Friday, February 27, 2009

How I'm Learning to Train a Horse

In the comments to one of my earlier posts, Christina asked " did you learn to do what you're doing? You mentioned a DVD?"

I started to reply in the comments, but the reply started to take on a life of it's own, so I'll make a post out of it.

I'm using DVD's that are produced by an Aussie named Clinton Anderson. Of all the DVD's (and there are a lot of them on the market) put out by all the "Big Name Trainers", I have found that his are the ones that make the most sense to me. He explains everything in detail, while demonstrating it at the same time. In them, he is using a BLM Mustang that was just taken out of the wild, and had no previous human contact. His techniques work with that horse. And the bottom line for me is that I've been able to take his methods, put them into use, and get the desired results. It just takes me a little longer, since this is a first for me.

I took a lot of riding lessons when I first started out, but now I've hit a brick wall, so to speak, in my learning. Therefore I opted to go the route of starting a young horse in order to expand my knowledge. Part of this decision is related to my learning style. I learn best by watching something once or twice, then doing it myself until I have it figured out. I just have to take greater care, because it is much harder to undo a mistake with horse training.

The easy route, of course, would be to pay a trainer, but that is such a crap shoot, not to mention it can get rather spendy. I've discovered there are a lot of folks who hang out a shingle that says "Horse Trainer", whose only qualifications seems to be "I've been riding horses for X number of years...". Well, whoopee-doo, I've been licensed to operate a motor vehicle for 26 years, but that doesn't necessarily qualify me to be a driving instructor.

The goals for me are to become a better rider, and have a horse that is trained to ride the way I ride. I don't have any false expectations that this is going to be easy, or that I will be a wiz horse trainer when I'm done. But I'm an open book, and the Gingerbread Horse is smart, responsive, and most importantly willing.

The current short term goal is to have her saddled, and start riding her by next weekend.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Of Cars and Such

DN1 (Daughter No. 1 - stole the idea from Buck) finally decided that it was time for a reliable car. The old 1990 had become a real albatross around her neck.

It's a 2006 Kia Sorento. Not new, but new to her, and in really good condition. I told her from now on, when I see her name on my caller ID, I won't cringe, wondering, "what is wrong with her car now".

I've decided to keep the Honda, for a commuter/spare car. I'm sending the old Ford Escort, (not so) affectionally known as the Albino Turd, to the scrapyard. A nice man is coming to haul it away this afternoon. It has been sitting dead in the driveway for about two months now, with some mystery electrical problem that I can't figure out. I can't say I'll miss it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

It's the Big Pedal on the Right, Folks!

Just a moment to rant...

What is so hard about reaching highway speed before merging on the freeway? Three times this morning I had to move over so some clown could merge at 50MPH. At 6am on Sunday morning!! Can't blame it on traffic! Especially the person in the new Cadillac. Somehow I just don't think that car has acceleration problems.

Just sayin...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Another great day!

Brought herself up for more training today. No real plan, just figured I'd shoot from the hip and see where it took us.

Started out in the round pen next to the barn, the intent being to round pen her for the exercise and to get her mind right. Easy enough, right? Or maybe not...

This particular round pen happens to border the domain of the local stallion, Moses. This morning, he decided that round penning is a spectator sport, and he was just the spectator for the job. Kenya, however, was clearly suffering a little performance anxiety, as she would cut the south end of the round pen, passing me just a little too close for comfort. With some nice bucks thrown in, for commentary. This just won't do, I decided.

So we packed up out kit bag and headed to the round pen near the arena. Spent a good 30 minutes with her trotting on the rail, adding plenty of turns, and a few "stop and face me's" for good measure. She was acting a little dense when it came to turning to the left, but we worked through it.

Satisfied that she had worked some energy off, and was now focused, we worked on yielding the hindquarters, followed by the forequarters. Much easier than last time. I don't need the handy stick anymore, hand motions being adequate. She is one smart cookie.

Next came the backing exercise. Very responsive today, and I am pleased with the results.

On a whim, I draped my arms over her back, and put some weight on her. Not a twitch. Jumped up and down next to her, on both sides. I'm sure to the casual observer I must have looked like some blamed fool who was missing his pogo stick, but it's a good exercise. Get's them used to what is going to happen when you put the foot in the stirrup, and rise up. Again, not a twitch, at least from the horse. My knees however, decided to remind me that I'm 43.

Well, here goes...I decided to jump on her back. Jumped up and landed with my body draped over her like a dead person. After about two seconds she started bucking. Discretion being the better part of valor, I slid off.

This jumping crap was killing me...I have no vertical to begin with, and my knees were having none of it. Off I went to procure a mounting block. Slowly I got up on her back, laying chest down, legs over her hips, arms around her neck. I was on guard, but not scared. She didn't flinch, just occasionally looked back at me, as if to say "exactly WHAT are you doing?"

It doesn't get any better than that. Perfect point to call it a day. Took her out, and let her graze on fresh green grass for an hour.

Time to go shopping for cinch...she's ready for a saddle.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No training last night...

My oldest's daughters car was overheating, so I got to spend my evening looking under the hood of her car instead of working the Gingerbread Horse.

Fortunately, it turned out to a bad radiator cap. The seal was worn. One trip to the parts store and $8 later, she's back on the road.

Much to my surprise, someone (BagBlog) left a comment on one of my posts. Now if only I could figure out how I can leave comments on my own posts...they just seem to vanish into the ether.

Update: I figured the whole comments thing out. I just needed to be 10% smarter than what I was using...had to buy that last percent.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Training Notes 17Feb09

Spent about an hour with the Gingerbread Horse in the round pen last night. The footing is bad in a few areas, so I avoided round penning her. Don't need to lame her up.

So we worked on backing up, yielding the hindquarters, and yielding the forequarters.

She isn't showing the energy I would like to see when backing up, but we are getting the desired result, so I will just continue working this area.

Yielding the hind and forequarters was fairly uneventful. She does learn faster on her left side, so I just need to work more on the right side.

Finished up by de-sensitizing with the rope. A non-event.

I would call it a successful evening.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'm Beginning to Hate Winter

I just need three days of no rain where I can work in the round pen. Oh yeah, it needs to be light out too (Daylight Savings can't get here fast enough for me).

After those three days, then it's off to the covered, lighted arena...and no worries.

Soon, I hope.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Guttural Pouch

Like humans, horses have Eustachian tubes. However as it turns out they have a bonus addition to these tubes, called the Guttural Pouch. They are large pouches that branch off the eustachian tube, are usually filled with a small amount of air, and serve no purpose know to modern veterinary science.

At least one website I came across during my research on these pouches referred to them as the horse's "Bermuda Triangle". I now know why.

One day last October, when pulling her in from the field, we noticed severe swelling on both sides of her neck, just behind the jawline. It resembled strangles, however it lacked any of the other symptoms, such as nasal discharge and high fever. Nevertheless, we immediately quarantined her, and I scheduled an appointment with the vet.

He immediately recognized it as a problem with her guttural pouches. X-rays showed that they were filled with fluid. He did a needle biopsy. The fluid that came out was clear, but tinged with red. He sent us home with Bute and Tucoprim.

A few days later he emailed the lab results. Streptococcus Zooepidemicus. Turns out this particular bacteria normally resides in the upper respiratory tract of horses in small amounts, and never results in a problem. However, equie flu can inflame this bacteria, resulting in the problem she was having. She did not have the flu, but had received her flu booster shot a few weeks prior. My guess is that she had a reaction to the shot, but I will never know for sure.

Within two weeks, the symptoms were gone, and she was eating, drinking, and behaving normally. Out of the woods, right?

Maybe not...

A few weeks later I was in her paddock. When I got close to her I noticed a rather foul odor. Closer inspection showed nasal discharge as well. Wasting no time, I called the vet. He came out that evening.

The guttural pouch infection had returned with a vengeance. He prescribed more Tucoprim, and this time added Metronidazole and Penicillin shots to the mix. He stated that if improvement was not noticeable within three days, that surgery was the next option. And, oh by the way, this could kill her. Oh, golly gee...

I mastered the art of giving large dosage shots to a horse, having to give three penicillin shot over the course of the next six days. Not so hard, and she was a good patient.

Giving the oral medication proved to be challenging this time around. I tried mixing it in wheat bran as I had done before, but she was having none of it. I believe that the Metronidazole must have given it a bitter taste. I resorted to mixing it in applesauce, and feeding it to her with a large syringe. This was, of course, not without it's challenges.

About this time we had a rare snow and cold snap, and the temperature was hovering around 20F in the evenings when I went out to give the medication. I would crunch through the snow, and then spend 10 minutes trying to catch her. Before getting sick, she never needed to be "caught" as she would come up to me and stick her nose in the halter. But now she wasn't feeling well, and she knew that upon arrival in the barn she would be force fed this foul tasting medicine.

Of course, once caught, and I had to get her the 900 feet to the barn. By the time we would get there it seemed more like 9 miles. Who says a 165lb person can't drag an 800lb horse? Pshaw!!

Once in the barn, I would mix her medicine in applesauce, and feed it to her through a large syringe. As you may recall, it's about 20 degrees, and yes, applesauce does freeze. And rather quickly, I might add. Gets rather difficult to push through a syringe.

After about two weeks of this drill, the medication was discontinued, due to the side effects that giving it for too long a period can have. By this time all the symptoms had disappeared. She clearly felt better, her eyes were bright, and she was eating and drinking well.

The problem has not returned since, thankfully. Although I am a little paranoid. So, if you see me with my nose inside this mares nostril, taking deep breaths and checking for fetid's not such strange behavior after all.

Training Notes - 14Feb09

I guess I should post something on here. Took herself out of her paddock yesterday, brushed off all the dried mud, and headed for the round pen.

Worked on:

1. Inside turns - she was a little froggy at first, and tried to play dumb, turning when she got the urge, with the occasional outside turn thrown in for fun. It only took a couple of minutes to remind her that this was unacceptable, and would not be tolerated.

2. Stopping and facing me - her favorite part, so no problems.

3. Yielding her head to pressure - A little easier to the left than the right, but still fairly easy.

4. Introduced her to a plastic bag - a little wary at first, but it passed in about 10 seconds.

5. Yielding the hindquarters - I've worked this successfully before, so this went well

6. Backing up - This area needs improvement. For both of us. The BNT makes use of the stick look easy on the DVD's but of course this is my first horse, so I found it to be a little unwieldy at first, and finally just tossed the darn into the dirt, and worked without it. All ended well, with her backing up just from a wiggle of the lead rope.

The best part for herself was getting her new Orican Freestyle blanket. It fits really well, which is good, since the blanket she was wearing was a little loose around the front, and was starting to wear the hair off one of her shoulders.