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.