McCool Meets the Chiropractor

McCool has had a number of physical issues that we’ve been working through step-by-step. Under saddle, he was sort of threatening to buck going downhill. When I put my right leg on his side when I am riding, he’s a bit goosey. Nothing really bad, but he definitely startles. He tends to barge through signals, both on the ground and under saddle. He has trouble standing still for grooming. It all points to physical discomfort of various sorts. I made the assumption that he was in pain, and have been working through every possible cause I can think of.

His teeth were a mess. Bad enough that he had scarred divots gouged out of the inside of both cheeks. So Dr. Kathy Kivi did a lot of work putting his mouth back in order.

He has some old issues from ill-fitting saddles. Going downhill in any treed saddle triggered balking and threats to buck (tail lashing, ear pinning, and hiking) so changing to the treeless saddle has improved that.

I’ve been doing some massage and stretches on him myself, but also have been getting Chrystal in to do Masterson Massage on him, as well as some horse yoga. His muscle tone has improved a great deal. He no longer has big, quivering knots.

There’s been steady improvement in how he moves and even more in his general attitude. But I still thought that he probably had a rib out, because he is odd about leg aids. So while I was in Florida, I talked to Scott Hie, an equine chiropractor who went down as part of the Canada East team. He promised to come out and check McCool over.

Today was the day. (Poor man… it’s frigid out there!) As I suspected, McCool had a rib out. Actually multiple ribs. And a whole lot of other stuff too. The horse sounded like popcorn in a microwave. His SI joint was quite sore. Knees, ankles, TMJ, withers… all way out. Scott was amazed that McCool’s muscles weren’t tighter, but of course all the massage has reduced that considerably. Poor McCool was quite anxious through most of the session. I imagine he’s never had anything like this done, and he’s obviously got some very sore spots. He was anxious about the massage work initially too, though he learned to like it by the 2nd or 3rd session. I decided to give him a small dose of bute (an anti-inflammatory and painkiller) after today’s session. It was a lot of adjustment, and Scott thought he might be uncomfortable for a day or two, especially his ribs.

After McCool, Scott worked on Diego. He’s worked on Diego in the past, but not for a couple of years. He says that Diego looks 100% improved. Much more muscling along his spine, loin, and hindquarters. He’s carrying substantially more weight. “He has a butt now!” Diego stood quietly with no worrying (that in itself was a big change). Scott said it was just a general tune-up and he found nothing of concern, and was very impressed with how sound he felt. He commented several times on how much better his back and loin looks now.

I’m really pleased with that, because I have had a niggling concern that having to carry a heavier rider than he’s been used to would cause some back issues given that he has that history. Although reasonably tall for an Arab, Diego was always a little on the scrawny side. He’s never struck me as a weight-carrying kind of horse. But Scott thinks he’s good to go for the season, and we should go ahead and plan some fifties.

Last Scott worked on Ares. Anastasija is planning on getting Ares out to some competitions this season, so she wanted to have him checked out. He had a few minor issues. He was a little sore through the SI joint, and his TMJ popped quite audibly. But generally he’s in good shape. He’s quite a wiggly horse, so it was entertaining to see how high his back lifted when he was “zipped”. That’s just a sort of goosing along either side of his hindquarters that causes a small back lift in most horses. In Ares it makes him look like a camel 🙂

I know I have yet to write about my trip to the North American Endurance Team Challenge in Florida. There is a lot to tell, and I’m working on it! Between exhaustion from the drive, and a major ice storm taking out our power for a few days, I have been distracted from the task.

 

Heading to NAETC

I am heading out tomorrow to go to Ottawa. It’s the first leg of the journey with Team Luba.

We are going to the North American Endurance Team Challenge (NAETC), which is an FEI competition being held at Black Prong Equestrian Center in Florida. It’s a 160 km (100 mile) endurance ride. December 13th. My friend Nancy is riding her flea-bitten grey Arab mare, Serious Moonlight (Luba), and Kara and I are going along to act as pit crew (better known as grooms in FEI-land). 

It’s amazing how many of our local riders are heading down to this particular ride. We actually have twelve riders from Canada East going, as well as three from Canada West (and that’s a very LONG way to travel from Western Canada!!). And of course all those riders have grooms as well. So there will be quite a pack of us. 

Here are the Canadian riders (and horses where I know them):

Canada East
Wendy Benns – (Flirt With Fyre)
Bob Gielen
Monica Grundmann (Excalibur Legend)
Lee Hutten
Wendy MacCoubrey (Furion)
Stephanie McLeod (Amber Kiera)
Dessia Miller (Cognac Amberfyre)
Yvette Vinton
Michelle Watling (Klien)
Emma Webb (CWM Felen Zillary)
Kim Woolley (Shakka Khan)
Nancy Zukewich (Serious Moonlight)

Canada West
Ariel MacLeod
Tara MacLeod
Jaye Yavis

I hope we can get an internet connection. If so, I’m going to try to post updates and photos throughout the week.

I am looking forward to WARM WEATHER!!!!

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Spook Busting

I ride Arabs. And much as it pains me to admit it, since I love Arabs, they can be a little bit spooky.  Not all of them, and not all the time. But they are definitely not dull horses.

Consequently, I do spend some time working out spooking issues. I’ve been reading a lot of training books lately, and watching the occasional video too. I really enjoyed this particular series of videos on spook training from Jason Webb, who is an Australian trainer now based in the UK. His specialty is starting young horses.

It’s a very quiet, methodical set of strategies that starts on the ground, and then moves on to ridden work.

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Turning Hockey Nets Into Small-Mesh Haynets

Horses are grazers. Their digestive tract is designed to have small amounts of food moving through constantly. In the wild, they forage for the majority of their waking hours, and as they only sleep about 4 hours a day, that’s a lot of grazing. But in the wild, food is scarce. So they take in small amounts all day long.

Domesticated horses don’t usually have issues finding food. And since their instinct is to eat everything available as quickly as possible, they either overeat, or, if their forage is rationed, eat large meals and then stand around with nothing to eat for hours at a time. Which sort of leaves horse owners with the option of either a fat horse, or a colicky horse.

Small-mesh haynets make horses work a bit more for their hay. Slowing down their intake and allowing them to eat all day without taking in way too many calories. It also prevents waste. There may be tidy horses in the world, but mine would not qualify. They walk on their hay, mash it into the mud, fling it up in the air (to blow away in the wind), pee on it, etc. Then they look at me sadly… “We have NO food. This is yucky hay!”

The problem with most of the nets available locally is that the mesh is just not small enough (2 inch squares) to slow my horses down. I don’t know if mine are just so gluttonous (yep… that would be KING I’m talking about) that they need extraordinary measures, or if it’s too expensive to make smaller mesh or what. There are some good ones available by mail order, but they are quite expensive.

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My solution is to use hockey nets from Canadian Tire. The holes in the mesh are 1 inch squares which is fairly challenging. I’ve been using them for a few years now. They hold up reasonably well. There is an occasional hole, but I just patch them with a bit of binder twine (the orange poly type). The ones I started with three years ago are still going. Ratty, and with lots of orange knots, but still functional. And they’ve had hard lives. Jen uses them to soak hay in the winter for Twister. He’s insulin-resistant and cannot have high sugar levels in his hay or he founders. Soaking the hay in water for a couple of hours removes a lot of sugar.

I know that quite a few people use hockey nets. And it’s not rocket science to set them up. But I thought maybe since I just bought some new ones, that I’d document the process I use to make them into good haynets.

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Canadian Tire sells a number of different replacement hockey nets. But most are street hockey nets and those are not strong enough to survive horse assault. I get the 72 inch ice hockey nets.

The nets can just be doubled and the edges laced together. You can get a full bale into it when you do it that way. But I find them very unwieldy and heavy. So I’ve started cutting the nets in half and making a more standard style of haynet.

When you open the package, there will be a bundle of individual cords as well as a big wad of netting. There are coloured tabs on the net. Two red tabs, and one green tab.

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Shake out the net and find the green tab. Lay the net out on a flat surface so that you don’t get confused (I am easily confused!) and can keep track of where you are.

Cut straight across the net starting at the green tab.  Cut the net all the way across so you have two equal-sized sections of net. [And a small revision: take a lighter and melt the cut ends slightly to prevent fraying]

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Take one section and fold it in half across the freshly cut edge. Make sure the squares match up all the way across to the corner. I pull it nice and tight so it all lines up clearly.

Next you lace the edges together. Starting at the folded edge, tie a knot around the edge of the first squares using the end of one of the long cords included in the package.

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Start lacing the cord through each set of squares along the edge. I use a blanket-stitch pattern to give it a bit of extra stability and then tie an overhand knot every few squares. Keep the net lying flat so that it doesn’t get rucked up.

IMG_2261Eventually you will get to the corner. Just tie an overhand knot and keep going around the corner, continuing to keep the net as flat as possible.

You’ve just laced up the bottom of the haynet and are now going up the side.

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Lace up to the red tab and then a couple of squares beyond that. Tie a really sturdy knot. Do not cut the cord.

Take the loose end and run it through the top squares of only one side of the haynet. That cord is now going to be part of your pull-string that you use to tighten the top of the net. So it needs to slide easily. Don’t knot it anywhere. Just do a simple running stitch through the squares.
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When you run out of cord, get another cord and match ends. Use an overhand knot to tie the ends together. Continue to run the new section of cord through the top edge squares of the net until you get back to the knot that you started. Keep the net flat and stretched out.

Tie the end of the cord back to the knot just above the red tab. This needs to be a hard knot that will not come undone. Now cut the leftover cord.

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Pull the cord at the overhand knot to tighten the net.

An easy way to fill the net is to drop it into a medium sized plastic tub and fold the top edges over (like you do with a garbage bag in a garbage can). Put the hay into the tub, pull the edges up around the hay, and tighten the pull-cord.

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Make sure that you do not leave loops of cord where a horse can get a foot or a head through it. I generally keep the knots high enough overhead that it’s not an issue. But you can also use snaps instead of cord to close the net. Snaps are safer, but will tend to tear the net a little more often. The net itself though has such small holes that as long as your horses are barefoot, they don’t seem to get their feet caught. And even if they did, the netting is not strong enough to hold them. I would not use any haynet down low with a shod horse though. The likelihood of catching a shoe is too great. The bottom of the net should be above chest level if your horse is shod.

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Teeth

Dressy has been showing signs of problems with her teeth over the last few days. Crossing her jaws, wadding hay, and most alarming of all, her face swelled up quite badly. So when Kathy, our dentist/vet came today, I was expecting her to find work to be done in Dressy’s mouth.

Once she got in there though, there wasn’t anything serious. Just some sharp edges and evidence that Dressy had bitten her cheek on one side. She’s a very thin-skinned and sensitive mare, despite being tall, dark, and imposing. So I guess that’s what the swelling was about… biting her own cheek.

After Dressy, we brought out McCool. I figured we’d find some work to do in his mouth too, although he hasn’t really shown any overt signs of discomfort. But in fact, he had a lot more nasty stuff going on than Dressy had. Most of his teeth were razor sharp, and he has scarring and divots all the way up the inside of both cheeks, and was only able to grind in one direction. He must have been quite uncomfortable. He’s probably never had his teeth done in his life.

Although I’m not exactly happy that McCool had so many problems in his mouth, it’s nice to be able to identify things that can be fixed.  It pays to go through a checklist of all the various possible pain issues a horse can have before you blame bad behaviour on a bad temperament.

McCool was quite cooperative about the whole process. He’s a sweetheart to handle.

 

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McCool on Trail

A friend and I took Diego and McCool to the Vivian Forest today. McCool has been very good under saddle so far. But this was a little more of a test. Since he came from the stockyards, via a dealer, there’s very little history on him. All I know is that he was occasionally very difficult on trail. So Chrystal came over and we loaded up the two horses.

First though, I had to convince the Ladies to vacate the the horse trailer…

Evicting the Ladies.
Evicting the Ladies.

 

It suddenly occurred to me on Monday, while planning this outing, that a little trailer loading practice might be in order for McCool, before I tried to take him anywhere (Yep, I’m a genius).  My trailer is an old four horse head-to-head. So the first few loading sessions can be confusing for a horse. They have to walk in, turn, and then back into a stall. With a couple of days of practice, McCool was loading quite nicely. He’s very calm about things, so it’s just a matter of teaching him what to do. And convincing him that it’s a good idea. He doesn’t panic or fuss. Just politely declines if he disagrees. Patience and some clicker training, and he now loads right up.

He stands quietly in the trailer, and although he looked interested in his surroundings when we arrived in the parking lot at the forest, he was not at all alarmed.  We tacked up and headed out. Chrystal on McCool. She started laughing right away. She’s a forward kind of rider. And, zoom! McCool is a forward kind of horse. They trotted out of the parking lot. Trotted down the trail. Cantered down the trail. McCool didn’t spook at a thing. His ears were up, and he was travelling on very steadily. Bold as brass. He’s way faster than Diego. Holy cow.  I had to beg for mercy, since Diego was not at all interested in doing that speed (in fairness, Diego has a fresh cut on a hind leg… I think he was a bit sore).

Partway through the ride though, we ran into McCool’s issue (hopefully there is only one). He started hiking his hind end going down a hill. We slowed down and took stock. He swishes his tail, pins his ears, and hikes on every downhill. Hmmm.  Saddle fit seems likely. He’s fine on the flat and going up hills (in fact, I’d say that he’s a born endurance horse… so he’s better than just fine!). But on the downhills he very consistently gets grumpy and difficult. Chrystal got off and led him down any bigger downhills and got him to walk slowly down the smaller ones and that seemed to work okay. The aussie saddle has long flaps, and on some horses it will pinch a bit behind the shoulder if the saddle slides forward. And it did look like it might be doing that on him.

When we got back to the trailer, we checked him over.  He has a knot on his left side just behind the scapula. And it’s substantial. He’s reactive (flinchy) to hard pressure there, and enjoyed the massage (Chrystal is an equine massage therapist). So my operating theory now is that he had a serious saddle fit issue in his past.

I’ve ridden him at home in the Aussie, but not going down hills. And I’ve ridden him at home in the treeless, and he went down hills fine in that. So maybe just switching saddles will help. But he also acted like this in a Reactor Panel saddle that the dealer was using. So I think he needs body work as well. Massage, stretching, and/or chiropractic.  Chrystal says his shoulders are both tight.

The dentist comes tomorrow to look at all the horses’ teeth. I think he’s got something going on in his mouth, since he’s clunking in one direction when he chews. So if that gets sorted out, it may also help. He seems to be worth putting some time and effort into 🙂

I neglected to take pics on trail, but here they are right after they got home. Sigh.  Grey horses. 

Grey horses. Perennially filthy.
Grey horses + wet clay soil = Yuck.

 

 

 

An Unexpectedly Good Season

This past weekend was the last competition of the season. Saturday morning after I’d packed the trailer I went out to get Diego. And, pretty much as expected, I found that he was caked with dried on mud. Clods of it hung from his forelock and mane. His back was covered. He’d obviously rolled in mud thoroughly and gleefully. At least it was dry. So I scrubbed the worst of it loose with a currycomb and then pulled out the vaccuum cleaner. He quite likes the vaccuum, so I was able to get some of the grime off him. But it was ground in, and I definitely didn’t get it all.

Originally I had planned to do the 31 mile set speed on Sunday. But when I looked at Diego’s record, I saw that he was at 464 OCTRA competition miles. So a 31 mile ride (assuming he finished) would put him at 495 miles. Just a little shy of 500 miles. There was an 8 mile ride n tie on Saturday. So I checked with Doug to see if he wanted to do a ride n tie. He’s not really a runner. But he is a very good sport. I am sure I could have sponsored one of the teams and just ridden along for the mileage. But I kind of like Ride n Tie. And it’s good for Diego (neurotic little coward that he is) to learn to cope with new things.

Doug is pretty relaxed and doesn’t panic about stuff. So I figured he’d be good with Diego. And he was. Diego accepted him easily. For the first loop, we just took turns riding, but stayed together. It’s a poor strategy for making time. But it allowed Diego to settle into the idea of changing riders constantly. With a mile left in the first loop, I sent Doug ahead into camp. He tied Diego, and went out on the second loop.

Once I got Diego vetted through, and caught Doug on the second loop, we started practicing very short range ties. So Doug rode ahead and tied within sight of me. Diego began to get the idea, and coped surprisingly well. The only problem was, on the last change, the saddle (a treeless) turned when I tried to mount. Undoubtedly I was getting tired and put too much weight in the stirrup. But I could not get that saddle to hold steady, even trying to mount from a stump. It had really loosened up. It tends to do that once the heat from his body warms the pad up. It took me a few minutes to get that sorted out and get back on him. So poor Doug ended up doing the last mile without a change. I caught up to him just before the finish.

We ended up 5th out of 6 teams. The 6th being a six year old girl, her dad, and her elderly pony. I guess I don’t have a future as a marathon runner. But it was fun 🙂

It rained off and on all afternoon, and through the night as well. The temperature dropped sharply overnight. Diego wore his winter blanket, and I buried myself in a comforter, a sleeping bag, and three thick fleecy blankets up in the gooseneck of my horse trailer. It was warm enough once I’d been snuggled in for a while. But I sure did NOT want to get up on Sunday morning. The moment I moved though, Diego nickered at me. He was listening for signs of life. “Breakfast time! Hungry horse here!”

Rob brought me a tea and a breakfast sandwich from Timmie’s, and even though both were barely lukewarm, they were wonderful. Then Sandy arrived to crew for me, volunteering even though she didn’t feel well enough to ride (her horse is Benson, the world’s cutest Arab). I spent quite a few years competing with no crew. But lately… having crew… I am totally spoiled. It is vastly easier to have someone to help.

I rode with Amber the farrier and her lovely Tennessee Walker, Shallako. He’s steady and forward on trail. The first loop was 7 miles. We headed out, following Shallako. Diego was being good and obviously liked following a big calm horse (that could be eaten first by any bears or alligators we might encounter).

A couple of miles into the loop, there were some faster horses coming up behind us as we wound around the edge of a field. The riders called out to let us know they were there. But apparently Diego didn’t notice until they came cantering around a curve right behind us. He spun hard to see them. I tilted slightly to the outside. My treeless saddle (yes, the same one that turned during the ride n tie) slowly started to go with me. Yikes. Slowly… slowly… damn. I finally let go when I faced the inevitable inverted dismount. I managed to hold on to the reins as I rolled gracelessly off in front of at least four riders. Lovely. It’s hard to pretend it never happened with that many witnesses. The sand was soft though, and it was much too slow a fall to do me any harm.

Diego was a bit rattled by the incident, and for the next couple of miles he was sort of rushy and difficult. I’m always amazed at how upset horses get when you fall off them. But he did relax after a while and got back into his usual groove. We made good time. Shallako moves right along and likes to lead.

There was no vet check at the end of the first loop. Just a water stop in camp and check in with the timer as we went through. Sandy was waiting with some electrolytes at the water trough, which he was happy to get (he loves his electrolytes!), and then we went right out on the 12 mile loop. Both horses settled in and went very well through most of the loop.

On one corner, I got a raspberry cane (with thorns) caught in my elbow. It stung slightly but was just a couple of tiny scratches. A few minutes later I looked down and was startled to see a stream of blood dripping down my arm. Five minutes later it had covered the forearm completely, was dripping under the watchband of my gps watch, and was streaming down my little finger and dripping on the ground. It didn’t hurt at all. But it looked dramatic.

Going through some pines on that same loop, Amber and Shallako didn’t quite bend enough and Amber’s knee caught. One of those bad ones that lifted her partway out of the saddle. She didn’t complain, but I could see that she was in pain.

Shallako had been going really well, but partway through the loop he lost momentum. Diego would pass and go out front for a while and Shallako would get enthused and pass him. But then he’d slow down again. He looked fine, just not too enthusiastic. Still, we came into the check in pretty good time.

We must have looked quite the disreputable pair… me, covered in blood and Diego, with his fleabitten grey coat covered in streaks of sweaty mud (all the dirt that the vaccuum did NOT remove).

Diego vetted through fine. All A’s. But Shallako had a distinct hike behind. I don’t know if maybe he’d been developing a muscle cramp in his hind end through the latter part of the loop? So he didn’t pass the check.

We really missed them going out on the last loop. There was no one behind us, so we had to do the whole loop alone with no horses in sight. Diego, who is totally herdbound and afraid to be alone, was a good boy. Slow. But good. He’s always a little spookier alone, but he didn’t do anything dramatic. Just some zigzagging. It was exhausting for me though. I had to encourage him for about 10 miles of the loop. I knew that he was just anxious about being alone. But I always have a niggling worry that maybe he’s tired when he gets balky and slow. It was really nice trail though, there was still a lot of autumn colour left, and the weather ended up being just beautiful. So it gave me a chance to enjoy the scenery.

The last bit was on the ride n tie trail of the day before. So as soon as we hit that, he perked up. Started trotting faster. Cantering here and there. Then we hit the Girl Guide camp and we cantered across that. Then the little twisty trail leading into the back of the ride camp. He got up a good head of steam through there. Came up the steep hill at a somewhat controlled gallop. And cantered through the camp to the finish line under wraps. No. Not tired.

His final pulse was 42. Average speed 6.1 mph. Considering we probably walked a third of that last loop… not bad.

Best of all, he passed the final vetting and got his 500 miles.

I started out this year just hoping to finish a few 12 mile rides safely with my rebuilt elbow, unfit body, and a horse with a bad reputation. Diego improved steadily through the season and we have gradually gone faster and farther. He’s learned to go out on trail alone (calmly), and has learned to stand like a gentleman in the vet checks (I’ve had compliments on his behaviour at most of the rides). At the previous ride (Oktoberfest) he did 39 miles in two days which gave me 1000 miles. He finished his first ride n tie. And he ends up in 9th place overall in the Set Speed rankings.

He seems calmer, more confident, and generally happier than he was at the beginning of the year. He’s put on weight, and he eats better than he did.

He’s come a long way. I’m very proud of him 🙂

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Autumn Colours

On Sunday Veronica came to ride. We took Diego and Ella out, ambled around our home trails for a couple of hours, and just enjoyed a beautiful day.  Considering it was just my cellphone camera, the pics came out better than I expected 🙂

 

 

 

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Trust

Ana and I have been working with McCool every day over the last week, and Ana rode him for the first time on Friday. I rode McCool myself yesterday. He was a good boy. But I must say, I’m getting old. I really don’t enjoy that first ride on a horse that I don’t yet fully trust. When I was younger, I’d hop on any horse and just go with the flow. McCool has not been at all difficult. But he was good for his previous owner too and then after a couple of rides, gave her trouble. Particularly with any sort of repetitive work (he got balky and cranky). So I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I always wear a helmet of course. But I put on my crash vest too, which helps the confidence a little. 

Riders and horses have to learn to trust each other. It sort of goes back and forth, from rider to horse, and back again, building on successes.  That’s why ground work is important. Not so much because the horse is being trained to perform a particular action. But because the horse is learning to trust that this particular human is going to be clear, patient, and consistent, so they can let down their guard and learn. And at the same time the human is learning how the horse reacts to cues,  what is likely to trigger problems, and how to help the horse to relax and focus. It takes me longer to trust a new horse, and to trust that my own skills are sufficient now that I’ve been humbled by a few horses over the years.

I’ve done a lot of groundwork with McCool in the last week. I go out several times a day and do short sessions with him, and Anastasija generally does one session in the evening as well.  You can eliminate a lot of variables using groundwork. But in the end, the only way to know how a horse will respond to being ridden, is to actually ride them.  Ana does not have time to ride him every day, because she ponies (leads fractious racehorses from the back of another horse) at the track in the afternoon on racing days. So if McCool is going to get regular sessions, we have to share the task.

First, I got on him in the round pen and worked on responsiveness to cues. Bending, circles, changes of direction, etc. I taught him the basic one-rein stop. At least the beginning of it. He was very quick to pick it up. Took only a few tries on each side before he was touching my boot at a light lift of the rein. So perhaps he’s been taught that at some point in the past. 

His backing is good, but a bit dull. So I really focused on the lightest rein cue possible and then throwing the reins the moment he softened backwards. Exaggerating the release as much as possible. I wasn’t even asking for a step, just a shift to the rear. And within a few minutes he was flowing backwards in a much nicer, soft reverse with a low head and hind legs underneath him.

He doesn’t seem to understand leg aids very well. But he is very soft-mouthed. Although I didn’t test it much, I did think he was just slightly goosey about my right leg. So I will do some body work on him to see if he has a rib out or something.

Veronica tacked up Ella while I was working in the round pen. And once she was ready, we went out for a short ride around the farm. All we did was walk. I just wanted to let McCool look around and see what his attitude was about it all. I was going to tuck him in behind Ella, but he thought she was much too slow, and went out in front. He marches right along, looking at stuff with interest. We went back, past Aunt Sue’s house, and around the back field, which borders on the golf course next door. He peeked curiously through the trees at golfers and golf carts.

Ella crowded up on his behind at one point, and McCool backed up and hopped a couple of times to warn her. He didn’t connect, but he definitely told her off. While it’s not good behaviour on McCool’s part, it really looks good on Ella, who is very rude with her hind feet. I didn’t get after McCool too strongly, just warned him verbally and moved him along. He didn’t threaten again, but then he didn’t need to. Ella was quite a bit more respectful after that.

When we got to the back corner of the field, there was suddenly the CRACK! of a golfer hitting a ball just on the other side of the tree line. McCool startled slightly and looked over his shoulder. “Holy cow!” he said, “what the heck was that?”  Ella had also startled a little bit and rushed forward. So McCool decided that maybe he’d walk behind Ella for safety. That didn’t last long though, because Ella was still too slow.

As we came back up the big hill, and big flock of turkeys wandered out into the driveway in front of us. I wasn’t sure if McCool saw them, because he didn’t react at all. So I sort of pointed his nose at them to make sure. He walked faster. Hmmm. Yep. He saw them. He dropped his head a little bit. Walked faster. The turkeys rushed off the side of the driveway. He turned his head and watched them. I think the little beggar was thinking of chasing them.

At the top of the hill, I was going to turn into the barn. Nope. McCool was exploring the farm. He wanted to go all the way to the mailboxes (about a quarter mile round trip). So we marched on down. McCool was asking to trot. Fairly politely, but he did want to go faster. I didn’t clamp down, but just brought him back to a walk. “Well, okay” he said, “but I’m WILLING to trot, just say the word!”

At the mailboxes, we stopped and watched traffic for a few minutes to see how he reacts to cars. But he seemed to have no concerns. He was kind of interested in heading out into the great blue yonder. But I am not ready to take him that far yet. There’s still that little voice in the back of my head warning me that he has caused some trouble in the past. Young, sound, well-broke horses don’t usually end up at the stockyards if they’re perfect gentlemen. But each little success is a building block.

Oh, and lest anyone think McCool is actually a PERFECT gentleman… he decided yesterday morning that being quarantined in a round pen was not to his liking any longer. So he moved out. Right through a panel of hemlock boards. They are in shards on the ground now. And McCool is living in the main pasture with the rest of the herd. [All except for Ares, who as usual wants to kill the new guy. So Ares is living in the barn yard while McCool works out the politics in the main field. ]

 

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Meet McCool

So, I am not quite sure how this happened. But there’s a new guy here on the farm. His name is McCool. He’s an 8 year old Arab who had nearly run himself out of chances in life.

He came off a rental string somewhere up north, and ended up at the stockyards. He had no name, no papers, and very little history. Someone spotted him, bought him, and had him delivered to a dealer who tried him, and found him occasionally balky and a bit difficult. So she (not having the time or the inclination to work through those sorts of issues) was going to send him to auction. Canter On Equines, the rescue that found Wise Affair, sort of talked me into buying him to give him another chance.  I brought him home Saturday evening.

All week I’ve been trying to come up with a name for him. We tried and discarded quite a few. But McCool (after Finn McCool aka Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the Irish mythical hero) is finally the one that stuck. McCool is a confident, cool guy. He doesn’t fuss about being separated from other horses, is not easily startled, and is a smart as… well… smart as King actually. In fact he reminds me rather remarkably of King. Even in looks. Though McCool is smaller than King at 14.3hh.

Anastasija is helping me with him. She’s been ponying at the racetrack lately in addition to her regular job as a groom, and her riding skills are coming along well with all the extra practice. Not to mention that she’s young and energetic (and has no recently broken body parts). After doing groundwork with him all week, Ana had a short ride today after his lungeing session. Just walk/trot in the round pen. It was incident-free, and he got tons of praise and scratches. All of which he loved, since he is a seriously friendly guy.

It seems likely that he got sour as a rental horse. I am hoping that with consistent training and lots of positive reinforcement, he’ll enjoy his work a little bit more, and maybe we can find him a new, permanent home. He seemed pretty cheerful today anyway. So it’s a good start.

Click on the images to see full-size versions…

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