Wednesday, May 31, 2006

May 31, 2006 - Day 11

Tonka got his front feet trimmed! Wow, what a boy. My farrier said he remembered him from the adoption, he'd been looking at them too. He even remembered how old he was, or maybe he could tell by just looking at him. He said he has good feet, and he's going to grow into a nice looking horse. I knew that, but I love hearing nice things about my horses from others who are knowledgable about them. I'm a proud mama! Anyway, he wasn't totally perfect for the farrier of course. But he did really well. I had never brought his foot around between my legs because I'm pretty awkward at doing that. He acted like he'd done it lots of times before. Tonka didn't react badly to the hoof knife at all. The nippers were harder for him, but he didn't react right away. I think he took it for a few minutes and then suddenly it was too much and he hopped sideways away. The "clip clip" noise bothered him I think. And the handles knock together. But he got through it, and nobody got hurt. The first foot was on his good side and I think he only took it away once. The other side wasn't so good. That boy can hop! It isn't a totally finished job, but he got the wall balanced laterally, and one of the frogs needed balancing as well because it was a bit skewed from the wall being all wrong. He didn't do a finishing roll with the rasp, it was getting to be a bit too much I think, and we wanted to keep it positive.

For better future trims, my farrier suggested using a soft rope to work on bringing the foot forward, since Tonka isn't comfortable with that yet. I'd been thinking about doing that but he was doing really well for me so I thought I didn't need to. I think someone else asking him to do it changed things. I also have nippers from when I used to trim, so I might just go out and pretend to trim him, or even just show them to him periodically and make noise with them. The farrier said he thought he did pretty well this time.

Just as a side note, not specifically about Tonka or mustangs: I don't shoe my horses. I do use a farrier, but just for trims. I looked for a natural or barefoot trimmer but there's only one I know of in my area and he doesn't show up when he's supposed to, and I don't think he's accepting new clients. I found Sam, my current farrier, almost a year ago, and I'm pretty happy with what he does. And with how he treats the critters. He'd be well within his rights to get irritable with some of the stuff the horses throw at him, and he stays cheerful.

Back to the barefoot thing, I highly suggest that you check into it. Even if you still plan on shoeing your horses, the information available through the barefoot practitioner's websites is phenomenal. I know so much more now about the hoof, how it functions, why, and what it should look like. I plan on using boots for my horses that are ouchy in certain situations, but I will not use shoes. My farrier also uses boots on his horses! That says a lot to me.

So, if you want to check the info out, here are some places to look: (the previous is one of my very favorites) (Pete Ramey is in my opinion one of the best.)

Now, I must caution you to use your own good judgement on what is right for your horse. I personally do not like the Strasser methods and avoid a lot of their stuff, but I like to pick and choose what I like, and what works for my horses may not work for everyone else's. It's also not all about the trim, it's about environment and exercise etc. But worth looking into for the benefit of your horse.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

May 30, 2006 - Day 10

We went for another walk! No camera man this time though. He went through the gate with less prompting this time, and then we walked around quite a bit. We went around a pile of old metal farm implements that is pretty scary to most of the horses. He watched it carefully but didn't do anything. We went around a small fir tree that was somewhat scary, then he noticed the rugs flapping on the drying line out in the trees behind the house and that was very scary. He started a bit, but it was very small, and then he calmed down. Then I let him graze a bit and put him back, with a long pause at the gate.

Monday, May 29, 2006

May 29, 2006 - Day 9

Tonka walkabout! We exited the prison! It was really hard to go through that gate... That's very normal though. We walked to the driveway and along it a few feet. Ate some grass. Experienced a bare spot, change of color or something had him a bit nervous, he walked over it to discover it was just dirt. Then had a hard time going through the gate again. When he came through he licked and chewed and relaxed. I kept it short and sweet and positive. Can't wait to go out for a longer walk!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

May 28, 2006 - Day 8

Khota Tonka! He has a name! He'll be mainly known as Tonka since we have a Coda here already, but it's a lovely name and means just what I wanted to say of him. It means Great Friend.

Nothing new to report today, it's raining like crazy and cold, so mainly I just fed and visited with him.

He likes Della. "We breathe at each other every time we see each other," she says. He really does love to meet new people and animals.

Update: When I went out to feed I checked his height and weight (NO problem at ALL with the weight tape, WOW!), and apparently he really is only about 14.3 hands. I would have said at LEAST 15 hands. I guess my eyeball is off a bit. Oh well, easier to mount that way, and he still has some growing to do. He weighs about 800 lbs, maybe slightly less.

May 27, 2006 - Day 7

There's something I've failed to mention in all the previous entries. Most of this progress and training has gone on with kids playing and hollering and fighting and me having to pause and yell halfway across the world to the kids to do or not do something. I think that's pretty impressive. And I think it's good for him. Preparation for the real world where things aren't quiet and gentle.

So I've been wondering, in a vague sort of way, whether he might be ready to go to the Wild Horse and Burro Expo in Vancouver in September. That would be neat. I guess we'll have to see where we're at with training and if I can afford it.

I picked out both his front feet! I also rubbed all over his hind legs and "private" area and belly etc. with the bamboo pole. He didn't seem to mind much at all. I startled him in his girth area a few times. He never moved his feet or offered to kick though.

I worked with him trying to get him to MOVE, so we could do some of the round pen type exercises, and establish that his feet need to move when and where *I* say so. I was getting so frustrated and couldn't figure out how to make it work, thinking "am I just going to have to quit?" when finally something worked! I was yielding his hindquarters to keep him from sticking and then flicking the rope toward his head to move it away, trying to turn that yield into a forward motion. It worked! No matter how much driving from behind I'd tried, it wasn't working, but concentrating on his flank area, moving it away, then moving his head away while encouraging him to keep going, worked. It didn't get him way out to the end of the rope, but he was moving in a circle, lightly and easily.

We then had a lot of trouble with leading from the off side. Once again I thought I was not going to be able to communicate to him what I wanted. This time I'm not sure exactly what did it. I think it was more lateral yielding leading into forward motion, with a bit of driving from the flank area with my free hand. He was leading like a champ by the time we were done. Both directions, turning, tight turns, staying out of my space. When we stopped he dropped his head to the ground without me asking, and just stood there, relaxing. He doesn't seem to lick and chew much. But he was doing some of that when we finally made the breakthrough. I love this horse!

I still don't have a name for him and it's been a week. I have got to find a name!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

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May 26 Evening update

He really doesn't seem to mind new objects. I took an orange canvas bag that usually has step-in posts in it, and I let him investigate, rubbed him with it, laid it on his back and wiggled it. No big deal. It's a little interesting when it's on his back and he realizes that it's on both sides at once, you can see him be a little surprised, but it's not a big deal. I also dragged the hose across his pen to see if he'd cross it. That was it for that session, I was just dropping in real quick and getting him a big pile of grass.

When I went back later the hose was all snaked around, so he must have been playing with it. Good horse! I introduced him again to my best friend, Della, and her dad was up to visit too. Della got to go in the pen this time, since she was wearing appropriate footwear. They visited a lot. This horse likes people. He visited with Don a lot through the fence. I introduced him to a saddle blanket and he wore it a bit.

There were two little black birds sitting on the corner post. Maybe they're really a very dark brown. They like to hang out on or around the horses and eat the bugs they attract. I have no idea what kind they are. They make this strange watery noise, kind of a gurgling or almost a dripping, followed by a short song. They didn't sing though, and I wish they had because I wanted Della to hear it. They just sat there on the post looking quizzically up into the sky for the longest time. I don't know what they were looking for.

Later I got the 100 gallon trough and dragged it into his pen. Boy, that thing was out to eat him! He wanted nothing to do with it at first. I also brought in a step stool as a new object for him to get accustomed to. He nibbled the step stool, I flipped it over, he checked it out again, I stood on it, he didn't care. It was all good. But he kept his eye on that trough! I brushed his mane and boy did he look nice. He didn't much like that though. There were a few good snarls, but nothing real difficult to get out. He got to wear the saddle blanket again. I also dropped it a lot, since that was scary. I bounced it on his back, shook the dirt off vigorously, threw it up on his back as if he was an experienced horse being saddled. He wore it on his neck and his rump. I encouraged him to chew on it but he couldn't get a good grip. The part he was least comfortable with was when we walked and it STAYED on his BACK! Goodness. He didn't really freak out, but he was considering it. Eventually he was wandering around the pen with it on without fear. Still not trusting that trough though. He would touch the trough, and sniff it, but not drop his nose to the water to get a drink. I had only filled it half full because one horse can only drink so much, but that meant he had to commit to dropping his head INTO the trough to get water. I hope he figured it out after I left. I'm pretty sure he probably did. He's very brave.

Then we worked on feet. He doesn't like that, and I completely understand. When I lift his foot I'm taking away his ability to flee. That's pretty scary. When I tried to lift it like I normally would, with the sole toward his belly, his reaction was to back up and try to pop his front end off the ground. We got to where he was doing good some of the time though. Then it occurred to me to try maybe lifting his foot forward. So that I was still getting it off the ground, still moving it, but not as unnaturally. That worked really well and soon I was pulling it forward and then folding it up to where the sole was toward his belly and he had no problem. I rubbed the sole, picked a few rocks out with my fingernails, gently patted. That was all with his left front foot. He is not as comfortable with his right side. He was wanting none of that. When he's threatened he pushes his shoulder, neck or head into me, and we had to work on getting out of my space. He doesn't like that so much. I have to threaten pretty hard to get him to move, and then he's not sure when I go to pet him whether I'm threatening or not. I only got to where he would tip his foot forward onto the toe, and bring it a little bit forward, and it started pouring rain and then hailing. So I went to take the halter off, but he thought I was asking him to move, and he was antsy anyway because it was hailing on us. Took a minute for him to realize what I wanted. Then he wanted to just take off so I had to stay with him and ask him to drop his head without the halter, to show that just because the halter is off doesn't mean he's dismissed. Normally he's really good at dropping his head, but he didn't feel like it then. I got soaked. But we worked through it.

When I went out to feed later, at about dusk, I wore my head light, and he didn't mind it. I gave him a few treats and petted him and he was back to his normal sweet self. I think the hail really bothered him, and asking for anything while that was happening might have been a mistake. Also, that had been the longest I've ever worked with him without a break.

Friday, May 26, 2006

May 26, 2006 - Day 6

This morning I took my dog Maya out with me while I fed. SCARY! Funny, he wasn't too worried about Angus, the great dane/rott, but Maya was scary. She does look a bit like a wolf, and she wasn't on a leash and she was running around kind of erratically. He jumped when he first saw her, and pranced around a bit. I brought her to the gate and convinced her to go close enough for him to sniff. I think she was more afraid than he was. They sniffed noses and all was well. He was a bit jumpy this morning though. Not sure if it's because of the windy weather or the dog, but I'm betting it was the dog. She was a good girl and just lay there and watched while I played with him.

I haltered him and clipped on a lead with no fuss. He didn't really want to be led though. I had already given him a big pile of grass and he was reluctant to leave it. So we'll have to work on that some more. He did lead, just kept trying to stick in one spot.

I had some treats with me, free samples from the Expo. The other horses loved them. They're called Berry Good and they're a little alfalfa cube with berries added in. It took some convincing and he dropped the first one, but he ate some of them! I'm not normally a treat giver. It's a very special occasion sort of thing because I don't like to encourage nibbling. But this is the first thing that isn't hay or grass that he's been willing to eat. I'd like to get him eating a little feed so I can start adding minerals to his diet. Right now he won't try the mineral mix I have or the loose salt with minerals. I sprinkled some over his hay today in hopes that he'll get some.

His gooby snotty nose is still there. He's not coughing at all and it's not too gross looking. So I think it's something that will just pass. I really don't want to set us back by having to force nasty tasting things into his mouth. Of course I don't want him sick either, but I don't think it's serious right now.

May 25, 2006 - Day 5

Notice anything missing? No Halter! He is a very good boy about haltering, so he gets to run around naked now! So exciting.

We didn't do much today other than pet and visit. I rubbed his legs some more, but mostly just hung out and encouraged him to come to me on his own. He loves to come up and sniff noses. Liam hanging on the gate was a little scary but as you can see he got over that.

I had to be gone in the evening and didn't feed until after dark. He was terrified of the flashlights. Poor guy. I'm not sure exactly how to deal with that. Maybe I can leave one on out there at night, then eventually start carrying it around. Or start at dusk and wear the head light while I work him, then as it gradually gets darker and the light gets more noticeable he won't be scared because he'll already know what it is.

I think he's already gaining weight. In addition to the constant grass hay supply (I feed 3x daily) he also gets fresh cut grass. Not lawn clippings, don't worry. I'm gradually cutting down all the tall grass around his pen with my grass shears and giving it to him. He's just a bit spoiled :)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Still looking for a name! I just can't find one that fits him. Nothing much new since this morning. I still am not sure whether to take the halter off. It's not good to keep on, it could be very dangerous. I lean toward taking it off but I don't want to set us back. Going to work more on putting the other halter on and off. Did it in two different sessions today and he did great. He halters a lot more easily than Lyric, my domestic goofball.
May 24, 2006 - Day 4

This morning I went in just to say hi, see if he'd let me catch him easily. He kind of did, but when I went to touch the halter he ran off. We did some "round pen" type work, which was made harder by the fact that my pen is square. He didn't stick in the corners and put his butt toward me, he stuck in the corner and wanted to keep his butt pressed there, against the fence. We got through that, and I put a lead on him and worked on leading. I wanted him up next to me, about with his jaw/neck in line with my shoulder. That was a bit difficult for him but he figured it out, except where he wanted to stick in 2 of the corners. He was also distracted because I'd put a horse he hadn't seen out in the pasture with the others, which is near his pen. Emma was in another pen on the other side of the property because of an injury. We did a bit of hindquarters yielding mixed in with the leading, and he's a pro at that. Finally we made a few circuits around the pen with no getting stuck, and then I stopped. He was very up-headed and tense, looking at the horses, so I asked him to drop his head. He did it better than he has before. Funny how you can let them sit and "soak" and they come back with even better skills than last time. Like they thought it over and figured it out. I untied the lead and asked him to drop his head again. We ended with his nose almost to the ground, his eyes sleepy, licking and chewing. What a good morning!

May 23, 2006 - Day 3

I didn't play with my boy as much as I wanted to. I am just so sick with allergies and I think I'm developing asthma. I finally had to break down and make a doctor's appointment. Hopefully they can make me more able to work.

Anyway... In the morning I worked on rubbing his front legs. He was very uncomfortable about it and did try to move away some, but then I was rubbing all the way down to his coronary band and hooves, and patting his hooves. Picking them up was a thought of his, but a very scared thought, so I encouraged him not to do that yet. My foot bumped a feed pan (he hasn't figured out what the stuff in it is yet though) while I was rubbing him, and he bolted, but he repsponded to the lead, came right back around, and we did it some more. Minus the feed pan. He'll need to get used to that sort of thing some time, but now I want to set him up to succeed. So his little bolt showed me that he is afraid and unsure, but just very good at controlling himself. Which will be very good for us both when we get out on the trails.

I got to look at his teeth a bit, and he definitely has all baby teeth on top, so they were for sure correct on his age. His knees also seem immature to me, but I'm not an expert. I guess it doesn't matter too much since I won't be riding him right away anyway! I'm afraid he's going to be huge! He could still have a lot of growing to do. I'll just have to either limber up or buy a mounting aid that I can take with me on the trails.

I introduced him to Soxy. He was very interested in her, and she was kind of interested in him, but mostly interested in what was in that discarded feed pan. They munched grass nose to nose under the fence. They seem to both love to eat. Which is good for the new guy. Soxy could stand to lose about a hundred pounds though!

As you'll see in the pictures, I was able to change his halter. This one has softer rope, although it's a bit too big, but it won't hurt his face as bad. AND he's graduated to not wearing the drag rope!!!!! Hopefully in a couple days he'll be able to lose the halter.

What to work on now: Continue touching, concentrate on comfort with head and legs Halter on and off (over the other halter). Approach and halter without grabbing his halter, as if he didn't have one on already Circle work, get him "with" me Rub bamboo pole with soft glove on end on hind legs, to get him used to touch

That's a lot, we may not do all of that, I will as always watch to see what he's comfortable with. And I have miss Emma to doctor, with a huge abscess that needs to be soaked, and I'll probably have to start her on antibiotics, so that will be less time with him.

Ride the West was really great, from what little I saw of it. I watched a bit of Eitan, the western dressage guy, and he was great. There was another western dressage type guy from Washington, I don’t remember his first name but his last name was Villasenor, he was good. He trains and gives lessons, for those of you who may be near him. He seemed more personable than some of the others. Charles Wilhelm was there. He isn’t one I normally like, but his production was alright. He’s a bit to commercial for my taste. Josh Lyons was there, I only watched a few minutes of his stuff. I missed Steve Rother and some of the other clinicians completely. I had planned to be watching something pretty much every hour of every day, but the mustangs distracted me.

I watched Lesley Neuman, the mustang trainer, work with one of the mustangs. I was absolutely in tears. She is so good! She wasn’t spouting commercials for any products or videos, she was just passionate about what she does, and you could tell. She said things that I have thought for a long time about communicating with horses and listening to them and how it’s never the horse’s fault. She said a lot of things that were new to me, but were very right, and I couldn’t believe I didn’t already know that. When the horse was moved into the round pen he was terrified, running and running and looking around, covered with sweat. After Lesley came into the pen it didn’t take long before he was relaxed & feeling safer. She never ran him. She never yelled at him. She didn’t even really wave her arms much. I’m thinking of the aggressive way John and Josh Lyons move horses (I do like some of their methods though), and this was not at all like that. Her presence kept him moving, and she allowed him to see that she was the safe place. She asked him for something new when he could handle it and allowed him to decide when it was too much. Eventually she told him he just had to deal with a couple things, and he did. I was amazed. But her passion about the horses and all of their little triumphs was what really got me. I will see her any time she’s in the area. She also offered me some good advice on the horses I was looking at adopting, and was there to talk to anyone who had questions. The question I asked was whether the fact that my big bay was dominant would mean that he would be harder to gentle. She thought that it wasn’t a good indicator, and he probably wouldn’t be any harder. Her theory was that after so long in the truck, with none of the personal space that is so important to horses, they were just trying to establish their own space. It turned out that the big bay wasn’t the most dominant at the end of the adoption, he was about second or third in their group of 5.

They were supposed to unload at 4 on Friday, but they were late, which was actually a good thing because there was a HUGE thunderstorm right at 4. A total downpour, it looked like a waterfall, with huge crashing booms right above us and lots of wind and lightning. Some of the outdoor booths got blown apart by the wind. I love a good storm so it really inspired me, got me thinking that maybe it was a sign I should adopt. (I was really reaching for reasons to do what I wanted to do!) It died down and then the horses got there. The unloading was pretty rough. You’d think they’d be dying to get off the truck but they were scared. There was some fighting going on inside.

I fell in love with my first choice horse immediately, he was a big bay that just gave me goosebumps. HUGE boy, and built like you wouldn’t believe. There was a sorrel in with him who was absolutely stunning too, compact and built like a tank. Another bay was my next choice. Then a grulla mare who was so sweet. She actually touched my hand yesterday. I spent long hours looking at them, watching how they behaved. Some of the really nice looking ones were disqualified from my list because they were just so scared and reactive. The red dun didn’t look like much to me, and didn’t have the smoothest gait, AND it said he was a stallion. He wouldn’t even have been on my list but he was so sweet and quiet and willing to stand by the people to get away from the horses that were picking on him. He came up and sniffed me Saturday night.

Sunday when it came time to bid I was a nervous wreck. My boys were in pen # 2 and one in #3, so they were up pretty quick. The big bay was first. I was very quickly out of the bidding with him. He went for $700, which turned out to be the highest for any horse there. Next was the sorrel tank I loved the look of. The bidding stuck at $130 and I was a wreck, not sure whether to bid. But the dun was my second choice, I kept my bidder’s card in my lap while my heart raced. So the sorrel went for $130, a steal for such a stunning horse. Then was my dun. A mom and daughter were also bidding on him. I think he would have been a 4H project, and they were very nice people who had adopted before, so I felt kind of bad for out bidding them, but not that bad! I cried when the bidding on him ended and he was mine! It was wonderful! When I went to get my paperwork in order I found out he’s a gelding, not a stallion, and was very happy about that! He was rounded up in February, gelded in March. What a year it’s been for him!

I had to wait several hours for the vet to get there and do the health certificate I needed to cross into Idaho. I stood around mooning over him a lot, and talking to people, and getting teary eyed when I told them he was mine and thought about how great it would be to get him home. I was glad I had my sunglasses on, I don’t like to cry in front of strangers!

All of the BLM staff and volunteers were wonderful people, very much into what they do. I talked a lot to Rick McComas, the Spokane guy (I don’t know his title but he’s the main Wild Horse and Burro guy around here). He’s a real nice guy. I’d dealt with him before with my first mustang but never met him in person. He was very disappointed in how the adoption turned out. I think when I left there were 15 horses out of 40 that hadn’t been adopted. He said there were half as many people there as there were last year. Not sure why, maybe gas prices? There were a lot of very stunning horses left, mostly the bays and sorrels. But even some of the duns got passed up. There were only 2 horses there I would have passed up. One with a deformed hoof and one that was beautiful beyond belief but very small. The rest were all going to be great horses (not that those two wouldn’t be also). Well built and good sized.

I have to go, it’s taken me half the day to write this because I keep going outside to play with him. Guess what!!!! He lets me pet him all over from face to his flank and the top of his butt, leg touches are allowed but not liked, he’s leading like a dream, I brushed him a bit with a brush, picked up both front feet briefly, he drops his head to the ground if I ask and I put a nylon halter over his rope halter no problem. I’m going to go back out later and at least take off the drag rope and possibly the halter, once I’m absolutely sure I can get it back on. WOW!!!!!!! I’m seriously not lying, I just brought him home yesterday. This boy is THAT horse for me. The one. I hope you get what I mean.