Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Herd Behavior...or Not

Yesterday's training session was a group activity. Misty and her fellow classmates were flagged while running loose in the arena. The goal was to get them to pay attention to the leaders on horseback and move together as a herd.

There was a little ear pinning and some kicking, but nothing very violent. It reminded me somewhat of a Moonlight Madness sale I went to at the mall years ago. Whether it be a group of equines or women shoppers reaching for the same sweater, there will be some chaos.

Sometimes the horses became unruly students who forgot to work together and weren't paying attention to the teacher.

Misty was definitely not the leader, but here is a moment when they appeared to be playing follow-the-Misty.

Once in awhile they'd huddle in the corner to catch their breath and plot their next move.

Misty was the first one to call it quits. She parked herself at the end of the arena and rested while everyone else kept running around.

Too pooped to party.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Misty's Monday Muse

This weekend was a busy one for Marley & Me, and My Lady. We all participated in a 2 day horsemanship clinic.

In the morning, My Lady and I did ground work. I was a good girl, but I did get worried when I heard a monster circling around outside the indoor arena. My prey instinct is quite strong and I'm very sensitive to scary noises. If I'd known it was just the hay truck replenishing our vittles, I would have been happy instead of frightened.

My Lady rode Marley in the afternoon sessions. She practiced using direct and indirect rein to communicate to Marley's front and back feet, respectively. The riders also practiced transitions from walk to trot, and back to the walk. Sounds simple, but there was actually a lot of communication going on between horses and riders.

Marley got a little naughty a couple of times. He did that ornery trick of his where he shoves his right shoulder out in sort of a "run away" attitude, even though he didn't go anywhere. My Lady used her left direct rein and a lot of right leg to get him back on the rail. He was OK after that. But then later, Marley got very relaxed and sleepy while the riders were quietly sitting on their horses listening to instructions. When My Lady woke Marley up and asked him to move to the rail, he didn't want to go. Instead of moving forward, he started backing up. My Lady asked him more firmly to go forward and he kept backing up and backing up some more. She had to get aggressive with her legs, and he finally decided she meant it, and he moved forward onto the rail. Marley was just testing My Lady. Sometimes he likes to question who is in control. We're hoping that soon he will stop questioning so much and just be a good boy.

They did a couple of fun exercises on horseback, although I think it was really more entertaining for the trainers watching than the riders. Some riders went to the right, while others went to the left and when they encountered a rider coming toward them they had to weave around one another. It was kind of funny. Everyone agreed that they wouldn't be forming a drill team anytime soon.

Next they played a game where some of the horse/rider pairs pretended to be cows and the other horse/rider pairs had to keep their "cows" from going back to the herd. It was fun, but by this time My Lady's brain was full and she was feeling a little overwhelmed and tired. She felt like she wasn't thoughtfully herding her cow, by correctly maneuvering Marley's front and hind ends at the appropriate time. She was just kind of riding him back and forth. After all, she is 50 and this Vaquero style of riding is new to her. She may be an old dog, but she can still learn new tricks given some time. (Don't tell her I said it like that).

It's still "Springtime in the Rockies". So, Sunday afternoon it started snowing again. It snowed heavily last night and into this morning. I don't mind, but the humans are sure grumbling about it. Unlike the last couple of snowstorms, this one will be short lived and the sun is scheduled to make an appearance soon.

Despite the snow, we had a few pine trees planted on our property this morning. A fellow stopped by with a bunch of Pinion Pines (pronounced "pin-yun") in the bed of his pickup truck for a really good price. My Lady was happy about that because she loves Pinion Pines and they'll add curb appeal to the house.

Have a good week.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Misty & Marley Go to School - Part 4

The Tarp Lesson

Tarps are scary things. They crackle and flap around and flutter in the wind. And sometimes they chase horses.

There are many benign things on the trail and out in the world that can frighten a horse. You and I may immediately recognize them as harmless, but to a horse that is hard wired to flee from danger, they are a mountain lion about to pounce. Misty is particularly sensitive to noises and things behind her. She has needed extra tutoring to learn not to panic when exposed to unfamiliar sights and sounds.

I was happy to see that Misty remembered last year's lessons from beginner driving training. Pulling a tarp was pretty routine.

Although, when the tarp got close enough to touch her, she wanted to run away. She will need to study this lesson a little more.

But for the most part, she took it all in stride. I was proud of my girl.

Ho Hum. Ropes? Tarps?
No problem, as long as that thing doesn't sneak up and tickle me.

Misty, I have to tell you, I think that tarp is eventually going to work itself up onto your back.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Misty & Marley Go to School - Part 3

It's a muddy, melting mess here but school is back in session.

Two eager pupils.
Nah, I think they were just hoping for treats.

Misty was saddled and schooled in the round pen. Marley continues to make progress on improving his posture and being responsive and lighter. Kathleen and Erin have begun riding him. I rode him for a little bit today while Kathleen taught me how to use the mecate reins and walked me through a proper 1 rein stop that includes disengagement of the hindquarters. This is an exercise I will be repeating frequently with Marley in the coming months.

I ordered some mecate reins today. I need to buy slobber straps and new bits next. I'll make use of my English headstalls until I can put together something more fashionable for the western/natural horsemanship style. For the time being, function is more important than fashion

Kathleen schooled Marley on the 1 rein stop.

Misty got a good work out in the round pen.
There were also ground poles and a scary blue tarp in the pen.

I didn't find the bunnies under the wheels of my car this time.
This is a better place to rest - and tastier!

To be continued...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Black & White and White All Over

OK, I said I wasn't going to take any more pictures of snow this weekend, but how about dogs and snow?

I couldn't resist capturing our dogs running and leaping in this annoying white stuff that is so abundant.

This is Sadie (Dalmatian mix) and Bella (Field Spaniel mix). Both are rescue dogs.

Sadie has been with me for 10 years now and enjoyed being an "only dog" for many years. She is shy and timid and sticks to me like glue. She was a little bent out of shape when Bella joined our family, but as you can see, she enjoys having a playmate now.

Bella came to us a year ago from a no kill shelter in Arkansas via a Colorado rescue group. She was happy and wiggly, but tired easily and had labored breathing when she laid down to rest. We soon discovered she had a large burden of Heartworms living in her heart and pulmonary artery. She's cured now and has boundless energy. Somebody in her past docked her tail completely off, so when she is happy (which is all the time), her whole body wiggles. Her nickname is Wiggle Butt.

We love them both.

They are really dumb around the horses though. So we don't allow much interaction between canine and equine here.

We had a little adventure in the snow regarding another dog last night. I took pictures with my cell phone.

Our neighbors had to leave town for a funeral and asked that we take care of their dog Sam.

Sam is a Boxer/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. He's a big boy, but a sensitive soul who suffers with separation anxiety when left home alone all night. He can't come to our house because he and Sadie have not been introduced and they'd get into a fight. So I am sleeping at Sam's house to keep him company while his parents are away.

Sam's parents plowed their driveway before they left home Saturday morning. By evening it was impassable. We had to park on the road and hike up to their house in knee deep snow. Fortunately they left us the keys to their tractor.

We wouldn't have gotten there at all if it weren't for a good Samaritan with a 4x4 pickup truck and snow blade who carved a rough lane down our own street so we could get out.

My husband and stepson were running the tractor when it got stuck. They dug it out but couldn't get it started again. Last night the owner called and told my husband how to put it in neutral to get it started again. So my husband finished plowing the neighbor's driveway this morning so I could get my car up to their house.

Poor Sam. This morning he wouldn't eat his breakfast and he looked at me as if he were thinking, "Who are you and what have you done with my mom and dad?"

After spending time with Sam I understand the doormat his parents have in their garage that says:

"A fragile and very sensitive big ass dog lives here."

This morning, Sunday morning, my husband and I ran out for a bit. We returned to find that the county road crew had properly plowed our street...

...and did this to all the driveway entrances.

Again, my husband and stepson came to the rescue.

We may see sunshine and 70F this week. My fingers are crossed, hoping this is the last of the Spring snow.

P.S. Misty will not be musing tomorrow. She has to concentrate on her school work.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Misty & Marley Go to School - Part 2

Would somebody please turn off the snow!

I'm not going to take any pictures this weekend, because all this white stuff is getting to be too mundane.

Last Tuesday, Misty & Marley had their 2nd lesson at school. They didn't get ridden, but were worked in the round pen after it dried out a bit following last weekend's snow storm.

A muddy Marley working in the round pen.

Misty's turn.

I wonder what radio station she's tuning into.

Ah, Marley. He has that combination blond-surfer-dude/cute-guy/devilish-boy look about him. I can't quite come up with a name for it. He must be picking up the same radio station as Misty.

The trainers pointed out things that my novice eye doesn't yet see readily. They said, although Marley couldn't go anywhere in the round pen and didn't do anything with great speed, he "ran-off" several times. They could see these subtle "run-offs" in his body posture and attitude. He's still bracing on his right side and looking for ways to get away from the work. Basically, he's broken. Not broken as in trained to ride. But broken as in not functioning properly. He won't be repaired overnight because he's had many years to practice and perfect this attitude, but he is showing that he can learn. He's a good boy and I am committed to seeing that he becomes a happy and pleasurable saddle pony.

Misty is not broken fortunately. She just needs experience.

The training is stalled right now due to weather. Hopefully I'll have more progress to report next week.

I hope you are having a good weekend, doing good things with your equines. We're snowed in, so hubby and I are finally going to get to watch the movie "Australia" now. It's a good day for curling up on the couch and watching a movie.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not So Wild Life

There are some cute critters at the ranch where Misty and Marley are going for training.

I adore donkeys. I tried to get some shots of these two minis, but they kept mugging me. I'd step away to get them both in the picture and before I could snap, they'd be right on me, grabbing at my coat.

I had to settle for their shadows.

I wanted to put them in my pockets and take them home.

Then I found these two fur balls waiting at my car.

I think they were practicing to be wheel chocks.

I would have brought this one home too, but my pockets were full of donkeys.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Misty's Monday Muse

Misty & Marley Go to School

Last Friday, Marley and I went for training with Kathleen Sullivan and Erin McLaughlin. We worked on the ground naked and dressed in saddles. It was nice to work with Marley in the same arena. Kathleen taught Marley while Erin taught me. By the end of our lesson we both showed improvement.

Erin is asking me to back up.

Kathleen working Marley in a circle with the flag.

We were both very good about being saddled.

Erin asked me to soften and bend while keeping my feet in place. I was resistant at first because I didn't understand. Erin was very patient with me; she didn't force me, but gave me time to think.

I started to figure it out.

I became softer.

By jove, I think I've got it!

Marley was quite interesting.

He's rather stiff, but he can sure bend that thick neck of his while resisting the pressure of the rope. We know he can even run full speed ahead with his nose bent to his shoulder.

Here he is bent like a bobby pin, but resisting long enough to get bored. So he decided to nibble on his girth for entertainment. Silly boy.

But he did better than on our evaluation day. There was actually some communication going to his feet this time and he moved around more fluidly.

He has a really tough time with his right side though. Kathleen asked if on the occasions that Marley ran off with riders, did he veer to the right? My Lady said she had not witnessed his run-offs under saddle, but as she thought about it, she recalled the several times she experienced Marley trying to run-off on the longe line, he always tried to run away to his right. He's very strong on that side.

Kathleen is asking Marley to bend and move his feet.
See how braced he is?

He's a stubborn pony, but Kathleen was patient.

He finally got a clue.

And found the answer to the question.

Next time they might ride us both. We've been ridden before, but I'm green and Marley is ornery. It should be interesting.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mother Nature...I have a complaint.

Easter Sunday 2009

This is not what I was expecting to wake up to on Easter morning.

My husband says this is why the Easter Bunny colors his eggs.
So the children in Colorado can find them.

Here's what the Easter Bunny left for me.

I rented this movie last week and watched it on my iPod.
I enjoyed it very much!

Afterward, I lamented that I hadn't seen it on a bigger screen.
The scenery and the filming appeared to be stunning, but I couldn't see the details on my tiny screen.
I want to watch it again, on a bigger screen.

Thank you Easter Bunny!

Action, adventure, beautiful scenery, good guys vs bad guys, humor, romance, horses, and cattle.
All the makings of a great movie.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

From the Side of the Road

Saturdays go by so quickly; much faster than work days. Why is that?

All I've done is make one feed run, attend a NH training demo, and drive into town for some cosmetics...and the day is done. Alas, no time for housework.

It goes without saying...I also fed horses and scooped poop.

After the morning barn chores, my husband and I took a drive along a new route to pick up some horse feed. We snapped a few pictures along the way.

Breakfast in bed:

Rock garden serpent (everybody needs one):

Cool Cattle:

Four black horses running in a row:

It was an interesting drive.

Drop by on Monday. Misty will be reporting on the recent training session she and Marley attended.

Happy Easter!