Saturday, May 30, 2009


Adventures of a Horse Crazed Mind has been blogging about Ghosts of Horses Past.  My past and my future collided today.  Today Whiskey and I made the trek to meet her new beau.  The reason I chose this stallion is he is a relative of one of my all time favorite horses Yeller.  People who know me often remark on how Buddy physically resembles Yeller and perhaps that was his draw for me.  What I do know is Yeller is the horse that I fully and completely regret not purchasing.  I think about him often.  If I were to stumble across him I would buy him in a minute.  

At the time I was riding Yeller for Grant.  I was also shopping for a new head horse.  I had been hauling Yeller to team roping practice nights all over the country.  On any of the school breaks, Yeller travelled to where ever I was headed and got some exposure.  We roped, cattle penned, trail rode and even did some grand entry for one of the pro rodeos.  Where Grant and Yeller didn't get along, Yeller and I had an understanding and bonded.  Yeller was a finer 14.3 - 15 hh but I could use him on the head side and have him handily pull a steer.  You have to give him credit for having heart.  He was super snappy on the heel end and would have made an outstanding competitive heel horse.  Worried I'd cause him to break down if I got him as my new head horse I still had a weak moment and asked Grant how much he wanted for him.  The price Grant told me was too high for me given I'd finished the horse.  Later, after I'd bought my new head horse, and after I'd helped Grant sell Yeller, Grant told me I should have bought him.  When I explained why I didn't he exclaimed that wasn't the price for me.  Sigh.  Missed opportunity.

Back to the story...

Today I was offered some of Yeller's relatives.  Yikes!  I do not need any more horses.  But he has this really lovely brood mare who he brought up from the states that is a full sister to another one of my projects from Grant's (half sister to Yeller).  Two T Fitz Lees Lady has Easter King, Hobby Horse and King Fritz all on her papers!  If you're into the foundation, cowy, reining type horses like I am this is pretty darn cool.  Plus she's a lovely mare who throws lovely babies.  I'd really like to own this horse.  Another one that I'm dying to have is a grey yearling filly who is out of a daughter of the stallion I'm breeding to and by Fintry Hollywood Jac.  This filly is gorgeous!  She has a massive hip, nice short cannons with a hock built to stop and get under herself.  Toss in a pretty head and a friendly inquisitive personality.  (I need to wipe the drool off my chin.)  Sorry no pictures I forgot my camera at home.  (I'm really not a good picture taker anyhow - too impatient!)

So on the drive back home I was mulling over ways to make my dreams come true.  The problem is two fold.  On one hand I don't have the pasture to sustain any more horses.  On on the other hand I don't have the available cash to put down on more horses (Tessa's vet bills tapped me out.)  In order to make this happen I need to sell a horse.  Buddy being the obvious option.  I could see if Brad would be willing to do a trade (doubt it).   I'll be putting some more thought into this to see if I can make it work.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Personality Disorder??

Buddy seems to have a personality disorder.  Now if he was human I could probably make a fairly accurate DSM-IV (the psyciatric diagnosis bible) diagnosis.  However he is of the equine species and this makes using my psychology background somewhat more challenging.  

I can currently split his personality into pre and post training.  Pre- training he was the spawn of the devil, always into mischief and pestering and bullying all the other animals without rest.  Post-training he's calm, stands around and coexists peacefully with his pen mates.  Except last night he reverted back to his former behaviours.  He tried to pull Whiskey's bucket through the fence, eat the chain holding the bucket to said fence, chase Roxy around (she tried to kick the snot out him for daring), chase the calves, pull a piece of tin off the shelter.  All in all he was his wild busy self.

So tonight you would think he'd remain his busy wild eyed self - but he was back to freakishly quiet Buddy.  I let him with nothing but a rope around his neck!!! From his isolation pen (worried he'd hurt a calf so he didn't get to stay with them) to the corral I work with the horses in.  Turned him loose.... and nothing.  No bucking, snorting, blowing.  Nothing!  After leaving him for a while I decide to work with him.  The goal was to get him to face up and follow me.  Do you predict a long or short work?

The first time took for what seemed like forever.  Tonight it was almost immediate.  I'm talking I got him moving, he loped around no more than 8 laps, then slowed to a trot then a walk, and boom looked at me.  I casually began to walk around (all in the neutral body position), and he pivoted to watch.  I backed up a few steps and he walked right up to me.  A few scratches and I once again walk away, with him following!  We did serpentines and changed directions successfully.  So I quit.

Seriously, I really do think he has some personality confusion.  Tonight we worked during thunder and you'd think this would make him a bit more spunky.  Last night was a beautiful clear and warm evening and he's wild.  I really don't understand but I'd sure like to figure it out.  What is causing him to display two polar personality types?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Plan Unexpected

My plan for tonight was to take the dogs (Reba and Tessa) for a run in the park.  There's a nice loop that's just under 5 km (3 mi).  I enjoy trail running and the dogs for the most part run free.  When I got home I wanted to work with the horses.  However, while out doing chores I noticed one of my sheep seemed especially agitated.  She was crying and pawing and basically looked like a horse who was colic-ing.  So I stopped and watched.  This is when I noticed her back having convulsions.  Worried that she was having trouble I stuck around - just in case.
There I am standing in my work clothes (as I hadn't changed into my running clothes yet), my farm shirt over my nice T-shirt and capris.  May I say - light colored capris.  Of course the sheep has to lamb in the worst possible spot.  By the shed in the horses poop spot.  Fabulous.  Feeling slightly panicky I notice there appears to have a foot back.  But the sheep manages to push it.  After anxiously waiting for the lamb to suck everything settles down.  Number two pops out without much effort.  (Ha - so says the observer!)  But number two has some trouble sucking.  
Once everything sucked and things looked good I moved the lambs and sheep into the shed.  It's cleaner and is a private spot for her to bond with her babies.  The other sheep were intensely curious but would bunt the babies which made me nervous.  Also curious were Bella (Maremma) and Moxie (cat) neither who have been around lambs.  Bella acted like she wasn't sure if the lambs were supposed to be there or intruders.  This meant I had to talk to her and let her know these creatures were also part of her pack.  (Remember Bella's young too.)
An interesting side note - Buddy when turned out with the cows (he normally lives with the sheep) was a wild brat trying to stir up trouble where ever he went.  I haven't seen this type of behavior since he came back from training.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Perceptions are amazing things.  These are the things that color our thinking and as such our reactions to actions.  My friend's mom - who has been an avid student of natural horsemanship for years, who has attended a variety of clinics given by a variety of instructors who utilize a variety of the natural horseman guru's techniques - seemed surprised when I came to her for help.  You see I'm only in kindergarten when it comes to the natural horsemanship stuff.  She - to me - is in high school.  

I wanted to have the opportunity to learn from her.  To have her coach me.  As anyone who has done any sport knows, when you practice too much alone, you tend to miss things that someone else sees.  Being a perfectionistic goal driven person I like to do things right.  And I'm willing to work at it.

One of the things she noticed is that my timing is off.  Timing is a big deal when working stock dogs and I'm discovering a nice transfer of information when working with the horse on the ground.  You see a good stock dog handler is able to read the stock's body language, the dog's body language and make minute, timely and appropriate adjustments in their body language or commands.  This concept holds true with horses.  I just need to practice more and stay focused on what I'm trying to accomplish.

The other thing she noticed I wasn't even aware I was doing.  Over the years I've worked with a number of challenging horses.  As a high energy, focused person I've learned to become still.  Quieter if you will.  When working with the animals, (I know I do this with the dogs too.) it's as though I become focused internally, I slow my natural rush mentality.  What I also do is walk softer, quieter and with less dramatic movements.  It's not as though I'm intending to pussy foot or tip toe around the horse (don't get me wrong, I accomplish training goals).  She called it sneaking - no sneaking allowed.  What I need to start focusing on is movement with purpose.  To move to the side of the horse with a natural stride and do what I need to do in my normal manner of moving, with normal energy.  I'm guessing this may pose a challenge for me.

My perceptions during this process are also changing.  What I took to be annoying and obnoxious behaviors she views as fear and anxiety driven.  So Buddy's primary goal is to get him buying in and then working on showing him there in nothing to be afraid of.  Of course, after she left I took the opportunity to practice some of my new skills with Roxy and Whiskey.  

My perceptions going into the practice sessions were that Whiskey would be easy and Roxy would be more difficult.  My reasoning being that Whiskey and I have developed a relationship and she's a very willing horse.  Whereas Roxy is only a yearling and half wild when she wants to be.  Can you guess which horse posed the larger challenge?  Roxy bought in quite quickly.  Her natural curiosity made my neutral body language (me standing in the corral, one leg resting, arms crossed, head resting on the arms, which were resting on the stick) almost irresistible.  She wanted to know what I was doing.  The hardest part was in getting her to face up, and once we mastered that she followed me quite willingly and easily.

Whiskey, on the other hand was almost disturbed by the strange new game we were playing.  When she was boarded at an arena I'd often turn her loose in the arena and just play with her.  We'd play tag, or dodge (she'd "cut" me), or I'd set stuff up and try to get her to go over or around it.  I'm fairly confident I confused her today.  I took her halter off and she took off like a shot.  And I stood there in my neutral.  So she began running laps around the pen, occasionally stopping to look at me suspiciously.  Eventually I wised up and dropped the "carrot stick" (nope can't say that with a straight face - think a modified lunge whip).  This made her relax considerably.  I had forgot that I never use whips around her - she generally never needs that kind of encouragement.  

But it still took a long time to get her to face me, and an even longer time to get her to walk to me.  In part I think because she's been so conditioned to stop and not turn to me.  She's also very used to being walked around and could care less where I am.  This is the horse whose belly my farrier crawled under, just because he could.  But I'm persistent and I'll keep working with her.  If anything it's a good mental exercise for her.  

Perceptions.  Interesting aren't they?  What perceptions do you have?

The Clicker

With our first nice day in what seems like years I spent the evening out messing with the dogs.  I've been feeling rather guilty because the sheep are too pregnant to work so the dogs have not been getting very much quality training time.  Carefully preparing my treat bag (cut up bits of hot dog, broken bits of homemade dog cookies and dried liver bits), I gathered up my "obedience" training equipment and headed out.  

Gunner had been a bad boy for my mother earlier in the day so I decided he would be the first dog (that way if he needed more time, he could have it).  Putting him on my 6 foot cord I thought I'd try clicker training with him.  He's rather dysfunctional so I figured the less interaction I had with him the better our session would go.  I stood on the cord so he couldn't run away but otherwise didn't say anything to him.  

When starting a dog with the clicker you have what's called a target.  The point being every time the dog noses the target you click and treat.  This lets them learn the click equates treat for the behavior.  I placed the target on the ground (a white plastic lid) and immediately Gunner rushed in to check it out.  I forgot to tell you this dog has clearly missed some meals and is very food motivated.  I click, before I can get the treat down to his head he's bolted to the end of the cord, tail tucked between his legs and is cowering.  May I say this is not the expected or usual reaction.  Oooo-kay.

Plan B.  The clicker went back into the house because it was clearly not going to be an effective training tool for this dog and I replaced showing him he did the correct behavior with the classic "Good Boy!!!" and treat.  Having him recognize his name and recall to it is priority number one.  The advantage with the longer cords is it gives the dog enough freedom to move around but let's you remain in control of the situation.

As we were walking around the yard I would stop, call his name, and if he didn't respond apply some negative feedback (a snap of the cord), and positive feedback when he arrived at my legs ("good boy!!!" and treat).  A huge issue with this dog is his refusal to respond to the human when around the stock so I also took him into the corral with the sheep and practiced recall there.  Next, we moved on to his kennel (dog run).  

He has the most annoying habit of trying to bolt out of the run the moment you open the gate.  This is not okay with me.  So I opened his door, gave him his command "Kennel" and rewarded him with a treat when he went in.  Next I'd give him the lie down command, reward him, and open the gate.  When he rushed out I'd give the recall "Gunner" and treat him when he came.  My eventual goal is to have him lie down and remain lie down when the gate is open until I release him.  Obviously he's not quite there yet.  

With Reba we worked on staying in lie down.  She's very good at coming to her name (recall) and she's pretty good at going into lie down but she doesn't want to stay in lie down - especially when she's not on the sheep (she actually listens better when I'm working her).  So that's what we worked on.  I'd lie her down and treat her.  When she'd sit up I'd correct her behavior by using the cord to place her back into lie down.  When she stayed in lie down I'd give her more treats and pets.  I'd release her with an "okay", let her run around before repeating the process.  

With the new and improved weather that's hopefully here to stay I should be able to get some quality training time in with the dogs.  (And horse - more on him later.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


My fabulous vet was out to ultrasound my mare yesterday (pre-breeding).  I was telling her the two girls were still having skin ickies.  Yes, I told her I had looked for lice or fleas but couldn't find anything (this was about two weeks ago).  After examining Whiskey she determined that it was just a residual of her infection, some scarring and would clear up as the weather improved.  

After examining Roxy, she found a louse.  Yuck!!!  In all my years of horse ownership I've never had anything like that. And yes, I find it slightly gross.  Because Roxy is hanging with the cows, this means treating all the cows as well as the horses.  In addition, I'm paranoid and will also treat the cats, dogs and sheep.  I hate nasty things like that.  What a mess!  What a pain in the rear end!  

On the sheep front, I have a few that are really bagging up but no babies to date.  And my little rescue dog Gunner is starting to come out of his shell.  He's going to be a good one!  Another fun side note is my aborted trip north to look at a stallion a friend was interested in purchasing.  Unfortunately, someone bought the horse when I was 1/2 hour away.  Bummer - an own son of Doc O'Lena too!  

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ready or Not...

Ready or not, here they come.  Yesterday was my sheep's first official due date.  Meaning if an ewe and the ram got it on the first day they were living together I would have had lambs yesterday.  I must admit to feeling some anxiety about this.  As a lambing novice I worry about all the potential problems that could occur.  Also ramping up the stress levels are the fact that on Saturday I'll be 2.5 hours away at a wedding.  Of course I have someone coming to take care of my evening chores but its not the same.  

To try and prepare today I'll trim the hair (pardon me - wool) around where the teats are so the babies can get their dinner.  I'll also head into to town to pick up some selenium and small syringes (in case of weak babies) and some cord (to "help" the mother if needed).  Seriously though, people are mistaken if they think my arm/hand is going anywhere near their hoohahs during that time.  I am a farm veteran and have had the pleasure (or trauma) of helping my dad pull a calf.  Let's just say getting splattered with the stuff that comes out did not do my gag reflex any favors.  

Of course I'm also ridiculously responsible and would feel guilty if anything happened to any of my animals - even the dread sheep.  Bring on the babies - ready or not, here they come.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

For anyone who has ever witnessed the joy of birth...

Okay, so I normally don't do this, but after reading and snorting and having perfect visualization and empathy I thought I'd post this link to Redneck Mommies Blog.  Too freaking funny.

Enjoy the carnage.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Plan

After a phone consult with my friend who is a natural horsemanship veteran a plan was made.  Let's be clear here, Buddy's quirks annoy me so I'm on elimination detail.  The plan was to go out and consistently, insistently make Buddy understand his life is better when he does what I ask.

Buddy was given a "spot" to stand.  Normally he likes to paw and jig around when he's tied up.  Not today.  Today I didn't even tie him up.  I gave him a spot - a happy spot if you will.  The moment he moved from his spot I made him move.  I harassed him forcing him to move his hind end around, or back up away from me.  He was not given any peace until he was standing in his spot.  Once in his spot I left him alone and resumed brushing him.  

When it came time to saddle him I saddled him from the off side.  Let him stand (after doing our you left the happy spot dance) and unsaddled him.  Next we headed out to the riding corral (saying arena would be a tremendous stretch).  Here I turned him loose and chased him around with the plastic bagged whip.  Initially I tried dropping the whip to see if he'd stop and face me.  When this didn't work I went with get him bloody tired and don't let him stop.  This horse is rather bright.  All of a sudden he slams on the breaks (think reining stop) and turns to face me.  Immediately I drop the whip and let him stand.  Walking up to him I scratch his face and tell him what a good boy he is.  I'm now a good 45 minutes into my session with him.  With no lead he follows me back to the gate and then to his happy spot where I let him rest.

Once again I saddle him.  Only this time he jumps and bucks across the corral.  Grrrr!  As he's out of his happy spot I begin making him move his hind end, side pass and back our way back to the happy spot.  Bridle on we head back into the riding space.  I pick up the baggie whip and commence chasing.  Much less time passes before he faces up and I drop the whip.  My goal is to drop the whip and have him face up but I figure you need to start somewhere and this is where we're starting.

I take him back to the happy spot to rest and head to the house to put on my boots and helmet.  Once more we head out to the riding space.  Once more he gets chased around.  Almost immediately he stops and faces me.  Dropping the whip I head over to him, untie the reins and move to the side.  When he starts his jigging routine I make him move his ass around.  Once I get him where I want him, I stop, he stops and I approach the side again.  This time he stands still and this time I get on.  To reward him for standing I don't immediately ask him to move off.  

We didn't do much under saddle.  The whole point of the exercise was to get him thinking differently and I believe we achieved that goal.  

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Shot

After shelling out a whopping $197.85 on vaccinations for the horses I proceeded to commence Operation Poke.  Now if you could predict which horses would react to their shots you would think it would be the two young ones, neither whom have ever been vaccinated.  (For those curious I do West Nile Innovator: WNV, Eee, Wee, Tetanus.  And Calvenza: Flu, Rhino.)  Side note: Did you know that if you buy your vaccine from your vet and the horse gets West Nile the drug company will provide support with vet bills?  
Sorry, back to the story.  After jabbing the Calvenza into the left side of the neck, I poked the West Nile into the right side.  All of the horses were little troopers and barely flinched as I injected them.  The next morning I went out and checked for any side effects.  Roxy the yearling was her normal spunky self with no swelling at the injection sites.  Buddy initially had the drunken sailor walk going on but was fine by the time the afternoon rolled around.  Whiskey (you know the one who's had these shots yearly) was not fine.

I moved her into an isolated pen gave her water and hay, both of which she ignored.  Now for Whiskey to ignore hay she has to be feeling poorly for the girl surely loves her groceries.  By the time evening rolled around she was lethargically eating her hay but was still barely drinking. 

The next morning brought a snotty nose and still very little water consumption.  Would you believe it took her four days before she started drinking normal amounts?  I can happily report any ill effects have now worn off.  It fascinates me that such large creatures can be so delicate.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

So Cool!

I was very excited to see the response from the National Foundation Quarter Horse Association today.  While I fully and completely understand it really doesn't do or mean much - I think it's pretty cool.  A few weeks ago I had sent off Whiskey and Roxy's information to them.  I have eagerly been awaiting a response since.  

In order to be certified Foundation, a quarter horse must have no more than 20% Thoroughbred in something like 12 generations.  Basically they're looking at promoting what would be considered a traditional type quarter horse.  It turns out both my girls are certified Foundation.  Whiskey barely squeaks in at 82% and Roxy is at 86%.

Basically meaningless, but cool nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Whiskey's Man

Whiskey has been dying for a baby for years.  When she was kept at the barn she would nicker and whinny at the passing foals.  Last night I forgot to latch the gate to her pen and when I went out later I found her standing surrounded by sleeping calves.  (Normally she's not allowed in with the cows because she chases them.)  To make matters even more bizarre when I called for her to come to me she started out of the herd only to stop and show "heat" sign - which she never does, I mean never!  I can never tell when this mare is in heat.

Lucky for Whiskey I've finally settled on a stallion.  His name is Two T General Hooker and he was initially imported from Two T Ranches in the US.  I've had the opportunity to work and ride a number of Two T horses and loved them.  Hook himself has reining money earned and is a versatile, quiet stallion who currently breeds and works on a ranch.  His owners don't normally breed to outside mares but because I know people (hee hee) and I'm ultrasounding before I haul her, so she'll be there right as she goes into heat, he's wiling to make an exception for me.

I'm really excited to see how this cross will turn out.  Hook is a smaller stallion with a fairly compact build which is what I wanted for this first baby.  With his awesome personality and Whiskey's awesome personality with a little luck I'll get a baby that takes the best from both of it's parents.  Really, the dreaming is half the fun.  I've created a Whiskey's Potential to show what the pedigree will look like on the baby.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Grumpy Girl

Reba was especially snarly at Ken's trial.  She didn't like any of the dogs there.  One of the people suggested she may be coming into heat.  So I flipped her over and looked (she has a lot of hair right now) and sure enough it was "that time of the month" for her. My poor baby was hormonal and moody.  And it's only got worse!

When any of the dogs dare walk past her run she snarls at them.  If she's loose with me she stares down anything that dares come near her.  When Tessa had the audacity to sniff her (Tessa's boss of the place) her back hair stood on end.  My sweet natured little girl is out of sorts.   

Poor Reba, it's not like I can sit down and explain the facts of life with her.  Today she even snapped at Moxie (the cat) for rubbing on her legs.  As she is currently in the "danger zone" her trial will soon be over and she can morph back into her fun loving little self.

Buddy's Got To Go

Just like how all people don't get along, not all animals and people get along.  I have come to the conclusion this is a great part of Buddy's and my problem.  You see as hard as I try to bond with him, he just annoys the snot out of me.  Don't get me wrong, I love this horse, I think he's a great horse.

Any non-horsey people may have trouble understanding this but when I look at him I see all this potential to be one of those superstar horses.  (And I have great instincts - haven't been wrong on one yet!) I see a horse that's competing at the Calgary Stampede, Spruce Meadows, at the Canadian Supreme or on the "A" circuit.  I love the way he's put together and I love how athletic he is.  But I can't stand his personality.  A good part of the problem is how much I adore my mare Whiskey.  She is also an outstanding athlete but she is so easy to get along with on the ground that I've come to expect all horses to have her personality.  They don't.

I'm sure the fact that my work has been supremely stressful also factors in.  Let's face it - my patience is rather thin by the time I get home.  This whole situation is not fair to the horse.  So the onus is on me to find him a home that will appreciate him.  My best friend has an experienced horsey friend who is currently horseless right now who would love a little project.  So Buddy may end up down in Calgary while I sort out whether I want to put him in a sale or sell privately.  This gives Buddy a human who isn't irritated by the sight of him and let's him continue with his training.  

After all, they say horses don't have problems, they have people problems, and I would hate to become Buddy's people problem.  A large part of being an adult is knowing when to let go - and its time for me to let this one go.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Buddy's Melt Down!

Buddy fully and completely lost it Friday night.  Having somewhat rustic horse facilities here I keep my tack in the house.  I have binder twine wrapped around the deck supports which is where I tie my horses when I'm readying them to ride.  Buddy is familiar with this system having been the recipient of my attentions in the past.  

I started out with brushing him, noticing his bridle path was looking at little rough around the edges I grabbed the clippers, untied him and began operation hair cut.  This is not Buddy's first clip job but he still had to be a wiener about it.  When he was such a jerk I should have looked at it as an omen of what was to come.

Starting the saddling process, I have the pad on, saddle on.  Or mostly...  I have the front cinch snugged up but not tight and move to the back (again this is normal routine for this horse), snug up the back cinch when he puts his head down, makes a god awful groaning sound, pulls back snapping the binder twine and is off.  Head between his legs, making those rodeo horse sounds, he honks through the shelter belt, up and down the fence line, settles into a trot only to buck his way back up the fence, sees a tree (he's surrounded by them) and starts to buck again.

Now, I must admit to being slightly befuddled.  You see, he didn't even act like this the first time I saddled him - ever!  And no I don't really change anything as I believe in starting them how their life is going to be like.  Cautiously I set out to catch him.  Once near him I used my foot to scoop up the lead rope as he was still quite bug eyed.  Leading him back to the house I tie him back up, grab the bridle and finish getting him tacked up.

Out in the corral, I tie the reins to the saddle to see what he'll do.  And he just walks around.  Sigh - seriously!  Remembering something about playing soccer with your horse I grab an exercise ball that's too small for me and start kicking it around him.  This did not incite any new bucking frenzies.  Being slightly chicken and slightly intelligent I made the decision to not get on him.  (As I'm not supposed to be riding anyway.)  

What bothers me the most about his fit is the absolute randomness of it.  I have no idea what caused him to loose his mind like that.  And I don't like it.  Thoughts?