Kameo: The Experiment (Week #7)

{Because of business in Chicago week #8, I wasn’t able to go to Wisconsin.  Cynda worked with her over the week and wrote this week’s entry.}

In lieu of last week’s visit, I thought I’d write a bit about what I did with Kameo this week.

Ok, here we go…………..

BecauseTchad wasn’t able to come to Wisconsin last week, poor Kameo was stuck with me. We had a nice snow fall on Saturday so I took advantage of the opportunity to expose her once again to being out on the track. The snow was a soft consistency and anywhere from a couple of inches deep to almost knee high where it had drifted. I asked her for a number of things, such as disengaging her hind quarters, approaching certain objects such as a tree limb or clump of grass (she liked that part), backing up as I backed up, and simply standing quietly in deep snow.

Kelly (my shepard/golden retriever mix) even helped us out by pretending she was a swamp monster and rustling the cat tails as we passed them. Kameo got pretty excited by the strange noise, but kept an eye on me and followed my lead….good girl!

I am quite  direct in asking her to do a number of things in sequence, so she did need to take a couple of breaks to rub her nose on her leg….this helps her think and figure things out. When we paused, she would rub her nose, lick her lips, and eventualy exhale and let her adrenaline level drop.

She clearly is understanding most of the seven games. Tchad has done a nice job introducing her to these concepts. This week gave me a chance to help her make sense of why he’s been practicing these with her. She’s learning that I’m pretty good at the games and they really do have a purpose.

I also did some work at liberty with her, both in the barn and out in the pasture with the rest of the herd looking on. When I’m with Kameo, I keep the sessions relatively short (20 minutes or less) but I ask for a lot different responses…… move over, look at me, back up, stand quietly, etc.

I was very pleased to see how much her understanding and interest has improved. I know that sometimes Tchad doesn’t see the progress but as he hones his skills, things will only get better. I’m looking forward to working with both Tchad and Kameo in week #8

New Stübben Saddle!

A client of mine asked me recently if I could use a saddle.

Her horse had died recently and she wasn’t using it anymore.

Imagine my surprise when she walks into my workroom carrying a beautiful Stübben all-purpose saddle with the pads!

Stübben Saddle!

It is an older version of this!

So now we have a good saddle to work with, and because it is a little deeper of a seat, I will have just a bit more stability than the higher Western saddle I’ve been messing with. I like the horn and seat of a Western saddle better, but the stability through the fenders is nice on an English saddle.

What I really want is someone to make me a custom design*.

Until then, I’m going to have to settle (and what a delightful compromise it is!) for the Stübben.


*What I would like to find is a deep but short-backed McClellan saddle with a bit of a higher pommel and cantle with fenders like a cross-country English. Kind of a combination of a jumping English saddle and a McClellan with a full seat that has a saddlehorn (or four).

McClellan Saddle

McClellan Saddle

Kameo: The Experiment (Week #6)

Week #6

Friendly Game, Back to Basics

I am not thinking of this as a setback, but we still have a lot to work on here.

I got to the farm and talked to Cinda about last week.  She had warned me about setbacks when we started, but I don’t think this is a setback, really.
I think that there are some higher trust issues that Kameo and I need to work out before we can move on.  She trusted me enough to work through the initial things, but now that we are moving on to higher level stuff, I am going to have to prove myself again.

Thursday started with some fitful grooming.  We worked on legs and feet, but she didn’t offer up her feet like she did last time.

I could chalk it up to her still being in heat, but that would put all of the responsibility on biology and not enough on my ability to communicate with her.

After I groomed her and played around in the barn a bit, I took the lead off and just let her hang out in the barn with me and one of the geldings.  She was wearing a halter and light cinch, along with a light saddle blanket that came with the new English saddle I got the other day (more about that in another post…) and just kind of moseyed around.

Spooky moping Arabian in Door

She hangs out right outside the door and watches. It is a little spooky.

I thought when I released her into the pasture she would kick and run like she did last week, but she played it cool and just walked over to the others.  So at least the setback seems to be of the “Can I trust you?” variety and not the “Take this, Jerk!” variety.  After last week, I’ll take it.

The barn office hadn’t been used for a while, so I spent some time cleaning it while the horse raided the haystall and then I started working on a few designs I need to have done by the end of the month.

Barn Office

This has become my office & design center.

So I was all set up for Friday.  I had the computer, a desk, and my pencils, sketchbook, and a coffee pot I brought from the city  in the office.  I figured I would play in the barn all day on Friday – the weather is so nice I couldn’t do otherwise.

Friday started at 7.  I got up, threw hay, then went inside to eat.  I planned on working in the round pen.  I cleaned off all of the ice and snow Thursday in my downtime and got it ready to use.  I don’t want her to lose her footing and create a problem.

As it turned out, clearing the roundpen was a bit of prep for next week.

See, it turns out that we have had some problems I need to figure out.  Either she is unsure of me because I am green (a polite way of saying that I don’t know what I’m doing) and confusing her, she is trying to assert her dominance, or she is still scared.

When I brought her in Friday morning, she was fine.  She wouldn’t take a halter in the pasture, but instead walked up to the barn door when I tried to halter her.  She then stood at the barn door waiting for me and then calmly walked in when I opened it.  That’s weird, I thought.

So we did our grooming and friendly stuff, but she was still edgy.  I brought in a couple of different horses throughout the day to see how she would interact with them and who would make her more comfortable.  We got haltered and did some work, then I let her back out.
The second time I went out to the pasture, I called her by name and she walked up behind all the others – the head mares were right at the door.  When I shooed them away, she stood there as I held the door and hesitated, then walked through the door on her own with some hesitation as the head mares stood close.  That was nice, but I can’t figure out what it means.  I am thinking that she is comfortable taking direction from me but still worried about her place in the herd and the biting, nasty things the head mares do to her when she gets really confident with them.

In any case, she took the halter once we were inside and we did some lead-work and yo-yo, then lots of friendly and grooming.  She is weird about her feet and legs, not like last week where she gave them to me freely.   I incorporated the simple cinch and saddle pad that came with the Stübben saddle a client gave me into the friendly stuff and then we backed into and out of doors and the stall again, and then I let her be for about 45 minutes just wandering around the barn while I worked.

Cinch & Saddle Pad

She was actually pretty good with the cinch and saddle pad.

When Cinda came out to the barn in the late afternoon, we brought out some traffic cones and tried some work in the driveway.  She is really resisting my lead outside, and then when I tried to do a bit of driving and circling, she lost all interest – pulling me any which way.  I haven’t mastered the lead rope and carrot stick in my hands and so I was confusing her terribly.  When Cinda took over and showed me how it was done, her ears perked up and she was fine.

So that is where we are for the time being.  She is iffy about me.  Not as bite-y as she has been, but it is still there and I am going to need to get really good with the next few challenges.  I have to prove I know it better than she does.

An odd thing happened when I threw hay the last morning before leaving to catch the train back to Chicago.  I threw the bale in flakes for everyone and then when I walked up to her, she pinned her ears, brayed, and took off to another flake across the pasture with a kick.  This is something that I haven’t had her do before.  It is an interesting puzzle piece.  She usually gives that exact same reaction to the head mares when they come over to eat on the flake she is eating.  I have seen it a number of times.  I am left wondering if she gave the grunt-kick-switch because she saw me as one of the alphas or because she was showing me just how done with me she was for the week.

And here is where the carefully planned out schedule I mentioned in the Goals & Process post breaks down.  I am going to have to drill handling the rope and stick this week before I get to the farm.

I am also going to have to figure out exactly where I stand with her and try to work from there.

Cinda’s interpretation is that I am green and need to be more adept with the aids because I am confusing and boring her. I would add to that that I feel like I am still in an unsure place with her and have to do a little more proving myself to her as a leader as well as stop boring and confusing her.

So that is where we leave it for the week.  I am not too down about it, but after the 4th and 5th week it is hard not to be a little disappointed.

If you see me in the city with a rope and a long stick practicing and looking a little crazy and a lot eccentric, be nice to me.  I have a difficult mare I have to prove myself to.

Kameo: The Experiment (Week #5)

Week #5

Desensitize, Friendly, Head of the Herd, Cinch & Saddle, Porcupine, Halter

Dealing with a mare in heat kind of sucks.

I started off Thursday morning as usual with some grooming and friendly game, then took her back out to the pasture. We had a bit of a breakthrough during grooming, as she allowed me to pick her hooves without a struggle and gave me free rein with a gloved hand under her belly except her inner thigh.

About an hour later, I set up the track like I did last week.  I thought that if it is just presented like it was before everything would be fine and it would just become a thing, not a BIG thing.

I even set up the camera on a tripod so that I could get some shots of us as we passed each thing on the track – this time it was the temporary cinch, then the saddle blanket, then the real cinch.

While it could have ended worse than it did, it didn’t end like I wanted it to. The wind was really blowing.  This is flat countryside, so it is fast and hard.  The cattails were literally whistling and the sound coming from the tall swamp grass on the end of the track was loud.

We did the little snippet of video you see above at the 1/8th mile mark (the track is a 1/2 mile track that is graded and banked around the curves), then proceeded to walk around the track.  When we got the the quarter mile mark and the real cinch, she put her nose to it but lost any and all focus.  All of the sudden I was dealing with a quarrelsome nasty bucking bronco.  She started pushing against me and wouldn’t give me her head. I don’t think it was the cinch itself.  I’ve been introducing it to her in the barn for a couple of weeks and she is always fine with it.  It sits on the tack wall across from her stall and she sees/smells it often.

I noticed that she was a little more hesitant and pushy when we entered the track, but chalked it up to the strong winds and the curve I brought her in on.  She doesn’t like walking sideways on any incline and acts like she is going to fall down – sometimes tripping herself and spooking in the process.

When I tried to redirect her by disengaging her hind quarters, she worked with me on yo-yo ground work for maybe 30 seconds and then around she turned and up went those hind legs 5 feet from my face.  Luckily I am using a 20 foot lead and can give her some flex. I did not retreat, but it was tough to stand my ground and still be safe.

As soon as she went up and came back down, she would snort, cross in front of me and start eating grass.

I wasn’t sure what to do – I wanted to take that damn carrot stick and beat her all the way back to the barn.

But I didn’t.  I mentioned before that I don’t want to wrestle with her and get hurt.  So I thought I would let her think that she is getting her way all the while working my way back to the barn.  In hindsight, I should have changed direction and worked back to the other side of the track.  So when she would circle in front of me, I would lead her back to my side having taken 5 or 10 steps.  It is something like an equestrian Spirograph, I thought.

Once we got back to the yard and she saw the pasture, she was better.  Once she saw the barn door, she was fine.
Because I didn’t want the session to end on a negative, I walked her up and down the asphalt driveway and in and out of the round pen a couple of times before taking her back into the barn.  I took the lead rope off and let her hang out with me in the barn for a while as I alternately worked and did friendly stuff with her.

Then I noticed that she clings to the stall doors of the two geldings in the barn – Chief and Boomer. I asked Cynda what was up with that and she sighed and said that Kameo must be in heat.  When I explained the whole thing she said “Oh, yeah.  She’s in heat.  This is why a lot of people don’t like dealing with mares.”

As the two days played out, I noticed what can and won’t happen when she is in heat.

She will work with me in the barn aisle or in the pasture, but leaving the male horses is out of the question.  She tuns into a real jerk.  I have never paid any attention to horses in heat before, and let me tell you: It ain’t pretty.  She is such a little clingy slut!  Constantly lifting her tail and “winking” in front of the geldings… who really can’t be bothered to notice.  In fact, Chief kind of torments her by grabbing anything hanging from the ceiling around her and rattling it so that she startles.

So it turns out I am going to have to make lemonade out of some lemons.  Gross, winking lemons.

We did the rest of our work in the barn with her lingering next to the stalls of the males.  We actually got a lot done.

You can see in this video that the males are more interested in playing with each other that her.  If you watch Chief (his is the stall she is standing in front of.  He is a retired racing and polo thoroughbred.) you can see that he likes to grab the cross-tie chain outside his stall and swing it at her.  When I am working with her, he will do it when her back is to him to startle her.

Since I am incorporating a lot of cinch and saddle work into our friendly play time without actually expecting her to bear weight, she is fine with it.  I am going to make sure that at least twice a day when I’m on the farm she is blanketed, cinched, and saddled.  I think we will even spend just some hangout time with her fully dressed.

So what did we get done, even with her in heat and grumpy?

  • We have been able to get her in a bridle.
  • She has been introduced to a bit.
  • She can deal with the sound of plastic.
  • She can take a saddle, pad, and cinch with minimal fuss.
  • She can give me her hooves without a fight.
  • She can, after about 30 minutes of grooming, be touched anywhere except her inner thigh.

So not too bad!

The end result of our two days: