Monday, March 31, 2014

Some Days It's Hard To Be A Paint Horse

Do you know how many times in a week I say "Poor Trax"?

Its a lot. 

When I see how he reacts to some things, I can't help but wonder why.  I mean sometimes his reaction is so over the top for what is happening around him, it just doesn't make sense. I can kind of understand the ropes, but there are things that don't make sense...bareback riding, clippers,  Other things that maybe should bother him, are nothing.  

I realize that part of it is from how certain people handled him, but part of it is just who he is a horse.  I can see that now even if I could not always see it before.  I have come to accept that no matter how many times I try to pick apart the story of his past, I will never know the full truth.  It is what it is, but I will always wonder what the heck happened to this horse.  

Today I had planned on riding but ended up in the round pen with him instead.  I decided that we would go ahead and do a little rope work. First we just did our regular ground work and he was a little wound up today, but I just waited him out and eventually he came back down to earth.  I also took my stick with the string and messed with him all over his body. Not hard of course, but just like you would with a rope. I rubbed him all over, around his legs, over his butt over his neck. It took a while but eventually he started to try to relax.  If he tried to relax, I took off the pressure.  If he even thought about relaxing, I took off the pressure.  Once I did that, he really started to calm down.

Then I got my rope and we started simple  I rubbed him with like a brush on both sides.  Then I put my loop over the saddle horn and asked him to walk out. At first he was kind of sticky. I was on his left side asking him to move forward. The rope was going down his right side and around his butt, under his tail and back to me.  He kind of ran away from it but not near as bad as I thought he would.

I was careful to keep my body turned off even though I made sure the rope went up, the rope went down and the rope flopped in circles.  It was enlightening to see him not totally lose it.  He eventually stopped to a walk.  Good boy!

Then I coiled it up, made a lasso and played rope girl.  I just stood in the center and whirled it around my head which made him nervous, but he dealt with it.   He did not care when I tossed the loop at his feet, but I only did that a couple of times. My lasso is damaged from the knot it was tied on on my saddle horn. Got to get my other out.

I got him slowed down again, and asked him to let me touch him. He said ok, but was wary.  I put it on the saddle horn again and asked him to move out while I was in his right eye. Then he lost it.  this time it wasn't even hooked around his butt, it was just straight to me from the horn.   I didn't do anything, but when he saw the rope on his right side it sent him right to his dark place again.  Head up, eyes white, mind closed...mach 9 around the round pen we went.

Once again, I waited him out.  It took a long long time but pretty soon he trotted, and then he just stopped, and stood there...shaking.  I walked up to him, took the rope off the horn and coiled it up next to him.  I then used it to brush him all over. He let out a big sigh, and did a little licking and chewing.

I called it a day right there. No riding needed today.

Someday's, it really is hard to be a paint horse.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Contradictory Horse

This is my horse.

He is a jumbled mess of contradictions that I have yet to make sense of.

You often hear of horses who are one sided, and Trax is no different. The problem is that he is one sided for somethings yet the opposite for others.  Which leads me too believe that when he gets "stuck"  it isn't physical at all, but mental.

But with that being said, as I contemplate more and more about that, I realize that I have to put this under a microscope and dissect it to see if that is really the case.  Meaning, that different maneuvers require muscle tone in different areas, and the places where he gets stuck just might be related to the way he is built physically.  So let me see if I can remember them all and list them out.

Lateral flex at a stand still:   He weighs nothing to the left but has trouble with the right. Not as bad as he used to be, but there is an obvious difference.

Flexing at the poll when standing still:  Pretty soft although still wants to push into the bit as the first resort and then goes to dropping his head. We go through this exercise every time we ride and continue it until he chooses to get soft first, but each time is just like it was the day before.  We have to search for it.

Flexing at the poll when moving forward:  About the same as standing still although by the end of the ride his is usually much much better.

Flexing at the right jaw when moving forward:  Okay this is where things get weird.  To the right when moving forward he gives pretty nicely, which doesn't make sense since at a stand still he is heavier on this side.  So I am wondering if what I am seeing is him actually giving his face or just arching the whole body.

Flexing at the left jaw when moving forward:  This has always been stiff and awkward for him...until yesterday.  I will elaborate on that more later.

Side passing from left to right:  We are lucky to get it done

Side passing from right to left:  Smooth like butter, with very little pressure at all.  In fact he does this so well he will often go from left to right even when I am asking for right to left.  And yes I am making sure that I open my opposite leg to give him room to move, but he still just moves into the pressure.

Roll back from right to left: Makes it 3 steps and falls out

Roll back from left to right: Can do a full circle without too much trouble.

Lead change from left to right: All I have to do is sit down in my seat, let him break his lope for one stride, cue with my leg, and he does the change almost on his own.

Lead change from right to left:  We struggle just a little bit more. He will still do it, but often I have to break down his lope for a couple of steps. (this doesn't make sense to me since when I got him he was a completely left lead horse)

Loping in a circle to the left:  He generally stays pretty calm and will rate.

Loping a circle to the right: Is when he wants to get chargey.

I'm sure there is stuff I am forgetting, but those are the things I have noticed so far.

So fast forward to yesterdays ride; we went to the desert and started by just long trotting and "checking fence".  It wasn't our fence to check but since we were out there and I really wanted to see how much room we have to ride in, I rode one fence line for a while.  Of course there are always trees and bushes around and I used those "obstacles" for our serpentines.

Checking fence

I did find the gates that will allow me into other sections, and they all have signs that say, "Please Close Gate" Which to me means, go on through just don't let our cows out."

We found open areas where we did some loping in circles, some lead changes, and just different stuff.  Anytime I felt him wanting to get chargey we did a lot of "Lope n Stops"  and that would usually take care of that.

We went through the water, we did some spins, we just did anything I could think of.  We stopped for a minute at a stock tank but he didn't want to drink, however when we got to the big "pond" he went right in and got a nice long drink.

We found stuff.

And then we headed back.  Of course being who he is, the minute we headed home he though that work time was over....he was wrong.

When we got to the gate which takes me back to the neighborhood, I asked him to side pass in each direction before I got off.  He WOULD NOT side pass from right to left.

So I took him back out to the desert and we loped a couple circles, did some lead changes, and then stayed there until he would side pass either direction.  Then we made a beeline for the gate....well sort of.

It was more like ten steps forward, side pass to the right five steps, side pass to the left five steps, ten steps forward, side pass left, side pass right...etc, etc, etc.  And we did this all the way to the gate.  By time we were done, he was sooooo soft in the left jaw (just like when he is standing still) and his side pass from left to right was the most gorgeous thing I have sever seen him do.  He was soft in both the jaw and the poll and crossed over correctly.  (remember this used to be his hard side)  But now he struggles going right to left.

I keep trying to determine if it is something I am doing.  Am I holding the reins different?  Am I using my legs different?  I just don't know.   But it makes sense for him to be softer on the left side for this, since he is softer standing still. But this just happened yesterday. So it really doesn't make sense to me at all.

So anyway, we got to the gate and he gave me two very nice side passes, and I got off and let him rest.

Then we headed home and he was so nice an relaxed, and I was enjoying just being up there.....and then the donkey came to the fence and my horse lost his ever loving mind again!

But just for a second and I got him moved away and standing still enough for me to get off of him and take him to the fence where the donkey lived.  Unfortunately the donkey was a ghost, because for some reason I couldn't find him. He literally disappeared.  However a little mini came to the fence and he and Trax sniffed noses, which was almost as good, since he doesn't like mini's either.

After that he was a little spooky just knowing that "Ghost Donkey" was going to sneak up behind him. We spooked at goats, and dogs, and so I went back to side passing him back and forth, and that took his mind off of scary things.

I used my pedometer to track our ride, it was 13.85 miles, and 3.45 hours.  You can see the parts where we were training...they are the squiggly parts.

It seems I have developed and allergy to sun, or perhaps a sensitivity.  I am broke out in hives now, not just where the sun was on me, but all over my legs.  I googled it, and learned that taking an antihistamine before sun exposure will help with it.

*disclaimer- anyone who knows me and knows how much trouble I have with left and right, will appreciate how difficult it was to keep this all straight in my mind as I wrote it down.

Friday, March 28, 2014

More on Dennis Reis

I did not get to ride today, had to take care of some legal-ish stuff, so the paint horse got a day off.  Tomorrow however will be desert day, and the day after that we will go move some cows around at the neighbors.

It was slow last night at work so I ended up tooling around on you tube.  This time I was watching more Dennis Reis.

I thought I'd go ahead and share a little of what I was watching.   The one thing I enjoy about Dennis is how he talks through the thought process with each move.

This was the first one I watched.  Granted there isn't really any ground breaking revelations, but I just enjoy watching him work with this problem horse.  I especially like how he really explains the point behind the flag. So many people use it to move their horses instead, of using it to desensitize, which to me seems counter productive.

Here is another.

This one is specifically on the techniques and the thought process behind the round pen work.

There are many more video's but the best ones are the ones on his CD's.  I would love love love to go to one of his clinics.  Maybe someday.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Phone Call

I got a text today from my friend and former trainer, Jay.

He asked me to call him tonight so we could discuss the "incident".

I was pretty sure he was going to yell at me, but he didn't.   He actually just wanted give me some things to do to fix this problem, rather than just putting a band aide on it, which is basically what I have done in the past.

I think I underestimated just how deep this fear ran, and just how deep this horse can and will check out if he needs too.  You see, I have managed to convince him that "I" won't hurt him with a rope, but I did not ever take the time to show him that ropes are not the enemy.  I also never took the time to address his issues with having something crashing around behind him.

Case in point:  You might recall this day when riding with BEC and Simon, when he put a stick in my eye because the other horses were right on his butt, and he was in a very narrow ditch with no place to go but forward.

So before we drag a single anything we go back to the round pen, and I learn how to rope.  I don't have to be good at it, just good enough to rope my saddle horn, hopefully catch his foot, bump his butt with it, just do all kinds of big scary things with a rope.   I have got to get more comfortable with it.

I may have to get help with this part.  Luckily there are no shortages of ropers in my neighborhood.

What he said is that at some point in time I am going to have to let him get all wrapped up in that rope in a controlled and safe situation, and then let him unwind himself out of it without just running away. But first I have to start small, and just let him get to the point of being okay with it flopping around all over him and walking around and not giving a dang.  Then we move to the bigger stuff. When I can ask him to walk out, and wrap a rope around his foot or his butt or where ever and not have him react at all, then I can take it further. So no, I am not just going to go in there and tie him up in knots and say, "there ya go, now get out of it." Baby steps will be the key!

The next thing I have to do is (CNJ will appreciate this as she has mentioned it herself) to two rein drive him from the ground, and I have to do it until it means nothing to him.  Until he is okay with stuff going on behind him, it will not be safe to drag anything....period.  He said until I can get into either eye (of his) from either side and not have him bolt, then he isn't ready.

He did say that he could come down and have us dragging stuff in 15 minutes, but that the deep seated fear would still be there, and we have to get to the core of it if I am going to help this horse.  Because fear that deep will rise to the surface at the most in opportune moments.  Even if I do all of this, there is always a chance that it will resurface, but the more things we address now, the more confidence I can build in him, the better it will be and the easier it will be to bring him back if he gets scared again.

Oh how I wish he could come down and help me with this!  Jay is gifted.  But Jay is also very busy and hardly has time for his own horses, much less my crazy old paint.

So there it is, and I trust Jay when he tells me what to do, and when he says no short cuts, I will believe him.  This means we will not be competing at the next stock horse show...or at the very least, we will not attempt the log drag. I'd rather take the penalty.   I am still on the fence if we will even do the next clinic...saving that decision for the day before.

I did ride today and he is doing pretty good.  It was not an eventful ride, which is always good.  Nothing to write home about either, but we had just a very small amount of time so I was careful not to get into anything that could turn into an argument.   My time was cut short because TC's grand daughters were there and wanted to ride Killian.  Far be it from me to turn down a little girl who wants to ride.   Killian was not on his best behavior and so I ended up tuning him up for a few minutes after they were done.  Not that he was bad, but he could of been better.  Plus he was saddled and had not been ridden in over a week. So I rode him for a bit, and then got Trax out and mostly just trotted around, moved his shoulders back and forth did some lead change work and of course....lots and lots  of stopping.

Oh and we did start with the round pen again. I think we are going to keep with the round pen warm up for a while.  It really gives me a chance to move him and control him. More so than on the end of the long line.  Seems strange I know, but with the fence around him my energy means more.  With him on the end of the rope and me pushing my energy at his hip it is too easy for him to just fall out, move backwards and let that energy float on by.   This way he has to give in to it, and today it took a whole lot less time for him to lock on to me, and for me to draw him in.

Once I draw him in, I mentally break him into sections and then move those sections of his body.  It was interesting today because at one point I was moving his shoulder (without touching him) across, away from me and he kept wanting to flip his butt onto me, so I would turn and literally glare at his back leg and it was like he could feel it because he would move it away again.   I kind of had to back my energy off a little on his shoulder so he could move easier.  At one point we did a full circle, pivot on the hind while I pushed his shoulder...and never touched him once.   That was a first and I was quite pleased with him.

What I see is that in order to move forward with Trax I'm going to have to back up.  I have a tendency to short cut the ground work with Trax because I get so focused on what I want to teach him while riding.  I lost sight of the basics, and since they have never been deeply ingrained in his mind, it leaves room for holes.  This does not mean that I'm going to stop riding in lieu of ground work, it just means that I'm going to have to do both.

One thing Jay and I talked about was the lead changes.  I told him about how yesterday Trax was trying so hard to please me, that sometimes when I asked him to break down to a trot just long enough to change leads, a couple of times he just stopped dead in his tracks.   Jay asked what I did, when he did that.   I praised the hell out of him, because to me, that stop meant that he was working hard and trying to pay attention. That stop is a million times more important to me than any lead change.

He said, "Good girl, you are getting it."

I'm feeling okay about my horse and our future.  I'm not silly enough to believe that we are going to have a stellar career in anything, but I think I can at least get him to a point where he is safe...and fun, to ride.

*If anyone reading this would like a better understanding of what I mean when I talk about using my energy to move my horse, I strongly urge you to get your hands on some Dennis Reis video's.  He is the master at this. It changes your round pen from just a place to run your horse in circles and turns it into a tool and a great classroom.  It is a complete different approach to "lunging" your horse.  Not that other people don't do similar stuff, but I just love the way he explains it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I was going to call this post "day 2 of my 30 day challenge"  But since I was never actually challenged to do 30 in 30 it didn't quite seem appropriate.   It was, however, suggested by BEC that I do just that. Ride him for 30 days and then make a decision on where he goes from there.

So I am calling yesterday "Day 1"  Today is "Day 2"

I agree with what a few people said about getting him out of the arena and too the desert more.  I will definitely do that.  

However, today I had to work Sassy too, so today it was all arena.  

Here is the short recap on Trax today.....

He is bi-polar.

Not really, he actually was just more like his normal self.  He was responsive, and willing, and even actually trying really hard to figure out what it is I want from him.

I, on the other hand, was smarter about what I was asking him to do, how I was asking, how long I asked him, and rewarding immediately for the slightest try.

We went back to the round pen for a minute, just to do some liberty work, and the minute he quit moving with his brain outside of the pen, and locked on to me, I stopped him, drew him into me, and he followed me around the pen with no halter on.  I moved his body parts around from the ground, without touching him, and then we rode.

We did not do any rope work today.  No, I am not scared...I'm just recuperating, and plus I need more time for rope work.

Riding was lots of long trotting and collection, and stretchy trots, and shoulder pushing serpentines.  We did a ton of stopping, and a tiny bit of loping.  Not once did we make a full circle without changing something.  It was either, half a circle, then stop.  A full circle then lead change. A full circle and then a small circle at a slower speed, then a lead change, and go the other direction.

He is actually starting to get the lead changes.  In fact from left to right he breaks down to a trot for one step, changes his leads and then goes.  It is pretty darn smooth and easy, almost effortless.  For some reason he has more trouble changing from right to left.  But we got some really good ones.

He is still wanting to back out of his side passes from left to right, but after we had been riding for a while and he gave me a beautiful lead change in both directions, we were just walking and I asked for the side pass in both directions and he was smooth and easy both ways, so that was when I called it quits and walked him out the drive and down the road and then back.

It was a nice ride, I enjoyed it, and I hope that he did too.  A couple of times he was trying so hard to get things right, that when I was asking for him to break down his lope to the trot to change leads, he thought I wanted him to stop and literally stopped dead in his tracks.  It was cool, and made me laugh.

I think there was only one time where he really wanted to go out of control with me, but I shut him down so quick, he never had time to really grab a hold of that mentality.   I have learned some valuable lessons in our last few rides. Number one being that lots of loping will never be a good warm up for him.  Lots of mental work is the best, and lots of stopping.  I should have known that.  After all, going forward has never been the issue.  Stopping always has, so I should have been doing this all along.

Well life is trial and error, and you can't learn without errors.

Now time has run out for me, and my stupid J-O-B is calling my name.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cowgirl Up!

So my assessment that Trax was trying to tell me that he was ready to go to work, was totally off base. I can only assume that he was actually trying to tell me that he was ready to go graze in the pasture.

I guess saying that is not totally fair. We actually had a pretty decent ride for the first hour or so.

That is not to say that he did not try some of his same crap of running off the minute I asked for the lope, but this time I shut him down before he ever had a chance to get started.  If he started in with his, "I'm outa here!" bullshit, I immediately drove his butt into the ground, backed him up, turned his should and loped half way around the arena, and then repeated that exercise over and over again.

We also did a gazillion serpentine's.  Not the nice pretty ones done by two tracking that Mark used to ask for. These were just "turn left, two steps, turn right, two steps, turn left, two steps, turn right."  We did these at a trot, and by time we were done he seemed pretty mellow.

So then I asked for the the nicer, slower counter arch/two track serpentine's. He was happy to do them and I thought that maybe...just maybe...we were starting to make some progress.

We also did some other stuff, did a reining pattern (which he still remembers from a year ago), did the gate, did some side passing and really worked on our spins.

The only thing we didn't had not done yet was the log pull.  So I went and grabbed it and we drug it around.  I almost always drag with my reins in my right hand, loop the rope just half a turn around with my left and then hold both pieces of the rope that have tension on them in my hand.  Doing so allows me the ability to toss that rope away if we get in to trouble.

For three steps he was a little snorty and hot, but then he settled down and things were "normal"  (which a relative term with this horse).  As we were doing this I realized that technically we are supposed to dally with the right hand and drag that way.  I decided to stop him, switch sides and go from the right.

To steal a phrase from "Funder"  I swear, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

He was fine till we started walking, the log was now in front of him and all he had to do is walk past it.  Instead he backed sideways away from it, then around it.  I kept talking him to take it easy and relax while asking him to just walk slowly forward.  I had my reins pretty short on him, but it was irrelevant.

Do you see where this is going yet?

The next thing I knew he was gone, and I mean mentally, physically and without any clue that I was up there on top of him.  I tried to toss the rope away so I could get a hold of him, but it didn't toss, instead a piece got looped up on the horn and  the dead run he was moving at caused it to tie up in knots, around the horn.

So now there I was with no control of my horse, a rope tied around my saddle horn and a log chasing us from behind.

Trax on the other hand was running for his life and headed straight for the part of my arena that is not closed off yet. Beyond that is what is left of the original arena fence which is

I knew right then and there I was in trouble.

Tc and his son in law and grandson were in the shop and I yelled screamed at the top of my lumgs  for help.  I don't know what I thought they were going to do, maybe get the gate shut, jump in front of a runaway freight train...who knows.  I just knew that I was screwed. They came running out but it was too late, we were already past them and headed out the drive.

I was torn between, hanging on for dear life, trying to figure out how to stop him, and trying to get the rope off my saddle horn.

The running martingale did not help in this instance and I could not get his head around to slow him down.  There was no untying the rope, however the log did finally fall off.

Trax headed towards the pens and the tack room and I hoped that maybe he would stop at the tack room, but he didn't, he made a hard left to head out the drive and past the pens.  

Looking back now I can see that he still had the mental fortitude to choose his path. Clearly he was thinking,  "Oh the rocks in the drive hurt my feet so let me move over to the side where the dirt is soft."

Guess what else is in the soft dirt?

Big trees, and tractor implements and he was making a beeline for the harrow.

I believe my exact words were something like, "Son of Bitch Trax! Whoa! Don't hit the har-----mumph"  (mouth full of leaves) as he jumped the harrow, putting my entire upper body into the nice thick limbs of the tree.

I thought, "This is it, I'm going off."

I still do not know how I stayed on. But I did. I was told later that he actually laid me all the way back across his butt, but I had a death grip on those reins and was not letting go.  My hat and glasses however, did not fare so well.

Then is was out the front non existent gate, and down the road.  I'm still screaming at him to "slow the F down you dirty rotten M-F'r!" when he made a hard right up the neighbors drive.  I still had zero control but I at least saw a chance for stopping him.  I steered him right for the building in front of us.  He did end up swerving around it but stopped in a little alley way between their barn and Sassy's pen.

I was shaking.....he was really shaking.  I was pissed, and I hurt, and I wanted to kill my horse.

I slowly untied the rope, and tossed it aside and then slowly walked him (still riding) back to the house.
I took him to the tack area, took off the martingale, lead him to round pen, took off the bridle and said, "You wanna run- do it!" And he did about 100 laps in each direction as fast as I could make him go.

Then I put back on his bridle, grabbed another rope, and took him back to the arena.   I roped our log, put the rope on his right side and we dragged the log around....I was on the ground this time.

He acted like it was no big deal.


I got on my horse and we did serpentine's, and we did long trotting and we did flag work and when we were done if I said stop, he stopped.....right now.   He side passed gracefully in either direction, and then we walked out the gate and down the road.  I rode him to the end of the road and back and we did lots of stopping, backing up and moving of the shoulders.

Then I hosed  him down, put him away, and went inside and bawled like a baby.

After I assessed my physical damage, which is just a big lump on the side of my head and one on my arm, I took a shower, took a short nap and headed to work. I made a phone call to a friend.  I told the whole story, told her I was thinking of not working him the arena for a while, and just putting lots of miles on him in the desert before working him in the arena again.

She listened to the whole story, and then when I said, "What are your thoughts?"  I got the truth.

I am trying to implement major changes on a broken horse.  One who very well may have had a screw loose from the day he dropped four hooves on the ground.

I am expecting major changes in him without putting in the major work it takes to obtain said changes.  He gets ridden maybe once a week.   It takes a lot of riding to get him to the point of being physically able to execute the things I want him to do.  It takes riding him every single day.

She made a suggestion, and it is a good one I think.   Ride him every single day for the next 30 days.  If he is doing good, then he can get off with 20 minutes or so.  If he is being a dick, then work his ass of for at least an hour if not more.  If at the end of 30 days we have not made any real progress, then I will know that he will never ever ever be an arena pony and I can switch gears on him towards something else.

Oh and the other suggestion made by TC....Shut the Gawl-dang gate!

One more thing I want to add.  Even if we make real progress, I may not continue with him as an arena pony.  I'm not making that decision today...but I can assure you that I will be alot more careful when working with ropes.

Ok...this is the last thing.  I think I should clarify to others about what I want from Trax.  I don't care if he never does a big sliding stop.  I don't care if he ever does big fancy spins.  The important things I am trying to teach him are the things he will need to know in order to be safe to ride anywhere, at any time.  Also it doesn't mean we won't do any riding in the desert, that will still happen, but so will the arena riding.

I agree with her assessment because I clearly remember that when we were in WY and I rode 3-4 times a week...we made great progress.

Monday, March 24, 2014


I have not ridden since the boys got their teeth done.  Partially because I was giving them time to recuperate, and partially because I have been super busy.  They got some pasture time and lots of long naps in the sun, while laying in their favorite dust holes in the pens. I'm sure their mouths are healed by now.

I noticed something with Trax yesterday.   Our last two rides which did not go so well, he was distant when I went out to halter him.  He moved to the other side of his pen and turned his butt to me.  Occasionally he would turn his head to see what I was doing but if I acted like I was headed towards him, he would look away again.  But still I made him work...and both days were bad.

The last few days, when I have come out to his pen he comes to the gate to greet me.  He follows me around the pen.  If I have a halter he sticks his nose in the halter, asking me to take him out.  He did that several times yesterday.

When I worked on his feet he was dozing, if he started to fall too deeply into his slumber he would startle and wake up again, and pull his foot back. Not consciously pulling it away to be rude, but more like how a person will  jump in their chair if they are nodding out while sitting up.

He has been mellow and relaxed, and asking for human contact.

MY horse...asking for human contact?  Proof that he is changing.

I always try to avoid humanizing my horses.  I mean sure, in fun I will do it, especially in the name of a good blog post, but I know that horses don't think the same way we do.

But still.....I can't help but wonder if he is trying to say he is ready to go back to work.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Where Did the Weekend Go?

I can't beleive it is Sunday night already!  It seems like I didn't even have a weekend.

Most of my weekend was focused on getting my horse ready for visitors with pet allergies, but some of it was spent doing some other things as well.

I looked at a horse this weekend.

She is very very cute, and seems to have a great mind about her. She is only 2 though and has been handled very little.  I mean very little.  The first time I saw her she had never had her feet trimmed, and was just being halter broke.  This time she had finally had her feet done, (but had to be sedated to make it happen) and I was able to teach her some of the simplest of moves (cross the front end, move the hind end, etc) in just a few minutes. She is also very affordable.

Here is the down side.  She is a toe first landing horse already, and it seems as though that front white foot is starting to turn out.  Strike 3, is that she is not register-able.  Some may say that the feet issues can be trimmed out, and that is most likely true. The other thing that most will say is that you can't ride papers. That is also true, and many folks don't even need papers to breed, so it isn't that any of those things are deal breakers by themselves.  But put the 3 together, add in the fact that this is a horse that will require daily handling to get a good start on life, and top it off with the heightened potential for me to get hurt, and it does change things quite a bit.   I have decided to pass on her.   My last free/very cheap horse (who also landed toe first) is still the most expensive horse I have.  And although I know so much more now than I did then....I'm just not willing to take on that project. I don't give the horses I have as much time as they need.   So, moving on...

In the midst of my cleaning today, I took a break from working to go out and do some muscle toning exercises....aka hoof trimming.

I do not have a hoof stand yet so I am forced to use a car jack stand.  It has a nice cradle for the hoof and I figured out how to use one of the gators from my ripped up easy boots, to strap on the fetlock and use as padding. However it still is not as stable as I would like it to be.  But it suffices for now.

I managed to get all four of his feet done, and was quite pleased with my work.  I had some issue with my nippers, and my knife complete sucks, but I did the best I could.  TC helped by sharpening my nippers and knife the best he could, but they are poor quality and you can't change that.  It is time to ante up and get the proper tools if I am going to start doing this on my own.  It will make my job go faster, and perhaps then I won't hurt so bad afterwards.

I took his high heel down a little more, brought his toes back, and tried my hardest to make sure everything was even.  I wasn't positive if I was successful, but he seemed to be moving okay when I was done.

Shortly after that, my barefoot trimmer showed up to do Sassy.  I pointed out what some folks from the ABC hoof care group had mentioned, "That her bars looked as though they were growing out over the sole."
Not that I told her what to do, I asked her what her thoughts were, and if she agreed.  She took her knife cut away some bar and sole, and showed me a nice straight bar line on each side.   I was actually very happy with the trim she did this time. There is a nice concavity to it and she is no longer jam packed with sole.  She pointed out that Sassy grew a ton of sole in 4 weeks, and she cut it out this time. She asked me to please not mess with her feet for the next four weeks. She says it isn't because I'm doing anything bad, but she can't see what her feet are doing, if I keep messing with them.   I promised her I wouldn't, and I won't.

Afterwards she took a quick look at the work I did on Trax.  She was very impressed, and said that I did a great job with the lack of good tools I have to work with. She asked if she could go in and do a couple of things, and I said sure.  She used the file to open up the heels in his upright foot and reminded me to be diligent about treating his center crack for thrush. (which I have not been)  He is making good frog contact to the ground now after the trim, so hopefully we can get that fixed.   She gave me a few pointers on how I can be more successful in my trim with him, just using the file. So that was helpful too.

After we were done checking him out, we did some power tool training.  She stood next to him with her grinder and if he stood still a quiet he got a treat.  It took a minute but we did finally get him to relax enough for her to pet his side while running the grinder in her other hand. it was a huge step for him, and I was very proud of my boy.

Now it is time for bed, for an hour or so, and then off to the air port to pick up our guests.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Horses are Drug Addicts

It was gorgeous today.  I was up early to get ponies fed before the vet came.  I sprayed everyone with fly spray. Tried to rake up some poop, and did a few things around the yard before she came.

She brought her handy dandy mobile dental unit, which I have to say is one of the coolest inventions I have ever seen.  It is a fully hydraulic squeeze chute on wheels, with its own power supply.  

Once she got set up we decided to do Trax, figuring he would be the hardest to deal with.  He handled the sedative shot like a pro, walked right up into place like the big boy that he is.  I was so dang proud of him when she put the headset on him.  He took it all in stride, and I thought that maybe it was just going to go smoothly after all. 

Then she turned on the power float and everything went to hell in a hand basket from there.  You may recall that my paint horse is not phased by any kind of power tool unless he feels it is going to be used on him.  I have ridden him past table saws in use, the entire time our shop was being built he was ridden around an entire assortment of "in use" tools.  No problem.  But try to clip even a single hair with a pair of uber-quiet cordless clippers, and you will find yourself dangling from the lead rope which hangs off the side of the trailer, upon which he has launched himself on to.  So you can imagine his surprise to find power tools not only touching him, but inside his mouth!

Funny thing about sedatives, on a horse like Trax, a small dose actually makes him more reactive rather than less.  I think it has something to do with that feeling of loss of control.  

No worries though, there were plenty of more drugs available, so she gave him another shot and tried again.  
And then he got another....

and then another.

By cocktail #4 he was much better and we though all would be well from that point forward. She said I could go ahead and work on his sheath if I wanted. 

I knelt down, dipped my hand in the bucket, reached up and touched his belly and WHAM!  He kicked the side of the chute.  Luckily I have ninja like reflexes and there was a thick metal bar between me and him.  

About that time some neighbors from down the road came up to see TC. They are ropers.  

"So getting his teeth floated huh?"

(Thank you Captain Obvious)

"Why yes, as a matter of fact we are"

(idle chit chat follows)

"Hey, you are just in time to help me out with this sheath cleaning, after all you have plenty of experience washing penises, right? "

The vet was not prepared for that and almost dropped her vile of drugs. 

Mr. Friendly Neighbor promptly high tailed it the shop where TC was at.  


We had a good laugh over that. 

This time she gave him a dose of Acepromazine.  

Did you know that different drugs will relax different parts of the body on a horse?  That is one of the things I learned today.  

We let it take effect and I tried again. 

Um no, still not enough.  So he got yet another shot.  That made #6.  She said, "lets just wait till I'm done with his mouth. 

Trax did need quite a bit of work, and he never did totally relax.  Lets face it, when he decides to not like something, he REALLY doesn't like it.  He does not like power tools in his mouth, or people messing with his junk. 

She finally finished up, even his snaggle tooth looks almost straight, and we did manage to get him nice and clean. In fact once he realized that we weren't going to hurt him he dropped down, and I am proud to say that his once crusty guy parts are now shiny pink, and he no longer smells like a truck driver who has not showered in a month.  He was quite proud of his shiny man parts and left them out for all the world to see for a couple of hours.

Then it was Killian's turn.  I thought this one would go easier since he is pretty calm about most things.  I could  not have been more wrong.  

You see there is one thing that Killian hates.  He hates to have his mouth messed with.  When it is time to bridle him I just hold the bit down in front of him and he  reaches down and picks up the bit and takes it in his mouth. He is not a fan of worming although has learned to handle it, but he does not like anyone up inside his mouth. 

We gave him his shot, and then he decided to not go into the chute.  Then the drugs took effect, and he really didn't want to move.  Killian is a big fat pig when he wants to be stubborn.  We did finally get him in, and then she tried to open his mouth and he jumped up and hit his head. 

Seven shots later......

We finally got him done.  

He now holds the record for needing the most sedation of any horse she has done. 

Killian also got his guy parts clean and he will be much happier for it. We pulled a bean out about the size of a large grape.  He of course, being of an older generation, was not comfortable with ever letting himself drop.  But we got him pretty well cleaned up.  

He had a lot of big hooks in the back, and has obviously spent a little time as a cribber. His front uppers are almost completely gone. His canines were all out of whack, and he also had some pretty sharp edges in some areas.  But he is all better now.  

When I took him back to his pen he staggered there, and when I left for work he was still standing in the exact same place he was when I parked him. 

Because of all the drugs required, the bill for this visit was very high. I want to blame the horses but I can't. The fact is, I knew their "holes" a long time ago.  I should have been working on it. I knew that Trax is sensitive about his parts, and I should have been cleaning them. I knew he hates power tools so I should be clipping him as often as I can.  I knew that Killian doesn't like having his mouth messed with, so I should be doing it often.  

Today was actually pretty traumatic for all of us, (them mentally, me financially)  and it didn't have to be.  Aren't I the one,  always talking about how horses need to be prepared for what life brings them in order to be good citizens? 

Feeling a little hypocritical right now.   Don't worry though, I'll get over it. 

However I think my ponies might need to go into drug rehab. 

A great article on sheath cleaning

In prep for today's dental work and subsequent sedation, I decided to do a little light reading as I intend on taking full advantage of said sedation.

I found this article very well written on sheath cleaning.

My horse reeks of smegma all the time, so it is time to fix it.

I think this summarizes it quite well.

Monday, March 17, 2014

1.25 Hours and the Eleventh Commandment

I rode Killian this morning, and in exactly 1.25 hours I was able to fix all of his major problems.  It only took one time of pushing him sideways about 30 feet for him to stand still for mounting.  He now stops when asked at any speed, backs up straight, lopes out the minute I ask (although almost always on the incorrect lead), moves off my leg, and does the most beautiful rollbacks of any horse I have ever ridden.  I can move his hip from right to left, but cannot budge it from left to right.  I personally could care less.   He did however have an epic fail at the gate.  We did eventually get it done, but it was never right.

We will however visit that again.  The sad part of all of this is that the first time TC or Simon get on him, he will be ruined again.  But such is life I guess.

One thing I learned with Killian is about why he backs up crooked.  It is because he is anticipating the push on his shoulders.  It was the easiest fix in the world.  If he backed to the left, expecting the roll back to the right, I promptly rolled his shoulders the opposite direction.  Once he realized that it was going to be like that, he backed up straight every single time.

He did well so I hosed him down (which he hates) and then put him away.

Then I got Trax out.

I shall refer again today to the book "Healing Shine" by Michael Johnson. (

I'm sorry if you all are sick of hearing about it but there are just too many real to life things that come out of that book. Or at least real to me.

Those of you who have read the book will recall the 11th commandment.

The 11th commandment states, "Thou shall not let the horse win."

In his book he goes on to tell how all good little christian cowboys and cowgirls know this commandment by the time they are 10.

Today we broke that commandment into a gazillion little pieces.  It is shattered all over my arena buried in the dirt, with mismatched hoof prints stamped all over it.  It is also covered in sweat and tears.  Sweat from both of us and tears from me.

I am exhausted.

On the bright side, some good things did come to light for me today.

If a person could ever gain control of this horses feet at any speed other than a walk, they would find themselves with a horse who contains a gold mine in untapped energy, stamina, speed, and potential to do anything they wanted him to do.

The only down side to this realization is the other realization that in order to get control of his feet you have to get into his brain, and that brain is locked inside a cast iron shell with an unpick-able lock and I have yet to find the key to open that lock.  I know there is one, but its location still alludes me.

We rode for well over 2 hours.  Most of that 2 hours was just spent racing around the arena.  Although in the beginning it was just walk, trot and obstacles and he was great. Then I asked for the lope and the race was on.  I finally got tired of just being along for the ride and started asking him to slow down. That didn't work so I asked for more speed.


All I did was squeeze just a little and he took off like a shot, stretched out and just flew.  I managed to hold on and kept waiting for him to get tired, but it never happened.  He never did slow down, nor did he get tired.  I finally did get tired, and started trying to pull him into smaller circles to slow him down.  His circles got smaller, but never got any slower.

Finally I touched his nose to his butt and he spun to a stop, dang near throwing me off to the side in the process.

From that point forward there was nothing I could do with him.   Finally I just asked him to walk.

At one point I reached down to adjust my reins and he tried to bolt. So our next lesson was strictly getting him to stay at a walk, while I played with the tail end of my reins.  Once he came back to reality to recognize that I was still there, we did some trotting. It was pretty much a fight the entire time.

Finally I got sick of it all and just took him out and walked him down the road, doing lots of stops and back ups.  Then we came home and called it a day.

He won today.  He won big time.  I'm going to have to do some thinking on this and figure out what I need to change up.   If I never asked him to go faster than a trot, then we would not have these issues.  But that is not how life works unless you are a horse on a dude ranch.  He is not a dude ranch horse though, he is my horse, he is a broke horse, and by golly he needs to act like it at least once in a while!

I just might dose him with some mare-calm before I ride him next time.  Just to see what happens.

Here is the thing I noticed about today.  Usually after a while, Trax goes to his happy place, he slows down naturally, drops his head and from that point forward the lines of communication are open.

Today he never got there.  I honestly would like to know why.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Morning Paper

TC gets so frustrated when I head straight to the computer each morning when I get up.  First I make coffee, then I sit down and go straight to blogging.

I finally explained it to him like this.

"You like to read the paper with your coffee in the morning. For me it is just like that only it is only about the things I care about, Horses.  I don't have to read about the crime rate or about Obama, or about what some shady politician is up to now. I do not care about the state of world affairs, they are things out of my control.  I read about what people around the world are doing with their horses, what they learned yesterday, or are going to do today.  It is interactive, so I can ask questions and make comments. And best of all, I get to tell my own stories and discuss my own issues with smart horsey people."

He still doesn't get it, but complains a little less. Also I think he might be jealous because he doesn't get his morning paper anymore. It would be pointless for him to read the local paper here, for some reason his favorite section was the obituary.  OH!  I just came up with the best idea.  I didn't get him anything for his birthday. I should buy him a subscription to "his" paper and have it mailed here. It would be late, but he would still get to read about his home and which of his friends have passed away.

The mornings are gorgeous here in AZ right now, and I hate the usually miss the sunrises now.  However I do love having time before I have to leave for work to spend with my herd.

I am looking into taking a course for thermal imaging for horses. I would become certified, but then would have to buy a very expensive camera so that I could work in that field.  I am still evaluating the effectiveness of it as a diagnostic tool.  However, my Equine chiro, does thermal imaging, and we discussed it a little and will discuss it more when she is here on Tues. One thing she told me is that although for initial diagnosis it only tells you where you need to xray or do and MRI, it is very helpful for follow up to see how the injured area is progressing.  Anyway, I'm still deciding what I want to do.   I really would like to find a way to work in a field that I love rather than one I tolerate but am good at.

On Thursday TC headed home with the semi truck and trailer.  It was the biggest thing parked at our place and was the main reason I lost so much of my arena.  So before he left I mentioned moving the fence back a little further in order to reclaim some of my space.  My goal is to have ALL of my arena back, but I have a feeling he isn't on the same page with me regarding that.  But my actual arena is 300 feet long at least so even if I lose 50 feet of it, I will still have a decent sized arena to ride in.

The shop (which is obscene in size-but adds a wonderful shaded area for me to tack up in) is almost done, which means the tack room can go back where it belongs.  The construction crew still has some stuff here, but a lot of it is gone now and vehicles are parked inside of the shop now which really opens up some space around the place.

Today I've got to get out there and get some weed control going, and trim a few trees back.  I still have not trimmed my roses since I moved in.  I keep saying I'm going to but they keep blooming, so I always end up leaving them alone. I noticed that a couple of the bushes are not blooming now though so I guess the time is ripe for trimming those back.

Sometime today I need to get at least 2 horses ridden, and I had really hoped to get over to the neighbors house with the cows, and do a little cow work.   Next weekend, I will be busy trying to super scrub my house for guests.  The guests are deathly allergic to cats and horses, so when ever they are coming I do all I can to make their stay less "allergy ruined".

Now it is time to head out and feed those ponies.

Hope everyone has a great Sunday!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

More on the Mare

As I continue down this incredibly rocky road with Sassy, I question everyday, my own sanity.  Why am I still pumping time, money and heart ache, into this horse?

She seems better, then worse, then better, and then worse again.

I'm not 100% positive but I think my barefoot trimmer gave up on me the day I told her I was working on my own horse in between visits.  She sent a text asking how she was doing, I told her she was sore and I was headed out to work on her, she asked what I was doing and I told her.  She had so much toe callus she was parking out in front and hobbled even on soft dirt.  I took off what ever toe callus was able to slough off easily and then took the advice of someone who I trust, and took her heels and bars down a little as well.

When I was done she was yawning and licking and chewing and generally much happier.  So I took that as  good sign. I told the trimmer what I had done, and I have not heard back since.  I don't know if that means she is done with us, or if she has just been busy.  I guess time will tell. Somewhere out there, there has to be a barefoot trimmer, who not only understands what I am trying to accomplish, but one who promotes owners having hands on experience with their own horses.

Every so often I go back and file off a little more. The problem is that she is walking on live sole 24/7.  I don't know how to fix that.   Yesterday I had the new farrier come and put Killian's new shoes on, and had him go ahead and trim Sassy up a little more.  I'm not unhappy with the job he did, I'm totally indifferent.  The reason being, that it doesn't appear to be much different than what I have already been doing.  I suspect that is because her feet are so jacked up there isn't much too be done.  I think he did take the heel down just a tad more and it seems as though her frogs are making more contact.  Unfortunately I was not able to be here when he came to talk with him about what he did, and didn't do with her, so I don't know.  He does promote the hands on work by owners, but I am not 100% sure if we are on the same page with what I am trying to accomplish with her.  Of course the one thing I keep saying is that you can't cripple a cripple horse, so I know for a fact that nothing he did made her any worse. Which is the same for me.  I haven't hurt her in any way, hopefully I am helping her.

I don't have any pictures right now. I keep trying to take some but I never ever have any help and so they turn out like crap.  I cannot hold the camera, hold the hoof, make sure there are not shadows, and make sure we are at a good angle all by myself.

On a side note, I do like the way Killian's shoes look. They are not all squeezed in on the heels, but they are set back far enough to give him good support. He seems to be moving well in them. I will ride him this weekend and that will be the true test.

Anyway, I took Sassy out yesterday and worked her. I was going to ride her, but she did not want to be caught. So we spent half of our "work out" time with me driving her around her pen while she did her cute little cow horse moves. (Bitch!)  By time she was done she was already sweating pretty well.  However by time she let me catch her, she was not limping. She did get 2 grams of bute that morning, but still, the bute didn't used to make much difference so clearly blood flow is helpful. (duh)

Since our time was cut short I just took her to the freshly worked arena and we did ground work.  I noticed something yesterday. All my horses are one sided.   She was more than happy to WTL in circles to the left.  I figured since her left foot is worse, then it would be more difficult, but no...she was fine.  When I asked for her to go to the right, she forgot what forward was, and fell apart.  Strangely reminiscent of a certain paint horse I know.   She kept wanting to run backwards, and get stuck.

So I pushed her over to the fence, moved her front end across (that part she does great) and then drove her forward,  She had no choice but to go the direction I asked.  but of course once she got off the fence she tried to fall apart again. So we started again. After the 3rd try she was trotting forward in a circle and eventually was able to kick it up to a less than proper lope. It was very much like Trax's, "I'm staying as far and as hard on the end of this lead rope as I can."  So we stopped and started again.  We stopped and started over and over again until she simply loped forward with out yanking on the rope. One time around and I let her rest.

She was shaking.  (insert sad face here) And then I was wondering if we over did it.

So we just walked. I lead and she followed.  We walked over poles and obstacles and she acted like she was afraid of the bridge.

When we were in WY the arena we often used had a bridge that required a horse to step up about 1.5 feet in order to get on it.  Her favorite thing was to climb up there for fun. She is part goat. So for her to act like she couldn't walk across my bridge, was her being stubborn.  It took a few tries but finally she got up there.

Then she wouldn't come off.

(really Sassy?)

This horse cracks me up, and I guess that is why I keep doing what I am doing.

Anyway, we just dinked around after that and pretty soon instead of leading her in straight lines I was one rein driving her in straight lines...over the bridge and the poles.  It was kind of cool.

After we were done and she was breathing normal, and had not been shaking for a long time, I hosed her off.  She loves a bath and then a nice roll in the dirt.

She is kind of sore today, not sure if it is from the trim or the work, but I gave her the last of my bute today and the last of her BL solution.  I'm actually out of a lot of my supplements so a trip to the feed store is in order.

Oh and speaking of supplements, I almost forgot the most important thing I was going to say.

Sassy is FAT!  Not all over, but I noticed the other day that the little cresty patch on her neck is now a huge cresty line of fat.   Which got me to wondering if maybe this is the reason her progress is so intermittent. Even though the vets and farriers have all said she isn't laminitic, is it possible that some of the lameness is diet related?

(DD if you are reading this, I'm sure you are thinking- "Didn't I bring that up a year ago?"  And you did, and all I can say is that I am really really SLOW to grasp things.)

So, since it can't hurt to try, I have taken her off the alfalfa/Bermuda blend pellets.  She is strictly on the Purina Well-solve supplement (for IR horses) and her Bermuda hay. She is also getting ADM Gro-strong, for vitamins, to boost her cooper and zinc and hopefully help her grow more hoof. I just started this change this week, so it is too soon to see if there is a difference, but I will keep you posted. (because I know you are all on the edge of your seats)

She does get out to the pasture 3 or 4 times a week. The pasture is planted with Bermuda as well.

Lets face it folks. I am grasping at straws and totally taking stabs in the dark with this mare.  I am in way over my head with her.  I guess I am learning a lot because of her, but some days I feel like I am just beating my head against the wall.  I have no idea what is going to work or what isn't. I just keep trying things until something seems to give steady improvement.

 I need to know, is it this way for everyone?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Some are Sicker Than Others...

I've been ill.

Nothing serious, just a flu like thing, but it has caused one of my lymphnodes to swell up at the back of my head.  Sort of makes it hard to do much when you can't really turn your head.  My neck is already all jacked up from that day I drove my pick up off a cliff.  (Another story, for another day) But I'm used to that, I live with it every day. This is different, it feels funny and I don't like it.

But real cowgirls never let a small thing like golf ball sized lumps slow them down so I am up and at 'em today, regardless.

I really needed to get my arena worked up again after the last rain we had, so since I was up early after sleeping all day yesterday I hooked up the arena master and got to work.

I am willing to admit that there is still a little bit of the trailer park gal in me.  I was still in my "lounge around the house" clothes.  My favorite "Boobies Rock" tank top, no bra, cut off's and flip flops.  No worries, its my yard I'll dress how I wanna.

I'm out there, bouncing (literally) along at cruising speed on my little John Deere, kicking up dust as I go, making sure that every single dirt clod has been annilated.  I have a lovely dirt tan, my teeth are full of dirt, and I hear a "HEY THERE!"

I look up and it is my new neighbors out working in their yard.

What could I do?

I smiled and waved, yelled hello back, and kept on bouncing away.

Thinking to myself....

"Welcome to the neighborhood."

Now I'm dressed and off to work the mare.  I have more to tell about her but will save it for the weekend I think.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


When I took Trax out for his ride today, I had some plans in mind.  We did not necessarily adhere to them, but we did not totally throw them by the way side either.
I planned on dragging some barrels out and do some figure 8's.  We did them sans barrels, because once I got up there and started riding, it just seemed like so much work to get back down and drag them out there.  But we used imaginary barrels and did some lovely figure eights while I asked him to follow his shoulder instead of flipping the hip.

He is still really having a lot of trouble with being soft on the left hand side of his face. He weighs nothing on the right and weighs a lot on the left.  It didn't used to be that way.  It used to be the opposite.  So I don't know what changed exactly, but some where along the line something did.  The Chrio/dental lady did say that his teeth are worse on the left than the right and he is scheduled to get that done next tues (bye bye paycheck) so hopefully that will help.

We did some lovely leg yields and some trotting and  just lots of different little things to warm up.  When I asked for the lope he went into race mode.  Not like "Holy crap I gotta get outta here" but more like "Wheeeeeeeeeee!"

So I just rode it out and let him go.   Although after a long while I finally had to ask if he  remembered that I was back there.  I didn't ask with my hands or my seat, I just verbally asked, "Hey Trax, you do know I'm still here right?"

Ear flick (Yes I hear you- almost done)

I sighed.

He sighed

His feet slowed down.

I asked him to slow down.

We loped.

Then we stopped and went the other direction.  This time there was not so much run as just a nice easy lope.

He tried pretty hard on his roll backs and spins, executed his gates with text book precision and only tried to duck out the end of the arena once as we did more trotting.

The part today that made me the most proud though was when we worked the imaginary flag.

He gets it.

Whether we did it at a walk, a trot or even a lope, he nailed those stops like nobodies business, was backing up before I even asked and turned with purpose and immediately moved out again. His head was not down  was soft in the face for it all and although he still struggles with the one direction, I really think it is physical and not mental.

Of course I realize he was getting right because he was anticipating my cues, but I'm okay with that today.  He is trying and if anticipating helps him feel successful, who am I to complain?  Also I think it is time to help things make sense for him.  I'm going to show him (again) the reasons why we are learning to do these moves.

One day this weekend we will go move some cows at the neighbors. It is my hope that it will click for him.  It might not, but I think it will.

I also planned on doing a complete reining pattern, so I chose the one I remember which is the same one we did at the RC show last year.  It took us a few tries, our circles were not round, and of course our spins are lacking. But all in it all it wasn't horrid.   I find If I know I am going to compete I need to do some patterns so that I can get used to remembering the course, and also so I remember how to keep the circles round and things like that.   We kind of failed on the lead changes but finally I got one good one out of him, so I let it go at that.  I tried to use the fence to help with out stops. I won't make that mistake again.  If he doesn't think we are going to stop he starts looking to turn left or right and ends up weaving back and forth. Stopping about 10 ft from the fence...he did pretty good as long as I cued and sat it right.  One time I didn't and jammed my neck pretty good.

We did some log dragging too.  I have got to start remembering to do it every time we ride.  It was a fight to keep him under control today at first and it wasn't pretty.  This is something that only gets better with practice practice practice.

After that we worked on our trail stuff and we were having trouble backing through the L.  I know he can do this but we struggled so I finally just took him out to the middle and moved hips and shoulders and side passed.

This is where I found his big hole and I have some theories behind it.

This horse can side pass for fifty feet from right to left.  But he cannot make it 3 steps from left to right without falling apart.   I literally measured how far we side passed and it was 1/6 the length of the arena which is 300 ft. He could have gone further I think, but I figured it was enough.

So I put him back on the fence and we tried the "bad" side some more.  I finally got to where I could get four steps. So I turned him around and put his butt to the fence, I got 2 steps. Turned him back to the fence and got 4 again. But even the four I got were sticky and awkward.

So when asking to go from left to right he has to bend left and push his shoulder right. He can't bend left.  There has to be a reason. Is it the dental, his sore shoulders, or his mismatched feet?  I'm on a mission now to figure it out.

One thing I did notice, is that when I ask for the pass I tend to look down at where we are coming from. Once I realized that I switched up and started looking where we were going, and he really smoothed out on his good side, and I think it helped with his bad side but he is still hanging up there and I have got to figure it out.

I ended on a good note although I cannot tell you what it was now, and we moseyed over to the tack room. I worked on his tall foot and was able to go in and trim the bars and heels down quite a bit and so he should be getting a little more frog contact on that side now.  I have to take it kind of slow though because I don't know what effect all of these changes on his feet will have on his shoulders.

He is my riding horse and I don't want to make him lame by going all crazy.

After that he got a nice hose down and roll in the dirt. When I left he looked like a bay horse.

I'm excited to go find cows this weekend!

Monday, March 10, 2014

If I should die tomorrow

I know it is a terrible thought, and I am certainly not planning my death by any means.  In fact I suspect I am much to ornery to die young. But with all that being said, the topic of conversation came up between TC and I just the other day.

If I should die tomorrow what would happen to my horses.

Obviously there is Simon and my dogs to consider too, but I took care of Simon a long time ago, and any dogs that couldn't stay with TC would go to my moms.  There is no doubt about that.  She would either find them really good homes or keep them herself. She is a breeder, it is what she does.

As far as the horses go I think they could be sold easily, but since I am still alive I worry about that. I worry that they would end up in a good home, and I worry that Trax, with all his baggage, could easily revert back to his old self under the wrong care. Then he could end up in a string of bad homes or even worse.   The likely hood of that is very real for him.

Killian I don't worry about so much, he can pretty much handle anything that is thrown at him, and he is easy to get a long with. Anyone with any riding skill at all would do fine with him.   Although I would love to see him to go to my sister in California. She really wants a horse she can ride and Killian would be good for her.
But the point of this post is not even really about where my horses would go, of course that is something I want to have worked out but there is more on my mind that that.  It is about citizenship.

How many times do you see on craigs list or some other website an ad that goes something like this.

 "Must have gone asap, two quarter horses. I have had Bucky and his mother, Bella, since she was in foal with him.  would like to see them go together.  Bucky has had a halter on, but other than that has not been handled. He is a stud colt and I think would make pretty babies.  Bella is a good brood mare and is very sweet. She loves when you bring her food.  Her momma was registered but she is not and neither is Bucky. I just cannot afford to feed these horses any more."


"Must sell, 10 year old gelding, was broke to ride when he was 3 but has been sitting ever since, will need "tuned up". Cannot afford to feed anymore."

These are animals that are pretty much doomed because no one ever bothered to do anything with them.  They have lost their "citizenship" status, and their owners have failed them.  Big time!

My biggest fear in the whole wide world is not whether or not my horses are use-able for me, but that they are they good enough citizens to make in the world if I am not around to protect them.  I believe that it is my responsibility to make sure that they can survive in the human world that they were born or brought into. I want them to have the best life imaginable, whether it is with me or with someone else, and it is up to me to help them be well socialized easy to handle, easy to get along with horses.

That is my job as their owner and when I made the decision to bring them home and care for them, it was part of the deal.

Oddly enough, I didn't always feel this way...or at least I did not always realize that this is, in fact, "part of the deal."

I recently ran across some pictures on facebook of some of Sassy's first training sessions with Jay.   We were out there in the cold teaching this mare who had been pretty much standing in a pasture her whole life (3 years) some of the most basic things a horse needs to know in order to survive in the human world.  Every single time we worked with her we found at least 10 different things that scared the crap out of her.

Things like....
The sound of a water bottle
Things touching her butt
The opening of car door
The closing of a car door
a piece of trash blowing across the yard (from 10 miles away-remember wyoming)
A dog bark
The ding ding ding if the door of my truck was left open
a piece of metal banging on the roof of the lean-to
Chinks flapping around her
a plastic bag on the end of the stick

The list goes on and on.

This was the day that Jay taught me about Equine citizenship.

We were working with her and Simon opened the pick up door and Sassy bolted to the other side of area where we were working her.   I yelled at him to not do that anymore.

Jay said to me, "So are you never going to take her somewhere where people might open and close a door?"

"Um...I don't know."

"Well if that is the case then it means she is never going to leave the pasture and if that is the case then my work here is done."  He then proceeded to pick up his stuff to leave and handed me my horse.

"No wait! I mean yes she will be leaving the pasture."

"Then it is your job to show her that these things won't hurt and that you will keep her safe. You are teaching her to be a good citizen. You are teaching her the basic rules of interacting with humans, respecting space, and following direction. You will also build her confidence and teach her that she can react without over reacting."

Bling, the light went on.   It was the beginning of the change in me as to what it means to own a horse, and to be a horsewoman.  From that day forward, if she acted afraid of anything, I made a point of exposing her to it as often as I could.  She still has her moments, she still acts like a car driving by is going to eat her, but I just laugh and tell her to keep walking.

So now here I am today, my horses are all pretty good citizens. Yes I do let them get away with some stuff, and they have some holes in their training.  Sometimes I get lazy or hyper focused on one thing (Trax) and the other two get pushed aside.  But I can honestly say that if it had not been for Jay being in my life at that time Sassy would probably be one of those horses that is doomed, and I would have had no idea that I had failed her.

But I believe that God wants us to do right and so he put Jay into my life at that exact moment when I needed him most, and also at a time in my life where I was the most receptive to new information.

Trax still has his fears, he has several in fact. He has some of them with good reason, and some without, but they are all unfounded.  I am not going to let those things hurt him.   On Saturday when we were trail riding I became aware of the fact that sometimes I let him get away with stuff rather acting like the broke horse that he is.

For example, he had a big piece of brush stuck in his tail. BEC was just going to reach down and grab it out.  I said no, and dismounted removed it myself and then got back on.  Why? Because Trax is still weird  about his hind end. I knew that if she grabbed his tail he would have tried to butt scoot away.   It is not okay. In fact it was kind of embarrassing.  It is time for me to get to work on that, because I want him to be a good citizen for his sake....not mine.  Because I may not always be here to protect him.

So the next time I start feeling lazy about working on all the horses, or lazy about working on Trax's fears instead of his reining,  I think I know just what to say to myself to pull me out of it.

If I should die tomorrow....

Mini-Road Trip

I suppose that is not the most accurate title as it sounds like I took a road trip with Mini's.  I don't have mini's, but Simon and I did take a short trip to the other side of the valley for a ride.

I had my two driving lessons with the new rig, but I have to say it is slightly more nerve wracking with ponies in the back. But then anytime I haul ponies it is more nerve wracking for me.  I seriously want a sign for the back of my trailer that says, "My horses are in here and they mean more to me than you do- so I drive with their safety in mind.  I would appreciate it if you would too."  TC says I just need one that says "Student Driver"  That would sure back some people off! LOL

Actually once I got rolling it was pretty nice. That exhaust brake really slows the whole thing down so nice and smoothly and I actually only have to use the foot brake if I am coming to a full stop. You can hardly even feel the trailer back there  I managed not to run anyone over, drive anyone off the road, or hit a single curb the entire trip.....yay me!

We drove over to the West side of the valley and met up with BEC and just went for a trail ride.  It was good fun, and without a doubt the most gorgeous scenery.  I thought about putting the Old Mac's on Trax but he has been doing fabulously barefoot so I left them off. There were a couple of time where it was really rocky and he slowed his stride down to pick his way through, but other than that he did fabulous!

Of course being on a trail ride in his mind means that he doesn't have to do things like....stop....back up....move off my leg...turn the shoulders, so we did a little of that along the way.  We rode down some washes with nice deep sand for a ways, which is fantastic for building muscle tone.

As always Killian took the best care of Simon. There were a couple of times where Simon was dinking around and Killian thought he was going to get left behind so he took off with Simon to get caught up. Simon wasn't ready for it and thought he was being run away with...well he kind of was, but just at a trot, and only till he caught up with us.  

Killian loves water, Simon took him through some great big puddles, and we decided that we need to find a place to take him swimming some time.  I'm willing to bet money that he will love it.  Trax is not a huge fan, but I made him walk through a couple and all the ponies had a big long drink out of one of them.

There are a lot of saguaros in that area and we had a great time deciding what some of the older ones looked like.

This one isn't all that cool but was a nice photo op

We went down one wash that kept getting deeper and narrow as we went. Pretty soon the walls were taller than us and then there was a big tree blocking out path. Simon was in front I was in the back and BEC was in the middle on Frosty.  So we turned around to head back and for some reason unknown to anyone but the voices in Trax's head, he suddenly decided to be bothered by have a horse behind him...and just for the record, Frosty was not that close at all.  But Trax butt scooted forward, pushing my face into a little dead tree hanging over and a stick went right into my eye socket.  It literally went about 1/2 an inch down in around my eyeball and then broke off.  Luckily there was enough stick out for me to just pull it out, while trying to get my horse under control.

With one eye, I managed to find a place to ride up the side of the wash into open ground and then stopped my idiot horse to assess the damage.  I looked down and saw a drop of blood on my arm- started to freak out (internally of course- I had to keep my cool in front of Simon and BEC) and then realized that it was not from my eye, but just a spot where I had been poked by a thorn on my arm.  My eye was fine, just a little irritated and I spent the rest of the day a little teary on that side while my body produced its own eye flush.

I asked Trax WTH his problem was...."I heard a noise and it scared me."

"Trax, you are a seasoned trail horse. Noises aren't supposed to scare you."

"I'm in a strange desert, Lady, I thought it was a mountain lion."

"Trax have you ever seen a mountain lion?"

"Well no, but my mother told me to always be on the look out for them because they will eat me.  I was just trying to keep you safe...and me too. I figured it I ran fast that maybe the lion would catch Killian and eat him and the kid instead."

"Trax, Killian is part of your herd and the kid is part of my herd."

"Lady, Killian is mean to me and the boy makes you yell a lot, so I thought it would be okay,"

Anyway, so we rode on and laughed about the whole ordeal. We saw some cows, and found some more cool cacti.

This one is especially cool.
After the ride we put Trax and Killian in the round pen with a snack and went and had some lunch ourselves. At the bar and grill there were a bunch of ropers, some of whom were really drunk and had horses tied to trailers out side.

 At one point we all saw one horse go galloping past the door and someone yelled, "loose horse!"  You would think that anyone with a horse would have jumped up to see if was theirs. Some did, but not all.

 Someone came in and said, "Hey Bob (or bill or joe or whatever) your horse is loose."  Bob was particularly drunk, in fact Bob was unable to even walk.

 His response was, "Ahhhh Bullshit!  My horse ain't loose."  

'Yes Bob, your horse is loose."

Bob never moved, let someone else catch his horse and use their own halter to secure the pony back to the trailer.

I have no doubt that the poor horse knew that Bob was in there drunk off his ass, and had no intentions of letting Bob drive him home. He was trying desperately to just get away.  I can't blame him one bit.

Bob is one of those dicks that gives ropers a bad name.

Anyway, then it was time to beat feet home, and we made it home just after dark.  I don't see so well at night so I was glad to not have to drive too much in the dark. The hardest part...getting in my own driveway. There are no streetlights and my trailer does not have running lights on the fenders so I cannot see where my tires are.  I guess I made it in okay though because I didn't hear any clunks.

We had a great great time, and like I told BEC, I am willing to admit that I may have moved to the wrong side of town!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pulling in Style, and Meeting a Farrier

One nice thing about being married to a trucker is that he likes trucks.  Not pick ups, although he likes those too, but big trucks.

He likes the way they pull stuff.  When we moved to AZ we used his old 1 ton pick up to pull our trailer.  He loved the engine brake on his new Dodge, but he didn't love the truck and we couldn't pull the trailer level without crunching the bed.

So TC, being TC started shopping and found a deal and traded his pick up straight across for something new. (new to us)

I teased him about the decals all over it when he brought it home.  It is pretty darn flashy, but after a bit it kind of grew on me.  Nothin like rolling in big and loud!  I wish I could say he bought it for me, but he goes back and forth between AZ and WY a lot with his other trailers, and this will pull those as well as my horse trailer.

Hooked to the trailer it is like a freaking train and I am having to learn how to drive it.  Today was my first lesson, and I drove it around town without the trailer.  Tomorrow I will pull the trailer around for practice, but then Sat I have some place I want to go with Trax, and I want to be sure I can handle it before I put my horse in there.

Ya know what sucks though....I rarely haul more than one horse at a time though so really it is a lot of truck and trailer to haul around one little old paint....but I'm not gonna complain. There is a couch in that sleeper that folds down to a bed, plus a fridge and a microwave.  No potty, but I can get around that.

In other news, I needed to find someone to come and redo Killians shoes. I noticed that his last set seem to be contracting his heels in and I'm not liking it at all.   I decided to call the guy that is putting on the trim clinic that I will be going to in April.

It was kind of funny when we talked on the phone because we almost got into an argument about Sassy.  I'm not even sure except that the subject came up and he made the mistake of saying he could fix her with shoes.....Um...WRONG ANSWER DUDE!   However, since I knew that I wasn't asking him to work on her I didn't have too much to worry about.

He was in the area and so stopped by to assess Big K, and pretty much confirmed what I thought I was seeing. He felt like Killian was wearing a full size smaller than he should have been in.  However, he doesn't have much hoof yet and neither of us had time to do the work today so next week he will come and work on him.  One thing he did that I have only seen one other farrier do (in Colorado) was look at the whole horse.  He looked at his hips, his shoulders, checked for back pain and touchy spots.

He asked if he could look at Sassy.  I said sure but made sure he understood that I was not changing my treatment plan at this time.  I expected an argument but instead got, "I wouldn't ask you too."  He took a peek, pointed out a few things that could use a little change, pointed out some things that looked good, and told me that all in all I was doing a great job with her.   Most of what he pointed out was what I suspected but lacked the confidence to do.  Some of it I didn't even realize, but he showed me what he was saying, why it was what it was, and showed me how to see it.  I wanted to take credit for all the work, but I couldn't because someone else had done a lot of it. But I have been filing on her pretty regular too, and really working on those frogs. The frog changes are all me. If I had left it up to anyone else, they would have just left it.  Very soon I will post some pictures of the cracks. You will not believe how much they have changed.

He also looked at Trax and gave me some pointers, all free of charge.  I really loved that he encourages owners to get comfortable with maintaining and even doing the work on their own horses. He said, "I'm about the horse. I'd rather see the owner do their own work and do it right than to see them at the mercy of a bad farrier and not even know it."

The last thing he said to me was that by time the clinic comes I won't need to learn too much. I disagree because although I am beginning to understand what it needs to look like, I don't know how to handle the tools (other than the file) to make it happen.

I walked away from our free consult feeling pretty good about things.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Willing Partner

I coined stole this phrase from BEC when she gave me her assessment of her little bit of time watching me ride Trax and riding him herself.  She said, "You have your work cut out for you, he is not the most willing partner." (also coupled in with "You have done a great job with him so far, keep it up." )  Her assessment was 100% correct and I have known this for a long time.  In fact it is one of the reasons I am constantly horse shopping, because I want a willing partner.

Trax likes to get things right, just like any horse, because getting it right means he can go back to his nap.  Some horses, on the other hand enjoy learning knew things and thrive off of the challenge.  With all of his baggage, he thrives off of being left along.

Also, on the day that she rode him he was not feeling well. In fact he was not well for a couple of weeks, so that did contribute to his attitude that day. What else...well I wanted him to be something he wasn't yet and I was pushing him faster than he was ready for.  This sort of behavior on my part puts up three more bricks in the wall that I just tore 1 down out of.

So lets see that was about a month ago.  Alot has happened for the old guy since then.

He/we had a meltdown, which in turn brought about a few revelations on my part.

He is on a new diet. I was looking for a magnesium supplement but since I couldn't find it settled on a grain made for IR horses.   He is also getting a vitamin supplement and a joint supplement.  One at the behest of the trimmer to get those soles growing better, and the other at the behest of the chiro who thinks it will help the pain in his one hock.

He had a chiro adjustment which left him hardly able to keep his eyes open.

Today was our first ride since the melt down and since his chiro appt.

I won't say I had a new horse today, but he was different for sure.

First off I noticed today that my horse has withers.  Did you know that my horse has withers?  I know, you would think that I should have known, but truly today is the first time I have seen them.  It kind of freaked me out. I thought "Argh, he is getting too skinny!"  But then I felt for his ribs. Yes you can feel them, but the are not stick out.   I looked at his butt. Not sunk in at all, still round and muscular.  I felt his back bone, yes I can feel it, but it is not sticking up, it is just flat.   But that big strap of fat over his withers is gone.

You can bet that I'll be watching his weight closely, in fact even now he is out in the pasture all by himself having a snack, but right now he looks great. After our ride today I hosed him down and really looked at him with all his winter hairs smoothed down. Not skinny, just has withers....go figure.

So we rode. We started with the lunging and  He has never done that.  EVER.

We had a welcomed audience today of A, who is quite modest and does not call her self a trainer, but who has spent a lot of time around some of the bigger named trainers in the area, and does give lessons to young children.  She just wanted to watch us for a bit.

When I got on, I asked for the later flex. He was good to the left still, really stiff to the right.  We trotted around moved off my leg, counter arched, stopped, backed up. Stood still and reminded him that if he feels the slightest pressure on his mouth, if he drops his head the pressure will stop.

We ran our wild circles and then when he felt right I asked for a little more control.  He gave it to me willingly.  He was just so damn good.

We worked a little on our roll backs and she mentioned that if I sat back on his butt a little more it would encourage him to plant that hind foot a little better.  Damn straight it did!

I side passed him for her, it actually felt pretty nice and she said that he only crab stepped once or twice before he moved gracefully and crossed over in front...both directions.

We loped the other way, working on our transitions of faster to slower and back again.

Then it was time for her to go so I kept riding, we worked on our lead changes.  Did you know that Trax can almost do a flying lead change?  I didn't.  By time we finished with that exercised I was able break him down just one step ask for the change and get it.  Can you see my grin from where you are?

We did a few more roll backs against the fence. He is so good in one direction but not the other...but we will get there.  We did them at a trot.

Earlier when we were loping circles I had asked for a stop but got my cues all wonky and the stop was all wonky. On our last circle, I tried to pick up on his front end just a little, said, "Ready", sat down, and then said "Whoa". It was the best stop he has ever done.

We stopped right there, walked down the road and then came home for a hose down, a quick hoof file and now he is getting his pasture time.

He is becoming a willing partner.  I don't know if it is me or him, the supplements, the chiro or a combination of it all, but it was tangible progress today and I could not be happier with my horse.

I have had 3 different people tell me now that I really ride much better than I give myself credit for. So I guess I'll quit saying I can't ride at all now.

One thing that A said she noticed that she thought was very cool is that Trax and I have constant conversation's going on.  He asks, "This?"  and I say, "No this." and so he gives what I want and then I reward with the release. Then he says, "Can I lift my head?" and I say, "No I'd rather it was down." and so he gives it back again and gets his release.  I never realized that about us, but I guess it is true. I guess that is a good thing.

Late for work now.

PS.  Done with the horse shopping.