Friday, April 30, 2010

Forward Motion

Forward motion is always good. Unless you're asking your pony to back up, of course. Then moving forward isn't so good.

Nearly 2 years ago...we were so slow!

Sandy had a lot of forward motion today. Almost too much. Curt is out of town at a cutting and I'm the Barn Chore Lady for the weekend. This morning I hauled Sandy along so I'd be able to sneak in a ride while there. In between feeding and turning out and cleaning stalls, I saddled my pony up and found myself on the back of a mustang who definitely wanted to show me what forward motion was all about.

Wow...the boy simply would not slow down. That pretty little circle trotting shuffle of a jog was just a tad fast. And lope? What lope? Talk about a rush!

I'm pretty certain I know the problem. The hydra bull was no-where in sight, and Sandy was certain it was going to jump out at him from around a corner at any given moment. But despite his rushing about, I was able to direct him with only one hand on the reins, circles to the left, then the right, and even nice, tidy little (ever so slow) spins. It was kind of fun, to tell ya the truth.

Red ponders a treat.

A forward motion of a slower variety is taking place in Red's paddock. He had some time off while I was feeling a bit puny last weekend, so our training consisted of things that wouldn't aggravate my lungs. He discovered it was okay to eat grain from my hand, as well as began to go after treats (that's something totally foreign to a mustang; the eating of something solid like that.) I backed the horse trailer up to the paddock and he followed me into it. This is big for such a claustrophobic boy. And today I brought the western saddle blanket back out for a re-introduction. He's worn the English pad with no problem, but the western one is heavy and hard to handle for me while he's in his whirl wind of motion around me. But I did manage to convince him to slow down and stick close enough for the blanket to get popped onto his back, after which he totally relaxed.


Thursday, April 29, 2010



He's ours! 100%, officially, and completely.


The manila envelope came in the mail the other day.


The paper inside said, "Congratulations!"


And Darling is one happy camper...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The, tale?...of Two Colts


The other day I was reminded of an internet acquaintance from a few years ago. A gal I'd 'met' on a horse forum had been watching what I'd been doing with the mustangs, and since she lived in Fort Worth (home of the Extreme Mustang Makeover), when she learned of the yearling event that was taking place she excitedly signed on. Why not? After all, it was right there in her home town, and what an opportunity to take on a yearling project for the summer!

As the competition drew near, the yearlings available outnumbered the applicants, and trainers were asked if they'd consider taking a second yearling as well. This friend wasn't too sure, but finally decided it was the right thing to do, and two yearling geldings made their way into her barnyard early one June.

The first few weeks are always difficult as you try to find your rhythm with a new horse, and this was doubly frustrating because it was her first time with wild ones, and she found herself with two very different personality types. The first colt was shy, but curious. The second was also shy, but wanted nothing to do with a two legged predator.

Try as a parent might, it is impossible not to compare one's children with one another, especially if they're twins; "Johnny is great at math, but Susie seems to have a better grasp on her language skills." And so it is with horses. Two yearlings arrive the same day, one likes you, the other most definitely does not. How to cope?


We exchanged a few emails, and I'd encouraged her to just take it one day at a time. When colt 2 caught on, he'd catch up. Easy to say, but I know from personal experience that it's much more difficult to live. It's never as easy to cope mentally when you've got one progressing and the other simply standing there ignoring you with all their being. Yet that is what this trainer was up against. And as the weeks stretched into months, she again felt herself slipping in desperation. How was she going to get colt #2 ready in time? It'd been 2 months and he was barely halter broke, while colt#1 was leading, loading, doing trail obstacles and picking up feet. He was such a joy to be was difficult to even spend time with the sulky little #2.

Again, my words to her were simply to do what he could do. It's just too hard not to compare, but she had to take #2 for what he was and help him grasp the basics. That's all she could do...and he'd at least have a better foundation going into his new home than if he'd have stood at the corrals and ended up with someone who gave up on him early on. And I assured her that when it was time to say goodbye at the adoption, it was the struggling #2 that would break her heart. She was doubtful...

So she trudged forward, with colt #1 improving by leaps and bounds while colt #2 came ever so slowly.

Then the time came for her to haul her two charges to the Makeover. She'd been so happy to report that #2 had finally begun to grasp the concepts and seemed genuinely interested in her their last week together. He wasn't as far as #1, not by any stretch of the imagination, but what a feeling of joy and relief to know he was finally, after 3 long months, taking an interest and beginning to work with her like a partner. She was walking on air...


As with all makeover events, there is a body conditioning, followed by an in-hand trail course. She took her boys through, and both boys did well. She was thrilled with #2's willingness and great attitude! Thankful that both colts had survived, she left to grab something to eat. When she returned it was to a great hustle and bustle...go look at the standings!, she was told. And as her finger ran down the list, there she was! Top ten! But wait...she was listed twice...both colt #1 and #2 had qualified for the finals!

Now she was dancing on air. Two weeks ago she never, ever had expected #2 to successfully finish the course, let alone make top ten. She hurriedly put herself together and got her boys ready for the finals. Colt #1 started into the arena...and he melted. Exhausted, he'd poured all he'd had into learning everything she could teach him the past 3 months. He was tired, and simply looked at her with longing, then rested his head on her chest as if to say, "Take me home, I'm finished." But colt #2? He was just getting started with his career. Bright, shining, and a star in the making. Did he win? No. But as I recall, he made the top five. Not bad for a colt who'd even just a month earlier had a trainer who was almost willing to give up on him.

Which only goes to show...slow and steady wins the race. When the two colts were adopted, she cried the hardest tears for colt #2. Those long days of frustration were gone; he'd gone from sullen to spectacular because she'd poured her passion into him and never given up. Somewhere deep down, he'd told her he wanted to, and she just kept plugging away, asking for that little bit of something, and when he was ready, he gave his all.

The moral of the story? Not all flowers bloom at the same time...nor do all children...nor all mustangs. Sometimes, you've just got to wait it out.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Six Boring Minutes

Pony Girl requested a video of me riding the big red mare. Yesterday I was down for a lesson and since there was a bit of time on the camera before the battery ran out of juice, I did just that.

On Tuesday when I went down to ride her, she was pretty excited. Moreso than she'd been the past couple of rides, and since time was limited for me I simply walked and stopped and walked and stopped. I threw in a little jog in a figure 8, but since she immediately went to crow hopping and wanting to lope, it was back to the walk.

I wasn't sure what to expect from her yesterday, but since there weren't horses tied to the wall waiting their turn at the bull (which had been running outdoors the previous ride), she was a much quieter horse.

So I give you six and a half minutes of boredom. Wasn't boring while I was on, but if you can make it through this without falling asleep, then kudos to you! I did keep in a little bit of her pulling and pushing so you can see us working at simply standing and relaxing. Take note of how massive this mare is when she's coming toward the camera...I swear my hips hurt when I sit on her! And maybe I ought to have dropped the stirrups on Curt's saddle before riding? May have felt a little better!

Of course, I have to share Sandy's latest accomplishments, too! We picked the pace back up a bit, so I'm needing to get him to think about stopping a bit faster at his ends, but that stuff in the middle? When he's nose to nose with the hydra bull? That's my boy! Far more exciting than the big red mare...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Come Ride With Us!

A brief glimpse into the Heady Road trail, home of the upcoming Sumas Mt Trail Challenge.
Come ride with us Memorial Day Weekend!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Potluck

Over at Sunday Stills, the theme is Potluck. At first I was confused...was I supposed to host a potluck and take photos? But no, it was simply meant that we could post an array of photos of our choice. Basically, bring to the table whatever photos we wanted to share. Now, does life get any easier than that? I dun think so!

Naturally, my potluck involves horseflesh. First up, we've got a nice walk along the creek with City Boy and Sandy. We'd been on our way down to the pasture for some grazing time, and it was just too pretty with the cherry blossoms over top, wouldn't you agree?


Oh! And I've got to tell you, because this is exciting (at least to me)...Tika got her feet done! All four! And she only tried to kick out once. Sadly it was with gusto, and the farrier was not too happy about it. He took the lead and got on her case big time, which was really good for her because, you know...I don't seem to have those same issues with her and she needs to know she can get into trouble and still be friends with someone. She got over the punishment and stood nicely for him after that, and he complimented her ability to come back around and be such a good girl. He's very impressed with my wild child. Of course, she kept doing her funky lip thing through the entire process...


( I know...this potluck photo is leftovers!)

One last tidbit (okay, it reads more like a novel) that I'll leave you with is this: I've decided to stop thinking about what Red and I have not accomplished. It's far too easy to dwell on the negatives and as slow as he's moving, they tend to overshadow the positives. But a snail's pace is still progress, right? And progress he's making. The lead is back on, though in a shortened state so that it no longer drags the ground under his feet. When it first began to swing around beneath his face, he was startled and confused. But rather than running in a blind panic (which he'd have done a couple months ago) he simply bobbed his head and tried to figure it out. Yeah! Progress! And proof that he's a thinker.

Red is able to tolerate being touched on the left and the right. I can now touch him up near his poll, just behind his ears, when on his left. I ran my hand halfway to his knee yesterday. I rubbed down onto his ticklish flank. He leads nicely. When we come to a stop, I can now walk towards him, right past his face and stop alongside his neck without him turning his hip to me. He allows me into his 'head space' on the right side, too! While eating grain from a pan on my lap, he'll let me rub on his cheeks, and he's even eaten a mouthful from my hands.

Gone are the days when he used to kick out like a bronc and not stop until I feared for his well being. He's not broken into a white lather in weeks. I tied a piece of sheet to the end of my lunge whip and can drop it over his back and neck, and let it bump on his hind legs. I can throw the end of my long rope towards him and he doesn't go cuckoo; it can even bounce around his front legs without any reaction, and limited reaction when I toss it over his hindquarters to fall down his back legs (he's destined to be a roping horse, so rope training is essential!)

But Red's biggest accomplishment this weekend was the placing of the saddle blanket into his back. He allowed me to rub his left side with in, and I could even pull it off from the right side with little trouble. In fact, I put it on him, laid the rope over his back and came in to get my camera and found him standing where I'd left him, no worries, just waiting for my return.


So there you have it. A little bit of almost everything. And just so Steve Holt! doesn't feel left he is. He needs a shave.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Don't Do It!"


The Old Master

Really, Sunshine? Really? My lens was pointed towards Curt as he hollered out his warning. Ooops. Too late. Click. Done. Taken. So sorry. Poor old horse trainer, having to put up with me.

I'd finished up with my lesson when Curt asked if I wanted to ride his red mare. Sure, you bet! I love to climb up onto anything he's got to offer, and this big ol' hunk of a mac truck was bred to the hilt. Curt had owned her sire, an own son of the great Peppy San, some 20 years ago when I'd first met him. This mare is probably 15 hands, maybe 15.1, but she's so enormous that you'd think her much taller.

I gotta tell you, if I were ever to fall off the wild horse wagon, it'd be for a mare like this. And there's simply no reason for it other than she's been allowed to get away with stuff the past several years, and that stuff is the kind of stuff I love dealing with.


What stuff is that? Needless to say this girl is bred to work, and she's got a motor that simply won't quit. And I mean that, literally. She can't stand still. She walks in this little jittery, on edge, gotta hurry up gait. She'll walk in place given the chance. And jog. And lope. She's not an easy ride simply because she's thinking go go go all the time time time.

Now, I don't enjoy the ride she's offering, but I LOVE showing her how to relax. It's the greatest thing ever! Some folks can't stand it. They want to get on and work the horse, thinking they can wear it out. You can't wear down a horse like this, though. You've got to change the approach. This girl has a mind, so asking her to walk circles, stop, back, walk some more, and staying quiet while you're doing it rather than snatching and getting upset when she tries to bounce off the wall is very important. Yesterday I rode for close to an hour, and she worked up quite a sweat despite the fact that we did more walking than anything else. It caused her nerves to explode inside, but on the outside? Her head began to drop and she started to relax, coming down from her parade walk to an almost normal horse gait.


Equally awesome to me were Curt's words of encouragement, telling me this is just what she needs, someone who's quiet up there on her back and not getting upset with her when she tries to do the stuff she does. Means the world to me that the old master feels confident enough to let me ride these horses for him.

This mare had been started by Curt several years ago and has, for the most part, been hanging out as a pasture pet with her owner. As I said, she's got a motor, and her owner didn't seem to mind much when she'd dance her little dance (it's kinda fun for some folks, eh?), but he'd like his granddaughter to be able to ride her now, so she's back in for a tune up. I'm just thrilled to be able to be part of that process, even if it's only once a week when I can squeeze in a little extra time after a lesson.

This mare, Sandy, Red, Tika...they've all got that same sort of 'stuff' that seems to call to me. A little insecure, highly intelligent, unsure of how to relax. That's the game I love to play.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Photo Session Day

The weather has been lovely. Sunny, for the most part, and when there's a cloud cover, it's been minus the hard driving rains. Such a sweet relief.

City Boy and I led the boys down to the pasture where they were allowed several hours of grazing yesterday, while the Beautiful Wadatika had our small pasture here all to herself. With soft afternoon light and rich green grass as a backdrop, how could my camera stay away? not everything was rich and green. Because before the Diva could head out for some comfort food, I asked her to play dead.


And then I asked her to sit.


Which of course she did without argument.

Then it was out for some quality grazing time.


I'd only just detangled and sprayed with a commercial detangler when she tossed her long red locks to the other side of her neck...and instant tangles again! Of course, for a few brief moments she wore some Shirley Temple curls.


It was at this point when she gave me 'the look', wondering if I didn't have enough photos of her on my hard drive already? The things a Diva must put up with...


And escaping the paparazzi is so difficult when you're inside a fenceline...


At which point this American beauty began to channel Greta Garbo...

"I want to be left alone!"


And so I did...for at least a little while.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Duns N Roses


Remember this boy? What a looker! He sure was a snorty bugger. Duns was part of the group I hauled up from Molalla (I love that name! Let's say it again, 3 times fast, all together now...Molallamolallamolalla...) Duns was used as part of my gentling demo at the fair in '08. Totally untouched before going, he gave fair goers a real show. They say red horses, duns in particular, are hot, and this boy had flames. He was the flightiest of the three horses I'd brought home, but by the end of the week he had a huge following of fans and a sweet young family adopted him.


I'm always amazed by the turn around of these horses. I know I've said it before, but it always bears repeating. Trust is key. Gain it, and they're yours. Duns was no exception. He went from being a hot headed fool one day to a girl's best friend the next. Some folks mistakenly believe a dog is man's best friend. Those people have never had a mustang. Like most, Duns became a pocket pony, begging for love and attention over the course of the next year and a half.

Sadly, Duns' family became victims of the current economy and felt inclined to give him up. Feed the kids, or feed the horse...well, of course the kids get fed! It's the only rational choice. Not really having the space here, Duns became part of the Mustang U herd and is living with club secretary, Deb, down south of me a bit. Wish he were closer because he's ready to start under saddle...well, almost. He needs to gain a few pounds and get some muscle tone. Right now he's living happily with Deb's small herd, and he's quite content.

I did go down and mess with him a bit a couple weeks ago. As you can see, he'd benefit from some muscling along his topline, and he could gain a few pounds, but he's not all that bad. I think he's got the same holstein hips that Sandy has...always makes them look thin when you see cow hips pointing out. Duns is going to be a pretty decent sized boy. He's four this year, roughly 14.3/15 hands, and he's going to bulk out tremendously. I wish he'd shed out, he looks kinda scruffy, but a you can see from his summer shots above, he's a very rich coloring, and I just love the blond highlights in his mane!

Well, enough talk. Darling got some video of him, first time with anything tightened up around his belly, first time with a bit, first time, Darling? I put a saddle on the horse that day. Where were you and the camera? For the rest of you, the saddle went up without any protest. He'd been just jumpy enough over the rope that I didn't cinch it up; I was on a time limit and didn't want to start what couldn't be finished, so we called it quits with simply walking around while the saddle was parked on his back. Again...that somehow managed to be overlooked by my videographer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Meanwhile, back at the Mudpuddle...


He doesn't even look like the same horse, now that he's 98% free of his mud. I can't tell you how pleased I am with Red's progress this week. It's been a long, slow, haul but finally....finally!...I'm seeing a horse who's beginning to trust.

Last weekend was slow. No horse activity, really, though I did make a point of going out to be with Red if only briefly to offer him grain. Last Thursday he discovered the sweet taste; prior to that, all grain offered had become chicken feed. The chickens were happy, of course, but I'd have rathered Red be eating it. And on Thursday he did...though most still fell from his lips and the hens were quite opportunistic. But the fact that those soft lips of his dove back in for another taste was the start of something wonderful, for over the next few days he began to associate me with his drug of choice...Equibalance grain.

Something else of importance happened for Red this past weekend as well. He caught his snap on the lead in such a manner that he suddenly found himself free of that nuisance. After finally being able to scratch both the left and right sides of his body, I now found myself working freestyle. Nothing helps you find the holes in your training faster than a loose horse, and thankfully all the ground work up until then was paying off. Red has progressed more this past week than ever! Oh...I wasn't able to touch the right side anymore, but he was facing up, walking toward me, and while lunging at liberty his direction changes from left to right and back again were absolutely flawless.

Fear still rules his life. There are times I find myself entertaining the thought of discouragement, but then I remember how this athletic boy sailed over a 7' fence at the corrals in an effort to escape. I remember him rearing so violently in the chutes that I was afraid he was going to smack poor Tom in the face and knock him out...and how I'd tucked my head into the office door to tell them half jokingly (and half not) that I changed my mind and wanted a different one! This is what puts it into perspective for me.

Today, Red worked up the nerve to step in and offer his shoulder to me for scratching. While standing in the center of the round pen, his head tucked and neck arched, bobbing his face in emotional discomfort, he sidepassed to me for some rubbing and scratching. Typically, he uses the fence as a security blanket, always his head is to the rail and his hip to me, which is uncomfortable given the strong kicks this boy can offer. The offering of the shoulder, then, from the center of the round pen, was a show of how much this horse truly wants to be a partner.

All good things take time. A good meal...a good wine...a good horse. Red is so intelligent and curious. He wants desperately to be friends, and is totally worth the wait to allow that to happen. I'm excited to see what the coming week brings now that he's beginning to reconcile himself to life with humans.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Okay, I Officially Don't Get It

What's all this blogger talk about moving from FPT? When I sign in under my Desperate Horsewife account, it tells me I need to act fast. But sign in under my other account, and there's no reference at all to needing to make changes. What gives? Do any of my fellow bloggers wish to help out this slightly confused horsewife?

Yesterday I woke to the sound of pounding rain. Imagine my surprise when I actually climbed from my bed and looked outside to see snow! By afternoon the skies were clear and the wind was blowing a bone chilling breeze through the valley. Dusk came early with more rain spitting clouds. Truly the nuttiest weather we've seen in a very long time.

Last week Red had both a breakthrough, and a set back. A breakthrough in the fact that I was able to rub and scratch him on both sides of his body. The set back came when over the weekend he managed to get the snap undone on his lead, which then disconnected it from his halter. Since he's not once willingly come up to me, and since he's beyond sensitive about having my hand anywhere ahead of his shoulder ( touchie the facie, please), getting the lead back on would be a daunting task.

Red is no longer the muddy mess you see here!

Despite his lack of willingness to give up on some of his fears, Red is a far sight better than Sunny ever was her first few months here with me. He's decided he likes the taste of grain, so while I wasn't doing much physically with the horses last weekend, I did make the physical appearance with the tasty treat, and he began to associate me with something good and non-pressuring.

More on Red later (like...when Darling gets the photos uploaded!)

Sandy & I headed down to Curt's on Wednesday for our lesson. Wanted to see just how much Sandy could do on his own this time, so we dropped the reins and Curt went slow, working on the basics such as the stop and turns. I was pretty pleased. His turns to the right are sharper than to the left, but he's got it pretty much figured out. I still need to work on getting my timing a bit more on target when it comes to encouraging him to look at the bull when we stop, and checking him once we get the turn (so he doesn't race to the other end before the bull gets there!)

Watching the video put a smile on my face. Thought I was pretty hot stuff...till Darling came along on Rose and upstaged me...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

'Twas a Rough Week

It was Friday morning when a weary City Boy came through the door after working the night shift. If I'd picked up my phone and checked messages received, I'd have noticed one that came through in the middle of the night from him saying, "I'm Okay"...but I didn't. So when he walked in with the weight of the world on his shoulders, unresponsive to my usual morning cheer, I had no idea why.

If you live in the northwest, even down into Oregon and beyond, you undoubtedly heard about the oil refinery explosion. This is where my City Boy works, and it's where he was, and where he was called to as a first responder. And by 7:00 in the morning, when Darling was just climbing out of her bed and he was heading to his, the world seemed cloaked in darkness.

Five people lost their lives. Two are currently hospitalized and looking at surgery (today and tomorrow, I believe.)

This event has hit everyone so hard...I can't even tell you the effect it has had on the community.

On Easter, my last post, I did my Sunday Stills on what Easter meant to me. I'd found the hymn on youtube and read for the first time the story behind the words. It touched me. All week they've floated in and out of my mind, comforting in a small way, knowing that no matter the hardship, my Lord is still risen and there remains hope for those who've claimed His name. I do not know how those who don't know Him face tomorrow when tragedy strikes...without hope, what is there?


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Then Sings My Soul


When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul!

Please take the time to view the video, which tells the story behind the song.
I hope it inspires you and lifts you up this Easter.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Crazy Weather

If you live in the northwest, you're undoubtedly wondering what the heck is going on with this weather! Beautiful and sunny one moment, hailing golf balls the next, snow falling on the hills and rainbows forming during showers. And then there's the wind...

The view from my computer

This does not stop the activity here, however! Wishing I'd had my video camera with me the other day when Tika was showing off to a couple of Arabs at the riding club. She was snorting and blowing and absolutely floating...or was it flying?...around the round pen! This girl is a total Diva.

Red is now allowing me to touch the right side of his body. He's not thrilled about it, but no longer trying to drag me through the mud (which he doesn't do, because I'm a wimp and let go of the rope before getting that mudnure facial.) I was even able to let fingers slip up to his poll and onto his cheeks. And he sniffed me...of course on accident. He would never admit to actually moving his nose over to my arm on purpose.

Sandy and I have been working on our cutting skills on a regular basis, and I'm seeing the fruits of our labor beginning to bud. Would like to see his head down a bit lower...cutters like low heads. But will we ever make it to a show? Probably not. So I'll take what I can get on this boy, learn all I can, and maybe by summer Tika will be ready???

Curt got the better of me when he turned the bull around the opposite direction. I thought we were done! Way to confuse easily done. I'm going to have to keep a sharper eye on that sneaky devil...