Monday, December 13, 2010


We got our first snow this weekend!  I really love winter.  Coming from Oklahoma, I always assumed I hated winter.  It was just bitter cold with wind and once a year we would get a thin sheet of ice over everything for a day or two.  

Now that we are further north and have experienced a REAL winter- I love it!  It snows frequently, which makes the cold worthwhile.  Yes, it does get stupid-cold, but even watching the thermometer drop to ridiculous levels has a zany appeal!  

We got a dusting of snow on Saturday night and the lows have been single digits.  It should break above freezing on Wednesday and melt the snow.  

John, Charley, and I went out to visit Boomer on Sunday morning and went for a short walk.  The wind was blowing more than usual and it was pretty bitter- windchill down in the negative teens.  

Aw, Bummer!  I don't look pregnant when I'm all bundled up. 

One of the fun things about having a relationship with someone/starting a family is that you get to adopt each others traditions.  One of John's childhood traditions was to have a candle lit dinner on the first night of snow!  Saturday night the snow started after dinner, so we did our candlelight dinner on Sunday.  We had the fireplace going, the tree lit up, and a table full of candles!  

Isn't he adorable?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Still kickin'!

No need to send out distress signals... I'm still here and baby is still kicking. 

I guess I tend to clam up when I don't have any Boomer news.  He is doing well.  Getting fat and furry.  It has been getting pretty cold here, so I pretty much just go out to see him as the weather changes to rotate his blankets.  It gives me a little purpose since there isn't much reason for me to go out there otherwise.  

It is sort of hard to comprehend how fast these last few months have gone by!  I LOVE being pregnant and have had a really easy time of it so far.  No morning sickness or swelling.  No health complications.  No complaints!  I did struggle with exhaustion in the first trimester during the heat of summer.  Luckily, I don't have to work and was able to nap as needed.  The second trimester has been a breeze and has flown by.  Next week will be the start of the third trimester, which is mind blowing to me!  March still seems so far away!  

I thought you all might enjoy a picture progression of my growing self!
16 weeks

 17 weeks

18 weeks

 19 weeks

21 weeks

22 weeks

24 weeks

today- 25w3d

Baby @ 12 weeks

 Baby @ 21 weeks

Creepy 3-D @21 weeks

We were able to find out the gender at our 21 week sonogram and we are delighted to be expecting a BABY GIRL!!!!  The technology is incredible and you can see such amazing detail on the scans.  We were able to see her little ribs and bones, her stomach, and most amazingly her heart beating.  

This has been an amazing journey so far and John and I are both so excited for Baby Girl to make her arrival in March!  

Monday, November 15, 2010

That uncontrollable urge...

For the most part, I have given up riding.  But every once in a while I get that urge...  It isn't something I can control.  It is a deep down part of who I am.  Last week, I got the urge.  I didn't have my saddle, so I just grabbed my bridle and slipped it on.  I led Boomer to the fence and climbed up to the top rail.  I spent a few minutes petting him and running my hands along his back and neck.  Feeling him, feeling his mood.  He was calm and happy.  I slid my leg over and was surprised at how round and flat his back was.  We walked out along the path as Charley raced ahead.  I tangled my fingers in his mane and left the reins just loose enough for Boomer to look around.  It was a breezy afternoon and I wore a sweatshirt.  The breeze lifted the smell of horse up to my nose and I breathed in deep.  We walked around the pond and I was happy.  So indescribably happy.  I was also nervous and on edge, but it was more of an awareness than fear.  I felt no fear.  I felt happy.  We walked back towards the barn and I slid off, wrapping my arms around his neck.  Thanking him.  Thanking him for being.  For allowing me to be.  

I have noticed a change in Boomer.  He seems happier.  He is calm and comes to me with his ears forward when I enter the pasture.  Just today, he pushed his nose into the halter to help me get it on- he had never done that before.  We went for another walk today.  I thought about riding, but didn't have the urge.  So, we just walked.  It was peaceful and fun.  We took our time and I held horse apples while he snacked.  Charley got muddy in the pond and ran around like a happy dog.  

I am starting to understand enjoying life just for the sake of enjoyment.  Things aren't always what you assumed they would be.  Sometimes they are better.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Walkin' in the woods

I recently took Boomer and Charley for a nice walk around the property.  There are supposed to be 60 acres, but I didn't go through any gates and I felt like I was on a lot more than 60 acres.  I finally turned around when I saw a fence ahead- it had a wide gate opening, but no gate.  Not sure how far all of this goes, so I will have to ask the owners if I was trespassing!  Anyway, we ended up going around the pond, which is for sure on the property.  It has a dam around the back half and the dam is lined by trees on either side.  Very pretty!  In all, we were walking for 45 minutes!

Boomer is looking good- pasture only diet and no work has put a little weight on him!

Headed away from the barn...

Charley ahead of us on the dam

Boomer stopped midstride for a horse apple snack!  
Anyone know what these are really called?

Stopping for a bite of the good stuff on the way back to the barn

Pretty boy!

Self portrait 

Artsey shot!

Charley made it into this shot!  
Gotta love the group photo!

Cheesy!  I never could get both ears up...

A 45 minute walk calls for a drink!

Here is a video of Boomer eating the horse apples!  So cute!
I embedded it from Facebook, please let me know if it isn't working and I can use YouTube.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

You know your horse is a lightweight when...

Boomer's leg is doing great.  I thought i would share a few pictures of his injury.  The vet gave him ACE to work on him and holy cow- that boy got DEEEERUNK!!!

He was leaning and wobbling and his knees would buckle a little.  His head was against the barn door and he had drool dribbling out of his mouth.  When I led him to his paddock it took FOREVER and he acted like we were walking freaking miles- not 50 feet!  He had to stop and pee on the way and then for like 20 minutes after that he just let it all hang out and would occasionally pee his pants (I know he doesn't wear pants).  Oh, it was gloriously funny!  And somehow like being in college all over again...

The vet cut off the flap of skin, exposing a triangle of flesh.  I think the cut was a little over an inch wide.  

 This shows the swelling better:

Be basically stayed in this position for 20 minutes while he woke up.  Didn't even move his ears.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shifting perceptions

I had a very interesting time this weekend at the Arabian Nationals horse show in Tulsa, OK.  John and I have family in Tulsa, so we were able to visit family and share in *baby excitement* for the weekend as well as see the show.  

In the past, one of my favorite things to do at shows was to window shop and look at all of the booths.  This year I was surprised to ind that there were about half as many booths as in years past.  There were whole expo centers closed down that had been full the year before.  The seating areas around one of the arenas had been lined with booths last year and was empty the whole weekend.  

I was also surprised to find that there were fewer people in general at the show.  It just wasn't busy.  It seemed like at any given time, there were only two of the three arenas in use.  The warm up arenas are usually busy, but were not this year.  I was there for the last few days of the show, but it still didn't make sense as to why things were so slow.  It was sad to see this horse show being hit by the economy, but luxury entertainment spending is the first place people cut back in hard times.  I guess I was more disappointed than surprised.  

One thing that did surprise me was how my perceptions changed on showing and the industry in general.  I used to LOVE showing and show horses.  I thought it was the epitome of riding and training.  Somehow, in the last year my thoughts have shifted.  I was unimpressed by most of what I saw and really only enjoyed myself when watching the working cow horses and cutting classes.  I think that my major shift has been that I just prefer to participate in and watch horse activities that give the horse a job. Endurance horses have a job.  It is a VERY involved sport for the rider.  Working cow events give the horse a job.  Extreme trail challenges give the horse a job.  I like that.  Dressage has shown its self to be a wonderful training tool and I LOVE what it has done for Boomer and myself, but even then I don't enjoy watching dressage competitions.  It is more 'showing off' than performance based to me. 

So, it was an interesting thing for me to realize all of this while at the show.  The excessive amounts of money spent just doesn't make sense for me and I am glad to find that I have finally outgrown wanting to be a part of that world.  I would much rather take lessons in dressage and cutting and compete in endurance and enjoy having a well rounded horse.  

Monday, October 25, 2010


Boomer has been keeping things interesting around here.  

Went out late last week to find a cut on his left hind fetlock.  There was significant swelling and he was off at the walk and trot.  I cold hosed and smeared iodine ointment on it twice on Wednesday.  Planned to call the vet first thing Thursday if no improvement.  Called the vet Thursday, got an appointment within 2 hours.  Cut was deeper and bigger than I thought, but did NOT involve the joint or tendon sheath, which is what I was concerned about.  Boomer got wrapped up and put on antibiotics.  Could only leave the wrap on for 48 hours due to rain.  Took off wrap Saturday, swelling was down, cut looked great.  So, instead of rewrapping, I just sprayed with AluSpray per vets directions and put him back out in the pasture.  Some swelling back Sunday, gone again Monday.  Sound since Saturday.  Everything will be fine, but jeez if that boy doesn't know how to stress me out!  Most likely, I would not have called the vet if the joint hadn't been involved.  However, even a microscopic puncture to the joint could be devastating.  

So, back to regular work soon!  Maybe I will lightly lunge tomorrow and then possible lunge/ride Wednesday?  

I got Boomer a sheet for this fall.  I got the Dura-Tech Viking II Turnout Sheet in green and black.  I decided to get a sheet this year so that I can start him in something a little more lightweight when the nights get below freezing but the days are warmer.  When the days get closer to freezing and the nights are even colder, he will get his regular blanket- a medium weight StormShield New Briton Bellyband Turnout.  If this winter is as bad as last year, there were a few nights that got into the negative teens and on those nights I want to be able to put a sheet over his blanket.  The Viking Turnout Sheet is a boxier cut and isn't a fitted as his blanket.  It doesn't have the V-Free raised wither to protect his mane from rubs.  It is from a less expensive line, but I think it will be fine for the few weeks of 'transition weather'.  I also think it will be a great fit over a blanket.  

I have also decided on the saddle I want to get to replace my western saddle that stopped fitting Boomer. I think I want to go for this Cashel Trail Saddle without a horn.  I also comes with the option of a horn.  Actually, I can't really decide what I want more.  Horn or no horn.  Anyhow, I love the saddle and the tree is fiberglass coated wood made by Martin Saddlery.  Their AXIS tree is made to slightly flare forward at the shoulders to allow freedom of movement.  I think it would be a great saddle for me and for Boomer.  Now I just need to decide if I should buy it now or wait until after the baby comes... I want to get it now, but then it is almost winter and I have a feeling that as soon as the ground freezes for good (Late December?) I will be done riding until April, most likely.  

Any thoughts on the horn/no horn issue?  
Here are my thoughts:   
more traditional
place to hang reins while riding hands-free
place to hang bridle/helmet/etc when dismounted
never had an issue with it in the way in the past
No Horn:
more endurance oriented style
out of the way on steep climbs
less secure incase we have an 'event'

The saddle will mostly be a trail saddle and endurance rides will probably be few and far between, so should I go for the trail/pleasure styling or the endurance styling?  

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bucket List

I have been thinking about what it means to me to have a family and how that will change my riding goals. (Isn't life just full of ever changing goals?)

I know that my riding time will be limited for a few years and I am trying to be OK with that.  I know that Boomer and I will not be fierce competitors and will not have time to train for monthly events as I had hoped to do in the past.  However, if you look at our ride records, I doubt we would ever be mistaken for 'fierce competitors'.  

I'm out there for the joy of spending time with my horse, to enjoy the trails, and to camp with my family.  

Keeping those priorities in mind, it isn't difficult to come up with some endurance goals for the future. 

Perhaps the main shift in my perspective is seeing endurance rides as potential vacations for the whole family.  

There are a few rides that I really want to do that I also think would be amazing family vacation spots.  

Here is my Bucket List: 
Tevis Cup
(how could this not make a bucket list?)
Grand Canyon Pioneer 
(beautiful scenery and location, 
plus I've never been and I think 
everyone should experience the grand canyon)
Fort Stanton Pioneer
(very cool historical site, beautiful location)
Shore to Shore Pioneer
(I love the idea of riding all the way across 
Michigan from lake to lake! Cool!)
Man Vs. Horse
(I think this would be a super fun event for John and I both.  
He, for some reason, thinks he could beat Boomer at a 50 mile race)
Pony Express 
(8 weeks of 5 days of rides totaling 2000 miles,
not sure this one will happen again, but sign me up!)
AERC Decade Team
(this goal simply requires that Boomer and I compete
 together as a team 
in at least one ride every year for the next 8 years)

Monday, October 18, 2010

training opportunity

The sky was threatening rain all day and I kept putting off going to the barn every time I heard thunder.  Finally, I decided it wasn't actually going to rain and headed out to the barn.  I decided it would just be a short easy session of some clicker stuff.  I mostly wanted to work on backing and standing still as I backed away or stood to the side.  This is the beginning step of ground tying.  However, I was presented with a great training opportunity at the hitching post!  

Someone at the barn had put out four rugs to dry on the hitching post.  They were braided rag-strip rugs with fringe and they were flapping in the wind.  They were all about 4-5 feet long, so there wasn't really any chance of them flying off the rail.  Boomer was leery, as expected.  At first I had him on the windy side, and the rugs were flapping towards him.  He snorted and backed away and we spent some time on 'head down'.  Then we went around on the other side of the rain and the rugs were blowing away from us. I encouraged him forward and gave him a C/T for sniffing/touching the rug.  I did that about 4 times for the first rug, then moved on to the next one.  He caught on quicker.  Again, I had him touch, C/T about 4 times then moved on to the third rug.  With each rug he got faster and faster with his touching.  At the end of the rail we went back to the windy side where the rugs were flapping towards him.  He was leery but touched it within a few seconds.  By the second rug he was trying to pick it up with his teeth.  Eventually he was sniffing and touching the bottom fringe part, even as it was flapping towards him!  

Now, it is hard to say what his reaction would have been without the clicker and reinforcement treat.  I really feel that he would have eventually gotten used to being near them with time.  However, I don't think there is any way I could have gotten him to touch them without the clicker and treat reinforcement. Especially not over and over again.  I feel that this touching and exploring helps to ease fear and build confidence.  

One thing that came up that I though was interesting was that a few times he got so engrossed in sniffing and touching, he didn't look immediately for the treat.  So, I just held the treat outstretched towards him until he was done sniffing.  I think I did the right thing by clicking to signal that he was doing something good, then just waiting for him to get his reward once he was done exploring.  I was quite pleased to have him so interested in the scary object!  

We did work on backing and stand a few times, but it wasn't anything worth writing home about.  I think it, like other things we have worked on, will take a few sessions to sink in.  He does a great job of standing still if I back away from him while standing in front of him, but if I stepped away from his shoulder sideways, he wanted to follow.  We also worked a little on waiting for me to present the treat and not mugging my pockets.  He did seem to get pretty quickly that he doesn't get to reach for the treats.  The whole standing nicely thing is going to be a work in progress.  I hadn't noticed before but he is constantly looking around, trying to graze or snuffling at me.  It doesn't really bother me except when he fixates on something in the distance or tries to bump me with his nose.  

So, we will be working on standing politely and then start to increase the distance between he and I until he can stand calmly with me further away.  We will also continue to work on taking food nicely.  

Oh, and it started raining just as I was turing Boomer back out!  I just knew it was going to rain eventually!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Riding day!

I decided that Friday would be a riding day!  

I brought Boomer up and led him up from the pasture on his right side with the rope dragging.  He seems to be almost 100% OK with that now!  I am so surprised at how fast he caught on to that!  

I know Boomer is smart, but he is also very sensitive.  I think that the reason he seems to be learning so quickly with the Clicker Training is that the click is so instantaneous that it really keys in with his reactive, sensitive personality.  The positive food reward also seems to keep him interested and happy.  

I brought him to the hitching post and gave him a few reminder 'head downs' before I tied him.  He was very good and immediately started offering to drop his head while I was grooming him.  I worked a little on 'head down' with hand pressure on his poll.  He didn't seem to understand that at all before but he caught on right away today!  It isn't quite as solid as the rope pressure method, but he is getting it better than I thought he was!  The rope pressure method for 'head down' is going great.  It really only takes the slightest touch.  He is so sensitive!  I think the hand/poll pressure method is important for when I am saddling him and can't reach the rope or when the halter is around his neck for bridling.  

We didn't work on targeting or back today.  I would like to work on back and 'stand' next week.  I am so thrilled at how quickly he is catching on!  

I did work on head down while fly spraying him, especially the neck.  He was resistant at first but once he dropped his neck, he left it down.  Good boy!  

One big thing, for me more than him, was that I saddled him right away before lunging him.  Usually I put on the surcingle, lunge, then switch to the saddle in the arena.  I decided today that we would take it slow and work through the girthing issues.  I think it is more of a me thing, but he was a little tense.  I started by untying him and draping the rope over my shoulder.  He sniffed the saddle while I held it, C/T.  I put it on, asked for 'head down', C/T.  Messed with the girth a ton on both sides before buckling it, 'head down' and C/T over and over.  I held the girth up but didn't buckle, 'head down', C/T.  Buckled the girth one hole, 'head down', C/T.  Walk a few steps, 'head down', C/T.  Tighten one more hole, he got tense, 'head down', C/T.  I moved his hips over away from me so I could reach his bridle, he got really tense bending around the girth.  'Head down', C/T.  Graze on the grass a few bites.  Move on to bridling.  

So, that was an event.  An uneventful event, but I think that it went as well as possible.  I am proud of him for being calm and I was really impressed at how quickly his nerves settle when he has his head down.  

I lunged him with the elastic rein for about 20 minutes and he was wonderful.  I tried a new, successful, way of dealing with his looking to the outside on a circle to the right.  He was really bending left on the circle and I had the idea to move the lunge line from running through both bit rings to just snapping it directly to the right bit ring.  This really only works because I use a full cheek bit.  But, it did give me just a little extra control over where he pointed his nose!  I was so happy to see even the slightest improvement!  

I rode for about 20 minutes and even did a little trotting.  It took a few strides for me to find my balance posting, and Boomer was pretty unsure what I wanted.  Eventually I got him moving more forward and was able to find a rhythm to post to.  That was a strange feeling, but my balance has already started to shift!  I enjoyed the ride and I always hope that the Baby is enjoying the ride too.  I have to hope that the rhythmic motion is soothing and also distinguishable from any other walking type motion we do.  Don't tell John, but I'm really hoping to plant the 'horsey bug' early for our Baby!!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Redundancy in Design

Redundancy in design is something engineers do to make sure something bad doesn't happen.  It is how John described my clicker training when I talked to him about trying to teach Boomer many different cues for the same thing.  Basically, I'm doing for Boomer what BP didn't do for their exploding oil platform.  Zing!

Really though, my main goal is for him to stand calmly all of the time in any situation.  Tied, cross tied, or ground tied, I want him to be calm and relaxed.  How am I doing this?  I am giving him positive reinforcement for lowering his head and I am teaching him to react by coming forward and/or lowering his head when he feels pressure.  

Thursday's lesson started in a small turnout paddock (maybe 50x50) with him wearing his Be Nice Halter.  We worked on head down from rope pressure which he remembered right away and dropped his head to the ground immediately.  Then we worked on targeting the frisbee.  Not sure he quite sees the point of that.  He would do it once or twice, and clearly understood that the treat comes from touching it, but he got distracted easily when targeting.  We also worked on 'back' a few times, but he already knows that cue, so we didn't focus on it too much.  We also walked around with the lead rope dragging for a few laps.  He got nervous about it once and started to pull back/wouldn't come forward, but he got past that and things were fine.  

I tied him to the hitching post and gave him a few quick reminder 'head downs'.  Then I groomed him and got to work on head down while I was spraying him with fly spray.  That was complicated to orchestrate, but I think it will be a very useful lesson.  When I spray his neck, his head shoots straight up, so I am going to fill an empty bottle with water and start working on keeping his head lowered while being sprayed.  

He was very good the whole time.  He spooked once at something blowing in the wind.  It was a spook in place with a snort.  I immediately asked him to lower his head and he did right away.  After that I just stood around and c/t for him lowering his head below his withers on his own.  I got The Click That Teaches and they call this 'behavior shaping'.  He did seem to catch on after a few minutes and would sort of look around, left and right, then lower his head.  He seemed to be trying to figure out if other things would get the click or just lowering the head.  I was very happy with this as he is the kind of horse who can spend hours on high alert.  

Interesting aside, when Boomer was in training with Kelly last Fall she worked a lot on his pulling problem.  One thing she mentioned that I thought was strange was that he seemed to calm down if she gave him a treat while he was standing there tied up.  I was puzzled by this as I didn't give him treats ever at that point.  I'm still not sure what the connection was there.  

I spent some time doing something a bit more 'Boomer specific'.  Because his main bad habit is hitting the end of the rope and pulling, I untied him but left the rope pulled around the post.  I had him back up then took the slack out of the rope.  He stepped forward right away.  Click/Treat.  We did this a number of times and sometimes I would jerk the rope hard and fast, so simulate him hitting the end pretty hard.  He would sort of tense, jerk his head up and look like he wanted to go backwards, but he always, every single time, stepped forward and lowered his head.  Click/Treat!  

The Click That Teaches talks about teaching the behavior in as many ways as possible.  For instance, with head lowering we have the targeting method where a target is placed on the ground, we have down pressure on the lead rope, hand pressure on the poll, and 'behavior shaping'.  

I am really enjoying this training so far and am surprised at how quickly Boomer is catching on.  He is food motivated, but prefers to have a variety of treats.  He gets bored with the same treat over and over.  Today I used one carrot cut up, a handful of small treat nibs, and his pelleted supplements.  The time I am spending out at the barn is about half of what I would spend if I were riding or otherwise working him, but I am enjoying it just as much.  I think Boomer enjoys it too and hasn't seemed to get bored of it.  

I think that some of this is better for me than Boomer.  I feel kind of like I am testing the waters and showing myself what he does and doesn't know.  So far, I already trust him being tied more than I did yesterday.  I feel like he is doing a very good job giving to pressure.  I want to keep working on head lowering in response to my hand on his poll.  He didn't seem to get that at all.  Like, zero reaction.  I also want to keep working on targeting.  Not sure exactly how it will pay off for us, but The Book seems to think it is important.  

Things to work on:
Head down while being sprayed
Head down while tacking up
Backing up
Head down with poll pressure

Friday, October 15, 2010


Wednesday ended up being a short session out at the barn.  I was only out there for an hour as I was pretty tired from not sleeping well the previous night.  I felt the baby kick for the first time and was too excited to fall back to sleep!

Boomer had been moved to a different pasture at some point in the previous 24 hours and I could tell he was a little hyper alert about where the other horses were.  All of the pastures had been rotated and he could now see a different group that he couldn't see before and a pasture that had been occupied near him was now empty.  The frequent changes in pastures will hopefully be good for him to learn to relax and trust his surroundings.  

I took Boomer to the hitching post and draped his rope over the rail.  He was nervous at first so I went ahead and started working on 'head down' right away.  That seemed to calm him down and help his nerves.  After we did 'head down' about 5-6 times he stopped looking around in the distance.  I finished grooming him and decided to keep working on the dragging lead rope issue.  I decided to take a different, safer, approach and led him while reinforcing with click/treats.  I let the rope drag along side, behind me and when he looked relaxed or looked away from the rope, I would c/t.  It didn't take long for him to relax and walk along next to me like a good boy!  I did this on both sides and leading from his right side he was more inclined to bow away from the rope and watch it.  I like this tactic better than turning him out with the lead attached because I have more control over the situation AND for the positive reinforcement.  It seems like it was much more effective than my previous plan as well.  

I also worked on c/t for forward pressure while at the hitching post.  This is a little harder behavior to work on as he almost always gives to forward pressure.  The only time he doesn't is if he pulls back.  So, I wrapped the lead around the post and pulled on it slightly to create tension and he would hold steady for a few seconds, then step forward.  It is hard to create a replica situation of him pulling back without him actually being tied and pulling back.  Another situation that is hard to replicate, but I would like to work on is when he steps on his lead rope, he usually panics and flings his head up and steps backwards sending the lead rope flying- usually towards me.  I would really like him to calmly realize his foot his on the rope and just step off of it.  Again, not sure how to teach that.  Though, I think the giving to pressure is a good start.  I think I will get my rope Be-Good halter out and start training with that since it has more precise pressure points.  

Overall, I think the training session went well.  No excitement, but definite positive progress.  So, we seem right on track!  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Roping... Boomer's way!

No, we didn't learn to rope cows!  

Boomer is, however, in roping boot camp.  Since his minor escape followed by eye rolling and trumpet snorting at the dragging lead rope I have decided to work on this little 'fear'.  So, everyday he is going out into the small paddock (maybe 100x200) with his halter and lead attached.  When he walks calmly or stands relaxed he gets a carrot bite.  Tuesday was the first day of the experiment and he did pretty well.  Mostly he just stood still- he didn't want to make the rope move.  He would sometimes walk to trot, but he was more focused on the rope than anything else while he was moving.  He discovered quickly that moving in a circle around the rope made the rope hold still.  No panic moments or anything too exciting.  We spent about 15 minutes working on this and it seemed like a good start.  

Before the great lead rope experiment, I worked on standing nicely and a little clicker-ing for 'head down'.  

I decided to put him out on the hitching post instead of the cross ties.  I just draped his rope over the rail and got started grooming.  I would stop occasionally and work on him lowering his head for a click/treat.  He seemed to catch on quickly.  It didn't take long for him to lower his head to the ground for the c/t.  I'm not sure he quite saw the point, but he did it for the carrots.  When I was grooming him he kept trying to reach down and graze.  I just gently put him back where I wanted and went back to grooming.  I had to readjust him 6-8 times before he held still, but after that he was a gentleman.  Unfortunately, I still don't trust him to stand tied or stay in the cross ties, so I feel a bit like a babysitter.  I have to have all of my gear with me before we get started and I can't walk off and leave him.  

Though, in full disclosure, I think that much of this is my fear more than his behavior.  He hasn't pulled back in almost a year and he has only had 2 'girthy/cross tie' episodes ever.  

My Be-Good halter is in the trailer and I am thinking of getting that out and starting to actually tie him at the hitching post.  However, I want to focus on ground tying/standing nicely first.  So, most of the time I want to have him 'loose' and be able to get him to understand the concept of wanting to stand nicely.  I also want to work a lot more on giving to pressure.  Then hopefully being tied will not feel as much like a trap to him.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I like being able to look back at past posts and see if I met my goals.  I decided that I needed some firm goals for this winter while I am pregnant.  Boomer clearly has some issues that I have been focusing on lately.  I think that in the past, I was able to overlook some of these issues because I had 'real training' to work on.  Now that riding is less of a priority and I am more sensitive to my fears and safety, a number of issues have come up.  I am taking them as wonderful training opportunities.  

Groundwork Goals:

1.  Get over fear of lead rope dragging
2.  Learn head-down plus 'stay' command
3.  Work on giving to downward and forward pressure on lead rope
4.  Work on standing nicely untied/ground tied
5.  Stand nicely while tied
6.  Become relaxed in cross tie area while unhooked/ground tied
7.  Stand quietly while hooked in cross ties
8.  Accept saddle and girth calmly while untied and tied

Overall, my biggest goal is to be able to trust Boomer.  The things I like least about him are how reactive he is and how nervous he can be.  I hope with trust, work, and age he can become a less reactive horse.  

I'm not sure how you measure success with some of these goals, but I think that markers of success will become more clear as time progresses.  

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kaw Valley Farm Tour

Just another great thing to love about Lawrence!!!

Lawrence and all of Kansas has a rich history in farming.  Lawrence, being one of the more liberal communities in the state has a strong leaning towards eating locally, organically, and sustainably.  There are a number of restaurants around town that focus on serving foods that are produced locally.  Some of my favorites are Local Burger and 715.  We also have a great Co-Op that sells local produce, meats, and dairy products.  

The local farms around town host an annual Farm Tour each October and these great farms open their doors to visitors and offer samples, tours, and information about their products.  

John and I had a few college friends come up from Oklahoma to join us for the weekend and we were able to visit 6-7 of the 20 farms.  We had other obligations that weekend (like watching OU beat TX) and were unable to visit all of the farms.  

We did get to see a tree farm, Sleep Jean's chocolate factory (best chocolate and caramels EVER), a bison ranch, a vineyard, an apple orchard, and a pumpkin farm!  

It was a super fun weekend and it was really great to see some of the producers of foods we buy and eat!  

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blue Jacket Farm Pictures

I actually got some pictures of the horse at the new barn!

Here is the barn with a cute apple tree in front!  Love the landscaping around the whole property!

Here is Charley off to the left side of the barn, in front of Boomer's pasture.

 Here is Boomer under a shade tree in his pasture.  His buddy is just out of the frame to the right.  

 Hi mom!  I love it here!

 Boomer in the cross ties in the barn.  I don't really like isle cross ties since Boomer tends to pull back.  It makes me nervous, but the cross ties are secured with zip ties, so things would break in case of emergency.  

 Here is Boomer out for a run in the outdoor arena!  Isn't this a great picture?

Here is a clip of Boomer playing in the arena:

 OK mom, done running!

 I just LOVE these next few pictures!!!  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Clicker introduction

Well, I went out Friday afternoon and bought a clicker and a green plush dog frisbee.  I introduced the clicker as we were walking back from the pasture.  I clicked and treated several times in a row so that he associated the click with the treat.  Once we got into the barn aisle, I just stood and held him in the cross tie area.  I showed him the frisbee target and as soon as he sniffed/touched it I C/T (clicked/treat).  I held the clicker in the same hand as the target and had the treat ready in my other hand so that it was an instant reward.  I think he was catching on a little.  He did try sniffing my treat pocket and I said no sharply, paused, then made him back a step.  I am not sure if I could C/T for that, because he already knows 'back' as a command with various cues (verbal and physical).  I am inclined to not c/t for anything that he already knows and is something I consider basic manners.  However, I could be wrong.  Anyhow, I started moving the target around to the side of his body where he would have to turn his head, but not so far he had to take a step.  I also put it up high but that scared him.  He seemed to lose interest easier if the target was not directly in front of him.  After a break for fly spray and grooming I tried again.  He seemed to know right away that touching was getting him treats.  I put the target at nose level between the bars of a stall so that he could easily touch it.  He wasn't very interested and I don't think he quite got that it was still the target if I wasn't holding it.  He did touch it twice, but I'm not sure there was a connection.  I had him target a few more times with me holding it and then called it a day.  

Unfortunately, the day got a little more exciting.  

I dewormed Boomer and had his rope looped over a bridle hook up high.  I went to throw away the dewormer trash and put away my grooming stuff when I head hooves against the concrete, timid at first and then faster.  By the time I got out to see him he was already running towards his field.  Luckily the whole property is fenced and gated.  He didn't go far, just until he found his friend at the fence line-maybe 300 feet.  I think his rope fell, spooked him and he ran/panicked when he saw that the rope was 'chasing' him.  I saw him eyeing the rope as he kind of skittered sideways from it.  So, after I caught him, I got another lead rope and dragged it behind me as I lead him all around the property.  I threw it at his legs and snaked it around.  He was definitely scared at first, kicking at the rope and snorting.  After about 10-15 minutes he was much calmer and ignored me as I flicked the rope all over him, including legs.  So, that was exciting, but I think we ended on a positive note.  I will make a point of dragging a rope more often when I lead him around.  That would have been a great clicker targeting exercise, but we hadn't quite caught on yet, plus he doesn't like treats after being dewormed.  

So, initial experiment was a success.  We have our work cut out for us.  I have a feeling that ground tying and/or standing on a mat are important tools in our future.   

Friday, October 8, 2010


After owning Boomer for over 2 years, I have really seen his personality develop.  I have a real understanding of his quirks and can compensate and know how to soothe him as needed.  I know what to expect in most situations.  In some ways, this is a good thing.  In other ways, I wonder if it keeps him from 'growing up' by babying him.  Currently, I would say that there are two things about Boomer that I don't like or that I need help with.  First, he pulls back/has a backwards startle response.  He has always pulled back when tied and while this has gotten better over time, the startle response has never been fully erased.  Second, he is extremely sensitive to tightening the girth.  By extreme, I mean that you must be able to fit your entire arm under the girth at first  or he will flip over backwards.  He needs the girth very loose, then to walk around and have it tightened one notch at a time.  If you rush this at any point, he will either buckle at the knees and go down in a panic, or will try to go over backwards.  This coupled with his propensity for pulling back has made for a number of 'exciting' situations in our life together.  

Our new barn has cross ties in the aisle, which are fine for most horses, but for a horse like Boomer, it just gives him an 'open space' to go backwards.  The cross ties are secured with zip ties, but I don't want to get into a situation even with safety precautions in place.  

He and I are both nervous while grooming and tacking up in the cross ties.  After we work, he seems fine and doesn't act nervous.  I'm sure some of the nervous tension comes from me.  But, I know the worst case scenario.  He pulls back, feels restricted, falls down or flips on concrete (potential for injury-high), breaks free, goes running around the property with cross ties flailing (potential for panic AND injury- high), etc.  So, you can see where my nervous tension comes from.  Once I have him tacked up and leave the barn, everything is fine.  He never steps a hoof out of place while I lunge, switch the surcingle for saddle, and ride him.  Back at the barn after we ride, he is fine in the cross ties.  I attribute that to him being tired or more relaxed after we work.  

I have been trying to think of ways to fix the situation or make it easier to cope with.  My first thought was to start having all of my tack and grooming supplies ready and within arms reach before I bring him to the barn.  I can groom and tack him with him untied- just ground tied.  He is usually pretty good about being ground tied, but I wouldn't trust leaving him while i walk off to the tack room.  Then after we work, he can be put in the cross ties like a normal horse.  My goal here is that his experience in the cross ties will only be relaxed and not nervous.  Eventually, he will be relaxed enough to be in the cross ties anytime.  Any thoughts here?  

Any other suggestions?  

I have not ever been a fan of 'trick training' or focusing on groundwork in exclusion to riding.  However, with my pregnancy, I know I will eventually end up 'grounded' and not riding.  So, another thought I have had was doing clicker training.  A few things I would want to work on would be 'head down' and 'stand'.  Does anyone have experience with clicker training?  Could teaching a 'stand' command dampen his flight response in the cross ties or while being tied?  Or does his reactive nature trump any 'tricks' I may teach him?

Any suggestions for books on clicker training or similar training?  Keep in mind, I am not interested in teaching my horse 'dog tricks' like fetch or basketball.  

Thanks in advance, and please pass this question on to anyone you may know who does this kind of training or who may have helpful advice!  The more people I have behind me, the more chance we have for success!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lunging pics

He could use a little more forward impulsion.  We are working on that.  

Hey mom!  You are planning on sharing that apple, right ???

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sarcoid Treatment

Earlier this year I started a sarcoid treatment for Boomer.  I started the treatment April 1, 2010 and my most current update is 6 months later.  I have been working on this post as I gathered more information.  

Boomer has always had a funny spot on his neck over his jugular behind his left jaw. It was there when I got him. At first I assumed it was a scar. Then I thought it was ring worm. I treated it for ringworm 3 or 4 times with no change. I treated other ring worm spots that healed within days. Obviously, not ringworm. The spot is about the size of a quarter and hairless. The skin is slightly puckered and tough. I had the vet out to look at it when we did spring stuff and he thinks it is a sarcoid. The only way to know for sure is to do a biopsy, which sometimes 'angers' a sarcoid and causes it to spread. So, I decided to treat it as if it were a sarcoid and see what happened.

I had clipped the area a few weeks ago to treat it as if it were ring worm (obviously failed). The medication we are using is XXTERRA. It is basically a counter irritant and causes the body to reject the sarcoid. The spot will get worse before it gets better.

Here is the sarcoid spot July 2009:

Here it is now, before treatment:

After two days of treatment the area around the sarcoid has raised and become hard/swollen. He seemed a little protective of it, but didn't act like it was too painful.

This is after 3 days of treatment:

It has started to develop a small yellow crusty spot in the top left corner.

After 4 days of treatment, I left it alone to do its thing. Here it is after 4 days with XXTERRA, 4 days without:

It has gotten larger and crusty. The edges are starting to peel a little. It seems like it will slough off easily in a few days. Not sure what to expect when that happens. If the Sarcoid is still there or comes back, I will retreat and that should take care of it for good.

Here it is after the sarcoid has started to lift. It has been peeling for about 4-5 days. It is almost ready to fall off.

Unfortunately, I stopped taking pictures after this.  I could see that the sarcoid was still there, you can see in the picture above that there is a small knot of crusty scab within the red area.  That is the original location of the sarcoid.  I treated again, 4 days with XXTERRA then rest.

In addition, with the first treatment a secondary sarcoid appeared a few inches above the first one.  At this point, I got a little frustrated, wondering if I was making things worse.  I went ahead and treated the new sarcoid with the same 4 days then rest treatment.

The following picture is from an endurance ride in May.  We were about 6 weeks out from the first treatment and about 4 weeks out from the second treatment.  One thing that surprised me was how quickly the secondary sarcoid healed but how slowly the original one healed.  You can see in this picture that the old spot is still red and 'angry'.  I had to explain over and over again to people that it is SUPPOSED to look like that.  Boomer did get to be known as 'the sarcoid horse' at the endurance rides this spring.  Nice, huh?

After that, I don't really have many pictures.  Everything started healing well and eventually the red spot got smaller and smaller until it scarred over.  Now that time has passed it is starting to grow hair again.  The secondary spot has full hair cover but it is sort of a swirl of hair, not laying flat.  

Here is the most current picture:

I think that the treatment was successful.  I still have over half of the 1oz jar of XXTERRA left, so even though it was expensive at almost $100 per ounce it was worth it to me.  

I recommend this treatment to anyone with a sarcoid, however I have no idea if it works as well for other types of sarcoids that may be raised like growths or warty.  Also, this treatment may not be very practical if the sarcoid is in a place that will be rubbed by tack.