Sunday, January 24, 2016


So yesterday I wrote about things I'd already written about, and forgot to write about something important. Sometimes I think my brain is old before its time.

On Wednesday Duncan and I had a frustrating session working on picking up hind feet. We both were tired and desperate by the end. He would kind of pick up a foot then step down on it, or sometimes he wouldn't even try, and he'd move away. I'd yield his hindquarters around and around, then try again. A few times toward the end I trotted him off in a small circle instead of yielding hindquarters.

He really is such a sweet boy. Through all of this, he never once thought about kicking me. He just doesn't want me to have his leg, so he stands on it, moves it away, puts it down. He is apprehensive and off-balance. He isn't mean spirited, he just never learned that this is okay.

Finally, as it was getting too dark to see, he let me set his pastern on my knee. I kept it for a split second, then gently set it down. Praise and pets! Step back and let him soak that in. Licking and chewing. Two more times we did it, the last time I was able to leave his hoof on my knee and rub his leg all over. Super proud, pleased praise.

I left him after that, his reward my absence.  I didn't even go to the other hind leg at all.

We didn't work on it again until yesterday, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Either we had a breakthrough or we didn't.

My first ask made him move away just slightly and weight that leg. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and asked again without "punishing" him for moving off. He did it! I went to the other side and he did it there too! I didn't ask for anything more than a brief hold. Short and sweet. We'll build on that.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

We Haven't Been Idle

 We've had to do some work inside the stalls because of the cold wind. He is jumpy in bad weather (aren't they all) so asking him to do stuff and remember we can be calm is good for him.

I let him wear his blanket around until it fell off. He thought it was interesting, but not scary.

Pedro was jealous.

 I got him some used easyboots and put pads in them to see if they'll help with his sore feet. Then the ground thawed and he didn't need them.

Duncan and I went for our first walk down the road! He was a rock star. He looked back toward home a few times, and was extra watchful going through the neighbor's farm equipment, but he never spooked or threw a fit wanting to go home. We didn't have any cars go by. Maybe next time.

He's also been spending a little time tied up. I ordered a new blocker tie ring so I could tie him without worrying if he really knows how to stand tied. It turns out he does. But he's a little nervous being groomed while he's tied. That's easy to work on.

I put a new piece of fabric on my flag and introduced it to him. He prefers if it stays still in front of him, but I also flapped it around and touched him all over with it. We will be doing more of that.

Have you ever heard of the Masterson Method? It's kind of similar to acupressure, I guess. Check it out on YouTube and maybe try it out. I did this with Duncan and he really responded well on his left side. Lots of releases with yawning and licking and chewing.

On his right side it's been more challenging. He doesn't want to let go of whatever is going on there, so he fidgets so much I can hardly keep my hand in position. I know the feeling. Sometimes my chiropractor does that to me and it's very unpleasant right before it releases. It's funny, because it's just the lightest touch, held without moving, so you wouldn't think it could do anything, let alone make you feel uncomfortable, then much better.

We went out to the Great White Pine area and went hiking the other day. It was kind of rough going in the snow, but it was just what I needed. I love being in the woods. So does Huckleberry.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Glad for Stalls

The weather today was gross. Wind and snow and rain. Blech. So we played in the stalls.

Duncan has a tendency to be a little goofy in cold, wet, windy weather. I don't blame him. He worked through it though. Interestingly, he really prefers if I talk to him when we're working on something worrisome. Which doesn't come naturally to me, and sometimes I forget and get quiet. He did much better with the blanket flying over his back once I started babbling.

We also did some moving of various body parts. At one point he had me wondering if someone had taught him some showmanship or something, he's so sensitive and maneuverable, one tiny step at a time. It's probably just who he is, though.

I also picked up his feet, and worked on stretching one of them forward, but then my mom called and we just stood together for a bit while I talked on the phone.

Then I turned him loose with the saddle blanket on and watched.

No big deal.

Going back several years, I accidentally left all my Blocker tie rings in my trailer when I sold it. We haven't been super flush since then, and they became pretty expensive, so I didn't replace them. It made tying young mustangs for the first time more of a production, with lots of preparation and thought put into how to do things safely.

I decided it was time to get one again, depending on the price. I found a deal on eBay, from Blocker Ranch, the inventor of the ring, that was totally reasonable with free shipping, so I bought one and it got here super quick.

Tonight I tied Duncan for the first time, using the Blocker ring to make me feel better about it. I didn't want him pulling back, scrambling, flipping over or any of that in my barn where the close quarters would make it more dangerous. 

When I brought him home I was told he ties no problem. It turns out to be true. Happy day. :)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bella, Agent of Chaos

Yesterday John took Scout for a walk in the big pasture and I tried to join him with Duncan, which required going through Bella's pasture. Scout was already pretty far away and Bella was being a flighty booger because her boy had been taken away. I tried to get through the gate to join John and Scout but she kept running up behind us and spooking Duncan, so that didn't work. (I can't take a chance of her getting loose right now because we have a deep trench she could fall in.) By now both Duncan and the distant Scout were pretty jazzed up.

Anyway, long story shorter, Duncan reminded me that he still needs a lot of life experience. Poor guy's heart was beating out of his chest every time he saw Scout off in the distance, and Bella racing around bucking didn't help. He could barely focus on me at all.

He did put all 4 feet in this puddle for me. Isn't he cute with his googly eyes all worried?

I made him a special new halter with beads that have spirals on them (kind of like his spiral curls). It doesn't photograph super well, but you get the idea.

Oh, and John got a new job! He'll be working for a company that makes custom homes. He's really excited about it. It's mostly commission based so things might be tight the first year, but then it should really take off. He's the good kind of salesman. Finds the right fit for the customer without being pushy about it. 

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Just pictures

 Did you ever read National Velvet as a child? I thought she was so incredibly... I don't know, lucky, rich, free, having all those horses to do whatever she wanted with. That's how I felt watching Duncan eat his snack the other day. :)


Bella has such big, pretty eyes.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Simple Things

I am really enjoying working with Duncan. He is always happy to see me coming, gives a throaty little hoarse nicker and meets me to be haltered. I've completely stopped rewarding with treats, poor fella. He focuses better now. :)

They still shamelessly beg for treats though.

Today (now that the weather is closer to freezing than 0) we worked together twice. Simple things like body control with hand pressure where eventually there will be stirrup pressure, lateral flexion, dropping head and allowing a rope to pass over his ears, fingers in and around his mouth, picking up feet, lungeing at a walk, walking with me then being sent around objects and joining me to walk again, rope and saddle blanket over his back & falling to the ground. Seeing the saddle blanket draped out long on Pedro's back was very concerning! His eyes were huge. Following a feel exercise with rope around his opposite side, almost fouling his legs, searching for and finding the right answer.

He is very smart when he's free to explore the right and wrong answers without fear. It doesn't take many repetitions for him to have it down and be ready to move on. Except with his hooves. He is making slow progress there, but it is definite progress. He is still holding on to a lot of tension there. He knows that there is a right and a wrong answer, and neither is that big a deal, but one is easier. :)

This horse journey has been pretty painful these last few years since Tonka died. I had my reservations about Luc all along, even if he hadn't been lame. I'm sure we would have made things good in time, but our energy levels didn't match. And Jasper was certainly not the right fit. I really wanted Joseph to be the one but he never really wanted to be with people, which maybe would have been okay if he didn't have EPSM. Each of them broke my heart a little bit, and I wish I had made better choices. I guess choosing the wrong partners is one way to learn.

I don't claim to be, or want to be, a great horseman who can train any horse. I just want to have a great partnership with one horse, until death do us part.

Duncan just fits. He's like getting into warm, dry clothes after a day in cold water. If I can keep from screwing this up, it is going to be a long, slow, beautiful dance.

I'm afraid he might become entwined in my heartstrings as inextricably as Tonka was.  Afraid, but also hopeful.