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.

Bonnie came to me in seemingly good shape. She wasn’t fat at all. Her feet were not great and needed some TLC, but to just glance at her you would have thought she was healthy.

Now that she has been on the Crypto Aero feed for 75 days (2 months and 15 days) I can see that she wasn’t as healthy as I originally thought. I like my driving horses to have some body on them. She was thin, but didn’t have any muscle tone at all. After packing on some pounds (she’s a little fat!) she is starting to develop some muscle tone and is looking much healthier for it! It’s my opinion that people tend to keep their minis either too skinny or too fat. There are very few in the middle. Those that seriously drive their minis tend to keep them in better health. Because a thin mini can’t drive very far. Neither can a fat one!

I choose to manage weight with exercise instead of the starvation feeding program. So all of my minis are on the heavier side. However I believe this gives them a great place to start building muscle. The two girls and I walk 3-6 miles nearly every day right now. When I get Sky in cart we will trot 4-6 miles a day and both will slim down a bit but keep that round, blossoming look that I love so much!

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The photo on the left is before I trimmed her. Photo on the right is today. She was trimmed about a week ago. You can see all the new growth and how it is growing down from her coronet band in a healthy way. I wish I had grabbed this photo a bit further back so you could see how much healthier her heels are! No more underslung…
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Photo on the left is after her first trim. I was able to get all that long slipper foot off but she had a long way to go… photo on the right is from today, about a week after her last trim. What a long way we have come in a short time! I attribute this to Crypto Aero Feed and consistent trimming, plus lots and lots of exercise!
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Though at first glance most people would rather their pony look like the one on the top, however when you really get to looking at these two photos you can see just how round and blossoming Bonnie is now in the photo on the bottom. If I had asked her to stretch she still has that nice neck under there… But what I am loving is how round her shoulders are and how nice her butt is now. She is more balanced. I’m not too concerned about her neck. We aren’t showing after all and she will be able to stretch down and collect up when driving just fine. She is already doing this on our walks! I drive both the girls ahead of me down the road on one rein and Bonnie spends a lot of time stretching down and relaxing as we walk. Actually I should take another after photo now of her body as she has changed a bit more from all the exercise!

Sometimes we have to look a bit deeper and be willing to think outside of the box to understand just what makes a healthy horse. I write often about how I have my horses on 24/7 forage and just 1/2 a cup of Crypto Aero once a day. I truly feel I’m doing the best I can for my horses, keeping things as natural and close to nature as I can. And in so doing, I believe my horses reflect great health!

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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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!

If you have been reading my blog for very long then you know I LOVE before and after photos. LOVE them.

So, of course when I decided to start my ponies on a new feed called Crypto Aero I had to set up and take my before photos. I didn’t want to take a bad before photo because I want to really be able to see any differences that may occur this summer while feeding this. So I brushed and brushed the ponies, then trimmed their feet and had my boys come out and help set up some good conformation shots.

Sky's before picture.
Sky’s before picture.

These photos are also helping me decide what to DO with my ponies. I want to drive them all. Sky hasn’t yet decided if she wants to drive again so I’m giving her some time. She is cranky most of the time and is very worried about what is going on all around our little farm. She whinnies all the time and spends most of her time staring off into the distance. She hasn’t ever lived where she can see for so far and she is having a hard time adjusting. She is grumpy with me if I take her out to play right now. Some days she is very happy and bright and some days there is a definite dark cloud hanging over her head. I’m not in a hurry and won’t drive her if she doesn’t want to. This is more about having a nice partnership with my ponies than about what they can do for me.

Captain's before picture.
Captain’s before picture.

I’ve been really watching Captain Planet and have come to the conclusion that he is sickle hocked and both of his front feet are clubbed. He seemed much straighter and truer when he was young so I’m not sure what would have caused these dramatic conformation changes… He has been well cared for and feed healthy feed. No grain or extra supplements that can cause ligament issues. But because of these issues he probably won’t be very comfortable being a long distance driving horse. We have a long long way to go before he is confident enough to have anything behind him anyway… but isn’t he a cutie!?

Zorro's before picture.
Zorro’s before picture.

Zorro is very very nice. He has a nice length of neck, a lovely laid back shoulder, beautiful straight legs and nice feet. I’m so darn excited about him! He is very curious and wants to do things with me. Whenever he sees me he makes a beeline for me. He follows me everywhere and is always very helpful in scooping poop, brushing the other horses, putting out the hay nets, helping me with the other ponies. He isn’t afraid of much so if I can keep that confidence and just build on it I think he will make an awesome driving pony! He’ll be big enough that I can take him into the mountains and we can do parades and maybe even some CDE’s.

Blossom's (?) before picture.
Blossom’s (?) before picture.

I am getting my new mare this week and after a bit of settling in time I will begin to evaluate her as well. (I’m trying to decide what to call her. Her registered name is Ott’s Lil Booger… I’ve been calling her Blossom!)  I’m hoping that she will also make a great little driving pony so I’ll have two really solid ponies I can drive. Provided that they will enjoy it as well. I really am in this for all of us, not just me!

***I’ll write more about the Crypto Aero feed in another post! I’m so EXCITED about this feed!!!

We have making so much progress in our sessions! Today Sky, the little mama, did so great on our ground drive. She does very well as long as we are moving, but when we stop, she melts down into a temper tantrum. Today she was digging and digging and digging and when that didn’t work she started rearing! Once we worked out that little tantrum, I just had her move her feet whenever she wanted to. When she would start to slow down and look to me, I would have her move a little bit more, just to test our connection, then I would bring her in. Then off we would walk. She falls apart emotionally when we turn towards home, but is great when we are leaving. As soon as we turn towards home she is whinnying and calling for her baby and trying to drag me or run me over or muscle me in the direction she wants to go, which funnily enough is sometimes not the way to get home! I just keep her feet moving and do lots of pattern interrupt until she can connect again. Her connection time is getting better and longer. We do not go very far from home right now because she is not ready. We are just right outside the property on the public road for now, but we will get there.

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Captain Planet has improved by leaps and bounds. He leaves the farm without any calling for Sky or Zorro and doesn’t even look back as we go down the road. We play point-to-point to encourage him to put his head down. I have also taught him the head down cue so when I need him to relax I’ll ask him to put his head down. He will immediately blow out, lick and chew and reconnect when I do this. He is doing so awesome. We take lots of sit-down-eat-grass-breaks to reward him. He doesn’t like to be touched or petted, so scratches are not a reward.

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Zorro can hardly wait for his turn. When I get back to the dry lot he is waiting at the gate,  he stands quietly while I get a halter and walk in to get him. Today he actually put his nose in the halter all by himself. I LOVE this colt!  I spent some time brushing him and then we wandered all around the farm yard, checking out the horse trailer, the hay stack and seeing what Billy was up to. Sky will call a little bit but Zorro doesn’t even glance that way. I let him lead us around today and we just checked out lots of things that he hasn’t wanted to even look at before. He’s so brave and confident. And handsome.

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