Thursday, April 17, 2014

Understanding Horse Colors

I have long been fascinated by the varied range of color and beautiful tones created by the magic of genes as they set in to play on a horse's hair coat. Even a genetically plain red horse (one with no color modifying genes) come in such a wide range of colors that names like cherry sorrel, copper penny sorrel, chestnut, liver chestnut, have been created to try to describe the many shades of red. For so many variations to occur in a horse that is the simplest of colors (genetically) it is no wonder that so many of us have trouble understanding how horse color genetics work. I have trouble remembering even the basics and I actually spent some time studying the subject. Rather than try to memorize the correct jargon and true genetic make up of the various colors I instead try to remember in the way I did back in . You can find a link to that post here.

I think of a base color as the primer on a wall you are about to paint. I like to use bay, red and black. So I would paint a primer of one of these three colors on my wall:

Red- which would include any color of sorrel, liver or chestnut.
Bay- which would include any horse with black points and brown on its body (however minimal) including blood bay, dark bay, and brown.
Black would be simply that- any horse that is black with no brown anywhere on its body.

So now I have my primer base. Some horses, the majority actually, don't get another layer of paint. They stay in their primer color. It isn't until you try to calculate what color one of those "primer only" horses will produce that you have to pay any attention at all to how bay, red and black horses vary genetically, but we will leave for today. For now let's pretend that we are in a room and I've painted one wall with a primer of red, one with a primer of black and one with a primer of bay. In the center of the room there are a number of gallons of paint with labels on them that read "cream", "dun",  and "roan". I have other cans to chose from like "champagne" and "silver dapple" (the less common color modifying genes) but I am sticking with the more common colors for now.

So I stand in front of my red primered wall and pick up the paint can labeled "cream". I paint cream on top of that red and just like that my wall has turned palomino!

I turn and paint my bay primered with that same can of cream and just like that my wall has turned buckskin!

Finally I turn to the black wall and paint it with that same can of cream. I stand back and see that the cream barely showed up (but it's there) and my wall is now smokey black. That can of cream has a warning label on it that says I have to be careful to only paint one layer of it because if I paint two it will completely cover up my red primer. So if I were to paint my red wall with an extra coat of cream then I will end up with a cremello. If I paint my black or bay wall with two coats I will come up with a perlino. This double coat of paint is really what happens when horse is "homozygous" for a cream gene. Which in the ever day world means that the horses look funky with blue eyes and pink skin and no matter what you breed them to they will always have a baby with a coat of cream on top (palomino, buckskin or smokey black).

Now had I picked up that can of "dun" (instead of cream) I would have ended up turning my red wall in to a red dun, my bay wall in to a dun and my black wall in to grulla. That dun paint is really cool because it always comes with something called "dun factor" which almost always gives us a stripe down their back but this often confuses people because non-dun horse can also have something called "countershading" which looks just like dun stripe and to make it even more confusing sometimes a dun horse can have such a dark body or such a faint stripe that you cant see it at all. Sheesh! Like, get your shit together dun! But most of the time, like almost all of the time, a dun horse will have a distinct stripe down it's back (among other dun factor characteristics.) But enough of that for now! I have painting to do!

Had I picked up "roan" instead of "dun" or "cream" I would have turned my red wall in to a red roan, my bay wall in to a bay roan and my black wall in to a blue roan.

But here is the cool part. Let's say, after I painted all my walls with that "cream" bucket I decided I'd just ahead and pick up the "dun" bucket and paint those palomino, buckskin and smokey black walls with "dun" paint too! I'd end up with a dunalino (dun and cream gene) on my red wall, a dunskin (dun and cream) on my bay wall and a smokey grulla (dun and cream) on my black wall! And then I went totally crazy! I picked up that can of "roan" and threw that on there too! I could have a roan dunalino (red wall), a roan dunskin (bay wall) and a smokey grulla roan (black wall). And it doesn't stop there! There are other cans of paint hanging around. I could throw in some champagne or silver dapple or pearl even. I could end up with all sorts of combinations... but underneath any one of those wild and wacky colors I would still have a base primer of red, black or bay. Sometimes it can be really hard to tell which combination of paint cans created which color, only genetic testing can figure that out.

But wait! I forgot! There are a few more cans of paint stacked by the wall and I hear they do some cool things! Like one called "gray". Gray is more like stucco than paint except it always has to go on top. That wall could have cream, roan, dun and champagne all on top of that red primer but you stick some gray stucco on top of it all after that wall has been painted and it will keep getting thicker and thicker until finally you cant see any of that original color. I actually owned a horse who had a red primer, then a cream layer (palomino), then a champagne layer and finally gray stucco on top. She was the color of oatmeal.

There are some other cans hanging around too. Like "tobiano" and "overo" these guys are also like stucco. They go white (solid white from birth) but they don't cover up the whole wall, only patches. The patches that show through can also be any kind of color like dunalino, grulla or plain old red sorrel.

See, horse color genetics can be easy when you think of it like this!?!?....


The last part to all of this is how it works when you breed on color of horse to another. People really like to think that their plain old red mare has a "recessive" gene for palomino. There is no such thing. When a horse has a gene for cream it must express itself. Must. Always. Whenever I try to explain that the rules of science made that miracle palomino foal completely utterly impossible people still want to insist that they know someone who knows someone who had a horse that was bay that they bred to a horse who was plain sorrel and that horse had a palomino. Ah ha! But you see there is an reasonable explanation besides that some people are stupid (did I say that out loud!?) and other people like to cheat (so they can get more money for their bay by calling it a dun) but mostly because horses LIE!! It's true! That bay looking mare that spontaneously produced that palomino out of a sorrel stallion was lying about her color! She only looked bay. She was really a dark sooty buckskin. Buckskin and dun can be sneaky little buggers. Palomino is not nearly as capable of going incognito but they can still fudge a little.

Just because there are rules to the genetics of horse color, that doesn't make them any less fun. Sometimes the painter of that room has too much wine and goes hog wild on a Saturday night and ends up throwing so many layers of paint on that wall that only the blood work can tell us what the hell happened. As horse people we like to make our own rules and come up with our "colors" and while it drives me batty to see horses registered as a color that they are not (AQHA apparently hasn't read even the basics of color genetics and still allow two sorrel horses to produce a "bay" (genetically impossible) it all really doesn't matter in the end... afterall, a rose by any other name...

Here is a link to a website with a "color calculator" which can tell you what color can be produced from a breeding.

Also, UC Davis provides DNA color testing, find a link here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Riding the Hay Field

Marms ears looking out at a part of the hay field.
Yesterday morning I really wanted to ride but there were great big black storm clouds on the horizon and I had no interest in getting caught out on the trail when it finally let loose. Up until now I've avoided riding Abby out in the big hay field. It has just felt like too much space. It seems like riding in a big field with no walls and no trail would be the easiest thing in the world but it can actually be challenging... but I'll leave that for another day. As we saddled the wind picked up, making the grass ripple in waves and the horses freshen. The second I stepped on Abs I knew she was jazzed. She wasn't paying attention to me, spooked at something I couldn't see and would paw if I stopped to talk to L for a minute. I know I've pussyfooted round a little with her in a sense... I've just been trying to avoid any situation where I feel like I'm asking a lot of her or where she is put under too much pressure... which is kind of "setting ourselves up for success" and kind pussyfooting:) Well, that had to stop. So I spent some time taking her nose around and waiting for her to relax and bring her attention to me. I was surprised how long it before really settled and became soft. Success came when I asked her to stand and she did, patiently... for about five minutes. We went for a little walk along the edge of the field and called it a day. I will definitely be spending some time out in the big field.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Posting The Long Trot

This morning I took Abs out on the trail with L and Ella. We didn't have much time but wanted to give the horses a little bit of work so dropped the reins and asked them to move out in to a long trot. Abby is 14.2HH, a brick shithouse and full of power. What she is not full of is grace. Long trotting Miss Abby means posting about 300 times a minute. Luckily she's actually pretty smooth and I need the work as much as she does. Another great ride on my sweet pony.

Other good news for today is that I think I finally found a competent and professional lady to do acupressure on my horses. *hears angels break out in chorus* It feels like a miracle.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Step Up The Walk

While it is still frigid cold on the prairie the wind died down enough that I decided to brave an in-hand walk with Abby. We managed a 45 minute walk both yesterday and today. Now, in order to stay warm, I have to walk, not stroll. I had noticed that Abs tends to dog it a little on the lead but up until today I had just tried to use my go-to trick for doggy (lags behind) horses and up until today I thought that I had made some headway...but my consistently quick pace really showed just how little Abs cared to come forward off of my hand. My go-to trick, btw is this: I hold the lead rope in a strong fist and place it on my hip bone and pretend that I have "tied" my horse to my hip bone. The assumption here is that a horse knows how to come forward off of pressure. I walk forward and when the horse hits the end of the line I hold fast against the anchor of my hip and continue walking at my set pace. When the horse come forward, (even just slightly) they find release because my hand hasn't moved (as it would have were it not anchored by my hip). By holding the hand on an anchored point you ensure that when the horse comes forward they will always find immediate relief (release) just like when tied. If your hand is not anchored it is more likely that you will inadvertently pull back a little bit when the horse comes forward off of pressure. I love this little trick and use it when ponying and or even on the lunge line if my horse gets to pulling wide. But I guess that pressure just wasn't annoying enough to motivate Abs to stride out. So today I set my mind to being really consistent in correcting her. I used my hip trick but when Abs hit the end of the line and didn't come forward I picked up my lead hand and use the tail (in my off hand) in a swinging motion behind her drive line. It took about ten minutes of constant correction before she decided that going to work at the walk was actually an easier option. Now I just have to remember to be consistent when I am leading her as I tend to get distracted on my walks and I forget that I am always training, whether conscientiously for the good or unconsciously for the bad.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cold as a Witch's Tit

I have always found that expression, "Cold as a witch's tit" crude but I just gotta say, it's as cold as a witch's tit out there! I haven't been able to ride at all the past few days. Gusting winds have made for a wicked wicked wind-chill. Sitting in my house, (warm and snug and looking out at the sunshine) I become determined that I will suck it up... then I drive to the prairie and the wind tries to blow me off the road and I step out of the car and my eyeballs feel like they are going to turn to ice and I realize that there is no sucking it up.  So I feed the ponies some extra hay and go home to take a bath. It isn't all bad when the awesome force of mother natures forces us to slow down and take a long deep breath.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Video of Another Awesome Ride

Oh Abby! How you make my heart go pitter patter. Have I mentioned that this mare is just the sweetest damn thing there ever was? Seriously.

So we’ve had a two more walks in hand and one short ride on the trail (I think it was Thursday), both of which were awesome. This evening L and I skipped the super bowl and decided to haul out to an indoor arena about ten minutes from home. I decided it was time to pull up our big girl panties and take Abby. This was her first trip back in the trailer since I brought her home in November. She loaded up like an old hand but was definitely worried. We brought along Marm and Ella so she had her friends for emotional support. When we got the in the arena Abs was pretty bug eyed. Hola and her expressions are just so much a like it is easy to read how worried she was. I walked her in hand around the arena for a bit then we decided that the best thing would be to turn the horses loose and let them burn off some willies and relax a little. It didn’t take but a few minutes before they settled.

I tacked in the arena and got on Abs. Right away she was a little jazzed so I decided to just let her move her feet. I sent her in a circle. Within a few seconds L started videoing so I have the whole ride recorded. Yay! What the video doesn’t show was just how tuned in to my seat she was and how I felt like if I even exhaled she was going to stop. I did ask for her face a little at the start just to try to get her mind a little but then I decided to just bridle her up every few minutes but not hold it as she is still worried and I’d rather she just relax. My reins were driving me NUTS! They were really stiff and kinked (I haven’t used that head stall in a while and it was super cold out) and they wouldn’t fold evenly in my hands. It was super annoying and distracting. But it was a small thing in an otherwise awesome ride. It is amazing that even with five years off Abby is still better broke than I am! I made a lot of mistakes and she made a few herself but overall I think we are going to make an awesome team. We are just still figuring each other out. Her turn arounds are the perfect example. I still am still just a little unsure and slow in my direction and that is making her a bit worried.

We will figure it out.

 When things start going so well I tend to get scared… scared that I will screw it up, scared that something will happen to her, or to me... just scared that things will go wrong. I feel more confident when things are not going well. Isnt that dumb? Sometimes I just cant believe that I get to live the life that I do. If things go sideways tomorrow, that is okay, at least I had today. Today was AWESOME.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Abs Moving Out on the Trail

Abs (left), Hola and Me

This morning I took Abs for a longer trail ride than usual. After a 10 minute in hand walk I got on and L (on Ella) and had a nice five minute trot. Abs did listen to my seat and hands but was more focused on sucking on to Ella and following her pace. I really debated whether to just let it be for now or to work on it and so ended up doing a half assed correction off and on (which was the worse thing I could have done.) I hate when my inability to make decision between two training ideas leaves me in a worse position than if I had made the less correct of the two options... does that make sense?. When we stopped and turned around L had a bit of an argument with Ella and decided she needed to take her away from Abby and regain control. I decided to get off and just walk Abs towards home in hand. With Ella well behind us and out of site I did get back on and trot her for another minute or so on a part of the trail she is quite familiar with and she was really good and mentally with me. Another successful day.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Abbys 3rd "First" Ride

(Hola having just finished a drink (not drooling)... isn't she just the prettiest red liver?)

This evening Abs had her third "first" ride back. The 1st first ride was when I got on her 45 seconds in December. The 2nd "first" ride was when I started riding her again (for less than 5 minutes at a time and not asking for anything but forward) a few weeks ago. The 3rd "first" ride was this evening when I took her to a friends arena and actually put her to work doing some circles at a walk, trot and lope, some counter bending, one stop and a few turn-arounds. I rode for about 15-20 minutes total, ten minutes of that spent at a trot and lope. She was really soft in the face, easy to guide with my seat and hands and responsive off my leg. Her stop was awesome (from a slow lope I just sat down and let her fold herself up in to a soft but quick stop), her turn-arounds were smooth and fast and she transitioned from a trot to a lope slow and fluidly.

That is all the good stuff.

The bad was that I was incredible nervous. Not that she was going to dump me or do any silly business, but that I was just going to screw it all up. I was really worked up about what I was going to do, how I was going to do it, and what I as going to do if it wasn't going right. I enlisted the help of a friend and trainer to help talk me through it and she was awesome in providing a few suggestions but mostly just reminding me to breathe and relax. Funny that breathing thing, I always forget that part. Abs is so sensitive that she really was pretty wound up for the first five minutes but as I relaxed, so did she. Overall it was an AWESOME ride. I am so excited! After some thought (and conversation with trusted friends) I've decided to continue riding her on the trail but alternate with arena work. I know that it will only benefit her to get out and about and will help her be more relaxed in our dry work.

(note: on Saturday I was too sick with a cold to get to the barn which really sucked the big one because it was a beeeeautiful day out but on Sunday eve I did get Abs out for a 45 minute walk. This evening I also rode Marm in the field with the English saddle again. I cant quite pinpoint it but I like the way she moves in that saddle, maybe something to do with taking pressure off of her loin? I have continued to ride her in the rope halter but would like to do some research on finding her a bit, something other than a snaffle (not harsher, just different areas of pressure). Hola got tied up today for twenty minutes or so. About ten minutes in she thought about chewing on the barn but we talked about it and she decided sleeping was a better option.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Reiner In My Barn- Abby Rides 5-9

I am going to try to keep track of my rides here so... best as I can recall...

Monday was a sick day. I have been having a terrible time with sinus issues, headaches and stuffed up/sensitive ears. It was killing me to miss another day of sunshine. In my part of the country, if you get a sunny day you ride- come hell or high water- you ride. But my man had other ideas. I told him, "Your not the boss of me!" but he kinda is... so I stayed home. Sometimes I have to fake not sick just so I can go to the barn without getting in trouble:)

Tuesday evening I headed down to the barn determined to suck it up but also keep it short, easy and sweet. Abby had other plans....

After twenty minutes of grooming I saddled both Abby and Hola and took them for a walk in hand down the road and a ways down the trail. It was a quiet evening and the trail was open and clear and well, both of them are so relaxed and confident....I couldn't help but hear Abby's saddle call my name again. I knew that I shouldn't get on, after all she only has a few rides and I was by myself... but I couldn't help it. I got on. And I ponied Hola down the trail for just five minutes or so. And then I got off and walked home. I was kicking my own ass telling myself how stupid that was but I guess I'm just a rebel without a cause. Marm and I did a quick loop through the hay field to cap off the day.

On Wednesday I saddled Abby and tied her to the wall for a while. I then saddled Hola and, (for the first time) I put on and tightened up the back cinch. And then I watched the rodeo. I really didn't expect her to blow up. She has been worked in a saddle (on the lounge)  no less than twenty times. I have used a rope to simulate the cinch all up and down her belly and loin a hundred times but when I pushed her up to a trot on the lounge and she felt that saddle flop and that back cinch against her belly, oh boy, she just went hee-haw-ing around the arena like a bronc. I was so surprised and unprepared that I actually lost ahold of the line and so she did a few circuits of the arena before I caught her and pulled her to a stop. I worked her for another ten minutes at least until her back leveled out but she didn't relax in to it as she has with everything else to date. She is usually so calm it is easy to forget that horse can move! I then got on Abby in the arena. I just guided her around a little and then unsaddled both and took them for a good 45 minute walk in hand.

On Thursday my head was still heavy but I was determined to get them all worked. I took Abby on the lower trail with L and Ella. L wanted to get Ella worked and so left us after about ten minutes to go for long trot. I had Abby in hand and while she didn't get worked up about Ella leaving us she certainly had her attention fixed on the trail ahead and little to no attention on me. So I gave her lots of little tasks to work on and eventually she started to think maybe she shouldn't worry so much about Ella and maybe she should worry a little more about what I was asking of her. I thought I had her mind so I decided to get on and see if her attention stuck with me. Nope. She walked forward before I was in the saddle, ears fixed straight ahead and quickly broke in to a jog. I pulled her around both ways and set her back to "waaaaalk". No dice. For the next few minutes we argued about it before I decided to just get off and really set her to work for me. About that time L and Ella came back up the trail headed for home. I told her to just ride on past me and keep going. Abby and I continued to "chat" and eventually I really felt like she came back to me so I got on again. We rode home, about ten minutes, and she stayed with me. I was thrilled to have worked our way through that one but knew I had really failed to set her up for success... she is so good I have to remember how little time she has out and under saddle. Having a horse leave us on the trail, twice, was not a good idea but I guess all is well that ends well.

At the end of that ride I did make a note to self that on every ride so far, when asked to stop, Abby has become really restless feeling. She stops well...but the minute she has to just stand I can feel her tension building. She has pawed a few times and will take a step or two to either side. I have left alone for now but thought I should work on it soon.

Back at the barn I saddled Hola and did up the back strap again. She had that backwards look in her eye but went out on the lounge without any silly business... for the first few minutes. She was jogging nicely so I asked for an extended trot and threw the line out at her. She jumped just a little and that saddle flopped just a little... well, she went broncy again but this time for no more than a thirty seconds. She settled back down and flattened out eventually (she was humped up like a rabbit). Man, she sure doesn't like that back cinch. I'm a bit evil when I find out that my horses don't like something- suddenly that something becomes a part of their daily lives. I finished the day by riding Marm in the English saddle for the first time. On Wednesday she seemed to be pin her ears a little when I cinched up so I thought a change of saddle was worth a try.  She seemed to like it but I had loose pants and short boots on which, as it turns out, is not a comfortable combination in an English saddle and so I did little that day but walk the hay field.

And now today, Friday- my sinus infection has become a full blown cold. I'm miserable and so this time was able to keep it short and sweet. I tied both mares to the wall for twenty minutes while riding Marm in the English again. It is to early to call it a success but she felt better under that saddle, looser in her top line and more willing to stretch out. Aaaand this time I had on tight (tight) pants and tall boots. Much more comfortable! I tacked both Abs and Hola. I left the back cinch undone on Hola while she stayed tied as I rode her Momma in the arena. My goal on Abby was to get on and sit there for a few minutes. As I noted the day before, on every ride so far I have asked her to move out just as soon as I have sat down in attempt to help her relax (move her feet). Today I followed my gut and decided to see what would happen if I got on and asked her stand. I had to circle her back to where we started a few times and back her up twice before she really clicked with the idea that I was asking her to stand... and then I waited to see what would happen...

What happened was I felt that restlessness rise up in her again. I took a deep breath, relaxed my stomach and seat and sat deep. She stilled. But in a keen way... I realized that she was poised and listening. I felt her whole being just tuned right in to my seat. She was waiting for my cue and that restlessness I felt, that was her locked and loaded and ready to get to work. I shifted my weight in to my inside stirrup, took my hand across her wither and closed my outside leg. She dropped on one hock and spun a hole in the ground. Just like that. Damn, that mare is just pure gold.

So what I learned today was that my plan needs revised. I wanted to get her fit on the trail before asking her to work in the arena. But the whole point of leaving her unridden for all the years she was broodmare was to make sure that the last rides she would recall were the ones wherein she was being asked to do reining maneuvers by her reining trainer. That plan paid off. She still has her training... I knew that but what I didn't factor was that in her mind she is still a reiner... not just a horse with reining buttons. A reiner's job is to stay in tune with it's rider at all times and to wait, poised and at-the-ready for that next cue. Abs remembers the maneuvers but she also remembers her JOB which is to pay attention at all times. In that first video of me riding Abs you hear L comment that she has "all ears on me"... I thought that was because she was like "what the hell are you doing up there?!?" I think I was wrong. I think from that first ride she remembered her job. And that is so freaking cool. I have a reiner my barn. Fancy that. *huge smile*

Monday, January 20, 2014

Abby's First Rides, .5 then 1-4

While Abby is "sound" I found that years of standing in a field, having foals, and eating enough hay to stay "fat as a tick" did not combine to keep her feet in good order. To get riding and get her fit I knew that shoes would be the ticket and so I gave her a month to get some weight off and scheduled an appointment for January 14th.

Now back in December I did get on Abby for all of 45 seconds. I had been working with her a little trying to refresh her brain (lounging a little on soft ground, tying her to the wall, brushing, saddling etc.) but had no intention of getting on... but one very very cold and sunny afternoon, I had saddled her up and left her tied up for a while when, as I went to untack and put her away, that saddle just called my name. I tried to resist. But it was just too damn tempting. So I got on. Abs backed a few steps and seemed unsure so I pushed her forward a little. Her first steps were tight and she felt a little locked up so I bent her around and we walked in a circle. I sat down and let go. She stopped. I got off. An impromptu first ride that could barely count as a productive "first" ride back but a success nonetheless. I count it as a half first ride. And so I left off again and waited for those shiny steel shoes.


Jan 14th came around faster than I had anticipated. She was a great for the farrier and stood like a gem for nearly 2 hours. I left her for the night and made a plan to ride the next morning. I barely slept that night I was so excited. I was worried that I would be too jacked up to be on point for that ride but when the time came I felt relaxed and confident. I started by tying her up for 10 minutes and brushing. I then untied and brought my tack to the middle of the arena and took my time saddling. I had done some lounging and saddling over the past month so she was really relaxed about it but what I hadn't done was put a bit in her mouth. I was really surprised, given how relaxed she was about the saddle and responsive to cues on the lounge line that she acted like she had never had a bit in her mouth. She licked and chewed and cranked her mouth open and tried to wiggled it loose. The first few minutes I wasn't concerned but this went on for a good ten minutes! I left the head stall on with no reins and put the halter over. I then put her on the lounge line and asked her to walk for a good 4-5 minutes each direction and then trot 2-3 minutes each direction. She was completely relaxed, moved off and slowed down when asked and had bright eyes and perked ears. I brought to a stop and clipped on some reins. The video says it all. She was happy, guided off my seat, stopped and just acted like it was no big deal. The only thing that I felt was really not there still was her response to the bit. I wanted to keep the ride completely positive and relaxed so just left it alone for the day.

After that ride I really felt like my priority should be getting Abs fit outside of the arena. I cant ask her to do anything or really see how much of those reining maneuvers she still has in there until she is fit enough to not hurt herself. If I stay out of the arena and ride in an environment that doesn't require a lot of guiding or transitions I should be able to get her fit without having to hit on any of her rusty buttons. So the next day I took her for a walk, saddled and in hand, on the dyke with my friend L on Ella (who is very calm and confident). We went about 20 minutes until there was a section where there isn't much at all except the path (about ten feet wide) in front of her and blueberry fields stretching off in the distance. I was actually pretty confident about getting on her there because I knew she wouldn't want to leave Ella and there really is no where to go. I wanted to get on up there is because the path is wide and straight and all I would have to do was sit up there and ask her to move forward, I really wouldn't need to guide at all. So I got on and did just that. And for the next five minutes she happily packed me down the road. I got off and walked her home in hand. It was as easy and simple as that.

Abs on the dyke Thursday morning
On Friday I wanted to leave her off and so next ride was Saturday. I wanted to take her back up on the dyke but didn't have the time and didn't want to push it by making her feet sore. So I lounged her again and decided to put the rope halter on and see if I could just get her to bend a little each way and give her face. I got on and walked a few circles then stopped (she still wants to stop hard) and just lightly picked up on the lead rope and brought my hand around, asking for her nose. Rather than really give her face she walked forward in a half circle, I went to sit down and let go to start over when all of the sudden BOOM! Once second I was facing East. The next second I was facing West. Or rather... she was facing west and I was facing the ground! I just about went ass over tea kettle. I guess the combination of my hands and seat hit the "spin" button because what she did was set her hock, drop her ass and in one fluid motion complete her turn around. I wish I had a video. I was pretty confident from my past rides that her training was still in there but that took away any of my doubts. I couldn't be happier this mare. She really is just the sweetest, kindest and most willing pony.

Yesterday I took her for another walk in hand with Ella. About ten minutes in I got on and we went for a 2-3 minute trot on the soft section of trail. She was all ears forward and just happy as a clam. I got off and walked her home. Just as simple as that. Over the next few weeks I am going to continue to taking her out on the trail (extending our in saddle time) so I can get her fit without farting around with her face or buttons too much. I am hoping that by the first week of February I can bring her in the arena and see what's still tucked away in her big rusty box of tools. I am feeling very blessed.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The RULE of Buckskin, Palomino, Dun, Gray and Roan Horses

A few years back I wrote a post about Horse Color genetics in an attempt to lay out the basics in such a way that was easy to understand. You can find that post here. This evening I found this website which does a far better job than I ever did in explaining the often puzzling rules of horse color genetics. Here is a link.

Also, I just wanted to note a horse color mistake that I often see come up in horse ads. Sellers will often claim to have a solid colored mare (bay, sorrel, chestnut, black etc.) who produces colored offspring (palominos, buckskins, dun). This is genetically impossible. In order for a mare to produce a palomino or buckskin one of the following MUST be true:

1. She is a palomino, buckskin or smoky black (she carries the crème gene)
2. The stallion she was bred to must be a buckskin, palomino, or smoky black (he cares the crème gene)

The crème gene is responsible for producing palominos and buckskins can not skip a generation. This is also true of dun, roan and gray.

 The most common explanation for why it may appear that a solid color mare produced a colored foal is that either the mare of the stallion is actually a colored horse but it is just reeeeally hard to tell. I have a friend who had a buckskin mare that looked bay (she was a sooty buckskin) and palomino mare that looked like a sorrel with flaxen mane and tail (her coat color was a light sorrel and her mane was more yellow than white). Both mares had been genetically tested so we knew their true colors but a lot of people would have been fooled in to thinking that they were solid colored horses.

There are all sorts of other color genes that can change the way a horse appears or make it impossible for the human eye to even determine the true color of a horse.

The easiest way to think of horse colors is to picture a horse as having a base coat of either red, black or bay. The wildest colored horse you've ever seen is essentially either red, black or bay under all that chrome! Crème genes, dun genes, sooty genes, roan genes, gray genes, rabicano genes or a combination of two or ALL of the above is possible!! But if a horse is dun, crème, gray or roan either it's dam or it's sire also carried the gene for that color.

Friday, November 8, 2013

I've been waiting on Hola...

There is a poem in the movie 8 Seconds (looooove that movie by the way) that I often quote when waiting on my man, my Mom or whomever the tardy party may be at the time. I've done this for years. The poem goes...

"I've been waiting on *insert name*
Ever since I could recall,
I started in April and it's coming on Fall..."

Well... funny how life works...

I had hoped to very lightly start Hola in the Spring of her 2 year old year.  Sometime about... April. But she just wasn't big enough for anyone, especially someone with such a bodaciously curvy bod such as me *cough* and she was not mature enough mentally either. I figured I could wait until... you guessed it, Fall.

Well it's Fall. And I am a bit smaller than I was April. And she is a wee bit bigger than she was in April. But she is still small (14HH and 800 pounds) and I am still too big (most definetly NOT inserting my height and weight here*) so it looks like I am going to be aiming for Spring. I am going to be hoping for a Christmas miracle... that I might drop 20 pounds and she might gain 200. That is possible right? Right? Right? *crickets* Right.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Poor Hola is teething. For a few days she was just acting grumpy and not eating with her usual gusto. I checked her mouth but couldn't see or smell anything but could hear a definite click when she chewed. The next night she barely ate at all so I looked again and sure enough....

Poor girl! I was giving her some extra beet pulp and grain soaked when she first started showing signs of mouth pain but took to soaking her hay too once I realized that tooth was gone. She also has some lumps on the bottom of her jaw.

Speaking of the bottom jaw.... is there anything in the world so hard as the bottom of a horses jaw when it hits the top of your head!?!? That happened last night with Marm when I stood up after picking her feet
. Ouch!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Different Kind of Rigging

I just had to share some pics and thoughts about the rigging on my friends saddle. L has had this Saddlesmith reiner for a few years now but I don't get to ride in it very often because the stirrups will not go nearly short enough for me. Damn you long legged women! I would kill to be the leggy type. This was the first saddle L bought for herself.. We saddle shopped together for a few months trying to find one that fit both her and the horse. Every time I had her sit in a saddle I would say, "How does it feel?" and she would say, "It feels like a saddle." I kept telling her that when she sits in one that fits just right, she would know what I was talking about. When she sat this Saddlesmith for the first time I didn't even get to pose the question, she looked at me, smiled and said, "Oh! Oh yah!" Luckily the stars aligned as they do so rarely when saddle shopping and the saddle fit both her horse and her budget. The only "hiccup" so to speak was that it had a unique style of rigging. When we first went to cinch it up I have to admit I didn't really have a clue how to rig it up. Right or wrong, since that day we have been doing it as seen in the photos and I have to say that I LOVE this rigging. It lies FLAT. No bulge at all under your leg and the buckle feels much more secure that with a straight rigging. I also think that the rigging helps keep the saddle centered on her back and helps disperse the pressure over a broader area. I guess other people don't love it like I do though because the saddle makers don't make this type of rigging. Martin makes an adjustable rigging that is also nice and can really help with saddle fit. What kind of rigging do you prefer?

(please ignore that the pad isn't lined up right, I just threw it on to take pics)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What I Have to Prove...

This evening I was talking to a friend about horses, training, and how we are perceived by others. Specifically, we discussed to what degree we care about how we are perceived by other horsemen. I would like to think I don't care. But I do. It would never expect someone to think of me as a really good horseman... but if one were to think of me as incompetent, now that would bother me very much indeed! What I discovered in admitting that truism is that my ultimate goal as a horseman is to be competent. To be able to get the job done. What is my self assigned job as a horseman? Catching the cow? Running a clean barrel pattern? Jumping the oxer? None of the above. My job is to have a horse that guides willfully. A horse that is soft and light, happy and relaxed; one who drives from behind and gives their face; a horse that lopes and jogs and stops hard and fast when asked; a horse whose body I can bend and flex and send in any which direction I please. My self assigned job as a horseman is to create a finely tuned partner. So why does it bother me so much to think that someone would perceive me as incompetent? Because I am. Because I can not and have not yet been able to create or maintain a horse that is all of the above.

So the next obvious train of thought would be, how do I become the horseman I want to be? Experience, time, lessons, clinics, DVDs. These things don't fall out of the sky. I have to invest in and further my education. The problem with that... I'll have to write about next time!