Friday, March 25, 2011

Week Two update

First off, I think I've finally decided on a name... Even though Jasper has been in my head for a little while, it just doesn't seem to fit him. So I've decided to name him Calen. Although I'm still trying to decide on a pronunciation. I like "Ka-lon" - like Talon, with a C. However I think the actual name is pronounced "Kay-Lynn" - but that just souns feminine to me. We'll see, but at least I have something to refer to him as here, instead of just "him" or "the horse" or "the mustang". Calen it is!

There hasn't been a whole to report for the last several days. I gave him a few days off over last weekend. He did get to meet my other boys and they got along fairly well - although he is really not impressed with my colt, who thinks he's big and bad and rules the roost.

On Wednesday he got to meet a friend of mine. She was about to get up to him in the arena while he was loose and get ahold of his halter. She patted and poked and rubben him all over. The worst he tried to do was walk around her i a circle a couple of times, but he already knows "Whoa" and he stopped and stood for her. It was good to see him react favorably with a new person. A big part of my training with him is going to be having many different people handle and ride him. I want him to be at ease with other people, in case he does go to a new home in June. Mustangs have a tendancy sometimes to bond with one person and be distrustful of others, so it's always a priority with me to try and have other people work with them too.

Yesterday, Thursday, he wore a saddle pad and saddle for the first time. It was the second time I had tried to get a saddle pad on him - the first time he'd danced around and bolted away several times. He was starting off on the same foot and the friend who'd met him on Wednesday happened to call me in the middle of it. I told her what was going on and she said "Just put it on him, he's fine" I told her I didn't want to rush him, but she said her impression was that he was smart enough to handle a direct approach. Her advice was to be matter-of-fact and just do it. So I threw the pad up on his back and he walked around a bit, kinda unsure, but after a few more tosses of the pad, he was fine. I went around to the off side and threw it on and he didn't even react.

One thing I've noticed with this horse is that it doesn't seem to be as imprtant to expose him to things on both sides. General horse training knowledge says that when you are training a horse, it is like you are trainging two horses - the right side and the left side. Whatever you do on one side, you need to do on the other. I've found that to be true, but with this horse things are different. After he is exposed to something on one side, reacts to it, and then accepts it - I can go around to the other side and he is almost always immediately accepting. It is interesting for sure.

I told my friend that I had hoped to saddle him, but I thought that might be too much. Again she told me to just do it, he would be fine. So, I took her advice and gave it a whirl. She was right. I showed him the saddle and then put it on his back. He circled around a bit and wasn't sure what to do, but then he calmed down. I didn't cinch the saddle as I ran out of time, but I put it on him and took it off three times.

I had taken the camera out with me, but had left it outside of the arena. So I snapped a (crummy) pic with my cell phone:

After I took the saddle and pad off, I led him back through the arena, down through the barn and into his stall. I noticed a dramatic improvement in his leading, he was finally walking alongside me, instead of drifting along behind like he's done all along. Also, when it came time to go into his stall, he walked right in with me instead if hesitating. I think my friend was right and I've been kind of babying him all along. He needs a more direct matter-of-fact approach. I've been moving along at the pace I normally would, but it seems like that's just too slow for him. I think he's been bored with me!

I did some "relationship" work with him last night as well. When he first saw the saddle, I'd put it up on the roundpen fence. He was unsure about it and I had him loose in the round pen. I was talking to him and petting him and then walking away. A few times he actually came over to me. When I was talking to my friend, she said she'd noticed that he always faces me, always watches me and seemed totally relaxed around me. She saw that when I went to catch him in the arena, he was standing with his head down and hind leg cocked. I think even though I haven't been sure about it, he and I are building up a good relationship.

I'm excited about our next session and I'm planning to do more work with the saddle, hopefully I'll get it cinched up in the next day or two. I'm curious as to what his reaction will be. So far, even though he's been unsure about many things and has spooked now and then, he hasn't really blown up about anything. I'm curious if he will buck like a madman with the saddle for the first time or if he'll just accept it like he has everything else so far.


We've taken several videos of Calen, the mustang, in the past week. I figured I'd throw them all together in one post for your viewing pleasure! :D

First is a clip of us working on some introduction to lunging out in the arena. This was Day 5 and oly his 2nd try at lunging. He did very well. He turned away from me once and I might have gotten too far ahead of him there. But we got back together and ended on a good note:

The second video is from Day 6. He was loose in the arena and I decided to film and approach and retreat as I petted him and then stepped away. He wasn't to sure about the camera thing I was holding, but he'll get used to being filmed with as much of a compulsive picture taker as I am! This video really shows off his beautiful coloring. Most of the videos I have were done at night and the camera makes everything green:

Third and fourth video are of us practing yielding forequarters and disengaging hindquarters. We're still working on the front end, but he has the disengage DOWN. This was the first time I asked him for a complete circle on either end:

A very shrt clip of us headed out of the arena after the session above:

The next video is of him meeting the rest of the bachelor herd: Bo, my black Paint stallion and Cazador, my overo Spanish Mustang colt. Cazador thinks he runs things around here, but he is so wrong. He didn't endear himself to Calen at all. After this video was filmed we noticed that anytime Cazador approached Calen, he met pinned ears. Calen was NOT impressed with the Spanish machismo, lol:

I think that about catches everyone up on the video end of things! I have some big news that I'll talk about, and show a crummy picture of, in the next post - right after this one!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Days 6 and 7

Yesterday I spent some time with him in his stall. I introduced him to some grooming and I think he enjoyed it. I also detangled and brushed out his mane. He has a beautiful long mane. He didn't look terribly thrilled in this pic, but he was really good for his first bit of a pampering session.

Afterwards, I let him loose in the arena for a while. We did a short training session, a bit of in hand work, followed by his intriduction to the saddle pad. It went well in the end, but it was definitely more of a challenge than when I introduced it to Onyx. It seems that he is quick to spook, but just as quick to calm down again - which is good. He'll jump and run away a bit if he can, but then just as fast everything is back to good.

Tonight all I did was love on him a bit. He had the day/night off from any training.

This morning I had left the house at 9am to go to town for business and to run errands. I didn't get back home tonight until almost 10pm. It was a long, long day. Tomorrow is shaping up to be just as jam packed. At this rate, I can't wait until Monday - when things will slow down and I can get back to work at the barn! For most people, the weekends are probably their prime time to work with their horses... for me it seems to be just the opposite!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 5

Today we had a short session with the mustang. Jeff went into his stall first and rubbed on him a little bit.

Then I went in to his stall and haltered then unhaltered him a couple of times. Next we headed off to the arena and did a bit of yielding hindquarters and forequarters. Then we worked on a bit of lunging. He started to learn a new bad trick, where he spun away from me and ran straight away, taking the rope with him. So for a few go rounds things were a bit rocky, but then we got back in sync together and finished on a good note. Jeff walked up to him and rubbed on him some in the arena. That scared him at first - a new place where two people were near him, but he calmed down quickly. Goring into the barn aisle from the arena, he spooked and launched forward, past me, but immediately stopped. He'd seen another person in the aisle behind us. I gave him a pop quiz on disengaging his hindquarters and we got turned around to go back to his stall.

Short session today and Jeff did take a couple of videos, but I haven't watched them yet. I'll take a look at them tomorrow and probably post them then. For now I'm off to bed! My arm is super sore from him jerking away from me those few times, I'm hoping I didn't tear a muscle. I'm anxious to see how bad it's gonna hurt in the morning!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day Four - Graduation!

First, the big news -- Notice anything missing?:

Today was Graduation Day for the mustang! (Jasper? maybe..?) After our session tonight, I took off his necktag and then his halter. He hasn't been crazy about me touching his head, but after I took the halter off, he really enjoyed me rubbing where it had been sitting the past few days.

When I first got to the barn, I couldn't see him in his stall and then I saw the tips of his ears. He was laying down, taking a nap. After he got up, I took this picture and I love the way it turned out:

For our training session tonight, we went to the arena and did a bit of lunging work, then some more on disengaging his hindquarters. Then I turned him loose in the arena for the first time since we started our training. I left him there and came back a few times to approach and pet him, then retreat. He did well, only leaving me once. After my barn chores were done, I did more approach and retreat with him at liberty before clipping the lead rope on. Then we worked on some yielding of the forequarters and hindquarters.

After he was back in his stall, I undid his neck tag. I was happy to be able to get it off of him without cutting it. Onyx's tag was so gunked up with mud that there was no untying it, I had to cut it off of her on her big graduation day. I'd say that is certainly an advantage I have with him over Onyx - he is CLEAN.

His necktag, on the kitchen counter instead of around his neck:

After he stood so nicely for me to untie and unwind the necktag cord, I decided to give him a pop quiz on being caught and haltered. He was unsure, but he did very well and so I took his halter off. I then rubbed and rubbed his head and he seemed to really like that.

Today was a great day with him!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day Three - Little Things

Today I worked on a lot of little things with my mustang.

I caught him in his stall and took him out to the arena. Everyday his leading improves more and more. I'm not focusing too much on refinement right now; as long as he goes with me and doesn't fall behind or charge ahead, I let him set his bubble of space. Once he gets more comfortable with being close to me, we'll get "proper" on the lead.

I put him in the round pen and practiced walking up to him to clip the lead on his halter. He did well with that, so I turned him loose of his lead rope. I went and cleaned his stall, then came back with a surcingle. I started working on some little odds and ends. Here's what we did today:

More rope work - flicking it over his back, neck, and rump. Also looped it around his neck, right behind his head and flapped it around to desensitize the top of his head. Then put it around his girth area and worked on his barrel - elbow to flank, tightening, flapping and just in general being "weird" with the rope. He wasn't too concerned. He already gets this look on his face when he gets comfortable that is like "WHAT are you doing??"

I've already told him a time or two that people are just strange, he'll get used to it. Haha

I put the surcingle on him and tightened it up. Not as tight as the saddle will be, but enough that he could feel it. He packed that around for a little while today.

We started work on disengaging the hindquarters and I gave him a pop quiz when I put him back in his stall - he passed with flying colors.

I introduced him to a jumping human. At first he freaked out and looked at me like I'd grown three heads. That was by far the thing that took him the longest to accept and boy was I glad when he did... My legs were burning! As soon as he accepted it, he dropped his head and looked half asleep when I did it again - and again.

We wandered out into the arena together from the round pen. There we worked on a bit of lunging and at one point he got a little too spun up and got away from me. All he did was end up trotting away, then stopping to sniff around. I strolled over, picked up the rope, and we got back to work. No big deal.

Back in his stall we had a couple of minor breakthroughs. First, he came and drank out of a bucket of water that I offered him. Secondly, he got all excited when I came in with his hay and came over to me - instead of me going to him. My standard feeding time gentling routine is working well on him I'd say.

I think I might also have named him, but I'm not 100% sure just yet. The name I'm considering is Jasper. My first EMM horse I had named Onyx and I thought I might go with a gemstone theme for my Makeover horses - of which I plan to have more in the future! Onyx was actually suggested to be named Onyxia - after a black dragon in World of Warcraft. (Yes, I'm a dork who plays WoW - though not very often these days..) I had thought of naming this guy after a red dragon in the game, but so far none of the names I've come across have seemed right. I'm not ruling out a dragon name, I think that would be cool too, but for now it's looking like Jasper might be it.

Here is a Day Three picture - this was back in his stall, still wearing the surcingle:

I was out there alone today, so still no training pictures of he and I together. Not that elementary groundwork makes for thrilling scenes, but I do want to post some pictures of that soon. :)

I also think his graduation from his necktag will be soon. I'm planning to take it off tomorrow. :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day Two!

Well technically today should have been Day Three, but alas I was knocked out of comission by the worst migraine of my life that hit early yesterday afternoon and didn't ease up until 6 hours at the hospital ER, an excruciating shot of painkiller, an IV, and about 8 frantic trips to the bathroom to throw up. Needless to say, there was no horse training taking place yesterday. I was very frustrated about losing a day already, but Jeff was kind enough to point out that I'll gain many more days than I had with Onyx due to it not being blizzard season anymore. The chance for a spring storm or two is still out there, but so far so good weather-wise.

(This is what I had to contend with while training Onyx, my first Makeover horse) --

(that's looking at the back door of the barn - the drift was over the barn roof - and it happened like this a few times that winter)

Anyway, today I started by working on petting the mustang in his stall and then I lead him through the barn to the arena. He was great at leading this time and didn't balk at doorways like our first trip through the barn on a lead. Once in the arena, we practiced just a bit of lunging. I was kinda shocked when he picked up changing direction after the 2nd time I asked him. I guess I still forget sometimes how smart these horses are and I think this guy is particularly bright.

After a handful of circles and a few changes of direction, I was able to stop him on "Whoa" and we went off to the round pen. He got to play and roll in there while I went to clean his stall. Then we did some rope work all down both sides and all around his legs. I handled both of his front legs and by the time I was done, he had his head down, half-asleep. He also stopped flinching right before I touch him. Anticipation of contact is common with the wild ones and they often tense up the instant before you touch them in the beginning. Jeff watched the whole session and it was fun to explain to him the things I was doing. Despite him watching everything and me having brought the camera to the barn - we still didn't get any pictures of me working with the horse today! I really need to get better about that.

I did get a few pictures of him back in his stall. He was watching as Jeff watered the other boys and he was very interested in the clicks and beeps the camera was making, though he wasn't quite brave enough to come check it out.

I noticed while working with him today that he was starting to get into being petted. He tried to move a bit closer to me every now and then when I would stop leading him. He's been following me at a bit of a distance so far, but when I stopped today, he would step up to stand close to me. I really think as soon as he figures out that I don't plan to eat him, he'll be a pocket pony in no time. The impression I get from him is that he really wants to be affectionate and hang out with us, he's just not quite sure it's okay yet. That'll come with time, but I see him being very sweet, very soon.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011 Colorado EMM - The beginning!

It has been a whirlwind of a few days. On Thursday morning, we began our journey down to Canon City, CO to pick up my horse for the 2011 Colorado Extreme Mustang Makeover. On the way, we stopped in Denver to have lunch with one of my best childhood friends who I hadn't seen in 15 years! It was fantastic to see her again and we agreed that we need to get together again soon - certainly before another many years goes by. She is planning to attend the EMM event in June - it would be awesome to see her there.

Thursday night we stayed at a hotel in Colorado Springs and finally got a good night's sleep after having hit the road on only about 5 hours of sleep. The next morning we enjoyed a great breakfast at the hotel and hit the road again. Here is the rig outside the hotel:

When we arrived at Canon City, we checked in at the prison. We had to be escorted in to the facility and back to where the horses are kept. Someone asked me for my halter and they left to go halter my horse.

This pickup was even more mysterious that when I got Onyx. There, when I checked in they told me what I was getting. I knew she was a black filly and had her paperwork before I ever saw her. This time I didn't know anything at all and the chute was out of sight. So when Jeff backed the trailer up, we just had to wait and see what came down the alley. I heard calls of "horse coming!" from the guys working the gates. I saw under one solid gate, some big hooves running. As he first came into sight, I saw a BIG sorrel - he looked huge.

He trotted calmly up the alley and stopped at the trailer to sniff it. A guy waved a stick at him and he jumped in. One of the guys there called out "Oh, he's gonna be easy!"

I really wish I could have filmed the whole thing, the suspense was exciting, wating that alleyway and not knowing what I'd see when the horse appeared. Unfortunately no cameras or cell phones were allowed in the prison complex, so there are no pictures of when I first saw him.

At our first rest stop, Jeff took a couple of pictures:

Here I am peeking in and saying Hi to my new charge:

Jeff and I both marveled at his size and the length and thickness of his legs. He has the heavy feet and bones that Jeff had admired on Onyx, but I think this guy's legs are even heavier, and much longer.

I began reading his paperwork once we were back on the road. He is from the South Steens HMA in Oregon. He was captured at approximately 2-1/2 years old and is now 4. His height was estimated on his paperwork as being 15.1h.

Upon returning home, we decided to back the trailer up to the barn and unload him into the arena for me to start working with him. We wanted to take every precaution to prevent his escape and so we had quite a plan of panels and such organized to funnel him into the arena and to contain him if he jumped anything.

I instructed Jeff o stay on the far side of the panel down the aisle,to turn the horse back if he tried to go through or over the panel. Jeff decided to set up the camera to record, right before he went over the panel and waited. I'm glad he filmed this, because after all of our preparations to keep this "wild" horse contained - this is what happened:

He simply sniffed the trailer again, stepped off, walked down the aisle, around the corner, and into the arena. As I strolled along behind him, I looked over at Jeff and laughed. His comment was "this horse is gonna be cake." Haha!

Jeff took one picture of the horse exploring the arena:

Unfortunately we didn't take any more pictures after this, because we were both wrapped up in working with him. We opened the round pen and "drove" him in there. (again, we basically just pointed him in the direction and he walked in. Jeff watched as I got him caught and began to work on touching him. After I had been rubbing his shoulder and neck, Jeff then asked if he could work with the horse a bit. So he was able to touch a new wild mustang for the first time. Jeff and the horse both did great and Jeff continued the petting and rubbing until we had him comfortable with being petted from head to hip. Then I took over again and worked on leading. When we called it a day, I led him out of the round pen, out of the arena, back down the aisle, and into his stall.

For the rest of the day I went in and out of his stall a few times, getting him water, and hay, and petting him. He settled right in, eating, drinking, playing in his water, and watching me as I took care of my other horses. All in all it was a fantastic first day!

He is very curious and most certainly easy-going. I made it a point not to get him too worked up or moving too fast, but I can report that he seems to have a very nice, smooth-looking trot. I'm very excited about our next three months together!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Like a Lion

March has arrived and found me to be busy, busy, busy! I am hard at work on my businesses (of which there are two at current count) and making preparations for the next three months of training a mustang for the Colorado Extreme Mustang Makeover. In just one week we will be packing up to make the trip to colorado and pick up my mystery mustang gelding. I wonder what he will be like? How big will he be? What color? Will he be easy to get along with? All of those questions will have to wait until next weekend.

The new truck is just about ready to go. We just had a Line-X bedliner put in, along with a brand new B&W Turnover Ball gooseneck hitch. This will be my first experience with the Turnover Ball. Prior to this I've dealt with fold down, Signature Series, and fixed hitches. I know the Turnover Ball system is popular and I'm eager to see how it will work out. We have a new Prodigy brake controller on the way and Jeff will install that when it gets here. He'll also be wiring in a 7-pin connector into the bed of the truck. That should be the last step in getting the truck ready to haul my trailer.

In other news, we now have a treadmill, something we've talked about for a while now. Jeff has been making good use of it, getting up and running every day before work. We've only had it for the last three days and I've been so busy and hadn't gotten around to getting on there until today. I just ran a mile and decided to quit on that for now. I have an ankle that was badly sprained a few years back and the same foot was most recently crushed by a horse. Most times it doesn't bother me, but the last time I ran on a treadmill I overdid it by quite a bit and couldn't walk normally for days afterwards. I think I learned my lesson, but we'll see; I love to run and I can certainly be my own worst enemy when it comes to that.

I am looking forward to getting a jump on getting back in shape this year. It has in the single digits and snowing here for a couple of weeks which makes outdoor activities unpleasant to say the least, but that doesn't matter now. It's very nice to be able to run at home.