Sunday, July 27, 2008

Herd bound: need help!

So... I think today was a breaking point. For me, not the horse.

When we were at the big, boarding facility (70+ horses, 200 acres), and he had his buddies, we didn't really have herdbound issues. Usually, since I rode at night alone in the indoor, I'd snag a mare or something to mosey around while we rode just because I didn't want to be "that person who makes me work alone" to him. Sometimes we rode alone. It wasn't an issue. I wasn't into riding trails alone, so never really tried. We also usually didn't ride on the road. So we were if not within sight of another horse, were not terribly far.

When we first moved, and he lived alone before he made friends, we would ride a good half mile down the road, but I didn't want to do trails alone in case something happened (nobody would be around). Then he made friends. Now we can't go down the road, into the woods, or according to today, down the driveway.

He was moved to my in-laws with the other two, and we worked on it. We would make expanding circles, and he would go around the barn not seeing them just fine. We had our little arena and a good section to play so I dealt with it. With a friend going, he'd go anywhere.

While I was away, Kate moved them back to her property. Fine. He's fat anyways. I did notice riding with Sarah, that saddling was worse than normal. However once we were following George, all was well.

Today, he was nutters. OMG kind of nutters. I have scissor-clip reins that I use on his rope halter and it's how we usually ride. If I'm lazy, I unclip a side and use it as a lead rope too.

Dante steps on lead ropes with as many feet as he can all the time. I have taught him that when this happens to back up. He knows this. He has to stop and back up while grazing with a rope at least 20 times a week. Today, he stepped on it, stepped on it worse backing up, and then yanked his head up and broke the metal scissor clip. This was before riding, so I went and got his padded halter until we could ride with a bridle. I was worried about him having hurt his face. I was barely going to ride, so it wasn't anything I worried about. Usually, he's calmer without a bridle. He seemed unfazed, so we saddled (he was obnoxious, so I used a tablespoon of grain to distract him- yeah it must hurt really bad, if that's all it takes for him to stand for it, right?). I got on and he was so dancey.

Whenever we tried to leave the area, he would back up, swing around so that I was in the branches, yank his head down and eat his feelings in the maniacal crazed-grazing, where he just keeps taking bites and not chewing, pausing, or swallowing. Any prevention of grazing made him yank his head all around and threaten to blow up. I hopped off and longed him. He had one flip out on the line, then was pretty good, although still crazy-grazey.

I've tried walking him back into the woods alone, but he just gets on supreme alert, tries to step on me, bowl me over, etc. Also the bugs were really,really bad, and bothering the both of us.

So what does one do to undo herd-boundness? He's going back to the big barn for winter in mid to late October. Then in the spring he'll be moving back again.

Saddle racks!

So I like being handy with wood and such, so I decided to make myself a pair of saddle racks that fit in the truck. Very convenient. So I did!

They turned a messy truck with saddle mess everywhere to a neat and organized truck! Now I can also quickly remove the horse stuff if I want Truck for other purposes besides ponies.

I did learn today, though, that I need to find a way to secure them, because they become quite top-heavy with saddles. I wonder if I just turn them the other way, if they'd be more stable. Otherwise a bungee'll do it.

If you have it, they will come.... eventually.

So I have been trying to convince my friend Sarah to come riding with me since Dante's move this last spring. George is perfectly suited to her- flighty and fast like her arab, but reliable like a QH (and with the smoother gaits as well- love arabs, but haven't met a smooth one). She kept making excuses.

So FINALLY I convince her to come. She had NO idea how gorgeous the trails out back are, and I haven't been able to really explore because of Dante's herd-boundness (more coming up on that). So I only get to go back there with others, and I usually end up riding by myself. Last time I went to ride he was so nutty for his friends and I didn't have my helmet so we just had a fun time of grooming and petting and grazing. I hadn't done one of those in a while, he missed it.

So we go back out on the trails, she cuts George loose through the meadows on the other side of the woods, and luckily there there were fewer bugs.

The two southern pastures belong to the neighbors, the northern pasture (which is actually the grassiest) belong to my in-laws, and you can see that we go west into the woods and then into the meadows. These are rolling hills all over. Gorgeous time.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lesson time!

Okay, so I had my first fancy Englishy lesson. It was the barn down the road I had oggled since age 12, as stated in my first post.

I've had other English lessons, but the barn was in obvious disrepair (school part anyways), the horses were well-mannered but all old, the instructors young (ger than me), and the fencing serviceable, but not fresh. It was good, but not fancy. For this I wore my pull on jods, short boots and half chaps with a t-shirt. I didn't want to be made fun of.

First impressions of the barn: good. Nobody was snotty when I didn't know where to go (where to find instructor). Fencing: nice- wood with hot wire. Horses in good condition, friendly, well-fed, supplemented and most were stalled. Feed room had door AND a stall chain. I've NEVER seen horses wearing so much while out in pasture, even my mom noticed! I didn't think anyone had their horse wear front boots and bell boots just to be out in pasture, plus the fly mask, and halter. They were still very impatient with flies. No longing before lesson, but as a pokey, steady horse, makes sense. I did groom, noticed had all four shoes. Pastures had shelter, or the horses were brought in for the evening. Indoor arena had rubber tire shredding footing. Outdoor arena in good condition, no rocks and even. Jumps available. Cross ties, wash stall, etc.

We were in the outdoor, and began by walk-trotting around, focusing on my hands being lower and closed. I then worked on beginning the canter, and some mini-jumps with a focus on my jump position. She took away my reins in the position, one arm at a time before both (I warned her western taught me one handed just fine). She had seen me riding western, so she was surprised that in English my legs moved back and didn't stay forward. She commented that my canter did not look like I had only done it a few times (in honesty- twice in English lessons previously, once on a longe in a NH lesson, and maybe 10x total on my horse in practice for a few strides each. Oh, and one time I race piggums against my friend's horse Lahana, whose story and transformation I will tell later. )So not terribly practiced, despite the praise. It was the first time a canter felt good, controlled, and that I was in control. I think it was because I was so focused on my seat and not looking like a doof (some of the kids came out to watch the noob) that I just performed well. Go me.

We did do mini-jumps, but the horse I was riding was not into jumping and she knew it. She invited me back to come to a second lesson this week. She mentioned a more active horse and the indoor, where more jumps were set up. At 40 bucks for a half-hour, I'm leery. I can do an hour for 30 in MN/WI. I think I may do more of those, and not more here. I was also told I can come visit etc. while here no problem. I guess the barn had changed hands a few tims since built, and these seem to be the most friendly.

My legs are tired. My horse's trot requires little posting, he does the jog, or I can post but it's so solid. I'm spoiled by him, and used to him. His movements are familiar. Also, jump position got tiring, riding around the arena in it.

So, no regrets. I had fun, got my pony fix, and learned a bunch of stuff to practice. Also doing some cantering successfully has made me decide to work on my doodle with it. We had practiced, but should practice more. I was able to let go of the saddle, and "push" whilst understanding.

Totally fun! I can't wait to see what Dante thinks of all this. Afterwards, I thoroughly enjoyed jumping in my pool though, where I spent my childhood dreaming of ponies!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I had a decent ride on Dante Wednesday evening. Longed okay, but was a bit spooky- didn't like the chickens in the bush.

Good news: his English saddle now fits better NOT having the back-boosting pads I sewed to help the saddle fit better (rock wise).

We rode around, he was a little nutty over eating, but not absolutely nutso.

I'm in CT right now at my parents' place. Monday, I have a lesson at that fancy place down the road. I'm totally stoked! I'll report more then.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ah, there he is!

So last night, I went and intruduced Truck to Horse. Horse liked Truck, mainly because at the old barn they used to hay from one, and trucks mean food. Same reason he'll never be afraid of 4-wheelers, bobcats, or any other number of motorized equipment. If your horse spooks at general flurries of activity, just board at a big place for a few months (preferably winter ones) and they'll be over that soon enough.

I never thought that Husband could/would be jealous of Horse, but I think he ever-so-slightly resents my evenings, ramblings, expenditures, and "barn dirt" (with accompanying odors) all for the sake of something that may or may not kill me by accident. I did get job #2 for horse, truck for horse, talk about horse, spend weekends with horse, plan my weeks around visiting the horse, and get ticks on his clothes (he did not appreciate).

For not complaining TOO much, I do try my best to be nice, rearrange things like riding and such to spend time with him, and do things like make it a short evening so I can go home and shower and we can catch a movie, which we did last night.

So, longing was quick, I set low goals for that after last time, it only took one stride of canter to get a "good boy" and not have to do it anymore. I also forgot my stick at home, so I was just swinging rope which is generally less effective. He was a little OMG we need to eat like crazy NOW!, but was otherwise fine. We rode around at walk-trot and he was perfectly behaved. He wanted to lope, I did not. The Yellow flowers were definitely in his mind, and we had to eat all of them. Yes, I let him get away with it a little, he would move off when asked.

I've always felt that for a horse you've ridden 2-3x weekly for a year and a half, a day or two of him "getting away with" something is not a huge deal. I still have no idea what spooked him the other day. I really think he may have seen a bear or something and just been on alert for it.

To make up for not having a fun pic, I'm including his latest "conformation shot". Compare with the ones below it. Those are a 6 month difference with cavelletti exercises. Now that we have Truck, I can buy lumber to make some new ones (check out link), as the previous ones belonged to the barn.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Yes, I am now the proud owner of a 1994 Chevrolet Silverado 2500.

It is huge (a 3/4 ton pickup). It gets maybe 13 miles per gallon. It is 4-wheel drive.
It has 154K miles, some rusty spots, and a mechanic-confirmed, innocuous oil leak.

Best part: It has a plug for trailer, and brake controller.

Now I'll have to make sure I get that horse to load! Poor horse really has no idea how much money I spend for him.

Hopefully someday this truck will be the visage of an angel of mercy to save a poor pony from the meatman.

If you're in the MN area and have a rescue and need transport, give me a call. I will provide the ride, but I can't guarantee I can afford the gas!