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Discussion Starter #121
We went out just to see them today. We had a lesson yesterday morning but skipped it – the low that night was about 81-82, and I don’t want to ride, and the horses don’t want to be ridden, in that kind of weather. Today it was a little cooler with off and on rain, which was great.

One thing I had been wanting to do was open up Pony’s central sulci a little, if anyone recalls the picture where they were just cracks. I looked him over and one hoof didn’t need it, and I was successful on two hooves. On the last hoof, I was doing a good job and then… I learned just how sharp my loop knife is. Wow. It is sharp. And then I realized we didn’t have a first aid kit out there. We have one for the horses but not for us. But I do have alcohol wipes, and there were bandaids in the barn, so that was OK. It was a pretty impressive cut, though, right on my thumb pad. Having said that, three of his central sulci now look great! And there wasn’t any thrush in there, either, which was good.

I decided to do some more trick training with Pony. He was pretty willing once he saw I had the treat bag (fanny pack) and he came right along. I was going to do it in the near part of the arena, but when I stopped there he remembered that that’s where we had done free lunging before, and he wanted to do that. So I took him to a different part. He remembered picking up his feet really well. I got to where I could have just a little bit of the whip sticking out for pointing, and he’d pick up the correct foot. But when I completely got rid of it, and just used my hand, he couldn’t tell which foot I was pointing at. So I’ll need to figure out how to be more clear about that.

Since he had expressed some interest in free lunging, we went over there to do that as well. He remembered it pretty well, although he did at one point get sort of excited with the trotting and he ended up leaving the circle and trotting away. I called him back. I thought about how to keep him in the circle, and I decided to hook him with my eyes. I made eye contact and tried to keep the contact, which meant for him that he had to keep his head turned in and he couldn’t really leave the circle. While making the eye contact, I also thought really hard that I wanted him to stay in the circle. That actually worked really well and we didn’t have any more problems.

So that was great. I decided to work on him coming when I call. So I walked about 10 paces away and called him and used a sort of reeling in body language. He didn’t have a clue what I wanted. So I got some pellets and held them in an outstretched hand and repeated it. I could see him thinking about it this time, like very slightly leaning forward, but he still didn’t come to me. So I used eye contact again. I made eye contact and just thought at him “Please come here, I want you to come here,” and he did! I repeated three times the same way, and he came each time. After that, he decided that he would just follow me when I walked away and thus keep closer to the treat bag, so we didn’t try again.

Don’t worry, I don’t think we have a psychic connection. He just can obviously really read my body language. I don’t know what changed when I thought at him “Please come here” or “Stay in the circle,” but he understood it. He’s such a smart Pony. If he lived with me, I think he’d know about 100 tricks by now. As it is, we only work on things when I’m out there, with extra time, and feel like it, which isn’t often.

My daughter thought she and Moonshine would do some trick training after that. She has gotten Moonshine to where she (daughter) can stand behind her and to one side and have her back up. Moonshine can do this in the trailer, too, so she is self-loading and self-unloading. I was watching her and thought about how practical this is – I think that’s what I should teach Pony next.
 

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Discussion Starter #122
@knightrider I was wondering, do you have any videos from any of the shows you have done with your horses?
 

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Oh yes, tons and tons of them. We often had to make videos to audition for a show. And folks would make videos for us so we could evaluate our shows. Actually I've been wondering what I should do with all these videotapes. My kids could care less. I've thought about throwing them out. I imagine my kids will when I'm gone.

I have shelves and shelves of photograph albums which my kids never have looked at and probably never will. I wonder now why I spent so much time making nice albums that nobody cares about. I enjoyed them at the time. Maybe that was enough.

I loved looking through my parents' old photographs and getting them to talk about them. My kids don't. They are adopted. Do you think that makes a difference?
 

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Discussion Starter #124
I loved looking through my parents' old photographs and getting them to talk about them. My kids don't. They are adopted. Do you think that makes a difference?
I don't know. I wonder how much of it is just personality. I, for instance, love looking at old photos and videos of my parents, possibly because there aren't a lot of them. My dad is a very reserved person and my mom wants to pretend that her past doesn't exist, so they just don't want to share. I can't imagine either of them asking their parents for this information either. I'm also the person who keeps things for sentimental value, whereas again they are not. I'm also super nosy and my undergrad major was dual history, so there's that, too.

Have you ever thought about digitizing them and putting them online?

The whole reason I asked was because of some of the tricks I was teaching Pony. I got curious about what circus ponies do, so I looked up some videos and couldn't believe what I found. Most of their "tricks" are basically just round penning. One lady just had a mini on a lunge rope and was basically lunging it. At one point the mini got up on a stand. And that was it. That was the circus performance. I found a couple that were slightly more impressive (one lady had four horses trotting around the circle in one direction while four trotted around the other direction) but I was still like, "Seriously! I could teach Pony to do this stuff in an hour." So I wanted to see some, I guess, better quality performances. I don't suppose you have any digitized? I'm wondering what sort of shows people do with their horses. There must be better stuff out there than just round penning them.
 
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Here are some good trick horse acts


I was fortunate enough to see Sylvia Zerbini's show in person. Her winter quarters are not far from where I live. Her show was amazing, with 12 Arabs doing liberty. Here is a show with 3, still fun to watch.





This guy is surely impressive too.


I love watching horses do tricks!
 

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Discussion Starter #126
@knightrider thank you so much for the videos, my daughter and I are enjoying watching them.

A very nice day today. The weather has been a little cooler and is now tolerable. We had a lesson. Moonshine did really well -- no grumpy faces, and she was back to her nice flowy trot. She did think about bucking one time when asked to canter, and she did run into the canter again (pretty typical for her), but there were no grumpy faces and no bad behavior. I'm glad that all of the injections seem to be helping her.

Pony was great, too. He's getting his nose down and keeping it down, more and more. He's building those muscles, slowly but surely. His canter, therefore, has also been getting more collected. He has moments of really nicely balanced, collected canter. I'm still working on asking him in a way that he likes. What I was doing before was only saying "OK" when I wanted him to canter, or at least that's what I thought I was doing. But my instructor said was that I must be doing something with my body at the same time, because he was jumping into the canter, which throws him off balance and makes his canter poor. So today what I did was just THINK that I wanted him to canter, and then let him move up into it when it felt right to him. It only took two or three strides, and it was an absolutely gorgeous canter transition, and the whole canter was amazingly smooth and floaty. Of course this was his good direction. I was kind of tired and didn't really want to try the bad direction today, although I did talk to the instructor about how we could try to use this technique on his off side as well. We'll see.

Because the weather was nice we stayed for a while. So I did more trick training. I showed Pony the treats bag and he was ready to go and followed me right over to an arena (he is a pony, after all, so I don't push my luck by asking him to do training in an area where there is grass; we always train in an arena).

First, like I said before, I wanted to get him to back up on command. I wanted to do that with me standing behind his hip, so that I can ask him to back off a trailer at liberty. It turns out the first thing I needed to do was to remind him that "Hooooo" and certain body language means to stand still. So we worked on him standing still while I walked around him, or stopped in places. Then we did some backing up when I said "baaaaaack." Then I walked around him (stand still) and stopped near his middle and asked him to back up. I had to reinforce it with my fingers in his chest a few times, then he got it. I also introduced a signal (curling up my hand) with the "baaaaack" command. Then I got him to where he would hold still while I walked around him, then I'd stop and wait, then I'd ask him to back up. I did figure out from this that he needed to see me, and the signal, and it wasn't just enough to use the verbal cue.

One thing I really liked about this exercise was that it really made him pay attention to me. He had to really focus on me and what I was doing, to know whether he was supposed to be standing still or backing up. When I was standing back there next to his hip, I could see that 100% of his attention was on me, waiting for the moment when I would ask him to back up. Honestly this is a lot more focus than I usually get when riding him, unfortunately (if I get 85% focus on me when riding him I'm happy). It was just really rewarding to have him there focusing and waiting for what I would ask him to do. And so very interested and engaged. He's very smart and interested, and working with him is extremely rewarding.

He really, really did not want to stop today. So then we worked on picking up his feet some more. I got him to do it with just my finger pointing (without the whip) by really emphasizing the body language and pointing. I also got him to hold his feet up for longer periods of time.

He still wanted to keep going, so we did some free lunging. He only wanted to go in one direction today. Rather than tell him "NO" and try to get him going the other way, I decided to just not reward him. Which didn't entirely work out, although it got a sort of funny result -- me standing there in the middle with an exaggerated expression of resignation, while he happily trotted around and around me, hoping that at some point it would be enough to be a correct answer. I guess that's not going to be the way to go with him.

After that, I had no ideas what to do with him, even though he wanted to keep going, so we stopped the training. I guess I need to find something new to teach him. Maybe I'll try to teach him to bow.

My daughter thought I should try trick training with Teddy too, so I did. Teddy wasn't really wanting to do it, though. I thought we'd start really simple, with something he really already knows, which is backing up when pointed at, but it seemed like maybe me turning it into a lesson sort of stressed him out. We did it a few times and then he walked off. Which was fine, I'm not going to force anyone into this sort of thing -- it's supposed to be fun for everyone. Teddy just doesn't have that love of learning that Pony does, and honestly new things tend to stress him out. And it's hard for him to try different things to figure out what I want -- he has a real fear of making the wrong decision. If I do any more trick training with him, I'll have to do it in such a way that he has no choice but to do the right thing, and then really reward him for it.
 

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Discussion Starter #127
My daughter wanted “One last happy day” before school started today, so yesterday she played D&D with her friends (online), got pizza, watched a move (Parasite – it was weird), and of course went out to see the horses.

Pony is now super happy to see the “treats bag” (fanny pack) and follows me over to the arena to work with no hesitation. We did more trick training, but I ended up confusing him a lot. He backs up on command with me near his hip, but I wanted him to be able to back up while turning. And I want to be able to do this based on a visual signal only (not touching or tapping him). So I taught him to move his haunches away from me when I stood next them and made a pushing gesture with my hand. But then he didn’t seem to be able to differentiate between this and the curling fingers / hand gesture that I use to back up. I didn’t try to combine them at all. But now he couldn’t figure out what I was doing back there – asking him to back up or asking him to move his haunches away? So he just kept randomly guessing. I tried maybe half a dozen times and he just didn’t seem to be getting it. So I put that one back on the shelf to think about (how can I make myself more clear?) and spent the rest of the session just improving on things he already knew (e.g. hold your hoof up, but hold it up for a longer period of time).

In my lesson today he spooked four times! He hasn’t spooked in quite a while, so this was pretty impressive. He spooked twice in one arena and twice in the other. So when the instructor didn’t want to do any canter work, I was totally OK with that. We did work on getting his nose down into contact and getting him on the bit, and he did really well. He’s doing it more and more, and for longer periods of time. The instructor uses neck stretchers with a lot of her horses, to try to get them into the frame she wants, but I’ve watched those horses being ridden and it seems like as soon as you take the neck stretcher off they go right back to being strung out again. So I feel good that I’m doing this slow and easy, and by asking for it rather than demanding. I feel like we’re really building him up the right way.

I was really happy with the quality of his trot and his bending today. We did a lot of groundpoles and grids, and I wasn’t too happy with how he did on one pattern. But I like it that I was able to tell (before the instructor pointed it out to me) that he was losing impulsion. Another thing is that I had to ride him back and forth between these two arenas twice while carrying my water bottle in one hand and the whip and reins in the other hand, and steering him mostly with just my legs and, I guess, a little neck reining, and I was able to get him where I wanted.

More trick training afterwards. I decided to leave the whole moving his haunches away on the shelf for now. I thought maybe we need to get the cue for backing up really solid first. So we worked on that at first. Then I re-introduced the traffic safety cone. I want to get him to target something, then eventually pick it up, then eventually bring it to me. When I got the traffic cones a while ago, I paid more to get the kind that were really soft and rubbery, so they’d be easier for him to pick up.

I think I jumped too quickly from tapping the cone with the whip to pointing with my finger, since about a third of the time he investigated my hand rather than the cone. But eventually he got it, and then surprisingly of his own accord (I can assure you I didn’t signal this) he mouthed the cone. So I gave him a big reward. He mouthed it some more, etc., etc., and we got to where he will pick it up and toss it aside. That was super easy. I’m not sure why he volunteered that behavior, but I’m glad he did. Now I’m wondering, would it be cute, or would it be annoying, to teach him to pick up his food bowl and bring it to me to put a treat in? I’m guessing cute the first 10 times and annoying forever after.

After that I went back to standing still and backing up, to reinforce it again. Then we worked on him standing still while I walk off, then waiting and not coming until I call him. That went just OK. I thought my body language and signals were pretty clear, but I guess it’s hard to a pony to stand still when there is a treats back just a few feet away. So while I don’t have a problem getting him to come, getting him to stay is iffy.

The last thing we did was have him follow me while keeping my same pace (at liberty, obviously, as all of this is). I see my daughter doing this with Moonshine a lot, and it looks really cute. Moonshine tends to be a little grumpy about it, and a little hesitant to move up to a trot, but once Pony realized he’d have to trot to keep up with me, he was fine with it. The funny thing is, I kept starting him on my right side, and he kept crossing over to my left side. Coincidentally, the treats bag is on my left side. Yes, I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

He wasn’t ready to be done, but I was, so we stopped.

All of our horses know not to be aggressive to other horses when we’re around, but I think they might sneak stuff in when we’re not looking. After I put them back in the pasture today, Pony came back over to me, probably to see if there were any more cookies. Some of the other ponies came over also. I halfhearted shooed them away – I actually like them, but I’m there to see my guys, not them. They could tell it was halfhearted, because they only halfhearted shooed – they slouched away a couple of feet and then just sort of lingered. I turned back toward Pony, then turned to look at them again for a minute. Suddenly they both said “yikes!” and trotted away a few steps, in a very chastised way. I strongly suspect Pony made a face when my back was turned. When I turned back to him, he had his innocent face on, but I still suspect.
 

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Discussion Starter #128
(This is a long post; you can skip to the "good part" by scrolling down...

I took a few days off work, the first I’ve had in over a year. I probably wouldn’t have done it except I was starting to make mistakes at work, and it seemed like I was just mentally exhausted. Of course I’m not taking a real vacation, unfortunately, but rather getting to spend some extra time at the barn.

We had a nice lesson on Saturday. We rode in the pasture. I just rode left almost the whole time, since that’s Pony’s bad direction. He picked up the correct lead every time we cantered except one. And that was the time I had him in a tighter circle. The thought had been that he needs help picking up the left lead, and he counterbends, so I’ve been trying to tip his head to the inside when asking him to canter left, but now I’m sort of wondering if maybe it isn’t counter-productive. Also, the only time he tried to duck in was on a tight turn. I’m trying to figure out what I can learn from that. He was really good, which was great because I was tired and crampy and not feeling like doing too much.

I got to watch the trainer ride him on Sunday. He looks good for her. I took a video. I’m trying to figure out if maybe he’s landing toe first, and if that could account for him wearing his toes more quickly. Ultimately, I’m trying to understand why he was always perfectly sound when the old trimmer saw him, and now he’s ouchy off and on. Some people had suggested that he might have thrush in his central sulci. The problem with the theory is that he shows no pain when a hoof pick is inserted in there, although he did have a very narrow central sulcus, just a crack really. I decided a few weeks ago to open them up a little, and when I did I found some powdery white stuff, which some people said might be thrush. So I opened them up some more and am treating him with thrush buster. My understanding is that thrush can be painful enough to make them land toe first. It’s kind of hard to square that with him not being bothered by the hoof pick, but I figured that treating it can’t hurt. The trainer really likes him.

Today the trimmer was supposed to come. I sent a reminder email over the weekend, but he still didn’t come. The other lady who he was going to see sent him a text and he was like, “Oh, I thought that was next week, well it’s only been four weeks so probably not a problem!” So that’s great. So I worked on Moonshine’s and Teddy’s fronts. I’m worried I may have taken too much off one of Moonshine’s hooves; it’s the one that had a long toe before that I trimmed off. The quarter flares apparently self-trimmed, and I just wanted to neaten them up but her hoof walls seemed pretty short to begin with, so I’m afraid I may have taken too much. However, I did walk her over a gravel road on the way back to the pasture and she seemed fine.

I started just wanting to cut back Teddy’s frogs a bit, but he was pretty good about it so I just trimmed him too. Not a lot, just enough to hopefully get us to where the trimmer hopefully comes next week. Teddy is the one I had worried about trimming most, since he gets worried when confined. I gave him some alfalfa pellets and he was OK, though. I did the work in his stall. I did notice that the one time I closed the stall door he got worried, so I left it open.

*GOOD PART STARTS HERE*

I let them graze inside for a while, and then put them back in the pasture. Teddy went to the shelter (it was raining) but Pony and Moonshine went to the hay. The hay is about forty feet from the shelter. I went into the shelter with Teddy. After about a minute, Pony started looking at me. Then he looked at his hay. Then he looked at me, then his hay. He seemed confused. Then he walked over to the shelter to see me. I was so happy! I hadn’t called him or anything, he just decided that he’d rather be in the shelter with me than eating hay (and he’s a PONY!). Then Moonshine was like, “Fine, whatever, I’ll come too” (she’s generally the leader, so that was kind of interesting).

I decided to try again to find itchy spots on Pony. He seemed OK with me scratching his withers, but not super excited about it. Then he decided to let me know that he wanted me to scratch his head. Which is great, except that of course his method of doing that is to act like I’m a tree and push into me super hard. When he does that, I make a fist with my middle knuckle sticking out the most, and let him run into it. It doesn’t seem to feel too good. So then he tried to just stand there and mentally beam “scratch me!” at me, or at least that was my guess. It was hard to tell. Moonshine is pretty good about communicating when and where she wants to be itched, but Pony apparently only has overwhelming force or nothing. I figured he wanted to be itched, so I did, and he did, and that was nice.

After a while, he turned his butt to me. He’s never done this before. It was obviously not a threatening gesture, but I wasn’t sure what it meant. Remembering what someone else on HF once mentioned, I thought maybe he wanted his butt scratched, so I did that. He seemed to like it, but he also seemed a little surprised that I did it. So I’m not sure that’s what he was going for. Maybe he was doing that thing where horses turn their butts to their friends because it makes them feel secure? I don’t know. He brought his face back over to me pretty soon after that. We all just stood around being dozy for a bit. After a while, he sort of gently moved into me, which was really nice.

I also spent some time standing next to Teddy. He also sort of leaned into me a bit. It was nice. It was a drizzly and rainy day, and a nice day to just stand around in the shelter. When I left, I walked out slowly, trying to avoid the muddiest parts, and looked back, and Pony wanted to follow me. I went back and gave him a hug and told him not to. Then I left quickly. When I got to the fence and looked back, Teddy was at the hay eating. It was nice to just be out there being part of the herd with them.
 
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Discussion Starter #129
Today was my last day off, so I spent a lot of it with the horses.

I had a bonus lesson in the morning. I cantered / jumped Pony over a cross-rail! That was the “yay”. The “boo” was that, once again, I popped him in the mouth when he came down. I had trotted him over this rail several times, and I had made sure to grab mane so that wouldn’t happen, but at the canter he felt kind of wiggly, like he might be thinking about ducking out or just going over it weird, so I wanted to keep the close contact. So then I punished him on the other side. We did let him have his lesson be over with that, and the trainer is jumping him over this same rail, so hopefully it won’t stick in his mind too much. Also I will hopefully learn how to ride him better so it doesn’t keep happening.

I mostly finished cleaning out “my” stall. Since we have the back barn that no one else uses, I got to have one stall just for all of my stuff. That stuff keeps increasing. I had the idea of using some of the boards we took down from the high stall walls, plus cinder blocks, to make shelves. I cleaned out all the old hay, cleaned out the pallet, and cleaned out all of the gunk on the floor. It turns out that some of the hay on the floor had gotten damp slightly moldy. I moved the hay storage over to the drier side. I ordered some more diatomaceous earth to dry out the ground a bit, then I will put some bedding back on top of it. Even if it does get a little moldy in the course of the year, I prefer that to the bare dirt. Check out some guys I found in the board pile! I was curious which one of them might "win", so I watched them for a while and eventually the scorpion chased the spider away.

I did some trick training with Pony after that. I didn’t really have a plan, I just wanted to have fun. The only newish thing we did was that I got him to canter after me rather than just trot. I have to really sprint to get him to do it. But … it could be good exercise for both of us!

After about 10 minutes, I was surprised when Teddy wandered in. He was like, “Um. Hi. Um. What are you guys doing? I heard you say ‘Good Boy.’ Can I be a good boy?” So I asked Pony to move back a bit and let me work with Teddy. I tried to get him to pick up his foot when I pointed at it. First I showed him how Pony picks up his foot. Then I tried various ways to get Teddy to do it. Unfortunately, we ended up at him thinking that I wanted him to back up. Then Pony was like, “But look at ME hooman lady, I can do that, give me treats!” as he picked his foot up and kept it up. I was like, “Yes, Pony, that’s very good, but right now I’m asking Teddy to do it, not you.” I tried to take turns doing things with each of them. It was hard since I hadn’t had a lesson plan to begin with, and I’ve never tried to do two of them in one session, but I really wanted Teddy to be able to stay and participate, since he’s been pretty hesitant to do trick training in the past. Teddy stuck around for a while and then wandered off.

Finally, I just spent about an hour hanging out with them in their pasture. It was a nice cool day, too. I’m glad I took some time off work; I just wish I had been able to take more.
 

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“But look at ME hooman lady, I can do that, give me treats!” as he picked his foot up and kept it up. I was like, “Yes, Pony, that’s very good, but right now I’m asking Teddy to do it, not you.”
Ha ha! I had that happen a lot when I was trick training. I kept my horses in separate pens in the winter. When I'd be trying to teach the trick to Shadow, Magic would be in her pen DOING the trick over and over and eyeing me hopefully.

Later, when Magic was retired in Florida and Shadow was my main trick horse, when I'd teach tricks to new horses, Shadow would not do them because she only responded to my body language and I wasn't working with her.
 

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Discussion Starter #131
Moonshine bucked several times in our lesson today when asked to canter right. I'm starting to get worried about it. She gets regular body work and the body worker thinks she looks pretty good. She just a few weeks ago got injections to both hocks and one fetlock. She was fine to the left. I guess we'll see how she is at the Monday lesson. I know her saddle fits. She's a little overdue on her trim, but I looked at her feet today and they aren't THAT bad. I'm going to be out of ideas for what to do about her pretty soon.

Pony was great, though. Because of a scheduling kerfuffle we ended up having a true beginner in our lesson, so it was a sort of disjointed lesson. Pony and I were able to help her with one thing, though, which was nice. She was on a not-entirely-beginner-friendly horse, and the horse decided she needed to canter, and this lady got really worried because it was her first canter. Her horse just didn't want to trot, and kept breaking into a canter. So (I actually had this idea myself but before I could say anything the instructor suggested it) Pony and I trotted the same pattern she was supposed to be doing, very very slowly, and had her follow. She was supposed to follow right behind us. I couldn't tell how close she was exactly, but Pony's ears told me she was pretty darn close. It worked, however, to keep her horse from cantering; AND, Pony used to kick when another horse was being ridden behind him, and he didn't, so that was great. I did talk to him a lot the whole time.

After this lady and my daughter left, I wanted to talk to the instructor some more. She is the same lady who puts training rides on Pony. I explained how last time I cantered a little jump and popped Pony in the mouth, and how bad I felt about it. I was asking whether I should just not do this with him right now, because I don't want to make him sour over jumps. We talked about it for a while, then we decided I'd try him over another little jump. She pointed out that I should be steering more with my legs than my hands, so I shouldn't need super close contact, and she talked me through what my crest release should look like. When I cantered this little jump, Pony was thinking pretty hard about ducking out to the right, but I kept him centered with my legs, and I crest released really nicely and didn't pop him in the mouth at all. At that point, I was like, "Yay, we're done."

That's pretty much all for today. My daughter was really tired and didn't want to stick around afterwards, so no trick training, hoof trimming, or hanging out. I did take some seasonally appropriate "spooky" pictures with some spider webs that were covered in water droplets from the morning fog.
 

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Discussion Starter #132
That smile. It's the smile you have coming out of a lesson where your horse did GREAT. My daughter had it after her lesson yesterday, and I had it after my lesson today. Moonshine was amazing yesterday, no sign of bucking or anything bad, picked up her leads correctly, and cantered circles over ground poles.

I wasn't in that lesson, although I watched the end of it. I was mostly trimming Teddy's back feet. The trimmer is supposed to come tomorrow, but he was supposed to come last week and didn't. Teddy's back feet were terrible, flares in every direction, yuck. He did pretty well with it, too. I gave him some alfalfa pellets to eat, so I'm sure that helped, but he was really patient, whereas with trimmers he usually gets kind of antsy. I suppose it helps that I only had to do his back feet. I thought, coming out of that session, that I had done my first trim without accidentally rasping myself, but it turns out that I was wrong about that. I'm still working on not being a clutz with the trimming tools.

Pony did the same course today, but he only trotted the poles. But, we did canter a lot, and he did really well, picking up both leads really nicely, staying on the rail, and having a nice collected canter in both directions. I realize that when he picks up the lead nicely, I can feel the canter start in his back legs, and then I know it's going to be a nice canter. Apparently before, I was throwing him on his forehand when I asked him to canter, which led to an unbalanced overly-fast canter. I just love the feel of him pushing off into a nice canter.

I also was thinking that one thing that's great about a green pony is that they just keep making progress and it's wonderful. It's wonderful to think that I'm helping him (me!?!?!!) get better at his canter! And I am getting better as well. I know that if I had started with a BTDT lesson horse or other trained horse, that I would be much further along now; but the feeling that I'm helping him get better, the feeling of watching his progress (even though it's in fits and starts), it's just awesome. Coming out of a lesson thinking about how much better we both are than this time last year -- wow!
 

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Discussion Starter #133
Snapshots from the last week or so

Another pony in our guys’ pasture has become increasingly sure that he is part of our heard. He comes when I call and tries to sneak in with my guys. I have to shoo him away every time. When I’m out in their pasture, I say hi to him and let him sniff my hand, but besides that my only interactions with him were manhandling him back into the pasture one time when one of the kids accidentally let him out, and giving him half of a cookie that same day because I felt bad about the manhandling. Now he’s apparently my pony.

I did a private lesson where we worked on jumping Pony more. I learned that one jump is fun, but two in a row is HARD! Particularly because Pony is not super awesome at jumping, so I have to be super focused about my own body and what I’m telling him to do. He seems to like it, though, and he does a good job. The series of jumps we did had no standards and were not x-rails, and Pony didn’t exhibit any bad behaviors. I was worried he might think about ducking out, but he didn’t. I did have a “semi fall” on one of them, though. What happened was he stumbled badly on the jump (I wasn’t setting him up with proper impulsion) and then I fell on his neck. I didn’t fall off him, but I couldn’t get off his neck either. I was just lying there on his neck for about 30 seconds. I honestly couldn’t figure out what to do. Finally my instructor was like, “You can either slide off or try to get back in the saddle.” I didn’t know how to get back in the saddle (if I did, I would have before) so I went with sliding off. I was grateful to him for holding his head up so I didn’t just fall off, while I was clinging to him. Maybe that thick stallion neck of his is useful for something!

I asked the instructor, who is also the person who puts training rides on him, if she thought it was fair to him for me to be doing little jumps with him. Since we’re both totally green with this. I mean, I jumped the lesson pony once, I think, but that’s it. She said she thought it was fine, because I wasn’t making any major mistakes. She also felt like it’s good for him to have to be able to deal with a rider who isn’t 100% solid, because it forces him to learn to think for himself rather than just lean on his rider to tell him what to do. I guess as long as he’s getting better, and not getting any bad habits, and she thinks it’s OK, we’ll keep working on it.

I trimmed Teddy’s back feet. I guess I didn’t do too good of a job, because they got flares again within a couple of weeks. I re-trimmed them today, but it was hard because he didn’t have any hoof wall length to spare. So I guess basically I was just trying to put a mustang roll on him. He did well for the trimming, and I am getting more comfortable with the tools. I’m not confident about the job that I did, however.

Moonshine still has something going on with her, and we can’t figure out what. She was terrible in one lesson, then amazing in the next lesson, then terrible in the next lesson, then OK in the most recent lesson. The bodyworker came today and said that her left hip is really out of balance again. We talked through it a lot but couldn’t really figure out what was going on, except that maybe she’s being asked to do somewhat advanced work (cantering those circles over poles) without having the proper groundwork to do it (having consistent canter transitions, for instance, to set her up with a good canter). Moonshine is doing more advanced work than Pony, but it’s true that she still doesn’t really use her body correctly. Whereas I’ve taken things super slow with Pony to be sure that he’s got a really solid foundation before asking him to move to the next level. It’s made our progress slower, but now I’m thinking that it was the better way to do things. I guess maybe just because Moonshine CAN do something, doesn’t mean that she SHOULD. I talked about this to my daughter a little today, and she wasn’t super excited to hear it (“I have to go back to thinking about my posture? But it’s fine! And Moonshine sometimes has great canter transitions”), but I framed it in terms of Moonshine’s overall health so she’s OK with my talking to the instructor and them maybe taking a few steps back if needed.

Here is a random fact completely unrelated to horses: the house next to us just sold, and the new neighbor’s name is Pierre. Not that weird, except that out neighbor on the other side is also named Pierre. And neither are French. And we’re in Central Texas.
 

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Oh I understand the awkwardness of how do I get myself out of this position when you end up on their neck. I had that once when a horse I was on unseated me when it bucked in the trot to canter transition. I had to do the ungainly slide off the side as I could not figure out how to get back in the saddle either.
 

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Oh I understand the awkwardness of how do I get myself out of this position when you end up on their neck.
Me too! I never let the kids ride our horses through a gate. I make them dismount when we get home and lead the horse through the gate.

One time . . . just ONE time, the child happened to be first and rode through the gate, so I rode through also. My boot caught on the gatepost hook and dragged me right out of the saddle so that I was hanging upside down on the gatepost hook. No matter what I did, I could not get my boot off the hook, so there I hung, upside down, as my horse happily grazed the paddock. The young person had to come and push my boot up off the hook so I could drop to the ground.
 

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Discussion Starter #136
I had a good lesson today. We did some hard stuff, and we didn’t always get it right, but I understood the point of the lesson, and I understand what we were doing wrong (and sometimes right) and it’s something I could work on by myself if I wanted.

The part of the exercise that we did better on was cantering. I tried something new with steering, and it went great. I have started to feel like, at the canter, I am holding Pony’s head too tightly, but of course there is always the issue of steering, and he can be wobbly at the canter (plus my legs aren’t strong enough to really steer him well). So today we were doing a tight turn at the canter. So what I did was just look, very exaggeratedly, in the direction where I wanted him to go, and I used the rein as a secondary aid. He did super! I think this should be something he likes, because it’s more me asking him to do it than demanding. I hope this is something that continues to work, because I think it’s nicer for both of us.

Afterwards, I worked on training Pony to do something. It’s sort of an inside joke. There’s another pony called Scout that lives in their pasture. Scout looks a lot like Pony except that he has a white star and three white socks. So I told my daughter I was going to “dress up” Pony like Scout, for the barn Halloween party, by painting the appropriate parts of him white. She thought that was super lame, but I then I added this trick. Scout has this thing where he round pens himself around the OUTSIDE of the round pen. The round pen is in the pony pasture, and half the time when someone goes in there to round pen their horse, Scout comes over and runs along the outside of the round pen (“See! I can do it, too!”). It’s really funny to watch. So I taught Pony to round pen himself around the outside of the round pen, so he will not only look like Scout, but he’ll act like him, too. I’m no good at making stuff, and pre-made horse costumes are too expensive, so I went with what I COULD do, which is to teach Pony to do something kind of funny.
 

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Discussion Starter #137 (Edited)
Yesterday I spent some time cutting horse cookies into smaller pieces. I’ve heard people say, and it has seemed to be true to me, that horses like food rewards, but that they can’t really distinguish between amounts of food, so that giving them a small bite of food is the same amount of reward as giving them a handful. Our cookies are about quarter sized, but it’s not like any of my guys are starving and need the extra food. So I decided to give them in smaller sizes.

I put them in a paper bag in the trunk of my car. The vet was coming to do Moonshine’s and Teddy’s teeth, and Teddy still has some (decreasing!!!) anxiety about that, so I’ve been giving him cookies while he’s being sedated, to sort of take his mind off it. Well, one thing led to another and I ended up leaving the car trunk open while I was doing something else. Next thing you know, there is a Pony in the trunk. Of course not actually IN the trunk, not entirely, but he had eaten the whole thing, probably 15 cookies total and part of the bag as well. These are relatively low sugar cookies, so I don’t know if it was the cookies or because I yelled at him, but he started just trotting around in that prancy way and running away from me. I let them come into the “inside” area because they are all mellow, relaxed, and easily catchable. So, since he was being “up,” I had to put him back out in the pasture.

He didn’t like that. Moonshine, Teddy, and me (the other members of his herd) were all “in” and he was “out.” There are other ponies in that pasture, but still. He was standing at the fence and wanting to come back in. So I went over to him. He got excited when he saw me and started whinnying happily. I have to say, I love it when he is happy to see me. I mean, he always seems happy to see me, but when he whinnies it’s especially nice. So I stood out in the pasture with him for a while. It was really nice. He could have been out there eating hay with the other ponies, but he preferred to stay with me. I left at one point to check on the dental work, and he had wandered off when I got back, but when he saw me he came back to hang out some more. He didn’t want anything, he just wanted to hang out. I really enjoy just hanging out with my horses. I guess I still makes e feel privileged, that they would WANT to spend time with me.

Teddy did well with the sedation. He’s definitely getting better about the vet. He also gets cuddly when he’s sedated, LOL. I had him and Moonshine next to each other in stalls to recover, but Moonshine was ready to go first, so he was in there by himself for a while. I stayed with him so he wouldn’t feel bad. Once he woke up a bit, he was happy to lean on me a little with his head, and to have me lean on him and pet him. Normally he loves being talked to in a nice voice and he likes small amounts of physical attention, but if you pet him too much he starts getting a little anxious. When he was coming out of sedation (I don’t mean immediately after the dental work, I mean when he was almost ready to be allowed to eat again) he seemed really happy with it.

I enjoy riding, and I like feeling like I am getting better and Pony is getting better (still no riding Teddy until I can get a saddle that fits him), but honestly it’s those quiet moments where me and my guys stand together, not doing anything, just BEING and being part of a herd, that I like the best. It just makes me feel so peaceful, calm, and content.
:loveshower:
 

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Discussion Starter #138
When I got there for my lesson today, I found out that the lessons are now starting half an hour later because of the sun coming up later. They always post things like this on the FB group, which is private, and then forget to tell the people who aren't on FB. I had really had a battle with myself getting out of bed, too, so I was like, "I could have slept in!" However, getting there early gave me time to work on everyone's hooves (before the lesson; I tend to be tired after lessons), which was great. Basically I just rasped heels and, for Pony and Teddy, their quarters a little, and only their front feet. I also tried, again, for a mustang roll. Sigh. I think it's getting better, but it's more of a mustang slash right now.

In the lesson, we had some trouble with him the left lead (his worse lead), but the instructor thought part of it was because I was holding the outside rein too tightly, which was keeping his head from being able to turn in, so I worked on that. I worked on counting out the canter as well, so I can slow him down (he still does tend to rush). I told the instructor afterwards that it's nice to be able to start thinking about things like this, now that I'm not so worried about falling off all the time. Part of that is Pony's decreasing "wonies" and part is due to me being better at the canter. And of course we are now in a virtuous cycle where he doesn't feel like he has to wony, because I'm not such a bad rider any more, and me knowing he's not going to wony lets me relax and ride better.

I couldn't stick around too long afterwards. I'm getting allergy testing tomorrow, finally, so I can start allergy drops. But you have to be off antihistamines for a week before the test, so I've had to super limit my outdoor time. Ragweed is brutal here right now. I hate sneezing and coughing and having a runny nose and not being able to sleep, but I also hate the drowsy feeling I get from being on antihistamines. My husband does shots, and my daughter does drops, and they've both seen dramatic improvement in their allergies. So hopefully once I get started, my allergies will get better and then I can go back to spending more time outdoors, without feeling crummy the next day.
 

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Oh annoying about the FB posting. I am not on FB either and it really annoys me when people have private FB pages for things (lots of my kids activities do). At least you go something beneficial out of your extra time.
 

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Discussion Starter #140 (Edited)
Meditations on relationships

I like to tell myself that when we get on our property, I will get a fourth horse, a rescue horse. I hope that I will. But I was thinking the other day about how much work it is to build a relationship. I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like everyone goes through this; maybe it’s just me. Learning about your horse, what he thinks, what he worries about, what he likes, what is easy for him, what is hard for him, what he wants from you, what he needs from you. Establishing a common language between the two of you. It’s a lot of work. A lot of time. A lot of patience. A lot of standing around in the pasture with them, doing "nothing", but for a horse that's everything. In my case, a lot of mis-steps. And like you can’t understand light without darkness, I couldn’t really understand Pony until I got Teddy. I’m not saying that they are opposite, or that one is good and one is bad, it’s just that I couldn’t see who one of them was without understanding, I guess, who he wasn’t. Moonshine, too, but to a lesser extent – my daughter wanted her to be her horse, and Moonshine keeps her thoughts and feelings to herself. She has them, but she doesn’t want to show them to you. Pony and Teddy are the same on the surface as they are inside. They don’t have anything to hide or protect. I think maybe Teddy did once, but he trusted me and opened himself to me, and now he’s mine.

I thought about how easy it is with my horses now. The vet came out for Moonshine the other day. I needed to reposition her, so I just asked her to back up a step. I think what I actually did, besides saying “Can you back up a step?” was to lean at her a little and raise my finger just a bit. She knew what I wanted and took a step back. Pony would do the same. Teddy would want to do it, but he also worries about doing the wrong thing, and he sometimes requires more clarity on my part. But then I went to get another horse for the vet, one of the lesson horses. She’s a great horse. She’s really big, but very well-behaved. I showed her the halter and asked her to put her head down, and she did. She had no problems with whatever I asked her. But I had to ask very clearly. I don’t think I could have leaned and pointed and she would have backed up, although now that I think about it I wish I had tried. I think that ease I have with my guys comes because we’ve found that shared language.

That same day, I stood out with them in the pasture for a while. Moonshine is getting close with one of the ponies, and Teddy doesn’t really approve. Pony, however, is my friend. Moonshine stood with her head down next to this other pony’s head, and Pony stood with his head down next to my waist. Every now and then he softly put his nose on me, as friends do. Pony wanted a friend, and I wanted to be his friend, but I had to be his leader first. I realized not too long after I got him that he needed a leader, but I didn’t realize that friendship would follow that. I’m glad it did. I guess it didn’t have to. Frankly, Pony is kind of a butt to the horses who are below him (which is everyone in that pasture except for Teddy). I feel like he kind of harasses them more than he has to, and then he doesn’t understand why they don’t want to be his friend. I guess he can’t really be friends with someone he is capable of dominating.

Anyways, I guess what I was wondering is, do I really want to put the effort into this again, with a new horse? Do I want to spend all of the time getting to know it and developing that shared understanding? If it’s a horse that doesn’t like to display its emotion, will I be able to look deep below the surface, like I did with Moonshine, and see what was there? Will I want to? Would I work on understanding it? What if I put all of that effort into it, and even then the horse was too closed up?

It was a lot of work, with all three of my horses. And now things are so easy. I hope I have it in me to do it again some day.
 
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