November 28, 2011

Full of Piss and Vinegar

Yep, that describes how I found Rose today, after a week away. She was completely full of herself. Since it was such a great day and ride, I had sort of decided that our ride last week might be our last until the baby comes. So today I planned on simply going to the barn, dropping off her grain, grooming her and working on the people door some more.

All of that did happen, but all the while she was a wiggly in-heat mess. Apparently she is unaware that it is nearly December. Sheesh. She would not stand still in the cross ties, even after I just sat there for a half hour waiting for her to settle down, so I decided to free longing her in the arena to burn off some energy.

At first she madly galloped around the arena as I appreciated her seamless flying changes, collections, and extensions. Her canter, and even gallop, are looking so balanced and powerful these days. She is really using her hind end well and getting underneath herself. Once she burned off some steam I asked her to do some work and to my surprise she voluntarily started longing around me on a 20m circle without a longeline. She listened to all my vocal commands and even changed direction on cue. I have to say it was a very cool experience having her longe around me without a line. After all that, she was a tired mess and back to her usual self. So once all the sweat dried off her I returned her to her paddock and called it a day. I can see that she might be a bit of a handful over the next 5 months without regular work. I guess we'll see how it goes and figure it out along the way.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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November 21, 2011

An excellent Monday indeed

Today was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Perfect for riding. It is amazing how the sunlight is intensified by snow. As I lead Rose from her paddock to the barn I paused for a moment to appreciate the sunlight sparkling across the snowy fields, and the horses sound asleep in their hay piles.

Rose was an absolute gem today. All of a sudden, my well mannered sweet girl returned from the depths of wherever she had been the past couple of weeks. She was nice and quite in the cross-ties, great about the garage door, awesome under saddle, and then once again walked straight through the people door without hesitation. Given that my riding days are soon coming to an end for a while, it is nice to get to cherish days like today, and be thankful that I own such a sweet and talented mare. I just need to remember that when we are having an "off" day.

Have a wonderful holiday everyone!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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A Gatsby baby in a kill pen

The good news: Rose is now walking in and out of the people door without hesitation. Yea!

The bad news: It recently became public knowledge that Granville, a 2002 Gatsby gelding, 17.0h and branded RPSI in the kill pen in PA. Reportedly the rescue Another Chance For Horses originally was asking $800 for him until they found out who he was by. Now they want $6000 for a horse in a kill pen, that they won't let anyone look prior to sale. They do have recent video of him (jumping in a western saddle on a hard dirt road...ugh) on their very poorly designed website here: They are taking bids though and the highest recent bid over the weekend was only $4000 and they settled on that but then the buyer backed out when they wouldn't let her see him before paying for him. Can't blame her there. You can follow more about this on Gatsby's facebook page here:

He seems like a nice horse, and would probably be a very good buy. Nothing like a bright bay with chrome! Right about now, owning a 9 year old gelding sounds pretty good to me, but getting to PA is not really a possibility in my world right now, nor is forking out $$$. Some of you may know that I'm very much against horse slaughter, so the thought of one of Gatsby's get ending up on a truck to Mexico breaks my heart. Not to mention that this horse has shown and competed and has likely been given lots of different drugs (like bute) over the course of his life, which poisons the meat. Honestly, slaughter of performance horses is really really stupid in my book from a health standpoint alone, not to mention the cruelty aspect of it.

At this point I guess I will focus on my own Gatsby baby, and hope that something works out for Granville. I wish I weren't just a helpless spectator in this, but that's all I can be at the moment. That and spread the word. Maybe one of you are looking for a nice warmblood gelding with eventing potential to call your own? Andrea of Eventing a GoGo come to mind...

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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November 17, 2011

Two Minutes

Yep, that's' how long it took her to walk through the people door today. All walk, no bolt, heading inside and out. Just warms my heart. :)

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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Some semblance of normal

I had business meetings all day Tuesday that kept me from the barn. Wednesday I headed out with a clear head and positive thoughts about the garage door and people door. At the very least there was no wind, and that would be a bonus. My hope was that we'd be able to make progress with both issues.

We repeated our technique from Monday starting with tying Rose up at the post while I opened the garage door. This time she stood nice and quiet immediately. Inside the arena I removed her lead, as the tie ring has not been reattached to the wall, and closed the door. She ran around the arena a little bit, but not as reactively as on Monday. Given my two free hands, I set up some ground poles to play with. We ended up having a very nice ride. I was glad I thought of the poles, as she seemed very interested in having something more stimulating to do than circles, half-halts, shoulder/haunches in, and transitions. I need to remember to put some more fun back into our rides now that we are taking a break from jumping. After our ride, I wrapped her reins back up and left her loose in the arena to open the door. She just stood there nice and quiet the whole time. Yea!

After our ride it occurred to me that I could probably get a remote control garage door opener, thus negating the need for tying up altogether. That will allow me to stand at a comfortable distance and slowly get her used to standing closer and closer to it, desensitizing her over time. I plan on asking the barn owner if they already have one, otherwise I'll go out and get one ASAP.

Given her overall good attitude, I decided to work on the people door after our ride. Once she was cooled out and untacked we headed back to the arena. Immediately she almost walked all the way in. Wouldn't you know it though, just as she placed one front hoof in the doorway the neighbor started shooting his rifle! He does this often, so I'm fairly certain he's set up a target range behind the arena on his side of the fence/creek. Rose immediately pulled out of the door, got super tall, and ridged. It took me another 5-minutes to get her attention again. Once I did though she focused and walked in. Grand total of 10-minutes! Plus, she WALKED. She didn't bolt through the door. After she ate her payload of timothy pellets and got lots of praise we turned around to go out the door. She calmly followed me right along, without pause, and again WALKED out the door. I can't express was a great feeling that was. Such a good way to end a day.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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November 16, 2011

Intro to the garage door

Monday's ride was, well, a MONDAY. We had 50mph winds when I got to the barn, which did not do much to settle Rose. I lowered my expectations, rode, and called it a day. It was also our first time sorting out what to do about entering the arena via the garage door.

The problem: The garage door only opens from inside, and Rose is not accustom to the noise.

The solution: Tack up horse and place halter and lead over bridle with reins wrapped. Place a blocker tie ring near by the arena to a sturdy post and tie Rose up. Open garage door. Enter arena. Tie Rose with another blocker tie ring inside the arena. Close door. Ride.

The reality: Initial tie up to the post was a challenge due to wind gusts. After about three pulls on the blocker, she finally settled long enough for me to get into the arena and open the door. She had no response to the door opening and stood nice and quite. Whew. I rewarded her with a small, bit friendly,  treat. She easily walked through the garage door and I tied her up inside the arena. I went back to the garage door (about 50 feet away) and closed it. She pulled back startled, but was still tied. I decided to be smart stupid and practice opening and closing the door to desensitize her to it. At each additional opening and closing she pulled back more on her tie until she managed to pull the tie ring out of the wall...even with the blocker tie ring attached. In hindsight I should have re-tied her each time keeping the lead rope short. Ugh. I took her lead rope off and let her mill about the arena loose. I then opened and closed the door about a dozen more times. At first she wildly galloped around the arena, but once she appeared bored and was just standing in the middle of the arena I stopped. I closed the door for the final time and shrugged, thinking to myself "well, at least she is warmed up".

Our ride was challenging due to the wind and ice falling off of the roof, so I didn't ask to much or expect too much. After our ride another boarder was in the arena, so she helped me out by opening and closing the garage door for us. At that I called it a day. It was too cold and windy to work on the people door.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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November 13, 2011

Working through it

I will not be defeated. I might be prego, tired, and fed up with Rose's attitude, but at the end of the day I will win over the people door issue. Even if Rose never walks through a people door tacked up again (my saddle has been taking quite a beating from her bolting through the door), I will get her to willingly walk through it sans-tack. I don't want her to start applying this issue to all doors, which I've noticed that she has begun to do.

Rose and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people door.

Saturday morning graced us with a 5" snow storm.  My husband was leaving to go hunting for the weekend, and I had all day to myself. After deciding that I would not be defeated on this issue I decided to head to the barn once the snow stopped falling (er-blowing sideways). My plan was to put on a million layers, take some hot tea, get a long lead rope and just stand on the inside of the arena as long as it took until she decided to walk through the door. 2 hours and 25 minutes later, she walked through! We did it twice and I should have stopped there, but then on the third attempt there was no more moving of the feet. 45 minutes later, the sun was starting to go down and I needed to get through the canyon before the roads froze over into a sheet of ice. So I got her feet close to the door, rewarded her with some grain and called it a day.

The big debate: shall I repeat it again today? My horse training brain says yes, my energy level however is trying to sway me otherwise.

Thanks to Kelly's encouraging comment, I made it to the barn today for a repeat door training session. This time it only took 30-minutes to get her to walk through the door! I am now feeling a sense of relief and invigoration about the whole door thing.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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November 12, 2011

More People Door

Yesterday I was about to write this "The people door situation is improving. She's being less and lest resistant and I can tell it's only a matter of time before she cracks and gives into my Alpha Mare dominance (regarding the door) for good." Then I went to the barn.

I got her through the door in a relatively acceptable period of time. Granted she BOLTED through the door, whacked my saddle on the door jam, and caught my expensive half rubber reins in her foot while I pleaded out loud "please don't break them", and then she managed to stand in one spot until I rescued her from the reins. Note to self, until door issue is resolved, perhaps switch to cheap web reins.

Once I got her in the arena we warmed up for our lesson. It was probably a 20 minute warm up, as I had given myself a lot of extra time to get her through the door. Upon our lesson starting, trainer C and I discussed the door issue, as she got to see it all first hand for the first time, as did the owner of our barn. She asked if I wanted her to give the door a go, and I figured why not? Well, that horse was not going to go through that door one more time come hell or high water! After probably a good 30 minutes of trying trainer C decided it was a bigger issue than her being a brat, and she thinks that Rose is legitimately frightened of the door. I'm still not totally convinced, but I'm willing to give that a thought.

The other thought I've been knocking around in my head is that I'm sick of this sort of thing. I'm sick of my giant pushy bull headed mare's attitude at times. I would really love to own a gelding version of Rose. In every other way she is the horse that I've always been looking for and is perfect for me. This week I seriously started considering selling her. After a long talk with trainer C about it, I went about my day and eventually in the evening caught up with my husband and discussed the matter more. As always, he calmed me down and talked me out of selling her. He thinks it's crazy that I ever expected her to go through a tiny door in the first place. He's got a point there. Also, she's been off her raspberry leaves for 2-weeks unbenounced to me, and she's in a paddock across from a 2.5-year old stallion who's recently started realizing he's a stallion and stares at her all day long getting teased and getting himself off. Rose being the hussy she is, is happy to be the teaser mare as well. The plan is to move the stallion to a far paddock away from Rose and by geldings, and of course I'm just waiting on the raspberry leaved to come in the mail.

To sum it all up, I guess Rose has an excuse for her recent bad attitude, and perhaps she is legitimately scared of the people door. My solution for now will be to use the big arena garage door to come and go, and unfortunately the arena will get a bit colder when I ride for the next 2-weeks. I will also see if I can work on the door issue, sans-tack, with little expectation. After that, it's time off and probably a good mental break for both Miss Thing and me. She is still just four, and that could be a lot of the attitude too.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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November 9, 2011

The terribly frightening people door!

Rose was introduced to walking through people doors when we moved to Montana in April. For some reason (i.e. to keep the cold out) everyone around here uses people size doors to enter barns and arenas with their horses. Which is fine with me, but seriously, the doors should be wider and taller than regular people doors for this purpose. Surprisingly Rose has been just fine with them from the get-go, until last Thursday. She utterly refused to enter the arena.

My personal opinion of this sudden fright was that it is all attitude. It is her current baby trick to of the week to try and get out of work. Unfortunately my crop was inside the arena, so it took a bit of time and help from a passer by to get into the arena. Once in, we went in and out a few times. She more of bolted through the door than walked through it. Regardless she got through it and I had foolishly hoped that would be the end of it. Once under saddle she was perfect.

Yesterday, I only had time to groom and longe her. Instead of longing, what ended up happening was me fighting with her for an hour to get through a damn door and into the barn. Unfortunately no one was around to help this time. Eventually, after getting no where I tried a different people door, which happened to have a training flag/crop by the door, and I managed to get her through that one. We practiced a few times with little improvement. Without the crop she won't go through, with the crop she bolts through. I have a feeling that this stupid issue is going to plague us all week. Argh! Babies can be such fun...

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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November 7, 2011

I don't need two babies on my hands

Several people had/have suggested that I hurry up and breed Rose while I am pregnant. It was theoretically possible at the time as it was late summer and she was still in heat. As of late, several people have mentioned that it's a shame I wasn't thinking ahead and bred her. Um, yeah, I did think ahead and that's why she's not bred, thank you very much. While I know they all meant it with good intentions (because everyone loves foals) there is no way I would breed her right now and I certainly don't feel like a chump for not having gotten it done. It's not like it hadn't crossed my mind. Although I know very little about being pregnant myself, and even less about pregnant horses, I do understand the basics of when and how a horse can be bred. So I thought about it and realized that I didn't want to go there. Once the mini-human comes along, my time and check book will be strapped, and I don't see any room for raising and handling a foal. Plus, I would be far more stressed and concerned about Rose's pregnancy than my own.

Even so, in a perfect world if I were to breed Rose it would likely be with an embryo transplant, which means leasing and boarding another mare. Something that I won't be able to afford for a while and I'm not inclined to do until we have our own land and I don't have to board a broodmare. In addition, I only intend to breed Rose to keep the foal for myself as my next prospect. I'm not foolish enough to think that with no breeding experience that I could actually turn a profit on breeding a foal (I think that is where a lot of people get in financial hot water with breeding). These are all reasons that lead me to think breeding her while I'm pregnant makes no sense whatsoever...for me. Maybe it does for others, just not me.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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November 3, 2011

Avoiding Scratches

Scratches (aka. Mud Feaver / Greasy Heel) have been the topic of the month at our little barn. Scratches are a combination fungus/bacteria infection, not unlike thrush, generally located on the back of the pastern and they look like horizontal scratch lines. Sometimes they can be found on other parts of the lower leg as well. They can cause the horse a lot of pain, and can even cause lameness. It's something that's best avoided.

So, why is it a current topic? Scratches generally show up in the spring and fall due to mud. As such, there is one old retired mare on the property who just moved to our barn a month ago, and she has scratches. Now, comparatively to other barns I've boarded at, our barn doesn't have much mud and the grass pasture she's in doesn't seem to have any. I don't know if her owners come out and do anything with her, I assume not, since she's on retirement board. So, the un-groomed horse with long feathers on her feet on course post-hayed pasture grass has scratches. I kinda assume she came with them to be quite frank, but it wasn't noticed until she arrived and now she's getting daily treatments for it. It is possible that the combination of the course grass and morning dew could have caused the scratches as well.

For some reason I'm often asked if Rose gets scratches. She does have three white socks, so I can see why people assume that I must be an expert on the topic. Oddly, I have become very knowledgeable on the subject, but not because I've ever had to deal with scratches. I've become knowledgeable on the topic because everyone asks me about it all the time.

The reality behind it though, is that Rose has never had scratches. Nor has any horse that I've ever owned or leased. It was never a concern of mine in Oregon, because she lived in a gravel dry lot with no mud. This meant her feet got wet from the rain, but not muddy. Plus our part of Oregon was very humid, so it was damn near impossible for anything to ever dry out and crack. However, when we moved to Montana it was mud season, and she went directly into a gross paddock with a foot of mud. Regardless of the mud, it's very very dry here all year round. The muddy paddock only lasted one month however, before I couldn't take it any longer and her tiny Morgan mare paddock mate was beating the living tar out of her. At that time scratches became the topic of the month as well. Since I knew very little about it I did all the research on it that I could, talked to anyone that knew anything, and put a plan into action to avoid her getting scratches. That being said, I haven't a clue if she'd even be prone to getting them. I honestly think the white sock thing is a bit of a old wives tale. However, I generally prefer to avoid injuries/infections than having to deal with the healing process. So, without much more adieu, here is my scratches prevention technique, that has thus far worked for us.

My method to prevent scratches
Every time I ride (about 4x/week) during mud season I do the following: 

  1. Year round I keep feathers trimmed up. Not shaved, but trimmed so that there isn't' excess hair for mud to clump onto. Plus I think horses look neater with their feathers trimmed. Of course breeds like Frisians and Gypsy Vanner are excluded from that statement. Shaving the feet can cause horses to be more prone to scratches as there is less hair to protect the skin on the pastern from mud. Ironically, you'll need to shave your horses pasterns if you get scratches, but that falls under the topic of curing scratches, not preventing them.
  2. Pull horse from paddock.
  3. Take horse to wash rack and gently hose muddy feet off with warm water. Use only your finger tips to help remove mud. DO NOT brush mud off feet, ever. Brushing the pastern can cause tears in already dry skin that lays below the mud and infect the tissue with bacteria/fungus loveliness...causing scratches.
  4. Gently dry off the legs with a towel. Some people use a paper towel to avoid all possible cross contamination or re-contamination, but quite frankly I've never had an issue using a regular towel. I just wash my towels regularly and don't use them on any other horses, which is easy when you only have one horse. If you have multiple horses, taking a sharpie and writing their names on the towels is a good way to keep them separate. If a horse has scratches, make sure to use fresh towels every time...or resort to paper towels at that point.
  5. Allow leg to completely dry. This is usually when I ride. The leg must be very dry or you will end up trapping in bacteria/fungus during the next step.
  6. After the leg is clean and dry (dust it off if you rode), liberally apply diaper rash ointment to the back of the pastern and heel area. I buy aquaphor in a big tub. Desitin works great too, but it's more expensive and I've yet to find it in a tub.
  7. Return horse to paddock.
  8. Cross fingers and pray you get through the mud season with out scratches. Don't worry, your horse will make sure to get some other injury just to keep you on your toes!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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November 1, 2011

Training for the Square Halt

Monday's ride was pretty good. Rose was a somewhat silly baby in the cross ties, but her new habit of  last week, which was trying to bite me when I brush her has vanished and that is something to be thankful for. Well, that and my handy little jumping bat which helped to convince her that it was a bad idea. Under saddle, she was terrific. She's really getting the hang of the half-halts now, although at times she overreacts and halts, but I ask her to move on when she's made that mistake, and it doesn't happen too often.

Speaking of halts, they are really improving. We've been working on developing a square halt for a few months now, and all that hard work is really starting to pay off. I'd say 65% of the time when she halts now it is square, the other 35% of the time I can now say "square up" to her, apply a tiny bit of leg, and then she thinks about it and fixes her feet. It took some time for her to put all the pieces together, but with repetition and diligence she's gotten it. It's pretty darn cool! Here is how we've gotten where we are with the square halt:

How I've been training Rose for a square halt:
  1. From the trot I ask her to to halt through my seat (it is easier for the horse to halt square from the trot than the walk, as the horse is only operating of diagonal pairs of feet rather than all four individual feet).
  2. I look down or in a mirror and check all four feet.
    1. If they are square, I pat and praise Rose saying "square". I want her to associate the word square with the stance.
    2. If they are not square, I ask Rose to take a step or so forward until they are square and say "square up*". Once square I then pat and praise her saying "square". I don't ask her to square up by backing because that is a fault in a dressage test at the halt...a bad habit I don't want to start.
  3. Repeat periodically throughout our schooling session.
  4. When we are finished, and after our cooling down walk, we trot down the center line and halt at x.
  5. I look down or in a mirror and check all four feet.
    1. If they are square, I pat and praise Rose saying "square" and dismount immediately before she has a chance to move an inch. Dismounting is the ultimate reward for a good deed!
    2. If they are not square, I ask Rose to take a step or so forward until they are square and say "square up*". If she doesn't get square from the walk, I come back around down the center line and try again from the trot. Once square I then pat and praise Rose saying "square" and dismount immediately before she has a chance move an inch. Dismounting is the ultimate reward for a good deed!
*At first I didn't say "square up", I only said square when she was square. Only after she started associating the square halt with the word square did I start using "square up" to communicate verbally to her what she should do when she got it wrong.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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