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


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:

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.

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

  • 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

  • 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.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

So Very Much, Part I

I swore I was going to keep a daily journal.  But I lied to myself.  I have the first few days in a notebook and that's it.  Kind of like my kids' baby books.

I had to go back and read my last post, it's been so long. Yikes.

In the almost two weeks since I've posted, Miss Skeeter Bang has gotten some more "outside" time.  She learned to be brave about the the cow feeder and the trailer that is out in the big pen .

A mouthful of food always makes a horse braver.
We spent some time working on leading on a loose lead, we worked on "whoa" (verbal command first, then a correction), and on "stand".  I've got some video I need to edit of our work before I post it, but she did really, really well.

After working, I took off her halter and let her be free in the big pen.  She doesn't get to live out there permanently yet, but the time's getting closer.  It must have been hard learning so much, because after only about twenty minutes she was ready to be caught and put back in her room.  We're working on the command, "go to your room".  We'll see if it sticks. :)

A couple of days later, because she did so well, I decided she could have a half hour or so out to graze.  Joke was on me.  I guess because she spent a half hour out on her own without getting eaten, she thought it was safe and she didn't need to go back to her room.

Is this what Uncle Ranger was eating?

Look!  I have Uncle Ranger's ears.

A-ha!  If I hide back here where Mom thinks snakes are, she won't come get me.
So ... two hours after I turned her out, it was getting dark and I stooped to bribing her with one of Ranger's favorite candy bars.  I walked up to her with a piece in my hand and let her eat it, then turned and walked ten feet or so.  She quickly figured out the only way she was going to get more of the yumminess was to follow me.  I felt like Alec bribing The Black as I doled out treats on our way back to her room.

I had decided early on not to hand feed treats because, well, she's four, and four year olds are lippy.  I was a bad mommy, because what I *should* have done was walk her down - keep after her until I caught her, no matter how long it took, but I just didn't have the heart.  She had been living in 400 square feet for almost three weeks, she needed some time to be out.  *I* didn't plan the evening accordingly.  I should have just set aside an hour or two to just let her be, then I bet catching her wouldn't have been a problem at all.

Just like parenting, the best laid plans sometimes go awry. To avoid hand-feeding her in the future, I make sure to put her "go to your room" treats in her food bowl.  Since she only gets hay, she's learning that the sound of stuff in her food bowl is a reward for something.