Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Fillies - Week one

When life finally settled down, I decided to start working the fillies. Pending weather, I would work with them every day, with the goal of getting Dixie under saddle and Roheryn driving. The methods for both were the same, but Dixie was older, and ready for more work.

I started by handling them each day, haltering, tying, grooming, introducing new objects. Both were good with this. I would take one out at a time, then put them back in their stall. This is where we ran into the first issue.

Dixie would refuse to go back in her stall. Since she was young and rather silly, my usual slap the leadline on the belly I would use with an older horse would not work. She would use that as an excuse to throw a temper tantrum, and since I was working them alone I wasn't interested in getting run over.

Dixie wasn't so sure about this "Work" idea.

She wasn't afraid of her stall, she ate in there every day, she just didn't want to do it and she didn't think I could make her do it. I have a feeling this little princess hasn't had to do a lot of things she didn't want to! So I turned her loose, and ran her out of the barn. I controlled her movements, back and forth in the pasture, hazing her away from the other horses, and showing her that yes, even when I didn't have a leadline on her, I could control where she went. At first there was a lot of bucking, and flinging of the head, but pretty soon she was coming up to me and asking to be caught, and taken in to her friends.

I caught her, and led her back in the barn. Nope, still wouldn't go in her stall. So I then put her out by herself in the side pasture, and ignored her while I worked Roheryn. The whole time I brushed and worked Roheryn (who was a perfect angel) Dixie banged the gate, pawed, called the other horses, and generally threw a fit. I waiting until she was standing quietly for a moment (reward the good behavior), then went and got her. I led her to her stall, she hesitated, then walked right in. I told her she was a good girl, scratched her, and took her halter off.

I did the same routine for a couple of days, both were fine. I then decided to take Dixie out to the round pen and start lunging. I tacked her with saddle and bridle (no reins). She refused at the gate to that field, but I got her going by back and forth movement. Halfway up the field she pulled back and threw a bit of a fit, but I got her going again. Then she threw a complete tantrum, rearing, pulling back, striking out. I got her stopped and quickly put the chain over her nose. When she tried again, I jerked the leadline and yelled, making her back up.

Her eyes were as big as saucers! I could tell no one had ever disciplined her like that. Once she was still, I calmly asked her to move forward again, but I was pretty wary of where her feet were. She tried twice more, got the same treatment, and we made it to the round pen. I unhooked her in the round pen, and once she realized she was free, I got quite a show.

I gave her a minute to blow and run, but then started working her in the pen. Controlling her direction, making her stop and reverse. I wasn't worried about slowing her down yet, just controlling the space. It took a while, but she finally started looking at me with ears up asking if she could stop. I would let her come to me, give her a scratch, then send her out again. She still wasn't settled down completely, but she was sweated, so I caught her and we walked back to the barn. She was quite mannerly. I untacked her, hosed her off, then went to put her in the stall and she balked again. Since I still had the lungeline handy, I just hooked her to that, ran the line to the back of the stall and tied it. I walked out and went to get the next horse. Once Dixie realize I was ignoring her, she walked right in the stall. It was at that moment I realized, she wasn't afraid of any of this, she was just being pissy! She didn't want to do it, and just wanted to throw a fit.


I took Roheryn out, led beautifully to the round pen, got in there and she just wanted to follow me, so since I was running out of daylight, we worked on walking, stopping, backing on command, then I took her back to the barn. No problems, she was bright, interested, and happy to be doing things.

Happy girl Roheryn.

Roheryn has a nice case of 'Me Too! - istis'. Anything she sees another horse do, she wants to do. It's how I got her accustomed to being hosed off. Since she is a Texas girl, water is for drinkin, not washin! But, I hosed Shadow and the other horses off and ignored her, and eventually she had to have the shower too. Now she loves water. Same with the clippers. Clipped everyone but her, then pulled her out to clip. The whole time her eyes were bright and ears up, she was getting to do what the other horses did.

This is a good method for training, let your seasoned horses show the greenies how it is done!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Fillies, part 3 - Dixie

Dixie I spotted on the website of Westwood Farms. I really like their stallions, and I tend to wander over and see what pretty babies they have. There was Dixie, 3 years old, a gray roan and while someone had been on her back basically not started yet. I had a cute black and white tobiano for sale, and after a few chats, we scheduled a trade.

We met at Bull Run Park, because if I was going to trailer horses somewhere, we were going to ride! After our ride, we met up, looked each others horses over, and decided it was a done deal. I really liked Dixie's conformation, but my first hint to her personality came when we tied her to our trailer so we could chat. While she was getting attention, she was fine, but when we ignored her, she pulled back. But, she was a good girl loading, and riding home.

Back at our barn she made it plain she wasn't going to take an nonsense off the younger Roheryn, but was nicely respectful of the older mares. She constantly wanted attention though. If she was being ignored, she would bang her stall door, paw, and we saw a few temper tantrums. She would stand forever for brushing, wasn't fazed about a blanket being tossed on her, but didn't like the scary new objects I brought in the barn.

We let her settle in for the winter, and learn our routine. She quickly learned which stall was hers, but often didn't want to go in, even though that was where dinner is. A bit difficult for the farrier, but got better. Good for the vet though. She would sometimes refuse, sometimes crowd when being led, so we switched to a rope halter and ignored her temper tantrums.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Tale of Two Fillies, part 2 - Roheryn

I bought Roheryn from a photo on the internet, and my knowledge of her parents. I had her shipped from Texas, and except for a trip in a stock trailer to the vet for shots, this was her first real trailering experience.

The shippers I used, Millhouse Equine Transport were wonderful and patient. The former owner worked with her for a few weeks before we shipped her on loading and leading, but she was a green, scared baby. Roheryn shipped like a trooper, loaded and unloaded in the big transport trailer, and winning the heart of the driver who showed off how nicely she unloaded, then loaded right back up in the trailer.

She ran around a bit, called a bit, and was rather lost and bewildered at first. It took two weeks before she settled in with the herd, but she quickly attached herself to Shadow, who was tolerant of her. With humans though, she was wary. She would lead, tie for grooming, and was pretty good about feet. She was interested in any human who showed up.

After a few months she had a teenager moment, where she charged me when I was carrying feed buckets. I yelled, flung the bucket and chased her out of the barn. I didn't let her back in the barn until she asked politely, and there never was another challenge to my authority as boss mare.

I would bring new objects to the barn for her to explore, balls, tarps, etc. She was curious, but not spooky. But, if I lifted a saddle blanket she would snort and scoot. We let her go, just working around her and letting her see what life was like at the barn and learning to trust us.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Tale of Two Fillies

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....

Pretty accurate assessment. The best of times is to have two pretty new horses to play with, both well bred, good conformation, and gorgeous color. The worst of times is the fact they are both untrained, and I am the one who has to train them.

Back in 1998, I decided I was training my last green horse. At the time I had a colt I had bred myself out of my Senator mare by a Sun's Delight stud. As I worked my way through temper tantrums and stubbornness (teenager years) I thought "When I finally have to retire Shadow, I'm just buying a fully broke horse."

Fast forward to 2010, I've finally realized I really have to retire Shadow. I'm looking at a bunch of nice 3-5 year old mares. All well started, all pretty, but either out of my price range, or too far along in their training for their age. In other words, they were started very young, and my past experience has shown me this means soundness issues further down the road. I was seeing 2 year old babies that had 6 months of trail riding on them.

My next horse is going to be my last horse, so I want them to last. If not for the bridge accident, Shadow would still be going strong at 24. I want a horse that will be sound into at least late 20's, if not 30's. I figure by the time this horse is in their 30's, and I'm in my 80's, we may both be ready to slow down a bit. Maybe..

So I bought a baby. Well, a 2 year old, who hadn't been touched except to teach her to be brushed, lead and load in a trailer. Funnily enough, I'm probably the reason this filly exists anyway. I had tried to breed Shadow to her sire, but Shadow didn't take for several reasons. I thought about buying the filly's dam back then, because I just thought she was gorgeous! So I talked to the owner of both and said you should cross them, it would be a nice blend of bloodlines. This filly was the result, so when I checked back in to see how she was doing, she was gorgeous! I did a little fast talking (she wasn't for sale) and had her shipped from Texas sight unseen.

I'm sure you can see why.

So now I had a baby to train..

Meanwhile my husband had decided he didn't have the time for his high maintenance and needy gelding, so we sold him. I was on the lookout for a horse for him, and found one right in VA that was gray roan, perfect conformation, and barely started at 3 years old. (as in someone sat on her back). He has always wanted a gray roan, so we made the trade and now I have 2 to train.

Enter in life, in all it's time consuming complexities. For the last year we have had graduations, I'm started my masters program, and we have had one vehicle breakdown after another, repairs on our home, and a wet spring. So other than manners training, the two fillies have been doing very little except get fat.

The two fillies have very different personalities. Rohern was range raised, very little handling until she was 2, Dixie was handled daily from birth, and treated like a princess.

So I wonder which one will be the most difficult??