A dear friend of mine and her family bought me a Hoofjack a few years ago as a thank you for helping them with their horse’s hooves. I LOVE that thing! It has significantly saved my back over the years working on Billy’s feet. Billy learned to really love it as well!

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Billy loved his Hoofjack.

 

The Hoofjack was too big for the minis so I’ve been just holding their feet. However it is very difficult to be exact when trimming in this manner. Not to mention my back was killing me!! So I finally broke down and bought a miniature horse Hoofjack… It is adorable. I was surprised at how small it is! At first I wondered if it would be useful. But oh boy is it!!

Here it is next to Bonnie to give you a size reference…

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And her hoof in the cradle…

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Just another angle!

Bonnie did quite well with it. She didn’t have too much trouble adapting.

Sky was a little stinker but she quickly came around with some well timed carrot pieces!

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TaDa!!! Our new Miniature Horse Hoofjack!!

 

As I watch Bonnie go from scared to confident I’ve been thinking about her feelings. Natural horsemanship programs talk a lot about how the horse feels about what we are doing. Are they engaged, connected and responsive or do they feel like we are doing things TO them? That is the question I ask myself every time I DO anything with Bonnie.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times I just have to do something to her so we can get something done. For instance if we are walking and she starts to have a little temper tantrum about the walking, then I will show her that her temper tantrum takes more energy than the walking. If you were watching this exchange I’m sure it would look like I’m doing something to her and not with her. And I know that she feels that way sometimes, but when she finds neutral again she immediately calms, finds relaxation, licks and chews and will even trot out and lead us down the road.

However there are many more times that I can help her through an issue by listening to how she is feeling and then waiting. Every single time I wait she will calm down and I can continue on. That did not happen at first! She gave me very few green lights. I started to get frustrated and knew that wasn’t going to help either one of us so I contacted my favorite Parelli Instructor and in so doing found out that we had actually moved forward by leaps and bounds! It’s funny how things can look so different when you are standing in the middle of it all. Obviously she had made changes and so had I… I just couldn’t see them until I made a video!

Today I gave the girls a bath. This was Bonnie’s second bath with me. Her first bath was all drama, running around in circles, snorting and striking at the water, spreading her legs wide and trying to leap away, sometimes leaping on ME! I would wait and give her time to think, but as soon as the water came near again she was on the move! That day I did not get frustrated and just took my time, but didn’t feel that we made any head way by the end. She did not get on board with my idea at all! Today everything was different! She stood quietly… not always calmly but she was actively searching for that calm feeling. She did not try to run away, she did not walk on me, she did not leap around. She. was. awesome. I swear I nearly burst with pride for her! She let me spray and spray her, I sprayed her legs, her belly, her girly area, her back, her butt, high up on her neck by her face and her chest. Everything. She took it all in stride.

As I was bathing her I was thinking about how I’m sure she has had other baths in her life, before me. But the difference between those baths and the two she has had with me is that I was thinking about her feelings the whole time. I was trying to help her find peace and calmness within the bath. I was rewarding every try and every time she was calm. When you go about these simple tasks with that in mind it’s amazing how the horse will change and how much faster you can get through these simple tasks!! It’s so much easier to help a horse find calmness than to argue with them every time you need to give them a bath. Or spray them with fly spray. By the way. She stands perfectly every time I spray her with fly spray. I can spray her legs, her belly, her back, her neck… every where!!

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I had to put this one in! I love Sky’s face!!! She is always putting her nose up by my cheek so I can kiss it. Adorable.

The two girls and I have been walking about 4-5 times a week together for nearly two months. At the beginning I noticed that Sky was wearing her toes off a bit on the gravel road. She was a little tender on the rocks and as her toe wore down more she got more tender. I started looking into the Easyboot Mini Hoof Boot. I wasn’t sure about them. They look so thick and heavy and awkward.

Then I remembered that my mom saved the little mini hoof boots I had specially made many, many years ago for a little stallion I had that was very tender on the gravel and pavement. I dug through my stuff and found them! With a little trimming I got them to fit Sky and she went down the road merrily after that.

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This last week I noticed that Bonnie was getting quite sore on the rocks. She is a trooper and would just keep on truckin’ but she was gimping along. I trimmed her up and knew that she wasn’t going to be able to go out on the rocks without boots so I started looking into the Easyboot Mini Hoof Boot again. Again I thought they looked awkward. I could not find very much information about them anywhere on line. I googled miniature horse boots and found lots of pictures of minis wearing other types of boots but not many of these particular boots. I found photos of minis wearing the Easy Boot Epic style, but they don’t come quite small enough for my minis.

When I finally made up my mind I went to Valley Vet Supply to buy a pair of size 3 boots. Of course they were out of stock! I contacted Easy Care and they told me I wouldn’t be able to get a pair until the end of August! Well with only 4 days off Bonnie has gotten quite chubby again and I knew I couldn’t wait until then. I searched around and found a pair on eBay. Thank goodness! I had to laugh that I went from not really wanting a pair to frantically searching everywhere for some!

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They came in the mail yesterday and after unpacking them I was quite impressed! They are tiny. The soles are quite thick, but they are not heavy. In fact they are lighter than the other boots I have that Sky has been wearing. The uppers of the boot are very soft. I think they will squish down a little bit on the back of the boot under the pastern. That is where they come up a bit higher than I would like. They are very easy to put on and take off, yet they stayed in place perfectly on our walk with lots of trotting and Bonnie climbing around in the tall grass on our breaks. She was climbing up and down the steep hills along the road looking for the best grass to nibble on and the boots stayed on perfectly! And they didn’t fill up with rocks or get cheat grass stuck in them. I love that part!

I’m not sure how they would be in the water. They don’t have drain holes, so I think they would fill up with water and possibly rub. When I took them off I noticed a little rubbing just above the coronet band on the front of her feet. I may have to wrap that part of her feet with some vet wrap, but I’ll keep an eye on that area. It may have just been ruffled hair.

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Bonnie LOVED them! After the initial awkward feeling of having something on her feet (she walked lifting her front legs up really high at first! I tried to get it on video but could not manage both horses, the ropes and my phone at the same time… LOL) she walked right out. She did a lot of trotting, which meant I did a lot of jogging. All good for us! Her ears were up the entire time and she was licking and chewing and blowing out a lot. I could tell that she was very happy to be out and with all her forward, clearly the boots felt nice on her feet! We only walked 3 miles this morning… I will work her up to 4-6 miles while wearing the boots. Even their slight weight is more than she is used to. I don’t want to sore up her shoulders and back.

On our first day with the boots I have to say I really like them. I’ll keep you updated as we put more miles on them!

**Edited on September 30th**

Well we’ve had these boots for two months and I can say that I still love them! Bonnie does great in them and we have put them through the WRINGER! We have climbed through sage brush, climbed a few big rocks and totally went 4 wheeling in them. The only thing we haven’t done is cross water!

I took a picture of them to show where the hoof sits in the boot.  The bottom of my thumb is where the bottom of the hoof sits. As you can tell it sits down inside the boot a bit making the sole not as thick as it looks:

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I have also made a few videos showing Bonnie walking in them:

The boots have held up very well to the hardships I’ve put them through. The stitching is nice and tight and they never fill with debris from our hikes. When we get home the only thing in the boot is Bonnie’s hoof!

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As I embark on this new journey with my little ponies and prepare to help Billy transition to a new home I am feeling a bit tender. A bit sad. A bit fragile. Things feel so up-in-the-air as I await Billy to find a new home. He is upset when he watches me with the ponies. Even when I play with or groom him first. When I walk down the driveway ground driving one of the ponies Billy whinnies and whinnies and paces the fence. It breaks my heart a little bit each time.

I know finding him a home where he will be appreciated and loved and ridden is the most important thing. He is so ready! I pray about it every day and am hoping he will go to someone close by so I can visit and watch him mature into a wonderful riding horse. I have been thinking of this time as sending one of my kids off to college. We prepare them as best we can for college life, further education, and then we cry a little when we watch them drive away. Some kids move back home after college, some move onto their own lives. I am very excited to watch Billy move onto his own life.

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The Family: Left, Captain Planet (Big Brother and son of Sky); Middle, Zorro (Little brother and son of Sky); Right, Sky (The mama of this bunch!)

My ponies are so wonderful. The little guy, Zorro makes me laugh every single day. He is starting to really think he is a stallion. He will phlegm over a pile of manure and then mark it. He jumps on Captain Planet every chance he gets and they rear up and wrestle each other all day long. Then in the evening when it’s time for Zorro to go back in with his mom he runs straight to her and nurses and nurses. It’s so cute to see how quickly he goes from the big “stud muffin” to the little tiny baby.

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Baby Zorro

Sky, the mama, is really settling in. Today she showed me all her itchy places and then turned and buried her nose in my hair and just stood with me. Maybe she feels my tenderness over Billy. After all she is a mama too and has watched a few babies grow up and leave. I’m giving her time to eat without that baby dragging on her all day, looking for her to put on a few pounds before I re-start her in cart. I am so looking forward to sitting behind her in cart!

Captain Planet is awesome. He is showing his little brother the ropes. Zorro watches us carefully when I halter Captain and when I feed him carrots. I’ve been trying to get Zorro to eat carrot pieces when I feed them to his mama. But he will just take them and then spit them out. As soon as he watched Captain take and eat a piece of carrot, Zorro reached out and took a piece from me and promptly ate it! I had to laugh as it was clear if his big brother is going to eat those then so is he! I’m hoping the haltering process will rub off as well… I’ve taken Captain out for a few ground drives and he seems to enjoy them. He looks around and watches everything. He notices all the rocks, for sale signs and humps of dirt left behind by gophers or the badger, but will bravely walk on by. He trots out so nicely and makes me walk as fast as I possibly can which is helping me lose a few pounds!

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Now if the weather would cooperate. I love spring storms, but every day of sleet, rain and then snow is starting to get old. I am looking forward to the sun!

Please keep Billy and I in your thoughts and send good vibes, for us to find him the perfect home. Thank you!

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Last week Billy and I started out on a beautiful day for a beautiful walk. I put his bareback pad and his hackamore on just in case I decided to ride. We walked for over 3 miles, meandering up, up, up into the hills. The day was warmer than I thought it would be so we were both pleasantly sweaty by the time we got to the top of the hills. The dog was happily bounding around us, searching the sage brush for bunnies, gophers and voles.

I checked Billy out with the pre-flight check, walk/trot/canter and a jump and he was calm as could be. Super connected and responsive. I took him over to a steep incline so I could shimmy on up and he patiently waited while I struggled up and on. What a good boy.

We turned and started down the hill sides. Just walking slowly, taking everything in. There were deer here and there, browsing, out in the sage brush. There was a little breeze which felt nice on my sweaty face. Billy was blowing out, licking and chewing, sighing.

As we moved down the road, after about 20 minutes he seemed a bit agitated. I did many many hind quarter disengagements and he would finally turn loose, lower his head and lick and chew. The thought moved through my mind, “Maybe you should just slide off…” but I ignored it and kept on going. When we got to the irrigation canal Billy’s head went up and he watched, tense and worried, as the dog played in the water. I did some more hind quarter disengagements and he finally sighed a big sigh, blew out his nose, licked and chewed and lowered his head.

In the next millisecond his head flew up and he took off at a dead run. From a nice relaxed breathing calmness to a flame breathing dragon, 0-60 in less than a second. He plunged across the gravel road heading straight for a fence. I had both hands on one rein trying to bend him, but his head was so high his neck could not bend. I quickly assessed the situation and decided bailing in the grassy ditch beside the fence looked like the better of two evils. It was that or falling off on the hard-as-concrete gravel road. So off I went.

My face, arm and shoulder took the brunt of the fall. My face broke my glasses and my glasses broke my face. My wrist and lower arm hurt, but I could move my fingers and rotate my wrist. Phew. Doctor’s visit avoided! As I sat up everything started to hurt. I could see Billy running as fast as he could go, gravel flying up behind him as he left me, literally lying in a ditch. Samson was high tailing it after him, thinking that we were going for a little run. I’m not sure when he realized that I was no longer on Billy, but he showed up to help me out of the ditch just a few minutes later. Just in time to give me something to grab onto as I stood up. I picked up my shattered glasses and bloody visor and that’s when I realized I was bleeding heavily from my face.

My phone was zipped into the cargo pocket on my pants. I tried to call Handsome Hubby, who had just got home from work, but I didn’t have any cell service. I figured either he would see Billy or I would have to walk the 1/2 mile home. He happened to look out the window in time to see Billy racing down the middle of the road, riderless. He ran out to the truck and was pulling out of the driveway as Billy was turning in. Handsome Hubby said he had never seen Billy so afraid. The whites of his eyes were showing, he was running so fast, with his head as high as he could hold it and kept turning his head to look behind him as he ran. This scared Handsome Hubby as much as the fact that I wasn’t riding Billy anymore.

He soothed himself with thoughts of me leading Billy and he just got away from me. Then he spotted me walking down the road and thought, “Good! She’s walking. So she’s not dead or being eaten by a wild animal.” (Who could say what would scare Billy so badly?)

As he got nearer he saw all the blood. When I climbed into the truck with Samson all Handsome Hubby kept saying is, “Is your nose broken? Is your nose broken?” There was so much blood.

I sat there on the truck seat, hurting, not knowing if my nose was broken, bleeding and feeling my heart break as I contemplated ever riding again. Why can’t riding just be fun? Why does it have to feel like such work? Why have I spent 100’s, no, 1000’s of hours preparing Billy for this over the last 4 1/2 years only to have it end this way? Is it over?

What a heart breaking thing. To see your horse running for its life. Confidence shot. His and mine. All I could think was I had failed him. Honestly I also felt he had failed me. Where was my perfect partner? The one that would be there with me? Stand by my side or at least carry me safely down the trail/road? Was everything I had worked so hard for over?

When I saw this on Facebook I knew it was made just for me!
When I saw this on Facebook I knew it was made just for me!

Handsome Hubby cleaned me up. He got all the dirt and grass out of the cuts on my face and sat on the edge of the bath tub holding me while I sobbed. All my hopes and dreams had been dashed. At that point I wasn’t completely sure I was going to be able to keep Billy. And to make matters worse we had just accepted a free warmblood filly, 4 years old, Trakehner/Quarter horse cross. She was supposed to show up at our house later that week. I didn’t really want her before this happened. Horses are so much work and I already have a green broke horse that needs more of my time. It didn’t feel right to add to that work load. Turns out I was right!

I sat in gloomy silence most of the night. Heart broken, sore, and tired. I didn’t share my heart break with anyone except my Mom that night.

The next day my arm was very sore so Handsome Hubby made me go to Urgent Care. There I found out I broke my Ulna in my right arm. It’s really a fracture. Obviously no bones sticking through the skin. And luckily a simple break that would not require surgery.

It’s been a week and a half since my “accident” and I am now sporting a lovely black cast on my right arm and learning to do all kinds of things with my left hand.

I still haven’t done a thing with Billy yet. But after receiving a phone call from my father-in-law in which he stated, “This might hurt your feelings, but I have to get it out there. If you quit on that horse I will personally drive over to Ennis and break your other arm! You have come too far to quit on him now. If you quit on him what else will you quit on?!” I realized that I can’t quit on him. I will be taking a 4-week “break” as I heal and start to work on another plan. But I will not quit on him. (Sorry Karlie Kafka! I was thinking he could go live with you, but I guess our story is not done yet!)

So, my story has hit a bump in the road. A definite speed bump. But now is the time to sit down, re-group and start making a plan. Ultimately it comes down to time. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get Billy even more solid. 1 month, 1 year, 6 years. It just simply doesn’t matter. I may get him a pack saddle so he can carry all our food, water and gear when we go day hiking. I will be taking many many walks with Samson to work out things in my mind and my body. I do know that I need to double my time spent with Billy. Oh! And I called and told the filly’s owner that we couldn’t take her. I just can not divide my time that way.

So here’s to overcoming the bump in the road and taking the time it takes.

I had one goal today. To remember what it felt like when I was in high school and I had all day long to ride my horse. No rules. No worries. Just riding in the mountains with my best friend.

Something I walked away from the Parelli Ranch with was the idea that horses should be fun. Riding horses should be fun. Being safe is #1 and having fun is #2. I think I forgot that in the mess of figuring out how my horse feels about me, about his environment and about the riding process. Having fun was taking a back seat to everything else.

So today I set out, bareback, in my sneakers. No cell phone. Just myself, my horse and my dog.

I listened to the call of the hawk as he soared above.

I looked at the beauty of the day reflected in the winding waters of the creek.

I watched a little buck bound away through the sage brush.

I spotted the snowshoe hare racing away, wildly bounding and dancing over the sage brush.

I leaned my head back and felt the wind brush across my cheeks.

I breathed deep the warm smell of sagebrush in the air.

Fall is my favorite time of year.

We followed the road until I found a place we could hop off and then we cut our own trail across the sagebrush and rock. We followed a draw and climbed up and up. We stopped when we came to a fence. I was so glad that Billy understands how to maneuver his body so well as we were stuck between a big rock and an old dead tree, with the fence in front of us. I simply asked him to back out of there and he did so, quietly and without running into the either the tree or the rock. Then I asked him to bring his shoulders across and we climbed the other side of the draw up to the top of the rock out cropping. From there I could see all the way to Ennis Lake. We sat up there, catching our breath, breathing deep, feeling the wind brush away the sweat, cooling us. Samson bounded through the grass all around, looking for mice, gophers and bunnies. Luckily he didn’t find any.

Billy looked off, down the side of the steep hill and we watched a little two point buck bounce off down the hill. He didn’t even disturb a single little rock as he lightly made his way down the draw, hopping over sagebrush and disappearing over another hill.

We started down, disturbing many rocks and having a little conversation about which was the best way down. I wanted to avoid the big dead tree and Billy wanted to follow Samson, straight through the dead tree and over the side of the rock cropping. Obviously we went my way.

When we got to the bottom we climbed back out onto the road and Billy had a few minutes of eating some green grass I spotted growing there.

Then we started back down towards our house and the irrigation ditch.

When we made it to the ditch I hopped off and offered Billy the idea to get a drink. He did so and then I suggested he go ahead and walk on into the water. He did. He pawed and splashed and grabbed at the wet grass growing along the edge of the ditch. I walked along the side while he walked in the water, pawing, drinking and snacking on the grass. Samson bounded up and down the ditch, so happy to be sharing it with Billy. He would dash up and splash Billy in his exuberance and then dash back down the ditch. Billy mostly ignored him, splashing himself with all the pawing. I enjoyed giving him this time to get really comfortable in the water, drinking and eating. It made me as happy as Samson was.

After that stop, Billy, Samson and I walked back down the hill to our house. We arrived, tired, with dried sweat and dried mud all over us and so so happy.

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After sharing my day-to-day experience of the Parelli Campus I wanted to share some of my inner feelings about being there.

I was absolutely amazed at how the instructors of our course met each and every person participating, right where they were. It was a level 3 Freestyle course and yet a few people slipped in that were not even level 1 students. Even at that, they learned what they needed to to be safe with the horses they brought to the course. I enjoyed watching them see how Parelli can help them even when ‘just’ trail riding.

Being at the Parelli Campus is an amazing experience. Talking about horses from morning to night is a dream come true. I felt like I had something in common with every single person there. People were dedicated to being better humans for their horses. The instructors were there for us every step of the way.

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When I had my break down on Thursday not only did the instructors step forward and support me, but so did my fellow students in the class. Everyone was so supportive.

I found it very difficult to be there without a vehicle. I wasn’t able to visit one of my friends that I had really hoped to get in touch with because I couldn’t get away from the ranch. When I needed something I just had to make do or borrow from my new found friends. It was hard on me. I’m not used to having to rely on others in any way. I usually take care of myself. I suppose that was a lesson for me.

The ranch is so beautiful and peaceful. I loved my quiet time in the mornings after I finished my chores and before class started. Sitting on the front porch of the lodge reading my book and drinking my morning coffee.

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I loved the quiet evenings when everyone was out and about and I was alone up by the horses. I had finished my chores and was heading down to the showers. The sunsets were beautiful.

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It was a peaceful time for me, even though things didn’t go as planned and I had more work than I bargained for. I enjoyed all my alone time.

Next time I go to Pagosa I plan on driving down in one day, staying for two weeks, and maybe even putting a topper on my truck so I can just sleep in the back of it.

I can’t wait to go back!

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