Horse Training

Jack of All Trades

Sparkles of dew shimmer atop the lush grass. Sunlight seeps between tree leaves, spotlighting the dancing pools of moisture.

Bliss.

The constant background music of a heavenly chorus might only be inside my head, but this wonderland is better than anything I could dream up on my own.

Applejack is growing larger every day. His strapping physique grows more masculine and muscular every day. The little boy now lunges both ways at a walk and a trot; knows how to stand on a pedestal; can pivot (ish); can shake his head no; has started to lift his feet for the Spanish Walk when I tap his elbows, can back up when I pull his tail; backs up when I move my finger back and forth; picks up all four feet very well for the farrier and for anyone who hoofpicks him; will stand square anytime I ask; will follow anyone’s movement at a walk, trot, over a jump, and stop; and will allow me to snap a whip at any point around his body without flinching.

Whew.

In a few short months, I’ll be seeking out a blanket to fit the boy.

His old ones won’t work anymore.

Winter will be here soon; the cold weather will begin in a few short months–or possibly weeks.

The days pass on, some leaving twinkling moments while others fade quietly into the background.

It’s glorious to notice the sparkles as they occur, instead of longing for them after they have passed.

Categories: Foal, Horse Training, Horses, Ponies | Tags: | Leave a comment

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors -Robert Frost

He grazes on his side, she grazes on her side.

Once in a while, he’ll wander to the fence, call for her, and she’ll wander over.

Or not.

Sometimes she’ll call for him, and he’ll trot over, tail held high.

They’re learning to live without each other.

It makes me feel all the feelings.

My baby boy is growing up. I’m becoming more important in his life, and when I call to him, he nickers or whinnies and gallops over. He knows when I call, I come bearing treats and love and tushie-scratches. He knows that I’ll itch inside his ears and fondle his mane and hug his neck and he comes running.

He comes running.

I hear baby boy’s whinny when I teach lessons and I want to run to him, too.

Always.

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A Wean-a-way

Applejack Kiss

He chases a wisp of hay in the corner, and she lifts her head to observe. He snorts with pleasure as he catches the stray piece, and then shakes his head. She follows suit within her own stall, and watches him through the bars. Her lack of concern borders on relief.

It’s almost time. The time that she’ll cuss me out and call me every name in the horsey book. The time that he’ll wish the fence would crumble and fall to dust.

The time that they’re separated. Permanently.

They’ll both stay here. They’re not going anywhere except separate pastures with other playmates. It’s time to broaden their horizons and test their strength. It’s time to show them that there’s more to heaven and earth, Horatio, than dreamt of in [their] philosoph[ies].

Honey and Mumma will go into the RAMM pasture while Sidney and Applejack will remain in the wooden pasture.

I’ve been told it’s easier on the horses when they’re unable to see each other during weaning, but I just can’t get behind that school of thought. I’ve gradually started to lock them into separate stalls for a few hours each day, and it’s gone very well–even when they can see each other from a few stalls down, or can’t see each other at all.

Besides, Mumma’s milk is dry. He’s sucking air when he goes in for a taste. He’s head-butting her poor teats and nipping her constantly.

And she’s such a sweetheart that she lets him.

Sidney and Honey are the lowest on the totem pole for their respective herds, so they’ll be perfect to initiate Chex and Applejack into their groups. Then, when I move the horses into the paddocks (Mumma into the mare paddock, Applejack in with the boys) the transition will be smoother.

There are a few steps inbetween. I’ve let Chex meet the girls, and Applejack has sniffed Twist, Dusty, and Zeus through the stall bars. Jack has even been in with Sidney for a few weeks when Sidney was meeting Mumma and Jack. (I’ve always known Sidney would be the perfect babysitter.)  The mares and geldings will be added from the bottom of the totem pole into the pasture one-at-a-time. I’m taking no chances with my precious baby boy or his exquisite mother.

The peace of horses eating floods over me and elevates my spirit. Jack gives me a once-over, assessing whether or not I carry treats. If I call his name, he bounds over as if to ask, “What kind of fun shall we have now?” If he’s in the paddock grazing, all I have to do is call, “JackJack! Come here, baby boy!” and he’ll gallop in my direction the moment he sees me.

Soon, I’ll be his Mumma. Until then, I’ll share parenting duties.

Categories: Foal, Horse Training, Horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

My Buddy

He sniffs, and then gives an experimental nip.

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He feels the “pinch” and shies away.

 

 

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He grabs my shoelace and gives a mighty heave.

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Wedgie!

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Ooh–a cat! A CAT!

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Bye, cat.

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Mama peeks around a corner, watching me babysit.

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Applejack’s mane and tail are so veregated, there’s no telling what color they’ll be. Red? White? Black? The hair is also coming out curly.

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His baby hooves are growing out, too. They’re stronger and darker. He has one striped hoof, two black hooves, and a blond hoof.

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Though it may seem that Applejack is able to get away with everything and anything he wishes, he’s learning about his world in a safe environment. I’m helping him to learn boundaries and gently pushing him away from wrong and toward correct behavior. He understands that some things aren’t nice (biting) and that there will be repercussions (small “pinches” on his nose/face.) I want his natural curiosity to continue because it makes training so much easier.

The baby boy is now on supplements for his feet, teeth, coat, and growth. He’s super tall and definitely more graceful than even a week or two ago. He’s growing into his body and understanding what I ask and why I ask it. He’s scary-smart and a joy and delight every day.

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Categories: Cats, Firefly Farm, Foal, Fun Cat Photo, Horse Training, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

License to Chill -Jimmy Buffett

April 9, 2012 094The bay mare shivers, sighs, and then braces herself; shaking silver raindrops from her gleaming body. She stands sentinel at the wooden fence, observing the other mares. She lowers her head and snuffles, then raises it as she hears a distant whinny. Her pacing resumes. She cares little for the other mare in her pasture, wanting to belong, but refusing to submit to their dominance.

Honey watches from the shelter of an open run-in stall, munching contentedly on hay that was meant for both horses. She doesn’t attempt contact with the other mare, nor does she shy from it.

Honey (my shy palomino) and Hart (the new bay mare) are perfectly matched to become best friends. Hart is dominant and Honey is extremely submissive around new horses. However, that’s not the way Hart wants to live her life. Instead, she wants to be

DSCF3277 best friends with Phoenix.

Phoenix, the very large and in-charge Canadian Horse. The horse who is considered Beta to Melody’s Alpha.

Hart whinnies and nickers and cries to be let into the pasture with Phoenix. When I relent and put them out together, Phoenix kicks little Hart’s tushie. Like kick-her-and-then-run-after-her-until-she’s -100-feet-away tushie kicking.

Hart and Honey are in a bonding-time-out in the wooden pasture today. I have two run-in stalls open, both with hay inside.

No dice.

March 31, 2012 054Hart darts along the fenceline, chasing down unrequited love from a fellow mare who doesn’t prefer her company.

Meanwhile, Honey reaps the rewards of being chill. She munches, licks her lips, and in her own little pony way, smiles.

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Here, Today

Cappy looking at me

His nose lifts, sniffing once. Twice.

He neighs, then glances over his shoulder. Daring me to respond.

I pet him and give him a “good boy.”

He paws the ground, I tap his shoulder, matching his rhythm.

He stops.

We walk, trot, and canter under saddle.

We walk to cool down.

He snorts and blows and shakes his head.

“Good Boy,” I say, petting his shoulder fondly.

Soon, his mom will get him and bring him home and I’ll never see him again.

Soon.

But not yet.

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Independence

A baby sits at a table.

She reaches toward a crayon, grasping it in her chubby fist.

“Color on the paper, honey,” Mom says.

The child grows into a toddler.  She reaches toward a crayon.

“Hold it like this, honey,” Mom says. She corrects the child’s grip. “Color in the lines.”

The child grows, now able to hold the crayon properly.

“Make sure that when you color, use the proper crayon. What color is the sky?” Mom asks.

“Blue,” The child says.

Cappy has worked inside up until now. He’s learned his gaits and he’s almost ready.  Soon we’ll ride outside.

I’ve guided him step by step, trying to fill holes in his education gradually and without reprimand–only reward. I’ve started with a base layer of color and I’m adding to the masterpiece. I want to be certain if he reacts outside, it isn’t from fear/uncertainty/confusion about my instructions, which would only leave environmental concerns. If he’s upset over a tree, or a car, or another animal, I can deal with them once he’s obedient under saddle.

The baby boy is almost what I’d consider green broke. Once he’s ready, he’ll go home. Until then, he’s my canvas to play on.

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An Insane, Crazy Horse

She lifted a foot into the stirrup and adjusted her body to spring up. She jumped and landed lightly in the saddle, shifting her weight.

The horse, irritated to feel this sudden burden, arched his back and bucked.

The rider clasped her legs around his sides, holding close to his writhing, jumping body. The horse bucked and bucked until his rider couldn’t take a moment more. She let go of the horse, and then splattered against the side of the arena wall, her body spraying blood in every direction. The horse proceeded to buck on her gory remains, at one point reaching down and ripping her body to shreds as if he were a lion–and she, a wildebeest.

I imagined Cappy’s first ride each time I played with him. I hoped for calm, collected intelligence from this delightful horse. Unfortunately, no matter how well I prepare, that’s not always what I receive when I train a horse to be ridden. Instead, though I hoped and prayed for a cool, calm, collected horse, I planned for an insane crazy horse.

Some horses, no matter how much you prepare them, will not get past the idea that sitting on them is a bad idea. They want you on the ground.

Cappy and I played from the ground constantly. I drove him. I leaned on his back. I jumped next to him on the pedestal.

Today, I rode him for the first time.

Trudie, a very trusted Minion, held him for me while I repetedly mounted and dismounted. I petted him and called him a good boy. He thrived on the attention.

Then, one time after I mounted, I told Trudie to walk forward.

That’s when fireworks should have started.

But not for Cappy. He walked around like he owned the place. Trudie stopped to praise him, and he wanted to keep walking.

No bucks. No crow hopping. Not a blink of an eye, a shiver, or a wince.

I rode Cappy for the first time today.

Without incident.

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