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, 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


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. 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. 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


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


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!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Riding with friends

Today's adventure centered around riding with a buddy - joining someone already in the arena, riding together, then having the buddy leave. It was a good lesson.

It is not unusual for a horse, especially a green horse, to be unnerved by riding in the arena with a buddy - the problem could be that the horse doesn't want to focus on the work and leave his buddy (or have his buddy leave him) or it could be that he freaks out by having another horse ride close to him, either coming up from behind or coming at him head on.

Colin and I have a couple shows coming up over the next couple of weekends and Colin needed to practice his dressage test. I offered to be his eyes on the ground, or eye from horseback, if you will, to give him feedback on his test. I watered and dragged the arena while Colin tacked up the Tomato and then he got started with his warm-up while I tacked up Buck. I brought Buck down to the arena and got on. He was pretty much unimpressed that another horse was riding in the arena where, up until now, we've always been alone. As our steering isn't great, we meandered around and tried to stay out of Colin's way. Colin practiced his test and while he took a break we trotted around the arena a few times, changing rein across the diagonal. When we were done we parked ourselves along the rail while Colin practiced his second test. Buck really couldn't have cared less and we just stood there and watched Colin go through the paces. Great - check the box for that not being a problem!

We decided to go down the irrigation ditch again and this time we had to side step all the brush that the irrigation district workers cut down and graciously left there for us to clean up (big eye roll here). Buck and I walked behind the Tomato, on the buckle, just moseying along. Trail riding really is his thing and I do hope to get him out a lot this summer!

We went back to the trailer and untacked the horses and Colin took the Tomato to be turned out and Buck and I stayed at the trailer to finish up grooming and check different saddles for fit. He was a little antsy at first when Tomato left, but then he settled and it was fine.

I do think that the saddle that I've been using (my other dressage saddle) is too narrow for him so I was trying other saddles on to see what might be better. While he was very forward the first couple times I rode him he is now a bit hesitant so I'm going to start with the obvious (keeping in mind, of course that I DO need to have his teeth done!). It looks like my jumping saddle may be a better fit and if not that then I'll just work in my treeless trail saddle, which he seemed to like ok when I rode him in it before.

Oh, and I de-wormed him today which he didn't think was very funny, but he was a good sport.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lawnmowers, poles, and lunge whips, oh my!

After working my behind off this weekend re-doing a bunch of fencing lines, riding two horses both days, moving/spreading the manure pile (not to mention getting the tractor stuck in the manure!), I just didn't have the energy to ride today. I thought it would be good to do some ground work, though, so ground work we did.

When I rode Paddy yesterday I had set up some cavaletti poles in the arena to walk, trot, and canter over. I left the exercise set up and decided I would work with buck over the poles to introduce him to another level of work that he'll be doing eventually (as a precursor to jumping).

At the same time, Colin decided he wanted to mow the lawn and asked if he should wait until later so that he wouldn't disturb Buck. No need - Buck needs to get used to busy-ness and loud motorized noises and working with distractions. So off Colin went to mow and I groomed Buck and put the bridle on.

We walked up the high road and he stopped to listen to the lawn mower (he couldn't see it because Colin was in the back yard) but didn't really make a big deal out of it. We continued up the path toward the arena where the mower was now louder and visible. No big deal, though.

In the arena I worked with Buck at the walk, leading him over the poles. There were two single poles set up perpendicular to the rail, one on each long side, and three poles in a row, set at a walk stride, perpendicular to the short side. Well jeepers, that must have been the most boring thing in the world to him because he didn't give a rodent's patootie about walking over the poles.

I thought I might try to introduce Buck to lunging today, since it is something he needs to learn. Lunging is a useful tool for many reasons - it is frequently used as a diagnostic tool to watch the horse move during a veterinary exam, it can be used to introduce a horse to contact with the bridle, and some people use it as a way to get rid of excess energy the horse may have before riding. I had prepared ahead of time for this by having him bridled with the lunge line attached to the bit. I keep a lunge whip by the arena gate and brought it out to introduce it to Buck. First I showed it to him then I gently touched him all over his body with it, running it down his neck and back, tickling his belly with it, and running it down his legs. Again, he just didn't care.

We then walked on and I dragged it behind me so he could get used to the sight and sound of it following me on the ground. He didn't bat an eye. The one thing that will be difficult will be getting him to move out away from me with me facing his side. When I stepped back to try to get in the center of what could have been a small circle, he turned to face me. So I've got to teach him to stand so that I can face his side and he will move forward, not move to face me. I didn't have a lot of time and didn't want to push the issue so my next focus was to walk him on the lunge line but have more distance between us with him moving forward more to keep an even pace with me. That seemed to work well and after two circles we finished for the day. I ran the lunge whip over him again, gave him some carrot and we went back to the trailer.

He continues to be a bit fussy with his right ear so I'll keep working on positive reinforcement with him letting me touch it and move it, but I'm sure he'll come around.

When we were done Colin was mowing the front hillside and Buck and I just stopped to watch him. We were fairly close (20 feet or so) but Buck didn't care. He seems to be getting more mellow about things . . . not that he was every overly excited, but I have sensed some tension at times.

We'll see if I have time to ride tomorrow!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Slow and steady wins the race

Some could accuse me of going too slowly with my horses and they would probably be right. I like to make sure that the basics are really solid before moving on to the next thing, whatever that may be. I suppose that's why I haven't progressed too far up the levels in my riding career, sigh.

I do think this is important, though, when working with Buck. I want him to have a really solid foundation and trust in me (and me in him!) before we go too far in our adventures. Surely I could stuff him in the trailer, take him to the local park where I mostly go trail riding, and hop on and off we go. But I want him to listen to me in all aspects - go, whoa, turn, wait, change gait, etc. Things that sound so simple, and in one respect are, but if the shit hits the fan, he's got to know to trust in and listen to me. So we take baby steps.

Today we progressed to him being in the cross ties and me walking away. At first he wanted to follow me but I worked with him so that I could go farther and farther away with him just standing there. That was a good lesson to learn. We also worked on me handling his ears, as he doesn't like one of them to be touched.

We went for a ride in the arena and again worked at the walk and trot. It is very windy here today and there's a tarp covering some farm equipment in an area that he can see from the arena. With the wind the tarp was blowing around and he did look at it but didn't spook or act scared. This is the kind of reaction that I'm hoping my baby steps will develop - looking is ok, running in the other direction is not.

We worked at the walk and trot on light contact, doing transitions and figure eights and transitions through the figure eights. Again he was better than the last time and so we called it quits after about 25 minutes. I opened the gate from his back (better this time but he still wants to go right through it, which I can't fault him for, as if we were on the trail we'd open and go straight through - this is just a different rule for a different situation) and we went on a short trail ride down our irrigation ditch.

Today was the first day that I've taken him down the ditch. There were lots of rocks to look at and scenery of a neighbor's pasture, the sound of people in their yards, and of course the wind! There was a point on the trail where he wanted to stop so I gave him a little tap with the dressage whip (which he did not care for - I got a tail swish for that) and he marched right along. Lo and behold what he balked at was some sort of skeleton on the trail! I was not actually looking down to see what caught his eye until we were practically on top of it. It looked like mostly ribcage was left and I couldn't make out what it might have been. It could have been a small deer, which would be the most likely animal. Wonder what got it?

I do notice that Buck is a little more alert than the other horses - I think it probably comes with the territory for a mustang (which is what I've heard as well). His survival in the wild would depend on his ability to pay attention to everything going on around him.

We finished our training session with more trailer work. He will now easily follow me on with no hesitation. Today after he followed me on I put the chest bar up (it is removable in my trailer) and hooked his halter up. Then I'd unhook him and ask him to back and I'd slide under the chest bar to go out with him. Then we went on a couple more times with me ducking under the chest bar after leading him in, then hooking him up, and we'd just stand there. So far so good. Now I need to build on that further to get him to stand hooked up without me being right there. Baby steps.

I may ask Colin if he can take a couple pictures of us riding over the next few days so I can see what we look like!

Oh, while walking back to the house from the ditch I saw our fierce little hunter, Monkey Beans, hiding in the bushes.