Wednesday, April 25, 2012

At Peace

First off, what do you think of the new blog design? I had been mulling over changes for months now..never quite getting it how I wanted it to look. Even with the old one, it still didnt feel like "us". I love wood tones so I found this blogger background, which I feel is perfect (for now..haha), and I have always loved the composition of the header photo with the fence-line. Its an older photo from September, I believe, but it is peaceful in it's quality...I hope this spring I capture another good feeling photo like this only with Milo's blanket off. We will see if it comes along though.

Anyways, I know things arent as exciting here as in previous times. I am so busy with everything in life right now, I dont even have a strict work schedule with Milo like I used to. I still see him daily for feedings and cleaning, but it seems all too frequent there is another place I am supposed to be. I have been enjoying a lot of grooming sessions and cuddle time, which is what I really need right now. I think Milo is feeling good with the pressure of aspiring work and goals off of my own shoulders.

Dont read that wrong, however; we still have goals, but an agenda truly is gone for the moment. I have really been able to take the time to enjoy my horse, and I truly have. I have really been enjoying the trail rides we have been going on. It feels to be the solitude and mind clarity we both have really needed. It is coinciding with the twice-weekly yoga classes I have at the college. A designated time of the day where I give it to myself to just find some peace and clarity. I am really happy that I have found a way to incorporate this into my horse-time. While I have always found my time with Milo and horses as a place for relaxation, I would be lying if I didnt say often it was also another contention for stress: must get that lead change, work on my seat, drama, agendas, upcoming horse shows, etc. I think we can all admit to that. And look at that list I just jotted out: "must", "work", "drama", "agenda". How can one find clarity when those emotions are filling up the barn?

I'm not perfect, I dont pretend to be, but I am really happy I have once-again found the peaceful serenity that the barn offers - that my horse offers. He really is an amazing animal. I can be entirely happy with "just" being in the stall with him, stroking his head, cuddling, breathing his scent. Thats as good as riding for me in that day.

Today, I did ride and worked on some elements from my last lesson with Sarah. But what I really wanted to mention was the progress we have been making in the stall. I have made an effort to do many things with Milo while in the stall or in the presence of food in efforts to hopefully dissipate the food/stall aggression we have dealt with before. Even with some reservations, nerves, and some fear (I will admit to the heart-quickening I have gotten when the rear end swings towards me, or the ears pin), I have made a conscious effort to work on these things. Milo (and I) are doing well. Grooming, feeding (not through the window, coming into the stall), tacking, hoof raising, tail bagging, cleaning, on and off the halter. And of course, cuddling. He is doing well and figuring out what is acceptable. And we are once again enjoying each other.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Handsome Milo

Oh handsome Milo

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Lesson at Home

I was really eager for my lesson on Tuesday. I hadnt had a lesson with Sarah in months, and this time she was coming out to my place to give me one. There were so many things I wanted to ask her, and have her look at. First, she checked over Milo. He was super vocal about what needed fixing; his first and seconds ribs were out, (which explained the sour ears I had been getting when tacking up) he was out in the girth area, she checked over his hips, decompressed his knees and fetlocks on the front, and checked over his organs. His liver was a little hot, but not horrid, she commented, and recommended a ten day supply of Dynamite Excel right before the next full moon, which we would then worm him with Panacur or SafeChoice, the only two options that Milo agreed with. DynaPro was also suggested, just like last spring, to flush out any toxins in his system. Fortunately, I have DynaPro left, and Sarah gave me a supply of Excel.

Sarah looked over the hay that I had, and didnt like what she saw. I have two bales left over from the Orchard Grass and she liked that much more than the Timothy. She recommended I go back to the Orchard Grass and sell the remaining Timothy bales I have. She has six bales or so of Oregon Orchard Grass I could buy from her, which I would gladly do. Hopefully I can get rid of the half ton timothy I have.

I tacked up and we got to work. I wasnt sure what we were going to work on today and after not seeing her in a long time, I figured a critique on my riding was going to be in order. But she started off by saying that when we work our horses at home, we need 75% from them, that way when we are at a horse show, we can just ask for 25% and not have a big deal. Especially in western events where a draped rein is sought after, the horse needs to respond from our legs alone. Today she wanted to teach Milo and I how to be shaped from just my legs.

By shaping, it can mean anything: directional, speed, but what we were working on was body control and shaping Milo in an arc. Nose in, hip in, was the focus, and Sarah also taught me a new way to cue. There are only so many places to put the leg for a cue, Milo for example wanted to lope off as I was asking for his hip in, which was partially evasion from the exercise being difficult, partially showing that I havent been asking for the lope with my hip placement, and partially because, well, the lope off has been putting my outside leg back. Sarah recommended "painting" his side with my leg. In a sweeping motion I just wave the leg back and forth across the C region, avoiding poking with the spur. This exercise is to build strength and relax, there is no need to get aggressive about it and create resentment in both of us. "Baby Steps," she reminded me a few times. If Milo didnt respond with his hip in with the painting, I was to bring his nose to the outside and move the hip away in a way thats easier because horses want to move their hip away from their nose like a man carrying lumber - turn one way, the rear end goes the other. The exercise of nose in hip out would reinforce my painting cue, then I would bring the nose back in and continue painting for the hip. If I got the hip but lost the shoulder (which is easy to do), I would reinforce the wall of the outside rein by bringing Milo into a spin and reinforcing keeping his shoulder up. We worked this at the trot and when things were coming more together, we moved it into the lope.

Sarah told me to use my corners to my advantage for this exercise. As we came into the corner (if properly) Milo would already be shaped into the arc of the direction we were traveling. Just before making the turn the new direction, I would capture the hip and keep it in the same line of travel on the other side of the corner, so the image that came to mind was the western pleasure horses crab loping along the rail. While this is NOT the ideal we are looking for as far as loping, it was what we wanted (in a sense) for this exercise, although with more shoulder control as well. Think of it like a half pass at the lope, but with less diagonal direction and just forward along the rail. Just like in the trot work, this too would build strength and help with leg control, put more foundation on our spins, and moreover, help build strength in Milo's lope which is getting better but still scrambly (which a lot come from the downward shoulder, which I will get to in a minute).

We worked on this, trying to utilize the corners, and was having a hard time. Milo didnt respond to the painting of my outside leg, and lifted his head to evade the bit as I asked for his nose to come in. We tried it over and over and it wasnt working. Then I lost the outside shoulder so made a big correction of it, which Sarah commented was too aggressive. I went back to the trot, and re-emphasized the exercise at the trot, then went back into the lope and tried again. We got a couple strides of what we were looking for and as I released and relaxed along the last part of the straight-of-way, Sarah commented on what a beautiful lope it was. All this work is going to help get the lope where it needs to be.

As Milo got a breather, we discussed Milo's neck and shoulders. The area just in front of the withers does not have a lot of definition, and he travels like a pleasure horse - his neck ties in low and he comfortably keeps his head low, which unfortunately bring the shoulders down too. We did an exercise to encourage Milo to start lifting at the shoulders and rounding in that area in front of the withers. An easy way for me to see the difference was in the filling in of the area on his neck, but more importantly, I could feel a huge difference when my horse was lifted at the shoulder. Again, Sarah reminded me to not micro-manage and help Milo every step of the way. She told me to listen to the rhythm of his footfalls and to use a backing exercise to slow him back down if he quickened, and to further encourage the shoulders to stay up. 1.......2........1........2 was the footfalls, and she told me to stop holding him up - to let the reins out when he was lifted and test to see how long he could go until I needed to bring him up again, all the while paying attention to the rhythm (which we were at the walk). When at the beginning Milo very commonly wanted to over flex his neck and bring his face behind the vertical, when he was traveling correctly, his poll was the highest and his nose perfectly on the vertical. I was amazed by how hugely different my horse felt underneath me. His shoulders got big and elevated, the arc in his neck made me feel like I was riding a big dressage horse. The careful way in which he placed his front legs as he tried to hold his shoulders up made me grin. "Ten days of this, and you will be surprised on how he looks" Sarah commented, even recommending doing this small work on the trail. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Trail Rides are for More then Just Pleasure?

On Friday it was beautiful out and with the added persuasion of two people already in the tiny arena, I decided to take Milo out on the trail by myself. And I discovered something: that the trails really are another great place to work on training. Of course, I know this, have been told it, and practice it (sometimes...) but that day I really understood the value of using the trails for practice.

Milo and I went down the trail that really is the only one around (everything else is logging roads and such, not really "trails" in that you weave around trees on a narrow pathway) which has some nice stretches for trotting or loping. We trotted for a while and I was able to sit back, breath, and focus on my body in response to Milo's. I could feel my core muscles start to get sore and I knew I was riding properly. I kept my back soft and my ankles relaxed - which, I found, I often on the trail try and lock my legs out in front of me, probably because Milo tends to have a more sweeping stride on the uneven ground. Realizing this allowed me to put more focus on that area and remain soft and let my core keep me in place.

As I further focused on my body I noticed my hips were tight, so I relaxed ever so slightly in that area and allowed the angle of my hips to open. Once I did, it was like a switch went off for Milo and suddenly he started reaching with his back end and his back really came up and he worked in those strides.

I found a good place to lope and we did, the game changed a bit now and I once more had to relax my ankles, engage my core, and open my hips. Once I did we got a few beautiful strides before the trail made us slow down. At the end, we turned around and began to lope back the way we came. Milo got quick and rushy, and with the benefit of not riding with a friend I was able to school over and over in that spot until our lope heading back home was cadenced and not increasing in stride. We spent a short amount of time going back and forth on that stretch, working on a stop, a rollback, transitions, anything that arose. We ended with a really nice lope.

The next day my friend wanted to go on the trail as it was again a beautiful day. I conceded as once more there were already two riders in the arena. Plus I figured we would only benefit from more work on the trail. We explored to the end of the development and in the areas were we trotted and loped, I only had to remind Milo a few times to stay even in stride and lifted. At one nice soft stretch I slowed him down from the lope and he actually parked it on the dirt. I hadnt asked for a hard stop, but couldnt help but turn around to my friend and squeal as I pointed at the tracks in the dirt.

Uneven, but he was trying!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Plans this Summer

I have been going back and forth and talking and talking about what I want to do this summer as far as showing, or horse activities. This winter has not been the super productive one I was hoping to have. A lot of circumstantial things happened and Milo and I are not lightyears ahead where I hoped we would be at going into the show season. But even if we were, I've had some long discussions with the Boyfriend and financially, going to many shows just isnt going to work out - not at the 24 hour work weeks I've been getting all winter (dont EVEN get me started on that!).

So I tentatively had decided on three shows (listed on the blog page), a rookie show in June, a beginner all reining show in August, and the Washington State Horseman Finals show end of September. Sarah encouraged me to go to the rookie show in June, its held at our familiar Tacoma Unit and offers all rookie level classes from Washington State Quarter Horse Association. They have three reining classes; rookie, Novice Amatuer, and Other Breeds. Obviously with Milo as a Paint I would have to go into Other Breeds, and although the show is rookie level, I'm not sure if Id be out of my league at a breed show. I just feel like the prices for the show are really just going to make it an expensive schooling show. I'm not convinced that that is the right show for us right now. I like the idea of the rookie environment, but if its really just going to be another schooling show, the financial aspect just doesnt pan out.

I really want to go to the beginner all reining show in August. Its held by the Northwest Reining Association, a club that is beginner and intermediate oriented who I actually joined a membership with last year in hopes of doing their show schedule. The problem is, their shows are all held in Lynden, 2.5 hours North and a ferry ride meaning expensive shows. The show in August, however, if held in Kirland, only a ferry boat ride and about an hour away (unless we drive around, then its more like 2 hours, but $80 less from ferry cost). This particular show is supposed to be the most fun from the organization, and is only a one day show (the others are all two days). I would love to go to an actual all reining show and there would be multiple classes I could go into. Going to just one show keeps me out of the running for any year end awards, but I figured with my closed schedule this summer, those kinds of things just arent going to be in the cards, which is ok.

The final tentative show is at the end of September, held at the Tacoma Unit and is the big event for the year (it is Finals, after all). This is where all the breed show people and stiff competition come to for the end of the year. They offer two reining classes, one offering a championship and a buckle. Last year I really wanted to go (and years prior) but wasnt able to. This year I really want to go, even if we arent buckle winners, the experience would be great, but it will be a costly show.

I guess what I really want to do is the August and September shows, but what does that leave me with this summer? As far as shows, there isnt anything else that really springs to mind, however, it does open up time for other events: clinics, lessons, things like that. I think this summer would be a good time to really just work on things. Next weekend there is a reining clinic fairly closeby that I wanted to go to but I had a previous event to go to that same day. Sarah really wanted me to go and felt he would really help fine-tune some of the reining maneuvers, and she will be going to audit so I'm hoping if she likes what she sees, the clinician will hold another clinic this summer. There has been a lot of buzz online about the clinic and it sounds like a lot of people are interested, so that hopefully would create another chance for one.

As far as other learning experiences, there is a trainer up north from me (again, at least 2 hours and a ferry ride) that this last year went to the National Reined Cow Horse World Show (the same one I was at in San Angelo, Texas) and she holds a lot of clinics, buffalo and cow nights, and weekend "camps" (as well as lessons). Without being able to just run up there every weekend for regular lessons, I was checking the schedule for what events might work out for me and in May she is holding a Buffalo Day which is pretty much a group lesson on working buffalo. I think this could be a great learning event for Milo and I, not only a great chance to work buffalo, but it will help on reading a cow, and I should be able to get some great general pointers as well that will help in reining. I am really excited about the possibility of that event.

So, what does that mean for this summer then? I think its a good opportunity to take a small break from showing and being competitive. Being able to just work and improve with a couple of various events will help a lot. Although it's hard knowing that this would be my second and last year to go into 1st/2nd year classes, there will always be more novice classes offered and as a friend said to me, there will always be more shows and things to go to, but stepping back and just working on the "basics" with Milo will help in the long run. We cant really be competitive unless we make sure all our bases are covered, and by getting advice and lessons from trainers who are at a national caliber may it be in competition or through judging, will really help us out.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Maybe He Felt Bad...?

I think it might have been Milo's gift to me from his poor behavior the day before, but I had a fantastic ride yesterday. The last few weeks, I must admit, I have not been working Milo to the schedule I had been previously. From snow and weather, to sudden unknown swelling, areana flooding, school starting back up again (and now as a full time student and part time worker) and time constraints, its been at least a month since we were in a regular work schedule. In the meantime it's not like I hadnt been seeing Milo or spending time with him, I was mostly going on at least weekly trail rides (which we have really been enjoying. In fact, last week's ride was the first time I really let Milo loose on the trail: he and I loved it!), and when working in the arena mostly just longing. I had ridden bareback a few times, but have lacked enough time to really work him between school and work. I'd hate to get on with only 35 minutes and end up not working him properly.

So anyways, when I have been longing him, I've been using a pole to help get him thinking about using his body properly again, and adding in my wall reins to further aid in that desired posture. After yesterday's ride, I was really happy I had been doing so.

I added the wall reins onto my tack when I went to the arena. I started with a short longing, with the wall reins, then got on. I decided to use the wall reins when riding too because I figured after a few weeks of not asking for the correct posture, Milo would probably need more shoulder control and some aid in lifting at the wither. I used my regular reins as well though as I wanted to be able to have a feel on the bit directly, not just through the indirect wall reins. It turned out to be a good combination.

We started with just getting familiar with the wall reins again, and finding out where we were at as far as circles, shoulder and body control, and lifting his back. Milo worked beautifully, and with the addition of the wall reins an exaggeration of the nuchal flip was present, aiding me to make sure the correct arc in the neck was acquired. From walk to trot, and finally lope, the work was great. Transitions werent beautiful, although ironically the trot to lope transition was much nicer than the walk to trot. Only once did I really need to correct Milo's shoulder with the wall reins at the lope, but for the most part the work was excellent, a little fast our first go, but very nice. As we worked on circles a bit more we finally got a couple of solid ones that were cadenced and with a lifted shoulder. As I sat deep and asked for the Woah, Milo parked his booty beautifully, leaving a somewhat nice pair of elevens (they were more in a triangular shape then real elevens, lol). I dismounted then and there and praised Mr Milo.

Was this an apology for his behavior the day before? Or is Milo trying to tell me he's got the arena work and wants to spend more time on the trail? :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Frustrated with Milo

It was 1:45 and as I was leaving the driveway I got a text from my farrier asking what time I was heading to the barn today. When did he send this? I dont get reception at my house, so I wasnt sure if he was wanting to meet me or if it was sent the day before, or what. A few days earlier I had left him a voicemail saying that Tuesday at 1:30 would work for me, but I never heard back, so assumed he didnt agree on the time.

As it so happened, I pulled into the barn a little after 2 and there he was waiting for me. I felt bad wondering how long he had been waiting and if I should have assumed that we were in fact meeting. I had no cash or checks on me either, not getting verification that we were, in fact, meeting. I said hi to him awkwardly as I got out of my truck, and mentioned how I was sorry I didnt know we were actually scheduled. He seemed to brush it off with only a mild bit of annoyance stating he should have communicated better (come to find out after the appointment as Boyfriend called me, that my farrier had in fact called the house the night before and asked to talk with me. Boyfriend felt bad for forgetting to tell me, and I felt bad for thinking my farrier didnt communicate...but oh well now).

I pulled Milo out of his stall and stripped his blanket off. It was a warm 67 degrees out and I figured all of us would enjoy his nakedness for the hour that the farrier would work on him. Milo still felt soft and fluffy from his bath the day before, but of course managed to cake some dried mud into his neck (the day after I decide to take his neck cover off of the blanket too, go figure).

Everything was going fine and dandy until the farrier started pulling one of the rear shoes off. Milo started his typical try-and-pull-leg-away, but he usually gets over it after the third try or so. Today, however, he didnt just "get over it". No, he pulled his leg away and kicked the farrier. TWICE. I was so embarrassed as I beat my horse with the lead rope.

"It's a rare day that they actually kick me," my farrier said through clenched teeth and a quickness of breath as he hobbled away. I glared at my horse who looked snarky and amused, trying to bite my hand, the lead rope, rub on me, shift his body to the side, anything that he was not supposed to do.

"Let's hope this is his bad side," the farrier remarked as he moved to the next side. Though Milo didnt kick the farrier again, he was a major stinker again, pulling his leg away and shifting around, bothering me in the process holding his head. I was so embarrassed and upset when my farrier left. I couldnt even pay him that day and felt horrible. What a bad day.

Once the farrier left and I had Milo in the cross ties he was content and pleased, back to his cute, sweet self. I was still irritated with him, and with the sudden appointment, now had no time to ride before work. But Milo wasnt getting off that easily, I was at least going to longe him. He had been so sweet and cute the day before, why did he have to be so awful to the farrier?

What's more, he isnt usually a complete stinker for the farrier, only the first time this "new farrier" worked on him did Milo pull those antics. He had been doing really well the times in between, and now suddenly he wants to be a shit again. I am embarrassed, displeased, and upset at the situation, without really being able to handle it myself either: he is fine when I handle his feet, in any situation. I'm trying to sum it up to just a bad day/mood for Milo, but also can't ignore what came of it: kicking is never allowed. I am just very frustrated with him.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where the Property is at Now

Oh goodness, it has been a while since I updated you guys on the property status. My last post on it was in December, and while to some it may still look pretty much the same as it did then, let me tell you some work has been getting done in the meantime.

Taken yesterday in the beautiful sun. Those little black squares are from Boyfriend's target block, which broke, and the wind blew all the pieces around. 
The next photos are from last month, but they show the rest of the property pretty well. The main difference between these and how it sits today is the amount of debris sitting around which we (Boyfriend) has been diligently burning, and the other day he knocked more of the smaller trees out of the back pasture area.

View from the front of the back pasture (rear of the barn). Again, area to the left is the arena (where Milo will initially live when he comes home in only a few more months!! (hopefully) And to the left is the front pasture, where he will mostly be turned out in. 
From the corner of the property (back pasture) you can now see the neighbor's horses across the street. I think they are hiding in the photo though. 

The left here is where Milo's paddock off the barn will be, and the trees were recently fell from Boyfriend, so it visually looks bigger back here now too. 

Arena. It actually looks more cleared out now of debris since this photo was taken. Again, it will be about 70x100 we estimate, although Boyfriend thinks it will be a little bigger. In comparison to the arena we are in now, thats an increase of 10' by 10' or about 100 square inches, right? When Milo comes home, it will be sanded and fenced, with about a 12x20 structure, three sided like the shelter he had at the other barn. 
Money money money! The small alder load has since been moved to the load deck with the others, but it will be turned into firewood and some pieces kept for furniture. The other firs left to go are waiting, as Boyfriend didnt like the quote he was given from the driver, a friend of ours. 
Angie, checking out the back pasture. She loves running around the property - she'll like it more when Milo is home.
Back pasture from the farthest corner of the property (that I could get to and still get a decent photo from). With a few more trees to take out and some debris cleaning (it still smells like Christmas over here) it will be rockin and rollin! This is considered the "summer pasture" as the entrance to it gets a small seasonal "pond" that dries up in the spring. 
The plan was to get the basic structure of the barn up around August. But some financial setbacks have pushed it to possibly next spring =( unless we sell the F450 and get the 10 grand we need back, which Boyfriend is considering as a possibility. At any rate, we should still be able to bring Milo to his temporary location soon. I cant start saving money until I stop spending it on board.

Panoramic photo of property from the top of the back pasture. Click on photo to enlarge.
P.S. has anyone ran into the photo storage problem from Google and Picasa? I really dont want to have to buy storage, any suggestions? What have you done to circumvent this problem?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Perfect Day for Chores

Today was absolutely beautiful here in the Pacific Northwest, although yesterday, Easter, was beautiful too. Half of my day was spent in school (bleh), then I was able to get out and enjoy some much needed barn time. I always find it amazing how I can skip only one day (due to a Holiday) and when I get to the barn again it feels like I have been gone for forever.

First thing I did was walk out to Milo, who was turned out in the pasture, and strip his blanket off. Although he wasn't too warm I figured he could enjoy some sun rays on his back while I got some of the necessary dirty work done. He seemed to really enjoy that, but surprisingly did not roll.

I thoroughly cleaned his stall, right down to sweeping out all the old dust and dirt that has built up. Stall thoroughly cleaned, I hung both his midweight (which he has been wearing the last few days) and the heavyweight out in the wash rack and hosed them down. After all that was done, it was time to play with my pony a bit who now happened to be right outside the stall watching me. Like an idiot this morning I was in a hurry to get out the door and make it on time to my 8am yoga class, and I forgot my jeans. So not only did I have to wear yoga pants for the duration of my classes, but also to the barn. I figured using a saddle would be a horrible idea and I decided I would ride bareback.

But once I started shedding and grooming Milo (which makes me ask the question of HOW does a body shaved horse still have SO MUCH hair to shed??!) I decided I would continue with my cleaning spree and give Milo a bath, taking advantage of the warm sun and nice weather. I could always ride when its raining later this week (which is predicted) when I am wearing suitable attire too. So I got to work scrubbing and washing Milo thoroughly. He seemed to enjoy it, and had fun playing with the water spraying on his face too.

(Excuse the crummy four year old cell phone photos. I never seem to have my camera when I need it anymore)

Aww cute, wet Milo
Rest assured, Milo will always have a big booty
Halfway dry and enjoying some of the lush green grass (poor guy though, the nicest stuff was of course not next to the tie post.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

For Trade - Mecate Reins

Just throwing this out there: I have a set of really nice mecate reins that I dont have much need for anymore. I seem to only use them when I go on the trail and thats just because they are attached to my snaffle bridle and the only other split reins (besides my real nice ones on my lifter bridle) are 5/8" and I hate how narrow they are.

So, I'm hoping to trade the mecate reins for a set of 3/4" x 8' leather split reins, of equal quality to the mecates (no crummy pretend leather). The mecates are 5/8" black yacht rope 22' (?) I believe leaving a nice long loop for reins and equally good sized lead. Mahogany leather slobber straps at the ends, the entire set values at about $75 new but the end of the mecates are missing the leather popper, not a big deal, mostly cosmetic, so I'm valuing them at about $65. Looking for a trade here, so please equal valued leather split reins, must be 3/4" by 8' long.

(Yes this is a really old photo - got that old Crates saddle on! Yikes!)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

More Thoughts

Yesterday's post sparked a few comments of interest from others - I'm glad! I love to be able to bounce thoughts and ideas back and forth among others. It allows not only myself but others to learn from each other and hear other thoughts or points of view.

First off, thank you for those that commented about Milo and my relationship with him. It makes me happy to know that people think highly of my management with him (as far as condition goes). SillyPony made a couple of points I wanted to mention, first on training opinions and second on horse conditions. She said that the difference between poorly trained dogs versus poorly trained horses (an example with aggressive ones in particular) was the significant difference between the two animals and their owners/handlers safety around them. She is completely correct that aggressive and "poorly trained" (I use that term loosely now as it is a matter of opinion) horses pose a much greater threat to those around them then dogs do. What I wanted to add was that my post was comparing the not-so-dangerous training practices, where others' opinions really are just that - opinions.

Secondly, she mentioned how any competent and astute horse owner usually is (and should be) aware of their horse's conditions at all times and feel that there is always room for improvement, which I also agree with. It's just like when we look at ourselves in the mirror and critique those areas that we feel need improvement. It is our responsibility as owners (and managers) to he proactive and aware of the constant good and bad changes going on within our horses.

That brings me to my personal dilemma with Milo. Saturday I made the (in hind-sight) hasty decision to buy an entire ton of good quality second cutting Timothy hay. I knew Milo had been on this hay before and liked it's quality. Why did I move him from the second cut Orchard Grass he had been on the month prior? Sarah herself feeds an Oregon Orchard Grass. Well, two reasons. Firstly being that I had the hopes of the "higher quality" Timothy would surely help my horse build his natural weight back. Orchard Grass is higher in sugars than Timothy, which is higher in fiber, and a relatively equal protein content as the Orchard. They are a pretty comparable hay, so I figured that Milo wouldnt really need the higher sugar count and would hopefully do well on the new hay. The second reason: the Orchard Grass available at that time was no were near as nice as that I had gotten before. And being the end of the month now, I didnt have a lot of time to browse around. I had saved about five bales of the Orchard Grass to integrate with the Timothy over the first few weeks.

So, what have I been finding in my horse's stall each day now after adding the new hay into the mix? Milo has been picking out the Orchard Grass and leaving behind quite a bit (far too much green gold, in my opinion) of the more expensive Timothy hay. I cant help but shake my head at this, but it is getting me thinking too: why is he picking it out? Should I be reading into this further or hoping when the Orchard runs out he will eventually have to start eating it if he's hungry enough (that thought frightens me anyways with the weight issues we are having). Maybe I made a horrible decision getting an entire ton (a few months' worth) of new hay and Milo knows that the Orchard is better. Or, he simply could just like the sweeter, softer hay of the Orchard and hopefully just get over it.

This horse business is too stressful sometimes. But, in good news, Milo seems to be enjoying his addition of black oil sunflower seeds just nicely.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thoughts on Thoughts

Mugwump did a post the other day on passing judgement on other horse people, and her feelings on it as far as if it is OK to determine who should or should not own horses. It was really interesting and it got me thinking. Particularly what got my attention, and what I agreed with, was the mention on dogs as a comparison. What makes a dog well trained? It is determined by the owner; "the only time a dog is poorly trained is if the owner isnt happy with it's behavior". I completely had to agree with this in the lines of dogs and horses. I would rather my dog not jump on the couch whenever she wished, but I have many friends whose dogs do just that without a "given permission". Does it make their dogs poorly trained? No, because that was the message they gave to their dogs: they wanted them right there in their laps, snuggling, and up close.

It's the same with horses, and something that I think happens with just about anyone involved with them. People want to pass judgement on others' interactions with their equines and make them feel like what they are doing is wrong. And believe me, I have had my fair share of those opinions passed onto me, and by nature, I know I reciprocate. Many times I will rant and rave to Boyfriend about the condition, training, or treatment of horses I know, and he always reminds me that a lot of people with horses out there are not nearly as invested in it as I am - many simply have horses to have that hobby.

So mugwump got me thinking. Using the same concepts for "what makes a good dog" applied to "what makes a good horse", I am in total agreement that it depends on what the owner wants out of their animal. I love that my horse is mouthy and loves attention. A lot of other horse people are put off by this attention seeker and believe that I have not correctly trained my horse in acceptable behavior. There is a fine line there for me between what I consider acceptable (ie no biting or pushing over, versus liping and nosing) and what is not. I understand that this behavior is something that is important to me horse and that his nose area is an extremely sensitive and seeking area for affection, so I know that his behavior of stuffing it in your face is not one of disrespect or dominance (although there is a fine line there were it can easily become that, mostly towards others) but an important need for him to have it touched.

It really is just what we want from our animals. But going more into her post about those lines of neglect and abuse, when to take action or not, is one that is hitting home for me currently. I have not posted about the issues I am having with Milo recently. Mostly because there are a few options I am trying to circumvent them, and also because I was hoping to get the opinion and suggestions from my trainer on what to do next. I cant seem to get any time with her to actually look at my horse, so I have been taking matters into my own hands and seeking advice elsewhere.

To elaborate, my horse has been on a downhill slide for months as far as his fitness and weight. Towards the fall and beginning of winter he was not at optimum condition for going into the cold months, but I had long discussed the feeding problems we were having at that time. After moving to where we are now, the hay quality was poor for two months. That was a huge reason for moving to the self-care boarding option; so I could control the hay quality that he was receiving. While it's only been a month so far of higher quality hay, the weight keeps slipping off of him. He was never a hard keeper and at six flakes of hay a day (weight-wise, these flakes are heavy) I am near tears at determining why he is not building his healthy weight back.

This month I got a ton of second cut, beautiful Timothy hay. He had a solid month of second cutting Orchard Grass which gave his system some time to adjust from the local grass hay, and now with a few bales left over I am integrating the Timothy hay in. Timothy s richer in fiber and has less sugar than the orchard grass, and tends to have all the nutrients that horses need from it without overloading in protein like alfalfa. I am hoping that the Timothy hay will help get Milo back to where he needs to be. After some discussion, I have also added black oil sunflower seeds to his diet to promote healthy weight and a nice coat.

Given these options, I am really hoping that he starts coming back to where he needs to be. If I could ever get  him to me trainer she can recommend which wormer to give as well. So how does this all go back into the thoughts from Mugwump? I feel incredibly guilty and it makes me sick and sad when I see my horse without his blanket. By no means are his ribs showing but he has significantly lost the topline we were building and his haunches are more lean then they were (much like when he was young and still growing). I am nervous on even bringing him to the trainer in anticipation for her remarks on what happened to his condition. I am not a bad owner, I am doing everything I can for him, but a lot of the help I am seeking is not coming. It just really frustrating.