Category Archives: Musings

THE RED HORSE DIARY # 10: HE YAWNS THEREFORE I STEP BACK AND TAKE NOTE…






Horses yawn for two reasons – generally.

1)  They are tired (or very, very relaxed and the yawn comes with a lick and chew._

2)  They are anxious.  (Or expectant – like when food is coming, some will yawn.)

I’m sure there are other reasons, but for now, let’s go with those two.

Yawning.  They are either tired, or anxious.

Yawning. They are either tired, or anxious.

I DIGRESS… ROJO SEPARATION

I had decided to start over with Rojo since he had been on his own, with his mare harem, in the mare pasture for almost a year.

He was very, very happy.  But, he was regressing back into ‘wild horse’.

I knew I needed to separate him (poor guy) and become his buddy again.

So, I did.

Sigh.

I felt badly for him but he seemed OK being next to the ponies.  Everyone got along and he didn’t fret.

MY PROGRESS WITH ROJO SINCE MAY 1.

For the last 30something days, I’ve been working with him in very subtle, no pressure ways.

Easy peasy, no pressure here, nothing to worry about, I’m the good guy, etc…

That method worked pretty well.

Now, he will let me catch him.  He wears a fly mask again.  He’s had his feet done – fronts only – but he stood and allowed it.  I let him graze in the open spaces and he comes when called. He can ‘forward and back’ with my every move.  He can stand by the mounting block and I can rub my hands all over him.  He can work on a lounge line, move his fronts over (both sides) and his hips over (both sides).  Yes, he can put his nose to his side – this really bores him – and yes he can handle the rope all over his body … (duh… he is soooo bored with those two exercises the he sighs heavily and glares at me when I ask for these.)

The above is not exceptional progress but fairly good considering previously he had gotten to the point of standing just     out    of           reach     of my hands – or any other device I might have had – with aggravating precision.

MY AMMO

While trying to create that bond where the horse is partner, I like to have an incentive up my sleeve…

For example, most every horse responds to something.  I know, I know…pressure and release.  But they still gotta like you.  I mean, the goal is to have them become good citizens and all… but when the two of you are stuck in the middle of a sudden elk herd (or some other fear factor thing) you want the horse to remember that he likes you or else you’ll find your tiny head thumping on low branches all the way home…

Some horses love treats.  (and want to fleece you every 10 seconds to find the one they know is in the pocket they just checked…)

For others, it is “AttaBoys”.

Rojo is the AttaBoy type.  He is a sucker for praise and hugs.  He will forget himself if he feels your hands on his face, poll or neck.  A simple (very enthusiastic) “Good Boy” will light up his eyes and provoke a lick and chew.

Personally, I looove that…

The downside of this kind of horse is that he is easily hurt.  Rojo is overly sensitive.  If he perceives an injustice, GAME OVER.

Oy.  It takes me several minutes to get him back… and I refuse to quit until we are good again.

Hence, for us working together, I try to be firm and fair, with lots of moral support and encouragement.  It takes more time, yes.   But, I want him to think of me as his happy place.

I want him to think of me as his happy place.  Here, he is free grazing - no halter no ties - between my feet.  A bit close but s'OK.  I like being his buddy.

I want him to think of me as his happy place. Here, he is free grazing – no halter no ties – between my feet. A bit close but s’OK. I like being his buddy.  (Yes, I am wearing purple striped socks with my brown riding tights…my teenager would be appalled.)

BUT TODAY…

Today I brought him up to the arena with a new gadget that I purchased at the Horse Expo on Friday.

It was a halter with two loose rings that were supposed to work as sidepulls.  I won’t name the halter but I will say that it didn’t work for us as I thought it might.

Anyway, when I put it on him, he felt the weigh of the rings and heard them clang together  – and he immediately started yawning.

Hmmmmm.

Something about this was making him anxious.

I decided to go through our usual routine – and he was fine until there was any pressure on the halter or rings.

Then, he would yawn.

Hmmmmm.

Clearly, this halter and the rings were bringing up some memory that was difficult for him.

I am guessing he knew of rope halters and clanging rings at some point at the Prison…

And, it wasn’t a good memory.  I’m not saying he was abused AT ALL.  I’m simply suggesting that the process of going from ‘wild to gentled’ must have created a lasting memory.  And, some of those memories created anxiety for sure.

Well, I didn’t want him to feel anxious and I didn’t want him to associate our training with whatever was upsetting him.

So, I removed the halter with the rings and will probably list it on Ebay.

Rojo grazing

Rojo continues to graze nearby.

WORK THROUGH IT?

Many of you are probably thinking that I should just work through it with him.

Me, not so much…

Having been through trauma in my early life, I can tell you that my triggers are still there – no matter how intellectual I get about it all.  No matter how much exposure training I have received, the trigger emotion (that I stifle for the cameras) is still there.

So, for me, I’d prefer to just remove the trigger.  Why insist that he work through that when he isn’t spooking or endangering me, he is merely anxious about it.

Life is too short.  I’d rather use a headgear that I know he likes (we use the LG).

barn kitties

Two of the five barn cats who were sitting by me. Rojo loves the barn cats!

END OF THE SESSION

At the end of the session, I let him graze freely.

As  you can see, he chose to hang out with me and the barn cats.  I was sitting on the grass and inevitably, the barn cats will come out from all of their hiding spots and sit with me.

The good news is that Rojo had the whole yard but he stayed by us… However, it might have had nothing to do with me because he looooves the barn cats.

In any event, when I went inside the house, he came up to the front door behind me.

It was a good day.

When I went into the house, he followed me to the porch.  It was a good day.

When I went into the house, he followed me to the porch. It was a good day.

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42 YEAR-OLD Buster from  Sweetwater Rescue has NO sponsors!

42 YEAR-OLD Buster from Sweetwater Rescue has NO sponsors!  Click to read his story and/or donate!

 

 

 




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MY FIRST RIDE ON FINN THIS YEAR!






I was determined to ride Finn today.  And Hubby was encouraging me to have a ‘horse day’.  He wants me to get back into the routine of riding more and working less…

You see, it has been really, really long since I’ve been in the rhythm of riding all the time.  You know what I mean?

For example, previously, when I had a few hours to ride, I would seize the opportunity, grab my stuff, grab the first willing horse and be on my way.

Today, nothing I did was fast…  it took me forever to get out of the house… I felt like I was going away for the weekend instead of just going on a ride.  All of my gestures seemed vaguely familiar but not at all second nature.  That upset me a bit…

RUNNING IN CIRCLES

First off, who shrunk all of my riding pants?

OMG.

Do I have a top long enough to cover … everything?!

After my “I’m old and fat” tantrum, I proceeded to prep for the ride…  But, I couldn’t remember my sequencing.

I’d run outside to check on one thing and then remember something inside…

I must have taken my boots on and off 50 times.

Silly girl.  Fat and old silly girl.

(Can you tell that my birthday is coming up?)

Once I had my water and treats packed, half chaps in hand and extra layers… I ventured outside for good to get Finny.

GAUNTLET

There he was.  Standing in the middle of BG and Wrigley.  There was no way I was going to get him without the other two wanting to come, too.

How did I do this in the past?  How did I get Finn so easily before?  What trick am I forgetting?

I did remember that I had replaced the bent and malfunctioning gate, so I had that going for me… but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember my trick to grab Finn while distracting the others.

Finally Finn took it into his own hands.  He chased the others away and then ran to the gate.

Finn:  “OPEN IT, HUMAN!  CAN’T YOU SEE THE END RUN I JUST DID FOR YOU?”

Me:  OK.

Finn:  “Quick, Quickkk, QUICK!”

Me:  OK.

Finn:  “What is the matter with you?!!?”

Me:  I’m old and fat.

Finn:  “You’re fat?  Oh great.  You want to ride me and you’re fat?  Great.  Now my day is ruined.”

Me:  (sniff)  I cannot remember how to do anything… I haven’t ridden in so long, it has taken me an hour to get ready.

Finn:  “Oh Boo-Hoo.  Snap out of it and give me a treat for saving you.”

Me:  I forgot the treats.

Finn:  “Oy.  This is going to be a looong day.”

PREPARING

Finally, we were on our way to the big equestrian park.

I was all worried that my horse would arrive at the big equestrian riding park having not been properly groomed.  Yes, embarrassing … but I thought that was better than not finding a place to park.

See, I had decided it was best to leave early before I had groomed him so that I could get a parking spot.  After all, I could groom him in our nice parking spot… but if I didn’t find a spot, I’d have to turn around and come home – and groom him.

Holding my breath, I careening my eyes around the final corner to see…

…that there was not one trailer visible!  Not one.

Wow.  On a holiday weekend, there wasn’t one trailer in the parking area.

BUT, there were a zillion people with dogs, bikes, babies, strollers…. you name it, they had it – crammed into the smallish pedestrian parking lot.

When I pulled into the wedge these people had left for the horse trailers to venture through the sacred gates into the horse parking area, I felt like a guest of the band or something.  As the horse gates opened, I saw a hundred faces peering at me, wishing they could, too, venture into the vast equestrian parking area…

I parked in my favorite spot.  I took my time grooming Finn and he was very, very relaxed.  Gone are the days where he would holler, prance and – my favorite – break his bridle whenever a motorcycle vroooomed by.

Today, Finn was rock solid in the parking lot.

In fact, he even let a little girl come up and pet him.

My boy had matured!  And it only took 12 years…

All groomed.  Finn refuses to look at me when I have the camera.

All groomed. Finn refuses to look at me when I have the camera.

THE RIDE

Horses are such creatures of habit.  So am I, come to think of it… I always park in the same spot.  I always wear the same clothes and bring the same things to eat.  And, I always ride the same trails when I am first out for the season.  The easy, predictable trails.

So, we took off on the easy, predictable trails!  Finn knew exactly where I usually mount, and he stopped there.

Finn:  “Hey fatty, are you getting on?”

Me:  Yes.  Don’t call me ‘fattie’.

Finn (sniggering):  “I didn’t.  I called you ‘fatty’.”

As usual, Finn started his ride by stopping every 3 minutes and doing his ‘Stevie Wonder’ head bob, asking for a treat.

I thought about this and wondered why… why does he constantly stop at the beginning of our rides?   And then it came to me.

First of all, let me say for the record, I will never, ever, ever treat train a horse.  It becomes very annoying.

Here is what I mean… When I first start a ride, I talk a lot to my horse…

Me:  Good Boy, you’re OK, that’s right, good, yup, to the right…

Finn:  “She said, “Good Boy”, that means I get a TREAT!”

So, he stops to get his treat every time I say “Good Boy”.

Oy.

I started singing instead.

I usually find myself singing, “Tonight” from West Side Story.  Except I change all the words.

“Finnnn, My Finnnn, I love my Finnny Finnnn.  Today we are ri-dinggg not in the riiiing…”

As long as I didn’t say, “Good Boy”, we were good to go.

This is one of his many 'cookie faces'

This is one of his many ‘cookie faces’

INSECURITY SUPERIORITY COMPLEX

Finn is very dominant at home.  But, bring him to a new place and he isn’t so sure…

We remedy his insecurity by me getting off if he needs me to lead.  Usually, he will start to fret and then turn around to look right at me.

Finn:  “Can you take this one?  I’m a little nervous and you are so good at this sort of thing…”

Me:  Ohhh, NOW you flatter me, eh?  No more ‘Fatty’, eh horsey?

Finn:  “Just get off and I’ll follow you with my head in your cushy back.”

Me:  My back is not cushy.

Finn:  “Whatever.”

My boy is such an odd duck.

He will freak a bit when he is on a trail and he cannot see around a corner… Yet, he looves to go off trail and seek new paths where no horse has gone before.

So, he is MR ADVENTURE  on an unknown single track, but he blows a fuse on a regular trail that he has been on a hundred times.  It is as if he knows the wide trails will have traffic whereas a single track will be all his.

And when it comes to potty time, he has to pull over and make sure that no one, not a single other person, horse, bike, rabbit, squirrel, bird, lizard, mouse, spider, ant or … rock – is watching.

Sigh.

This is Finn, upsetting himself over the blind corner upcoming

This is Finn, upsetting himself over the blind corner upcoming

Here we are, hiding in his potty spot.  Making sure that no one is coming.

Here we are, hiding in his potty spot. Making sure that no one is coming.

BLACKBERRIES AND BUSHES

Once Finn knows something, he doesn’t forget it.

If he feels a branch brush against him.  He will automatically stop.

Finn:  “Are you gonna get that?”

He waits for me to get out my clippers to take down the offending branch.

This always amazes me… If there is a branch on his foot or if he sees a low hanging branch ahead, he will steer us right towards it, stop, and await the sound of me grabbing my clippers.

For some reason, this is very important to him.

And, if he sees a big blackberry patch, he will wade in and stop.

I’m supposed to then get off and feed the juicy fruit to him.

Except, he doesn’t understand the concept of seasons.

Today, he waded into a huge blackberry bush…

Finn:  “OK, get off.  I’d like some fruit.”

Me:  There isn’t any.

Finn (turning around to glare at me):  “Get OFF and please get me some of those juicy things!”

Me:  Do you see any?

Finn (fidgeting):  “What?”

Me:  Do you SEE any?

Finn:  “Uh.  No.”

Me:  There aren’t any yet.

Finn:  “OK, I’ll stop at the next one and you can get off and get me some there.”

Me:  Sigh.

Standing in the blackberries

Standing in the blackberries…” Well, are you going to get OFF and get some for me?!”

ADHD HORSE

The best way I can describe riding with Finn is to compare him to anyone with ADHD.

He never stops thinking… and nothing stops him from thinking… he thinks about everything and anything all the time – for very brief moments.

Finn:  “I see some dogs… hey is that a blackberry – Oh, I like this other trail much more can we go there – WHAT WAS THAT? – hey do you have any treats? – did you see that huge dog? something itches, can you get it?  Can you get off and lead – I think I have a stone in my foot – NO WAIT, I HEAR SOMETHING…”

If I get off him to do anything, he will continuously nose me or fidget.  I don’t know if he is nervous or excited  The boy cannot stand still … unless he hears the zipper to my treat bag…

Did I hear a zipper??

Did I hear a zipper??

BACK TO THE TRAILER

We made it back safely and easily.

Finn walked directly up to his trailer and put his nose right on the leadrope attached to the trailer ring.

Finn:  “See how smart I am?  Do I get anything for being so perfect?”

Me:  Sure, a big hug!

Finn:  “OK.  That will do for now – until you open the tack room door and I beg you for something savory.”

Me: Note to self: Never treat train a horse again.

And as we drove away, he reminded me of another aspect to our rides that I had forgotten… If I drive too fast, the bridles hanging in the tack room clang against the aluminum walls.

He hates that noise.

If they clang, he bangs.

Clang!!  Clangity clang clannnnng.

…and shortly thereafter follows….

BANG!  BANGITY BANG BANNNNNG!

Yup, I’m a bit rusty – but my horse remembers everything…

finny

My good boy – a great ride, a great day… but he still hates the camera!

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Little Many Harvey needs surgery!  Click image to learn more!

Little Many Harvey needs surgery! Click image to learn more!




HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!