Equestrian Life


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Day 19..more snow!

Patriot checking out the snow

Pictures from my house this morning...

Hmmm..sit by the fire or slip in the ice and snow?? Don't get me wrong, I would rather have snow than rain right now, but we are expecting heavy snow all weekend.

Not to worry. I'll get creative and continue on with Monty's training.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Day 17 - 18..snow!

Call it global warming, call it spring. I call it weird! It's snowing!! This morning it was sunny and 60 degrees and tonight it's snowing like crazy! I know all you east coast people say "So what!" Well, I live near SEATTLE!!! We get rain, not snow!!!

Needless to say, I'm staying inside by the fire! Monty can enjoy licking the snow off of the paddock rails.

Montana, my Beaty's Butte stud muffin

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day 16..the dentist

I am a fanatic about my equine dentistry. Good dental care for your horse is as important as good foot care. The condition of the horses teeth effect more than just how the horse rides with a bit. Waves, ridges, sharp points, bite seat, unerupted teeth and periodontal pockets cause poor behavior, weight loss, serious pain and ill health. A "normal" vet may not have the skills to do more than a yearly float. He may not catch cracked teeth, cysts, periodontal pockets or loose teeth. An equine dentist is the best person to do the job. He/she has the training, skills and equipment to "see" the real problems and "reach" the unbalanced teeth at the very back of the jaw.

My Jedi
I almost lost my most beloved horse to poor dentistry. Jedi, due to his age (19 at the time) had been seeing the "normal" vet for twice a year floatings already. His age and inability to hold weight, even though he was a notoriously easy keeper, prompted the vet to see him twice a year. This vet belonged to one of the biggest equine practices in the state. An equine hospital known for their skill and expertise. I thought I was doing the right thing, not knowing any better.

Even with twice a year floatings, Jedi was losing weight. We tested him for parasites, metabolic disorders, possible cancer, everything we could think of. He was getting senior feed, hay, alfalfa pellets soaked in corn oil and every variety of weight gain / vitamin product possible. They helped but not enough. He was skin and bones.

One weekend, I attended the Backcountry Horseman Jubilee. Dr. Vetter with Performance Equine Dentistry was one of the vendors. I made a beeline for his trailer and asked a few important questions. A week later, Jedi was under the care of Dr. Vetter. Turns out, he had two periodontal pockets that were years old and completely missed by the "normal" vet floatings. He also had two very loose front teeth that caused excessive pain every time he bit down. Dr. Vetter addressed these two issues and within 3 months Jedi was getting back to normal weight. Jedi is very stoic and did not show this pain. Dr. Vetter saved his life and I am forever grateful to him.

Now, all my horses see the equine dentist yearly. Some, twice a year. My horses in training are no exception. I insist that they see Dr. Vetter before I even attempt to ride with a bit. It just isn't fair to the horse to expect them to perform without knowing that their mouths are in good shape.

Today, was Monty's day to see Dr. Vetter. Just like he has been to date, he took it all in stride. He walked right up to the trailer, received his initial sedation and then wobbled in.

As I suspected, Monty had sharp points and waves, along with two wolf teeth, plus an unerupted canine. Dr. Vetter addressed these, as well as, cleaned his sheath (little boy parts). Unlike Patriot, he was completely stoic about these procedures but still looked to me for support (even under sedation). I was standing next to him in the stocks, rubbing and talking to him. At one point, I walked to the front to take pictures and he lost track of me. You should have seen the look in his eye turn to fear! WOW! Dr. Vetter's wife and trusty assistant, Kathy, said "You better get back here!" I did and he immediately relaxed. I am always amazed how much mustangs will bond with their trainers. It's a gift of joy I receive with each mustang I train.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Days 12-15..first trail ride

The weekend was full of exciting stuff for Monty.

Thursday and Friday we worked in the round pen. I wanted to teach Monty a verbal command for canter, before I attempted to try it from the saddle on the trail. I actually was able to get Monty to canter, both under saddle and not. It is a challenge to keep him going at a steady pace, but he is definitely trying. I just don't think he sees the point. After all, "There are no cougars chasing us, Mom!!! "

Saturday, we trailered over to the Taylor Mountain Watershed. My friend, Beth, came along for moral support, riding one of my other horses. We set off down the trail. Monty was intrigued but not tense. I have yet to teach him to give to the bit (he just "carries" it), so I am using the halter to guide him. We weren't but 10 minutes into the ride and Monty was leading! Curious to find out what was around each corner. He spooked a bit at a few man made objects, but took right to following the trail and setting a good pace. Many times he lead through scary water crossings. Beth kept commenting how the mustang with 4 rides was leading the 6 year old horse! LOL Different personalities. She (the horse) is insecure. Monty is not. Good for Monty. Good for me!

We came upon a logging road where a lake had formed. What a fortunate thing! Looks like a prime opportunity to try out deeper water! A few timid attempts were made until it became obvious to Monty that it was WATER! Drinking water! Yay! After he tasted the water, he walked right in. "Hey, I know about water! You drink this stuff. Preferably when you are up to your knees!" LOL

We then had to spend about 10 minutes working with the "older horse" to get her arse in the water. Finally, after many failed attempts on her own, we asked Monty to pony her into the water. She followed and Monty got his first pony horse experience. It was great and amazing at the same time. I just love him!

Oh, and we got lope!!! Actually, it was more like bolt and run, but hey, it was faster than a trot!! We had been ambling along in relative peace and quiet, when we were suddenly bombarded by 2 off road motorcycles!! Ugh! I found something that gets Monty going!! And fast!! "Hey, hun, can you fire up the ATV? I want to lope today!" LOL

Monty bolted and ran about 25 feet before stopping and facing up to the situation. He then carefully started to return. This time, the "older horse" was not on his tail. She IS accustomed to ATV's and has ALOT more spook in place work than the new guy. She spooked but was easier to turn and face. Beth, my ever vigilant Backcountry Horsewoman friend, proceeded to go back to the rumbling machines, and politely "educated" the young men on proper off road machine / horse etiquette. They saw my horse take off like a shot and immediately apologized!

I just held on, knowing full well, that Monty would stop shortly (we know he won't gallop that long!) and that he might be having "helicopter" flashbacks. They use helicopter's to round up the wild ones. He behaved as I would have expected, however, I did not expect to encounter off road vehicles. They are not a usual occurrence for that riding area. Neither were the two huge yearling elk we encountered!

Sunday rained most of the day. We did get a chance to work on tying, grooming and a little advanced moving the shoulder from the ground. We continue to work on giving to pressure so that he will be more comfortable with tying in spooky situations.

All in all, a great weekend. I am more than happy with our progress and look forward to the week ahead. Monday, Dr. Vetter of Performance Equine Dentistry, will be here to work on Monty's teeth. He's four, so it is certain that he needs a few waves and the two wolfe teeth I have found removed.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day 11..day off

Today was a day of rest. Mainly because Monty has had a big four days and also because it's still raining!!

Looks like rain until Saturday, when we plan on a "real" trail ride, where we will practice getting out of first gear! Maybe some wide open spaces will help open up the throttle a bit. We will see!

Day 9 & 10..clinic days three and four

Days three and four are all about repetition, refinement and PLAY!

Monty was asked to do a little more than stand like a statue (his favorite). We worked on just moving around a bit at the walk and trot, negotiate around the other riders in the arena and some obstacles. He did great. But he is really all about "All whoa and no go!" LOL There has to be draft horse in there somewhere! With a little, ahem, encouragement, from behind, we were able to break into a nice two stride lope until he, um uh, trotted again. He's a trotter, for sure!!! I have yet to see him lope of his own accord. Even loose in the arena! Too funny!
The best part was going on a mini trail excursion outside during ride number two. The clinic had to exit the indoor early on Day 3, so we headed outside for a stroll around the grounds. That was cool!

A few more things Monty was exposed to was being bridled, tied, wormed and clipped. He's also looking more like a show horse, as I clipped his muzzle, bridle path and ears. I told you it was horsie boot camp!

By the end of day four, we were negotiating a gate, opening and closing it with just a small bit of a struggle. I'm so proud of the big guy. He really tries hard. I think we have cemented a trust that will help us in the future.

Day 8..Second day of the clinic

The second day of every Steve Rother clinic is my favorite. It's the day we bring out all the horse eating obstacles! Everything from tarps, umbrellas, barrels and jumps to bridges, cones and the dreaded car wash! We spent the morning practicing our sending and control using these obstacles. It sure is a good way to find the holes in your groundwork. If you are lacking in your body control, it all comes out here! By adding in the aspect of the unknown, trust and respect for the handler becomes critical. I had some difficulty with Monty's shoulder control, backing and sending the day before and we needed to spend some time refining that before we could tackle the scarier objects. But once we dialed in on those things, the obstacles came easier. Monty is not very reactionary, so getting a rise out of him can be a challenge. Especially if you are trying to move his big hairy body in a direction you want to go with any life or speed! LOL

In the afternoon, I saddled him up for the second time. He was a little wary this time, but nothing too exciting. Did I tell you that he was pretty mellow? It was time and he was ready. Up, down, up down! Man, I really need an up-ramp!! Up, down, up, down and I was on. He just stood there! I waited for something exciting, but did not really expect anything. Sigh, ok big guy let's bend and move!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day 7..First Day of the clinic

Uh, can you take this thing off my head!

I bet you are all wondering how the clinic went, aren't you! Sorry for the delay. We just returned yesterday!

On Day 7, Monty and I headed off to Brush Prairie, WA (about 3 hours south) to attend a Steve Rother clinic. You may remember from Patriot's story that Steve Rother is one of my all time favorite clinicians and his clinics are ideal starting grounds for young horses. In four days, the horse is introduced to so many things, that by the time they return, they are pretty much gentle and ready for anything.

Monty loaded like a champ that morning, walking straight out of the round pen and into the trailer without hesitation. Yay! We arrived to head straight into the arena to start the groundwork portion of the clinic. Monty led from the trailer into the indoor arena, a little slowly, but with good confidence. That morning we practiced our sending, backing, leading, squeezing along a wall, hip and shoulder control. He did great. He has become really light in the halter.

After lunch, after a bit of bending and giving, I worked Monty with a few scary items, such as a plastic bag, flag and tarp. After a VERY short while (much to my surprise), he was wearing the tarp like a rain coat and leading with it over his head! He is such a mellow guy!

I can stand ground tied with you under my belly!

By the end of the day, Monty was wearing his saddle. I actually, just saddled him up. Just like that, with hardly a snort. We sent him out to run with a few other horses in the arena and he didn't even bother to buck! That would take to much energy! Let's see how he reacts tomorrow!

Now, that's a flag!
Watcha doin back there?

I'm sorry that the pictures are blurry. I don't have the best camera for indoor pictures with low light.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Day 6 - Well, I feel better, at least..

So, Monty wasn't all that excited, but at least *I* feel better, knowing he has at least some protection from the elements. Yeah, yeah, I know! He's a Mustang! But he was shivering! He was not prepared for the 40 degree weather change!

All in all, he handled the blanket with no more fuss than a few minor "I'm leaving!" attempts. He's starting to trust me and when I ask him to sniff something, he usually tries.

We spent Day 6 waiting for the rain to stop long enough to get a few quick things done. It's been pouring here, non stop, since I arrived home and I do not have a covered arena.

When we got a break in the clouds, I ran outside to try a few new things. He's in the round pen now, with more room to move around, so we practiced some sending and backing. We worked on some liberty and recall. I finally have him coming to me on an arm signal. It's a form of a "join up" that I like to teach for my liberty routines. That way, I can park him at one end of the arena and then recall him to my side. Kinda like dog obedience where you ask your dog to stay and then recall him to front, then ask him to finish. We worked on the recall portion today. It's great when your horse gets accidentally loose or is in the pasture and you want to call him to you. I don't walk out to get my horses. They get their butts to me when I call them! LOL

After a thorough grooming and feet pick up session, we walked down the barn isle and we tried loading into the trailer again. Hmmmm..guess he forgot. Well, no, he didn't actually forget, he refused! LOL No kidding. I didn't blame him, fourteen hours in a trailer is a LONG time. But he still had a lesson in "You don't pull Mom around the barnyard, cuz you just don't want to go in no stinking trailer again!" Needless to say, his favorite place is now INSIDE the trailer, because outside means too much like work! He cracked me up. It got to the point where I would unload him and he would immediately turn around and jump back in! Well, that will come in handy in the morning, when we load up to go to a Steve Rother clinic for the weekend.

I'll try to get some pictures and video of his progress in the clinic the next few days. Boot camp for horses, here we come!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Day 5..doing nothing but shivering and eating

A much needed day off was had by all. Monty hung out in the round pen, eating, and contemplating why he was suddenly freezing??? I can see that blanket wearing lessons will follow shortly!

Day 4..the long haul

Day four was all about getting home! After a short, but unexciting trailer loading lesson, Monty was comfortable enough with the trailer to load up and go home. Fourteen hours later, at 5 in the morning, he unloaded like a champ into the round pen. Greeted by a weather change of nearly forty degrees, he thought he had gone to hell! LOL The pouring rain greeted the new arrival, along with several nickers of "Hello" from my band of wilds and domestics. I fed and watered the herd and promptly went to bed.

Day 3..what I did on my (unexpected) vacation...

Today I fed 300 Mustangs, literally!! I was up early to get to the "Wild Horse Sanctuary" to help founders, Diane and Ted, feed their band of 300 wild ones plus about 50 saddle horses. I was graciously invited to help feed, after having dinner with Tami, Kim and Lori (WHS volunteer) the night before. I jumped at the chance.

The Wild Horse sanctuary is 5000 acres of safe haven for 300+ wild mustangs. The mustangs come from a variety of sources, but was mainly founded by the "Original 80". The bands also include horses from the Santa Cruz herd and also the more famous, Phantom Herd. Phantom has been made famous by the many books written about him by Terri Farley.

From the "Wild Horse Sanctuary" website..

"Rather than allow 80 wild horses living on public land to be destroyed, the founders of the Wild Horse Sanctuary made a major life decision right then and there to rescue these unwanted horses and create a safe home for them. And just as quickly, they launched a media campaign to bring attention to the plight of these and hundreds of other wild horses across the west that eventually led to a national moratorium on killing un-adoptable wild horses.

The Sanctuary is located near Shingletown, California on 5,000 acres of lush lava rock-strewn mountain meadow and forest land. Black Butte is to the west and towering Mt. Lassen is to the east. The current location features better accessibility for the public, a milder winter climate with more natural cover, and other benefits for the horses."

Along with caring for the wild ones, the Sanctuary offers trail rides, camp overs and cattle drives to the public. Please visit their website for more details on these fun events.

The Sanctuary is always looking for qualified interns, volunteers and donations. If you would like to help, please visit: How you can help

I plan to help with the camp ride in October, acting as a drag and helping the guests with their horses and tack. Come and join me!

Back to my day with the herd...

I arrived about 9 am and was met by Ted, Diane's husband (the hired help!). He escorted me down to the barn and I watched while he loaded hay on this gi-normous fork lift!

I sat atop the lifted forks with Bobby, the farm dog, and Ted at the helm. First, we fed the "old saddle horses".

Then we fed the current saddle horses. These horses are used for the rides and camp outs. This one was my favorites, although I believe her nick name is "Captain Snotty Pants"!

Then we moved onto the wild ones. We were greeted at the gate by a band of geldings, led by one lone stallion from the Santa Cruz herd. He was friendly enough to let me touch his nose, but that was it! He was gorgeous!

The wild horses are fed way back on the acreage, so the band of geldings followed along..

This was my favorite gelding. Are you beginning to get an idea of my favorite color pattern??

Phantoms herd..."Shy", the Palomino is Phantom's main mare. Sadly, Phantom was not with his herd. I really wanted to see him. He had been spotted a week before, but he was not around today.

Phantom's last baby, the grey in the middle...

The new stallion of the Phantom herd...

See all the fun things you can do if you are stranded in Redding????

After my feeding excursion, I went back to the barn and we practiced picking up our feet on command. Not all that exciting, but the right rear was a bit unnerving for Monty.

We also practiced "beauty shop"! He was groomed up and brushed out and looked like a domestic! He promptly let me know that mustangs are meant to be dirty, as I watched him roll in manure. sigh