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:

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


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!

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!

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.)

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!!

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..)