Punks Kid Rock is the registered name of my American Quarter horse gelding, Rocky. This blog chronicles our adventures together,
as well as stories from my horse past and, occasionally, a tidbit from my non horse life.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Side Passing Mister Attitude

 When I took Rocky out of the pasture, he gave this plow a distrustful sideways glance, shifting his weight away from it while still following me obediently.  I took him over and he blew snortily at it, then started to really smell it.  Within seconds he was nuzzling the plow and taking experimental nibbles. Apparently the horse-eating plow became a possibly edible fixture.  This is the Rocky I know and love, though; he can be unsure of something, but after examining it he quickly determines that it's okay.

Because he calmed down so fast after being worried about the plow, I decided to take him out for a trail ride.  Sometimes when we are out on the trail, I don't feel like Rocky is really "with" me.   He does what I ask him to, but his mind is elsewhere.  I spoke with Silver about it, asking for guidance.  She told me what I already knew about moving his feet, but I explained that doing figure 8's is not enough to engage his thinking brain.  He knows how to do figure 8's well enough that he can trot through them with minimal effort.

Next she suggested doing roll backs down her fence line, until I explained that we don't know how to do those. She told me that once we have enough snow on the ground to have decent footing, she'll run Rocky and I through our paces to see where we're at, then work with us from there.  I'm excited about that upcoming opportunity.

Still, I got myself thinking about things I can do with Rocky out on the trail that will help him tune in to me rather than space out.  Here is what I came up with:

Can you tell what we're doing? It's not very polished yet, but it definitely gets Rocky's brain working.  We have been able to do the building blocks for this for a while, but I haven't progressed to side passing until recently.  From the ground, I have been able to get him to yield his hind and fore quarters, crossing his inside leg over his outside one as he steps.  He pivots around one foot nicely, doing 360 degree circles as he yields.  Previously, I had done some work in getting him to side pass from the ground, and he was doing okay.  I wasn't consistent enough for it to really stick, but when I started up again recently he had some memory of our earlier work. 

So far, he does better moving to the right than left as that was our first lesson.  He wants to move forward and gets confused that he is not supposed to go forward or backwards.  The last time I took him out, he was able to get 3 good steps at a time.  Like I said, it's a work in progress but it was great out on the trails.  Whenever I felt his mind wander, I would ask him to yield his hindquarters, then sometimes try for a step or two of side passing.  It worked, and we went exploring through the brush trying to find the trail we took with Silver the last time we were out with her.  After 20 minutes of searching and slapping through scrub bushes, I gave up and returned to the well marked path. 

He had been perfectly happy to tromp around searching for the trail, and was equally enthusiastic to return home- so he thought.  Instead, we continued on known trails to get back into the woods on the other side of the property.  We went through the woods here, and I didn't often have to stop and ask Rocky for his attention.  We even went up the super steep hill that I had refused to ride up or down with Silver last time. At the bottom of the hill when I stopped to take this picture, a grouse exploded up from the grove to our right, and flew away with snapping wings.  Rocky jumped in place with surprise, and then calmed down within a second or two. 

I took a few seconds to gather myself after the grouse had left, then asked him to go up the hill.  He went without hesitation.  I gripped his mane, leaned forward and let him do his thing.  His front feet slipped twice, but he caught himself without trouble and continued hauling us up.
 This is the view along the back of the pasture line, the "main artery" if you will to other trails.  Bear is waiting patiently for us up ahead, and we practiced side passing down this fence line.

At the end of the ride, Rocky's nose was frosty and his neck was steaming.  I covered him with a cooler until he was mostly dry, then put his blanket back on him. 

 Oh, and he stuck his head through some pine branches a few times.  I think he was going for a medicine hat look...but, you know, the photo negative version.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Arena Fun!

I'm not feeling overly ambitious today, so instead of a traditional post where I throw in a fair amount of words, I'm just going to throw out some pictures I took the last time I was at the barn.  Rocky and I played in the arena.  Enjoy!
Trying to see if anything in this corner is edible.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mister Attitude

A few posts ago I talked about how Rocky was getting cranky working in the arena.   What I didn't mention is that he was also becoming increasingly irritable when I was saddling him up.

About a week ago Rocky was flatting his ears and angrily swishing his tail when I went to throw his new saddle on him.  Now, this saddle should fit him perfectly; I went to great lengths to make sure of it.  I started to panic a bit, thinking that maybe it didn't fit him, I would have to get him ANOTHER new saddle and that I didn't have the money to do that.

I felt Rocky's back for pain, and he was fine except for his shoulders- he did seem to have some pain at the tops of his withers.  I had Silver double check what I had done, including my saddle fit.  She agreed that his shoulders were a bit sore, but couldn't find anything wrong with his saddle fit.   A few days later, I checked his back and shoulders for pain right outside of the pasture.  Nothing.  I checked again at the tie post, and again, no pain response.

I had Silver come over (she is so helpful!) and double check that indeed, Rocky had no pain anywhere throughout his ribs, back, and withers.  He started cranking his ears back and swishing his tail as she did it, which he had done a bit with me but was doing more of now.   She concluded that he had no ouchy spots- he didn't flinch or do anything to indicate he was hurting- but instead, he has an attitude problem.  He was giving her the evil eyed, flattened ear look while she was just petting his back.

I was surprised.  Rocky normally has a good reason for being irritable, he has never been so crabby for no reason other than his attitude.   Last night, I think I figured out why.

Like most things Horse, there was more than one reason for his behavior.  I'm going to back up through time here, to explain a bit more about Rocky's past.  Specifically, his past with other horses.

As a young colt, Rocky grew up with his dam and maybe one or two other horses.   He spent most of his time on his own, or vaguely socializing with some other horses. When he was two and a half years old, his breeder/trainer Rite moved him to a barn with an indoor arena so that she could start riding him during the winter, and so he could be completely weaned from being with his dam.  Her property was not large enough to provide a real separation between them.

At the new barn, Rocky was picked on by the other horses to the point that they ended up putting him in an outdoor arena they weren't using.  By himself.   He didn't mind that, he got every scrap of hay they threw in there for him and he could still see other horses.   Then I bought him.

I took Rocky to college with me, where he was suddenly in the most social situation of his life.  There were 8 other horses there and no unused pastures to put him in by himself.  By this time he was three, and spent his first month at college standing off to the side in the pasture, unsure of how to interact with all of these strange horses.  He finally started to warm up to some of them, including a very tall Thoroughbred.  Sunny was sweet, but he stood at about 16.3hh to Rocky's almost 14.3hh.

When Sunny started trying to play with Rocky, Rocky was game until Sunny would rear.  Then the height difference became all that much more apparent, and Rocky would give up.   Over time, Rocky started to learn how to really play.  His front feet left the ground a little bit more each time Sunny would rear.   By the time I graduated college, Rocky had figured out how to be a member of a herd.  He was affable with everyone, not understanding when another horse didn't like him, but he was to the middle or low end of the hierarchy.

Fast forward to about a month ago.  Due to Rocky's cheerful nature with other horses, he was allowed to move into a mares-only pasture.  The mares in this pasture are low-end of the totem pole animals, and in this venue, Rocky seems to have found his stride.  He's the dominant horse in his pasture for the first time in his life.

Do you see where I'm going with this?  Pretty soon after his move into this new pasture where suddenly, the happy-go-lucky fellow is King has made Rocky reevaluate his place in society.   He knows how to boss other horses around now, pinning his ears or swishing his tail to put them into place.  Sound familiar?

Yeah.  He's testing me. Am I really boss, or should he take over?  Because if he takes over, he doesn't want to work- so don't you dare put that saddle on him!

When I had Silver do the final pain test, she told me that he has an attitude problem, and that I should be asking more from him.  She's right.  However, I'm getting to the end of my knowledge zone again.  We now have plans to do a lesson once there is snow on the ground so that the footing isn't so hard, and we can see where Rocky and I are at in our horsemanship journey.

After I had the confirmation of "no pain all attitude," and especially now that I am realizing the hierarchy test Rocky is putting me through, I am going to start paying more attention to making sure he isn't being insubordinate.  He is a quiet horse, which lends itself to laziness and not wanting to work.

I finished saddling Rocky up and started lunging him, confident that his ear pinning was something I could correct him for doing, and not something I needed to worry about causing him pain.  I asked him to trot, and he flipped his tail at me, tossing his head as if to say, "Screw you lady, I don't wanna."  I snapped the lunge whip out so it smacked his rump, and he leaped forward in shock.  He flicked his tail at me again, his ears going back in protest.   I repeated my cue to go left at a trot, and raised the whip in warning.  His eyes lost their fuck-you glare, he flew out around the circle and watched me to make sure he caught my next cue.

The rest of the session was very much him saying, "Yes, ma'am!"  It doesn't take a lot to put him in place, Rocky is still at heart a middle of the pack horse.  Mister Attitude just got a little big for his britches, that's all.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fun Post Tuesday! AKA, the Post with lots of Pictures

Well folks, today I am going to take you on a journey.  A photographic journey of my last trip to the barn.  Okay, I didn't document everything- but if I did, it would probably get pretty boring.  Anyway.  Starting with...
The drive up! I pass these awesome little mountains/big hills on my way to the barn. Majestic, no?  Also, it gives you a weather forecast: snowy, gray, and a little chilly.  Next, we take Rocky out of the pasture!  But wait, who is that cute little horse with him?  I'll give you a minute to think about it... (and by "think about it," I mean, read one of my recent blog posts... hint, hint).

If you guessed Ella, you'd be right!  She's in her yearling awkward growth spurt phase, and she's dirty from not being brushed, but I still think she's adorable.  Also, she looks like she's not purebred Quarter horse.  She has an awful lot of white, especially going up her hind legs.  Perhaps she has some Paint in her?

I didn't take any pictures of grooming or tacking up Rocky, you'll just have to take my word for it that it happened.  And then...
Silver on Walker, a horse she bred, raised and trained.  Can you tell what breed he is?

We headed out!  Silver took us brush whacking around her property, and Rocky loved it.  Bear was in 7th Heaven, too, and happily galomped (it's a real word. Think about a dog running and trotting gleefully through snow, not always gracefully but with joy. There ya go) along with us.  At one point, we came to a super steep hill.  I remembered this hill from summers past, and hadn't felt comfortable going down it then.  Like I said, it's really steep but it also has smoothish rocks sticking out of the ground on the steepest part, which makes for slippery footing.  I warned Silver of them but she decided to cowboy down the hill anyway.  Walker handled it quite well, although they slid 2 or 3 times.  I didn't feel comfortable doing that, so I dismounted and slid down the hill next to Rocky.
He was great about it, I had been worried he would try to climb into my lap but instead he slowly ooched his way down next to me.  I slid more than he did, really, and used him for support.  Good horse!  Then we continued on some of the open trails, and saw two deer.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get pictures of them.
Bear following Silver and Walker
We tromped around these woods for a bit and then started back for home.  Silver decided she wanted to grunt up that steep hill, so we split ways for a few minutes.  Rocky became more nervous and excitable after leaving Walker's presence, but he still listened to me.  When coming around to the meet up, I was able to snap these photos:
Find the horse and rider!

This one is a lot easier to see them.

If you don't see the horse and rider in this photo, you may need to get your eyes checked ;)
We met up in this valley and headed back on familiar trails.  Rocky was a trooper, but when we got back he was tired.

Good horse, good ride, cold thighs!