Friday, December 28, 2012

Finally, A Christmas Post

Ok, it's the 28th. It's high time I do an entry about Christmas.

Even though it seemed especially mellow for some reason this year, it was a good Christmas, nonetheless (honestly, I don't think I've ever heard of anybody referring to their Christmas as a bad Christmas because then they would either seem ungrateful, or a scrooge; either way, they would appear very self-centered).
The weather was a bit of a disappointment--obviously no snow (we usually have a better chance for that in February, down here in Mississippi; it's not magic December snow, but hey, beggars can't be choosers). Instead, it was in the high 30s to low 40s, and it was pouring rain. We even had a few tornadoes sprout up; and we were worried about having to spend Christmas in our "safe place", without a Christmas dinner. I personally enjoyed having rain on Christmas. When it's sunny on a holiday, I always feel (ridiculously so) that I ought to be spending my day out of doors getting something done, either by spending time with Joey, or cleaning something up in the barn. But when it's rainy and "nasty" out (I never understood why people refer to it as nasty weather--I quite like good rain showers), I feel justified in staying indoors, next to the fire with my family. I was most grateful that I was not one of those horse owners who live up north that had to be battling a winter storm on their Christmas. When I mentioned this to my parents when they complained of rain and no snow, my dad only laughed and me, and Mom gave me a queer look. Hmm, I wonder how they would enjoy the situation?
The day after Christmas, I woke up on time to feed (amazing, isn't it?); so I dressed warmly (in my brand-spankin new felt cowgirl hat!!) and headed out to do the chores. It was cold; and most of it was wind chill. I don't think I have ever felt the wind that cold and that powerful at the same time down here before. I began to think that maybe the plan of bringing my book along for a quiet read in the barn would have to be altered. When I arrived in the barn, I found my dad, bundled up to his ears, on a ladder, hanging old tarps around Joey in his stall. Joey was buried in an enormous pile of hay. o.0 "I've already fed," Dad told me, his voice muffled by the scarf that was wrapped around his face. I can see that you've already fed.
Now, I'm ashamed of it, but most times, when some caring family member has told me that they've "already fed", it just gets under my skin. Why do they think I wanted a horse? Do they not understand that much of the joy of having a horse comes from the smells and textures of feed time? But I couldn't stay mad at Dad after seeing him buffeted by a sudden strong wind. He called out, "Maybe you should put his blanket on?" And then when I was in putting Joey's blanket on, I realized the point of the tarps. "Do you feel any wind in there?!" Dad shouted above the gale that had arisen outside of the makeshift walls, "Because it's really blowing out here!" My heart melted, and all unjust annoyance was gone. My dad is not somebody who goes outside to do extra things for the comfort of the animals. They're animals, and animals live outside, experiencing the elements because that's what makes them survive; if they don't, then oh well. There's more of them in the world, somewhere. At least, that's what I'm sure he thinks of them.
As the wind died away for a moment, he told me that he had woken up in the middle of the night, hearing the wind and the rain outside, and he had felt bad for Joey; he hadn't slept well after that, he said. "We're gonna put doors on the barn," he said. Ah, so it was that old line. I just nodded my head. "Mm-hmm," I replied, my mind going through everything he had just told me, evaluating how much of it was actually true and how much he had actually felt. Then he looked at me with serious eyes and said determinedly, "No, Samantha, I mean it; I'm really sorry that we don't have them up yet." I was taken aback by this statement. It's been three years since we built the barn and talked about immediately putting big doors on the front and back of it. My dad had never apologized for not having doors on the barn before. I played with Joey's mane absentmindedly. Throughout the rest of the time we were out there that morning, he kept quietly expressing how sorry he was at intervals. It was nearly baffling to me.
Here's a picture of the result of my poor father's labors. It kept out the wind rather nicely. Joey wouldn't come out of it all day, even when the rain stopped:

(He's eaten all the hay, obviously.)


 Joey received a nice [ginormous] bag of molasses cookies. . .not that we were out. . .and not that we should encourage his prejudice to any other kind of snack. . .>_> Haha, but he was really excited about them! :D
We both received a joint gift of nylon cross ties for our barn aisle. I was really excited to get those! One more step toward actually looking like a horse barn. ;) I forgot that Joey had already been tied with cross ties before, and so cautiously tied him in the center of the aisle, backed away and took a picture.

[Note: Yes, I am well aware of all of the stuff in the aisle behind Joey. I will not be tying him up again before cleaning all of that up. I just had him stand there for about 2 minutes to snap the picture and then he went back out to pasture. Thank you for your concern. -_- ]

Shelby (my 13yo sister) and I also received Breyer model horses as presents this year. She opened the buckskin paint (who had more of a metallic sheen to him in real life and was a darker, more bronze color than in the catalog/his pictures).

And I. . .Well, when I unwrapped this pair, I just about came unglued.

I have been trying to hunt down this pair of classics for three years now. I saw and fell in love with them, soon after we moved back to the south, in a Tractor Supply store that was a three hour drive from our house. I despaired when I found that I did not possess enough pocket money for the beautiful pair. I vowed that I would come back and get them soon, and Dad agreed to bring me.
Alas, I never made it back. A new TS was installed in our own town, and Dad reasoned why drive three hours to a store that we have 20 minutes down the road? He had no idea. . .
I saved my money in a special box for them, and I hunted for "Samson" and "Delilah" online and locally for the next three years, but without success (I had already chosen the perfect names for them). I received the news that Breyer had discontinued/retired them. That was a sad day. But not such a big deal as a few weeks ago. . .
. . .When Mom and I were browsing for potential Breyer Christmas gifts online, and then. . .I saw them. One set left. And for way more money than they really were worth. I begged and pleaded with my Mom like never before, but to no avail. Feeling a final defeat, I went to sleep, and those horses danced mockingly in my dreams for the next two weeks, just out of reach.
The last present I unwrapped on Christmas morning, two weeks later, was them. I couldn't believe my eyes. I don't know where she got them; but Mom came through for me. Again. ^.^
They, too, are much darker in real life than they are in their pictures. (I should have known.) And suddenly they didn't look like a "Samson" and "Delilah" pair anymore. So they have different names: Apollo, my first and only eventing horse; and Moonlight Eclipse for his promising daughter.

Upon their arrival and naming/occupation-deeming ceremony, Shelby and I swiftly built an eventing course for the stallion and her little TB mare, Dandy Mandy. Apollo won, of course. ;)

And in case you were wondering: Shelby's new paint stallion, Last Chance, is currently the leader of his own wild band. ;)

There was more to my Christmas, but those are the high points of it; and I need to go out and feed supper to the animals. Oh, and I will post a picture of my "brand-spakin new" cowgirl hat in a later entry; the weather has not cooperated as of late.

Thanks for reading. I hope you decide to come back for more (and don't be afraid to subscribe). :D


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Advice on Horses from Mosie

Here's some advice/quotes from my friend Mosie that I found super helpful. I'm posting them here because I thought that you might find them helpful, too. :)

She has a YouTube account here where she posts videos about her work with her own Quarter Horse mare, Annie. You can get to know her better here on Facebook.

"The top priority for me is always the relationship; everything else is bonus... but it is a great bonus."

"One thing I definitely believe in is the horse's right to be individual and her right to have her voice listened to. It is one thing to hear what the horse says, but even a greater step to actually listen to what they have to say... no matter what they say. "

"I believe that the horse/human relationship can be great - one of the most magical bonds there is - but in order for it to reach its full potential, partners must be individuals with equal voices. Both must want to be in the partnership just as much as the other."

"I think a lot of our (humans) obsession with correcting the horse and dominating the horse comes from our ego's need to demonstrate our control. Horses by themselves know how to do everything we wish to teach them - and they know how to do it perfectly. They can all Piaffe, gallop, collected canter, etc. by themselves (if not hindered by physical limits), and they can do it without us. They don't feel the need to show; they don't feel the need to compete to be the best. We come into their world and try to "teach" them how to do what they can do perfectly without us, and we expect them to want to do it for us without fuss. And when they don't submit eagerly, or they don't understand what we want, or they simply do not want to do it for us, we get angry. Strong bits, spurs, etc. are all tools to help us force the compliance. But I feel that even though I can force a horse to do what I want, doesn't mean it is right for me to do so."
~Something to think on. 
"It is easier to like the concept than it is to really practice it, I know that at first it was really hard for me to accept. . ."
"It was hard because everything I had been taught was telling me that what I was doing was wrong - I was traditionally "letting her get away with things" or "creating bad habits", but in the end, I will tell you once you let go those limits and free your thinking on what is wrong, a new world opens up."
"I will tel you though, it is very possible to have the relationship you want. . . All you need is enough love and the passion to drive you to look at things a little differently."
"Many people doubted what I was trying to do. I faced many critics in the horse world but what hurt the most was when my friends/people I admired told me what I was doing wouldn't work/they didn't see the point.
My faith in what I was doing and really my faith in and love for Annie is what kept me moving forward."
Mosie stopped riding Annie for a long time in order to develop their relationship to the point at which Annie would offer her back to Mosie. But this is what Mosie had to say to me on the subject of riding:
"However, I don't know if you want to [give] up riding like I did (I had to change all of my training... Annie and I basically started from scratch which was a scary prospect). But you can get a great relationship without doing what we did. If I were you, I would ride! Just be conscious. . .Just observe and while brushing and tacking, try to stay present and connect with him. Maybe switch up what you do "automatically". Think about what you do and why. Do the same when riding. Maybe you will see something or notice something that will help you later . . .Right now, just learn to listen."
"Spending simple time just being together is so important. . . It will really help your relationship. It is a great step down this path [of deepening your relationship with your horse] - so important!"
"You don't have to go as extreme as we did - it was just what we prefer. Horses can invite you in other ways. As long as you are listening to them and giving them a say, they will have a choice and you will know . . .Take away some pressure; when you don't force them anymore, then they have say."
Mosie has really helped me to see things in a different light--a better light. And I personally think that no matter what kind of training you do with your equine friend(s), just being understanding as Mosie presents it goes a long way. I hope that you will remember and really consider the things I have shared here.
Thanks for reading. Hope you come back again, soon!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Two Days In One Post--Part Two


Today I went out to interact with Joey, expecting him to be, in the very least, just as responsive and wanting to follow me around as much as yesterday.
But no. Every once in a while he would come up behind me and rub himself on my arm; but as soon as I moved to return the affection or walk up to him, he would turn his face away or step at least a couple of paces away in a "no" gesture. For nearly two hours I tried to puzzle this behavior through, yet without success.
So finally, I "gave up" for a moment; and, in fear that I might forget myself and doom the whole thing by trying to get him to play, I left him at the wooden gate and went down to the second paddock. He became most interested and alert when he realized that I was no longer hanging around waiting on him; he even followed me halfway. When I reached the back paddock, I took off jogging around the perimeter to "run off my oats." That got him. I looked over my shoulder to see Joey standing in the break between the two fences watching me with a most confused air. What was wrong with me? Had something spooked me? Or was it really possible to actually run just for fun?? I continued jogging until I had gotten back around, and by this time he had figured out my course, and was standing, ready to meet me in the corner that I was approaching--but he was on the other side of the fence, in the other paddock. I jogged right past him, without so much as bothering to stop and let him inspect me before I went on.
Now he was following me down the fence line--no faster than a march, of course; he was still trying to figure out if you really could just run for the fun of it. When I reached the gap between the paddocks again, I stopped to catch my breath. It was cold, so I stood there a long while, basking in the warm sunshine, ignoring my horse who had ignored me. I felt breath on my elbow and looked back over my shoulder ever so slightly enough to see a curious black face with pricked ears, trying to smell me without getting too close. After another little while, when it seemed that we had both nearly settled into a doze, I took off trotting the perimeter of the paddock again. About halfway, when I was parallel with the gap where Joey and I had been standing, I saw that he had marched well into the second pasture and was standing, watching me again with that confused look. Then he did something I never would have expected: I reached the last corner, and saw him trotting toward me, snorting out little questioning, grunting nickers. We met, and I paused for a fraction of a second and said his name; and then I decided to jog right by him again to see what his reaction would be this time. To my utter astonishment, he squealed and kicked out in a playful gesture, and came trotting after me for a couple of strides.

I don't remember what happened next; but somehow, he began standing and browsing just out of reach again. Deciding that I should not pursue him this time, I plopped down on the ground in frustration and confusion. Lexi bounded over to see if I was alright; and I assured her that I was perfectly fine, despite having my feelings hurt. I stared off into space a while, and suddenly realized that Joey was browsing right next to me, with a soft, friendly look in his eye. He came close enough and buried his nose in my hair and breathed deeply for a moment. I played with his forelock, which he accepted fine, and told him that I wasn't giving up on him. I told him that I was all he had, and that, in terms of the horse world, he was all I had; and that we had definitely stumbled upon a method that was working for both of us and that was deepening our relationship already to depths I had never known before.
I told myself that we were both going to have off-days -- but we aren't giving up.
We ended the lesson at the top of the barn paddock, with him standing off ignoring me. I was cold and discouraged; so I quietly slipped out the wooden gate. I tried not to look back; but halfway to the house I did and saw that confuzzled gelding with his head slung over the fence, looking as if we were the best of friends and I was suddenly leaving a party without telling him, or bringing him along. Unable to help myself, I called back to him, "Not everybody's going to wait around forever for you to be friendly," as I continued walking backwards to the door.


I'm only going to note a couple of things about my interactions with Joey today: We pretty much did everything we did yesterday, but he was friendlier today--not slanting his ears back and ignoring me so much; although he hardly followed me around like a puppy, either.
The other thing I wanted to note was that today I received a message from Mosie (here's a link to her wonderful YouTube page where she posts videos about her work with her mare Annie); and she said, in answer to a question I had,

"However, I don't know if you want to give up riding like I did (I had to change all of my training... Annie and I basically started from scratch which was a scary prospect). But you can get a great relationship without doing what we did. If I were you, I would ride! Just be conscious - do what you were doing when you wrote your blog. Just observe and while brushing and tacking, try to stay present and connect with him. Maybe switch up what you do "automatically". Think about what you do and why. Do the same when riding. Maybe you will see something or notice something that will help you later. I would love to read about what u do see. Right now, just learn to listen."

It was wonderful advice (thanks, Mosie; you're really great at that kind of thing).
The first thing that came to my mind when I thought about how to go about taking away pressure that I was used to applying was the halter. When I thought about it, I realized that Joey tends to shut down when we use any kind of head-collar; and much of my "advantage pressure" comes from using a head-collar of some kind. So today, while it was trying to spit cold rain at us, I brought out the saddle and a jingly harness and swung it up onto the fence, making sure he thought he knew what I had in mind. I was fully prepared for him to begin walking away in an attempt to evade work, as he has done before. But he stayed right where he was by the feed bucket, just watching me curiously with an excited/interested look on his face that almost seemed to ask, "Are we really going to go riding?" So, I went into the paddock -- no halter or tying up of any kind -- and gave him a quick once-over with the brush, letting him investigate it first to understand that it wasn't the saddle. Next, I grabbed the saddle blanket and brought it to his nose for a sniff, before I draped it over his back. I thought that now would be the time for him to leave me; but he didn't. He continued to stand quietly; but his ears were slanted back and he looked like the old "workaholic" Joey that I used to saddle. So I decided against riding for the day. Oh, he didn't push a "no"; but then, I'm not convinced that he was aware that it was an option.
He was most surprised indeed when I lifted off the saddle blanket again. I put all the tack away; and he was very interested in everything that I was doing after that.

Back to present day.

I was hoping to get this entry up and posted on the 24; but obviously I didn't quite make it. So here it is, on the 26; and I promise that soon I will get another entry up about Christmas and what special goodies I found under the tree for both Joey and I (possibly pictures to come with that one, too).

Thanks for reading! I hope you decide to come back for the next post.


Two Days In One Post--Part One

Wow. Again, I have a lot to share. So, bear with me (and I hope it's interesting).


Today is a very blustery day. I went out with a carrot and classical music playing on my "iPod" [it's really a Zune, but who knows what the heck that is??]. I called out to Joey Joey, but the wind blew my voice away, so he didn't hear me. I know he wasn't ignoring me because then I called him a second time and he actually neighed and walked briskly to the opposite gate--the wind had blown my voice again. He didn't hear me opening the loud, stiff latch to the other gate that was a few yards behind him (that's how windy it is). So I called to him a third time, chuckling at the way he was snorting and shuffling by the other gate with his head slung high over the top of it, searching for me. When I called out a third and louder greeting, he neighed even louder than the first time, spun around, and nearly trotted into me. I wasn't sure if he was that happy happy to see me, or if the sounds of the blowing winds and my brother on the tractor right outside his paddock had unnerved him. At first, the way he heaved a ginormous sigh, made chewing motions with his moth, and closed his eyes with his forehead pressed into my chest, I think maybe he was looking for comfort in the midst of all the scary, roaring sounds. I rubbe3d him and offered comforting words. And then, not really sure what I should do*, we walked around the paddock. We. He followed eagerly every step of the way.

[*I am a person who always has a game plan when it comes to interacting with my horse. I like to be able to know exactly what's going on, what my goals are, and I like to be able to predict what will happen next. As a result, my relationship with Joey has not been on a super-personal level. In fact, I've always looked ahead to the day when I will have a sighted horse because "then I will really be able to do anything." Well, I have found that try as I might to come up with check boxes and a game plan for what exactly Joey and I are working on on this Journey, I come up blank every time. Throwing my hands up in frustration, I pull on my boots and head out to the paddock anyway--almost mechanically. And it's during the interaction through uncharted waters that I realize that Joey and I are learning together--I'm not teaching him anything. I am finding that the interactions when I'm clueless as to what to do and what to expect are the times when I'm most open minded; and as a result, they're the most successful enriching interactions--I learn so much!]

Joey followed me into the second paddock. Kyle (my 16 yo brother) was using the tractor a couple of yards from us. For some reason (I don't remember now) I squealed and kicked up my heels in a playful gesture. But Joey balked in fear. I went back over to him, realizing and apologizing for my blunder of spooking him/making him think I was afraid--it wasn't a very confident, leaderly thing to do. We walked around quietly for a bit more until he didn't pay as much mind to the gusty sounds all around him. A little while later, he even followed me into a trot! And then we bucked and played for a few seconds! Do you know that Joey has never volunteered to go faster than a walk without the motivation of grain ever before?! And it was the middle of the day--nowhere near feed time! So he couldn't possibly think I was getting him food. And he did it more than once! I'm so excited at how our relationship is growing deeper and stronger every time I go out there! And we're not even hardly doing anything! It's backwards from what I've learned in the past; but I like it!
After a while of us being real buddies, I went and brought out some hay for him to snack on while I sat and watched him and tickled a playful cat. We were both so calm today; and we were really enjoying just being together.

Th. 3: Even the whole interest thing is mutual. You don't wanna hang out with someone who completely ignores you or acts like they could do better by spending their time somewhere else--with someone else. If I act like I want to be friends with Joey when he wants to be friends with me, then we're both a lot happier. He'll start to ignore me if I hardly acknowledge him. It can't be all him giving (i.e., showing interest in me) and me taking (i.e., expecting that that's just what he's supposed to do). This is a mutual relationship. It's gotta be like we're looking in a mirror, kind of: he gives, I give; and eventually it'll be vice versa, I think.

Note: Always look for permission first before approaching a horse.


Today, Joey followed me around willingly enough; and though I was itching to see if he would trot with me again, I didn't push it. He was alert, but he was dragging his feet, so I took that as a sign that he was having a lazy day today. Every once in a while, I gave him a rub somewhere; I tried to let the whole interest thing/interaction be mutual. But when I reached down and rubbed his girth area on his left side, he acted sore. I wish I would have taken the hint after the first try instead of having to observe and analyze a third time--ugh. To show him that I was sorry for my inexperience, I took a step back and grew very still and quiet, respecting his space and his reaction after he pinned his ears, tried to nip me, and then swung his head away to let me know that he was unhappy. When I did so, he immediately pricked his ears and swung his face back around almost quizzically and appreciatively. We were friends again after he saw that I knew how to understand him.
After walking back up to the barn, we were standing at the trough when I moved to rub him. He slanted his ears back, walked a few paces away with his butt turned to me, sighed, and ignored me. Not sure if I should pursue him or not, wondering if this was one of those moments when I needed to show interest in him, I decided that my moving to rub him and my touch had been my showing interest in him. He had walked away in a "I've had enough" kind of way. So I took that as a "no", opened the paddock gate and left, while he watched, alert and quizzically after me.

Back to present day.

I believe I will split this entry into two parts--again. >_> But to end, here's a cute picture I found while cleaning up and organizing my pictures on the computer:

These were two of the kittens I had two yeas ago, Daisy (the black) and Checkers (the grey). I thought they were the cutest! ^.^

Thanks for reading. Hope you stop by for Part Two!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Making An Effort--Part 2

Recent. As in, yesterday.

I made the mistake of going about a week without at least sitting with Joey Joey. Because it's a week before Christmas, my mom went out quite a bit this week, which meant that I had to babysit a lot; which means that I hardly got anytime to spend with Joey in the absence of food. The only times I really got out were breakfast and supper time--to feed.

Except this Saturday, when my friend came over and we groomed him, played "Catch Me If You Can" (a game in which I tell Joey to stay, I walk away, and then I tell him to come. The idea is to get him to want to come to me. Given, we've been using treats. . .) and I tried to teach him how to bow. Didn't work out as easy as they make it look on YouTube. I picked up Joey's front left leg, put pressure on his head via a leadrope I was holding between his front legs, and tried to walk him back and down into the bow. But he wouldn't rock back at all! He kept turning his head to give me this comical, quizzical expression. So I tried to break it down for him--telling myself I would be content if he could just learn to lower his head on cue. Using treats, he didn't learn anything; he was just focused on the treat the whole time. When it came to lowering his head, he kept backing up while lowering instead of staying stationary. Is that a good thing? I have no idea.

Besides that, on Friday afternoon, we played "Catch Me" for a little while before supper. But other than those two occasions and feed times, I didn't get out to the barn.

Joey Joey won't take anything except sweet feed and Nicker Makers. So I decided to experiment with something, beginning Saturday evening: I've bee breaking up whole carrots and leaving them in his bucket for 24 hours at a time. And guess what? He's been eating them! So when I went out [yesterday], I took a carrot to see if he would take it from my hand. After many tries, he wouldn't; so I broke it up and put it in his feed bucket. He ate it while I watched him. He made faces the whole time and "threw his tongue around a lot" (you know what I'm talking about? My horse doesn't lift his lip when he doesn't like something, he smacks his jaw wider and wider. Every heard of this before? I hadn't before Joey showed me). He made it look like he disliked the taste or something; but he ate all of it, so, I don't know. . .? o.0

[*Break in notes that I've been typing from my Horse Journal.*]
Ok, back to current day for a moment.
The other day, as I was scrolling down my Facebook homepage, marveling at the beautiful images of equines that Heart of a Horse posts several times a day, I came across one of the stories of horsey people from around the globe that they also post several of. This one was different, though. It was about a girl who had finally found The Connection needed to achieve The Dance. I was fascinated while reading about this girl who seemed to have been just like me: knowing something was missing between her and her horse, and desperately searching for it. She talked about something I had never heard of: liberty training? So I did a Google search; and it came up with Carolyn Resnick and Robin Gates. Apparently, from what I could briefly understand from quick glances at Google's articles, liberty trainers, in general, don't believe that using tack and "aids" (i.e., whip, spurs, etc) are the only way of getting the horse to do what you want. They promote having a relationship based on mutual understanding, respect, and trust. (Things easy to say, but difficult to truly possess.) Searching through Robin Gates' website ( ), I was enthralled as I watched the completely different way that she interacted with horses compared to what I had seen and heard. Liberty trainers, in general, believe in only using the method of positive reinforcement for training. I was (and still am) fascinated, but still kind of skeptical. Which you will probably observe in my notes.
Which shall resume. . .

[*Back to yesterday's interaction and the notes I took.*]

I went out with the carrot and my latest issue of Horse Illustrated. I thought a lot about Robin Gates and of how she really respects the horse and his space, waiting for permission to come over and rub. I watched a video of her working with an abused gelding named Pony; every time she tried to approach Pony, if he turned his head away, Robin back off. She says it's important to a horse being an individual for him to be able to say "no". So much of the time (if not all the time) we ask or tell or expect the horse to do something, and even with enthusiasm, but there is no other option. Robin says (and it makes logical sense) that if you want your horse to be an individual in a partnership, then he needs to be allowed to say "no" and trust you to respect him.
Mutual respect--that's what liberty training is all about in the least. But how do you reach that perfect balance?

[*Sorry, but another time warp back to present day.*]
At the time I wrote this, I imagined the scenario of me wanting to go out and halter Joey and do something active with him undersaddle or something; but he was having a lazy day and turned his head away and even tried to walk away. I wondered if letting him have his way would create the habit in him of evading working with me? But after yesterday's interaction with him, I no longer worry about this. In the very simplest idea, this scenario brings up the bottom line of, Am I going to be a selfish brat and drag my horse into work regardless of how he feels? Am I just going to waltz into his space, oblivious to what he's thinking? I came to really see what a jerk I can be sometimes, almost always unconsciously, just because I wasn't more open minded.

[*Back to the Journal entry.*]

Ob. 5: Horses are dumb beasts (in the sense of the Creation story found in Genesis in the Bible--they were not created on the same intellectual or spiritual plain as we were; which is evident in the different ways we live and interact with other beings). Therefore, they do not reason as we do. I believe this is a very important lesson for me to truly learn and take to heart if I am going to be successful with working with equines.

I heard it said by a liberty trainer that inside every domestic horse is a wild horse, and inside every wild horse is a domestic horse--they are one and the same. And, I have to admit, I can definitely see that in the horses that are working through liberty training methods much more than in the super-tame show-stoppers with all the tack and aids.

I could tell a difference in Joey today when I went out (although, he could have just been feeling his oats). He came to the fence nickering. I slipped through and it was suddenly like he was really getting to know me for the first time. I would walk a few paces, "reading" my magazine, and he would tentatively follow, after standing and watching me for a moment. At first, he wouldn't come without some encouragement, such as me softly calling out, "Hey, Joey Joey, you wanna come over here?" or me just sweetly talking to the cats. Then he was most eager to come over. Soon, he got over his shyness and suddenly, he was smelling me all over! I continued to "read" my magazine as he inspected me from the toes of my boots to gently burying his nose into the top of my scalp. He was breathing deep breaths; and I tried to hold still, letting him search and try to understand me. Something in my brain screamed out that I was letting him dominate my space; but during the smelling process, I felt a spark between us that I've been longing for since I first met him. For once, he was really interested in me without food of any kind (except for the carrot, but he wouldn't eat it). Soon, he was following me and rubbing on me and nudging me. (I think he was jealous of my *full* attention being on my magazine. Once, he even shoved his face between mine and the article I was standing and reading!)
A few times, he went off for long moments at a time, completely ignoring me. I wasn't sure what to do or think when this happened. Suddenly, I was the boring one (I've been in the bad habit of believing my gelding to be lazy and boring all the time), and the trees on the other side of the fence were slightly more interesting. There was nothing going on over there; so I wasn't sure what to think of Joey's behavior. Usually, I would march over and demand his attention; but this time I actually stopped to evaluate my actions. After a while, desperate to know what I was supposed to do next, I remembered the policy of mutuality. He had come to me and followed me around and shown interest in me without any response from myself except a few quiet paces taken away from him every now and then to see if he would follow. Maybe no it was my turn to show interest in him? Crawling out on a limb, holding my breath and bracing myself for the spark of connection to die upon my approach, I scuffed up to Joey's shoulder. Unusually, no words were spoken; and he immediately turned his head to me and nuzzled me! The spark grew into a small, warm flame. I was elated! He followed me pretty well after that; and he always showed interest in me at all times--smelling and watching and even exploring me with his "hand"! (Remember what I said about the upper lip?)

Note:I tried not to let him get mouthy; every time the teeth and gums came on the scene, I tried to let him know that they were not welcome, without over-doing it and possibly losing his trust and interest in me. Finally, I "nipped" him with my fingers when he tried; and I think from then on that it was understood that this is mutual respect--you don't bite me, and I won't bit you.

I believe that Joey Joey was really testing his boundaries when he became more bold. But, at least at the end of today (yesterday), we reached a place of mutual respect.

I think I got a taste of what "mutual" means. ^.^

Aannnd, back to present day for a final word.

Thanks for reading! Sorry it was so long; I had a lot to cover! I hope you come back to see how Joey and I are doing (hopefully) in a couple of days.


Making An Effort--Part 1

Hi, all.

So sorry it's taken me this long to get up another post. I kept forgetting to do it when I was on the computer.

I should probably mention that the next two posts will be all about my current journey with Joey Joey.

Some observations and theories I've made since Day 1:

Ob. 2: Joey is highly motivated by food.

Ob. 3: A horse's upper lip really is their hand--they investigate, touching and feeling and smelling with their nose.
I now believe that there is a difference between a horse being mouthy and a horse just investigating. I know man should be the dominant one, but just imagine how we would feel if somebody always smacked our hands away when we wanted to explore or further understand something that we were going to use or come into contact with?

Th. 2: Perhaps Joey's disinterested because I called him mouthy when he was only curious?

My plan was to take my book, my chair, and my grooming tools out and just sit like I've been doing, but without the hay. I figured  I could read just as well in the quiet company of my horse as I can by myself in the house. Whenever he wanted to come and say hi, I would quietly attempt to groom him (Joey's been looking a little unkempt). Well, I opened that paddock, said hi to let his blind self know that I was there, fully prepared for him to glance up and then ignore me. Instead, he jerked up, spun around, and briskly walked over to me, whickering affectionately all the way! Now that's the kind of result I was hoping for; but I honestly thought it would take more time. Not really sure what to do or how long he would be interested in me, I began a rub, and then took my tools--and he let me do a full groom! He continued to stand there, content in my company, curious as to what I was going to do next. Suddenly I thought, Why not let him do a favorite horsey activity? So I unlatched the paddock gate, took my chair and my book to sit in a shady spot, and let him know that it was ok to come out and graze. There isn't much grass; and he'll really have to hunt all over the yard for something edible;but he needs to know that I'm ok with him just being him--just being a horse.

Ob. 4: Joey is very trusting if you've made an effort to be his friend.

I'm still unsure of whether this is the right way to do things; having the mentality that "horses have spent enough time fitting into our world; it's time we fit into theirs." Let's see: God told man to subdue the earth and to have reign over the beasts of the earth. But God also created the horse the way he is and called it "good." And you know what? Thinking back over what I've seen of the dance between human and horse, I've concluded that, in that instance, man still has full control over the beast; but it's in the gentle, understanding way that I think God had in mind--not through brutality, force, and the abusing of His created creature that He called good.

I tried a quick grain-training lesson--more to see how he reacted to me. Taking a handful of sweet feed, he's eager to follow me; so I told him to stay behind. After two misunderstandings (really, he just wasn't listening or paying attention to me; he wanted the food ), he tried staying when I told him to "stand and whoa" instead of ignoring me and running after the food; and--wonder of wonders!--he got the food anyway!
Like I said, this was really a test to see how he would respond to treat-training.

Current Day
I no longer believe that treats are necessary to build a bond with my horse. In fact, with my particular boy, I believe that they might hinder us by distracting him. I wasn't sure what to think about using treats on the day that I did trial and error with them. It seems that every liberty trainer uses treats for everything! (Liberty training--new term I learned. But you'll have to read more about that in the next entry. ;) ) So I originally felt like we needed them, too. But after our interaction yesterday--oh boy! I've discovered that treats are not essential. ^.^ But, again, you'll have to read the next entry to know how I came to that conclusion. ;D

Thanks for reading! I hope you come back for Part 2 of this entry.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The First Step of The Dance

"I'm sick of feeling pressured to prove myself and Joey's ability via training and shows."

A section from my new Horse Journal. I've put the pressure upon myself, really. But it's been there, just the same, becoming a heavy weight upon my shoulders, and hampering whatever relationship I've had with my horse.

I suddenly realized the presence of the unnecessary, self-imposed pressure after watching the above video. Joey and I certainly don't have a relationship like that. I have a young horse that believes he is strictly a work horse, that must eat, sleep, poop, and do whatever I may ask of him, without showing any spark of interest except when it comes time for some much deserved grain. He has no idea what the words "fun" and "play" mean. At the moment, it seems impossible for us to ever be able to do anything like what's in the above video.

. . .But what if we could? What if I allowed myself to dream? What if I allowed myself to hope? and really look into and research what these kids are doing to achieve what Buck Brannaman calls "the dance"? The hunger for this kind of connection with my own horse began in the very pit of my being after watching the documentary "Buck" for the first time. I heard him call working with horses a dance; a new concept that I had never thought about before. And so. . .

. . .I dedicate the rest of this December to learning my horse on the ground, strictly working on our friendship and our dance, with the goal and the aim to have him interested and loving toward me without grain and to get to know him better. No matter how difficult it may prove with a blind horse who seems to refuse to really open up himself to me because he thinks I only need him for work, this will be my focus. Riding is not out of the question; but the focus this month is on relationships.

This creed was taken up two days ago, on Thursday. My Horse Journal is a practically empty notebook I found collecting dust on my bookshelf. It will be used specifically for recording what I discover throughout the next month. Already, I have several pages of observations I made while just sitting, studying and thinking about my horse and his quirks.
To begin this skeptical journey of learning my horse, I just threw his breakfast hay out in the paddock, took a camping chair and set it up a few feet away, and settled in to quietly observe with my Horse Journal and a pen to log his reaction to me and other things and to write out my observations and thoughts about him.

Observation 1: Joey cannot do everything a sighted horse can.

That is something that is really hard for me to admit to myself. But as I watched him that first day, I noticed that he had to really feel with his nose to find the hay that was right in front of him.
He also doesn't just plunge in and eat "whatever" hay, like I originally thought (I have been noted to call my horse a greedy pig that doesn't care what he is eating, just so long as he is eating). Contrary to popular belief, he really does nose around to find the best pieces of hay-- so he does have his own tastes. A new idea to me.

After a little over an hour, he had come over to curiously sniff me and to say "hi" twice (probably more wondering why in the world I hadn't yet strapped a saddle to his back, or sent him around to work on the lunge line yet). Then he came over a third time and let me do almost a full body rub.

I had read up the night before on techniques of getting to really know your horse. Pat and Linda Parelli suggested playing their "Seven Games", of which, the Friendly Game is the first. In the Friendly Game, you rub your horse all over, desensitizing him to your touch anywhere and all over his body. Pat also suggests flapping arms and making noises and jerking motions to further "bombproof" him.

The first day, I had resigned myself to just sitting quietly, enjoying my horse's companionship. But when he came over, completely ignoring his hay like he'd never done for me before, I couldn't resist. I stood up and began petting him and murmuring to him. Soon, I was giving him a full body rub, watching his reaction to my touch everywhere my fingers strayed. Joey has been head and ear shy in the past, and generally doesn't like me messing around his ears. But he let me touch and retreat all the way to the tips of his ears! He also turned to watch me as I rubbed, sighing in pleasure, and just gazing at me with his soft brown eyes. Another thing he has rarely, if ever, done. Suddenly, I found myself excited about something that seemed so little compared to jumping a 2' fence. But Joey and I were bonding. Slowly, but surely.
I came up with a theory while I rubbed and watched:

Theory 1: Joey will act more interested in what I'm doing if I remain quiet and firm; as opposed to being noisier and having him just shut down. He can hear me talking in the backyard; he doesn't need me to shout or raise my voice specifically for him to get my point--he's blind, not deaf.

So, Joey and I have taken the first step towards learning The Dance. I don't know if we'll ever learn the whole thing. I don't even know if it's actually real and achievable. But if I don't try, I know that I'll always wonder if we could have done it.
And at least for a time, I can believe in some magic.

Thanks for reading. I hope you decide to come back for more later.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

NaNoWriMo is OVER!!!


So, I ought to let you know that I. . . .

. . . FINISHED MY NOVEL!!!!!!! ^.^

. . .You have no idea. O.O Well, unless you were doing NaNoWriMo right along with me.
The first draft of "See No Evil" by Samantha Hoskins (title is subject to change. . .maaaybe) was finished on November 25, at around 9:00PM. Aren't you so happy for me?!? I thought I wasn't going to write much during Thanksgiving, seein as how my older brother who is currently stationed in Georgia as a Ranger in the US Army came home to kick off the holiday season with us (YAY! ^.^ ). But things were surprisingly laid back around here; so I thought, "Instead of sitting around on the couch looking like I'm gonna fall asleep in front of the fire with everyone else, I could be using this time to contain some very valuable thoughts." Thanksgiving week was composed of some really early mornings, and some very late nights. Not exactly the sleeping schedule I'm used to; but a severe cold decided to move in the day after I finished my novel, making it impossible for me to catch up on sleep (which is what more experienced NaNo-ers recommend for a proper reward for finishing. -_- )
Oh well; I have ordered the Winner's T-Shirt and now sit with this printed manuscript in my hand wondering when does one go about revising and editing a novel that came via a mad rush of creative juices? Some say that that is what December was designed for. Other's say throw it in a hatbox under the bed until the end of summer. For me, personally, I have days (like the day after I finished) when I want to go ahead and see if I can use the last 5 days of NaNoWriMo to fully edit my first draft into a second (mostly for the sake of having it DONE-done). But then there are times (like the night that I finished my novel) when I wanted to pretend that the manuscript wasn't there, needing spellcheck and going over. At least I have the excuse of a cold, right?

Goodness, I'm so bad.

Once again, the above paragraph was typed out more than a week ago. -_-

Now I have added a tab at the top of my blog specifically for my novel. Sure, the novel itself isn't completely edited and published yet; but it would still be encouraging to already get some feedback on it. So how 'bout it? Do you think that YOU would read my novel if it was published?

You may also notice that I added another tab at the top of my blog for Joey Joey. Can't forget about him. And that way those of you who don't follow my blog regularly, or who followed it later than the very first entry won't be like, "Who the crap is Joey Joey and what's so special about him?" And you might have a better idea at what the two of us have been through already and where I'm coming from, if I ever post about him (which I'm surely to do).

So, now that NaNoWriMo is over I've been asked by many of my siblings what I'm going to do on the computer now. Blog more? (You'd like that, wouldn't you? ;) ) Obsess over my virtual horses? (For those of you who are interested: I play Howrse []. I am Tom Smith on the international server, and Riddle on the American server. Feel free to PM or friend me. :D )
. . .Write another novel? *looks around sneakily*
The truth is, since I actually finished a story idea for once, I've been thinking: What's keeping me from finishing those three other ideas that I already have partially on paper up in my room? Procrastination? Poor discipline? Well, I proved this past month that I can conquer those problems. So, yes, I am currently working on some other literary works (all about horses, of courses). I am jumping back into my horse-gaming (too many Fjords!! And I almost breed the top Gypsy Vanners). And of course I would like to do more blogging. Perhaps I will. It depends on if I remember that I would like to when I'm actually on the computer (those virtual horses take up a lot of my time on here; and it's not like I have any serious readers that I actually have to appease on my blog).

So now, I shall finally sign off. I still  have a little ACT prep to do before Saturday. O.O

Thanks for reading. And have a great day! (Because you do control whether your day is good or not, you know. Just pointing that out.)