Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Some Quick Work

Yesterday I was somewhat short of time, but wanted to do at least a little bit with both mares. So Maisie and I saddled up and did a very short workout. It was too humid and buggy to go on the trail, and she was standing a bit better on the concrete in the barn - her hinds seem to be feeling better after her trim - so we warmed up at the walk both on the grass area and in the arena. But when I asked her to trot in the arena, she didn't like the footing and was somewhat gimpy. So we moved to the grass, and she was much happier. She seemed to work out of her soreness a bit, so I think it's not just the feet but also some joint stiffness. We'll see how she comes back tomorrow. Now I'm not saying you should necessarily work a sore horse, but Maisie's sound at the walk with no heat in her feet and has no evidence of a soft tissue problem. I'm not going to bother with x-rays, but I wouldn't be surprised if she's having some changes in her hocks - she showed some signs of arthritis as long as 8 years ago. She's on Aspirease, which helps, and I think regular work helps too. She's one of those horses that has to be nursed along a bit, and often has episodes of minor soreness. She's also not a stoic and will tell me when I shouldn't be asking her to do something.

Dawn and I did some scary object work, which is a good thing to do if short of time - no saddling and I don't want to do it for very long - short doses are best. Dawn has a particular thing about plastic bags, particularly white ones. We did some work last fall using clicker on black garbage bags - to ease up on white - and that was very successful. The trick for me is to not constrain her (other than to keep her in the general vicinity with a loose lead) and to allow her to set the pace and to choose when to approach the object. When I took out the white bag, she was very alert, but showed no signs of bolting, which was already an improvement. Last fall, we had to start with rewarding her for even standing still within the vicinity of the object. Within minutes, she was targeting the bag (click and treat), both when I held it in my hand and when I crinkled it and then hung it on the fence. The next step is to continue to work on rewarding her for startling in place rather than moving her feet if she's worried about what the bag is doing. Next up after that is . . . cue scary music . . . balloons!!!!; which are by far Dawn's least favorite objects - I think it's the combination of plastic and unseemly movement that does it for her. On a related note, for a lovely and informative post - with a very funny video included - on the steps she used, including clicker, to achieve liberty work with her adorable horse - please see this post by Golden the Pony Girl. And here's another lovely, and touching, post from billie at Camera-Obscura. Read and enjoy!

And to leave you with a thought for the day, here's the bumper sticker on my Ford F-350 truck that I use to haul my rig:


  1. Sounds like really good work with both ponies with limited time - I like it how you still make it productive!

  2. Love the sticker on the trailer. Where did you get it? I'd love to have one.

    Sounds like good work with both horses. Sometimes short and sweet is the way to go.

  3. Grey Horse - I got mine at our tack store a number of years ago, but the maker seems to still be in business - here's the link:


  4. Thanks for linking to us Kate!

    My dog is terrified of balloons. I unfortunately did not know this until my college roommate filled the entire apartment with balloons for her boyfriend's birthday. I found my dog in my bed somehow under all of the pillows and blankets shaking the whole bed! (same dog from the video).

    I find clicker work is a great partner for desensitization. Like you say it is like putting the ball in their court.

  5. You have a great way of making whatever time you have to spend with your horses productive Kate.

    Between the less than ideal weather - so hot and humid yesterday that I was soaked to the skin after grooming! - and the pending closing on the property Val lives on (!) I've had a hard time getting in the saddle recently.

    I have taken a page from your book and done ground work and desensitizing so I still feel like we're moving forward... I'm always encouraged when I visit your blog.

    Thanks :)

  6. I think clicker training is so neat. I'm thinking of trying it with my dog. I try to teach her things, but don't get to see her a lot so it's hard to work with her on a regular basis (she lives with my parents and I usually see her once or twice every 1-2 weeks). I'm wondering if the clicker would make it easier for her to remember things since we do such intermittent training together.

    Griffin is not a very food motivated horse, so I'm not sure the clicker would work very well on him. He actually prefers lots of scratches and praise to treats. He is also very picky about treats and will only eat certain kinds and certain times (which is a pain sometimes-LOL).

    I know all about arthritis and joint issues (Ugh)....As long as the horse isn't painful, I think regular, light work is excellent at keeping stiffness at bay. I have also had Griffin on several joint supplements over the years. His current supplement seems to work very well. He currently is on J-Flex (made by Springtime Inc) and has been on that one for about 3 years now. The condroiton sulfate seems to be the supplement that works best on him (I have used Yucca, MSM, and Glucosamine in the past as well). I think sometimes it's just a matter of finding one that your horse's body can utilize best :-)

    I loved the calvary photos from yesterday. That sounds like it would have been neat to see.

  7. Thanks Kate, I'll check out the link. I appreciate the time it took to get it for me.

  8. Those shiny balloons are the worst!! Wishing you every success on that one.

    Love the sticker...and all too true. *lol*

  9. Carol - Food doesn't have to be the reward for clicker - the reward can be anything the horse values - so you could click when he does what you want, and then deliver the reward of scritches - the click tells him that he's got it right and then he knows the reward is coming.

  10. White paper bags showed my trainer how I can turn from a rider to a flea hanging on for dear life! The comment was "I can't believe you rode that out!"

    I too find each of your posts informative... I need your secret to balancing horses with rest of my life.

  11. Sounds like you had a good day with the mares. I LOVE the sticker!

  12. Jeni - umm . . . I don't have a rest of my life - other than the horses. You can ask my (long-suffering) husband about that!

  13. Hahahah Kate!!!! I so wish I could say that. I do make a point to at least LOOK at and lay my hands on my girls 3 times a week. But kids, husband and work does not always.. well ok almost never accommodates a ride during each of those visits.

    Very frustrating for me.


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