Friday, September 24, 2010

The blues

Yes, we did get a chance to ride since my last post but it wasn't until yesterday.  It seems like the more I say I'm going to ride the more all sorts of different things try to get in the way.  Maybe I should start saying that I'm absolutely NOT going to ride?  Who knows, life might start throwing things at me to get me to ride then!  We even rode off our property a little ways!  It was a lot of fun but a little scary too.  The last time I tried riding Traveller off property he bolted out from under me and I was hurting bad for awhile.  This time I think it helped that he had Tina with him, he cozied up to her as if for comfort a few times, and I put a slightly tougher bit on him (an eggbutt snaffle) just in case I needed some emergency control.  I really did my best to stay very relaxed and he actually did very well!  He did swing his head around a lot looking at everything and felt tense under me like he could spook though he never did.  Hopefully with some more practice and life experience he'll mellow out better.  He's such a good horse I have to keep reminding myself that he's rather young and green!

But today I've got the blues.  We have officially decided that it would be better for us and them to find Brother and Nugget more suitable homes.  It just kills me because I've grown to love them so my heart doesn't want to but my head says it's the smart thing.  They need someone who can tune up their training and get them under saddle, someone very experienced, and while at one time I was a very experienced rider it's just been too many years.  They're both just loving being pasture pets for the most part, of course, but I also have to admit that if we're going to put out this much time and money on a couple of horses I'd like to be able to ride them. 

I started today with five emails from people all asking about them which bummed me out.  Two of those are automatically out of the running just because I don't think Brother and Nugget are suitable for what they want.  One wants to know if they're small enough to be used as polo ponies.  I don't know just how small they'd have to be but I kinda doubt that at 15.3 and 16.2 they'll make the cut.  The other really likes the looks of Nugget's bloodlines and would like to use her as a brood mare.  On the one hand I think Nugget's personality would make an awesome brood mare!  She's so sweet and quiet I can just see her loving having foals to nurture.  Unfortunately, though I don't have an eye for judging horse conformation yet, I really don't think she's got the best conformation and she has the defect of roaring.  I've shown and bred Great Danes and I would never, ever have bred one that was less than as close to perfect as possible, completely forget one that had any kind of major defect, and I would like to think that it's the same with horses!

We'll see what happens but I already know without a single doubt that I'll miss these guys so much.  They're not even gone and my heart is breaking.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rain, rain, go away

Sunday I swore I was going to ride but when I went out to actually do it the weather wasn't cooperating.  Now they've had a few days off again so I'm thinking they'll be back to their uber-brat states.  I will ride today, damn the weather!  I mean, come on!  During calving season did the cowboys say "nope, it's rainin out so those heifers are just gonna have to give birth on their own or die"???  No!  They tossed on a poncho or something, got on their horses, and took care of business!  I'll be back to let ya know how it went >.<

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Time off

We weren't able to ride for a few days so Thursday I insisted that I had to ride or I'd implode.  As we were tacking up unexpected guests arrived but I was determined to get at least a quick ride!  Eric rode Tina, I rode Traveller, and we both experienced some of the same things, horses acting bratty.  Neither of them did anything awful but they had a general "do we gottaaaaa???  Why can't we just have a cookie insteaaaaad???" attitude trying to stop, go, and turn where and when they wanted to instead of when we asked them.  It seems a few days off are not good for these two at this point!

So Friday I gave both of them a more thorough ride.  The last time I asked for a canter on Traveller he threw me off so on him I'm doing a lot of work at the walk and trot, cantering we practice on a long line in the round pen.  I felt confident enough on Tina to ask for a canter for the first time and it wasn't too bad!  Eric was watching and said she has a "really funny lope" but it felt ok for a first time.  I really want an arena!  Right now I can either ride off our property on Tina (not on Traveller yet!) which means I have to keep it at a walk or in a space in the pasture which I know is safe for them but hard, uneven, and I have to keep a lookout for rocks.  It makes it tough for me to figure out what's going on with them exactly.  Is this "funny lope" her normal stride, being a stinker, feeling unconfident, or a bit of uneven ground? 

Yesterday we had to go work on my friend's garden.  She has a bad back so she asked us to put in a raised garden for her which we're doing with the wonderful natural rock that's plentiful on our land.  We finished laying the concrete footer for it at about 10pm then we had a two hour drive back home.  I'm so sore today and my poor hands!  Ladies, if you want beautiful, soft hands never have anything to do with concrete because that stuff will just eat your hands up!  I'm really hoping we can get this done in the next month or two because our next project is going to be my arena!  But even sore and not having an ideal place to ride I gotta get back up in the saddle sometime today. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Horses UGH!

Sometimes I wonder why I'm so addicted to horses.  Honestly sometimes I think we're all completely insane to want to be around them at all!  They're tons of work, really expensive, and act like complete stuck up, spoiled brats.  I just went out to feed mine their dinner.  Usually they're all up at the fence but from time to time for some horsey reasons I don't know they'll be out in the field somewhere at mealtimes.  When they're not nearby all I have to do is whistle a few times and they'll come ambling in from wherever they are because they know I'm going to feed them or at least give them some nice cookies for coming when I called.  Once in a blue moon they won't be up and they won't come when I whistle but I figure they just don't hear me for some reason.  Those times I go find them and they just follow me right up to the fence.

Not today!

Today I tromped all over the place to find them and they gave me their usual sleepy "oh, did you want us?" look.  I started walking back, paused to listen for hoofs following, and nothin!  When I walked back they were in exactly the same place still calmly grazing away.  Hmm so maybe I'd just ride Traveller back?  Heh no chance!  I gave a few jumps trying first to do a land-across-his-back-on-my-tummy-then-wiggle-into-a-sitting-position move then a stand-at-the-shoulder-and-jump/swing-one-leg-over manuver but I just aint that young or in shape anymore.  So I found a nice downed cedar that I could mount from, cleared a few sticks away from it for Traveller's comfort, and tried to get him to move over there.  That horse went just about everyplace EXCEPT near that downed cedar! 

I coaxed, called, whistled, and tried to work various things out till I was a sweaty soggy mess then gave the hell up!  The last thing I told them was that I was going up.  If they came along I'd feed em and if they didn't then they just must not be hungry enough.  I guess they just weren't that hungry because they didn't even stop grazing! 

The thing that's really going to send me right over the top is now, 10 minutes after all of this, I bet they're all at the fence wanting their dinner!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

More training

Brother STILL has his shoes on!!  I had to get that off my chest because this is the longest he's ever kept shoes on for us! lol  And it's because of those shoes that I'm able to get Brother back into training.  So far it's just been the leading exercises that we started last week but today I got him back into the round pen.  I only had him go for maybe 15 minutes, most of that just walking in both directions, and only a few turns around each direction at a trot then ended it with a little more leading practice.  He didn't even breathe harder but I want to take it slow and build him back up.  I've finally got him at the weight I want him to be so I hope he doesn't start losing it again!

Traveller I walked and trotted in both directions to start.  His trot is really coming along very nicely!  He's beginning to relax and give me more of a very soft, smooth, floaty trot that's so wonderful to ride.  His canter, on the other hand, needs some serious work.  His last owner really loved for him to go super fast while I'm not as concerned for speed as much as quality of movement.  While I was riding him once I cued him to canter and he very smoothly bounced his back end in the air throwing me right off.  Now I know that if I'd only asked him to canter in the round pen I could've seen straight off that I wasn't ready to ride him at a canter.  He seems to get very irritated when asked to canter, tossing his head around, often breaking down into a crazy fast trot.  A work in progress like everything else!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Horse Boy

It all started with an email list.  I was looking for local horse people to connect with and found an email list for dressage people in my area.  I didn't see myself doing any type of dressage training or riding but what the heck, it was horse people sharing with each other so I joined up.  One day a lady with a charity posted saying that she was looking for donated panels for a round pen.  We live on my husband's VA disability pay, money is always tight, but I always like to help out where I can so I emailed her back saying we didn't have panels to offer but have loads of time, love, and, with the help of four teen boys, a rough 'n ready work crew if they'd be interested in us building them a round pen.  As we emailed she admitted that what they really needed was local people willing to learn their methods and offer them to the community which is how I found out about The Horse Boy Foundation.

For the longest period of my childhood we lived in Beamont, Texas where my mother worked for MHMR and I often volunteered.  I became comfortable with the clients there.  They helped me connect with and understand a percentage of our population that I otherwise might not have, those we label mentally disabled, and I would've been poorer for it.  I learned that these people aren't any different from any of us when you boil it all down.  They are just people making their way through life the best way they can, learning, overcoming obstacles, messing up along the way, and growing like all the rest of us!  There were quite a few people there that absolutely enchanted me with the generous outpouring of their love and childlike joyful innocence.  Heck there were times that I really envied them for that!   

The Horse Boy Foundation was born of a dad's quest to help his autistic son, Rowan.  Rowan's father, Rupert, had been around horses all his life riding and training them but feared Rowan wasn't safe around them until one day Rowan broke away, running onto their neighbor's property amongst the horses there.  Rather than spooking at the child the horses seemed to be very careful of Rowan, the lead mare being very gentle and accepting.  Like many others, Rupert found that animals and nature had a calming, healing kind of affect on Rowan which could be used to help Rowan and other children. 

Right away I told my new email pal that I'd love to hear more and maybe talk about learning to use their methods!  I just heard back from her and they'll be offering their first certification clinic at the end of this month or somewhere around the first part of October.  I can't wait!  I have so many questions, ideas, and plans whirling around in my head! 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Catching up

Labor Day my hind end!  It's been nothing but busier than a one legged man in a butt kickin contest for me since my last post!  I did manage to get a little time in with the horses though!  Friday Brother was a bit limpy in one of his front feet but I figured it was just tender from all the work the farrier did on him.  Sure enough it seemed better later in the day and was gone Saturday.  He's still got the shoes on!  Keep your fingers crossed that he manages to keep them on at least until his poor bruised feet can heal up! 

Sunday I watched a few Ken McNab shows where he demonstrated how he teaches his horses to follow his movements when being lead instead of pulling the horse along by the lead rope.  It seems so silly basic but I realized how often we have to twirl the rope at one of ours while we're leading them somewhere because they get those I-don't-wanna sticky feet.  This was the subject of Nugget and Brother's first training session since it really is so basic and would be easy enough on their couch potato-like present stamina! 

The goal is to keep the horse's head roughly even with your shoulder with you leading from their left side.  You want them to move with you as you move, to read your body language to figure out which way you're going to go.  When you lean forward as if starting to walk off if the horse doesn't move with you reach behind with a *insert your own training tool here* (I used a dressage whip) to wave at/tickle/tap the girth area to get them moving forward with you.  When you back up if the horse doesn't step back tap the ground in front of their feet, escalate to tapping their front legs if you have to, until they back up.  To turn left you simply turn left and tap their hindquarters away if they don't move with you.  If you want to turn right turn into their head/neck and push it away to make them move over for you.  Seems simple enough, right???  

Nugget didn't really get it, maybe she just doesn't want to get it?  I don't know how to tell the difference yet.  She caught on to how to go forward with me, though I had to keep correcting her for getting ahead of me, and she kinda sorta got backing when I walked backwards.  Actually she caught on to taking one step back if I tapped her front legs firmly but she wouldn't progress to two steps.  To give her legs a break from all the tapping I tried turns which didn't go well at all.  When I tried to turn right she was really dull to me pushing her head away like she didn't care and was perfectly content to be pushed.  Turning left was worse since she overreacted to me tapping at her butt like I'd thrown a rattlesnake at her.  After awhile I was getting a little frustrated so did a few more backing steps and ended with lots of forward to give me an excuse to give her lots of praises and pats.  Maybe next time will be better. 

Brother, on the other hand, was my big super star with this exercise!  After not being trained at all for so long I had to stop fairly often to reassure him that he was doing a great job because he kept blowing out hard like it was scary to him.  He got the general idea very quickly on all four directions though which was very gratifying.

Tina got a break but I decided I needed to do a little riding.  I just did not feel like lugging the saddle out so instead I took a ride with Traveller bareback.  I didn't know if he'd ever had someone on him without a saddle so I stood on the ladder I mount from with one leg slung over his back for awhile to see how he'd react.  He really wasn't bad, seemed more surprised than anything, and stayed quiet after a moment of shifting around a bit.  I eased the rest of me onto him and voila! 

If you've never tried riding bareback I heartily recommend it!  It's not something I'd want to do all the time but it's definitely one more fun thing you can do with your horse from time to time.  I also really think that at some point when you're learning to ride riding bareback is a very valuable learning experience!  You can feel SO much more of how the horse moves and holds himself, you can learn a ton about your seat and how to move with the horse, and it really forces you to improve your balance. 

With the first few steps I learned that I've been sitting too far forward on my pelvis because I was like a weeble wobble!  When I rolled my pelvis so I was closer to sitting on my jean's pockets I was way more stable.  That last trainer I worked with told me a few times to "sit on [my] pockets" but I didn't truly get it till I felt it on Traveller the other day.  I may've brought my knees forward too bringing them out of line but I couldn't really tell and since I felt so much more secure I kept at it.  All in all it was loads of fun and I think my riding made a step in the right direction.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Happy feet!

Now that the farrier's been here I'm so relieved!  I was so worried that Brother's lameness was going to be because of something awful but our farrier, Chalk, says it's not laminitis or anything like that, just pretty typical TB hooves, thin with low soles that have gotten bruised up.  I haven't taken after shots yet but here's what Brother's two front feet looked like before Chalk worked on them this morning.  He was just trimmed 3-4 weeks ago, I swear!  He's more sore on his right front and it's pretty easy to see some extra issues with it even with my inexperienced, ignorant eyes.  The funny thing is the big curve in the front of that hoof has been improving over time so you can imagine how bad it was at one time!

left front hoof
front view of left front hoof
side view of front left hoof
right front hoof
front view of right front hoof
side view of right front hoof
If you're one of the folks that like to try to diagnose and discuss how you would fix hooves you might want to stop reading because I'm going to describe what our farrier did for Brother.

Have you stopped?

If you answered yes then you did NOT stop when I said to or you wouldn't have even answered the question!

Last chance...

Chalk says he just wants to get the pressure off Brother's soles so they can heal up and protect them from further bruising then once that's done we can go back to trying to condition his feet to barefoot if we still want.  For now he put shoes on Brother's front hooves with a thick piece of leather covering the whole bottom of the hoof between the shoes and hoof then pumped a bunch of silicone into the pocket between the sole and leather.  He says that will cushion the sole plus keep dirt and gunk from packing inside creating conditions that would be perfect for thrush or whatever.  Since Brother was shoed for awhile when he first came here we know just how hard it is to KEEP shoes on him so Chalk also had us go get something called Tough Stuff.  He says it's the only product he's found that he feels is worth anything to seal the hooves and it helps keep their shoes on. 

I'm just delighted that it seemed to help quite a bit immediately!  Brother's already moving much better!  Hopefully he's back on the road to being sound!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Tomorrow the farrier comes out to trim up Tina and Traveller's feet.  Having all four horses done at once is a bit of a strain on our budget so we just do two at a time every 6-8 weeks or so.  Thank goodness Tina and Traveller don't have any problems with having their feet worked on!  It's easy to get them to pick one up and after that they automatically pick up the next one in line for you.  As a matter of fact Traveller once picked up his next foot for me before I was ready, was pawing it around a little expecting me to grab it, and almost set it down on my foot!  And they both do so great barefoot!  I'd swear that they don't really need to be trimmed yet but by the calendar it's time.  I'd rather stay on a schedule to keep them well maintained then to start a problem that can go downhill in a hurry.

Brother and Nugget still need work on having their feet handled though they're much better than when we first got them.  At first they were obviously very nervous about the whole thing, refusing to pick up their feet, trying to jerk them away, breaking out in a sweat, and such.  Poor babies haven't had good foot handling experiences in their past.  I hear that's not really uncommon with racing horses, that too often the track farriers are too rough with them.  Even though Brother was just trimmed a few weeks ago he's getting more and more limpy looking on his fronts and his hooves are so chewed up looking already!  We've ordered some supplements for him and we're going to have our farrier look at his feet again tomorrow.  I'll get some before and after pictures and let you know how it goes.