Sunday, December 28, 2008

General -- 12/28/08

Welcome to Winter and a boring blog. There will not be much training going on for the next couple of months thanks to the weather and lack of daylight. And the fact that we have not yet won the lottery, so don't have an indoor riding ring. But rest assured that we'll be back in the saddle soon.

Spring Agenda

Jewel will start serious training and I'll be keeping you up to date on her progress -- as long as she doesn't break too many of my bones.

Gentry's soundness will be assessed and if Doc gives the OK he'll be started on a light work regimen to get him back in shape and ready for adoption.

Tabby and Classy will be polished off before going to their new homes.

Megalia will be broke to saddle and spend some time leisurely wondering down the trails before she is put up for adoption.

Radar will receive some serious ground work in an attempt to turn him into a little gentleman before saddle breaking next Fall.

And last, but not least, Quest will start his dressage training.

Have a great Winter and try to stay warm!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hunter -- General

Now that I learned the kids are reading this blog, I must put in a forgotten activity. Nephew Jessie occasionally has been mounting Hunter by this means: He holds the mane and swings up the leg letting momentum carry him onto the horse's back. What do you call that anyway? Jessie will eventually be a trick rider, I am sure, the athletic rascal. Nice rescue lady predicts that Lacy and Hunter will be trick riders in a few years. So, why not teach Hunter to do it? God knows I will never EVER be a trick rider and train it to a horse. Anyway, Hunter was surprised at first, but as usual, took it in stride later. We are not going to do a lot of this, just enough to make sure that Hunter is not shocked in his future. We also plan to do other things such as emergency dismounts and offside mounting, but I am sure nothing will ever faze him, really.

-- Anastasia

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hunter -- 11/16/08

Hunter rode on his 2nd real trail ride again today. I rode Evil Keisha down the road a half mile to join my brother's kids. Kayla rode Mandy, who until I got there refused to take a bit into her mouth. Good! The kids still need me. Because I secretly need them but don't anyone tell them or they will get swell headed. Hunter, as usual, was fascinated by the goings on and was ready for whatever we were going to do.

So off we went. Me on Evil K, the most experienced trail horse I have right now, Kayla on Mandolin, and Jessie on Hunter wearing my English saddle and a halter with dog leashes attached for reins. Now before you knock dog leashes, know this: Hunter does not like the bit at all, but I want him ready for steering/stopping sooner than later for Lacy's sake. He responds well enough with the pressure on his halter to get saddle experience. Dog leashes are nylon, cheap and have snaps on the ends convenient to hook into the halter. Still, I better get him more conditioned to the bit.

We did a warm up by walking for a while up the trail. Then we trotted. Hunter is getting the hang of this trotting on command by watching the lead horse and then responding to the rider cues, but I am not sure he would do it all alone just yet. Have to try it soon. Today Hunter would not take the lead, but willingly followed anybody. When I took the rear I had the chance to observe. I am not feeling that Hunter is as smooth as I first thought, but Jessie says he is. However, our two boys were more than willing to trot with each other happily. Then I lead and cantered. Mandy broke into what I like to call the quarter horse shuffle. She looked classic. It seems like she has been trained to the show ring. Neato. Hunter cantered, too, easily. He seems effortless in this. He looks very collected and his legs are nicely under him. How do I know? I had to turn around and watch while I was cantering. I prefer not to, but Keisha has so improved this year that she was able to do it. HHH, I made this effort for you! It will be one of the few overtly altruistic acts you will observe from me. But back to Hunter. He went at his various gaits and barely broke a sweat. It was maybe 2 to 4 miles we went. Hard to tell out on the trails. Other than not wanting to take the lead, he was darling. Jessie keeps practicing on steering and whoaing and going with him and the boys had themselves a ball. How do I know? They both were grinning ....yah, both. I swear Hunter smiles.

Hunter -- General

I am behind on posts- it is a tough time of year for me workwise. So I am going to glom together some things Hunter has been doing.

He has been ridden by my friend Ann's 2 grade school kids - well, led about really by volunteer Jamie. Although he is always interested in kids riding, this is nothing to him anymore. I am lucky to have so many kids around to do this with Hunter. He will be the best babysitter pony ever.

Tori, my friend Jess' fearless 11 year old rode him - really rode him - in our field. She was bareback with a halter and rigged reins. We worked on whoa and go and steering. I would get Hunter stopped and she would hold him there. Then I would walk off some distance - like 20 yards -while she kept him still. On command she would get him to ride to me and stop. We also played a game where they had to follow in my footsteps as I jogged (OMG did I really jog at my age?) about the field. This fierce little girl was determined to make that pony work with a capitol W. It was neat. It was like they were both learning some hard subject in school, but getting great satisfaction in the mastery of it.

Hunter has been quite the Hoodini and getting out a lot. It was because he is short enough to get through this one spot by walking under the top rail and over the bottom one. It was an odd spot because it was at a creek crossing and the elevations changed funnily. Well, before I figured out where the spot was and after I was exhausted from 5 times in one day of putting him back in, I finally drove the garden tractor and led him while I drove on that. It could be classified as bombproofing training. Yup, it ain't ridin', but it shore is learnin'.

Hunter also got moved down to my brother's pasture to be a companion for my niece Kayla's new horse, Lady's Mandolin, who was adopted from HHH. Niece Kasey walked him a half mile down the road while her dad followed in the truck. Kasey even jogged Hunter for a while on this adventure. First time Hunter ever jogged in hand. Wow. He is happily flirting with Mandy until he goes to his new home at Lacy's. Mandy would have been ok by herself, we think, but it is good for Hunter to get experience with changes in surroundings and companions. The grand nephews are now getting pony rides on him. I miss seeing him on a daily basis, but Kayla, Pat, Jessie and the rest of the crowd are taking great care of him.

Oh, and Jessie says I should write in this blog that Hunter is mean, and bucks, and rears and bites. I asked him why should I write that and he answered, "So no one else will want him and I can have him." Hunter and Lacy are are still on. No can do. Don't worry, Jessie-boy. The nice rescue lady is looking for your perfect forever horse.

-- Anastasia

Monday, November 17, 2008

Meghan -- 11/14/08

At this point Meghan's training is simply physical training to get some of that humongous belly off. I like horses with a little extra going into winter, but Meghan has a little too much fat. When the vet looks at her and thinks she's about ready to pop out a foal then it's too much!

So this past Friday when we took a long trail ride on the North Bend Trail I asked Anne to ride Meghan. I'm usually the only one riding the rescues when they are here on the farm so it's nice to get someone else on them as often as possible. And since Anne doesn't care one way or the other as long as she's riding someone, she's often my stand in. :)

The North Bend Trail used to be a railroad so of course there are bridges and tunnels. The three tunnels we went through were between 333 and 377 feet long and had a slight curve to them. Once you're in the middle of the tunnel it's pitch black and even the horses are unsure where the ground is in front of them. Did this stop Meghan from following Willow into the tunnel? Nope! She marched right in like a trooper and it didn't even seem to make her nervous. Same with the bridges. Anne rode her in a halter and had no trouble with trotting and cantering.

Dare I say it, but she actually looks a little lighter today.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Radar - 11/12/08

Today was Radar's first real training session. I spent the first 20 minutes trying to teach him what a circle is and how to stay more than five inches away from me when on the lunge line. Radar is the same age as Hunter, but not nearly as intelligent or laid back. The main reason I was trying to teach him to lunge is because he's terrible about having his feet picked up.

Make sense?

I'm all about making the thing I want easy and the bad behavior hard. Whenever I try to pick up Radar's feet he backs away and yanks his leg out of my hand before I even get my hand to his knee. Meghan was the same way when she got here and Jewel still does the same thing. I had great success with Meghan using this method and just haven't tried it with Jewel yet.

Once Radar had the lunging thing down well enough to stay out of my personal space and do a halfway decent circle I tried picking up the inside front foot. As soon as he'd back away or yank his leg out of my hand I'd send him back out on the circle at a trot. Don't want to do as I ask? Then go back to work! I only make him trot around the circle twice before asking for a whoa and trying to pick up his foot again. It only took Meghan about five minutes to figure out that standing there and letting me handle her foot was a lot easier than trotting around in a circle. It took Radar 20 minutes. That was just for the right foot. Like I said, not the brightest bulb in the pack.

As soon as Radar let me pick up the right foot and hold it a few seconds without yanking or pulling away I put it down and let him stop for the night. Tomorrow we'll work on the left foot. The good news is that by the time he lets me pick up all four feet he'll be a pro at lunging!

Megalia -- 11/12/08

Meg's soundness issue in the left hind is only on the lunge line going to the left, which makes me believe even more that it's a mechanical lameness. I'll have Doc look at her again next time he comes out to confirm. If it is, then she should be fine for light riding duties, such as trail riding.

So instead of lunging I did some line driving with Meg. Like Tabby, she didn't care about the saddle and just gave a big sigh as I tightened up the girth. I have always loved training the old broodmares -- they're so EASY!

Meg also has a good handle on WHOA and turning with the bit. What we did today was really a big waste of time and I should have just gotten on her. Maybe tomorrow!

Tabby -- 11/12/08

Today was the first day that I had the time to work with any horses during my "vacation". I started with Tabby, who really didn't care what I did to her as long as it didn't take her away from her hay for too long. I put the synthetic western on her, which she didn't care about at all, even when I tightened up the girth as far as I could. She took the bit in her mouth like it was old hat and she was ready to be hitched to the sulky for a race.

I lunged her for about 15 minutes, both directions at the walk and trot. To my complete surprise, she actually broke into a canter when going to the right! What?? A Standardbred off the track voluntarily cantering?? Could I be so lucky? It was short lived, but there it was. I was tickled pink and almost broke into my happy dance. After lunging I put a second line on her and ran both lunge lines through the rings on the front of the saddle so I could line drive her. This was old hat for her as well, but I wanted to make sure she understood WHOA in conjunction with pulling on the bit. Yup.

Her paperwork from the other rescue said that she was not broke to ride, but I think it's going to take only one or two rides to have her at least walking and trotting well enough to have Mikayla ride her. I wanted so badly to get on her today, but was home alone. My one rule for myself is not to get on a greenie or new horse without someone else here. Bonnie is coming over for a lesson on Steel tomorrow, so I might be able to talk her into staying long enough after her lesson for me to get on Tabby.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hunter -- 11/03/08

I am discovering that the worst part about pony training is not being able to ride him. If only I could get on Hunter and polish him up. But I am too big. Even if I lost weight, I would always be too big to break ponies. The down side is that you don't always have a kid that is well trained enough to persuade the pony to do what is necessary.

Take tonight: Hunter got to play with Emilee and Mikayla. We were riding through our pasture (stallion removed of course) on a mini trail ride. Hunter was fine to go with Emilee, but anytime he was unsure of what to do he stopped and stood. Overall, a great trait for a kid's horse, but a bit frustrating for Emilee. She does not have the experience to urge him effectively. Several mini disasters later, I ended up leading Hunter having surrendered my horse, Keisha, to Mikayla who in turn surrendered Old Joe to Emilee. Not that Hunter was bad at all....just a little confused at times.

The thing to focus on here is that a less secure horse may have bolted, bucked, turned around to slog toward safety, etc. Hunter just quietly and alertly stood while he tried to work out what was supposed to be happening. He just needs more wet saddle blankets.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hunter -- 11/02/08

He did it! Hunter went on a trail ride without being ponied. And he thought it was the coolest thing, ever. If a horse could giggle, he giggled the entire time.

Jessie, my nephew, rode him. Jessie weighs 113 soaking wet. If there are any readers that are following this, I have a 27 nephews and nieces, and 14 great nieces and nephews. As soon as a kid starts to weigh too much for riding a pony, my family will output another kid. Anyhoo, Jessie was looking forward to this, as he hadn't ridden for over a year. The delay was due to 4 wheelers, bad grades, football, video games and girls. But he's back and wants a horse of his own. And willing to prove to his dad that he will make riding a higher priority than video games. We'll see.

I rode my good old bad-tempered mare, Keisha, since she and I do very well together and I wanted to be maneuverable if it proved necessary. It did not, at least with Hunter. Kasey, my fairly well-trained niece, rode my new boy, Joma. Her boyfriend, Andy, rode good old Appy Joe. Off we went without a hitch into the woods and fields.

Hunter was great. He acted like a seasoned horse. He outperformed Joma, who was sure there were piranhas in a puddle and had to be ponied by Keisha for a spell. Hunter did not care who he followed, who was in front, who was in back and actually passed Keisha in the lead a couple of times. He stopped when asked, waited quietly when asked and - get this- trotted and cantered when asked!

I wasn't sure how the ride would go, but after I saw how well Hunter was doing, I coached Jessie on how to cue him and we trotted. Jessie reports that he is as smooth as Joe. Believe me, Joe is smooth. After a while, we had a nice, long, easy, uphill slope and decided to ask Hunter to canter. This made me anxious, as I feared Hunter may buck in a romping kind of way. Nope. He acted like an old hand and Jessie said he was just as smooth as Joe on this, as well. Jessie also used the reins to guide him back and forth, left and right, on the wide trail to reinforce Hunter's earlier lessons. Oooo I wish I was not fat so I could ride him, too!

We rode for about 45 minutes or an hour. Mostly easy walking. Lots of stopping to wait on the slow guy, ex-racehorse Joma. Then back home where Hunter again acted like a pro while we pulled up to my front yard where we untacked. Funny thing - it was the first time I have ever seen my little man sweat. He wasn't tired, though. He was a living doll and Jessie is SO disappointed that Lacy has adopted him. Lacy, if you change your mind, I know my niece and nephew want him very very very much! But we know you would never let a dream horse like this slip through your hands.

-- Anastasia

Hunter -- 11/01/08 #1

I think Hunter is part Wookie. When I bitted him up today he made a lot more of those bizarre noises. He is just protesting the bit, but he was not so bad this time.

Today he got the surcingle on and I did what I call line driving. For anyone who is reading this and learning it works like this. You essentially are behind the horse like you are pulling a plow, but there is no plow. You walk behind the horse and use the reins and your voice to control them. This will get the horse used to following commands when he cannot see when you are riding him! Hunter did his best to get me where he could see me, but I kept darting around behind him to be square with his rear. I had the lunge whip with me,but that turned out to be largely unnecessary. Mostly I ended up using it to flip the lines back over him when he kept twirling to get me into his sight.

After he got this business of me behind him where he couldn't see me figured out, we went to go and whoa. Too easy. He had that figured out a good while back. Then we started steering. He had the basics of this figured out from yesterday's lesson. After only 15 min or so of this he was steering pretty well - by no means fluently, but nicely done at this stage.

Of course I stopped frequently and told him how great he was and petted him. He forgot all about how unhappy he was about the bit and stopped making Wookie noises.

-- Anastasia

Hunter -- 11/01/08 #2

Hunter has found a wide spot in the fence and has been getting out. So he got a second lesson on line driving because he made himself so handy. Actually, I probably would have done it anyway to get him ready for tomorrow's planned trail ride.

He took the bit willingly. Huh? He made no Wookie noises. Double huh? Dear reader, this little fellow figured out that the bit equals playtime.

First I should say I forgot to mention in my earlier post today that we worked on flexing the neck from the movement of the reins. When I first flexed him, he thought he should back up, but I blocked his feet moving backwards with either my leg or the whip used as a block. After flexing toward me, I reached over his back and flexed him away from me. He loved this lesson, I am sure, because it gave him more excuses for touching and petting.

We line drove all over the field: left, right, whoa, go. He had a ball. So did I. Since we both thought this was splendid fun, we did this for about 45 minutes, stopping periodically to adore him. Normally on a new horse and/or new skill I limit the time we spend so I don't sour the poor beast. But Hunter wanted to do it, so we did. When I stopped and untacked him, he wouldn't leave and followed me around. I think he wanted even more.

I have only had one other horse as easy to train as him, and I handled her from the day she was born. He has ruined me for the next horse.

-- Anastasia

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hunter -- 10/31/08

Hunter got to be ridden for the first time all alone. I used a Tom Thumb on him, which he has had in his mouth before. He doesn't much care for it, but I know with time and patience he will understand how it works. All in all, he did fine for his first solo.

Jamie, a horsey friend who is skinny, got on him and she gently urged him and guided his head with the reins. He fretted about the bit, lathering it liberally and making a ewwy green paste from the grass he had been eating. He wiped it on my white sweater sleeve. Hope it comes out! Jamie would urge him on by squeezing and clucking and if he did not respond (which was most of the time at this point) I pushed him from behind. I then switched to gently giving him a jump start by leading him with his halter, but I wanted him to catch on to the rider cue, not me. Still, he was ok for this, especially when he was so busy with the bit. We only worked with Jamie on a few minutes and once he moved on cue from her and responded to the reins a little she got off. I tell you he made some pretty weird noises during this time...noises I did not know could come out of a horse. Hunter is such a character, I am not surprised he could produce these groans, gargles, whines, etc. They were dog sounds bordering on human sounds! And no, there was nothing tight on him. I checked repeatedly. I swear he will be Mr. Ed someday and actually talk. He probably was voicing his protest about the bit because he loves people to sit on him now.

Then my niece, Kayla, who is even smaller than Veronica, got on him. Kayla announced recently she wanted to adopt a rescue horse and her dad asked me to make it happen. So she is now starting lessons in earnest. She had had some basics over a year ago, so she was not a total greenie. I took the lunge line to its limit and Kayla clucked, squeezed, then I reeled him in. That was too easy. The last time, he came on his own from the rider's cue. Time to quit. We then led him about still bitted up while he continued to fuss and make occasional audible comments about the situation. He was mollified by the petting and attention but never forgot the bit.

I'm not worried about this stage, because not once did he act angry, frightened or stubborn. He's just not a fireworks kind of guy.

-- Anastasia

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hunter -- 10/25/08

Lacy came to see Hunter again today. Woohoo! They are the perfect couple. Mom Tammi brought along Lacy's daddy's saddle from when he was a little boy. It fit to a T. They will get it reworked for safety at a tack place and it will last for years. Hunter got ponied by stable old Joe on a long line and was great. He is so so so ready for a trail ride. They left his bridle and bit with me to condition him to it. You know, I'm just going to let pictures tell the story.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hunter -- 10/20/08

Emily and Mikayla came for training again. They are the girls that are adopting Megan and her unborn foal as well as another horse. First it was Emily who was really into this, but Mikayla has shown genuine natural talent as well! These gals could do horse shows if they want. They are going to be the perfect horse owners.

Tonight the girls learned about hay, saddling, and how to hold the reins in such as way as they are really in control of the horse. Hunter watchers, there is something coming up about him. There is more..keep reading! So Mikayla goes upon Keisha and Emily on Joe.

Keisha, The Most Selfish Horse in the World, knows that an untrained rider can't/won't make her do anything, so she will do as she pleases which is usually eat and roam about at various speeds to avoid doing work. A trained rider will not let her eat while working. Mikayla learned very nicely to make her stand quietly and not eat. Big stuff for the novice! For the first time Mikayla is in control. Emily did the same on Joe. I was thrilled when we played a type of Simon Says while the girls had the horses go and whoa on command. They did very very well indeed. Then they got to the arena-ish area and they worked the oval in both directions and did serpentine weaves, all the while oscillating their hands in time with the horses' head movements. From the very slow amble, they each moved to a fast walk. Those girls are so cute. They weren't sure if they were running or not at this stage.

I had started the lesson with the caution that we would not do anything as exciting as trot, but I changed my mind once I saw how brilliantly they caught on. Joe is incredibly smooth and does not need to be posted, so they young horsewomen took turns and learned to trot for the first time. Wow, these gals are naturals.

In the meantime, Hunter was not happy about being ignored. He could care less about the other horses - he wanted those girls! Folks, I know horses enough to know the diff. He ran along the fence, not in the way that a separated horse does...and Hunter is independent enough not be herd bound AT ALL...but was showing off! I laughed at him - he must be used to that by now. He was trying to show his moves so we would take him out to play, I guess. That little nut. I can't wait till Saturday when Lacy will come to ride him.

Hunter -- 10/19/08

This isn't really training, but I want everyone to know he's still getting experience.Hunter got his first haircut today. Honestly, this little horse is so easy. I didn't even halter him. He just stood in the field while I gave him his first big boy bridle path. Ooo he is a doll. The trim is pretty much western and he is looking good in it. However his forelock still stands on end and makes him look a bit like a troll doll. Better get out the Cowboy Magic. Oh, and I did some ear trimming too - still with no halter. He stood still so I would just keep touching him.

Later the farrier came over and was doing everyone's feet in the field while Hunter got to roam and supervise the proceedings. He is a bit of a pest at times. Especially if everyone else is tied. He has earned the nickname 'pigboy' because of his addiction to food. But his affection for grub has made him figure out his own special whistle for him to come to supper. And he is pretty good about his name now. It is usually said like this: "Hunter! get out of that fence,food,other horses face!" And he can get along with any horse. The new thoroughbreds accept him, and even Ike is now grazing nose to nose with him at times. He is the perfect horse to enter into a new herd.

Anyway, as the farrier was bent over with 5 other horses, Hunter kept coming over checking out tools, getting underfoot, and even trying to give the poor farrier a wedgie. I should have tied him, but I could not take time to get his halter out of the house since I was the handler. Anyway, it was funny... and for what I am now paying the man, even though he is earning every dime, I thought a wedgie for entertainment wasn't too much to ask. Hey, farrier! If you are reading this, just kidding! Please come back in 6 weeks. Please, pretty please? Seriously, the farrier is a friend and as a friend he did me a favor: he did a fake shoeing job on Hunter. Fake hammering, fake clinching, feet on the hoof support. Hunter got a grade of A for his age and experience. Y'all just don't know how much I love this little horse!

Hunter -- 10/17/08

Dear Hunter fans,

Hunter has not been forgotten nor neglected. I have just been working a lot of extra shifts lately. Sorry for the late update.

Emily and Mikala came over and are learning quickly to be horse owners. Emily rode Hunter while being ponied. Keisha, the Most Selfish Horse in the World, was the leader while Mikala rode Joe, AKA, Keisha's Butt Protector. The lesson of the night was oscillation with the reins.

Well, things went well for a while, Joe following Keisha like a good pack horse and Hunter almost crowing with delight at his inclusion. Girls were delighted, too and were doing their lessons ever so well . Then Keisha had her fill of Hunter waddling nearly underfoot despite his being a good boy and she kicked him. Hunter darted to the side (not the first time this impetuous kid gotta kick from one of the herd) and off came Emily. Oh, she cried from the betrayal! She was doing everything right and still she was unhorsed. Brave little girl. She got back up ---on Keisha! Brave parents. They held back from rushing to the scene and allowed the old saying 'if you fall off the horse get right back on' be carried out. Brave, brave parents! They keep coming back even though this has cost them money, time and eight stitches.

Hunter licked his wounded pride for a few seconds and returned to gawking at the whole process with fascination. I swear he is getting broke to ride just by watching all this. Lacy, you lucky girl. You are getting the smartest, cutest horse in the world.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Meghan -- 10/13/08

This isn't exactly a training post for Meghan. The family interested in adopting Meghan and her foal came out to meet her tonight. Meghan is going to be E's horse, but M immediately started braiding that beautiful mane. This wasn't posed, E just felt like laying down and hugging Meghan. I think it's love.

Meghan stood still for all the attention being lavished on her and never made an impatient move. Meghan will stay here until the foal is born, then when both are ready they'll go to live with E and M. The foal will be M's 4-H project. Meghan deserves to have two girls doting on her and we're so happy that she's got a good home to look forward to!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hunter -- 10/6/08

Megan's future forever family came over tonight again. They are such darling girls. The nice rescue lady and man came over to meet them. I pleaded to have NRL (nice rescue lady) join the lessons. I will limit it to just Hunter's part in this delightful session.

E. and M. worked on ground work with Hunter and Joe, our old kid trained Appy. They did very well. I agree with NRL that Hunter is bored with leading and is ready to move on. But not yet with these particular kids. Too early for them with a horse under training.

Then NRL saddled Hunter and off E. and Hunter went on their lessons. I learned a lot from NRL here in the last 2 days, as well. I am going to copy her on a bunch of stuff. I am so enamored with Hunter, I could bore you all with a copious report of every little thing they did...and maybe have done so in the past. However, for those following his progress, I will spare you. Everything went well and Hunter seemed to fall asleep half the time. He is so content. He was born to be fussed over by what I am now calling 'his ladies'.

By the way, he is trotting on his own on the lunge line. He seems to think this splendid fun. When NRL says I am allowed work him at a trot, and/or canter, we will move to that because he seems to be coming into his own on athletic ability. I honestly think this fellow could be anything his owner wanted - trail horse, English pleasure, junior barrel racer, jumper, Western pleasure - as smart and gifted as he is. And apparently he is going to turn into quite a hunk, as well!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hunter -- 10/5/08

WVFarmgirl here. I'm doing Hunter's post for yesterday since I was there to witness firsthand the power of the pony, who is quickly becoming a non-pony because he's growing SO DARNED FAST!!! Remember the pic of his butt about 5" above his withers? Not anymore! His front end has pretty much caught up with the butt and he's also filled out. Now he looks more like a quarterhorse than a quarter of a horse. But he still has that babyish charm that makes you just want to fawn all over him and shower him in kisses. Which is pretty much what happened yesterday.

Anastasia's niece brought over a couple of friends and all of them are in the sixth grade. Need I say more? There was much fussing over Hunter, grooming, smooching, and general girlish silliness. Hunter loved every second of it.

All pictures were taken on Anne's camera and I'm waiting on her to send the rest my way. So for now I just have this one:

Can we say absolutely adorable???? Hunter did very well and is starting to associate leg squeezing with moving forward. I also had the girls work on WHOA while rotating back on their butt and squeezing gently on the reins. Hunter is still being ridden with a bitless bridle for now, but he was still a very good boy and an incredibly quick learner. Initially there was some hesitation when one of the girls would try to turn him, but once I showed them how to open that rein and pull out to the side instead of pulling back, he picked up on it a lot quicker. Eventually they had him turning away from me as I was leading and doing circles with me on the outside. As usual, Hunter took everything in stride and didn't get upset about anything that was done to him. Even when one of the girls got a leg up and floundered around a bit trying to right herself on him, he stood his ground with slack in the lead rope like he knew exactly what was going on and wasn't going to let him bother him.

I think he's ready to be turned loose with saddle and girl, but only in a small area and at a walk. At this point I think keeping him on the lead rope is old hat for him and he's looking to move on to something more challenging. What a good boy!!!

Classy -- 10/5/08

Classy went with Kita and Willow over to Anastasia's yesterday for a three hour trail ride. I was planning on riding her myself, but because I'm incredibly selfish and didn't want anyone else riding Kita, Anne rode Classy instead.

Classy was an absolute angel for most the ride. The only problem Anne had with her was when we stopped on the trail for a slight emergency. Classy didn't want to stand still, but backing up and turning circles seemed like fun. Anne handled it very well, and eventually we were on our way again. Classy is incredibly sensitive to the bit and if Anne kept the slightest contact on her mouth Classy would flap her bottom lip and chew nervously on the bit. But once there was slack in the reins the chewing stopped, the head dropped, and all was well in the world of Classy. She also got upset if Keisha the Couch was riding behind her. I can't say that I blame her, Keisha makes all my horses nervous if she's behind them. She just has this horror movie stalking thing that none of my horses trust. No matter how fast they go, Keisha is always ambling along behind with that "I'm the alpha mare and I want to kill you" look on her face.

The other problem that Anne encountered was one that I expected from a STB off the track. Classy has no canter. She'll trot fast enough to keep up with cantering horses, but she doesn't understand the concept of a third gait. This is something I dealt with when I brought Semi home all those years ago and just haven't started working with Classy on it yet.

Mid-way on the ride, we stopped by the river for some R&R and tied up all the horses (which is why I like to keep halters on in the first place!). Classy was just as calm and quiet as everyone else and stood quietly for the 30 or so minutes that she was tied. Isn't she just beautiful??? I love this mare. :)

Hunter -- 10/3/08

Hunter met his new family (we hope we hope we hope) for the first time today. Mom Tammi brought 7 year old daughter, Lacy, for a get acquainted meeting. Turned out Lacy had picked out her outfit for the meeting days ago. I am sure Hunter thought she looked very pretty.

As they drove past the field on arrival, Lacy spotted Hunter from his training blog pics. Talk about meeting over the internet! They immediately got along quite well. Tammi took a great number of pictures and will be sending them along soon. Hunter was fascinated with the camera. We all had a great laugh about how he either was mugging for the camera or wanting to nose it... while it rested on Tammi's chest. We went through our paces to show off how good he is. Lacy got on his back and Tammi led him about. Tammi had had horses in her past so she was quite prepared to handle Hunter.

It was incredibly tender, how Lacy and Hunter touched one another and breathed each other's scents. Hunter is still growing, dear readers. Apparently he is making up for lost time from before he was rescued. He has the possibility of growing for another 4 years or so. Please please please let these two grow up together. Hunter and Lacy. Lacy and Hunter. Has a nice ring to it don't you think?

Hunter -- 09/30/08

The intrepid family showed up today. Hurray! I was afraid that after the hurt leg they would be scared off. But brave mom sat in a lawn chair and enjoyed the proceedings.

Hunter's job today was to be tied and led and otherwise wait and be calm. He did this splendidly while the family learned horse care facts and balance on another horse. Some days that is what will be expected of him - to chill while other things are going on.

The family that gets him will be lucky. He is such a good boy.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hunter -- 09/28/08

Today was the worst day ever for Hunter and me. I am typing with a dislocated finger because of our travails. My name must be Earl, because I guess Karma caught up with us to even out yesterday's great day. Either that or it is Newton's third law. Or maybe the second law of thermodynamics. They are all in effect today.

It went like this:

The family that will probably adopt Meghan has hired me to train them all to be good horse owners. Especially, they want their two girls, age 10 and 14, to become competent riders. So they all came, Dad, Mom, the sisters. After I trained the girls to safely brush Hunter and move about a horse properly, I went to the house to get a penicillin injection for mare Keisha, who has been 'snotting' lately. I thought it was a unique opportunity for them to learn about giving an injection. I was gone only moments and the mom comes limping up, white-faced and bleeding from a gash in her leg. She had run against a metal stake that held a newly planted tree. I grabbed the first aid kit and Scott dashed off to get my sister the nurse. She returned to dress the wound to ready the lady for the hospital. Keisha did get her shot, one child did get to sit on her, but it was not the joyful day I had hoped for. The poor mom ended up with 8 stitches.

I thought my mind was on working with Hunter after they left, but I guess it was distracted by the accident. I made a huge mistake. As I worked Hunter for the first time on the lunge on his near side, I snapped the whip to keep him moving when he tried to stop. Didn't touch him, just unthinkingly treated him like one of the seasoned horses. SwoooooTOCK! went the whip. In the air went Hunter. He banged his nose hard on the stud chain, jerked the lead out of my hand and took off.

I never, ever wind the lead around my hand and I didn't this time either. It was a freak thing. I was holding the end of the lead (I had been lunging him only at a walk on a long lead strap, not a lunge line) and the end that had been folded over and sewn somehow came through my hand with such force as to dislocate my left middle finger at the last joint. I have a form of arthritis that attacks my cartilage. Had this happened to a normal person, I don't think they would have been staring at a finger that now canted at a 45 degree angle at the tip. In the meantime Hunter is desperately wanting back in the fence and stomping on the lead, thus banging his poor nose even more and running like the devil wanted a bite out of him. So I grabbed the finger, reset it...ow ow ow ow OW.... and walked after the poor boy.

I never chase a horse. Keisha would just think it was jolly fun. Joe, our old Appy would run because he would be trying to escape whatever I must be escaping from. Ike would run because he would think he was going to get a beating based on his past. No horse I ever met responds well to running after them. So I went slowly to catch him. Oh poor little Hunter! Whatever happened to you that made you think I would kill you if you got caught? I have never been anything but kind to him and you would have thought I beat him hourly as panicked as he was. I finally was able to get him and he was visibly relieved.

We could NOT end this on such a bad note. I led him back to the training area where we continued with lunging for a few minutes without further incident. I then went to things he knew well so there would be excuses for lots of petting and praise, finally leading him into the pasture where he did everything politely. I released him and he literally thundered back to the herd and the comfort of his own species.

It was then I saw blood on me. Whose blood???? The poor lady's, or Hunter's or mine? I haven't figured out whose. I am a reasonably competent horsewoman and I still got hurt. The lessons? Keep first aid supplies handy;you never know when you will really need them. When things go badly in training - and they will sometimes - always drop back to a topic in which the horse can reach success so you end on a good note. Never have your mind on something else when training a horse....even a very good horse. That is the lesson I forgot.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hunter -- 09/27/08

Today was the best training yet! Hunter got a stud chain around his nose and we did whoa and go. It added just the right amount of pressure and after a few minutes he was great. He got the English saddle and he was just fine on that too. Scott tugged on the saddle and did some moves where he grasped the saddle and kind of bounced as if he would mount. Hunter was curious but quite calm - his usual demeanor. Then he got lunged with the stud chain and saddle on the off side. He understood whoa so well. He was a dreamboy in the field, too, while in hand. And best of all, I think there is a family with two preteen girls who want him. Oh happy day!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hunter -- 09/25/08

I worked 3 doubles in a row and there seems to be a strange horse in the pasture when I finally see the pasture in daylight. Or, rather, half a strange horse. Could Hunter's hindquarters have grown that much in 3 days? He had had a height spurt since he came, but now he is filling out and looks like a typical quarterhorse on the rear. He looks to be a great western style prospect. Please catch up soon, front end!

The pony bridle I bought to train him will not work out, as the throat latch is way too small. Funny, the length of the cheek pieces are just right, but may be too small when our boy's front end finally catches up with his back. I will try a small horse bridle and if that is too big, I may have to get an Arab rig. The 4 1/2" bit is just right, though. He has a delicate little muzzle.

I bought a Tom Thumb pony bit for him. These are so mild. I took off the reins, lip strap and bit that came with the bridle and put in the Tom Thumb. I coated the bit with apricot jelly and started today's lesson. I knew Hunter would like the jelly because he has turned into a little food grubber.

With his growth spurt, I have been giving him a little horse pellets that were for Ike - who still looks like he is starving to me despite all our efforts - so Hunter can be sure of having enough nutrients to support his growth. You know how cats wind their way about your ankles when you have food? Well Hunter is apparently part large cat. Bloody nuisance at times. Scott even had to chase him away today because he was underfoot while Scott tried to weedeat the drainage ditches in the pasture. This fascination with humans will be a boon for his future pet days, however.

Anyway, Hunter took the bit readily. The instant he sucked off the jelly he hated having it in his mouth. I had him tied for this project. I left him tossing his head and chomping and skittering around while I found something else to do. I don't want him to associate his problem with me. He chilled out and I returned to brush him. Attention-hog stopped chomping the loose bit to enjoy this favorite activity. I then tightened one notch. More chomping. More brushing till he was still. One more notch. Repeat performance. I never got it as tight as it should be, but this is just conditioning. We will do a lot of this and in future posts, you can probably assume he has it in his mouth while training.

I put on the surcingle loosely to get him ready for future line driving lessons. As I suspected, he seemed to rather enjoy having it on. I am going to try the English saddle tomorrow since he seems more than ready. I wanted to do something familiar with him today so he could manage to have success while worrying about that bit, so I did his feet. He still is just a bit awkward on the off hind, but nearly farrier-ready. I then led him on his near side for go and whoa practice. He is doing well, but it is clear to me that as his growth spurt is happening, he is challenging/questioning his position in the ranks. He tests me. He may get a stud chain to help him understand that I am the boss mare around here. I rarely jerk it. I just lead, changing directions and stopping suddenly so it is up to the horse to pay attention so he doesn't get banged by the chain.

He was doing so well on whoa that I wanted to reward by stopping on a good note. Hunter nearly blew it. After I removed the bridle but not the halter and we entered the field where the rest of the mob was standing quietly tied, he wanted to charge off. This may have been due to a number of factors, but no matter the reason, he must always remain calm when in hand. We went through more whoa and go until he was getting it as well as he had before we entered the field.

Perhaps I am being too detailed in his blog, but I have already showed this site to a number of potential adopters. I write in the hopes that a family will get to know him through the writings and fall in love with the little charmer, just the way I did, and want to give him a forever home.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jewel -- 09/22/08

Things have been pretty hectic around here lately, so I have not had a chance to get back to Jewel until last night.

Apparently, she's one of those drama queens when it comes to "firsts", but after that she's fine. I had her tied in the same spot, walked up with the saddle pad, put it on her back. No dancing, no rearing, no wild eyes. It was boring to her by now. Good! I gave her some praise, then let her eat dinner.

While she was eating, I put the pad back on, then put the saddle on. You can do anything with this mare when she's got her nose in the feed bucket! I didn't tighten the girth much, since I heard that she was a bucking bronc with the saddle on. The few times I've massaged her I've found a lump of what I believe is scar tissue under the off side girth area which could be causing some pain or discomfort when the girth is tight.

{Jewel had a bad accident way before I got her that nearly took off her right front leg. She was cut deep thru the chest to back behind the front leg, I'm just not sure how far. At this point I'm not even sure she'll ever be able to be ridden with a saddle, but time will tell. She's certainly sound in the pasture and on the lunge line.}

When she was done eating I took her for a walk with the saddle on. Her only concern was getting back to the hay. I stopped, tightened the girth up a notch, walked on a little more. Eventually, it was tight enough to keep the saddle on while doing ground work, but still not tight enough to hop on (not that I'm crazy enough to do that yet). Since she had been so good, I untacked, brushed her down, and let her go back to doing what horses do best... eating.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hunter -- 09/20/08

Today was a day for many firsts for Hunter: he had really little kids around and on him, he got smacked for the first time ever, and he got ridden ,sort of, with a bridle.

My tiny nieces came over with mom and Veronica, the saddle broke niece. Hunter had no idea what to make of these squeaky dog-sized creatures. He snuffled and eyeballed them and then I assume he determined they were tiny humans. It is best described by the conversations. I leave it to the reader to figure out who is talking.

"We're going to ride the PONY!" "I love you Hunter. Give me a kiss." "Hunter's the best pony in the whole world." "I'll keep your pony treats for you because you don't have pockets." "Maybe Hunter has pockets." "Is that fence strong enough? Those other horses can get right through that and hurt the babies." "Hey look, pony treats all over the ground." "No no. Those aren't pony treats, that's pony poo." " I want to ride first." " Come around the front of the that's the back of the pony." " My poo isn't as big as Hunter's." "Can people eat pony treats?" " Oh no, is anyone eating pony treats right now?" "I'm going to pretend that this is our pet and I'm riding him. Only I have a helmet on and we're running." "Don't be mad. She doesn't have to hold a pretend helmet." " Hunter kissed me again. I ate his kiss so I could keep it." "You didn't eat any pony treats did you? DID YOU?" "I want a second ride." "Are you sure that fence is strong enough? It looks like some of those fence posts are going to fall over." "I have a boo boo and it's leaking." "That's not a boo boo. That's where you ate a popsicle and it dripped on you." "Look look grandma! I'm riding all by myself!" "Don't let go of Hunter's mane, even to wave to grandma." " I want to hold the pony's string and pull him." "Do ponies go to kindergarten?"

Oh, you think I am making this up? I assure you, I am not that clever.

Dear reader, I have never had children. I had great empathy for Hunter today, because this non-stop tiny person chatter was as alien to me as to him. We spent about a half hour leading the children about, me on one side holding on the kid of the moment and Veronica on the other. Hunter was unbelievably gentle and instinctively, perhaps, stopped anytime he was unclear as to what he should do. Welcome to your destiny, Hunter!

During this process, Hunter deliberately banged me hard with his head and got a swat to the offending part for his trouble. I don't like to do this, but you all have seen horses punish each other for rudeness. I was mild compared to what they do to each other. And no, there wasn't a kid on him at the time. He took it like a horse and was over it quickly.

VV decided she wanted to ride Hunter, too. So I put on a bridle over his halter and gave her a leg up. The bridle has no bit in it. I want to get Hunter's mouth conditioned by line driving with a bit before he gets ridden with one. Hunter had one lunge lesson so far, during which he was a bit goosey about the whip. I did not use it this lesson because VV was up bareback and I only wanted walking today and no worriedness about what I was doing with the whip. He had no trouble understanding clucking during the previous lesson, but whoa was a problem. The reverse happened today. I think it was because the kid-on-back element was making him unsure. We worked only on the off side again today. I kept a fairly short line and walked the circle so I could get to them if it was necessary. Sometimes I had to move in and touch his rump with my hand to get him going if clucking didn't work. Squeezing him with the legs meant nothing today. It will come with time, I am sure. VV would ask for a whoa, tightening the reins and relaxing them as soon as he stopped. She also kept him from turning his left eye toward me and kept his body perpendicular to the line using the reins. He did very well and never fought the bridle once. We stopped after 10 minutes or less, because I didn't want Hunter mentally taxed any more. Veronica got to ride Keisha ,after we put him to pasture, as a reward for her help with the little girls and little Hunter.

It was a marvelous day, although a bit bewildering for Hunter, filled with new exciting things. A lot like kindergarten. And Hunter is learning his ABC's very well.

-- Anastasia

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Classy -- 09/16/08

It's been a couple of weeks since I've done a Classy post only because all I've been doing is lunging. Voice commands, transitions, boring stuff. I've mainly just been trying to get her into shape. We're headed over to Anastasia's for riding again on Sunday, and this time the guys are going so it will probably just be a 1-2 hour ride. As much as I would love to take Kita again, Classy needs the experience and exercise more. But this time I'll ride her, and attempt to control her "princess" moments.

Tonight I put the English saddle on her instead of the synthetic western that I usually put on the greenies. We worked mostly on trotting circles and figure eights, making the circles smaller and smaller, then going back out again in both directions to make her more flexible. At first she was irritated that Tabby hadn't come out to the pasture as usual to keep her company and paid no attention to my leg and seat aids. It was like riding a 2x4.

Then she finally figured out that no matter how many times she kicked out when I squeezed with my legs, or how far in the sky she pointed her nose, or how short and choppy her trot was, I was determined to make her work. After about 10 minutes of nonsense she grew tired of fighting it and began to relax. The head dropped into a nice frame, the trot slowed and the strides grew longer, and she reacted to my squeezing by moving forward into the bit. Hallelujah.

Five minutes later, I slowed her down and let her walk. Then untacked, groomed, and let her go back to stuffing her face with hay. Hopefully, she'll learn that the sooner she calms down and pays attention, the sooner I get off.

Jewel -- 09/16/08

I just don't know what to do with this mare. I've been nothing but kind and gentle with her and she remains distrusting and explosive. She's been lunging so well lately (I don't journal every night of lunging, cause how boring would that be) that tonight I thought I might try lunging her with a saddle. I was told she'd has the saddle on before, but had bucked like a bronco so no one ever got on her. Can't say that I blame them, I'm not sure I'm crazy enough to get on a bucking bronc either. But things have got to progress at some point, or this mare will never find a good riding home. And she's simply too young and healthy to sit around being a pasture ornament for the rest of her life.

I always try to take the approach of pretending nothing is out of the ordinary. Don't coddle. Don't move slow like there's something to be afraid of. Just act normal, like the horse has done this "new" thing 1,000 times already. This didn't work tonight when it came to walking up to Jewel with the saddle pad in my hand. I had her tied with a slipknot to a sturdy fence post where we haven't put up new fence yet, so there was nothing for her to get caught up in if she panicked. At 10' away the whites of her eyes started to show. At 7' she started tossing her head spraying spittle everywhere. At 4' she reared up and fell over backwards. Wow.

Once she stood up, I stepped away and gave her a few minutes to calm down. I put the saddle pad down and approached without it. Still that wild-eyed look of distrust, but she let me approach and I have her a pat and a head rub. Then walked away. Approached again. The whites of her eyes were now gone and she was starting to calm. One more approach without the saddle pad, then I picked it up again. But this time before approaching I tried the ancient and traditional Indian Saddle Blanket dance. About 15' away I started dancing around and tossing the pad up in the air, making much fuss and noise as I did. I completely circled around a few times and mostly she just looked at me like I was an idiot. Without stopping I started moving my circle closer and closer until I was about 5' away. She was dancing a bit, maybe in tune to my hiya hiya hoya hi Indian chant. By the way, it looks like it's going to rain. I may be on to something.

At that range I keyed down my blanket tossing and just moved it from hand to hand as I circled. I made an effort not to look her in the eye the whole time, as I did not want to be the predator. I just wanted to be some crazy human chanting for rain. I think I accomplished that. I kept my eyes to the ground (which was more of an effort to keep my klutzy self from tripping than anything else) and eventually made it to her head and stopped holding the pad up to her nose. She took a step back and snorted at me, then stepped towards me again and sniffed the pad. While she was still inhaling the pad smells I backed away and went back to my rain dance at about 10'. This time she was more curious than afraid and even risked life and limb to take her eyes off of me a few times. You never know, the crazy human could have launched a saddle pad attack at any time.

We did this four times. FOUR. But by the fourth time she was bored. She didn't even want to sniff the pad, so I just put it on her back. Simple as that. I gave her a pat and a treat, took the pad off, put it back on. Pat and a treat. Took it off, put it back on. Pat. Took it off, let her go back to eating hay. I'm sure tomorrow I'll only have to do the rain dance three times. Maybe by next week, I'll be rain dancing with the saddle. All I can say, is that I'm thankful none of the neighbors can see our place.

Hunter -- 09/15/08

Hunter got introduced to the lunge line and lunge whip today. I stroked him all over with the whip and he didn't care. Same with the line. I even threw it all over him and whooped and whirled and he could care less.

I knew tonight would be stressful from past experience with other greenies, so I spent a lot of time petting him everywhere and handling his legs and feet - which he is doing quite well now - so he would still think training is fun. Then we led on the off side to the work area. Previously, I have commented on Hunter's unwillingness to move at more than a mosey. Leading from the off side, I had the lead in my left hand and the whip trailing behind me from the right. When Hunter lagged or stopped, I tilted the whip so that it touched his hocks. He was very surprised and apparently thought someone was back there. No panic, but he sure caught up.

Whenever I start training on the lunge line, I always start out with the off side toward me. Horses tend to try to get their 'trained' eye - the left eye - toward you in unfamiliar situations so they can process the new info from the side they are most used to seeing you. Hunter was no exception.

He easily caught on to clicking/clucking at him. What DO you call that noise, anyway? But to keep moving and not eat grass, well, that required a touch - and I do mean barely a touch of the whip. The purpose of a lunge whip is to make your arms 'long' not to hit. For the first time since I met him, I saw the whites of his eyes. It was not raw panic, just a little spooking. I don't calm a horse when it spooks; that just teaches it that spooking will get it a reward. I don't punish, either; that just teaches it that training is horrible. I merely start over. We needed very few do-overs. Within 15 minutes he understood the rudiments of clicking/clucking, staying at the limits of the line without pulling or swinging the rear out, that walking is a desirable option at this point, whoa/stopping without turning toward me, voice ques, and that the lunge whip points toward the rear but won't necessarily touch.

Poor Hunter, I laugh at him almost every day. I hope he is interpreting it as something non-humiliating. He had the worst time figuring out where this touching was coming from. After he figured out it was me, it was like "hey, how did your arms get clear over here?". I stopped as soon as he was able to walk calmly on the lunge. On this lesson, I never do the near side the same day; too much radical newness for one day in my opinion. I will wait for the next time. I spent the next 15 minutes petting and scratching him in all his favorite spots so that he will still love training.

He is pretty smart. If he continues to learn at this rate, I'll bet this horse is broke by November.

-- Anastasia

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hunter -- 09/14/08

I thought I was going to take today off from training Hunter due to soreness/laziness from the 5 hour trail ride yesterday, but an opportunity presented itself.

Up my driveway, on a 4 wheeler, came a kid. Not just any kid, but a TRAINED kid. I had saddle broke my niece, Veronica, 2 years ago at age 10. Although her mother, my sister, had just sent her over with sutures, I conscripted VV for training. Before going on, I should explain that my sis is a very good nurse, and my prime source of medical treatment due to me working on the farm with very little sense of mortality. In the past 3 years that I have lived across the way from her, I have broken a toe, greenfractured a leg, broken a pinkie, severely sprained 2 ankles and a number of other fairly minor injuries. Having saved me from these perils as well as the latest - cutting the tip of my thumb nearly off with a meat slicer -she forsightedly sent over sutures in case I ever needed stitches. Anyway, she just loves blood and gore so I am making her happy periodically.

I ask Veronica how much she weighs now. "I'm a fatty," she replies, "I must weigh a hundred now." Hmmm... half my size...don't talk about fat to me you little stringbean, I think. She gets a leg boost up bareback on Hunter, who by now is standing quietly tied. I'm glad I have been pulling his mane and otherwise training him for this moment. I am also glad I make new riders learn bareback because this was old hat for her. Hunter was interested, but not startled. He wasn't sure if he should actually walk with her on his back, but we took it easy and he hesitatingly, then with more confidence, moved with her astride. We stopped after only about 3 minutes of this, because he is still growing.

Next it was 'swarming' training. VV listened soberly as I instructed her. "I want you to act as if you have never seen a real, live horse before. Start over there and come at us all excited-like making noise. Then a few feet out , stop and come in quietly like you are supposed to, and pet him. OK? Go." Suddenly this kid comes squealing "A pony! A pony!", windmilling her arms and flopping her legs about. Central casting could not have given us a better actress. I don't know who was more surprised - me or Hunter. I swear if I had been sitting down, he would have jumped in my lap. But he never bolted or was out of control. He clearly trusted me to save him from this dervish if saving was proved necessary. I did my best to act like it was no big deal, but I wanted to laugh hysterically. Where's the video at times like this? We did this a number more times, each time with VV getting closer, and Hunter still somewhat shocked at this bizarre behavior but not misbehaving. Finally, she was able to run straight to him. I had her do it just once more and this time , unbidden, she flung her arms around his neck and buried her face in his mane. She was smiling like an angel, and he calmly turned his head toward her with dreamy eyes. OK, maybe the dreamy part was wishful hopes for his future, but the rest of the tale is the way it actually happened. I couldn't have scripted it better.

-- Anastasia

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hunter -- 09/12/08

Turns out Hunter has had another trainer while I have been at work. Scott has been playing with him and draping himself over Hunter's back. He said that he boosted himself over so his weight was supported by the pony for a few moments. Said Hunter skittered a little, but was no problem. I wish I was able to do that, but I am too short. But I can teach him to do it with a mounting block! Kids will need that. I am just shamed that I am not much taller than a 10 year old.

- Anastasia

Hunter -- 09/11/08

Got to play with Hunter tonight. He is still growing, as his back end is getting jacked up more. His teeth are so short, I think he must be very young. He seems to be suffering no ill effects from having a pink halter, so psychiatric counseling is postponed, dear editor. However he is getting fatter by the day. I wish Ike, the Percheron we are fostering, would gain weight like Hunter.

He did much better on feet balancing tonight. Still a little trouble with the off hind.

I did a lot of handling tonight. He is not keen on getting his tail messed with. I spent quite a bit of time working on this to desensitize him. As usual he didn't care much after I got started, but this will take several sessions before he trusts me. He also got the 'little fingers' lesson: Poked in nostrils (didn't care), ears (cared very little; only after I started simulating future trimming of inside hairs did I get a mild reaction), eyes (no poking, just petting and he seemed to like this) and mouth (now we did get a reaction; nothing violent, just annoyed).

I did more weight training. He likes me hanging over him. He did skitter ever so little when I started pulling his mane, in preparation for mounting. Bet he doesn't care the next session when I do this.

Hunter did get in trouble for the first time. During all the handling training, we discovered he loved to get scratched under the jaw. When I went on to other lessons, he got quite rude with his head in attempts to get me to scratch there more. So I propped my elbow at such an angle that when he started banging his head on me again, he thumped himself. Head rudeness is not acceptable...especially with a kid horse. If he tries this again, he may get a stud chain and let him bang himself as I hold my hand still. I prefer to let punishment be delivered by the horse to himself, if possible. Hey, I don't want to be the bad guy!

He is leading ever so well .... as long as we do the ultra-slow pace. He is starting when I ask (I say 'come here' and then step out), keeping himself positioned beside me, stopping square. That is, on his near side. I worked with his off side, and he was confused - just like he was starting from scratch, but I expected that. He kept sneaking ways to get himself on the 'trained' side. I had to laugh. I have seen this before and it always goes away with handling and patience. Why I am training him for the off side is this: little kids will lead him. Need I say more? Also, there are many times a good trail horse must adapt to either side. Finally, to prepare him for possible sight impairment in his future. Before anyone starts thinking Hunter could be unsound, it is merely a pragmatic step. Our old Appaloosa gelding, Joe, has gone blind in one eye and I am preparing him for the eventuality of total blindness. It sure would have been easier if he had learned leading on both sides at age 2 instead of 24.

If anyone is out there reading this, please send me your suggestions. Especially for this problem: Hunter will not trot in hand. Not even with the come along. He barely will walk at a normal pace. He is fine in the field with the little herd on all his gaits.

Here's Hunter modeling the come-along.

- Anastasia

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tabby -- 09/10/08

This was only Tabby's second session with me. The first was just to make sure she was sound for work and only lasted a few minutes. Like Megalia, tonight's session was about learning voice commands and seeing what she knows.

Tabby is the only horse so far that seems herd bound. Or I should say, Classy-bound. She and Classy are joined at the hip lately and the whole time I was walking her out to the pasture she was screaming for Classy. Once I sent her out on the circle she quieted down, but it took a good 10 minutes of work at the walk to teach her what a circle is shaped like. Once she got that down we did some trotting, but mostly worked on WHOA, and walk to trot transitions. Tabby still has some weight to gain so I don't want to work her too hard, but I do want to get her used to working and being away from big sister.

Tabby has a really nice head carriage for an ex-harness racer. She kept her head and neck level, even at the trot. And that trot... I just can't get over how this mare moves. Compared to a warmblood or fancy TB she's not that great, but for a STB off the track she's awesome! Glenn was there to watch and is still convinced that she is his new horse. I told him that he may have to fight me for her eventually, but for now I'll let him have his fantasy.

Megalia -- 09/10/08

Meg was not sound at all on the lunge line tonight. This was only my second session with her, the first one was just to see what she knew and if she was sound and only lasted a few minutes. Tonight I wanted to actually get her working and start teaching her voice commands. I suspected that she may come up lame eventually as the work progressed, because of those hardened tendons on the front. What I did not expect was for the left hind to be the culprit!

I've watched Meg trot and canter in the pasture and she's perfectly sound. But put her on a circle to the left, and that left hind is just funky. It's not even like it's a lameness. It's a little hard to explain, but it's kind of like that leg just won't move correctly. It wobbles with weight and the toe turns in A LOT. There's no visible difference in the way the left hip moves, like there would be with pain. And she had no problems trotting - I didn't have to ask more than once for the trot and I had to ask several times for a whoa. I couldn't find any heat or tenderness from the stifle down to the hoof. I suspect this is an old injury that has long since healed, but left permanent damage.

So Meg will be taking more time off, perhaps even the whole winter. And if it turns out that she can't be ridden at all, I have no problems with having her here as a pasture ornament. Have I mentioned that I love this mare? :)

Jewel -- 09/10/08

Jewel started this session out temporarily insane. She was afraid of the red lead rope that I'm using as a lunge whip even though it had never touched her. She was terrified of me. She was afraid of the log that she kept aiming for every time she went around. She was afraid of the dogs. She had no clue where her feet were, and even though she was only walking, she tripped and stumbled down to her knees and bloodied her nose.

What the heck?

After the stumble I spent 10 minutes just rubbing her. Getting her used to me again, rubbing the lead rope all over her, and giving her a treat now and then when she relaxed. Every time that lead rope touched one of her legs, she was jumping backwards and showing me the whites of her eyes. I thought maybe she had gotten tangled in something earlier today, but saw no marks or abrasions on her legs. After ten minutes she was walking calmly with the lead rope draped over her withers and bumping her in the legs, and once again letting me walk up to her without backing away in fear.

We did another few minutes of lunging at the walk, worked on WHOA a couple of times, then ended on a good note.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hunter -- 09/08/08

After work I came home to play with the pony. Ike has been chasing this little interloper off and on all day. I was hoping they would be best buddies, but Ike is doing exactly as a wild stallion would do...chasing off a potential rival from his little band. It is not vicious, but it saddens me for Ike's sake. The other 2 horses still do not think he is the leader and no one will stay close to him. I am afraid the day is approaching soon that I must insist to his owner that he be gelded and have the vet check if there is any underlying reason he does not gain weight if Ike is to stay with us any longer. But this is Hunter's blog ....I digress.

Hunter was eager to work. Scott bought him a bright magenta pink yearling halter that fits. We walked around without the come along and Hunter kept himself in the correct position very well. We investigated all the scary farm equipment and I made scary noises come out of tanks, etc. Hunter handled it in stride after initial wariness. Scott helped with the scary noises by weed eating fairly close, but apparently this was something Hunter had been accustomed to from the rescue farm.

The thing I was a bit disappointed in was that Hunter would not trot with me. He barely will pick up the pace to a normal walk. He seems to have two speeds: ultra-slow-mosey or run-for-your-life. I will try the come along next time to see if we can pick up the pace.

I introduced him to the training whip today. Mostly I use it to make my arms longer. He did not care about it at all, even when I leaned over his back and waved it about his head. in fact, he seemed appreciative that I had the whip when I was shooing horseflies. I draped my ample self all over him to start weight training and getting him used to having body parts swinging over his back. He was fascinated with this behavior and seemed to enjoy it.

Foot handling went backwards today. On his near side he is fine. On his off side he doesn't like to balance when I have his rear and jerks his foot away. When I took his fore, I thought he would actually lay down on me. That may have been because he was so willing to be manipulated that he might have thought that was what I wanted. Rather than force him, I went back to the near feet so he could be successful before we moved on to another activity. I am going to get the nice rescue lady to look this upcoming weekend to see if there is any medical reason for the hind off side trouble.

More successful leading time, then on to saddle time. I reintroduced the bareback pad to him. I flopped it around and dropped it on the ground, and generally was simulating the troubles/noises that a child might have with a saddle. Hunter did fine. I made sure stirrups flopped and I cinched the saddle tighter today by removing the girth and running the straps through the d-rings. I must get a really tiny girth strap for him to finish this training. He did not mind being cinched at all. More leading with saddle. I may try the English on him next time as easily as he is taking to this.

Once again Hunter seemed interested in the herd as evening approached. We spent about 40min all told playing about. I tried carrots for a reward today and he wasn't crazy about them. He did eat them, but seems to have this "ok, if that is all you've got" attitude. I tried Honeycomb cereal and he did not seem to really understand what to do with them. He shook his head vigorously and spit out about every other one. He gets a day or 2 off as I have to work a double tomorrow.


Editors note: Hot pink on a palomino paint gelding? The poor guy is going to end up on Dr. Phil one of these years because of that!

Hunter -- 09/07/08 #3

For Hunter's third and last training of the day, I got him out of the field. He is fascinated with me and apparently humans in general. I hesitate to even say 'catch'.

I rigged what I call a 'come along' to get him to walk properly positioned beside me instead of lagging behind forcing me to pull him. This consists of a strap or rope in a figure 8 ( I used 2" nylon strap) tied on top of his withers where the two loops cross. One loop drops down his rump and just above his hocks on his gaskins; the other encircles his chest. A 'tail' is left tied at his shoulder in such a way as I hold it and tug, thus putting pressure on his gaskins and he 'comes along'. This is a great way to teach babies to lead, especially when you have no help. I have not had this method fail yet. As you walk, hold the lead in your left hand and the come along strap in your right. Walk normally and if the horse lags behind, give short firm tugs..not get him where he belongs. It is important you do not change your pace or turn your body toward him as you do this or he will start to get the wrong idea. Hunter responded well to the method, but he wasn't perfect. Perfection can wait for another day.

Evening was approaching and Hunter started showing an interest in joining the little herd. He had not shown the slightest interest all day. This lack of interest will benefit him in his likely future as a singe guy in a child's yard. Speaking of children, I started with the poke and prod training. Little fingers always seem to end up noses, in ears, etc. So we gently started with that. Hunter probably thought I was crazy.

We handled the feet again and he was flawless. I tried to give him apple slices to reward him but he spit them out. And these were good apples. I will have to find something else to give the little epicurean.


Hunter -- 09/07/08 #2

I had assumed that Ike, the Percheron stallion we were fostering, had tried to breed little gelded Hunter and that, like any sensible gelding, Hunter had jumped our fence earlier in the day. You know what they say about 'assume'.

Hunter was again on the wrong side of the fence. Another training opportunity. Scott goes to walk the fence while we work.

Back to the truck, more feet handling. He balanced much better, but had the worst time with his offside rear. His near rear has a small problem in the hoof, but that should not cause this. Will be on the lookout. Still not leading as responsively, but it is clear it is from inexperience, not unwillingness.

Towel training revealed he learned well earlier. I was throwing the towel to land on him, simulating a blanket, tugging downward to simulate future loads, tugging upward to simulate future girths. I even covered his head, but he was nervous unless he could see out of one eye. Still, he was wonderful. He actually seemed to be having fun.

So on to the bareback pad. He let it touch him all over then he let me put it on and lead him. I don't have a girth small enough yet, but that will come. He came with me, stirrups swinging, as if his earlier suspicions of the saddle had never happened.

This training was far less than 20 min. No need for more. Scott and I fixed the fence. Thank God I have vinyl or someone may have been hurt. The fence crosses a creek which floods periodically. Last year we learned our lesson when 6 full size trees took out several hundred feet of fence...posts and all. Vinyl does not snap like wire. So we had put in a 'breakaway' section over the creek to avoid this in the future. At least we know it will indeed breakaway. A few minor modifications later all was well. We had one more opportunity to train that day , but I will do another post.


Hunter -- 09/07/08 #1

Hunter is staying with Anastasia for remedial training. He'll return to Horse Haven Holler before winter, but for now, Anastasia will be writing his training blog.

I wake up Sunday, get a cup of tea and go out to view my peaceful kingdom with our new addition. There Hunter is, standing beside the fence grazing....the wrong side of the fence. He is calm while I halter him. Guess training will start immediately.

I tie him to the pickup. No real handling problems, but he is not as clear on his ground manners as he should be. He wants to lag behind, and is not always willing to go when I move. I bring out the bareback pad. He doesn't spook, but he shies when I touch him with it. I put it on the tailgate for his inspection while I get a towel.

I love towel training for a new horse. I let them smell it and I rub them with it and they quickly love the towel. Then I start rubbing their legs and draping it over their back, neck and rump. I rarely have any trouble with this step and it is an easy way to prep for the saddle. I flap the towel to make noise some steps away, tossing it in the air and spinning it. After a moment of this I move in with the 'quiet' towel to rub them. I continue this pattern, moving closer until either they get nervous or accept it readily. I always make sure I end on a point that there was no nervousness, for example I would go back out to the point they were not concerned and flap the towel.

Another thing I noticed when I observed Hunter's feet being trimmed the day he arrived was that he was not as nicely balanced as he could be. I worked with each foot, asking him for better balance and positioned him simulating farrier demands.

I have always heard that horses do not have a functional corpus callosum, but even if they do, any horse person knows that whatever you train to one side you have to do to the other. It is like there are two separately functioning brains. Much research is available out there on this. Assume on all of my posts that whatever got done to one side got done to the other.

I also have found that most horses will accept anything that has safely touched their legs. I work up to the leg touching on any equipment I introduce to the horse. Once they are seasoned, they seem to accept that if I bring it, the new thing will probably not eat them and trust me not to get them hurt. Still, even with a seasoned horse, I always provide opportunity to investigate something new.

Always I try to convey the idea that whatever is happening, it is no big deal. I frequently don't make eye contact during these stages and take everything as 'matter of course' - we just are doing routine jobs, the horse and I. It may not be the way others do it, but it works for me and the many horses that I have trained.

This training took maybe 20 minutes. In my younger days, I made the mistake of thinking that once I got a positive response from a horse, I should keep working right then to get improvement. That if a little training is good, a whole lot must be better. Those poor horses. I know I soured some, if not all, by this erroneous mindset. Now, I just try to elicit the first step towards the goal and then QUIT! It works soooo much better and I am always pleased at the next training session how much the horse actually understood.

This was not the end of Hunter's training for the day. But it is enough for one post. I will quit now so I don't sour the reader.


Classy -- 08/30/08

This Classy post was long overdue. We took Classy and Kita to Anastasia's for trail riding on the 30th. Classy was nervous and anxious once we got her out of the trailer and had a tough time standing still. But never was she dangerous or mean. It didn't help that the Percheron stallion was making googly eyes at Classy the whole time!

Scott rode Classy, which was probably a mistake, but I didn't realize how green he was. Classy never bucked, but the two of them definitely weren't communicating and I ended up having to pony Classy to get her moving forward. About 30 minutes into the ride Classy was swinging along happy and relaxed. We made a brief stop on the trail and she took the opportunity to drop and roll! Once she was down she gave Scott plenty of time to step off before she tried to roll with the saddle on. When she got back up we gave the horses a break anyway. Anastasia wanted to ride her home, which meant I didn't need to pony her anymore. Classy did great on the way home! When we got back to the farm we tied Classy and Kita up in the shade and left them for about an hour. They were both taking naps when we came back for them.

Classy is turning out to be one very nice horse!

Jewel -- 09-07-08

The past week has been way too busy and I haven't had time to work any of the horses. Yesterday I managed to escape the phone for 30 minutes, just long enough to lunge Jewel.

Jewel is finally starting to come around and at least pretend that she'd like to be petted and scratched. She follows me around while I'm at the barn and no longer pulls away when I reach out to pet her. Yesterday she felt the need to use me as a scratching post for her right ear. Putting on the halter after that was easy and didn't require a lead rope around her neck to keep her still.

I only lunged her for 20 minutes, but she's doing so much better! She's not as lazy as she was the first couple of times, and is starting to learn voice commands. "Whoa" is the easiest! She's always willing to stop working. She was also more relaxed yesterday, even though she was out of sight of the rest of the herd.

With the way she's improving and relaxing, I'm hoping to be able to back her before November. Anastasia has already offered to take her next spring after she's broke to saddle for "bombproof" training. This will ease my load a bit since I'll have Maverick, Hunter, and Radar to break next summer. Hopefully Jewel will be ready for adoption by the summer of 2009.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Classy -- 08/29/08

Classy is a 12yo bay Standardbred mare out of Dolly. I've been working with Classy since she was sound and of good weight when she came here. This mare is eternally lazy on the lunge line, but is improving each time. She was saddle broke when she got here and had 4-5 rides under her belt. I got on her tonight and mainly just worked on circles and figure 8's at the walk. She's pretty good with leg cues and has a wonderfully natural head carriage and flexion on a loose rein. She's still nervous away from her sisters and chews on the bit constantly. I think tomorrow I'll ride in just a halter and lead rope to see if that helps her out in the nerve department. She's definitely not the type of horse that's going to take off on me as that would require way too much effort on her part.

Megalia -- 08/29/08

Megalia is a 19 yo bay Standardbred mare, sister to Classy and Tabby, daughter of Dolly. With Meg I'm also making the assumption that she was on the track before becoming a broodmare. When Meg first got here she wanted nothing to do with us humans. She didn't want to be caught and always hid behind Classy. Within a week she settled in and realized where the food came from. Now she's one of the sweetest horses out there and is always one of the first to come up to you for a head rub or a wither scratch. I love this mare. Just her personality is enough to win me over. Her roached back and hardened tendons don't bother me as long as they don't bother her.

I have a feeling I could probably just throw a saddle on Meg and go for a nice trail ride. She's supposedly not saddle broke, but I don't think that matters to her. This horse is all about pleasing you. Whatever you want this mare would probably do it just to please you.

Tonight's groundwork was more of an evaluation than anything. When Meg came here both front tendons were puffy and starting to harden. Now that the heat and swelling are gone I wanted to see if she'd be sound. Sure enough! Don't get me wrong, she'll never be a hunter/jumper or barrel horse. But she will make someone a really nice trail horse!

Jewel -- 08/29/08

Jewel did a lot better tonight! It still took a lot of convincing to get her going at the trot, but I felt like she was happier and had more understanding of what I was asking. We worked for 20 min on the lunge line and did a lot of walk to trot transitions and lots of WHOA and stand. The other night when I lunged her for the first time she'd whoa, but if I wanted to walk up to her to change sides she'd try to move away. She did that the first couple of times tonight and I just ignored her and kept coming without pulling on the lunge line. Eventually, she'd stop, sigh, and let me put my hand on her. After the first few times she stopped trying to move away at all. Success!

I lunged her on a bit of an incline tonight to try engage her hind end coming up the hill. Conformationally, she's a bit weak in the loin area so before putting a surcingle and side reins on her I'd like to see some more muscling along her back, croup, and hind end. I'd also like to see her carry her head lower at the trot... right now she carries her head straight up in the air like a lot of TN Walkers I've seen.

I'd like to try long lining her tomorrow, but we'll see how energetic I am. :)

Tabby -- 08/29/08

Tabby is a 13yo seal bay Standardbred mare, sister to Classy and Megalia, daughter of Dolly. Tabby came to us very thin after an injury to her right hind ankle. The ankle is still very large, but it's all proud flesh and scar tissue now. Tabby has finally put on enough weight where I feel comfortable to start ground work with her. She is not broke to ride, but I'm assuming she was on the track at one point before her broodmare career began and is broke to drive.

Tonight was just about finding out what she knows and getting a better look at how she moves. She's not only sound, but looks VERY smooth too! And she's not nearly as lazy as her two sisters. She had no problems moving off at the walk or trot. Her problem lies more with a lack of brakes. She wasn't afraid or moving fast, she just wanted to keep going in that gorgeous floating trot of hers. I can't wait to ride this mare! I'd like to see another 100 pounds on her before I back her for the first time, so it may be another month or more depending on how she progresses in her training. And I'd really like to have the round pen up rather than backing them in the middle of a 16 acre pasture, but if that's where it has to be then so be it.

I only worked with her for 15 minutes tonight. Just enough to get the her figured out and start working on a plan. Voice commands are totally unknown to her, so that will be first -- especially the WHOA part! And like most all horses off the track, her right side is her stiff side so we'll be doing a lot of lunging to the right.

Tabby is the only horse of the 10 rescues that still has no interest in humans. We can pet her and groom her and she's not mean and has good ground manners. But if you're out in the pasture with the herd she is the only one that will not voluntarily come up to see you. I'm hoping this will change now that she's getting some work

General 08/27/08 - 08/28/08

There has been no training for the past two days thanks to some much needed rain. All the horses were happy for the respite from the heat and deer flies, but it's back to work on the 29th.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jewel -- 08/26/08

Jewel came to us a nervous wreck, terrified of human touch. She was curious about people and would walk up to you for a sniff, but as soon as you reached to touch her she'd turn away. The last couple of months she's just been turned out with the herd, just learning to be a horse again. She has slowly started to come around and now allows us to walk up to her for a scratch and to put her halter on. So last night we began groundwork with Jewel on the lunge line. What a lazy mare! It took a lot of convincing to get her to trot, but once she did trot it was slow and rhythmic. Even when she broke into a gait... yup, Jewel appears to have some gaited horse genes in her some where. As training progresses I'll encourage her to gait as I believe that will be a bonus to a lot of potential adopters in this area.

I only worked with her for about 20 min, mostly at the walk. Her right side is her stiff side, so much of the time was spent going to the right, bringing her in to a 10' circle, letting her out to 15', back in to 10', etc. Not once did she lay her ears back or act afraid or upset.

I've still got a ways to go with her feet. I start at her shoulder and slowly run my hand down her leg, but as soon as I get below the knee she freaks out and jumps back. Once she's more responsive on the lunge line I'll start sending her out to work every time she jumps back. This method worked really well for Meghan who was also terrible about having her feet worked on. But right now, she's such a lazy mare that sending her out on the lunge would be so much work that she may not associate working with the bad behavior.