The horse's pasture to the East...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cowgirls Never Get the Blues!

I'm back in the saddle again! Well, OK...not technically. But close enough. Today I had another little adventure.

I've been working with both Luck and Patch in the evenings when John is home. He's decided (wisely, I think!) to have me train Apache. He doesn't always have time to work with Patch and it's beginning to confuse Patch. Who does he belong to? Who's herd boss?

We've both been noticing alot of tail switching, walking into personal space and general grumpiness on Patch's part. And that's not like him. He will occasionally challenge whomever is working with him, just to see what he can get away with. But he's never been grumpy about playing games. To the contrary, he loves it!

John told me that he doesn't have the time right now to do it right, so I took over. It's taken several days for Apache to understand that I'm his Kahuna, probably for good now (barring unforeseen circumstances...never tempt the fates!).

Now, when I go out to the paddock, both he and Lucky are right there vying for attention. "Me! Me first!" "No me me!" Lots of uh huh huhing all the time. I love that! And it's helped Apache to relax too. He's the kind of Horseanalilty that likes one Kahuna leading the way.

Now that you have the back story...this afternoon I went out to turn them out into the pasture. It was a very pretty afternoon. The skies were clear, temperature's only 76 and dry. September is the best!

I decided not to walk all the way around to the front entrance of the paddock. I have this great little stand that John built for me on the side of the paddock fence that makes it easily accessible if I want to climb over the fence. I decided to go that way, to climb over the fence and maybe stop on the top for a while to love up on the guys before I let them out.

Lately, last two weeks or so, I've been sitting on the top of the fence so they would be used to having me high, the way I would be sitting on top. Lucky's an old hand at that. He understands people on top. But for Patch, it's new. He only knows people on the ground where he's the taller one.

The first few times I sat on top of the fence, Apache stood back to watch. He wasn't really afraid. He just didn't understand me higher than him. It was a new thing, a new curiousity.

It didn't take long for him to begin coming up to me to check things out. He loves to smell shoes, so he spends his time checking out whatever pair I had on. (Note to self...I need new riding boots. Make that a priority.) After shoes lost his interest, he came to me so I could reach all of the itchy spots on top...the ones that he can only get to by rolling.

That was exactly what I was hoping for. Nearly every morning I've gotten up onto my perch, sometimes on the top rail and sometimes on the second up rail...or the third. I vary things alot with both of my big, beautiful equines. They're both Left Brained types (Lucky is a Left Brain Introvert and Patch is a Left Brained Extrovert), so I change it up alot. They like variety and get bored very easily.

This afternoon, when I was getting ready to put them out into the pasture, I took my perch on the top rail. Luck came over for his love and scritch, scratch. He likes to be rubbed right on the top of his poll, between his ears. It's our special place. He doesn't let many people do that. Then he went over to the bars/gate into the paddock and looked over his shoulder at me. He wanted out onto all that lovely grass.

Next it was Apache's turn. He came over and siddled up to the fence to inspect my shoes. I'd been out this morning buying supplies. There were all kinds of interesting things to smell.

I leaned over him and rubbed him on his whithers, putting some extra pressure there. He likes that. It always relaxes him. It's the classic "Mom" spot to scratch a horse. I was leaning way out over him to get to his itchy places, all the while holding onto the fence with one leg on the other side. It felt like a fairly secure place to be.

I leaned out...and leaned out, right over his back. Then I put my leg over his back and moved it around, sort of like playing Hokey Pokey over his back. "You put your left foot put your left foot out". I was playing Friendly game with my leg and foot on his back.

He looked at me with a "No worries!' kind of look. It looked it was a go. No tail swishing. No head up. Eyes soft. Ears kind of soft and floppy. From his point of view, I was just scratching him again, only with my foot and leg.

No time like the present. Take it when it's offered. I swung my leg over and put some weight on him, right on his back! I continued to hold onto the fence. I wanted a safe and easy way off if things got explosive. But they didn't. It was "No worries. No big deal." I had my leg over Apache!

People, that's a first. This afternoon is the first time I've been even close to being on top of my wild child. It's a red letter day! and now it's marked on every calendar I have. I PUT WEIGHT ON TOP OF MY COLT WITHOUT MY FEET ON THE GROUND!

I didn't push it. I only stayed up there for 10 seconds or so. And from his point of view it was no big deal...just another day, waiting to go out and getting some extra loving and scratching first.

Hats off to you Pat Parelli and your wonderful, articulate wife, Linda! I've done what I didn't think I could do with Patch.

I'm still taking him to a trainer next year when he's four, but in the meantime, we're making some real headway together. Hopefully training under saddle will go easier on him with all the extra, easy, easy, easy does it time that we're taking.

"Take the time that it takes, so it takes less time." I love that quote. It's my new mantra. We always do our best not to get too monkey brained around here...too direct line. I'm getting closer and closer to thinking like a horse and they have no time oriented goals.

After our little 10 second escapade, I went on over the fence to let them out, just like it was no big deal to throw my leg over Patch. I asked them to move back a bit, using driving from zone one (in front). They all stepped back with no questions asked and waited politely while I took down the bars. Each of them stopped to touch me with their nose, even Willow, 250 pound queen of the pasture (with 2000 pounds of attitude!).

And that was the start to the second half of their day.

I danced a victory dance all the way inside! WOOHOO!

It doesn't get any better than that!

Nancy, head thrown back and laughing!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lost and Found...

I'm back! Truth is, I lost my way in the vast inner spaces of the Internet. I forgot to write down my address, more the fool I! But since my audience is still a bit limited, I only have to blush (virtually, mind you) in front of a few people.

September is flying past. It always does. It's one of my favorite months of the year. Getting over the hump of August is such a huge relief. How could I not love September? Today it's in the low 70's and the temperature will drop until it's in the 50's. What a change from the last time I wrote. It was over 100 that day.

And it's raining too. I love the rain. Always have. But September rains are the best. They're still warm enough to go for a walk in. And since I now have my official farm boots, I can get as muddy as I want to!

We started our training back up with the horses at the end of August. It was a long Summer this year with all of the health issues that Lucky had (laminitis from the Spring grasses). Lucky has corrective shoes on now that have given him a great deal of relief from the pain. He's even foxtrotting again! That's huge.

We've been going over to the arena every day. All three of our herd love their time there. It's a nice long walk down the drive, playing games all the way. And then two or three hours of grazing in the arena and work afterwards. On the way home to their paddock, we get to play more games. So it's a whole morning every day of concentrated time with Lucky (my sorrel colored foxtrotter), Apache (my bay colored curly) and Willow (my miniature donkey). After that I groom them and put a bit more hay out until it's time to turn them out for the afternoon.

All three of them are glowing with health. And they greet me at the gate every morning, pushing each other out of the way to be first in line for loves and pats before the morning begins.

Yesterday we had a bit of an adventure. I went out to feed them their grain and get them ready for the arena and found the southwest wall and corner of Patch's stall pushed so far out of place the there was a gap of more than eight inches. I could see the house from the inside of the stall!

I couldn't find any real hoof marks in the wall, so I'm guessing that they were in there playing around (our stalls open onto the paddock so they can come and go at will) and someone pushed the other into the wall and, with 2 horses wieghing a total of more than 2000 lbs bouncing off of the wall, it just gave.

John wasn't home so I had to find a solution to the gap in the wall by myself. The funny part was watching the horses figure out how to open the stall door from the outside. Their curiosity overcame any need for hay or grain. All food was abandoned while they tried to figure out how to come in and watch me fit boards into a slanting gap in a wall. There were all kinds of lovely things to steal and run off with...hammer, nails, boards, a screw driver, my gloves. It was a bonanza of things to do!

They tag teamed me on that one too. Lucky got the bottom door open first. He came in and tapped me on the shoulder. "Hi Ma! Guess who? Can I play too?"

Oh well. It was another opportunity to use my Parelli skills. I backed him out of the stall, all the while keeping Apache and Willow out of the way. No worries. And turned back to the job at hand...

I managed to get the nails that were sticking out pulled from the wall and KAchunk! The door was open again. This time it was Apache. But his goal wasn't to touch me. He counted coup by dragging off the hammer, out into the paddock and then standing on it. "What a ya think of that?!"

Of course, when I went out to retrieve the hammer, Lucky went in to knock the board over that I had leaning against the wall, ready to fill the gap. Sigh! This was definitely a tag team operation and I was it!

What to do? What to do? It was too early to let them out onto the pasture. Autumn grasses are too rich to allow that, especially since the episode this past Spring with Lucky. I use the shed stall I was trying to repair to put one of them in when I'm taking them over to the arena, one at a time. So that was out. And the barn stall is too small to put all of them into (barn stall is 12 x 12 and the shed stall is 12 x 16...much bigger!).

I was stuck. I had to keep going. The morning was going to be what it was going to be. By the end of the morning, Lucky had opened the door into the stall 4 times, Patch 3 times and even Willow got into the act. She managed to get it open once too. After a while it was just easier to let them come in to watch, keeping all the tools in my pockets or bringing them in one at a time from outside the paddock. It took much longer than it should have to complete my repairs. It was past lunch time before I was finished.

Turned out that the post slanted one way...the wall slanted another way and the floor mats were pushed out of place and into the gap too. (Floor mats are nearly 100 lbs each and very hard to pick up) I ended up using three boards I found in the discard pile. They were all warped. I used the warp to fill up the crooked gap, one on top of the other.

Those old boards and the post in the corner of the shed are very hard and thick. And I'm not. My hands and arms still hurt from the pounding. But I completed the mission. The gap, easily big enough for a horse to get his leg and hoof stuck in it, was filled.

Are we having fun yet? YOU BET! I love every single, sweaty, frustrating, overwhelming moment that I spend out there with them. And I love the challenge of reading and practicing before I go out to train them too...not to mention the actual time spent training them and me too.

Being a cowgirl suits me just fine!

later gaters! Nancy, laughing!