Sunday, December 30, 2012


WE DID IT!!! Oh, I have dreamed of this day for so long!!!

We've been prepping for this day for a very long time. To go from a horse that couldn't even be haltered in a stall to this.... there really aren't words for it. Miles and miles of prep work on the ground went into this day, and it all paid off. Despite it being cold, windy, and generally miserable outside, I decided to suit up and decide whether or not to get on depending on her demeanor today.

It almost was a no-go. She was up, hot, and reactive, and was especially disagreeable about bridling today. I've been bridling her in the roundpen, just so that we have more room to maneuver, but she has not improved yet. Bribery with treat and praise have not helped either - when it comes to things that really concern her, she shuts her mouth tight and refuses to take a cookie. I tried a new tactic today that actually worked surprisingly well, despite the drama involved leading up to it - pull headstall up over her head and attach the throatlatch before the headslinging begins. When she made her move to flail, it didn't come off, and she stopped her thrashing and looked at me in a sort of "um... now what? Can you help please?" way. After that, she let me pull both ears through for the first time EVER. Once the headstall is on, she opens her mouth happily and takes the bit, and she wears the entire thing without any sort of fuss or care. But those EARS. I am also dying to give her a bridlepath, but there is absolutely no way on this planet that it will happen anytime soon. She is going in to have her teeth done in a week or two, and when she is sedated I will have the vet check her ears for ticks or other nasty things, just in case. (And maybe when she is drugged I can do something about the bridlepath... maybe). She likely also needs a chiro adjustment at the poll... just... HOW to have that done when she is still so afraid of having it touched? She is still terrified of strangers as well... we're stuck between a rock and a hard place. How to explain to her that good things come from having your head touched? She is simply not bribe-able... no amount of cookies or pets convinces her that it is worth it.

After a brief bit of lunging, I spent ten or so minutes doing additional desensitization work with the saddle. I've already done a lot of this, but it never hurts to do more - get on and off the mounting block, stomp on it, slap the saddle, bounce the stirrups, lean on her, pat her on the bum, stand in the stirrups, etc. I did this on both the left and right sides, the right being her more reactive side. She was still a little bit tense and jumpy, but she relaxed into it. Once I felt she was ready, I turned on the camera and went for it.

And she was GREAT. She did exactly what I expected her to do, especially given the bit of bad weather we're currently having. When my right leg materialized out of nowhere on her right side, she went WHOA WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? and scooted. She is a quick little thing, that is for sure! Hours of practicing "whoa" and standing still paid off at that point, and she stopped and stood quietly. More hours of teaching the command for "walk on" and making sure her hotheaded little self knows the difference between "time to walk nicely forward" and "time to GO" also paid off, and she listened to the verbal command for walk. It took a very long time and hours on the lunge to convince her that it is okay to just walk forward quietly instead of zooming off straight away into a power trot whenever she is asked to move forward, but I am certainly glad that she finally has the idea down. The prep work with grounddriving also came in handy, and she already knows how to steer and how to follow verbal commands from behind her. She has seen me plenty of times from Pangea's back, and so the idea of me being up there wasn't totally foreign. It all came together into exactly what I expected her first ride to be, and nothing unsurprising. I opted to go without a handler, simply because other people still scare her half to death. She knows me and had her full attention on me, and it worked. I don't normally get on youngsters without a handler, but I was glad I did in this case.

The video is a bit long and is a little bit boring, but it is worth it!

We have a very unpleasant widespread soaking rainstorm heading into the area tonight, and it is supposed to continue to rain and be generally crappy all day tomorrow. The girls are up in outside stalls for the night (there are trees in the pasture but no actual shelter or windbreak), and will probably be stuck there all day tomorrow as well. Immy will have a few days off for sure to mull this riding thing over, and we'll start up again later in the week. SO AWESOME!!

The girls say, aw crap, for real?

Dear Mother Nature...

.... can you STOP being awful for 5 seconds so I can get Immy under saddle please? 

Christmas is finally over, and the New Year is right around the corner. (I know... where did the year go!?) I spent most of Christmas Day fretting over my girls, watching the radar as a massive winter storm came crashing into Texas, wreaking total havoc and bringing several inches of rain, snow, ice, and subzero temperatures with it. I had left Immy in a medium and P in a sheet, due to the fact that I knew the chilly weather was coming, but the days preceding were nearly in the 70's. The last time somebody other than me changed their blankets, Immy bolted with her blanket still half on (thankfully she managed to slip out with only mental trauma to show for). When I went on vacation, I left no instructions for blanket changes - I didn't anticipate that it would need to be done. Poor chillybears!

Thankfully, they survived the weather unscathed. When I got home, it was absolutely frigid (for Texas) and  snow was still on the ground (completely unheard of for this area). P, who had been in the sheet, was most happy to see me coming with a heavier blanket - usually she is the one who prefers to be naked, but not that day!

By Friday, everything had completely melted. This unfortunately meant that everything that had previously been frozen had now become total mush. The arena was soggy, so that was out. The roundpen is obviously covered, but the tractor lives in there. This usually isn't a problem - I just move it myself, and put it back when I am finished - but the ground outside the roundpen was far too soft and squashy for heavy machinery (one quick way to tick off your barn owner is to tear up their grass!). That left me with a single option: ponying! Braving the elements, I suited the girls up with a quarter sheet and a cooler, respectively, and headed out to the big pasture. Immy was a bit jumpy to start out - unfortunately, I had to whack P when she tried to bowl me over on the way out, which scared Immy half to death - but once I was up there, everything was fine. We had a little bit of trot time near the end of our ride, but unfortunately, P felt awful behind. Going into the new year, I'd like to alter her schedule some, and move her to poolwork and some light trail work and ponying only. I think that is probably about all she'll be able to handle from now on, poor old thing. 

Happy girls eating their dinner:

Today was a bit of a fiasco, all things considered. I had a horrible day from start to finish, and was exhausted by the time I got to the barn. The schedule that seems to work best for Immy is to work her one day, then give her the next off for just loving and feeding and happytime, then work her again the following day. (My goal here is to maintain her trust and our friendship, and to never have her anticipate my coming with work or  other unpleasantries). While they were eating their grainfoods this evening, I thought I'd take the opportunity to give P a quick shave and a haircut. Out came my quiet little Wahls, and the Bearded Lady was tackled. With her shaggy goat whiskers and bridlepath gone, I turned around, facing Immy with the clippers still running. The second I did it, and even though I was several feet away from her, she took off. Ooookay then... I guess we need to see that the clippers are not terrifying monsters!

Well, that was a huge disaster. I was able to catch her and touch her with the clippers off, all over her neck, shoulder, and cheek, but when they touched her nose (while off), she jerked violently and ran backwards. She finally touched them and let me touch her nose with them, but she was pretty sure they were going to bite her up until then. And then I turned them on, well away from her... and she bolted, again. I had a terrorized blur on the end of my lead rope, running around me in circles as fast as she could. With some work, I managed to touch her shoulder, neck, and cheek with the Buzzing Death Machine, but she was absolutely panicked inbetween her bouts of brainwaves. She did get to the point of reaching forward and touching them with her nose of her own accord while they were on, but it scared her half to death when she did. The clippers were on for so long that they finally died, but it ended on a good enough note. By this time, however, she was so freaked out that I couldn't even put her leadrope over her back without her bolting off again. She was shredding the grass in the small pen she was in with all of her mad galloping, so I finally just gave up pretense and took her into the arena for some additional desensitization. To her credit, having a leadrope tossed over you while you have a noisy blanket on is definitely different from having a leadrope tossed over you while you are naked, so that did not help matters. Doubly not helping matters was the fact that my seriously neurotic Monster dog was completely freaked out by the entire thing (serious separation issues, and something fast and scary was happening with mommy... must run into the pen and help! Must growl at scary horse! Must run under mommy's feet!). Yelling at Monster dog to get out of my way so she didn't get run over/trampled/kicked/stepped on only scared Immy more... the neverending cycle! (Seriously though, the dog has mental issues.... she puts herself at risk daily in her desperation to be wherever I am. She gladly throws herself in harm's way just to get to me. If there was a swirling river of lava between the two of us, I have absolutely no doubt that she'd jump in and try to swim across to get to me, even if I was telling her from a distance not to.) 

In the arena, I was able to toss the leadrope over her from both sides, and she finally relaxed a little bit. We ended the session with lots of face rubs and pets, and she actually mentally came back to me very well. She doesn't always, so that was definitely a positive thing.

Touching her nose and face with my hand is fine with her at this point... touching her nose and face with anything else is not fine. (Exception to this: brushes and combs. She likes to be brushed and fussed over, so these things are ok in her mind). I have to keep telling myself that it wasn't that long ago that I couldn't touch her face at all from the cheeks forward - hell, I couldn't even crosstie her because it freaked her too much to get that close to her face! - so this is just another step in the process. We'll definitely be working on the clipper issue. At some point, just like everything else that used to scare her to death (remember how terrified she was of blankets and legstraps? The first time a legstrap touched her leg, she did the same terrified bolting!), she will realize that it isn't out to kill her, and life is still ok. 

Tomorrow we'll do more desensitization work with the saddle - I've already leaned on her and put my feet in  stirrups and stood with my full weight on her (more elaboration tomorrow!), but I've only done it from the left side. She needs more right side work, and then she'll be ready for her first ride!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mare-y Christmas!

I know I've been super busy and totally AWOL for the past week - Christmas has been severely hectic this year - but we still want to wish all of you Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas!

Top is of Gogo, middle is Metro, bottom is Quincy. No new pics of my babies simply due to lack of time, and I'm out of state at the moment!


I know I post something similar every year, but my oh my how time flies, and how we change. That picture of Quincy and I is a decade old.

We'll be back to the grind come Wednesday, so stay tuned! Happy and safe holidays everyone!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ground Driving!

We're back from the large animal rescue class! For those of you that didn't know, I've been away for the past 3 days, down south in the Houston area getting certified for large animal rescue. Don't get me wrong, if I come upon an actual emergency I am going to let the firefighters do all of the actual work, but I can give some very good directions on how to do it and how NOT to do it. We covered everything from barn fires, overturned trailer, and mud rescue, to carcass disposal and triage in the field. (Not for the faint of heart - there was even a video of a horse being euthanized by captive bolt. There is debate on whether or not that is a humane method of euthanasia, but having seen horses totally freak out and run away with needles in their neck while being chemically euthanized with barbituates, I think there is risk with any method you use. The horse in the video was dead before he even hit the ground and it was very humane. It wasn't pretty, but death never is in real life - those of you who have seen it know that Dobbin rarely ever lays down and closes his eyes sweetly when he goes. And for the record, I do think that the most humane method of dispatching any animal is a properly placed bullet to the brain.) 

Here are just a few of the practical things we covered....

That you can't put out a blazing bale of hay with a small fire extinguisher, and that it takes a fireman about 80 gallons of water for ONE 50lb. bale:

 What happens if your "barrel horse" gets stuck in the mud (AKA proper sideways drags and harness application):

And how seriously serious and scary barn fires are:

Last photo is of a fireman's infrared camera. Yes, there is a horse RIGHT there in that stall - you just can't see it through the smoke. The picture about with the lady leading the horse? She simulated the crazy horse owner who went back in to get her horses. In reality, if there was that much smoke, she'd be dead on the ground before they ever found her, and the horses would be dead too. The firemen also said the smoke is usually black and not this pretty light grey color.

Other things we did included overturning a trailer manually and discussing how to get to those animals and how to get them out (which was really fun - no, there were NOT actual animals in that trailer!) and learning all sort of ways to properly apply a harness to an animal needing rescue (where the danger zones are, what not to do, where you need to be, etc). 

The class was outstanding and packed full of useful information for people in the rescue field and the average horse owner alike. It was SO worth it! 

Despite the fun I had, it does feel good to be back home. I headed out to see the girls this afternoon and was pleased to see that Immy has definitely put back on a good amount of her weight in the past week.

She says, don't judge me, my mom has been away since Wednesday and I am a dirty girl!

Today we went back into the roundpen for the first time. I am SO glad to report that she doesn't associate the roundpen with anything scary - she snorted and fussed for a moment, but settled right down and got to work. We lunged with the surcingle, sidereins and bridle today, and she actually made an effort to reach out to the bit in the walk! The sidereins aren't long enough to do anything other than jiggle the bit in her mouth a bit, which is exactly what I wanted. No matter what anyone tells you, you cannot make a proper dressage horse with the use of sidereins. Once she is under saddle and a little more broke, if I lunge her I will use a chambon instead. I don't make regular use of sidereins for any of my horses, and she is no exception. It's just a basic training exercise and right of passage that we travel through until we reach the more complicated things. One must learn the ABCs before words and phrases can be strung together!

Once she was done lunging, I brought her into the middle and rigged her up for grounddriving. I had originally planned on using a handler to start her out, but I didn't have one, so I decided to proceed alone. (DON'T DO THAT unless you already know how to start other youngsters! Safety first, always! I'm not an expert or a pro by any means but I've done this many times before and I am fully aware of all the things that can go wrong - and what to do if something does go wrong!)
I started off with some flexions and turning left and right with the bit before I even put on the driving reins. The process of grounddriving before riding teaches the horse to steer and to follow commands from something behind them, so learning what to do when pressure is applied to the bit is important. She is well desensitized at this point to ropes all over her body, so it was no big deal to feel the driving reins at her sides.   I also didn't start off right behind her with the reins in the driving position, but began in the lunging position holding both driving reins. This is actually a very common method of lunging.... it's just a bit complicated. It gives you an amazing feel of their mouth if you get it just right - I might actually use this instead of the sidereins for awhile! 
Once she was quiet and walking, I started to walk along with her. Gradually, I moved further and further behind her, until she was comfortable with being followed. I maneuvered the outside rein over her back and onto the correct side (again, don't do that unless your horse is desensitized to ropes moving across their body), and she relaxed into it and walked with her head low and quiet. We did some rudimentary steering exercises, coming across the middle of the roundpen to turn and go the other way, and it was interesting to see that she turns very easily to the right, but not well to the left. We also practiced "whoa" which is critical! She understood the concept well, but did wiggle at first. They need to learn to whoa and stay there, so we did just that a few times until she was quiet and not moving or wiggling anymore. She kept turning her head around to look at me with that very curious, "hey, what's up?" kind of expression whenever we'd stop. She also allowed me to very easily walk up from behind and remove the lines - she didn't mind at all. 

A+ for today's effort! No pics unfortunately - wasn't exactly in a position to take them myself! Safety first!

The girls after they had eaten dinner and were back out in the field... apparently they had already forgotten that they had been fed:

P is the one furthest to the left, Immy is in the middle under the tree.

It is very interesting to see how this mare is progressing - she is so stinking smart and nothing scares her, except for people and the past experiences she has had. She takes everything she doesn't know in stride, but the things that have hurt her in the past are huge obstacles for her. Following her experience in the roundpen, her earshyness has gotten even worse. I think at this point the best thing to try is clicker training - touch head, click and treat, touch poll, click and treat, touch ear, click and treat.... times a million. What do you think?

Oh, and I figured out why there has been screaming and fussing: she's in flaming heat AGAIN. Come on mare.... really?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Enjoying her week of downtime!

Immy is definitely enjoying her week of downtime. Not only is her weight bouncing back already, but her attitude is 110% improved. I will be away for the next few days at an equine rescue class (awesome stuff to learn!!), but come Sunday we'll be starting back up with lunging again. Hopefully we'll be able to carry on right where we left on... minus last week, of course.

It has been SERIOUSLY FREEZING this week.... 14 degrees yesterday morning, and 17 degrees this morning. Yes, in Texas. I KNOW, RIGHT? Today was the first day I actually pulled their heavyweights off of them since Sunday, even though I left Immy with a sheet on during the day. Does she not look cute in Gogo's light blue stuff?

P's heavyweight came off this morning and she got to be naked all day. Immy comes in for an extra grain meal (they are out on pasture with 24/7 hay) just until her weight stabilizes (and by grain I mean alfalfa pellets, a fat supplement, and her usual supplements and herbs), but all P gets is enough hay pellets and a smidgen of a fat supplement to just wash all her supplements and herbs down. She only gets this once a day seeing as it is hardly a handful.... and she is NOT amused when Immy comes in for breakfast and she does not.


I'll be back Sunday! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Relax, Sweet Angel

Sigh. Don't you just hate when things go wrong?

Peeling back the layers of a severely abused mare sometimes offer up surprises that are both eye-opening and very sad. It is clear at this point that whatever was done to her was done repeatedly and in serious excess, and putting her in the roundpen and having someone aggressively chase her has brought back memories of trauma. That is the exact word for it... she is traumatized. If one single session of real roundpenning did that to her, I can't imagine how deep her fear runs. My poor, sweet baby... we have some backtracking to do.

We'll have to face going back in the roundpen at some point, that is for sure. I don't want her to associate the roundpen with terrifying things, seeing as that is where I want to back her for the first time, so maybe in about a week or so I will just take her in there for some low-key work and some love. For now, however, I just need to focus on getting her mind back and relaxed again.

Yesterday, I wanted to go back over the idea that ropes are NOT scary. She was totally fine with ropes - TOTALLY fine! - up until she was roundpenned. After that, they were terrifying - S slapped her all over with it, chased her with it, and pulled it over her ears in an attempt to desensitize her. It completely backfired, and gave her a reason to be afraid of ropes instead. This video is really, really long - like 10 long, boring minutes of pretty much nothing except getting her to relax - but if you watch most or parts of it you will see the difference from beginning to end. She starts off practically leaping away from me when I raised my arm with the rope, to lowering her head, to leaning into me instead of leaning away, to finally following me around at the end of a very loose and long line. She needs lots and lots of this, every day.

This morning, I wanted to see if she still remembered how to properly lunge. Unfortunately, the roundpenning very effectively backtracked us a few weeks - she had been doing absolutely fantastically up until now, which is a real shame. Today, she kept slamming on the brakes to wheel in to me, was gritting her teeth while chewing the bit (it w`as a new bit, to be sure, so that could have had something to do with it), and kept exploding backwards every time I went to correct her for wheeling in to face me. It took a little while, but she remembered what she was supposed to be doing, and I had a proper walk and whoa at the end of it. She was still wanting to whoa and turn in towards me (I HATE THAT!!) but at least she stayed out where she was supposed to instead of coming in to me. (Why natural horsemanship people want their horses to come barging into their personal space is beyond me, even when invited. To me, it is much more natural for me as the leader to come into THEIR space, not the other way around!) But I couldn't raise my hands at her - she bolted away from me every time, absolutely terrified. Even when we were grooming, if I raised my arms too fast, she went shooting away in the other direction. This is brand new and a direct result of being shooed away while roundpenning... sigh. Given everything that has happened, she was really quite good today... she could have been a lot worse. She had frenzied, frightened moments.... but once she was calm, she was very good.

I also can't believe how much weight she had lost in a single week. She must have dropped 75lbs... she's not totally emaciated, to be sure, but she's not the thick, healthy, muscular mare that she was one week ago. Observe:

It makes me want to cry looking at that picture. I can NOT believe how the weight has just come pouring off of her in ONE WEEK. I'm going to say it's probably 100% certain that she has ulcers by now, despite the fact that she lives out 24/7 and has free access to pasture and hay, is on a really good pre/probiotic with colostrum and beta glucan, is on aloe juice/slippery elm/marshmellow root/chia, and eats a very high fat, minimal stach/sugar diet. I tripled her aloe dose, doubled up her fat, and am looking into some other options, but I think the main thing to do this week is just to STOP all physical activity and not ask her to do anything stressful at ALL for the next week. We need to stop the weight loss immediately, and I think the main way of doing that is to minimize stress and maximize comfort, relaxation, and food. I'm trying to think of other things that can help her... another digestive supplement? Calming supplement? Immune-boosting supplement like APF with adaptogenic herbs? Ideas?

I could just kill whoever did this to this sweet mare. You know the funny thing about her jittery personality? She's not spooky. She's not spooky at ALL. She will go anywhere and do anything, and new things don't concern her in the slightest. It is probably why she walked into the pool no problem for the first time, and why she never so much as tucked a tail at her first saddling. The only things that scares her are threats to her own personal safety, and PEOPLE. People did this to her. Had the people in her past life only taken the time to be nice to her, she wouldn't be like this at all.

What a horrible week. Amazing how it is the little tiny things that can completely throw everything out of control.

Friday, December 7, 2012

When Roundpenning Fails

I had a bad idea that this might happen. I didn't want to say it out loud  just in case anyone thought I was crazy.... and I was hoping that I was just creating scenarios in my head about things that could potentially go wrong. Unfortunately, I should have just voiced my gut feelings on the matter, and stopped the process before it began. Roundpenning is going to completely 100% fry this mare's brain, and I am not going to do it anymore.

My first instinct for roundpenning Imogen in particular was that it was a terrible idea. This mare is not only the bottom of the totem pole and therefore completely willing to submit to people, but has also been horribly abused by them, and is convinced that they are all out to hurt her. The basic idea behind roundpenning is this: I am your safety zone, and when you are with me, life is good. If you do something disrespectful, or something you are not supposed to, I send you back out to work. Eventually, you seek me out as your relief, and want to come to me and stay with me. What does this do wonders for? Lazy, bold, stubborn, confident animals who don't respect you. What does this NOT work on? Low totem pole horses like Imogen who are so desperate to do the right thing, and so confused and terrified when you make any sort of aggressive moves at them at all. Somehow, distressed as I was with about her behavior yesterday, I convinced myself it was going to help.

My fear was this: Imogen is frightened by people or horses that make bold, assertive moves in her direction. She is MORE than willing to move her feet to get away out of your space - she falls all over herself to make sure she doesn't do anything to anger the powers-that-be around her. I personally reward EVERY little tiny try that she gives me, just because she lacks the confidence to really believe that she could ever do something that makes someone else happy. However, with roundpenning, if they come into your space and do something the roundpenner doesn't like - like move away in fear or jerk their heads because they are frightened of being touched - they get chased away aggressively, back out on the rail to work. This completely backfires on horses with this personality - they learn VERY quickly that you are an incredibly scary monster in the middle, and every time they come to you, you make rapid movements and scare them. It isn't long before they want absolutely NOTHING to do with you - far from establishing trust, you have completely destroyed it.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened tonight. Imogen tried a few times to turn to S and make a connection, but whenever S would rub her ears and she would lift her head and back up in fear, she'd get aggressively chased off. Pretty soon, even when she would lick her lips (which I don't take as a sign of relaxation, just a sign of massive stress - other studies have shown that licking the lips is a reponse to a release of adrenaline as well) and S would turn away to release the pressure, Immy would just keep trotting around at high speed, avoiding turning in to her at all costs. This must have gone on for an hour. She was lathered, trembling, and completely terrorized by the end of it all. They never joined up, and they never really connected. In fact, whenever S would walk away, all Immy did was stand there and snort, watching her leave with relief. It was bad... all around bad.

JenJ reassured me after the whole mess that her old horse Cash is the same way that Immy is - and she would NEVER roundpen him because it would completely fry his brain. Even back in the barn, she wouldn't let me touch her ears or head, and jumped every time I touched her or raised my arms. She was ready to bolt at any second, clearly traumatized. I can't do that to her... we're done with this nonsense. There is no reason to chase an already fearful horse... all she is going to do is associate humans with fear even more than she already does. No more majik hoodoo for me... I am going back to the basics - the ones which actually work. Sorry roundpenning, you are just NOT for this animal.

When Things Don't Go Well

As we all know in the horse world, things don't always go as planned. In fact, usually they go exactly opposite of the way you planned, am I right? 

 I am completely regretting ever having turned Imogen out with Pangea. She is absolutely obsessed with her, moreso than I've ever seen her be with another horse, and moving her to the new facility has sent her into a mental tailspin. She was very good two nights ago, that is for sure, but last night was a veritable nightmare. M had kindly agreed to come help me with art the grounddriving process, but from the moment we crosstied her, her mind was not in the game. Completely focused on P (who was totally ignoring her and way, way out in the field far away, she made it absolute clear that she wanted nothing to do with me or with the process of grooming and dressing for our grounddriving. She wiggled, she screamed, she spun completely around in the crossties, she refused to pick up her right front foot, she set back (this is new). When I was bridling her, she shut down and flew backwards, trying to run away out of the barn to go find P. I had had quite enough at this point, and backed her out of the barn, lunged her in a circle, backed her against the fence, and put the bridle on with no further problems. But I was done with the monkey business. We were going in the roundpen and were going to see if the majik roundpenning stuff would actually work. This week has been a complete and total breakdown of communication between us, and I am stopping that train right in its tracks. Mare, I respect you were abused, I respect you are nervous and worried, but we are NOT going to make acting like a total fool a habit, not when you're been such an angel up until this past week.
Now, I don't know much about roundpenning in the join-up kind of way. I in theory understand it, sort of, but I've never really been exposed to it, nor have I ever been taught how to properly do it. It just isn't something most eventers do in their everyday training. Then again, I've never had a horse that is this severely mentally damaged, so I am open to any and all methods that might help her.
It breaks down like this: I am a stickler for manners, and I have always had snotty, bossy horses who wanted to barge their way right into the top spot in our herd of two, so there has always been a lot of groundwork, a lot of get-out-of-my-space, a lot of top dogging if you will. Imogen? Imogen is the absolute bottom of the totem pole. Watching her out interacting with a herd, if another horse so much as looks at her, she wheels and runs away. Despite being at the bottom, she NEVER has a mark on her, so quick is she to run from a possible threat. Now enter humans: she is more than willing to submit to them as the top dog, but they need her to stand still for procedures. She tries to run from their threatening behavior, but she is punished, beaten and hurt for her fear. Now she is double afraid of them, because she has reason to be. She is afraid of confinement, and she is afraid of being beat on. Can you really blame her for wanting to run away with the pressure gets to be too much for her?
Enter me. I was the only one who was ever nice to her. Cookies, love, and pets were all she ever knew, and it took her a very long time, but she came around. Even when we put her out in a herd, her herdmates didn't like her, and bullied her. I was still the only friend she had, and she was more than happy to leave the other horses to come find solace with me.
Enter P. At first, P was none too kind to Immy. Immy therefore was still more than happy to leave P's company to go work for me, even when I had moved her to a brand new facility. As time went on, however, P and Immy became inseperable friends - the only horse that was ever nice to Immy. Moving facilities this time around has really thrown Immy for a loop - after all, why would you want to be with a human who works you wen you can be with a horse who is always nice to you and lets you share her food? Thinking like a horse, it's an obvious choice. It isn't a matter of her being naughty, it's a matter of her being a horse. But humans, myself included, have the unfortunate disability of our own emotions, and it is upsetting to see your formerly in-your-pocket critter acting this way. So what do you do?
Simple. You think like a horse. That's the only way to get through to her.
S, the barn owner, showed me after all of her nonsense last night how to do the join-up stuff. I have a short video of it; unfortunately my phone died before I could catch. Any of the good stuff. Bummer!

I was a real skeptic at first, but she did well with it, and admittedly was MUCH calmer when back in the crossties. She could have been tired, but nobody there watching could deny the fact that now she was paying attention to us instead of what was happening elsewhere around the barn. This really might help her. What I need from her is a desire to cooperate, to partner up, to decide that good things happen with me, and that she wants to be around me INSTEAD of P. I had that before, and it is slipping away because of P. I won't let this blippet get me down either - honestly, even the way she acted yesterday was light years ahead of where she once was. We'll be roundpenning for a few, at the very least, and I may even opt for awhile to take her straight from the field to the roundpen before I groom or do anything else with her. I want her paying attention and focusing on me... and wanting to be there all at the same time.
This mare is by far the most challenging I have ever worked with - and god knows I have worked with a LOT of problem horses. She is just so very different from the rest of them all. Surely, she herself is - and will continue to be - my greatest teacher.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Settling In

Our first few days at the new facility have been quite all right, if I do say so myself. The girls are transitioning into their new herd situation without a hitch, and are making some fast friends other than each other (thank god for that). P especially is totally enamored with everyone around her, and talks to all of them constantly. Imogen is, mostly, still just completely obsessed with P, although that too is diminishing. I am pleased (and a bit surprised) to report that both of them come right to me whenever I call them over - and they even call back! Who knew? They are more than happy to leave the herd and the snacks to come find me. Seeing as they are on 15 acres, and that it is now completely dark by the time I go to bring them in to feed some nights, this is totally a huge bonus. All I have to do is stand at the gate and call, and they come. 

Happy mares.

And look, here they come! Peas in a pod, these two.

It was a rude awakening this weekend to see how seriously obsessed they are with each other. Thankfully, I was right to assume that once they got out in a herd situation with other buddies, they would have other relationships to work on, and be able to not be totally stuck on each other. Monday night was a little bit hairy on Imogen's part, seeing as it was her first time really away from P in about a month in terms of tacking and prepping for a workout. She made a right fool of herself in front of the barn owner while in the barn, wiggling and screaming and pooping all over the place, worried about P. She also gave me her regular level of grief about bridling, and the barn owner suggested roundpenning her to try and fix that. I have absolutely no idea how that would actually help, but since I was a bit embarrassed I sort of halfheartedly agreed that it maybe was a good idea, sort of, I suppose. She unfortunately was not around to see today's grooming/tacking/lunging session, during which I had a totally silent and immobile mare to work with. She even let me take off her bridle with the least amount of fuss yet... we are getting there!!! I am super happy that Immy seems to be settling down day by day into a routine where there is no P around, or anyone else in fact save for me. I'm the one she needs to be worried about now!

She wore sidereins for the first time on Monday, and aside from an acceptable level of mouthing, she was totally fantastic. They are on the very last hole, of course, but they make a very light, light contact with her mouth, especially when she is bending. 

Yesterday both girls had a grooming and spa session (and they were wonderful angels who were both on their best behavior), and today Immy got back to lunging, this time with the rope saddle and sidereins:

She was a little bit amped up, but it wasn't unwarranted - chilly night, dark out, no friends. Sorry about the video quality - my phone battery is shot and it keeps dying before I ever get into the arena, so I have resorted to using my old dinosaur video iPod that I've had for a couple years now. You don't realize how far technology has come until you compare the two. Although considering that it is owned by me, the Queen Mother of Destroying All the Electronic Things, the fact that it is still alive and working is quite an amazing feat for it.

Tomorrow, M is coming to help me with ground driving for the first time! If all goes well and she is able to set us loose to work on our own, we'll practice ground driving for the next week or so.... and then we back her!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Eventful Every Day!

There is truly never a dull moment in the life of owning two kooky mares.

This weekend was the scheduled move for the girls - basically they were going from one side of town to the other, to a new and extremely gorgeous private facility. My plan was this: load the girls on Saturday, take them both to work, swim P, and then after work pony Imogen off of P and take them both out on the trails for Immy's first outdoor work experience. We have 6000 acres behind my workplace to ride on, so we have plenty of trails to choose from! I was very excited for the opportunity - I knew in my heart she'd be excellent out there.

Unfortunately, we had to GET there first. Part of that included loading the mares and trailering them to the property. With handy-dandy second lunge line in place, I started to load Imogen in the same way that I have been - lunge line running from her up to the side door and out back to me - and once again, it *almost* worked the first time. Remember how the first lunge line broke not once, not twice, but THREE times? The second lunge line must have had a talk with it, because it ALSO broke clean in HALF partway through the loading process. It isn't exactly like she was pulling back super hard or anything... the lunge line just straight up failed. Of course, we all know what happened then - cue Imogen galloping away back to her pen with a long piece of lunge line trailing, AGAIN. Now, of course, we have a full blown issue on our hands. Imogen now thinks that if she backs rapidly out of the trailer, the lunge line will break and she can run away. It isn't her fault - I don't blame her, I'd do the same - and it honestly isn't my fault either... I fully blame my stupid equipment for creating this problem!! Luckily, she was caught easily again, and with lunge line safely knotted several times for maximum security, I managed to once again get her safely loaded and on our way (this time thankfully on time). 

When I brought P into the pool barn for her AquaTread session, I made a very unpleasant discovery.... these two are HOPELESSLY attached to one another. Like, really badly. No, really. See for yourself.

The other horse in the video is a QH racehorse stallion that we have in for rehab right now. He obviously didn't care about the shrieking women in his presence, thank god.

Seriously though. I think these two need some remedial time apart. This is ridiculous.

It was around this time that I had the brilliant idea to also put Imogen in the pool. I had extra hands around the farm, so I decided, why not? Why not today? But would it go well? Both my other horses have walked right in the first time, which is NOT a common thing for them to do. The pool is a scary, gurgling, sloshy monster to most horses... so what would Imogen do?

Will you believe me if I told you that she WALKED IN BY HERSELF? Yeah, I wouldn't either... but it is 100% true! 

Now, it isn't go completely smoothly. Once the water was a little over her knees, she stopped, and the wheels started visibly turning in her head. "Hm, this water is getting deep," she seemed to think aloud. "I think I am going to need to swim. Well, I need some propulsion to get myself underway, right?" And that's exactly what she decided to do - launch. I of course got soaked in the process, and she rammed into the chestrope and started thrashing. I see a lot of them do that, so I knew she'd be fine once she put her feet down, but she spent a minute or two trying to swim instead of realizing she could just put her feet down and walk. Smart girl that she is, it didn't take her long to figure out!

She was very tired by the end of it. Can't blame her there... she's not exactly in shape yet! Although I do have to say, she is looking much less pendulous in the belly area already, don't you think?

With both girls dried and finished, I put them back in their pen and let them rest until I clocked out just before the sun went down. Once the workday was complete, I tacked up P, put on my helmet, and quickly picked their feet before setting out. It was at this time that, with Imogen's feet cleaner than ever, I noticed a spot in her lateral quarter on her LF that has a touch of WLD. It had only looked like a chip before that simply needed to grow out, but with the foot super clean, it was clear that there was more to it than I had originally thought. At this point, I did the dumbest thing I could have possibly done - I poked at it with my hoofpick to see how extensive it was. 

Yeah. That tissue is sensitive, you know? She immediately freaked, slammed her foot down right on top of my foot, set back, and broke her lead rope. I can't exactly blame her for that one... clearly it hurt. Unfortunately for me, the force with which she stuck me was enough to break my foot. Yes, break it. First metatarsal on my left foot. It is broken. 

Don't be to worried about me though... despite the fact that I knew right away that it was broken, I decided that it wasn't bad enough to forgo my ride. Maybe I am an idiot, but those trails were calling my name!

I wasn't disappointed either - both girls were AMAZING out there. We even trotted a long stretch with nary a problem. We weaved around trees, bushwhacked through cockle burrs, and even walked over a very large log - her very first obstacle! She didn't bat an eye, all thanks to Pangea's devil-may-care attitude about life. P isn't exactly a quiet horse - in fact she can be quite hot - but she is very confident and truthfully doesn't care about ANYTHING we come across on the trail. Because she didn't care, Imogen didn't care. She just took it all in stride.

My foot is very unhappy, but I will live. I still have to work, so all I can really do is try and elevate it and ice it whenever I have the chance. Such is the life of a horse person, I suppose... we work our butts off in a dangerous profession, but don't get paid enough for quality health insurance or workman's comp should something happen to us. So, we continue to work even when we are injured, because what else can we do?

Today, my beautiful ladies both had very thorough baths, and both were very well behaved for it - Immy even let me wash her long and scraggly forelock for the first time ever! She gave me some horrible trouble loading on the trailer, but we got it done without any more lead ropes breaking, thank god! There was an awful lot of her jumping onto the ramp on one side and jumping off the other, back and forth in order to avoid actually going in. Finally, she tired of that, and jumped right in. We'll get there eventually...

More pics of the new facility tomorrow! The girls are in outside stalls for the night, and will be out with the pasture horses for the first time in the morning. Once they acclimate to their new surroundings, they'll be turned out 24/7, and I can't wait. The facility is gorgeous and the people are lovely.... what more can you ask for?