Saturday, November 30, 2013

Forest ponies

Today at the barn the herd was hanging out in the trees. As usual, I couldn't resist taking some pictures.

That first picture, of Fred the pony lying down, is pure cuteness overload.

Dakota has started coming toward me when he sees me tromping across the pasture. This development warms my heart. It's probably just the carrots, but I choose to believe we are bonding. Today I lunged him in full tack and shortened the side reins one notch. They're still barely touching his mouth, but I like to go slow. He accepted the shorter length without complaint. He has gotten better about the outward drift when going to the left. Even better, he's now able to maintain a (somewhat speedy) canter a couple times around the circle. It's fun to see them get stronger and more balanced.

It turns out Dakota has a funky head. The cob-size bridle arrived, and the bit is riding correctly in his mouth now. Unfortunately, the cavesson is riding way too high, the browband is too narrow, and the throatlatch is too tight. I'm going to have to cobble his bridle together using pieces from both my bridles. And somehow I need to extend the throatlatch. Maybe I'll just hack it off, have buckles installed on both sides, and extend it that way.

Tomorrow post-lungeing I'm going to climb aboard. Given Dakota's behavior up until now, I expect him to behave just fine. I'll probably try out gears one and two, and save cantering for a day when there's someone else around. Again, I don't expect any foolishness, but the arena is quite isolated, and better safe than sorry, right?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Teeth and toes

I'm blogging from wintry Nebraska this evening. I'm out here visiting my family, and the weather is awful. Right now it's 14 degrees, and the low overnight will be 7. There is a reason I don't live here anymore.

Last Monday Dakota had his toes trimmed, his teeth floated, and his wolf teeth pulled. And had a flu vacc. The farrier thought he noticed some white line changes but of course had no idea if it was the change in footing, the change in climate, or the change in diet. He kinda sorta seemed to think maybe the alfalfa supplement was too rich for a mustang, but I had just started it three or four days before--could Dakota really be showing changes in his feet from diet that fast? The vet on the other hand was all for continuing the supplement, so I'm going to continue and just keep an eye on things. We went from very dry to very wet recently, and I think that's probably the cause. Dakota lived his whole previous life in an arid climate. All this squish is new to him.

Dakota also has some changes in the skin on his nose. The vet said dermatitis; Camilla thinks maybe rain rot. I've never pasture boarded in a rainy climate before, so rain rot is all new to me. I've added a vitamin to Dakota's supplement and am trying to groom him every day. I should be able to catch any outbreaks early.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

And then there were two

Do you all remember Flash? Back when Camilla still owned Baby Huey, Flash was the gelding she was spending a lot of time training. Then he needed pasture rest due to an injury, so he has been enjoying the good life for the past year or so. The pasture rest seems to have worked, and he has come sound in the past couple of months. At the same time, Camilla sold Huey and is trying out a firecracker of a mare named Cairo. She doesn't have a lot of time for Flash, and with me going into the teaching business and finding a barn I really like, she asked if I'd like to lease Flash and possibly use him in my program. So now I've got two boys to work with. Dakota is keeping Flash company in the arena for the two days until he's released into the pasture.

Today was Dakota's first real lunge session in full tack. He was a very good boy. We just did walk and trot. He's not very strong in canter yet and I don't want him to flail around in the side reins. To the right he gave me a nice bend and a fancy little trot at times. To the left, he drifts out and gets frustrated with my half halts. He needs his teeth floated and his wolf teeth pulled (happening tomorrow), and my current bridle is too big for him (cob size bridle on its way). Those things are likely bothering him as well. But I was very pleased with his willingness.

After working Dakota, I lunged Flash off the halter to check his soundness in the arena's footing. Doesn't he have the loveliest gaits? If he was an easier ride I would totally use him as a school horse; alas, he is definitely not a beginner's horse. But maybe once I get some clients one of them will have enough natural talent to handle Flash.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A quick session with side reins

Tuesday Dakota tweaked his right hind out in the pasture. When I went to pick out his left hind, he instead held up his right hind dramatically, letting me know that something wasn't right. I couldn't find any swelling or heat, but he was a bit off when I watched him trot. He was perfectly sound in walk, so I decided to tack him up with a dressage saddle for the first time. That was no big deal, so I went ahead and clipped on side reins at the longest setting and lunged him both directions in the walk, just so he could feel what all that was like. He accepted the side reins very well, only startling himself a couple times when he raised his head and bumped the side reins. He figured out quickly not to do that, and all was well.

Wednesday I left him alone, and yesterday I lunged him off the halter to check his soundness. He was almost normal. Today he was completely fine again. Before I got Dakota, he spent most of his life in a flat dry lot, and for the past two years he hasn't been worked. The pastures he's in now are very hilly and can be slippery in places if a horse doesn't slow down and choose his footing carefully. I think Dakota probably went careening up or down a hill and pulled a muscle. It'll be good for him to get used to being responsible for his shaggy self.

I started supplementing Dakota's grass-hay-and-forage diet with soaked alfalfa cubes every time I go out. Dakota thinks this is a great idea! I want to keep his weight up for the winter months.

Dakota has another friend: Fred the tiny pony! Such a cute wee man. Fred thinks carrots are awesome and usually follows me and Dakota most of the way to the arena before accepting that all the carrots are gone.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Less head shy every day

I worked through head-shyness with Willow using lots of carrots. It worked, but she really did expect carrots during the bridling process ever after. I did some research on techniques for working through this problem and found a video I really liked. I have no idea who this trainer is and can't vouch for anything else he does, but this technique works.

On Friday I spent forty minutes rubbing Dakota's neck and head. At about twenty minutes, I started brushing past his ear. By the end of the forty minutes, I could rub his ears without a fuss. Then I started working the head-lowering technique, which worked right away. Then I used an old thin leather rein as a "bit," and had no fuss there either. I quit and let all that percolate through Mr. D's little head for the night.

Saturday I started the head and neck rubbing again and could almost immediately mess with his ears. I repeated the head lowering and the leather rein "bit," and it all went so well that I got the bridle out. On it went, no muss, no fuss. Good boy! Then I lunged him off the bridle. It was much better having the extra control. No more shooting off the circle randomly.

Dakota got the day off today, but I went out in the late afternoon to give him carrots in the pasture. I don't want him to think every time he sees me I'm going to make him work. I'm delighted to see that Dakota already has a BFF. The two of them are always grazing side by side a little ways away from the main herd. I think the friend is a roan Appy; I'll find out for sure. Forgot to check if it's a gelding or mare. He/she gets carrots from me too for being a friend to the new guy.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A visit to Louisiana in January

Wolfgang's widow, Suzanne, is a tremendous dressage trainer in her own right. She recently moved to a friend's training facility in Ruston, Louisiana, and is having the time of her life giving lessons there. She invited me to visit, saying not only could I ride multiple horses every day, I could also teach under her supervision and get some much-needed pointers and advice. What an opportunity! I'm looking at mid-January, when I'll be ready for sunshine and warmer temperatures.

Dakota was still in the covered arena today. I thought he was going into the pasture, but he's perfectly content so it's no big deal. I finished his mane and played around with bridling. He's definitely head shy. I did get the bridle on and let him wear it for twenty minutes while we walked around the arena. I need to work on getting him comfortable with me handling his head and ears. He's a sensible guy, so I think he'll come around quickly.

I also lunged him off his halter. While he does know how to lunge, I kind of think he has never been lunged outside a round pen. He kept plowing off in a straight line. He wasn't being bad, just confused. He also really didn't want to canter and didn't hold it for long when he did. But all in all it was a perfectly fine first attempt. He has the basics and wants to please.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Slow; horse crossing

The ranch where I'm boarding Dakota has an extensive pasture system. The horses are allowed to go almost everywhere. Much of the herd was hanging out on the driveway this evening. There were also several deer grazing nearby. It was a peaceful scene.

Tiny pony alert!

What's this you say about carrots?

I really like carrots!

Time for a haircut

That is a LOT of mane

He's going to look dorky for a day or two. I can only get so much done at a time.

Dakota was a very good boy while I worked on his mane. I don't know if he's ever been asked to stand for so long; he tolerated it quite well. He was curious about everything I did, sticking his nose in my face every few minutes. We took a couple breaks where I led him around. He has great ground manners. I asked him to trot in hand and he willingly trotted at whatever speed I asked for. I led him over a Parelli obstacle, some tires laid flat on the ground in a line. He carefully walked over it, stepping in the tire holes. I'm just thrilled with his attitude so far!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dakota's triumphant arrival

The shipper delivered Dakota at 4 this afternoon. He was all alone in the big trailer. I clipped the lead to his halter, and he quietly turned himself around and followed me to the door. He looked right, looked left, and then stepped calmly to the ground. I turned him loose in the covered arena, and he walked around looking at everything. Then I threw him some hay and that was that. This little guy loves his food!

Tomorrow he'll be moved to a stall overlooking the pasture for the next two days. On day three, he'll join the herd. This is the first time I've ever pasture boarded; it's one of the reasons I was excited to get a mustang. He should do just fine, weight-wise and foot-wise. I looked over his papers and found that, appropriately enough, he's from the Palomino Buttes herd of Oregon mustangs.

I'm waiting on a lunge line and a girth that I just ordered before I can start lungeing, so until they arrive I'm going to work on basic ground manners and see he how he does. If unloading from the trailer is any indication, I think he has a solid foundation. I'm also going to get to work on that mop of a mane. All the while teaching him that I am the fun carrot lady.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dakota coming down the mountain

Dakota passed his prepurchase exam with flying colors. Hooray! The only thing the vet found was that he's pretty head shy. So was Willow, and I was able to work through it with her, so I'm not concerned. Dakota has great feet, a great coat, happy joints, and is a good weight. We just need to add muscle.

Dakota lives in La Pine, which is in the Cascades at 4200 feet. When I went to see him, it was hot and dusty. Ten days later, it's snowing. I had hoped to hire Camilla to transport Dakota down the mountain, but with the weather so dicey, we decided to postpone. Luckily, I found a shipper who can do it for me on Tuesday.

In the next few days I'm going to read up on mustangs. My current knowledge is: they have great feet and are easy keepers. I'm sure there's quite a bit more to know. Dakota will be coming with BLM paperwork, so I think that will tell me which herd he's from (I'm assuming he's an Oregon mustang).

My business name will be Coast Fork Dressage. I have a designer working on a logo for me. Website to follow shortly! I can't wait to get to know Dakota.