Horse Care

Not so long ago it was my birthday, and Gail had given me set of first aid supplies for horses. I also got a book for horse care, so I started reading up on that. I've been learning so much on training horses and understand them too, but their actual care was my weaker point. I'm going to be owning horses in my future and since I work with them daily I should know what to do if they got hurt or sick. 

I'm usually more of a visual learner and a lot of the time I don't actually know I learn something till the time comes when I need that information and I remember it. But it's also easier to hear, listen, feel but most of all see it. When the farrier comes out, I like to watch him as well as read about a horse's hoof from a book/manual. I think I enjoy most of all, when the vet comes. Probably because that certain vet tells me everything he does as well as show me, while the farrier is usually quiet (unless he's cracking jokes). 

In the horse care book I've started reading has a lot of basic cares for a horse that I already know. Especially handling one or their behavior. I'm very interested on how to tell if a horse is sick. I hear a lot about colic and causes of it, so when I'm feeding the horses I know how to avoid it as much as possible. I've talked about colic in the past posts as well as other diseases.

I can't wait to get to the part of the book where it talks about wounds! I think that's the most exciting part about doctoring a horse! 

Training on the Trails

Sugar has been my amazing new trail horse now! I've been training her from a arena horse (her whole life) to a first time trail horse. Let me just say that I can tell she loves being outside of the arena much more! Riding in the arena she'll once 'n awhile get grumpy after days straight of just the arena. She may be getting better in the arena but she's not enjoying and will show how she feels if she's always ridden in the arena (aka it's too dull for her). Early times with the horses I would not have understood how Sugar feels and will probably blame it on her and completely misunderstand her. Before, I never knew a horse could get bored of something or prefer doing certain things. 

For example; in the beginning of Sugar's trail riding experience, she's easier to handle in the arena but when I take her out on the trail it's like a completely different horse. She doesn't walk calmly, spooks at everything, not paying attention to me and keeping her eye on everything else. I would of thought "nope, she hates it, there's something wrong with her and she's way too dangerous to take out", in fact some early trainers who took her once said that same thing and gave up. But when I ride her out, she may be terrified but I can tell she's curious. It was hard for me to see that at the beginning because as she was curious, she was more thinking about running home. I've had a couple of really big ugly spooks with her, but I think we're over the worst. 

In fact I'm so used to controlling a spooky horse! I'm pretty comfortable when they spook and can end it pretty fast. I can act like it never happened which is really good to teach a horse. I also feel like I can stay on a horse. Because after all those spooks, bucking, or disrespectful horses...I've only fallen off once!! And that wasn't because of the horse at all. In fact I was riding bareback and I had lost my balance trotting (cantering is much easier than trotting bareback). So I kinda feel like I can stay on any horse, but I better not jinx myself. Okay enough bragging! ;P

Yesterday I rode Sugar on a short trail ride down to one of the creeks. I knew of a small secret trail I explored on foot a few years ago in fall and it was SO beautiful!! It was by the Sacramento river but when I rode Sugar there it was over grown with black berry bushes so I rode near by till I found an opening to a creek (a branch off from the river). 

I worked her up and down hills, ridges, ditches, logs and the creek. I dismounted by the creek and practiced sending by and in the creek. It was nice that she was sweaty and a little hot from the ride there because the creek felt nice to her to cool off. At first she avoided the water but then went in pretty fast. This is actually the first time she's been in water like this. I've taken Ruby to a lake and swam with her but this was Sugar's first time to experience water. After some groundwork I mounted and rode her in the water. She seemed hesitant going in the creek a certain way but went right away the other way. I only let her in up to her knees (I didn't feel like getting wet) but she was ready to go further. I'm really proud of her! I'm so glad we both love exploring!! 

She's going to be an amazing trail horse! I've been learning so much from her! I'm planning on going back and riding down the creek. I'll have to take my trail riding buddy, Amber with me too! 

And of course Sugar isn't a "perfect angel" yet, she always has spooks here and there. But each time I tell her and often prove to her if I can that there's nothing to be afraid of. If she hesitates a lot of crossing a ditch, I'll turn her around and make her cross it a couple of time until she's comfortable with it. If she spooks at something, I'll have her work around it until she's close enough ton touch it and will stand still dozing off. But it's harder if it's a moving "monster" like a deer or birds. So at the least I'll have her stop and face it. When we're at the stables and I see a bunch of deer I'll work my way up to them and now have her follow them. Now she doesn't get bothered by them very much anymore. She mostly get's nervous if she's not sure what it is or can't see it clearly. 

Obstacle Training

Yesterday I worked on Sugar's obstacle training. I wanted to set up a couple of jumps but I wasn't able to find the ones I wanted so I started with sending her up and down little hills. She was very good at it, except for rushing down the hills a bit too much at the starting. Rushing down a hill is actually a lazy way for a horse to climb down a hill. Taking time, picking their way and walking is using their thinking side of their brain. It's good to have them pick their feet safely down a hill rather than rushing. 

When I first brought out Sugar I could tell she was a little reactive and energetic since the last time I took her out. I started with the C Pattern and backing all the way to the obstacles. The C Pattern has her constantly having her think on the 'thinking side of her brain'. Sending her in a arc, yielding her hindquarters, giving me two eyes and sending her back in the other direction. I could do this and move from place to place. 


Backing is a huge lesson for respect. Clinton says if he had to pick only one ground work exercise it would be backing. I did a lot of backing with Sugar. When we moved to a different obstacle I would either do the C pattern or back her there. I was able to back her at a pretty good rhythm and cadence in her feet at a distance. I also checked on steering her backwards. I could tell I need to go back and work a little more on yielding her hindquarters (especially at a distance). 

Working on the little hills I have her collect her feet and I'd say she did very well! I would let her stop and rest on the highest hill whenever she stopped, to let her rest where she feels the most uncomfortable. 

After working a lot on the hills I made my way with her to a gate and a bunch of pens where the cowboys worked the cattle. She always seemed to be afraid of something over there so I had her do a lot of sending, desensitizing, resting and letting her know there's nothing to be afraid of. She was a bit jumpy and started rushing but quickly calmed down and knew from experience that if she stopped where she felt most uncomfortable, I'd let her rest and I did while I 'flogged her with kindness'. After a bunch of sending she didn't rush and even got too lazy when I asked her to go. Near there is a archery range so I did the same there. She wasn't too sure about some of the colorful targets but very soon didn't care so we moved on. 

I eventually went to the actual obstacle course. There were jumps there but mostly logs. There's what's called a cowboy curtain, teeter totter, circle logs, log jumps, barrels, mail box, gate, and some boards.  

The teeter totter and the cowboy curtain are probably the most scariest obstacles for the horses. Especially the teeter totter because the ground moves under their feet and that really frightens a horse. Sugar is really good at going over this so we did the circle logs because she isn't very good at picking up her feet. She's in general kinda clumsy. She did very good going around the circle logs. I sent her back and forth in both directions after a few full circles ending with good cadence, rhythm and she pick up her feet with no argument, fear or laziness. 

Building A New Tack Room

Recently we've been building a new tack room in the new paddock!! Gail was able to get two paddocks side by side and decided to make one of the stalls (since we have two now) into a tack room. The tack room is actually designed so the horse can still go in for shelter but part of it is closed off by a gate, that's where we'd keep our tack and everything else (besides the feed).

And since Gail is in charge, it's going to look pretty fancy! In fact it's pretty much going to look like a dressing room! She got a bunch of different decorations for the walls (including a mirror) as well as hooks and shelves for the tack itself. Yesterday evening we worked on painting the walls in the inside a light creamy yellow. She also got some curtains that would drape down to stop any rain from coming in, but will be pushed to the side in the summertime. And of course the curtains have to have rose designs because we're going all out. 

We already have saddle racks that we'll put in there when we finish and some hooks that will be put up on the walls after they've been painted completely. Plus shelves and decorations ;)

The floor/ground started out with just pee gravel but we put down a big wood piece. The gate was welded to fit and it's awesome!!!


Trail Riders

Yesterday evening I went on a trail ride with Amber and her horse Athena. I rode Sugar and since I haven't been riding her in awhile I worked her a little in the morning before we went riding in the evening again. 

We started out on the opposite side of the trail instead of the side we usually take to change it up (the trail we took a loop). Sugar did very well and only spooked once at a deer who was laying down in the distance. But after that she did very well. Half the trail is hills that we go up and down on. This really helped Sugar with going up and down hills and through small ditches. In fact usually Athena (Amber's horse) does better but this time Sugar was basically calm the whole time and Athena was the one who came to a small problem. Athena seems to be getting a bit barn sour or buddy sour now. When we went down a hill she stopped and started backing up. She did this a few times along the trail because she didn't want to go. Apparently she does a lot worse when she's not with another horse.

Halfway through the loop on the trail we decided to check out the Sacramento river! So instead of going straight back we adventured along the river and found some beautiful places! It's so much more beautiful on horseback too. 

About 10 minutes before we got back Sugar started acting up all the sudden. At first I thought she just wanted to go home so bad. She started trotting at first and wouldn't stop and then zig zapping and shaking her head when I noticed how many mosquitoes there were. We all got them but Sugar got them the worst. Not only that but she is very sensitive to them as well. It got hard to keep her in control with traffic (we rode alongside a street to get back) and I didn't want to work her too hard so I ended up getting off of her and loosened her cinch to tell her she did a good job and so it's more comfortable. I felt bad for her, those bugs were really bothering her..

When we got back she was covered in bumps! I made sure to spray her down with bug spray, which I did before we went on the trail as well. But besides the last 10 minuets of mosquito attacks and the little spook at the beginning, she did amazing!! Even when we were riding to the river there were jack rabbits jumping close by and she didn't flinch. She spooks at unexpected things, mostly deer and birds when they suddenly all fly up. On the way back there were both and she only looked up at them. I'm so proud of her!

Spirit (13)

Today is the first day I rode Spirit (besides a little bit bareback). 

The past few weeks were very busy for me, so getting back into working every morning again was nice. But I definitely missed the busyness because most of it had to do with friends from Germany and France coming here to learn English and see America. And boy do I miss them being here...

I was also asked to work Cody (Rose's paddock mate) for a week before he's sold. 

I took Spirit to the arena and saddled her. She has a light weight saddle (but that saddle isn't very good) because she is smaller than an average horse. I did lunging for respect stage 1 with Spirit and practiced putting my foot in the stirrup, standing, mounting and dismounting. Then I actually mounted and flexed her neck from side to side. I didn't use a bridle because of the bit issue, in fact I'm not sure if she's had a bit in her mouth before or not. But I decided to do the first lessons with a halter and clip on reins since I didn't have a colt starting bridle. Although I did see a bridle in her barn, I didn't want to use it for two reasons; 1, it was a curb bit and I prefer a snaffle and 2, because I didn't want to worry about getting her used to a bit just yet. 

We did neck flexing first, then did some trotting. I did cruising with her at a trot and little at a canter. She still has a lot to learn but I know she'll be great! 

The next few times I'll work on a lot of cruising before I do more of steering her. 

Spirit's Training 2 (12)

Every day I've been working Spirit through the ground work. And for fun I even got on her bareback and worked a little on flexing, walked around and then got back off again.

Roundpenning:

Spirit is doing very well with the roundpenning! Her turns are very good! She pays attention and has hardly even complained (besides slowing down when she thinks it's time to be done). She doesn't quite follow me as much as I'd like her too but each time we finish she get's better and better. From just standing there to coming up and soon follow. 

Desensitizing:

Desensitizing to the lead rope and stick and string. I have to make sure I do this at least once (but twice would be better) every time I work with her. She has never been spooky but she always seems to flinch an inch a few times at the starting of desensitizing. It's the unexpected rope or string that is tossed over her back the first time that she flinches. The only time she moved around a lot in the beginning was 'whipping the ground' beside her. Now of course she doesn't care.

Yielding the Hindquarters, stage 1 and 2:

For the fist few lessons I did the roundpenning, desensitizing, backing up and yielding the hindquarters stage 1 before I went to stage 2. I wanted to make sure she was yielding right and all the way. The first day I got 1-2 steps, the next 3-4 steps and the next day I got her to yield a 360 on both sides. THEN I did stage 2! Which I did for the first time today. It took her about two or three faults before she got it down, yielded and faced me. 

Backing up:

I actually started backing up with her a little at the beginning before I did the rest in order. I did the first method, which is called; 'tap the air'. She is fast learner and is backing very well besides not backing straight (which I wouldn't even ask from her at this early stage). So far I've only done 'tap the air'.


So far those are the exercises I've done with Spirit.

 I've still got: 

Yielding the forequarters

Lunging for respect stage 1

Flexing the head and neck

Sending exercise 

Circle driving

Lunging for respect stage 2

Leading beside

Slap and walk, Helicopter exercise, Head shy exercise


I may have taught her 'Flexing the head and neck' before getting to that point. I got some of the training order mixed up but it worked out great! I thought it was going to be really hard to get her to flex and that's what she made me think at the starting when nothing was happening, but as soon as she flexed once she seemed to understand right away what I was asking for. So that means I'm releasing the pressure at the right time!


Spirit (11)

It's been going good with the new young mustang, Spirit (aka Snickers). The second lesson I had with her I did lunging but on the lunge line because someone else was using the round pen, and sadly there is only one. 

When I took her out in the arena I first went to the desensitizing with the stick and string, rope and a plastic bag. Snickers is much more of a calmer pony than I thought for her age (3 or 4 years old). Yeah she did spook some but not at all as much as I thought she would. She also calmed down pretty fast. 

I also did a little of a backing method with her. 'Tap the air' backing method to be exact. I was some what surprised on how fast she would try to get things down. I mean, she didn't know how to back very well at all (that's what I'd expect out of her) but I could tell she started understanding when I asked her. 

The hardest training that day with her is probably lunging. It took her awhile to understand that I wanted her to lunge in a circle around me. But I also think she didn't want to leave me either. I got a little frustrated with her at the beginning but I kept it up till she knew what to do. After she started getting it down. I didn't have much time to spend with her but the next lesson with her I want to work on yielding her hindquarters. 

So I have;

Round penning

Lunging for respect stage 1

Backing

Desensitizing

and Yielding the hindquarters


And so far this is just the second day with her. She is the sweetest pony ever!