Friday, June 26, 2009

The Mask Task

Ducky and Dakota have been getting their pink noses sunburnt recently, and they aren't too keen on the old sunscreen. "It tastes awful!" So Linda popped over last night with some very stylish masks for them.

This morning I brought the Fells in for their feed, and took "The Boy's" food out to the track. Hmmm. Dakota had lost his mask. Wonder if it was an accident?

I spent some time grooming Bruce in the new shady hangout. He trimmed the big elm tree for me a bit. A job that surely needs doing! We had a nice time just chatting about life and discussing whether it's okay or possibly disrespectful for a pony to put his head down to eat weeds when someone is grooming his mane.

Got Iona and groomed her, too. Tomorrow is hoof trimming day, and as I was picking out her feet I was thinking about this. I'm not really happy with the way the ponies behave when they get their feet trimmed. It's not that bad, and the trimmer says it's fine, but I feel that rather than being progressively better it's just messy. They play around and take their feet back when they feel like it, and because it's not that bad we just let it go. So, tomorrow I hope I will feel like I can talk to John and Sara (the trimmers) about this and maybe we can work on it a little. I know it's not up to them to train my horses, on the other hand, I'm not sure whether anyone other than them can get them ponies to be more respectful toward them. They seem like great people, but like all busy professionals I find it a little hard to talk to them about anything that's out of the ordinary. So I guess this will be a test of my people skills.

Iona and I then worked on some sideways tasks. She's really good at these, always has been, really. The only thing I am struggling with is sideways towards. No doubt we will have a breakthrough pretty soon! I've also been wanting to work on circling on the 45' line, but once again it was just too hot. If I didn't have the energy to stand there and send her, I could hardly expect her to run around! As I've been working through the tasks on the self assessment checklists I realise that I've probably been looking for way too much "perfection" as opposed to excellence. It's a hard call to make, sometimes, but when I look at the standard that Pat is finding acceptable on the audition videos that people post on YouTube, then I think I can judge things a little better. So I've been trying to be more progressive. It doesn't matter if it takes us a few tries, (or more often for me to have a few tries at setting things up better!) I'm beginning to see that often we should just move on.

I mounted up with the bareback pad, and we headed out to look for Dakota's mask. I thought we'd start by riding the rail of the grazing cell they were in last night. Just over halfway around we found it. Next problem: Iona was pretty scared of it! And since my plan was to pick it up with my carrot stick without getting off we had some work to do.

We circled it until she could put her foot on it - both directions. Then we sidepassed over it both ways, too, just for good measure. I then realised that it was fine on the ground, but that picking it up was probably still going to be a bit dangerous. I prodded it with my carrot stick and it moved!!!! Okay, so ,,, pushing position and let's work on our independent seat. We played the spooky game for 5 or 10 minutes with the mask on the ground. Next step, do it all again with the mask in the air, dangling from the end of the stick. Lot's of fun!

Now I just had to get the thing closer to her, and she's never great with things like this in zone 2.
The best thing was that I knew I had all the time I needed to take. And the time I've spent with the umbrella and the flag recently really paid off, too. I was pleased that getting it up onto her withers and tucking it into the handle of the pad was pretty easy. I was very careful to keep watching her to make sure she hadn't checked out into LaLa Land, though. It's not easy to see her expression from her back, sometimes, with all that hair. So we did it, and had a little victory lap on the way back with our prize! Hooray!

Monday, June 22, 2009

In the shade

I didn't get an early start this morning, and by the time I had finished the chores it already felt too hot to play. I didn't feel too happy about that, as I really wanted to do something with Iona. However, as I headed for the house I had an idea. There is a big shade tree near the back door, maybe we could do something there!

So I went and got her on the 45' line. I brought the umbrella, as we've been working on being less scared of that. I laid it down, and got a chair for me and just let her nibble the plants and tree leaves for awhile. She would do that for a bit, then check in with me and blow on my face and lick my hands. Very sweet, but pretty introverted behaviour. Now I'm thinking about it, maybe it had something to do with the umbrella being there (or not). I was sitting pretty close to the tree, and asked her to squeeze between me and the trunk - just seeing how little it would take. Don't think I was clear enough the first time, there were a few questions.... I backed her up and tried again. Success! Then lots of licking me, my hands, my shirt, etc. I used to think this was very introverted, almost catatonic behaviour. Then I began to wonder if she was just killing time. Anyway, it went on for quite awhile and for some reason I didn't pay that much attention, and then decided to stand up. Wow! She just about jumped out of her skin! She was definitely somewhere else. Interesting!

Interspersed with a little play, I took some photos and we just generally hung out. We worked on some yo-yo and our draw seems to be better again. Stick to me was dull, maybe we were just too hot. I finished up playing around with the umbrella a bit. She was pretty good with it, and let me touch her from about the withers back and wanted to sniff it when I sort of swung it around her head. That was a good place to quit.

I was so glad that we spent that time together. The weekend was kind of hectic, and I didn't see enough of Iona. It was great to unwind together.

Posted by Picasa


The New Me
Yesterday was the longest day of the year and I really missed Scotland. Sunrise here 5:30/sunset 8:20. Sunrise in Edinburgh 4:30/sunset 10pm. Just not fair! It's hotter here and I need that early/late daylight to play with horses in the cool! Still, I suppose if we had those extra hours of sunlight it might be even hotter here, so I guess maybe it's okay! According to the forecast earlier in the week, we were going to get out first day of 100F (38C), however we didn't. I don't mind waiting!
Don't know where the time went! It's been ages since I've written anything here. Let's see, what's been happening -

Linda's Horses

Coco and Albus headed home last week, but Linda decided to leave Dakota and Ducky here for awhile. They look pretty contented out there, so I think they would say it was a good decision. I am looking forward to having more opportunity to ride with Linda. We have had a couple of good sessions, recently working on things together. Linda has been working on her fluidity and I help where I can. One evening recently she rode Iona while I played with her. Iona was a real star, and by the end of the session they looked really harmonious in trot. Linda has promised to tell you all about this stuff from her own point of view in the comments section.

I'm wanting to work on my fluidity, too, particularly as regards riding different horses and feeling more confident with their movement. I've become very "specialised" to the way Iona moves, and I realised that most of my hang-ups about riding Bruce are to do with the way he moves. I know that if I stick with it, I will get used to him, but I have decided it would do me good to ride some other horses, too. It's a great opportunity to do that while D & D are here, as they are pretty trustworthy characters and I should be able to concentrate on fluidity quite a bit when riding them.

Weather, weeds and machinery

We've had unusually wet weather for this time of year. That means it rained about once a week for several weeks in a row. Some of the rains were pretty heavy and prolonged. I have to admit I really enjoyed it, as things stayed cool. The downside is that I now have huge weeds in my pastures. Huge numbers of huge weeds. Not good. The pastures aren't in great shape, anyway, but the grass is losing the race and the weeds are winning. Eek! (The upside is that the majority of weeds are kosha, so they are tasty and nutritious pony food.) It's got to be mowed. So, as of Saturday, I am a tractor owner. Don't picture me on a lovely shiny machine - my "new" tractor is almost as old as I am, but it runs, and I hope it will keep on doing that. My mower arrives tomorrow. It will make a change from fencing.

Midsummers Day

Hey! Where's Linda? We want our breakfast. The Fells are having theirs!


Linda and I got together today to play and ride. We mostly played independently. The visitors yard is proving to be a handy second play area, and Linda helped me roll a couple of pedestals in there, as mine have been leaning against a wall "homeless" all this time. It didn't take long for Bruce and Iona to start climbing on them, even without any human input. How interesting! I choose Bruce for the day. He breezed through a bunch of L3 friendly game tasks (extreme friendly: check! flag: check! toothpick on neck: check!) What a cool dude!

Although we have had some nice sessions in smaller areas, Bruce has more fun and is more willing if he gets to go somewhere, so riding around the farm with Linda was perfect. We decided to go along the grazing track. The horses have been pretty well fed recently, and also staying in the loafing shed a lot to avoid the flies. As a result, they aren't using the full extent of the track. By taking Bruce and Ducky that way, Iona and Dakota were encouraged to follow, and see that I had opened up some more of the track recently - complete with fresh grazing. That worked out well, and it was kind of fun having them along for the trip. It also provided a few interesting moments where Linda had to defend her "herd of two" as Ducky is bottom in dominance and he got pushed around a little by Iona and Dakota. We really wished that we had brought a carrot stick. Oops!

Bruce and I got on well. However, once we got to the north side all the horses got a little high and jumpy. One of those Horse Eating Doves flew up, and Linda sat Ducky's response very well! I also was aware that a few days before, I had lost Bruce walking along that stretch on line. When we came to the little ditch (not even a jump) I got it into my head that he was going to take off as he crossed it, so I hopped off. I was really pleased that he never left me on line, as that is one of his habits. However. I created a pattern of lateral flexion, disengage the hindquarters, then eat a little grass, that he picked up on really well. Next time, I will just do that ridden, I imagine.

When we came to the current end of the track (still haven't made it quite all the way around) we discussed our options. Ride back; take the tack off and let them go, and pick the tack up with the truck later; or maybe cut across the farm. Linda chose to ride Ducky back to the yard on one of the cross trails. I felt Bruce had done enough, so I dumped his tack. This was a nice opportunity for Linda and Ducky to do a bit on their own - including a couple of gates.

After lunch, Linda and Ducky had another first, as we decided to lead him back to his pals behind the pickup. That went fine once he stopped trying to race the pickup!

Ready for takeoff!

This is what happened at the end of the track when I called the Fells...

Here they come!

Look out

Outta here!

You called?
Linda then offered to help me with a few chores (bless her!) in the now blistering heat. We did what we could, then retired to the cool of the house to watch a bit of the Freestyle Patterns DVD. Ooh! More carrot stick riding required, we decided!

Although we had missed Sara and JR's company (next time, for sure, Sara!) we did get to see them, as they invited us over for a barbecue. It was a fab evening, and Sara and JR are both great cooks! What a fine way to round off the day. My stomach has nearly returned to its normal size now...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Coco's Rambles

Coco was out of the pen this morning when I got up. Albus was sobbing because his roommate had left without saying goodbye. (Boy, I get the whole Eeyore thing now!) I went into the feed/tack room to get his halter and he ran in there to see what there was to eat. Well, at least that made him easy to catch. I put him back in and hoped it was a fluke. Couldn't see where he'd got out.

After chores I played with Iona, The first task I tried was the toothpick on the neck. There is a whole saga attached to this ... Sara gave Bruce and Iona a number of vaccinations for me over the past few months. The first one didn't go too well with Iona, and I could see that we were on our way to Iona having a MAJOR ISSUE about needles as a result. Since it was Sara who had to give the shots, I asked her to work with Iona on this. It was a big ask. As anyone who has seen Iona when she is scared of stuff like this will know, the combination of her dominance and spookiness can get real interesting real fast.

I was so busy that I really just left it to Sara, and she is pretty busy, too. However, she got the job done without too much upset, and no sneaking. I admit, I was tempted to sneak! Anyway, I wondered how the task would go after all that. Non event. I poked her, she turned her head to me, and we were done. WELL DONE SARA!! Maybe I should just get her to do all my trainng....

We worked a little on lead by the mane, and that went well, too. Then some yo-yo stuff on the 45' line. My draw is a bit broken. Especially at any gait faster than a reluctant plod. I think that might be just because we haven't played much lately, and that would be Iona's default response. Also tried a little zone 5 driving with just 1 rein, and that went pretty well. Although she will still try to just turn around and intentionally tangle herself up as a way to say "I'm done!". Good reminder to me to keep the session short and fun for her and stop on a good note!

Jumped on bareback and did some figure 8s at a walk. These were really nice - she is bending her ribs nicely. I had clipped finesse reins to her halter rather than bother to put her hackamore on, and I realised that we did all our freestyle riding without anything to spank with, and it just wasn't an issue. I think I used my hand on her rump once. That is really quite an improvement when I think about it.

Then we headed out to the pasture to do some circles on the 45'. That started off with just wanting to stop and eat. I played it cool and just kept asking politely. She got herself going after a bit, but then started with the nasty faces. I clipped her in zone 1 a few times with the snap, as Linda P taught in a session awhile back. Twice this produced a rear. It was nice to see that amount of spirit. Iona used to do this all the time when she was younger and we were just learning the circle game. The attitude improved, though, and she really got into it and became very zippy. I never got her all the way out to 45' but we had a great time with transitions and a few changes of direction. I feel like the flying changes might be there when I need them soon! And I bet that once Iona starts doing them she will think they are cool.

With all the circling I knew our liberty would be good, so I took the halter off and played a little. Still no draw. (I hate the truth!) I then did quite a bit of driving sideways and hide the hiney, then drive the front end over. Draw was a bit better after that. We walked back to the track at liberty where I turned her out.

After lunch, guess who I found grazing behind the house? Mr Coco. I still couldn't see where he is getting out, but I went around and measured the height of the bottom strand of tape, and it was pretty variable. I just eyeballed it when I lowered it the day he arrived. So I spent a little time setting it all at about 22 inches. I hope that's the magic height.

When I went out at dusk to let the horses into the grazing cell, they all came running. (New cell, yummy grass.) Bruce then drove Linda's horses deep into the cell and came tearing over to me with Iona. They were being bothered by some kind of bugs, and I swear Bruce was asking for fly spray. I went to get it, only to see them running the other way up the track. However, when they saw me they turned and headed back again. I went in and started spraying them. They were really glad to get it, Bruce was trying to shove Iona out of the way to get me to do him twice. He was really bargy! After I came in I heard them thundering up and down the track, trying to outrun the flies, I guess....and Coco whinnying....wonder where he'll be in the morning.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A December Afternoon in Scotland

It was a stormy day yesterday. We got about 20% of our annual rainfall in about 4 hours. I didn't get a lot done outdoors. However, I learned my lesson with Coco. He gets tied up now while I am turning the big boys in and out of the pen. I can't say he appreciates this, but it works really well for me!

Because of the weather, it got dark earlier than usual, and before I knew it I was headed out to find the horses on 160 acres in the dark. Thank goodness Dakota is light colored! He was a beacon. They were all near the same area they had been in the previous evening. Ducky came straight over and let me put his halter on. I have been giving them a treat after the halter is on, and I think it's helping. Dakota wasn't so keen, but I figured that if I started leading his buddy away he'd change his ideas. It's easier to lead just one horse, anyway. Dakota walked ahead of us on the track, the Fells were around, but not interacting. Soon we came to the gate I wanted to go through, to cut across the pasture. We'd used it the night before, too. I stopped by it and gave Dakota a meaningful look. He stopped and let me know I could halter him then. Easy, He gets it!

By now it was pitch black, and they were both a tiny bit spooky, but they were very trusting. I wonder if they noticed that I was a little spooked, too! I tried to be the best leader I could be. We had a hairy moment when we came to a stretch of the path that was flooded. I had no idea whether they would cross water. They did, after thinking it over. It was a little deeper than I thought, got my feet a bit wet. The whole thing reminded me of so many winter afternoons I've had in Scotland, bringing horses in, or turning them out, in the dark, about 4 in the afternoon. (I remember one place where about 100 yards of the path to the field would run like a river 15 or 20 inches deep when it rained.) There was something strangely cosy about having the yard lights on and having lots of horses to feed, etc. Today I turned D&D out for the rest of their stay, providing that all goes well.

Today I made a lot of progress on the track fence. Soft ground makes for easy post driving! Tomorrow, it looks like we will be back to hot weather.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fells to the rescue!

Yesterday Linda's four horses arrived for a little visit, as she's off to a nursing conference. She had to bring them in two loads, and first to arrive were Coco the mini and Albus the donkey. Cute and no trouble at all. Linda, herself, was looking a little flustered, and had a tale to tell about how her Bassett hound, Louie, had a bone stuck fast on his lower jaw. So as well as two 80 mile round trips to my place hauling her horses, she also was going to have to fit in a trip to the vet. She had spoken to the vet, who said she would have to bring Louie in for sedation to cut the bone off. Eek!

Linda said that Louie was pretty calm about the whole thing. I couldn't believe that what went on Louie's jaw wouldn't come off again with a little coaxing, but Linda assured me that it was stuck fast. "Hmmmm," I said, "don't you have a Dremmel?" So when Linda returned with Ducky the quarter horse and Dakota the Appaloosa/Paint, she also brought Louie and her Dremmel. Louie brought his bone.

The only problem was, we couldn't figure out how the darn Dremmel went together. We were about to phone JR when Sara phoned us. They arrived shortly armed with JR's drill with a cutting wheel, a can of non-stick cooking spray (worth a try) and of course the girls. We gave Louis a couple of doses of Rescue Remedy. A short wrestling match on the porch with the can of spray (mmmm, butter flavoured!) confirmed the diagnosis of Acute Stuck Bone. So Sara held Louie's head and Linda sat on him while JR got to work with the power tools. I entertained Summer and Samantha and we watched the action out on the porch through the front window.

The operation was a complete success, and not a drop of Louie's blood was shed!

Ducky and Dakota are able to go out on the track with the Fells, as they already know one another from the months when I lived at Linda's place while I was househunting. However, as they have not been on grazing for years, I only turned them out into the current grazing cell for a few hours yesterday. We will work up to them staying out all the time over a few days, if all goes well. Linda stayed long enough to help me catch them, which was great, as they were a little awkward about it. Only about 10 minutes worth of awkward, though, so that wasn't too bad. They all settled in nicely for the evening. That is once I lowered the bottom strand of tape about 4 inches after I retrieved Coco when he slipped under trying to get at Ducky's feed bucket.

The little guys will have to stay in the visitors' yard, though, as they would just scoot under all my track fencing, and probably get too fat anyway. I will do my best to keep them entertained. A couple of small elm branches blew down this afternoon, so I threw those in for them to nibble. Coco is quite indignant that his big friends are out running around and he is stuck in the yard!

It was interesting to watch Ducky and Dakota exploring the track today. Bruce and Iona were having a lazy morning in the loafing shed, and so D&D stayed quite close to the yards. (Dakota, in particular, loves spending his time in a shed. Maybe Bruce and Iona thought if they left it, he would move in!) They looked a little unsure of where to go with all that freedom, but the were obviously enjoying it.

When the Fells finally decided to head out for a walk, D&D sort of got driven along in front of them. The track is wide, but the Fells have always been pretty bossy with them. Although, I couldn't see that they were overtly driving them, I think the big guys just thought it was wiser to keep moving. And moving, And pretty quickly they got the grand tour! I was out working on the fence, and I think me hammering spooked D&D a little, as they got near the end of the current finished track. They managed to squirt back past the Fells, however I noticed that they didn't have the confidence to go very far from them. Later they came back to where I was working, and I was able to stroke them a bit, hoping that it would work in my favour for catching them later.
When catching time came, they were all still near the cul de sac. Predictably, the big boys didn't want to know. The track is about 25' wide, and I figured I could catch them pretty easily once I got them worked down to the end. The Fells didn't seem to be paying much first! However, when I got them down to the end and had to put a little pressure on to keep them there, the Fells came streaking over and very thoughtfully helped me out. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it. Iona stayed near me, Bruce went right to the end, scooped them up and sent them to me, and Iona made sure they didn't squirt past. What a slick operation! D&D were volunteering to get their halters on. Bruce and Iona even seemed to judge how much pressure to use and not overdo it. I was relieved about that as I didn't want the new boys to get pushed into the hot wire. I was pretty amazed by the whole episode - and very grateful. I haven't really heard of horses doing this before. Years ago, I did think that Iona "worked" a horse once or twice when I was playing the catching game in a big field and she was around, but I thought maybe it was wishful thinking. However, this was blatant! I still can't quite believe it.

D&D were great walking back to the yard. They are pretty cool dudes, and amazing calm considering the big change we have thrown at them. Back at the yard, I gave them their buckets. They ate up, then as I was putting them in the pen with the little guys for the night, Coco made a run for their buckets. I guess it was just too much for his sense of justice that after they had been out all day in the pasture, he should have to watch them get big buckets of stuff, too! Fortunately, by the time I got organised with a rope to catch him he had made a beeline for the open feed room, which made him easy to catch. However, I hang my head in shame and admit it took me two attempts to get him back into the pen. What a rascal! I think that I have learned my lesson now about letting Coco see feed buckets outside the pen! I am enjoying this!

Posted by Picasa