Waiting for Permission

Chase, is an RBI and has had some pretty significant issues with mounting. He gets really tight and will almost touch his ears to his butt. In fact, he used to throw his head way up when I just stepped up on to the mounting block! We got over that by me doing some serious leg exercises one day with Chase on the end of a 12’ line. We can now step straight up and he’s doesn’t worry.

For the longest time our riding sessions were about stepping up half way and stepping back down. I really had to wait for permission to go any further. When I got it, I slowly and carefully put me leg over the saddle and gently sat and waited. The preparatory movement to dismounting would again send his head flying up (almost knocking me out the first time!). I had to keep doing this preparation to dismount over and over until he realised it was OK and then he gave me permission to dismount too! (The first time I tried to dismount him was out at a club day and he popped out from under me – that’s where I learnt he doesn’t like dismount either!).

So then my poor boy beat himself up in the float/trailer. I don’t know what set him off but I know that once he felt the pressure on his poll, he just panicked and pulled back, thrashing his head from side to side. He got his butt under the rump bar and his front legs over the chest bar – all in the space of about 4 strides for me to get to the access door and undo the rope to take the pressure of his poll. As soon as that was released, he stopped struggling and he no longer looked like he might go through the front window! What to do now?

Here I was, all alone with a 500kg animal with his front legs over the chest bar. Lucky for me, my chest bars have pins and I don’t have a fully enclosed trailer. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise. I pulled the pin from the inside and raced around, up on to the fender, reached and pulled the other pin and punched the bar out. Once Chase was on all fours again, and the poll pressure was no longer a problem, he calmed down. It really wasn’t pretty though. After the vet visited, we weren’t sure if he’d fractured his skull, such was the damage.

September 2014: the day after

The left side of his face swelled up from the bottom of his ear right through to the bottom of his eye. We weren’t sure if he’d keep his eye at this stage either. It was quite difficult to get his medication into his eye as it was swollen shut and he was obviously very sensitive about it.

In the weeks that followed, and as Chase recovered, we played with lots of friendly game and, once his eye opened and he was kind of normal again, we did lots of mounting and dismounting. Finally, 10 weeks after his accident, we are able to go out and do ‘stuff’.
This morning, I took Chase to an indoor arena with fencing all around and a good sand footing. My goal was a canter.

My levels mare, an LBI thoroughbred named Bonnie, has helped me lose my confidence when asking for a canter. She is lovely when she offers and mostly to the left when I ask, but an absolute horror when I ask to the right! I know she can right lead canter but if I ask (and I’m not being particular about her leads, we just happen to be travelling to the right), she get’s ‘humpy’. It’s like a buck without the effort of actually kicking out with her back legs… a lazy horse’s buck! It’s all feedback right? Anyway, I digress….

Back to the story of Chase: like I said, my goal was a canter – if he gave me permission.
My bestie (not Parelli… or natural for that matter) came to ‘support’ me. I just wanted someone there if anything went wrong, you can understand my concern after what my levels mare has given me. Chase was a little tense as I walked around the indoor online but a lovely lady produced a handful of hay from the ‘scary place’ and he thought that was pretty good… I’m actually surprised he took it!

Then we played on the 45 for a bit, until I felt OK to get on; Chase actually looked really rideable right from the get go! Again we walked around before I asked for a trot. He got a little tense so I didn’t ask for more but when he dropped down to a walk, I asked him to go again until he blew out. Then I asked for a bit more energy… again a bit tight but we stayed there until he blew again and did the same in the other direction. We did this in trot until we got a 18/20 trot in both directions.

My friend started getting antsy and said I should just get over it and canter! Nope… although it was my goal, I had to make sure he was OK and I wanted to preserve what was left of my confidence. After a short time at the faster trot, he did a really big blow out and I knew we were good to canter.

When he did, it was beautiful! He was so gentle and careful! I’m so glad I waited for his permission. It was so smooth and calm. We did only about half of a 30m circle and only to the right. I haven’t noticed if he’s got a ‘bad’ side and he seems to pick up the inside lead in either direction.

This was such a great session. Not only did I not worry about what other people wanted of me, I put my relationship with my horse before my goals and allowed him to be in charge of the timeline. In the end, we achieved the goal I had set and it wasn’t frustrating for either of us and both of us stayed confident and we built trust and rapport.

This boy is so lovely. I am so glad he came into my life.

My goal now is to have that with B. I just have to wait for her permission. ‘Normal’ people just don’t get it!

Trusting, Confident and Trying

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Recovery from Pedal Osteitis

It’s been a while since I blogged.  I’ve been away with Bonnie participating in a Natural Horsemanship clinic, I’ve help set a new world record by crossing Australia from Surfers Paradise to Fremantle and back again in a 1930 Model A Ford in just over 100 hours and, my lovely little Miss Mia was diagnosed with Pedal Osteitis.

I was absolutely shattered when I heard the news about Mia.  I love to event but I love to event Mia.  I did buy another horse to hopefully take her place (just in case she didn’t come good) but, having only had him for a couple of months, he had a massive panic in the float that caused some serious damage to his head.  At this stage, we don’t think his skull is fractured so it could have been far worse.

So, when all is said and done, I’ve been pretty busy running around with ‘stuff’.

Over the course of the last three months, since Mia’s diagnosis, I have been getting remedial farriery (and distance farriery), photonic therapy, nutritional support and veterinary supervision on Mia’s recovery.  Mia had plastic shoes put on to help her recovery… we had to shoe because Mia had a quarter crack that didn’t seem to want to go away.

Almost three months later and Mia’s recovery is amazing.

Mia: Recovery from PO Video


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A plea goes out, via Facebook, to the Qld Parelli community by a young girl in desperation.  She says she is ‘again’ having float troubles with her TB gelding.  Her horse is over 100kms away and, with hire of a float costing $170 a time, she’s got enough funds for just one more attempt.  She says she’s watched every float DVD she can but, after three hours her horse still refused to load.

I don’t normally go out of my way to help people I don’t know but something about this plea leapt out at me and, if I’m honest with myself, I love the challenge of float loading.  I may not be good at it (yet) but I love it!  So, for better or worse, I offered up my time, my car, my 30 year old float (that is in the process of being refurbished… I tell you this now for a very good reason) and what little skills I have.  Knowing that this horse has taken a LONG time in the past, I set aside a whole day for the process.

I arrived.  The horse is friendly enough and comes over to investigate us along with his two pasture pals.  We start with a few games on line so I can observe him and see if there is anything I can suggest to help when the time comes.

He looks OK except that his disengagement is a little broken and, while his go button works I feel his handler is not effective enough.  So, now the young girl begins to start the loading.  Initially I am just observing both her and him.  He doesn’t appear scared of the float but really doesn’t want to get on.  I find out why later!

This is an interesting process to me.  I am asking her to observe her horses threshholds and, when he doesn’t progress, don’t let him wait there too long but in doing this, the horse then starts to turn toward her on the ramp and almost run her over.  New strategy, remember its not about the …… (in this case, the float), I asked her to simply get him walking on and off the ramp in a straight line.  His backup needs to get better.  I asked her to keep his nose pointed at the inside of the float.  This seemed to help both of them and he started going further and further in while all the time we were asking him to back out straight and not run over her.

I heard a lot of comments from watchers that he was way calmer and way more settled this time and he was going in further.  That usually makes me feel better about what I’m seeing and doing.

After what seemed like an eternity… almost 2 hours, the young girl asked me to have a go as her arm was hurting.  OK, so I took over and we got him in right up until zone 5 but this just didn’t seem to want to go in the float.  Then he went quiet and started staring.  He went RBI.  I did change my strategy but, really, in hindsight, I should’ve backed him off quietly and given him a break.  I didn’t!  I changed by strategy to deal with an RBI.  We stayed really quiet, asking for a small forward thought only.  I turned to the girl and asked, “does he normally grind his teeth?”  She said no.  Oops… I had pushed him too far mentally and emotionally.  I quit at that point and gave us all a break while I contacted Carmen Smith (4* Parelli Professional) and asked for her suggestions.

We played touch it with a ball and a feed bucket before starting again.  This time, we played touch it with a tennis ball on the float, then played touch it with the feed bucket (no feed in it but a bigger target).  He was way more relaxed and, he was getting almost all the way and then bouncing straight back out.  I felt like this was progress.  We had another break after just 30 minutes.

The next 20 minutes or so, we played with moving the centre divider while he stood in the float.  Then we moved the rump bar while he stood in the there.  Each time, we backed him out and started again.  He was going really well but he wouldn’t allow us to move the centre divider AND the rump bar at the same time so, with a 12’ line acting as a rump bar, we actually got the tailgate closed!  WOW!  Almost 4 hours and a calm, relaxed horse munching on an apple and some Lucerne chaff.

OK, so now we needed to travel him the 90minutes or so to his new home!  I took my foot off the break and OMG… this horse scrambled BADLY!  Now, I understood why he didn’t want to load.  How on earth am I going to get this horse moved over 100kms without injuring him?  Lucky for me, I take pride in my floating ability.  I took my foot off the break again…. Really slowly this time.  He scrambled for a second, got his footing and was half OK.  This was going to be a long long trip.

I decided to go the longer route because it was a more constant speed.  No start/stop at traffic lights or things like that.  I felt it would be better for the horse.  Turns out, he doesn’t do too well on his left hand turns in a float.  The right was fine.  After about 20minutes, I figured out how to do a sweeping left without him scrambling and realised I needed to be at around 70km/h for them.  Weird but, well….whatever works right?!

So, a little way into the journey, her boyfriend (who is following us) says one of my indicators isn’t working but he will block traffic when I need to change lanes so don’t pull over.  OK, I can deal with that.  We got about 15minutes away from the paddock and BOOM…. Tyre blow out!  Now remember I said I was refurbishing the float?  Well, let me take you back to the beginning of this story and the beginning of my day. About 20 minutes or so into my approx. 300km round trip, as I was going past a large truck and moving back to my left, I checked by side mirror to make sure I had enough room and noticed – OH NO!!!  NO SPARE!

At 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon on a major road in a little country Qld. town, where do I get a spare tyre?  I didn’t want to unload the horse on the side of the highway.  I had to find a solution.  RACQ to the rescue (RACQ is the local car rescuers club here in Qld).  They had a service centre about 10 minutes away.  45 minutes later, we are back on the road with a new tyre.  All the while, the horse is stuck on the float with cars and trucks zooming past.  He didn’t bat an eyelid.  Its like he’d been doing it all his life!  What a good boy.

Waiting patiently for new tyre

When we did finally arrive, we unloaded him and he came off the float calmly, relaxed and STRAIGHT!  I felt a small sense of achievement and hope I have given this horse a more positive experience as he only scrambled badly one more time for the entire trip which ended up being a 423km round trip!  He scrambled on a tight left turn with an uphill step (some roadworks were being done).

My lessons?

#1.    Always, always, always have a spare tyre on your float;

#2.    See those subtle signs and act on them before you get the more extreme signs.

I am happy I had the chance to play with, and learn from Jack.

I am looking forward to his progress and hope to see him at more clincis and/or play days and seeing him load confidently and travel relaxed, would give me a huge thrill.

Thanks to Bree and Jack for allowing me to learn from them.  Thanks to Carmen for giving me the direction and clarity I needed and lastly, thanks to the Parelli program for giving me the basis of a great foundation for my journey to becoming a horsewoman.  I have a long way to go but I feel confident that I will get the information and instruction as I need it, and from sources that need to give it to me.

Pat says “Horses teach humans and humans teach horses”.  Yep, Jack taught me to ‘see’ the signs!

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