Monday, October 29, 2012

Doing Stuff With Royal

I've had something of a minor epiphany over the last month which is: Royal likes to do stuff.

No really. He does. I've noticed a pattern with regards of how happy he seems to see me. If our previous session was fairly low-key, he doesn't want much to do with me. He's willing to be caught, but seems very uninterested in the whole thing. Even though there's always cookies and grain involved when he sees me. If our last session was interesting and/or challenging, he's really happy to see me. He walks right up to me and seems really perky. So, we need to Do Stuff.

I say this is a minor epiphany because I'm so used to thinking of Royal as a Right Brain Extrovert.

Which he was when I got him. Almost off the charts spooky and reactive, and as a result, dangerous. So everything had to be very consistent and calming. Any change used to send him into a mental and emotional tailspin, so I worked really hard to making sure that didn't happen. We also spent a lot of Undemanding Time to allow him to associate humans with good things and relaxation. So for year, I was in the mindset of keeping things calm and consistent.

But Royal isn't that horse anymore. He's really developed and changed in the nine (!!!!) years I've had him, and small changes in his environment don't mean the end of the world. He's not quite a Left Brain Extrovert in that he hasn't become really dominant or naughty, but he likes learning new things and having fun. So I need to keep that in mind. A bored Royal will probably result in a disgruntled Royal.

This last week had a few... interesting events, what with the SLEET that arrived on Thursday. Really? In October? The horses apparently lost their minds and tried to outrun the sleet while my sister was putting their blankets. But they didn't get too far before they realized that a) it was sleeting everywhere and b) the food was back where they came from. So, luckily they didn't get too far before going back home, but still. NAUGHTY HORSES. Try that again, and we'll get really loud colored blankets for you. With flowers and polka dots.

The next day, there were puddles everywhere, so I used that as an opportunity to practice water crossing. And he did great! The few couple got a mini-Stink Eye, but the rest went without incident. He even tried to jump the ditch which was completely filled with water. And the next day, because I'd been interesting, he was happy to play with the Weave pattern and even offered to go through a big puddle before I'd even thought of asking.

Today was more of the same. We stuck with the Weave but added another blok at the end, so in order to turn back and go the other way, he had to do a little pivot on his hind end. He thought that was interesting, so I mixed it up with figure-8s, sideways over the bloks, and Touch It. The high note was when I used the bloks to make a little jump, and incorporated that into the figure-8. So he would go around a single blok, come though the middle, turn and go over the jump, then turn and go back though the middle. He was a bit confused at first, but began to seek the jump before long and really put a lot of effort in.

So, the lesson here is Do Stuff With Royal. We can still have lots of relaxing time, but I need to make sure he's always mentally engaged.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Well, this past week wasn't as consistent as I would like. Work and other stuff kept interfering with having nice long sessions with Royal. We had a Game of Contact session on Monday and it really reinforced the need for regular GoC sessions. He tried to take the contact but kept reverting to his old habit of alternating between being behind the bit and going inverted. A couple times he stuck his head straight up. I ended up finishing the session with lots of stretching to refresh that habit. Again, he was really trying, but we haven't had any contact sessions in a while, so he was a little rusty.

We also having been playing with the Weave pattern OnLine, and he seems to enjoy that. He tends to skip the last marker, so I've been focusing on really sending him around that. It works, and he enjoys stopping to stand over the Bloks.

Today, it looked like rain, so we just played with the weave again, but I tried jazzing it up a bit. Every once in a while, I would turn the pattern into a figure-8 to try to keep him on his toes. He REALLY got into that and started putting a lot of effort into it.

I hope I'll have a bit more time this week, but supposedly it's supposed to rain pretty much every single day. So high hopes, but we'll see what happens.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


For various reasons, I couldn't get out to see Royal until after dark on Tuesday. He still needed his grain, so I had to go find him. And of course it was overcast and the horses were out in the Big Field. Armed with only a flashlight, I headed out to find the Fuzz so I could give him his dinner.

One thing about the country is that it's very quiet. So I'm sure the neighbors about a mile away could hear me calling "Royal... Gabby... Bandit... Xena... Coco!" Over and over again as I carefully made my way over the creek bed and through the field. About halfway down, I head some hoofbeats and snorting, and then all the horses burst through the tall grass to my left, wanting the cookies I had brought.

And it was then I discovered Royal is afraid of flashlights. Sigh.

I had to turn it off to halter him, and he was willing to follow the light back to the food, but he did not want it coming anywhere near him. Luckily we were able to use the garage light so see could see his food.

He was able to find his way back to the field in the dark and the next day we started focusing on our OnLine stuff. I'm hoping to help him focus through his spookiness. Usually when he gets scared of something, he obsesses over it to the point where we can't do anything else until I do some serious pattern interrupt. Which is annoying and not often practical. So my plan is to plant spooky things around the area where we're playing and just act like everything's normal, and therefore he should maintain his responsibilities of maintaining gait and direction. The first spooky object was the Carrost Stick Flag.

We didn't do anything with the flag. It just lay there, rippling in the wind and making all sorts of noises. At first, he didn't want to go anywhere near it, and then only with a lot of dramatic snorting and prancing. But eventually he went by it without a big fuss. Day 2 I used his folded up rain sheet, which also caused a lot of dramatic flair. But he focus on his responsibilities a lot better.

The other thing I'm working on is practicing standing wraps. I learned how to wrap years ago, but I don't do it very often. Boots are just so much easier. But I figure it's a good skill to have and I may as well use it. Royal has been pretty patient with the whole thing, although he isn't too crazy about it either.

I'm improving. Slowly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Arrival Of... Winter?

It's been a quiet week or so for me and Royal. He's having fun eating down the big field and I've been busy with non-horsey life. We did manage to go for a ride on the road that was a lot shorter than I thought it would be. The road was so dry and packed that it was like concrete with little rocks scattered around. Even with his hoof boots, he was uncomfortable, so we only went to the Sheep of Death farm before heading back.

Then Thursday and Friday arrived with a blast of winter weather. Temperatures plummeted and the winds were hard and cold. I was woefully unprepared for it on Thursday and was too cold to do anything more that just play for a little while before retreated back to heated space. And on Friday I found Royal miserable and shivering. Which wasn't surprising: he hasn't grown in his full winter coat yet and he's still a bit underweight. So I brought out the big heavy blanket, which I think he appreciated.

Snug as a bug in his rug

On Saturday I was able to change it to the lightweight sheet before heading out to Bayfield for the weekend. Without Royal? Indeed. It was Applefest weekend, full of shopping, good food and beautiful trees.

I'm hoping we can do a bit more this week, especially with Game of Contact type stuff, if the weather holds out. I think he's ready to try some new things.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

MN Hunt Cup 2012

In which the Drama Llama comes to visit.

We had a quiet prep week before the Hunt Cup, which turned out to be okay. Royal's so good about jumping now that he doesn't need a lot of preparation. So a jumping session here, Game of Contact session there, a day of putting up fencing around the big field, and we were good to go. He about gave me heart failure on Saturday when he appeared to choke on his grain. He made a few bad sounding noises and bent his neck in ways I didn't think he could, but after a couple minutes of that, he was back to happily munching on grass. Crisis averted.

It was a long drive to the Hunt Cup, and we got there fairly early, not knowing that the Drama Llama was with us. The first incident was when one of Royal's back hooves caught on the wiring line of the trailer when he stepped out and broke it, which knocked out one of the rear lights. I still had brakes and the other light, but I figured it would be a cautious drive home. Nevertheless, we registered and got ready for our run. While we warmed up, I noticed the footing, which had a lot of fresh-cut grass with piles of the clippings still around, was pretty slippery. So we had a very abbreviated warm-up before heading to the course.

The course was set differently this year. Instead of going clockwise and starting down the Big Steep Hill, we went counterclockwise and starting on a more gradual slope. Royal did a lot better with it on our practice run. He didn't really spook at any of the jumps (brushy as ever) was able to keep a nice even pace, at least until we got to the Big Steep Hill. This year we rode up the hill, which was somewhat of a challenge. I tried to stay in a light three-point, keeping my weight more towards Royal's hind end, and that seemed to work. We finished pretty well and only had to wait a little bit before the timed round.

This also went super well. Royal was a rockstar, keeping the same nice pace and tackled everything with no problem. I think the varying terrain helps keep him interested and balanced. But he listened to my cues very well and we were able to find good spots to almost every jump. We finished only 7 seconds outside the optimum time! He seemed very pleased with himself, as he should.

On our way back to the trailer, we met up with my friend Anna, who brought her mare Piper up. We talked for a while, she got Piper warmed-up, and then it was time for me and Royal to go home. I had to go to a dinner that night, so we couldn't hang around. I would like to stay that we got home without incident and all that, but no. The Drama Llama was not done with us. About 20 miles from home, the truck started to vibrate. Badly. I don't know much about vehicles, but I knew this was not good. I was about a half a mile from the nearest exit when I heard a BANG and the whole truck shook. Not good. I slowly pulled off to the shoulder and got out to find that the tread on the rear passenger tire of the truck had ripped off. Most of it was gone except for a big flap, and it looked pretty gnarly.

Luckily, Royal was okay and nothing was wrong with the trailer. I called my brother-in-law to come meet us in the town and I slowly nursed the rig there. He arrived and changed the tire and we were able to make our way home. However, since bad things seem to happen in threes, about 5 miles from home, the truck started to smoke. We still made it okay, but it seemed to be transmission fluid. Great. So, yesterday the truck got towed to the mechanic (thank you, AAA) and we'll see how bad the damage is. Hopefully it's fixable and Sweetie will be up and running soon. I'm just glad no one was hurt.

So, both parts awesome and bummer. Why can't the rest of the world be as reliable and super fantastic as my horse?

In other news, I submitted my vet school application today! Hopefully I get a better result this time around, but for now, it feels like such a relief.