Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More trimming

It's been a busy last couple of weeks.  Several exams, including one yesterday and one today, which means that I was pretty busy studying this weekend.  I really dislike studying on the weekends since that is my only time at home with family and animals, but sometimes it has to be done!  Even so, I did trim a couple horses and worked with Griffin a bit.  And I realized that I have not posted many pictures recently so I took some as I walked through the pasture...not super exciting, but better than nothing!  The first picture is Cody, my oldest mare and most dominant horse in my herd.  The picture below is her hooves which are at 6 weeks of growth, meaning she was due for a trim (and got trimmed on Sunday).

Cody is one of those horses that I think have feet that are too small for the size of her body, given that she weighs about 200-400 lbs more than any of my other horses and their feet are the same size as hers.  In fact, Catlow's feet are BIGGER than Cody's and Catlow is definitely about 300lb less than Cody.  She also has chronic thrush that I've never been able to get rid of (but not too sore from it), and has thin soles and has always been ouchy on hard gravel.

I caught Catlow snoozing at one point as I walked through the pasture.  She was so cute.  Her eyes were closed and everything.  She woke up when I walked past, but lay still as I patted her on the head.

Catlow's feet are only a couple weeks out from having been trimmed, so she still looks nice and tight.  Chico's feet are last and he was trimmed at the same time as Catlow.  I love horse feet.

The other horse that was trimmed this weekend was Griffin.  He was long overdue.  My neighbor was kind enough to sharpen my tools for me and then hold Griffin while I trimmed him up over at their place.  He was pretty good, except for not really being excited about standing still to let me trim his hinds.  It took some consistent following him and asking for his hoof back before he stood and relaxed.  It also took some time to get used to letting my neighbor handle him.  Griffin's feet tend to spread out when they get long like platters, and not in a good way...they get too shallow in the sole and he gets significant separation of the white line with the leverage produced by the long hoof wall.  So when I trim them the right length, his soles have very little concavity.  I've made a promise to him and myself that I am going to keep up with him and trim him every 6 weeks or less with the goal of tightening up his white line and building some better sole concavity.  He has thin soles too, although they are not as ouchy as Cody's.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Trimming Kachina

Phew!  This trying to keep balance thing is already getting difficult!  We are now in the thick of our semester and our first round of exams and already getting overloaded!  BUT, last weekend, I still managed to keep up with trimming and did 2 more horses (no time to ride or work with Griffin though).  I did Pumpkin first.  She hadn't been done in about a year.  Her feet just don't grow all that fast, although they were definitely in need of a trim.  Pumpkin was an absolutely perfect angel for her trim.  She stood quietly, didn't try to walk off (like the last time I'd trimmed her) and politely accepted her treat rewards for standing after each hoof...no searching for more like she always does in the pasture.  Since I finished her so quickly due to her cooperativeness, I decided to get Kachina out and try her...if nothing else, I could just trim her fronts, since they were in greater need (fronts always seem to grow faster than their hinds).  I really didnt' think I'd be all that successful at trimming Kachina at the hitching post (since I'd never tied her before and she hadn't been outside the pasture very often), but it was so muddy in the pasture that I decided to try it.  I just didn't have any other good place to try to trim her.  She lead right onto the mat in front of the hitching post with no issues and was quite relaxed, so I looped the rope around the post a couple times without tying her tight.  She was actually really good and I trimmed both her front hooves without too much difficulty.  She stood nicely, knew she was "tied", and was overall very relaxed.  So then I decided to try to do her hinds.  I got her left hind done pretty easily, but she gave me quite a bit of trouble on her right hind.  It took me over an hour on just that one hoof, but I did get it done!  When she became nervous about my insistence on handling that hoof, after already having let me start working on it a little bit, her inexperience with tying came through.  She just wasn't cooperative and would take her foot away and step away from me.  When I tried to ask her to step back onto the mat and get back into position, she would feel a little trapped and try to back up out of the situation.   Since she was tied, she pulled back to the end of the rope, but then just stood and would not move over at all, so I had to take her out in the yard and lunge her a bit and re-teach her what I meant when I asked her to step over with her hinds or her fronts.  She decided to "forget" how to do that on one side and was really huffy and tossing her head when I asked her to move her shoulder away from me.  She would toss her head up and over my hands that I was holding up by her face, and go the opposite direction I was asking.  It took a lot of "discussion" but she did not get away with her evasion and did figure out what I was trying to ask her to do.  And she also remembered how to calmly move her feet away from me when asked and not just leap into lunging mindlessly around me.   After our refresher lesson, I tied her back up and tried to work to her right hind again.  The problem with her right hind was she would step over away from me to evade having to pick it up for me.  Since she was tied, that meant she would move over till her hip was next to the hitching rail.  I would stand with her and ask her to stand still and relax and not pick up her back hoof until she was standing with her weight off it, almost offering it to me.  When asked, she'd pick it up, but as soon as I got settled to do something to it, she would take it away and walk forward, since that was the only way she could go to "get away" from me.  As she walked forward, she'd come to the end of the tie rope, it would pull her head toward the hitching post, which caused her to swing her hip out away from the hitching post...and directly into me.  At first, not wanting to cause her to freak out being tied (or kick me which she's never done), I got out of her way, but I quickly got sick of that and realized it wasn't getting the message across to her what I needed her to do.  So I started to step with her as she walked forward and vigorously bump her side to prevent her from swinging her hip into me. She did end up pulling back a few times rather violently when I did this, but she's a small horse and it was like "a fish fighting at the end of a line" to quote a friend. I just stayed out of her way and she did have enough sense to only fight for a couple of tugs and then quit and come forward and stand nice again.   Pulling back unnerved her...she was breathing more quickly and shallowly but was standing okay.   I ended up having to tied her rope rather short to prevent her from walking forward very far when I was picking her hoof up.  That combined with bumping her side vigorously before she even had a chance to step forward seemed to work!  Once she figured out that pulling back didn't work, walking forward didn't work, and she couldnt' avoid me, she suddenly stood very still and let me work on her hoof!  She stood really really well, didn't take the hoof away, let me completely finish and I chose to set her hoof down when I was done.  And at the end of it, she was calm and relaxed!  It was a struggle, but it ended really well!  I really pushed her asking her to stand and be trimmed while tied, but it is time I quit babying her and expect to act like a real horse.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I'm trying to have more balance in my life this semester.  Last semester I realized at the end of the year that I hadn't done hardly anything with my horses or my friends...it was all school and family.  Both of those things are definitely priorities, but life does need more balance, so I'm trying to find it this semester.  Plus, I have a goal this year.  I want Griffin to be ridden on the trail this summer.  I've been trying to do something with my horses every weekend, at least once.  Griffin is a priority right now, and if I have additional time, I'm riding the "old" ones.  Kachina is going to have to wait a bit (maybe she'll grow more if I give her more time off :)  Not likely...) 

Last weekend and the next couple of weeks, I'm trying to get the hooves of all 6 trimmed up.  I got Cody at the end of January, Chico and Catlow last weekend.  Next weekend is Pumpkin, then Griffin, then Kachina.  Then start all over again with Cody.  Trimming is frustratingly never ending, but I do like doing it.  I like that part of my relationship with my horses.  I like knowing them inside and out and since their feet are such a big part of them, I get great satisfaction in maintaining them.  I got even more excited about trimming after discussing it with the farrier that works on horses at the vet school.  I really like our farrier.  He is a really friendly guy, likes to explain what he's doing and how the feet and whole horse work together, and he is not "stuck in a rut" as far as farrier work goes.  He learns new techniques, and works closely with the veterinarians in the clinic, analyzing radiographs of hooves to best determine how to help lame horses.  I'm hoping to hang out and learn from him more often.

On Sunday I got Griffin out and saddled him up for the 3rd time.  I saddled him next to the horse trailer rather than in the round pen because to get to the roundpen means carrying my saddle all the way up there (it's a ways and uphill).  I figured that my horse should be carrying my saddle up there for me, so we worked at standing next to the trailer and accepting saddling calmly.  He stands really well for the saddle pad (I toss it on and off repeatedly from both sides), but he generally wants to back up when I approach his side with the saddle.  I just pull him back forward and swing the saddle up and down at his side several times and back away.  Then I do it again, and he stands very well once I start swinging it.  Then I swing it up on his back.  He stands, but I feel that he wants to step away when I swing it up there.  He'll get better.  It's only his 3rd time wearing it!  Once his saddle is on, he stands extremely patiently while I I fiddle with getting the breast collar on and all the buckled just right.  And cinching is smooth. 

After tacking up, I dug out my breeching for him to wear.  For those who don't know, a breeching is a harness that goes around the horse's rump and attaches to the back of the saddle and to the rings on the cinch.  It is worn in mountain riding to prevent the saddle from sliding forward.  I used it with Chico when we packed into the Cascades in Washington, and I like to use it as a training tool to get horses used to things touching them all over when they are moving.  In the round pen, I swung it around Griffin's rump to get him used to it, then tossed it up on top, attached it to the ring on the back of the saddle, and slid the strap around his rump.  He stood calmly, completely unconcerned.  It was cold out, and I had to fiddle with the buckles for quite a while to loosen them enough to enlarge the breeching.  I think the last horse that wore it was Catlow as a 4 year old, and I couldn't believe how much larger I had to make it.  When Chico wore it as a 3 year old, it was even smaller yet!  If Chico wore it now, I'd have to make it even larger than I did for Griffin...he has really matured into a big stout horse.  Anyway, Griffin was great, although on his right side, I had to follow him for a few steps while he circled away from me (that's his most uncomfortable side), but he stopped and then just stood for several minutes while I got the breeching adjusted just right.  When I asked him to move out around me, he did so calmly, paying the breeching no mind, so we did some basic exercises (flexing, yeilding fores and hinds, backing, responding to cues where my leg will be), and then we got out of the round pen (still deep and crusty with snow) and went for a walk.

Back at the trailer after our nice walk, I looped the leadrope through the tie ring and had him practice standing tied while I unsaddled him.  He did well.  I don't want to tie him fast to a trailer that is not attached to a vehicle, when he is not used to being restrained so near one just in case he were to freak out.

As I walked home through the pasture, Kachina asked to be haltered so she could have a treat, so I did halter her.  I lead her through the pasture and on top of the hill.  She was so calm until I tapped her on the withers with the gloves in my hand.  If the gloves has been on my hand, I dont' think she would have reacted, but as it was, the gloves were now foreign and she jumped back and got all huffy and upset.  So I of course had to work with rubbing her and tapping her with my gloves to desensitize her.  She relaxed a tad after a bit, so then I led her down and out the gate into my yard and lunged her in a circle for a bit just to practice changing directions and listening to my body language outside the pasture.  We still have about 4-5 inches of crusty snow, so she had to pick her feet up high as she trotted around me with energy.  Lunging Kachina is an exercise in directing her high energy - she moves easily, I don't have to nag at her, and she doesn't pull on the halter.  She is fun to lunge because of that.  I couldnt' have picked two more opposite horses to work with out of the Sulphur Springs HMA.  She is sensitive, energetic, thin skinned, a flighty.  Griffin is more secure, much less reactive, not flighty at all, and he tends to be a little dull at times with cues.  Lunging him is a nagging feat if I want him to go faster than a trot.  That is something that I have not been working on yet since my round pen footing is not good enough for it yet (with the snow and all, and then the deep sand underneath).  I plan to work on that more before I ever get on his back.  I want him to move more freely.  That stickiness scares me a bit...I find it easier to control a horse that will respond to my cues even if they are fast and flying around, than one that might freeze up and stop responding.  I'd rather they go forward than freeze up!  But I am not that worried about Griffin.  I think things will go quite smoothly when we get there.  I think I could ride him at a walk/trot in the round pen tomorrow without it being a wreck, but I want to be a little more convinced that Griffin knows how to respond to me under any circumstances...I'm not in a hurry.  I have a baby to think about.  :)