Thursday, October 30, 2008

Todd said that the swelling in Chico's leg finally went down today. It'll be one of those mysteries where you never find out what was actually wrong. There was no sign of a wound, no heat, and he wasn't lame on it.

I haven't been able to go out and see the horses since Saturday. I've been quite busy with work. We have a scientist from U of Virginia visiting the lab to learn and do the genetics portion of her PhD project studying coyote habitat use in New Mexico. I am teaching her the lab techniques and she's never worked in a lab before (other than in chemistry classes and such). I enjoy teaching and working with others, but it is quite stressful. Stressful in the sense that you have to be very organized in your thoughts and explanations, and you must relate everything to how much they understand about the topic. This student is very sharp and easy to work with, but I still end up talking for at least 5 hours straight when I am working with her. My poor vocal cords are not used to that, and right now they are aching. I think a good night's sleep will help...which means that I am not going to write too much about my horses. I planned to do another installment from back in 2005/2006 with the baby mustangs, but I can't muster the effort.

Countdown until my horses leave Idaho (with my Dad and I): 15 days

I'll try to document our trip with photos and blog updates when I can. We plan to stay at a horse hotel in central MT the first night, then the second night we'll arrive at my friend's place in the very SE corner of MT. We plan to stay there for a whole day (and hopefully ride on their ranch). We'll probably also stay at a horse hotel in NW Iowa (even though we'll only be 5 hours from home at that point). So it'll take us 5 days to get home. What a long trip!!! It'll be just my dad and I, so I think it's going to be a great bonding experience.

I get almost 2 weeks to spend at home, fixing fence, settling my horses in, playing with my neice and nephew, and visiting with family. Then I have to fly back to ID to finish up work and get myself ready to relocate to Wisconsin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chico has a swollen leg!

Today I planned to take another bareback ride on Chico, since the last time was so fun. I pulled him out of the pasture and we goofed around for a while. I took a picture of Chico's wound that's all healed up. The scar is the horizontal line. The vertical line is just a bit of hair shaved off where another horse bit him.

It's healed up way better than expected. This is what it looked like back in April. The vets tried to stitch it up, but it was a day old by that point and the stitches pulled out. He ran into the barn and slipped on a pallet that the hay bales had been on.

Then I showed him the mule deer hide in the back of Todd's truck (his dad shot one a couple days ago). Chico was quite unsure about that.

Then I noticed that his left hind leg was all swollen up! It was the "cankles" look that I saw on him at this exact same time last year, only this time is only one leg. It doesn't feel like there is any heat in it, and his gaits weren't off at all. Interesting that it'd be just this leg, because it's the other leg that has the scar on it from the cut, and also the recent poke with a tree branch in the woods.

This picture is his right leg...not swollen.

Here's his left leg, all swollen! But no heat and doesn't seem tender.

Because he didn't seem lame, I took him for a two mile ride anyway. I thought maybe the movement would help the swelling go down. He did well. We walked, trotted, and cantered, and I could never feel any off-ness in that leg.

When we got back, I looked at his leg again, and the swelling really did go down! Here's the left leg, almost normal.

Then I trimmed all four feet. Here's a before picture of his left front.

Here's an after picture of his left front. I primarily took down the heels and trimmed the frog up.

I noticed that I think he has a case of thrush hidden in the clefts of his frog (which explains his slight tenderness on rocks when he usually has the most imprevious feet). The yellow color in the picture is from iodine that I used to treat his frogs. If you look closely, you can see bruising in the white line at the toe. You can also see actual separation between the hoof wall and the white line (not directly at toe, but off to the sides a bit). This is separation growing out that occured back in June when all three horses were thrown out onto lush June pasture without any transition at all (I couldn't be out to do it because I work, and no one else thought it was important enough to do it...thankfully no one actually went lame. They just all have this major dish in their hoof walls with separation. It's almost all grown out now though. Lately I've been seeing this bruising in the white line at the toe on all three horses, but I think that it is probably due to the separation growing out and not anything that I am doing wrong.

By the time I was done trimming (takes me hours to do one horse), Chico's leg had started to look more swollen again from just standing around, so I gave him some bute and put him away. Hopefully he'll be better tomorrow.

Here's a picture of Todd scraping the hide of the mule deer. He's going to tan it and make something out of it. He's done this before.

I apologize for the funny picture arrangement. I'm not sure what happened, but I don't feel like fixing it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Favorite Chico and Catlow pics

I love hearing about the origins of all our mustangs. It is especially fun to hear about horses that were adopted from the same herd (well, actually from the same management unit...each unit has several smaller herds). Sometimes they look remarkably alike and sometimes they look quite different. I'm requesting everyone to post their favorite conformation shot of their mustang (be sure to include age info and management herd!)

This is Catlow from South Steens. She is bright sorrel with flaxen mane and tail and big blaze face. The picture was taken last year when she was 3 yrs old. Todd makes her looks small, but she's not really that small.

I took this picture of Catlow this summer...while she is standing funny so it's not a good conformation shot, it really show off her blaze face. When I took this picture, all the horses were a little excited about the llamas across the road.

And here are a few of Chico from Beaty's Butte. He is a solid bay with no white. Pictures all taken the same day as Catlow's 3 yr old pic. Chico is 3 years old here also.

Chico doesn't always look this glamorous...generally he looks like a scruffy pony, but Catlow always looks pretty with her blonde mane.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Meeting a mustang lover

Today, Andrea came out and we went for a trail ride. We wore blaze orange so that we would be safe going into the canyon. There was no sign of any hunters, so I think we were safe!

Andrea's mustang, Tonka, has such thick bone! I was surprised! He is an interesting mix of stout and light (he's not thick through the body, but his bone is amazing!).

We had a really good ride. It was a beautiful fall day. Tonka was very laid-back and Catlow was quite calm too (she did get nervous a couple of times). Tonka learned to put up with my crazy dogs crashing all over!

It was great to be able to chat about our horses. I hope that I can find a group of mustang lovers in Wisconsin.

Very bad things...

Last week, I was forwarded an email about some APHA horses a woman is offering for free to good homes. They come with papers. The email had pictures of the three horses. All paints, one a bay, a palomino and a buckskin. The buckskin caught my eye and she is only 2. I dimissed the email, but started thinking about it again this week. Today I emailed to ask questions about the 2 year old buckskin filly. Very very bad...

I'm seriously considering going to pick her up as a project train and maybe resell. We can fit her in the trailer on the way to Wisconsin. Very bad...

She's super cute, although it's hard to really tell about her conformation in the pictures...they weren't the best positions. She looks like she has a decent back, nice hock set, straight legs, very cute head. She also has a lot of white on her body, but three black legs, and a black mane and tail. Very bad...

I'm not typically a paint person. I like solid horses because their lines are so beautiful. The white blotches on a paint break up those beautiful lines. But this horse...caught my eye. We'll see. I'll keep you updated. Very bad...

The best part is that we have enough hay, so one more is no more burden than 3. I just need to find time to work with them all.

So, tomorrow, Andrea and I are going for a ride together. She's coming out to where my horses are kept and we'll ride from there. We'll probably both have pictures!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Today I went out to take a salt block to my horses They'd been without for a week or two and I kept forgetting to get one. I don't normally get to see my horses during the week (they are 15 miles away from where I live). Sometimes I can manage it, but it is almost impossible to do anything with them now that it gets dark so early. That's why I spend all weekend with them...I'm making up for the lack of them during the week!

Anyway, today I did go out early because I had some work to do that I could do in the evening. They were ecstatic about the salt (I gave them a block, but also offered them loose salt...that surprised them; they expected the bucket I held to have oats in it).

Then I jumped on Chico to take a short bareback ride around the loop (about 1.5 miles, through the woods and along the road). This was Chico's first official bareback ride off the place other than around the yard. He was awesome (he's a very confident horse anyway), and his back is SO comfortable! He is rather round and short backed. I was shocked by how comfortable he was to sit on bareback. We trotted and he was even more comfortable! Then we cantered, and OMG, I could have done that forever! He has the smoothest canter of any horse I've been on. I think it is due to his conformation...he might be built rather upright with short pasterns, but his short coupled body means that he is just naturally collected. He is a dream to canter on. I'm not really was the most comfortable ride...I could have sat on it for an hour without tiring!

We stopped cantering at the nieghbors pond so that the dogs could go down and jump in (it's a ritual). So I was standing, letting Chico air up and the dogs swim, when a car came down the neighbors driveway. The neighbor raises arabians and has a lot of experience with endurance racing. She also boards several horses at her facility. The car coming down the driveway belonged to one of her boarders (I think). The girl drove very slowly and while she was still far away, rolled the window down to ask if it was okay for her to drive past (I appreciate the caution, but really, would I ride my horse on the road if cars were a problem?). I said yes, so she pulled out, then stopped alongside me to chat a bit. She was shocked that I was riding bareback, and ON THE ROAD of all places. She said, "You must have a good seat! Or you really trust your horse!" I said I trust my horse. Then she asked how old he was and I got raised eyebrows again, indicating surprise, when I said he was 4. She asked if he was one of the neighbor's horses, I said, no, he was mine, but he lived at the neighbor's...I don't think she knew he was a mustang even though his brand was showing plainly. Then she left. I didn't ask her about her horse, but I've seen her driving back and forth while I ride past there, and once I might have seen her sillouette in the indoor arena. I don't think she rides her horse outside. I don't undestand the mentality it takes to be able to ride only in an arena. I've done it, and I'd do it occasionally for training, but always with the intent to get out and go somewhere! I think there are a lot of people that are afraid to ride their horses outside. This girl was included. I was thinking it'd be fun to see if she wanted to ride with me sometime, but by her comments, I decided it probably wasn't worth even asking. Anyway, it was interesting, and of course, made me proud of my good little mustang again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Round pen session - Catlow

This is a video clip from Catlow's first round pen session. In contrast to Chico's, this starts with the beginning of working Catlow (this is how my mom chose to edit the video when she was burning it onto a DVD with other things...she thought watching horses go round and round was boring, so she shortened them). Todd begins working with her, and you can see how reluctant he is to touch Catlow with the whip, instead he pops it to move her around the pen. Catlow starts out looking relaxed, but then starts to get confused and doesn't know what to do...her answer is escape, but she can't. She does face up with Todd's mom a couple of times, but is too scared to let her approach. We ended up stopping to remove her leadrope (not on video), but she slipped out of the panel and got away from us, so we worked with her more in the round pen, then tried again later and were successful. I don't believe we were able to touch her unless she was restrained that day, but she did get better over time. When I took over her training, I changed my tactics with her (much slower) and she really responded well.

Interestingly, when I was working Catlow this spring, she was very one-sided. Her left side was much more resistant and self-protective (tossing a rope around on that side caused a high head and wrinkle under the eye...even to this day), but the other side (right side), was soft and more relaxed from the beginning (no wrinkle, accepted things with a lower head). She is most relaxed when she can see me with both eyes. I noticed that we worked her in the round pen primarily counter clockwise (her left side). I wonder if it is just coincidence, or if it has something to do with how we worked with her (that her left side is more resistant, and that's the side she experienced the round pen session from).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My weekend rides

Generally, on weekends, I try to ride all three of my horses both Saturday and Sunday. I sometimes get all three rode in a day, but I'm usually very tired by the time I'm finished. Sometimes I accomplish all three by riding one and ponying another, then doing a swap in the middle of the ride and switch up the one I'm riding. If I end up riding all three, the first usually gets ridden the furthest, and the last gets a short ride. Though sometimes I take them each on the same's never boring to go the same way three times in one day. Each of my horses is so different that it's kind of fun to see how each one handles the same situations. Some days I decide that all three will have a trotting day, so I try to trot everywhere we go. Sometimes I try to focus on cantering and stopping. Sometimes I really focus on doing leg yeilds or sidepassing. But then sometimes I just want to ride and sight-see without thinking and focusing a lot. We don't have an arena or anything (just a round pen), so I do all of my riding out on the trail and roads. Usually I ride alone (well, with the horse and two dogs).

Usually I ride on trails in the canyon, but since hunting season started this fall, I've been riding on the roads. I find that when I ride on the road, I tend to focus on doing more training leg yeilds and nice circles and stuff. On the trail I tend to just ride and maybe trot and canter some. So, even though I've lost the ability to ride in the canyon, I've been having lots of fun riding on the roads. Plus I've also started riding to new places I've never been to before, simply because I haven't focused on travelling the road so much before. I already know all the trails in the canyon, even though there are lots of different routes to take, I've been on just about all of them. Going down a road I never had a reason to travel before, it's so easy to just keep riding to see what is over the next hill or around the next corner.

Today, I only rode Catlow, but our ride ended up being 9.5 miles long. We crossed Hwy 8 and rode north toward the mountains (never got there, but did hit the forest). She was a lot calmer today, than the weekend before when we only rode to Hwy 8 but did not cross (it was new territory for her). Catlow gets nervous in new places. When she's nervous, she really speeds up her walk, sneezes very forcefully, and sometimes does the blow alarm snort (when she's REALLY nervous). She also gets very stiff throughout her body...she will listen to my aids, but she will tend to overreact a bit (if I ask her to flex, she will do it very fast and pull her head back straight forcefully...but she's getting so much better about staying soft even when she's a little nervous now...only REALLY scary things get her that uptight now).

We started out walking slowly away from home with Catlow constantly looking back and trying to turn around if I let her (this is normal when she's out by herself), but today I focused on getting her to keep her body straight (used reins and leg, asked her to accept contact on the bit and drop her head). If I did this while walking, she tried to sidepass (will go back and forth between my legs). At first I wondered if she was just confused. I usually ride on a loose rein, unless I am asking her to pivot, turn, or back, so rein contact means I will be asking her to do something. But I have been working with her tucking her nose and accepting rein contact while walking straight, so I think the problem was that she had too much time to be distracted and come up with ways to slow her forward advance away from home (by weaving back and forth down the road instead of staying straight). And indeed, when I asked her to tuck her nose, soften and stay straight while trotting, she did much better. I asked her to trot quite a bit away from home because she was walking so slowly otherwise, I felt like we weren't getting anywhere. Eventually, we got far enough away from home, that she wasn't as comfortable anymore and sped up her walk. Even then I still focused on keeping her straight, and focusing on me. I was very pleased with how well she responded and really did seem to focus on what I was asking, but as soon as I'd give her loose rein back as a reward, she'd raise her head back up and start ducking it out side to side (Catlow always seems to be convinced that whatever is going to eat her on the trail, will be coming from behind her...or maybe she just can't stand having a blind spot, so is constantly swinging her head out side to side to see everything).
After today, I've decided that I think Catlow does best if I am constantly there for her...always on the rein telling her what she should be doing. If I don't, then she becomes insecure and quite nervous (and just wants to go back home). She'd prefer that I'm not constantly asking her to tuck her nose (so I only do that intermittently), but she does stay much more focused if I shorten up on the reins rather than leaving a big drape. Catlow is a different horse when I ride with a friend on Cody, though. She is completely relaxed as long as she doesn't have to be watching out for herself (Cody is supposed to do that because she's the boss mare). My friend who rides with me on Cody has never truly seen Catlow nervous because she only gets that way alone.

We saw lots of scary things today. We saw an elk carcass dumped on the side of the road (not really that scary, according to Catlow...the dogs loved it though). We saw a field full of cows. This was pretty scary. Her heart was just pounding in her chest. I could feel it through the saddle. Catlow needed to stand and stare at them for a long time before she could break her gaze with them...the cows just stared right back; they weren't really all that close to us...maybe 150ft. We saw a large bay horse clopping down the road at a trot pulling a woman riding in a small two wheeled buggy (never would have expect that). I dismounted for this one because I had my dogs with me, and I wasn't sure that they wouldn't run up to the horse, and of course I didn't want them to cause problems. Plus I wasn't entirely sure how Catlow would handle passing a strange horse pulling something behind it. The dogs were good; they stood next to me with my hand on their collars. Catlow was alert, and as soon as the horse drew alongside us, she realized it was a horse, and nickered in welcome and excitement. After they had passed, she wanted to turn around and go with them (they were going toward home, afterall), but she settled down quickly and we continued on our ride. We saw a pack of three dogs that were hanging out on the road at an intersection (as though they did this all day everyday). They were well behaved though and the dogs greeted and we moved on. On the way home though, we were only a mile away from home and passed a farm that we've ridden past many times before. This time was different though because the cows were in the pasture next to the road and there was one cow only about 25 feet away from the fence (although we were on the other side of the road riding in the field). Catlow was very worried by this. She stared really hard at them, her heart started pounding, she did the alarm snort. She really wanted to leave, but I kept her staring at them. Then I asked her to cross the road and approach the fence. She did, but wanted to wheel and leave. I kept her facing the cow, then pulled her back and walking her in tight circles (she was very nervous and didn't want to let the cows out of her sight, so her turns were super fast, then slower when she saw the cows again, then super fast...). Then I had her stand and face them again (super alert mustang with head high and ears pricked). By this time, the calf had come closer and all the rest of the cows started to amble over to see what was so interesting (for some reason, these cows were fascinated by my shepherd mix dog, but didn't even look at my border collie/corgy mix). There we were, Catlow standing in the middle of the road staring at a lineup of about 15 cows and calves with a dog on either side of us. Catlow's heart still pounded, she alarm snorted, and the cows all spooked, but only jumped back a few feet. This actually seemed to make Catlow feel a little better. The cows advanced again, and we just watched them. I think that as she watched their movements (just like a horse, but with a square body and no neck...and very slimy noses), she decided that they were not so scary. I asked her to advance further to the fenceline. She did, and dropped her head and started eating grass. One of the calves came right up to the fence to try to sniff noses with her. At this point Catlow was not scared anymore and she just continued eating, completely ignoring the calf. The rest of our ride was uneventful, and Catlow got to be sprayed down when we got back, since she had gotten very sweaty and it was still warm out.

Yesterday, I rode all three horses and it was a bareback day. I had never ridden Catlow or Chico bareback, except for a bit the week before, I had led Catlow down to the feild across the road to graze a bit, then hopped on bareback with halter and lead and rode her back, and the night before, I hopped on Chico in the driveway just to see how he'd react...both were fine with it. I did the same 2 mile loop for all three. I started on Cody (she has a nice wide round back with lots of cushion). We did some trotting and cantering. Cody has the most amazing jog trot, that is the easiest thing to sit in the world. She also has a smooth canter, but she's kind of lazy, so she tends to need urging to keep her there...the frequent breaks into half trot/half canter aren't so comfortable, but the ride was run. Then I rode Catlow. She is much more angular and narrow, and I had to work to keep my seat bones from digging into her back and hitting her spine. She was her usual slow weaving walk away from home, wanting to go back, but got better after we lost site of home. I also trotted with her, and she was very good...she maintained a smooth slow trot. So, I asked her to canter. Catlow is a lot more forward and has a wonderful big stride with lots of can feel her using her hindquarters when she canters (unlike Cody, who is quite lazy). Cantering bareback on Catlow was so thrilling...she was smooth, and the power! She cantered slowly and in control, but her strides were so powerful that she really covered ground. By the time I got back and it was Chico's turn, my legs were too tired to do another round of bareback, so I had to use the saddle with Chico. I think that Chico might be stiff in his right hind (the one that has had two injuries this year), but not enough to really alter his gait; just enough to make him sometimes more reluctant to move out and tire quickly.
When we got back, the sun was just setting and it was beautiful, so I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures.

Chico was very patient while I snapped lots of photos from his back.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chico round pen session - video

I found the video that I made of the mustangs the first year we had them. My mom had made it into a DVD for me (it was recorded with an old VHS tape), and I figured out how to get clips off that DVD. I uploaded Chico's clip to youtube. It's not the best quality because I had to save it in a low quality format to make it a usable size.

If you are interested, here's the link. The is not the whole video I has recorded. This is a 7-8min long section, taken from the end of the video when we were getting to the point of touching him.

I do have video of Catlow, and I'll post that soon, as soon as I get it uploaded (takes a long time!).

Yesterday, the vet came out to draw blood on the three. They were so good. The vet had never been around mustangs before and was pleasantly surprised by how nice they looked and how well behaved they were. He had to poke Chico about 7 times in the neck because he couldn't hit the vein right away. Chico just stood there completely relaxed and let this stranger poke him in the neck. He said he heard some mustangs turn out really well, but that some are very difficult to work with. I was glad I could show him his first mustangs as well-trained/behaved!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Preparing to move - Oct 2008

Chico comes to visit with me when he sees me enter the pasture (last weekend).

Tomorrow morning, the vet is coming out to do the health checks and coggins tests on my three horses. I am getting them ready to move from Idaho to Wisconsin in mid-November. Chico and Cody have been trailered several times, but Catlow has not. I've only loaded her, given her a bit of grain, tied her, closed the dividers, walked around, then went back and unloaded her. I've done that several times this year and a couple times last year. It's not my trailer, otherwise I would have taken her somewhere by now. I think she'll do okay. She's completely relaxed about loading, but the floor has never started moving under feet yet!
I am moving to Wisconsin in March, but wanted to get my horses there before the depths of winter, simply for cost effectiveness. My parents have hay fields and lots of pasture in Wisconsin and neither are being used right now. They cut hay this summer and put it up. It will be so much cheaper than paying to feed them out here!

My Dad will come out and together we will drive them to Wisconsin. I think it will be a fun trip. Does anyone have any good "horse hotels" to recommend between Idaho and Wisconsin? We'll be taking I-90 all the way there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Roundpenning the mustangs

Sometime in the summer of 2005 (I think it was probably in late June), we began working with the mustangs. It was time they learned to be touched, and led; time to become integrated into the herd. At this point, I really still felt like I wasn't the right person to work with them because I didn't know anything about training horses. So Todd's mom stepped in to show us how to "round pen" the babies as a training tool so that they'd get over their fear of us and allow themselves to be handled. I'm not really sure how much she had actually done with this. I remember her saying that they had an older mustang when the kids were young, and they ended up not being able to do anything with him (I won't mention what they did to get rid of the horse). I think she had watched some round-penning demos, but I don't think she had done all that much actual "round penning" with her horses, and I know she had never worked a mustang in one. Nonetheless, she has a lot of horse experience and has trained many horses.

They have a round pen built into the corner of their large arena/barn. We worked with Chico first. I video taped the session. By this time, Chico has caught his leadrope in something and ripped it off, but he still had his halter on. Todd's mom stood in the center of the round pen with a long lunge whip and drove him around the pen at a trot/canter. She waited for signs that he was paying attention to her (cocked ear), and then watched for submissive behavior (dropping the head, licking and chewing). When he did that, she'd step out in front of him so that he'd stop, then she would stand with her side to him (not head on), and sidle up to his shoulder. If he took off, she'd drive him around again, then stop him and start over. She did get closer and closer to him, until eventually she had her arm extended out (with her fist closed) toward his shoulder. He took off a couple times, she drove him around more, then eventually was able to scratch his shoulder and his neck, and pull on his halter. For Chico, this method seemed to work pretty well, although if I could go back and do it myself, after learning all I know now, I would not have been nearly so aggressive as Todd's mom was. She was very agressive, and smacking him with the whip (which I've decided I think is the last thing you should do with a fearful horse) to get him moving around the pen. At one point, he was trying to avoid her so intently that he got his leg caught in the round pen panel for a second (thankfully he wasn't hurt at all). So that ended our several hours session with Chico (who was dripping wet by the time we were done). It was too late that night to work with Catlow, so we did her the next morning.

Todd wanted to try to work with Catlow (he thought his mom was a bit agressive too). Todd stood in the center with a shorter lunge whip that you could crack and make a loud "pop". Todd was very passive and stood with his huge frame hunched and rounded. He made certain not to look directly at Catlow, and he tried to drive her around the pen with the pop of the whip. Catlow has a very different personality than Chico (very evident now that I know her so well and I can easily see where we went wrong in the round penning exercise). She also still had her leadrope attached to her halter. Catlow didn't show the same submissive signs that Chico showed, and she also was having difficulty maintaining direction around the pen. She tried to get out of the pen at the gate and repeatedly changed directions while Todd was trying to drive her forward. She also kept stepping on her leadrope and jerking her head down, to which her response was to jerk it back up. Todd was very passive about drving her around and trying to keep her maintaining the circle at one direction. His mom got irritated with him for being so passive about it, so she jumped into the pen and took over. She stepped right up to her aggressive posture with swinging the whip to smack her when she changed directions. Nothing that either Todd nor his mom did seemed to cause Catlow to want to figure out a way to work with us (which is supposedly what the purpose of the round penning is...mimic the herd boss, drive the horse out until they search for a way to want to come back in, or "join up"). Well, Catlow was having none of this join up thing, although when Todd's mom would stop driving her forward, she would spin and face up with her (head high, eyes wide, very stiff posture). If Todd's mom tried to approach her, she'd take off again. After a while, we decided her stepping on her leadrope repeatedly was causing a problem, but we couldn't get close to her, so chased her into a small pen and made a "squeeze chute" with panels to be able to reach her and take her rope off. Even after than, she still did not show any obvious signs of submission when begin driven around the pen. We decided that maybe her ducking her head was the way she showed that submission, but we did not have nearly as successful a session as with Chico.

Looking back, I know we were pushing Catlow too fast. She is a horse that is extremely fearful of people and if you push her too much, she shuts off and retreats inside herself. When she is there, you can do nothing that will get through to her and pull her back out of herself. She is in survival mode. While the round penning did eventually allow us to touch her, she was only barely tolerating it. She had shut off and wasn't going to learn that she had nothing to fear that way.

The mustangs did eventually lose their dire fear of us (they were still fearful, but not necessarily of us...only if we moved to fast!). We did not round pen them very much. Primarily we just slowly approached them in an enclosed area. Chico lost his fear much faster than Catlow did. Once he lost that fear though, he decided that people were not fun, and really wanted nothing to do with us. He just wanted to be a horse. Catlow more slowly lost her fear and really enjoyed being scratched, so we could approach her in the pasture and scratch her body, but never her face.
Here I am showing off my gentled mustang, Chico.

Here are the mustangs integrated into the herd of quarter horses (numbered about 25 - 30 head at that time I think).
Even though they were integrated into the herd, the two mustangs and Cody hung out together quite a bit. Here, Chico peaks over Cody's back.
I have to include this picture of Cody (the not-mustang) because she is a very important member of my herd. So far, none of the Cody pictures have shown her head (she's kind of a piggy about eating), so here is a nice side-view of her.
Pretty Catlow...
They are so cute. I think Chico must have scraped his face on the round bale feeder.
The end of 2005 saw somewhat gentled mustangs that we could handle and lead a bit, but they were nowhere near easily handled. Both wore their halters all the time. To catch them, we'd approach them, scratch on their body, then sneak the leadrope clip onto the halter. They'd startle and kind of freak when they heard that, but at that point, you had them caught and they would lead and tie (I know, you aren't supposed to sneak, but I didn't know any better!). I think the startling when we tried to clip the leadrope on was a combination of truly being startled at the noise, but also disliking getting caught.

Todd did remove Catlow's halter at the end of summer that year. At this point, he could take her halter on and off, although she wouldn't let you touch behind her ears.
Look how much she's grown in just a summer! By the way, Todd and I built the rail pen you can see behind them in this picture. This was to give the mustangs a pen to stay in where they could go outside, but by the time we had it finished, they already knew what fences were and were running around with the herd.

Mustang's first day out to pasture - June 2005

I was looking back through old pictures, and based on when they still had their leadropes on and the fact that when we worked with them for the first time, Chico, the bay gelding, had gotten his leadrope off, it appears that we did not work with them until almost 2 months after they'd been at the ranch. So, we let them settle in for a long time. In the meantime, I'd found a 2 year old quarter horse for sale in the June 2005 Montana Horse Trader. I fell in love with the picture of this horse, and I begged Todd's mom to call and ask questions about her, since I didn't feel experienced enough to know what to ask. Todd's mom and I drove 7 hours with a horse trailer to "look" at this filly. She was better than we expected for her very reasonable price, so of course, we came back with her. This was another case where the horse was mine before I officially owned it (I'm bad, I know, and someday it will get me in trouble). I really wanted to learn how to train horses, so I thought I could start working with her right away that year since she was 2 and the mustangs were only yearlings.

June 2005

The set of pictures I'm including in this post were taken in June 2005. These are of my 2 year old quarter horse, who I named Cody, and the two yearling mustangs, Chico and Catlow, with their halters on and leadropes in tow. This was one of the first times the mustangs had been out of the barn. They knew what a fence was at this point, even though we hadn't worked with them. They learned a lot from watching the other horses. The grass in the pastures was just AMAZING this year. It has not been that tall since.
Here are Catlow and Chico, waiting for Cody to come out of the barn so they can go graze in the pasture.

And out in the pasture, the horses are submersed in grass. I don't have a single picture that shows Cody's head (Cody is of course, the largest of the horses here). And Catlow, peeking over Cody's back...
Chico keeps a close eye on me as I inch closer to get a picture of him. My favorite thing about Chico when he was this age are his large expressive innocent eyes and the light colored hair that encircles them.
I approach Catlow to get a nice picture of her. She turns and notices that I'm getting closer and I am almost in between her and the other two horses.
She feels threatened so she takes her mouthful of grass back over to where the other two horses are grazing....
...then looks back keeping her eyes on me. Can you tell yet which horse ends up being the more difficult one to gain the trust of? Interestingly, you can see that Cody is a strange shade of dark bay. Well the following summer, she shed out a lot lighter (but has been dark every summer since), so I had her tested by Animal Genetics in FL. Cody carries the cream gene, so she is technically a dark sooty buckskin, hence her interesting color.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Some background on my experience

Very soon, I'd like to talk about the first few sessions where we worked with the mustangs, but first I'll have to introduce a little background to my experience with horses.

Well, I have ALWAYS been infatuated with horses. I ran around on all fours. My dad cut 2X4's into blocks I could hold onto, so that I made a "clippy-clop" sound as I galloped from here to there. My older cousin would take me riding and so would my great aunt. Finally when I was 10 years old, we bought a ~15yr old POA from an auction. Pogo (I named him after the bouncy sticks) was an ex-gaming horse, so when he first came to us, he was very hot. My dad spent a lot of time riding him and calming him down before he turned me loose with him. And turn me loose, he did! I didn't have any other horse friends nearby so most of my riding exploits were alone. I rode my little POA everywhere, even "downtown" Warrens (tiny town about a couple hundred people). We blazed trails and had adventures. Pogo would go anywhere I asked. I learned excellent balance, but I never took any riding lessons, so I'm sure my form was less than great. Also, Pogo had two speeds: walk and RUN! If I let him run for a while, he'd eventually slow down into a pseudo-canter, but as soon as he caught his breath, he wanted to go again. If I let him run anywhere near home, I'd have to fight him as he jigged all the way home. Needless to say, I usually walked everwhere. We did trot some, and if I wanted to run, I did it early in the ride as we were going away from home so that he'd settle down again. And usually, the last 1/4-1/2 mile to home, he'd jig anyway, so I usually dismounted and led him because I didn't want him to be all hot and lathered when we got back. Pogo was my first horse and I really couldn't have asked for a better one. He had the most outstanding feet. The only time he wore shoes was the time my dad took him packing and hunting in Colorado. He was trustworthy and honest (except I usually had a hard time catching him in his pasture). Once caught though, he had impeccable ground manners and was a great kids horse because he wasn't spooky at all. Oh boy...if my dad knew about half the things I did with that horse. Once, I thought I wanted to teach him to pull, so I tied (yes, tied, with a knot) a long rope with a log at the end to his saddle and led him while he pulled it. I know I was lucky I didn't have a wreck, but he was a great horse. I wish I knew all the things I know now back then because I think I could have improved how I handled his jigging. I would also have gotten rid of the western curb bit and tried something different (though we did use a mechanical hackamore on him a lot). I miss him. We had to put him to sleep when I was in college. One winter, his condition really deteriorated and despite having his teeth done and being fed mash everyday, he didn't gain much weight back over the following summer. We didn't want him to suffer through the harsh Wisconsin winters without enough weight on him, so that fall, before the last of the green grass left, we put him to sleep. We never knew his exact age, but I think he was close to 30 when he passed on.
In this photo are my two little sisters, me holding Pogo, and my dad saddling his quarter horse, Choco. My clothes crack me up!My dad on Choco and my and my little sister and I on Pogo. We are riding through my great uncle's pond on a cranberry marsh.
So, I never learned leg cues as a kid because with my horse, if I put leg on at all, he was off like a rocket. I only knew neck-reining. I bought a green 4-yr old arabian, named Brandy, from my great aunt in my late teens and just didn't understand why she didn't know how to neck rein (boy did I have a lot to learn). We only had the arabian for about 4 years because she foundered on our pasture two years in a row...the last time was so bad and the ground was frozen. She was in a lot of pain so we had her euthanized (another thing I wish I knew more about I know we should have just dry lotted her and done some good barefoot trims, and she would have pulled through). We did have a couple other horses move through, but they were my dad's horses, so I never rode them. I had Pogo and Brandy. We also had another quarter horse and appaloosa mule while I was in college, but I was busy and didn't get to come home a lot, so my dad ended up selling them to a friend of his. After college I worked several temporary field research positions, then landed a research technician position at the vet school in Madison, WI. I worked there for two years before I came out to Idaho to pursue my Master's degree.

In Madison, I started to feel my horselessness. I was living in the biggest city I'd ever lived in, and I was feeling my disconnection from nature. One of the women I worked with (she was obtaining her PhD) was an instructor at University of Wisconsin - Madison's Hoofer Riding Club. She talked me into coming out to the barn to see what lessons were all about (I was a little intimidated by the thought of lessons because I had learned how ignorant I was as a child and was afraid I wasn't going to be good at lessons). While I was there, I sat on a stool and watched my friend give a private lesson. As the person on the horse went around the arena, I found my body aching to be on that horse. I was almost subconsiously moving with the horse's rhythm. Right then, I decided I needed to take lessons just so I could ride. I began in the advanced beginner session (everyone who starts lessons has to start as a beginner), then quickly progressed to more advanced lessons, then gained my senior rider status (so I could ride the lesson horses unsupervised in the arena). While in lessons I learned how to use my legs, how to properly ride with rein contact, to wear a helment, and how to sit a canter (never did that as a horse only galloped!). The lessons were english riding (I general ride western when given a choice), but I learned so much about proper leg cues.
Here is me standing in front of the sign at Hoofer's.
After a year of lessons, I stopped because they were expensive, but I continued riding. A woman who boarded at the Hoofer's barn asked me to ride her thoroughbred to keep him in shape, since she didn't have time to ride him enough. Another woman who worked in my department at work asked me to ride her American Warmblood on trail rides to keep her mind fresh (she was trying to retrain her at 13 years old to pull carriages in driving competitions, but the mare really wasn't liking it).
Here I am riding Kodie, the thoroughbred.
This is Addie, the American Warmblood. She was a beautiful horse, and huge! I think she is the tallest horse I've ever ridden.

So I had never trained any horses before getting the mustangs, and I had only recently learned how to refine my riding cues and aids. All the horses I'd ridden had been trained, although most of them had their issues (my arabian would freak out about crossing pavement because she thought the painted road lines were going to eat her, the woman's thoroughbred had horrible conformation and uncomfortable gaits, Pogo jigged). I had good balance from riding since I was 10, which is what I think allowed me to pick up everything else quickly.

Next time, I'll talk about the first few sessions with training the mustangs. I did not work with them; Todd's mom did because she had watched some round-penning demos and I had never worked with an untrained horse before (much less a wild one). More next time!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Just a few pictures to keep everyone happy!

Today, I just want to share a couple of pictures of a trail ride I had with a friend. Back in July 2008, my friend trailered her horse down from Spokane, and we went riding around near where I keep my horses. There is a really great canyon and lots of CRP land and plowed fields to ride in. This ride was special because both my friend and I have been working really hard to gain the trust of our horses (her's, a performance bred quarter horse, and mine, a skeptical, fearful mustang mare (Catlow)). At this point, I'd probably taken Catlow on less than 30 rides, but she had progressed so much since the beginning. I actually kept a journal of Catlow's training which I started back in February. I really will get into the journey we've had soon (I'm going to post Catlow's journal), but I need to share pictures, partly because of Andrea's post recently. When I saw her post, I was struck by how similar our riding habits and friends are! I love the dogs running out front on her trail ride (my two run like that as well), and the picture of her horse grazing on the break...well, you'll see from mine.

My friend on her quarter horse.
Catlow grazing on our break. I only have this picture of her because I was the one with the camera.
Looking south down the canyon toward Kendrick. I love where I's so beautiful.

I have two dogs. This is Jasper taking a break in the dirt while my friend and I rest our horses (we had just climbed a pretty steep hill in plowed dirt...very difficult).

Crossing water! For my friend, this was her horse's first time! She did great.

Almost home. We had a great ride (long ride, but her horse needed to be out long enough to actually calm down).