dancing horses

dancing horses

Friday, August 31, 2012

Steele's Busy Day

Yesterday morning the dogs and I headed out to the barn to feed the horses. d'Arcy, my Border Collie, reached the door first (of course). He stopped dead, did a double take and looked at me. He then backed up. I went to the door and saw Steele in the middle of the aisle reaching up to pull a hay bale off the top of the pile. While Irish watched from his stall.
'Hi' I said
He looked at me. Irish retreated into his stall- 'I had nothing to do with this!'.
'Hi' Steele said. 'I ran out of hay and am hungry'.

Rather than make a fuss about this I decided to ignore it. I went into the tack room and prepared breakfast. Steele watched from the doorway with great interest. I put his feed in his feed bin and he went back into his stall. I then inspected the damage- really there was none. One hay bale strewn everywhere, halters on the floor but no poop or other damage. I don't think that he was out long. I've been racking my brain as to whether I properly latched his door the night before. For the life of me I can't remember.

Later that morning the farrier arrived. We did Steele first. He was pretty good but the flies were stinging his legs and he objected to not being able to stamp. I sprayed him with fly spray to help. Overall it went fine just a couple small corrections. The farrier really likes his feet.

Irish and I are heading to a show this weekend so I was busy getting ready. Steele watched all of it with interest. That evening I used the clippers on Irish. I decided to bring Steele out to introduce him to them as well. When he was standing there I turned them on. His ears swivelled forward and he backed up. I left them on and then slowly brought them towards him about 6 inches. He stiffened and I pulled them away. And what happened next, I love:he walked toward them. He looked at them and I turned them off. I then turned them back on and moved them away. He followed and then put his lips on them. I made sure that he was just feeling the vibration, not the blade. We did this a few time. I then approached his body. He wasn't sure but stood when I asked. I placed the clippers against his body so he could feel the vibration. Within seconds he was relaxed as I rubbed them over his shoulder and neck. I decided to leave it there and turned them off and gave him a good groom.

As I was grooming him I realized that he looked very tired. After all it had been a busy day. So I put him back in his stall and he looked quite happy to go have a nap.

And yes, I made sure I latched it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Steele English Dictionary- Unabridged

Hi everyone, Steele here.

since the last post was all about Irish I figured I'd better get us back on track. After all, as great as Irish is, this blog is all about me. 
Besides, Irish is not always the golden boy. Yesterday he pulled TWO shoes. You should have heard mom mutter about that!!

And it's not like it's hard to post on the internet! All I had to do was figure out her password and this typing thing.
I know that Mom is always telling you about how smart I am but I thought I'd let you know all the words I know to date:

'foot'- if she says this while running her hand down my leg she wants to pick it up so she can clean it with that metal thingy.

'whoa'- stop moving.

'over'- move away from the hand that's poking me. it was tricky to figure out how far to go. It seems that 10 feet is too far and 1 inch is not enough. Humans!

'walk in' - go into my stall or that red box on wheels beside the barn. She likes me to go in by myself. It seems that detours to check out other stuff is not allowed. sigh.

'stop it'- I'm being annoying. I hear this alot when I'm trying to chew the cross ties or inspect the wheel barrow when she's mucking out my stall.

'**&$%&^" - I'm being really annoying and am going to get in trouble. But sometimes it's worth it, you know?

'good boy'- I'm showing her how clever I am.

'pumpkin'- that's Irish

'baby'- that's me

and my favourite word of all:

Supper!! That means to come running to the barn because my feed is ready!
I don't hear that word nearly enough!

Monday, August 27, 2012

In which you meet Irish

Meet Irish- my 12 year old Appendix. 

He's by the TB stallion 'A Fine Romance' out of a QH mare. I cannot remember her name. I have owned him since he was 3 years of age.  His registered name is 'So Romantic' and his barn name when I bought him was 'Romeo'. When I did the PPE the vet asked me 'are you going to call him Romeo?'. 'NO!' I said. I just couldn't see myself calling him that. After much deliberation I settled on 'Irish'. His show name is 'Irish Gold'. 

We have quite the history. I've heard it said that people get the horse they need not necessarily the ones they think they want.Irish is lovable, sweet, highly distractible, often tense and very athletic. The first year under saddle,he had me off so many times with his bucking. It was never mean, or with the intention to get me off, he just was sensitive and would react quickly. He taught me to not only sit a buck but to prevent one (something even more important). A judge once described us  as 'an exuberant pair'. 
He taught me patience (well, to be honest, he's still teaching me that- I am not known for my patience). He worries a lot about stuff. This had led to less than stellar scores at our shows. I have learned to accept that (mostly). I don't show for ribbons anyway- I like hanging out with horse people. Of course I wasn't always that way, I was very driven. But Irish didn't react well to my being driven, so I have learned to dial it back. He can be frustrating on group trail rides because he HAS to be in front or else he misbehaves. But once he gets in front he slows down and doesnt' lead the group past spooky stuff. sigh. I've tried to talk to him about it but he doesn't seem to understand that being in front means that he's the 'leader'. :)
what? me in charge?

Irish is a good pasture mate. He really has no interest in being the boss. I maintain that he could be used as a nursemaid. 

So I wasn't too worried about how he would be with Steele. I was more worried that he would let Steele walk all over him. But I needn't have worried. He's been a gem. He takes his role very seriously. It's quite funny. The other day I brought a tarp into the field as part of my sacking out process with Steele. 
Irish: "AHHHHHH a monster!!! Run AWAY!!"
Steele: 'eeeeeeeee. uh. wait. shouldn't we check it out?'
Irish: "No, flee for your lives"
Steele: "wheee, let's run some more. Hey! I have an idea. Let's run to that big blue thing Mom has"
Irish: 'ok you go first. No never mind! You do want you want I'm going back to the barn. '

So I brought the tarp to the barn and dropped it on the ground. Steele played with it for a while and then after a while Irish picked it up. 

I think that Steele is making Irish braver. :) 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Family Matters

Yesterday I went to visit a friend who also happens to be partners in the business that owns Steele's dam and sire. http://www.doscompaneros.com/our-horses

Steele's full brother was born in June and I wanted to meet him. He is a total sweetie and quite sociable. Sound familiar? It seems that he might be a bay as he sheds out. I also think that he may end up bigger than Steele.  I have to say that he's the second cutest foal of this breeding I've seen  ;)

Here he is with his dam. She's a beautiful horse and about 16.1 hh.

Look at that face- who could resist???  Just like his brother he's very sociable and had no issues leaving his dam to meet a new fan.

Scratches please

This is Steele's sire- Fierro. I see a strong family resemblance.

 Not the best photos, I know, but the sun was bright and it was hot. :)

And just so Steele doesn't get too upset that this is not about him, our latest adventure involved an escape.

I had been out with the horses doing some stuff and must not have latched the gate properly. I was in the house getting supper ready and I head my Aussie, Belle barking. It wasn't her 'we're being invaded, man the machine guns' bark so I went outside to see what was up. I could see Irish and Steele out behind the barn grazing.

 'Holy crap' I said and grabbed my shoes and headed to the barn. I grabbed some grain in a bucket and sauntered out the back.
"Hi" I say to the two.
Irish looks at me like he's saying 'oh oh. It wasn't my idea'.
Steele was totally cool- 'hi there. Just having a look around'

I show Irish the grain and he follows me back to the paddock. I figured that Steele would follow. Nope. He decides that he has to climb the massive dirt pile behind the barn (it's from the excavation and we're slowly moving it and screening out the topsoil). 'Hey Irish you can see everything from up here'.

'Steele come down'. I shake the grain hopefully.
He meanders over to the muck cart and starts nosing it around.
I sigh and walk up to him. He scoots into the barn. Success!! I follow and shut the door behind me.
Steele wanders around and checks everything out. 'How come the hay is so far away from my stall?'

I go up and put the bucket to his nose and the penny drops 'FOOD!' He follows me into his stall. I shut the door and breathe out slowly.

In talking to my friend, it turns out the Fierro also liked to leave his paddock and nose around. He also explored anything within reach.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Battle of the Fly Mask

This year the flies are terrible. Initially it was the horse and deer flies but now it's the stable flies. The horses are coated in them unless they are dipped in fly spray.

So every morning I put on the fly masks and spray them.

Steele is fond of neither. Which would have useful info as I was plunking down good money on a lovely 'yearling' sized mask- complete with ears. The first time I put it on it lasted approximately 20 minutes. It would go on and I would spend lots of time wandering around the field looking for it. Steele would quite happily follow me around, looking interested. When I would find it, he would look at me and back away

'uh, no thank you. I don't like it. It itches. And interferes with my good looks'.

'But it will keep the flies out of your eyes'

Steele flips his forelock. 'I don't like flies but there must be a better way'.

'nope, sorry but technology has not improved on the fly mask to date'.

'Well I'm okay, I don't need it" and he trots off.

Being the intrepid horse trainer that I am I gave up.

Then the flies became really bad. Irish has completely figured out the mask thing. He puts his head in it in the morning. And if it comes off and go out to pick it up he comes trotting up to me: "put it on, put it on!!!".

I decided that Steele needed to wear the mask for his own good. The first day he came back with it on, I did a wee triumphal dance in the barn. I am hopeful that no one saw me.

Don't get me wrong, he still doesn't like it. But for a horse that does not like the mask or the spray, he does tolerate me putting both on him pretty well. Sometimes he comes in without it. Often there's one ear out. But for now I am hopeful that he'll figure out that I'm not trying to torture him.

See, doesn't he look impressed? And note the photo bomber in the background.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Patience Grasshopper

About 20 years ago I watched a local trainer working with a 2 year old QH Gelding. This gelding was being trained for halter classes. I don't know much about halter classes but the trainer was working on getting this little gelding to stand still. The trainer was over 6 feet and the gelding about 14hh.

This is what I saw:
The trainer would ask the horse to whoa, which he did quite obligingly. The trainer would place his feet square and then either stand for a few minutes or walk around the horse. If the horse moved any of his feet a fraction the trainer would kick him repeatedly as hard as he could. The lesson would then repeat. This went on for a long time. I spoke up to the barn owner but as told that I didn't understand and that this guy was a great trainer, his horses were the best broke ones around. I believe it. But the word I would use now is 'broken'.

One of the things I love about having a youngster is that I don't have to hurry. I can take the time it takes for him to learn. This seems to be working for us. I also am using reinforcement for the behavior I want not punishment. For example, when I groom him he loves for me to be really strong with the curry comb on his whither. He wants to turn around and groom me as well. His intentions are good but I don't need his teeth marks on my back. So when he turns his head I stop. When he turns his head forward I go again. It's funny to watch him make faces and 'air groom'. :D

He's learning to stand still while being groomed. I also leave him in the cross ties while I pick out his stall and then put his hay in for the night. He's learned to not paw while standing there. Well mostly. But he's praised for now pawing and ignored when he does. He doesn't like to be ignored.

I am sure that I will make mistakes but I prefer to do it this way rather than the way I saw the trainer operate. Of course I'm not under pressure to produce a ridable horse for anyone but me.

This is a photo of Steele shortly after he came home- learning to cross tie:

Steele says "what's the hurry. There's always time for a scratch'.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Growing like a weed

It's hard to believe that Steele has been living with us for 3 months. Some days it seems like he just arrived yesterday. But he's become such a part of the family that it's like he's always been here.

Contradictory I know, but there you have it.

Here he is a few days after arrival:

He is affectionately known as the bottomless pit. He eats like, well, like a horse. After owning a picky eater it's refreshing. However, this food he's taking in is being used. This is Steele and Irish last Saturday!

Note the photobomber. This is d'Arcy. He gets into lots of photos.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

In which Steele is left all alone

The riding club I belong to had a fun weekend away. We spent the morning practicing in a dressage ring with all the riders helping each other. Then a hack through the woods in the afternoon. We stayed at a place where there was a house to stay in. So after the hack we ate. And drank. And watched videos. In the morning we had another hack and then went home. It was fabulous.

I decided to leave Steele at home because he does need to get used to being alone. Ed stayed home to look after him. I doubt that anyone would be surprised to learn that I phoned a couple times. It felt a lot like leaving a child. Ed assured me that all was fine. He said that Steele tended to hang around the barn unless Ed went with him out into the field. But he ate, slept all normal. Phew.

When Irish and I pulled into the driveway he was so excited. It went like this:
Steele: "you're home. You're home"
Irish: "yes, thank heavens. I thought it was going to be a show but it was okay"
Steele: "Hurry up, get off that moving box!"
Irish: "Just a sec. I have to stand still or else she won't let me off. Watch my self control"
<Irish stands still>
Steele: "wow"

I let Irish back off of the trailer and bring him into the barn. I remove his shipping boots quickly and then let him out into the paddock. In the mean time Steele dances with glee in and out of the stalls. Irish heads out to the grass pasture with Steele dancing around "whee you're back. I'm so happy you're back. I didn't eat all the grass. I saved some for you. What do you want to do first?"

He then stopped dead and looked back at me. Irish kept walking out to the field, probably worried that I might change my mind. I waited for Steele to follow but he didn't. He came dancing back to me.
"you're back too! I'm so happy you're back. Ed was lonely but don't worry I stayed close to the barn so he had some company. I also took him for a walk around the field for exercise. He didn't eat much grass though."

And he stayed with me until I left him so he could back with his buddy. But I did have a warm feeling in my heart.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mr. Perfect

I know that you are all wondering how the wee man is doing these days so I thought that I would give a bit of an update. As you know, previously he was testing a few boundaries. I had to go away for work for a few days so I made sure that we had a repeat lesson before I left. There was a mild bit of testing that I dealt with and then he was a model citizen.

I was away for five days in Des Moines Iowa. On monday I arrived home fatigued and jet lagged. But I went out to the barn as soon as I dumped my suitcase. Both Irish and Steele greeted me. There's nothing like a welcoming nicker from a horse to make you feel good about yourself. I took Steele out to groom him and he was as good as gold: lifting his feet when I ran my hand down his legs and said 'foot'. As my mother would say 'butter wouldn't melt in his mouth'.

This has been going on since I came home- respect for my space and sweet as pie. Today when I came home from work I was surprised by my husband building me some cavalettis in the barn. It was an interesting tableau: Ed with the power saw out in the aisle making the cross pieces. Being carefully supervised by Steele. It was quite cute the interest he was showing in the whole process. The air compressor, power saw, hammering, drilling were not an issue. My husband is doing a great job sacking out the horses, all unconscious. I took Steele out into the cross ties and again he was perfect. Even with all the ruckus. What I love is how brave he is in the face of stuff- being curious rather than freaked out.

I am keeping this post so that when he's bad again- I can look back and remember why I decided to get a baby. :)