Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mare Personalities, Part II: Imogen

If I had set out to find P's complete opposite when I was searching for a new horse, I would have perfectly  found it in 'the old' Imogen. (I was obviously not looking for a different personality, nor was I looking at all... but that's what I found!) 'The old' Immy, when I first met her, was a nervous, skittery, panicky, terrified mess of a mare, but I knew there was more to her than met the eye. 

Those of you who have been following this blog since the beginning will remember how things started out with Immy, who was then simply named "Bay Girl." To quote the very first blogpost I put up on her.... 

"The story of The Uncatchable Number 267 begins with a moment in history without a past. The first time I laid eyes on the mare with only a number for a name, I thought, "Wow... that mare is so pretty. How did she end up like this?" I was in a golf cart at feed time, grain buckets in hand, riding around with the summer girl whose job I was taking over. "She's really skittish," she told me as I dumped her grain into her bucket, watching the mare snort warily at me from a distance. "I don't really know much about her."
Neither did anyone. All that we knew about the mare was that she had come from an embryo transfer program, and was carrying the foal of a recently deceased mare. She came with the number 257 as a name, and also had this unceremoniously branded onto her left buttcheek. We took to calling her "Bay Girl," as anything was better than a number for a name. She was half-wild, uncatchable, and unhandled. She kicked when you pick up her feet, she couldn't be haltered (and instead had to live in one with a catch rope), and she flinched away from human touch. She was also absolutely drop dead gorgeous and a lovely mover... which you often got a good glimpse of while she was running away in the opposite direction from you. 
We didn't know her breed, her age, her history, or anything about her. One thing was excruciatingly clear however.... someone at some point had been very, very mean to her. When all you are to the world is a uterus, no one cares enough to handle you with any sort of care or compassion.
I handled Bay Girl a few times over the following few months, but never for anything pleasant (here, let me give you your vaccines... let me shove dewormer down your throat.... let me hold you while we heavily sedate you for trimming...). The turning point came when all the horses came into the barn for the night due to bad weather. She lives outside in a halter with a catch rope, and we took her halter off just to see what she would do when we had to put it back on in the morning. Not surprisingly, she wanted nothing to do with it. Anything from her cheeks forward is apparently off limits for human hands in her mind, and anything near her ears and poll as well. I managed to somehow get my hand over her nose (which resulted in a lot of head tossing), and after she had backed up twice around the stall with me at her nose, she finally stopped and I somehow got the halter on. I think if I hadn't been the one feeding her for three months prior to this event, I would have never been able to even lay a hand on her, even in a stall. At this point, all I could do was feel sorry for her. How on earth did such a nice mare end up this way? She deserved so much more. 
I asked my boss if I could handle her. She said yes."

And thus, history was made. The only human contact the mare had ever really had was for quick, mean moments in time, and not surprisingly she wanted nothing to do with people. She lived alone in a small pen in a catch halter, and for the first two months that I knew her, I was her primary feeder and not much more. When I first started to work with her, she knew me as the food lady who hadn't been mean to her, and she started to allow herself to be caught and handled. It wasn't long before she started to wait at the gate for me, and slowly we progressed from there.

It wasn't easy. She was terrified of having her feet handled. She needed to be sedated for farrier work. I couldn't crosstie her properly because she was so afraid of having her face touched. Getting a blanket on and off her for the first time was a huge and terrifying ordeal for her at first. She couldn't even deal with having her mane brushed, she was so afraid of hands coming at her. Everything I did was subject to scrutiny, and her default reaction to anything questionable was to panic and bolt. (Surprisingly, the second she would hit the end of her lead rope, she would stop and stand still - she was very, very smart despite her fears.) And yet, despite her reactions, she surprised me with how smart she was. She picked up new things incredibly fast - one time and she understood, so long as it didn't scare her the first time. And absolutely nothing in her surrounding environment scared her - she wasn't spooky in the SLIGHTEST. The only things that scared her were humans.... she just didn't trust anything they did. 

Slowly, over the course of time, she learned about things. She learned to deal with halters and flymasks being put on and off (something she still struggles with). She learned about blankets and having her feet handled. She learned about baths, hairdos, leading, crossties, and hard tying. We didn't get to do much when she had her colt at foot, but once he was weaned, I started to work with her on the ground and on the lunge, and it wasn't long before she was lunging in both directions on and off the line. She wore a saddle pad with no problems, wore a surcingle with no problems, wore a bridle with no problems.... she was very, very easy to start! Bridling in and of itself was very difficult, seeing as she was extremely headshy (she still is), but once on, she had no problems. Around this time, thanks to all my AMAZING blog readers, we had collectively saved up enough money to buy her, and I brought her home in November of 2012. It didn't take her long to start wearing a saddle, be ponied off of Pangea, and start grounddriving. At the very end of December, I sat on her for the first time, and it was like a dream come true. She was a little sensitive and nervous, but once she figured it out, she settled right in. I was on cloud nine.

Now, a few months later, she is walk-trot-canter under saddle, going on trail rides, and starting to ride out alone in the big field (SUCH a big deal and she loves it - she drags me away from the barn, I can hardly make her go back!). Once she was meek, quiet and reserved, but not anymore - especially since the introduction of O-Ren into the herd, she has become especially bold, barging her way to the front of the line for snacks, food, or attention. She is still extremely body protective, and can be hypersensitive to touch and to stimuli (we've tried to address this as a possible magnesium deficiency, but hyperloading her with magnesium hasn't helped, nor has chamomile and a calming supplement... I think it's just her personality!), but it has definitely improved. She is still very headshy, but it is also improving.... it's just a very long road. I still have to be cautious with her when she is moving free in her pen, as she is very reactive to being approached from any direction that isn't from head-on - we've reached an agreement where I leave her alone when she is loose in her field on her own time, and she comes to me for interaction and for meals. (Since she is always the first one to the gate, this isn't ever a problem, but it does make for an interesting relationship. She comes to me for everything, but if she doesn't come to me, I don't chase her around. She makes the choice to interact with me - I know better than to run this mare around and force her to be caught. I can't imagine EVER doing this with another horse - with any other hard to catch horse, I'd set them to work until they decided to be caught, but this completely backfires with this mare and only makes her want to be with people less.)

She is unlike any horse I've ever met.... so smart and bold, yet so reserved and sensitive at the same time. One moment she is cuddling, and the next she is backed off at the end of her leadline. She trusts me, but she is still waiting for me to do something bad to her... her abuse went on for so long and is so deep-seated that it has molded who she is today. She has changed SO much over the course of the past year that it is impossible to say what kinds of changes she will continue to go through over the course of the next year, or the next several years. She is one of a kind, and she is wonderful. She is so very challenging in that I cannot treat her like any other horse on the planet - she is so very 'special needs' in her care, and is so emotionally delicate. But she is changing every day, becoming bolder and sweeter and stronger, and I can't wait to see where she is 6 months from now, a year from now.... one thing is for sure, she'll be more beautiful than ever.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Mare Personalities - As Requested! Part I: Pangea

I have a lot to write about in terms of working the ladies this week, but this post (a request from McFawn) fits right in with that. Immy, P, and O are all very different now from when I first started working with them, not just in appearance but in personality as well. All of them came to me with various issues, and while they will all always have their individual quirks, they've all really changed for the better.

Part I: Pangea

Pangea came to me as a confident, obnoxious and entirely too self-assured boss mare. Having owned her father, I knew the personality type well (bold as brass, afraid of nothing, go-anywhere-do-anything ATV), but P came with the additional bonus of being a mare who had been able to do whatever she pleased. She had been living out with a herd, doing whatever she wanted, and prior to that had been ridden by her weeble-wobble adult ammy rider. She launched her rider more than once and broke some of her bones in the process (actually in her sale contract she came with a specific "bucker" clause), and her rider was terrified of her. When I went to go see her, I had to do everything myself - catch her in the field, tack her up, lunge her, ride her, all without knowing hardly anything about her. She was rude and pushy, but totally push-button under saddle. Somebody had taught her well, that much was obvious. 

When I got her home, the first thing I did was install some manners. She had basically been allowed to do whatever she wanted, which ended immediately when she came to me. I'm strict when it comes to manners, I will be the first to admit it - you better not put a toe out of line or else you are going to get busted. I don't tolerate attitude, pushiness, moving into my space unwanted, dragging me around, lagging behind, barging ahead, wiggling while being worked with/tied/saddled/groomed/bathed/whatever, pawing, chewing, etc, etc, etc.... horses are too big and I am too small and I value my life too much to let them get away with the murder that so many people don't seem to care about! From day one, I let them know I am the Boss Mare, and that is the final word on it. P was no exception to this... she started out pawing for food (her old owner used to shove cookies into her mouth to get her to stop pawing, which effectively taught her to paw for cookies!), biting my trailer when being girthed up (she has huge white scarring on her withers from previous ill-fitting saddles), wiggling like crazy when being attended to, and barging forward when being led. Now, she stands like a lady and waits for her food, leads properly, stands quietly for everything (although she still hates being blanketed.... she doesn't do anything per se, but she stiffens up and narrows her eyes... she would rather be a wild naked animal!), and can even be trimmed while standing out in the field with no halter or anything. (Photo proof of that!) While she is bossy, she is not mean in any way, and would never make a face at people or give them attitude. She is the leader of the group of mares, but is totally benign in this role, and lets the lower ranking mares eat with her, hang out with her, and do everything that she does. Sometimes she moves them away with a mean face, and that's all she needs to do - they take right off and don't disturb her again. They are completely enamored with her, and are totally unable to function without her - they turn into Tweedledee and Tweedledum when she leaves, running around the field screaming their heads off for her. While she enjoys being fed cookies and snacks, she isn't particularly fond of coddling or being petted, and I get the impression that she only tolerates my grooming and doting because she knows she would get in trouble if she didn't! The only part of her that she really enjoys being fussed over is her ears - she will stand all day long and let you curry the insides of her ears. The harder and deeper the better! (She is exactly like her daddy in this respect - he would go to sleep when you would clip his ears! It was his favorite thing!) 

She can still be a total pill under saddle, when you ask her to do something that she doesn't feel is necessary (like slowing down - the mare power walks with the best of them!). Since most of her work is now relegated to trails only, this isn't a problem most of the time - but once in awhile I really have to get after her and reminder her that NO, we don't have to walk at 10,000 miles an hour all the time! From the moment you hop on her, she is all march, and strides out away from home even faster than she does coming back. She hates bits of all shapes and sizes, but she goes like gangbusters in a bitless bridle or a bosal. (It's not a teeth issue, as it never changed after her teeth were done... I honestly think she just doesn't like bits, plain and simple!) Years of compensating for her old injury left her with a completely right-wards sway to her body - even her feet all flare to the right, all of them! - and she of course rides this way as well. She'll never be sound really, but she is very comfortable and happy to get around. She is really a solid citizen, a stand-up kind of old gal, and she is every bit her father's daughter. 

Up next.... Immy!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Some More Comparisons!

O-Ren, not quite 4 weeks with me:

P-mare last February (2012), and P-mare this April:

Immy last March (2012), and Immy this April:

There was a long discussion on Facebook about why she was so unhealthy last year (check out her crappy body condition and her ripply feet!) but was still covered in shiny dapples, and is way way healthier this year but doesn't have a single dapple... I assumed it was because of possible ongoing gastric issues (she gets cowpats at the drop of a hat and stresses so easily, despite the one million things I've done for her - at this point we're thinking she may have permanent intestinal scarring from years of stress/parasites/poor diet), but someone mentioned that pregnancy hormones can do that too, and sure enough, some Google-sleuthing confirmed that for me. She's clearly a LOT healthier this year regardless.

Also, check out the changes in her feet, from flat, flared and ripples to well-connected and strong:

Just goes to show that sweet feed is JUNK FEED! It is my personal opinion that there is NEVER any reason to feed sweet feed to horses, EVER! 

Friday, April 19, 2013

3 Week Picture

3 weeks of work, and O-Ren is already changing....

I'll have to get some better pictures of her in the sunlight, she's starting to really shine!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

O Goes to School

I am happy to report that I am somewhat, more or less, on the mend, and am back in the saddle on a partly limited basis. The one getting the most focus this week has been O, but everyone has been working and all have been doing well - actually, P-mare has been the most obnoxious and belligerent of them all. She got reminded several times that she is almost 17 year old, damnit, and that she ought to be acting more her age!

Monday, O-Ren got a walk-trot ride, P-mare got a bareback hack around the field, and Immy got a lunge (my ankle was too sore for a third ride). The entire reason I ended up with O was because she would not go forward when you put your leg on, and would go no faster than a walk - when you put your leg on her, she would outright stop, make a face, look at your leg with annoyance, and pick up a foot. Basically, in all horsey ways possible, she would tell you to go to H and back. Since she has been here, the problem has completely changed from 'no go' to 'no stop'! I have NO problem with her going forward - she just wants to do everything her own way, and tells you that constantly. On Monday, she was HOT and about ready to pop a cork the entire ride. Things got interesting on the far end of the pasture (I went with S and her big yellow horse) when we spotted a rabbit on the other side of the pasture fence. "Look out," S told me. "That rabbit might jump out and spook her." I had no sooner located the rabbit when S shrieked, "OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THAT SNAKE! MOVE, IT'S HEADED RIGHT FOR YOU!" I looked down in alarm to see a HUGE 6 foot snake slithering at high speed directly for O's hind legs, and for my dog. When you see a giant snake in Texas, you automatically assume it is a rattlesnake, and you GET OUT OF THE WAY. I booted O forward in alarm, called Monster Dog, and we all took off on the other direction. S's husband came out and shot the thing, and we discovered it was not a rattler after all, just the biggest chicken snake on the planet. (It literally was longer than I am tall). I felt sort of bad that a harmless snake had to die, but you can't take chances - if it was a poisonous one that close to the house and any one of us or any one of the animals got bitten, we'd be in huge trouble. Texas is a scary, pokey, poisonous, stinging, sharp, prickly  venomous place to be - everything that lives here either stings, bites, or stabs in defense!
O quieted down somewhat during our ride, which was an improvement over the ride before. We trotted around for awhile at the top of the big field, and I let her have her head as much as I dared. She likes to curl her neck and avoid the bit, but spends a lot of time chomping on it necessarily. She'll go out to a contact, but she'll just as quickly root out against it, grab the bit, twist her head, invert, curl under... all manner of fun evasions. Thankfully, the teeth grinding does seem to be a one-time thing, since it has not happened again, and she was able more or less to stand quietly for a little bit when we stopped. (I know she has it in her to be quiet... at mealtimes when she gets tied up, she started off when she first arrived being a total hellion, thrashing around, chewing on the pipe, and pawing the moment she finished, and now she stands with a foot cocked and goes to sleep when she is finished. Patience, patience, patience.) I called it a day after she made some small effort to relax... that in and of itself was already an improvement.

I did somehow think that adding in a third mare would temper the psycho-attachment issues the mares have, but in reality it has somewhat compounded the problem. Here are Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum totally about to totally lose their marbles when I took P out to ride:

The second I turned to leave, they both panicked, galloping around their pen in total hysteria and screaming their heads off. They had NO idea what to do without P there. 
Mares, seriously. Perhaps there is a de-vocalization surgery I can look into...

On Tuesday, P-mare had double babysitting duty. We started off the day with a 2-hour early morning ride out in the big cattle pasture, S on her yellow horse and myself on P with O ponied alongside. O had never ponied before that I know of, but she took to it perfectly well. P, on the other hand, got a wild hair after a giant wolf-size coyote came bouncing out of the brush in front of us, and I had to hand O-Ren off to S for a bit while I reinstalled some steering and brakes on P. She was a total turd... I have no idea what got into her.

P was pretty pooped by the time we got home.

That evening, there was a barrel race that S wanted to go to, so we loaded up her yellow horse and both P and Immy, and off we went. I was going to just take Immy, but on second thought I wasn't sure how she would handle the loudspeakers, so I brought P along for good measure, just in case. I needn't have worried - Immy was a TOTAL angel and spent most of the time asleep, or following placidly along. P, on the other hand, was wide awake and raring to go, and I had to school her AGAIN and remind her that rearing and charging off after the yellow horse whenever he left was not an acceptable thing to do. I had a simple snaffle in, but even that was ticking her off to no end, so I switched to a thin bosal that S had in her trailer, and she did much better with that. What can I say, the mare hates bits and always has, good dentistry and soft hands be darned.... she just goes way better bitless, and since she is now mostly relegated to babysitting duties, I don't really bother with bits anymore. 

Immy really was perfect. She went to sleep while horses were running the pattern, and didn't even wake up when a train went by!! Next time, she goes without P!

On Wednesday, O was the chosen child for work due to other time constraints. S and I got up REALLY early, and were tacked up and on our way out to the big pasture by 7AM. O started off screaming for her friends and balking a bit, and even stopped for a moment and did her little kickout at my leg. That was the first time she had done it since she left her old property, and thankfully it only lasted a second - one cluck from me and she moved right on. (Mostly, she just needs to be reminded constantly that she is not the decision-maker in this relationship! She was allowed to do whatever she wanted before, whenever she wanted, so being told NO is a big thing for her.)
Once out in the big field, she was hot and springy, but mostly held herself together. When she gets bored, or stops paying attention to the things around her, she likes to curl her neck up and play aggressively with the bit, so I may play around with bits that have fewer fun jingly moving parts to them. (Currently she's in a thin 3-piece loose ring snaffle... so it moves and jingles a LOT!) She crossed two muddy streams with no hesitation, but had some total freakouts when S's horse was headed one way and I asked her to head in another. I got tired of her high energy at some point, and said, okay, we're just going to trot and keep trotting until you simmer yourself down. And off we went. 
And we trotted, and trotted, and trotted, and trotted. She started out with every evasion in the book - twisting her head and going sideways, slowing down, grabbing the bit and speeding up, tossing her head - but I just sat chilly and gave her X length of rein and X speed that she had to be going. She bounced all over the place between those parameters, but I just ignored her and kept on going. And I'll be darned if that mare finally didn't just knock it off and start reaching out to the bit and settling down. Once she figured out that all that excess energy that was going into trying to figure out how to take control of the situation wasn't worth it, she stopped trying and let me dictate instead. When she was good, she got heavily praised. We even tried a little canter, and it went beautifully.
Obviously, there is a LONG way to go with a mare like this who has been allowed to control everything her entire life, but this is VERY promising for only a few rides. Mostly, she just needs consistency and wet saddle pads. Lots and lots of them.

(Yes... embrace the sleepy, red mare. Embrace it!)

Today a huge cold front and some nasty storms came stomping across the state, so everything was too muddy and miserable for rides. It is going to be 33 tonight.... WHAT IS GOING ON? I am not sure what winter is playing at here, but I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be gone at LEAST two months ago. Apparently I was wrong!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

End of March Analysis; April Goals!

It is way past time to go over Immy's March goals, and make some more for April!

Immy March Goals:

1) Pool once a week (and Eurociser - some weeks will be twice a week)
This I would consider a success, simply because I did it whenever possible. My parameters for 'possible' times for her to swim centered around one main requirement: there had to be an open paddock for her to be in all day while I worked. (Otherwise, she'd have to stand in a stall all day, totally alone. Not worth it.) Whenever there was a space open in the paddocks, she went for her weekly or bi-weekly swims. She also went in the Eurociser as planned as well!

2) Ride 3 times a week (4, some weeks)
I tried very hard to make this a reality, but it didn't quite end up working out every single week. I had a few weeks where I was running in a blind panic, working all day and trimming all night, trying to finish up my degree as well as planning for a mid-month practicum. That has all come and gone now, thank god!

3) Being going comfortable W-T-C by the end of the month on a light contact
Success! She is now walk-trot-canter, although the canter is still a work in progress - she just needs more miles.

4) Continue desensitization with bridle, head - do massages with daily groomings
Success! This is forever an ongoing process, and it is still a LONG way from being where it needs to be... actually, her improvements haven't really been all that large. The more you press the manner, the worse she gets about it, so it has been hard to find a balance where she is comfortable and progressing.

5) Second craniosacral appointment
I never reconnected with the craniosacral therapist - she never responded to my last email, so I'm still not sure what is going on with this.

6) Set up a daily/weekly/monthly calendar ahead of time, and stay with! (I always do this, but last month I hardly stuck with anything I had pre-planned!)
I did much better with this this month, but obviously I had a LOT going on in March, so while there were improvements, it still wasn't perfectly spot-on. It's actually very hard to set goals with Immy, as a lot of the time I just throw my plans for the day out the window - I have to go on what she is feeling like that particular day.


Immy April Goals:
1) Trailer out to a new place (arena, trail) to ride for the first time off-property!
2) Ride 3-4 times a week
3) Continue with w-t-c work under saddle, & start to walk and trot over poles!
4) TRAIL RIDES! Go out with P, go out with Rue, and start to go out ALONE!
5) Continue relaxation and desensitization, as always!


O-Ren April Goals:
1) Work on the lunge and on the ground - in equipment, work on obedience, correctness of work
2) Start to just work quietly under saddle on a long rein, going out on the trail with friends, light saddle work - walk and trot, RELAXATION and OBEDIENCE
3) Clean her all up - bang tail, pull mane, clippers, etc! Makeover!
4) Fix up her toes - they are a mess!
5) Trail rides!


P-Mare April Goals:
1) Trails twice a week! :) I've been riding P-mare pretty regularly on the trail, the other two ladies just tend to overshadow her in her semi-retirement... but I've had some requests to update on her more often, so I will definitely make sure she gets her fair share of the limelight!


Some of these goals are obviously already complete, like fixing up O's feet and taking Immy to her first off-site arena ride... I'm just late to post, that's all!

O's new RF:

Her feet were all super long, superficially cracked in the quarters, and in general sort of messy and poor. They'll be nice, once she builds up the back of her foot! No idea what happened at that big event line - I figure that is where she moved from Michigan to Texas - but it is interesting to see that the cracks stop there and the growth tighten up significantly above it. They'll be an interesting documentation, that is for sure!

O in the Faux-ssoa today:

Tomorrow, back under saddle!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

When Life Throws Rocks At You

Hey look! I'm alive! I'm unfortunately not particularly well though, at the moment, which is why I actually have time to sit down and write. Last Tuesday, I was mowing my lawn when a rogue rock shot out from underneath the blade and cracked me in the ankle. Hours of agony found me sobbing in the ER, taking radiographs and rolling around on the hospital bed in horrible agony. The PA decided there was no break, but that I'd "be fine" in two days... three days later I was SO NOT FINE, and went for a second opinion. While the second opinion guy agreed that there was no break, thank god, he did say that I have a massive contusion involving both soft tissue and bone, which is just as painful and long-healing as a break or fracture would be (just without risk of re-breaking the bone). I suppose I will take that for what it is worth.... right now I am still on crutches and high doses of pain meds, and feeling in general sort of miserable.

Thankfully, this injury has given me time to actually SIT DOWN AND WRITE! My life pre-injury was at the breaking point, absolutely on dangerous overload and I was nearing short-circuiting rapidly. Now, I suddenly have time on my hands to just sit on my butt and HEAL.... and I'm not really enjoying that very much either. I WANT to be up and doing things!

I need to do two huge things to catch up on blogging:
1) Monthly Goals
2) Updates on O-Ren!

So we'll start with the O-mare! 

O has now been with me for not quite two weeks. I picked her up on the last day of March, gave her a day off to chill, and then set her to work on the lunge. While she is outright adorable and in your face and pocket all the time, she needed some serious boundaries set, since she had absolutely no idea what Proper Horsey Behavior Around People really was. Given how outrageously she overreacted at some of her corrections - shooting to the end of her rope, panicked, flailing around and throwing her head in the air like she expected to be smacked in the face - I can only conclude that somebody was really, really mean to her, but gave her absolutely no parameters or reasons as to why they were being really mean to her. She was punished, but not at the right times, and had no connection at all from behavior to punishment. She kind of just had no idea what was going on, or what was expected of her, so she probably just continued to do whatever she felt like doing and dealt with the random beatings as they came. Her personality is 100% opposite of Immy's, so this doesn't seem to have affected her friendliness in any way, but it has somewhat dampened her willingness. She responds BEAUTIFULLY to praise, and goes out of her way to be told she is a good girl, and this will make things easy. She wants to do the right thing, she just has no idea what is actually expected of her.

The girls, by the way, all hit it off perfectly:

And they all had baths as well.... look, I found a fluffy red horse under all that hair! (She is in desperate need of a mane pull... yikes.)

The first day on the lunge, I outfitted her in a surcingle and some really loose sidereins, and kept it short and sweet (since she is way out of shape). Mostly I just wanted her to listen to voice commands and be obedient, since she had been so obnoxious on the lunge when her old owner lunged her (running around, pulling, doing whatever she wanted at whatever speed she wanted, stopping and coming in to her whenever she felt like it). I got some definite attitude, some face-making, some outright ignoring, and some running around in funny oblong ovals with no regard to the person in the middle of the circle. I was stupid enough to not have my whip with me (habit, I think, as I never use it with Immy), so I made due with some Very Angry Body Language, most of which was ignored. There was nothing mean in her behavior, she just did not see any reason to listen to me. This was more or less what I expected, and while she did finish on a very good note, I made sure to remind myself to remember the lunge whip the following day.

(O-Ren... welcome to Boot Camp Hell.)

And Miss Perfect, of course!

There was also a LOT of mannering the first few days during mealtimes... she ties well, thank god, but there was a TON of gnawing on the pipe fence, pawing, and general wiggling around when she finished her meal and became bored. This has since subsided, and while she does pick up a foot every now and again, she is quick to put it down with a word from me. The fussing, wiggling, gnawing, and eating things has since totally stopped. She's not stupid, that's for sure!)

The second day of lunging, S wanted to take her big yellow horse to a local indoor to ride (since it was raining and muddy out), so I opted to toss both Immy and O-Ren in the trailer and go along with her. Her second day of lunging started out much the same as the first, and went along the same lines (surcingle, sidereins), only this time I had my whip. She oogled at the cows penned up on the outside of the arena, moved in some oblong circles at first, and then settled into a good workout. Immy was an absolute ANGEL, standing on the tie line like a lady while I worked O, and was a general foot-perfect superstar under saddle. We only walked and trotted and worked on steering, no cantering, but this was the first time I've ridden her anywhere but at home, and this was also the first time she had been in an arena with horses trotting and cantering around her and directly at her. She didn't bat an eye. She was SO AWESOME. Also, I mounted her from the ground for the first time... THAT was also a huge deal, seeing as she tends to still be a little stiff and tickling around the girth area despite all the desensitization that we've done. She stood like a rock! What a champ!

(Immy being perfect, O being really, really obnoxious in the background. Yes, those are tie lines from the ceiling, attached on pulleys! Awesome because the horse can wiggle around and be silly and not be able to dig holes or chew on the wood!)

Both O and Immy had the following day off, and both went back to work on Thursday. The girls were out in the pasture when I went to go get them, and I brought them in and fed them dinner. I decided it was time to test O's issues under saddle, and lunged her first, just to make sure she was quiet. I saddled her up, headed out, mounted up, and made the unfortunate discovery that I had forgotten to close the girls' gate, and both Immy and P came bolting back out to the big pasture again. O, being in flaming heat, watched them take off with alarm, and stood on high alert. Hmm, I could use this to my advantage... this mare absolutely refuses to go faster than a walk, as I understood it... maybe this would encourage her to move somewhere!
I was right. She was more than willing to trot! She was NOT, however, willing to steer or stop. Right... well, I suppose that was to be expected.
We went back in the arena after some walking around, and it only took a gentle nudge to bump her up into the trot - none of the fuss that I had experienced before. I did have an anxious, fussy, worried mess of an in-heat mare on my hands, and there was a lot of head-tossing, teeth grinding, and moments of loss of steering. (She has not done any teeth grinding before or after this incident, with that same bit and with different bits as well... we'll have her teeth looked at shortly, for sure, but I think it was an isolated incident due to her anxiety about her friends leaving her at speed and being suddenly alone. If it continues under saddle, I'll break out my short shank hackamore and see what we have. I don't do the teeth grinding thing, since it reminds me of nails on a chalkboard, so it was all I could do to hold it together and not start screaming bloody murder and putting corks in my ears. I HATE IT.)
I hopped off the second I was able to get her to stop and stand for more than a nano-second, and called it a day. Next time, I will ride her with the mares tied nearby and see what that does. I was SUPPOSED to be riding her all last week, but obviously, I have been on crutches... not exactly an ideal situation!

On Friday and Sunday of her first week, she went back to lunging and groundwork, with Saturday off (so we could go to Dallas and do the Color Run!). I worked her in sidereins the first day, and my Faux-ssoa the second. She did very well in both, although the Faux-ssoa was not rigged properly due to a certain brown mare (ahem: Gogo) breaking both the rings on my surcingle for lunging equipment attachments. I wanted to rig it low, but had no option other than to make up a new and imaginary setting... it effectively rendered the backstrap totally useless, but it served the purpose I needed it to serve, so there you go!

Immy, the perfect one, showing O how it is done. It kind of bums me out that the only pictures I ever really get of her are lunging ones instead of riding ones.... there's usually no one around to take any pictures!

Part of the reason I opted for the Faux-ssoa was that she did not want to take a consistent contact with the sidereins. That is perfectly understandable, so I decided to switch it up and try for something different. It worked pretty well, despite the useless backstrap!

A little deeper than I'd like to see, in theory, but this mare holds all her tension in her back and neck, so getting her to lengthen out over her topline is a good first step. 

In just those four lunge sessions, she went from belligerent, face-making, unresponsive, and unable to stay in the gait she was directed to maintain (or stay on a circle at all, really), to listening to walk-trot-canter-whoa and staying out where she belongs on her circle with no fuss or attitude. SMART cookie, this one, despite her tinge of red-mare-ness.

And then, of course, I blew out my ankle. Bah.

So, I've been out a week. I'm on some very heavy-duty painkillers and steroids, which isn't exactly my first choice but is making a huge difference in the amount of swelling and pain I am dealing with. Today was the first day I felt strong enough to lunge both girls, just in halters and just to stretch their legs a bit while I am still lame. They were both lazy and quiet.... I like it!

Tomorrow, more lunging and groundwork, in equipment this time. I am hoping by Monday that I will be strong enough to get back on, but no guarantees. We'll see.

Either way, I have some goals to go over! Stay tuned for an update tomorrow!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Still being an awful blogger - but not for long!

I've obviously still been a horrible blogger as of late. Life is in full swing overload mode, and priorities are priorities - it is actually 4:15 in the morning right now, and I haven't actually gone to bed yet, seeing as we have company coming in tomorrow and I have only just finished cleaning the house. I also just finished my last exam last night/this morning, which means I am officially DONE with the schooling part of my school (2.5 years later!). All I have left are my case studies and a final practicum, and I will be ESA certified. Since I'll already have all my case studies gathered, I'll also be able to pursue AHA certification as well. There are absolutely 0 AHA certified trimmers in the state of Texas, so I'll be the first if I am selected. (Lots of AANHCP people in the area though... I am NOT and will NEVER be AANHCP affiliated.) 

There are going to be exciting changes in the upcoming near future. There is nothing set in stone yet, but I'm gearing up to cut out the excess in my life in order to take on more clients (they are banging my door down and I literally do not have enough daylight to fit them all in anymore - I work for 10 hours a day without so much as a lunch break and then trim every single day from the second I get off the farm until it dark, and THEN have to find time to squeeze my own mares in. Days off are filled with trim clients from start to finish. I can't do both anymore!). I don't have any serious announcements yet, but things will be changing shortly, and I will have more time to devote to my girls, to my Future Hubs, to my critters, to my business, and thank god to my semblance of a social life. I am a hard worker and I love to be busy, but I live for my downtime, and I haven't had essentially any regular relaxation time for well over a year now. Even my "vacations" (a day off here and there, once a month or so) have been filled with studies or trims or whatnot. There is only so much a person can do before they literally just can't do it anymore. 

But, now that things are about to wind down, I will be able hopefully to start regularly blogging again. The mares are getting worked of course, and regularly (I find time to cram them in no matter what), but at the end of the day I just literally don't have the time right now to write about it. I am exhausted and dead on my feet but still going no matter what... sitting down to write has not been a priority, mostly because whenever I sit, I pass out into lala land. Even now, I feel like limp spaghetti... but I'm afraid to sleep now, because I think I will probably just flat out not wake up. Such is life, I suppose.

I guess I better go stand up and shower... there's no point in sleeping tonight, I have to be up in 15 mins away. I'll work a 10 hour day, ride the mares, come home and entertain guests, and then on Saturday I'll actually have a DAY OFF... we're going to do the Color Run 5K in Dallas, provided I find the energy to drag my sorry carcass out of bed at 3am so I can feed the horses and drive to Dallas on time!

(How I am feeling right about now... except without the joy of being able to actually pass out.)