Sunday, April 25, 2010


So a little over 2 months ago, this gray and white cat starts hanging around my barn. We board, she's one of the resident cats, but she decided that she wanted to be in our little barn rather than any of the other larger 3. She'd come in every night while I was feeding the minis. I'd shoo her out, she'd run out a stall, and then come back in through the top door while my back was turned! Eventually she started following me around each time she saw I was about to close the barn up, and she'd stay in every night.

I didn't think a whole lot of it until I noticed she was getting incredibly fat. Barn Nazi thought she was getting into my grain bins. I said unless she got opposable thumbs and figured out how to open tupperware I think not!!! Then she got pretty big and round, we all decided she was probably pregnant. (No duh, I say now... there are 8 adult cats that I know of, 3 are females, NONE are fixed!!! ) Mama cat dissapeared for a few days, I wondered where she went. Nobody saw her for over a week until...

I went to go get a bridle from my tackroom, my friend and I looked at each other and almost simultaneously said "Why are the walls meowing!!??!?!"

She'd had the kittens in my tackroom!!!

She left them in this hole in the wall of my tackroom until Barn Nazi found them, so she had to relocate. She then put them in the hay barn behind my pens, and I didn't see them until a few days ago when...

I went looking for them because the barn owner offered me pick of hte litter (and if they stay here they will breed their father and produce more inbred little kitties!) so I tried to find them. I shine a flash light on Mama once I find her behind some pallets, she comes out, leads the kittens out one by one, waits until they are all to me, one is in my lap, then leaves!!!! Like "Whoo my babysitter showed up, now I can go!" They were almost 5 weeks old then. Mama cat is so cool, I think we've really bonded. I'll be sad to leave her when we move in to our place. This has turned in to a daily experience - I go over to the hay shed, she comes out, soon as all the babies come she's off to go eat.


These are the two females I'm taking home: The gray is Piper, and calico Pumpkin.





This little dude, we are also taking home. My friend fell in love with him and she's paying to get him fixed, so she gets to keep him on our new place too. This is Pipsqueak - otherwise known as "Squeaker" cuz when you cuddle him he squeaks. He's always the first one out to crawl on our laps.


This one we call Tater Tot because she's so fat she gets stuck in the boards of the pallet.

Another adorable female


Oh and for those interested, Xena's hives are dissapearing!!!!! I just might get to actually play with her soon!
Mesa's leg isn't swollen anymore so once it's clean enough to give her a bath so I'm not riding a muddy mess, I'll try her cradle bridle.

I'm a kitty owner! I'm now a real ranch person, lol!!! Guess I need a blue heeler next?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Confidence in the driving horse

With Mesa lame and Xena's hives not quite gone, I've been using the time to play with the minis. I got Ghost back in the cart for the first time since before winter - so much fun! The indoor arena was footed soooo deep though I didn't make her pull me, she was struggling enough to drag the cart lol!! Also been playing with some liberty with her and teaching her more patterns, she's so smart! I want soooo desperately to submit a video to this month's Savvytube contest, but my video camera and I just have a personality clash! But if we can settle our differences before the end of the month to the point where I can edit some things, I will definitely send one in!

Fancy is the RBI mini that was trained to drive by a professional predator who really messed her up, and it's taken me all winter to get her confidence. This 32" tall mini just about took me sand skiing the first time I played friendly with the stick and string. She was really nervous about things touching her hind end, so before, she had been driven without breeching - the piece of harness that is the cart's brakes. So she was really anxious in the cart, and I had no clue how to teach her that things touching her butt were okay... especially since if she's ever going to be a safe driving horse, she needs to be able to push into the breeching and stop the cart. And then....... it came to me!!!

Upon watching David Litchman's video on how he helped a student to develope his horse's confidence in zone 3 by making a touch-it game from zone 3... I transfered the idea to Fancy's zone 5.

First I got her yo-yo working realllly well. Then I got her to back up this little dirt hill. For a RBI she's pretty food motivated, so I added treats when she did in confidently, and that really sped up the progress.

Then I got her to back up into something until her tail touched it; I started with this mounting block. First she was crooked and all over the place, thinking that I was asking her to navigate around it. Imagine her surprise when she got a cookie for accidentally bumping into it!!

Principles before purpose, purpose before goals.... I finally get what that means now!!!!!!! Principle - getting Fancy to push her hind end into something. Purpose - the horse understanding there is a reason behind doing what she's doing... in this case I gave her a purpose of pushing the round corral gate open so she could go roll and play in there. Goals - eventually getting her confident in the cart's breeching.

Then I got her confident enough to push through this people door to get into the big barn - confidently!

And then she also has issues (like introverted J in the tail every time issues) of people standing behind her withers and trying to ask her to do anything. She even clamps her tail and flinches if you brush her tail. The good thing is that she's pretty much a pattern-aholic. She's a pretty extreme RBI, and a total wallflower, so once she gets the pattern and knows that what she's doing is a right answer, it very quickly becomes a default behavior. So then what I started doing was put a voice cue "back" to it, and then asking her to back into stuff from zone 2. Then I tried it from zone three... calm tail!!! Then yesterday when I was brushing her, I turned around to clean out the brush, and she backed into her stall door, then looked at me like "cookie??" YES YES YES!!!! It's a default behavior!!

Next step, zone 4, then 5, then breeching!!

Life is good.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chalk up another roadblock

So Mesa has been absolutely wonderful with her new glucose meds. Three days ago I was playing with her on the 45' line, doing some really awesome level 3 stuff. Finally! Ground skills!! Two days ago I got one really great, awesome ride on her, playing with bridless stuff, bending with just my legs, some patterns. Boy was it good to be back. Then the next day I get my stuff out, plan to go play with her and........... she has a huge gash on her leg and it's bled all the way down to her hoof, streaming blood all over her lower leg. Wonderful! Eeeesh. So I get that cleaned up (which she didn't particularly enjoy) and spray some silver stuff on it, and tell the barn people to leave her in for a few days and not turn her out with the other horses.

The next morning what do ya know she's outside in her pen. Great. No, people, she probably hurt herself on the broken pipe out there, and I don't want her rolling in dirt - leave her in!!! Sheesh. Can't wait till we move into our own place!

So that makes Xena who got 1 ride and then broke out in hives and has been sitting since, and Mesa who got 1 good ride and hurt her leg and has been sitting since... my luck sucks right now! Oh well, it means I can focus on playing with Ghost and not feel like I should be doing anything else with the big ones. Been focusing on getting the minis back driving. Ghost has been doing wonderful. Boy I love her. And I get to spend some undemanding time with Xena. Yesterday I went in with her and sat on a bucket. She came over, and pressed her forhead against mine and just stood there the whole time I was in there. I miss playing with her! I love this girl so much. At least I have a chance to keep the realtionship up, even if she may not be learning anything new.

Another huge break-through: Sugar chose me over the herd last night!!! In her stall, she left her stall mate to come get haltered. Then when she was out with Princess - her own daughter - she let Princess run circles around her while she followed me at liberty. What a wonderful feeling!!!!

Things aren't moving fast, but they're moving. :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A few more hills to climb

As if my being one-and-a-half-handed right now wasn't enough, Xena has hives! She had them for a few days a week ago, but they left by the time I rode her. They are back now, worse than before. *sigh* if only I knew what she was allergic too. I haven't been able to get on her, or do much with her at all. She isn't feeling up to much, just kind of itching and feeling sorry for herself. If I touch the ones on her belly she gets very mad, and she threatens to bite if I'm standing by her back touching them.... like she's warning me if I sit on her or put a saddle up there it'll be the last thing I do lol!

Well it throws a wrench into a few things, to say the least. I hope they go away soon so I can start her riding developement. Hope it doesn't mess up our time line too much. But it has given me plenty of time to play with the others and not feel like she's missing out. On that note, Ghost finally layed down next to me and let me pet her while she was down last night! Ahhh I love that girl. Got her a new mini-size RBI myler bit so we can try some driven/long line finesse. This'll be fun!!!

My friend got the new levels pack, and she's out of town right now so I get to DVD-nap them. I have finished the Level 3, and it cleared a lot of things up!! Checked some stuff with Ghost, and tried the Liberty things, MAN was that fun! I think we found a new favorite savvy. Can't wait till Xena reaches that point. Yes, go ahead and laugh that my farthest developed horse is 35" tall. The Level 4 Liberty bit was.... inspiring x 1000! So many wonderful things. It also gave me the reassurance that yes, it's okay to look messy when teaching something. In online, Vanna gets all tangled in the ropes, hits the end of the lines, gets confused, but he just kept going until she walked along calmly. It was one of those "shoulda seen that coming" things... of course the first time you try zone 5 driving, you aren't going to gallop between barrels with flying lead changes, when you learn... it's okay to look like you're learning. Duh!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Irony is bliss

First ride on Xena!!!!

So I haven't been doing a whole lot of real playing lately... nasty weather. I took her out for the first time since the storms and she put on a spectacular show of rearing straight up, bucking, extended trot, having a fun time. Didn't try to get her to do anything that day. The only real stuff we've been doing online is advancing sideways. Other than that, just going for moseys and hanging out.

So Sunday.... It was a really calm day, sunny out, no wind (you can see how this horse can make a less savvy someone into an avoidaholic), so I went to chill with Xena in her pen. She was totally left brain from the get go. Played all seven games, and responded at phase one or two. So I got sit on the fence, line her up next to me, and get on! The difference in that day was she was really acting like a partner. I could feel it. Why not, it's time to ride. I swing a leg over on her right side, sit there for a few seconds, get off. I feel pretty confident, so I turn her around and get on her left side. No problems!!

I decide to give her a carrot. She takes the first one from my right hand just fine. She's standing so perfectly still, I'll give her another from the left. Great lateral flexion exercise! ;) I reach in my pocket and pull out another carrot. Apparently I'm much less coordinated with my left hand. I reach down to give it to her, hear a CRUNCH, assume she took it. But I have a confused look on my face as I can't get my hand back. It matches the confused look on her face as the carrot won't come with her. It wasn't until then that we both realized that the carrot is on the ground and my finger is between her teeth. That CRUNCH was my nail snapping in half. I pull my finger back and examine it, there is a very definite tooth mark on the bottom of my finger, bleeding, the broken in half horizontally nail on top, also bleeding. But, true to my nature, I just sit there and try to stop the bleeding. Within a few minutes it does. Ehhh, it just needs a band-aid. I have 3 other horses that need played with. Then I think... you know actually if I keep playing, it's gonna get dirty and infected, so I probably oughtta go home and wash it. THEN I realize - Oh! All this time I've been tending to my finger I'm still sitting on Xena, who isn't eating and hasn't moved a muscle! What a good partner.

I jump off, give her lots of kisses for being such a good girl, the last carrot in my pocket (with my right hand of course), and go home to wash it out. I was back 4 hours later with a band-aid on it, playing with horseys!
All in all, success! The horse that dumped professional predators, that put people in the hospital with broken bones... I survived my first ride on perfectly, bareback in a halter!!! But then the bloodshed comes from me trying to feed her a carrot. Yay irony!!! LOL.

So the rest of this week has been me adjusting to not using the middle finger of my left hand in daily life, and playing with the horses very carefully. It's funny how much you value lightness and politeness when you've basically got to hold the rope either with a pinky or a thumb. Last night I was doing some things on the self assessment check list with Xena, since she very easily does all the level 1 things, is even bored. With my good hand holding the rope, we accomplished opening an umbrella on her head, flapping a trash bag around her, everything in Level 2 friendly. I'm playing with sideways with my feet still. 3 steps so far! And we regularly play on the 22' line. Learning is such a parabola. It starts out painstakingly slow in the beginning, but once it gets going, you learn twice as much twice as fast, each day! So I'm leaving our first real ride till next Sunday. Thanks to Linda's recent blog about preserving confidence while she was recovering... If you try and see if you can do something that you may not be ready for, and you find out you can't, you've set yourself up for failure. But if you set a date you'll be ready to do it by, and leave it alone until then, you preserve your confidence. That's what I'm gonna do, because I want at least partial use of my left hand before getting back on. And, I want to stick to my original declaration of not really riding until we're a well established level 2. Won't be long now!