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I used to write a lot, for work, for myself, I really enjoyed it. Over the past few years I've pretty much stopped completely but my "new" horse has inspired me. Hopefully this journal will motivate me to keep writing in one form or another.

This horse in particular is quite special to me. He is a 9-year-old Missouri Fox Trotter gelding with a curly coat. My better half calls him a "mutton". I'm not sure if it's the French in him that makes it so funny, but the nickname has stuck. Our friends and family call this horse "Curly" but I call him Magnus.

I first saw him for sale online in December of 2019. The universe has a funny way of working out because I wasn't in a position to buy him even though I really, really wanted too. He is very striking, having been a stallion for 8 years of his life, he has those big jowls and very much a commanding presence. Anyways the ad was taken down after a couple weeks and I assumed he had sold.

The next time his ad popped up it was in January and I was ready, after having sold a couple mares and was looking for prospects. After meeting the woman who purchased him in December, it almost seemed like he had been put on "hold" for me until I was in a position to buy him.

Once Magnus was home, it only took a few days for another person to reach out to me over FB messenger. She had been involved with the rescue of Magnus and 8 other stallions from the breeder. They had been skin and bones with toes so long they were curling up on some. As it turns out, two other MFT mares that I had bought in the fall were from the same situation and had been just as neglected as Magnus. This whole thing had happened I believe in the spring of 2019. The mares had already put weight on when I bought them, and Magnus had been gelded for quite some time.

Unfortunately that wasn't the end of the revelations. This person told me there was a rumour that the sire of Magnus had PSSM. Now this was something new to me. Obviously as a long time lurker on this horse forum, I have come across posts about PSSM so I had a vague idea of what it was. Having dealt with Tennessee Walkers for pretty much my whole career, I have never come across even the mention of PSSM in the breed. After doing some research it does seem to have some prevalence in the MFT breed.

I'm sure it was the very next day I marched out to Magnus's paddock and took a hair sample to send to Animal Genetics. Two weeks later I had the results: n/p1. My heart sank.

Keep in mind at this point although I wanted to keep Magnus long term, the plan had always been to train him and resell him eventually. Now even this didn't seem really possible with the diagnosis, it really was bittersweet.

Despite the diagnosis Magnus always seemed very healthy. One thing he did during the start of his training was biting while being cinched up, but that has gone away overtime. My husband and I have tried to be very careful about his diet and exercise. We are very blessed to have a large amount of pasture so this has been a bit of a struggle in regards to his diet. Our other horses have so much room to roam in the summer while Magnus is cooped up in a dry lot.

I think another part of this whole story that is really important to understand is what was going on with me. Internally I was really struggling with enjoying to ride. I was really looking for a connection with my personal riding horses and wasn't getting it. The last time I truly felt connected to a horse was the very one who brought me to the horse forum to begin with ten years ago (my user name is his registered name). He was diagnosed by multiple vets with Wobblers. It was a brutal decline and it broke my heart. Boe was a horse that gave me the feels. One time, right before the end, I took him into the arena and let him loose to play. At this point he was kept in a small enclosure for his own safety. I let him loose and he stayed beside me so I started walking, and then jogging. He kept right up with me, even gave his head a playful toss and a little buck. That was all he could muster before the wobbly legs took over and we came to a stop. I'll never forget that moment. Even now it brings tears to my eyes. I rode him alone when I had no right to ride a green broke three year old out alone. He was absolutely terrified of cows. He would meet me at the gate everyday. He was gentle with my mom, who is terrified of horses.

One time I was riding him in a cutback saddle along a narrow river where a beaver was swimming. It slapped its tail right beside us and it spooked Boe so bad. I lost my seat almost landed on my feet, but ended up breaking one ankle. Boe came right back to me and stood like a statue for me to climb back on. It was a long ride back home and he was a saint. Man I loved that horse.

In August, someone came along who really, really wanted to buy Magnus who wasn't even advertised for sale. The money came at the right time, it was something we needed and couldn't say no to, even though both of us at this point were in love with Magnus. I'm sure you've already figured out that Magnus comes back. I don't really believe in coincidences, but something very similar to the events of when I originally purchased Magnus, occurred. This buyer was a placeholder.

After the sale of Magnus, I was pretty disillusioned about my other riding horse. I was looking for a connection, it had never seemed so important as it did now. If I didn't have it, then I might as well sell her to someone else who could enjoy her. I was resigned to solely riding the sales horses and not keep any for myself. This particular mare ended up selling really fast, and not long after her sale, the opportunity to buy Magnus back arrived. Blessed with the funds from the mare's sale, it was feasible to buy my boy back.

I have been riding him almost everyday since his return and it has been amazing. He is so chill, never spooks, rides alone, rides in a group, smooth as silk, I really could go on. He is like having Boe back, except Magnus isn't scared of cows.

I am hoping that we are able to manage the PSSM 1 and use Magnus as my go-to riding horse. He will be used to help train colts, move cows, competitive trail and mountain riding.

If any of you reading this have any comments or experiences or suggestions in regards to PSSM 1 horses, I would love to read them. I've done my own research so I can keep Magnus healthy but there is nothing like personal anecdotes.

Thank you for taking the time to read our intro!
 

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I have Fox Trotters too (well, one at the moment) and don't know a thing about PSSM1, I will need to look that up. But mainly I wanted to congratulate you on finding a wonderful horse that you can bond with and enjoy. That's just wonderful! My friend also has a curly Fox Trotter but he's a palomino and close to 30 years old now. He's a fabulous horse. Congrats on your boy! :smile:
 

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Interesting story, OP. I have a foxtrotter, also. I thought they were not that common in Canada — certainly not in Saskatchewan where I am. May I ask a bit more about him, please? Where was the location he was rescued from - some place in Canada? Whereabouts are you located in Canada?
 

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You and that horse are just meant to be. Off and on, all my life, I've had horses and had a few with "Monday Morning Syndrome", which we now know is probably PSSM of some sort. I've had horses that were carriers of the PSSM1 gene and really, they have been easy to manage when you know what you're looking at. I feed a low NSC feed (Purina Enrich Plus & Ultium Competition formula) and the key to these horses is consistency in their work. You need to work them every single day, not necessarily to the point of dripping sweat but if you're going to lunge for 15 mins, do it every day. You can work up to a full work routine, just keep it consistent. If you see one tying up, go get the Banamine and give it to them. LOTS of water to flush their system. Keep work outs consistent and take your time when adding new things, like increasing time or difficulty of movements, always add things slowly.

I took this from the Animal Genetics site:

Management of Horses That Test Positive For PSSM1:

Horses that test positive for 1 or 2 copies of the GYS1 mutation should be carefully managed through diet and exercise to help prevent the onset of the disease. For many horses affected by PSSM1, strict control of diet and exercise can reduce, or even prevent the onset of symptoms related to PSSM1. Eliminating many high sugary foods in their diet and consistent exercise are two simple ways to help prevent the disease from developing. Although taking these simple steps may not be effective in every situation, research has shown that often they will provide positive results. It is always important to let your veterinarian know if an animal has tested positive for PSSM1.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Interesting story, OP. I have a foxtrotter, also. I thought they were not that common in Canada — certainly not in Saskatchewan where I am. May I ask a bit more about him, please? Where was the location he was rescued from - some place in Canada? Whereabouts are you located in Canada?
I don't think they are that common in Canada either. He was rescued from Saskatchewan. I will PM you some more details. I am in central Alberta.
 

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You and that horse are just meant to be. Off and on, all my life, I've had horses and had a few with "Monday Morning Syndrome", which we now know is probably PSSM of some sort. I've had horses that were carriers of the PSSM1 gene and really, they have been easy to manage when you know what you're looking at. I feed a low NSC feed (Purina Enrich Plus & Ultium Competition formula) and the key to these horses is consistency in their work. You need to work them every single day, not necessarily to the point of dripping sweat but if you're going to lunge for 15 mins, do it every day. You can work up to a full work routine, just keep it consistent. If you see one tying up, go get the Banamine and give it to them. LOTS of water to flush their system. Keep work outs consistent and take your time when adding new things, like increasing time or difficulty of movements, always add things slowly.

I took this from the Animal Genetics site:

Management of Horses That Test Positive For PSSM1:

Horses that test positive for 1 or 2 copies of the GYS1 mutation should be carefully managed through diet and exercise to help prevent the onset of the disease. For many horses affected by PSSM1, strict control of diet and exercise can reduce, or even prevent the onset of symptoms related to PSSM1. Eliminating many high sugary foods in their diet and consistent exercise are two simple ways to help prevent the disease from developing. Although taking these simple steps may not be effective in every situation, research has shown that often they will provide positive results. It is always important to let your veterinarian know if an animal has tested positive for PSSM1.
Thank you for the wonderful advice!! So far he does not seem to present many clinical signs. If I were to pick at him, I've seen him do the "bunny hop" at the canter once in a while when he's playing around. But under saddle he canters so easily and doesn't tend to bunny hop with his back legs that I can feel. In the summer I put him in a dry lot with hay and in the winter he goes out to pasture when the grass is dry and finished growing. His personality stays the same, he doesn't tie up nor does he get muscle twitching. His muscles are always soft and loose when I check. I try not to "hover" and look for things, but just to be educated and aware so I can help him. He never tends to get fat, even when his head is buried in a bale.

I found some wonderful webinars here about PSSM1 that are very up to date: Home
 

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Discussion Starter #9
So cool to see the other MFT lovers popping in! There is something very special about the breed.

I've never been one to trick train, unless you count teaching the walkers to park out and I did manage to teach one horse to say 'yes'.
Anyways I've always wanted to be able to ask my horse to lay down and Magnus is way taller than I'm used to, so I am now two days into teaching him (and myself). Does anyone follow Sam Van Fleet on youtube with her mustangs? She has a wonderful video tutorial and she made the steps super easy so even I can stick to them. I am filming our progress so I will definitely share that in the coming weeks. I have no idea how long it will take, but hopefully eventually I will be able to proudly post our achievement. LOL.

Pictures in order should be Magnus working in the arena a few days ago, you can see his winter curls are starting to come in.
The champagne MFT is the other one I have from the same breeder but entirely different bloodlines.
The picture of him dragging the sled was take at the beginning of September.
Magnus always makes funny faces. I have so many pictures of him smiling or smirking.
 

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Thank you for the wonderful advice!! So far he does not seem to present many clinical signs.
I had a boarder's horse here who was PSSM1, same as yours n/P1 and he was 7 or 8 years old, had never tied up. She came out and rode him every single day, either in arena or out on trail, and one night after her ride I noticed he was having trouble getting down to his feed pan. Picture a horse all set up to eat his bucket but, instead of demolishing his feed as he normally did, he was rocking and stretching down trying to get his head down to the feed. I went over and felt him and found the rigidity asked him to walk away a few steps and he was very reluctant. Gave him some Banamine and in 15 mins, he was right as rain. Ate his dinner gladly and has never had another episode. She pulled hair and had him tested and that's how we found out and got confirmation that he was PSSM1. I took him off Strategy which has a higher NSC content, and put him on Ultium Compete and he's been fine ever since. Since then I've met and owned several with PSSM1 and not a problem. Sounds like you've got this boys best interests at heart and you're not being a "helicopter mom", just being diligent about his care.
 

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I had a Paint mare I leased and she had Pssm type 1. She was thin and difficult to put weight on. Despite the proper diet (high fat, high protein, low sugar), she never felt very good under saddle and she finally tied up badly enough that I called her owner and had her picked up. The owner was not aware she was pssm and had planned to breed her (maybe even did breed her, I don't know).


She was a deadhead, non-spooky, very calm and had a lovely personality. However, I doubt she will ever be a normal healthy horse. Now she could have had a double copy of the pssm 1 gene. I don't know. But I would never want another horse with that disease. The day she tied up I had called the emergency vet because I thought she was going to drop dead- she was staggering around with her head to the ground and her abdomen tucked up. Her owner didn't want the vet up and said she would come get her.



My current paint is probably type 2 pssm, but I have not had a muscle biopsy done to confirm. :frown_color: I believe the difficulty in cantering is more common in type 2 pssm. She never could hold the canter without swapping leads. For many years I thought she was just lame behind, until she started having episodes of tying up. :shrug: It is not a fun disease- my mare has gone down on trail rides and usually takes 20-30 minutes to recover. For the most part it is manageable. I find high heat and humidity is a huge trigger for her. If it is hot outside, she gets 20 minutes of walking and is done for the day.



I also suspect she has more than one issue (pssm type 2 and arthritis) or maybe kissing spines even though her back is never sore. Or perhaps the muscle stiffness is making her look lame, I really don't know. After spending a fortune on vets trying to chase down the issue, I finally bought myself a sound and healthy foxtrotter.



There are many different muscle diseases (RER, Pssm type 2 and MFM) and they all have a large variability in presentation. Some horses do okay despite the disease, others are non-functional. Just be aware your horse may be okay for years, until he isn't. My mare with type 2 pssm, never really had an issue until we started getting insane heat waves in the summer- I also cannot discount the possibility that the disease gets worse as they age. It is possible the damage is cumulative.



While my mare isn't the definition of sound, she isn't really painful and is more than happy to go out and explore. Unless she has an episode (which is about 1-2x yearly).



A heartbreaking video on type 2 pssm. I don't believe most horses become neurological with the disease like this one did. My mare just can't hold the canter- even as a 2 year old.





And here is my mare at the canter- as you can see she switches leads behind, then I correct her and she tries to get the correct lead, but loses it again. If I could only get her sound she would be phenomenal at flying changes because she really does try to get the correct lead when I ask. Unless she ties up that is the extent of the problem, but when she does tie-up she can't walk, move, and sometimes goes down (which is very terrifying for the rider). She always warns me when she feels bad and it is a matter of recognizing the symptoms before she gets worse. I like to ride bareback because you can feel the muscles start getting tight, long before there is any issue. She loses speed and slows way down and that is another warning sign something is wrong.



A consistent exercise program really helps- but how many people can ride 2-3 hours a day? She really needs hours of exercise to feel better, every single day.



 

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I had a MFT mare that switched leads like that at the canter. I though it was just because she was a gaited horse and had trouble because she could also be a bit pacey at times.......and people always tell you gaited horses have trouble cantering if they are laterally gaited. So........gee, I wonder how many gaited horse cantering issues are actually PSSM? Scary thought, I had no idea. My older mare in question never tied up that I ever noticed, but it does make you wonder.

I even had a name for the gait.......her canter-pace, because it was like she was swapping her back legs into a pace even though she was cantering. I thought it was her switching in and out of gaits. And maybe it was.....or maybe not. It felt a lot like Harmony's gait looks.
 

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Some horses are very pacey - think of Standardbreds that are bred to pace instead of canter. Some gaited horses have trouble with the canter and might canter in the front and pace behind. It's not the same as pssm. It just means that they are too gaited to canter.
 

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@4horses, that video was very powerful. I am so sad for that poor girl. I hope lots of people watch that video. And I hope Harmony's pssm can be controlled.
 

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@4horses, that video was very hard hitting, more so than many of the videos I have seen. When Karlo starting displaying Ataxia, it really reminded me of my gelding Boe when his Wobblers progressed. PSSM is a brutal disease and I sincerely echo this young woman's plea to breeders, get your horses tested. How many did Magnus's breeder breed with this disease and how many people don't even know their horse is a carrier? I wouldn't even have known if this third party hadn't reached out to me.
@trailhorserider, yes some horses are very pacey and cannot pick up or hold the canter, BUT knowing PSSM is in the MFT breed, that is something I would test to find out. Especially when you consider the very nature of a Fox Trot gait. It is the only diagonal easy gait (a trot in the back and a walk in the front, to but it very simply), therefore it should be easier for them to canter then a horse with a very lateral gait like a pacing standardbred. Now there are always extremes to the breed, I'm sure there are pacey MFT out there who can't pick up a canter, and there are square ones who can't pace or hold an easy gait. It's the same with Walking Horses, RMH/KMH, etc but that's besides the point.

I am very aware that PSSM is progressive and I am very lucky that my horse doesn't display classic clinical symptoms. I am aware that he may eventually, but I am going to enjoy every day I have with him until I can't anymore.

It was unseasonably warm here today so I spent as much time riding as I could. A friend trailered over and all of us spent a few hours riding in the pastures. The dogs had a blast and even went for a November swim in the dugouts. My friend's mare had a bit of a melt down when my dogs were running through dry reeds. They were near invisible but made a very strange, dry, crackling sound. My husband was riding a green TWH gelding, it was only his third trail ride and here he was coaching my friend through her mare's meltdown. Magnus is so level headed he isn't phased by much. Once her mare emptied her cup as Warwick Schiller would say, the rest of the ride was pretty relaxed.

I snuck ahead a few times to enjoy Magnus's gait. He does a classic head shaking, teeth clacking flat walk and power walk. After that he likes to into a rack or saddle gait, depending on what you want to call it. It's super smooth, there is no hip action back and forth like a big moving TWH, nor is there the one-two-one-two in the hips from the fox trot (that's the best way I can think to describe it). My husband's young gelding has a real swinging gait but can't hold the flat walk for long yet before breaking into a pace. I see lots of hills in his future!

All the horses were pretty sweaty by the time we got home from the warm weather and their thicker coats. I was really hoping this would be my secret weapon to encourage Magnus to lay down on cue, but no such luck. He responded to all of my cues appropriately but we have yet to connect the dots.
 

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We woke up to snow today! First real load of the white stuff in our area this year. It's been so nice the past couple weeks I was really hoping it would stay that way. Still, it wasn’t really cold at all so my husband, myself and his daughter got dressed and caught our horses for a morning ride. Everything started out alright, but Magnus was really sliding with his back feet if we were in short grass. Most of the pastures are covered with thick, long grass unless we were on the lease road.

Actually as soon as I led him out of the barn his back feet slid on the wet cement near the entrance. I was looking ahead to get the next gate but I heard the sliding and then I saw Magnus bounding into the air and out of the barn. He had all four feet off the ground at one point. Husband was behind us and he said Magnus’s back feet slid and it must have scared him, hence the bounding leap out of the barn.

This happened again when we tried to venture onto the lease road and it was like he had skis on his back feet. They slid forward, he spooked, then his front slid, it was like the snowball effect! We somehow managed to get back into the thick grass and get ourselves together. I stayed in the thick grass after that and he didn’t slip anymore. However we kept getting blocked along our favourite routes because the snow was covering standing water/ice. There was a lot of stopping and backing up, or turning and disengaging in tight spots. He was getting cranky with the contact and direction; I was tense worrying about him slipping. So not fun anymore.

It has also been a struggle finding a bit that works with him. I’ve spent a lot of time doing softening exercises with a low port Myler snaffle in the summer and we were making progress, but since he’s been back I’ve been dabbling with different bits and all on the trail. Today I put him back in the Myler and he was clearly not happy. He would gape his mouth, lean on the bit, just generally the opposite of soft and supple. He had his teeth done in March. I’m going to try a hackamore next time.

I felt a little defeated when we got home because a lot of what he does can be equated to normal horse things, but then people say horses with PSSM do those things too (like not accepting contact). It is frustrating not knowing when or if he is struggling with normal horse things or his disease. I don't want to school him when in it isn't a training issue, but I don't want to say "Oh it's his pssm" every time either and end up with a monster on my hands.

I've done a lot of digging into Magnus's pedigree since I was told he went back to Curly Jim. This name doesn't actually show on his papers, but if you follow his bloodline on All Breed Pedigree, you can find Curly Jim on his lineage. On his papers there are two spots with the title "saddle horse". I was able to find on All Breed Pedigree that one of those horses is Curly Jim. He was one of two horses of unknown ancestry brought from Tennessee to Missouri. Both stallions were gaited and curly with conformation similar to a MFT. One of the horses died, but Curly Jim survived and was bred like crazy to the local MFT. Magnus's line is a bit different because it does not include Walker's Prince T., who was a grandson of Curly Jim and used extensively to breed gaited curly horses.

On another exciting note, I put a deposit down on a five month old TWH colt from Montana. He's a chestnut sabino with old time bloodlines, which is quite different from my other walkers. Very excited for this little guy!
 

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Not too much to update on lately. I've been really busy with work so Magnus has gotten some time off in the pasture. The best part about doing chores is him greeting me at the fence every time. He has a very deep nicker, I just love it. It sounds like it rumbles deep from his belly, especially when I'm reaching for the pitchfork.

My little colt from Montana arrived on Tuesday afternoon. I think the little guy was bone weary from travelling so much. His trip took quite a bit longer then expected and he had to lay over at a barn in Montana for four days. The shipper warned us that he was quite head shy and hard to catch, but once you had him he was good.

I led him to his new pen and then when I reached up to take his halter off, he spooked big time. I wasn't ready for it and he took off with the lead rope dragging. You think he wanted me to catch him after that? Yeah right. Probably felt pretty good to stretch his legs too. Eventually I was able to walk up to him and ask him to look at me by rubbing my coat or my mitts together. Every time he faced me I would back up a step or two. This really worked as he started to step toward me. With some patience I was able to get my hands on the dragging lead rope without any more dramatics. This time I gradually worked my way up to the halter and was able to undo it and take the halter off without him spooking.

I picked up some foal feed for him in town today. I am not above bribing him to like me. He ate the handful I gave him from the bowl in my arms. I was able to stroke his face and down his neck without holding onto him. His bloodlines are known to be very calm and easy to train. I'm pretty confident that a lot of this spooky and reactive behaviour is from the trauma of being taken away from the only home he's known.

His name is Boss and for good reason. I had him in with a very gentle five year old gelding but it seemed as if the gelding ballooned overnight from the extra feed we put in their pen for the colt. Obviously this free feeding thing in a smaller enclosure isn't a good idea for Nashville. Husband and I decided to swap out the gelding for a yearling colt who could stand to be on free feed with Boss. The yearling tried to push Boss but there was no way the little guy was going to let that happen. He stood up for himself and put knocked poor Ash down a peg or two. It will be interesting to see if Boss can keep up that dynamic. I hope to see more of that side of him in the years ahead. I want a confident, bold trail horse!

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Eventually I was able to walk up to him and ask him to look at me by rubbing my coat or my mitts together. Every time he faced me I would back up a step or two. This really worked as he started to step toward me. With some patience I was able to get my hands on the dragging lead rope without any more dramatics.

This is such a smart and terrific way to teach a reluctant horse to be caught! I wish everyone would read your journal!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Eventually I was able to walk up to him and ask him to look at me by rubbing my coat or my mitts together. Every time he faced me I would back up a step or two. This really worked as he started to step toward me. With some patience I was able to get my hands on the dragging lead rope without any more dramatics.

This is such a smart and terrific way to teach a reluctant horse to be caught! I wish everyone would read your journal!
Thank you! 😊
 

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The weather was amazing today and I think we took full advantage of it! Husband and I used a couple of green horses to bring our main herd in from their gigantic pasture. It was actually really fun and a good experience for the horses we were on. What a tough sell to ask these youngsters to push some of our older, very established herd members. The babies in the herd thought it was really fun to see horses coming across the field to them. Everyone kept their cool when the herd doubled back on us and took off bucking and running. Husband really pushed his mount out of his shell to get ahead and turn the herd back around. By the time we got the horses through the pasture, into our yard and ultimately into the corral, everyone looked like they did this everyday.

Boss has been getting much friendlier with me. I go in a couple times during the day to visit him, one of those times I bring some foal feed with me. I hold the pan while he eats. I no longer have to get his attention to face up with me. He didn't balk at my hand once today and I was even able to stroke down his neck, to his shoulder and back. I'm not trying to halter him yet, I want him to stand still on his own while I rub and scratch him.

The best part of the day was going out on a long trail ride with Magnus. The snow is light and fluffy so the horses seem to float through it. We saw a bunch of deer and tire tracks from the Hollywood hunters. Our dogs were all sporting blazing orange vests, just in case. What else can I say, the ride was great. Magnus was hitting his smooth gaits and his teeth were clacking with his rhythm. We were on loose rein the whole time and he was super responsive to riding off my leg and seat. After we got back I once again asked him to lay down, hoping a good roll would feel great after his workout. He popped his back legs like he was going to go for it and he kept his nose to the ground all on his own so I was pretty pleased with that. There is no time limit to get this, he has all the cues, we just haven't put the whole "why" of it together yet. Maybe by the spring I can spray some water on his back to encourage him to really go all the way and lay down for me.

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