Archive for the ‘Dakota’ Category

Well, second, actually, but he wasn’t conscious for the first. That one also came with his gelding, so I’m pretty glad he doesn’t remember it.

I was prepared with twitch and Ace (a tranquilizer) in order to make things as smooth as possible, but amazingly, it turned out that we didn’t need either. The credit for that goes to a great farrier, an amazing little gelding, and a friend – Diane, another boarder at the farm.

We started out in the aisle, but Mr. Jax wasn’t real happy with that idea. Laura, the farrier, suggested we move into the stall to continue. He was still a little freaked out and rammy, not aggressive at all but trying to get away. Laura took him at that point, telling me that for right now, she’d just get him used to her, and then would call me back in. She walked Jax around the stall, just getting him used to her and paying attention to her. Amazingly, she did his front feet with little trouble.

Laura trims a front hoof.
Jax is staring at me the whole time as if to say,
“MOM! She’s touching me!”

This is the first time I’ve used Laura as a farrier. Diane recommended her. Diane’s horse is an OTTB who can be a little skitchy come shoeing time, and I’ve seen how good Laura is with her. No complaints about my usual farrier, but I’ve heard from multiple sources that he isn’t always the most patient with horses who aren’t well-behaved. Dakota is a piece of cake. Jax is young, inexperienced, and uncomfortable with the process. Not one to take chances, I went with the recommendation to use Laura, since she has a lot of experience with young and challenging horses. In addition, I found out that day, she has also worked with some BLM horses. Boy am I glad I chose her.

MOM! She’s STILL touching me!

Some of the work I’ve done with Jax is channelling his energy when he gets fearful. He tended, initially, to want to bolt, so I would just steer him in a circle around me. This way, he gets to move, but he doesn’t get to bolt off or get loose. Now, he just runs himself in a little circle when he gets nervous. I think he wore a little circular path in the stall.

Laura just kept at it, bringing him back to where she wanted him, keeping his attention on her, and refocusing him when he decided to tour the stall. He still got his feet trimmed, so he learned he wasn’t going to get out of it, but he wasn’t getting ‘punished’ for being scared:

Diane held him while Laura did the back feet. The reason I did this is that Diane has more experience with young horses, knows how Laura works, and because I was anxious and didn’t want to make Jax more nervous. Horses can, and do, pick up on our anxiety, and it can make things a lot worse. I stayed outside the stall to document the event.

Great thing about my super little gelding is that not once did he get mean. He did a couple of little kicks with one of his back feet – what Laura called “a little F.U.” but nothing that was even near connecting with anyone. Once straight back, and once as if he was shaking something off his foot. This little guy doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.

After he was done, Diane’s mare came in.  Laura took care of her right outside Jax’s stall, so he could observe.  He was very interested at first, and kept looking at the mare with these wide eyes “RUN!  They’re gonna touch your feet!”  Finally, he calmed down, lost interest, and headed over to his hay bag.

I was so impressed with Laura that I had her take care of Dakota too, and have decided to continue to use her.  All in all, a very exciting day, and another great success with Jax. He really is incredible.


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I think I have about 75 pictures of Jax grazing. It takes up a LOT of his time… 🙂

“Wait – was that the donkey again?”

Dakota spots me in her field and heads over.

I sat down on an overturned bucket. She leaned way in as if to ask, “What are you doing down there?” What a beautiful eye she has.

A few minutes of scratches and head rubs, and it’s back to the grass.

Big milestone with Jax today. I was outside talking with one of the other boarders, when Jax apparently heard my voice (he was out of sight down the hill in the field), whinnied, and came up to where I was. Walked straight to me and tilted his head for some scratching in his itchy spots! Best of all, when he wandered off, I called him and he came back! Later, I headed out to where he was, and he let me approach without moving away at all, multiple times, and seemed happy to graze while I hung out with him, petting him, talking to him, and tending to the itchy spots. Yay!

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Started the day with vaccines today. By and large, no problem.  Jax was more concerned about the fly spray.

Dakota was a bit fussier. Not naughty; just has been a little needle-shy since all the injections during our breeding attempts last year. And HATES the Strangles vaccine, which goes up her nose. Good news is, just like last year, she blew it all over me, so looks like I won’t get Strangles either.

AND…Jax took treats! Woohoo! Finally found one he likes. Broke it into small pieces (we’ve been adding little bits to his food to get him used to the taste), and today he took a few from my hand.

We’ve also been getting used to the Jolly Mega Ball. Not afraid of it at all; just not sure what to do with it.

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I am continually amazed by my little gelding.  To understand why, you really have to look at things in context.  Two months ago, the little guy was basically wild, and was virtually unhandled.  Who knows what happened to get the entire herd transported to the auction, but I’m sure it wasn’t your usual walk-the-horses-onto-the-trailer type situation.  And then the auction.  Scared horses, lights, sounds, and people.  Weaned in the auction pen.

Then another trailer ride (albeit with a rescue this time), another strange place, strange horses, new people.  And a month after that, another trailer ride, another new place, and more strangers.

And through it all, he has never once offered to do anything mean-spirited.  He’s been nervous, hesitant, confused, but always trying to do what’s asked of him.  In the two weeks since I brought Jax home, here’s what he’s accomplished:

  • Has rather seamlessly adjusted to his new home, getting along spectacularly with Sparky and Harley, his pasturemates.  They are teaching him a great deal, and he is following Harley around every chance he gets.  Sort of like a Big Sister / Big Brother program for horses.

Jax and Harley, his new “big brother”

  • Automatically moves himself out of my space most of the time.  Backs up on verbal cue, touch to the chest, and hand gesture.  (To be fair, he learned to back up at Gerda’s.  I just fine-tuned).
  •  Picks up all four feet (most of the time).  Front feet for 3-5 solid seconds, back feet a little less but is getting a little less antsy when he does so.
  • Leads, from both sides, reliably and calmly.  Turns when I turn, stops when I stop, with no issues 80-90% of the time.  (Again, Barbara at Gerda’s Animal Aid did the initial work here – I fine-tuned).
  • Has started to learn to longe.  I’ve done some work with him on the end of  a long lead rope.  Just walk on, whoa, walk on.  Stop, switch direction, walk on, whoa, and so on.  But he’s caught on well.
  • Stands for you to put his halter on with very little fussing.  Since a few days after his arrival here, he’s been turned out without a halter.
  • Stands for me to groom him, including mane and tail.
  • Stood for an EyeD scan today, almost without incident (he kept turning his head to see the rep when she was trying to do a straight-on head shot).  Showed absolutely no fear of the camera.  A couple of sniffs and he couldn’t have cared less.
  • Has checked out barrels, mounting blocks, cones, jolly balls, a cat, a goat, 2 dogs, tractors, wheelbarrows, cars, and a heapload of other horses calmly and curiously.  Has listened to chainsaws, car horns, far-off rifle shots, and other strange sounds.  Most spooks have been brief and in place.

Jax checks out Dakota’s mounting block. It’s huge. It’s a four-step industrial thing my husband bought me as a gift.

A cone and a barrel – neither of which, we discovered, eat weanlings.

  •  Learned to wear a fly mask.  And, judging by the fact that it wasn’t on his stall door yesterday, learned to take it off.
  • As of today, stood to be sprayed for detangler and fly spray.
  • As of yesterday, discovered a treat he liked.  Jax and Harley, his new “big brother”
  • Has started to trust me.  Rubs his head on me, tilts his head and neck for scratches, and looks to me for cues when he’s nervous.  Has begun to be curious and even a little friendly with strangers.  Has come up to check out a couple of visitors, and even decided to interact with my husband today.  He seems a little more shy of men than women.

The last one takes a little bit of management.  He’s so darned cute that everyone wants to pet him.  Fortunately for me, the barn is filled with decent people who don’t push it with him. But some of my n9n-horsey friends and relatives who have visited need to be coached on how to interact with him.

Dakota loves everyone, and so they’re used to her standing and seeking attention, looking for treats, ducking her head for scratches.  Jax doesn’t do that as a rule.  He’s just starting to do that stuff on occasion with me and the people he sees every day.

But I’m learning too.  I’m continually discovering who this little guy is.  From his favorite scratchy spots, to the way he stops and considers things carefully from time to time, to his expressions, it’s a really neat experience to start figuring him out.  I have to switch approaches sometimes to teach him things.  I have to control my frustrations when we’re working.  I have to continually adjust my plan for the day to see where he’s at.  If it becomes clear that we’re not going to get to a certain point, I have to set a new goal, so that we’re always ending on a success when we end a session.

Jax is very intuitive; if you’re frustrated or unsure, he reacts to it.  I have to make sure that I am calm and confident.   I can’t let myself bring in the bad mood of the day when I get in the stall or ring with him.  I have to just be with him, be focused on what I’m doing.  It’s been an enlightening experience.  A couple of times, I’ve been surprised at what’s been rattling around in the back of my head during a session with him – discovering it only when I’ve been trying to figure out why things weren’t clicking.

He’s a real thinker, too.  More than once, I’ve adjusted a lesson to set the goal lower, ended on a good note, and come in the next day to find that the thing we struggled to make any progress with yesterday is a piece of cake today.  He thinks about things.

He’s honing my patience, and my ability to relax and just be.  As much as I may be teaching my little gelding, he’s teaching me, too.

Life is good.

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Well, Mr. Apple Jax had a very good, minimally eventful first day.  He wasn’t eating his bran mash last night,which I attributed to his being unfamiliar with it.  He was eating hay, peeing and pooping, so no worries.  This morning, I got a text that he wasn’t eating his grain, but he was eating hay, and not in any obvious distress.   I asked if he was going to be turned out this morning, because I figured if he ate grass and hay all day, I wasn’t going to worry; I could pick up the other brand of mare and foal feed later in the day and have it for his lunchtime feed.

“Well I was going to but he isn’t cooperating.”

Uh oh.  Seems Mr. Jax decided he wasn’t quite sure of the barn owner this morning, so he decided he didn’t want to put his halter on.  That is, until she gave him a little senior feed.  Problem solved, and out he went to meet his other pasturemate, Harley.  They did great together, and Harley started showing the little guy the ropes.

Funniest thing was the fact that this was a group text session, with the best brains at the barn all fussing over my little colt.  The involved parties included a vet tech, a person who used to rehab racehorses and has raised foals, the barn owner, Jill (who works at an equine vet, majored in equine studies, and is one of the best horsewomen I know), and me.  I am SO lucky to have the resources I do.

Oh yes, and I was also informed that “the stall is a disaster.”  When I arrived with the Poulin Mare and Foal, it was feeding time, and everyone was waiting to come in.  The rain was a pretty light drizzle.  Until, that is, Jax decided he didn’t actually want to come in – he was heading back to the hay round, thank you very much.  And off he went at a happy little trot, stopping once or twice to look back at me.

Yup.  About what I expected I’d be dealing with his first day out in the pasture.

I went inside to get some grain, and discovered why he hadn’t wanted the feed I’d picked up – compared to the Poulin Equi-Pro, what I got him sucked.  The Equi-Pro looks more like a sweet; the Nutrena Life Design is a pellet.  Stupid, he ain’t.  I walked back outside, and headed over to where he is.  Got there just in time to watch Dakota come in from her field (right next door to his).  She got all the way into the run-in before doubling back and running over to see him – “Who are YOU?”  She was very curious and friendly.  Her pasturemate, not so much.  Jax was unfazed.  And then he heard the shuck-shuck-shuck of the grain.  Grain? Hmm…

Once he figured out what kind it was, he was definitely interested.  Put it down, and it took me a couple of tries to get his halter, but we were soon on our way back to the barn, little Mr. Jax trying to reach around me to the grain periodically.  He also got a little speedy a couple of times, but I’d just circle with him and he’d settle nicely.  Of course, it was now pouring.  There’s a reason foals are so darned cute.

Ate his grain no problem, but he did blow all the bran out of it.  Goofball.  He also got a little grooming and training session from Jill, which was great.  Picked up his feet pretty well, and learns quickly.  He got a little kicky with the backs, but nothing scary, and at the end was picking his feet up with a very light touch on his leg.  Very brief duration, but that will come.  He cracks me up.  Kept taking little breaks during the session, where he’d come up to me like “MOM – she’s touching me!”

We also discovered a few of the favorite scratchy-spots.  And he and Ruger (Jill’s dog) visited through the bars of his stall, Ruger sitting on top of a hay bale.

Little guy didn’t bat an eye at an especially loud thunderclap, either.  Awesome.

And in the last few minutes before I left, I stood inside his stall, just near the door.  Not doing anything, but just standing.  It gives him a chance to get used to my presence in his stall, and it gives him a chance to approach me on his terms.  And he did today, several times.  Even solicited attention, which was too cool!

Oh, and the stall?  Absolutely a disaster.  While I worked on the feed, MY HUSBAND cleaned the stall!  Yup, my non-horsey husband cleaned Jax’s stall!  Impressive as all get out.

Pretty darned good for a first day.  Tried to get some pictures, but the light wasn’t great and I didn’t want to spook him with the flash.

Going back later to check on him and give him his last feed for the day.

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Dakota is HIGHLY food-motivated. Great news for training, but leads to some interesting days sometimes. I have to be careful about hand-feeding. She’ll take a treat or two without issue, but after a little while, gets a little too eager, and can get a little pushy. She’s a big horse, with a BIG mouth, so other than carrots, I have most other people give her treats by dropping them in her bin.

Occasionally, she decides to help herself to what she wants. Case in point:

1. Make sure Mom’s not looking.

2. Grab hay bale, and drag it over:

3. Flip, and enjoy!
Dakota consuming her ill-gotten hay

The mare just cracks me up sometimes.

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Long Time, No Post

Yes, I know, it’s been a while. Winter here was pretty mild, so Kota got to stay out all the time, which makes her happy. She gets a little zooey when she is inside too much.

And…teaser…we may have some news shortly. Keep positive thoughts for us…

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