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

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Lindsey N
LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!  Donna, you do such a great job with her and it sounds like both your and Sugar Bear's confidence in each other continues to grow leaps and bounds.  LOVE it (and kiddos on horsies ROCK)!
Donna M

A few pics from my therapy session today!

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Nice poster to capture the day Donna :-)
Donna M
Thanks John. She is so photogenic. (personal bias I'm sure!)

When I got to the farm yesterday she was lying on the ground. I almost freaked out but managed to stay calm while I checked her for obvious injuries. She seemed a little "out of it" at first but she took a treat from me and I put on her halter. When I asked her to get up she just looked at me. I was ready to burst into the farm owner's home to get help but remembered she was out of town. Sugar Bear did finally get up. I slowly walked her to the gate watching for any signs of pain or lameness but she seemed ok. In the barn she also seemed like her normal self although I did notice she did not poop or pass gas. Again I started to get a little concerned (because she didn't poop or fart!) but when I groomed her and put her saddle on she still seemed fine. Instead of lunging her in the arena I took it slow and rode her for about 15 minutes before taking her back to the barn for more TLC and bonding. I'm pretty sure she is ok but my heart was in my throat for a moment. I don't know what I would do if something happened to her and I couldn't get help.
I'll bet Sugar Bear was enjoying a nice nap in the sun!  Mine were all snoozing standing up and the next time I looked out, sure enough, one was laying down just soaking up the warm sun and having an afternoon nap!  But I surely know that feeling Donna!!  Glad everything was fine with Sugar.
Jenni O.
She sure is a cutie. I think it's a myth about animals lowering your blood pressure. Maybe half the time, but the other half we are worrying or freaking out. I wish I could go to "therapy" every day. I sure need it!
Lindsey N
I remember when I would ride in the very early morning when I was younger in the summers and the horses were still groggy from sleeping and before it was too hot to ride.  They were ALWAYS so much better than when they had been on top of their game.  Definitely could have been post-nap grogginess :)
Donna M
I did eventually come to the conclusion that I had interrupted her nap. Imagine how stupid I would have felt if I had gone running to the house asking for help because Sugar Bear was sleepy. lol

I'm pretty sure Sugar appreciated me not pushing her too hard since she was taking advantage of a lazy, sunny afternoon.
Donna M
I don't even know where to begin. Sugar Bear came into my life in October 2011 and to say we struggled the first few months would be an understatement. I employed the help of an experienced trainer who came highly recommended. I learned the basics in grooming, tack, ground work, riding, and got to a point where I was comfortable trail riding with a group. Although I was able to foster my relationship with Sugar Bear, I was not comfortable with the consequences for inappropriate behavior that I sometimes felt were harsh. I know she is a large animal and could easily hurt me but she is also very smart and has the most gentle soul. I read multiple threads in this forum and found online resources to help me handle her. I withheld negative consequences whenever possible. I don't think I need to yank on her lead rope or halter when she misbehaves or slap her on the chest if she impatiently paws the ground; and backing her up - well that was absolutely impossible for me to achieve. I resorted to circles and patient repetition and positive reinforcement just feeling like she was "getting it" with a more respectful, consistent but firm approach.

Last week we met our new trainer and I feel like I am starting all over but I also believe I was on the right track! Heidi has taught me more in 2 hours than I learned in several months and her approach is one that I am very comfortable with. Today I learned about Sugar Bear's quadrants and movements and was even able to stop her with JUST MY SEAT!!!! I never gave her a voice command and was not even touching the reins. I learned what "break at the pole" means and it has nothing to do with a stationary vertical object. I learned that just my leg and fingers of my right hand can prevent her from spooking at that big green horse eating tractor that she has seen a million times but apparently never when it was near the overhead door of the indoor arena.

I feel like I have had the most tremendous revelation today. I realized Sugar knows so much more than I do about what I am supposed to be doing to communicate with her and now she has someone who can help her teach me. Hard to hold back the tears of joy today!

Donna, not sure what to say other then AWESOME!  I admire your desire and passion to learn with Sugar Bear.  The connection seems to get so strong when both learn things at the same time IMHO. 
When I saw SB's and your adoption pictures a few years back I just smiled and thought that there was going to be a long time connection there.  Your updates and growth of your partnership with SB are always great to hear about.

Donna M
Thanks John. You and others who regularly participate in this forum understand what I mean when I say the love I have for her is like no other and I am at a loss to describe it. I've had animals all my life, have rehabilitated countless dogs, rescued hundreds of cats and canines, but Sugar Bear has given me something I have never experienced before. She really is therapeutic. I know I gush over her but I just can't stop myself and I'm pretty sure I don't want to. When I'm not with her I want to be; when I'm with her, I want to be longer. It's always difficult for me to leave her.
What a great update. It's nice to hear about your bond with Sugar Bear and your growth with her.
mel d
This should also be posted on the Bragging thread :) We totally understand you and your thoughts about Sugar Bear and the journey you are taking together! Hooray for you and the learning curve. Totally agree with John...learning together is awesome! And that feeling of not wanting to leave her...we get that, too! Smiles for you!
Jenni O.
Donna, kudos to you for putting in all the hard work that you have since you got Sugar Bear.  There are many people out there who own horses for years and years but learn very little.  And it really helps to have a trainer that you click with.  You'll be able to learn so much more with someone when you like their approach to things. 

Have fun, and happy trails!
Donna M
Trail ride today:

Used leg cues to get Sugar Bear to move aside so my head didn't hit tree branches - SUCCESS
Used leg cues to get Sugar Bear to move more toward the road and away from the ditch - SUCCESS
Used seat to get Sugar Bear to stop - SUCCESS (sort of .. had to give gentle encouragement with voice cue and reins)

Ground work today:
By holding Sugar's halter and applying gentle pressure to her side, cued her to move just her hips away from me. She is starting to get it!

These are all new things we learned last weekend. I know it seems very simple but it was HUGE for me. In all honesty, she already knew them. I'm so thankful she has been so tolerant of me.


Sounds like you are going great!

mel d
Hooray! I know exactly how you feel and congratulations!
Lindsey N
I love hearing about your development with Sugar Bear.  It reminds me of my relationship with Aria. There is so much they can teach us...especially when they are ready and we are just playing catch up.  Very awesome!!
Donna, congratulations to you on finding someone you really connect with to help you on your journey with Sugar Bear.  Sounds like you are really happy...smile...
Donna M
Thanks all.

This weekend we are participating in a trail ride clinic. How have I lived half a century without a horse? (well ~ it always was a childhood dream) I love this stuff!!
Donna M

Sugar Bear and I experienced our own independence day today! In summary:
1. Rode away from the farm for more than 30 minutes without another horse for the first time
2. Did it all in a rope halter (first time outside of the arena)
3. Out of necessity, learned how to use the Easy Mount I purchased during an online auction when Sugar's boot came off twice during our ride.

1. Sugar Bear refused to leave end of driveway ... after more leg pressure and some tapping (which only made her LESS cooperative) resorted to tight circles and more attempts. Third time was the charm!
2. Getting her to stand still to put her boot back on while on a gravel road with an occasional vehicle passing by, dogs barking, a river close by ... just calmed her down and kept trying
3. Getting my short, "fluffy" frame back in the saddle ... LOVE that Easy Mount now that I figured out how to use it!

Lesson Learned:
1. Sugar Bear prefers to be asked politely rather than forced to do something.
2. I think she and I can accomplish anything we set out to do. There are a few people who ride in parades up here. I think I want to do that with her.

When I showed some of the people at the farm she rode solo in a rope halter someone said, "The whole way?" Another person said, "Wow, that takes guts."

Oh, happy day!


Congratulations Donna!  You are a shining example of what persistence, willingness to learn and try, and determination can do!  You should be very proud of yourself and Sugar Bear!
Donna that does take guts and IS a huge accomplishment.

Sounds like you are a natural at horse training :-)
Donna M
Thanks Doreen and John. I must admit I was pretty darn proud of her yesterday. Each successful adventure with her is a great feeling.
Donna M.

Sugar Bear and Raven came home today! I couldn't pick just one pick of the hundred I took so I created a collage of the first half hour or so. They seem just as happy as I am and Raven is so relaxed! She approaches me without hesitation and enjoyed a couple apples I offered her from one of the trees in my yard. They spent the first couple hours running, rolling, and coming back to check in with me while I sat by a small fire in my back yard enjoying the view with an adult beverage. ;-) Having them here is  .... I can't even think of the words to describe how this feels but I'm guessing you know exactly what I mean.

I've checked that fence so many times already but I don't know how I am going to sleep tonight! I can't believe I will see them when I wake up!

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