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:


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:

Picasso giving me a sniff

I got an itch!

Getting a smooch

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…..