Wednesday, September 24, 2008

the week thus far

We've got a pony getting ready for an October full of Pony Club happenings. My daughter is keeping him busy with riding and practice loading onto the trailer. She loaded him 3x on Monday, and by yesterday afternoon's third time he walked onto the trailer with her without a halter or lead rope and stood there until she asked him to get off again. Pretty amazing, considering last year this time he was just recovering from some trailer trauma imposed by a few folks who thought forcing a pony onto a trailer with a rope behind his butt and waving a lunge whip around was the right way. We like ours better.

The pony has his second acupuncture treatment today. I think we are already seeing some change in his demeanor and movement. I'm eager to see how he does after this second session.

We have a donkey who has figured out he can ROLL even with his cast on! Rafer Johnson lowered himself to the ground two nights ago and proceeded to do his favorite donkey grooming duty. I was shocked to see that he managed to get the casted leg up and over so he could rub both sides of his body in the dust. This Friday marks the 3-week point since he was cast - halfway - and the plan is to radiograph and re-cast at 6 weeks with something smaller. My secret hope is that he will be so healed we might not need another cast at all. We'll see how it goes!

Keil Bay and Salina got chiropractic work on Monday. It wasn't supposed to be Keil Bay's turn, but as usual, he backed his big rear up to the stall wall and convinced me he needed a look. And as usual, the Big Bay knows his body and knows when he needs something. He had several fairly major things out, and he closed his eyes and let the chiropractor do her job. By the end, he was smiling.

Salina had one big thing out and she too was smiling by the end of her adjustment.

The chiropractor and I decided that when Rafer's cast comes off she'll take a look at him to make sure things are in place.

Cody did a wonderful job free-lunging on Tuesday, and also getting loaded onto the trailer. With all the characters we have in this herd, Cody is the picture of reliability and balance. No drama. Just doin' my job, ma'am. I think every herd needs a horse like Cody to balance things out.

Last night a cold wind blew in, and it's still here this morning. I was shivering as we sat in the barnyard, listening to Rafer Johnson and Salina grazing, while the geldings munched hay in the paddock. We listened to the night creatures, and my husband pointed out a satellite moving slowly across the sky. My daughter was talking about Halloween, and suddenly it felt like summer is truly gone.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I know what you mean. Last night my friend and I went riding in the dark and I was so cold, even with a jacket on, that my teeth were chattering. I miss summer :(

I would love it if you'd share your trailering expertise. I always enjoy learning different techniques, especially if they are kind and humane.

Way to go Rafer! He's one smart boy figuring out how to get done what he wants to do. I'm sure it makes you a ittle nervous, though. But animals always seem to surprise us, don't they :)

I hope you will post more about the Pony Club training and events, too.


billie said...

Lisa, we spent most of last summer simply asking the pony to stand by the open trailer door, and when he was relaxed doing that we progressed to having him load one foot. There were many days where all he did was load and unload one foot. Then two feet. Then the hind two as well. He was not allowed to pull back, but he was never pushed to load until he felt comfortable doing so.

It took a lot of time and even more patience. It was hard to imagine at the time how standing there holding his lead line while he looked into the trailer suspiciously was going to get us where we needed to be.

But the trainer we worked with promised us it would, and that the important task was to regain his trust and prove that we were on his side. It has paid off. He loads like a dream. He will load one foot at a time or he will walk on with confidence. He steps off the same way - face first, or hind end first, depending on what my daughter asks for from him.

Another important piece we learned is that if you load a horse into a trailer and tie them, it's very important that their butt is able to reach the butt bar so they can lean back and rest as needed. We don't have a pony-sized butt bar, so we no longer tie the pony inside the trailer. We actually took the divider out and allow him to travel free inside, so he can turn himself as needed to find his balance and comfort zone.

We also learned what I consider the very most important skill - how to say NO THANK YOU when people come up and ask "need some help getting that pony loaded?"

I will never again doubt my own instincts when it comes to this.

We keep the trailer in the barnyard and loading is a random but regular and low-key event. Often when they load they find a nice horse cookie waiting for them in the trailer manger. It doesn't have to be an ordeal.

Grey Horse Matters said...

That's a wonderful story about how the pony is learning to load and unload himself after his bad experience.
Rafer is a smart little guy, I guess if you're itchy enough you will find a way to roll. He's a smart little bugger, I secretly hope he will be healed at the next cast change too.
It certainly sounds like the rest of the herd is well aligned and balanced too.
It's sad to see summer go but autumn is great too.

billie said...

Arlene, it has gone from summer to fall here almost overnight. I'm glad for the change.