Thursday, July 31, 2008

He's a-buckin'!

I went out this morning before feeding to try to get the saddle on Nine. I thought that if he eats with the saddle on, it will give him something good to think about and a very positive experience. Well, it wasn't as simple as it sounds! I did eventually get the saddle on him, but it took many tries. He bucked but stopped before the saddle slipped too far. I had gotten it tight enough that it didn't slip underneath him, but it did slide back and the blanket was on it's way out! So I undid the cinch, adjusted the saddle and blanket, and re-tightened the cinch. He stood still still for all of that! Then he went bucking again, but only two or three bucks before he stopped and let me do some last tweeks and such on the saddle. Then I petted him and told him how good of a boy he is and went to get his hay. When I came back around the corner, that silly boy was just landing from a buck, but saw me and instantly stopped! He gave me this look like he was trying to say "hey, I wasn't doing anything, no way!" He sure is a goofy boy.

Nine ate with the saddle on, but I didn't get anyone here to watch my daughter until nearly 1 PM. So, I went and worked with him a bit with the saddle on, then spent way longer than should be necessary trying to get Nine to stand still while I loosened the cinch... then he jumped off and dumped the saddle again. So I think I am going to give up on my idea of him not dumping a saddle and just get my Aussie saddle on him. It might be too narrow, but at this point I don't have time to get picky. He can dump my saddle a few times until he realizes it doesn't make any difference, then maybe I can start thinking about my fiance's western saddle. Nine also got a minute or two of a brief lesson with the bridle today.

Not much hope of any meaningful time at all with the horses until next Tuesday again, but we will see.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Officially Saddled!

Earlier today I went out to work with Nine. I was prepared for, but not looking forward to, chasing him around and around for half an hour again before he would stand for the saddle. In fact, I only had to do one lap! Then Nine let me toss the blanket on him, and he almost stood for the saddle; he of course waited until I almost had it all the way up there, then bolted. But again, it just took one lap, and another in the opposite direction for good measure, before he stood stock still while I eased the saddle onto his back. Then I took it off and did it all over again, but this time he never moved! I got the latigo down and was taking the cinch down when he spooked from the jingle. But, one more try and I got the cinch down and around his belly. I had the cinch in place, the latigo ready to be tightened... Then I chickened out. Or maybe I did the brave thing, I'm not sure. I loosened the cinch, took the saddle off, and went back inside.

After a few hours of break time while I ran errands in town, I went back to see Nine. This time he let me get the blanket and the saddle on him right away. Once again I let the cinch down and let him be. He walked off when my fiance and daughter came up, but didn't spook or bolt, even though he had a clanking cinch swaying around his legs. I had "the distractions" go away for a bit, and I took the saddle off. I had to have Nine do another few laps before he accepted the saddle again, but this time I went ahead with the cinch. I did it as slowly as I could; first I just held light, steady pressure until he relaxed, then let go; as he stayed relaxed I started holding it with more pressure until it was nice and snug. I sent Nine off to walk a bit with it, fully expecting an explosion that never came. He did two laps each way, then I asked him to stop. (He came halfway to me, this time. Yay!) I tightened the cinch the rest of the way and knotted the latigo so it wouldn't work it's way loose. After a few more laps at the trot to make sure he was okay, I gave Nine some loose hay and left him to it.

In an hour or so, when I go out to feed, I will take off the saddle. Tomorrow I would like to do the same with the old saddle he has on right now, and introduce him to some rein aids and having me lean up against him on the saddle. If that goes well I want to get the riding saddle on him and let him feel the stirrups. On Thursday, when my fiance comes home early, I will hopefully be in the saddle! Wish me luck and a soft landing!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Saddle Time!

Sorry about the lack of a post from yesterday; I really have nothing good to say about that; well, I got Nine to lift his front feet again pretty well, but then he even stopped letting me do that.

But today is another day! I decided to employ the method I heard from a woman who has 11 horses; if the horse doesn't want to stand still for saddling, make him run around the corral for a bit. If he still doesn't want to stand, he gets to run more. Then the horse will learn that in order to get a break from running (or in the case of my minuscule round pen, trotting) he has to have something on his back. Given that Nine is a 3 year old who hasn't had hardly anything to do in almost 2 months, he had a LOT of energy! Probably half an hour went by before he would really stand still for the saddle blanket. Luckily, after that, it was only 15 minutes or so before I
had put the saddle on and taken it off twice. Then he caught his breath and I had to run him quite a bit again. However he seemed to have the idea pretty firm in his head, so it was only two tries before he stood for the saddle a third time. Then I let him wear it, uncinched, while I ran water for the cows. Then I just slipped it off again and called it a day.

Once I recover from suspected dehydration and minor heat stroke, I plan on spending the rest of the day with Hammar, who will most likely make me do it all over again. If I live, expect another series of updates starting next Tuesday! Maybe I will even have some pictures!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

7 Games

So it's the beginning of a new week of training! On Sunday I got to see Pat and Linda Parelli at a clinic and get some clarification on how to do the Parelli 7 Games. When I got home I played with Nine a little bit, but saved most of it for today. I took a big white scary sheet and a smaller and not quite so scary blanket out with me, to sack Nine out a bit more. But first I had some worming to do! I de-wormed my BLM Mustang, Hammar, first, because I had to use two tubes; he basically got the "leftovers" from one tube, and a little extra from the tube Nine would get. Then Nine got the rest of the full tube. I was hoping Nine would watch Hammar (who is usually awesome for me) and get the idea that "hey, that isn't so bad!" But alas, Hammar let me down. He was tossing his head and being a doofball, but no one got hurt, so I didn't worry much and turned him out. Then it was on to Nine. I put a halter on Nine for the occasion, something I feel confident to forget about with Hammar. Then I showed Nine the tube, wiggled it around his head, and so on. He was good, so I slipped it in his mouth like a bit. He played with it a lot, but didn't toss his head, so I just waited and he eventually accepted it. Then I took it back out of his mouth, removed the cap and twisted the dosage thing. I put it back in his mouth and squeezed it on in. He tried pretty hard to spit it out! But I held his head up and I think he swallowed it...

After that I decided to put him to work so he could ignore the taste in his mouth. I got him lunging on a circle right away, but he was jumping from the sheet and blanket, which were hanging on the fence. I let him jump and spook until it seemed he was over the worming taste. Then I started on the first Game: the Friendly Game. I lead him over to the fence where the brushes were, and brushed his whole body down, including his belly and cinch area, then I brushed his mane and tail. I finally got the nerve to walk behind his butt, and he was fine! He didn't even bat an eye, and I have been dreading it all this time! Shows what I know, huh? Anyway, after that I lead him over to the fence where the blankets were hanging. I grabbed the less-scary one and let him sniff it, then rubbed him down with it and was throwing it on his back within seconds. I had to actually try to get him to spook! He was doing so well. So then it was on to the scary white sheet. At this point, it is important to note that here in Arizona it is monsoon season, and rain storms (and the wind that brings them) crop up with almost no notice at all, almost every day. So, naturally, as I lift the sheet from the fence to show Nine, a gust of wind tosses the sheet which then tries to eat Nine. So, kinda a bad way to introduce a sheet to a wild horse, but I got it folded up and showed Nine again, and he was fine. I rubbed it all over him again, and tried to toss it on his back, at which point another gust of wind awoke the slumbering horse-eating-sheet-monster. I got Nine calmed back down, then he sniffed the sheet again and let me rub him on the side of his neck and shoulder, which I decided was good enough. I put the blanket away again for another, less windy, time.

Then it was on to the next Game: the Porcupine Game! Yay! Nine has trouble moving his forequarters away from me, as he seems to think I either want him to back up or jump away from me as fast as he can. So the first try was a little shaky; he backed up when I pressed my hands to his jaw and shoulder, then jumped, but second try he moved his shoulders away from me two steps very nicely. Then I moved his hindquarters with a finger, something he has no problem with at all, and repeated from the other side. He did great. So then I backed him with a hand on his nose, and again he did fine. He isn't the most responsive horse yet, but he is getting there. The third game is the Driving Game, which is basically like the Porcupine Game, but without physical contact. You "push" with your hands towards the head and shoulders to move the forequarters, towards the flank to move the hindquarters, towards the face to back. Real easy, and Nine picked it up instantly.

The fourth game, the Yo-yo Game, is a little more challenging for Nine, because he does want to move from the end of a rope, he wants to just stand there! But he has already shown improvement and will back up with just a little wiggle in the lead rope. Then he comes forward pretty well. The Circling Game is easy for Nine because he already knows how to do it. It is basically lunging with obstacles in the way. It can also get more challenging, but for general purposes and in a 40 foot round pen, that's what it is. No problem. Then comes the Sideways Game, which is causing the horse to side pass. I haven't tried this game yet with Nine, because I feel we should master the Porcupine and Driving Games first, before I combine moving two parts of the horse at once. Lastly is the Squeeze Game, which is causing the horse to go between you and another object, getting closer and closer as the horse relaxes. I did this earlier, making Nine get closer to the sheet and blanket hanging on the fence, so I didn't bother doing doing it again at the end of the session. Besides, it was starting to rain. And the rain is gone now, but it is lunch time! So perhaps an update this afternoon.

The afternoon was rainy, so not much was done with Nine. Around feed time, though, the rain had gone away, so I decided to give Nine a little job to do; the other animals were out on the property, and thus the front gate was shut. After putting the other animals away, I planned to lead Nine down to the gate with me to open it again. However, Nine thought different! The other horses already had some of their food, and Nine didn't understand why he didn't have his food. So about halfway down to the gate, he slipped away from me and ran back to the other horses' food. I walked back and found him calmly chewing the alfalfa from over the fence. Luckily Nine let me walk right up to him and grab a hold of the lead rope. He then followed quietly away from the feed. I just lead him around a few trees, then put him back in his own pen, then fed him like usual. So it worked this time, but from now on, I think I will feed Nine before asking him to leave perfectly good alfalfa behind!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Outside for the First Time

First to clear up yesterday's post. I forgot to post the afternoon's accomplishments. But it doesn't matter much, because now I can't figure out how to edit it anyways! But if you must know, I didn't get much done because the ants launched an attack. I now have large red itchy bumps all over my right leg, and a smaller one right on the middle of my throat. A new brand of ant poison is now coating the colony.

Today we got the baby sitter to watch our daughter for a bit, and me and my boyfriend took Ashley and Nine out. This was Nine's first trip outside the round pen, and he did just fine.
We were not out for long, though, as the clouds were rolling it, the wind was whipping up and the lightning was threatening to ruin the positive training. So we put Nine back in the round pen and let all the other animals run around, because they desperately needed to blow off some steam. The cows were even bucking around, chasing each other.

So there probably will not be another update until Tuesday. See you then!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A much better day

So today I am trying something new with my blog. Rather than wait for the end of the day so I can get all of what I want to say in, I am just going to post the morning news now, then edit later to include the afternoon session. This way everything will still be fresh in my mind.

This morning, feeling grumpy, lazy, and discouraged, I dragged myself out to the corral with one thing in mind: just brush Nine. It will be pleasant for us both, and we really need to have something pleasant to think about regarding one another. I took two brushes, the soft body brush, and the toothed mane and tail brush. I didn't bother with the halter, because I figured it wouldn't do any good anyway, the way he jerks away from me. So brush brush brush, he did fine. He walked away from me a couple times when I tried to do his tail, but it got done with no real complications. I was going to try to walk behind him, but I think Nine sensed I was nervous, or heard something in my voice, because he tensed up and moved away. I still haven't got the nerve to walk behind that horse, even though I have been well within kicking range and he never even lifted a foot. We will have to get over that, though, or I'll never be able to pick up his hind feet.

After a good brushing we both felt considerably better about each other, so I decided to try a new idea on leading. I got out the long lead rope, which is basically a long rope, about 20' long, that I tied a large metal ring to, and clipped a double sided clip to the ring. Today I took off the clip (which I just remembered is still handing from the chin of Ashley's halter where I left it...) and ran a loop through the ring, so as to have two loops connected at the ring. Thus one loop went behind the ears and over Nine's poll, and the other loop went over Nine's nose. This way, when I ask him to move forward, the rope will tighten all over Nine's head and face. But as soon as he steps forward, the pressure is immediately released all over his head and face. It worked like a charm! I was impressed. He still isn't leading as well as either of my other two horses, but it was definitely a major improvement! Within minutes he was even following me with slack in the rope for a few steps. Much, much better than yesterday, I assure you.

Encouraged by my success and the relaxed expression of Nine, I decided to give us something to do. So I set up two poles. One pole was cut in half lengthwise, so it has a flat side that I propped on the bottom rail of the round pen, making a sort of jump, like half a cross jump. The other pole is round but short, as it is the remains of an old pole that was most likely broken from the round pen some time ago. I put that pole on the ground directly across the round pen from the jump. Then there is a large, flattened box in the round pen, with two large rocks holding it down, that has been there for a few days. Nine has been having no problems at all, not even stepping on the rocks even when he trots directly over one. Even Hammar, my Mustang, can't do that. Hammar is the least sure-footed Mustang I have ever seen, sometimes. But he does fine. Back to Nine now: I lead Nine over all the obstacles, then lunged him over them. He finally got the idea of hopping the raised pole, but decided that was too much work. He ended up just picking his feet up extra high! Clever boy. Maybe jumping is out of the question for him, he is too lazy. Shame, he has the build for it...

In any case, he was doing good both directions, though going to the right he wanted to cut across to avoid the half-jump. He also wanted to duck into the shelter area, as I had left the gate open as an additional challenge. It took a couple cases of me running in after him yelling and swinging the lunge whip, but he finally decided he didn't want to go in there without my permission. But he was doing great. So I had him stop, face me, then walk in towards me so I could take off the rope. He was breathing a bit fast, so I decided I should walk him out before I just leave. The rope was already off, so I just pointed and asked him to continue around the pen, without the rope. I was able to keep him at a walk, and he wasn't even looking at the shelter area by then. He was still wanting to turn to the outside when going from left circles to right circles (he must like his right turns...) but after a few tries and shouts, he figured it out. I can stand right in the middle of the round pen and just point to my left, and he immediately stops and changes direction to go to the left. But from going left to changing to the right, I need to point to my right, walk in front of him, make sure I am far enough back, and really make it clear that I want him to go to the inside. He has troubles with this; I usually end up all the way against the fence, then I end up coming towards him to get him to make that inside turn.

I don't know why this is... it might be a physical problem. Maybe it hurts him to make sharp left turns. But I doubt this, as he is constantly turning his head to the left to prevent me from being on the left side of his head. Perhaps it is a vision problem? He has hit himself on something on the area above his left eye twice since getting here. He still has a scar from the second cut; that one I don't know how he got. His eye itself looks fine, I looked at it today. Either way, he is getting better about both problems: turning to the inside as well as letting me stand on his left side without his head being in the way.

This afternoon I am planning to take Nine out of the round pen for the first time. My boyfriend will be leading Ashley, the mare, while I lead Nine. I would like to use the long lead rope as a halter again, but I'm afraid that should he escape, he might get tangled in something, and that rope can constrict him. So instead I think Nine will wear the usual rope halter, while Ashley wears the ill-fitting but pretty red nylon halter. Ashley leads well, and even should she get loose I am confident she will not panic or get tangled. We will close the front gate, and Ashley has been turned out on the property many times. I think Nine will stick with Ashley. It will be something like teaching a foal to lead by following his dam. I hope. Wish me luck; I will post more on how it goes this evening.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A good day with a bad end

It seems Ashley, my mare, and Nine get along very well. They have been together in the round pen almost all day, and nothing has gone wrong. Unless you count the fact that now Nine doesn't want to go anywhere except next to Ashley.

I had made some excellent progress this morning when I figured out exactly what was bothering Nine about saddling. I don't think it is all out of fear for the saddle. I noticed that when I am only putting a blanket on him, I only use one arm, always the arm farthest from Nine's head. But when I come at him with the saddle, I use both arms, owing to the increased weight. So he not only gets a big scary horse-eating chunk of leather on his back, but also a smaller scary arm right next to his head that he has never seen there before! So I worked with him by using both arms to heft the blanket on his back, and coming at him from farther and farther away, because if he sees it, it is a million times as scary. When he can't see the blanket coming for him he has no problems. He was getting better about that when I decided to take a lunch break, and let Nine and Ashley just hang out together.

When I went back out to work some more on the blanket throwing, I discovered that Nine will not leave Ashley's side without a serious effort on my part. I am not at all happy about this. Nine has not made any progress at all with leading in the past two or three weeks, and I just don't know what to do about it. He was doing okay with leading, so long as I was in front of him by two feet or so, and Ashley was nowhere to be a distraction. Now, I need to be further away, and really pull on that lead rope before he budges. This is NOT the way I want it to be! Just before I got in the round pen with Nine, I had lead my other Mustang, who I have had for about four years, into Ashley's pen (currently empty as Ashley was in with Nine). I did not need even a string for Hammar (other Mustang); instead I just walked right up to him, put a hand on his jaw, and he lead right in as well as could be. I don't remember how I taught Hammar to do that! I don't think I taught him that, he just does it. When I got Hammar he was almost as wild as Nine was. But I just don't remember how I trained Hammar to do any of the things he does. I wasn't paying attention, I suppose.

The point is, the day started out with an amazing breakthrough, I was finally doing something right and progressive with Nine, but this past half hour has reveled that I still have a looooooong way to go. I am tired of him not leading, and jerking away from me, and all those sorts of things. Right now he is tied up to an inner tube, and tonight I was planning on leaving a lead rope on him, once I put Ashley in her own pen again of course. Hopefully these things will help Nine learn to give to the pressure of the rope. Any other ideas how to get Mr. Stubborn to lead like a normal horse? I am at a loss here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not the best day...

I tried and tried today to get an English saddle on Nine. He just backed away. So I tied him up. He stepped on my foot. I started over with the big western blanket he is used to. He was fine with that! Silly boy... I got to the point where he would at least let me stand next to him holding the saddle, and I could even touch him with the saddle, but not too high on his back. I think I may need to try a new tactic. The best I can come up with is riding Ashley, my mare and the only horse Nine is not terrified of, to get Nine accustomed to something being high up, over his back. Then maybe I can start tossing the saddle blanket onto his back from up there on Ashley. Maybe after that I can get the saddle on him.

Speaking of Ashley, that silly girl has taught Nine about cribbing! There are chew marks on both sides of the fence, and they nearly chewed all the way through on one pole! Of course, if they do manage to chew through Nine will not be loose. He will, however, be in a
pen with Ashley, who is the most playful 8 year old you'll ever meet, and half of her pen is made up of barbed wire. I do not want Ashley chasing Nine into the wire, that would be awful.
So I used all the hot sauce I could find to coat the poles where they have been chewing. Hopefully that will discourage them.

In brighter news, me and Nine managed to make the front page of the Daily Sun this morning! Here is a link for everyone, enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2008


As of 5:00 this morning, Nine has been here for one whole month. He has come a long way! He came to us wild, untouched, untrusting. Now he follows me around the pen, can be touched all over his body, and trusts me enough to put big, scary, noisy mystery saddles on his back! And when that scary saddle attacks him, he looks to me for help. What an amazing feeling, knowing that something so graceful and prestigious as a wild horse has put its life and trust in your hands. I strongly recommend it. Now, for some pictures! Naturally, the only pictures I have of Nine are either on my phone, or only from the first day of arrival. So, I present to you, Nine exactly one month ago!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Background Story

So this is my first blog; please excuse any weirdness about it!

I applied and was selected as one of 200 trainers to compete int he 2008 Extreme Mustang Makeover. I saw the ad in Western Horseman magazine, and off I went to apply! And now here I am, accepted (who'd have thunk it?) and with my assigned Mustang, who I have dubbed Mr. Nine. So far I have been featured on the local news station (KNAZ Channel 2) in their "Someone 2 Know" section, which was filmed before I left to pick Nine up. More recently the local newspaper, the Arizona Daily Sun, sent out a journalist who did an interview and took pictures; according to her, me and Nine will be featured on the front page of Tuesday's paper. I will keep my eyes peeled.

I picked Nine up at the Pauls Valley Wild Horse & Burro Adoption Center on Friday the 13th in June. The loading ticket announced my horse's tag number is 9007, and as 007 agent James Bond is nothing like the sweet, gentle, level-headed animal I found in the trailer, I went with Nine as a name. My reasoning is that by calling him by a number I might be able to say goodbye in September a little easier. We drove almost strait through back to Arizona, only stopping to rest the horse, and usually eating and/or taking bathroom breaks when we were stopped anyways. Nine unloaded like a dream when we got home at 5 AM, then had two days off to rest his stiff legs. I was touching him and putting a rope around his neck by the second day. I had a halter on him shortly after. I got a saddle on him by day four, but while adjust the saddle I didn't undo the cinch all the way, and Nine moved, causing the saddle to slip underneath him. As anyone with any horse knowledge can tell you, this was bad. I took my time from there, just working him on leading (which is still having trouble with; he does NOT want to be next to me! He will follow along behind fine, but no proper leading yet), round pen work, even lunging, and also sacking out and started on picking his feet up.

Then this past weekend I got a saddle back on him. I threw it up on him again and again until he would stand with out flinching. However, while cinching up the leather latigo stuck to itself, and jerking it freaked Nine out, so naturally he spooked and the saddle found itself once again underneath the belly of a barely tamed 1,000 pound thing with hooves. Luckily Nine has learned to trust me a bit in the past several weeks, and he stopped and turned to me after just s few rounds in the pen. I couldn't un-stick the stupid latigo, so unbuckled it from the off side. I got the blanket and rubbed Nine down with it so we could at least end with a reasonable note as far as the blanket is concerned. I haven't worked with him since, as I have been watching my daughter, but while feeding he has been acting normal, so I don't think he is holding a grudge. I will try again on Tuesday when Elayne, my daughter, goes back to the baby sitter. This time I will use an English saddle that has no latigo.