Horses are Weather, Part A

Working with our horses for the short NickerNews holiday video taught me something about their nature.
In two words:

Predictably unpredictable.
Like the weather.

I rode Shea and ponied two others to the far end of the field. Herd dynamics being what they are, I figured the two remaining horses would surely follow. I had numbers after all.
Nothing doing.
They stayed put.
They merely glanced in my general direction.

Argh.

No matter how good we think we are at predicting horse behavior or weather — sometimes we most certainly fail.

Sure, we get better with more knowledge and experience, but horse behavior can sometimes seem as mysterious as cloud movement.
How and why do they shift?

The more horses or weather we see, the better we get with our predictions. Stampedes and hurricanes are pretty easy to predict. But what about more subtle movements?

In the case of the persnickety mares, I went to Plan B:

Filling my pockets with Hay Stretcher, I got back on Shea and fed them all out of my hand. The loose horses then watched me move away. They watched me give treats to the others. They followed.

They stuck with us this time. I just had to kick start the process.

Read Part B

Ride Along Dog Progress

If we got another dog, we wanted a Ride Along Dog. Thus, the summer acquisition of Kip, an Australian Shepherd from a litter of eight down the road.
Kip’s growing up and at six months can outrun nearly everyone here at the farm. Her speed and wiliness mean I feel more and more comfortable about walking in the pasture amongst the herd with her.

Read initial blog post about Kip.
The horses interested, especially Jodi. The new girl would like to move Kip.
Kip would like to move Jodi. And anything else for that matter. She’s growing into her form and breed instincts, less intimidated and more curious by the day.

Obedience?

That’s another element that makes pasture walks doable. When horses get lively or come barreling towards the paddock for hay, Kip now knows the new command, “Out!”

Photo below shows Kip, after “out.” She’s scooted outside the paddock and waits for the next move. Or a treat, perhaps?

Jodi Makes Progress Thanks to Shea

Progress with the big girl took a big step forward today as we worked with her in the round pen.
Steve worked with another horse first and Jodi stood outside, wanting in.
A good sign!
When she got her turn, Steve first worked on the ground with and without the saddle.
He’d introduced the saddle over several sessions. She doesn’t take it in stride yet, but after some initial tense moments she settles nicely to the thing on her back.
Now, we were ready to put a live thing on her back.

Steve.
He’d been up a few times earlier and ridden out a buck or two.
This time, we worked her by using Shea to pony her. They both did great. When any iota of panic in Jodi came up, we nipped it in the bud by turning her into Shea or just lightly restraining her.
After some time, I gave Steve the line and we went around together. I think Jodi realized she wasn’t tied to Shea but we still moved in concert, walking, trotting, turning.
Then I moved Shea left. Steve stayed straight. Jodi moved out as he asked with no hesitation.
A fun, positive day.
We got a good horse here.

NickerNews on Campus

Last week, I visited a college class called “Facing Your Demons.”
Ok, the course was actually “Product, Brand, and Category Management,’ a business class offered by instructor Anne King at Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
King invited me to speak to her students about NickerNews.
Facing Your Demons is what us introverted writers call the necessary evils of marketing and promotion. We know we gotta do it, but it can be downright painful. In a perfect world, I’d rather write, ride, and hire someone else to do it. Sometimes, I like to pretend those semi-scary, semi-annoying chores are simply not there. If I ignore them, surely they will disappear.
Facing Your Demons is how I like to think of public appearances, too. As I said to King, “Thanks for giving me such short notice. It meant one sleepless night, instead of many more!”
But to an engaged and enthusiastic class, I described the creation and growth of NickerNews, its platforms, distribution, and demographics. I also shared with them my struggles and limitations as a one-woman shop and how that role means juggling an array of responsibilities and duties.
During a lengthy discussion session, the students, professor, and I reviewed business strategies. We brainstormed ideas for development. Not surprisingly, the students were fluent and expansive with their marketing suggestions. They showed thoughtfulness and enthusiasm in their approach.
It was fun, productive, and enlightening.
Who would have thought?

And what’s more?

I’m going back next semester!

Starting Jodi

With this improved blog, comes categorization and today we introduce a new one: Starting Jodi. (see categories listed above image)

NickerNews readers have come to know the horses in my life. The newest is Jodi. We acquired her in July from a kind Wisconsin owner.
Jodi is a four-year old quarterhorse type. Conformation-wise, she’s a tank. She has decent manners and came to us pretty much halter broke. We’re challenged by bringing her knowledge and training in line with her impressive size and strength.
The Starting Jodi category (indicated by the thumbnail image of the journal I’m keeping) will allow readers to follow the progress as we work with the young mare from introduction to herdmates, to trailer-loading, to saddling, and riding.
You can read initial posts entering “Jodi” into the search of the old blog by clicking here.

When Jodi first came to us, she landed firmly at the bottom of the herd.
Peppermint, in particular, let the new girl know exactly where she belonged. Here’s Pep being particularly adamant with her message. [See top photo.]
But Jodi has worked her way to the top. Or at least close to it. When hay is tossed, Jodi gets second dibs, after Brooke. I’m no expert at herd dynamics, but I have to think that it’s a combination of naivety, confidence, and brute force that got her to where she is now.
She seems to say:
Hey, happy to be here! But tell me to move I’ll kick your butt! [See bottom photo.]

She used to say that with horses and humans alike. Now she just says it to her herdmates.
Jodi and Pep

Man, Horse, Deer

Can you see the deer in this top image? Scroll down for a closer look!

Ah, Deer Season.

In Maine, deer hunters hang out in the thick woods. They can use rifles and the gun season runs the length of November, more or less. It’s nutty, but pretty straightforward. Read more about Deer Hunting in Maine
It’s different in Iowa. There aren’t many woods and hunters can’t use rifles. The season is scattered, with several days now and more days in January. (Bow hunting in both states has a lengthy season.)
In Iowa, it’s ok to get together as a group and push deer towards hunting partners in hiding. It’s common to see these hunting parties of six to eight, gathered around quads and pickups, talking strategy.
I have nothing against deer hunting.

Ok, I have something against the knucklehead that hunted right behind the house last year without my permission. And I have something against the hunter who shot our dog when I was a kid. And it can be unnerving as heck to ride during deer season. Some friends avoid it altogether.

Grudges notwithstanding, I like to adopt the “Can We All Get Along?” approach. We all like the outdoors, so let’s just chill.
Yesterday was the last day of the shotgun season ‘til January and Peppermint and I headed out for a short jaunt. A few days ago, I saw two guys gutting their kill right there on the shoulder of our road. Coyotes, buzzards, and other scavengers must have already cleaned up the entrails.

We spotted a big deer in the gully. It saw us and stood unmoving, frozen and attentive. I watched long enough to snap a few images, then moved on quickly. More hunters drove passed us. They gathered on the county road, a half-mile away.

The sun went down soon after.
I can hear Barry Manilow singing, “Looks Like We Made It.”

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