Salt Wells, Wyoming Mustang Mare

Sunday, January 29, 2012


America and I went to a friends house to play today making this our second trip off the farm. America loaded right up this morning; I was standing about 18' from the trailer, I pointed and America went right in with just a point of my finger. The trip to my friends house was uneventful and when we arrived, I left America in the trailer for a few minutes while I got ready to unload her. Leaving her in the trailer is also part of a strategy I have to avoid teaching her that she has to get off the trailer as soon as we arrive or as soon as the door opens. It works great and even when I open the door, she waits until I invite her off the trailer; there is no rushing out!

America was mildly RB after I unloaded her; there were two new horses and a whole new world to explore. We began by walking around and checking things out; we even played some touch it with the ATV, the boat, and my friends horse trailer. By doing this, I was able to get America to focus on me instead of everything else.

Terri has lots of obstacles and we took full advantage of them. America was quite concerned about the tarp tied between two trees, especially when the wind blew it. We played the squeeze game near the tarp until she could walk by it relaxed then we went on to something else. We played touch it with some logs that are set up for a weave and America got this pretty quickly. She ended up putting her foot on a couple of them and her nose on a couple of others. We played with the tire pedestal and America had no problem with this even though it was her first time. I sent her to it and she started investigating it, put her foot on it, pawed it a bit, then put both front feet on it. I let her stand there for a few minutes to lick and chew.

Next up was two tires half buried in the ground to make a squeeze. I thought this would be challenging but America walked right through it in both directions, smelling the tires on the way through. We went from there to doing a figure 8 with two cones. This is our second time doing this pattern and America did great. The draw of her right eye is a bit challenging...she is unconfident on that side.After three reps, I got a good draw on that side and quit on that good note. We also played with trailer loading into my friends trailer. It's quite different from my stock trailer which is open. This trailer is more closed in and the door is narrower. America felt the difference in the squeeze game going in and the farthest she got in was with her back feet at the rubber bumper. I was fine with's not about the trailer; it's about building her confidence one step at a time!

At this point we went back to revisit the tarp that had bothered America. We played squeeze games again with lots of changes of direction and after 7 changes in each direction, America stepped up to the tarp and began to investigate it, smelling it, tasting it, then relaxing very close to it. She did even get upset when the wind blew and the tarp went above her head. She just looked up and when it came down she smelled and tasted it again! This was a perfect place to quit since some other friends showed up. It was lunch time and we had all planned on having lunch together. While we stood and chatted for a few minutes, America stood near me and after about 10" she began to yawn, blow, and really relax. I waited until she was finished, gave her some good rubs and scratches then put her in a pen with her hay while we ate lunch. She was perfectly happy and content, munching her hay, very relaxed and confident in her surroundings.

After we ate lunch and watched a DVD on exercises for horses, it was time to go home. I went out and America greeted me at the gate, I entered, said hello, haltered her and we went together to the trailer. When I asked her to go in, she went with just a point. Ah...relationship still intact!!

When I made the decision to change partners from Renegade to America, I felt bad initially, feeling like I failed or was quitting on Renegade. Now after playing with America for the past several weeks, I know I made the right decision. Not that I didn't have fun with Renegade, because I did, I'm having, REALLY having, fun with America. It's such a pleasure working with a horse that's so willing to please and that tries so hard for me, even when she's unsure or unconfident. My hope is  America will take me through L3 and L4, allowing me to learn so much more that I will then be able to offer Renegade. Renegade has been an awesome teacher and I think America also has much to teach me. I also think Renegade is enjoying his semi-vacation; he's been meeting me at the gate, and (I know we're not supposed to anthropomorphise) seems more interested in interacting with me and seems more affectionate. He's even willingly allowing me to caress his head and chin...something he's not been willing to allow previously.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

By Invitation Only!!

Our play session tonight was really great!! We started by backing into the round pen but this time instead of just backing America in, I yo-yo'd her several times. I called it quits when she backed herself in when I asked and actually lined herself up correctly without my micromanagement here!!

I closed the gate and removed the halter and lead rope, tossing it aside. When I moved off, I invited/suggested America come with me and she did on the first ask! I tried a few turns, switching direction both slowly and quickly and she stayed with me the entire time.Hooray, we got stick to me/catching game at liberty, version 1 straight need to go to versions 2 and 3.

I changed the order of the next two exercises, doing the relaxation on the circle before the back and over, hoping it would help America unstick her feet and make back and over easier. I think it worked because back and over was much easier tonight, even on her right side, and even during those times I need to reinforce a bit, it was not more than a phase 2. We're making progress!!

Relaxation on the circle was much quicker tonight...only 4 laps to the right and 6 to the left before America showed relaxation by lowering her head and slowing her gait. I really feel like America is beginning to catch on to the games!

We went out to the big pasture to play around with some online things. We started with touch it, sending America to different trees in the pasture, especially the ones with Spanish Moss dangling...she loves that stuff. Didn't take long for her to catch on to that! Did a bit of sideways without a fence, some one rein driving, put your foot on the frisbee, sidepass over the log, and ended up with figure 8's at the walk using the frisbees as markers.

Sideways without a fence is getting better but America still wants to creep forward occasionally, a light wiggle of the rope is enough to move her back into position. The one rein driving was nice although she could be a little straighter but for our first time, America was fantastic walking down the fence line with me in zone 5 (well out of kick range) and she did an awesome stop when I breathed out, sucked my energy back and stopped walking. I didn't even have to put any pressure on the rope! Putting her foot on the frisbee proved to be difficult at first so I placed a cookie on each of the two frisbees as a motivator. It didn't take long before America was honing in on those frisbees!! That worked to my advantage when we did the figure 8's as the frisbees were now important to her and she knew where they were. Drive and draw were wonderful and I didn't need to move my feet much. It was easy to PUSH her shoulder over to send her through the center using only my energy. On the first three reps, pushing her right shoulder caused her rush through the pattern a little bit. Pushing on the left shoulder was smooth and easy as was the draw on that side. I slowed down when pushing her right shoulder and drawing on that side and we did two nice, relaxed reps and QUIT!! This was our first time doing this pattern and America was reading me and my body language very well. I was paying attention, trying to be clear, and watching my energy and stick use; as little as possible but as much as necessary to be effective.

America was a bit unconfident with sideways over the log so we did some squeeze over, turn, face and wait until she could relax over the jump. Once she began to slow down, she was practically walking over the log then stopped 1/2 way over. I let her rest there for a bit. I then asked for sideways and she did several beautiful steps...TIME TO QUIT!! 

It was a really fun two hours tonight. After we were finished, we just hung out for a while and we had a cookie fest!!

Friday, January 27, 2012


I didn't post last night...had a bad headache and was REALLY tired from lack of sleep the night before. I have two dogs that are aging and it's like having puppies all over again...they need to make frequent trips outside to avoid accidents in the house and I can't seem to get them on the same schedule!!

Last nights session was pretty much a repeat from the day before but the session tonight had some interesting moments. We started out with the catching game at liberty. We started with version 1 and again, America kept turning to face me but was not making any effort to follow me so I progressed to version 2. After 4 laps she was still not looking for me so I went to version 3. On the first lap of version 3, America chose the wrong answer but on the second lap she was looking for me and this is when she really began to put some energy and effort into following me even when I changed direction and/or speed and she positioned herself with her shoulder at my shoulder. She also did a nice job of stopping when I stopped, although we still need to work on her stopping straight - she sometimes wants to swing her hq out and away. It only took about 5 minutes to go through the entire process so we're making progress there too.

We moved to online for the back and over exercise. Interestingly, with me on her right side (where she often tries to put me on her left), we got the best back and over. I had played some friendly game on that side until she relaxed and the back and over was nice, slow, and her front crossed over while her hind foot stayed planted. With me on her left, she again had sticky feet during the over part of the exercise. The back up was nice and soft and on a simple lift of the lead (with an open hand and the rope in my palm). For the open part of the exercise, I gave her a change (long phase 1) to think through what I wanted then went through my phases until she responded. After two repetitions she was much more responsive and moving off phase 1 or 2. I noticed from this side, her hind feet tend to creep a bit more as well. I'll need to pay attention to that in our next session.

The next exercise was circling and looking for relaxation on the circle. This took a bit more time tonight and it may be because it rained today and the weather is cooler but it took her 10-12 laps to the left for her to finally relax on the circle. It took her that long to lower her head a bit but when she did, she lowered her head, blew, and came down to a walk. Whew...that took a while. On the circles to the right, it only took 4 laps for America to relax and lower her head. This is the opposite of what happened last night when she relaxed quicker on the circles to the left and the right took longer.

Our squeeze game while backing into and out of the round pen is really getting nice..America is moving off my energy more and more so I don't need to use higher phases.

We played some sideways game tonight and America is getting better at staying in position and not lagging in her hq. When she does lag her hq I gently swing the rope towards her hq, she moves back into position and keeps moving. It was kind of fun tonight while doing the sideways; I had left a barrel near the rail and when we got to it, America looked at it, moved her body into position, and sidepassed right over it. I gave her a little time when we got to the barrel to sort her feet out and was rewarded with the sidepass over the was fun and made the sideways game interesting for America. I rewarded her for her effort by stopping right after and got quite a bit of licking and chewing!

We also played with squeeze over the barrel but I might put this on the back burner for a while as America tends to rush through the jump and the turn, face, and wait is also rushed even though I'm not using my cs and string for the bring back. I want to ask Jerry about this at our next lesson. I'm not sure if she's unconfident with the jump but suspect that's the problem and I want to get more arrows before playing with this any more so I can avoid creating or reinforcing unwanted behavior/reactions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Sticking to our program and working on the exercises Jerry gave me for America's development:

1. Online back and over:  had a little trouble with this tonight; The back was nice, just a light lift of the lead rope and she would back up one step but America was a little sticky in the over part of the exercise. I took my time and gave her time to think about where to place her foot but when she got "heavy" I added some tapping to the porcupine game to help her move her shoulder over. I'm paying particular attention to making sure her neck is not bent around, a little tip is o.k. but bent around is not. She stays pretty straight through the exercise so this is good. This exercise is easier with me on America's left side, on her right side she wants to try and put me on her left so we slow everything down even more and play friendly game until she's confident and comfortable with me on the right.

2. Relaxation on the circle: America is catching on to this game very quickly and is relaxing sooner...generally within 1-1/2 to 2 laps. Tonight, while on a circle to the right she made two laps then lowered her head and actually "blew out the butterflies". over!! On a circle to the left, she did 1-1/4 laps and her head went down...again game over to reward the relaxation. At one point she decided to begin circling herself without me sending her. I wanted to see what she would do so I let it happen. She circled at a nice, cadenced trot for 2 laps, lowered her head, came down to a nice, relaxed walk, and looked at me asking a question...I said, of course you can come in and what a good girl!! She did quite a bit of licking and chewing at this point.

3. Catching game at liberty: this game is taking less and less time. We went to the round pen and I backed America through the gate - she did a super job of maneuvering her hind end through the gate and not bumping into anything. When I removed the halter and lead rope I invited her to walk with me and she blew me off by smelling the gound, etc. Going in large circles towards her hq wasn't working...she kept turning to face me but not following as I moved off so I sent her off and went to the center. I tried several times to invite her in and she kept circling so we went to version three. After one lap, America was beginning to look for me so I invited her in. As she started in, I began walking away and she followed me. As I sped up so did she and she eventually put her shoulder even with mine. Of course, we did better when I was on her left side. We'll need to have more practice with me on the right!

Once we were finished with our exercises, we just chilled for a bit and of course, I had a couple of cookies for America in my pocket. Once she had her cookies and a few scratches, we backed out of the round pen and headed back to the pasture for turnout and evening feed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Patterns Beginning To Emerge

We played with the same things tonight as we did last night. America is really catching on quickly and I'm loving how she puts so much effort in to finding me/staying with me in the catching game. I think it's also interesting to her because she's had the most positive expression on her face while we play!

I'm having fun being able to play with using my energy to cause things to happen and that's exciting. Renegade used to just blow through or ignore my energy whereas America puts effort into reading me and responding to my body language and energy. This creates a whole new level of responsibility for me...I now have to REALLY pay attention to not only what I'm doing with my body but also how much energy I'm projecting when I do it!! It's a whole new level of savvy to be developed and it's thrilling me to have the opportunity to do this with such a wonderful mare!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Play Time or Perfect Practice!

We practiced everything we learned at our lesson on Saturday and all I can say is AWESOME!! We started our play session with some liberty and the catching game. Jerry had taught me three versions, each a progression of the previous one and each a strategy depending on how America was responding. I started with version 1 and America wasn't and didn't get particularly connected to me...was lagging way behind, stopping, or just turning to face me when I went towards her hq but not following me. We went to version 2 and the connection was a bit better for a couple of tries but she was still lagging, stopping, not putting any real effort into "catching" me so on to version 3. Well, this made all the didn't take long before America was really looking for me, putting effort into staying with me and actually positioned herself with her shoulder to my shoulder. I called it quits at that point...that's a huge improvement for us!!

The next thing on our play list was porcupine game moving the fq and hq but being particular about the hind foot staying still, her neck not being bent around, and not moving forward. It took three repetitions and she "got it"...I got one really nice step over in the front (me on her left side) with the back foot planted and her neck straight.  With me on her right side, she kept wanting to put me on her left. I just blocked that and did some friendly until she was o.k. with me on her right. The porcupine was more difficult on this side...she didn't want/couldn't take 1 step straight back so we practiced that a few times until she understood. Once we got that fq yield was pretty easy. She planted her back foot, kept her neck straight and gave me one really nice step. Time to quit!! We repeated the porcupine on the hq and again it was more difficult with me on her right. We worked through it until we got a nice yield on both sides, right and left, then quit.

Edit on 01/24/12...I had to come back and add to this post because I forgot we played with the circling game looking for relaxation on the circle; I send America out on a circle and as soon as I see the slightest relaxation from her, I bring her in. The first couple days when we played with this it took several laps for her to begin to relax. Tonight however, America did 1-1/2 laps then dropped her head to wither level...WOOHOOO...time to come in darlin!! When I invited her in, she came at an energetic walk with a really nice expression on her face and ears forward. She really catches on quickly!!

We also did a couple really nice squeezes when entering and exiting the round pen while I had her back in and out of the gate. She put effort into finding where to put her butt so she could back in/out.

When we were finished, we hung out for a bit while I gave her some scratches and she nickered softly at me a couple of times!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lesson Day!!

We had our first lesson today and was awesome!! Trailer loading and the ride all went well and we arrived at Holistic Horsemanship Center early because everything went so smoothly. It was nice to have a little extra time to just explore and let America check out her surroundings before beginning our lesson.

We started out online and Jerry S. Williams had us go through the 7 games so he could assess where we are and where we need to go. We have a good beginning and are definitely "safe" but need to work on our partnership and connection, especially in new or unfamiliar places or situations. America was being obedient/compliant but not particularly connected with me during the 7 games. Jerry gave me several good strategies to build our relationship and connection. One of those strategies is playing the catching game so we went to the round pen for a liberty session.

Our liberty session was amazing. It took a little time but eventually America began to connect to me, having an ear on me then an eye and finally looking for me. Once we had a connection going, we stopped to reward the connection and America was content to hang out with us as we chatted at the rail. After a few minutes she began to lick, chew, and yawn, coming off the adrenaline and really relaxing. She yawned quite a lot and it went on for quite a while. Once she finished, she was happy to hang with us for a few more minutes then she left for the other side of the round pen, closer to the horses in the field across the street. I set about playing the catching game with her again and it was very easy to get her connected to me again.

All too soon, it was time to leave. Loading her into the trailer was a breeze...I had her on the 22' line and I loaded her from about 15' away. I just pointed to the trailer and she loaded herself then stood quietly while I closed the door. The ride home was uneventful (except for all the thoughts running through my head lol!!). When we arrived home, America unloaded beautifully...slow and calm...a perfect end to a perfect day.

I can't say it enough...I LOVE MY MARE!! She AWESOME!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fun Play Time Last Night

I got home from work early enough (and hubby was working late) to allow me time to play with all four horses last night. For Captain, our play consisted mostly of me drawing him to me at liberty. This can be a bit of a challenge as he tends to get lost without the connection of a halter and lead rope (remember, he's blind). I'm trying to teach him to follow the sound of my voice. We had a couple of hesitant starts then I think he figured it out because he came walking to me, when asked, in a very confident manner...not his usual hesitant, careful steps. Of course, he got lots of lovin' and a few cookies for his efforts.

Play time with America consisted of some online play with the 7 games, then a little bit of stick to me at liberty. I was attempting to get America to trot when I asked. She's pretty good at walking with me already. She had a bit of a time catching on to the trotting then when she finally got it, she would trot right past me. I decided not to worry about that at this point...the whole idea was to get her trotting when I upped my energy and I didn't want to confuse her by trying to shut her down. Also, when she would trot past me, I would go to a slow walk or stop and she would stop, turn and come back to me...she didn't just keep trotting away from me. I'll take it for now...the rest will come with repetition! We didn't do any trailer loading tonight...she's been doing so well with it and I don't want to overdo it.

Renegade was actually the first horse I played with. He was waiting at the gate, nickering at me and just had that "please come play with me look on his face". I decided to play "fetch" with him as it's always been a favorite game for him and we hadn't played it for quite some time. I actually thought we'd have to do some refresher work but he got it right away. I would throw the Jolly Ball and point to it, Renegade would walk or trot over to get it, picked it up in his teeth then either walk or trot back to me with the ball. He kept dropping it at my feet but I wanted to get a bit provocative so I asked him to put it directly into my hands rather than drop it on the ground. Haha...he caught on right away. I loved the look he had during our play time...he was so engaged and was enthusiastic, actually putting effort into the game. We had lots of fun; I think we both needed it!!

Play time with Bert consisted of continuing the friendly game. He's gotten good at it on line and can finally stand still when I throw the string over and around him and slap the ground with the stick and string. He's gotten so good at it on line, I decided to try it at liberty. Tossing the string over and around him went well and he was able to stand still but when I slapped the ground with the string, he was o.k. with it until I got to zone 4 then he felt the need to move his feet. What that tells me is I need to go back on line and do more in zone 4 until he's completely comfortable then we can try liberty again. All in all, we had a good session and Bert is making terrific progress!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 15 - Trailer Loading 1.14

Upping the trailer loading game was the theme for play this afternoon. I put America on the 22' line and sent her to the trailer from 15' then 20'...she went in both times with no hesitation! Next up was some squeeze game inside the trailer. I haven't tied her in the trailer yet and I haven't put her in a stall and set the divider. Tonight I decided to just move the divider to squeeze her a bit. The first couple of times she got a little nervous and at one point she felt the need to get out of the trailer. I let her come out but sent her right back in and resumed our squeeze with the divider using plenty of approach and retreat. After about 15", America was allowing me to touch her with the divider, staying calm through the whole process and even getting curious enough to investigate the divider by smelling and tasting it! That was plenty good enough for me so we quit and I asked her out of the trailer.

We played outside the trailer for a while; sideways, yo-yo, and circling game. She's doing well with the yo-yo...we're playing with using energy to drive and draw her. Occasionally I need to reinforce but for the most part she responds to my to just speed it up a bit. The circling game was fun...America was doing upward transitions with just a lift and lead...rarely had to pick up my stick. To the left was better than to the the right she got a bit confused on the send and tried to back up but I just stayed with her until she went out to the right. It took three tries but she got it and got plenty of scratches as a reward. Lots of licking and chewing on that one!!

America is an amazing mare, tries so hard to please and puts effort into her offerings. She is such a pleasure to play with!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 14 - Trailer Loading 1.13

I waited until just before dark to feed the horses tonight so that I could try trailer loading in the dark (or nearly dark) with America. I'm not sure what I expected but it was a non-event. America loaded right up with just a point of my finger and I was standing on the side of the trailer at about the half way mark between the front and the back. The good news is she loaded and there was NO food in the trailer!! Of course, I did feed her in there...a delicious bran mash with some of her regular feed, her supplements and a candy cane broken in small pieces.

I can't say it enough...I just LOVE my Mustang mare!!