Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Calendars and Book

Don't forget the new calendars and books which are available. You can preview both in the post below and purchase them by clicking on the preview...you'll be taken to the site where they are available. Or just click here for the calendar or here for the book. This book is quite small but charming and beautifully done but I do have a longer version started that I hope to publish on Danny's 1st birthday that will chronicle the entire year.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Training in Earnest

It takes the same amount of imagination to scare yourself to death as it does to inspire yourself to life.

I've decided that it is time for me to get serious about Danny's training. We put a halter on him when he was just a few days old but I've not worked with him as diligently as I should have been with leading and basic ground work. I kept thinking, I have time and I'll just wait until he's a few months older or until he's ready to wean. Well, he'll be seven months old in less than a week...next Wednesday to be exact. This is both the time to wean him and time to become far more diligent with his training.
So far, he's been great about turning and backing. He's pretty good at whoa although I don't think he quite understands the command yet. He's best at the backing and when in doubt, he'll back every time no matter what you've actually asked him to do. Moving forward has been a bit of a problem but then, in Danny's defense, I really haven't worked with him enough for him to understand what I want.
I came up with the idea yesterday of having Steve lead Mouse around while I led Danny. I don't think Steve understood quite what I had in mind because he started leading Mouse down the hillside before Danny and I were ready to follow. I always try to start and end with what Danny already knows so that we are both beginning and ending on a good note. I will turn him to the left and then to the right. Then we will back up for several feet before, "Whoa!" and then, "Let's go. Forward." Despite the fact that his example,Mouse, was too far away by now to help much, Danny started moving forward better than he ever had before. He didn't even crowd me much and when he did get a little close, I would simply push his head away and tell him to, "Back off." We were doing great until Django decided to help. Evidently, he thought that my constantly urging Danny forward meant that the foal wasn't doing what I wanted and he began biting Danny on the rump. I brought Danny to a halt and this time, I told Django to back off. It didn't help much. He did stop biting but then, he started pushing Danny with his chest!
I've made another decision. Today's lesson, Django will be the one leading by example on the end of a lead rope. This will not only keep Django out of our way and prevent Danny from being pushed on top of me but I also think that Danny spends more time with Django now than he does his mama. So, Django may be the mentor who teaches Danny how to lead, load and ride in a trailer and other lessons over the next few months. Well, every lesson but the farrier because Django would not be the best example in that situation.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Calendar, Too!

New Book!!

Danny at 6 and half months looking as if he's serving as a wind block for his little mama.

New book chronicling Danny's first six months in words and photos available on lulu.com:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Epiphany....for me

This past week's experiences with Danny have not only been eye opening for him but for me as well. I have to admit that it didn't take the vet telling me that I was babying him too much or Huston's scolding me for me to know that this was true but still I was reluctant to correct him as hard as I knew I needed to. Then last week, both Huston and  E.TN horse trainer, Erin Stevens, told me the same thing, if Danny isn't stopping his mouthy behavior when you correct him, you aren't hitting him hard enough. In my mind and my experience with the older horses , I did realize that: one, you can't truly harm a horse unless you hit them with a lead pipe...and then that would take some effort and two, you have to exert as much force as necessary to get the results you want and you keep increasing the pressure until that is achieved (that one comes from Brandy McDonnell,"As much pressure as needed to achieve the results you want and assertive not aggressive unless aggressive is absolutely necessary.) Just plain ol' horse sense and something I already knew but something that was still difficult to do with this horse that I still see as that new born baby. Finally however the light went off for both Danny and me....although it took two flickers for both of us, lol. First, I finally got tired of Danny's constant pestering....that was part of the problem with his latest "trick", he wasn't harming us, he wasn't biting us, but he was constantly grabbing at our clothes or anything we were holding.....and I really let him have it. I didn't just slap his nose away like I'd been doing with little success since it wasn't slowing much less stopping the behavior. This time, I pulled back and I slugged him. Oddly, this upset Django worse than Danny. Django screamed, reared and ran away but Danny just glared at me and then slowly turned and sulked away making me think so much of a teenager. The long term effect was however much larger. Steve took care of the horses for me the next day while I finished up some work here so there was quite a bit of time that past before I saw Danny again. I was truly surprised by his behavior. He attempted to grab my jacket hem only once. I pulled back my hand and he turned away. He came running up to me but he simply walked beside me as I searched for groundhog holes in the field (we're having a problem with them and with small sink holes in the pasture.) He was gentle and not aggressive or mouthy at all...with me, the other horses were another matter but that's their problem, lol.

My second lesson came on Tuesday when the Vet was due to come to give Danny his first shots and an exam. The first time I put on his halter and led him to the gate, he was very well behaved but the vet called to say that she was going to be late so I set him free. When she called again to say that she was about 10 minutes away, I went out in the pasture to get Danny and I led him back to the gate. We had a few stubborn stops but all in all, he led quite well for it to be such a long distance from one side of the pasture to the other. Then I stopped him about ten or so feet from the gate to wait for Dr. Hamilton. He quickly grew tired of just standing. He started to paw and I jerked down on the halter rope and told him to, "Cut it out!" That seemed to make him angrier each time I did it. The last time, Danny suddenly went wide eyed....I know he's young but I swear this is the same trick that Mouse has used to get her way. As the vet later said, this little guy is scared of nothing and also, there was nothing frightening or surprising in the direction he was staring........that stopped and for about 10 seconds, he stood there calmly but in hindsight, I should have been more on guard, I should have read the obvious tell. I guess I just didn't think that this six month old would actually be thinking about how he was going to get away from me. Suddenly, he wheeled around toward me and reared up catching me under the nose and knocking me backwards. I saw stars but I still managed to hold on to that rope as he jumped backwards. Then as he tried different turns and rears and attempting to gallop away, I held him and turned him sideways trying to get him under control. If it had been one of the older horses, I probably couldn't have held them but I did know that it was essential that I not let him get away from me. Once I'd tied him to the large post at the gate, he tried pulling back once and realized that he wasn't going to move that post. After that, he was perfectly behaved and calm even when the vet gave him his first shots and drew blood for his coggins. But the eye opening experience for me came yesterday. Once again, there was a day in between when I didn't see Danny because I was out shopping and running errands and I called and asked Steve to please feed for me. So, yesterday I went into the pasture for the first time since Tuesday afternoon with no idea how Danny would behave after our little "altercation" and the shots he'd received from the vet. At first, he didn't seem to want anything to do with me. Not only did he not come running to greet me like he usually does, he actually seemed to be avoiding me. But when I walked up to him he reached his head toward me and to my surprise, he did not grab my jacket, he gently nuzzled me. There was none of the pushy and aggressive behavior that we've had from him over the last month or so. There was no angry glaring just a sweet, gentle expression in his eyes. So, the good news is, the light went off for me then. I'd realized during our little battle on the day of the vet's visit that I had to control him now because if I don't, when he is 16.1 and 1000 or more pounds, I won't have a chance. But I also realized yesterday that, just like the big guys, my taking control did not alienate him, it actually made him respect me more and show more affection than he had before. It still seems odd to me that such a simple act could have such an amazingly radical result but it did, he is a different horse. I know now that I have to start thinking more like a horse when I deal with him since in the horse community, the lines are more visible and simple between the dominant horse and the others. As my husband....and numerous other people...is constantly telling me, I tend to over think everything and that can be dangerous with a horse. Of course, I am aware that this won't be our last battle and I'm also aware that I have to be prepared because I HAVE to win every one of them and no matter what, I have to be ready to act instantly and as aggressive as necessary but never emotionally. But I also have to admit that I'm feeling much surer of my ability to handle what ever situation might occur. I think I'm on my way to finally becoming a horse woman....and just in the nick of time, lol
He still has a crush on Brandy:)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bringing Up Baby

Danny had one of those landmark moments in his young life yesterday afternoon, his first visit from the veterinarian and his first shots. You know what they say, all's well that ends well. This did end up being a good experience with our vet, Dr Melissa Hamilton, saying that he was a perfect gentleman but the time leading up to her visit did not go as smoothly and he certainly was not a gentleman during the last five minutes before the vet arrived.

It did start well. Dr Hamilton was due to arrive at 4:00 PM. I went to the pasture at 3:00 to fill water troughs and feed hay. After those chores were completed, I called Huston and gleaned his vast horse knowledge for about 30 minutes while I waited until the last minute to put on Danny's halter and walk him down to the gate to meet the vet. Danny did well with that trip. It was the first time I'd actually led him any distance outside of the round pen where a few feet of pull free travel is considered a great victory and I was pleased with how easily Danny came with me and how he backed up quickly on voice command. The one problem was that he was still crowding me and when Nancy called to tell me that Dr. Hamilton was going to be delayed, I let Danny go back to the herd and used the time to place another call to Huston to ask his advice on this problem. He told me how to handle the problem and make Danny respect my space.
After I said goodbye to Huston, I walked to the top of the hill where I could keep an eye on Danny who was still wearing his halter. I don't like to leave the halter on any of my horses when they are at liberty. My husband always says that horses and dogs are both like little boys, if there is trouble to be gotten into, they will find it. I found Danny playing with the geldings. At least that was his plan until they each grew tired of his pestering and ran him away. He then chased poor, old Brandy in tight circles, nibbling at her neck until she finally squealed and cow kicked him away. He returned to Riley for a while but after a few minutes of irritating him, Danny turned and came galloping up the hillside to me. Thankfully, the slow command, signaled by raising my arm and flattened palm toward him, is one that he has learned well because he slowed to a gentle trot as soon as I raised my hand and then walked slowly up to stop a respectful distance from me. He was very good, no nibbling or nipping, so evidently the pop I gave him on Saturday had some effect. He stood with me for a while but soon grew bored with me as well and ran off to be with the other horses again.
Although his attention span is getting longer all of the time, I was soon to learn that his patience level and tolerance to being restrained are still in need of improvement. Melissa called to say that she'd be at my place in ten minutes. Plenty of time I thought to walk Danny down to the gate and honestly, the walk down was a breeze. It was only after we reached the gate and were standing there for what seemed like only ten seconds that Danny started to paw the ground. I jerked on the halter rope and told him to, "Cut that out!" Correction usually doesn't have the desired results the first time with Danny. Second attempts are usually more successful but the first time with any correction usually results in anger from Danny not compliance. The second correction usually gets better results but this time however  the jerk on the halter rope after his second paw only appeared to make him angrier. He glared at me and then he gave me what should have been a warning, he suddenly looked up as if he saw something that startled him and stared off across the pasture in the direction of the woods with wide eyes. I looked and didn't see a thing and I really think there was nothing to see; I've seen this trick before from his mom. Danny is already showing that he's a thinker like Mom. Like her, he never appears to be scared or startled by much but he does seem to use the appearance of being spooked when it suits his needs. The tell is that when the spook doesn't give the desired result, usually his freedom from your restraint, he gets angry instead of scared. So, with this obvious tell, I should have been on guard more. If I had been prepared for what came next, my nose would not be swollen and still occasionally leaking blood this morning. But I was standing there relaxed and not as alert as I should have been when from being dead still and calm, Danny suddenly blew up. He turned toward me suddenly and then went straight up in the air, catching me under the nose and sending me backwards. I literally saw stars but I managed to hold on to him. Thankfully this episode didn't last long because as soon as he saw that this method wasn't going to give him the escape he wanted, I could see his brain working to devise another plan. So one after another, he tried different techniques to free himself from me and the rope but I cow girled up and held on as he and I went in circles with him rearing and twisting while I dug in my heals and gripped that rope for dear life. I managed to get him over the heavy gate post just as Dr. Hamilton came driving up the road. It was a pleasant cool day but I was sweating and disheveled by the time I wrapped the rope around the post and pulled tight. Still, he acted like he'd never seen a truck before when Melissa pulled up. He tried to rear up again and then twisted sideways almost pushing me into the electric fence that I'd stupidly failed to disconnect. Dr. Hamilton apologized for spooking him and I told her that he wasn't scared; I don't think he's scared of anything. Good grief, he practically climbs into my truck when I pull it into the field. In fact, I think the only thing keeping him out is my closing the door because he does reach into any open truck window he finds and sniffs around and explores. So, it was experience as well as the glare in his eyes and the flattened ears that told me that this was anger not fear that he was displaying. Thankfully though that was his last fuss. Evidently he realized that although he might be stronger than me, he was no match for that big post. Melissa brought her twitch with her because she said that she'd just finished with a young filly that had to be twitched during her exam and shots. It turned out though that the twitch was not needed. Danny stood there like this was all something he'd experienced a hundred times. He didn't even flinch with most of the shots or drawing blood for his coggins test. He did give a little jump when the needle in his rump evidently hit a nerve but it was very little reaction. He stood while Melissa examined him and lifted his feet. He did roll his eyes at me when she examined his emerging testicles but she told him he better get use to that if he wants to keep them, lol. She commented on what a muscular, well built boy he is, saying that he is extremely well formed and large for his age. She also commented on how calm and well behaved he is. That please me but I couldn't help thinking, would she still think that if she'd been there to see Danny's angry outburst before her arrival instead of only observing my own anger that it caused. Oh well, like I said in the beginning, all's well that ends well and now that is one "first" experience that is behind us.