Saturday, August 30, 2014

Just Because

This picture cracks me the heck up.

When I go to the Tree of Happiness, I often pick an apple for me, too.  It takes a little searching to find one that's not wormy or been pecked at by the birds, so when I find one that I can bite into with fairly high confidence that I'm not going to get extra protein, I enjoy it.

Skeeter does not enjoy this and believes that all the apples are hers.  All the apples belong to Skeeter, and she wishes I would hurry up and learn that lesson.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Growing Up (Warning: wordy and media heavy)

Tuesday was a busy day for Skeeter.  No more coddling, she's on her way to being a grown-up horse and one step closer to being ridden.  Bill would kill to get up on her, but for now he's mostly okay with just playing Dead Indian with her.  I won't be able to hold him off much longer, so if I don't hurry up and get my ass on my horse, he's going to end up with the first ride.

Mom and Bill offered to come down on one of their scheduled days off this month (yes, they only schedule two days off a month for themselves during the season) and help get Skeeter moving.  We've kind of been in a rut.  I tried clicker training, but she's just not getting it, but she's a horse who needs to learn new things on a regular basis.  With Copper coming home, she was preoccupied (as were we) with the new family member, but now it's time to get back on track.

I cut my work day short and headed home, but Mom and Bill still beat me by a few minutes.  When I arrived, Bill had Skeeter's halter on, with the rope tied around her neck and was introducing her to neck reining from the ground.  Sorry, no pictures because I just watched in awe as she moved forward, to the left and right, and stopped.  It wasn't pretty, but she was thinking it over and trying really hard.

I left him to it and ran in the house to change out of my scrubs.  By the time I was done (it only took me about three minutes), the storm I was hoping to avoid had moved in and thunder was rolling.  Mom made Bill put Skeeter away and we ran a quick errand during our rain delay.

Luckily, the rain delay didn't last too long and we were able to resume when we got home.  Bill took Skeeter out of the pen, while Mom and I stayed with Copper.  Apparently, the first time Skeeter left the pen, Copper lost his mind, so we tried to get some video. He must have realized that Skeeter would be back, because the second time was much less exciting according to Mom.  He was concerned and called for Skeeter, but didn't seem to be out of control at any point.

Copper was boring, so I followed Bill and Skeeter around like the paparazzi.  First, they had to squeeze between the truck and the sheds.

They wandered around and looked in the other shed ...

... then Bill got the brilliant idea to have her walk under the clothes line ...

... they did their "Peeping Tom" impression after Skeeter saw Allie-bird move through the window and had a little moment of bolting panic ...

... then they visited the "Tree of Happiness".  I think Skeeter thinks that apples - her very favorite food on the planet - are gifts from the heavens.  She didn't know (and how could she?) that they grew on trees ...

I forgot that she loves apples so much that her brain short-circuits, so Bill had to make her feet move to re-engage her brain, then back into the pen we went.

A visit to the trailer, where my "elasti-mare" consented to putting three feet in the trailer.  She's so long that she doesn't need to put the backs in to reach the hay in the bunker.  With enough coercion from Bill, she finally put that third hoof in.

And then she backed out nicely with a voice command ...

Whew, she did so much, but we weren't even close to being done.  Bill tied up her lead rope and tried with the neck reining thing again, but she wasn't having it.

He deemed her focused enough to get to the main event: Saddling!

I was warned that the second time might not go as well, and I knew it was a possibility, but I wasn't worried.  I asked Jay to come out with me to hold Skeeter while I saddled her up for the second time and it was fine.  She didn't stand stock-still like the first time, because she knew what I was doing and didn't want to put the squeezy thing on, but Jay corrected her and she stood nicely.  We walked around a bit and I tightened the cinch a couple more notches.  She wasn't thrilled with the cinch being snug, but she was good about it.  She twitched her ear and flicked her tail.  That was the extent of her temper tantrum.

She's so good it makes my heart all full and happy.

Tomorrow, the focus will primarily be on Copper and working with leading so that he can come out of the gentling pen soon, but Skeets will still get saddled.  This time, from the off-side, as that's how I usually saddle up at Mom and Bill's place.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


All but the very tiniest of knots have been brushed out of Copper's mane.  Isn't it gorgeous?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Skeeter Doesn't Know Her Name!

I'm not kidding, I wish I was.  Do you know how much of a parent failure it is to own a horse for three months and then realize she doesn't know her name?

On Saturday, Jay's family was here to meet Copper and Skeeter was mugging his mom, so I tried to call her off.  It's not that she was ignoring me, because she didn't even flick an ear.

It dawned on me that she just hears human voices and comes to the fence.  It doesn't matter what is being said, she hears human voices and goes toward them.

I tried it out a couple of times.  Nope, does not know her name.  I'm such a bad mommy.

Luckily, I had already ordered some clicker training materials, so I know what we're going to work on: coming when called.

Mom and Bill were in town today and spent some time introducing the clicker.  She's not "getting" it yet, but she will, she's a smart cookie.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Please Don't Breed

This morning, as I was wading my way through my FB feed, I saw that someone had posted in a mustang forum a mare that "would make a great broodmare".  There are thousands of horses in BLM holding facilities who need homes, why on earth would someone breed another?  And let's face it, if you're backyard breeding mustangs, you're a big part of the problem.  They're not mustangs after they've been domestically bred, they're just domestic grade horses.  Mustangs are mutts, they're not a "breed" like we think of Thoroughbreds or Arabians.  I, personally, love mustangs because they're mutts.  They don't have the same type of inbred issues that "purebred" animals do.

If someone truly wants a mustang, then just adopt one.  The adoption process is easy and there are many trainers out there who are willing to gentle and train your 'stang for you.  What if you want a mustang and there's not a facility nearby?

Then check out this site.  Amanda is a volunteer who spends one day each month at the Canon City facility taking pictures of the available horses.  In her "spare" time, she coordinates trucks for adopters all over the U.S.  To date, Amanda is credited with over thirty adoptions since May because of her website.  Twenty of those horses have been adopted by people outside of Colorado and she's currently working on coordinating a truck to Texas.  The great thing about adopting a Canon City mustang is that the BLM will pay for the first 150 miles of shipping, so if four people adopt and are on the same truck, then the first 600 miles of shipping is free and the adopters only have to pay the difference (split four ways).

I know our mustangs are awesome and that Ranger Mustang has his own group of followers, so if you ever decide you want one for your own and think you live too far away, just remember that there's someone whose passion is seeing these horses placed in their forever homes.  All you need to do is visit her website and contact her.

But whatever you do, please don't support backyard breeders of mustangs.  Maybe if there's no demand, the practice will cease.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Skeeter's Turn

In addition to Skeeter getting a brother yesterday, she got to play with Grandpa Bill.  While we were messing around with Copper, Bill gleefully played with Skeeter.

I did do some Skeeter torture myself before Copper came, but I'm not nearly as evil as Bill.  All I did was rub her all over with the pool noodle and balance it on her back.

Bill, though, is truly an evil genius.  He saw the pool noodle on the ground and got an insane idea to just tie it around her neck.  Why would he even think about that?

It bothered her not one iota.

For the record, I told her not to let Bill do shit to her (way back when he hung the dog toy from her ear), that she'd regret it, but did she listen to me?  Nooooo.  What do I know?

He also decided it was time to start feeling her out for how she would do with weight on her back.  He has put pressure on her in the past and I've followed his lead, but I haven't yet thrown my body weight at her.  Our improvised mounting block is a black feed tub turned upside down, which makes it a bit too tall, but that's better than too short.

Side saddle (sort of)

Dead Indian

Skeeter handled it with her usual ho-hum attitude.  We're going to have to try it soon, I suppose :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Copper Casanova is Home (media heavy)

What a whirlwind today has been!

Jay was up bright and early this morning, but I wanted to stay in bed.  My logic was the later we slept, the less time we'd have to wait, but in the end, he won.  We got up, did some lawn stuff and I prepped Estes' pen for Skeeter.

I moved her purple blanket, Barney, to the gate in Estes' pen so she'd have her lovey with her and filled her kiddie pool with water in anticipation of her move.  The plan was for Copper to arrive between twelve and one p.m., so Bill was going to head out of the lodge as soon as he finished his chores.

Ready and waiting for Skeeter.

With our preparation done by nine-thirty, Jay and I sat down to watch a movie.  I called Mom at eleven to see if Bill had left the lodge and to let her know that Copper left Canon City at nine-fifteen.  We settled back in to watch the movie, and right as it was getting good, Jay glanced out of the window, "is that my horse?  Oh shit!  My horse is here!".

He was right.  His horse was here.  An hour earlier than we had planned.  Jay flew out the door to get the panel to build the chute and I quickly changed out of my shorts into jeans and boots to grab Skeeter.

Skeeter was amazing!  She's never been a problem to halter, so I threw her rope halter on and marched her out of the pen to Estes' pen. There was none of that Tomfoolery from earlier in the week.  She walked right alongside me like she was ten years broke already.  I met L.E. on the way and she asked if we needed help.  I pointed her to the pen and told her the driver was early and to help Jay.

The only issue Skeeter had was at the gate to Estes' pen, but when I pointed her to Barney on the gate, she sniffed and stepped right into the pen.  I pulled the gate closed behind us and let her hand graze.  She was amazing, but I missed seeing Copper get unloaded.

It seemed like no time at all when L.E. came back to the pen and said it was okay to bring Skeeter back.  Skeeter again acted like a pro.  We stopped to graze and talk to the driver, who was the same one who delivered Skeeter three months ago.  I beamed with pride when he told me she looked good and was coming along well.  I like to think so, but it's nice to hear from someone who hadn't seen her since she was dropped off.

Proud mama.
Skeeter didn't realize that anything unusual was going on until she was almost in the pen, then she saw Copper.

Aren't they stunning?

Once it was obvious there weren't going to be any fireworks, I turned Skeeter loose to properly meet her brother.

Turns out, Copper does a great giraffe imitation.  I actually was worried that the six foot fence wasn't tall enough when I saw his whole head clear the top rail.

He's learned so much today. He didn't really want anyone touching him, but finally allowed Jay a touch through the fence.

When Jay went into the pen, Copper didn't really want to have anything to do with him and started circling the fence.  Slowly he realized that Jay wasn't hurting him and started circling closer and closer until Jay could run his hand along his side.

That's close enough, human.

Well, I suppose you're harmless.
Jay's got a good sense of timing and kept the sessions short.  Once he got to rub Copper, he left the pen so Copper could think about it.

When he went back in, he was able to take Copper's neck tag off without any drama.

Copper was so happy, he immediately laid down to roll with Jay in the pen.  Guess he feels safe here already.

Soooo itchy.
The third time Jay went into the pen, Copper decided that his human was useful and not only allowed Jay to rub on him, but run the brush along his sides.

Copper enjoyed it so much that when Jay was done, he hooked on and followed him around like a puppy for a couple of figure eights.  Only when he realized the brush wasn't coming back, did he allow himself to be distracted by the hay in the corner.

About four-thirty Jay's family started showing up and by that time Copper had had enough time to think it over and decided that humans weren't too bad.  Every single one of Jay's family was able to pet Copper through the fence.

It was quite a difference from just six hours earlier when he didn't want anything to do with the human he picked out last week.

Tomorrow, Jay is going to introduce the halter and see if he can get a start on brushing out those dang dreadlocks.  Tonight, though, I bet Copper sleeps hard - he learned a lot in a very short period of time.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Oh. My. Lord.


Sometimes she just makes me shake my head.

The other day, we went out for a short walk.  L.E. had her family over for dinner, but I didn't think anything of it.  Skeets, of course, had to be an absolute ass during our walk, which resulted in a lot of corrections (namely flailing and making the bad noise).  I don't think it's too much to expect her to walk nicely, with her head at my shoulder, one arm's length away from me,  at my pace.  When she gets in front of me, or gets in my space, then I kind of go ape-shit to move her back and out of my space.  So it really looks like a crazy lady trying to beat the hell out of the big black mustang.  A spectacle that L.E.'s entire family got to see from the dining room as we were going out for our "walk".  Great impression to make on people who were already concerned about their child being around a "wild" mustang.

Stupid mare.

Yesterday, I moved her to Estes' pen while Jay and I built Copper's gentling pen.  We figured it would be easier to work without her "help" and I thought it would be a good time to let her be in the pen by herself for the first time.

She followed me like a pro.  Stayed a polite distance from me, stopped and stood when asked, walked at my pace.  You know, everything she didn't do when we had an audience.

Stupid mare.

As food motivated as she is, I figured it would be a treat for her to be in Estes' pen where she could just relax and graze and chill.  Boy, was I wrong.  The fence in Estes' pen is only four feet, but Skeeter has never challenged a fence.  Ever.  And she didn't really challenge this one, but she was very concerned when I took her halter off and shut the gate behind me.  In the past, when she's gone to Estes' pen, she stayed on the lead and I just hand-grazed her.  This time, she had full access to anything she wanted to stuff in her mouth.

She was fine while she could see us, but was not so fine any time a vehicle passed on the road right next to the pen.  She spent the entire hour bolting from traffic, pacing, and worrying.  She still stuffed her face, let's not be stupid, but it was in between bolting, pacing, and worrying.

There were a couple of times when both L.E. and I were convinced she was going to try to jump the gate.  Luckily, she pulled herself up short each time. 

When Jay and I finally had the gentling pen at a point where we could close the gate and work from the inside, I went to get her from Estes' pen.  She was hot and sweaty and very glad to see me.

But that didn't stop her from being a complete ass on the way back to her pen.  She had worked herself into such a tizzy that she had a hard time focusing on me.  She threw her nose into her halter, but then didn't want to stand still long enough for me to tie it.  We had a bit of a discussion about the gate and how she wasn't going to charge through it, which she never does in her pen, but she was so distressed about being alone in Estes' pen she couldn't wait to get out of it.  We did eventually walk nicely through the gate without me getting run over.

Since her brain fell out of her butt, we had some discussions and practice circling on the way back to her pen.  We stopped at the mouth of the alley to the people gate and relaxed a bit before going through the alley.  Skeeter doesn't have a problem with it, but I do, so I always have to take a deep breath and relax before leading her those fifteen or so feet.  We did okay until we got to the gate, at which point, she decided she need to go through the gate right next to me instead of one step behind me.  I got squished a little bit, but not as badly as Jay thought I did.  When I realized she was coming through with me, I threw my weight into her shoulder as we squeezed through so she couldn't push me into the hinges.

Stupid mare.

Inside the pen, she got set to working on the circle again.  We're not very good at it, but it did help her start to calm down and focus.  I know that some horses just have to move their feet when they get anxious, and I'd rather be the one directing her movement.

Once she was back home and calmed down, she was her usual in-your-face loving self.  I've started extending my arm and reminding her "arm's length" any time she gets in my space.  She's a smart girl, I'm sure she'll figure it out soon. 

Jay's got some work to do on Copper's pen today, and we'll have to put the horizontal bars up on Friday morning, but we did get the panels and gate up last night.  Now, we're just extending the height to the required six feet.

Sorry it's so blurry. I had "help" taking the picture. Stupid mare.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tag 8120

Yesterday was the big day.  Jay, his mom, my mom, and I loaded up and headed down to Canon City.  Jay had a list of horses he wanted to look at, thanks to Amanda who runs the Canon City Mustangs page.

Jay's list was just a starting point; he wasn't absolutely in love with any of the horses, but thought he could start looking with the list and go from there.  We learned from our first trip to the prison that their inventory list had notes on each of the horses, so with a list of numbers, the guide could look up which pens the horses were in.  It turned out that the numbers really just guided us to the pens, and while we looked for the listed number, only one of the listed horses made the finals.

Pretty quickly, Jay found a dark bay 3 year old with the cutest "poofy" forelock.  He was darling and really, really liked Jay.  Definitely a consideration.  The drawback was that he was 3 and still had some growing to do.

A few pens later, another dark bay with a wide heart-shaped blaze picked him out.  He wasn't overly friendly with Jay, but showed interest and kept his eye on Jay the whole time we were in the pen.  Contestant number two happened to be one of the numbers we had listed.

In the 5 year old pen, Jay was immediately picked by a flea-bitten grey gelding who was sweet as pie.  So very sweet, but severely cow-hocked and unable to do what we want to do with him.  Someone needs to go adopt that boy and make him a grandkids horse.  He has the perfect temperament for a kids horse (or a very small adult) and it broke my heart to leave him behind.  Truly, if we had space and time for a third ungentled horse, we would have adopted him in a heartbeat for all the nieces and nephews.

There was another couple with us who had their own list, so we took turns going to the pens we each wanted to take a peek in.  It was in one of "their" pens that Jay's horse found him.

We walked into the pen and a big sorrel looked up from across the pen, ears up, and started walking toward us.  I hoped he had chosen Jay, but Jay was walking right next to the male from the other couple and I couldn't immediately tell which one the horse had chosen.  I hadn't realized I was holding my breath until the other guy walked right past the sorrel and I could breathe again.

The big sorrel stopped and let Jay walk right up to him and pet him, but then two dark blue roans introduced themselves to Jay, taking his attention away from the sorrel. 

The "test" that any horse that Jay chose had to pass was that other people had to be able to go up and touch/pet it.  Jay's mom and I walked up to the roans and loved on them for a bit.  The darkest of the blue roans was definitely a front runner, but he was a bit pushy and did not make the best impression on me when he pawed me with his hoof.  We already have one paw-er, we do not need a second one, but if it was the horse that chose Jay, we'd just work on it.

We quit loving on the roan and looked back to see Jay and the sorrel.  He was letting Jay rub on him, up and down his legs, both sides of his neck and back and was eating it up.  I knew it was going to be a toss-up between the roan and the sorrel and it was going to be a tough choice, or so I thought.

Jay stepped away from the sorrel, who just stood like a statue and looked at him, while I approached.  The sorrel allowed me to touch him all over and stood like a rock star.  After making sure other people would be allowed into the horse's space, Jay came back to join us.  Mom, Jay's mom, and I stepped back and let the roans re-join the little love-fest Jay had going on with the horses.

Jay was still loving on the sorrel, with the roan right next to him when he said, "I like this one."  Mom asked him, "compared to the 3 year old, who do you choose?".  Without hesitation, Jay answered, "this one".  Same answer when Mom asked him about the second horse on his list, again without hesitation.

When asked to chose between the roan and the sorrel, the answer was the same, "this one."

We were done.

Jay's heart horse had found him.

Copper Casanova

Jay's heart horse

Is he handsome, or what?

Copper is a 4 year old gelding from Adobe Town, Wyoming, who was gathered in October, 2010.  My best guess is that he's about 15.1h and 1050#.  When he comes home next Friday, we'll put the tape on him and see how close my guess is.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Skeeter's New Hat

Bill found a cheap kiddie pool for Skeeter and picked it up.  Mom dropped it off yesterday, so when I got home from work, I decided to torture play with Skeeter.  Keeping in mind that I have to let go of having a lesson plan and just have fun, I put it on my head as I walked from the car to her pen.  I tried to be as big and scary as I could to get a reaction out of her.

Instead, I got a "hey, Mom" whinny as she trotted up to the fence.  I banged the swimming pool around a bit, balanced it on the fence, and just slid it from my head to hers.  She thought it was a bit weird, but didn't have too many issues.

When I was sure she wasn't going to kick the hell out of it, I took it into the pen with me and put it back on my head.  I offered to put it on her head and she wasn't entirely sure she wanted it there, but let me slide the edge up her nose and over her ears so that we were both wearing the pool.

She allowed me to put the pool on our heads a couple of times before she was done, so I rolled it around on its side for a bit and let her lip at it.

When she bored of playing with the pool as a toy, I decided that we should fill it and use it like it was designed to be used.  She knows the sound of the hose filling her water trough and she knows the sound of the hose just running, but the hose filling the plastic pool was ... interesting, so she had to sneak up on it.

She had a couple of big drinks out of it and then pawed it.  I'm not sure what made her jump more, the feeling of water up over her hoof or the big clump of water that splashed on her belly, but that was all she wrote.

I spent a few minutes trying to convince her to come back to the pool, that it was just water, but she was having none of it until Allie-bird started drinking out of Skeeter's pool.

Suddenly, the pool wasn't so scary any more and Skeeter came back to drink out of it and remind her canine sister that it was her pool.  Jay and I spent a good bit of time trying to coax Skeeter to walk through the water.  It was a no-go.

Jay and Allie went back into the house and I grabbed a bribe from the tack room and set about trying to get Skeeter to at least put one hoof in the water.  After twenty minutes, the best I could do was get her to lift her hoof and touch the edge of the pool, so we called it a day.

I ordered a clicker-training book a couple of days ago, so I think we'll work on using that to train hoof placement.  I also have a much bigger, blow-up swimming pool that will be more difficult for her to step around or over.

I'm feeling pretty good about my choice to train her to cross water.  Despite being wild-born, she has spent the last three and a half years of her life in a BLM holding pen, where there wasn't any running (or even standing) water for her to play in.

(In roughly seven hours we leave to go to the prison for Jay to be chosen by a mustang!  Wish us luck that the perfect horse will chose him.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Three Wake-Ups

That's it.  Just three more wake-ups before we had back to Canon City for another prison break.

Shoe's on the other foot this time. Jay is the one hoping to get chosen by the perfect horse, and I'm just going to look at and pet the pretty horses.

I'm sure he'll get chosen by a great horse and in about a week, Skeeter will have a new brother.

Is it weird that I can't sleep with excitement, and it's not even my horse?