IMG_1736

I always see questions from people asking if the smaller minis can pull a 120 pound cart and a 200+ pound person. My general rule of thumb is, I don’t make my mini pull more than it’s own body weight. So if my own weight is nearly equal to my minis then I will need a VERY lightweight vehicle so together we don’t exceed my minis weight. (This is where a Hyperbike comes into play!!)

But a common answer I see is “My 30″ mini pulls me and my Bellcrown, or Frey or wooden meadow brook cart around just fine! He is a power house and runs everywhere. It’s hard to get him to walk!”

Hmmmm. The key words in that reply is “it’s hard to get him to walk.” People will also say their minis are very forward. I have been watching lots of different minis pull lots of different vehicles for a long time. I have also been a student of natural horsemanship for a long time. Something I am always thinking about is, is that mini calm and confident in it’s job? Certainly there are lots of small minis that ARE confident in their job. Usually these minis are fairly well matched in driver/vehicle weight to their own size and weight. These minis confidently canter out and tackle the courses. They easily come down to a walk and trot in a very relaxed way when asked.

BUT for the most part what I see are over faced small minis just trying to get the job done. They are racing around, heavy on the forehand, wanting to canter everywhere because the walk is just too hard. This exact thing happened with Sky. She had a hard time pulling the easy entry cart with me in it. So what did she start to do? She started to race everywhere. It’s very hard to get her to slow down and be calm when driving. She was starting to when pulling the Hyperbike, but she can NOT do it when pulling the easy entry cart. She just simply feels over faced with that cart. In her case it doesn’t matter that she is 37″ tall and the cart and myself weigh nearly equal to her weight. The simple facts are, it’s too heavy and hard for her to pull. Zorro and Mikey don’t have a problem pulling that cart at all! Both can walk and trot calmly when pulling it. There is no anxiety in them at all. But they are bigger ponies for sure!

Sometimes they are not confident because of other things. Even if they are well matched as far as vehicle weight + your weight, they can feel unconfident about their surroundings, what they are being asked to do in cart, other horses being around them – such as group drives- and this will come out as impulsiveness. They will want to rush around and not stand quietly. They will fidget, paw, sometimes back up uncontrollably, rear and generally be difficult to manage. This is all anxiety that is coming out in the only way they know how to show it. It doesn’t mean the mini is a jerk and it definitely doesn’t mean the mini is enjoying himself. I hear that a lot as well. “My mini really loves to go driving he does A, B and C (insert rearing, pawing and not standing still for the person to get in the cart).”

I think it’s interesting that some people see this behavior and see an excited mini that wants to go, when other people see the same behavior and read it as anxiety and dread.

There are many things you can do to help the mini feel more confident with driving, including taking a look at your harness, your cart and yourself. Are you sitting correctly when driving? Does your harness fit well? Is your cart balanced?

If your issues are more about the environment then taking a step back and doing some ground work with obstacles, taking them hiking and figuring out what helps them feel confident will translate to the harness as well.

Sometimes what we perceive as being excitement about hitting the trail is in fact anxiety. It really is all about perception and learning to read and understand our minis.

PLEASE REMEMBER!!! This is my blog full of my opinions. If you don’t like what I share you can simply click off the page ­čÖé You do not have to keep reading nor do you have to take into consideration what I am sharing. You can simply move on!

How do these two things go together? It turns out they are a perfect match. Natural horsemanship is all about creating confidence and calmness. Two things that all driving horses should have in spades. But how often are driving horses calm and confident? Based on what I’ve seen over the years, not very often.

IMG_1767

 

Something I hear often is the horse just needs more time in harness. They need more experience and more desensitization. Which is often very true! BUT sometimes we just need to go back a step, or two or three and work on our relationship without the harness. It’s amazing how doing some ground work, in a consistent manner, with the entire goal to be calmness, can change how a horse goes in the harness.

 

Last weekend my friend Molly and I went over to the Bitterroot to have private lessons with my friends and instructors, Ethan Zimmerman and Lorri Roy of┬áFoundation Horsemanship.We both had an idea of things we wanted to work on. Zorro has been feeling grumpy about working with me lately so relationship was #1 on my list. But he also has been struggling with finding relaxation with the bit in his mouth. Bitless is not an option, at this time, because he has such a sensitive face, putting pressure on his nose with a halter or bitless bridle just makes him lose it. So I asked Ethan if he would help me help Zorro find some peace with the bit in his mouth. And even though Ethan doesn’t agree with using bits he was extremely helpful with my issues!!

Molly wanted to work on confidence with both of her minis. They have separation anxiety issues and get anxious when in harness. (Zorro does sometimes as well and we also got to work on this at one point!)

The first day we spent the morning working through obstacles with our ponies just in a rope halter and lead line. They have a new obstacle course all set up and we had a blast!! There is a teeter totter, logs to jump, a big bridge to play on, several different styles of pedestals, two water obstacles – on big one and one water box- a car wash, a gate to open, the boulder field, cavalettis, and a narrow teeter totter. So for the morning we went around and just played with the obstacles with the goal of having a pony that was confident and calm when going over them. This meant that we had to repeat and repeat and repeat until we HAD a calm and confident pony. The ‘ask and wait’ was key in creating a calm pony.

IMG_1690 2

IMG_1705

IMG_1682 2

For instance, the water box. This is a hard obstacle because the bottom of it is a black stall mat and there is water in it. I’m sure to the pony it looks like a deep dark black hole. So for them to trust us enough to step into it is HUGE. We would ask them to approach and our first goal is to get their nose OVER the obstacle. Typically once you get their nose over it, then wait and let them think, they will lower their head and LOOK at the obstacle. Sometimes they are so scared they can’t even do that but typically they will at least look. If they look and then snort and try to leave you simply re-set them and ask for the nose over the obstacle again. When they can stand with their nose over the obstacle then you can ask for a step. This would be touch it with the foot. This step can take quite awhile and having good timing is key. If you push them too hard they can blow up. If you don’t ask at the right time you will miss the green light and won’t really progress with that obstacle. It was so fun watching all three of the ponies work through this and get so brave that they could walk up to it, lower their head to look and then just walk straight across it.

 

IMG_1747

IMG_1746

The afternoon of the first day we did two rein driving. We could use a halter or a bridle, but because of our biting issues I opted for a bridle.

  • I learned about closing my fingers slowly on the lines and opening fast, without throwing my pony away.
  • I learned how to help Zorro with his extreme mouthiness when the bit was in his mouth. He will chomp and chomp and chomp when I pick up my lines. This is a result of me being too fast to close my hands and also being to snatchy at his face. I usually drive with a fairly loose line, which is ideal, BUT this also can cause me to snatch at my lines if he acts out.

 

 

IMG_1768
Everyone was so jealous and wanted to come play with us on the playground!

So I now have a few more tools in my tool kit to help him overcome his anxiety about me lifting the lines. I am so excited and motivated to take him out on my driving track and work on transitions, transitions, transitions. I can always count on Ethan and Lorri for┬á bringing up my self confidence, even as they help me bring up my pony’s confidence! They are excellent at inspiring me when I have been feeling stuck and frustrated.

IMG_1737

The second day we started with two line driving and repeated the transitions we had done the day before. I played around with the obstacles while driving a bit more and we did some trot/canter/whoa transitions as well. The ponies were doing an awesome job so we took a lunch break and then came back to drive them!

Both Molly and I had some anxiety things to work through in the cart and we learned A LOT about how to help our ponies.

At one point Molly went to switch ponies and Zorro got very emotional because she and Goldie left. My normally quiet pony turned into a whinnying, pooping mess! LOL! He couldn’t stand still so I didn’t try to make him. Instead I let him go out and trot or canter as small of a circle as we could then offer him the chance to stop. He couldn’t so we would do another small circle. We had to do many many circles, with me switching the direction of the circle sometimes until he started to walk the circles instead of needing to canter and trot them. And then he suddenly offered to just whoa. And since that was the goal we stopped and just thought about our life for awhile.

IMG_1804

Ethan drove Goldie and Lorri got to drive Zorro… you know that meme that went around Facebook?

thelistofpeople

 

Well Ethan and Lorri are on our very short lists ­čÖé

I always love watching my ponies learn a new pattern and make some significant changes. Having someone coach you along is so valuable! I highly suggest getting a hold of Ethan and Lorri and participating in their obstacle clinics as well as taking some private lessons!

If you don’t live here in Montana then take a look at the natural horsemanship trainers in your area. You may be surprised how they can help you with your driving horses and ponies!

militaryseat

My Handsome Hubby bought something from LaRue Precision Firearms and included in the box was a very cool pamphlet that has excerpts from a 1917 Calvary Officer’s Manual. I was very taken with the requirements of the Calvary officer and thought I would share some of the pamphlet here!

A most important duty of the cavalry officer is keeping his horses in such training and health as will enable them to do their work to the best advantage. The proper performance of this duty requires careful instruction of the men in the treatment, stabling, management, watering, feeding, grooming and exercising of the horses and such continuous supervision and inspection by officers as will insure that instructions are understood and are being carried out.

Calvary officers should make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the natural history and physiology of the horse and with the effects of different methods of treatment, changes of diet, etc., upon his system and power of endurance.

They should have a familiar knowledge of the symptoms and methods of treatment of the diseases that are common to horses, what do do in emergencies and a good knowledge of the effects of the medicines supplied to the squadron. They should also be practically familiar with the principles of horseshoeing.

Sore backs are, as a rule, the result of carelessness or neglect; the immediate cause may be faulty adjustment of the saddle or equipment or bad riding.

At each halt officers and noncommissioned officers should inspect the adjustment of saddles and equipment of their men and should at no time tolerate lounging in the saddle.

Horse when received in the regiment are assigned to squadrons according to color, under direction of the commanding officer. They are branded on the hoof of one fore foot with the letter of the squadron and the number of the regiment on the same line; as D 7. their purchase number is found tattooed on the inside of the upper lip.

Captains make permanent assignments of horses; after a horse is so assigned, his rider will not exchange him nor allow him to be used by any other person without permission.

I will continue to share here. I have found this pamphlet to be very interesting and reading it has caused me to do some reading about the different animals used in war through out the years. It’s amazing what animals will do for us!

For Memorial Weekend I took my pony and my friend Molly and her pony, and we ran away to the mountains. No cell service, no internet, completely unplugged. It was such a wonderful weekend, even if it rained every day and all night!

zorroandgoldiephotobomb

Molly and I were the first to arrive at the camp ground and immediately started setting up our camp. We decided to high line our ponies this year as the pen worked last year- but just barely. (And the pen didn’t really work very well for Zorro at the barefoot hoof trimming clinic two weeks ago…) I had practiced with Zorro at home all last week and he did very well. Molly had been tying Goldie (so she can practice patience) so she was also prepared for the high line. She actually settled very well tied to it. Much better than when she is hard tied.

poniesonthehighlineponiesonthehighlinesmall

Many of the club members high lined their horses. A few did that last year and Molly and I liked the simplicity of it. It’s so much easier to pack a long line, some tree savers and a few ties than to pack panels and posts and wire to build the pen! It’s much faster to set up and to take down as well.

thecamphorses

If you look closely at the photo below you will spot the Fjords laying in the bushes….

fjordsinthebushessmall

Zorro even laid down to sleep at night.

zorrosleepingonthehighline

We were all quite happy with the high line!

Molly and I were busy getting everything unloaded, unpacking the horse stuff, putting the bikes together, making the bed in the back of the Tahoe, when it started to rain a bit harder, so we shut the Tahoe doors to keep our bed dry, only to find we had locked the keys in it. SIGH. (**Note above that I said we ran away to the mountains where there wasn’t any CELL SERVICE!!!)

I have a bad cold that has settled deep in my lungs which makes me have to take my inhaler very often. My inhaler was also locked in the Tahoe. Molly walked around the camp and found a spot where she had one bar and was able to receive a text from her hubby. So she tried sending him one. He got it!!

She sent him a text asking him to call my Handsome Hubby to have him call Triple A. We had to wait on pins and needles for quite some time because it would take several minutes for the text messages to send and then even longer for them to come in, but my Hubby was able to call and get someone on their way to unlock my car. We heard that news just minutes before we were prepared to break a window because my asthma was getting so bad!! (It was close to 3 hours from the time I locked the keys in the Tahoe to when the guy showed up.)

When the guy showed up to unlock the Tahoe he looked exactly like a knight in shining armor to me. And he had the best attitude. He was so happy to have the chance to drive up to Monture and see the horses and ponies on his Friday, late afternoon, before Memorial weekend. I was so grateful for him and his good attitude!

After that drama, we hitched up and took the ponies for a short little drive around. I was checking to see how Zorro felt and we were practicing giving Goldie a nice quiet, calm drive.

drivingtheponies

zorrolooking

mollysentouragesmallA couple of the other members also hitched up and did a little test drive that evening…claudiaandcobaltsmall

Claudia holding Cobalt for Nicole. Here they were preparing to unhitch after they got back from their drive.

claudiaandcobalt2

We had a nice time helping set up camp once everyone else got there. Of course we had a wonderful dinner and some great campfire talk. Then we all went off to get a good night sleep before our big drive on Saturday morning…

preparingthetablesthegathering

It was a beautiful evening!

carrieswagon

We woke up to some overcast skies and a bit of a light misting rain. We had breakfast and then prepared the horses, ponies and mule, for our drive!

Saturday we drove 14 miles. We left the camp at 10:00 and got back at 3:30. It misted on us, then it rained pretty good, then the sun came out. We got back to camp just before a really good drenching rain started. Once that started it didn’t stop all night long.

goldieandmolly

headingintothetrees

thegroupthroughthetrees

rainyforest

Sometimes things happen on the trail and we have to stop while they get sorted. We stopped here because a horse that was tied to the back of a wagon got loose and they had to catch her. It was lightly raining here and the forest looked so beautiful. After I took the above photo I realized what I was looking at:

wheretheunicornslive

The place where Unicorns live!! Can you see that misty meadow through the trees? I just know it was full of grazing unicorns. Zorro kept gazing that way, when he wasn’t watching them try to catch the loose horse, and I know he was thinking about his friends in that magical meadow.

When we had to stop again Molly and Ryker took the chance to have a potty break…

gopotty
This photo is titled “GO POTTY” because that’s what Molly was telling Ryker. And instead of going potty he was gleefully rolling around in the grass. I was laughing so hard!

zorropatientlywaiting

zorroonthetrail

thelake
The lake we drove past!

headingtolunch

finallythesuncameout

We stopped and had lunch…

Then we went and played at a creek crossing. Zorro was thristy but when Goldie and Molly crossed the creek it was up to Goldie’s belly and nearly ended up in Molly’s lap so Zorro and I turned around and crossed the bridge. LOL!!

It was so nice to get back to the campsite, eat a good dinner and sit around the camp fire visiting.

Then on Sunday we were undecided about how long we should drive. It was drizzling all morning off and on. The club decided to head out and just do a short drive…that turned into a 15 mile drive!

I did NOT intend to do that either Zorro or Goldie, but when you are out in the mountains it can be hard to know if it’s shorter to turn around where you are or to push on. At one point we were battling ankle deep mud that was sticky and getting caught on the tires so we did NOT want to back track that section of the road. The poor ponies!

They did it like trooper, alternating walking, trotting and cantering. The last 4 miles were the longest 4 miles of my LIFE. I was exhausted and wet and cold and worried about my pony. But he kept such a perky outlook. He walked when he needed to, both ponies would stop if they needed a break and then continue when they were ready.

Of course the rain stopped as we got back to camp and when we drove away from the campsite with the truck and trailer to head home, the sun came out. Isn’t that always how it works!?

oliveandleeann

oliveandleeann2
Olive and Lee Ann prepared to head on out Sunday morning!
nicoleandkinji
Nicole in the wagon and Kenji on his horse ponying his other mare.

mollyandgoldieonsunday

zorrosears2
Going up, up, up!

We were slogging through the deepest, stickiest mud. Then we would have to cross large deep mud puddles. The Equine Fusion boots never twisted or loosened. They stayed put the entire time! We were both SO HAPPY with these boots. The Easy Boot Minis we had last year were a total joke on this same weekend drive. And we didn’t even have to deal with the deep mud. We just had to cross lots of water and deal with the sand. The velcro on the Equine Fusion boots still looks like new!!

zorrosmuddyboots
Zorro was booted on all four for the weekend.

reststop

walkingbehindtheminis

coldandwet
Wet, muddy and getting tired! We were about 4 miles from the campground here.

This bull was standing all alone up at the corner of his pasture watching us all drive by. He looked like he was watching a parade. LOL!

thebull

As we approached the bull Zorro didn’t know quite what to do. He was between a rock and a hard place!

betweenarockandahardplace

When we got back to camp we were covered in mud. My harness has mud caked on in every nook and cranny. The bike was covered in mud, the boots were caked in mud but there wasn’t any mud IN them. I have A LOT of clean up to do today!

muddyharnessandboots

The ponies were glad to be back at camp, to eat some dry hay and have a little break before we loaded them up and headed home!

theponiesattheendofthedrive

There were moments on that last drive that I was so miserable I couldn’t even put my feelings into words. LOL. But I wouldn’t have wanted to be any place else but in Monture with my pony and my friend Molly.

I also want to say that Molly should get the “Best Conditioned Horse” award at these things. Goldie is 32″ tall and super refined. This mare is teeny tiny. It’s a wonder that we can even make a bridle to fit her head! And she can easily out do every single horse at these events. She never gives up and never seems to run out of energy. She is in amazing shape and has such a can do attitude. I just love her…

goldie2small
This face means “Mindy, give-me-every-single-hay-pellet-in-your-pocket-and-then-go-and-get-me-all-my-treats-out-of-the-trailer” look.

IMG_0625

I often get messages and emails asking how to develop a good relationship with a horse. Sometimes the people tell me they can’t catch their horse, or they talk about how the horse ignores them when they are trying to work with them. They will ask how to help a horse that is buddy sweet (or buddy sour whichever way you look at it!) or barn sweet. (This is still one I am working on myself. I read everything I can get my hands on as well as practice many different things to try to help Sky feel more confident when she is away from the other ponies.)

Sometimes people are just looking for something to do with their pony (or horse, or donkey or mule!) that is different than always training.

I have talked about relationship so many times on this blog. Any blog that I wrote about building relationship with my Curly horse, Billy Blaze, can also be applied to a miniature horse, or a pony. (Or a donkey or a mule!) Here are a few if you want to take a little stroll down memory lane:

Horse Ownership Can Be Like Religion

Choices

Relationship

Observations

Advice or Shaming

I think there are quite a few ways to develop a relationship and will share a few different ones, hoping that at least one of them will help. It’s even better if you can do two or three of them ­čśë

1

One way to build a relationship with a pony is to separate it from the others for some time. This can be on a short term basis or on a long term basis depending on the individual pony. When Mikey came home he had to be separated for some time so we could work one-on-one. He needed time to bond with me a bit and to settle into his new home. Actually I feel quite strongly about keeping a new horse separate from your existing herd and spending a lot of one-on-one time with them – NOT ASKING THEM TO DO ANYTHING!!!

This is very important when developing a brand new relationship. I’m not saying they should always be separate, but doing that at first allows them to bond with you so when you do put them out with the other horses you have a relationship and they don’t simply bond with one of the other horses and want nothing more to do with you.

A great example of this is Mikey. When he came here he was nearly impossible to catch. Even in a small pen he would think about running away and was very defensive about his hind end. I took it slow with him and made a point of showing him how wonderful it felt to be with me. Now when I go out to the track and call the ponies he is nearly always the first to come to me and sometimes I have to wrestle the halter away from him so I can halter Zorro instead. I love that.

2

Spend undemanding time with them. Undemanding time can be a few different things:

arrowSpending quite time in their pen. I will often bring a book in, sit and read quietly while they eat. This is best done one-on-one. It’s rather hard to do it in a herd situation, UNLESS you are just spending time with the entire herd and not singling out one.
arrow┬áTaking that one pony out to graze. When I do this I also work on teaching them when it’s okay to graze and when we are moving to the next yummy grassy area. We don’t just randomly wander around. I actively search for the next best bright green grass, or grass that they have had to stand and look at from inside the fence and not be able to reach, or maybe a nice clover patch. (Do this carefully if you have a horse that is metabolic! Be very choosy about the type of grass you allow a horse prone to founder to graze on, or think of a different way to browse with them.)

 

3

Take them for a walk. Don’t walk them thinking about all the of the “things” you want to accomplish but make it more about honoring them. What are they interested in?
arrow If its grass then help them find the best grass and allow a bit of grazing. Making it clear when you are asking them to graze and when they should walk. This can be done in a way that doesn’t create anxiety about eating the grass. The #1 way to do that is to allow grazing more often at first so they aren’t so worried about it. Find a good patch, then look ahead a few feet and find the next one. Give them a cue that means it’s time to move to the next patch, I use “Come on, let’s go!” and up comes their head and they eagerly look to me for the next grassy patch. This is what a great herd leader will also do, help them find the best food, so this game makes a lot of sense to them!┬á **I don’t haul on their halter to get their head up but will give them a tap on the butt to move them forward. It doesn’t take too long before they will just move on and you don’t have to tap their butt.
arrowIf it’s seeing the neighbor horses then take them over and allow some gawking. I don’t allow nose touching over the fences because I don’t want to be responsible for anyone putting a foot through the fence!! But horses often like to stand and look at each other. Especially if they have been curious.

zorroandtheneighborhorse
arrow┬áSometimes it’s a bit of off roading. Zorro likes to explore the rocks and sage bushes along the road where we drive. I will give him some lead rope and let him go climb around. Sometimes he likes to climb up on a rock and look around. I suppose the world looks different from the top of a big rock! LOL!

What I’m trying to say is that the #1 thing to horses isn’t always grass. And though it will often start out that way, as you develop a relationship the grass will be less and less important (unless you have a Haflinger! LOL!) and they will look to you for what cool thing you are going to do next! This will trickle into your driving or riding as well.

4

Positive Reinforcement Training (R+) I LOVE positive reinforcement training for horses that have had a hard previous life. Sometimes they are so nervous about doing the right thing that having that marker (the click or the “good boy!”) are key to helping them calm down and feel more grounded.

The kind of treat you use is as important as the timing of the treat. Giving them something that they won’t lose their mind over, such as a few hay pellets, is key. If you are always giving the deluxe “ice cream” treat the game will become more about the treat than the activity.

I also used R+ with Zorro. He was extremely sensitive and I found that working with him at liberty in the track with well timed treats was the answer to many of our bumps in the road. I attribute his awesomeness to this type of start. I am so glad that I have so many different training techniques to fall back on.

The key to that is to not jump around from one thing to the other as this can be confusing and unsettling to the horse. Choose something you would like to try and stay true to it for a week or two. If it’s not working then try something else, but do give it time.

As humans we are very direct line in our thinking and in the way we do things with our horses. This looks like us going to catch our horse, tying it up, harnessing, going for a long drive, coming home, unhitching, then putting the horse away. From one thing to the next with the end result in mind, that we go for a drive.

When I go get my ponies I offer the halter, if they are interested then I put it on and they get a few hay pellets. If anyone else is interested in being haltered I will sometimes take the halter off the one I need to catch, halter one of the others, give a few hay pellets, then go back and halter the one I need again. This gives another pony a chance to earn a treat and it gives the one I need, a chance to earn two treats.

zorroinnewhalter

Then, we go out of the pen and I go find a few nice green grass patches. I allow some grazing, we go from one patch to the next. Then I take them over to the tie up spot. Sometimes I have a few grass pellets on the lid of the harness box and I allow them to explore the box a bit.

Then, I tie them up and brush and put their boots on. If they hand me their feet and stand quietly to have the boots put on they will earn a treat.

Next, I get the breast collar of my harness out. I offer it to them to sniff. If they touch it they get a few grass pellets. If they are fine with having it put on then I put it on. If they move away or turn their head away then I wait.

After that, I get the saddle and breeching part of the harness. I offer that to them, if they sniff it they get a few grass pellets. If they stand quietly I will put the harness on. If they move or try to avoid the harness then I wait. Usually they will want to look at it again.

Lastly I offer the bridle. Zorro starts smacking his lips at this point because I offer the but with a small handful of the grass pellets. Sometimes he will scoop up the bit along with the pellets the first time. Sometimes he wants to eat the pellets and leave the bit. Then I offer him some more pellets and that time he will scoop up the bit.

What I am offering my ponies is the chance to have a say in the harnessing process. I take my time and don’t make it about getting the harness on so much as it’s about how my pony feels about being harnessed. Often when we are out somewhere else driving I don’t have to offer any treats at all. I will offer the chance to look at each piece of harness and typically Zorro is quite happy to have everything put on. I try to never rush but to always take my time as even when I’m not giving treats I am still aware of how he feels about everything.

It is so hard to NOT be a direct line thinker. It’s so hard to not make my time with my ponies about the end result. It’s so hard to make my time with the ponies to be about each moment. But I am amazed at how much this means to my ponies.

Does this mean my ponies are always perfect? NO. Sky is a maniac and always very dramatic. Mikey is actually pretty good but he is spooky and can be very attached to the other horses (when we are away from home. At home when I take him away from home he doesn’t care about the other horses at all.) Zorro is mostly good but can be a little stinker sometimes. I’m not perfect and neither are they. But the more I work at being in the moment the more it pays off for me.

 

IMG_0621

I have been following David Landreville for nearly 2 years on Facebook. What drew me to his page were the beautiful hoof photos he was posting. He also shared consecutive trim photos of hooves that he was rehabbing, but the number of beautiful hooves he was sharing were truly inspiring. I figured if he had access to so many beautiful hooves he must be onto something!

beautifulhoof

I shared his page with some good friends of mine that had recently taken over trimming their herd of 6 big horses. It’s my belief that if I spend a certain amount of time looking at beautifully balanced hooves then my brain will start to understand more fully exactly what I am trying to accomplish with my own ponies. My friends felt the same way! In fact they liked what they saw so much that they contacted David and flew down to Arizona to shadow him for a few days! Oh man I was so jealous! LOL! But I also knew they would bring back some great information and share it with me.

Not only did they bring back information, and we had many long talks about building beautiful hooves, but they also brought back information for putting on our own David Landreville Hoof Trimming Clinic here in Montana! I was so excited!

I chose to camp at my friends house for the duration of the clinic because I knew that often more talk goes on during lunch, then during dinner, then during that time after dinner before you go to bed. And boy did it! David was so generous with his time and his information. I tried to be a sponge and soak up everything the had to share in the short time he was with us.

IMG_0461

He brought his wonderful wife, Stephanie as well and she was so kind and made all who spent time with her feel calm and peaceful. That is such a special gift to have!

David spends a lot of time polishing and smoothing the back of the hoof so the horse has a nice soft place to land when they are trying to land heel first.

IMG_0799
Mostly David uses his rasp to polish the frog. In this photo he was showing us how to use our knife to do the same thing, trimming off the dead frog to give the horse a nice supple frog.
IMG_0572
Using the rasp to clean up the frog.

IMG_0894IMG_0693

He spends a lot of time explaining exactly how a horse’s foot works and why a heel first landing is so important. He has done extensive studying of the horse’s foot and has a deep understanding of how everything works together.

IMG_0610

IMG_0558
Feeling the difference between the hard dead frog and the live supple frog.

IMG_0562

His philosophy is that the frog should not be weight bearing, nor should the outer hoof wall. Instead we need to balance the foot so the horse is weight bearing on the inner hoof wall, but over 4 main points of the hoof, the seat of the corn and the toe pillars, and the frog gives them a nice place to land and push off from. Our goal as hoof trimmers, is to develop a nice plump and thick area at the back of the foot to give our horses a soft place to land that is also working as it should, as a shock absorber.

IMG_0628
Giving us a better idea of what is going on INSIDE the hoof. David is such an artist!
IMG_0679
He would mark where he wants the weight bearing to be on the hoof.

He taught us techniques as well as his method by working on 6 different horses the first day and then watching us work on 6 horses the second day.

IMG_0752
Everyone felt relaxed learning from David. This mare decided to lay down and take a nap!

IMG_0756

IMG_0670

IMG_0549

He taught us of the importance of using sharp tools and being very very precise with them. It’s difficult to get a precise trim with dull tools.

IMG_0759
Showing us how to sharpen our hoof knives. This comes with trepidation because if we weren’t used to trimming with sharp tools we could cause some damage to both our horse and ourselves. Learning proper technique when trimming but also learning how to hold and manage our tools was a big part of this clinic.

A few of the horses were a bit skeptical about having their feet worked on. Once David was able to work on the back of the horse’s heel, put their foot down and give them a minute to think about it, their entire demeanor would change and they would hand him their other feet. If you horses aren’t doing this when you trim them, then maybe it’s time to look at a different trimming technique! He worked on several horses that I have also worked on over the years (including Zorro!) and I really enjoyed watching him change a horse’s mind from arguing and being mad to quiet, licking and chewing and lots of positive processing.

IMG_0749
This gelding was a very well mannered boy, but the relief he felt when he had a nice place to stand was immediate and recognized by all of us.

David stressed the importance of having a nice place to live. Adding sand to your dry lot or track system can be extremely helpful, working with the horse to develop a beautiful foot. As well as keeping their living area clean and free of manure.

He talked about how much more important it is to have a balanced trim than it is to change the diet to all the new fads or miracle cures. In essence there isn’t anything we can feed that will help our horse grow a perfect, balanced and fully live foot. But there is a lot we can do, with the proper training, through barefoot trimming, to help our horse grow this.

There are so many little things that are difficult to teach online, but are easier to understand in person. If there is ever a David Landreville Hoof Trimming Clinic in your area I highly recommend you take the time to go!

 

P.S. I came home with lots of information for my Handsome Hubby but while I was gone my Handsome Hubby had been hard at work clearing space and preparing the ground for a new hay shed, planning where he wants to move our current shed and how he wants to move the fence of the track. I am also getting another shelter from my friends that will be a run in shelter for the ponies and will be putting sand down before we set the shed down. This will give them a nice soft place to stand as well as a footing to work quietly on the dead tissues of their feet in between trims. I’m going to have a few truck loads of sand brought in to put on the track in a few spots. Luckily my track is small so adding footing shouldn’t be too cost prohibitive! Stay tuned for some track upgrades coming soon!

 

IMG_0973

The world is full of opinions. The horse world is over flowing with them. And in many cases if you don’t agree with this opinion or that opinion then you are considered stupid.

I get called stupid on a regular basis. Mostly by people who don’t drive at all, drive very rarely or don’t even own horses. It’s amazing to me how everyone and their brother is a professional on Facebook.

I drive about 5 times a week. Our typical drive is 5 miles. Sometimes we go 4 miles and sometimes we go 8. Basically we drive a lot. I am not a professional, anymore, but I am using my equipment quite a bit. I am out exploring and pushing the boundaries…

I have A LOT of opinions about things. Harness. Carts. Boots. Ponies. Driving trails. But I realize that they are just that. Opinions. There are many ways to get to an end result. Though there are some hard and fast facts, they are few and far between. And people who say their way is the only way are fooling themselves and you. (This blog will be VERY unpopular but I am getting so tired of people making others feel wrong because they do things differently.)

Over time and with more practice I often change my opinion about things. I carefully watch my ponies when I’m driving and then make adjustments to make their job easier. I am always questioning things. Trying new things. Being flexible.

I was told that a saddle with a tree in it would be best for the type of driving I do. It would provide stability for my mini and make her job easier. But my mini is very wide. The tree is narrow. It caused pressure points and did not make her job easier because it blocked her shoulder. I spread it as wide as I could and got a wider and longer back pad to help. Then I turned to the treeless saddle (The MaraFUN harness) for my two geldings. I just recently ordered a treeless Comfy Fit saddle as well and can’t wait to give it a try! I think Sky will be happy with it.

I decided to try the SuperFlex collar, which is the same thing as a Euro Style collar. I have heard so much negative about these collars. Actually until I got my own I already decided I did NOT like them. It was going to be too hot. It covered too much on my pony. It was going to make pulling the cart even harder and wasn’t necessary.

zorroandbike5medium

**This style of breast collar is absolutely NOT appropriate for a low line of draft. It is soft and pliable and not designed for logging, harrowing or any vehicle that has a low line of draft. BUT for my Hyperbike and my easy entry cart it is actually quite wonderful. Zorro loves it.

Does this mean you need to rush right out and buy it because it will change your horse’s life forever? NO! It just means that if something isn’t working and you are wondering about it, it’s worth it to try something different. Don’t disregard it just because someone else said it was a bad collar type. I’m so glad I decided to give it a try.

Same with Soybean meal. I have been 100% against anything with soy in it for so so many years that it was very hard for me to wrap my mind around feeding soybean meal. But now that I am and I’m seeing such positive changes in my ponies I am so glad I changed my mind. **Please don’t confuse soybean meal with anything with soybean hulls. These are not the same at all. You can go HERE to read more about the changes I have been making in my ponies diet.

Some people really frown on the Hyperbike and I get comments about that often as well. I’m so happy I don’t listen to them as I love my bike and so do Sky and Zorro. (Mikey isn’t quite sure about it yet! LOL!)

58113387_10217312824404283_3828564359102070784_n

I have always been a leather snob but I am so glad I saw the benefits of the Comfy Fit and the MaraFUN harnesses. I have zero plans to go back to leather… though I do use leather driving lines. Mine are padded at the hand end and so soft and comfortable. Plus they are beautiful! (I’ll add them to the website soon.)

So basically what I am saying is it’s fine to have opinions. It’s totally fine to share them! It’s fine to do things your way, if your way is working. If things aren’t working then it’s fine to try something different, new or even frowned upon! You may end up being pleasantly surprised.