Friday, July 24, 2015

Goofy Cat

Goofy Cat


Things aren’t going well with MerryLegs, and I am looking for a new home for him.  I am hoping Mrs. Shoes will take him back, but she hasn’t committed, yet.  I am very down about the whole situation, and I don’t feel like writing about at all.

So that means it is time for cute cat pictures.  My sister’s cat, Stormy, is at it again.  How can a cat be so cute with just a simple bowl?  I don’t know how he does it.  Thunder is a very cute cat, but he can’t hold a candle to Stormy.


I don’t know how my sister handles such cuteness…

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Princess

Princess

I have been meaning to write about Princess for some time, now.  She may be a barn cat, but in her head, she is a Princess.  A more tyrannical cat doesn’t exist.  She bullies the other cats, the dog and most people—but she loves me.  When I am at the barn, if I call her, nine times out of ten—she will come galloping from wherever she is.  The rest of the time, she must be out in the field hunting. 

If I don’t call her, she will often seek me out when she hears my voice.  She follows me about when I feed and is constantly demanding attention.

It’s not that I feed her—plenty of people feed the cats.  Since most of them are very fat, the last thing they need is food.  Princess isn’t fat, but she is a pile of fur—charcoal gray with no tabby markings at all.  Her coat is insanely thick in the winter, keeping her very warm.  Her favorite hobby is hunting the barn swallows.

She is extremely affectionate—until she isn’t.  Out of the blue, she will attack you, and then ask for more petting.  In the winter, she will sit on my lap, and if I dare move, she will start growling.  More than a few times, I took her off my lap—only to have her hiss at me.  Most people will have nothing to do with her, but I think she is a lot of fun—as long as you are very careful.


Princess is quite a character—and definitely a princess.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cute Cole Story

Cute Cole Story

All this talk about MerryLegs may make people think I have forgotten Cole Train—far from it.  MerryLegs makes me appreciate Cole all so much more!  I am still riding him 5 days a week, and he is still so awesome.

Ellen and I were riding him up on a section of trail we hadn’t been to in a few weeks.  It is out in the open—on the edge of the woods.  When we were trotting on the way back, I looked for the mulberry tree.  In the past, I have asked Cole to stop, clicked him and given him mulberries.  He just loves them.  There were a few ones within reach, so I asked him to stop and picked him a couple.

I knew there was another tree further down the trail, but I didn’t know if it had any mulberries this year.  I wasn’t positive where it was.  Ellen and I walked along, talking, as I looked for the tree.  I thought I saw it, but didn’t see any ripe berries within reach.  When we got right next to it, Cole started doing his silly walk.  Here, he was looking for it too, but he remembered where it was, and he was begging!  Silly guy.  I looked closer, and I found a mulberry for him.


The season is a short one, and I don’t know if there will be any less next time we go there.  I sure hope so.  Cole has turned into such a special horse—I love to spoil him.

MerryLegs, ScaryLegs and the Big White Bunny


Kevin had an idea.  He brought out an old pair of jeans, filled them with sand and we have put them on MerryLegs' back when he is in his stall.  I have him walk around the stall, and click him for quiet behavior.

Ellen had the big white bunny idea.  She brought it out this weekend.  When we were done with our lounging, we introduced the bunny.  She showed it to him on both sides.  He was worried, of course, but not for long.  I clicked him when he stood still.  Then, the bunny touched him.  He flinched, but soon, he didn’t mind it.  It wasn’t long before bunny was his back.  He got lots of carrots for that.

Later, when he was back in his stall, we put “scary legs” on him to show Ellen what we had been doing during the week.  We decided to toss the bunny on to get a picture.  He was great, and stood as still as could be with him balanced up there while Ellen took the picture.

Overall, we had a really good weekend.  His lounging is doing well, and I led him to the river twice.  On Sunday, we followed Ranger down.  This was his first time with another horse.  We had always taken him by himself.  At the bottom, Kevin was coming back from a ride with a friend, and he was a little uneasy when the horses passed him, but he quickly forgot them and said he would rather just follow Ranger.  He also didn’t like when I turned him to go away from Range—but only the first time.  The second time I tried, he was fine.  He dipped his feet in the water, but it was too high for me to lead him across.
 
Ranger was so nice to him, too.  Not once did he make a face or act like a bully.  He was happy to have him there and acted more like he was showing his little brother around.
  

The best news—he decided he can walk out of his stall and then out of the barn without a hassle!  When he readily led out on Saturday, it so caught me by surprise that I was speechless.  He has been doing it ever since.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

Update

I haven’t been good about blogging, lately.  This thing with MerryLegs has been so upsetting, it has taken the wind out of my sails.  All my hopes came crashing down, and now I have to decide what to do.  I will probably get outside help, as I have shown that I don’t have skills as a bronc rider.  I believe it will work out, but right now, I feel very discouraged.

I am still very sore, but there is improvement.  I can sneeze without groaning, walk slowly without much pain and get up and down from the floor fairly easily—something I have to do a lot with a cat like Thunder.  If I walk fast, do heavy lifting and just do too much, it starts hurting, again, and then it won't stop until I rest.  Sitting can be bad--but sometimes I can sit fine.  It is surprising that I can ride Cole and be more comfortable than any other time of the day.

Ironically, MerryLegs has improved with everything since the accident.  I have spent the week with lounging and leading.  He is getting excellent with vocal commands, but still not 100%.  I think that will come.  I can now see him concentrating on what I am doing--and thinking when I give him a command.  He is trying to find his balance, and though he doesn't look unbalanced as he trots about, when he finds it, he looks great.  I click him for it.  I did this with Cole, lounging and though I never used side reins with him, you would never know it to watch him trot on the lounge. Cole carries himself as if he has invisible side reins.

He did pretty good with the farrier--only pulling back, twice.

The leading has vastly improved.  He only has trouble going in and out of doorways, now.  When he gets stuck out in the driveway, I can get him going again in just a few seconds.  Maybe this is how the riding will go.  Once he understands what I want, the problems will just vanish.  I hope so.

 I have played this over in my mind, and I am sure that I used too much leg pressure--and held it for too long when he didn't respond.  I even think I know why.  Cole really is a pony, and the only part of my legs that touch is side is right below my knees. To give him leg pressure, I have to bring my legs in really far just to touch his sides!  It amazes me how a horse that little can feel so big when I ride him. I didn't realize the implications of doing what I was used to on a much bigger horse--and one that doesn't like pressure.
 
I have been doing the TTouch on his sides, and he is sensitive more on one side than the other.  He is getting accustomed to it.  It is very light pressure in a circular manner.  I did much of the TTouch massage on his body, and I found no other places that are as sensitive. 

I did the surcingle squeeze on him, and he reacted with concern, but quietly.  I kept moving it to different parts of his barrel and squeezing tight--and then clicked when he stood quietly.  We've done that a few times, now. 
  
Now, for the funny part.  Kevin got an idea.  He brought out an old pair of jeans, filled the legs with sand and we named it Scary Legs.  It must weigh 50 pounds.  Twice now, we have put it on his back in his stall and led him around.  The first time, he was very worried--the second time he was calm.  I don't know if it will help one bit, but it never hurts to give a horse a novel experience.  Eventually, we will lounge him with them.

I really want to take him for a walk across the river.  Just seeing how well that I think he will do will make me very hopeful about the future.  The weather hasn’t been helpful, though. We got a bunch more rain, so we will be lucky to cross at all this weekend.  I think it will be too high and muddy to lead a new horse across.


The amount of rain we have had in the last few months has been incredible.  My garden is the worst, ever.  It just can’t dry out.  I don’t know if I will get much of any produce at all—except beans from the scarlet runner beans I plant in pots on the patio for the hummingbirds.  They aren’t the greatest tasting, but they work fine in a casserole.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Simply Irresistible



Stormy apparently had a rough night.

What's Next

What’s Next

What a terribly emotional time this has been. The disappointment has been weighing on me, heavily. Not a few tears have been shed, and none of them caused by my physical pain. I was even doubting Mrs. Shoes. (Foolish, foolish me.) It didn’t help, that Kevin, always a cynic, was painting me a picture of a woman who just wanted to get rid of a horse—that she was hiding the fact that he had a bucking problem—just because she wanted to get rid of him. Though I kept defending Mrs. Shoes, it did cross my mind that I may have been gullible. But surely, if she was trying to trick me, the least she could have done was sent me better pictures of him. He really, really does look so much better than the pictures—I trusted her with that, and I trust her with everything else. She gave me a horse that has great potential, and I just have to find the key to unlock it.

He bucked once for the trainer when she initially asked him to trot, and he did the same for me. Chances are, if I had been able to stay in the saddle, that would have been the end of it. I would have used less leg pressure and all would have gone well.

The day after the “incident” I didn’t even want to look at MerryLegs. I did take him out and work with him, but there was no joy involved. I could have been working with a stranger’s horse, for all I felt. He actually did really well that day.

The following day, I heard from the trainer, and that lifted my spirits. I went out to the barn in the evening, and this time, when I first looked at MerryLegs, my heart smiled. All hope isn’t lost. Nobody tricked me into accepting a lemon at all. He is just a “Special” horse that is going to be a bigger challenge than I expected. We had an even better training session, that night.

After a lot of thought (and it seems that’s what training is all about—a lot of thought,) I am forming the basis of a plan.

Since MerryLegs bucked with both his trainer and me on the trot request, I have to get teach him to trot reliably from a voice command. I am sure he used to know how to do it, but he seemed to forget so much when he crossed the border. I have been working on it the last few lounging lessons. I ask him to trot twice from my voice, and if he doesn’t respond by the third request, I wave the whip. Sometimes, he still didn’t, so I waved harder. By the end of the second session—he was getting it. He was trotting to my voice only. That meant—it was click time. I am hoping to get him so good at it that when I ask him to trot in the saddle with a verbal command, he will understand. After a bunch of successful clicking transitions, I may not be so nervous about asking him to trot. Clicker training is a funny thing—it seems to increase the rider’s abilities, too.

The two times he got upset about the stirrup hitting his side while lounging, it was a surprise to him. My saddle’s stirrups are notorious for slipping free. It is evident he doesn’t like surprises. Mrs. Shoes said she lounged him with a western saddle that flapped on his side, but he would expect that, so it wouldn’t bother him. If I run the stirrups down intentionally, they don’t bother him. I will let them work their way down from now on. He can get used to surprises on the lounge line.

Long ago, when I got Cruiser as a 2-year-old, he was the most distracted horse. I could get nowhere with him. Someone suggested the TTeam book. I bought it, did the massage routine, took Cruiser into the indoor arena, and for the first time, ever, he looked at me—he knew I was there. After that, things went pretty smoothly. That isn’t MerryLegs problem, but since I had such a good experience with the massage, I don’t think it will hurt one bit to try some of it on MerryLegs. I got the book out and was reviewing it. The full massage routine will indicate if he has any pain, and I really don’t think this is pain, but I will give it a try. I think what he will benefit the most from is the TTouch in the girth and behind the girth area. Maybe he gets tight and sensitive there. I could try it before and after work, and see what happens. It may help him to accept pressure.

Another part of my plan might sound silly, but why not try it. I got out my old surcingle—something I haven’t used since I taught Mingo to ground drive when he was recuperating from one of his operations. I thought if I should hold it around his belly in different spots, maybe he could get used to the feeling of being trapped by pressure. Quiet reactions would get a click, of course. I have been pressing my hand and arm in the leg pressure area, and it hardly bothers him, now.

You see, one thing that Mrs. Shoes told me was that he doesn’t like when the farrier would trap his front legs between his knees when he was trimmed. I made a point to work on this so that my farrier won’t have a problem. At first, MerryLegs would lean backwards and pull away. I just did it for short periods of time and clicked him for it. He seems fine with it, now. We’ll see how he does with the farrier.

What if MerryLegs is like this with everything? What if he is adverse to the feeling of being trapped? This seems like a safe way to possibly get him used to it.

Once I can ride him and get a trot transition without leg pressure, he will still have to get used to it. Let’s say he should spook and I reflexively hold on with my legs—that would scare him even more. Also, if he is used to light contact with my legs, if I should use heavier contact—he wouldn’t get as surprised as sudden pressure—like he does when the stirrups slip down.

I’m sure I will have more ideas, but this is where I’m starting. I sure hope it works.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ouch

Ouch

My 4th ride on MerryLegs went superb. We practiced our walk/whoa transitions, did some straight lines and he seemed to understand when I wanted to turn. Things were looking good.

On Saturday, I rode at a walk for about 15 minutes. I decided to ask for a trot. I tried the ride before, but he didn’t do it, and I didn’t push it. This time, I was more determined. I said the word, squeezed my legs, got nothing and continued to squeeze. Next thing I knew, I was flying through the air. He had turned into a bucking bronco.

I was bruised and battered—and blind. Ellen found my glasses for me, and I wanted to get back on. When I lifted my foot to the stirrup, he started to buck, again. Now, I knew I had a problem. I led him around to get him to settle down. When he seemed quiet, I took him to the mounting block. I pulled at the stirrup, flopped my body over his back—and did all the stuff you would do to accustom horse to being ridden. I eased on his back and had him stand. So far, so good. I dismounted and did it all again. Kevin was by my side. I asked him to walk, but immediately, it didn’t feel right. I tried to stop him, but he refused. before I knew it, I was flying through the air, again.

I was more bruised and battered—and done. No more riding MerryLegs that day, or for a while.

It seemed to me, that the first bucking incident was related directly to the leg pressure. My guess is the second incident was caused by him being upset about the first one.

To say I was discouraged, despondent, depressed and just plain down is an understatement. Did I make a really big mistake? Is this why he was a free horse. I dind’t think Mrs. Shoes and MerryLeg’s trainer was lying to me. What was I going to do?

I immediately decided that I wouldn’t consider riding again for at least a month. I needed to do more groundwork and come up with a plan—and heal. I din’t break anything, but I am extremely sore in the posterior area. My tailbone was unscathed, but the muscles around it are very bad. There is no way I could manage any challenging riding in this state. I’m lucky I can even ride Cole.

Then next day, we had a very productive lounging session. I had him saddled and bridled. When we stopped, I tried pressing my hand firmly on his side where my leg would go, and he cringed and started to back up. Ah hah! I then tried light pressure, and he stood still. I clicked/treated. I kept repeating—adding pressure—until I had it as heavy as before. He was good. The clicking really helps with desensitization. I then did the same on the other side.

I am not going to give up, but I must concede I may not succeed.

I then emailed his trainer to see if she had this problem and what she did to overcome it.

She did, but only the first time she asked him to trot. He never did it again, but she also learned to ask mainly with her voice and her seat. So, that confirmed my theory that it was the leg pressure that set him off. The good news is that this wasn’t a chronic problem that she struggled with—this gives me hope.

I will get him to be terrific with his trot transitions from voice command, desensitize him to pressure in any way I can think of and hopefully, I will be able to go beyond it. I must confess, asking him to trot is a rather terrifying idea, but I will have to do it, eventually. He is such a good horse, in many ways. I really hope I can work this out.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ranger


Ellen's boyfriend was out with his camera. Ellen and I were riding the loop with Ranger and Cole. As we passed him, Cole did his best silly walk, ever. His legs stepped high, and he barely went forward. Cool, I thought, John can get a picture of him. Then I looked over and John had his camera on Ranger.

This is the picture he got. I can imagine that Ranger, who we always joke is embarrassed by Cole's antics, is looking back at Ellen saying, "Do you believe what he is doing now?"

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ride Two and Three

Rides Two and Three

Totally uneventful.  I didn’t have my number one assistant, Ellen, but Kevin did a fine job as number two assistant.  He held MerryLegs for mounting and stood with us as we practiced standing quietly and walked by our side.  He stayed with us the majority of ride #2, but I only had him help a little on ride #3. 

We haven’t done much except practice “walk” and “whoa.”  He only tried backing up a couple of times.  We got stuck at a standstill a few times, but we were able to work it through.  He can’t seem to break out of a small circle, but at least he is circling in both directions.

I’m glad to say that he is relaxed and hasn’t once spooked or done anything sudden.  It doesn’t seem to be his nature. 

Wow, what a boring post.

On to other things.  He is getting used to bug spray.  Well, it is fake bugspray.  I filled up an old bottle of bugspray with water.  It only smells a little bit.  In the beginning, he acted like I was spraying him with battery acid.  I spray him when he is loose in his stall, and with patience and the help of my clicker, he will stand perfectly still for spraying.

He is terrific with saddling and bridling.

His leading has improved dramatically.  The only difficulty I still have is coming out of his stall and going out of the barn door—but last night, he only gave me minimal resistance.

When I got him, Mrs. Shoes warned me that he doesn’t like when a farrier picks up his foot and holds it trapped in his legs.  That was a challenge I sought to overcome—and I think has decided that it is now no big deal.  I gradually got him used to it—with the help of my handy clicker.  In the beginning, I could do it only for seconds.  After a few weeks, I could clean his foot with his leg trapped, but if I went much longer, he would sway backwards.  Now, I can hold it as long as I want, and he just stands.  He no longer has any issues.

I have now started to do it in the crossties, since that is how our farrier likes to do the horses.  Last night, he was perfect.

Our only big problem—he has learned to self bathe.  He decided dumping his water bucket is great fun—turning his stall into a swamp.  He was seen actually grabbing it from the bottom and flipping it over.  He also liked lifting it by the lip.  I switched to a different bucket, and he seems better.  I also got a bucket holder, so if he starts up again, I will put that up.


If it would only stop raining—I want to get him across the river.  Ellen and I call this the “New Horse Curse.”  This happened to us the summer we got Cole and the summer we got Dante.  It is very frustrating.