Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fat little ponies

I think I've mentioned this before, that my husband got me this coffee cup as a gift.  It is very fitting now with all the ponies in my life.  Pony camp is closed this week for the break between sessions so I took my daughter to teach her how to do health checks.  She was very into it (for a bout fifteen minutes and then she got overheated by it being 90 degrees out but she still had to wear jeans and her helmet) and was hanging onto everything I said about what to look for and was actively going up to each pony and checking their eyes and looking them over for any injuries and watching the way they walk and if they were interested in us or eating their food. 

Thankfully everyone looked happy and healthy.  Except for Bandit who had a bandage on his hind leg but it looked like whatever happened had already been taken care.  As it was it turned out it was good timing because my co-worker came out to give Bandit a cold water bath for his leg and while I was holding him for her we got talking and she mentioned someone she knows who knows about essential oils for horses - something I'm interested in learning more about once I finish equine massage school. 

I was happy to walk into the pony pen and have lots of ponies come up to greet me.  Bugsy decided it was important to follow me everywhere as though I would magically suddenly pull a hay bag out of my back pocket.  I only worked doing chores four times but apparently that still made a big impression.  Tony Pony watched me every where I went until I approached him and then he came over to greet me and lean a little against me - until he accidentally made my keys (that were attached to my belt loop by a small caribeener) jingle and then he went tearing across the outdoor arena in a panic.  He wanted nothing to do with me after that, poor guy.  And I didn't have time to work with him to help him overcome his phobia of my keys, so maybe another time when he's not working, I'm not working and it's not 90 degrees out.

In other pony news, I started working with my friend's mini stallion, Rex.  He was the original "Fat Little Pony" last year but he's since gotten a lot more fit so he's more just a cute little pony now.  I think he has potential to be an excellent pony for pony camp next summer if he gets gelded and if he turns out to handle well and have good ground manners, so I got his owner's permission to take him out for walks and work with him on the lunge line as much as I want.  Since Maiden had her feet done yesterday and was a little sore today we left her out in the paddocks all day with her friends and she had her lunch out there and wasn't very interested in coming in.  So, after spending the morning with Girlfriend at her new pasture I went out to work with Rex.

I've always liked him because he is a very smart and sweet little guy.  It's pretty amazing how sweet and patient and gentle he is for a stallion.  I imagine if he was gelded he would make an excellent pony for the little tiny kids at camp if he had some ground work under his belt.  Today was my third day working with him on leading and on the lunge line and I'm very impressed with him.  When we were out walking today his first impulse is to dive for grass as soon as we walk by it, but I only had to correct him once and after that if I caught him in time and just said "Uh-uh" before he put his head down, he stopped trying to go for the grass and kept walking.  The big impressive feat was when I stopped in the aisleway outside the locker room and had to leave him in the doorway while I held onto the lead rope, but had to go part way in to reach my lunge whip.  There was a big bag of apples right under his nose on the floor right outside the door and he lowered his head to try and grab one and I corrected him, then ducked in to get my lunge whip and he just stood there not even trying to get to the apples.  I was so proud of him I gave him one of the apples as a reward and he happily chomped it down and got me and him all covered in green apple juice.

Lunging has been more of a challenge because he doesn't really know how to do it and has developed a bad habit of leaning way outside the circle and pulling with all his weight on the lunge line.  It's exhausting for me and can't possibly be good for his neck.  We're only walking right now because since he doesn't know how to lunge at all I figure we might as well just start at a walk and work our way up through the gates.  Yesterday I tried just holding a constant pressure on the lunge line when he pulled like that and letting up when he relaxed, but it didn't seem to be working very well and he seemed like he was purposely leaning onto the pressure of my pulling back against the lunge line.  So I asked Trainer K what to do and she said whenever her starts to pull give the line a good solid yank, then immediately let go and do that every time he starts to pull.  Only it's the timing thing of you have to do it right when he pulls and then you have to let up immediately and not put any more pressure on until he starts to pull again.  My first thought was "Wow, his owner is going to come out screaming at me when I end up yanking the lunge line on her poor horse over and over again every two seconds" but amazingly enough that didn't end up happening and it turned out to be very effective!  After a lunge session of mostly tug of war yesterday he actually went around the lunge circle really well today with only intermittent periods of pulling.  Of course he did other "I don't know how to lunge" things like suddenly stop and decide to wander off the other direction or stop, turn around try to get himself tangled and refuse to move.  But every time that happened, I repositioned him with the position of my body and using the lunge whip as an extension of my hand to guide him where to move and he would get back on track.  He ended up getting lots of pets and snuggles and another apple for his efforts today!

Tomorrow he gets the day off because I don't have much horse-time and it's going to be spent riding Maiden since I haven't gotten to do that since Monday.  She is continuing to do well.  And the farrier, who was out yesterday, said her feet have gotten significantly better.  I had noticed an improvement a couple weeks into the treatment with the thrush medicine so it's good to hear someone else sees that.  She's still got a ways to go - there is still a separation between the hoof and the hoof wall that needs to dry out/close up, but they're slowly but surely getting better.

Meanwhile Girlfriend is now on every day thrush medicine too.  Her hoof walls are all spongy and cracked and on her back hoof walls are flaking off near the bottom.  I asked my farrier just by the description what he thought it could be and without even thinking he said "White line disease" and when I looked horrified he said "Start treating her every day with the thrush medicine" and he has time to come out and look at her next week.  She also has a scabby fungus all over her belly and one of her back legs and a nasty cut on the inside of one of her legs that looks a couple weeks old.  So, she's been getting lots of grooming and some medicated washes and thrush medicine every day.  She seems to be enjoying all the attention and pampering.  She's also adjusted really well to her pasture and seems quite happy even though she's out there alone.  But she has Domino the mini in the pasture next to her and Rosie the German Shepherd, not to mention the three kids who live there and me coming out to baby her every day.  I heard mumblings from the pony camp director that at some point she was thinking of retiring the camp donkey and now I've got it in my head I need to figure out a way to be able to afford to have him come retire with me and live with Girlfriend.  But even if I didn't have to pay board for him that would end up being more feed to buy and more vet/farrier bills.  I should probably not even think of these things until I'm done with school.

I've struggled on and off for the last ten years over my self-image because after pregnancy and rheumatoid arthritis kicking my butt I have never gotten "my body back" and now I'm middle-aged and chubby and not at all the hottie I used to be.  In fact, I imagine that it would shock people that have only known me for the last couple years to think I ever was in fact a hottie-mchottie.  But slowly it has begun to dawn on me that I just don't care.  What is so much more important to me is that I'm very proud of how much I've learned in the last six years about horses and much I'm continuing to learn, and how well I am doing with where I'm at in my education with them.  And I'm proud of being a good parent, and I'm thrilled with where my life is at these days.  And I'm proud of how much physically stronger I am than I was ten years ago.  And I just don't care if I'm "hot" any more.  I never thought I would see the day where that was true but I'm incredibly grateful for it.  And I think having a passion to throw myself into has really helped me get over that shallow roadblock that took up so much of my energy for so much of my life.

And though I like this blog to be very anonymous I did want to share this photo of me and Rex from last summer.  You can't really see my face in it anyway so I think I'm safe! And Rex is just too darn cute not to show off!

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