Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Had a very big day today. Rode Bella this morning and then hopped in the car to go look at a pony and several trailers. The pony was heavenly. He just does what you ask when you ask and not much else. What? Horses like that exist? He trail rides, games, does trail competitions, rides out away from his horse buddy at home, and is just perfect in almost every way. He's also a wonderful cuddler. I don't think we're going to be able to get him though unless some kind of miracle happens. If I find a cheaper trailer that's not falling apart, maybe... Poor Liam, he's already in love with that pony. The pony is sure to find an excellent home, he's such a good boy. If you're in the area and you're looking, let me know and I'll give you their info.

I saw one trailer that was falling apart and after that decided not to look at the other old trailers with no photos on my list. I saw two that were worth buying and made an offer on one. I don't know if she'll take it. It's not much less than her asking price but she doesn't seem real keen on selling in the first place. I actually had a hard time getting her to show it to me. She said she'd talk to her husband about it. :/

I ordered a pair of bucking rolls to be made at Indiana Harness today. Can't wait to see them. Their price was pretty nice too for custom work.

Still have to feed so I'm off!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Angus is feeling so much better! It really is amazing. He's like his old self. Granted, he's on two kinds of pain meds and antibiotics, but I can't tell you how happy it made me when he trotted across the house to see me when I got home yesterday. So it looks like we may have more than a few days. My biggest (huge) fear is that the tumor will rupture again and I won't be able to get him up to go to the vet and he'll be in agony. I'll hope that doesn't happen.

Bella and I rode again today after two days off. Of course I was trying out different pads again. I really do need to use the Ricotti pad, this saddle doesn't fit her. Hopefully it's good enough, with the extra padding. She certainly rides differently with a different pad. My round pen isn't totally level, and she kept trying to break into a trot going down hill. I figure it was shoulder pain. She didn't do quite as well with everything else as she did the last time I rode, but that could have been the two days off. Even so, she's doing so much better than she was when I posted a video. I'll get another one soon. I'm proud of her (and me, a little).

After watching Keith ride Scout I realized I'm thinking too much about her emotions, making too many excuses for her. I also decided to do a desensitizing routine before I ride, with a lead rope or stick and string, and progress to other things. That starts the ride off with her thinking, possibly worried, but soon realizing it's no big deal. I think that's a good place to start, and it's good for horses to have a routine they can count on. I also realized, and already knew this was one of my big faults but it really drove it home when I talked to Keith, that I'm asking for too much too soon. She doesn't have to do something perfectly the first day. Maybe I'll just get a try. Then we can do something else and come back to it the next day, and the next, until it's solid. While we're doing that we can still progress in other areas and work more on things she's good at, which will boost her confidence.

I am really enjoying this journey with her. And she doesn't irritate me! Tonka is always moving, fidgeting, playing, being a spaz, trying my patience, checking to see if I'm still on my game. He makes me become a spaz, simply to keep one step ahead of him. He's not hard to take most of the time, but lately with him not getting enough exercise his energy drives me nuts. Bella isn't like that. She's a calming influence.

Speaking of Tonka, he's been going for walks for the last 3 days, just for 10 minutes, and his leg seems fine. I'm so excited! I might take him for a 15 minute walk tomorrow.

Here he is taking a break at the crab apple tree, hoping I won't make him stop.

We had a glorious storm here tonight. Wild sunset, lots of lightning and thunder, and then torrential rains. I love the first rain in August after it's been so dry for so long. It's very renewing.

I'm on the hunt for a horse trailer of my very own after all these years. I found a couple I love but one is in Montana, a 5 hour drive one way, and one the people don't seem real interested in showing to me. That and with school starting this week it's hard to find time... I did finally decide what I really want in a trailer if I can find it on my limited budget - a 3 horse slant with dividers and a tack room. I like the 3 horse, even if I only usually haul one, because eventually I can haul all three of our rideable horses to go trail riding. Also, if I want to haul someone else's horse I can stick Tonka in front and the strange horse in the back and they can't mess with each other.

Oh, and since I didn't take pictures of the awesome obstacle course at Hooper Crossing, here's a link. The photos don't even touch the surface of what he has out there though.

I've gotta get off my feet. Good night!

Friday, August 26, 2011

I don't know why bad things come in groups. I was pondering that on my way home from the vet this morning, trying to find the bright side. I thought maybe it's so that we have longer periods to enjoy the good times in between the bad times. I think maybe it's better to have all the bad stuff go down at once. But I still don't like it.

This morning our big dog Angus was very much not right. I walked into the bedroom after blogging, feeding the horses, and picking Katia up from volleyball. And he was laying on the floor in the wrong place, in a very strange way, and not responding to my voice. Eventually I got him to sit up, and with great difficulty he stood up. Nothing was right about the way he was acting - he was obviously in a lot of pain. What really told me something was very wrong was when he didn't eat. This dog's whole world revolves around feeding time. He thinks about it for hours beforehand and then wanders around hoping for more after he's done eating. The vet wasn't open quite yet but I put him in the car (with difficulty) and went to the vet, calling them when I got to the edge of town.

Long story short, after a bunch of diagnostics, they find that he has a 5cm mass in his spleen that ruptured. It didn't bleed a lot and seems to be clotting fine, but he needs some fluids and pain meds throughout the day. I can pick him up this afternoon. But that's not all. This is pretty common in large dogs, and it's an aggressive form of cancer. We could spend a couple thousand on top of what we spent today to have his spleen removed, but the truth of the matter is that it is very likely to metastasize if it hasn't already. So that's not really an option. Just like with Soxy, we have to hope we can get him comfortable and wait out the end. It doesn't sound like it will be a matter of years. We might have months. We might not even have days depending on how he responds to treatment. We'll see.

So, Bella didn't get ridden yet today. I might be able to get to it but I have all this pesky housework I've been neglecting.
Tonka's not afraid to jump in and help, and he's so cheerful about it too. Just the kind of co-worker we all need. Yesterday Bella and I opened the gate and did some riding outside the round pen. This horse is awesome. Sometime I'll have time for a longer post...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Scout looks good. I watched them work in a small indoor arena and outside. He rode all through the obstacle course (I have obstacle course envy now). He should be ready to come home by the 8th.

I didn't take pictures. Sorry. I feel weird asking, "Hey, can I take a picture an put it on my blog?"

I had a lot of ideas and thoughts on the way home but I'm going to go outside now and play with Bella.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tonka says, "Hi! Whatcha doin'? Can I come help? Will you come get me? Wanna go do something? Will you come play? Take me to eat grass? Can we do something? Anything? Please?"

Today Bella and I worked on sensitizing her to my leg. Eventually I'd like her to turn when I turn, without a heavy leg signal. She doesn't have it naturally in her like my first two mustangs. We made some good progress though.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to see Scout. I can't wait!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A happier picture of Soxy. I let her out this morning thinking she'd stick close by because I was getting her grain ready but she went for a walkabout and I had to go get her. Luckily she doesn't move fast and she just wanted to visit Bella. See her sticking her tongue out at me?
Her little walk allowed me to listen to her breathing. It sounded pretty normal. A week ago it would have been loud and labored. I think we're getting the inflammation down. I know the tumor won't go away but this will buy us time.

Bella in the Ricotti pad again. I don't think it's dumping the saddle back onto her loin. In fact, it's lifted up in the back just like it should be. The seat looks level to me.

Today we worked a lot more on turns, and not getting distracted by workers on the highway. Then we just travelled the rail for a while. When I was happy with how that was going I asked for a trot. It was choppy, and quite frankly she was a little pissy about it. She did it though, 2-3 times. Then we turned around and went in the other direction. When I asked her to pick up a trot she did, with minimal attitude, and this time it was sheer heaven! I could ride that trot for miles. I wish you could feel it. Lovely. I dismounted and called it good.

I mentioned how I put up my saddle the other day, so I thought I'd expound about that. I don't like straps and junk hanging everywhere.

I learned this breastcollar storage trick from the horseman up the hill. It keeps it nicely in place. At first I thought it took too much time, but better that than tripping over stuff.
(Of course we all know to cinch up the front cinch first, and let it out last, right?)

Here's my main complaint about the Smart Cinch. Any other cinch I'd hang my back cinch on the buckle pin from the front cinch, and then hang that on the saddle. But that doesn't work so this is what I do:

I worry that over time the folded back buckle will wear on my saddle. When I get around to it I'll either turn this cinch around so the regular buckle is on this side, or switch it out for a string cinch.

And here you see the sweaty side is out, able to dry. I'm real particular about how I put stuff up.
If you go anywhere there are a bunch of horsemen together, you might notice them checking out each other's gear and how they handle it. I think you can tell a lot about a person by their tack and how they handle it. Maybe they don't give a damn, maybe their gear is old and worn but well fitted and well cared for, maybe they have everything that's in style right now and it's all barely used. I think I'd fit in the greenhorn category based on my stuff, but at least I'm careful how I handle it. To me, my saddle is a work of art and deserves care. My horse too, of course - I should keep my stuff reasonably clean and pay attention to whether it's comfortable for the horse.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I decided not to use yesterday's video, it's just too long even after editing. So I'll load today's. It's still almost 10 minutes long. Pretty boring stuff, but for me it was great to watch. I saw some mistakes I made. I put a couple captions where something interesting happened, but not many. One theme that's consistent throughout is Bella's turns are not what I want. Today was better than yesterday though. What she does, and you'll see it if you watch, is turn where I'm asking her to turn, but she keeps her body fairly straight and is leaning against the bosal. What I want is a nice supple turn with her body arced in the direction she's going, with no pressure on the bosal. She had one excellent turn today when I didn't even have to bring the rein into contact. She followed my body. Just one, but it's a start.

Another thing that's interesting to note is how she parks her hind end out pretty far when she stops. She did this a little bit yesterday and I wondered if the Ricotti pad was dumping too much weight on her loin. This pad I used today is flat, and she parked out worse. Perhaps it's putting pressure on the nerves in her wither that cause a horse to park out. I'm going to go back to the Ricotti pad next time and see what I see.

I love Bella's sweet face.

Below you see that the inside of her bosal (the dirty part) is pretty smooth. I've seen some, I think made by Weaver Leather, that may as well have been saw blades, with the points of the plaits standing up. I wouldn't use one, and I hope anyone who buys them is smart enough to do something to smooth it down.Post-ride sweetness. What a good girl.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm editing a really long, boring video to share with you, but in the mean time, I thought I'd talk about tack.

Here Bella is wearing a cheap (but not abrasive) bosal hung on a regular headstall, with cheap reins. The bosal could be shaped better but I don't have a bosal block. Any kind advice about bosal care and use would be kindly accepted. I have read about them online but that's about the extent of my knowledge.

She has a Ricotti pad under her saddle. It has a gradual build up toward the front for downhill horses, or horses like Tonka with hollows behind the shoulders. I'm finding it may not be all it's cracked up to be and may not work for any of my horses, but it is WAAAAY better than any other built up pad I've tried, besides maybe the Chris Cox pad. Above, it looks to be putting the saddle too high in front, but Bella also does not look downhill in the photo and she definitely is.

The breastcollar is a martingale type breastcollar, also sometimes called a pulling collar or a modified pulling collar. It isn't a true pulling collar, because it attaches to dees in the saddle, not through the pommel. It also has a strap that goes over the neck to hold it up. I do not like a breastcollar that gets in the way of the horse's shoulder movement. This certainly does not. The only thing I don't like about it is that it doesn't match my new saddle, and the strap over the neck rubs their mane on long rides, causing tangles and sometimes damage to the mane. (By the way, I LOVE where the breastcollar dees are located on this saddle. Not too low. Most are too low.) More about breastcollars - I once got a concussion and a $1200 hospital bill for not using one (my saddle rolled). Not something to be proud of for a lot of reasons. But I am very glad I was wearing my helmet. I don't like to see a breastcollar adjusted too tight. As I said, the shoulder needs room to move, but also you don't want it pulling your saddle from side to side and causing discomfort. I also don't put metal snaps on them to make it easier to attach to the saddle. Maybe I'm too paranoid, but metal breaks. It also clanks, which bothers me.

The saddle, of course, is my beautiful handmade saddle I bought last year. It's a bit wide for Bella. But I think it's close enough. I adore it. It was made by "an Amish kid" north of Spokane, whose family has moved away. The maker's mark is a symbol, but there are initials on the hobbles. I just can't remember what the initials are right now. You can see the matching hobbles hanging from the saddle. Bella isn't hobble broke but Tonka is, and Cisco is (although he's not here anymore). The saddle maker obviously put a lot of time, knowledge, and talent into this saddle, and he made it very comfortable and balanced for the rider.

I've been considering getting bucking rolls attached, but then we had all these vet bills... I keep thinking the bucking rolls might save me a hospital bill, but I still can't justify the expenditure, at least until next payday.

The saddle bags shouldn't even be mentioned. They're horribly dirty and worn, came on a ranch saddle that I bought, with some cattle doctoring paraphernalia still inside. I love them, but they're ugly. I can't find any new ones like them, and this saddle really does deserve leather saddle bags.
The cinch is a felt Smart Cinch. I'm not real partial to the roller buckles that perhaps make it easier to cinch your horse too tight. I also don't like them because the way I put up my saddle doesn't work well with them. I'd have to show you in a different post, it isn't something I can explain. But I do like that the metal buckle is padded by the felt, and it's not gross, slippery, sweaty neoprene.

I think that covers everything Bella is wearing. I'd love to see some of you do posts on tack. I'm a tack junkie!

Bella found Tonka's mineral feeder (which he miraculously hasn't broken) and she really liked the Dynamite minerals I bought from Keith Danielson at Hooper Crossing Ranch. (Tonka isn't partial to them but that may be because he doesn't need them.)

Here's Soxy, looking thrilled. She really was right as rain and happy, just didn't want me pointing the camera at her and asking her to pose. You can see the incision under her eye if you look close, and her nose is still bleeding a little. :(

Friday, August 19, 2011

Today was a really good day. This morning I decided to ride miss Bella in the mustang pen. I didn't feel like getting Tonka out of the round pen to ride in there. I figured the small mustang pen would make a great "breaking pen" because it's small and we couldn't get into too much trouble in there.

Here's my pretty girl, ready to ride.

What I didn't realize until I mounted up, is that the roof is too low for riding. So I decided to just do some turns and stops in the open area, and then maybe move to the round pen. But just after I dismounted, Katia came up to tell me Soxy had flies all over her face. So I decided to make it a really short ride and call it good. I think that's good for Bella anyway.

Later in the day I spent some time with Tonka, scooping poop while he helped. He's such a good helper, scooting my wheelbarrow around and trying to chew on the handles. Then I groomed him and gave him a snack. You can see in the next picture how he's losing condition with no exercise. His EPSM is rearing its head, but not terribly. He's stiff and uncomfortable in the hind end. His front end seems to be holding up pretty well. You can see some lameness from the tendon but it doesn't seem too bad.

Tonight Bella and I had a longer ride in the round pen. It was still pretty short, maybe 10 minutes, but we did a lot of circles and some stopping and backing. She's pretty resistant to the left, but pretty good to the right. She's trying some of her naughtiness, snaking her head around and stopping. It's like she's doing a kinda-sorta one rein stop without being asked. I wasn't there for most of her riding when she was at my sister's a couple years ago, but I think there were a few issues there. The saddle didn't fit, she was trying to bully my sister into getting off with her snaky-necked biting moves, and her stifles were hurting. I think a lot of it now is due to insecurity, but she shows some attitude as well. The attitude also comes from insecurity, but she's also testing me to see if she can get away with it. She moves out (walking) when I ask though, and she does turn, it's just not very responsive. We don't have power steering yet. :) Her stop is very nice, but her back is a little slow to come. When it does come she wants to move forward again after a step back. We just need to develop our communication, and she needs to relax.
I'll try to get some video tomorrow. I should be able to set the camera on the side of the round pen and start it if I don't have anyone there to man the camera.

This chicken cracked me up tonight. Volunteer grilled chicken. But she says, "No! Beef! Beef is what's for dinner!" Her name has chosen itself - Blackbeard. If you look close you can see why. She's a pretty nice hen. I sat with her in my lap tonight and she really enjoyed being petted.

This picture is from last night. A good snapshot of my life. Huck, airing out his belly and hoping to charm someone into giving him a belly rub (look at his cute paws!), with two horse training books, a vet bill, and a trail map. Don't mind my messy bed. Yep, I'm one of those people who never makes the bed.
I saw Cisco at his new home today and talked to his new owner a lot. He really loves that horse. There's a lot about him that's lovable. While they were camping they picketed out the other horse and just let Cisco roam and graze. He'd come into camp and get into their pockets pretty regularly. He's a personable guy. It sounds like they're working through his wanting to go back to the trailer. He's already lost weight and put on some muscle. They're planning some long rides out from home soon. I love it. Just what that horse needs, a lot of time and love, and someone who's not afraid to insist when he needs to. I can't wait to have a horse to go out riding with them. Bella may be ready soon, and if not, Scout, and if not, it looks like Tonka will be better sooner than I thought. He'll have to see the vet in a couple weeks though to make sure he's doing as well as I think he is.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Cisco is sold! He's actually been gone since last Sunday but I didn't want to jinx it by saying anything. Now the bill of sale is signed, the guy loves him to death, and I have one less mouth to feed!

This guy is younger and totally willing to work Cisco through his issues. They went camping and rode through some rough country every day for the last 5 days. One day they went 20 miles. So he's thoroughly aware of Cisco's naughtiness. Love it.

Another thing that's kinda neat, is Cisco will live right across the creek from us. It's causing a little trouble right now because Tonka is all excited and moving more than he should. But it'll be nice to be able to see him, and maybe go riding with him every now and then.

I gotta run! more later, with pictures...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I wanted to post a happy update. Soxy is looking bright and chipper tonight, and she ate down her grain and meds like a pig. Her breathing even seemed better and there was less blood in her nose. Maybe the dex is already helping? I have hope she'll be with us a while longer.

On another note - I feel like I'm running an equine hospital! Soxy on her meds, Tonka with his leg needing iced twice a day, and Bella back on steroids for her skin (they are helping, she's just not totally cleared up yet). My gosh. It makes me really appreciate the times when they're all well and I actually get to ride.

Speaking of riding, Scout has been at the trainer for almost two weeks now. I just sent an email asking when I can go see him. I'm excited to see how he's doing!
I'm finally starting to feel like myself again. It was a long day at the vet.

Dr. Rustebakke is a great guy, and he worked hard and long to figure out what we had going on. At first he was convinced Soxy had a mass in her nasal passage. But when he scoped her he was able to get the scope up in there, which surprised him. But as it passed the nasal passage closed up on it. He said it looked like there was maybe nerve damage there, keeping it from staying open. He had another appointment coming in so we waited a while and then he came back and did x-rays. The right side showed up cloudy in the sinus area, but no defined boundaries that would be expected with a tumor. He tapped around, and strangely the problem side sounded hollower than the good side. Then he felt around the pointy part of her face bone and found a divot that seemed to be filled with edema. He decided to drill into the sinus and flush it. I'm not queasy and I deal well with vet procedures, but seeing him take a power tool to her skull was rough. Luckily he deadened the area really well first. What he found when he inserted the catheter to flush the sinus, is that he couldn't. There is a solid mass in there. He said we could biopsy it. I figured I'd already spent more than I could, so I asked how much that would cost. Which is when he got down to the bitter truth. Whether it's cancerous or not, it's inoperable, and there's nothing we can do but enjoy the time we have left with her while she still has good quality of life. He thinks she's still breathing well enough, and he doesn't think there's a lot of pain. I'm not so sure. I talked him into trying antibiotics again, and he gave us a steroid as well. If we can get her breathing easier and looking happier I'll feel better. Right now she's not looking too happy, but she has a hole in her face and her skin is stapled shut, she was sedated more than once, plus she got her teeth floated and had to stand in stocks for almost 4 hours, not to mention the long trailer ride each way, so it's been a stressful day.

I appreciate what they did today IMMENSELY. He doggedly pursued every option until we had an answer and then he gave me a huge break on the price. I need to send him a thank you note.

I also have to give big kudos to the Les Schwab tire store a couple blocks away. When I unloaded Soxy I noticed that one of my trailer tires was pretty much shredded. I called Les Schwab, told them the situation and that I might have a horse in the trailer. He said he had a tire for me and I could unload her or leave her in the trailer while they fixed it. Dr. Rustebakke gave me a stall for Soxy and I went down and had a new tire within 15 minutes. I guess I was VERY lucky the tire didn't blow out on me on the way there. On the Lewiston Grade? No thanks! Someone was watching over us today.

I owe a lot of gratitude all around.

I'm really upset to find out for sure that Soxy's days are numbered. I tell myself we're all going to die someday, and she's old. But that doesn't help much. On the way home I thought, "wouldn't it be easier if I was a painter instead of a horse person?" Sure, you probably get emotionally attached to your art. It would hurt to have it destroyed. But you don't have to wonder whether it's in pain. Or make the decision when to end it.

And then I thought about how many, many lives this horse has touched, and that I have also touched through her. Experiences that will never be forgotten. She'll live on in some people's memories long after I'm gone. So many kids love her. So many adults love her! I love her. And it's worth it. But it still hurts like hell.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Icky picture ahead - just a warning.

Today started off fairly innocently. I went to the other side of the property to mow. This tree is neat. It used to be a great big tree (the big stump is behind what's left here, you can kind of see it) but it got struck by lightning, sometime before we owned the place.
Boldly mowing, and hoping for the best, because I couldn't see a thing:

Later I was mowing the yard at home and saw Soxy staring at me like she was sending me some sort of communication. She's been doing that more and more lately. I noticed she had a bloody nose.

Her breathing has been getting more labored so I talked to my vet last week and we decided to try antihistamines this time instead of antibiotics. It was supposed to either work or not within several days. Apparently it didn't work. She's not getting any air through that nostril either. This is the same nostril that has had problems intermittently for 2 1/2 years now, but it's never been this bad and it scared me. What with my vet telling me she may suddenly bleed out and die within 30 seconds, I was pretty freaked out. But today my vet was out so we saw another vet and we're going to go see Dr. Rustebakke in Clarkston tomorrow. He's going to scope it and see once and for all what's going on. I'm so glad he has the facilities to do this, I really didn't want to go to WSU.

I was trying to get a good look at Soxy, get her cleaned up, and see for sure whether she was breathing through that nostril or not, and of course Miss Grace thought she ought to be the center of attention. She's becoming more and more of a pest. :) I think Soxy is rubbing off on her, the way she comes in every time I call.
After the unexpected vet trip there was another unexpected trip to town, so Bella and I didn't work together at all today. She got fed and that's it. Oh well, every day can't go as planned.

Keep your fingers crossed for me that Soxy is okay and we come back with a good treatment plan.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quiet night. The rising moon, framed under the regal arch of neck, shining boldly through his long mane, coldly exhilarating. Warm nose, tickling whiskers, my face an object of investigation, his breath a question, mine an answer. I love my horse.

On return a fuzzy friend calmly waiting on the stoop with quiet eyes. Those eyes, so wild, centuries old, formidable, but soft for me. His waiting fulfilled, we pass inside. I love my dog.

The children are quiet in their beds, dreaming of school, or aliens, or maybe roping a bull. We've had a big day of school shopping and then feeling ill after a poor decision on my part - McDonald's for lunch. I swear that stuff is poison. Katia is practically in volleyball boot camp, conditioning in the morning and practice at night. She's enjoying it but she's sore. Liam and John helped me move horses, drag hoses, fill troughs and feed tonight. Soxy loves to eat fresh sunflowers that grew like surprise gifts where the horses dropped a few seeds last winter.

I didn't ride tonight. It was hard, thinking about Bella and not going to get her. I did move her into a dry lot and feed her, but that was all.

Grace changed pastures with no problem. She's not being hard to catch, she was unsure but certainly not spooky as we walked through the cluttered yard and barn areas. I turned her loose in the corral near the barn but had to catch her again to get her to face her fears and go through the gate into her new pasture. She hasn't come back in yet but she will have to at some point when she gets thirsty. For now, there's lots of grass to eat.

There was a baby deer in our pasture tonight. Poor thing seemed like she's used to passing through the open gate, which is now closed with horses in that pasture. I think the electric fence shocked her, but it wasn't long before she got the courage to scoot under. There were twins here the other day, I wonder if this was one of them. Haven't seen a mama yet.

Life is good. It feels like fall in the mornings and evenings. I like fall. I try not to think much about winter though.

Monday, August 15, 2011

My son loves his new cowboy look, can you tell?

And India loves carrots. She very craftily made off with the carrot bag twice, but we caught her both times.

Bella was a good girl yesterday. Every day things go a little better and she's a little more relaxed.

I like how Bella's white flecks show up so well in this picture.
I saw this picture and it brought to mind how much is really going on here in this peaceful little circle between human and horse.

Here I was chewing out Liam for getting back up on the fence when I'd asked him not to sit up there. I had just mounted and Bella was watching me put my foot in the other stirrup. Not good for me to be so distracted in such a moment. I should have ignored him...
My sister had an idea to make it more pleasant for Bella to be ridden. She walked around and fed her carrots and grass while I sat on her back. Bella didn't care much about me at all, other than once or twice when I put my leg on and she got irritated. I think we need to do a lot more desensitizing in the leg area. I did keep moving the whole time I was up there so she wouldn't forget I was there. She really enjoyed the food but I'm not sure it made much difference in her saddle training. If nothing else it was fun for her, and I like to see her enjoy herself.

I do like the idea of having someone lead me around while we get the feel for things, and maybe eventually lunge us. I know it seems like a kiddie pony ride but whatever works. I don't think she's going to buck but I do think that extra person there gives her more confidence.

She' a good girl.
I also asked my sister to check out her weird gaits. It seems to be mostly a mental thing, she's not relaxing into the work and she's being a bit sticky. She's also out of shape. I'm thinking maybe she needs to come off of the grass. She is very fat and she did founder last year in September. So today I'm going to do some pasture reorganization and put Bella in dry lot.

That said, I better be off to work!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tonight Bella and I did some very basic work. I moved her at all gaits in the round pen, naked. i was wondering if the saddle causes her to move differently but I guess it's just how she's moving. She has an odd lope, with her but popping up in the air a bit, but I think it's because she's not relaxed and her conformation is downhill. It's not a buck, just a weirdness. Although she will throw a little attitude in there at times.

Eventually what we worked on the most was her giving her head to the side. She has this habit of snatching her head back to her shoulder without looking at me (her eyeball is cranked forward with white of her eye showing) and then quickly popping her head back out front. What I want is for her to gently move her head and look at me and have a friendly interaction. I don't need it all the way around, and I don't need her to touch anything, there is no target, and I will release but she can't have her head back right away - not until she looks at me with a soft thought in her head rather than a jerky panicked avoidance reaction. I just want her to realize this is a friendly game of give and release - not something she has to be afraid of and do quickly. I think there is a little attitude hidden in her jerky give as well, and by not accepting that as an answer, I think it will go away.

I took the mounting block into the round pen and had her stand next to it while I rubbed her all over and played the friendly lateral flexion game. I laid over her back too but didn't mount. She didn't line up very well to the mounting block from the off side. So we kept trying until we got it done, with much thought and a lot of try, then we had to call it quits.

Why did we have to call it quits? Tonka was romping around, running, half-rearing, spinning, stopping. Dummy. I'd put him in a different small pen and there was a flash of lightning and a cold breeze and he just felt too charged up to act like an invalid. So I had to go catch him and tie him up for a while. I don't think he hurt himself any worse.

While I was catching Tonka, Bella got her leg over her rein (no bit - her lead rope was looped like reins and attached to the halter) in the round pen. She stood there giving to the pressure, looking kind of confused, but she patiently waited for me to release her from her predicament. So she's sensible, even if she is a bit of a worry wort.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tonight I tacked Bella up and decided to use the bosal and see how it might change things. She was much more relaxed. And it was easier to see her state of mind without the bit in her mouth. She flapped her lips a few times, a clear sign of distress. Other times she'd lick and chew and I knew it meant she was processing, there was no confusion between that and playing with the bit. She didn't have trouble understanding what it means either, which shows that she remembers it from a couple years back.

Doesn't she look like a ranch horse? You might think she was a quarter horse if it wasn't for her pretty freeze brand. (I really need some nicer saddle bags to put on my good saddle.)

I decided to step on after some preliminary half mounts, saying hello from the other side. I just quickly settled, got my foot in the stirrup, reassured her, and got off again. She was very worried. I decided to leave it at that and leave her thinking, "Is that all? I can do that!"

Doesn't she look beautiful? Here she's checking in, wondering what she's supposed to be doing because my body language changed while I took the picture.
I wish I had a lot more experience with this colt starting thing. I question my decisions a lot. She's so unsure and I don't really know what to do to make her more comfortable with the whole thing. Last night I tried to channel my inner child and play with her and love her the way I would have when I was a teenager, just enjoying being together. But I also want to move forward. Maybe I should forget the goal and just enjoy the journey. I really do love playing with her. She's a special girl. I'd love to hear some of your experiences with horses like this, and how you broke through to them and gained their trust.

Tomorrow we're going to go on another trail hike. I think I'll take her with the saddle again, since some of her hangups seem to be centered on that. And that way she can carry my water and snacks for me. :)

Tonka was a naughty boy today. I guess I left the poop fork too close to his isolation ward and he took out his frustrations on it. It was scattered all over the round pen.

"Did I do that?"

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bella and I had a great training session today. I think I was a bit over-optimistic about where we could start off though. I saddled and bridled her and took her into the round pen.

But first I must digress. Poor Tonka thought he was going to get to do something fun when I went into the round pen with a halter for the first time since he was condemned to "round pen rest" for his tendon injury. He was so excited to be caught. But all I did was lead him out and tie him to the outside. He really thought it should be all about him so he tried sticking his legs through the fence to get my attention. (Doesn't he know that's not good for his tendons?) I ignored him and he quit after a few tries.

Bella is an introvert - right brain, I think, but I can't remember the Parelli terminology very well. She internalizes a lot and she'll "shut down" or go off into la-la land if she's overwhelmed. Then if it gets bad enough she'll "blow up" but that doesn't happen often. So it presents an interesting training situation. I have to push her, of course, or she won't learn, but I also have to try not to get to the point where she shuts down. If she starts to get that distant, far off look, I gently apply pressure to the lead, asking her to look at me, and I say her name in a gentle, friendly way. Then I usually say, "Hi there, remember me?"

Anyway, we did some basic work. A little moving this way and that, slapping and wiggling the saddle, etc. Nothing big, everything gentle and slow, except when she was pointedly blowing me off, then I stepped toward her with slightly more intention and that's all it takes to startle her into thinking about doing the right thing. She's so sensitive.

When I took the bridle off she relaxed quite a bit. So obviously that's a distraction for her. I gave her some carrots and did some super easy stuff that she does well, and we ended on a relaxed, happy note. We'll keep on working, gently and slowly. I don't think she's ready for much riding, if any, yet.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Scout's trip to the trainer was mostly uneventful, except when some dumb kid rode his bike right in front of us and I had to hit the brakes pretty hard. Thanks to that and the winding, bumpy road, I don't think Scout liked the ride much. But when we got there he wasn't all sweaty and worked up like I expected.

Here's a picture of him in his temporary home. That paint horse was pretty nice, he just really wanted a buddy to hang out with and made Scout feel right at home. My baby is pretty fat and out of shape. I should have taken good "before" pictures to compare with how he looks when he comes home.

I don't know why John took this next picture but it shows the kind of terrain Scout will be enjoying once he's ready to ride out.
Other than that and taking care of everyday business with the horses, I don't have much to report. Things have been too busy to mess with the horses at the time of day when I can be out. But one possible good development - I'm beginning to think my skin allergy is a reaction to sunscreen, maybe not a reaction to sun. I'm testing that theory by not using sunscreen but I'm still staying out of the sun for now. I'm really hoping soon I can quit behaving like a vampire.

Oh, and Kara asked about how he sees out of the eye that was injured as a baby. The retina had detached, which the ophthalmologist said would not heal in an older horse because there is no blood supply to that part of the eye. In the womb they still have a blood supply in the eye. Scout was still so young there was a possibility there was enough blood supply still there to allow it to heal. She was not optimistic about it though. There are times I think it's totally fine, and even my vet thinks he sees out of that eye. But then I notice things that make me wonder how well he sees. If he's walking with me or his mom, he likes to keep us on the "bad" side, maybe so the good eye is looking out and we're protecting him where he can't see as well? He also seemed to have trouble switching eyes in the round pen when I was doing turning exercises with him. But then, those are both things normal horses do when they have a dominant side. I'll be interested to see if Keith thinks he sees differently on that side. I did tell him about it, just in case it becomes an issue. One day I may have another ultrasound done on the eye, but probably not unless it becomes a problem. I'd like to know whether the retina miraculously reattached, but I don't want to pay for it just to ease my scientific curiosity.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

This morning we had a lovely hike. It was Bella's first trip to the mountains. I don't think she's ever seen this many trees in one place. The mountains where she once ran free in southern Idaho are nothing like this.

Here it is on EveryTrail. If anyone knows how to combine trips into one map, I'd love to know how. This completes an exploration that Melissa and I did a couple weeks ago and I'd like to see them both on the same map.

This evening we make the trip to take Scout to the trainer. Fun times!