Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Moore Horses Horsey Bootcamp Heaven: Rambo Edition

While I have long had intentions to take Sheza up to April Moore of Moore horses for training, April is a great buddy and horse enthusiast and was also kind enough to help me evaluate and torture my brain over my latest Craigslist special save, Rambo Peg-Leg as we affectionately called him by the end of the week. 

Backstory
Rambo came home with me approximately 3 1/2 months ago. I first heard about him from a couple of Sale ads posted various places online, and then got a mutual connection to the old owner through a friend. Hearing that he was auction bound if he didn't find a home ASAP, I chose him as my next Project and arranged to drive the couple of hours north and haul him home. As far as I knew, this was the horse I was getting, plus or minus some lbs of body weight:

December 4th 2013 Rambo Trotting Sound Video

Upon arrival January 12th, 2014, I found that Rambo was sweet as a bug and couldn't wait to cram his head in my halter and go home with me. He was, umm, misunderstood at his old home, to put it delicately. He is only about 14.1 hh but big boned and had a winter coat so the photos never truly reflected his actual condition, which was not at all appalling but certainly not the plump fellow my early photos would have you believe.

***He also had a scar next to his right hind stifle and another on his right hip bone, a visibly atrophied right flank, and he swung his right hind leg when he walked in an obvious accommodation, though I won't call it a limp.***

If you've ever played the Craigslist Gambling Game, or rescued a horse in general, you know the risks. Very rarely do people re-home or give away truly healthy and okay horses these days, I don't care what the hype says. Yes, the market is down and there are great horses to be found for a deal, but there are also *multitudes* of "Deals" that can easily end up being the most expensive "free" horse you'll ever set your sights on.

Rambo is by no means my first attempt at this Russian Horsey Roulette, and he won't be my last. In general I put time, research, and money into the horses that I hope will take me places and last a long while, but in the face of that careful preparation there are also those horses like my 18 year old Blaze, scooped off of Craigslist for a deal 5 years ago and the most wonderful little sound-as-a-dollar guy I could ask for, versus my high dollar mare who had everything right on paper but at the same age is retired only pasture sound. I always hope that the horse I bring home can have a wonderful and useful working future, whether with me or someone else, but that isn't always the case either.

Regardless, on this day that I thought I was picking up this sweet boy with a great trot that I had video proof of, I found myself leading a sweet boy with a Peg Leg, essentially. He never moved like it was painful, and still doesn't, but there was and is clearly a hitch in that Giddy-up. Still, my commitment was made, and home he came with me.

Rambo says Yes, Take me Home, the day I met him
another new face peeking out of the ole faithful trailer :)
I had my much trusted horse chiropractor out within the week to check him over, confused/intrigued by the atrophied flank and weird walk, and worried that his stifle was damaged. She checked him all over and couldn't find anything out of adjustment, and in her opinion both stifles "matched," as it were. It took another couple of weeks for my very busy vet to make it out for spring shots for everyone, a couple of dentals, and a Rambo check-up. In the meantime I put him on a big half hill/half flat pasture, piled the groceries in front of him, and watched his weight and muscles start to build. As I said he was a bit underweight but not at all severely and with his youth and my good groceries he started packing on pounds and muscle pretty quickly.

right hind flank/stifle scar
 this photo barely shows the outward drag of that right hind toe as he walks
When she made it out, my vet checked him over and agreed that both stifles matched and felt undamaged from a brief exam, and we got on about our shots and dentals. At that time and the weeks following I could see improvement in his leg swinging walk as his muscles filled in and he could maintain some impulsion up under himself, and I was hopeful that with time it may disappear entirely. We did some hand walks and hoof trims but basically I just let him take those 3 1/2 months and hang out, heal, plump and muscle up.

late January, out for walkies, you can see that scar behind his right hind stifle but the muscle is already starting to come in in the flank
mm groceries foreva!
No really, groceriesss ;)  Late February, after a bath
one of the gang
late March, saying hi to my husband at the bottom of Sheza's Hill
  When it came time to head to April's with Sheza last week I thought that it would be a perfect opportunity to bring Rambo too and evaluate him with a second and very experienced eye (and someone who could handle him for me to film, hard to do alone!). At that point I had not worked him on the circle or done any further evaluation beyond the simple chiro/vet check, months of pasture rehab time, and the ever-weak self reassurance "well, He looks great flying around in pasture." 

Rambo at Moore Horses, April 15th, 2014.
 We worked Rambo in the round pen a couple of different times, taking videos as friends and vet student friends recommended different angles and things to capture. April also had a quick session with him to so see how he did being hopped on, since I had some horror stories of the "riding" that had been done on him before I got him.

hmm...
no big deal!
  He really is a sweet fellow, and I am glad that his Peg Leg doesn't seem painful at all, but these videos still frustrate the heck out of me, especially when viewed next to the sound, un-scarred video taken just over a month before I got him. Such, my friends, is the nature of the Craigslist Gambling Game.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEfc192-F64&feature=youtube_gdata

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZLwPtInf9o&feature=youtube_gdata

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BTUtCyCSaE&feature=youtube_gdata


He isn't painful, he honestly seems like he's got a "peg leg" as it were that affects his way of going sometimes but isn't Ouchy. It's a head scratcher to watch. As a 6 yr old project save with all this going on, I am realistic about what I can and cannot put into Rambo, and my conclusion is this. He'll be pastured a few miles away in a large pasture that I ride by often and can check on. I'll trim his feet and re evaluate him on the circle every few months and there are quite a few that think the tincture of time and movement may heal him yet. In an ideal world I could throw a lot of money at x-rays and ultra sounds and fancy recovery plans but this is real life and I can offer him a safe big pasture and the possibility of a recovery in time.

Sweet boy, I never regret bringing them home and doing what I can, whatever the outcome.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Moore Horses Horsey Bootcamp Heaven: Sheza Edition

Rambo and I just returned from an awesome week with our endurance riding buddy and long time farrier and horse trainer April Moore of Moore Horses in gorgeous Humboldt County, California. Sheza stayed up there with April for the rest of her 30 days of brain expansion.

We left Monday morning with both my green beans loading up quite nicely, and it was an easy 5 1/2 hr haul on the 20 and 101. Sheza wiggled like a fish in the trailer and hollered for the first couple of hours but it was an otherwise uneventful and mostly familiar drive, as I take that route from the valley to Willits and on home to family on coast often. From Willits north it was just a gorgeous drive and before we knew it we were in a different sort of horsey paradise than our own:
Sheza filly arrives at school!
Greetings and first horse "whisperings" with April ;-)   Redhead Power!

Sheza and Rambo settled in

~Day 1, Sheza goes to work!~

I did my best to capture the pivotal expressions and moments in April's work with Sheza in the photos shared here. There were many, many more photos taken, but I think that these give a pretty good picture of the great work April is doing.  

April worked in the way of creating herself and her tasks for the horse as the happy quiet place, while giving the horses the opportunity to either commit to mistakes or commit to staying put and working as requested. I watched April work this way with a feisty, recently gelded, and barely broke paint horse on this day, and then work in exactly the same way with Sheza. The difference was in the horse's level of commitment to good or bad behavior. April only escalated energy as the horse did; it took some aggressive body language in response to the horse's aggressive attitude to establish her space with the paint, while aggression is not high on Sheza's response list. She tends to commit to spooking out and being dramatic at first, but quickly started to face up, think, and realize that her jamming around brainlessly was on HER and April was never asking it of her. In fact April was just standing there, twirling a rope or doing whatever calm activity Sheza had taken off from in the first place, and the thought process was clear in Sheza's responses as she got tired of running around and wanted to be in April's quiet place, even if the darn rope was still twirling. The key point I saw was that April was never reacting to the horse in the way of Do This Or Work, it was entirely the horse's choice what it decided to do, whether it committed to good or bad behavior, and she was unflappable and entirely consistent, so that indeed the horse figured it out itself, and ended up "begging her to ride them" as she put it. As she acknowledged, some horses figure it out quickly, others can take hours, the key is consistency and allowing the horse to work itself out and the "question" at hand out. Of course she also adapts strategies as needed to match various personalities, but it's hard to describe the process enough as it is, so there's my best go at some of it. Basically April reads the horses like books and acts accordingly; as such she is operating in much the way that I constantly strive to be better at with my own horses, so this week was really as much a learning opportunity for me as for my horses! 

moving out and burning off some sillies
before long she wanted to do what April was doing

 smarty-pants dramatic Sheza quickly decided that whatever April was up to climbing around on that fence was more fun than brainlessly working herself.





Success! 
 Here is another of April's horses in training that she rode that day. He is a really cute and smart 8 yr old Morab gelding who came in halter broke (with some attitude) and has only been there for about 2 weeks. I think the relaxed expression says it all.

~Day 2, Ropes and Refreshers~

Sheza's sticky spot is her right ear. Periodically over the last few years as she grew up she would slang her head dramatically away when my hand neared the right ear, and I'd narrowly avoid getting knocked in the head, and I'd handle it until she didn't react anymore, and that was that. For a week, or a month, and then she'd randomly do it again. Thing is, her mother Desire does the *exact same thing with the same ear.*  In Desire's case she had TMJ and poll adjustments needed and taken care of a number of times over the last few years, so I can understand a pain origin for her tic, but the fact that her daughter does the exact same thing, and has been checked and wasn't out of adjustment is pretty interesting. April's stud and his colt have the same funny head habit as each other as well--ahh, genetics! 

Anyhow, day 2 started with some ear handling, visited the long rope all over the body and head area, revisited bareback mounting from the ground, and finally worked back to the dreaded ear. 


















Happy redheads :-)
~Day 3, Ponying Steeds in Training~

On the third full day there I got to ride April's home raised palomino QH mare Daisy, ponying Spirit, the grey horse in training that was pictured being ridden some photos back. I first met Daisy and April at Cache Creek 2011 when we camped next to each other and she had baby Daisy along for camping exposure. Time sure flies for these fillies of ours!  It was only Spirit's second time being ponied and Daisy, by the way, turns 4 next month.  Was I nervous to pony a greenie off a baby greenie? Not in the slightest. One minute aboard Daisy told me that I had to only ask correctly to get whatever I needed as a steady pony horse, if I could just juggle split reins and a 12 ft pony rope--LOL. I did that, rather successfully actually, and we had a blast out on our little trail ride, with April riding family's big handsome QH mare and ponying Sheza.
 4 horses, 2 dogs, 2 redheads--tons of fun!
 halfway point, Sheza is starting to go, "woah, this is like..a lot."
Me on Daisy, ponying Spirit
almost home
After an 8 mile round trip with the last couple of miles done in a light rain, Sheza was truly tired for the first time in her life. I didn't get any good photos of her in the cloudy evening light but her expression was obvious. Tired critters are good critters! 

~Day 4, Ropes and Saddles

As it sounds, this day was about working on becoming "rope broke," and carrying a saddle for the first time. For background, I have handled Sheza extensively all over from day one but not done a lot of specific desensitization work. I girthed the bareback pad on her and ponied her out on her mother from an early age, but hadn't done so in about the last year.

ohmahgawd what's THAT!
Urgh, it still kinda weirds me out but I want to know what's she's doing.  
Not scared, I dominatE!

Hmmm..maybe ok, but my precious ear..
After some thinking time in the arena...

Sheza wasn't too worried about the whole saddle scenario but that's because the rest of the work, from her early days in the bareback pad to the relationship April had already formed with her, was leading up to it. It wasn't a forced or scary thing, and at this point Sheza had an idea of how the program worked. 

Hmmm..
 I really like standing here, so I'll just watch and flinch a little ;-)


Moving out with the saddle and stirrups was new, and April let her just figure it on out and burn off what excessive energy she needed to until she was ready to engage again.


pretty relaxed! 
Gorgeous morning at Moore Horses

On the last morning Sheza got a touch up on her trim. April was great about giving me lots of tips on my hoof trimming and I can't wait to put some of her advice into action on my horses at home! 

That soft youngster gut is disappearing for the first time after 4 days of quality work. 
I know my gal is in great hands with April and I can't wait to go back in May and get my first rides on Sheza!! She sure has grown up wonderfully.

3 years ago...


Next time...Moore Horses Bootcamp Heaven: Rambo Edition