Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sangria's 1st Trail Ride & Indoor Arena

I ponied Sangria out on a 3-hour trail ride on Sunday. It was the first time I had been to this particular location - the trailhead was next to the Enumclaw transfer station, which backs up to Weyerhauser forest property. The parking was on the shoulder next to the busy dump facility, so Sangria was exposed to all types of noises & movements. She started out pretty nervous and fidgety but quickly realized there was nothing to be worried about.

I saddled her up, then mounted up on my mare, Dandy. Dandy was feeling a bit fresh and I needed to warm her up before attempting to pony Sangria. It probably wasn't the smartest idea to introduce ponying in this environment, but luckily Sangria was level headed and willing. It only took a few steps for her to realize that I was leading her and then she settled in with her nose at my knee. Good girl!

The trails were narrow and rocky in places, with plenty of steep inclines and switch backs. I think we climbed over a 1,000 feet in elevation, which for poor Sangria, had her huffing and puffing in no time. She is very sure footed and pays attention to where she's going, though didn't quite realize that the saddle sticks out a bit more than her body. She ended up rubbing it against the trees quite a bit, causing me to wince. My poor saddle!

Jenny had also brought her EMM mustang, MissFire, and ponied her from her gelding, Skippy. It was a great experience! We rode up to a huge waterfall before turning back. MissFire seemed to do a bit better out on the trails than Sangria did. Sangria was continually worried about anyone who was behind her, doing anything she had to to turn around and see who was there, including running over or through my mare and I. We had a few stern discussions about it before she realized that I was scarier than what was behind her and to maintain a proper distance between us as we picked our way down the steep mountain trail.

I also had Jenny's husband, Cody, pony her a bit, since he was riding the 'scary horse'. While he ponied her, I rode up next to Sangria and played with her saddle, putting weight in the stirrup, rubbing her hindquarters and anything I could do that I might have done if I were riding her. She was really good!

When we were done with the trail ride, I took a quick break before heading to drill team practice. I was more than half way to the arena, so it made sense to just keep Sangria with me rather than drive extra miles and take her home. Once I got to the arena, I decided to saddle Sangria up again and pony her inside the busy indoor arena. There were probably 10 or so other riders in there, making for a hectic atmosphere.

Sangria did well, even though I was on a different horse who doesn't pony well. We simply walked around or stood in the center of the arena watching horse and riders move around us. After about a half hour of this, I asked Jenny to do some mounting exercises. So far, I have been the only one to step into the stirrup with Sangria and figured she'd be fine with Jenny doing it.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. I held Sangria from atop my horse, while Jenny reassured her and stepped up. Sangria immediately lurched forward and threw Jenny. We did this a few times until Sangria tolerated it. However, she was never ok with it, which had me completely confused. She was really, really good when I had done these exercises.

Was she now having an issue because we were in the busy arena? Was it a claustraphobic thing, with me holding her from another horse? Was it Jenny? What could it be? So, Jenny and I switched, she took my gelding and started warming him up, leaving Sangria and I to work together. I went ahead and did the same mounting exercises as before and she was fine. She stood perfectly still with no nervousness as the horses moved around her. I must have sat on her for a few minutes each time.

So, I still don't really get it - why she reacted the way that she did. Maybe it was all just too much, the combination of new events. I will be working with her to make sure she can accept other people working with her as well! I think this is certainly important for her successful future!

On a good note, yesterday was Sangria's second day in the pasture - only this time without a halter! She let one of our members halter her and bring her in, just like a normal horse! What a good girl! Tomorrow, the farrier is coming and we are going to attempt to trim her feet! Wish us luck!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Report: Northwest Extreme Mustang Makeover

Jenny and I drove down to Albany, Oregon on Friday to watch the Northwest Extreme Mustang Makeover competition. We were interested in seeing what the judges were looking for, how well the mustangs were trained and just what we had gotten ourselves into. We'd also been following some of the trainers' blogs and were excited to see them and their mustangs compete.

The competition was excellent, the horses were amazing and both Jenny and I left feeling excited about our own mustangs. We can't wait to get them further along in their training! Here's a few pictures of the horses and trainers. Both of us teared up when Jasmine adopted her mustang, Weston. Their bond was easy to see!! The winner of this Extreme Mustang Makeover was a gentleman named Laird McCabe and his mustang named Mustang Sally.

Kevin & Princess

Kyle & Bella

Tracey & Steve Holt!

Jasmine & Weston

Champions, Laird & Mustang Sally

Thursday's Training Review

On Thursday afternoon, I took Sangria out and did a quick review of the exercises that we did the day before. I went into her paddock, haltered her, pulled her out and groomed her. She's easy to halter now and doesn't evade me at all. As I tied her up to the trailer, she was excellent, albeit a tad nervous going through the processes without a horse next to her for confidence.

Sangria loves to be groomed - she is not protective of her space or body at all. Whenever I scratch or curry her itchy spots, she really starts to get into it. Her lip and head start wiggling and in some cases, she has started to reciprocate with mutual grooming - which I'm not sure I want to encourage! But it's adorable that she's so interactive!

After I had brushed her down, I decided to saddle her up before walking her down the road to the local round pen. She doesn't have any fear of the saddle (or anything new I introduce her to!), but she is extremely inquisitive and curious. This quality makes it very easy to work with her!

She gave me no issues or resistance as I saddled her for the second time. She has never bucked, humped her back or had a problem with the girth! She almost acts as though she's been saddled many times in the past!

Once she was saddled, we headed to the round pen where we revisited the same things we had done the day before. She was much better than the first day and seemed to have retained everything she'd learned previously. I've worked with horses in the past that you have to start from scratch each day in order to move forward with them. However, Sangria always seems to be right at the same place we ended the time before. I love that about her!

Before we went into the round pen, I decided to take Sangria into the arena and check out the new environment. She hadn't been in the arena yet, which had many new curious items - like jump standards, a mounting block and lots of poles. We worked on some ground work exercises, including trotting in hand, halting and even lunging. I got warm with our exercises and ended up removing my jacket, which I proceeded to flag her with.

As I tossed it up on her neck, she walked around with me, exploring the arena. A couple times, she put her nose down to sniff something, when the jacket slid down her neck, over her head and fell to the ground. The first time this happened, she lurched backwards and snorted, but then quickly came forward to smell my jacket. We did this a few times until she became bored with it.

We then headed to the round pen where I removed her halter and did some free lunging exercises with her before re-introducing the mounting exercises. Sangria was really good and had no problem with me stepping into the stirrup multiple times. At one point, she spooked at a bicycle coming down the road behind her while I was leaning over her back. However, she only scooted around with me on top of her. I still didn't swing my leg over, but I think she's almost ready for that.

We also did some giving exercises with her rope. She very quickly caught on to following the lead rope's pressure as she swung her hindquarters away from me and spun around. Good girl!

Sangria and I headed home after we were done with our exercises. Once we got home, I worked on asking her to pick up her feet. She was really good with her front feet. I'm hopeful that in another week or two, I will be able to have our farrier out to trim her. Her feet are pretty long currently!

Sangria has done very well with all of the work we've done so far. I hope to get her first ride on her in the next couple days.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Haltering, Round Penning & 1st Saddling!

Yesterday morning, I arrived to the barn to feed the horses. I had removed Sangria's halter the night before and was curious on how she would be when I went to put it back on. Luckily, she didn't give me a lot of trouble. She evaded me a few times, but not so much out of fear... Within a couple of minutes I had her halter on. What a good girl!

Sangria got to spend the entire day out in the pasture yesterday. I felt as though she had progressed enough in the gentling process to be able to spend the day in the sun. Of course, I had my heart in my throat as I turned her loose in her small hot wire pasture. Each of our turn out paddocks are approximately 50' wide by 300' long. Plenty big enough to stretch legs and nibble on the early Spring grass.

After turning Sangria loose, I hung out for a couple hours. I wanted to be sure that she wouldn't run through the hot wire. She touched it three times, the third time accidently touching it with her forehead as she grazed the grass on the other side. She flew backwards and wouldn't go near it again. It was so nice to see her out with the rest of the ponies!

Later that afternoon, Jenny and her EMM Mustang MissFire came up for a meeting and quick exercise session with our horses. I was curious on how Sangria would be to catch in the pasture. I was surprised when she eagerly walked up to me (with her pasture mate), and allowed me to snap the lead rope to her halter. (I wasn't brave enough to take the halter off while in the pasture for the first time!)

I took her over to the horse trailer and tied her up. She's still learning to be patient and stand tied to the trailer, but she's doing better each time!

Jenny and I took our mustangs down the street to the local boarding facility, Four Gables Farm. They have a lovely arena and perfect round pen for starting horses. Getting to this facility required walking down a semi-busy road. To be honest, I was really nervous about taking Sangria down the road. I wasn't sure I could hold on to her if she spooked and bolted. I also didn't know how she would react to scary things like cars, mailboxes, dogs, etc. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. She was perfect and walked along quietly with my mare, Dandy and I.

Yesterday was Sangria's first session in the round pen. It took her a few tries to understand what I was asking, but soon she was responding well to my cues. She has this funny way of paying attention to me, but also paying attention to everything else going on around her at the same time. She is very alert!

Since our session was going so well, I decided to go ahead and attempt saddling Sangria for the first time. I didn't know what to expect - she's taken things in stride so far, but who knows if the saddle would invite a rodeo. Amazingly, she was very curious about what I was doing, but also extremely trusting. She let me put it on with little to no issues! There was no bucking or fear. She did pin her ears at the stirrups bumping her sides, but that's it! Good girl!

Since she was so accepting of the saddle, I decided to try some mounting exercises. She was a little bit nervous, but nothing like what I expected! She really was awesome! She let me step into the stirrup and lean over her on each side. I was really not expecting how solid she would be!

I haven't swung my leg over yet - there are still few exercises I'd like to do with her first, but she's coming along alot more rapidly than I expected. I keep looking for signs that I'm pushing her too fast, but if anything, I'm not going fast enough for her!

Sangria is an amazing horse and I'm going to have a difficult time letting her go when the time comes! Here's a compiled video of our work yesterday:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Slow & Easy Progress

Sangria is progressing with ease. She accepts everything willingly and seems to enjoy each new task. She often gets anxious and has to 'move her feet' - standing still is not something she's comfortable with yet.

Yesterday we worked on sending and leading (she leads exceptionally well now, but if she's scared of something, she has no problem plowing right into you to evade what is scary). We brought the mounting block out and then I worked on leaning over her back. She had no problem with me or where I was. What a good girl.

Time was limited last night, so we ended quickly. However, with the colder than usual weather here, as well as rain and snow, I decided to put a waterproof thin blanket on her. She has quite the winter coat, and probably doesn't need the blanket, but I can't help but wonder if the wetter climate here in Washington is quite a change or her. She was fine with the blanket going on and didn't even care about me putting the hind leg straps on. Good girl.

I even got brave and took her halter off last night. Hopefully this won't be an issue when I go to catch her today. I don't think it will be.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day 2 & 3

Sunday was day 2, but I was feeling the after effects of the long drive the day before, combined with a stormy, windy, cold and snowy day... that I didn't make it out to the barn until the late afternoon. Sangria had stayed at Jenny's house until I could take her home Sunday afternoon. When I arrived to the barn, I was anticipating that Sangria may have reverted a bit and not remembered our groundwork from the day before. While I was surprised that she had retained a good amount of our exercises, she'd also become very antsy and anxious. She was pawing, whinneying and generally throwing a fit.

I was easily able to attach the lead rope to her halter and then brought her out to the barn aisle. I grabbed my flag, in case I needed to push from behind as well as guide her front end. However, she was very easy and needed little encouragement from me. I think she was just so happy to be out of the stall. She definitely didn't like being cooped up!
Once in the barn aisle, we waked to the trailer that was backed up to the barn doors. I'd already loaded my mare, Dandy, and figured I would attempt to load Sangria like a normal horse - walking her in and then tying her next to Dandy. I planned to close the center divider in my stock trailer, so that Sangria couldn't pull back against the lead rope. She loaded very well, but did get nervous when the center divider was semi-closed and I was tying her. She quieted quickly and trailered home without any issues.

When we got home, I was able to unload her from the trailer and walk the 20 feet to her paddock. It was dark and she was nervous, but her trailer buddy, Dandy, helped to guide the way.

Sangria has now settled in here at Cowgirl Spirit's headquarters. She seems fine with the idea of becoming a domesticated, useful equine. Her curiousity is adorable - she's not quite sure what to think of everyday things, such as other horse's blankets. She's continually sniffing, licking and chewing on Dandy's blanket.
She's also becoming very personable and friendly. She is wanting attention and starting to seek it out - even following me to the gate and then standing there looking over as I leave.

On Monday, I only worked with her for a short bit. We again accomplished some groundwork tasks, from sending, leading, halting, standing to asking her to walk over unfamiliar objects.

At this point in the game, Sangria does the best if you can keep her mind busy. Asking her to stand quietly at this time is overwhelming for her. She also tends to be pushy, so we need to work on respecting her handler's space right away. She's certainly not mean about it, but has no issues running into you to go where she wants to go. At least she's not scared of me!

I was very proud of her adventure outside the paddock, alone. We walked all around the property - the further away from the other horses we got, the more nervous she became. We only spent about 30 minutes playing - but it seemed like a good amount of time for her. Today I intend to work her a bit harder and push her limits a little more. She sure is a good girl!

First day of school...

On Sangria's first day in Washington, I was eager to get my hands on her. And I couldn't get past her ratted, narly mane. I was itching to get started on the long process of detangling it, a well as just spending time with her and get to know her personality! After a short nap from our long drive, Jenny and I were up early playing with our mares.

I feel a bit guilty about being assigned Sangria as my wild mustang - she is extremely calm. While she was obviously nervous about being near humans, she wasn't reactive, aggressive or terribly upset. I was able to enter her stall, pick up her lead rope that she was still wearing, and then take a few steps toward her. Within moments, I was petting her neck and shoulders. She wasn't sure she wanted me touching her nose, but pretty much let me pet her everywhere else.

I got started on her mane, which took half a bottle of Cowboy Magic and about 2 hours to get completely untangled. Once it was untangled, I begged Jenny to braid it for me. One, I'm not much of a braider, two, I wanted Sangria to get used to different people working with her from the beginning, and three, I was dying to get my turn on her feisty mustang mare, MissFire. I was extremely pleased at how wonderful Sangria was with Jenny. She was again uncertain, but not bad. For the most part, she stood quietly while her mane was quickly put into multiple loose braids.

Once Jenny was done, we gave the girls a break. I could tell that Sangria was on human overload after our 3+ hour session. So, we gave them both a couple hour break as we took showers ourselves and tried be feel a bit more normal. After a yummy mid-morning brunch, we headed out to play with the girls again.

This time, I did leading exercises in her stall. She was great when I was on her left, but nervous to have me on her right. We also did a few hindquarter yielding exercises, which she picked up immediately. I worked on picking up her feet, she easily gave her front feet (I didn't attempt her back yet), though was only comfortable with me holding them for a second. She started getting cranky and did try to nip me, though not aggressively, while I was requesting her feet. She got in trouble for that and didn't try it again. Silly girl!

Before ending my work with her for the day, I took her out of the stall and did the same exercises in the aisle way. She wasn't as responsive in the aiseway, wanting to stop and check things out and definitely not wanting to follow me or give to pressure, but she pretty quickly got it and soon we were able to walk from one end to the other.

Lastly, I tied her up to a tie blocker ring for her first initial tying episode. She was impatient and kept dancing in place, but didn't test the rope too much. I had to remind her a couple times to stand where she was tied, but she 'got it' pretty quickly.

I went in to clean her stall and looked out a few minutes later to see her standing quietly and contentedly. What a good girl! That was the end of day 1!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Road Trip!

Jenny and I headed down to the Litchfield Corrals in Northern California to pick up our mustangs on Thursday night. Mapquest approximated the trip to be an 11-12 hour drive. We expected to drive through the night, pick up our girls and then turn around and head home. We pretty much stuck to our plan, but we didn't really realize just how much of a drive that really was! The scenery was beautiful, and the temperature range was dramatic, but all in all, the trip down was uneventful.

Once at the corrals, we filled out some paperwork, then went out to find our mustangs. I was pleasantly surprised when I first saw Sangria. She is exactly what I pictured when I imagined my mustang. She is over 15hh, a stocky bay with a white star and right hind sock. Her mane was a complete snarl of tangles, but looked to be full. She has soft, gentle eyes and her face is slightly dished like an Arabian. In the herd in her pen, she was quiet and curious, letting the others mill around her in their discomfort at our presence.

We took our loading tickets to the BLM Wranglers who proceeded to push our assigned mustangs into the chute to remove their neck tags and put their halters on. Sangria was quiet though nervous in the chute. She didn't react alot, but you could see that she was scared. Once her halter was on, they opened the chute and flagged her into the trailer. As soon as Jenny's mare was loaded, we quickly got on the road towards home.

Our trip home was slower than the way down. Jenny and I were exhausted and ended up stopping at a rest stop in Vancouver, WA for a quick nap. We got home at 4am Saturday morning and then unloaded the girls and put them each in a stall. It took about an hour to get them unloaded and settled, but they seemed happy to be unloaded and both quickly started eating their hay. Jenny and I went straight to sleep for a few hours before waking up to start playing with our mustangs!

I love road trips, but I think next time we won't push as hard and will stay overnight rather than drive that long straight through!