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!