Sunday, August 31, 2008

He is a real horse!!!

It is official! Boomer is now a real live earning-his-keep horse!!! I have been looking forward to this weekend since John left for Houston! With John back I could try riding again! Saturday my dad came out and got to visit Boomer, which was really cool. It was really interesting to hear him talk about my horse days as a kid. I was really pretty ignorant to how much he actually picked up in my days of being a bossy kid. He still remembered that you have to hose a horse from the legs up. It really meant a lot though that he was so interested when I was young. It just really made me feel warm and fuzzy. It also gave me hope that maybe someday he would crew for me at an endurance ride! That would be awesome to have John and my dad both there for me for something like that!

Today was awesome also. We set off a bug bomb in the tack room in hopes of eradicating the wolf spiders. Wolf spiders are the bane of my existence. I like spiders to be confined to their web. I also do not like that wolf spiders actually hunt their prey. But I digress. We tacked Boomer up and even bridled him without his halter on! He didn't give any problem at all! He held his head low and opened him mouth willingly!

I just talked to John about an interesting idea on his bridling experience as a whole. At first he was very stubborn- backing up and rearing, tossing his head, clenching his teeth shut. Now he is easy to bridle and compliant. He no longer tests. I compared this to his balking behavior when he doesn't want to bathe. The difference is that he has gotten away with saying "no" and that being the final word for the last five years (not the case for the last 2 months). Bridling is a newly introduced stimulus and he has never said "no" and gotten away with it. In the end, he must always comply with my wishes. So, he has stopped testing while bridling (for now, at least). This gives me hope that eventually he will begin to understand that he must comply on all other things as well.

I longed him for a few minutes in both directions at a walk and trot and had John do the same. Then I got on and John longed us in both directions. We then detached the line and I walked and trotted around him. Up to this point was not completely new. We did this same routine last weekend in the round pen. The new part was that we were in the extra paddock/arena. When I felt good I had John walk down the length of the ring and I took Boomer down and made a lap around the whole ring! After a while I had John stand still and we started doing circles around him, adding figure eights, and I even did diagonals from all of the corners! His straight lines were pretty good but he was shaky when he realized we would have to turn eventually and he acted like he wanted to anticipate my turns but didn't know which way to go. I had John take a short video and Boomer looks great! Admittedly, my shoulders are forward and rounded. But, I'm not trying to win an equitation class here! I haven't seen myself ride- on video or in mirrors- in years. Literally, its been seven years! Over all, I was really proud of Boomer and of myself! He has done an incredible job so far! He really seems to get the idea of riding and he totally enjoyed his neck scratches after I dismounted!

*My computer has gotten over its social anxiety and allowed me to upload pictures, so enjoy!*

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fields of green

Today I went to work with Boomer and he was great again! I know I shouldn't count on him being good forever, he will surely have another bad week at some point. But, dang if I haven't been enjoying him lately! I groomed him and had him tied to the Blocker Tie Ring and again, no problems. I have tied him to it about 4 or 5 times now and he hasn't pulled back! He has never gone so long without pulling back. I wonder if it is because he feels like he has more freedom with the tie ring or because I spent the week before I got the ring working with him ground tied. Either way, I don't care! He is doing great! I still untied him for the fly spray- that can be scary for most horses. I took him out to the round pen and worked on transitions with him and did a few canter transitions. He did pretty well. I think a few weeks of that and he will have it down! After a few minutes in the round pen I decided to switch things up and go up the gravel road to the grassy field. He handled the gravel well and we were both surprised to see how tall the grass had gotten! We picked our way through and I longed him at the walk and trot. The walk was difficult because the grass was chest high in places and was pretty tempting! I got a few cell phone pictures of him going through the grass and he looks great!

A few of his ribs are visible in this picture but I think that is more due to his gait than his actual health. Although in the last few weeks when he was being really hyper I took his food down from 3.5 pounds to 3 pounds per day. He has lots of fresh grass and free choice hay, so he is not starving or hurting for food. I don't think he has lost any weight, maybe 5-10 pounds but not enough to worry about. Taking the extra 'fuel' away seems to have calmed him down. I read an article lately about sweet feed and training horses here that pretty much states that horses fed sweet feed while training were more difficult than horses who only had hay. Now, I do not feed sweet feed but the study didn't go in to other kinds of feed. So, largely, I made a guess and decided to decrease the amount of energy I put in to him to see if he would decrease the amount of excess energy he spit out at me. Ideally, I would work the excess energy off of him, but excessive longing is boring and creates a dull horse. As soon as riding him becomes a good source of exercise I will up his food again. So far, the decrease in usable energy has created a horse that- has less energy! So, no more bouncing off the walls! He is still quite feisty and prefers to trot while longing. Occasionally I will have to remind him that we were walking and nobody asked for the trot! He is doing really well and I am very proud of his successes!


Here is Boomer's pedigree for those that are interested. For those who do not know how to read a pedigree, the top line is always the sire (male) and the bottom line is the dam (female). This pedigree shows five generations. A few names to note are R Classic Touch+++/, Khemosabi++++, Bey Shah+, Bay El Bay++, and *Muscat. The symbols before and after a horses name have meaning. The * means the horse was imported to the united states. has a good list of meanings for the +'s and /'s. I will reproduce it here.
+ Is Legion of Honor 75 points in any class
++ Legion of Merit 75 point with 30 point in breeding classes
++++ Legion of Master 300 points with 120 in breeding classes and 120 in performance
+++ Legion of Supreme Merit 150 points with 60 in breeding and 60 in performace
+/ Legion of Supreme Honor 150 points in any classes
+// is Legion Of Excellence 300 points or higher for purebred arabians with two national top tens or one national top ten and one regional top five

You can use this key to determine the awards given to Boomer's ancestors.

This picture is of Boomer when he was about 6 months old. He had this same "holy shit!" look on his face for the first two weeks that I had him. The upright neck carriage is also something he has never outgrown, even in the pasture at play!

This is Boomer's dam, Pegasus as a 2 year old. He has her butt,legs, and shoulder, but not her back.

This is Boomer's sire, R Classic Touch+++/. Boomer has his back and hip.
This is Khemosabi++++. I love his legs. And neck. And topline.This is Bey Shah+. He is very broad and well built.

This is Bey El Bey++. I love his muscling. His head and neck really remind me of Boomer. I love being able to see the result of careful breeding. Boomer's top line in his pedigree is a bet more selective than his bottom line, but his bottom line has equally impressive sires.

This is *Muscat, a horse I am not completely familiar with. I love his forward motion, he really drives from behind! His thick neck and broad shoulders are also really appealing to me.

Some Arab people are leaning more towards the itty bitty skinny tall and narrow horses with no visable knee joints (dainty legs), skinny necks, and tiny heads. I love the usefulness of the breed. The versatility is incredable. A lot of the Arabian community is leaning is towards really typy, dainty, refined, over excited halter horses. Unfortunatly, a lot of these horses are used for halter and then bred. They are not used to their full potential. Arabians are hearty horses who excel at distance riding and many other sports. I think the breed should be represented by more full bodied horses like *Muscat.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

You will have to excuse me, my face is numb

Today was not my day. I have been having an upset stomach for a few days and i felt, well, I felt bad. I will spare you, gentle reader, the details. I also had to go to the dentist this morning. I had my teeth floated... wait... kidding! I had the first part of a crown done, ie. they filed me down to a nub and put on a fakie. Grand fun. So, my face hurts and is numbish. The fakie feels like, well... not a real tooth. Then I had to go to a second interview at the library which went well and I got the job, but it will seriously minimize my time with John. Bummer.

On to the good part of the day... Boomer was great again! It is really drying up out there so I worked him in the round pen and we worked at the canter using the ask, tell, demand cue system. He really likes that. It gives him a chance to do the right thing before being pushed. For the most part going to the right I had to demand the canter ("canter", kiss, pop whip) but to the left I would generally only have to tell ("canter" and kiss). Once he did it when I asked ("canter"). After working on the canter we worked on trot, walk, and halt commands. I would ask for the trot, he would respond, I would ask for the walk after a few steps and so on. I had him changing paces about 2-3 times per lap of the circle. It was hard work but he stayed very interested and did very well. After that I led him to the faucet while carrying the longe whip and he was great! I also fed him and held him with the halter on until he put his head down. I think this will be a better way to get him to respect my space when I feed him.

I'm going to go cook dinner- soft food, of course- and call John, who I miss dearly!

*sorry for the lack of pictures, my computer goes through phases where it doesn't want to 'talk' to the printer or camera... I'm waiting it out...*

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunshiny day

John set up the Blocker Tie Ring the other day and today was the third day to have him tied to it. I think the mobility of the ring on the eye hook gives him enough release from pressure that he hasn't tried to pull back once yet. He can move around and turn his head without feeling the fence on the other end immediately. I think it really makes him feel less confined. Also, I think that the week or so that I spent tacking and grooming with him untied helped him gain confidence.

I took him out and longed him for 20 minutes or so to give him a good work and I focused on speaking the cues very quietly. He listened so intently, he didn't want to miss a word! I would say the command (walk, trot, woah), then I would say it louder and more forcefully with a cluck for the trot, then I would jerk the rope for downward transitions or pop the whip for upward transitions along with the verbal cue. Ask, Tell, Demand. It worked. By the end of the session I was asking quietly and he was responding cheerfully.

I decided to use the same tactic in getting him to lead to the faucet. He is usually pretty balky about this and we have always had to use the belly rope. Well, I didn't want to use the belly rope today. So I carried the longe whip and decided that if he stopped I would ask him to walk, then I would ask for the walk with a cluck and tug on the rope, then I would demand the walk with a pop on the butt with the longe whip. I never even had to ask. He just walked along behind me with his head down and relaxed. He wasn't very sweaty at all so I just stood next to the faucet with him and loved on him and put him away. His rain rot is getting better every day.

I think I need to call the farrier out sooner than I had originally anticipated as Boomer seemed to be dragging his back toes at the trot. It was hard to detect, but I could tell that there was a small drag, like his break over wasn't complete.

Boomer is really pushy when it comes to his food and I have been trying to keep him off of the feed bucked until I give him the go ahead. I thought at first that the best way to do this was to shoo him off and act like a bigger badder horse. This has just gotten him worked up at meal time. So, I think I should try leaving him haltered and having him stand STILL about 10 feet away from his bucket. I'll update you on how that goes.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First REAL ride!!!

Well, yesterday was our first real ride! I longed Boomer while John was installing our blocker tie ring ( and when he was done I had John longe him for a few minutes as well.

*minor diversion*
I decided to order a blocker tie ring because of Boomer's pull back problem. The belly rope is very useful but when he is tied he just sets back and pulls against it like it is tug of war. He doesn't mind holding his breath to pull back. So I ordered a tie ring which is basically a ring attached to an eye hook, the ring has a magnetized tongue that the rope is looped around. When Boomer pulls back, the rope will slide through the ring and the hope is that he will not feel trapped and will stop when he doesn't feel pressure from the rope. In the mean time I have been grooming him with the lead rope hanging over his neck or on the ground. He is great about it! He doesn't really even move if I walk away to get something out of the tack room! We have been working on the 'head down' cue and he is still somewhat resistant but it really seemed to help us with bridling yesterday!
back on track*

After John longed him enough to make sure he had control I got on and we walked around a few laps in both directions. I had John walk up to us and unhook the longe line and walk back to center. I asked Boomer to walk on and he did. John just held out the line as if he were longing Boomer and he didn't even have to encourage him forward or reinforce my cues!!! Boomer walked, trotted and stopped from BOTH gaits!!! He also reversed and cut across center! The reverse is coming along well but cutting through center was confusing because he wanted to stop next to John. He was so good and I was so impressed with his responsiveness to cues! It felt really great to be on my own horse and see that my training has paid off!

His rain rot is still getting better every day and he is getting better about balking when going towards the hose. I solved that the traditional training way... He used to set back and pull against the belly rope with John on the other end, which is quite a feat. John is 6'3", about 200 pounds of muscle, and determined as hell. While is no match for any horse he can sure give Boomer a run for his money! So I have started following them with a longe whip. Wouldn't you know, Boomer walks along like a prince! John was a little confused at first as to why Boomer wasn't putting up a fight!

I am really excited to ride again but I will have to wait until NEXT Saturday because John is out of town for work! We will probably take this week a little easy (not too easy) and just do a lot of longing over ground poles and I need to clean my saddle also.

Speaking of saddles, now is as good a time as any to talk about tack! A lot of the photos you have seen where Boomer is wearing a saddle is actually of my crappy saddle. When I was a kid my dad got me a Crosby England Olympic Works saddle. It is 16", I think. When I worked for Steve Thebossfromhell I was working mostly OTTB's and my saddle was too wide causing it to pitch forward. I used a wither pad until I could afford a new one that would have a better 'all around' fit. As I had never ridden in a saddle other than one of extreme quality, I was unaware of the ramifications of buying a cheaper saddle. The saddle I chose was a Regent 16.5". I used it twice a day on many different horses with a pair of good chaps and never had a problem with fit. The leather was sub par and the construction was shoddy, but it worked and it cost $400. After I moved to Bartlesville with John we started taking lessons together, he to learn to ride and me to jump a little. I used my saddle a few times but without chaps the leather over the stirrup bars would bruise my thighs. I tried to sell the saddle but had no interested buyers. Along comes Boomer and I now have a use for a crappy saddle- Breaking a horse! It was a good thing I had this saddle because there was more than one occasion when the saddle ended up in the mud. The last two rides I have done in my Crosby and It got a little muddy and needs to be cleaned and oiled. The Crosby is well over 10 years old and looks newer than my 2 year old saddle. It is beautiful and comfortable and I am in love with it, if that is possible! At some point I would like a saddle better suited for endurance as my Crosby is a close contact hunt seat saddle. My dream saddle is the Solstice from It looks so comfortable with such a deep seat, long flaps, and minimal-but-still-there knee rolls. The leather is beautiful and it comes CUSTOM FITTED to your horse! I'm thinking that I won't get a saddle like that for a while, considering is costs three months salary at the job I haven't been hired for yet. Not to mention that I need to take general horsey costs out of those paychecks! I swear, I have already spent my first two checks!

*non-horse related topic*
I just started my Masters degree in Library and information studies at OU's Tulsa campus. It will probably take me 1.5-2 years to complete. I have an online class which I was voted to be a group leader for (!) and a class on Thursday nights from 5:30-8:30. I am currently trying to get into another course on Wednesday evenings from 5:30-8:30. I have had an interview at the Bartlesville Public Library for the reference desk assistant job. I go in on Tuesday afternoon to meet the head lady there and I assume they will make an offer. The hours are MTW 5-9, S 8:30-5:30, and SU 1:30-5:30. I will only be able to accept the position if they will give me Wednesday off for school. I am a little concerned that this job will not leave me enough time with John and I know neither of us would be happy if we only got to see each other in passing. Also, the only time I would have to go out and work with Boomer would be in the mornings, which is fine, but I don't want to ride him unless John is out there. Which would limit our rides to Fridays and Sundays. I'm not sure that would be enough time to really work with him. I think I should take things one step at a time and my first goal is to get into the Wednesday night class. Then I will go to the library interview and if I am still hesitant, I will tell them I need to think about it. For now, thats all... I'm headed out to hang with Boomer.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The confidence I needed

Boomer and I have not really been seeing eye to eye lately and his stubborn side has come out. He knows what he doesn't want to do and he resists up until the point of having to do said task, then he complies like an angel. Bridling and bathing are two examples. He is bored and over energized and I am frustrated and losing confidence every time we work together. Then, I found a blog by a woman who is just starting her own horse and working with a few other peoples horses and she really gave me a lot of confidence I needed to just get out there and do it! Her blog is another help was this video which helped me see that Boomer wasn't the only nutty horse out there!

I needed to be reminded that Boomer is an Arab, he will always be a silly, flighty, spooky Arab. The plus side is that I learned to ride on Arabs, then moved to OTTBs (Off Track Thoroughbreds), and then to working and training polo horses. So, I know what I am doing, and if Boomer acts up- I will stay on, which minimizes my chances of getting hurt! I don't know why I was lacking this confidence before, but I was.

So, I went out today and longed Boomer until he was pretty well worked. I had the saddle on and worked him at a walk, trot, and canter and really tried to keep things from being predictable. He is still kind of a pill about the canter. He doesn't want to canter and when he does he drops out of it pretty quickly. I feel like I am letting him get away with being lazy but when I really snap the whip after him he will buck or try to run out on the line. I'm not sure what to do other than work at liberty in the round pen which is just a tad small for him to keep his balance in with the mud. After I felt he was nice and calm I put him in the round pen and let him cool down and graze until John got out there (about 10 minutes later). John helped me bridle him and then I had John longe him at the walk and trot in both directions and they both did wonderfully! I went ahead and hopped on Boomer and had John lead us around the round pen and slowly make his way out further on the line. He longed us at the walk for a while and Boomer was really good! He kept wanting to go towards John but my outside rein kept him on the circle. We also trotted a little and That was a little unbalanced for both of us but it got better after a few rounds! We also reversed which was good for now but UGLY by show ring standards! We walked and trotted in the second direction and it was good too! The trot was much smoother! We walked a lap or two, reversed again and got off. It was really encouraging for me to have such a good ride on him. That is what we really needed! I think things will really start picking up from here!

Boomer has a case of rain rot right now from all of the moisture lately. Rain rot is a fungus which affects the skin on the legs, armpits, and rump mostly. Boomer has it on his legs and armpits. It is not itchy and doesn't bother the horse. It makes scabs on the skin which allow the fungus to grow unhindered by oxygen. My solution is to remove as much of the hair as possible to allow oxygen to get in, wash daily with an antimicrobial shampoo, and apply an iodine solution. After three days of treatment he is already looking better!

Tomorrow I will only have limited time with Boomer for a short longe session and grooming as I have my first day of Grad School! There is an orientation Friday evening and Saturday morning. I'll post more Saturday after we hopefully ride again!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Slow going...

I was beginning to think that Boomer was getting bored and I had wanted to give him a change of pace. John picked up three 2x4's (Lowe's was out of posts) and we set them up about 6' apart from each other so that Boomer could trot over them with one stride between each. He did really well and it was fun to adjust the poles and get the perfect fit.

About 15 minutes into the session, Boomer started this "coming to center" bit again. I had John help by leading him out to the circle but all of a sudden he took off and spun around, wrapping himself in the longe line. We got him stopped, turned around and tried working with him again. Eventually I decided that he was being too hard headed and wasn't listening to my cues for walk and woah. I took the stud chain and fed it through his mouth where the bit goes and tried again, he stopped on a dime with no problem at all. After a few rounds with John's help he eventually returned to his cooperative self, reversing and walking without a problem.

We realized that Boomer just has an excess amount of energy and I haven't been working him hard enough. When we first got him, he was very nervous and reacted to everything with fear. He has since gained much confidence and it seems that now he has excessive energy and is testing his role in the herd- trying to establish dominance.

We turned him out into the round pen to cool down a bit and put away the longe line, whip, and trotting poles. This time was for Boomer to calm down and think about the progress we had made. John then went in to the round pen and used the cotton lead rope to encourage Boomer to trot around the round pen until he became submissive. He kept his inside ear on John the whole time and after about 5 minutes he started licking and chewing. I had John reverse him and repeat the process. After Boomer submitted on both sides John asked him to walk and turned his back to him until he slowed down and eventually stopped. Ideally after this, Boomer would walk up to the handler, but the round pen is prime grazing ground. So, John approached Boomer and gave him lots of bonding scratches. John then walked away and Boomer followed him, accepting him as a leader!

I started to lead Boomer over to the hose to rinse him but he balked and wouldn't walk. We didn't have the belly rope so I decided to try a new tactic. When he started to balk, lean back, or go back we would force him to back rapidly until we decided to stop. This actually worked! After a few times Boomer stopped backing back and would just slow to a stop and would only move if pulled off balance to the side. We decided to go for the belly rope at this point. Next time we will use the backing along with the belly rope so that we have full forward and backward control. After we hosed him we fed him and left.

We decided that Boomer needs two-a-days at least five days a week. In the mornings I will work with him at liberty in the round pen and also work on sacking out or any other ground work. A few ideas I have are working on him lowering his head on cue and teaching him to stand while restrained by hobbles. In the afternoons we will work on longing in varied locations over varied obstacles. John will be there to help with any misbehavior. The goal of the second session is to work him until he is tired.

This morning I worked him at liberty and he was very stubborn, taking at least 30 minutes to submit. He even started pinning his ears and tossing his head when I would flick the rope at him to encourage him forward. He kicked out once, reminding me of his behavior five weeks ago. After he submitted, I got the bag ties to the whip and sacked him out and waved it around him for about 30 minutes until he was so unconcerned that he started grazing.

I took him him, groomed him and fed him. It was a bit hard for me to see the progress since it feels like we are going backwards, but I know things are improving. I can now pick up and clean out his back feet without a problem. That is something huge for us. He is also coming a long way to being sacked out very well. Right now I just need him to get over his idea that he can stop longing when he wants to. Wish us luck this evening!

(I have lots of pictures that I will upload soon, but my camera doesn't seem to be connecting to my computer at the moment.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A new approach

Well, the last two or three days have been really frustrating. Boomer has been pulling back and rearing more, and it doesn't seem to be out of fear. He has also been misbehaving on the longe line. He will start the workout well, reversing and walking very well. But at some point he gives up and just walks into the middle when I ask for the reverse. It is usually when asking to change from going right to going left. Yesterday I had John walk around the outside of the circle and pull his head out if he started to turn in. Today I was on my own and I used a rope to swing around over me head to create a visual barrier. He got the message, but didn't seem to want to work. John suggested he is getting bored. He might be. I decided today to take a new approach with him when he rears and pulls back. This is the absolute most dangerous habit a horse can have and I know it is not new because he tried it a whole handful of times at his old home when he was being loaded into the trailer. So, at first I really think he was afraid and would spook and back up and start rearing when he realized he was confined. When that was the case I would talk soothingly to him and calm him down. Now, I don't think he is afraid and he has developed quite a bad and annoying habit. I started being less apologetic and much more firm with him. I would give him a hard jerk and a firm WOAH and when he stopped, I grabbed him by the nose, pulled it down towards the ground and made him stand still. I'm not sure if this approach will work, but it is worth a shot. If it doesn't work, I will have to hire a trainer and board him somewhere for a month and hope that works. The major flaw in that plan is that we don't have transportation, and Boomer doesn't trailer anyway. The best thing would be to have someone who could come out and help us on site. I think the farrier would be the best person to ask about something like that.

I think his real problem is 'pulling back' and not rearing. I have been leaving him tied for 15-20 minutes as I finish cleaning up and he doesn't really struggle. I think the answer will be to tie him up to a tree all day tomorrow with the belly rope. I have a job interview at 10 AM and Charley has a vet appointment at 3PM so that gives us just under 4 hours to be tied up. The rest of the days of the weekend will be spent with him tied up all freaking day. I guess I will just take lunches and a book and sun myself. After he does will at being tied with the belly rope I will work on tying him with just the halter and regular lead rope. While the belly rope is a great help, we can't use it forever. We need to solve the problem and the belly rope isn't doing it. It stops him before a lead rope would, I think, but his problem is behavioral and he can resist against the belly rope no problem. So, I think he needs to spend a few days tied up.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Two steps forward, one step back...

Today didn't go quite as planned. I had wanted to do a light longing lesson again today and that all started out well. He longed through a puddle, under a tree... But he was acting really amped up. I think it has to do with the weather and lack of exercise the last few days. All of a sudden he got spooked by something and didn't want to longe past it. I have no idea what he was afraid of. But he kept turning around and trying to change direction. I was able to control him and get him going back in the correct direction but the he started just coming in towards me. I tried moving him away from the 'scary spot' but he gave up on longing and it was like he forgot how! He just kept coming in to the middle. I went ahead and took him into the round pen to longe at liberty to see if that could help. I started by making him move his feet until he became submissive, then I changed his direction and continued to make him move until he was submissive. I tried again with asking him to walk and he kept coming in to me. I waved my hands around enough to alarm him and get him moving away from me but any time I would ask him to stop and walk or stop and reverse, he would try to come in to me. He got a little better towards the end and we stopped, but it was a frustrating day!

Before I got him he was trained to turn and face center when he was halted on the longe line. I think this is a dangerous practice and I discourage it. First of all, he is in an aggressive posture towards you, second of all he is halfway through a reverse you didn't ask for when he stops and turns in towards you. So, I have been asking for the halt and pointing the whip towards his eye when he starts to turn in. If he continues to turn in, I poke him in the muzzle until he steps back out and then I release pressure. He seemed to be coming along very well until today when he took the whole thing and shat on it!

He worked up a sweat and I rinsed him off, which went well. I decided to tie him up with the belly rope for a while as an exercise. Standing tied is very important and I feel like I have been overlooking it lately. So, I tied him to the fence near the stoutest post, and let him sit. He pulled back hard twice but other than that he just kind of wiggled around, testing the rope. I kept him tied for about 20 minutes until he calmed down a bit and then went to untie him. After I untied him he started blowing and being excited. I calmed him down and started to take off the belly rope. He decided to wander off before he was fully untied and I just let him go with the rope around his flanks. He was a little alarmed but came back to me and stopped in front of me after less than a minute of kicking/attempting escape. I loosened the rope and slid it off. I then walked after him with it and sacked him out with it before taking his halter off. The last thing I needed was for him to be afraid of the belly rope! I fed him a cup less today than usual because he has been worked too little and acted too feisty for the last few days. As soon as he stops acting like a fool and we get back to where we were before he can resume his normal food ration of 8 instead of 7 cups.

Here is a video of him after he has already spooked twice. Here is is really starting to get the idea of not pulling back but he is prancing and nervous. He tries to test the limits a bit but is generally calm and cool. I need to be leaving him tied like this every day for longer and longer in many different locations.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rainy days!

It has been raining hard for the last few days. Boomer had a few days off and it showed yesterday! He got Thursday off because I was in a particularly easy going mood and decided to just bond with him and clean up around the paddock. Friday he got off unexpectedly because my mom came up to visit us! Saturday it was raining all day so he got that day off also, but my mom did get to see him, even if he was all soggy! Sunday was gray and overcast but didn't do much more than sprinkle. John and I headed out to see Boomer and as he was covered in mud and it was drizzling, I decided just to take him straight out to the longe line and not worry about grooming him. He was feeling good for sure! He had a hard time listening to me and staying at a walk while I warmed him up, he really wanted to go! I worked him pretty hard, doing lots of trotting, trying out the canter a little, and utilizing the whole paddock by walking 5-6 paces down the line of the center so that he was longing an oval instead of a circle. There were a few low spots that held water, but little to no mud. There were also a few small swells in the ground. He got to work a lot on keeping his balance, paying attention to where he put his feet, self regulate speed, and deal with ground variances and puddles. I worked him pretty hard for about 20 minutes, let him walk a few minutes both directions, and then asked him to trot a few laps each direction before stopping for good. It was about 25 degrees cooler than it had been the last few weeks and he didn't even break a sweat. He is really looking very fit and his body is very lean and toned. I am really happy with how he is shaping up!

After his workout I let him cool down a bit and then fed him. I didn't hose him because he didn't sweat and it was supposed to rain again in a few hours. After he ate I realized that his hay was already low so John and I took him for a walk up the road to the field with the yummy grass. We walked on the gravel and he made it twice as far on the gravel without showing signs of soreness than the last two times! It seems that walking him on it a few times a week will really help his feet! I was especially surprised because his feet were wet and soft from the rain.

It has been drizzling constantly today and I am waiting for it to let up before I head out there to work him again. Maybe we will just work in the rain...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

We want gravel crushing feet!

On Monday John and I took Boomer out of his pasture area and up the road to an open field by the gate to the big field. The road is about... well I don't know how long it is... maybe 500 feet? Anyway, I wanted to continue longing Boomer in new environments so that he becomes familiar with change. He longed well and respected the size of the longe circle, not pulling out or dipping in. I was a bit surprised because he had only ever been longed in enclosed areas. So, that was a great feeling! The grass was long and delicious and we let him graze after we longed for a short time. It was really hot and I didn't want to work him too much, just enough to stretch his legs.

The most important part of this exercise was our walk on the gravel. Boomer was very bothered by it and his feet were very obviously tender. I did some research online and found some information on natural hoof care websites that pretty much stated the obvious. The ground he walks on daily is what his feet are prepared to handle. I feel like we have two options for strengthening his hooves, either walking him every other day on the gravel road or putting pea gravel in his shed. The first option seems to be the best so far because it would not require any extra time or money. I also read that in the summer it is a good idea to flood their food or water area so that their feet can soak and get needed moisture every once in a while. I did this and Boomer was slightly put off at first but quickly decided that his food was worth getting his feet wet for!

On Tuesday I went out in the afternoon while John was at work and I longed Boomer in the paddock. I have decided that the best training schedule would be to ride him 2-3 times a week, working on walk and halt transitions and longing him the other days to work on introducing the canter.

After a warm up of walking both directions 2 laps, trotting both directions 4 laps, walking to reverse and trotting more both directions, I asked Boomer for the canter to the right. He was frantic, excited, picked up the wrong lead, switched leads, and couldn't maintain the gait or the circle. I tried again going to the left and he picked up immediately and cantered gracefully for 3-4 laps on a perfect circle. I tried the right again, then left, and ended on the right. Overall it was a really good exercise. I was happy to know that he has a balance issue because that is easy to fix, all it takes is time! The reason I am going to really start working hard on the canter transitions from the longe line is because it is an off-balance gait which is difficult for young horses to master. The added speed is exciting for them and it is hard for them to focus. I would rather get him used to cantering calmly with me on the ground than try to introduce the weight of a rider, the physical cues, the speed, AND the gait all at once. So hopefully in the next few weeks I will be walking and trotting him and maybe after a month we will be able to canter! While I am first riding him I will stick to the arena and round pen and will slowly move to more open spaces, like I did with longing him.

John and I payed Boomer a surprise visit Tuesday evening around sunset just to say hi! Boomer was very sweet and affectionate and was a willing photo participant.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sacking out, riding, and pictures galore!

Friday and Saturday were both spent sacking out Boomer with a plastic sack. I tied a Wal-Mart sack to the end of a long riding crop and used it to shake all around and over him. I had the belly rope on to ease the backing response. He was afraid and I just followed him calmly around the paddock until he settled down. The goal was to shake the bag in a rhythmic way so that he would relax and eventually allow me to touch him with it. At first he was afraid of me holding the bag still, then he sniffed it and was afraid of the noise it made, then he calmed down about me waving it around but wouldn't allow it near him. Finally I made contact with his shoulder and he immediately overcame most of his fear! He allowed me to rub it and shake it all over his body, including his legs, belly, and face! John and I both repeated the process on Saturday with very satisfying results.

The reason this is an important process is because having a plastic sack, piece of paper, or other trash blow in front of, behind, or under your horse is not something you plan for, but something you must be prepared for. The hope is that in 'sacking him out' you will get his jitters out at home before you are out on the trail, at a horse show, or in any other strange location.

After John and I both worked with him we groomed him and handled his feet. We tacked him up and he bridled better than ever before! I longed him a bit and then had John put the tarp down in the paddock where we were longing. Boomer was unsure of what to do at first but then he walked, then trotted over the tarp with no problem! I was really happy with that because while feeding him on the tarp had gotten him to step on it, it hadn't taught him how to walk across it. After the longing John put the tarp at the entrance of Boomer's paddock so that he has to walk over it to get in and out of the paddock.

We worked with Boomer more on mounting and weight in the saddle and I got on him and had John lead us around. He lead us in both directions at a walk, making a number of turns and stops. Boomer was very calm about all of this. He was great at stopping, pretty good with turning, but didn't really understand how to walk without encouragement from John.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Taking advantage of the rain!

Yesterday I found the ground to still be soggy with some standing water. Penelope and Grunt were both in a paddock, so I closed the gate on them for the afternoon. I worked with Boomer's feet and dressed a sore he has on his neck (from the fence?). I use the belly rope on him most of the time and it is amazing the difference it makes. He hasn't reared since we first started using it and now when he backs up he stops as soon as he feels pressure!

I put Boomer on the longe line and started longing him in the open acre in front of his paddock where the round pen is. He has been longed in the round pen and in a paddock but never in open space so he was confused at first, but handled it well. He is a really fast learner. There were two puddles on either side of the longe circle and I worked him closer and closer to them. He was skittish about the smaller one, it was mostly mud. I gave him a break and shortened the circle for a few rounds and then moved towards the big puddle (6' x 12'). He darted around it a few times and wouldnt slow down from the trot to walk, like he was afraid of it. Then he finally skidded to a halt in front of the puddle, put his head down and sniffed it and walked around it carefully. The next time around he just slowed down, sniffed it, and walked through all 12 feet of it calmly! The water was about fetlock high on him. The hoof is about 3-4" tall and the pastern up to the fetlock is 2-3", so the water was probably 4-5" deep on average! I walked him around a few more times and he went right through it! I turned him and we went through the process again and he became so calm about it that I was able to grab my phone from my pocket and snap a picture for evidence!

He really used rational thinking to overcome that fear on his own and I really think that a few factors went into gaining that ability. It of course helps that he is respectful on the longe line in both directions and responds to my requests for forward propulsion. Also, I think a huge part of it was in his getting over the fear of the tarp! He has gone from being afraid to walk on something unknown to rationally deciding that it is OK to 'test the waters'. I feel like he is making big progress and I am really proud of myself for helping him get to this point and I am proud of him for being so attentive, smart, and willing.

He is becoming much more calm about bathing and allows me to wash his face, turn the hose on and off, follows me over the running hose on the ground, and doesn't spook if the hose gets kinked and hisses. My next goal with bathing is to leave him tied with the belly rope while I bathe him.

I put him on a Biotin supplement for his hooves also. His previous owner had him on Vita Biotin which provides 2mg per day. I have him on Horseshoer's Secret which provides 6mg per day because although his hooves are strong, the have suffered a lot of cracks in the last few months and need to grow out strong. One of the cracks he had a few weeks ago is along the whole outer wall of his left front hoof and I think it makes him slightly off when trotting in a small circle to the left. With proper nutrition, farrier care, and time (3 months) we should start to see improvement in his overall hoof health.