The Good And The Bad

I had a whole post thought up about the downside of having children who like horses. How hard it is to catch and ready them while keeping kids from killing themselves, how hard it is to pony one while riding double with the other, how hard it is to force myself to go out and do the hard stuff instead of just skipping it in favor of something easier. It is hard. It isn’t fun, not like going for a ride without kids is fun. I never got around to writing it though. Because I keep realizing more and more that it is so worth it. (And the post mostly seemed like whining.)

Every time I watch this kid ride I know it’s worth the fear and frustration and struggle. She does such a good job. Her determination to get to where she wants to go is amazing. She is determined to ride by herself, tired of being ponied. And she wants to go fast. Yay, fast. She seems to tiny to ride by herself. I try to remember that I wasn’t too much older than this when my mom got her fiery young Morgan gelding, four to my five I believe. All I wanted was to ride him. She let me. She swears I didn’t get run away with and fall of of him every time I rode him. Just almost every time.

She has a wonderful little mare though, and wont be getting on my young horse. Her mare is gaited, the best thing ever in a kids horse. Smooth and easy to ride, none of that being bounced out of the saddle at a trot. Onna is patient with her child and willing. Onna puts up with unclear cues and yanking on the bit like Coyote never would. Onna stands quietly for her little girl to shimmy up her side. She’s determined to mount from the ground, so I stand at Onna’s head and feed her cookies to help make the experience less obnoxious. She can almost do it. Between the stirrups and her short stirrups she has a ladder, she just has to figure out where and how to hold on. She want to be able to get on and off from the pickup too. It’s a wonderful training opportunity. I offer clearer aids as Onna’s riders short little legs ask for a side pass or to yield haunches, then click and reward. Hopefully we will have Onna trained to her little riders unique cues by the time they are both ready to go it alone.

The perfect princess pony for a perfect little princess. May they grow old together and continue to be the perfect pair.

She Likes Horses!

My daughter likes horses right now!!
Usually she tells me that I am the one who likes horses, she likes princesses or something along those lines. I am usually sad about it but careful not to push her towards horses. Now, when the flies are terrible and the days hot she loves horses and wants to ride. I am doing my best.
Some days it’s bringing Princess Onna in to brush and play with. During one of those days she decided that Princess Onna should learn to fetch the rubber chicken. She started, all on her own, teaching Princess Onna to target the chicken. It may not have been perfect, often the reward lagged a ways behind the click but I was impressed by her initiative and abilities.

Of course now I’m going to have to sneak out there and work with Princess onna. She’s tired of targeting and wants to move on to the real fetching. I don’t want her to get bored with it and give up.


Beyond Thrilled!

Not because the new fly spray worked. There was no new fly spray. I was in out nearest “big city” and didn’t stop at the feed store. I thought about it but decided I was going to wait until I went through our town and stop at the co-op. They would have the fly spray I wanted and it would keep the business local, so on and so forth. I stopped in and looked around while the group talking finished their conversation and maybe even bought something. I found the fly spray. There was a bottle of horse spray for twenty some dollars, how do people afford to by anything labeled horse? I go through that in a day trying to get them covered. There was a bottle of hard core cattle spray concentrate, same size as the horse bottle and same price but a concentrate that would probably last me for years. I read the label carefully, I am unable to comprehend labels and directions as much as I love to read these things are like a foreign language to me. If I have to buy things unusual for us at the store I regularly bring home the wrong thing completely and have to send my husband back to properly read the labels. (Of course, reading up on it there are many people not fond of Permethrin, maybe I’ll do more reading and see what I can find)
Anyway, I stood for a very long time reading and rereading the label. At first I thought I had found the stuff I wanted, upon a reread I saw that it said Non-lactating dairy cattle. It is a very important difference between lactating and non-lactating. Anything that can be used on lactating dairy cattle is safe for horses, and people. When the old guys were finally finished talking I asked if they anything else, they didn’t, I left. I might have been a little grouchy, I am now in the process of ordering it off Amazon.

But I digress.
I did get a spray nozzle. That part of the day made me happy. I watered flowers with it then took it back to the corral closest to our house and wired it to the fence. I then lead the horses into that pen and carefully locked them in. Then I turned the hose on! They were not happy.

I had the nozzle set on a fine mist, it wasn’t squirting them. I left them to sulk in the corral for awhile then came back to offer encouragement. I asked Rusty to come to me as I stood near the edge of the mist. When he did I clicked and rewarded. We moved backwards, into the spray, with Onna following, until they were both stand right in the middle of the spray with water dripping off their bodies. Coyote couldn’t stay away if the other two were getting food and he joined in the fun too.

I left to care for children and they wondered away from the water but when I came back they happily waded right back in. I left again and they left again so I decided it must not feel that great. Opening the gate i let them out into their usual quarters. They snorted, trotted around and all rolled thoroughly. If the water doesn’t help repel flies maybe the mud will.

I would call it a rousing success. Not exactly in a fly repelling sense but definitely from a training point of view. I taught Rusty to target the nozzle with water spraying out of it. That is an awesome accomplishment for a horse who has always been scared of water!




I was determined that I was going to start working with Rusty. It was going to be a priority, I was going to make time for him. When something is important you find a way, whether it’s getting up extra early or forgoing our few child free moments sitting quietly together on the couch in the evenings.

Sunday afternoon found the children tired of playing outside and ready to crash in front of the tv for a while and my husband home parked in front of his computer. I was going to sit and look at mine when I remembered my determination to get out and work with Rusty. So I did.

The hundred degree weather had faded to a comfortable spot in the low nineties and a gentle breeze was blowing. I hauled all of my paraphernalia out to the pickup, my staging ground. Then went and called the horses. They came at a gallop. Not their usual enthusiastic looking for treats coming but a crazed, bucking, kicking, terror driven rush. When they got to me I saw the cause. They were being swarmed by flies. A cloud followed each one as they kicked their bellies, stomped desperately, and ran about trying to loose them.

I had known the flies were bad. I watched them standing in the hot, dusty lot swishing each other to keep the pests away, but I had never seen them like this. I brought Rusty out and let him graze for a bit while I got supplies. When I came back with fly spray and treats he was gone. They were out galloping around their pen and he was frantically running the fence line calling them. I walked to the end of the fence and called Rusty, again. He answered with a long, high whinny and came at a gallop. It’s hard to stand and wait with him come straight at me but I held my ground and he stopped short of smashing me.

Back at the pickup I started coating him with spray. I watched flies scatter at the spray then land right back on the wet hair. Using most of the bottle, I made sure to save some for the others even if it didn’t seem to be helping much. The flies appeared marginally lighter and I went to spray the others before going in search of something, anything better. They were desperate.

I had read that Vick Vapor rub is supposed to help, as long as it isn’t rubbed where the sun will shine on it, causing terrible burns. I smeared it across Rusty’s belly, he got to be my tester. The flies landed right up to the edge of the smear.

We have some great stuff we use around the house when we have problems. It’s industrial strength, dairy rated spray in an aerosol can. I read the label, it said it could be sprayed directly on dairy cattle as they left the barn, anything rated for dairy is safe for horses. Rusty was loose with the others by now, he got too frantic when left out alone even with grass to eat. The flies were making them lose their minds. Haltering each one individually, I went to work with the aerosol can. Most horses, most of the time don’t take the loud hiss of aerosol well. Rusty and Princess Onna relished it. Even though it’s approved for dairy use I was hesitant to spray them to drenchingly with it. They got a quick misting with a little more on the legs, then happily accepted treats. Coyote said no. He was not letting me anywhere near him, with or without the spray can. The flies hoard seemed to thin.

I went back to the house for my last attempt. Not at keeping flies off altogether but for their eyes and bellies. I grabbed my jar of Swat. They, fortunately and knock on wood, haven’t needed it much for injuries. It is mostly used when nose flies show up for that one wondrous week in June, turning normal sane horses into head tossing, rearing, dropping to their knees and rubbing their nose in the dirt, monsters. Who can blame them though, I would do the same if a bee like bug kept trying to fly up my nose. I coat their noses with Swat, including the inside of their nostrils and it seems to help a little. Mostly when the nose flies show up it’s best to give them a large tank to stick their noses in and give up on riding for awhile. Last night I gave them big greasy circles around their eyes, noses and lips. All except Coyote that is. He was still not letting me near him, he would rather suffer.

By the time I gave up there was no time left to ride, even if the flies had allowed it. I went back to the house defeated. My attempt at riding had failed. On the bright side I was able to offer the horses some relief from the sudden terrible attack of flies. Standing in the barn doesn’t seem to help. I took them in the other day, in case they had forgotten it was there. They ate the cookies I offered and followed me back out, they haven’t returned. Today maybe I will try to find a way to hook a sprinkler to the fence. I doubt they would go in the water as good as it should feel. Fortunately the swarming attack of the flies did seem to be an event, not a constant. I will pick up new fly spray next time I get to town. The bottle of concentrate is a couple of years old and maybe it lost some oomph over the years? It’s a dairy grade cattle spray and used to be great stuff. Poor ponies I need to figure something out!

And, Back to Rusty

The horses have a little pasture I made them, back in the tree row. Belly high grass, untouched except for by deer and children’s feet as they scamper through finding one hideout or another, trees overhead offering shade and room for them to wander together grazing and dozing as they wish. Only they don’t wish.

Summer is here. The days are hot. The flies are atrocious! All they want to do is stand in the sun-baked, dust corral and stomp flies. I cover them in fly spray and the flies think it’s candy coating. I turn them into their lush, shady pasture first thing in the morning and they are back in the corral by midday. This works, for the most part, except that Rusty has developed a terrible neurosis. He is terrified of the gate. Coyote and Onna come in and he is left out there, alone, frantic to reach his friends and yet, unable. He races the fence-line, calling for them desperately, begging them to come back to him. They ignore him completely. Secretly mocking him. Probably taunting him in their unmoving, horse way.

I go out to save him, calling to him as I come so he will know help is on the way. He answers with an overwrought whinny, thrilled that help is coming. Galloping to meet me, he leaps a branch and turns the corner. Then stops. He is stuck. Back around the corner he goes and then returns to me, stopping short of the gate every time. The first time I was unaware of any problems, I thought he was having a moment of confusion as even the best horses will. He nearly smashed me as I lead him through the gate. He was lucky to survive such a dangerous undertaking and galloped madly to join the other two, stomping flies and laughing at him.

The next time I took a lead rope but no treats. It was harder than the first time even. He hesitated, I waited. I encouraged, he offered tiny brave little steps. Finally we reached the gate. Hesitating for an endless moment he held his breath and dove through. I had learned my lesson the first time and was standing well clear. I held him as he attempted to run off and join his so called friends. Long enough to remove the halter, then he was free.

The third, and last time, they are staying in the corral now, I had a halter and treats. I asked for a small step forward then rewarded. Once more and a reward. I worry that this is what they call poisoning the reward and ask for another small step. At the gate I open another small gate that doesn’t get us out unfortunately, because he goes right through, and we try the gate from a different angle. He still rushes madly, but he is back in his corral where he can be happy. I reward generously and leave the gate closed. They are welcome the the hot, dry, dirt of the corrals. This time instead of taking off he walks beside me, posing as we go, asking if he looks pretty enough to get more cake? I say no, not because you don’t look pretty enough but because I am out of treats. He stands by the gate I leave though asking me to take him out it too, please.

Yes of course I stop to take pictures of my horse while he begs me to save him.

Puppy Training Progress

I think things are going nicely. We are doing the absolute most basic of the basics and I am happy. Daisy is happy too, they get to work alongside of each other and both get lots of treats. She, the puppy, Bell I think is the name out of her many that is used most often, is slowly starting to be very well behaved. She is learning to come, she came running to me from clear across the yard and out of sight today when I called her. She was getting yelled at and I thought, oh no, I have to save my puppy. I’m in trouble, I can’t think like that, she’s NOT my dog. She did come though and I went up to see if I could help with whatever the issue was. Nobody seemed to be sure what they had been trying to accomplish. I gave a quick run down of what we have been working on and tried to offer to show how. Mostly she just came back down with me to hang out with Daisy.

Her biggest problem is jumping on children and attacking legs when walking. I was being annoyed with her as she snarled and bit at my legs while I tried to walk across the yard and trying to think how to correct her when I had an epiphany. Instead of figuring out how to discipline her for being bad I needed to teach her what TO do. I need to reward her for walking nicely beside me. It’s ok for her to run and bite and play with Daisy but she needs to learn that it’s good to not do that with people, that it’s much more fun to walk quietly and get treats. Also need to get her a toy.

A Different Kind Of Training

The in-laws got a puppy. Not only a puppy but a border-collie cross. Not the best idea for an elderly couple who are not particularly active but someone thought it was going to be a good thing. She spends lots of time with Daisy, our dog who is practically perfect. That’s good she can learn basic good dog skills from Daisy. We are miles from anywhere so they get to run loose, Daisy never roams at all, she’s a very good influence. There is, however,  only so much a dog can learn through osmosis.

They are working on training I’m sure but I have wanted to try clicker training with a dog and here was my chance. This is all new to me. I’ve played with Daisy a little bit but, as I’ve said, she’s practically perfect. I couldn’t think of anything to train her to do. She rolls over now, and gets all excited when I go to work my horse, but that’s about it. I’ve been reading up on Sue Ailsby’s dog training instructions and was excited to get started.

Sadly we couldn’t start at the starting point. Anything that requires more than one person, me, is difficult to do. My husband is busy, kids are small and scatter brained. We are improvising. Poor Daisy got locked in the house, she knows when treats are being fed and knows my marker. The puppy, she’s gone through many names, I’m not sure what to teach her to come to, is sweet and willing and seems to pick things up quickly. I have the basics down decently, I think, with horses but dogs are a learning experience. Thinking frantically back to my instructions we worked on absolute basics.

She’s young and wanders enough that I was able to work on coming to me without another person to play with. She learned “zen” easily. In horses it’s manners but taught in almost the exact same manner, ignore all attempts to get you to give them the treat until they turn away the click and reward. She eventually laid down and I reinforced that greatly. My end goal is manners first and foremost. If I figure this out there will be lots of extras, like with the horses, but for now I want her to stop jumping on my small children. They are right down there where sharp puppy teeth and claws do the most damage and are easily intimidated once she gets started. I want her to learn to sit or lay when she approaches people for attention, children especially but also my nearly 80 year old mother-in-law.

Hopefully we can keep this up. Children shouldn’t get in the way to badly, and are in fact a necessary part of the training since I want to train her to behave around them. She’s a fun new project while I’m not finding time to work Rusty.

A Quick Working

Rusty was out grazing in the yard. He had been out for a couple of hours and it was Coyotes turn. I had a couple of minutes, kind of. One small child was following me about, the other was pouting in her room. I sat the one in the back of my pickup, safely out of the way. He opened the back window, crawled inside and rampaged throughout the cab. Poor pickup, but it’s the price that must be paid for the privilege of playing with a horse.

It was a quick coverage of the very basics, things he has down, that we’ve been doing forever. A couple of bows on each side, backing from his tail, picking up his feet (he needs trimmed soon), Spanish walk, and walking collected back to the corral. He was happy to be playing again, enthusiastic in all that he offered, and not happy to be put away. Nothing was forgotten, nothing was slow to come. We will be getting back into regular work soon. I hope.

I even managed a bit of a ride on Coyote while putting him away. It was a good horse day.

I Did Work Rusty Today, But…

It wasn’t a good working. There are times when things go well. I come back to the house giddy and bursting at the seams with a joy that carry’s on for the rest of the day. Not today.

I wasn’t Rusty’s fault. He was great. A little pushy and frantic. It’s been weeks, a month maybe? since I’ve done anything with him. I’ve come for Coyote many times. I nearly got my finger bit off from careless feeding when I offered him a consolation award as I closed the gate behind Coyote. Mostly though I’ve let him out to graze and brought him back in.

Today one child was off with his father in the tractor, the other was outside playing, ignoring her beloved cousin who was here to play. I left the cousin watching TV and thought I would sneak out and play with my horse! I was excited and things were going well. I had brought along some dirty socks and was rewarding him for finding them. Then I was found. What fun is playing by yourself when you could follow your mother around, talking nonstop?

I wouldn’t mind so much, don’t usually mind, but my horse was frantic for his treats and clicking at the exact right moment really does take some concentration. I ended up shrieking at her. Afterwards I felt awful but there’s no taking it back, and I really did want her to leave me alone. A couple of minutes with my horse doesn’t seem like that much to ask. Of course it’s way too much to ask and I gave up on playing with him.

After putting him away I tried to follow her around and be a kind loving mother. It was too late, I was already too grouchy. It was nap time anyway so I sent her off to bed, which would have been the perfect time to work with Rusty but the whole grouchy thing, so I cleaned house. Cleaning resolves grouchy better than anything. My house is clean, cleaner that is, and my horse unworked. Maybe tomorrow.

It’s Been Forever

At first it wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to say, life was just too busy. I rode Rusty in his new bit. He did fine. We worked more on painting, he prefers painting me to painting on paper.

Then it was life being too busy and no time to work or write about it. Tanna came over and she and I branded our little herd of cattle. Girl Power! We let some guys come and help and got the big bunch of cattle worked and everything hauled to pasture. It’s good to have them out of the corrals. The mud is incredible with all the rain we’ve gotten lately.

Tanna graduated high school Salutatorian! Congratulations! She’s awesome, great with horses and cattle and kids and a wiz at math. We are really going to miss here when she heads of to college this fall, hopefully she’ll come back often to visit.

The garden is mostly planted. Way too many tomatoes, lots of peppers, the first planting of sweet corn, twenty different types of squash! Pumpkins are my favorite. We are making a sunflower house, on steroids, for the kids. A big spiral leading to the house its self, with the outer row in beans and tomatoes. Things that can form a tangible shield to protect the next rows of ornamental corn and sunflowers from being trampled by over enthusiastic children until they come up and can be seen.

I made the horses a little pasture where they can get out together and eat some of that grass they are craving so badly. The tree row is knee high and with a section of it fenced off they have been spending part of their days out there filling their manes with burdock. Yay.

Now I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing. Rusty is still hanging out in the pasture not doing anything but eating. Coyote is working and being grouchy, it’s what he does. And I am still not writing about it even when there is time. Hopefully this will get me started again.

But first I need to go finish planting the sunflower house! So here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to. No captions so take a guess as to what they are about, I have work to do.