Midwest Horse Welfare Foundation, Inc. ----Discussion Forum

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You will love having your horses home and the worries about the fencing and such will subside.
Donna M
What a wonderful morning even on very little sleep. With my bladder being a tad more than a half century old, I tend to be a night walker. My celebratory adult beverages around the fire last night probably didn't help matters. Each trip to the latrine was also an opportunity to check on the girls. Of course I could neither see nor hear nothing which only caused me more concern. At the crack of dawn I saw them out my bedroom window and knew all was well.

They have been acting like this has been home all their lives! Today the guys are finishing up the shelter - adding shelves to my tack room, some hardware, etc. They arrived at 7:30 and were immediately greeted by Sugar Bear and Raven. Even when they heard the circular saw, hammers, and saw guys on ladders, their only expression was curiosity. Sugar Bear walked right up to the guys on ladders and stood calmly watching them with Raven by her side. It made me a little nervous because I was worried they might accidentally knock someone down. Raven is so much more approachable and content now. It's like she is a totally different horse and has known me for years. She enjoys having her neck scratched and is very patient when I want to love up on her (which is frequently). She and Sugar Bear follow me around the pasture and both beg for attention. Sugar Bear, who has "untouchable ears" in the barn, LOVES it when I scratch inside her ears. Who would have guessed that!?! My 12-year-old lab is a bit possessive of humans, was giving the girls an angry bark. Neither one of them flinched. He is better now after some get acquainted time and I'm sure he will come to accept them.

Just a side note: no loading issues yesterday for either of the girls. Raven seems to prefer the left side of the trailer and to be loaded first.
You sound like a new mom! They must know they are home, too. Love the pics.
Jenni O.
Great update, and how nice to have them home. It sounds like Raven is not only a match for you but for Sugar Bear as well.
Donna, it sounds like you have 2 very HAPPY campers there, The way your describe the celebration drinks/latrine, I had to laugh. I could add a few tidbits, but will refrain from it. Glad everything went to good the first night, for the duo. It sounds like it is a very serene setting or will be AFTER the construction is finished. Good Luck! 
Donna M
I hope you don't get tired of me asking questions but I have so much to learn! These questions pertain to Raven and helping her build confidence.

Today I saddled Sugar Bear and rode her around the pasture. Raven followed us everywhere. I took Sugar Bear outside the pasture and rode the outer perimeter. Raven was clearly agitated even though we were never more than 10 yards away from her and she could see us at all times. She became increasingly agitated the longer we were outside the pasture and I was concerned she would bust through the fence. Our ride was very short because even Sugar Bear started to get worked up as Raven's stress level increased. Tomorrow a friend with 30 years of horse experience including lots of showing , training, etc.,  is coming to ride one while I ride the other, first around my property and then hopefully a short trail ride off property.

1. I would like to try riding Sugar in and out of the pasture each day but I'm not sure if these exercises build Raven's confidence or just cause her stress. I also don't want to stress Sugar Bear who is usually quite calm.
2. I have a site reserved for the Ukarydee trip in September and plan to bring Raven and Sugar Bear. I don't know if Raven will be able to ride, but I can't leave her home alone. Do you think she will be ok at the campsite with other horses nearby?
3. Would it be safer for Raven to go to the boarding facility for the weekend?
Anna WI

2 of my horses run the fence anytime I go for a ride on another horse and sometimes it bothers me but they can use the exercise. I think the calling out from the ones left behind bugs me more than anything.

Raven probably isn't settled yet in her new home, same goes for Sugar Bear so I would give them some time and only take each one out for a few minutes at a time. Take one out and groom them or go for a short ride and reward good behavior with a treat. You can also ride away from the pen and then come back right away and keep extending the distance but try to come back before the horse left behind gets upset or you will be reward the anxiety by coming back.

Every once in awhile my horse will try to get back to his buddy and this might just be by speeding up when facing home or not making a round circle, by trying to get back to the house by not wanting to continue around the circle. Then they get worked more until they are chill, but we never go faster than a walk once we do head for home.

I agree about them needing to settle in more.  I have a mare that I used to have to put in a stall or a small enclosed area while I rode my other horse.  Even though she could see other horses, she always went nuts.

As far as Ukarydee goes...If Raven isn't going to be ridden, I think you would enjoy yourself more if you left Raven home at the boarding facility.  That way you wouldn't have to worry about her.  She would probably be pretty upset being left behind at camp even if there are other horses she could see.
Donna M
My friend, who also happens to be named Donna, came by to help me with the girls. She rode Raven and I rode Sugar Bear. We started with 10 minutes in the pasture before we took them out on the trails of my property. After about 20 minutes we went off the property about a 1/4 mile and returned using the same route. Sugar Bear led the way except for one time when she caught a scent in the headwind and didn't want to go forward. Raven took the lead and Sugar followed. This was their first real ride since arriving here. They were both very relaxed after they settled into the ride which only took about 15 minutes, and it was a very successful day.

I will work on shorter separations as you suggested Anna. My plan is to ride them in the pasture for about 15 minutes each day and walk them on the trails, gradually increasing the distance. I will play it by ear with Raven. I'm sure there will be no problem boarding her for Ukarydee weekend if I need to.
Jenni O.
There are a few things you can do while she gets used to your place and gains confidence. Groundwork obviously never hurts. But you can also leave one in the pasture and ride or lead the other one away to the point someone gets stressed, then go back. Repeat until you're ready to go insane. You increase the distance as the horses' stress level goes down. The theory is that it's harder for them to stress, calm down and stress again than it is to just get stressed and stay that way. So they should tire of it more quickly. It just doesn't feel like it when you're wearing a path in the ground.

When you do ride with a friend, whether you have both of your horses or just the one, ride away from each other and then back. You might only get 20 feet apart at first but increase the distance as the horses get calmer. You might have to take a half our out of a ride to do this with someone willing.

You could also ride towards each other, past each other, and back again. For any of these, once the horses get to a point where they are calm, have them do a little work when they are next to their buddy and rest when they are away. The buddy means work, away means rest. I swear there was a video somewhere on this forum about this.

Leapfrog is another good thing to do on the trail. The back person rides to the front, then the next person rides to the front. This won't necessarily help with your issue at home, but teaches the horses to ride anywhere in a line.

Mine will call to each other when I ride from home, even when two are left behind. Not sure why they need that third buddy.
Donna M
We have had so much rain the past week and the pasture is a mess so I set up some temporary fencing and enlisted their help in mowing the lawn. They loved it and I had them right next to me for a couple hours. It was very therapeutic.

I've been riding my 4 wheeler around their pasture because my dogs like to run laps on my trails. Each time I ride by the horses, I get a little closer and go a bit faster each time. They now stand like statues and watch me drive right up to them (always staying on the other side of the fence) Today when we were setting up some temporary fencing, my husband drove the 4 wheeler to where they were in my yard and neither of them even flinched. My lab was barking like a maniac (normal for him when the 4 wheeler is running) - again no reaction. My husband was pounding in t-posts right next to the horses - one little flinch from Sugar Bear but I saw something in Raven I never saw before. It might have been my imagination or misinterpretation, but the first time my husband hit the t-post Sugar Bear flinched. Raven looked right at me as if she was looking for reassurance. I told her she was ok and to relax. To my surprise she did and had no reaction to the rest of the t-posts being driven into the ground.

I also walked them on the trail taking them farther than the last time. Last time they saw a hunting blind and spooked a bit. Today - no reaction. We have about 35 apple trees on our property and many of them are accessible from the trail. They love to stop for an apple snack during our walks. They know where the trees are and try to lead me toward them but they do respect my lead when I take them in a different direction or let them know they've had enough.

Tonight after dinner I went back to their pasture and gave them some neck rubs. Raven was so appreciative and kept stretching out for more. It felt like she and I really connected today.

Here are a couple pics from today. She is very relaxed and at peace here.
sbr12.jpg  sbr1.jpg sbr10.jpg 

Scott: MHWF
Love the pics Donna...thank you for sharing.
*Raven* seems to be right at home.  She and *Sugar Bear* sure look nice standing there together. Thanx for sharing. Your update was a joy to read. 
Jenni O.
They both look pretty relaxed!
Love that specklely nose...ha ha ha...both horses look very happy indeed!
Donna M

Today we worked on ponying but stayed on familiar turf. We started in the pasture and moved out to the yard before heading onto the trails. Raven did very well. The only time she was on heightened alert was when we were in my front yard and near the road even though there were no vehicles in sight.

Jane Liess
I absolutely love ponying to benefit both horses; the ponyer seems to gain confidence by leading, and the ponyee learns respect for the ponyer.  Great work!
What great updates and progress Donna!
Donna M
What a learning experience today was. This afternoon was quite interesting, eventful and successful. I discovered I LOVE to ride fast on a horse ~ totally by accident of course since I haven't summoned the guts to do it intentionally! While I was ponying Raven she put herself in an awkward position prompting a negative reaction from Sugar Bear and causing me to drop the rope. I'm still trying to figure out how to hold the rope safely, keep it in a comfortable place for Sugar Bear, and keep Lakota in a safe position. It's been a lot of trial and error. Anyway ... when my husband approached to retrieve the rope for me, Lakota (trying out her given name for a while), spooked and took off like a bat out of Hades with Sugar Bear hot on her tail. Sugar was in a new rope halter that I also discovered was too big and clumsy to do any good so I had very little control. In spite of all that, she stopped with minimal coaxing. I was thrilled I did not fall off, Lakota stopped at her favorite apple tree, I was able to stop Sugar Bear, dismount and get them both back under control. After that excitement I let them graze for a while in the yard and then walked them around the entire trail for the first time by myself. 

For a 50 year old woman to get her first horse and less than 2 years later get her second without having any prior knowledge or experience and then bringing them both home where there is nobody around for miles who can help her, ride with her, or tell her what the heck she is doing wrong ... said woman must be a few cards short of a full deck ... but loving it!
Donna M

A friend stopped out today and we took the girls out for about a 90 minute ride with some successes and some challenges. Raven was resistant to the bit again but I think it's because of my technique. When I brought Sugar Bear home I was taught to feed the bit to her by using my left hand to place it by her lips and my right hand to hold her at the pole and pull the bridle upward. Raven does not cooperate when I do that. Today after a couple attempts, I decided to lunge her for about 15 minutes and try again, but again she resisted. Then I tried just placing the bit by her mouth so she could smell it. Lo and behold, she took it and then I was able to lift the bridle over her head with very little resistance. SUCCESS # ONE! I'm hoping it works again next time.

We rode the trails on my property before heading out on the road. To my surprise the things I thought would frighten her caused her very little concern. While riding on a normally very quiet dirt road, we encountered about 6 vehicles from both directions within a mile of my house. One was even a semi with an empty trailer heading out to get a load of logs. On the way home, a Harley came up behind us. Raven was fine with all the traffic. SUCCESS #2! I was so dang proud of her for maintaining her composure.

Our greatest challenge today was she suddenly stops and refuses to move forward. Even when Sugar Bear was a distance ahead, Raven refused to move but called for Sugar Bear. It was like we hit a brick wall and not even an F5 tornado was going to budge her. I have learned how to prevent her from trying to rear up and after several attempts to move her forward, I turned around and headed in the direction from which we came. She did this a couple times in different spots and for the life of me I could not figure out what she was fearful of. In spite of her 3 different refusals to advance, she was relatively calm during the ride even though we were on roads she had never seen before. I've been trying to figure out her quirks and noticed that when I allowed her to stop, assess her environment, then ask her again to move forward, she was hesitant but did put one foot in front of the other. Each step earned her lots of praise and neck rubs.

I probably should add that my friend has had limited riding experience so Sugar Bear was confused at times and not as cooperative as she is normally. However, Raven's first refusal was when she was ahead of Sugar Bear. We were on my property on a trail Raven has walked several times. I suspect Sugar was not understanding what she was supposed to do so wanted to turn around and head home. Or maybe both horses were cautious because we were in an area where my husband had fired a rifle about an hour earlier. They heard the 3 shots and their reaction became less intense with each shot. The first time they spooked and tried to run but were in a small, confined area. I calmed them with my voice. The second time I could see tension in their bodies. The third time they stopped grazing and looked in the direction of the shots but quickly went back to munching.

The second time Raven refuse to move forward, she was behind Sugar Bear and Sugar was calmly walking ahead, putting quite a bit of distance between herself and Raven. That's when Raven called to Sugar but still refused to move. The third time she was also behind Sugar Bear and again Sugar was confused as to what was expected of her. I don't always have the luxury of an experienced rider but I trust Sugar Bear to behave. I never put a bit in her mouth because I don't want a heavy handed, inexperienced rider hurting her mouth and creating an aversion to the bit. I often ride her in a rope halter and tell people she is very responsive to it.

I'm probably making this as clear as mud but ... is it ok to give in to Raven's refusals and reverse directions?

After reading what I just typed, I realize I threw a lot at them today. A brand new rider they never met before, gunshots, traffic, new roads, and a whole 2 weeks since their last ride. Considering all I asked of them, it was a pretty darn good day. Two days in a row they have come running to the fence line in the morning when they hear my voice. This morning Raven even vocalized. When I go out to the pasture, they both follow me. This is probably common for most people but it's new for us and it is an incredible feeling.

Anna WI
When you turn back, do you then turn around and head back down the trail and try to get farther than you were? You could treat her resistance as you would when for example trying to get a horse over a tarp. Using a lot of approach and retreat usually works for most horses. If you do not try to get farther than you were I would worry about creating a habit of whenever she stops, she knows she gets to head back home. Any way that you can get off and try to walk her through whatever it is that causes her to stop? I probably take having long legs for granted as it's really easy for me to get on and off, so if I have to I will get off and work them from the ground but I can see how that may not work for all people if you can't get back on.
Donna M
Thanks Anna. Yep ~ each time she stopped I kept turning her around and trying to get her to go a little farther. The third time it worked but she was very hesitant. I considered that progress and then headed for home. I also tried to walk her through the anxiety a couple times but it isn't easy for me to get back on. The first time we were very close to home so I dismounted and we walked the rest of the way. She was a totally different horse then. I also took her back to the home trail where she showed some anxiety and walked her. I let her stop several times to eat and she was fine. She has very good ground manners and is much more comfortable walking on a lead than under saddle.
Donna M
It's been 3 weeks since I returned Raven and Sugar Bear for winter boarding. They got back to the farm with no time to spare as we now have 3 feet of snow and subzero temps. I miss them so much but know they are much better off boarding for the winter. It had been a couple weeks before I could see them which did nothing to aid my separation anxiety. Coming home to an empty pasture and seeing their name plates on the shelter made it especially difficult. 

My first visit was to introduce my grandson to Sugar Bear and Raven. Sugar Bear was her awesomely amazing super self. Raven accepted Ethan's presence but we didn't ask much of the relationship. When we pulled up I saw recognition in Sugar Bear when she heard my vehicle. Raven too glanced in my direction but didn't seem as certain. When I called their names they both knew it was me. I cannot tell you how that touched my heart to see them both respond in that manner. I've noticed they stick together more since spending a few months at my place. When Raven first arrived at the farm in July she was a bit of a loner or buddied up with one or two other quiet horses. Now she stays close to Sugar Bear who is very confident in the herd. I think Raven is more comfortable having a calm and quiet leader. 

In July when I would visit Raven at the farm, I spent a lot of time in the pasture just trying to get to know her. When I tried to put on a halter, she would timidly trot away. Now she stands still and is very comfortable with my approach and touch. We are working on getting her to stand calmly in the barn where I will eventually cross tie her for grooming and tacking. I usually just kept her on a lead rope in the yard for this and she learned to stand still. She doesn't like the barn but will have to get accustomed to it for her winter trims. 

I also purchased a set of Charles Wilhelm DVDs during the last auction. I've been watching them but want to make sure I fully understand them before I begin which means multiple viewings. There are a lot of subtle cues horses give that I want to be sure to recognize so I can redirect or reinforce. 

I'm bundling up and going out to the farm to brush the girls. I think the wind chill is about -20 but their warmth will help keep me comfortable. There are few things in life like a bond with a horse (or two). 

Sappily sighing and signing out ... 
Donna M.. just read your update, and it was very touching when I read how they both responded when you called them at the new barn... God, that had to make one TEAR up, with some happy tears. You sound like your love of the two is being returned to you, each time you visit.. What a good feeling that has to be... Good luck, and thanks for sharing your visit.. How about a few  photos the next time.????
Jenni O.
I wondered if you were snowed in up there. We also have the cold, and about 11" of snow. Very wet and heavy snow, and ice, because it rained quite a bit before and during the snowfall. Well, now it's crunchy, but it was a mess.

I think of you when I'm freezing my hands off doing chores! You are lucky in that way, but I bet you do miss seeing them when you look out a window. Time flies, and soon you'll have them back home. Are you far from the barn they are at?
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