Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

It's Halloween today. Halloween is somewhat of bittersweet holiday for me. Why? Because I'm a costume designer. It's what I do for a living. So as much as I LOVE the idea of dressing up and dressing my horse up and showing off my skills.... do you really want to WORK when you get home from work? Do accountants go home and balance their checkbooks for fun?

I have LOTS of ideas for costumes, but really I have no place to wear them. I also would be ashamed to do any costume half-assed so if I'd do it I'd have to do it up right and I just don't have the money and don't want to spend the time. But that's enough of my lame excuses. On to the fun.

I once made 5 different costumes so that people would come to my Halloween party even though they said they didn't have a costume. It was a fun party, but I was very tired. Anyway, here are some fun pictures of horses in costumes and a few inspirations I have for future costumes... Enjoy!

This sheep costume is my favorite EVER. I have no idea who this kid is, she RULES.

War Horse! Okay, so they are more puppets than costumes but they are SOOOOOO wicked cool. Check it out if you've not seen this yet!

And speaking of Harry Potter.....
Sorry, couldn't help it. :)

And how about some of these ideas! My BO has a white (yes I know he's grey) gelding, wouldn't he look adorable with a rainbow mane and tail and her kids dressed up as Rainbow Bright and two Sprites!!??
For only the most daring of us...... there's always Lady Godiva. I'd do it, but it's rather chilly in October...

Okay, so this isn't a horse's costume, but how adorable is that!!!
SheRa! Princess of Power! You could totally use THIS as a base! LOL!!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dressage is HARD!

Today was another lesson day with Monet Phelps. I didn't ride today, but Max's girl, Sarah, rode Junior so her sister, Chloe could ride Max for her first lesson with Monet. It was cool to watch him go through the whole lesson. I REALLY like Monet and look forward to our next lesson. She's a very honest teacher. She'll push you to work hard but she makes it fun. She explains things really clearly and is quick to reward good work.

Junior's face still looks excellent and I rode him yesterday to remind him what contact feels like. Monet said he she could feel his back working more than last time but that he's still weak in the hip. She was highly complimentary about him again and said she'd like to turn him into an Eventing pony.... I laughed, but she was serious... we'll see about that! I kind of feel like I'm simply too lazy not athletic enough for real dressage. :)

Here's just some pictures from the day:

This is my Barn Owner on Ranger. BIG stride for such a little guy!

Sarah on Junior with Monet using the lunge line as a torture device teaching tool. :)

Monet on Junior. Hopefully his cute frame will distract you from her Uggs.
This is Monet's dog, Jack watching her ride Gunner.
Poor Red was given the role of Dress-Up-Pony for the kid's Halloween party.
He's such a tolerant little fella!
Chloe on Max, participating in one of Monet's humiliation tactics bizarre but effective teaching techniques. We all sat and watched each other's lessons and enjoyed laughing at everyone's funny exercises and cheering when they got good results.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Healin' Up.

Photo courtesy of Chloe.

Junior seems to be healing up just fine. He was put back into regular turnout on Thursday and by Sunday was acting like his sweet old self. He let me touch the wound and gently brush most of the rest of the blood/saline/betadine off the rest of his face so he just has the big silver spot now.

I had a houseful of guests for a long weekend so there wasn't anything to post about. I took they family (same group that visited 18 months ago) to the barn and we walked the trails and said Hi to all the horses.

On Sunday my Mom and I were abandoned by the other three so we dried our tears with a visit to the QH Congress. Mom had never been so it was great fun. We only went to a few of the trade show booths: Rod's, Chicks, and Schneiders and then walked through a few aisles to see Berry Fit, and Connie's Customs. I got some new grooming tools for his lesson-horse bucket, and a (finally) a black rope halter. We shared a huge wonderful burger and a heaping plate of "ribbon fries" and watched most of the very last class of the Congress, Amateur Hunt Seat Equitation, including the finals. I still don't understand why making them walk so slow they look like they're falling asleep is such a trend. For English? Pointless. POINTLESS. If I don't actually want to GO anywhere we'll just STOP, thank you.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Owie Update

Thank you, everyone for your well wishes for Junior. Other than being mad as hell at being kept in his stall the last three days he seems to be doing fine so far. I keep waiting for my phone to ring with someone telling me he tore his stitches out, but so far I don't think he's rubbed it at all. At least I couldn't find any silver rub marks in his stall. Seems to be a teensy bit of puffiness in the middle of the flap and when he let me put my hand there it felt just the slightest bit warmer than the rest of his face, but only slightly. If it gets bigger/hotter I'll call Dr. Johnson but it's just ever so slight. I thought about sending him a photo but I couldn't find an angle that would actually show it, that's how slight it is.

The BM is keeping a baby sitter in for him so he's not so lonely. Yesterday it was Little Red Apples the mini who lives right next to him and today it was Ranger the QH/Arab. As soon as I walked into his line of sight he whinnied at me. SAAAAAAAVE MEEEEEE! I took him out right away and let him trot a few feet up to the wonderful grassy spot near the turnouts. He acted like he'd not eaten in months. The BM is keeping him with hay but he has been mostly trampling it instead of eating it. His stall was a MESS and it had already been cleaned once! I haven't seen his stall like that since we moved out of the old barn!

After our walk/grazing I brought him in to eat his dinner, cleaned his stall, and brought him out for some grooming. He let me brush some of the dried blood out of his face pretty close to the stitches so that was an improvement over yesterday when he wouldn't let me touch his face at all. He even rubbed his forehead on the mitt a little.

Since these face scratching injuries seem to be a trend with him, I'm looking into ways to provide him with the horsey equivalent of a scratching post. Hopefully this will prevent him from using sharp objects! I found THIS mountable scratching pad, but at $15 for only 5"x6" I'm not excited. I hate that everything with "horse" in the description is so much more expensive than it's equivalent MINUS the "horse" on the label?!?! Besides, I like creative solutions so I started brainstorming and thought of something like THESE. 16" x 24" for $18. I'm going to try to find them locally and look for some the consistency of a rubber curry comb. At least now I have a place to start. Maybe I'll find something perfect!

Monday, October 18, 2010

BIG Owie.

Squeamish people, you should consider yourself warned.... DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINKS if you'd rather not see a lot of blood. There is a little blood in the post photos too, but I linked to the worst of it.

Just after the morning feeder grained all the horses he heard a loud bang and came to find my poor pony with a bloody face. Junior managed to wound himself pretty severely this time. I believe this is face injury number 3 or even 4 within 4 months. This is the worst by far. I got a text just before 10:00 from the BO that he cut his face and that photos had been sent to the vet and the vet was coming out. I called her and asked how bad it was and she informed me she wasn't there but the feeder had sent photos to the vet and the vet's opinion was that faces heal well but a stitch would make it heal prettier. "A stitch" huh? I left work and headed to the barn. I go there to find my poor pony like this:

It may be hard to tell what's really there, but it's a big inverted triangle flap of skin. And blood. And it had already been hosed off. Yack. Dr. Johnson came out about 30 minutes after I got there. He seemed surprised at the severity and said he wasn't able to see that much from the photo. He thought for a bit and then we brought him out to the sunlight for the work. Junior was sedated and the whole area was washed with betadine and saline. THAT part was gross. I had to look away right after I took a picture. There was some splatter on my shoes. Hurl. Then Dr. J injected a bunch of blocker and stitched him up with 14 stitches. He looked just awful when we were done. His whole face was covered with betadine, saline, blood, and this silver spray that looked like RustOLeum.

The BO had arrived right before we were finished and she immediately went to work removing the board/bolt that we determined to be the culprit. It's left over from a long gone corner feeder. It's just 2" boards attached to the stall walls and there is a small bolt and washer on the top of one of the boards. Totally unassuming looking and though I knew it was there I was not concerned about it. She felt absolutely awful, but it wasn't her fault. The stall is safe, my pony is just accident prone. He has a scar on his face from long ago, which you may have noticed in some pictures so this habit did not start with US and I can't be entirely to blame. She removed the board with the bolts and installed a mat over the wall so he can't scratch on the metal corner plate either. I think he needs a padded stall.

I left him calm but alert in another stall while she was working so I could get back to work for a meeting and to apologize to my class for abandoning them to watch a movie without me this morning.

I ran to Target and picked up some peroxide and laundry detergent (to get the blood off my jacket sleeve...) and headed back to the barn. The BO had already gone out for peroxide and had cleaned most of his face so the face that met me was much nicer to look at than the face I left.

He's to stay in the stall or be hand-walked for 3-4 days to give the healing a good start. Then he can go back to normal turnout routine. If it starts to swell or starts draining puss I am supposed to call Dr. Johnson back. If not, then the stitches come out in 2 weeks. I'm hoping free-choice hay and a few walks a day will help him stay sane in the stall.

PLEASE say a prayer or cross your fingers, squeeze your rabbits's foot, wish upon a star or whatever you do to hope that he lets this heal without pulling stitches out or rubbing it. I'll keep you posted.

Here is a link to the more icky pictures. If it asks for a password, the password is "Junebug".

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dust Bath

It was 68 degrees today and we had a nice ride through the woods with NOT ONE SPOOK! He's getting better all the time. Still doesn't want to stop and stand for more than a few seconds so we're still working on that, but I'm surprised that he's less snorty and less tense than he used to be. Then we did a little gallop through the empty bean field. Yes an actual gallop. It was FUN! Still have visions of him tripping and falling, but still fun. It took him a few crossings of canter before he got into the gallop, but once he figured out what I wanted we got a nice gallop.

You know that icky grime horses get over the winter when it's been too cold to bathe but you work them hard enough to get a bit of a sweat once in a while? He got sweaty under the saddle pad and all I could think of was that winter grime and how one less layer of sweat would help. So I hosed him off, scraped him off, gave him an apple in his feed pan and let him hand graze in the lawn for a while before letting him back out to the field. Much to my displeasure, he thanked me for the hosing by rolling in the dustiest dust you've ever seen. Rolled thoroughly on both sides. It took me the whole first side to get my phone out an onto the camera setting. That'll be fun to clean off later, but dirt is still better than sweat. :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Smegma. Ugh. Even the word makes me want to un-swallow.

Yes, today was THAT day. Finally. After 6 months of procrastination and convenient excuses I cleaned poor Junior's sheath. Neither he nor I were pleased about it, but we were both relieved to have it over with.

I couldn't figure out how to cross tie him AND give him hay to eat, so I just used one of the crossties and tied the hay bag to the wall. He still wasn't relaxed but he was distracted. He wouldn't even consider dropping so I had to go digging. I swear I need to get some of those elbow-length vet gloves. I pulled out a big bean right when I started which caused me to gag and throw the bean into the driveway, gag some more, and then go ask Gunner's Mom to get my brain off of that image for a moment. I wasn't able to find one last time, but considering the size it was probably there then, too. Poor pony. I'm sure THAT did not feel good in there.

The chain is there for size reference. The only other thing I had on me was my Bert's Bees and no way was I going to put those two things close together. He actually stopped eating when I got it out and just stood there as if thinking "Oh. That actually feels ... better." I peeled some other big waxy chunks off and had to do a second round of the Excalibur. He still lifted his leg every once and a while, but he actually settled into the process enough for me to remove a LOT of icky stuff. There was a few minutes that he even stopped eating and just stood quietly. I actually feel like I was quite thorough with the job, or at least a whole lot more thorough than I was a year ago. He did lose his patience with the process after a while, kicked the ground hard once, and kept trying to leave once he realized he wasn't cross-tied. So as soon as I felt like it was rinsed well enough I took him out to eat some nice grass and then put him back out with Max and Cinnabar.

I know horses don't hold grudges, but I can still see it in his face....

I cleaned up our mess big mess. Junior is the messiest hay eater you've ever seen, I swear. Plus during his yanking of the hay bag he pulled the board out of it's holders which knocked the rack off the wall so I had to put all of that back together.

I returned the hay bag to the BO's trailer (Thank You :D ) and found this little guy climbing up the side. I haven't seen a Walking Stick in ages. He was so cute. As soon as I came near he moved his front feet up past his face so he could look even more stick-like. Bravo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Congress Fun!

It's Congress time here in Ohio. If you are unfamiliar, The All American Quarter Horse Congress is the largest single-breed horse show in the world with over 17,000 entries and over 8,500 horses competing for three weeks each October since 1967.

I haven't made it over to the grounds yet, and I might not this year. It's a sight to behold for sure, but I don't have anybody to go with and I really shouldn't be tempted by the shopping booths at this time. Besides, it's cold, and I get nauseous watching the bobble-heads and neither of those things are as fun to do by yourself. :)

Here's my post from 2009: A Day at the QH Congress.

For those of you that are interested, you can experience part of the Congress via these new fangled interwebs. Sadly the shopping cannot be experienced unless you go there. It's massive. Even Rod's Western Palace whose home store is already right here in Columbus has BIGGER square footage AT the Congress than their permanent store. Just look at the list of vendors and imagine what that's like. I got to meet Peter Stone in the Stone Horses booth last year. He's a SUPER nice guy. has all three arenas on streaming:
The site doesn't tell you what you're watching, but the class schedule is here: 2010 Congress Schedule You can also get to more info (including results) from that site.

Want to follow along with the patterns classes or just try them out at home? Note: they make it seem you have to register to see them, but there's a smaller button that avoids registration.

Have fun!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Timing or "Round Pen 101"

1. Everything happens for a reason.
2. Moderation in all things...including moderation.
3. If it's not fun anymore you should stop doing it.

Those three phrases have become my mantras for various situations in life. I use them to remind myself to accept things as they are, to be careful and yet live a little, and to really asses my goals and make sure I'm doing what genuinely makes me happy. Lately in my equine journey they have all three of these phrases have come to the surface. A few posts ago I mentioned my tour of "What to do With a Western Pleasure Reject". Sunday was our third stop on that tour: Round Pen Communication.

Now, I must first say that I get a sour taste in my mouth when I say "Natural Horsemanship." I DO STRONGLY believe that there is no ONE RIGHT WAY to do anything, be it horse training, washing windows, or skinning a cat. I am a strong believer in the liberal arts education. To me, in the equine world this translates to exactly what I've been doing as of late, and one of the biggest reasons I was excited about this barn we're boarding at. Where else do you get to do on-site trail riding, obstacle training, dressage, and equine behavior training?!?! That being said, I've never really put too much stock in the roundpen freaks like the Parellis. I think that world is highly glamorized and dramatized and aimed at the female baby-boomers who always wanted to play cowboys as kids and think they're living out their mustang fantasy because (though their horse isn't rideable yet) the horse sniffed me! He loves me! We've bonded! Whatever. Maybe because I'm not in that demographic their snake oil hasn't worked on me. And come on, anybody who says "The reason you do not see our people wearing helmets is because we try to teach people that rather than be brave because they are wearing a a helmet to protect them, they would be better off not riding until their horse is behaving safely." should be slapped. It's true that unsafe horses shouldn't be ridden and that a helmet will not save you from every injury, but at which Parelli level do you learn to defy gravity? Accidents happen and any horse professional should encourage novices to wear helmets. Sorry, done with the rant. Moving on.

So needless to say I wasn't exactly jumping up and down when my BO's suggestion was "Maybe you should try some roundpen work" to help solve Junior's pushy behavior. BUT after this weekend that is exactly what I'm going to do. He's a smart horse and a very active minded creature and our first little session into it was very interesting and successful. I am now looking at roundpen work as similar to what I've noticed happening in showmanship practice. It's all about body language and establishing yourself as Alpha and honoring the horses's willingness to cooperate. Just like how showmanship has greatly improved his mouthiness and attentiveness, round pen work will improve that attentiveness and it should be another step to increasing our bond.

I spent a lot of time talking to Clinician Dawn Hurlburt of about Juniors issues. She specializes in the behavior of therapy horses. She listened very carefully and after working with him in the pen reinforced my assumption that it's mostly a bad habit of being able to bully people during unsupervised grooming and tacking. (He has never been allowed to bully under saddle, as either me, Max's Girls, or KAT was supervising the riding.) He uses that situation to try to get out of work and possibly because he might be anticipating the uncomfortable Newbie riders. Dawn assessed (though she is not a vet) by observing him for a few hours that he is highly unlikely to be experiencing ulcers. I told her how I dealt with the kick on Thursday and how I deal with him when he's super bad on the cross ties and she said I was doing the right thing. She confirmed my belief that whenever a horse does something that could endanger the handler (biting or kicking) the horse must be punished in the same way that another horse would react. Though people get bent out of shape about striking horses, when it's done fairly and at the right moment and intensity it is within their realm of understanding. Horses don't understand time outs.

So what about timing? Could round pen work have helped us earlier in our relationship? I don't know, but NOW is when it has entered our life. When I think back, it took at least 6 months for him to even notice my presence. It was a long time before he seemed to look to me for any sort of guidance or support. He "liked" me, but he wasn't seeing me as Alpha. We're still not there yet, but I feel a huge improvement in that department has occurred in the few months since our move. The trails and his uneasiness but willingness, the crazy obstacles and his generally blind faith in my guidance, and the whole experience of the Cowboy Challenge (totally new place, no lunging, wacky obstacles he'd never seen, tying to the trailer for hours, etc.) have been tests of our bond and status. Now that I see how far we've come I am hopeful and excited to see how far we can get.

I remember a long long time ago when I was showing Banee in a trail class at a 4-H horse show. Trail was different back then. There were usually only a few areas of poles, not the crazy grids they use now. One of the obstacles was a line of three barrels. The task was to walk past the barrels and then back a serpentine between the barrels and all the way back to the start. Dear old Banee wasn't the calmest horse and though she'd zoom back and do an "L" between poles, backing around something she was used to doing a turn n' burn around was not in her radar. My teen self was angry that such a ridiculous task was required. The judge explained to us all that the task was about having a horse that would place each foot at the discretion of the rider. I though she was nuts. But now I understand. And now I'm ready for that kind of refinement. It seems a lot less about drilling maneuvers as it is about creating a horse that listens and obeys each little cue. A horse that's highly attentive and willing to do what you ask. I think Junior is the kind of horse who will be awesome at this. I'm excited to see what we can do together.

And what of the other two mantras? Well, I'm hoping that trying lots of "disciplines" and methods will make us more well rounded without getting too bogged down into ONE WAY of doing something. We'll find things in all the experiences that work for us. And if something isn't fun anymore (like western pleasure) we'll move onto something else. :)

The video below is Dawn's first moments in the pen with Junior. What she says at the end is "I got forward movement" because the first exercise is getting the horse to move forward and then you reward by releasing the pressure. Ideally the horse stops and waits for the next set of instructions. I don't know anything more than the little things we did but I know there's a ton more to it. At the end, Dawn paid me a compliment and said that I had a natural body language and talent for the work. I don't really believe her, but I was certainly flattered. She complimented Junior right away. I couldn't help but glow. :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mixed Signals - Jekyll and Hyde?

Work has been busy this week and will be busy next week so there's not much horsing around as of late. I was out last Sunday and didn't get out again until yesterday evening. He was in and munching his hay. The feeder was there but running a little behind schedule so I gave him his grain. He's only getting a pound per feeding now (and maintaining a good weight) so I let him finish and after a few minutes of him back to munching his hay I put his halter on and let him out to the cross ties. He seemed perfectly willing to go. You may remember that I've been dealing with remains of his lesson horse attitude during grooming. He will let me yank the crap out of his mane and he still picks up his feet really well, but brushing has become difficult. More so on some days than on others. Some days I put the mit/curry to his shoulder and he swings his head like he wants to bite, or spends the entire brushing session dancing around like I'm using a hot poker. I'm not, trust me. Yesterday as I was grooming his right rear hip he actually kicked out at me. It was slow-motion but unlike his previous antics of just lifting the leg as a warning he actually pushed it out at me. I HATE when this kind of thing happens. I have terrible mixed feelings about how to handle this type of behavior and I'm constantly worrying that I'm doing the wrong thing. But bottom line is that under no circumstances is he allowed to do that. My current (surely flawed) philosophy is to reprimand the behavior itself so that he gets a clue that what he just did is not allowed, THEN very carefully investigate the possible reasons why he might have feel it necessary to behave that way, trying to rule out real physical pain, especially. So I gave him a swift slap with the rubber grooming mit, took him off the cross ties (he already had the look of "oh shit, now I've done it"), took him out to the arena and sent him out to the end of the lead trotting. Partially to see if he was in any way sore to rule out actual physical reasons why he was unhappy with grooming, and partially to remind him via simple exercises that he is not in charge. He looked just fine and listened just fine. I then made him practice showmanship until he was listening and watching me and calmly doing the job correctly. Then he got a good pat and we went back to the cross ties, licking and chewing.

The only thing any of us could conclude is that possibly his sheath needs to be cleaned and he's somewhat uncomfortable. During my physical exploration he was most tense while I was near that area. I don't usually linger in that area anyway, and he's never really comfortable with me there, but realizing now that I've only cleaned his sheath once in the 2 years we've been together makes me feel horrible guilty feelings. I hope to get that accomplished on Sunday while it's supposed to be 86 degrees. Sheath cleaning is not on my list of confident skills so I will be begging for the help of my barn friends. It is highly doubtful I did a thorough job the last time. Oh the guilt. SOOOO tempted to have the vet do it from now on, but money is money, so we'll see how Sunday goes. :(

I went ahead and rode and he was absolutely wonderful. He is still missing cadence with his left hind, but Monet said he'll continue to do that until that side is stronger. He only does it tracking left. Now that I know it's a strength issue and not some terrifying other thing I don't worry about it, I just keep riding. Since Monet's lesson I've been riding in just my Myler snaffle without the chain. I was surprised to discover that he is responding well to every cue without any leverage. This was not possible earlier in our work. Until I began using leverage he was a bit of a giraffe, but he's rounding up and stretching forward just on the snaffle. That makes me SOOOOO happy! I thought I had a horse that needed leverage. (Because for a long time I did) But now I seem to have a horse that will take on whatever posture, collection, and speed I ask, in just a snaffle. WIN. Now I am certain however that at a show he will not be as relaxed or attentive as he is at home, but he did jog pretty nicely for me at the Cowboy Challenge so maybe I'm wrong there too? He is always fine for UNtacking/grooming sessions so I still think it's all attitude and nothing really physical.

Tomorrow is an Equine Behavior clinic at the barn and I'm going to participate. (I have rehearsal all day today) The clinician specializes in the behavior of therapy horses so I was already planning on asking her about his grooming/tacking manners and now his recent kick gives me more questions. He's currently being used for a few lessons every other week and he has been behaving just fine by all reports, but fidgety for tacking and grooming. Under saddle he remains a saint.

I guess I would rather have a horse that was a bit of a pill (but manageable) on the ground but a saint in the saddle than the other way around. None of them are perfect. I was told that his breeder was somewhat afraid of him. I was too, when I first got him, but I thought we had come so far before last spring's over-used-lesson-horse meltdown and we've just not recovered fully.

I still love him though. I just want to figure out what his problem is.

Here's a couple of Chloe's awesome pictures to tide you over until she takes more of Junior. :) The palomino is a solid paint gelding named Hef. Yes, as in the Playboy guy. He's owned by a cool teenage girl back at our old place. Not sure if she reads this blog or not...