Category Archives: The Red Horse Diaries

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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RED HORSE DIARY #9: Starting over. Oy.






Last week I told you that my plan was to work with Rojo from May onward.

I had been lax with Rojo due to work obligations that had totally overwhelmed me… but, it is now time to turn back to my horses for comfort, solace and my soul – and in Rojo’s case, hard work.

Rojo is my newly assimilated wild Mustang from the Carson City Prisoner Trained BLM Adoption program.

When I adopted him, he had 90+ days of training.  During Rojo’s prisoner trainer demonstration at the adoption, his trainer could pick up all of Rojo’s feet, walk underneath him, stand on his back, ride him in all three gaits, and ride him without a bridle.

Wow!

I was impressed!  So was the crowd!

Tiny Rojo was the second highest bid Mustang and he is only 14 hands!

So, you get my point here… Rojo knows his way around at least one human.

AND THEN…

Shortly after he arrived home with me, I could also do most of those things with Rojo, too…

And then I disappeared (except for feeding) and Rojo forgot all of his Human.  Use it or lose it, as they say.

WHERE WE STAND NOW

OK, so I moved him a few days ago.  I wanted him separated from his harem.

I caught him easily.

“Good!”, I thought.

Until the next day…

I don’t think he appreciated being taken away from his girls.  He was pissed.

I knew this would take some time…

And today… well, I told myself that I had all the time in the world.

No agenda.

I would simply see how much we could do together without pushing him too far.

So, with my timing devices all buried, I ventured into his pasture to catch him.

Flymask and halter.

Flymask and halter.  I’ll tell you about the odd feather extension thing in his mane later.

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN!

R:  OH NO YOU DON’T.

Me:  Aw c’mon. Why not?  You know you love me.

R:  I DID love you.  That is over now.  You betrayed me and put me in this awful pasture – all alone.

Me:  Hey, I’m a friend with hands that can massage you – remember how much you liked that?

R:  DEVIL HUMAN with those DEVIL HANDS!  You will NOT use them on me again!  Ever.

Me:  Look.  My hands are touching your nose… nice, huh?

R:  NO!  (backing up)  You will not not not put that hand near me because pretty soon it will have a halter in it.

Me:  Yup.

R:  Arrrgh!  I’m running away now.

And, he did.  Several times.

I simply walked with him – calmly.  Singing softly.  He couldn’t shake me.

It took about 15 minutes of tandem travel around his pasture before he stopped, turned and looked at me.

R:  WHAT?!!!  QUIT THAT!

Me:  Just give up, Son.  I won’t go away.

R (sighing):  Oh awlrighhht.  Put the darn thing on me.  Sheesh.

And so it went.

With e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

I tied him and he pulled back.

I showed him the brush and he snorted and backed up.  I backed up with him all around the pasture – until he stopped backing up.

He didn’t want his flymask – except he did… so he let me put that on him fairly easily.

He absolutely DID NOT want any fly spray or fly anything smelly.  I understood and told him that we would address that later.

And then the biggest insult.  He wouldn’t lead.

Yup.  He decided that he didn’t want to follow me.

Ouch.

But, I remembered that Remi (also a wild mustang) wouldn’t let me lead her either.  She wanted a reason to follow me.  Why should she?

I figured it was the same with Rojo.  Why should he follow me?

So, I decided to work on our bond.

I opened the gate to his paddock and took him onto the green grass.

Gee, no worries following me out there…

Hmmmmm.

I sat there with him while he grazed.  I sat there for an hour.

However, during that hour, I stroked him a lot.  And then, when he wasn’t looking, I pulled out a few Ricochet Horse Wipes (no affiliation – in fact I think they discontinued this item that I use all the time…bummer.  I keep them in the fridge and most of my horses love the cool wipes on their bodies.)

Anyway, he decided not to notice as I wiped down his entire body with the Ricochet wipes.

Funny how they are.

The dreaded Wipes!

The dreaded Wipes!

AND THEN I DECIDED

And then I decided to put some Shoo Tags on him because his pasture is next to our neighbor’s cows.  There are too many flies … (yes, we use Predators and garlic but the flies are very strong on that side of the property).

I fumbled with trying to braid the little ring into his mane and gave up after the ring fell out about a dozen times.

What the?  How in the hay am I going to be able to get this to stay?  And, what can I put on there so that I can find them if they fall out (the tags are rather spendy and I didn’t want to lose them)?

Hmmmmm.

I brought him to the tack room (he likes the barn) where I rummaged through my stuff to find these silly horse mane decorations with clips.

Aha!

So I affixed the tags onto the strands and clipped the very tiny clip into his mane.

It fell right out.

Dang!

I have no experience with hair extension clips so I was failing miserably.

But, I remembered that I had bought some alligator clips to use with the horses.  So, I fished around in the bag and found the clip!

OK, how can I do this?  After several ‘almost’ executions – with one failed attempt allowing a puppy to run off with my entire contraption – I finally got the somewhat chewed assemblage into Rojo’s mane.

Immediately, the flies started landing on it.  Yup.  Flies ON the fly tags.

Huh??

I unclipped Rojo’s lead from his halter (I knew he would stay on the green grass) and ran inside to Google why the tags weren’t working at all.

Hmmmm.  Mr. Google told me that I had them on backwards.

Sheesh.

So, I went back out, reclipped the rope onto his halter (amazing how green grass can make him so accepting…) and removed the assemblage.

Flip.

Re-clipped.

Amazing.  I don’t know how they work, but as soon as I had those tags on the right side, the flies disappeared!  Hmmmmmm.

We’ll see if it lasts.

OK.

Enough for one day.

Halter – on.

Flymask – on

Leading – sort-of

Grooming – with my hands

Fly spray – applied via tricks, yes

Funky thing in his mane – Priceless.

OK, it looks stoopid.  I know.  This shot was taken before I realized that I needed to flip the tags.

OK, it looks stoopid. I know.  But no flies.

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