dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Snow Day

Today, like most of the east coast of North America we were hit with a massive snow storm. In the morning my face was being pelted by driving ice and I could not get the front doors of the barn open. They were frozen shut. Fortunately the back doors were fine so I could come in that way. The horses were stuck in for the morning. Irish was not impressed made sure that I knew it. Steele is much more easy going and was fine being inside.

By afternoon it had cleared off so I dragged my son out to help me dig out the dutch doors. Steele had a blast.


look at the snow fly

nothing like a roll to freshen one up. 

Tomorrow I plan to drag out the snow shoes and head into the woods.

In case you are wondering- I didn't take many of Irish. His problem has returned so he wasn't up to doing more than walk about. :(

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Voice of God..?

Three years ago, when our youngest graduated and headed off to university we put the house on the market and started looking for our dream property. I swear we looked at everything for sale that had 5 acres to 100 acres. Nothing seemed right. Finally we found the right one. I fell in love with the house and property immediately. All it was missing was the barn and paddocks.

When we first purchased it I took a zillion photos (no surprise there :) ).

This is one I took from our bedroom window:

I could picture the barn and fields.

This I took this morning:

I know it's rainy but to me it's the most beautiful view in the world.

As you can see the weather has been atrocious. This means that I can only let the horses out into the little paddock beside the barn- the field is too wet and dangerous for them to run around in. I put Steele's rain sheet on so he wouldn't get soaked. As I looked out the window I saw the following tableau:

Steele was mouthing the buckles on his blanket while Irish was pulling on the neck. I'm sure that this was the dialogue:
Steele: "I'm pretty sure that we need to undo these metal thingies"

Irish: "nah, I'll just pull it over your head"

Steele: "ow, it's also connected between the legs you know!"

Great,  I thought just great. They'll have that blanket in shreds. 

I opened the window and yelled: "Irish- oy! stop it!"

Steele stopped and looked around, settling the innocent 'who me?' look on his face. But he couldn't see me. His head swiveled around.
Irish was frozen, Steele's blanket still in his mouth.

Steele: "did you hear her?"

Irish "shh just pretend that we're doing nothing"

Steele: "But where is she???"

Me: "Irish.let.go.right.now"

Irish lets go and pretends to mouth some hay. Steele is still trying to figure out where I am.

I think that it's good for them to know that they are being watched.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Steele is wishing all your horses unlimited treats and attention

it was surprisingly easy to get him to accept the hat. Once he realized that he got an apple slice for leaving it on he was on board.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Update on Irish

I had the most perfect Christmas gift today. Today was actually clear with neither rain nor snow and temperature was 8 degrees Celsius. I noticed this morning that Irish was covered in shavings which meant that he laid down through the night. He rarely does this anymore- I think because it's hard to get up. I check the front of his fetlocks- no fresh sores or blood. His other symptoms had been disappearing as well but I was holding off in case I was fooling myself.

Because everything is a soggy muddy mess the horses can't go in their field but have to stay in the smaller sacrifice paddock. To make this easier on them exercise is helpful.

So after my morning coffee I donned my breeches and headed out to saddle Irish. Ed asked me if I was going to hack and I told him that no because everything would be far to soft. Turns out that this was a good plan. I knew something was up when he started jigging going up the hill. And then freaking out at the 'A' side of the ring. I thought that he was spooking at the place across the street (it is a mess of old cars and sheds). I rolled my eyes because of course he sees this every freaking day. He was absolutely full of piss and vinegar. In fact I briefly considered dismounting and getting the lunge line but I decided that I would just ride through it.

Irish was like he was about 4 years ago. Which means a total brat. He was up and full of himself and very distractable
But he was completly and utterly sound. Using his hind end was not a problem. Forward was not a problem.
Steering? Well that was sometimes a problem. But we worked through it all. I know that when he's in this mood walks on a long rein are not helpful. His Thoroughbred side needs to GO. So we went- mostly trot. It's very tempting to hold on to the reins when he's like this but it doesn't help. The idea is to half-halt and do things to make him focus on me. One of my favourite exercises for this is to do a 20 metre circle with 10 metre circles at the 4 points. Once he burned off his initial energy he settled into work. On his trots across the diagonal he really wanted to lengthen. So I let him. Whee it was fun. Of course he couldn't sustain it the full way so I brought him back. But he hasn't been able to lengthen for a long time.

I was over the moon. It was so tempting to keep riding but I didnt' want to make him sore- after all he's out of shape. So we walked down to the barn. I was grinning.

Merry Christmas to me.
Given that the previcox worked so well I believe that it indicates that his issues were arthritis but I have to check with my vet to be sure. Which means it will likely recur. But that's okay. I'm going to enjoy this.

I should have known when I saw this the other day

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No Sweet Tooth

Every night when I tuck the horses in they get a small treat- a cut up carrot or apple or some horse treats.

However, Irish loves peppermints. His absolute favourite are scotch mints or the green ones (take note if you come to visit). Peppermints are what convinced him to go through water and to self-load on the trailer - there was one waiting in the manger for him each time.

It appears, however, that Steele is not as impressed by them. I had given him one a few months ago when I gave one to Irish. He spit it across the stall. Seriously. I heard it ping off the bars.

But he's older now and my mom had given me some when I visited her last week. She and Irish like the same type of mints. Yesterday I threw one in each of their feedbins right before supper. Irish's was gone in an instant. I was amused watching Steele- he would pick it up and mouth it, drop it in the bin, sniff it and repeat. After a few minutes I could have swore I heard him crunch it. Ah- see all horses love peppermints.

I went in to get their supper ready. When I came out with the buckets I spied something small and white on the floor. After I gave them their feed I went to see what it was.

You guessed it.
It was the peppermint.
About 5 feet away from the stall.

I picked it up and threw it in Irish's bin.
"ooh, another one. " He gobbled it up.

I don't think that he minds that Steele is rejecting mints.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saddle up

Yesterday I took Irish for a ride in the woods. It was fun and the dogs enjoyed it. However, Steele was not impressed to be left behind and he let me know that he expected his own attention when I got back.

After a groom I decided to girth up the saddle. He's had the saddle laid on but never girthed. I didn't make it too tight but he didn't seem to mind the tightening at all. I walked him out of the barn and this is what happened:

'what the? what's on my back?'
'get off--- hey look grass!'

That was the extent of the drama. He didn't even come against the lead line.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In which Steele learns about longeing..

I had originally titled this post 'In which Steele learns to longe'. But then I realized that this would be false.

I know that he's just two and that his joints are growing and too much on a 20 metre circle is not a good idea. However, a little would be beneficial for his training until he can do more. The other incentive has been the #$@% weather. It's been terrible- rain, rain, and, just to relieve the tedium, rain. As a result the horses turnout has been curtailed.

Monday there was more than 30 mm of rain so I left them in for the day. Irish was not impressed. Steele was okay because there was hay. :) The next day was just cloudy but the fields were too soaked to risk them being out, so I let them into the small paddock only. Again, Irish was not impressed. Steele was okay because there was 3 kinds of hay: in his stall, in Irish's stall and in the hay box.

I realized that when I came home that they needed to blow off some steam. Unfortunately my riding ring is not fenced (that's on the list for the spring). So I decided that today would be a good time to broach the concept of longeing. According to Wikepedia:
Longeing has many benefits for both horses and riders.
For a young or green (inexperienced) horse, longeing is used to teach a horse to respond to voice commands and the trainer's body language, to accustom them to the feel of a saddle and bridle, and to begin their introduction to the feel of reins and bit pressure. In many training stables, a horse is first introduced on the longe to nearly everything it is going to be asked to do under saddle, including movement at all gaits, response to hand and voice commands (called riding aids), and remaining calm in unusual or stressful situations.
On horses of any age or level of experience, longeing is used to exercise a horse when it cannot be ridden, or when additional work is needed to develop balance, rhythm, and to improve the horse's gaits. It is also useful to help settle a horse before riding, especially a high-strung horse, a young horse, or a horse that has been confined more than usual. However, longeingfor long periods or with the intent to tire a horse out can cause joint strain. It can be used to "blow off steam" or "get the bucks out" before a rider gets on, though proper turnout or liberty work is a better alternative, because the a longeing session is training time, not play time.
The whip is not used to hit the horse but to encourage him to move along.
Steele pranced passaged beside me all the way up to the ring. It was so cute- he obviously wanted to go but knew that he had to stay beside me. As we got nearer he began to blow while he pranced passaged (sounds more dressage-y, don't you think?).

Once we were in the ring I swapped out the leadline for the longe line. I also had my longe whip. In full disclosure I am an effective longer but not a graceful one. I often get messed up trying to manage the line and the whip and keep my body in the correct posture. If I was a superhero my name would be 'The Entangler'. Give me any length of rope, string, hose etc and I will give you a gordian know without even trying! Ed doesn't even bother asking me to wrap up extension cords- he just sighs and takes care of it. I once was rolling up a hose and I felt some resistance. When I looked up I had it wrapped around d'Arcy (my border collie) and was dragging him along. He looked confused but resigned. So I cannot master the art of keeping the longe line perfectly coiled. I have learned though to keep myself clear of it.

But I digress.

I started with simply leading Steele along and then gradually letting out the line and moving away from him. He was a bit confused and came in towards me- I simply kept going and encouraging him to walk along. Once he got the idea I picked up the whip to keep him moving along. Our circle was quite large with me moving around about 5 feet to the inside. It was funny- I waggled the end of the whip and he stopped dead and looked behind me. He knows about longe whips but he wanted to turn around and check it out. I chirped and said 'walk along'. He would go and then slow up, I waggled the whip, he would look and want to go back and we'd repeat. Finally he figured that I wanted him to keep going and he decided to humour me. I let him pick the pace he wanted to go. When he picked up the trot I let him go on for a few rounds and then used my voice and body language to get him back to walk. When he wanted to go too far from the longe line I used a gentle pulses to keep him on the track I chose. Once he took off cantering, I simply went with him, pulsing the line, after a bit he slowed to a trot and then a walk. All the time I was telling him what a good boy he was. :)

After a few minutes I asked him to 'whoa'.
He stopped dead and looked at me. 'now what?'
I wanted to change direction. Up to now we'd been going to the left.
I asked him to move to the other side.
I then hit a big hole in our training.
'uh, mom? you're on the wrong side'
I had forgotten to teach him to lead from the right side. 

So I went back to the idea that he was to lead on the right, forget the longeing.
"walk along' I said brightly and strode off.
He stopped, waited for me to get ahead and then moved to the left.
I stopped, repositioned us and tried again.
He walked a bit with me looking confused and a little miffed. He stopped and this time dodged around me to put me in the 'right' spot.

After a few of these he finally figured out that I actually meant him to go this way with me on the wrong side.
'fine, but it's weird.' 
After a bit of walking I moved away. He slowed down, I waggled the whip. He tried to turn around, I chirped and he walked ahead. I told him he was genius. After a bit I asked him to 'trot' and then jogged a bit beside him. We'd been doing that on the lead line so he knew what I wanted. He trotted off and then scooted into a canter. I let him go a bit and then asked him to trot. He did. After a few rounds to the right, I stopped him, praised him profusely and put the lead line on. We headed to eat some grass and then a nice groom.

I was reflecting on how smart he was and how quickly he caught on.

I'm pretty sure that he was reflecting on how much work he has ahead teaching me.
'she is sweet but a bit slow'

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Good Intentions and all that.....

Remember my statement that I was not going to blanket Steele?? (http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2012/10/trying-on-clothes.html) .

Well we can count that as a giant FAIL.

But I have good reasons. Really.

It's the weather. For the past several years our winter has been less about the snow and more about the dreary drizzly depressing rain. And it's cold.

I hate when horses are wet and cold. I don't think that it's good for them. A wet coat also creates the perfect conditions for rain rot.

I swear it's rained the past 20 days out of 30. Maybe more. Today it was raining again. And barely above freezing.


Now I'm conflicted. I hate horses getting wet and I hate keeping them in. In this weather I let them out into the small sacrifice paddock. That way they don't chew up the grass one and they are less likely to bomb around and slip.

I decided to see if Irish's rain sheet could be used on Steele. Nope. It was HUGE on him. Irish is a size 78. Ed helped me measure Steele- he's a 72. We headed into town and bought him his own rainsheet. I bought a 74 so he has some room to grow. I looked at some various colours but I think that this one works for him.

It fits pretty well. And he gets to stay out in the rain. I took it off when the rain came so strong that they needed to go in. He didn't seem to mind it:

do I have to wear this?

well it doesn't interfere with my eating....

 I look good in everything!

Maybe I do have a blanket problem after all.....

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Steele's First Hack

We've been building to this for a while. I am not sure why, but Tuesday I decided was the day. I put a halter on Steele and led him out of the barn.

Walking with confidence I led him down to the bottom of the field, correcting when he got ahead or behind me. He tried a couple times to push me with his shoulder but I addressed that immediately. By the time we reached the bottom of the hill he was walking like a civilized horse- at my shoulder, respecting my space and ignoring the perfectly delectible grass at his feet. For him that's the hardest.

I decided to do the short trail that starts at the bottom of the hill, by the manure pile and other spooky items, through some swampy bits, a stream and in the trees. It comes out at the bottom of the second paddock.

We marched right along. He stopped in the swampy bits to sniff a bit. I gave him a few seconds and then walked on. Steele was like 'oh should we stop and check- nope I guess we're going.'

When he was really uncertain he wanted to walk right behind me. I would be okay with Irish because I know that he won't step on me. I was less certain with Steele but made it all along. I was very impressed- he looked at everything and spooked at nothing.

I imagine he and Irish had a late night conversation that went like this:

Steele: I went on a hack! Just like you. 

Irish: Yes I know. 

Steele: We went by some weird buildings and funny metal things. 

Irish: They won't hurt you but sometimes small critters hide in them. 

Steele: I know. Mom said I was so brave. 

Irish: sigh

Steele: And then there was this mix of grass, water and mud. It tasted funny. 

Irish: That part is scary at first but it won't suck you in. 

Steele: I wasn't worried. Mom said that the first time she took you it took you 10 minutes before you'd put a toe in. I barely hesitated. 

Irish: *rolls eyes* You young foals don't understand the dangers out there

Steele: It was kind of interesting. Then there were bird noises and other animals. Mom said they were squirrels. But I wasn't worried!

Irish: yes I know....

Steele: and then there was this running water. I wasn't sure but mom kept going so I followed. And then we went through more mud. I could hear you calling me! 

Irish: well you could have answered!!

Steele:but you always say that you don't answer me because mom doesn't like it when we call when we're working. 

Irish: working?! You were on a walk! You just wait until she puts the saddle on. Then you'll know what work is. 

Steele: I think it will be fun! I can go exploring all sorts of places. 

Irish: Well that is fun, mostly. She doesn't get us in trouble anyway. 

Steele: I'm sure that I'll be awesome at it!! \

Irish: *sigh* yes, I'm sure. Now go to sleep!

Steele: But I'm not tired, I can stay up all nigh--------zzzzzzz

Monday, December 3, 2012

That darn cat

The weather has taken a balmy turn with today reaching a high of 10 degrees Celsius.

It was a quiet afternoon and Steele was standing contentedly in the cross ties getting a good grooming.

Irish was munching hay happily in his stall.

Suddenly, above us there was a flurry of activity.

Irish, brave soul that he his bolted out of his stall as fast as he could.

Steele exploded beside me in the cross ties.

I did what any self respecting horse person would do. I jumped to a spot of safety and stood projecting a calming 'vibe' and said that magic word 'whoa'. I however, was not holding out much hope.

Steele came up against the cross ties, backed up, bolted ahead and hit them again, reared, shook his head and stood perfectly still looking at me wide eyed.

Steele: 'Did you hear that?' 

Me: 'yes I did, but don't worry'

Steele: 'what is it? 

Me: 'I think it's the cat'

Irish from outside: 'it's a LION. He's followed me from the ring!!!!'
(for reference refer to: http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2012/09/dogs-cats-and-horses-oh-my.html)

Me: 'you're not helping Irish.' 

At this point the cat came trotting across the rafters above.

Steele looked at Martin, looked at me, blew and looked peeved.

We finished our grooming session with no more surprises.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Obedient and Flexible

One of the stable rules that I've been working on with Steele is him staying in his stall when I open the door. He doesn't barge by but if I'm not blocking it he wanders out.  I've been working on it for the past few months.

He knows that I don't want him to but sometimes he decides it's worth it to dive across the aisle to the hay. However, more recently, if I'm in the stall and he starts to consider leaving I say 'uh uh' and he comes back in.

Tonight as I was getting him some fresh water I turned around to see him with all 4 legs inside the stall but his head was snaked around and stuck in Irish's feed dish.

"Steele!!" I exclaim

"what?" he responds innocently. "I'm in my stall"

Irish just sighs.

So there's no excuse for not being able to do lateral work.

I have a  few years to get E-H 'shoulder in with head in feed bin' added to dressage tests. We'll nail that move!

This was when Steele first came to show you how he'd have to
flex his head around

the day he came to live here when I opened the he came right out. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Building the Bond

Steele has been here for 6 months. Not only has he grown a lot in this time there has been a slow growing of our relationship.

When I went to look at him I really didn't expect to like him all that much (sorry Karen and Rachael). But when I first saw him there was this 'something' that attracted me right away. The more I saw the more excited I became. I tried to keep it under control but I do suspect that Karen knew better. When I went home I was explaining him to my husband- again trying to keep myself sounding all objective and neutral. Because I pride myself on my rationality I kept it to a listing of the pros and cons. I suspect that he also saw right through that- but then we've been married for 25 years, he may have picked up a thing or two....So the deal was done and Steele became 'mine'.
ha! That turned out to be a myth.

When he first came and I started working with him it was funny. He was fairly willing to try things and to listen but I always had the sense that he was sizing me up. Kinda like 'who are you anyway?'. He was also curious and willing to hang about. As I continued to work with him I could do more and more outside of his comfort zone. It's not that he didn't trust me when he first came it was more like 'okay I trust you this much'.
This trust has grown over time.

When I call him he usually comes right away. Most of the time I just have to walk out to the field. If I'm in the barn working he comes down and hangs out. Sometimes I have to close the bottom door to the stall so that I can, you know, get actual work done. When I do this he hangs his head over and sends me messages like 'hey, what's with the door? I can't get in!'

When the farrier came last week he used the time to stick his head under my arm and snuggle.

The other day when I was working in his stall he came in and gave me a hug- that's when a horse wraps his neck around and holds you to their side. It feels quite nice.

Today when I came home I put Steele in the cross ties to groom him. Irish came down to the stall and then bolted out as though he was being chased by wolves. Needless to say Steele wanted to run with him and being restrained in cross ties was not part of his plan. Funnily enough even with him being agitated and antsy in the ties I was not afraid or nervous. I just kept doing what I was doing and correcting his behavior- so when he shifted away I put him back. Meanwhile Irish was cavorting about like a horse half his age. Steele settled quite quickly so after he stood still for a bit I let him out to have a romp. He went out into the paddock, looked at Irish and turned right back to me, ears up. I gave him a rub on his head and then said 'go on go and play'. I shooed him away and, after a look at me, his tail and ears both went up and yeehaw! off he ran across the field, dancing and bucking. He stopped at looked at me.
"Did you have fun?" I asked. He snorted and shook all over. 'oh yeah'

He then trotted back to the barn.

I think we're doing just fine.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Musings

For the basic Adult Amateur (or non-professional horse trainer) raising a youngster is daunting on some days.

 It's a lot like parenting. I used to work with families of children with special needs. I noticed that the parents often had more than the usual amount of guilt. Guilt that it was some how their fault, guilt that they weren't doing enough to help their child, guilt that they were neglecting other family members. I used to tell them that there were two types of people in the world: those who knew how to raise children and those who actually have children. Frankly, I made most of it up as I went along.

I'm doing the same with Steele. There a many books out there on training young horses (just like parenting). I've read a lot of them. I take what seems applicable and ignore the rest. Lots of people have opinions on what you should do or not do. I find it helpful to listen to them and then weigh it in light of my own circumstance. Here are the questions that I wrestle with:

  • Am I going too fast? Pushing him because he's smart
  • Am I not pushing enough? 
  • Am I being over strict? Or not strict enough?
  • Am I giving him time to be horse? What does that even mean anyway? 
Yesterday I let the horses out early in the morning. I then realized that it was pouring rain. I hate the fall rain- the horses get wet and when the temp drops they get chilled. I brought them in- which Steele seemed happy enough about but Irish was peeved. Every inch of Steel was coated in wet mud. So grabbed my fleece cooler and put it on him to wick away the water. It was comical. He didn't mind it on but after a bit I put him in his stall and it made a funny noise when he walked (the shoulders are lined so it doesn't rub, this made a swish sound). I kept my eye on him for about 15 minutes. He picked at it a little bit and then went on eating. I decided to go in the house and leave it for a bit longer. While I'm in the house I'm envisioning him getting it half off and then becoming trapped. Or ripping it to shreds. I finally couldn't take it anymore and went out. Guess what? it was fine. He was eating happily and the blanket was where it should be. sigh. 

Steele, I've noticed has none of these worries. His thoughts seem to fall along these lines:
  • is it supper time? 
  • does she have a carrot?
  • where's the best spot to roll and really get the mud in?
  • what is she doing now? I'd better go hang out with her. 
  • Where's my breakfast? 
  • What do you mean I have to stand while that mean holds my leg up?
So far I think we're doing just fine. The other day when I went in his stall he gave me a 'hug'. That's when horses wrap their head and neck around you and hold for a few seconds. It was very sweet. 

He then walked into my space. Which I had to correct. Oh well. 

Like I said, I'm just making it up as I go along.
its okay, I know what to do even if you don't

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Birthday!!

Tomorrow is Steele's birthday.
He will be two years old.

Two is a big deal. By now Steele's has likely reached 90% of his final height. He looks like a real horse. Many many people advocate starting a horse at 2.
Shang Hai Bobby - at 2 years of age he's unbeaten in 5 starts

While I can see why I deeply disagree with this idea. Horses are still growing and developing. I don't think it's a good idea to put strains on joints that are not finished. Many race horses do not race past 4 years of age. Many more break down. I've seen the same thing with Quarterhorse Futurity winners.  Others think that nothing should be done with a horse until they are 4. I am not in entire agreement with this either. I think that the second year is a great time to get horses used to saddles, bridles, ground work and all the myriad things they need to know. It's a ideal because they are keen to keep their brains busy but are still highly cooperative.

Convention is that all horses' age is calculated as of Jan 1. This means that Steele was two as of Jan 1, 2012. However, since he was  a late baby I was never comfortable with that. I will likely be like this for his lifespan.  It will just mean less as he gets older.

Enough of the musings. Let do some photos:
Here is Steele shortly after birth:
14 hours old
24 hours old

first time  in snow
Now he's officially 15'2. Last week he was even front and back but now his butt has shot up again. I bought him a new halter for his birthday. I do love leather halters. 

I can see the horse he will be when he's all grown up. 

And I was able to get a conformation shot - a rare moment when he stood still.

I bet that the next two years will be fun. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Glimmer of Hope

As you may recall Irish has been having some difficulties that appeared to neurological. The vet had me put him on a month trial of Previcox. This belongs in the Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory category (or NSAID). If his issues were related to inflammation either due to injury or arthritis it should help. He's halfway through the course of it. I have been riding him lightly so I can evaluate how it's working. Up until yesterday I noticed no change.

Yesterday some of our trot work felt more like ages past. It was not consistent but it was there. After my ride I tried the tail pull. Typically if you pull on a horses tail they plant their feet and resist. Irish would wobble over. I've not done it too much because I didn't want to train a response in him and, to be honest, it was too darn depressing. However, yesterday he planted his feet and wouldn't budge. I tried again. Nope- he resisted and quite effectively. I tried the other side. Same thing. By now he's looking at me as though to say 'um, WTH are you doing?'

I asked a good friend to come out and give me her opinion. She has decades of experience with horses and has had a few with neuro problems. She also knows Irish and I quite well. We did tests of the tail pull going up and downhill. We did tight turns. No issues. I rode him and he was lazy but normal.

So fingers crossed because the meds seem to be working. I called my vet and left a message. The original orders were to finish the prescription and then see how he reacts going off.

Oh and while we were playing with Irish, Steele did his level best to be noticed- prancing along the fence line with his tail up, pulling on Irish's cross tie and generally making a ruckus!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

It's a trap

My trailer has been away getting waxed and polished. Because it's a European Trailer it's made of lightweight composite material and a gel coat- like a boat. It's faded in the sun but Ed knew of someone who brings boats back to their shine. We took our trailer there but because it's fall it took a while to complete. It came back this weekend looking fabulous. 

I decided that it was time to resume Steele's training on loading. Today he would go on about halfway and then back out. He was never bad nor was he panicked but it was quite obvious that he was unsure. I just took my time and settled for the half in and then back out. I will keep at this. Any tips would be greatly appreciated. :)

Here's a couple photos from this weekend:
follow the leader. I love Irish's elevation here
This made me smile


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Steele Thinks on Feet

This weekend was beautiful- sunny and warm. Sunday after attending the Remembrance Day Ceremonies in town  I've been riding Irish to check on whether the drug is having any effect. So far it's not. There's been no difference in his way of going. Rather than become depressed in the ring I decided that it would be a lovely day to go for a hack. In Nova Scotia November is deer hunting season. This means that it's not safe to be anywhere near the woods without wearing hunter orange. I won't even go into the woods until it ends. Except for Sundays. Sundays are supposed to be free of hunters. Life has taught me that not everyone abides by the rules so I still wear hunter orange in the woods. I took Belle with me and she was wearing her hunter orange vest. Dogs do get shot by hunters- either accidentally or on purpose so both dogs wear vests as well. What I hadn't reckoned on is that Irish thought that going into the woods with a bright orange dog was outside of his contract. After spending a bit of time trying to convince him that Belle was not satan incarnate I gave up and headed back to the ring.

While we were gone Steele was not impressed at being left behind and made his opinion known. After I finished with riding I decided that he and I needed to do some work together. For this story to make sense I need to describe my paddock set up:

Both stalls have dutch doors that open into a small sacrifice paddock. From here I can open one of 2 gates depending on which field in in rotation. The one to the left is larger and there is a chute with two gates to get into it.

I had both horses in the small paddock. I took Steele into the larger one via the chute but instead of closing both parts of the gate I only put the top tape across. My goal was to get Steele to focus on me rather than the grass or Irish. Irish was left in the small paddock and was totally unimpressed. Initially Steele hung at the gate but I used the lunge whip to get him away. He galloped off and tried to come behind me. I cut him off so he ran the other way and tried to get back to the gate. Again I cut him off. He headed to the top of the field and I followed. His eyes lit up and he did a nifty end run around me and headed hell bent for leather to the gate. As he galloped full out and then spied the tape across. He hit the brakes and went into a skid. We both realized that he wasn't going to stop in time. The rest all seemed to happen in slow motion. As he slid towards the gate he ducked his head and body and slid under. He came to a brief stop and I could see him go 'oh!'. with that he gunned it and slid under the second one. With a saucy flick of his tail he bolted into his stall with Irish hot on his heels.

I took a moment to laugh and wonder. I know that I am probably boring everyone when I go on about how smart he is but he figured out that his ducking worked and made use of it for the next gate in a split second. I love a horse that can think on his feet like this. As much as it can work against me (like in this example) it may also save my bacon in the future.

 As long as he learns to use it for good instead of evil.

I went into the stall to get him while he hid behind Irish. I took him back into the field and this time closed both tapes. He didn't go near them after that. Within 10 minutes I had him focused on me- following me all across the field, backing up and trotting beside me all without a lead line. He quite enjoyed it. I need to get my riding ring fenced and do some more reading on liberty work. It's a lot of fun. And good for a young horse with a busy little brain.....

I am so clever

Friday, November 9, 2012

Steele and the Surcingle

Today I went to visit a friend who recently bought a Quarterhorse filly named Lyric. She's as cute as bug and a total trap.
don't look too close or you'll want one too. 

Later, at lunch we were talking about training. She asked if I had a surcingle. I said no, but I was intending to get one. It ends with her loaning me one since she won't need it for a bit.

At supper I tell Ed "Sherry loaned me her surcingle"

"what?" he asks

I repeat what I said.

"You're not making sense. What did you get."

I repeat slowly "a sur-cingle. It's one word" I add helpfully.

"What is that?"
I explain that a surcingle is- that it's basically a way to ground train and drive a young horse as part of their early training. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surcingle)
a training surcingle

"So are you going to lunge him? I thought he was too young". And here I thought that he didn't pay attention when I go on about horses.

'yes he's too young to lunge but he's not too young to get used to the sensation of having a girth on. I'm going to start him tonight.'

"I bet he doesn't care" is Ed's considered opinion.

I am more skeptical  After all I have more experience with horse training.  I know that getting used to the sensation of something around their girth area is not easy for horses.

I head out to the barn. After a good grooming (seriously, how much mud can one young horse cake on!) I get out the surcingle and introduce him to it:
"This is a surcingle" I say "it's to help you get used to having a saddle strapped on and to help you learn about rein aids. This will lead to you impressing everyone at a show".

Steele sniffs it and yawns.

I lay it over his wither.

He shifts slightly.

I take it off and put it back on.

His eyes droop.

I put the girth on. When it comes around his belly his head comes up and his ears swivel back. I give him a scratch and he goes back to sleep.

I undo the cross-ties and walk him up and down the barn aisle. I expect him to react to the constriction as he moves.

He heads to the hay pile.

I put him in his stall with it on and I putter around. Steele eats his hay. After 15 minutes I go into his stall. I wiggle the top of the surcingle. 'nom nom nom' Steele continues to munch.

I undo it and take it off. Not even an ear flicks.

I go back in the house.

'That was fast' says Ed.

"Remember your prediction?" I ask

"was I wrong?"

"no. He couldn't have cared less."

"that horse is the most laid back animal I have seen" He says.

How on earth could I argue with that???

Thursday, November 1, 2012

There is Peace in Answers

This was said to me by a friend this week. I love how wise she is.

I've started and stopped this post a few times. So here we go.

This post is not about Steele- it's about Irish. There's background on him on this post: http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2012/08/in-which-you-meet-irish.html

A few weeks ago my farrier was here and he noticed that Irish had a sore on the front of each fetlock. I've noticed those off and on and they were driving me crazy because I couldn't figure out how he was hurting himself. The farrier- who's a horseman I highly respect said "the only time I've seen these is when a horse has a hind end problem. Instead of using their hind legs to get up from a roll or laying down they use their front and get up like a cow does. This causes the sores.

As soon as he said that the penny dropped. For the past year our training has stalled. He's not been off or lame but getting him to use his hind end was getting harder and harder. And he wasn't developing muscle over his back or hindend. I'm a dedicated rider- I ride often and work towards goals. When I receive instruction I try to follow it to the best of my ability. I couldn't figure out why weren't gaining ground. Then other things came to creep in- leg yields were suddenly hard, his walk, which always had a lateral tenency was lateral almost all the time- especially going downhill whether I was riding or he was in his field. It was becoming harder to get him off his forehand. Of course, hind sight being 20/20 all of this makes sense but it crept up so slowly and gradually that I just got used to it as it progressed. There were other symptoms that I won't bore you with. Once Paul made his statement it all came together.

So I called my vet and described my symptoms. He came out and did an exam. He was thinking it was hocks- that Irish was developing arthritis.

However, it's not his hocks. It's neurological in origin. Irish is having trouble coordinating his hind end. If you pull on his tail you could- if you kept going- pull him over. The cause is still unkown- it could be an injury, arthritis or a tumour. It can't be EPM- we don't have possums here. Right now he's being treated with anti inflammatory drugs- Prevocox (sp?)

The good news is that I continue to ride him- he's not dangerous (although I'll be careful). Thank heavens I have my own place- that means I can keep him with me and comfortable. He's not sore and he's not unhappy. I doubt that he'll miss showing. :)

Horses- they break your heart and heal it all in one go.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What is he thinking?

I drove home from work the other day and when I pulled into the driveway Steele came running from his field, looked at the car and then bee lined it into his stall.

so was he thinking:
A. She' home, she's home!! I hope she comes to the barn and says hi. I love her so much and I hate it when she's gone all day. 


B. Supper! Supper! It's supper time! Yay! Hurry up- feed me! feed me! It's SUPPER TIME!!!!!

Tell me what you think.

On another note I finally got a shot of Steele standing still and looking like a real horse. But look at the facial expression- he's plotting something......

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Trying on Clothes

Steele is getting big. Not that I've measured him lately but when I stand by him he feels like a horse not a baby. He's enjoying our sessions together.

The other day I was working on having blankets on and around him- he was totally unflapped. So I decided to try putting a horse blanket on him.

I have lots of blankets. If you ask Ed he might say that I have a blanket problem. Only of course if he was sure I couldn't overhear him. Just because I have one horse and approximately 10 blankets, I don't see how that translates into a problem, do you? Yes I know I have 2 heavy winter blankets but Irish needs something to wear if the other gets wet doesn't he? And the fleece was on sale. So was the lime green one. Can you imagine? Now why would that be on sale??? It's so useful- it allow me to see Irish no matter where he hides. And the hunters can't confuse him for a deer now can they? SEE:
even d'Arcy looks bemused by it here. but I think that Irish can totally pull it off
Last year when I put Irish out for the first time with this on all the traffic slowed down as they drove by. I can't imagine why!

Anyway, back to Steele. While I don't intend to blanket him it doesn't mean that he shouldn't learn to wear one. So I took out the fleece one.
He looked at it and pulled away a bit.
'who, what's that?'
'Oh nothing' I saw as I gently bring it to his side. I rub it around a bit. Steele settles.
 I then slowly throw it up over him.
His head comes up 'What the?'
I take it off.
I spend the next five minutes putting it over his back and sliding it off until he no longer cares. I can put it on and take it off from the left, right and behind. The next time I fasten it. Steele dances a bit in his cross ties. He pulls at it with his teeth. \Uh uh' I say. He stops. While he's not worried, he's as impressed with this as any youngster forced to try on clothes.
Do you need to take a photo? Aren't we done yet? 

Here he still looks like a baby, doesn't he?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

On being a hairdresser....

Are you old enough to remember this toy:
It's a barbie hairdresser toy. The idea is that young girls would learn to make fabulous hair styles preparing them for either a career as a beautician or a fashion model. As you can imagine I totally sucked at this. While I did have various barbies the reason was that they could ride my plastic horses. At my peak point I had 8. If one broke a leg I cried for days. My mother probably blesses that fact that Breyer horses came out when I was an adult.....
I think that the hairdresser barbie lasted a few months until the day I decided that she would look better with short hair. After you shave Barbie's head what is left to do with it? Besides it was a weird toy and sort of creeped me out at night. I mean a disembodied head sitting on your dresser? Who wouldn't be a bit freaked out? I don't know what happened to her- I suspect that she's in a landfill somewhere. It was prophetic really- I am neither a beautician or fashion icon.

This is also a good time to confess two things:
1. I like to braid horses. I find it soothing to do prior to a show. I like how they look.
2. I like short manes. I pitied people who had horses with long manes. I mean, how do they cope? All this hair flying around while you're trying to ride and preparing for shows. I was smug in my superiority of having a horse with a short mane.

I then bought an Andalusian.

Andalusian horses are supposed to have long manes.

So now I am conflicted.

I like short manes but if I'm true to the breed Steele should keep his long mane. Having learned from the barbie toy I know that if I cut it there's no going back (see no part of life is without a lesson, it's just that sometimes you need to wait to figure out exactly what the lesson is). Of course, unlike the barbie head, Steele's mane will grow but I may not have the patience for it.

I do believe that it's important to learn new things so I have decided to leave his mane alone and use this winter to learn how to do a running braid. I have googled and watched videos on youtube. It doesn't seem hard but I know that my skills with long hair are not anything to write home about. I have been doing short stints with his mane but last weekend I decided to do the whole mane.

It seems that Steele patience for standing still while his hair is done is as good as mine. I can appreciate my hairdresser's perspective as she's reaching for the flat iron or hair spray or even the mirror to show me the back while I say 'no no, I'm sure it's fine as it is and I really have to get back to the barn.......' It was kind of like a dance- Steele stepping forward, me going with him clutching his hair in a desperate attempt to keep the strands separated.

This is the result:

The photo is not great- I took it with my ipod and he had no patience to stand still while I took it. :)

it lasted about 2 hours. So I will have to work on making it last. If you have any advice I would appreciate it very much.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Follow up on lessons

Remember a few posts ago in which I started working on getting Steele to come to me?

How am I doing?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Tale of the Fainting Rat

In full disclosure, Steele does not appear in this story but a friend suggested that I share this one.

Someone once described a barn in a field as an Oasis in the the desert- it attract all sorts of life to it. This I found to be true. My barn was completed last December. I think the first mouse moved in January- there must have  been an ad on the internet or something. This is, of course, the reason we have Martin - well really that's how I sell the idea of  a cat so that Ed thinks that he's useful. Truth is we'd have a cat anyway. I believe that he knows this on some level but this is one of the many fictions that help a marriage along. Of course once the kitten is home how can you resist:

Martin is an avid mouser. Well, sort of. Depends on his mood really.

Belle is our Australian Shepherd. We got her from a rescue and she really is a beautiful dog.
Despite the fact that Aussies are supposed to be herding dogs she has never shown the slightest inclination. She is, however, a great mouser. Except that she often doesn't finish them off-she spits them out and leaves them for Ed and I. Which leads to the deal that Ed and I have made- he finishes them off (if he's around) and I dispose of the carcass (if I'm around). Snakes are all mine to deal with- which is fine. I like snakes and won't have them killed.

d'Arcy is our Border Collie. He's got the personality of a lab and the energy and IQ of a BC. It makes him a terrific farm dog. He often photo bombs my pictures.
Everyone is his friend or a friend he hasn't met yet. If you come to my house and bring a puppy he will baby sit. Belle will tell it to stay away from her stuff and Martin will be appalled and take off.

Hang on, I'm getting to the rat.
So this summer some rats moved into our barn. I put out traps but they didn't seem to work- other than as a food delivery system.

 One beautiful summer day I had just finished a ride on Irish and had him on the cross ties when we heard this horrible squeaking coming from the other side of the tarp we have hanging (it separates the hay from the tools and keeps the sun off the hay when the barn doors are open). I saw a dog shape through the tarp and figured that Belle had a mouse. Irish was getting upset by the squeaking so I untacked him and let him go outside.

 I went to see what the ruckus was about and there was d'Arcy sitting there looking as proud as punch with a huge rat laying on it's back in front of him.
"look mom, I found a friend, isn't he pretty? Can I keep him?"
I looked at the rat- it was big. Now, I'm not afraid of rats. In fact in University one of my many jobs was to get the rats used to being handled so that the Psych 2000 students could work with them. I was a rat whisperer if you will. But a wild, large rat is a different kettle of fish.
I looked at it- it looked dead.
But then I thought I saw it's chest move. Great. It's 'almost dead'.
I take out my cell phone and call Ed (he's in the house, but I wanted to keep my eye on the rat).
"Hi honey, d'Arcy caught this rat, can you come out and finish it off?"
"d'Arcy? You mean Belle. Because of course it's not Martin"
"No I mean d'Arcy"
"How did d'Arcy get a rat?"
"I don't know. Just get out here and we can discuss it later!"

As I wait for Ed (really how long does it take to get out the barn, is he having a coffee first?), I stare at the rat. d'Arcy is also looking at the rat with love in his eyes. I think that I can no longer see it breathing. Good, I think, it must have died. I go grab the shovel and scoop it up.

At this point the rat comes spectacularly to life- lets out an loud squeak and leaps off the shovel. I let out a loud shriek and drop the shovel. At this point Belle comes out of no where, charges in and I hear:
It all happened in seconds. The rat is now decidedly dead. Belle looks at d'Arcy and I  and I swear she rolled her eyes and trotted off. Ed comes into the barn and I explain what happened. Martin comes sauntering into the barn trying to look casual but I suspect he was watching all this from the doorway. We look at d'Arcy who has this expression (this is an old photo but the expression was the same):
We killed his friend.

So I did a little research. Turns out that if rats get enough adrenaline surging through their system they can 'faint'. I guess it's like a playing dead theory. Apparently, scooping them up with a shovel revives them from a faint.

Good information to have when living in the country.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Steele sees a ghost

Yesterday I decided to take Steele for a walk. I went and got him from the field (update on that later) and decided that we should do a little explore into the woods. Irish followed us along the fence line but was not impressed when we entered the trail.
Irish "Come back! There are trolls in there!"
Steele "Trolls? What are trolls?"
he looks at me.
"Will the Trolls like me?"
Me "There are no such thing as trolls. What a brave boy, look at the pretty trees"

Steele looks around. He's alert but curious.

We walk a little further in.

A tree branch brushes his flank.
"ohh something tickled me"
Me: "it's just a tree. you are so brave"
Steele "that's true. I am very brave. Do you have any apples?"
Me "Not yet"
Irish (from a distance) "come back before you die a terrible death and leave me all alone. "
Steele tenses and looks at me.
"what a terrible death?"
I try to stand relaxed and look reassuring.
"nothing you need to worry about. However, Irish may have to"
"Can I eat it"
"then never mind"
He sighs and lowers his head.
I decide to turn around while it's all good. Besides further in it gets pretty mucky and I had visions of my boots getting stuck while Steele dragged me around.

We walk back and he gets a little in front of me. I give a gently tug on the lead line and say 'sloooww'. This what I've been doing to keep him with me- it works. He slows up.

When we leave the woods Irish is dancing around like a goof. "you're back. Thank heavens you're back! Don't ever do that again".

I turn Steele and we walk down the field away from the paddock. He walks along like a good horse. Irish starts to call again. We stop and I let him graze.
Irish "where are you going? Stop!!!"
Steele "mmph's omay, shtomf wowwyin" (this is how he sounds when his mouth is full of grass. Translation: it's okay, stop worrying.')

We walk down to the other entrance to the woods. This trail leads to the manure pile. He was so amazing as we walked by rubber pallets, an old bath tub (it was here when we moved in so don't judge me) and then the big pile of manure. Again he was alert but curious. When we came back out he spooked at a noise in the woods (most likely a rabbit). All he did was trot forward but didn't even tighten the lead line.

We walked up the driveway towards the house. We stopped by the kitchen window. He grazed a bit and then spied the window. His head came up, his ears came forward. Then his eyes widened and he leaned back. I looked- he could see his reflection. He was on high alert. I stood there and rubbed his shoulder. He stepped forward and then back.
 I would conjecture that his thoughts went like this:
where did that horse come from? 
He looks like his not quite there.
But he's awfully good looking.......

He stepped forward. Then back. Gingerly he reached his nose to the glass. So did the other horse. Steele blew. His own air blew back from the window and it fogged up.
whoa, that's weird. My nose says there's nothing there but my eyes see a horse!

I let him consider this for a moment and then I took him back to the barn. Where he enjoyed a nice groom and finally got his well deserved apple.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

In which Steele is an innocent victim

I really love my barn set up- each of the stall opens up into a small turnout. From there the horses can go into  one of two fields- depending on which gate I have opened. It makes it simple for us with our work schedule. The stalls act as a shelter if the weather is bad. At supper time I prepare feeds and bang on the metal dish and yell 'supper!'. The horses come running, each to their own stall. I feed them and then shut the outside doors. It's a system that works very well. It took a while to teach them to go into their own stall but they've had it down for months.

Tonight I followed the same routine as always. The horses came running and I put the feed in their bins.Now they are not fed the same- Irish gets a sweet feed + beet pulp and Steele gets a yearling feed + beet pulp.  However, when I went out to shut Irish's door he decided that he wasn't ready- he bolted out his door and then bolted into Steele's stall. He pushed Steele away from his feed bin and started eating. Steele came out and started to go into Irish's stall.

'Uh Uh' I said, 'We're not playing musical stalls' and I closed the bottom half of the door.
Steele goes back into his but Irish won't let him near the feed. He comes back out and looks at me pleadingly.
His eyes filled with tears 'but I don't have anything to eat!'

(okay, I know that horse's eyes don't fill with tears but really, if you could have seen his face!)

'Irish' I say sternly "Get out of there RIGHT NOW'

Irish came out and bolted to his field.

I sighed. 'How does he know that I am getting ready to go out and don't have time for this nonsense'.

Steele started to go with him but then thought better of it. He ran into his stall and had his supper. He looked relieved.

I looked at Irish standing out there. He looks back at me defiantly. d'Arcy looks at both of us. I had just decided to go back into the house and leave Irish to his own devices but he must have sensed it because he came back down and walked into his stall as sweet as you please.

Hopefully his rebellion is short lived. Two brats is more than I can handle.

Friday, October 5, 2012

In which Steele disrupts Irish's schooling session...

Typically Steele is very well behaved while I ride Irish. He hangs out in his field, eats the grass and sometimes goes into Irish's stall to eat his hay while he waits.

Yesterday, about 10 minutes into our ride something spooked him. I have no idea what it was but he took off bucking and snorting and blowing. Of course Irish immediately went into high alert. I looked around and could not see what had startled him- but Steele would trot up the field, halt, blow and then bolt back to the barn. As you can imagine Irish did not take well to this and was looking for the monster in the bushes. I am, however, used to this, and just kept going. But it was not a good ride. More like a riding a pogo stick than a horse. Sigh.

I was torn between exasperation at Steele- "really? there's nothing there, just knock it off' and smiling 'oh, look how pretty he looks. Boy he can MOVE".
not from yesterday but the day before when I was not mounted :)

Steele finally settled down- had a roll and a nibble was back to normal in a few minutes. Irish, however, was on high alert for the whole ride and into supper time. Oh well. Not all rides can be perfect. Neither can all horses.