Saturday, December 28, 2013

Paid to ride my own horse?

After a crazy busy last two weeks I haven't had much time or energy to ride Charlie. I did hop on here and there just to do something with him, but I knew pretty soon I'd have to get back in the swing of real riding. So when Friday dawned bright and beautiful and Jan suggested using Charlie as the "dummy" horse to help work on herd sourness in one of our training horses, I was like "OK!"

This horse, Coty, has some major issues when he feels he's being left alone while out on the trails so we'd been working with him in hand while I rode Colby, one of the other training horses, practicing each of them being left alone and then rejoining the other horse. Colby is only in a training program two days a week, though, so we can't use him all the time and we thought it might be good idea to try going out with other horses instead. Since I needed to ride Charlie anyway, and we currently don't have any others in training, he was the logical pick.

Not going to lie, I was a little worried. Charlie has been amazing since going on SmartCalm and being at this new barn, but he's had some herd bound issues in the past where he rears and spins, and not having been ridden in awhile was a little worrisome. Plus there were kids out riding four wheelers and bikes in the woods at the same time. Always fun.

But I decided not to be a chicken, threw on my mom's western saddle, and we hit the trails. Charlie was blowing a bit and did a small mount of jigging here and there, but he kept his head. The first time Coty was out of sight he bobbled from side to side, not wanting to move forward. This is his pre-rear move and when I first kicked him forward and wouldn't let him turn around his front feet came off the ground a few inches, but there was no real rear and with more firm and consistent encouragement he stepped off and continued down the trail. He did do a a few low breathy whinnies under his breath (like he didn't want me to hear) which I just think is just so cute. Plus, if he's not doing anything else bad I don't mind a little "talking" :)

At one point Jan asked me to leave them for a little longer so I took Charlie for a short trot and then canter in the field. He was understandably happy with that. In the end it was a successful training day for both Coty and Charlie, and I got paid to do it! How many people can say they got paid to ride their own horse?! :)

Charlie and Leo enjoying the gorgeous winter day


Wow, where did the time go? This Christmas season just seemed to fly by....probably had something to do with the fact that I worked at Target at least three nights a week until well after midnight and then had to get up to ride and work at the barn at 6am the next day. When I wasn't at Target I had the night feeding shift at Spring Hill. Busy busy busy!

Christmas Eve was spent at my parents house with my sisters, eating our traditional Meal of Appetizers (yum!), making margaritas and playing card games. The next day we enjoyed my parents' annual Christmas Day brunch followed by the opening of presents, after which Dan and I drove up to see his family in New Jersey.

Emma makes a pretty cute reindeer

One of my parents' dogs, River
Bailey wanted nothing more than to nap on his new fox toy
Asher puppy is getting big
Emma babysat Asher during present-opening

It was a really nice low key Christmas and I got several nice things, including some money to spend on myself and horsey things for Charlie (very excited to hit those post-Christmas sales and my favorite consignment store). I also got a couple of horse books that I'm eager to start reading: Denny Emerson's "How Good Riders Get Good" and a Penny Cummings book of ground exercises and connecting with your horse.

New Defender rain sheet for Charlie

Emma got her own stable blanket! So cute!
We came home Thursday afternoon, amidst a TON of traffic, and quick scooted over to the barn to feed the horses. Thank god for Dan, he finished feeding for me since I had to run in to Target. All in all it was great to see everyone but after all that traveling we could all use a day of rest I think, including Emma:

Are we home yet?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tie down day 2

The tying down lesson went very well today. Charlie seemed to know the drill right off the bat and didn't fly backward once; in fact, as soon as I backed up to my position he started walking forward. I added pressure and he went all the way to the post. Good boy!

Afterward I worked him in the faux-soa rig and he was so good I threw on his rope halter, looped the lead around and tied it like reins, then hopped on for a few laps of transitions around the ring....Is this really my horse?! :)

I is a good Charlie horse :)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Learning to tie down

If you've been following this blog for awhile you will know that Charlie has a bit of a problem when he feels he's being tied down:
We went through at least 3 holes in this crownpiece
Brand new halter? Not anymore
He really didn't like this one I guess
Last week he destroyed another one and Jan was there to see it. Charlie had actually stood calmly tied to the post at the end of the ring with another horse while I worked the training horses; Jan even remarked at how good he was being, a model horse. But when Charlie put down his last foot after I picked it out he stepped backward a bit, felt the pressure on his face and threw up his head. Snap went the old halter, in pieces, unsalvageable.

To try and solve this problem I've tried using a blocker tie ring (see an example here, really cool and worked well but I just don't have one of my own), bungee crossties, looping the leadrope loosely around the rail or tie ring, just tight enough to let Charlie know he was tied but able to loosen up under tension. Every time I'd think he was getting better we'd lose another halter. Grrr. Luckily Jan had some ideas and offered to try a new approach.

The way it works is by using a long line that is attached from the horse's halter, looped around the tie post, and then to you. You position the horse about 20 feet back from the tying post while you stand at about a 45 degree angle on the other end of the line and then you gently apply pressure on the line while clucking to encourage the horse to take a step toward the post.

Once he takes one step, you release the pressure and praise him.

Keep repeating this, stepwise, until he reaches the post. It can take awhile but lots and lots of praise is key! If he reacts and throws his head back, let him back up but don't release pressure on the line entirely. Wait a minute, then try to ask him to go forward again.

Feeling the pressure
I think I'll back out of it
Ok, maybe I can take a step
ANOTHER step?!
No no no!
Ok, maybe this isn't so bad
Huh. I didn't die.
Good boy!
Massage time :)
It worked really well with Charlie. It will take several more sessions but after one stepwise journey up to the hitching post, he willingly walked the all the way up on his own then next time and stood there with his head down and soft eyes, thinking. He got a 10 minute face massage as a reward, the good boy.

Happy Birthday

Yesterday was my 27th birthday. When did I get so old!?

A little birdie told me someone has a birthday...
All in all I had a really great day. I didn't have to work at Target, only the barn in the morning (which isn't really work) so I had the rest of the day to ride and relax. For dinner I opted for a small family dinner party and Dan made me an amazing meal of all my favorite foods.

Fettuccine alfredo with tomato/mozz salad and asparagus
Awesome chocolate peanut butter cupcakes for dessert
Afterward Dan and I stayed up until midnight playing Trivial Pursuit. Nerds we may be, but I couldn't have asked for a better ending to a very nice day.

Wine, chocolate and Trivial Pursuit. Perfection :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Wonderland

As I sit here, warming up after a morning at the barn, looking out the window at the softly falling snow....

With Emma snoozing on the bed, keeping me company...

I am happy because I know my pony is out enjoying the first real snow of the season....with his friends :)
Yesterday morning (12/9/13)
Charlie and his new comrades: Colby and Spot

Friday, December 6, 2013


When Charlie had his face injury several months ago, one of my readers suggested trying MTG on the wound to help minimize scarring and improve the regrowth of hair over the area. So, though skeptical that it was too good to be true, I bought some and after Charlie's nose was done looking "wound-ish" and was pretty much just bare skin I switched out the neosporin for MTG. Everything healed beautifully! Now you can barely tell there was anything there.

See? Barely a bump
One try is not quite enough to convince a skeptic, though. So I decided last week to try the MTG again on some slow-healing old bite wounds. Charlie liked to rough house when he was with Gi and so when he arrived at the new barn he was sporting several huge bare patches on his cheek and under his neck.
You can see one of the bigger ones, this was taken back on 11/12/13
I figured these spots would just fill back in but even as of last week this one (shown above) honestly looked exactly the same. Plus Charlie was sporting several fresh bites. So once he got to the new barn I decided to try using some MTG. After only one week of application, every other day, this is what we have:
That's new hair on the cheek wound!
New hair started growing within days and the newer, more raw bites (like the other one you can see above) are about 50% improved. Some of the smaller bare patches on his sides are almost completely gone. Ok, MTG, I'm impressed.

The bottle said MTG can be used on the base of the mane or tail as well to encourage longer healthier hair. Charlie has an awesome tail, but his wimpy forelock is a whole other story. Maybe with some MTG it will grow into something a little more respectable. Anyway, MTG you sold me!

Enough about the MTG. I'm cookies?

Pretty sure my horse is gay

While we cleaned his stall today Charlie was turned loose in the indoor with a horse named Prince in the round pen, and no sooner had he touched noses with the old gelding than he proceeded to let it all hang out....and then began flicking himself up on his belly. Good lord, Charlie, get a room! Prince didn't seem to mind at all. If anything he started coming on to Charlie by the end, whinnying as I led him away. Or maybe he was just happy to have a buddy other than the spunky little pony he's normally turned out with. Of all the horses Charlie could be attracted to, though, Prince?? The guy is like 30 years old!

.....Guess that explains why Spot kept chasing him away!:P
Charlie and Prince

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Accomplishment of the day: Riding while two mustangs were being freelunged in the round pen

This sort of thing would normally have Charlie completely wigged out. He has been known to have a slight phobia of other horses being in the ring doing anything other than walking around, but we took it slow and built up his confidence and his focus on me and it couldn't have gone better.

I started with groundwork - breaking at the poll, hindquarters over, shoulders over, halting - and although he got antsy when he approached the other horses he stayed with me. He called out a few times, and he got *ahem* a little "excited" because one of the horses was in heat, but he didn't let that interfere with our lesson. (Bonus points to the SmartCalm Ultra or extra turnout...or both!).

By the time I got on he couldn't pay those horses less mind. We worked on bending in both directions and practicing shoulders in and sidepasses in the saddle. Getting him more supple and responsive is my current goal. Whenever he resists the bit pressure or blows through my hands I have been using the hindquarters over cue to disengage him and press the "reset" button. And I'm using a lot of serpentines and circles to stretch him on each side. It seems to be going pretty well.

On another note Charlie is getting along slightly better with the other geldings. He seems to have selected Ethyreal, one of the arabs, as his first "friend attempt"; when I went out to get him today he was only halfway down the field, not at the far far end, hanging out only about ten lengths away from E. 

When I returned him to the pasture I made sure to keep the other horses away long enough for Charlie to get a nice long drink, and then I walked out of the paddock. Pull my heartstrings: poor Charlie kept trying to follow me and nuzzle up as I walked to the gate, not wanting to be left alone with the other horses. "Mom, don't leave me!" Once I was out he nicely sniffed noses with a few horses (and did the submissive pee squirts), but as soon as I locked the gate Spot chased him away. *sigh* All in due time I guess.

Getting a well-deserved private drink
Stay back boys

That means you too Spot and Leo!
"We can be friends, right?" (Charlie and E)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Low man on the totem pole

After being in a private paddock for his first week, Charlie has now earned the right to be turned out with the rest of the geldings. He's is a pretty easygoing guy when it comes to meeting other horses - no squealing or pinned ears or pawing (although he does seem to have a nervous pee like a dog....anyone else heard of a horse doing that?!) - but whenever too many horses are around he'll get nervous and take off. Spot, in particular, seems to have made it his personal mission to pick on poor Charlie. Whenever he's around he makes a point of running Charlie out to the other end of the field. :(

All alone....
So Charlie spent the last three days alone at one end of the paddock while everyone else chilled in the other. I know it will just take time for him to be accepted into the herd, and each day gets better as he starts to make one friend at a time, but right now I feel so sorry for him. He's like a nervous kid being dropped off for the first time at preschool; unfortunately Charlie's the one sitting in the corner coloring while everyone else plays kickball and occassionally uses him for target practice.

Being able to expel all this extra energy outside, though, does have its benefits. Today, for example, Charlie was wonderful and quiet and I was able to enjoy a lovely bareback ride at the walk, trot, and canter. That I could get used to!