A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tis' The Season....

Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season
From all of us here at Iron Ridge Sport Horses
May your day be filled with family, friends, and food
And your day be as joyous as you wish it!

And for my Sunday pony friends, looks like the rain has canceled our riding plans yet again.  So stay home, stay warm, and finish off those Christmas Dinner leftovers!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's begining to look a lot like Christmas!

It's grey and dreary outside, the weather cooled off, and it actually feels like winter.  In Texas this is what we expect for "winter weather" not that white stuff that people closer to the North Pole are used to seeing.  (Snow is often cause for panic here in the south, especially on the roads!)

But the rain is holding off, so I managed to sneak in my lesson with Hanna today.  Yesterday, we did pretty much a repeat of the day before.  I tacked her up, did some lunging, and then introduced her to the idea of 2 lines off her face (for ground driving).  I lunged like normal with the second line running from the bit, across her back, to my hand.  This gives her a chance to have most things the same, with only one change.

Today, I had intentions of doing actual ground driving.  Sadly, that was not to be.  My entire hour was spent trying to catch Hanna.  With the cooler temperatures, she decided that flagging her tail and running in circles was MUCH more fun.

So, instead of getting upset, stressed, anxious, or anything else that would make Hanna associate my handling with unpleasant feelings, I simply decided to change her thinking.  You might notice that this is one of my prefered ways of training horses.

I offered Hanna a treat, which she stretched her neck out, took, and then darted off (her owner doesn't mind treat feeding).  So, I got more treats, grabbed the halter and lead rope and made them very obvious.  I then proceeded to reward every horse in my way (and all the babies wanted cookies!) only after I had slipped the halter over their nose.  Hanna watched the whole thing.

I honestly have no idea if horses rationalize like that, but it does seem to show them that the "scary object" isn't scary to every one else, so can't be that big of a threat.  I then walked up to Hanna, halter very visible, and offered her a treat.  Before she could run off, I walked away.

Then, I tossed out extra hay to every one.  This kept the kids out of my way (because they are So helpful!).  Hanna wanted to eat, but didn't want to get caught, so she had to choose.  When she would stop to eat at a pile of hay, I simply petted her.  She would walk off, I would follow, and this repeated for a while.  Because I was always right there behind her, she couldn't get to actually EAT anything.

This means that the right response of standing still when I walk up to her gives her an immediate reward - food.  Hanna got this idea pretty quick.

Soon, she was letting me pet her with the halter and rope.  I slipped the halter on, and let her eat more.  Then I took the halter off, and walked away and messed with another horse.  I wandered around for a bit, and returned to Hanna.  As I went to pet her, she lifted her head, flinched her hide, and thought about leaving, but decided against it.  A few good girls, some petting and loving, and she was quickly munching away.

Repeat 2 or 3 times, and that was our lesson.  At the end, I did halter Hanna, take her out, brush her nicely, pick her feet, give her a few treats by hand, and then put her right back where she wanted to be.  Sadly, getting caught is our worst problem at this time.  It's delaying our training, because I have to spend so much extra time trying to catch her, but I think that once this problem is solved, it will be truly gone.  She really enjoys attention, she just hasn't realized yet that in order to GET the attention, she needs one of those big bad halter thingies.

Tomorrow and Saturday are farm holidays, but I will be back to work on Sunday with many more fun stories.  For those who plan to come riding, at this time we will be here with horses ready on Sunday morning, but if it rains, there's always the chance that I will have to cancel.  Sadly, I have a very nice chance of rain tomorrow (80%) and we sure need the rain!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hanna wears big horse clothes

This is Hanna.  Hanna is almost 3 years old, and she's been in training with me for a couple of weeks now.  Hanna needs to learn how to carry a rider.

I'm sure her owner has been waiting for her girl to show up on the blog, and I've just been so crazy I haven't had a chance, so let me catch you up on where Hanna is at.

She began training December 1st.  At that time, she knew how to go in a circle (lunging or round penning), but didn't get the whole idea of verbal commands.  I need those verbal commands on her to start saddle training.  Walk, trot, canter, and especially WHOA are kinda important buttons to have on a horse.Hanna did already have a very nice foundation of training to start with though.  So now, Hanna now knows how to walk, trot, canter (usually, although she likes the left lead a LOT more then the right) whoa, stand, reverse (change direction) and back.  Not bad!

What she doesn't care for at ALL is being caught in the pasture.  Interestingly, I get the feeling it's the lead rope and not the halter.  Every time I've caught her easy, it's been with out a lead.  Every time she gets all flinchy on me, it's when I do something with the end of the lead (even little things like it slipping off my arm when looped, and not touching a horse).  It's not cut and dry enough for me to say it's definitely the lead.  So every day we're working through that.  At first, it took me... about 20 minutes or so to catch her.  Now, less then 5 minutes.  It's all no stress, no fuss type handling.

Here's what I do.  Hanna is in a paddock with her "little siblings" (same owner's 2 weanlings) and 2 of my kids.  I walk in the paddock with the halter and lead easy to see, and head to a horse.  Sometimes it's Dots, as I've been halter training her, sometimes it's someone else, but mostly it's Hanna.  If Hanna runs from me, I simply add pressure as she heads away (lift an arm, etc, very small nuances).  When she comes to me I release the pressure, and act welcoming.  When she walks right up to me, I don't always catch her.  Even if I'm after another horse, I do this with Hanna. 

Now, the kids in there are usually very helpful.  They all head into the run in, and give me a place that Hanna wants to be (in the herd, with every one else).  I can simply stand at the entrance, and wait for her (it's not a large paddock).  If she runs away, I add pressure, if she heads to me, I release it, and if she tries to run PAST me, I prevent it by simply stepping in her way.  Ok, sometimes it's kinda like cutting cattle, except I'm the cutting horse, and she's the cow (and I look like a total moron doing it) but Hanna gets this idea, and it's very low drama 90% of the time.

Once I catch her, I do nice things with her.  A few treats, or a nice brushing, or maybe just hand walking and grazing the yard.  Something that's calm and praise.

After that, we head to work.  Last week Hanna worked her way into a bridle.  As you can see, I have the bridle on over her halter.  I know there's a lot of various ideas about this, but I've always found that the halter under the bridle lets the horse get the feel for the movement on the bit.  If I pull the halter, it will pull the bridle out some, and thus put light pressure on her.  Now, if you look, you can see that she's wearing a rubber D ring bit.  Hanna has a very nice and soft mouth, and she prefers a larger diameter bit.  This one works great for both things.

So, we've slowly worked Hanna up to doing all of her ground work off the bit.  While I don't have a picture of it, I use a bit connector - a strap that clips on the D ring, goes under the chin with a ring on it, and clips to the opposite side.  I can then attach the lunge line to the bit in a way that allows me to react to a bad change of direction, or other things that often result in a horse getting wrapped up with the line is run across the poll.  Attaching the lunge line to the bit gives Hanna the first step of ideas in being controlled by her mouth.  Granted, at this point the only real signal we're using is for slowing (a slight pressure) and reversing (movement of the line, which moves the bit)

Well, today was another big step for the baby girl.  She got to wear "big girl" clothes!
The saddle pads started off on the fence, but of course, she had to pull them off, paw them, step on them, chew on them, and just get a feel for what they are.  There's a black wool pad there, and a lighter tan-ish colored one.  I really believe in allowing the horses to think things through, and Hanna is always much calmer when allowed to investigate.  So she spent about 20 minutes playing with the blankets.  Have no fear, the camera is zoomed all the way out, and I was really within "release" distance of that line in case her pulling the pads off the fence scared her.  But nope, Hanna's idea of "fear" is to get a pathetic look on her face, and look at me to make it better.
And there's the big girl half way dressed up.  Sadly, my pictures of her with the saddle on didn't come out (sun glare) but yep, she was totally tacked up and ready to go.  We had a bit of a fuss when I asked her to move out, but nothing more then "what's that on my back, it's moving funny" kind of looks at it.  We then lunged, all 3 gears, both directions.  The first time she got into a canter the restriction of the girth startled her into a scooting canter for about 3 paces, but that was all the fuss she gave me.  Cinching up, bitting up, and the "normal" problem points she didn't care about at all.

Once Hanna was feeling good about how the saddle feels, I began teaching her about the basics of mounting.  We checked out the mounting block (she bonked her nose on it a few times) I showed her how I can move it around, toss it down next to her, and other things that might be scary.  Yeah, scary...sure!  Hanna didn't care at all about them.  I then began putting those verbal commands into use. Step, stand, over... all those words allow me to position her on the mounting block so that I can easily step up.  I slapped the saddle I made noises with the stirrups, I yanked and pulled and did all those things that are known to set off some horses.  Hanna of course was not "some" horse!  She's a good girl!

Don't get me wrong, she's not a total angel.  Hanna has her fair share of stubborn, but today it didn't make an appearance.

In the end, I leaned over the saddle while standing on the mounting block and putting pressure (arm strength only) on the saddle.  Hanna was fine with that, but did let me know that she was going to need another cookie!

I'm not ready to climb on her yet, but I am ready for ground driving.  That's tomorrow's lesson, but the idea of a human stepping up and leaning over will be repeated for a while in our sessions.  Ground driving allows me to teach the horse the bit controls without confusing them by adding too much at one time.  I figure Hanna will totally have ground driving down pat in a few days, and THEN I will be riding her.  So close now! 

Right now, we're running a bit behind my ideal schedule, but like I said, I train at the horse's pace.  Hanna needed extra time to learn her verbal commands (many horses get those in a session or 2, Hanna took a week) and she delayed some of her training with her catching issues, resulting in a few lessons the first 2 weeks on just getting handled with out fear of... what ever it is she's worried about.  But we're at the point where everything is coming together nicely!

And I admit, I'm so proud of myself for remembering to get pictures!

Sadly, the weather is not willing to work with me this week.  Chance of rain on Thursday, and of course, Friday and Saturday are holidays (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).  So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the rain will hold off until after I work Hanna on Thursday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Programing Change for the weekend

I am almost caught up with life, and the holidays!  Between working the horses, getting Crash ready for his new owner's arrival, and a few horses heading back home this week, it's been a slight mad house around here.

The Mustangs went home earlier this week.  I'm going to miss those boys, but I really think their owner will adore them.  Rooster of course decided that he was going to play the run away game when his owner arrived, which makes me feel like a liar.  I know that horse is easy to catch when he wants to be... but what horse isn't, right?  I will say that he's SO much calmer under saddle now, and that Huck is going great as well.  The only thing I had left to do with those boys was all play (for me!).

My boarders are almost ready to head home.  Their new home is finished (or nearly so) and they will be leaving me on Sunday.  This means that it's going to be quiet around here for 2 weeks!  I only will have one client horse, Hanna, here to be trained, and my own horses to ride.  I plan to be posting updates on all of those soon.

But, the downside of all this is that I've over booked myself for this weekend.  For all of my pony party friends, I'm canceling Sunday's ride.  If I forget to email/call/text you personally, check with me.   

But unless something drastic happens, this Sunday ( December 19th) is canceled.

So, most likely next week, we will return to our regularly scheduled programing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Something old, and a whole lot of NEW!

Well, something old: Rooster wouldn't let me catch him today.  Kinda.  It all started out fine; I went out to catch him, he walked up as pretty as you please, and put his nose right in the halter. And then something happened.  I'm not really sure what it was that happened, but it was something.

Rooster spooked out of the halter (it wasn't buckled yet) and bolted across his paddock.  I have no idea if it was the fact that I had my riding helmet and sunglasses on (both black and shiny today, not my normal blue one) or if it was my coat.  I've noticed that some horses hate red.  My coat is black and red.  My coat also has more zips and velcro on it then you can shake a stick at.  Ok, plus it's thin, form fitting, and kevlar padded in all the right places (made for dirt bikes, perfect for horses!).

What ever it was, Rooster was having NONE of it.  Hey, it could have just been a bad day.  Either way, I spent 30 minutes trying to catch that bad boy.  When I finally did catch him, it was as if it never happened.

And as for the new... well I have a lot of it!  Here's a small example:
This is Bumper.  A few nights ago, Jae heads out to start feeding while I am finishing up my paperwork.  There's a nasty cold front blowing in, and well, I hate the cold, so I wasn't in a rush.  Then Jae comes back inside and says, "we have a problem in the barn, and it's about this big" (holding his hands about 6 inches apart).  I'm thinking, a laceration?  But HOW!

Yeah, it's that cute little kitten up there.  Don't know where he came from, but we can guess.  Feral cats often have litters around our place, and wean the kitties in the barn.  Well, since there's always cat food out, it kinda makes sense.  So the little fuzz bucket was shivering, cold, and VERY vocal about it.  Jae managed to wrangle him up, and come to find out, he's as sweet as can be.  Poor guy was cold too, and shivered for almost 2 hours after making it inside.

So sweet he's cuddling with my neck as I am typing.  He was also in kinda bad shape.  Fleas SO bad, plus ear mites, plus worms.  His little gums were almost white.  Now, after all those are handled, he's eating like a pig, loves all the dogs, and still screams a ton.  Any time the food bowl is empty, he's mewing at someone.  Spoiled brat!  And he sleeps a LOT.  I am pretty sure he was anemic.

He will be properly vaccinated, and neutered just as soon as possible.  I said he's going to be a barn cat, but I'm rethinking that.  This one isn't smart......

Because he has never met a stranger, regardless of species.  Such as the next new thing around here:
Such a deceiving picture!  This is Moose.  Moose's head is above my counters, and he weighs in some where between 120 and 140 pounds.  Sweet as can be though!

See, I've always said that I wouldn't refuse a blue merle dane, but the only problem with danes is that they have tails.  Too many tails in one house, and things get wrecked!  Well.....he is blue merle, he's a dane, and he had his tail removed because he kept injuring it. 

I got a call from Amy, one of the ladies who takes lessons from my mom.  She says "so, I know you aren't into little dogs, but what about a dane?"  Within 30 minutes, I was like, okey dokey!  (Sure didn't hurt that Jae is like, Yeah sure, why not?).  I figure, I am "down" a few dogs, since we've lost a few to old age, and I've been pretty lucky since my standards are "bigger then what I have now".  Kinda easy to rule out 90% of dogs with that.

So, Moose has made his way into my life.  Ok, I didn't need another dog, but... he sleeps on the bed!  He's adorable.  I mean, look at the stupid ears!  I just love that.

And then, there's the new client horse in for training:

This is Hanna.  Not the best picture of her, but she didn't want to be caught AGAIN today.  I tried tieing her up for the picture (hence the halter) and she was only giving me lovely rump shots.  So, here's the best for today.

Hanna is a coming 3 year old paint filly, who's here to be trained to go under saddle.  So far, her main lessons have been in the very basics.  Getting caught, no really, getting caught, standing for all of the normal things like grooming, picking feet, bridling, and such (she doesn't want to stand still) and the very basics of lunging.  Hanna does not like whips, so um, we have 2 speeds: super fast, and stop.

She will be with me for about 90 days, and y'all will get to read all about her progress.

And the last thing that even qualifies as new, is a friend's horse that I am working on selling.  This is Nakai:

He's a cute little (like 14.2) black mustang.  Very sweet boy, but a bit of an attitude.  I have been putting time in on him, and so far he's coming along nicely.  He stands good tied now, he just got a trim all the way around, and he takes the bridle like an old pro.  Now that he's safe to work with on the ground, I think I will be adding in some hours to get him riding.

See, Nakai and his owner are just one of those pairs that don't click.  It's not either one's fault, but they need "someone else".  I'm very proud of his owner for admitting this, and hence, am working hard to help her find Nakai his own home.

And soon... I'll have one more new thing to be proud of.....
Hard to see, but if you look to the right of the equipment, you can see a bottom rail being put on the fence line. 
And here it's on the left side.  Almost directly in the center is a small thing in a brownish orange jacket.  That's my dear Jae, working until the sun goes down, to get my fence up!

Not much longer, and we'll start hanging farm signs around the place.  I'm really pretty excited!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Farrier day!

Oh the weather outside was frightful
And a fire'd be so delightful...


Today was farrier day.  And when my farrier showed up, it wasn't too bad out.  Temps in the high 50s, I was able to close the barn door, and get out of the wind, and all was well.  But as the day (er evening) went on, I realized that I had made a big mistake.  There's me holding the filly, in nothing but jeans, a long sleeve, and a jacket.  No gloves, no insulated coveralls, and no hat!

By the time we were done, I basically just wrote the check and kicked the poor farrier out.  Now, how sad is it that he's in a T-Shrt, and just fine?  Bah, northern boys.  Even my Canadian had on a jacket and a touque!

Most of our trims today were client horses.  That lovely little filly up there is Dots.  She's been here for about a month now, and I've been working with her on her halter training.  She stood like a champ for the farrier, and we only had one little incident where she decided that she was bored and ready to go do something more fun (like eat hay).

Of course, being this cold, most of my horses were not wanting to stand still.  Even Ash, my 20 year old mare was fidgeting in the cross ties.  And my rides earlier today were a bit... faster then normal.

Huck and Rooster were both pretty fresh.  They didn't want to amble, but instead picked up a nice marching step.  Again, they were both just as pretty as you please under saddle, and a whole lot of "just what you'd want" in their work outs.... except just a bit faster.  It was fun!  Picking up the canter was easy.  I assume that's because faster means warmer.  There's not much more I can do with them.  While I love having them around, from here on out, it's mostly exercise riding, and making sure that they don't forget what they learned.  I've ridden both with other horses now, and have started adding "fun" things into the arena to play with, and haven't had any bad reactions at all from them.  We've ridden in a few different locations around my property, and it's all just the same ol' same ol.  Nothing but good.

 I'm kinda expecting a blow up or something from them soon, but thank goodness, they seem to have no interest in anything but a few "good boys" and pats!  I mean, a horse can't be THAT good for THAT long.

Hanna on the other hand - who I still need to find some time to write an intro on - has decided that she doesn't want to be caught consistently.  She's fine for feed, but work time, and she's running around with her tail up.  It's not a big deal, and she'll get over it real fast.  So far though, I've learned that Hanna is very tolerant of most things, and probably next week I'll start getting into the real "learning" part.  For this week, it's been a lot of "here's a new thing, how do you feel about that" and finding a base line for her training to start from.

As for me, I'm a complete Popsicle!  I've been inside an hour, and am still not thawed out.  Yes, for my northern friends, it's true, I am a WHIMP about the cold, but I have learned how to deal with it.  If I had put on the proper clothing, I wouldn't be whining right now.  As it is.... there's a bubble bath with MY name on it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's been busy around here!

And now things are finally starting to slow down.  Like, just today, I managed to ride Huck, Rooster, work with Dots and Hanna, post some ads, do some website updates.... and I felt like I was taking it easy!

The real truth to that is, my horses are all easy!  Huck, well, lets see... he almost walked into the halter, stood nicely to be tacked up... oh, but he DID pull his foot out of my hand once... because he was taking a nap while I picked out his feet.  Not really a true "pull" but it was something to report at least.

Got on, did a couple of laps at the walk to warm him all up, then did some trot/canter work.  Around the barrels (set up to weave through, not in a clover leaf) over the ground rails, and the first time around he swung wide at the gate, but a touch of the heel fixed it.  Ok, much of that was me being lazy in the saddle.  I got both leads when I asked, and could get either a hard stop, or a downward transition as I asked.  He stopped, he backed......

Yeah, I have nothing to report.  Huck is great. 

So, I get Rooster.  He walks right up to me.... and then Huck shoves between Rooster and the fence, so Rooster heads off.  Tell Huck to get lost, and walk away from the corner I was in (where the gate is) and Rooster walks up to me.  Tack him up, head out, and my phone starts ringing.  Rooster didn't bat an eye at me digging in my back pocket, yapping to people, hopping off while yapping... walking around while yapping, or climbing back on when I was done.  We did walk, we did trot... both extended and collected trot work....and we did canter.  Ok, so, the first time I asked for the canter today, he was bent wrong, and picked up the wrong lead, but again, that was me seeing what happened if I slacked off.  I got a nice transition, just the wrong lead.  Dropped back to the walk, did all my transitions again, and he nailed every single one. 

By this point, I'm thinking "How do you write an update on this?  So... the mustangs are pretty much perfect, and have been for over a week now".  So I started thinking of things that Rooster used to hate.  The teenager with the glass packs driving past...not a twitch of an ear.  I started falling out of the saddle - intentionally - and Rooster just slows down and lets me get all situated again.  We did barrels, ground poles, and then... I got something.  Heading over the tracks, and down the road past my house was a monster.  One of those trucks with the train wheels to go from street to tracks, with a boom on the back, and lots of clanging.  This was new, and this would be scarry to a horse.  Lets see how Rooster, the horse that used to have blow ups when he was stressed or scared, would act with this.......

I stopped, turned him to face it.......


........................................And he cocks a hip, and takes a nap.

So, I picked up the reins, and we did some more fun stuff.  I had a BALL!  Between the 2 boys, I did not work at all, I just rode and had a good time.  I suppose this is a good thing.  I told their owner that I thought it would take 60 days to get Rooster to be more stable, and here we are, 2 weeks ahead of schedule, and Rooster is wonderful.  Huck is amazing, and while still mouthy (I don't think anything will change that though) he's got a little more go, with out losing his consistency under saddle.  For the next 2 weeks, I plan to just enjoy my time with them, make sure that the training sticks, and have a ball.

Oh yeah, and as I was finishing up, my mother came out to take a break (she was cleaning stalls).  With eyes on, and Rooster being SO good, I decided to push my luck.  As I dismounted, I drug my whole leg all the way down his hip and leg, and goosed him in the flank a bit.  A real sloppy dismount, dragging myself off the horse.  Rooster's response....

He turned to look at me, and wait for a pat on the neck.  I gladly obliged. 

 And, tomorrow Lady leaves me.  I admit, I'm going to miss this girl.  She has been a fun horse to work with too.  I couldn't have asked for a better group this month, and I can only hope that my future clients are as wonderful (the horses as well as the humans).

Lady has the basics she needs, and her owner came by to get the low down on how to work with her.  Of course, if at any time she has a problem, I'm always willing to answer questions by email, text, or phone calls!  Any time! 

I'm excited for them though.  I think that both horse and owner will do wonderfully learning to progress together, and it's so obvious that they have a bond.  All I have to say, is that I had BETTER get an invite to their first show together!  Even if it's just a schooling show training test!

And I have decided to give myself 2 weeks "off".  I still have Hanna in for training, to be started under saddle.  She got her "eval" today, and I'm thinking that this is going to be nice and easy.  Hanna seems perfectly fine with anything I want to do.  Hell, we've been washing her head and puting ointment on a cut she received when shipping here, and she hasn't minded THAT (and I'm sure the scrubbing hasn't been the most comfortable).  Today, we did the whole "can I do this, can I touch there, do you mind leading on the offside" type of stuff, and I didn't see anything at all that needs to be addressed.  Tomorrow, we get to see how she lunges!

So, I'll save the Hanna intro for then!