Friday, April 28, 2017

Fact Friday: Spud

Because life is busy and everyone needs more Spud in it.

1. He is a 2009 model, which means he is turning EIGHT this year. (Sidenote: HOW?!)

2. Some may already know this, but he was purchased at a cattle auction along with his sister (I don't actually know if she is his full or half sibling).

He is also roughly the size of an adult male husky

3. Spud's sister's name is Peaches. She is actually travelling across Canada because her owners are relocating.

4. Supposedly was purchased by an older man for his grandkids before being dumped at the cattle auction when the kids lost interest. I am told he spent 3-4 years just gallivanting the pasture with his sister when this old guy had him. (Hooray for semi-ferals).

5. He LOVES people and just can't help himself if someone kneels or bends down - he's always gotta come over and say hi. He also can't help himself and drags my coats or water bottles around when I leave them by the roundbale when I'm picking poo.

6. His best friend in the whole world is an older Paint gelding named AJ.
Said best-friend.

7. He walks up and down stairs.

8. If there is a way to escape the paddock, he will.

9. His nick-names include: Spudley (or Mr. Spudley if we're being fancy), Pony Horse, and Potato.

10. He eats just about anything (and weirdly enjoys dewormer). Just ask the SO about where his pizza pretzel and chips went.

11. He is goofy, but is also quite sensitive. He will give you 110%, but the minute you heckle with him over something, he just shuts down. In a way, he's a perfect Ammy horse in that a lot of novice drivers don't know to ask for more complicated things or just plain ask for MORE so he is happy to plug along.

12. He is pretty damn bombproof.
              Example 1: SO threw a tennis ball for one of the dogs while we were in the cart, dog went to grab ball, ball ping-ponged out of dog's mouth and smacked Spud right in the face. He didn't even blink.
              Example 2: Friend wanted to take Spud for a spin and ended up driving him right through an oscillating sprinkler that was turned on.

               Example 3: A random Australian Shepherd joined us on one of our road-drives and while playing with one of our dogs, passed in-behind Spud's back legs. I still have no idea how he had room to do that!

13. His color, altho is confusing is a chestnut varnish which is an Appy characteristic. He also has a blaze which can be hard to see depending on the season.

14. The farrier has to kneel on the ground to do his feet.

He also wears party hats.
15. He doesn't get grain, and gets mad when I grain the other horses. He'll buck out at the air, shake his head, and squeal.

16. He was initially going to be a resale project... but I don't forsee that happening ever.

17. He actually has a large star on his face and small white socks which are hardly visible due to his coloring.

18. His tail is what dreams are made of.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Week That Was

Alternate titles: When you are Too Lazy to Post Everday and also Too Much to Say, Too Little Time.

Things continue to plug along and for the most part, Annie is making very slight (yet rewarding) advances into her role of becoming an Amateur Friendly mount. Over the last few months, Horse Show Buddy (HSB) and I have been talking about our young horses (HSB has a 3 year old who was just started a month ago), and I find myself so excited and exuberant for the future.  We’ve been chatting about the similarities in Annie and her 3 year old, Riott, and it’s really interesting to see where they line up and where they don’t. Being older, you’d think Annie would automatically be ahead of the pack, but as I have said in previous posts, I’m starting to see that age is just a number. Of course, both horses are quite different not just in age, but breed, build, and temperament, but still interesting nonetheless.

They were cutting tree branches down
last weekend - Annie gave no shits.
The past week and a bit we have been alternating between hacking, schooling in the arena, lunging, trailer loading practice, and ground work. I don’t particularily like to squeeze everything in one day, simply because #babybrain. I also don’t think that repeating the same thing every day is necessarily useful in all applications, so I’ve given her days off to ‘’absorb’’ the information from the previous session (this particular method comes from the Stacey Westfall series and I have found it to be really helpful).

Now onto what we’ve been up to since Easter Monday (17th) :

>Tuesday (18th) 
Our new trailer tie. Which also
has a velcro feature. Thanks for recommending it,
Austen, I really like it!

 No Pony Day. I did school work and house work. My package from Riding Warehouse arrived tho, so score!

Wednesday (19th) 

Carry our shit, sir.
Spud was given the serious duty of carrying my lunging gear (among other items), ponying Annie, and acting as Chaperone Pony as we made our way to the outdoor arena to lunge. One of my goals for this month was to get some lunging in, and while I am not particularily fond of over-doing the whole lunging thing, I am feeling more and more like is going to help strengthen Annie’s hind-end weakness (see : still growing baby body + lack of muscles = weak baby horse) and help her get that sticky right lead without the issue of a rider on her back.

Everything went as well as it could – I learned that Annie doesn’t really understand the concept of lunging (I am assuming she was round-penned, which is typical of young horses) but we made some good strides despite her not really wanting to, yanno, work. I’m pretty sure I got more of a work-out than she did, which is fine. 

Sometimes you lunge them... and sometimes they lunge you.
The evasive right lead was still weirdly sticky for her, and I ended up contacting a chiro who will be in the area relatively soon. If she is still having issues on the lunge, I suspect her body is sore from using all these muscles she’s not familiar with. 

>Thursday (20th) 

Shin splints flair up which left me tensor-bandging my legs and hobbling outside to walk the dogs.

Friday (21st) 

I found Annie laying in the paddock with Suzie, which was super adorable. Suzie got up ASAP because ‘’You here to give me grains, human?’’ but Annie stayed down and let me pet her, which I thought was super cool.

We practiced loading again after I had given Suzie and Spud a bath, with Annie tied quietly as I worked with the other two. 

So sweet <3

Mama Suz, looking good!
It was another step in the right direction, and Annie inched in closer than previously! Success.

Saturday (22nd) 

Ivory, the dog I was dogsitting for the weekend enjoyed
being a wild child while his parents were away.

BF and I helped the MIL with some Spring cleaning on her property – lots of alders were cut and taken to the dump! It was an all day extravaganza. We also pumped water out of our property all day to prep the giant swimming pool for more dirt. 

Sunday (23rd) 

Continued to pump water out of the lot but was able to end the day with the horses! We worked on lunging as well as trailer loading again.

The lunging went really well and she was good about her sticky lead – she cross-fired a few times but more often than that, she goth her leads. We also did some work on yielding the haunches and some in hand work. You know, the boring stuff!

Trailer loading went well, I actually used Suzie this time instead of Spud because he wasn’t at the barn doors when I went to go catch him and I was being lazy.

Suz was great – stood quiet and let us do our thing. We played around with self-loading stuff and Annie was good, altho hesitant. Another inch towards success though!

Monday (24th

The sun was shining and the weather was WARM so I headed out to ride, with plans of heading to the grounds. I rode in my Dressage saddle for the first time in foreverrr and after watching the video of myself, I listed my saddle for sale again. It just does NOT fit me. So, anyone looking for a 17.5’’ Bates Innova, hit me up and I’ll give you a good deal!

The ride itself was great – we finally got some semblence of rythmn at the trot and her halts are really wonderful. Of course, our geometry leaves much to be desired at the moment (our 20m circles are really 36.8m pie-shaped ovals) and the contact isn’t where I’d obviously like it, but we are continuing in a steady stream ahead and each ride and each session gets better and better. 

The videos are a bit hard for me to look at because there are some serious glaring faults, but I feel like this will be good media to look back on as we progress.

Her canter is starting to come along – she was having some issues in the sand in the arena (it was moderately deep) and I could really feel how weak she was in her hind end. Her engine kept dying out (see video), especially during the arcs of the circles where she was trying to just motorbike it and I was like ‘’We have to turn properly so we don’t die.’’ and her body was just like, ‘’That’s HARD work, lady.’’ 

I can't wait to develop that canter more... she has some serious
lift that is just waiting to be unlocked!
Also, note the sassy tail.
 We did get her sticky lead a few times, but I still booked the chiro to do a work up on her.

After I hosed her off, which she was also great for!

Tuesday (25th) 

Ground-work and trailer loading practice day!

We did some ground-work in the back paddock – pivoting, yielding to pressure, lowering her poll with just vocal commands, picking up and stretching her legs forwards and backwards.

She has a HUGE amount of shoulder movement.

In our loading session there is not much to report. but Spud was Chaperone Pony again and we did the beet pulp in the bucket exercise. I moved the bucket little by little down the trailer aisle and she would come in, eat, and stay until I backed her out and repeated. Annie did give me a huge moment when she loaded all four feet into the trailer and stood quietly so I could back her out.

She has this weird, almost funny, reaction with the trailer when she overcomes another hurdle to successful loading – she reverts back to being uncertain again. For example, once she loaded all four feet and was unloaded, she was like, ‘’I did the scary thing, I’m done for the day.’’ 

I kept working her, and we ended on a good note so that she realizes she doesn’t get to say when she wants/doesn’t want to load. But also, I didn’t push her to repeat her huge milestone – just because we are working with the trailer doesn’t necessarily mean she will need to load fully and that was the message I wanted to convey.

We headed back to the barn and I introduced her to the clippers – ran them all over her body, legs, head, and even clipped a few hairs on her chest. She was uncertain, but good and stood after she realized she wasn’t going to die.

I look back at where we started from, not just in regards to riding, but handling and everything that goes along with it, and I can’t help but feel excited. We haven’t done a lot of riding just yet, but we’re gearing up and slowly but surely my time is being able to be managed a bit more. With doing self-care at the barn, it can be tough to have the motivation to ride after doing chores, especially when the riding arena is a 20min hack each way. 

Yes, yes it is.
I feel like right now this on the ground stuff is our main focus. Not to say that I don’t want to or don’t enjoy riding her – because holy shit I am having SO much fun riding her! But I make a plan on what I want to work on, I often hear myself thinking ‘’trailer’’ or ‘’fly spray’’ or ‘’lunging’’ because all of these exercises will transfer into the saddle.
This whole ‘’Bringing Up Greenie’’ thing is exciting, terrifying, and rewarding. I admit I’ve made mistakes with her (ie. Trailering) but I am working tirelessly to fix them and I have hope that we will make it. There is a schooling show next weekend that I had planned to go to, but for now we will sit out (although I am still going to help and cheer on HSB!). And I’m not even that disappointed about it – we will get there when we get there. Having a trailer is a crucial part of where I live, especially for things like lessons, but for now I think plugging along the only way we know how isn’t so bad of an option.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Come Drive 7.8k with Spud

Since Monday was a holiday I figured why not hook Spud up and put in a good distance drive! The trails where the horses are, are usually a bit flooded or don't have super ideal footing for anything above a walk, so I opted to haul Pony into town.

I use an app called "Endomondo" for
anyone looking for a decent app for a
decent price (free!).
I parked the truck and trailer at home and got Spud all harnessed and hitched - I think news travelled fast through town because A LOT of traffic went through our street... most of it to slow down and stare at Spud and me. Awwwwkward.

We set off just after 2 in the afternoon and I was a bit delayed in starting the tracker, so it might look a bit weird and the distances/times may be off by about 5 minutes at the most. And the overabundance lines at KM 1 was because I was waiting for my nephew, who joined me for the remainder of the ride.

Waiting for the nephew to join.
From our starting position, we ended up heading back towards the House but instead of cutting down to our place, we went down a sidewalk and through some woods and across an open meadow where we cantered. Long-time readers may remember this meadow that Suzie and I used to school in when she was boarded in town, or when I hauled Spud and Suzie in to ride there because the outdoor arena still had snow.

We crossed the road, up a street, and deeked in behind the Boy's mom's place to a dirt road and followed down that (is between KM 2 and 3 on the map):

Popped off onto the road...

Hung a right, and followed down some quad trails:

Went through some water and came to a "T" in the dirt road (KM 4). Headed up right, back towards town:

The dirt road spit us back out in town and we continued on our merry-way on the side-walks back to the house:

And onwards we marched:

And finally,

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Continuing Ring Work and First Bath

Subnote: Wow - that's the last time I publish a post I don't proof read! Yikes. Thanks for looking past that, guys!

Easter Sunday, N asked me to join her for a ride and although I don't have any media from the actual ride, I do have media from Annie's first bath!

I decided to bring Spud again, mostly because pony needs fitness in his life, despite the fact that N met us at the BO's for our ride so we wouldn't have been alone regardless. I'm pretty confident in taking Annie out solo around the neighborhood - she has shown she is pretty solid for that stuff but it's just the whole trail riding thing that gives me some uncertainty. Not necessarily that she would kill us, but just that trails have a lot of questions in them that can even spook or bring about behavioral issues in the most seasoned of horses. The trail to the Grounds isn't necessarily littered with many difficult "questions", but having a friend along for the first few times certainly would amp up the confidence!

After I saddled up and mounted, we were ready to head out and it started out like it normally does. Annie likes to walk quite briskly at first, and despite the fact that it left AJ and N in the dust, I was OK with it. I have mentioned to N a few times that I just let her do her thing because as long as she's walking, I don't really care if she's walking faster than the other horse. It was a bit annoying for the first 1/4 of the ride, mostly because AJ started to get a bit riled up with Annie going full steam ahead. I do feel like Annie has a large walk stride to begin with, so when she goes Mach 10 and all legs are a'flying, it's hard for any horse to keep up!

At the right angle, there is a gap in the trees and you can
see out onto the street. She saw people riding horses a few
days ago and will stare at that spot for hours.
Sidenote: pls don't comment on the BO's uh... stuff
laying around.
Ironically enough, when AJ was most wound up Annie would settle down, and vice versa. A few times Annie tried to trot off but was easily contained, so I didn't worry too much. I expected her to be a bit brisk simply because she hasn't been out hacking with another horse in a while and also due to the obvious fact - baby.

We practiced a bit on alternating who led through the trail to the Grounds - AJ was content to be in the front but walked SO SLOW so Annie tried to pass him a few times. But she relented and shuffled behind him awkwardly, which he seemed to enjoy and Baby Mare DID NOT.

The ride in the ring was good - I actually remembered to bring my dressage whip (which hit Spud in the head a few times during the ride lol, sorry bro). At first, Annie would "suck" towards AJ and gave me a very half-hearted kick out when I gave her a stern tap on the bottom to pay attention.

One major thing I did note was that she feels less schooled now - her steering has really gone to shit which I guess is expected since the last time I schooled her was well over a month ago. It should come back with relative ease and I'm actually not too concerned about it. In addition being directionally challenged, she just feels quite weak all over and I was unsuccessful in getting her to pick up her right lead, which is something she was sticky about when I first rode her back in January. It'll all come with time tho, and I didn't push it because I want to address it on the lunge first before turning it into a fight.

Taken a different day, but can you spot the
scary rock that spooked her last time? LOL
Her transitions are obv pretty sloppy, but we had some really nice trot-walk moments and a few of her halts were really lovely. She did start to resort to tucking behind the vertical like she normally does, so we worked on pushing her into the bridle and praising her for bringing her head up. The entire school lasted about 15min and Annie was soaked. Poor unfit baby pony on an unseasonably hot day.

The hack back was good, but Spud had had enough. He started to be a bit defiant on the lead and ended up walking in front of Annie a few times, which she was really good about as I righted us again and carried on. I think maybe it was pay back for me accidentally poking him in the skull with my whip?

AJ left us 1/2 way home, and Annie was pretty adamant that we couldn't leave him behind, but a few pony-club kicks set her right on her way and she didn't even look back. In fact, she didn't even put any pep in her step when Suzie could hear us by the gully and screamed (I'd say neigh, but she legit screams).

When we got back to the barn, Annie was still warm so I decided it would be a good time to introduce Annie to the hose. I went in with no expectations and just started to desensitize her to it - bringing the hose to her legs, letting her dance away, and putting the hose back on. When I worked on her shoulder area, I put the hose up and quickly removed it and petted the area I had just gotten wet (kind of like how endurance riders sponge and scrape their mounts). I had been using this similar technique with the fly spray and it worked really well, and it was no surprise that it worked well this time too.

Spud cameo in the left.
With her being so good, I bathed her (not very well tho, I didn't want to turn the introduction to the hose into an hour long bath-extravagana). I wetted her down, spent some time rubbing some shampoo into her coat, washed it off and ran the sweat-scraper over it.

All in all, it was a total non-event and I was pretty pleased. She may have been bathed previously, but when I cold-hosed her legs after the Trailer Incident, she seemed pretty uncertain and spooky about it which leads me to believe not a lot of time (if any) was spent on it. No matter tho, because Spud was the same way when I got him and weirdly enough he was way more reactive than Annie (he still dances and pulls back on occasion).

I can't wait to see her fill out more, esp in her
little lady waist!
I turned her back out after that, and unlike my other two horses after a bath, she didn't immediately go find a place to roll. No, she went and ate her hay like a good girl.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Annie's Assistant

To start off the Easter weekend, I opted to go for a quiet solo hack around the neighborhood after doing some trailer work and lunging. It was a non-event, save for a mild moment where Annie decided to leap in the air when I asked her to trot because omg we were trotting in the front paddock which was new.

Fluffy, dirty, and too much mane omg.
Aside from that, she was ace for going out solo (it had been a while) and after a little uncertainty about going past the horse trailer down the driveway.

She was good about going home too, except when Suzie decided it'd be a good idea to start fucking screaming. Annie tried to trot, and was a bit pissy that I brought her down to a trot and I ended up turning her back away from home until she was quiet. She wasn't really naughty about anything, and didn't try to argue with me when I shut her down which was nice. Suzie, however, just kept fucking screaming.


She may love Annie, but her best bro will always be Potato Pony.
Friday morning I was itching to get to the Fairgrounds, which is about a 20min hack from where the horses are and it can be a little intimidating to new and young horses since part of the path is through the forest. I had been trying to wait for a friend to join me so we wouldn't be alone and because there is power in numbers, but neither riding buddy were available to go so I hemmed and hawed and decided I might as well teach Annie to pony Spud.

I tacked up Western, mostly because 1) it's easier to pony that way. 2) if shit got srs, I would have a more difficult time being unseated.

Due to some of the work the Farrier wanted me to put in, I went to pick up Annie's legs after she had been saddled to work on stretching them forwards. And she just could not. I was able to pick up one foot and she nearly fell over because the concept of lifting her leg under saddle was just not able to be computed. She ended up doing it tho, and looked at me like, "That was awkward as shit."

She looks kind of cute in Western tack!
The ponying thing started off with a bit of in-hand work - walking Spud and Annie together (which they both have done a few times), tying Spud onto the saddle (loose enough that he could get away), and finally having Annie feel Spud resist against the leadrope (thanks pony) and learning to continue to carry on. I needn't worry, because she was awesome! She didn't even falter when Spud drug behind her or when he was close to her flanks.

My biggest concern with the whole ponying charade was to make sure Spud was safe above all else. The last thing I need is Annie to kick him - she could do some serious damage. So when I mounted up, I didn't bother to tie him to the saddle like I normally did with Suzie, I simply held his rope in my hand and if things got hairy I could just let it go. 

We started off, and after a brief zomg moment because the thetrailerisrighttheremom!, we were on our way. It was interesting tho, because she seemed to feed off of Spud's good energy.

She was good with him trotting beside her (because her walk is HUUUGE). Poor Spud was annoyed tho, because he had to jog along almost the entire way.

Sorry, Spud.

The trail to the Grounds can be a bit nerve-wracking, especially because it is quite dense in some areas and features all kinds of footing ranging from rocks to mud. It also has a rather steep portion that is kind of like a "U", the first part of the U is the descend, and then it's level footing before you go back up the hill again. Usually when Jamie and I quad this trail, I have to get off and walk up because the incline is too steep for two of us. I wasn't quite sure how she'd make the trekk or what she'd think of the hills.

Hilariously enough, the only things she had issues with were the random rocks that littered along the trails. These rocks are huge, about the size of a coffee table, and are the root of a lot of spooks and uncertainty for many horses. In fact, most horses have a "Spring-time Spook" at them, and Annie was no exception.

Pictured: not spooking.
I love the fact that despite the spook, she kept her brain in her head and didn't bolt, back up, or run off. She just kind of "jittered" (does that even make sense? or paint a picture? lol) and stood there, staring at the rock. I enjoyed the fact that even though it scared her, she didn't tuck tail and run. And even when I asked her to continue, she calmly walked past it altho she gave it a pretty hard side-eye.

The second random rock she stiffened and stopped again, but because Spud wasn't even paying attention, he kept walking and by the time he reached her shoulder, Annie was like "Oh... you're good with this? Ok, I'm good with this." and kept walking.

Spud ponies, they're good for everything.

The hills weren't a challenge either, and even with a pile of mud in the one, she was SO careful with her footing and altho she was a bit fast coming down the hill, she seemed quite cautious and I enjoyed the fact she was feeling pretty forward.

Sometimes rail birds are accepted, and welcomed company.
(Also lets note the fact Annie wasn't bothered that Ty
literally followed us around the ring).

The ride at the grounds was uneventful, altho I wish I had brought my dressage whip because after about 10 minutes, Mare was lacking forward. Spud stayed quietly tied to the rail and Annie was really good - she didn't even suck towards him.


You guys.

We cantered!

Nevermind the fact we could barely steer at the trot, but we cantered! I was nervous about this, primarily because the last time I cantered her undersaddle was.... uh... February 13th.

Just call me Best Baby, and also Best At
Looking Away.
Still, I was super pleased with her and the walk back home was also uneventful. Suzie was even screaming, and Annie just hollered back but didn't do anything.

Upon arriving back to the barn, I halted her near the trailer and dismounted there, before leading her over to sniff it and just check it out. Spud was particularly bored and uninterested, save for when I brought the carrots out.

While I think that Annie could've made the trekk to the Grounds on her own, I like that I can count on Spud to "buddy up" with Annie and give her some extra confidence without being too over-bearing. For example, I think Suzie would be too much of a buddy for Annie - if I tied her while I worked Annie in the arena I'm certain she'd paw/call out/ etc. Spud is perfect because he isn't overly attached to Annie, and keeps himself entertained when tied and lets me concentrate on Annie and lets Annie concentrate on me.

It continues to amaze me just how amazing this pony is and how diverse he is in my life.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Trailer Lesson 4, 5, 6, and 7

We've been plugging away at the whole ''Have Trailer, Will Travel'' thing, one step at a time (literally). Annie continues to be nervous and unsure about the trailer and what exactly my intentions are with her once she's in there. The gravity of the whole unfortunate pull back incident has really dampered her confidence in me (and the Trailer of Death), but we've slowly been repairing it one lesson at a time.

The lessons are virtually the same, with a few ''new'' questions or exercises being asked each time. I don't particularly believe in making each lesson exactly the same, mostly because I don't want to overwhelm her or make her bored/ frustrated with having the exercise be the same thing.

We haz the noms in the Death Box.
I realize that elaborating on our trailer sessions might be boring, but my hope is that it might help someone else with their trailering troubles and could provide some useful fodder for combatting similar issues (or preventing it from happening altogether...).

The trailer stuff has been going well - Lesson 4 wasn't ground-breaking, but we did get a really big step towards positivity.

Lesson 4 was a break-down of cues and a ''lighter'' lesson. I wasn't really looking to push her further into the trailer or even for something ''more'' than our previous lesson. She offered up a nice moment wherein she stepped a hind leg onto the ramp, and subsequently scared herself and promptly backed politely down the ramp. I don't think she realized how close she was, and when she realized she had made it that much closer into the trailer, her anxiety spiked.

I didn't punish her or feed into it, but she was really stand-offish after that and she preferred to stay in the middle of the ramp vs closer to the top where she had normally been comfortable.

Instead of continuing to try and get back to where we were before, I backed her out and practiced some self-loading exercises - having her step up onto the ramp with a cluck and a tap of the whip (as needed) and we ended it there.

As I turned on my heel to lead her back to the barn, she let out a HUGE sigh.

A break on concentration b/c Suzie
fucking screams her head off.
Sometimes you can't have everything, and in some ways I think it might look like regression, but she made a huge step towards positively loading. It is OK for her to be uncertain and change her mind about something, especially something that scared her in the past.

Unfortunately, Lesson 5 was about a week after Lesson 4 simply because the whole hooking up the trailer and hauling it out to the horses for 20min was getting to be a bit much. The horse trailer isn't allowed to be kept at the BOs, so we leave it at the Boy's moms place. It takes an extra 30 min or so to go get the trailer, hook up, drive out, and then drive back, park, unhitch, drive home.

The wounds are healing really well!
So I talked to the BO and she agreed to let me park the trailer for a few weeks so I can work with Annie more. Backing up to the trailer and lowering the hitch onto the ball and securing is soooo much easier!

Lesson 5 was interesting - and it initially wasn't even about the trailer. I had wanted to ride and just getting Annie to PASS the trailer was a play into just how afraid she was. She wasn't bad, but she was very leery about going past the Metal Box of Death with me on her back. She did it, tho, and survived to tell the tale.

I figured I'd play around with the whole "I can't go past this thing" and on the following ride (Trailer Lesson 6), asked her to go closer and upon returning from our ride, I had her halt parallel to the trailer and wait for me to dismount. She wasn't sure about it, especially with the Death Box there, but she was good. I decided to add Spud into the mix after seeing how much confidence he brought to Annie (another post is coming!). The best thing about him is that I can push the divider over, have him in the trailer with me, and still have room to work Annie.

Sometimes it isn't necessarily about the loading thing - it's about the association with the trailer too. I felt it was important to take those steps to show Annie that we don't always load (or try to load) whenever the trailer is there. Sometimes we just ride by it and be cool, dawg.

Lesson 7 was more "loading orientated" and after we did the whole "in and out" dance, I had a lightbulb moment. I tied Annie to the trailer - she was uncertain at first, but I stayed with her long enough to ensure she was fine and plodded off to go grab Spud. Spud has been giving Annie a lot of confidence (another post is coming) and I figured, why not try adding Spud to the mix to SHOW Annie.

The amazing thing about Spud is that he's small so he doesn't get in the way and he just doesn't give a shit about anything, so I knew he wasn't going to start pawing in the trailer or freak out with Annie coming in and out.

I had moved the divider of the trailer over, so I had a large slant-type load and parked Spud at the top. I stood near his hip and much to my surprise, Annie seemed to have a light-bulb moment of her own. No, she didn't load and nothing earth shattering happened, but she seemed really curious about the fact Spud was cool with the Death Box and as the session wore on, her confidence started to blossom.
Nothing ground-breaking happened, but she was a lot more willing to join Spud vs me. I realize that Mare is gonna have to learn to trust me at some point, but Spud seems to be a good middle ground and the fact that his carelessness is rubbing off on her, is good.

The session ended positively - Annie was starting to get saturated and Spud was pretty pissed the he didn't get ALL THE CARROTS. We had a moment where Annie loaded, quite forwardly, into half of the trailer and paused to take it all in. She didn't back pedal or freak out, she just stood. I backed her out before she was pushed too much.

Slowly but surely, we're plucking away at it.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Trailering: Lesson 2 and 3

I wanted to just say I appreciate everyone's kind words and comments from my previous post - I am overwhelmed with the support and feel like I'm not alone in this. Yes, it was a very stupid and juvenile mistake to make, but I suppose we make those mistakes for a reason.

One of the biggest things I am grateful for is that Annie is OK. There is no swelling, heat, or lameness and aside from the unsightly wounds, you wouldn't even know we had had as large of an incident as we had (other than y'anno, the fact she won't load).

I'm beginning to realize a lot of things about Annie - she really doesn't KNOW much. For example, cold-hosing her fetlocks or even just running my hand down her legs has her shuffling away with a, "What the heck are you doing?" expression. It isn't malicious, and it isn't rude.

She literally doesn't know.

Thankfully she does know how to treat little poodle dogs.
And I'll be the first to admit that yes, there are a lot of holes in her training. She is a willing participant for most things, which makes it easy to push her or put pressure on her. She reacts the only way she knows how and the only way she understands. She hasn't been taught to react in a less explosive way and she hasn't been taught there are alternative ways to voice her displeasure at certain situations.

The whole fly-spray thing, the farrier issue, and now this trailer fiasco isn't because of her directly. Yes, she is the one who spooked, kicked out, and bolted backwards, but it simply is because she doesn't know HOW she is supposed to react.

All these puzzle pieces are starting to click together and I can feel myself understanding her and her needs more. From just three short sessions with the trailer loading, I can see just how willing she is when I praise her and give her the answer to what she is asking.

I've never owned a baby horse before, so these light bulb moments are probably coming very late in my ownership of Annie, but we're chugging along no worse for wear.

The Metal Box of Death - as per Annie
On Tuesday morning I set out early to hook up the trailer and begin Annie's second trailering lesson. I was secretly hoping for a breakthrough, but we all know that trust is a fickle thing. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

I pulled Annie out of the paddock and began brushing the Sore No More poultice from her legs. It seemed as though there was some residual swelling on her hind left near the back of the fetlock, so I cold-hosed her - which was a lesson in itself.

I don't think Annie has ever had the hose on her before, because she danced around and snorted and blew. But, like the day before when I cold-hosed her, I just stayed with her (but didn't give her any physical corrections) until she stood quiet. I patted her and continued what I was doing. She came to terms with it fairly quickly and let me squat down by her fetlock with the leadrope draped loose.

Afterwards, we waltzed over to the trailer and repeated what we had been working on the day before.

  • Cathryn goes in the trailer.
  • Annie follows to where she is comfortable.
  • Annie gets treat.
  • Annie stands quiet on the ramp until Cathryn backs her out.
  • Mental break.
Nothing really ground-breaking or earth-shattering happened. We repeated our little dance a few times and when I upped the pressure ever so slightly (by asking her to step closer to the lip of the ramp where it connects to the trailer floor), she protested with a head shake but stayed with me mentally and physically. Immediately when she self-soothed and stayed quiet, I removed her from the stimuli.

The whole back and forth dance started to get a bit boring for her so I requested she come closer - she danced along the top of the ramp. You could see she was battling herself, as the rope was completely slack. She wanted so badly to join me, but she was afraid.

She tentatively touched a front hoof into the trailer and jerked it away like it had been set on fire. I laughed and led her back down the trailer.

We repeated the exercise until she stood with a hoof in the trailer and stayed "with" me as I fed her treats.

She is starting to figure out that shooting backwards is the wrong answer, and she can show me she's upset in another way. Each time she has started to falter backwards, she steps forward as if to say, "I'm very uncomfortable so I'm going to get out of her- oh, right, step forward... breathe... Mom will get me out of this." 

The session ended there - I didn't and don't want to berate her with going in and out endlessly and trying to push her more than she was willing.

Awkward selfie + Sore No More poulticed leg.
Wednesday evening I popped out after work for a short, but purposeful exercise. I brought the trailer with me, but also worked in some of the suggestions a few readers gave me.

I started off by producing the building blocks I'd be utilizing later on in our trailer training which included Teresa's wonderful suggestion of "sending" Annie off. We worked away from the trailer and I used a dressage whip to help be an extension of my arm.

Annie was great - went where I pointed her and halted where I asked. We moved closer to the trailer and her mind left me for a moment or two as I had her "lunge" around me with the leadrope. The main objective of this was for her to understand that A) we won't always be working ON the trailer, but we can work NEAR it. B) the eventual installment of sending her up and INTO the trailer without me leading her in.

We neared the ramp of the trailer and she stepped on it a few times, which I praised her for. She was unsure about what I was trying to get her to do, but she did as I asked which was all I could ask for.

We also worked on verbal "back" cues for when she is in the trailer and needs to back out without pressure on the leadrope. I used the dressage whip to tap her front legs and she did awesome.

So, kind of like the Stacey Westfall videos I've been watching at the advice of Emma (thank you!!) I have been "planting the seed" of things to come. There isn't really any end result from any of the little things we played with today, but they will all become entangled into one another.

The process is kind of like watching paint dry, in some aspects, but these are all important things to focus on and build upon.

Annie certainly has a lot to learn but she obviously has a wonderful temperament that will blossom with her being able to understand what we are actually trying to achieve. No, there is no excuse for not yielding to pressure or otherwise, but I truly don't think she knows any better.

We finished off the night with loading and unloading in the trailer, altho this time was more about hanging out on the ramp vs stepping up and stepping off like we had previously done. Yes, there is something to be said about routine, but I like to add little things together and try to play off of what the horse is giving me. Annie wasn't concerned about stepping off the ramp - yes, she stepped down the ramp but never stepped completely off of it. I made the ramp her "safe zone" for the night and we played from there (with a few intervals where I took her completely off the trailer for a little "break".

 Near the end of the session, Annie pawed at the air, showing that she realllly wanted that carrot but she just didn't realllly want to put her hoof in. She is actually quite a character, her little quirks make me laugh.

She did have quite a big breakthrough though - both hooves made their way into the trailer and after she did that more than once, we quit for the night. The first time both hooves made contact in the trailer floor, she took the treat and immediately stepped back onto the safe zone of the ramp, which is OK, but not ideal. The second time we did this, like you will see in the video, I asked her to "stay" with me. You can see in the video she wasn't quite sure and you can see the moment where she wanted to get the heck out of there and instead, bobbed back forwards. She stayed right with me until I let her back out.

It's a terrible video, but it gives you a general idea. The clucking noises I made weren't necessarily to entice her forwards as much as it was to ask her to focus and use her brain again vs staring at Spud and Suzie (who were neighing like Annie was going to leave foreverrr). Viewers will note the leadrope being loose save for when she went to go backwards - the tension allows her to know that that is the wrong answer and she is rewarded by stepping forwards OR by moving her neck forwards to release the tension. You can see I don't move and I don't even play into her uncertainty, just wait for her to gather her composure and stand, and then I immediately ask her to back up and remove her from the trailer.

I'm not going to pester her on the trailer stuff again until the weekend - we have a lot to work on and I don't want to overwhelm her with doing the same exact thing day in and day out. So we'll play with other things like:
  •  standing while I pretend to be a farrier on her hooves
  •  standing while I turn the hose on her legs
  • yielding to pressure from her poll
  • following the direction I point her and stopping exactly and precisely when I ask
  • yielding her haunches
  • accepting the flyspray 
  • backing from voice cues only
  • ground tying
  • suppling exercises (yielding)
Rome wasn't built in a day and we aren't going to accomplish these fast and hard - it'll be months of work and dedication to get her 100%. Which, I'm OK with. As weird as it sounds (altho I worked at an animal shelter and veterinary clinic so it "makes sense" to me) it reminds me of adopting a dog from the pound. Altho the dog can be young (but not a puppy) they may have issues or things they have never understood or encountered. You cannot and will not completely train a dog to sit in a day - they will test you, they will forget in new situations, they will be distracted, etc.

I've tried to tell friends that I don't like her, but I'm starting to
and I'm starting to "get" her.
And as much as I've talked about all the holes Annie has, she has some really great qualities that shouldn't be forgotten. I mean, how many 30 days (or less?) green-broke horses do you know that can come out after a month off and go hacking out (on garbage day no less) completely solo?

She's kind and sensible and I'm starting to realize just how much I misjudged her. She isn't a witchy mare - she is like a little kid, who is trying to figure it all out.

It seems as though she is beginning to forgive my ignorance, which I am very pleased with. And soon our trailer ties and Safe T Ties will be here for the "real deal" - whenever Annie decides that is!