Friday, April 30, 2010

Now what?! Keep Moving Forward

Trotting was such a big demon for me. I am not even sure why now. Logically there are reasons, but when it came right down to it, I was not even nervous. Now two weeks before I was a little shaky when we got a fast walk. So what happened?

As I mentioned before, on the drive over, I all of a sudden remember that I have trotted a lot. I could feel the trot, the rhythm, and how my body feels at the trot. I knew this feeling, it was home. I also knew that I had control of this horse. R.'s horses are calm, reliable and well trained. In the arena ,on Drew, I really did not have anything to fear.

I think I did figure somethings out. Each new milestone is going to be overcome in a different way. My plan for progression is going to need to be adapted after each new milestone. And of course, "Keep moving forward," That is from Meet the Robinsons.

Yup, I think that keep moving forward pretty much sums it up. What is that next step to take to keep moving forward? I guess I can look at sending Kinsey off as the next step. Really there is nothing to overcome with that step. Once she is evaluated, I am sure there will be steps to take. Either to sell or get her riding.

I need to keep riding Drew, if Drew is sold that is going to be a problem. I need miles. I'll have to start all over with another horse. I wish I had the money to buy Drew, but he is out of my budget so that is basically out of the question. I have things I want to work on just because I feel I rode horribly, but I am rusty. It has been about 4 years since I was really riding so no matter the horse, I need to get myself coordinated again.

Another step is to step it up again with the weight loss and fitness goals. I really need to kick myself in the butt and get going again. I admit I have been slacking. Enough of that.

I thought I had it all figured out when I got on Bill. Visualization was the key. Well, it was the key for getting on Bill. I am seeing that each new milestone will be unique. I did not do as much actual visualization to trot as assessing the risk and remembering what it felt like, and realizing what the hold back was. I am sure that for what ever comes next, it will grow organically. I am going to page though Jane Savoie's book again. I know that there will be steps that will work better now than they would have before.

So I have some things to do. Get Kinsey over to R. (she is going on the 8th), keep riding Drew, and get busy on my fitness and weight loss goals. And Keep moving forward. . .

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oh yeah . . . Riding lesson #4

Got up this morning and the sun was absent. Droplets of water collected on my windshield on the way to my riding lesson. Wind was blowing as I got out to the barn. I got Drew out. I ask him to stand and he walked off. Maybe it is just a cloud over my head?

Drew knows to stand when he is put in a place and told to stand there. Makes me wonder what the rest of the day will be like.

We fixed that minor problem and move on to grooming and tacking up. Out to the arena, I ask Drew to stand again. He looks around and walks off. Wondering what this all means I go and get him and bring him back. We do a little training session. Finally I can walk away to get the mounting block and he stands.

I have been thinking about why the trot all of a sudden freaked me out. It was a lack of control I had over Abby. I was afraid of that lack of control. Drew walking off was again a lack of control and was started to frustrate me. I knew that if I did not have control of this horse I would not trot.

I got on Drew and the first think we worked on was a good solid, "Whoa." Every horse is trained slightly differently. I worked with Roger and got Drew making a good solid, but soft "whoa." I don't want an abrupt harsh stop, but a solid one. We practiced that a bit.

Okay. . . I said I would trot today. Damn it I did. So without hesitation, I did. I think I took R aback a little.

"Your trotting." Then he paused. "Oh yeah you did that last time."

"Nope I didn't."

"Great!" Then "But that doesn't mean you don't have to keep him on the rail."

What a trainer. . .


Oh my gosh, then I just had fun. I was doing circles, quarter lines, figure eights, and on and on. I will have to admit that I was not doing them as well as I would like, but I have not really ridden in 3 years. I was so pleased with myself.

I think R said it best when he said, "last time you were just walking around, now you are actually riding."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trotting . . . thinking about it

I have a very tired worn book on my book shelf. I would be very sad if I ever lost this book, particularly this copy that has water stains, holes, and binding that is starting to give away. It is a much loved book, it has notes and parts underlined. Many a day have I read a passage and practiced it with my departed horse, Hope. I hope that you have this book on your shelf too: Centered Riding by Sally Swift. I don't care if you ride dressage, western pleasure, hunter, saddle seat, trail, or any other equestrian sport, Centered Riding is the corner stone of riding in my humble opinion. It is based on basic biomechanics.

Thursday is drawing ever closer. I said nearly three weeks ago that I would trot on my next riding lesson. Leaping a the chance to drive last week I evaded it for another week. One reason I am still so apprehensive is because I just have not been thinking about it. Just like my first ride on Bill, I have to take a lot of time to visualize what I am going to do. I just haven't.

So I thought, I should read what Sally has to say about trotting. This is actually a neat position to be in, sort of a beginner again, only with a lot of experience. A bit of an oyxmoron, but rather accurate. I know what to do, but I have that disconnect.

So what does Sally have to say about trotting? First she reminds us of position again. Take a plumb line from your ear down through your ankle. In fact if you remove your horse out from under you, you should still be standing straight and balanced. Keep your chest open, being a large chested woman, this one is a bit difficult for me. She talks a lot about the ankle. Keeping them soft, not shoved down as we are so often taught. Remember for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Push your heels down, you actually push yourself out of the saddle. Just relaxed, we have about 25 percent of our weight in our legs so just keeping your leg softly draped around the barrel of the horse and a soft ankle will allow your ankle to drop. Keep an equal amount of weight in both stirrups.

I love Sally Swift for all her visualizations. Your body filled with ice cream that melts out your heel. This helps you to sink into the saddle, and also draws your leg down. Another visualization is to imagine your legs are so long that they drag in the mud, to again draw your leg down around the horse's body. For the rising trot imagine a bungee cord attached to your belly button pulling you out of the saddle, up and forward for every stride.

Reading over these parts, is helping me to think about the trot. Remember how it feels. My muscles remember what to do and I know that after the first few steps it will just be a matter of quieting the negative self talk and allowing myself to enjoy the ride. I actually do like to remember the feel of the trot. It is rather a comforting gait, so steady and rhythmic.

So I am going to do this. . two more days!

Monday, April 26, 2010

A milestone with Kinsey

Last night I walked out in to the pasture to bring in the herd. My horses live in a dry lot. They have a green pasture and get to go out to play for about 3 hours. They eat, roll, and otherwise have a heck of a lot of fun. Then I bring them back into the dry lot, well after today rather a mud lot. Preserving the grass is my goal every year. The horses know the drill. Friskily they run a little here and they and head for home where hay awaits them.

Last night I went out to bring them in. They were not out for as long as I have been venturing all over Wisconsin to repopulate my poultry population that has taken a toll due to a resident fox. They were out for a bit though. I quietly walk out and watched them greedily gobble up a little more grass, effectively ignoring me. Rather rare really. Especially the minis like to schmooze.

Then I caught Kinsey's eye. She started to walk toward me as I stood still as an old oak tree. Steadily she closed the distance between us. My heart started to rise in my chest. Was she really going to come up to me? Two lengths away she started to veer to the left. No! My heart called to her. "Come here Kinsey," I said aloud, "Come 'ere.

Her eye gave off a little spark, never departing from mine. Her path may have faltered a bit, but then she set her course back toward me. TO ME! She walked up, the last steps only a little timidly. She put her nose out so I could pet her. She did! I rubbed her face a few times. She bravely stood there and then her nature over came her and she trotted off.

But she came up to me! I did not step to her at all, she came to me. For any of my other equine friends this is just second nature, but for Kinsey it was a real milestone!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Stills

This week's Sunday Stills: Barns

Some of the barns in my area.

A sad barn:

And a very happy barn:

I am adding this as there have been a few questions about this last barn. Here is a little history about putting quilt patterns on barns. I am not sure if this quilt is part of the Kentucky/National Trail or not but it is a growing trend. This farm had another quilt on another barn, but as I was taking photos from the car, I couldn't get a good shot. Where I get my hay has sunflower quit, and out in western Wisconsin there are more, but were too far away for me to go and get.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Competely unhorse related

Blog related. . .

Does anyone else have this problem. . .

You look at the blogs on the left. Today for example Bitless Horse, since this is the latest one I am having this difficulty with. I see that she has a new post. But when I click on the link for the new post. It says there is no such page. Then if I click on the link for her actual blog, I get the previous post, not the new one. I don't know what the problem is. Sometimes, later on I will see the post that I was previously unable to see. Does this make sense? Has anyone else had this problem?

Ok, I called R and when he can he is going to pick up Kinsey. I have found the shafts I need for Ike's cart, I just need to send the guy the money. It is rainy out today and I was very upset to see my chickens running around followed by a FOX. I chased him off twice but I am not sure if he got anyone yet. Damn fox!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Driving Lesson #7

I didn't have a lesson last week because of Midwest Horse Fair. So I should have had a riding lesson, but since I missed my driving lesson I did that this week. Not that it matters all that much, but I wanted to drive.

Call me chicken, call me more interested in driving. I don't know for sure. I do know that driving is helping me more comfortable dealing with spooks. Really it does. It just tips my nerves up a notch, but not too much. If you remember from the video a few weeks back we need to move into the uncomfortable zone, but not so far in that we end up in the fear zone. For example, today I had to wait while R. did something outside the cart. Corrie wanted to back up. I felt that momentary nervousness because of a lack of control. I knew how to ask her to step forward. So I asked her. We had to do that a few time. She actually was fairly good, some issues, but R said I handled them well. It was little bit of nervousness, but that fact that I could it that helps me feel a little more in control.

I realized that is why I feel so afraid. I have that loss of control because I asked Abby to stop and she didn't. I don't know if I was not forceful enough, or she was just ignoring me or what. It is hard to think back to moments before I fell. I remember it all but analyzing exactly what when wrong is difficult. I do know remember feeling out of control.

R and I talked about Kinsey again. I swear I am starting to sound like Saturday morning breakfast with all my waffling. I think that maybe I should send her over to him for just a 2 week evaluation. He can get on her and see what she is really like and give me an honest evaluation of if she would be right for me or if I should sell her now. She is not a bad horse, she is actually a very good horse and probably has some hidden talent in there. But to be honest, I am not sure if she is still a good horse for me. If there is potential, then she can stay there for a little while, and she will be the next horse I start riding in lessons. If she just isn't going to be right for me, it is still early in the year and maybe I can find a nice home where she would be better used. If she is at R's then we have a round pen and a arena for people to try her in. The alternative is that she sit here for two years and becomes a 12 year old horse that has sat for two years and nobody wants. Honestly that is not fair to her or me. Meanwhile if the right horse did come around I could not get it because I have too many right now. Also working 3 horses a day, taking care of the house, working, and doing everything else that I have to do it really hard.

I will say that we have made some improvements. You can see in her picture, she is licking. Does a lot of thinking that one. (Ignore the rope around her neck, it is a long story and not very interesting) She is getting easier to catch, is doing really well with everything I am asking and I really enjoy working with her. It is just in the back of my mind I am thinking, "Is this a waste of time." Why put all the work into her when she is just not going to be a horse that I can ride when I could just take her to R. and find out. And when I could be putting that time into Ike or Madison. Ya know? To many horses not enough time.

After the lesson I came home and ground drove Ike. I had him pulling a little sled. We walked around and picked up branches and what not from around the yard so we had lots of "whoa" standing while I picked up sticks, scary sounds of dragging the sled across the driveway. All excellent stuff. He was nervous about the driveway, but after we went over it a few time he got much better. I have to order the shafts to fix my cart so I can actually drive whenever I want. That will be fun!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Book Review: Going Gone

I know, two book reviews in one week!

Nothing is worse than reading a book with horses and the text reads like this: Ashley put the halter on the stallion's head. She mounts Thunderbolt and picks up the bridle. Slowly she gallops across the meadow, black mane flowing in the breeze. She sees her true love, leaps from her red horse, and runs into Dirks awaiting arms. While we as horse people are screaming. . . it's a bridle and your picking up the reins. How exactly do you gallop slowly and I sure hope your horse doesn't break his leg in the meadow. Oh and when you leap off the the still galloping horse (of an completely unknown horse color) back into Dirk's arm, what happened to your horse. We have all read them and we all hate them right?

Going Gone is not like that. Knowing that Laura Crum is an actual real live equestrian made me really want to read her book. So when her publisher offered a copy of the book to any blogger who would read and review it. I jumped at the chance. I mentioned a few days ago that I finally picked it up and started to read. I took Going, Gone out to the pasture and started reading.

With my horses grazing around me, I started reading Gail McCarthy's adventure. She left on vacation with her family and horses to Gail's old flame's ranch. Moments after they get the horses settled and set up camp, Lonny and her childhood friend, now a deputy, Bret pull up. Bret is arresting Lonny for the murder of his girlfriend. From there Gail tries to figure out what happened. I really got into Gail's character because she does all those things I wish I could. For example, being nosier than she really should be. So I really loved going along for the ride to find out who the real murderer was. I was guessing until the end, and I have to admit, I didn't know. A lot of time I am able to catch on to who the killer is, but the end was a surprise.

Why I really liked this story though, is because the author actually knows about horses. So when she says that the horse was wearing a halter, I know he was. The horse doesn't just run, he gallops, trot, jogs, lopes, walks, and canters also. And the horse does them at the correct time. They munch on hay, nicker, whinny, and stomp away flies. When Gail is out on a trail, she does all those things that any equestrian would. In short, it is believable.

Not often do you find a good author that tells a compelling story and gets the facts right when it comes to our beloved equines. Laura Crum does and it was such a treat that I am going to be adding her first 10 books to my reading list!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What's happened to Kinsey?

Besides all the photos of her and Abby, I really have not mentioned too much about Kinsey lately. I have been giving Kinsey an unfair shake. My attitude has been an absolute Negative Nelly when it comes to her.

"Oh look Kinsey is afraid of a brush." "Guess what Kinsey doesn't want to be caught." "Oh great, yet another thing Kinsey is afraid of!" I could check off the number of things that Kinsey has done to disappointment me. I won't though.

I need to stop saying to myself, complete with eye roll, "Purchasing this horse was a huge mistake." It may sound very callous of me to think of her that way. I made a mistake. I should have followed my gut and not purchased Kinsey, but alas I didn't. After weighing my options, at the time, I though that selling Abby and buying a horse more suitable for me would be the best choice. Although Abby is still here and Kinsey is not what I would call suitable at this point. The fact of the matter is that I just have to get over that part.

I have been working with Kinsey on and off. Something else would frustrate me about her and confirm yet again why buying her was a mistake. She has never liked to be caught but she was getting worse. Well why should she want to be caught when I had such a bad attitude. Not that I was anything but kind to her, but I think she knew how I felt. She could feel my frustrations, even though I tried to hide it. Kinsey is a very sensitive horse.

I have been thinking about Kinsey's attitude. She act like what I would think a horse that was in a Clint Anderson demo probably acts like. You know the demos right, he takes a completely untrained horse, chases it around for two hours and when the horse is so tired it can't move he stands on the horses back cracks a whip declaring that the horse is trained. Yes I did watch him do that on a video once, made me sick. Anyway that is what Kinsey acts like. She knows what she is supposed to do, but scared shiftless when you ask her to.
Well what do I keep saying? Has anyone been paying attention? Be positive!

After Midwest Horse Fair and listening to some suggestions by Tommy Garland, I decided to start over with her. Tommy talked about doing the same activity for 7 days. His point being that you can't do some of these activities too much, for example: teaching "whoa" on verbal command. Not only does it make sure that the horse knows the command well, but it also build the horse's confidence. He made a few comments about how the horse looked calm and wasn't sweating bullets either . . . unlike some training methods. He didn't actually say, "unlike some training methods," but it was clearly implied.

Another clinician, from Harmony Horsemanship, as well as Tommy discussed how a horse gains confidence as they learn a new obstacle. Such obstacles as ground polos, bridges, the big ball, etc. help the horse to become desensitize to various objects. Linda Tellington Jones also mentions building a playground for the horse with some of these same obstacles for the very same reasons. Of course as the horse does things successfully, it is going to gain more confidence. A half pass, leg yield, spin, sliding stop, it really doesn't matter to the horse. You don't need to use a big ball, bridges, or other things like that, but it makes it fun for the trainer. And isn't that why I have horses? To have fun with them?

So most of my energy has been focused on Kinsey and Abby the past few days. I take Kinsey out, she is getting much better about being caught. Then I groom her and work some TTouch into the routine. She hates to be touched around her poll. I tried to see if my Australian stock saddle fit her and she was really upset by that so I have gone back to just a saddle pad and getting her used to that. Then we practice "whoa" in a rope halter. She is so sensitive I have a really soft rope halter, thick and with no knots. She basically knew what I was asking even on the first day, but she did it with head up, and at breakneck speed. Now we are fine tuning and allowing her to be more calm while doing it. We even started moving on to pole work. Finally I end with clicker training, a little hand grazing and grooming. She really like to get treats and she needs to be touched a lot.

I have been looking for what Kinsey does right:
+She picks up her feet really well to be picked out.
+She knows a lot of commands and cues already.
+Kinsey picks things up quickly and really thinks.
+She is not afraid of water or being hosed down.
+She is a very sensitive horse that tries.
+Kinsey is not afraid of fly spray.
+ And she has such a sweet face!

Just like I need to build on my positives I will need to build on Kinsey's. I don't know if I will ride Kinsey. I am going to be more positive and maybe if things go well, I will. I think I want to wait to send her to training until I have her more confident on the ground. So that is what is up with Kinsey.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: Ride With Confidence!

Ride with Confidence! Foreword and top tips from Kelly Marks. Chapters include: "Teaching the Nervous Rider" by Christina Barlow, "Managing Your Fear" by Julie Goodnight, "Understanding the Horse" by Abigail Hogg, " The NLP Approach to Confident Riding" by Liz Morrison, and "Hynotherapy and Hypnosis" by Sharon Shinwell.

I really like Kelly Mark's remarks and the bullet point suggestions throughout the book. There are lots of case studies that I found very encouraging. It has a lot of good information, especially a first glimpse into how to deal with fear. Some chapters I could do without, others are fairly basic, and others still offered some really good advice.

I am not really thrilled with the "Understanding the Horse" chapter. I really hate when equestrian "experts" take one aspect of horse behavior, such as horses contacting you with their lips, and over generalize it. The idea presented is that because horses lip before they bite, and biting is a sign of dominance, that means that allowing horses to take a treat you are allowing horses to be more dominate. Given her explanation, and my experience over a number of years a with a large number of horses, I am just not going to swallow that one. I am not going to say that all horses should be given treats or that all people do it properly, but just that I hate over reaching generalizations.

I almost let that part turn me off of the whole books but chapter one, "Managing Your Fear," is sound. Kelly offers a top 10 tip for handling fears is a great place to start. She suggests doing a risk analysis, finding a good instructor, and "under horse" yourself, among other thing. Her suggestions work for everyone from those that are afraid to even be near a horse to those that are nervous to jump a place to start. Two of my top favorites are to BREATH and finding "alternative" methods for managing fear.

Among those alternatives are hypnotherapy, the NLP approach, positive thinking, the importance of setting goals, and Bach flowers. The Neuro-Linguistic Programing is a sports psychology technique. It is a way to overcome a self doubt not only in your horse world but also in life as a whole. I have been thinking of getting some self- hypnosis tapes. I have not tried all the techniques in this book yet, but found the information helpful in making some decision about what would be helpful for me to try. I have found that overcoming fear is just like anything else, try new ideas, take what you like and get rid of the rest

One last chapter I want to mention is the one for trainers/ instructors. I think that this book is really great for those of you that work with people who have fear. It helps you have a sneak peak into our minds as well as offer a lot of suggestions for lesson plans and steps to take to help your client overcome their fear. This book really is a must for you.

If you are on a limited budget, this maybe one that you want to check out from the library. Instructors may find this book even more useful; it is the only one I have read so far that has information written just for you. Overall I am going to give this book a thumbs up.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Stills

Sunday Stills this week is just a pot luck.
Another Texas Thunder shot:Muddy, I just think Abby has a cute expression here. Something along the lines of. . . "What the hell are you doing on the ground in the mud?":

Remmy getting ready to help me blog:Best buds:

Rocky in the violets:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Midwest Horse Fair

I love the Midwest Horse Fair in Madison, Wisconsin. It is the best horse fair around. I started going to Midwest ( as it is locally known as) when I still lived in Illinois. I was in middle school at the time and my mom and I drove all the way up here to do to it. Ever since I still love to go with my mom. As I kid I never wanted to go to the circus, but I was all over the Midwest Horse Fair!

Midwest has changed a lot since I start attending. Back then it was just a show case of breeds, stallions, and liberty demonstrations. It was all held in one building with just a handful of vendors. Now there is one arena, at least 3 smaller arena/ round pens, rooms for lectures, a whole other building of vendors, stables and stables of breeds from Arabians to zorses, and top trainers, clinicians, and equestrian entertainers from across the United States. All rolled in to three days! There is not enough time to see everything.

Today my mom and I saw our favorite attraction: Preifert Texas Thunder. A six horse hitch of Percheron horse, the smallest of whom is 17.3 and the tallest 19.2. Shaq is the tallest Percheron in America at this time. They are an amazing high-speed, yet highly controlled team. I get tears in my eyes watching them. Watch the video on their page, just chilling! My these shots are from out side the arena, my camera could not take good pictures inside.

I got to watch Steffen Peters give a clinic to two lower level dressage riders from our area. One young lady was on a beautiful Friesian. Some think they are just lowly cart horses, but several Frisians do wonderfully at dressage, including Jane Savoie's own Moshie. The other girl was on a German warmblood pony. Cute little sorrel mare, but I could not get good photos of her. One thing that Steffen kept saying to the women was: "Let him learn from his mistake." As it was more or less like watching a lesson, I picked up little bits here and there, but was not quite what I was hoping for.

One of the wonderful things about Midwest is watching clinicians I would normally never go to. I watched two clinics by Tommy Garland. Now he is in one sense a typical western clinician: "Here, buy my special halter, bridle, and extra special super sized ball." He is not a natural horsemanship guy though. I think the horse world is going through a paradigm shift. It was all NH and now we are swinging back the other way. I actually agreed with a lot of what he said, even though it was "old school", it was not abusive either. He does have his schitk. His philosophy is Tommy's CPR (Confidence, Training, Respect). Hey, all I can say is I picked up a few things I want to try and I didn't buy any crap so I feel good about it.

Remember several years ago when nobody except the cowboys knew what a rope halter was? Now I bet there is at least one rope halter in everyone's tack box. Even if you don't want to admit it you have to admit that you at least know someone who has one. Well this year, the new product seems to be over sized balls. NO I am not kidding. To really have a "spook proof" horse, you need a really big ball, and of course everyone thinks their ball is the best. Not only can you spook proof your horse but you can play equi-soccer. What new gimmick will they come with next? Okay, so I want one, but I didn't get it.

I am proud to say that the only thing I got I actually did need. Like I mentioned in a past post I have a half a dozen mini halters and most of them don't fit anyone. I have one that fits Ike and Madison. So Madison really needed her own halter and I actually found one. And for only $6.

It was a long day, but I loved every minute of it. I think it is even nicer that I can still share that special time with my mom. It was a long day for her and her shoulder really hurts, but she loves it just as much as I do. The funnel cakes, the horses, the new demos and the old favorites. We learn something new every year and remember the years past. I love the Midwest Horse Fair!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Relax in the Pasture

After reading some of the blogs ( seen on the right) I decided to just sit out with my horses. The barn can wait. I took Laura Crum's Going, Gone out in to the pasture along with a folding chair and just sat down.

The reactions from my horses was funny and not exactly what I expected. Kinsey treated me with the normal indifference, she seems no more or and maybe a little less upset that she normally does. Abby on the other hand was not sure what the heck to make of me. She looked up from her grazing, stared, and snorted. Walking around, giving me a large berth, she continued to snort and blow. Eventually she tired of watching me and went back to eating. Madison was the brave little girl, man I wish she was large enough to ride, she came up and sniffed. She wanted her scratched and searched me for treats. Ike was a little more nervous but eventually came over for a few scratches. Sophie would never come over and Dominique was nervous too, but he did stop by to sniff me.

I sat out there getting more and more engrossed in the mystery set out west surrounding the murder of a brother and sister. The story features horses as a central focus and it is so nice to read a story about horses where the author actually knows what she is talking about. No making love the back of a horse with the lover's heads on the horses flanks~ never figures out how that was possible. Anyway I will be a better review of the book when I am finished which I am sure will be in the next few days.

Abby and Kinsey spooking and came running around the field. With the minis out front, Abby was following up behind. They were headed straight for me. Abby, I don't think, still realized who I was. As I watched her massive chest and legs pounding the ground heading toward me I thought, "gee, I wonder if she'll stop." Of course she did. Stopped, and snorted, then continued on with her grazing.

In the pasture, the sun shining down, and my horse grazing around me I realized this was just about as perfect as it could get. It was a very nice way to pass a few hours.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hey Hay!

Hay is a necessary evil of having horses. Okay maybe evil is not the right word, but it drains the bank account, has to be delivered before I actually run out, and I have to search around for my inhaler. Although the best feeling in the world is seeing the hay stacked in the barn.
This morning I knew that the hay man was coming. A sort of spring cleaning had to take place. Before he got here, there had to be a place for the hay.
A barn is a natural place, and as we all know nature abhors a vacuum. So empty space, say space that once held hay that has all been eaten, fills up with other things. Things like a cart, a bright orange mini horse blankets, a dozen or so mini horse halters that don't fit anyone, baling twine, garbage, and stuff.
Stuff like this:And this:And this:
With all the stuff on the lawn now, it is time to sweep and clean the pallets. Collecting the old hay pallets, pulling all the hay that had worked it way down between the boards, and settled on the bottom is lots of . . . fun? The part that touched the cement floor has molded, mice have built nests in it and spiders have made webs. What looks like a little bit of hay packed into the pallets turns out to be a big fluffy mess that I then have to load and move out of the barn.

Hauling, throwing, scraping, sweeping. Coughing, hacking, wheezing, sneezing.

At least I have John to help me out:
Finally! Hay! 10 big bales! That should last us a few months!But it is all worth it if they are happy right?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Stills~ Hands

It is Sunday again. This week we were just given the topic of hands.Zoe and I paw-in-hand

A gentle pat: Remington Steele and my mom
Finally, a different meaning of hand: a unit of measure equal to 4 inches (10.2 centimeters) used especially for the height of horses
A 16.3 hh horse

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Last Thursday I had another riding day. I rode Drew again. Good horse, man I wish I had enough money to buy him. He is the type of horse I need. Nice and calm but responsive. He has been trained by R. so he is really nicely trained, not a dressage horse, but excellent foundation to go on and do whatever I would want to do. Drew has been show extensively in 4H, used in drill teams, knows now to drive, and great on the trails. Unfortunately costs more than I have right now. Isn't that always the case?

Anyway, I was a little embarrassed that I did the whole lesson walking again. I have to admit, happily though, that it is getting boring. I just realized that I have not been preparing my mind for the next step. I have not been visualizing a trot, I have not been really thinking beyond walk.


Well like yesterday looking at Zoe's behavior, I had to stop and think about my own. When I fell off Abby she was trotting. Seriously that was it. But I couldn't stop her. So that is my fear. If I trot I will be able to stop Drew? I think I know that I can. Rationally I know that I can. I can make him halt, back, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, and side pass. Now it is pretty silly to think that I will not be able to handle the transition from walk to trot. Right. . .

Well I have two weeks to prepare myself. Next week I will drive and then, God willing Drew will not be sold, and I can trot him.

I do feel that little bit of fear that he will sell before I can trot on him. Someone is coming to look at him this week I think. After he sells it will be Corrie and I will have to gain confidence on her before trotting. Not that I am not gaining confidence overall, but I just need to gain some on one horse right now. So I want to trot Drew before he is sold. That means if he is not sold in two weeks. I trot.

Now off to visualize soft trotting transitions and anchoring the relaxed feeling. . . oh I have not told you about that. I will do that after Sunday Stills. Promise.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Puzzling Animals

Don't animals just offer the strangest puzzles to solve? Everything goes along fine and then all of a sudden another challenging behavior. In this household it doesn always have to be a horse either. My dog Zoe, 3/4 dachshund 1/4 jrt, has all of a sudden gotten more aggressive toward the other animals. Yesterday she attacked a cat. NOT allowed. I have seen her pounce on my silky chicken, and snap at the ducklings. Things she has never done before.

So what happened? I mean I can not have her attacking cats! How do I handle it now? She has always had a high prey drive, but managed to keep in under control around the cats and chickens.

Well like any change in behavior I started to look at what had changed. Recently we started using an invisible fence, not a big fan of them, but Zoe would be good for a few days and then run down and out to the street. Bad, but we live on a dead end so not as bad as it could be. The worst was my Bichon, Gracie. All of a sudden she started taking off, going down the road and then out to another road, on her way to a county highway. Not a good place, so we started using the fence. It works great. Zoe can be outside a lot more now, which she loves. BUT because she could, I was not playing ball with her. BINGO. Zoe needs to get rid of excess energy.

So we have started playing ball. She has been as good as gold since. She has not even looked at the cats. She likes to chase things, so I am giving her an acceptable time and place to chase.

Now if I can just unlock the mystery into Kinsey's mind. . . .

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Donkey vs Horse

I have quite a menagerie of equines here. I have mentioned I have minis to draft horses and a couple donkeys thrown in for good measure. Oh and one token quarter horse. I have been asked in real life as well as on line about the difference between donkeys and horses. I am by no means an expert but I can tell you that there are some pretty major differences between the two species when it comes to handling and training them.

I remember reading some time ago, and I really wish I could find it again, a great article on the differences between horses and donkeys. That really helped me to understand these guys. After all horses and donkeys are pretty different in some major ways. Keeping in mind that donkeys are not just horses with long ears has helped me to be much more patient with the donkeys when they refuse to move or don't respond as quickly as I expect them too.

Horses are reactors where as donkeys are thinkers. Horse are easily startled and a lot of our training rely on startling a horse into action. Normally we call this pressure. Horse will move away from pressure. Donkeys move in to pressure. So a lot of training methods that work with horses don't work with donkeys. Tap a horse with a whip and he will run the other way. Tap a donkey with a whip and he stands there frozen to the spot.

When I first got Sophie home I had to move her around the house and into the barn. Sounds easy right? Except Sophie didn't know me, she didn't know her new environment, and she was not going to just take my word for it that she was safe. We walk around the house one step at a time, sometime we got luck and got two or three steps. Sophie had to stop often to reevaluate, look for danger, and assess if this was an okay place to be. When I brought Kinsey home, by contrast, she was on high alert and very easy to move. When she saw the goats, she stopped only briefly and I was able to move her along.

After I had Sophie here a few days, she was not quite accepted into the herd. It started to rain, and donkeys are not water proof like horses. No really their coat is not like the coat of a horse which wicks water away. So I had to bring her in the barn. Again, Sophie was still not sure about me. She was getting the hang of leading, but just barely. It was pouring down rain and I was trying to be very patient with Sophie. Really I was, but it was raining and it was cold. Sophie was doing well until we got to the door to go into the barn. She would not budge. Now here is another difference between horses and donkeys. Donkey's feet seems to be made of a very magnetic substance that sticks to the earth like a mouse's feet stick to a sticky trap. A donkey is much stronger than a similarly sized horse. You can push, pull, and even jump up and down and scream in the middle of the pouring rain, a stuck donkey is stuck!

Horses need motivation to do something, donkeys need a reason. The fact that you want them to move is not enough of a reason. Pouring down rain is not always enough of a reason. Sometimes it is hard to figure out what a good enough reason is. But when training a donkey, you need to figure it out. I admit that I ended up half pushing her and half dragging her in to the barn. Not only is that poor sportsmanship, but I then had to regain her trust. Donkeys are not quick to forgive and they have excellent memories, the elephants of the equine world.

Their excellent memory in some ways makes them easier to train. Once a donkey understands what you want, they will remember. I have read stories of donkeys being taught something once, then weeks later being asked for the behavior and they do it. Although teach it to them wrong and again we have a problem.

All in all donkeys are very delightful creatures. Especially if you can think of them as donkeys and not horses with long ears. Now that I have gained Sophie's trust, with lots of praise and treats, she will follow me just about any where. She actually looks for me when I come out to the barn and her son, Dominique is equally endearing. He is very fond of finding toys to play with. Currently he liked to grab lead ropes and heaven help me if I leave something near the fence with in donkey reach. I mean look at those eyes and ears. . . what is not to love!

Monday, April 5, 2010


I have too many horses that are not doing anything. I know that. I do not want to have them sit there. Every spring "I am going to do something with them this year!" Then April hits and we have rain. I don't have an indoor and Abby is hell on the lawn so it has been a challenge. Well this spring is no different in that respect but I am getting more serious about having horses in my life. I have to take care of them day in a day out and although that is very enjoyable I want to do more. Which is why I got Kinsey, she is turning into just as much of a challenge as the rest of them though.

I have come to some conclusions.

*One is that I like to drive. I like it a lot. I am not as fearful driving and if that is all I can do I'll do that to the best of my ability. So I am going drive.

*Second is that I am not ready to ride any horse I own now. So riding lesson horses is going to have to be it for awhile. I do have a goal to go on at least on trail ride this year.

*Third is I have to really take a look at my herd. I don't have need for 3 mini horses, 2 mini donkeys, and 2 horses. I really need to look at what I want to do and which equine will meet that need. Then take steps to seriously try to sell to someone who will use that horse. This is really going to be hard.

*Four is that I really have to get some help from a professional. I have never ever asked anyone else to train my horse(s) before. I have asked to have someone exercise or allowed others to use my horse, but never to train. So this is going to be something new for me. I think I found someone I am comfortable with.

* Finally five, I am going to further my horses' (donkeys') training while they are here. This is another hard once since there are so many of them. I have split them into two groups: three one day and three the next. I am actually writing down a plan for each horse (donk). So they will each be worked 3 days a week.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunday Stills- Happy Easter!

Sunday Stills this week's challenge is what makes you think of Easter or how you celebrate Easter.

The Legend of the Donkey's Cross

Everyone knows that the little donkey carries a cross on his back. Most people don't know the legend of the donkey's cross. The story is told that the little donkey that had been Jesus' mount on Palm Sunday, came to the hill of Calvary.
Seeing the tragic event occurring, he wished with all his heart he had been able to carry the cross for Jesus, as he was the proper one to carry heavy burdens. The donkey turned his back on the sight, but he could not leave, he wished to stay until all was over because of his love for Jesus.In reward for the loyal and humble love of the little donkey the Lord caused the shadow of the cross to fall across his back and left it there for the donkey to carry forevermore as a sign that the love of God, no matter how humble, carries a reward for all to see.