Saturday, November 26, 2011

Panama and Rondo have their first playdate

Michael and I went out to the barn around late afternoon to turn the horses out together for their very first time.  I've had Rondo for a week and a half now, but I had wanted to wait until his feet had been trimmed before I let them out together, since they were overdue and had been done at the wrong angle.  The farrier was out on Wednesday, but afterward my friend A. and I wanted to ride together, since she was going to be moving over the weekend.  Thursday was the same way, so Rondo got only some grooming both days (though he certainly didn't lack for attention).

Today demonstrated to me how important it will be to get Michael comfortable with haltering and leading Panama.  I won't ask him to handle Rondo much just yet — although he's mostly rather well behaved, considering, he still remembers he is a baby periodically, and his size can be intimidating at those times — but it would be good for him to be able to manage Panama when I need help haltering and leading.

Anyway, I caught Rondo first — he put his nose right into the halter for me today, no "keep away" at all.  By the time I finished picking his feet, the outdoor arena had emptied out, so I turned him out.  He spazzed out a bit when I walked away, and ran in circles, whinnying.  Poor boy.

While Rondo was fretting over where I'd gone, I haltered Panama and picked his feet out.  We had a little dance at the gate while Rondo learned that he was to move off while I unhaltered Panama, and then they were loose together for the very first time!

My geldings turned out together for the first time

In some of these pictures, you can really see the size difference.  Rondo looks huge when he's standing next to Panama.  And to think, he's not finished growing yet!  My horses are going to be Extra Small and Extra Large.

My horses getting to know one another

Rondo seems to really want to play, and made several overtures...

Rondo buzzing Panama while he rolls

But Panama is being surprisingly cool toward Rondo, considering he is usually so playful toward other horses.

Panama thinks about the situation, and decides he doesn't like it much

With a little encouragement, though, they did run together a bit.

My 6-year-old horse has acquired a shadow

Rondo definitely knows I am his mom.  Whenever I wasn't making them run, either he or Panama was walking up to me.  A few times, Rondo started walking up to me, and Panama immediately ran over as if to insert himself between us.

I got a lovely picture of Rondo's approach.  Isn't he handsome?

 My 2-year-old gelding has learned who his mommy is!

I didn't run them too long because it was getting to be feeding time, and also because I didn't want them to get sweaty just before the sun went down.  Both were very happy to get back to their corrals and their dinners, but again, it was another reminder of how much easier it will be if Michael can help a little!  Something to work on next weekend, perhaps...

Seeing the boys together was a lot of fun for me, and I hope it was for you too!  I'll have to start taking my camera out to the barn more often, and see if I can get some more pictures.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for horses and horse friends

I was trying to decide on a theme for today's post, based on my last few visits with the horses and with my horse friends, and finally it occurred to me that the common denominator is how thankful I am to have them all in my life.

Unfortunately, my best horse friend, Spaghetti's owner (whom I call A. on this blog), is moving.  She got a job in another state and is leaving tomorrow, though she probably won't be taking Spaghetti for a few months, so that she can get settled in first — her mom and sister, both of whom live here, will continue to look after him in the meantime.

This morning we rode together for the last time, just a relaxed bareback ride in the outdoor arena, enjoying the unseasonably warm Thanksgiving weather and one another's company.  It was a wonderful ride, and both Panama and Spaghetti were good for us.  We'd also ridden together bareback yesterday afternoon after a shared farrier appointment, so it was nice to get a couple of good rides in before she leaves.  She has proven to be the best horse friend I've made, at the barns I've been at or otherwise, and I'm extremely sad to see her leave, even though I know it was a big deal for her to find a job in her chosen career (working for a guide dog training program).

I'm also extremely thankful for Panama, who was very well-behaved during our ride, and who remembered the difference between a bareback/sitting trot and our usual posting trot, even though we haven't ridden bareback in months.  And he remembered this outside, where he is typically faster and more resistant to half-halts.  What a good boy he was!

After we rode, we turned them out and let them play.  They had more fire in them than we would have thought, considering how laid-back our ride was, and were both soaked with sweat by the time they were done running.  We cooled them off, and then A. had to get going, since she still had a lot of things to do in preparation for her move (in addition to the holiday festivities).

After she left, I got Rondo out.  I am extremely thankful for him and for how wonderful he has been so far, though not so much today's behavior.  We still have much to work on.  Since I am gradually introducing him to grooming routines in the cross ties, I did a little more today than I have yet — brushed his coat, brushed his mane and tail, and picked his feet.  It was pushing his fairly short attention span a little, so he got rather fidgety, especially with the feet.  Even so, when I put him away he tried to follow me right back out of his corral again, so obviously his short attention span has no effect on how much he enjoys getting attention, and that's something to be thankful for too.  He's still a baby, but he'll get there.

Speaking of Rondo's improvements, yesterday the farrier came, so Rondo is no longer standing on his tippy-toes (thank heavens).  My mother-in-law's farrier had been trimming him so that he was way too high on his toes, and had a lot of flaring going on.  My farrier got him to a much more comfortable angle, though more probably needs to be done next time, once he has some more growth to work with.  I also need to work on him letting me draw his feet forward — he is too stiff for much of that right now.  But he stood very well for the entire thing, and didn't try to rear once, which is what my mother-in-law had told me he was doing.  My guess is that he already knows that won't fly with me, since I've worked with him so heavily on not rearing.  (Initially that was always his response to anything he didn't like or didn't want to do.)

So he is making progress, and I am deeply thankful for that, too.

That's the beautiful thing about horses — they enrich your life so much, and give you so many things to be genuinely thankful for.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Rondo reminds me he's still a baby

Horse lying down to sleep

I've been surprised and thrilled at how easily Rondo is settling into his new home, but he still reminds me now and then that he's still a baby.  Sunday, for instance, I pulled him out of his corral when it was dusk — he let me know he was rather afraid of walking around the property in the dark.  He managed to contain his fear enough so that he didn't try to bolt, spook, or jump on top of me, but he did his very best giraffe impression and snortest the loudest I've ever heard from any horse.  At times like that, when he plays giraffe I mean, I am reminded not only that he is still a baby, but what a BIG baby he is.  And it makes me even more glad that he's not a jump-on-the-human-when-scared kind of baby, like Panama was (and still is at times).

Today instead of a lesson, my trainer and I practiced some trailer loading with Panama — he hadn't loaded for well over a year, but he did fine.  He got on relatively quickly, and then my trainer worked on teaching him to load himself.  To my utter amazement, he actually walked onto the trailer without her.  A couple years ago, I would have told you that hell would freeze over first!

I also worked with Rondo a bit today.  Before my trainer arrived, I had him out of the corral for about 30 minutes.  Once he got up from his nap (see picture), he played a little "catch me if you can;" but I grabbed a fistful of mane, so he assumed he was caught and let me halter him.  I then led him around the property for a bit, chatted with other boarders while he stood on the lead, and put him in the cross ties.  He informed me after about 10 minutes in the cross ties that his attention span had been exceeded, but to stand there patiently for that long (and on as busy a day as today was — people and horses coming and going constantly!) was pretty impressive in itself, I thought.

After my trainer left, I remembered that we have the farrier coming on Wednesday, and I hadn't picked his feet in about 3 weeks (the last time being when I was in Kiowa to work with him one last time before I started my new job).  After another (briefer) game of "catch me if you can," I put him in the cross ties again and picked out his feet.  I was impressed with how he did — not only was he in a concrete building (most horses are scared of those cross ties at first, even the well-trained ones), but he hadn't had his hooves picked in weeks.  He didn't fuss or fight a bit, though.  He has yet to figure out to put his rear feet back when he picks them up for me — he draws them straight up and gets very tense — but he no longer kicks or tries to shake me off.  He'll be a pro at it before much longer.

He also has figured out the gates now — that he needs to follow me out and turn around while I close and latch the gate — and actually put his head down so that I could buckle his halter today.  He's been putting his nose into the halter willingly enough, but then he puts his head back up for the rest, which is aggravating because he's so damn big — but he shows signs of figuring out how to help me with that too!

All in all, a wonderful, successful horsey day!


Friday, November 18, 2011

And then there were two

On Wednesday, at long last, I brought Rondo to my barn.  As you can imagine that has made me very busy over the last couple of days, so today is the first chance I've had to post about it.

I was very apprehensive about becoming a two-horse owner.  I wasn't worried about the money (since I went out and got a job in addition to my freelancing to cover it) as much as I was about the time involved — and the potential for it to change my relationship with Panama.  He is the jealous sort, and I'm afraid once he realizes that I spend time with another horse other than him, he won't be as quick to greet me when I arrive.

Plus, another baby is a big undertaking.  Do I really want to have to raise another so soon?  Panama has just in the last couple of years started showing signs of finally being all grown up (and is still a jackass from time to time).  Am I setting myself up for another 4 years of dealing with baby behavior?

Now that Rondo is here, however, I feel very differently.  One, he is quite possibly the cutest baby ever, and it's hard not to be happy when I'm with him.  Two, he has (so far) handled the move with amazing aplomb for a 2 1/2-year-old.

The story begins with a windy morning and not one, but two, games of "catch me if you can."  When I arrived at my in-laws' house to await my trainer and the trailer, my mother-in-law had just fed Rondo and the other horses, but she'd left him in the barn (she's keeping them in overnight now).  He was anxious about that, plus he wanted his breakfast, so first he resisted haltering.  I opted to let him out to eat and await my trainer, since he was working himself up about still being in the barn (because of the change in routine and being alone), but then of course he played "catch me if you can" all over again when I went to snap the lead onto his halter.

As usual, though, once caught he was as docile as ever.  He followed me down to the gate, out of the pasture for the first time since he'd moved there, and to the trailer, where I handed him over to my trainer.  Considering it was his second-ever time loading (and the first time he'd just followed his mom on), and also considering he was following a complete stranger onto a big rattling metal box, he did superb — he put two feet on three times in a row, and then just walked right on.  No big deal.  For me, who has only ever had experiences with Panama (who was traumatized as a yearling and has never trusted trailers since), that just blew me away.

He handled the long (over an hour) drive well, too — he whinnied for his friends a lot at first, but he didn't kick, fuss, or get restless.  At every stoplight I could see his breath coming out the windows as he smelled the air in this or that new place.

He was pretty revved up about not knowing where he was at first, and when we turned him out in the outdoor arena, he ran around and whinnied quite a lot.  It was the first I've had a really good look at his trot, and it's a lovely extended trot — bet that's going to be a bit different to ride than Panama's quick little pony trot!

(Panama, by the way, watched all of this — me and my trainer unloading a new horse, turning him out, and messing with him — with great interest.  He stood at the fence with his ears at attention the entire time.  No joke.)

He played a bit of "catch me if you can" again when we went to move him into his corral, but as anxious as he was, I didn't blame him for that.  No major problems with catching since — he still has yet to learn to stand still while being haltered (or to put his head down — and good grief is he tall!), but at least he isn't running from me anymore.  A corral with no grazing to distract him probably helps.

Yesterday after my riding lesson (and gosh that was hard to focus on, with a new pony in the pasture!), I took Rondo for his first walk around the barn.  I already knew he was settling in remarkably fast — he'd already made friends with the geldings in his corral, no fussing or fighting necessary (though the mare let him know right away that she was alpha, which he was fine with — he got out of the way and has steered clear of her ever since).  But our first walk blew my mind — again!

Some of you have been reading my blog for long enough to know that Panama had a hard time adjusting to all the "scary" things at our current barn — and he'd been to plenty of barns in the past.  He had a hard time learning to walk through the narrow doors into the cross ties and down the aisles in the indoor barn, and of course he was pretty much a nervous wreck in the indoor arena for the first several months.

Rondo, on the other hand, did all of this on his very first walk around the property — and his second day at the barn.  He went in and out of the cross ties, only balking once, and getting over it almost immediately.  He stood in the cross ties briefly (a huge accomplishment because he'd never experienced cross ties before, let alone in a very confined, concrete environment).  He walked into the indoor barn, once again hesitating once, but this time for an even briefer period.  He stood in the aisle with me while I chatted briefly to another boarder, then moved into the cross ties there when I asked so that she and her horse could pass.  And he walked around the indoor arena, checking out everything, alert but never once showing fear.  He was more curious than anything, I think.

My new two-year-old horse in cross ties

He was particularly interested in the mirrors, which he had never seen before.  He spent several minutes checking this one out.

My new horse meets his reflection for the first time

It shows the extreme difference between Rondo and Panama, and I am more certain than ever now that they are going to be polar opposites.  They are both very smart, but where Panama has more of a tendency to react by getting upset or scared, Rondo is calm and curious.  He has an extraordinarily mellow, sweet temperament.  Not to say that Panama isn't sweet — he is — but he is also oh-so-very Arab, whereas Rondo's part-draft breeding has obviously made him very quiet and accepting.

I hadn't thought I was going to be able to introduce Rondo to as many new things as I did yesterday, let alone so quickly, but I decided he had been a champ and took him back to his corral.  His new buddy, Dechali, immediately came over and demanded Rondo's attention.

My new 
two-year-old horse and his new best friend

I apologize for all the iPhone pictures — I am going out there tomorrow afternoon, and am planning on bringing my camera for some better quality shots!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mourning the loss of the tippy ears

Panama had such beautiful tippy ears.

 Hubby and horse

They suited his personality, and I really loved them!

My horse and his tippy ears

They had lovely narrow, delicately curved tips.

Fuzzy tippy ears in winter

Now they are one.  The tip on the other got chewed off by one of his pasturemates today.

The demise of the tippy ears

It was kind of a hack job.  They took off some hair, and quite a bit of skin too, on the backside of his ear, and took off the very tip completely.

The demise of the tippy ears

All the wetness in this picture is because I was in the middle of cleaning the dried blood off when my husband took it.  I don't know exactly when I happened, but someone said he was fine this morning, and the blood was dried when I was there at 4 o'clock today, so it must have been around late morning or early afternoon.

We have a new gelding in the corral, and that horse has gotten aggressive recently, having decided he didn't want to be low man after all.  And the other gelding is the one who was biting Panama a few months ago, apparently having decided the same thing.  So I have no idea who did it.

Not that it matters.  Their spats will likely diminish in the next few days, as they determine the new pecking order, but Panama's ears will be forever lopsided!

And yes, I am very sad.  While I was at the barn I concentrated on cleaning his ear (which made him rather mad at me — he didn't want me to touch it), and then I gave him some bute (the barn owner didn't think I should for something like that, but when I gave my vet a call his exact words were, "I think he'd appreciate that"), but after I left I have to admit I sniffled a little over the lost tippy ear!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Big first day and helpful friends

I was considering riding after I got done with work today, but the temperature is dropping and we have snow coming in tonight, so I decided I'd rather not.  A helpful friend at the barn — A., Spaghetti's owner, who shared blanketing duties with me last winter — was able to blanket both horses this evening, so I'll probably pull blankets for both of us Thursday morning.  We're expecting snow during the day tomorrow, so that means I likely won't get out there again until my next lesson, assuming it doesn't get canceled because of weather.  Discouraging, but with the busy day I've had and the cold front coming in, I can't say I feel motivated to do anything about it.

My first day of my new afternoon nanny job went well.  It's really mostly picking the kids up, helping the oldest with homework if needed, and playing with the youngest.  It's fun, and I get paid for it.  What's not to like?

Plus, the oldest — a girl — is into horseback riding, so I'll be taking her to lessons on Fridays.  Something I'm really looking forward to!

Today was busier than it will usually be, since our dog Grace had an appointment to get x-rays — her hip problems have gotten worse to the point where we can no longer control it with aspirin and regular walks, but the good news is it sounds like a total hip replacement won't be necessary after all, as we once thought.  The x-rays determined that she also has some spinal issues that are probably causing her some significant pain too (likely as a result of favoring her bad hip all the time), so right now we're working with the vet on finding a pharmaceutical cocktail that will relieve her pain and the swelling in her hip.  Next step will be physical therapy, as she's lost a lot of muscle in that leg during the past few months.  I'm expecting that will probably take up one of my mornings each week — with riding lessons taking up another, I will only have three mornings for writing work and riding.  I have a feeling I will get very good at jealously guarding those mornings...

I have mixed feelings about my new schedule, but on the whole I think it's a positive change — I will just have to get better at managing my time!  After 6 years of working entirely from home, I've gotten a bit spoiled, so it will certainly be an adjustment!


Rondo shows his colors

I don't know whether I'll have a chance to ride today, so I thought I'd share a funny story and some pictures of Rondo.

I was driving down the long private road to my in-laws' house yesterday when I spotted a horse at the fence.  I was pretty sure it was on their side of the fence, but I didn't recognize it — a bay, I thought.  They don't have a bay.

I went down a hill and couldn't see the horse anymore, but when I got a little closer, the horse was obviously Rondo.  His winter coat has changed so much from when I last saw him that from a distance he looks like a bay.

Bay roan in his darker winter coat

I took that picture from the road.  Look at how thick his neck is now, too!  He's sure bulking up and showing his draft side as he gets older.

I've taken a succession of photos over the last few months, to show his changes in color as winter approaches.  For some reason his winter coat is much darker, whereas his roaning in summer is so heavy as to give him an almost silver sheen.  This was taken in August:

Bay roan in his lighter summer coat

The difference in color between his head and the rest of his body is really pronounced in his summer coat.

Classic bay roan with darker head

 Just a month later, in mid-September, he was already getting darker:

Bay roan with a darkening coat as his winter hair grows in

And this was in early October:

Bay roan with a darker winter coat

You can see in the next picture, taken today, that the difference in color between his head and the rest of his body isn't noticeable this time of year.  In fact, he has a lot of black hairs mixed in with the bay in his neck and face this time of year, which makes his neck much darker and causes it to blend more with his head.

Bay roan in his darker winter

I love documenting these gradual changes, and plan to do the same in the spring, when he changes back to his lighter-colored summer coat.  Last spring he went through multiple changes, from dark to light to dark to light again, as he lost his winter coat and grew in his new summer coat.

Isn't he a handsome boy?