Monday, October 31, 2011


I have to say something about my Django boy. Not only is he beautiful and sweet, he is evidently a very bright boy, too.....and I've found my new mounting block! I was standing on the wheel well of the trailer while I watched Danny inside when I heard a noise behind me. I turn around and there is Django, perfectly lined up and looking as if he's waiting for a ride. I ask him if that's his intention and he actually turns his head and points at his back several times and then stands there watching me to see if I get on. I didn't have the nerve to try riding without even a halter or I might have just tried him but I'm no Stacy Westfall....not by a long shot. I also haven't been on my horses in over a year because of my own fears. I'm more than a little ashamed to admit that but I've made up every excuse in the book and it still all boils down to fear. And it does seem that Django is tired of this nonsense. He's done everything he can possibly do to let me know that he wants me to ride him short of putting the saddle on himself and since he continually tries to put his head in the halters and bridles, I'm thinking he'd do that too if he could. He was bought as my horse, my riding partner and since he is obviously such a willing partner, it's time I got over myself and got back on my horse. I want them to trust me; I think it's time I trust them especially my Django.  It's taken me a while to admit that a lot of my fear of riding has to do with the horse I love so much and the fact that she is an unpredictable mare. Mouse is the best horse you'd want to ride, she's extraordinarily responsive with gaits as smooth as glass. She and I have a shorthand when we're long as she's not in heat. When Mouse comes in season, she is moody, stubborn and unpredictable. It's not that I can't identify with this because it does remind me a lot of my own behavior at certain times in years past but since I've been on the receiving end of her swinging moods, I've developed anxiety that is difficult to overcome. I thought I had beat it several years ago but the longer I stayed off of my horses, the harder and harder it became to get back on. What I need to realize though is that Django and Riley are not Mouse. Not only are they geldings but neither has ever given me a reason to think that they might misbehave, quite the opposite in fact. So, it might not be today but I promise that within the week, I will be on my horse again and then I don't plan to get back off......well, I will get off but the next day, I will be back in the saddle again. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

WhooHoo TWO!

Tonight, I fed Danny in the round pen and........drum roll PLEASE! the trailer!!! He went in pretty as you please. After seeing that he could take his time and no one else was trying to steal his food, he decided to explore a bit and walked over the bowl that I'd placed about five feet in, and looked around the front of the trailer. Then he got a bit nervous because he couldn't figure out how he was going to turn around. Still, he didn't panic and he finally just turned around and walked back to his food. It actually was more difficult to make him leave once he'd finished eating and had, literally, licked the bowl clean than it had been to get him in there. He didn't even flinch when I tapped the side of the trailer to make noise or his two big brothers came up and peered at him from outside. I was very proud of him and I'll start leading him in on halter tomorrow. We might just step in and step back out so that I can teach him to back up because the time may come when he isn't in a trailer that allows him to turn around. As soon as we get him really comfortable with loading, we'll start going on short rides (with Mama Sande riding in the back compartment to keep him company and make certain he's Ok.) I'm beginning to wonder if Danny's reluctance and initial fear of the trailer was actually a reflection of my own. In one way, I'm very happy to have him spending the winter with Huston who I know will give him the best of care and the best of training and experience. On the other hand, it is literally wrenching my heart out to even think about leaving him in Missouri at the end of this month. Huston has already given me strict orders that I can not visit for at least a month. This may kill me.

Progress for Everyone

It's been several days since I worked with the horses at all because of both the rain and trying to finally get my studio/work space whipped back into shape so I can actually/hopefully make some money before the holiday shopping season is history. I also cleaned all of my tack yesterday in anticipation of riding again soon. I haven't even fed the horses for three days because Steve has been home and eager to find something he can do with his injured ribs so he volunteered to take care of both morning and evening feeding since Thursday night. I expected them to be happier to see me but they barely acknowledged that I'd arrived and seemed more intent on seeing if Steve had brought any food with him. I guess, as long as they were getting what they wanted as in food, they probably didn't even notice I was absent. My hurt feelings didn't last for long. I walked them all into the round pen...they will at least still follow where I lead even at liberty. Then I decided to work with Danny first. Of course, eager Django was trying his best to get in on the act which probably wasn't helping Danny to listen and obey but Dan was definitely not on his best behavior. I started getting frustrated because he was not only not listening to me but was fighting me every step of the way. Steve told me to cool down and remember patience. So, I got him to stand still for a few minutes...which is all he wanted to do any way....and leave the grass alone and then I let him go with plans to come back to him later after I finished with the two big guys.

I expected Riley to be more difficult because of the amount of time since our last session. At first it seemed he was going to be and then suddenly (this always surprises me) he gave in, he stood still and didn't move a muscle as I slipped the halter on his head. Then I walked him over to the the lead rope, fastened it and led him out of the round pen leaving the other two boys there me, it's good for both of them. I took him to the tying post, tied him and then started grooming him. His tail is a proper mess and I should have attacked it but I thought that we'd already had a major victory so I wouldn't push my luck today by trying too much. I wanted to keep this grooming session as pleasant an experience as possible. He may be difficult to catch but once he's haltered, Riley is a perfect gentleman. I groomed him and then worked on those bot flies that have been driving me crazy for so long. He's long over due for worming, too but I don't think a few more days wait will hurt. He was so patient and so still while I worked on scraping off fly eggs and scrubbing at the caked mud with the curry. I then used a couple of polishing brushes on him and let him go with a kiss and a lot of praise.

Next, I let Django out. I don't need the round pen to catch him and he was already halfway to the tying post before I closed the gate behind him anyway. I put the halter on him, tied him up and then went through the same grooming regime with him. I didn't tackle his tangled tail either but that day is coming soon.

Finally, I picked up my grooming bag and went back to the round pen and Danny. Considering his earlier behavior, I was really expecting a battle but instead of fighting me, he walked over to me and dropped his head so that I could halter him. Then I backed him up, side stepped to both sides, did a turn on the hind quarters and then led him around the pen like he'd been doing it his entire life. Instead of tying him, Steve volunteered to hold him while I groomed. I don't even know if that was necessary as he relaxed so that he cocked that rear hoof into sleep position and was quietly chewing as I brushed him and cut off bott fly eggs. He was perfect. After I finished grooming, I walked him around one more time but he was starting to lose patience with me by then. I have to keep reminding myself that this big boy is still a baby in a lot of ways and he doesn't have the attention span that the other horses do. I need to keep our sessions short but do them more often from now on....just like Huston told me to do.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Working with Riley

Major breakthrough with my horse Riley on Tuesday. Riley, Sensational n' Honey(Danny's half brother and uncle....same sire, Traveler's Sensation, and Riley's mother is also Mouse's mother), was hurt (nearly tore off one ear and had awful sores on his face) when an apprentice, at the barn where I was keeping him, left a halter on him and then turned him out. That was in April of 2009; since then, he's been very head shy and almost impossible to catch and halter. I haven't ridden him in over two years despite the fact that he is the gentlest, sweetest and most level headed horse you've ever seen. Farrier and vet visits are always a trial and I have to start several hours before in order to get him haltered and ready. I'd just accepted that he was always going to be this way and I had to work around it. That was until the last farrier visit when Riley missed a much needed trim because I couldn't catch him at all. Part of that was because of Danny and the fact that I have to keep the young stud separated from the two mares. In the past, I'd used the round pen as a way to corral Riley and eventually wear him down and catch him but after moving the geldings and Danny to another pasture, I no longer had that option. So, this past weekend, we moved the round pen from the lower pasture to the upper one where the boys are. I am enjoying that round pen so much. I can work with Danny there without having the others...mainly the very jealous Django...bother us. It's large enough to ride in so that I can ride alone now and don't have to wait for the rare occasions when Steve is actually home to ride with me. The biggest joy from the newly re-acquired work and play area came yesterday though. I've been feeding the boys in the pen just to get them use to coming into it every day and not thinking it is something to be dreaded or feared....where I might actually put them to work,lol. I wanted to try my rope training halter on Danny to see how it fit so I took it with me yesterday morning and tried it first on Danny and then Django insisted that he try it on also....yes, Django loves being worked with so much that he actually sticks his head into any available halter whether you want him to or not ;-). Then I thought, "Let's see what Riley thinks of this lighter halter." Great idea but it took some doin'! For over an hour and a half I patiently worked with Riley. At first, I couldn't even get close to him but I refused to chase him because I know it does no good since I will wear out before he does. So, I gently talked to him and kept edging slowly closer until he finally let me touch him without moving away. I'd pet him for a while and then move nearer to his head. Time after time, he would eventually move away but each time, I kept getting closer until he finally would smell the halter and let me touch it to his face. During most of this time, the other two boys were still in the pen and still getting in the way and Django was still saying, "Let me put the halter on. I'll put it on. I just want to please you. Come on, let me play!" No, I'm not hearing voices again but even though it might be personification intensified, I do think that's how Django thinks. I know that he can't bear for me to give any of the other horses my attention but him. So, I finally decided to put him and Danny out so that I could work with Riley without interruption or intrusion. When I returned to the round pen, I was able to walk right up to Riley and he didn't pull away but rather dropped his head into the halter!! The poor guy was so scared that he was trembling  as I pulled the halter around his head but I just stroked his face and quietly reassured him. And then, as soon as he relaxed, I removed the halter. That might sound like a lot of work for that little triumph but trust me, this was a major breakthrough and worth the time and effort involved. 

I plan to repeat the exercise every day and I hope we can accomplish our task much faster each time. In fact, yesterday, it only took 15 minutes before he stood still and let me slip the halter over his head. After he was haltered, I worked with him for at least fifteen minutes more, having him back and turn and walk with me. I always try to end any session with my horses, whether we're doing ground work or in the saddle, on a positive note. So, I'm not going to rush Riley but rather remove the halter each day as soon as he relaxes. When he is completely comfortable being haltered again, I'll begin to groom him on lead while tied and then we'll do a bit of ground work before we move on to riding. Riley learned to trust me a bit more this week but he isn't the only one who had a lesson. For me to be that patient, taking my time and learning to be still and quiet is just as tremendous a stride and I'm hoping we both continue to learn and grow together over the next few weeks. I'm sure that with the confidence and trust we both gain over time , we'll be back on the trails before you know it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mama's Now the Trouble Maker....or Maybe, Always Was!

The Death of Me part 2: Or maybe of Mouse because I'm seriously thinking of skinning her and stuffing her like Trigger. I haven't decided if I'll kill her first but then, she could very well end up killing herself! For two mornings in a row, Mouse has been out in the newly sewn, unfenced pasture when we've gone out. Yesterday, I walked the fence and could find NO place where she came through. Like the fence on the "boy's" pasture before, this one has been without electricity for a while. I'd planned to run the weed-eater around the fence yesterday so that we could put a battery on it again but moving the round pen from the lower to the upper pasture ended up being a full afternoon and when we finished, it was time to feed both the horses and ourselves again as the sun was setting. I was so worried about her that I couldn't sleep. Not only is there the danger of being hit by a vehicle if she wanders too close to the rode or being shot by a hunter like my friend, Houston's horse but also there is a very real and more probable danger of her over eating on the new grass and over dosing on the high sugar that's especially prevalent in autumn. That could cause laminitis, colic and death. Five years ago, she spent several weeks at the U.T. Vet School Hospital for that very reason on another escapade from my number one Houdini. I don't want her sick (even though I'm mad enough to kill her at the moment) and I don't have the ten grand plus that it could cost to get her well just lying around the house at the moment....or anywhere near my bank account for that matter. So, I went out in my pj's this morning and drove across the field at 3:30AM to find Mouse sleeping peacefully. Steve left at 5:00 and I put on a movie to watch until daylight (sorry, I had someone break in the house while I was here early one morning and even though that was twenty years ago, I still have a fear of being alone in the mornings...I know, crazy!) The movie was good and held my attention and my eyes open until close to 7:00 when I must have dozed off. The next thing I know, it's nearly 9:00AM and I come leaping out of the bed and practically jump into my boots as I head out the door to check on Mouse who was......grazing in the front, unfenced field again....of course! Knowing that she would get the reward of food, she came galloping up to the road and headed for the gate when she saw me driving up the road. I guess I know what I'll be doing today and if she still manages to escape with the electricity back on, I've got a trick for her, no food on her return tomorrow morning. I'm beginning to think she might be doing all of this just for the treat at the end!!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Danny and his brother Django. As you can see in these photos, his head isn't huge. The last shots I posted were taken with my phone's camera and it makes every thing look odd. You can also tell from these shots how big Dan is getting although I couldn't get him to raise his head up for a full body shot.

We've had a week of mishaps but fortunately, this time, none of them included Danny. We're moving the round pen to the upper pasture this weekend and I plan to start working with Danny on lead several times a day before I introduce him to the trailer again.

Our trip to Missouri has been postponed again because both Huston and we have conflicting schedules during November. But putting it off until the very end of November not only allows me to avoid an appointment with the dentist (:)) but also gives me more time to get Danny use to the trailer, loading and riding, before we make the long trip out to Missouri. I'll keep track of our training here and I also promise more photos before he leaves.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Death of Me

Here's an irony for you, I'm on the phone with Huston and I'm telling him about Danny's latest escapades and escapes. He said, "Well now, you shouldn't have to worry with the gate chained the electric fence on." I told him that the battery for the fence hadn't been charged for several weeks. He said that Danny has gotten nipped by it so often that he should respect it off or on. I told him that I thought he was right because Dan only pushes up against it when I'm there and I'm sure he was aware that I turned the fence off while I was feeding them so I wouldn't be shocked. The few times that he has gotten into it were right after I'd hooked it back up. I said that I hoped he never figured out how tall and long legged he's getting because I was sure there were spots that he could just step across if he wanted to.

Just then my phone buzzes alerting me that I've got another call. I didn't recognize the number so I ignored it and we kept talking for about fifteen or twenty minutes. I checked the phone and saw a new voice mail. It was a neighbor telling me that when she was passing my house, she saw one of my horses out and walking down the drive toward the house....and the main road!! I nearly had a heart attack....literally! My heart was pounding so hard by the time I pulled on my boots and ran out the door with the feed bucket that it felt like it would burst through my shirt any second. There he was, half way across the pasture. He was occasionally stopping to graze a bit by the side of the road but he mainly seemed intent on reaching the house. I drove over slowly so that I wouldn't spook him but it probably wouldn't have mattered because as soon as he spotted my truck he threw his tail and head up and came prancing down the road toward me. He greets me at my door after I stopped. I had Huston back on the phone telling him what had happened. He asks if I think I can catch him and I said it's not going to be a problem. I say, "Come on, Danny." and the naughty little stinker follows right at my elbow all the way up the drive to the gate.

I made the mistake then of putting him into the middle pasture which is next to Mouse. The two of them galloped up and down the fence and I was afraid that he'd soon figure out that fence had no electricity either and go right through it. I move the boys all to the top field and then, while I wait on Steve (who thankfully had just gotten home) to hook up a new battery, I walked the fence until I found where he'd pushed the fence down and stepped over. Finally, two hours after all of this began, everyone is in their proper places and the fence is fixed and on. Now I need to go dry off and put on some clean, dry clothes. Oh, I did mention that it's been pouring rain the entire time, didn't I?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Demon child!...

Ok, maybe it isn't that extreme but Danny has been trying my patience lately. It isn't just the scary things he does by just being a little boy and usually being far too curious with his adventures. No, now he's taking along his brothers as his culprits in crime.

Twice in the last two weeks, the geldings and Dan have been out of their pasture and exploring the greener grass on the other side of the fence when I've gone over to feed them in the mornings. Thankfully, the big gate blocks the drive to the road when it's pushed open so I don't have to worry about them getting into traffic so much. I'm not saying that they couldn't do it but it would take more effort than they are generally willing to put out without encouragement.

Steve has, for weeks, been promising to replace the rope which held the gate with chain (started to say unbreakable chain but I wouldn't put anything past Dan at this point) but you know how that goes. He is always so busy but he did at least buy the chain which is a good thing because we've moved beyond just  breaking or untying the rope, which is what I thought they did the second time. I tied a square knot and thought that I'd cut the rope if I needed to get them out of the pasture (I never use the gate and simply climb under the fence to enter and exit the pasture). Now, it looks as if someone chewed the rope in two. I'll give you three guesses as to whom I suspect but I'm betting you only use one. Steve called me this morning to say that they were out again. He immediately started to work on the chains and fasteners for the gates while I gathered the sweet feed. All I had to do was whistle and unlike Slim in To Have and Have Not, I do know how because the horses have given me lots of practice.

So I put my lips together and blow and who do your think was leading the herd as they came galloping off of the hillside? None other than the same one who most likely chewed the rope in two that led to their escape and also probably led them out of the open gate. Yeah, it was Danny Manny and he was just acting as if this was the usual morning routine, the arrogant little booger. Of course, he looked so pretty running down that hillside with his head and ears held high that I instantly forgave him. He's getting so big, too. He seems to be as tall as the other two now but his legs are longer and his body still much slimmer. I'd better get control of this young one now before he figures out that he's bigger than me!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Come on!

Danny seems determined to give me a heart attack. He's nearly scared me to death twice in under 24 hours! Last night, in his impatience to be fed, he uses his usual ploy of getting attention by propping his foot on the metal fence or gate. But this time, he puts his foot on the open V between the insulator and the post on the electric fence and his hoof falls down between them! I was feeding Mouse and Brandy and I look up the hill to see the other two boys scattering while Danny appears to be having some type of fit, kicking and rearing and often having all four feet off of the ground! I run up the hill as fast as my fat, out of shape body can carry me and I see what is wrong just as he calms down and manages to lift the foot out of the "trap." I checked him out and his leg was unharmed but the fence was a mess and I'm not so sure about my heart!

This morning I'm once again down the hill feeding the girls when I look up and see only the two geldings standing at the gate waiting for their food. I walk up the hill and then start to run when I see Danny laying virtually under their feet and still as can be. I'm yelling his name and he twitches an ear and his tail so I know he's not knocked out by a kick or rear from one of the bigger boys. I grab their hay and throw it across the fence which immediately gets Riley and Django's full attention but Danny just lies there, virtually motionless. I climb through the fence and I kneel beside him. I lift his head and his eye flutters open and he moans a bit. Then he closes his eyes and again and sounds like he's growling. I'm terrified by then and I start picking up his head and rubbing his legs and I'm getting little response other than an occasional eye flutter and moan. I'm ready to call the vet and Steve when I think to go get the feed bucket. I step through the fence and grab the food bucket and shake it. Danny popped up like a Jack-in-the-box!!

When I last saw him, he was munching on his hay with his partners in crime.

I'm very grateful that he's Ok but at the moment, I could ring his little neck......;-)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

17 Months

Time to get my camera out again as Danny hit 17 months yesterday. I also need to start taking lots of photos again so that I'll have something to look at (and cry) while Danny is in Missouri with Huston this Winter. Fifteen hours away, I don't know if I can take it even though I know he'll be in the best of hands.

He's growing up, already as tall as his brother Django who's 14.2 and showing signs (long legs) of being at least a hand taller if not a little more. He's sweet as can be but I'll admit since I'm the one who's done it, a tiny bit spoiled....rotten. Still, he isn't a bad boy and not at all aggressive but I do know that keeping this blog isn't the only thing I've been remiss about.

Huston has asked me not to attempt to do any training with him but there are a few essentials that I feel we do need to work on before he makes his trek West. The first thing is lead training. Although Dan was trained to a halter from the day he was born and we did do a bit of lead training when he was young and following his mom, he still needs lots of work on a lead line. I've really come to realize that over the last two days when I attempted to lead him and was met with either him jerking his head or standing stock still. I've been doing some research and reading today and I've got a plan of action. I also know what I've been doing wrong. For one, I've been choking up on the lead line out of my own nervousness which really doesn't establish me as a leader. Also, I get him to walk forward by pulling on him until he moves and then releasing pressure. I've learned that is the wrong way to do it because it doesn't establish me as boss and puts me in the wrong position. I also allow him to crowd me out of his own nervousness and I need to work to keep a proper distance between us. The forecast is for beautiful weather for the next week. We will be trying to put hay up but I'm sure that I can save 10 or 15 minutes out of my day to work with Dan on leading.

The second thing that I need to work with Dan on before our trip to Missouri is actually essential to the trip......trailer loading and transport. Steve hasn't had the time for several months to help me get the trailer out and set up so that I can start loading and unloading Dan and we can start taking him on short trips in preparation for that one very long one. It isn't completely to blame on Steve's busy schedule however; I know that I've been dragging my feet, too, because I'm so afraid that he'll panic and hurt himself. I should have listened to Huston and left him locked in a stall when he was younger. I'm such a pushover when he's scared or upset. I don't know if I'm really cut out for horse training.