Monday, June 27, 2011

Almost 2 months

I have tons of cute pictures of Chinook from the other night, but for the moment, I only have time to post this one. He's wild at heart!

Leaps and Bounds

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

So you want me to move with you on my back??

The light bulb has been flickering, and suddenly in our last two rides Sage has figured out exactly what I want! She walks forward, she stops, she backs, she steers--and fairly responsively for a green horse. We've even ridden out of the roundpen twice now. She's finally realized that I'm not going to fall off or do something crazy if she moves, and since I ride in basically a rope halter with a loose rein, she feels quite free and forward. A few weeks ago I didn't think I'd be saying that! Maybe we'll try a trot soon?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trailer to nowhere

Well, we didn't end up going to the park. That's because it was clear from a few minutes after I loaded Sage and Chinook into the trailer that she was quite nervous and was not going to play along with a 45 minute trailer ride.

For some reason, I took off her halter and let her and Chinook loose in the trailer with some hay. She was quite agitated by this (probably mostly because Brandy was screaming her lungs out about not being able to see where Sage was), so we left her in there for a about 20 minutes and tried to just keep her calm. With Patrick's help, I was able to slip the halter on her, get her facing away from the door, and work to calm her down and walk her out quietly. She did settle down and eat before we let her out. Because it was kind of a stressful experience for her, we knew that she needed some work.

So, after convincing her to step in and out once more, we haltered up Chinook and took a little walk up the road to get them thinking and doing things but not having to worry specifically about the trailer (with plans to come back and work on that later). Patrick led Chinook, who was a perfect little citizen. He led up very well and was clearly listening to Patrick. We ran into the neighbor's longhorn cattle, and Sage gave them a little snort. Chinook pricked up his ears and wanted to go say hi, though he was a bit caught off guard as well. When we got back, I tied Sage up to the trailer to have some hay before we tried to load her again.

She got a good grooming and some fly spray. Doesn't she look like a real trail horse all tied up to the trailer?

Chinook also got a brushing. I'm starting to get little bits of peachfuzz off of him, as his foal coat will start to shed soon and his "big horse" coat will come in. I left the jelly scrubber on his butt and he walked around with it on his back without a care in the world. Then, with a few alfalfa pellets and some encouragement, the two were back in the trailer being quite calm.

Patrick spent some time opening and closing the door, waking around the trailer making noise, and generally just exposing them to the things they should expect on a drive. It was perfect because I was able to stay in there with them, which is I think much more convincing. I mean, when you get the horse in the trailer, lock the divider, and leave as quickly as possible to shut the door, what do you think they're going to think about how good being in the trailer is?

Chinook was quite tired by the end of this, as the whole session with our walk included took about two hours. I'm confident that these two will trailer well in the near future with a little more assurance, and I'm sure we'll be able to go to the park sometime this summer. :)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bath day!

Because it was super warm yesterday (though not today at all...back to cold and rain!), and because Gabby has to be bathed on the first warm day of the year to relieve her of a chronic rain rot problem, we decided that it might as well be bath day for as many of the horses as possible. We have guests visiting from Europe, and one was keen enough to help out with the salon process. Sage got her mane detangled again, she got brushed, and then we thought we'd try a bath with some conditioner to make her extra shiny. It's not like she's really dirty, but I figured it would be a good experience for her.

At first, she was a little bit nervous about cold water coming out of a hose and splashing her...

...but once she was assured that everything was just fine, she settled in for some pampering.

Lots of conditioner to be massaged in!

She seemed to quite like all the attention from her new-found friend.

Meanwhile, the other horses were drying from their baths in the sunshine on the driveway, and Chinook was trying to impress Brandy with his rock pile climbing skills.

Tomorrow, so long as it isn't raining we're going to try to take Sage and Chinook to Willamette Mission Park for a walk. I have been thinking about this for a while, and although it's a little far to go just for the heck of it, it's a really good place for young horses. It's really horse friendly, lots of open space (I used to ride Luna there all the time), and it would be a great experience for Sage and the kid. If all we do is get them in the trailer and head down for a picnic, it would be great--just to get them out to see things without the stress of riding. We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Power steering

Tonight I expanded the round pen, using the panels to enclose a little less than half the arena. This gave me a little more room to lunge Sage, and this time I used a lunge line and everything. She was very good! It's a little distracting because Chinook gets upset when I lunge her, even if it's only for two laps each way--which is, I assure you, the most she ever really does. That's because I don't like to have her going in circles for too long, but I do find it quite useful to let her move out on a lunge line and really learn verbal commands.

I rode her for about 15 minutes, trying to combine forward motion (which is still hard to find) with a little bit of steering. What would be best is if someone could lunge her while I ride, but since we don't have that, I think we're doing pretty well. She still does have trouble moving forward, but she's about twice as responsive as she used to be. And she did kind of steer, though it was a little complicated for her to put together two different commands, such as "go forward AND go right." I quit once I got her to walk away from the other horses and stand quietly at the far end of the arena.

I'm going to try to keep riding almost every day, and I'm going to try to add some time to our rides. We're moving slowly, but I think that is okay. When you look at horse training as a whole, the idea is very overwhelming. How do I get this horse from never having seen a saddle to striding out confidently on the trail with a rider? One step at a time. Each time you add one more new thing, and all the old things you repeat over and over again just get so much easier. I no longer hesitate when I swing up into the saddle, and I definitely did last week! It may take a while, but we'll get there...slowly!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Forward motion

Today I saddled up Sage after dinner and did a small amount of lunging in the round pen to get her to feel the concept of forward motion. By "small amount," I mean a few circles at a trot each direction. Of course, this took tying a plastic bag to the end of my lunge whip, but boy she is so pretty when she's being responsive!

I am trying to teach her voice commands for lunging, which is how my other horses are trained. I think she's getting the hang of it. This also helps when I get on, because I can use several aids (legs, seat, and voice) to teach her to move forward.

I hopped on her after we did a bit of quiet ground work, and guess what?! She actually moves forward now when I squeeze!! Our training session with Patrick paid off. We only really go in one direction, but it doesn't matter because it's forward, and that's exactly what we want!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Three rides!

Since the last time I posted, I have been able to ride Sage three times. It's so amazing not to have to study anything, and not to have to worry about getting done with chores to get back to my notes. And since I had the time, and since she was so good getting saddled again, I figured why not?

The first day I did a lot of groundwork, and she was so good for all of it that I decided there was no reason not to ride. I asked my dad to help me out, because she hasn't been ridden since January, and I didn't want to be caught off guard. What's nice is we can use the roundpen and put Chinook on the outside, so he can still see her but isn't underfoot (which he tends to be). So I had my dad hold while I got on slowly, but Sage remembered what this was all about and didn't seem bothered at all. I asked him to lead us in a small circle and called it good for the day.

The next time, I got on by myself after a little bit of ground work. Once again, she was very good. I let her just sit there for a while thinking about what was going on, and then I asked her to move forward with a squeeze. She has only sort of learned this command, but she stepped out willingly the first time. I think I just got lucky, because after that I found her motivation to move dropping substantially. At one point, I was squeezing and clucking and just trying to get her to take one step forward so I could rest my leg muscles!

So today, I enlisted Patrick's help. We've done this before, with him leading to teach her that when I squeeze it means to go forward. I got on rather quickly, and there was quite a bit going on outside at the neighbor's, but she was still good. She's definitely getting used to the idea! First he walked us around a few times, just for her to get the feeling of me being up there while she's moving. Then we did a few start and stop transitions, and then we tried it by ourselves. She really wanted to follow him, but after a little bit, she understood that I was trying to guide her. I got a few more forward steps than I usually do. Hopefully this means that next time, when I will be by myself, she'll continue to learn about moving forward. For now, this is quite good enough!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Busy days

It's been a busy week for both me and the horses. Last week we took our last final exams for vet school (end of third year), and on Monday we jumped into orientation for our clinical year. Thankfully, I have a few days off right now and start out with a week on a fun and relatively low-key rotation (clinical pathology) before spending a few weeks at the lameness clinic I usually work at and then taking a week off for a vacation in Canada. Sounds busy, but I'll be able to stay at home until July 10th, which means I will have lots of time for the horses. After that, because I will be on call in the hospital, I will see the horses less and less. The farm is over an hour from school, and I have to be less than 20 minutes away while on call--which means I will be staying with friends in Corvallis on those special days.

That's okay--Chinook needs time to grow up, and really, so does Sage. But as you can see, he's already doing lots of growing!

Since I don't have any studying to do for the time being, and since Sage is such a good sport, I decided that we'd tack up and go for a little walk (just on foot) around the farm. She hasn't been saddled in months, and remember how she used to have some issues with the jingly English girth? Well, not a problem at all this week! She stood there like she'd been saddled every day for the last few months.

Chinook was a little curious about what the saddle was once we got up to the garden, but he really didn't seem to notice at first!

Then he spent a lot of time exploring the flowers to look for something he might be able to destroy...

And he locked in on that little garden ornament, promptly starting to chew on it.

But there was a lot to explore, including the rhododendrons, which he was fascinated by!

I let Sage know what a good girl she was several times, and especially when I untacked her. She seemed so happy about this that when I put them back in their pasture, she did several laps galloping and bucking happily--which is really quite unusual for her!

Trying to keep up, Chinook turned into a little cross-country jumper...clearing rocks in a single leap.

Soon he was in the lead, though, because he is the ultimate little race horse.

The next day after these photos were taken, a friend from class (Michelle) came over to the house for the evening after our orientation. We picked up some mane and tail de-tangler from the tack store on the way home, and then we set to work grooming Sage. Michelle attacked her mane and tail while I brushed (and tried to keep Chinook from biting either one of us in jest), and within a miraculous amount of time, Sage was looking amazing! Although it's hard to tell in the picture below, her tail is actually not somewhat tangled as it usually is.

Sage and Chinook were both really good. Sometimes they are nervous about meeting new people, but we just tied Sage up to the trailer and Michelle was able to work on her with no problems. In fact, Sage really likes being pampered and being the focus of attention.

Today, I needed to get some pictures of me and the two mustangs to send to some people, so my mom helped and took shots of us this evening. Although we got a nice "official" photo, she also took some pictures of what I've been working on with Chinook.

He leads:

He picks up his back feet really well (front feet are a little harder):

And he'll stretch out and give you the happy lip if you take a moment to scratch him (especially on his belly!):

And I guess I should include our posed shot...Sage doesn't look entirely amused, but do you know how hard it is to get these two coordinated and facing the right direction?! I am sure you can imagine!