Monday, April 26, 2010

Following the leader!

Is what we played on Friday.

It all started with the trip to the trailer to tack up. We got to the last gate (after an arduous journey out through two rows of gopher-hole-ridden pasture) and all of a sudden all the slack goes out of my rope. I look back to find a Jou Jou with her head up in Giraffe imitation, nostrils flared and ears pricked so far forward that they point inward (which I find ADORABLE). Turns out she was oogling the newly constructed x-country fences in our mock course. The nearest one was a few barrels turned over that were new and scary.

I've been worried that her reactive nature will make it hard to go somewhere new and get her over a set of fences that she's never seen before, so I took this opportunity to test her. I got her to walk up to the barrels, let her realize they were just going to stand there, and then I hopped over them, and tugged along for her to follow me. She wasn't super game at first, but after another tug or two she came leaping over them after me. We went around the whole field playing follow the leader like this. She jumped almost everything both directions as long as I was paying attention and not letting her duck out.

Then I tried to 'lunge' her over things. This was really hard for a few reasons:

1) I was on the end of a 10 ft lead, so when she did jump it was hard to reward her by not pulling on her, although I did get the hang of it.
2) We'd never done this before
3) She's not so sure about what the concept of a circle looks like sometimes, even when there's nothing in her way.

But in the end I got her to jump the biggest scariest black irrigation pipe twice in a row. We were both sweaty from running around the field, so I walked her around and made up her grain.

All in all a fun day, and I hope with many more of these experiences I'll start to gain some real trust and respect that I'm not going to put her in a situation where she'll get eaten.

Goals: as always, ride more. We'll see with the dang on again off again rain

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Looking back on the last 5 months (to the day) with Bijou:

1) She's gained SOOO much weight! Happy!! In addition to just weight, she's got muscle now. That's from lots of lunging after realizing that part of the 'calm and cool' attitude she had was due to her lack of excess energy in the form of food.

2) Not as many riding goals as I'd like to report. It's been tough since I really couldn't do anything with her at my old barn because it was just so damn muddy there ALL the time. I do miss the privacy. There are some days I don't want to use the arena because all the girls on their pro-trained, jumping 3'9", 3rd level horses wouldn't be too appreciative that I can't quite guarantee that I won't spook into them or randomly lose steering and run into them.

2a) She's gotten so much better about lunging, voice commands - check, on a lunge line - check.

3) Just so I have a measurement I took my fingers and wrapped around just under the base of the tail to see how thick it was. I can get my thumb just to the first knuckle of my index finger in an O around it. I put her tail in a tailbag again, and I have to find my MTG because it went missing o_O

4) We're forming a bond. It's not as strong as it could/should be, but it's getting there. Today I did a bunch of 'scary' stuff with her, and she really is paying attention and listening. She learns fast, I just have to use my instincts (huh! what a concept?!) and somehow we figure each other out.

5) I hope that after moving to this facility I will make more progress in the next 6 months than I have in the last 5. I'm really hoping to make it to the Twin Rivers w/t and x-rails division by the end of October... we'll see!

It stuck

So I went out today for the first time in a week, and went over all the stuff we did last time, and apparently it stuck :D

I also had a big scare, when she smacked her head on the pole it made her shake her head around really erratically at times. I came home all worried about headshaking syndrome, did all this research, and life kept me from going out to the barn to test all these things on her. Well... today, after what I'm sure is a reasonable amount of time for her mouth to heal, she had no headshaking symptoms. I'm still going to keep an eye out just in case... I'm such a paranoid mommy.

Oh, and to make my day after the bad catching experience last time I went out to get her in pasture and she came nickering up to me right when I whistled for her. It was a great way to come back to the barn :] It really felt like a "hey, it's ok I know you don't want to hurt me, and I might even kinda like you" for the first time. Aaaaand she gobbled up her new grain/supplement mix. I've got her on some cheap alfalfa pellets with a little bit of corn and molasses in them, rice bran, and a maintenance joint, vitamin, and digestive supplement. She was literally licking her pan clean.

Good times, can't wait to go back tomorrow :D

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I had the trainer out today. Turns out she's exactly what I expected, much the same as I am, with the same kinds of ideas, none of which is a real goal oriented list type problem solving fixer upper... which is disheartening. I was hoping someone would come out and be like "I had a horse that did that exact thing and here's how I fixed it" but no. Now I'm out some $$$ and still in the same boat. Trainer did say that her body language was off and that her reaction made her think that there may have been something traumatic while tied in the past. The thing that gets me is that she trailers great, will stand tied forever until confronted with something scary. Its at that point that all hell breaks loose. I hate that I did this, but I'll confess it so that I know never to do it again......

Trainer requested that I show her how she reacts to being confronted with scary somethings while tied... so I rustled a baggie, trying to get her to react and pull just a little. Well turns out plastic baggies are TERRIFYING and she had the worst freakout yet, which bore forth her first tying related injury that I'm aware of. She struggled so badly that she gave herself a bloody fat lip on something. All I saw at first was that she pulled back and her mouth was bleeding. I knew this before, but I know even more now that I cannot tie her until we get her seriously de-stressed about all this stuff. I feel like a terrible mom, and it was a total mistake to provoke a reaction, I just didn't know how to accurately describe what she did and how she acted without triggering some kind of response for Trainer to see. I realize now that Trainer suggesting this in the first place should have sent off red flags, but I'm so desperate for a solution at this point that I just want to do whatever it takes to figure it out.

So for now I'm going to put a hiatus on the riding thing, work her butt so she's tired by lunging, and do lots of groundwork. Trust building exercise ideas? Give me your best shot. I'm going to go on a treasure hunt through the house and make up some really fun ways to desensitize/build trust. So far my ideas range from tying a bunch of plastic bags onto a yarn or twine string and putting them up across the top of the round pen/laying them all over her, get the tarp out, filling old water bottles with pebbles, water balloons, yard chairs, I really want to do confetti, the sparkly kind, but that would make a bigger mess than I'm willing to clean up. I might try to create some kind of headdress from those shiny twirly-gigs:

just to be extra creative. Please let me know if you have any other ideas for potentially scary things. Also, if you know of a good brand of rope burn proof gloves that I can pick up online somewhere, that'd be helpful. I'm going to try the cheap method of a 'blocker' tie, where you just wrap the lead around the tie post once to give you a little more pressure control. I also found that there are two nice high (taller than withers) tie horseshoes in the round-pen which I will utilize eventually. I'm going to try to get her to stop pulling back on the ground, so that she realizes that running away isn't going to solve anything.

I am just really disappointed about today. I was hoping for a concrete "do this and she'll tie" solution, even if it meant lots of time, effort, whatever. I'm still up in the air with what the right thing to do is. All I know is I can't tie her.

Goals: channel my inner monk to gain the patience needed for this ordeal.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A brand New Horse

I have a fat horse, a brand new shiny penny of a gorgeous horse. I desperately want to post pictures, but have no camera :( I'll have to steal a friends because I need to document this.

Unfortunately, I do not have a new horse brain. Maybe I need to get her on some kind of calming supplement because the green grass makes her higher than a kite if I haven't gotten her out in a few days. Today for example:

I lunge, in side reins for the first time!! She was admittedly less than happy and tossed her head some, but eventually accepted the pressure. She's got a really great nice carriage with her poll up high and her little nose tucked in, but only for moments. I got her sweaty, which is my general indication that she's done some work, hopefully enough to burn off the initial sugar high, and I can get on her and not get bucked around. Well.... that's the assumption anyway.

She doesn't like it when the dog waits for her at the fence, and then races after her once she's gone past, or how the round pen makes noise with another horse in it because the sand flies up and hits the walls, or how the drag marks in the arena are shadowed and look like she might have to jump them, or how I keep contact on her face, or how I expect her not to crash into things, or how I expect her to be able to hold still when I want to mount/dismount. But I can guarantee that by Friday, she'll have forgotten all these problems, because she'll be less full of it. So I'll just keep looking forward to Friday.

Also, tomorrow I have a 'trainer' coming out to help with the tying thing. I'm hoping that she'll be worth the money and really help solve the issue.

More for my own records than anything else, I lunged, she was sound, I hopped on in the small arena and she was DEAD lame on the right fore? but only around half the arena. I think the footing was just really hard in there from the rain, cus I went into the other arena and she was fine. I checked all feet/tendons and she just seemed to have broken off some hoof. No cracks or anything, but little chinks missing. I'm guessing toe bruises from running like an idiot in her pasture, we'll see next time we have the farrier out, which is when I'll probably have to do full shoes. I'll look into a hoof supplement too, although she's on a multivitamin which should cover everything right?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Most Exciting!

I found my tailbag!!! This is after 2 weeks of rummaging through the long grass in any number of pastures that she's been in before I noticed it was missing. I'm going to use this and an amazing product called MTG on a photo documentary of the adventures of Bijou's tail, and it's journey to infamy.

ok, so maybe that isn't the most exciting news of the week, but it's all I've got. Now my question to you... any good ways to keep conditioning fun? I feel like it's all just lather, rinse, repeat (to use a saying from another blogger).

On another note, I feel like I've turned Bijou out for a week (while I was prepping another horse for a show) and I went out today to get up close and personal and work her, and she's a new horse! Fatter, healthy, stronger, and shedding out so nice!! Such a cool surprise!

Also, I've noticed that show season is ramping up. I'm getting emails from local barns announcing all their schooling shows, and it makes me wonder what I'll be able to accomplish this year. I think I'm gunning for a W/T class soon, and by fall I hope to be showing over cross-rails. Is that realistic? These are all just local schooling hunter/jumper shows so I don't have to be perfect to place, but I think one season should be enough to get a horse ready for their cross-rails debut. Let me know if I'm on track or off my rocker on this one?

Goals for this week: Lunge in side reins, even if it has to be free lunging in the round pen. Ride over lots of trot poles to get the long and low thing going.