Sunday, October 21, 2012

And.... she's still here!

Well.... Immy is still here! And I still have no idea what is going on. We're all completely stumped as to why the lesee is still paying board on a mare they're not using. Worst case scenario? The ET facility gets tired of waiting for them to return her and charge them $1000 for not returning her, and they get angry and ship her off to slaughter right out from under our noses. I'm obviously not going to let that happen, but it's hard not to wonder what in the heck is going on. I'm starting to get a little alarmed here.

 In other news, the Red Pest at 7 months of age is getting increasingly feral, so somebody finally decided to try and halter break him. He is currently in the barn while he gets worked with, and his babysitter Zoie (remember her?) has been moved to the back mare pasture to be reunited with Imogen again. They are, once again, inseparable besties.

Good god they are so cute. Can you imagine how cute P and Immy will be when THEY are together?

Immy has had the week off - I wanted to give her a little rest to just be her friend and let her last lessons knock around in her brain for a little while. There's no need to rush right now, and she is enjoying getting pampered and loved on. Now if only we could figure out what in the heck is going on with her lessee...!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bridle Time!

Yay! Imogen and I have tackled and conquered yet another first for her - first bridling! Yes, you heard me right! Bit and everything! 
I posted a question this morning on my Facebook asking everyone for input on what to do with an incredibly earshy horse. Immy has undoubtedly been eared many times in her life, and while she allows me to touch her poll and stroke her ears now, she is not keen about letting anything else touch her ears. (Applying ear twitches regularly is a REALLY good way to turn your horse into a terrified, headshy mess. Just sayin'.) She has overcome SO many other fears with relative ease, but this one is deeply ingrained and will probably take a long time, if she ever fully gets over it. As for now, she just needs to learn that nothing I am going to do is going to hurt her, and that she can trust me to touch her ears without it ending up with them painfully twisted and yanked around. As for my information request, I had lots of of good ideas from lots of different folks, but what I ultimately decided to try first was a combination of things. Immy currently does not tolerate having a halter pulled over her ears without much head tossing and complaint (although you CAN get it done), so there was no way her first bridling was going to include pulling a headstall over her ears. The bit would get jerked around in her mouth, she'd get hurt or scared, and we'd have a huge mess on our hands. It was time to get creative.
There are a few criteria one should have squared away before bridling for the first time. One should be able to handle a horse's ears and head without the horse pulling away, one should be able to touch the horse's mouth and teach them to open up without them pulling away, and one should have taught the horse to lower his or her head on command. We are largely on track for all of these, with some hitches, but it was time to start playing with the idea regardless. I had no intention of actually getting a bridle on her today. But just as I had no intention of getting a surcingle strapped on as quickly as I did, she completely outdid herself and made it so easy that it just happened! 
I started with two things: a plain eggbutt snaffle, and a headstall with bit clips. As I had no delusions that today would be the day that I'd be pulling a bridle over her ears, I decided to do the "Tedi route" and put the headstall on without the bit, then see if I could then play with possibly adding the bit. Tedi was one of the school horses that I grew up on, and along with his many other silly quirks, he was violently earshy. In order to get a bridle on him, you had to unbuckle it, carefully maneuver it over his head, then put the bit in and rebuckle the bridle once it was in place. With Imogen, I first started with the headstall sand bit, and placed it on her with not much fuss or inquiry on her part. Gently, I clipped one side of the bit to the headstall, and offered up a cookie with the bit. She opened up, took in both, and actually lowered her head in response to the feel of the bit! I clipped it to the other side, and voila! Bit IN! 
She made it very clear that she had not ever worn one before. She mouthed, chewed, slobbered, mouthed, and chewed some more. She tried to halfheartedly spit it out, put her tongue over it, pulled her tongue back under it, and then finally picked it up properly and held it where it belonged. That is all pretty standard for first time bridling. By the end of it all, she was happily hold it still in her mouth without complaint, and removing it after our lunging session was just as easy. Awesome.
She was all dressed to the nines today.... I even switched up her saddle pad to a bigger, floppier one to add to the desensitization process. 
Is it just me or has she gone from a scrawny momma to a bit FAT? She is starting to muscle up and lose the mom-belly too, but I'm thinking she's getting a bit TOO round, if you know what I mean?
Anyway, nice blanket huh? I thought so too, until we started lunging... that's when all hell broke loose. Much to my dismay, the blanket started to slide sideways under the surcingle while she was trotting. I realized at the same time she did that the blanket wasn't going to stay put, and before I could slow her down, she sped up. She was unresponsive to my cues for walk or whoa, and kept on going in her biggest and most impressive trot. This, unfortunately, had the effect of making the blanket slip further and faster, until it was almost fully underneath her belly and barely hanging on. I tried to reel her in to no avail, resulting in her bouncing up on her hind legs and taking off again. Thankfully, a second reeling attempt was successful  and she stood quietly while I removed the offending blanket and continued on with just the surcingle. Slippery wool blanket + nice clean slick horse = bad news. No harm done, thankfully, and crisis averted - she went on to have a fantastic lunge session. Next time I will be sure to put on a blanket that I can safely strap to the surcingle!
Next up, I'll write about a few of our small technical difficulties with lunging - namely her high energy level and her desire to GO right off the bat, and her ending "whoa" and wanting to stop and turn and walk right to me as soon as she is done (I make them stay on the circle and walk to them instead of the other way around... just a personal preference). More on that later! Other than those minor things, she is doing AMAZINGLY!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

One Year.

((Crossposted to The Continental Drift and Eventing-A-Gogo))
I am struggling to find the words to begin this post. I've been sitting in front of the computer for a listless hour, unable to find a good place to start, so I suppose I'll just launch into it bluntly: today is the one year anniversary of Gogo's death. There, I have a start... perhaps now the words will come more freely. I feel very much like I've been stoppered up for the past year. When she died, the poetry just went clean out of me. 

I'm not entirely sure of where the past year has gone. It seems like October 11th of last year was such a long time ago, but I can't hardly remember what has happened in the past year to make it so distant. Twelve months into this grieving process, I don't feel better and I don't feel like myself still, but it has taken this long for me to realize that I am not the same without her, and life is not, and will never be, the same either. It isn't that life is now somehow less or is badly off, because it isn't. It's just completely different, without anything else actually having changed. I am still with Future Hubs, I still have all the same critters, still have the same job, still living here in Texas. Those things are all as wonderful as they have been. It is just me that is different... I am not the same as I was. Losing Gogo was a bit like someone forcefully cutting me in half and tossing one half of me back out into the world to keep going. It is very confusing trying to relearn how to live your life when half of everything you value and love is suddenly gone one day. You can prepare for it, if you know it is coming. You can ready yourself, steel yourself, prepare to lose it, surround yourself with loved ones, or push them all away just the same. It doesn't matter what you do, because you won't know how it really feels until it happens. Then, and only then, will you realize just how thoroughly unprepared you were to live on through unthinkable tragedy.

I know it sounds extreme. Honestly, just putting it out in writing sounds like I survived a war instead of just lost a horse. But those of you with horses in your life - probably most or all of you, I am assuming - know how much they affect you, and those of you who have lost them will understand. To those who haven't yet, I don't wish it upon you, but that day will come. On that day, you too will stand with me and feel that horror and pain and sorrow, and will still know in your heart that life is better having had and lost them rather than never having known them at all. But you'll never be the same again.

Not a day goes by when I don't think of her. Hardly a week passes when some memory, picture, or video doesn't make me sob like a baby or ache with sorrow. How could they not, when so much of my life revolved around her? She defined me as a young adult, molded and changed and shaped me into the person I am today, and her loss affected me just as hard as her life did. I am different now, and I will never be the same.

Having Pangea and Imogen in my post-Gogo life has been a very strange, exciting, sad, and wonderful journey. It has really only been in the past month that I have actually started to feel better and more at peace with Gogo's loss, and that is all thanks to working with Imogen. I love and cherish P, and am so glad to have her in my life, but she is happiest when left to her own devices. She likes me well enough, I am sure, but she'd rather be left alone, and we haven't bonded in the strong and inseparable way that Gogo and I had. Imogen and I, on the other hand, bonded immediately and very hard, and we have our own dynamic that is very different from the one she shares with every other horse and human in her life. Something about working with her and the promise of giving her a brand new life is incredibly healing to the heart. Pangea has never known anything except for a life of cookies and love at best, and a big field with giant mounds of hay and no humans to bother her except for regular maintenance at worst. Imogen has known cruelty and pain, and to see her look at me with trust and love, and choose to seek me out over spending time at her haypile with her friends, is truly rewarding. This, more than anything, has kick started me onto the healing track. Life truly works in strange ways, and I'm not sure I'll ever be old or wise enough to understand them.

I'm still hurting. I'm still sad. I'm still not sure that I'll ever really be at peace with what happened. But I am grateful for every moment of the five years I had with her, and she will always be in my heart. 

A moment of silence now for Gogo, who took her last breath at 4:15pm last year.

There simply are not words for how badly she is missed. I love you, Gogomare.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Imogen has three more successful lunge sessions under her belt - she definitely has the idea down pat. We were almost foiled during the first two sessions, when one of her pasture mates was led by and which caused much screaming and distraction on her part in the beginning, but thankfully she relaxed and forgot about her friend both times. She's finally coming out now, but she has been in FLAMING heat, which certainly didn't help matters... but hey, at least she's not pregnant!

Thankfully, the pee-fest seems to be subsiding. Gross.

 Yesterday, the barn farrier was out to do his rounds, and Imogen was on his list of trims. (I don't do her at this point.) Since she behaved herself so well for her trim (for the most part, save for one moment when she lost her balance and pulled a front foot back from the farrier), I decided that she had done quite enough for the day and opted to forgo our lunge session. Today, I took a big step forward on the road from uncatchable to saddle horse - a surcingle. This was a HUGE step - even just blanketing her used to be an enormously big deal - and I wasn't too sure what she was going to do when she first felt the squeeze from the girth. She was none too thrilled about belly straps when first being blanketed, so I figured she might have a similar reaction. This was not her first time having things tossed nonchalantly over her back, of course. I have spent a lot of time tossing a grooming towel over her, and by extension I also began rubbing her with a saddle pad, eventually desensitizing her to the point where I can just toss it on without any sort of reaction on her part:

I have also tossed a cinch over her back, just to add to the desensitization process. Today, the surcingle went on in its place. She didn't move a muscle, save for turning her head around to give me an inquisitive "cookie?" face. (Maybe I am a little heavy handed with the cookies...) Hole by hole, I carefully tightened the surcingle, allowing her to walk between tightenings. I've really made it a point to install a solid "whoa" button on her, so she stood quietly and nicely immobile while fussing with the girth. I waited for a moment where her eyes would widen, her sides would puff out, her step would quicken. It didn't come. She really didn't care.
(Notice the mane? I have successfully tamed it to lay on the right side!!)

You have no idea how huge that is for me. This once completely terrorized mare went into her lunge session wearing a scary surcingle for the first time, and didn't care at all. The mare who was once terrified of halters and being touched didn't so much as bat an eye at the entire process. She bopped along on the lunge line with a soft eye and complete compliance. Walk, trot, canter, and whoa, and she nailed every one of them. She never so much as tucked her tail or turned a worried ear to the surcingle.


 You'll see she is a bit footsore today after yesterday's trim, which isn't too surprising. We kept the session short and sweet, and she was perfect. Absolutely perfect. She'll have tomorrow off, and we'll work again on Thursday. Obviously she's not lame, but I'd rather let her have another day off to rest those toes. Another post needs to be done on her feet... they're not awful, but they're not great either!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Lunge Line

After this weekend's end of days deluge, our roundpen has been completely underwater and full of mushy grey pudding instead of nice footing. Imogen had Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off simply due to the fact that I had nowhere to work her... everything was either mush, mud or underwater. Even as recently as yesterday, we still had nowhere firm enough to work. I used my time to wisely give Her Majesty the Queen a bath yesterday instead, and work on that ridiculous mane:


I like the random lick-and-chew face I managed to catch on camera... silly girl. 
 As for THAT MANE, it has been a nightmare ever since day one! One of the first things I ever did with Immy when I first started to work with her was take scissors to her fourteen or so inches of bushy, dreadlocked mane and hack it all off. This did not amuse her, and she spent most of the session flailing around and trying to get away from me. I didn't know her very well at that point (this was before I started working with her), but knew that THAT MANE needed some help. The hack job helped some, but it still looked like someone's mom had tackled their kid with a bowl and some blunt scissors. Well, everyone has to start somewhere right? 
 Well, THAT MANE has still not yet been tamed. She is intolerant of the pulling comb at this point, and also isn't a fan of the scissor method. (I'm not either... as a pulling purist, I find it crude. Also, ugly. Really ugly. Did I mention ugly?) She's only just figured out how to relax into having her mane brushed out, so it isn't exactly like I can go crazy on it. It also lays to the left, which isn't traditional - show manes should lay on the right for mares and geldings. (Again, call me a purist.) Obviously, she's not a show horse yet, but it never hurts to look ahead and dream! 
 When I bathed her yesterday, I hosed all of her mane onto the left side mostly by accident, and looked at it sideways for a minute before solidifying my resolve and tackling it head on. Several fat, awkward left-laying braids later, I was on my way to having a show-ready mane... someday.


I actually was completely certain that she'd roll and/or rub them all out by the following day, but she kept them all in AND stayed clean! Hooray mare! 
 The roundpen finally dried out this afternoon enough for us to get back to work. In addition to further work with sacking out to the saddle pad, I also tackled the big issue of haltering her with an over-the-ears halter. This mare has undoubtedly been eared many, many times in her life. (If you've never seen an ear twitch done, it basically involves grabbing the horse's ear tightly in your hand, twisting it, and pulling it downwards as a form of restraint. They definitely don't move because it HURTS. It will also make them very headshy very fast if done improperly. And yes, there is a proper way to apply restraints of all types to ensure that the horse comes away from the experience without fear or pain. Earing, in my opinion, might come as an extreme last resort in a dangerous situation... don't use it regularly. Seriously, it's painful.) She may have actually been eared using equipment, like with a lip twitch (DON'T DO THAT), as she doesn't seem to mind my hand so much anymore, but the touch of the halter sent her into a small frenzy. A few times on, a few times off, and many cookies later, she was at least standing still for the on-off, and was a bit quieter about it. This is a deeply-ingrained issue, however, and it will take a long time for her to realize that things being slipped over her head are not going to hurt her. She will come around, I have no doubt about that. She is just too smart not to. 
After that, it was onto roundpen work, and her first introduction to the actual lunge line itself! This is actually a very big step for her, as it is asking her something I've not ever wanted her to do before - to go away from me when asked. For months, I've focused all my efforts on the message of "come here, come to me, stay with me, this is a safe and good place, stay here, come here." To ask her to go away was confusing to her at first. It wasn't too hard for her to understand the message when she was lose, but she is smart enough to know today that she was still quite attached to me via the lunge line, and at first kept turning to face me with a big question mark over her face. This is not an uncommon reaction, and with a little friendly persistence, I got her to move off tracking left. This mare is insanely smart... I can't hardly believe it to be honest with you. In just three short lunge sessions she has gone from not knowing what in the heck I was asking to nailing all her voice commands with ease, walk-trot-and-whoa. The canter will come soon enough, when she is a little more balanced and sure of herself. Lunging on the line in a roundpen makes for an easy time understanding to stay on the circle, but going to the left she even kept her circle a little smaller than she really needed to, just to keep a smidgen of slack in the line for me. She stayed consistent on her circle and in her rhythm. It only took a few laps around, and she figured the whole thing out. Going to the right was a bit of a bigger challenge at first, seeing as her right side is her hypersensitive side. She was genuinely concerned about leaving my side at first, and couldn't quite figure out to just move away. She had a few moments of being very genuinely flustered and worried, but once she finally put together what I wanted her to do, she moved smartly off and never faltered. She kept the line a little more taut on the right side, but I gave her some length and let her hug the rail, and she relaxed. She is very, very smart about pressure and release. 
 Genius mare:
 Seriously genius. I'm completely sure she hasn't ever really been lunged before. She gave me no absolutely no indication of knowing how to do it before we really got into it, she just really honestly figured it out THAT fast. At this rate, we'll have some tack on her in no time! (But not too quick!)