Saturday, February 26, 2011

The horses made it through the night just fine. I shouldn't have worried. We got down to -7 according to my thermometer's memory. I'm glad it doesn't snow when it gets that cold so the horses' coats stay dry and fluffy. Normally I don't worry about cold when it's dry, but Tonka has big shaved spots and there was supposed to be wind. There is wind today, but at least we're up to 18 degrees now. I'm keeping them well fed and carrying water to put right under their little noses. They ought to be just fine.

Tonka seems a little depressed, but that's nothing new. He hasn't been eating near the other boys, and sometimes stands at the gate like he wants me to take him away from there. But he plays with them at other times. I think Cisco is singling him out to pick on around the feed since Scout isn't easily bullied.

And now I'm off to go entertain my bored kids!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Five degrees and falling. Low tonight is supposed to be -6. And my horses think their water is going to shock them. I unplugged the trough heater yesterday when I took Tonka to the trough and saw him very carefully feeling the water with his whiskers and his tongue, unwilling to drink until I unplugged. I bought a new trough heater today. When I got home I led them all to the trough because I could tell they hadn't been there in two days (no tracks in the snow). I guess they've been eating snow and maybe drinking out of the ditch. None of them were happy about sticking their nose in there when we got there. Scout was the only one who would take a sip. Which makes me wonder if the new heater is defective and they're still getting a zing, or if the horses are just afraid of that trough now. So I dragged a different one in there and filled it part way with water, and left the heater in the other in case they get brave enough to drink. I hope nobody colics. I'm tempted to salt their hay but if they eat salt and then don't drink it can make things worse.

Well, at least it isn't windy like they had predicted. That would be awful in this cold. I was really worried about Tonka getting through this, he's more frail than the others, so I went on a blanket shopping trip today. (After making 9 attempts to get out of my driveway and finally succeeding.) Long story short, I couldn't find a heavy enough turnout blanket. I trust his own winter coat more. And I've given them enough hay that they can eat and fire their furnaces until morning when they will get lots of sloppy wet, warm beet pulp with some salt and of course their usual daily supplements. (By the way, Tonka doesn't like the LMF Gold. I don't know why, it smells so good I want to eat it. I think it might be too much molasses for him, and he hasn't been finishing his feed well lately anyway. Soxy LOVES it.)

I am going to order Tonka a blanket for the future though. A midweight turnout blanket, plus a warm liner of some sort in case it gets really cold. What blankets do you recommend? I have only two blankets, and both are not what I want (wrong size too). Also, is there a type of fabric that might cause static? If so I need to avoid it because Tonka is incredibly sensitive to the tiniest shock (I accidentally zapped him with my finger recently and he was very upset).

I hope you and your horses are comfortable and happy, whatever weather you're having.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I've taken so many pictures the last couple days it's hard to narrow down what to post. So I hope I don't bore you...

Here are Bella and Soxy all covered in snow.

This next photo has a story behind it. Katia went to stand in the scary gateway so they'd feel safe coming through, but it turns out she shouldn't have turned her back on Scout. He rudely barreled into her when Huckleberry popped up out of the creek. She laughed about it. I'm glad she didn't get hurt.

Playing catch with snowballs:

Happy kid!

Vicious puppy! He kept grabbing Katia's gloves and she'd laugh when she told him no, so he didn't take her seriously.

She had to get stern with him since he ran between her legs and she fell. :)
Zoomie puppy bites butts!
(Yes, I know, he's very naughty. But he makes us laugh and he stops when we tell him to, so no harm is done.)

Snowball fight!

Frosted kids:

Here's snow in your ear!

"I think he wins!"

Tonka officially needs more groceries. He's not really skinny, just not quite right. He's not a real eater though... I'm going to put him in with Soxy (if he doesn't try to kill her) and start giving them both some LMF Gold and more of the alfalfa mix hay.

Tried snowshoes, snow too powdery:
Perfect snowflakes:

I really liked this picture. Kind of stark.


Three little boys all in a row:
Okay, that's it. I'm going to go back outside now before the windstorm gets here.

My dog is a thief

Snowball maker


(which is an igloo making tool, in case you didn't know)

"What? I is innocent."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I should clarify about my idea to sell Scout. My intention was to sell him to my dad. He loves Scout, and their personalities would be suited to each other. I know that Scout would be trained and ridden, not put out to pasture and then sold again. My dad's riding horse, Sox, has navicular and arthritis and has been having trouble when he's ridden, even in corrective shoes. So... I called my dad today and asked him what he thought. I thought he'd jump at the thought but he's going to think about it. Two horses, when he's paying for board, would be a big increase in expense.

If my dad doesn't want Scout I'll suck it up and train him before I'll think about selling him. I do not want his training neglected or for him to end up being someone's throw-away horse.

And now, since we're discussing Scout and the weather is atrocious (although I could have put my time to better use by doing housework, but that's what kids are for, right?) here is the video of Scout's second ride. Finally. It's interesting to watch and critique myself. Also, it made me realize that the ride went a lot better than I thought. It was a lot harder to get him moving than it looks like on video.

One thing I know for sure, I should have stopped a lot sooner.

Ho. Lee. Cow. How hard can it be to make a video file smaller?!?!
This is the best I could do without making it worthless to watch.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Several days ago I took the boys wading in the pasture. On the way there I found out that Tonka will bolt if Scout bolts. I knew that already, just hadn't fully experienced it. Really it was only 5 strides at most, so not much of a bolt. Scout was spooked by the dogs.

Today we had quite the snowstorm. The roads were terrifying, mostly due to whiteouts, there were semis and cars off the road all over, and we were having trouble with the truck to boot. I was so glad to get home!

My good dog, being handsome, intense, playful and cute.

Liam made quite the snow pile. The idea was to hollow it out and make an igloo but I don't think that went very well.

I made a little slideshow to share with you. It's less than 10 seconds long, just my boys coming to see me and getting a mid afternoon snack to keep them warm in the nasty weather.

One of my hens was killed today. She's the big round one in the picture above. Her name was Ontsie (named by a 4 year old). I found her after going on a search because the gold hen, Peekaboo, was acting weird. It's good to be attentive to changes in habits and behavior. If I hadn't found the hen until later I might have blamed her death on one of the dogs, but I know none of them was out long enough to kill her, and they don't bother the hens anyway. I don't know what got her but it didn't eat much. I suspect it was a hawk. Why did it have to kill her if it wasn't hungry?! Makes me mad, but mostly just sad. I'll miss her, she was a personable hen. The other two are locked in the chicken coop now to keep them safe. When the snow melts I'll let them out again. Their life isn't much worth living without the enjoyment of scratching around out in the world.

Sorry I haven't been blogging much. I haven't really felt like it when I have time.

I had a great ride with Tonka yesterday that has me seriously considering selling Scout instead of Cisco. It's a hard thing to think about, which is part of why I haven't been blogging. The fact is I'd like to be able to devote my full attention to the horse I really, really love. Also, Tonka is getting resentful of Scout's training. I'm not sure if he just doesn't like helping me because I'm distracted or Scout is irritating, or if he's jealous. That in itself isn't a reason to quit on Scout, but I really wish I didn't have to divide my attention. It's detrimental to my relationship with my One, True Horse.

After that one-on-one time yesterday, with focus on being attuned to each other, Tonka was super sweet and relaxed, not crabby and testy. I enjoyed myself more than I have in a long time and so did he. When I put him back in the pasture, instead of going to join his buddies, graze, or get a drink, he stood at the gate and watched me with his intense look until I got everything put away and went in. I think I want to be a one horse girl.

(Of course we'll never have just one horse, but the others aren't solely mine, and I don't have to ride them.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Choosing between blogging and riding... Of course I'm going to go ride!
(I'm feeling 100% better today)

Read this if you need something to read. Amazing courage.

Tonka says hi!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wordless for the moment... To busy and too sick.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Today I finally got around to watching the video of my ride on Scout on Sunday. It didn't look near as bad as it felt from the saddle. I think I'm being too critical and impatient. I also think I'm not quitting when I should. I might take a short ride tomorrow if the footing isn't too slick.

Thanks for the suggestions in the comments! I'm going to try sitting quietly and visualizing what I want. I did do that but I think I was impatient there too. I suspect he might just start fussing though - trying to eat the reins or the saddle. Also, when I ask him to go forward I'm trying not to mess with the reins, just leave him his head, but when I watched my video I found I'm moving the reins more than I thought I was. I'm going to change that. But part of the problem is he's dorking around trying to chew on everything, so I try to redirect him with the reins. I wonder what he would do if I ignored him instead? I did try slapping my leg to get him to move before I got off and found a whip. It didn't seem to help after the first startle factor wore off.

Today I waited until the horses looked thoroughly bored, then I went out to see them. Tonka came right up with great interest. I lunged him about 8 circles in each direction and then took him back to the pasture. I haltered Scout for a couple minutes and moved him around.

The real fun came when I rolled a plastic barrel into the pasture. I pushed it around for a while. Tipped it over under Scout's belly. Scout was kind of interested. He nosed it and licked it, pawed it a bit. He was more interested in my pockets because I had given him a treat. Tonka pawed it around a bit too, and I'm pretty sure he was trying to stand it up by grabbing the lip with his teeth. I rolled it up against his front legs and backed up, asked him if he could come here. He had his super cute, intense, interested face on. He put one hoof over and it flipped so it was between his front legs. Then he maneuvered himself to where it was under him and scooted it back toward his back legs with his front legs. He did this for a while. When it would get off center he'd move sideways and around to where it was straight across in between his front and back legs, then scoot it toward his hind legs again. It was great to watch! He was having a lot of fun, I think he was trying to show off for me, and his back was up and his core was engaged. I'm thinking I'm going to try to encourage that game. If I can get a video and figure out how to edit it, I'll post it. I don't have the software I had before.

Anyway - it was a good day. Thought provoking. I still have lots of learning and playing to do!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Yesterday I rode Scout again. He's still having trouble moving forward, but we did make progress. I even opened the gate from his back (no fancy moves, just a reach and shove) and took him outside the round pen for a few minutes. He was more interested in moving out there. When I asked him to go back in he really didn't want to, but as soon as we were in the center of the round pen I dismounted and called it a day.

The thing that seemed to work best to get him to move forward was to use a whip to tap behind my leg when he didn't move off with my initial cue. Eventually I dropped it (by accident) and we went back to a walk that had more stop than go in it. I don't want to ride him again like that until I've tried something else. I feel like I'm creating a problem. But I will carry a riding crop next time I ride, just in case I need it. He can't be getting away with this.

I looked around online for ideas on how to deal with horses like Scout, and there are two schools of thought. One, the most popular, is to use gradually increasing cues and a crop to convince them they have to move forward. I am willing to do that, but I like the second idea better. Find a way to motivate the horse to want to work with you, don't bore them to death, give them a job if you can. I wish we had cows to track. :)

As we've been doing round pen exercises, which must be exceedingly boring for him, Scout has been getting less and less happy about working with me. Today in the pasture he went wide around me rather than come to greet me. Granted, there was feed across the pasture behind me and he was in a hurry to get to that, but it's odd for him to not want to at least say hi. So I think, for him, the boring repetitious work needs to stop. I need to start mixing things up and giving him other stuff to think about. Working outside the round pen and taking him on walks to explore. This will be a good learning experience for me, and I'll have to become more creative at coming up with fun things for the horses to do.

Oh, and there are actually more than two ideas on how to get him to go. I'm going to try having him follow Tonka. I know that will work. Once he's comfortable with the feeling of moving with me on his back maybe he'll be able to move out on his own.

Strangely, my daughter is very eager to ride Tonka and help me out. Normally she doesn't like to ride. I'm excited to have her try it, maybe she'll get back into riding again. She's never ridden a horse as well trained as Tonka. We're going to start in the round pen, and I'll have her ride Tonka for a while first to make sure they get along. It'll be a ways off though, the weather just got wetter again.

Yesterday I did do something new with Scout, and it had his full attention and didn't bore him in the least. But he didn't like it. I put a bit in his mouth for the first time in quite a while. It's one I haven't used with him before, similar to this one:

He really, really didn't like it. I don't think it was this specific bit, I think he was just doing the normal colt thing, trying to get rid of it. After a while he carried it without fussing, but when I hooked up the reins and asked him to give he got very fussy again. So when he was thinking and trying I quit. He was happy to be rid of it. I think I'll work on that some more today. Should be easy enough, I don't even have to get him out of the pasture for it if I don't want to. If he doesn't seem to be getting the hang of it I'll try a different bit, in case the thickness isn't right for him.

I forgot to take a picture of Scout until he was half untacked.
My sister pointed out that this saddle sits low on his shoulder. I think part of that is that he's downhill right now. And it is probably too wide. As far as I can tell it isn't pinching him anywhere though, and I have him double padded. I'm going to try the other saddle on him again and see if it might be worth trying. I don't think it was a fit at all though. I can also try some other pad ideas.

But my gut feeling is that the saddle is fine, and it's his mind that's stuck.

This guy was very busy while we were riding. He did not get to come inside with me afterward.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

We had a busy day here today. The weather was wonderful! We did a bunch of outside work until lunch time. The kids really did a good job of helping out.

Later I got Scout and Tonka out, and Scout had his second ride. I feel like we made some progress in the movement department, but it wasn't much. He'd rather move just about any way but forward. Which isn't good when he's walking like a drunken sailor because he's not accustomed to the extra weight. He did do some walking though, and was starting to explore around the round pen a little more when we quit.

Here I had mounted on the off side and was just dropping my left hand to get settled. I look all stiff but really it's just a weird instant in time.

Here I was asking him to move his hip over and watching to make sure he didn't eat my saddle. I wasn't particularly wanting his head bent around like that, but he did move his hip over and that was what I was after.
He's a good boy. We just need to get past this sticky feet issue. And I wish he'd quit trying to get everything into his mouth. He's still such a baby.

After that Tonka and I went for a little ride. Liam climbed up on the round pen to take our picture before we went out the gate to work on some herd bound issues...
Tonka got his exercise trotting little circles near Scout, and then walking sedately far away, then taking a rest, then going back. x3. Then he was behaving himself, not rushing or pulling our circles out of shape. We went over by where John and Liam had a fire going, and I had Katia watch while I called out, "left, right, left, right," so I could be sure I was aware of which hind foot was leaving the ground. At first I was calling when it hit the ground, but then I adjusted my thinking and I had it right. We did a little exploring up the hill and in the trees. Interesting to note that he didn't try to rush down the steep hill. He was very balanced and took it slowly. I wonder if the saddle isn't hurting his shoulder. Then we called it a day. We finished better than we started, and that's always a good thing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Today I think John was thrilled when I surprised him with a trip to go get two tons of hay. In my defense, I thought it was supposed to rain so I hadn't planned the trip until I woke up and found it was only overcast. The hay is nice. The bales are light and tight and so easy to move. There are no weeds that I can see, and it has some alfalfa but mostly grass. Bella was the only one who seemed to prefer the old hay over the new. I'm going to feed half old and half new to keep the alfalfa amount down.

The last couple days I've lunged Tonka to get him some exercise. I took him out of the round pen to make a bigger circle with a long lunge line and me walking a big circle on the inside to make his circle even bigger. I worry about his legs with the circle work. He's probably old enough that he won't get more splints, but even so a bigger circle is less strain.

I eventually wanted to ask him to lope so we could start working up to doing it under saddle. He's been tight and uncomfortable at the lope for a long time, due to his EPSM. Anyway, yesterday he offered a lope, so I took it, and it was nice. For him, anyway. Today we did it again, and I was very careful to listen to whether he was breathing. His breath was strong and rhythmic, and he seemed very comfortable loping along. We didn't work long, and most of it was warm up and cool down. But I'm sure it was good for him. And it made me feel good to see him moving so well. We'll get good at doing it together this year, eventually.

We also took a walk down by the creek to check out the water levels. I'd been surprised to see Huck on the other side of the creek without having to swim. It turns out he used a strategically placed island to leap over. The water level has gone down a lot though.

Scout got to do some work today too, and got a fair amount of exercise just fretting about Tonka going out of his sight down by the creek. I didn't take him out yesterday, but it was good for him to be separated from Tonka for a while.

That's my fun stuff for the past few days. Tonight we have a big wind coming through, so the girls got fed inside the barn and the boys got their hay in feeders so it wouldn't blow away. Next winter I hope to be down to the same number of horses as we have stalls so nobody has to tough out weather like this. Not that Tonka will use a stall anyway... (I should point out that the boys do have shelter options now, but they don't use them - that area scares them for some reason.) I hate to think about horses moving on, but we need to cut back expenses. So Cisco will be for sale, Soxy will go back to her old owner if she can take her, and Bella - well, I don't know. It'll depend on whether she's sound or not. I don't think I'll be able to bear euthanizing her if she isn't sound, so we might end up with three horses. Not fun to think about this kind of stuff.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Today was a wonderful day for a ride! It was 41 degrees and sunny. A slight breeze chilled my hands a bit, but other than that it was perfect. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice also, and then it's going to get gross again.

Here's a picture I took a few days ago of Tonka's shoulder bridge pad, to show the area it fills in behind the shoulder. It is tapered at the back, even though it doesn't look like it in the picture.
After a longer ride with it today, I'm not convinced it does any good. It's memory foam, and when that stuff gets warm it just compresses. It looked good to begin with, but when we got back I think the front end of the saddle had dropped.

A photo of my summer playground - the mountains - all covered in snow.
I've actually never ridden in these mountains but I will this summer.
Part of it is Mary McCroskey state park.

This is Gold Hill, where I have ridden and will definitely ride again. I haven't been to the old mining camp yet.

We only rode for about an hour, but I swear it felt like two. It wore Tonka out too. He seemed like he wasn't feeling very well today. I considered just staying home but he clearly wanted to go up the road so we went.

Scout was a good boy for our ride. He's been ponied longer than this, but it was out in the woods which for some reason isn't near as scary as around man-made things. One of our neighbors is a farmer and he has lots of stuff on both sides of the road - an orchard, several buildings, big grain trucks, tractors, plows, cats - you name it. That gives them a lot to look at. We were only passed by one vehicle - the mail lady. She was nice and slowed down to go by. Scout spooked slightly once, which made Tonka lurch forward. I don't know what it was that bothered him.
My body is twisted today. It's weird, my left shoulder is in front of my right. Or my left hip is back. Not sure which. It made riding a little awkward. I'm going to the chiropractor tomorrow, hopefully he'll get me all lined up again.

I also made a huge turkey dinner today. It was fun. We emptied out our big freezer last weekend and turned it off, and this turkey had to be eaten. John's parents came over and we had a nice evening together. A couple hours later I still feel like I'm going to explode and die of salt intake. But it was totally worth it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

I don't have a lot to write about, I suppose. I rode Tonka today and ponied Scout. I've been riding Tonka in a nice, really gentle bit these last several times, but today I didn't want to warm it (my hands didn't have any warmth to share) so we rode in the halter/bridle or riding halter or whatever you want to call it. He is SO much more responsive when he doesn't have a bit to distract him. I've probably made that observation on here before. Not that he's bad in a bit, but he plays with it a lot, and it's really apparent what works better for him when you go back to riding without one. Feather light neck reining and a beautiful stop. Everything just happens a fraction of a second sooner, with more relaxation.

Anyway, we had a short ride in the cold, me in my marshmallow man suit of coveralls and old farm coat, and with my hands about to fall off because I didn't realize I needed gloves until it was too late. We were trying out the Skito shoulder bridge pad that I got yesterday (cheap - eBay). I think it may well be the ticket. My saddle sat more level and he didn't have near as much loin scrub as he usually does. He had plenty of room for his shoulder to move freely. He also didn't pop his head in the air when I put weight on his shoulders during the dismount. Nice.

Yesterday I didn't ride. Had full intentions to saddle up until I walked outside. Ice was blowing sideways through the air. The cold, windy weather had them feeling very playful and a little nervous. So I took them to the trailer, picked out their hooves and scraped most of the dried mud off, then took them back to the pasture. I ended up hanging out in the pasture, walking all over the place and loving on my boys, just because I couldn't get over the fact that they so obviously wanted to hang out with me. Scout wouldn't leave my side and Tonka wasn't far behind. Not that they usually run away when I'm around, but our relationships have strengthened with the consistent work lately. It makes me happy.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

We've had a busy few days and I've been without a computer. But now thanks to my patient and industrious husband, all my programs are newly installed, minus all the junk that wasn't supposed to be there. And minus one part of the file I was using to keep track of my riding hours. Darn it. Luckily I had just looked at my total the other day and the number was round and easy to remember, 25, so I'm pretty sure I've got it all figured out, within a few hours of error.

I have to learn how to work a new version of MS Office. That'll be a source of irritation for a little while. I'm resistant to change, I admit it, especially when it comes to software. And I lost my photo editing software so I downloaded something called Photoscape. I can't wait to see what I can do with it. I didn't want anything complicated like Photoshop. I don't have the time to figure out how to use it.

These photos I trimmed and re-sized using Paint, which is also new and different, but wasn't beyond my peabrained ability to figure out. :)

I found my perfect boot!
They're Ariat Jamisons, and officially they're a work boot, but they have the right sole for riding. I'm not fond of the pink stitching and pink suede around the ankle, but they are very comfortable. They have a firmer sole than the Terrain, not as squishy but more supportive, not lumpy under my foot and I think it'll last longer. They're a short boot that can be laced loosely enough to slip easily off my foot in case of getting hung up in the stirrup.

Yesterday Tonka and I ponied Scout again. We had to pass the fire John had going at the barn, and it went well the first 5 times we went past it, but on the return trip from riding up the road Tonka couldn't go by it. Poor guy was terrified. The fire was much larger, my son was laughing like a madman, the dog was chasing a cat, and John sneezed. My goodness. I let him stand and look for a long time, hoping he'd decide to go on by, but I had to hop down quickly when I saw that Huck was going to chase a cat over some stacked sheets of tin. I think that noise would have been the last straw. (I wish I could break that dog of his cat chasing! It's the one thing he does that I don't like.)
Both boys seemed to enjoy going up the road though. We went a bit farther this time, past a couple of houses with mailboxes, garbage cans, farm implements, and other horse-eating things. Scout is so much more level-headed than Tonka was at his age (or even now, maybe).

We also did a bunch of work around the place and made a couple trips to the dump. I finally got around to cleaning up our little shed. A bag of feed got left in there and it had an infestation of mice. I filled a kitchen garbage bag 1/3 full of mouse poop. I should have worn a mask. My lungs have been in bad shape ever since, and I had to use my inhaler a couple times, which makes me sick. So even though the weather is decent today I may not be riding. Does anyone know of any good remedies for congested lungs? Preferably something that doesn't make me feel shaky and useless?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Today the horse work was pretty short, only about an hour. I ponied Scout around the field for a while, then up the driveway and down the road a very short distance. I figure baby steps are a good thing. That and my dogs were following me and I didn't want them loose on the road.

Tomorrow the weather should be decent for riding, warm with a little rain. But we have a lot of work to do and a benefit auction to go to, so we'll see if I get time. I'd like to keep things as consistent as possible and take advantage of any good weather we get.

Hope you all have a great weekend ahead of you!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

My two amigos
Today was more of the same. Nothing real interesting to report. Good progress though.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

I feel like I've been held hostage in my house this week. Liam is sick, poor kid. He got up at 4:45am on Monday with a fever of 103. Needless to say he didn't feel good and would be staying home from school.

Tuesday morning was another early one. Huck had an odd potty emergency at 5:30, and then Liam woke up and needed some ibuprofen, and I went to wash my hands and found that we had no water. The pumphouse door had been left open and the pipes were frozen. So I went on a journey outside in the cold to find a heater, didn't find it, went into the attic, found one, and plugged it in. By then I was awake. The pipes thawed eventually.

Today Liam stayed home again, but he wasn't feeling too terrible. I let him play outside for a while. That might have been stupid. But I did insist that he wore a coat, and it was about 32 degrees, which seemed warm after the last couple days. And I know how I feel after being sick for a couple days - I want out of the house! So he played by himself, then we played a good game of catch together. He watched me work in the round pen with Scout for a while, but he asks so many questions when I need to be paying attention to what I'm doing, and Scout was being rude to Liam, who was sitting on the top rail of the round pen, so I asked him to find something else to do.

I had a good day with my boys. I should probably say now that I've decided not to do the clicker training. It just isn't for me right now. I don't want to learn a whole new method and retrain all of my horses at this time. I'm already not sure how I'll have time for what I have to do with the horses this year. Clicker people may judge me for quitting and using the dreaded natural horsemanship, but that's okay. I know I'm not beating or otherwise abusing my horses into submission.

Scout got some refresher work in the round pen. We worked on consistent inside turns, gait changes, coming to me, and staying with me as we move around. He has a hard time with that on his right. That's his bad eye (if it's bad - some things he does better on that side). By the end we had made progress but not a lot. He'd eventually drift too far away or get ahead of me. I decided to call what we had good and let him "soak" until tomorrow. When he was drifting, I wondered if maybe he could see me better from a little farther away. I wish I could see how he sees! But I've decided not to make allowances for his eye, other than taking the time it takes to make him comfortable with doing things correctly.

With Tonka I asked him to relax and walk around the round pen, as a warm-up. He has a hard time walking, he'd prefer to trot. So we worked on turns and eventually transitions. He was also cutting away from the rail on the side away from Scout, and getting right on the rail by Scout. He's a little herd-bound to that baby.

Here are my boys. I had to take the picture toward the sun or it wouldn't have had both boys in it. Scout needs to learn patience. :)

I am reading "Countdown to Broke" which at first I didn't like because of the emphasis on the round pen. But lately I've realized that my aversion to circle work has caused me to be kind of half-assed in some areas. So I'm going to do it this way, slowly and carefully, being very sure that I don't progress too quickly or overwhelm my horses.

Speaking of progressing too quickly, I had a lightbulb moment recently. Blogging has been detrimental to my horsemanship. I think it's probably normal to want to get to the next step and be super proud that my horse has done something new, and take pictures to document and share on my blog, but I need to suppress that urge. It's not about me and what I can do with my horses. It's not a race and I don't need to prove myself by hurrying. The only thing I need to keep in mind is my horse, and how he feels about what we're doing, and whether he's ready for the next step.

Which doesn't mean I'll baby them. They have a job to do and lessons to learn in a timely manner. There's a balance that's sometimes hard to find - between making allowances and requiring that they "man up." Because to try to make them comfortable all the time is not going to be good for them at all in the long run. They have to become uncomfortable (in a safe way) and realize that they can come back from that and be okay. Preferably with the human coming out looking pretty smart in the end, so we can gain their trust. :)

I'm babbling, and I'm sure none of this is ground-shaking information to any of you. I just had some humbling realizations lately that made me step back and re-think how I do things with my horses.

Oh - but going back to "Countdown to Broke." This is what I meant to say: he trains the horse to move its hip away when he pulls the rein toward himself (on the ground). Which really confused me at first, having been a "lateral flexion" person who expects the feet to stand still while they bend their neck around. But eventually I came to like the idea. A lot. Rather than training the horse to have a rubber neck that bends around all the way, you're going more with their natural inclination to follow their nose. Which would be much safer than a horse that will put its nose on your boot while you ride, but continue on in the other direction. In a panic situation, mind you. Not that Tonka would do that, but Cisco has.

So, what Tonka and I worked on was connecting his nose to his hip - meaning that when I picked up the left rein his hip would move to the right, and vice versa. Making sure he fully committed, with the left hind hoof crossing in front of the right hind hoof (or vice versa), as we're taught to look for when "disengaging the hindquarters." In the process I realized I've really let a lot of stuff slide. We had a quiet little tune-up session.

Then we rode out of Scout's sight, and back where he could see us, changing up the duration, while he stood tied. He wasn't happy, but he got quieter with each repetition.

I think he's a handsome boy, even if he is naughty.

Tonka waited half untacked without moving an inch while I took a picture of Scout.

Before I went to Scout to untie him (he was on a Blocker ring, but he'd tied a knot somehow anyway) I thought about how horses often become more fidgety as you approach them to untie them, looking forward to being untied. I worried that I'd have to leave him tied longer, and I wanted to be done. But as I approached, he'd fidget or paw and I'd stop approaching. He'd stop fidgeting. I'd approach, he'd fidget, I'd stop, he'd stop. I think I only had to stop two or three times before he realized I wasn't coming if he wasn't standing still. He really is smart.
So - What are your thoughts on connecting the nose to the hip, if you know what I mean? I may not have made sense of it here. I'd like to know who already does this and why, or who thinks it's a bad idea and why. Thank you!