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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Original thread: https://www.horseforum.com/horse-training/whole-buddy-sour-herd-813417

3/31/20

So per suggestions from a few different people, @kbrewer and I are starting a journal thread to track our progress working with Brandy, a horse who was left at the family farm by previous boarders. We do not know the full history of this horse but we were told that she was not very nice - this is definitely not the case, as we have learned!! We have not ridden her yet because she needs a hoof trim and a preemptive vet check, but she has the most wonderful ground manners and handles delightfully. She stands to be groomed, lifts all four feet easily, leads well, is very gentle and curious, and tolerates all manner of poking, prodding and tugging. Taking care of her gives us something to do during all this covid-19 mess :)

Today we went out to the barn to practice ground manners and tacking up. When going out to get her, she stood and waited for me to walk all the way across the pasture to halter her. Whoever was turning them out before we started coming out to the farm always left their nylon halters on :( so today I took that off and worked her in a rope halter. We were unable to catch Skippy, one of the other horses who is unrideable to keep her company, so we went without today. Brandy led like a dream, though she did get a little excited and forward as we neared the other small pasture we use for working (which is why we're practicing ground manners!).

I tied her up and groomed her thoroughly before we tried tacking up. She is a little sensitive to the girth being tightened, but she does not offer to bite or kick in any way. The best part was finding out that she LOVES the bit!! I slipped the bridle on over the rope halter since we were just going to practice leading in hand with tack on, and as soon as she saw the bit she started opening her mouth and grabbing for it. The entire time we worked with her today, she was calm, pleasant, and curious. Every time we see her I like her more because of her gentle curious personality, which is the opposite of what we were told!!

To end on a good note before untacking, we walked a few circles in hand around the small pasture and even jogged a little bit (until I ran out of breath). She moves beautifully and we can't wait to get in the saddle.

Once we turned her back out, we were a little worried that she may bolt away as soon as we took the rope halter off, so I looped the lead rope around her neck while @kbrewer undid the halter. Brandy didn't move a muscle and stood there calmly, taking a crunchy carrot treat once I had fully released her, and she actually did not move from that spot until we took our attention off of her and started talking about something else. Once we were ignoring her, she took off with a tiny squeal to go round up her herd.

All in all, a really good day :)

(pardon our terribly mismatched tack LOL)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
4/1/20

So I guess we had too good of a session yesterday and had to pay for it today :lol: There was someone with a truck and a trailer hauling old fencing and brush out of the pasture, and when the truck had drove into Brandy's field of vision while she was standing tied, she did spook a little bit but calmed down quickly. From then on, she was giving me a bit more trouble than usual- moving around, pawing, not holding still well. I finished up grooming her and took her out to lunge a little bit once she had settled down.

Both of us definitely need to work on our cues there, but once she gets moving, she's absolutely gorgeous! She has a lovely jog and carries herself beautifully. A few times she got a little too excited and kicked up in the air a little or tried to move away, but I stood there holding the rope and not reacting until she hit the end and pulled herself around. Despite the wild excitement, she was still very content the entire time. Tomorrow if the weather stays nice we're going to really drill down on lunging manners and work on reinforcing cues.

We were told by the girl who comes out to take care of the horses that since Ms. Brandy is the boss of the herd, she needs someone who can be equally firm and confident working with her. Luckily she doesn't give us more trouble than we can handle :) just a little bit pushy and excitable, but she always reins it back in very quickly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
4/4/20

Forgot to write about our session on the 3rd, but it was pretty uneventful.

Today I went out by myself for a little bit after work since it was still a perfect temperature and there was still plenty of daylight. Today brought some new challenges for Brandy - it was feeding time later in the evening, so when I caught her I was separating her from her buddies and taking her over to do some work instead of eating. Someone was popping off gunshots a few miles away as well.

As always, she was a delight (and even nickered when she saw me for the first time!). No fuss about being separated, not even about being taken away from dinner and brought over to work. Though today was only session #4, she improves radically each time. We worked on vocal commands (speed up, whoa, stop, etc) and finally got her to lunge at something other than a trot :lol: I discovered that her left side is her weak side. She'll give a couple good circles then flip around and begin going the other way. She'll go to the right all day long, but would only work a little bit to the left before either stopping or switching. I have a feeling it could be a bit of a pain issue combined with that being her weaker side, so I'll discuss it with the vet and maybe farrier too when they hopefully come out.

Her and I are both rusty in the horsemanship department - she hasn't been ridden in years and I haven't been actively riding in a year :lol: While I never learned much groundwork in my previous lessons, I've done a lot of research and am learning as I go. I think Brandy and I both have many things to learn from each other :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
4/6/20

Went out to work in the evening again on lunging and a bit of ground manners last night. The new stimulus this time was the boarder working her horse in the neighboring pasture at the same time. Brandy was very curious as to what was going on, but once we started working she brought all her attention back to me.

We worked on direction changes and transitions on the line and received some helpful tips from the boarder who had worked with her before about a year ago - apparently her random direction changes are just her way of throwing a tiny hissy fit about working and I quickly learned how to spot them and correct it before she got anywhere. We even got up to cantering for just a minute and she moves beautifully! I stretched her legs post-workout and while she was a bit confused at first, she then relaxed and let me pull on her legs to help relieve some of that stiffness.

When we left, I took the bridles with me and took them apart to clean and oil them. We also confirmed that the farrier will be coming out to see the herd next Monday morning and we'll be scheduling a vet check up today :)
 

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What an exciting journal! I love ground work and once you are more at ease with her you can try little games with her. Teach her how to sidepass from the ground. Teach her to move over to a mounting block of fence (youtube has great videos teaching this) Rewarding her for coming to you and standing tied is great. You can add stretching - like carrot stretches to help her body get used to being supple again.

I look forward to more entries
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
4/7/20

Thank you @carshon! She yields hind and forequarters excellently but we're still working on sidepassing. She's very responsive and eager to please :)

Yesterday I went out solo, later in the day again after their evening hay. We warmed up in the work arena for a bit on lunging, yielding her head and body for a little bit before we went on a walk around the property for the first time. I waited to start doing this until I felt she was more comfortable having me as company instead of other horses since the entire herd is buddy sour. She was excellent - head nice and low, completely relaxed and yielding to me up until the point the other horses realized where she was and started calling out. This made her a little antsy so we did some small circles on the lead rope at the top of the hill until she regained her "thinking cap" and we were able to continue. We stopped up on a nice grassy patch by a little pond a little ways away from the other horses and I let her graze for about 15 minutes. She only called out twice in response to their constant whinnying but was otherwise completely responsive to me and relaxed.

She is overall a very attentive and sensitive horse and I can't wait to see more of what she can do. I did finally realize what was bugging me about how she stands - her toes are so grown out that her heels have worn down on her rear legs and it's causing her to stand with her hind limbs camped under. I don't know when she last saw a farrier but he will be coming out this coming Monday so I will grill him with questions then :)

We also tested a saddle fit. Seems to fit her well but my big ol' behind doesn't quite fit the seat well because it's so sloped. I don't have the funds to purchase another currently so I will deal with it for now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
4/8/20

Brandy decided to have a little fun with catching yesterday. She played keep away for a little bit, walking and trotting away (with the rest of the herd in pursuit) as I calmly followed with the rope halter and lead in hand. This continued for another five minutes until she decided she'd had her fun, and stood there licking her lips while I put the halter on. I swear she was giving me a little cheeky smile :lol:

Per usual, she was very good and polite on the ground. We lunged for a little bit as a warm up, working on gait transitions and burning off a little bit of that extra spice she had today :wink: Brandy was very good and she continues to get better every session when it comes to cues, and there was no tomfoolery this time with stopping or switching directions. Once she was warmed up, we went for a light walk up the hill again, stopping up top to let her graze once more. Since the other horses were way out in the field, they didn't pose much drama this time, and Brandy was perfectly calm and attuned to me.

I have officially scheduled a vet appointment to get her a checkup now for next Wednesday, so fingers crossed!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
4/11/20

Spent a solid 3 hours out at the barn after work yesterday working on some lighter groundwork outside of lunging. She is very soft and gives easily to anything I ask...except backing up. For some reason it doesn't click in her brain that I want her to move away from me. By the end of the session I was able to get her to back pretty well with me at her shoulder, but not standing in front of her. The nice boarder gave me some tips on that to try next time!

The funny part in trying to catch her today was that she played "keep away" again, so I turned my back on her and started paying attention to the other horses. At one point she thought it would be fun to free lunge at a walk around me without me asking so I couldn't catch her just yet :lol: and after a few minutes of being a little turd, she stopped and waited for me to come up and halter her. Any tips on dealing with this? it doesn't seem to be malicious or fearful at all - she walks away calmly and waits for me to follow, and after a couple minutes of this stops and waits for me to halter her up.

We'll be going out to see her get her hooves done tomorrow first thing and hopefully get her on a 6-week trim schedule. Will post updates!
 

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I once leased a horse that occasionally played hard to get at catching time. He was out with aboout 10 other horses, on 20 acres! So, I can't chase him. What I did was when he was avoiding my approach, I went and grabbed several nice handfuls of good alfalfa from the nearby feeding station. I spread it out for the 'gang' to eat.



But "MY" horse was not allowed to indulge. Every time he approached to eat, I drove him off the food. He would circle, then try again. I drove him off. Just enough to keep him from eating, not enough to make him run far off.


eventually, when I approached him as he was standing on outskirts of the circle of eating horses, he brought his ears forward, looked at me with an honest face. I slowly haltered him. I gave him every chance to run off again, if he chose to. But, he did not.



After haltering him, I 'brought' him to the food and let him eat with the others for a bit, until it was gone, and then we walked up the road to the barn.
 

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If your horse is having trouble backing off from a feel on the leadline, bend him to one side first, so that he may take a sideways step with one of his hind legs, prefereably the inside one (inside to the bend). Then try asking for a couple of backward steps, once he has 'broke loose' a bit.

Reward after the first step or two, with loose leadline. If he steps back toward you, immediately tell him to step back. Correct him when you just see him start to rock his body forward, say' ah!' nothing too fierce, just correct his thought before he completes that action.



similarly, reward his (her) thought, even before she completes it, initially. if she is even thinking about backing up, at first, reward that with an ease up on the pressure. take your time.


Look for her thought, and respond accordingly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
@tinyliny Thank you so much for the tips! I'll try to employ them next session :) We're going to give her a bit of break this week since she just got her hooves done today and will be getting a checkup on Wednesday.

Normally the horses are locked in the paddock when the farrier comes but for some reason they were all out today, so we had to play horse wrangler. Brandy came easily as always (I figured if I took the leader inside first, the others would be more inclined to follow but alas). We spent a little bit rounding everyone else up then watched them get their trim. I didn't get pics of her shiny new hooves, but she seems to be standing more evenly on flat ground now. The farrier says she'll be fine without shoes for now if we're only doing light riding around the property, but once we really start working her we can call and get her shod.

After her trim, Brandy came up to me and gently nuzzled my jacket and played with the buttons, then I found her itchy spot on the side of her neck for the first time and she loved it. This is the first time I've seen her be more outwardly affectionate with me and it was very sweet :)

We also found out that the family decided to rehome Skippy and Dolly (the two old bay mares) to a place where they'll get better attention. They're both ancient and unrideable outside of probably someone holding a very small child on their back and leading them around. Hopefully everything works out for the better!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
4/15/20

Good news everyone!!

Brandy's vet checkup was today. We caught her easily (no games this time, thankfully) and tied her with some hay in the concrete paddock and groomed her while waiting for the vet to arrive, both to relax her and also to get some of that hair out of the way. She was very good the entire time even as a stranger tugged around inside her mouth and pulled on her legs. He was very nice and explained everything, including a concise summary of caring for and maintaining horses since I asked.

The good news...she got a perfect bill of health, and we found out that she is actually around 8-10 years old which is far lower than I originally estimated!! She's been here for at least 5 years which means she was 3-5 yrs old when she was brought here....which means it's very likely she hasn't had a whole lot of training, combine that with a non-horsie person, and that explains why her former owner fell off!! I know she definitely has had some work done based on her behavior during our sessions, but to what extent I don't know. I really wish I could know more of her history - she's a gorgeous horse with a wonderful temperament. Very smart and willing to learn! We're going to start groundwork with tack on tomorrow (I held off on that until she got a checkup just to be absolutely safe)

I'm sure I'll have plenty more questions pop up once we start moving on to more complicated work and especially once I get in the saddle. It would be more ideal to be working with a trainer and/or in lessons, but since our college team lessons are canceled for the foreseeable future and we're in the midst of a global pandemic, well...we make do, I guess :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I think you are talking yourself into owning this horse. She sounds like a diamond in the rough.
Well.... :wink: we have started calling her "my horse" and she has clicked really well with me. She will stay at her current home for as long as feasibly possible (at least next 2 yrs), but once it becomes too much of a task to drive far out and see her she will move with us. I am too poor (college student life) and not knowledgeable enough to 100% take on full responsibility for her just yet, so I will keep her at the family farm as a safeguard as long as I can. Think of it like learning to care for a horse with training wheels on :lol:

I've ridden off and on for 7 years but sadly never got to spend much time actually learning about what goes into the care and maintenance of horses, so this is all new stuff to me!

I've already picked out a saddle pad and asked about ordering a custom lead rope to match her halter....I'm in deep aren't I :lol:
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
4/16/20

Today was Brandy's first session working with full tack on! She didn't seem to like the snaffle bit as much as the curb, so I will switch the bridle back to the bit it had before. We lunged and worked on backing (got a few baby steps without me having to physically push on her, yay!). She was a doll the entire time, even when we found out that I had forgotten to replace the missing latigo on the saddle and we had to go root around in the barn for it while she waited patiently. This time while cinching her up, I tightened it just enough that it touched her belly, then walked her in a few circles before tightening it all the way. No more complaining from Brandy :)

Her cues get better every time and so do her manners. She didn't push into my space once today and stayed even with my shoulder while leading. I'll probably start testing adding weight to her next week (hand in stirrup, foot in stirrup, leaning on back etc) and see where we're at :)

She's quite the looker in blue or purple tack! The tan/purple woven pad is the only horse-sized pad we have currently lol. I'm going to order a Diamond Wool pad once I have the funds as well as overreach boots and splint boots for her hinds since she is a bit clumsy (and a little too extended) at times and I don't want her to injure herself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
4/18/20, session #10

We have achieved liftoff!!

We started with a warmup session on the lunge rope per usual, but this time I really focused on getting her brain working. Lots of direction changes and gait transitions, all of which she handled like a champ! And so came the biggest test...walked Brandy up to the mounting block, had @kbrewer hold the lead rope underneath the bridle just as a safeguard, and slowly added more and more weight onto the stirrup. Brandy reacted in no way other than flicking her ears back while listening to me, so I swung onto her back - and I was mounted!! We gently looped the rope around her neck and walked a few circles around the work pen. She rides like a dream, despite my overly excited fumbling (I also haven't been in the saddle in a year, so I'm rusty too)!

I said "I wonder if she knows how to neck rein?" and tried to steer as one would. It took her a second to get into that mode but she absolutely does, phew!

She's such a good girl. When you tack her up there's a visible change in her demeanor. She goes into "work mode" and you can tell - all eyes and ears are on you! I can't wait to really get into riding with her. We'll spend the next couple sessions in the work pen just so I can get a better feel for her before we take it outside. So much excitement!! :)

(pardon the improper rein holding, I had to switch hands to take the picture lol)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
4/19/20, session #11

Last night was our first "real ride" out in the pasture while the other horses were locked in the paddock for dinner time....and hoo boy was it a doozy!

I remembered the boarder's warning that Brandy is extremely barn sour and she was very eager to show that to me tonight....in the first couple minutes of riding, we ended up stuck at a random point in the yard, spinning in circles. She wanted to go to the barn, I wanted to go away from the barn and we were at a stalemate :lol: Yet, slowly but surely, one tiny step at a time, we inched our way away from the barn. I had the mantra "make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard" playing like a broken record in my head LOL! When we had moved far enough away from the barn and she settled, I would ask for a halt and we would stand and chill and I would give her lots of praise - but once we started moving on with our circle and she tried to bolt for the barn again, I would steer away. Rinse and repeat for the next hour and a half!!

By the end of our session, I had gotten her to walk some nice laps around the imaginary rectangle I had marked off in my head in a section of the pasture furthest away from the barn. Not a single head turn towards the barn or bit of resistance any more!

All I really did was stick to that seat, and guide her away from the barn. Just being patient and asking nothing more than for her to move away. All that spinning and speed was her decision completely :wink: And with a lot of patience, we succeeded in the end. That was my first real ride in almost a year and I'm definitely feeling it this morning.

Anyone have western bit recommendations? I think the broken mouthpiece is giving her some trouble. I have no clue what she was ridden in before unfortunately. We do have a random solid mouthpiece curb that I found in the barn when cleaning, but I'm not a fan of a bit that has no movement or flexibility to it at all. Would something like a mullen mouth be better suited? Thank you!
 
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