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

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It has been really fun watching you and Sugar Bear grow together.  Thank you so much for the updates Donna, we truly enjoy them. 

Here are some pictures that Donna has sent me of her and Sugar Bear's adventures together.  Enjoy! 

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great job wth Sugar Bear. Nice to see the photos but I have to admit..I have arena envy!
Donna M.
Sugar Bear did very well today. She was a bit antsy in the beginning and was determined to make her way to the front but since I had no idea where we were going, I held her back. After she settled down I let her work her way ahead and join the first 5 or 6 horses. Several times we stopped to wait for other groups that were slower and lagging behind. We had an incident with a 12 year old who had only once ridden outside an arena but her parents allowed her to go on this trail ride unaccompanied. About an hour into the ride, she ended up turning around and returning to our starting point with a few adults because she was uncomfortable going through water and down wet, slippery hills. Through all the stopping, discussion, a horse swap between the 12 yr old and another kid, the rain, and all the unfamiliar horses, Sugar Bear did fine. Toward the end she wanted to trot home and it was a constant struggle to hold her back but all in all I would call our first outing a success. I'm chilled to the bone and going to make a pot of spicy black bean soup!

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Donna M
I'm not sure if this should be under Sugar Bear's thread or under testimonials. I do know that she has been a source of inspiration, motivation, and determination for me but since we have developed a bond she has also become like a drug that I need to get through days both routine and extraordinary. Today was one of those rare days that fit both. My husband is nearing the end of his third tour in Afghanistan, my kids are both in the military, I live 4 hours from my closest relative, and today was my birthday. I have stoically made it through many holidays, anniversaries, and special events as a military wife and mom who spends much of her time alone. One Christmas I had breast cancer surgery so I could take narcotic pain meds to get through a holiday season with both my kids in Iraq and my husband in Afghanistan. They have all had multiple deployments and I have run out of body parts to remove (lol) but now I have Sugar Bear.

Today I spent 3 hours with her. When I pulled up she was close to the barn and I swear she recognized the sound of my vehicle because she was the only horse that looked in my direction. During our time together I groomed her, talked to her, walked with her, reintroduced her to the indoor arena where we will soon be spending our time, lunged her, and spent time in the pasture with her trying to teach her to come to the sound of a whistle. I think she was catching on after about 20 minutes. Even though she was muching on a round bale, she looked at me when she heard the whistle. If I was within 5 or 6 feet she would approach and get her treat but otherwise she was more focused on her steady food source.

She was so incredibly calm and responsive today. She seemed to know exactly what I needed from her and was happy to give it. She is sort of my war horse. While my loved ones are away on foreign battle grounds, she keeps me grounded at home. I love her so much. Thank you Scott and Karen for giving a rookie a chance and helping me over a couple hurdles.
mel d
Happy Belated birthday, Donna :) I am so happy you got to spend it with your Sugar Bear. You and your family are what makes our country great, and I thank you for all the sacrifices you have made. I will keep your family in my thoughts and prayers for safe return from harm's way.
I have so many different things that came to mind when reading this post that I want to say and it is hard to put my thoughts to words.  Horses can do so much for all of us people when we let them.  I think the thing that I want to say most is, thank you Donna.  Thank you for going the route of adoption when you decided to get an equine companion.  Thank you Donna, for being a very responsible person and committed to nuturing a good relationship with your equine companion.  We all know that horses are an ongoing learning process and we all know it can be overwhelming when you are first starting out and we commend you for your dedication to Sugar Bear.   You are obviously an incredibly strong person and you have obviously been through a lot, and we all thank you for supporting your family and being there for them, and we thank them for their service as well. 
Donna, I was very touched by your post.  The thing that resonated most for me was when you said "She seemed to know exactly what I needed from her and was happy to give it."  I have found this so many times with my horses and other horses as well.  They have an extra sense about things that cannot be described.  They pick up on the powerful emotions, especially those that evoke deep need.This birthday present didn't exactly have a bow but was a gift indeed. Like Karen said, they can do so much for us when we let them.  God bless and Happy Birthday!   
Donna M
Thanks Tricia, Karen, and Mel. Three more weeks and my husband returns for good! Tonight was Friday night date night with Sugar Bear. ;-)

When I got to the farm tonight she was way in the back of the pasture. I called her name and she looked up and watched me approach. When I was about 10 yards from her she started walking toward me. It is such an amazing feeling to have a connection with her.

I have a feeling she is beginning to trust my leadership. Tonight she saw some streamers hanging from a homecoming float. At first she spooked and seemed rattled afterward. I didn't have her attention or cooperation in the barn while I was trying to groom and tack her. So I took her back outside and showed her the float. In a few minutes she realized it was not a threat and we went back in the barn where she was back to her sweet, quiet self.

I've given a lot of thought to how much progress we have made together but I still have some objectives to accomplish so decided to break them down into smaller goals. I have to use a mounting block and Sugar didn't seem to have any experience with it. She would try to walk away from it or if she did stand still while I mounted she would walk away from the block before I gave her a cue. I've been told to back her up if she does something inappropriate and start over, but I don't seem to accomplish that with any level of authority or discipline. It's like a grain of sand trying to push back the tide. Someone told me to make her go around in circles and that works much better!

After about 30 minutes of repetition, spinning in circles, working up a sweat (mostly me) and getting dizzy (again ~ mostly me), Sugar Bear stood like a stone when I mounted using the block and stayed in place! TWICE! She got praise for appropriate behavior, we ended on a very positive note, and she was in a relaxed state of mind when we finished our exercises. I think I'm finally starting to "get this". It felt so wonderful to see how she understood what I wanted and she didn't get pissed at or pissy with me for correcting her mistakes.

Each achievement large or small makes her that much more special. She enjoys affection and let's me kiss her, hug her, give her neck rubs, and of course she never turns down a yummy treat. Having her has been a life changing experience.

Have I mentioned how much I love that girl?

I just wanted to thank you, your husband, and your children for your service to this country.  You are all amazing, and I am very excited for all of you that your husband will be home very soon....and for good!  I wish them all safe returns, and many, many hours of family time together!!!

The bond you are forming with Sugar Bear is amazing, and will last a lifetime!  You are there for each other, and always will be.
John B.
Donna, ditto what Christine said. 
I also think it is great that you are showing realistic expectations, patience and working towards your goals together with Sugar Bear.  Trust me (and many others) that we have seen people that call themselves exp. horse people and they quickly get frustrated and give-up and the next thing ya know they are looking to return or find another horse.
The perfect horse is the one YOU mold patiently and affectionately and all starts with the bond you form while doing it as you so wisely already see.
After 4+ years of working with my lad there are still things (they tend to be kind of just lil things now) that we need to refresh on or improve (and many times it me that needs the improvement or more knowledge to convey it right)
Your updates beam with enthusiasm and love of your new friend.  I suspect this will be a love affair that lasts a life time between you two.

John B.
Donna M
What a difference new tack makes! Last week I purchased a Mylar D-ring snaffle bit for Sugar Bear and instantly the head tossing is gone! I can't believe it!! Today I picked up my new Circle Y Flex 2 saddle and added a girth with airflow. She even felt better in that, and in my humble but slightly biased opinion, looks beautiful. Tonight her performance was flawless and she was very relaxed. I feel bad that it took so long for me to figure this out, but I am happy we are both more comfortable. She has been uncomfortable for a very long time and kept running through the bit so it's been some work to get her to stop on voice/body cues. It's well worth it though to see the progress she is making and the trust that is a by-product of her increased comfort. Is it possible that some of her behaviors (not standing still when I mount, moving forward before being cued, running through the bit) were all because she was anticipating pain?

Yesterday was a year since she was made available for adoption. Sugar Bear is more special than I could have ever imagined she would be. It's almost like she consumes me. She is even in my dreams which I seldom remember unless she is the focal point. I know I'm gushing but I can't explain how incredible it feels to have earned her trust and to see how she enjoys spending time together. 

Isn't it amazing how fast a year goes by?!  Now that you've been together a year you can see why we tell people that it takes a full year for a horse to truly settle and know they are "home" and form that strong bond with their person. 

As far as those behaviors, yes, anticipating pain or discomfort definitely causes unwanted behaviors in horses like head tossing.  I think we talked about that a bit previously, and also how saddle fit can make such a difference.  Also, "pain memory" and how it can take a while for the pain memory to go away, i.e., even though you can use something that isn't causing them any pain or discomfort, it takes a while for the memory and anticipation to go away, many repetitions of figuring out that no pain or discomfort is coming. 

I'm so glad that you two have come this far together, it is really fun to watch.  Happy Anniversary Donna and Sugar Bear! 
Happy Anniversary Donna and Sugar Bear....a match made in heaven!
Donna M
Happy 1 year adoption anniversary to my baby girl <3 Sugar Bear <3.
You have taught me so much and given me many reasons to be thankful.
Donna R
Happy 1 year anniversary Donna and Sugar Bear!!!  Wow, time goes fast!  Love your updates.
mel d
Happy, happy anniversary! Time really passes quickly when you are loving and learning with a horse :)
Happy 1st anniversary Donna and Sugar Bear!!!!!!!!!!
Happy Anniversary, Donna & Sugar Bear!
John B.

Congrats Donna.  I just know you 2 will have many more years together :-)

Happy Happy Happy Anniversary!!!  And many more to come!!

Happy 1 year anniversary!!!!!!!!!!!!

Donna M
Since my husband returned from Afghanistan, I haven't seen Sugar Bear as frequently. In fact, it's been a few weeks since I last worked with her and I was concerned she would be a bit sassy. But this morning she stood very still and relaxed for the ferrier ~ the best she has EVER been, and this afternoon she was very accepting of a child. During the summer the sound of children would agitate her.

To my knowledge, tonight was Sugar Bear's first experience with a child on her back. She was so calm and relaxed. What an awesome girl she is and Brody had the time of his life. The lighting in the arena is poor and the picture was taken with a cell phone so it's grainy but I the image is burned in my memory. She was amazing and I am so proud of her.

Merry Christmas from Sugar Bear and her new little buddy Brody!

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Donna M

A few more fun, abeit fuzzy, pics from tonight.

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Way to go Sugar Bear! We gotta stop underestimating our awesome horses!!!
Jenni O.
I bet that boy was in heaven!  I enjoyed your fuzzy photos.
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