Friday, August 31, 2007

It's taken me about a week to want to talk about this. I really don't want to think about it at all, but I know a lot people who come here own horses, and it's something we all need to know about. Most of us know about it, but wow, seeing it is something else altogether.

I wanted to post information here on the fates of horses who are shipped to Mexico for slaughter. I did a google search "horse slaughter in Mexico." I clicked on a link. It took me to the Humane Society's website and started playing a video. I had left the room to do something while it loaded, and came back in to see something horrendous. A gray mare run into a chute, to be stopped at a point with a man standing over her. She wisely kept her head down, and the man had to poke her withers repeatedly. In his hand was a stiletto-like knife, sharp and pointed. He didn't poke her withers with the blade, but he almost did so many times that it made me think he normally would have taken that route, if there was no camera there. She brought her head up and he struck - at her spine just at the back of her head. He missed the spinal cord, so had to go through the poking process again, and this time he got her. At some point, either when he first got her, or the second time, many people started cheering loudly in the background. I don't know what they were cheering for, but cheering doesn't belong there. She fell like, well, like she'd just had her spinal cord severed. All smooshed up in the box. The wall opened to let her body through to where they would hang her and slit her throat all the way down its length. Are they aware? Or do they die when the spinal column is cut?

This wasn't quick. She stood shaking and wishing for escape that entire time. Before that, she stood in the chute just outside, smelling blood and death. It showed the horses waiting outside, in pens or in the chute. If the horse next in line tries to follow the horse going in to death, in an effort to get somewhere, anywhere away from this place, the heavy steel door crashes down on its head.

One of the horses standing in line could have been Tonka's twin. Same sweet face.

A lot of them looked like range-bred horses of some kind. Mustangs. Probably not BLM, but plenty of Native Americans still run horses on their land and periodically send them to auction. Oh my gosh, speaking of which, those people are NOT nice either. Roping horses legs out from under them when they're running full-out. Sick bastards. Get some livestock handling equipment.

The handling on the way to the plants isn't fun. I hear they're loaded and unloaded multiple times on the way there to add horses or whatever. Have you ever seen panicked horses run into or out of a trailer? Not pretty. No water or feed. I don't believe they regulate whether horses with broken legs can be hauled or not. It wouldn't matter if they all arrived fallen over on top of each other.

I don't want to talk about that anymore.

Will you please, if you're thinking of breeding your sub-excellent mare, look into her eyes and imagine what the fate of the foal might be? If you're thinking of giving away your "problem child" or sending him to auction, picture his face covered in blood, his eyes wide, flanks heaving, muscles shaking with exhaustion and fear. And the canner is not the place to send your old, extremely well-trained but used up kids' horse. Some child out there would love the chance to feed them up and learn to ride confidently. My sweet Coda is one such horse. He is 29 years old, thrown away but luckily saved, now helping my niece enjoy riding after a couple of bad incidents. Don't reward their lifetime of devotion by ending their lives in such a bad way. It costs me $75 to euthanize a horse. Any horse's dignified death is worth that much, and more.

I haven't yet read the above links, so I don't claim to agree with anything they say, but they're a place to get started. Apparently this new "American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act" will put an end to slaughter of American horses on foreign soil as well. I hope so.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Again, nothing much to report. I was hoping to ride tonight, but then I remembered that there was an open house at school. Luckily I remembered in the middle of the day, not when it was too late. So just for you, a goofball shot of Tonka, dying to get his face into the nose bag for his goodies. We're going to have to work on calm good behavior when I'm trying to get the darn thing on him. I rushed tonight because he was being such a dork, got it situated wrong with his lead rope out the front, and then realized, "Why am I letting him rush me?" So I made him hold his head still and drop it nice so I could get it put on right. I'm glad I have that halter that fits way up on his face, so it doesn't interfere as much.

Now I find that I am babbling about uninteresting things, so I'd better go!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Not much going on here, really... Today was the third day with the nose bag, now altered with scissors and two diaper pins (yes, diaper pins) so that it goes far enough up his face that he can actually eat out of it without major frustration. And I've saddled him a couple times. Yesterday I saddled him and then immediately took it off and put it back. He was pleasantly surprised. "Oh, that's it? Wow, that was easy." Lick and chew. Today I didn't cinch, just set the saddle on him three times and fiddled with it, then set it on the tie post next to him, supervised of course, that's no junk saddle for him to dump! Although I guess if it can live through his bucking and stomping spree last spring, it'd probably come through being dropped okay too.

(Anyone wondering why I'm just playing with the saddle on a horse who's already being ridden, he's just really worried about the act of setting the saddle on his back. Once it's on, no biggie. So we're working on that.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

(Video would have been here if it had uploaded without an error!)

I finally caught Tonka on video with his strange drinking habit. This is a pretty tame example, sometimes he has to bolt a few steps and come back. He had a couple of stupid, self imposed incidences with the trough, and has decided that it is forever suspect. I wish you could see his ears flicking around while he's drinking. His eyeballs may be covered, but he can still "see" everything around him with those things!

We finally got to ride today! And of course the weather was HORRIBLE for it. It was extremely windy, and Mack and Tonka both were pretty worried. All was going well until Mack spooked an unseated John. Scared the crap out of me! I saw John go down, and not get dragged, but couldn't pay much attention after that, since it scared the crap out of Tonka too. He was such a good boy, calmed right down for me. Well, not to a totally relaxed state. I have an image in my mind of Mack's large bum racing by us back to the barn. Tonka was scared and his horse buddy just left at high speed! But he stopped moving, and I admit I did get off. Just in time to see John get up, rubbing his ribs. He went to go get Mack, and got back on and rode him back down to the scary spot. I led Tonka over there and he was pretty darn worried, his whole body tense and ready to bolt. I don't know what the problem was. Hard to tell on a windy day, could be a predator smell, could be something blowing in the wind, could be nothing. But when John and Mack got back, Tonka dropped his head and relaxed. We rode a little more and called it a day. John's knee is hurt, hopefully it's nothing serious but it sounds painful. I'll bug him to go to the doctor if it starts to seem necessary. It's kind of seeming like it will be a good idea

Tonka got to try eating out of a nose bag, since I need to start feeding him extra. The other, older fatties don't need much, but Tonka's the low man, and he's growing, and I think he's lost some weight. He didn't mind it too much, since it was filled with goodies. I need to make a couple alterations to the bag so it will fit better, but as soon as that is done he'll start standing out at the tie post every day to eat some alfalfa pellets. Not a lot, mind you... I'd prefer something else, but for now, until I find something low carb but nutrient dense, I'll give him alfalfa. I wish I could do beet pulp in the nose bag, but wet wouldn't work, and dry would take too long to chew, not to mention that even though I KNOW it's safe to feed dry, it scares me to actually do it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"See, Lord,
my coat hangs in tatters;
all that I had of zest,
all my strength,
I have given.
Now my poor head swings
to offer up all the loneliness of my heart.
Dear God,
stiff on my thickened legs I stand here before You,
Your useless servant.
Oh! Of Your gentleness,
give me a gentle death."

Why can't we be good and humane? Pain happens, yes. Death happens, yes. But this - thoughtlessly intentional, horrifying, with no dignity, no comfort - is wrong.

The horses who used to die a horrible death on US soil are now dying a worse death on the other side of the border, with no regulations to protect them. I feel that the new laws, and the people who worked so hard to pass them, are misguided. I'll be researching how the horses shipped to mexico are treated, and I'll share that with you in due time. But for now, just this Western Horseman article.

Killer Consequences

By Barry Shlachter

Now that horses can no longer be slaughtered for human consumption in the U.S., the horse industry is feeling the effects: experts point to a drop in the market, welfare groups are finding homes for more unwanted horses, but thousands more are heading for slaughter plants across the border.

Blowback from the U.S. horse slaughter industry's partial demise, says Ray Field, is flowing up the drive of his modest adoption operation, the Wild Horse Foundation, located just off a rural road in Central Texas.

While established to relocate feral horses born on federal lands, the foundation has been getting calls from sheriff's departments and individuals about abandoned and abused animals, says Field, its executive director and a burly man who describes himself as being caught in an increasingly frustrating tangle.

Field figures that 30,000 of the 100,000 horses that otherwise would have been trucked off by kill buyers would likely stay with their current owners. But the remainder will need refuge, he predicts, and he doesn't see enough open-armed people or sufficient funds materializing to meet the need.

"The welfare groups are saying the horses are going to be absorbed," Field says. "But Western states are bursting at their seams and can't take any more, so they'll have to be moved east. Will there be people to take them?"

Field rattles off the names of non-profit organizations that, he asserts, gained notoriety and raised hefty donations during the anti-slaughter campaign, but that now provide scant support for maintaining unwanted horses saved from European stew pots.

His foundation forked out $360,000 last year to transport and care for horses before finding them welcoming paddocks around the country. Field says that two-thirds of the money came from his own pocket.

When both sides of the slaughter issue were trying to influence Congress, the packing industry drew a picture of tens of thousands of horses starving by the roadside.

Animal welfare groups dismissed those dire predictions, insisting that enough generous Americans would come forth to underwrite the $750 to $1,000 needed annually to support a horse, or that owners would unhesitatingly hand over several hundred dollars to have a sickly animal euthanized and its carcass hauled off.

Either outcome was put off last year when the three foreign-owned slaughter plants in operation in this country side-stepped a new federal law that stripped funding for USDA inspections by covering the cost themselves, using a so-called fee-for-service rule.

Then, in January, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Texas law banning horse slaughter for human consumption. This forced Dutch-owned Beltex in Fort Worth to close down processing operations entirely, and Belgian-operated Dallas Crown in nearby Kaufman to begin slaughtering for non-human consumption only, supplying the much smaller zoo market.

The nation's third plant, Cavel International of DeKalb, Illinois, operated several months longer under a temporary court order after Illinois passed a ban. Governor Rod Blagojevich finally signed the law banning horse slaughter for human consumption on May 24, although, under a temporary restraining order, the plant continued to slaughter a limited number of horses through the month of June.

Three days earlier, the Texas legislature let die a bill that would have again made slaughter legal. On May 22, the U.S. Supreme Court appeared to seal the two Texas plants' fate when it refused to hear their petition to overturn a federal appeals court ruling that upheld a state law against horse slaughter.

For more of this story, see the August issue of Western Horseman.

Friday, August 24, 2007

My Little HelpersClara wanted to help me with the fence. She started by licking my fingers and wiping her slimy nose on them so I couldn't twist the wire without risking putting it up her nostril. Then she decided maybe she'd just hold the fence in place with her forehead. (I am very careful not to encourage butting by rubbing her forehead, but every now and then she gets ideas and just has to press her forehead on something.)

Tonka wanted to help too, but didn't quite know what to do with this stuff. Little did he know I was stringing a strand of electric to keep him from pawing at the fence at feeding time.

Here you see Tonka helping by providing a distraction while Lyric is learning to ground tie. He rifled through the grooming things, hoping for a tasty treat, since I wasn't giving him any. Lyric was smart, he didn't fall for it. He did look, but his feet stayed put.

I'm not sure whether Tonka is offering Lyric moral support or hoping he'll get rewarded as well if he stands there nicely. He did briefly think about picking up the lead rope and taking Lyric for a walk, but I let him know that I did NOT consider that helpful.
Poor kid. He SO wanted to be part of things. I did give him some love and groomed him a bit, but it wasn't his turn for training.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Once again I apologize for the lack of anything interesting going on in the mustang department. Today I plan on working on fence. Probably all day long. With little rest periods like right now. I'm rearranging my fence lines just a tad. I need to make my "sacrifice area" larger so I don't feel so bad locking them in off the pasture, then end up letting them out anyway to tear it up and over graze. I can't decide exactly what I want to do for permanent fencing, so I think i'm just going to put in some temporary posts and cheap tape and see if I like how it works over the winter. If I like it, maybe I'll put in better fencing in the spring. Or just leave it the way it is, if it weathers well without getting too tacky looking. After all, we don't need really stout fencing inside, so long as the perimeter is safe.

We may be taking in a couple horses to board, so I'll be cleaning up in general and doing some other fence fixes in that area. Fun stuff. I really do enjoy it, other than the fact that my elbow hurts and it's hot work. It's so quiet and peaceful, and fun to watch the horses notice the major change and how they react to it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It's raining! Yay! It smells so wonderful out there. I don't even mind (too much) that the rain is keeping me from working on my round pen. We were going to try to finish it today. But instead it's been a beautifully lazy day. And some inside work... I still think I might ride later. Too bad we don't have a babysitter or a good pony, we could all go ride.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

You may have wondered after yesterday's post whether the horses would actually eat all that hay that was strewn about, or if they'd miss a lot because it was so spread out. I wondered the same thing actually. But tonight when I went to spread the hay out again, I did not see even one missed bit of hay. Efficient critters. I've done this before, but I don't remember ever checking to see if they actually ate it all.

Question: How much hay does a horse eat over a winter? I'm thinking 10 months. How can winter be that long? Hmm... Start feeding late July. Out on pasture May 1 (hopefully). Well, that still makes just under 10 months. Jeez. I thought I was saving all this money having them out on pasture... I know it's variable, but what do you figure per month per horse, for grass hay?

Friday, August 17, 2007

First, a couple of pictures from an interesting perspective:

I had decided to sit down and watch the horses, and of course Tonka had to mosey over and see what I was up to. I turned out to be rather uninteresting, so he moseyed on...

Then it was time to feed. I have been lazy lately and just thrown flakes of hay to them. Tonight I was having such fun hanging out with them that I decided to do better by them, and prolong my "horse time." One of the important parts of natural hoof care is encouraging movement. It's really not that hard to do, if you have a herd that functions normally.

First, spread the hay out over a large area. My goal was to have many large fistfulls in a long circle, all within sight of the last bite, so they wouldn't miss and waste any hay. You can kind of see an arc of small piles of hay if you look closely at this picture.

Then watch it work. Here they're following the trail of crumbs:

Here Tonka's trying the back of the line again.

Then trying hanging out with Soxy again.

Lyric has other ideas, and tells Tonka to "step away from the mare."

Tonka obliges.

And moseys on to look for a friend to eat with.

Mack thought about telling him to go away, but I think he decided it wasn't worth his time. Tonka's kind of like the pesky little brother, not really liked because of his young horse behavior, but tolerated.

They're probably still milling around out there right now. Moving, biting, chewing, moving, digesting, chewing, moving, socializing, moving...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I know I've been lax in posting. The truth is, I haven't spent much time with Tonka in several days. Running running.

Tonight I had planned on riding, but was just too exhausted. Tonka didn't seem to mind. :) He was very cute tonight, all bright eyed and happy, waiting for his hay. He's the only horse here who isn't fat. Must be because he's growing. I like how he looks, all slab-sided, without the sprung ribs and big belly. I really want to keep him that way. But I have a hard time not over-feeding, apparently.

If you want to see what I've been up to the last couple days, visit my Horse Tales blog. It's been temporarily taken over by a dog.

I'm going to bed! I have an early morning, going to the vet.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A short break during our ride today. He's taking a snooze while I discourse about some subject on which I am an expert. Not really, I don't know what I was talking about...

Gotta go back to Spokane! Check my Horse Tales blog later for fun stuff from today.
And some not so fun...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Today we played with branches. I rubbed them all over him and laid them over his back out in the pasture, without a halter. His head was up and he was tense in the beginning, but he didn't leave, and after half a minute he really wasn't worried about it.

Tonight I set them up so he could walk over them and he did fine. Set one on a table and he brushed by it on both sides. Worked on going over poles. He did not want to back or step sideways over them. That took a little while. Then we rode, did some trotting, came back to the obstacles. He went over the poles, then WANTED to get on the black patch of bare ground, and stood there and rested. Then we went over the branch on the hay bales, as you see above but with me aboard. First time he stalled, so we did it again and he walked right over. Then we rode back to the barn and called it a night. I unknowingly rode right under my most vocal chicken, roosting in a tree. Luckily she was asleep.

Oh, and when we were working on branches my little guy woke up from a nap (passed out on the couch just before dinner) and came to spend some time with us.

Isn't that just sweet!

Here's what I think is a NICE picture of Tonka yesterday. That's my sister aboard. She shows and owns QHs and is not real partial to mustangs. She wanted to check out just what he could do, and she was TICKLED with him. She said she'd buy him if I was selling, which I am NOT.

Her opinion: He's smooth as a cadillac, much smoother than her Quarter Horse, who has nigh perfect conformation. He was very willing, very quick to pick up on her different way of riding, and had "her" cues figured out the second time she asked him to respond to them. She was pleasantly surprised. I can't believe she liked him well enough to buy him. That's really saying a lot! Makes me happy!

Watching what she could do with him really made me realize I need to schedule some more lessons. He's a talented boy, and he knows his stuff, and he ENJOYS it! You should have seen his sweet, happy eye as he was trotting circles around me. I need to get some more finesse.

After we rode, I tried my easyboots on him, and the fronts fit, just barely. I think the hinds will fit too. His feet are polished smooth by the footing at the training arena, and he slides a lot on the dead grass. I'm hoping the boots will help with that. I also agreed to buy her professional's choice leg boots. He's such a clumsy young colt at times, she is worried that if he knocks his naked legs he'll start to be resistant to certain maneuvers. I don't have hind splint boots wide enough for his big ol' mustang bone, so I'll have to find those. Darn it all, I liked my hind boots! But I hadn't tried them on him since he was smaller, and he definitely got bigger.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Tonight while I trimmed Mack, Tonka got to stand tied and play around with the lead rope and tie post until he decided it was better just to nap and watch the cows. Then I quickly checked over his hooves and touched them up, and we went on to more fly spray training.

Normally I'd start with a bottle of water since I don't want to waste fly spray or put too much on them. He's such a quick study though, so I used the real thing. Same as before, I rubbed him with the bottle and then worked on spraying. He did really well on his left side, I didn't even have to untie him. We worked on the right for quite a while with him really tense and wanting to get away, so I untied him and let him move. He took about 3 steps sideways, stopped, so I stopped spraying. Next spray he took two steps, next spray he just twitched, then started eating grass and not minding much at all.

I'll leave you with a picture of Tonka checking out what was clearly a "horse grinder" at the show yesterday. He was quite afraid of it at first, but I explained that horse grinders don't function unless the horse actually steps into it, so he maintained a more relaxed vigilance.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

We had quite a landmark day! It was awesome. I entered Tonka in the trail competition, which was by no means extreme. We had to go for score only, no prize, because they didn't allow in-hand for any horse over 2 years old. Which I think is hooey. We did the in-hand simply because I wasn't sure how he'd handle a lot of the stuff.

Scoring - you start with 10 points for each obstacle and they can either deduct or add to that, so you can score anywhere from 0-20.

Let me give you a blow-by-blow :)

Saddling up

Stand in the "wait box" which is a rectangle of poles - 8 pts.

Gate - 12 points!

Drag Snake/log around 2 trees (corrugated plastic pipe that sounds weird against trees) - 7 points
He didn't care about the pipe, strangely enough, but was worried about the change in terrain after the second tree. It had been wet in the past and was all rough with tire tracks and looked like it might still be wet.

Wait box again - 6 points. Had trouble getting all feet in and keeping them there. I think he actually did better at this one than the first though...

Go by tent - 10 points (he had already gone by a tent when dragging the "log" - not an obstacle, just a camper on the edge of the course.)

Clean a fore and rear hoof - 5 points. He didn't stand still, I had to wait for him to stop swinging his hind end away. And apparently my hoof cleaning "style" is unsafe.

"Low branch" (strips of tarp) - 10. He didn't bat an eyelash!!! I thought he should have gotten extra points.

Turn on forehand around one stump, turn on haunches around another, making a figure 8. We did not do well on this one. He wanted to lick the first stump but turned well, and didn't understand very well at all on the second. We'd probably have done better under saddle where I could use my legs. 5 points. (I think we're backing up to the second stump in the picture)

Wait box - 10 (becoming a pro at this!)

Down hill over logs, back up hill over logs (he did GREAT with this one, I thought he might have a hard time backing up, but he did it well and straight.) 10 points

Dead end. Go to end of trail, put front feet across chalk line, do rollback without falling off the "cliff" (small drop off with railroad ties) 10 points! (no pic of this, and he did so well!)

Bridge - 7 points. He jumped off the side toward the end, so we turned right back around and did it again, much better and with no jumping off :)

Go through pack camp - llama with attitude! 10 points. He was cautiously watching the outhouse, not the llama, strangely enough. Good boy!

What I found offensive were some of the things they docked points for! I'm not sure this applied to in-hand, since it's considered a training exercise, but it did for under saddle. You lost points if you talked to or petted your horse. If you stood wrong or mounted wrong or rested your hands wrong. That's equitation crap, not trail. I guess in future I might want to be more serious with my horse, but for now I'm going to tell him "good boy" every chance I get. He knows what it means, and it makes him feel good. Maybe when we're more seasoned I can be more poised and serious.

This was nothing like the trail challenge Danni and I did in the spring. That one took HOURS, and was very challenging. This one was only about 10 minutes, if that. A bit longer for mounted riders, since they had to negotiate a slide down into a water pit.

We went on our first trail ride too! It was wonderful! Tonka was interested and happy, but very watchful. It was also John's first trail ride on Mack and he had a LOT of fun. So did Mack.

Friday, August 03, 2007

As usual I gotta tell you, I love my horse! He never did get that bath. I had to go over to my sister's and spend some time with my parents, so I took Tonka along, since she and I both wanted to ride before we go to the Trail Challenge tomorrow. I dropped Danni off at her prospective new home on the way there. They'll be trying her out for a couple weeks before they decide. Tonka waited patiently in the trailer while I chatted and watched her get settled in. Once we got to my sister's he was very interested in all the goings-on. He's so cute, the way he looks so intently at things with his big ears. He hung out in their arena for a while, then I took him for a walk down the road to see how he'd handle all the tall grass in the wind. We went over a wooden bridge that he was rather suspicious of. It's a big one that cars cross, so we had plenty of room, and he couldn't really rush over it. He looked like a cat with tape on his paws. Silly boy. But he didn't do anything stupid at all. We crossed it four times and went back. He was really interested in the horses running around on either side of the road, but not too worried or excited. I took him back to the arena along a path strewn with extension cords, hoses, PVC pipe, a ladder off to the side, a tarp flapping in the wind, a garbage can, etc. He was cautious and very attentive, but didn't do anything other than look and walk carefully. Later we saddled up and rode. He was a little dull, but that's really my only complaint. Todd had said I'll have to put him in a twisted wire bit every now and then for a day or so to remind him to listen. I needed it today. I'll be using one tomorrow. Well, not twisted wire, but slow twist. I was worried those square edges would hurt, but this bit I got is nice and rounded. If I were brave enough to wear spurs, I'd use those too. He was really blowing off my legs at times today. But I am not a good enough rider for spurs. I couldn't guarantee I'd keep them off him at all times other than when they're necessary.

We walked over poles, trotted around a bit, then moved out across the hay field to the water crossing. It was really just a mud crossing, but the mud was thick and deepish - nothing dangerous - and the banks were good experience. The near bank is gradual but kind of a valley-like avenue through tall grass. The far bank was steep and tall. I walked him across first, then rode him across several times. He did so well! Hauled us up the steep bank like a pro, and slid back down on his haunches without any trouble. My sister was watching him and said he's sure-footed as a goat. I watched her QH go up and down it, and he's clumsy! She laughs at him, but is glad that he never actually falls down. I got to show him off to her sister-in-law too, who is a former rodeo princess and I think maybe a breed snob. She thought Tonka was a Walker. I said nope, he's a mustang, but he does look like a Walker. She said, "No way, he's all mustang?" YEP. That's my boy.

It was pretty cool, my sister finally admitting that Tonka is a good horse. She said it with such disbelief too. "He really IS a good horse. I was worried for a while there..." She said he was all about trying to please the whole time we were working on the crossing. AND she thinks we should go ahead and enter the competition tomorrow. I don't think so! But if it's super simple we might... No, really, I don't think so.

I had some pretty pictures of him from today, but I forgot my camera there. I hope she remembers to bring it for me tomorrow! I want pictures of our fun day!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

We went on another trip, and I was so happy to get back to my horses. I had a great time on the trip, don't get me wrong! It was wonderful, but I kept wishing I had my Tonka with me. I will take him there eventually, but he's not ready for that kind of rugged wilderness yet!

Today was really hot and I didn't really feel well at all. I was thinking I wasn't going to have any horse time, but I finally decided I had to do SOMETHING, and spending time with the horses isn't that hard. I didn't even consider riding because I was having some dizzy spells. I got Tonka and Soxy out together and let them both stand tied. Soxy doesn't need practice, but she did need her bridle path trimmed, so I did that, then let Liam brush her and love on her.

Tonka got his mane done up all pretty, since it was threatening to switch sides in a couple places. Then I introduced him to the fly spray bottle. Not spraying it with him tied, but letting him sniff it and rubbing it on him. He didn't want anything to do with it at first, but then he got more comfortable and tried his teeth on it. So we set it down and moved on to saddling. He's still really uncomfortable with being saddled. Once it's on he's fine, and he doesn't care about the cinch, but it's the approach and setting down of the saddle or saddle blanket that bother him. And during his week off he seems to have forgotten he knows what this is about. So he did a little dancing but accepted the blanket. When he dropped his head I'd remove it. Took him about two times to realize that he'd trained me to take it off when he dropped his head. Smart horse. Then I put the saddle on the tie post next to him, left the blanket on, and went to get some detangler/conditioner because his tail was looking a bit icky. Mind you, I am not a stickler for brushed and pretty tails. As a matter of fact this is the first time I've ever brushed his tail out completely. I like tails in their natural state, with their pretty curls. And I think that too much brushing ruins them. But his ends were looking a bit dry, and I'm going to bathe him tomorrow anyway, so I decided to get it all greasy and brush it. Also note, I'm not big on bathing horses. I don't think I've ever used soap on any of the horses here. I did bathe my percheron mare a couple times... But I want him to be pretty for the trail competition on Saturday. Not that he isn't pretty. It's kind of for fun, kind of because I imagine it will feel good to get the dust and sweat off, and kind of because I want him to be a good example for his breed. Don't want people thinking, "Eww, look at that nasty mustang."

Then I saddled, unsaddled, and on and on, without cinching because that isn't where the issue lies. Once again he trained me to take the saddle off when he lowered his head and relaxed.

Then John had to go to the store. I have been wondering how he might do with creeping traffic, since I know he's had a lot of exposure right next to highway traffic, but didn't know how he'd react to slow moving, "sneaky" mobiles. I told John to creep by on his way out. Not a problem at all.

Untied him, worked on fly spraying. Left side was not that big a deal, but did involve a bit of moving around. I'd rub with the bottle, then spray while I rubbed, so I wasn't coming out of the blue and startling him. Eventually I sprayed all over, even under his belly and on his sheath. Really not that big a deal. The right side was another story. Start from scratch, rubbing with the bottle. Spray, freak out, continue to spray, stop and stand, stop spraying. Not really that big a deal, but a bit more active on that side. He's not an old hand at it yet, but he did get to where he'd stand still for it, and we called it good.

Oh, and in the middle of that John got back. Tonka was standing with his hind end in the driveway, perpendicular to traffic. I left him there. John rather nervously creeped by about 2 feet behind Tonka. He was happy there was no dented car. Tonka looked at him, but that was about it. Good boy!

Sorry for the boring play-by-play, I know it's probably not all that exciting. But it was for me! I love my smart horse, and just had to write all about his good training session, even though it's not all that interesting to an outsider... You all know how that goes, the little triumphs and elations, that you know seem small to others but are really wonderful. Kind of a "you had to be there" sort of thing.