Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Ride I'll Never Forget

I have mentioned my best friend, Aubrey and her Mustang, Chocolate in several of my posts.  Aubrey and I met in high school.  We came together for our love of horses.  We grew together as horsewomen.  We got our first horses a few months apart from each other.  In April of 2003, Aubrey was given Chocolate, a 6 year old Mustang pony mare, from a horse trainer who taught us both how to start colts. I bought my yearling Appaloosa filly, Riskie, in August of 2003.  The four of us were inseparable over the next several Summers.  Of course we parted ways with our steeds when we headed to college every Fall, but those Summers spent riding and training our very own horses were priceless.

After college, Aubrey went to Vet School and I found a job.  Our horses were still together until the last 2 years of Aubrey's time in Michigan.  She took Chocolate to Michigan so that she could have her horse with her. 

This Spring, when Aubrey graduated from Michigan State University, I took the 10 hour round trip to pick up Chocolate.  I knew that Riskie would remember Chocolate.  They were together for almost 8 years before we separated them. When Chocolate got off the trailer at home we sent her out with Riskie in the big pasture. They sniffed noses and went right to grazing side by side.  It was as if they hadn't been separated for more than 10 minutes. 

This Summer Aubrey and I took our mares on a ride I know that I will not soon forget.  It was a really hot day at the end of July.  Aubrey and I had spent the morning putting hay up for the winter.  We had planned to ride that day, but hay is one of those things you need to get done when you can so we had to postpone our all-day ride for a shorter one.  I decided we should trailer to a nearby park with lots of shade down by the river since it was so hot.

We got to the park and hopped on our already saddled mares.  Riskie lead the way down a narrow path along the river.  A recent storm had knocked several trees down so our mares had to carefully step over the logs blocking the trail.  They carried us with grace and strength down the over grown trail.

We ended up coming to what must have been the end of the trail so we decided to meander back and try to find where the other trail met up.  I remember riding behind Aubrey and Chocolate. I remember watching as that small little pony lifted her legs so high over the downed trees and branches.  She took her time and knew where her feet were.  Aubrey never had to lift a rein to ask Chocolate to slow her feet down or to prevent her from rushing through the brush.  I know the feel that Aubrey had with Chocolate, because I have that same feel with my first horse, Riskie.  It is something that you know about if you've had a good horse.  That trust you develop in knowing each other's every thought and move.  You are two bodies, one spirit. 

We were the only two riders at the park that day.  We mostly rode in silence, except when there was a question as to what direction we should take.  Good friends don't need to talk in order to enjoy the time they spend together.  I still think about that ride, even more so over the past few days.  It was the ride dreams are made of.

Yesterday morning I went out the the barn, a little earlier than normal because I had a meeting I needed to be at before school.  It was still dark out.  I called the five horses into the barn yard for their hay, but only four came to me.  I went to the tack room for the flash light and headed out to the pasture in search of my fifth horse.  I could see her in the distance, standing against the fence line in the large pasture adjacent to the barn yard.  As I approached her, she nickered to me. Something wasn't right.  As I got closer I noticed she was holding up her left rear.  My worst nightmare was unfolding right before my eyes.  I knew, without a doubt, that my best friend's horse had a broken leg.

The next few hours were a blur.  I contacted the vet first, then Aubrey, then my principal.  I got Chocolate some hay because I knew that's what she wanted.  She was in shock.  She knew enough to stand still, but the adrenaline coursing through her must have helped to numb the pain.  She took a few bites here and there but it seemed as if she was getting tired of standing on three legs as I waited for the vet to show up.

When the vet arrived he confirmed my belief.  Too much damage was done to the leg to save it.  I called Aubrey and handed the phone to the vet.  A close friend of mine showed up shortly after and all I could do was cry and hug her.

I rubbed Chocolate's forehead as she left this world.  A first horse can never be replaced.  I know the spot that Chocolate holds in Aubrey's heart, and I know the pain that Aubrey is experiencing now.  I am lucky to have witnessed the bond between the two of them as they grew together from a teenage girl and a cranky Mustang mare into a friendship that will not be forgotten.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Horse Show

I know I haven't finished my Horse Fair story yet, but I will get to it... eventually!  I've been pretty busy in the mean time.  I've got horses in for training and I am thankful for the income since I am still seeking a teaching position.  I have heard that there are 4 retirements in the Art department in the district I would like to teach in so hopefully I will have a good chance at picking up a position in the Fall.

This weekend I went to a horse show with a pony that I've been training for quite some time now.  He is under 13 hands so he is quite small, but he packs me around just fine.  His owner is the perfect size for him though.

I have been working on reining with him since he seems to have some talent for it (for a pony!).  We have our basics down pretty good and now we've just got to work on refining the maneuvers.  I did my first reining class with him at the show on Sunday.  We did NRHA reining pattern number 4.

The judge was quite generous with our score.  She gave us a 70, but I would say we were probably more deserving of a 63-65.  Either way, we were very correct in the execution of the pattern, but we did simple changes and our spins could have been better.  Our rollbacks could have been a little cleaner as well.  I was very happy with the way things went though and Cinco had a good experience that will help him in the future.

Here is a video with some clips from our pattern as well as the trail course we did.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Saturday at the Horse Fair

Saturday morning came way too soon and I headed up to Madison to get going.  The scores for the pattern class and the handling and conditioning were up and I was sitting in 10th place by 1/2 a point.  I knew our trail class had to be good if I wanted to hang on to our position.

 I warmed Oakley up the best I could in the Nutrena arena.  She seemed tired.  Again, there were lots of horses and not much room to get a good warm up in.

I took her back to her stall and got ready to do the walk through with the judges.  The crowd was bigger in the Nutrena arena... probably because there was more seating, but it seemed like there were many people standing to watch as well.  We walked through the course together and then I headed back to the barn to get Oakley out.  I knew I would have issues because her back wouldn't be warmed up from the morning and the first portion of the course was in hand.  I was at least going to hand walk her a lot before going in.

I still had planned to shoot off of Oakley.  I had never had the chance to actually shoot off of her, I had only shot next to her, but I was confident she would be okay.  I had popped balloons off of her back and she never flinched.  My uncle showed up with the gun I was going to borrow and we talked for a bit.  The plan was to hand me the gun just before I went in.

The trail course seemed to be taking a long time.  Finally I was next up to go.  My uncle made the hand off with the gun and I headed into the arena.  Oakley was great for the in hand portion.  She was calm and quiet except for one bobble with a hind leg when I went to pick it up.  She stood perfectly for me as I mounted from the block, but as soon as my legs made contact with her sides it was over for her.  She didn't have the chance to warm up that she needed in order to get accustomed to my legs so she was HOT.  She trotted when she was supposed to walk and she cantered when she was supposed to trot... she took off at a blind gallop when she was supposed to canter... I was a little upset with the way they had the course set up.  The last obstacle was a canter, straight toward the gate where the Mustangs entered.  Not fair if you ask me.  The horses were all hoping to get out of there and to ask them to canter and then stop before the gate was just not a good way to showcase the abilities of these horses.  By the time the course was over and the 90 seconds had begun Oakley was still trying to get out from under me.  I tried some lateral work and spins to calm her down, but I knew the only thing she wanted was for me to take my legs off, so I did, and she stopped. Oakley stood stock still as I pulled the gun out of my holster, cocked the hammer, and shot not once, but twice.  She stood like a rock when the audience erupted with applause too, it was pretty cool.  My 90 seconds was up so I hopped off and headed out.  I was proud of my little Mustang.  I had a feeling our out of control pattern wasn't good enough for top 10, but I was so happy that I was able to accomplish my goal of shooting off of her.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Video & Spoiler

Well I am still planning to continue my story, but I better get some video up for those of you that might be waiting... Long story short, we got to perform our freestyle and we finished 8th.

I will get to the rest of my story soon!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Horse Fair Continued

I was relieved that Friday morning's events were over and I had some time to relax... but not much.  I went and got a pork sandwich and sat in the coliseum to watch for a little while.  I had to help with the Mustang Breed demo though, so my time off was short lived.

After the breed demo I went back to check on the scores.  It took a long time for them to be posted.  When they were finally up I found out that I was tied for 10th place with 67.5 points.  The first place competitor had marks in the high 80's.  I felt that my ride was a little better than what I was scored, but then again, maybe it was just good for Oakley, not necessarily good compared to the others.  There was questionable scoring throughout the weekend though and I try to just be happy with the scores I've been given.

Next it was time to get ready for the handling and conditioning portion of the competition.  This part required us to lead our horses into a roundpen, unhalter them, walk out, reenter, and catch them.  The judges also scored on coat and body condition.  I was 11th to go so I didn't have too much waiting.  Oakley did okay.  She did what I heard a lot of the horses did, when I released her she stuck her head down and started eating the dirt.  Weird... When I came back to get her I was hoping she would respond and walk up to me, but not that day.  She put her head up to look but then immediately went back to licking up dirt.  I approached her with my arm out and she startled a little when I touched her, but she didn't step away.  I haltered her and walked her to a sunny spot in the round pen so that her coat would gleam for the judges.  Again, I felt as if things could have gone better.  Oh well.

I had about enough for the day and I was ready to get home and go to bed.  I was hoping I would be so exhausted that I would be able to sleep.  I put Oakley away for the night and drove home.  Unfortunately, Friday night was a repeat of Thursday night and I didn't sleep much.

To be continued....

Monday, April 23, 2012

Update on the Horse Fair

Finally, I can breathe again!  It was a rough weekend but it turned out alright in the end.  I got to meet some great folks, and was reintroduced to some old friends from the 2008 Makeover.  I don't think I got any sleep aside from an hour or two here and there.  My stomach was in knots the whole time... but it was all worth it in the end.  I had the biggest smile on my face chasing that cow around the arena on my wild mustang mare!  Here's a quick rundown of how things went...

We arrived Thursday morning.  Jessica and I walked down the aisles of barn 2 looking for our stalls.  When I found mine I noticed Oakley would be hip number 30.  Just like last time, I was happy with my draw of almost last to go through the auction.  There were 31 horses total.  We unloaded everything and got the horses their hip numbers branded with paint.  Then it was time for a quick walk around the grounds.  Oakley and Kat seemed to take everything in stride and not a whole lot bothered them.  We had practices scheduled in all 3 arenas so I saddled up and got to riding.  I started in the outdoor, but that didn't last long as it started to rain.  I made my way to the Nutrena arena and spent some time in there.  Oakley was herself.  The surroundings didn't bother her, she was just very reactive off of my seat and legs.  At least she was consistent I guess.  She only had a few run-away moments before she settled into me though.  I gave her a break and then headed down to the coliseum to practice with the breed demo mustangs.  Oakley was good in the coliseum, we just walked.  Next came the arena I was most worried about.  The Hutchinson Arena, which was more like a large round pen under a tent.  Again, Oakley wasn't bothered by it.  She was just annoyed with the fact that I was still on her back.  I rode her around for a while, but 20 plus horses in a small arena tends to get a little dangerous.  It was getting close to 6 anyway and we had a trainer meeting scheduled.

We all headed to the exhibition hall to the trainer meeting.  We got our goody bags with our shirts and our patterns for the classes including the order of go.  I was 19th to go for the pattern class and 19th to go for the compulsories.  I was draw 11 for the conditioning and draw 11 for the trail course.  I was a little disappointed that I wasn't sooner, but it worked out fine.  I also found out that I was chosen to receive some grant money towards my adoption of Oakley.  I got $250 to go towards her adoption.  That made me feel a little more confident about being able to take her home.

After the meeting I made sure Oakley was fed and watered and headed home to try to get some sleep.  I think I was in bed by 9:30 and up at 1 am with an upset stomach.  I had to take some stomach relief medicine in order to get back to sleep.  I slept until about 4:00 and then I got up to get going.

Friday morning I made it up to Madison by 5:45 so that I could ride in the arena at 6:00.  Again, it was too many horses in a small arena, but we made it work. I knew Oakley needed to be really warmed up if she was going to do the things that I asked of her.  7:30 came around and we all headed back to the barns.  We met with the judges at 8:00 for a walk through of the pattern.  They explained some things to us and revised the pattern slightly since the arena was so small.  

The pattern called for us to enter at the sitting trot, two track to the left, trot straight, two track back to the right, extend the trot, stop, back a minimum of 5 steps, pivot 90 degrees and lope off to the right.  Do 1 large fast circle to the right, change leads, do 1 large fast circle to the left, do 1 small slow circle to the left, change leads, do 1 small slow circle to the right, stop, pivot both ways, exit at the trot.

I watched the first contestants and then went to the barn to get Oakley ready.  I had to get on her back to get her at least warmed up at the walk.  By the time it was our turn to go I felt pretty good.  I knew many of the Mustangs were having trouble with the tent, but that hadn't bothered Oakley this morning.  I think the crowds were also getting to the horses.  I entered the pen when it was my turn to go and asked Oakley to trot off, she started off in a pretty jarring trot and it wasn't very soft, but we got the job done.  Her two tracking wasn't very good and she tossed her head when I asked for the stop, but she backed nice enough.  Her pivot was quick.  We loped off great and her first circle was probably her best.  It had been my intention to break Oakley down and ask for simple lead changes, but as I went to slow her she grabbed the bit from me and powered on through.  I just asked her to move her hip over and she did a really bad flying change which was late in the hind.  Her transition to the small slow circle was good, but the circle itself was more like an egg shaped mess, again she decided to do a flying change into our last circle.  I brought her to a stop and pivoted her both directions.  We trotted out, and I felt okay about how things went.

The compulsories went okay, but I had had about enough at that point, and so had Oakley.  We rushed through them.  I headed back to the barn so I could unsaddle Oakley and put her blanket back on... it was cold out! 

This post is getting way too long.  I will continue it tomorrow!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Just a few more days...

Horse Fair isn't far now. I just want it to be over with. I am ready to get on with my life and give Oakley a break. My plans are to adopt her back and put her out to pasture for a month or two to let her go back to just being a horse. I am going to disclose all the information I have on her on her stall and before the auction so hopefully people will keep the bidding down and let me keep her. I can't imagine too many people will want a horse that is cold-backed and hot like she is.

She is still progressing, but every day we start at the same point where she clearly isn't happy about having me on her back. She works through it and gets down to business, but I don't know how to get her over the first 5 to 10 minutes of attitude at the beginning of our rides.

I was talking to Jessica Davis and she told me that we are always given the horse we need, not necessarily the horse we want. Oakley is both for me. I wanted a small, dark, athletic horse. Perhaps that type of horse just comes with a spitfire personality like Oakley's. If I can get her to actually work for me she will be amazing... and in all honesty, she is making me a better trainer. She is helping me to control my emotions, which was a goal of mine for the competition. Emotions really should be left out of horse training. Anger comes from frustration, and I have gotten past being angry on the back of a horse just because I can't figure something out. I have learned to stop and think, be more creative in approaching what I need to do in order to get my point across to my horse. I am still frustrated about certain things with Oakley, but that's only because I don't have all the solutions yet, but they may come in time, and I am not angry at her for being the way she is. I am still learning though and I make mistakes too, but hopefully I am prepared for the horse fair and the competition.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Do you miss me?

Well, if you don't come here for me, then you must at least be missing Oakley. A lot has happened since my last blog post. I have been riding only in the dressage saddle, and the first time I put it on things were pretty bad. Oakley is not a fan of the feeling of closer contact that the dressage saddle offers. I am uncertain as to whether she is afraid of being pinched as was happening in the western saddle or if she is sensitive somewhere else due to other issues. Ulcers have crossed my mind. Then again, it's only at the beginning of our rides that she is touchy. She works really well after she's had some time to warm up. Maybe I need to call her bluff? Maybe it's not a pain issue... I really wish they could talk sometimes. Then again, I can't imagine Oakley would have too many nice things to say about me, haah.

The competition is creeping up on me. Just about a week away. My stomach is already doing flip flops. I am not going to accomplish all of my goals with Oakley, but I hope to at least be able to conquer all the required obstacles in the competition. Hopefully she'll be having a good couple of days by the time the competition rolls around. It's tough to say with her.

I will keep plugging away. I'll be sure to update when I know my schedule for the Horse Fair. We find out our order of go at the trainer meeting next Thursday.

Friday, March 30, 2012


The chiropractor came out yesterday. I have never had anything like this done with my horses before, and I wouldn't call myself a skeptic, but I do wonder if I will see any changes. I gave her the day off today. I had her look at the saddle fit as well and it turns out that both of the saddles I've used on Oakley are too wide. I have a few options. I can use my dressage saddle... which isn't a bad way to go, but I wanted to show Oakley as a western horse. The next option is using a modified pad. I stopped by a local saddle maker's shop yesterday and talked with him about my problem. I ended up buying a pad that should help fill out the areas where there is a void, but I think this is a temporary solution. The third option is to find and borrow a saddle that fits her. Many people have offered, but sometimes I just don't feel right using someone else's saddle... especially on a young horse. I would feel terrible if something happened to it.

Tomorrow my plan is to just use my dressage saddle and see how she goes. We are traveling to Slinger to meet up with some other Mustang trainers for a demo. It should be a lot of fun. I am looking forward to it. Hopefully someone will be around to take photos.

Well I will keep you all posted on how Oakley does. I have my fingers crossed that the adjustment and saddle changes make a difference in how reactive she is.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Taking A Few Steps Back

Training Oakley is like riding a roller coaster... in more ways than one. She has great days and she has horrible days... and even within single training sessions she has ups and downs. I know this competition puts a lot of pressure on me, which ends up putting a lot of pressure on Oakely. I've decided to take a step back and try to slow her mind down and do a week of just walking. I am still working on important things for the competition, but we are doing it all at the walk. I saw some improvement today. In the past she has been goosey about things touching her butt while I was in the saddle and today I was able to take my lariat and rub it all over her while we walked on a loose rein.

So I suppose I need to explain how I came to the decision to slow things down... Saturday there was an open show at West 20, a local tack shop/boarding facility. I decided it was high time to get Oakley out to a show, so we went. She was AMAZING for the morning classes. We entered 2 halter classes and a showmanship class. Nothing was bothering her, people, clapping, announcers, she took it all in stride. After that I saddled her up to get ready for a few riding classes. We were the only ones in the outdoor warm up arena and she did good for about 15 minutes at the walk and a little bit of trot. I could tell she was tense but that was the first time she'd been in a large outdoor arena, so I didn't think much of it. Well, long story short, I got bucked off. It was a soft landing, and I got back on and worked the kinks out, but the bucking kind of came out of nowhere. We were just walking... I rode it out for a while, but she got the best of me, again. I don't want anyone to think that she is a bad horse, or that she has huge holes in her training, she doesn't. She is just a reactive horse who anticipates what will happen next. She learns routines and training sequences quickly and then wants to rush through them. So I am once again taking a step back. Going back to the basics and spelling things out for her. I am frustrated with myself for several reasons that I won't go into here, but I want to do my best for Oakley and I don't always have the answers I need. I am lucky to be surrounded by really supportive trainers like Jessica Davis, TJ Clibborn, and Tracy Porter. They have all given me encouragement and great training advice and I can't thank them enough. I have scheduled a chiro appointment for her on Thursday. Maybe I'll get some clues then.

Anyway, I'll leave you with a good moment from Sunday. I took Oakley out on her first trail ride. My friend was on Remington and snapped this photo with her phone.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Video as Promised

Here are a few of the things we've been working on. 30 more days... this deadline is killing me!

Friday, March 16, 2012

I'm still alive!

Time has a way of slipping out of my hands when I'm doing this competition. I apologize for not being a better blogger. The nice weather has kept me away from the indoors unless I'm sleeping! Oakley is doing pretty good. She is still inconsistent as far as I'm concerned, but it's not a terrible inconsistency... if that makes any sense at all.

Today I gave her a break from riding and I just did a few things on the ground. I brought out a bunch of balloons and led her around while I popped them. She didn't care at all. My plans of shooting off of her are still possible! Ha.

I am hoping to get another video made up this weekend to make my blog more interesting. Come back soon!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Half Way

Pretty sure we're half way there. Oakley has come so far but still has a long way to go. Tonight I had quite a crowd out to see her and she was excellent. Here is a video of me and Oakley and Jessica Davis and her EMM mare, Kat. I loved putting the video together to showcase a reining horse and a dressage horse at the same point in training... only 6 weeks! Pretty cool to see.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Weeks go by so fast when you're training a wild horse...

Tomorrow is Friday already. I can't believe how fast this week went by. Oakley has had more good moments than bad this week, which is a big improvement on last week.

Wednesday I had some friends out again and we really worked through what she needed to learn about people watching from the sidelines. I had my friends seated in the corner of the arena again. Every time we would go by she would want to fade away and speed up. I worked hard to show her that listening to my aids and staying on the path I set for her was an easier option than wanting to shy away. In the end she got it. I was happy with that. I was also really surprised that she let a friend approach while I was up top and hand me a camera. I was able to hand it back too! Pretty impressive for Oakley...

Today I rode in the morning and had an okay session. She wanted to rush so I worked on finding a good pace and teaching her to relax a little. She still has a long way to go. When I came back this afternoon I just did some ground work. I revisited a lesson I had started with her a couple weeks ago, dragging a tire. The first time I did it was at the end of a really strenuous session, so she didn't really care what was following her around. I also only did it off of her good side(left). Today I revisited the lesson and started again with the left, no problem. As soon as I switched sides and that tire moved all four feet were in the air and she kicked straight out at the tire! It was really something. I was able to bring her mind back to me pretty quickly, which hasn't always been the case when she gets upset, so I was happy about that. By the end she was dragging the tire at the walk and the trot very relaxed. I am so happy with my girl.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A good session, finally!

(Photos from Sunday - Thanks Shannon!)

Sorry I haven't been updating lately. I've been pretty frustrated with how things are going and in all honesty, I have no reason to be. Today marks a full month from the day I picked Oakley up. She has come so far from day 1 and even though we've had some setbacks, I am still very happy with her progress. Sometimes it's just easy to focus on the negative when things have gone so well so quickly and then all of a sudden you go backwards.

On Sunday I took her over to Tracy Porter's farm for our breed demo practice. She was a ball of nerves for most of the time we were there. Before everyone got there TJ showed me some exercises I could do with her that might help her be a little less reactive. He also showed me how tense she was in her neck. That is something I knew about, but haven't really addressed. I am now working on teaching her to lower hear head and relax when we're just standing around. She's doing pretty good, but still has a long way to go. That is an exercise I've done with my other horses, not sure why I ignored it at first with Oakley. I did get on and ride her some but she wasn't herself. She was tense and flighty. When I got off TJ asked me how she did. I told him "OK" with disappointment in my voice. He got after me a little and told me she did great. He said there were a million things she could have done wrong (buck, crawl up the wall, bolt, etc.) and she didn't do any of them. It was her first time out under saddle in a big group and she did fine. He was right, of course. That's when I realized maybe my expectations are set a little too high at this point.

Anyway, that left me with a new outlook for today. And I needed it, because Oakley was back to testing me this morning. She has suddenly decided that one corner of the arena is not a good place so this morning when I rode her near the corner she took off bucking. I was ready for her this time. We almost made it around the entire arena like a bronc show before I got her stopped. As it was happening I was determined to shut her down so when I lost both of my stirrups I had to consciously remind myself to lengthen my legs. Then, when I reached for the horn with my left hand my rein went flying. I still had my right rein though, and that is what I eventually got her stopped with. I ended up pulling so hard the bit slid through her mouth, but I got her stopped. When all four feet were planted I dismounted, adjusted her bridle, and sent her around on the longe line for a few more turns. At that point I wasn't sure what had set her off, but it became evident at the end of my ride. So, we loped and loped and loped and loped circles down at the "safe" end of the arena. When she was about ready to stop I loped her straight into the scary corner and quit. It all of a sudden wasn't so scary...

So that wasn't even the good session, ha. I went back in the afternoon and set up the obstacles. I've done them on the ground with her but not under saddle yet. That was my task for the day. I wanted her to have something to think about instead of just going in circles and it seemed to do her some good. We went through them on the ground first. I had the big soccer ball, a tarp to walk over, cones to weave, barrels to back through, a box to turn around in, and the bridge. She did amazing. She is so sensitive to my leg and rein cues so sometimes she gets ahead of herself, but I really couldn't have asked for more from her. This is the first day since last Wednesday that I was able to leave completely satisfied with the things we accomplished. Of course I don't have any photos, but maybe tomorrow I will bring the camera out. Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rough Patch

Oakley and I have hit a rough patch that we've been working through these past few days. I know these days come and go, and horses are always going to test their boundaries, but it seems like Oakley is trying extra hard to wear me down. I ended today on a good note with a short, 5 minute ride of just walking. I am giving her the full day off tomorrow. Hopefully it will do her some good.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Here's a photo from today. This was right before my clipper blades went dull. She was a good girl though.

I can't sleep. Just found out my sister who has been battling cancer was given about a year. She's in her 30's. It's hard to make sense of some things in life.

Update - Less than 60 days left

Oakley's training is going well. I haven't had a whole lot to update about because I am working on making all of her new information solid. So that's just a lot of repetition of the things she's already learned.

Yesterday I hauled her over to my reining coach for a lesson. I just wanted someone on the ground to help me out and maybe see some things that I might be missing. It's so nice to have someone tell you what to do instead of always second guessing yourself when you come to a situation you're not sure of. We worked on teaching Oakley to find a circle and stay on it and also lots of bending and flexing. We even started some turnaround exercises. It was a good lesson and a good experience for Oakley.

I started to body clip Oakley today. She stood pretty well for it. Unfortunately when I got to her belly my clipper blades dulled out and I didn't have an extra. I knew I should have waited and given her a bath... oh well. I will make sure when I resume that she is 100 percent clean.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I forgot what day it is...

So I am not sure what day we're on, but I know Oakley is doing well. She is exactly where I wanted her to be at this point in the game. She still has wild moments here and there, but relatively speaking it's still very early. Sometimes I wonder why she is the way she is compared to some of the other mustangs who seem pretty mellow. A friend of mine reminded me that some of the mellower mustangs have been in holding facilities longer or even since they were born. Oakley's capture date was Dec. 30th 2010, so that's a little over a year that she's been out of the wild. She spent almost 2 years of her life in the wild.

I am still doing the same routine with her that I've been doing. Riding in the morning, groundwork in the evening. She is starting to seek out the rest under saddle, which is good for stops. She still isn't convinced the bit is a good thing, but she improves each ride. She is much more comfortable with me on her back than she is with me on the ground. We've had a few hairy moments where I ended up gripping her tight with both legs to hang on and she hasn't lost her mind when that happens, that's a good sign. Those moments usually occur when she thinks about going left but I say "go right!" and there is a wall quickly approaching.

In other horse news, I have someone interested in Flirt. The lady is coming out to see Flirt tomorrow. I am hoping I can sell her. The extra money and one less mouth to feed would be nice. Plus, my own horses are going to be neglected for the next 2 months while Oakley is in training. It would be nice to see Flirt go somewhere that she'll be loved and used. Wish us luck!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Weekend and Monday

The weekend went by fast! It was pretty good. Saturday I only worked her once. I had some guests out so I just showed them a little of what she knows. When I rode her I just walked to let her know that forward can be at a slower speed too. We did lots of bending and flexing.

Sunday was the breed demo practice for Midwest Horse Fair. I loaded up Remington at my barn and then headed over to the other barn to get Oakley. I got there a little early in case she decided not to load, but she did awesome. She walked right in with no hesitation. Rem was in the trailer but we put the dividers back in so she was a little nervous when I went to close her in. She got over it though and trailered like a champ.

When we got to the Farm I unloaded Oakley and walked her through the barn aisle and into the indoor. She led really well and stayed with me which made me happy. I tied her in the indoor and then went to get Rem. I grabbed Oakley and hopped on Rem and ponied Oakley the whole time. She did really well. She had a few scary moments, but for the most part she was well behaved and tried as hard as she could to act domestic. At the end of practice I had Rem and Oakley walk over an old mattress. Rem has done it before but this was Oakley's first time. She went to follow Rem over it, put one foot down and then leapt straight into the air. It was like those coyotes you see pouncing in the prairie. I wish I had gotten that on video. Once she figured out the sensation wouldn't suck her into a black hole she walked over quietly, just like Rem.

Today I used the bit for the first time. She wasn't too thrilled when I bitted her up and I had to get after her for wanting to pull her head away. Friday I had put it in her mouth and let her carry it, but didn't attach reins. She did okay but she does a lot of head shaking when I pull on it. I know that will stop as time goes on. Tonight I went back and just groomed her and worked on some desensitizing. She still spooks when I approach too quickly or when I break contact and then make it again in another area. It's just something I have to deal with because I know time and repetition will be the best remedy. Treat them how you want them to be, not how they are. Words to live by :-)

Here is a recap video of the first 2 weeks with Oakley. New riding footage at the end :-) Enjoy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Days 13 & 14

Just a quick update today. Oakley is doing very good. She is such a fast learner, especially under saddle. I will probably bit her up tomorrow or Saturday and see how she does. The vet told me wait 2 days because mouths heal fast. I rode her yesterday and did groundwork in the evening. Today I rode her this morning, but tonight I just turned her out in the arena and let her have some free time while I cleaned her stall. Tonight was the first night that she walked up to me to be haltered when I entered her stall. Very cool :-)

Well I don't have a whole lot of time for details, but hopefully I'll get another video up this weekend. It's supposed to get COLD! Boo!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Soft Landings and Wolf Teeth - Day 12

I was tired of having no video of me riding to share on the blog so I decided I was going to set up the camera in the arena today. I got Oakley out and did some free longeing and then saddled her up. I wanted her to be a little fresh because I wanted to try loping today. Good or bad idea? Ha... well it all worked out in the end. I got about 3 minutes into my ride before Oakley wanted to go one way and I wanted to go another and she decided being pulled on warranted a buck or 5. So I stayed on for a few, until my coat got hooked on the saddle horn. Then I figured it was probably time to part ways with my bronc. Luckily the sand is soft. Oakley was fine after that. I think she just got a little scared. It wasn't her fault and I wasn't upset with her. I was more entertained than anything. And of course all I could think about was my reining trainer, Andy's voice in my head saying "You shouldn't have gotten on! She was too fresh!". That's usually what he'd tell me if one of the colts I was riding for him bucked.

After her episode she loped around like a good pony and I felt good about her progress. The vet was scheduled to come out around 8:30 so I unsaddled her and put her back in her stall.

When the vet arrived he took care of all the coggins and vaccinations for the boarding horses and got around to the mustangs teeth last. Oakley had 2 top wolf teeth and some sharp points. She was a pretty good patient and cooperated well.... under sedation obviously :-)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 10 and the 1st half of 11

Well yesterday was a good day. I had some visitors come out to see the mustangs. Jessica Davis and I took turns working our mustangs for an audience of 3 friends. Oakley did really well. I put her through her paces of longeing, leading, picking up all 4 feet, moving forehand and hindquarters from the ground, mounting, and riding. When she was all finished I took her up to the gate and unsaddled her near the people. I want to teach her that people are not scary!

I still did not get any video. I put Oakley away and decided she was so good she could have the afternoon off, so I didn't return to work her until this morning.

She was a little bit of a pill this morning. I went to lead her out of her stall and she decided she wasn't going to leave. So she pulled back and reared a few times. I wasn't sure if she was scared of something outside the stall or just being stubborn so I backed her out of the stall and that worked just fine. I worked her a little and returned her to the stall to see if she would lead out. It took another good discussion about what should happen when I pull on the lead and she finally walked through, but not without some snorting. I imagine she was focusing on something that scared her. Maybe it was my saddle on the rack... who knows? After that we headed to the arena and did some longeing and rope work. I tied the rope around the saddle horn and let it drape around her hind legs while I held on to the other end. She doesn't seem to mind ropes and things touching her legs as she's moving. After that I took out a few obstacles and we worked a little on those. The bridge at the new barn is so narrow that it's difficult to get the horse to keep all 4 feet on at one time. I got Oakley to step up square but I wasn't dead set on making her cross the entire length of it with all 4 feet. I will save that exercise for another day. I put the bridge away and hopped on Oakley. She felt really nice today. This was the first day I decided to do some steering and encourage her to move in a circle rather than just go wherever she pleased. She responded so well. I am very happy with her progress so far. We've only done walk/trot so far, but I'm thinking the canter will come along soon. Probably before the end of the week. I am going back out later today, not sure of a game plan yet, but I'm sure I'll think of something. More later...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day 9

Hmmph, here I was thinking it was day 8, come to find out it's been 9 days since I've had Oakley. Time flies when you're training a mustang on a time schedule. Today I moved Oakley to the barn where she'll be until the Horse Fair. It is the same barn where the two other trainers who picked up their mustangs with me are keeping their horses. It has a nice indoor, not huge, but a lot better than my small 36' by 36' pen.

Oakley's trailer loading experience last night paid off. She walked right in this morning. I tied her in and headed out. She did great unloading too. I had a flashback to the first time I unloaded Remington where I walked up beside him and he kicked so hard and fast I never saw it coming. Luckily his aim was terrible. But Oakley did not kick, she allowed me to untie her and she hopped out just fine. Going into the barn was a little scary because it was dark and there were some shavings bags right near the doorway, but she eventually went in. I settled her in her stall and moved my things in.

After everything was moved in I took Oakley out for a little tour of the indoor and the barn aisle. She was very good and quite calm. It was a beautiful day out. I spent some time with her at the gate at the end of the barn just looking outside at some of the horses who were turned out. So far she has been pretty good about not being too vocal. I like that about her. We'll see if that changes now that we're in a bigger barn with more horses that she can easily see. In the arena we worked on trotting in hand and picking up all 4 feet. I have progressed to using my hands when I ask for her feet. She's getting pretty good. She was a good girl so I put her away and let her be.

I went back out tonight. Tracy Schmidt (one of the other trainers) was out working her cute little chestnut mare. Her mare is named Stella and she is about the same size as Oakley. She is so refined, she looks like she could be a very light quarter horse. Tracy is doing a good job with her. I watched for a while then got Oakley out. I was going to try to saddle her up in the aisle, but she was a little too distracted. She spooked a few times so I decided to wait until I could work her down in the arena and then saddle her. She was not quite as cooperative with me tonight when it came to longeing. She wanted to pull me around so I ended up pulling her around. It went on for a while and she finally got tired of it and decided to cooperate. I remember those days with Remington fondly... well okay, I wouldn't say fondly... but I do remember them. I also know they become few and far between as time goes on. Once she settled I saddled her up and got right on. I sent her forward and we cruised around the arena at a nice trot. She got a little spooked near the wall and picked up the canter which was very smooth! I was able to guide her back down to the trot easily. I like this mare's mind. She really does her best to think things through. I haven't done a whole lot of bending/flexing or steering yet. I am mostly just establishing the forward cue. I am also not too fond of doing a whole lot with the rope halter but I am waiting to put a bit in her mouth until after her teeth are checked out and floated if needed. The vet comes out on Tuesday for that. Then I'll be able to get down to business, I can't wait! I probably rode for about ten minutes before asking her to stop and hopping off. I keep my riding sessions short, especially when the horses aren't in shape yet. I unsaddled and put her up for the night. Maybe tomorrow I'll finally get some video of me riding her!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 8

This morning was great! I asked my friend Amanda to come out in order to expose Oakley to another person. Amanda is familiar with horses and was a big help in creating a good experience for Oakley. Although Oakley was nervous about another person, she got over it when she realized Amanda was just going to pet on her. After Amanda got close enough to rub Oakley, she let out a big sigh and started chewing. Oakley doesn't seem to mind people once they are close enough to pet her, but when they are at a distance she is still very wary. I had Amanda stand in the arena while I led Oakley around. Walking past Amanda was kind of scary, but she did it. Then I switched positions with Amanda and asked her to lead Oakley for me. Oakley was slightly confused but her leading lessons paid off and she led well for Amanda too. She would give me a wary look as she walked by as well. Goofy Mustangs...

After that I decided to take advantage of having another person there and decided to saddle up and ride. She was a little more on edge today, but she was still solid for saddling, longing, and mounting. Once I was up I just asked her for forward movement. I was able to squeeze her up into a trot and she did great! She wasn't too worried and she has a great trot! Easy to ride, but not flat. I can't wait to find out what her canter is like! I only rode for a few minutes. I dismounted, unsaddled, and put her away with some breakfast.

Since Amanda was nice enough to take some video and be a guinea pig for Oakley I decided we should go for a little trail ride. She saddled up Risk and I took Rem. Rem hasn't been worked for a while now... he was pretty good, but he wanted to jog out. I need to start riding him more! Risk and Rem are both fluffy... and by fluffy I mean FAT.

I went back out tonight and had an okay session. I am taking her over to Jessica's barn tomorrow so I have a large indoor to work her in so I wanted to prepare her for trailer loading. I backed the trailer up to the barn, but she did not want to go in. I went ahead and used the common method of putting her to work away from the trailer and letting her rest near it. She was not improving much though. She kept trying to pull back and would refuse to move forward when I pulled on her. Finally I realized the gap in between the barn floor, the driveway, and the trailer might be what was bothering her so I moved the trailer back a few more feet so it was pretty much in the barn. After that she walked right in. I felt like such an idiot for getting her so worked up over something that could have been avoided. Inside the trailer I brushed her and let her take a good long break. After that I loaded her a few more times without issue. I decided that was enough for one night, but I still wanted to accomplish one more thing... tying. So while I mucked out her stall I tied her up inside the small arena. She set herself back once. I had her tied to a blocker tie ring (actually just a loose ring snaffle, but it works the same way) so she learned that she wasn't trapped, but pulling back was not going to get her anywhere.

I hope that Oakley is as forgiving as Remington was when it comes to my own shortcomings as a trainer. I pushed her tonight more than I had planned, but I wasn't going to leave without showing her the trailer is not a bad place to be.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Day 7

Today was a pretty good day. I switched things up and worked on ground work in the morning and under saddle in the afternoon. This morning I worked a lot on leading. I want my horses to be comfortable with me on both sides, so that means being able to lead from both sides. She is comfortable with me on the left, but needs some work when I am on her right side. We were able to overcome her nervousness, but not after some serious discussions about her position. Once she figures out where I want her to be she is golden, but often times when I make a small correction she tends to over react. I really have to think about how I am correcting her so that she learns not to over react. I also worked on leading her over the bridge instead of sending her like in the video from yesterday. She did okay but sometimes she decides to be opinionated and refuse to move forward with me and we need to go back and revisit what it means to move forward when I say so. I kept the morning session pretty short and left her to eat her breakfast.

The afternoon session was pretty cool. I saddled her up. She didn't move an inch as I saddled her so I didn't need to send her away at all. Once she was saddled I longed her for a bit and then stepped in the stirrup a few times before mounting. Once I was mounted I asked her for some movement. She did okay. She was a little unsure of my leg, but did not over react. I don't like to pull on them for the first few rides because I want them to move forward freely and they can't if you pull on them. However, Oakley wanted to walk around with her nose to the ground and I wasn't about to let her drop down and roll with me on her (ahem... Remington) so I kept pulling her head up. I kept it short, about 5 minutes and hopped off. She didn't move a muscle on the dismount so I was happy with that. I unsaddled her and decided to be brave. I led her out of the arena... and then out of the barn! We took our first walk together outside of an enclosed area. She looked around a lot. My intentions were to get her across the driveway to the large pasture and work her a little in that very open but still enclosed space. We made it to about 20 feet in front of the pasture gate when she decided to make a break for it. I'm not sure if she spooked or if she just wanted to test her boundaries. I was able to keep her facing me as she tried to bolt sideways. She was on the grass when her spook started and she took 3 big leaps sideways. I went with her, pulling her head around each time. I knew if she hit the blacktop she would end up slipping. It would not be the first time I've seen a fast moving horse go down on blacktop. As soon as her feet hit the blacktop (hind feet first) she slipped, but she did not go down. She was quick to realize her footing was not in her favor and she came to a halt to think things through! I was happy she has the brains to realize when she is in a dangerous situation and to be smart enough to stop moving on bad footing. I gathered my slack and walked up to her to rub her. She then calmly followed me back across the driveway to where she had originally bolted. We made it into the large pasture safely and I was able to lead her and longeher without anymore bolting or spooking. That made me really happy. She did look around a lot but I was able to keep her attention on me when I needed to.

I kept her out for about 10 minutes and then decided to head back. Things went well on the way back until we got to the barn doorway. She wasn't ready to give up her freedom yet. So I waited with a taught rope until she decided that being pulled on was not as fun as moving forward when asked. I put her away in her stall with some hay and she got right down to eating. I am glad her appetite appears to be improving.

Sorry I don't have photos today. Tomorrow my friend is coming out to help get Oakley used to more people, so maybe I'll get some photos then. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Rest of Day 6

I finished up day 6 with a short session on groundwork obstacles. I brought the bridge, the tarp, some cones, and the big soccer ball into the arena. Oakley handled all the new objects fairly well. She was similar to Remington in not being sure how to lift her feet up onto the bridge once she got up close to it. She just wanted to stare at me and not lift her feet up. Once she figured out that I wanted her to cross the bridge she decided that her best option would be to jump it. Ha. I had a discussion earlier with my friend Amanda about Oakley's long stifles. Amanda thought that might make her a good jumper... she was right! She jumped the bridge about 10 times before I decided to put the tarp down in front of the bridge to slow her thought process down. It worked and she crossed both nicely. This is definitely something I will have to revisit. Other than that she did wonderful. She is still more concerned about my actions than the objects around her... good and bad I guess. I want her to be able to focus on the tasks I give her, not just where I am in the arena. But it is nice that she tries to keep an eye on me at all times. Well I am up too late as it is so off to bed I go. Enjoy the short video. (My camera is still dead, never replaced the batteries so it's a cell phone video - not the best quality)

First Ride - Day 6

I was able to sit on Oakley today! I didn't ask for much movement but she moved a little on her own. I pulled her head around until she stood. I like to ease into riding and take things pretty slow in the saddle. She seems absolutely relaxed with me on top. She is not afraid of seeing me on either side of her and she even had the nerve to try to take a chunk out of my boot with her teeth. I ended up bumping her in the nose with my foot because she wouldn't quit. She isn't bothered by my mount or dismount and her feet are planted for both. What a good girl!

I have been thinking a lot about whether I am pushing her too hard. She is still not sure of me at the beginning of each session, but by the end she doesn't want to leave my side. It makes me wonder about those colt starting competitions where the competitors only have a day or so to start a colt. It seems to me that you can get a lot accomplished in a short amount of time, but the foundation is built on repetition and consistency. Sure they get a colt started in a day, but what would happen if they let that colt sit for a few days? Would it be like starting over? I know lots of people send their horses out for 30 - 60 days of training and then the horses end up sitting once the training is complete. Does it depend on the horse whether or not that info is retained? How much does the person working with the horse matter? All these questions... I still have a lot to learn.

Anyway, enough of those silly questions that run through my mind. I am going back out tonight to work with Oakley. Maybe I'll get some video then. I probably won't ride, just ground work.
More later...

Sleep Escapes Me

So here is a little info about where Oakley came from. I bet she was a "timber horse" because she is so dark! Very cool...

Murderer's Creek Wild Horse Territory

U.S. Forest Service

LOCATION: The Murderer's Creek Wild Horse Territory was established in 1972. It is located SW of John Day, OR in the Malheur Nat’l Forest.

ACREAGE: It includes 73,615 acres of Forest Service and 34,954 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands which is managed by the Malheur National Forest, John Day, OR.

ELEVATION/LANDMARKS: 4,500 – 6,500 feet.

TOPOGRAPHY: The "timber horses" of the Murderer's Creek Territory inhabit mountainous terrain. These horses tend to stay at the high elevations year‐round, living in bands of three to eight animals. Despite snow depths of 2 to 4 feet in these areas, the horses have adapted using timber thickets for shelter, staying near springs and utilizing the south slopes of ridges which tend to melt off earliest in the spring to provide forage. More than 50 percent of the horses of the Murderer's Creek are "timber horses." They live in heavily timbered areas of ponderosa pine and mixed conifer. Most of the horses gathered in 2008 came from the forested area of the Territory.

WILDLIFE: The horses of Murderer's Creek HMA coexist with mule deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, bear, cougar, and myriad smaller forest animals. Horses have been observed at salt licks with deer and grazing in the company of elk. One mare was seen on numerous occasions running with a herd of elk.

HERD SIZE; 50‐140 Head

HORSE COLORS: The forest horses tend to be black, bay or brown in color, whereas the horses in the western, more open part of the territory, are grays, duns, and sorrels.

SIZE OF HORSES: 13.3 TO 15.1 Hands

GENERAL INFORMATION/HISTORY: The lineage of the Murderer's Creek horses is diverse and quite debatable. Although it is likely that horses found in the area by early explorers (probably escaped from Indian herds) left their mark in the area, there can be no dispute that many of the Murderer's Creek horses are descendants of animals lost or turned loose by settlers and ranchers. Dr. Gus Cothran performed genetic analysis of this herd in 2000 ‐2001. He found that this herd ‐which is physically isolated from other herd areas ‐is the most unique, bearing the least similarity to the other Oregon herds studied. He found that this herd bears closest genetic resemblance to the American light racing and saddle breeds as well as to the New World Iberian breeds.

Most areas of the Murderer's Creek Territory are accessible by road during the summer months. Visitors may get a glimpse of horses retreating into the trees. Stud piles along any road are an indicator that you are close to horses. It has been said that these horses are more like elk than horses. Despite this reputation, the "timber horses" tend to settle down shortly after capture, and they are generally quieter when worked with than their open country cousins of the west end of the territory.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 5

My camera chose a great night to die! Ha, oh well. I worked Oakley twice today. I am probably going to develop a routine of morning under saddle work and evening ground work. Both are equally important and since I feel so pressured for time I need to work on them together in order to stay sane. This morning I saddled her up again. It took longer this time because I will not have a horse who does not stand for saddling. Even 2 steps backwards is too much, so I moved her feet more each time she decided to step away or back. She figured out that she has to keep her feet planted when I saddle her. We'll see if the lesson sticks tomorrow. Once she was saddled I sent her around at the trot. She still does not care about the saddle on her back. I decided to see what she'd do if I put a foot in the stirrup and stepped up. She was pretty good. The first few times my weight unbalanced her and she had to move her feet to regain balance. I hung on up there until she came to a stop and then stepped down. I did this on both sides until she could stand still while I stepped up and down. The saddle I used was also slipping and it was cinched tight, so tomorrow I'm going to try a different saddle. I don't need her back to be out of whack before I even get a chance to ride her.

I was good with that and put her in her stall so she could enjoy her breakfast. I gave her more grain. It was still there when I returned to work her in the afternoon. Tonight I worked on leading and some more desensitizing to the flag. She needs to find the happy medium between being dull and over reacting. Sometimes the flag isn't a problem, other times she's at the end of my rope before I can blink. It really makes me think about my body language though. Am I asking her to move that way? What about me is causing her to respond one way vs another? The leading practice was the same deal. She was either dragging or rushing past me. We had a good discussion about that and what should happen when she moves past my shoulder and hits the end of my rope. By the end of the night she was right at my shoulder where I wanted her to be. Again, I will see if that sticks tomorrow! I worked again on her feet and held them for a longer amount of time. She still does not relax completely, but she is trying. Oh! I almost forgot! I got the clippers out as well. I shaved her brand. She did okay but she wanted to shake her head. She wasn't fearful, just annoyed. I am okay with that. It was so warm out that I washed her tail too. I didn't use a hose, just a bucket with water and shampoo. She stood pretty good for that. She ended up rolling in the sand though. All my hard work on that tail... ruined. Ha.

Sorry for such a boring post with no photos. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have more to share. I'll have to pick up some batteries though. I got a nice email from a reader today. It sure is nice to have fans :-) The schedule for the Extreme Mustang Makeover at the Horse Fair is not set in stone yet, but I have heard that the competition will start at 8a.m. on Friday and Saturday and then the finals and adoption will both be on Sunday afternoon. Okay... I am off to do some paintings to try and sell so that I don't starve. Horseman by day... artist by night. Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 4

I had another good day with Oakley. She has really come around fast. She is still jumpy now and again, but she has it figured out that I am easy on her when she's near me and she has to work when she's away. That really helps in showing her that I'm not all too bad.

This morning I got up early to work her. I had a farrier appointment at 8:30 so I got out to the barn at about 6:40. I wasn't really planning on saddling her because I didn't want to be rushed knowing I had an appointment coming up. Things were going really well though so I figured I'd give it a try. She really impressed me. I thought I'd get a buck or two out of her, but she went around like it was no big deal. The stirrups and saddle strings didn't bother her at all as she trotted around. What a nice girl she's turning out to be! I am now able to lead her to and from her stall instead of having to chase her, which is nice. Tomorrow my project is going to be teaching her to walk with me instead of behind me. I don't like having to drag my horse around.

Tonight I went back and we did some more work on the ground. I started to brush out her tail, but then I thought I'd wait a little longer to do that project because I don't want to rip out any of it. I will need to wash it before I brush it out completely. She has let me touch her everywhere now without much fuss. The only thing I have yet to do is cross over behind her. So far I have just been walking around the front of her from one side to the next. When my farrier was out for my other horses he had asked me if I'd handled her feet much yet, I really haven't other running my hands down. I started tonight with the rope and asking her to lift them off the ground for just a second or two. She was a good girl. Tonight she tried some grain for the first time too. I don't think she really enjoyed it though. She is kind of a picky eater. She hasn't been finishing all of her hay, but she picks through and eats the leafy stuff. I am sure she'll figure it out.

Well I have lots to do tomorrow so I am going to get some sleep! Enjoy the video from day 4!


Saddling was a breeze! I'll have a full update later tonight.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

Wow, I feel like I'm dealing with a different horse today! She's still nervous when I approach her in the stall, but she is coming around. We had so many firsts today. I was able to remove all the burrs and comb out and braid her mane and forelock, I sprayed her with show sheen, green spot remover (on her belly), and MTG. She stood while I threw a bareback pad on her. The girth was too long though so I couldn't cinch it up. I hope I have a girth small enough to fit her! She also lead around like a dream... not perfect, but that ponying lesson really paid off. She is so willing to give her head when pressure is applied. You can see in the video when I longe her that her head is always turned to the inside, I like that. It was a good day.

Just for fun, here's a photo of Remington and me from his 4th day of training. Here is Oakley on her 3rd. Pretty cool comparison! (Oakley is much smaller!!)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 2

Well, I am making progress, slowly but surely. She is not what I would consider easy. She is still very fearful. Tonight I hopped on my good mare and decided to teach Oakley a little more about leading and finding the release when pressure is applied. She did pretty good, but in the video she looks rough. She was relaxed and leading on a loose rein before the family that leases one of my horses showed up to see her. I am okay with that though, she needs to overcome her fear of people, it was a good experience for her. I know I look rough too, but I do what I need to to stay safe. My mare also gets an attitude when she's ponying another horse and I'm okay with that. She is doing her job and showing Oakley what is and isn't acceptable. When Oakley rushes forward, Risk lays her ears back and moves forward to try to stay ahead. I ended up having to snub Oakley up to the saddle horn because she was so fearful of the people taking video in the arena. She didn't want to lose sight of them so when we turned away from them she would rush forward. I'm a little apprehensive to post video like this because it may look like I'm pulling on her a lot, but the releases came when they were needed and I wasn't any harder on her than I needed to be. Still a long way from throwing a leg over her!

More Mustangs

If you're looking for a place to find more mustangs competing in the Makeover, here is a link to the facebook page I created for the competition.

I will try to get some links up to trainer's blogs and personal pages on my sidebar later today.

I woke up at 3 and couldn't fall back to sleep, so I went out to check on Oakley. I was a little discouraged yesterday when I left her without being able to slip a halter on. So many of the other trainers were able to accomplish that right away. Of course one of my goals was to not worry about the progress of others, only my own, but it's hard not to. So this morning I decided to work Oakley in her stall instead of the larger arena. I had more success this way even though it can be intimidating to work with such a large animal in such a small space. I was able to rub her shoulder, neck, and head from both sides and get a halter on. I didn't attempt to rub her hip, that will come. I was also able to remove some of the burrs from her mane. The burrs in her forelock will have to wait though. I was out there for about an hour before I decided we had made the progress I was hoping for.

Oakley in her halter!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 1

What a long day. It started this morning at 4 am because I couldn't sleep. I decided to head out to the barn and get some extra chores done before the mustang arrived. I was so nervous, I just had to keep busy. The plan was to leave at 6 am. I would be driving and hauling Jessica Davis' and Tracy Schmidt's mustangs as well as my own. My friend Amanda came along for the ride as well. Everyone arrived on time so we hit the road at about 6. The weather was perfect for driving and we made good time after a small detour (wrong turn). We arrived at the holding facility in Mequon at 8 am. We were the 5th trailer in line.

We had time to go check out the mares. They were all stunning. I liked many of them, and would have had a hard time choosing one if I actually had a choice! Since we were 5th in line we had to wait to get our paperwork until the trainers in front of us got theirs. I was quite anxious to find out which horse I had drawn. My turn in line finally came and I quickly filled out my information. I was handed a piece of paper with my horse's number and description. I drew number 1042, a brown mare with a star and a snip. She is from Murderer's Creek HMA in Oregon.

After I found out my horses number and markings, the search was on. I eagerly scanned the pens looking for a mare that matched this description. After what seemed like forever, I was finally able to locate her. She was everything I had been hoping for. She is small and dark with beautiful, kind eyes.

Oakley and her forelock full of burrs :-(

Oakley is on the right with the big star.

Me, Jessica, and Tracy

Trailer loading and unloading went as smooth as we could have hoped for. I worked Oakley today with the bamboo pole and lariat. She is a difficult horse to predict. One moment she seems okay with me, and the next she is spinning and bolting the other direction. I think tomorrow I will work her in the stall a little before I take her into the larger arena like I did today. We weren't allowed to put halters on our horses, so she is naked right now.

I am beat, so I don't have much time for details, but please watch and enjoy the video I made for today.

I'll have more updates tomorrow! Now it's time for sleep!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Counting Down the Days

Well, only 10 more days. I can't even begin to describe my excitement! I am still apprehensive about getting my hopes up too high. I worry about things. I don't want a big horse. I don't care about color, though I wouldn't mind something dark. I hope that my horse is sound and healthy. A good mind would be appreciated as well.

There is also the question of income. My last unemployment check will be the week after I pick up my horse. I won't get benefits once I complete my certification. I will be able to substitute teach, but I'm not sure what districts I'll be able to get into. I have a lot on my mind, needless to say. I suppose I just have to have faith that things will happen the way they do for a reason... that's never been a problem for me in the past.

Enough about those worries. I have been thinking up names for quite some time now. Originally I planned to name the mustang after another artist (like Remington). Once I learned it would be a mare, my selection of recognizable artists was depleted to only a few. I thought about calling her Frida, after Frida Kahlo. Then I thought about naming her "The Surrealist" and calling her "Surry" or "Dream". Next I thought about the art of music. Maybe calling her "Lyric". Lately though I've been thinking of naming her after Annie Oakley. My uncle does cowboy action shooting in his spare time and he's been teaching me about guns and shooting. I want to get my mustang to the point where I can shoot off of her. Annie's nickname was "Little Sure Shot". I like that name. I would call her Oakley. It all depends though. Just like with Remington, her name will come to me when I see her.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Importance of Arena Work for the Trail Horse

Horse owners often send their horse for training to become better trail horses. They want their horses to get the necessary experience out on the trail in order to be safe, reliable mounts. When I get a horse intended to be a trail mount in for training I spend 75% of my time with this horse in the arena and 25% on the trail, at least for the first 2 months. Owners are sometimes disappointed to find this out because they want their horse to have experience on the trail, but I have good reasoning for my method.

If my horse doesn’t respond to my cues in an arena (a controlled setting), you can bet he won’t respond to my cues out on the trail. The trail offers so many outside stimuli that the horse must process, it is important that he learns to listen and respond to me before he responds to the stimuli found out on the trail. This foundation must be built in a safe environment where learning can occur, such as an arena.

I want my trail horse to know 4 vital skills before he ever sets foot in the open. These 4 skills are: Forward, whoa (including the one rein stop), the start of collection, and yielding to leg pressure. My first priority in training a horse is safety. By practicing these developing 4 skills in an arena, these requests become second nature to both me and the horse. That is why it is also important that the owner takes lessons and learns the cues that I teach the horse. When I need to make the request out on the trail, for example, if the horse bolts, the horse will rely on the prior knowledge he learned in the arena instead of following his original instinct to flee. I will describe each skill I teach my trail horses below and include why it is important to set the foundation for each skill in the arena first.

Forward – Forward is the first thing any horse should learn. I teach my horses forward first on the ground with verbal and visual cues, then from the saddle with seat and leg aids (and the ends of my reins if needed). If I point my horse in a direction and ask him to go forward his only question of me should be “How fast?”. This is usually easy to get in an arena free from distraction. The horse feels comfortable going around, following the fence on nice even ground. The horse learns to carry me at all speeds without worry of losing his footing. He also learns to follow my direction at any speed. It is unfair to ask my young horses to learn to carry my weight out on the trail on uneven terrain. They must first learn to carry me and move forward at all 3 gaits on flat ground. How many times have you heard someone complain of a horse that will not leave the barn? Simply put, this horse is refusing to go forward. This type of horse did not develop a response to the “go forward” cue, or he was spoiled by someone who did not enforce the “go forward” cue. Once the horse is comfortable going forward off of a cue in an empty arena I will begin adding obstacles that I expect my horse to go over. These obstacles can include tarps, bridges, poles, water etc. The horse learns that no matter what is in front of him, he must trust me to move forward at the pace I ask him to go. Now that he’s learned to go forward in a controlled setting, he will have the confidence to go forward out on the trail.

Whoa – Whoa is the second thing any horse should learn. A horse can’t learn “whoa” until he can go forward. Again, I teach my horses on the ground first with verbal and visual cues, and then from the saddle with verbal, seat, and rein cues. I should be able to use any single one of those aids (verbal, seat, rein) or all three together to stop my horse. I probably do not need to go into great detail as to why it is important that my horse knows how to stop out on the trail. Anybody who has ever been on a horse that bolts can tell you how dangerous this situation can be, not only to the horse and rider, but to anyone else who may be in the bolting horse’s path. I teach my horses to be soft, supple, and light in the bridle. If I pick up on a rein, I expect my horse to give me his face. If I move a leg back I expect my horse to disengage his hindquarters as well. Those two cues together are what is known as the one rein stop. If a horse bolts and he does not respond to my verbal, seat, or rein cues to whoa I know I will be able to stop him with the one rein stop. I practice this in the arena. He knows how to give his face and disengage his hip before I take him out on the trail. By taking his face from him and disengaging his hip he has no power left to propel himself forward and bolt. This technique can also be used to stop a bucker.

The start of collection - I say the start of collection because this can take years to develop, but it is very important that a trail horse knows how to give his face, round his back, and use his hind end. Imagine riding down a steep embankment after a rain storm. Would you rather have a horse that blindly throws his head in the air and charges down the hill on his forehand or a horse that gives his face, rounds his back, and sits on his haunches to slide down that hill in a controlled manner? I would much rather have a horse that knows how to collect and sit on his haunches down that hill. The same is true for going up hills. Do you want a horse that scrambles up the hill, practically dragging himself up it by his front legs, or a horse that powers from behind with his rear end and propels himself up the hill. The horse who knows how to use himself will be sure footed on the trail. Horses need to be taught how to correctly carry themselves and the weight of their rider.

Yield to my legs – The next thing I will teach my young trail horses is how to move off of my leg aids. Imagine heading down a narrow winding trail (such as those found at Magnolia Bluff). Trees are on either side of you making the path seem as if it is closing in on you and your horse. If your horse moves off to one side or the other you’ll end up needing a knee replacement. A horse that moves off of leg aids would have no trouble negotiating through a trail like this safely, but if your legs mean nothing to your horse you are in a dangerous situation. I teach my horses lateral movements such as the side pass and leg yield. I also teach them to move their front end independently from their hind end and vice versa. Again, all of this is done in order to prepare the horse to be a safe mount out on the trail.

I teach my trail horse all of these skills before we venture out on the trails so that I truly set him up for success. It would be absolutely unfair to ask my horse to do any of these tasks without first practicing at home. One of the best qualities in a trail horse is confidence and the only way to get that confidence is to prepare the horse for what lies ahead.