The girls and I had a lovely walk today. It was a hot one and they both worked up a sweat, as did I! Sky was so funny because she kept trying to turn around and go home, but Bonnie was happy as a clam to be out walking. She had her ears up and trotted up the road without a hitch!

They both wanted to stop and take a break at the canal. They took a few minutes to talk to each other and look at the big horses that were following us up the road.

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Then we went on our way.

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We walked four miles today and did a little off roading as well! Both of their boots stayed on even though we were breaking through some very tough terrain. That sage brush is tall and really grabs you as you try to walk through it! We climbed a few big rocks and made our way through the field back to the road. There was no way I could handle both girls, watch where I was going and manage the camera so I’ll share this little video that I took when we were still on the two track road…

When we had a minute to stop and taste a bit of the grass growing I took a pretty picture of Bonnie.

Then a classic shot of Sky…

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She is always begging for cookies or kisses!

I’m so happy with how the girls did today. I haven’t taken them on a walk since we got back from Alaska on the 31st of August. They both listened well and didn’t miss a beat! It’s almost time for Sky to start pulling the travois… I can’t wait!!

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.

All four ponies have been so dirty. They are all itchy and were in need of a bath! So I hooked my hose up to the washing machine water so I would have warm water and lined them all up.

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Everyone was so patient waiting for their turn. Sky was the best about it all. I also clipped up her mane as it was heavy and thick. I thinned it for her and then bathed her. She likes to be pretty.

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On the left is Sky’s before Crypto Aero feed photo taken on May 23rd. On the right is Sky today, 52 days after I started her on it!

Then I bathed Bonnie. She did great! She had her moments, but was a really good girl. She’s been having some issues so I have her on an oiling regiment. After her bath I oiled her up. She smelled so good.

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On the left is Bonnie’s before Crypto Aero feed photo. This is the photo I saw when I knew I had to bring her home! On the right is her after 43 days on the feed.

Next up was Zorro. It was his first bath. He was awesome! He was curious and a little gentleman about the whole thing.

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Photo on the left is Zorro before the Crypto Aero and the photo on the right is after 52 days of being on the feed!

Last up was Captain Planet! He is a good boy too. He wasn’t sure at first and then settled right down when the water spraying him was warm and not cold. I’m telling you, they appreciate the extra effort and I think they are cleaner when warm water is used!

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Photo on the left is Captain Planet before starting the Crypto Aero feed, the photo on the right is after 52 days on the feed!

The ponies are all looking so great on the Crypto Aero feed! I’m thrilled with it. It’s so easy, no mixing this and that for one pony and a different set of supplements for another. They all have access to loose white salt, fresh water and forage 24/7.

The girls have started walking with me in the mornings. I walk my dog about 4-6 miles a day. The girls are just starting so I’ve shorted my walk to about 2-2 1/2 miles. We’ll work up to 4-6 miles plus trotting poles! Then I’ll restart Sky in cart. Once she is driving again we can do miles and miles of trotting and Bonnie can tag along behind the cart and get exercise as well.

The boys run around all the time. Zorro is very active and pushes Captain into playing. They are so much fun to watch and get lots of exercise too!

I have been using some form of a slow feeder for several years now. The entire time I had Billy he had feed 24/7. He had a slow feeder, a slow feed net and/or access to pasture.

Now that I have the minis I did not want that to change. Because I thoroughly understand the importance of a horse having access to forage all times of the day and night I knew I wanted that for my minis as well. I have three hay nets, the 70 pound bale nets to be exact.

Forage is the foundation of every equine’s diet and needs to flow steadily through the digestive tract. Gaps without forage can lead to ulcers, colic, behavioral issues, stall vices, gorging, choke, cribbing, and even laminitis. Truly, the only way to avoid these problems is to allow your horse steady access to forage, free-choice, all day and all night.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

Horses produce 1.5 liters of stomach acid every hour. Regardless of whether they are eating or not, they are producing stomach acid. This stomach acid can be responsible for stomach ulcers. Saliva can help balance out the stomach acid. Saliva is only produced when the horse chews. So having hay or forage in front of them 24/7 solves this.

Having access to forage also helps with colic. Especially sand colic. It’s been found that having hay in their system will help push the sand out better than the traditional Psylliuym.

Horses in a natural setting eat small amounts of forage as they wander in search of the next tasty morsel. They eat virtually all day and night, taking time to socialize and rest every so often for a few minutes at a time. When they know that they always have access to forage, they become calm and relaxed, rest more often, and walk away from their hay, knowing that it will still be there when they return. In other words, they “self-regulate” and eat only what they need to maintain a healthy body condition.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

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This is shot of my two dry lots. The mares have their own side in front and the boys have their own side in the back. Both dry lots are huge and encourage lots of movement!

It’s a common thought that horses using a slow feeder will be fat and lazy. If they are locked in a small area this is true! If they are not encouraged to move they will stand around and get fat. I am not a fan of using food restriction to manage weight. I think movement is the only way to regulate weight.

There are some horses, however, who gain weight very quickly when given forage free-choice. The reason has to do with the sluggish metabolic rate they’ve developed over time. When forage is parceled out only a few times a day, the horse responds by going into “survival mode,” where his metabolic rate significantly slows down in an attempt to conserve body fat. A cycle of ever-increasing obesity is created that can be reversed only through exercise and removing the hormonal fat-storing response that forage restriction creates.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

I’ve been witness to people wanting to try the slow feeder, but not having the patience to wait for their horses to self regulate. This can take time if your horse has been used to the starvation diet of one, two or three meals a day. It takes consistency on your part to make sure they are never without hay in their slow feed nets because if they are out for even 10 minutes their brain will switch back into starvation mode and you have to start the process all over again.

They need to be refilled frequently (unless a whole bale size is chosen). Horses who run out of hay (even for 10 minutes) will never get the message that hay is always there and will not self-regulate.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

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The girls checking to see if I’m going to give them any more food!

Another important point, from an equine body workers point-of-view, is to be sure your slow feeders are at ground level. Do not hang them so the horse has to reach up to eat. This is not natural for a horse and causes their jaws to misalign, as well as causing them to have to twist their head and neck when eating which causes the TMJ and the poll to go out. This is very painful and can definitely affect your horses attitude about being ridden or driven.

Chewing with the head low is more in line with the horse’s natural physiology, creating even pressure on the teeth and allowing the jaw bone to move freely in all directions. Furthermore, the muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and bone structure are not stressed when horses can grab hay in a straight downward motion. Eating with their heads down also protects their eyes and respiratory tract against mold spores and dust and provides for better nasal drainage.

 The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

My ponies look great having access to feed 24/7. They all got fat at first and then leveled out. Bonnie is still in the process of regulating, though she will walk away from the hay nets now and hang out. She and Sky can share a net without any food aggression at all. I am very pleased with how my ponies look and how calm they are about food.

Sky is a 13 year old mama. She hasn't been driven for about 7 years and has just been a pasture pet. I know that when I start driving her she will tuck back up again!
Sky is a 13 year old mama. She hasn’t been driven for about 7 years and has just been a pasture pet. I know that when I start driving her she will tuck back up again!
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Bonnie is a 4 year old easy keeper. She is still self regulating and will slim down when I start playing with her more.
Captain Planet is an 8 year old gelding who has always been a pasture pet. Even when he was on the
Captain Planet is an 8 year old gelding who has always been a pasture pet. Even when he was on the “starvation” diet of two feedings a day he looked exactly like this! He has been on a slow feeder for over 2 years now.
Zorro is the baby. He is a yearling and in his awkward gawky stage right now. Every day his belly changes depending on how much he runs around that day!
Zorro is the baby. He is a yearling and in his awkward gawky stage right now. Every day his belly changes depending on how much he runs around that day!

I have at least two if not three hay nets out at all times. I will toss out a flake here and there too. They also have access to pasture for no more than 4 hours in the early morning hours. I get up at 4:30 to let them out and bring them in by 8:30 to ensure they are not out when it starts to heat up and the sugars make their way up the grass stem. They are fed 1/2-3/4 of a cup of Crypto Aero once a day, in the morning as well.

With some patience and education you can be successful at using a slow feeder for your horses too!

Edited on 8/22/18:

After having the minis for almost three years I will say that the key to slow feeding successfully is making SURE your hay is low sugar low starch. DO NOT feed an alfalfa/grass hay 24/7. DO NOT feed an untested hay 24/7 without expecting your minis and ponies to get fat. They just will. Now that I have switched to all low sugar low starch hay my mini and ponies look really good. They still have bellies but they are no longer fat.

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Tonight Bonnie and I had a lovely play session. It was short and sweet, just the way we like them!

I focused on staying very calm and centered in my body first and foremost. I’ve noticed that Bonnie really doesn’t like to be touched so I figured the Friendly Game was a good place to start. If my hand offends her, I thought I would start with the stick and give her a little more room. She responded beautifully to this! Her ears were forward most of the time and she was really thinking and responding. Most importantly she was not REACTING!! I was so thrilled.

We moved onto playing with the bridge. Bless her, she thought I wanted her to jump it, so I kept it positive and didn’t reward for the jump, but kept smiling and using my “bridge” word which is “Good.” I decided to get her to look at the bridge a bit and placed a bunch of carrots there. I also wanted to work on getting her to see me pointing and begin to understand that when I point something is going to happen and it’s always good. Finally with lots of encouragement she began to understand that there were carrots ON the bridge and all she had to do was eat them. It was fascinating how long it took her to understand this! Sky understood immediately and ate many of the carrots. So funny! Once Bonnie started to look for my pointing finger she started to crunch up the carrots quickly. When she had this we walked away from the bridge and went to jump a log a few times.

I started to introduce her to the driving game and with a bit of encouragement she was starting to understand my intention of moving away from the pressure versus when I was playing the friendly game and she could just hang out. This pony is SMART.

When we went back to the bridge, she tried to jump it once and then I saw the light bulb come on and she put a foot on it instead! Whoot Whoot!! I asked her to get off the bridge and then to come back up and in a short time she offered BOTH front feet all by herself. JACKPOT! She got a handful of cookies for that.

We walked away from the bridge and I took off her halter. She politely turned her head for a couple of carrots. I put the halter and stick on the ground and went to move the bridge as I noticed there was a lot of grass growing under it, Bonnie was standing with the halter and stick and string, just investigating them. She nibbled on the stick some and nudged the halter around. She walked on all of it with her front feet and then finally came to see what I was doing with the bridge. Talk about a happy ending!!! I love when my horse stays with my and the equipment instead of hurrying away at the end of a session.

Smart smart Bonnie!

Today was worming day. I don’t like to worm very often, but both Captain Planet and Zorro have been vigorously rubbing their butts on the fences. They have permanent “blue butt” from the fence grease staining their bums. I am going to give baths today or tomorrow as well, but started with worming.

My main goal (besides getting the wormer INTO the ponies) was to walk away without having hurt any feelings or made anyone mad.

I waited until they were done with their feed. They each have their own feed area since they all eat at different speeds. Captain Planet thinks all the feed should be his as does Sky, so it’s just easier on everyone if they have their space.

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I went in with a halter and the wormer and one at a time, went down the line and wormed them! Captain Planet wasn’t too excited for me to put the wormer in his mouth, but he didn’t do much to avoid it. I just waited for him to settle and then slipped it into the corner of his mouth. He just stood there and allowed it so I squeezed some into him and then spent some time rubbing his forehead. He was calm when I took his halter off and stood to watch me worm Zorro.

Zorro didn’t want the plastic wormer to touch his mouth at first, but then when he found it didn’t hurt him, he put it into his mouth all by himself! So funny! I just squeezed the wormer in and he was calm as could be. He didn’t toss his head or anything. I scratched his itchy spots and let him go to move onto Bonnie.

Bonnie was a different story as expected. She needs tons and tons of friendly game to be confident with everything. So I went nice and slow, did lots of calm breathing and gave her lots of time to think. I would rub the wormer tube on her muzzle and when she could be quiet and not pull away or try to dodge it, I would remove the tube and wait for her to think about it. Then I moved onto putting my finger into her mouth, which she did NOT like at first, but quickly settled and let me just lay my finger in the corner of her mouth. Once she could handle that then I put the wormer tube in there and just let it sit there. She had figured out the answer was to be quiet so I removed the tube and let her process. Next I put the tube in her mouth and squeezed the wormer in! She made yucky faces, but didn’t pull away or even leave me when I took her halter off. I spent some time just standing by her and letting her process and think things over. She doesn’t love touching so I didn’t think that was the time to try to pet or scratch her itchies. When I went in to worm Sky, Bonnie stayed right by the fence and didn’t leave.

As I was working with Sky and the wormer tube I realized that I had forgotten to close the gate out to the pasture and the boys had gone back out to eat. Oops! Bonnie continued to stay by the fence and watch me with Sky. Sky has been wormed lots of times in her life and she played around with me a bit, but quickly settled down so I could slide the tube into the corner of her mouth. She took the wormer no problem and then I sat and scratched and scratched her tummy which is always itchy. She thoroughly enjoyed that!

I figured this was going to be a perfect indicator of how the boys felt about being wormed. I was going to have to catch them in the 10 acre pasture! I walked out and approached Zorro. He turned his head to me and let me slip the halter on, no problem! I took him back into the dry lot and then went back out for Captain. He turned and faced me, then walked straight up to me and put his head in the halter. I would say that was a successful interaction!!

Afterwards, when I was cleaning the dry lot, Bonnie was hanging out by me and the wheelbarrow. When I offered to scratch her chest, which she likes sometimes, she soaked it all up happily! Whoot whoot!! I would say the worming went over just fine.

Success!

And after, they all laid down in the manure pile for their morning nap….

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