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!

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!

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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When I got Bonnie she was due for a hoof trim. I could tell by her feet that she had been living on soft ground. We have hard, rocky, sandy and dry ground here. If I didn’t trim her as soon as possible I was risking her soundness.

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So even though she had only been here two days as was still very skeptical of everything I was doing, I opted to trim her. I set it up for success as much as I could and she handled it very well.

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I believe she is innately a RBI (Right Brain Introvert). She wants to please me and tries her best. If she is worried she will spook, then freeze. If I wait for her she will come out of it on her own. If I push her she will blow up and become extroverted. She is highly reactive right now so my first responsibility is to prove to her that I am a person she can trust 100% of the time. As I build her confidence in me she will become more responsive and less reactive. The ultimate goal!

So I choose to move slowly but deliberately. I give her lots of time to think about the things we are doing. I wait for the lick and chew before I move forward in our sessions and the time between the scary moment and the lick and chew is getting shorter and shorter.

She came to me a “hard-to-catch” mare and now is one of the first to greet me. (It’s difficult to beat Zorro… he RUNS to me every time he sees me!)

Today when I trimmed her she was much more confident on her left side and very unconfident and spooky on her right. Most horses are and I’ve noticed this in our other sessions so I just worked more calmly and gave her more think time on the right side. We ended our session with a few carrot pieces and some nice grazing time. (And a little photo shoot!)

So onto the collages!

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As you can see above I was able to get even more toe off. I am very happy about this because the length of toe before was pulling her heel forward and putting pressure on her tendons. I have  LONG way to go still but we are getting there!

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Her toe on this side is very thick and bumpy. I’m not sure what is going on… maybe an abscess? An old abscess? I’m not sure but I’ll be watching that spot very closely. She will stand with her hind feet stretched out behind her often, so I’m interested to see if she stands more square after today’s trim as I was able to back her toes up quite a bit!

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I am very happy with her fronts. I got all the toe off that I wanted and she is standing much better.

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You can see that she needs to grow out that old bumpy, lumpy hoof. It was trying to flare out and pull away from her white line, so I’m so happy that I got her when I did!!

I love this little mare and can’t wait to see what we can accomplish once our partnership is set up. I will take the time it takes so we can have a long happy career together! One that we can BOTH enjoy!