Sunday, November 29, 2009

Attempting Shoulder Fore & Haunches In...

Mud: 2 Jasper: 2 Megan: 0

Today we attempted haunches in and shoulder fore, something we've dabbled in in the past but haven't worked very hard at. I was very impressed with his willingness to give it a try and thought he put in a good effort at both! Especially since I'm just kind of assuming I know how to do it. I really need a lesson from someone who can watch my position and hands.

Haunches in is easier, probably because the fence is a physical barrier. I thought he actually ended up doing shoulders in (which is a harder, increased angle from shoulder fore) in parts. You can't tell in the video, but the green fence bows out and he is traveling downhill both directions, and the track by the white fence is muddy and a little slick.

I don't have a huge amount of contact. I don't have a huge amount of contact ever, though, so it was consistent. This spring we'll start working on it and connecting from back to front more.

He was very relaxed today, almost lazy...!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey chasing mud ball.

What? You don't see my gleaming show horse, my exceptional event prospect, his beautifully clipped head and bridle path and perfectly fitting shiny leather halter?

It's there somewhere, I swear.

Yesterday it snowed, then sleeted, then rained, then snowed again. Serena and I were going to go for a ride, but by the time we got to the barn everything was soaked including my horses. For some reason they were out in the field, soaked to the skin, and shivering in the wind. When I called Alexandre's name he came trotting over. I don't know why they weren't hanging out with all the other horses where there is shelter, but they both got their winter blankets on yesterday and last night.

Today they were dry and hanging out with the herd again, so who knows. I had a great time with Jasper today. The ground was slippery in a few places but OK in others, so I decided to go on our first solo trail ride down the gravel driveway and up a trail to a field. How many four-year-olds do you know that you can just saddle up and head down the trail on? Especially that haven't been ridden consistently for months. On a light/loose rein to boot. We walked up the trail to the field and there were wild turkeys EVERYWHERE. I even got him to trot after a flock of them- he was a little unsure about the whole thing but obediently trotted after them until they really started running through the field and got kind of scary. We saw lots of deer and a HUGE 3-point buck in the field as well. Trotted through the field up a looong hill and into the forest to another field, where we turned around because it had been tilled and was gooey and slippery. It wasn't a long ride but a very successful one. He self-regulated and walked and trotted on a loose or light rein. He took everything in stride. Gave some hard looks at some things but kept his cool. When we got back to the barn he walked through a big puddle without much fuss and stopped when I asked him to so I could dismount. Other than that I didn't work on stopping today, I wanted to have a really positive, successful day and I was also thankful when he stood tied without pawing, kicking, or pulling back.

I think he's finally starting to settle in and relax. He still needs to gain weight, but he's holding his own and not losing weight either. Now that the stressful part is over and he has all-you-can-eat grass hay, plus his supplements, I have hopes he'll maintain. Once it stays below freezing I'll probably leave his winter blanket on as well. Right now the temperature fluctuates so much it's impossible to leave it on.

He is such a good turkey-chasing baby.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Mom, Harry, Horses

My mom and Harry (her grand-dog) came to the barn today. Neither one of my parents has much experience around horses, but Mom offered to hold Alexandre's bucket of oats and big rocks. She now has a friend for life.

She did a good job holding on as he really pushes the bucket into you!

Harry is a city dog and was REALLY excited to be around all the horses. He kept his distance though so all was well.

We just found out Harry has glaucoma and is completely blind in his right eye. It's extremely painful for him, so he's going into surgery tomorrow to have it removed. We wanted to get some pictures of his last day as a two-eyed dog.
Always smiling. Harry is the epitome of pure joy.

Jasper was especially good today and didn't paw or weave back and forth when he was tied. What a good boy! I think Alexandre is like a security blanket for him. Alexandre has taught him to come to me for cookies when I arrive in the pasture, which is awesome. Alexandre also spends 95% of his time eating which is bad for him but good for Jasper as Jasper is his shadow and does everything Al does. They are both such awesome horses.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

WHOA dammit!

OK, so the ground is really REALLY slippery when wet out at the barn. I don't know if it's some kind of clay or what, but even just walking around your feet slide a little. I feel sorry for all the horses that have paddocks on the hillside- how do they not slide down like skiiers?

My friend Janaira loaned me an older dressage saddle to try on Jasper. It's a Crosby and has short billets- weird! Great shape, though. So for the first time since they've been in the big pasture, I brought Jasper up (without his fearless leader Alexandre) to the tack room, groomed him, yelled at him for standing sideways, pawing, and pulling, and tried on the saddle. It appears to fit him great. Took him to the arena and walked around looking for non-slippery ground. Found a little section and rode around without much success as he was still sliding. Decided to go ride in a small field by the arena, it had grass and weeds growing in it so the footing was better. There wasn't really anything we could do besides walk around, so I decided we'd work on stopping. And standing still. And thus began a 2+ hour battle.

I'm out of ideas. Help anyone? What would you do? Is he too young/ is he too hyper/ too stubborn? It's not just under saddle. He can't stand still while tied either. He paces from side to side, paws, and dolphin kicks out with his hind legs.

I would sit deep in the saddle, he would sort of stop for a microsecond, and then would do a myriad of other things involving moving of body parts. First I tried circling. When he refused to stand still I let him walk in circles and he got to pick when he stopped. I was hoping he would realize it's easier to stand than walk in circles. Nope. After a while I would pull him in a circle and he would stand still with his nose to my stirrup. He would stay still until he got his neck straightened out and then would begin moving again. I also tried an assortment of other tactics. He would back up (got nudged forward) go sideways (got nudged on one side until he was back where he started), go forwards, (got pulled back), pawed (got a quick tug on a rein), bobbed, shook, and threw his head (um, usually nothing- I just wanted his feet still). The instant he stood still he got rewarded, got praised and stroked on his neck, all was calm, and then after a few seconds got to walk forward. Usually he stopped moving because he saw something in the distance and was focusing on it. Obviously by the end I was frustrated. Usually the instant reward works after a while. They realize, hey, when I just stand here everything is good! When I move my feet everything is bad. Choices, choices. It's like he doesn't have it within himself to keep all four feet in one place. Maybe I just shouldn't ask him to stand still at this point, it just seems like kind of an important thing to be able to do.

What would you do?

Saturday, November 14, 2009


On Thursday I went out to the barn to give Jasper his 50 pound bucket of supplements, the the herds were still segregated. My two were out in the 20 acre pasture, and the other 6 were hanging out around the barn/feeder/waterer. The problem with this is that the barn is at the end of a long wide chute, and I figured my 2 guys wouldn't stand a chance against Jake, the mean old boss gelding. So after they got done eating (Alexandre gets a little bucket with a handful of complimentary oats and a bunch of big rocks in it) I led Alexandre down the chute and into the barn area. Jasper follows him like a shadow, and I shooed the other horses away and led mine to the water. They drank and I guarded them until Alexandre decided hay was more important than safety, walked out of reach, and Jake chased him out of the barn area and back into the chute with Jasper right on his heels. Norm, the barn owner, said that he was going to move 2 of them up to the new pen that he had made but hadn't done it yet. I sighed, decided I'd just lead them to the water every time I came out, and they would have to eat pasture grass until some switching around could be done.

I was home for about 20 minutes (a 30 mile round trip) when Norm called from Yakima or somewhere at his daughter's volleyball tournament, said he was concerned about my guys not getting near the food/water, and told me if I wanted to I could move Jake and a buddy to the new pen. Or he could do it this weekend. I of course drove straight back there and caught Jake and his buddy the pinto. The pinto is 4 and huge. Not so much tall, but wide. And as it turns out, not real halter broke. If I had to do it again, I would probably lead them one at a time and take a lunge whip to smack pinto when he planted his feet and refused to move forward. Eventually though they made it up the big hill and into the new pen, had a fit over the 2 horses next to them until Jake got snapped by the hotwire fence, then all was well.

I am happy to report that today my two were standing under the shelter with the remaining four. I wouldn't say anyone is friends yet, but just being in the same area is an improvement. The four that are left are so uncertain what to do without their aggressive leader that it seems quite calm at the moment. Lots of ear pinning and threatening, but these guys take 3 steps and stop like normal horses. It snowed this afternoon and I was thinking that it might be Jasper's first snow.
Muddy around the feeder, but I noticed today there was a load of bark dumped there. Note how Alexandre eats off the top instead of pulling the hay through the slats like everyone else. This way he can get giant mouthfulls and inhale as much hay as possible in the shotest amount of time. Nevermind that there is hay 24/7. Will he figure this out? No, no he will not.

I, however, wasn't able to watch Jasper in possilby his first snow because I went out to Post Falls Equestrian Center to watch Jessica Wisdom teach. She has a training facility in Yelm (Yelm is pretty much in the middle of nowhere near Olympia). She is now my favorite instructor (dressage at least) becaue I actually GET what she's saying, and have SEEN the improvements in the horses and riders that she teaches. She's also quite entertaining. She says a lot of things that are pretty funny, mostly when she's trying to describe something. I guess her students at her barn in Yelm are putting a book together called "Words of Wisdom". At one point we were all standing in the aisle of the barn watching her ride a grey mare doing haunches in down the long side, and the mare was not cooperating. Under her breath as she camly went by we heard her mumble "c'mon mare, it's not fu**ing rocket science," which sent the onlookers into fits of giggles. I was so impressed with her last month when she was here I asked if I could be a working student for her for a couple of months. How cool would that be? Unfortunately she doesn't have room right now but until I get a job I'm going to keep asking.

I'm thinking about riding again. I didn't want to stress one out by leaving him behind, but now that they're semi accepted into the herd I feel I can take Jasper away it will be OK. I don't think I can take Al away, I'd be afraid that Jasper would try jumping out or something. I really need a friend to come out and ride Al with me...!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


A wet, drizzly, grey day.

Alexandre getting ready to go down to his new diggs- the 20 acre pasture. Now with reinforced fences.

Jasper's getting ready too. He may be distracted by a bucket of mush, but he is not pawing, digging, or dolphin leaping/kicking while tied. That was for after the mush was eaten. My mom was in charge of watching him and calling me if killed himself while I helped Norm reinforce the fencing a little more.

Norm and Jasper part 2.

Didn't we just break out of this place?

Norm and the herd while J & A look on...

The herd gallops around while J & A trail behind.
Don't wanna get too close, but don't wanna be left too far behind either.

Wheeeeeeeeeeee! Jasper could leave Alexandre in the dust. He's nervous but at the same time really happy everyone's galloping around.

Jasper in the back cantering around and tossing his head every which way while Alexandre's at the very back in his full gallop trying to keep up...

And THIS is what happened twice yesterday. They break away from the herd, switch direction, and charge full speed ahead towards the gate...

Luckily my brave mom stood there and twirled a rope which made them think twice. Success! No broken fences!

With the herd on the other side of the field, it's time to see what there is to eat.

Even on 20 acres, the grass is always greener...

The herd eats and rolls and watches the newcomers.

And all is well.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Norm leading Jasper down the hill to the new diggs- the 20 acre field. They're a good match as they both have long legs and like to walk really fast. Alexandre and I moseyed down behind them.


Hmm. Didn't we just exit this field at high speeds through a wire fence? Why are we back here?

Dude, Jasper, slow down! This us UP hill!

The herd introduces themselves...

Jasper and Alexandre want NOTHING to do with them and destroy the gate (again) and run up the hill back to the barn.

Actually it was Jasper who broke out of the gate. I don't think he even saw it. It's possible he's never been in a hotwire-only enclosure. The first time they broke out they ended up lunging up the side of a cliff and practically toppled over backwards in their efforts to get turned around. At which time Jasper flew over the road and down the other side of the hill, jumping the irrigation pipes and hotwire fence (breaking the top strand) back into the pasture. Then TOTALLY freaked out because Alexandre was waaaay to smart to follow him. Eventually we got them both back in and Norm fixed the gate. They explored and galloped around a bit until the other 6 horses in the field noticed them and EVERYBODY started galloping around. We lost track of everyone and pretty soon it was apparent my boys were not in the herd. Oh, but there they were, leaving a broken gate behind them, galloping up the hill back to the barn. Norm's daughter caught them and we put them back in their little pen for the night. Then we went down and put a strand of thick white hotwire rope along the top of the fenceline they broke through... we're going to try again tomorrow...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Valley Chapel Farms

Alexandre in the arena begging for cookies.

Jasper at the tack room. Note all 4 feet on the ground. Didn't last too long...

View from the round pen.

The valley where they will live once they figure out how to drink from the automatic waterers.

Yesterday the barn owner's daughter offered to show me some of the trails. I saddled Jasper up in the western saddle as he danced around. I got on and he bucked. I looked up the hill and her horse was trotting down full speed to break into a canter at the bottom and went flying past us. She finally got her to circle right before crashing into a bunch of farm equipment. We decided to go on a trail that did not require us to get off and open any gates at that point. As we headed out she asked if my horse cantered. Um, well, yeah- he DOES canter...? Then she told me that her horse has a bad habit of galloping up hills. As she was just riding with a halter I believed her. Oh boy.

The trails are gorgeous. You kind of ride down a trail and into a big field, then onto another trail to another field, repeat. I was completely lost after the 3rd field. I would have loved to take some pictures, but I no longer have access to the ranch camera and it's way too hard to use my phone camera and be in charge of keeping Jasper on the trail at the same time.

We were following them down a trail and I swear in an instant with no warning they disappeared. When she said gallop she meant it- all out flying up the hill. Her little compact Arab mare bolted away gathering speed with each leap. I had to make a lightning quick decision- try to hold him back and fight him all the way up or just let him go. I decided to let him go. It was the fastest I've ever gone with him and I was making deals with God that he wouldn't buck. I could tell when there was a curve or turn on the trail when the mare would disappear from in front of us and I would try to half halt to warn Jasper to gather himself a little. I could tell he was surprised he was allowed to be going this fast and seemed a little unsure of himself, probably the first time he had ever carried someone up a hill at speed!

We survived and decided to go ahead and open the gates to the creek trail. Neither horse wanted anything to do with the water, so she GOT OFF HER HORSE AND LED HER THROUGH. I like this kid. Jasper did NOT want to be left behind and he sidepassed down the bank until he kind of fell in. On the way back, after a lot of encouragement and a lot of time, he went first.

Both horses were lathered in sweat. Jasper's was mostly from being nervous. He did dolphin kicks and pawed while tied to the post outside the tack room while I was unsaddling. He didn't want cookies. He and Alexandre have to live in a pen by the house until they figure out how to press the metal plate down with their noses in the waterer to make the water come out. Alexandre is in heaven with the all you can eat hay, and Jasper is glued to his side but could care less about hay or anything else that would actually put weight on. He's already lost weight and is starting to look sucked up again.

Heading out today to put antibiotics in Al's eye and maybe an easy ride around in the arena on Jasper...