Puppy’s first trail test

DSC02926Lessons continue for our Australian Shephard pup, Kip.
Next phase of Ride Along Dog training?

Hit the trails!

[Read past Dog and Horses posts.]

Since she’s not entirely savvy about traffic or strangers, I had to work out some safety-related logistics first:

  • We picked mid-morning and mid-week to minimize the possibility of cars, walkers, and other dogs interfering with this trial run.
  • We headed down to the wildlife management area by trailer, to avoid any road time.
  • I tied a sack of treats to my bareback pad, brought a leash and cell phone, just in case.
  • Again, we took the most patient and slow-footed Shea.

ride alongKip stayed in the truck cab (yipping uncontrollably) while I unloaded Shea. Then I let the dog out, mounted up, and moved out immediately.
Kip was super-excited but managed her energy by making big, irregular circles around us. She tried nipping Shea’s heels once and got a quick verbal reprimand.
When she jogged alongside, I tossed her treats occassionally and praised her.
It quickly developed into just another off-leash jog. Kip checked in, did her canine exploring, and checked in again.
Three gloriously uneventful miles later, we were back at the trailer.
A few more rides like this one and I think we’ll be ready for added elements like another horse and rider and traffic.




“Pick Me!” attitude

With the warmer weather arrival, we’ve been enthusiastically hitting the trails again.

Floodwaters be darned. [see facebook photos]

pickmeIt was nice to discover the horses seemingly as eager for the foray as us humans. When I brought out Pep and Shea, Brooke and Jodi seemed to say, “Take us, too!” [see photo at right.]

No barn sourness here.
I’d like to think it has to do with their knowledge that good things happen when they’re with us.

That dopamine flows.

That pressure will always be quick and soft.
All that may be true, but a little honesty and full disclosure might be appropriate here:
I think they like snack time, too. [see photo below]

Horse, Trailer, Bird

The timing for the Trailer Depot’s recent article on trailer safety and servicing couldn’t have been better.

  • Trips are around the corner.
  • Trailer’s been sittin’ for a few months.
  • It’s nesting season.

nestI found this robin nest on top of my gooseneck trailer’s spare tire. Thankfully, Mama Robin hadn’t laid any eggs yet. It’s a shame she’ll have to start over, but at least I won’t have to face the prospect of displacing baby robins three weeks from now. Or worse, driving off with them.

Idle trailers are GREAT targets for potential nest-builders. They offer shelter and have any number of great starter foundations for fine, sturdy, weather-and-predator safe homes.
Save yourself the heartbreak and hazard of nesters. Give your trailers regular clean sweeps before you start using it.

Pasture Plan Foiled

The seasonal transition plan at our farm (one that includes dealing with the mud and staying off fields until they’re ready) hasn’t come without a few glitches.

soakThe most distressing?

The Big Girl, Shea, came up lame. She went from fine to barely able to walk within a day. Poor girl!
Thankfully, I’m getting familiar with her history and didn’t load her up for an urgent trip to the vet for x-rays, a professional diagnosis, and a bill to match.
What with that history, the seasonal transition, and all the mud, an abscess is strongly suspected. So instead of panicking, I grabbed the hoof pick, Epsom salt, soaking tub, and betadine.
Three days and seven soaks later, she’s feeling much better. I haven’t been rewarded by that classic stink of surfaced abscess fluid yet. But she trotted out with the others this morning.

That’s good enough for now.

Pasture Plan in Theory

The girls and I had a meeting.
I explained to them the concept of Delayed Gratification.

talk“You’ll thank me later,” I said.

They threw visual daggers at my back, I’m pretty sure, as I walked out of their muddy, stinky paddock.

Yes, Grass is back! And we (horses and human alike) are looking forward to its benefits.

  • For Us: a well-earned break from the labor and expense of hay.

But my enthusiasm has been curbed by the knowledge gained from conversations with pasture professionals.
Deb Schwab and Dick Brzozowski both recommend letting grasses get a head start before sending hungry horses onto fields.
Grasses can’t thrive if they are constantly bitten off short.
Traffic during mud season will wreck any overseeding attempts before those seeds can germinate and take hold. Thus, the above talk about Delayed Gratification.
We’ll be rotating pastures this year, too, girls. That means more looking over the fence where Grass is Greener and introducing another not-so-satisfying mantra:

“It’s for your own good.”

Ride Along Dog’s Progress

IMG_1723Kip, the Aussie pup, graduated from obedience class with average marks and now is ready for anything.
Or, so she says.
Thanks to Dr. Cynthia Reynold’s sage advice, my top priority now is making her safe around horses. Then, to make her trail savvy.
She’s learned “out” which means to get out of the paddock and away from the horses.
She can “sit” and “stay” from a distance with voice and hand signals (closed fist for sit and open hand for “stay,” like you’d see from a school crossing guard)
But when left to her own devices, it’s darn hard for her to resist nipping at the horses’ heels. She can’t help herself, so strong is her instinctual drive, especially when they’re the least bit energized.
I remember another expert, Martin Black, saying (to paraphrase) that the best trainers work to suppress instinct without taking the life out of the animal.

What a challenge!

This weekend, I took Kip on two trial runs as Ride-Along Dog. I picked Shea, the most tolerant and slow-footed horse. Armed with treats and a squirt bottle, we walked and jogged around the pasture.
Anytime she heel-nipped, she got squirted and a “leave it!” call from me. When she simply jogged along side us, I’d regularly toss her treats and say “Good Girl!”
She started out as a circling, jazzed-up nipping machine, but quickly progressed to a relaxed, jogging companion.
Shea didn’t seem too impressed but I’m excited about these developments.

Doing a little gate work with Shea while Kip learns to how hang out and relax. Not easy for an Aussie!

Doing a little gate work with Shea while Kip learns to how hang out and relax. Not easy for an Aussie!

Back to School

Folks say you can work with a horse, then leave it be.
For weeks. Months. Years, even.
two waysAs long as you left it in a good place and on good terms, it’ll be pretty easy to pick up where you left off. Horsewoman Kyla Pollard observed as much when she revisited a gelding two full years after starting him, with no one riding him in between.

“I’m pleased to say he didn’t forget too much,” said Pollard of the nine year old. “I’ve had him on fresh cattle, roped off of him, and hit the trails solo. He’s well on his way to becoming a great pleasure horse for his owner.”

With that in mind, we returned to starting Jodi, the four year old paint acquired last summer. Over winter, we hadn’t done much more than groom her and handle her feet a bit.
Steve Peters brought her back to the round pen with the idea of stirring up as little drama as possible. He saddled her and worked her on the ground without much fuss.
Next, he climbed aboard.

one wayI had camera poised and was ready for the fireworks.

She stood for a minute, then walked clockwise around the pen a few times. Then switched directions. She was a bit nervous, but clearly in a good place.

“She’s really come to trust me, so I think at that point my being on her back was almost like: ‘My pal’s up there.’ That’s how it felt,” said Steve.

I was ready for a fun, hats-off, Yee-Ha! photo. What I got was Ho Hum.
But I’ll take that kind of progress any day. Stay tuned…

Jodi touches her whiskers and lips to the saddle pad, after it's off her.

Jodi touches her whiskers and lips to the saddle pad, after it’s off her.

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