Wednesday, January 28, 2009

News, News, News

We were on the News! I got an email from a friend who saw the piece about Onyx and I on the news. She said we looked great. I've been scouring the station's website everyday, hoping to see something on there since we don't have TV service. Well, my friend sent me a DVD of the story and I just watched it! Not bad for our TV debut I have to say. They did a good job with the story and even though I looked like a goober (I just about always think I look like a goober) it was very cool to see.

It's been frigid cold here, still. Highs in the single digits and even though Onyx is in a barn and there's an indoor arena, it's still COLD in there. So I haven't done much but a few minutes work with her before she gets her dinner each night. I can catch and halter her pretty easily now, so we are making progress every day, just not in leaps and bounds like we were at first. I'm still not too shaken by the lack of any big step, we're only a couple weeks in. At the same time I don't want to get too laid back - there's still a LOT of work to be done. I feel pretty good though, because I know she is wicked smart (I'm hip, I'm with it, har har) and she retains things so well. I see that the weather is supposed to warm up this weeked and stay that way for a while. I've got my fingers crossed!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Numb fingers and toes

Well after our lovely week of 50s and 60s (albiet most days with 50mph winds) we're back in the frigid temps. Thursday was 60, no wind and the sun was shining, it was gorgeous! Friday.. not so gorgeous. Winchill of -20 in the morning, -15 throughout the day and once again the wind was howling. We woke up to snow everywhere, it's so crazy here.

ANYway, enough about the flippin' weather. On our last nice day I spent 3 hours with Onyx scrubbing mudd off her belly and butt. I got her over to the wash rack and she walked right in. Backed her out and walked her back in a few times, then cross-tied her in there with a couple of lead ropes. And there she stood for a couple hours. Overall she was very good and pretty darn patient with me. She cow kicked at me a few times, but I tapped her and said "knock it off" and so she did. There were a couple times after that when she'd pick up a back foot... and then put it right back down. I keep saying it, but she really is a quick learner. I had brought a 5gal jug of hot water and had a couple buckets to mix in some colt. I used a "bug scrubber" sponge and got most of the mud off her belly. She and I were both about tired of the process by the time I got back towards her "girly parts" so I called it a day. I also got most of it off that side of her rump too.

That night Jeff came with me to give her dinner and he commented on how accepting she was of having her belly and butt rubbed. He was amazed that she was so comfortable with being touched. He said it was like "night and day" from before. He'd held her the first time I worked on her belly to snip some mudballs off and she'd kept bolting away from us. For a guy who doesn't know much about horses and had certainly never handled a rowdy one, he was a pretty good hand and wrangled her well. We were in the round pen and she'd bolt away, he'd give her some rope, but would just kinda go with her until he got her under control again. I'd told him to let go of the rope if he had to, but he never did. Good job, Jeff! Yeah, after 2+ hours in the wash rack with me all over her belly and rump, she's ok with contact there now.

She's had a couple of days off because of the crazy cold returning with a vengence. I've gone to feed her and I always hang out and rub on her, but hadn't done much work. Tonight I stripped out her stall and put in fresh shavings. Then I worked on petting her right behind the ears, that's not a favorite place of hers. I got her pretty calm with that by the time I quit for the night. Then I took a big step. I took her halter off. I can walk up to her in the stall and she's fine with me putting a rope over her neck and leading her with just that. Plus we've worked on putting another halter on over the one she had on, so I'm hopeful it'll be no big deal to get her caught and haltered tomorrow. She was acting like the halter bothered her and I didn't want to leave it on 24/7 any longer than I needed to. I'm pretty sure it was time for it to come off.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A lot of little things

Today I did a lot of little things with Onyx. I worked on swinging the lead rope around more and then tied her up for a bit while I worked on the "mudball crusade". I snipped a lot more mud off, but there is a LOT more to go and I think she's going to have to get wet to get it all off. A lot that's left is right up against her skin. This stuff is some crazy mud, it's rock hard. I used a metal curry and got all of the little bits off of her neck and a lot of it off of her sides and rump. Tomorrow is supposed to be our last nice day so I'm hoping I'll be able to get her belly wet and get the crud off once and for all! I've seen pictures of some of the other "muddy" musangs, but I really haven't seen one as bad as Onyx! Her sides and belly were solid mudballs, layers upon layers of them when I started.

After chipping away at more of the mud, I introduced her to a saddle pad. Not a big deal except she seemed hesitant to walk around with it on. "What is this thing on my back?"

Then it was time for the surcingle. Again, no big deal. She looks almost bored in this pic, haha.

I didn't tighten it because of all the mud still in the way. I left it on her for a little while and worked on brushing out her mane. She has a long pretty mane right behind her ears... aaand right in front of her withers. Everything in between is short, thick, and sticking up everywhere. I'm not sure how much of her mane will grow out by April, but at least a few inches would be cool.

In continuing with my desire to expose her to general "weirdness", I also introduced her to me jumping up and down. I think anyone who might have walked by the stall would have thought I was a little nuts. I stood in the middle of the stall, holding the leadrope and started jumping up and down in place. At first Onyx freaked out and ran around and around in the stall... I just kept jumping. Then she stopped, I kept jumping. Finally she looked at me (with an expression kinda like "what the hell??") and I stopped. A few minutes later I started jumping up and down again, she didn't try to get away, instead within a few seconds she turned and looked right at me ("you are so weird"). She really is a smart girl. I've noticed more and more that she seems to pick things up (and repeat them) very quickly.

Now I just need to finish getting the friggin mud off her so I can get the saddle on!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Onyx is a Celebrity

Wow! This morning I got a call from a gal at one of the local news stations. She wanted to know if she could do a story on me leading up to the competition in April. She wanted to meet today and again at times over the next few months to track Onyx's progress. I said yeah, that'd be cool!

Jeff and I hurried out to embark on the "mudball crusade" and over the course of an hour we had Onyx ok with me snip-snipping away at her belly hairs with my sharp little scissors. I took off a good 3-4 big handfuls of mudballs by the time we were done. Then I had to rush back to the house and to try make myself presentable for our big TV debut!

At the barn the news gal filmed me getting Onyx out of her stall and walking her to the arena. She asked a lot of questions about my background with horses, the competition and of course, Onyx. She filmed a quick interview with me (I think I rambled on, I was SO nervous!) and then she did some more filiming of Onyx and I walking around together in the arena. She gave me her cell phone number and asked that I give her a call whenever we reach a big milestone so she can come back out to film an update. I told her there are little milestones everytime I work with Onyx, but I'll probably wait to call until there is a saddle involved! *wink*

Speaking of small milestones, a small crowd had gathered just outside the arena to watch Onyx's TV debut... The couple who owns the barn and a couple of other boarders were there. There were also some dogs hanging out in the crowd. To take her back to her stall we had to walk right through the crowd and Onyx wasn't phased one bit. As we walked by, one of the boarders asked if she was a Friesian! (I have to admit that I've thought she kinda looks like one at times) I said no, she's a mustang. Both of the ladies went on about how lovely she was and what good conformation she has. I have to admit, I was thrilled! They asked if she was from an adoption or a sale and I told them about the Mustang Makeover. The owners of the barn have heard of the Mustang Makeover events and when they found out that's where she's headed they were really excited.

Tomorrow - more mudball snipping and always more groundwork!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Rant

I hate wind. No, wait, let me repeat that.. I HATE wind!! The last couple of days the wind has been absolutely horrible. What makes it even worse is that the temperatures have been in the low 50s the last few days and the sun has been shining. They would be perfect days to get out and enjoy the sunshine... if not for the 50mph winds!! Today they said the wind was a steady 40mph with gusts up to 60. While taking care of my horses tonight, I had several flakes of hay ripped out of my hands by the wind and they blew away, no trace left. After watering and haying the herd out on the property, I came back to town to go see Onyx. (yes I think that's her name now) I had planned to work with her a bit, but I couldn't get the barn door shut behind me which meant the *~#&#%^# wind was HOWING through the barn aisle. Sooo instead I worked in her stall a bit.

When I picked her up the majority of her body was covered in mud. Most of it was dry, clumped on her. A lot of it has fallen off and I've picked some off while petting her, but her belly is completely covered in dried mud. There are a ton of little dingleberry mud balls hanging off her belly hairs. It's gotta be uncomfortable and of course before I can saddle her I've gotta get all that stuff off of her. She's been touchy about her belly and I can see why. The hair down there is being pulled by all the dried up mud balls. The good news is that most of them are not right up against her skin so I should be able to snip them off with some small scissors. She'll have some chunky cut belly hairs, but she'll be a lot more comfortable I'd think! She was letting me feel around down there tonight which is the most she's let me do to her belly without fussing. I also worked on touching her legs and was able to run my hand down both of her front legs. I worked on desensitizing her to the lead rope, tossing it over her neck, back and rump and letting it coil around her front legs. The only thing that bothered her a bit at first was feeling it around her legs but she didn't try to run away and she accepted it pretty quickly. The last accomplishment for the night was putting the lead rope around her like a cinch and playing with that. I jiggled it around and tightened it off and on. She didn't seem to mind that at all. Not too bad for a few minutes in the stall with the friggin' wind howling by in the barn aisle.

I've heard it's supposed to be windy again tomorrow (*grumble grumble*) but hopefully I can get started on the "belly mudball crusade".

Weekend Update

I was asked if I could help the Humane Society on Friday to go get the last few horses who had been left behind. So on Friday morning I got in a quick training session with my filly before we headed out. (I think I'm going to name her Onyx...) When I got there she was covered in shavings, I had put down a nice thick bed of shavings in her stall the night before. She let me brush them off of her with my hand. Previously I hadn't touched her at all behind her shoulders, but she allowed me to wipe off the shavings all down her barrel, back, flanks and rump. She's still touchy about her belly. I worked on touching the top of her head and stroking her ears in preparation for bridling later on. Then we went to the (lovely!) indoor arena to do some work. I introduced her to lunging and had her trotting nice relaxed circles around me within just a minute or two. She has also already picked up "Whoa". She stopped and stood rock still when I said it. My word she's smart! Within 10 minutes I had lunged her at a trot in both directions and did a few whoa, trot, whoa transitions. I kept the session short because I had to go meet up with the humane society and move some horses! She comes to greet me at the stall door when I open it, I don't have to go "get" her in the stall. When I turn her loose in the round pen she follows me wherever I go. I think she's making great progress! We took yesterday off as far as training, but I did go and hang out with her last night. Jeff also got some hands on time with her, he was holding her halter and petting her in the stall. He said she's a very pretty horse. :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

So Proud

I'm SO proud of my mustang filly. (still unnamed, I'm waiting for the right name to come to me) We had that one good training session back on Sunday, Day 1. On Monday the weather was horrible, high winds all day, gusting to 60-70mph. So I opted to just hang out with her that day. On Tuesday I got a call to help the Humane Society transport some horses and that was an all day and into the night project. Then yesterday I woke up to a couple inches of fluffy snow and bitter cold temps. I decided it was well past time to get her moved to a place up the road that has a barn with an attached indoor arena. I had talked to them a month or so ago about keeping some horses there and I had planned to take my mustang there at some point to get some work done in the indoor. But after losing training days to wind and snow I decided to move her inside right away.

I asked Jeff to go along because I was going to have to walk her on the road, up their drivway and into the barn. I thought she might get scared and/or decide to head out for the open spaces! Very quickly it became clear that I wasn't giving her enough credit at all! She unloaded after a couple pauses to look around and she walked with me all the way to the barn like an old pro. Slack lead and a curious expression as if to say "where are we going?" There was a parked car that we had to walk past and she was a little concerned about it, but she didn't shy or try to get away. I just told her it was ok, and she kept walking. I was full of smiles. Even more so when we got to the barn. The sliding door into the barn was only open about 3 feet and I couldn't push it any further because of the snow build up. So I went inside and let her take a look at things while I gave her plenty of lead. I kept talking to her, telling her it was ok, and after looking inside the door and thinking about it, she walked on in like she owned the place. I took her to her stall and turned her loose where she wandered around investigating things. I was completely overjoyed with how willing she was. Afterwards I kept saying to Jeff over and over "I'm so proud of her, she did SO well!" He agreed and said "I think you got a good one." Absolutely!

I can't wait to get to work indoors!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Mustang!

I made it home last night from the trek to southern Illinois to pick up my mustang. When I got there I found out I'd been assigned a black filly! Black has always been one of my favorite colors and I've had several black horses. I also found out that all of the mustangs for this event are female. The trip was fairly uneventful except for a bad snowstorm that came up in south western Iowa and forced me to pull over at a rest area and wait it out. When we started on the drive back she didn't want much to do with me at all, but by the time we made it home she was happily eating hay out of my hand and I was able to pet her nose. We got home after dark and she spent the night in the trailer. This morning I went out and worked with her a bit in the trailer. After a couple of short visits with her I was able to scratch her on the neck.

We took her to the roundpen and unloaded her. After a few hours of work I had her halter trained, standing tied without much of a fuss, plus loading and unloading out of the trailer. All in all I think we had a GREAT first day. There is still a lot of work to do of course, but I'm very happy with how today went.

Below is a picture of her and I during training. Also a video clip of her first unload out of trailer with me. She wanted to rush out of the trailer, but I had her wait and calm down a bit just inside before we hopped out. This is after only a couple hours together!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

All aboard!!

Today I'm "saddling up" the rig and heading east to pick up my horse for the Midwest Extreme Mustang Makeover. It'll be a day and a half drive there and back. According to the list of approved trainers, I'm the only one in SD and it looks like I'm the furthest west too! I'm so excited, I can't wait to see my new "kid"! Someone asked me a couple days ago if it's a mare or a gelding, but I don't even know that much. I think it's a totally random draw, where I just pull up in the rig and they say "here's your horse". I can't wait to see him/her!! I'm taking my camera and PLENTY of extra batteries. The other good news is that my good friend, Melissa, is going with me on the trip. I was going to go alone, but really didn't want to. So I'm happy that I'll have some company on the road, that's always nice. Stay tuned, my next entry will have pictures of my mustang!!