dancing horses

dancing horses

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Vacation Phase 1


I have been away for the past week, which is why things have been pretty silent.  I have worked in health care for a long time. Because it's Canada, I don't make a ton of money but I do get a ton of vacation. This year, for the first time ever, I decided to take 3 weeks off in a row this summer. 

Our first week Ed, Amanda and I got in the car and drove to Ontario to visit my son and my sister's family. My son moved last year (he's in the military) and I hadn't seen his house. I haven't seen my sister and her family since 2019. 

There was a heat wave right as we were leaving and I decided it was a perfect time to introduce Quaid to the hose. I had sprinkled his feet a week or so ago but that was all. As I turned it on his feet he moved a bit but settled. I slowly moved it up his body. His reaction? He walked a slow circle around me and then stuck his face in the stream. 

Quaid: this feels kinda nice

Right after he found the dirtiest spot in the paddock and rolled until he was coated in mud. He looked quite pleased with himself. 

We spent a few days at the beginning and end  in Kingston at my son's. His house is really nice and we spent a couple days relaxing and playing games. Ripley (my son's dog who's lived with us when he's away) was very happy to see us and she and I went on many walks. I enjoyed the walks, except for our last day there. I was walking through a path when all hell broke loose in the yard beside a house. A very large, very angry dog was doing her best to get through the fence. I am not afraid of dogs and am used to dogs barking when we walk but this was different. This dog was only interested in ripping Ripley to shreds while her owner was calling her back. She looked like a pitbull/cane corso mix (possibly a Press Canario) and was easily over 100 pounds. She jumped and almost cleared the fence. I screamed and she fell back. 

Get your dog please I called. 

Ma'am she's fine, she's behind the fence. 

I watched the dog and the fence move when she went against it. 

she almost jumped out. 

Ma'am she's fine, he actually sounded annoyed at me. I walked off saying 'she is definitely NOT FINE'. 

I was totally shaken. She even gave me nightmares that night thinking of what could have happened. But other than that the vacation was just what we needed. Visiting family, eating and drinking too much and laughing a ton. 

Ripley is the black dog, the golden is my sister's puppy

It was quite the crowd and my sisters but we all managed quite well. I love my nieces and nephews and it was great to catch up. 

Amanda having a serious conversation with  Juno
(probably about snacks)

I made it to a tack shop a couple times and made some purchases. I was also able to watch my niece have a lesson. It's been a long time since I've watched a jumping lesson- it was fun. 

All in all it was a great week and just what I needed to unwind. We arrived home today and it was great to see all the animals.  Guinness was first and then I headed out to the paddock to greet the horses.  Clearly, there has been a thaw in the herd dynamics. Irish and Quaid were grooming each other. 
Carmen was the first to greet me, then Irish, then Quaid. 

After doing some chores, I got out Quaid's present- a fly mask. I walked up to him in the paddock and gently rubbed him with it. Then I slowly but deliberately put it on his head. He didn't even blink. Although he was intrigued by the strings on his nose. He looked adorable. 

Quaid: this is new

Irish: don't worry little one, you just look like us now

As much as I enjoyed our trip I was quite happy to be back on my little farm. 
scratching each other

I dragged the ring in preparation to ride tomorrow. Phase 2 of vacation is a staycation and I intend to spend it riding, training Quaid and enjoying life. 

all nice and fluffy

Monday, July 18, 2022

Old Learning/ New Horse

It's very interesting to have a 2 year old in the barn. I have gotten so used to my more mature equines that it's been a bit of an adjustment having a youngster. It's like having grown children and then having a preschooler. 

Young horses are such sponges and they learn things very quickly.  It can be a bit stressful, to not screw up. I am sure that you are all shocked to learn that I am doing my best to be methodical.  

Things continue to improve with the three of them, which is nice. 

Carmen choosing to be in the paddock away from the boys.
And Irish is not freaking out. 

Carmen lost a shoe so I couldn't really school her. Fortunately, I have a boot so I could ride but not school hard. Then the weather turned really hot so I decided to set up an obstacle course. 

I knew all the horses could enjoy it. I haven't set up one of these since back in October when I was teaching her to seek out the tarp.   When I mounted Carmen walked around, spied the tarp and marched right over to it. 

Carmen: I know this- this is where I rest. 

We played with obstacles and then I brought Quaid up to the ring. A few years ago I wouldn't have set up something like this. Or, if I did, I would try to do all the things and push my horse. But the help I've had with Carmen has taught me a better way. And it really pays off. 

The cones were no big deal. The first time we had to check them all out, which is fine. Curiosity is a good thing to encourage. My goal is not to get through everything fast. My goal is to teach Quaid that I can present him with puzzle and that there's always a solution. 

disengaging his hind end

the poles are fun. We can go into the square and turn around without leaving. I have some scattered poles too and it's good seeing him figure out where to put his feet. 

Our sessions are getting longer but we take lots of breaks to let him relax and to figure things out.  When we approached the tarp he was, of course, suspicious. I let him sniff it and then we walked away. Then we returned and each time I asked for a little more, but staying under threshold. Within 5 minutes he walked over it and was very proud of himself. 

After a couple passes I left it and we did a couple other things and went back to the barn where I proceeded to put some braids in his mane. I figured I'd get one or two in before I exhausted his patience but I got them all in. 
sorry for the angle but he kept following me

The next day it was no big deal. 

After reviewing all our current learning, I decided to introduce him to the plastic bag on the stick. It's the most scary thing I've done with him so far. And he reacted as I expected. 

Quaid: nope, nope, nope

The trick is to keep just enough pressure for him to seek the answer but not so much that he can't learn because he's too frazzled. When he faced the bag I would move it away. It didn't take long for him to figure it out. 

Quaid: What is this thing and why must it torment me? 

Of course, it's not like he got it and then was all 'oh hey this is fine'. He would get frightened again and then face it. Once we got to a good spot I put it away. 

It's so much fun to take these things that I learned because of Carmen and use them with Quaid. I am no expert by any means but I like seeing how these principles work. Do a little, leave it and then when you return to it it's all there. 

In the past I would think drilling is the answer. I was wrong. But it was what I knew. I am guilty of reflecting on past horses and thinking that I did wrong by then because I didn't know 'X'. It's easy to fall into  the trap of 'if only I knew then what I know now'. 

But that is the real trap- being paralysed by guilt over not knowing what you couldn't know until you learned it. Each horse has taught me more, that's the way it goes. To quote Albert Einstein "the only source of knowledge is experience'. 

I am excited for what I'm going to learn from Quaid

Friday, July 15, 2022

Smarty Pants

 First of all a quick update: 

Thank you everyone who weighed in through comments, FB, email to provide support with the Irish/Carmen/Quaid triangle. Things appear to be on the right track and I'm feeling much better. When I take Carmen out Irish is fretting a bit but not to the extent of before. When I return her he's excited but will shoo when I tell him.  I've noticed that he and Carmen are staying farther apart and Quaid is allowed to be closer. Yesterday when I took Quaid out to work him, Irish nickered at him when he returned and they touched noses. It was very sweet. Carmen and him touched noses and there was a little squeal but nothing else. Taking the advice on ACE seemed to help as well. I stopped it and taking it away didn't seem to make anything worse and might have even made it better. 

hanging out while Carmen is working

Now onto Quaid. 

During the week I am alternating between working Carmen or Quaid. On the weekend I try to work with both.

He continues to be sweet and friendly. I've been taking him out and doing small sessions in the ring. The lessons are simple: leading, yielding his hindquarters, yielding at his head, lunging a bit etc. The overarching goal is to have him focus. I have been following the TRT protocol as well as what I have learned from Mike and Nikki in the obstacle clinics.  When I get success or a try I stop and let him think about it.  

Can I play too?

This is the first time I let him into the back field. I love watching his trot- it looks so smooth and forward. 

I keep the sessions short and have been gradually getting longer. I don't want to overwhelm him. Rather than worrying if I'm being too soft or too demanding I'm staying focused on his response and using that to make a judgement call. Some of my sessions are just 'let's stand here and be groomed.' I am sure that there will be some who think I'm going too slow or too fast. And that is all okay. 

The things that are a struggle for Quaid: 

1. standing tied. He will stand still as long as I'm grooming him but once I step away he protests having to stay in place. I've been gradually increasing the time. I need to do it more because I need him to be oaky with this before we trailer anywhere. I am thinking I will tie him in his stall in the evening while I putter around so he can get used to it. 

Why am I restricted? it is not fair! 
(note I moved the rope after taking the video)

Interestingly, if he does a big protest and something happens (like hitting something I thought was outside of his range) he immediately stops and looks at it with curiosity. So it feels more like temper than freaking out. 


2. Yielding at his head. He tries to back up or walk sideways rather than step across (turn on haunches). As soon as he takes a good step I stop and let him think. I am sure he will get it with time and persistence. 

Things that are easy:
1. leading. I know he has experience with that, but not with how I want him to be. He struggled a bit with not passing me when leading. Now as soon as I stop he catches himself. He understands the task even if he struggles to follow. Which is all fine. 

2. yielding his hindquarters. I suspect this has been done in the past because it was so easy. 

3. Lunging around me. This is actually easy and hard. He wanted to stop and go the other way when it took him away from the paddock. It's clearly about the draw of the other horses. I keep the pressure up until he switches back and then soften. He's figured it out even if he doesn't always like it. However, stopping is a great reward for him so that helps. 

4. Being rubbed all over with the whip. It didn't take long for him to learn to stand while I rub it on his neck, back and legs. 

5. Grooming. Like I've said, he LOVES being groomed. I can pick up his feet and clean them. The other day I sprayed and brushed out his tail without issue. Fly spray was easy to introduce and now he barely reacts. 

So Quaid continues to be a smarty pants and I'm having a lot of fun. 


His coat is nice and shiny. He's trotting downhill which 
makes him look downhill than he is

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Integration and Separation

Oh my, where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday I brought Quaid home but it's been 12! When he arrived I kept him separated from Irish and Carmen. I wanted to give him time to settle in and I needed to get him used to grass. 

I should give a warning that this is not a sunshine and unicorns post. 

In my last post I was starting to introduce him to Irish. I did that deliberately as Irish is quite sweet and gentle while Carmen is, well, Carmen. I started with short stints putting Irish and Quaid together. It didn't take long for everyone to settle down.  

just in case you think I wasn't paying attention. 
they were getting along really really well. 

After a few days of this, after my ride I put a halter on Carmen and took her out to the field and let her graze with Irish and Quaid. When he came too close she drove him off but I was at the end of the lead to stop it from being serious. Everyone settled down and I brought them all in for supper. 

The next day, again after a ride, I took Carmen out on the lead. When all was calm (which didn't take long) I slipped off her halter and stepped back. Things went fairly well. When Quaid got to close Carmen chased him off with pinned ears and an angry face but as soon as he left they settled. I stayed around puttering but wasn't too worried. About an hour in I heard a big kerfuffle out in the field. I went out and I saw Irish desperately circling Carmen who was chasing Quaid. Because of Irish's neurological condition  he can't do sharp turns, which meant he kept slipping and falling. Ideally he would have recognized that he can't do spins but no, he just kept trying harder and getting worse. I was convinced he was going to break a leg. I walked out to the middle of this chaos and said in my most authoritative voice 'WHOA!'

Carmen came to a screeching halt. Oh thank god you are here to take control of this shit show. She calmed down right away, as did Quaid. Irish was frantic and kept circling and bumping into me. I had to chase him off. I brought everyone in for dinner and did some thinking. 

The next day I turned Irish and Quaid out together. After I rode Carmen,  I brought Irish to the back field and put Carmen out with Quaid. It went fairly well. She chased him a bit but it wasn't dangerous and the two of them seemed to be working things out. A few times it even looked more playful then aggressive.  They settled at a respectful distance grazing. A little later I went out and gave Carmen some scritches and then went out to groom Quaid. After a bit he swung his butt into me- it wasn't intentional he just saw something and turned to look. I got after him for that and then Carmen came charging over and chased him off. 

Carmen: you DO NOT bump into mom! 

With a derisive snort she then went off and back to grazing. 

A cute video to break up the wall of text. Is it just me or was he sizing up that fence? 

While this was happening Irish was freaking out in the next field. He settled a bit but not a lot. I turned Carmen out with him for a bit before bringing them in.  I have to take them one at a time and, because Carmen was closest,  I took her first. Irish charged by us through the gate and galloped around. I looked at him and said 'okay fine, you are on your own then'  and walked Carmen into the barn. He charged into his stall and I shut the door. He was a mess, sweaty and urine crusted hind legs. When everyone was in I took Irish out to hose off his hind legs and the sweat. When he was taken out of the barn he lost his mind- screaming, charging me, and trying to take off. He was, frankly, dangerous and I had to beat him off me. He was literally 30 feet from Carmen and could see her in her stall. 

The next day Irish was out with Quaid - I actually gave him some ACE to see if I could get him to calm down and learn that Quaid is not a threat to his mare.  After a bit I brought Carmen in to ride. Irish again lost his mind, throwing his body at the barn and cutting himself. Carmen was fine with the commotion and fine during our ride. I then put them all out together. Other than Irish staying between Carmen and Quaid it was okay. 

Sunday I didn't bother to ride, we also got our hay that weekend and I was, frankly, tired. Dominique came out and we did some chores and cleaned some tack. I also did some work with Quaid (a different post because this one is getting long). We decided to bring Irish in to groom him and give him some 1-1 attention. 

It was a disaster. He lost his mind and was dangerous again. I had to hold and correct him while he was groomed and then we hosed him off. Usually Irish is easy to correct- a quick growl does it. This time I had to get physical with him before he even noticed me. 

I was feeling pretty down. I can't have a horse that is dangerous to handle. In the past I have taken Carmen away from Irish all the time and he has never minded. Clearly it has to do with him feeling that Quaid is a threat. That can be dealt with because he's not dangerous and Quaid is respectful. It the me taking Carmen out to ride that causes the problem. 

peeking at me working the new guy

On Monday Julia came out and we played with separation. I put a halter on Carmen and Irish. I would walk Carmen away and when Irish freaked out, Julia would put him to work. We increased the distance and it worked fairly well. So I think things are getting better, but not where it needs to be. Irish is  wreck, his lip is cut (like how horse? , he has cut his hind legs by stepping on himself, there's a gouge out of his side and he's lame (looks like body soreness rather than leg lameness). I can't have a horse that is dangerous to handle so I am giving him a bit of time. But if he doesn't calm down I may need to make some difficult decisions; unless he kills himself first. 

Through all of this, Quaid is being respectful and calm. Even when Irish is losing his mind, he's looking at him like 'wow, that's a lot of energy' .  When Irish tries to chase him, he just trots away and then goes back to grazing. 

Quaid: playing with dogs seems safer then getting between those two

In case you weren't paying attention, the most mature horse on the property is the 2 year old. The second most mature is 12 and the least mature is 22. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Settling In

 It has been a hot minute since Quaid arrived but it feels like he's been here much longer. 

Irish and Carmen checking out the interloper

I bought a horse based on photos and videos which is definitely a risk but I am quite happy with my choice.  

I am finding him to be friendly, smart and calm. Not that he isn't sensitive- he really is but his reaction is not to run away right away. I'm trying to take things slow and easy and give him time to settle in. I am still working out the new routine with the three horses. Quaid has the stall and opening to the little paddock because he's not on full pasture yet. Which means I have to lead Irish and Carmen out to the back field. 

I noticed that Carmen appears to be a bit resentful of the time I'm giving Quaid so I'm making sure to give her some extra attention.  

That face!

When I first brought Quaid home I honestly thought that he was an ugly bay colour. But then I realised that he was simply very dirty. Every time he shook a little cloud of dust came off of him. Turns out that he loves being groomed. It has turned out to be a lovely way to bond. I've probably groomed him about a dozen times since Friday. 

Looking much better

I've been gradually increasing his time out on the grass. At first by hand but once we hit 45 minutes I opened up the front field for him to go out and graze. I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't the slow, happy amble:

Yesterday I turned Irish out with him. It was a bit exciting at first for everyone. 

Carmen was pitching a fit and Irish was upset at being separated. Quaid was, frankly, the most sensible of the bunch. He kept a respectful distance from Irish.  Today everyone was much calmer. Quaid didn't pick up his head when Irish joined him. 

I will turn out the three of them together soon but I want another person with me in case there's too much excitement. 

looking much shinier

He's eating the food I'm giving him along with the vitamin. I also like his manners. I spent a little time on Saturday putting his halter on and off to show him what I want. Once he was good I stopped. Since then he's been great. This weekend I'll start really working on leading. We've done a bit but not too far. He has learned to walk by the scary tarp I have hanging up to protect the hay from the sun. I love that he seems to be looking for answers. 

I have noticed that, while he was at first indifferent, now he's pretty locked on to me. It's amazing what a little attention and food will do. 

working on being best friends

Friday, July 1, 2022

Early Signs

 Quaid left Alberta early Friday morning. The initial estimate was Tuesday, which seemed optimistic to me. In the end it was Thursday. While waiting is hard, he had time to stop and overnight in some barns and an easy ride is way better than a fast one. 

Pick up was 11:30 in Truro, at the stock yard (I had to google where it was) which was a little over a 2 hour drive from us. So Ed and I left fairly early to have time to gas up and be early. Which we were. There was a sheep auction going on which normally would have fascinated me (I've never been to an auction) but who could settle?! Not me. Ed grabbed some lunch at the food truck and I nibbled a little but really couldn't eat. I had positioned our truck and trailer for a quick exit. The driver was a little late but pulled in. 

Here comes the motorcade! 

There was one other person there to pick up a horse, and we chatted idly but I couldn't tell you one thing. Quaid was the first horse off the truck and he stopped at the top of the ramp to grab a mouthful of hay and then walked off. He was clearly looking around and not too focussed on me, totally understandable. I chatted a bit with the driver who said, 'he's a bit looky but very sweet.' And then looked at me and said 'you've handled lots of colts?'. 

Yes I said. Totally lying. I've handled Irish as a 3 year old and Steele as a yearling, so I probably can't claim lots for experience. But whatever. 

We walked up to the trailer and Quaid did that 4-legged splat horses do when something worries them. His eyes bugged out looking at the trailer. I knew he had been in a trailer back in Alberta but I suspect it was a stock trailer, which looks very different than my Exiss bumper pull. I stood at the top of the ramp and put a wee bit of pressure on him while speaking softly. He put two feet on, we waited and then he followed me on.  I tied him, closed it all up and we headed out. The first little bit I could hear him pawing back there but he stopped after 10 minutes and didn't do it anymore for the rest of the trip. 

We pulled up and I had open up his stall and then help me unload. After putting down the butt bar I just had Ed stand to one side to stop him from going off the ramp at the top. It was clear that Quaid wasn't too sure about this backing off the trailer thing but step by slow step we did it. We walked into his stall and he drank 3/4 of a bucket of water before I even got his halter off. 

I let him chill a little and then turned him out into our small paddock. I would have done that anyway but he's not been on grass yet so I didn't want to let him out into the grass field. 

Seeing his new family

learning about electricity

He tested the fence pretty quickly, which I expected. There is only one way to teach a horse about the electric fence that I know of and that is experience. After a couple 'bites' he realised it was the fence. 

Thinking about electricity and the unfairness of the world

For a horse that just spent the last 7 days in a trailer he was pretty chill about everything. Next door a dump truck dumped a load of gravel and it made a terrible racket. He just looked. 

I brought him in at dinner time- I lead him and had Ed close door behind us. I then went to bring in the other two. Quaid was not happy about that and kicked the wall a few times. I laughed- so you do have a temper. Okay then. 

I fed Carmen and Irish and gave Quaid some hay. I then sat outside his stall for a bit. I knew he wasn't too sure about this woman he just meant who put him on another trailer and then locked him in a stall. He was a bit stand-offish at first but I wasn't worried. sure enough, his curiosity got the better of him and after a bit he was taking a bit of his hay and then touching my hat. 

That night I gave him a bit of soaked feed, same as I give Irish and Carmen. I know he's not had grain (although mine isn't grain) but I need to supplement to make up for what is lacking in our hay/grass so this will help. He was playing in it and reminded me of a baby when you give them a food for the first time. 

That night I went to bed shortly after nine and died. Between not really sleeping Wednesday night and the 5 hours driving a trailer I was exhausted. 

The next morning three bright faces greeted me over the stall doors. Quaid had eaten all of his hay, emptied his water bucket and then threw it into the back of the stall. His halter was on the ground too. 

I gave Quaid some ulcer meds in the morning (I want to make sure that there are no ill effects from his long ride) and then opened his door to let him out. I had planned to put the halter on and lead him out because I like my horses to learn to walk out, not leap out like it's a starting gate. But he looked pretty quiet so I slowly opened the door and he sauntered out. 

Later that morning I put his halter on and took him out to start eating grass. He looked around and then settled into grazing. 
Irish staying nearby. New halter looks fab

While he was grazing something startled him and he leaped back. As soon as he hit the end of the halter he stopped. It's clear that he's had some good handling. After 15 minutes I lead him back in. We had a little bit of a lesson on how I want him to be when I lead him into the stall and take off his halter (turn around, wait for me to take it off, walk away). But it wasn't a huge discussion- just me showing him what I want. He'll figure it out. 

I grabbed my grooming gloves and began to groom him out in his paddock. He loved it. I was getting all his itchy spots. I didn't want to get between him and the haybox so I just walked away a bit and he followed 'hey wait, I still have spots to scratch'. After a really thorough groom I walked out and he followed me.  

All the signs so far point to him being a friendly, calm thinker who is curious. Once he recovers from his trip there may be more theatrics (also as he gets older and more confident), but he seems to be just what I was looking for. 

I am going to need to get him a fly mask - I don't have a cob-sized one. And he doesn't have a sign for his door. 

It won't take long for him to see me as a positive thing. I am sure he will be tired for a few days post trip. But that's good- because it will take me time to get him up on the grass so he can be out with his herd. 

Full house, full heart.