dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, July 28, 2013

In Which Steele wants it known that he was the good one this time.

I have been away several times for the past few months and it's starting to be a bit wearing.

This weekend was our Dressage Club's 'Fun weekend'. The idea is for a bunch of people to get together and enjoy their horses- however they want. The location is perfect- there is a large house with a ton of bedrooms, a nice barn and a huge outdoor that we can set up jumps or a dressage ring. And trails. Miles and miles of trails. Some with jumps some without. It's a little piece of heaven: http://www.wadehobbyhorsefarm.com/.

This year the turn out was small, which is disappointing but those of us who went had a ball. I went without a horse but was able to get rides on other horses. It was so much fun to be back in the saddle. When I returned home Ed told me that he had accidentally left a stall door open this morning. He was mowing the lawan and saw Steele in the field grazing but realized that Irish was on the other side of the fence!

Tonight I decided to bring both horses up to the riding ring so that they could graze on the grass that is encroaching on the edges. I've not led the two of them together before but figured it was time that Steele learned this. Going up Irish walked along like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. Steele was confused but came along willingly enough. I let them loose and went about doing some barn chores. After a bit I went up to get them. As soon as Irish saw the lead line he began to trot around. Before long the two of them were running like two fools- all at Irish's instigation. After a bit Steele started to head towards me (as he always does) but Irish would give a squeal and run the other way. sigh.

I just stayed calm and let my body language keep them down one end. This time Steele came right up to me. Just as was clipping on the lead line Irish came galloping by and Steele took off. At the end he turned and looked at me apologetically. He came right up to me and this time I was faster. As soon as I fastened the lead line he walked beside me as good as gold. Irish tried to 'buzz' us again but Steele knows his manners. At the gate I waited and Irish came up and allowed me to clip the lead line on his halter. However, he then began to snort and prance and generally act like he's never been led in his life. Poor Steele, he didn't know who's lead to follow but decided on me (clever boy). I got Irish onto the right side of me and walked them down to the barn.

Guess who's butt is going to be worked tomorrow (besides mine)?

not from tonight but from last week. There's lot of power there.

Monday, July 22, 2013

But it was educational

I just returned from a fabulous trip to Manhattan with my daughter. We managed to have a great time in spite of the killer heat. However, Steele was not impressed with my leaving yet again.

Steele- "I don't like it when you go away"

Me- "I do miss you all when I'm gone but I can't always stay home. Now let's talk about your behaviour"

"What do you mean? I was an angel"

"really? What about you stealing Irish's food?"

"oh that. I was just pointing out his mistakes so there wasn't a bigger problem really. If I hadn't shown him the dangers of leaving the door open then who knows what could have happened. The food was just a bonus. You know- for my hard work"


"besides, it wasn't me who broke the stall door this time- it was Mr. Perfect Irish".

"you needn't look so smug you know"

"I have no idea what you're talking about. Now, about you abadoning me us...."

"Well it was a special trip with my daughter but it was also educational. We went to Natural History Museum. Do you know that horse's were integral to the early history of civilization"

"I am not surprised. After all, you couldn't do it all by yourselves."

"I found some interesting tack as well"

See, this is an early bit:

'yikes, that doesn't look comfortable"

'Okay but look at this bridle from Asia?"
 Well that looks pretty cool. I could totally pull that off.

"and here's a protective helmet that war horse's wore"
 "it looks it'd be hot"

"What do you think of this saddle?"
" hmm, I don't think so"

"ok, how about this one?"
 "Well it looks cushy for your but not so much for me. Besides, it's too plain"

"oh you are fussy- this one is very decorative"
 "yes it is nice, but, um, I don't think that your behind will fit..But the fly mask is nice and I could totally pull off the neck amulet"

"okay okay. But you have to admit that these stirrups will look great in the show ring"

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Charlie the Sequel

Sorry guys about the delay in completing this story. Life got away from me a bit. 

As you know, Charlie came to visit last september and we thought we had seen the last of him. However, that idea turned out to be wrong. 

A couple weeks ago I came home from work and decided to do some work with steele. I got him  all geared up with his surcingle, cavesson, boots and we head out to the ring. As I entered the path between the paddocks I stopped dead. Between us and the ring is Charlie. He raises his head and looks at us. Steele stops and both ears swivel foward and all three of us stare at each other. Charlie goes back to grazing on the grass beside the riding ring fence. 


I turn around and head back to the barn. Muttering I take all the gear off of Steele. He's looking at me as though to say 'what was the point of all that?'

I look out and there's Irish grazing happily on the other side of the fence from Charlie. They both look relaxed and happy. 
The horse that is rendered to a quivering mass of nerves and panic by a mini horse is completely unfazed by the bull. I then remember that he was born on a cattle farm. sigh. 

I head into the house and tell Ed what's happened. He asks if I want him to come out. No! I don't want him out there again.

I get in my car and drive over to the second driveway. There's a house on the road so I stop there to check and see if they are the owners. A young girl (19/20) tells me that it's her grandparents and they live up the top of the hill. I get back in and drive up. As I drive I"m muttering to myself- they are going to have to get proper fencing I decide. And I"m going to tell him so in no uncertain terms. 
As I head towards the house an elderly man comes out. I tell him that his bull in my field. 

'over with the horses?' he asks
'yes!' I say
'he did that last year!'
'yes i know' 
'well I'll drive over with you' he says cheerfully and hops in. I get in and turn us around. 

When we got there, he jumped out and walked up to Charlie. I hung around behind to see how he got on. Charlie looked at him sulkily and walks away  with Irish and Steele following along on the inside of the fence. Charlie heads through the brush to our other neighbours with his owner in hot pursuit. Irish watches all of this with great interest. I debate whether to follow and end up standing uselessly holding a lunge whip. I see a truck come down the road and come to halt. A few minutes later he moves on and I assume that all is good. Charlie is back home. 

I deicided that there was no point in discussing the fencing.  I'm thinking of planting a barricade so that Charlie is discouraged from plowing through. Any ideas? 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I believe I've been claimed

Steele is looking more and more like a grown up horse every day. I have to now stand on a stool to braid his mane and on my tiptoes to groom his croup. He's acting more mature too- except for those moments of absolute silliness. I hope he doesn't outgrow those.

Last week Ed and I went away for an overnight trip. I arranged for a house/horse/dog/cat sitter. She's pretty awesome and all the animals like her. Even Martin- despite how he likes to act with her. Before we left she came to double check on the barn duties. We were admiring Steele in his stall and he was agreeing to everything we said. At one point he took his head and laid it on top of mine looking at Joanne as though to say- 'see her? she's my human".  He's been doing a lot of that lately.

We went away confident that everything was in good hands. In the night Steele kicked open his stall door to the outisde. Joanne found him in the morning- in his stall but with the door wide open! When we got home Ed fixed it pretty quickly and I was discussing it with Joanne. I voiced surprise as he's not done anything like that. She stated that she thought he was acting out because I was gone. I didn't believe her.

When I went into the barn later Steele and Irish were inside hiding from the heat. Irish greeted me as always. Steele however turned to look at me and then with a toss of his head and a flick of his tail left the stall. I do believe that he was ticked at me for leaving. Later that night when I was doing the before bed chores he leaned into me and wuffled my hair. So I think he forgave me.

Tonight my daughter and I leave for a week in Manhattan. I hope that Ed is an acceptable substitute. I really do. Otherwise, we're both in trouble.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Disaster Thinking

Monday started like any other day- the alarm went off nice and early and I went out to feed the horses and clean their stalls. Both were happy to see me and cleaned up their breakfast. That's not unusual for Steele but Irish is not always the best eater.  I let them outside and went to work.

After work Ed and I went looking for a lost shoe (Irish's) in the paddock. While we were walking he commented that he had seen Irish laying down earlier. This is unusual, as he rarely does this. But I didn't think anything of it. The shoe hunt was successful so I brought Steele to ring to do some work inhand. He was fabulous. He kept right to my shoulder whether I walked, trotted or halted. He even skidded to stay with me and my lead line was loose 90% of the time. I played with turn on the forehands. No problem going from the left but some difficulties to the right. He just stood there looking at me while I poked him ineffectually. I stopped and did some thinking. I realized that to move away he needed to move his feet and he was not understanding what I was asking. So I decided to ask him after getting his feet in motion:  I asked him to move forward a few strides and then 'half- halted' with the lead and used my hand against his ribs. He stepped over immediately. I stopped and gave him lots of praise. After a couple tries this way he had it. We also played with the caveletti- walking and trotting over it (at it's lowest setting). After a bit I let him off the lead so he could help trim the grass along the edge while I did some rock picking. It was so cute- when he saw me on the other side of the ring he trotted to me, going over the pole. It was like he was showing me 'look I can do this'.

After I brought him back to the barn for supper. Irish seemed to be withdrawn.  At first I thought he was upset over being left behind. But when I fed him his supper he sniffed it and turned up his nose. Uh oh. He stretched out to pee but didn't really have any. hmmm. I decided to take his feed back and let him out to graze a bit- still thinking he was upset. In fairness he can get quite upset easily and be too agitated to eat. Usually leaving him for bit settles him down. He walked out lethargically, went to the field and laid down. Now I'm sure something is wrong. I texted Ed to come out to help and while looking for my injection of Banamine I called the vets office. After being put on hold (which, by the way was irksome, I explained that I had a sick horse but apparrently she had a person buying food and put me on hold) I got through. The vet called me back right away - he knows me well enough to know that I only call when there's reason. He said to go ahead and give him the shot and let him walk around but not roll. While he was laying there I put his halter on and had Ed hold the lead while I gave the injection. Irish didn't even move but he's very good about this sort of thing. We got him up and I took his vitals- temp normal, breathing 16 breaths/minute which is a bit high for at rest. After about 30 mins he appeared to feel better and began to graze. I left him out in hte field close to the house so I could keep my eye on him.

The whole time my brain kept throwing up images of worst case scenario. It's amzing how that happens- I was practically in tears thinking of all the things that could go wrong. I pretty much had his burial spot picked out! Why do we go there with the ones we love? It's not really helpful.

A few hours later and he seemed to be pretty normal- except no poop. I brought him in and checked him every hour. He was bright eyed and happy for the attention, mildly munching on his hay. I called the vet back and we decided that he didn't need to come out but would bring the stuff home and I could call the answer service at any time and he'd be out. I set my alarm for midnight and went out to check on him. He was sleepy but willing enough to visit. And, joy of joys, there was poop- smallish and a bit dry, but poop. This meant that his gut was working. I gave both horses a treat and a pat on the nose and went back to bed. At 6 there was more normal looking poop. And he was interested in breakfast. He only ate half but I decided to not worry about it.

He's been normal the rest of the days. I don't know why he colicked. But my fear is that it's related to his previcox- it is a nsaid and can cause ulcers (although let likely to then other nsaids). However he needs it to stay pain free and able to move. I feel like I'm walking a tightrope of balancing quality of life, soundness, safety and health. Sigh. I'm not ready to make the hard decision yet. But there I go again- disaster thinking.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

How Steele learned to love the hose

As you may remember, Steele is NOT fond of being bathed. Getting him used to the hose being used on him has been, well, interesting. But I know that consistency and persistance is the key. Also taking advantage of the context helps too.

That's where the weather comes in. We've been having some extremely hot weather. The weatherman appeared to be positively gleeful as he proclaimed "and the maritimes have the hottest weather in the country for the 3rd day in a row" The nice thing about living in the maritimes is that the weather is supposed to be temperate- not too hot or too cold. So we're not used to extreme heat. Keeping in mind that over 30 is extreme for us (in the 90's). Add in our humidity level and it's awful.

Steele seems to be minding it much more than Irish. On thursday I saw that he was warm and sweaty so I brought him out to give him a bath. I figured that since it was too hot for exercise we'd work on tolerating the hose. He knows what the hose means and he danced a bit when he came out. My training technique is pretty simple- gradual desensitization. I turned it on a gentle shower and began with his feet. He danced away. I encouraged him to stand still but what ever he does, I don't turn the water off. Otherwise he's reinforced for doing the wrong thing. When he stands I praise him, let the water run for a bit and then turn it off. Rinse and repeat. This time he danced a bit and then I put the water on his chest. He came to a complete standstill. It was cute- he was all 'oh oh oh. stop it! stop it!'
and then he was 'ahhhhh. that feels so good'

I gave him his bath and put him away.

Today when the horses were out I got the tractor out to do some work on the riding ring. I shut the horses in the large paddock so I could get to the ring. They have water there and I figured that they would be okay while I worked.  While I was working I saw Steele and Irish running a bit. I think that the flies were driving them crazy and they couldn't get to the shelter of the barn- I had it closed off. The stinging flies are also fierce. As soon as I finished I let them into the barn and then followed. I saw Steele breathing heavily. He took a drink. I watched him and his breathing seemed to worsen. He was dripping with sweat. I did not like the look in his eyes. Even Irish seemed concerned.

I went in with the halter. At first he was a bit resistant to being haltered but I got it on him. I brought him out to the sun. His sides were heaving quite a bit. I turned the hose and this time threw my 'technique' out the window- I started right at his neck and chest. The look on his face was one of instant relief. He stood stock still and raised his head up. I kept the water running on him moving it gently down his neck to his chest and back up. He reached over and began to nuzzle my ear. He seemed to me like he was saying 'thankyou'. I did his sides and then up between his hind legs. He stood completely still and then lowered his head to graze while I continued to let the cool water run over him. When his breathing settled I brough him to the barn. He stood in the breezeway while I scraped the water off. I then took him out to the front yard under the big tree. With the shade and breeze he perked right up. Once he seemed to be good I brought him back to the barn.

I just checked and he seem to be fine. I guess I'm going to have to keep my eye on him with heat. Perhaps as he lightens he will find it easier. It's a good thing that my 'spanish horse' is not in Spain!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The day Charlie came to visit

This event happened last year in September-

In the field next to us are a few heads of cattle. I've looked at the fence between our land and theirs and was not impressed- it looked like baling twine attached to rotting posts. Turns out it's electric wire that's orange. We've been allowing the brush to grow up between the properties to have as an extra barrier and hoped that the grass there would be enough. 

Fast forward to a day at work when my phone rings and it's my husband. He works out of our home and was sitting there when he received a text from a friend:
"when did you get a steer?"
He texts back "we don't have a steer"
"check your field"

He looked out the window and there was the brown one happily eating the grass between the front paddock and the riding ring. Fortunately the horses were in the back paddock. So he phones me
"what do I do?"

I told him which driveway I thought was the one to the farm and told him to go tell them to come and get their steer. When he goes out there's the neighbour - an elderly man weakly waving at the steer. He is a small wiry man without an ounce of fat anywhere.  Ed comes over and finds out that our visitor is "Charlie" and that Charlie doesn't listen. It also appears that our neighbour is quite deaf. 

The two horses are watching the show completely riveted. 
Ed looks at the older, frail looking man and asks if he needs help. Turns out that the answer is 'yes'. So they both wave and shout at Charlie who ignores them totally and goes about the business of grazing. Ed goes and gets one of my lunge whips and waves it. Charlie moves away but decides he's not ready to leave so we walks through our Horseguard fence and into the front paddock. We have a hefty charger on this fence and our meter indicates that it sends up to 13k volts. Charlie is oblivious and goes through the fence.  

Ed opens the gate and they both go in the paddock and try to shoo him out of the paddock. After a couple cracks of the whip Charlie decides to leave- out the same way he came in - through the fence again. He then walks through the brush to our neighbour's yard (this people own a couple acres below Charlies owner and beside us). Ed breathes a sigh of relief and thinks about heading in. He then spies Charlies owner heading after Charlie as fast as his legs can carry him which is not fast. He sighs and heads over to help. At this point Charlie has had enough and goes trotting down the road with Ed and his new buddy in hot pursuit. Charlie hangs a sharp left at the second driveway and boots it up the hill. Ed turns to our neighbour and asks 'this is your place right?' the neighbour nods and Ed says goodbye. He said that he heard the man say something about having to get rid of Charlie. 

As Ed is telling me this story later I ask how many heads there are next door. Ed says 'there's a cow, a calf and Charlie'. It takes a minute and then the penny drops-  
 'Wait- were you chasing a bull??' 
'what's the difference between a steer and a bull?'
"oh, then I guess he was a bull" 
so my city born husband was chasing a bull with a whip and no where to dive for cover.  

I haven't seen Charlie since so I am assuming that he has been moved on. 

and a quick plug for the Horseguard fencing- it didn't snap, it simply stretched enough to let the bull through. Ed tightened it later and you wouldn't know that anything had happened.

We figured that all was good. 

Turns out that we were wrong. 

to be continued.....

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Steele learns about side reins

Steele has been going so well on the lunge that I decided it was time to introduce him to side reins. Our new surcingle arrived and I wanted to try it out.

First time:
I went through our usual routine and at the end of the session I attached the side reins. I put them on the last hole so that they were loose. I made sure that they weren't so loose that he could potentially get a leg over them. He had lots of room to move his head. I know that many more experienced people might have him further along. I know that I am going really slow but I want each new thing to be such a a natural extension of what he knows that it seems to be ho-hum.  It was important that this be a low stress event as it could potentially decide how he viewed rein contact in the future.

I carefully fastened the reins on and walked him on the lead line. He was not sure of the contact although it was just the weight of the reins. However, as we went along he settled down. After 5 minutes I disconnected them and put him away.

Second Time:
Again I lunged him first and when he was calm and settled I fastened the side reins. I left him on the lunge but stayed close as I only wanted him to walk. I did not want him to go galloping off and hurt himself. Lunged both ways and he was fine. As he walked along he began to stretch down a bit and softly chew the bit. I was tempted to trot him but decided that no, that was enough and put him away.

Third time:
Again I wanted to lunge him first. When I brought him to the ring he was quite 'up' and full of go. Irish began to squeal and run in the next paddock with Steele trying to join him. I was glad that I had gloves on because he was a bit hard to control. However, I decided that enough was enough and he was to listen to me. I made him walk no matter what he wanted and as his attention wandered I brought it back by asking him to do something and then insisting he do it. Once he was trotting quite strongly and I asked him to walk. He hesitated and then kept trotting on. So I simply walked ahead to block him going around the circle so that he had to either run into the fence or stop. I could see him going 'whee, I just want to go' to 'ack! fence' he braked hard. I then simply took the pressure off and had him walk on. The next time I asked him to go from trot to walk he was prompt.

 I remember hearing many a  wise horseperson say that you work with the horse you have now not the horse you had yesterday. So I had decidedt that I was going to skip the side reins. However, as we settled into work he became more attentive so I decided to try it. I hooked them on and walked beside him. He strided along. A few bobbles as he got used to the feel of pressure on his mouth. I let him go out on the circle and we did some walk-halt-walk transistions. He halts pretty squarely for a green horse. I decided to ask for a trot and see what would happen. He had a lttle difficulty with it as the movement made the reins feel different but he was game. A brief trot in both directions and he was done.

By the end both of us were hot and sweaty. He had a lovely rub down with cool water followed by a scratch and a carrot. I had a cold beer on the deck and read my book.

Both of us were happy. A good day's work was accomplished and we are incrementally along our way.

Today I was going to try time #4. However, Charlie the bull next door got in the way.

That, however, is a different post.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy Canada Day

Today my country is 146 years old.
I do love my country and am usually happy to live here. Although it's likely a good thing that Canada Day is not in February!

The sun even cleared for a few hours.

So Happy Canada Day  from all of us here at the farm!