Thursday, January 31, 2019

Backward Steps and Yawning!

Wow, yesterday was interesting. Halla was not with me in the round pen. She was having trouble slowing down her walk and trot even on line, but since she's more relaxed (sometimes) when at liberty, we moved on.

That definitely didn't help. I had a horse that couldn't get herself under control. I could get a trot from her, but only because she was tired. Walking was not really an option.  She was having trouble changing directions, trying to switch back to the left, taking off again when things didn't go right. She wasn't seeing my cues. She was just in robo-drive. I even walked out of the round pen at one point while she was circling. That got her attention. I took a moment to think, gain my composure. Let her do the same and breathe.

Eventually she was able to walk calmly in both directions. We were still having some hiccups with directional changes but rather than having her get upset again I haltered her and we walked and worked on other things while she cooled down. She was too worn out for more of that crap. It took her a long time to cool down and dry out.
We did a lot of quiet but sometimes mentally hard things that we've been working on lately, and we made progress!

Still not cool with the mounting process... That one is requiring some creativity on my part, and a lot of patience. We are making progress, but she's still stiff.

By the end I had this horse. Thank goodness.
Relaxed, reaching out, interacting.

Then we both took a nap. That was mentally and physically exhausting. 

I went out later and we had a short session and it went very well. No round pen. Calm, interactive, no fuss. 

Juniper really wanted some attention so I took her for a short walk.

She's the cutest. 
 A friend of mine (my equine dentist) wants us to get her trains dto pack ao she can pack water and equipment up to places on her land that aren't accessible to motorized equipment. Wouldn't that be fun? She's working on a Palouse native prairie reclamation project. Totally worthwhile too!

Halla watched us the whole time but pretended she wasn't waiting for us when we got back.

While Juniper and I were having a good butt-scratching session Halla came up and joined in. She stood there and yawned and yawned and touched my hand and arm and yawned some more, then started specifically requesting scratches. She's never come up and relaxed and yawned with me like that. I think we made some huge progress yesterday. That's a big, big deal.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Doing the Work

I'm not sure why I can't sit down and write to you about the deep happenings between Halla and I. It's too complicated. It's too simple. It's too visual. I really just don't want to take the time to type it out, especially not knowing if my audience is even interested.

Luckily this one is interested.

We are back to zero. Oh, but it's so fun to work on circles and say, "But can you go this slow?" and have her dial it down to turtle pace from the slightest request, then pick it back up again like she's reading my mind. Those things are fun.

Working on standing at the mounting block, stepping up on the mounting block, basically doing step aerobics on the mounting block while she's frozen in "I'm gonna die" land - that isn't fun. But when she then steps up and then over to me, drops her head, licks and chews, and says, "I'm ready." Oh wow! Of course, next time, she couldn't get out of "I'm gonna die" land and I got lots of exercise.

Increasing speed at liberty, a butt scoot, upright head, stiff ears, no breath, wrong lead, but only sometimes. We need to work on transitions.

I need to put my rein hand down when I'm done with it. She needs to be touched with the flag, meaningless and with meaning. Still so hard for her to give me her right side. So hard for me to use my left. None of us are perfect, eh?

Boring? Maybe, on the outside. But really quite absorbing from the middle of it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Make it Quick

Yesterday it was beginning to snow a lot with a bit of a breeze and I almost let that stop me. I don't particularly like snow blowing in my face and most horses don't either. I made myself get out there anyway, and I learned that Halla isn't the type of horse that can't possibly walk into the wind, and she's willing to give it a try too. We did do our best to make it quick though, without hurrying.

I groomed her in the barn, just a quick scraping of a small amount of mud - she's a pretty tidy girl. Juniper is a huge pest and the barn is dark, so it's not really relaxing time in there, so we went outside the pasture and did a replay of what we had done the day before. This time any tension melted away very quickly.

We moved to the problem spot in the field and same thing. So we called it good. Lots of happy praise and a trip back to the barn.

Yesterday we had the most beautiful sunrise. I wish my phone camera would do it justice. I gave it a try:

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Lesson #1

Halla and I had a great lesson the other day. It was extremely helpful. I came home with lots of notes like, be a better leader at all times - she wants to be told exactly what to do, get through scary spaces efficiently, use my imaginary direct rein while at liberty,  watch my body position, she is super sensitive.  While on the line we are to practice moving the flag with no intent toward her while she is in motion (she was a bit explosive the first time but quickly got better) and using it with intent, making clear the difference. Dropping her head to bring her out of her flight mode and bring her back up. A few simple bodywork things. Lateral flexion with my hand on her face but without clamping down (she isn't fond of hands on the front of her face).

She made huge strides the first day, then I took a day off to get this:

I've wanted a canopy for the truck for years! I'm so excited I finally found one. We're going to try using it for camping this summer. Imagine crawling into a real bed, already set up. Next best thing to a living quarters trailer, which is a heck of a lot more expensive. We got this thing dirt cheap.

Yesterday Halla and I did some homework and she did well at first, but without really relaxing. The relaxing is the key, not the rote doing of the task. Then she surprised me by throwing fits repeatedly and eventually breaking away and running back to the barn. I calmly went and retrieved her and started over, first at the barn, then back at the trouble spot. She almost immediately calmed down, relaxed, and walked a nice circle with her entire body relaxed while the flag was active in the air with no intent toward her. Okeedokee. I guess she just needed to get some feelings out.

Oh, another thing we talked about at my lesson was horses' weak right hind, which apparently comes about because almost all horses are left handed. I knew that, but I never really thought about how it would make their bodies assymetrical just like ours. The conversation came about because I mentioned none of my horses back a straight line so I must be doing something wrong. She watched me and said I wasn't doing anything wrong, she just wasn't reaching as far with her right hind. She recommended backing her with a fence on her right to encourage her to back straight and reach out more with that leg. Also backing up hills is always good.

I'll report back in as we progress.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Hiking With Friends

I sure am thankful for my four-legged friends.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Beautiful Day

Well, we didn't get our lesson. The truck wanted the day off (dead battery). So that is postponed but I had a good conversation with Angie, the trainer.

The weather yesterday was glorious, so we had a horseplay day. Halla was not thrilled.

She was having an especially bad day yesterday. I'm not sure if she was expecting something bad because we had a bad ride (we did end on a good note) or if she's hormonal or what, but it really doesn't matter. My job was just to go with the flow and try to create a positive interaction.

We are going to work on giving to the halter or bit in any situation, whether it be stressful or not. Starting with not. We are going to go back to the snaffle. She was very pleasantly surprised by that. She gave nicely laterally and vertically and gave me a nice back-up as well (on the ground).

Aren't they cute? It's hard to get either of them to stay back for a picture.

Juniper got to try on the treeless saddle at liberty. She could leave if she wanted to, and she did, but being a curious donkey in need of love and entertainment, she came right back every time.

She thought about it a lot.

And decided it's not so bad.
Especially with a little support from a friend.
 When I cinched her up it made her uncomfortable and she moved into me, so that was a little awkward. But that was the most interesting moment. Of course she has been saddled twice before with a pack saddle, but that was a long time ago.

Halla wanted nothing to do with a saddle, which was fine because I didn't want to ride her! We worked on disengaging the hindquarters, and separating the cue of lateral flexion while standing still, then disengaging the hindquarters. She wanted to anticipate a lot. Also, I had to be very patient to let her think for a moment after a release of pressure, to let her get to the let-down, or lick and chew, to know she was fully ready to move on. I think with her laid back demeanor she's been rushed, which hasn't allowed her to truly be comfortable.  Then later, she got bored with my waiting on her. It's a fine line we walk. :)

After a nice big lunch, Liam wanted to ride Sawyer. Yay!
 Not the greatest pics, but I have to take what I can get with this boy.

Scout wanted to come out so badly he eagerly came when I called him (twice because I couldn't find his halter). You can barely see Liam and Sawyer just above the fence rail in the picture below.

Mmmmm. Coffee. These Contigo cups are the best! They don't leak! Throw them in your saddle bag, even!

I had spent the morning organizing the tack room in the trailer, moving saddles, and I put my fleece seat saver on my new Cashel saddle, which is already comfortable without it. So I rode. I shouldn't have, because I was almost toppling over sometimes walking. But Scout is really good in our round pen dojo. We only stepped outside it for a few minutes.

I even got John to ride his horse by telling him how soft and cozy the new saddle is with the fleece on it. :) I am going to buy him one of these saddles too. I found an even cheaper one that's in better shape! Hope she doesn't sell it to someone else or have second thoughts about shipping it. I'm going to sell the roper and the Circle Y. I love saddles. But I especially love this Cashel saddle.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

New Direction

Halla and I have some work to do. I'm going to take her to a lesson today (thank goodness my driveway is clear) but no riding.

Why no riding? Well, yesterday she dumped me and I hit the ground hard right on the packed gravel. She spooked and bolted and I tried my darndest to stay on. I had a decent grip with my right hand (wounded shoulder) in her mane but I was dangling off her left side with no control over the reins. I'm just not strong enough.

So I'm going to get some help making a plan to help Halla be more comfortable with everything. To be honest, she isn't even totally comfortable with me moving suddenly in the saddle or waving my arm on one side. I've just been stealing rides, really.

I'm also going to start working on getting stronger. If I wasn't so weak from all this time babying all my injuries I would have stayed on. I'm not sure how to do that without hurting myself, so I may have to hire yet another professional. $$$

All this when I've had to cut my hours at work due to headaches. It allows time to do it all, but I worry a little about finances. It's cheaper than ER visits though...

Question for you: The Troxel helmet pictured above broke pretty badly. All the way through the styrofoam in three places. Do you think that means it did its job well, giving so my head wouldn't? Or, would a stronger helmet that just compressed and cracked less (Tipperary) be better? Or is that more like hitting your head on a hard object? Either way, nothing keeps your brain from sloshing around in your head... I am pretty dizzy & off balance today but overall not as sore as I thought I would be.

Horsing around is hard sometimes. But I can't live without it.

Monday, January 07, 2019

All Work and No Play

Haha, no way will that ever be the title of my life. I did do a little work the other day though, breaking up ice on the driveway so we could have people over. It didn't help my shoulder or my migraine but it was a distraction and it gave me a sense of accomplishment.

The title of this photo is
"Hot Work"
I was disappointed that my shovel blended in so well with my coat and the ground.

I don't think I wrote about my hay delivery last weekend. Ugh. A guy offered to bring me alfalfa for Sawyer since I couldn't get my truck out of my driveway (4 wheel dive is out). I didn't need hay immediately.  I warned him profusely about my hill, and he was going to check it out ahead of time. (He can probably see it from his house, he's right across the highway.)

Long story short, he got stuck. Several times. For 2+ hours. 

Luckily my niece and her husband were here with their sturdy pickup and we have the tractor now too, so we got him out of the worst situations. His 4 wheel drive was out, and he didn't know it until we'd unloaded the hay and he tried to move. Then, when he gave up and someone was going to give him a ride home, he restarted his pickup and Ta-da! Four wheel drive worked again. What the heck.

Halla and I had a lovely dusk ride at home, just plunking around. Boy, I sure do like her. I can't wait to start going places again. Winter is the pits. But it is a relaxing time to bond and work on things we wouldn't necessarily work on out on the trail.

Oh yeah! I dewormed them with the uber-nasty stuff the other day (Quest plus) and poor Halla kept wiggling her lip for the longest time. I bet if horses could vomit, she would have.

Bella doesn't get Quest products anymore so she got Equimax, I think, and it smelled good, like bananas. I haven't dewormed for tapeworms in a couple years, so I figured I might as well, just in case.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

New Year's Day

Beautiful Bella
 Loving Mama

Proud Huckleberry, worried I'm going to take his disgusting leg:

Tuesday, January 01, 2019


We had a nice Christmas eve get together at my niece's house. It was pretty emotional without my sister there, opening the gifts she'd had so much fun buying for everyone. Feeling her absence. We're still trying to feel our way through.

Christmas day we did the usual opening of stockings and presents in the morning, just the 3 of us who are still at home. It was a little weird because Liam got a super cool new video game from Katia the day before, and I had to wait on him before opening presents. Seriously? Usually it's the kid bouncing off the walls while the parent-zombie slowly gets coffee and tries to become human enough to understand what's going on. He even let me sleep in. My children have grown up. Darn it.

We finally got our tractor fixed. I'm not sure how many years it's been broken now. I don't want to talk about how much it cost. It needed a new engine, but first they did some work hoping to save the old engine, which I'm sure we paid for. It wasn't as much as a new tractor. It was probably more than a used tractor. Painful. But! I'm excited to have it back in action. So was Liam. He can't think of enough things to do with it to satisfy his need to drive it.

I couldn't think of a fitting way to express how happy my dishes made me feel the day after we had a bunch of family over for Christmas dinner. (No, we don't have a dishwasher, and I don't want one.) I love my happy-bright dishes. A reminder that life is beautiful even when the world is dark, and the number of them to show that we have enough to share and we are not alone. Right after I took this picture I got word of a suicide. Someone I don't know, a friend of a friend's son. It wasn't my disaster, but still I had a bit of a difficult moment. Ah, life.

Sawyer is looking quite good, eating like a king. 

Huckleberry was feeling proud after chasing off a dog. He stayed on our property and barked it out of sight. Good boy! Can't have any threats to our ducks.  (I think the dog was visiting our neighbors for Christmas.)

We had a lovely hike with our niece in the sun. Much needed for all of us.


Huck and her dog Marshall got along well even though Huckleberry is a grump and Marshall wanted to play. Marshall knows when to back off.

This is my kind of cathedral:

Do you see Ariel, the tree-person?
Huckleberry brought home an awesome fresh moose leg left by a hunter. I should have brought home a second one for Winston, if there was one. Poor fella was crying about not having one of his own. It only took a couple hours for Huck to eat the entire hoof and all the skin. Yum.

My new year's eve: Sawyer's first ride in ages and he had to browse on old nasty thistles.

It was a glorious day with no wind.

Juniper got to come out for a walk-n-snack too.

I love my Juniper

I didn't go to my usual get together, instead spent the evening watching movies with my parents. I actually stayed up until midnight! I was outside when some the new year's explosions went off, and the air was twinkling with frozen particles, a perfectly still, clear sky. It was beautiful.

Here's to a bright and glorious new year for all of us, and the ability to see the good even amidst the bad. Find the twinkles in the cold and the colors in the darkness. Know your clan and don't lose hold of them.