Thursday, July 30, 2009

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 26, 2009

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

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

Friday, July 24, 2009

Doing good for having a week off!

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

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

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

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

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

She's leading pretty well now, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Griffin gets the rope, Kachina gets hair lotion

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


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


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

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

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kachina is a tame horse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Griffin explores our relationship

I gave the horses the day off today. But I did work with Griffin yesterday and didn't talk about it.

First off, we had a huge audience and I thought this picture would show it just right. He did pretty well for having that audience, but it did take him longer to calm down and relax and quit trying to evade me. He never really did truly give in and let himself enjoy me scratching his neck until after the audience left.

I had started off by wiping him with fly spray with the pole, then I progressed to asking him to let me touch his neck.

I forgot to mention that in the last session, twice he had contemplated biting me while I was scratching his neck. I think it was a combination of being investigative (he seems to investigate with his lips, like most male horses I know), but I also could tell he was testing my authority...thinking that he was uncomfortable with me that close and thought he'd see if telling me that by biting at me might make me go away. While I was scratching his neck, he turned his head and was sniffing my arm, then he put his lips on it, then he started to get ready to lip harder...he never did use his teeth because as soon as it turned a little more forceful, I walloped him in the side of the face with my arm. I was amazed that he didn't overreact to that! He just turned his head back straight and I continued to scratch him. He tried it one more time later, with the same result. I think he accepted that because he knew it was deserved...he was just seeing what he could get away with. Was he high enough in our relationship to tell me to go away by biting/lipping at me? It definitely started investigative, but I could tell by the change in his eyes when he'd decided to try it in a more authoritative way. I'm writing so much about this that it seems like it was a big deal, but it really wasn't! I am, however, amazed at the little ways we communicate to one another.

Yesterday, when I was scratching him, he turned to sniff my shoulder while I stood next to him. I don't want to discourage him from investigating me, so I stood still and relaxed, but I was ready if he decided to try to nip at me again!

He didn't. I think he's learned, and it's good that he's becoming comfortable enough to check me out and explore our "partnership".

After our audience left us, he really let down and was happy that I was scratching his neck. I want to start working them both with a rope very soon. I think the sooner I can get them haltered, the more I can do with them because I'll feel safer about rubbing them in other places as long as I have some control of their heads. And I think it's time to progress there...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kachina has figured out this pole thing!

Kachina is doing so well! Now she's better than Griffin! All along, she's been pretty comfortable with me, but really scared of the pole. The next session after I got her to stop running around when I was touching her with the pole, I started off by approaching her without the pole (I had planned to use it) and she allowed me to touch her face! I had to do a lot of movement over her face with my hand, and she wanted to move away at first, but she did let me rub her!

Then I progressed to rubbing her neck under her mane (she's very itchy there) and her chest. She was quite relaxed with me, and she let me touch her for real for the first time!

The next day, I started by rubbing her face and neck with just my hand, then I introduced her to the halter. I rubbed her face, neck and chest with it. She became pretty comfortable with the strings swinging all over. I didn't try to put it on her because she's done so well with this new thing and I didn't want to end on a bad note.

Instead, I introduced her to the curry comb. She kind of liked it, but it makes a funny noise when you brush her with it, so that made her nervous. I only brushed her a little bit before I called it good for that session! Awesome!

Today, I had a larger audience. My sister, mom, dad, great aunt and great uncle all watched and I think it made both Kachina and I nervous. Plus the flies were really bad today, so after she kept trying to evade me when I was rubbing her face (she was stomping her feet and really irritated by the flies), I decided it wasn't going to work this way, so I decided to try to apply fly spray to her. Previously she had not let me touch her anywhere other than her topline with the pole. This time, the pole was also wrapped in a smelly dripping rag.

She was nervous at first, and not so happy that the pole was back, but she did stand, and I slowly worked down her legs. Then, she seemed to almost understand that the pole was keeping flies away (or maybe I somehow communicated effectively to her that the pole wasn't going to break her legs off), because she stood perfectly still and let me wipe every inch of her body!!! No kicking this time either! She thought about it on one side, but I just stopped moving the pole and waited for her to put her foot back on the ground before I continued. She did so great!

Then I left her to work with Griffin. When I came back, my audience was gone, and I was able to rub her with my hand all over her neck, face, chest, and a little under her belly and behind her elbows.

Now, she wants to be with me. I can "mini-roundpen" her and it is a punishment for not wanting to stay with me when I am touching her. She definitely wants to come in to me and if I keep her out moving around, she does try to stay with me a little better.

Griffin is progressing - both with his wound and me!

So, I've had an eventful weekend with the horses! I was able to scratch Griffin on the face, neck and chest with my hand. I had to use the pole in the beginning of each session to get him more comfortable with me being close to him (he really likes the pole), but by yesterday evening, I was able to set the pole down, and walk up to him and begin scratching his neck, and he stayed put and seemed to enjoy it! I have to "warn" him though, by moving my arm in a scratching motion before I touch him. If I just reach for him, he gets worried and moves away. I was even able to apply with my fingers a poultice made of epsom salts and aspirin to his abscess to help it drain. Now that it is draining, his leg is not swollen and he seems to feel a lot better. He was trotting around his pen yesterday. The previous day, I was even able to put fly spray on him, by wiping him with a wetted rag wrapped around the pole! I think he's progressing very nicely!

I'll post about Kachina's work later this evening.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A good workout with both wild ones

I gave the mustangs a day off yesterday (picking berries again, yum), but I worked with both of them the previous couple days and then today.

Now, I actually sat down and watched some horse training shows - RFD-TV is showing Clinton Anderson's working with mustangs series again, and I was able to catch the the first episode (of 6). He and his apprentices work with 3 mustangs and one is quite fearful, but they all calm down and are touched and rubbed within 3 hours. Now, I don't always like how forceful and rather aggressive he can be with training, but I do appreciate the opportunity to watch and take away what I can from each thing I see. I decided that if those horses can handle that level of pressure, and they've been around people less than mine have, then perhaps what Kachina actually needs is for me to step up the amount of pressure that she's been exposed to. She seems to be getting jumpier and jumpier, and I really am not pushing her and just asking her to do mini-roundpenning and sorta sniff my hand. I was all concerned that the pole episode freaked her out, and I think that it did, but my mistake was to not show it to her again. She thinks that by running forever and ever, she was keeping herself safe, and in the end, that pole went away. She didn't learn a thing from that episode...well, she thinks she learned that she needs to be on guard to keep herself safe and run from new scary things.

So a few days ago, I was thinking that I'd like to soon here get a rope on her and try that out. I started by entering her pen with a lead rope in my hand, then just tossing it onto the ground so that she could investigate it.

Kachina is worried about something. What could it be?

Oh! An evil rope!

She was very worried, and approached it snorting, but she did get over it and came into the barn to watch while I worked with Griffin that day. Later, I picked up the rope and just started walking around with it, and she of course became very nervous and ran around me. I started swinging the rope, and she really took off. So, I kept swinging it, and every time she stopped searching the corners and stood and looked at me (head high, nostrils super flared), I stopped swinging the rope and backed away from her. This whole time, my body was very passive, and for the most part I was trying to ignore her. She did get hyped up, but toward the end of that lesson, she was standing and looking at me more often than running around. Progress! Then I got rid of the rope and she relaxed quite a bit, I asked her to sniff my hand, then I left her.

So, after thinking about what I've been doing with her, I decided to try the bamboo pole again, but this time, I would introduce her to it more slowly. The next day, I threw the pole onto the ground in her pen for a couple of hours before I commenced working with her. She snorted at it, but she did investigate it and seemed not too worried by it later. Then I entered her pen, and picked up the pole and she immediately started searching corners looking for a way out. I tried to hold the pole out toward her so that she could acknowledge and investigate it. She of course kept trying to evade me, so I kept cutting her off until she stood and looked at me, then I basically made her acknowledge and sniff it. She did and seemed to calm down just a little. I repeatedly retreated and then advanced again to ask her to just stand and check the pole out until she was not looking to take off every time I advanced (remember this fear is primarily pole related because she lets me walk even closer than I was standing without showing any concern). I then progressed to passing it alongside her body as I was moving it toward her to ask her to sniff it. As she give in, I decided it was time to set it on her withers. As I did, she made to move off. She began trotting around me, but she didn't seem too concerned at first. I let her go for a little bit, then stepped in front of her drive line to ask her to stop...she started to stop, but then freaked that the pole was still touching her and at that point, she started to get more and more worked up the longer she trotted. I kept trying to get her to stop, but all I ended up doing was causing her to turn into the fence. Every turn seemed to get her more hyped up. I decided to wait a little bit and let her trot it out and see if she might start to relax with time, but it became clear that it was going to become just like the last time with the pole unless I did something different.

So, I threw the pole on the ground, opened up the gate that I shut when I work with her so that she can't hide in the barn, and let her run into there. She seeks that out because she thinks she is safe in there. I shut the gate behind her, and approached with the pole. By this time she was dripping sweat and out of breath. I let her air up a minute then I started "force touching" her with the pole. I figured that I had to break that cycle of her thinking that she needs to run when the pole touches her. So, I stood on the opposite side of the gate, and stuck the pole through and made her acknowledge and sniff it. When I started touching her on the withers in that narrow space, she was very very worried, and searched corners in there to get out (I was a little concerned about trapping her in that space - worried that she'd try to jump, so I was watching her carefully for pushing her too far). She didn't try to jump, and when she finally stopped and looked at me, I took the pole off and just walked away from the gate with it. I kept reaching in and touching her and when she would stand and look at me (or the pole), I turned and walked away with it. When the pole would approach her body, she would tense up so severely that her whole body would arc into a 'C' around the pole. I kept touching her until she wasn't tensing up like that. I rubbed her with the pole too. If she saw it over her back with her opposite eye, she kicked out a few times as a self-protective reaction, but I just ignored her and kept touching her. I ended that session on a good note with her standing and not tensing when I reached to touch her with the pole, then I left her. When I opened the gate, she got the heck out of the barn!!! Now the barn wasn't so safe!!! Poor Kachina's world was rocked! I wasn't sure that lesson stuck with her or if I'd perhaps pushed her too far, or "ruined" her in some way, until I worked with her today.

Today, I decided to go with the pole again, but I'd try to touch her outside of the barn first, with the plan that if she got to running again, I'd do the same thing with letting her retreat to the barn, then "force" touch her in there. So I started off by throwing the pole in her pen and letting her just check it out. Then I went and got my berries and soda and sat in her hay tub to slowly enjoy them, while I ignored her. She sniffed me twice, but took awhile to do it, although she remained relaxed through it all. Then I began work with the pole. I went in and picked it up, I asked her to just sniff it. I did that several times, and she really did seem a little less scared of it. She was touching it more firmly with her nose than she had ever before. I gave her lots of breaks and let her just take in the fact that the pole was not out to get her. She did make to move away a few times in the beginning, but I just cut her off until she got the picture that I wanted her to just stand and sniff that pole. After I felt like she'd checked it out well, I reached to her withers with it, she immediately tensed and started to take off, so I touched her firmly, then pulled the pole off immediately and stepped in front of her to cut her off. When she stopped immediately, I praised her and walked away. I did that again, and again, until she stopped trying to take off when I reached out with the pole. The key was to take it away before she got into that mindset where she needed to run and escape the pressure. Soon, she was standing still, but still tensing when I reached out toward her (arcing her body as the pole approached), but with the same consistent method (not making her endure the touching for very long before I walking away with the pole), soon she was not tensing at all! At this point, she suddenly looked very relaxed and I began to scratch her with the pole. Now, she had not been allowed to run at all during this lesson - I had not even done any mini-roundpenning without the pole, and the difference was very obvious. I think that Kachina gets into a mindless self protective state when she is running around the pen. With this no-running method, she was soon letting me scratch her all along her topline, on her chest, and a little ways down her butt. If I went too far down her butt, her reaction was to kick, so I only spent a little time there until she quit kicking and I didn't want to push that issue because that was not what our lesson was about today - the lesson was the pole is not going to kill you. A couple of times, she did actually manage to move away and started to think about mindlessly running around, but since she'd not gotten hyped up previously, I was able to get her stopped while the pole was still on her back. She was so relaxed by the end, that after I put the pole away, I spent time approaching her head and asking her to sniff my hand, and I was able to bump her nose with my hand and brush my hand down the lower bridge of her nose without causing her to move away! What a successful lesson!

Griffin's lesson went pretty much as well as they have been all along, except today he was much more comfortable with sniffing my hand and letting me briefly run my hand down his nose. At one point, he reached out to investigate my arm and my hand and he actually started to lip at my hand, but not in an aggressive way - more in a male horse investigative way. And he was so into the pole rubbing that for a while he was searching for something to return the grooming favor and he started to nibble on the pole too. His favorite place to be rubbed is his belly and his boy parts - you gotta love those male horses and their itchy parts (females too I guess). It's a sure way to win their affections because you are the only one who can itch those particular places! I also did not move Griffin around today before I worked with him and he was much more comfortable with me. I think I can hold off on the asking them to move away from me until they are much more comfortable...after all, I probably don't need to get respect when they are still actually afraid of me. I had also been moving him with the hopes that it would bring the swelling down in his leg (and it did - but it always returned a few hours later).

Griffin's chest is quite huge still, but it has changed shape. I think it is going to abscess really soon. Yesterday the hair started to fall out of a patch in the center of his bulging chest, and then today, the hairless patch is much larger and the bulge is starting to gain definition - it looks like he has a softball under his skin. He's been on antibiotics for 3 days now and his leg is less swollen, although I'm not sure if that is due to the antibiotics or if it is just the natural progression of this abscess. I predict the swelling will break open tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The vet called!

Wow! What relief I feel! I just got off the phone with my vet (who was not on vacation - she was at a llama conference). She said that it doesn't sound like bastard strangles, but sounds like he could have been kicked, but then I told her that he was alone, and she said it could even be some damage incurred while he was in the chutes with the BLM...then I remembered the panel incident. Now I'm pretty much convinced that this abscess that is growing in his chest is a result of damage incurred when he ran full speed into the panel back at the end of May. At the time, he seemed to not have had any injuries from the incident, but now I really, really think that's what his swollen chest is. What a relief that it's not something contagious!!!

The vet said we need to start him on oral antibiotics if it is affecting his leg, so I'll be off to get something to make my horse feel better! Now, I just hope that he doesn't start to feel so much better that all the work I've done with him just gets recessed back into some dusty little corner of his wild brain.

Griffin pole session 2

Tonight, I worked Griffin using the pole again. I pretty much did the exact same thing I did yesterday only this time, I spent more time asking him to let me be closer (which he was definitely less comfortable with) and asking him to sniff my hand. The pole is definitely a source of comfort for him when I am close to him. If my hand is on the pole, it is a lot less scary than when it is dangling out in mid space. He did well though, and sniffed my hand several times. I also leaned in really close at one point, blew my breath at him and he stretched out to take it in. That was cool. He was a good ways away, but he was whiffing noses with me. He wasn't as comfortable with my body being close to his body, so I didn't push it and stayed closer to his head.

Toward the end, I spent more time standing out in front of him with him looking at me with both eyes. I rubbed his forehead with the pole and kept working myself closer. I got him to sniff my hand without it being on the pole and I brushed his nose with my fingers a few times, then pulled back before he had a chance to get uncomfortable. Through this whole process, I kept backing off then reapproaching because I wanted him to see that I wasn't going to stand there and stress him out forever. The high point of this time, was when I reached out and ran my hand down his face (between eye to his nose) without the safety of the pole being there with my hand (the pole was on his shoulder). Then I turned around and walked away before could be the one to move away because I'd just touched him. I pretty much ended on that note! What a great second intense work day!!!

I didn't get a chance to work with Kachina because I spent too much time this evening picking the ripe black rasberries. By the time I started on Griffin, it was pretty late. I'll work her tomorrow.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Griffin pole session and Kachina rope session

Well, I really shouldn't be writing this right now because I have a job application with a looming deadline, but I just want to!

So, I decided that I needed to work with Griffin very intensively because if he gets more sick, we'll need to be able to restrain him somehow and the more work he has, the better he'll take it, right? So, my plan was to try the bamboo pole on him. I was definitely apprehensive about it, but like I said before, he can be a thinker if not pushed to hard, especially since he doesn't really want to move too much right now anyway.

I started by earlier in the day, tying a panel across the barn entrance so that he could get used to the fact that he can't retreat into the barn (I didn't want a replay of the panel incident). Then I laid my pole against his panels so that it stuck over the top near where his hay was. Through all this, he was unconcerned and continued to eat hay, seeming to not notice the pole.

A couple of hours later, I returned and entered his pen, just me, no pole. First, I picked a big handful of grass, approached and knelt down holding the grasss out to him. He stepped over very slowly and pulled the long grass out of my hand. Then, I spent time asking him to move, then stop and look at me. This was actually the most time that I've spent really pushing him to move away from me, and he did snort at me a couple of times when I had to really push him (just with my body language, no stick or rope or anything). He wasn't so keen on moving, and I think part of it is that he is pretty stiff in his shoulders, and the other part is that he is getting sticky feet because I don't move him around that much. He has a particular corner that he likes to back himself into and stand with his left side facing me. That's the side that he'd prefer I be on, so I had to spend a lot of time trying to get him to turn and move around with me on his right side. Getting him to stop and hold still with me on his right side was difficult to because he would stop, then turn and back himself into his corner with me on his left side.

He was very nonagressive through all this. At one point, he did swing his butt out toward me and I'm not sure if he was actually thinking of kicking at me, or if he was contemplating turning into the fence, but he actually stopped all on his one and turned around to face me. He wants to face me and feels very uncomfortable when his butt is toward me (which I like). He actually was pretty interested and engaged in this process the whole time. He didn't seem to shut off, and I gave him lots of space when he did actually stop and look at me, so he had plenty of soak time.

His leg was quite swollen in the beginning, after I'd been asking him to move around for about a half hour (almost all of this moving was at the walk - only occasionally did he spurt into a couple of trot strides when I was having difficulty getting him to turn on his right side), his swollen leg was almost back to normal. I was hoping that the movement would help push the fluid out, and it did. His chest is huge still though, and nothing has abscessed yet.

So, since I thought he was doing pretty well with me moving him, I decided to introduce the pole into the picture. First, I just pulled it in and laid it on the ground near his favorite corner. He snorted, and moved a little, but then approached it directly to sniff at it. Then I asked him to move around, just like we'd been doing before, with the pole laying on the ground. He seemed only a tad concerned about it, so I moved him until he'd checked it out a couple of times and lost his concern. Then I picked it up and laid it down in a new place, and moved him around then. He was generally unconcerned about it. So then, I picked it up and offer the end to him to sniff while he was stopped and standing still watching me. He calmly sniffed the end of it really well, so I backed off and pulled the pole up and let him have a break. Then I did it again...I kept letting him sniff it, then I'd pull it away.

He started to let me bump it on his nose, so then as I pulled it away, I moved it back toward his body without touching him with it. He watched it, but seemed unworried, so I moved the pole around him a few times without touching him, then I just went ahead and set it against his withers. He did a half flinch, but didn't move. I rubbed him across his back and then stopped and let him sniff it again and then backed off. I approached and retreated like this for a while, then I just settled in and began rubbing his whole body with the pole. Through all this, he stood still watching me or the pole with calm interest. He let me touch him EVERYWHERE! The first time I went his butt, he did tuck it and get worried for a second, but I just stopped and did it again, and then he was fine with it. I was even able to touch him on his belly, between his back legs, and down all four legs. He especially enjoyed it when I rubbed the underside of his neck and across his swollen chest. His chest is hard as a rock - I could feel it with the pole. And it itches. When I'd rub across it, he'd sort of just slightly tilt his nose out.

So after I got the one side, I wanted to do his right side. It look quite a bit of time to get him to stop and stand with my on the right so that I could repeat the whole process on that side, but we did it!

And it ended on a GREAT note! He stood still, I walked away and opened his panel to the barn and climbed out. He stood and watched me the whole time, and then just calmly walked over to his hay to start eating.

I should have started things this slowly with Kachina, but regardless, she is much flightier. Any new thing that is introduced into her pen causes a mild panic, with snorting. I took a leadrope into there yesterday and then left it on the ground so that she'd have to confront it, and she did but she pranced and snorted and ran around a bit first. After Griffin, I ended up working with her with that rope. I just carried it around and ignored her while I swung it, making sure that my body lanquage was very passive. Everytime she'd stop running and look at me, I would stop swinging for a bit. Toward the end of our session, she was spending more time standing and watching me and less time running, but she was hyped up and nervous. I feel like I have a hard time ending my sessions with her on a good note. I think we did end it fairly well, with hanging the rope on her panels (to leave there so she has to get used to it), and me walking up to her to let her sniff my hand.

It's interesting though that before I picked up the rope, I went into her pen, and she immediately wanted to follow me around. She does this when I walk past the outside of her panels too, she follows me what length she can. There's not much space to follow though so we just turn tight circles and she eventually stops in the middle with me walking around the outside of her as she pivots to keep facing me. If I just walk around and make no move to really drive her or extend my arm, she can be so relaxed in my presence. I can stand next to her and she seems glad for my company. But I can't even make a move to touch her or she's off.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Griffin pole session

Hey, I worked with Griffin with the bamboo pole today and it went awesome (granted he's not feeling very well, though). I don't have time to elaborate now, but I'll post about it in a few days!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Griffin - still getting bigger

Griffin's chest is just huge now. And the the fluid from that chest swelling is filling up his left leg and between his legs. He's stiff and walks very carefully. I talked to the vet yesterday (but one that doesn't actually see many horses, because the two local equine vets are BOTH on vacation!!!), and seeing how we can't handle him, they didn't think an exam would do much good, and he didn't want to give antibiotics if we don't know what the problem is. He said that if it seems localized right now (just in his chest) that we should just wait and see. If it seems to go systemic and he gets really depressed and loses interest in eating, then he said call, and we'll get some antibiotics into him somehow. Maybe if he actually gets that sick, we can work up a chute with some panels and he won't put up as big of a fight. I hope it doesn't come to that. I don't know what else to do for him. I really am sick of dealing with sick horses that I can't even get close to. I am going to try the pole with him. I think that this situation calls for some now gentling, and maybe he's slowed down enough to think through it. He does seem like a thinker if not pushed to hard. I cleaned out his pen yesterday and he was just fine with me swinging the pitchfork around. I even "trapped" him in the barn and was cleaning in the front part. As I would leave with a pile to dump outside the pen, he would advance, as I would come back, he'd back a couple steps, and we did that dance for a good half hour. He was letting me come pretty close in that confined area by the end, but then again, I was just ignoring him (talking to him once in a while - telling him he needs to quit peeing in his hay in the barn cuz it gets stinky).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Poor Griffin

Unfortunately Griffin's chest looks even puffier today with a larger swelling between his front legs. It's so large at this point, that it almost looks like his chest was supposed to be that way, and it's really not as jiggly. I suppose that means it might start draining soon. The vets have not called me back yet about it. Kachina is looking pretty good. She's definitely gained weight since we've had her, but unfortunately, now she looks a little flea-bitten. She so sensitive to the flies, and I think she has rather thin skin, so the itching that she does wears the hair off her hide. I've been doing mini-roundpenning with her daily, and she's getting pretty good at reading me, not over-reacting, and even on both sides. I can ask her to go out, come in and face me, and change directions. She'll also stand still as I walk around her, although she sometimes gets confused about this, and makes to move off when I just want her to stand still and chill out. I can also walk around toward her hip and she will pivot and continue facing me. I'd like her to relax a little more though, and make more of a move to sniff my hand when offered, but she is really standoffish. It takes many offers, and then she will sort of sniff in the general direction of my hand, but no closer than 6inches to a foot. She used to sniff me closer, and I'm not sure if it's worse now just because she feels better, or maybe it's because I "poled" her, or perhaps it's just because I'm working with her in general. It might help if I did the round penning for longer. I need to step up what I'm doing if I want to be able to touch her. I really really wish I had a rope on her right now, and next, I may try work her with a rope. I'm just worried about freaking her out more and losing that little bit of trust.