Update on This and That

Venice has been getting steadily friendlier since I have had more control of her head. First with the war bridle, and now with a proper halter. She’s had a short lead rope hanging from the halter for a few days and she’s learned to flip it aside as needed, and to keep it out from under her feet. Jen, who is keeping Twister in the stall next to Venice, was surprised to realize that Venice had quietly sneaked up behind her on the other side of stall wall and was playing with her hair. Of course when Jen actually turned and looked, Venice jumped back in alarm 🙂

She has been learning to move forward when I put pressure on the lead. It’s not smooth and fluid yet, but she understands and she tries. Usually she can only manage one or two steps at a time. Today, I was able to lead her out into the barn aisle, where I fed her a few carrots until she relaxed. Just about that point, Veronica walked in unexpectedly, and poor Venice’s courage evaporated. She leapt about a foot straight up, then stood, quivering in her boots, but she held her ground (sort of). I asked Veronica to go outside for a minute, and managed to get Venice to walk back into her stall without any crashing around. Poor Veronica was horrified that she’d interrupted our little training session. But Venice needs to learn to deal with stuff like that anyway, and she coped. So it was all good.

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Twister had a good day today. He finally looked like he could walk without flinching, and Jen was thrilled. He’s been recovering from his episode of laminitis (founder) this winter, but it’s been very very slow. Hopefully the Pergolide is finally kicking in and controlling the Cushings. One difference that’s showing up already is that he’s mostly lost his long winter coat. He’s always grown a tremendously thick coat that was very late to shed in spring (a symptom of Cushings). This is the earliest he’s ever lost it. Jen is setting up a track around the inside edge of the big paddock so Twister will have lots of room to move, but no access to grass once he can be turned out. His management is going to be quite a project for the rest of his life. While it’s not grass that caused this episode, the sugars in grass are very dangerous for him. Rather like sugar for a diabetic.

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I’ve been riding Diego pretty regularly over the last two months. Nothing exciting. But lots of short uneventful rides. He’s been exceptionally good so far. Of course he hasn’t been pushed in any way. Mostly just walk/trot with only a few short, easy canters. But my theory is that we are “practicing being good” instead of practicing being frazzled. Trying to overlay some of his old reactive habits with a whole new set of calm habits. He had quite a long time off after the disastrous events of last year. And then all the ground work and driving. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we’ve managed to reset his responses to stress a little bit.

Certainly some of his hot buttons have faded out. He actually likes to trailer load now. We did a lot of practicing before winter set in, but then with the snow and ice, I wasn’t able to get him on the trailer for a couple of months. So last week I figured I’d better test load him a few times to make sure he was still good with it. He didn’t even hesitate. Hopped right on, totally relaxed.

He’s standing like a rock for mounting too. I get on the mounting block, and he lines himself up for me and doesn’t move a muscle until I ask. That’s important, since the older I get, the less graceful I become. And I never was very nimble. I had a friend who could swing gracefully up onto her horse bareback when we were teenagers. I ground my teeth in verdant envy every time I saw her do that. Anyway, Diego needs to stand quietly for me so I can get myself up there one-armed (I never realized that I even USED my left arm when I was mounting a horse until I broke that elbow!)

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King is looking good. Some of his tumours have reduced in size a little over this winter. He’s had his feed strictly rationed and is at a much more reasonable weight than usual. I’ve ridden him a few times, and although we did not do much, he didn’t cramp up. So I may try riding him a little more this year. Not in competition. Just for fun 🙂

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Dressy just looks smug. She thinks that the Queen of the Universe should not have to work (there are minions for that sort of thing), and thus all is right in her world.

More Pics of Loula’s Filly

Loula’s filly is quite a little charmer. She is very friendly and confident, presenting herself to have her neck and her ears scratched several times today. At one point, while she was lying down, I was scratching her neck, and she stretched back and rested her head on my knee. Loula was a bit worried, but tolerated my presence very well (for a big, rude, pushy mare) The boss is already accusing me of spoiling the baby (accusations which I ignored utterly since he’s obviously being ridiculous).

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Loula’s Filly

Loula had a very flashy, handsome filly this evening at work. I’m sorry the pic is so bad. It was pretty dark in the stall.

She’s a chestnut with a blaze and four white feet. Three stockings and a sock. So she is going to be eye-catching! She is Max’s (the flying yearling) little sister… well, half sister. Max is by Old Forester. This new filly is by Strut the Stage. I’ll take more pics in better light tomorrow.

Venice in Her Halter

Venice has been getting used to having the rope around her head. But she still cannot stand to have a hand on her face. I’ve been able to sneak my hand slowly up her neck and on to her jowl. But not over her nose or anywhere near the front of her face.

However, she will allow a parelli stick or a lunge whip to rub all over her. I can run it up her neck, over her ears, down the front of her face, down her nose (she nibbles on it in passing), and back up to her throat. I can also throw ropes all over her with very little reaction (as long as she’s expecting it). So I thought I’d try to get a halter on her without touching her. First, I tied a bit of binder twine to the crown buckle on the left side of the halter. Then I tossed it over her neck so it swung under her neck where I could catch it. I tied the binder twine to the other crown buckle. Then I hooked the nose band with the end of the parelli stick, and lifted it up over her nose. Amazingly, she stood for that (mostly). Once I had the nose band up and over, it sort of caught on the rope I had already looped over her nose. I pulled on the binder twine to tighten it all up and then was able to buckle the crown piece to the right buckle. I was able to lead her around the stall using the halter, and she cooperated pretty well.

What IS this thing on my head???
What IS this thing on my head???

I’ve left a very short lead rope attached to the halter. She was a bit concerned initially, and shook her head a lot. But within about an hour, she had that lead rope all figured out, and was tossing her head aside to get the rope moved out of the way of her feet.

She’s not halter broke yet by any means. But she is progressing steadily now!

Lots of Progress With Venice!

I am just ridiculously excited about my session with Venice yesterday. I reorganized my rope so I could configure it in a proper war bridle. And in a very short time was able to flip the loop over her nose and slowly tighten it up. She did not panic at all, and I was able to lead her forward around the stall. She was cautious, but never truly frightened about it. After a couple of minutes I took it off, and then was able to again flip the loop up and tighten it.

[youtube:http://youtu.be/d8CQWtIaSr8]

After a bit of work on leading, I was able to touch and scratch the right side of her face. She’s been allowing me closer and closer to that side for quite a while. But I was never allowed to touch more than her jowl. Today I was able to scratch down almost to her mouth. It obviously surprised her that it felt so good, and she suddenly started to lean into it.

Next I got the halter and showed it to her. I used the folded crown piece to touch her nose and rubbed it all around her mouth. She got interested and did a lot of lip wiggling. Then I worked my hand a little closer and sort of tricked her into allowing me to rub her upper lip with my fingers. By the time she realized that it was my hand, she was already kind of enjoying it.

[youtube:http://youtu.be/jb21KWra5OY]

Later in the day I went back and had another session. This time I was able to feed her a few horse treats from my hand. She was sort of startled and spit a couple of them out in her confusion. But eventually she did eat them. And was really quite polite about taking them from my hand with her lips. She didn’t snatch.

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I’d just like to take one moment here for a bit of a rant… Breeding horses, but not handling or training them in any way is utterly irresponsible and morally reprehensible. A horse with no training is completely worthless to anyone and is always in imminent danger of neglect, inhumane treatment, and death. Halter breaking a foal is easy. Halter breaking a five year old is on a whole new scale of difficulty, and most people do not have the time or the energy to invest when there are so many nice, trained horses out there.

Even horses in good homes are just one home away from a bad situation. Good basic training like haltering, leading, and picking up feet is necessary for any horse to find a new home should their current owner run into hardship or die. And more advanced training (like say… green broke to ride?) gives horses enough perceived value to stave off misfortune.

Do you want to guarantee your horse a good home in the future? Train THEM!!!! That will be their passport for life. They carry that with them even if you have no idea where they end up. It’s a far better guarantee than a contract, or a promise, or a sweet-faced buyer.

Getting There It Seems

I’ve been desensitizing Venice with a rope for the last few days. Flipping them around her face and neck to get her used to the feel. She’s not particularly afraid of ropes, and never really has been. It’s people that terrify her more than anything.

I really wish I was a bit more clever with a rope. But I finally managed to work out a way to flip a small enough reversed loop over Venice’s nose to keep it on for a few seconds. Almost like a war bridle.

So here she is, allowing me to almost halter her…

[youtube:http://youtu.be/hOaeuW6YOJ0]

Flying Yearling

I had a few exciting moments this morning. Jasper and Max have been going out in the arena together every night. Max is a yearling, and Jasper is a big 17hh racehorse on rehab. Jasper really likes Max and is quite nice to him, so it’s been going very well.

But this morning, Max got a bit excited when I took Jasper into his stall for breakfast first. I went back for Max and had just snapped the lead shank onto his halter when Max suddenly pulled back and got loose. He whacked himself with the end of the shank and that really scared him so he bolted. Yearlings are not very good about watching out for humans, so I got myself outside the gate and talked to him, trying to get him calm. But every time that lead rope smacked him, he ran faster. Which made the rope slap against him again. Etc. The poor little guy ran so fast he outran his own legs a couple of times and fell down.

All that was bad enough, but then he sort of veered towards the gate and I suddenly realized that he was not, and could not stop. Nor was he attempting to jump. He just hit that gate at full speed, running blind. In the two strides before he hit it, I turned and ran for my life. I had visions of the gate popping open and killing me. But since the gate is wider than the arena doorway and is hung on the inside, that’s not what happened. Somehow (and although I was watching, I am still not sure how) he was launched up and over the gate upside down. I caught a glimpse over my shoulder of an airborne horse before I ducked and kind of dove forward. One hind leg nailed the back of my arm. Oh…. about two inches above the elbow that was pinned together last fall. I guess he hit in the middle of my back with his rear end, but I was so obsessed with protecting my elbow and my head that I didn’t really notice that part so much.

Poor little Max (who is actually a remarkably large yearling) hit the ground on his back with quite a thud. He jumped up and ran down the runway to the paddock fence where he tore up and down beside Parker and Vegas for quite a few minutes before he finally tangled the lead in a small bush and stopped long enough for me to catch him. He was quite traumatized and it took a long time to get him to come back through the courtyard to the barn, since it was much too near the bogeyman-infested arena.

He lost a whole lot of hair in several big patches, has a moderately nasty cut on one forearm, and has a swollen throat. He was feeling pretty darned sorry for himself after the adrenaline drained out of his system and is likely going to come up with some swelling tomorrow. But I think he’s sort of lucky to be alive.

I had to get the tractor out to pry open the gate. It had bowed enough to jam itself into the door frame. But it’s a very strong gate and seems to be fine. So the gate, Max, and I all survived reasonably intact.

Horses do the damnedest things.