Friday, 24 August 2012

Bitless Sucess

For almost two years now, since Jimmy came down, we've been searching for the perfect headgear for him.  He came down in a sidepull which didn't work for him in the slightest.  He ignored you in it.  So we tried him in a snaffle.  He hated it, the head tossing was non-stop and he was doing everything he could to evade it.  We tried a french-link snaffle but the same thing happened.  So we put him in a curb.  That worked, for a while.  Then it was a curb with a roller.  After a while it became apparent he didn't like that.  So we went back to a snaffle and that was a disaster.  I wasn't really comfortable with trying out bits other than snaffles or curbs because I don't know enough about them and I'm not about to put something I don't understand how it works in my horse's mouth.  So we haven't been riding him much as we've been working on the mounting block issue and we didn't have anything to ride him in.

Then we were at our tack shop, looking at bits when we noticed they had a bitless bridle.  I knew they carried them but they'd always been sold out when we were there.  After a lot of mulling it over, my mom decided to buy it.  It came with a free dvd to show results with other horses, how to put it on and how it functions. 

Honestly, we didn't get our hopes up.  We much think a lot of him, but we were paranoid we owned the one horse the bitless bridle wouldn't work on.  Really, I love Jimmy but nothing would surprise me at this point. 

We went out last night, late so we could hopefully try out the bridle without a lot of people there.  It took a while to fit it to his head, and he wasn't too happy with us fiddling around his head but finally it was ready.  My mom took him in the arena, took him up to the mounting block and instantly all that work we've done with the mounting block was forgotten.  He wouldn't stand still.  Another girl, J, was riding and offered to show us something her trainer had taught her.  We agreed and wow, it worked so well.  When he moved away, she got on his case, majorly and made him move away.  She had to do it once and she stood for mounting and dismounting for the rest of the night.

Anyway, once my mom was on him, the change was immediate.  He fought it but it was more half-hearted than anything, as if out of habit.  His ears were forward the whole ride, he looked so much happier.  His turns would make any barrel racer start drooling.  He stopped on a dime (something which took a lot of pulling and saying whoa with the bit).  He backed up.  I didn't even realize he knew how to back up.  It wasn't exactly straight, but he backed up. 

To see the difference, I made my mom put the bit back in him.  I was ashamed with myself for not seeing how unhappy he was in it until now.  I knew he didn't like it, but you can see just how much he hates the bit.  I filmed both reactions so I'll be sure to put them up here once I have them on my computer. 

I'm so happy to have found something he seems to like.  We're also going to try Socks in it, and one day Artemis.  I honestly have nothing against bits but if you have an alternative that works, why not try it out?

This is like the one we have, except ours is brown nylon.  They didn't have any leather ones, and we wanted to make sure it worked before buying a more expensive leather one.

And now on to the ninja horses.  In one of my last posts I mentioned how Artemis and Jimmy both managed to get out of the grass pens.  We went over every single post and board, pushing on them but none werre loose.  So they were banished from it.  Well we went to put Socks in and as we were closing the gate, it spooked her and she ducked her head, dropped her hind end down and managed to get under the boards.  I was convinced that the horses were too tall to go under it, but they proved me wrong.  They will no longer be going in the grass pens. 

We're going out this weekend to try Jimmy in the bitless bridle again.  I just hope he still likes it.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Feet Day

It's been very good horse-wise for the past little bit.  We've only been out twice since I blogged last but a lot has happened.
Feet Day:
Last Saturday was feet day.  My brother came down to do their feet.  My mom and I went to the stable before him and his girlfriend just to get the horses ready.  They were supposed to give us an hour (it's a 45 minute drive to the stable) and then leave to come join us...We were waiting for over two hours with them.  That's the problem with having your brother as your farrier, he'd never be late like that for an outside client, but because I'm family it doesn't bother him, although it certainly bothers me.
We caught Jimmy and Artemis, and while Jimmy was getting his feet done, Artemis was out in a grass pen eating grass.  It wasn't the usual grass pen, you can see it from the barn door and it's really just a normal turn-out pen, so the electric fence is hooked up.  I went to hang out with her for a while. 
While I was, one of the new boarders brought his horse over, an absolutly gorgeous Polish Arabian/Egyptian Arabian (cool cross huh?) gelding over to meet Artemis.  My insanely friendly horse, who on the way to the barn, had stopped to try and meet this exact horse, was suddenly all shy and trying to hide behind me.  However, when I went over to meet the horse and his owner, she came with me.
He came over pretty much just to tell me how beautiful Artemis is.   I always feels like I'm bragging when I say things like that but that's what our conversation was.  He loved her and she of course played the part of the sweet, attention-loving little girl.  It was a different story when she was getting her feet done though.
Jimmy was great with his feet.  Artemis was horrible.  However, we at least figured out why.  She doesn't like my brother handling her feet.  If my mom or I do, she stands.  If Alex does it, she throws a fit.  So we tricked her into thinking my mom was holding her feet when it was really Alex.  Now we're going to try to get other people at the barn to start handling her feet more, since obviously other people need to be able to do them.  We already have one volunteer.
Socks was good until her last foot.  She has a cut on that foot and it was obviously bothering her.  She let him trim her foot and clean out her sole, and then she was done.  We didn't push it since she was telling us as clearly as she could she just couldn't have her foot up anymore.
And to end feet day, Jimmy attacked Artemis.  A full-blown attack.  While Socks was having her feet done, Jimmy and Artemis were in the grass turn-out pen together.  As a side note, I do want to say that they have been in together many, many times since she was born.  We put all three of the horses in together all the time, or sometimes just Socks and Artemis, or just Jimmy and Artemis.
I am not sure what went wrong.  My mom looked out the door at them and Jimmy was chasing Artemis around the pen.  That was, strange, but not really upsetting.  We kept watching.  He started biting her and at this point I was getting ready to intervene.  Then he chased her into the corner at the gate, turned around and started kicking her with both hind legs.  Not just once, he probably got her a good eight or ten times in the time it took me to come racing from the barn to pen, yelling at him to quit.  By the time I reached the gate he had chased her to the other end of the pen.  I grabbed Artemis' rope just in case he didn't stop when I entered the pen. 
Luckily Jimmy stopped as soon as I opened the gate.  He came trotting over to me and I chased him off.  He then went to my mom and she chased him off.  He stood in the corner looking like an ashamed little boy, although I'm sure he wasn't.  Artemis came right over to me and I caught her and brought her into the barn to check her over.
Her hair was messed up where he kicked her but she wasn't actually hurt and it hadn't broken the skin.  I walked her out but she was fine, mostly just a little scared.  We put her in the pasture and went back to Jimmy.  We checked him over to see if he had any marks but he didn't.  He was still acting like an ashamed little boy.  We put him back in his pen.
I still can't figure out what made him so angry.  I mean, I realize horses will be horses and get angry with each other, but driving her into the corner and kicking her like that is too much.  That's where a horse gets severely injured.  I would have been just as upset if Socks had done that to him.
I'm not really sure where to go from here.  I think we'll slowly introduce them to being together again, with supervision.  They definitly won't be left alone anytime soon.
I was going to write about both days but this is already pretty long so I'll split it into two posts.  Next time, we tried out a bitless bridle with Jimmy and we solved the mystery of the ninja horses, thanks to Socks.

Friday, 17 August 2012

My Horse is a Ninja

I think Artemis has a double life as a ninja.  She's doing everything in her power to convince us of it.  More on that later though.  First, I got photoshop and it's amazing thing in the world.  I'm having way too much fun playing with its effects. 

Sommer came down last weekend.  It's the first time I've seen her since Christmas.  I honestly cannot believe how tall she's gotten.  I miss the days when twelve-year-olds were short.  We had a very busy weekend but we managed to get out to the ponies twice.  It was the first time she'd met Artemis and I'm 99.9% sure she loved her.  She wanted to do a lot with her, which was ha65rd because two days before she came up, Sev bucked Sommer off and she cracked her shoulder.  So she was in a sling.  We matched, two blond girls in matching slings.  If I hear one more joke about it I'm going to go insane.

She was very excited to see Socks and Jimmy, she hasn't seen them since they came down almost two years ago.  (I cannot believe it's already been that long!).  I think she was most excited to see Jimmy, which was strange and refreshing.  Family members (okay she's not technically family but she's close enough!) usually only spend their time criticising and making fun of him.  It was nice for someone to be happy to see him.  And he was the perfect gentlemen.  He stood for all the hugs she wanted to give him.

Training wise everything is going as well as I could hope.  Socks has finally accepted the fact that she cannot run everywhere like she'd love to with my mom riding her.  Artemis has had the saddle and bridle on twice, working on leading, standing at the mounting block and neck reining from the ground.  She's getting a vacation from the saddle for  awhile now.  

Jimmy is being amazing with his training.  We're mostly focusing on him standing next to the mounting block quietly and calmly.  He's been spending a lot of time in the round pen.  First we started by just doing the motion of getting on him, lifting your leg.  Well yesterday we brought in the stool to the round pen to work with that.  We didn't even have to round pen him.  He stood beside it for as long as we wanted him to.  So we took him to the outdoor arena and the mounting block in there.  He stood perfectly.  To really test him we brought him in the indoor arena.  He moved away from it there but seriously after two minutes, he was standing beside it perfectly.  Now the question is, will he do it again?  I guess we'll find out.

In the round pen.
In the outdoor arena.
In the indoor arena.
Okay now about Artemis being a ninja.  As I said in my last post, Artemis escaped while they were moving the pasture horses.  They're not entirely sure how, since she can't fit under the fence but we're 90% sure she didn't jump it.  Well, she got out again yesterday.  And apparently taught Jimmy how to as well.  Her and Socks were in the grass pens while we worked with Jimmy.  My mom went out to get the stool from the round pen and finds little Miss Artemis outside the pen.  She let my mom grab her halter but there was a lesson going on in the outdoor and the trainer had her dog, a giant Great Dane.  Well as soon as Artemis saw the door she was terrified.  Luckily my mom caught her and brought her in the barn.  We put Jimmy in the pen with Socks while we put Artemis away.  When we got back, there was Jimmy, outside the pen, eating. 

We have no idea how they did it.  We checked the pens, there's no broken boards, no holes.  We even tried to get Jimmy to walk under it but he pulled the "No way, I am not doing that!"  He's taller than the boards anyway though, I can't see him being able to walk underneath it.  My only guess is they're somehow managing to crawl, in some weird horse way.  I might never know, but they lost the privilege to be out there if we can't sit with them.

To end this post, Artemis is finally over 14 hands.  She's just below 14.1 hands and is exactly one had shorter than her mother.  Two more inches and she's the same size as Jimmy.  I was ridiculously excited.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

100th Post

I am actually surprised at how long it's taken me to reach 100 posts.  All I ever do is talk about my horses, apparently I don't feel the need to write about them as much.  Anyway, here it is, my 100th post!

Yesterday was Artemis day.  We did a lot with her, especially considering all I had planned to do with her was lead her around a bit.  I've healed enough to be able to lead her around a bit, so while my mom rides that's usually what I do.  The first time I had to remind her she does have to listen to me, apparently she forgot.

We decided to put the bit in her and get her used to having that in.  She chewed it, a lot but that was expected.  After a while L really wanted to see her with the english saddle on so we decided to put it on.  She was great.  One of the things we're working on with her is standing at the mounting block quietly while I stand on it.  It's going very well.  She doesn't move.  Yesterday I put my leg on the saddle and nothing.  I put some weight in the stirrup and she stood perfectly.  Hopefully by the time both of us are ready for her to be ridden, she won't have a problem with any of it.  Fonda was like that and I hope to get her the same way.

While watching my mom ride I decided to try something out I'd read in one of my dad's old Western Horseman magazines from the 70's/80's.  It was about teaching a yearling to neck rein from the ground.  It's very similar to teaching them when on them, only modified a little bit.  Artemis did great.  I pulled the reins against her neck, and them put slightly more pressure on the inside rein, if I wanted her to turn to the inside.  At first she thought I wanted her to back up but after a few tries she understood.  She'd take a step and I'd let her stop and pet her.  I was also able to get her to back up very easily from rein pressure and telling her to back up.
After my mom finished riding we took Artemis and Jimmy for a walk.  We're trying to reinforce proper leading with them so we take them on walks around the stable.  She was good until we put Jimmy in the pen to eat grass and led her away.  She didn't like that but she calmed down pretty quickly.

To finish the day we unsaddled her and then led her into the wash rack.  We didn't wash her off, I'm just happy right now if she'll stand in it quietly.  And she did.  She snorted a lot and smelled the rubber mats but she was fine.  I didn't want to fry her mind though so we ended the day there.  She was a superstar.  Beware of bragging, but I can't believe how easy-going and good-minded she is.  She's okay with anything I do to her, she might not like it, but she's willing to try it out.

Apparently she had a little escapde on Sunday.  We weren't there but T and E told us all about it.  They're haying at the stable and they needed to get all the tractors through the pasture where Artemis and the other pasture horses are.  So they wouldn't escape they wanted to put them in the field beside the outdoor arena.

They led most of the horses and figured the young ones, Artemis and Ebony would follow, since they usually are happy enough to follow behind their herd.  I'm actually a little foggy on the details and need to ask T again to explain it all to me, but Artemis decided not to follow.  She had a little run around the farm before going in the field.  Then, a while later, S, one of the boarders, came running up to T's house to tell them that a horse had gotten out. 

Yeah, somehow Artemis managed to get out, breaking a railing while she was at it.  She had another run around the stable, and in the parking lot before S caught her.  Then Miss Artemis spent the night in the round pen alone feeling shame. 

S caught Artemis I guess because T and E were a little nervous to.  I find it amusing, they've known Artemis since she was born but really, I can't blame them.  They know we lead her but they've never actually seen how she is to lead.  They can't afford to get hurt and I'd be horrified if Artemis or the other two hurt them.  Next time I see S though, I'm going to have to thank her and ask how Artemis was for her.  No one besides my family has ever led her so I hope she was good.