Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Somebody likes water.

 This picture looks like a prayer of gratitude to me:

 Copy Cow:

Silly face.

Pretty eyes

 Noble Joseph

Checking out new things:

We've had an excellent couple of days.  Lots of quiet time, some hoof trimming (fronts only so far), and he briefly met a saddle pad. Found some good itchy spots and did a little massage.  Did our first liberty work in the round pen tonight and he did beautifully other than wanting to stop and eat grass.  Walked up and down the creek, through the brush, and into a couple ponds.  Pretty soon I'll put him into a small enclosure next to the other horses, working toward turning him out on pasture.  I think he's going to be SO happy to have another gelding to play with. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wow, today didn't go as planned.  I was going to move him to the round pen to hang out and eat hay while I cleaned out his pen, then go for a walk.  I thought we'd be all happy and harmonious after our lovely walk yesterday.  Not so.

He didn't necessarily want to be caught and he jerked his head away as I reached out to halter him. Since it seemed like outright refusal rather than fear, I didn't really want to tiptoe around and sweetly ask his permission.  We did some work in the mustang pen and then I haltered him.  I worked on rubbing him vigorously, and yes, I even patted him a lot.  Poor fella.  Lo and behold though, he got over his flinchiness much quicker when I pressed the issue than he had when I gently groomed him.

Then we went to the round pen and did a lot more work there.  We'd regressed and he was jumping and jerking when we did direction changes.  About as good as he was the first day here.  So we worked until it became smooth, then I just let him circle mindlessly in one direction until he let go of some of his tension and started licking and chewing, then did the same thing in the other direction.

After that he finally got his peaceful alone time while I cleaned out his pen.

When I put him back I asked him for a tiny water crossing.  I let him eat his way across.  That worked out pretty well.

Tonight I got him out again and we went for a walk.  I walked him on one side while pulling the hay cart on the other, and he didn't seem terribly disturbed by it.  After I'd put that away we went up the driveway.  All the way up.  Even the scary part.  We checked the mail, then we came back down.  There were even cows there.

He's really a pretty sensible horse, not spooky even though we're doing a lot of things and going through areas that would get my other horses all worried.  We came back through a bit of a marsh, walked back by the house, crossed another ditch (leap!), did some maneuvering around cones, and then called it a night.  It was getting pretty dark by then and I hadn't brought out a light to feed by.

I'm still pretty tickled with my fella.  I know there are always those days that seem like large steps backwards, but I also know they're often followed by huge leaps forward, so I'm not too worried about it.

I didn't touch my horse for two whole days this week.  I just didn't feel well after work.  The third day my heart wasn't really in it either, but I went out and groomed  him.  He was tense and unsettled.  It wasn't very productive.
I left thinking that the thing I need to do is not touch him a lot or teach him, but just lead him.  Be a leader.  Be someone he feels safe following.
So that's what we did yesterday.  We went to the front field, we went behind the hill, he grazed on the new green grass.  Then we went back to the front field and got closer to the donkeys.  They were scary at first but eventually he wanted to go check them out.  We went up the driveway and out into the trees.  When we started he was worried but by the time we were done he was relaxed and happy to follow.  I think it was most definitely the right thing to do. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Joseph's circles on the lunge line are getting a lot cleaner.  Not so much confusion and jerking into action.  We threw in a few things that required more paying attention and finesse, like doing figure 8's and stopping from a trot.  I think his biggest challenge is the mud in half of my round pen.  It's not deep but it's slick.  He's figured out how to pay attention to his footing there so he doesn't stumble, but he has to pay attention.

Oh, I also vaccinated him yesterday.  He didn't take kindly to being stabbed in the neck.  He jumped away but stayed with me and let me re-stick him since the needle had moved, and that was that.

I picked up his hind feet vvveerrry briefly.  He was scared.  I didn't press the issue.  There's no big hurry.

He's still super flinchy about being groomed, especially toward the hind end.  I groom him every day and he'll get over it with time.  Boy is he shedding! 

Then we worked on trailer loading.  He wouldn't lead in, so eventually I drove him in.  He flinched and tightened up and then he leapt in and turned around to face me.  Not how I want him to load, but I'll take it for now.  He got lots of praise and pets (which aren't really all that great a reward at this point) and a couple treats while he hung out in the trailer and looked around.  Then he unloaded very nicely, which was a relief after how long it took him to unload when we brought him home.

After that we stood and watched the dogs play practically under his nose, then we called it a day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I was a little pressed for time yesterday so I decided to just do some review.  I didn't want to get stuck in the middle of something that was difficult for him and not be able to leave.

It was another super windy day, even colder than the day before.  Or maybe I just wasn't dressed right for it.  Either way, he was a little more nervous when I haltered him.  It was also just about dinner time and I don't think he was too happy about me catching him.

So we did a simple exercise that's easy to get right.  He doesn't do it super well yet but he's getting much better.  I just asked him to drop his head.  We did it for about a minute, until he got it before I had to wiggle the downward pressure and didn't pop his head back up in a panic.

 Next I took my big soft rope and rubbed him
 From head to tail on both sides.

Leg lifts - part one - resistance.  Look at that worried face!

Leg lifts part two - relaxation - he's coming forward (I'm leading him by his foot)

Leg lifts part three - curiosity :)

Some people would use a loop of rope that can slide freely through the end ring.  I've done that too and I don't like it as well.  It's harder to get the loop off.  I've had to use my training stick to reach down and work things free, and it's just not as easy.  Sure, there's less chance your rope will fall off in the middle of work, but I don't mind if that happens, I just put it back and we get back to work.

Things were going so well I decided to work on hind feet.  Since I'm not using a training stick to lengthen my reach I had to do a lot of rubbing all around his leg, and bump the other leg a bit for good measure.  It's always good to plan ahead for any clumsy moments you may have later.

I keep my lead nice and short for this part, so that if he has to move he will swing his but away, not forward and into kicking position.  But if I really thought he was going to kick I'd be at his shoulder, reaching back with a training stick or lunge whip to rub his leg.  I've even used a bamboo pole with a stuffed glove on the end for one horse who was really terrified of being touched.  (If you'd like to read his story I think it was around September of 2011 - the date links are to the left on the blog.)

I reached around with the rope and here we are!

This side is always his more difficult side.  Here you see all the ropes.  They can be hard to juggle.  I just let the excess drag so I'm not risking getting it wrapped around my hand if he decides to bolt.

Resistance again, but no sheep panic.  I try to keep enough tension on the rope to keep him from kicking his other leg.  He didn't do that, but I have had horses that did.

I didn't try to lead him around by his hind leg just yet.  But we did practice something this - I think I could use the weight tape on him now.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Today it was so super nasty and windy out that I almost didn't want to play with my good horse.  After a nap and a big cup of coffee I felt a little better about it.  Even with my warmest fuzzy jammies on under my coveralls I was a bit cold. Luckily Joseph's area is more protected from the wind, being behind the hill, and his shelter kept the blowing snow out of our eyes.

Today's plan of attack was hoof work.  I brought my cotton lunge line and my trimming tools.  He was curious.

I spent some time roping his feet.  First step was to rub him with the rope.  Then we spent some time swinging it up and over his back and around his legs.  Eventually I wrapped it around his leg so I had each end of the rope in my hand with his leg in the middle.  I couldn't take pictures of this process because he was kind of uncomfortable and I had my hands full.  He never freaked out or tried to get away, the worst he did was jerk his foot or try to back up.  I would put pressure on the rope and say, "foot," and he would lift his foot, then as long as he wasn't yanking on me I'd put it back down.  If he didn't pick up his foot I'd put alternating pressure on each end of the rope.  He did really well.  I only did the front feet.

Eventually I put the rope away and picked up his feet and cleaned them out, then rasped the bottom of the toe a bit.  He sometimes took his foot away, but I would just calmly ask for it back.  He didn't do as well with picking his hoof up and pulling it forward, especially when I asked him to set it on the hoof stand.  He started backing up to get away from it all, so I calmly backed him all the way around his pen.  We only had to do that a couple times.

Here he is thinking it all over, done with rasping both fronts from the top.  We did all of this with his rope draped over him just like that.  :)

I don't think he's quite ready for me to take his front hoof between my knees, which I have to do if I want to use my nippers, so we didn't use nippers today.

Blue was really hoping there would be some tasty hoof trimmings for him.  He's not allowed in there while there's a horse in there.  It didn't take him long to investigate once we'd gone to the round pen.

 Handsome fella:

In the round pen I asked him to move out a little more, and come back down to a walk.  He gets worried, then he gets stuck, then he lurches forward.  At one point I couldn't tell if he was bucking or loping or just lurching along.  It's kind of comical but I really hope he doesn't do that once we start riding.  He didn't pull on me much at all today.  He did really well with his stops, and would stand there looking at me so cutely.  He had a hard time transitioning down to a walk, but I could see that he was pretty happy with himself once he figured it out.  He's so worried about doing the wrong thing.  I think he's starting to realize that there's always a right answer if only he can find it.  As long as I don't overdo my cues and I wait patiently while he thinks things through - not jumping to correct him, just insisting that he do the right thing - he's starting to relax and try things more thoughtfully and with less of that worried lurching into action without thought. 

"Who's that coming down the driveway?"

A scary kid!  But as you can see he didn't stay scared for long.

First Liam just petted his face, then I had him walk next to me while I led Joseph, then I handed over the lead rope and walked with them.  Then I stopped and let them go on.  Joseph thought that was weird and a little worrying, but he got over it.

Look at that nice bum!

His other end is pretty nice too.  I love the golden color, and his black nostrils.

And yes, his nose really is that shiny and kissable.

 At the end of our time together today he was relaxed and smiling.
It's weird not having time for several short sessions throughout the day.  That's how I've worked with all the other mustangs I've had here.  This seems to be working out just fine though.  I worry that he gets bored out there in his pen most of the day, but maybe it works in my favor - he always seems happy to see me.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hubba hubba.  What a tank.

He's got his eye on me.

This one totally reminds me of a dork I used to know (by the name of Tonka, in case you're wondering).

What a good boy.
We worked on rubbing hind legs, picking up front legs and leading today, with a tiny bit of circling.  I am dying to trim his feet, so I pulled his front feet forward like I would to rasp from the top.  He thought that was weird, but he did catch on to what I wanted.  Leading he does okay, if he's following (so it's not exactly leading) but when I ask him to walk up close or next to me he gets stressed out.  We also walked in and out of the round pen gate a lot, because he decided to get stuck there the first time.  Every now and then he has a naughty little tiny fit and kinda hops and yanks on the lead rope.  Oh, and he tried nipping at me today.  He got smacked pretty smartly, he jumped away, and then I ignored him.  It wasn't 30 seconds before he was back at my shoulder sniffing and putting his lips on my shirt, much more gently and with no grabbing.

He's a good boy.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Some days are just better than others.  This was one of those days.  I got off work on time!  I got home and had lots of daylight left to play with my horse.  Awesome.  I was super tired and I knew I couldn't sit down for too long or I wouldn't get back up.  So I just changed my boots and headed out.

Joseph is a good boy.  He's already learning my language and facing me when I ask him to, rather than being evasive.  I had no trouble haltering him.  He's still goosy about being groomed but not as bad as yesterday.  Patient persistence pays off and I got the mud removed, other than the really tough stuff under his belly and on his elbows.  He's really shedding a lot!  Must be because the climate is warmer where he was. 

I walked him to the round pen without trouble, and introduced him to my flag.  Speaking of introductions, he's a face horse, not a shoulder horse or a butt horse.  What I mean by that is which part of the body a horse prefers to meet new things with.  Bella is a shoulder horse.  I don't believe I've ever had a butt horse, but then I wouldn't know because I don't like to get to know them from that end.  So Joseph met the flag with his brave face, then I rubbed his neck a bit.  Then he followed me around while I waved it and he didn't breathe for a little while but then he relaxed.  I was eventually able to rub him all the way from his face to his hind hooves.  I didn't tickle under his belly with it yet.

Once he was comfortable(ish) with the flag, I asked him to circle me at the walk.  He seems a little unsure of what I mean, which makes sense because I'm sure my body language is different than his previous person's.  He also has trouble keeping it at a walk, which is also understandable because most horses are lunged more at a trot.  But when he trots he really wants to pull on the rope with his head.  We barely established a start of a dialog about circles, but it was a start.  I didn't want him getting too jazzed up, and when he started yanking on me he started getting very distracted and worried, and that is definitely not what I'm after.  After some successful stops and starts, we went back to rubbing with the flag, and started working on touching his hind end and legs/feet.

Speaking of his hind hooves, that's the only part of the TIP training requirements he doesn't do - I can't pick up his hind feet.  I'm not too worried about it, we'll get there.  He's not bad, he's just apprehensive and he moves his hind end away.  We made a lot of progress on that today.  He really did pretty well on his left side, although I only asked him to barely lift his foot and I immediately put it back down (several times).  His right side is his more difficult side, in that and everything else.  When he finally lifted his foot for a split second without moving away, I just walked away and that was the end of our round pen time.

Back in the mustang pen I draped his lead rope over his back while I dinked with the gate.  He stood directly behind me, almost touching me, in the safe zone where there's no pressure, and sniffed and breathed deeply.  When I turned away from the gate and wandered around the pen, he was right with me.  While I stood and admired him he started yawning and doing a lot of licking and chewing.  I think he's realizing I'm pretty OK.

A progression of thoughts:

Kinda not sure about this:
(he didn't know what to think of the camera)


Reaching out:

Hmm, this is alright, I think:

And I waited for him to quit yawning for to get the next one.  
I think he's feeling pretty happy:

I heard him nicker to my sister's old horse tonight.  Weird little things sometimes strike me as so un-Tonka and make me a little sad.  He has a normal voice.  Tonka had a very distinctive voice - he was a little hoarse.  Another odd realization; when I was grooming Joseph my body had a muscle memory of taking special care around his right hiney where Tonka had a big scar.  Joseph doesn't have a scar I have to be careful of.  I can't wait to find all the special little things that will make him unique.  Hard to believe at this point that he'll ever be as endearingly quirky as Tonka was, but I bet I won't find it so hard to believe once I get to know him.

When I was done I felt so energized and happy!  Horses are sure good for the soul.  Even though I've had too little sleep this week, I had a spring in my step and I didn't want to call it a night. The weather was wonderful too.  Spring is here!  The grass is turning green, and the air is soft and warm.  Love it.