Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday's practice with Mezza

Since I didn't squeeze in the long lines on Tuesday, I felt they needed to be practiced again today. Miss Mezza is doing well with them, and starting to get the turns down, so I want to practice them regularly enough that we can see ground driving later this summer.

Currently I am incorporating as many basics as I can think of into her practice, which is about 3 times per week. I try to rotate some of the activities so the sessions remain between 1 and 2 hours, but others need to be practiced each time. Since Mezza will be showing in halter and showmanship she needs to be really light and comfortable handling at side in different locations. It is really easy to get in a routine, and then forget about some of my "mini goals". The true test will be in the actual show ring itself.

Ideally I would add at least one more day per week, but with our own 2 horses and work, that is still in the "planning" phase! What might work better is to add one or two short sessions, of just handling her mouth, washing her hooves with a sponge and bucket, practicing just spray, or just bending, etc.

Usually I try to start by stalking her in the round pen, and then practicing in-hand there for more focus before taking her to another location on the property. This way she may start in the round pen, get tacked and groomed in the barn, get additional work in the indoor or outdoor arena, or even in the obstacles in the small field, and then go back to the round pen for long lining before de-tacking again in the barn.

Right now part of her getting used to different locations will be achieved by trailering her with Dawn's other horses to different events.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More Mezza...

Mezza after backing out of the stall. "Whatever..."

Today I was out late, so Dawn got to watch most of the session with Miss Mezza. Mezza got stalked, then we worked on in-hand turns (fores, hinds), walking, trotting at side, backing with me facing her, backing with me at her side (backing with her).

After our "warm up" I went and got the infamous spray bottle, and we practiced with that. She still moves off initially, but is standing after a short while. I need to do this every few days now that the weather is warm.

After that I took Mezza into the barn and we first went into the stall with the higher step up and practiced stepping out front first. She bounced out the first time, walked out the second. Then we went to our second stall, with barely any step up and practiced backing out. Soooo much easier this time. We completed 3 nice backs in about 10 minutes!  Her confidence is really coming!

Show halters go especially well with a nice bit of hay.

I returned her to her pen, thinking we were done. However, the grand finale of the evening was trying on a show halter with plenty of bling!  She acted like it belonged on her--well, I guess one will, very soon. The next show is the 3rd week of June and we're planning to enter her in halter and showmanship. Much to do yet before then, but it's coming along. :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mezza work continues

Today Mezza and I skipped around and practiced on a number of different things. I'd wanted to get her back in the long lines, and for that I still want the round pen until she's more comfortable in them.

So, we started by practicing our stalking, turns, and in-hand in the round pen, then walked down and tacked up indoors, where she is relaxed while tied, as long as she has a companion. I need to practice walking away around the corner. I don't leave her alone yet.

After grooming, saddling and putting on her front boots (more for practice than needed protection) we headed into the indoor arena and walked and trotted close circles over poles, then worked on more desensitization with the rope hitting the saddle before switching out the halter for the side pull and longing over the poles using a longer line at walk and trot. That is coming along nicely.

We finished up with that and headed all the way back up to the round pen, where we spent time desensitizing her butt and legs to me flopping the ropes around before sending her out on the long lines. She is getting the feel and doesn't mind them, and is picking up the turning!  I'm so proud of her!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Preparations for showing Mezza...and more

I woke up early today, and headed down to the Indiana Equestrian Center. It was the first Colorado Stockman's Horse Association Show of the season, (3rd Sunday each month, starting in May). I walked around as trailers pulled in and folks got busy preparing their horses.

The halter shows and the showmanship were what I really wanted to watch. Dawn and her daughter, Jennifer met me at the bleachers and we sat with a small group of people who helped fill us in on some of our questions.

The show was not crowded, and the weather was great--not too hot yet. We were surprised to see all the halter and showmanship horses had leads with chains!  Although they did not put them over the nose or through the mouth, they still ran the chains underneath and up against the chin of the horse. Almost every horse we saw was well mannered though, and I only saw 2 individuals really tug on those leads.

For Mezza to compete in halter, she will be in a class of mares 3 and under. Today there were no 3 and under, only 4 and up. The halter class is judged entirely on the horse--their conformation, how well muscled they are, and how well they present to the judge. We watched real close at how the handler moved around as the judge walked around the horse!  The horse also needs to square up, something to work on, as Mezza loves to cock a foot when she's relaxed.

Next we watched the showmanship classes. These are judged on both the handler and the horse. There is a short pattern the handler takes the horse through before stopping for the judge and letting them inspect the horse. The horse must walk, trot, back, stop and in this case pivot on the hinds for the judge.

Eves dropping and asking questions gave us some information--some of these kids were taking lessons on showing their horses in halter and for showmanship. No wonder the horses were quite calm and the youngsters did quite well.

For showing Mezza, we talked about trying the Novice category, as this was new to us all.

Then we headed out to go and collect horses. Mezza was going to be introduced to the equestrian center and actually riding in a trailer (instead of just loading) while Jennifer would enter Boo in some of the Western classes and Dawn would bring Luna, Mezza's dam along for an outing.

Things went well!!!

Mezza got a minor 'focus' workout in the round pen while Dawn and Jennifer got the trailer all hooked up. We got to practice loading and unloading Mezza and I got her brushed up while Boo got a bath. Luna got a grooming while the last tack was loaded in the trailer.

Mezza hopped in and took her place at the front (see feet beneath Boo's stomach in photo).

We wondered how Mezza would react to everything at the center--to our amazement she was quite calm, did not pull and walked around with or without the other two horses with no concern! We were happily surprised, to say the least!

Jennifer enjoyed riding Boo in a couple of classes, and took home a first and second place. She thought Boo would have appreciated running barrels over the show classes, but hey, it was a nice day for a ride anyway!

And Mezza, she enjoyed alternately standing and watching all the action, (along with getting quite a bit of attention for folks), taking walks around to see everything, and yes, of course the wonderful grass!

The entire experience can be chalked up as a "non-event" something that my Equine Studies teacher, Damian, says means that I've done my homework. I think we all got a good grade for the day!
Many thanks to Dawn Dooley for her collaboration with today's events!!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

About Scout

This is my little Mustang that I bought in April, 2005. By 2006 he looked really good, had filled out and was in good shape. I had to put shoes on his fronts, as his hooves didn't grow fast, and his soles were thin. In 2007 he started to go lame on the front after going barefoot in the winter. We shod him again, but he needed pads for awhile. Later, I believe the next year, he developed a "hitch" which I thought was in the rear. That did not get confirmed by x-ray until early 2010, and he was found to have some pretty good arthritis in his left hock.
Scout just after I got him in 2005
Scout, early 2010
Scout, December 2010 before fight

Currently, Scout has very little muscle on his left side, and lots on his right (I noticed that he really looked uneven when ground driving him last week, and Jill, a friend who works at a vets commented on it after I asked if she would look at him). She said he's obviously been carrying the weight on his right side for some time. I'm perplexed because since last August we've given him injections in his left hock about every 4 months (August 15, Dec. 16, and April 17). His left rear leg seems better (he will back without swishing his tail), but his lower back continues to get inflamed, and his turning ability with the back legs seems worse. 

This has been a problem ever since his fight with our other horse in January 2011, although the arthritis in his left hock has been an issue since early 2010. (He received one injection for the hock in March 2010 or April 2010, followed by an injection of Legend several months later.) I was told to ride him or work him lightly every other day, and Bute him with 1gram of Bute beforehand. This seemed to be fairly successful before the horses fought. If I had followed up earlier with another injection late that year it might have helped. However, everything went to  H.... in a handbasket after the two horses tangled, and from late Dec. 2010 until summer 2011 Scout had no injections, only chiropractor work, a lot of working from the ground, and little riding as he was quite sore. He was also overweight, and insulin resistant. 

In August the hock was re-evaluated and found to have gotten a lot worse. Scout was in his own run now, not sharing with the other horse, and we could control his feed intake. Treatment began again on the hock. Initially it looked like this was the key! But, his front shoes had been left off for X-rays, and when those weren't put right back on he became sore on his fronts. His soles are thin. So, we put bar shoes and Equipack on his fronts. This helped his fronts, but he continued to be bracy and sore.

Therefore, Scout and I are trying a test of sorts. Every other day I will walk or exercise him straight (from the ground, not ridden) as I've been doing for some time--ground driving, walking up the little hills at the east end, or long lining in really big circles or on the straight at walk and trot. In addition I will add 10 minutes of longeing him in a circle to the left mainly at the trot, and if possible over one or two poles.

The photos I've posted are from two different dates. The first ones show Scout in late summer 2009, before he'd started to put on weight.

The second set shows Scout as of yesterday, May 18, 2012. He's lost a lot of his additional weight, but is quite sore in the back just in front of the LS joint.

I want to see if this will help the left side. I'm hoping it will. Probably I will need to do this about three weeks at least to see a change?  If he gets sore instead I think I'll know sooner than 3 weeks that it's not working, but I don't really know what to expect. Right now any time I ride him I sore his back up, even if all we do is walk with a little trot, which may be because he still won't load the left side and walk evenly, or because it's just so much weaker he can't. We may need to rule out damage in his pelvis if this continues. 

I worked with him on this yesterday (Friday the 18th) and since I'm writing this Saturday, the 19th (behind as usual!)  I checked him today. His entire back, both sides, from the base of the withers to the LS joint is really sore. However, I also gave him a dose of Ivermectin yesterday evening, and the weather changed abruptly as well, and I think that might have had an effect.  So today I put Sore No More all over his back along both sides of the spine and gave him a paste electrolyte. He seems to be eating and drinking well.  I'm not ready to jump to conclusions yet.

If anyone reads this and has any ideas, please let me know. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

A good Friday!

Mezza and I worked in the round pen on stalking today, walking and trotting in-hand, before going to the barn to work in the stall.

Today's stalking went really smoothly--Mezza circled me 3 or 4 times at an easy lope before she started to look at me. I had her continue on a couple laps, she can get high headed when I don't let her come in when she asks, but this time she simply tried to circle closer and I pushed her out and kept her going a few more laps and then stepped forward and back--she sucked right in and we stood facing each other and I pointed and wiggled the tip of the whip and she headed out in the correct direction. Asking for her to come in and turn with her left eye on me was no sweat, asking for her to step in and then turn from the right eye still takes two tries most of the time. After about 3 turns she is trotting, watching me, and she was really relaxed, except with the turns from the right, where she initially stops, doesn't turn in toward me when I step out and back, but tries to run past without turning, so I make her continue and try again. It was taking two tries, but the last one was really good, so I let her just stop and stand, and the she walked right in very calm.

We practiced our turns on hinds, fores, backing and then her walking and "whoaing" and trotting at side. This is all coming along pretty nicely.

After that we headed into the barn where Mezza and I walked in and out (forward) of the stall with the higher step several times before going to the stall with almost no step to practice backing. We still went in and out forward a couple of times, then worked on coming part way in, standing with the fronts in, then backing out. Finally we worked on coming in completely, standing (almost invariably she'd come in and as soon as her hinds were in she'd swing them! She therefore got a lot of practice with partial turns on the fores so she'd like up straight. I found it easier to practice asking for one or two steps back and then stop her when they were good backing steps so I could rub her. Then I'd ask her to step forward (towards me at the back of the stall) and we'd practice again. When the steps back got less crooked, then I stopped asking her to move forward and simply gave her a rest and a rub after one or two steps. We completed 3 backs out of the stall. It probably took us at least 20 minutes. I am really proud of her! That was all for her for the day.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hoss, Scout and Mezza time

The weather was nice today, even though it threatened to rain at times.

I loaded Scout, and then Hoss without a hitch, although Hoss looked like he wanted to back out shortly after loading, so I untied the rope and waited. He did not back out, so I rubbed him and retied the rope.

I met my husband at the Equestrian Center, where he rode Hoss and I walked Scout. We practiced walking Scout by Hoss' side, as if he were being ponied. No ears, and Scout didn't get scared!  Loading coming home, Hoss did back out part way, so I back him out all the way and we trotted circles each direction for a few minutes. He loaded right up and did not back again.

Once home, Hoss wanted to back as soon as I started untying. So I stopped untying and relaxed, guess what, he relaxed too!  We just stood there together! So I asked him to back out and stand right out of the trailer, then I asked him to come back in... he did, no hesitation, and promptly started eating from his hay net...was I happy or what!?

Later I worked with Mezza, and Ben gave me some help with stalking her and assessing her head carriage, before I let her come in. I get over eager to let her come in because she's asking, and then have to send her back out because she won't stick with me--LOL she needs to show more than an "ask" that head needs to be down, and the eyes soft as well as her ear on me. She usually won't lick and chew until she's stopped anyway!

I also worked on her walking and trotting at my side, from both sides, with stops, and backing at side. This is coming nice now, even from the off side.

And, this was our first day in the long lines!! She could have cared less at my flipping the rope over her butt!  Ben has shown me several different ways to desensitize with ropes and whips

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mezza and the stall

Working on entering and backing out of a stall as an aid in learning to step down from higher up and follow through with the hind feet.

Today was really busy out at the barn, with no turnout or round pens open. My initial idea of introducing the long lines got trashed quickly, as I wanted a round pen for that introduction. Since I didn't think Mezza had been out much that weekend, I decided that I would practice with her first with some in-hand work in her pen, and, if her focus was good, I'd then work on in-hand work and desensitization in the outdoor arena where there were already two other horses at work. She needs to get used to working around other horses if we are to show her in either showmanship or at halter, and she has been getting better about refocusing when she gets diverted.

The time went well. She never got jumpy, she simply paused from time to time to watch someone go by on horseback, or check out a horse in long lines. As for the desensitization, that work is progressing along with the dressage whip, which she is tolerating around her ears now, though she still doesn't like it.

Not so sure about this flippy wavy thing!

Hmmm, this really is not quite so bad!

What is even better is that we finished the day by working again with her in the stall, where she had to step up to get in and step down to get out. We worked on that a bit, and when she was stepping out and not hopping I took her to a stall with almost no step up and worked on the backing out.

Hopping out with the hinds initially

Mezza finally walking out nicely

Stepping out with the hinds!

Backing out was not as easy as I thought!  After I'd introduced her to this stall, and moved her around inside of it, I practiced walking her in and stopping her with just her front feet in, and then backing her out from that point. That went smoothly, so I brought her all the way in, with her back feet just in. It was not nearly as easy to back her straight!  I ended up staying at her front, and correcting (overcorrecting it seemed) each step backwards. She also scared herself once by stepping sideways right within the entrance of the doorway and hitting the door's edge. Backing straight really matters!

Possibly next time I work it, I will try for one step back, then bring her forward, then ask for two steps back, then bring her forward and really get more confidence into her backing. It will make all the difference in the world for a trailer!

Backing out of the stall is scary!

A little more...


Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Mezza" work

May 10 started with a fair amount of practice on older "stuff" including our turns in-hand, rating at walk and trot in a short circle over ground poles, and longing on a longer line over ground poles.

Mezza in hand, practicing the walk and whoa from the off side.

Practicing one form of the back from the off side.

Longeing tacked up over ground poles.

The link to the longeing video: Longeing Mezza indoors over ground poles

Desensitizing to the dressage whip

We did a lot of work with desensitization with the dressage whip, which has a small piece of white plastic back left on the end of it. Mezza did NOT like it tickling her ears, and wasn't too keen on having rubbed along her neck, especially when she saw it out of her other side! We practiced this for a while, and she calmed down, but will need it repeated for some time yet. Unfortunately in the video, we are far enough away that it is really hard to see the dressage whip at all!
I need to make sure I'm much closer to the camera for that!

The thing I wished to have gotten photos of was when I took her back into the barn where the stalls are. We practiced entering and leaving one of the stalls which has a good 6-inch step up into the stall. I'm trying to mimic stepping up into a trailer, since she had so much trouble stepping out of it last time we practiced. My friend, Jerry, suggested checking the stalls to see if one had a step up, and yea, I found it.

She stepped right in, and then I let her briefly explore the stall before moving her around in it, asking for her to turn her front away in a circle, then her hind, etc.  Then I asked her to step out and she started to then hesitated. I stood outside the stall as she explored the edge with her muzzle and gingerly with her front feet. She finally hunkered down close to the floor, and extended one front foot--slid it out over the edge and let it extend to the floor. I thought she would end up on her belly! She didn't. As soon as the foot found the barn floor she brought the second foot, and did a small hop out with her rears. I was proud of her, and she was obviously feeling good about it. I rubbed her, and then took her back in. She came out much better the second time, but still with a bit of a hop. The third time she wasn't sure she wanted to go IN to the stall. So, we did a bit of pressure and release. Coming out, no problem. Ditto for 4th time. We went in and out of the stall about 5 or 6 times, with her finally just stepping in and out with me.

The I gave her a break and took her up to the front of the barn for about 10 minutes before we came back for a "review" which she passed with flying colors! I'll need to repeat this for awhile. Then I plan to work on backing her out of several of the stalls, beginning with one that has almost no step up.

In the end I learned not to leave my camera and tripod set up in the indoor arena without supervision--even if it is on the opposite side of a fence!  One of the youngsters turned out in the arena was curious enough to put her head through the fence and tried chewing on my camera! LOL, it survived, but has teeth marks!  A good lesson to me.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Setting goals

I've made several goals for working with horses (and myself) this summer.

Goal 1: Working with Mezza, the 2-year old filly, and getting her showing at halter at local shows
Goal 2: Getting comfortable riding, working with, and trailering my husband's horse, Hoss
Goal 3: Learning how to pony Scout (my Mustang) off Hoss

Goal 1: 
I've begun chronicling my sessions with Mezza, and that is going well. There is still tons to do and learn. Always an adventure. You can check out my notes on progress with her on posts on this blog.

Goal 2: 
Working with Hoss, is under way, thanks to many people!
A little background on Hoss and Scout: Since January 2011, Hoss and Scout have been separated after two intense fights one month apart, in which they stopped fighting only after Scout became so sore he could no longer kick. Scout, who once was the dominant horse, is now the submissive horse, and Hoss, once the underdog, and easy-going guy, has now become much more assertive, sometimes aggressive around other horses.

Therefore my husband and I are now learning how to become better herd leaders. We understand that we need to insist that in our presence, these two horses will not fight, and that each will have good manners with us as individuals as well. For me this has been an ongoing learning experience. Over the past two years I've taken riding and ground lessons with Hoss from Damian Ficca. From last summer on, I continued working with Hoss mainly on my own, with occasional help from two other trainers--Lisa McNamara, who has helped me with lessons on Scout, and Jill Wolf, who has provided assistance with preparation for trailering.

Then in late winter of this year, when Hoss injured his left front foot, I spent quality time in the barn with the horse that hates being indoors--cleaning, changing and wrapping his foot for over a month. I guess this was my preparation for furthering our trailering work. At Horse Expo this past March, I was able to watch Mark Bolander at one of his clinics. He spoke about the horse having to have confidence in us. Later I talked to him about that subject in regards to trailer loading, and realized it was myself who lacked confidence that Hoss would stand quietly once loaded and not back out. I lacked confidence because I didn't have the tools and understanding of how to proceed if he did back out....I'd gotten him in by just asking nicely and he went in. But when he backed out, he'd then decide he didn't want to go what, the pressure and release I was using apparently wasn't enough(?)

Enter Ben...I've been watching Ben work with a young horse named Franky, and seeing how Franky responded to what Ben asked. Ben is patient, consistent and clear. He has commented and helped me on some sticking points I've had with Mezza. So, I asked him to explain to me what he would do on the trailer loading with Hoss. He had seen Hoss step into the trailer and stand quietly with me, and I told him that it was me tying, getting out and closing him in that worked him up and started him backing. Ben offered to help me, and that has given me the tools I needed for this.

What I've put to heart...
Long story (not too short), when the horse becomes confident in us, and when we've done enough ground work, are consistent, clear, and patient then we (or I in this case) can ask him to perform a realistic task. Hoss was no longer afraid of the trailer as much as he lacked confidence in me. And with guidance, I learned to show him what I expected, and how to watch his reaction and adjust mine. I am now able to load him, have him stand while I tie, put in a hay net, get myself out, put up the butt bar and close the door. Best yet, I know that if he has trouble and backs, I can ask again, and he can rest in the trailer if he needs to work outside it a bit. I used to think that working a horse when they weren't paying attention, or responding well meant I'd done something else wrong. I now realize it is all part of the process, whether it's stalking, or having to put on/release pressure in one way or another, this is how they learn--it doesn't mean run them into the ground!  However, a second thing happens when they work, if they are really uptight (and this applies to us too) the physical work takes care of all the adrenaline and chemicals our bodies release into our system--and suddenly when those are worked away, we (and the horse) start to calm down and think! As long as I am confident, Hoss now loads well--just walks right in and waits.

Scout has been sore about every time after I've ridden him since last year. So I keep going back to
groundwork until he seems better, and than I try again. At this point we will stick to ground work
until he can move well for longer periods on a circle and his muscles have come back on his left side.

Goal 3: 
Ponying Scout
My third goal for this summer has been to get comfortable ponying Scout, my little (and sore) Mustang using Hoss, my husband's big Appaloosa.

This past Thursday was the first day I actually practiced this in the outdoor arena with help from Jill Wolf, who is a trainer, and my husband.

In the past we had tried bringing Scout along after Hoss, but Scout would often bulk, and we had no real need for this, so we were not persistent. Now however, Scout has been sore in the back often enough, that there has been a real need to move him in a straight line, either by ground driving, walking him in hand, or, my other option, ponying him. 

In preparation my husband and I have been taking the two horses out together and walking them together for some time. We've learned that we need to call them on any "ears back" or aggressive behavior. They have been well behaved around each other the past few months. So it was time to find out what our next step should be.

Mike and I tacked Hoss up after a little ground work in the arena. Jill Wolf wanted to watch me warm up and then move Hoss. I need to be able to neck rein, and move him around with my legs. After practicing this, I got off and haltered and brought in Scout. We walked him separately by Hoss' side for a few minutes as I rode and watched their reactions. Jill showed me where Scout's head needed to stay, close to my right leg, and that since Scout was slower than Hoss, I'd need to rate Hoss' speed, and keep Scout to the inside of the arena (shorter distance) or do right-hand turns instead of left to make it easier. 

Then Mike climbed on Hoss and took Scout's lead, and I walked along the outside of Scout, and encouraged him along. They did well--we had to call "ears" on Hoss a couple of times, but after that it went well. We will continue to practice for awhile with a second person.

We are on our way...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Watching and learning


Today I watched as Ben worked with Lightning. Many of these things I am learning to do with Mezza.
Captured with camera are giving/flexing work with the head, and a lot of desensitization work with tying and throwing/spinning ropes.

Next time I'll get the camera out faster, as I missed a lot of the asking for the turns on fores and hinds!


Today Scout got a walk, grooming treatment, followed by Sore No More and icing (no, not the kind on the cake!)  He gave me quite the look, but did well with the ice and water in a bag!

His inflammation is mostly gone, although the lower back is still sore. We need to start working a little more, even if it's on the straight as in ground driving, or just walking and trotting, as you notice he's lost most of his rump muscles!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A 3-equid day

Today was drier than yesterday--so yesterday was cleaning and short turnouts (and mud)!
The weather was sunny today, and things will be drying soon (yeah!!) so I took advantage of it as much as possible and got some nice time in with both Mezza and Hoss.


Scout gets the "picture of the day" along with a short grazing turnout (note the grazing muzzle). He's lost at least 50 lbs. since last summer, although he continues to get inflammation in his back when I ride him. It is nearly gone now (there is a slight bit on his top line in front of his pelvis). I think icing, along with Sore No More, will take the remainder out and then I'll do groundwork with him until he seems comfortable before I try riding again)

Mezza and I found the round pen dry enough to work on several different things:
• Walking and trotting in-hand at side (from both my left and right)
• Backing in-hand at side (from both my left and right)
• Whip-sacking out
• Longeing at walk and trot using sidepull
• Suppling turns using the long line
• Accepting my fingers in her mouth from both sides (of her mouth)
• Ground tying so I could pick her feet

Her trotting at side on my left is improving steadily, but we still need practice. It was interesting to note that during the whip sacking she was more concerned about the whip on her left side--which is not her usual pattern. She never moved away, but was tense on her left at first, and was not tense at all on her right.

She is great with me putting my fingers in her mouth. In case I must be able to open her mouth for a judge during showing at halter I need to keep practicing it. This will come in handy for much more things.

When I finally went to put her back after an hour, we got to practice one more thing: walking through the large puddle at her gate. At first she went right through it, but wanted to run ahead. Upon asking her to do it again at a slower pace, she wanted to come into me. After about 5 times, she was keeping a nice distance, but was still not walking as slow as I'd like. Think we need to revisit that one!

Hoss got his turnout in the morning while I cleaned--glad I put the turnout sheet on him as he rolled in a muddy spot out there and it saved time not having to clean most of his body!

We are getting better at the trailer--that is AFTER he decided he didn't want to go stand at the trailer (he balked, I asked, he balked) soooo, I asked him to trot around me a few (too few) times. So he balked again, and then I asked for more.....OK, he was a little cranky at first when he cantered in a few circles, but when I gave him a chance to stop and come to the trailer he didn't miss a step!  And he stood like a rock (OK, he moved once) while I tacked up and picked his feet.

We had a short (25 min. or so) but sweet riding session in the outdoor. We have tons of things to work on, including collection, but it is going well. What I notice most, is now as long as my expectations are clear, and I am firm about them, he will comply with little or no problem. This is building my confidence, and in turn is making our relationship a lot better!

Thank you to all the people who've helped me with both Hoss and Mezza--it is really starting to come together.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mezza and the obstacles

Today Mezza and I worked on several things in addition to our regular walking, stopping, turning and backing etc. ...
We practiced her walk and trot in-hand at side, and her right "eye" side is doing so much better!

We also tacked up and played in the field with the obstacles, which she really did enjoy!  There is more work to be done on keeping her out of my space when she's unsure of something. But we had a good time and she now has several new objects to add to her list of "friendly" things.

I wish I had video of her rolling with my saddle on! LOL-- I asked her to turn and take her circle in the sand the other direction and she gave a good bounce, did an uncoordinated turn on the hinds and her feet slid right out from beneath her!  Tom had just groomed the sand in the area, and it was really loose--when she went down, instead of getting up she decided it felt so good she'd roll over--I could only laugh (and ask her to get up before she continued to roll with the saddle).

Hoss & Scout trailer around the block

I loaded up both Hoss and Scout today, and trailered them around in a big circle (a couple of miles).
My stomach didn't complain as it had been in the past weeks, and both boys loaded smoothly and stood like champs. Hoss waited patiently to be tied while I tied his hay net in first!

Scout of course appreciated the hay net because the holes in Hoss' are bigger, and he can sneak out hay from it where it hangs just below the bottom of the trailer partition.

At the unloading, Hoss couldn't quite wait for me to untie, so he got to load back up!  I think I saw him form the words "Oops" as he realized I wasn't going to leave it at that.  We'll keep going to nearby places and practicing, but this is soooooo much better!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hoss & Scout Time

Today Hoss got out for a ride, and Scout got a walk and some in-hand work.

Hoss and I practiced a few "focus" circles around me in the small field at the walk, along with turns on the fores from the ground, and some in-hand backing to loosen up those hocks. He'd been great at the trailer, not wiggly, and he also stood like a rock while I wrapped his lead rope around the saddle horn.
We practiced going over the ground poles, the fake "bridge" the wagon-wheel "spokes" and then trotting off to the other end of the field before coming back to negotiate obstacles a second time. After getting a decent half pass each way, we headed out of the small field and practiced opening and closing the gate to the big field with a side pass to the right.

In the big field we practiced trotting out, half pass, walk to trot and trot to walk transitions and some backing and some "whoa" followed by standing with loose reins. He did a great job!

I think his legs are a bit stiff, he had trouble getting a really nice extension, even going in what I know was his favorite direction. So I made sure to put some liniment on his hocks when we finished, and bucket washed his sweat off.

He got rewarded later with some time to graze in the field!

For Scout, since his lower back has been sore (I rode him last week on April 28th, in a bareback pad, and only at the walk and trot) and it sored up despite having had both the chiropractor out 10 days earlier, and giving him only in-hand and light groundwork for 11 days after his hock injections.

So today I again took him on a walk in-hand to the little hills at the east end. We practiced going up, down, stopping halfway, did turns on fores and hinds at the top, and I also asked for some circles around me at the walk while I was at the base of one of the slopes. This meant that Scout had half his circle on a slope, and the other half on the  level. I wanted to see how he reacted.

Going left, he was much more comfortable, although turning and coming down the slope seemed more difficult. Going right his body seemed stiffer as he went up, and as he started to descend on the curve (this was not super steep)  he was very uncomfortable in his rear end/legs. So I only asked for two circles to the right, the second one I did not ask him to come down, I went up to him. I believe he is quite uncomfortable, and I need to get the pain and inflammation out of the lower back! We ended by watering down his lower back with cold water and putting on liniment and Sore No More.

At this point I wish we could figure out what is really going on in that back/pelvis of his! This problem has been continuing for a year now, and I believe that he needs to be evaluated above the stifle. A friend has suggested acupuncture, which I think could help. I also want to know what is at the root of the continuing pain!

Mezza "at side" work

May 2, 2012
This occurred yesterday, actually. I got home just in time to clean up and go off to a meeting, after which I was too ready for bed!
I put out the tack and everything in the barn, planning to tack her up in there after we spent a little focus time in the round pen. Being that there was another horse in the round pen, I looked after our two first, and when I came back to get Mezza it was later than planned, and I was plumb tired!  She was also a mess!

Thus, it was the perfect day to practice some stalking, and ground tying for grooming. She did well at this--she is learning that if I leave her to do her own thing for about 10 min., then come back, if she blows me off, I will stalk her and she'll have to move!  She is learning (and I am too) that if she can come in and stay with me, focus, and follow directions, I will quit sending her off!

Thus, we finished stalking (after a few initial tries, where I had to send her back out). Then she followed me to get her lead, and then after going back in the the center I asked her to "stand" and pulled gently down on the lead at the same time. I had to ask her to move twice when she lost attention and started to move herself off. Otherwise she cleaned up and picked up her feet very well :)

I was psyched, so we worked on the walk and trot by side--one both sides. She is a pro even at the trot in-hand when she's on my right, but the off side needs more work. Her backing at side when I back is getting real good, as are her turns on fores and hinds. I will try to get video soon! She was out for 40min.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hoss & Scout: Trailering

Today signals another step forward for me and Hoss, my husband's horse!  He loaded and traveled beautifully with Scout, my little Mustang. For me this was a great repeat of several weeks back, when Ben loaded Franky, and I loaded Hoss and took the two of them to the Indiana Equestrian Center.

Here's the video from that earlier ride:
Hoss at the Indiana Equestrian Center, April 2012

This time, however, I was on my own loading both horses and trailering over. I called my husband after Hoss loaded, delighted to tell him I was on my way with both horses, who had each loaded without hesitation!  This was terrific, as a week ago I'd easily loaded Hoss to take him to Roxboro Park, but I was so nervous about taking him alone, and driving to somewhere I was not familiar, that when I unloaded him to ride on the group ride, he was in a full sweat, very anxious, and quite a pill to tack up!  The ride went well, but I ended up with a stomach ache, and it took a good 30-45min to load him for the drive home! I learned that he will load and travel well if he can have confidence in me.

So, we've been working on the loading and standing in the trailer in the meantime, so that he will stand quietly while I tie, hook the butt rope, and close the trailer door. I got some good help from Ben once last week on communicating to him that I expect him to load, or he won't be standing outside the trailer getting rubbed--he will be working!  He isn't afraid of the trailer now, although he will feed off of my lack of confidence if I have any. Therefore I will work on trailering within my comfort range for awhile, and build up more confidence so I'm ready for the longer trips!

Enough said. We had a wonderful time and so did the horses!