Tuesday, December 30, 2008

End of the 2008!

Tomorrow will be New Year's Eve. I can't believe that I've now owned Guinness for over a month! He has finally been fully integrated into my existing herd of two older geldings. It has been a tricky process since Smokey takes his responsibilities as a "stallion" quite seriously, plus during this time Cody (who thinks that he is top dog) had to heal from a knee injury.

Here is a photo of the three of them "sunbathing" together (notice the chickens scratching around them).

Once he got over trying to run him off, Smokey has actually been acting like an old brood mare toward the baby. He jumps in between Cody and Guinness whenever Cody makes an ugly face or moves too quickly. Fortunately, Cody is past most of that, now that the baby responds right away to his facial expressions!

Here is a cute video of Cody playing with Guinness:
video

Last week, Guinness had his first visit from my farrier, Dave. (I usually trim my own but Cody has special needs so Dave takes care of him.) I wanted him to give me his opinion of the baby's hooves and conformation. He remarked, "he could be the poster pony for great feet" which made me very happy! Guinness was a very good boy. During his trim, he stood on a loose rope eating hay and I barely noticed what was going on while I was chatting away with Dave & Kathy (Cody's owner).

Over the past few weeks, Guinness has gotten much better about having his hooves picked up. At first, he was sure that I was playing a dominance game with his front legs and it took some passive persistence on my part to get through it. He has nipped my bum twice while I was handling his front feet and after I reacted by vigorously backing him, he became meek as a lamb and apologetic. ;-)

The worst thing that he has done so far was to bite me on the shoulder when my back was turned. This was during his first week here. I was picking poop in his paddock and he decided that I was being too boring, so he champed down on my shoulder blade (fortunately, I was wearing a coat and sweater). Ouch! In response, I chased him around the paddock with the plastic pitch fork that I was holding. (Thinking the whole time that, much as I'd like to poke him with it, we didn't need any vet bills!) I guess that I reacted way more than he was expecting and he hasn't tried anything like that since.. It took over a week for my skin to heal. I'm sharing this to balance out all of the gushing that I'm about to do..

This baby is amazing. Here is a list of things that he has already done/will let me do
- pull his tongue
- stick my fingers up his nose and in his ears
- kiss his muzzle and eyebrows
- lower his head
- lift his tail and rub under it
- rub his belly button and sheath area
- put a blanket completely over his head at liberty
- put my stretchy hat over his ear or over his muzzle
- backs up with a mean look and tiny rope shake
- steps on his lead rope and then *stops to think about which foot to move* - no panic!
- puts his nose on anything new (or puts it in his mouth)
- approaches barking dogs to see what they are fussing about
- backs through gates as well as he can walk forward through them
- fasten a surcingle around his belly
- take him alone for a walk out in the woods outside his pasture (while Smokey called for him)
- follow a feel around his hiney to turn a circle
- cheerfully walk into water about 12" deep, at liberty

Guinness is already just about unflappable. The biggest spook that I've seen was when a big piece of cardboard blew past him in the wind while he was eating. In response, his feet moved but he didn't go anywhere (he looked like a cartoon horse)! It has really made me clearly understand that whenever anything happens to him, it either sensitizes or desensitizes him. And he is very easily desensitized. This doesn't allow me to linger long in Phase 2 or 3 or he gets numb to the stimulus. I'm trying to remember to offer a long Phase 1, followed by a quick 2, 3, and if needed, 4 until he responds.

Playing with Guinness is like shaping good clay. He offers very little resistance and is happy to accept my leadership and guidance. He knows the 7 Games inside and out (well, duh, he is a horse..) The challenge is for me to "speak horse" clearly enough that he understands what I am asking! My issue is that I've been playing with a Right-brain Introvert (with lots of baggage) for so many years that my training tends to be slow and repetitive. Absolutely the wrong approach for this guy (a Left-brain Extrovert). Fortunately, I received enough Christmas money (thanks to my dad and husband's mom!!) that I was able to order the new Parelli Patterns DVDs. Having this resource available will demonstrate to me what Level 1 though Level 4 in a given activity looks like. (So far, Guinness tends to breeze through L1-2 before I can mentally catch up.) This should really help to move me along!

I also received the Christmas gift of two old tractor tires from my husband. I was thrilled. He placed them into the pasture with his tractor, and is planning to fill them in with soil to create two adjacent platforms to play with.

Here is a blurry photo of Cody & Guinness exploring the new obstacles. (Notice Cody standing in one as they play.)

That's it for now! :-)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Guinness"


Well, Coop's Midnight Rain has now been nicknamed "Guinness" (as in my husband's favorite beer). Guinness is turning out to be a fun name to twist into many other pet names including: Guinea Pig, Guinea Baby, and Ginny, not to mention "Mud Puppy," etc. :-)

We've had him here for three weeks now, and all is going well. We've been very slowly introducing him to the two older geldings. At first they just met over a board fence, but more recently he has been taking turns out with each of them.

We've had to take it slow to accommodate Cody (my boarder, another Rocky Mountain Horse), who managed to severely lacerate his knee about a week into the process. Fortunately, it didn't impact his joint and he has now almost completely healed.

At this point, everyone is ready to be turned out together - except that we've had torrential rain and the pasture is pretty slippery (unless it is below freezing)! Fortunately, it was frozen hard this morning so Cody and Guinness had some time together. Tomorrow is also supposed to be clear and cold, but then it is supposed to rain for several more days.. Agh!

Here are some cute photos and videos that I've taken over the last few days (every time I pull out the camera, he gets too close to me trying to investigate!):


This photo is of the baby (on the left) taking a nap next to Smokey in the sunny mud. (A few seconds before, Smokey was flat on the ground too.)







This video is of the baby playing in a rain water "pond" that formed in our back pasture. He had been locked in all night, and when I let him out, he was so excited to see the pond that he jumped in and started to splash (and it was about 33 degrees out). Definitely not phased by a little water!
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Here is a photo of Guinness shadowing Smokey around. Fortunately, Smokey loves to have other horses on his tail and rarely even "humps up" to warn them back. Baby loves to chew on Smokey's hocks, tail head, blanket and I've even seen him holding on to Smokey's tongue! (This is a game that Smokey & Cody often play.)


This is a video of Smokey & Guinness playing out in the field. Baby sitting the little guy wears Smokey out!

video

Here are two more clips that illustrate his typical Rocky Mountain Horse attitude. One is of Guinness following a rolling barrel and the other is of him herding the chickens that share his pasture and run-in. (One great benefit to having the hen house in the pasture is that the horses get totally used to flapping, noisy birds running under their feet and leaping from nowhere.)

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And finally, at long last, a clip of Cody playing with the baby over the fence while Smokey ignores the situation.. The dynamics of this threesome have been continually changing. At first, Smokey would drive the new guy away from his herd mate, Cody. Then after Smokey had been out alone with Guinness, he would defend the baby from Cody! Finally, I've seen Cody on one side of the fence with baby on the other, with Smokey sandwiched in between trying to control the situation while the baby chewed on his hocks. Now, I think that Smokey has just given up trying to control everyone - which is a great thing!!

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That's it for now! Next time I'll talk about our progress in starting to play the Seven Games of Parelli Natural Horsemanship. (Hint: I've had to find a firmer phase 4 and it has actually improved our relationship..)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Welcome

Hi! Welcome to my blog. I'm new to this whole thing so please bear with me while I sort out the bells and whistles.

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I'm in love. At first I was interested in his brother. But when I followed the link for more info (www.coopsrockies.com) I discovered that he was available too. As you may have guessed by now, my new love is a horse. Not just any horse, but a 19 month old Rocky Mountain Horse gelding. (I'm happily married, so no other sort of crusin' photos on the web allowed for me!)

Here is the photo that I initially saw:














I know that he looks a bit like a calf, but I could see that the photo had been taken in the spring and that was 6 0r 7 months ago, so I guessed that if he was still available, he'd look a little different. He was listed for a really reasonable price for a registered Rocky, so I sent an email to Doug and Alicia Coop inquiring about "Coop's Midnight Rain." They replied that he was still for sale, so I called them, and they sent me more photos.

Here is one of the photos that they sent back to me:



















He was so cute, and well-bred!
Here is his full-sister's registration:















Well, to make a long story a little shorter, I pleaded with my husband (who ever has the money to buy another horse?) and then negotiated a deal with the Coops. About a week and a half later, my family and I were off to meet "Midnight." Since Shelbyville, Kentucky is about a 5 1/2 hour trip from our home in good weather, we decided to go ahead and tow our trailer along too. Since the weather was forecasted to turn bad, we wound up leaving a day earlier than planned and then staying over two nights.

We arrived on a Thursday evening and stayed in the Days Inn. The next morning, we got up and had breakfast at Cracker Barrel (my favorite) and then proceeded out to the Coops farm. When we got there, we saw Midnight in a little paddock by the barn. It was love at first sight! We all agreed that I should buy him due to his very friendly personality.

After dropping my husband and son back at the hotel, I returned to the farm to await the arrival of Dr. Chris Thompson for a pre-purchase exam. This gave me time to play with Midnight and get to know him better. Here are some photos:
















The vet check went fine. Nothing obviously wrong and Midnight demonstrated his great typically Rocky temperament. (He had pretty much been turned out to pasture and not handled much recently.)

Later that afternoon, Doug Coop returned home from work and gave me the formal tour of his place including meeting his lovely 4 year old stallion Coop's Freedom. One of the most compelling reasons that I decided to follow up on Midnight was that the Coops also practice Parelli Natural Horsemanship. Doug took time out to demonstrate some of the skills that he and Freedom have perfected including riding bareback in a halter, laying down on cue, and BACKING into a step-up trailer WITHOUT a RAMP! Wow. What a great partnership they have. Here is a video:


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Later that evening, once Midnight was officially mine, Doug, Alicia and I went back out to their indoor arena. There we decked Midnight out in all of the unfamiliar gear that he would need to wear on the trailer ride home (in our two-horse, open backed, bumper-pull): blanket, leg wraps and fly mask. Once again, he took it all in stride and even offered to load himself into Doug's trailer.. After a long day, Midnight went back out to pasture while I returned to the hotel to pig out on pizza and relax.

The next morning, we returned to the Coop's farm at around 8:30 am. I dosed Midnight with Quietex (an herbal remedy for anxiety containing Valerian). We decked Midnight out in his traveling gear, then I ran up to the house for a quick pit-stop before hitting the road. When I returned, Midnight had already jumped onto the trailer and was happily eating hay. This was a good sign, but I still knew that it was going to be a very long haul home, since he had only been on a moving trailer once, while still at his mother's side. We departed with me driving very gingerly down the driveway. At the road, I stopped to check the baby - he was standing stock still like "Oh my god, this thing moves." My stomach turned. We had miles to go before any of us could relax.

We proceeded slowly down the road to I-64. I pulled over just before the ramp to check on him and discovered that he was barely breathing and winced each time a truck passed us. It was horrible, but at least he wasn't beating himself up back there. (He ties really well.)

We got onto I-64 and then stopped at the first rest stop where we pulled as far from the highway as we could and opened the emergency door so that Midnight could have a view of pastures with horses in the distance. I stayed in the back with him until he took a deep breath, shook himself like a dog, and then started to eat. (I had learned from a recent presentation by a local 4-Her how important it is that horses have access to long-fiber forage during stressful events to protect their stomachs from ulcers.) We remained another 5 minutes and then headed out again.

We continued to stop at every rest stop along our trip down I-64 and onto I-77. About 2 1/2 hours into the trip, he visibly relaxed and was eating when I checked him. The label on the Quietex said that it took about 2 hours to take effect, so I guess that was it. What a change! He was much more serene after that although he would still shake like a dog and take a deep breath each time we stopped.

Here is a photo of Midnight thinking, "What a long strange trip it's been" while stoned on Quietex and munching hay non-stop:











I-64 through West Virginia was awful. The highway was very curvy, with many hills, and bumpy surface. At about the halfway point, we stopped at a rest area with food, and took a long lunch break. There I unblanketed him and rubbed him down, since he was a bit sweaty. I also removed his fly mask and offered him a bucket of water. I was surprised when he guzzled down 1/2 the bucket! He also finally pooped - I had been starting to worry since that it the first thing that most horses seem to do.

Finally, about 8 hours later, we arrived home just as the sun was setting. Poor Midnight didn't know that he had arrived anywhere in particular, so he was content to stay on the trailer while I rounded up the other two geldings, fed them dinner and then locked them out of the run-in paddock. Boy were they surprised to meet the new kid in town!



Cody, another Rocky Mountain Horse, meeting the new boy, Midnight for the first time:











Midnight has spent the last week alternating between the run-in paddock and my small back field, while the other two geldings are just over the fence from him. Everyone seems to be getting along well. This is more of an issue than you would expect, since my Racking Horse Smokey seems to be "proud cut" or at least "late cut" and thinks that he is a stallion. However, Midnight, now nicknamed "Guinness" (since his coat color resembles my husband's favorite kind of beer) and Smokey have been out together. They have even started to play! We are waiting to put all three of the boys together until Cody's knee heals up from an injury incurred while pawing as Smokey & Guinness cantered around together. Hopefully they can all be out together for periods of time starting next week.



This was the scene on Guinness' first full day here:
Everyone seems pretty relaxed!














Well, that is enough for now. I'll have to try to keep my posts shorter from now on. Thanks for reading!