Monday, June 29, 2009

Griffin is sick again

The other day I noticed that Griffin had a small fluidy looking swelling hanging between his front legs. Then it was about the size of a baseball, a little smaller even. A few days later, and it was much larger! It jiggles when he walks. I also think that the chest area is puffy and inflamed, and the jiggly fluid filled sack is probably what is draining from his chest. It's hard to really see how it affects his locomotion, since he catwalks around me anyway, but I do think he is moving more stiffly.

Everything I know about diseases tells me that this sounds like pigeon fever, but in all my research online, it doesn't appear to occur in the midwest. It seems to be a western states thing. Pigeon fever, also called dryland strangles, is caused by the introduction of a bacteria called Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis usually by flies and their bites. It can be very contagious and also spread to other horses by flies or poor sanitation practices. How Griffin might have come down with this, I'm not sure, although the bacteria does occur naturally in the soil in some regions.

But I could be way off. We also have Lyme disease here, but I don't think that would cause a reaction like I'm seeing.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Kachina and Griffin - chair session 1

Last night, I decided to do a chair session with both Griffin and Kachina. I did it before I fed them their evening hay, and I used a bucket of pellets as an incentive to cause them to investigate me, rather than stand in the barn munching hay, wishing the annoying human would leave. This time I was armed with a horsey magazine and my camera. I worked with Kachina first. I set the bucket of oats a ways behind me first. She was agitated that I was there, and didn't know what to do. She figured she was safe if she stood directly behind me. She would come up behind me up and grab a couple of mouthfuls of pellets and then back away munching them. I could also hear her sniffing at me, but she was still pretty far away. Finally, I remembered that I could turn the fold out screen on my camera around and use it to spy on her without looking at her. Since she knew where the oats were, I decided to pull them closer to me and more to the side, rather than behind me. She wasn't too happy with that. That forced her to have to check me out a little more thoroughly to be able to enjoy the oats. She really wanted those oats, so she would walk around toward my front, and then get all worried and run back behind me. It was just too much to see me head on, even though most of the time I was looking down and ignoring her. Finally, she started to gain some courage and check me out, from behind, of course. She definitely knew the camera was there. She didn't like the noises it made when I took a picture, even though they were pretty quiet. Finally, she came around to my side to check me out. But it was still too much pressure, so retreated back behind me to sniff me again. Sniffing me was very stressful. She'd advance, but then back way up to get a better, safer look at me, then sneak up and sniff again. It was so funny to listen to her whiffle at the back of my head, and feel her breath in my hair. Finally, she got up the courage to snatch mouthfuls of pellets from my side. I let her eat for a while (very slowly and pensively), then I took the bucket and chair away (gotta leave her wanting me to come back!) Then I went straight to Griffin's pen. First, I let him check out the chair and made sure he knew that the bucket had pellets in it. Then I sat myself down and waited with my spy camera. At first, he really didn't know what to do, so he cat-walked to the barn where it was safe. He watched me from there for a bit, then decided to come back out and give those pellets a try. It didn't take him very long to advance and start eating the pellets. He did none of that sneaking up behind me to check me out. He wasn't about to check me out - he just wanted those oats - so I extended my hand to check his reaction. He took a step back and stretched his neck out to sniff at me. He is much less flighty than Kachina. The flash of the camera (which I didn't really mean to happen) didn't even bother him at all. He alternated between coming forward to munch a few mouthfuls, then slowly backing up to a more comfortable distance to chew and chew while standing there looking at me. Then he'd come up again to take a couple more bites. He was really not afraid of my arm, which I had hanging near his bucket most of the time (when I did this to Kachina, she refused to come closer - she's surprisingly skiddish after getting over being sick!) This video shows my last encounter with Griffin before the camera ran out of memory. It was a good one! When he gets over being leery of me, he's going to be one solid horse! Sorry that it is sideways, but I couldn't figure out how to turn it upright. You'd just have to get a crick in your neck watching it!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A session with Griffin

Tonight I worked with Griffin. He's calmed down so much. Prior to this session he has not had any official work (though I realize every experience he has adds to his gentling process). I have been entering his pen to feed him, and after I feed him, I walk around his pen, ignoring him, stand in the middle (while he stands at the side watching me), then I climb out over the panels (so that he sees me above him), then I jump down to the ground on the other side, rather abruptly. Through all this, he just stands and watches me. He does occasionally snort if I maybe get too close and he has to move away from me, but he rarely snorts at me anymore. That is the extent of work he's had up to this point. I've just gone about my business in his pen completely ignoring him.

I've decided that with Griffin, I want to prevent him from getting reactive at all. So, no bamboo pole, and no running. I figure this will help him trust me and teach a habit that does not include running around and away from me.

So, this evening, I brought a chair into the middle of the round pen and sat down with a horsey magazine. Then a friend called me, so I chatted on the phone the whole time I worked with him (which I think was really good because it gave me something else to focus on besides him and he got to hear me yabbering away). I sat at the chair for a long, long time, and he just stood in the barn munching hay, looking out at me from time to time from his safe haven. So I moved the chair closer to him (I was about 10 feet away from his hay). He backed away, watched me, and since I just continued talking on the phone, he advanced and began munching his hay again, mostly ignoring me, but I'm sure he knew exactly where I was.

I spent a lot of time like that and it became obvious that he was not going to investigate me and was content to just pretend I wasn't there, so I got up and started walking around his pen (he was still in the barn). This made it very hard for him to ignore me, so he backed further into the barn where he couldn't see me at all (if I can't see her, she's not there!)

So at this point, I walked into the barn on the far side of him, and just stood for a bit, then left, then came back, then I parked myself on the panel that separates him from Kachina. All this while, he stood facing me and watching me intently. He just stood there looking at me and nothing else, so I inched closer to him, then sat still again. All this while I'm kind of ignoring him and just talking on the phone, gesturing, moving normally. I must have reached a point where he was feeling a little trapped and wanted out of the barn because he advanced toward the opening very slowly, then when he got to where the he had to sort of squeeze between me and the opening (there was plenty plenty of room), he sped up and squirted through it, snorting as he went, but I just ignored him completely.

Then he stood outside in the corner looking at me. Now I had him outside where he had to pay attention to me. So I walked out and just spent time walking back and forth around his pen. Some of this time, he watched me, but if I got a little too close, he'd move away very very slowly, and put his head down to sniff his poo piles. I've discovered that is his way of trying to ignore me and do something to relieve the pressure he feels by my proximity. So I've been advancing toward him, while ignoring him and when he started to show signs of becoming uncomfortable, I stop and stand, looking away. If he stays put, I try to catch his attention a little so that he'll turn his head to look at me with both eyes, then I back off. To catch his attention, I've been leaning forward just slightly and looking right at his face. If I can't get a response, I do that, and then step back just a bit and that usually gets him to look at me.

So, I just walked around doing that, advancing toward him, then backing off when he looked at me. I also got him to stop and look at me as he was moving away from me a couple times too. I was pleased with that. He is so funny when he walks around me in the pen. He is ever so slow and cautious. He walks like a cat stalking prey. I feel like he is trying not to draw attention to himself as he ever so slowly moves around sniffing his poo piles to ease his nerves. Not once while I was in there, did he move faster than that cat walk (with the exception of squirting by me at the door). I was even able to extend my hand out toward him without him backing away. I was way too far away to touch him or for him to sniff me (probably about 5 feet at the end of my hand), but his response when I did that was very positive - he pricked his ears more forward, looked at me with greater interest, and extended his nostrils bigger as he sniffed in my general direction.

I was so pleased with his responses. And not once did he show any aggression. He's never pinned his ears at me or kicked at me, or even swung his butt in my direction. When he's ignoring me, he will walk away from me, but he usually turns around and faces me when he feels a safer distance away. He even had the hind leg on the opposite side of me cocked a few times as I advanced and retreated!

He also stepped forward to the center to check out the chair, while I stood in the corner ignoring him after I'd been advancing and retreating for a while. He was so cautious, and his necked was stretched out so far and he got closer and closer till he was touching the chair with his nose. But then his breath fluttered the pages of the magazine a bit, and he jumped a little, decided that he'd investigated it enough and backed off.

He does still jump and snort sometimes if I suddenly appear around the corner or in the barn, but after his jump, wheel and snort, he's back to relaxed.

I basically did something similar with Kachina after the pole experience and she was actually much more reactive than Griffin. During Griffin's session though, she usually stood in the barn watching my activities with great interest. I stood in the barn with her at one point and almost got her to sniff my hand. She really wants to trust me, but she's not sure she is safe. I think the pole session did not help her at all.

I wish I would have brought my camera along tonight to document his progress, but I will next time. I don't think it will be very long before he sniffs my hand.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A good roll

I love watching horses roll. Some look so awkward when they do it, but some can roll rather athletically. Chico is an athletic roller. He rolls from one side to another with ease and the ground just seems to cradle him while he's down there. This series of photos is from our ride the day before.

Here he's trying to itch his belly on the ground a bit before commencing a full roll.

Check out his teeth sticking out while he shakes! I laughed aloud at this picture because I didn't see it while I was taking it!

Then he notices me watching and comes right over to see if I have anything for him.

All I had was a pat and a hand to straighten out his fly mask.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Riding the "loop"

I thought it'd be fun to show a typical ride that I take around our home here in WI. This ride is not on our property at all (although I think at some point I'll put photos in of a "property" ride). This is a typical route that I take that ends up being about 6 miles. It takes us out across a cranberry marsh, along the interstate, through the woods, and under two interstate overpasses before we arrive back at home. The obstacles we encounter along the way are enough to test any well-rounded trail horse. Enjoy the ride: First we start off around the outer edge of Scott's marsh. These soft sandy roads are awesome for cantering and galloping down. The cranberries are blossoming! Both sides of my family are into cranberries (so named because the blossom looks like a crane's head - get it? Crane-berries?) This is the time of the year when the beehives are set out on the marsh dikes, so we give those a wide berth. We ride along the outer edge of a banked pond lined with black rubber that was installed to serve as a reservoir for watering the cranberries. I guess the hope was that it would hold water, but you can see that it doesn't. There is a tiny little wet area in the lowest part of the bottom. Don't worry, they have another pond that we've already ridden past at this point that DOES hold water, so the cranberries will not dry up. Catlow investigated the black rubber by biting it and slobbering on it. We pop out onto a rural country road (same one we live on) where there is a beautiful field of daisies. Years ago this used to have cattle but now it appears empty as far as I can tell. We encounter a lot of road signs and everyone pretty much ignores them...especially if there is grass below them. The rural road runs alongside the interstate for a while. The horses pay no attention to the semis and other huge vehicles, even though the noise is deafening. I don't think that I'd be able to hear my cell phone if it rang in here (I was thinking about this when I was searching for it in the grass yesterday). We meander alongside the road where most of the way has a large grassy area to ride in so that I don't have to be right on the road. And then our rural road brings us to the first interstate overpass. This one is not very busy because there is no exit ramp. There is construction going on here, like on most of the interstate bridges right now. Catlow walks out freely under it. She's wary but fine. This is the claustrobic part, but we just walk right down the middle of the road. I don't worry too much about traffic because they can see us well. If I need to make the horses move to the side, they will, but they feel more comfortable in the middle. It seems like everytime I ride through here, the workers are on a break. After we came out from under the bridge, there were 3 of them sitting on a peice of equipment watching me. I'd have taken their picture (because they are one of the obstacles, but I figured that was rude - Catlow was actually more leery of them than the bridge. They waved at me. I think they are getting used to seeing me pass through here. Then we turn onto a side road that used to be called Starlight (but its called a very unromantic name - however will always be Starlight to me). The first section is paved, but then it becomes dirt. Our first obstacle on here is the railroad tracks. It took a little convincing the first time for all three of my horses to go across the tracks, but now that they've done it before, it's old news. Crossing tracks just requires watching your feet! Then finally we pop into the woods on some trails. Most of the rest of the ride, until we almost get home, can be done through the woods or rural country roads through the woods. We finally get away from the interstate noise and can hear the birds! Some parts of this trail are in red pine plantations. This is my favorite stretch of woods to ride through. Unfortunately, the deerflies and horseflies are pretty bad through here, but if I douse the horses with spray before we leave, they seem tolerable. In a clear cut area, there was a big pile of dirt with super thick dark green grass growing out of it. I had to let the horses snack on it. I'm not sure why the grass was so green and thick...maybe it was not just dirt? Something very nutrient rich? It looks kinda odd sitting there all alone amidst the nutrient starved sandy surroundings. It might be ditch dredgings... Then we come out on another rural road. This is a really neat section of road too. It's quiet, there are lots of birds singing and the sound of hooves clopping out a rhythm on the road is so relaxing.

Then we come back out along the train tracks again. We have yet to see a train, although I know these tracks are well traveled because I hear the train from our house. I think the horses will be fine after the initial high-headed response with intense watching if they see a train. Eventually we come to a network of trails through the woods. This one dumped me out at Jellystone Campground, which I can't ride through, so I had to back track a bit... And then we found ourselves back on our original road but now we have a nice big path to ride on! At least, I think we are doesn't say no horses. Catlow clops over the white paintings with confidence. At this point, she knows we are pointing toward home. Now, we have to skirt Jellystone in all it's overdeveloped glory. I really dislike it. And I have to ride through it or around it on just about any ride that I do if I want to make the loop. I can't actually ride through the campground part, but these condos were annexed into the village so that they could get "city" water, which means that the roads through here are public domain. They put up these condos and convinced people to buy them because they were in the "north woods", but then the economy when to hell and the owner of Jellystone declared bankruptcy. The campground part is still open, but the indoor waterpark and hotel are closed. These condos are half sold and half not...I'd never come here for a vacation, but maybe people from Chicago see it differently than I do. I see a huge eye sore and developement over my old riding trails that used to go right through here. Here's the waterpark/hotel and a skate park too. Today things are pretty slow because it is not the weekend. On the weekends, this place can really get hopping with people...I would know, I used to work at the campground when I was in high school. When we ride through Jellystone, we see lots of crazy obstacles like golf carts and huge motorhomes and campers. We found a huge clover patch, so I had to let the horses have another snack. Now we are out on the main highway. Chico walked alongside or behind me in a very well behaved manner the whole ride. I was a little surpised. I figured he wouldn't want to walk beside Catlow because usually he's pretty competitive with her, since she's the only horse below him in the herd. But he was very well behaved. He didn't try to pass her up, or bite her or anything. Maybe it was too hot. I have been pretty strict with him when I am leading all three of them. He is not allowed to pass me at all, and I kick him if he gets too close. So it's probably that he's grown out of some of that baby stuff (biting the riding horse) and also I've trained him to pony. We are almost home now. We just need to cross under the second overpass...this one gets pretty busy because this is a highway and there is an exit/onramp here. The bridge is complete with huge motorhome obstacles. We rode up and waited for the cars to go through before we went. You can see that these workers are not on break. I usually see these ones working. I didn't take anymore pictures because I had to focus and get Catlow trotting under the bridge and through the drippy water because there was another car coming and I really don't like it if they pass me while I'm under the bridge. The horses are fine with cars, but I worry about something unexpected happening and then it'd be bad to have a panic attack under there with a car. My horses are generally not prone to panic attacks, but they ARE horses. And we made it home! Now just need to be unsaddled and given some treats.