Monday, October 27, 2014

Gate Training, Pool Time, Saddle Work, Oh My! (10-15-14)

I wish I could get my posts up in a timely manner, I really wish I could, but the video uploading takes forever.  Editing, no problem, fifteen-twenty minutes and I'm done.  Uploading takes hours due to our slow internet connection.  By the time I'm done uploading all the video, I've completely over doing any sort of posting, so I apologize.

Jay had a day off that coincided with one of Mom and Bill's days off, so for the first time, he got to work his horse with them and it was great.  I was able to focus on what I was doing with Skeeter and let Jay do his thing with Copper, which meant that both horses got worked pretty hard in just a couple of short hours.

The very first thing Jay wanted to work on with Copper was his sticky gate issue.  Copper did not like coming back into the pen.  At first, we thought it was because he was enjoying his "out" time too much to want to go back in the pen.  However, Jay had a Temple Grandin moment and realized that the alley narrows down going back into the pen, and it's often cast in shadows.  Leaving the pen isn't an issue, because the alley widens and then opens up to the outside, but coming back, the alley is nothing but a scary, shadowy horse chute and who knows what monsters lie in wait?

It really only took three times in and out for him to get it.  The gate is no longer a problem.

He did so well with the gate, that he got to wear the bareback pad for most of the rest of the training session.  He might not have thought it was a reward, but he's growing up, so training sessions have to be longer and more mentally challenging.

I love their relationship :)

Skeeter was a rock start the first time we put the saddle on her, but now that she knows what it's about has decided she really doesn't want to wear it and has been kind of a shit about getting saddled.  I figured she had taken to it a bit too calmly at first and what she needed was a good blow up to realize it wasn't going to hurt her.  She really does not like the cinch and it's not because I've cinched it too tight, I think that it's pokey from being sweated on and used by other horses, so I'll eventually buy a new cinch to try out.

Skeets got squirrely when I first slipped the latigo through the cinch and since Mom had her head, I let Mom move her out until she could stand still, then I went back to tightening her up.  She started to get squirrely again, so I took the lead rope in my left hand and kept the latigo in my right and circled her until she stopped.  I managed to buckle the latigo before she got silly again, only this time, I just let her go.

Her entire temper tantrum lasted less than a minute.  I literally let her go, pulled my flip out of my pocket and started recording.  I actually feel much better now that she's got that out of her system.

Once Skeets had her saddle on and her temper tantrum was over, Bill took over over to the trailer to see if she'd load up with it on.  She got halfway in, but the "stall" is too narrow to accommodate the saddle too.

Darn, I thought I had a still picture of her in the trailer, but it's a video and there's no way in hell I'm going to upload/process yet another video, so you'll just have to believe me :)

Jay decided to walk Copper through the pool.  I've yet to be able to get Skeeter to go through it.  The first time I introduced her to the pool, she pawed at it and got her belly wet - she hasn't wanted anything to do with it since.  Copper went through like a pro - he'll do anything for Jay - and I mentioned to Bill that Skeeter wouldn't go, so Bill took that as a personal challenge to get her across.

Bill put some weight on Skeets while she had the saddle on and she didn't offer any attitude, so I climbed on.  We didn't ride, just sat, but she wasn't bothered.

Even on the last hole, the stirrups are too long.  Time to break out the leather punch.

Skeeter did well with the saddle, so I went ahead and took it off, then we had the bright idea to throw it up on Copper.  After all, he'd worn the bareback pad most of the training session and didn't have a problem, so why not introduce him to the weight of the saddle?

Since they were both so good, we took them over to Estes' pen for a bit of hand-grazing.  It also served the dual purpose of seeing if Copper's gate training had taken.

His gate training totally took.  He marched right down the alley to get back in the pen like he'd done it a million times, not one second of hesitation.

He was still eager to learn, so while Skeeter and I just sat and relaxed, first Mom and Copper played clicker training, then Jay and Copper played clicker training.  Copper really likes it, even though he's not at all food-driven like Skeeter is.  I would have for sure said that the food-driven horse would like clicker training, but she hates it.  Copper?  He loves it, thinks it's a fun game.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Jay and I took a break from our own horses and headed up the hill to go out on a ride with Bill.

I haven't been out on the trails since my birthday ride last year, so it's been about fifteen months. (I'm not sure I even blogged about that ride because I was so heartbroken over having to do it on Washoe instead of my Estes.)  It had been even longer for Jay.  He and Washoe had a blow up a couple of years ago, which just about turned him off of horses forever.  Washoe didn't dump him, but he tried to decapitate him and was just such a shit that Jay lost interest in riding for a while.

I'm very glad that Jay's interest in horses was re-kindled with Skeeter's arrival and that he's built such a good relationship with Copper.  Jay's such a natural with Copper and Skeeter that it's easy to forget he's a greenhorn.  By spring, Jay will be riding Copper and he thought it might be a good idea to get back up on a horse other than his own to get back into riding.

The weather yesterday couldn't have been any better.  The sun was out and the breeze kept the temperature just perfect.  Mom and Bill put Jay on the Old Man (Ranger) to start with, just until he got comfortable again.  I took the Wonder Idiot (Washoe) and Bill rode out on The Mare (Jesse).

It felt so good to be back up on a horse, and what a treat a finished horse is!  It's easy to take it for granted when that's all you've been riding, but after my two very short rides on Skeeter, it was nice to just be able to tighten a leg and flick a wrist to get a turn or make a steering correction.

Still not a fan of saddles, though.  It's hard to remember a time when riding bareback was still a novelty and terrifying, but I definitely prefer it now.  I'm sure once I put the money into finding just the right saddle for me and Skeets, I won't hate them as much, but they're torture devices, I swear.

Ranger took really good care of Jay for the first part of the ride and then he was done.  Jay and I both weight a bit more than Bill and Ranger wasn't going to go one step farther until he got his human back, so we played musical horses.

Jay went to Washoe, Bill went to Ranger, and I went to Jesse.

Me riding Jesse is monumental.  I don't like Mom's horse.  Never have.  To say we've had a "personality conflict" for her entire life would be an understatement.  In all honesty, I never had any plans whatsoever of sitting on Jesse.  But, I gave Jay the choice of greys and he chose Washoe, which left me with Jess.  I took a moment to scratch her and try to make friends before I mounted up and sent up a quick prayer that she'd be in a good mood that day and not want to kill me.

Washoe tested Jay a bit, but didn't throw a temper tantrum.  He just refused to do what Jay asked, until he asked properly, with clear signals.  It was a really good lesson - who says horses can't be good teachers?

Once Washoe got Jay straightened out on how to steer, the ride went smoothly until we got to a downhill, then Jess put on the brakes.  Bill and Jay merrily tromped down the hill and Jess was going nowhere.  Period.

I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on.  She wasn't upset about anything, there were no animals around, she just was NOT going down that hill.  I tried everything I could think of to get her feet moving.  She would circle.  She would go uphill.  But downhill was NOT going to happen.  So I let out a big sigh, hopped down and lead her down the hill to where Bill and Jay were waiting.

I finally found a place to re-mount, checked the cinch, which was a bit loose, but didn't think anything about it until I put my weight in the stirrup.  My assessment of a "bit loose" was maybe an underestimate.  I took six inches out of the cinch.  No wonder she didn't want to go down the hill with the saddle that loose.  Once I tightened it up, we didn't have a single problem the rest of the ride.

In fact, Bill even took a cute picture of me and Jay with Mount Meeker in the background.

We hope that next year we can recreate this picture with our own horses.
Jay has been wanting to go riding since mid-summer, but our schedules just never worked out.  Now I'm sad that we weren't able to make it up until October and we missed all of the beautiful greens and summer mountain flowers.  Next year, though, we'll be up there, if not on our own horses, at least ponying them to get their muscles conditioned to moving on mountains again.  It's been a few years since Copper and Skeeter have had to go up and down hills.

I should have had my camera out to capture the look on Mom's face when she came out of the Lodge and realized I'd just dismounted from Jesse.  *That* alone was worth climbing up on Jesse's back. 

The horses don't look too fuzzy in the pictures, but it was apparent, after we took the saddles off, that they've definitely grown some winter fuzz.

It almost looks like Ranger has tan lines.
Mom, of course, had treats for the poor, abused beasts when we got back and handed them out.  None of her horses had ever tasted peppermint, but they all agreed that peppermint is pretty yummy.

The greys weren't so certain at first, but quickly decided they would have more, please.

And Ranger broke out his super powers to get the last stick.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Two Months

Well, not quite.  It dawned on me last night that yesterday was the two monthiversary of Copper choosing Jay.  He didn't come home until the 15th, but he chose Jay on the 8th of August.  I don't know if I will ever have the words to adequately describe how amazing it is to see someone chosen by a horse.

You. You are my human.
I told Jay this morning that it's like we've always had them, but it's really only been a few of months (two for Jay, five for me).

Here's a run-down (with pics) of what Copper has learned in less than two months:

~ That his human isn't so bad.

Oh, that scratch thing feels good.
~ And he met his new sister.


~ How to knock down his 6' rail on his gentling pen (the day after he came home!)

~ How to supervise his human while he works.

Doin' good work, Dad.
~ How to be caught and haltered.

I do not think I like this.
~ Being dragged around by the face isn't any fun.

~ But spa day is kind of nice.

~ Getting caught and haltered is okay, even if it's crazy Grandpa doing it.

I am a good boy.
~ But getting dragged by the face is still no fun.

I'll come with you because I am a good boy, but it is under protest.
~ That if he tried really hard and didn't put up a fuss, he'd get to "graduate" to the big pen.

Hi Dad.  I like it out here.
~ The new grooming bucket isn't scary.

I helped, Dad.  Now you can find everything.

 ~ Grandma's braids are nice and keep his hair from tangling.

No more dreadlocks
~ The blue saddle pad might feel funny, but it smells like his sister and didn't eat him.

I make this look gooooood.

~ That even though being dragged around by the face is no fun, if he actively participates, he gets to go on a walkabout in the real world.

This is the people barn?
~ That taking a family walk outside of the big pen is a lot of fun, even if he has to remember his manners.

This is nice, Dad.
~ And if he's really good on his walk, he and his sister get a surprise picnic.

Food grows out of the ground?!
~ And after he learned all of that, the hard work began.  In one day, he met the trailer, learned to tie, and wore the bareback pad.

I do not think so Grandpa Beel

That wasn't so bad
I'll just take a nap.
I almost forgot about clicker training.  Grandma and Copper started with targeting and he thinks clicker training is a pretty cool game.

So.  I touch that thing, hear a click and get a treat? Cool.

It might not seem like a lot when compared to events like the Mustang Makeover, where the trainers only have 100 days to train up a horse, but for part-time "training" they've both come a long way and are already great horses. We've got years and years with these two, there's no need to rush them, though it's hard not to feel rushed when we look and see how fast other mustang owners are able to move.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Getting Caught Up

I say that like it's actually going to happen.


But I do have video from a couple of weeks ago that I meant to get uploaded to share.  Copper got introduced to the saddle pad.  He's getting closer and closer to meeting the saddle and I think it won't be a problem whatsoever.

And for a horse who saw absolutely zero reason to allow himself to be dragged around by the face, he certainly figured out his lead line manners once we got out of the pen.  Outside the pen, he leads like he's been doing it forever.

Princess Skeeter, on the other hand, still gets a little "chargy" and gets her face in front of mine, which I don't like.

For being such great horses, they got a bit of a picnic.  No complaints from them at all over the spontaneous treat.


Tomorrow Mom and Bill are coming down and I plan on hard tying Skeets to the truck (since she's pulled up the panel fence and broke the tie on the trailer) to groom and saddle her.  That will be one of the places she'll "get dressed" up at the lodge, so she might as well learn it, right?  Copper might get to wear the bareback pad for a bit and get soft tied to the truck.  We haven't introduced him to tying at all, since we don't have a safe place to do so.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Tarp Training with Copper

Skeeter's been through the tarp training before and was a rock star, but Copper hadn't been.  Last week, when I was inventing new and interesting ways to torture train them, I decided to spread out the tarp and feed them on it.  I secured the tarp to the fence and spread it out.  I knew it wasn't going to be a problem when Copper came over to help me.  He picked it up with his lips and backed right up.  He didn't care one iota about the rustling.

Since it looked like dumping the hay on the tarp wasn't going to be a problem, I decided to drag over the tub we've been using as a mounting block and put their food in a "bowl".

Skeeter was interested in the "bowl"
Copper had to head over to check it out, too.
Yeah, the tarp's not a problem.
If food is involved, not much is a problem.
My plan was to feed them under the tarp the next morning, like I did with Skeeter.  There was a problem with that plan, though.

There wasn't much tarp left to hang, and what was left was full of mud.

I think we can say that they are both appropriately desensitized to the tarp.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Copper's First Walkabout

While Tuesday was a huge day for me and Skeeter, it was also a Big Day for Copper.

His training with the lead rope had come to a stand-still and I thought that maybe he just didn't see the freaking point of it.  He likes to learn new things, so I asked Jay if it would be okay to take him out of the pen when Mom and Bill were down.  It's such a milestone that I felt bad for asking, but I didn't know how Copper would behave and I thought it would be nice to have experienced back-up (or lead in this case).

Copper has learned to respect his halter/lead enough that he'll give to pressure, which came in handy a couple of times.

He marched right out the gate behind Bill and then got a look at the world beyond the pen.  His feet just had to move, so Bill circled him a couple of times, but Copper is just so level-headed and laid-back it didn't take much.  He might actually now see the point of learning to lead so we can go do cool new things.

Food pushy horses really irritate me, so they are not even allowed to look at the hay when we feed until we give them a verbal "eat" command.  Bill took Copper to a green patch and told him to "eat".  Poor Copper didn't realize that applied to anything other than hay, so Bill pulled some grass and hand-fed him, then pointed to the ground and said, "eat".   The light bulb went on and Copper enjoyed some hand grazing.

There were only a couple of times where he sort-of had a temper tantrum.  His are pretty pathetic compared to Princess Skeeter's (remember the dirt skiing?).