Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March Spring Fever!

Another week and a half at home to work with the horses! I am currently out at work again - as of yesterday - but this is my very last hitch working on the road away from home. Two weeks at work and I am home. For good. Woot woot!! Here is what the horses and I were up to last I was home:

Link - 8yo Thoroughbred gelding
The above photo shows the nasal infection we have been dealing with the past several weeks (though the eye was not watering at that point and the bump under his eye had disappeared courtesy of the first round of Uniprim). It started as what appeared to be a blocked tear duct (something I figured would clear up on its own, as usual) then progressed to what was obviously an infection - eye continuing to water, intermittent green snot, swelling on face that moved. 5 days (well, 6, but I don't count the first day because Link made faces and only ate half his meds!) of Uniprim cleared up much of the infection, but it returned. I had a vet out who told me it was NOT an infection (despite the glaring signs) but that it was likely a cyst or a tumour - she wanted to do a head x-ray and likely also a scope. After some arm twisting before my last set of days off, I was given the clear to give Link another round of Uniprim. So he is on 14 days of Uniprim this time. The week prior to my coming home Link dropped a lot of weight and seemed really miserable. It's been 10 days of Uniprim as of today, with 4 more to go. Link appeared MUCH happier and much more comfortable when I saw and fed him Monday! The hair is growing back on his forehead and the bump on his forehead is gone. HOPEFULLY this last round of antibiotics does the trick and we're not in the vet clinic when I am back home next, getting a head x-ray and possibly a scope (meaning the infection is secondary to something else). Wish us luck! I did ride Link the Monday after I was home (March 19) and though he worked very well, he was not quite his usual self (as he has been throughout all this until the week prior to my return) and tired easily. Neither I nor his riders rode him all last week after that point (and his riders had not ridden him the week prior either) - this Monday (March 26) was the first time he was put back in work. I am still hoping we can attend the Mane Event, but at this point it does not look good as I doubt I can get the weight and condition back on him so soon. Though disappointing, we will play it by ear yet and at the very least I can still audit clinics at the Mane Event.

Soraya - 5yo CWB mare
Link being off gave me a little extra time to work with Soraya - we fit in 3 rides and a mane trim ;) Each session started off with some groundwork, twice including in the roundpen. In the roundpen, we started with brushing up on our exercises on-line, after which I removed the halter and worked with Soraya at liberty. It was only a matter of minutes before she figured out I wanted her to stick by me and follow my direction as opposed to running around showing off for her friends in the nearby paddocks ;) She quickly sought out being with me and progressed from there to walking, trotting, halting, and backing next to me (at liberty, both directions) and staying at my side as I changed directions, walked little patterns, etc. Of course all our on-line work thus far has set her up for success but I was still extremely proud of Soraya! It felt really good to see her choose to be with me and to put forth so much effort - and with respect. U/s the first ride we worked in the arena while Link stood tied (after I had ridden him) - she did everything I asked, including some canter! Second ride we were alone in the arena. The first few moments Soraya was pretty distracted and anxious so I ultimately dismounted, got her attention via some groundwork exercises, then remounted. After that she was a doll, including past spooky objects and at w/t/c. The second ride was mostly alone before another rider joined us. She's figured out she's not supposed to make nasty faces at other horses (though she still slips in the odd one here or there) and that she must continue to work regardless of what the other horse(s) is doing. Again, she was a doll and we achieved almost a full lap of canter in either direction. Her canter is a-ma-zing. Obviously she lacks balance under a rider yet however she was pretty decently balanced overall and she was so uphill! Her canter felt so effortless and powerful - I can feel the potential for so much more power there with conditioning and further growth (of which she still has a lot to do - I think this will be the year her chest just "pops" and she adds a lot of bulk!). We've also been working on achieving a lot more forward at both the walk and trot - check, and also more softness in the rope hackamore - check. While she is quite soft and responsive already, she loses some of that softness when she is really distracted because she takes over control and tunes me out. This is where the roundpen work and a lot of our groundwork is helping because she's learning to look more to me for direction and to follow my leadership. We rode a little outside Day 2 and while she was very good, Soraya was a little distracted and thus not entirely looking to me for leadership - so more work to do! She is a very independent brilliant little mind; she still however has the mentality of a baby (ie, that look of wonderment in her eyes, lol), which lends to her rather easily following guidance (with effort on my part!) because she is already seeking that direction. I feel like we have been really developing a connection and I am really loving working with this little superstar! I would like to have her solid (balanced and forward) w/t/c u/s, solid in her lateral work, really solid on the ground at liberty and performing the Parelli Patterns, solid riding out in the fields (ie, quiet under my direction), and ultimately ready for a bit (ie, soft and responsive in all conditions) by the time we are ready to move this summer. I will try to remember to video prior to our move so I can chronicle our progress a little!

Koolaid - 12yo WB x gelding
I had two individuals come out and ride Koolaid this time I was home and he did exceptionally well under both riders. His lessees are no longer using him so I think when I get home I will move him to my barn so I can ride and sell him easier. I can't stand the hour-long drive to get down to him!

Skittles - 2yo (well, later this year!) QH filly
I will definitely have to get updated photos of Skittles next I see her since she's grown so much and is looking so fab! Not much to report here - I worked with Skittles three times when I was home and she was a star for all of them! We worked on all the usual - just one attempt at being rude with the one hind leg (when we were working on picking it up) and she was polite after that. Apparently she was even good for the vet recently. In addition to all the usual groundwork, trailer-loading, and bridlepath clipping, we also worked on the foundation for future liberty work - having her maintain pace at my side and keep at my side through changes in direction, transitions, and backing up. At first she tried to be lazy and resistant but it was not long before she was performing to near-perfection ;) We'll continue progressing her and start to include preparation for u/s work in the future. The liberty work I think will be important in earning her willingness to follow our lead and direction though.
Kismet - 5yo Draft x mare
Though she was a bit difficult to catch Day 3 (took me 30 min - she seemed quite riled up by the wind and weather, etc though!), Kismet made a lot of progress this set of three rides! The first ride we worked in the arena before hitting the fields for a bit of a "trail ride". I was not sure how far we would make it, but she was fab for an entire circuit of the fields! We quietly passed dead coyote carcasses, had birds spring up into the air in front of us (she started but immediately continued our route at the trot completely on her own!), and trotted and cantered quite a bit, all without ado. No herdboundness, no spookiness, nothing. She really followed my direction and was a little star. I was so proud! Day 2 we rode out in the fields with a friend - Kismet was a little unsettled or unsure trotting at first but settled into a relaxed and long trot quickly. Day 3 we were unfortunately restricted to the arena but did w/t/c, leg yields, etc. She's becoming a lot more confident every day and thus is becoming increasingly relaxed. Love it!

Bella - 4yo QH mare
I thought the last time I had rode Bella was back in December but it turns out it was actually in January. That said, when I rode her this last set of days off it had still been about 2 months since I rode her last. What a mess! The first ride actually someone potentially interested in Bella watched from astride his own horse in the arena. Initially Bella was a little anxious and energetic but was okay. She settled down quite a bit and seemed to be working well when I asked for a leg yield at one corner of the arena and BAM! she almost shot out from beneath me. After pulling her up we continued on a circle and tried again. With the same result. While she was okay with my leg asking for bends on circles and changes in direction, it soon became apparent she was NOT okay with my sliding my leg back slightly for leg yields, etc. Then she progressed to bolting at other times, when my leg was NOT on her. *sigh* She was quite keen on stopping at the arena door and as a result was also ignoring my outside leg near the door end of the arena. Both of us thoroughly exhausted, I finally called it a day when she exhibited some improvement at the canter responding to my outside leg (ie, maintaining a circle as opposed to trying to use the wall to stop and stay at the entrance end of the arena). She was still very jumpy though - VERY uncharacteristically so! It was the weirdest thing. When the potential buyer tried to ride her, she would not even let him up initially and when he did get up there, she bolted and he bailed. To her credit, she never did progress to bucking however her intense reactions were still very unusual and unnerving. Second ride on her was in front of a different potential buyer, the following day. I had anticipated Bella being better our second time around, but she was actually worse! What the heck!! Was this a physical (pain) issue? The inconsistency of the explosions, Bella's lack of being worked, and her movement all seemed to point to it being behavioural but this was just so abnormal for her. I knew she had not been handled aggressively, but she was acting like someone was getting up in the saddle then beating the living sh!t out of her!! The second day I did not even swing my leg over - I halted the session when I felt her hump her back when I put my foot in the stirrup. No point in pushing her to buck. Third session with Bella I decided we were going to start from the bottom up - in the roundpen. If this was behavioural, we needed to find any holes and fill them. We had to start at the beginning. Unfortunately however the roundpen was too wet to work in, so we worked in the indoor arena. By really pushing Bella on the ground, I found several (new) holes that highlighted her mistrust in me (and people in general) and her anxiety and need to take over control (in lieu of allowing us to lead her and keep her safe) - she was anxious walking and jogging between me and the wall, she was explosive when I really drove her front end around at times, etc. She did not trust our intentions nor did she trust us to keep her safe (likely started with the latter and progressed to include the former). Speaking with her owner, I think we figured out how it happened. In November Bella was moved to a new facility - she has been a little anxious since, especially inside the barn (something she is not accustomed to). She is the sort of horse who needs structure, guidance, and leadership - without it she will take over control and push you out of the way. This is what happened. Now add a couple seemingly minor incidents that perpetuated Bella's distrust in peoples' abilities to keep her safe (ie, where she was spooked and did not feel her people kept her safe) and voila. Her owner relayed to me other signs Bella had lost trust in people - such as being defensive and on edge about her hind feet being handled. It was a HUGE relief to not only see progress on the ground within that one session but also to see progress in regards to being u/s. I had several approaches I used, from simply being consistent, persistent, and patient in my actions and requests to pushing Bella and showing her she had nothing to fear, and making the wrong answer hard and the right answer easy. While I did not swing my leg over, we finished with Bella being mostly relaxed while allowing me to put my foot in the stirrup and stand in the stirrup over her back. I think a few more sessions and she will be back to her usual self *knock on wood*!! I have never seen a horse act so extreme and digress in such an extreme way when not directly negatively impacted by its owner's/rider's actions (ie, abuse, rough handling), only as a result of ineffectiveness - so this was a huge learning point for me! I think it being spring, her being young and energetic, and her being green all were contributing factors. Sheesh! Fortunately her owner seems receptive to my working with Bella further when I am home again so we should be able to get her back on track and more ready for sale :) She's a GREAT little horse - extremely lovely to work with.

Rayne - 8yo APHA mare
Phew, I am starting to run out of breath here! ;) I managed to get out to ride Rayne once while I was back, Monday March 16, though at first I was not even sure I was going to have the chance to swing my leg over the little brat!! Rayne seemed happy to see me and was great to tack up but when I first started working with her, all the spring willies came out (lol). It came in the form of extensive rears and bucks when she was simply asked to circle (after our other groundwork) and especially in trot to canter transitions. So what did we do? Lots of transitions until we could be polite! I ignored most of her behaviours and made small corrections as necessary and pretty soon Rayne was back on track. When I finally felt I had a handle on things and that she was tuned into me better and more respectful, I swung my leg over. While she was tense, she had progressive of relaxation and was very obedient. Finally we finished off with a little riding down the road! I wanted to see what Rayne was like on her own - while she started out confidently, she became increasingly nervous and spooky to the point where I did dismount and walk her for a few moments because I did not want her spinning on the pavement. However she did do very well overall and made me proud - and we confirmed what we know we need to work on... getting Rayne really tuned in to me and following my leadership. Which is hard, given she is SUCH an independent and dominant mare. April 18 I have Rayne (and Onyx, Silver, and Phoenix) scheduled to have her teeth done, at which time I will have her at the barn I board at for a couple days which will give me access to the indoor and a roundpen - and I fully intend on taking advantage of it! As bratty as she can be, Rayne is SUCH a character - absolutely love her!

I will try to remember to get some photos of Phoenix up next blog, too, as he is looking excellent!! He is not fit of course (yet!) but has gained a ton of weight and is finally looking very healthy. Silver is doing well too and will be showing with his young rider in 4H at the end of May and start of June!

Just as the terrible memories (chewed possessions, accidents in the house, crying...) of Chaya's puppyhood have worn off, we've signed up to add a new puppy to the fam! Chaya is 2 this year and is at the point where we feel very good about her level of training so felt capable of adding another dog. Furthermore, we felt it appropriate to add a puppy at this time - just prior to our move - when we have the most time to provide a lot of structure and where we have the ability to expose the new puppy to all sorts of stimuli and training situations living in town allows. We chose a female Boston Terrier, born January 27. I will pick her up as soon as I am done work, probably mid-April. This ensures I have the time for the new puppy and also allows her to spend a little more time with mom (she will be about 11 weeks old), which I love! In my opinion the longer a puppy spends with mom, the more he can learn from her, which is crucial to his confidence and development overall. Anyway, here are photos: the top is Chaya of course (Dec 2011), who is a 2yo Redbone Coonhound x Rottie... the bottom photo is of the new pup (courtesy of her breeder).

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