Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Barn Day 2011

This year we had horses and hounds at our Barn Day. I think as many people came to see the new puppy as did to ride the horses.

We had Dog guests too!

Little kids rode...

Big kids rode...

and combinations.

We revisited the past a bit.

A good time was had by all!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


This is the time of year where it's hard to find time to work with your horse, especially if like me you work full time. By the time you get off work and get to the barn, it's dark, so that leaves weekends for schooling young horses. If it doesn't rain, or snow, or the rest of your life interferes.

I still work with them, there is a lot you can do in the barn, ground manners, tacking, lessons in moving away from pressure, etc. But I also like to leave homework for them to do while I am at work. Usually I leave something for them to interact with, and something potentially scary. One cheap and easy thing to set up is a walk thru obstacle. I found some pool noodles on sale for $1, strung them up at the end of the barn with hay string, and left them to sway in the breeze.

None of the horses had to walk through them, I left the other end of the barn clear. At first they snorted and avoided them. But after a day they were walking through them, and playing with them.

Another homework is walk on scary tarps. I set up a tarp in the field, with poles, and tubs holding down the edges. I then put hay in the center. To eat the hay, they have to step on the tarp.

It helps if a wise older horse dives right into the hay.

Roheryn first snorted and took off when she saw the tarp. Then she had to investigate.

Eventually they all were walking across the tarp to munch the hay.

Best to do this with a tarp you don't care about. They will chew, and paw it so there will be holes.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Barn work

There is always barn work to be done. Our current project is putting down stone dust inside the barn, and putting a moisture barrier on the outside walls to keep the barn dry.

Our horses are always willing to 'help' with this work.

Roheryn helps Bill dig the trench.

She also inspects the work, to make the lines are all straight.

She is quite curious about the tools..really wanted to play with them. She followed the shovel for a bit.

Dixie was fascinated with the the magic plastic coming under the wall.

Despite her best efforts to pick up the shovel, Roheryn was not able to help put the stone down. But she did supervise the whole project.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Iceman cometh...

A long time ago (17 years ago, in fact) I went to a local auction in Millersville. It was a favorite of many of the local horse people, we would all show up, eat Pit Beef BBQ, buy some tack, and swap tales. The horses were a mix of OTTB and various grade horses and ponies.

At this auction, I bought a young stud pony I named Iceman. Everyone who knew me at the auction laughed at me for buying him. Three years later Iceman was taking my students to shows and winning in everything from hunter to western to trail. Skip forward a few more years and I was going through a divorce and for financial reasons had to sell Ice and all my horses (except Shadow). I kept in touch with the place who bought him, and when I recovered financially tried to buy him back. I kept calling every 6 months and kept getting told they weren't interested in selling until one day I was told he had been sold months before to a barn up in Connecticut. I resigned myself to never getting him back, but always watched ads and registered at sites like Horse Reunions just in case.

Fast forward to this summer, when I had a SSH gelding for sale. One of the people who came to look at him was talking about her daughter's pony and how much fun it was to keep a creamello pony clean. She kept taking about 'Icy'. I asked if he was 13.2, blue-gray eyes, cream with white mane and tail, back socks and a wide blaze? Yes, she had my Iceman! Iceman had been her lesson pony and her students and her daughter had been winning ribbons on him for 10 years. She wasn't using him for lessons anymore, and after hearing the stories about him, decided he should come back to us.

The first few days he was a bit low key and hesitant. I kept him separate from the other horses and in a small paddock. I then tried him out with one other horse and he got a bit more relaxed. He met Shadow again, and they seemed to remember each other, but no great reunion. Then I turned him out in the main pasture. He walked around a bit, sniffed the ground, and then..

Now that's a happy pony face.

Nicely dirty and covered with grass.

We are very excited and happy to have him home. Iceman was my son's pony, and he has been out to the barn often to see him and play with him. Rather a fun sight seeing them run in the pasture and play, my son is 6 ft tall now. We plan on driving a bit, some trail riding, and some grandchildren of friends will need their first pony rides. Thank you Joanna, for making this possible!

Iceman has come home.

Monday, August 8, 2011

First show...a comedy of errors...

First off, let me say I used to show, a lot. I have a shelf of trophies, a trunk of ribbons, all with my mare Shadow (herein known as 'the Saint.')

So when we got these two youngsters, I planned on showing them. I figured this year we would just do model. Gets them into showing without a lot of stress (HA!) and gets them started on their versatility books. All you need for model is show bridle and matching show outfit for the handler.

This spring I joined PWHM (actually re-joined, I was a member way back when) and signed up for the show points. I was all ready to start practicing for shows by trailering the girls to other rings, etc. I bought a western show shirt (if you go western, you don't have to braid, and I knew my show coat would have to be altered) and saddleseat jodhpurs. I pulled my show sets out of storage and polished silver.

Then my truck broke down, and 'we' decided to fix it ourselves. So I missed the first few shows of the year. Then the next show was the same day as another event we had already signed up for. Then the next show we were out of town. Then a show was cancelled because of heat.

Finally the Howard County Fair comes around. As this show is practically in my back yard, and was a show I went to every year with Shadow I was determined to go. Since I knew trying to show two would be difficult, I lined up people to help, friends who had asked to come to a horse show with me. I had people lined up 6 deep because, you know life happens, someone may not be able to come. Well, as of 2 days before the show I had no help at all. I was trying to decide if it was worth it. I knew it would be hot, I would be dealing with silly greenies all by myself in a hectic environment.

I sent out a last plea to my trailriding e-mail group for help, hoping for at least someone to lead a horse in the ring (I couldn't show both at the same time) and Denise offered to help since she wasn't showing model.

Ok, so all set if I can get them ready and there. I set everything up the night before, clip the girls and purchase another sheet for the trailer ride. My trailer is aluminum, and while it never affected anything with our black horses with these two light colored girls they would both have a dark gray streak down their sides from the dividers. So now each girl has a matching sheet and halter, all ready to go.

I get up the next morning at my usual 6:30, walk the dog, have tea, check e-mail. I knew I had plenty of time, the show starts at 10 and it is 20 minutes from my barn. I would get there at 9, walk the girls around to relax them, do last minute grooming, etc. I go on the club website, just in case although I know THIS show won't be cancelled. I look at the show bill and see start time 9am!! Yikes! So I throw my clothes on, grab coggins, show shirt and water and hit the door running.

I get to the barn, hook up the trailer, and put everyone in the barn to feed. I look at the two that are showing and find lovely mud-covered urchins in their stalls. I won't have time to groom that off! Fortunately, I've been in this situation before. I pull them out and hose them off, even hooves! Throw the sheets on, load them up and off we go. It's 8:30, I should be there registering now.

I head off to the fairgrounds, resigned to not making it on time, but thinking I would at least walk the mares around the ground, so still a learning experience. The traffic gods smile on me, I make it to the fairgrounds at 8:51. When I get to the rings, it hadn't started so maybe I had a chance. I park, and sprint to the booth. Yes, they would wait! I get registered, unload the girls, and just catch Denise walking by.

Now here is where the fun starts. It's been 10 years since I have shown, 15 since I have shown any greenies. We are trying to calmly rush through pulling blankets off and putting bridles on. That is all we have time to do. Denise slips Dixie's halter off to put the bridle on, Dixie steps back, then takes off!

So we have the cries of 'Loose Horse' I have a frantic Roheryn in my hands, Dixie is skittering around having the time of her life (no, she wasn't afraid, she was yipee!) and Denise and I both know we are 'Holding Up The Show' a big no no in horse show world.

Dixie decided then to sniff a tied horse, who proceeds to kick at her. Dixie thinks about retaliating but my growled Uh-Uh!! stops her. She then comes over to Roheryn, and I grab her mane long enough for Denise to get the halter on her.

We lead them back to the trailer, get bridles on both (lead ropes around the head this time) and get ready to head to the DQP. I'm so frazzled by then I don't even bother putting my show shirt on, or putting my number on. I just carried it. Denise had this great plastic sleeve for the number, I have to get one! Held on with magnets, just slide the number in. She sells them, by the way.

So at the DQP* Dixie is great. The moment the bridle went on, she because Miss Manners. Roheryn, however, was not. She was pulling, champing the bit, crowding, spooking at the traffic, generally being quite silly.

In the ring, Dixie walks around and notices all the people watching. I can tell she thinks this is wonderful, all this attention on her! She looks back at us a couple of times, but is very mannerly. Roheryn frets, and chews, and nudges, and doesn't want to stand. She finally settles down, and we get sort of a park, but really we are just there for the experience. Meanwhile I am standing there with a horse slobbery tank top on holding my number in my hand, and thinking I will probably get the gate just for tackiness!

They announce the winner, the gorgeous bay tobiano next to us (very well deserved!) but then they call Dixie's number! She got 2nd place! On they went down the line and to my surprise, Roheryn got 5th! I think the judge was being very kind. So a 2 and 5 when they were just pulled out of the pasture and hosed off, didn't even have time to brush them. I have to sincerely thank Denise for Dixie's 2nd, she wouldn't have gotten it without her expert help.

We took them back to the trailer, and very carefully took the bridles off. Dixie was wiggly again, but didn't get loose this time! Roheryn was a different horse as soon as the bit was out of her mouth. She relaxed back into the calm girl she usually is. I suspect a different bit is in order for her. I led them around and let them graze. They watched the horses in the ring with interest. It was funny, when they grazed by another trailer, Roheryn went to load herself in it. I think she was ready to go home.

I then left them tied to the trailer and walked away (watching to be sure they behaved) to chat with some friends. They did very well tied, and loaded right up to go home.

So, an interesting day, lessons learned all around, and big bonus, one point towards Dixie's versatility book! No photos of the show, I didn't even think about it in all the chaos.

*A DQP is a Designated Qualified Person who checks for soring agents, a requirement for all TWH shows.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rides two and three - Dixie

Sunday we rode again, this time taking Dixie across 108 to Schooley Mill Park. Yes, we rode a green horse on her second ride across a hwy, down a road and in to a busy multi-purpose park...

Dixie did great. No hesitation at the traffic, the water crossings (her first!) the wooden bridge (her first) the tennis courts and kids playing (her..well, you get the idea).

We met dogs, other riders, a horse pulling a shiny new red endurance cart, went up and down hills, gaited a bit, did a brief canter, and through most of it Dixie led the way. We rode about 45 minutes, and Dixie came back with just as much bounce as she started with.

Tuesday night we rode again, but a shorter ride as it was very hot. We first took Dixie out alone, and found out she wasn't quite as brave when she was all alone. A riding lawnmower caused a jump, and she wasn't quite as forward. Then we rejoined the others and went on a brief ride, up the road and back through some twisty overgrown trails with muddy creek crossings. Again Dixie did very well. This time we put her in the center, instead of leading, and while she did crowd a bit, she accepted it fairly well.

She is continuing to stand well for mounting, and now for dismounting (the first one was exciting), is getting better about walking in a straight line and she looks for her after ride shower and cookie.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Ride! - Dixie

Dixie had been doing well with lunging, and work with the saddle, so we decided to step up on her and see how she did. We first followed her usual routine, grooming, saddling, lunging in the round pen.

I then brought my horse Shadow out so that if Dixie did well, I could pony her around with a rider on her back. We brought the mounting block into the round pen, and brought Dixie over to it. She was quite relaxed, we had done this many times. We stepped up on her, then off, and Dixie never moved. We then mounted her, and asked her to walk off.

And Dixie never moved.

This happens a lot with green horses, they don't understand we actually want them to walk while we are on them, LOL! So I led her while my friend rode, and we got her moving. While my friend rode, I stood in the center, so I could give her lunging cues that matched what her rider was asking her.

She did very well, so well my friend decided to skip the ponying, and just ride following Shadow. I mounted Shadow and off we went around the pasture. Dixie quickly made it plain she didn't feel she had to follow Shadow!

So we decided to ride out into the hay fields.

This was my view a lot of the time! Not only did Dixie not care where Shadow was, but she was quite willing to lead, investigate scary things by approaching and sniffing, and walk off on her own. We rode back to the barn, then passed it and went on down the road, doing a bit of slow gaiting.

Dixie did great! We are going to take her out tomorrow and have some more fun.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Tale of Two Fillies - Week two

The second week, I continued with the round pen work. I would tack Dixie up, lead her to the round pen, and we would work through the gaits and turns. I would free lunge first, then put a lunge line on her and request specific speeds. She was sort of getting the idea of whoa, still pretty clueless on what gait and canter were. Walk she was getting, but didn't always want to do it.

I was concerned about her attitude though. She endured what we did, but didn't look forward to working. I decided to take a break and show her learning was fun.

I pocketed a bunch of horse cookies, and approached her in the field. I called her to me, and when she came, I gave her a cookie. I then asked her to back up, when she did, I gave her a cookie. Now she was getting more interested in what we were doing. So sometimes she got a cookie, sometimes scratches.

I then tacked her up like usual, but instead of going to the round pen, I worked her around the barn, walking, stopping, tugging on the stirrups, etc. We stopped at the mounting block, and I stepped up making lots of noise. Nothing fazed her. She was completely relaxed with everything I was doing, and was very interested in what she had to do to earn cookies.

The next day we went back to the usual routine, but this time she looked forward to the work. She had figured out there was a reward, cookies, scratches, praise for learning what I wanted her to do.

Rohern was always enthused about doing things. She was interested in going where I led, in what we were doing. Where Dixie had been backed and worked with before, Roheryn had never had a saddle on. I saddled her up, and let her graze with the saddle on and get used to the feel of it.

She turned and chewed on it a few times.

But she was not really worried. One thing I did discover, was some jealousy. I had a helper a couple of days, so we took both fillies out to the round pen. I had set up a high tie in a tree so they could stand tied and learn a little patience which the other one was worked. I gave my helper Roheryn to lead out, since I considered her better behaved in hand. She was not happy with that at all! She pulled back, fretted, and generally was a pain the whole way out there. She also didn't want to pay attention when lunged. When it was her turn to be tied, she was fine, but then the walk back to the barn she fretted and fussed. It took 3 days before she was back to good manners.

Both have advanced nicely this week, and both remind me why I love TWH! So much easier to train and work with.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Touch Football!

I brought a horse ball in for our 'touch' game.

This is a game where I bring in something new, something potentially scary, and ask the horses to touch it. If they do, they get praises, scratches or a cookie, and the realization that it doesn't hurt them. I also use this as a way to teach them how to approach new scary objects, by making it a game.

Dixie eyeing the ball.

Roheryn walked right up and nudged it.

Symphony looked, and when I asked her to touch did come up and put her nose on it. She was not interested in playing with it.

Dixie finally touched it. (with Shadow as backup)

Then she found out it rolled!

She would nudge it around, but didn't chase it.

Interesting for a while, but hay is better.
I did get Roheryn and Dixie to both chase it later when I kicked it. They didn't show any interest in biting it and playing rough, like colts I have had in the past.