Wednesday, November 3, 2010

On the right track

So it has been two steps forward and one step back and/or two steps forward and three steps back. Let's see, we've gone for a couple lessons with the dressage coach and we were continuing to work on lunging with side reins - the exercises advanced to transitions and spiraling in and spiraling out on a circle. After our lesson two weeks ago we were pronounced ready for an under-saddle lesson.

So on Monday we had the lesson under saddle. I lunged him first with the side reins and that was good so then I got on and we worked on walk. And halt. And walk and halt. And turning with an opening rein. And walk and halt. Then we trotted the long side of the arena and walked on the short side. And then halted. And then walked and then trotted. Then walked again and halted. See a pattern here?

The good news is that I seem to be on the right track with the work I've been doing at home, which is walk, halt, walk, trot, walk, halt, change direction, etc.

Today I rode Mac at home and put my swan neck spurs on which are long and point upward. The purpose of these is that I can keep my leg on and give him an aid with the spur without moving my leg out of position (because of his size my leg hangs down longer than his barrel so in order for me to get a spur on him I have to raise my heel which pulls my leg out of position). These spurs work very well and I barely have to move my toe out for him to know they are there. Which is good. Unless something happens and I accidentally use them more than I need to.

Mac is at the point where he's rooting in the bridle, which means he's grabbing the bit and putting his head down. At one point in our ride today he did that and pulled me out of balance and my leg swung back and my spur got him when I didn't mean for it to. So he jumped up in the air and bucked. Thank goodness for my western saddle! I think he was pretty startled by it and he didn't try to do anything further and I sat up and got back into position. That is the downside of the spurs.

We went on to have a good ride and we made improvement on his leaning in on his left shoulder at the trot. When we took walk breaks we went to a jump standard where I had left my sweatshirt and I leaned over and took it off the standard and flopped it all around his neck and head and rump and he stood still so that was also a good schooling exercise.

I have to remember to ride every step because he doesn't know enough to cart me around on his own, lol. But I'm glad to know that I'm on the right track with my own schooling at home and progress WILL come!

Oh yeah, and we worked the other day with the fly spray. It is amazing what he'll stand and tolerate when cookies are offered as a reward!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

High highs and low lows

Well if I had posted a few days ago I would have written about how wonderful Mac was doing and he was forward and light and kind of straight. Two days ago I popped him over a cross rail and while he didn't really jump it, he did go over it and in a straight line, at that!

But alas, today is a new day, and I have the green horse blues. Perhaps he doesn't like my jumping saddle. Perhaps he was just in a mood. Perhaps I was riding crooked. If I went left he leaned in to the left and bent his neck to the right. If I went right he leaned in to the right and bent his neck to the left. I'm sure part of it is me but I know that part of it is him being a stinker because if we go along the rail that is closest to home then he has no problem going in a straight line.

I finally decided to sit the trot and that was mostly better because I think I was sitting more in the center and not throwing him off with posting or having a forward position. But ack, I felt like an idiot who couldn't ride today!!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Big spurs!

I had a mediocre ride on Sunday and I realized that because Mac is small horse when my leg hangs down on the Western saddle my heels (and small spurs) do not touch his belly. In order to get my spur on him I have to hike my heel up and move my leg around too much. So I decided to put my swan neck spurs on which are a bit longer and they point upward - they are made for a situation such as this. Having a spur on allows me to use different signals for different things. Both legs on (but without spur) means go forward. Spur (used on one side or the other, independently) means move over or yield to the pressure.

On Monday I lunged him in side reins and it was a bit windy so he was a bit animated (although for him that's really not a lot, he kind of tosses his head around a bit). I decided in the warm-up (before I put the side reins on) to ask him to canter on the lunge line. I haven't asked this of him for a long time and last time I did he was totally unbalanced and couldn't hold the gait or the lead going to the right. This time he did both, so that's progress! Because of the weather, it took him a bit to settle into the side reins and he never really got into it but again I'll take the progress where I can get it.

Today Colin had a lesson with Paddy and he brought Mac along and I met him there after work. I thought it would be a good adventure for Mac to get out to a new place and see different things. Well he was totally unimpressed and acted as if he had been there a million times. He did have a look-see when the neighbor's goats were bleating and running around but mostly he just stared at them. We worked on yielding to each rein, yielding to each leg, moving over and staying on the rail, and trotting straight. He did really well, actually! We trotted through some poles a few times and that was cute because he decided the he wanted to have a look at the last one as we were going through. Colin had a great lesson on Paddy and Mac did a good job of working and resting and working and resting and just standing around while Colin jumped.

Hopefully someday in the future I'll get to have a jumping lesson, too!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sigh, it has been so long

I've been meaning to write and just keep forgetting. As soon as I ride I think I'll come in and write an update but it always escapes my mind by the time I get in the house.

I am not doing a good job with consistency in the riding department. It seems like something always comes up and gets in the way of the time I have to devote to riding and training.

The good news is that when we do the work we do make progress, it is just going very slowly and more slowly than I'd like. Lunging is going well, with him going more forward, on more contact, and accepting the boundaries of the circle. So that's good. I do feel like we are way behind the curve, though, and should be farther along - but I guess I can't have high expectations given the time we've put into it.

Under saddle he is doing better with staying on the rail. I had an a-ha movement when I figured out that I was crooked and so when I straightened my body he was straighter, too. He still does drift toward home, though, so I need to put more thought into that. Steering with reins alone to keep him on the rail really doesn't work so I've got to spend more time working on steering off of the leg, which will be my focus this week.

On an unrelated note, he is beating Paddy up so I've got to keep them mostly separate. Paddy is very polite and does not push the boundaries and try to take over herd leadership, so Mac is being a bit of a bully toward Paddy. He doesn't act that way toward people, but when it comes to other horsey relationships he is firm about maintaining his top dog position.

So today I will lunge him and perhaps I'll be able to have a lesson this week to get us dialed back in on the program. These are the times that I miss being at a training barn.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Captain Destructo, at it again!

So I thought that Captain Destructo had left us for a while once we figured out the tape fence wasn't properly electrified, but nooooooo, he's back. Or he was. And probably will be again. Colin had made temporary modifications that should have done the trick but Captain Destructo showed us that he can get past our modifications, muahahahaaaaaa! We had to have our super handy handyman out to properly wire the fence so that ALL lines would be on ALL THE TIME. A-ha! But then he ripped out one of the connectors so Colin had to put that back together. I think that now we've got it set, because there hasn't been any destruction for the past few days. But we'll see!

In other news, the other day Mac decided he didn't want to get on the trailer. Odd, because he's been really good about it up until then, even easily walking on with the rope over his neck (vs. me standing to the side and sort of guiding him in) when going in after Paddy. I thought it was due to the time of day and that the sun might have been blinding him when he was walking up to it, but he got worse over the next few trailer-loading incidents.

Just Saturday I took him out for a trail ride. He loaded so-so but I really didn't have much trouble. Then we had a wonderful and fun trail ride - he's just so much fun on the trails!! There was a large group of people there, horses and trailers everywhere. (Sidenote: If you have a trailer, please learn how to park it thoughtfully. So many people are so rude and just pull their trailer into a spot that is parallel to a tree line. If they took the time to learn how to park it properly (perpendicular), THREE other trailers could fit into that same space. I have the same trouble at the vet clinic. People, PLEASE learn how to park your trailers!!!!) Mac did not want to leave his newfound friends. He would NOT get in the trailer. We had words. I looked like an idiot. One of THOSE idiots who cannot load their horse. Sigh. A woman asked if I wanted help and I said no because I wanted to keep trying but eventually I broke down and asked her to give a wave behind his butt while I walked him in the trailer (he's supposed to walk in himself). It was not pretty.

Of course we had to go home and work on trailer loading. We had to have a discussion about personal space and moving forward and away and yielding, etc. We worked it out and he got on and off and on and off and on and off and so I called it a day.

I am determined for this to not be a problem so instead of chickening out on loading him up and going for a trail ride, I faced it head on and we went. Before I closed him in the trailer we practiced getting on and off a few times. When he was going on easily then I decided we were ready to go. Off we went to the same place, had another lovely ride (although a bit shorter this time) and this time he loaded up much better.

I think I figured out that he likes it best if the divider is swung open while he's loading and then I move it over once he's on. It gives him a wider space to walk into and I don't inadvertently "block" his entryway as he's trying to get on. Moreso than any other horse I've had, Mac is very sensitive to body language and positioning, so I'm trying to be in tune to that. Sunday's experience was so much better.

Mac had Monday off and today I just did ground work. First I longed him in side reins and we worked on going forward and transitions. He will go from a trot to walk just by me changing my breathing. Talk about sensitive! After our groundwork we did more trailer loading work and it went very well. He must have gotten on and off 10 times or so. Twice when he got on I swung the divider over and closed it up and then went up front and gave him cookies (the only place I'll do so). The last time he walked right on easily and stood quietly while I put up the butt bar and so I quit on that good note.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Black and white and green all over

That is going to be a double entendre, as you will soon find out. Colin was nice enough to take a short video of me and Mac last week. He hit some button on the camera that gave the video odd coloring and it is black and white and green! And also Mac is a "green" horse so there's the double meaning!



So we're still working at the walk and trot in the arena, which is really not very exciting. I'm trying to work on geometry, i.e. going in a circle that is actually a circle not an oval or a square. We're also working on transitions from the walk to the trot to the walk, etc., with a loose rein. He seems to like a looser rein and not a lot of contact with the bit so we're doing that for now.

I have to say I get a bit discouraged sometimes. I have to remember to adjust my expectations to Mac. He's a mustang. He knows nothing. Well not nothing, he IS learning, but he didn't have the benefit of growing up in a training barn where he would have been taught all these things at a young age and would therefore be further along in his riding career by now. I'm sure he could care less, of course.

I was at a show this weekend with Paddy and someone I know was there with his three year old gelding. At such a young age that little horse is so much further along than Mac. That horse is walking, trotting, cantering, jumping, and showing! It is going to take me a while to get to that point with Mac, if we ever get there.

What he does have going for him is his sensible mind. He's wonderful on the trails. I can take him out alone or in a group, he can be first, middle, or last and he doesn't really care. He actually does have some get up and go, as I've cantered him on the trails, and also galloped him on the trails! What fun! If we had trails right off our property, I'd probably never do anything else!

I will continue to take him for a lesson every now and then with my dressage trainer. She's having me work on lunging and voice commands, but I must admit lunging gets pretty boring after a while, Mac thinks so, too! I'll just keep plugging along and getting help from professionals who have way more experience with this than I do.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Captain Destructo

Well Captain Destructo had been at it again, taking the tape fence down...it looks like he was really trying to tell us something - namely that the electric fence wasn't electrified! I had changed the fence line earlier in the spring and in doing so took away one of the connections that kept the whole thing hot. OOPS!!! Colin fixed it yesterday so we'll see if he leaves it alone now.

I thought I'd try to put a video in here. I longed Mac today in side reins. He's coming along well in his longing and seems to be better balanced going right than when we first started longing. Of course the video I'm sharing is of him going to the left, but you get the idea.



Mac longe 2.mov

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Some working pictures!

Colin got us a new little camera and he was kind enough to come out and take some pictures of me riding Mac the other day. Mac was a Good Boy (tm) and Colin commented that he seems to be coming along well. He feels more balanced, he's more accepting of contact and leg, and we're actually working in almost-straight lines!

Without further ado, here are some photos of the cute guy.

Trotting down the rail, doo deee dooo deee doooooo


Walking over poles, la dee daaaaaa


About to run over the photographer...look out!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friends or something like it

Well. Just this past week for some reason the horses have been tearing down the paddock (tape) fencing overnight. It has been our practice to keep them separate because the couple of times that I have tried putting them together, Mac has tried to kill Paddy. Ok, ok, maybe kill is an exaggeration. But he runs backward and double-barrels with both feet. Quite dangerous to be the receiver of that kind of blow...ask me how I know! (Not Mac, when I was younger I got double-barreled in the stomach and it was NOT fun)

Not wanting Paddy to get hurt, we've kept them separate. One will be in a stall/paddock area while the other will be in the dry lot pasture area. The only thing separating them is an electric tape fence. A few times they were configured such that part of the fence would be down sometimes but they would still be separated. So we reconfigured them and the new pattern seemed to be working well. Until this week.

Every day this week we have come out to do morning chores to find the fence just demolished and the horses in the same space. Not necessarily hanging out like friends, but together. Ok, fine. So then we left them out together and closed up all the paddock gates. Nope, that didn't work. Apparently someone (likely named Mac) would like to be able to go in the stall if he wants so he figured out how to take down the gate and let himself in. Cheeky! So finally we left the paddock gate open so he could go in the stall and we left the horses out together. They got what they wanted.



Paddy and Mac now eat breakfast together in the mornings. We have to put out lots of piles of hay so that if Mac wants Paddy to move he's still got food to eat.



The good news is that now Mac lets us put his fly mask on.





Colin thinks that Mac has figured out that if he plays with the plastic tape-fence-holder-connector-things that he won't get shocked and this is how Colin thinks Mac is tampering with the fence.



We separate the horses in the afternoon and then put them together at night and that seems to be working out. Mac and Paddy have sorted it out - Mac is on top, Paddy is on bottom. Paddy is a good follower - he knows to stay out of Mac's way and to give Mac right of way. As long as Paddy is happy with his status quo, I don't anticipate any problems, as Mac doesn't ever seem to just go after Paddy for the heck of it.

So I guess they have sorted it out and they are friends . . . or something like it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mac's First Bath!

Nothing like 100-degree heat to convince a horse that a bath is, in the words of Martha Stewart, A Good Thing.

It has been scorching here the past couple of days. On Thursday I just couldn't bring myself to ride so I did something so less heat-exhausting...weed eating. Where is a rolling eyes emoticon when I need one? I vowed that I would ride both Paddy and Mac on Friday and today. And I did.

Mac is coming along in his under saddle work. I switched him to Paddy's bridle (they are sharing right now but Mac needs his own because his nose is so big that Paddy's noseband barely fits him) and he seems to like the Nathe bit. Steering is much improved, stopping is better, there is less chomping of the bit, and he is so much more steady in the mouth. I'm still working on longing him with side reins but Friday and today I didn't and just got on instead. I also rode in my Western saddle instead of my dressage saddle. He seems to like it better and be happier with it so it is fine with me.

After yesterday's ride, I decided it was a good time to convince him that a bath was a good idea. Previously I've tried to work with him and the hose (it isn't the hose, per se, it is the water coming out the end and spraying him that is scary) over the fence while giving another horse a bath, but he wanted no part of it. Today was a different story, though. I started with the nozzle on "mist" and just kind of held it out in front of him but not pointed at him. The wind was in my favor and blew the mist onto his legs and chest. He stood there very wary of the water coming at him but stood steady. Eventually I got closer to him with the mist until I was actually aiming at his chest and legs and that was ok. So I turned the nozzle to "shower" and held it in front of him but without directly spraying him. He kind of nosed it and arched his neck but still stood steady. I took my cue and moved in a bit to actually spray his legs and chest and he let me. So I moved to his shoulder and gently sprayed that and his back. He let me again. I moved to the other side and sprayed there and he let me again! So he had his first bath yesterday and he was a good boy. Gave him another one after this morning's ride and he seemed to appreciate the cool water.

So he now bathes! Woot!

I think that Colin and I will go for a trail ride tomorrow and he'll have his first ride on Mac! I'm interested to see how Colin likes him...everyone else seems to love Mac so I'm pretty sure Colin will, too. Sheesh, my farrier LOVES him and even baby-talks to him! :-)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

Let's see, what has happened since I wrote last? I do believe it was last weekend when we went on our first solo trail ride that I updated Mac's blog.

He is getting better about getting on the trailer. He hasn't been bad about it, per se, but the last couple of outings I can just point him to it and he walks on, which is great! I still have the longe line attached to his halter but in the next couple weeks I may give it a go with just the long lead rope and a dressage whip vs. a longe whip.

On Thursday I worked on de-sensitizing him to fly spray. The flies love Mac - LOVE HIM! It was a big step to get the fly mask on him so now they don't all congregate around his eyes, but they still love him elsewhere so I decided it is time to get used to the fly spray.

We worked on the pasture with him on the longe line and me with the fly spray in my hand. I started by standing far from him and just spraying. If he got freaked out and tried to back up, I instead sent him forward in a circle on the longe but I kept spraying. If he turned to me then I'd stop spraying. We worked on that in both directions for a while and I did finally get to the point where I could stand at his shoulder and lightly spray his legs while he stood still. I called that progress and quit with the spraying on that note. I then stood next to him for a while, shaking the bottle of fly spray. If he put his head down or licked/chewed, I stopped the shaking. Did that on both sides and he stood there quietly while I made the noise with the bottle. That was good progress, too, so I called it a day on that note.

The weather was gorgeous today and I just had to hit the trails. I took Mac to a local state park where there are horse trails. He walked right on the trailer - yay! - and off we went. I was surprised when we got there that there were no other horse trailers there. I got my choice of parking spots so I backed into one that would be in the shade while tacking up and untacking after the ride. It bordered the road and the cars and trucks and things that go were quite loud. The road is up a hill and hidden by trees and bushes so he couldn't see what was making all the noise, but he could certainly hear it. He was a little antsy until I took his fly mask off and then he settled a bit - maybe he could see better and felt safer with clearer vision?

Anyway, I also saw a couple mountain bikers heading for the trails while I was tacking up and I thought today would be a good day to see how it goes with bikes. My plan was to saddle and bridle him up but leave his halter on and lead him down the trail until I saw a biker so that I could see how he'd react. I think HE feels safer with me on the ground so he can see me and what I do in various situations so I thought that would be a good course of action.

One thing I'm trying to remember when working with Mac is to work him equally on both sides, or at least make a conscious effort to work him from his right side. Like humans, horses can prefer one side or the other. It is quite noticeable when longing him - he goes very easily in a large and even circle to the left. When longing him to the right, though, his circle is smaller and he wants to fall in. I want him to be even under saddle and that starts with work from the ground.

Since I planned to walk down the trail with him for a bit, I alternated walking from the left side and from the right side. When I led him from the right side, he was more hesitant than when I lead him from the left, which was an interesting observation.

We came across lots of people walking with walking sticks, and that was it for a while. Finally we came across a man on a bike, exercising his dog. He was nice and stopped (bike riders are to give the right of way to horseback riders - usually I give them the right of way as my horses don't mind bikes and I don't want to cut into someone's "groove," especially if they are going uphill). I thanked him and commented that it may be Mac's first time seeing a bike on the trail and we had a short chat and Mac didn't really seem to care a bit. So that was a good bike experience and I was happy with his reaction, or lack thereof.

As long as we were walking, I decided to stay on the ground and walk on the bridge that is raised over a creek. He probably has gone over bridges before, but not with me so I wanted to see how he'd do with this task. He was perfect and a champ. He walked right on to the bridge and didn't spook at the hollow noise it made as his feet clip-clopped over it. We turned back to cross the creek at another spot were there were culverts set up with gravel over them so it was a different type of water crossing. Again, no problems.

We saw lots of dogs on our ride and those didn't bother him at all. We saw a few hikers, but no more mountain bikers. Oh well - there will be lots of opportunity for that in the future.

It was a beautiful day for a ride and I think Mac enjoyed it as much as I did!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

First solo mission

Before I mention our first solo mission, I must say that I'm very happy to report that I FINALLY got a fly mask on Mac! For some reason the flies LOVE him and he could have 100 flies on his face and buzzing around his eyes. Flies are gross and dirty and annoying and so I was determined that Mac would wear a fly mask. He was scared of it at first so I just hung it on the gate for a couple days so he could sniff it and get used to it. Then we did some ground work in preparation for me working on desensitizing him to the mask. Once we did that I kind of hung it on his ear and took it off a few times, then I hung it on both ears and took it off...off, on, off, on, etc. until finally I got it over both ears and eyes and velcroed it on. Ta-da!!! No more flies in his eyes! He's not crazy about getting it put on every morning but I think he appreciates its purpose.

So yesterday we had our first solo mission, aka our first real trail ride by ourselves off our property. Since it was very hot we went up to the forest so we could be in the shade of the tall pines. He loaded on the trailer fine and traveled well. Once there, there were other people and horses in the staging area tacking up to go on their ride. They hit the trails before we did and Mac whinnied for the horses. I finished grooming and tacking up and went in the opposite direction than the other people did because I didn't want to feel like we were trying to catch up with them.

Mac has a super walk - very forward, marching, big, ground-covering. He sometimes looks at things on the ground, like a rock or log being hit by sunlight, but doesn't do anything silly. It was funny because it seemed like he remembered where to go from last weekend! At various times during the ride he put his nose on the ground to . . . sniff? I don't know what he smelled but I guess it was interesting.

As we came to the end of one trail and needed to decide where to go I checked my watch and saw that because of his big, forward walk that we had covered a lot of ground in a short period of time. I decided to turn left down the trail, then take a loop back to the same trail which I could then take back to the staging area.

When we turned down the trail his walk got bigger and bigger and he wanted to trot. So we trotted a bit. Then I realized that he was "tracking" his horsey friends! He started whinnying for them, although they never answered back. It is not really fun or cute to be on a horse who is whinnying and wants to be somewhere else so I turned him around and made him trot and canter up the trail and away from where he wanted to be.

He has a great forward walk, a good trot, but really no endurance at the canter so we didn't canter for long, although he is comfortable and steady. We came back to the walk and finished the ride. Wow, it was less than an hour! Oh well, I thought it was a good first solo adventure and I had fun.

Today we went back to the same place but this time we met my friend on her horse (we had the buckskin-twin adventures!) and did a similar ride. Mac was a good leader on the trails and this time we went into parts of the forest where he hasn't been before. He was a very good boy and I think my friend enjoyed the ride as well. It sure was HOT today, though!

When we got back to the trailer we gave the horses some water and a sponge bath and let them graze for a bit before loading back up and heading home.

I wish I had trails like that out my door. I really love trail riding - it is such a fun thing to do with your horse and you see so many pretty sights. You can go as slow or as fast as you want and there are no arena fences to dictate your boundaries. Just you and your horse in the open space - fun, fun, fun!!!

I do think, though, that it is time for Mac to start his formal education so I will see if my dressage trainer can start working with him this week. He needs to learn how to long-line so that he can learn the finer points of contact in the bridle, including reliable "whoa" and steering!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Oooooh, a new follower!

Well I have to admit that I am a vain person and want people to read my blog. Even though I write it for me, I am flattered that people are interested and of course want people to think I am witty and wise (and pretty...I feel pretty, oh so pretty...). So it looks like I have a new follower - hello, whoever you are!

My friend Kali came up to visit this weekend as she is horse shopping and has had horse-shopping woes and wanted to come up and go trail riding and go look at a few horses. I'll spare you the horse-shopping details, as this isn't about HER, it is about ME! Rather, it is about Mac.

So to get to the nitty-gritty, Kali and I took Paddy and Mac to Lone Grave for a trail ride today. Lone Grave is in the tall pines of the Tahoe National Forest and it is a pretty place to go and it is also a good place to go conditioning. There are some hills, some single-track, some wider trails, some winding-through-the-pine-trees single-track, etc.

We loaded up the horses (Mac loaded like a champ) and headed up there. It was a gorgeous day for a trail ride - sunny and warm but not too hot and with a nice breeze. We tacked up and I had Kali start off on Paddy and I started off on Mac. Paddy was pretty bouncy, though, so after 15 minutes or so we switched and she rode Mac and I rode Paddy (for those of you who couldn't follow ;-)).

I asked if Kali was ok to go trotting off and she said yes so off we went trotting through some single-track. Paddy really, Really, REALLY needed to go forward and have a nice gallop so we turned off onto the bigger, wider trail and soon our trot turned into a canter and a forward one at that. Mac has a big trot and kept trotting bigger and bigger to stay with the pack and eventually cantered and then hit overdrive for a little bit. We brought the horses back to the walk and Paddy was happy to have let off some steam and he was no longer bouncy.

We made a nice big loop and then continued down a different trail where we again did some trotting through the trees on a winding single-track trail. Paddy's trot felt forward and powerful and engaged and really fun - if only I could get that trot in the dressage arena!

Kali was very complimentary of Mac and seemed to really enjoy riding him. He has such a good brain. The whole time he followed along willingly and easily, happy to do whatever we wanted. At one point he wanted to lead the way and spooked (which means his eyes got kind of big and he kind of stopped and planted his feet) at a pine cone, lol! But he marched right along with his Big Mac walk and then Paddy lead the way again. We made another small loop and headed for the staging area.

We got back, untacked the horses, toweled them down with wet towels, and then put them on the trailer. Mac got right on without hesitation and off we went for home.

What a fun day! I really need to hit the trails more - I love it out there so much and the horses do, too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More progress

Today we were supposed to have another training session but Ezra had to cancel. At first I thought I would ride Mac but thought again and decided it is always good to do ground work and we need to work on longing and voice commands so I decided to try my hand at longing in the arena today.

Oh, I also thought I would give the fly spray another try, as he seems to be so afraid of it! I held the bottle and let him sniff it, then I'd point it away from him and spray it and that was just too much. So I went back to just holding it in front of him. Then I tried to move to his neck and just stroke his neck with the bottle. Well that alone was scary but I was able to hold the bottle in my hand and pat him all over with my other hand. I think maybe I should just wear the bottle around my neck for a week or so!

I took the bottle down to the arena with us and put it on the fence post so he'd see it every time he went by. We've gotten more tuned in to each other so that I can easily move his shoulder or haunches and it is easy to get him out on the line - yay! I worked on keeping my body in the right position so I didn't give him mixed signals. Going left was better and easier than going right - that is not unusual, as horses are "sided" as we are and one direction is easier than the other. One of the objectives in training is to work the body so the horse is even in both directions.

We worked on walking and trotting. I can easily "disengage his hindquarters" to get him to stop from the trot but I've got to figure out how to get him to go from a trot to a walk and continue going forward and not turn in to face me. I'll have to do some research and homework on that.

We did some good, steady trot work in both directions and then I worked with him again on the fly spray and on letting me hold the spray and pat him at the same time. We also worked on me working around his head and ears and getting him to lower his head if I touch his ears and poll.

It was a really good training session!

Afterward I ground tied him and put some Swat on his face and belly to keep the flies away then brought him back to the pasture where he had a nice roll - and flipped over a few times! There is an old wives' tale that says each time a rolling horse turns over he is worth a hundred dollars! :-)

Oh, I came back to add that after we were done longing but we were working on fly spray and ear stuff, Paddy called to Mac and Mac did not call back!!! That is really good progress - that means his attention was with me, not back with his friends!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

First trail ride away from home!

So today Colin and I took Paddy and Mac and met our friend Tom at one of the local trails. I have to interject and say that Tom and his wife Amy were the ones who found Mac and I'm so thankful that I went along with Amy to see him one day (and that she decided she didn't want to buy him!)

I've been wanting to get Mac out on the trails but wanted to make sure that he was more solid on trailer-loading so that I could go by myself and know that I could get him on the trailer after the ride.

We loaded Paddy on the trailer and it took Mac less than a minute to join the party. We got there and unloaded and tacked up and everything was just fine - no drama. Tom brought his new horse who looks like a unicorn without the horn and he was even cuter in person than in the pictures I saw!

From the time Colin swung a leg over, Paddy was a very bouncy horse and it wasn't the "walk on the buckle" relaxing trail ride that I hoped Colin would have. He handled it well - sometimes Paddy just gets like that (actually it was the first trail ride of the season and what Paddy really needed was a 10-minute gallop up a steep hill!). Mac was very level-headed despite Paddy's antics. It looks like there have been some new trails cut there (although they're lined with gravel which I DON'T like) that I look forward to exploring.

Half way through the ride Tom and I switched horses and I got to ride the big unicorn. He was a very nice boy and didn't mind being in back and just letting Paddy bounce along.

We finished our ride, wet-towel bathed the horses, loaded them up and went home. It was a very easy and non-stressful event for Mac. Really, if I had access to great trails out my back door, I may never do anything other than trail ride!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Homework

Well I did some homework today. Either I'm doing something very wrong or Mac is just a smart guy. I went out to the pasture to get him and work with him a bit at liberty. He quickly remembered the lesson from Tuesday to go forward, change direction, turn to face me and stop. I rubbed and patted him all over, brought the lunge whip and rubbed him all over with the lash, swung it over his body, behind his butt, around his head, and he didn't move. So then I went to put the halter on and he tucked his nose in to put it in the nose-hole area. Wow, okay!

With the halter and longe line attached I then did some ground work with moving the shoulders and moving the haunches, stopping, going back, etc. I also did some longing and that was less successful but then I realized that I was walking along with him and I remembered Ezra said to stand in one place and when I did that it was better. Having gotten the idea that it was work time, I decided we could move on to trailer loading.

We went down to the trailer and I had the longe whip and the longe line attached to his halter. I pointed him at the trailer and he stood on the ramp and sniffed it. We did that a couple times then I asked him for more and he gave it to me. Within a minute or two he was standing on the trailer and backing out nicely. This was all with the divider moved over. I put the divider back in the middle position and asked him to go on again and he did. We loaded and unloaded quietly a few times and the last time I had him stand there and I just scratched his butt. I thought that was enough so let him quietly back off. Sheesh, our whole training session took maybe 30 minutes.

Then I realized that I had the halter and longe line but no lead rope. I wanted to groom him so figured he could just "ground tie" while I groomed him. We haven't formally worked on this but what I did was have the longe line very slack and held it in my hand while I worked around him. If he moved, I moved him back to where I wanted him to be. He mostly didn't move - just a small step or so, but still, I moved him back. Since he's terrified of fly spray, I put Swat on his face and on the insides of his thighs/sheath area, and took him up to the pasture to let him have some grass.

It was a great lesson!

Oh yeah, and I got the videos from our XC schooling this weekend. Thanks to Colin for putting them up on YouTube!

Trotting over a log

Going up the bank

Going in the water

He did great!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Training session round 2

Yesterday we had our second training session with Ezra. We picked up where we left off but worked in a smaller fenced-off pasture area since the arena is just too big for round pen-type work. We worked on moving the feet: direction (to the left or right) and pace (walk, trot, or canter). We went through changes of direction and changes of pace for a bit (and when I say "we" I mean Ezra and Mac and I watched).

Once Mac relaxed and dropped his head and did some licking and chewing and softened his frame/eye/body, Ezra invited him in. There were lots of changes of direction because Mac would turn in but then wouldn't stop and that went on for a bit. Finally he did turn in and stop and so Ezra just let the pressure off and stood there quietly. He then approached Mac, said hello, and patted and rubbed him all over. He moved around in a circle and Mac kept following him, which was good. Then when Mac lost his focus and/or decided something else was more interesting, Ezra had him move his feet again until he decided he wanted to stop and participate in the experience. (Of course there are a lot of subtleties that I can envision in my mind, I just can't really put them into words!)

Mac came back and they worked on the line a bit, moving the shoulder, moving the hip, sending out from the shoulder (like longing), staying out in a circle on the line, etc. Once that seemed to be going well we left the pasture area and went on to work on trailer loading.

At the trailer it was just more of the same but in a different environment. First we started with the divider moved to the side (this is the straight load trailer I'm talking about) so there was a bigger space for Mac to go in to. Again, the premise was get the feet moving and the "pressure" is released as a reward when Mac does what we want. So if he stepped on the ramp, the pressure was released. He was allowed to back off the ramp, but then he had to go back to work and step on again...but this time he had to make a bigger effort to get more feet on the ramp or in the trailer. It didn't take too long for him to get on and stand quietly, so we then moved on to putting the divider in the middle position so Mac had to go into a smaller space. Again, more of the same. He had a couple really good tries, then a couple "temper tantrums" (which aren't really tantrums...more like confusion or frustration coming out in pawing behavior) and then back to good tries and finally relaxation. He got in and stood there for a bit and we decided that was enough for the day. We worked on it for about 30 minutes or so. I should mention, for those who don't know about trailer loading, that the point of this is to teach him to get on the trailer by himself, or "self load." I can get him on by walking him on but we're just kind of faking it that way and at this point I can't do it by myself. He needs to learn to go on when I point him at the trailer. Of course this is important for going to lessons and trail rides, but it is also important in case of emergency if I need to get him to the vet or (knock wood that this never happens) evacuate the property.

So all in all it was a good lesson and I'm looking forward to next week when we'll probably do more trailer loading and maybe some desensitization stuff!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mac's First XC Schooling!

I asked Colin if I could officially call it an XC schooling, since we didn't actually "jump" but we did a lot of the types of obstacles one would find on an XC course: up bank, water, log, ditch.

Colin's eventing trainer hosted an XC clinic this weekend and I thought it would be fun to bring Mac along for his first outing. It was at Eventful Acres, a place not too far from us, and one of my favorite places to be in the whole world. The clinic was scheduled for two days - Saturday Colin rode with Jackie and Sunday he rode with her friend (and fellow eventing trainer) Val. We did this same clinic last year and had a lot of fun. Last year we even did karaoke, which I swore I would never in my lifetime be caught doing but enough booze will make one do stupid things, and won the karaoke contest! This year I did not ride with the trainers in the class but brought Mac along to expose him to new things.

We got there on Sunday morning to set up camp and get ready for the ride at 1:30. On Saturday I did ride with Colin's class, but I just stood on the sidelines watching and walking around and letting Mac see all there was to see. He was a good boy. We only walked but we did walk through the creek and over some small poles on the ground.

Saturday the Tomato was a bit spicy so Colin made a plan for a longer warm-up on Sunday afternoon before his ride. I planned on riding Mac by himself on Sunday so he would know that he sometimes has to leave his friends and work and they'll be there when he gets back (and vice versa - when his friends leave him to work, they'll come back when they're done).

Before we left for the camp, I mentioned to Colin that wouldn't it be great if an adapter existed that you could plug into your cigarette lighter and have an electrical outlet for making coffee. I can do without a lot of accoutrement, like a flushing toilet, shower, hair dryer, my own bed, but I've done without coffee on our little horse camping trips long enough. Colin said that something like that does exist and it is called an inverter so on Sunday morning, he got us all set up to make coffee!

I don't know what he did but he opened the hood and hooked this thing up so that we could have our morning cuppa joe. Notice the coffee pot set up and brewing...you can tell by the red light on the coffee maker! Ok, maybe the photo is too small to see the red light, but it is there. Further evidence is that we had awesome coffee in the morning - I don't think coffee has ever tasted so good! We sat and watched people warm up for their lessons while drinking coffee and enjoying the morning. There's no where else I would have rather been!
I decided I would ride at 9 a.m. before it got too hot. I groomed and tacked up Mac and off we went into the wild blue yonder. Ok, it was more of a densley-treed area with grass on the ground and jumps all around, but you get the picture.

Mac was good walking away from camp but he did start calling to Tomato a bit once we got past the point where he could see him or feel comfortable knowing that he was around. That's ok, we had plenty of work to do and I hoped that work would occupy his mind more than the location of his friend.

We started with a short walk through the woods to scope out where all the riding groups were. At that time the water was not being used so that's where we went. Mac wasn't too sure that the water was a good place to go - the water was murky and he couldn't see the bottom.



After a bit of coaxing, though, he went in and had a big splash!



We then moved on to the up bank and first went up and down the sloped side of it and followed that with actually going UP the banked part of it.



We went toward the creek to cross it and I think Mac realized we were leaving (although we were already far from) his friends. He turned and ran the other way! Naughty pony. So we had to school up and down some "pimple" bumps in the arena and then we headed to the creek again.

The creek crossing can be scary for horses because they are going from a wide-open space that is bright and airy into a dark, shaded, steep downhill and uphill area. Mac hesitated a bit but then went down and up with no problems - he was great! As we got on the other side of the creek into the front pasture area there were people schooling in that immediate area so we moved over to another spot where we did some circles at the trot.



We did trot circles then walked over a log then trotted more circles in the other direction and walked over the log again. Then we trotted over the log! Doesn't sound very exciting, but it was fun! He didn't jump the log, he just trotted over it. Colin got some video so when he has a chance to put it up I'll add it in here.

We then went to the up bank in that area - this up bank was a little bigger than the first one and he did really well. Colin got video on that, too. He also got video of us going in that water.

At that point I had been on for almost an hour and he had done a LOT of stuff, so we called it a day. He walked back through the creek easily and without hesitation. He was a VERY GOOD BOY!

I untacked him and cleaned him up and sat in the lounge chair for a break of my own.



I also have to put up some pictures of Colin and the Tomato. Tomato is jumping really well and they worked out a speed issue over the weekend.

Colin has been working hard on his release and he's looking really good!



Tomato is very difficult to ride and Colin does a really good job with him. Tomato is very fun to jump and will always jump, but it is riding between the jumps and keeping him in the right pace that is difficult.



I'm mad at myself for not checking my camera settings because a lot of my photos didn't have the right aperture or shutter speed. And I'm especially mad because if I had gotten it right on this picture, it would be the best one of all!



All in all we had a great weekend. Pico came with us and was a real trooper, although I think it was very tiring for him. The ponies were really good, we got some fun social time with our riding friends, and we didn't have to do all our at-home farm chores...although they are always waiting for us when we get home!

Friday, June 4, 2010

K9s

Finally the vet and I synched up and she came out yesterday to do Mac's teeth. She said he had the biggest canine teeth she'd ever seen! She didn't see any wolf teeth. It is likely they were taken out when he was gelded. That, or he never got any.

Mac was a Very. Good. Boy. for the vet. He was quite drunk with his sedation and was quiet and easy to work with (despite getting drugs, some horses are still difficult). I got quite the compliment afterward; she said, "Congratulations on such a nice horse. I really like him." That made me quite happy, as I quite like him, too!

Today was test drive day for trailering Mac and Tomato together. I put Tomato's shipping boots on because Mac kicked the last time he was in the trailer and I wanted to give Tomato a little protection in case anything happened.

Of course Tomato walked right on like the champ he is. Mac is used to walking on by himself and on the side where Tomato was, so he was a bit confused by his now smaller area to load into. It took a few tries and a bit of "work outside, rest inside" but it didn't take any longer than 5 minutes and he was on. He didn't panic or get nervous when the butt bar went up, either, which is good news. I tied his head up, closed the doors, and off we went to the gas station (might as well multi-task!). Both Tomato and Mac were very good. There was no kicking or screaming in the trailer. They were quiet and trailered quite nicely the entire time. I'm looking forward to going on an adventure with Colin and Tomato, and Mac!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Brain overload

Well the trainer came out yesterday to work with Mac. I even brought my camera to the trailer to remember to bring it to the arena with us but I of course didn't so I don't have any photos to share.

Trainer had the observation that Mac kind of knows how to get along but he isn't really "trained" (which I quickly figured out after I brought him home) and if the shit hits the fan all bets may well be off because he won't know how to be tuned in to me or how to handle himself, for example.

Trainer worked on defining space and exercises to get Mac to know that the person is the leader and Mac is the follower. He who moves his feet is not the winner. The horse has to move his feet.

He worked on moving the shoulder, moving the haunches, coming forward, moving away, longing, working "off line" in the arena, etc. My brain is kind of in overload mode so it is hard to put into words but it was very interesting to watch.

It was nice to see Mac move at liberty and I still like the way he moves. Once he relaxed, his topline rounded and he could move more freely over his back and it was lovely to watch. Mac did become very attuned to what Trainer was working on and I was interested to watch the learning process.

Trainer is coming back next week for another session. In the meantime, I will be working with Mac more on loading in the trailer and going to new places. I am really glad that he's in our family - I think working with him will definitely expand my horizons of horsemanship and I'm excited to go through this process!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Great ride today!

Well I rode Big Mac Attack in our new saddle today and it was great! We went for a short trail ride down the ditch, up the street, zig-zagged through some deer trails in an empty lot, past a house where people were weed-eating, down another street where a dog barked at us, and then back down the ditch and past the scary board that tried to attack him yesterday. ;-) He walked past the boards with no problems. We had no leg-biting issues today.

The whole ride I felt like my left stirrup was shorter than my right. This is the story of my riding life - my stirrups always feel uneven and it causes me back pain. At the end of the ride I put my left stirrup down one hole thinking that would make them uneven (which would then *feel* even because of my uneven legs or something) and lo and behold, my left stirrup WAS one hole shorter than my right! Doh!

Tomorrow the trainer is coming to work with us and I'm so looking forward to it!

Down to three

This isn't really Mac related but I wanted to mention it because it is an important event at our little farm.

Pippa, our old appy, was put to sleep this morning. Colin went out to feed breakfast and Pippa was down and couldn't get up. He was old, blind, lame, and missing teeth, so we knew that there was nowhere for him to go from here but down hill and the decision had been made for us to let him go.

He had a very happy ending to his long life. I have no idea what his life was like before he got to us, but we took wonderful care of him while he was with us. He had friends, shelter, four meals a day, grooming, veterinary care, hoof care, pasture, and love. I think that's pretty much all a horse really needs to have a good life. He was with us for three years and we guess he was in his late twenties.

I'll miss his soft nickers, the way he let Pico eat out of his bucket, and his soft fur. He was a good old pony, may he rest in peace.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saddle fitting!

I am exhausted. Today was not only farrier day but saddle-fitting day, as well. The saddle fitters came at 11 and left at probably 6:30 or so and I am just beat - they must be, too!

I used Susan and Dave from Saddles That Fit - they are not reps for any saddle company but they work with saddles that they have found over the years fit a wide range of horses. They work with dressage saddles, endurance saddles, and western saddles. I was interested in trying both western and endurance trails on Mac . . . eventually we will get to a point where I'll want a dressage saddle, but for now I want something good for trails and starting a horse. I do have my dressage saddle, which I had her look at, and it looks like it will be ok for now - when he starts to muscle up and fill out more I'll likely have to look for something new, but for now it will be ok.

So we started with a lot of education on western saddle trees and how they are built and the terminology of the parts of the saddle, etc. Then Susan picked out a bunch of saddles to try on his back (without me in the saddle) and then based on that we picked out about 8 saddles for me to ride in. I was exhausted already - that took us about 2 hours to go through his conformation, education, and first pass at saddle fitting. But I still had to ride!



The first two saddles I did NOT like - maybe it was too much between me and Mac (since I'm used to english saddles, I'm used to being closer to the horse), maybe it was because they were new and squeaky or the seat was too big or something but I just didn't like them and I was getting discouraged.

Then we tried a Specialized saddle and I really liked it - it was a black western trail saddle with silver conchos but not too much leather underneath the leg. Mac seemed to do well in it and didn't do his left-leg-biting thing (which he did do in the other saddles), and I liked it, too. The next saddle I tried was also a Specialized, but it was the international model so there was no horn and looked more english.



I liked that one as well and put it on the "yes" list. Tried three to four more but either Mac or I didn't like them so we went back to the two Specialized saddles. Mac's quarter was running out so after two short rides we all decided that the western Specialized saddle was the best.



Susan the saddle fitter was very astute in looking at my position and made the comment that Mac is doing the leg-biting-thing when I'm taking too much contact on my left rein (which I DO do) and suggested I ride him on as loose a rein as possible to see if that helped. It definitely did help, although steering was harder! That is something for me to keep in mind as I work with him. Obviously I want him to learn to go on contact, but it did make a difference so I will be sure to work on that.

So I have the saddle on trial for 7 days. I am betting that it is going to work out but if it doesn't I can send it back to them.

I have decided which saddles to sell so this weekend I will work on getting them on eBay or something so that I can pay for the new saddle I just bought!

Isn't he cute in his western saddle?!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cheeky Monkey!

Life on the farm is so busy, I intend to write my daily updates but then get sidetracked with weed-eating, manure-spreading, beer-drinking and I completely forget.

So my water theory didn't totally play out, although I haven't entirely given up on the tummy-ache theory. Yes, Mac was not drinking enough, but that is not the source of any tummy trouble he may be having. He may be generally stressed because his life has changed, he's not "out" with a herd (he's out, but each of the horses is separated if only by a tape fence line), he's being put in a training program, he's learning how to go on the trailer, he doesn't have hundreds of acres to move around on, etc. I have ordered him some ulcer supplements to see if that might help him out.

In the meantime, however, I do think he's being a cheeky monkey.

I took him out for a short trail ride down the ditch and up the street the other day, so again not a strenuous ride or a ride where I'm really asking anything of him, performance-wise. We walked up the high road ok but when we got past the gate on the ditch, he decided he didn't want to go. I think he doesn't want to leave his newfound friends! A little tap with the whip and he marched along and he tried to turn back a couple times but I let him know that wasn't an option so we continued on our ride. When we got up to the neighbor's house, I think he could tell that our house was right down the hill (if we cut through the neighbor's pasture we'd be back at our house - it is a big loop) because when I turned him around to head home the way we came he didn't want to go forward again! Cheeky monkey! And then of course from then on there were no problems since we were headed back. He wasn't rude heading home (he didn't try to rush or get jiggy or anything) but I do think I've found the root of the problem - he wants to be with his friends!

Thankfully, he's got a good brain and is easy to work with so when I am firm and positive about what our plan is he plays along.

That was Saturday. Sunday I didn't have enough time to ride him as I had to go to work, but when I got home I did make time to load him in the trailer. He walked right on, Colin put up the butt bar, I closed the doors, and we went for a little drive. He was kicking and whinnying in the trailer for the first 1/4 of the drive but after that he settled down, so I'm encouraged by that. When we got home, Paddy was running around like a 2-year-old, screaming and carrying on. Mac, of course, was his level-headed self and when I put him back in his pasture he was just, "ho-hum, doodeedoodeedoooooooo," despite all of Paddy's ranting and raving.

Yesterday I didn't have time to ride and today it is . . . drumroll, please . . . RAINING!!!! Mac was supposed to get his teeth done today but I canceled because of the rain - I thought it would be too much stimulus overload to be in the barn with the rain on the metal roof (which is very loud) with a tooth-floating drill bit making noise in his head. I hope to be able to reschedule for next week.

Did I mention that I'm having a saddle fitting on Saturday? I'm looking forward to that. I may try some Western saddles, too! I've always had a secret longing to ride in a Western saddle and what better horse to do it on than a Mustang!? My friend actually has one that she's not using right now so I may borrow that and see if it works on Mac. Then I could go crazy with a new headstall and split reins and and and and and...no, I think I'd just go with the saddle. I'd use it for trail riding and general training work until he's more steady under saddle and then move over to an English saddle once it would be appropriate for us to start some lessons in dressage and/or jumping.

I went to a local horse exhibition-kind-of-thing over the weekend and saw a trainer who works with starting young horses and I gave him a call. I would like to be sure I'm on the right track and I'd like someone who will come here and work with me and Mac to give me some pointers and homework so I have a plan of where we're going and how to achieve our goals, so that's something to look forward to also!

Did I mention it is raining? It is usually in the 80s this time of year and it is still raining and COLD!!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink

I'm hoping that I've found the source of Mac's hesitancy in the saddle. I was noodling (get it, Macaroni...noodling) about what the situation could be and I was wondering if maybe he's got a bit of a tummy ache.

Since fence-gate we put Mac in the front pasture because the repaired fence isn't 100% (Skipper is out there now and he's harmless when it comes to fence damage...probably because he can't see anything!) and we don't want to put him out there until it gets properly fixed. I think I may have mentioned this but the front pasture is haunted. I really don't know why, but the horses always seem to get freaked out over there. Maybe it is noises coming from the neighbors' house. Maybe it is critters in the bushes. Maybe it is the Indian burial ground that the run-in shed was built on. In any event, despite the yummy grass, it is a spooky place to be.

I started thinking that Mac might have a tummy ache. He has been eating his hay well but he hasn't been wandering all over the pasture like he should and I wondered if he hadn't been drinking enough water, what with the proximity of the water trough to the Indian burial ground.

I took him out for a short ride on Friday - he did the biting-at-the-leg thing when I first got on and we were walking out to the trail. We weren't turning right, we were just going straight, and I was only asking him to walk. Since I hadn't been able to determine the source of his irritation the other day when I got off and on and off and on I figured if it was muscular then a short walk in a straight line shouldn't be too much trouble. I wasn't going to ask him for anything strenuous, and he likes trail riding so I figured if he was feeling sour toward arena work then this would be a nice alternative.

When he hesitated and didn't want to go forward I gave him a tap with the whip and that pretty much stopped that behavior. We walked down the ditch, up the street to the neighbor's house (which is right above us and where there's a trail to our house that is now closed off) and then turned around and came home. During this ride when turning right I didn't get any of the biting-at-the-leg behavior so the turning right theory is out, I guess.

But what did happen is that he dragged me to the ditch, put his front feet in the water (which was scary because his front feet were a lot lower than his hind feet which were up on the ditch and I didn't know if he was going to just try to jump in so all feet would be in the water or somehow back out) and GULPED water. That led to my theory that he's not drinking enough water.

Since I was worried that he wasn't drinking enough I wanted to put him somewhere that I know isn't haunted and that the water trough is easy to get to. I put him in "the strip" pasture. The strip is where we've been piling our manure. Ok, back up. There was a small pasture next to the strip where we've been piling our manure and since I started spreading the manure pile a couple weeks ago I realized I needed more room to maneuver the tractor so I took that fence line out so now the small pasture and the strip are one. Back to the strip. I put Mac out there and he seemed very happy. Went straight to grazing and would not give me the time of day. He found the water trough and had a nice drink so I left him alone. This pasture shares a fence line with the triangle so he had Pippa for company.

That night we put him back out in the front pasture because I still had one section of fence line to take out in strip and Colin had to get in there with the tractor to move some rocks in preparation for me spreading the rest of the manure pile. This was a good chance to test my theory of not drinking enough.

Yesterday Mac got the day off from riding but I did want to groom him in the barn, work on his feet, and get him into the stall since that's where his dental work will be done on Tuesday. So, I did all that and when I got him into the stall he went straight for the water bucket and gulped it down. Ok. Took him outside to the barn pasture and led him to the water trough there and again he took a big drink of water.

So I think my theory is right in that he's just not drinking enough in the front pasture and I think that makes his tummy hurt.

I left him in the barn pasture, put Paddy in the triangle, and put Pippa back in the barn while I finished spreading the manure pile and removing the last remnants of the fence line. Mac seemed quite happy out there and walked around, grazed, ate his lunch, and watched what I was doing.

So now I have a pasture with composted manure spread out, waiting to be tilled and seeded, and a horse who is in there because he's afraid of the boogey man. At least there is some grass there in the areas where I didn't spread the manure, so there is plenty for him to eat and lots of room for him to stand in non-manure-dirt areas.



You can see Mac in the bottom left of the picture - there's lots of grass to be had still even though there's also lots of poo dirt.

He does seem to be quite happily grazing!



I'll try to get on him today for a short ride down the ditch again and see if I can notice any difference in his behavior. I'm hoping that I found what the problem was!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fence-gate

Everything that is drama has "-gate" as a suffix. "Franco-gate" is the reason we moved up here. It is silly because Watergate wasn't "Water-gate", but now any time there is a problem, it is called "something-gate."

Yesterday was "fence-gate." In other words, Mac (did you notice that? He has another new name - Dulce doesn't really roll off the tongue) got out yesterday. Got out is a rather gentle description. He crashed through the fence.

As Colin tells the story, as he was the one to witness it, Mac had popped one of the fence boards out. As Colin was fixing the fence, Mac put his head through the fence, scared himself and ended up running through the fence. Which meant that not only did Colin now have to do a bigger fence-fix than originally, but now he had to catch a loose horse. Fence-gate, indeed.

He was very calm, cool, and collected (Colin, that is), and didn't chase Mac around and so had a fairly easy time of it. Mac didn't wander too far, just up to the neighbors' and he was helping them with mowing along the way.

Mac is now in a different pasture where there is plenty of grass to keep him interested (he was trying to eat grass through the fence which is what caused this problem in the first place), and the fence is temporarily fixed. We're going to get stand-offs to put up the electric tape fence along the vinyl fence line. This is actually nothing new because the Tomato did something similar about a month ago.

I went to ride Mac today and chose to use my bitless bridle. I tacked him up with my jumping saddle, and we had a very mellow grooming session. When I got on, he wasn't so fidgety with his head and we actually started off with a very nice walk, working in a big circle in both directions and walking over some cavaletti.

We started the trot going to the left and he was much better in the bridle and better through is lateral balance - he didn't lean in so much and was very rideable. Unfortunately when we changed direction and went to the right, something was wrong. Mac put on the brakes, his head went up, ears went back, tail swished, and he turned left to bite at his shoulder/my foot. He did NOT want to move forward. I got him walking a bit and then got off to see if I could find out what the problem was. I ran my hands down the girth (it is a fuzzy girth and I thought maybe there was a burr bothering him) but didn't feel anything. I thought maybe my stirrup was hitting him in the elbow so I got back on with the thought of keeping my leg back a little bit in case it was the stirrup.

Nope. He did it again - again going right and not left. Hmmmmm....got off again and took the saddle off. I got on bareback to see if that made a difference. Same thing. So it isn't the saddle and it isn't the stirrup. I stood there and tried to palpate his shoulder and elbow to see if there was any pain. There was no huge reaction although he did seem to be a bit perturbed to have me poking around there. After a few minutes, I put the saddle back on and got on and went down the trail to see how he was outside of the arena.

We walked down the ditch and he seemed fine. Came back home and when I went to turn right around the truck, he did it again. So it isn't the saddle, it isn't the stirrup, it isn't the arena. Something about turning right is bothering him. I am hoping that it is just some mild muscle soreness after running through the fence yesterday...remnants of fence-gate.

On a good note, though, with Colin's help (and in just a couple of minutes), we got him loaded on the trailer with the butt bar up.



We let him eat some hay and alfalfa pellets while we sat on the fender and chatted for 15 minutes or so.



I'll try to longe him tomorrow to see if I can see anything when he moves. Ponies...it is always something. Sigh.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Stormy weather

Well it isn't really storming much at all, but I am ready for summer, sheesh! It is raining AGAIN . . . well, really it is a heavy sprinkle, but there is water falling from the sky such that I need to wear boots on my feet.

Colin and I were away at a show over the weekend (go Colin & Tomato - they did GREAT!!!) and so I hadn't paid attention to Dulce in a few days.

I will put the obligatory photo of Colin and the Tomato looking wonderful together:



Oh, and they won both their classes at a show last weekend:



Anyway, I digress - I do love bragging about Colin and the Tomato, but this is about Dulce and his progress so I shall continue on that topic.

Back to the rain. Oh yes, it is raining. I decided that since it wasn't RAINING that I would work with Dulce today. I got out my tack and my full chaps to keep me warm, and went to get his sweetness. We had a quick tack-up in the cross ties (which was a little fidgety since the sound of the rain on the metal roof is something new for him) and went off to the arena.

I decided to longe first to see what he remembered from our last longe lesson and it went much better this time - I could move him out more easily and control his pace a little better. He did have a little back-humping fit and I think it might have been because I didn't have my bit attachments so I had put the longe line through the closest D ring of the bit and clipped it to the outside ring. I think that maybe the pressure on his chin was bothering him? When we switched sides I clipped the longe line to only one side of the bit and he didn't have any problems. I'll have to remember my attachment next time.

I was very brave and hopped on in the wind and rain and we just walked around for a little bit and did some smaller circles. I hopped off and called it quits for the day. He was opening his mouth and seemed like he didn't like this bit so when we got back to the cross ties I put a D-ring french link snaffle on for tomorrow's ride. I'm playing phone tag with the vet for a dental appointment.

I did some more trailer loading exercises today. At first he walked right on with me, took a bite of hay, then backed off. I got back on the "work outside the trailer, rest inside the trailer" program and that seemed to work well. He continued to follow me on and *I* controlled whether or not I'd let him eat hay. He had to stand quietly for a bit before I'd let him eat, then once he started to take a mouthful, I'd quietly back him off the trailer. Then we'd trot a small circle or do walk/halt/walk transitions in hand or walk small circles, then back on the trailer for a rest and a bite of hay when I gave the go-ahead. This seemed to be a good program that I'll continue with tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Adjustments

After our last ride I thought that maybe my dressage saddle was bothering Dulce a little bit (see that? Dulce! New name! Must start using it! My friend Margie and I came to the name independent of each other and since she's a smart cookie, that should be his name!) so I spent a little time last week trying to see what other saddles I have that might be a good fit. I thought my jumping saddle would be the best option, but also kept my treeless trail saddle in the back of my mind.

For some reason today I decided to ride in the trail saddle. I do love this saddle for trail riding but haven't been a fan of it for arena work and stick to my guns on that after today. Oh, I also thought I'd try the bitless bridle because of his need for dental work. I put the bitless bridle on and he seemed to be fine with it and actually seemed like he was used to being ridden like that before. Anyway, what gave me trouble was the saddle. The stirrups are too far back (granted, they are adjustable - I should adjust them) and they are a tad long and it just feels like it puts me out of the right position. Dulce agreed, as he put his head down and gave a little hop...he hasn't acted like that before and since I wasn't feeling balanced anyway I decided to go for a tack change.

I took Dulce back to the cross ties and put my jumping saddle on with the other bridle with the Nathe bit. I grabbed the longe line and went back to the arena.

Well lo and behold, Dulce knows something about being longed. It is hard to get him started because he wants to face me so I have to hurry up and scoot toward his butt but far back enough away from him that if he acts out then he won't get me. Finally I got into position and he went out on the line and we actually longed! I thought it would take forever to get to longing! I know he's had a lot of round pen work, so maybe the body positioning is similar enough that the addition of a longe line isn't that big of a deal.

We longed in both directions at the trot and canter. Anything less than a trot and he wants to turn and come into me. We spent a little time at the halt with him standing and me facing his side in a modified longing position and trying to keep him from turning in to me. This will require some work and practice, but I know that I can get him going and give him a bit of work and I can watch him go. He's got a cute trot!

After longing him in both directions, I got on and off a few times, then back on and we had a little school in the arena. Just a little walk/halt/walk, walk/trot/walk, circles, etc. He was very good in the jump saddle and I think I will keep schooling him in this saddle for now. We finished our ride by walking down the ditch and he was very good when a deer went bounding across the trail in front of us. He walked out and back nicely, with no shenanigans.

Another day of progress. Oh, but he's scared to death of fly spray!!! Sigh.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Progress

Well the storm passed and today is another day.

Buck, Macaroni, New Guy, whatever his name shall be was in the "bachelor pad," which is part of the "big pasture," overnight and seemed to do well - I think he actually went into the scary run-in shed! Pippa, formally know as Skipper, went into "the triangle" so Buck had a neighbor as of this morning. No drama there and everyone went about their business today.

I'm giving Paddy a couple days off after the show so I thought today might be a good day to work on trailer loading with Buck. He seems like he likes me and now will willingly follow me onto the trailer without any fuss or muss! Now I need to get him onto the trailer and get myself off. Hmmmmm... I prepared ahead of time with a bucket of alfalfa pellets and off we went! Amazingly, he went on right away and let me walk off while he ate the pellets. I gently put up the butt bar and he tried to back out. ACK!!!! He couldn't get out! He didn't really panic, but was definitely worried and so I went to his head to stand there and chat with him and let him eat the pellets and realize that he wasn't going anywhere. He calmed down. This was good.

I didn't want to push it too far so I dropped the butt bar and let him out after a few minutes. Now I question whether or not I should have done this or if I should have left him there for a long while to eat and sort it out, because I could not get him back on and me back off! He will follow me willingly onto the trailer but the second I make a move to get off, he does, too. We did the "work outside the trailer, rest inside the trailer" bit and the problem isn't getting him on. It is getting him in and getting me out. I think this might be a two-man job to start just so we can work on repetition of getting on and getting the butt bar up and me not having to stand with him. I will certainly enlist Colin's help.

Anyway, we ended on a good note with him following me on and me standing there giving him scritches while he ate pellets. We may try to load him up tomorrow with Tomato to see if it will help to see another horse get on the trailer and then follow him in. If that works, we'll go on a little field trip with Colin to his lesson.

After I did my evening chores, I went out to the pasture to sit with Buck. He is so gentle. He just stood with me and sniffed my hair. I will admit that I brought a beer out with me and he seemed interested in it but when I tried to share he did not partake. I also brought my long purple coat out with me (possibly one of the best Xmas presents ever - thanks, Mom!) to sit on so my butt would not get wet. Once we were done with our little sit-in, I gathered the coat and put it up for him to check out. He was a little hesitant and backed away from it at first, but after a few seconds he let me pet him with it.

Oh, and he also let me play with his ears today, which is progress! Oh, and I also tried braiding his mane! I've seen people do these funky braids on horses with long manes - I think it is a modified french braid of sorts so I just tried what I thought was the technique and it seemed to work - and he let me do it! He has a nice neck and I'd like to be able to show it off with an easy braid. I'll try to do that again and take pictures.

So we got lots accomplished today in a short while. He really is cute and I do think he likes it here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

As the barn turns

Oh the drama!

Buckerooni does not like to be in the triangle (the name of one of our pastures) while the other horses are across the driveway so we've been putting the other horses in their stall/paddocks at night and bringing him up to the barn pasture. This worked when he first came home and everything seemed to be fine. Granted, it was raining when we first tried it so he snuggled in under a tree and rode out the storm, but all seemed to be ok with no shenanigans.

Well. Things have changed.

Buck was out there last night and I don't know what he and Paddy were doing over the fence, but they brought the fence line down (electric tape fence). Colin feeds breakfast so he fixed it, but then they did it twice more in a couple of hours. Buck had gotten himself INTO the paddock where Paddy had been and Paddy was out, running around. Then after the next time Colin fixed it, Buck was chasing Paddy around the small pasture. This was not good. Paddy was not feeling well yesterday and I don't want him to get stressed or hurt. Colin had to go out and somehow get two amped-up horses separated and bring Buck back across the driveway where he probably doesn't want to be but too effin' bad for him.

Last night I came home from a horse show and since Buck and Paddy have shared a fence line without trouble I thought they could get introduced and go in the pasture together. I put them out and it didn't seem to be a problem until I went to go and get food. Then Buck pinned his ears at Paddy and backed up and tried to double-barrel him. There was squealing and kicking and running and so I separated them right away. Clearly it is now ON and Buck wishes to take what he sees as his rightful place in the herd.

I understand that horses (like dogs) have to figure out their heirarchy and work the details out themselves. I am perplexed, though, why this seems to have come up recently because Buck seemed to be so mellow and it seemed like he got along with everyone.

We don't really turn the horses out together anyway - Tomato goes out by himself and Paddy goes out by himself - because I don't want fighting like this. I guess I naively thought that between these two easy-going guys that it would be easy and they would just get along. I suppose it is hard because if they were out in a herd, like where Buck came from, then there would be more room to run and escape (vs. getting cornered by fence lines or stalls) and surely Paddy could out-run Buck if he had to. But here they are in a more enclosed area and it would be easy for someone to run into/through a fence (knocking wood here that that doesn't happen) or get caught in a corner and get hurt. It also probably doesn't help that Buck grew up in a herd situation so this is de rigueur for him, but for Paddy it isn't.

So now they are all separated again and it is raining and Buck is standing outside because he doesn't want to go into the scary haunted house that all the horses seem to hate for some reason.

Kudos to Colin for managing the situation so well and remaining calm, I'm thankful that he was here and he handled it so well.

I must admit that I am worried now about how they'll get along in their separate-but-shared-by-a-fence pastures and of course I want them to be able to be on the horse trailer together so that we can hit the trails IF the weather ever clears up!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It's official! Well, almost...

It is (almost) official that Buck now is in our family. I'm waiting to hear from the seller to get his papers, but there's no turning back now!

Soooo....he will be getting a makeover with a mane pull (trim, I hate to pull) and fetlock trim, and visit from the vet for shots and dental!