Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another Good Work Day

A nice belly scritch before saddling up.
Free longe was pretty cooperative.
Maddie knows the head down cue, but doesn't always like to hold the position--this was nice.
Just a little longeing on the line.
I'll spare you the butt-shots, but notice that the photographer was free to shoot pictures--no one was at Maddie's head for mounting.  (Al was, however, kneeling and shooting up at us--her head was not nearly as high as this angle implies.)
Both of us were nice and relaxed.  Until...
Maddie did a little scoot-spook.  Then...
The next several shots had me in a tug-of-war with her face.  I had to remind myself to trust her, and get off her mouth.
But we ended up relaxed again--some neck rubs.
And a loose rein dismount.
Look who else got to come out and play for a bit!  Beth!

And she played HARD for about 20 minutes!
But she finally settled.
Hi, Sweetie-Pie.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Woo-Hoo! We DID It!

Last night after Ryan's successful work with Maddie, I realized that if I wanted Pat's help the first time I got on Maddie myself, that it would have to be today: Pat is leaving early Saturday to spend 10 days at the Oregon State Fair with her 13 year old granddaughter, who drives draft horses for a friend.  Pat said, yes, she could use a little break from packing the camper.  (Her husband, hearing only one side of the conversation, asked "You're not going riding, are you?!?"  Pat assured him that she would only be coming down for a bit.) It's important to note that my husband, though willing to help (and pick up the pieces if need be) is not really a horseman, and wouldn't have the instincts to respond if Maddie decided to have issues.
So this morning I saddled up, with little to no melodrama, and was free longeing in the round pen when Pat drove up.  Maddie and I had just worked through a little "catch-me-if-you-can"--which is ironic:  Maddie's always been a little hard to catch in the paddock, and it's the one thing we've been working on, fairly successfully, this summer.  But in the round pen, it seemed that Maddie thought that every time I approached her, she was to move off again.  Now, after circling and changing directions [often] for 30 minutes, once she let me approach her and rub on her face, she got to air up and rest.
I put on her bridle and we circled a few more times each direction, and then I walked right up to her.  Maybe she's figured that part out.

I led her to the mounting block and Pat held her head, more for a security blanket than anything.  I upped and downed a bit, then threw my leg over.  Got off, got on.  Pat walked beside her the first few circuits of the pen, then unsnapped the lead, an slowly backed off, over the next turn or two.
Maddie and I walked.  We reversed. We whoa-ed.  We jogged.  We were both a little tense, but I focused on keeping my hands light.  I asked Pat to grab my camera to record the event.  The battery was dead.  She stood at Maddie's head while I dismounted, all the way to the ground.  No problem. (Pat had been here the day of the graceful departure Maddie and I had back in May, and the subsequent re-mount and 20 minutes of trying to dismount again without panic.)
I ran in the house and got Al's camera.  Remounted and walked off, while Pat got some photos.
"Are you sure you wanna do this, Mommy?"
"Sure, Maddie.  Let's go!"
Rubbing on her.  Although her head was higher than I would prefer, for the most part she was pretty relaxed.
The head came up again when I went to dismount, but other than that, no reaction.
Now we can both breathe again!
Good girl, Maddie. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Maddie Makes a New Acquaintence

Maddie.  I'd like you to meet Ryan.
Maddie.  It's time for you to grow up.  And Ryan's going to help you (since your Momma has gotten all wussified).

I met Ryan briefly back at the Milwaukee Rail Trail endurance ride, when I first met Aarene of Haiku Farm, live-and-in-person.
It was also the first day that Maddie threw her big fits about both being mounted and dismounted.  The former, I was willing to chalk up to Aarene being new, and Maddie never being mounted from the ground before (as this old lady is the only one who had ever mounted her at all).  But when she skittered out from under me when I was dismounting, I knew something was up.

Two weeks later, we had my unscheduled dismount, that just served to scare Maddie more--not to mention me.  Although I've done a little ground work with her since then, when it came time to throw a leg over, I just couldn't quell the unease in my tummy.
So Maddie has been standing around for two months, waiting for me to figure out what to do.  I wasn't sure I could ever trust her again, but I wouldn't sell her without resolving the issue.

Commenting on one of my posts where I mentioned this impasse, Aarene suggested that her young friend Ryan had worked with her temperamental mare Fiddle, and had a quiet but firm way about him.  He also lives not far away, here on the dry side of the state.  It took us a while to connect (Ryan being a 21st century kind of guy, of the FaceBook generation, and me, being firmly stuck in the 20th century age of land-lines).  But he made it out this morning to "consult" with me and Maddie.

In anticipation, I have been working with Maddie some more for the last several days, essentially starting from square one:  sacking her out ("I've never seen that saddle before!"), ground work ("What? I'm supposed to follow you willingly?"), round pen work ("Yeah.  Look at me race around in circles!"), and mounting block practice ("You can't make me stand there if I don't want to!").  Last night's session was good enough that I almost climbed on...

Ryan started with quite a bit of ground work, asking Maddie to relax and give him her eye.  Considering how out of shape she is (remember, she's been standing around for two months), it took a little bit.  But Ryan was very patient, and eventually she was willing to give him a chance to partner with her.
He started to weight the stirrups and then went to step up, and Maddie's eyes got pretty big!  I reminded him that she had never been mounted from the ground, so, not to push her too hard this first day, he headed to the mounting block, and stepped up, but didn't swing over.  Maddie was tense, and he felt like she could blow, but he just went about up-ing and down-ing for a few more minutes until she relaxed.  Then he climbed on board.
And off again.  And on, and off.
She was tense, and Ryan was pretty sure she would hump up on him, but he asked her to move out, and, although still fairly stiff (note the clamped tail below), she complied.
They walked and jogged for maybe ten minutes, then we called it good.
The dismount was uneventful, showing how far she'd come in just about an hour's time.

Ryan and I talked about him maybe taking her on for 30 days, not only to get past this issue, but also to fill in a few holes in her training that I haven't gotten to (her lope especially needs practice).  He doesn't have an opening for two weeks, so it was agreed that I would work with her these next couple of weeks and see how far we can get.  Just the last week of regular work seems to have been a step in the right direction.  And now that I see that she won't necessarily explode when mounted, I feel better about maybe trying it myself.  If I'm okay with her for the time being, I'll haul Beth down to his place instead, to get her a little farther along, so that maybe I can get her sold before winter.

All in all, it was a momentous day:
first ride since May;
first rider other than me;
and no fireworks!
We'll see how Maddie and I do on our own.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

You've Come A Long Way Baby [Boy]!

Mikey on Echo, at 2-ish (Spokane).
As mentioned in my last exasperated post, grandson Mike [no longer "Mikey"--he's 6 foot 3 these days!] is here for his annual visit to Grandma Laurie's Farm.
Mikey on Misty at 8 1/2 (that's Maddie in tow).
With Kate's unscheduled time off, we've gotten a lot of work done this week, to be chronicled in a later post.
But we finally decided Kate was sufficiently recovered for us to go out for a little ride.
Almost normal nose (Maddie stepped up to show what "normal" looks like).
Still a few tender cracks--sort of like really chapped lips.
Don't know if the little scar under her eye will eventually return to black.
Mama Misty is responding really well to her new medication for her mild navicular syndrome--She moved out really well (almost to well, until Mike asserted himself) and I only saw one or two bobbles.  I had put the girls' Cavallo Simple Boots on her, but they were a little big--I found a slightly rubbed spot on one heel bulb.  We'll try the pastern wraps, or some vet wrap to protect it before we go out again.
Other than ponying Brenden around last month, Misty hasn't really done anything but raise babies in a loooong time.  But Mike learned all his basics on her, until she started gimping on the fronts three years ago.  So they were soon reacquainted.  I was really pleased that Mike's form was pretty good, though he only gets to ride the couple of weeks that he's here each year.
Warming up in the arena.
Then in the front pasture.
Headin' out.
Along the ditch road.
After a little bit of an argument about going between the "matching" waterfalls at our irrigation take-out point, Kate reluctantly led--for a bit.
Then Mike and Misty took over.  There is a pond behind those trees, and we will sometimes encounter ducks or other wildlife in this corner of the property.  Those are some of my baby aspens near the fence line.
One hundred feet further and we're back in the desert!
Through the south gate (more baby trees in the background).
Follow the leader over my telephone pole obstacle.
Oops! Snuck out the side.
"Keep her in the middle, Mike."
It took a couple of tries, and Mike's determination, to get Misty to walk down into the "pond" (no water right now).
Kate and I went up the steep side.
Mike's not fond of "big hills," so he and Misty came out of the pond via the more gradually sloped side.
And over a railroad tie.
You may have noticed that there are photos from two different perspectives.  Grandpa Al had snuck out of the house to document our journey.
Look, Ma.  No hands!
The watcher in the wood.
It was a great little "warm-up" ride.
We're going to try to get out with Pat Monday morning, before I return Mike to his home in Spokane on Tuesday.  In the meantime, he and I have one more project to complete, so I gotta go!