Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Scout's First Hoof Trim

I phoned my trainer and friend, Gavin yesterday and spoke to him about trimming Scout. I have trained in barefoot trimming and am a stickler when it comes to keeping horses hooves trimmed every 4 weeks. I was very keen to have Scout trained to stand for trimming so we could get started on realigning her hooves. There is only minimal work to be done but nevertheless sooner rather than later is better in my opinion.

I had started teaching her to pick up her legs. She wasn't overly thrilled with the idea and turned around a couple of times nipping at the air near my butt!! This only happened twice and then she would stand and give me her feet for a few seconds.

Gavin is also a very good barefoot trimmer so he played the farrier role for me yesterday. He can pick a horses personality within seconds of working with them. He came in picked up her foot and she stood nicely for him to trim that one. She played around and pulled a bit with the next foot. Gavin said that she was not reacting at all out of fear so I was not to let her take a single forward step. If she was fearful there was no way we would have blocked her like this.

She danced about and pulled a bit and then stood like a lamb for the rest of the trim. She learns so quickly that it astounds me. I have been playing a bit with her lately just backing, sidepassing that sort of thing and she picks things up immediately.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Golden Scout

Scout is now doing really well. The diet she is on has kicked in faster than I have seen with any horse and she is truly glowing a beautiful golden colour. Her coat is incredibly shiny now and she is loving her new diet. Here is what she is currently getting:

She starts with a small handful of Copra to disguise the third of a cup of slippery elm powder in. This has a couple of cups of freshly brewed chamomile tea added to it. This is her favourite thing now and she polishes it off.

She has to wait 20 minutes till she gets her next course to give the slippery elm a chance line her stomach. She is very funny to watch during this time as she strides up to the fence where her feed buckets are sitting on the other side and looks at them then looks at me. She will then walk over and stand beside me, touch me with her nose and walk back over to the feed buckets wondering why I just don't seem to be getting the message and how could she make it any clearer!

After 20 minutes she gets her chaff which is a mix of lucerne, barley and oaten chaff (a small handful of each) . To this I add 1 tablespoon of brewers yeast (to deter the biting insects prevalent in this area), 1 teaspoon of organic seaweed meal, 1 teaspoon of macrobiotic sea salt, 20 ml apple cider vinegar and finally a herbal tea made up of peppermint, dandelion leaf, rosehips and garlic. I brew this fresh each morning for her and add it to the chaff. She also gets a capful of a special herbal nervous rehabilitation mix which helps calm her insecurities about being alone.

She gets a biscuit of grass hay split between her morning and night feeds. I was kindly given a hay net made out of a tennis net which has slowed down Scouts eating somewhat. I put extra rhodes grass hay in this (which she is not overly impressed with) but it makes her work harder trying to pick all the lucerne out and separate the grass. She is such a smart girl though. When I first put the net in there it took her all of about 20 seconds to work out that if she grabbed it with her teeth and shook it or pawed at it with her hoof, then all the good lucerne bits would fall out and she could eat them first.

I am very surprised at her change in coat and temperament. I have seen amazing changes in horses after 3 months but never this quickly. She was very healthy before she came to me so that may be why she took so well to the herbs and they impacted her so quickly.

Here is a picture of Scout taken yesterday.
She is overweight so I have had to cut down her hay so she does not put anymore on. Due to her colour, it is hard to pick up in photos just how shiny she is at the moment.

I have started working with her a little on hoof trimming, ground work and that sort of thing. Within minutes she was yielding her hindquarters, her shoulders, backing up and circling with very little encouragement needed. The only thing I have noticed is that she is not happy when she sees the halter so we are working on that. Really though, everything with Scout is just so simple to work through. I have never yet come across an easier horse to train.

I have had a number of friends come and visit her lately. She prefers it when people just ignore her and she can approach them and sniff them all over. It doesn't take her long at all to come and investigate someone new. She is not keen on stranger touching her face though.

There is a very tame magpie that lives around the property Scout is on at the moment. When you call him he will fly in from a tree and come and sit in the stable or paddock with us. He is just a delight and it seems Scout has taken to him also. I saw her the other day following him for a bit whilst he was picking for worms in the paddock. Then today I noticed he stayed on the ground right beside her whilst me and my friends were lavishing our attention on her. He was tilting his little head and looking up into her face and she would step carefully so as not to trod on him. I will have to try to get some video of them together. It is very cute! Here is a picture of Billy the magpie

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Joyfully Reaquainted with Sienna

Since moving into my friends place, I am also now living with my brumby mare Sienna again. I have been spending time reaquainting myself with her. She just blows my mind every minute I spend with her. I have not really had much at all to do with her over the past 6 months. She has been running in a 40 acre paddock with her favourite gelding. They have a true love affair going on - it is very sweet to see them together.

I decided it was about time to give Sienna a bath, dematt her mane and trim her feet. I put her in the roundyard and decided to see where our relationship was at. She has never been thrilled about me touching and pulling at her lovely mane and who could blame her. I hated it when I was a child too! So I was prepared to have to put some of the foundations back in place. I took her halter off and started by asking her to follow up which she did beautifully. Everything I do with her is so incredibly subtle as she is one of the most hyper-sensitive horses I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I started pulling, cutting, untwisting and brushing out her very long mane. A couple of times she flinched slightly but never tried to leave me. Then it was time for a wash with some water and apple cider vinegar (she had developed a bit of Queensland itch and this seems to help soothe it a little). This was her first ever wash and she was a unsure about it. She left me once and did half a lap around the yard before facing up and bringing herself straight back to me. The rest of the bath went without a hitch.

Now it was time for a good hoof trim. She has always been ok to trim but does overreact when her hoof is on the stand and has on a few occassions reefed it off sending the stand flying and further frightening herself. Today I trimmed her at liberty and she was better than ever before. I only have to look at the foot I want her to pick up and she will hover it in the air for me. She pulled a little when I started trimming the first hoof and I quietly asked her to leave. She did a lap of the round yard and then trotted back in positioning herself right near the stand. The rest of the trimming was a breeze.

She actually seemed grateful for the attention again. I decided it was time to take her out again. My friend rode bareback on Arnie the gelding and I walked Sienna along with her. We walked down to the trails with no icident. When we got to the creek, I decided to jump on Sienna as it was to deep to cross without getting very wet boots. I hopped on her and she stood still until I asked her to walk on with a forward tilt of my pelvis. I usually hop off once we have crossed the creek however today I felt so connected with Sienna that I decided to see how we went. Well she was amazing. She was listening to all that I asked of her and was not even feeling the need to stay at the speed Arnie was going. I forgot that she has been taught to stop when you place a hand on her neck and each time I put my hand on her mane to steady myself she would stop dead. What a gem! I quickly got used to her stride and narrow body and was able to find my balance centre and keep my hands off her body. That was the longest ride we had ever done together.

I got off and walked the last couple of kilometres home with her. My friend took Arnie for a canter up the driveway when we got home. I waited till she was well out of sight and then hopped back on Sienna and she happily trotted up the drive at exactly the speed asked of her. I am very conscious of how she will react to me after I have ridden her or any horse for that matter. It always feels like the greatest privelege to have such a noble creature allow me on their back that I want to make certain I am not overstepping any boundaries. Sienna has been more affectionate than ever this afternoon so I feel that perhaps we have renewed our connection stronger than ever before. This is not to say that I intend to ride her again, if the moment arises I may well do so however it is up to her in the end.

I feel so blessed to be able to spend time with these marvellous animals. Right now I feel like I may explode with the happiness I am feeling. I have a renewed and much stronger connection with Sienna, I am incredibly lucky to be able to spend time twice a day getting to know Scout who is turning out to be a deep and incredible horse and yesterday I found out that my beautiful arab mare Jade who is living with a friend of mine will be coming home in the next few months or so. My heart will be singing to see all my girls running together by the end of this year.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Settling In

The last few days have been much kinder on Scout and I. She is doing well now and is settling in more each day. She is eating well and I think I may have managed to coax her into eating all the good things I have for her. She is getting a mix of oaten, lucerne and barley chaff with freshly brewed rosehip and garlic tea poured over it. She gets this twice a day and she just loves it. Today I started adding a little seaweed meal and brewers yeast to it. After some good advice from Leslie, I have managed to trick her into eating the slippery elm powder by mixing it in with some rice pollard and copra. It is crucial that she gets the slippery elm into her belly as it will create a soothing lining for her gut. Once she has eaten it she has to wait 20 minutes before I can give her the rest of her feed. She was most annoyed about this new development. She kept walking over to the spot at the fence where her chaff was, turning to look at me and then at the chaff again. She then walked over to her empty feed bucket gave it a nudge, looked at me then back at the fence where the feed was. She is so expressive with her communication. It is such a delight to witness.

Yesterday, Gavin my horse trainer friend, came to the property to work one of the other horses. He dropped in to see how Scout and I were doing. She was sticking to me like glue that day. I walked over to the fence to talk to him and she followed right beside. I stood with my arm across her back whilst talking to him and she stood happily. I took a few strides back and she did the same. Gavin mentioned that I would have to start setting some boundaries for her soon as she would start to get too pushy. There have been no signs of that sort of behaviour from her at all. In fact, quite the opposite. She has become more respectful than the first couple of days she was here. Now when she stands with me or if she walks past me and goes to stand behind or beside me she will always swing her hindquarters away. When she wants a rub she does not stand all over me, instead she positions herself beside me and cranes her neck over my way a little, looking at me with her large liquid eyes.

The only area I have had to put a boundary on so far is feed time. I like all my horses to stand politely and wait before eating until I tell them to. She loves her food so I thought it important to have her acting safely when it comes feeding time. When she tried to take the food while I was still standing there, I stomped my foot at her and gave her an intense look. She tried again and I turned my back on her, stomped again and raised my leg back a little. She took a few steps back and waited politely until I walked away. Now, everytime I feed her she stands and waits until I walk away. I thought surely it cannot be that easy! Usually it takes horses a few repititions to learn this but not Scout. She is so incredibly smart.
I am also working on teaching her to give her feet for trimming. She is not thrilled by this but also has not shown a great level of resistance either. I will work on this each day this week and hopefully will be able to trim her front feet soon enough.

I also put the halter on her the other day and asked for a few simple maneuvers. I asked for hindquarter yields, shoulder yields, backup and to walk and run with me coming to a dead stop when I did. She did all this very easily and without hesitation. Never have I come across an easier horse to work with.

Here is a view of Scout's paddock. Her paddock is the one on the left with the large shelter. There are 10 horses in the paddock opposite and they spend alot of time at the fence watching Scout. Interestingly, three of the horses in that paddock are imported Gypsy drum horses. They were imported from the USA and they are the ones that spend most of the time staring at Scout and she at them. I was talking to their owner the other day and said I reckon they feel at home recognising each others accent ;)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Scout beginning to emerge

Scout has been improving steadily over the past couple of days. I was really stressing about her illness and eventually sat back and realised that I wasn't operating in this process how I would with any other horse. So I pulled her off all the anti-biotics and am now treating her herbally. I have had outstanding success doing this with horses over the years even to the point of completely healing a severely fractured pedal bone.

I spent a few hours looking through all my books and phoned my equine herbalist down in Sydney. I made up a mix of slippery elm to soothe and line her gut and also bought some pot set yoghurt to get the good bacteria back into her system. I also made her a rosehip and garlic tea which I poured over some chaff for her.

Brimming with confidence I drove up to the paddock and Scout trotted over whinnying to me. I presented her with this array of good food and she stuck her nose in the bucket curled her lip up, repeated this then gave it a little taste. After tasting it she picked up the bucket and threw it as hard as she could in disgust. Hmmmm...... this wasn't going to be as easy as I had anticipated.

I attempted it again the following morning but this time just with the tea on the chaff which she loved thank goodness. Then I thought I would put some probiotic powder into a piece of apple. She took this and ate it leaving me thinking I had her tricked. I had forgotten she is a spanish mustang and the next piece she spat at me!

So for now she is getting the herbal tea, chaff and rescue remedy which she is really enjoying. I will add the other bits gradually once I can work out how to do it. It seems she is already proving to be much smarter than I am :/

She has certainly bonded strongly with me and follows me everywhere I go. I was playing with her yesterday and running around the paddock with her trotting close beside me. She got upset when it came time for me to leave and trotted to the gate, stared at me for awhile, realised I wasn't coming back in so she tossed her head at me and trotted off to call out for the herd next door.

Her personality is really coming out now she is feeling better. Everyone is asking me if she has lived up to my expectations. She is so far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. She is all I could have ever hoped for and so much more.

Just look at that lovely neck!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Dramas for Poor Scout

I had planned to spend the afternoon relaxing with Scout yesterday, just sharing space with her. When I arrived she was grazing in the paddock looking content enough. I took her food up to the stable and she appeared within seconds to see what was on the menu. She ate her simple breakfast of grass hay and barley chaff with a handful of oats. Minutes after finishing this she started showing the all too familiar signs of colic again. She lay down 4 times and started sweating and curling her lip. There is no mobile phone reception at the paddock so I ran up the long driveway and leapt in the car to drive to the vets. I used a different local vet this time and was very pleased I did.

I drove back to the paddock and ran into the stable to see how Scout was doing. She was standing in the corner sweating and curling her lip up. The vet sedated her, gave her another dose of paraffin oil this time also with a large amount of water to follow. She had bloods taken for more testing and was given an injection of pain relief. I was feeling so very sad for her by this time. She must feel like a damn pin cushion with all the needles she has had.

Quarantine requires that mares be preg tested within 7 days of arriving at post quarantine facility. The vet did this whilst she was sedated and found a very lively foal in there. It wriggled and kicked at the intrusion of this strange arm entering its little haven. I was so relieved to hear that the foal is alive and well. The vet discovered that Scout seems to have a worm burden. When he pulled his arm out there were 9 little red worms on his glove. We were both surprised as Scout had been regularly wormed before she came here and she was only just done 4 weeks ago in quarantine. She has just received another dose and I really hope that it will do the trick to get rid of them.

After the vet had gone I sat with Scout for another hour before heading to my new temporary home. Friends of mine have offered for me to live in a caravan on their property whilst Scout is in quarantine. It means I am only 20 minutes drive from her so I can dash back and forth as often as is needed.

At dusk I decided to go back and spend another couple of hours with Scout to see how she was doing. I negotiated my way up the drive by torchlight and when I entered the paddock I heard Scout whinny and she came trotting over to me and stood very close to me. I walked up to the stable with her following very closely at my side. I spent a few minutes rubbing her all over then wandered out into the paddock with her following close beside me. We remained like this for sometime until she finally relaxed enough to eat. The nights are very hard for her as she cannot see the other horses and gets very insecure. I am pleased that she feels she can trust me already when she is feeling stressed.

Finally Scout started relaxing and grazing. I walked away to have a look to see if she had passed any of the oil. After a few minutes she gave a frantic whinny and I nickered softly to her as is my standard way with all my horses. She cantered up to me and again stood very close. I sat down near her and stayed with her like this for another hour until I felt she was content enough for me to leave.

I have been feeling pangs of guilt today at having put her through this whole process. She is just the sweetest horse and I am flawed by her brilliant temperament. I can hardly believe she is bonding with me so strongly despite the needles and vet visits! She shows absolutely no sign of disdain at all. What an absolute privelege it is to be able to share time with such a special horse.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Friendship is Formed

Finally after seven long months, I picked Scout up yesterday. She had a long journey and is still a bit bewildered by it all. We pulled in with the horse float and I could see her in the distance - a striking buckskin colour against the grey sky. Nothing could have prepared me for just how stunning she is. Pictures just do not do this horse justice! She exudes a very gentle and grounded energy and has a beautiful presence.

One of my friends that came with me to pick Scout up, walked over to her and Scout whinnied to her and showed her alot of interest. Sonia looks a little bit like Leslie (Scouts previous owner in the USA) and I think she thought Sonia was Leslie from a distance.

She loaded easily and floated very well for the hour journey home. The whole day it bucketed down with rain so I locked her in the stable for the first 24 hours as the ground was so wet and slippery out. My friends and I stood talking for awhile in the stable with Scout and I noticed that she had rolled 4 times and was sweating somewhat. She was ravenously hungry when she came off the float so I can only assume that she didn't get much to eat in the 24 hours prior to me picking her up. That combined with a long truck ride had caused a mild bout of colic. I called the vet out and she had awful trouble nasal tubing her. I was horrified at the discomfort the process was causing Scout. This was the last thing she needed. Finally the vet got the task done and after dosing her with parrafin oil she took bloods to ensure everything else was ok.

I decided to try to spend the night in the stable with Scout in case anything went wrong. She was stressed due to all the changes and she couldn't see the horses in the neighbouring paddock at night which stressed her more. She was much calmer when I sat with her. I lasted till 1am before heading home due to the weather being so bad and Scout every hour or so nudging my pillow (which was my backpack). She knew there was an apple in there and wouldn't let the idea go that perhaps I would give it to her!

I got up early this morning and headed back out to the paddock. The vet had called me and said that her bloods suggested she had a change in white blood cell which suggested infection so she was to be injected twice daily with antibiotics. I was really worried about this news not only from the point of view of Scouts health but also this was not the best way to start our relationship off - me needling her twice a day!

I decided to drop in on my good friend and horse trainer Gavin to ask him to come out with me. We arrived at the paddock and I was quite surprised at the change in Scout. It seemed she had appreciated my company the night before as she came straight over to me asking for a scratch. I had established the day before that she loves a good neck scratch. She stood with me happily and Gavin said to use that opportunity for injecting her. He suggested I have her head turned towards me and reward her with a rub. Then to scratch her neck and poke my finger into the area I would inject then scratch her again. Then no more procrastinating put the needle in and rub her once it is done. Well she did not even blink, flinch or try to move away. She stood like an angel for both needles and this afternoon when I went up to the paddock to give her the 3rd needle I didn't even have to put a halter on her. This mare is just amazing!

After the shots, I opened the stable and let her into the paddock. What a pleasure it is to watch this horse move. Despite the slippery ground she was a picture to behold. She has a beautiful action and just seems to glide above the ground.

I spent alot of time with her today - just the two of us. Alot of horses can be pushy when you find their favourite itchy spot but Scout just politely places herself a respectful distance away from me tilting her neck toward me waiting for me to start rubbing her.

After lunch I went back to the paddock to spend some more time with her. She was in the stable and seemed pleased to see me. I sat with her for awhile and then realised how tired I was so laid back on her hay pile to have a nap. Not long after that she laid down beside me and we rested together for awhile. I am completely in love with her already.

Later when we walked back into the paddock, she was reluctant to graze until I sat down and she came over and ate the grass around the area I was sitting, always making sure she was facing me and occassionally coming close to sniff my boots.

I still have a sense that she is not feeling 100% so I will be keeping a very close eye on her and spending as much time as I can with her this week in between moving house. It has been a busy weekend!!!

Well it is safe to say that I am officially addicted to this breed and completely in love with Indian Scout.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Acknowledging the other horses in my life Part 2


On March 2006, after seeing an advert for a dun brumby mare possibly in foal that was due to be dogged that weekend, I picked up the phone and bought her sight unseen. The biggest dilemma came when trying to find someone to bring an unhandled brumby down to my paddock. I finally found a person willing to do it who had a cage trailer that they transported wild horses in. I had no choice and had to use them as no other company would touch her and she had to be out within days. So I had a yard ready and waited eagerly that afternoon for her arrival.

She turned up a few hours later and it immediately sunk in the huge task I had taken on. However, I was smitten from the first time I layed eyes on her. The people that bought her down were experienced with brumbies but said she was the wildest they had handled. They backed the trailer up to the yard and she exploded out of there, her snorts echoing across the valley. She pranced around the yard, eyes rolled back in her head in terror. My heart went out to her immediately.

Sienna on arrival (she was 6 months pregnant in this pic)

She was to be one of my greatest ever teachers and still is to this day. She had been captured with her mob in Grafton and transported up to Queensland. She had a buckskin filly foal at foot but the filly died after being given prime lucerne at the dogger yards. The rest of the mob were dogged except her and another mare. No wonder she was so traumitised!

At first she was terrified of the feed bucket and would not eat during the day. She would clean up all her hay at night though much to my relief. I was keen to get her recognising mixed feed so I could worm her with worming pellets.

I started her training almost immediately as I wanted to let her out of the yard as soon as possible. I taught her to face up by putting pressure on when she would flee and stepping back from her when she would face me. Just raising your eyes to look at her would send her off so it was a challenge. She learned very quickly and still to this day is the smartest little mare I have ever known.

After her being there a few days, I took my arab mare Jade into her yard to show her that horses acutally do like people. Jade was very disinterested in her and just wanted to hang out with me. This intrigued Sienna so much she forgot her fear and walked up to us. Jade then promptly told her to back off and then lowered her head to my chest. The look on Sienna's face was priceless! She could not believe this horse actually wanted to be with a human over another horse.

The next day I had some yard panels delivered and decided to extend Sienna's yard so she could get some grazing. Whilst I was doing this Jade came over and tapped her hoof on the gate to Sienna's yard asking to be let in with her. So I let them hang out together for awhile whilst I put the panels up. She soon got bored and tapped on the gate to be let out again. I let her go and Sienna forgot herself and walked right up beside me. She quickly fled again but it was a start.

I would go into her yard everyday cleaning, changing panels and talking to her whilst I worked. She was starting to become relaxed in my presence and would face me watching what I was doing with curiousity. Within a week, I was asking her to come up and sniff my hand which she did nervously. I would take Jade in there each day and feed her in there which then prompted Sienna to finally try to eat out of the scary bucket. Within a couple of weeks she was following me around the yard still keeping her distance. I would sit next to her at feed time as she quickly became food motivated, and I would hang my hand in the bucket as she ate. She got used to brushing her mouth against my hand and was becoming much calmer with my presence.

My biggest breakthrough came after having had her there three weeks, I decided to take Jade in as I did often. I stood with Jade having a mutual grooming session. I was scratching her tail back and neck and she would enthusiastically use her lips to groom me back. Then I suddenly felt Sienna's nose behind me. Without looking I stretched my hand out and rubbed her face. She then started licking my hand and arm. This went on for about ten minutes and it was the breakthrough I was waiting for. I stood with tears streaming down my face at connecting with such a wild spirited animal as she is.

Soon after this, I turned her out with the other horses into a 20 acre paddock and proceeded to work with her in open pasture so she would not feel unduly pressured and was free to leave at anytime. I had deeply instilled the facing up with her and this was very valuable when working with her in a paddock situation.

This picture was taken a few months after her arrival. A much happier, healthier girl!

Sienna would take great interest in all that I did with my other horses. When I was trimming hooves she would always come over and stand a couple of metres away watching intently all that I was doing. She was like a sponge for knowledge and it was plain to see she was enjoying her new life. She started out at the bottom of the herd but as her confidence grew so did her place in the herd until she was lead mare and still is to this day with any mare that is paddocked with her. Interestingly though, her instincts always makes her submit to a gelding. I like to keep my mares paddocked with a gelding when possible to simulate as natural a herd structure as possible.

I took her training very slowly at the start, doing everything at liberty at first then finally introducing the halter after she had been with me for 4 months. Throughout the whole process of getting to know one another, we both showed each other no force or aggression.

Then in August she had a beautiful little smokey black colt. He was born bold as brass wanting to investigate everything he could. She was protective of him at first but gave that up realising that he was taking no notice of her. He continued to get more dominate and one day reared up and struck me in the stomach. He was getting far to much handling from the people in the neighbourhood and needed to understand some boundaries. I decided the herd would be the best to teach him that so turned him and Sienna back out with the other mares and gelding. Baron, my gelding at the time, chased him around the paddock for a few laps. All the mares then went in and formed a protective circle around him. It all calmed down very quickly and a very respectful little colt emerged in the coming weeks.

I named the colt Bandit and had alot of fun with him before I sold him when he had turned 9 months. I was worried about how Sienna would react with him leaving. I had weaned him very gently. I had him and Sienna paddocked side by side so they could still be close when they wanted to be. I had by that stage taken on another gelding who I put in with Bandit for the weaning process. Bandit was purchased by a lovely local girl who also took the gelding for company for Bandit. When it came time for Bandit to be loaded onto the truck, Sienna stood at the fence and then turned and took the mares up to the back pasture without looking back. Never a whinny or a backwards glance. I think she was glad to see the back of him!!!

Bandit grew into a beautiful brumby and is a curious, althletic and delightful colt who is very well loved.

Sienna progressed on beautifully and today will lie down when asked, is super soft and responsive to handle and is just a delight to behold as she glides around the paddock in her own spirited, graceful way. I had a trainer do some work with her and he commented on her softness and intelligence being unlike any horse he had worked with before. We went for a ride up the mountain one day. He rode Sienna bareback and gave her her head to pick her way up the steep rocky trail. At one point she stopped and would not move and we discovered a small hole in the ground. Her instinct for these sorts of danger is amazing. She was at a level where she would respond to the slight movement of your pelvis. She would slide to a halt, back up etc just with a very small cue. I saw a change in her throughout this time though which unsettled me. She was losing her spark, that glint in her eye, that depth of character and spirit. I stopped her training soon after that and went back to walking the trails with her and the other horses. At the moment, she is running on a good friends property until I can find my own place and have my horses all back together again.

For anyone interested in learning more about the brumbies, please visit this wonderful organisation


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Acknowledging the other horses in my life


It is a stunning day outside today. The rain is falling heavily and the clouds are low and clinging to the mountains. Here in Australia when it rains, I am incredibly grateful as I know all to well the harsh reality of life when there is little water available. This has been a rare and wonderfully wet summer and everything is green and full of life.

I have been spending alot of time over the past couple of weeks getting to know Kiowa - an Australian stockhorse mare I rescued from the doggers a year ago. This little mare is an absolute joy to behold. She has a truly childlike personality and despite a rocky past, she seems to find fun and great interest in all that life has to offer. She is always bottom of the pecking order in a herd and even a gelding that had never in his life been able to dominate another horse, succeeded in being able to do so with Kiowa.

I spend a great deal of time sitting and watching my horses as a way of getting to know them better. Over the past year watching Kiowa, I have seen an amazing character emerge. Although she is always easily pushed around by other horses, she never seems to take anything personally and instead hops out of the way when asked, happy that she has a place and knows it well in the herd.

She is only 5 years old and ended up at the doggers due to an injury to her front fetlock sustained as a foal. I traced her brand and contacted her owners to find out all I could about her. She was on and off lame her whole life. When she was sent to the breakers and from what I could gather, she was lame when he worked her. Needless to say she associated any form of riding with distrust and pain. She was lame when I got her home but after I gave her a barefoot trim she trotted off sound. I was a bit amazed at the rapid change in her. I continued to trim her every few weeks and she put on the most amazing display after her fourth trim. I let her go back to the herd and she turned, looked at me with a sparkle in her eye and flew off at a flat gallop. She galloped straight for the herd stirring all of them up to join her and off they all went. They galloped across the dam wall, down into the gully, up the other side then into the open paddock where the older horses then settled. Kiowa continued to gallop in circles while I watched on in awe laughing with her as she ran. She then galloped back over to me and circled me prancing and bucking with glee. This whole display went on for quite sometime and it is one I will never forget.

This past few weeks I have been housesitting for a friend and I bought Kiowa along with me as my friends mare and Kiowa had an instant connection when I bought her here a few months ago. So much so that Kiowa jumped a fence to go in and be with Gypsy. This was much to the disgust of my lead brumby mare Sienna. Whilst here I decided it was time to start really getting to know Kiowa on a more personal level. I have been taking her walking about 4 times a week to assist her hooves with the movement they need. She seems to enjoy this time out as much as I do. I have felt little desire to do much riding with her. After gently working through her fear issues regarding a rider, I have ridden her bareback a few times over the past 12 months but it still does not feel right for me to be there so for now and perhaps always - we walk.

Here are some pics I attempted to take of her this morning. I have to try to hide from her to get a good pic. As soon as she sees me she has to be right there wanting to know what I am doing, asking for a scratch or a play.

Spotted already!

'What are you doing behind here?"

I gave up after this one as all I could get were an ear or eye investigating me and the camera.