Thursday, November 29, 2012

The BFF Comes to Visit

My BFF, the one who will be sharing Dickie once he is older, came out for a visit recently. He has wants to come out more often but work has been crazy. For the most part he gets by on pictures, videos and stories. He started so many horses that he is burnt out on the greenie stage so it is working out great for me to take charge right now. I, on the other hand, just LOVE this stage. I have never been the first person to back a horse so this is exciting for me. It is so fun to have the BFF out because he has great advice. He also knows how hard the little things are so his encouragement means a lot. People who haven’t worked with a baby don’t always realize how much someone had to teach their seasoned horse. Our groundwork is still rough around the edges but he knows so much about horses that he realizes the improvements we have made.

The last time he came out I was able to sit on Dickie and practice mounting and dismounting. We were hoping to do more of that since BFF so rarely gets time off work. The next time he comes out might be months from now. It was windy, rainy, and the arena was packed so that was out of the question. Other horses don’t really distract him in the arena but he can still be unpredictable at times and I don’t want to distract kids in lessons. With that in mind, we showed off our round pen skills. BFF remembers our very first lunge session where Dickie didn’t understand what was going on. He also remembers the days when he would throw a tantrum if I asked him not to step on my feet. These days I can say “Hoa!!” and he will stop immediately. If he stops before his shoulder passes mine he doesn’t have to back up. If he takes the slack out of the lead or lets his shoulder pass mine he has to back up.

When he gets into the round pen he goes right to work. He listens to my body cues to change directions and to halt. He doesn’t stop every time a person walks by (he things about it though because he loves people). We showed him how Dickie will move his haunches and shoulders with a gentle touch. He will even move his haunches from side to side with me standing in front of him using the whip as an extension of my arm. Then we practiced side passing and he is getting pretty darn good at it. He does all of this at liberty.

Back at the stable we showed him our newest trick, shaking hands. I just started working on that because it hurts my back when they don’t hold their own feet up. He will also target objects if I point at them and say “touch”. I have a cute little vibrating bumblebee, the kind you use as a back massager. It is great for getting him used to clippers. There are no sharp edges and it doesn’t matter if I break it. First I have him touch it in my hand then, I put it down in the stall and ask him to walk away from me to touch it. Next, I turn the vibration on and ask him to walk over and touch it. He still isn’t convinced he likes the sound but will touch it. He really didn’t like it when he decided to pick up the bumblebee while it was vibrating. It cracks me up that he was afraid of it but that didn’t stop him from putting it in his mouth.

My friend thought we were doing great. He thinks Dickie is gorgeous and loves rubbing him and feeing him treats. He mentioned that he has never taught his horses to respond so much to body language from the ground. He also noticed that even when Dickie didn’t seem to be listening to me because he was looking at other horses, or people, he still responded to my body language and seemed in tuned to me. It got me thinking about the differences between men and women. A 6’2” man like my BFF can control a horse by pulling on them or pushing them with force. I don’t see it as neccesarilly an aggressive thing, they are naturally so strong they don’t even realize they are doing it. A woman on the other hand couldn’t muscle a pony. We are smaller, less muscle mass, and more prone to soft tissue injuries. Do you think because of that we are more inclined to teach our horses to respond from body language or light cues?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Clicker Training

Several of my fellow bloggers are using clicker training with their horses. I bought clickers several times over the years and never followed through. I used a clicker with my Aussie when he was six weeks old and had him sitting, laying down, and rolling over. I am not sure why I didn’t stick with it. I think I just got busy with life. Now that I have Dickie clicker training seems like a necessity. He is easily bored and has a short attention span. I can’t ride him yet and the usual ground work (lunging, ground driving, etc) gets boring for him really quickly. He is also very big with a stubborn streak so trying to push this horse into anything is out of the question. Clicker training is the perfect option for an independent extrovert. I get to keep things exciting while teaching him things that will be helpful for his career as a riding horse.

I was a psychology major in college round one so I have some experience with operant conditioning. I took several classes on learning, behavior modification, and experimental psychology. In one of the classes we taught the rats how to complete a fairly complicated series of behaviors. With the in mind I feel pretty confident that we can figure it out. Dickie is really good at targeting objects but until recently I hadn't done much more than that. Last week we started shaking hands. This is great because he will pick up his feet and hold them up for me. Plus, it is really cute…..

One of Dickie’s weird quirks is that he hates it when you ask him to lower his poll. If you press on it he will start flipping his head and even rear up if he can’t get you to release the pressure. If it's his idea to lower his head you get lucky, if it's not his idea then watch out. He has gotten better about putting his head down for the halter but still doesn’t try to help much. And sometimes it is downright hard to get that rope halter tied because he goes into giraffe mode. 

I decided that clicker training would be a great way to overcome this issue. I started with something he knows, shaking hands, so he knew was game we were playing. From there I put my hand on his poll. Immediately he started shaking his head and if I put pressure his head shot up. When he figured out that I was going to follow him everywhere he decided to rear and make himself too tall for my short little arms. When you are teaching a behavior you start with the behavior that is closest to your goal behavior. I went into it intending to start by clicking with any release to my pressure. I quickly figured out that the starting behavior was Dickie just standing still without tossing his head or rearing. He has a short attention span so we couldn’t work on it for long. The furthest we got was him allowing me to put pressure on his poll while keeping his head level with my shoulder. He didn’t want to give to pressure yet but letting me put pressure without panicking was a big step as small as it might sound to outsiders. During the next session I didn't have any of the crazy head flipping and he even lowered it a few times. Good boy!!

I am not sure why he has this weird reaction to having his poll touched from the side. He will let you touch his poll if you are in front of him just giving loves. He isn’t head shy. He lets you rub his face, poke in his ears, and play with his lips. I can reach into his sheath without his flinching.  Even if he doesn’t like something he is pretty tolerant about it. He was handled kindly both at his breeders and at Pony Up. There is one month between those two homes where he was purchased to be a Mexican Dancing Horse. I did some reading on the training these horses go through and it isn’t pretty. Maybe something happened to him in that month that caused this behavior. Who knows. What I do know is that clicker training is an easy nonthreatening way to teach my tall goofball to make his head a little lower for his momma. 

If you've ever thought about clicker training you should do it!! It is so fun and very easy. It's really great for those rainy days when you aren't up for a ride. This is kind of a fun website to give you an idea of how to get started:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Say Goodbye Ugly Sarcoid

I am not sure if anyone noticed in photos but Dickie had an ugly sarcoid in his left ear. I didn't know much about sarcoids until Dickie. Until then I thought it was just an ugly thing some horses have and no big deal to snip off. Apparently they can spread and get out of control. They aren't cancerous but can spread to places that affect a horses ability to be ridden. If you have a horse with just one or two sarcoids there is a good chance you will be able to get rid of the problem. If you have a horse with multiple sarcoids it is pretty likely that they will keep coming back. It is a virus that can be spread when the skin is broken on a sarcoid and flies crawl in another area of broken skin. It might seem easy just to snip one off but you might not get all of the infected tissue. If you leave any behind the virus goes into hyperdrive and you can end up with bigger sarcoid. That is why many people chose to just watch and wait. 

The good news is Dickie only had one sarcoid that was growing slowly. I kept his ears covered with a fly mask so hopefully it didn't spread. The other good news is that there are some new treatments out for sarcoids. One of the best treatments is removing the tumor then injecting a chemotherapy drug called Cisplatin. They come back every two weeks until they are sure the tumor isn't coming back. She thought she might need to come back two times.

I made a plan with the vet for removal back when I first brought Dickie home. We wanted to wait until the flies died down to schedule the appointment. We didn't have many flies at his current stable because we use feed through fly control. However, I didn't want to take any chances that flies might complicate the process. 

We weren't sure how complicated the removal would be. We didn't know if the tumor was embedded into cartilage. There also isn't much extra tissue over the ears which can make stitching difficult. Luckily it turned out the tumor was just hanging off the edge of his lower ear. She snipped it off with scissors and there was plenty of skin for some lovely stitches. She did such a great job!! Dickie did great too. They can't give a local anesthetic because it will dilate the blood vessels. This will keep the Cisplatin from staying where it needs to be. 

Sometimes the Cisplatin can ooze out after it is injected and the ear is a tricky place because just south is the eye. Cisplatin is a very toxic drug with even the vet uses special precautions so we don't want it an his eye. Luckily there wasn't even the tiniest drop coming out when I check on him several hours after the procedure. She said that she will probably only need to come back for one more dose rather than two or three more. 

The other scary part of the procedure was the fact we haven't used sedative on him before.The cardiologist assured us that he wouldn't have issues with sedation. You still worry though.... He ended up being just fine. He was snoring when I had to leave. I was able to go back to the barn to check on him and make sure he work up. He was bright eyed and begging for treats. 

Starting to get very sleepy....... You can see the ugly thing poking out form all his ear hair. 

Not too happy about the clippers in his ear. 

Sleeping with his tongue hanging out. Hehehehe

Sarcoid is all gone, time for medicine. 

This is Dickie with his head lowered. Notice the vet still has to stretch her arms tall.  He's got such a long neck. 

The nasty little bugger is all gone. 

Trying to keep his eyes open while he snores away. That is silver spray on his ear. 

Fun Horsey Survey

One of my fave fellow bloggers (Adventures with Shyloh) posted this survey and I thought it would be fun. 

Splurge or save:

1) saddle: Both. I can find really good deals and always go used but there are certain brands I won't buy because they are hard on a horse. i would rather get an older beat up version of a good brand than a shiny new saddle that will hurt my pony. 
2) board: Save. I just can't hack the expensive barns that require training. I don't want someone to mess with my horse and my paycheck can't take it. 
3) halter: Save. I love used if i feel the need for something fancy. 
4) bit:  splurge. I do buy used but I have found that the KK bits are magic on horses so that is what I ride miss Bre in. Dickie will eventually have one too. 
5) bridle:  Save. I have found some amazing deals and used bridles. I am a leather snob though so it has to be really soft and expensive looking. 
6) saddle pad: splurge. I have to admit that I have an unreasonably expensive mattes half pad for Bre. Bre knows if  you put the wrong pad on her back and will pin her ears. 
7) trailer: I don't have one but I will end up with a mid range trailer. I will never be able to justify a big fancy one though. 

First thing that comes to mind: 

1) Haflinger: My blogger friends horse Shyloh
2) Quarter Horse: Breedle Dee of course. 
3) Thoroughbred: My first horse Belle
4) Warmblood: This big goofy horse that lived next door to Dickie
5) Welsh Cob: A fancy hairy little eventer galloping through fields in the UK

This or That:

1) english or western: English-western kills my bum hip
2) tall or short: Tall. Really tall, for no logical reason
3) trail ride or beach ride: AHHH!! This is too hard. Beach, only because I still haven't been able to do it yet. 
4) long mane or short mane: Short, I like my horses ready to go to a show any second. 
5) hunters or jumpers: Jumpers. I can't watching horses go around on the forehard over fences
7) outdoor arena or indoor arena: Outdoor, but that gets pretty hard here in the winter
8) trot or canter: trot
9) canter or gallop: Gallop!!!
10) paddock boots, tall boots, or cowboy boots: tall boots but I wear paddock so my tall boots don't wear out. 
11) horse shoes or barefoot: barefoot if the horse can handle it. Bre can't. 
12) saddle or bareback: saddle, Bre is too bouncy to ride bareback for long

About you: 
1) How long have you been riding? 14 years. I started as an adult. 
2) Do you own or lease a horse? Own
3) Breed? Age? Height? Name? (if you don’t own or lease, you could talk about your lesson horse): QH, 14, Bre (reg Treat Me Gentle), 16h and Appy, 2yo, Dickie 16.1ish
4) Do you have any other pets? German Spitz and Aussie (he's my families dog but I feel like he's mine)
5) If your horse was a person, what kind of voice would they have (you can use a celebrity for an example) Bre would have a deep voice like the 1950s bombshell movie stars. Dickie would have a goofy nerd voice that sometimes cracks.
6) Does your horse have a “color”? If so, what is it, and what do you have in that color? Bre was mostly Blue. I LOVE pinks and purples but those colors clash with red. I haven't settled on anything with Dickie yet. I have to go use so I have been pretty much stuck with whatever is a good price and is quality. 
7) Does your horse do any tricks? Bre knows how to let herself out of any type of lock, does that count? Dickie can shake hands, target objects, and is starting to say yes. 
8) Have you ever dressed your horse up for Halloween?  I made crazy wings and a unicorn horn for an Appy I leased. Bre was dressed up in the summer for a costume show. She had streamers for a hula skirt, leis on her feet and neck and head. 

1) Breed? TB
2) Discipline? Dressage and in my mind eventing
3) Coat color? Bay
4) Famous horse? Neville Bardos
5) Horse race/competition? I love eventing 
6) Brand of tack? Passier
7) Thing to do with your horse?  Anything they think is fun

Monday, November 26, 2012

Grown Up Pictures

I picked up a cheap saddle that acutally fits well enough for sacking out. YAY!!!

I look so handsome in my big boy saddle. 

He is wearing his first bit and very confused. He can't figure out how to spit it out so he can flip it around. Nom, Nom, Nom........

Thanksgiving Ponies

I don’t know why but I always feel compelled to see my horses on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. I think it is maybe because I started riding late in life. I had always wanted to have horses more than everything. I wished for a pony every Christmas even though I knew it was totally unreasonable. So when the holidays come I feel like I need to seem them to make sure they are real.

This Thanksgiving was perfect. The last few years it has been hard to squeeze in seeing my horse but I am housesitting at Bre’s barn for a few days. Dickie and Bre are less than five mins apart so I have easy access to both of my ponies. On Weds Romeo’s girl came out to ride Josey. Romeo’s arena is outdoor and turned to mush five months early. She is doing high school eq team so we need to get riding time in any way possible even if it’s not on Romeo. It was really fun to be able to visualize what Josey was doing. She is pretty talented, so with direction she rode Josey as well as I would have. We even worked on Josey’s understanding of the canter command because I was on the ground giving the voice command and using the lunge whip. They bombed around like they were off ot the races but she picked it up better than I have seen!!

Dickie was quite impressed with this teenage. He was sure that she didn’t know the rules and started nuzzling her. I could see him sizing up whether or not he could get a little taste of her. Luckily she is quiet and not much gets past her and she let him know that wasn’t acceptable. He was disappointed but still thought she was pretty awesome. Good teens are priceless. They are happy, have boundless energy, pick up heavy things, and think nothing of spending an afternoon riding in the rain.

It was wonderful to be so close to Dickie because I ran over there for a quick cuddle session late Thanksgiving night. I am so happy we have reached the point where I feel comfortable working with him loose in the stall. He is aware of where I am and makes an effort to respect my space. His tantrums are pretty rare at this point. He used to get his mind set on something and if you asked him to move over, not bite you, or pick up his feet up he might throw a fit and strike out. He also seems to be getting the concept that you can’t nip people. I can let him nuzzle me a little without immediately getting nipped. He has never been a mean biter. He doesn’t come at you teeth bared or anything but a friendly nip can still take a chunk out so I am working hard on this naughty little problem. 

It was nice to wake up to Bre and Romeo. I hate getting up early, even more so now that I am on a grave schedule, but being greeted by Bre’s loud rumbly nicker made it worthwhile. When I arrived home Thanksgiving night I was once again reminded of how loving my mare is. I trimmed her tail and mane. Now she actually looks like someone loves her. The neighbor gave us some blankets because he is getting out of horses and Romeo got to play pony model. I discovered that the reason he always seems to “grow” out of his blankets too fast is because he is wearing blankets two sizes too small. Oooops. Now he is wearing a grown up outfit. They seemed to enjoy beauty parlor time. 

Romeo says "Hi, kiss my nose please"

Romeo wants to visit but Bre would rather eat every little piece of hay. 

"Treats, puhhhleeeeeze?!?!?!?!"