Today my Handsome Hubby went out with us so we got some fun video footage. Zorro was a cheeky little guy today which was fun! I also love them to get some of that out of their system in the travois and not in my cart. LOL.

I have heard of people that had their pony do so well in the travois one or two times that they then decide to go ahead and hitch to the cart. In my opinion this is doing a disservice to the pony because they don’t have time to act out a little bit in the travios. I would much rather my pony buck and kick out in the travois than in my cart. I find that most of mine try it in the travois and find that it’s

  1. Hard and
  2. Can hurt when they kick the cross bar.

So typically they decided NOT to do that. Now if you have a horse that either skipped the travois all together and then started bucking in cart OR started bucking in cart and you go back to the travois, sometimes they have a hard time breaking that habit. In that case I have put a 2 x 6 board across as my cross piece instead of the 1/4″ PVC pipe so it’s a bit more sturdy. And when they kick that board they typically decide not to do that anymore – provided they are kicking from a misunderstanding or because they are being cheeky. It’s important to note: This does not work on a horse that is kicking because it’s afraid!!! That is a whole different blog post.

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So Zorro will pull the travois and hopefully spook some, have a little run off with it, go off roading and jump some sage bushes, cross some ditches, and if it wasn’t winter, we would find some water to cross as well. I will have him canter with the travois and hook it on gates, I’ll kick it as we walk and if I feel the need he will drag some things behind it. Typically noisy things don’t scare him so that probably won’t be necessary. I want him to be dragging the travois when the ranch horses decide to come thundering up to us beside the road. They like to do that at a gallop and there are 8 or 10 of them. So that’s always waaaayyy too exciting. I would like these things to happen in the travois so when we are in cart and things happen, I know how he is going to respond and what I need to do to set him up for success! It’s a great way to check for holes in your ground work that’s for sure!

Watching Zorro over these past three months, as we have started really working on ground driving, I decided it was time to do his first round of Hill Therapy.  Zorro was disconnected when he walked. His hind end and front end were constantly doing different things. He would drag himself up hills by his front end and not push much from behind.

Billy Blaze was in such poor condition posture wise when I brought him home that it drove me to do lots of research on what was the best way to help him learn how to use his body properly. Hill Therapy was the thing that came up most often. Billy did Hill Therapy often as a young horse and I watched him go from an ugly duckling to a handsome horse. He literally just unfolded and learned how to use his body properly. So I knew what could happen when done correctly.

Hill Therapy is about helping the horse find a better way to using his body. Here are a few simple guide lines:

  1. You need to remove all the things that could be causing the horse to change his posture and way of moving, namely the saddle and the rider. Or the harness or the bitting rig!!!

  2. You need to exercise the horse for a specific amount of time in a specific way so he can find his way to move more naturally again. In some cases the horse’s movement has been altered from the first day they ever carried a saddle and rider and over the years they have actually habituated to it, they’ve completely changed their natural way of moving even without a rider on them. They need to learn how to use their whole body.

  3. Hills are the best medicine. You don’t want a steep hill just an incline that encourages the horse to use himself more efficiently.  ~From the Parelli PDF

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Billy on the left before Hill Therapy… Billy on the right after Hill Therapy!

There are a couple of things I really like about Hill Therapy:

  1. It allows the HORSE to work through a few things on it’s own, without a lot of micro managing on my part. I find a small incline, preferably with some ‘stuff’ he has to manage while on the circle and then I send him out there to muddle through. The only thing I worry about is direction and forward motion. I don’t care what gait he does, walk, trot, canter or gallop, as long as he continues going forward to the left… or to the right.
  2. I get to actually watch him improve from one session to the next. Zorro went from banging into the end of the rope, leaning heavily on the halter, galloping madly if he got confused, tripping over his own feet… to knowing where the end of the line was, no leaning on the halter, searching for relaxation (and looking at the grass!), and watching where he was putting his feet in just a few sessions. Once he was consistently paying attention to his feet, then I added in a few obstacles, such as more sage bushes and a small hill and ditch he had to maneuver.
  3. You don’t need an actual hill to do Hill Therapy! LOL! That sounds crazy, but I live on a relatively flat pasture. There is a slight incline here and there. But there are plenty of old irrigation ditches, sage bushes, piles of rock, some logs and lots and lots of gopher holes for him to learn to navigate. I did NOT start out in the difficult areas with him as he needed a few sessions to learn to manage working on the end of the 22′ line before he could pay attention to the holes and all the bushes. But once I felt he was ready I tossed as much stuff at him as I could and watched him really put effort in. It was beautiful.

Here is a video of Zorro’s second Hill Therapy Session:

I write in this video about how unorganized he was while going around but also how he is wanting to stretch down more than he did in the first video.

When watching the first video I posted of Zorro doing his very first session, someone had commented that it looked like I was shaking my rope at him when he lowered his head, which of course would be the opposite thing you would want to do when the horse was searching for relaxation. But what was happening is, when he would lower his head the feather line would catch at the grass and bushes. I tried to manage that for him without causing a bunch of movement in the line, but it was simply the nature of the thing. You will often see me doing things a bit differently than other people because I work with what I have. I don’t have a perfectly groomed hill side to do this on, so I do it in my pasture. We both learn to cope!

This is his 5th Hill Therapy session and you can see some very nice things happening when compared to his second session above!

In this video I have added in a ditch crossing and a little hill for him to navigate because he was starting to get nice and organized.

As the sessions went on he just got better and better. I really enjoyed watching him move out and we could walk all over the pasture with him doing nice circles around me, navigating whatever I put in his path!

We will still be doing 2 sessions a week for three more weeks and I expect he will keep getting better and better! But for now here are a couple of before and after photo collages:

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photo on the left taken March 17th, photo on the right taken May 28th

I always felt like Zorro was shrugging his shoulders, tightening up his neck and making it appear shorter. It has always been very hard to get a good photo him because when I would stand him up he would automatically stand as he was on the left. When I stood him up the other day he stood with his neck long and beautiful!

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photo on the left taken March 17th, photo on the right taken May 28th

It’s amazing to me how much his shoulders have moved back and down! With this change his topline has started to level out a bit. I should re-measure him at his withers! Last time I measured him he was 39 1/4″ at the withers and 39 1/2″ at the top of his hip.

He is a bit chunky still… that belly!! But he has a shorter back than his mama which makes him a bit rounder in the rib cage. That will take lots and lots of hiking and trotting to help him slim down.

We have a lovely summer ahead of us with tons of ground driving and hiking opportunities. I am so excited to see how he continues to mature!!

 

I thought I would do an update of my tiny track and share how it’s working this winter.

I still love it. The ponies are moving around all the time. Right now they are not using the entire track because one side of it is a big, deep snow drift. Once in a while they will try to come down that side and I cringe the whole time they are floundering through it. It wasn’t so bad when the drift was soft but now it’s hard as a rock!

I feed at the opposite side of the track from the water so they have to walk a bit to get a drink. They all look very healthy and I have to fill the trough every 4-5 days which is about how often I filled it this summer so they are drinking enough. I have loose salt and magnesium in the shed so they have access to that at all times. Because it’s so cold and windy the chickens spend most of their days in the horse shed and then go back into their coop at night. Then the ponies use the shed at night… they are usually covered with sawdust in the mornings so I know they are laying down in there. They also lounge around in front of the shed when the sun is shining.

I put wind breaks around the track so they would have something to back up to when the wind really gets to blowing. If it’s 4 degrees out and the wind comes up to about 30 mph then it quickly drops to minus 10, 15 or even 20 degrees. They have two run in shed options but always choose to stand out in it. This morning the wind was blowing so much snow around that I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of me and I found them backed up to the hay stack in the far shelter. They typically don’t like that one when the wind is blowing because the roof is made up of tarps and they flap around a bit. But today they made an exception!!

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This is how they looked after I brought them over to the grain area so they could have their supplements. Even standing under the shelter backed up to the hay they were quite frosty!

It’s amazing to me how the morning can be so windy, freezing and snowy and then the afternoon is bright blue skies and beautiful! (The wind is blowing a bit so it is FREEZING out there!)

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This was in the afternoon! From the above photos to this!

All three of the ponies will get a bee in their bonnets and take off racing around and around the track. I love it when they do this! Bonnie and Zorro play with each other, chasing and bucking and rearing up to play bite. Sky watches them a bit annoyed but will run around the track on her quite a bit. I love watching them exercise in this way!

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Here is a little video of my track! There isn’t any music, just the sound of my feet in the snow and the wind, for those of you that read this while at work 😉

 

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I know I talk about listening on this blog often. I think it’s so important when you own animals of any kind to learn to listen to them, to understand them and to honor what they say.

I mentioned before that I have had several horses in and out over the spring and summer. Last year I still had Billy when I brought Sky and Zorro home. I had Captain Planet when I brought Sky and Zorro home as well. Sky had quite a lot going on when I brought her home. Much of it physical. But she also had a lot of adjusting to do. She came from my mom’s. They live in a subdivision but the houses are much closer to together than here. They have trees. LOTS of trees. We don’t have any. (Well I’m exaggerating. We have a few baby trees in the front yard.) We don’t have any pine trees or apple trees or bushes to provide cover. You can see for miles. On a clear day you can see many many many miles. This was unsettling for Sky and she spent many hours just gazing off into the distance and being on edge that first summer.

Winter came and went and Bonnie had several laminitic episodes that caused Sky great stress. Sky gained quite a bit of weight as Bonnie went through her agonizing lameness. Bonnie got skinnier and skinnier and Sky got fatter and fatter.

I had a few of my grandmother’s horses come in in the early spring. This caused quite a bit of stress as the filly picked on Sky all the time. The summer went on with Bonnie continuing to be laminitic and then full on foundering. Sky continued to gain weight and Bonnie continued to lose weight.

Then I brought home another mare that had been my grandmother’s. Sky and this mare had lived together for years at my mom’s so I thought she would be happy to have her back in her herd. Boy was I wrong! The mare, Essie, bossed Sky all over the track and wouldn’t let her in the run in shed. I put together another run in shed and thought maybe Sky and another horse or two could use that but it ended up that Sky was pushed out of the herd and had to use it all by herself. This was so hard to watch! I hoped they would work it out over the winter.

Then I had a gal contact me interested in buying Captain and I told her about Essie as well. It’s so much easier for a horse to settle if they have a companion. She wanted one for a pet, Captain, and one her kids could ride, Essie! It’s amazing how these things work out as I had decided to keep both Captain and Essie. Around this time I also had the opportunity to bring home another pony that I trained to drive years ago and have always really loved. So I was trying to figure out how to feed and care for 6 ponies over the winter.

It wasn’t until Essie and Captain left that I realized just how stressed I was feeling! Not only that, Sky’s demeanor changed immediately –  like, overnight! Before they left Sky had been being difficult to catch, she didn’t want to drive, she was cranky all the time, ears pinned, stomping around in a huff. She was spooky and exciting to drive, but I knew she wasn’t happy. The day after they left she came trotting to me, nickering, eyes bright and gave me kisses. She followed me around and when I came in with a halter she met me at the gate.

I am paying attention to how all three of them handled the loss of Captain and Essie; Zorro was a bit stressed to be without his brother, but both Sky and Bonnie are much happier, calmer and more content without them. This helped me decide not to bring home the new pony for driving. I don’t want to disrupt the peace and quiet. Everything feels so sweet right now. I think we’ll just love where we are!

Today was the day to bathe and trim and clip some ponies around here! I love having nice, neat, clean ponies. Then I can stand back and admire them. There is just so much to admire!

And of course here are some before and after photos!

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First up is Sky! The before photo is from this spring. I thought she was fat then… and yet she looks fatter now! I do love how her topline is rounding out with all the driving we are doing. I can not believe she can be so round with all the exercise she is getting. I feed all the ponies 2 flakes of hay in each of the 4 hay nets plus 2 flakes of loose hay spread out on the track. That’s it in a 24 hour period! And they always have hay left over in the nets. Sometimes they have loose hay left over as well. So they don’t eat everything in site. Sky gets 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy hay pellets topped with 1 teaspoon of Thyro-L and California Trace. I just recently bought some Mojo to address her soreness. I have been thinking that maybe she is getting arthritis. So I’ll slowly add that in. I won’t feed her California Trace at the same time I’m feeding the Mojo because I don’t want to double up on things. We drive 4-5 times a week between 3 and 4 miles a drive. Sometimes we take Zorro and sometimes we go alone! We have only been able to fit in the one hike so far. Life got so crazy and both my truck and my Tahoe broke down so I didn’t have a tow vehicle to get the to the mountains. But the Tahoe is fixed so maybe next week we’ll go hiking! I did have her blood drawn when I had Bonnie’s done and everything came back totally normal. I don’t understand why she won’t lose weight.

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Next up is Bonnie! If you look closely at the summer photo you can just see her ribs. She is completely losing her topline. No hiking, no muscles! She is getting a bit of a belly and I wish I could give her more protein but I have to be so careful because she doesn’t utilize protein very well. She is bright eyed and loves being out on the track all the time with the rest of the ponies. She walks, trots and canters around all the time, snacking on the little things she comes across. So far so good! I keep my fingers crossed all the time. She is getting the same hay as above and I just lowered her back down to 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy pellets, 1 teaspoon of Thyro-L, and 1/2 a scoop of California Trace mineral. The only exercise she gets is life on the track. I don’t want to cause any mechanical founder by taking her out on the road.

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Now onto Zorro! Boy does he looks good!!! I wish every single one of you could come here and see him in person. He really is a stunning boy. It’s very hard to get him to be expressive in these photo shoots as nothing startles him or causes him any surprise at all! He stands there sighing and so bored no matter what I throw at him, plastic bags, umbrellas, buckets of grain, the cat, Angus…

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He just thinks it’s all so NORMAL and BORING. I got the expression in the above collage by showing him a peppermint with the wrapper half ripped so he could smell it. Then he got to spend some time licking it….

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He loved it!!

Zorro is such a wonderful boy. I keep saying that but it can’t be said enough. When I go outside I can call his name from anywhere and he will come running to me. If I go out to catch Sky for a drive and don’t take him he tries to body block me from getting to her. He stands at the gate with his head resting on the rails just watching us get ready. If I do pick him he is so so happy! He loves going out no matter what it is we are doing. Sky does kicks his butt when driving because she loves to trot and trot. He does his best to keep up but is very relieved when we get to walk a little bit. He is still a baby. He’ll grow into himself! He gets the hay listed above and 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy hay pellets and 1/2 scoop of California Trace.

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Last but not least is Captain Planet! The track life has made such a difference in him! WOW!! Also roaching his mane was a really good idea. He is heavy but he is built to carry it. He has signs of being IR or at least metabolically challenged so I treat him as such. He gets the same hay as above and 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy pellets and 1 scoop of Remission. He is a pet and a companion and does that job perfectly! He and Bonnie will pick on each other a bit. It’s actually funny to watch them. He knows all the buttons to push to make her chase him! But Bonnie doesn’t put much effort into being mean so it’s over almost as soon as it starts.

I just to love my track and so do the ponies!

 

We went on a beautiful morning hike today. I brought Sky and Zorro. I’ve hiked with Sky around our house and into BLM but we haven’t been able to go up into the mountains until today. And Sky is a hiking MACHINE!!! She absolutely LOVED it. Zorro, on the other hand, looked pretty miserable until we were going downhill. LOL! He was so funny. I think he was pouting because he had to wear bear bells. But they both sounded so happy walking and trotting up the trail… even if Zorro was making faces!

Turn up your volume for the video!

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Sky felt like she should be the leader. So if my boys were ahead of us on the trail she was literally dragging me up the trail to be in front!

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We were standing on the side of the mountain. Zorro looked longingly down the mountain.

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Sky is a wonderful trail horse. When we got into the thick rocky areas she would lower her head and really watch where she was putting her feet.

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Her miniature horse back pack was awesome! I am loving it. I need to save up and get at least one more. That way when we all go hiking the minis can carry our lunch, our water and our sweatshirts.

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At the top of our climb the trail opens up into a lovely meadow. That was our destination today, just a short hike to start Zorro out. Once there I let them graze for a little while.

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Then we started back down the trail! Zorro had a few moments of confusion and rebellion. Interestingly when he is having a little fit he will throw himself down on the ground. We had another mini that used to do that when we made her mad! LOL! It’s an experience! My boys and Sky watched him having his temper tantrum with interest. Finally he was ready to just walk or trot straight down the trail while not body slamming either myself or Sky. Phew! I’ll bet the next time we go hiking, next week, he will follow the trail perfectly! This boy learns things so quickly.

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We have to cross the creek to go up this trail. There is a nice bridge and with a little time to think about it Zorro walked across beautifully! Sky confidently stepped right on and strode across… no thinking needed! LOL On the way back down I wanted to let them look at the water. Zorro was very interested, Sky just wanted to eat.

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Zorro walked right up on the bridge on the way back across! Smart boy! They both were watching the water. I love Sky’s ear in the photo below…

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What a wonderful way to start the day! The plan is to take the ponies on a hike once a week until the snow flies. It’s a great way to exercise them as well as get my boys out of the house and off their computers 😉

 

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Clean girls. Bonnie stood with the cold hose running for about an hour while I trimmed everyone else up. She could stand in or out of the water but she chose to stand in it!

We had a beautiful day today. Lots of sunshine, a little rain and temps soaring into the high 70’s low 80’s. The perfect day for bath day! I caught all 5 ponies and they practiced patience while being tied.

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These boys. They are so cute! Chantelle was tied to the left of Zorro, but inside the fence. I wasn’t sure if Zorro would be studdy so I just gave them a little space.

First I trimmed all of their feet (except Bonnie! I just trimmed her two days ago), then I gave them all a nice warm bath using the water from our washing machine hook up, then I wormed them all (except Bonnie because I’m not sure about using wormer on her until she is healthier).

I was totally blown away by how Bonnie, Zorro and Captain Planet handled the bath. Bonnie was so confident and quiet while I sprayed her. Last year I spent a lot of time helping her feel confident with the hose and it really paid off! I could hardly believe how calm she was! Then Zorro. He was awesome. He just keeps proving himself over and over. I just LOVE that horse! Captain Planet will do anything for a cookie so he was happy to stand quietly as long as I gave him a cookie now and then. After his bath I roached his mane and oh my gosh!!! He is adorable!!!

Chantelle, the new pony from my grandma, did awesome. I don’t think she has ever had a bath but she handled it very well. I truly love these Cal babies! (Chantelle is Zorro’s half sister, same sire.)

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Aren’t they so cute together! Zorro was a perfect gentleman so I think his testosterone is running low! Whoot whoot!
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Chantelle is adorable. I was taking photos by myself today but when I clip her up I’ll get some good ones! She is about 33″ tall and so refined. She has legs for days!!

Of course Sky was a good girl about her bath. She loves the warm spray and shows me all her itchy spots so I can thoroughly spray them. All the ponies were so shiny after their baths! It was hard to tell when they were dry. I wish the camera would capture that healthy shine they have!

Just a fun day of grooming and pony maintenance!