Monday, December 7, 2009

More pasture leading

On Sunday, we took Griffin out of his pen for the very first time EVER! I was quite leary about what to expect with him, since he is sort of stand-offish and aloof and still gets snorty when people do weird things. But, I worked with him first in the pen, and he's leading very well, much better than the last time (well, leading as best as you can try to get in a 24X24 ft pen). So, we attached a second leadrope to him, and lead him out! Of course, there was a huge hold up when he stalled at his gate. It took lots of backing up, trying over, and then finally, I backed him through his gate, since he was not gonna come forward. Then once he was through, we just stood there in the opening, and took it all in. Then, we set off on our walk. The first 100ft, I felt like I had to pull him quite a bit, but after that, he really loosened up and followed. He was quite alert, but was very calm for this being his first time out. And, he was more than happy to just follow along behind me. He never once spooked or tried to bolt away from me. I never would have expected that. Next time I take him out, I want to try to be more abrupt with him and make him uncomfortable on purpose...just to get a spook out of him. I like it when they at least try a spook, and see that they are attached to me and can't get away. It seems like if they try it right away, then they really don't realize that they could possible get away, so they respect the rope more.

After our walk, he was very calm with me. I almost feel like it gave him a new perspective of me. I plan to make this a regular thing and soon I will take him for long walks outside of the pasture even! I think it will really make him trust me. Griffin has a very sensible nature. He was very calm and seems to think through things before he reacts. His first reaction to something he's uncomfortable with seems to be to stop and think about it, where as Kachina's is, LET'S BOLT NOW!!!! WE CAN LOOK AT IT LATER!!

Then we took Kachina for her second walk along the fenceline. She was very good this spooking at all. I like that she's getting more comfortable. If it hadn't been Sunday afternoon when I finally got around to working with her, I would have turned her loose with Cody, and then played it by ear...but Sunday only a couple hours from darkness...I figured that was a potential recipe for disaster.

But here are some pictures of the furry puny princess (whom I think has grown a little bit!). I didn't take any pictures of Griffin this time because I was too busy watching him. I wasn't sure what to expect with him.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Leading Kachina through the pasture

It is getting closer and closer to the time when we will release the wild ones with the rest of the herd. I am getting more and more apprehensive the closer that time comes! When you've been around horses long enough, you really start to get good at predicting all the possible horrible things that could go wrong on that first introduction to the herd. I see kicking, chasing (not so worried about that), but I'm also worried that they'll get chased through a fence and get hurt or loose!

And to make it worse, I haven't been working with them much, but I did spend and afternoon with Kachina over Thanksgiving break. We did basics (leading in her little pen, desensitizing (with a fleece blanket, wow was that a bit of a rodeo), and brushing and picking up feet. After she was thoroughly wore out with the blanket activities, I had my sig. other come and work her with me. She needs to get used to more strangers and just being comfortable with people. She did very well. He just led her around and petted her on her face and neck. Our ultimate goal was with the two of us, to take her outside her pen and lead her around the entire fenceline. This was to be only her second time outside of her pen since she arrived with us back in May. The first time was during a time when I was working with her quite a bit toward the end of summer. And we never left the sight of her pen.

I just wasn't quite sure what to expect from her, but I thought she might get anxious being out of sight of her pen and other horses. So, to ensure that I could still control her if that happened, we used two leadropes. I was the primary leader, but Todd walked alongside me holding onto the second leadrope just in case we needed it. I REALLY didn't want to take the chance that she might pull away from me.

So, first I removed the 3 tame ones from the pasture and tied them to the hitching post. Then we readied Kachina, opened her pen up (leaving the opening so that if she did get loose, she might have a safe place to retreat to), and then we got started leading her out. She hesitated just a bit with coming through her gate after us, but then she stepped up right behind me, and we began our walk around the fenceline. She was VERY GOOD! For the most part, she was calm, but alert and only breathing slightly faster as she took in the new perspectives. She never once called out for the others, and when they called for her, she didn't hardly notice. She lead extremely well.

We did have two instances where I was glad to have the extra leading helper. The first time, I was leading her diagnally down a rather steep hill, and she thought she take the chance to get ahead of me (I think it was motivated by being lazy and not realizing she needed to slow herself down the hill), but Todd and I were able to pull her around. She did get worried and kept backing up for a bit after we got her facing us, and she might have backed into the fence if she had kept going, but she did stop and all was fine. So then we went back up the hill and came down again. This time she checked herself and was perfect.

The other time, we had gotten to the fence near the road, and Todd's dog was following us along the fenceline. Kachina was worried about him because she hasn't seen him much, and he's a big hairy looking black thing. At that same instance, a motorcycle came down the road. Todd and I got ready to hold her because I knew she was going to spook at it. She did, but settled down quickly after the motorcycle had passed.

So, she was good! For the most part, she was extremely sensible and I think she'll be fine as long as she realizes what a fence is. I see her being turned out with the others very soon. But first I want to let her touch the hotwire while Todd and I are holding onto her so that we can control what happens afterward. Then, I plan to turn her loose with Cody (lead mare) first. Once Cody puts her in her place, I'll let Catlow in with her. Once Catlow is okay with her, then Chico. I anticipate Chico as being the antagonist, but as long as the others are okay with her, he'll chill after he's sure she knows where her place is.

I want more time to work with Griffin before I turn him out with the others because I anticipate him being very difficult to catch when he's loose with them. Plus, I think that it will be a war between him and Chico at first. I might keep Chico out of the herd for a bit until they are established with the more reasonable horses first.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I trimmed wild mustang hooves this weekend. I'm so glad to see that they remember their lessons earlier. It amazes me how much they actually retain. Even though I get almost no time with them, when I do finally stop to work with them, after the initial attempt to just avoid me, they fall back into their same old selves, just like back when I worked with them over the summer. And they are so good with their hooves. Trimming them is almost easier than the "tame" ones. These guys still think that they do need to listen to what I ask of them. The "tame" ones have learned what little things they can get away with. :) I wish I had pictures, because it was a GORGEOUS November weekend in Wisconsin (highs in the low 70's!). Maybe next weekend.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chicken dinner

Well, I should have posted this a couple of weeks ago when we had this event. But hopefully you can still enjoy it now...if enjoy is the correct word. Remember those cute fuzzy little chicks I hatched out in May? Well, they have now become chicken dinner! My mom, dad, roommate Jen, and my grandma all had a fun afternoon catching and butchering about 35 chickens. It was quite fun. It was also my roommate's first time with butchering anything, but she really wanted to learn how to do it (she likes to be self reliant and eco-friendly), so she did it! And she did great and surprised herself.

Chicken dinner

See the facebook album for pictures of the event. They shouldn't gross any of you out, but do be prepared to see plucked chicken (dead of course).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

pictures finally!

I finally got around to taking some pictures last weekend! The fall is beautiful here in Wisconsin. Because I feel like I shouldn't take the time to do it, and it takes so much longer to upload a lot of pictures to blogger, I've decided to post my facebook album. All of the following pictures were taken last Sunday. You can see Wisconsin fall colors, and horse updates.

Check out my facebook album.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Together at last

This weekend, I decided that it was time to open the panel separating the two wild ones, and let them be together. This is primarily a decision in preparation for winter...we will need to be able to water them both down in the front of the barn next to the water spigot, since we can't run a hose to them in the frigid WI winters. We use a self draining PVC pipe to get water to the horses in winter and it works great.

The opening of the panel was extremely uneventful. The two have been close to eachother on either side of the panel (even grooming eachother through it) that it was no different for them to be together. It was crazy though, to see Kachina beside Griffin because he makes her look puny! Kachina did try to show Griffin a little bit of puny mare attitude when he was eating hay with her at her pile, but she was extremely half-hearted about laying her ears back and picking up one back foot. Griffin showed no aggression at all toward Kachina.

I laughed out loud as I watch Chico notice the "new" horse in the front pen...the horse that they see and hear, but can't smell. He sauntered over, trying to look kinda tough and really cool (although a roly-poly mustang slipping on the muddy ground had a really hard time looking cool!). Griffin met him at the fence and they sniffed noses down low for a while, then Chico pawed and struck the ground over and over. Griffin stuck his nose through the panel and Chico hit him with his leg and Griffin did a squeal and spin and butted up against the panel, but there was really no kicking. Chico didn't react when Griffin did that...he just stood there trying to look really tough.

I think this will be a good step to get them all used to interacting with one another. My grand plan is to try to turn them out in the pasture over winter break. I'll be able to be around if I do it in the winter, I don't have to worry about transitioning anyone onto pasture. AND if there is an event where someone goes through the fence, we can bait them with hay if we have to recapture...just a thought. I think Kachina will be easy to approach in the pasture, but I think Griffin is going to become very hard to approach...I say that based on how they act together in the same pen. If I stand in the center, they'll both trot around me (Griffin on the outside, Kachina on the inside), and Kachina will turn and and approach me almost immediately. Griffin keeps himself on the opposite side of Kachina, no matter where I stand. I can't approach him when he is with her. But I shoo'ed her through the barn to his side and shut the gate behind so that he had to deal with me, and then I could approach and pet him. So, I see that we need to work on the trust thing a lot more, but I think he can get to be a horse for the winter...since I have no time to work with them right now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I've been posting a lot lately! Can you tell that I've been procrastinating studying?

So, I heard an interesting fact was from a study published in the Annals of Diagnostic Pathology. They analyzed the content of 8 brands of fast food hamburgers. This is what they found:

Average water content was 49%
Average meat (skeletal muscle) content was only 12%!!!!

The rest? Well, it varied, but all 8 brands had the following, in order of amount: fibrous connective tissue, blood vessels, and peripheral nervous tissue. Most also had fat tissue. Then the weird stuff? Some had unidentified plant material (could this be stomach contents?), cartilage, and bone fragments.

Yum...that's why I don't eat fast food.

I laughed when Andrea mentioned her clicker and trying to get Anchor to want to work with her...I laughed because I decided something similar with Griffin this weekend. I don't use a clicker, but I do like to use treat rewards. Well, first you have to get the horse to like treats (and take them from your hand). I offered a treat to Griffin, and it took me repeatedly shoving it between his lips before he finally decided to taste in instead of spit it out. He showed me the flehmen response after his first taste...and then chewed very pensively on the next taste. Finally, toward the end of the lesson (where I also trimmed his feet), he finally took it by choice from my hand and ate it! It's a start!

Monday, September 14, 2009


So, what do you get when you mix riding bareback on a horse that hasn't been ridden in several weeks (much less just not much all summer) and a dummy deer used for bow target practice? Yes! You get dumped in the sand! I had sand from head to toe and in my ears (and other places I won't mention). And, because I wouldn't let go of the reins, I swung down into Chico's legs and now I have a nice bruise on my back from his hoof (he was trying really hard to keep from hitting me, but I was in his way). I'm fine, and once I was on the ground, I could lead him right up to the fake deer and everything was fine, but he just couldn't face it alone.

Griffin is healing well. The swelling is almost gone from his sheath, although he still had a little fluid left under his belly (where the overflow from his sheath area emptied). He's feeling good though, and I worked with him on Saturday and trimmed all four of his hooves again, this time with the hoof stand and rasp.

I wanted to play with Kachina too, but there was no time this weekend.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gelding pictures

My mom sent me the pictures from her camera.

Here is Griffin still recovering from the anesthetic after the "surgery".

These are his small nuts. Too bad the picture is not in focus.

And these are pictures of the swelling from today (4 days later). Do you think it is excessive? I'd say probably not, since he really can't move around much in that small pen, and I am not there to force him to move around. He seems to be walking around just fine though. I figure this pain and little bit of swelling is nothing compared to what it must have felt like when his chest abcessed liquified tissue.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Griffin is a gelding!

Sorry, not much time for posting lately. I don't have any pictures from the big event either...although I know my mom showed up later and took some pictures of me holding the horse nuts.

The whole things was more uneventful that I could have ever hoped for, especially since I have found VERY little time to do anything with any of my horses other than pet them randomly when I am doing their chores on the weekends. It really has been over 3 weeks since I've done anything with Griffin. Yet, I was able to slip a regular web halter on him with no fuss (usually he wears a rope one when I work with him), and brush him down and pick out all his feet. I also spent time pinching his neck where the needle stick would go. He was unresponsive to it.

When the vet arrived with her bucket, she walked into the pen, and Griffin stood with alert ears and was prepared to back away, but she just stood near his shoulder for a bit to let him get used to her. Then she pet him, then went right to sticking the needle in his vessel. After she first stuck it in, he did back up a couple of steps, but she just advanced, pet him, then gave him the first shot that just makes him droopy.

We stood back and let that take effect, which happened very quickly. His lips sagged and he stood with one foot cocked funny. Then she gave him the "sleepytime" shot. A minute later, he was backing up, backed into the barn wall, where he stopped, then just flopped over, rather unremarkably...he didn't lay down nicely, but he didn't really fight it either. He went down well.

Then I was amazed at how fast the actual gelding went. I held his leg for the vet while she did the cut-cut, and it was over in 5 minutes!

We chatted while we waited for Griffin to come out from under the affects of the anesthetic. She dissected the testes and explained all the parts. And she also said that they were smaller than a typical two year olds testicles. She said that he would probably not have been a good breeding stallion because he wouldn't have had the drive to do it. Which I took to mean that if he'd been in the wild, he would have been a permanent member of a bachelor herd. Well, he can be in my "bachelor" herd with 3 mares and another gelding.

Griffin came out easily too. He rolled up, tried to half-heartedly get up a couple times, but decided to wait when it was too much. Then he finally got himself up, and stood for a while.

The vet also confirmed that Griffin is indeed 2.5 years old, and Kachina is 3.5 years old. When I said that I wish she would grow, the vet went off about mustangs, and said that you'll never find a good sized mustang unless they have had a quarter horse stallion put out with the herd (not true - Griffin (from Kachina's herd) is good sized...I think Kachina is a little stunted). I agreed that most herds have had some level of domestic influence, and the vet continued to tell me that "true" mustangs all have long backs, no hip, short legs, big heads and big feet. If they are anything other than that, then they have had a quarter horse stallion put in with them. I pointed out Chico, and she said he has quarter horse in him...which I think is possible, but Chico looks more Andalusian-type to me...but the vet was on a roll. She was using Kachina as her example for this long backed big-headed mustang type...but Kachina has tiny feet (proportioned for her tiny stature), a cute head (with the slight bump above the nose typical of sulphur horses), yes, she has a longish back, but it's actually in proportion with her body. And her hip is not's just not a quarter horse butt.

She also said that only man makes horses with big butts (which is probably true), but she tried to say that wild horses don't locomote using their back ends to power with. She said only domestic horses do that, which I think is completely false. She said my long back mustang (like all mustangs) use their front ends to pull themselves along and so they won't be able to collect, and I think that's bologna! Wild horses HAVE to collect in the wild on a daily basis as they travel and interact with eachother! Argh...I wish people wouldn't always give their opinions when they weren't asked for. This is the same vet that told me that if you get a mustang as an adult, you'd never truly be able to tame it down. Anything older than a weanling or yearling is too old, she says.

But, she's older, and she does know what she's doing with vetting horses...I can't fault her for not sharing my enthusiasm for mustangs. I just hope she's not spreading that blather around to people who don't know the difference.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Well, I made it through orientation last week (it was intense) and now am on my second day of classes. We have begun dissecting our dog. Thank goodness the dog looks nothing like my dogs! I already feel behind in classes and I'm looking forward to the weekend to be able to try to catch back up and perhaps get ahead...although I don't think that happens in vet school...

I'll keep in touch. I did work with my horses last weekend when I visited home and this weekend I'll do so again. I have a volunteer recruited (my neighbor) to help me get Griffin worked through his stranger danger (which I don't think will be an issue at all, since a couple weeks ago, he scratched Griffin on the neck). The week after is Griffin's castration appointment! I'm super excited to see this, especially since it sort of has a lot of relevancy for me, being in vet school and having the option to specialize in equines...which I might do if the wildlife route turns out to not be what I'm into. We'll see.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Posts will taper off now

Well, the summer is over for me now. Tomorrow begins orientation for vet school. I'm settled into my apartment in the big city. I will be going home many weekends (it's only an hour and 45 minutes away) to be with family and play with my ponies. But that means that posts will be tapering off for a while. I'll probably only manage 1 per week at the very most...unless of course, you all want to hear about what's happening in vet school...but that won't be very horse related! I WILL for sure post about Griffin's castration coming up in a couple of weeks.

Wish me luck! I'm about to get super busy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

8 hooves trimmed

Yesterday I trimmed Griffin's back hooves! He was pretty good about it, but it was so interesting how different I had to deal with him as compared to Kachina on her back hooves.

With Kachina, she was quite nervous about it, and was continuously stepping away away from me. But it was because she was a little nervous, so I just had to keep with her and make sure to really reward her by giving her a break when she stopped moving and stood for a second with my holding her hoof.

With Griffin, I had to work through getting him comfortable, just like I did with Kachina, but then very quickly, he was standing there and I was picking out his back hoof with him very relaxed about it. This was the first time I'd picked up his back feet too! He's just so quick about learning. But after I'd starting nipping his hooves, he began not wanted to stand there. I was very patient at first, with just continuing to ask him to pick up his hoof and hold it for me, but it became obvious that he wasn't upset or nervous...he just didn't really like standing there like that. So I gave him a firm slap on his butt after he'd taken his foot away again. He jumped in surprise, and I kept asking him to pick up his hoof, which he did...then he stood great! He tried another couple of times to get tired of letting me work on his feet, and a firm smack for that, got him to relax and let me work with his feet. I only smacked him 3 times, and it was so interesting about the final time that I had to smack him. I smacked, he jumped, then took a very deep breath, licked and chewed, then stood like a stone as I picked up his foot and finished trimming the whole thing. His response told me that was what he needed...a bit firmer handling to show him that I really do want to be minded. I did also give him breaks when he'd been standing really well for a bit because I wanted him to realize that he did get to have his foot back eventually and didn't have to take it away from me.

Now, all 8 hooves on 2 wild mustangs have been trimmed and are no longer in danger of putting strain on their young tendons! Yay! I'm so happy about that!

I almost can't believe how comfortable the two are with me now. I really don't feel like I've been pushing them much at all, and I'm sure I could be even further along with them if I'd been working with them every day, but I'm so pleased with them as they are! They are both very comfortable with me, and they actually like to be with me (Kachina likes to be with me more than Griffin, but even he wants me around him).

Today, I am moving into my apartment in Madison. I feel like trimming their hooves was a great last summer activity to show me how far I've come with them.

Griffin gets gelded in a couple of weeks. I think he's ready. I'll still work on "Stranger Danger" with him a bit more, but yesterday, one of my neighbors (Griffin has never met this neighbor before) was watching me work with Griffin and I had him come into the pen with me and he rubbed his face and scratched his neck while I stood on the other side of him. So, I think that we'll be just fine when the vet comes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hoof trims on the wild ones!

Today I trimmed Kachina's back hooves (this took some patience but by the end she was standing still and was very comfortable with me)

Then I trimmed Griffin's front hooves! He was great! And I hadn't worked with him much lately either. He was very comfortable compared to Kachina's first time.

Kachina's front hooves after her big girl trim yesterday.

Back hooves before trim

Back hooves after trim

Whatcha doin' down there? Taking pictures of your hooves my gorgeous wild pony!

The sunflowers around Griffin's pen are flowering.

Griffin's super long front hooves! This is before trim.

This is how much I took off!

One hoof done, one still to go!

Pretty trimmed front hooves!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kachina is out!

Well, not really OUT! But I did actually lead her outside her pen for about 10 minutes today! That was all she could handle! She did really well, but she was breathing really fast and obviously nervous, even though we stayed right next to her pen where surroundings were familiar. She did try to bolt a few times, but it wasn't to get away from was to get away from my dad who was standing in the pasture keeping an eye out for the other horses (making sure they weren't coming in from the outer pasture). We walked a couple of circles around him, and when we'd get to where she felt like he was behind her, she bolted forward, but as soon as she came against the leadrope (which I had a really good hold on and my weight set against her), she came around and faced me and stopped freaking. We just kept walking in circles and changing directions (she's leading so well now!), and she did start to calm down. Then I put her back and she was super relaxed.

I also trimmed her front hooves for the second time. I think they are pretty close to where they should be now. A lot more sole peeled out with this trim and her hooves look nice and concave and I think that we got to the bottom of the furrow between her hoof wall and sole. This time, I was able to give her a full blown grown up horse trim, with the hoof stand and rasp and everything. She's really good about it. I just had to take my time and let her check stuff out and give her breaks before she got tired of standing with her hoof on the stand. She was awesome. I also spent time picking up her back feet, but I'm not asking her to hold them up for very long yet and I have not picked them out. But I think I will very soon. Now that her front feet are normal size (and tiny!), her back feet look terrible. Her and Griffin have feet that are just as overgrown, but her feet are smaller so they don't look as bad as his...but they are.

I also dumped hydrogen peroxide into the furrows on her hooves to try to work on the thrush problem. It hasn't gone away with just trimming, so I think I need to treat it and help it go away. Kachina, the sweety that she is, just lets me dump the foaming bubbling peroxide onto her hooves where it runs all over and fizzles!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kachina experiences "stranger danger"

I worked with Kachina the other day, and then both Griffin and Kachina a little bit today.

The other day, with Kachina, I worked mostly on getting her to be comfortable with me rubbing her hips and butt. It seemed like every time I got down by her tail, she wanted to step her hind end away from me. So I had to stick with her and pivot with her and keep my hand on her until she stopped moving. I had to do this many times and finally she did stand, but I think it just shows she's not 100% comfortable with me back there yet.

Today, we decided to take the tractor in and scrape out Kachina's pen. Griffin's pen is a little higher up and sloped so the water drains better, but Kachina's pen tends to get very mucky when it rains, and we've had a lot of rain recently. It's impossible to work with her in her pen when it's like that because it is so slippery. So, we just blocked her in the barn, and scraped out her poo pile and all the old matted down hay and muck. Now, when it dries out, it's going to be nice and firm. And her hooves will dry out better.

She took the tractor coming in very well. I was proud of her.

I worked with Griffin right afterward. I didn't really intend to work hard on him, but I had the halter, and I just wanted to catch him and rub him a bit. My aunt was there and my parents, and they all sort of wanted to see what I could do with him, so I ran him briefly through his "paces". Then my dad wanted to touch him, so we worked on "Stranger Danger". My dad did a lot of approach and retreat, while I just stood next to him and talked to him and rubbed him. My dad started by letting him sniff his hand, and then he was able to rub his forehead and walk away before Griffin decided to step back. Griffin was uncomfortable, but he was okay. It was a good lesson. After everyone left, I spent some time scratching his butt and he was very comfortable and happy.

Then I caught Kachina and worked on touching her back end. Then I led her for a bit, but because my dad was watching, she was a bit sticky with leading. I had my dad come in the pen to practice "Stranger Danger". Kachina was pretty worried, but we played with her for a long time. First just sniffing my dad's hand and he'd walk away before she could get too worried. Then he walked around the pen, and Kachina and I followed him. Then she led very well! She wanted to follow me following him. She stayed right on my heels and I hardly had to tug on her at all. So while we followed him around the pen, my dad would stop and turn and let her sniff his hand, then walk away from her again. She was so funny. She definitely got worried, sometimes, but it was cute. I petted and laughed at her while we helped her relax with my dad. Then, I had him squat down, and I sort of led her up to him (back and forth because there was no way she would walk straight up to him), then I turned and squatted down beside him. When I squat, she always lowers her head down to my level and relaxes, and she did this when my dad was sitting there too. So, I kept asking her to drop her head, and my dad would have her sniff him, and I would rub her forehead, and then he tried to rub her forehead (but she'd pop her head up), so I would ask her to lower it again. She was so cute. She wasn't really concerned about my dad there kneeling until he tried to rub her face. Most of the time, she was looking over our heads at something in the yard. He was able to rub her face once without her pulling her head up, so then we were done. When we both stood back up, she became quite worried. It was so funny! Her eyes got all big and the whites showed and she backed up. I stood next to her, my dad asked her to sniff his hand one more time. She did sniff him, then she reached over and bumped my arm to make sure that we were okay...just checking in with me about this scary guy and reassuring herself that we were okay. It was so cute and so flattering! I love it when a horse trusts you enough that they'll touch you with their nose to reassure themselves. That, to me, is the ultimate in trust. And Griffin, did sort of do that today with me, but it was not as obvious or sincerely completely trusting as Kachina was. She's just so sweet. But so flighty!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Stranger danger

I've set up Griffin's appointment to be gelded. Sept. 5th. I hope that gives me enough time to get him to allow another person to touch and handle him, as the vet will need to in order to administer anesthetic.

I worked with him today. I scratched him all over, spent more time on his butt, rubbing to his hocks and down his front legs, and I cut him a little "halter" path. I've saved the hair I cut from both of them. It's like baby's first haircut! It's one of those little milestones!

I also lunged him a little today and he was much better about leaving calmly on his good side and also better on his bad side (although he still hesitated at first, and was a little more uncertain about it, but definitely better than before). And when I asked him to whoa, he turned in to me with interest. By the end of our little lunging session (which probably only lasted 5-10 minutes), he was actually coming all the way to the center (with a little extra urging with the halter) to meet me when I asked him to whoa. That's wonderful for him. I do think that he feels more comfortable standing with me, than when I am pushing him around the pen. That is a good thing.

Then my mom appeared around the corner. She hadn't seen me work with Griffin in a long time (not since before I could halter him). She was surprised. My mom is a little uncertain around horses. She just doesn't understand their behavior well, and they are so big and she's so little.

Since my mom was there, I decided to see how Griffin would handle another person in the pen. Griffin and I stood in the center of the pen as my mom climbed over the panels. I stood next to his head and we both faced my mom. I scratched him occasionally and talked to him. He watched her approach with a little concern. I asked my mom to be slow and extend her hand for him to sniff. I touched her hand first to show him she was okay. Then he reached forward and sniffed her. He was on alert, and when my mom lowered her right arm, then went to raise her left arm for him to sniff, he bolted! And my mom bolted too! She ran for the panels, and Griffin just ran to get away from this new danger! My mom stood at the top of the panels on the safe side, and I laughed at them both! She said she thought she was having a heart attack. I let Griffin move a little bit while my mom stood on the panels (he skirted around her), then I asked him to whoa and stand in the center with me again.

We tried again. This time, I told my mom to just listen to my directions and we were going to do some approach and retreat. So first, I had her just approach and stand about 6 feet away. I talked to Griffin, scratched him and watched his concern. I told my mom to just look away from him and act interested in something else, then walk away. Then come back, stop, then this time, extend her hand and let him sniff. As soon as he sniffed, I said turn around and walk away, and I explained how that was rewarding the behavior that we desired, which was standing still and showing interest in her. My mom doesn't quite understand how they can figure out that's what you want, but it does work. It's because of the relief they feel when you release that pressure. Then she came back and stood closer and asked him to sniff her hand again, then she backed off. I stood next to him, scratched him occasionally. Then I switched to standing on his other side, and we did it again. He did not bolt this time. He stood next to me the whole time and although he was concerned, he was okay. Then my mom left. She was nervous too, and that was enough for both of them for their first try at getting over "stranger danger"!

After she left, he was so much more relaxed with me standing there with him. I think we were a team when the "stranger" was approaching. What a way to build a relationship! He was such a good boy. We are definitely becoming friends and he listens to me without exploding. He does still snort when I first enter his pen if I ask him to move straight off, but he's getting better. The more relaxed he gets, the more expressive he is when you hit the good itchy spots. Today, I swear, he was itchy on his whole body. He kept his head turned toward me without me having to pull him around when I was at his side, and his lip was twitching the whole time. He did try to groom me again, but again, I just gently dissuaded him with my elbow. He really wants to return the favor, but I don't want his teeth on me!

The other thing I've been doing with Griffin, is jumping quickly, just to surprise him and make him realize that just because I move fast, I'm not gonna get him. He's now just spooking in place, and then usually he licks his lips immediately afterward. I think it's almost a release of tension for him that has slowly built up with my presence with him. He's getting more and more fun to work with. He's not as cuddly as Kachina is, but he's nowhere near as flighty and picky about new things or new movements I make.

I didn't have time for Kachina today.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Here are Kachina's newly trimmed hooves. It looks like her left one could use more off the toe to make them even, but it could also be a camera/hoof angle. It's too wet in her pen right now (just rained last night) to really tell for sure.

Today, I spent time on her back feet. First I tossed the rope I was going to use all over her. She was pretty good about it. Then I looped it around her hind leg and used my stick to pull the ends toward me. She did very well with the rope around her leg, and also with me pulling on it to ask her to pick it up. I stood back near her hip with her head tipped toward me and I rubbed her hip and leg in between asking her to pick up her foot with the rope. Then I rubbed her with my hand all the way down to her hoof, then I asked her to pick her foot up with my hand. She was great. No freaking out at all. Next time I'll ask her to let me hold it up, then perhaps I can trim those back ones too!

I took these series of pictures after I was done working with her. She is definitely turning into an attractive horse. It's something to appreciate when their condition changes from being brushed and taken care of.

I didn't take any picture of Griffin today, but I did work with him. We made friends again today. He was even more comfortable with me back near his hip. I kept his head tipped toward me as I rubbed down his hip and his butt. He knocks his feed bucket off the panels everyday trying to itch his butt on it, so when I got to his butt with my hand, he was in heaven. I rubbed and scratched and scratched his tail and even his boy parts (briefly). He liked it. He turned his head even further toward me and trying to groom me, which I gently dissuaded. Then I asked him to lunge around me. I just spent time over and over asking him to go and them come back. It's the "go" part he doesn't quite know what I'm asking. I really really change my body lanquage to aggressive, and even then, he still is not sure he should go. He tries to stay facing me. We worked at that a while. He got it pretty well on his left side, but his right side needs a little more work.

Oh, and I actually dewormed both of them today! And both of them took it very well with no reaction other than the chewing and trying to spit it out afterward. I prepared them for it (stuck my finger in their mouth repeatedly, then put the dewormer tube in without dispensing the stuff), and they acted like it was no big deal. Even afterward, they let me put the dewormer tube back in their mouths with no fuss. Wish my tame horses took it that well. Well, actually, Cody and Chico do, but Catlow always has a fit. I do prepare her for it, but she still get's really mad at me for giving her the dewormer. She's a picky girl.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Yuck! My hands reak!

And I've washed them three times!

Guess what that means? Yes! I was successful trimming Kachina's front hooves! I started out with my usual routine, of haltering her, brushing her down (today I brushed all the way down to her back hooves), and combing her mane and forelock. Then I got my stick and string and rubbed her, then threw the string all over her back and around her legs. She was flawless with that today. She stood and watched me and was not worried a bit about the stick and string.

Then I got out the hoof pick and nippers. I picked her feet out first. Then I sat looking at them, trying to decide how I was going to trim them. I've never trimmed hooves that were this overgrown before. I should have taken pictures. I mean, they weren't THAT bad, but the heel was so long and everything just needed so much off! And the sole was just as long as the hoof wall! The frog looked like it was just about lost up in inside. The frog was the only thing that didn't need any trimming. I knew from things I've read that everything I was seeing was old dead hoof that just hadn't been able to slough off, so I should be able to trim it without causing her any discomfort. Luckily, there was a huge furrow between her sole and hoof wall where they had become separated.

Now, how was I going to trim them? I needed two hands and I didn't want to trap her hoof between my knees in the typical farrier's stance. With my horses, I usually rest their hoof on my knee as I crouch beside them, but I wasn't sure how that would work for Kachina either. I wasn't sure if she would stand still and keep her hoof on my knee. But I actually felt more comfortable trying that because I think they tend to feel more trapped when their hoof is between your knees.

It took a little patience, but I was able to convince Kachina to leave her hoof on my knee. And she actually really relaxes when I am kneeling down near her. I think I'm less intimidating, plus I've been kneeling beside her head when I ask her to drop her head down. So, I think that my kneeling was a clue to her to relax. Once she was standing well, I stuck the hoof nippers in the furrow and started going around her hoof nipping it off. She did get nervous a few times, so I made sure to move around a lot, rub her leg, rub her belly with my hand...I didn't want her to freak out if the hoof nippers touched her belly. She did spook a couple of times and dash sideways, but we just started over and she was relaxed as before. I wore my helmet, just in case she was to panic and kick as she was spooking, but Kachina is such a sweetheart. She trusts me...she just gets nervous sometimes, and she never once kicked out. She just would dash away when something spooked her. All in all, I think she spooked about 5 or 6 times in the course of doing both feet.

After I got the hoof wall off and evened out her heels, then I had to use the hoof nippers to cut out the sole that was now the longest part on her hoof. Once I started with the sole, a lot of it peeled out. I think I removed about 3/4 inch of sole at the thickest part!

I was able to really take my time and even things out well, and carve the sole out with the nippers to be a somewhat normal shape. There is still plenty that needs to be removed, but I didn't want to go too short the first time. I figure I'll let her walk around on them for a week, then check them again and see what has come out on it's own and maybe lower them a few more.

I wonder what she thinks of her new feet. They have to be more comfortable than her old ones!

I didn't get a chance to work with Griffin, but I did get to see him acting silly. When my tame horses walked past his pen, he whinnied and whinnied to them, then ran into the barn, and then back out, leaping over his hay bucket as he went. He did this several times, shaking his head, jumping and leaping. He was funny. That would be the most "studdy" I've seen him act, but I don't necessarily think that was all that studdy. I think he was feeling good, and would really have like to have gone with them.

I do think that Kachina is in heat. She doens't really display and Griffin doesn't really pay much attention to her, but she was peeing, and she looked puffy.

I rode Chico earlier today. It was actually the first time I've ridden in several weeks. I know, it's kind of strange that I'm not riding much, but I'm at least doing a lot with horses. It takes so much work to gentle wild ones!!! I'm going to try to rearrange my priorities, quit procrastinating, and try to ride most days now...especially since I'll be moving down to start school in two weeks. TWO WEEKS! Yes, I'm a little nervous, and really shocked that the summer went by so fast, but I'm also ready to get busy again!

I rode Chico bareback (this is my favorite way to ride when I just want to feel in tune with my horse). We went on a blackberry survey today. I wanted to see where the biggest, ripest blackberries were on our neighbor's marsh. They are much bigger there than on our place. I think it's because they grow in sand on the marsh. You wouldn't think that blackberries would be bigger and juucier in sand than in clay and black soil, but they are. Chico was very good, especially for not being ridden in forever. He was just as into exploring as I was, so it was a very fun, relaxing ride.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I procrastinated again! Today was the first time in another 2 days that I worked with the wild ones. I'd like to say I was busy, but really I have no excuse.

I worked with them both today and I played with Griffin first.

Today was the FIRST time that he stood and waited for me in the center of his pen! Usually he moves away and waits in the corner. Today he was in the center! I haltered him right away and he actually sort of tucked his nose to make it into the halter! Then I sprayed him down with fly spray (no jumping at all!). Then I wanted to brush his mane out for the first time, so I showed him the lotion (he smelled it really hard because it actually has a scent), and the brush (quick sniff with no concern), then I proceeded to rub lotion into his mane and forelock and brush it out. He was staying with me so well that after I'd brushed him out, I decided to see what I could touch with the brush in my hand. I found Griffin's itchy spot. The middle of his back. I was able to brush his back, sides, down to his knee on his foreleg, and down his hip to his tail, (with his head tipped toward me). He stood pretty well, and only got worried a few times, but he just backed up so that I was near his head when he couldn't take it anymore. When I hit his itchy spot, he turned his head and tried to groom me, but I just wiggled my arm until he quit trying. He was very with me today. I actually think that he was enjoying my company. It makes me trust him more and act more carefree with him when he is comfortable with me, which helps both of us relax. I also asked him to step toward me with a pull on the halter, and he was getting it pretty well. He's not leading really, but taking steps forward to sideways to pulls on the halter. He's not quite comfortable with me enough yet to officially lead around his pen because his pens is pretty small and that'd require that he be very close to me. Griffin is a very smart horse. Once he learns something, he's got it, and then the next time I work with him, he is even better than he was when I left off previously!

Kachina progresses well, but she's not quite as quick as Griffin. She's still flightier by nature and is likely to run first, think later.

With Kachina today, I haltered her pretty much right away, like always. Kachina does get a little worried when I step into the pen and pick up the halter, so I just stand relaxed in the middle, while she circles me once, then stops at my back. At that point, I just turn around, approach her, rub her face and halter her. Then she's good.

I brushed her whole body with the hairbrush down to her hind hocks. I didn't have as much time with her because it was getting dark, but I worked with picking up her front feet. I'm still leaving the back ones, but they are next. I progressed from just asking her to pick up her foot, to allowing me to hold it up for a bit, and then I went and got a hoof pick and was able to pick out both front feet! She stands very well. Her feet are in terrible shape. She definitely has bad thrush (it smelled awful!), and her hooves are so long. Tomorrow, I am going to try to trim her feet. Her sole is so overgrown too! Once I get her fronts trimmed up, then I will make her back feet a priority to work with. Wish me luck! I've never been the one that gave a wild horse her first trim before!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thought you might like to hear about the tame horses for once!

Catlow has been getting out daily the last several days. She was walking through the electric fence. I fixed it repeatedly, but I was too chicken to test it myself. It turns out that we had wired the new larger pasture incorrectly and so it wasn't hot all the way around! It took this long for a horse to figure it out and brave the fence. And of course, it's because their pasture is becoming eaten down, but it is by no means barren of grass. She just discovered how easy it was to graze through the fence, and then just step through, bagging out the wire as she went. Cody and Chico still respected the fence and so they never went through.

So, we fixed the connections, and then increased their pasture to include the lower part of the field too. They've got some NICE long grass to graze now.

Here are some pictures of them exploring the new pasture, with the dogs tagging along and getting in trouble for chasing them when they ran at one point!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Today I found myself procrastinating again, but I did get working with them before it got too dark. But, because I procrastinated so long, I didn't work as long as I usually do, but I think that's okay.

Kachina was first. I haltered her right away and brushed her out with a regular old horse brush. She seemed to enjoy it, and I got down to the hocks on her back legs before I backed off...not because she was uncomfortable, but because I'm a big chicken. She was fine. I probably could have brushed all the way to her back hooves, but there's always tomorrow! Might as well not get my head kicked off today.

Then I played with her mouth and picked up her front feet briefly. She's getting better about it on her bad side and she's pretty good on her right side. She was a little sticky with leading today. She just wanted to stand there, but we got unstuck and moved around. I was going to work on her hind feet with a rope, but I decided that I really needed to get over and work with Griffin instead. So I spent time just standing by her head, kissing her on the face, and telling her how much I liked her too. She is so sweet. We whiffle noses all the time. I think the other thing I need to do with her now, is starting acting more crazy around her when I have her on the leadline. I need her to not freak out and want to fly away anytime I do something unusual. I don't tiptoe around her, for the most part, but if I trip, or jump, she does get worried.

I made a lot of progress with Griffin today. I was able to halter him right away without throwing the long rope onto him. I just approached him and let him check out the halter and lead rope for a while, then rubbed his face, and slipped it right on! He was very good. But he, of course, did have that distrustful eye turned on me. I tried to really take my time and give him a ton of breaks where I backed completely away from him and turned away to look at something other than him. It did seem to help, although I caught him trying to withdraw a couple of times while I was out letting him relax, so I jumped quick just to get his attention back on me. That seems to work. He flinches and then just looks at me.

Next, I just approached him, rubbed his face and neck and then walked away many many times. I want him to quit thinking about leaving when I approach. He's really good about respecting the pull on the halter, but I don't want to have to pull him back toward me. I want him to just stay. So we worked on that. And he did stay better by the end. Griffin is very uncomfortable with me anywhere but near his head, so I grabbed my stick and string and decided to touch him all over with that. He'd never seen the stick and string before and it's been a while since I've used the pole on him. He tensed up and flinched the first few times, but other than that was very okay with it. I just rubbed him with the stick first, then I progressed to tossing the string over his back. He's a very brave horse and isn't generally afraid of many things, just me! He calmed down very quickly with the string touching him all over.

Then I decided that I wanted to work on getting him to "lead" or at least give to the halter. He will give his nose, but I have to hold steady pressure for a long time before his feet will follow. I stood to his side and just pulled on the halter until he stepped one front foot toward me. We need to keep working on that. I thought it might help if I could get his feet freed up because he seems very sticky and spurty. When he gets worried, it's a sudden violent leap away, then he stops and looks at me again...which is good, but at the same time, I think he needs to not be so tense and able to move around me more comfortably. So I asked him to move away from me to lunge around his pen. This was very hard to do! He wanted to just stand there! I guess the desensitizing worked! I had to hiss at him and kick dirt at him, and swing my rope very violently to get him to move off (didn't want to hit him with it yet). Then I asked him to stop and face up. We did this many times until he would keep a steady pace instead of trying to stop and face me on his own all the time. I know it seems like a good thing that he wants to face me, but I feel like he is really stuck and NEEDS to move. I think that when he stands still too much, he's not all there with me.

He is definitely getting more comfortable with me rubbing his face though. I figure we'll build on that little by little! The last thing I did was rub him with my hands and try to get further back than his neck. He's okay with the neck and head, and only somewhat okay with the chest. I could rub his withers, and a little bit down his side, and his girth area, but when I got to his forearm, he was definitely not liking it! On his right side, he tucked his butt, sucked back against the fence and really thought about wheeling away from me showing his butt to protect himself! But, he just tucked his butt and really tensed up his body in an arc, showing me what he was about to do, and I backed up a step and rubbed his neck. I went to his forearm and then backed off several times until he quit tensing. Then we were okay. I need more control over his head with the halter before I progress any further back, and even though I can touch him down his legs with my stick, that doesn't mean that I can do it! We'll get there!

At this rate, we should be able to geld him very soon. I don't think the castration is going to do all that much for his personality though. This is who he is. Maybe he'll mellow out, but I don't see him as acting studdy. I see a very self protective horse. Testosterone may or may not exaggerate his self preservation instinct...I don't know. Anyone else have any experience with this? He's two years old. I've never seen him call to my other horses like a stallion does. He nickers to them when he sees them coming in from the pasture, just like any other horse friend would do when they have to stand in a pen all alone all day.

At the end, I slid his halter off, he was calm and I walked away. He stood and watched me as I climbed out over the panels very near him.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I gave the horses another 2 days off. I worked with them today. The time off was sort of intentional. But it was also kind of one of those things where when you feel intimidated or like you just aren't making much progress, you don't want to work on that thing. When I fed both horses on those two days off, they acted very flighty, and I was a little unmotivated after feeling like even though I got a halter on Griffin, he still really just doesn't want to be with me.

But after reading Arlene's post last night, I quit worrying about it and realized that they aren't going to progress at all if I keep coming up with other things to do beside working with them!

So, I got out there and worked with them today! I did Kachina first. I got her haltered pretty quickly today with the halter and leadrope, and she only freaked for one leap when I started to apply fly spray with the spray bottle, and then she stood stock still and didn't move another muscle! I got both sides, down all four legs, and up under her belly. I was very proud of her.

Then I brushed her whole body with my hair brush (she seemed itchy and appreciated it). I was able to brush over her hip and down her butt too. I decided that I needed to really work on getting near her back end today. While brushing her, I had her nose tipped toward me when I was at her butt, although she didn't seem to worry too much...a couple of times she did step away from me and back up so that she was facing me...that's how she feels most comfortable. Then I used my hand and began rubbing down her butt and touching her tail. That sort of worried her a bit, but I just backed off and working within what she was comfortable with and eventually, she was letting me scratch her tail bone and pull her tail out a little bit.

She has rubbed the hair off the head of her tail. She must have an itchy butt. She's definitely due for a worming, so to prepare her for that, I practiced sticking my finger in the corner of her mouth. She really didn't like that and jerked her head away, got a little huffy, and even tried to nip at me when I wouldn't let up. I just released her when she showed the slighted sign of just standing still, and in no time, I could pinch her muzzle softly and lift the corner of her mouth and she was tolerating it. I didn't try to stick my finger in her mouth quite yet.

I led her around the pen for a couple circles. She's leading pretty well. She gets a little bit sticky every once in a while, but she's pretty comfortable being close to me and her nose was touching me for most of the time that I led her around the pen. I'm okay with her being that close for now. I'm still trying to encourage to her be with me.

I also practiced backing her up (which she's getting pretty well from steady pressure on the halter), and dropping her head (this is taking more patience, but she is better at it if I wait till the end of the lesson and crouch down beside her when I ask).

Then I felt down her front legs and practiced picking them up. She's pretty good on her right side and I was able to hold her hoof up very briefly and then set it back down. On her left side, she tends to want to step away from me when I ask her to pick up her foot. But I am pleased that I can feel down her legs and she just stands and doesn't pick her feet up until I pull on her fetlock hair. I didn't get to her back feet, but I will. I'll use the rope first on her back feet. In preparation, I tossed the rope over her butt and let it wrap around her back legs. She was very calm today, and did not once lift a leg to things near her butt.

We had a very calm day. I didn't ask her to run around me and she wanted to be with me right away today. I think breaks do these horses good. I've never actually had them be worse after a break. They always seem better. They haven't forgotten things even though there has been almost a whole week sometimes!

It was the same with Griffin. I was running out of time for him (I was meeting my sister to pick raspberries again). I only had 20 minutes, but I was able to toss my long rope over him, spray him with fly spray (he too only jumped once and then calmly accepted being sprayed), and then halter him with a completely different halter that even had a lead rope attached. He was much calmer today and I was able to rub his face and halter him pretty much immediately! That's all that I did though. I just rubbed his face and neck for a while after I haltered him, then my sister arrived, so I let him go. He stood where I left him and did not even move away when I walked toward him and then climbed over the panels near him. I really shouldn't feel intimidated by progressing slowly with him. I just need to take it one step at a time and really think about those steps.

I think that right now, I just need to get him to allow me to halter him and work around his head. The working near his body, where he is very uncomfortable with me, will come later as he grows more comfortable with everything else.

Here is a conformation shot I took of Griffin the other day. I think he is really nicely built and he is also quite a tall horse (for being only 2). I know his hooves are long, but I'm working on it!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Today, I did the same thing as yesterday with Griffin, but I tried to give him more complete breaks. I was able to get his halter on, but he is so uncomfortable with me. I wonder if things will get better as I work with him after I halter him with a leadrope. Yeah, his halter doesn't fit very well, but it doesn't matter. I never leave these halters on the horses. I'm so afraid that one will get hung up on something. It'd be so easy to do.

With Kachina, I basically repeated yesterday with even better results (much calmer horse). She's doing well, and I'm very pleased with her progress and our connection.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Doing good for having a week off!

It's been almost a week since I've worked with Griffin and Kachina, but I think they remembered their previous lessons...and they might have even missed me! They both seemed fairly eager to approach me when I went down to work with them today.

I was able to halter Kachina with the lead rope attached, without having to toss the big rope coil onto her to get her to stand. I just had to be patient and keep approaching her with it, then eventually rubbing her face, then sliding the halter on. She took it like a pro today! Once haltered, I rubbed her all over, and put fly spray on (she only ran just a bit in the beginning, but then let me spray her whole body on both sides). Then I brushed her mane and forelock out with hair lotion.

Next, I decided to get her used to me scratching her with my training stick with string attached. I'd like to work to feeling comfortable handling her back end, and I decided that using the stick to reach her for now would be the way to go. I know she'll be less comfortable with objects than with me, so if I get her used to the objects touching her back there, then she should accept me pretty well. She took the stick pretty well, but did tuck her butt the first time I rubbed her there. She also did pick up one foot a couple times and kick out halfheartedly with it, but she quit when I just kept at it. She didn't necessarily like the stick touching her back legs, but she tolerated it. She did tense up at first when I started touching her with the new stick, but she got over it fast, and she didn't run!

Then I tossed the string over her back repeatedly to desensitize her to having something thrown at her. She did think about running around me, but actually took this surprisingly well, considering her reaction to me throwing the big rope at her. Perhaps the big rope didn't scare her as much as I'd thought! I basically kept at the tossing at her until she licked her lips and relaxed. She was a little tense at first, but I was able to do her whole topline, and around her back and front legs, and she just stood. She really did relax after a while and didn't even flinch when I missed with the rope and hit her in the side instead of getting it over her back!

After that, I spent more time rubbing her with my hands over her hips and under her belly. I'm too chicken to go down her back legs yet. I'll work them with a rope first before we get there. She's not completely comfortable with me toward her butt yet. Then I rubbed down her front legs and asked her to pick up a foot when I pulled on her fetlock hair. I just got her to pick up the foot so far. I'm not asking her to let me hold it. She's getting better at that...she does take a little bit of time with me waiting while I pull on her hair before she'll pick up her foot. I sure do like mustang's fetlock makes a great handle for hoof handling!

She's leading pretty well now, too.

It's hard to get pictures of a horse that won't stand where you leave them and keeps following you around! I think Kachina has gained quite a bit of weight now that she's not putting so much energy into fighting an illness!

After that, I called it a night with Kachina and moved to Griffin.

I was pleased that Griffin seemed to want to approach me.

His abscess is all healed up and the swelling is gone.

He sniffed me pretty comfortably, but when I went to scratch his neck and face, he moved off, so I got him moving and then got the rope on him again.

Once I had the rope on, I was able to apply fly spray with the spray bottle! He did get worried at first, but I just kept at it and rewarded him the second he thought about standing still. And in just a couple attempts, he stood still and I applied it to his whole body!

He is definitely only tolerating me being with him. I think I might be overwhelming him...he is almost shutting off when I back away from him to give him a break. Instead of relaxing and licking his lips, he often starts blinking his eyes like he's falling asleep, but what he's really doing is blocking me out, I think. So a couple of times, I just did a really fast jump to startle him back to the world, and that caused him to freak for a second, then lick his lips. So, I think I must be pushing him to hard when he's got the rope on - he can't escape from me, so he's almost shutting off, but not quite. I'm going to have to do some more thinking about how to approach that. I don't think I'm moving to fast because he's taking things well, but something about when I have the rope on him...I must just not be giving him enough complete breaks where I back completely off and ignore him. I think I'm just backing up and staring at him, so he's still in the "hot-seat". I'll have to change that...

However, we did progress to him letting me rub his face with two hands and also with the halter (that's first!). Prior to this, I'd never even attempted to touch him with the halter. I was also able to rub his neck with it. He seemed pretty relaxed about me rubbing his face and breathing into his nose by the end. I left it at that. I was able to pull the rope off his head over his ears with my hand without causing him to move away too!

Griffin is very uncomfortable with me anywhere but up by his head, so I'll work with that, and get him comfortable letting me halter him, and we'll slowly move back. I really, really want to get him gelded soon. Perhaps as soon as I get him handled up front, I can get the vet out and we can work out a squeeze chute to administer the anesthetic.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Griffin gets the rope, Kachina gets hair lotion

I worked with both Kachina and Griffin yesterday. I don't have much time to write up a detailed post, so I'll quickly do my best! I'm leaving in the morning for WY, and will be gone all week.


I've been thinking about the differences between Griffin and Kachina and what I need to do to get him to be a little more willing to work with me, like she is. Kachina will follow me and stand in the middle with me, whereas I have to approach Griffin, and I often feel like I'm pinning him against the panels to be able to touch him. So with Griffin, I spent more time driving him around the pen, and asking him to turn in off the fence to me. I then decided to try the rope with him, and test him out how he would handle if I threw it at him. I started by approaching him with it, and he was very cool about it. He bravely sniffed the coil, so I backed off and tossed it to the ground in front of his feet. He snorted, but did not move, and reached down to sniff it. I did that a few times, and then went ahead and tossed it over his back. I got it on him within 3 tosses! He did run, but he was not super panicked, so I felt okay about tossing it at him. Once the rope stayed on over his back, he stopped running and sniffed at it. He's a brave boy, just not so trusting of me. I eventually got it around his neck, then did more mini-roundpenning with him, asking him to turn into me when I stepped in front and pulled on the rope. I got him to turn in and face me, and not in a corner! Then I spent time approaching and rubbing his neck, then I progressed to his face. He needs to let me rub his face if I am to halter him, and he's not so comfortable yet. He tries to evade my hand to move away. By the end of the lesson, he was pretty good about letting me approach and rub his forehead from the front. A good first step toward haltering! He's not so afraid of the rope either, so I hope this goes well! He is feeling so much better. When I was mini-roundpenning him, he was trotting out really well, and confidently. He has a huge stride! No more catwalking! By the end of our session, he was not snorting anymore when I asked him to trot out. He was snorting every breath when I first started.


Kachina had a good lesson, except that I had to throw the rope at her again in order for her to let me halter her today. I think that was because my parents were watching, so she was nervous. Plus she obviously just needed to move. In addition, my halter also had a leadrope attached this time, so she was leery of that new thing. Once I had the rope on her, it didn't take too long, and then she was haltered, with a long lead rope! I spend time mini-roundpenning and asking her to stop and face me with a step in front and a pull on the halter. She did freak out a few times with the new feeling, but she got it. I also "led" her around in circles and she follows the feel of the rope really well. I also gave a steady pull from the front, and it took a while, but she eventually figured out that she should take a few steps foward when she feels that pressure. I didn't do too much of that because she wasn't quite ready for that. Then, I decided to see how she's take fly spray from a spray bottle. She was very nervous at first, but let be get her good side (even her belly and down her back legs!). Her bad side took her a little longer to settle down, but I solved the problem by adjusting the nozzle so I could stand back farther and spray her. It was the noise of the spray bottle that bothered her the most. So, I sprayed my wild mustang with fly spray!

I've been dying to get the tangles out of her mane for a long time. Yesterday, I accomplished it! I had to cut them out with scissors, but it didn't shorten it too much. Her mane is very brittle, so then, I put hair lotion on it (called Pink - get it in the African American hair section at the store - it works great at moisturizing!), and brushed it out with a brush. I was even able to brush her forelock, AND trim her a short bridle path for her halter! I'd say she's a tame horse! I just need to get her more comfortable with letting me halter her, and then get this leading thing down, then I'm ready to begin some more hard core stuff...possibly taking her out of her pen for a walk soon!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kachina is a tame horse

Things have been crazy for me the last few days. I have a job interview in Wyoming next week for a really exciting position! WY State Wildlife Disease Biologist. If I do not get this job, I am heading to vet school this fall, with the goal that I'll be focusing on wildlife so that I can do the job that oversees the position I would have had in WY. That's my life goal right now. Funny how they change, or stay the same, rather. I've decided that as a vet, I don't want to treat other people's animals. I want to simply enjoy my own, and still make a difference in the wildlife conservation world, which has been my specialty previously.

I have been working with Kachina the last few days. I've ignored Griffin a little but that only started out because I had to spend so much time on Kachina after her day off, but it's also because he's more challenging and I was having more fun with Kachina, so he got ignored. I will work with him today! I promise.

Anyway, back to Kachina. Sorry, I have no pictured because I was the only one there, which I prefer, by the way. When I work them alone, I focus much better on their responses and reactions, and I talk to them constantly. When I have an audience, I don't talk as much and we all suffer for it. The connection is not the same.

So, I had decided that I wanted to get a rope on her because I want to start getting closer, haltering her, and I wanted a way to tell her that she needs to stick with me rather than leaving when she's a little nervous. I've watched a lot of clinicians work horses with ropes by throwing them at them repeatedly until they finally get the rope over the horse and in the right position. They say that doing that will show the horse that they aren't going to be killed by things coming at them, so it is a good way to also desensitive them while you work to catching them. Now, Kachina is very reactive, so I was cautious about doing this, but I just went ahead and did it anyway.

My rope is a very long coil of cotton rope (maybe close to 50 ft?). I always start working Kachina by throwing whatever I'm doing to use that day (rope, halter, brush) over the panels into her pen so that she can check them out. She did and she was relatively calm as I entered the pen, until I picked up the rope and started coiling it so that I could handle it. She snorted, ran around, then stopped and watched me (head high, nostrils flared) as I finished coiling it.

Then I just started walking around with it. I wanted to give her a chance to sniff it, but she was having none of that. She just ran from me and the rope. So I started swinging it and tossing it at her. She ran and ran and searched corners to get out. I would toss it at her, and sometimes I'd get it over her butt, but she was spurting forward so fast, that it would come right off. This went on for a long time. I was starting to worry that I was sending the wrong message...spurt forward when the rope comes at you and the rope will not touch you! But I just kept at it. I'd never done this before, so I had some doubts about what I was doing, but I just kept at it. I was very nonchalant as I stood in the middle. Kachina became very sweaty and was breathing hard. A couple of times, the rope was over her back and stayed on her for a lap around the pen. Finally I managed to get it over the neck (it had been over her back, but then she turned into the fence and it went right into position!). I let her trail it out so that I could pick up both ends of the rope, then I had the rope around her neck. Once the rope was on her, she really wasn't so freaked out. She was nervous, but stood and looked at me. I could wiggle the ropes and swing them, and she might jump, but she didn't take off. I asked her to move around a couple of times and then stop and face up. When I asked her to face up, I stepped in front and pulled on the rope, releasing the pull as soon as she made to turn in and look at me. She did this pretty well, but was still a little panicky, and at one point, I lost on end of the rope. It slowly fell off as she moved around, but that was fine. Then I coiled it back up, and approached her with it so that she could check it out. It had been touching her already. She was very tense as she stretched out her neck to sniff at the rope, but I just kept taking it away, walking away from her whenever she reached to check it out, and pretty soon, she was following me just a bit, then sniffing it a little more confidently. So then I reached out with the coil to touch her on the shoulder with it. She made to move away, so I retreated and did that a few times till she was standing well, then finally did touch her shoulder with it. Then I scratched her with the rope and she thought that was okay. At that point, she was a little more secure with it. I did that on both sides, then thought I'd see if I could get it around her neck without throwing it at her again, but as soon as I put it over her neck, she was off. And it stayed on for a little bit, but then fell off.

So, I went back to throwing it at her and she ran and searched corners. She still reacted to the tossing of the rope. Finally, I got it over her neck again (which took a while - I have bad aim). Then I just got to work on her rubbing her all over and moving that rope (which I had hold of both ends around her neck). She LOVES to be rubbed, especially her belly. She has some very thin skin and the gnats have really irritated her under there. Her skin is so thin that it lookes like they held the freeze brand on too long, but probably they didn't hold it on any longer than any other horse. Most of her freeze brand is bare skin. No hair grew back. There is only white hair on the first character.

Prior to this session, she'd only allowed me to touch her with one hand - two hands was just too much and she'd move away, then I'd have to ask her to come back. This time, I had used the rope to pull her back when she left - well, I used a combination of the rope and stepping out in front of her with always gets her to turn into me. Pretty soon, I could put a little pressure on that rope, when she'd lean out to start leaving, and she was choosing to stay with me. I kept rubbing her, and eventually, I was using both hand, rubbing in all her good spots, and I progressed to rubbing her up on her neck and head as well. I've been staying away from the back end until I get a rope on her. I don't think she's a kicker, but I've seen her panic response to an unknown object and that was to kick, so I'll stay away from that until I have control of her head. I was even able to rub down her front legs to the hoof and she stood very well!

Once I'd gotten to where she was letting me rub her head with both hands and touch her nose and put my hand on the bridge of her nose without her trying to pull her head away, I picked up the halter and repeated all the rubbing with it. I progressed to all over her face. Then I slipped it on over her nose and continued to rub her and move it around as I tied it. Kachina is haltered!!!! She was unfazed by the halter. I just continued to rub and rub her body. She loves to be rubbed, which I knew she would. I still had the rope around her neck. Now, Kachina did still every once in a while become bothered by something I was doing, and move away, but I just used the rope to bring her back.

This whole process probably took 2 hours. I could have had her haltered sooner, but I didn't want to rush and make a bad experience, so I was really slow with it all. When I was finished rubbing her, I took the halter back off and continued to rub her as I slowly pulled the rope off her neck. She stood, I gave her one last rub, then walked away. At the end of that lesson, she was very relaxed and had completely dried off - no more sweat.

The next day (which was yesterday), I started by throwing the rope, halter, and a lead rope into her pen. I meant to use the rope again, but I approached her with the halter first and just started rubbing her. She stayed with me really well. I could still use both hands to rub her and rub all over her face. So I didn't end up using the rope at all. I still got the halter on her and then just spent a lot of time rubbing her all over. The flies were bad again, so then I went to get a rag and my bottle of fly spray. She was uncerain about the rag at first (it is bright blue), but I just let her check it out, walked away from her with it, got her to follow me, then I went ahead and started touching her with it. She was quite nervous about it, but she stood and let me do it. So then I sprayed fly spray on it (while standing next to her!), and then proceeded to rub her down with fly spray! I got her whole body except down her back legs and her butt...those are still off limits for me until I get a leadrope on her. I'll do that soon, but I don't anticipate a problem with her back legs. Now, I didn't have a lead rope on her at all yet. Just the halter, and she did leave a few times when that blue rag became to much, but for the most part, she stayed right with me! After the fly spray, I took hold of the halter loop (I use a rope halter), and gently pulled it toward me as I stood at her side. She turned her head toward me instead of pulling away, so I rubbed and rubbed her. I did that a few times on each side, just asking her to give just a little. I think we are now well prepared to me to get a halter on her with a lead rope. That basically means that she's a tame horse! Yay!

Today, I'll work Griffin. He needs to get to this point too, but I know it will take a little more work because it is me he is leery of. Kachina likes me, just not "things", but she's becoming so brave about things now. Griffin is feeling much much better these days. He is walking around his pen again, instead of just standing in a corner (when I'm not in there with), and the other day, when I asked him to let me scratch his neck when I was feeding him, his ran into the barn, then back out, and he was REALLY fast! He's feeling good. But he did calm down and then let me scratch his neck. I think I'll use the pole to get a rope around him, instead of throwing it at him. I don't want to push him into the panels again!