Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Riding with friends

School is looming and this week has been busy with getting ready for that, so I've not ridden horse since the weekend.  But this last weekend, I spent some time riding with my neighbors.  Their daughter was visiting and they wanted to show her some of the trails and they asked me to come along!  I rode Chico on one of the days, and Catlow on the other.

Remember I've mentioned that my neighbor has all dark horses?  Technically, a few are dark bay, and smokey black, but from afar, it is difficult to tell the difference between them!  And it is difficult to tell even when I'm riding with them!  I always have to ask, because when they switch tack around, it makes the horses look so different! 

These horses are Shady, Belle, and Honey Doll.  Belle and Honey Doll are the two that B and J have been riding most often this summer.

The previous picture was taken from the point of a ridge that over looks our houses!  You can see both my house and B and J's barn and shed.  In the lowest shed belongs with the cranberry marsh visible on the left side of the photo.

We saw a turkey vulture in a dead tree alongside the trail.

The next day, their daughter rode Shadow (gelding) instead of Shady (mare).  Shadow, even though he's a sibling of Shady's, is quite a bit flashier of a horse.  He holds his head and his tail high and has a very swingy walk.

The three of them followed me up "Buck Pond Valley" to check out how much water was in the little pond (there was none - it's been dry).

There was, however, water in my parent's pond, so we all crossed on our way back.  Belle (in the lead) and Honey Doll have been crossing the pond regularily this summer, but Shadow has only done it a few times and it is still new to can tell by his expression (Shadow is far left).

But he went in sticking close to Honey Doll for some confidence.

And then he pawed the water.

I've had fun riding with my neighbors.  It's crazy that this is the first year ever (in my whole life), that I've had a pretty large group of people nearby to consistently ride with.  I grew up riding alone, rode alone most of the time out in Idaho, and even my first couple years back here.  So I've really appreciated the company, but I still like heading out alone, just a horse and maybe a dog or two!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Family walks

We had a family walk the other night.  My honey and my sweet baby accompanied me as I led Griffin on a walk through the woods.  Once again, Griffin was fabulous!  He's so calm and level-headed.  He is now getting so comfortable with me that he's starting to be bit pushy about treats and apples, so we'll start working on that now.  How I deal with that mainly is offer less treats and make him have to earn them more.  I'll back him up and when I get a nice respectful backup, he'll get a treat, but not if he's lipping at my hands when I don't even have a treat for him.  I'd rather him be this comfortable in the beginning.  I can fix the lippiness pretty quick now.  We walked through the woods and ended up at my parent's house to chat.

I like to wear my helmet when I'm taking young horses for their first never know when/how they might spook and sometimes when they whirl, your head can be in the path of their head (and they have such hard heads!).  I like to have a little if they get too close to my head, I can just bonk them with my helmet and it makes them back off and give me a little space...they think my head is really hard then!
I love this picture of me leading him, but the color was pretty dull because it was so cloudy so I edited it.  I kinda like the "sepia" look.

He had a lot of fun standing under my parent's apple trees and eating apples.

My mom's chickens look so happy and busy foraging under the apples trees.  Right after I took this picture, we were all just standing around chatting when my parent's dog and my dog got in a fight...right next to Griffin.  Griffin was startled, but not bothered.  After his initial startle (threw his head up - he'd been grazing), he just stood and watched them as they worked it out.  It was a brief fight.  He really does have a nice temperament.  I think he'll be bold and secure like Chico, but not quite as forward...Griffin seems a little stickier with moving than Chico.

And Griffin also has that typical gelding know, where there is so much going on in their heads and the only outlet is to get into everything and be a pest?  He is the horse that sticks his front leg in the water trough and gets it all muddy.  He also tries to graze under the panels, even though he could walk out to the pasture and find nice grass there

And of course, he has to stomp and squash the rubber tubs that I occasionally feed them grain in (they get grain very rarely). 
I guess maybe he's trying to tell me something?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Today I rode Cody out on the trails....

with Griffin in tow!!!!  He was really good!  He was actually less worried by some things on the trail than Cody, my seasoned trail horse, was!  Cody just gets a little bug-eyed about things sometimes, but usually they are warranted (for example, today, the trampled ground under some wild apple trees kind of got her acting balky, but she probably also smelled deer there recently).

We stopped here to take a picture of the nice view.  It is hard to get a feel for how high of a hill we are on from a picture, but you can see we are above the level of the huge steel power line poles along the interstate on the left side of the picture.  The trail going down this hill is a lot steeper than it looks in the picture too.  We did not go down because there is a fence down laying along the left side of the trail and I didn't want to risk it with leading another horse.

Griffin enjoys the view too.  He really was so relaxed on our ride.

Back at home, he made a pest out of himself by picking up Cody's bridle off the hitching post.  I took it out of his mouth before he scared himself with it and got into trouble with being tied up.

I think I've made a loyal friend.  After I turned him loose, I crossed the pasture to get back to my house and Griffin followed me the whole way.  Maybe he just wants a treat, but it is amazing what a little positive association can do and how it can quickly change a horse from being evasive to interested and willing.

He even stood at the gate after I closed it in his face, wishing he could come through too.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Griffin's big day

Every morning that I have arranged to have my mom come and watch Wren, as I'm getting Wren to nap, I am usually daydreaming about what I'm going to do with my horses, which horse I'll bring I daydreamed about working with Griffin and potentially getting Cody out and teaching him to pony in the round pen.  Well, often my daydreams are not what I end up doing, either because something with the horses dictates differently, or I just come up with other ideas as I go.  What I ended up doing was getting Griffin up in the round pen.  On the way there, he was a little leary about things in the yard, but he just looked at them and continued on with me.  I let him sniff around and become familiar with this new place before I did anything with him.

He was pretty calm about the whole thing, slowly exploring.  Then I got my stick out and "round penned" him loose, asking him to stay a constant direction until asked and when asked turn to the inside to change direction.  He was a little snorty at first with me asking him to move, but he was hooked onto me immediately.  I made him keep it up until he wasn't snorty anymore, then I asked him to face up and keep facing me as I walked back and forth in front of him.  He was really good, remembering pretty much everything we'd done with our "mini-roundpenning" in the tiny mustang pen.  We didn't spend much time in the round pen because it is so boggy (I'm deciding I don't like the sand - we may need to find something to add to it to firm it up).  Since he settled down so quickly and became very comfortable with me, and is respecting the leadrope so well, I took him back down to the barn and tied him to the hitching post for the first time.  I don't like to tie horses to this post if I think they may pull back because it is not set in the ground very deep (Cody has already pulled it crooked when she pulled back once and Sassy, the mare we had over the winter, pulled it even more crooked).  So me tying him to the hitching post shows my confidence in him!  I spraying him with fly spray, then decided to take him for a walk in the woods on the trails! 

My dogs came along with me and were crashing around in the brush, but Griffin paid them no mind.  After the round penning, he was very comfortable with me and was not leary hardly at all.  He was interested, but it was a mild interest in the new places we went.  He put complete confidence in me!  I love that feeling.  The only thing that really worked him up was the noise of my dogs splashing into the pond.  The picture below shows him watching them run down to the pond from pretty far away still.

He got over being worried about that noise pretty quick though.  We just went down and stood at the waters edge and watched the dogs go in and out.  I led him back and forth and around and just asked him to check out the water, which he did.  As we watched the dogs, I took a picture of his injured eye.  You can see the cloudiness is receding, but the spot where the lesion was has become very opaque and white.  But it is so low, that even if it doesn't go away, it's not going to be a hindrance to him.

Griffin shows off how over this he is.  By the time we left the pond, the dogs were running into the water right at his feet and it didn't phase him.  He did not volunteer stepping into the pond though, and I didn't want to make him go in right now because that was not the goal of this walk.  Plus I was wearing my boots and didn't want to get them wet!

After the pond, we walked through my parent's yard, past the chickens and the orange tractor (walking through a narrow area with chickens underfoot without a  moment's hesitation), then we came back through the wooded trails and ventured onto my neighbor's trails.  We walked past their barn filled with horses, came out by their house, went down the driveway and past my husband's cattle farm.  Griffin had a bit of difficulty with crossing a narrow washout, but with persistance and picking an easier spot, he crossed.  He watched my husband's herd of 30 heifers running away with a bit of alarm (but who wouldn't be alarmed watching a mass of dark cattle kick up dust as they foolishly stampeded from the sight of a wild horse).  His alarm was just watching them with a high head and side-stepping a bit. Then we walked down along the road and through the yard of my husband's business, complete with large scary machinery and racks of pipe.

Griffin is curious, but not alarmed by any of this.

We even went along the road, and watched 3 cars pass by, including a big silver tanker type-truck.  Griffin was totally unconcerned by any of it (it helps to have your pasture border a road that semi's drive on regularily).  When we got back, we stood tied for another couple minutes for a thorough grooming session before being turned back into the pasture.

Griffin was absolutely awesome on our walk.  I couldn't have daydreamed a better outcome for my horsey-time!  I was so proud of him and so pleased with his temperament.  This horse has so much potential.  I hope I have the time to bring it out in him!  I don't think it is going to take much work.

Taking a young horse for a walk alone in the woods is the best thing for them.  They have to rely on your leadership.  If I were to pony Griffin, he would have assigned that leadership to the horse I was riding and not me.  Now I know he trusts me pretty completely, and my trust in him has been pretty firmly established.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I rode Catlow again today. This is her second ride this summer. Instead of going out alone, which makes her worried, I met up with the neighbors down by the pond. I wondered how Catlow would be meeting strange horses while out riding. Would it make her more nervous or would it make her feel more secure? When riding out with other members of her herd, she is totally calm.

Well, as long as Catlow has any other horses along, she feels more secure and isn't nervous and looking around constantly. It was funny when she met up with them...she showed only mild interest in them, then completely ignored them, even though she hadn't even sniffed noses with them! But just their presence was enough...she was pretty relaxed on our ride. Later on, we were resting and let the horses sniff noses. Catlow only sniffed noses with Honey Doll, then was over it. When Belle came over to sniff noses, Catlow looked away from her over the hill. She's not really all that concerned with her place in the hierarchy. Like I've said before, she is the #2 mare in the dominance hierarchy in my herd, but she is the lead mare. Everyone follows her. And many times today, the other horses followed her down new trails. We did some trotting, cantering, stopping and backing and working on circles. Catlow was great but her circles were more like eggs.

I really love riding Catlow because my Circle Y Flagstaff fits her perfectly. It also fits me perfectly, and Catlow is narrower than Cody and Chico so riding her is quite comfortable. Plus she is just a powerhouse. She might not look big, but she has so much heart and strength behind her.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Some firsts for the wild ones

Today was a day of firsts for Griffin and Kachina. I didn't have a babysitter this morning, but my mom was willing to bring Wren over to the farm and sit with her while I did stuff with the horses in the afternoon. I trimmed Chico first. Then I caught Kachina. It was easy to catch her since I've been getting all my horses accustomed to treats lately. This comes after a frustrating day when it took me a while to catch Kachina even though she was closed into the smaller paddock area. I finally had to shut her into the 24 ft by 24 ft mustang pen in the back of the barn and "mini-roundpen" her until she started to face up instead of avoid me. She was terrible. And all I wanted to do that day was put fly spray on her! And she's not afraid of the fly spray...once I start I think she is happy about it having figured out it gets rid of flies. So today, I caught her easily as she was already following me looking for a treat.


I led her out of the pasture gate!!!! I've never taken either of the wild ones out of the gate before! They weren't ready before, and then, as you know, I was pregnant so not about to handle wild mustangs who were sure to spook at things once they were out of the familiarity of their pen. But an amazing thing happened while I left them alone these last couple years. They've both grown up (mentally and physically) and relaxed into their stable herd environment. In the little interactions I have with them every day, they've learned to trust me...and I hardly did a thing! And now that the round pen is up, I am so itching to work with them. To get them to that round pen right now I have to lead them up to it outside the pasture. So, I led Kachina out the gate. She hesitated at the gate, having stood at it, but never crossed through it, but then, she stepped right though. She was alert, but really, she was a lot better than I expected. I even convinced her to step her front feet onto the rubber pad I have down in front of the hitching post for trimming hooves. She did just about jump out of her skin when Griffin suddenly impatiently pawed the panels though. Then I led her up to the round pen. She was looking all over, but she followed me and went right through the round pen gate with no problem. I left her there to get used to it. My mom reported that she rolled in the sand, then followed my mom around as she walked around the outside of the pen.

I went back down to the barn area and this time caught Griffin. Griffin so wants to be messed with now that he's more used to it with his twice a day handling with the treat reward. He pretty much met me at the gate, and earlier in the day, I actually caught him way out in the pasture for the first time and led him down to the barn. Previously, I'd been able to approach him and rub him out in the pasture, but not always, and definitely not if I was holding a halter and leadrope! So this is a big difference! After I caught him, I took his fly mask off. Griffin really is a non-spooky secure horse. The loud obnoxious velcro ripping apart has never worried him (it drives Kachina crazy).


I tied him up to a sturdy post dug deep in the ground. I've never tied him before. I've never had a need to. Today, I decided he needed to learn to tie because I foresee taking him out and I want him to know to really give to the rope, and I also would like to perhaps start trimming him outside the mustang pen area. I always trim Kachina and Griffin in the mustang pen because they are comfortable there, but all the others get trimmed tied to the hitching post. So, there Griffin stood tied, and I walked away and left the pen so he could figure it out. I knew he would try to pull back to test it, and he did. He pulled back HARD, and then just stood there hanging on the halter for about 20 seconds. Then, he slowly leaned forward and took his weight off the halter and stood upright. He thought for a little bit, then started walking back and forth, then he set back again HARD! But everything held. I didn't have any metal hardware on the rope to break. Then he stood back up and stood quietly at the more weaving and no more pulling!
My mom took all these pictures, and they are a little fuzzy because I think Wren put some fingerprints on the lens.

Of course, Griffin has been prepared for this. He knows how to give to the leadrope with flexing, leading and dropping his head to pressure on it. I've also been loosely wrapping the rope around a post when I trim him, but I'd not tied him tight. So, I think after another lesson or two with tying, he'll get that there is no point in pulling back. Kachina is not at all ready to be tied. She is a flighty spooky horse and I don't think she is comfortable enough yet to be restricted like that...she'd blow and I worry she'd hurt herself.

After Griffin's tying lesson, I led him out through the gate. He too stopped at the gate and was like, really? I get to go out? They always follow whatever horse I'm leading out the gate right to it, then stop when I shut the gate in their this was new and he came out readily once he realized I meant it. Griffin stepped on the rubber trimming pad with no problem. He startled a bit whenever my mom stood up from her seat over at the picnic table (he is still very leary of other people) but I lead him around the yard and he did very well. He even dropped his head to eat some grass. I didn't do any more with him than that. I lead him back into the pasture and turned him loose without his fly mask for overnight. I am still concerned about working him with that cloudy eye. The lesion part is definitely getting smaller, but I feel like the cloudiness is becoming more opaque right under the lesion. Once he's healed, even if he does have scar tissue where the lesion was, I don't think it will affect his vision that much because it is in the lower rear portion of his eye. It will cause a minor fuzzy spot to his rear, but that's it.

Then I went up to where Kachina was patiently waiting in the round pen and began working with her. My little desert mustang moved easily through the boggy sand, although she definitely worked up a sweat. I round penned her loose and she came in nicely turning to the inside even with the increased space (compared to "mini-roundpenning" in her 24ft square pen. She got a bit hyped up at first with my "chasing" her, but quickly, she decided to come in and be haltered. I didn't halter her right away though. I spent some time swinging the halter around her since that seems to be one of her excuses to not let me catch her in the pasture. At first she ran but soon she stood and let me rub her all over with the leadrope. Then we did some desensitizing with tossing the rope all over her body and slapping the ground. She was flawless. Now, don't make fun of my outfit in these pictures. We had to buy these green overalls to wear when we are working with large animals at the vet school. I've discovered how easy they are to pull on over my shorts and tank top so that I stay protected when I am trimming this summer they have been my hoof trimming outfit.

She learned these lessons well from the first summer she was with me. Then I lunged her attached to the lead line. She didn't quite understand and I had a hard time convincing her to leave at first, but she quickly realized what I was doing and was agreeable.

She remembered things well, so I decided to bring out a new thing to introduce her to. I started tossing a thin light-weight saddle blanket over her back. She was tense and flinching at first, but with repetition, she relaxed a bit and accepted it. When I moved to the other side, she just flipped out. Eventually she stopped moving and freaking out and I was able to toss it over her back repetitively on the other side. Then I went back to the first side. She stood accepting it for a bit, even appearing to no longer care about it, then suddenly she exploded and freaked out about that side...wierd horse. But I calmly kept at it and she stood still again finally, and then was good again for moving back to the other side. I left her lesson at that. She was glad to follow me back down to the pasture.

I had fun with them, and I'm so excited to do things with them. I want to start leading them out on the trails, and maybe I can pony them along soon. But school starts up in a week and a half. I wish we'd gotten the round pen up at the beginning of the summer. But really, I just started riding a lot this last month. The timing is what it is.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Riding with the hubby

Sunday, I convinced my husband to come for a ride with me.

Afterall, part of the goal with sending Cody to a trainer last year was getting her tuned-up and been-there-done-that enough for me to not worry about her with my husband or anyone else.

Cody has been doing very well with her new bit. She is quite responsive and she really is a good girl. She does, however, test her new riders...and because of that she probably will never be a complete beginners horse. She's not naughty, she just tries stuff (always does, even with me) and if she gets away with it, she'll keep doing it. Just little things, like walking really slow, turning back toward home, pretending she doesn't really know what you mean when you ask her to turn and it is away from home, eating grass, trotting when she wasn't asked. She always tries these little things with me too, but simple quick corrections discourage her and she won't try them further. Part of the pretending she doesn't really know what you mean when you are turning her, could also be conflicting cues given by a rider that she's not accustomed to. But she does try it a bit with me when we are still at home in the yard and heading out.
Other than that, she is great. She's responsive...a simple squeeze will send her up into the next gait and another little squeeze will up it again. Todd had her cantering at one point when he squeezed too hard, but she's not naughty and they enjoyed a nice canter before he asked her to walk again. She was walking a bit slow for him though, and that's because he is not accustomed to "riding" his horse. He hasn't really ridden in over 20 years, he said. He grew up riding horses a lot, but they didn't ride with seat and legs...they rode with a lot of whoa and go using reins and kicking. In fact, they used to put bucking straps on their horses just to get them to buck! Crazy kids. Anyway, when I told him how to get Cody to walk faster by riding her faster, it took some practice for him, but he was pleased when he could get her to walk faster by using his seat and legs to push her a bit more. But she'd drop back to her slow pace when he quit. He's used to just sitting on a horse like it's a lounge chair. Most people like a nice slow horse, but Todd is a bit hyperactive himself...he likes that all business, quick pace.

I think it was good for him to just relax with Cody and let go of that. He said he had a lot of fun riding with me and he wouldn't mind doing it once a week...but I know that won't happen! I'll be lucky if I get him out once a month! He's got a lot to do and riding does take a lot of time out of that! But I'm glad he finally did it with me and saw what it was like so that next time I ask, he'll have that fun previous experience to draw on.

And we keep calling Cody 'his' horse, and he uses 'his' saddle on her, so that will probably help him too. He did tell me that he'd be more willing to ride with me if he doesn't have to do all the messing around with them before and after (which is the part I like to do anyway). I can tack up (which I want to do because I'm kind of particular about it when it's my horses) and call him when they are all ready to go and then he'll ride with me! Sounds like a good deal to me!

And the horses got to enjoy a nice roll in the sand when we got back! Cody accidently kicked Chico in the jaw in her exuberence with getting sand in all her cracks.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Round pen almost done!

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about getting the round pen set up. It's been a dream of mine to have one for the last 3 years. I am SO excited! I want to share the setting up the round pen from start to finish in this post.

We actually started cleaning up the spot where we were planning to put the round pen earlier this spring, but we stopped when we got to the stuff requiring equipment to move. It was just sort of a storage area. Odds and ends, old barb wire, a rotting trailer, piles of logs, and even my horse trailer were all parked where the round pen was to go.

So, we jumped in where we left off and started moving the large heavy items out of the spot. I didn't think to get my camera out until they were almost ready to mow all the weeds down after moving all the stuff. It sure is nice to have equipment available to do all the moving stuff. The orange tractor belongs to my dad, and the bobcat is equipment that my husband owns with his business.

This is more equipment my husband owns with his business. A laser to measure and make sure the area is completely level. Awesome!

Now the area is pretty much flattened.

The final base of the round pen is set below the grade of the surrounding ground by about 5-6 inches. The base is sloped toward the center and the center will have drain tile dug in to make sure the pen drains well. It is also on the top of a hill, so it won't have water collecting into it.

Three loads of sand were delivered. We ended up buying sand instead of getting it from our neighbor because it is screened and rocks removed then. Even so, it is pretty inexpensive.

Before the sand was delivered, my husband used another piece of his equipment to dig the drain trench. The base grade of the pen is the lowest in the center, and the drain trench grade is highest in the center.

In the trench, we laid the drain tile (not sure why they call it "tile"). It is basically black plastic pipe that has slits in it so water can enter it. The outside is wrapped in a fine mesh fabric to keep sand out of the pipe.

Then we filled in around the pipe with sand. My husband really is the most amazing guy. He is so good about helping me complete my big projects that I couldn't do without him. And he is such a perfectionist! I'm not sure I've heard of anyone else whose round pen had drain tile under it!

Then we spread the sand with the bucket of the bobcat.

Doesn't it look nice!?

From this view standing below the grade of the round pen, you can see where the drain tile exits the base. I think it will drain well! I hope.

And of course, the round pen area is now a big sand box. And my baby girl was right there 'helping' all along.

On the last evening of the project, we brought the panels over and set them up. They were being used to sort cattle at the farm, so they are a little "poopy" but the rain will wash them off!

Wren is always in the middle of everything we do. Here she is holding onto the stake marking the center of the roundpen.

The horses are always around watching our activities with sometimes intense curiosity, sometimes boredom...little do they know what's in store for them!

As I mentioned in a previous post, we got these panels from the Chubby Baird Gate Co. They are 6ft tall and made with extra heavy duty steel. They are HEAVY! The links between panels are a pin-type attachment. I really like them. The only thing I don't like is that the way the the panels attach leaves a gap between them...and you know horses. Horses can find the most unlikely places to get hung up. So I can see potential for a leg or even a neck if a rearing horse were to hit the panel in just the right spot to get stuck. So they could be safer. But I think they will be fine. I try to never push my horses so hard that they want to escape by jumping the panels. And because we have 2 gates we've actually increased the diameter of the round pen. It is technically a 54 foot round pen.

From start to finish, this project took 9 days to complete, 10 if you count the day early this spring when we moved the smaller stuff. Of course, we didn't work on it all day long, mostly in the evenings after work. And of course, we are not quite done yet, but it is now completely functional. We still have to seed and mulch the surrounding landscaping, and then after the grass is established, we will reroute the fence back to where it was (we moved it back to make room for the landscaping). If you notice, there are two gates in the round pen. One gate will open into the pasture and the other gate opens outside the pasture. This will be so convenient.

I tried the sand out the next morning after we got it spread before the panels were up. I exercised Cody before a ride, and as I feared, it was really boggy. She had a very hard time moving around in it. But it was also pretty moist because the sand was wet when they dumped it. As it dries out, it may only get more 'surgary'. We'll give it some time. It may be alright. When we were setting the panels up it already felt much firmer and drier, but time will tell. Over time it will also mix with the base and firm up too, but that will be quite a while away.

I did excercise Chico in it before our ride this morning and it is not as boggy as it was a few days ago. It's still a lot of work to move in it, but it is better. I'm not currently planning to change it. Just wait and see how it settles.

I'm really very happy with the round pen. I wish Griffin's eye was okay because I'm dying to get him into it. But I don't want to push him when his vision is compromised and I certainly don't want to accidently get sand in his eye.