Friday, January 30, 2009

April 6th 2008

"Post from the Past"

April 6th 2008

Wow, I really have not written in a while. I’d like to say that it’s become spring in the time since I last wrote, but really is hasn’t! The weather has been chilly and it has snowed several times! One snow was about 4 inches deep. Sure they melted off quickly, but still, it snowed! I really wish I would have kept up with writing, because as expected, I have forgotten what I’ve been doing lately. A few things stand out in my mind, so I’ll talk about those.

First, Chico’s cut is healing up nicely, although slowly. Here is a picture from last weekend, and also a picture from this weekend.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought some obstacles to use with my horses in the round pen. I bought a tarp, PVC pipe and flower pots to make a jump, a large ball (about 2.5 ft dia.), and some foam tubing (to use as an additional scary object). The night I brought the stuff over, it was really windy, and everyone was acting not like themselves, so I thought it’d be a bad night to try to introduce new objects.

On the weekend (must be last weekend) I decided to work with Cody with the obstacles. She was really good. She jumped the jump cleanly when I sent her over it at first, but after a while she got lazier and lazier, so we worked on something else. The large ball was no big deal at all. Cody was not even remotely worried about it. I even kicked it at her, and she flinched when it hit her in the side, but she wasn’t too worried about it. I could toss it up and bounce it around and she was okay with that. Then I got out the tarp. She wasn’t as comfortable with the tarp, but she did not spook or panic. I ended up laying it over her back and pulled it up around her ears. She stood very still with a little white showing in her eyes. I asked her to move and she walked around me in a circle wearing the tarp. I took it off shortly after that because I could see I was pushing her to the edge of her comfort zone and I didn’t want to cause her to shut off mentally. After that, we went for a bareback ride around the loop, down to the end of the road and back. I had also ridden her the day before with the saddle.

I didn’t work with Catlow much last weekend. I brushed all my horses out really well. They were itchy from starting to really shed out. I came out to work with them last Wednesday and I took Catlow into the round pen to introduce her to the objects. I pulled out the ball and the tarp. Catlow was awesome. I was surprised by how well she handled the potentially scary objects. I fully expected her to spook at least at the tarp, but she was so good. When I pulled the tarp out of the corner, I really shook it good, and she just stood over on the side watching me. I drug it right up beside her and she didn’t move. I spread it out on the ground by the gate, she walked up and sniffed and mouthed at it, then stood next to it rather relaxed because the other horses were standing near the gate. I spent time dragging it on the ground and asking her to follow me. She was very willing. I would pick it up over my head, and shake it, she would stop, but as soon as she felt the leadrope slack pick up, she’d step toward it and continue falling me. Then I dropped it on the ground and asked her to keep walking and step on it. She did. Then I spread it out and spent some time sending her over it. She walked over it so calmly. I was so impressed. I took a little bit of video. Then I picked up the tarp and swung it over her back. She didn’t move an inch while I spread it out over her, pulled it up around her ears. I think that is from being used to wearing a blanket and having it swung up on her. I took pictures. I had Catlow saddled up, but I didn’t bring my good saddle and my old saddle just doesn’t fit any of my horses right, so I didn’t want to climb on board. She did so good, that I just spent time doing ground work with her that day.

Yesterday was Saturday, and I worked with Catlow all afternoon. She was exceptional yesterday. I have concluded that I think she is ready to start riding out on the trail, with another horse. But she might be fine for me to start working her around the place as long as we stay within sight of the house. Then we can gradually build to riding farther as soon as the ground hardens up.

I started with grooming her really well. She is really shedding and the blanket kind of builds shed hair up under it so that it mats in with her hair, and she is obviously itchy. When I hit an itchy spot, she stops munching on her hay, and picks her head up a bit and gets a pensive look on her face while her lower lip twitches just ever so slightly. I have learned that Catlow is a very subtle horse. She reads very subtle cues, so she gets confused easily if I am not being clear, and she expresses her pleasure and comfort in very subtle ways. It’s when she’s confused that she is not so subtle, so it can become easy to only see the bigger reactions, when the subtler ones are always right there under your nose.

Then I saddled her up (which she is taking more and more calmly every time…she still picks her head up high and braces herself for something unpleasant). She is getting calmer about bridling, although I still need to work on getting her to drop her head. I led her to the round pen, then I pulled out all my obstacles (ball, jump, tarp). She was unconcerned about them. I used the bag on a stick to move her around and over the jump. I was a little disappointed about how Catlow took the jump. I asked her to trot over it, and she picked her front feet up nice and high, but she consistently knocked it over with her hinds. Maybe the jump was too high, but I expected her to be more mindful of her feet because she’s VERY mindful of them when I am leading her through the woods. When she cantered over the jump, she cleared it cleanly each time. I was pleased with how she did not get worried after she knocked the jump over. It didn’t faze her at all. I worked on lunging and changing directions with the bag on a stick. I am starting to think that the bag on a stick is too much pressure for Catlow, now that she understands what I am asking her to do. I think she has a tendancy to focus on the bag, rather than what my body is telling her. She was anticipating me making her move whenever I backed away from her, so she would start to get anxious and go even though I had not told her where to go, so I spend some time backing up, and standing still. Then I’d approach her again, pet her and back up again. She got more relaxed. I also ditched the bag on a stick because I could see it was making her uptight. Then we worked in sending over the tarp, piece of cake…so I took the tarp and wadded it up and had her walk over it…still piece of cake, so then I slung it over the fence and sent her past it. She was a bit leary of it, but walked right past it. I led her up to it, shook it, she stood and watched, then sniffed it when I backed off the pressure, so then I slung it over her, she was still great. She was really calm after the tarping and such, so I worked with picking her feet up, slapping the stirrups, and asking her to flex to the bridle. Then I mounted and spent time flexing from the saddle. She is really starting to get what the cues mean (squeeze means go forward, she remembers the various leg cues, although she gets them wrong the first time, but if I keep asking and increase the pressure a bit, she realizes that she’s not doing the right thing, so she’ll switch to doing the right thing, then I stop. She is a smart horse and really wants to please, she’s just really green at this stuff. I think she wants to react right away when I ask her something, so sometimes, in her haste, she chooses the wrong answer. So, we worked on each of the various cues, including sidepassing this time. I have to be more consistent, because when I am, she gets it right away, but when I start trying to manipulate her movement with the reins too much, she gets confused and doesn’t understand what I’m asking at all. So, once I figured that out, I tried to really only use the reins to block forward movement (tried not to pull on her mouth at all), and cue her with my leg. She gets it when I do that. She was calm and obedient today, not spooky, so I decided it was time to try to get a canter out of her in the round pen. She is difficult to get to canter anyway, so I anticipated difficulty here. I got her going really at a really fast trot and then tried to urge her forward into the canter, she trotted faster and faster, then she did finally break into a canter stride and I said “good girl!” and she immediately put on the brakes and stopped, because that is my usual expectation when I say that, but wow was it hard to not say that when she actually broke into a canter. Then she started to stop in the same place every time after she would take one canter stride. It was so much work for me to try keep her going, and she was starting to sweat up and breath really hard, so after a while, I decided that I was pleased as long as she sped up when I asked her to go faster, whether or not I got a canter, and also that she didn’t stop unless I asked her to. She does have a very good stop, which I like! She stops reliable when I say “Whoa”. I had been working with her for a couple of hours at this point, so I gave her a drink, and tied her up by the hay, then went a took a break myself.

Then I came back out, put he bridle back on, and took her outside. We walked around the driveway, and we trotted this time (only the second time we’d done this all outside). She was awesome, so we went out of the gate onto the road and just did circles out there. Cody and Chico followed us down the fence. Then the stallion came over on the other side of the driveway and screamed at Cody, Cody started flirting back with him, and Chico jumped in to try to drive Cody away (Chico thinks that he is a little stallion and Cody is his #1 mare). They got all excited and took off galloping back to the barn. When they did that, Catlow got really worried and wanted to run back with them, so I just pulled her head around asking her to stop and flex. We spun around in many many circles, but then she did stop and flex, so at that point, I got off, because I didn’t want to lose control of her while I was on her back…meanwhile, Cody and Chico (and the stallion) continued to gallop back and forth along the fence. I tied the reins up and asked Catlow to lunge around me and back up. She visibly relaxed after that, so I started walking away from the other horses down the road. We ended up going for a walk all the way up to the bend in the road on Dry creek by the wheat field past the neighbor's place. I wanted to keep her calm and eager to be with me, so I made sure to enforce her to walk beside me…when she’s worried, she tends to speed up and try to lead me. I wanted her to see that being out with me can be a pleasant experience, so in addition to working with her and asking her to listen to me and do things, I also would stop by the side of the road and give her a break to eat some of the new green grass. She really liked that, and I think it helped keep her calm and take her focus off the fact that we were going away from everybody (I’ve heard the endurance racer neighbor call grass the green tranquilizer). We even walked past the llama (she could smell him, but couldn’t really see him). She was awesome on our walk today. She stayed fairly calm and relaxed the whole time. I definitely think she is ready to go out on the trail.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

March 22nd, 2008

"Post from the past"

March 22nd, 2008

This week, we’ve been putting scarlet oil and granulex on Chico’s cut. It has really changed, and not necessarily for the better. The stitches have all pulled through the skin, so that the cut has opened back up. The very edges did hold together, but the wound is opened back up exposing the muscle beneath. The stitches in the muscle are now visible, and it’s awesome to see that the muscle has healed back together. You can’t even tell that there was a tear there. The one good thing is that the skin around the edges of the cut do look like they are starting to heal. After the picture, I pulled the stitches out and they slid out easily. I think that the scarlet oil and the granulex are helping, but it sure looks awful. I’m not so worried about it though because it’s not infected, and there are no flies to worry about, and I watched Houston Animal Cops tonight and they showed a horse with a huge wound in its neck from a stallion bite…huge wound with maggots in it, and that healed up great. There was just a dip in the muscle in the neck and a T-shaped scar. Most of the skin had hair except for the thin line of the T. So, I’m not so worried about Chico’s wound. It’ll heal up. It just looks really ugly right now.

I also trimmed up Chico’s front hooves using the rasp and my new hoof stand (got it on Ebay for $65…it’s really well-made). His front hooves were really unbalanced in the beginning of the year (uneven wear on snow). They were shorter on the inside than the outside. They are now coming close to being balanced. I also trimmed his left back hoof, but I decided not to finish his right back because it was hurting him to hold his hoof up like that…my leg was rubbing on his wound. Amazingly, he doesn’t gimp on that leg at all. He walks almost completely normal. The initial extreme lameness was due to inflammation in the muscle. He was on bute the first 2 weeks, and since then has not been on it and not shown any lameness. That’s why I felt it was okay to trim his hooves up, even the off back hoof, which meant he was standing with all his weight on his injured leg.

I saddled Catlow up after I put Chico away. She is getting fairly comfortable with being saddled. She took the bit much better today, but she did try to back up. I just repeatedly asked her to lower her head, and retreated when she let me hold the bridle up over her head. In the round pen, I worked her off the lead line. I wanted her to get a chance to feel the reins flopping all around her face because it seemed to bother her last time. She did pretty well this time. I also got a lot of cantering out of her. I think she’s getting more muscle and more confidence about moving out. I mounted her, then we did walk and turn and walk and trot for quite a while in the round pen. She did pretty well. There was no spooking today. She was also much better at moving forward off leg cues, although the very first time I asked her, she did try backing up first. I also got a couple rounds of trotting, but we really need to work on getting her to continue trotting until I ask her to stop. She’s really bad about trotting a few strides, then putting on the breaks. She did so well in the round pen that I decided to ride her outside around in the driveway. First I led her down to the end of the driveway and back twice, to expose her to everything, then I mounted her up near the barn, spent some time flexing her (she’s getting really soft), then we started down the driveway. I walked her in serpentines to get her steering and listening to me, then we did figure eights and walked circles around the spruce tree and the wagon. She spooked at Todd's dad when he was getting stuff out of the car, but she only panicked a bit and it was not out of control (just skittering and then freezing)…she needs to learn how to spook and know she’ll be okay, so it was overall really good for her. We did not trot in the driveway, but that will come later. She was really calm afterward when I was unsaddling her. I was thinking about taking her for a walk after that, but I’d worked her for a while, and I wanted to end on a good note (I was hoping that she’d trust me more when on the walk now, but I wasn’t sure). She is such a pretty horse.

I rode Cody after I worked Catlow. We went out to the neighbor's field to see how wet it was…it was good on the edges, but I didn’t want to mark up their field, so I decided to go down the road and up the trail that goes behind the property. The trail was pretty good, but when we got to the top, the snow was really deep, almost unpassable, so we turned around, then went down Dry Creek Road. We went up a side trail just before the creek. The side trail was great, and Cody does so much better on trails where there is more to keep her occupied. I was beginning to get irritated with her because she wanted to turn around all the time. I also discovered that if I keep contact on her mouth, she stays soft and more focused on me. It was fun. I’d like to try dressage with her….I bet she could be a pretty dressage horse. She was also having explosive green poos with undigested grass in them. I’m worried that she may colic again. I’m going to give her some yogurt tomorrow, and I think I might look into buying some good grass hay for a while…at least a few bales. They are still on the crappy hay that I think caused her to colic last year. I really don’t want to treat a colicky horse again. It was awful and expensive last time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

March 17th 2008

"Post from the Past"

March 17th 2008 (St. Patrick’s Day)

Yesterday I cleaned Chico’s wound out, rode Catlow in the round pen, then rode Cody out on the road. Chico’s wound really does not look good. It’s just so open, so I emailed pictures to the Lewiston Vet Clinic. Hopefully they’ll get back to me in the morning tomorrow so that I can take care of it later.

I worked with Catlow in the round pen with lunging quite a bit. She’s getting really good about responding to my requests to move out, speed up, and whoa without getting upset. She stays pretty relaxed. The only time she gets a little uptight is when I ask her to move out and go on the circle. She tends to want to stand there and stare at me, as though she really doesn’t understand what I’m asking, so I just have to continue to ask her to go out, and increase the pressure a little at a time until she finally figures it out and leaves. I think sometimes she is testing me to see if I’m really making her leave. At this point, she’d rather stand there with me and let me pet her, than have me pressure her around the circle. A couple of times she did get flustered at the reins flopping around her chin when she was out cantering on the big circle, and she kind of tried to strike at them. She is definitely a horse that needs to be exposed to everything. I think that she will often take new things as being threatening and scary, so I can’t assume that she’s going to accept something. This was really the first time the reins were flopping around because before they have been tied up through the halter or I was holding them. I can’t be upset that she was worried about them. Now she knows about them, and she’ll get used to them. All in all, she was a little bit jumpier today. She didn’t offer to buck or hop at all with the saddle on, like she did last time, but she was a little more worried than usual. I think that may be because it was kind of windy and the weather was weird. It snowed a couple of times while we were inside the barn.

I worked with her until she was calmly changing directions and starting to move and bend around me on the circle, rather than leaning out away from me. She was a bit winded by then, so I worked with her close up (flexing, yielding fores and hinds). Then I mounted. First we did walk around the pen, then trot. Twice while she was trotting after she passed the opening to the barn, she sped up then kind of bolted forward (spooked at the opening behind her). The first time she did it, it really shook me up because I wasn’t sure how she would react in that situation. I immediately bent her to the inside of the circle and asked her to stop and flex. She could have panicked and bucked me off, but she didn’t. She actually stopped! After that, my adrenaline was going, so I had to calm myself so that I didn’t affect her negatively (she’s really sensitive). But trotting around the circle again, she spooked in the same spot and we did the same thing, I stopped her by flexing and she actually stayed under somewhat control. Then I was determined not to let her do it again because I was concerned that she was using it as an excuse to quit trotting, since it does take quite a bit of motivation to keep her trotting. We trotted a bit more, then I decided to work on stopping, backing, and the ‘go’ cue. She gets the go forward cue (squeeze with both legs) confused with the backing cue (block forward movement with reins, give verbal cue “back”, and ask for motion by alternatingly squeezing the leg and rein cues). She even sometimes was trying to yield her fores or hinds and even sidepass instead of going forward. Probably because we’ve worked from the ground on those other things, so she understands those cues better. So, I worked exclusively on asking her to go forward, then stop on a verbal whoa, then back, then go forward, stop and back. Her first reaction to me squeezing with both legs is to go backward right now, rather than forward. I had to turn up the pressure a bit to get her to understand that was not the correct answer. What worked really well, was if she started to back up when I was squeezing my legs, I’d slap the reins back and forth over her withers or the saddle, just to get some motion behind her and make an unpleasant noise, and she’d start forward when I did that. I was very careful to release all pressure when she did what I wanted, so by the end, she really was picking up the difference between go forward and back up. I think it’s bizarre that she’d rather back up than go forward, but I guess I have always had an issue with getting good forward impulsion from her. But, she’d rather hustle and back across the whole round pen, than go forward…or so it would seem.

She did well, and I think that next time I ride her in the round pen, she’ll have remembered her last lessons and catch on even quicker. I think I need to get that good go forward cue instilled in her before I start asking her to trot. As is now, I feel like I am constantly kicking and urging her forward and she is not really understanding that I’m asking her to keep trotting. She also might be a little lazy.

I rode Cody after working with Catlow. By that time the sun had started peaking through the clouds. I put her new easy boot epics on and we went for a quick ride. We trotted and cantered and then slowed down to a walk. She was much more forward when going away from home today, so I let her walk and relax as long as she was walking at a good pace. We went down to the paved road on the circle, then came back and rode past the red barn on Dry Creek Rd, then turned back. When we got back to the barn, she wanted to duck right into the driveway and not listen to me, so we trotted back and forth and I actually got her to do some rollbacks by turning back toward the house and tapping her with the dressage whip to encourage her to pick up her shoulders.

The easy boots were awesome. They fit her well, and she didn’t gimp on rocks once!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

March 15th 2008

"Post from the Past"

March 15th 2008

I have not written in a long time. I’ve been busy working and taking care of Chico. I have not worked with Catlow in a couple of weeks and I feel kind of guilty, but I’m planning to get back into it.

Last weekend, Chico was recuperating, so I took Cody out for a ride. On Sunday, we went for a 10 mile ride down Dry Creek Road. I left Jasper in the house because he had a really swollen toe…just Sage came along with me. The gravel road is quite soft and wet, so it was perfect footing for Cody. Hopefully it will toughen up her feet while also providing support for her sole, without the pokey rocks. She didn’t seem tender on the side of the road, but sometimes she’d gimp when crossing over the center where the gravel was packed and there were some loose rocks.

We primarily worked with trotting and cantering. I tried to really focus on my body positioning while posting and sitting the trot and especially while cantering. I really notice that it is difficult to sit effectively when Cody is on her right lead. I’m not sure if it is me, or if she is just more unbalanced in that lead. Maybe it’s a combination. I’d like to work on that side and that lead. I probably need to do some strengthening and limbering exercises. I had an epiphany while riding that day. I know that my body position affects the horse’s balance, but I had never actually experienced how I can use my body position to change how my horse will move. I logically knew it, but had never put it into use before. My big epiphany was: I could change which lead Cody picked up by posting on the diagonal of the lead I wanted when Cody was trotting, then asking for the canter. She didn’t do it all the time, primarily because it is more difficult for her to pick up the right lead, but I actually got it once in a while! It was awesome! So, we practiced that quite a bit. I was getting that result, not because Cody knew which lead I wanted, but because posting on the appropriate diagonal had her balance such that it was easiest to pick up that appropriate lead. I know it’s simple, but it was a big bright light bulb for me! I feel like I am becoming a better rider everyday that I work with my horses.

I also worked on getting her to make round circles. She’s really barn sour so all of her circles were squished toward home. After lots and lots of circles, they did get more round. I wish I could get rid of that barn sour-ness. She walked so slow away from home, and on the way back, she was speedy the whole way. She repeatedly broke into a trot, so I shut her down into a sharp circle and make her trot vigorously the other direction, then turn around when I chose to. When we got back home I trotted her back and forth on the road in front of the driveway and used my dressage whip to tap her away every time she tried to duck into the driveway. Once at the barn, I cantered her in circles outside. By the time I stopped and got off, she was dog tired. She stood with her head hanging and she was quite sweated up, so I put her cooler on and let her stand for a long time.

This last week, I began to get really worried about Chico’s cut. It looked infected, but the vets said that was normal drainage. I tried to wash it out every day with a dilute iodine solution. There was never any danger of the drain closing up because it’s been oozing copiously out of the cut. The oozing is foamy and yellowy colored (gets white after it has been well cleaned). Underneath the foam is liquid of a snotty consistency.

This picture shows Chico's cut before I washed it.

Aside from the second day, Chico has been so well-behaved with letting me wash his wound. The very first day, he was good. The next day, he tried to lift his leg and walk around a lot, but I kept elbowing him in the stomach every time he moved off (he was moving because he was being pushy, not because it hurt him for me to touch it). After he got the message that he was not to move, he has been a perfect gentleman every time since. I can scrub at the scabbed serum running down his leg, flush iodine through the drain hole with a syringe, and pick the goo off the actual cut. I’ve been very pleased with his progress. He’s also been a very good horse with cleaning up all his oral antibiotic. It’s easy to treat an easy keeper.

The cut has not closed up yet and it is nearing the time when the stitches can be removed (definitely not time yet for Chico). The vet said that she was concerned that it might not close up well since it was not a fresh wound when they stitched it up. It’s also in a high tension area so it seems to have pulled apart further than when they first stitched it. We are to apply scarlet oil to stimulate the granulation tissue to grow and close it up. Supposedly we should see some difference in a few days. I took pictures today, so I’ll have something to compare to. It’s disgusting. It is so open and gaping. I think I’m going to let a scab form now, and just apply the scarlet oil over the top. It does seem to have closed on the very edges. He’s going to have a huge scar there. That’s okay though…he’s a tough little mustang. A scar will make him look like he’s been in fights and can hold his own.

Here is the wound after washing. The vets said to just go ahead and remove the drain now.

Without the flash on the camera, it gets blurry, but it really shows how open and deep the wound is. You can see all the way into the muscle!

Poor Chico!

Catlow's first ride!!!!

Today, I resumed working with Catlow. I saddled her up with my good saddle and took her in the round pen. I worked with her on lungeing exercises. She did crow-hop a little bit (humps her back and jumps as she’s cantering). She was uptight at first, but I continued with it and then put her on the lead line. She really started to relax after I repeatedly asked her to stop and let me rub her on the face. She visibly relaxes quickly. Her head will be up all high and staring at me, but as I walk to her and place my hand on her face, she drops her head and takes a big breath (I can only assume she had been holding it the whole time before that). Once she really started to relax, I made sure she still remembered flexing, yielding fores and hinds and sidepassing, then I put the bridle on her. She really needs more work with accepting the bridle in a calm manner. She wanted to keep backing up and sticking her head up high. I just had to be patient and repeatedly ask her to bring it back down. She still wasn’t perfect, but I got the bridle on. Then I flexed her with the bridle, flapped the stirrups (she freaked for a couple seconds at first, but then calmed right down), and jumped up over the saddle.

I mounted her, and she stood great. I flexed her for a few minutes (she’s much lighter in the bridle than in the halter). I also worked on having her hold her head flexed without whipping it back straight. She has improved. Then I asked her to yield her hindquarters by putting my leg back and putting a little pressure on the inside rein; she yielded great to both sides. Then I asked her to step across with her fores. It took a little bit of continued asking before she figured out exactly what I was asking, but as soon as she made the connection that this was yielding the fores, then she got it almost perfect every time. I did not side-pass as I think that is a more advanced maneuver and I want her to be perfect at the fores and hinds separately first. She was a little more reluctant about moving out and walking around the round pen (she hung around the gate a lot when I didn’t steer her). She sometimes stalled up and wouldn’t go until I bumped her vigorously on her sides. She also sometimes tried to walk sideways or yield her quarters when I squeezed with both legs to have her “walk”, but this is a cue that she doesn’t have much experience with yet. Todd came out after I got her understanding her basic cues, so he took some pictures and I showed him what she knows as he video-taped it. We also trotted for the first time on video…no mishaps. She was great. Toward the end, she was stalling out on me more, so I got a got a few good trot strides out of her, then quit. It was a great first ride of the year.

See the video Todd took below:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

March 5th 2008

"Post from the Past"

March 5th 2008

I worked with both Chico and Cody last weekend. Cody and I went for a ride down dry creek road. We rode past the scary place with all the equipment to the top of the hill. We did quite a bit of trotting and cantering. She did well, but she was really eager to go home, not so eager to walk away from home. With Chico, I primarily did ground work in the round pen. I also began teaching him to bow. He was really starting to get it. I had him good at picking up his leg, and leaning back…not quite a bow yet, but close. Todd came out and took some pics of us and even a short video clip.

It seems that will be the last time that I will work with Chico for a while as he cut himself. The story is that last night, him and Catlow ran through the gate while Todd's parents were putting round bales in the pasture (I wonder why they were the only 2 to "escape"...I suspect that they were excluded from the barn while everyone else was let in to be grained, but that's just speculation due to knowing how they are despised because of their mutt breeding). Chico ran through the barn and slipped and fell on the wood pallets that keep the bales off the ground. I guess Todd's mom told him to check him, and he looked at Chico's lower legs as he ran by at one point, but I don't think he was looking at he correct side of the body to see the gash higher up. Plus he wasn't limping then, he was all pumped up from being chased around and back into the pasture. So, they missed the gash completely, but it was quite evident, this morning, that something was wrong (he wouldn't walk), then they saw the gash and called me. I rushed out there from work and we took him down to the Lewiston Vet Clinic to be sewn up. He had a 5-6 inch gash on the side of his right hind leg at the flank area. It was swollen and had bled a bit. He ended up tearing a bit of muscle, but the majority of the wound was to the skin, which is good. For being a nasty looking wound, he’ll heal up well, as long as we can keep it draining and prevent abscesses and infection. It’s a good time of the year for cuts! No flies! The vet ended up putting about 3 stitches in the torn muscle tissue, and 11 in the skin. He is on bute and antibiotics.

When I first tried to lead him out of the pasture to take him to the vet, he didn’t want to walk, and was very very hesitant to put any weight on his right hind. Once he started walking, he would put some weight on it, but he was gimping along pretty badly. We were able to load him in the trailer fairly easily considering his injury. He’ll do anything for a bucket of grain! He just sort of leaned in, then stepped up with his front feet. It was hardest for him to get in with his hind feet because he didn’t want to put any weight on his hurt leg. He did manage to get in without putting weight on it. Impressive. When we arrived at the vet clinic, I led him out and into the clinic room, a large cement room with two stocks in it. I was so proud of him. He followed me right into the room, around the stocks, then he walked right into the stocks after just a moments hesitation. He was a bit nervous, blowing and looking around, but he wasn’t scared and he trusted me enough to just follow me. Once they gave him anesthetic, he was droopy and happy, although he could still feel what they were doing to his wound. He was great. They had to give him a second dose of anesthetic. Chico seems to be able to process those drugs very quickly. They do put him under, but sooner than expected, he starts to perk up. It was a little bit harder to get him to go back into the trailer after the vet was finished. I think he was still a little groggy, the step was higher, and he was distracted by all the stuff going on outside the trailer. I just had to be persistent and try several things. In the end, I circled him back around, walked into the trailer, and then pulled until he gave in and stepped on up. Todd's mom tried to "help" load him by pressuring him from behind, but she was worried that he would kick her, so she was trying to not get too close to his hind end, which I thought was interesting, as he has not tried to attempt to kick at me in over a year, since I first started working with him. And he didn’t even kick at the vet when she got near his sore leg. I’m not sure why she thought he’d attempt to kick her. She says he's a kicker, but he never ever tries that stuff with me. Maybe it has to do with trust and the fact that he knows she doens't like him. I think horses are very perceptive.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Some new and old pictures to share

Well, I haven't posted anything new in a long time...primarily because I've been busy, don't have my horses here, and my camera was broken! Today I feel motivated to get caught up and I also thought it would be an opportunity for you all to get to know me a little better.

First off, I just want to tell everyone that I got tickets to see the the Midwest Extreme Mustang Makeover finals in April! I'll be home in WI by then. I got 2 tickets for the close-up seats. Not sure who I'll bring with me dad would enjoy coming along, I think. I'm excited to see everyone whose blogs I've discovered along the way.

I did get a new camera, but I got the cheapest digital camera I could buy because I can't afford the one I really want right now, but I NEED a camera!

A week or two ago I took my dogs for a walk one evening after dark down to Mtn View Park. I found the park completely flooded with the rushing I rushed off to the store to buy a digital camera so I could document it.

In the morning light, it wasn't quite as intimidating, but still impressive. This is a soccer field next to the creek, so it is very low ground, hence the flooding. No where else in Moscow was flooded that I found. I know it isn't much compared to what every one was getting west of here.

If you look closesly, you can see a swan in this photo.

Since I now have a camera, I'm back in action! Of course, I cannot help taking photos around my apartment. If you didn't know, I have 2 dogs, a few cats, and some birds.

Here is my poochy, Sage, gazing wistfully out the window, hoping I'll take him outside soon. I was having my morning coffee and he was waiting patiently.

Two of my cats are always competing for the "top cat" position. Here, Teasel sits on my lap, while Ghost considers knocking her off. Teasel is my oldest cat and she is declawed, so I always stick up for her. It's not fair that the young whipper-snapper with claws gets to come in and knock her off her dignified post.

Ghost doesn't like getting scolded for picking on Teasel, so she gives me a dirty look. What do you think she is thinking?

My christmas cactus has 2 flowers this year! I love my plants. I hope I can manage to take them all home with me. Many of them made the trip to ID with me, so it'd be a shame to leave them behind, but I might be short on room, and I'll be moving at the end of March. It's possible that we might still have some really cold days/nights and the plants won't make it anyway.

My dog, Jasper, is my devoted loyal companion who wants to be by my side constantly. Just before I took this picture, I was getting ready to leave for work and telling Jasper that he was gonna have to stay here. He was looking so pitifully sad that I grabbed my camera to snap a picture, but then he realized I was doing something different and he perked up thinking that my actions meant maybe I'd be taking him with me. Doesn't he look so hopeful? I felt bad bursting his bubble and leaving him behind.

The next series of photos are from this morning. I love when the frost accumulates on everything like this. It's so beautiful! This first pic is out my front window.

Frost on a branch.

Here is a shot of the backside of my apartment. I live on the top floor. My landlady picked out the color scheme, not me...

And now for a few pictures that will maybe give you some insight into my obsessive nature. I love birds. In my apartment I have a large aviary (4ft by 5ft by 6ft). I currently only have about 30 birds, mostly zebra finches and java finches, but also a couple society finches, and random small finches.

I used to have many more birds and was actively breeding them and selling to local pet stores. Since the economy has slowed down, no one is buying as many pets, so I've stopped breeding and sold off most of my birds. The ones I have left I'm hoping to be able to take with me back to WI, but if not, they'll be sold too.

This is a picture of my aviary a couple years ago back when I had many birds...and yes, those are baby chickens on the floor. That was the spring when I got into hatching eggs. Those are chicks I hatched out from eggs that I had sent to me through ebay. It's amazing how resilient eggs are when they are packed right.

I also hatched out some Chinese painted quail (button quail). They are so cute when they are babies! So tiny! I put a quarter in the cage to give some scale.

As adults, they are still tiny (about the size of a week old standard sized chicken), so they make great additions for the floor of an indoor aviary.

It was difficult to keep up with taking care of so many critters (cleaning up after them and the cost of food). I was still in grad school at the time. I think the bird obsession was to distract me from the fact that my project wasn't going so smoothly (I had some issues getting permits to have my samples exported from Peru to here). I've cut back a lot on the birds now, and life is much more manageable. But I still love my birds...not in the same way as my cats, dogs, and horses. I love to watch them flit about their business in the morning while I'm drinking my coffee. It's very relaxing. Everytime I change their water, everyone comes down to the floor to bathe in it. They are very entertaining...much better than a TV.

Anyway, now you know a lot more about me, probably more than you ever wanted to know!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

February 27th 2008

"Post from the Past"

February 27th 2008

Today I worked with Catlow. It was really cold out…well, it actually wasn’t that cold, but it was very humid and foggy, so the cold damp air really soaked under your clothing. I was actually cold by the time I finished working with Catlow.

First off, I went to catch her in the pasture and of course Chico comes up and crowds me, but I push him away and he’s waiting fine, but then one of the big fat mares behind him starts backing up to him and threatening to kick him, and he barged into me to get out of her way. And of course, I was about to put the halter on Catlow. I got mad and turned around and chased the big fat mare and threw my halter and lead rope at her. When I turned around, Catlow had skittered off away from me. She avoided me a bit then finally stood and let me halter her. Then in the round pen, I began working with the plastic bag, and today she really was not okay with it like she had been yesterday. Perhaps the whole affair with me chasing the others horse scared her so she was guarded with me. Every time I moved the bag toward her head, she kind of ducked and moved away. Basically she was pivoting away from me. I didn’t especially feel like pushing it. It was obvious neither of us was enjoying the bag today, so I threw it over the fence and went and got the lead rope. I practiced asking her to walk and trot around me, change directions, and come in to me. I definitely noticed that I am not being consistent with my cues, even though I was trying to be. I’ll have to work really hard on that. I was often just swinging the tail of the rope to get to her to go faster, rather than being sure to point first. So, I’m probably Catlow’s problem with the lunging and the rope swinging. She did very well, but sometimes, she repeatedly tried to come in to face me when I wanted her to keep going. I think she might be doing this when I stop walking in my small circle. I did notice that she would try to stop and come in as soon as I stopped. I need to be way more consistent. I will continue to work on this.

Before I began all this work, I tied two 20oz soda bottles to the circingle she was wearing. She was not okay with me swinging the bottles on the rope when I stood away from her (she’d pivot away), but she was fine with me tying them to her, and throughout her whole workout, she never gave them any notice (except for right away, she did flex around to get a good look at them). She also did not buck at all and I had the circingle pretty tight. I didn’t ask her to canter though, we did mostly close work on the lunge line. I need to get bigger bottles and put some water in them so they swing more.

At the end of the lesson, I bridled her and did some flexing and various aids. She really didn’t want to be bridled. I need to work with her for one lesson with just accepting the bridle in a calm manner. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow. She threw her head up and tried to back away. I think she knew what was coming, and she didn’t want any part of it. I did end up getting a somewhat decent acceptance of it, but her head was up and she had that wrinkle under her eye. She flexed well to the bit. I think she remembered this a bit from last year. She also is kind of understanding that she needs to back when I put pressure on both reins, although she did get confused and wanted to flex to one side instead of back a few times. I tried applying rein pressure on the opposite side and asking her to yield her fores. She actually got it really well on one side, but the other side, she kept trying to flex toward me and swing her hinds out, instead of the fores. I don’t think she had connected at all (on either side) that the rein pressure was another part of that cue now. I’ll have to continue that.

Overall, I didn’t feel as confident today and Catlow wasn’t responding as well. Maybe they were feeding off one another. I feel like I do not really know some of the cues that I am asking of her, so I’m not being consistent with them, and so she’s having trouble understanding what I want (because I’m not sure what I’m asking). I think I need to just pick a way and be consistent (mostly I’m talking about adding the rein pressure in as I ask her to pivot). I think that if I can get her to make that connection on the ground, it will be infinitely easier in the saddle. I do think that it will probably be very easy to get her to side-pass because she seems to want to do that a lot. Whenever she is confused about what I want, she tries that. Catlow wasn’t bad today, but it was an off day for both of us.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

February 26th 2008

"Post from the Past"

February 26th 2008

I worked with Catlow and Chico in the round pen this evening. I think I ended up working Catlow for 1.5 hours, and Chico for half an hour.

I worked with Catlow first. I caught her, took her blanket off and put the circingle on her. She wasn’t concerned at all about me putting it on her. I led her to the round pen and then unclipped her lead. Then I got the plastic bag and proceeded to walk around ignoring her and shaking it. She stood by the gate watching me, but didn’t run until I got close to her, then she did run around the round pen, so I nonchalantly cut her off whenever she tried to go past me. Eventually, she stopped and faced me, then I was able to walk right up to her and scratch her with the bag. She seemed to want to keep me on her left side, so I had to make an effort to work both sides and get her to face up to me straight. She did so well…when I clucked at her hiny, she calmly swung it out and faced me, from both directions she would do that. She wasn’t leary about me touching her with the bag at all. She did get nervous if I shook it, then quickly went to lay it on her withers, but she didn’t run away, she’d just turn away a few steps to be ready to run away if she had to. And a couple of times, as soon as I touched her with the bag, she uttered a huge sigh, indicating that she was uptight, but not shutting down…she was actually relaxing with this whole process. She never actually yawned at all today, so I think that she managed to keep breathing through most of the exercises.

Then I practiced free-lunging her, then asking her to stop and turn in. Then I’d walk up to her with the bag, and lay it on her shoulder or shake it and lay it on her shoulder and rub her face with my hand. She was keeping her head really low when I rubbed her showing me that she was relaxed in my presence. She is actually finally getting over the throwing her head up every time I move. She did still raise her head when I shook the bag, but she is doing awesome for as fearful as she was. I really am getting the feeling that she isn’t as stressed about working with me anymore. She’s starting to understand what I expect and it is getting easier to listen to me. Things have gone slowly with her, but she really is improving! I worked a lot in this session on getting her to read me better…understanding when to go (when I point and cluck, then shake the bag when she doesn’t listen), and when I don’t want her to go (when I don’t point, but approach her, even if the bag is jiggling a bit). She was really understanding not to leave, but a little less certain about me actually asking her to leave. I think that shows that she is feeling comfortable enough with me, that she’s only going to leave if that’s really what I intend. We haven’t worked with this much since we started our intense lessons, so I’d expect her to not get it quite yet. Before, she didn’t want to come off the rail and be with me, so this is great. I did ask her to canter a few times, and she did, and of course, she kind of did a little cow hopping because the circingle was grabbing her belly, but it was really weak, and she quit as soon as she got accustomed to the feeling when cantering.

I finished up the session by asking her to yield the fores, hinds, and sidepass (all without a leadrope!), and then I did clip the lead rope on so that I could ask her to flex. I think that she is ready for me to ride. I need to get the saddle on her, and practice lunging, and then the bit (same session) and get her flexing really good to the bit before I climb in the saddle, but I don’t expect that to take too many sessions. I’ll probably need to get some 2 liter soda bottles and lunge her with those before the saddle, then with the saddle on. Maybe I can ride her in the round pen this weekend (maybe I should get health insurance first!). I’m really excited to get her to do all the yielding hinds, fores and sidepassing from the saddle. I hope she can make the connection, since she’s making the connection from my hand position on the ground. My favorite part about this session was the fact that she was so relaxed with me rubbing her face. Almost every time I rubbed her face, she dropped her head and got really soft eyes. The thing that I need to work on is getting her better with reading me when I ask her to leave to lunge around the round pen. Maybe it’s my body language that isn’t conveying what I want. I might need to show more intensity in my look when I ask her to leave.

Next I worked with Chico, but only briefly. The majority of the time was spent with the plastic bag. He’s much more confident than Catlow, but he is also more energetic, which translates to him liking to run around the pen, so sometimes if he’s only a little uncertain about the bag, he’ll leave anyway. I did the plastic bag work with no leadrope. He was actually great with the bag, and he’s always intensely curious (he actually walked right up to the bag to smell it first thing in the pen). But he was uncertain when I moved the bag around at ground level. There must be some instinctual fear when an object comes at them low and then gets high to touch them on the withers. He had a really hard time with that (probably also because it must be hard to see the bag when it is low and fast). He did get over it, especially when I associated it with a treat. And even more especially when I shook the bag low while offering him a treat, so he had to overcome that fear (control it) if he wanted to take that treat from me (and he did!).

I tried doing some free-lunging, but he was really full of it (over reacting when I asked him to change directions, and running straight at Sage waiting at the gate whenever he came around the circle), so I put him on the lunge line. He’s better behaved then and I keep him closer so he pays more attention to me. He trotted and cantered on command and generally was really good. Oh, and I also put the circingle on him…he really didn’t even notice it. I’d like to ride him this weekend, but I think I’d like to lunge him thoroughly first (he just has so much energy that I don’t completely trust him to listen fully to me without losing some excess energy first).

I also asked him to yield his fores and hinds. I think he needs more work on yielding his fores to the right…he tends to walk a tight circle and I really need to get him to pivot on his hinds.

I really need to get health insurance before I ride my crazy horses.

Monday, January 12, 2009

February 24th 2008

"Post from the Past"

February 24th 2008

Today when I went out to the field, Chico was the first to greet me, so I took him out. We went straight out the driveway for a walk. He was weaving all over the road for a while. He also wanted to pass me, or stop and eat grass, or chase the dogs…in general, he was real full of himself and wasn’t used to being respectful or paying attention to me. He wasn’t that bad, but more cantankerous than usual, also a little bit unsure in some places. The dogs found their deer bone again. Dogs laying down chewing on bones really unnerves horses for some reason (both Chico and Cody today!). I found a hub cap on the side of the road, and I used it to kick around and desensitize him with. He of course freaked at first, but got really curious about it after.

Almost halfway to the turnaround spot on our walk, I had to stop and lunge him for a while, as he was getting really antsy. He started to pay more attention to me after that. Then we continued walking and I worked on getting him to stop and back when I stop and back. At first, when I stopped, he just kept walking, so I pulled really hard to spin him around. We did that several times, then he started to catch on and pay more attention. Once he was paying attention, then it was easy to get him to back as I backed.

We turned around at the red barn on Dry Creek Road. On the way back, I asked him to trot, then whoa and back. Same thing over again, he wanted to just keep trotting when I stopped, so I had to pull him around really hard, then make him back up. He caught on after a couple of stops. Once, I asked him to back and he did nothing, so I gave him a horse kick in the chest…then he dropped his head and back when I asked him. He was just testing me a little bit, and he’s used to being one of the top horses in the pasture, so he’s not used to obeying someone else’s every whim. About half way back, he dropped back into his old self, where he was paying attention to me really well…not until then would I have ridden him. I think I’ll bring my saddle next weekend and ride him on Sunday.

After Chico, I caught Cody and took her in the round pen. She was quite a bit better today with manners than she was last week. Only once did she try to go over to the hay pile while I was closing the gate, and I made her back away from it. Then she was very mannerly. We went into the round pen and I right away got the plastic bag on the stick. She’s not afraid of it at all, but I made sure and desensitized her first, then I lunged her using the bag to create a bit more energy. It is still working great, and today, she showed no signs of insolence like last time (the bucking). She did everything I asked and paid close attention to me.

I bridled her at the jeep with my new bridle, and used Todd’s truck to climb up on her bareback. Off we went down the driveway at a good walking clip. Today, she didn’t seem nearly as ouchy on gravel, but we also stayed on roads that were softer (last time the road was still frozen in spots). We went down to the end of the loop where it meets up with Little Bear Ridge Road, then back. I think it was probably over 3 miles, but under 4. We did some trotting and cantering (I love cantering on a bareback horse up a gentle incline…it’s the neatest feeling in the world!). I really tried to work on getting her to side-pass. As we were walking down the left side of the road, I’d put my left leg back and push and at the same time, pull the left rein to my hip to swing her hindquarters out. We had to do that a few times, just so that she would get it. Then when she was swinging out perpendicular to the edge of the road, facing the ditch, I’d also apply right rein pressure and move my leg more toward the left middle, to push her over. She really wasn’t getting it very well, and I suppose it didn’t help that home was over the bank, so she’d sometimes step into the snowbank. The other direction, she wanted to just back up when I applied the second rein pressure. After a while, I started to think that maybe I was keeping her head tilted too far to the left (she was supposed to side-pass right). Then I tried stopping her in the road, then asking her to step side-ways with my leg, while blocking her forward movement with the reins….and she side-passed! Only one step or two, but we’ll practice that. I’d like to eventually be able to ask her to side-pass over a log. Cody is so smart that sometimes I think she’s playing dumb just because she doesn’t want to listen to me when I ask her to do something.

After we returned, Catlow was standing at the gate, so I took her out too. I didn’t really feel like taking her for a walk, and to be honest, I kind of have been avoiding her because I felt like all the work that I’d done so far had done nothing for her. So I took her in the round pen and decided to do a lesson with the plastic bag. I turned her loose, and then just started walking around waving the bag violently. She of course took off, running around the pen. I ignored her and when ever I inadvertently cut her off, she’d quick change direction and run the other way, but very quickly after only a few circles, she stopped and faced me. I stopped waving the bag when she did that to give her a reward and a break, then continued waving the bag. She ran another circle, then stopped and faced me again, so this time I walked up to her, let her sniff the bag, then set it on her withers and rubbed her with it. She stood there really well, so I slapped it up and down her body, and she stood there!!! Without a lead rope! Then we switched sides and did the same thing and she stood again. I was a bit floored because my impression of her after taking her for a walk had gone way way back to before I started working with her. It was nice to see that working with her in the round pen really had stuck with her.

Then I decided to push her and I ran around with the violently flapping bag. This of course set her off and she took off round the pen, but she faced up again! After I was positive that she was not afraid of the bag, I decided to use it as an aid to get forward movement when I lunged her free (no lead rope…I guess you could call this roundpenning). I hadn’t done this with her in a long time, so I was unsure what to expect. But she moved off really well, and the bag definitely created more forward movement. But she wasn’t panicked, I could get a slow trot out of her, and a canter. I only worked with her very briefly with several changes of direction. I tried to make my body language very consistent (point to go faster, and only shake the bag when she ignored me). And when I asked her to stop, I said whoa and walked up to her with the plastic bag and gave her a treat. This was also way different from when I first started working her in the round pen. She used to want to take off again when I approached her, as though the whole round pen experience was beyond her comprehension…she didn’t know why I was chasing her or what I expected of her. And I haven’t been lunging or round penning her since then. She is so much better now! This is all a sign that she definitely trusts me more than she used to, even though it didn’t seem like it after our walk.

I’m really glad that I worked her today because it has given me more hope. I will continue to work with her with the goal of riding her out of the round pen. It might have to be with Cody, but that doesn’t matter right now. I think that this week, I’ll saddle her up and do some more exercises, then I’ll start riding her around the round pen. Then by this weekend, I’ll be ready to take her for a walk saddled. And maybe I can convince Doni to come out, and we can take Catlow for a walk with another horse, too.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I went riding with Andrea today. I rode Cisco. Aside from a bit of antsy-ness in the beginning he settled in quick and was pretty calm on our 4 mile loop ride. He calmly surveyed a moose trotting through the trees, while Tonka became really worried about it (but who can blame him, moose are huge and wierd looking!) We had a good ride, but I am not in riding shape anymore! My butt hurts so much right now! My butt bones are bruised (must have lost my calluses), and I actually have a cramp in a muscle that connects to my butt bone (wierd place, I know, and a weird pain). The cramp didn't show up until after I'd been parked on my couch relaxing while eating roasted chestnuts for a while (not diet food, but I had to eat them before they all dried out). I guess you lose your riding shape FAST when you don't ride at all for a while, and it's exaggerated when you ride in a saddle you aren't used to. I think I'll be really sore tomorrow judging by the stiffness I already feel in my thighs. It's pathetic, I know. But thanks for taking me riding, Andrea! I did have fun, even though I'm complaining about my poor physical fitness right now! It was great and I like Cisco!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

February 18th, 2008

"Post from the Past"

February 18th, 2008

Yesterday I took Catlow for a walk. We went all the way to where the creek crosses Dry Creek Rd. I figured the mileage to be 4 miles round trip. It was a good walk for me, but it was unnerving for Catlow. She was good for parts of the walk, but there were places (namely the red barn and all the way to the creek and back) where she was very nervous and snorty. She would start doing the horse sneeze thing, and when she was nervous, it was fast and bursty. A couple of times, she actually did the alarm snort, like a deer makes when you startle them in the woods. The very first part of the walk consisted of me basically pulling her. Then once she started getting nervous, she picked up the pace and I had to make sure that she didn’t get too far ahead of me. Pretty much for most of the walk, she was not very cooperative with the lateral flexion. She would do it, but it was really forceful and as soon as she gave to me, she’d whip her head back straight and stiff again. If I tried to get her to keep her head around, she just kept pulling it back till she hit the lead rope, and then flexing and pulling it back again…violently. When I wouldn’t give it back to her, she would get kind of upset and then start circling. Once, she actually tried to pull the rope out of my hands instead of flexing. When she did that, I yanked on the lead rope to ask her to back up. Actually, I had to do that a lot. When I ask her to back up, she does focus on me, but if I let her stand still too long, she starts to get anxious. She did a couple of times, refuse to back up and instead would go from side to side and try to walk forward around me (my back was facing home). I did take Cody past the places where I walked Catlow, and Cody was on edge for some of the time as well, so I guess that I can’t blame it all on Catlow. I wrestled with trying to decide if I should continue her training or give up on her today. After all, I have two other horses that progress easily when worked with, and they both need additional work too. I ultimately decided that I will continue her training, but now that she is getting better inside, I need to take her for more walks. I’ll give her a couple of weeks of walks, and if there has been no discernible improvement, then I’ll have to re-evaluate what I’ll do with her then (give up, or continue). I’d like to be able to ride her alone, but at this point I’m accepting that this might not happen. I think that I need to ride with another horse (hopefully Cody and Doni) so that Catlow is calmer. She might be able to gain confidence doing all these things with another horse, then maybe we can progress to working alone. I rode Chico alone for the first several times, but Cody spent her whole first summer riding with other horses, and they are both doing well, although I’d say Chico is more confident than Cody about being alone. So, the current plan is, keep her going on the walks and practicing all our moves out on the road, and at the same time, I am going to work her up to the saddle on our indoor lessons (this shouldn’t take long, since I have sat on her before). Then, after a few weeks, I’ll begin ponying her under saddle with Cody. Then, depending on how she does, I’ll ride her with Doni on Cody. I’d also like to continue working Chico in this time, as he is getting lonely in the field.

Catlow is getting better about trusting me in the field. I didn’t work with her today; instead I worked Cody and Chico, but I did take Catlow’s blanket off so that she could enjoy the warm air on her skin today. And she did let me put the blanket back on without haltering her later.

Today, I worked both Chico and Cody. First I worked with Chico in the round pen. I let him loose, while I picked up the plastic bag on the stick and walked around nonchalantly waving it. He snorted and ran around the pen. Tango (2 year old filly) and the two weanlings were in the barn, and Tango started snorting and blowing and scaring the babies. They all ran back and forth through the barn and Chico tried to run with them. Every time that he stopped and looked at me, I put the bag down and praised him. Finally, he walked up to me, to sniff the bag. He just needed to get a little spook out. When that was over, he ignored the bag and approached me for a treat. He was nervous about the bag a little bit, but he adjusted to it well. He didn’t like it over his head, but he accepted it by the end. The only thing that really worried him was when I was flapping it up and down on his sides. He did panic and run away. I think he partly didn’t know what I was asking him to do, and once he decided he was to stand there, he did accept it, although he wasn’t super pleased with it. This was his first time with the bag like this, so I thought he took it really well. Then we did some lunging and flexing and yielding the hindquarters. He remembered this all well. Then I tried to teach him to yield the forequarters. This took quite a bit of repetition, but I think that with continued future lessons, he’ll catch on quickly. It was all brand new to him and he wasn’t sure what I was asking. We’ll continue to work on this, because I think he will be the one to make the connection under saddle.

I worked with Cody next. First, I trimmed her feet up a bit. Her right foot was more upright than her left, so I took heel off of both front hooves, but a bit more off the right. The right front is still just a bit more upright. The left hoof had a longer toe, so I just rasped the tip of the toe off (didn’t make it shallower, just shorter). Her back hooves appeared to be too long in the toe and low at the heels, so I just rasped the toes shorter so that it’d be easier for the hoof to break over. I rasped until the hoof wall surrounding the white line was the same width on the toes as it naturally was on the side (it was thicker to begin with at the toe).

In the round pen, I did the same order of events as with Chico. Cody ran around a bit at first with the introduction of the plastic bag, but very quickly, she was stopping and staring at me to figure out what I was doing. When approached with the bag, she smelled it, and didn’t flinch at all when I touch her withers with it. All in all, Cody was not at all afraid of the bag. She was even fine with me sliding it over her head. The flapping it on her side did bother her at first, but she only flinched and made to move off, but I bumped her nose and told her to stand and she got over it really quickly, and then just stood there looking at me. I flexed with Cody, but she is really bad at it. Always has been. She’s actually pretty good when I’m out riding, but if we are just standing around and I ask her to flex, she is really heavy. I have to pull her around, and bump on the rope to get her to touch her side. She doesn’t seem to get better with repetition; she gets worse. It’s not the same thing as with Catlow, where she shuts down. Instead, I think that Cody is just testing me, and being a bit lazy. I’ll have to try getting her to really move her feet, then asking her. Maybe if I use the dressage whip, she’ll give better. I think that I should try to teach her to bow or lay down. She’s pretty comfortable with herself, so I think that she’d do it once she understood what I was asking. She remembered the yielding the hinds well, but teaching the yielding the fores was completely a new thing. She wanted to walk forward at first, and I had to really get after her, bumping the rope to prevent her from walking forward, and I had to hustle my feet to keep at her head. She wasn’t getting the girth pressure, as the cue to step across, but I think it’s because I was rushing it. I need to start from the very bottom with this step, since Cody has not done it before. We will continue more with the next lesson.

After that, I lunged her and used the plastic bag to ask her to move. Wow, did I have a breakthrough! She has always been really lethargic about cantering on the lunge line; in fact, in lessons, Katie was having me just try to get a few canter strides out of her before stopping her so I’d catch her before she stopped on her own. Using the plastic bag, she took right off into the canter, and I even had her on a fairly short rope (she wasn’t at the edge of the round pen). I was able to get her to canter in both directions. I didn’t push it too much because I want didn’t want to tire her too much (she was puffing and worked up a sweat). A couple of times, she’d face me as asked, but when I asked her to go back out, she’d just stand there and I had to really get after her. Over all, she was really hustling. She was also being a bit disrespectful, as a couple of times when I asked her to go out, she’d hump her back and kick out, and start bucking. I didn’t get upset about it because this was really the first time she’s been worked since she colicked in October. She was just testing me, and making sure that I knew that she was going, but she didn’t like it. She quit trying to kick out after she got tired. Then I bridled her, and we went off down the road for a trail ride. She did the same as always, although she was a little uncertain in some areas (same ones that got Catlow worried). I rode bareback, so after our 4 mile ride, I was pretty tired.

Friday, January 9, 2009

February 17th 2008

"Post from the Past"

February 17th 2008

Doni did not end up coming out with me yesterday. It was such a nice day, partly cloudy, sometimes sunny, and melty, that I couldn’t bear working in the round pen in the barn. Instead, I worked Catlow for just a few minutes in the barn, then took her out for a walk. We went north out of the driveway, down to where the loop joins Dry Creek Rd, then back. The gravel was saturated with water and nice and soft and squishy. I liked that Catlow was curious and comfortable enough about her surroundings to drop her head to investigate the footing whenever it changed. And she walked through puddles with no problem.

This lesson consisted of me leading her, then stopping every once in a while to ask her to yield the fores and hinds, and back up. She came along well, but going away from the house, she did her usual barn sour stop, and I’d have to pull on her head until she decided to follow me again. She’s quite stubborn. She did get nervous when we went past Harriet’s pastures as she could see the other horses and she wasn’t sure what to do. I just tried to keep her occupied with flexing and pivoting. She flexed every time as asked, and we really only got into one disagreement where she was stiff and decided to spin around instead of flex, but she did eventually stop and flex. When she was nervous, her flexing was rapid, she touched me with her nose rather firmly, then pulled her head back straight to stare out across the field. I tried to ask her to keep her head flexed, and she would flex, then start to pull her head back, find that I was still holding her head, flex again, then again, then again…trying to pull her head back straight. I kept her flexed until she started to be less resistant about it. She didn’t completely calm down. But it was obvious that the flexing we did in the round pen helped her. She’s a bit more automatic about it, and understands what I’m asking of her. And she did calm down after the first initial freak about seeing the other horses. On the way back from our walk, she didn’t stop once (a little barn sour). Since she was walking up much nicer, I took advantage of this and asked her to trot alongside me, which she did immediately, then “whoa” and back up. She was catching on pretty good, although I’d like her to listen to the “whoa” a bit more instead of only relying on my body language. That will help once I’m in the saddle.

After I was done with Catlow, I pulled Todd (who had a mild flu) out of the house to take a few pictures of her (hence the grouchy expression). Then I put my new bridle (got the loop reins and slobber straps!!! Yay!!!) on Cody and we went for a quick bareback ride down the road and back. I do think that the molasses is negatively impacting Cody. She’s not lame right now, but she has super obvious bulges in the hoof where there has been new growth since December. It’s scary. I’d like to have the vet out or show it to someone other than Todd's mom so I have an unbiased opinion about what it was caused by and how severe it was. I just don’t want my horses to be injured. They do not NEED the molasses lick. They are all fat, so I’d rather not take the risk if they could possibly hurt my horses, even if they were not the cause of the weird hoof growth or wearing.

A pic of Catlow on this day. Notice the brown smudge across her nose from licking the molasses/protein bin all day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

February 15th 2008

"Post from the Past"

February 15th 2008

Yesterday, I went out to Todd’s with the intention of us spending Valentine’s day together (making beer and playing with horses), but Todd didn’t feel very well, so I played with horses myself.

I had spent the previous week making rope halters with the new rope that I bought from D&B. I got a reddish brown with a tan tracer, and a bright purple with a white tracer. I thought the brown would be a perfect color to complement Catlow’s color. I ended up making 12 halters (also with some other leftover rope I had). I caught Catlow (feeding at the molasses licks which had been replaced in the pasture, much to my dismay, since last weekend). I took her in the round pen, then proceeded to try every halter on her. She was very patient. The halters are going to fit perfectly once they’ve been on a horse and the knots have tightened up…as is now, the unused ones seem too small around the nose, but really, they are perfect. I ended up using a dark neutral colored halter that Todd said was his favorite color, but he didn’t end up coming out to check on me until I was done working with her.

Since I started trying rope halters on her, I had her flex in a few of them. She actually flexed to touch me very quickly…hardly any wait period today! Either a break of 4 days did her good since our last session, or she likes that I didn’t do any desensitizing with her.

I did not do ANY desensitizing with her, and the difference in her attitude is amazing…I think that I may have to do a few experiments. Sometimes I need to do desensitizing first, and check her willingness to flex, then I also need to just start a lesson with flexing, and see how she acts. I think that perhaps she is shutting off a little bit when I do the desensitizing exercises and it really shows when I ask her to flex so that she will choose to hang on the halter instead of giving to me. She is much more willing when I do not make her uncomfortable by throwing the rope around. Maybe I need to stop “annoying” her with the desensitizing stuff…she’s not really afraid of the rope tossing, but it makes her uncomfortable.

The primary exercise that I worked on with Catlow was yielding the fores and the hinds and some side-passing. She remembered that she was to step across in front with both the fores and hinds when yielding. She pivoted very nicely, but I noticed that she was tending to get a little bit lazier with the hinds. I think mostly because previously I hadn’t asked her to do very many steps, so I worked on asking her to take more steps and quicken up her feet a bit. She really did quicken up fast when I poked her, and she stayed relatively calm throughout the whole process. When I would praise her and let her stop, she’d immediately look at me to see if she was going to get a treat for doing well. Sometimes I did give her treats, but I was trying to save them for when she did REALLY well. I was extremely pleased with her yielding the fores in a complete circle. She is really consistent about rocking back on her hinds and stepping around with her fores. She caught onto that very quickly. The only time she became confused was when I first started asking for a 360 degree pivot…she’d step across several times, but then when I kept pushing her, she’d start to step back…I had to just keep with her until she stepped across in front again and then reward her big. She did great today. It was calm and pleasant to work with her, and my overall impression was that she was trying for me.

She was also a lot more relaxed overall. When I let her go, she walked over to investigate my halter pile, and she even picked one up and tossed it a bit (which is not her personality at all…she’s the quiet hang back and watch horse). Then I let her eat hay with the weanlings in the barn after our lesson, and I laid down in the hay. She actually approached me to sniff at me, then continued eating. She usually doesn’t approach me when I give her the choice. I have been rewarding her with a treat when she walks up to me on request in the round pen. That’s probably helping her to be more interested in approaching me.

Well, I’d like to work with her again tomorrow. Doni might come out with me again. Hopefully, she’ll want to work longer than she did last weekend. Maybe I’ll see if she wants to work with Cody. I’d love to take both Cody and Catlow to the clinic at Katie’s in March. Actually, I’d love to take all three of my horses, but I’m not sure I want anyone else to work with Chico because he hasn’t been worked by anyone else yet, and he still needs quite a bit of work.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

February 13th 2008

"Post from the Past"

February 13th 2008

I worked with Catlow last Sunday (Feb. 10th), but I haven’t written about it yet, so that’s what I’ll do now.

Doni came out with me to help me work the horses, but she didn’t have much time, so we didn’t do many things. Primarily I worked Catlow and described her various vices and Doni watched and gave me input. She didn’t really suggest anything that I should do, but she did let me know what she thought about how I was approaching Catlow’s issues. She said that she thought Catlow was doing well, and definitely ready to ride. I think I could ride her right now if I felt pushed for time (I did ride her a bit last fall in the round pen, and up and down the driveway once, but the only reason it went okay was Catlow was in a comfortable place (the barn) and I wasn’t pushing her to do anything stressful, just walk and turn...and really, I was lucky it went okay given that she still didn’t really trust me at that time), but I think that there are still things that need to be second nature for her before I begin some things. I need to first get her to want to work with me…seems like she’s getting quite a bit better, then I need to start working her on the line doing some lunging things. She needs to be comfortable with that, so that I can do that with her out in the field in case I have any problems. I’d like her to also be comfortable cantering in the round pen, or on a lunge line before I do too much work with her under saddle…but maybe I shouldn’t push the cantering thing, and do progress to doing some of the exercises under saddle (yielding shoulders, hinds, sidepassing, flexing, backing) even before she’s good with cantering. I think she could do them now.

First thing we did was to bring both Catlow and Chico in. I wanted to demonstrate how willing Chico was. So I did just a bit of lunging with him, and he was definitely willing, but he was also out of practice and a bit flighty. He kinda panicked when I asked him to move his shoulders over, but I didn’t want to work on him, so I ignored it and let him go. I do need to start spending a bit less time with Catlow and try to spend more on both Cody and Chico too. It’s hard to do with 3 horses and a full time job.

Then I brought Catlow in, and basically ran her through her paces…everything that we’ve been working on. Of course, I tried to demonstrate the two different horses on the different sides thing, but she was pretty close to being the same on both sides today. She was a little better on the left than usual, and a bit worse on the right…but she’s evening out…I think that’s good. She was very good about not spooking. I’ve been thinking that I should maybe try something different with her lateral flexion. I think if I start using the bit, she might respond better, so maybe next time, I’ll put a bit in her mouth halfway through, and see how that goes.

I was reading Tom Dorrance’s book “True Unity”, and I had some thoughts about Catlow. At first I became concerned that I was causing her undue worry with some of the things I was asking of her (like the plastic bag), but then I realized that I’m not trying to annoy her there, I’m trying to show her how to deal with stress…and I do think that she is learning to tolerate annoyances, and to relax when presented with them. I repeatedly ask her to lower her head or flex in between annoyance exercises, and she definitely does relax as soon as I ask her to drop her head…then of course, she raises it back up as soon as I offer the stress again.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

February 9th 2008

"Post from the Past"

February 9th 2008

It was gorgeous outside today. In Moscow, the temperature was 47 degrees F at 1:30pm. I worked with Catlow this morning for about 2-3 hours (I lose track of time when I’m out with the horses). I also trimmed just a bit off her heels on her front feet after our session.

I began with working on Catlow’s difficult side (her left side). I did everything on that side first before I moved to the other side, because I wanted to be sure that I spent enough time on it and moved forward before I got tired. I’ve been thinking about naming her two sides, since it is like working with two different horses, for the most part. I’m still thinking of names…one side is evil, the other side is good.

First, I tossed the rope until she became bored with it…which she is kind of doing now! But mostly, bored means she’s not glaring at me with her shut off eye, and she’ll actually look at me once in a while. I’m going to buildup the muscles on my right arm more because I work with her left side so much. We’ll both be one-sided! I wouldn’t say she was better than yesterday, but she wasn’t worse.

Then I played jump rope from her side and tossed the rope at her neck…she was very good with this…Always has been. Maybe it’s because I’m farther away, so she doesn’t shut down as much.

Then I worked with her lateral flexion. She definitely wasn’t any better today, and in fact may have been a bit worse…taking longer to yield. I started giving quick tugs on the rope because she felt like she could hang there all day. Also, if I cluck while she’s just hanging there, she will yield. I’m not sure if that indicates that she doesn’t understand what I want her to do, or if she does understand, but has no real incentive to do it. I generally cluck to her whenever I want her to move, whether I’m asking her to step across, or move out…cluck means “do something”, and she’s generally very responsive to it.

After flexing, I moved on to asking her to yield her forequarters and hindquarters. Today I used cues on her side and I am trying to be very consistent with them so that she’ll understand when she goes under saddle. Toward the back means yield the hinds, and in front of the girth area means yield the fores. She really was understanding this and I was very pleased with how much she retained from yesterday. I also began with moving her forequarters, and slid my hand back to in between the two cues to ask her to step over with both feet and she got it! She’s not perfect and I’m only asking for one good step with both front and hind right now, but with more focus on that lesson, I think she’ll be great.

I wanted to introduce her to the plastic bag on the stick today because she seems ready to try something a little more stressful for desensitizing. She was definitely uncomfortable at first, especially with the bag up around her head, but she settled down and at the end I was able to pass it all around her and over her head without so much as a flinch (although she was holding her head kinda high). She was even better when I did it on her other side.

I finished up with trimming her heels a bit…trying to reshape her feet again after the worn toes issue. Everyone says that she didn’t founder, but she definitely has some very distinct new growth on her hooves, and at this point I can definitely tell it isn’t the cuticle.

Tomorrow, Doni is going to come out with me and help/watch me work Catlow, and maybe Chico or Cody too.