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.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The new week started with RAIN.

I am hoping this is a good sign of things to come!  It's raining.  So, it's not really raining very hard, and it's not nearly enough rain, but it's wet, and it's falling from the sky.  I will not complain about that!  I mean the grass is even green, not yellow or brown!

My goal today is to get ready for "stun muffin" to arrive tomorrow.  Jae needs to fix a broken board in a stall, I have to adjust where some horses are kept.  And of course, I have some rides to do!

Lady is in training, and I get to ride - er I mean "have" to ride her.  Yeah, this is one horse that I never feel like it's work to ride.  Lady is just sweet, wonderful, and a really quick learner.  Most of what she needs is soft consistent experience to build the right muscles.  Oh sure, she makes mistakes, but they are honest ones, and there's really no fight in her about anything. 

I had planned to get on her and take advantage of the cool breeze this morning, but as she was standing around waiting, the skies opened up.  Well.... it was a decent steady soaking rain, not a down pour or anything, but she didn't care for the sound of it hitting the trailer she was tied to.  I hadn't gotten to tacking up yet (she's still getting some work on how to stand decently when grooming and tacking) so I just petted her for being good, and turned her out in the arena.  Yep, she had a ball bucking and farting in the rain. 

I don't like to work horses in the rain when it's been this dry.  My arena footing is a clay/sand mix, and too much water too fast results in the top turning into a surface as slick as ice.  Horses tend to be pretty sure footed on their own, but when asked to do collected work, the chance of a slip increases greatly.  And besides, it's COOL out, so I'll have a few extra hours today!

Yesterday, I had 3 horses show signs of heat stressing.  Dream, Diva, and Rico.  All 3 were caught early on, in the head down panting stage.  All 3 were soaked, rested, checked, and then soaked some more before being put behind fans.  Today, all 3 are doing well.  It was my young ones yesterday that had issues.  Jaz (the delicate wall flower) tried to do it,  but I'm on him like a HAWK.  Beet pulp and salt for his lunch, and he was sucking back water like a champ.  I have his number now!  He never was panting, but just not quite right.  I'm paranoid about "not quite right" now.

AND!  I'm very excited about this, but today is the day for Cayenne's first ride (again).  Cayenne is my 14.0 hand AQHA orphan filly.  She's 6, but she'll always be a filly to me, as she "is" my baby.  A while back I traded her for a draft mare, and that trade didn't work out because Cayenne came up lame.  There's a big question as to when and why and how she became unsound.  The day before she left, she was riding perfectly.  The day she left she acted like normal, but a week later she came home with a big booboo on her hip/back and was very sore.  Naturally, that means she wasn't going to work out as their kid's horse, so I took her back.

Anyway, we healed up the hip, but she still just wasn't moving right.  When my farrier came out last time, I told him I thought she was foot sore too.  We moved her out at a walk and slow job, and he agreed.  Treatment.... a full set of shoes.  The day ofter she was shod, the difference was amazing!  She was standing up and normal again, and looking perkier then she had since she left.  I was told to wait a week before working her, and then to start very slowly.  So, today's her day!

My plan is to lunge her lightly for about 10 minutes, then to ride her for 5 to 10 minutes at a walk.  Nothing hard at all.  She's going bitless again, in the Dr. Cook's, and we'll see if she remembers her steering.  It's been a couple of months now!

And Poko and I have some canter work to do, if the arena dries out enough.  I need some canter work, and so does he!  I plan to give Jinx a bitting lesson, and maybe a little lunge work.  I also have to lunge Princessa, Arden, Oops, and Phoenix.  It will be one of Phoenix's first lessons (I THINK she's had some work before but can't remember it clearly).  Dream gets out of riding due to her heat issues yesterday, but Doodles and Diesel are still a go.  If I have time left, I want to lunge Katy and Sweetie, and give Nazar some love and a bridle.  It will mostly be a ground work day, but it's a good day to do it.

Because mom is in Dallas visiting my brother, and Dad is with her, poor Jae gets to be my eyes today.  In other words, I make him work in the barn while I work in the arena.  Unfortunately, that also means no pictures, as I can't take them of myself!  It's the start of a good week, and I hope it keeps up like this.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lets talk about Lunging

Lunging, longing, Long Line work, round penning.... what ever you call it, it is pretty much the same thing.  You work your horse from the ground in order to train your horse in some manner.  At least, that SHOULD be the idea.  Some people lunge their horse to just get the fresh off.  I have a problem with that though, but we'll get to that later.

What we need to think about is WHY we make our horses sweat with out riding them.  See, many times we are told to do something, and it sounds like a good idea, so we try it, but we never stop to think about the why of it.  But if you don't know the why of it, how can you do it better?  How do you know when you're doing it right?  Lunging is one of my pet peeves, because so often it's what I have to retrain the most.

Now,  for me, I lunge to train the horse.  I can do so much training on the ground - and save myself some dirt lunches - that I don't know why people wouldn't do it.  I start lunging my horses lightly around 2.5 years of age.  Later for the heavier horses.  I rarely lunge for physical reasons.  I don't do it to muscle them up, I don't do it to run the fresh off.  I lunge to teach them commands and a work ethic.

So often, I get horses in training that have been taught to go in a round pen, and rush around the rail until they are tired, then to go the other way for a bit.  This annoys the crap out of me.  The horse totally tunes me out.  What good is that?  How can you train a horse if it doesn't even care that you exist?

Lunging should be used to teach the horse verbal commands.  I always start off with the walk.  Oh sure, the horse wants to trot or canter when we start, but my goal is to teach the horse that when I say "walk" it goes into first gear.  I don't care what it was doing before, walk means WALK.  Once I have a good solid walk, then I work on Woah and Reverse.  For me, "woah" simply means stop moving forward.  If they stop and fidget, that's good enough.  "Stand" means to keep their feet still, and is a different command.  As the horse ages, they usually stop the fidgeting, but young silly babies need to have a chance to "win" and get praise, so I made this distinction.  Reverse is simply the verbal command to turn to the inside, and maintain pace in the opposite direction.  I'm not that picky about it, and yeah, many of my youngsters tend to break gait when reversing.  Again, that's something that they will improve with time.

From there, I work on the other gaits.  Trot, canter, gallop.  Now I have a 110 foot round pen, so we really CAN gallop in it.  In most of the 60 foot round pens I see, I wouldn't dare ask for a gallop.  I suppose it depends upon the horse, but my big draft crosses would slip, fall, and catch a leg.  Galloping on command isn't worth the vet bill.

My horses also learn their names VERY well at this point of their training.  I use their name before I give a command.  It's like saying "a command is coming soon, listen to me now".  Like the pretty little mare there, she knows her name is Arden.  And when I say "Ardennnnn......" she will turn her inside ear at me.  That's the type of work ethic I love seeing.  She maintains what she was doing, and prepares for a change. 

I'm a big fan of not pushing babies too hard.  In fact, I LOVE backing my horses at 4, just because they are mentally ready for the work, and all the new things coming at them.  So I rarely ask for a horse to be perfect as a 2 or 3 year old.  I mean, when I learned to write, I didn't have a perfect script.  I never would have been considered an artist at how well I made my letters.  As my muscles got experience, and my mind advanced with age, I learned to write nicer, cleaner, and more legibly.  The same is true of horses.  They don't have the fine tune muscles when they first learn something.  The nuances of perfection come with time and experience.  What we're looking for is the effort.

All of my training in these verbal commands has a couple of results though.  First, it helps so much when I do back them.  I say "walk" and the baby knows to step off.  I pair that verbal command with a touch, and the touch makes sense, even if it is light.  I say "woah" and stopping is what the horse wants to do.  Add the sit in the saddle, or the touch on the bit, and the horse "gets" it.  They don't panic at something grabbing their mouth, they just say "Ohhhhhhhh, so that's another way of saying the same thing.  Gotcha!".

The other reason I lunge is for focus.  In most of the horses I retrain, they have learned to bulldoze people.  This is NOT the horse's fault.  It's the human who didn't stop to think about the why of what they were asking their horse.  I wouldn't say it's the human's fault either.  Rather simple ignorance.  And sadly, simple ignorance makes more "bad" horses then anything else.

But when I am sitting on the back of a thousand pound (or more) animal, I sure don't want to have to see who is stronger.  The horse is!  Rather, it's easier to have a work ethic in the horse, that assures the horse that it will be rewarded for its efforts.  I say walk, he walks, I pet him.  I say trot, he trots, and I tell him he's a good boy.  And at the end, he KNOWS that he will get something really good for all the sweat he's pumping out, so he gives more of an effort, and works harder for me.  That makes for happy horses.  It's really no different then we humans.

How many of you have had a job where you were yelled at, told what to do, and then grumbled at for doing it when asked?  How much did you want to go to work?  I'm betting not much!  Horses are the same.  They want to please, they like to work, but they do want to have their effort appreciated.  If we make their work fun for them, then you will have a horse that meets you at the gate when you pull out a bridle, and not one that runs for the hills every time it sees a halter in your hand.

But if all you ever do is ask your horse to run around the rail, like a crazy beast, then they quickly decide that speed means to shut off their brains.  Most of us are not the next best rider, and we sure don't want a horse running off madly with no controls!  Teaching the horse to listen to verbals has saved my butt so many times.  Horse spooks, I yell WOAH, and horsey stops.  Horse catches a glimpse of another horse running to the barn, I say WALK, and horsey walks with a purpose.  It might be a bit jiggy, but it is still a walk.

I never have a problem with hard to catch horses.  Rather the opposite in fact!  I never have a problem with barn sour, or herd sour horses either.  Now, my lesson horses are gate sour, but I'm working on fixing that (it's my own stupid fault.  Every one gets off at the gate, and I have a HUGE white gate in the middle of a black fence line.  Easy to see, and habit says that the sweating stops at the gate!). 

My goal is to work the lunging out of the training regimen.  Eventually the horse should have no need of a lunge line again.  If the horse is taught that calm and correct behavior results in praise and slow work, they get it.  Rather then running the fresh off, my answer to a dingy high strung horse is to put it on a lunge line and say "WALK!".  When the horse walks, they get rewarded, when they don't, I pretend it isn't happening, and simply ask for the walk again.  It doesn't take long at all either.  A week, maybe 2 for a mature horse.  A month or so for a baby.  They learn to listen for the command, watch YOU and your body language, and react in a calm manner.  If they don't, they just keep on working until it is done.

And the lunge is just a step in the right direction for riding.  We have the same commands, the same tack we have worked up to, but a bit more weight to carry around.  Sweetie here is a wonderful example of the transition.  She is still learning to lunge, but loves the attention of a rider so much that we've broken a few rules with her.  At the end of her lessons, Amy climbs up and praises her while we walk a lap or so.  Her little baby back is strengthening.  Her mind accepts the weight, and good habits are forming.  Sweetie thinks this is the best thing since horse cookies!

Now keep in mind that I train for the average rider.  My horses are not high end performance animals.  I want them to be slow, calm, and easy for a novice rider.  With that said, even if I wanted a hot performance horse (no, not all are hot, but if I did want hot) I would still use similar techniques.  I would simply work more on forward, and less on calm in our lunge work.

I find though, that when I do back the babies, or retrain the older horses, that they quickly learn to understand a soft aid.  I don't have to boot the snot out of my horse to get it to walk.  A little leg pressure is all it takes.  At the same time, if I accidentally whollop them in the side, they know to ignore it.  They ride off my seat like a dream, even on the second ride, and won't lose their minds with a bobble on the reins or an accidental chuck in the mouth.  And the best thing ever?  When I have a novice rider on them, giving them all the wrong commands, they know to "woah" or "walk" or "stand" when the person in the middle of the arena yells that at them.

What I don't understand, is why I would want to spend my time - time that could be used fixing problems and moving forward - standing in the summer sun watching a horse run blindly in a circle to get it tired.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Looks like we have a new Second Chance horse.

So, I know I missed this week's Fear Friday blog.  I just wasn't in the mood, being all depressed and worried about my mother.  So, I also ended up canceling almost everything for this weekend. 

I have been kinda out of sorts after losing my mare, Hex.  She was a special horse to me, and her death was so sudden, and so out of place.  Oh I know that sand colic can be from a little or a lot of sand, but I was trying to do everything right.  After this, I'm terrified to finish sand clearing the rest of the herd, since she was fine before I started.  I "know" it's rare for this to happen, but I'm still just paranoid about it.

With that said, if I don't do it, they will all have sand problems anyway.  I mean, it's sandy loam soil, in a drought.  About the only thing I have in my pastures is bitter sneeze weed.  Horrid stuff.

That doesn't make it any easier to see Jinx out in the pasture hanging with Nazar and Katy, but no Hex.  The lack of her presence has been hard for me.  I find myself not wanting to even look out at the pasture, because I know she just won't be there.   

So, I'm sitting here being a lump, when my phone makes the "hey HEY!" noise that signals a text message was received.  I open it and look, and this picture is on it, sent by Rachel.

Yes, my dear friend Rachel knows just how to get me moving.  Adorable ApHC registered stallion, approximately 14 hands, under weight, in need of home.  Owner is NEGOTIABLE to the right home.  I asked her a few questions, and it turns out that a wonderful man found this horse in a bad situation.  He picked him up, took him home, and now wants to see the colt get a second chance at life.    We know he has papers.  We know he has testicles, and we can see he has a pretty color.  That's about all we know.

If you look closely at the picture, you will see he's thin, but has a decent shoulder on him, nice length of back, good straight legs, and a style that screams foundation lines.  A quick check of his papers confirms that.

Now, I don't pay much for my second chance horses, because of one thing.  I do NOT want the people who refuse to care for their horses to make a lot of money off my guilt.  In fact, I normally only pay money if there are other horses "at home" who will get fed because of it.  Maybe I'm mean, but I just have too much experience with the scum of the breeders who think that making lots of foals, and selling 'em cheap with no basic care is the way to get rich.  If those breeders do NOT get rich, then maybe, just maybe, they will stop breeding!

Well, I get a text here and a text there, and it's sounding like the type of horse I want to help out.  I mean, we're set up to work about 35 horses, can afford to house up to 40, but I will NOT breed another light horse in this market.  I had planned to take in 2 horses to help make them "good" horses before I lost Hex.  For me, this is kind of a wake up call saying "get back in the game Heather, the other horses out there need your attention, and your Air Conditioner doesn't love you".

Now, I might sound like an uncaring horse woman there, but I try really REALLY hard to separate my emotions from my horse buying!  Truth of the matter is that Hex started out as a rescue, and helping another horse just FEELS right to me.  I have a big empty spot in my heart, surrounded by 26 little bright points, and I'm kinda lost.  Hex was one of "mine".  She was special, she was amazing, and her personality was just so majestic and royal.  She made her humans feel privileged to be in her presence.  So, in all honesty, there's a whole jumble of "why" in my head that makes me want to do this.  The seller was the straw for this poor camel though.  He really wants to see the horse in a good place, and is not a horse person. 

At this time, it looks like the pretty boy up there will arrive on Tuesday.  That gives me enough time to set up and prepare for yet another stallion.  I know... a STALLION!  But in all honesty, that was a deciding factor for me.  In the middle of a drought, where rounds are now between 100 and 130 each, and squares are pushing $14/bale for crap (No, I'm not paying those fees) a lot of people are unable to keep their babies.  A stallion SURE isn't going to find a home right now, and the wonderful man who took this horse in just to help it out doesn't need to foot a huge bill for castration.

But, that's my plan.  We're going to bring little stud muffin in, get some weight on him, deworm him, check his teeth and feet, and then give him "brain surgery".  Of course, the caveat is that I will look over his papers, and check him out in person first.  If he IS stallion quality, I'll put the word out to the foundation breeders I know.  If he's "maybe" stallion quality, I'll geld him, break him out, and either use him as a lesson horse (if he has the mind for it) or sell him into a loving pet home.  With his size and color, it's most likely the latter, but you never know.  Just look at Poko!

Tomorrow, I will start with preparing him a stall.  I don't know if he's a jumper, or how he is around mares, so he gets a back corner stall, with fans.  If he's easy to catch, he'll have use of the run in.  If he's not, then he'll be sent to a catch pen until he is.  Rachel is going to be involved with helping socialize him too, and loving on him.  Granted, I don't think I could keep her away if I wanted to!

Supposedly he's green broke.  But, he's a Second Chance horse, so I always take that with a grain of salt.  If he is, then great.  If not, then we will start from the ground up.  I don't take in Second Chance horses because I want the next best thing.  I do it because they need someone that can put them on the track to a becoming a good equine citizen, which is the BEST way to give them a long term home.

I will be posting updates on him, and probably lots of pictures.  And the best thing about him.... when I told my mother, she smiled.  My poor mom has been so very stressed out, and this makes her happy.  So he's definitely worth taking on.  And he needs us.

And if you want to see what my Second Chance horses end up like, just check my sold page!  All the second chance horses there are listed.  From pampered pets, to adored lesson horses, they all now have homes and lives that are good for them.  And soon, this new guy will be added to the list.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day from Hell

Wednesday started out great.  Things were going good, and all was right with the world.  But sadly, that changed quickly.

It started with Hex.  She had been Not Quite Right, and I had just treated her for sand.  It was assumed that with the drought, and all the sandy soil here, that she was passing a nice amount of sand out.  But hey, I sand cleared her, right?  It's going to be all good. 

Well, she became painful, and colicy.  She was treated, and looking better.  I ran to the vet to pick up Banamine, dosed her, was told to check on her in 4 hours.  Well 3 hours later, I went back to the barn - keep in mind she had been improving - and found her dead in her stall.

Hex was my best brood mare, and my beloved horse.  I loved that big girl and all of her quirks.  Hex was so proud and regal, and passed the best of it on to her babies.  My colt Scorch, who I brag about often, was Hex's first foal.  Rico, another colt, is her only other offspring.  Hex was in foal to Sugarbush Harley's Classic O, confirmed for an April 1, 2012 baby.  I had my heart set on a perfect little filly.  Sadly, I now have neither Hex nor a daughter to remember her by.  I was crushed.

But, it only gets worse.

My mother was a wonderful woman, and handled the calls for having Hex's body removed for me.  We talked about it all, and had a good cry together.  I was anti social, and just wanted to grieve for my lost horse, so a couple of hours later, mom went to water the horses in the barn for me.

She called me, telling me I needed to get to the barn.  Jae and I rushed out, thinking "oh no, what now!".  Mom informed me that Hex was dead.  But she knew that.  It was the longest second of my life when I realized that mom didn't remember the morning, and what we had already been through.

Like the saint he is, Jae simply took the water from her, and "handled it".  I took mom inside, just in case her problems were caused by heat.  I had mom sit down, and was doing my normal questioning, to get an idea of what was going on.  "What's the last thing you remember mom?" and "do you remember what you had for breakfast?".  She was getting very upset because she knew she had a whole in her memory, and I was doing my best to prevent her from getting too worked up.  The symptoms weren't right for anything I knew about.  She was too physically fine for it to be a typical stroke.  She had coordination and balance, which ruled out most brain traumas.  We do have a history of brain cancer, so yeah, you know what I'm thinking at this point... brain tumor.

In the short time while I looked for shoes and keys to the truck, she got rapidly worse.  She began asking me where my father was.  He was at work.  Then she couldn't remember where he worked.  I would answer both, only to have her ask me again as if it were the first time.  I admit I had visions of seizures or the need for CPR while I was trying to drive her the 30 minutes to the hospital, and simply gave up on finding my truck keys. 

Hand to pocket, find phone, dial 911.

"Grayson County 911, what's your emergency?" 
"I think my mother may be having a stroke, or severe heat stress"
"What City are you in?"
"Let me transfer you"
"Whitesboro 911, how can we help you"
"I'm worried my mother is having a stroke, she can't remember what just happened, or anything today"
"I am sending the paramedics right out, they will be with you shortly"
the Ambulance arrived within minutes.

Now, I have to mention again just how much I love my small town, and our volunteer fire department.  These guys (today) and girls (last time) kick ass.  They are calm, polite, professional, knowledgeable, and wow can they get to my place fast.  Ok, so we're 2 blocks away, but still!

The paramedics, like me, did not see typical signs of a stroke, or other brain trauma, but mom's condition was obvious.  While they were questioning her, she could not recall basic things, like the year of her birth.  She asked after my father multiple times while they were there, and was very upset at her lack of recall.  They did their best to keep her calm, and treated her wonderfully.

I can't even begin to describe the things she was forgetting, and how obvious it was that she had no clue.  Within seconds she would be confused all over again.

After a few tests, they asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital.  Mom said "no".  Thank goodness she was not in her right mind, because that gives me the legal right to say "yes".  So, off we went.  My first ride in an ambulance that wasn't there for me.

After an evening in the hospital, all of her tests came back not only normal, but pretty much perfect.  CT scans, MRI, blood work, EKG, and more.  They tested her and then tested her more.  Any one talking to her could tell that this was a real issue, but her tests kept saying "normal".  In fact, the doctor said she's the most physically fit woman of her age they have seen.

At this time, her tenative diagnosis is Transient Global Amnesia.  Basically, it's documented CRS (Can't Remember... well you get the idea).  She can not recall any head trauma.  Imaging shows no sign of it.  They are not ruling out the other possibilities of stroke, tumor, and such, but if it is such, then it is not showing up now.  They believe that this is a case of too much stress too fast, and no way to diffuse it.

We are taking the day off tomorrow, and I will be making sure my mother is ok.  At this time all lessons will be canceled this week, and we will be calling to reschedule them, probably tomorrow (at a decent hour).  Mom is still missing a few hours, but those hours seem to move up as time passes, and the doctor says that it should get better every day.  Of course we will be doing more medical stuff to be sure it's truly temporary, hence the day off tomorrow.

So, I apologize in advance to all of my clients who are getting put off a day.  I'm pretty sure y'all understand though, or at least hope you do.  Currently my phone battery is dead, but I will be up and running tomorrow, and able to answer texts, questions, emails, and such.

I admit, mother's emergency has made the loss of Hex seem some what surreal.  I know it will hit me soon, which is why I wanted to go ahead and put all of this out there for everyone.  Makes it easier on me later.  For every one that offered a hand today, I can't thank you enough.  And KK, you get bonus points!  Love you chicky, and thank you tons.  SA, you made me feel so much better, and thank you.  And for every one that didn't get through to me, but wanted to, I appreciate you just as much.

At this time, I don't know of any help we need, but if we do, I will be sure to ask.  And, while I am completely not religious at all, my mother is.  So if those of you who are would like to pray, please do.  Nita is not handling this well, and she is very upset about the loss of memory.  I hope she gets it back, and recovers quickly. 

Jae and my father are the unsung heroes today though.  Dad was mom's knight in shining armour.  He was ready to jump at anything she needed, and so worried about her.  Jae handled everything else.  And I do mean EVERYTHING else.  Between the 2 of them, they kept me sane, and able to focus on mom when she needed me.  Thank you Daddy, and thank you Jae.  Love you both with all my heart.

I will update as I know more about my mother.  But forgive me for taking a day or 2 away from the blog.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lady's BACK!

Don't know if y'all remember Lady.  She came for training last fall, and was just a wonderful horse to work with.  Her owner is the type we all wish for as clients - she loves her horse more then anything else.

Well, Lady's back for a couple of months more of learning how to be a dressage horse, as well as some trail work.  She arrived Saturday morning, and spent the day settling in.  That afternoon I turned her out with another horse, and they totally ignored each other.

Sunday though, I had the perfect answer.  Melody, owned by my friend Kris (well, really her niece, Rachel) had a small booboo that needs attention.  So Melody is up here while she has to be treated all day.  Melody and Lady... perfect match!  They get along great.  Their idea of "settling in" was a few pinned ear looks, and then to hang out together.  Just how it should be.

So, Sunday Lady got to do nothing but get used to the sights and sounds again.  Monday started her work.  Of course, she decided on Monday that she had left her brain at home!  All I did was some lunging off the halter, and walk around.  The whole point being to get her back in the mindset of things, and let her have a chance to get used to where she is, and what is expected of her. 

When we lunged, she set off at a gallop on the line.  If she wasn't galloping, she was trying to stand almost on top of me.  Not mean mind you, just "I don't know what to DO... PET ME!" type of a thing.  I reminded her that it's ok to move to the end of the line, and by the time she was hot and sweaty, I had a gallop, canter, and a trot.  Walking was NOT about to happen though.  She was excited, and distracted.  All in all it was a good first lesson though in my mind.  From start to finish, she made BIG progress.

So then Tuesday comes.  I totally planned to ride her that day, but it didn't happen.  Took her out to saddle her, and she reminded me about her standing to tack up issue.  Lady has NO patience.  Well.... that was most of our lesson.  And, I learned something.  She acts up to get negative attention as well as good attention. 

See, Lady paws.  She also decided to kick out in the back (not at me, but in frustration).  When I corrected her for it, she would stand for a second, and then start up again.  I decided she needed some patience time, and left her standing tied for a few minutes with me out of her sight (but she was in MY sight!  I walked into the barn).  After a few moments of her antics, she just gave up, and stood.  Oh sure, she still turned left and right, but it was no longer as frantic of a swinging around as we had started with.  So, when she stood, I praised her.  When she acted up, I walked away.  Her "punishment" was to be ignored.  Seems like that works REALLY well with her.

Then we (Amy was helping me yesterday) went to tack her up.  Oh for grooming she was a saint, but bring out a pad, and it all started again.  Welll....... "negative" reinforcement doesn't work for her (the arnnnk sound) and it's hard to ignore a half tacked horse with out asking for a wreck (visions of Lady tangled in her tack jumped into my head) so instead... she learned to sweat a bit.

When Lady would get so dancy that we could NOT keep working with her, we just pulled off the saddle, and lunged her.  Focus on transitions, and having her pay attention.  She worked hard, she was lathered by the time we were done (this happened a few times in a row) but she really got the idea.  Finished up after an hour and 15 minutes of putting on the pad, putting on the saddle, buckling the girth on the off side, Lady starts swinging around like she's lost her mind, strip it all off, I lunge while Amy takes the tack apart.  When Lunging, as soon as Lady would focus, and do as I asked, we praised her, brought her back and start again.  Finally, with Lady just covered in sweat, we tacked her up, and she STOOD.  Like, perfectly!

So, she got praise, she got a cookie, and we walked a lap of the barn yard, praised her, and loosed the girth.  Walked her back to the trailer, and tacked her down.  The look on Lady's face was PRICELESS.  I wish I had my phone with me (left it in the barn out of the sun) to get a picture.  She was confused.  All that work, just to get tacked up and then tacked down.  All she had to do was STAND?  And then it was DONE? 

After all that, we hosed the girl off, and she LOVED that.  She's black, so rather sun faded this summer (it's been very hot, all black horses are bleached right now) but I swear she turned more black from all the hosing off we did.  Lady sighed, and leaned into the rubbing, and decided that was pretty good. 

This morning Lady is a little bit achy from all the lunge work (I asked her to actually hold a frame) so this works out.  Today is my day off, and hers as well - and she needs a day to recover.  It was a pretty hard work out for a horse that's been out of shape, but the leaps in her behavior have been beyond expectations.  Her owner, Erika, told me that Lady had been out of work for a bit, and spoiled, and she's right, but Lady is coming back easily.  If she keeps up this pace of progression, by the end of the week we'll be back to where she was when she left, and starting on canter work.

I am kinda sad that I didn't get to ride her yesterday, as this is a NICE horse to ride, but Lady is the one that decides how fast we progress.  I'm hoping that she'll remember the concept of standing to be tacked up, and just fidget a little for it next time.  If not, then we may have to do a repeat of this.  The way she's going though, I have high hopes!

(All images are from her visit with me last time, sadly, I forgot to get pictures!)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fear Friday: How time Flies!

It seems like only recently that it was winter.  And then for a bit there we had spring.  Now all of a sudden we're sitting in the middle of high summer and staring fall right in the face.

Time, it's like it slips away from us so fast, that we can barely keep up.  It was back in April that I had my accident.  Not that long ago really - at least to me.  Just six months before that I had been in a previous accident.  Barely recovered completely before I was headed back to the ER.  And now when I stop to think about it, that first accident was over a year ago.

A week here, a month there, and suddenly years have flown, and we're sitting here wondering what happened to all the time we thought we had.

My decision to take a look back on this mainly started because I was *ahem* reminded that I almost forgot the Fear Friday blog.  Oops!  I forgot it was Friday!  I thought, wow, where has all the time GONE.  And then I realized that a lot of time really HAS flown.

So, looking back on my face, it's shocking to see how much it has all changed.  (Warning, graphic image below!
That was me only a day or so after I got face planted into the dirt by a couple of fillies.  Ok, a draft cross and a draft, so horse sized, but still young and dumb.  Yes, that glassy eyed look was from the amazing pain killers they gave me.

Some time passed, and I got the stitches out:
The swelling is down, the scar is mostly healed, but it's still puffy at the edges.  Not only that, but I recognize that shirt.  It's a long sleeve shirt!  That means it was "cold" out still (anything below 70 is cold to me).  Nicely improved I think, and I was no longer ashamed to be out in public.  Children stopped staring at me, and asking "what happened to YOU".  This was the start of my progression back to "normal".

And now, today:
Literally seconds ago.  And sorry, I don't put on make up for y'all.  You can barely even see where the line touches my lip, and I now have an extra dimple.  People will talk to me for an hour before they realize there's a big whopping scar on my face.  A touch of make up, and you can barely even tell it's there now.

But, that doesn't mean it's truly all better.  I still get tingling in the scar as the nerves learn how to rewire themselves.  I still have issues with drooling (yeah, the corner of my lip is a scar now, and it doesn't work right).  I still have some issues with memory recall, and trying to pull the right word out isn't something I take for granted any more.  I have to be careful of sunburn on the new skin, as well as light catching my eyes wrong (too many head injuries, I get migraines).  The outside seems to be mostly fixed up, but the inside is still healing.

It's been 6 months.

Think about that for a second.  It took me six months to just get the skin MOSTLY healed back.  Skin.  It heals fast.  My brain was also smacked around pretty good, and those things are priceless and hard as hell to repair!  It will probably take me another 6 months to get all the cobwebs out of my head.

And yet, it seems like a year after a horse accident, I should be recovered and back to riding.  Least that's the societal idea I have given myself.  When I actually stop to think about it, that seems so silly.  My skin isn't healed, my brain isn't healed, but I expect my fears to be healed?  Am I nuts?

Stop and look at your own fear issues.  How long have you really given yourself to heal?

And if you don't think that overcoming fear issues has to do with healing, then you're kidding yourself.  We have to repair what ever it is that sets us off.  Whether it's a possibility, or an experience that made the fear arise, it doesn't matter.  People can be traumatized by things they saw and never experienced.  We recognize those sorts of trauma as a true medical condition, and treat it as such, unless it is ourselves that we are referring to.

And in reality, it seems that my fears have been healed faster then my skin or my brain.  I'm not done healing, but I have made huge steps.  Just as it's so easy to think about how much time we have, only to be amazed at how fast it flies, it is also so easy to push ourselves to unrealistic goals.  When we do this, we set our selves up for failure.  That failure feeds our negative feelings, and that in turn gives us proof that our fears are grounded. Instead, try something new.  Think about your fear.  When did you get it?  Why did you get it?  How long ago did you get it?

Now think about all the progress you have made in dealing with it.  Maybe, like me, you would almost tremble at the thought of handling a horse's foot, but now you just get a bit anxious yet can do it.  Maybe you were terrified to ride, and thought it seemed like the worst idea ever, but now, you're thinking about it, and it doesn't sound THAT bad any more.  These are all steps forward.  When we train our horses, we ask them for small steps, and call it progress.

We should expect the same of ourselves.  Each step really IS progress.  After reading the comments,

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ever have one of those weeks where you're getting stuff done?

Well, that is exactly what's been going on around here!  I've managed to do a few updates to the website, including a much nicer menu (at least I think so).  I changed the images around to better reflect the season, updated the sales page to be a little more user friendly, and a bit less cramped, added some more information about all the things we do....

Oh, and I've been doing pictures and videos out the wazoo!  For those who know Quagga, that's him with his new person.  When my mentor Sig (Sigrid Ricco, RIP) owned Quagga, he was a lady's horse to the end.  On her death, I "inherited" him, and he decided that Jae is his new person.  He has Jae very well trained, and always tends to show better, and behave better for Jae.  Don't get me wrong, he loves just about any one with a scratch or a cookie, but Jae is special for him.

So, when I did all that webpage stuff, I realized how many horses I still need to update.  Never mind that I only have 5 horses officially for sale (I always have a few others that I'll sell into the PERFECT home) but that I need to update pictures and videos of most of those horses, AND I don't have enough information out there about my breeding herd.  Oh my.

So, I managed to get the sales page finished up this week.  Every one has at least one video now, mostly current pictures (I need to upload some more at the time of posting this) and overall I'm pretty happy with the results.  So, my next project is the stallions' page.  I whipped that up when I first did my site, and haven't really touched it since.

I need to get a page for each of the boys, with more information, more pictures, a video, and some examples of their foals (where applicable.  Scorch doesn't have any on the ground yet).  My plan is to get that done next week.  So wish me luck, and expect a lot of eye candy to be coming through the blog.

Once the boys are done, I'm on to the lesson horse page.  Every one wants to see what you have out there for them to ride, right?  And my lesson horses deserve the credit they work for.  From Keeley through Diesel, we have horses of all levels and sizes, and I want to make sure that clients can see what's offered, as well as have a link to use when bragging to their friends (doesn't every rider want to brag about the horse they ride... or is that just me?).

And a brood mares page!  I have this absolutely amazing herd of broodies that are just stunning to look at.  The legs, the necks, the spots!  Ok, truth be told, I have a few reasons to put up my brood mares.  First, those looking to buy young stock often want to see the parents.  Second, I want to get a jump on my advertising of those mares, because most of the Appies will be up for sale next year (I'm getting out of apps and into Sugarbush almost exclusively).  And third, there's a chance that I will be offering foal sales in utero.  I haven't completely decided on that or not yet, but if I have the pages set up, it makes it a more viable option.

Now that probably sounds like pretty good thinking to most people, right?  But it sure doesn't sound like as much work as it is!  First, I'm anything BUT a web designer.  Yeah, I designed the look of my site, but coding it?  HA!  That's been fun.  Good thing for me, that Jae IS a web designer.  BAD thing for me, that he feels it is important for me to have a basic understanding of what I'm doing.

And pictures sound so easy.  You just press a button and POOF, digital image!  Except for the whole part about GOOD pictures.  That means washing the horse first, then triming the ears, fetlocks, mane, tail, scrubbing the hooves, filing off the edges (because unless it's farrier day, there's a rough edge SOMEwhere).  It's summer in Texas, so ever horse here is bleached out.  That means color enhancing shampoo.... which means stained hands, and a 10 minute wait.  And once the horse is actually clean and presentable, well... then there's the trial to get a GOOD image. 

I know I've mentioned this before, but it can never be said enough.  In order to get 5 good pictures, I take around 300 images.  I crop, I tweak, and I cry at how close so many of them are to exactly what I want.  Perfect stance but the horse closed its eyes.  Lovely movement, but its ears are back making it look mean.  For personal use, those things don't matter, but how many of you would bother going to meet a horse with ears pinned in all of the pictures?

And lets not even talk about what a bad set up can do to a horse!  Yep, this is the same filly as the bay above.  The difference?  A cloud, and a few seconds of time.  She was standing pretty, then decided to lean into a step.  Yep, filly above is pretty, but THIS nag wouldn't get $500 bucks off Craig's List!

Of course, some of my horses are more photogenic then others.  Look at the eye candy the other day.  Scorch is a total camera hog!  Seems that Quagga, one of my other stallions, is the same way.  Phoenix loves the camera, but Tori - the bay here - not so much.  Ishka, my mom's younger horse took 100 pictures to get a single decent image.

But, a good photo shoot makes it so worth it!  I mean look at this boy!

Although, I don't want to talk about the work Rachel and I put into making a mud brown horse into a white one!  He was half caked in very gross things, and we scrubbed and rinsed, and pulled out all the white tricks I knew to get him even something like white.  Ironically, he looks more white in the pictures then he did in person.  His mane and tell are still just a touch orange from the local dirt.

I also managed to get a couple of videos done.  I actually like making videos, even though I'm not all that good about it.  Tori's video was pretty easy.  She was a simple cut, paste, add music type of thing.  I had good long clips of her moving, I had good lighting and the filly stayed where I could actually get a video of her (you know, in front of me!).

So then I started working on Phoenix's video.  Ok, truth be told I started on it first, but didn't like it, so took a break.  I went back to it after a day, removed 90% of my work, and decided that I didn't care if I could see people in the shots.  I ended up with this:

All in all, I'm pleased with it.  Granted, I don't expect to sell these horses until they are started under saddle, as the market's pretty tough in a drought striken area, but at least I'm keeping up with it all.

What I am thrilled about though, are the pictures of Quagga, and how AMAZING they turned out.  He is a hard horse to make pretty, simply because he IS white.  Lighting is horrible with him.  Stains are a constant problem.  And yet he's such a wonderful horse, just put together like a dream, that it seems so wrong to publish images of him that show him as less then perfect.   I guess this is a lot of my problem with keeping up with my webpage.  I hate sending out pictures of the horses that just don't do them justice.

So.  Sales horses - DONE.  Stallion images 2/3rds done.  Stallion videos - well, I got the filming done for Quagga, but need to edit it, and find that boy a song!  (I'm hoping to use A Whiter Shade of Pale).  Next week...... more eye candy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nothing but Eye Candy

We decided to get some pictures of a few horses.  I'm planning a few more updates to the website (you know, in my "spare" time) and want to do both a brood mares page, as well as a lesson horse page.  I also need some current pictures of all the boys

So, in order of appearance here today:

The white horse is Keeley, a 1990 mare (yes that makes her 21).  She was my mother's first horse, and still works hard every week teaching new people how to ride.  Keeley has the most amazing personality ever, and seems to actually LIKE baby sitting.

Ok, and I snagged a few nice pictures of my mom in here too.

Now Keeley up there only does Walk/Trot work now.  She's a bit creaky in the joints.  But her daughter (below) is working to learn to be just like her momma.  You may remember Ishka from previous blogs about her work with Amy on cantering.  Ishka is a 2006 App Sport Horse.  And a few more with mom... these are her 2 horses!

And after this I took a break.  Suddenly, the skies got cloudy, and the light was PERFECT for getting some pictures of my sun bleached black colt (er stallion now I suppose).  So out we went to shoot come pictures of Scorch.  He's so very photogenic, it was hard to pic a few!

Told ya I had a hard time choosing!