We’re still here! Just a little wet…

I just wanted to let everyone know that Rhona and I are still here. Unfortunately, I have nothing to add to her training log because it’s literally been raining for months here in north Texas. ūüė¶ If it ever dries out, we’ll be starting up again.

In the mean time,¬†in honor of Rhona’s “birthday” (i.e., the anniversary of her adoption), I’m working on a project that will allow¬†the public to help PMU horses through the purchase of art, t-shirts, jewelry and more. ¬†Please stay tuned; I’ll be posting more about that soon.


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Picking up Rhona’s feet: an update

I wish I could say that picking up Rhona’s feet is no problem now, but unfortunately I haven’t made great progress in that area. I stopped using the rope trick I referred to before¬†because she started kicking her feet instead of lifting them. Lately I’ve been using another rope trick– for several minutes a day, I lightly slap her feet and legs with a soft rope. Once she stops reacting to that, I run my hands up and down her legs a couple of times. She still won’t voluntarily pick up her feet, but she’ll at least let me touch them now. It’s a start… ūüôā

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Further progress with standing still

We’ve had a few more sessions on standing still, and I think she’s finally getting the idea. So on Friday I introduced Rhona to something new: a chair. I brought a metal folding chair into the round pen and stood in it while she lunged around me. She was a little startled by it at first, and I could tell that having to look UP at me instead of down freaked her out a little bit. It took about 15 minutes for me to get her to approach the chair, but once she did, she settled down a lot. After that I led her back and forth in front of the chair, occasionally having her stop and stand still beside it while I walked between her head and the chair.

On Sunday we did the same thing for about 15 more minutes, and by the end of that she was standing still beside the chair while I stood it in and rubbed her back. Twice she even let me lean on her back for a couple of minutes at a time. I’ll keep doing this for the next week or so until she’s completely comfortable with it.

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Back in Training

I spent a couple of hours¬†working with¬†Rhona yesterday afternoon, and she did amazingly well considering that she’s been out of training for four months. I had to let her trot around the roundpen for several minutes before she calmed down enough to walk, but after that she was great. It only took about five minutes to get her to accept the saddle pad, and another ten to let me tighten the cinch. After that we worked on standing still, which is a real challenge for her. Ever since I did the Join Up with her, she wants to follow me. Getting her to stand still while I walk away isn’t easy, but yesterday I was able to get about 8 feet away before she started moving. I intend to slowly increase the distance until, eventually, I can walk out of sight…

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Introduction to Ground Driving (aka Long Lining)

A friend and I started teaching Rhona to ground drive on Saturday. First I put the bareback pad on Rhona, then I put a simple rawhide bosal hackamore on her head. I attached two lunge lines to the bosal and passed them through rings on the bareback pad. (Note: One usually uses a surcingle, but I can’t find one big enough to fit around Rhona.) My friend led her while I walked about 6 feet behind, holding the lunge lines as reins. We worked on stops and simple turns for about half an hour, and she seemed to get the idea.

You may think that half a hour isn’t much time, but a little seems to go along way with this horse. I’ve noticed that if I work her too long on the same thing, she gets frustrated, much like a smart child does when he’s drilled on the same material over and over…

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Hoof care

Most PMU horses have had very little in the way of hoof care, and Rhona was no exception. Her feet looked TERRIBLE when I got her. Aside from being way too long, her hooves were cracked and split. It was obvious that they needed immediate attention. The problem was that she was very skittish about having her feet handled. No one could hold onto one of her feet for more than two or three seconds at a time, so we had to resort to sedating her for her first trim. It went smoothly, but it took three grown men to hold her up.

Tomorrow is her second trim, and despite my efforts at handling her feet regularly, she’s going to have to be sedated again. Recently, however, I came across a really useful tip in Bill Dorrance’s True Horsemanship Through Feel:¬†¬†by looping a very soft rope behind a horse’s¬†fetlock and¬†pulling gently,¬†you can get even the¬†heaviest horse to pick up her foot for you. So far I haven’t gotten her to keep it up for more than a few seconds, but I’m¬†hopeful that by the time her next trim comes along, she’ll be able to handle it without¬†sedation.¬†

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Introduction to saddle

I’ve discovered that Rhona is VERY cautious about new equipment of any kind. It took me two days just to get a saddle blanket on her back. She spent hours just sniffing, snorting, pawing¬†and backing away. (I don’t believe in old-fashioned “sacking out.” I prefer to let her accept things at her own pace, even if it means revising my mental training timeline. PMU mares have had precious little novelty in their lives; I figure a fear of¬†new things¬†is to be expected.)

She’s okay with the blanket now, but a saddle seems to be more than she can handle at this point, so I switched tactics¬†and¬†bought a nice leather bareback¬†pad instead. I’ve been working with it for two days now, and today I was even able to tighten the cinch. She was a little scared, but she didn’t panic or buck.¬†I think she’ll settle down in another day or two, then maybe we’ll try the saddle again.

Next weekend I also intend to start ground-driving her¬†to introduce her to reining…

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