Sunday, July 13, 2014

What I Need to Learn

Yesterday was a big day for Skeets.  We brought in a lot of hay and had a lot of people there to help.  I'm finding that Skeeter and I are a lot alike in certain ways.  Neither of us is a fan of loud, sudden noises or crowds of people.

From the beginning, Skeeter has done well with people, but yesterday we had A LOT of people, which meant A LOT of activity.  When the crowd and activity is outside her pen, she does really well.  However, yesterday, she had to be tied to the trailer so we could bring the truck in to unload the hay.  Jay and I have done this before and she stood like she had been doing it her whole life, so I didn't think much about it.

I tied her to the trailer and didn't think twice about it.  I showed my brother  where to take the panels apart to get into her hay storage, pointed out to Mr. Nebalee where to dismantle the outside panels to drive the truck in and we all got to work.  When we swung the panels around the hay storage out, they made a loud pop/creak.  Skeeter had been doing okay with the activity, but the sudden loud noise was more than she could take.

She pulled back hard on the trailer and started fighting the tie.  Holy cow, I thought she was going to topple the trailer, she was fighting so hard.  We don't have a lightweight trailer, either.  The trailer is easily 30 years old and steel.  It is heavy and I wouldn't have thought she would have been strong enough to make it budge.  I looked up and hollered, "Skeeter! Stand!"  She quit fighting, but was still pulling back on the tie. I started her way, but saw Bill out of the corner of my eye already halfway there, so I let him go soothe her. 


Knowing she was in good hands, I went back to doing what needed to be done.  There were people unloading and stacking the hay, so I scooped poop.  I should have gone to stay with my horse, which I thought about, but I would have felt guilty "sitting around" while other people were working on behalf of my horse.  Instead, now I feel guilty about letting Bill be the one to keep her calm, when I'm supposed to be her person.  Sometimes I feel like I just can't get it right.  (And, for the record, I know Bill didn't mind babysitting at all judging by the big grin on his face.)

He sat with her and talked with her until she relaxed and then started messing with her.  At one point, I looked up to see that despite all of the noise and activity, he was messing around with her feet.  He had her standing quietly, still tied to the trailer, and was walking around, picking up her feet and banging on them with a rock.  She never flinched.  This is the horse, who just a few minutes earlier was a wide-eyed monster.

When we were all done in her pen, and the panels were all put back in place, he untied her and walked her around a bit before turning her loose.  As usual, she wanted to be right where all the action was, so she hung out by the fence while we stacked the hay that didn't fit into her hay storage.

You can see her in the background watching everyone.
Bill would occasionally "mess" with her.  Go over, pick up her feet (on time, she fell over!) and then go back to whatever he was doing.

After we were done with the hay, we were just sitting around under the shade tree, drinking adult beverages and eating very healthy snacks of chips and dip.  Bill would get up, go into her pen and mess with her some more.  Sometimes, he'd kick her big red ball at her.  Sometimes, he'd stick his fingers in her ears.  Oh, and her face, he grabbed her top and bottom lip and pulled them wide, made funny faces with her.

Always, he'd just spend a minute or two and then come back and join us.  Then he'd be back in her pen, spraying her with the hose.  Or kicking the ball at her.  Or pulling her mouth open.  Or sticking his fingers in her ears.

That's what I need to learn to do.  I'm so afraid of screwing her up or doing something "wrong", that I don't just mess around with her.  Maybe it's the teacher in me, but I always feel like I have to have a "lesson plan" when we "work".  Bill got more accomplished with her yesterday buy just being a pest than I would get done in a week.   And she loves it!  Grandpa Bill is her favorite toy.  He knows when to draw the line with her behavior, but mostly just makes it fun to be around him (he does this with the two-legged grandkids too).

She'll do pretty much anything for Grandpa Bill.  Including having a drink of his beer, which she didn't really enjoy, but tried it anyway.

What's that, Grandpa?

Sure, I'll try it.

You drink this?!
My take-away from yesterday: play with Skeeter more, worry less.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Introducing the Big Red Ball

This could, perhaps, be the most boring introduction to a scary object you'll ever see.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

video

She does have a good head on her shoulders, that's for sure.

Jay got approved for his mustang within just a couple of days.  We mailed his application on Saturday, he got the call on Tuesday morning that he was approved.  This time around, it will be Jay, his mom, my mom and me going down to Canon City.  Skeeter will be getting a new brother in the middle of August.

Speaking of brother - take a look at this guy.  He really could be Skeeter's brother!  One of the ladies from a Mustang page that I follow has gotten special permission to take pictures at Canon City.  Very rarely is anyone allowed in with a camera, so it was a treat to see all of the great pictures she came out with.

Photo credit: Amanda Wilder

Except that his "happy sperm" hasn't been squished like hers, and he has more chrome.  I'm not sure we'll end up with matching horses, as there were a LOT of pictures that we fell in love with.

Photo cred: Amanda Wilder

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Bit of Excitement

First, the big news: Jay mailed off his application to adopt a BLM mustang. 

The previous plan had been for him to adopt one of the "oops" mustang-cross babies, but the babies got sold (they were supposed to have been given away) and it appears the person pocketed the money.  Every time we tried to find out when the babies would be coming to our side of the mountain, we got put off.  It maybe should have been a hint.

So, instead, Jay went with his back-up plan of adopting a mustang.  Thanks to Skeeter, we have the set-up (which we just dismantled and will have to put back up!).  Now that we've been through the process once, it's less nerve-wracking than the first time.  He should hear from the BLM next week and we want to go to the August 8 auction.  This time, it's Mom's turn to go.  Bill got to go last time, so it's only fair that Mom go this time.  We also invited Jay's mom to go, as it will be her first grand-horse. :)

The mosquitoes have been brutal within the last week, and poor Skeets is getting eaten alive.  I went to one of the mustang groups I belong to and asked for advice.  Holy cow!  Everyone's got a cure for mosquitoes, ranging from simple to complex.  I choose to go with the cheapest, easiest to implement (for me): a teaspoon of granulated garlic in her feed.  Now, I don't feed anything other than grass hay.  On occasion I gave her a coffee cup full of black oil sunflower seeds just because, but it's not part of her feeding regimen.

Whole oats are cheap and good for horses, so I figured I could feed her a couple of cups of oats just to get the granulated garlic in her.  I also wanted to get an automatic bug fogger for her shed, so I put that on my list of things to buy.  Off to town we went.

The farm and ranch store didn't have the automatic bug fogger (I'll end up buying it from Amazon, probably), but we did run across this cool biological mosquito control called Mosquito Bits.  I got excited when I read the description, because they work like the Fly Predators.  Only they're not other insects that eat the larvae, the Mosquito Bits are a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis that infect the mosquito larvae.  Similar, in that the larvae are destroyed, dissimilar in that one (the predators) is an insect and the other is a bacteria.

Anyway, the science geek in me got really excited about that.  And then the horse owner in me got really excited because it means that Skeeter can have her swimming pool after all!

We finally made out way out to Skeeter after all of our in town errands were done and Jay's mom and brother met us out there to watch me "work" her.  I didn't have big plans for working her other than to brush her out really well - more to scratch all of her itchy spots than for any training - and to pick up her feet.  Bill's picked up her feet before, but I haven't yet.

Skeeter was her usual charming self, mugging for them, then following Jay and I around in turn. She unhooked from Jay when I called her and came right over to get her halter put on.  I was so proud of her for behaving well.  I tied her to the fence in front of Jay's mom and brother so I could talk to them while I was brushing her.  Tying hasn't been much of a problem, so I didn't think twice about it.  I brushed her out and then grabbed her tail to spray it.  I've sprayed her tail with detangler several times and she's never even batted an eye.

This afternoon, she took exception to it, and pulled back.  Normally, not a big deal.  I tie her to the trailer or to the panels around her hay storage, but I've never tied her to the fence.  Our "fence" is really just panels strung together, rather like a very large round pen.  It really stays standing based on the honor system.  We have some t-posts braced up against the really lean-y over sections so that if she leans on it, it won't topple over.  We didn't, however, plan on her pulling on the fence.

She pulled back and the fence gave, so she continued to back up, pulling the fence along with her.  In horror, I watched the fence fold like an accordion as she peeled it back from the side of the shelter.  She backed up quickly, more surprised than afraid that the fence was following her.  After my second or third order to "stand!", it finally sunk in her pea-brain and she stopped.  My "stand" command was probably helped by the fact that the fence had finally accordioned around her like a chute; had she continued to back up, she would have completely blocked herself in a very small space.

I'm very lucky that she's not a big panicker, because the afternoon could have very quickly turned south and involved large vet bills.  Once she stopped moving, I went over and untied her from the fence, backed her out and moved her away from the thirty foot opening in the fence.  I kept her moving, and her mind occupied until Jay and his brother got the fence put back in place.

Just to reinforce the "tie", I took her to the trailer and tied her there for a few minutes, the whole time afraid that she'd pull back.  She didn't, so I took her away from the trailer and back to the fence.  She showed no fear of it, thank goodness, and allowed me to finish brushing her.

My hope is that the lesson that solidifies in her brain is "don't pull on the fence, because it will trap you" and NOT "hey, if I pull on the fence, I can get out".  I don't think she realized that she could have gotten out to the big ole world since I kept her moving away from the gap and didn't let her watch them put the fence back where it belonged.  I think it was good that she wasn't able to get untied (in this instance): pulling back didn't get her out of the situation, it put her in a worse one.  Please, please, please let the lesson be "don't pull back".

We'll be driving a t-post in the next day or two and will chain the panels to it so it is much harder for her to peel the fence away from the shelter.  Until then, I won't be tying her to the fence again.  We'll also be rigging a more permanent hitching post.

Not exactly the kind of impression I wanted to give my in-laws of my "wild" mustang, but they definitely got their money's worth.  I'm glad they were there, actually, because if this had happened when I was alone, I'm not sure how I would have fixed the fence by myself.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tarp Training

I've been carrying around a tarp in my car for some time now.  I think I got the tarp before I got Skeeter, but I don't remember why.  It's not a big tarp, but it's big enough to do some desensitization training.

I don't have a ton of time right now to work with her, so I'm trying to think of things to keep her brain engaged, hence the pool noodles.  During an exceptionally frustrating moment with work yesterday, I said, "screw it, I'm going to go see my horse."  I shut down my computer, and decided we could work on the tarp.

I wasn't sure how she was going to handle it, so I shook it out and made lots of noise with it while I was outside the fence.  When she stopped reacting (took a minute, at most), I went to the fence and started shoving it through.  I wanted to be outside the panels in case she took exception to the tarp and kicked out at it.

She did great as I was feeding it through the fence.  Being the mouthy child she is, she tasted as much as she could.  I flopped part of the tarp over the fence near her head and she bolted, but didn't kick out.  When she settled down, I pushed the whole thing through the fence to see what she'd do.

I thought I video taped the whole first introduction part, but someone doesn't know how to work her phone, apparently.  I finally realized I'd screwed up and was able to get some video.  I'll apologize in advance, there is one section that kind of drags on, but she was doing the advance/retreat thing on her own and I found it interesting to watch her process what was going on.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Toys!

I've been looking for horse toys to keep Skeeter occupied.  Now that she's completely settled into home, she has to be kept busy or she eats things.  I can't be there 24/7 to keep her entertained and my work schedule is going to get crazy for the next four weeks.

Jay and I had a movie day planned for yesterday and stopped by the dollar store to pick up some candy.  Right outside the store were pool noodles, $1.00 each, so I had to pick some up.  I figured I could hang them in her shed like the "car washes" so popular with competitive trail classes.

Photo cred: www.shamrocktranch.com

I figured nosing them around and moving through them might hold her interest for a while.  Since she likes to chew on everything, I even thought she'd keep busy by trying to catch them in her mouth.

Skeeter, being so curious and helpful, wasn't at all afraid of the noodles and kept getting in our way as we tried to tie them to the rafters in her shed.  I finally took one of the noodles and started dragging it along the ground to keep her interest.  She looked like a 900# cat chasing the noodle.  I'm just thankful she didn't try to pounce on the damn thing like a cat, too.  I might have shat myself if that happened.

I only bought three noodles and we hung two of them in her shed. She inspected them, tried them out to see if they'd work for a back scratcher (they don't, much to her displeasure), and then ignored them.


The third, since she was having so much fun trying to eat it, we hung on her panels as a roller.  Trying to tie it up while she was playing with it was a lot like trying to knit with a kitten.  Fun to watch, but not necessarily productive.  Finally, we got it secured and she went to town rolling it.


video


Tonight, when we go back over, we'll see how the pool noodles fared, but they were cheap enough that even if she destroys them, I won't be too upset.  If they live through the next few days, they will be used in a different training capacity once we get to the "hang crap off the saddle" stage of training.

We'll also tie the tarp to one of the outer panels this evening so she can get used to the sound of it before I start "torturing" her with it.  God willing, she won't eat the tarp once she realizes it won't kill her.

On a slightly different note, I have a question for you: who has used automatic bug foggers/sprays?  The flies are pretty well kept in check by the fly predators, but the other flying critters are not.  I thought I'd mount one of the automatic sprayers in her shed, but want to know if anyone has experience with them. 

Update: When I went to see Skeeter today and she killed one of her noodles.


I went to pick it up, but Skeeter put her hoof on it and told me she was still playing with it.  As long as she doesn't start ingesting the noodles, she can keep them.  Right now, she's the queen of chew and spit, and I'm okay with that.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Skeeter's Grown-up Clothes

My birthday is in July and I made mention to Jay that I wanted horse stuff.  You know, "grown-up" clothes (nylon halter, not her training rope halter), horse toys (OMG, that horse is so destructive when she's bored!), things like that.  For the first time, I could actually come up with a birthday list.

Speaking of destructive due to boredom, when Mom and Bill went to work her the other day, they noticed the trailer door was open and thought I'd done it.  When Jay and I got out there to drop off the hay that night, I noticed the trailer door was open and thought they'd opened it.  Nope.  Miss Skeeter had figured out how to open the latch and swung the door open.  And then she proceeded to eat the padding from the divider.  She made it more than halfway up the divider, which means she had to have self-loaded at least the front half of her body into the trailer.

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when Jay handed me a bag from his mom.  I honestly thought she was sending me food (his mom is an excellent cook), but when I opened the bag, I found a beautiful new halter and lead rope.

So, of course, we had to put it on immediately.




It is a much fancier halter than any I've owned before.  I've never had one with the hook on the throat latch.  Because she's used to me flipping the strap up over her poll, I undid the buckle and put the halter on the "normal" way.  The throat latch is backward because that's the way it came from the store and I was too excited to get her new halter on to fix it.

She wasn't quite sure of the halter, I'm sure because it feels different and with the brass clasp on the lead rope, it's much heavier than her training halter. 

I undid the throat latch and slipped it off over her head.  Little Missy wasn't so sure about that, but handled it okay.  When I offered to put the halter back on, though, she wasn't interested.  Since we'd already worked on a few things, I didn't push the issue.  Instead, I planned on working with her today.

This evening, after our crazy evening thunderstorm had passed, Jay and I went over armed with pieces of apple.  I took the lead rope off and put the halter on the "normal" way, by flopping the headpiece over her poll, and adjusted it to fit her properly.  Then, I undid the throat latch and slipped it off over her head just like I did last night.  She had time to think about it since last night, and since it hadn't killed her, decided it would be okay if I tried to put it on the "weird" way.

Once I got Jay to stop wandering around (she has to know where both of us are at all times, or she can't focus), she allowed me to slip the halter back on over her head, tuck her ears into it, and latch the throat latch, for which she was rewarded with an apple piece.  I hate bribery, but whatever works.  Off and on, off and on, off and on.

The funny thing is, because it's heavier than her rope halter, she thought that she was "attached" to me by the halter and did some great at liberty work.  Who was I to tell her she wasn't attached?

Not only is the halter a great early birthday present, but it's a great training tool, too.  By the end of this evening, we'd already laid the groundwork for getting her to accept the bridle.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I Am NEVER Going to Get Caught Up!

So, so much stuff has happened with Skeeter and just like my journaling fell off, so did my blog posting.  ARGH!

Here are the highlights of what she's learned since she came home on May 8th:
  • Haltering


video

  • Stand (this is a constant work in progress)
  • Grooming
  • Fly spray (mostly, I've only done it while at liberty)
  • letting other people handle her
  • "hooking up" with whoever is in charge
  • Peek-A-Boo with Grandpa Beel
  • Standing tied



  • short periods of time outside the gentling pen


  • turn-out 24/7
  • the water hose is fun

video

  • no more gentling pen at all - she's graduated! 


In fact, we took down her pen just yesterday.  She's so curious and unafraid that she decided she would "help" us take down her pen.

Whatcha doin' Dad?

Lookin' good, Dad.  Keep up the good work.
Tonight, we're bringing in hay.  She'll have to put together everything she's learned while we unload.  She's going to have to stand tied at the trailer while we open the panels, drive the truck in, unload, drive the truck out and reattach the panels.  Tonight is truly going to be a test for her - hopefully, she'll pass with flying colors.