Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Think Pink

Okay, OT for a moment. You need to RUSH over here and donate for this raffle. And when you win, you have to PROMISE to let me spend the night in it one time...

For a good good cause and very adorable too.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Scrapparoo!


I just checked out Viva Volte (still love that horsey kid pix by the way) and found out that I was scrapped! So here it goes, 10 things, leftovers suitable for quilting. (this image is from the Wisconsin Quilt Museum, btw)


1. A dark navy square with a scattering of white dots: I used to work in this planetarium in college, the very same year the Challenger blew up. I remember walking in and seeing the explosion on the large television our director had set up. I went to my knees in the foyer.

2. A pale peach square with fine lines criss crossing: I took up counted cross stitch to teach myself patience. I'm very picky about my cross stitch, and the back looks as neat as the front. My grandmother, who knits, crochets and sews, compliments my work in front of my cousins all the time, resulting in me feeling like the favored one. She does that with everyone! lol

3. Crushed red velvet square: I got a new car and I love it way too much. It's red and it's a used luxury car and I can't bring myself to say what kind it is because it's too pretentious for me. But I love it.

4. A brown square with little lines of red: I had so many scrapes and bruises as a kid my mother kept me in high socks and just prayed stockings would cover the scars when I grew up. And now stockings are out of fashion. Go figure.

5. A deep purple satin with a faint paisley pattern: I was the queen of the elves when I did improv in Chicago for Dungeon Master. It's a long story.

6. A fuzzy black terry cloth square: I hate wearing hats. I'm okay about helmets, but I really hate hats. Unless I haven't dyed my hair in a month in which case I'm in a hat.

7. A green cotton square with brown lines: I grew up on a cotton farm and still have an unhealthy fascination with large tractor tires.

8. A thin white polyester blend: I'm not much of a cook. My house has a kitchen because it's required by code.

9. A faded square of denim: When I'm queen, every day will be jean day.

10. A fuzzy, threadbare square of yellow: When I was a baby, I slept with a stuffed yellow horse. I still miss him.

Okay, now it's your turn:
Melanie!
CKirkland!
Laughing Orca - Lisa (who has some time on her hands... :( )
Mikey the Horseshoeing wife

Come on girlfriends, scrap it up!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Land

we've been threatening. now we may have found it...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I missed it!


I can't believe I missed these antlers! Boy is this on my list for next year (poor Canyon).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Why do horses roll?


My Christmas gift has been glorious weather and hours to go riding. With the intensity of the season over and just a few final sweepings on my list, I've indulged. The things we've forgotten are huge. I had to start all over with the "drop head" bit. This is where you pull on the reins with a steady pressure and reward the tiniest drop of head.

I got out of the habit of doing this and it showed today. We stood there, facing the setting sun, Canyon bracing against his halter, me bracing against the saddle, reins taut. Around us horses were going through their paces, trotting, cantering. Dust rising from the arena, we've been without rain for so long everything seems to have a layer of dust.

Including our manuevers, apparently.

I'm waiting for the slightest give, which seems to come after a few hours. Of course it wasn't hours, but it was a very long time, minutes at the least.

By the end of our session he was dropping his head like an old man with narcolpsy.

We rode in circles, canter, trot, walk, trot. Basics. Side passes were elusive, although there were two. By the end of it all, I had one sweaty horse.

So, given that it was warm, I opted for a bath. (Next time I'm trying this instead) I use the one pictured above. Spray on foam. Rinse off foam. Spray on foam and leave it on.

Unfortunately I did't have the time to hang out until he dried out. So out we go to the pasture, stall by the water (where he proved the old adage, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink even though he was pestering you for the hose earlier, but since it had soap you couldn't give him any...), stroll him toward the hay which he IGNORES (even though he was loathe to leave it two hours earlier) and he walks with me until I "mentally release him" if you know what I mean. Then he spots a nice patch of dirt.

He circles this bare patch of ground, testing it with his clean hoof. He drops it his head low, ensuring that yes, this is that spot, doing a darn impressive dog imitation, then drops gently to his knees and proceeds to do a full body roll.

No, one side just won't do in these situations. After all he was GLEAMING. You gotta get that shine off all sides of the hide...

He rubbed into the dirt so hard I thought he was going to dig a hole and I'd find him later, hooves in the air, completely stuck.

The only thing left even slightly clean were his knees. Odd little white spots on a completely mud covered equine.

Is it so awful to be clean? Why do horses prefer being covered in mud?

I read here that a rolling horse is a healthy horse. Rolling can correct back problems, soothe muscles, keep flies away (did he not note the FLY SPRAY?).

Ah well. Next time I'll carry my camera for a before and after. At least I know he's clean under all that mud.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tornados and minis

Just in time for the holidays! this is just a bit of fiction I'm testing out and if it works I'm tossing it on itunes as a free download... I've got cute pix my daughter did to go along with it that'll be adding in... somehow. Give it a listen and give me your feedback. I think the music is too much, so I'd love some opinions. :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Patience, discipline and a side pass

(Canyon, giving me his "are you nuts?" look)

Over the weekend the temperature hads dropped and the clouds dropped their long skirts to the ground, a thin flowing fog blurring the world as far as you could see - which wasn't very far.

I went out to the stables early in the morning on Sunday to meet some folks to ride, and, as so often happens, was on my own. It was in the low 30s and windy, so I suspected they would bail. But I had a kitchen pass from my Cling-ons and wasn't about to miss an hour of my very own.

I saddled up Canyon and could tell immediately that he was crabby. That's unusual, he is not particularly crabby in general. He shifted his feet when I was checking them, dancing away twice. I moved him around a few times and he settled.

I decided to start out riding in the round pen since we've had so little time together. A few minutes into it, it was clear his attitude was lousy. Head tossing. Breaking into a canter. Trotting in the bumpiest way ever. Really out of character, even with time off. Then, about ten minutes later I found out why.

The owners of the stables had been out late at a company party and understandably hadn't feed yet. They are real morning folks and usually feed when it's just getting to be daylight. Since it was about 9, Canyon thought I was there to feed him, and I thought he was already fed.

We need a sign on horses like you have for the dishwasher. Fed or not fed.

Unfortunately they came out to feed as I was having my tough time with him. I realized then that this was why he was being such a pill. But I also knew I couldn't give in to his attitude, although I was sympathetic, especially since he could see EVERYONE ELSE WAS GOING TO EAT. I'd be irritated too.

So I went back to basics to get him to pay attention. I jumped off and did a ground work session as they went around and fed. Then we did some saddle work. Then we rode away past the eating horses, through gate of the property into a small open area, beyond a barrier he's usually uncomfortable with and that usually requires a spin or two to get past. (I rarely ride him out alone, but have made that my new goal - a little further every day. We're making slow progress and he actually did very well)

Anyway, I felt like I had to make a point, that whether it was feeding time, windy, cold or just one of those days, I was still in charge.

So we went over to a fence line and, after working on a few figure eights around some trees, I tried getting him to side pass.

And he did it.

Okay, it was ugly and he'd only do it on one side but it was a SIDE PASS!

So back to the barn we went, going through our gaits the whole way, and he was an angel. When we got back I quickly untacked and sent him off to breakfast.

Later Sharon remarked how well he's doing. "I couldn't believe you were out here with him on such a windy day!" she said, well aware of my panic boy's antics.

I felt like I pushed past something Sunday, that by making him do my bidding (as minor as it was) when he REALLY DIDN'T WANT TO, that I created (by accident) a big learning moment.

If nothing else, I got my first side pass. I'll take it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dremel tools. The ultimate flossing machine

Well, I may not have time to ride, but it was definitely time to go get Canyon's annual work up. One year ago I nervously hauled a horse for the first time over to the vet for a pre purchase exam. He was put through his paces and given a clean bill of health. I got an up to date coggins and we were off.

Now here we are, a year later and it's time for teeth floating and every shot possible. I borrowed Rudy's trailer (thanks Rudy!) since my usual rental place was booked and I drove that same path I took a year ago. It was a beautiful day, temps in the 70s, the days of fog finally lifted although the roads were still a little slick.

But I wasn't worried. I've hauled dozens of times now.

I can't believe how much has changed in the span of one year. I knew nothing about what I was doing, but had no idea how ignorant I was. It was probably a little dangerous for me to even contemplate owning a horse.

But ignorance is bliss, and I was blissed to the max.

I can tick off the things I've learned:
  1. Not every horse has the temperment to carry unbalanced riders
  2. Cinch slowly in phases
  3. a light trail saddle is particularly beautiful - more so than the fancy silver accented saddle - because I can swing it up without looking like a five year old trying to lift her mom.
  4. There is such a thing as too much tack.(But I'm not there yet.)
  5. If you aren't getting licking, chewing and a dropped head, you aren't there yet. Even when your horse tries to tell you you are.
  6. Your horse needs to be convinced you are up to the task of lead mare. Every day. Don't be a wimp.
  7. An inch becomes 15 miles in a horse. Let your horse move to the left before you ask them to is not a "special connection." It's a test of dominanc you have to pass. Again and again.
  8. Horses have the ability to go physically from point A to point M without going thru points B thru L. Quantum power, baby.
  9. There is nothing better than leaning on your horse and having him "hug" you.
  10. Walking a horse - or leading, as we experienced horse people call it - is more fun than I imagined, especially when you have a horse with good ground manners.
To celebrate our horsieversary, here's a slide show of Canyon's teeth floating session. Power tools and horse teeth. I never knew.




video

Monday, December 15, 2008

Horse dreams

I call it horse dreams because I can only dream of riding these days. After being sick for two weeks I'm so behind on the holidays that a veil of terror has descended. I've focused this weekend on getting caught up as much as possible. Horse time is curtailed severely.

I did visit Canyon on Friday and noted how his bite is healing.

Here's the bite.


Now look at this face. Who could bite a horse with that face?




Apparently a sorrel gelding.

There's a gelding at the stables that has become crabby. His owner, a young girl with learning challenges, has been gone for what seems like months. She comes over once in a blue moon, and as a result her horse, Beautiful, has become more difficult. He's learned to buck and be stubborn in the arena. So his owner is now even less motivated to ride. It's become a vicious cycle.

I've noticed that horses who are turned out at the stables and ridden very little seem to develop a terrible attitude in the pasture over a few months. It's almost as if they revert, or get bored and angry. Doesn't happen with every one, but it happens a lot.

I saw this happen with a mare out there. She was a tough mare and was very unfriendly when I met her. But when she lived elsewhere she was fine, reportedly. Dominant, but not obnoxious. The difference?

At her previous home she was ridden nearly every day. At her new home she got very little attention. She turned into a kicker and was becoming a danger to other horses. It was like she hated everybody - including other members of the herd.

Then someone came out and leased her for a while. She went from being a monster to being much, much better. Here was a horse that would bite at anybody that got in range suddenly became a horse that you could pet and safely walk around. Her head would lower, her eyes were soft. She was still dominant, but not dangerous.

It was as if she needed a dominant owner so she could relax and not be in charge. I've seen this in dogs, but never thought it applied to horses.

Unfortunately the woman who was leasing her had to leave and the beautiful mare with reining training went back to her old ways. In a few months she went to the auction. She went for a decent amount, so she probably has a good safe home.

At least I hope so.



Canyon has his wooly coat on. He's never been blanketed, and he certainly looks warm.

I miss him. Maybe I'll sneak over there for a ride tomorrow...

There's something about horse whiskers. Lately it's my favorite thing.



I'm weird, I know.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My first. My VERY first...

Look! Look what I got from Melanie!!!

My first Award!!!

Okay, you know you ALWAYS remember your first.

I'm so excited I'm going to print this out and tape it on my writing wall. Right next to the drawing my daughter gave me that features a horse, our family and a flying ... something.

Thanks Melanie! I'll cherish this forever. :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

I'm Baaaack

Holy cow, what the heck was THAT?

I had a cough that was so bad, I pulled a muscle in my back. Parts of my left lung are lying around here somewhere and my daughters have become so immune to the sound of hacking they'd feel right at home in a TB ward. And I am really, really sick of cough drops. That's all I ate for three days and I slept with one in my mouth - can you say choking hazard?

They finally gave me something to turn off the cough center in my brain when the delightful mucinex, aka the pflegm flavored horse pill, didn't work worth a darn. I didn't even know I had a cough center. Is that like a Christmas store, only open for a few months out of the year?  Turning it off artificially sounds kind of scary, but better than getting 15 minutes of sleep between coughing.

I still have some residue cough, but I'm so much better I consider myself largely healed. Exhausted, but vertical for most of the day today! Woo hoo!

During a brief respite in my two week coughing adventure, I went for a ride in the arena. It was last Sunday and the winds had kicked up as some artic blast wandered down to Texas (eventually dumping SNOW in Austin and the Hill Country by Monday).

Windy days are a little iffy for riding in the arena because of the barrels.

We have these vinyl barrels at the stables. Vinyl horse eating barrels. Apparently the horse eating aspect of these evil barrels is activated by high winds. *sigh*

I've spent a good number of days taking Canyon around these barrels in every possible position. Standing up barrels, leaning over barrels, crumpled on the ground barrels (he hates those). But the last time he bucked in the arena was when a wind came through and drastically altered the shape of the barrel just as we were circling it. Canyon bolted to preserve himself from the deadly barrel, I attempted to slow him down by pulling on the reins and he bucked in a panic.

Anyway, that was before our bucking school. I've gotten better at handling these situations - when he's in a panic I make sure to do something different rather than pull on the reins.

So there I am on a windy day on Sunday, riding in a bareback pad because I wasn't feeling so hot and didn't want to tack all the way up. I was only going to ride for 20 minutes. We were working on transitions, then circled a barrel when...

WOOOOOSSSSHHHHH

You know how they say a horse has reactions 5 times faster than we do?

They are not exaggerating.

In the exact instant the wind activated the horse eating barrel Canyon did the fastest side pass ever. Pretty impressive since I can't get him to side pass at all. It was  a quantum side pass - one moment we were in one spot, the next instant we were five feet to the right - without ever moving those five feet in between.

Well that's how it felt anyway. LOL

I would have thought I'd have been on the ground, especially since I was only on a bareback pad, but apparently I've developed a better seat than I realized, or my guardian horse angel was working overtime.

But Canyon didn't run. He basically spooked nearly in place. Well, it qualified as in place for my panic prone boy.

He stood there waiting for further instructions, a little concerned, but calm enough to listen.

And most importantly, THE BARREL DID NOT EAT HIM.

I swear we are making progress. It feels like progress anyway...

Tonight was the first time I'd been back to see Canyon since. We had fun, but it's late and I need to crash. So I'll write more tomorrow.

I took a few pictures today, here's two of the beautiful  moon tonight...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sick Mommy.

This is a cross post from my momma blog:

Sick mommy.

I'm sick. There are a lot of funny things about being sick.

(notice how my dogs still look up to me even though, as pack leader, I am infirm. It the wild they'd tear my throat out and take over the pack. Good thing we aren't in the wild.)

1. The doctor asks you if you've been around any sick people. I mean who is SHE to talk.

2. My congestion skips my sinus cavities altogether and heads right into my chest. So who's hogging up my sinus cavities? Sure I can breathe, but only when I'm not coughing myself blue...

3. Mucinex tastes like the stuff you cough up. Is that on purpose?

4. You learn things you never knew. Like your dogs like to eat pop corn (video below). I guess it's not surprising. They eat cat poo too.

5. I went to the grocery store to get my medicine and I was coughing up a lung. Then I placed my hands on the handle of the cart. Then I was mortified that I had just contaminated the handle and quickly wiped it down with a tissue. Then I coughed in the tissue, because, hey I'm ALREADY sick. Then I grabbed the handle of the cart with my tissue in my hand. You can't win in these situations. Healthy people - wear disposable gloves until April.

6. The internet allows me to be around people without getting them ill. Which is killing my whole "misery loves company" thing.

7. Mom's taking care of the kids. Otherwise they'd be right here, fighting me for the computer, falling off the trampoline or requiring me to run around the kitchen until I collapse. It's a vacation, in a way, without the ability to actually enjoy it...


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Six things you don't know about me


There's a meme making the rounds (I got this from Horsefeathers) so I decided to jump in... This is my first go.

1. Before last year I hadn't been on a horse in 28 years other than a few random trail rides. I didn't even know how to cinch a saddle because my grandfather always did that for me.

2. I'm more interested in personality than breed. I find horses to be a little like dogs. If you get a chance to be around them you can discover rather quickly if you are going to connect or not.

3. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do on my horse was RUN. Now I'm constantly trying not to run. LOL

4. I have ruined one pair of really nice boots my Aunt gave me because I never oiled them. I have learned my lesson. Buy cheap used boots on Ebay.

5. The only shopping I enjoy is related to tack. But I have everything. But I still want to buy something. Yet I'm a minimalist - I don't like all those girths, fancy chest collars, decked out headstalls. I would never win one of those shows because I'm just not flashy.

6. I can't post. Not at all. But I can sit a trot. Isn't that weird?

Okay, let me know if you've done your six and I'll post all the links! Also I had an idea for a giveaway which I'm going to do next week. And since I'm such a newbie, your chance of winning is HUGE! :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Side Saddles and voting.


I recently read about the connection between women riding horses "straddle" and the sufferage movement.

I don't know about you, but I take for granted that women can vote. But when I read this article (written by by CuChullaine O'Reilly FRGS, of the Long Riders' Guild Academic Foundation), it set me back on my heels. Women were literally beaten in the streets for calling for the right to vote. Some were sentenced to insane asylums (although men were not crazy for wanting to vote. Somebody help me figure that one out).

What really piqued my interest was how it coincided with women no longer being willing to ride in the insanely dangerous side saddle style. (photo is Queen Victoria's side saddle from this site)

Consider this:

[riding sidesaddle] also handicapped the rider in another way, communications, as unlike male riders a sidesaddle rider could not apply the pressure of her leg to the right side of the horse, nor give her mount any signals with her thighs, knees, or heels.

Even worse, she could not drop her hands in order to turn or stop a runaway horse.

Sadly, if she was involved in an accident, a girl was more likely to suffer serious injuries in a sidesaddle. (most accidents ended up with a broken back, because the women would fall under the horse)
Not to mention the tremendous pain to the horse who had to carry a woman on one side. Can you imagine how the chiropractic issues from that???

The irony was that women had been riding astride for centuries (if not longer) before someone decided they needed to o protect... well, let's just say the purity of the young ladies riding around to their eager bride grooms. Then it became a fad.

Times changed, though. In the late 1800s more and more women rode astride, and by the early 1900s women ultimate endurance riders (called long riders) were crossing the country astride. Alberta Clare made the connection between the right to vote and the right to control your horse:

In 1912 this diminutive pistol-packing Long Rider made an 8000 mile solo equestrian journey across America that took her from Wyoming to Oregon, south to California, across the deserts of Arizona, and on to a triumphant arrival in New York City. Throughout the course of her long journey, Clare publicly stated that she associated her desire to vote with her right to ride astride. Upon her arrival in New York, Alberta was greeted by Teddy Roosevelt, who praised Clare's courage and urged that women be granted the right to vote.

We voted a few weeks ago, most of us never gave a thought to Clare, or Inez Milholland (pictured here, who led 10,000 marchers through New York on her charger Gray Dawn, died young fighting for the right to vote), or the hundreds of other women who fought, rode, and did not give up until they had won the right for women to be able to touch a screen and have their opinion, their vote, count.

Wouldn't they be proud of us voting, riding, and standing up for our families and communities?

I like to think so.

For real fun read about Two Gun Nan here. At 31 she rode across the country, covering nearly 4500 miles in 180 days on her bay mare, Lady Ellen. Twice she had to shoot her way through town.

I tell you, I'm going to make a kids book about that woman. Who's with me? Yee haw!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Scary Garbage Can

We went out for a ride today. But before we could get to the ride part, Rudy had to empty out his saddle bag in the trash can behind Canyon.

Now we've dumped things in the trashcan before. I'm always tossing his hair in there and he does just fine. But this time there was a little cascading sound (which I'm sure could have been the sound a lion makes just before it eats horses) and Canyon pulled back, snapped the little cheap temporary carabiner and stood back about three feet.

It's been a long time since he pulled back.

Woody was calm, I remained calm, Rudy remained calm. Canyon stood there, a little worried, but calmed down. I put his bridle on since I don't have anything to hook his rope to without that little carabiner.

Rudy pointed out that this was an indication that this spookiness is just his personality. That it's not something that I can change. After all Woody didn't react at all.

I probably can't change this part of his nature. But I can't get past the idea that I CAN do something.

We talked on the ride about how some people naturally over react. How they can't get their emotions under control even in the most minor of circumstances.

I've lived with people like that. And it's true, it's their nature. But given tools, those people, particularly the ones who don't avoid everything that bothers them, come down from a level 9 freak out to a 6 or 7.

Would I rather have a horse with no freak out? Sure. In fact, if I had more than one horse to ride, I'd probably not ride him much. And that would be terrible. Because this experience has made me a better rider. I have to be precise in my communication with Canyon because he is so sensitive. I have to pay attention to his emotional state because when it is changing I need to be on it immediately.

Sure, I could have an easier horse.

But I don't. I have a horse that requires more of me.

Some folks have a different name for this kind of horse. I believe it's "Alpo."

I just call him my crazy boy. I always went for the crazy boys. The ones that fell outside the norm, the sensitive poets, the dreamers, the ones not on the team but wandering off by themselves.

Why should it be different now? Because I'm older and know better?

Apparently not.

(the sunset above was on Thanksgiving as I went to the stable to deliver a few holiday carrots.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why Horses?


I posted this in a comment area on Our First Horse and thought I'd share it here.


Why horses?

I wonder this often, particularly when I'm pressed for time and can't get everything done.

Then, I'm with my horse.

Everything falls away. I'm in a spiritual rhythm with some part of me that is more ancient, more real than almost anything else.

There are no long term plans in this circle with my horse. There is here and now. He looks at me, waiting. I ask him to turn and he does. He reaches out and I meet him. I lean on him and take in the smell of a horse's world: grass, dust, mud, and of course, fly spray.

And I laugh.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Round pen video

I decided to take a video of some of my round pen work with Canyon. Any and all observations are welcome.

Here are my caveats:
  1. he had just ate so I chose not to canter him.
  2. we are new to this "turn your back and have him approach" thing during round penning (which is how Marvin Walker describes it). So I cut him some slack and turned to call him in.
  3. he's never good at coming up to me. He won't leave, he'll drop his head, but he stands there the first time. suggestions?
  4. I'm working on keeping my balance at the trot. I'm sure that's obvious.

Okay, enough excuses. check it out...

Horse whisperers in history

In my geeky internet way I've been hunting down a few old time horse whisperers. I started doing this because I keep coming across sites that sell - for anywhere from $30 to $130 - copies of old, expired copyrighted works, claiming to have secured the rights.

I find that irritating.

First of all, they didn't write it and you can't acquire rights to works in the public domain. Some claim to have come across this dusty volume in antique stores. Whatever. Bottom line is that this work is available for free, at least some of it. As a public service to those who don't have quite the level of inner geek I've been cursed with, here are some links:

First from the book The Horse Whisperer we've got John Solomon Rarey, the original guy who lay down horses:
There was a man from Groveport, Ohio called John Solomon Rarey, who tamed his first horse at the age of twelve. Word of his gift spread and in 1858 he was summoned to Windsor Castle in England to calm a horse of Queen Victoria. The queen and her entourage watched astonished as Rarey put his hands on the animal and laid it down on the ground before them. Then he lay down beside it and rested his head on its hooves.

At this link you can page through his entire book online. Or I've got it as a pdf too, just email me and I'll send it to you. For FREE.

Then there's Professor Jesse Beery, which is available on a CD from a historical preservation site for $21. You can buy it for much more here. Here's some info from historical preservation.com

Prof. Jesse Beery self-published a Mail Course, an Eight part series in the Instruction of Horsemanship.

Born in 1861 in Pleasant Hill, Ohio, Jesse assisted his father on the family farm, paying special attention to the animals. He had a special gift with horses and developed methods for training and controlling horses. Starting in 1889 at the age of 28 years old (also the same year he got married), Jesse Beery traveled all over teaching others these methods. After his father died in 1905, Jesse returned to the family farm in Pleasant Hill, Ohio and established his School of Correspondence in Horsemanship.

Here's the hype from the other site.
"They LAUGHED At This 100 Year Old
Horse Training Course
- But When They Saw The Results....!"
...they understood they could successfully train their horses
to stop
dozens of bad habits and take complete control,
enjoy riding and working safely with their horses,
without fear or embarrassment.
Time-Proven By
Tens Of Thousands:
The Most Successful Horse Training
Instruction Course In History


Yes. And you can get it for $21 instead of $67. Anyway, I'm going to order the CD for my collection. Once I get it, I'll make it available for free.

I don't begrudge folks making a living by training horses. But this is reselling yesterday's newspapers. Of course for all I know they've added all kinds of new stuff (like color pictures!) and I'm barking up the wrong tree. But I'm not buying one to find out...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Spook. Spook. Spook. AAAAAAAAhhhhhh!

I think a lot about spooking. I've been working on two methods to deal with it. Now I'm looking at two other methods. Despooking Walker style and Lying down a horse.

I'm relunctant scared to try lying down a horse because I think it might be something only an experienced trainer should do. Lord knows I don't need to traumatize my horse - and me - any more than we already are. LOL

So I'm going Walker style first. I just ordered a video from Marv Walker. I tend to have a very cynical approach to all these videos, since I've discovered most of them don't really give you any information you don't already know from the 500 magazines and books and internet articles. But Walker's are inexpensive and his writing on his website has been on target with everything I've experienced. If only he worked in Texas!

So I'll give it a shot. Here's what he says about despooking(my comments in parenthesis):

There is the desensitizing method where you expose the horse to the spooker until it ignores it. (this is what I've done with Canyon) The horse gets so saturated with the spook that it fails to react to it. (true. there isn't a pink hula skirt in the world that will get a rise out of MY horse.) You put the horse and the spook together and leave them alone. The horse will become used to the spooker and life will go on.
Then there is the sniffer method. (this is what we are doing now) In the sniffer method you concentrate on getting the horse to move up to the item to the point where it can examine it and assure itself that the spook is not out to devour every horse that stumbles across it.
Both of these methods are a hassle.(well, not so much, but yeah, they get to be in trail situations)
If you succeed in the first method you are good to go until the horse comes across something else that spooks it and then you have to go through the whole process again.(Exactly. I don't have a ton of rusty farm equipment or odd shaped trunks of trees around here)
If you survive the second method, since horses really resent being made to approach and sniff spooks, you are teaching the horse to stop and approach everything of concern to it. Every new thing brings what you doing to a skidding halt while you and your horse examine it.(And it doesn't really deal with the whole initial spook thing.)

 He goes on to describe that you make everything that spooks your fault and therefore the horse waits to see if you are going to freak out.  I am getting tired of everything being my fault, but maybe in this case it can work in my favor...

Anyway, it's worth a shot.

Canyon is a wooly bear, the cold snaps have brought out his fuzzy side. I remember stripping off this winter coat in March, piles and piles of hair flotaing around the barn yard like cottonwood seedlings.  I'll get some pictures today... In 30 days it'll be a year since I bought Canyon. Our horseyversary.

First year is paper, right? Hmmm. I'm thinking an oragami horse. How hard can it be?

Maybe I'll stick with a carrot.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Circles in the Field

My issue with Canyon comes down to extending his trust in me as a leader. So today, quite by accident, I did something that impacted that issue.

I can work Canyon in the round pen and he does fantastic. Licks, chews, one ear on me... all good.  But I still can't ride him out alone. He is so freaked out that I know he's thinking about lions and not giving to me as a leader. He trusts me, will take leadership, but only so far.

So today we took him for a walk to the back area of the land at the stables. It's really pretty out there, but it's out of sight of the stables and the horses consider it "off road." I was leading him with the kids on him and as we got further around the bend he started to come apart. I took the kids off and they went to play while I worked with him.

I had my new long lead rope and lunged him in the pasture. Initially he was just trotting with his head high, ears to the front, so paranoid you could have sworn there were crocodiles everywhere. I kept turning him, slowly getting more and more of his attention. by the end I could feel his energy change and he came down from his fear place - not all the way, but part of the way. The kids were getting done with all of this, so I couldn't quite go for another 30 minutes, which is probably what it would have  taken. But he was consistently responding to my verbal commands, turning his ear toward me for more of the time and acting much more respectful.

This, I realize, is what I need to do. Establish leadership away from our routine.

I think. I'm going to ask on one of my list serves and get some opinions...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Madeline Pickens rescues wild horses

wow.  Read about it here.

Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, made known her intentions to adopt not just the doomed wild horses but most or all of the 30,000 horses and burros kept in federal holding pens. Lifelong animal lovers, the Pickenses just a few years ago led the fight to close the last horse slaughterhouse in the United States.
Madeleine Pickens is looking for land in the West that would be an appropriate home for the horses.

Think she can get the 19 million acres back too?  Madeleine Pickens is my new cowgirl hero. Couldn't find her email anywhere, but I bet if you send your thanks here, it'll get to her: press@pickensplan.com

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Near gear


It's beautiful. Those folks at Black Pond have exceeded my expectations with their lead rope, reins and halter. Here's a picture of the riding halter which you can clip your reins into.

I'll post more tomorrow, I forgot my camera and these are from my phone. The reins are like buttah... I'm just waiting for one little rope they left off. Fantastic detailing and craftsmanship at Black Pond. Glad I spent more time shopping around so I could get the color combos I wanted. I like black on Canyon because he has those black touches on his ears and in his mane...

Thanks to my big sister who bought them for me as a birthday gift. I'd say you shouldn't have, but it wouldn't be sincere. You'd read right through it.

Of course I had to try riding Canyon without a bit in - only his riding halter. He did very well in the arena, where we are working on gaits and transitions. Then we went out on a brief trail ride with Rudy and Canyon did fairly well only in his riding halter, particularly when I noticed that I was nervous. When I got all zen-ish, he calmed down. It was very windy and he still did great other than obsessively checking the pasture for dreaded Texas hill country horse eating crocodiles.

Sometimes you are leading and ya don't even know it.

Not sure I'm ready to give up the bit yet, but it was a good experience. How many times to I have to read that a bit isn't what stops your horse before I believe it?

-----------------

Really fun places to go: If you haven't seen the lying down of the horse technique, get thee to GNH's site right now. Very cool video!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Can you hear me?

It always happens. I sneak away for some Horse Time and my cell phone rings and it's the call I waited for for three hours and now I'm in the round pen and I have to take it!

So I decided to try to train anyway. I sat down on the mounting block and Canyon faced me. After about 2 minutes he started to look away, and I slammed the stick. Zappo. Back to paying attention. 5 minutes... ooo, what's over there...

SLAM

Back to paying attention. After that he kept both ears and eyes on me.

So yes. You can train, even when you have your cell phone on.

And here's today's inane horseyish product: a cell phone holder in the shape of a horse. Lord help us.

Wild Horses - still slated for euthanasia


I guess they figure we will be distracted by the election, economy and the holidays...
From the Cloud Foundation:
The National BLM Advisory Board for the Wild Horse and Burro Program will hold a meeting on Monday, November 17th in Reno, Nevada and will discuss the BLM euthanasia plan. The public is encouraged to attend and share their comments.

“This board is stacked against wild horses,” says Carol Walker, equine photographer and author of Wild Hoofbeats. “It is possible that they will condone euthanasia for healthy wild horses that belong to the American people,”

Over 19 million acres originally designated for wild horse use are currently empty of horses. The Cloud Foundation recommends the return of healthy wild horses to these ranges wherever possible. “Without immediate action to stop the BLM from continuing to mismanage wild horses, America may lose its mustangs forever,” Kathrens concludes.

Time to call and write. These are your horses, and they've got land we set aside for them, a fact ignored by the GAO report (who's methodology was focused on talking to the BLM which is leasing land to cattle ranching. Hmm. wonder why they are trying to get rid of 30,000 horses).

Here's a good news story from Salt Lake Trib on the GAO study.

an excerpt:
But Karen Sussman, president of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros - the South Dakota nonprofit group that initiated and helped push through the 1971 law - said Monday that the BLM has acted illegally by rounding up the horses without first determining whether they had damaged the range.
Sussman said a 1990 GAO report recommended that the BLM also curtail the number of livestock on the range. "If you want to improve habitat," she said, "you need to remove livestock."


From Newsweek:
What are the biggest threats to the wild horse population?
I think it comes down to mismanagement. Study after government study, dating back to the Teddy Roosevelt administration, shows that it's livestock grazing that does the most damage to the range, not wild horses. You can't say that 20-something-thousand horses are doing more damage to the land than 4 million cows. Yet the Bureau of Land Management claims that wild horses are overrunning the West and that there is an "overpopulation" problem. It's simply not true. The only place there is an overpopulation problem is in government corrals—because the horses shouldn't have been removed from their home turf in such great numbers to begin with.

Then what's spurring the BLM to cut herd sizes?

There are a number of factors. The livestock lobby regards mustangs as pests, animals that steal food from cows, and since members of the lobby lease federal land for ranching, they pressure the BLM to curb the wild mustang population. There are also a lot of other things happening on public lands these days: increased oil and gas drilling, mineral leases, development. The BLM is supposed to determine how many wild horses as well as cows and sheep the range can support with range studies, but these are not always up to date. What this all comes back to is mismanagement: The fox is guarding the henhouse.

Readers comments from news stories around the country:

The real question is why are these horses in captivity in the first place? They are supposed to be protected on the 34 million acres allotted for them by Congress. Less than 15,000 are left on that land. And that's only 1/2 of 1% of BLM land! This certainly doesn't seem like what the 1971 law intended. Mining, energy and cattle interests have hijacked the BLM process that should have protected these animals. A better solution than shooting them would be to let some go and have the BLM partner with private interests to manage reserves for the horses and burros. You can go to www.reinfree.org to find out more about what can be done. Doing anything will take time but if the BLM kills them, that's an irreversible loss.

here's another:

The cattle out number the wild horses and burros 400 to 1 on OUR federal land. Their land is being dwindled away by mineral extraction, sheep, cattle, industry & development.



We just need them to get these horses, our horses, back on the land we established for them and stop caving in to the cattle ranchers, miners and developers.
(Here's a cool blog I found about a man who has adopted and trained wild mustangs. Gorgeous photography too).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things that no longer scare my horse

I have a spook bag of things I take to the stables to freak out Canyon. It's like Halloween every day!

Okay, maybe not.

Anyway, these items are officially in retirement:


Swimming noodles. He'll even step on them. You can wave them all over, wail on him with them and he just stands there, bored.

You can put the pink hula skirt on his head. It's incredibly amusing. Unless you're the horse, then it's embarrassing.

The silver window sun blocking thing. No problem.

Next we'll be going with tarps and large balls. Bwaaa haaa haa! (that was an evil laugh).

So do you know how to despook your horse to a pink hula skirt? Here are the steps I was taught:

  1. Halter up and have a nice, long lead line. 12' at least. Get thee to the round pen or another enclosed area.
  2. Scrunch up the scary item as small as possible and rub it on the shoulder.
  3. Work it around and around going down the back, legs, belly and up the neck to the head. Touch every part of your horse.
  4. Gradually let the item get larger and more floppy. Keep doing it until your horse doesn't even flinch.
  5. Go to the other side and do it all over again (because you have two horses. the one on the right side and the one on the left).
  6. Get progressively crazier, waving it around until your horse sees you as "an annoying little brother" and will just stand there and sigh instead of looking for an escape.
  7. Leave the item on the horse's head and take an amusing photo.
  • Optional: I wasn't taught this, but I also put the scary thing on the ground, since Canyon has an issue with things on the ground. Then I try to get him to walk fairly close to it. He doesn't have to step on it, but he has to go in a circle around it and remain focused on me.
Reward your horse with a cookie at the wash rack. It's a tramatic thing you're doing to him/her. Cookies make it all better. Okay, maybe not, but when you have a horse that smiles for cookies it's worth the oats.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lead changes


(Lead? Now you're gettin' fussy on me, missy. Hand over the cookie and no one gets hurt.)

Rudy, who is a much better rider than me and my equal as a horse geek, has been teaching me about lead changes.

When you ride a bucking horse, you aren't all that worried about lead changes. You are worried about... well, more basic issues.

But like all things with horses, the more tools you have to achieve a measure of discipline, the less likely you'll be dealing with bucking. At least that's what I saw with Canyon yesterday.

I was working on "things on the ground that will eat me" issues. I put down a sunshade and eventually got him to walk on it. Then he ALMOST walked on a black plastic bag, which does look like a huge hole in the ground. I forgot my blue tarp, which is what I really need to get started with. Overall a good start. His freak out factor went way down.

When Rudy got there we started riding and he started showing me how he's working with Woody on lead changes. Woody has a really tight gate, so I find it tough to see his lead, but have finally gotten the hang of it. (Here's a good article on leads) As Rudy took Woody through a figure 8 pattern I called out what lead he was on. Here's what they did.

  1. Take off on the trot.
  2. Cue (by pressure on the left leg, open leg on the right) for a right lead lope
  3. Head into a right turn on the right lead.
  4. Return to the center of the figure 8, slow to a trot.
  5. Cue for left lead lope (pressure on the right, open leg on the left)
  6. Head into the left turn
  7. Return to the center of the figure 8, slow to a trot
  8. Rinse and repeat.

For me, this is like patting your head and rubbing your tummy when you're a kid. You have to stop and focus completely to get it, but once you discover the rhythm, you are solid. Unless you stop and have to do it again.

So Canyon's biggest hurdle was me. I had to remember the "aids" (cues are for tricks, aids are your body moves. whaddevvah). When I first tried to head out I was a mess, and he was getting pretty confused. I switched to using the barrels as a visual figure 8 instead of just doing it free hand.

At first Canyon was pretty stubborn. He wanted to hang out with Woody, stand there while I talked, make subtle ear signals with the geldings in the other pasture. Earlier he'd given me a few idyll threats when we were loping, nothing dramatic, just some head action. He was testing my resolve, and I headed them off readily.

So when he didn't want to leave Woody I turned him in place, slapped his butt with my hand (I don't use a crop) and kicked him out. His attitude went from "yawn" to "oh, yeah, I know you! You're the serious one."

I was firm - something I am getting better at - and we were off. At first I had to really kick him into the lead. By the end of the session we had it down. It took progressively less pressure to get him to respond. It was a great feeling! Here we were doing the most complicated maneuver I've ever tried and at the end his attitude and listening was fantastic. Now I get it - the more you can do with your horse, the better your horse will connect with you. They HAVE to listen. You are establishing leadership from the saddle with your seat, legs and reins and you have to focus to soften up and reward - which is part of what they look for from a leader. It's not just about doing the maneuver. It's about doing something more in the relationship.

And I really need to work on transitions with Canyon - up and down from lope to trot to lope to trot to whoa. Over and over. This will give us a good thing to work on in that area.

Another step forward? I think so.

Afterwards, Canyon ponied the kids around (he's always been great at that). Here's a quick video of my husband leading Sierra, my oldest...

Off topic - skunks

Warning, there are no horses in this post. only a skunk.

I write about kids on my other blog - but recently had an encounter with a skunk reminded me of how companies deal with wildlife concerns. Here's the story and a follow up (thanks, Cynthia!). Since writing this I've learned General Mills has done NOTHING to deal with the problem of skunks dying with their garbage on their heads. Don't eat Yoplait yogurt. Send a note to these folks that you won't be back until they really fix the problem. Spread the word on your blogs too.

In 1999 they had met with groups to "try to solve the problem." They printed "please crush your can" on the container. Maybe with enough negative attention they'll do more.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Raising a Stink

Nothing says Daddy at our house like a wildlife encounter. The father of my children has what I consider an over developed need to bother animals that have the terrible misfortune of being spotted.

A few weeks ago we were at a friends ranch and the kids ran in screaming about the snake in the window. It was curled up safely on the other side of the screen, digesting a mouse.

So of course my husband had to extricate it, creating more screaming, then demonstrate the correct holding technique, point out the mousey lump in its belly, and generally ruin the snake’s day. This is the fourth snake to enter the wildlife legend collection which also includes two fawns, a buffalo, a hawk, many bees, and the all time favorite – a skunk.

(this child in the photo is in the UK and a clear inspiration for my husband)

In fact, the very favorite story our daughters like to tell their friends is the-time-daddy-was-sprayed-by-a-skunk story. It’s been such a popular story I’m surprised they haven’t written a song about it, complete with lyrics like

“He just had to go and see what that noise could be,” and

“Three days are really long when you smell pretty strong.”

But this weekend we had a new skunk story. Sierra was up early with her friend Cammie, who had stayed overnight. Along with Mireya they’d created a haunted house the night before complete with a zombie (a broken Spiderman piƱata wrapped in toilet tissue and splattered with red food dye). So they were especially attuned to scary noises.

Like the sound of a skunk with a can stuck on its head at 6 am.

“Mommy! There’s a skunk outside and it’s got a can on its head! It’s going to DIE!”

Sure enough a skunk, undoubtedly the one that has sprayed our dogs more than once, was wandering the yard with a yogurt container stuck on its tiny head. We ran outside to…

This was where I paused to consider my options. I was driving the kids to Marble Falls in a few hours, and if I got sprayed it was going to be a looong trip. So, wisely, we woke up our wildlife handler, who, with a plastic raincoat and thick gloves actually picked up the skunk, yanked off the yogurt container and stood there in ideal spraying range.

I prayed I was up wind.

The skunk blinked a few times, then calmly left, tail down in appreciation.

So cut up those yogurt cans, folks. But keep your skunk handler on standby.



By the way, this is a real issue. Boycott Yoplait, they don't give a darn about fixing the problem:
Activists raise stink for 'skunk safe' yogurt
By Andrew Quinn

SAN FRANCISCO July 17 (Reuters) - Your tuna sandwich may not be hurting the dolphins, but is your yogurt skunk safe?

In a new campaign, a California animal rights group has declared that Yoplait brand yogurt containers are leading to the agonizing deaths of skunks across the country.

"Thousands of skunks and other wildlife are dying in yogurt containers," Camilla Fox of the Sacramento, California-based Animal Protection Institute said Friday.

"They jam their heads in as they are looking for yogurt and then get trapped."

The stink over skunk-safe yogurt follows earlier campaigns for dolphin-safe tuna, in which animal rights activists targeted tuna fishing nets they said were responsible for the needless deaths of dolphins.

Fox said Yoplait, with its distinctive tapered container, is equally deadly for skunks.

"They are attracted to the smell of the yogurt, and wedge their heads into the container," she said. "When they try to pull out, the rim that curves in acts as a locking mechanism against the animal's fur.

"Because they have short legs, they are unable to push against the container to extricate themselves."

Fox said the skunks, locked in a Yoplait helmet they cannot remove, are blinded and frequently die of suffocation.

"They bump around, they get run over by cars, and they obviously are easy prey," Fox said. "It is a fairly brutal death. One they don't deserve."


Officials at General Mills Inc , the maker of Yoplait, say they have been taking the problem seriously enough to mount rigorous design tests in which they stuff fake skunk heads made of foam into different prototype containers.

Larry Sawyer, General Mills' Director of Government Relations, was not available to comment Friday. But he told the San Jose Mercury News the company was trying to help.

"It is a problem," he said. "We're working on a solution."

Over the next several weeks, a new, "skunk friendlier" Yoplait container with a warning to consumers and a special ridge at the bottom to help skunks extricate themselves will hit supermarket shelves. But the familiar tapered design will stay because it makes the brand recognizable, Sawyer said.

Fox and other skunk advocates say this is not enough, and are encouraging consumers to write to General Mills president Steve Sanger to demand a total container revamp.

"We are trying to negotiate with them," Fox said. "We want to talk more before we call for a boycott."

Donna Backus, a Massachusetts wildlife rehabilitator who was one of the first to identify the Yoplait threat to skunks, says General Mills officials simply do not understand how dangerous the containers can be.

"I'd like to put a huge Yoplait container on the CEO of General Mills and set him out loose on the streets of New York," Backus told the Mercury News.

Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Invasive Politics


I recently joined a list serve and found something there that I've found on a few horse blogs this political season.

Manure.

AKA devisive political bickering.

I work in politics. If you want to know where I stand, look me up on Facebook. If you want political wrangling, there are a million sites devoted to it. Fights are easy to find in today's political climate.

But I ride horses to escape all that ... manure. When I'm working with my horse I forget everything. I am in that moment, free from the pressure we've all put on ourselves. So when I geek out on line looking for virtual horse time, it sure would be nice to leave politics out of it, short of advocacy for horse related issues.

I've cleared out my blog roll of folks that will spend the next four years whining/crowing. I'm going to stick it out on this one list serve for another week, hopefully people will take their spurs to their horses rather than each other.

If not, I'm out of there. It's incredible to me that anyone believes you can change another person's mind in a fundamental way. There are always people in the middle - they shift from one side to the other. But at either end of the spectrum?

You might as well try to keep a horse from an open bag of sweet feed.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Not riding and Marv Walker

I went out to the stables in the middle of the day for a long lunch hour (been putting in some serious night hours, so I'm due). I didn't feel much like riding, I've been fighting fatigue for a week and haven't wanted to do much.

Horses have been switched around the six different pastures at the stables. Canyon wasn't with his buddy, Woody. Woody has been standing in the horse trough (the one with the automatic waterer) and splashing his belly, then rolling in the mud. He looks like a crocodile, huge mud patches all over his body.

(Troughs. not just for bathing cowboys and shrinking boots.)

Maybe it's because the flies have gotten bad and he's part swine, or maybe he's just a horse that requires entertainment. Either way he's busting the floats so he had to move into a pasture with a hose fed trough instead. So Canyon was out with one of the sorrels. He also had a pretty good bite on him, which may be another reason Sharon separated him out. With Spirit gone, there's a shifting of herd boss and that's never a peaceful process.

They could learn something from the election and peaceful transfer of power. Fox news not withstanding.

Anyway, when I came out he walked up to me and was nodding away the flies. (Yes, I figured out he wasn't nodding in love. I found this out when I went out two weeks ago and every horse was nodding at me. They LOVE me! I am Queen! LOL)

I tossed a bareback pad on him and we went for a walk around. We sniffed at the tables and chairs (which weren't nearly as scary this time. I wonder if courage is building?) and did a warm up in the arena. Then we headed out the road and worked on courage, listening and leadership from the saddle.

As good as Canyon is on the ground, and as good as we seem to connect, he's not all the way there. This horse seems connected with me, but it's not there in the saddle. I can lead him into anything and he'll follow me around the arena, back, turn, everything without a touch on the lead line. But it's not translating when I get on his back.

I recently discovered Marv Walker, (in this picture) who I'm really enjoying reading. He's got a method called "the bonder" which has a few aspects different from Parelli and Lyons:
  1. you enter the round pen and remove everything from your horse. no lead line. no halter.
  2. you "push" your horse with the pressure of your eyes, body and attitude. I suspect I'll need my stick still.
  3. lowering their head is a big sign to look for. Canyon lowers his head almost immediately, so that's a good sign, I guess...
  4. you turn your back and make them come to you, then lead them around.
I'm going to give it a try in the next few days. You can get his info for free, and I just signed up for his email list. He even takes questions by PHONE. Can you imagine?

He's a big believer in pain causing lots of these issues and since Canyon had a dropped heel, I'm going to have him checked out by the horse chiropractor at the end of the year. I know he's a panic, but pain can escalate that. I know, my husband has chronic back pain and when it flares up, he responds over the top to everything.

So maybe it's an issue. Anyone have experience with back crackers for horses?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Courage a blade at a time


We went out for a ride around the stables. There is something about riding in that familiar area that makes Canyon less confident. He sees lions everywhere. In fact I'm always more sure of a quiet ride when we go someplace he's never been before.

Why do some horses lose it in familiar trail surroundings?

I'm having a hard time finding the logic of it. Maybe it's something like parenting. You know how your child is always better behaved with strangers? They can't take a chance that they might be with someone less likely to accommodate their behavior. Or maybe they have to test the waters. Or maybe they know that they are in a less safe situation.

Is that what it is with horses? When we are at a new place - a different trail, anywhere away from the stables, Canyon is calmer. Still nervous, sure. But in general he's more calm. Does he decide he has to trust what he can (me) since everything else is strange and new?

On the trail ride around the stables there's an area where it's safe to lope. When his energy goes up, though, his nervousness escalates accordingly. I finally did the right thing on this ride. When he was in the middle of a panicky high headed run I didn't try to stop him. I spoke calmly and brought my energy, my seat and my emotions way down, then gave only a gentle pull on his brakes. And he came back down, albeit not right away.

It was the hardest thing I've ever done.

I found this quote on a site:
The problem with training nervous horses, versus working with an animal that has a bad attitude, is that nervous horses are not attempting to misbehave. They have no real reason for being scared, but they are, which makes the rider’s job much more difficult.

Great. So I'd be better off with a brat than a scaredy cat.

After that high headed run and some calming down time, I spent time on the trail showing Canyon things that normally bother him. The dreaded horse eating rusted farm implement that was off the trail. Ooo that thing is scary. I dismounted and walked over to it and he seemed stunned that I wasn't devoured instantly. I put my hand on it. He stood far away, refusing to take a step. Finally I had to put a carrot on it to get him to touch it with his nose. For the rest of the time he'd touch anything with his nose, hoping for another carrot.

Horses are so shallow. LOL

Sunday we were out again at the Guadalupe State Park and he did great. He walked right up to the deer blind. He turned and faced the dreaded armadillo that squinted at us from a pile of leaves and branches. He had moments, like when he decided he'd better walk around the white pedestrian crossing lines painted on the road.

Which gave me an idea. I'm going to have a session with him in the arena with contrast. Tarps, blankets, things on the ground that contrast with the ground. That really seems to be what worries him consistently. I've had him side step dark patches of ground so quickly I've nearly lost it.

So I'm going to work on leading him through each high contrast spot, first driving from the ground, then from the saddle. Course I'd love to build one of these confidence courses. But that seems like overkill for one horse...

Or maybe not. He's over my bag of scary stuff that I used to desensitize him (a cheerleader with a pom pom is completely safe. We're good with towels and swimming noodles too.). It's time to step it up.



On another note:

One of my gelding for sale ads was still up and I was asked if he was still for sale.

No, I said. I'm keeping him. Even if he's a nervous wreck.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Update on Cloud



What with the collapse of the financial markets, I fell out of touch with the plight of wild horses. Here's the update from the Cloud foundation

Cloud's Herd Removal Postponed Again
September 22, 2008
Dear Supporters of Cloud and His Herd,

This morning Jim Sparks, BLM Billings Field Manager, called to tell us that they have postponed indefinitely the removal of Pryor Mountain Wild Horses. We are relieved to know that the horses are safe in their wild home for now. Although a bait trap has been set up since Wednesday, no horses have been removed and we will keep you updated on this situation.

Thanks to everyone who wrote in support of protecting our wild horse legacy. The outcry made it damn difficult for BLM to turn over public horse pasture to cattle ranchers. I doubt they are gone for long. Be ready to make your voice heard (pun intended, although it's a bad one).

Parelli. Brilliant or Brilliant rip off?

There seems to be a love hate thing going on with Parelli in blog land. Parelli, who I admit, has found a way to charge 100s of dollars for equipment you can buy for ten or fifteen, has become a marketing phenomenon.

But that's not a reason to hate the guy.

(you can buy that "carrot stick" in the picture, which he sells for $62, for $14 at D&D in Seguin.)

Then there's the way he's packaged "natural horsemanship" (which in every book and website of his I've read he always admits it is nothing he's invented). He has created a jargon/code (I'm sure someone has worked up a secret handshake too) that makes you either in or out. And it'll cost you $700 worth of CDs to get in.

The real reason to hate the guy, if you feel the need to, is that he's mined people's dreams. It's the dream of every little horse-aholic. The Black Stallion dream. The dream of having the connection that Alex had with Black, where the horse wouldn't even stay on an island without him, where they ran the track in mud and rain, where they melded into one being.

I keep wanting to remind people that it's a movie. But then I'd have to deny that I have the same dream. I'm a lot of things, but I'm not in denial.

(A local stable here even taps that dream with their logo and artwork.)

Parelli has nailed it by honing in on that dream. Instead of going for the cowboy, he's going for the dreamer. (Actually Fugly has a truly entertaining rant on this.)

Sure it's not always a dream that can be realized. Plenty of Parelli folks I've seen are run over by their horses. I'm not experienced enough to know what the problem is - whether they aren't doing Parelli correctly, if they misunderstand leadership, or are just out of their league with their horse (all of which may apply to me, I know). Some seem to interpret everything they are taught through a soft focus lens and end up with a hell of a lot less than a dream.

Then I see some people who CAN make it come together, without resorting to "cowboying."

Right now I'm spending some serious time trying to figure out every technique I can to deal with my horse that is going to be eaten by LIONS AT ANY MOMENT. Parelli is one, I'm also checking out this website, although their prices are not exactly a deal. $109 for an ebook? Hey, I'm a writer, but come on. It's pixels. At least Parelli has shaved in his videos.

Stacy Westfall has become the latest celebrity horse trainer after her video went viral. And she's got training DVDs for sale too.




One thing I know for sure. This is going to be a long journey and I'll probably end up with a mash up of techniques until I find the one that works for both me and my crazy, spooky, horse that just wants to SURVIVE BEFORE THE LIONS GET HIM.

Sigh.

But if all I wanted was a ride, I'd just get in the car.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Horse became a dog, part 2

When Rudy walked up to Canyon, Canyon tensed up. He snorted at Rudy's hand then took a quick side step when he tried to mount him.

"That is a one person horse," he said as Canyon trotted off.

I figured Canyon was just being difficult and now I'd have the same trouble with him. So I went over to the other end of the arena and went over to him. Canyon stood still, head relaxed and lowered. I got on and he was completely calm.

"He doesn't give his trust easily, but he's given it to you," Rudy remarked, getting on Woody (who had let me mount just fine, sane horse that he is).

I realized that it's true. Now, after 11 months, something has changed. Canyon is willing to give me some rope. Not all of it, though.

We were on a trail ride today and he bucked and was generally freaked out at the start of the ride. He did a side step so fast he almost lost me.

Thank goodness for those velcro pockets.

I rode him through it, then he had a panic run. I could feel his panic and did all I could in the saddle to reassure him. I let him run a bit, gradually slowing him down. I had to remain dead calm and this time, I managed it. But he was still bratty, still testing me. At one point I had to give him a solid smack on the hindquarters when he was acting up. Then he settled down a bit.

While we got through it, its clear = there's a lot of work I need to do with this crazy horse to get him to a place where he really trusts me all the way. And I'm going to need help because I am beyond my abilities with this.

But he is coming up to me in the field, he's nodding when he sees me, he is fine until we get up to a lope and the energy and nerves rise. So maybe I'm back to day 3 in the stop the bucking lessons. Maybe I need to see about getting some lessons together with a trainer.

But I'm not selling him. He's my crazy dog and unless someone who knows a hell of a lot more than me tells me different, I'm convinced I can find a good place with this life that is in my hands.

As a result, I'm making the ultimate commitment a woman can make with a gelding. I'm buying new tack.
I'm buying a new rope halter from these folks, because if you'll recall Canyon lost his in his panic run through Guadalupe state park. At Black Pond they will custom out everything and the prices are fantastic. I'll post on the quality when I receive it.