Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snowy Days

This is Patch! I think you've met him on my blogs before. Well, HE is at the top of my poop list right now.

He's my escape ar-teest.

See the loafing shed and paddock behind him? He frequently checks the door to that paddock with his muzzle, trying to slide it sideways. Once out, he'll even go to the stall door right beside it, and slide that door open to check for any goodies that might be in there, or to let the resident horse out. Currently, Cricket the foundered horse is in there and even with the door open, she's not going anywhere.

I'm forgetful! And go in and out that paddock door often. Sometimes he does get lucky and finds that I've forgotten to latch it. He got lucky the other night just before we went to bed. It was bitterly cold out. Of course.

The dogs were barking their heads off and Rich went out to see what was up. There were a couple donkey's in the front yard headed for the road. All the others where headed down the dead-end (thank goodness) road. The 3 P's - Pearl, Peach, Patch, the two mini mules, Trudy and Mouse, and Harley the moxy mini horse, with Spencer bringing up the rear.

They looked like a little parade of breeds, sort of. I wish I had gotten a picture. It was pretty cute to see little Harley's tiny rump swinging as he clip-clopped down the road next to Spencer's great big rump bumping along.

Rich and I jumped in the gator and went in hot pursuit after the little group of escapees.

When they heard us closing in on them, they turned off the road and went frolicking around in the neighbor's yard whinnying "Whoo hoo!" to each other. There was snow on the ground and they were slipping and sliding, bucking and farting and in general having an "Equines on the loose party!" Except Spencer. He just seemed confused.

But when they realized their escape wouldn't produce any greener grass for them, they turned to the alfalfa in the back of the gator and followed us home.

That was Spencer’s first escape. When he initially came here to live, I had nightmares of him getting out - a giant, agressive stallion, tearing around the neighborhood, kicking and biting all the little children who ran out to greet the big horsy.

Well, it’s finally happened, but he’s no longer a stallion and it was after dark so no kids running around, thankfully. He is still unruly at times, but a friendlier giant than before. He seemed unsure about why they were all traipsing down the road without a human in the around, so he just kind of followed Pearl's lead, the psycho Arab.

Rich’s comment was, “Oh good, two skitsos (sp) running around loose together. That’s great.” He sees the positive side of most situations like that:0)

Well, that was then. Today, everyone is safe and sound and enclosed.

(Pearl and Spencer are a couple now.)

This is Spencer’s feeding station. He is fed separately from the other horses normally because he has different nutritional requirements (he eats a hell of a lot more than the others) and he is a bully at feeding time.

This is a good plan for him also because he is very claustrophobic and has issues with going through narrow passage ways. If he has to go between two objects (the squeeze game for Parellites) he freaks out a bit and moves very fast and sometimes slides or trips over his hind feet.

(This is the paddock doorway that Spencer has to come through to get to his food and the one they all left through on that exciting evening.)

He’s a big uncoordinated boy. Is that a draft thing? He’s not real nimble on his feet when he has to move quickly. Forrest is half Clydesdale and he actually moves with the skills of a talented quarter horse, but then his not as big boned as Spencer either.

Anyway, we’ve been having fun in the Winter Wonderland, we call, the Rainier Hoof Recovery Center!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Quiet Times

Spencer, just hanging out.

Not much to report with Spencer these days. I’ve been super busy and our grandkids were visiting over Thanksgiving weekend. (Did you notice the mini mule tucked under Spencer's neck in the photo? That's Minnie Mouse. There is a story about her on my website. She's quite a gal! She came here over a year ago with similar personality issues that Spencer has! An after shot of Mouse is on the homepage.)

Spencer has had a few human visitors and has tried to nip each one. One lady was smart and offered him a couple treats and he thought she was okay after that.

Since I haven’t had time to play with him much lately, he reverted back a bit to that nippy boy with the bad attitude that he came here with. I swear, you really have to stay with these horses that come with emotional baggage. Just when you feel like you’re making huge progress, they let you know that their past experiences are always just under the surface.

Still, I know we’ve made progress!

I had to get after him a couple times for agression, and I lost ground in the trust department for a few days. This is a horse who is very sensitive, yet kind of a bully. He gets sad, he pouts, holds a grudge, his emotions are so incredibly human-like. I guess it's true for all animals though, if you pay attention and notice them. But most especially dogs and horses probably because they live so close to us. Bird people say the same about them, and I've seen it with my sister's birds.

Anyway, as soon as we spend more time with each other again, I’ll take pictures and keep you posted.

Just feeding him these days and keeping weight on that ginormous ribcage has been challenging. I have to feed him so much more than the others it’s just amazing. He’s like feeding 3 or 4 normal sized horses.

Oh, Rich finally got around to fixing the fence rail that Spencer kicked out a while back because of this!

Boomer got his big ol' head is stuck in the fence! He's lucky I found him a soon as I did because his fuzzy little butt was exposed for any of the other horses to take a crack at...excuse the pun.

Boomer likes to stick his head were it doesn’t belong. If we put fence panels up he constantly rearranges them which drives me nuts!

More soon! I promise! Thanks for staying with us.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Spencinator On Video

I apologize for not posting anything about the Spenster in awhile. I get busy and get behind on the blogs. Not too much exciting news to report. He's been spending some leisure time lately, just hanging out with the other horses and feeling more comfortable with his "normal-horse" life. Oddly, he and Forrest (the one horse who is nearly his same size) are not getting along all that well lately, but they are pastured together with almost all the other equines now. The two of them got into a big hindleg confrontation which seemed to end in mutual respect for each other. Amazing to see two such big horses battling it out. It didn't last but a half minute, but the noise was deafening! I wish I would have had my camera! But I was screaming at them to STOP! STOP! STOP! Like I was going to put a stop to those two big boys going at it. It's something they had to get through and now they are being civil to each other. Spencer is so sweet and cordial to the other smaller geldings. He allows them to move him out of his food without a ruckus, unless he's really hungry. He's a bit of a chauvinist with the mares though. Mares don't get the same tender courtesy as the geldings. Go figure. Anyway, I took a couple videos a few days ago when I was out in the pasture goofing around with the camera. Do you remember that Spencer ran untouched in a field for 2 years because no one could catch him? I didn't mean to be a smartass in this video, but I guess I kind of am. I'm such a dork in this, but I still had to show you. I just can't help wondering why he was so challenging in the past. You can hear my hubby and our neighbor, Jim, working on the fences. They've been doing an awesome job.

Yes, his front foot was bothering him when I took this. I think he has another abscess brewing. But I'm still not making much headway with hoof handling. I figure if we work on it a bit every few days (that's all the time I get for him) and while we work on other things, the hooves and the trust that goes with allowing me to work on his hooves will come together. For now, he's maintaining his feet on his own as he always has. If his hooves ever were trimmed in the past, as I were told they were on a regular basis, he had to have been forced into cooperating, because he offers no cooperation willingly. So either most of what happened in his past was completely fabricated, or I don't want to guess what they put this guy through to get him to cooperate. On another note! Do you remember how I couldn't get near him while he ate his food? He would try to bite and kick me. Check this out? This boy is an eating machine! You can see, I'm still a bit jumpy around him at times. But he's getting SO MUCH BETTER!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is that Trigger?

Well, the big guy has been really busy for the past few days. I have so much to fill you in on and so many pictures to share!
So he had been behaving like a pretty bad boy. The last post was about busting the fence and my concerns about working with him while he’s eating.

The fence rail he kicked out when I touched him on the shoulder while he was eating. Dude! (And I don't say "Dude" very often, but...) Dude! I'm so thankful I was not on his side of the fence when he reacted!
And he also did THIS when he got into a fight with Forrest during which he gave Forrest a big fat hock!

So for the last 4 days, we've been busy! I worked with him on the food issues, and using a suggestion from Kacy, (thank you so much) I brought a wheelbarrow load of hay and grain into the arena then brought him in with me and we both came upon the food together!

The things I did to work up to that and then taking him to the food, made a huge difference in his eating behavior.

And we did some ground work! This tarp was very scary at first!

You can kind of see how bad his feet still are. We worked on picking up his feet as well. He's making some progress. I'm certain he's never had his hooves trimmed in his life. He has no clue as to how to pick up his hooves. He's like a baby whose never had his hooves handled before.

LOOK...where I'm standing! Woo hoo!!

I'm so excited to be taking a picture from this angle. He's like, "I will allow it this once." What a pill.

Really, I've discovered that he enjoys being fussed over. Initially, I couldn't get close to him with a brush in my hand. He acted like it was a weapon. Isn't that sad! And NUTS! Now he loves it. I'd like to think that when he was a baby, someone pampered him a little bit and the memory of that is returning. (making stuff up in my head again...)

I spent some time brushing him and working on his horribly tangled tail. He seemed to like that. His trust meter is really climbing! I'm so proud of him.

We were doing so well, that I figured we need to take it to the next level and what else could I do than pull out Forrest's draft saddle to see what he thought about that. He can buck!

What's this?
You think you're going to put it where?

The pad is accepted without much fuss.
Now how the heck do I get this heavy thing, clear up there? (His hind leg looks relaxed doesn't it? I wonder... :0)

It wasn't easy, but I got the heavy saddle on his back. I carried it around on my head for awhile, trying to figure it out, then I had to stand on a mounting block to git r' done. Now all I have to do is attach the girth on and cinch up!
Trigger...on steriods!

Here he is, all cinched up! The bucking fest is over. (Sorry no pictures of that, I was busy saving my life.) He just got a little excited. Then I let him hang out and eat hay with the saddle on. He got comfortable with it. Then he became frightened of it when I went to take it off. It fits really well, but taking it off took some imagination to get done safely. For that, once again, I put a fence between us. It's not that he's so much worse than other horses when he gets reactive in situations like this, just so much bigger when he does react. It's like avoiding an earthquake! You can't really!=0) So it's best not to be find yourself in the same region when it happens.

I've been worried about his teeth so last night, our friends from Performance Equine Dentistry stopped in on their way home to give my big buddy a once over. Dick and Kathy Vetter are awesome. They even gave me a deduction as a donation toward Spencer's rehabilitation.

It was getting dark by the time we got started. Spencer was pretty good, but not the easiest patient Dick has done, or the biggest (but we had to work on him outside their clinic trailer) Even after he was sleepy, he was a bit of a giant snapping turtle. We'll work on his behavior with others. So far, he can only handle one human at a time.

I told Dick he deserved an award for getting this guy done. He said, "No, you deserve an award if you can make a good horse out of this guy." Thanks Dick! I will.

I've heard that horses won't purposely hurt people they like. I think it's better to say, horses won't purposely hurt people they trust. I'm getting the feeling that he no longer wants to hurt me. Once we get past that, then we can really go to work on somethings.

It will take time to let him know that all humans can be trusted. He just had some bad luck with a few in the past. I keep saying, he seems like such an unhandled horse, but I know also that he was handled, but over-handled when he was.

He just doesn't trust people and is so accustomed to being bad when he didn't have a studchain on his face and being good when he did because of the amount of pain that could be inflicted on him if he stepped out of line.

That's the horse I met, a few months ago. I've only used a rope halter on him. I was leading him back to the pasture today and it was like leading a tame pony. I flashed back on the enraged bull elephant that I was leading (with 2 leadropes) from the stall to the paddock early on. What a difference!

So this afternoon, I brushed his tail completely out! While he was eating!

Friends who have met Spencer and who know how lazy I can be, and who saw that his tail was one thick mat when I brought him home, threatened to shoot me if I cut if off! Still, I thought about it.

But I didn't. I spent several hours on it and well, it was so worth it...don't you think?

Back out with his friends! What a moose!

Thanks everyone for your support and suggestions! As you can see, I listen to each one and find what works!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Focus on the Good Stuff!

So a few posts ago, I exposed a comment that wasn't very nice. I did that because I wanted that rude person to know that I wasn’t the only one who could see how mean-spirited he/she is. That was a negative thing for me to do. I get one mean comment and put it out there for all to read and comment on.

Why am I not highlighting one of the many gracious, positive, kind-hearted and thoughtful comments? Those are the comments that are way more meaningful and helpful to me.

All the wonderful comments sent to my blog touch me in a special way and I’m so flattered that some of you take the time to tell me how you feel I’m doing with Spencer and my other rescues. So! Here is a posted comment that really made me feel great!

bhm has left a new comment on your post "Fittin' In!":

Poor, sweet little Arab. I’m very happy that you have her. Love your collection of equines. I have a soft spot for donkeys and their cute little faces and fuzzy ears.

Wow, Spencer is really doing well. You’ve done a great training job that most trainers wouldn’t have attempted. Spencer is well on his way to discovering his inner cuddle-pony. I knew it was in there somewhere.

I can’t believe that some idiot sent you that horrible post. You look really cute in your photos with Spencer so I guess they are just jealous. Besides, there are many of us who know what a beautiful spirit you truly are.

That's so uplifting to read! And the best part of that comment was that she too feels there is an "inner cuddle-pony" in Spencer somewhere just waiting to be let out.

I think that very same thing! Even as aggressive as he can be sometimes. I know I just have to find the right way to get to his "inner cuddle-pony"

Horses like Spencer remind us of how we tend to take our wonderfully tame and accepting horses for granted. While they are lose in the field or munching on hay, I can walk behind my other horses without fear of getting sent to the moon. I can run my hand across their bottom and rub and pet them and they are fine with me being so close.

To give you an idea of what Spencer is capable of, I have to share a “long” story of what happened with him just yesterday afternoon.

I’ve mentioned his food aggression in past posts. He will allow me to deliver the food, but then I’d better leave the area, quickly and quietly with no attempts at touching him. I’ve been feeding him with the other horses and spending extra time cuddling with them so he can see that. It sounds silly and maybe it is, but I feel that horses can learn from watching. They pick-up bad habits from each other!

I have so many questions about him. What would cause a horse to become this way? Did humans make him this way? Was he born like this? Or did other horses do this to him? Why does he let Patch eat hay with him, when I’ve seen him kick the tar out of his best mare for trying to share hay with him? It’s confusing and I’m always having to work at reading him, which has been a real learning experience for me. I love it!

Grade school teachers might complain about the difficult kids in their class, but those are the kids they gain the most teaching experience from, don't you think?

We learn the most from the difficult horses too. Pearl was a wonderful teacher for me. I learned so much from her, as frustrating as those lessons were.

So yesterday, I decided to work with Spencer on this very dangerous behavior of his. He was in the paddock just inside the board fence. The fence-rails are hefty 2x6’s and are fastened to the posts with 3.5” lag bolts. [Not nails. Bolts! My hubby has skills...and fence building is one of them;0]

I put grain in to a tub and pushed it to him under the bottom rail of the fence. He started eating. I knelt down and chatted with him and reached through the fence to give him a scratch on the shoulder. The second he felt my hand on his shoulder, he kicked out with his hind leg so hard that he split the fence rail like it was made of balsa wood, and one of the lag bolts shot out and landed on the ground next to me along with several splinters of wood.


(If right here, you’re wondering if he has vision problems. No, I don’t think so, but I’ve thought of that as well.)

Yes, I may have surprised him a little. I agree, his reaction was way over the top and smarter people than me would likely see that reaction and go get their gun and be done with him.

But let me explain. I did this in a controlled manner. I was aware of his probable reaction and kept myself safe. I actually wanted him to react, because horses, like humans, learn from mistakes. I’m aware of what he’s capable of, still the power of that kick surprised me a little bit.

In the past, the human response to this behavior would likely have been to try hitting him as punishment. Which, in my opinion, would only convince a challenging horse like him that humans can’t be trusted and next time he should try to be more accurate with his aim.

I was impressed with his powerful leg and rather than get excited or chase him or raise a hand to him, I simply pulled the tub of grain back under the fence and looked at him. And he looked at me. I'm sure, in wonder of my reaction. No fuss, no yelling or jumping, or running at him with a whip.

Just oops! That little outburst just cost you something you really like.

For one, I think whacking that board as hard as he did, might have hurt a little bit. I hope so anyways...:0)

For another, the response to his behavior was immediate. The food disappeared. That’s way more effective and immediate than trying to wallop him. A tactic that isn't fast enough to make a point, if I could even reach him. And that’s what he’s accustomed to - the lame and absurd responses of humans to his temper tantrums.

Now if I was an alpha mre and could nail him in his ass with both hind-cannons or attack him with a vicious hide-ripping bite...he would learn to respect me. The problem with that is he’d also be fearful of me. So that won’t serve my purposes either. (Besides, putting him with with vicious horses in an attempt to humble him has been tried and well, I can't see that it helped him much, just left a bunch of scars on his handsome body.)

Horses know we are weak compared to them, and horses that have been beaten quickly figure out that we are nothing, when we approach without a weapon in our hands. Spencer knows this too, and yes, he sometimes challenges me when I attempt to approach him unarmed.

Back to yesterday. After losing the food, he allowed me to reach over the fence and scratch and rub him. I didn’t punish him at all. I got a brush out and brushed him. (I touched him.)

Then I gave him his grain back. While he ate, I continued rubbing, scratching and brushing him. He was okay with me doing that. I acheived acceptance in one session, from the opposite side of the fence.

Because he’s so dangerous at times, much of my initial handling has been with a fence between us. With each lesson in acceptance, I come to his side of the fence. It’s just safer that way.

So yes! It’s happening. I don’t believe he needs to be put down. With every new learning experience, he seems to figure things out very fast, especially when I approach him with kindness rather than cruelty.

He gets kindness…and he doesn’t forget. If I thought there was no hope for him changing to a safe horse, I wouldn’t put a life or limb in jeopardy. I would (will) put him down. I want to someday, be able to get close to his bottom, while he's lose and eating, without the worry of getting kicked.

Because, I too, just know the inner-cuddle pony is there. I’m willing to bet my fences on it!:0)

Thank you again for all your encouraging words. Spencer and I just love you for it!


What I learned: When you expect a horse to "connect the dots" there can only be one or two.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fittin' In!

Just hanging with mah posse...

That's Pearl's mug. Seira Pearl is an 11 year old Polish Arab. She was rescued from an Arab breeder (gone broke) and not able to feed, or get water to it seemed, an entire herd of Arabs. She was 18 months old when I picked her up. Starved to bone and belly, and so scared out of her mind that if she heard herself fart, she'd be hanging from the barn rafters shaking like a leaf in the wind. I've tried to rehome her, but her scary past (and her propensity to choke) keeps her from fitting in anywhere else. So I've decided she will be our Pearl for the rest of her days.

Classy, a former founder case, is Spencer's new gal pal. And Harley, the mini appy likes to hang with the big guy too. Of course, Mini-mule Trudy makes sure no one messes with her man. Patch in the background on the left. He's a 12 year old retired reiner with arthritis in most his joints. And finally, Sweet Peach (my feed lot rescue) in the back.

With Minnie Mouse, and donkeys Boomer and Annie, that's my Equine Menagerie! Well, part of the group anyways:0) They all have stories of their own that I hope to share with you along with Spencer's journey.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Turned Out!

Last weekend I completed the last Hoof Trimming Clinic of the year and during that time, I had turned Little Jake in with Spencer. I was really surprised at how well they got along. Jake is a 3 year quarab who weighs in about 750 pounds, soak and wet, and he took charge! That was kind of weird, but nice. Spencer liked having a buddy in with him again.

This is Missy, my most patient teaching horse with her Azteca filly, Neenah. (Neenah was kind of an accident. Her story can be found on the Rainier Hoof Recovery Center blog.) My three students at this clinic are David, Leonard and Cora. All three did very well and I know will do a good job of trimming their own horses from here on out.

Then, on Monday, I just felt it was time.

Spencer was so good with Jake, that I figured he could get along okay with the others even the mares.

So I opened the gate and turned both he and Jake in with Pearl, Classy and Peaches, (all mares) and Forrest, and Patch and the minis. (Missy and baby Neenah and brother Danny were in a separate field, just in case. )

This picture was taken at just before the sun went down and so is kind of dark, but if you look closely you can see Spencer out with his herd.

That is Classy (Appy mare and founder rehab) in the foreground, Spencer, Forrest, Pearl (gray Arab mare) and Patch (QH ex-reinier with arthritis issues.) Peaches is in there somewhere too.

Most my horses are rescues of one sort or another and so this is their last home. The Rainier Hoof Recovery Center is mainly a santuary for horses with chronic lameness issues and we have started the process for becoming a non-profit organization. Very exciting!

So here is he! Former unhandled stallion, left in a field, alone, for 2 years to fend for himself. A few ah-hm, trainers were hired to try to catch him, but he out-smarted or buffaloed each one.

He's only been a gelding since August 5th, and he's eating politely next to a mare and in with several mares. How cool is that!

When I first turned them out together, there was lots of bellowing and striking and posturing. Spencer truely sounds like a bull-elephant when he calls out to other horses. Probably because he's been alone so much of his life, he's learned to make his voice carry. (I should record him and make that the ringtone on my cell phone. No more excuses for not hearing it.)

Or maybe he's just naturally loud. He's the size of an elephant afterall. I know he poops like one.

In this video, watch Harley, the appy mini, trying to posture and be important out there in the thick of it all. What the little guy lacks in size, he makes up for in moxy! He was a little stud for about ten years and was rescued from a really bad situation himself some years ago. He didn't conform very well, so he hangs out with us now!

That's Harley's girlfriend, Trudy, the mini mule. She's never far from her man! It's so interesting to me how, when you have this many horses, who "pair bonds" with whom. Usually one gelding to one mare, and usually of similar color.

Patch isn't very brave in situations like this. He's hiding behind me in the trees. But now he and Spencer are good friends. Spencer is a very gregarious horse really for one that was kept alone most of his young life. Interesting, huh.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some people are just plain mean.

I want to again, thank everyone of you who have been sending such kind and supportive comments about Spencer and his progress.

You make my whole year! You are all so awesome and it's been really fun going to your blogs and reading about your own wonderful accomplishements with your horses. There are so many very cool horse people in the world!!

Then today, I get this. I can't imagine someone would be dumb enough to post such an insulting comment and use a company name.

raystreeservice has left a new comment on your post "Getting Closer":

i can not keep from stooping to you alls level. i must say one is a camera hog and one is a hog . the one with the hat should not be in pictures. the flying monkeys have been released. " inside joke "

Well, I turned 53 a few days ago... I sure didn't need to hear that. But I'm sure this grammar-school reject is a super-model with loads of room to talk. And I know there are so many really cool people out there that outnumber jerks like this.

Anyway, for everyone else:

Yesterday, Spencer was finally turned out with all the other horses, mares included and he's doing great!

There was some posturing at first, but he's getting along really well. And since he's much easier to catch these days I'm not concerned about him being out with the others.

I'll up load some pictures (sans my face) as soon as I take them off the camera for those who are interested.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Getting Closer

Hey there! Spencer has been getting more trusting of me. It's been so fun playing with him. He seems to love the relationship we're building. He likes the play and the work and I feel like he just so wants to please.

So weird, how natural he is with the things I ask of him, considering no one offered him this type of opportunity that I know of. We were doing so well that I wanted to add this post about our progress, but there was no one around to take pictures. A post without pictures is kind of boring! So here are my attempts at getting a picture of the two of us together. Even funnier I think than a good shot taken by someone else!

What a camera hog!
He can still be a poop, but he's becoming less of a poop everyday. I had him jumping barrels, and he tripped up a couple times. I still haven't gotten to his hooves, but I'm getting closer. I can't imagine how he could move if he had good hooves under him. Well, soon we'll see!:-) I can brush him all over now, which was very scary for him at first. The brush was an object that he acted as if he had either never seen before or someone had beaten him with a horse brush!
He was so afraid at first! Or he'd become defensive and scare me!
But I picked out a very soft brush and once he's realized I'm not going to hurt him with it, he allows me to brush him all over his body. Just not when he's eating. I still can't get close to him during his meals, but that's coming. No rush.
I've just started sacking him out with a plastic bag. We'll be taking that very slowly considering it has caused him to leap in the air like a cat when I set it on the ground in front of him. He's a very large cat and I don't like being in the same zip code with him when he decides to pounce back down on the ground. Here's a video that I took today after playing at liberty. My little arena is too small for a horse his size. Soon I'll have my round pen put together and we'll be able to make more progress. Hey! Don't laugh at my silly voice!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's New With Spencer

We got back from our trip to Pagosa Springs on Tuesday. While we were gone, our friend who was critter-sitting for us, did nothing more with Spencer than feed him and offer him a carrot at the gate to his field from our back yard.

Since then, I've taken him into my small arena with me to start playing the Parelli Seven Games with him, (2 times) which is simply the foundation for a horse new to Natural Horsemanship.

He is doing so well, that today, I took him out into the yard to let him graze on-line. He really seemed to enjoy that. My being so close to him didn't seem to bother him at all.

Now when I go into his field, he runs from the opposite end (where there are other horses just across the road) down to see what I have for him.

When he leaves his paddock, he no longer just walks past me as if am of no importance to him as he's done in the past. He will actually stop and check-in with me to make sure I have nothing to offer before he walks away.

He still doesn't care to be brushed, but I think he is finally becoming interested in humans. So as his reward, you might notice something is missing from his face.

I was finally able to get that halter off today! And I'm not worried about how difficult it might be to get it back on.

I had some trouble getting if off before, because he'd try to bite my arm when I would reach up to untie the knot. And because it barely fits his head, the knot was at the very end of the head piece, making untying it difficult.

So he was patient with me today, to a point, and since I couldn't untie the knot out, he let me slip the halter off over his ears. That was nice because he hates his ears to be touched.
We have a long ways to go, but I'm getting a really good feeling that he's coming around, his testosterone is starting to settle out of his system and he appears to be gaining a little weight.

I kissed him on the forehead today. He seemed to like it, kind of. :0)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lost My Best Friend.

Well, Spence lost his buddy Forrest.

They had been getting along really well, even when I had them in the small paddock together. But a few days ago when they were in the play field, just the two of them, (always close-by each other) they got into a heated argument and Spencer won.

I was sitting here at my computer and I heard Spencer bellow... kind of like a pissed-off bull-elephant.

I blasted out of my chair to the back door to see them both across the field looking like two over-grown teen-age boys who'd just done something bad.

Then Forrest took a few lame steps. Spencer had kicked him in the flank and the stifle (not a good place to get a pissed-off bull-elephant.

So Spencer went into time-out in the paddock and Forrest went back to the field across the street with his girls. He has 3 mares in with him now. Classy, Cricket, and Pearl.

(I hate to keep horses in solitary confinement.)

That goofy horse! He's been alone in his pasture since then, but he can see Forrest from across the street.

I realize, Spencer was simply asserting himself, but I don't know why there was a sudden need to do that after a week together. And Forrest seemed to be the one taking charge in a non-combative fashion.

We are leaving for Pagosa Spring, Colorado, for the Annual Parelli Savvy Conference tomorrow. A good friend will be staying here while we're gone. So he will be keeping a close eye on things.

When we return from our trip, I'm going to begin playing with Spencer in a way that he's never experienced and I hope to start getting through to him. He's healed up from his surgery and seems to mellowing (a little bit) so we'll see how it goes. Life for him is going to change.

Rich and I seem to be the only ones who can enter his pasture and he'll behave himself. But even if someone he doesn't know is near his gate, he gets a bit stinkery. I can see how easy it would be to turn a horse with his history into a one-person horse after what he's been through with other humans. Including being ignored for a couple years. With only an occasional new weirdo-human entering his field to chase him around for hours (and in one case - days).

But at some point, I've got to get to those feet!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

People say the nicest things!

I’ve been receiving so many kind and supportive comments lately and I just want to say how much I appreciate all the votes of confidence and kudos! You make me feel so much better about taking on this "enormous" project when I have so many other projects at hand.

This comment is one from Cilla.

Hey pat,Well done on taking on such a gorgeous creature. I hope it works out for you both. I read your blog with great interest and bless you for doing this. May I politely suggest that you turn your body away from Spencer so your belly button isn’t facing him, and therefore putting pressure on him. Try standing sideways a little with your eyes away and softly focused and see if he puts his ears forward.
Thank you so much Cilla. That shows you know a thing or two about horse language and I sure appreciate the advice. We forget how important the little things are sometimes.

Any advice for dealing with a huge, unhandled former stallion, spoiled-rotten, (super-sensitive) over-handled elephant of a horse is welcome!

I just wanted to explain those pictures in my last post a bit better.

Turning your body away to relieve pressure on the horse is something I'm actually aware of and practice when I’m training. Just facing horses sometimes can be too much pressure as is illustrated in those pictures on the last post.

The pictures, however, weren't actually taken to illustrate me trying to connect with him. A friend had told me that I should get a picture with Spencer for my blog avatar. So with my daughter's help, I wanted to see if we could quickly snap a shot with me and him in the same frame.

I picked up a rope on my way into the paddock. For protection as much as anything, and thinking I might have to get it on him to get in the same frame with him.

Then we tossed some hay and I was going to see if I could get close enough for a picture without actually getting a lead rope on him. I have to go about that kind of slowly. He didn’t want to let me get close and she just started snapping pictures.

In looking at the pictures later, I thought, they wouldn’t work for my avatar, but those shots of his body language sure were interesting. So I decided to use them in my blog.

I know that “training” happens whenever you are near your horse. Not just when you decide to do some “training.” But if I had been trying to connect with him, I would have turned away or even backed away from him when he’s is displaying those kinds of signals at that time.

Here is what he looks like when I walk in without a lead rope in my hand. He’s a really sharp horse.

I did put a lead rope on him yesterday, by using my carrot stick. I thought this was kind of interesting too.

It appears that "human touch" has rarely been a pleasant experience for this guy, so for now, in order to safely touch him, I use my carrot stick. He’s very fearful of anything that resembles a stick or whip, so I've only used my carrot stick to scratch him. I scratch his neck and rump and all the good itchy spot with it.

He will not allow touching unless he’s on-line and that’s barely tolerated unless he wants to be scratched. At liberty, to safely scratch him, I stay on the other side of the fence. And I’m always on the look out for that mouth!

You cannot just reach up and attach the lead rope to the halter, (and I can't wait to get that halter off, but for now, it’s a permanent fixture. I’ll explain that later.)

So in order to attach the lead rope to the halter without a big ruckus, I first begin scratching him with the stick. If he seems concerned about it initially, I turn away and scratch one of the other horses, they stand there enjoying it and he’s sees that and wants some too. So I come back to him and he's okay with it.

Then I slid the stick into the halter. In his mind, he’s caught. (I believe, that is how a horse who has had a chain used on his head responds. They aren’t going to risk checking to see if they are really caught and once caught, you have a different horse.)

After pulling the savvy string through the halter, he really is caught, sort of. Now I can attach a lead rope!

I may have to do it this way for awhile until he learns to trust me to just put a halter and lead rope on his head. And he will eventually, I have no doubt.

I feel that this horse had been over-handled. What does that mean? Well, if you use a halter with a chain in place of teaching a horse to lead politely, the horse,

1st is difficult to catch. They will do anything to keep that contraption off their head.

2nd, some people who use chain leads have a tendency to over-correct. The horse blinks and bam! Out of fear usually, or just plain meanness, the handler will give the chain a serious yank and the horse is shocked with pain. So the horse is up on adrenaline whenever the halter is on his head, and he is afraid to fart for fear of that horribly painful yank.

3rd, if they just can’t contain themselves (like stallions) when there are other distractions, they know the yank is coming, but they have to work through the inevitable pain, so they get over-stimulated to everything. On lead, they accept that every action is followed by painful jerks on the lead rope.

Jerk, jerk, jerk goes the chain and the horse is higher than a kite. That’s the scenario I often see at shows, etc. But I’m generalizing here. As many will tell you, there is a correct way to use the chain lead and the horses wearing them aren’t all scared. But if I were to say more are mishandled, than are handled correctly, I'd probably be right.

So I’m trying very hard not to be the jerk on the other end of the lead rope and encourage him to start using his brain. I want to teach him to give to pressure and stop worrying about the pain. (That rhymes!)

I took him out of the pasture yesterday, put him in the stall for a few minutes, which really ticked him off. Then I led him (behind Forrest) from the stall back to the paddock.

He was upset during that short walk and it was challenging to get him safely to the destination. He was so worried about getting out of the stall and back with his buddy, Forrest. (It’s a bit like leading an unruly elephant.)

But Forrest was that way when he was young. He’s taken me horse-skiing a few times down the barn isle where I was boarding him temporarily so I’d have use of a covered arena. All the while I’d be yelling, “He’ll give to pressure any minute.” That would get me nothing but laughter! It was actually pretty funny though.

Now I can lead Forrest anywhere with a piece of baling twine around his neck! See! He did learn to give to pressure.

Is that because the baling twine controls him like a halter and chain? No, that’s because I played with him enough that I got to his brain. We humans think we can control 1000 to 2000 pounds of muscle and bone with a chain. We can, not safely and it sometimes take several handlers to move a large stallion from point A to B., and we’ll end up paying for it eventually. I’d rather get control of the brain and be able to lead with a string.

I took these pictures of my two big lugs last night, just before it got dark.

On another note, Spencer is accepting carrots from my hand now!

I know…hand-feeding is bad, bad, bad. We should NEVER hand feed our horses! Right?

Of course, I don’t agree with that. I think of hand-feeding as an important training tool and I want my horses to learn to accept treats from even the tiniest hand correctly and politely.

Avoiding an activity is not teaching. Say that with me: "Avoiding an activity is not teaching!"

If your horse bit you in the rump every time you bent over and asked him to pick up his foot, would you avoid ever asking for his foot again? Heck no! You'd teach him that his behavior wasn't acceptable and fix it.

But what if you did decide to avoid ever picking up his foot again. Then say someone's 5 year old walked up and bent over near his foot and she got bit in the ass. That would be your fault for avoiding the cause of the behavior rather than fixing it.

Forrest (fuzzy mouth, he's chewing, but I love his eye in that picture.)