you planning to do this coming week?

Mom...someone might...LOOK!

Steve Holt! has a problem. He's embarrassed know...let it drop in public. He's very modest, and despite the fact that near the end of our rides I can feel him getting antsy just like a kid who won't tell you they need to use the loo, he just rather holds it all in.

When I haul to the arena, Steve Holt! has plenty of time to 'do it' while I'm unloading the trailer. He spends at least 15-20 minutes inside the round pen, no one around, so if he had to go he could. But he doesn't. He rolls, of can roll in a public arena without being scolded. But once up on all fours, he stands and waits for me to finish whatever I'm doing.

Our rides aren't terribly long. An hour, typically. Light work, for the most part. Slowing the pace down on the rail, working on perfecting our whoa and half pass. His circles at the lope have become quite smooth the past couple of rides.

And when our ride is over, it's back to the round pen. Another good roll, because of course he's sweaty and who wouldn't want a layer of sweaty dirt (aka mud) covering their body? Obviously, this is a source of great pride, because the whole public arena thing isn't an issue. But will he drop and pee? No. Not even when no one is in there with him.

So I lead him out, brush him off, put on his blanket and load him into the trailer. And the moment the door is closed behind him??? Uh clockwork.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mr. Grumpy Pants

A couple weeks ago I snapped a quick shot of Steve Holt! as he was coming out of his stall. His hair was a mess, he had alfalfa on his lips...but the expression was wonderful. I decided I needed to try again, but this time with a clean horse. I painstakingly combed his mane and forelock, brushed his face and lips off with a nice soft brush, and led him to the round pen along with my camera, where he presented me with all the charm and charisma of a teenager who doesn't want their picture taken.

"Don't make me do this."

"I'm keeping my ears back, no matter what you say."

"Fine, my ears are happy now???"

"Treats? You didn't mention treats."

Okay, so it's not got quite the look I was hoping for, but it was as good as it got today.

Our ride was going quite well this afternoon. The leads were being picked up a bit more easily than they had on Sunday (our last day of loping) and he was rating his speed nicely. We went from slow, small circles to larger, faster paced circles, then down to small and slow again. He was listening quite well and this time, it was me watching the mirror for the reflection.

Before we started our ride I'd turned on the radio in the arena. This was the first time it'd been on while we'd been in there, and Steve Holt! wasn't too sure what to think. He didn't want to work at that end, but with a few circles and a bit of persuasion, he'd begun to relax. Which is why the sudden 180 degree spin and instant high alert stance confused me. But standing down at the end of the arena was a shadow...a dark form who's features could not be seen from where we stood in the dim light.

I knew instantly who it of the owners had walked down from the barn. But to Steve Holt!'s mind, there was a predator who'd managed to slip out of that noise box, and he refused to put me in danger (or himself, for that matter) by relaxing after that. In fact...that shadow was on his mind for the rest of our ride, even though it had slipped back out of the arena as quickly as it had come. From that point forward, any shadow was guilty of...well, I don't know what it was guilty of, but in Steve Holt!'s mind, it was guilty and worthy of blowing air and sidestepping. He spooked no less than three times in the next 30 minutes, which is 3 times more than he's spooked since he's gotten here.

Eventually I got enough of his attention back to start in on some more loping, which included a couple of not so bad simple lead changes. It'll be interesting to see if he remembers this tomorrow.

Next Year's Suit

Or at least that's what Darling is calling it. A big box came in the mail yesterday and inside were the two new blankets I'd ordered for Dude Lee and Sandy. They truly are not big enough to be wearing a 75", but since the 72" was just a bit snug I ordered these in hopes they wouldn't be swimmingly big on them. While I was away, Darling hauled her's out of the box and went to find her horse.

Steve Holt! and I had hauled down to Curt's for our mid week, lets get used to the commotion ride. Not a lesson on Wednesdays, just a hang out and ride afternoon. With all the racket of cutting horses and hydra bull, it's a good learning experience. Yesterday when I showed up, the arena looked different. Curt had drug it...there was no track down the center for the hydra bull to do its thing. I'd only just climbed into the saddle when Curt came along and shut the big arena door. Steve Holt! wasn't too sure what was going on, but I did...BUFFALO!

Today they would work the buffalo, and Steve Holt! would get to witness the action.

While Steve Holt! was mildly curious about that horned critter, he was not nervous in the least, and as Curt and Winona worked their horses, he stood with his head hanging, totally relaxed. We stuck around for about an hour, then headed back home. Driving up the road I got a crazy idea. Because of the action in the arena, I hadn't bothered to unsaddle Steve Holt! before why not take him for a little trail ride?

I pulled into the tree farm parking lot and the two of us headed out. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it sure wasn't what I got. This was Steve Holt!'s first experience being ridden outdoors; aside from being able to hear him taking deep breaths in the crisp air, he was a vision of experienced trail horse with not so much as an ounce of tension. It was a lovely first outing.

All in all, ride 23 was pretty nice. Hard to fathom just 8 weeks ago he was completely wild. Harder still to think that we've only got 7 to go.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Company Comes A Callin'

"Sunny Siesta"

Normally I don't work a horse more than 5-6 days in a row. After all, even God rested on the seventh day, and like us, our horses can use a break to refresh. However...Steve Holt! did not get to rest on the seventh day.

We were to have visitors today, Tuesday, and so I rode him Sunday and was going to give him Monday off. But Sunday afternoon I received a call saying there'd been a change in plans, and could they come on Monday instead? Would that mess Steve Holt! up? Being the gracious guy he is, Steve Holt! welcomed his guests with kind eyes and willing attitude.

At first we just hung out in the round pen while his guests asked questions about his training so far, and just how wild is wild? And they took photos...lots and lots of photos. Steve Holt! was totally relaxed, dropping his head and searching for treats. He let me rub all over his face, leaning on me and loving all the attention. I then pulled out the halter, not sure what to expect, but aside from lifting it a bit higher than I'd like, he didn't pull his head away and to the uneducated onlooker there was nothing much out of place.

We left the round pen and walked over the bridge. I told them he'd stepped up and over it just as easily the first time I'd asked him to. We then walked into the lower pasture where the sheep were. This, I said, was his first venture out there. They followed, continuing to ask questions and photographing his every move. Then they photographed the sheep...because, after all, sheep are cute and hard to resist!

With their visit roughly an hour long, I asked, "Would you like to go to the arena and see him being ridden?" An enthusiastic yes was the answer, so we piled into the truck and up we went to the riding club. Although Steve Holt! has been loping for a couple weeks now in the arena, I opted not to do that this time for two reasons: First, it was really his day off, and second, I didn't think it'd be good to run over the reporter and photographer. But I did ask for a lot of bending, flexing, and slowing down at the trot. Steve Holt! seemed to know he was the star, dropping his head and moving slower than he ever has as he circled around his guests, looking very much like an old broke pony. This horse never ceases to amaze me. I gave him some extra treats for working overtime and today he's getting a well deserved day off.

"Do boot heels taste anything like apple treats?"

Upon returning home, Lynda, the reporter from the Seattle Times, looked out towards the round pen and asked if Darling was okay. I smiled. "Yeah...they're just taking a nap." Dude was taking his afternoon siesta and Darling was curled up with him. They make such a cute couple! While we'd been away, she put together a video of her day with him. Watch. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Steve Holt!, week 7

Click to Mix and Solve

I have been with Steve Holt! for seven weeks now. We have just over 7 left before leaving for Albany. I expect that gives me roughly 40 more rides, for a total of 60 before we compete.

Those big, huge, monumental steps have been taken. He loads into a trailer like a pro. He lets me climb on and off without a care. He follows me anywhere I ask him to go, be it through running water, beneath streamers or over bridges. His curious nature has won out over his cautious side, just as I'd hoped.

This past week we did meet up with a few milestones, however:

1) We rode in Curt's arena with 3 other horses, plus 2 more tied to the rail, as the hydra bull ran. Although he'd seen the bull working the previous Saturday, this time I was on his back and he relaxed enough to walk with a dropped head while the bull and one of the horses went head to head working.

2) We traveled up to the Trail Dayze event again, and this time he was saddled and ridden in an arena with 9 other horses. A small arena, too...not some big fairgrounds arena where horses had room to move. No...we were packed like sardines and someone was trying to give a riding lesson in the middle of it all. Horses were circling and darting in and out in front and behind us, and other than him not liking when they passed us, he was cool with it all.

3) Not only did he handle himself well in the crowd, Steve Holt! handled himself well over the trail obstacles. He crossed the bridge mounted for the first time. I asked for a sidepass from his back and got it...both directions! Not pretty, but he's trying to figure it out. We backed an L. I also asked him to attempt getting through the rope gate. This was his biggest struggle because I was asking him to sidepass without a pole beneath to help guide him. But...we did it, and I was able to hang onto the rope the entire time.

4) We're working on our half pass. I aimed him straight down the center of the arena on Friday where I could watch us in that big mirror that Steve Holt! loves so well. He moves quite nicely to the right, but the left isn't quite as easy for him. It's coming along, though.

Round circles, straight lines. That's what Curt is always telling me. We need to work on our round circles. They're anything but round. Our lines are fairly straight, however. We'll be working on a lot of serpentines this week, plus more simple changes as well as getting his stop down pat. On Tuesday we're expecting a visitor...stay tuned!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Good Day, Sunshine

Lazy Ponies

Another Lazy Pony

Though the nights have been cold, the days have warmed up to the low 50s; the horses seem to enjoy napping in a ray of sun. Steve Holt! hasn't got the benefit of much sunlight in his stall, but he prefers to lay there rather than out on the frozen ground at the end of his paddock.

Yesterday I noticed something I hadn't seen before on Steve Holt!'s hooves; a deep groove down the center. How I'd missed it up until now I don't know, but the lighting must have been just right for me to catch a glimpse. I felted the ridge and lifted the hair at his coronet band. The line seems to stop just half an inch from the top. The grooves on the two front feet are deeper than on the hind feet, and only the right hind has much to show.

Feed and nutrition play a big part in this sort of thing...but I've never been well versed in such stuff. So for all you hoof care buffs, perhaps you'd like to comment?

Steve Holt! was captured in Sept of '07. The horses were fed alfalfa for a year, then at some point before we picked them up they were switched to an eastern Oregon grass (some of the mustangs were gaining a lot of weight, which was the reason for the switch.) Steve Holt! has been back on alfalfa since coming here with me, nearly 7 weeks.

So there were three changes in his feed...from range to alfalfa to grass back to alfalfa. That ridge in his hooves goes all the way to the bottom. Would this reflect the alfalfa stage? We have no way of knowing if those ridges were there before capture, but it's obvious that at some point they stopped...would seven weeks be enough for a half inch of growth at the top?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Simple Changes

On Wednesday I hauled down to Curt's while he had 3 other horses out working the bull. Between sessions, they were on the rail...or at least somewhere near the rail, loping or trotting and stopping and turning. All very busy, and Steve Holt! took it in stride, walking relaxed with a dropped head. Eventually we moved into a trot, and even snuck in a lope around the arena a couple of times.

Yesterday Steve Holt! was much better about getting that halter on, and then a bit later, the bridle as well. When we hauled up to the riding club I found myself with company, as two other horses and riders hauled in shortly after me. Because he'd worked so well the day before, I didn't retreat to the round pen but stayed in the big arena. One of the riders stuck to the center working on turns and flexing and moving the shoulders and hips of her mare...all good stuff, but it forced me to wait and circle the rail before I could get any real work in. Or so I thought. We managed to start some half pass exercises along the rail as well as sneaking in some straight lines work across the arena while the other horse did smaller circles.

Once both other horses left, I asked for a lope. We missed the right lead the first two tries, which surprised me a bit, but considering the vast, wide open space of this arena it shouldn't have. Steve Holt! is still feeling more secure with his round pen rail. Once he got the right lead, we made a few circles, then dropped down to a walk for a relaxing trip around the rail. This is all new, and that rail is like a security blanket to go back to. In fact, even with broke horses, when they start getting a little jiggy on the rail, I'll pull them into the center and do a lot of circles or weaving around cones, stops and turns, as it gets them to thinking that a relaxed pace on the rail is much easier than work in the middle.

After Steve Holt! had a moment to relax, we started up the other direction. This time the lead came easy, and after a couple of circles I got to thinking he may just do a simple change for me...and he did. Nice and easy back over to that more difficult lead. A couple circles, drop to the trot and pick up the left lead again.

Being a bit of a You Tube junkie these days, I came across this training video with Les Vogt on flying changes. It breaks it down nicely, starting with positioning at the walk and then moving into the lope. For those of you who've always wondered how to master the art of a flying change (like me), you may find this particularly useful.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Last Year's Swim Suit

On Sunday Lady of Chaos came along with her husband and daughter, Kissy, to look at Jet. They decided they liked her (well...who wouldn't?) and left me with a down payment and a size 72 sheet for one of the geldings. Both Dude and Sandy were getting a wee but muddy from their mid day naps out in the wet clay and I was thrilled that LOC had an extra. Being as the sheet was blue, Darling immediately snagged it for her red pony.

"He looks like a woman in last year's swim suit!!"

"Come on, I have to wear this???"

Indeed, Dude Lee Do Right has not missed many meals, and Darling's observation was quite astute. The sheet was amply filled out, to say the least, and Dude didn't look too happy about squeezing into a size too small. His belly was bulging and his hiney was hanging out the back. This boy may not be overly tall, but he's making up for it in his tank-like physique. And so the sheet was removed and placed onto Sandy...where it became apparent that he, too, hasn't been late to the dinner table of late. Still, it was a better fit than Dude, so he's still got it on in an effort to help reduce dried clay on his long winter coat.

Dude is just about as happy with a saddle as he was his blanket!

I have Steve Holt! a couple of days off, which turned out to be a mistake. When I went out on Tuesday he was back to week one and didn't want me to catch him. He was easy enough to get the blanket off, but when it came time to put something around his neck or on his head, he began his mad dash around the pen in an effort to find a way out. Thankfully, this time I had all gates secure!

I stood in the center of his pen, keeping my back to him as he circled around, trying not to put any additional pressure on him. He was on high alert, though, and crashed from one end to the other, not caring if I was looking or not. After a few minutes I went for my long rope and tossed it across his back, which to his mind meant he was captured. From then on out it was business as usual.

What I should have done is spent at least one of those days doing nothing but haltering and unhaltering, and maybe taking him out to graze. I'm really struggling with this face thing of his. I've run my fingers up inside his mouth in search of teeth or sharp edges that might be interfering with his bit, but the bottom line is he's always had a thing about touching his head. This is the kind of horse who, if you didn't know he came from the wild like this, you'd suspect someone had been smacking him upside the head. Working with mustangs has sure changed how I look at domestic horses with issues...they're not always man made, even though we'd like to blame the former owner for behavior problems. Some horses just are super reactive or protective and it takes time to get over it. And some...well...some just never do. Hopefully this is something Steve Holt! will get over, because he's too dang tall to reach his head when he lifts it up.

Despite our head games, Steve Holt! is working under saddle well. I'm beginning to wonder, though, if his trot may not be part of my neck/shoulder/head pain as it increases with each slam of the hoof to the ground. It's odd, really, how a trot that looks so lofty and full of air can slam you so hard. Or perhaps it's just in my heightened state of pain that I notice it more?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Darling; Wild Horse Tamer

The day should have progressed as such:

Get up, feed horses and sheep. Have breakfast. Sneak in a quick ride on Sandy, head off to my massage. Feed horses in the evening, then haul Steve Holt! up to the riding club for an evening work out.

The day did not progress as such.

I received an email from my mom in AZ telling me that Grandpa Wayne had slipped on the ice and crawled to the lawn to get up. Grandma and Wayne's driveway is paved, you see, and Grandpa Wayne had not told Grandma he was heading out to get the mail. So she was unaware that anything was amiss until he made it back into the house...bleeding. He'd conked his elbow pretty good and there was a fair amount of blood.

Grandma, it seems, had been suffering from a bit of vertigo. Although if you ask her it may be something else. But whatever the official name, she'd been dizzy and not feeling well for the past few days and was unsure about driving him off to the ER. Since none of her kids was on hand to help get them to the hospital, I called her Monday morning to see if she'd like a ride.

Wayne's on a blood thinner and bleeds pretty easily, so Grandma was quite concerned about the amount of blood on her husband's bandage, but as it turned out they said it was pretty normal for that type of injury. They carted him off, however, for an X-ray to be sure he hadn't fractured it. His hip was bruised but would heal, they said. And as it turned out, his elbow wasn't damaged beyond the nasty looking scrape and bruising.

Sara, my massage therapist, was kind enough to move my appointment back a couple of hours and after dropping Grandma and Wayne back at their home, I was able to lay back and enjoy the pain as Sara rubbed about on all the knots and kinks in my back and neck. I actually fell asleep at one point. Hope I didn't snore!

Upon returning home Darling presented me with her day via you tube. Just think...three more years and she'll be old enough to do the Extreme Mustang Makeover!

Monday, January 19, 2009

What's the Rush?

I was talking to another trainer recently when she commented on how she's afraid some horses are missing a lot of the basics. We'd both read this comment last year on a non-mustang blog...that is to say, she didn't read any of the mustang blogs to the best of our knowledge. And we assured her that in 90 days time you can teach a horse a whole lot of basics...and then some.

But it appears with each new round of competitions, the trainers are on earlier and earlier...and they've got their eyes set on the prize.

Something Jay said to me while leading me about on of those sweet little pony rides a mere couple weeks before the competition in that there was no reason to rush with this horse. He wasn't headed to a futurity. His future did not depend on the win. His future depended on getting all the right building blocks in place so that he could one day pack a kid around on his back, and do it safely.

No one but God knew just how that one would play out...none of us thought there'd be a kid trotting about practicing her "Look, ma, no hands" routine before the end of the year was out. Not with the personality Sandy handed us during those first few months. But once he realized none of it was a threat, those building blocks were rock solid.

Jays words are still at the forefront of my mind. Steve Holt! is nowhere near as far along as some of the horses out there. Heck...some are doing flying changes already! And they may very well have all those basics into place by the time they get to Albany. Steve Holt! isn't ready to do flying changes. He's barely ready to do simple ones. But as slow as we look compared to many, I know I'm laying that foundation. My goal is to have a steady, solid horse, both physically and mentally. Sandy was a great teacher of 'wait and see'.

Here's a quick clip of Steve Holt!'s recent ride and first arena lope down with Curt, followed by a clip of a customer working her horse on the Hydra Bull:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Care for a sip?

It would appear winter is the perfect time for an ice cold lemonade. After all, who wouldn't want to come inside from sub-zero weather, fingers so cold they ache, ear lobes suffering from frostbite and nose as bright as Rudolph's? Certainly it's the first thing I reach for! Which is why it is so fortunate that I have friends in the blogging community who take such good care of me.

Yes, that's right...three glasses of lemonade have been thrust upon me this winter. Well, it beats the diet Pepsi sitting at my desk right now, that's all I can say. So thank you Froglander, Siobhan (Palyreiner) and Kristina and Sierra's Journey.

Of course, by now y'all know the rules of the game, right? No? Well, pay attention, then, because you may be suffering from fortunate enough to have me as a friend who will send you, too a glass of lemonade!

For Bloggers who show great attitude/gratitude:

1. Post the picture (isn't it cute?)

2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show Great Attitude and/or Gratitude.

3. Link to your nominees within your post.

4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

5. Share the love and link this post to the person from who you received your award.

Here are my 10 Blogs

Jennifer at The Mare's Tales

Lea at Lea and Her Mustangs

Nikki at Life With Boys

Angie at Free Rein Art

CTG Ponies

Mustang Cruzer

Black Feather Farm




Now, sally forth, all of you, and remember to be grateful as you pass along this ice cold glass of lemonade. With any luck, it'll be summer by the time it makes it back to you!

Steve Holt!, week 6

Steve Holt! had a lovely week. We spent a lot of time going over the things we've already learned. A lot of in hand work, more round pen work, and some big arena time. Our whoa is coming together. Not stop on a dime where near that. But he's changing gears when he hears the word. Now we just need to work on getting the actual stop rather than a slow down. I did find that he's got a stop button, however. While he's walking along, if I reach back and pat his rump, he immediately believes it's time to whoa. Kinda funny. Maybe I can work that into his freestyle... Look! If you fall off backwards over his butt, he'll stop! Yeah...I can see it all now...

Here's how our week shaped up:

1) The whoa is progressing. He's understanding that it means come to a stop, but he's not aware of just how quickly that stop should be there.

2) He's grasping the concept of backing while I'm on him.

3) Steve Holt! is responding nicely to my request for small circles.

4) He's beginning to realize that legs mean something other than go, as I can move him either away from the rail, or back to it, with a little added leg pressure.

5) We hauled to a new arena where there were a lot of horses moving around us. He was a bit excited at first, but settled down and got to work.

6) We've been riding in the big arena. He's listening well enough to trot circles. Because the riding club arena is 160x180, it's a bit large for me to have felt comfortable breaking into a lope until he gets a bit more power steering...or until someone is on the end of a lungeline to help him with the whole circle concept. Or until we've loped in a smaller arena.

7) He's no longer kicking up his heels when asked to lope in the round pen. He does, however, pin his ears and try to cut across the center rather than just pick it up nicely at the rail.

8) We went for a lesson again yesterday. It was ride 14. We loped! Not that loping alone is big (well, of course it is, but you know...), but we did it in the arena not the round pen. And whats more...

9) ...we did it with another horse working in there with us. Steve Holt! has seen other horses on the outside of the round pen, but this is the first time he's had someone passing him, or had to pass them. Aside from some ear pinning and nose lifting, he did fine.

10) And what's more...after we were done we were sent to the corner while Curt fired up the Hydra Bull. Steve Holt! was nervous, which meant his feet were moving, but after a couple of minutes of watching the other horse work he began to settle in.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A quick pic

Froglander came by today to watch me work with Steve Holt! and I asked her to grab my camera for a quick photo shoot. I didn't realize just how tall this boy was until I saw the picture!

My headache refuses to leave. The past couple of days it has subsided with the help of pain killers (something I rarely take), but today it had no intention of leaving. My neck is stiff and shoulders sore. I think it's from trying to clean all that wet manure out of the paddock. It's a never ending job as the horses refuse to leave their stalls or paddock, even though the gate is open to the pasture. Bad enough they didn't go out in the snow, but still? Sigh...(and that sigh is not the good kind like Steve Holt! is now doing!)

I was at the chiropractor today and have a massage scheduled for Monday. Hopefully I'll get some relief soon. Tomorrow morning is my lesson with Curt, and on Sunday? Well...

Earlier this week I came to the decision that I needed to sell a horse. So I put Jet up on the mustang forum. Lady of Chaos responded instantly that she and her husband were interested, so they're coming on Sunday for a visit. It will be difficult to part with my girl, but she does not fit into my goals, which include getting back into the show ring. She's a trail/dressage horse and not a cutting or reining prospect (which I'm dearly wanting to try), and certainly not western pleasure material. Darling's infatuation with Dressage was short lived and she's now enjoying Sandy. And I must admit there's just a tinkling of desire to find a way to keep Steve Holt!... Even if I don't end up keeping him, I'm forever drawn to starting new horses, and the extra space will be needed for my ever revolving mustang door.

Darling is working on editing the video clips from Thursday. I, however, am too tired to wait. Off to bed with me! Y'all have a good weekend and I hope to see you back for our week six update this weekend.

The Sigh

Now, if only I could get him to comb his hair and wash his face!

Last week Nuzzling Muzzles asked me how I kept Steve Holt! looking so relaxed. She noticed that I was doing a lot of petting and reassuring in my videos.

While he often looks relaxed on the outside, Steve Holt! likes to walk out when he's feeling nervous. You may recall our first venture outside of the round pen and my commenting on him feeling nervous, yet he didn't look like he was. That's because Steve Holt! likes to walk off his edge; he keeps his feet moving in an effort to keep things together in his mind. He's like the kid who needs to twiddle his thumbs or play with something with his fingers in order to help his mind concentrate on the task at hand. I made a point to spend a lot of time on the ground praising him when he did something as simple as drop his head. When I practice our in hand obstacles, I never ask him to do anything completely. For instance, when I set out two poles to back through, we take a few steps, stop for some petting and praise, then take a few steps more and repeat the process. This has helped him learn to not rush through things, and it's helped him to learn to relax while his feet are still.

Once in the saddle, I continued the reassurance of petting and praising whenever he relaxed and dropped his head. It doesn't matter if we're walking, trotting, or loping; if he relaxes and drops his head, he gets rewarded with kind words and petting from above. I try not to emphasize the negative; I don't do a lot of picking at the things he's doing wrong. I want to enforce the good things at this point.

As the relaxing has progressed, the harder work inside the round pen has begun. I've been spending more time moving, circling, changing directions. Kyle mentioned (yesterday?) that the key to a good whoa was movement. And certainly I've seen greater strides towards that once I started working harder. Wednesday had Steve Holt! preferring to stay at a steady walk and he didn't offer to kick up his heels when asked to lope. Despite another horse being in the arena, he was relaxed and ready to listen. And when I asked for a whoa, there was an immediate response. Not an immediate stop, mind you, but he was more than willing to take it down a notch.

Yesterday we made even greater progress with the whoa. More circles and turns and then out to the rail of the round pen where it's time to relax and stop. And for the first time?





The sigh is something I've been waiting for. Head dropped and totally relaxed.

I've also been out in the big arena the past couple of days. Wednesday he wasn't too sure about losing his security rail and really struggled to make a few circles at the trot. Yesterday saw a big improvement. So big, in fact, that I rewarded him with a walk around the entire arena rather than staying at one end. Now, how can be walking all the way around be a reward? Well, silly, the other end of the arena has that mirror he so adores! Only yesterday he was in for a surprise. He walked around the corner, turned to see his reflection, and there I was, perched on top of that handsome horse!

Now, I know some of you were wanting to see pics of trail dayze last night, and we did get a bit of video. But alas, we were home late and I'm clueless on how to get it off Darling's camera, so we're held hostage until school lets out and she gets a chance to upload it. Today Froglander is coming to visit, and tomorrow we've got another lesson with Curt. I've been plagued by a headache all week...sure hope it goes away!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Road Closed

I went out walking this morning to see how my neighbors fared during our recent flooding. City Boy had driven around the block with the kids, but this was the first time this week I'd taken the time to venture off my beaten path. The summer pasture where the sheep and horses reside is quite wet. The property is a long, narrow strip...air strip, to be exact, as Donna's late husband had built it up in the center so he could fly his little plane in. On both sides of the old strip, water is running deep and cold, trying to find its way out to the ditches alongside the road.

The road was not so happy to see the water coming, as there was too much for the ditch to hold, and it spilled over, cutting into the shoulder and beneath the blacktop...

...and in fact, right through the blacktop and across the road to the other side!

A couple of driveways were lost; people found themselves forced to park on the road itself (you may notice that on this little country road, there is no shoulder, so they literally were leaving cars on the road.) Thankfully, it's a peaceful little valley without a lot of traffic to deal with. The driveways have been repaired, and the road closed as work gets underway.

Back in my little world the road is definitely not closed. Steve Holt! has discovered treats. I had to shove one up inside his mouth to get him to take it, and he spit it back out at me a couple of times, but I finally convinced him I wasn't going to stop and he chewed it up. Realizing that it was a far sight tastier than the bit, Steve Holt! has wasted no time in become a treat hound. Which is good, really, because now he's got a reason to look to be inside my space, rather than me trying to get inside his. We spent a fair amount of time today just hanging out and eating junk food together.

Today was ride 11, and I must say I'm quite please with how things are going. The whoa is slow, but beginning to take shape. He's beginning to recognize that when I relax, open up at the knees and sit down it means a slow down transition is about to take place. Today at the lope (no kicking up the heels, yeah!) he was more than ready to drop from the lope into a trot when asked, and from the trot he managed a slow transition to stop. I like that he's beginning to relax. I may haul him up to a trail night at a local arena tomorrow...we'll see.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Looney Tunes Moments

Steve Holt! received a
'bronc halter' from Curt for Christmas!

Have you ever had one of those Looney Tunes moments? You know, where you suddenly find your butt isn't exactly where you though you'd left it, such as planted deeply in the seat of your saddle? Instead you're finding hang time somewhere out there in space?

Yeah...well, I had that moment yesterday. And all that ran through my mind is, "That Coyote is really a crazy clown..." with images of him standing there in mid air with that "How did this happen?" look before he went crashing to the ground.

Thankfully, my butt found it's seat prior to my entering the earth's atmosphere. Another trip to club dirt was not on my itinerary, thank you very much.

So what happened? Well, lets just say that Steve Holt! is a great deal more athletic than mustangs past. He was feeling fresh, and I didn't put the typical 40 minute warm up on him, so when it came time to start working on some turns in the round pen, he showed me what he could really do! I'm going to have to be on my toes with this guy. Or at least a little more firmly planted in the saddle.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Steve Holt!, week 5

Steve Holt! had a terrific week, despite the rain and flooding in our region. While my stalls are on the downhill side of our property, and water does tend to drain into them, it could have been a lot worse as you know after seeing Duns video earlier in the week. While things got a bit damp and even soggy, the horses were drier inside than many horses in the northwest this past week.

On to our successes of week # 5!

1) Steve Holt! learned to stand tied for long periods of time. Long to us, at least. 20 minutes at the rail while I rode Sandy at the riding club was pretty darned good, I thought. He also stood pleasantly at the side of the trailer later in the week.

A couple days ago Darling and I had both geldings tied at the rail inside the arena when another woman came in with her two quarter horses. She tied the first one to the rail alongside Sandy, then left to get the second out of the trailer. Her little mare began pitching a major hissy fit, throwing herself around at the end of her rope and screaming wildly for her buddy. My two geldings stood there alongside her; Sandy preferring to ignore the scene next to him, and Steve Holt! leaning forward and craning his neck to see around Sandy, wondering what the commotion was all about. Darling looked at me and smiled. She didn't have to say it, I knew what was coming, "Better be careful with those mustangs; they're wild, you know."

2) I can now pick up all four feet easily, and even get the front feet between my knees like a farrier. Maybe I need to start trimming my own horses? I don't think my back would hold up, but at least I know my new boy will stand patiently for me if I were to try.

3) We went for a walk and crossed a deep creek (once on purpose, once not!) Water hazards will not be an issue for this guy. It's yet to be seen how he feels about mud. My other mustangs are worried about sinking and becoming fossil fuel.

4) Ponying around the tree farm is fun! Steve Holt! did a great job of listening to me, staying back behind Sandy's centerline, walking through knee deep water and not being bothered by seeing a hiker and his dog on the trail.

5) Steve Holt! now stands tied inside the trailer and can be hauled with another horse.

6) Although we're struggling with catching and haltering issues right now (a definite step back), Steve Holt! is taking the bit easier. I can get my right arm up over his head and pull both ears under the headstall from one side without having to do one, then cross over and do the other. He's also relaxing while I stand in front of him, dropping his head down so that his poll is only chest high, allowing me to rub the top of his head and his ears...a definite sign of trust. Or is it resignation???

7) We've begun to lope! And what a lope it is. So floating on air.

8) Steve Holt!'s in hand work is coming along nicely. He's trotting around cones, although his stride is long and he's still breaking gait a bit when the circles get small. He's backing an L nicely and can sidepass down the length of the pole without mishap.

9) We rode in the big arena, if only a few minutes.

10) Saturday we hauled down to Curt's for our first riding lesson! The round pen, as you may recall, is fully enclosed with 8' walls. In order to see what was going on, Curt has to climb a big block of wood on the outside and hang over the the top of the wall...certainly a sight not common to Steve Holt!, but aside from some curious looks, he worked well. Curt said he looked great for ride 8. I asked what I should be working on, and he said he wouldn't change a thing... :)

And that, folks, is week number five recap. Five down...ten to go. I couldnt' be happier with where we're at.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Two Guys and a Girl

Sandy, Steve Holt! and I went for a ride today. I saddled Sandy up in the yard, loaded him into the trailer, then went and grabbed Steve Holt!, pulled off his blanket, loaded him and down the road we went.

Three minutes later we were at our destination...the tree farm! I'd really wanted to pony him with a second rider on hand just in case there was trouble. You know...I really need to heed my own safety advice more often. Not that we had trouble. No, far from it! But why tempt fate?

Well, tempt it we did, and we came out the victors. Steve Holt! was the first out of the trailer; he waited patiently tied to the side while Sandy unloaded, and then he had to wait some more for me to get the bridle on Sandy. And all that waiting made him yawn. Once I had Sandy ready, I untied Steve Holt!, mounted up and turned Sandy towards the trailhead.

Sandy, if we've not discussed this, is as slow as a slug. In fact, I've seen the local banana slug population get mighty excited when they see him coming, lining up for races along the side of the trail. Today was no exception. Sandy sleepily turned himself towards the trail, but was rudely awakened by Steve Holt!'s enthusiastic long stride as the taller gelding stepped up alongside and then attempted to pass us by. Evidently he didn't realize that just because I was in a saddle didn't mean he could break the 'don't walk in front of me' rule. I gave Steve Holt! a reminder pop, while Sandy glared at the young whipper snapper in disgust. Never mind that there's just a year between them, Sandy believes that he's old enough to have a driver's license. Steve Holt! immediately stepped down at my request, but Sandy had taken to heart the challenge and the rest of the ride I found myself on a speed walker.

Our ride lasted just shy of an hour, circling the tree farm, heading up the logging road a bit, then back around the farm and up to a little trail before heading back to the trailer. A gentleman and his little dog were spotted at one point and I pulled Steve Holt! up alongside me while we waited for them to go past. He looked with curiosity at the two of them but wasn't worried at all when the dog barked a greeting. Once on the trail we found it quite wet...and deep...and long! Soggy for the most part, but 20' of trail was knee deep in water. Sandy does not like water, but since Steve Holt! was more than willing to wade through, he felt he needed to keep up appearances and trudged reluctantly ahead.

I hope Steve Holt! enjoyed his time outside of the arena today. Tomorrow we're finally able to haul down to Curt's for a lesson!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lope Your Wild Ponies, Please Lope

I feel kinda bad for my friend Shelley. She drew a very powerful and reactive mare for the Northwest Extreme Mustang Makeover. Atta Girl showed a lot of promise early on. She was smart and responsive, but Shelley sensed the power this girl had and has been very careful in how she handles her. The mare was coming along nicely and Shelley felt she was ready to climb on. Attie disagreed. Strongly. Thankfully Shelley had the foresight to plunk a cowboy up there for the ride, but Attie was in a blind panic the moment that leg swung over her back.

After a few exchanged emails with myself and another friend who competed in Sacramento with us, Shelley decided Attie needed to step back a bit. She hauled out all sorts of props and began to slowly add them to the saddle so that Attie would become slowly desensitized to seeing things out of the corner of her eyes. Shelley emailed tonight to tell of Attie's explosive reaction.

Attie's fear level reminds me a bit of Sandy, but with one major difference; Attie has the power of a stick of dynomite. Or a case. Either way, this is certainly a challenge for Shelley and I pray that she doesn't feel too discouraged.

Meanwhile, here with Steve Holt! things are progressing. I'm a bit nervous about putting too much time into him during each session. I'm not typically one to work long hours with one horse, but with things so wet here, there's no way I can do two short sessions. Today we spent over 2 hours at the riding club. We did a lot of in hand work such as backing an L, sidepassing, and trotting around cones. This stuff is coming along nicely. I broke it up with a few minutes of lunging now and then...working at keeping it slow, relaxed, and listening for the whoa. Steve Holt! likes to keep his feet moving, so the circles are a nice way for him to relax after the detail work.

Between all this was time to hang out with each other and get scratched all over the face. He still didn't want me to put his halter on today, but while in the arena he dropped his head down low and I was able to rub all over his poll and inside his ears, even. He was definitely relaxing.

By the time I got into the round pen and climbed on, Steve Holt! had been put into a frame of mind that helped him stay calm, cool, and collected. You'll see his head is carried at a nice level while walking and that he's not all too nervous about the trot. Best yet, you'll see Steve Holt! take his first few strides of lope with a rider. I was terribly pleased as his first few times loping on the lungeline found him a bit unbalanced. Since then he's really figured out how to use his body while in a tight space.

To top things off, I decided to spend a couple minutes outside of the round pen. He was a bit unsure how to behave since he didn't have a rail to help hold him together, but managed to figure it out.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Flooding and a Wild Horse Rescue

Talk about frightful weather! The temps have been in the low to mid 40s here, plus raining non stop. This isn't anything out of the norm, but since there's been so much snow, and with the ground is still frozen, there's no place for all the water to go.

I got a call today from the folks who adopted Dun Dee, formerly Duns N Roses, saying they were flooding and needed to get him out of there. I was on the road when I got the call but managed to put in a couple of calls to friends to see if they had a dry place. Cheryle called back shortly after I returned home from my errands to say she'd take him for a few days. Just in the nick of time, too, as you can see from the video.

With all the rain and flooded roads, working Steve Holt! wasn't happening. I'd hoped to get in at least a little arena time, but it wasn't meant to be. Yesterday after his daring escape, I loaded him into the trailer and we spent a couple of hours in the arena going over a lot of things we've already done. I got to thinking that perhaps being the big, sensitive guy he is, that he just needed some time to go back over a few things in a quiet, laid back manner.

We spent time backing up between poles and cones, making sure that we only took two or three steps and then stopping for a lot of loving and relaxing. Steve Holt! got to the point where I could throw the lead over his neck and he would follow my body language as he backed up and even turned the dog leg, barely grazing the pole with his hind feet.

Because of his head issue yesterday, I made sure I spent a great deal of time just rubbing his cheeks, muzzle, and even his forehead and poll when he began to relax. After a bit of time doing in hand work, I led him to the round pen, sent him in a few circles with the goal of staying quiet in between transitions. A lot of whoa, stop, relax, petting, and then sending off again. Eventually, when he stopped trotting out and only wanted to walk, I climbed on. His halter was on beneath his bridle, the lead wrapped around my horn. When I asked for the whoa and didn't get it with the voice, seat and hands, I then asked with the lead rope. Instant success! And then he began to put two and two together. After a few fairly decent whoa's and a couple of relaxing stops, we called it good and came home.

Hopefully tomorrow will be less eventful than the past two days and Steve Holt! and I can have a nice, relaxing workout without any interruptions such as escapes or flooding.


I made you a promise last year to share the good, the bad and the ugly. Things got truly ugly when I posted a photo of the enormous bruise Sandy deposited on my hip the day I was thrown. Today is not ugly so much as scary. Very, very scary.

I'd had so much fun working both horses in the arena that yesterday morning I decided to do it again. I loaded up Sandy, then returned to get Steve Holt!. Steve Holt!, however, had other ideas. He's been catching up and haltering so well that it took me by surprise to have him throw his head up in the air and refuse my attempts at getting the halter on. It was though we were back to square one...although he was allowing me inside his circle enough to touch or caress his face, the moment the halter was presented I had a wild horse again.

And as a wild horse would do, Steve Holt! bolted past me to the other end of his run, across the melting ice pack, in an effort to avoid capture. And as a mustang tamer would do, I decided to push him back and forth a couple of times in an effort to make him think about what we'd learned and get his focus back where it belonged...on me and not freedom.

But it was not to be. In one of his passes down the panels, Steve Holt! realized that I had not pushed the panel closed completely when I'd walked in. The direction of his gaze caused me to look in sheer terror towards the opening. Surely it wasn't large enough...surely he wasn't going to...

He did. The panel is attached to his stall at one end by chain, and it sometimes rocks and leans. With him bouncing against it a few minutes earlier, it had rocked, but I hadn't taken notice that created just enough space for him to lift himself through the opening at the other end. But it had, and in slow motion I saw a frightened horse jump through and scoot out into the yard, and back into the trees. Across his back was my long rope, and attached to that the lime green halter that I'd borrowed from Darling. And they, like he, were gone.

City Boy had just come out of the house Seeing my predicament, he ran back inside to grab his boots. I grabbed Sandy and we made our way across the creek. Did I mention the snow is melting? Melting snow means swollen creeks, and the water was splashing over the top of my muck boots. Sandy wasn't all too sure why I was rushing him through the raging, knee deep water, but he followed obediently.

Steve Holt! had dashed through the wood and crossed the creek. Last glimpse I had of him, he was in the neighbor's yard, undoubtedly confused by the excess water and unable to find the trail he and I took the day before, he let out a shrill whinny, a clear distress call. Freedom wasn't so grand now. An answering call came from across the road where another neighbor has two mares. This is where Sandy and I found him, trotting up and down their fence line and looking very relieved to see Sandy coming to get him.

City Boy showed up a moment later. He held onto Sandy while I tried to slip a lead rope around Steve Holt!'s neck. Happy as he was that we were there, he was too excited and aggitated to allow a full capture. "Touch my neck, stroke my muzzle, but don't try to put a rope on me!" I told City Boy to just start home with Sandy. He was doubtful, but I was certain Steve Holt! would leave the mares and follow his friend. And while it wasn't as smooth a return trip as I'd have liked, we did manage to get him home and back into his run.

I guess the open gate is a hole glaringly larger than a whoa, eh? Perhaps I need to work at filling in my holes as well as Steve Holt!'s. I got sloppy and didn't secure the gate behind me, feeling over confident in my horse. Thankfully he returned home safe and sound. Hopefully I've learned my lesson as quickly as my horses learn there's, and won't make this mistake again.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall...

Well, hello! My, what a handsome gent you are...
Steve Holt! loves to look at himself in the arena mirrors.

The temp has begun to climb and the roads were once again passable. Steve Holt! found himself in a new situation once again. He was led to the trailer as usual, but once he arrived at the door he found Sandy already standing inside. This was new, and of course deserved a bit of pondering. The divider was swung closed between the two, and Steve Holt! was not sure his long body would fit. However, he gamely gave it a try and to his surprise, all four feet fit neatly inside.

Being the second horse in the trailer wasn't his only first, for no sooner was he loaded than I had him tied. This, too, was a new experience. Not the tying itself, but being tied while in the trailer. Despite having a riding companion and finding his head held somewhat stationary, Steve Holt! traveled down the road without complaint and soon found himself unloading at the riding club.

The purpose for bringing Sandy along was two fold. Naturally, I want Steve Holt! to become accustomed to riding with other horses. Secondly, I wanted to spend some time ponying him over obstacles and around the large arena. I wasn't sure City Boy was going to find time to make it up there; climbing on and riding may not be happening with Steve Holt!, so I wanted to be sure he was able to learn a few other new tricks.

Among the things he was asked to do was stand tied while I rode Sandy. Steve Holt! is not fond of standing and relaxing, so this proved to be one of his biggest challenges yet. I decided it would also help with the whoa button, as the reason he struggles in that area is due to his not wanting to stand still. You may recall a couple of weeks ago when I talked about running my hands down his legs and him moving in circles around me. This is how he deals with his nerves. Not kicking, biting or striking...just moving. So standing at the rail for 20 minutes at a time was good for him.

City Boy stopped in on his way home from town and brought me lunch. He said he'd also bring Darling up after school if I just wanted to hang out up there for the afternoon. Cool beans! Yes, I'd love to just spend a few hours doing nothing but switching back and forth between horses. And when Darling came back, City Boy stepped into the center of the round pen as my anchor, holding onto the long rope and reinforcing from the ground my request for a whoa as I rode Steve Holt!. I would say the word, relax my legs and open my knees, then use my reins. If the whoa didn't happen, City Boy would give a pop with the rope, letting Steve Holt! know that this meant stop now. It was sloppy going the first few times, but he began to understand and respond, so off came the rope and off went City Boy for home while I finished riding.

Darling had climbed on Sandy and she, too, has been working on the whoa. Sandy knows how, but Darling is learning how to use her voice and seat before her hands. That's a struggle for most of us when we begin riding. This weekend she used her hands first and once her body got the sequence figured out, she could feel an amazing difference. Yesterday she commented on how she now hasn't got to do anything but say the word and shift her weight. Good job, Darling!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Someone Make It STOP...

No sooner am I thinking maybe, just maybe we're heading out of the storm, than it blows back in. Darling had a friend come over and spend the night this weekend. When I left the house to bring her home, it had just begun to snow. 15 minutes later when I returned, the ground was white...again...

The roads were, in my estimation, a bit too icy to travel this weekend so Steve Holt! and I stayed home. On Saturday I led him to the round pen and it was, as I'd suspected, hard packed and slick. As such, I didn't spend anytime warming him up. Being brilliant like that, I then decided to go ahead and climb on his back. Now tell me, does this make sense to you? Too slick to lunge, but not to slick to climb on? Some days my thought process amazes even me. However, up and down I went, three times, and on the third time I asked him to walk once around. Because he has no whoa, we made an extra lap before coming to a stop. That was good enough, I decided, as neither one of us appeared to be real comfortable on slick footing. Not to mention, I need to get that whoa button working.

Sunday's training was nothing more than going for a walk. We went behind the barn and crossed the creek for the first time...running water a foot deep is not an issue, happily. We walked through the neighbor's field and out to the road where he was mildly on edge, but whether it was the new place, sights, sounds or just the howling wind, I did not know. I led him 20 feet down the road, then back into the snow packed field which hadn't had any horses, people or even dogs in it since the snow began. It was just white, crisp and deep. Steve Holt! decided it was perfect for a snow bath and dropped down to roll. First one side, getting up to shake, then a moment later the other side. This time shaking took all four feet into the air and he lept sideways, finding himself at the end of his rope. He threw me a dirty look and tried again to jump and play, but again found himself with a mother not allowing any fun. He's a good boy, and minded his manners as we finished walking home.

Darling and I walked down to the neighbor's arena both days so that she could ride Sandy. Snow melt has made a mess in there, so only half is usable. Half is enough, though, to learn to lope. The lighting is poor, as always in this particular arena, but you can see a happy girl on 'her' mustang. The wind was blowing and the arena door was slapping around; you can see Sandy spook at one point but Darling just sat and rode through it. I was very pleased with them both; she kept him relaxed and he decided there really wasn't much to get upset over.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Steve Holt!, week 4

What do you think, Steve Holt!?
Shall we attempt bareback and bridleless?

Maybe I should label this "Steve Holt!'s Incredible Week"!

Let's just get right down to it, shall we?

1) Trailer loading. The first attempt was beautifully executed. He went in and out several times without a hitch. The following day wasn't so pretty. We battled and put several divots in the grass as he jumped away and I sent him in a flurry of circles. His hooves broke through the icy snow, he slipped, I swore (oops) and he worked up a sweat. I finally got smart, pulled off the blanket and tossed my rope around his sorry hiney and drug him in. Next attempt at loading? Stepped right up behind me without a moment's hesitation. Since then? Toss the rope over his back and he walks in on his own.

2) First trailer ride since coming home. This is the reason he didn't want to get back in. He was nervous. But the second day's ride was smoother and we couldn't feel him jostling around nearly so much. When I open the door now, I find him with a mouthful of hay. Can't be too nervous if you're munching.

3) He doesn't bolt out of the trailer, but waits for me to give him the okay, waiting patiently inside the door.

4) I mounted. I rode. Three rides were taken this week. The first two at the riding club, the third here at home. The home ride wasn't the best. Footing is slick and I didn't warm him up like I have the other two rides. There was a bit of tension there, whether it was from him or me I dont' know. Likely me, although neither of us was sure about the footing. Once around and I climbed off. Just wanted to be able to give him another building block.

5) He's learning to trot in hand. His leading has always been relaxed at a walk, but encouraging those trotting steps, as you know, can be a challenge. But he's figuring it out quickly enough. Too bad my legs can't keep up with his big trot!

6) Walking around cones. Cones, as I mentioned while training Sandy, can be tricky for a horse who's never seen them. Steve Holt! doesn't mind, however, and walked perfect little figure 8s around them with me, followed by backing near perfect figure 8's afterwards. This was a bit surprising to me given the limited amount of back up we've done. Like, say...none.

7) Back between poles. I set a couple of poles out in the arena the other day and led him in between, then asked him to back out. Nice, straight, bumps.

8) Sidepass over poles. Never been asked before. Once he realized what I wanted, as in both front and back, not just shoulders or hips, he sailed down to the end without so much as a tap from my finger. I led him around, backed him through, asked for a pivot and sailed down the opposite direction. Can we say smart boy?

9) Standing tied. He's done it at home, and he's done it a the hitching rail at the riding club.

10) Letting me walk behind him. He's been nervous, as they all are, about me being behind him. Standing at the rail at the riding club last week, he'd swing his hind end quickly as I walked from one side to the other. Then he realized what I was doing, and I can now put my hand up on the dock of his tail and walk around without him becoming worried.

11) I was able to put the bridle on without having a halter on him yesterday. This is one of those really big deals because he's still sensitive about his face, and pulling that headstall over the ears while he has the ability to just bolt away was a sign of great progress.

It's been a big week for Steve Holt!, that's for sure. Two things that still need work: Feet. I can run my hands down his legs and ask for the foot, and he'll pick it up, then move off. I try to let go before the move off happens so that it's as painless and stress free as possible, and it seems to be helping. The other thing that needs work is a huge hole...the whoa. I'm considering doing some ground driving so he can get used to me asking for that while not at his head. If I had someone who could be there each day like I did with Sandy, the whoa transition might come easier. Perhaps the roads will clear enough to make it down to see Curt, and perhaps even Jay, this next week.

Speaking of Jay...I spoke with him the other day and he told me he's buying JoJo. You recall JoJo, don't you? I rode her last year when I began taking lessons from Curt. Big brown mare with oodles of talent and athletic ability. I loved that mare, but she's always been Jay's girl. I was really happy to hear he's buying her.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Darling Turns 15

Darling is 15 today. Legally, the child is old enough to get her drivers permit.


Surely that cannot be! Thankfully, Darling is happier on the back of a horse than behind the wheel. And it's a good thing, too. Have you seen her push a shopping car? Wheels are definitely not her thing...

What is her thing, however, is video. I found this one this morning on youtube and thought I'd share. I sure hope she doesn't mind! Happy Birthday, Darling!

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Highs and the Lows...

My phone went AWOL. Actually, my cell phones have a fondness for swimming, which renders them useless. Mine hopped out of my pocket while I was out working with Steve Holt back before the snow and it landed in a puddle. I brought it inside and set it down...and promptly forgot where I set it.

Three weeks later I finally confessed to City Boy what had happened and while I'd been unable to locate my silent partner, City Boy found it sitting on a shelf near the back door (why didn't I think to look near the door?) He replaced the SIM, or whatever it is he does when I kill my phones, and I began to listen to messages. One of the messages was from my friend and former farrier, Cheryle.

A couple years ago Cheryle took on Chance, a young mustang gelding who was suffering from who knows what. Whether it was muscle or nerves, no one knew, but he struggled to walk or get up after laying down. His sweet disposition, however, won many hearts and rather than put him down at the corrals, Cheryle adopted him and began searching for treatment. Chiropractic and massages were seeming to help, but as Chance grew and matured it became obvious that his additional bulk was causing him to struggle. When Cheryle found him down and tangled in a fence, she knew she had a difficult decision to make.

And so it came as no surprise when I heard her trembling voice telling me that she'd put Chance down. But as I listened to her voice in the message, I could tell there was something else...something deeper and more painful. Before hanging up, she began to cry softly, telling me that Regalo had broken his leg on Christmas Day and he, too, had to be put down.

My heart breaks for my friend. Regalo was adopted at 4 and had been very shy around people. Cheryle had given him time, letting him get used to her presence as she worked the horses around him. As is the case with most of these shy, difficult horses, he won her heart in a big way. Over the past couple of years I photographed him a few times...he was always curious about my camera, that curiosity winning the battle over his nerves. A couple months ago I went over to get some photos of Cheryle with her horses. She'd asked for one shot in particular; she wanted one of Regalo arching his neck and reaching down to her.

If you think about it, would you please pray for Cheryle? I can't imagine the grief she must be feeling right now.


Yesterday there was fresh, slushy snow on the ground and falling from the sky when I climbed out of bed. Thankfully it warmed up enough to make driving safe and we headed once more to the arena where I got ride number two under my belt. And yes, just for y'all, Darling skipped her ride at home so she could give you a sneak peek into our world.