Sunday, May 31, 2009

Colt starting blatherings... I don't know if I make any sense and I'm afraid I'm not saying what I'm trying to say, but here you go:

I went and watched Bella's fourth ride with my sister today and it really got me thinking.

Bella had the notorious Third Ride yesterday and threw in a little buck that would have become a big bucking fit had my sister not shut her down. But they got through it and the ride ended very well.

My thoughts as I watched today's ride, which was very good but had a few bad moments, were that she needs to slow down, bond more, and make it easier on Bella.

Amy knows more about training than I do and has more experience with more horses. But as she cited all the things she's read, heard, and seen stating that all colts have a bad third ride, I got to wondering whether that needs to be the case. These trainers that make that statement, are they all in a hurry to turn out a finished product ASAP? Or do they have in mind the fact that they're building a lifelong bond of trust and willingness to work? I know that they end up with a good horse even if they go quickly. The horse figures it out and moves on, but would there be fewer battles and less confusion if they slowed down, made the confusing things more clear, or at least instilled a trust in the horse that would make them try despite their doubt as to the outcome? Would the horse need to get confused and get angry and defensive? Or if done the way I'm thinking makes sense to me, would they be spoiled and never learn to deal with stress and stimuli?

What I saw with Bella wasn't willfulness just to see what she could get away with. She was overloaded and decided she needed to do something about it. Why should the third ride be bad when the third leading lesson wasn't? The third trailer loading wasn't, even though she was scared. She knew me and trusted me and decided to do what I asked even though it didn't feel right. And then I wonder if there were some hard parts I'm forgetting about. Maybe there was a Third (Something) that I just forgot because it was over quickly and we moved on.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with pushing through a bad ride, getting to the other side and showing the horse that they can deal with a little stress. I just wonder if it doesn't have to be that way all the time, if you get creative and start looking at the horse's point of view, mix things up a bit and do something the horse is good at in between asking for new and confusing things. Maybe ride for a shorter amount of time, once they've got the basic gist of what you're telling them that day, while they're still trying and before they get overdone and start to get rebellious.

I'm not making much sense... I guess at the heart of my thoughts is this questioning whether all these training gurus do things in a businesslike way that works for them, when a horse owner might do them in a friendly way that makes more sense for the bond between the horse and rider... Does that make sense? I think I'm right about the situation with Bella. But I wonder if I'm generalizing too much and being too mushy thinking that it could work that way for a lot of other horses if they were trained in a different way. Because there is something to be said for teaching quickly and clearly. Why take hours to explain something when it can be taught in minutes by the right teacher with the right feel and timing? It's got to be easier and less boring to the horse a to learn it and move on, get out of the round pen and get to doing a job. But what if they're not being stubborn but just confused or over-stimulated? Is there such thing as a stubborn, willful horse? Or just a confused, scared, and maybe defensive horse? I think I may have known a couple stubborn horses, but now that I really get to thinking about it, were they stubborn or was there something else going on? A lack of leadership? Fear? Lack of trust? Confusion? Sensory overload?

Maybe I'm being too soft. Not sure as of now. But the more I think I've learned the more it makes me wonder if there are other things that are just as right, and maybe more right in the eyes of the horse and in terms of trust. We all know there's more than one way to do most things.

I'm not judging my sister's training, mind you. What she's doing is great. They'd be totally fine without my blathering about trust and nonsense. She was very interested in my feedback and wants to make sure she's doing the right thing by Bella. I think a little more bonding is in order, but she's doing a good job of that too. Maybe shorter sessions, and sometimes go for a walk or something else that Bella seems to enjoy doing but can also be considered bonding and training. Amy is doing a WONDERFUL job and Bella has come a long way in her saddle training in just 4 days. Really amazing, the difference in her comfort level. I thing they're doing just fine, but this got me thinking on a different level, wondering about a lot of things. Probably I just don't know what the heck I'm talking about... I'm not quite sure I really know what it is I'm trying to say... I guess what I do, I do from the heart. I do what feels right at the moment. I hope that doesn't mean I'm ruining my horses. I hope my intuition is correct. I think my horses are okay. I know I screw up sometimes. What a journey this is...
On Friday I rode out at Melissa's place. I had forgotten my camera so I had to wait for her to email me pictures. Her mare was flauntingly flirting with my Tonka.

He seemed happy for the chance to get his lips on her, but not in the way she wanted. :) He's more of a prankster than a romantic.

Melissa's mare is named Jewel, a name that doesn't roll off the tongue easily and that she's always forgetting. It's like it isn't the right name for her. But she hasn't come up with anything else, so I think she's going to keep the name.

My sister has two equines, a horse and a mule, that I'm not sure she's settled on names for. One she calls The Paint Mare and I think the mule's name is Strider but she usually refers to him as My Mule. The Paint Mare is looking for a new home, that is, as long as Amy decides to keep Bella. She has come up with a new name for Bella that I really don't like, but it was inevitable since she had the audacity to name her dog Bella last spring. Her new name is Camria, which means "moonlight" in Swahili. I guess there was a pretty red horse with that name in Hidalgo. I wouldn't be surprised if she changes her mind several times and ends up calling Bella "The Mustang."

I didn't name Bella, and was kind of happy to let John do the naming. I'm getting to the point where it's hard for me to come up with names. It took me a while to find just the right name for Khota Tonka, my Great Friend. I also had a little bit of a hard time naming Scout, but when the name came to me I knew it was right. He was scrappy like Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.

If I'm lucky, I won't be naming any new critters for a long time. It's a big responsibility and it's hard work. For me, anyway. Names are very important to me.

This blog is inspired by Kara, who is looking for the right name for The Mare. Drop by her blog and check out her ideas or maybe leave a suggestion. That pretty mare needs a special name. I think I like Kachina a lot.

Are there special meanings behind any of your horse's names? Do you put a lot of agonizing thought into them or are you happy with something simple that describes them, like Blaze or Midnight? How many of you have to think up fancy registered names with bloodlines in them? I would have a tough time with that!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

This guy is such a neat little horse.

He still doesn't like to be touched. I'm thinking these little walks where he looks to me for reassurance will help build his trust.
We had a great ride today, just me and John and the boys.

Saw some deer and a big ol' wild turkey. They all ran (or flew) away too fast for any pictures.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I only had a few minutes with Zaz today but he made me so happy! I went in and asked him to "c'mere" using the appropriate body language and after a little maneuvering he followed me real nicely around the round pen. He definitely retained what he learned yesterday. Now that his feet are unstuck and he's making the choice to be with me (instead of me making him with a lead rope) I'm hoping his mind will start to unstick and he'll become more accepting of people and their strange ways. We spent some time just standing together, him sniffing me and real relaxed about checking me out. That was all he had to do today, and it was a real positive experience for us both.
Well, I sure feel better now. I hauled Tonka and Bella over to my sister's and we left Bella in the round pen and went for a ride. It's funny, she tells me about the miles and miles she rides on the farm roads out there, but for some reason or other when I ride with her we always turn back at the same tree, which I would guess is two miles out at the very most. Today Levi's shoulder was bothering him. (Levi is her horse.) Usually it's Levi's health issues that turn us around. Which is why she needs a horse like Bella to take into the mountains.

Here's my fella parked by the road. It's nice to know just about anything can go by (and has, at her house where they farm) and he'll be sensible.

When we got back she tried to show me some Clinton Anderson thing on gentling a mustang, but I swear I have the attention span of a gnat. I have to be in just the right frame of mind to want to watch TV. And really, how many times does a person need to watch a trainer chase a horse around a round pen? I know, I know, there's always something to be learned...

When I went out to say goodbye to Bella Amy just couldn't keep her hands off her. Then she wanted to try her saddle on her and it's a good fit and looks wonderful on Bella.

And then of course she had to ride her.

And she'll probably ride her again tonight.

Bella wasn't 100% comfortable, but what can you expect when I've only been on her a couple times and she was in a new place with a new person. Can you tell my sister was ready to bail at any moment? She can hop off pretty fast. I sure wish she'd put on a helmet though. Bella wasn't being bad at all, just not relaxed with the whole process.

Bella's walking away, but not far, and she's in good hands.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I'm hauling Bella away tomorrow. My sister is going to work with her and see if she wants her. I don't think I've ever done anything this hard before. I love that horse. But I've been thinking of downsizing anyway because I'm just so dang tired all the time. Life is too busy and each horse takes so much time. This would be the perfect home for her. Because of her stifle issue she needs regular exercise and she's not getting it here. My sister rides every day. She's always felt a special connection with Bella. This will also give me more time to concentrate on Tonka. No matter how much I tell myself this is the right thing, it sure feels bad. :(

I rode Tonka today too, and it was mostly just frustrating. He wasn't with it today at all. He was handsome though. Ooh, I forgot I have pictures.

Apparently my photography skills were lacking today. But that's okay, he's still cute.

In better news, Zaz is making progress. The four days I was gone didn't help the little guy along at all, but he's coming along again now. I took him out of the round pen for a walk today, and then later he "hooked up" in the round pen. That was VERY hard for him to do, it was almost like his feet were glued to the ground.

It was a good day, but as usual I am completely wiped out and I didn't get most of the things on my to-do list done.

Monday, May 25, 2009

We just got home not long ago. What a long day. We were on the road for 11 hours! What the heck? It's never taken that long before. I guess we stopped a lot.

The critters seem happy to see us. I know I was happy to see them. I shared a little quiet time with Zaz. My poor horse probably thinks I've left him for another gelding. But Zaz needs that quiet time more, and my time with him is limited.

We made a big loop this weekend, about 550 miles total. Over to the Western Washington via White Pass (I love that drive), then down through the gorge to Walla Walla and up toward home. That's the fourth time I've been through the gorge in 2009. It's getting a little boring. BUT we did see a big group of male bighorn sheep right up close. That was very cool. Didn't stop for pictures. Still kicking myself for that. We saw some mountain goats later in the drive. That was cool, its' been a long time since I've seen any of those.

We were going through Waitsburg on the way home and I detoured through downtown to see the controversial building that Linda blogged about a while back.

It was interesting, but the rest of the town was neat. I want to go here for lunch one of these days:

Okay, I'm off to bed. Travelling sure wears me out!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I had 20 minutes. It wasn't a free 20 minutes since I'd pay for it later. I was putting off a to-do list a mile long but I grabbed a cup of coffee, a book, a chair, and of course my camera and headed for the round pen.

The little horse stood as far away as he could, watching me. Waiting to see what I would make him do. I sat. I read. I drank my coffee. Occasionally I looked at him. I hollered hello to the old man, who twitched an ear at me and went back to his nap. The little horse flicked flies. He shifted his weight slightly. But mostly he watched. Eventually he put down his head and let out a big breath, but still he stood and watched.

I finished my chapter and stood up. I wanted so bad to go pet him. I debated with myself. I thought I should sit back down, but I didn't want to sit back down. I compromised, deciding I could approach but not touch. I walked over, ignoring him, and I looked at the other horses. Then I walked over and stood next to him. He watched me with open curiosity, not backing away. Curiosity won, and I felt his whiskers tickle my arm. I turned away and sat down. He let out a huge sigh, licked and chewed.

A bird landed on the fence and brought my attention to the peaceful view. The sky with a few clouds, the green, the quiet. I looked, took it all in, enjoyed the moment.

Two steps. The little horse moved his feet for the first time! Several more steps and he was with me. Sniff-sniffle-sniff. Arm, hand, hair, hat. Big grin. A few quiet moments of investigation, and then my 20 minutes was up.

With a little bit of nothing... Sometimes all you have to do is show up - just you, open and empty - and let the world fill in the details.
I've been slacking in my blogging, and in my horse work. Don't worry though, I haven't been bored! Busy with life. VERY busy.

Anyway, Zaz had a couple days with very little people interaction. The weather was very cold and windy and he wasn't dealing well with it so I decided it would be best to leave him be, plus I had a lot of other things to concentrate on.

Yesterday my sister just couldn't handle it, she had to come over and meet him. She worked with him and came to the same conclusions I had come to. "There's nothing wrong with that horse." He is a horse that you don't want to try to work with through "round penning." He'd much rather run than be near a person. So you have to give him a little help, get him on a long line and work with him gently and consistently. Be clear, repeat yourself if necessary, but do not get too big.

We also agree that he's probably used to people "sneaking" around him. He can't handle it when I pause to pull up my pants, or move to put my hands in my pockets, or cough, much less do jumping jacks and silly dances. So there will be a lot of jumping jacks and silly dances in his future. It's really important not to be too quiet and sneak around a horse, or you end up with a spooky horse, not vice-versa.

He's very light, picks up on the slightest body movement. Just today he learned the difference between me marching and flapping my elbows around him and toward him. With around, he stood and watched (although he was uncomfortable), and with toward he backed up out of my space, which was what I wanted.

Today we worked more on lungeing. He can walk and trot, knows the cues for both and transitions nicely. His whoa is pretty dependable but not perfect, and he needs to learn that he doesn't need to try to come in to me when he stops. So I back him up a couple steps. I haven't asked him to stop perpendicular to me. He wants to face up, and I'm willing to take that right now rather than confuse him. He's learning to lunge in a figure 8 very nicely.

I'm really pleased with his progress, other than the fact that he still thinks my guts stink. He does NOT want to be touched. He'll allow it but he's totally not cool with it. Hasn't struck out or anything, but at times you can tell the thought is there.

He's smart. He's willing to learn when he has to. But given the choice, at this point, he'd rather run than try to figure people out. My plan today is to keep working on the stuff he's good at, and throw in some desensitizing with the stick and string, if I can find my string...

Starting tomorrow I'll be gone for 4 days. I'm really not happy with losing that much time with Zaz, not to mention missing out on some great riding weather. But there's nothing I can do about it. Maybe I can get John to read a book in the round pen or something.

For your amusement, my two playful boys:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I almost forgot to post pictures of Bella and Scout to show Kara how close they are in size. I think there's only a difference of 3 inches at the very most, and his rump is probably even with hers right now. I think he'll probably outgrow her, but he could surprise me. He's not even quite 14 months old yet, so I think he should have a good amount of growing left to do.

Not the most flattering pictures, but they show both of them together:

I didn't have time for any horse work yesterday. We had a surprise sheep work day. I got to take my friend Laura along, and she took pictures and enjoyed the company of some bottle babies while we worked.

The flood of sheep:

Happy Angus:

Cute little lambs:

Melissa bringing another bottle baby to keep Laura company.
He's getting to be too big for that kind of handling. :)

We got home just in time for the kids, then had to do a rushed early dinner before the softball game, which ran until almost nine. Those people need to realize that kids need their sleep! Especially the younger siblings who are there watching. The girls lost the game but improved as it went on. Liam was an angel the whole time.

This afternoon will be even worse for running around, since we have t-ball, softball, and a band concert. May is a rough month. But I can get some work done while they're in school, so that's good. Hopefully I'll have some horse updates for you later.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Today was an excellent horsey day. First I took Zaz a bucket of grass, changed his halter, and groomed him a bunch. Later I went out again and got him started on learning to lunge and leading a little better. I also wrapped the weight tape around him, he's about 750 lbs. He didn't mind the tape too much, once I'd introduced him to it. He got to meet Laura up close, and he was kind of nervous. He stuck his nose on me for reassurance like he would with a trusted horse friend. That was sweet and flattering.

Here's a picture of Bella and Scout that I just love. They were kinda grumpy with each other, I think Bella was trying to tell Scout she wanted her back scratched. But other than the ears it's a pretty pose.

I got Tonka out and took him for a short ride. The first since my concussion. He was his same self, pretty good but not perfect. :) He'd probably be perfect if not for me and my imperfections.

While I was saddling up Zaz kept sneaking up to say hi.

I didn't want them striking at each other through the fence so I kept shooing him off (although I must say they were being pretty good). This is what he did when I chased him off the first couple times:

He's got some nice animation there!

While I rode Liam waited patiently for his turn. He and Zaz made friends.

Then he got to ride his horse and he had a blast.

What a great day!

(Oh yeah, I also put fly spray on Zaz. He was curious and a little flinchy but never even moved his feet. What a good boy!)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I got to spend another short session with Zaz this evening, and I really think he is a good horse. Skeptical sometimes, and he does get fed up and get a hard eye sometimes, but it's usually when I push for something he's not ready to give. He hasn't offered to kick at all yet, other than when I threw a flake of hay right behind his feet while my dog was distracting him, and that was just a little scared spurt forward with a half-hearted kick (at the hay, not me). He's already leading better and starting to relax more often. I'm really impressed with how well he dealt with such a huge change. He acts almost like nothing happened. The drive to get him here was probably 2, maybe 2 1/2 hours. He loaded and hauled really nicely.

Kara asked where he's from. I've seen it spelled so many different ways, I'll list them all. Beatty Butte, Beaty's Butte, Beatty's Butte, Beattys Butte. In Oregon. Whichever way you spell it, all the horses I've seen from there were pretty. Linda, Lea, Kara and Arlene all have horses from that HMA. You can check out their blogs to see what they have to say about their horses. Linda's filly's name is Beautiful, Lea's is Rusty, Kara's gelding is Chico, and Arlenes boys are Wildairo and Echo. I hear they may be doing an emergency gathther of the HMA this fall since the horses don't have enough to eat. Same thing they did with Tonka's herd last year. Zaz was adopted by a member of the Mustang Club in Spokane, after lots of encouragement by me, I might add. I fell in love with him at both the Odessa and the Spokane adoption last year, and she adopted him in Pasco. Her daughter was in love with him as well (and was very good at handling him today, for such a young girl) and she named him Zaz.

So... On to information about adopting this sweet mustang gelding. If you adopt him before he's titled, which will be within the next month, his reassignment fee is only $25 and you will have to keep him and care for him for a year before receiving his title from the BLM. Quite a bargain! That's how I adopted my first mustang.

If you wait until he's titled, he will be for sale. I don't know what his sale amount will be. I think his adopter is more interested in finding him a good home than making money, as she has offered me money from his sale. I'm not interested in making money, I consider anything I put into him to be tuition for his teaching me. But if you'd like to make a donation I wouldn't turn it away. :) I'm not sure about offering him to the public for free, as that might attract all the wrong types of people. What do you all think about offering a horse for free? Not that it's my call, since he's not mine. Just thought I'd ask.
Meet Zaz.

Isn't he cute?

So far he seems like a pretty good boy

Just look at that noble mustang head:

Zaz was adopted almost a year ago and is looking for a new home. Partially because of his size. He's a little guy, I think around 13.3, which is the same height as Scout is right now. But Zaz is 3 or so years old so he's probably not going to grow to be a big horse.

The other reason he needs a new home is that his owner thinks he's a dominant horse, and that's not exactly what she was looking for. I think he might be a lot like Tonka, constantly testing boundaries, but from what I'm told he's a little less friendly about it. He swishes his tail when he wants to dismiss the human, and has kicked out at feeding time. He doesn't really lead but he doesn't seem too worried about much, which is a good thing. I'm not starting totally from scratch and I already got to visit with him quite a bit.

So anyway, I'm going to play with him for a month and then take him to Mustang Days in Spokane. If he finds a home, that will be great. If not he can go back to his current home, which is also great, because I won't have to be responsible for him long term!