dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year is Over

And what have we done?

Well, I really had to stop and think. I'm not sure where the year went but 2013 is coming to a close.

Steele is now officially 3 years old. He's just over 15'2 which is the same size Irish was when I bought him at 3. I can really see the mature horse that he's becoming. I haven't backed him yet despite getting lots of advice that I should start him. In the end I decided not to because he just didn't seem mentally ready. I have to say that I'm happy with that decision. But that doesn't mean that we didn't do anything this year. I sat down and tallied up the list of where Steele and I are at in his training:
  • he will stand still in the cross ties while being groomed and worked with. He seldom paws now but stands quietly and respectfully. 
  • He lifts his feet easily- I run my hand down his leg and saw 'foot' and he lifts his foot and places it in my hand. He sometimes get a little antsy if he thinks that I'm holding it too long but corrects easily. 
  • He can be easily caught in the field and haltered. 
  • He leads quietly beside me and does not pull on the line even when spooking. He sometimes tries to get the grass but is easily corrected
  • He opens his mouth for the bit 
  • He's worn a saddle and has had weight across it, does not spook when the stirrup leathers flap around him. He tolerates weight being placed in either stirrup
  • he lunges fairly well, reaches into side reins. 
  • He understands the basics of steering with the ground driving. We've had a couple discussions about steering but I made sure to win. 
  • He's been led all over the property including down the road and has helped me to get the mail. 
  • He will stand tied while being bathed
  • he is respectful of personal space
  • we started some liberty work - he will follow, back up, turn and trot over ground poles without a lead line.
I was watching some training videos by Stacy Westfall. They are quite good and one thing that caught my attention is that she said to pay attention to how a horse responds when you put pressure on them. So I've been paying attention to this with Steele. When he's thinking about something he will do this weird chewing or he will paw and/or stamp his feet. Running away is a last resort.

So my plans for 2014:
  • we won't be working on driving/lunging because the weather is too harsh. But I think that the time off is good for him as well. 
  • I will continue to work on ground manners 
  • Get a saddle fitting so that...
  • he can be backed come spring. I want to find a trainer that can come here rather than send him away for 30 days. 
  • teach him to self load
  • take him off site so he can experience work in other locations
There will probably be more plans as we go along but this is the broad sketch.

I hope that everyone has a prosperous, healthy and happy New Year.

See you next year!
c'mon Irish, give me a kiss, it's New Year's Eve!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Starting Over

One thing that I've learned over the years is that no matter what we believe, the path in life is rarely straight. It runs straight for a while and then there's a curve thrown in. Sometimes a U-Turn.

One year ago I essentially retired Irish. (http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2012/11/there-is-peace-in-answers.html). What I didn't share was how awful the winter was. He was frequently sore, often unsound. Often he wouldn't eat and appeared mildly colicky/ulcerish. His weight dropped. There were signs of struggles in his stall- he ripped his feed bin off the wall 3 times before I gave up and switched to an over the door feeder. I was frequently treating dings and cuts- again signs that he was falling over and/or struggling to get up and hurting himself in the process. Irish became withdrawn and irritable.

Come spring I had virtually decided that I could not put him through another winter like that. So I decided that I would give him a good spring and summer and decide what to do in the fall. As you may recall in that time I began to play with his feeding program (again!). http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2013/09/lets-talk-about-diets.html. Since that time Irish has appeared to thrive. He's back to being his lovable, sociable self. His weight is holding steady at 1149.  He also began to show signs of being sound. That went up and down over the summer and I was very careful with how I used him.

 Come fall I had a horse that was round(er), shiny, interested in life and cavorting in his field. So how could I put him down? It wasn't going to happen. I made a few decisions. One was that I was keeping him on his current diet. However, now that there's no pasture I give him a feeding of soaked alfalfa and beetpulp at night (the alfalfa is good for weight and disguises the beetpulp which he's not crazy about). He's come to love his night feeding. Steele gets a handful at night too. He wears bell boots all the time so he can stop pulling off his front shoes (which lead to abscesses). I've weaned him off the previcox and he seems to be holding his own. I am prepared to put him back on if necessary. I also decided to not blanket him either. I worried that the blanket was also causing him difficulty to get up. I did cave and put one on when the temperature plummeted to -25. However, he's maintaining his weight and had developed a nice thick coat so I'm not worried.

Normally I love to ride on Christmas day but for a variety of reasons this did not happen. Today however was mild, there was no ice and a nice fluffy amount of snow. I saddled Irish up and we headed to the ring. He was quite excited at first but the beauty of being 13 is that he's not overly foolish and it wears off quickly. He was forward and bouncy in all 3 gaits, although out of shape. There's nothing like a canter in snow. I'm glad my neighbours are far away otherwise they would have heard me exclaiming 'yes, yes, yes' when he did a lovely uphill trot-canter transition. Who knows what they would have thought. It occurred to me that I had my horse back. But not at the level we were working at pre-diagnosis. I've decided to start all over with him at training level. I have no idea how he'll do and I doubt that he'll be able to handle the higher level work on his hind but I don't really care. I'm going to work him like a green horse and we'll progress as we progress. There's no pressure to succeed at anything. It was great to ride and just work out what the puzzle was today. What's interesting though is that I'm not encountering that resistance I've had since, like forever. Make no mistake- he's still Irish- which means that he's easily distracted (oh look a squirrel!) but he was not frustrated and neither was I.

So there you have it. I have two green horses that I'll be working with. Who knew? Irish may not make a ripe old age, but he'll make 14. And I'll take that. It's more than I thought I'd have 6 months ago.

'oh oh, she looks like she's making plans again'

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas the night before Christmas on Oakfield Farm

Tonight is Christmas Eve. The kids are home for the holiday and we have more family coming for dinner on Christmas day and Boxing day. I just finished the rolls for dinner and had the dough for the cinnamon buns rising when I headed out to the barn.

I took both horses out in turns to give them a good grooming. After all they have to look good for Santa and for the relatives. I find grooming to be a soothing activity. I enjoy cleaning off dirt and detangling manes and tails. I gave Irish's mane a trim and put Cowboy Magic in both tails to get the knots out. As I brushed and curried I felt very content. I know how fortunate I am to have the family and animals in my life. This is my second Christmas having horses on my very own property. While the work is sometimes hard I wouldn't trade it for anything. When I was a child I became enamored with the idea that animals talk on Christmas eve at Midnight. I used to try to stay up and listen but I never managed it. As I shut off the light and headed back to the house I thought how cool that would be if it really happened. There was a lovely soft snow falling and the world looked very pretty.

Irish wake up. I think I hear Santa! 

zzzzzzz, hmpf whazzat?

wake up! wake up! I'm sure it's him. 

oh for heaven's sake. Go back to sleep! 

no, I hear something. I'm sure. 

Belle : relax. it's only us. 

Steele: ohhhh

d'Arcy  Hi!! Hi! Merry Christmas! It's SNOWING!

Irish:  how did you two get out? 

Martin I let them out. I can do that whenever i want. I just don't let the servants know. It's not good to let them get too comfortable. 

Steele : Did you see Santa out there? Does he have carrots and apples and candy canes? 

Irish: I didn't think that you liked candy canes. 

My palate has matured. Now that I'm older. 

Belle: Santa also brings dog treats 

d'Arcy: And balls! don't forget balls! I love balls. Balls are the best. Except for treats. Treats are the best.  Balls with treats are AWESOME. 

Martin: you two need a bit more dignity.

Belle: Agreed.

Irish *sigh* *yawn* you know santa won't come if you're awake. 

d'Arcy there's lots of time. We wanted to come out and give you holiday greetings.

Belle:  After all you can't come in the house to visit us.

Irish: we should be happy with our good fortune. I've been around and heard stories. There are lots of animals that aren't as lucky as us. 

Steele: really? how sad. Hey, how did you come to own the female servant? 

Irish I met here before my third birthday. A friend had seen me and told her to come and meet me. I quite liked her so decided to keep her. I can proudly say that most of what she knows I taught her. 

Steele: is there anything left for me to teach her? 

Martin: oh don't worry humans needs LOTS of training. Just the other day the male servant stuck his foot in my face while I was sleeping at the foot of the bed. It's not enough that I let them share it with me, he has to take liberties! Well I taught him. 

Steele: What did you do? 

Martin: Well I bit him on the foot. You should have heard him yell. 

Irish: I don't recommend biting. Cats may get away with it but we don't. 

Steele: Oh I learned that already!

Belle: I can't believe you bit him. Before \I adopted these two I had a very hard life. No one seemed to love me and they kept me locked in a cage. 

d'Arcy: NO

Belle: yes. haven't you noticed I don't like small spaces? But life is good here and I'm happy. 

Steele: Me too! I knew she was mine as soon as I met her. And the male servant is very entertaining. He does lots of interesting things. I wonder what we'll do next year? 

Irish: Oh I'm sure that she has lots of plans for you. I've seen the look in her eye. I know that she's contacted the lady to come and fit you for a saddle. 

Steele: I remember her. That's where I was born. I was a Christmas baby you know.

Irish: you were a November baby! 

Steele: same diff!

d'Arcy: I was born in the summer. I don't remember much but I remember coming home. I learned what to do and what not to do. I learned about hockey. Hockey was the best! I miss hockey sometimes.

Irish: Hockey? 

yes they used to take me to large houses with ice and I would watch the game. At one time I wanted to be a referee. After all I learned about the whistle and am the right colour but more and more arenas would not allow dogs in them. Can you believe it? they allow children but not dogs!  But now I have work and lots and lots of sticks. There are lots of sticks here. And water. And smells. 

Irish: I used to show in a hockey arena. They would take out the ice and put in dirt for horse shows. It was a bit freaky to see my reflection in the glass. I didn't always take too well to that. 

Steele: now that sounds interesting. Tell me more about showing. 

Irish: you'll learn about it soon enough. But you get your mane braided and you can't scratch it no matter how much it itches. And then there's this person called a 'judge' who decides how good your are. There's lots of people, horses and some dogs....

Martin: any cats?

no, no cats that I've ever seen.

Then I'm not interested.  

Irish: how about the rat living under my stall? are you interested in that? 

Martin: it's Christmas. You can't expect me to hunt on Christmas eve! 

Belle: *rolls eyes* no of course not. you might break a nail. 

Martin: pffft! 

Irish- now now, that's enough. It's time for us all to get some sleep. You don't want the servants to wake up and come looking for you. 

Steele: *yawn* well I am kinda tired. Goodnight! Merry Christmas! 

Irish: Merry Christmas.

Belle: Merry Christmas. 

Martin: Merry Christmas. 

d;Arcy: Merry Christmas. I love Christmas. Christmas is the best.

Merry Christmas from Oakfield Farm to you


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Clever is as clever does

Keeping horses at home has opened up whole new insights into their behaviour. I've heard people refer to the size of a horse's brain and state that they really are not that smart. I've always referred to Irish as sweet but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I am amending that opinion though.

A few days ago I came home from work and headed to the barn to do the evening chores. I couldn't see Irish so figured he was in his stall. Steele was outside eating hay. I decided to spend some time with him before getting at the chores- which include supper. Steele was quite happy to stand outside and schmooze with me. I heard Irish in his stall and then I heard him come out. I figured he was going to do one of two things:
1. head out the field because he wasn't ready yet to be shut in the barn
2. come and get his share of the affection.

I watched as he nonchalantly sauntered by me. He didn't make eye contact and appeared to be trying to make himself smaller. I figured he take off once he hit the gate to the field.

I was wrong.

Irish went around to the other side of Steele, gave me a flinty look over his back and then bit him right on the arse. Steele looked at me-
"sorry, got to go"
With that, Irish herded him right into his stall. Irish then went into his stall and turned around to look at me. I swear he was saying
"okay, we're in. Now close the door and give me my supper. "

Which I promptly did.

As I was doing on the chores I realized that horses have managed to arrange for room, board and servants. We pay all this money and do all this work simply  for the pleasure of their company.

So who's the smart one?

uh oh, I think she's on to me

Monday, December 16, 2013

snow Day

Well we survived the storm. Sunday dawned with snow but it didn't seem too bad. I did the barn chores and decided to let the horses out for a bit. I had to shovel the snow away from the doors to let them out. I headed into the house for some much needed coffee. I was sitting enjoying my coffee and surfing the internet and before I knew it an hour passed. I looked out the window and realized that there was a full on blizzard. I pulled my winter gear on and headed back out. The horses were hiding in their stalls which were fast filling with snow. While I was drinking the wind had changed direction and was blowing the snow right into their refuge. I hopped over a drift that was forming in the barn aisle and grabbed a shovel. I shovelled the snow away from the Steele's door and then closed it. Irish saw what I was doing and left- he doesn't like to be in during the day.
"I have to be free!"

 However, 30 seconds later he dove back in.
"well maybe not THAT free"

I got his door closed and came back into the barn. It took me 30 minutes to remove the snow from the stalls and barn aisle. I headed back to the house for more coffee. The rest of the day was spent decorating the tree and baking. The snow changed to freezing rain and then rain. By 4 it was mostly over. I headed back out and had to clear yet more snow away from their doors. I wanted to get it dealt with before the rain sodden snow froze again. Wet snow is very heavy. Sunday night the temperature plummeted again. I took one look at the icy roads and decided to take a vacation day (I save some every year for just this reason). I dusted off the snow shoes and took the dogs into the woods. I enjoy snowshoeing but the first time is always interesting- it takes a while to get the actions down.

When I came back the horses were excited by the noise that my shoes were making as they crunched through the crust.

run away from the servant with the large feet!

love this one of Irish's trot. Note the BC photo bomber
love the look on Irish's face "I can't believe your rolling at a time like this" 

perfect timing

playing with photo processing

It's easier to enjoy the snow when you don't have to shovel it!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Battening Down the Hatches

There's a big storm heading our way so Ed and I spent the day getting things done. It is bitterly cold out. With the windchill it was -25. One of our errands was to get the Christmas tree. Since we always get it on the coldest day of December it seemed that we were keeping the traditions intact. Our area is prime for growing Christmas trees which is nice. We bought our tree from the farmer himself. Yesterday it was in the field today it's in our living room. Now that's fresh. It also means that a 8 foot tree cost $15. Despite wearing many layers Ed and I didn't hang around long. It was difficult because the man selling the trees was chatty. He was also in a ski suit. We chatted for a bit and then made our excuses and dove into the SUV with as much dignity as we could muster.

Another errand was to buy some heated water buckets. With everyone's advice (on the blog and FB) we decided to invest in the buckets. Thank you so much for the input. We had to go to two different feed stores - the first store had only one- I guess they have been flying off the shelf. We also picked up some Christmas presents for the dogs and a bag of beet pulp.

When we came home we had lunch and then headed to the barn to figure out how to run the wires so that the horses couldn't get into trouble. Ed went first but I needed to take a little longer. In addition to the layers of thermal undergarments, fleece shirt and jeans I added a hoody, my insulated coveralls, a scarf, my hat, warm mittens and my baffin boots. I trundled into the barn. Ed was already hard at work. He stopped and took in my appearance from head to toe.
"are you cold?" he asked with a smile.
"not now" I said.

I looked at him- he was wearing sneakers, a quilted flannel shirt and a pair of gloves. How he didn't shiver to death I'll never know. I know that we both had our thoughts on each others fashion choices.

We got the buckets installed and plugged in. Steele came in to check on our work. I can see how these are going to make my life easier. And the worry over colic will be offset by worry over having electical items in the stall. However, I like how the buckets have wire around the cord so that it's  not tempting.  We will be putting in proper conduits to keep the buckets but for now we have it set up in a workable manner.

After that I took the dogs for walk in the woods. It wasn't too bad when we were in the woods. The dogs also had on their coats. When I got back I decided to bring the horses in early out of the cold. Steele was in Irish's stall hanging out so I chopped up an apple to put in his feed bin. I noticed that there was a hole in the bottom.
how on earth did he do this?

With a sigh I realized that I couldn't go in until I fixed this. I found the bin we took out of Irish's stall. But I had to remove a block of wood from it. I then removed Steele's and put in the new one. By then my fingers were frozen. Steele came in and checked out his new bin. He looked pleased.  I could then grab the apple throw it into the bin. II got the horses in and then headed into the house for a break.

We then headed back to town to buy groceries. Our theory was that most of the shoppers would be back home. That turned out to be correct.  We were able to get groceries, including the Christmas Turkey and a roast for tomorrow. It was then time to go home and collapse on the couch.

It was a busy and good day despite the cold. Tomorrow we will decorate the tree. I also hope to get some baking done.

Hopefully we won't lose the power tomorrow. After all this hard work that would be just too much.

It's bad enough I have a frosted nose, thanks for getting rid of the ice...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winter is here

And it's arrived with a vengeance! After a relatively balmy fall the temperatures have plummeted. In the summer the chores really don't seem too bad. In winter though, the work level goes up. I can't use the hose anymore and it's much colder in the morning. Lugging water buckets is good for my core and arm strength (or so I tell myself). The manure is freezing to the cart which makes emptying it harder as well. However, I have found that I'm warm enough with my insulated coveralls, insulated  baffin boots, wool hat with ear covers and rubber winter gloves (a great find at the local Co-Op). And I really don't mind the chores because it means that my horses are home.

The high over the next few days is to be -10 C. Today the water buckets were frozen solid. It took a ton of banging with a stick to break up the ice to get it out of the bucket. I realized that if this winter is going to be a brutal my water buckets are just not going to cut it. My current system is to have buckets in the tack room (which is heated) and switch them out in the morning, supper time and night time. At night I add some boiling water and so far they haven't been too frozen over. However, I worry that their water intake will be too low.

So I turn to the internet for help. Tell me about your solutions. Do the bucket insulator cozy things work? If you use the heated buckets how do you secure the cords? I worry about the heated buckets with the electric cable. Especially with a young one who gets bored and starts exploring....

from last winter.....

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Surprises in the hay

The other day I was doing my morning chores. Both horses have hay racks because Steele liked to take his hay and make a nest with it. Anyway, I was on auto pilot and my mind was half on my job and half on the cup of coffee waiting for me when I got back to the house. As I put Steele's hay in his rack a tuft of hay fell on the ground.

I bent down and put it back in the rack. As I turned around to leave something made me stop and go back. I pulled the hay back out and looked at it again. It was the dessicated corpse of a rat. It must have been caught in the hay baler.

My feelings as I was holding this dead rat in my (fortunately) gloved hand were ones of surprise tinged with interest in how flat it was. I threw it in the muck bucket along with the hay. Then I headed back into the house for my coffee.

 I know, I know, I'm weird.

What weird things have you found in hay?
not only doesn't she feed me enough, now she's giving me dead rodents!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

All Steele wants for Christmas is

His two front teeth!

Well not really. But he's starting to lose more baby teeth. As the adult teeth come in they push out the milk tooth. Tonight at supper time I heard something rattling around in Steele's food bin. I went over and found this:

I have it sitting on the windowsill of the tack room. It's the first one I have seen. He didn't seem bothered by it all.

Now he just needs to take care of them.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In which Steele gets in mess

The weather has been rainy. Really rainy. To the point that I'm wanting snow just to make the world less soggy. There is mud everywhere and the world is brown and grey.

The other day when I came from work it had started to rain really hard. The horses were out so I brought them in. I wanted to take the dogs for a walk so I decided to put fleece coolers on them to dry off. I decided to not put the leg straps on because I wasn't planning to be gone all that long.

Fast forward 45 minutes later. The dogs and I return to the barn. All of us wetter but feeling good after stretching our legs. It was time to give the horses their supper. I opened the door and saw Steele standing near his door. He turned his head towards me.

 "it's about time you got back"

"what the...." (I've been saying that a lot lately).

This is what I saw:

"what on earth did you do?"
"I'm not sure but could you give me a hand?"

I opened the door. Steele didn't move.

"this blanket is obviously defective. "

All I can figure is that he tried to roll in the shavings and it moved on him. What's great is that when he got stuck he stood still until I sorted him out. He wasn't stressed or panicked.
which is good - horses that panic get into more trouble.

"I'm still wet you know, stop taking pictures and dry me off!"

yes dear. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Horse for Sale. Really Cheap.....

No, not Steele.

as if I could be guilty of anything
Let me back up.
Tuesday started like every morning. The alarm went off far too early. I stumbled downstairs and put on my insulated coveralls (it's getting chilly) and headed to the barn. When I came into the barn something seemed off. I glanced towards Irish's stall and then stopped dead. I looked again.
what the...?

 The door that opens to the paddock was pushed off the hinges. Along with the outside frame. the only thing keeping it shut was the latch on the other side. The latches that Ed put in with 3 inch screws.
"What the hell Irish?" I asked.

He blinked at me with doe eyes and waited for breakfast. Realizing that my day was going to take a different turn then I had planned I gave them their food and cleaned out their stalls. When Irish was done he started sticking his head out the opening. The opening with nails sticking out. I have no idea how he hadn't cut himself.

I went around to the outside and wrestled the door back so I could undo the latches. Once they were open I wrestled it further so Irish could get out. I trid to move it further away but a dutch door made of solid wood is a heavy thing. I overestimated my ability to move it independently. So I put it back leaning against the opening and went into the house to get Ed. I have to hand it to him. I called into the house 'can you come and help me?"  And he came out immediately without complaint.

I explained that Irish had wrecked his door. When we got to the barn he looked and said "That's Irish's door"
"I know"
"how did Steele break it?"
"He didn't. Irish did"
"Steele is innocent"
"now that's scary"

 We surveyed the damage. Steele beside us looking studiously at the door. Irish was eating at the hay pile seemingly oblivious.  Ed ducked under the door and into Irish's stall to go get his tools.  Steele started to follow.
"no"  I blocked the door
"but I just want to.."
"see I'll just duck under..."
"but it's easy"
"but I just want..."
Ed came out armed with a hammer and cordless drill. Steele watched with great interest as Ed pounded out the nails. He then turned on the drill to remove the screws. Steele's face lighted up with pure keenness. 

"oooh, power tools! let me try"
As Ed used the drill I did my best to keep Steele away while he did his best to get at the drill. Ed put it down and we began to move the door. Seeing our hands full he took full advantage and made a dive at the drill.
I tried grab it first but he was too fast. he knocked it over with his nose and then vamoosed as I came closer.
"if only I had opposable thumbs"

Thank heaven he doesn't.

We moved the door to a place for safe keeping. After work I helped Ed put it back up.
I believe that Irish leaned against the door until it gave. As we were working on this new and fabulous chore he had provided I realized that had be belonged to a boarder she would have been given notice. But I can't evict myself so my only recourse is sell Irish.

I have the ad all composed:
"Innocent looking chestnut gelding with a penchant for trouble. Peiodically sound unless his arthritis is acting up, or he has an abscess. Likes to hack. Except when he doesn't. Fussy eater but don't be late with his supper.

No reasonable offer refused"
*blink*would you really sell me?

sigh. No I won't.

But knock it off.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

In Which Steele becomes Squeaky Clean

You may recall that back in April I introduced Steele to the idea of Sheath Cleaning. With Irish I have only had to do this about once a year or so. He really is not that dirty. However, Steele is a different kettle of fish. He just seems to be, well, gunkier is the only word that springs to mind.

I had it in my plans to clean him the last week or so but the weather turned very cold and I put it off. Friday, however, was not bad and when I was grooming Steele I could see that he really did not look very presentable. So I warmed up some water and got to work.

You can imagine his surprise - he was in the cross ties minding his own business and enjoying a nice scratch when all of a sudden I got a bit 'personal'.

He tolerated it very well. A little dancing around but nothing too serious.

Irish stayed well away. Like in the farthest reach of the paddock, keeping an eye on me in case I had some ideas. "I'm fine here. Just focus on the young'un"

Only when I was done and put Steele into his stall, did Irish come down. 
Irish: 'hey I smell eucalyptus'
Steele "don't ask"
Irish "all fresh and fragrant are we?"
Steele "leave me alone!"
Irish "I'm just having a bit of fun. 
Steele "well it's not funny"
Irish "come on- walk around a bit"
Steele "why?"
Irish "I want to see if you squeak when you walk"
Steele "MOM!"
Me "okay, guys enough. Here, have your supper"

Today when I was riding Irish I happened to see Steele having  a pee. When he saw me looking, he stopped and gave me a 'look'. "don't even think about it!' 


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In Which Steele Expands his Circle of Friends

Where I work we have to option of working extended hours and having a day off every two weeks (in addition to my weekends). Mine is on alternating Mondays. I like having Mondays off, it seems more relaxing than Fridays off. Fridays my mind is still full of the weekend chores I have to do.

This Monday my friend Cynthia came to visit with her daughter Ashley. Ashley also loves animals and is a dedicated rider. Unfortunately the weather was terrible - torrential rain and high winds. However, they were undaunted and we headed out to the barn. While we all talked horses Ashley groomed Irish. It's been a while since new people have given him a groom. However, Irish quite likes young people and totally enjoyed the attention. I liked seeing her correct him when he came into her space or fidgeted.

Meanwhile, Steele made faces and tried all his tricks to get attention. But a little patience and it was his turn. When I put him the cross ties I told Ashley to not be afraid to correct him as he can be a bit more pushy than Irish. He was a bit antsy at first but I explained that she was not pushing hard enough with the curry comb. Steele really likes a lot of pressure. After that he was as good as gold. Cynthia came over to play with his mane while I was doing work in his stall. When I looked out Steele's eyes were blissfully closed while Ashley and Cynthia were grooming him.

"finally the entourage I deserve"

After we had coffee, juice and cookies (I made some ginger cookies) and talked horses and photography. Ashley also like photography. I think I may kidnap the two of them some weekend when Ed is away....


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Update on the Driving Lessons

I haven't posted any updates for two reasons. First I have been insanely busy. Second they have been pretty low key.

After the lesson with Ed, the next day I tried it from the beginning without a spotter. He was cool, calm and collected through the whole thing. We've been pegging away at it. What was apparent right away was that we moved around the ring like drunken sailors.  So I've been setting up obstacles and working on steering. I'm trying simple dressage patterns around the ring and we've been slowly getting better. Some days are better than others.

One day we had a discussion about who decided where we went. Steele had some very definite ideas about where he was going and where he was NOT going. I figure that this was a discussion better had on the ground so I persisted doing my level best to stay calm but firm. In the back corner he stopped dead and refused to move. When I urged him forward he backed up. So I shortened up the lines and came up beside him. We made our way into the corner. So I counted that as a win.

Today he was very very good. Especially considering that he had the week off. Our driving circles were decidedly egg shaped. Which is a huge improvement over the squiggly cloud shaped thing we had been doing.  I think that he's finding this work interesting. One thing he is trying to do is to grab the lines in his mouth. I'm confident that we can work through this issue too.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Hungry Horse waits for no one

The end of Daylight Savings time is a real pain in the behind. I hate this moving around of the clock. For whatever reason this year has been really hard. It's probably because I get up at the same time every day I'm finding that I'm waking up an hour before the alarm is scheduled and I can't get back to sleep. It's driving me batty.

The horses are not adjusting well either. I tried to ease them into it by adjusting a bit before by 30 minutes and then shifting them on November 2nd. At supper time they are not impressed to be 'waiting' for an hour. On sunday Steele and Irish were in Irish's stall waiting for supper. While I was trying to get it ready I heard a ruckus. When I came out of the tack room, the door was off the track and both horses were looking at me with a decidedly guilty expression. I must confess that the air was a bit blue. I shooed them out of the barn and they took off. I tried to get it back on but needed more help. In the meantime they took turns coming in and out of the stall. I got annoyed and chased them out into the large paddock. I put the top tape across and then went into the house to get Ed's help.

As Ed sorted out the door I returned to my chores. The two brats  horses ran back and forth by the gate. I ignored them. All of a sudden I heard hoofbeats. I looked up in surprise to see Steele trotting through the small paddock towards me with a decidedly smug/pleased/trying-to-look-adorable face.

What the?
 It seems that he ducked under the tape. Irish is now really ticked off. But Steele marches into his stall and stands there with no intention of leaving until he got his supper!

I did the only thing I could- I sighed, closed him in his stall. I then went and opened the gate. Irish gave a defiant squeal and trotted into his stall. "We'll have no more of this late supper nonsense!"

yes dears. But it really is not my fault.  

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The day a foal came to visit

A human foal that is. We had some visitors to Oakfield Farm today. Our farmsitter, Joanne, came to visit with her daughter jackie and 2 year old grand daughter, Marissa. We have a painting on our wall of a horse and buggy and that caught wee Marissa's attention immediately. She fixed her bright eyed gaze on the horse and was entranced. I've seen that look before. I'm also pretty sure that my mother has seen that look.

After a coffee we took Marissa out to see the horses. Steele came up to say hi but was not all that interested. Irish however has a love of children that is wonderful to see. While Marissa clung to me and looked a little nervous he carefully and gently extended his muzzle and waited. She gave him a tentative pat and then pulled away. He blew gently and she patted him again. Within minutes she was down on the ground and chatting away with him. Steele popped in and out to see if there were carrots but when they didn't materialize he lost interest in the human foal.

Marissa grabbed a broom and tried to sweep the aisle. She then spied the hay. The went and grabbed a single stalk and offered it to Irish. He carefully reached down and took it from her. She laughed delightedly and went and got another one. Over and over Marissa would grab a single stalk and Irish would take it.

He was so gentle and never touched her hands. Here you can see that she's holding a stalk between her hands and he's contorting his lips to get the hay:

In the interest of fairness she offered a stalk to Steele. He sniffed it and turned up his nose.

Me, I think he was jealous.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

How time flies

Steele will be three next month. He's coming along so well and lately I've seen a real jump in his maturity both physically and mentally. I wanted to look back at how he's developed over the past 18 months.

Here he is shortly after arrival:
his first night. see how he likes to make a bed out of hay?
first time he and Irish were out together
conformation shot
He looks like a skinny teenager.

Over the winter he filled out and here he is this spring:

And now you can see how he's filled out and just look more mature.
this is his 'noble' pose
I swear, he knows that I'm taking his picture!
I now have to stand on my tiptoes to groom his butt. He's still quite 'roany' but now his tail looks like it's been dipped in blond paint!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Driving lesson # 2

Monday was a beautiful day so when I got home for work I decided to work Steele again. I figured that a repetition the next day would be good for both of us 

I started with the familiar lunge work. I wanted to make sure that any extra energy was taken care of. But he was quiet and obedient from the beginning. I asked Ed to come and help and he was happy to oblige. I explained that essentially he was a 'spotter' and to walk beside Steele and if he freaked out to simply bring him into a small circle. 

I fastened the lines and off we went. And, as I expected, it was no big deal. After  5 minutes I asked Ed to unfasten the lead but walk beside him. We turned right and left. We did circles.  We halted. No problem so I had Ed stop while we carried on. The only thing was that Steele kept trying to veer towards him and there was one grass eating attempt. 

I stopped it then so that we ended when all was good. 

I just have to say that I have the smartest pony in the universe. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Steele learns to drive!

No, not a car. Can you imagine? The mind boggles at the thought of Steele behind the wheel.

This is Patches. You can find him on Youtube
As you know I've been lunging Steele and introducing side reins. He's been doing fantastic with it. His responses to verbal commands is very very good and his gaits are generally steady and rhythmic. I've been wanting to introduce him to ground driving- which is where you attach two lunge lines to the bit and walk behind the horse. It's a great way to teach them to respond to the reins without weight on their back. The problem is that to start you need two people- one at the head and one behind.

I've been introducing Steele to the concept of yielding to rein pressure. I've also worked on getting him used to ropes and lines around his legs and haunches.  I knew he was ready but I didn't want to push it by myself and lead to disaster. As a wise friend posted on FB: "if you don't have time to do it right you better have time to do it twice". (yes there is wisdom on FB although I'm not sure if it's Glen's wisdom or if he was quoting someone else).

So this morning when my friend Cindy said she was coming for a visit I immediately hatched a plan. Cindy is an experienced horse woman who has a quiet and gentle approach with horses. I admire her horsemanship very much. I did my usual lunge work with him and then Cindy and I got him ready. He stood there while we set up the lines.
kinda like this
Cindy stood at his head with the lead line and I moved to the back and asked him to 'walk on'. He started off beside her but when he felt the lines on his haunches he spun around and got a little nervous. Cindy simply brought him around and we walked off again. That was the only thing that happened. The rest of it was just like it should be- no big deal. It was so cool to walk behind him and feel him in my 'reins'. We walked forward, turned left, right and 'whoa'. Cindy commented that you could really see him thinking about this new twist but he was not in any way upset.

We walked around for about 10 minutes. Then Cindy unclipped the lead line and stepped away. Steele stood still and I asked him to walk on. He looked and saw Cindy far away, looked back at me and backed up! I could understand his thoughts-' I'm supposed to be at someone's shoulder, not up here by myself!'
Cindy came back to his head and walked beside him. As we walked around she slowly increased the distance between them until it was him and me. I did a little more and then brought him to a halt and ended the lesson.

I was so excited by the whole thing. Steele made sure that his behavior was rewarded with lots of carrots!

Mr. Totally Awesome
Update: Cindy sent me some photos that I didn't know she took!

from the lunge session
Looking terrific (note the photo bomber!)
left? right? how about we head to the grass!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Not Just a Pretty Face

It's the last day of Thanksgiving weekend. I am too full to write a long post so here's a video that's worth a thousand words.

Steele wants you to know that he's not just ornamental- he's helpful. 


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Toad of Toad Hall?

When you have a barn you start to realize how attractive it is to many of the creatures that live around. Mice and rats of course. But there are others.

This year we had barn swallows. The would roost up in the rafters and twitter at me when I came in. As they got used to me they became less agitated but let me know when I was bothering them. It seems that swallows do not like to listen to the radio first thing in the morning. And the night I came in after midnight to check on Irish they were quite peeved. I could hear them muttering up above me:
"what's she doing NOW?"
"oh who turned on those lights, they hurt my eyes?"
"oh it's her"
"my god, doesn't she know we have to get up at 4 a.m.?! How RUDE!'

Rodents and birds I was prepared for. What I didn't expect was toads. When I first spied a toad hanging around I was warned him (her?) to watch out for Martin and Belle. I needn't of worried. After a few inspections they gave the toad a wide berth. It seems that toads secrete a noxious substance so that predators will leave them alone. So became used to seeing them around. I did have to catch one that hopped into my tack room when I had the door open. I caught her (him?) in a bucket but she refused to leave the bucket when I brought it outside. So I tipped it over and left. Later I saw that the toad was gone but had left behind a present- she pooped in my bucket! Who know that toad poop was so big?

The toad finally took up residence in the shed where I keep my sawdust. I would come to get some, see him (her?) nestled in the dust and pick around him. After a while he would just move to the side and I would about my business. I don't know how smart toads are but this one seemed to figure out that if he just went to the side of the shed I left him alone. There were a few times when I scooped up a fork full of sawdust and when I dumped in the wheelbarrow there was the toad- looking very very grumpy about the whole thing.
I had to be careful - I was afraid that I would stab him accidentally.

Now the weather is cooler and I have seen him (her?) for a while. I suspect that she's hibernating somewhere and dreaming of all the flies that the horses will bring come spring.

isn't she cute?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Steele Totally Rocks It

Yesterday I spent the morning on a photo outing - it was the annual World Wide Scott Kelby Photo walk. When I came home I decided to do some work with Steele.

Because he and Irish are together 24/7 I do separate them from time to time so that they get used to being apart for 'work'. This time I left Irish locked in the lower field while I brought Steele in for work. Irish hung around the fence line, and, while he did not look impressed, he was not horribly stressed. Steele was the same. There was no calling while in the barn and he was very well behaved heading up to ring.

On the lunge I've been working on two main things:
1. Promptness with transitions.
2. establishing a steady and even pace that is not rushed.

When Steele first starts out he is often excited and wants to bomb around the circle at full steam. This is not good for his joints, for getting him to settle into a proper working gait or for getting him to listen to me. When we first start I keep him on a smallish circle because I just want him to walk. He wants to barrel forward into a trot but I keep him walking. Once that gait is established and I believe that he's tuned in I ask for a trot and enlarge the circle. If he breaks to canter I bring him back and we start again. I work on being consistent- if I didn't ask for it it's not happening, firm- I'm not going to wait 3 circles for him to decide to walk and low key- one of us has to be calm and since I'm older it probably should be me.

Since I only lunge him about 3 times a week he can be a bit excited. A word that I'm working on is 'easy'- that means settle down in your gait. He's really starting to get it. After a few circles of walk I asked for a trot and he took off in an excited /rushed manner. Eeeeasy I said and he immediately slowed up into what I think is his working gait. At that pace he relaxes over the back and settles into a steady rhythm.

We're working away (about 8 minutes in) and he's being fabulous when all hell breaks loose down in Irish's field. All of sudden he starts bolting around and screaming his head off. Steele immediately raises his head (up periscope), tenses through his back and begins to look very worried. At this point I have no idea what bee has gotten into Irish's bonnet but I am welcoming this as an opportunity to work Steele through this. When we go off to clinics, shows or other fun events there is a high liklihood that there will be a horse acting up. He needs to learn to focus on me despite what distractions there are around him. This is why I don't pen up the dogs when I work with him or ask Ed to not do work while I'm riding Irish or working with Steele. All that happens is that the lesson changes.

So as Steele begins to think about bolting away I ask him to walk.
Seriously?  he flicks an ear at me. Not now, I have to run around

Yes, seriously. I bring him in closer so he has to walk.  
good boy.

Irish is still pitching a fit. He walks about half a circle but then trots off again. 

He walks.
good boy
 His eye starts to soften and his posture relaxes.
you are so clever I tell him. I swear that he preens.

Irish is still screaming his head off and running around. Out of the corner of my eye I see a group of riders coming down the road. Aha! Now, until he moved here, Irish has been boarded his entire life. He has seen people ride away and come back. He's been in fields by himself and with other horses. He has been to shows, clinics and trail rides. He's never ever worried about riders and horses.  I have no idea why the sight of riders coming down our road sends him into a frenzy, but it does. Every.Damn.Time.

Meanwhile, back in the ring my attention returns to Steele. I have to teach him that what's happening down there is irrelevant. What matters is the two of us and what we're doing. And do you know what? He rocks it. For a horse who's almost 3 (next month) he settled back into work remarkably fast. He would glance down at that field with Irish running around but did not react other then to look. One ear remained on me. I was thrilled with him. And told him so. I knew it was time to end because the lesson was done. But I got a bit overexcited and when he was trotting instead of asking for a walk and then a halt I said "and whoaaa'. He flicked an ear at me. Oops I thought, I've never asked for a double transition (from trot to halt would be a double) and was about to correct it when he dropped to walk, walked 3 strides and halted. It was  a perfect training level trot-halt transition. It was even square.

As we walked out of the ring Irish was now standing at the gate of his field practically vibrating. Steele walked calmly and contentedly beside me. We went down to 'rescue' Irish. As I opened the gate, Steele gave him a nuzzle as though to say, 'what's up bud?' As Irish went blowing by us Steele continued to walk calmly with me and followed me into the barn for his groom and well earned apple.

I gave him two apples. He totally deserved them.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Night Scary Story

This was a very busy week at work. I had some time with the horses but not as much as I would like. Of course I always want more time. Today after I came hom, I wanted to do something but didn't feel up to lunging him. I headed out to the field and called them. They both came galloping up. Probably thinking that I was calling them for supper. I brought Steele in to groom him and then I realized what I should do- I hadn't done much 'sacking out' lately.

The purpose of sacking out is to desensitize horses to potentially scary situations so that they learn to trust their handler and not fall back on their instinct to bolt away. I put Steele back in his stall but left their doors open. This way they had access to their stalls and little paddock but not the bigger field. I then used duct tape to fasten a plastic shopping bag to a dressage whip. When I went to grab some carrots I realized that I was wearing a sweat shirt and my yoga pants so I had no pockets. hmmm. After reflecting on the problem I stuffed my bra full of carrots and went into the little paddock.

I carried the whip with the bag flapping down at about my waist level. As expected Irish bolted, trying to get to his field. Steele went with him. I simply stood still and let the bag continue to flap in the breeze. Irish trotted around making that blowing sound that horses do when they are spooked. Steele was with him but I saw him glancing my way. I stayed still and let the bag do it's thing. Within 60 seconds Steele had stopped and faced me. I did nothing. He took a step towards me. The bag flapped and he snorted. I kept standing there. He took another step then pulled back. I never moved. He then came back and right up to the bag and took a sniff. I gave him a bit of carrot and told him he was clever. He stayed with me and sniffed the bag again. I gave him another carrot.

After 30 seconds I moved the bag towards his side. Irish snorted and ran around some more, Steele did a kick at it and ran away. I wasn't worried. I knew what would happen next- he came right back. I touched his side again and gave him another piece of carrot. 

Within 5 minutes I could rub the bag all over his body- by his legs, between his legs. over his head, along his back. He really didn't care, he was too busy enjoying the carrots. Irish meanwhile was staying well away and was making his opinion known about all this.

It was interesting, whenever Irish took a step towards me Steele would step between us.

Steele: "no Irish, stay back I will protect you"

Irish: "Are you eating carrots"

Steele: "no, I'm saving you"


Irish: "I can't believe you're letting that touch you."

Steele: "Ahhhh, it's eating me!! Stay back! Save yourself"

Irish: "I'm sure that you are eating carrots."
Steele: "no, no, I'm fighting the bag"

Irish stood a few feet away. His face was very disapproving of all these shenanigans. I lowered the bag and when he didn't move I gave him a carrot.

So here's what I learned:
1. Steele is very brave and Irish less so (not really a surprise)
2. Steele will lie to get all the carrots
3. working with a horse like Steele is a lot of fun
4. It was probably NOT a good idea for Steele to learn that I sometimes have carrots in my bra. I will have to invest in a fanny pack.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Oh Behave!

Last weekend a friend came to visit. Karen knew Steele when he was a baby. I was excited for her to see how he's been coming along and how clever he is.

I should have known better.

You know how children are very good at making you look like the worst parent ever? Like when in you're in the lawyers office going over paperwork regarding the purchase of a new house and your four old boy is trying to scale the book case of leather bound law tomes like it's a jungle gym. As a parent you try to get them down while not coming across like you beat him on a regular basis. Meanwhile the lawyer is chuckling and saying things like 'wow, he's an active fellow isn't he?' and you know that he's really thinking that your child is an out of control whirling dervish and you are a useless parent. And you are saying ineffectual statements like 'come on honey, come sit on mommy's lap' and 'He's really not like this' while thinking 'good lord, how much sugar did the daycare let him have today? And can I pass him off as a step-child and not a genetic relation? Oh god, I am the worst mother ever'.  

It turns out that horses are like this too.

Karen arrived right on time and we headed to the barn. While I was giving the tour the horses came in to see what we were doing.
hey, I heard that you brought carrots..
I brought Steele out and gave him a groom. We then headed out the barn to go up to the ring so she could see him move. Ed is puttering around and was just starting the weed whacker so he could get the tall grass around the fence posts. As Steele, Karen and I left the barn Irish decided that the world was ending and freaked out. He bolted out the stall door squealing and kicking and generally carrying on like a fool. Which of course gets Steele all excited beside me and wants to bolt off. I kept myself calm and walked at the same pace while he danced and whirled beside me. Fortunately he never pulled on the lead line although he did spin a bit in front of me. I refused to go around him and made him go back around me to his spot.

Now I separate the two of them all the time and there's not this silliness, especially from Irish. And it's not like they've never seen Ed with a weed whacker before. But Irish was running around like a fool and Steele is completely puffed up.

I smiled weakly at Karen and said 'they usually don't act like this'.
She was very reassuring but I'm sure she was thinking that she had arrived at a rodeo.

Once we were in the ring I let Steele off the lead and he took off at a gallop. While he was running I took down the lunge whip and asked him to move away. He bolted past me and ran down the long side.
'run for you lives!'
 As he passed Karen he put in a sliding stop that would make a reiner thrilled and looked at her.
'oh. Hi. '
I had to laugh. He tossed his head.
'sorry, can't talk now, gotta go' 
and off he ran again. So I have Steele running around, clearly for fun, Irish behaving like an idiot and I look like the.worst.parent horseowner.ever.

Irish looking all tense and worried
don't listen to her, I'm like this all the time!

After a little bit, the running around began to feel like work and Steele settled into his usual behavior. I was trying to show her how I've been fumbling around with some liberty work. Usually Steele will walk, halt, back up and turn when I ask without use of a lead line. He even follows me over some poles. Except today. Apparently this day he decided that he'd never ever seen my cavaletti's before and he wasn't going to touch them with a ten foot pole. Uh.Uh. I thought. So I had to lead him over twice and then he went over it like before.
here he is going over without me leading
Then we were standing around and Steele was getting the affection that he knows he deserves. But he had to push it and tried to bite me. Seriously? He hadn't done that since this episode: http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2012/07/so-whos-in-charge-here-anyway.html. I of course had to discipline him firmly for this. So Karen got to see me smack him with the lunge whip.
Mr. Saucy Face

But after that he decided to behave.

I decided to end on a good note and put him away.
they both look pretty innocent don't they?

After this we had a cup of coffee and some of my home made banana muffins. Before she left we also managed to track down Martin so she could meet him.
I was having my nap so I hope this is worth it!

oh yeah...

The critters have all promised me that they will be on their best behaviour if you come to visit.