Wednesday, December 23, 2009


When I went out to feed last night, I could tell just by the way that Diego was walking in the dark that something wasn't right. He had his head lowered down to ground level and was making strange slobbery noises. I quickly flipped on the lights in the barn and took a look at him. He had foamy drool coming out of his mouth and was continually "yawning" and trying to chew, but was not swallowing from what I could see. I knew right away that he was choking.

Thankfully, Diego seemed to realize that I would be able to help him out and he stood pretty still for me to do some exploratory searching in his mouth (I never did bother to halter him during this whole ordeal). I was able to pull out a few longer pieces of hay and a semi-chewed wad that he had been working on. Note: He's been getting a 3-grain hay for the past couple of months and seems to really like it, but it is more coarse than the previous grass hay I had been buying and, being a 3-grain, has various seed heads and such. I massaged up and down his neck, but could not feel any obvious lumps or firmer spots. Eventually, I had to grab his tongue and pull it out one side of his mouth so that I could work my whole hand around in there. I found about a full, big handful of chewed up hay bits, seed heads, and some stems that was somehow wadded up underneath his tongue. Dig wasn't very fond of this portion of the procedure, but he tolerated it well and only threw his head up a few times.

After I had cleared his mouth, I just stood back and looked at him for a little while. He was still kind of licking and chewing, and his eyes were still somewhat stressed looking, but he no longer appeared to be in distress or straining. It was more like he was just checking things out and tentatively making sure stuff was still working. He never had any sort of nasal discharge during this, so I think I caught his choke pretty early and was beginning to believe that it was the wad under his tongue that was the main culprit. After a few minutes, where he relaxed further and quit chewing, I decided to give him a small bit of pelleted grain (small like pencil eraser sized pellets) to see if he could chew and swallow that down without any issues. He eagerly ate his grain, but started to put his teeth on the plywood around the panels on the inside of his barn area and make a funny face at me - something I've never seen him do before. Bits of slobbery grain drool were coming out of his mouth. I realized he may still have an impaction further down in his throat.

I'm not an expert on choke, having only dealt with it once before with Sinatra during a ride. I knew that horses aren't as worrisome as people when they choke, since generally their airway is not compromised and they can still breathe. However, horses are unable to vomit, so they can't force any obstruction up and out, but rather have to work it down for the most part. There is the worry that they may aspirate some particles into their lungs, which could lead to other problems. Since Diego seemed to be able to swallow for the most part without issues, I was hopeful that if I could get him to drink/slurp up a wet soupy bran-type mash, that it might help push down and clear whatever blockage he may still have. I was hopeful that the warm wet mixture would help to soak and relieve whatever might still be causing him problems.

So I hurried back down to the house and returned quickly with a big jug of hot water (thank you instant hot in the kitchen!). I poured this into a bucket with a mixture of his pelleted grain and some wheat bran, and added a nice scoop of electrolytes as well to help encourage further drinking. Diego was watching me eagerly, but still had a bit of a stressed look in his eye. After the mash had quickly soaked (it takes less than a minute for the pellets to come apart), I added some cold water so it wouldn't be too hot and gave it to Dig. As he slurped and drank the mixture down, I massaged his throat, finding a somewhat harder spot directly behind his jaw bones in his throatlatch area. Since firmly massaging my horses throats while they're eating/drinking is not part of my normal habit, I couldn't say for sure if that was "normal" or if that was some sort of blockage. Either way, I worked my hands firmly up and down his throat, massaging, pressing downward and generally trying to loosen any harder or more firm spots. When Diego was mostly finished, I noticed that he was shivering somewhat, I figured it was probably stress induced but I put my winter weight blanket on him anyways for good measure. I fed him some nice soft pasture grass hay (not the 3-grain) and watched while he finished his mash and started eating that. His eyes looked normal again, no longer stressed, and he seemed to be eating and swallowing just fine. No more drool, no more biting the fence. He was looking perfectly normal when I went out later to check on him before bed.

So disaster averted it seems. I'm now a bit worried about the 3-grain hay, of which I still have probably 15+ bales. Not sure if this was a freak occurrence, or something that may continue. I think I'll call the feed store today and see if I can possibly exchange it for something else.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Toy? FAIL

I bought one of those blow-up exercise ball things to play with and use around Diego as a de-spooking object. I also got an "anti-burst" ball, thinking that maybe I could leave it in his corral for him to play with. So this weekend, after a nice lunging session in our remaining slush and mud, I decided to blow up the ball and see how he reacted. He was mildy curious as I was pumping my little heart out, making strange whooshing sounds, but he merely deigned to look across at me with a "And just what are you up to now?" expression.

After it was all blown up (I was disappointed to realized exactly how SMALL the 65 cm ball was), I carried it over to Dig for him to check out. He walked over and sniffed the ball briefly for a millisecond and decided it wasn't worth his attention. So I lifted it up and dropped it over the top rail into the corral, about 4 feet in front of him. He looked at it, bored. So I asked him to put his head down and sniff it, he bumped it with his lip and proceeded to try to go back to napping. So I pushed and kicked the dang thing around (it has sand inside so you have to shove it) and he could hardly be bothered to watch what I was doing. After a bit, I put my hand under his chin (he was loose, not haltered) and had him walk over and "kick" the ball a couple of times by bumping it with a front leg. Overall, he was totally unamused and bored with the whole idea, if "This is stupid and I'm too mature to play" had a face, it was the one he had on.

The only reaction I got from him out of the whole thing was when I finally picked the ball up and threw it over the top corral panel rail and into the barn/shed, over his back and behind his head, where it bumped around and made a few small crashing sounds, at which point he had the decency to hop his back feet over 6 inches to the side so he could see that it was only the ball that made that noise.

So despooking - SUCCESS, toy - FAIL

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Planning for next year

I hate this time of year. Shorter days means it's dark by the time I get home and bad weather along with continued cold temperatures mean too much ice and snow on the roads for me to brave getting the trailer out. This is when not having access to trails (that are suitable for a green horse) or even a proper riding area at home are a major hinderance. They only plus side is that with still having 6+ inches of snow at home from different storms over the past two weekends, the footing out back is a lovely soft snowy (mess) that covers all the rocks and gravelly bits and Diego was very happy to run around and play on the lunge the other night.

All I do this time of year is plan and think about riding. Not getting out very much last year has be craving rides and being out on the trails very badly. I've been prone to pissy-ness and sporadic bad moods lately. I've also been very unmotivated with other aspects of my life, and then feel overwhelmed because those things aren't getting done. I'm practically positive it all has a direct correlation to lack of time in the saddle.

So, in an effort to cheer myself up - I'll post a tentative ride schedule for next season. Diego turned 5 in September, and since this will be his first season of endurance, our goals are pretty moderate to reflect that:

Rides of March - probably the 30-mile LD, this will be our first official AERC ride and the LD is sufficiently difficult that it should be a value-added experience for Diego.

High Desert (mid-April-ish) - Diego's first 50. This was
a 2-day last year, but we'll probably aim for our first 50 on Saturday and then just play Sunday by ear. I'm guessing we'll just do the one day though. The Ride Managers also host a two-day fall ride and if you ride a 50 for at least 3 days you get a blanket.

Washoe in May - probably only one day, these are good tough rides.

Manage the Nevada Moonshine Night Ride in June

Bridgeport in August - this one I've wanted to do for YEARS but it has never worked out with my schedule. Hopefully this will be the year. I've marked trail on the first 20-mile loop before and it's just a beautiful ride in the Twin Lakes area of California. Lots of good friends usually attend this ride as well.

High Desert in October (mid-Oct-ish) - Final two days to get the blankie, 50/50 each day

Other maybes:
Hat Creek Hustle in June
Tour de Washoo in July
Patriot's in September

If we do all the rides planned above, that would give Dig and I 250 miles for his first season. A lot less than many people start with, but I feel comfortable with this level of riding and mileage for him since he's still so young. Here's hoping that all my plans work out.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Just a note

That I'm trying to post updates from all the way back in October. Since I started this blog for myself as an online training journal, I've been back-dating the posts to when they actually occurred. Depending upon how you read/subscribe to this blog, you may need to scroll down and back through the older posts.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Goal Setting

Now that Diego's home, I've had a lot of time to do some thinking. I believe that one of the main things I'm currently lacking in my training program with Dig are some goals. I've had too much of a "take it as it comes" approach to riding lately and haven't been focusing on any specifics, and working on the steps to achieve some set goals. So this post will be about goal setting, specifically working on some of what I believe to be Diego's (and my own) weak spots.

Lateral flexion: While Diego will yield very soft and willingly on the ground in both directions (no matter which side I stand on), he can still be a bit resistant under saddle. He's softest when I first mount up, but then, after we've been doing a lot of forward motion, when I ask him to yield, he's still pretty stiff through his neck. I've noticed that as we turn, he will somewhat give to the pressure, but is bending more at his withers/shoulders than he is through his neck. If I ask for more bend, then it tends to become a one-rein stop type of maneuver, where he collapses in and will more often than not pivot around several steps before he softens and gives. I need to find that middle ground, the bend without the collapse. Also, he still is very stiff when nervous and I've noticed that I'm a little hesitant to try to flex him when we're not in our comfort zone.

GOAL: Work on riding 10 - 20 m. circles with Diego, establishing a soft bend throughout his entire body, but focusing on his neck for now. Continue to work on flexing to the side at the halt (a la one-rein stop type), especially in new places/situations. Goal is to have a soft downward and directional tip of his nose in response to light rein pressure. Thought: "I wonder if riding an outward directional spiral will help? Establish the bend in the neck through the tight circle he offers and then gradually expand and loosen the shape, while maintaining the bend...."

Facing my fear issues: I'm sure this will continue to be a long process, but continue working on the small bits. I was making some saddle modifications and didn't have any stirrups on the other night, so I hopped on bareback. My first intent was to just SIT on him, which went well, so I thought, "Might as well walk around the corral once." I survived that, so we did another lap, then I asked for a change of direction, a halt, etc. Soon I went from being nervously perched on him - still holding onto the corral panel with one hand and a toe on the fence, to riding around without holding onto his mane or anything asking him for lateral flexion and working on yielding his hindquarters. =) Something very important I discovered - when I was focused on a very specific task, I didn't worry about other things and what was going on. I had a specific maneuver I was looking to accomplish and that was where my focus was.

GOAL: Hone my focus while riding. Start each ride with a particular goal(s) in mind and some specific tasks that I want to accomplish. Be willing to adjust and change my plan as need be, but just transition from one maneuver to another if the first is beyond our current abilities. At the end of each ride, evaluate what we were able to accomplish and what to work on for next time. WRITE THIS DOWN. Continue to take small steps with my riding and realize the little accomplishments.

More exposure on the trail: This one is pretty basic. Get him OUT. Make plans with friends, since I'm not brave/stupid enough to go it alone right now, and get him out and going down the trail more. Aim for once a week at least if possible.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

School - Oct 15th

From Bob:
We did our 3+ mile ride with a saddle tonight. We did some gentle hills, finishing at dark. We trotted most of the flat and uphill and walked all of the downhill. Diego led most of the way. He reluctantly led past a giant puddle that took up most of the road. LaLa led over some big dirt mounds that someone built to discourage motorcycles. Diego started out looking around a lot, but he was fairly relaxed the whole ride. He stopped in his tracks a few times to look at monsters (including a bicycle in the dark) but never really spooked. I rode on a loose rein with only occasional contact the whole ride. He was a really good boy! =)

See you Saturday!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

School - Oct 14th

From Bob:

Diego got a 12-minute ride in the back yard. He started out good and just got better. I was walking and trotting all kinds of patterns. Every time he anticipated what I was going to ask, I would do something else to keep him listening. The only thing he did wrong was jerking his head from side to side at the trot early in the ride. He was relaxed the whole time.

I'm going to try to take him out for 3+ miles on Thursday. I'll use a saddle and take Dovie and LaLa. Friday should be a ride like the one I did today.

Monday, October 12, 2009

School - Oct 12th, Me Riding

I went out and rode Diego today after work. I almost didn't go, since I'm just not feeling right, like I'm trying to get sick (Note: I ended up getting REALLY sick and was pretty miserable the rest of the week). Plus it was windy and kind of cold today. But I really want to take Dig on the 10-mile 4H Trail Ride this Saturday (10/17) and I honestly need to get out and get on him if that's to be my goal. The weather is supposed to take a turn for the worse tomorrow (Tues.), so I sucked it up and went out this evening after work.

Actually, our ride tonight was much better than Sunday the 4th. Diego had to stop and watch the neighbor kids jumping on the trampoline in their backyard for a while, but after a bit it wasn't nearly so interesting. We did a lot of walking and trotting around the round pen and he did great. Only a couple of little scoots and MUCH better on the trotting this time. He felt more steady and secure, less worried about what I might be doing up top.

After a bit, I opened up the gate and rode him out and around the yard. When he would get tense, I would ride back toward the round pen and do a loop or two around the outside, or go into to the pen, around, and then back out. He eventually stayed more relaxed outside of the pen. For me, I don't want him to be tense at all when I'm riding, and when he gets tense, that's a sign to me that I need to change something to make him more comfortable. Either get him back into a more familiar environment, or go back to doing something more simple for a bit until he can relax again. When he's tense and worried, he's not learning very much and is very unfocused. Getting his focus back and getting him relaxed becomes my #1 priority.

Bob ended up getting on Surprise and riding around with us for a while as well. I rode Diego back into the round pen (with the gate open) and Bob rode around the outside. We both went the same direction, in opposite directions, at different speeds, etc. Bob would ride next to me and then I'd have Dig turn off and change direction, and come back along the rail going the opposite way. Or slow to a walk and have Surprise trot off and leave us. Diego didn't seem to care at all and was very relaxed and even seemed to be having fun playing the little game.

I'm looking forward to the trail ride this weekend. It will be a big milestone for us.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

School - Oct 10th, a bit of excitement

From Bob:
Today, Anjolina and Dovie took Carmel and LaLa to a 4-H show two blocks away. I headed to the park on Diego to expose him to more excitement. He really didn't want to go by himself, but he grudgingly did what I asked.

Just after making the left turn one block down, he stopped and then seemed to be willing to walk nicely. Suddenly, he spooked out from under me. It was a classic Arab sideways spook, not a deliberate bucking frenzy, or anything like that. I landed on my back, and he pulled away, slipped, and fell on his butt. He got up and trotted towards home as if nothing had happened. Judy, who lives next door, was riding her horse and helped me grab him. He has a few minor scrapes, and my back will probably be sore for a few days. No big deal for either of us.

I led him back to the park, found a mounting block, and got on. He was a little spooky until I found Carmel and LaLa. After that, he practically fell asleep watching the competition. Carmel didn't want to do anything without LaLa, so we rode LaLa and Diego into the arena for the "lineup" after one of the classes. Diego actually did better than LaLa, though that isn't saying much. I eventually rode him home without incident. When we got to the round pen, he wanted to stop and go in on his own. I made him do an extra lap and stop on my terms, not his.

When he stops, a light tap or two from the crop is working nicely. He moves forward without acting like he's thinking about exploding.

I should have told you, but we're giving him a little grain every night so he won't feel left out when everyone else gets theirs. (Awww)

Friday, October 9, 2009

School - Oct 9th

From Bob:
We had another great ride today! Anjolina and I repeated Diego's longest trail ride, about 1.5 miles. I skipped the saddle today. The skittishness only lasted about 45 seconds. He opened and closed the gate as well as Penny does it. He didn't seem to care when we left the road to make room for an ATV. Diego led, followed, and went next to Carmel. He does best when he leads. We trotted about 40%. We had a couple of minor butt tucks, but no spooks. He was very relaxed the whole ride. Diego is a good boy!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

School - Oct 8th

Some earlier communication between Bob and I:

I think he'll be ready for the 4-H 10-mile ride next weekend (17th or 18th). It's up to you which one of us rides him.

I definitely want Dig to do the 4-H ride. Have you ridden him with your saddle yet? I’m interested to see if he’s sticky/weird with you about that like he was with me on Sunday. Would one day be preferable over the other to come and ride?

Note: On Sunday, when I would go to move around, trot, or lean forward - Diego would throw on the brakes and totally stop. He was pretty tense and I spent a lot of time just walking him around in circles while I flopped around and moved all over as much as I felt comfortable doing.

I believe horses care more about your body language than what you put on their backs. The first time Surprise ever saw a saddle, I walked into her stall, let her examine it, and then put it on (no halter). I put on a bridle, led her out of the stall, and took her for a five-mile ride. To this day, she has never reacted to the saddle.

I'll probably try my saddle on him this weekend. I'm also planning a solo trail ride and a little cantering soon.

With Diego, when we were in Idaho and I was meeting him for the first time, I took him over to the trailer and tacked him up. He was fine, it was just him and I and, as far as I knew, he’d had a saddle on the week before (turned out this wasn’t true). We walked about 300 yards over to their round pen, again no issues, I turned him loose and all hell broke loose and he bucked around for a few minutes before I could get him to stop. That was NOT his first time wearing a saddle, and I had no prior expectations and had treated him like a broke horse. I didn't expect the saddle would have been an issue at all. Once he finally stopped, we had no further saddle or bucking issues.

Took him home, no trouble, no issues with the saddle or being tacked up. Never seemed to react again. Fast forward to June, I pull him out and go to throw the saddle up on him (it's been since early April since he was tacked up), and again he totally freaked out. My mom had a hold of him and they ended up going all over the yard, Diego was just a royal pain. He was also a little odd about it this past weekend, but it didn’t take much to get him to stand there and behave. I think he has a very sensitive back (or is sensitive ABOUT his back – two different issues in my mind). I’m hoping you’ll ride him a bit more in a saddle just because that’s what he needs to be used to for ME. ;) I’m also curious to see how he reacts to you leaning forward and moving around, like I was this weekend.

Sounds like I should put my saddle on him today or tomorrow, just to see what he does.

Update from later that day:

I put my saddle on, rode around the back yard with Anjolina, and then took him out on the trail by himself. As you suspected, he is more reluctant to go forward with the saddle. He sometimes backed when I wanted to walk or trot. He definitely didn't want to leave his mares behind.

We worked through everything without getting either of us upset. When I realized he wasn't going to do the entire trail ride that I had in mind, I made him walk forward and then turned him around on my terms, not his. He walked and trotted back nicely. We opened and closed the gate with a minimum of fuss both ways. I think he will be OK for the 4-H ride if he has a buddy or two. :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

School - Oct 7th

From Bob:

Diego was extra good today!

I got back from Yosemite just after 6:00, and Anjolina was riding Carmel. Tammy showed up and I convinced everybody to go for a short trail ride. It took a while to get Penny and Diego ready. We didn't have much daylight, so we did our shortest trail ride.

The people across the street were roping cows, and I asked them not to do anything too exciting while Diego went by. They stopped as we rode past them. The first few minutes were a little tentative, but Diego settled down and led almost the entire way. On the way back, we had a car coming straight at us just as one of the riders across the street took after a cow. Diego just looked. He seemed half curious and half wary. No spook!

We opened and closed the gate on the way back into the yard. This was his best ride yet.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

And then it was my turn

The Sunday after the Comstock Ride, I took Diego back over to Bob and Dovie's house and I had the chance to ride him around for a while. Dig's right front leg was pretty puffy and a little warm to the touch. He had wacked it pretty good during his shenanigans on Friday and being tied to the trailer for the large part of the weekend probably didn't help with it stocking up. I also was pretty tired and not feeling quite right (too busy the past few days) so chose to just ride him around in the round pen for a short time.
We both had a good time.

Dig Goes Camping

Diego got to experience overnight camping at a ride site this past weekend while I managed the Comstock Endurance Ride out in Lemmon Valley. This should end up being a really value-added experience for him and his future career as an endurance horse (crossing fingers). It also worked out REALLY well logistically, since Diego has been staying just two blocks from ride camp, so I was able to bring my camper and trailer over empty, and then just walk around the corner more or less to go pick him up. I went and fetched him on Friday and he spent Friday and Saturday nights camped out with us. My mom came up from California and stayed in my camper with me, she brought her Tennessee Walker - Joe to ride as well, so Dig had a neighbor to keep him company when they weren't riding.

Overall, Diego did really well camping out. He only shook the trailer/camper once the first night, but by the time I got up to see what he was doing, he was standing there looking sleepy and innocent. There were a few things that needed to be worked out though:
1. Diego is not allowed to have a water bucket. These equal a play thing in his mind. I tried, but he just wouldn't leave it alone. I took it away when he picked it up and was holding it in his mouth, daring me, and then dropped it when I walked over to him - totally splashing me with the wave upon impact with the ground! =) From then on I had to walk him over to the community tank, a 200+ gallon affair that he still tried to pick up with his teeth and play with.
2. Diego's hay bag is prone to attacking him by attaching itself to the snap on his halter temporarily. This will occur when you are having the ride meeting and 30+ people are standing around not 10 feet from where Mr. Dramatic is tied. He will freak out, pull back, and fall over onto the ground, at which point - he realizes 30+ people are staring at him and he'll get up and look embarrassed.

On Saturday, the day of the ride, Bob came over and rode Diego around camp bareback for a while. It was pretty windy, but didn't seem to cause any additional issues. He did very well, taking most everything in stride. He even went in between the arena fence and the metal bleachers for watching the horse shows. Diego got to follow us as we moved a table and drug around some chairs, and served as the "test dummy" in the morning while we were trying to see if the heart rate monitors were working.

Overall I was very proud of my boy. He did great for his first "camping" trip and really took the whole environment of the ride in stride. Check that step off the list to becoming a future endurance mount!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

School - Day 4

From Bob, Monday, 9/28:

This was a big day for Diego. His feet look like he might have a little thrush. I cleaned them really well, trimmed a couple of "hangnails," and squirted some iodine to kill whatever might be living deep in the cracks. I was doing all this while he was turned out loose, and he only walked away once.

Diego spooked when I dumped the wheelbarrow full of manure, so I stalked him with it until I could wheel it within a foot of his back legs. He overreacted when I tapped him with the crop yesterday, so I spent some time alternating between rubbing him with it and moving him with it.
I started riding him around the back yard. He always starts out skittish and gets better the longer I ride him. He is getting better at the trot-to-walk transitions, but he is also starting to pull on the reins at the trot. I'm still riding him bareback, and he seems to want to go faster than I can sit the trot.

Dovie came out and offered to go for a trail ride, so we headed out. I got Diego to let me open and close the gate from his back, but it wasn't pretty. We ended up going about a mile and a half, trotting maybe 40% of the time.

Diego did great! LaLa was constantly threatening him, so we just let him lead. He stopped and looked when he saw a neighbor walking her loose dog. No problem. Walking down into a dry wash was no problem. It was almost dark when he gave me his first real spook. He sort of lurched forward, stopped, gave me a tiny buck, lurched forward again, and finally stopped. We composed ourselves and headed home. By this time, he was ignoring LaLa when she followed him really close.

He is a little strong at the trot, but he was really relaxed and well-behaved at the walk. The total ride time was 38 minutes. Dovie says he is awesome!

School and Thoughts from Bob

From Bob on Monday, 9/28, after reading the rest of this blog. His comments are in black, my reply is in blue italics:

We know things behind or above Diego can set him off, so I'm doing stuff in front of him and then doing the same stuff behind him. I had the cart and bike behind him, just out of kicking range. I also sometimes make a point of being boisterous and scary when I'm on him. I'm going to try making sure that Diego knows the difference between casually touching him with a crop or stick and telling him to do something with it. His reaction to the crop the other night was a lot greater than need be.

Good. I try to move around a lot and wave my arms and such too. I was feeling pretty darn confident on him there for a while and really trying new things. Like you mentioned, the more of this kind of stuff, the sooner he'll realize it's nothing to worry about and will get over.

Your blog reinforced an opinion I've had all along. You have more fear and nervousness than Diego has. It's not easy, but at some point, you just have to say, "He's a good boy, I trust him, and I don't care whether he hops and tucks his butt once in a while." That trust makes the difference between Diego forgetting what made him hop and you becoming airborne. I know that's easier for me to say, when I've never really been hurt. But I swear it's true.

I know that a lot of the issue is me. I've just seen him be so explosive and really truly "loose it" a few times now. Just being able to put my foot in the stirrup when I first got him was a huge
accomplishment at the time. He's really 100% better than he was when I got him, but it's the few times when he just blows up that continue to worry me. You may not get to experience that side of him, I certainly hope you don't. Before I had my accident, my confidence was pretty high and I was thinking about how Dig was about as "trained" as Sinatra was when I bought him (in other words, not very but enough to start doing things with). Like Sinatra, I know he'll be a good boy 99% of the time, its just that 1% that continues to worry me for now.
Mentally, I feel very confident and ready to get back on and start doing things, but when "something" happens, I find I do still get tense and worried pretty quickly - which doesn't help Dig out any. I don't mind the little tuck and hop, but I've had it turn into the full out bucking a few different times now, so being able to remain relaxed through the first bit, and not grap up rein and crank on him is an issue I have. With Sinatra, I needed to get him stopped *NOW* when he would do that - so it wouldn't escalate, with Diego I think I need to relax and not react for a minute, because it's me reacting that's furthing the problem. Does that make sense?

One of my... I don't really want to call it an issue, because I don't see it as a problem, but perhaps "hangups" is that I WILL NOT BE JUST A PASSENGER. I want my horse looking to me for guidance and instruction *at all times*. This was my issue with Caramel when I got on her. She's used to being the boss, you can feel it in how she reacts to commands and just her overall attitude. My mom's horse Joe is the same way and I don't particularly like riding him either. Both of these horses are totally safe for their riders (my mom's never come off Joe), but I can't and won't trust a horse that treats me like that. It's just a "me" thing with how I was taught to ride.

Monday, September 28, 2009

School - Day 3

Sunday, 9/27, from Bob:

Today we spent some time de-spooking him. I brought out Dovie's horse cart and walked all over the place pulling it behind me. He ignored it at a distance and was a little wary up close. He eventually came over and tried to eat it. I brought out my mountain bike and rode it around the yard. That went exactly the same as the cart.

Me: I’ve tried to do a LOT of de-spooking with Diego at home. I have noticed a big difference, but like I told Bob from the beginning, the #1 thing Dig needs continues to be exposure to new and different situations. My son Taren often rides his bike up near the corral, but he can’t to in a full circle around the corral and behind Diego, which is where I belive the main problem lies. Plus seeing an adult on a bike is a little different than a 7 year old, although I somehow doubt Bob was jumping off a plywood ramp, running over a 2” PVC pipe and/or doing “skids”. =)

Dovie thought moving the garden hose behind him might have caused yesterday's bath incident, so we played with the hose around him a little with the water off. I want to do more.

I spent 14 minutes on him today. He's getting less skittish. He does occasionally hop and tuck his butt underneath himself, but it never progresses into anything dangerous. A few minutes into the ride, he stopped and absolutely refused to move forward. He would back and flex left or right, but he wouldn't take a step forward. He seemed totally relaxed and just ignored me. Dovie got me a crop, and one very light tap on his butt got him moving again. We practiced trot-to-walk transitions. He's doing it most of the time, but it's really messy [Diego does trot to HALT transitions, it’s a pain. When he’s doing better, he’ll trot, halt for 0.5 seconds, then start walking, but still not very smooth]. I made a point of making noise, moving around, and especially fooling with my terrifying pockets while I was on him. He's doing fine.

School - Day 2

From Bob:

Dovie gave all the horses baths today. Something set Diego off half way through the bath. He freaked and then settled down. I wasn't there, so you'll have to ask Dovie for the details.

Me: It seems it was dragging the hose behind him which caused the issue. He’s fine with the hose, I have to drag it in and out of his corral to fill up his water trough, so it’s a common enough occurrence. He’ll stand there while it goes under or in front of him, so I think this was a “something’s behind me” issue rather than a hose issue.

We just got back from a moonlight ride. We did the same ride we did three weeks ago. Every time I ride him, he starts out skittish and then gets better as the ride goes on. Tonight was no exception. He was looking around a lot, but didn't do anything stupid or dangerous. We trotted about 20%. That gave me a chance to practice trot-to-walk transitions and I had good success on the trail. I closed the gate from his back. He didn't seem to understand what I wanted, but the slamming gate didn't scare him.

I'm seeing the fear of monsters behind him that you told me about. I'm going to try to desensitize him to various monsters tomorrow (with nobody on him). He's really fun!

Getting Reaquainted

Since I originally started this blog to have a place for myself to journal Diego's training, I'm very pleased that Bob has given me permission to post his daily updates that I'm getting with how things are going for Diego. Bob and Dovie currently have 4 mares of their own (3 they own and the other belongs to a little girl that Dovie was giving lessons to). This is from Friday 9/25, the same day I originally dropped him off:

Diego was getting along with Penny, so I turned Penny and Surprise out. The girls ignored him until they finished every scrap of hay we spilled this morning. Diego and Surprise did the squealing thing and settled down to grooming each other. Penny ignored him. After I cleaned stalls, I put the girls back in their stalls. Suddenly, I heard lots of squealing and commotion between Penny and Diego. I didn't see what started it. I turned around just in time to see Diego kicking at Penny. He hit the fence and missed Penny.

Me: This resulted in a superficial scrape to his left hind. Bob sent me a picture and we both agreed it was pretty minor and to just keep an eye on it.

I put some Wonder Dust on his scrape. I also very lightly filed/rounded the edges of his feet to reduce chipping. I gave him a nice brushing, cleaned his feet, and put his bridle on, all while he was loose in the yard. He's a good boy. :)

I rode him in the back yard for 20 minutes. It was very much like three weeks ago, only better. We're learning to communicate and understand each other. We trotted more than half the time. I learned that the sound of me searching for a treat in my pocket scares him. I also learned that he goes faster towards the mares than he goes away from them. We have to learn how to go from trot to walk instead of trot to stop. We're making progress and having fun.

Me: Trot to walk was something else I had been working on with him. Try saying "Easy" in a nice slow tone, or "Easy, walk". You may have to say it a few times. That's his verbal cue for slow down but don't stop. It works about 90% of the time but hasn't been transferred to under saddle yet. Like I mentioned last time, since we've been doing so much groundwork I had to install verbal cues since I didn't have the benefit of my legs and not always two reins.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Off to school

Or at least, that's what it feels like to me. Took Diego over to Bob and Dovie's today. He's going to spend a few weeks over there and just get ridden and out on a much more consistent basis than I can possibly manage right now. Bob's excited, I'm excited, Diego doesn't have a clue what he's in for. =) I felt like I was dropping my child off for his first day of kindergarten. Bob has promised lots of updates, I know they have a moonlight ride planned for this evening. ;)

Next weekend is the Comstock Endurance Ride out of the Lemmon Valley arena, about 2 blocks from Bob and Dovie's house. Since I'm managing the ride and will be camping out and staying over there anyways, it's a perfect opportunity to bring Diego over and have him camp out and spend the night "endurance-style". He'll also get to hang out and watch the horses on the ride come in and out of camp for their vet checks. This was something I did with Sinatra early on in his training and was *INVALUABLE* for teaching him to settle in and relax while in camp and at a vet check. After about 6 hours of horses coming and going, trotting out, etc, it suddenly becomes pretty ho-hum and they learn that it's nothing to get excited over and you might as well just chill out and eat since you're tied to the trailer anyways.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

He's Baaaaaaccckkk!!!

Well Friday's excursion with Diego went extremely well, even if it was not according to my original plans. The original plan was for me to take Dig over to friends Bob and Dovie's house and ride Diego in their round pen and around their fenced in back yard. If everything was going well, then Dovie was going to take their kid-proof pony and go out with us on an easy little trail ride. This was to be the first time I had ridden Diego off the property since April, so I was a little bit nervous about how things would go.

As it worked out, I got Diego over there and he was being really good. Got saddled and he was pretty much ignoring Bob and Dovie's 4 mares that were checking out the new guy. I took Diego into the round pen and did some ground work with him. When we were both feeling relaxed, I went ahead and mounted up. Things were going okay until I asked Dig to walk around. I could feel him getting tense, which in turn made me tense, so we stopped and both tried to relax again. After a little bit, I again asked him to walk. He would walk a few steps and then swing his hind end around (pivot on his front legs) and then stop. After nagging at him a few times, he kind of tucked his butt, scooted forward and gave a little hop. I was still on top and doing okay, but I got off and decided to re-evaluate and maybe do some more ground work first.

This is when an extremely good thing happened, Bob volunteered to ride Diego for me. He could tell that I was feeling pretty uptight, not a good thing for either Dig nor I, and he's started a couple of young horses for him and Dovie in the past. So we pulled my saddle, since Bob's legs are much longer and I can't adjust the stirrups down that far, and he hopped on bareback. Bob rides bareback **A LOT**, like more often than not, and had put the first few rides on a couple of horses bareback.

Bob gets ready to mount Diego for the first time

So Bob mounted up and I lead Diego around the round pen for a few minutes. Dig was pretty sticky to start, it was a probably a good thing to just lead him around for a while. It gave everyone a chance to relax and get the feel of each other. Eventually, Bob started taking more and more control and, when he was ready, I unclipped the lead and he rode Diego around on his own.

Getting a feel for each other

Bob was very happy with how responsive Diego was to his sidepull. Bob normally trains with a snaffle, and other than a few bridle-less rides, this was the first time he had ridden a young horse without a bit. Diego actually is very happy in his sidepull and is very light and responsive. I received a few compliments on how quickly he would stop and how he didn't pull on the reins at all, instead yielding softly.
Soon things were going well enough that we opened up the gate and Bob rode Diego around their back yard. Dovie hopped up on the pony and rode around with him. Dig did very well, checking out the new environment and even leading the way around and behind their long shedrow barn. You could see his relax and start to get comfortable with being ridden again. Bob even did some trotting with him, a few steps here and there. He was very happy with how smooth Diego was.

After a while longer, Bob, Dovie, and another friend Tammy decided to go ahead and go out on a little trail ride. This was the largest "group" Diego has been out on the trail with. We've ridden with two other horses in the arena, but not out and about. This was also his *THIRD* trail ride ever. He did extremely well and I was a very proud mama. I followed along and took some pictures. Here they are riding past the neighbor's house to the little open area (single and two-track through sagebrush) where they ended up riding.

Diego actually lead the pack for most of the way. Bob complimented him on having a nice, mostly relaxed, forward walk. He wasn't overly balky and didn't want to rush. When he would get nervous, his tendency was to tuck is butt and scoot forward a few steps, then turn to look at what startled him (Diego that is, not Bob). They successfully trotted for a short distance out on the trail, were passed by, and then re-passed the other horses.
It really gave me a lot of confidence to see Diego perform so well. Bob is now officially the second-ever person to ride Diego. I am very grateful to him for his help and assistance, and am looking forward to going out there more often in the upcoming weeks and months. Bob wants me to do some ground-work with his young girl, Surprise, to help get her more soft and supple, and he'll ride and work with Diego for me while I'm doing that. I'm sure we're all going to have a lot of fun!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Headgear and Saddle Mods

Diego got a new sidepull from Crazy Ropes. I LOVE it!!! Debbie Hanson is the owner and she did a fabulous job. It's exactly what I wanted. Diego still needs to have a dental appointment, his wolf teeth are starting to erupt, so I have only been using the snaffle really sporadically for now, preferring to use a sidepull. I also have found that I get less resistance with the sidepull and he will yield with lighter pressure. Whether this is a result of some teeth issues, or just a training thing and he prefers nose to mouth pressure will have to be determined in time.

It has the marine-grade rope with the two extra pressure knots on the noseband. She then adds a really pretty overlay that is knotted/weaved on with a color you can select. She also has a couple of different base colors you can select from, if you don't want basic black.

You then add your own curb strap. I bought this one a while ago and it was a bit too long to use with the snaffle bit (a safety measure), but I'm glad I decided to hang onto it. It fits and works perfectly with the sidepull.
The curb strap attached to one set of rings, and the reins to another. The reins are the black strap you see running up along his head in this picture. This is installed on my biothane halter bridle combo that I purchased at the AERC Convention. Another item I dearly love.
I also am fortunate enough to be borrowing a Bob Marshall treeless saddle from a good friend of mine. It didn't have any stirrups though, or the modified Bob Marshall fenders/leathers that are somewhat of a custom item for these saddles. I know a few people who make do with nylon dog collars. I looked around in my trailer tack room and low and behold, child-size Wintec Webbers! I zip-tied them onto the saddle D's and then put my EZ Rides on. Perfect and so easily adjustable!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Going Riding

A friend and I have made plans to get together for a ride on Friday. I've been riding Diego more and more at home lately, but still just inside our small corral. I have a larger area outside where I have room to lunge and ground drive, but it's not fenced and the ground is really rocky and hard - so the possibility of something bad happening should we have an issue is a bit much right now. I have ridden Diego out there a few times in the spring, before my fall, but I just haven't got up the nerve to try again.

In other good news, a neighbor about 4 houses down is finishing up building a fairly good sized arena in their back yard. Diego, Taren, Molly (our puppy) and I were all out for a walk the other day and he invited me to come over and ride sometime. In a twist of fate, he's the off-duty EMT that was one of the first responders when I broke my arm at Bartley Ranch. He was the one there on a walk with his wife. She's the one that has horses in their family, he as a dirt bike (just like in my household). =) I was surpised he still offered once he knew who I was. I was joking with my husband that having an EMT on site would be a good thing. =) I guess when I was hurt, this guy was the one that called AJ and let him know. When AJ got the "I'm calling about your wife" he (AJ - my hubby) said "Well, she either fell off her horse or hit you with the truck, which is it?" LOL As you can tell - I'm a teeny bit accident prone. But it would be wonderful if they get the arena done and it's okay for winter riding - would beat having to worry about getting the truck and trailer out in the snow.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bomb-proofing Clinic

I was able to take Diego to the Wild Horse and Burro Expo that was being hosted here in Reno at the Livestock Event Center today. One of their scheduled "events" was a bomb-proofing clinic hosted by Willis Lamm that was free to the public - bring your horse it said, so I did!

This ended up being the first time Diego's been off the property since he bucked me off and I broke my arm back in April. Add to that the fact that we were going to a pretty large show grounds with other horses, loud speakers, golf carts, plenty of people, etc and this ended up being a pretty big test for him. AND HE TOTALLY ACED IT!!! =)

When we first got there, I got Diego out of the trailer in the parking lot and tied him up and groomed him for a little while. I had strategically parked where he could see two other horses that were tied up to their trailer, so he had a little extra confidence boost. His eyes were kind of big, but he was very good and stood still while I brushed him, combed his mane and picked his hooves. Unfortunately/Fortunately it was a little cool and breezy today, so he wasn't able to get a bath and elbow grease had to do, but at least it wasn't 101 like it was a few days ago.

After I bit, I put my lunge line on Diego and took him over to the area where they had the obstacles set up. They had many different obstacles: wooden fence posts in various designs (5 of these), a barrel, a big tractor tire with plywood over it, a bed sheet on a frame, a "horse wash" on a frame with caution tape, a leopard print rug to walk over, crushed cans, a small set of wooden steps with a platform the horse could walk over, two different types of bridges, crushed aluminum cans inside one of the fence post sets, etc. It was a really nice set-up. Things were pretty low-key when I went over, there was just the clinician and one other gentleman working with is roan mustang at the time. Perfect, perfect.

Diego was nervous at first so I went over to the barrel and lunged him in some circles for a while in the most open area. This gave him a chance to start to check everything out. I just let him trot for a little bit, then started asking him to yield his hindquarters, turn and face me, change direction, back-up, etc. Once he was focusing on me, we started to walk around more and look at stuff.

One of the first obstacles we did was a set of six poles set in a circle, so I stood in the middle and lunged Dig around the outside. He did well and as soon as he dropped his head to watch what he was doing, I could see him start to focus on me more and begin to really relax. After he was looking comfortable with this, we went over to the bed sheet on the frame. Diego walked up to it and started trying to chew on the bed sheet. =) Obviously our tarp training has been paying off! Yay! I let him check it out a bit more, and then sent him through several time. We then did the caution tape horse wash obstacle. This one was a bit more tricky in that there were bits of red plastic and flagging ribbons tied long this side of the arena. Diego didn't seem to care about any of that stuff - he even bit one of the red plastic flags and pulled it off - so I had to tie it back on.

We then went over and worked on the wooden bridges. Diego has done the one at my friend Sarah's house before, so I didn't take long before he was walking over both of them. You could tell he was starting to get more and more confident and braver about trying things. I took him through the two of the other wooden sets - one was a long narrow, somewhat bendy section made of railroad ties. The other was a big jumble, where the horse had to pay attention to where they were placing their feet. The poles were angled and set up on the side with one or the other end, so he really had to focus on what he was doing.
The clinician Willis Lamm came over and talked with me for a while at this point. Diego was stopped in the middle of the obstacle, back feet straddling a pole, and he stood patiently while we discussed Dig. Willis mentioned that as an Arab, Diego is breed to be extra aware of his surroundings, as battle horses, they needed to always be alert to what was going on around them and be quick enough to evade an attack. He'd noticed when we first came in, how Dig was a bit on "overwhelm" and complimented me for just working with him calmly and quietly. He mentioned how with Diego, his "flashpoint" was still very near the surface, and he was quick to react, but we had both noticed how he was also quick to stop, think about it, and settle down to evaluate the situation. He really liked Dig a lot, and told me that in about a year and a half or so, I would probably have a rock-solid, very steady mount that I could point at just about anything.
This echoed a lot of my own feelings in that Diego is just unconfident and didn't have a lot of trust in me and our relationship. I've been happy to see that trust developing more and more, and today it was very apparent at times as he would look to me and take his cues for reaction based upon what I was doing. I could go on and on, but I'll let the pictures (taken by my 7 yr old son) speak for themselves. Diego conquered every obstacle that was in that ring. He cracked me up with the aluminum cans, rustling them with his nose, biting one, tossing them around, and then calmly stepping through. I also hooked up my second line and spent some time ground driving him around and over them as well - helping to establish that "I don't have to go first" scenario that will continue with our riding career. We ended our day with going inside the big spooky indoor arena, and lunging a bit in there and then calmly walking out and back to the trailer. I was exceedingly proud of my boy today - GO DIEGO GO!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What we've been up to...

... besides obviously not blogging. =)

So, broken arm aside (which has healed extremely well and I have my full range of motion back - Yay!), I haven't just been letting Diego rot in the barn for the past few months. I've done my best to take this set-back in stride and think of it as time to improve our ground work and overall relationship. With that mindset, I've been pretty satisfied with our results. To be perfectly honest, I think this time to take a step back and really get back to basics has benefitted us both. And I most probably would NOT have done all this additional ground work if I had been able to keep riding.

Things I've been doing:

- Despooking: Diego has now been "sacked out" and is non-phased by tarps, plastic bags, whips, ropes, our new puppy (who thinks he's a big dog andwants him to play), hula hoops, towels, milk jugs with rocks inside, pool noodles, Taren riding his bike around, and he's getting a lot better about quick startling movements - for the most part he just ducks his head or flinchs in place now. That was one of the little gems I picked up from the Stacey Westfall ground work DVD I rented from, was that she's "never had a deer jump out, and then back, and then out, and then back" while trail riding. So she uses both rhythym and quick sudden motions while despooking. I've noticed a pretty big difference in Diego since I've started just randomly jerking my hands around, or ducking down, or jumping towards him, etc. When I first started - it was OHMYGODWHATSGONNAEATME! Now he kind of goes "Huh?" Unfortunately, I've found out this doesn't quite apply when you walk out in the middle of the pitch black night to go feed and take off the horsie fly mask and the horse is totally zoned-out dead asleep on the far side of the barn, such that when you walk into the middle of the corral and see the dark shape and proclaim "Oh! THERE you are!" the pony will have a heart attack for approximately 3 seconds (poor guy). It also doesn't help when you are carrying a saddle and two hula hoops (which he's never seen or heard before) up to the corral in the dark (I work late a lot, training often happens at night under lights at my place) and the big rattly bulky clinky misshapen monster may "sound" like Mom, but only until you can acutally SEE her are you reassured it's not a horse eating monster.

- Lunging: We've been doing a lot of work on the lunge. Working on establishing good verbal cues (I use "walk", quick kisses to trot, a long smooch to lope, "easy" to slow down, and "whoa") that are followed every time in a quick consistent manner. I'll ask, ask with slight pressure, and then make him do it. An example of this would be a walk to trot transition. He'll be going along and I'll kiss to him. If he doesn't immediately start to trot, I'll kiss to him and use the whip, end of the rope, or my arm to apply pressure from behind to speed up. If he still hasn't started trotting, then I'll get after him until he does. The one that he has the hardest time with is the trot to walk transition down. He will often stop completely and then I need to get him walking again. He's gotten a lot better, especially going to the left, but this is something we'll continue to work on. The other nice thing is that I don't just lunge him in the same circle in the same place - we'll lunge in different areas and go over "obstacles" such as rocks, a small ditch, gravel, pieces of pipe, a sand hill, etc. I'll also use the lunge to ground drive him straight for a bit and then ask for turning again - work on making different "shapes."

- Ground Driving: I've also been doing a bit of ground driving. I rented a Mark Rashid DVD from Horseflix and he really made it look simple. I've taken lessons and had formal instruction in ground driving before from one of our local trainers who uses it a lot very successfully for her dressage horses. So I'm not totally clueless about what I'm doing. Diego has been doing pretty well with it, but after getting kicked, I do still have some hesitation about being directly behind him. As such, I do a lot of my "driving" standing next to him in the position of where I would be if I was riding. I'm seeing Diego having to overcome some of his confidence issues while we do this. I am no longer the "leader" out in front of him, instead he has to be responsible for choosing where to go with some direction from me. I've been using my hand or the stirrup if saddled to create pressure where my feet will go to help reinforce our verbal cues as well. While ground driving, I'll press, then give the verbal cue and press again, and then make him - using this as a transition away from the verbal cues somewhat. I purchased a new snaffle bit that has three pieces, similar to a french link but with the middle link being a little thicker and more rounded (I believe it's called a Lozenge snaffle). Diego seems to like this bit a lot better and doesn't chomp on it as much. He also doesn't bob his head when I apply rein pressure, so I think the regular snaffle was hitting the roof of his mouth.

- Riding: Yes, I have been "riding", just a bit the past week. Actually, truth be told, I have sat on the pony a few times and done a little bit of walking around the corral. I just don't totally have my nerve back yet and my corral is not the most conducive place to riding the horse, being farily small and having one wall of the barn/shed that sticks out into it. Mounting and dismounting (from either side) has been a non-issue and we've done some really easy walking circles, stops, and backing up. That's it for now. I've been busy doing something pretty much every weekend lately so I just haven't had time to get him out to a proper round pen or arena to do some more riding.

Honestly, I don't think our bucking issue is totally resolved or gone. I think Diego has learned he can do this behavior to get me off of him and to be able to do what he wants. I'm not sure if it's naughtiness on his part (which I kind of doubt), or just insecurity and feeling overwhelmed. I'm hoping that by going slower and doing the basics again, we can avoid the bucking. But the little voice in the back of my head is telling me that this isn't a "done" issue and that honestly I'm going to have to ride it out and then severely discipline him for him to start to think about giving up that behavior. I would be happy if that little voice is wrong though.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tevis Bound!!!

Okay, so I'm not riding =( BUT just being there is *almost* as good! This year, I'll be helping with the webcast coverage and be available to help crew. My good friend, Lucy Chapman Trumbull is riding this year for her very first time. She is rider # 170. Also, Kevin Myers, who I got Diego from, will be riding on his horse Far. He is rider #129. Kevin got Far from our good friend Leslie, who I rode my first 100 with on my older horse Sinatra. Lucy got her horse Roo from Kevin's partner Rusty... Hhhmmm, seems we just shuffle them around our small group. =)

You can follow along in several ways. Karen Chaton is head of the webcast this year, and as a tech guru, she certainly doesn't disappoint. The official webcast coverage can be found at

Photos (including mine, and Lucy's shots "from the trail") will be uploaded during the event here: I'm hoping to get some video as well and will be posting those links as we go. So far, I plan on being at Robie Park Friday, then the Hwy 89 crossing (near Squaw Valley), Robinson Flat, Michigan Bluff, Foresthill and the finish in Auburn.

Tevis tweets! Check out the Twitter page with updates: I'll also work on adding a Twitter sidebar to this blog, but am not making any promises as to frequent updates since I hate texting on my phone. =)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Horse of Course was kind enough to bestow the "Honest Scrap" award to my blog! My first award!!! =) I've been following her blog for a while now. She's a dressage rider who lives in Oslo, Norway. Along with providing good, practical training advice, she also shares her trail riding and traveling adventures. She lives and rides in an area that receives a lot of snow and has a terribly long winter from the sound of things, but she doesn't let that slow her down overly much. I've picked up a few gems from her site,

When you receive The Honest Scrap award you must stick to some rules:
Recognize your award presenter and link back to their blog in your post.
List 10 honest things about yourself that others might not know.
Present this award to 10 admirable bloggers and link to their blogs.
Leave a comment on your recipients' blogs to let them know to visit your post to retrieve their award.

Here are 10 honest scraps about me:
  1. My husband, my son, and I all have our birthday on the 19th of the month, just different months. Taren, my son, barely made the deadline, arriving at 11:57 PM. Yes, I was pushing like a maniac and some of my first words were "Did we make it? Was it before midnight?"

  2. I finished the Tevis Cup 100-mile endurance ride in 2007, which was a dream of mine for 20 years. I'm proud that my first endurance horse was a non-Arab. I think he taught me a lot since the sport wasn't overly "easy" for him but he was very capable if we had our act together. Sinatra has now passed on but he was deserving of his own blog, see here for our ride stories together:

  3. I'm equally as proud of my Miss Reno Rodeo 1999 title, and I think that buckle is much prettier. =)

  4. I've only been out of the country once, to Victoria, Canada. I would LOVE to travel more, especially internationally. But I don't even HAVE a passport... yet.

  5. I have been to a lot of cool places in the United States - Grand Canyon, Bryce, 4-Corners, Disneyworld (& Disneyland), Daytona, Yellowstone, Las Vegas, etc. Most of that is in great thanks to my Grandparents who were willing to haul 3 (or more) bratty kids around in an RV during the summer for a month or more at a time.

  6. My ideal job would be something that centered around horses but didn't require me to be outside all hours of the day. Anyone have any cool marketing or promotional type positions open that pay really well???

  7. My mom is one of my best friends. Not so much when I was a teenager, but more and more as I get older. I'm just sorry she wasn't into horses when I lived at home and instead waited until I moved out to start riding more and getting a horse of her own.

  8. I love my "car". It's a dark sky blue 2005 Dodge Durango, V8 Hemi. With nice wheels. ;)

  9. I grow my hair out pretty long then get it all cut off and donate it to Locks of Love. I've done this 4 times now. The last time was partly because of my broken arm... Even seen a husband try to do a ponytail???

  10. I strive hard to be the kind of person that other people want to be around and be friends with.

And now for the bloggers to whom I shall pass on this award:

  1. Trot on Hank - This is the story of my friend Jonni's horse Hank. Hank lives in Texas and underwent colic surgery in August 2008. Since that time he has returned to competing (and winning the CRAP out of!) NATRC rides.

  2. Endurance Granny - E.G. is working on getting her home-bred horse Phebe going in AERC endurance rides. They had a set-back at their first LD and have gone back into training mode. I especially like this blog because E.G. has had a lot of the same issues with Phebe that I'm having (and am somewhat expecting to have) with Diego.

  3. Boots & Saddles - Mel has been competing in endurance for a couple of years now. She's a fellow West region rider, but we haven't had the chance to actually meet. She's planning on making her first attempt at Tevis (which is also her first 100-miler) this year. I hope to get the chance to meet her there!

  4. Go Pony - This is my friend Ashley in Arizona. Again, we haven't met in person but will most certainly be spending time together at Tevis this year. Ashley rides a POA mare Mimi in endurance and this blog is a chronicle of their adventures together. I think it's especially cool that Ashley does most of her rides with her dad, something I really enjoy sharing with my mom as well.

  5. Living in a Zoo - Another endurance blog!!! I think it's fabulous how many riders, especially new riders, are documenting their journey into this sport that I so love. Not only is Elly starting to compete with her horse Jasper, she's a fourth year vet student! I don't know how she finds the time. I'm excited to hear more about her adventures, both in the clinic and at rides.

  6. Zephyr's Wonderful Wanderings - Sharon and her horse Zephyr live in Maine and recently completed their first 100-mile ride! Zephyr is a beautiful Arab/Rocky Mountain cross. I'm also throughly jealous of their beach rides along the coast.

  7. Adventures on Arabee - Nicole had been conditioning her mare Arabee to compete in their first ride, but that got put on hold while she and her husband add the blessing of a second child to their family. She's still updating occassionally. I'm sure we'll hear more from her this winter/spring on the horse-front.

  8. EnduranceRider - April in Tennessee has two horses which she's doing rides on, Tanna on whom she recently completed her first 100-miler at last year's National Championship, and Serts who recently completed his very first LD (25-mile) ride.

  9. Karen's Endurance Ride Stuff - No endurance blog directory (which this is becoming) would be complete without the Martha Stewart of endurance riding, Karen Chaton. Her blog (actually the whole site) is just a WEALTH of resources. I've seen and passed on many a link to her site for many, many different topics from barefoot hoof care, equine nutrition, tack tips, ride history, and much, much more.

  10. A Good Horse - A non-endurance blog! Solitairemare has a fairly new-to-her horse named Rugby. After getting dumped a little while ago, she has decided to go back to basics and work on more groud work and gaining respect with Rugby. Sound familiar??? She has a trainer, T.S., who has been helping her achieve her goals. Like me, she's very much ready to start riding again.

I have many other blogs I really enjoy following as well, please see the sidebar. I tried to mainly include those that I thought would post a response.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Horse Expo cont'd - John Lyons "Facing Fear"

The next clinic we attended was by John Lyons. John is one of my favorite clinicians to watch. He's always so entertaining and he does a beautiful job of making it all look (and seem) so simple. It's easy to see why he has been so popular for such a long time. Just a wonderful man that you want to spend more time watching and listening to.

John's topic was on facing our fears, "Fear in the Horse, Fear in the Rider, & Yikes! It's Gonna Eat Me!" He made some really wonderful points. Things that I think many of us lose track and focus of. #1 most important point was to HAVE FUN WHILE RIDING. That we have horses to have fun, and we need to always focus on that first and foremost. If we can't or don't want to ride our horses, then we still need to focus on what it is about having horses that makes us happy. Even if that's just watching them eat grass and petting their noses. He made the point to *D what you CAN, not what you CAN'T*. Some of the thoughts for that:
  • Don't ride (or work) your horse when/where you don't have control. If your horse is very barn sour and you can only ride at the barn, then ride at the barn. By working the horse in it's comfort zone and gently pushing the borders (shades of Ryan Gingerich's Green, Yellow, Red here) that zone will eventually begin to expand.
  • Work on what you and your horse already know. Don't make every session a training session (or conditioning session - as us Endurance riders at apt to do). Take some time to just go over your basics. Be proud of what you have accomplished so far. Reinforce and strengthen your horse's known cues.
  • Practice what you want to learn. You need to be 90+% perfect in your practice, otherwise you are teaching the mistake. If your horse isn't getting what you're trying to teach, you need to go back and look for a missing or weak step in the process. Go back to working on what you know.
  • Don't work on the problem, instead focus on what works - what it is you want.

The main point was to CHANGE OUR FOCUS WHILE RIDING from the negative to the positive. John got on a Fresian mare that had earlier that day bucked off her rider while in that same arena, spooking at some balloons. The mare was very hot and anxious. You could see how nervous she was. John commented on how if he was thinking "I want this mare to be calm, to stand still, to walk near these grandstands, etc" those were all things the mare was not currently capable of. What *could* she do? Well, she would turn on the forehand, she could flex her head, she could yield her hindquarters, etc. By just constantly circling her back and forth, letting her walk until she would be come tense or try to speed up, then circling her again, back and forth, back and forth while talking with us - pretty soon you could see the mare start to relax and gain confidence. By the end of the clinic, he had everyone in the grandstand make as much noise as possible and the mare stood still in one spot and watched us, about 10 ft from the rail, less than 20 ft from the beginning of the bleachers.

His point on this was "you can't force respect, it has to come to you." You can't MAKE the horse respect you, you have to earn it. One of the best ways to earn respect is to choose a simple exercise and achieve the correct response every time. For this mare, it was a turn on the forehand, yielding her hindquarters. This will help to build rider confidence as well, in that you will begin to recognize that you have control. "Don't try to do what you can't, do what you can."

John told us to focus on the physical parts you can touch. The rider of the Fresian mare said she had an "attitude". John asked her to put her finger on the horse's attitude. Or put your finger on your horse's fear, or spook, or trust. It can't be done - instead focus on what you can touch, what you can control - make it simple. For example, he would start the mare walking and say "I'm going to focus on her tail, nothing else, just her tail. By picking up my rein, I turn her and move her tail. That's all, that's all I want to do, just move the tail. We're not worried about her head, or her shoulders, or her legs, just her tail." To do this best, there are 4 steps:

  1. Pick the physical spot you want to control
  2. Pick the direction you want that spot to move (i.e. tail to the right, left eye down - BE SPECIFIC)
  3. Use constant, consistent even pressure on the reins to move that spot (he wasn't doing much with his legs at this point - the focus was more on problem horses, just ONE cue).
  4. Release the pressure when achieved

These type of exercises will make your horse lighter and more responsive to the bridle. This will help to further build your relationship by building control. Focus on the control, the response to the exercise. It will help both the horse and the rider begin to relax and build confidence.

For spooky objects:

  • Don't focus on the spooky object - look past it. Acknowledge it's there but then channel your focus to something else.
  • Pick an exercise your horse knows (circling, sidepass, shoulders-in, etc). Concentrate on that exercise instead. "We're going to work on circling here. Oh, there happens to be a horse-eating log over there? Well nevermind, we're over here doing circles instead."
  • Work where you CAN on the exercise, not where the horse is tense and worried, where it is comfortable and just somewhat unfocused.
  • Stay focused on the exercise. Gradually work your way closer to the spooky object.
  • DON'T STOP. Once the horse is stopped, it can too easily bolt, rear, spin, teleport, buck, etc. Keep the feet moving. Don't let your horse walk over and sniff the scary object until it's already not worried about it. Stop is more likely to equal explosion, controlled movement is much better.

John concluded by saying that most all riders/people will experience fear at some point, that's just our common sense working. Being brave isn't having ANY fear, being brave is being fearful but being able to face and address those fears. To being working through the problems and issues. "When there is no reason for the fear, the fear will go away."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Green, Yellow, Red Behavior Zone Training

The first clinic I attended at the Horse Expo ( was Ryan Gingerich ( For those that have RFD-TV, Ryan is "The Behaviorist" and during his show, he travels around the country and works with various owners and their horses on issues and problems they are having. I had seen one or two episodes of his show before, but didn't really know much about him or his methods. The topic of his seminar was "Red, Yellow, Green: Behavior Zone Training for Your Problem Horse" which I thought was appropriate for what I was looking for. =)

During his clinic Ryan talked about how there are three "zones" for the horses in regards to their behavior. The green zone is the first zone, where the horse is responsive, attentive, and controlled. This is the zone you want to be in all the time ideally. This is the zone where learning can take place. The yellow zone is the second zone. This is where the horse is unfocused, worried, and nervous. Like a yellow light, this zone is the warning zone. The goal is venture into and achieve a positive response in yellow, to enlarge and return to the green zone. The red zone is where you don't ever want to be. That's where negative actions such as bucking and/or bolting occur - where the horse is not paying attention to the rider or is trying to get rid of the rider. If you push a horse too hard or too fast in the yellow zone, you can get the red zone.

In regards to cues, Ryan mentioned that many time people worry too much about how they are cuing their horse's. He demonstrated how he asks for forward with his legs, one side at a time, specifically requesting a certain leg to step forward and begin the walk (or increase the speed). The main point was that for any sort of cues, you need to be CLEAR, CONCISE, and CONSISTENT. Don't change the "code" on the horse. Teach them that 1 cue = 1 response, every time. For instance, teach your horse that leg forward near the girth means to go forward, always. Then, if you want to teach sidepassing - you need to either add or modify you leg cue. You can't just use leg at the girth, you need to use something else. He compared this to our teaching our horses a language. We can't change our "words" and expect them to still understand what we want.

Working with our horses, we need to establish the basic controls: forward, back, left, right, stop, and stand still. Everything else that we ask stems from these basics. These must be solid before we ask the horse to progress on to other maneuvers (including speeding up). He uses three different leg cues, using only ONE leg at a time: 1) Go forward - ask at the girthline, 2) Go faster - where your legs hang in a neutral position, bump side to side with hind leg, 3) Hip/Hindquarter control - near the back cinch.

For a starting basic exercise, we should ask our horse to carry us in a straight line down the rail (or down a road). We ask for forward with our inside leg, the horse should step forward with that front foot as its first step. If not, you need to "delete the response" by stopping and backing up a few steps. Stand still and try again. You need to correct the wrong response immediately, and the backing helps to "delete" that response, the standing puts the horse back in "neutral" and you can proceed again from there. This should be repeated for any exercise where you receive the wrong response. So back to the rail, we ask for forward with our inside leg, the horse moves forward at a walk, the stop, back and stand still.

You need to repeat the correct response **5 to 7 times**. Ryan mentioned that this is where many people get into trouble, they'll get the correct response once or twice, and then stop the exercise, or move onto the other side. Horses learn by repetition, so we as riders need to repeat the process, and ensure the horse understands what we are asking for by repetition of success, with praise and a release of pressure for the correct response. I can see myself not always repeating the exercise I'm working on enough (i.e. trot to walk transitions on the lunge), I often get the correct response two or three times, and then have Diego change direction and start to work his other side - according to Ryan's theories, I need to repeat more before I change. 5 to 7 times successfully on each side before you transition to something else.

Our training should progress through four stages: 1) impulsion and lightness, 2) rhythm - gait and transitions, 3) line - straightness and bend, and 4) connection - hip and shoulder control. So the first thing we need to establish is impulsion (go forward) and then lightness (give to the reins). Ryan had an interesting technique that he used for a drop/vertical flexion. He said that as he was playing around with establishing a new cue, he realized that everytime he set is outside rein (hold with light connection) and then went up and across the neck/withers with his inside rein, his horse would drop his nose. So he used this as his "head down" cue for vertical flexion. The other tools for lightness are circles and serpentines, bump, bump, bump on the inside rein in connection with the inside foreleg to cue the horse through the turn. Again, "delete" the incorrect response immediately by stopping and backing up. Then proceed with the exercise again.

My thoughts: As mentioned above, I can see the value of the repetition of correct response, and I don't think I follow through with ENOUGH asking before I move onto doing something else. I like the idea of the green/yellow/red behavior zone and only focusing on training/teaching something new in the green zone. When you are in the yellow zone, your focus needs to be getting back to green. My issue is what happens when you're in the green zone and then suddenly catapulted (sometimes literally) into the red zone, and yellow was skipped entirely. I did purchase his DVD on Bucking horses - which I'll review later. Overall I liked a lot of things about his approach. He was more willing to back off the horse and take a step down than to continue the pressure to "work the horse through" approach that some other trainers use.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sacramento CA Horse Expo

This is the third time that my mom and I have gotten together and attended the big Horse Expo in Sacramento, California. I had submitted Diego to be considered for a Demo horse this year, but alas he was not selected by any of the trainers. Still, I went with high hopes to expand upon my current knowledge and possibly discover some further tips and techniques that I could use in my training.

Diego is the most difficult horse I have had to work with to date. My Quarter Horse filly, Angel, that I purchased as a non-halter broke weanling ended up being extremely easy to get going under saddle, possibly because I did EVERYTHING with her when she was very young, so adding a saddle and a rider where just one more little thing and she already had a very strong trust bond with me. My last two horses, Sugar and Sinatra, had come to me either with problems (Sugar) or just very, very green (Sinatra). Both of them I was able to successfully work though and again, establish a very strong bond. When I first got Sugar, I spent nearly a month just trying to get her to WALK on a loose rein. I eventually did parades and the Reno Rodeo Flag Team on that mare, something I would have considered impossible when I first got her. Sinatra just needed to get exposed to the big wide world, and learn it wasn't going to eat him, but that was quite a process as well.

But in considering my relationship with Diego, I realized that I was lacking in two very key elements: control and trust. So these were my focus going into the horse expo, to gain more control, and thus increase his trust in me. I'll do some follow-up individual posts on the clinics I attended, several of which I took notes at. =)

Friday, May 8, 2009


It's been a while since I posted (and I do like to back-date my posts to when they actually happened, since I'm writing this as much as a log for MYSELF than for anything else), but I do need to get everyone up to speed. Now (5/8) that finals are DONE for the semester and I'm officially off school for a few weeks, hopefully I'll be able to catch up on my blogging and pony duties.

Part of why I haven't been posting, is that I haven't been doing much of anything with Diego since he BROKE MY ARM! Yep, little shit-head spooked at Lord only knows what on Saturday, 4/4 out at Bartley Ranch and proceeded to buck me off but good. Since we were standing totally still, doing one-rein flexes at the time, to say I was unprepared is a bit of an understatement. I stayed on well for the first few bucks (did I mention lately how much I love my saddle), but as I was trying to pull him up and around to the left I must have gotten my upper body off balance because I started to tip to the right, then I remember flying through the air sideways - looking at Diego, and then hitting the ground. In retrospect, I don't know that I ever grabbed the horn on my saddle, I think I still had both hands on the reins only. I hit on my right shoulder, then back, then rolled over so I was laying on my stomach. At least I didn't just totally splat! I did roll some.

When I went to get up, my right arm was very obviously not functional and proceeded to drag in the dirt behind me. Hhhmm, that's certainly not normal, so I laid right back down on my belly. I tried to move the arm, and found that while I could wiggle my fingers, I could not in any way move the actual arm itself. I thought it might be dislocated, and kind of wiggled my shoulder around in the dirt, but I could tell that I wasn't going to be able to get into any sort of position to even attempt to "pop" my arm back in the joint. About this time (30 seconds or so since I fell), help arrived in the form of a guy who had been trying to load his horse. He asked if I was okay and I told him I had hurt my arm and couldn't move it, that it might be dislocated. He asked if I wanted him to call the ambulance and after a brief internal debate, I told him "yes."

About this time a second guy came over, who was an off-duty paramedic (Awesome! Talk about good timing). He checked me all over, head, neck, spine, hips, legs, other arm, etc and told me he was pretty sure I had broken my right humerus. He called my husband (AJ) for me. I had Taren (my son - 6 yrs old) with me at the time, and he had worked his way over and was in the arena with me by now. The first guy (or someone else) had taken Diego at this point and tied him back up to my trailer. I actually was able to be pretty calm about the whole thing, I never did cry or anything - just some deep breathing exercises every now and then. It hurt, but didn't hurt too bad as long as I was still, so I just vegged out in the dirt for a bit. Wearing a helmet is a plus because the bubble-head sides keep your face out of the dirt when you're laying on the ground. Note: Several days after all of this I was looking at my helmet and it has a definite indentation and some really good scratches on the right side - so keeping a semi-clean face was quite obviously NOT the only benefit. I always ride with a helmet, and am super glad that I do.

The ambulance arrived about 5 minutes, or even less, after I first crashed (this was around 11:30 am). I thought they were very prompt. The REMSA guys were fabulous! They started an IV in my left hand and administered pain meds and did their best to make me as comfortable as possible BEFORE they even tried to move me from where I was. They rolled me onto a sheet, and then from there lifted me onto the gurney. Overall it wasn't that bad, just keeping my arm still and stable was the biggest thing. They put a pillow under my elbow, which helped a lot since it hurt too much to have my elbow drop normally and lay beside me, so having something to prop it up was a good thing. AJ showed up in time so that Taren had to miss out on riding in the ambulance with mom, which was a bummer for him. I had AJ call my dad and step-mom since I had just talked with them 15 minutes prior and they were driving up to Reno to visit us that morning, and were nearly in town. The worst part of the ambulance trip was the speed bumps leaving the arena, but overall it was a very uneventful ride to the hospital.

Got to the hospital and my Dad and Robin showed up before AJ and Taren, since AJ had to deal with getting Diego home and then getting a ride back to retrieve his truck and such. My dad just was shaking his head in disbelief. I took the icepack off for a bit and showed them my arm. It was already bruising pretty good and had a funny little bump and tuck to it. Hhhmmm.... I ended up having to go down to xray a few different times. They were trying to shoot the films THROUGH my body to tell if my shoulder had dislocated at all. I asked one of the xray techs if it was broken or just dislocated. She said she couldn't tell me, that was the radiologists job. A couple minutes later she said, "I will tell you that you really did a number on it." So I knew then it was broken.

I still had my pillow from the ambulance and NO ONE was allowed to touch and/or move my pillow in any way. It stayed with me for everything, even when they had to strap me into the machine to get an MRI since they weren't having any luck with the xrays. Between all of this, they would take me back to the room periodically and I would hang with AJ and Taren and watch Discovery channel on TV. Mostly I was pretty heavily drugged and kind of dozed off and on. NO doctor ever came in to talk with us about the results of the xrays or anything. Nurses would come and check on me, and they would take me for xrays, or the MRI, but no doctor.

Finally, around 4 pm an orthopedic doctor came in and confirmed that my arm was indeed broked but that I had not also dislocated anything else. He said that if I was seventy-something, they would put the bone back in place, put me in a sling, and send me home - but that since I wasn't seventy-something, they did recommend surgery so things would heal better. Obviously both AJ and I agreed to me having surgery right then (they gave me the option of setting the bone, then coming back later for surgery - Um, NO!). A little after the doctor left, my grandparents got back in town and AJ left to take Taren over to their place. They took me up for surgery shortly after he left.

One interesting thing that happened up in surgery prep was I got to speak with the anethesiologist about medications for surgery. I've been under a couple of times before for dental surgery, so I knew I should be okay with that, but then he asked me about antibiotics. I told him about all my recent troubles with clyndamycin and how I had just recently (like within a week) gotten off taking Flagyl and all that nasty stuff that I had been dealing with. He asked me what I could take, Cipro? I said "Yes! I like that one, it gets along well with my system." So, I got to pick my own antibiotic. =)

Surgery was uneventful (I guess) and the next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery. The nurse was talking to me and it seemed that as soon as I responded she came over and helped me sit up. I had been DYING for something to drink for the past several hours (not having anything except a bagel around 9 am) and as soon as she could see I was sitting without flopping over she brought over some apple juice in a little tiny milk-carton like container. NEVER has apple juice tasted so good. I slammed it down and she quickly gave me another. They then had me get up and walk a little ways down the room and back. AJ came in around then. One nurse was talking with him while the other helped me get dressed again. I'd had my most favorite sports bra, a hospital gown, undies and 2 pairs to tights on before surgery - after I had on a gown and undies. REMSA had cut my shirt and sweatshirt (interestingly, as I was getting dressed to go ride, I almost grabbed my good sweatshirt, then changed my mind and put on my most grubby, old, torn one "just in case.") They then gave me another apple juice, brought in the wheel chair and we left, it was about 8:30 pm. I told AJ it seemed like I had barely be awake and here we are, leaving, but I felt okay. It just seemed odd to get up and be gone so quickly.

Things went well once we got home. I had a sling and just some ace bandages around my arm, nothing too major really - all the good hardware holding stuff in place was now inside. I slept in the recliner that night with an ice pack.

Xray of the break

My new hardware - circles are of the TWO main breaks. The upper ball part of the arm has a bunch of smaller fractures as well. This was actually taken 2 weeks post surgery. And yes, my collar bone is *supposed* to look like that, it's normal and totally fine.
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