Get to Work, Little Horse

Today was hot, but it was lesson day nonetheless. I took the time off work, because it’s so nice to have Tarrin come here and work in our environment. There were only a few distractions, such as this extra-cool spider eating a grasshopper! It’s a brilliant jumping spider, and it must have really jumped!

I’m impressed

Apache did very well in his lesson. Since I was ON him most of the time, I didn’t get any photos, but I was really happy that I got to learn a bit more finesse in moving him around. Once I got the hang of what I was supposed to do, I was thrilled to see how well we could do things together. We were trotting around three barrels and up and down the barrel slalom like a pair that knows what we’re doing! He got pretty tired by the end, especially since he’d also done a lot of jumping and trotting over things.

Look, Night Dreamer is up on the wall!

We had to go on a walk, though (and I felt bad about making Tarrin walk, since she’d been stomped on by a young horse over the weekend). He walked down the scary paddock like a pro and even got most of the way back before losing his sh**. He’s getting a lot better! And I coped.

But, I wanted to take a nap.

Drew had a real day, though. He had to wear the saddle again for the first time in quite a while. His rest time is over. Time to build muscle. The saddle may be a bit big for him, but it will be fine for now.

Do I HAVE to?

Tarrin warned me he might have a bit of a baby horse fit about wearing the saddle, but he didn’t have a major one. I was able to deal with anything he did, and he got some good jumping and trotting over the poles in. Then he got to learn a new skill. Poor Drew’s brain. Tarrin taught him how to do the three barrels activity with me sending him around rather than running with him. That’s gonna make things much easier on this chubby old woman, once we get the hang of it. He had a bit of trouble at first and decided that the way to get it over with was to canter the whole while. Tarrin coped, but I sure couldn’t have!

I’ll go fast then I will be done

Eventually, though, that little boy was doing it with a minimum of fuss. You could just see his brain going, “Oh, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.” He got tired enough and processed enough that in the end, I was able to do it. Of course, I had to practice all the movements (you have to switch hands, back up the right way AND direct the horse’s movements, too). Minor success was had!

After I insisted on showing Tarrin all the other stuff we have been working on, like standing at the mounting block and backing down a corridor, we decided to hose him off. Poor Drew, I turned the thing on him and it made a scary noise. But he eventually settled down enough to drink out of the hose, so I don’t think he was traumatized permanently.

Slurp slurp, maybe I’ll learn to drink like Goldie. Note the water droplets in the air!

As Tarrin was leaving, we took bets on how long it would take him to roll in the dirt. Well, he was annoyed it took me so long to get his halter off (he stomped, not something he does much), so I knew he wanted to do it. Yep, less than five seconds after he was freed, he was down.

That’s better.

He was so darned happy. I couldn’t hold it against him, since he’d worked so hard!

Hoping I feel better soon and can talk about more deep stuff that’s going on. But hey, horses are always good.

Pain, Worth It

I seem to be dealing with the hurt of my lost friendships by replacing it with physical pain to distract myself. I’m pretty sure I have a stress fracture in my foot, because it didn’t bruise much, but hurts unless I wear supportive shoes. And falling in the hole definitely sprained my second toe on the other foot. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I also twisted all my back muscles. I’ve been walking around all hunched over like a person my age. Ha ha.

I did buy these cute boots.

To help me stop slipping and sliding while I’m trotting beside Drew, I got the fine Justin boots above. They qualify as Western boots, but have a rubber sole that will give me traction in sand and arenas. Plus, turquoise and black! Drew’s theme colors!

Too cute!

I’m just pushing through the pain and doing fun stuff anyway. Anita and I went to the local nursery today and I got some bright and happy plants. I hope that cheered her up a bit.

Photos of the plants are to come, when it’s light. I was too busy all day to take photos. There was lots of work, Zooms with friends, and fun chores like hauling horse poop. I think I should have dumped this load sooner.

Growing a mushroom crop.

But, everything is clean, including the trailer. I even towed it all the way to Sara’s tonight! That’s maybe a mile on the main road.

Here we go

It wasn’t all work today, though. I managed to work with both horses while waiting for Trixie to come do feet this evening. Drew really paid attention in his last lesson, because since then he’s like a new boy, with no more Zoolander problems. We turned right at all speeds, transitioned between gaits, and stopped on a dime consistently. There was no crowding or pushing. All his lunge line work was spot in today, too. He got the reward of being done quickly, because he did exactly what I asked!

We were all tired, too.

Apache, well, he was an absolute DREAM today. We had the best ride of our lives today. It was relaxing and fun. I think he may be a bit woozy from all his shots yesterday, because he was not terribly interested in trotting fast. But, he trotted when asked, and did his jumps like a man. We rode all over the pasture with zero issues. Once or twice he started to go astray but all I had to do was refocus him. It was GREAT. He’s becoming the horse I knew he could be.

I’m tired, but a very good boy.

It’s been a good week of spending time with all the horses. Even Mabel and Dusty are enjoying all the togetherness.

Nap time.

When Trixie got here, she was able to just do Drew and Apache’s feet. She has only one good hand after being scratched by an angry cat that didn’t want to get in a crate to go get neutered. Cat scratches go septic so easily! I’m amazed she could get anything done, so I’m happy to wait for Fiona and Dusty. But Drew is now ready for the clinic tomorrow, since Apache’s Coggins results aren’t in yet (not surprised).

I’m more ready after pain pills and a visit to Carlton’s favorite chair, the massage chair.

It’s really great to enjoy all your tasks so much that pain is inconsequential. I just looked at the sunset and felt better. I’m content right here. Where I belong and am loved.

Sunset over chickens

Apache Goes to the Big City

I was browsing through my horse material when I saw something that concerned me: Apache’s Coggins certification had recently expired. Oops. Horses that travel need those to ensure they don’t bring a bad disease to other horses. For non-horse folks:

A “Coggins” is a blood test that detects antibodies to the disease Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA). This is a virus that can cause affected horses (or donkeys) to have fevers, anemia (low red blood cell count), edema (stocking up), or weight loss/muscle wasting.

https://foundationequine.com/blog/2014/3/4/why-does-my-horse-need-a-coggins-test-if-we-dont-travel#:~:text=A%20Coggins%20Test%20Form,or%20weight%20loss%2Fmuscle%20wasting.

Of course, Apache is scheduled for a clinic on Saturday. Shit. Since all his other vaccines were done at the same time, I figured I’d better get him looked at sooner rather than later. I hadn’t been worried, because Lee had been saying he would schedule the vet to come do all the animals soon. Soon hadn’t happened and Apache’s time was up.

Wait, am I a goner? No!

Lee was nice enough to agree to take me and Patchy into Cameron, where Dr. Amy and her mobile vet office are on Thursdays. I was really proud of my old boy (he was born in 2005). We got out of the trailer and just hung out together.

A car with a puppy in it, our rig, and the mobile veterinarian office.

He didn’t act bothered at all by all the traffic, the thump-thump radios, or the smell of barbecue (that made me hungry).

I have grass. Grass is good.

There was a young Siamese cat on the lot where the trailer parks. It had obviously never seen a horse. Apache was very interested in the kitty, and the kitty crept closer and closer until it got to the edge of its comfort zone, at which point it studiously cleaned itself. Cutie.

We waited an hour (there is always an emergency going on, and today’s was an old lab). I don’t begrudge the time, since I remember how long she spent sewing up Harvey when he was hurt.

Apache was deemed in good shape and declared beautiful. He had a few fly bites, but Amy see asid she could tell I used fly spray. And he needs to get his teeth floated, so that will get done when Amy comes in two weeks to give all the ranch animals their shots, spay Goldie, and take care of other issues.

He posed for his Coggins drawing like a model, too. Like a man, he took all his shots without flinching. What a guy.

I’m beautiful.

All in all, I think he actually had a good time hanging out with me, meeting new people who told him how pretty he was, and eating new grass. And he will be all certified healthy in just a little while. A little late for Saturday, though, so I’m prepared to take Drew and do the whole clinic on my feet.

Back together again.

Lessons Learned, More Positive

Yesterday’s lessons learned were pretty hard to take, but I’m doing better today, other than being a bit overly warm from outdoor activities, dealing with a sore foot, and realizing I am developing swimming muscles thanks to some sore thighs. I survived five straight hours of work meetings, too, so I feel like a marathoner. Who would have known?

Fiona’s exercise routine

Today I learned lessons on both my horses. What a great thing it was that Tarrin was able to come HERE and do lessons! She went to Sara’s and did her horses, then came here. Nice.

I was pretty danged hot.

Having lessons on our property was especially helpful with Apache because we could work on his problem areas here at the ranch. And work we did! I am feeling really good about our relationship and can see that I am making a lot of progress with him. It only takes poor Tarrin a hundred times to tell me something before I get the hang of it, but I am getting there and starting to be much better at correcting him before he gets a chance to try to get out of doing what he’s asked to do.

I’m proud of me, too. But tired.

I’m also much better at not letting myself get upset or feel out of control. This is making all of us happier! We walked back and forth all over the front field like pros, and even did well in the “scary” dry lot pasture going away from home. Coming back, we did a thing where he got to have nice, loose reins as long as he walked calmly, but if he started the squirrelly stuff, he’d have to make circles whether he wanted to or not. I think I gained a lot of confidence doing that and he figured out I was not going to quit. In the end, he calmly walked back to the tack room. Tarrin and I were both pleased. I’m glad she is going to come back a couple more times in June.

I am so displeased that the training lady found out where I live that I THREW my food on the ground!

Drew got a workout, too. We spent a lot of time on right turns. While I was out working on the turns, I finally remembered Zoolander was the guy who could only turn in one direction. My mind isn’t totally going after all!

I can turn both right AND left. When I want to.

I now have many more tools in my toolbox to deal with Drew leaning into me. We will be doing many, many right turns, if I can keep from keeling over from trotting with him in the Texas sun. He also got some reminders of how he is supposed to behave when going in circles on the lead line. He quickly became a model citizen and made me proud. We have some fun stuff to work on that will make our show scores so much better.

I want more.

There will always be ups and downs, but I sure am enjoying working with horses. I never cease to be amazed at how much I learn about myself while doing it. The confidence I’m gaining is helping me deal with all the hard things in life, too.

I learned a lesson about spilling my food.

Ouch, More Than One Way

The day started with an ouch and ended with a painful long-term one.

These two are hanging out so I can quickly get them for a lesson tomorrow.

I was planning to go ride with Sara this morning and ran late, but I had Apache clean and saddled in time. We were walking to the mounting block, which is in the portable round pen. As we entered, the stirrup in the right somehow caught in a panel and started following us. That rightfully scared him and he jumped. Jump number 2 landed on my foot. Ouch.

The inner part here used to be next to the outer part.

He got free, though, and said “oof” then stood still. I got up and went over to him and hugged him. He was fine! I got on him and went over to Sara, apologizing for not making it to the gate so Aragorn wouldn’t have to walk near our horses.

The longer grass shows the former outline of the pen.

We regrouped and had a nice calm ride, since Aragorn is working on a hoof issue. I was really proud of my horse and me. In fact, my foot felt fine in my good shoes. It only started hurting when I took the shoe off.

I forgot to put a picture of Harvey on yesterday’s post. Here he is with his favorite pillow.

The other hurt is one I won’t go into detail on, but I found out I’d lost a friend through misunderstandings. For the second time in recent experience, someone got very angry with me due to associating me with someone else. Assumptions were made and even when it turned out they were wrong, I was guilty by association.

The good news is at least this time I know what happened, how it came about, and that there’s not a thing I can do but apologize for things that came across wrong. Sigh. I hate losing friends I really cared about.

On the other hand, I’m no longer in the middle of something I don’t understand and can move on. I’ll just hang out with people who know I’m me, not anyone I’m associated with.

I made my nails cheerful. So there.

These lessons are always painful, even when you’ve made progress on your desire to be liked by people who matter to you.

Ouch.

Book Report: Whole Heart, Whole Horse

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Here’s a short book report, since I talked about this book in a recent post already. Whole Heart, Whole Horse: Building Trust Between Horse and Rider, by Mark Rashid (2009, 2014) is another book that helps you put a finger on what’s going right and what’s going wrong with your relationship to your horse. And there’s some human-human wisdom in there as well.

As usual, Rashid tells a lot of stories about his younger days with his mentor, as well as stories about people and horses he met during his clinics. One of the things that struck me with this book is how well he combines intuition with knowledge of how both people and horses work. His clinic attendees must really get a lot out of their interactions.

From this book, I learned how important balancing your reactions to things, so that horses can mirror your reactions and minimize their own reactions. His discussion of using energy to cue horses as much or more than physical cues makes a lot of sense to me. I can see where I’ve done my own horses a real disservice, but at least I have a plan for what I can work on moving forward.

We will keep working on it.

I just hope I haven’t ruined poor Apache’s life with all my emotions, fear, and inability to remain calm no matter what. I’m getting better, though, and hope I can be more consistent. That’s the other thing Rashid talks about, how horses learn to trust people through consistency. That has always been hard for me, since most of the time I’ve been with Apache I’ve not lived with him, and have been gone a lot. But you know, I also have to live my own life, so I’ll just do the best I can. I’m sure that’s what he’s doing too.

And I will try my best to forge a good relationship with Drew, now that I am getting more training and have learned more. I guess the oldest “child” is always the one that has to deal with inexperienced caregivers.

Just feed me.

I recommend any of his books to people who want to learn more about how the relationship between horses and people works. The more you learn, the more nuggets you can take and apply to your own life with equines. Plus, you’ll grow to love the horses he has worked with as much as Rashid did.

Horses Can Learn by Observation

For the five of you who read my review of Horse Brain, Human Brain from this morning, you might find what happened this afternoon really interesting.

Not me. I’m a hen.

The author of that book, Janet Jones, claimed that horses can learn from observing other horses. She shared that she’d seen horses learn to open gates and do ground work just by watching. I didn’t think I’d seen that before. Well, I saw it today!

Kathleen and I were measuring Mabel with the horse height tool we’d found. (16 hands) we accidentally left a gate open, and of course everyone except Dusty went out. We were fine with it, because we knew they’d come back at feeding time.

We’re free.

I ended up out there with them for a while, because I was urgently searching for the beverage cup I’d left somewhere out there. I wanted to take it on my upcoming trip.

I was too slow. Buh.

I watched Mabel as she purposefully strode across the grass. Where was she going? She went to the new trailer! What? She looked all over it for treats.

The grass IS greener here.

Now, she has never been through trailer friendliness training. Only Apache has. She was watching! Wow.

Any more treats on this thing?

By the way, in a minute, Apache walked right up to his former enemy and thoroughly checked it out. Looks like I did a good job with the trailer thing. Now to cut out the treats and just do praise, as Jones suggested.

Freedom. For a while.

I love it when you get validation of new knowledge so quickly. Thanks for escaping, horses.

Remember the Day Apache Would Not Ride Up to the Trailer?

I’ll never forget the day, myself. It was Easter and Lee’s friend, Matt, was with him. Matt said he’d take some pictures of me riding, which I thought might be useful for identifying things to work on and such. I wish.

Tarrin’s horses thought it was a great show.

Instead of me working on Apache’s inability to jump, me learning to leg yield, or anything remotely calm, I got a series of photos of Apache having one of his stress meltdowns.

I could do better than THAT, says baby horse.

I’ve decided it’s pretty educational, though. You can see my technique issues, my poor posture, Apache’s annoyed disconnection, and more. Matt already posted 51 pictures on Facebook of me and Tarrin working on this, so I’ll make the best of it and turn it into a fun picture story for any readers who are interested in what was going on in the photos.

All that took about 20 minutes of our lives, which are seared in my brain. But, by gosh, we did it! Apache made it to the trailer. Now you know why yesterday’s approach was an impoverishment.

Much needed sweaty hug of relief! Lee and the baby horse approved.

I’m proud of myself for being patient and willing enough to move through this and make progress. I have different goals from many of my equestrian friends, but by gosh, I’m getting there.

All photos in this post are by Matthew Hickner.

Patience Pays Off, with Help

Today Apache and I had our first lesson in a while, since Tarrin is recovering from some surgery that will improve her quality of life, if she survives her convalescent period. That’s hard for an active person! I just brought Apache, since Drew is doing well.

Fine. We will just bond.

This was one educational lesson! Tarrin did great scooting around on a 4-wheeler and Apache did amazing for the first half of the lesson. He jumped the right way at least twice. We were proud of him! This is going to build good muscles! He and I both did well doing some circle things that we can easily practice at home. I’m getting more balanced, and that feels great.

Hey, Dusty, did you get enough food? No, Apache, we’re not special.

However, as soon as he got tired, Apache started to act up. We got some great practice with not putting up with that…stuff. I’m improving. We practiced me getting off, having him run in circles on the ground, then me getting back on. That way he doesn’t get to think he can get me off him so easily.

We get special food. Ha ha.

It was much better than last time, and I was more assertive. Plus, once he calmed down he went right up to the trailer, ate one treat, walked around, went back, and got another treat three times! No drama! And like Tarrin said, I had to do it myself, because she couldn’t jump on Apache and discipline him. Go team.

I love you all, silly animals.

I’m getting the hang of it, slowly but surely, and Apache is really getting to be more of a partner. We’re enjoying each other and not just thinking any time we get together is only for work.

Not sure I love YOU, yet another water snake.

Back on the upswing, at least horse-wise.

Trying Not to Cry Over Spoilt Milk

Last night the dinner we’d planned to have didn’t happen, so both Lee and I had cereal for dinner. I looked at the milk carton, which said it was good until that day. So I poured it on my Oaty Something and chomped away. The cereal tasted odd but I thought nothing of it. But then Lee said he’d thrown out the milk, because it was bad. Oops. The oats hid it too well.

Speaking of things that smell bad, this one horsemint blossom made my office smell like marijuana all day. In a bad way.

So last night, my stomach told me what it thought about that milk, all night. And it gave me weird dreams, like trying to wash horses in my sister’s living room. (She and my mom have both been in my dreams a lot lately — the women my grandmother messed up real bad.)

These flowers cheered me up. I have to pick them now, because they will soon be gone.

Today I dragged along, feeling pretty fuzzy. I got lots done at work, including reading dozens of surveys explaining exactly how much the users I support hate the software I support. Fun times.

In more cheery things. Look, two kinds of vultures, turkey and black. Who knows what they were eating?

Feeling so rotten meant I had no urge to saddle up and ride, so I groomed Apache and murdered botflies that were after him. Then we headed over to the dreaded new trailer. Imagine his surprise when he discovered all sorts of treats scattered on it! I think it did help settle him down, especially since I approached the trailer slowly and indirectly, like it says in my new book (and Tarrin said, too).

You do know my favorite undergrad course was neuroanatomy, right? Well, next to pragmatics.

We went on to do a lot of ground work, and then just hung around with the menfolk, chatting. It was good for us both. I also spent time with Drew after he ate, practicing standing at the mounting block. That boy is looking better.

No picture of Drew, but this is the best I’ve seen Billie Idyl and Blanca, the front two, looking in ages. Star and Buttercup always look good.

I’m home tonight because I decided I’m no longer a good fit for the Austin book club. I think they also decided that. It’s okay, since I had a special dish I was going to make for dinner. Only, dinner got delayed again! I’m laughing. You just go with the flow around here!

Tomorrow is another day. I hope the sunrise is as nice as today’s was!

And tomorrow I’m double booked. How did that happen when I’m trying to cut down on obligations? It’s because I like both Master Naturalist parties AND horse webinars! Glad the latter will be recorded.

Send me vibes for better sleep tonight!

Crissi McDonald

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