Doc is wearing a halter!!!  

Posted by Serenity

I can't believe it after all that work the goofy boy is finally wearing a halter.  It won't be long before he comes back home.  Fred is a different case.  She will take longer than he did to get over her fears of us humans.

Video Of Clicker Training With Doc  

Posted by Serenity

My daughter braved the cold and shot a little video of Doc and I during a short training session.  He is really becoming receptive to my touch.  I was actually a little bit surprised at how much he allowed me to pet him.  His favorite rub spot is still his poll, he will even let his ears flop him you rub him right.

He likes playing with the bandana on the end of the dowel rod so hopefully a few more sessions and his head will be pretty desensitized and he will allow a halter.   

Clicker Training! Day 2  

Posted by Serenity

I did a little research in the morning to make sure that I wasn't missing anything.  OOPS!  I have been doing it wrong.  It should be click then treat not treat while clicking.  That does make more sense.  After work I will have to try it again.  Hubby has agreed to help run the colts into the round pen this weekend.  I am so hopeful that I can get closer to them the easier way.

When we got home I decided that the kids could come help with the chores while I took the feed buckets to the far end where the round pen is and see if I can coax one of them in.  It was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  Doc followed me right in and he was all alone BONUS.  Now that I have him here it is time to teach him.  All I have to do is remember it's click then treat.  It worked wonders.  By the time his session ended he was following grain in my pocket, around the pen.  I guess he forgives me at least a little bit. 

Fred's turn.  She will be the difficult one to convince since she really doesn't care much for the grain if it means getting close to a people.  Or so I thought.  Fred had been watching Doc and I and I guess she decided that she wanted to get in on that action.  I opened the gate to let Doc out and Fred went in.  It couldn't have been that way if I had planned it.  Fred spooked the first few times I clicked but all in all it went well she was eating from my hand and letting me rub her nose a bit.  I think I am gonna like this clicker training thing.

I fed Fred in the round pen while I held the bucked close against me.  This way the other two could finish their dinner without her stealing from them.  After she was finished I opened the gate and walked out with her bucket.  Fred walked out and of all things Amira walked in for her turn.  Oh dear I hadn't planned on that.  I only had enough treats for the colts not the 19 year old trained kids horse.  Fred and I played a bit.  I started jogging and she trotted with me.  I stopped and she stopped pretending to be uninterested in what I was doing.  Amira was still in the round pen.

I went back to chase Amira out so I could shut the gate and Fred walks in.  Who would have thought that my biggest problem wouldn't be getting them in, but getting them out instead LOL.  Amira absolutely refused to leave the round pen until she got her clicker training session.  I had to convince her that I would give her a session tonight before we leave for Girl Scouts.  So much for Clicker training being a quick thing in the cold I am up to 45 minutes of round pen work between three horses.  But they are all lining up for this and you really can't beat that.

Clicker Training! Day 1  

Posted by Serenity

It has been weeks since I last tried to work with the horses (regardless of the date of my last post) and nothing I have done has brought me any closer to them.  It has been too cold for round pen training.  Neither myself nor the horses need that kind of exposure right now so it's time for some creative thought.  What method could I use that won't require me to spend a lot of time out in the cold and won't get the horses all worked up.  Aha!  I remember a friend telling about a method that she was going to use for an unruly horse of hers.  It just might do the trick while it helps me rebuild the trust I lost with Doc.  CLICKER TRAINING!

Time for some research on how.  Every website I went to and video I watched show this as being a low stress method for both horse and trainer.  I like that.  I also like the fact that this method is built on positive reinforcement rather than negative.  I can see the value of having a way to tell my horses every time  they do what I want rather than punishing them whenever they do the wrong thing, which they will often do.  I can even get them started while it's cold since most sites suggest limiting the first few sessions to about 5 minutes each until the horse learns that Click = Treat and we all know that Treat = Good.  I trained my dog in much the same way only we didn't use a clicker.

The part that concerns me is that there will come a time when It is not practical to continue using the clicker.  Will my horse stop responding to me when I start phasing it out?  Or will they behave like the dog and continue doing the tricks in the hopes that the next one will be the magic treat one?  I guess time will tell.

I bought my clicker on Monday and eagerly took it out to the corral with me during feeding time.  This seemed to be the most logical time to introduce them to is since they usually get fed at this time and they will be expecting food.  It's an easy way to get their attention.

Fred is first up.  I grab a handful of her grain and thrust it into the corral waiting expectantly for her to decided to try it.  Fred eventually stretches her neck out far enough to reach my hand, she must be part giraffe.  As she takes the food from me I click my clicker.  Of course she spooks and starts to run away, but the promise of more food is just too much for her to resist and she doesn't go far.

After trying this several times I put her food bucket in its holder on the post and wait fore her to stick her head in and I begin clicking again but only for a short time span.  It's Doc's turn now.  I repeat the process.  Doc doesn't really care about much of anything I guess.  The sound of the clicker had no effect on him at all.  Well It's Amira's turn and with all the time I took with Doc I will have to stand by Amira so she can get her full ration without the kids pushing her out.  Sounds like a good place to stop for the night.  I smile back at the kids thinking that this might just be the method that will work for us and our situation.

We Have a Round Pen!!!  

Posted by Serenity

It didn't take me too long to decide that I may be in over my head with the colts.  I am not as young, fast, or skinny as I once was.  I often find myself asking "What was I thinking?  Will I really be able to ride these horses before my son leaves for college?"  The answer I initially come up with is no, but then the former horseman in me takes over and convinces my skeptical self that I have done it before and I am more than capable of doing it again.  This time I have a skill set that I never had before.  Something that can only come with age and experience.  I rarely ever use this skill, but all I need to train these horses is a little more patience and understanding.  HAH!

I have been patient trying to warm my way into their hearts through their bellies, but spring is almost here and I still can't even pet them much less get a halter on.  Time for a more aggressive approach.  Hubby has been threatening to just rope them and prove who is in charge.  Perhaps it's time to let him give it a try.

So we marched out to the nearly arena sized corral with our rope and grain bucket in hand.  Now I must say that I have never enjoyed the thought of roping a horse though I have done it once before for the horses own protection so I was a bit apprehensive about this decision.  I trust hubby, probably more than I should, but I want him to be a part of this.  That was my first mistake.  Who in their right mind trusts a roughie to gently train a horse?  The decision was mine and mine alone being the one with the most experience breaking, riding, and showing horses.

We decided on Doc for several reasons. 1) He is the smaller one of the two. 2) He is the stud and we need to have control of him before food is no longer his main driving force. 3) He is mine and I wanted to start with him.  Getting the rope on him was so much easier that getting the rope off.  The ensuing battle is one that I will not easily forget.  After watching my beloved baby thrash around and fall to the ground numerous I didn't feel that I could call myself a horseman any longer.  I had become little more than an old time cowboy.  With little regard for my horse and the trusting partnership that we so desperately needed to create.  To put it simply I LOST MY NERVE.

Doc fell to the ground one last time and I saw an opportunity for redemption.  If we could just get on his head we could hold him down and show him he had nothing to fear all the while taking the rope off his neck.  Enter my second mistake.  I honestly thought hubby knew what he was doing.  He always acts like it.  When I yelled out to get on him he started heading to jump on his back.  Doc is way to young to actually be ridden yet.  I pushed myself in the way and called out to get his head.  By that time it was too late.  Doc was able to get up and I was the only one holding the rope.  Not for long.

We chased that poor baby around our overly large corral for another hour or so before I decided that we were complete morons and deserved what we were about to get.  A horse that would never trust us again and the loss of one of the ropes that hubby inherited from his grandfather.

That night hubby went out and purchased two 10' panels to try to make a catch pen.  The very thing I suggested in the first place, before the rope debacle.  Early the next morning we attempted to force Doc into the rather small pen and after 3 hours with no sign of success, only more stress to my poor horse.  Hubby decided that it was time for a proper size catch pen and immediately left to buy more panels.

He returned a while later with several 12' panels which we craftily arranged in a circular fashion just outside of the corral.  We placed it in just such a manner to allow us to use on of the corral gates as a gate to the round pen and the corner posts as anchors for the panels.  Now we have approximately a 35' round catch pen that we will add panels to as we progress through each properly executed training step.

My story does have a semi happy ending.  I was able to work with Doc enough to get the rope off his neck and convince him to take some grain from me again, but it will be a long time before he trusts me again.  I guess I deserve that.

Wahooo! They are all home.  

Posted by Serenity

We went to get Amira on Saturday after my daughter and I spent the morning in Fort Collins for Girl Scouts.  We had a few minor troubles getting her papers picked up my Mother in Law was a big help.  She ran down to the vet and grabbed them for me before they closed.

The kids like going out to visit Murphy since he always pulls a horse of some sort out and leads them around on it.  This time they got to ride his mule, Hercules.  Such a big dumb animal you just can't help but love him LOL.  Of course he is all they can talk about whenever we go out there.

Amira was being a bit of a butt in the trailer on the way home.  Swaying back and forth and rocking the whole rig.  Think she must have been bored out of her mind.  The poor dear had no one to travel with.  We made it home at about 8:30.  It was 9 by the time we got everything unloaded so we could unload her though. 

Dad managed to save a small portion of my gear.  Most of it is pretty ratty thanks to kids dragging it out and leaving it in the fields.  Luckily i found someone that can clean and repair some of it.  Amira will be happy to have the heavy wool blanket for this, her first, Wyoming winter.  
We also got 2 of my 3 tire hay feeders, the small one that was bought for Amira because the other horses wouldn't let her eat out of the big ones, and one of the 2 large ones.  None of my buckets or grain feeders were available.  Sis and her kids used the ones we could find for their hogs and calf so I just left them.  

Sunday we were up by 5:30 and on the road by 6:30 for our long trek to Devils Tower to pick up the two Quarter Horse babies.  Doc is much bigger than we had expected.  Fred is simply gorgeous.

Hubby borrowed a stock trailer from a friend at the Harris Ranch near Laramie Wyoming so that we would be able to get them here.  Could you imagine trying to load two horses that aren't even halter broke into a two horse trailer?  As it was Hubby wanted Fred in the front of the trailer since she was obviously the bigger of the two. 

None of the rest of us thought we could make that happen, but we also didn't want to argue with Hubby.  Ever met a Donky?  Well it would be easier to argue with the donkey than hubby when he makes up his mind.

I have to say, there are some real horsemen at the ranch where Doc and Fred came from.  Most of them were patient, gentle, and quiet.  Letting Fred decide that it would be more comfortable in the trailer by herself than outside the trailer with us people.  One of them, though, can only be described as an old fashioned cowboy, or perhaps a mountain man, but only noisier. 

He fit the bill alright.  Waving his arms and yelling like he was pushing a herd of longhorns across the plains.  Big ol scruffy beard to keep his face warm on the windy Wyoming prairie.  The picture he set was hilarious.  Not in a bad way, though, I would love to have gotten a black and white picture of him with a dusty ol herd of cattle in the background, priceless.

The best part was after going in kicking and screaming like a two year old child, Fred took her time to get to the front of the trailer and didn't mind the gate closing behind her.  I was completely shocked that she didn't throw a fit then and there.  I was not nearly as surprised at that as I was at what happened next.

Let me set the stage for you.  We had to back the trailer in with the gate open so we could butt the trailer up to a post and block any exit the horses may choose from that direction.  This means that we also have to pull the truck forward with an untamed horse loaded on the back while simultaneously closing the gate, not spooking the yearling colt, preventing any thoughts of escape he may have.

Now that you have a picture of the scene to this point I will continue.  We fought Fred for nearly an hour trying to coax her into the trailer.  Making her very uncomfortable outside the trailer but trying not to spook her too much at the same time.  I thought she was going to try to jump the fence a few times, and a lesser horse would have at that.  Not Fred, she is much too smart for that.  Finally we managed to squeeze her into the trailer and got the divider gate closed.  Time for Doc.

Hubby is in the truck with his instructions to pull forward slowly while we close the gate behind him.  Doc enters the small corral that housed the battle with Fred only moments before.  He looks at the trailer and sees the pretty girl inside waiting for his companionship, and hops in.  No muss no fuss.  Hubby of course is still sitting there while the rest of us are trying to tell him to move forward without spooking the young horse back out of the trailer.

The trip home was pretty uneventful, with one exception.  Someone blew past us early on our trip home and it spooked Fred a little.  She threw a bit of a fit and managed to give herself a good cut just above her eye.  The whole trip home I was pouting because I was just sure that small cut has ruined her halter career.  Hubby was doing his best to cheer me up, but I wanted none of it.  Fred has as close to a perfect head as I have ever seen on a horse.  Soft, kind looking eyes, shapely cheeks, smooth coloring.  She is just beautiful.  And now I have gone and ruined her because I didn't do a good enough job checking the trailer for hazards before we left.  Fred's eye is healing nicely though and looks like it may not scar at all.

Doc is just so laid back that he doesn't seem to mind us at all.  He is an amazing beauty as well.  I absolutely adore him.  Last night he was giving me kisses in exchange for grain yummies.  he would even com up and take it from me.  Tonight I will attach some hooks to the fence posts so the grain buckets can be hung from them.  This way my hands are free to move around.

AmiraSchanthalima Part 2  

Posted by Serenity

  We made it down to see her on Monday, but I kept forgetting my camera to post pictures. She is looking pretty good these days. Amira is almost the horse I left 13 years ago. She is a bit older now and has had a hard life since I left her, but that will all change soon. 

She will get to spend her days playing with the kids and eating till her hearts content.  I am so happy that Amira is still the gentle sweet horse that she has always been.  She was, is, and will always be my favorite horse and now my kids understand why.
 Amira hasn't had a person on her back in at least 3 years and even then her training was never completely finished.  She carried my children as though she had never stopped being a saddle horse.  Even when my son carelessly (he doesn't know better) plopped himself on her back, she just took it in stride and gave him a ride he could enjoy.

My son is now almost my size, and age, when I broke her in and began using her in 4-H.  She has been in parades and horse shows and she traveled with us to rodeos and well pretty much everywhere.
 Because of her kind heart Amira has always been my kids horse.  We have used her to lead small children around and let them learn that horses and fun.  Her small stature makes her a perfect horse for my tiny daughter.  The girls look perfect together don't they.

Caitlin is so excited to have her especially after we decided to let them take a short ride just to test the waters.  I picked up an inexpensive endurance saddle to train the kids in.  It looks like a combination of an English saddle with western skirts and girth.  The benefit is that it doesn't have swells or a cantle and most notably a saddle horn for them to rely on.Not having these items will require the kids use proper posture and give them better contact with their legs.  and they won't have the saddle horn crutch.  The saddle is also lighter for Amira to carry so I am sure that she will appreciate that as well. 
 We have been told that Amira finally chose a mate.  After trying to get her bred for nearly ten years and her rejecting every stallion we have ever thrown in with her even to the point of beating them up.  She chose a handsome little solid black paint stud.

He is certainly a cute bugger and gentle as well.  His temperament seemed to match hers pretty well.  I do hope that she is with foal because I would so hate to lose her line.  I have never met a kinder gentler mare and I probably never will.
The gentleman you see leading her around in all the pictures is none other than Terry Murphy from Oregon Trail Wagon Train.  He has been a friend of my family for as long as I can remember.  His methods and mine probably never will see eye to eye but it is undeniable that he has a way with horses.

Murphy helped me rescue Amira and agreed to keep her at his place with his horses for a small fee.  Without his help I would have lost her forever and so I can not thank him enough for what he has done not only for me, but for my horse and my children.

If you are looking for some good stock ponies or a horse to ride, or you would like to experience the Oregon trail the way the pioneers would have, please give Murphy a call.  Let him know I sent you.

To visit the Oregon Trail Wagon Train web site click the link above or copy and paste into your browsers address bar.

The cute little stud that Amira chose as her mate is available for purchase if anyone is interested.  Just give Murphy a call to work out the details.