Saturday, September 1, 2012

2 in one day!! Is she back?

So a friend of mine came out to see the horses the other day.

He's really interested in them, but doesn't know much about them yet.

Like most people who are just starting to work with an animal, there are some residual fear issues to overcome.

I think fear (for us) has a lot to do with the unknown.  We are afraid of horses not because of what they're doing at the moment, but what they're capable of doing at any moment with seemingly little provocation.

I had him lunge both the horses--Chev on the line and Tiny in the round pen.  I think it can be helpful to realize that they do respond in a predictable manner (most of the time).  And confidence can be built on the knowledge that they really are (mostly!) pretty easy to read.

I am a very nervous, high strung, worried person.  My stomach churns in new situations.  My nerves often get the better of me.

I was the kind of kid that couldn't even call and order a pizza because my anxiety about talking to a stranger on the phone was too high.

Ironically, about all I've done for work these last few years is talk to people I don't know on the phone, often in emergency medical situations.  Irony!  At any rate, I can adapt.  Very quickly, sometimes.

I think this hyper-sensitivity is an asset around horses.  I grew up with jumpy, unpredictable horses (Arabians, but who's keeping track anyway?) that would spin and bolt at the drop of a hat (or the buzz of a fly...or the appearance of a shadow...etc, etc ad infinitum).  I sympathized with them.  I, too, was a scaredy-cat afraid of everything.

I got really good at anticipating.

I could feel a spook in a horse way before they were going to bolt (often "wayyyy before" gave me a few seconds lead time).  I worked well with them.  I became the calm, confident one out of necessity.  We understood each other.

So I guess the point is, over the years I've developed a very calm way around horses.  And as a result, I have some really, really laid back horses that look to me for support in strange situations.

Tiny was a great example the other day.

I had the chiropractor out to see if anything could be done structurally to improve her way of going (there could--she was an absolute mess).  To do this, he had to take hold of the lead rope.

Literally no one has handled her but me in almost three months.  And before that, no one had really handled her at all.  She bonded fast and hard.  Now she's tough to get rid of (ha, ha).

She was pretty confused when I stepped back, and kept looking over  like, "Hello?  Hello?  Is this okay with you?  Should this be okay with ME?"

Anyway, it's sort of flattering when an animal acts that way.  But the ultimate goal is to have a sane, happy, confident horse in any situation.  We give them support and tools to feel secure.

So consistency is really the key here.  For my friend, it will take time to learn that horses are, for the most part, predictable animals.  That doesn't mean we should forget that they are potentially dangerous, whether that be intentional or not!  But I think there's a lot of trust that forms there in that daily relationship of predictable handling.

Horses are great mirrors of a person.

Certainly not the first time I've heard this said, but the best I've ever heard it said, comes from Mr. Brannaman.

"Your horse is a mirror to your soul.  Sometimes you might not like what you see…sometimes you will.”

The round pen & a round bale

There has been some serious slacking going on here over at the Chevelle Chronicles.

Part of my problem is now they are the Chevelle AND Tiny Chronicles.


I started a new job about a month ago working for a great equine hospital in town.  I have A LOT to learn.  But so far so good, and I'm checking into new barns that will be closer to where I'm working now.

I watched a girl work her horse in the round pen yesterday while I was picking out the girl's paddock.

The mom and grandma were also looking on, and the grandma was mumbling something about Clinton Anderson--"Well, that's what the Horse Whisperer would do".  Clinton Anderson's the Horse Whisperer, right?  To be perfectly honest with you, I can't keep all those guys straight.

The horse, a big chestnut TB-looking lanky guy, was about as unhappy as a horse could be.  The round pen was way too small for a horse of his build to move properly in.

She kept making all these "ARRRRHHHHH" buzzer noises every time he did something wrong, while simultaneously yelling "TROT"  "WHOA"  and "TROOOOTTT!!!!"  She couldn't catch him (which is a feat in a 50' round pen), couldn't get him to stop, and was getting increasingly annoyed.

That horse had an expression like he wanted to kick her head in.

He didn't though.  He was way too much of a saint for that.

Then, after several minutes of completely mind-numbing activity where the girl expected everything and didn't listen to a thing the horse was saying to her,  I heard the grandma say, "Get him to follow you around!  That's what the Horse Whisperer does."

So she tried that.  She called and called him.  That horse wasn't moving a muscle except to get AWAY from her.  The absolute LAST PLACE ON EARTH that horse wanted to be was next to her.

It kinda made my blood boil to see.

Horses are such forgiving, amazing animals.  I've made so many mistakes with training that I can't even count 'em all.  But one thing I really try to be is fair, and to listen.  But above everything is: being fair.

This horse was set up to fail, and he did.  She didn't notice when he gave her signals that he understood and was trying to comply.

More than anything, she failed her horse.

And the worst part is, she went away from the pen thinking it was his fault.

Ugh.  I'm going to have to start offering free clinics or something.  I'm not an expert by any definition, but I feel like I could at least help people to notice when their horse is trying, and to reward that try in them. 

Then maybe everyone could be happy.

My girls sure aren't perfect, but they are respectful, interested, and calm.  They throw their noses in the halter and go towards something new bright eyed, happy, and secure.

Speaking of happy...

The girls are eating their way through a 600 pound round bale, and loving it. The free choice hay gives them something to do all day, and they could both use the extra pounds before winter hits.  This was after 1 day of being on the round bale--about 100# of hay gone already!  I've since removed the wrapping--it was supposed to help keep the bale together, but they took no heed of that--so we'll see what kind of devastation I'm looking at when I get out there today.

Happy Labor Day weekend to one and all!  Don't forget to hug your horses :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

In which I talk about coming home...among other things

Well, we made it back.

Two horses, two kitties, one 1991 silver BMW, and a ton (literally.  ha ha) of stuff.

Although technically most of the stuff has yet to arrive.


Chev had a pretty rough time on the trip back.  A few hours from home she started acting colicy, hauler called me, and I kind of freaked out a little inside.  For the first few days I was worried I would lose her.  I nursed her along (ironically the baby, who had only ever been in a trailer once, was just fine) and now she's back to normal and doing great.

However, it does make me concede that I'll likely not be moving my horses across country again any time soon.

It's pretty nice here in the green, cool (seriously, what is up with this 90+ degree weather lately??) PNW.

I moved them back to a barn I used to board at, and the owner was nice enough to let the girls hang out in a pipe corral big enough for the two of them--24 hours a day.  They are doing great out there.

I had a bit of a set back with Chevy's feet: the second her toesies touched Oregon soil, they went all to mush.  I had my beloved farrier out shortly after their return (THANK GOODNESS for good farriers!) and Chev has just been on hoof rehab recently--until 2 days ago, when I climbed aboard my horse for the first time in two months.  I miss it.

Hoof comparison...On the left, soon after her shoes were pulled 5/8/12; the right, same foot yesterday, 8/12/12:

It'll probably be a couple trim cycles before her feet are perfect (I can see the shape is off and her toe looks long in the solar view--not so much from the side), but boy am I pleased.  She's still a little tender on rocks (I've been treating with Hoof-Tough, a mixture of iodine and formaldehyde), but she's doing SO great.  Her frog is firm but spongy like a good rubber ball, the deep crack is completely gone and her heel bulbs look great.  So yay for barefoot!  I'm glad I was patient with her and didn't slap shoes right back on without giving her a chance to mend herself.

I'm now working at an equine hospital in the area, and I'm pretty excited about the job.  It's giving me lots of opportunities to learn more horse (and cow, and sheep, and goat, and pig) things--and there's so much to know!  In fact, I better head to bed so I can get up early tomorrow.

I'll leave you with a few pictures.

Chev shares her dinner in the pipe corral.  I honestly never thought I'd see that kind of sharing from this mare, but boy, is it cute.

Chev and the neighbor

Tiny looks worried when she's not stuck to Chevy's flank.

'Til next time!

Monday, July 23, 2012

2 more days!

I just got off the phone with the lady who will be hauling the girls for me.  She's in Cheyenne and will be picking them up tomorrow afternoon, right after the brand inspection.  They'll go down to a reining trainer's facility in Cheyenne and stay Wednesday.  Then they're on the road early Thursday, and I think they'll be back in OR by Saturday!

This actually works pretty well for my schedule--I'll have time to pack up the fencing after they head out tomorrow, and be on the road early Wednesday.  This way I think we'll get back about the same time.

Here's to hoping everything from here on out goes smoothly!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

t-minus 6 days

...until my little silver car is packed, the cats are in the back seat and we all hit the road--the horses having left the day before, of course.

I am freaking out.  Of course it's a controlled kind of freaking out, which mostly involves how things are going to fit into boxes, stressing over boxes being too heavy, and trying to grasp exactly how much stuff I have.

At any rate, this time tomorrow I'll have a lot of it loaded into a u-haul trailer, and by this time Saturday, it'll all be in u-boxes.

I feel sort of sorry for the horses.  They have no idea that anything is coming, except that their grain has mysteriously stopped arriving twice a day.  The hay continues to show (almost a bale a day!), so they aren't too distressed.

Eating is a huge part of their day

I was curious about how Tiny would feel about having something cinched around her, since she can be goosey about some things--she didn't even bat an eye at the bareback pad.  It'll still be a long while before she's ready for anything serious, but I think she'll be easy when it's time. 

Where you going, carrot lady?

Why you on that side of the corral?

I've also noticed both Chev and Tiny's hoof soles have been shedding like crazy.  Chev has finally shed enough sole that her bare feet are starting to look normal.  The impacted bars have shed, and she only has a little old sole still stuck by her toe area.  Doesn't her foot look great? 

Chev left front (more pancake, previously bad) foot, 7/19/12--it just looks comfortable!

Here's how her hoof looked before on 5/9/12 and 5/12/12, a little more than 2 months ago:

Narrow frog which has now widened, impacted bars (look how far forward the heel buttress is!), and TONS of sole!  It looks very painful to me, not at all the feet she has today.

I am really looking forward to Chev's old farrier working on her feet again.  I don't think I've ever seen her move more soundly than she does now, and she's obviously very happy with her hooves even though they are chipped here and there.  I'm sure he'll be able to get them balanced and shaped just right.  This climate though has been awesome for rehabbing to barefoot, and I hope they'll stay nice when we move back to the soggy PNW!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A night of cellphone photos

This is the most I've seen the girls move in at least a month!  Chev is a LOT faster than Tiny ('course her legs are twice as long)...but isn't that picture of them drinking together adorable?

What do you love?

It's time to get back to what this blog is about:  Horses.  I love 'em.  I know that whole "student of the horse" thing is a little corny, but heck, it's true and it's just how I feel.

I just got done watching the Buck movie again (because it's a brilliant way to put off packing!).

There's a part of the movie that I really loved. 

Buck is standing there with a mecate (a twisted horsehair rope) strung from his hand to the hand of a volunteer.

He starts by telling the guy that's he's going to put about 20 pounds of pressure on the rope, like you would do to take a hold on a horse's bridle rein.  "Don't let me pull it out of your hands," he says.

He starts by taking a firm, tactful hold on his end of the rope, and applying steady pressure until he reaches 20 pounds.  The volunteer reacts by calmly adjusting to the pressure.

Buck does this a couple of times, both parties are calm, and no one is upset.

Then Buck jerks his end of the rope to get up to the same amount of pressure.  The poor guy flinches, braces, and is almost pulled off his feet.

After just a couple times of this, the volunteer is really on edge.  After just a couple of times of Buck yanking the rope, the guy is flinching every time Buck even picks up the other end of the rope.

He just can't help himself.

And for God's sakes, neither can your horse!

I remember I had a trainer back when I was young who had a huge impact on me.

She was a highly skilled woman, with a Dressage background and an understanding of the nonverbal.

She was always telling me to "tactfully take up the reins".

I heard that so many times that it became entirely engrained in me.  I think every time I take hold of the reins, I hear her in the back of my head.

The demonstration Buck gave illustrates her point exactly.  There are always a lot of ways to get something done, but it should always be done with tact.

If you need to take hold of the reins (and we all do, sometimes in less-than-ideal circumstances), you have a choice.

You can do it tactfully, or not.

And boy, you can sure tell a horse who hasn't been handled tactfully!  Just like the poor guy in the demonstration, it only takes a couple of hard yanks to change the whole body and attitude of the horse.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Countdown to leaving

I am t-minus 9 days until I ship all my things but the essentials back to Oregon, and 13 days until the horses ship out.  It's 14 days until I pack up the kitties, my houseplants, and my suitcase, say goodbye to the man I love, and head West again.

Will it be goodbye forever?  Fourteen days of tears surprising me on and off every day, wondering if I'm doing the right thing.  Two weeks to question if I'm making a big mistake--but I guess that's what making big changes is about.  It's too late to change my mind again.  And I do feel that it is time to go home.

Yesterday the vet came out to do vaccinations for the girls, check them out and write up health certificates.  He took a look again at Tiny's jaw lump, and was perplexed to see the same thing sprouting on the other side.  I'm convinced they're "teething bumps".  With her itty bitty head, she has less room for teeth to come in.  He declared her fit for travel in two weeks and asked that I send him an email after she saw my vet back home.  There's a traveling dental specialist in Washington who can see her if need be.

I am having a really hard time.  Some moments feel like nothing could ever be different than it is right now--I make my coffee in the morning and eat my toast, sit in my favorite chair and watch the cats do whatever it is they do, just like any other day.  But now everything has a countdown.  Is this the last day I drive by that house?  The last time I hear a Wyoming thunderstorm?  I don't remember the last time I drank from my favorite cup before I packed it away, and so many other things.  Everything seems important.

It's almost like what happens when you lose someone: somehow everything somehow relates to the day they died, which becomes the center of your universe.  That bill I paid, it was before.  This moment, is after.  But the waiting is worse, knowing the end is coming--and that I caused it--and not having a clue how to face it when the moment to leave finally arrives.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Girls update

Well, it's been a while since I've posted an update on the girls.

Mostly all is well.  To be honest, Chev has been just a pasture puff for the last 2 months.  I haven't had good access to an arena, and the pasture has been taking enough of a beating with just the regular walking back and forth.  Because of the drought, the grass has failed.  Luckily I was able to purchase a nice local 3x3x8 780 pound bale of grass/ they certainly haven't been suffering for want of forage.

Tiny is so wonderful.  She is easy, forgiving, and very smart.  And she is so--nice!  So friendly, she always wants to be right at my elbow, hoping for a scratch.

Unfortunately she has developed a dental cyst--or possibly an impacted tooth.  I had the local vet out to look at her, which I thought would entail sedation, a thorough dental exam, and then a plan.  Instead, the vet took literally one look at her and told me she needed surgery.  He tried to twitch her (which she was having NOTHING I know how they got her feet done before), was unsuccessful, felt the lump some more, and told me she'd have to go to CSU or up to Sheridan to a dental specialist.

To be honest...I was pretty flabbergasted.  So sedation, no dental exam, and I was looking suddenly at surgery.  I called a vet down at CSU and explained the situation, hoping for more information.  He was very nice, and said he didn't think it sounded serious.  He told me to make sure to get xrays before I took her ANYWHERE, and if I did he would be happy to look at them and consult with a surgeon on my behalf.  That made me feel a lot better.

I also emailed pictures and a detailed description to my vet back home, who I LOVE, and who has helped me with all of Chev's medical indiscretions--and he also said while it warranted a dental exam, he didn't feel it would be a big issue.  He couldn't guess why the local vet didn't just sedate her and look.

She is eating and drinking enthusiastically, has no temperature, no nasal drainage or drainage anywhere else, and the hard lump on her lower right mandible hasn't changed in the last week.  It isn't hot and she doesn't react to pressure on it.  I get no pain response whatsoever.  I hope it turns out to be benign.  And I really hope...

...that it won't need further treatment before I return to Oregon at the end of July!

Yes, that's right, I (along with my 2 cats and the horses, of course) will be moving back to home sweet home at the end of next month.

So, in a mixture of elation, excitement, stress, and extreme depression, since the SO will be staying here in Wyoming--I am planning the return of the prodigal daughter.

In other news, Tiny has gained almost 100 lbs in the last month.  She now weighs in at a hefty 860 pounds--and she's still a week of her second birthday!  Yikes!

I'm also happy to report that all my ebay items sold for what I hoped they would.  

Without further ado...

This is from today.  There are a lot of pictures of her with her head in the feeder because that's about all she does these days.  Look at that hay belly!

It's Chev's barn.

She got a slice on her hip--but it's all healed up now.

She is such a lovely redhead!

 And here's the blonde! an itch.

Look at those big booty girls!  Yeesh!

There's that pretty Tiny horse!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I have listed several nice tack items for sale on ebay...please check them out!  Please buy them!  Please please please!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Homesick post

I am feeling incredibly homesick.

I think what really started me off was missing Father's Day--for the second time in a row.

It's a daunting task to think about moving back, with moving costs approaching $3000 if I want to relocate my furniture, my car and the horses.

On the other hand, I've been entirely unsuccessful with landing a job here in Wyoming, so I don't have any disposable resources.

In a word, I feel stuck.

It is not a great feeling to have.

I miss my best friend, I miss my brother, and I miss my mom and dad.  Enormously.

Life just feels a little hard right now.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Big steps

Well, I've had this little yellow girl for a little more than 2 weeks now.

When she came she could:
- wear a halter
- be led with some hesitation and stopping
- trailer well/back out of a trailer (even if it was her first time ever in one)
- be caught in the pen after several minutes of round pen work

Now she:
- comes right up to be caught/doesn't move off in the pasture when approached, comes to meet you
- picks up all her feet, good for the farrier
- stands to be fly sprayed
- is easy to halter/un-halter
- leads everywhere
- yields to pressure
- does haunch turns
- does forehand turns
- steps onto the wash mats
- stands for brushing everywhere, no "touchy" areas

I am just floored by how smart she is & how quickly she picks up things.  This must be what everyone was telling me about these bloodlines.  I haven't ever worked with one of these horses before, and so far she is just easy, easy, easy.

We had our second ever lunge line session tonight.  Both horses got yesterday off while I went down to the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Collins.

The first attempt was two days ago.

It was decent.  She had never been on a lunge line, so there was some confusion.  We were also in the wide open pasture so there were plenty of places to run. 

I don't think before she arrived she had ever seen halter pressure as a direction--and aid--a request to move her body a certain way.  Her first reaction to pressure was to plant her feet, grow roots and brace against it. 

If that didn't work, she'd just turn tail and try to take off.

But after a few very obvious releases for baby steps in the right direction, she picked it up fast.

She much prefers to go to the left (like most horses).

The first day when she got confused she'd try to revert back to her more comfortable direction.  I'd put her back going right again.

We ended on a calmly walked half circle.

Today it was like she remembered everything she did right from last time, and threw away all the mistakes.

She was lovely.

No pulling.  No freakouts.  No bracing and taking off.  No hesitation with going forward.  It was like she had been practicing.

She went to the right without any issues.  Even trotted a little both directions without getting flustered.

And I even got her to trot alongside me (which before when I tried it, was the Most Terrifying Thing Ever).

I really like her because while she is reactive--if you take a loud step toward her she'll skitter away--she is very thoughtful.  She thinks things through.  And for a 2 year old with the attention span of a gnat, she retains information really well.

I have high hopes for this little one.  And it's so exciting to see how she's better and better every day.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Pictures today, beautiful Chev.

And the lovely tiny horse, who is hard to photograph unless she is eating, because she spends all her time right by my elbow.