Friday, January 31, 2014

It Was Winter--Oh did you Blink?

Winter seems to visit us in fits and spurts this season. We had a week long spasm of snow and freeze in early December, then it seemed as if spring returned, for weeks and weeks. We had a couple days of solid rain supposedly on the way for the end of this week but as with the last rain forecast it resolved into a single day and night of storm. We got nearly two inches here in the foothills, which doesn't do much for the long term drought but felt like a blessing nonetheless. At last the dust was settled and the land looked newly soothed and moistened; even little birds were out flying around in the rain, chirping, seemingly celebrating it.

The initial forecast of 20mph winds and rain sent me out to blanket Rambo on Wednesday, for the first time since his arrival a few weeks ago. I'd seen a picture of him looking distinctly not amused wearing a blanket for the first time a few weeks before he ended up with me, so I knew it could be done but didn't know *how* it had been done and therefore what I was in for. But who cares? I approached him the same way I approach all the others here whether they are 2 or 18: showing them the blanket, letting them sniff and snort at it if they are feeling particularly Arabian that day. Rambo did just that, waiting politely to be haltered then eyeballing the blanket and sniffsniffsniffing as he does. He is very scent oriented and when nervous smells everything like a bloodhound and also marches around doing the phlegmen lip thing pretty often. It took all of 30 seconds to progress to rubbing the blanket on his face, neck, and then as he didn't seem worried, sliding it over his back and into place. It was well seated and he got nervous with it over him and started to walk away, so I didn't let him RUSH away, but I did let him walk, with my hand on the lead and on his side, calmly. He walked to the Sheza/Napoleon/Scrappy fence lines and stopped, sighed, cocked a hoof, and then stood like a rock while I cinched Blaze's sheet down around him. I can see that he is a horse that needs to move his feet and could be explosive if someone didn't understand that and tried to force him to just STAND for things on principle. My theory is he will get to that point, but allowing him to cope in his way, within reason, makes for a more positive experience in the beginning. Do I want the blanket to mean a fight, or a noneventful weird human thing that just meant more carrots? I think you know the answer! 

Scrappy got a blanket coz Rambo had to, and they could then commiserate on how dumb they looked instead of one trying to undress the other  ;-) 
 Rambo decided maybe that shed with the alfalfa in it was the place to be
I was sad to see the storm hadn't lasted as long as predicted, but the horses were happy to see me coming to strip blankets, especially the Nebraska child who certainly seems to question this whole blanketing in pasture notion. Yes DEAR Scrappy boy, after Rambo's polite blanket session, *bronced* his blanket off, while haltered, then snorted and quivered til it was buckled on. This from the 100 mile endurance horse. I have a sneaking suspicion he's been hanging out with a certain 4 legged redhead too much recently..

Who ME?  
The 2 1/2 yr old has a Come Hither look, break out the horsey chastity belts! 
 Rambo got a little squirty by the blanket sliding off his butt and trotted away from the plastic-y sheet sounds, so I parked the carrot bag on the blanket and turned away to "fix fence," just seeing how long it'd take him to come back and check out the scenario. OH, I'd say about 15 seconds on that one, and funnily enough he didn't stomp/chew/drag anything, just sniffed as below and then waited for me to give him another carrot.
I think this is the first photos I've gotten of Rambo where you can see any notion of his odd walk, here he is mid stride looking to roll, but you can see that his right hind sort of "Swings" out to the side as it does in the slow walk. 

Doesn't slow down his rolling at all, though he does a weird athletic compensating hop to get up on that right side at this point.
Scrappy has made himself a perfectly round and well maintained dirt/mud hole at the top corner of his pasture, here he is doing his daily maintenance on it:

"Told ya I didn't need a blanket.."
The sun is very much back today, plus a frost. No more rain in the 10 day forecast. Bye again Winter, hope you'll come back soon!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Only Kind of Babysitting You Can Rely on Me For

Scrap and I hit the lake today and rode with Mel of Boots and Saddles, babysitting her on the 3 year old race bred Arabian she has in for 3 months light under saddle work. It went a little something like this:

I led.
 Then she led.
We walked and trotted, and she had some great first canters with Tig. Then we stared at stuff:

And Tig, quietly, stared at stuff:
 Scrappy looked for treats, and then stared at some other stuff:
 It was fun, relaxed, non dramatic. The biggest spook of the day was executed by coming 9 yr old sleepy fella Scrappy, go figure. Tig seems to quite reasonable and willing, and obviously enjoys the trail. There were a few things that Mel worked with and adapted to, but that's her story to tell. My story is that I enjoyed the day and my Scrappy fella, and riding with a good friend who is discovering and reminding herself of the fun of a solid minded young project/prospect horse. Pretty well a fine Saturday, I'd say!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chiro for All

Tell me that I really should, have to, absolutely, maybe MUST do something for my horse, and I'm likely to look at you with a slight head tilt and a raised eyebrow, known as the "Skeptical Kodiak" around here:
There are so many unique horse personalities out there and so many ways to achieve various things depending on your goals or situations that I feel you can apply absolutely, maybe MUST  to just about nothing except "Listen to your Horse." 

Oh, and get your horse a chiro check up. 

 First let me say that I tried a handful of  horse chiropractors before finding the one the horses and I liked best. I never had a bad experience, per se, but 2 of the practitioners my horses didn't respond to as positively and one had a sky high bill that I couldn't stomach. I was lucky to finally find a wonderful Chiro gal, D, who the horses love *and* I can afford, even with the ever growing herd. I guess what I am saying is, if you aren't happy with your first experience, please don't write the whole thing off! Whether you have a youngster, a rescue project, a sound and active riding horse, or a retiree, Chiropractic work is your friend. Oh, you want examples? 

1. The Youngster
  My Arabian filly Sheza turns 3 in April. She will also be heading out to a dear and trusted endurance/trainer friend for 30 days of very light saddle training and general world exposure this spring. Sheza has been blasting around this place at top speeds, with the occasional tumble, since the day she was born. Is she sound? You betcha. Has she ever been put under work/carried a rider before? Nope. So can I fairly say that because she is sound her back and neck and everything else is all in order and ready for a little work/carrying weight? No, I'm simply not qualified. 

on a slight uphill, my almost 3 yr old..! 
I'd never had Sheza checked before due to her young age, but since her life is taking on new challenges soon it was only fair to at least establish a base line of where her body is, if not correct anything.  D found the logic sound and checked her all over and only found one small spot in her neck to adjust! Good news, and I can now send her for some light saddle work in good conscience. Just think: your sensitive young horse sent out for first under saddle training with their neck/back/hips out of adjustment? No thanks.

2. The Rescue/Project
 Rambo has been here for just over a week now. He has this scar on his right hind leg:
He drags both hind toes at a slow walk. He swings this right hind outward slightly at the walk. He has no butt muscle on either side, but it appears a bit atrophied on the right side. He is not lame in the least.When he moves out with impulsion he looks wonderful and you'd never guess he had a thing going on, but he doesn't have the muscle to maintain that for long. He has lovely big bare feet and wears all 4 hooves completely evenly. Quite interesting!! I could see the bread crumbs along the trail but I didn't (and still possibly don't!)  know whether they lead to a sound riding horse or a horse that can't hold up to work because of that previous injury. Oh boy did I want a professional opinion! 

These pictures don't accurately capture his butt. Oddly,he photographs much better than he looks in person. He's darling in person, but scrappier, younger looking, and his butt is much more pathetic. 

right side atrophy?
 the good side
D's face when she saw him walk made my heart sink. She saw the slight swing and the toe drag, and thought stifle damage. Then she saw his even toes and felt his intact, undamaged stifle, and got kind of excited. I moved him out for her in circles and on the straight, and she re examined him. She determined nothing was "out" that she could adjust, and was really excited by the prospect that with time and gradually upped butt building work he could well go down the trail as a riding horse yet. 

With the knowledge that his stifle is okay and a professional second opinion from head to toe, my plan of action is moving Rambo onto Sheza's hilly pasture (scroll up and look at her butt again! really!) then after 4 weeks observation on that, start taking him walking/jogging in the various degrees of hilly terrain around the neighborhood, upping and adjusting work load as appropriate.

3.Sound, Active Riding Horse
I bought Scrappy in July 2013. Despite already using and appreciating chiro work, I wasn't quite at the mindset of "have a new horse checked first thing" yet. He rode great aside from the occasional left hind toe drag on a steep downhill and a bit of reluctance to canter. I felt 10 funny steps on a September 50 miler and rider optioned with a sound horse, just in case. D came out to see him after that and was amazed at his solid, sound, willing, performance for me over the last few months, as his hips were completely out! I watched the top of his croup go from pointy to completely soft and jiggly, then upon riding a few days later, found the toe drag had disappeared and my horse suddenly not only enjoyed cantering on both leads butt threw flying lead changes for funsies, too! 
I had Scrappy rechecked with D on Monday and his hips needed a slight adjustment but nowhere near as dramatic as before. His initial months of stoic performance despite being out of whack cemented my personal preference to have a Chiro out to check all new arrivals before they do any serious work.

4. The Retiree
In my ongoing pursuit of a juustt-right Desire in fall 2012/most of 2013, she had massage, chiropractic work, supplements, hock injections, and I still felt a slight, intermittent something in her hind end under saddle. She is a forward, hot horse who slams her feet down and has a lot of torque, plus is naturally spooky and doesn't roll often. At every chiro adjustment she was out of whack nearly from head to tail. She is also 18 this year, so I was fighting the uphill battle against age, regardless. She was a fabulous endurance horse and LOVED eating up the trails, but I had reached the point of keep trying and pouring money into it, or give her a well earned retirement. In early summer last year I turned her out in the biggest pasture with the goats, declared her retired, and put the money I could have kept pouring into fighting for soundness into buying Scrappy. 

It hurts my heart a bit to see my beloved first 50 miler and multi day partner flying around the field looking fabulous, not to be doing the same with me on her back in the future, but as I also told friends recently, I could tell she was content despite her (in my mind) unused  natural work ethic. She flirts with Blaze over the fence, bosses goats, and runs about when she wants to, taking her easy days as needed when she isn't feeling as fleet footed. 

retirement is rough
You can see that I would be very interested to have D look at Desire this time around, since this would be Desire's first adjustments since being fully retired for 6 months+.  Guess what? She didn't need a single thing adjusted!  I would have really felt bad if she had continued to be that out of whack without being under work, but clearly retirement agrees with her. I am so grateful I can give her the big pasture she deserves to rock her Retired Status in, and am comforted knowing I  made a good decision retiring her.

5. The Smug Flexible One: You may be wondering where darling little Blaze is in all of this. Mr. Blaze, my craigslist special, has old scars and bumps and a hoof that looks like it was nearly ripped off at some point in his life. He also rolls at least a few times a day, every day, and does downward dog stretches and all sorts of horse yoga of his own accord. He is 18 years old like Desire but unlike Desire he is sounder than sound, has the best knees and flexion on the place and has only ever needed one small neck adjustment, ever.  His contribution to the chiropractic spectrum is being a good story, sound and well adjusted against all odds! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Featured Horse: Big Handsome Morab coming-3 yr old Gelding

Location: Red Bluff, CA
Breed: registered Morab
Age: 2 1/2
Height: 15 hh
Price: $500

Meet "Chauncy," a handsome young Morab gelding with a build to go forever!
*Registered going on 4 years old, Morgan/Arabian. Nice lineage. 
Sire is The Scandanavian (Morgan)
Dam is Savannah J ( Serafix/Bask bred Arabian)

*Halter broke, utd on feet and shots

Janie 530-527-8587

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sheza and Rambo on Walkabout--and More

First, I give you nap time on the Youngsters' Side, yesterday:
And now, Oohh and Aahh at the wondrous red filly having a go up her favorite hill. Sheza does this 5-10 times a day, every day. I am trying to be cautious and not jinx myself, but my inner endurance monkey is capering with glee watching her put this amazing base on herself.
Not to be outdone, Blaze offers up his best Blue Steel. He doesn't do lefts, okay. 
Yesterday my friend L brought over some of my weenie dogs' relatives for an evening of fun--and learning manners, for the youngsters. I have 6 dogs, and now 6 Arabians (oops), and the parallels between training them is really forefront in my mind. Timing, consistency and exposure to a multitude of environments and situations are probably the 3 Keystones to training a dog or a horse in my opinion. It's always fun to take animals you think are well behaved to a new situation and watch things potentially unravel! And then get to shape their wonderful sharp brains in other directions and turn them into better citizens. 

People often marvel that we have 6 dogs from wiener dogs on up through a  mid size Lab/Pit mix to a 100 lb Catahoula mix, all loose with our 5 cats and flock of chickens, and all completely un-phased by my constant comings and goings with horses of various temperaments. To them I say this: Listen to your animals, but also have very clear expectations. I simply don't allow for certain behavior and I almost don't even let it into my brain, and I swear that translates to my animals. That's not to say I don't have to verbally or physically correct all of them at various times, but I believe in the power of the mind when coupled with timing and consistency. If you have that expectation of bad behavior in your mind, there is a chink in your Leader armor, and a smart animal will exploit that. 

It also works the opposite. Our 7 year old Lab/pit mix mentioned, Tady, doesn't like to swim, and has no formal training beyond what my husband and I have done. My husband started guiding duck hunting this season and hey, Tady is half black Lab or looks it, why couldn't he be the retriever for work? Cue water hating pit mix fetching up to 40 birds a day for clients like a professionally trained Lab, because he loves and trusts his master and that successful endeavor was expected of him.

 Here's another example, something someone had queried me on, regarding keeping your mare from being a squealy heinous brat with geldings. My take is, my mare is free to squeal and be a ho-bag at liberty when she is being a horse, but if I approach her with another horse, even if she is at liberty, or if she is under tack with me, there will be no squealing or foolishness. All I usually have to do at this point with Desire is say "MARE" or point a finger if I see that wrinkle in her eyebrow and she will instantly look innocent. She is not a particularly tractable or charming mare, but neither am I, and I am boss. After being charming to Rambo the first day, and sweetly snuffling Sheza this morning, not 30 minutes later Desire rushed the fence squealing like a stuck pig when I walked up with Rambo, to which I instantly ROARED back at her and slapped the fence with the lead rope. She flew backwards, trotted a snarky circle, and walked back politely and nuzzled Rambo without another peep. Yep, definitely have to reinforce in a timely and consistent manner once in a while! And that goes for every dog and horse here. Sometimes it even works with husbands, but you might as well skip trying to train goats or chickens.

After that training tangent, I'll come back to a cool thing that happened as L and I wrapped up our evening of horse touring and dog disciplining. She heard a hummingbird hitting the window screen in my house so I ran in and caught it in two cupped hands against the screen. It sat like this in my hand for maybe 30 seconds, blinking and getting it's bearings:
 All of a sudden I felt it's little engines kick over as it started to hum, thrum, then vibrate strongly against my hand and BOOM it flew straight up and away.  Cool!

So now to the title of the post, I guess the previous could have been a separate post? Whatever. Sheza was great today. Gigantic and great. Very much in heat, squatting and squirting at the geldings when in pasture but still giving baby mouth rather than going the squealy route. Good thing I already have a plan for that behavior when it rears it's head, Eh?!

Desire loving on her baby and Blaze wondering if she is old enough for his harem yet..
 I was short on time and wanted to get Rambo out too so I just trimmed Sheza's fronts and dewormed her. She was really good for her feet, even coming back to me and quieting down when her brain momentarily exited the premises to join Rambo and Napoleon the mini who were running wildly, snorting and blowing, in the pasture. As we left the cross ties she had a different sort of purpose to her stride and instead of heading the safe route back to her pasture like she usually automatically tries to, she marched the other direction and went sniffing things that usually make her leap and snort. She grazed next to the travel trailer that she wouldn't come within 15 feet of before, and this is her grazing on the slight uphill right next to the barn, who's proximity usually gives her the shimmy shakes.
 THEN she headed away from her pasture and back to the damn horse trailer, where she sniffed and leaned and investigated and was *thisclose* to loading herself. I just sort of trailed at the end of the lead rope and let her do all this, as I am all for any lessening of drama and shows of bravery.

I see horses come and go in this thing, and seems like they get really good snacks afterwards every time...hmmm..
Sheza actually trailers nicely already, but it's always been with a buddy and she certainly has never tried to randomly load herself before. I find it interesting that this adult brained behavior is showing up when she's very much in heat and a new horse arrived 5 days ago. She certainly is growing up.
Rambo was at my shoulder as I closed the gate on Sheza, so I put the halter on him and took him for a walk. He sniffed everything hard, like a bloodhound, which was laugh out loud funny at times. The only other horse I have seen sniff the ground and air so obviously and like a dog--is Scrappy. Go figure. 

Rambo thought maybe the squealy scary white chick wanted a roommate..yeah buddy, don't go there!
He was definitely uncertain, and a couple of times just froze at the end of the lead rope, but he is so clearly thinking when he freezes that I just let him do it, talked to him, and within a few seconds he reached his nose out to me, snuffed hard, and stepped forward again.

"I'm not really sure, but I'm willing to try"
 I know he loves his groceries so I walked him around back to the hay barn and brought him into the hay barn even, which is actually just a long low tin roofed building broken into 1/3s: chicken house third, tools third, hay third. Oh and the hay third has a side that has a flappy tarp. So yeah, he wasn't wild about walking in there! AND Scrappy and Sheza were doing hot laps being ridiculous in his vision all of a sudden, so he got a little amped. His version of amped? Trottin, trottin, trotting in place! It was kind of hilarious. His little feet were tapping away but he wasn't actually moving. Still, I walked out of the barn with flakes of hay on one arm and his leadrope on the other, at a brisk walk to match his pace, but nothing unreasonable. Again, expectations. What do I expect out of an unknown green young Arab project horse? I expect them to not kill me, and that's about it, initially. I let them tell me where they are mentally, and I work with that, but I never expect them to just KNOW THINGS, or respond to the same methods that another project horse does, even another Arabian. They are just too individual.  Was Rambo walking totally politely and where I expect him to, at my dictation, in the future? No. Could I reasonably have asked him to do that in that moment, without starting a pointless fight? No. Today I wanted Rambo to see the property, and not kill me in the process. Mission accomplished!  Still, did I let him get rude? No. He spooked into my space twice and immediately met a firm thumb in his chest. While he was nervous and just getting acclimated and needed to get his feet moving for both our good at moments, he absolutely may not come at me as a response, especially in fear. So, it's all a balance of listening very carefully to the horse, and adapting and acclimating, but never letting them question that you are the Leader. 

Perhaps I should go back and rename this post Endless Tangents. Hope you guys enjoyed wandering through my brain with me ;-)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Eye Candy

I spent 5 minutes at breakfast, 15 minutes at mid afternoon, and about 30 minutes this evening just visiting with Rambo and the gang. Distributing carrots, taking photos, handling Rambo all over at liberty. He is just something else. Completely unruffled by the change, quiet, calm, interested. Pushy for more pets, even nosing my hand away from Scrappy to him! And *delighted* that I could put my back into giving full body scratches. He did a 2 step back and forth getting his ears to his dock scratched.

Rambo gets fancy for breakfast
glad to see carrots headed his way midafternoon

 Rushcreek rumpus

 Rambo, meet Jay
 the seniors, Blaze and Desire

 Does this photo look like he's lived here for 24 hours? I just love peaceful herds
 Pretty nice feet! And a Rambo nose in the camera ;-)
Scrappydoo <3
 Rambo telling Scrappy HE gets pets, LOL