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Discussion Starter #1
I’ve been posting a lot on this forum, and I’ve decided it’s time for a little introduction. I also want to use this as an actual journal, to track what I’ve been doing with my horses. Advance warning: it’s not going to have the exciting cliffhangers or emotional pull that a lot of people’s journals do.

First, for the journal part. I had two really tough lessons on Wednesday and Thursday, so although I had a lesson scheduled for today I just went out early and rode my pony bareback in the pasture. The way the pasture where he lives is set up is like a giant, 40-acre “L” with the barn and arenas at the top. The last time I rode him out there was several months ago, because it’s been so rainy that the pastures were all a big bog and I didn’t think it was right to ask him to carry me in those conditions. I had been working on riding him down the short side of the “L” to the corner. He has been a little hesitant about me riding him out there by myself, so we had been getting a little closer to that corner each time (yes, they were very short rides).

Today, however, he seemed really willing, so we went out to the corner, past the corner, turned, and rode all of the short sides of the L. Then I rode him up the hill and along the back property line. That area, from the fence and about 10 feet in, is clear, but there’s a wooded area between it and the main pasture, and although I’ve found him back there by himself in the past, he was a little hesitant to go with me on him, and he kept trying to turn back. I told him I’d let him turn back down the big hill. When we got about halfway up that hill I asked for a trot but, schockingly, got a canter (one of my pony’s nicknames is pokey pony, so him moving faster than wanted is almost unheard of). It was amazing, if short lived (he took about 10 strides and then stopped like, “whoa, why was I running?”) So now I can say I’ve cantered bareback. I gave him his head down the steep and rocky hill to get back to the main pasture, then we walked and trotted back. I was super happy with him.

Then I pulled my daughter’s mare out of the pasture, walked her to a stall, fed her, picked off and treated her rain rot, then took her back to the pasture. I’m working on leading her without a halter, and she did all of this without a halter, staying with me except when she veered off to get some water. She’s a very smart horse who learns really quickly, unlike some ponies I could mention. Of course I gave her a cookie once we got out to the pasture.

Finally, I got the new guy out. I’ve only been working with him for a month, so I don’t expect him to follow me without a halter. I do have him walking to me in the pasture to be haltered, so that’s a start. He had apparently been progressively worse with the farrier, to the point of rearing and kicking the last time he was seen, so when I held him yesterday and he was really good, just making a worried face a couple of times but coming back to me when I asked, I told him that today I would just pull him and feed him and put him back.

BUT when the barn owner saw his wound (he had apparently been kicked in the pasture, and the wound was developing proud flesh), she told me to treat it again (I already treated it the last two days), and then I showed her another wound and she wanted me to treat that also. I had to pick off the scabs, wash, and apply “Wonder Dust.” He didn’t like it, but he was pretty good about it. Then I took him back to the pasture and stood there with him for a few minutes and took off his halter and gave him a cookie. I decided to smell him.

When I first started working with him I smelled him to see what I thought (yes, I’m weird like that) and he didn’t really have a smell. Now he has a nice smell! So then since I was already there I decided to hug him (I hadn’t tried that with him yet because I’m trying to take things really slowly as he is an anxious, worried horse). Not only did he tolerate it, he actually leaned into it! My daughter says he was just looking for more cookies, and maybe that’s true, but I’ll take what I can get.
:loveshower:
 

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Subbing! I can already tell that I'm going to love this journal!! :D
 
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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Now, to introduce myself a little. How did I go from just starting trail rides in February to owning two (now three) horses? Obviously, lack of common sense, poor planning ability, willingness to ignore the imperatives of my budget, and listening to my heart rather than my head all played a big part.

In February we were planning a family trip to Europe. One thing I wanted to do was some “trail riding” in Scotland. All of the places I looked at, however, had pretty strict requirements about what level of experience was acceptable for which rides, and all of the rides that matched my level of experience (“I rode horses for a while when I was a kid”) sounded really boring. So I decided to get some riding experience. Going by Yelp ratings, I picked a place that was in a small town about an hour’s drive from us. The plan was to try a ride and if we liked it we (me, my husband, and our daughter) would ride weekly for the next couple of months in order to get our level of experience up.

Most trail riding places bill themselves as “not your average trail ride” and “not just nose to tail trail rides,” and yet … they are. But, this place (PM me if you want more info) really WAS that “not your average trail rides” place. Even in our first ride, we were expected to control our horses ourselves. On the second ride, she had us breaking off and doing 20 meter circles, one after the other. Then doing the same thing trotting. All kinds of work where we really had to actually make the horses do something that they didn’t necessarily want to do.

We soon added a second, weekday, lesson for my daughter and me. I found a pony that I really liked to ride. He was young, green, stubborn, and full of trouble (crow hopping, little rears, head tossing, biting and kicking the other horses while I was riding him, you name it), BUT on some rides the two of us totally meshed, and it seemed like I just had to THINK what I wanted and he would do it. Not to mention he was sweet and snuggly and smelled amazing. My daughter found a mare that she liked to ride. This mare was super on the ground, very respectful, and seemed pretty much bombproof, but she also really liked to go. When ridden, she required a firm hand.

Fast forward to mid-March, and this lady tells us she’s planning on selling both of these horses. At the time, I was completely ignorant about selling horses, and I thought that if she was selling them that must mean someone was willing to buy them. After a lot of thought, I figured that I could buy the pony and board him with her and keep riding him. Then my daughter was like, “But I love this horse, why can you buy one for you and not one for me?” Then the owner told us she’d give me a discount if I bought both. I thought and thought about it, and prayed about it, and my daughter agreed to do extra chores in order to help for the horse’s board, and then in April I told her yes. We finalized the sale in April, and I now owned two horses. So here I was, two months of trail rides separating me from total horse ignorance, the owner of two horses. Now all I had to do was actually LEARN about horses.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
And… one step back

Because that’s how it is. Or maybe it isn’t, for people who have really well-trained horses or are super awesome horsepeople who can cut out the behavior before it starts. Neither of those applies to me.

Went for my daughter’s lesson today. Lesson pony had to be dragged out of the pasture. I decided to ride my pony out in the pasture again, but even before we got out the gate I could tell he was having a pony day. Lots of “no no no” attitude. Then of course he wouldn’t stand still at the mounting block. After I backed him up a few times he was OK. It probably didn’t help that we passed his buddy (my daughter’s horse) in the pasture and then left her behind. He kept wanting to turn around. There was lots of fighting! And making tiny circles! I was bareback again, and I learned that even with his level-one pony tricks I can stay on no problem. Which is good to know when and if he starts tossing out level-two pony tricks. He really, really, really didn’t want to go back behind the forest again, so I decided to cut my losses and make him go somewhere else he didn’t want to go, but didn’t feel as strongly about (if that makes sense). So we went to the tree that is the outpost of the forest, did a circle around it, and came back. We trotted a little on the way back, and that was pretty good.

At my daughter’s last lesson, her horse had been acting up, which is fairly out of character for her. I was informed today that she had also acted up when they put one of their better team riders on her. I asked the barn owner to check her back, which she did, and there didn’t seem to be any problems. We know the saddle fits, and she’s just had her teeth floated. The barn owner wanted my daughter to hop on her in order to show her what to do when the horse is doing this (throwing her head up and to the side) so she did. The horse was fine except when asked to trot, then the attitude came back. So my daughter worked on that technique and then just rode her a lot at the walk. She rode her bareback with just the halter and lead rope tied like reins, so that was pretty cool.

I brought the new horse in to try saddles on him (I’m planning on riding him for the first time tomorrow). I was surprised that the saddle that actually seemed to fit him best was my pony’s saddle. They aren’t too different size wise (pony is 14.2 hands exactly and this guy is maybe 14.3, and this guy is a broad-built quarter horse) but my pony has a broader back and no withers. But the saddle fit the new guy great with a wither relief pad. So maybe I won’t have to buy yet another new saddle! Also, the barn owner gave me his “bridle.” It’s a decrepit old western-type hackmore thing. Of course he is way overdue for the vet (vet is coming next week) so she didn’t want me riding him in a bit until he gets his teeth floated. He was a free horse, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that he’s overdue for everything. Also, I’m not complaining – he’s a sweetheart and I enjoy spending time with him.

My pony likes to be in the middle of all the action, quite literally in this case! He was just standing there watching everyone running around him. Eventually they had to shoo him off, but luckily I got this picture first!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I had my first ride on Teddy, the new horse. I spent the last month working with him on the ground, building trust and a relationship, and I think that was a really good idea! He has only been ridden once in the last three months, and the last time he was ridden before that he had some kind of breakdown. He seemed pretty nervous about the whole riding thing. I thought about it later, and it felt like he thought he was walking on icy patches, like he was super worried and didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing, didn’t know where to put his feet, didn’t understand what I was asking. Part of that is probably that I was riding him in a weird hackamore-type thing instead of a normal bridle because his teeth need to be floated (the earliest the vet could come out is next week). BUT…. There is definitely a lot of work that needs to be done! The way I wanted to approach riding him was to act like we are restarting him, so I only rode him for 15 minutes, until he seemed like he was doing a good job but maybe just starting to get a little extra worried, then hopped off and gave him a lot of praise.

I need to figure out the logistics of three horses. I’ve got both of my other two trained to come when called (usually LOL), follow me into the “inside” part of the facility, go to the stalls that I’ve indicated, and wait for me to feed them (and groom and tack up if I’m riding). I bring them both in each time, if they both want to come in (they usually do, since it means food), let them eat, and then take out whoever I don’t want. They’ve got the routine down pretty well, especially my daughter’s mare. I’m afraid that adding a third horse to the mix is going to be difficult, and I’m not quite sure how to do it yet. Although … now that I think about it, it will certainly be easier bringing in three horses at a time if they don’t need to be on lead ropes. If I could get just the new guy and my daughter’s mare for a while, I think that would be easier since she is pretty level-headed, whereas my pony is super excitable and always just makes things worse.

For the ride yesterday, I was basically joining my daughter’s private lesson, so we needed her horse and my new guy, but not my pony. So my plan was to hide in the barn and ask her to just go get her horse. If my pony sees me, it’s pretty much over, because he will have to come in, but I wasn’t sure we had time to do that today. She was successful, and then I was really happy to find my new guy at the gate just waiting for me! I don’t know if it’s just coincidence, but I have never seen him over there by himself just waiting – did he somehow know I was here? I didn’t have my halter when I saw him over there, but I decided just to try to bring him in by asking him to follow me. To my surprise, he did great. I asked him to focus on my hand and made the sort of “tch tch” noises you make to cue a horse to walk, and he followed right along. We went to my car, where I got his feed out, and he got a little excitable at that point and we had to slow down a little, but I got him into a grooming stall just fine. I led him out without the halter after my lesson, and he had a little harder time staying focused, but I did have some cookies with me so that helped.

When I got him back out in the pasture, my pony was there waiting. I was happy to see him, of course, but it was a little awkward. The two of them didn’t seem to really know how to behave when they were together with me. They sort of touched noses a couple of times, but then I got worried it might escalate, so I stepped back but they both wanted to follow me. I’ll have to think about how I want to handle this.

Finally, after I had put all of my stuff away, I noticed that my pony was “working” the gate, which is just closed with a looped chain. Sure enough, the gate popped open and he got out into the front area. I rounded him up and put him back and secured the chain more tightly. Then I had some questions to ask the trainer, and while we were finishing up I saw he had gotten the gate open again! She said that from her point of view she doesn’t mind if he’s out in the front, because he gets along fine with everyone, but the problem is he doesn’t close the gate behind him and then all the others get out. They were already eying the gate, too. So we just left him out front but secured the gate with a halter. He only does this when he knows I’m there, which I guess is better than if he always did it. But the trainer thinks we may need to start using a latch on that gate permanently, which is unfortunate since just having it chained is a lot easier for everyone.

That night I emailed the barn owner and asked her to write up the contract – I will take him. He’s not perfect by far, but he’s just so sweet and full of try that I feel like he deserves to be a one-person horse and have someone he can depend on. I can’t believe nobody would pay for this horse.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I will admit that I was somewhat trying to impress my husband and daughter when I told them each that I was going to be riding two horses in my lesson today. I mean, that requires some mental gymnastics and the ability to turn off one way of being and turn on another (these horses have very different needs and abilities). But my husband and daughter each said, separately, “You mean, like at the same time? With one foot on each one?” And took all the wind out of my sails.

When I got there, both guys were already out front. I guess naughty pony was still out from when he got out last time, but I’m not sure how the new guy (Teddy) got out. I feel kind of good that he was out there, though. First, it was a lot more convenient than having to go get him, and second before I got him he never wanted to come out front. I’m hoping that it means that he’s starting to associate being up front with good things (like me!).

Last lesson, Teddy had had problems at the mounting block. He would line up fine, but once I got up he would turn his head toward me and thus turn his butt away from me and no longer be square. After a few “nos” it seemed like he wasn’t going to get it so I asked the instructor to hold him for me. I feel like because of his bad experiences, he needs a lot of easy wins and a lot of getting things right, so I didn’t want to keep having him do it wrong. This time I brought cookies, broke it down into small steps, and rewarded him for each correct step. He got it no problem. Even after I got on, he just stood there. That was great. I’ll reinforce next time and then hopefully be done with that issue.

He was SO MUCH more relaxed this time. This was another great thing, for two reasons: (1) obviously we want him to be relaxed and (2) I could FEEL that he was more relaxed. I think I’ve got a good feel for horses on the ground – I can see the subtle shift of weight, the slight change in gaze, what the rest of the face / ears are telling me, etc. But I was just telling my instructor after our last ride that I don’t think I’ve got a feel for these things in the saddle. So it was nice that I could tell. She agreed he was a LOT more relaxed but noted that he kept one eye on her the whole time. Not sure why – was he worried about her, was he waiting for her to cue him? Anyway, we had a great ride. We learned that he isn’t too good at moving his hindquarters over (I had actually noticed this on the ground) so that’s something we’ll be working on for our next ride. I can also work on this on the ground, when I’m grooming him and such. He was super willing and did what I wanted, even when he was obviously a little worried about it.

Next I rode “no pony” (that turns out to be his nickname for today). He was in fine form, rooting, tossing his head, refusing every single thing. I had to get the dressage whip out, but at least I only had to use it a couple of times. Then someone started welding in the trailer that was maybe 30 feet from the arena, and all of the horses that were out there started running around. Pony didn’t seem to really mind the welding itself, but the other horses got him all worked up. I feel like I’m a decent enough rider now to sit this sort of stuff out, so rather than worrying about calming him I asked him to transfer all of this energy into actually moving forward in a nice way. No go. He decided that maybe he didn’t care if everyone else was running around or not. But we decided to call it a day pretty soon anyway, because it was pretty distracting and we got him to do one thing well.

When I put him back out in the pasture, he didn’t want to stand around and hang out at all, he just walked away. That’s pretty unusual for him. Then Teddy also didn’t want a hug, so boo hoo I didn’t get any horse love today. I called my daughter’s horse in and fed her, did a couple of barn chores, took her back out, and that was my day.

So, riding Teddy was really good, but the rest was just “meh.” I will keep focusing on the positive and thinking about how to fix the negative.

ETA: for anyone who's actually reading this (!) I am open to suggestions or comments about anything I'm posting.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Here is a lesson that I have learned from having three horses: the more horses you have and the more you do with them, the less time you have to write about it! Also the more you have, the more you have to work to support them, and that takes the rest of the time.

My daughter’s mare never liked being in the round pen, and for the past month she’s been acting up in the dressage arena (smaller arena) also. We switched her from her hackamore to a bitted bridle but that didn’t really help. We got her to where she’s OK at the walk, but when trotting she throws her shoulder out and pulls her head down because she doesn’t want to stay on the wall. For yesterday’s lesson (with my daughter riding) we went in the big arena and she did much better. The instructor noted how much more relaxed she seemed. So we’ll try to stay in there for now, I think.

I rode my new horse, Teddy, in the same lesson (this was my daughter’s private lesson, but now I’m hogging in on her time LOL). He seemed a lot happier in the big arena also – last time I rode him in the dressage arena and I felt like I was having to kick him along the whole time. This time he stepped out with a nice big swinging step from the get-go. He’s also getting better with the leg yields. For a horse as supposedly well-trained as he was, he’s had a really hard time with leg yields. So I’ve been working with him on the ground by asking him to move over a lot when I’m tacking and grooming him. And, of course, praise praise praise when he does what I want. His leg yields were beautiful yesterday!

I’ve only been riding him for two weeks now, and we were going to give him a month of just walking, but he was doing so well that we decided to see how he’d do on a very short trot. Keeping in mind that he hadn’t ben trotted in several months. So I got him to a place where I wanted to start, cued him, and … for one long second it was like he was holding his breath, trying to decide what I was asking or what he was supposed to be doing, but then he moved out into an absolutely gorgeous smooth floaty trot. We trotted the long and short side of the arena, and then let him be done for the day. I’m so happy with the progress he’s making, and I feel really good that I spent a month just getting to know him on the ground and building that relationship before really asking anything of him. I feel like he trusts me and is willing to do what I ask, even if he’s a little unsure of the whole thing.

So, that left me feeling all warm and fuzzy, as I slowly went to put the tack and grooming stuff away. Then, as I lazily looked out of the barn, I saw … no, it couldn’t be … my pony, Gallego, had once again escaped from the pasture and was wandering around the front area. It was getting dark by the time and my instructor was OK leaving him out there (they usually have a few horses out there anyway) but of course I had to go and close the gate and make sure no one else had gotten out. I am sure he only does this when I’m here, because I never get there and find him wandering around the front and no one has ever said anything to me. I think he does it because he sees me and thinks about how I pull him out and feed him out there, so he gets excited and works the gate until it opens. Anyway. I rolled down the car window and yelled “you’re a naughty pony” at him as I left. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t seem to care about my opinion whatsoever. Ponies!
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Teddy and I had a difficult lesson on Friday. I violated one of the principles I had when starting on him: don't change up more than one thing at a time. We rode in the "outside" arena (it's a regular arena that doesn't have a fence) AND tried a couple of low jumps. He actually did great over the jumps (he has jumped low jumps in the past) because he understood what I wanted and he knew he could do it. And I should add, I've only jumped a couple of times ever, and that was on point and shoot lesson horses. I have no idea how to measure distances, count strides, push at the right time, etc. But Teddy took care of it all for me! No hesitation, no thoughts of ducking out or stopping, just straight down the middle and over. But being "outside" made him really edgy, and I had a hard time keeping him under control.

Next time I ride him, I'll ride him out there again. Got to get him used to it. I'll make some ground pole series to make things nicer for him. (He loves ground poles. He does still have anxiety, and I think every time I ride him he feels like someone with test anxiety --"what are they going to ask me? What if I don't know the answers? Will someone yell at me?"-- but when he sees a series of ground poles he's like "Yes! This is the question that I studied! I absolutely know the answer to this! I go over them!") Hopefully he can stay focused on the ground poles and not worry about the lack of fences ("where do I go???")

Also wanted to add that last week my daughter rode him for the first time in a lesson, and he did so well with her. You could just tell how hard he was trying to do the right thing. You could see the anxiety build up occasionally, but he didn't need me there (OK, I was on the other side of the fence, but I was also off doing things around the barn also) to calm down. The instructor told me later that she remembered how difficult he had been last summer, and she couldn't believe how much better he was doing now.

One reason I finally got around to posting another journal entry is to add a picture the barn owner took of Teddy and me today. This is the horse that, when I started working with him in late fall, I couldn't even approach if I had cookies in my hand. Does he still have that anxiety? Yes, even though it's getting better. Does he trust me, though? I would say Yes!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Today was a day of new things.

I took Teddy out to the outside arena to work on his anxiety out there. He was worried at first, but then settled down and even dropped his head quite a bit, but that was all at the walk. Once we started trotting, he got really anxious again. I don’t think it helped that I kept getting off him to re-adjust the trot poles (I thought they were the right distance apart, but he kept entering at a slow trot and exiting at a canter), and eventually he was like, “But you got OFF! We’re DONE!” I ended up taking him in the other big arena and just doing a lot of circles and serpentines to get his mind off the anxiety. But I wasn’t really happy with how the outdoor arena had gone, so I decided to make him do a little more work.

First, I opened a gate off him. This was the first time I’ve successfully opened a gate off any horse, and he was still a little worked up too, so I’m happy that we got it done. It helped that he really wanted to go through that gate, so once I unlatched it, I basically just let him push it open it himself.

Then we went across the creek of doom (which is about 20 feet wide and probably six inches deep at its deepest, but the horses still mostly hate it). He has always been really worried about crossing this stream, and I’ve actually only gotten him across it once, and that was leading him; but the new place has no streams and I really wanted to do this with him so he’d have the experience. So I made him go over. It took some time, but we did it. Then we even rode up the road a bit (which I didn’t think he would do) and came back. So he got “good boy”s for that.

Due to some poor choices on my part, Pony and Moonshine were way out in the front over the creek. I called them and they didn’t come, so I was going to have to go across the creek myself and get them. I went over, but I decided that I would not walk back over it. So I put Moonshine in her halter, then put Pony in his halter, managed to hop on him while not losing her halter, and rode him bareback ponying her, across the creek. This was new to all of us, in one way or another: I’ve never ridden a horse with a halter and lead rope and been able to really make them do what I wanted, I’d never ponied a horse, Pony had never ponied a horse (he has been ponied), and Moonshine has never been ponied (she has been ponied off, though). Really, it would have made more sense to get on Moonshine and do it, since she’s also a lot bigger and stronger than Pony, and they’ve done it that way before, but I was getting on bareback in the pasture, and I don’t think I would have been able to do it on her. Anyway, we did it! It was trickier than I thought it would be, but Pony did a really good job for me. He didn’t kick Moonshine when she was on his butt, didn’t go too fast (mostly), let himself be steered mostly with legs, was really calm about the whole thing, and went over the creek without a second thought. I gave him cookies afterwards.

I had been hoping to really RIDE Pony today, and in fact I had gotten out all of his tack, but it took a while to get them back and I was so happy with how he did that I thought I’d let him be done for the day. I still think he’s more of a *potentially* awesome pony than an *actually* awesome pony, but I feel like more and more now I’m seeing the actual awesomeness and not just glimpses of potential.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
This first part is really more about me than my horses.

Barn "owner" (I guess she's actually a barn renter) is in the process of moving to a new barn. She was moving the horses in stages. On Thursday I rode Chance out at the new place. I have ridden him twice at the old place. From what she said, he had either not been ridden there or had been ridden only once. The weather was changing and he was "up." He's a OTTB and is a lot hotter than what I have been riding, as well as being a very reactive horse. When I first got on him, he was as nervous as could be and ready to get worked up over anything. He mind was everywhere but on me. So I focused on being very calm (I am typically a calm rider, but him being this "up" had made me a little nervous) and on asking him to do a lot of work that required paying attention to me: little circles, serpentines, surprise changes of direction. This is what I do with Pony when he is not paying attenion, although Pony doesn't have the personality to absolutely take off on me like Chance does. But it worked really well. I asked him for these things, and praised him when he did them, and bit by bit I saw his ear swinging back to me, and I could feel him relax. I even worked up to trotting him, although I hadn't planned on it when I got on, and he did well. Then we went to the covered arena, where he had never been. The covered arena has mirrors on one side. I guess he had never seen mirrors. He did not like them, and started to get nervous again. But I did the same stuff as before, adding that every time we approached the mirror side we had to get a little closer to the mirrors. After 5-10 minutes he had totally settled down. Then one of the horses in a neighboring paddock started panicking over something and he didn't like that too much, but I kept him working and he stayed focused on hm. I felt really good because I was able to take a horse with a very different temperment than what I usually ride, and work to calm him down.

We moved our horses today. Barn owner wanted us to bring them across the creek rather than bringing the trailer over, I think to keep the other few remaining horses from realizing what was going on (it was going to be their turn next). The funny thing is, my daughter could NOT get Moonshine over the creek. And Pony started freaking out as soon as we left him (I wanted to take Teddy because he is the most anxious, and of course my daughter wanted to take Moonshine because she's her horse). It was like when you want to take the cats to the vet -- they KNOW! I got Teddy over to the trailer, but the guy who was hauling us was still banging around on the outside of it, making sure everything was connected. Teddy reared when I asked him to get in, which surprised me since I've walked him on a trailer before with little problem. Maybe it was the banging. Anyway, barn owner said she wanted to load Moonshine first now since Moonshine is the calmest of all of them. So I had to go back, take Teddy back over the creek (I didn't mention he didn't really want to go over it the first time), give him to my daughter, and make Moonshine cross. If Moonshine were a timid horse, if she had never seen this creek before, if she hadn't crossed it dozens of times both ridden and by herself, I might have taken a gentle approach with her, but I think she was just being stubborn. So I gave her halter a good couple of tugs and told her to move it, and she did.

When it came to the trailer, my daughter just walked her right on, no problem. That's why it was sort of funny that she made such a fuss at the creek. We loaded Teddy next. Now that Moonshine was on (he loves her) he was happy to go on, with just a bit of hesitation. Now it was time for Pony. As far as I know, Pony had only been trailered once before, when I got him a year ago, and the barn owner sedated him at that time (I now understand that sedating a horse for trailering is not really a good idea but I was a brand new owner at the time and she convinced me). BUT in the year I've had him, he's really turned into a confident, brave little guy who loves to try new things. So it was a toss-up whether he'd go in or fight. And... he went in, no problem whatsoever. Just walked right in. Even though it was a big step up into that trailer. Wow he was good.

Unfortunately he did stumble a little bit coming out of the trailer when we got there, but that didn't seem to bother him. We unloaded in reverse order, me taking Pony and Teddy, and my daughter taking Moonshine. So while I was holding the two boys I got to observe how they reacted to the new place. It wasn't really surprising, I guess. Both of them were looking around a lot, but Teddy was looking around in a worried way, whereas Pony was looking around with a lot of interest. Pony actually wanted to go and smell everything. Moonshine, of course, just said "eh" to the whole thing. She was like, "I'm a BTDT horse and I don't mind a new barn." But I can tell you that when we moved her to our most recent barn by herself, she was plenty nervous. I think having the others with her helped a lot.

Anyway, we let them graze a little in the soft grass that's in the public area, then put them in their pasture. The pasture they're going to be in still has two other horses in it, so they got put in the main pasture with some other horses they already knew. Their behavior was typical: Moonshine tried to get away from everyone, Teddy stuck to her like glue to protect her, and Pony went to the fence where the new horses were an introduced himself.

We stayed with them for a while, but unlike when I moved Moonshine and Pony in the past, they all had each other and didn't really need us there for moral support. Which is good, really -- that's how it really should be. My only concern is that Teddy definitely does not like the way the water tastes at the new place. I think he will probably get over it, but I'm going to keep an eye on him.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
I spent most of May and the first part of June unable to ride. I did enjoy just spending time with my horses, and they enjoyed it as well. I have realized that if I had to choose between only riding and only hanging out / taking care of my horses, I would choose hanging out and taking care of them, absolutely. I love the way they are so happy to see me every time I come. I love the way they follow me around. I love the way they each, in their own way, want to be with me. And I am really happy knowing that they are not happy because they are spoiled – I am firm when I need to be, and they all know the herd hierarchy (me, my daughter, Teddy, Pony, Moonshine) and rarely challenge it. But I am also fair, and patient and kind. The way they all want to connect with me – they all look me in the eyes and try their best to communicate (even if most of what they are trying to communicate is “feed me” LOL). I just love spending time with them.

So, having said that, I couldn’t believe how happy I was to be back in the saddle! I love riding! I rode Pony on Thursday. My daughter rode Moonshine. We had an easy, maybe half-hour lesson, half walking and half trotting. I wasn’t sure how Pony would be – I had someone ride him twice a week while I was unable to ride, and she said that sometimes he was good and sometimes he was terrible. Once he wouldn’t even walk for her. That’s just how he is, though – he needs to really like AND respect someone before he will be consistently good for them. He’s a naughty Pony, no doubt about it. He’s also a nice Pony, a friendly Pony, a happy Pony, a fun Pony, and a lovable Pony. But definitely also naughty. So I wasn’t sure how he was going to be, since I hadn’t ridden him in a month.

I am happy to report that except for a couple of semi-rears, which we dealt with quickly and moved on, he was really really good. Actually I couldn’t believe how good he was. Walking was fine, then he picked up a trot no problem and kept a consistent gait, went where I asked, didn’t duck in, didn’t plant his head, didn’t do anything bad. We went over ground poles and raised poles, and he just went over everything I pointed him at, no questions asked. He had never been ridden in this arena, and the arena had mirrors in it, and he was fine with them.

Well. Actually, he really wanted to know who that handsome pony over there was. Since he had never seen them before, I walked him over there and let him check it out. I could see him flaring his nostrils, trying to get a smell of that other pony. It was funny. Afterwards, I rode him down the long driveway to the end of the property. Moonshine came too, and the idea was for Moonshine to go first, because she’s the bombproof trail horse, but she was kind of spooky (extremely unusual for her) and unwilling, so Pony and I took the lead. He was great. He had balked last time I rode him there, so I had only ridden him maybe 1/3 of the way and then turned back, but this time he was absolutely perfect. I’m sure Moonshine being there helped, but the fact is that WE took the lead, and he was great.

He’s really become a great riding pony. I mean, for me, at least. It has taken a little over a year, so much work, so much training, so many backwards steps, and so so much patience. And he is really starting to shine. He is brave, confident, fun, sensitive and responsive (sometimes I just THINK what I want and he does it), so athletic (despite being quite, um, pony shaped), and now … consistent and willing! I didn’t know how green he was when I bought him, and I didn’t know how good he could be – he is really starting to live up to his potential. And of course, he is so very good looking!

Today I rode Teddy, briefly. He hadn’t been ridden in almost six weeks, and only once at this new place. Since he does get anxious, I wanted to sort of take it easy with him, just walk and maybe trot. Well, he stood still nicely to be mounted, as he always does, and did OK with the walking. We had some disagreements about where we were going to go, which was a little disappointing since he’s usually very willing, but once we got going and I started praising him for doing the right thing, he settled down and was a lot more willing. He was back to doing his head tossing thing, though. Not a lot, but he kept sort of tossing and then seeming like he was nosing his chest. Well, he had had some rubbing in his girth area before, and although I bought a new (and super expensive, obviously) fancy anatomical girth, I thought maybe it was still bothering him. So I got off and took off the saddle and just rode him bareback. He still did the head thing a little, so maybe it wasn’t the girth; on the other hand, the more we rode the less he did it, so maybe it was. I’m not sure what to do about that. He tosses his head when anxious and when in pain, and I can’t tell the difference. My last instructor (who has, sadly, left, so I currently have no instructor for him) couldn’t either.

All things considered, though, for an anxious horse who had only been ridden in that arena once, and who hadn’t been ridden in six weeks, I think he did pretty well. I made sure we stopped on a good note, then I got off, took off his bridle, and just loved on him a lot. Then I stopped and kind of stood there, and after a while he nudged me a little like, “Hey, I wasn’t done being loved on!” So I loved on him some more. Then I took him out and let him graze on the nice green grass that grows around the arena. Then, finally, we did what we now do when I leave, which is I feed him cookies while I put sunscreen on his nose (he doesn’t like the sunscreen very much, but the cookies have made him realize that it’s not actually that bad after all).

Overall, I am super happy with all of them.

Pictures:
1. Teddy and me.
2. Moonshine and my daughter.
3. Pony.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
My second ride on Teddy was MUCH better than the first. We even trotted a little, and he stayed pretty calm. I guess it's good to know that he isn't one of those horses you can just toss out in the pasture and then get on and ride months later. I mean, he tried really hard that first ride back, and overall he was very good. He was just anxious the whole time. For our second ride, I also rode him in the covered arena for the first time ever. He was very uninterested in the cute chestnut horse in the mirror. I mean, he couldn't care less (also the plastic bag flapping around didn't bother him). I noticed for the first time that Teddy is really quite cute. He looks good tacked up. I think he would look better in Western gear, and I'm wondering about trying him in it. I don't know about teaching him to neck rein, though. I'm sure it would make him anxious.

Poor Teddy. It was Monday that I rode him for the second time. Then Wednesday he got that cut that had to be treated. I also noticed the crack. Thursday I had the farrier look at him. It was just supposed to be a quick look, so I didn't think it would be a problem. But it was the first time I had had the farrier do anything to him while I wasn't feeding him. At one point he snatched his hoof and tried to rear, but I calmed him down and spent the rest of the time rubbing his head and he was fine. THEN he had to have a bath! He is getting small spots of rain rot again, so I had to do the medicated shampoo. He doesn't like baths very much. I think he hates being clean ("I'm a different color now!"). I will say, when I saw him today, he was still clean, and his mane looked so nice (it really was a different color). He was visibly shiny, too. His coat was dull when I got him and dull in the winter, but his fully shed summer coat has a fair amount of shine, which I think is harder to get in a chestnut for some reason. I hope this means the supplements I'm giving him are doing a good job.

Today I had to soak his hoof. It took a little work to get his hoof in there just right. He was willing to cooperate but had no idea what I wanted. I combined the ingredients, poured them in, and closed the bag. I left him with some alfalfa and soaked for half an hour. He didn't mind at all. Then I had to de-worm him. We haven't been able to figure out why yet, but he's really sensitive about his mouth. He did NOT want to be de-wormed. The way things run around here, I'm willing to bet he has almost never been de-wormed. It took a lot of patience but also firmness and, I'm willing to admit, cookies. I eventually put it straight in the front of his mouth, as opposed to in the side like I do with the others. That seemed sort of OK to him, although I'm pretty sure a fair amount of it did not get swallowed. Then sunscreen and back to the pasture.

Teddy has so many issues. I don't know how many of them relate to him being neglected, or if he would have had them anyway. As of now, we have (1) those divots in his neck that make it hard for him to lift up his front leg for the farrier and hard to bend, (2) mouth sensitivity / tooth loss, (3) poor hoof condition, (4) a tendency to get injured, (5) sensitive skin (girth galls, rubs, rain rot), and of course (6) the anxiety. I wonder which of these we will ever be able to really get past. I have to say, he more than makes up for it with his big, big heart, sweet demeanor, and massive amounts of "try." I still say he's the best free horse ever.

After one good lesson on Pony, I had two bad ones. He was really acting up. We had a couple of fights. I got tossed once when I asked him to canter (it was a really good fall -- I could tell I was going off, so I just jumped off and landed on my feet on the side, and that arena is nice soft sand. I didn't even get a scratch. I like having a good fall). I'm starting to wonder if he's going to progress the way he should at our current barn or if we should move him. Of course, then I'd have to move all of them, and finding a place for three horses is not easy. My current barn has a ton of issues that drive me crazy, and many boarders have left over the last few months, but I also like that it's a laid-back place where we can just do our own things with our horses. I don't want to move them some place where all of the horses have to be fed at the same time, with the same feed, whether you want it or not, or whether they need it or not. He was a lot better today, but it was hot today and I was sweating before I even got into the arena, so we didn't do too much either.

I guess I should note about Moonshine quickly. She REALLY benefitted from her month of training. She has an amazing trot now, and is a lot more controlled at the canter, at least going one way. All of the body work and the neck stretcher really seems to be helping her to use her body better, and she's getting the muscles to prove it. Watching my daughter canter her around the arena, she looked like a horse who was five years younger. They look so good together.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Last week Teddy had a hoof crack and there was some concern that it could WLD. I had the farrier look at him, and he said it didn’t look too bad, but he did trim around the crack so it wouldn’t have any additional pressure. He also suggested treating with White Lightning and vinegar, but only if I wanted. So I’ve been doing that. Of course, Teddy is a little worried about the leg bag, but he’s been patient.

When we went out for our lesson on Friday, I saw that Pony had the same crack (even on the same hoof!). This is really surprising, because Pony is a pony of glowing health, super conformation, and great hooves. We decided not to ride that day, and I treated him AND Teddy with the bag (good thing I got two in the package!). The farrier will come and take a look at all of them on Tuesday. Moonshine has what look like just surface cracks to me, but I still would feel better having her looked at. Barn owner said that she didn’t think any of it was anything to worry about, but she also said that a lot of hers have gone lame lately, and she attributes that to the wet weather. Maybe. I’m going to stress to the farrier that I would like the horses maybe trimmed a little more aggressively to take down their flared hooves.

Anyway, the point of all of that is that I rode Teddy for my lesson today, instead of Pony, since Teddy had had his crack cut back but Pony had not. Teddy started off pretty hesitant, really looky, not wanting to go anywhere, but he settled down pretty quickly. Teddy’s main problem, of course, is his anxiety. When being ridden, it manifests itself as not wanting to slow down, not keeping an even pace, not being able to stand still for very long, and head tossing. Sometimes it rubs off on me, and when it does, I tense up and bring my hands up, which brings his head up, which makes him more anxious, etc.

Today we both did really well. Mostly him. I used the techniques I usually use for slowing down his trot, like half halts and changing the rate of my posting, and they worked really well today. He did a super job of maintaining an even pace. His head stayed mostly down and he seemed pretty relaxed.

This is only the second instructor I’ve had with Teddy, and the second time I’ve ridden him with her. I thought it was really nice when she said the same thing to me that my old instructor did: that Teddy really likes to hear my voice, and that me talking to him makes him feel less anxious. I did feel, when I first started working with him, that he likes to hear that he’s a good boy. It always seemed like one of the biggest rewards I could give him was just to tell him what a good boy he is (and he IS such a good boy, and he tries so hard to be good). But it’s nice to know that it’s not just me imagining it. On the other hand, she was like “keep talking to him!” I LIKE talking to my horses, for sure, and it’s true that Teddy WAS being a good boy and doing a good job, so it wasn’t hard to tell him that, but it was hard to KEEP saying it. LOL. But he was so good the whole time. And she was right, it really kept him calm. I think that may be what made the lesson so good today.

The only little hiccup was the raised poles we did. We did the ones where they were raised on one side and on the ground on the other side (in other words, diagonal). Teddy hit his legs on them a couple of times and didn't like that very much, and of course sweet hard-trying boy that he is, he didn’t try to duck out on them when I asked again, but he decided to just jump them instead (“See Mom, I’m still going over them liked you asked, but isn’t this better?”) After a solid lap of him jumping them, the instructor decided to back off and just ask him to walk instead. We did that and finished. I told him what a good boy he was.

He also seems to like this new bit a lot better, and I think he likes the new girth better also. It’s the second special girth I have bought for him, and they were both so expensive, but when I think about how badly his skin was messed up from the ones I used to use (and I didn’t even realize it -- I feel sick every time I think about that), I kind of don’t care how much it costs, as long as it makes him more comfortable.

I only had enough White Lightning liquid for one more treatment, and since Pony’s hoof looked worse, he got it. Teddy got a squirt of the gel. Poor Pony – I am calling it the naughty bag, because when he's in it he acts like he's being punished (“Why are you doing this to me?”). I did bring him some alfalfa hay and yummy weeds to help him pass the time.

It wasn't too hot today, either. My daughter seemed to have a good lesson on Moonshine (I was treating Pony, scooping poop, and putting stuff away so I didn't really see much of it). So it was a nice day at the barn!

ETA: I hope this doesn't come across as vain, but while I think we got really lucky to get him for free, I also feel like he also got really lucky to get us. His prior situations weren't too good. I appreciate that the barn owner realized he wasn't going to work out as a lesson horse and decided to try to find a good home for him rather than forcing it. I don't know, it was just a week or two into me starting to work with him that I really felt like I understood him, and understood where he was coming from. We've had some stumbles along the way, but he's been amazing for us and we want to be amazing for him. I can't say it enough -- he's such a good boy, and he tries so hard. I am honored that he has put his trust in me and I sincerely hope to always deserve that trust.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Backing up.

I never really explained how I got from buying my first two horses in March to, I guess, when I got Teddy.

After asking some questions online, I learned that Pony was a green pony and I was a green rider (that’s right, folks, us newbies are clueless, and I had no idea of these two facts) and that was not the best combination (I think at one point I said, “If anyone else says to me ‘green on green equals black and blue’ I will scream.”) The lady who sold him to me seemed to feel like we were just fine together, and he was trained well enough, so I decided to send him somewhere else for training. The plan was for him to get trained up while I was also trained up, and then to put us back together, maybe at the end of the summer.

So I rode PLP (Perfect Lesson Pony), or rather she did what she was supposed to do while I succeeded in not falling off, and I slowly learned the basics how to ride a horse. However, my daughter’s horse, Moonshine, stayed where she was (the lady who sold them to us was getting into boarding). That place has over 100 acres with really nice trails It’s really beautiful. But it’s twice as far as the other place, almost an hour drive to get there, and having horses at two different places that far apart wasn’t working. So in August we moved Moonshine to the same place Pony was.

I remember when we moved her, it was on a weekend, and the new place was hopping with people having lessons, riding, etc. There was all sorts of activity, and horses everywhere. Moonshine got off the trailer easily and looked around. She didn’t seem obviously bothered by anything, but she stuck to us like glue. Eventually we just took off her halter altogether and she still stuck with us. I think it was nice to know that she already considered us her people at that time, even though we had only been going to see her a couple of times a week.

One of the best things the barn owner did was force Moonshine and Pony to stick together in a smaller area. For sure, he annoyed her, always following her around and then eating her hay, but after a few weeks they realized that they were meant to stick together, and they more or less did. I guess I forgot to mention, they hated each other before. But of course we wanted to ride them together, so that wasn’t going to work out. So it was nice that the barn owner did that. To this day, he thinks the world revolves around her, and she thinks he is an annoying pony.

Moonshine had a hard time adjusting to arena work. In other words, she hated it. She never did anything really naughty, exactly, but she would duck out and head toward the middle, avoid ground poles, not turn nicely, and generally just not try at all. She was like, “this is STUPID. If you want me to go from one side of this arena to the other, that’s fine, but what’s the point of going around in circles over and over again??? And look, if you want to go from here to there, you don’t NEED to go over that stupid pole, you can just go AROUND it! Isn’t that easier for everyone?” It was months of work, a lot of it on the part of my daughter, and then finally the body worker, before she started to shine. Barn owner seemed pretty impressed, since Moonshine is middle aged and was not used to doing that sort of work.

At the end of summer, I started riding Pony, and boy was he a handful. He puts the naughty in “naughty pony”, for sure. He would still duck out and crow hop, he didn’t want to move out, I had to ride him with a whip every time. He rubbed my on fence posts, he wouldn’t go straight. He took advantage of every lapse of attention. I had already learned how to not fall off a normal pony, now I learned how to not fall off a naughty pony. And slowly, oh so very slowly, he stopped acting up. Well, not entirely, of course. But not as much.

Then someone at the barn was selling her old dressage saddle. The barn owner suggested I try it on him. I was like, this is an eighteen-inch dressage saddle for skinny me and Pony with his short back, plus I don’t even want to do dressage. It seemed wrong in every way. And then I tried it on him. Wow! He loved it! He went so much better! He was forward and relaxed at the same time. I got rid of the whip. I feel like the saddle does not technically fit him, as it does extend past his last rib, but I posted about that here, and I think everyone agreed that you can’t argue about it if he’s going better in it.

During all of this time, I spent many many hours every day reading everything I could my hands on about horses, talking to people, reading through forums, even watching videos (I really do not like watching videos), and just spending time with my horses trying to get to know them. I learned a few important things. First, people in the horse world have strong opinions and often disagree very strongly with each other. Second, if you take the time to look and listen, your horse can be your best teacher. Third, spend time just watching horses interact in a herd environment. Just watch. Eventually you will understand. Horses don’t vocalize a lot, so if you want to know what a horse is thinking you have to watch their body language.

I didn’t do the “right” thing and take lessons, then lease, then have someone go with me to buy my horses; and I made the decision to buy them (and take Teddy) with my heart rather than with my head (VERY unusual for analytical me). I also had no idea what a PPE was, so needless to say I didn’t get that. Pony was green, I was green; Moonshine took advantage of my daughter; we struggled with how to interact with them; we let them get away with stuff we shouldn’t have and then had to re-train them out of it; etc. But I put in the time, and I worked really hard, and we have, well, we’ve gotten to where we are today. I’m not an expert on horses and I never will be, but I know enough to muddle through with them and not mess up stuff too much. So that’s how I got to where I started being more consistent in my entries, with Teddy. I think future entries here will just be on what’s currently happening with us.


*** Speaking of what is currently happening, I’ve finally made an appointment with an equine dental specialist, a veterinarian who is a semi-retired and only does dental work now. In the six months I’ve had Teddy, he’s had one missing tooth and one broken tooth. He’s sensitive all around his head and especially around his mouth. The body worker thinks he may still have his wolf teeth, even though the last vet couldn’t find them (I specifically asked her). She also didn’t want to operate on the broken tooth. Teddy doesn’t have problems eating, and he seems happy enough with his new bit, but I feel like there is some sort of larger issue going on with his mouth. We’ll see. If this guy doesn’t find anything, I guess I’ll just accept that Teddy’s mouth is what it is.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Random stories from my herd

A few weeks ago, Teddy and Pony (mostly Teddy, since he’s the boss) got into the feed room (in other words, Teddy got into the feed room and Pony stood right outside there looking longingly at Teddy, who pinned his ears at Pony when necessary). Or at least, the place where the feed was being stored temporarily. I found Teddy with his head in the feed bag. Based on how long it had been since I had last seen him, and how full the feed bag still was, I know he hadn’t eaten enough to make him sick, but it still worried me a lot. I yelled at him, but he wouldn’t move, so I yelled, grabbed his neck, pushed him out, and yelled again. Then I put him in a double stall with Moonshine to get him out of the way. When I looked at him a few minutes later, he had this body language that reminded me of a classic Peanuts cartoon: “This is my ‘Depressed Stance.’” It was cute but sad at the same time. He was in there with Moonshine, who is his favorite, and some nice alfalfa hay, but he still had that sadly drooping body language (see cartoon below). I was afraid he was sad because I had yelled at him and pushed him (I’d never done either to him, but at the exact time I pulled him out of there I wasn’t sure how much he had eaten, and I was worried). You might say I’m anthropomorphizing, but I went in there and talked to him very nicely and told him how much I loved him, and I petted him and hugged him, and he perked up again. Also when I put him back out in the pasture he stuck to me more than usual. Interpret it how you like, but to me it was him being sad because his “special hooman mom” had unreasonably gotten mad at him, then perking back up once he realized I wasn’t really mad.

I’m back to riding PLP (Perfect Lesson Pony) again for rides. After my own naughty Pony tossed me at the canter, I felt like both of us needed to be better at cantering, individually, before we got together to work on it again. PLP almost always picks up the correct lead, does not need encouragement, and maintains a generally even pace so that all I need to do is think about how my body parts are working together (or, more accurately, not working together). I rode PLP in the same lesson where my daughter rode Moonshine. Moonshine has come a long way, and only pinned her ears at PLP once (both are grumpy middle-aged boss mares), and PLP being a professional did not pin her ears at all. But after the lesson, we turned them both loose to graze on the thick green grass outside of the arena (my other two were also grazing out there). Well, PLP made the executive decision that since she wasn’t in a lesson any more, she could show that little so-and-so Moonshine who was the boss, so she pinned her ears and ran her off. Moonshine ran right into the two boys. Teddy seemed a little shocked, but Pony, to my surprise, defended Moonshine. This is surprising, because (1) usually when Pony wants to “defend” someone, he does it by “helping” them run away, e.g. he chases them, or chases the chaser into them, and generally makes things worse; and (2) Pony is definitely beneath PLP in the overall hierarchy. Pony bit PLP and ran her off! I mean really ran her off. Then my three settled down to graze together.

Pony will definitely go after horses that are below him, but I’ve never seen him take on one above him. Usually it’s Teddy who’s defending Moonshine against everyone. Regardless, it’s really sweet to know that they consider themselves a herd now, and that the two boys will defend Moonshine against “outsiders.”

Teddy was a neglect case. He was found starving in a field by himself, and from what I hear when his last owner got him, he had no idea how to behave around other horses. He used to get beat up a lot because of course he had food aggression issues (having been starved) and he didn’t know how to interact with the other horses. Apparently he acted super tough, but all of the other horses called his bluff and beat him up. So it was really sweet when he started sharing food with Moonshine over the winter. Moonshine would sort of sidle up to him with her famous “Please?” face and he would move over and share. Further, he would chase off Pony if necessary, which is great because otherwise Pony would always chase off Moonshine and then take her food. Now Moonshine, of course, given the choice, would take all of the food for herself. And, in fact, when my daughter is there Moonshine would pin her ears at the two boys if they came anywhere near her food, even though she was below both of them in the pecking order, because she knew my daughter would feel sorry for her and chase off the boys if they tried to chase off Moonshine. One time, Moonshine got a little over sure of herself and even snapped at Teddy (this was when they were separated by a fence and my daughter was standing next to her). That time, Teddy snapped her right back, and Moonshine was suitably chastened. We reprimanded him a little, but mostly we told off Moonshine: “You deserved to get snapped at! We’re not going to protect you if you’re mean to him.”

Speaking of protecting, when Pony first met the mini donkeys he decided that they were going to be part of his own little herd (which would consist, in its entirety, of him and the two donkeys). They were in a big pasture with a herd of cattle as well at that time. I remember one time Pony protected the donkeys from the bull. The bull was like, “This is MY pasture, tiny equines, clear out!” But Pony charged the bull and ran him off. That bull must have weighed 2-3 times what Pony weighs. Again, anthropomorphizing, but he seemed so proud of himself afterwards. He got all prancy, with his ears and tail up, and sort of high-stepped around for a bit. Then he softened his body language, went over to the mini donkeys, and carefully and reassuringly touched each one of them on the back with his muzzle. Pony can be a PITA, to both humans and other equines, but he can also be very sweet.

Less helpful was the time the mini donkeys, Pony, and the barn owner’s dogs were all in the front area on a weekend, with lots of people riding or tacking up, untacking, washing, etc. Barn owner’s dogs aren’t very well-behaved and started chasing the donkeys. Pony decided to “help” by chasing the dogs. So now the donkeys were running from the dogs, who were running from Pony, and they all just ran through everything and every one. I’m not sure the donkeys felt reassured that time.

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ETA: yesterday I rode Teddy but not very hard since I wasn't feeling to great. He did pretty well. I still had to talk to him pretty much the whole time ("What a good boy! Who is my favorite Teddy?" etc). I'm hoping we can wean him off that soon. We had brought Pony in to graze up front during my lesson, but he was being a pain so I asked my daughter to put him back in their pasture. Afterwards, during her lesson, she gave me the good advice that I should go out there and hang out with him because, according to her, Teddy knows I love him but I haven't been paying as much attention to Pony lately. So I went out there. Pony actually whinnied when he saw me, and came trotting up. He was in a dozy mood and just wanted to sort of hang out and occasionally get head scratches. He never used to like me messing with his head, so it's nice that he's asking for scratches now, but we're trying to work out how he can POLITELY ask for scratches. As with everything he does, when he does something, he does it full-on, with lots of enthusiasm and gusto. In other words, his default is to push his head into me hard enough to shove me backwards. So, yeah, we're working on that.

Mainly we just stood around being dozy. If I walked off, he would follow me and then want to doze some more. He rested his muzzle on me several times. Because he seemed sleepy, I experimented with letting him mouth me. He's super mouthy, and I've always been afraid it would lead to nipping, but he did pretty well. I rubbed his gums and he lipped me. Then of course he went to far and tried to eat (I mean actually eat) my boot. Whyyyyyyyy? With Pony, sometimes you will just never know.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
I know horses don’t think the way people do, but I can tell you that PLP really has it in for Pony now. If you’ll recall, Pony is below her in the hierarchy but he bit her and chased her away last week when he was protecting Moonshine from her. PLP has NOT forgotten that. I rode her again today, and when I had her in a stall to groom and tack her up, she kept trying to lunge at him whenever he would walk past (I had to reprimand many times). After our ride, I took her in another part of the front area to graze so that she wouldn’t get in a fight with any of them. Later, I took Pony past her to put him back in his pasture. I wisely chose to put myself between them. She really tried to go after him this time, but I chased her off. My daughter says Pony ought to just let her bite him and get it over with, because she’s not going to forget what he did.

My back was hurting yesterday (I think from lugging around large overly-heavy muck buckets the day before) but I decided to take some turmeric and Midol and power through my lesson. Maybe it should have been a warning when I had to get my daughter to pick out hooves because it hurt too much to bend over like that. The lesson was fine while it lasted, but I’m realizing now that that was maybe not a good idea. Ouch ouch ouch. According to the internet, I have strained my lower back and should be resting for at least a few days. I’m already down to just two lessons a week right now and I don’t really want to miss my Sunday lesson. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll just do an easy walking only lesson. Today I guess I’m going to just sit in bed and work. Fun.

Any suggestions for a faster recovery time? I already tried Moonshine's linament, LOL.
 
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Discussion Starter #20
I would rather ride my Pony

What I really need to work on right now is cantering. I feel like I’m getting a lot better, but I still don’t have too good of a seat, and I still haven’t gotten the hang of the motion. I feel like I’ve done it enough to where I understand what needs to happen – my hips and legs needs to follow the motion of the horse, my waist and above needs to be still relative to that motion and perpendicular to the ground, and the area between my hips and waist needs to flex and bend in order to let my body accomplish those two things at the same time. But actually doing it is somewhat of a challenge.

So I told my instructor that I’d like to go back to riding PLP (Perfect Lesson Pony) because she has a nice canter and is super reliable. I fell off Pony my second ride back after being off for a month because he pulled his head down really low, got my off balance forward, and then juked hard to the right. The trainer said, and I have no doubt that this is true, that if my seat had been better (deeper, with my shoulders back) this wouldn’t have happened. But with Pony I’m in a sort of Catch-22. He’s somewhat unreliable in the canter (still tries stuff like juking, cantering sideways, etc.), most likely related to him being unbalanced and me being unbalanced on him, but it’s hard to improve my seat and balance when I’m constantly having to worry about him acting up. With PLP, I can ask her to canter, trust that she will get the correct lead, and then canter her around and around while I think about what my body is doing.

So I rode PLP for a few lessons, and in once sense that was great. My canter got better, and of course I didn’t have to worry about her acting up. But the thing is… PLP is miserable. On the best of days, she’s resigned to her fate, and on the worst of days she won’t come out of her pen or pasture. She’s girthy. And I don’t mean that she’s learned to try to bite you when you girth her (she will try this, though, to see if she can get away with it), but that it causes her clear pain and anxiety to girth. At the old place, they had tacking stalls that had sides that were basically three-rail wooden fence, and when it was time to get girthed up, she would grab the wood and bite as hard as she could, just hold onto it like a pit bull, until you were done. Like someone in the olden days getting surgery without anesthesia. Just every line of her body says that she hates her job, but she does it because she knows she has to.

Pony, on the other hand, is almost unbearably happy. He is always delighted to come out of his pasture, eyes wide, ears up, nostrils sniffing happily. He greets you, then greets you again, then eats some grass, then greets you again. He would rather be in the front area eating grass than in his stall getting groomed and tacked up, but he goes happily. Maybe with a little fight because he enjoys having a little fight. I don’t think he particularly enjoys being groomed, but he doesn’t mind, and he’s super happy to have me in the stall with him. He pinned his ears at me once while I was girthing him, I think just to test me, and let me tell you we haven’t had THAT issue come up again. You can whap him for acting up, and he settles right down and is like “Hi, it’s me, the Pony! I’m here. What’s up?” He likes to smell everything I use for grooming or tacking, even though it’s always the same stuff, so we have a ritual where I do that. He’s happy about this, too.

He’s happy to be ridden. He still acts up a lot when cantering and sometimes I think just on general principal (“Well, it’s the Pony’s job to keep you on your toes! And it’s funny when you almost fall off, don’t you think?”). Last time he acted up, he ended up doing a little mini rear before I got him back under control, and then he was happy again. I don’t know how to really express this, but I think he enjoys getting up to little tricks when I ride. He feels like he’s happy about it. I think he thinks of them as practical jokes. After the lesson, if I take his tack of in the arena he will just stick around for a while to make sure nothing fun or interesting is going on, and because he likes me, and to get scritches, and then he will eventually wander back off to the grass. After I put his tack up, I go to see him, and he’s happy to see me. Pony is just a happy, happy guy. He’s like one of those Thelwell ponies, acting up with that happy, naughty look in their eye.
:falloff:

But, Pony is probably not the best guy for learning to canter. Last time, we got a couple of good laps in, then he ducked in in the middle and slowed down to a trot. I thought he was just acting up, but the instructor said he was shying because of a horse over there (he hadn’t shied at him before, though) and to let him walk for a minute. Well, of course, he then acted up again at the exact same spot next time, but more extremely, cantering sideways and then rearing up when I pulled his head around. I got him back under control and we continued to work, so no problem. But it’s hard to think about the mechanics of your motion when you have to be so alert for something like that.

So, my dilemma seems to be that I am either riding PLP, who hates to be ridden, and I hate to contribute to her misery; or PLP, who is not really helping me learn to canter. I’ve decided to ride Pony and see where that goes. Teddy has a really nice canter, and he’s really willing and has never seriously acted up, and I think we’re about ready to get him started cantering in the arena in my lessons with him. It took about six months to get him to where he can do trot work without getting worked up and anxious about it, and we may well be looking at something similar with his canter, but we’ll see. I have reminded myself that I’m not in a hurry to achieve any particular goal, and I’d rather enjoy the journey than worry about the destination. I talked to my husband, even though he’s not really a horsey person, and he said I should just ride Pony if that’s what makes me happy.

I guess I feel like I need to lay this all out as a justification for not wanting to ride PLP, and maybe as a reminder to myself that by riding Pony and not PLP I’m going to be slowing down my progress, but also that I don’t really care. The barn owner said she’s put one of her teen riders on Pony to work on his canter, which is great because she’s even lighter than I am and she’s a great rider, but I’m starting to fear that that was not a serious offer. Oh well. We will work on it. I will ride Pony and we will both be happy. And if we’re not, then we’ll figure out something else.
:gallop:
 
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