Monday, October 26, 2009

A regular kinda guy

Today Ace was a perfect gentleman on his walk. He did get to parading around a little when my grey gelding started to run and carry on. Mom came out just a little late to get the best of the showing off.
Mostly we just moseyed around. It was really nice to be able to let him graze without having to keep my eye on him every second and defend my personal space
He is running in and out of his outdoor area all day now, so his life is pretty much back to normal.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Tree

I'm still chuckling a little about Ace's walkabout yesterday. He was much more relaxed and did less rearing and frisking around. We grazed and explored up along the paddock, then down the drive. I noticed he was giving the horse trailer parked in the lawn the "hairy eyeball", so we went over to take a closer look. He walked up to it, gaining confidence from me, and we walked around the back. As we turned the second corner, Ace had an "Oh Shit" moment.

All of a sudden, his legs went in every direction and he squatted low to the ground and swapped ends. At first I couldn't tell what spooked him, but when he stood back up he sort of cowered and looked up... Ooohhh the TREE! He was so busy looking at the trailer, he didn't realise until it was too late that he had walked under the low hanging pin oak tree right beside the trailer. A pin oak always tries to reach down and touch the ground with the lower branches, so it is trimmed at about 6 feet from the ground and it's dense limbs are still full of golden chestnut colored leaves spreading in a solid, tent like canopy.

"It's OK Ace, it's just a tree... can you touch it?" Ace reached up warily and sniffed the leaves. Lucky for him the oak tree turned out to be a peaceful creature. He had much less of a reaction to the firewood covered in billowing plastic. That big hulking mass of leaves that came close to swallowing him was much more surprising. You should see the holes and skid marks he left in the lawn.

After our walk I brought him into the cross ties and half tied him with my husband's help. Tim held Ace's second tie while I groomed. I found that Ace loves the inside of his hind legs scratched. He was very steady and stood still seeming to really enjoy his grooming. I don't think it will be long until he will be used to the routine and I will be able to cross tie him myself without incident. In fact, I've never seen him stand in one place that long... ever. He has been in perpetual motion since the day he was born. Oh, by the way, this is his seven month birthday today. Happy Birthday Ace!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Well that went well....

Today I took Ace on a walkabout. First we went up to the paddock to fraternise with Pinky.

Then we tried to relax and eat grass in the yard. That took awhile. My stepdad brought his fourwheeler past and hooked up to the arena drag because he was working on the footing in the indoor arena. The sand was very compacted, and I was worried when it froze this winter it would be an ice rink. Since it is our turnout of last resort, it imperative that the footing in there remain safe. So he had been adding a new load of sand and leveling it. That set Ace off a little and he got stuck in merry-go-round mode.

I thought he was being pretty good. I would give him an A- for ease of installing the chain over his nose, and removing it. And a B+ for leading. In fact after we had been out 10 minutes Mom commented that he was being really good considering he hadn't been turned out yet today. Hmmmmm... that I didn't know. OK, he was being really, really good!

The "whapper stick" comes in real handy to push him away without having to pull on the lead all the time. He did settle down to eat grass for awhile but remained on high alert. We grazed for about 10 minutes, and worked our way out to the house drive and back. He did rear up a few times playfully but didn't strike or crowd. He just really really felt good to be out. My plan is to take him for a walk each day. I was happy that he did not seem attached to the barn and took his new found freedom all in stride with polite manners. Getting some fresh grass was also important. That will be gone within a month.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Today we tried getting Ace outside a little. First Mom left the big door of the arena open so he could go out into the pipe run area but he would only go out there if she stood out near the fence. Otherwise he was too insecure. He has been very happy being loose in the indoor arena most of the day, but going outside alone was too much for him. He prefers to stay inside and hang around the gates where he can hear other horses and know that he isn't missing anything going on in the barn... like lunch.

Later, we turned him out with Hairy in the outdoor arena. That lasted for about 5 minutes. At first he just walked around and nibbled but then he decided to stretch his legs a bit which he really needed.

After he had run for a few minutes he got anxious for the security of the barn and decided he might try to climb the fence. Not jump… climb.

It was clear he was just going to work himself up, so we caught him. Rather than take him right back to the barn we stopped in the yard to try to calm down and graze.

He did graze a bit but didn’t settle down easily and was still on the move. I guess I’ll have to spend some time leading him outside to get him used to being out again and turn his attention back to more productive activities like grazing. He has not attached himself to Hairy at all and could really care less if Hairy was involved. Hopefully if we don’t let him get himself worked up first he will settle in to graze easier. If it isn’t raining too hard tomorrow I’ll give that a try. At least he was mannerly. After catching him, getting the chain over his nose to bring him back down to earth was a little tricky but otherwise he was not bad to handle.

Friday, October 16, 2009

First Snow

Today Ace got his first good look at snow. Only out the door, not in it. But it still made an impression. As soon as I turned him loose in the arena I could tell he had noticed that the entire outside world had gone..... blank. Yikes! The end of the world as we know it! Or at least an infestation of something! He did an immediate about face and tried to climb in my pocket, but I was ready for this, and was already slipping out between the gates . He wasn't quick enough. It took awhile for him to get bold enough to go near the doors, but he finally did. ...With a lot of snorting and tail flagging.

Beyond that... I'm tired. Tired of this weaning thing. My belief is that the less you handle a colt, the less chance you have to create bad manners. Yes, you need to handle them, do things that need to be done like grooming and hooves, and teach them to tie and load. But excessive handling beyond the day to day necessity just creates more situations where the colt will test you.... and that many more times for you to fail to appropriately train them. As a handler or trainer, you have to choose your battles. Discretion is the better part of valor. Timing is the better part of horse training. So, Ace gets 10-15 minute training sessions once every week or two, depending on both his mood and my frame of mind.

Now I've worked with a few "outlaw" or supposed "outlaw"horses. All but one of them were not really truely bad if handled correctly. But, if you frequent the internet chat sites, you will hear all kinds of stories about horses who border on being downright vicious. Some turn out to have physiological problems ranging from brain tumors to hidden pain issues. Most of them are just dominant horses who have never gained respect for humans, or fearful horses who have never gained confidence. Both ends of the spectrum are the result of poor handling. Either too much or unfair discipline, or no discipline at all.

After reading one new story today on COTH, the nagging fear that this dominant, high spirited colt might have the potential to grow up to be a real darn handful, prompted me to give him a five minute session. After his decent behavior for the farrier yesterday, I was willing to give him (and me) a day off. But his anxious pushy behavior today changed my mind. All I have to do is put a lead rope on him to judge whether he needs to be taken down a peg or not. Today was one of those days.

I want him to walk on a loose line and follow at my shoulder. This is something he is perfectly capable of and has already learned to do. Today, he was shouldering into my space and trying to shove with his head. Armed with only a rope, and my beloved "Whapper Stick" I circled him once to the left with not much trouble, just a bit of nippiness. To challenge him, I then switched sides and asked him to lead off with me on his right side. First he flat out refused. I turned to face him and on a longer lead pulled him to unlock his brakes, first to the right, then to the left. I expected him to follow me and the rope around each direction in a circle. He did. Then I tried to cross back over to his right side.

He didn't want me over there and backed around to keep me on his left. He stomped first his right hoof, then his left, not really striking, but thinking about it.... "Whap Whap Whap" in the chest, I backed him off 10 feet. Try again. From his right side (I won!) I asked him to step forward. He bulled into me with his neck and right shoulder. "WHAP" high on his neck. Look of suprise from Ace. Ask again. Rear up and start to run backwards. OK, "whap whap whap" on the chest again. "NO rearing." Rear up and run backwards again. "Whap" on the ribs. Submission. Ace sighed, began to chew and walked off on a loose lead with me on his right. "GOOD Boy". "Pet pet pet."

I walked him about for another minute. Stopping twice to pet. He was a bit nippy. Each time he reached for the rope he got poked in the nose with the whapper. "Eh.. no bite". The battle line had been drawn. Ace had challenged my authority. I had responded immediately each time with a startling yet painless form of aggression. Ace had submitted, and was praised. Life was fair. I am boss. Ace is not. End of lesson. Time to go in for lunch. I'll say it again. I'm tired.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Ace was prety good for the farrier. I put him out and let him run for about 15 minutes before we worked on him, then tied him in the grooming area and held the other line like a cross tie. He was a bit impatient with the first hoof, which was the right front. He yanked that one away a few times and pulled back and fussed etc. He was better than I expected with both hind feet. Our farrier is very good with the horses. He rarely asks for me to get after a horse, and it usually has to be fairly extreme before he does. He was able to hang on those hind feet better than I can and as a result had less of a struggle from Ace. When Ace would lean on him or try to bully him with his shoulder, Kim would just shove back a little and "talk horse" to Ace. They got along well, as they have from the beginning, and Kim seemed happy with his behavior for a cocky little weanling. Although, when he came in the barn and I was swooshing Ace around he said "maybe you ought to do that a little bit longer". I will say it again... teaching a horse to tie to the wall for a length of time is the single best thing you can do. After he was tied he knew he was supposed to stand. Not that he was happy about it or anything....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cross Ties

Do they call them cross ties because they make everyone cross?

Today Ace went out in the arena by himself. I'm sick and tired of how he is treating Hairy, and Hairy is only reinforcing Ace's dominance. All play dates have been put on hold until we can get him in with Face-Off who will not be pushed around. Ace was good, but finding himself alone he did immediately rinse his mouth. Then he started anxiously ripping hay out of the hay bag. I went and got my gelding and put him on the crossties so Ace wouldn't feel so alone. When we went out for a ride, Ace was fine.

Afterwards, we worked on becoming familiar with the grooming area. I've walked him in there each day, but have been unable to get him to stand. The farrier is coming tomorrow, so standing went to the top of my list of priorities. I shortened one cross tie (they are on blocker rings) and tied Ace to the wall, then moved the lead rope to the other side of his halter, and held that side effectively like a human cross tie, while Mom groomed him. I kept him in line by shoving him around a bit with the "wapper stick" and all went well. He did grow impatient, but I was fairly pleased with his behavior.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's farrier report!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The End of Maternity Leave

Ace is weaned, and it's time for Copy to go back to work. When I put the saddle on her she gave me the awfullest sour pickle face you've ever seen, but I think she had fun. I haven't ridden her for over two years, but this mare's manners are impecable. I mounted her in front of the barn amidst the normal commotion of tractor, manure spreader, and dogs and she stood like a rock, not even calling back to Ace who was screaming his head off. Then she stuck her "view finder" all the way up (I swear this mare is the most high headed horse I've ever been on) and away we went.

I put hunt tack on her so I wouldn't have to pull my stirrup leathers, but I wished after I had put saddleseat tack on her since it would have been more fun. I only rode her up and down the shoulder of the road aways but she put up a really nice park trot for being barefooted and just off the broodmare shift. Please forgive the washed out color on the full body shot. My camera has had a few problems and is off to Canon for repairs, so I had to fade it a bit so she didn't look like a purple dinosaur.

Setting Boundaries

Today Ace decided I had left him out in the arena too long and he wanted to go back to his stall and have lunch. So, in typical Saddlebred fashion, he started to run. Not run and scream, or test the gate, just... run. Round and round this way, round and round that way, sliding stop at the gate. He kept sweeping poor Hairy up in his wake. The hoofbeats grew louder and more insistent. I had washed William P. Grey's tail and was picking it out while he napped on the cross ties. That is, he napped until Ace got him stirred up. He became increasingly agitated, and so did I. William strained to the front of the ties, and begged with one front leg up because he wanted to get involved in the shenanigans. The peaceful grooming time was disrupted.

Ace kept coming to the gate to see if his display was having any affect on me. Yes it was... annoying little s__. There was no way I was going to reward this behavior by returning him to his stall so he could enjoy his lunch. I tied the unpicked portion of WP's tail in a knot, stuck my comb in my back pocket and unclipped a rope from the ring on the wall. Ace's expectant little face brightened. "Oh Good, she's going to give me what I want." Think again Mister.

I clipped the rope on his halter, marched him right over to the wall and tied him to a post. Then I went and got Hairy, who was more than relieved to be done with his baby-sitting job, and put him back in his stall closing the gates behind me. Ace whinnied pitifully. This was a revolting development. I went back to my tail picking since I had tied him in my direct line of sight. He tested the rope a few times, (Note to self: when engaging in a battle of wills with teenage horses, best to use the unbreakable nylon shipping halter) but finally stood and sulked. This all took about 3 minutes and Ace admitted defeat. I went back to the arena to have a word with him. He was more than happy to see me and willing to negotiate. I rubbed his right side and picked up a front hoof... easy. I moved to the rear right. He gave it easily but flung the leg around. I held on stubbornly.

Back around to the left side. He had his front hoof ready for me and that went smoothly, but the left rear was even more difficult than the right. Those draft horse people have the right idea when they strap them into stocks. In fact, local lore says one of the old time farriers once picked up a draft colt and set it across the hood of a tractor. Hmmmmm.... I faced his head, picked the hind foot up forward with my left hand, and clung to his tail with my right and held on. I won the wrestling match. I sure hope my farrier appreciates the things I go through for him

Then on to the neck and ears. I remembered Mom saying when I walked into the barn that Ace was in a stinky mood. This was becoming more and more apparent. Ace dove at the rope knot with his teeth and I got a hand on each ear. I cupped one hand lightly around the base of each ear and wiggled with him. I thought, this is a perfect passive aggressive outlet for someone who wants to out stubborn a horse just for kicks. **sigh** Ace gave in and let me rub both ears and his noggin. OK, you can go in now. I got a hold of the cheek piece of his halter, and loosened the knot with my other hand. I could tell Ace was mad but again had decided it was easier just to humor me.

He led quietly back to his stall. I finished picking the tail and put stuff away. The whole time Ace ate his grain, he pounded willfully with his front foot. I've never noticed him doing that. What a little brat he is today.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Back to Normal

Today Ace was sane enough that he was able to be left alone to play without anyone guarding the gates to prevent escape. I also led him back to his stall without a chain over his nose. He even laid down last night to sleep. And so ends the great Weaning Saga....

Next on the agenda... the farrier is due and ought to be scheduled in the next week. This hasn't been a problem before, but I would really like for him to learn to stand in the grooming area so the farrier can work with better light. We tried standing there for a bit today, but he certainly wasn't still enough to have any work done on his hooves, so we're going to have to work on that.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kicking the habit....

The past two days Ace has exhibited a weird behavior that at first I didn't really understand. When I turn him out, for the first 5 minutes while he works out his frustration of not finding Copy out there again, he keeps running to the water bucket and rinsing his mouth every mintue or so. Today we went back to his stall and saw that his water bucket was indeed full, then it hit me....He's trying to break his oral fixation like a smoker. Because he can't go to the mare and nurse to calm himself, he's replacing it with a sip of water! Maybe I need to get him some milk flavored chewing gum! After he settles down and starts playing and exploring it stops. No wonder the poor kid has been a basket case! Too funny!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Establishing the routine

Today was a lot less stressful. I thought about some of the "moments" we had yesterday, and worked around them today for maximum training effect.

1. Slide stall door open 4 inches
2. Reach arm into stall, clip rope on first halter ring available...
3. Insert "whapper stick" (2 feet of hard black plastic water pipe) and push back on chest.
4. Enter and close door behind you.
5. Snub tasmanian devil to post.

I swear, tying is the best thing I ever taught him.

6. Apply chain shank. Now, I've been handling horses for 31 years, and I taught myself a new trick today. I've always clipped the chain up on the ring behind their right eyeball. Well, if you pull the chain around under their jaw and snap it on the ring behind their left eyeball, you don't have to cross in front of them or fumble around blindly. Ta-Da! I've seen that done on horses at the track but it never ocurred to me the brilliance of it in this situation.
7. Slide door open.
8. Wait for composure to return.
9. Unsnub and lead away, taking that extra rope with you, so you can hold on while you remove the shank. I've learned to take the rope, the chain shank, and the whapper stick with us everywhere we go. You never know when you'll have to throw that rope around the nearest post! And yes, sometimes I start juggling and get tangled up...

Things were A LOT quieter today. Instead of rushing around screaming he was quiet, and took time to play and check things out. His brain is beginning to clear.... He walked instead of dashing around, and even stood still on occassion. Amazing. He was also trust worthy enough that I was able to step away from the gates for a minute without him trying to jump over. I thought again, what would we do without this indoor? This is the best money we ever invested in the horses. I can't imagine trying to turn him out in any other kind of fencing. No wonder people get horses hurt during weaning. Even using our "safe" plank fence paddock, how could we possible guard all that fence in case he decided to throw himself into it?

He even interacted with Hairy a little. Poor Hairy. He's still intimidated by this whirling dervish. In fact, before I took Ace back to his stall, I led him around a bit in the arena. As soon as I had him caught, Hairy came up to him, then followed us around like a puppy dog 2 feet behind. He figured he would take the opportunity to check the little guy out. When Ace returned to his stall, he did cry a little, but it was short. Peace and order are returning to our lives.

As for Copy, she is happily enjoying her time off. Today I put her on cross ties, groomed her a little, and tried my hunt seat saddle on her just to see if it would fit. Her head shot up, her ears cocked back and she shot me a look out of the corner of her eye which said.... "Don't even joke about that! That was NOT funny."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Weaning Day # Whatever

Things are a bit more peaceful in the barn today. I put Munchkin out in the indoor with poor baby sitter Hairy who has no idea what is going on or what his part is in this. It is a battle to get the chain over his nose. Basically it is like trying to thread a moving needle with mittens on. Frustrating. Then you have to restore order and regain the upper hand, backing him into the corner. He leads nicely and it isn't too difficult to get the chain off again.

Ace ran circles around Hairy screaming his fool head off. I had closed all the big doors which seemed to sort of unnerve him since he is used to being able to see out as well as get out. I stationed myself at the gate with a longe whip to discourage him from trying to come over those. After 15 minutes, Ace was getting warm and more desperate to get out in some direction. And I think Hairy was getting dizzy from standing in the center watching. So during one of Ace's trips to the gate, I got the snap clipped on his halter ring and apprehended him. Then the usual scramble to get the chain situated, and we negotiated both the gate and the walk to his stall quietly and orderly. Negotiating the gate and leading are the only things he has retained in his little brain.

If he was looking for his mother, he missed his chance. She had her head out over the stall watching him, and he strutted right past with his eyes on the horizon. Obviously, he thought, she must be far away if he couldn't hear her. In truth, she just didn't miss him badly enough to say so. Then after I detached myself and squeezed out through the door, he began his bellering and kicking routine. It was a full blown weanling tantrum. I didn't stick around to appreciate it. I put Hairy back in his stall (poor hairy is still confused) went outside to open the doors back up and retrieve William P who was ramming around outside wishing he could join in the excitement. Whatever it was he was sure he was missing it. By the time I got back to the barn Ace had quieted back down.

So the first turn out went fairly well, but all that catching and chain threading and maintaining the upper hand jangles your nerves. Mom, try giving him some raspberry leaves for supper. They are supposed to calm male horses too.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Oh Woe is Me

Poor little Ace is feeling pretty sorry for himself. He is still calling for Mom now and then, but his little whinny is starting to sound hoarse. He is very anxious for attention and friendship. When you open the door, this is the first thing you see...

But he is being well behaved and respectful. I was in and out of the stall several times to hang his water bucket, and a toy and just to pet him and let him know he hasn't been abandoned.

He has a nice window which he is enjoying. The pasture fence is about 30 feet away, and there are horses there that he can watch.

Copy is (conveniently) in heat this week, so she is calling back to him today and pacing a bit but, nothing dramatic. It looks like they will both survive. Ace is still off his feed. I dropped a horse cookie in his bucket before I left, and he went and got it out and crunched it against the wall. He just isn't interested in the grain that's in there.
All the commotion is starting to tell on everyone's nerves. Even my gelding William P. had had enough. Mom said this morning when she went to take him out his face said "Get me as far away from this as you can".

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Yup, still weaned with only a minor glitch...

Mom fessed up to putting Ace back with Copy yesterday because he hadn't eaten anything. As you can see from the photos, he will not suffer from missing a couple of meals. Yes, I was irritated, and yes, Mom is repentant.

Today Mom tried to herd Copy and Ace out of the run in and back to the arena, and Ace cut Copy off at the pass, put on his herd leader hat, and took charge of the situation.

From Mom's email: Ace was not going to let me dictate his day and after all he is this big bossy stud in his little 6 month old peanut nuts brain. That did it! I was not in the mood to have Acey "take his mare" that he is confusing with his harem not his milk source, and think he is smarter than me. He is back in his weaning stall.

So Mister Smartypants is officially weaned!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weaned... I think

The hardest part about this has been getting my Mom to commit to changing her routine. Yes, weaning Ace does complicate things, but he is only going to get bigger, stronger, and more willful if we put this off. So, when I left the barn today, I put Ace in his stall, got Mom to agree that this was final, turned on the easy listening music and left.
Mid-afternoon report was that he ate a little when Mom went back to feed him lunch, and that he commenced kicking the wall since he had an audience. Copy, as usual, seems basically unaffected. I'm sure she will be glad to have the whole stall to herself tonight.
Here are some pictures of Ace this morning playing Cowboys and Indians on the hillside. He was really strutting his stuff along the fence line, but naturally I was not able to catch it on camera.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Interval Weaning Day 5

This weaning stuff is why you hear stories of horses that are 5 years old and have never been separated from their dams. It's also the reason you here of horses that are shut in a stall their whole lives. I admit it's pretty tempting. Just shut him in a stall and when he's 2 years old, call a trainer to come pick him up.

Today we started by turning Ace out in the indoor with Hairy our "babysitter" horse. Ace was so excited to meet a new hors! He ran and ran and reared up and walked on his hind legs, and showed Hairy all his best cutting horse moves. This lasted about 10 minutes. Hairy was unimpressed. mainly Hairy just didn't want to get bitten or kicked, and he escaped unscathed. When Hairy failed to play back, Ace lost interest. He then decided he really missed his Mom and maybe he ought to see about getting back to her. My mother stood at the gates with a whip to shoosh him away and dissuade him from trying to jump. He continued to run and fuss for another 10 minutes. He was already wet from being out in the rain this morning, and 20 minutes of running had him steaming pretty good. He was also starting to get tired, so we put him back in his stall where I hoped he might settle in and actuallt eat something.

I left him there for 45 minutes. He screamed and fussed, but was at least calm enough to cool off and dry out. The screaming was getting on every one's nerves. We discussed leaving him the rest of the afternoon or putting them back together. Maybe tomorrow we will cut Copy's grain and begin to help dry up her milk supply. She had already been fed quite heavily today, so we put them back together. Ace hasn't had much lunch this week, but he is still fat and slick and can stand to miss a few meals.

Ace is fairly respectful to handle. You have to handle him like an unruly stallion (which at this point he is) but we have been enforcing manners and he has been pretty good with his greatest infraction being rearing. Of course I don't tolerate that. He is learning to respect the chain shank if not humans in general. I remember one of my sister's summer jobs during high school was with a local Standardbred farm. She was one of the staff members charged with bringing the yearling stallions to the barn, halter breaking them, getting them groomed up and ready to go to the sales in the fall. I don't know what I would do if I had to handle 60 untrained yearling stallions every day. Ughh!

Ace was happy to get back to his Mom and get something to drink. I don't blame him. After dealing with that for an hour and a half, I wouldn't mind a drink myself. I'm glad we didn't breed back. I don't think I could do this every year.