Monday, March 30, 2009

A couple more things

I forgot...

In the video you may notice the snow drift INSIDE the arena. The arena is an indoor and it's fully enclosed, but our last blizzard packed 80 mph winds in its arsenal and managed to ram snow INTO the barn and the arena. Funny thing is, Onyx seems to love the snow. The first time I rode her in there, she kept making her way over to that big drift and just standing in it.

And now I can't remember what else I was going to say. haha I guess I'll have to add whatever it was later on.

That is all.

Updates and MORE Snow

Well we are hunkered down inside for another blizzard. I figured it was high time I posted some updates. (does anyone even read this stuff? who knows...) ANYway...

* Onyx has no problem letting me pick up all 4 feet now. I can clean them out, wiggle her hoof around and tap on the bottom of her foot and it's all no big deal. I'm trying to get her ready for a trim before the show.

* We did some more work with the bit yesterday. I started off lunging her in the surcingle and I introduced side reins to give her some pressure on the bit. She's comfortable carrying the bit around now, but I'm still not sure how far we'll get with it in the next couple of weeks. I've been debating weather or not to ride her in a halter for the competition. If she's not comfrtable enough with the bit by then I just might do that. I'm not sure if it will help or hinder us at the competition, but at the end of the day I'm going to do what's best for her. She's totally comfortable in the halter and is very responsive to it so I see no reason to rush into the bit for the sake of the show. I'll continue to work her with the bit of course. If her new owner wants to ride her in a bridle I want her to have been exposed to it.

* We also did more in hand practice yesterday. I discovered that there was a wooden bridge in the pile of props in the arena. So I dragged that out and set it up. I was pretty sure it wouldn't pose much of a problem since she'll follow me anywhere I ask her to. Sure enough, she hesitated the very first time and afterwards we clopped back and forth across it several times. No big deal. Next I'll ride her over it and then we can cross that off the list. I've also introduced her to walking over a "pole". Hidden in the "prop pile" I found several long PVC pipes so I brought one out and had her walk back and forth across it. Again, she hesitated the very first time and then she was fine. I'm very glad to have found the bridge and the pipes there because I had started to wonder where to find poles to practice with and I had just asked Jeff if we could build one of the bridges. My only concern with the PVC pipes is that they are pretty small. I think the "standard" walk over pole is a much larger diameter, so I hope that doesn't cause a problem if we are required to walk/trot over some poles at the show.

* We've had a couple more rides in the past week. She's been pretty grumpy and I'm thinking it may be "that time of the month". She'll do what I ask of her, usully without a fight, but she was doing some pretty ornrey stuff as well. Our last ride this week, we worked on trotting circles and I did some more work with her on responding to leg pressure. She was doing well, but a couple times she swung her head around and tried to bite my boot. During the first couple circles at a trot, I felt her pop her butt up once. Not a proper buck, but she was letting me know there were ither things she'd rather be doing. I just pushed on through and she cooperated after that. She seems to throw little tantrums from time to time, but it seems that the trick is to just keep riding her through it and she comes out the other side more willing to work. She is a silly girl.

* On the grooming front I've been going after her every day with my trusty shedding stone and her coat is really starting to look good. She's not "slicked out" but she has this overall "plush" look to her, I think it looks nice. She's been introduced to the clippers and yesterday I did some trim work on her. I got rid of what Jeff called her "man beard" (the long hairs under her jaw) and did some other touch ups here and there. I unbraided her mane and brushed it out, then did some more scissor work to try and even it out. Her hair is SO thick and now that it's shorter it's pretty bushy. She has this long pretty section of hair at her withers and I haven't had the heart to cut it yet. I guess it would look pretty goofy for her mane to be all 4-5 inches long and then have a foot or so at her withers so I imagine I'll have to break down and trim that too. I'm pretty sure I'm going to leave her fetlocks and whiskers natural. I read in the rules that they aren't supposed to penalize for that. I'm no clipper whiz so I'm afraid if I tried to do her fetlocks I'd butcher the job, lol. Faces I can do, but I've never really done more than that.

I think that about covers it all except for the big piece of news....

Jeff rode Onyx!!

On Friday afternoon I was just getting ready to ride her and I asked if he wanted to come and watch. I walked her around, worked on turnarounds and did some trotting, stopping and backing. I also had him walk up to her and pet her. She gets really insecure when I'm on her and there are people around. So I wanted to work on that. After I dismounted, he asked if he could ride her. I hesitated, not sure if it was a good idea. He's only been on a horse about 5 times or so and I wasn't sure what would happen... She was a little nervous when he got up next to her to get on. Then after he was up, I walked around a bit and she followed me wherever I went. Then I told him if he was ready he could take her out solo. So he turned her away from me and... Well, I'll let the video speak for itself...

She did SO well! (and for the record Jeff did really well too - heehee) I had expected some sort of crazy rodeo scene, but I just don't give either of them enough credit. At dinner that night I told Jeff that I'm not good at taking credit for things I can do with horses. I've had so many people tell me that I've done a great job with Bo, my stallion. I usually just shrug and say "well he's a good horse". But I told Jeff that I think I should take some credit for this one. Just over 2 months ago she was a totally wild horse and no one could even touch her. And now, someone who's only ridden a few times can get on her and ride around. He said yes, I've done a good job with her and I should take credit for that. *blush*

I've selected a song for the finals, if we are picked for the top ten. According to the rules all trainers have to provide music for the finals and all trainers should have a finals performance ready. My goal in the beginning was to be in the top 10. Because of the setbacks in the weather and so on, I had downgraded my aspirations to just not making a complete fool of myself. But I'm back to daring to hope that I can make the top 10 again. We still have a LOT of work to do, and I'm certainly NOT happy about beig snowd in again. But I think we still might be able to do it. So I've selected a song and I've started envisioning what we can do for the finals. I think I've got a good "show" planned, hopefully we'll get to do it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Best Day - Then Another Setback

On Sunday I had my best day with Onyx. (so far!) I went into her stall and was able to groom her from head to tail without so much as a halter on her. Then, for the first time, I picked out all 4 of her feet, again with no halter or rope on her. She was SUCH a good girl! For somewhat of a reward I turned her loose in the arena and she ran and ran and played and looked to be having a lot of fun. Then we saddled up! She was SO much better for that ride. She didn't fight me and I actually forgot I was on a mustang with only a few rides on her. We strolled around the arena, going in and out of the narrow chute into the round pen and walking around by the barrels and cones in the corner. It was then that I realized a side benefit of her having a traffic cone for a toy in her stall. When she first saw the cones in the corner they had concerned her, but now she could care less! One cone was off the stack and she walked right over it. I had expected a reaction out of her before I realized - "duh, she has one in her stall!" So big orange cones certainly won't be a concern with her in the future.

Then we worked on trotting. She was unsure at first and I was a bit unsure too, because I'm not used to a horse with so much "forward". Bo is slow and lazy and most of the time I have to really get after him to get him to move out at all. Not Onyx! After we both worked it out (she knew she could trot with me on her and I knew when she launched into it she wasn't trying to bolt off with me - haha) all I had to do was say "trot" and she powered off into these huge strides. It was impressive! This girl can really cover some ground. Even her walk is done with a purpose, she wants to get somewhere. She's going to be a heck of a horse for whoever buys her.

So we ended the weekend on a high note. And then came another setback. This weekend our weather was gorgeous and on Sunday it was 75 degrees! That night it all went downhill and we awoke Monday to high winds and tons of rain/sleet. We had been under a blizzard warning for Monday and Tuesday. By early Monday afternoon the blizzard was in full force and everything was shutting down. The interstate from Wyoming to halfway across South Dakota was closed and they were advising no travel anywhere else. We couldn't even see across the street for most of the storm. It lasted until yesterday (Tuesday) and then finally quit around noon or so. We went out driving to view the aftermath and found several roads blocked by drifts that ranged from 2-12 feet high. Yet in some places, you could see bare road or bare grass. The wind howled for two days, they recorded a gust of 80mph, and blew the snow everywhere. It always amazes me to see bare ground right next to a 10 foot drift after one of these storms. So I've now lost another couple of days. The 10 day forecast looks pretty bleak, rain and snow and no temps over 40, or so they say. I don't have much choice but to bundle up and get back to work. Three weeks from today I'll be hitting the road for Wisconsin!! I really hope we have at least a few more nice days between now and then...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Great ride!

Yesterday I rode Onyx for the first time since she had gotten sick. We got off to a rocky start and I have to admit that I was getting intimidated up on her back. She wasn't doing anything horrible, but she was tossing her head, not wanting to listen to me at all and not wanting to stand still or pretty much do anything I asked of her. I started to second guess myself thinking maybe I should just get off and do some more ground work with her. Prior to getting on we lunged and did some in hand work in the outdoor arena. I also long reined her, driving her around the arena. She was doing great with all of that. Then we had gone to the indoor arena to ride. It was a beautiful day yesterday, except that it was very windy. Not wanting to push my luck in the wind since it had been a couple of weeks I took her inside to ride. There were a few people in the round pen in the corner working with a spunky green horse. Also another trainer was riding one of his green projects in the arena. Onyx was distracted by all of that, but mainly the antics of the horse in the round pen. Actually I don't think the horse bothered her, but the people standing around there certainly did.

Anyway I decided to stick with her since we are running out of time. As it turned out it's a good thing I did because I think we accomplished a lot. I decided to work on side flexing and circling and ended up working on thos while using them to teach her other things. She's good at "whoa" and will stop with me on her back, but then she immediately want's to keep going. So she was fighting me a lot on that... until I had her circle and circle and circle and she was getting tired of that. Then she was willing to stand. Her next bit of rebellion was to refuse to continue walking when we reached the gate on laps around the arena. After circling at the gate, she decided that wasn't a fun place to stop anymore.

In the end we had a good ride, I think she learned some things and I stuck with her through her little tantrums. We trotted for the first time, just a few strides, but it's a start. I also started her on her "socializing" yesterday. I had a few different people stop and fuss over her as they passed through the barn. Then after I finished riding, someone came over and got on her for a few minutes and I led them around. She was pretty upset at first about someone else being that close and then stepping up onto her, but then after we started walking around she calmed down and it was no big deal.

Today's supposed to be our last nice day before another big storm comes in. They are predicting a bad thunderstorm which is supposed to turn into a blizzard. There has been a blizzard wrning since yesterday for the next few days. So I plan to ride again today and get as much done as I can before we have to batten down the hatches again. *sigh*

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Onyx is Awesome!

That was the text of a message I sent Jeff yesterday from my cell phone after a session with Onyx. We did some in hand work yesterday. I was curious to put her through her paces and see what all she has learned. There were a couple of firsts along the way. We were finally able to use the outdoor arena, it's dry at last and the weather was beautiful. So we had our first outdoor training session in quite a while. Also she was introduced to the bit yesterday and she wore it while we worked. I figured it'd be easy to get her to take the bit since she is so cusrious and likes to play with things with her mouth. Sure enough all I had to do was hold it by her lips and she took it. Outside I lunged her a bit and then walked around with her. We walked and trotted around, changing speeds and practicing "whoa". She was very good at that, we'd be trotting around, I'd say "whoa" and she'd slam on the brakes and stop right where she was. What a good girl! We also did some backing (something I know she's quite proficient at - ha!) and she was wonderful. So, I feel pretty darn good about the In Hand portion of the competition. Now to work on more riding...

Oh, she met the clippers for the first time yesterday too. She accepted them quite well. Hopefully I can get busy on making her more presentable now! I'm planning to trim up the longer areas and hopefully make her coat more uniform. She's been shedding out nicely and on the big areas of her body she's looking pretty good. Her legs and face are pretty shaggy though.

Oh! One more thing, haha. I also picked up both of her front feet yesterday. I've touched her legs and picked them up for an instant or two a few times, but yesterday I held them up, tapped her foot, wiggled it around and so on and she was just fine. I also worked on the back legs and she was letting me run my hand all down them, on the inside and out, all the way to her hoof. I haven't picked them up yet, but I think she'll do ok.

The opening line of my text message to Jeff yesterday was "Onyx is awesome" - the next part was "I think we might just do ok as long as *I* don't screw things up" haha Yeah, that's pretty much it. Now we have to get busy on the riding part and I've gotta get busy realizing that I can do this!

Monday, March 16, 2009

All Clear

No more boogers.

Ok, a LOT has gone on over the past week, but at the moment I'm completely exhausted so I'm not going to give a total play-by-play. To summarize:

I left Onyx at the barn and went to the Horse Expo last weekend. I met a lot of wonderful people, and hung out with folks I already knew from the local horse community. One of the highlights for me was meeting Dennis Auslam, one of the other Mustang Makeover trainers who will be at the competition in April. He was a very nice guy with a great sense of humor and he extended an invitation for me to hang out with he and his family at the show in April.

Our weather took a turn for artic temps again right after the Expo. We had snow for a few days and bitter cold zero and below zero temps, so once again I lost valuable training days. It was just as well I suppose since I'm sure Onyx needed the time to clear up her snot fountain.

This past Saturday I spent the whole day at the stables. I did a lot of chores - stripping and rebedding stalls along with dumping the water tubs which had huge blocks of ice in them from the frigid temps. I also worked with everyone and Onyx's lesson consisted of being meeting a plastic bag on a stick. She did very well. Of course she was freaked out at first, and even tried to "kill" the bag (striking and stomping at it) but she accepted it rather quickly and I was able to touch her with it all over her body. Plus I waved it around "vigorously" (lol) in the air, around her head and over the ground. I'm sure by now - what with my spontaneous jumping up and down nonsense and now THIS - she thinks I'm crazy. At least that's what the look on her face seemed to say. Haha!

Anyway, that's about it I guess, in a nutshell. I'm off to bed!

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Well, things were moving full speed ahead to take Onyx to the Horse Expo for her grand debut. Then two days ago when I went to the stable I found her with a fountain of boogers coming out her nose. She went in to the vet yesterday morning. Her lungs and windpipe sound good and I was told to just keep an eye on her, make sure she's eating and that the boogers don't start changing colors. So it doesn't appear to be anything serious, but it means that she won't be going to the Expo.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Moving right along

Yesterday there was a minor breakthrough with Onyx. When I entered her stall with the halter and lead, she came over to me like she's done for a while now. This time however she seemed inclined to stay with me instead of wandering off and making me "catch" her once I got the halter ready. So I held out the halter, noseband open and she put her nose in it! That was very cool. I saddled her up and headed for the arena. There were two other people riding and I figured it'd be good to let her experience that. She hasn't been ridden around others yet. So after a few minutes of lunging at the trot, I hopped on her and we rode around a bit. She did VERY well around the other horses. There was a time when the other two were trotting or loping around together and she started to get a little fired up. She was tossing her head and wanting to GO but she listened to me and didn't take off. A bit later on I had her stand in the middle while one of the horses was loping circles around us. She was calm, just watching them go around. The other horse was green and a little fired up, they came pretty close to us on a couple laps but Onyx didn't seem to be phased by it. She did throw a couple little tantrums, tossing her head around when I'd ask her to turn by rein pressure so we'll have to work on that a bit. Otherwise she did very well and we had a nice little 3rd "official" ride. The Horse Expo is fast approaching but I think we might be ready to go... There's still a lot to be done so I'd better get to it!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Big News!

Well... I'll let the video speak for itself...

Yep, that's yours truly riding Onyx! (sorry for the poor video quality... as previously mentioned, the lighting in the indoor arena isn't the greatest, plus my camera is exactly the latest and greatest either!) The video is of our second solo ride this afternoon. The first one was this morning! She is doing SO well. I've had a goal all along to ride her in the Black Hills Horse Expo this weekend and it's kinda crept up on me. It seems like yesterday I was thinking "oh, I've got a few more weeks, there's time..." And now it's in a few days! So I decided to gather up the courage and go for it today, alone in the arena. She started out by bucking a bit and spinning in a circle. She was trying like heck to get me off (or maybe it was the tight saddle, or both) but I didn't go anywhere, so she stopped bucking and hasn't tried to do it since. Then we did some circling and finally she took off on her own.

The first ride was a good 30 minutes of just letting her walk around the arena, packing me around. Then I said "whoa", rocked back and forth and hopped off. For the second ride we did it all again, but no bucking this time. I let her go where she wanted for the first little bit and then I started reining her around toward the end of the ride. She is SUPER responsive. Jeff was in the arena with us to get a couple of video clips and at one point he walked toward her and she tried to bolt away from him. She only got about one jump, before I pulled back and said "easy" and she immediately slowed to a walk again like nothing had happened. I was grinning from ear to ear! :)

I plan to ride her 2-3 times a day over the next few days and I'd like to haul her to another arena at least once so she can see new surroundings once before being surprised at the Expo.

So far so good!