Little Red

28 01 2009

Ok Red is adorable. A bit assertive for a little guy and a bit skitish, but toooooooo cute! See…….

I am attempting to teach them that when he is polite, he gets petting and scratches. When he is too bold or bites, I will retreat or ask him to leave. He really loves attention and facial scratches, so he’s picking up on his lesson well.

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Gotta Love Babies

27 01 2009

So today, I went out to Welcome Ranch to see Goldie. I arrived before all the fog had burned off. The barn sort of appeared out of the mist. I found a plastic chair and drug it out to Goldie’s pasture. She is pastured with another mare named Hanna. Hanna is more dominant, so I couldn’t really spend time with Goldie. So, poor Hanna got tied so I could chat with Goldie. I sat down in my chair. Goldie was already next to me investigating this new toy.

As I sat there, Goldie nosed me all over. This is fine until she starts to push on me or bite. At that time, I get up and move away. I am attempting to teach her that if she is polite, she can have my company. If she is not, I will leave. She of course followed me and when I sat down she resumed her investigation. We did this several times. She is learning though that if she stands there and just hangs out, I stay.

After spending about 30 mins doing this, I moved to another pasture where a young colt is living. His name is Red. Red is by himself because when he is pastured with other colts his age, he is impossible to catch. I went in and sat with Red while he ate breakfast. The chair and I were immediately more interesting than food.

red2

Red is an interesting little character. He has such a machismo personality. He will come straight up to me, head high, chest pushed out, and then he’ll rear and charge away. But at the same time, he is hyper-sensitive to fast movement and touch. He is like a little ball of energy, just bubbling for something to do.

So how to handle this little man. I started by just sitting with him and reading my book. He came over several times and sniffed me. He was very pushy with his sniffing and tried to nip a few times as well. Yet when I flicked even a finger he would jerk his head away. After 20 mins of this, I decided to try playing with him and establishing some rules of engagement. He has demonstrated to me that he was a playful guy by trotting circles around my chair and playfully striking. I put my chair outside the pasture and backed away from Red. He followed me cautiously, not really sure what I was about. When I kept retreating and even broke into a small jog, he got the idea and came right after me. He had no problem coming after me and showing me just how cool he was. At this point I decided it was time for a rule. We can play, but you can’t be aggressive. So I turned around and walked in his direction. He looked at me as I came closer. He wasn’t really sure what to do. I kept moving and started to shoosh him away with my hands. He backed up and gave a little half rear but did not retreat. He was being defiant. I shooshed BIGGER. He finally reared and trotted off, annoyed. I followed him. I moved him all over his pen. After getting him to gve me space, I then stopped and put my hand out to say hello. He looked confused, but came over to me for a sniff. We did this little dance several times. At one point, I brought the chair back in. He thought this was an amazing toy. He bit it and pulled it, thinking this was the best! We played ring-around-the-chair together and he had fun. He was so cute when he would bite the chair and then the chair would move, he would strike out like he was telling the chair it was being bad. I laughed out loud more than a few times.

After an hour, I decided that was enough. I look forward to working more with Red. He is a super confident guy. He needs some hierarchy manners. Carolyn Resnick talks about foals and how they are inducted into the herd. First, foals are very mindful and obliging. They do everything they are told. Once they get enough confidence, you’ll see foals kick their mothers. The dam doesn’t kick back because she is trying to allow the foal to develop some confidence. Once the foal gets to the arrogant stage, then mom will discipline him. Its a push and pull between being submissive and being dominant. Carolyn says only when a horse will let you massage his character, asking for him to be submissive and then asking him to be more confident, will be accept training.

Having never done this method fully, I will be learning a lot from Red on how much is too much and how much is not enough.

red1





Welcome to Welcome Ranch

24 01 2009

Today I started training for Welcome Ranch, a Morgan breeder in Mendocino County, CA. Welcome Ranch is the home of the outstanding Robbie Sue’s Mr. Alert. What a stud…. I have been hired to start some horses, handle some foals, evaluate some “supposed to be broke” broodmares, and I get the privilege of riding Mr Alert as well.

Welcome Ranch acquired some broodmares that were said to be broke to ride. I will be testing that statement for the owners. They want to more trail riding, but neither wants to find out that said mare is not really as broke as she was supposed to be. I am very excited and honored to be training these excellent horses.

My first student is Ms Goldie!

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Goldie is a 7 yr old mare Welcome Ranch has used for breeding. They would like to downsize their band of mares, so I am going to start Goldie. Goldie is a sweet, sweet, mare. I went out today to just sit with her and evaluate her temperament. I took her into the round pen and sat on a stool in the middle. She came over many times to sniff me. I then got up and stood along the edge to watch the foals playing. Goldie came over to hang out with me. Sweet Goldie is a wee bit pushy. She comes up and sticks her nose right in my face or over my arms, saying “Pet me!” When she does this, I simply move away from her. She usually follows and attempts the same tactic. I keep moving away. Occasionally I will shoo her away when she gets too pushy. When she stands politely next to me, I will reach over and pet her. I do this so she learns that if she is polite and respectful, I will stay with her. If she gets pushy and demanding, I will leave. She started to get the idea today, but she still tries her old tactic.

I next took her for a walk to see how her walking manners were. She was pretty distracted, and I wasn’t really on her radar of things to pay attention to.

I have no doubt Goldie will come around very quickly. She is a quick study and will learn respect and patience well.

goldie2

She also is a huge grass hog! If there are green shoots within her line of sight, she is going!

Looking forward to a great time with Goldie!





A wonderful day with Picasso

21 01 2009

I had a lovely day with my guy Picasso. I started out my day with going out into Pica’s pasture just to hang with him. It has been unseasonally wamr here and all of the horses at the ranch are taking advantage. Most were out in the sun. Some were napping, some were playing. I called with Pica as I came down the hill to his gate. He was down at the end of his pasture, but he started to walk up the hill to meet me. I climbed through his gate, said howdy and walked down the pasture into the sun. I walked down ahead of him while he stood in his stall at the top of the hill. When I was about half way down, he came running down behind me, slidding in the light mud to a stop right next to me. After some scratches, he dropped his head and started to graze. After about 15 minutes, he and I walked up to the gate and I haltered him. We walked up to the barn and found a friend getting his feet trimmed, Skip. Skip is owned by Brianna. We invited them to walk to the mail boxes, a decent walk to the end of our dirt road. We all walked down chatting about Brianna’s new horse, a cutie pa-tootie 2 yr old filly named Dixie. Dixie currently lives right next to the mail boxes! She is a black and white paint and so darned cute, I’ll have to get a picture of her…..

When we got back, I decided I might try riding since we haven’t done that much in a while. I decided to ride in a halter which we do occasionally. We got down to the arena and started to do some work. After some walking and trotting, I thought maybe we could canter….. Pica did bucked me off once while cantering. It wasn’t a mean buck, it was a playful buck. Anyway, I asked for a canter and he lifted up into the canter very nicely. He has to date been a bit fast and out of balance in the canter. But today he was great!!! His right lead canter was a bit out of balance. But he was so sweet and kind with me. I had a huge grin plastered all over my face.

After such a nice performance, I decided he was done, so I got off and we went back to the barn. I untacked him and chatted with the other trainer at the barn about the horse she had in for training. While we discussed the best way to reintroduce a horse to bridling, I got back on Pica bareback and allowed him to graze some. Here is a pic from my vantage point:

picashadow1

After some time chatting and letting Pica graze, we went back down to his pasture. I unhaltered him at the gate and we ran down the hill together into his pasture. Once at the bottom, I sat down in the warm afternoon sunshine. I sat there, staring up at Pica’s big dark eyes. He leaned down and sniffed me, no doubt looking for some form of food. After finding none, he cocked his hip and started to shut his eyes. As I sat, sheltered under his head and neck I thought of how incredibly lucky I am to have such a great bond with my horse.

Here are some pictures:

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Picasso giving me a sniff

picaitchfoot
I got an itch!

picameshadow
Getting a smooch

picaoverme
My guardian





Introducing the Paint Boys

19 01 2009

I was recently hired to tame and train two 2 yr old paint colts. These guys have been on their own for a while due to the owner’s busy schedule. They are very nicely bred horses with nice temperaments.

Paint Boy #1: Inspector Gadget
Gadget is a dominant dude. He is more forward and enjoys tackling his brother. He is mostly a bay color with some white. He has a beautiful face and chiseled nose. Gadget is fairly comfortable with pets to his nose and neck. He will be the easier to connect with of the two boys because of his natural confidence.

Paint Boy #2: Jessie James
Jessie is the more timid of the two boys. He is so far only comfortable if I am feeding him treats and will allow the occasional nose touch. He is mostly white and has a very long mane (which is currently in knots). Jessie, although the more cautious of the two, is always the first one to greet me. He will come from across the pasture when I enter the gate.

Both boys are incredibly curious and its only a matter of time before they are gentle and easy to handle. Here is a video of the boys.
(Their sister Dreamer, makes a brief appearance running down the fenceline.)





The result of giving a horse time

19 01 2009

So yesterday I mentioned a horse that had terrible trailer loading experience. He flipped over backwards and threw absolute fits. Today, I was asked to load him. Thankfully, the owner wasn’t actually going anywhere today, so I had all the time the horse needed. We spent 3 hours working on loading. I started with just getting him to take any step toward the trailer. But I always gave him the choice to retreat. By giving him a choice, I gained his trust that I wouldn’t force him to do anything he was afraid to do.

After a couple of hours of just proving to him he had a choice, he started to put one foot in the trailer. He did this for some time. Every time he started to think about backing up, I asked him to back up. My theory here was that he feels he needs to be dominant and look for danger because no human before had been particularly good at protecting him (they actually hurt him). So, I took on the role of protecting him. When he started to get scared, I pulled him back before he could, saying to him, “Hey I get it your scared, I’ll protect you.” This seemed to please him because he then started to put two feet in the trailer.

After some time, he just finally decided the trailer was ok and got all four feet in! We both got in and he ate some hay. I then asked him to back out. This trailer is a step down and he got nervous and shot backward almost hitting his head. I thought it might be better for him to turn around in the trailer instead of back out. I showed him how to do this and he was fine. We got in the trailer an additional 20 times or so. I also put him in, shut the divider, opened it, lead him out, back in shut divider and door. We then drove forward a little bit, went back and took him out. Then back in and out.

It was a great day. He leaves tomorrow, and I am hoping he loads better tomorrow because of his good experience today. We shall see.

It’s so sad to see a horse that feels that to survive, violence is his only recourse. This horse could be so sweet and gentle, but because he was mistreated and he lost all faith in any human, he goes through life expecting to be hurt. His only survival skill is to hurt humans first. Not a bad tactic.

Update: The horse loaded right in the trailer this morning with no issues. I hope his new owner will be patient and kind with him, giving him the time he needs to develop trust.





My heart breaks for horses

18 01 2009

So There have been some recent “dramas” at my stable. A few weeks ago, a man came to our stable and begged to put his new horse up there for a couple of weeks. He was unable to get the horse in the trailer to go get a Coggins test to take the horse out of state. But now the horse was in a trailer, but needed a temporary home for two weeks. I had no idea about this whole situation, I just saw the new horse.

This weekend, I was reading my book with Picasso when I heard men talking up by the barn. About 30 minutes later, I walked up. I noticed a new trailer. Being curious, I went over to look at it. I was horrified to find a horse inside the trailer! Totally unhooked trailer! I eventually got the stable owner on the phone and informed her of the new arrival. She was pissed. Neither one of us knew where this horse came from, but she guessed it as the same man who had the other horse mentioned above. He had called her earlier to say he was in town and was gong to drop his trailer off. No mention of a horse….. I pulled the horse out, he was very thin and had several cuts around his face and eyes. About 30 minutes later, the stable owner showed up. She eventually found the man and he came out.

This man has no horse experience and he is hauling these two horses around the country. The poor guy was “had” by two separate horse people. The first person sold him a dangerous horse saying he was rideable. The second sold him an 8 yr old Quarter Horse which turns out to be a late teens Thoroughbred. It infuriates me when people take advantage of others…. The first horse, dropped off several weeks earlier used to belong to the stable owner’s neighbor. After hearing some horror stories about this horse, we all told this man he was dealing with a very dangerous experienced-person-only kind of horse. He was told this horse had broken two trainers’ hips and hurt several people. He was shocked and sad to hear these stories.

The man asked me for a lesson with this horse. A quick lesson on horse behavior and ground work. I showed up this morning to give him a lesson. We talked about why a horse would be put off by just jumping on him and why (I thought) this horse behaved this way. I explained it was highly likely this horse was forced to do a lot of things he didn’t like, and that he had learned that if he acted violently, people would leave him alone.

We took the horse out and I explained the finer points of horse communication, showing him when the horse was irritated and when he was being accepting. We pulled the trailer out and I said lets just let him look at it, not asking him for anything. I walked him passed the trailer door a bunch of times, never making him stop or go toward it. I needed to leave and told the man to not do any more trailer work, but to just graze the horse. He should bond with the horse and make friends.

I left feeling like I had taught this guy something valuable and hopefully he would give this horse the time he needed to heal.

My heart breaks for this horse. He deserves a person who will give him the time to earn his trust. I have this horrible feeling that he will really hurt this man. I desperately wish I could take him. He deserves so much more.

I shall recount what happens tomorrow…..