For The Dogs

My good friend and favorite play date was feeling down when she came over to play last time. She had along her recently taken in puppy. The puppy was driving her and the entire family insane. Her husband had always wanted a hound dog and so when they had the chance at this utterly adorable pup they jumped at it. Now they were regretting it.

The adorable hound pup is eating everything in sight, terrorizing the children and her endless energy is wearing my friend into exhaustion. People had been asking to have a chance at her ever since they got her and maybe it would be best for everybody if they let someone else have a try at the poor, adorable puppy. But she so did not want to.

I begged her to please try clicker training. To let me have a little go at it, see what happened. I have no clue how to train dogs. We are blessed to have Daisy who is perfect in every way, she’s never needed training. She let me try anyway.

That silly puppy went from running wild, chewing on children to sitting quietly at my feet waiting patiently for her next great reward of a piece of dog food. Clicker training is incredible. Of course as soon as we pulled out the phone everything went wrong. Daisy found us and was horribly upset to be left out, children needed attention and I was looking even scruffier than usual.

 

After working with the puppy awhile her loving owner had to give it a try and start learning the basics of clicker training. It’s harder than it looks.

She is not fixed by any means. I still know nothing about training dogs, her owner knows nothing about clicker training and is having to learn everything from scratch. I think they are going to try though. The amount of work necessary to bring the crazed puppy to a point of being able to live with her is overwhelming. But maybe, just maybe with clicker training there is a glimmer of hope.

 

 


Yay. Facebook

So, Rusty has a facebook page now. Rescuing Rusty same as the blog. I realize that not everyone has a really awesome husband like mine to set up a news read of their favorite blogs for them. And I know this is everyone’s favorite blog so I hoped facebook might make it easier to follow ๐Ÿ˜‰

The page is mostly links to the blog with occasional videos that are too long to go here. One that is, so far. I’ve been really surprised at the reaction to it. I got a little video of Rusty and I playing our usual game of fetch, nothing fancy but getting video is so rare I wanted to do something with it. Now I wish I hadn’t looked quite so scruffy.

I’ll leave you with that and some pictures of Rusty trying to decide if he wants to eat my pumpkins.


Nothing At All Interesting

But it’s those boring rides that often make it all worth while.

I had a few minutes to sneak out and work with him. So how do they always know and go stand at the far end of the pasture?

Once we were, finally, back to the front we worked on mat training, grooming, fly spray and saddling while standing loose on his rug, with marginal success. In the end he was saddled and ready to go so I think we succeeded. Despite the evidence in the video he does usually pick up his feet on a vocal command. He wanted to play fetch a little and it’s a pretty good warm up so we did.

Once I finally got on we walked back and forth working on stopping at an exhale and whoa and roll backs. After three or so laps he was doing perfectly so I got off. There was no excitement what so ever. That’s probably the way it should be but boring to write about.

He has gotten big enough that he’s no longer using my thickest blanket on the smallest hole in my latigos. He’s in my regular blanket and I’ve let the cinch out a hole. He’s growing up!

 


A Lesson In Leading

First I think I should point out that they don’t live out here, where they are in the pictures. I only let them out into the yard occasionally, for an hour or two, to get some good grass. There is lots of farm equipment and the occasional junk car parked out there, nothing to really get tangled up in it just looks bad. Today I turned them out to graze after 8 and I got done taking Coyote out for a little ride.

That said, it is a long walk to get them back in their pen when they’ve been out grazing the yard. I have to either walk clear out from the house, whine whine, catch them and walk clear back to their gate. Or drive out, catch them, lead them back to their gate then walk clear back to the car, whine whine. I really prefer that they know how to lead from the car. Pure laziness, but with small children everything is so much work.

Usually I catch Coyote but he didn’t feel like coming in off of grass today. Rusty isn’t as smart. It was his first time leading from the car, he took it quite well. Like a pro I’d say.

 

 


Playing Chicken

He was awful. It probably didn’t help that he hadn’t been ridden in at least a week, it was overcast and chilly and the father-in-law was standing by the shop talking to someone. They both stood there looking at us, no horse ever behaves in front of an audience.

I tossed his rubber chicken to him a few times for a warm up. I got on, tossed him his chicken and he ignored it completely. He wanted to go. I’m sure he had somewhere in mind but where ever it was it wasn’t what I had in mind. Every time I tried to redirect him he did the head flung in the air wet noodle thing. I worked with him until I felt that I was going to die, dismounted and led him back to where I wanted to be then we tried again. Of course the guys stood there watching. I finally decided nothing was being accomplished and was getting a little grouchy so I called it quits when we found one good spot. Did some ground work and let him go.

I tossed his rubber chicken to him a few times and worked on picking up his feet on a voice cue as a warm up. Then got on and tossed him his chicken. He went for it with as much enthusiasm as any puppy. We played fetch for awhile then I asked him to walk out. When he did the wet noodle thing I offered him the chicken, he targeted it happily. I threw it in the direction I wanted to go and he dove for it. He stopped at an exhale and steered off my legs. No one was watching of course, that always helps. Things were good, I kept it short got off did some ground work and let him go.

Two days two completely different rides. You never know what tomorrow is going to bring.

A view of our "arena" as I wait for him to decide to come let me get on

A view of our “arena” as I wait for him to decide to come let me get on


Almost Completely Off Topic

The September Equus had a great article by the always spectacular Deb Bennett about the horses of the early Americas. It talked about what horses were here and how the were shipped over. (I really wanted to make a short movie about this using the kids legos this summer when my brilliant husband did a summer camp on stop action animation, but that’s even farther off topic ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  ) It talked about the type of horse that was typical for the time frame, and how the valued ones were gaited. It is a long in depth article and in the end she says it’s just a precursor to her next article fully about Morgans.

I can’t wait to read the next one and love that they get a whole article about their origins before they even get the one just about them. The very interesting part to me and the subject that seems to be recurring at the moment was her proposition that Figure was a Canadian horse. I have been a bit surprised lately at the adamant stance I have been seeing that Figure was sired by True Briton. I wondered how people decided they knew that for a fact all of a sudden when for my whole life it has been unknown. I’ve seen Thoroughbreds, they don’t look like Morgans. I admit the older pictures of old style Thoroughbreds bear a greater resemblance but still.

Deb Bennett proposed that he was in fact a Canadian horse and has good basis for her proposal. As for what those are, I recommend reading the article ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  Much to my surprise shortly after reading that one I came across another, completely unrelated suggesting the same origins. The same author makes the her point in a couple of different writings, one about Morgans specifically and one about the Canadian Horse. Both are fascinating reading.

I realize this has nothing to do with Rusty but I enjoyed the reading greatly and wanted to be able to find the pages again, how better than to mark them here.

Also I have been slightly obsessed with another little rescue horse. A beautiful Morgan stallion left locked in his stall for years, fed but nothing else. Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue picked him up and are rehabbing him. Poor guy. When I think of my overly energetic, curious, intelligent Morgans locked up like that. I can’t even imagine how awful it would be. That said, my little Morgan, Nate that I had in high school had been locked up like that. He started out as my mom’s technically, but most of my horses do.

Mom tried a new farrier and she had Morgans too. She had one for sale, barely started andย  recently gelded. She had gotten him and his brother when, I think this was a long time ago maybe my mom can fill in the holes, after a nasty divorce the husband got the wife’s horses and kept them in their stalls, no cleaning, little feeding,for years. She had been able to get them back somehow but had no where to go with them. The farrier, Jamie, had taken two.

So we got Nate. He was quite an adventure. He didn’t know what to do out in a pasture, he got lost when we first brought him to our barn. Stuck out in the trees and couldn’t figure out how to get out. His gelding was not sufficient to convince him he was not The Man. He was herd stud for the rest of his life where ever he went. He was hot and trustworthy. If I had had some clue what I was doing he could have made a great horse. As it was he was a great horse who is responsible for most of my scars and soreness.

I want this one, my usually understanding husband says no. Of course the practical me understands all the reasons I can’t have him but he breaks my heart. I hope he gets to spend the rest of his life out running loose in a pasture, never stuck in a stall again.

paladin6


Playing Games And Riding

I’ve been taking the youngest out for rides on Coyote in the mornings while the oldest is at school. I’m glad he’s liking horses, I thought he’d be tractors and nothing else. One morning I went ahead and turned Rusty out in the yard to graze while we rode. We left him behind for the first part of our ride, fortunately he can’t really come with out through the corn field. But when we got back into the yard he started following us. I decided to have some fun with it and see what he would do.

Just about anything apparently.

There are some big round bales stacked in rows, instead of piles, the youngest was enjoying squeezing between them. He kept pointing and laughing wanting to go back through. Once we picked up Rusty he was happy to follow us through. The row we could fit down was narrow enough that I had to squeeze my legs tight around Coyotes rather considerable girth and they still rubbed against the bales. Even walking between the widely spaced tall stacks of hay is a little like walking through a tunnel. He doesn’t mind one bit. He happily follows past the equipment, semis and trailers, tractors and the quanset.

 

Tanna came out yesterday and rode with me. She hasn’t been out since the middle of July, we missed her. Rusty hadn’t been ridden in about a week, I had been sick then busy. Tanna rode Princess onna and gave us someone to follow. We went back out past the in-laws house and the scary trees into the corner of the pivot. He had a small melt down coming off the road but Tanna came back for us and we made it out into the middle of the field. Where he had another melt down and I decided it was a good place to get off and let him hang out while Tanna worked with Onna.

Today I made it back out to work him again. The wind was blowing and he was feeling skittish. After some ground work I felt OK about getting on and let him go where he wanted. He took off at an enthusiastic walk past the shop and tractors and all the scary stuff by our little arena/driveway and down towards the quanset were he and Coyote graze. Apparently that’s his happy spot. I’m not brave (stupid) enough to try the bales on him yet, maybe he’d be fine but I’m not going to find out until we have consistent steering.

He found the other horses in their pen and really wanted to go that way, and reaffirmed our lack of steering. His wet spaghetti noodle imitation was back and he feels like he’s going to topple over any second. We didn’t die, he didn’t take off for the others. Instead we did some circle type things and headed back towards the house. The first time I’ve ridden him towards home! Usually ( all three? times now, four counting this one) I dismount and walk him past scary stuff and out farther first. We still didn’t make it home. He really wanted to go the other way and I’m not willing to fight a wet spaghetti noodle. I got off.

Back at the house I got back on. From the ground for the first time! We practiced some steering, he appears to have difficulty turning right. To the left he went without any problem. To the right he threw his head and tried to fall over. I thought about it and realized that was the way we were going, or trying to during any difficulty we were having while out and about. So we did it a few times until he gave me some good turns then I let him go. Can’t wait for our next ride.

And just for the fun of it, happiness:

 


My Friend Flicka

Loved the book. The movie is the typical hollywood ruination of all things good, especially where horses are involved. Not just that they made Flicka black, or the star became a girl*. I expected that after they took the beautiful bay Morgan in The Horse Whisperer and made him a plain, ugly, sorrel quarter horse. The horrible part about this movie, one of many that is, was when she took a horse that was really going pretty well, in the round pen, and decided to head out across country without first having a good solid foundation. Putting not only herself, I can only care about that so much, she was an idiot, but what little good training she had done and the future rideability of the horse at risk.

How does any of this apply to Rusty?

Imagine my surprise when it dawned on me that I was recreating the very scene I despised so much. I had brought Rusty in and worked him a once on the ground since his time off during our adventure. He was as responsive as ever willing, pushy offering many things I wasn’t asking for along with everything I did. The next time I worked him, after our ground work, I asked him to come to the fence for me to sit on him, he walked right over and sit I did. Then I thought what the heck and asked him to walk off. In a halter, with the lead rope attached to one side for a rein, no saddle and out in the yard.

Unlike the movie he didn’t run off and I didn’t fall off. I like to think that I had a lot stronger foundation on him than the silly twit in the movie. Nobody died, so we repeated it the next day. He seems to like it much better out of the arena, none of the sulling up and refusing to move, no getting light in front or back hunching. He walks off willingly and straight. He gives me nice turns on both quarters and stops to a big exhale. Better bareback than with a saddle but I think the other benefits make a saddle preferable still. So really was it a repeat of the movie? Or a fairly safe move on a horse that is well started and has always been willing to try everything I ask?

We have stayed out of the arena since then. The driveway behind our house is my favorite arena anyway. He had been a little looky towards the chicken coop and that scary spot, for all the horses, where the cousins feed their bottle calves. So we walked back there and did some grazing and fetch with is chicken. Now he really wants to go that way, I don’t so much, lots of scary stuff and tight quarters that I don’t feel up to facing from his back even he thinks he’ll be fine with it. He happily offers to head out the other way too, between the tractors parked on one side and the shop with all it’s scary stuff on the other. I got off the first time right between the scary stuff and we walked down towards the quansit. The next time we made it up to the front of the in-laws house. He was the one who decided it was time to stop, it’s another really scary spot for everyone. Coyote still has a fit every time we go through there. So I got off there and we walked to and through the corner of the pivot that I hope to use for a nice big, open arena until it gets planted to wheat. With any luck that wont be for a while.

He’s even more fun to ride out and about than he was when confined. He seems to like it much better too, no future as an arena horse for him.

No recent pictures of him, riding a green colt, outside, bareback, in a halter doesn’t lend itself to picture taking. But here’s what I’ve been doing with my spare time!

 

*Not surprising with the current fad of strong woman role models, unfortunately that goes hand in hand with a lack of strong men for the boys to grow up with. Why did they have to become bumbling fools for the women to be strong?


Our Grand Adventure

Not about Rusty but related I think.

The children and I headed off to see my family in wide spread and far away places. During the drive we slowed (slammed on the breaks, took major detours) to look at the Amish horses.

The tail end of the trip was spent with my parents in the Chicago area. We got to see my mom’s horses at the barn where I grew up. It was nice to be back, the barn is as beautiful as ever, even if greatly changed. I still think it should be blue but the red is pretty too. The pastures have been sold off and houses built. The horses now graze the hay fields, formerly off limits.

The horses were fat and happy. Skip, nearing thirty and no longer ridden, he’s too hot and wants to go more than is healthy for his age, came in for his grain and petting. Smoke who got too fat for his own good was up front in a dirt paddock trying to prevent further laminitis. He came in for petting if not grain. And Indy, another horse from Forever Morgans. Hugely tall and lanky he was a show horse then an Amish buggy horse and now the only horse mom has that is rideable. He’s twenty four with the most beautiful legs I’ve ever seen and still sound and happy to go.

I took a lap around the arena, tried his trot out. It’s huge and barely rideable, in another life he could have been a pretty fantastic dressage pony. He felt awesome so I gave the kids each rides. Then we cleaned pastures, who says all the fun at the barn is to be had riding.

For a birthday, Christmas or just because she’s a good mom present my mom got me a lesson with an awesome trainer. Juan Carlos has a stable full of gorgeous Andalusian stallions, one mare and last years foal, sold already to Medieval Times. Who’s head trainer is the trainer he rides with by the way. We got a tour of his little barn and the beautiful horses. A big black stud whose beautiful Spanish name I can’t remember. His long black main was being unbraided by a friendly and rather unlikely man who owned this beauty. He was very justly proud of his pony telling us how the horse used to belong to a Mexican movie star whose name I didn’t know and of course can’t remember.

We saw the mare, the foal, a big bay stud all of them with beautiful Spanish names that I can’t remember and a grey stud, whose name I can remember only because it stood out so among the very Spanish names, Winston. We oohed and awed and stared in wonder while the great trainer saddled the big bay for me to ride in the lesson. I felt bad about having someone else saddle my horse for me but also understand not wanting some random stranger messing with your horse. But then, I got to ride him!

A couple of slaps of the stirrup leathers asked the horse to park out allowing me to get on easily. Once on I knew for sure I was riding a Cadillac. A very patient one at that. He and his owner were very patient with me as I tried to figure out how to ride this incredibly well trained horse. Juan Carlos walked along beside us and gave cues, I simply sat there, while the horse, I wish I could remember his name, did the Spanish walk, Piaf, Passage, all sorts of wondrous things.

 

 

I had a loose idea of where I wanted to go with Rusty before this. I wanted a good little cow pony who could do cool tricks but I had never seen anything like what the finished product could be. Now I know. Not that I have any hope of ever being anywhere close to this but I can strive for a much lesser version.

After letting me ride his great horse Juan Carlos got on Winston and gave a demonstration of what his horses looked like with a good rider on board.

 

 

 

 

 

After the beautiful demonstration he let me get on and walk around on Winston. He asked me to try for a canter but I failed completely totally and miserably at that.


Lessons Learned

I actually rode Rusty yesterday. He was rotten, or perhaps I was. I’ve always believed that anything a horse does is the riders fault, it’s becoming an even more deeply felt belief lately. He hasn’t been ridden in awhile, other than our little bareback excursion. All he wanted was to stand by the gate, I fell back on the whole force him to do what I ask, if he gets his way he’ll think he won, make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy, oh and throw in a little click and reward. Sure I was able to get him away from the gate. It wasn’t a huge fight. But it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

In retrospect, it’s always easier to see what should have been done than what you should do, I should have let him stand at the gate. He could have seen that it was boring, he wasn’t going to get to the other horses and was not getting any cookies. When he walked away, even a little, I could have clicked and rewarded him.

There would not have been any fights, no thinking about rearing and we could have both felt better about each other. We, the children and I, are going to be leaving on a little adventure soon and are as busy as usual, I really hope to get back on him before we go and work on this. I hate to be gone that long and have this as our last ride.

The entire ride wasn’t a waste, I brought along his rubber chicken and we played fetch. Trying frantically to handle reins on a young horse who is being rotten while carrying a rubber chicken is not easy, once again didn’t die! I tossed it over his head and he went after it. He picked it up and flopped it around, a couple of times he even handed it towards me. I only caught it once. I think he enjoyed the game, we’ll have to keep practicing.

On another bright note our work on a simple bow is coming along nicely.