Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More In-Hand Work and Dawn Stakes a Claim

I just got back from the barn - the temperature is up to 15F with a wind chill of 3F (that would be -16C).  After doing my chores, I got Pie out of the turnout so we could do some more in-hand work, his second session after several days off.  Pie was in his turnout blanket and I was bundled up with no fewer than four layers over my sensitive ear and side of the face, so we were both quite comfortable. We were doing these exercises again.  As I had suspected might happen, his responses were almost immediately much better and more consistent - he'd clearly retained what he'd learned and in fact started out almost better than he finished up last time - I've found this quite often happens over a break between work sessions as the horse processes what he's learned.

His backing in the halter was much improved.  When I stood on his right, he immediately was able to back with softness.  When I stood on the left, he was initially a bit sticky - he had really struggled with this side in our last session, but after a minute or two he was able to do it.  We repeated both sides just a couple of times, with walk-arounds between.  When I'm on the left, we still need to refine his consistency while backing and he's not yet at a point where he'll do it immediately when first asked.

His soft backing in the bridle was almost perfect with me standing on either side.  It's interesting that when he backs in the halter, he never does the ducking/curl-up thing he does in the bridle, which probably means that he was taught to back that way in the bridle.  He did try to duck a time or two while we were backing in the bridle today, but was easily able to adjust and do it the way I was asking.  His "baby gives" with the halter and bridle were perfect on the first try, so we didn't repeat them, and I'll probably never do them again.

After we did our work with the bridle, I went back to the halter work with me standing at his left shoulder - it was immediately much better, so we stopped there.  Our work session couldn't have lasted more than 10 minutes, but it was very productive.  I think after a small amount of polishing up that I'll be able to start my mounted softening work.

The left side of his back is slightly sensitive when grooming, so he's having another chiropractor visit next week.  I also need to order him a wool felt pad - as he would wear under a Western saddle - as our chiropractor recommended it for him to improve the fit of my close contact saddle.  I'll also be able to use it when I get him his Western saddle once he stops growing.  Any good recommendations for online places to order a good quality wool felt pad?

After our work session, Pie and I went for a 15-minute walk on the trail around the pastures.  His leading was perfect - he stayed an arm's length behind me and I had the lead loosely draped over my hand, with no tension on the lead, and never once had to close my fingers.  When I stopped, he stopped an arm's length behind me.  When I stood still for a bit, he stood still and looked around not moving his feet at all.  We said hello to the goat - he's still a little worried about the goat but was able to choose to come up and stretch his nose out to sniff it.  There was one tiny spook/startle while we were walking on the trail, but he barely moved his feet and instantly relaxed.  Good Pie!

* * * * * *
Last night I had both Dawn's and Pie's stall guards up, and was in Pie's stall grooming him when Dawn made her opinions known.  I had suspected she was jealous, and I think I got that right.  I had just finished rinsing Dawn's mouth out with the 50/50 solution of Listerine and water, and earlier had given her the paste Banamine, neither of which she'd much enjoyed.  But she put up with it after a moment or two of approach/release work with the tubes. (Dawn used to be terrible about being pasted - she would fling you around the stall and even rear - but my younger daughter did a lot of work with her and she's much better now, although from time to time a refresher is needed.)

Pie's stall isn't directly opposite Dawn's - he's one stall down on the opposite side.  They both had their heads in the aisle.  Dawn gave him a look that would have killed, and squealed and struck with a front foot several times.  She's not in heat, and was clearly saying to him: "if this stall guard wasn't here, I'd come over there and kill you!"  Pie looked a little concerned, as well he might! She's also started doing this in the pasture whenever he approaches their shared (electrified) fence line - she doesn't do it to the other geldings.  Poor jealous Dawn - I'm trying to be sure to give her extra (pleasant as opposed to nasty medicine) attention.  I remember when I first got Promise, Noble was jealous as well - he would pin his ears and buck in his stall if she were nearby, so it isn't just a mare thing.


  1. Kate, you're an inspiration to consistency. I appreciate that in you.


  2. I love the diamond wool (brand) pads. Izzy's western pad is a 1" thick contoured wool felt pad with a wither cut out. I just picked it up at the local feed store though, so no clue about ordering online.

    My pad cost about $70. Watch that you don't pay too much--the online sites I looked at were higher priced and I couldn't actually touch anything.

  3. Ok you are making feel bad for wimping out and feeding, turning out and running inside to get warm. I am kind of holding out intil Friday when the temps get into the 30's. I might just have to toughen up.

  4. Kate, great work with Pie! He sounds like he is really coming along. It's great that you can work with a horse for 5 to 10 minutes and really get a lot accomplished. (even when it's freezing outside!)

    Gilly had to have a little refresher course in manners today. Being a total brat, not standing so I could pick burs out of his mane and tail.
    He is one to try to get leadership back from me everyday so I think that 10 minutes of school a day will be a good thing for him too.

  5. I am really feeling like a wimp now...the temps are Ok here, but the windchill factor is miserable.

    So good to hear how well Pie is doing. He more and more proves his worth. What a honey.

    As for Dawn, you really need to talk to her and explain things. I really believe horses understand a lot more of what we say than many people believe. Reassure her that she has a permanent place in your heart and that Pie, as a youngster needs your attention to learn all the good things she already understands. Too, perhaps, you could enlist her as an ally in his training. Her good example and support would really help him become a good horse.

    I know it may sound a bit strange, but I've had some real success just talking to my horses about things like that. No guarantee, but it's worth a try. Dawn is a very intelligent girl.

  6. You do such great work with your horses - so consistent and calm!

    I wish I was close enough to go out for 15 mins or so of work, but with 30+ mins of driving each way, it just doesn't seem feasible. I do much better in the nice weather, that is for sure...

  7. Poor jealous Dawn. My horse Erik used to be jealous of Dusty when I first got her. So it's not a mare thing. They just want our attention and nobody else should have it I guess.

    Sounds like good work with Pie. I really think he's an exceptional horse.

  8. Sounds like Pie is doing great.

    I think Ozzy would sulk to death if I got a second horse.

  9. Awwww, Dawn! :) This is why I love (and I totally miss mine) mares. Yes, geldings can be very sweet and affectionate, but Mares can be wicked smart-when you're on their good side and they let you in, there's nothing like it. Of course, then comes the jealousy:)

  10. I'm picturing Dawn with daggers shooting out of her eyes lol. Why should she have to share you Kate?!

    And I agree with Dan - your consistency is inspiring :)

  11. Poor Dawn ~ she's obviously picked you as her human, even though she is your daughters horse.

    Pie sounds like he's coming along nicely.

  12. Ouch! Ground work and a little stroll outside in 3F weather? I'd be a popcicle! You're tough cookies, girl!


  13. I hope that Dawn is feeling better, poor girl! All my animals are jealous of each other. I think Dawn can feel that your heart belongs to Pie. I second the choice of a Diamond Wool pad. Silk has sensitivity in her back so I use a Supracor Cool Grip pad, which we love. It was the best investment I've made, had it about seven years and Silk no longer has any back issues. It's good that you're taking care of this before Pie starts complaining.

  14. Dawn makes me laugh. :) Poor Pie probably wonders what in the world he did to deserve such mean faces from her.

    My most recent western pad is the 'Dura-Tech Close Contact Felt Pad' from Schneider's. I haven't been able to use it much for obvious reasons, but it's nice quality and not too bulky. It runs about $60 I think.


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