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Recent News From Duchess:

Trail Riding--More Excitement than Planned

Today Duchess was going with me on a trail ride. At least, that was MY side of the story. Duchess usually loads fine and is well behaved under saddle (if a bit pushy when she can get away with it). So it was very surprising when she flat out refused to go with me in the trailer.

Part of it was a lack of foresight on my part. Kat stands so well that it's easy to lead her in, drop the lead and say "Stand," then run around anf close the trailer door. Duchess kept following me back out. After two tries, she didn't want to go into the trailer anymore (probably thinking "something's not right here," and I don't blame her). And it would just be stupid to tie her before shutting her in from behind. I'm going to have to work something out there.

Eventually just turned her back out (no point in making her more upset than necessary) and waited for John to get home. He got home, we got her loaded (minimal fuss), closed the door, and off we went. John came along to help get the trailer closed up again when we were there.

Now, part of the problem was definitely that Duchess did not want to leave Fantasy. Duchess has gotten very maternal about Fantasy. So even though we got her into the trailer, she was NOT happy. She kicked--a lot--for 15 minutes! Yikes. But the idea here was to convince her that leaving is okay; want her to realize that when she goes, she's going to come home. That she should be calm in the trailer, because the world isn't at an end.

Then for 10 minutes she was pretty much fine. We got to the park, let her graze a bit...tacked up and rode out onto the trail (John walking alongside)...She jigged and jogged a lot. Poor baby just didn't know what was going on, was scared.

After a little bit, she started to relax. We went back to the trailer. (We passed by a group who had arrived as we were leaving. I'm sure that they had some interesting comments about us leaving so quickly. Ah well.)

She loaded into the trailer first try, but dumb Mommie forgot to unlock the escape door, so Duchess had nowhere to go when Mommie stopped. Oops. Quick-reverse and exit. Unlocked the doors--she didn't want to go in. Showed her the lunge whip, she went right in. Closed her up and took her home. Nothing of note on the way home at all.

Hopefully with this experience under her girth, she'll be happier about future travels. I want the sweet girl to relax and feel secure.

Want to make a quick comment about the lunge whip. I want my horses to respect it, but I don't want them to fear it. Duchess was in a situation where it was likely she could get worked up. I didn't want her to feel very frightened or threatened when the whip came into play. She when I got it out, I rubbed her with it around the chest and loins while muttering soothing noises. Yes, yes, of course she's seen it before...I just wanted to be sure that it was not a surprise, and it was not interpreted as a threat. And things were fine.

(Added on Friday, January 21, 2005 @ 08:22:05 PM)


Duchess, abcess

Duchess's bad hoof has an abcess, sadly. Not a whole lot going on with her recently. I was hoping that her most recent trim would get us past the abcess, but it's not quiiiiite grown out yet. She's a bit grumpy about it.

The One AC really seems to be helping with her sweating. She had stopped sweating completely by the beginning of July. July, in Florida, is NOT a good time to be unable to sweat. We put in auto-waterers in the stalls, so she can have fresh water as long as she's in there (she has free access, and hides in there during the worst of the day). We also started her on One AC. She is now sweating again, at least some. It's not as much as it ought to be, but hey, it's something.

The vet recommended beer, too. She says that she gives beer to her own anhydrotic horse. I've seen that in a few different places; I guess it's worth trying :)

(Added on Saturday, September 18, 2004 @ 04:15:15 PM)


Mama Mare

Yesterday we rode up the road for the first time since Fantasy came over & Lucky left. Fantasy started panicking the moment we left the field (long before we were out of sight). Now, she used to watch them go up the road, and come back again, quite regularly last fall--this time, though, she was on the other side of the fence, and she didn't have Lucky around.

As with everything, I figure that repeated short exposure will help her get accustomed to it; we were prepared for her to be worried when we left--but neither of us was prepared for Duchess's reaction! Duchess, the calm, reliable, bombproof babysitter was spinning around trying to bolt back to Fantasy. How completely unexpected.

At the very beginning, she would panic when separated from Kat. But for a long, long time now she's been all right; a little hesitant the first time she does something new without Kat; hesitant, but agreeable. Duchess, of course, is the dominant mare in the group. She really seems to feel quite maternal about the other two. And on yesterday's ride, she was like a mother being forcefully separated from a weanling. Any time Fantasy called, Duchess tried to spin.

With insistence and some loud exclamations, John did finally manage to get her to pay attention. He also maintained the upper hand while turning around to head for home. I think we got out of that whole ride better off than we started, and next time will be easier. But really, we were so startled by the apparent depth of her emotions. She's usually very distant toward F, and sometimes even won't be near her (F is rather clingy). But when Fantasy was so distressed, she was protective, she was vehement, she wanted to GO take care of the Little Bit.

(Added on Saturday, July 24, 2004 @ 01:52:21 AM)


More soppy grin

We had a happy moment with Duchess too, while grooming. She will sometimes also do the nose-to-chest thing, but much more rarely than Kat. Otherwise she's never very expressive. Tonight, I was brushing her face, and she started playing with the brush! With her upper lip! She was wiggling her lip around, bumping the brush, trying to get ahold of it, nuzzling it. I was floored. She's never done anything REMOTELY like that. (Yes, I know, it's not unusual for *normal* horses.) Is it Fantasy? Is she teaching them how to be horses? I think it must be...

(Added on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 10:33:22 PM)


More soppy grin

We had a happy moment with Duchess too, while grooming. She will sometimes also do the nose-to-chest thing, but much more rarely than Kat. Otherwise she's never very expressive. Tonight, I was brushing her face, and she started playing with the brush! With her upper lip! She was wiggling her lip around, bumping the brush, trying to get ahold of it, nuzzling it. I was floored. She's never done anything REMOTELY like that. (Yes, I know, it's not unusual for *normal* horses.) Is it Fantasy? Is she teaching them how to be horses? I think it must be...

(Added on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 10:32:51 PM)


Bareback

John rode Duchess bareback today. We were both pretty tired from planting trees (big trees!) and we were both just out for a bit of fun.

I couldn't really hear most of what he was saying, but it all sounded like "she's such a good girl." ;) He hopped off a little while before I was done, and said he was rewarding her for being exceptionally good. He'd been practicing leg aids, and had gotten some really clear responses, and was really happy with her. He hung around snuggling with her and probably cooing to her until I was done on Kat (not much longer).

When we were both done, we just took off the halters and turned them back out right where we were standing. It's nice to be able to do that, and I think it's a really clear signal to the horse: "you were so good that you are ALL DONE."

(Added on Sunday, March 28, 2004 @ 08:55:26 PM)


John rode

I rode Kat, and John rode Duchess. They're both shedding like crazy, incidentally.

He practiced leg aids and worked on her flexion, and did a little trotting. She was a good girl.

(Added on Saturday, March 20, 2004 @ 08:31:33 PM)


Bareback

John rode Duchess today. As I mentioned in today's entry about Kat, the girls came up to the barn when we called them. I had been worried about their recent reluctance to come to us; I think it was a combination of resentment about all this lunging (I didn't ride for several months) and the grass being sooooo green. Green grass is a) yummy and hard to leave, and 2) much higher in sugar--think 6-yr-old kid at Halloween.

They're certainly not over their springtime jollies, because Duchess was a royal wench to Kat today while we're riding. When she's got a passenger, she gets very grouchy at other horses, sort of a "Mine! Mine!" attitude. She doesn't want any other horses near. Usually about 15' is far enough, but today at one point she put her ears back and sort of hopped sideways in Kat's direction, closing up the distance. A little less passively possessive, and a little more aggressively dominant. Very sugar-high kind of behavior. Aside from [apparently] wanting to attack Kat, she was well behaved.

But I'm so glad, after yesterday's disagreement she has not been at all unhappy towards either of us. She was attentive all day, she was polite, and when she came to the barn, she came up to us before she headed to her stall. Much, much better. I went out later this evening to dump some stuff in the compost pile, and she was even a bit affectionate. (She's somewhat defensive about affection; sometimes she is affectionate, sometimes she will start to cuddle and then realize what she's doing and back off. I think she likes to pretend that she's too tough and bossy to be sweet.) I do love this horse, and I think we're going to get along well for quite some time without any more disagreements. I will endeavor to keep it that way.

(Added on Saturday, March 13, 2004 @ 10:56:06 PM)


Nuts

Duchess is a pushy, bossy brat. With assertiveness (not aggressive, assertive) and gentle insistence we can usually keep this down to a minimum.

Right now I think both horses are on a bit of a sugar high (spring grass) and, while they've been overall all right, they have been acting a little unusual--ignoring us when we show up, a little inattentive when haltered, and so on. My post today where I talked about Kat turning away from me yesterday is a good example, although I think she's also really sick of lunging.

However, if we let her get away with large amounts of brattiness, Duchess can in fact become dangerous to handle. Today she got to that point, and I had to slap her down. I feel really, really awful. It was dinnertime; we went outside to feed. John went up to Duchess to take off her flymask, told her "Hoa." She instead charged past him and off toward the other field (and, not so incidentally, the entrance to the barn where she gets fed.) Mrph. Feeding her at that point would only have reinforced the behavior, if she did whatever she wanted and she still got her dinner.

So I hollered at her and chased her off. My goal became to get her more attentive to me than to the entrance to her stall. If she looked at me, I spoke softly; if she walked towards me, I moved her toward the stall. If she walked to the stall instead of to me, she got a loud shake of my windbreaker (good handy emergency noisemaker) and a "Get!".

We eventually got attentiveness, although respect was still at issue. Something to have another look at tomorrow; we'll review respect when dinner isn't hanging over our heads, and make sure later that dinner isn't enough of a distraction to lose respect.

And I'm really sad that I hurt the poor mare's feelings. She's a very willing horse, usually likes to please. But she's also a boss mare, and trying to wiggle out of a submissive position is in her nature. She was just being a horse. And it did hurt her feelings when I corrected her for it. I did what I could; when she was paying attention, not trying to be pushy, I gave praise and encouragement, lots. And I certainly didn't do worse than a stronger boss mare *horse* would have done, or even as much as. I, after all, kept it verbal! No flailing hooves, no darting teeth.

I really hate such conflicts. I try quite hard to work with the horses, not against them. Sometimes, though, if you let something slip, it leads to Bad Things. Knowing it was the right thing to do doesn't make me hate it less.

(Added on Friday, March 12, 2004 @ 08:32:37 PM)


Bareback ride

Duchess got ridden bareback/halter&lead rope today. I rode Kat, John rode Duchess. She was a good girl.

(Added on Friday, March 12, 2004 @ 07:03:57 PM)


Brief Ride

John rode Duchess around while I was riding Kat. He says he didn't do anything much :) I wasn't really looking... I was enjoying the ride.

(Added on Sunday, March 07, 2004 @ 02:45:44 PM)


Lunged

Lunged Duchess today just for a little bit of exercise. It was my intention just to do the same as I did with Kat: a couple times around each direction in walk, a couple times around each direction in trot.

She wasn't interested. She wanted to go. She kept trying to take off in canter. It's been a while since she was regularly worked on a lunge line, and I think her left-sidedness may have gotten some worse; going right, a couple of times she slammed on the brakes and tried to reverse. All in all, not a very sedate lunging session.

Once we had a reasonably calm trot around in each direction, I stopped her and walked her a bit. Then I took her over to the jumps and led her over a couple. I can't wait 'till I can jump again.

(Added on Thursday, March 04, 2004 @ 10:25:11 PM)


Lunged & Ridden, too

While I was walking Kat, John lunged Duchess a bit. She wasn't quite as loony as Kat was.

He rode Duch bareback while I rode Kat. Neither of them exactly got a serious ride in, but hey. As they went by the fence and the neighbor mare charged up and tried to get Duch to play. John says she tensed a little, but then relaxed and was entirely attentive to John. Such a nice girl :)

(Added on Wednesday, March 03, 2004 @ 06:29:35 PM)


Driving

It rained hard for a couple of weeks. The ground was seriously mushy. I wasn't lunging at all, and even that little log was too much weight to drag on the ground.

Today I hooked Duchess up to the log for the second time. She was wonderful. Responding a little more quickly, so I think she's a little less confused; seems much happier about the whole thing. Stil having a little trouble going straight...just going to have to learn that the weight on her chest is not directing her.

(Added on Monday, March 01, 2004 @ 06:05:34 PM)


Driving

Things had been going so well, and then my back gave out again in December. Frustrating. For weeks I couldn't do anything. When I could finally walk again, I wasn't comfortable sitting, and had to keep my back very still even if I moved. Riding was clearly out of the question.

I decided to work with Duchess on driving. I ground drove her a few times, and she was getting used to it. I started thinking that it would be useful if she could drag our fields.

I made a sort of harness, intended only to allow her to drag something on the ground. After several sessions of ground driving, we hooked up "traces" attached to a 5" diameter 48" log.

She was her usual stoic self about the log; I was very proud of her. She did exhibit some confusion, and she appears to be responding to the feel of the drag on her chest by trying to go left or right. But she tried hard, and she was very obedient and sweet.
Some pics.

I think she'd still prefer to be ridden.

(Added on Friday, February 20, 2004 @ 07:39:41 PM)