Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rough Day - The Long Version

I haven't posted on this blog in quite a while.  However, since this was originally meant to be my horse blog and I've got something horse-related that's really bothering me...  Here I am.

Today was a rough day.

It didn't start out that way.  We got up early this morning and went to buy a load of hay for Bo.  For a few years now we've been buying from a guy who lives about an hour away.  It is great quality and the guy is very nice.  It was nice to spend the time with Jeff, we talked about a lot of stuff on the way there and back.

At the barn, we unloaded the hay and I stripped out Bo's stall, while Jeff called his grandma to chat with her for a little bit.

Then the trouble started.

I won't go into details, but let's just say the scene before me evolved into 5 people trying to catch a frightened young horse who'd broken away from one of them.  The situation was getting ugly and I stepped in.  Longer story short, I caught the youngster and then helped them get him back into the barn.  There was so much about the situation that bothered me, from how it started to how they all tried to handle it.  On top of all of that, the whole thing was easily preventable.

I think what bothered me most is that the person the horse got away from is the person who is supposed to be training the horse.  Two of the other people were the owners, who were dropping the horse off for training.  They are paying this "trainer", who couldn't even keep the horse under control and then couldn't catch him when he (of course) got away from her.

I said I wouldn't go into details, but I decided I'm going to.

I was bringing in a load of bedding for Bo's stall when suddenly I see a horse coming down the aisle toward me, backwards.  I couldn't see what was happening, but I got the heck out of the way.  Here comes the horse, with a lead rope around its neck (??) towing the "trainer" along down the aisle...  while she is yakking on her phone.

The gate behind me was open, I'd just come through with my wheelbarrow, and the horse dragged her right on through it out into the field beyond where the barn manure pile and shavings pile are.  He was heading forward now and she had NO control.  I said to myself, "not my circus, not my monkeys" and went to dump my wheelbarrow in Bo's stall.  I wasn't going to butt in on her "training".

Then I realize the horse had gotten away from her and is now being chased by 3 dogs and 4 people...  the people screaming at the dogs, but of course the poor horse didn't know that.

I decided to go help.

Turns out she had put a halter on the horse..  an adult-sized halter on what appears to be a yearling colt - who is not even halter broke.  The halter had slipped off his face and down around his neck.  Everyone was repeatedly grabbing at the rope as he ran by them, and promptly getting it ripped out of their hands.  I even tried it once, picking it up as he walked by, but he panicked and took off.

Finally, Jeff was able to get the dogs under control and the rest of the people managed to get the colt cornered by the open gate leading out of the field, but on the wrong side of it.  I quietly picked up the trailing lead rope and snubbed it on the gate.  The colt tried to leave again, found out he couldn't, threw a bit of a fit, and then finally stood quietly.  The "trainer" went and got a different halter, still too big, but she put it on and I fed the lead rope through the noseband, still hooked to the halter around his neck in case oversized halter #2 came off. 

I kept the end of the lead snubbed to the gate, but started working on getting him to give to pressure.  He gave a couple of steps and then I was able to lead him to the barn.  He was afraid to step back into the barn and here's where the fun continued.  Picture this colt with 5 people crowed around him trying to bribe, baby talk, push, pull, drag him into the barn.  I was standing back, holding the end of the rope in case he took off again.  Hell, *I* was overwhelmed by whatever the hell was going on in that crowd.  In those moments I witnessed about every single way people try to get a horse to go somewhere they don't want to go and those ways DON'T. WORK.  Jeff, for his credit, had corralled the dogs in their run and walked by me with a look on his face that said it all.  He knew what was going on was a complete cluster and probably knew that I was getting pretty frustrated with the whole thing.

The "trainer" was pulling and pulling on the lead rope and at one point, he did give a little, to which she acknowledged out loud, "good, you gave" and I almost said to her "you didn't."  She kept pulling and pulling, no matter what he did.  I think I was just appalled, so much that I was speechless.  Finally she let go of the lead rope (so I had it) and went to get a whip.  She started rubbing him on the butt with that, while I kept an even pressure on the lead, still allowing him to toss his head and fuss a bit, without letting up on the pressure.  As soon as he took a step forward, I released.  Then some pressure, 2nd step, release.  After that I led him through the barn like he'd been halter broke forever.

Getting him into a stall was more of the same, but then it was over.  I took off all the crap on his head and neck and loved on him.  He's not even my horse, nor am I the one being paid to train him, but I tried to take the time to reassure him after all of that crap.

After Jeff and I left the barn, on the way home I had a surprising and unexpected reaction to the whole thing.  I started crying.  Jeff was alarmed.  I told him that I felt like life wasn't fair.  How is it that someone is earning money training horses who doesn't even understand the basic concept of releasing when a horse gives to pressure??  I know there are a lot of people who don't know things like this, or aren't good at it.  (I know there's a LOT I still could learn about, well..  everything.)  But if you are going to market yourself as a professional, you better at least have the basics down. 

I had, very briefly, tried training horses for other people years ago and all it got me was hurt and disgusted.  I ended up mostly with horses that were 7-8 years old, spoiled rotten, and dangerous.  They were owned by people who wanted a kid's horse in 30 days or a trail horse in two weeks (I'm not even kidding).  That was not the kind of training I wanted to be doing, so I quit.  My specialty is babies, building a relationship, taking an unhandled horse and creating a willing partnership, a horse that LIKES people, but is respectful too.  I won't toot my horn much, hell I don't think very highly of myself at all, but I will say that I am GOOD with young horses.  I've worked with many of them over the years, my own and others, and when it comes to horses, that is my true passion. 

It hurt my heart so much to see the amount of sheer incompetence that resulted in this little colt being so terrified today.  I know that if *I* had been hired to train him, things would have been much different for him.  It hurts me heart to think of all of the young horses out there who never have a chance, are never handled, never taught how to live with people, never given the insurance that good handling and training can provide.  Or the ones who are handled and trained, but are abused.  I had quite a good cry today, out of the blue, about all of those things.  It left me feeling drained.  I pretty much don't want to deal with people, as far as offering to train for others, and I don't have the resources to start taking in young horses and training them - as much as that is my dream.  So what do I do?  I don't know. 

The world feels heavy tonight.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Long Time, No Post

I've been neglecting this blog again...  it happens.  I've been really cracking down on myself to get back to posting on a regular basis on my Studio Blog.  I think that blog may take over as my main place to post, since I'm not very big into horses right now and I'm not sure I will be again, at least not for a while.

I found a home for both Leah and Pink.  (My Arabian mare and her 2011 filly)  They both went to a good friend in Colorado who runs a lesson and therapeutic program for little girls.  I know they will both be spoiled rotten - by my friend and the girls she teaches.  I'm very thankful that she was able to take both of them.  Her horses all have a lifetime home with her and she promises that if anything changes, they will come back to me.  It was very hard for me to give up Leah - again - but she told me that if I ever change my mind, I can come and get her.  I don't see that happening; I know Leah is safe there and has a wonderful home.  That was all I wanted for her the very first time I gave her away.

So now it's just me and my boy, Bo.  I go back and forth with my plans for him.  Sometimes I start dreaming big and think that I will try EVERYTHING with him - all the horsey sports I've wanted to try and all the training dreams I've ever had...  Sometimes it's enough to just go take care of him and hang out for a few minutes, listening to him eat his dinner.  I guess it's fair to say that I've been feeling a low grade depression off and on ever since I first gave up on horsey dreams - when Cazador left.

My husband and I still have ambitions to buy property somewhere in the area and start up our own little hobby farm.  Oddly enough it's now him who talks about getting more horses in the future.  I think when we can have them in our own yard maybe the fire will come back.  I do sometimes miss training - working with youngsters and the magic that happens when and unhandled horse becomes a friend and partner.  I would like to be a part of that again sometime.  It breaks my heart to know of the situation right now with he drought and the horse market.  I've seen numerous horses in my area given away.  Most, if not all, of them are untrained.  I would love to be in the position to take them in, get them trained up and back out in the world, with the insurance that good training can bring.  The world is a scary place right now - for animals and people.  I wish I could do more to help.

Ok, well, enough rambling.  I'll try and check in here when I think about it or when I have some horsey news.  For now it's pretty much time to hibernate for the winter and see how fuzzy Bo gets!  :-) 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A quick update

Much has happened in my little horse world in the past few months.

Earlier, I had made a post about a scare at the vet with Leah, my Arabian mare.  Well, just a little over a month after that, she became horribly injured, tearing a large chunk of her face away.  She spent 10 days at the vet where they first tried to stitch everything back together and then, due to infection and too much blood loss, ended up having to remove everything so that she would heal open.  The entire thing was a horrifying ordeal and very hard to deal with.  I'm so very thankful for my husband, who helped me through all of it and was the one who cleaned out her wound every day since I was having so much trouble even looking at it.  

I'm happy to report that now, nearly 4 months later, she is almost completely healed.  There is only a thin line down the side of her face to show that anything had ever happened.  She also had some nerve damage, which causes her lower lip on that side to droop, but even that has been improving.

Yesterday, we went on a long trail ride with some friends.  I rode Bo, and Jeff rode Leah.  I'm still dealing with some confidence issues when riding her so Jeff decided he would ride her.  He is what I would call a confident beginner.  She needs a rider who is confident and I know that my recent fear only causes a downward spiral when she spooks at things.  She and Jeff did very well on the ride.  She became spooky a couple of times, but quickly got over it and kept on down the trail.  Next time maybe I'll be brave and ride her out.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Starting Over - Opposite Ends

Bo and Leah are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to horses.

Bo is... "dull" as another trainer put it. He's naturally very lazy, has a stubborn streak, and though he is friendly, he's not terribly respectful on the ground. He doesn't have much concept of personal space and he's not very responsive - at all. All of these things have continued to grow throughout the years and I've come to realie that he's gotten away with it all, because he's such a good horse in so many other ways. He's quiet, he's gentle, anyone can ride him, he'll do (just about) anything you ask - though he may be slow to get there. He's also pretty much unflappable, not much scares him at all. He's probably been coasting along with a comfortable "B-C" grade all these years.

Leah, on the other hand, is highly responsive. Anything you ask her to do, she does it yesterday. In the early years I fell off of her so many times, because I'd ask her to turn, she'd flip a 90 or 180 - and I'd be in the dirt. She's quick, flighty, tense, and afraid of ev-ery-thing. She's been a pretty good girl all these years, pretty easy to handle, scary smart, I'd say overall she wants to do good. She's been allowed to coast too.

Both of them have gaping holes in their training, primarily because their early years pre-dated me knowing much. I started them both under saddle and did all of their early education, but looking back there was SO much I didn't know. (there's STILL so much I don't know...)

I've learned that Bo needs sensitizing. He needs to learn that he can't coast anymore, when I say move, he needs to MOVE. Leah needs DEsensitizing, she needs to learn that she's not going to die at any second and that it's okay to chill out.

I've already gotten started in what is sort of starting over with them both. I've been doing groundwork, making Bo hustle his feet. Then I switch gears and encourage Leah to stand still as plastic bags go whipping past her.

I have to say that I think it is a great deal of fun working with the two of them. If Leah gets all spun up and I feel nervous about being on her, I can go get on Bo and decompress with an easy ride. If I get frustrated with Bo's lack of responsiveness, I can get Leah out and smile at her "snap-to" way of doing things.

I think they balance each other out quite well and between the two of them, I can learn a lot.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Baby Pictures and a Scare

My big project over the past 6 months that my husband was deployed was to go through all of my stuff. Most of the things I own have been boxed up in storage off and on for the past several years. It was like Christmas, going through some boxes that hadn't been opened in 6 years or so.

One of the things I found was a package of old horse pictures, among them were all of Bo's baby pictures. I'm planning to scan them in and put them on my webpage to start a photo gallery of my big handsome boy.

Leah is back and looks fantastic. She gave us a scare though last weekend. I found her in her stall, drooling and unable to swallow. After a trip to the vet, some druges and a stomach tube, they still didn't know what was wrong with her. She was left there for a night of observation and she was finally able to eat with the help of some Bute. (an anti-inflammatory painkiller for those non horse folks who may find their way here)

When we brought her home, I discovered Bo sticking his tounge out and making faces, much the way Leah had been when we first found her drooling. He didn't let it stop him from eating though - not much ever stops Bo from eating.

We finally came to the conclusion that it was a strange type of grass that popped up in a bale of hay they shared. The bale was chock full of some type of fluffy grass seeds that were smooth when felt one way, but like sandpaper when rubbed the wrong way. Bo didn't finish his portion of that bale, whereas Leah did. I think the vet's theory of the mouth or throat being scratched up was right.

All is well now, but it was a tense couple of days wondering why Leah couldn't swallow anything she tried to eat.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


"The strangeness of this life cannot be measured." - John Dunbar, Dances With Wolves

That quote pops into my head from time to time and this is one of those times.

Just two months ago I reduced my small herd of horses to just one. I've been enjoying only having one horse to fuss over - one horse to care for and worry about and make plans with. At the same time there has been times where it feels strange to be at the barn. Once I'm done with Bo, I'm... done. Several times I've stood at the gate to his pen after putting him away and finishing chores and I've thought,

"Now what? ... Well, now I guess I go... home."

I think I've gotten used to it and have been enjoying having just the one.

Tonight I came home from a get together at a friend's house and checked my e-mail. I found a reply from one of the ladies who had given a home to two of my horses, an Arabian mare and her weanling filly. We've been e-mailing back and forth about the "girls".

I was surprised to see that her message was asking if I'd be interested in taking the mare back. She said she's just not working out for what they wanted her for. Without hesitation, I knew my answer would be yes. This was the arrangement I had made with them, for both horses. I gave both of the horses to them, under the condition that they be given back to me if things didn't work out. I wrote back and we've arranged that they'll bring her back tomorrow afternoon.

I'm not really sure what to do. This mare means so much to me and it was gut wrenching to see her go. I had decided at one point to keep her and Bo. That way my husband and I could each have a horse to ride and I'd have my two extremes again - Bo is the calm, quiet, lazy, "safe" horse (even though he's a stallion) and Leah, the mare, is the one with more get-up-and-go. She is a sportscar to his luxury sedan. When I had thought of keeping both of them, I had considered gelding Bo so that they could stay together. She has always been "his" girl. She was the first mare he bred and all through these years, he notices her more than any other mare.

When I decided to let her go, my husband confessed that the idea of gelding Bo had made him sad. He had been hoping that we would have a couple of Bo babies to raise up later on when we have property and when Bo is older.

Now everything is up in the air again. All I know is that pretty little Leah is coming home to me again. Beyond that we'll just have to figure it out...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Daring to Dream Again

After being spread so thin all these years with all the horses, it's been a slow, sputtering start to making plans again. I think, after toying around with the idea for years, I'd like to try and start training Bo for Reining. I've had an interest in that event for many years and I have always thought Bo might have the makings of a good Reining horse. He has the build for it and is a nice mover. He's willing and has a good disposition.

We have a LONG way to go to get there. Most of the required movements are things I've never done before and have never trained a horse to do. Things like flying lead changes, spins, and sliding stops... Then there's the fact that Bo is not very soft at all. He's got a good, soft mouth, but he's kinda lunk headed and doesn't have much finesse as of yet. A lot of that is my fault; back when I first started him I didn't know much more than how to get a horse rideable at a very basic level. He is very willing to please though and has a great mind. I foresee a bit of starting over in some areas.

Compound all of that by both Bo and I being pretty out of shape right now. Yeah, it's gonna be a bit of an uphill battle from the start.

I would like to put him in some local open shows this summer in whatever classes we can get ready for. I had planned to start with stuff like Walk/Trot classes and maybe... maybe Novice Reining - if we can get anywhere close to being ready for that. We both need a lot of conditioning and need to learn a lot more together.

I think it will be fun and if we can go to some shows and not make fools of ourselves, having done most of the work on our own, it'll be great.