Friday, March 26, 2010

Clicker Training and Hoof Trimming

I've recently changed farriers again! I will have to post some pics should Fox be cooperative. He's now come twice and I am very pleased with his work. The first time, Fox was a right PITA. This guy is a proper trimmer not just a farrier so he actually spent more than 10 minutes on Fox's feet. Fox was not pleased by this and played up quite a bit. The guy was fantastic though, very patient and actually thought Fox was a pretty cool horse.

So to make my life and the trimmers life a bit easier I decided to work really hard with Fox's feet picking up. Which meant back to serious clicker training. I started Fox targeting on the hoof pick again, then standing still while I rubbed the hoof pick over him and down his legs. Then I moved onto actually picking his foot up, me cleaning it and tapping it a bit and putting it down nicely. Fox is a smart cookie and remembered all this from when I was doing it before. His front feet he is pretty much perfect now. Back legs can still be an issue sometimes but I'm thinking that has more to do pain.

The next step was to try it while he was getting his feet trimmed properly. I was a bit nervous as some people have a very low opinion of clicker training but my trimmer was perfectly happy and even helped me out so I could get the timing right. He also said there was a very noticeable difference in Fox's behaviour. With the front feet he was very very good and the trimmer said he felt really relaxed. Back feet were still a bit of a problem but Fox stood nicely instead of trying to dance around, he just pulled his feet away a couple of times. So overall I'm very pleased and will obviously continue to try and improve.

An update on the vet. They would want to start with nerve blocking. If you don't already know, Fox takes great exception to vets and most especially needles. There is no physical way the vet would be able to get a needle in as accurately as needed as sedation is not an option either. If you haven't read the Guy Fawkes drama from back in November, Fox cut his chest and it needed stitching. The vets comment was 'this is the most drug resistant horse I have ever met.' It took a dose of oral sedative, 2 intramuscular injections and 2 intravenous injections having pretty much nill effect before the vet decided to bring out the big guns. Ketamine and diazapam. Whilst this did finally drop him, he was barely down for long enough to stitch the wound up, maybe 7 or 8 minutes. Ketamine should have them down for at least 20. So the nice woman I spoke to is having a word with the vet who does the lameness diagnostics to see if there is any other way we could go about it. Fingers crossed he will have some ideas.

Update on Smurf. I am off to see him and his owner tomorrow and go over all the details. My biggest problem right now is grazing. The owner of the current place hasn't got back to me about having another horse on the property so I'm on the lookout for somewhere new. Well I was anyway but now the pressure is on. I'm starting to think that six months might work out for the best. Having an actual horse to ride while I'm rehabbing Fox may very well save my sanity and after six months, who knows, maybe Fox will be coming right.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sad Days

Well I think I've finally come to the final understanding that Fox isn't going to be good for anything other than light hacking. He is sore again. Still perky but sore. As you know, I've been aware that this is a possibility but I've been putting the final decision off for so long, thinking he's going to get better, he's going to get better. Now I think I need to accept it.

My partner saw him sitting down like a dog in the paddock yesterday and I know some horses do that but he's never done it. Is this a result of his weak back end? I don't know, maybe he just decided to give it a try.

Fox was meant to be my dream horse, the horse that I started competing on, the horse that took me places. And it's all crashing down. I'm trying to stay positive but at this stage I don't even want to ride him in case I make it worse. I'm not going to stop taking him for walks and I'll still try and think in terms of rehab but I honestly think he's as good as he's ever going to get. He'll have good days when maybe it will be ok to pop on for a short ride and bad days when all I'll do is handgraze him.

I'm going to call the horse vets tomorrow and find out how much scans and xrays etc would cost. No-one else seems to know what it is and this may shed some light on things. Though I am wary of doing this for the stress factors of him being around vets and also the travelling. It's not a short trip, would be nearly an hour each way and if his hind end is really as weak as I think it is floating doesn't seem like a good idea. And what will it actually tell me? Sure it would be nice to have a diagnosis but the chances of them saying exactly what I already know are pretty high.

Aaaargh horses!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Smurf - The next decision

Well, I've finally been in contact with the owner who thankfully remembers me from the trekking place. I'm still annoyed that they sold Smurf to her but when I was riding him they were intending to keep him and I guess the timing was right for her. She is more than happy for me to have him but the catch is she wants a lease. At first glance this works out the best for me as I haven't any money put aside for a horse as I wasn't planning on getting one any time soon. The problem is she loves him so much that there is a very strong possibility that she will want him back. She is going to Oz for 6 months minimum. So I would have him for at least that long. But she might come back or she might end up shipping him over there.

So the next question is, can I face the heartbreak when she does want him back? Will having him for 6 months be worth it? So again I am in a place of complete confusion.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dream Horse

Smurf - a 15.1 hh 9yo possibly QHxArab or maybe a stationbred and the horse of my dreams.
I am in a massive bind right now. I have just found out that my dream horse is for sale. I'm not sure I've talked about him on here before. And if I'm being honest I couldn't really say he is my dream horse, he's actually pretty much the opposite. But he is the horse I've always wanted and have continued to want even owning Fox.

I rode him when I was working at a trekking place. It took a while but we really bonded and he would do things for me that he wouldn't for other people. In the end, I couldn't face him being taken off my every summer for other guides and clients to use. I would be heartbroken every time it happened. And he wasn't for sale. So I decided to get Fox.

I don't regret getting Fox now that I've learned Smurf is for sale, after all he has been my biggest teacher. But now he is for sale and I'm pretty gutted. I'm scheming how I can get him, how I can afford another horse, how I can afford the extra time all those things. All I know is I want this horse so badly it's making me sick.
My wonderful boyfriend says I can get him on certain conditions. He can give me extra hours at his work which I have to do without fail and no complaining. I can't get behind in my schoolwork and I can't let the house go and I have to keep up with the renovations. These things I can do, but there are so many other things to take into account. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. The plan was in about four or five years I would get a young horse probably a purebred arab and bring it on myself as much as possible. By then Fox would be close to retiring and it would work out perfectly. I'm so very confused right now.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Carolyn Resnick

I've been meaning to write this post for about a week now but all my creative writing juices seem to be going into my assignments at the moment. Probably the best place for them to go but I miss writing here.

Anyway, a friend lent me the DVD of Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals. Her explanation of how she wants to train her horse and how she wants to be her horses leader match really closely with what I want. I like how her method is based on the natural interactions of horses in the wild herds she has studied. however this is also a downfall which I'll explain a bit later. Her theory is that there are certain rituals of interaction that horses follow in a herd. There is some dominance based stuff like one step called Taking Territory which involves chasing a horse off his food and keeping him away until you are ready for him to eat his food. But it is mixed with a lot of trust building and leadership defining.

Step 1 - Sharing Space
Step 2 - Saying Hello
Step 3 - Taking Territory
Step 4- Leading from behind
Step 5 - Eye Contact
Step 6 - Magnetic connection
Step 7 - Come up and Go trot

Her website is

We are slowly working through the steps. We can get to step 5 without too many difficulties but after that things kind of fall apart, so much more work is needed on those initial steps. They are fun to do and at the moment Fox seems to be willing to go with it.

While her concepts appeal to me and the methods she goes about them are generally agreeable to me, it is still too much about being the 'alpha horse'. I believe that leads to problems and still prefer the attraction based training aka clicker training so I throw a bit more of that in. The main point of me not wanting to be the 'alpha horse' is that I don't want a horse/horse relationship, I want a horse/human relationship.

The good thing is that these two methods are pretty compatible so I'm just mixing and matching and going with what feels right. Liberty training is another thing that I like and is the same as attraction based training. You are giving the horse the option to be with you and your goals are to make him want to be with you.

So yet again, another perspective. I really like the fact that I am now confident enough to say yes I like that bit of your training and that bit of another persons and no I don't like that bit and being able to melding them into something that works for Fox and I which I think is the number one goal of interacting with your horse.

An update on where Fox and I are in our rehab. The stiffness is mostly gone, still noticeable but only if your looking for it. We are up to half an hour hand walks which Fox is still loving. I took him up the hill behind his paddock a few days ago to start getting those butt muscles working again. I also want to start pole work but the arena is still closed grrrrrrr, apparently the ground is too hard now. But it's ok for her horse to graze on and run round like a mad thing whenever Fox and I walk past -eyeroll-. All I want to do is walk Fox over a few poles. But I knew I would have problems moving back here. The grass is almost all gone too so I'm on the lookout for another place again -sigh-.

So we're getting there and I hope in a few weeks I will be able to have my first ride!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Crazy Horse?

I’ve just looked at the title of my blog, Life with a Crazy Horse. There’s not been much crazy going on lately. When I started this blog, I was convinced that Fox had something wrong in his head. Since then, I think a couple of things have changed.

For one, my whole attitude has changed. I am no longer afraid of him. It took a while to admit to myself that I was. It was a pretty shit feeling. Now I am more assertive and no longer lose my temper. These things have made it so that when Fox does act up, then it doesn’t affect me in the same way it used too.

During this very prolonged rehab process, we have formed a much stronger bond. There has been a lot less of me going ‘You will do this’ and a lot more hanging out stuff. I really feel like Fox is no longer so aloof or distant. This may be just wishful thinking LOL but I’m pretty certain.

I have more knowledge. More knowledge of learning and associations and reinforcement. How bad experiences have shaped Fox’s behaviour and how to unlearn them. Some obviously will be easier than others to unlearn.

More knowledge of Fox’s history, I’ve not been told anything new, but have picked up on a few things. For example, Fox hates being wormed. As some of you who have read from the beginning may know, Fox was regularly sedated by a past owner. She would sedate him to do pretty much anything including riding. I’ve recently found out that the sedative is oral and looks a lot like a wormer tube. The association Fox now has of something that looks like that is ‘in a few minutes I’m going to feel like crap’.

I also have more knowledge of training. Not saying that I’m a trainer by any means, just that I now know a lot more techniques for dealing with problematic behaviour.

So I’ve learned a whole lot that has affected Fox’s and my relationship. Sure Fox still has ‘issues’ that will need to be dealt with, float loading, worming, vets and so much more but now I have a bigger ‘tool kit’ if you like that I can use to deal with these problems.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Autumn is here. Officially it started on March 1st but there are a few other signs. The light is changing. Autumn light around here gets a soft rich glow, especially in the mornings and evenings. The mornings are cold. Cold enough that I now wear track pants and a jersey to see Fox in the morning. Today I even had a puffer vest and merino headband on! But I am a complete wuss about the cold. But it warms up by about 9 and the days are still scorchers. Bring on the Indian Summer. We didn't really have much of a proper summer so I'm going to take all the sunshine I can get!

Fox is still improving. We are going for daily handwalks now that take about 20 minutes. Fox is loving getting out and about, he was getting a bit impatient about being stuck in his paddock. When I started walking him on the road I noticed a slight off beat to his walk rhythm but now that seems to be back to normal with a nice even four beat. His hip, stifle and hock seem to be moving freer. Not ready for any riding yet but the exercise is probably doing me good too!

So it looks as if what I'm doing is working and it's just going to take time. I am still unsure of exactly how sound he is going to end up though but I'm coping with that ok at the moment.

Have really enjoyed taking photos every day (see other blog Photo of the Day) but I haven't taken as many horsey pics as I would have liked. Though I do get a bit pushed for time some days!

With the daylight hours slowly dropping away my time is becoming more and more precious. Study is my main priority at the moment. I want to get more consistent grades then last year. I don't want another C+. Even though that is a pass, I know for me, if I get that grade then I haven't made much effort. Fox, the dogs, photography, yoga, my part time job and the house (renovations as well as cooking, cleaning etc) all vie for the rest of my time. My partner is working insanely hard at the moment so I hardly get to see him. When the pressure is on, sometimes it feels like life sucks. Responsibility sucks. But when I'm able to take a step back and have a look at my life. I'm pretty happy, I'm doing all the things that I enjoy. I've got goals and ambitions to work for. What more could anyone want? (Well quite a bit actually, but it's unlikely I'm going to win Lotto anytime soon!)