Saturday, November 7, 2009

Trail riding fun!

So we have had a busy fall, getting Bucky out and about on the trails. His stifle seems much better on the straightaways and trails rather than doing circles in the ring. And he has fun! After a few more local rides with friends we did a few organized trail rides this fall . . .

We ventured off to North Brookfield, MA for the Sportman's Club fall ride . . . we had fun with all our VT Morgan friends and completed the 8 mile ride and all the obstacles.

Bucky was fantastic, calm and brave, he even was the leader at times! We went through rivers and over logs, up hills and through mud . . . (thats Bucky up front)

Next we ventured off with best friend Ali and borrowed horse Flash to a 4-H trail ride in Lyndeborough, NH after finding our way there we had a great ride on the "the boys". Riding a BUCKskin we had to make sure we would not be mistaken for a deer, that silly scarf sure does the trick!

Flash is an experienced trail horse and set a great example for Bucky to follow . . . there was more riding on the road on this ride so Bucky got used to all kinds of traffic. The train tracks gave both horses pause though!

Checking our directions . . . hoping for a few more good rides before winter!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Poor Bucky!

He doesn't really look like a lame horse , does he? Unfortunately Bucky has an upward fixating patella, so he is not classically "lame", but every once in a while his stifle goes "pop" and out goes his knee, causing him to stumble. Poor fella! Having been through this before with another horse, I know I need to get Bucky in better shape. Building up those gluteal muscles are what he needs to hold the stifle in place.

The challenge becomes maintaining his confidence and willingness to work while getting him in shape despite the random instability in his gait from the locking stifle. Poor Bucky has started counter cantering in the lame direction and reluctant to pick up the trot that direction as well!

Up-hill work, cavalettis and trotting are all helpful, so hopefully we'll have some good weather to keep up his exercise schedule. I am hoping we can resolve this with exercise since it is not too severe. Wish us luck!
If you want to see his patella lock, there is a video here:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lessons from A Horse . . .

We are all still adjusting to the loss of our beloved Lady Byrd. The biggest thing that she taught me over the years, and something I hear repeated by many great trainers, is "listen to your horse". Listening to Lady taught me so many things about riding, horses and also life.

These are a few lessons I have to come understand and appreciate . . .

Bucky helped me to realize that the harder it is to reach a goal, the more important it becomes to recognize it once your there. We have been struggling with a nice, soft, smooth halt for a few weeks now. I realized that each time I asked for halt, got it, and was then thinking ahead, "Next we'll swing hindquarters over, then back up . . . ". I realized I wasn't taking the time to show him that "yes, that is what I want". So today we worked on halt, and then standing quietly savoring our lovely square, soft, halt. This concept was also very helpful with Miss Haley, it took so long for her to come to me in the paddock, so we make sure to spend lots of friendly time when she does.

Haley, though still a little mistrustful, reminds me the most of Lady Byrd. She is very very smart, but far more interested in her own self preservation than what you are asking her to do. She is teaching me daily to throw agenda out the window. Today I carried saddle blankets, flags and lead ropes out to the paddock to work with her and then realized what she really needed was to just build trust and work slowly. So we spent 20 minutes just working on facing me in the paddock and allowing herself to be approached without swinging her haunches at me. It was pretty amazing though to watch her think through the process, after 3-4 times of stopping & looking away whenever she would turn towards me she finally turned her haunches away and then stood there chewing and yawning for about 3 minutes before walking right up to me.

And then of course there is Sassy, forever reminding me to have patience. No matter how many times we have been over hoof trimming or fly spraying, there are always days when she has to be naughty and forget her lessons. When we first got Sassy she needed a lot of care - bathing, wound care, clipping her matted winter coat, hoof trimming and deworming. Because she is little we were able to get this all done without too much trouble, but at times I didn't take the time to help her accept what was going on. In the long run I think this has led to more problems with her and I should have just taken the time to let her be dirty and matted while we worked through her issues. Lesson learned, and we are now trying to work through things more slowly with her and help ger gain trust and confidence.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

First trail ride . . .

Photo by Cody Jeffers
We headed off for Bucky's first trail ride today. A benefit ride for a local rescue Animal Aid Inc. It was a beautiful day for it and he loaded right in the trailer and off we went to Crystal Gait Horses in Townshend to enjoy a 5 mile ride or hike depending on how Bucky was doing.

I saddled him up, but left his halter on so I could start out leading him. I was lucky enough to find a nice group of friends who let me tag along behind them, so we could walk at our own pace. Bucky was great, he started off a little snorty and prancing, but quickly settled down. After about 20 minutes he acclimated to the woods and other horses and was walking quietly, so I decided to ride him. He was great!

For the most part he was a very brave boy, even leading the way part of the ride, up and down hills, and through trees, but the deep mud was a little intimidating, so we let Andrea lead the way with a Mountain horse mare through the muddy sections and he would follow right along.

The things we so often take for granted, tying, trailering, and standing patiently . . . Bucky has learned well. He was very good and we are looking forward to more trail rides together.

Happy to be home!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Social Skills 101 - Girl trouble!

We recently added another new horse to our herd, a recent rescue from Spring Hill Horse Rescue (where we got Bucky from two years ago). They have some very nice horses and we couldn't turn this one down. "Haley" aka Shades Noble Highlight is a registered buckskin Morgan mare, for Bucky it was love at first sight. BUT poor Bucky has a lot to learn about MARES.

He has been living with our 30 year old mare and the mini Sassy so has been the un-contested herd boss for quite a while and both mares find him to be a little rude. As you can see he tailgaits horribly . . . Haley gave him a few warnings with ears pinned and the hoof raised, but he didn't listen . . .

And so he did get a good kick or two from Haley for his troubles . . .

And then Haley decided she'd rather hang out with the other mare, Bucky is still trying to make friends, but not quite sure how to do so politely.

This is what Haley thinks of Bucky . . .

The girls maintaining a respectful distance and checking each other out . . .

Bucky looking on after he finally gets the hint to stay away. Poor fella! It might take a while for him to catch on to mare-talk!

An spring adventure . . .

So with mud season in full swing at our house, Bucky goes off on another adventure. We headed out with our new (used) trailer Saturday for a lesson in an indoor arena (with Heidi Potter - Maple Ridge Stables). I have been able to ride him 2-3x weekly for short periods of time when the paddock is dry. I was hopeful that our work over the winter would help him to behave, this is only his second trip away from our farm. We had a pretty good spooking incident two days before while riding in the paddock, but he stopped himself and I stayed on . . . a good sign!

Here Bucky is all dressed up and ready to go . . .

Our confidence and trust building exercises have paid off in that we have a horse who is now very easy to load into a trailer. After a mishap with a wrong turn and LOTS of backing the trailer up, we arrived! We let Bucky loose in the indoor to tack him up before lunging him. He explored calmly taking everything in. He was very good on the lunge, so I rode him for the second part of our lesson.

He was a very good boy! We are working on taking up gentle contact with the reins and yielding to leg pressure at the walk. I am hopeful we will be able to have more adventure this summer as Bucky continues to learn.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Playtime . . . again!

After a false start at spring (mud season -ewww!) we are back into winter with another 4-6" of snow. After putting fresh shavings in the stalls today Sassy decided to take off with the empty shavings bag, which Bucky quickly claimed as his own. And boy did he have fun! Video here.

So we keep impatiently waiting for spring . . . Bucky is learning some valuable lessons in respect from our mini mare Sassy. She gives him the occasional kick when he nibbles her too much or plays too rough.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Is winter over yet?

Winter is tough! We don't have an indoor or really many places with even good footing. So I am trying to find exercises to keep Bucky in shape and also mentally stimulated. So far we have settled for yielding from pressure work on halter and from the ground, he can do a nice turn on the haunches and turn on the forehand!
I get on him about once a week when the weather allows and work on walk-halt-walk transitions and bending. Thats about it . . . I'm thinking about trailering him to an indoor to see how he is . . .should be fun!
In the meantime Sassy is a little pest, chasing our old mare around and jumping over the divider between paddocks(yes she jumps about 3" without any problems . . . ) when I try to put her in with Bucky. She is slowly adjusting to life with Bucky.
I love watching Bucky do quick turns and sliding stops as he plays in the paddock, he has such amazing athleticism and potential. I can't wait for spring!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New friend?

We just adopted another pony from Spring Hill Rescue, she is a 4 1/2 year old pinto shetland we named "Sassafrass". I was hoping she could be Bucky's new friend . . . we introduced her to our old mare Lady first.

Lady LOVES Sassy . . .

Sassy is not so thrilled with meeting Bucky . . . we'll see how it goes after she settles in!

To see more available ponies from Spring Hill check out our photos here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Bucky is really enjoying the snow! Althought the cold, wet weather has put a damper on some of our riding / training, I am still working with Bucky as much as I can. He is learning to accept the bridle much better now and I have been able to long line him without any problems. The footing is not good so we have been doing ground work and walking primarily.

I am also hoping to teach Bucky to bow this winter and *someday* would like to teach him the spanish walk. He is very clever and I think would pick up on it quickly. He gets bored and invents games of his own if I don't work with him regularly (like removing his own blanket, or hide the feedpan . . .).

We have started the introduction to bow by getting him to lift and hold up a forefoot on command . . . so I tell him "foot" and gently tap the near fetlock, once he picks it up - he gets a treat or scratch. He is doing it and holding the foot up on command but its still inconsistent. I tried to show my farrier as I thought she'd appreciate it, but he was distracted and wouldn't comply.

Bucky after sedation to have his teeth floated.

We have also continued to work on Bucky's teeth, he had his wolf teeth pulled a few months ago and is losing a few premolar caps. He is eating primarily just hay now without any problems and even had to be put on a diet as he was a little chubby. Our previously skinny boy is now an easy keeper! I should also mention that Bucky has been great for me for all his veterinary work. He is good for shots and deworming, we have used lots of positive reinforcement and he has been great for blood draws, shots and teeth, although with the level of dental care he needs sedation is required.

A common sight at our house . . . pink pony noses looking for treats or attention . . .

She blames ALL her grey hairs on Bucky!

Lady was feeling left out, this is our 30 year old Morab mare Lady Byrd, who is much less thrilled with Bucky than we are. She thought her retirement would be peaceful! I have had her for 19 years and she was my childhood show pony. She has cushing's and arthritis, so her only job now is the occasional pony ride. For the most part we have Bucky & Lady in side by side seperate paddocks and stalls, but I sometimes catch them socializing over the fence and turn them out together for supervised playtime.

We recently learned that Spring Hill, the rescue we got Bucky from, has recently received about 30 ponies / horses from a neglect case and is need of donations, hay, and foster homes in VT. I am trying to figure out ways we can help . . . for more information. It breaks my heart to think of these poor horses this winter and I wish I had room to foster a few!

Fall 2008: More adventures . . .

Bucky is enjoying the mud and getting fuzzy again in preparation for winter and I pulled his mane to keep him from resembling a wild Mustang . . . Like most grooming, he was very good for this and didn't seem to mind at all. He just loves the attention!

Training continues and we were lucky enough to have our neighbors let us use their riding ring as our paddocks became very muddy and uneven. Heidi came over for our first trip over to the ring. Getting there involves crossing a very large wide open hayfield. Bucky was very good, he snorted and pranced a little, but behaved himself on the leadline. Once in the new ring he seemed to settle in okay, we did some ground work and eventually I got on him. He was a little excited, but really tried to behave except for biting the stirrup (and almost tipping us over!) after a one rein stop.

After all the progress we had made at home, I was a little disappointed that he was not better behaved, but I have to keep reminding myself - he's only 3 years old! Mentally he seems like a very young horse and we have no need to rush his training. He continues to do better in his halter than with a bridle / bit on, but we're working on that as well.