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 pony...no 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 jerks...to 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.