Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wait, Who are You, and What Have You Done with My Horse?

Really?  Who are you?  

Today we started out with breakfast at Town & Country before driving over to the farm to pick up G for a trail ride.  He was out in the far pasture, so I grabbed a wrapped peppermint just in case I need enticement.

I walked down the center aisle, called a couple of times, and he barely picked his head up.  I said the magic words "were you a good boy?" and he lifted his head.  I then started crinkling the peppermint in my hand, and viola, he walked over to me.  I slipped on his halter and off we walked.  This is new for me.  In the 9 years I've owned G, all the barns required horses to wear halters while outside.  The new barn likes them naked...and naked he is, no halter, no fly mask.  Mister I can't stand to have flies touch my face, is so happy eating real pasture that he really pays them little mind these days.

I grabbed the grooming tote and what used to take me 30 minutes to do, took 10.  It is such a pleasure to have a clean horse when I show up at the barn.  No mud in these pastures, and he loves to roll in the grass.  Horsie heaven, it is.

So I open one of the doors to the trailer (slant load) and thought optimistically that I would try to see if he would load without having to open it all up like usual.  Since the peppermint got his attention in the pasture I grabbed another one out of the kitchen.  I walked into the trailer with lead rope in hand, peppermint in the other and asked him to step up.  He stood and looked at me.  I crinkled the cellophane.  He stretched as far as he could to sniff at the prize.  I stepped further into the trailer.  I asked him to step up.  And, he did.  What?!?!  We're loading at the barn, which you never want to leave and you're hopping into the trailer?  Okay, I'll take it.  He walked over to his corner feeder, and was happy to find some fresh hay, num num num.  Off we went.

Hubby came along as my support team.  We rode off in one direction, he went hiking off in the other.  Both of us with cell phones in hand should one of us need the other. 

Before heading out, I did ask him to take a picture of our newest t-shirt, which has become all the rage with the GHS members.  It's a simple design, but packing such a powerful message.....

What a gorgeous morning.  It was warm, but it hadn't gotten hot yet.  Nice breeze, some blue sky and puffy clouds.  We didn't see one other horse in the 2.5 hours out there. 
 G made friends with a black lab, two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, a 2 year old girl and her 6 month old brother.  All the kids on the playscape started waving and yelling "horsie, look at the horsie" so I waved back.  Horses are such great ambassadors.  Who doesn't love a horse?  Oh yeah, the hiker that just stepped in the fresh pile of G's manure, lol.

The streams are lower than normal, even with the good rains we got earlier in the month.  But, a couple were deep enough in spots so G got wet up to his chest.  I think he really enjoyed just standing in them today.
One of the things that I've been really pleased with is the new hair care product we've been using the past few months.  I don't use it as often as recommended, so I can only imagine how great it would be if I did.  G's mane was always dry, and the crest always had broken hairs.  Well, after using Mane-ly Long Mane & Tail Conditioner and Polisher, there are no more broken hairs, his mane is much more silky, less tangled, and the best part is its actually getting longer for the first time in 9 years!  
One of the things G was always known for was his desire to go home and stop working.  If we turned around on a trail, there was always a discussion on the speed at which we would travel.  I would say walk, he would say gait.  The argument usually continued for 15 minutes or so.  Today, we rode on the yellow trail, which the last time we tried to traverse, couldn't because of the storm damage from October of 2011.  I think it was late May or early June.  Well, the summer help worked their magic and trail is open again.  We got about half way down it when I looked at my phone and realized that we had an hour to get back to the trailer, and we had been out for 1.5  I turned G around AND.....he walked.  Slow and relaxed, happy as a clam.  Who are you?

When we got back to the trailer, hubby was taking a little snooze in the truck, but wonderful man that he is, had the haybag back on the side of the trailer, the dressing room open and the mounting block positioned just right should I want to use it for the dismount.  What a guy!

G was happy to munch on more hay as he cooled and I brushed him down.  When he was cooler and took the lead rope and walked him to the single open back door of the trailer, walked in said "step up" and lo and behold, G followed me into the trailer, first time, no stopping, no questioning, arguing, natta!  When I came out and shut the door, hubby said "I can't believe he walked in with no discussion".  Yep, just hopped right in.

What a good boy.  But who are you and what did you do with my horse?!?   

I'm not sure if its the new lifestyle he has at the new barn, where he's out when he wants to be, and in when he chooses, or no grain, just wonderful pasture, or is it the small dose of Mag-lite he gets in his 1/2 cup of forage extender?  Hard to tell, but at this point, I'm not going to question it further, I'm just going to enjoy this wonderful horse of mine!

Friday, June 15, 2012

G's New Home

Well, we packed up and hit the road at 10:30 this morning, and G walked off the trailer 30 minutes later in horsie paradise.  I took a bunch of pics, hope you don't mind me sharing! 
Driving up the driveway to the barn

Pastures to the right of me pastures to the left, here I am, stuck in the middle of grass lol!

This side has the winter pasture and a larger one behind the trees. Its accessed from around the back side of the barn.  Its really cool how she set up these paddocks and gates.  She can channel them through to any area she wants.

This is G's temporary digs for the first week or two as he is transitioned onto grass.  He has the ability to go in and out of the stall, with a hot wire running between his area and the other two stalls where the head mare and gelding come in and out of.  They have access to the pastures during the morning hours and then again at night.  On the other side of the gate behind the barn is Willy and Candy, both ponies.  G and Candy have been flirting all day over the pipe gate.  This is where G will have access to the winter pasture with Candy on Sunday.

G learning to eat out of a hay feeder

Inside the barn, G is in the last stall on the right.  There are two wires that cross over the back door so the ponies can't come in the aisle, but they have access to the stall on the left, as well as the run in that will be G's winter home should we decide to stay here rather than find an indoor arena for the winter.

The fence line continues behind the runin with a lane that takes the horses over to the winter pasture.

The view from the can't see the owner's house

 So far I'm thinking that G is going to just love this place.  He didn't whinney at all when we got there; we had a few squealing matches with him and the head mare, and the pony mare Candy, but that was about the extent of it.  But, when the owner opened the gate and the other two horses hightailed it out to the pasture G finally became unraveled.  He ran to the end of his paddock and whinnied loudly several times; out came the runny poop and he ran back to the barn.  Rut ro I thought to myself this could be a problem.  As I was standing in the aisle of the barn, G looked out to the pastures and whinnied again, and within 10 seconds both mare and gelding were running back to the barn to see what his problem was.  Heavy sigh, and he was happy again.  So the game plan is that they will have access to the pasture all night and Candy his fence buddy will still be out there so he has a buddy.  I sure hope he respects the hot wire and doesn't try to get out there.  We're not afraid of him getting hurt as much as getting sick on over eating this lush pasture!  I'll hand graze him again tomorrow, and Sunday he'll go out with Candy for an hour and a half.  She'll do that for a couple of days and then increase it 20 minutes every couple of days until he's up to 3 hours.  She'll try to add a second horse, then a third.  Once he's there, he'll be able to be introduced to the herd as a whole.  Fingers crossed this works.  Our favorite vet will be out next Friday for his final two spring shots and I'll get to talk to him about nutrition now that he's off grain and eating grass. 

The bummer is I can't store my trailer there, so its in our yard.  Probably not so bad though as I can keep the windows and roof vents open and not worry about it getting rained in. 

Hubby called me as I was driving home to tell me there was something waiting for me when I got home. Our new Sky Chair!!  These are soooo awesome, and boy did it feel good to end the day with my feet up and a smile on my face!  More fun tomorrow!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Hackamore Journey

It has been in my head for quite some time that I wanted to try G with a Bosal.  He has a typical Pusher mouth (for those who don't know, Pusher was a Tennessee Walking Horse) which many will say, isn't a great mouth.  Some horses just have wonderful mouths, one that will take just about any bit and be responsive.  Well, Pusher mouths are fussy mouths, that go along with their sensitive natures.  G always seems more relaxed in a bitless setup, but I haven't found one that he doesn't seem feel sluggish in.  Hence the Bosal.    

Liz Graves was wonderful enough to spend a lot of time with me on the phone to a couple of times and she filled my head with as much Hackamore knowledge as I could handle, and then some.  Although she had told me a few years ago that the Bosal was not something you just use without knowledge, I didn't understand why one would fail without it.  How hard could it be, right?  

So where does one start?  With the construction.  A good working Bosal is made completely from rawhide, from the core to the plaits.  An exceptional Bosal is generally made of Kangaroo, as it is softer, yet strong.  Bosals come in a variety of sizes, both in the diameter of the rig, to the interior dimensions.  Diameters are 3/4", 5/8", 1/2", 3/8" and 1/4" which is called a Bosilito (these are used with a fully trained bridle horse and a spade bit).   A horse is generally started in the 3/4" or 5/8" and as they progress, the diameter goes down to the 1/2" or 3/8" once a horse is considered "finished".  The rawhide core can be soft, medium or hard, which will determine how well a Bosal will shape and maintain its shape overtime.  Liz recommended I start with the 5/8" Bosal with a medium core.  The next consideration when purchasing a Bosal is the plait count.  What's a plait?  Plaits are the braided strands of rawhide covering the core.  The higher the plait count the smoother the Bosal will be against your horse's face.  A cheaper Bosal will be 12 plaits or under, a high end Bosal will usually have a 36 plait nose, 24 plait cheek.  16-18 is still considered a lower end Bosal.  G's is a 32 plait nose, 16 plait cheek.  Why not use a cheaper Bosal?  Well, simply stated, you can rub your horses face raw with the coarseness of the braids.  The horse should feel the pressure/bump from the Bosal and respond, but not be hurt by it.

The key to a good fitting Bosal is that it fits the horse similar to a hat.  Not too loose, not too tight.  Now how do you get one to fit.  I was fortunate that Liz has had her hands on G and told me what size she thought would work for his face.  There are plenty of sites that explain how to measure.  Once you have one with the right dimensions, fill your kitchen sink with hot water and weight your Bosal down into it.  Let it sit for 30 minutes.  Place a Bosal shaping block to the interior, strap it, hang it upside down in a shady but warm spot and let it dry for a few days.  For G's Bosal we used a 5.5" wide x 6" long pine block.  Hubby used a 2x6 piece of pine and just cut the length.  He also grooved the bottom corners to accommodate the Bosal (he's such a sweetie).  You may need to adjust the block size to get the right shape for your horse's face, but you can start out with a standard block.  Try it on your horse and adjust your block and fitting as needed.
Especially when starting out, it is important to use a Fiodor.  The fiodor's purpose is to balance the Bosal on the horse's nose properly as the rider gains the proper feel of the reins.  (the black and white candy stripe throat latch is the fiodor).  The fidor goes over the horses poll like a throat latch and is attached to the heel knot of the Bosal.    This particular one is made of Mohair, and very soft.  

The mecate are also very important to the balance and feel of the Bosal.  The diameter of the mecate should be the same as the diameter of the Bosal.  So if you're using a 5/8th Bosal, you would want 5/8th mecate.  As with the Bosals, mecates come in a variety of materials and quality.  It was recommended I buy the best quality I could afford.  What you see here are Joe Ortiz, 5/8th 6-strand mane hair mecates.  I bolded the word mane, as some braiders use tail hair, which is much coarser.  As you can imagine, these little hairs feel prickly to your hands, until such time that they break off, which they are meant to do in time.  You can wear a pair of lightweight gloves if it bothers you, but I found the prickly hair makes one hold the reins with a ligher feel.  These little hairs also signal the horse when they touch their neck, and when they touch under their jaws.  As far as strands, just as plait count is important in the quality and feel of the Bosal, the strand count is of importance to the mecate.  The 6 strand gives you a good feel, without being too stiff, nor too limp.  The key is the slightest flex of your fingers on the reins should elicit a response.  This won't happen right away, same as when you introduce a horse to a snaffle bit, you need to do lateral and vertical flexion from the ground before attempting to do the same under saddle.  A friend of Liz's who is has been riding his horses in Bosals for many many years, recommended that I check into Richard Caldwell.  I picked up his DVD Jaquima a Freno Series - Part 2 Starting the Horse in the Jacquima (Bosal) and it has been very enlightening.  There are those who use other materials for Mecate, but I think the horse hair are not only more traditional, but they do have a purpose feeling the way they feel.   One more piece of the puzzle is the Headstall.  It should be soft and very pliable as the Bosal needs to fall forward so it releases at the chin groove (see pic above).  Using a regular headstall doesn't work well as it doesn't allow proper movement of the Bosal on the face.

So far I've been sticking to working with G in the arena where he feels safe and relaxed.  Unfortunately, if a horse runs through the Bosal immediately, they will never respect the feel.  That said, yesterday it was a beautiful afternoon and G was super relaxed so we walked out of the arena and down along the paddocks.  When we got to the end I cued him to lower his head and graze, I sat and relaxed as he grazed down and around the corner.  I rode him up the hill out back and then back down, paying close attention to his body and any time I felt him get a little bit tense we did some lateral movements to get his mind back on me.   I'm not sure G will ever be a confident enough horse to ride the trail in the Bosal, but you never know.  And if not, we've both learned a new art form!  

There is so much more we need to learn in our journey, but I feel that with Liz and Mike's help, we're on the right track.