Still Kickin’

I spent all of last week — literally, the ENTIRETY of the week — down and out with a sinus infection.  It’s been years since I had a legit, multi-day sickness (not since the terrible Christmas Flu of 2014)… so I was pretty unhappy.

“You can rub my belly and then we can take a nap together and then you can pet me and then you can give me some treats while you hold me like a baby!”

Monty was thrilled with what he interpreted as my recent decision to become a Stay-At-Home Dog Mom.

For better or worse, I was still doing barn chores while sneezy and snotty and gross.  The horses’ lives were semi-feral.  I threw them out in the pasture with some hay in the morning, and brought them in with more hay in the evening.  If it wasn’t for the leather halters and heavy stable blankets, you might mistake them for mustangs!

Simon’s Status

My favorite red horse has had a pretty easy time of it lately.  I haven’t been working him much besides going on a walk with him through the fields.

Before that halter got absolutely annihilated by mud.

I experimented with cutting his Previcox.  The chiropractor asked me how he did without it, and I didn’t know — he’d never gone without it since moving to my parents’ farm.  Previously, he’d been mostly stalled with limited turn-out and would immediately get sore and achy.  But he’s more fit now, and has much more turn-out time to keep his joints warmed up.

I stopped giving it to him for about a week.  He stayed moving well, but I noticed he seemed to be a little more quick to stand hipshot when he was resting.  Then on Saturday, I came in to the barn to see him standing with his butt on the partial wall at the front of his stall — definitely trying to relieve some soreness by sitting on something!  So I started him back on it, and he’s already much improved.

Sorry for making you an experiment, Simon, but at least now I know!

Charlie Check-In

My main focus with Charlie is still to get over the buddy sour bug that seems to have firmly bitten him.  We didn’t work on it a whole lot while I was ill, but we progressed a little bit.

He stood cross-tied in the barn aisle while Simon was still out in the pasture.  This has previously been dramatic because I let him chill out there on his own, without paying attention to him.  This is neglectful and cruel, in Charlie’s book.  He will scream, poop, pee, and generally fuss and carry on while I clean stalls.

I am very, VERY strict when it comes to my horse’s ground manners.  In my book, any time I’m working with them translates to them being on the clock — they get a lot of down time in their lives, but if I’m handling them, they better be damn near angelic!  That means their focus needs to be on me, with ZERO screaming for their buddy and ZERO stepping into my space.

Charlie has made good progress in this regard!  When I was interacting with him while he was cross-tied (mostly currying off the 3 inches of mud he’d painstakingly applied to his ENTIRE BODY), he stayed calm and focused.  There was no screaming, no dancing, and no craning his neck to see where Simon was and stepping into my space in the process.

He’s to the point where he needs less reprimanding for messing up, which means he gets more praise for doing the right thing.  This makes the whole interaction much more pleasant for everyone and a happy little cycle of good behavior and praise is produced.

Charlie got his first taste of roundpen work at the end of last week.  I’m sure he’s never had much natural horsemanship-type stuff done with him.  I don’t practice much of it, myself, but I do insist that my horses read my body language and tune in to me as their leader, which is essentially what roundpen work is all about.  The tricky part is that I don’t actually HAVE a roundpen… but I do have a ring-shaped paddock.  So that’s what we used, and it worked just fine.

Charlie took a long time to wear down!  Not physically — that part was pretty quick. haha  But mentally, he wanted to check out and not pay attention to me, or to take control of our movement.  I just stayed calm and kept driving him whatever direction I wanted him to go.  He had to be pushed to the point of a little hissy fit, when he was basically like, “FINE you can be the boss if it means you’ll stop harassing me!!”  Yes, Charlie, that’s exactly what it means.  He’s been much more tuned-in to me since then, and I’m hoping it’s a building block of getting him to accept me as the leader and thus be less insecure.

When he’s anxious, he bites his tongue. Such a picturesque steed…

So that’s the situation around here!  I hope you all are staying healthy and well!

Lesson Learned

Last Thursday showcased the true ridiculousness of Central Illinois weather by giving us a major case of whiplash: It warmed up to 60 degrees (F) in the early afternoon and then plummeted to 12 degrees by the evening.

Despite the shock of it, it was a brief but welcome respite from frigid winter temperatures.  Winter just makes everything having to do with horses harder.  Water buckets freeze, turnout is questionable due to snow/ice/slush/mud or any combination of those things, working horses is hard, and even grooming becomes an extra challenge.

Charlie arrived in Illinois with a little bit of New Jersey mud on him.  He was also just grimey… dired-on sweat, dead skin, dust, and manure was stuck in his winter coat.  I brushed him diligently, but what I REALLY wanted to do was give him a bath.

With temps below zero, though, that obviously was not a great idea.  Instead, I concocted a coat conditioning treatment in a spray bottle.  Some witch hazel, white vinegar and water made the base.  A splash of mineral oil and some drops of essential oils finished it off.  I’d spray it on the horses or on my brush, brush vigorously, and the grime would get lifted out of his coat.  Vinegar in particular is good at clarifying hair, while witch hazel soothes skin.

This worked out well for both horses, and their coats really shined.

On Thursday, though, I learned an important lesson.

I was working the horses on their newfound buddy sourness.  Simon has made a REALLY bad choice a night or two previous by paying too much attention to Charlie, not enough attention to me, and shoving past me.  This is actually an offense punishable by death at my barn, but Simon lucked into only having a come-to-Jesus moment about it.

A horse regretting his action which led to him being tied to a tree away from his friend.

To work on the buddy sourness, I knew I needed to make being together more unpleasant than being apart.  This is difficult since they do live in the same barn, so together time includes chilling out, eating, sleeping, etc.  For this day, though, we worked on the idea that being apart was chill-out time, with Charlie tied in the barn (with hay and water) and Simon tied out on a tree (with nothing, since he was lucky enough to escape the death sentence) in our ring-shaped paddock.  I’d take Charlie to the paddock near Simon, but while he was there he had to work.  I lunged him, asking him to trot at a pretty good clip.  Then he got to go back into the barn, away from Simon and eat, drink, and chill out.  We repeated this a few times.

By the time it started to sink in a bit, Charlie was sweaty from his work, and Simon was a little warm from being outside on a 60 degree day with a winter coat.

They smelled like you’d expect a hot horse to smell, but with a distinct stank of VINEGAR.

I am not one to be sensitive to smells in the slightest, but dealing with these giant, hairy, buddy sour pickles made me queasy.  Luckily, it was still near 60 degrees at this point, so each horse got a quick rinse-off bath and then got to spend some time under a cooler.

So I learned my lesson.  As nice as vinegar can be on hair, there’s a reason it’s recommended as a hair rinse and not a leave-in treatment.  Duly noted, I will not be making THAT mistake again.

A Horsey 2018!

Simon the Tennessee Walker

Happy New Year!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the past year and the coming year and what I want to accomplish.  2017 was the first year in a LONG time that I didn’t set any resolutions.  I used to do a fantastic job of setting them and checking in on them every month to see how I was progressing.  But I reached a time where I was growing quickly, and my life was changing in ways that I couldn’t foresee; resolutions set in January weren’t really applicable by June, let alone December.

For example, at the beginning of 2017 I had Simon boarded and ZERO intentions of ever moving him out to the farm.  By the end of 2017, not only was Simon out at the farm, but I’d adopted Charlie and had him out there, too!

For 2018, I think I’m going to keep focusing on themes (long-term intentions) and micro goals (goals set for anywhere from a week to a month at a time).

Horse Themes

I want the horses to be healthy and happy in 2018, and I want to enjoy my time with them.  Right now, I’m imagining some pleasure riding with Simon and retraining Charlie to be a pleasure horse as well.  I want to expand my experimentation, re: movement rehab, on them.  I want to invest in their health with regular chiropractic visits, dental work, etc.

I want to progress my riding skills.  I started taking western lessons in the Fall of 2017, and I plan to continue those.  I would love to get back into saddleseat riding and maybe try more huntseat as well.  But most importantly, I want to feel confident and competent in the saddle.

Horse Goals

My goals for this week are just for all of us to stay alive.  It’s cold and snowy and icy out.

10AM on January 1, 2018. Brrrrrrrr!!

This means keeping the horses in their stalls when it’s bitterly cold, keeping hay in front of them to help warm them up and entertain them, and hauling hot water out to the barn.

I’ve been working them lightly — just enough to establish a routine (and nip Charlie’s wannabe-buddy-sour attitude right in the bud) and make their brains work.  Charlie’s learning how to lunge and getting acquainted with the various verbal cues I use.  Simon’s getting the extra challenge of staying focused whilst Charlie screams from the barn.  We’ve worked lunging at a walk (including over our “ground pole” aka a large branch), ground manners, parking out, and yielding the shoulders or the hips.  All-in-all, it gets them moving and thinking and reminds them that they DO occasionally have a job besides standing around and stuffing their faces.

“What is this ‘whoa‘ you speak of, and does it mean ‘belligerently trot really fast?'”

This week I’ll also be laying in supplies.  Charlie’s new blanket and supplement (Uckele Tri Amino) arrived today, and I reordered more of the Uckele G.U.T to start him on that, too.  I’m picking up a load of hay on Saturday since we’re going through it so quickly between it being cold and Charlie being, y’know, starved.  I’ll also be stocking up on grain and buying a couple different brands of pine bedding to see if they’re better than what I’m currently getting.

Looking Forward

Overall, I’m really excited about 2018.  I have no idea what’s in store, but I’m sure it’s gonna be fun!