Friday, February 22, 2013

No Access to Blogger And A Horse Journal Entry

I will not have access to blogger from Monday to Friday. Just sayin'. :)

Horse Journal 2-18-13

I haven't been writing much in here because Joey and I haven't been doing as much. I think weather is to blame, again.

As far as training the bow goes: Joey can bow his head to the ground between his front legs and lift his left leg at the same time, on cue.
Mosie still hasn't gotten the second video up for training the bow; but I saw she mentioned in one of her comments to somebody else that one of the next steps is to get Joey to extend his right leg. After thinking forever on how to make that step up (and wondering if I should even attempt it on "my own", meaning without any idea of what I was doing), I decided that we would go about it like we did the leg-lifts --- I mean, it's kinda the same thing only uncurling out.
So the last three sessions, besides reviewing what we already know and just plain messing around, I've been lifting Joey's right leg and slowly uncurling it to the front until it's resting, extended on the ground in front of him.
I even started saying an unconscious verbal cue right from the start: "Forward". I never thought about what verbal cue I was gonna use; it just happened, like most of my verbal cues, because I talk to my pets while working with them.
During the first leg-ex. session, because he had no idea what I had in mind, Joey's leg was quite stiff as I slowly uncurled it to extend as I lowered. Since then, in three sessions, we've done it the same way numerous times and I think he's starting to get the idea of what I'm looking for. He's not one who will generally try to figure it out on his own; he needs a lot of guidance during the first few lessons. But with most things, he's a pretty quick learner. And he usually remembers things well.
Sometimes, he still thinks I mean "back" when I say "left". And when we go into "forward", he thinks I'm looking for "left".

In other news, he bit me on purpose for the first time ever the other day --- just chomped down on my arm and left two large bruises. We were girthing up for a ride, and even though he didn't appear to be girth-sore when I checked, I still wonder if it was just a knew-jerk reaction to some sharp pain from the girth. Either way, I let him know that biting is not okay period by telling him to get away from me and leave me alone for a few moments. He stood, saddled, looking very sorry and dejected on the other side of the paddock while I checked my arm for severed skin underneath my sweatshirt. Then I went over and clipped the lead line back onto his halter and we continued on with our ride and breakfast as if nothing had ever happened. He hasn't bitten me since, though he watches me closely while fiddling with the girth.

As far as riding goes: for the last four days or so, we've been riding consistently. I haven't been pursuing that partner-connection as much (or rather, I just haven't been completely focus on it). We've just been riding for the fun and sake of riding.
I've noticed that his brakes hardly work at all from anything faster than a fluid trot. The only time I felt in full control while trotting and cantering was when I felt like I had the bit too high after I experimented by tightening/raising the bit in his headstall. It can be kind of a problem, and I'm not really sure how to fix it.

I also want to take note here that Joey has not been acting completely like himself lately. He picks at his hay and acts bored and grumpy --- or did until we started riding again. I think maybe it was because I couldn't get out to spend time with him because the weather was bad.

Back to present day.

I do have an update to post since this entry in my Horse Journal was written; but I am out of time for today (and have already done two posts today). Unfortunately, it will probably have to wait until the week after next. :/

Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your comments!


Mom's Birthday [Cake Incident]

Yesterday was Mom's birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!! ^.^ )

*ahem* It was also grocery day: the day of the week that my mother goes out for a good couple of hours to have lunch with Dad and buy the week's forage. The perfect opportunity to make her a surprise birthday cake, eh? ;)

Before we get any further with this I will state right here that despite my efforts, the only things that I have actually been requested to make by my family are fruit smoothies and my oatmeal-raisin-chocolate chip cookies. Yeah; not such a hot mama in the kitchen. :P
But I was determined to bake Mom something special in honor of the day. (I never dreamed Dad would have the same idea. . .)

To give myself the most possible amount of time, I began my baking venture as soon as she walked out the door, which was around 11, or so (she got a lot of, "So, when are you leaving?" "Shouldn't you go soon if you're going to have lunch with Dad?" "You might want to give yourself quite a bit of time to get there. . .why? oh, just because. . ." lol!)
I had perused all of the dessert cookbooks on her shelf for easy recipes for cake icing; I was prepared to not go beyond my limits and just use one of those Betty Crocker cake mix boxes. But for some reason the one I wanted to use didn't have a recipe for icing on the side --- you'd think that they would make things easier than they are by doing that for people, but they don't.

Anyway, upon my futile search for chocolate cake icing, I found a recipe for chocolate fudge pudding-cake. Now, I've made one of these in the past at Mother's request --- but in the crock pot. It was a slow-cooker recipe then. And I certainly wasn't going to do that now. But the one I found in her many pages of random recipes printed off of the Internet was for a pudding-cake that was baked in the oven. And it was easy. And it was from a source I've used for a tasty brownie recipe before. And Mom apparently really likes pudding-cake. Bingo.

Mix up all of the ingredients, heat up the oven, and [nervously] pop it in (I'm always nervous when I have to do anything in the kitchen because, as I have previously stated, I am no Julia Child.)
As a plus to the garden hedgehog statue that I got for Mom to sit in her herb garden this year, I decide that I will also help her out by keeping up the housework while she is away. And I mean, really keeping up the housework.

A few loads of laundry later, I open the oven to find. . . . . a messy, but decent chocolate pudding-cake. Okay, so it didn't turn out horrible as I had secretly expected. Heck, it might even be called pretty rich. I set the oven on "warm and hold" to keep it warm until Mom gets back home and then we can all marvel at how awesome my pudding-cakes are. The day will end lovely and I will feel like I actually did something special for once on Mom's birthday, something that she can appreciate. I sing my way through the dishes and back into the laundry room (not to mention being exceedingly patient with the littles as I put them down for a [much needed] nap). Nothing can go wrong.

And then Dad gets home. I'm out feeding the horse as it's pouring rain, telling my boy all about the wonderful surprise I have waiting for Mom. I can't wait!
I hear Dad's truck pulling up the drive, he stops, rolls down the window and calls out, "Hiya! You almost done? Can you come up and help me? I got some stuff to celebrate Mom's birthday." He continues up the drive as my heart starts to pound and eventually sinks as I think about how inevitable it is for him to buy a cake. I take plenty of time making my way back to the house and his truck, kicking myself for not thinking that of course Dad would buy Mom a cake on her birthday, trying to formulate a plan in my head of what I'm going to tell Dad. I can't possibly tell him that he's just set a full-blown thunderstorm on my lovely little parade. *sigh*

"What did you get?" I call above the beat of the rain as I near his open truck door. "Oh, just some flowers and a big, beautiful, chocolaty cake!" He says this last part with the look on his face that he gets when he thinks he's doing something very special for us and he knows that we're going to love it. Normally, he's right; but now my mind races with what to say.
He hands me the flowers and requests that I find a vase for them and arrange them. "Oh, Shelby's much better at that than I am," I quickly say, coming up with a plan. Shelby will take care of the flowers and I will hide the cake that is still warming in the oven. . .somehow.

We make it into the kitchen and I am amazed that he doesn't even seem to notice the oven that is on. Usually he would immediately ask me why in the world the oven is on, as if I had purposely turned it on with the motive of burning down the house. But he says nothing, as he turns around and goes back out the door! Now's my chance. I wait a second to make sure he's not coming back in right away, and then I frantically grab some potholders, switch off the oven, and rip my cake out of the oven. But --- what to do with it?? How do I get a hot cake out of sight?? Shelby comes in as I'm unconsciously opening a drawer. "I'll grab some hot pads to sit under it so that he has no reason to get mad at us if it's discovered," she says sensibly. Yes, hot pads, why didn't I think of that? My younger sister helps me hide the cake just as Dad walks back into the house.

I nonchalantly sway back into the laundry room to finish folding a load from the dryer as Dad and Shelby continue with the preparations for the dinner table. I think I'm covered with the cake incident. .  . .until I remember: There are six other people in this house who have been looking forward all day to eating my chocolate pudding-cake. They are surely bound to say something when Dad presents his flashy, chocolaty tower to them. But how to let them know of the situation discreetly? Then I've got it.
I call each child back to put away his/her clothes, whispering to each a quick explanation of why we will not be eating my cake. Everyone agrees not to say anything to Dad. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or cause a scene. And now that I think about it: if word got out to Dad about my cake, certainly pulling it out of a drawer in his presence is going to be rather embarrassing. Oh dear.
Now I'm thinking of how I can get the cake out of the drawer and into somewhere else that would not be so embarrassing to pull it out of should the need arise. (A drawer, really? Who's idea was that??)

It turns out, the best idea comes from Mom, herself. I slink upstairs with my own clothes and the telephone hidden beneath them. No, it's not safe to use the land line; what if Dad were to need the phone while I was on it and noticed that it was being used? Best use my cell.
So I call Mom and explain the whole thing. It sounds pretty silly when I actually try to explain it to someone else. Funny how it seems like such a catastrophe at the time.
She laughingly tells me to put it in the back of the refrigerator. Why didn't I think of that?

We end up eating Dad's cake that night, and the pudding-cake today after lunch while he's at work. I still don't think he knows. :P
Next time, I think I'll check with him before I surprise everyone with a cake.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Tribute to Lexi

Last week--as well as being my birthday week (February the 12th!! ^.^ )-- marked the one year anniversary for Lexi and I.
*ahem* So here is a sort of tribute to my girl (and ohmygosh it didn't save any of it from the first time I typed it all out!) :

In late January of last year, I was going through a really depressing time. One day, a dog came up the drive way. He was a big male that I thought had a bit of pitbull in him; but I needed a friend, and he was sweet, so I said, "Ok, Lord, a special dog would be nice." I named him Fella and fed him and we became friends. . .before he left 2 hours later, never to be seen again.

The very next day, my mom was leaving the house to go grocery shopping. She called the house when she got to the bottom of the driveway and told me that there was a stray puppy down there that she wanted me to feed. So I went tramping off with a bowl of food once again, though I thought it was an odd coincidence.
I honestly expected the cute puppy to wander away as soon as she was done scarfing down the food. After all: once a wanderer, always a wanderer, right?

She was very much afraid of the kitties when she first arrived.
I don't think she'd ever seen one before. :P
But she ended up shadowing me everywhere I went, except into the house, because we don't allow strange dogs into the house. She was afraid of the other kids, though I could tell that she wanted to make friends.

The stray puppy stayed at our house for four weeks straight without leaving. We fed her every other day, because my dad didn't really like the idea of taking on yet another animal's care. But after four weeks, he was calling her my dog and laughing about her persistence.

Maggie wants to go out and play with "the stray puppy".

I started calling her Lexi because I got tired of referring to her as "that stray puppy".

For my birthday last year, my mom took me and a friend of mine to a small conference given by one of my favorite Christian authors.
After the weekend was over, we arrived home late that Sunday night. It was an especially cold night and snow was predicted. I couldn't help but worry about the puppy; I hoped that she wouldn't run away since I'd been gone and it had been cold. She was still afraid of the other kids.

When I walked through the door and upstairs to my bedroom, I found her, with a brand new pink collar, bouncing off my bed ecstatically to greet me! "I'll expect you to take full responsibility for her," my Dad told me, standing in the doorway.

I hadn't expected that I wanted a dog. And, funny as it may sound, a tri-color was the last color that I would have wanted (but then, I didn't want a black horse, either). And because I was so depressed at the time, I didn't want to have to care for somebody else other than my horse--I wanted only to live in self-pity, at least for a little while longer. But Lexi soon changed all that.

She eventually graduated to a bed of her own (still way too large); but God brought this puppy into my life at the perfect time. Her seemingly inexhaustive energy has kept me on my toes. And she has been so needy for love and human approval that she forced me to get over my depression faster by giving me someone to love and hug and care for.
Sure, Joey needs his care, too; but this little stray puppy that never leaves my side and is bouncing off the walls nearly all of the time begs for attention and affection way more than my introverted horse. In fact, she is the horsenality that I wish Joey had, and he is the dog that I always wanted. How weird is that? xD

It has been one year. Thank you, Lord, for the puppy that I didn't ask for.

Joey's Two Cents

Joey here.

I was beginning to doze the other day as Mom and I stood together absorbing the sun's warm rays, when she began one of her jabbering spells again. (She does this most times, I think, without realizing it: we'll have a long period of thoughtful silence, and then she'll startle me awake with a spell of talking. It makes sleep nearly impossible because she usually starts talking just as I'm beginning to doze off.)
Anyway, this time what she had to say actually interested me. She said that she had been asked by more than a few people to write a blog post on what it's like to own a blind horse. And she was despairing of the fact that to her, interacting with me was pretty much like interacting with any other horse. She said she couldn't think of any differences to set out in a blog entry.
Now, hearing the sometimes frustrated comments that I do from her from time to time, I know that what she says about there being no differences isn't entirely true. Perhaps she was just having one of her super uncreative moments -- I don't know. But I thought that, since I am said blind horse, I would help her out by writing my own bog post. (Technically I'm dictating to Lexi, who is typing it out for me seein' as how I appear to lack fingers. In return, her tribute will be finished and posted in the next entry.)

Being blind isn't nearly the sob-story that some might make it out to be. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, not being able to see where you're going (I'm constantly tripping over roots; Mom says I just need to pick my feet up more. . .but, whatever.) The way I see it, you can't spend your whole life just standing in one place. Despite the darkness, you gotta move on, always reaching forward -- that's how you go places.

Training used to be a problem for Mom and I. It took her a while to understand that she couldn't use the same body language cues like she does with other horses because I just couldn't see them. I could hear her sighs and growls of frustration as I didn't respond the right way when she tugged on a rope -- I tried my best, I really did! Especially when she got it into her head to rely on sounds rather than sight. But, again, she didn't completely understand. She was headed in the right direction with her theories; but there were too many sounds -- the wind whistling in my ears as I cantered around her on the lunge line; the beat of my own hooves as well as her boots stomping, trying to cue me to do something; along with the many clucks, smooches, words, tones, and breathing -- all the sounds seemed to pile on top of each other and they became confusing as well as frightening!
Add to the mixture my analogies of the ground under, behind, and in front of me as well as what I thought was around me, and you've got a potentially stressful training session in sensations alone, at least, for me.

For a slightly accurate example: Has there ever been a time when you were in one room, and somewhere else in the building there was what appeared to be a strange noise. You can't see what made the noise, but in your mind you race through all the possibilities that you know of that would explain it. Well, that's kinda what it's like for me -- only most times there's much more than one sound to analyze, and there's smells and my image-less surroundings as well. A lot of horses my mom tells me about sound like they couldn't even take the guessing game with helpful images to add to the picture. My world sound a lot more frightening and stressful -- and sometimes it can be -- but, for the most part, I enjoy the logic that goes into figuring out the guessing game. And, for some reason, I don't get scared.

The only thing that frustrates me about being blind (besides the tripping over numerous roots in a row) is when my mom likes to play hide and seek with my food. I will hear her in the grain room getting my ration; and then suddenly everything will get really quiet. . .and I don't know where she is with the food. . .
Then I'll hear her rattle the feed on the other side of the pasture, and I'll have to figure out where she is, exactly, and how I can get to her. She laughs and pokes harmless fun at me while she encourages me; she even moves to an easier spot if it proves too difficult. But no matter how many times she says it's good for me, I will always believe it is an unnecessary waste of energy. -_-

Some days the blindness leaves for a little while and I can see some vague shapes and bright colors. Mom never wins hide and seek when she's wearing her bright red rain coat on those days. ^.^
But for the most part, my world is made up of sound, touch, and smell.

That's all the time I have for today; unfortunately the farrier just got here to trim my hooves (and I thought I heard something about worming. . . >_> ). I might do another post some other time. I like this blogging idea. For once people can hear it "straight from the horse's mouth". ;)
If you have any specific questions about blind horses concerning working, training, or just life in general-- or questions about myself-- feel free to ask in a comment below.

Here comes Mom with the rope halter. Gotta go.


Friday, February 15, 2013

UPDATE!! (And Blog Change)

Okay, so I really wanted to customize the blog. And--Viola! Like it? The Creative Images pic at the top is one of my senior pictures; I will change it to one without the label soon.

Just wanted to update the blog and say that I promise that I will back into blogging soon. Our Internet has been out since my birthday (which was Tuesday, the 12th. YAY!) So no opportunities there. :/

If you're reading this: thanks so much for being a faithful reader. So sorry I haven't been on much. Hope to give you some good material to read later this week. :D

Until then,


Friday, February 1, 2013

Teaching Joey to Bow -- Parts 2&3

THE BOW PART 2 -- I totally agree with Mosie when she says that training tends to sink in better over night (for both horses and humans, I think). The next morning after that first session of teaching Joey to bow, I went out to grain for breakfast. I figured while he was eating that I would tidy the paddock until he was done and then we could have another small session before I had to go in and take care of schoolwork. Well, out of habit, I accidentally threw hay out for him to eat. *facepalm* Now I thought there would be NO WAY we were going to have a morning session -- Joey tends not to be very interested in anything, let alone WORKING or LEAVING when food is available. But after a while, I noticed that he had come over -- LEAVING the hay completely -- and was just hanging out while I tidied the pasture. I asked him if he was bored with eating (we have been making free-choice forage available 24/7, after all), to which he replied with a big sigh. :P So I put away the manure fork and the wheelbarrow and grabbed some treats and our dressage whip. To see if he was really interested in working with me while food was available, I asked him to follow me around, which he did eagerly; and then I asked him to back up, which he also did willingly. So I tapped his leg with the whip, said "left", and went to pick it up for him the first time or two, thinking he might not remember yesterday's lesson. But before I could bend over after the tap and the verbal cue, he popped his foot up on his own, put it back down, and asked for a treat! I was so happily surprised! ^.^ Treat, and we asked for the trick again; he complied eagerly. I'm so excited that he got it after just one quick session (I've never really worked on teaching him anything like this before)! And now that he's got lifting his leg on cue, we're going to concentrate on holding it for longer periods of time. We've had two more session since (5 total), and he's getting the idea, which is really exciting. :D The next thing to incorporate that Mosie introduced in the first video is the target touching.So last night after supper (our 4th session) I tied a plastic baggie onto the end of our dressage whip. He was very curious to know what the sound of it meant (since he can't see, and plastic bags are generally noisy objects), but he soon got used to it (I was actually surprised he was never afraid of it). During that session, we began with what we knew: a few leg lifts, which he performed easily and eagerly (he even tried to do a few "extra" without the cue, to see if he would get extra cookies :P ) Then we introduced targeting. Mosie suggested that since he's blind, we adjust "targeting" to him just keeping his nose on the target. I'm open to this idea, but I wondered if he could find the target, especially if I used a noisy plastic bag? So I began a method: I shook the plastic bag a little, said "touch", and then touched his nose with it and praised. We did this exact thing several times, and then ended the training session with a few leg-lifts (I'm a firm believe of ending every training session on a positive note, with something that your horse already knows how to do and preferably something that he thinks is fun so that he will think he's had a very productive and fun lesson and will be more receptive of the next session).This morning (session 5), we began with a few extended (meaning time) leg-lifts (he really likes doing these; he thinks he's very clever ;) :P ); and then we worked more with the targeting. After how well he's progressed with the leg-lifts, I was kind of hoping that things would "click" in his brain the same for the target -- but it didn't appear that it had. After doing exactly what we had done the first time, several times, without any real recognition of what we were attempting to do that showed on him, I thought about switching things up. Now, I no longer brought the target to him; instead, I kept shaking the bag gently, and repeating "touch", and when he moved his nose and slightly brushed it, I praised. Well, he was very surprised indeed that THIS was what I was looking for! And I saw some recognition in his eyes, like something had finally clicked in his brain. By the end of the session, I was still shaking the bag lightly and saying "touch, Joey", but he was definitely LOOKING for the bag, and even lipping it. I was so ecstatic with our progress! Again, we ended the session with what we were confident in: leg-lifts. :)
THE BOW PART 3 -- Sorry I haven't been updating as much. Actually, I felt there wasn't much to update on; Joey and I were faithfully practicing our leg-lifts and our targeting at least in one session a day. He absolutely loves doing the leg-lifts (he thinks he's VERY clever ;) ); and the targeting has become a kind of game for us, even to the point where sometimes I'll dash away to a distance and say "touch" and shake the plastic bag, and he'll see how quickly he can follow me, find the bag, and touch it. He's liking that game more and more every time we play it. ^_^
But I didn't feel there was much updating to do since we've been working on the same things as in the other two entries I've done thus far.
Last weekend, when I was sure he knew the leg-lifts by heart and knew what the concept was for the targeting, I tried to begin asking for them at the same time and came up with a problem: We're using verbal cues for both "left" and "touch"--how was I supposed to say them at the same time and ask for them in a way that Joey would understand what I was asking for? We tried a couple times, but to no avail, and we both became frustrated at something that didn't come quite as clearly and easily, so we immediately went back to what we already knew: leg-lifts and targeting, and we were ok and having fun again. But it bothered me that I couldn't think of any possible way for us to get both tricks done at the same time in a clear and concise way. :/ I slept on it for a few nights with no inspiration; and then I got suddenly and unexpectedly busy with school, chores, and extracurriculars; so our play sessions had to be put on hold for the first few days of this week.
After we rode this afternoon, it was so clear that Joey still wanted to spend some quality time hanging out, that I went to get a few bits of cookie and our dressage whip. We practiced our leg-lifts a couple of times and played the targeting game for a few minutes when I began to realize something: When I asked Joey to touch the target closer to the ground and nearer his front legs, he was doing a leg-lift at the same time -- putting the two tricks together on his own! He acted like it was almost a game with himself: let me see if I can balance on three legs while I touch the target really low like Mom's asking me to. I could tell he thought he was really clever, and even a bit funny. :P I was shocked that he would do such a thing, though; but I was so ecstatic!! I didn't have to come up with a way to ask him, after all; I just had to give us both a little while to mull it over, and then just remember that it's all about having fun and building our relationship, even if that means we won't get to do everything that I might want to do. I'm so immensely proud of him! <3 ^_^