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Is THAT the same horse? October 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — danandbill @ 5:52 pm

Just a quick update today and a photo.  My schedule this week hasn’t left me much free time, but I’ve been wanting to work more with Dan so today I took the saddle and bridle out to tack him up.  Boy is he handsome under tack.  I can’t believe how much better he looks in 3 short weeks!  It doesn’t even seem like the same horse. 

Dan loads, ties, stands nicely for grooming/tacking, leads, is super friendly…I could go on but I really don’t want to because then someone will want to come and adopt him! 🙂  Seriously, that is the goal.  It will still be a little while before I get on Dan.  His ribs are well sprung and his chest is deep, so he can take up a lot of leg.  You can see in the picture that my 17.5 inch english saddle looks small on him.  He’s probably only 14.3-15hands at the most, but has nice sturdy, thick bones and feet.  But, even with a wither relief pad the saddle is still on his spine, so I didn’t longe him in it…we just walked around a little bit.  I almost forgot to snap a picture and just did it as an afterthought before I pulled the saddle off of him, so forgive the treat bag, longe line and other mess in the picture. 

Dan under saddle

Dan under saddle

I was suprised when I went to buckle the girth (48″) and it barely fit!  YAY!  I’d like to take this chance to thank my husband, Chris, for developing Dan’s feeding program.  He’s always happy to talk to people about anything from feed problems for hard or easy keepers, to ways to cut costs in your feeding program.  You can reach him at T.G. Adams Feeds (302) 337-8281.
And finally, Bill, Dan, and lots of other horses are available through Another Chance 4 Horses (www.ac4h.com).  If you are considering buying a horse, or even if you already have horses and just like me have some extra room and want to help out some in need, check out their page. 

Finding happy in the crappy. October 20, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — danandbill @ 2:24 am

I’m sorry in advance that this update is not terribly exciting.  Today was farm maintenace day, which always coincides with farm equipment malfunction day.  🙂  I decided it was past time for me to pick up manure piles, so my Polaris Ranger decided not to cooperate.  I think sometimes these things happen to test and/or strengthen your patience.  I admit I need help in that area.    Fortunately my dad is willing and able to fix just about anything.  Not only did he come and get it running, he stayed to help me pick up the manure piles.  I was glad to have the help.  My dad is one in a million. 

Having a farm of a little over 5 acres, manure management is very important.  However, having a family and a full time job doesn’t always leave me with time to do everything that I would like to.  I decided not to bother working with Dan, Bill, or any of my other horses, and spend the whole day getting my farm in order.  It’s probably a good thing anway because though the clicker training is going well with my original herd and Dan, Bill and I are just not speaking the same language.  

After getting it fixed, dad drove the ranger into the paddock where Bill lives.  Bill paid no attention.  At least he’s not afraid.  About 1/2 way through the cleanup, I noticed he had wandered a little closer.  My dad noticed too.  We worked a while longer and Bill came closer still.  I was wondering if I was missing a training opportunity, but reminding myself that today was maintenance day and I had sworn off training.  Without saying a word, my dad picked up the bag of carrots that I had left on the seat of the ranger and held one out to Bill.  I thought to myself that Bill wouldn’t take the bait.  But he did.  I contained my excitement, but it was a huge step for him. 

We went back to work and Bill approached us a few more times, letting both me and my dad get a few scratches in.  He sniffed the ranger and even nuzzled dad’s head.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  Seeing him interact with my dad that way reassured me that there is some progress being made.  It also reminded me how great my dad is.  He’s not a horse person, but he takes an interest in anything his kids and grandkids do.  Dad has a little horse experience from his younger years, but nothing extensive.  I do think he just has a knack though.  This is the first time Bill has really shown interest in people.  I still don’t have a halter on him.  I still keep thinking about how he needs to have his thrush treated, to be groomed, de-wormed, to see the vet, a chiropractor, masseuse, and so on and so on.  But then I remind myself that above all this he needs to trust people first.  And I need to not be in any hurry.  Today was a good step in that direction. 

Dan continues to thrive.  Dan is very much the opposite of Bill in that you can’t help but catch Dan.  Several times I tried to shoo him out of the way so I could pick up the piles in his pasture.  He kept inserting himself in the way asking for scratches and treats.  He does not “shoo” or spook or get too excited about anything except maybe eating.  He is happy to camp out in your personal space and sniff all of your pockets to determine whether or not you brought him a peppermint.  I do work on his manners, but sometimes I just have to laugh.  How can a horse that was starved down to his skeleton still love people so much? 

If your own dad went to all your horse shows to cheer you on, or helped you put up fencing and build your barn, or even if he was just there to support you in whatever you did, don’t forget to call and thank him today.  I know I’m not waiting until Father’s day. 

Now I’m off to soak in a tub full of epsom salts, and try to find something more professional that Dora the Explorer bandaids to cover the blisters and callouses I got.  While I do that, here are some pictures (Dan today, and on day 1 for comparison, and then Bill and me).


2 Week Update…the good and the bad October 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — danandbill @ 12:59 pm

When my friend Allison suggested that I start a blog for Bill and Dan, the thought crossed my mind, “What if they do something bad?”  Do I put it on here and risk them becoming less adoptable?  When I started this, I decided that I was going to put it all out here…the good, the bad, the ugly…whatever happens.  I want people to know what it’s like working with rescues.  I think a lot of people dive into something like this with the best of intentions, and then things go south.  I said early on that I’m no trainer.  I’m pretty timid to tell you the truth, and probably not the best person to be taking on a rescue horse.  Let alone two.  But, as I also said before, lack of a good reason has never stopped me before.  🙂

A few things I do have on my side are the fact that I’m willing to ask for help when I need it.  I’m not closed-minded to different training techniques.  I’ve had the good fortune of working with mostly good trainers.  I did have one really bad one, but I even learned a few things from him too…like how not to do things. 

Dan has made some visible improvements in 2 weeks.  Though the difference is not dramatic, you can see that his spine is less prominent, and his neck and face are even filling out.  His ribs are still visible, but his hindquarters and chest are fuller as well.  His coat shines, and this boy is going to be a looker when he is fully restored.  Despite his poor condition, Dan has been pushy, so we are working on ground manners.  I think he had some good training in the past because he responds very well to the “refresher courses.”  The plan for him will be to continue the ground work for quite some time since he needs to pick up weight.  I’m happy with how he’s gaining, and I can only assume that once he gets his dental work done he’ll gain even more quickly.  It is reassuring that he is doing so well, which indicates that there probably isn’t an underlying reason as to why he was so skinny, but it is sad to think that the only reason he was in such bad shape is because someone wouldn’t feed him.  He did finally feel good enough to take a trot around the pasture, and he looked good.  He arched his neck and flagged his tail which made me think maybe there’s a touch of arab in his ancestry.  At any rate, I can’t wait until he’s all filled out.

And now on to Bill.  Bill has been leary from the start, but has gone along with everything fairly well.  In hindsight, I see now that I should have been doing more work on the very basics.  I think Bill was manhandled.  He’s a tolerant guy, and because he does kind of go with the flow, I think his previous handlers took advantage of that, and skipped a lot of the necessary basics.  Looking back now, I realize that Bill trusts no one.  On Saturday, we had our first set-back.  I’ve been giving Bill his meds for his respiratory ailment and treating his thrush.  I’ve been tying him to do this.  Early on, I started swinging the rope over his back, and around his legs and neck to make sure he was desensitized.  No reactions, he seems to be used to it.  Looking back now, I wonder if he was still in his shell and just not really reacting to anything.  
So I tie him as usual, except this time something freaks him out.  He yanked back, and in the process, the halter that I had on him (which was too big, again, hindsight is 20/20) came off of his nose.  He was pulling back hard at this point, and since I always tie with either the blocker tie ring or a quick release knot, I grabbed the slack of the rope and undid it before he hurt himself.  In retrospect, I would have probably attempted to ask him to move up before I untied him, but my priority then was releasing him before he hurt himself.  Once I undid the knot, he stood there for a moment.  I reached up to fix the halter and he took off.  I have rope burns on my hand.  Oops.  Why is it that we think we can hold a panicking 1000lb animal?  Seriously!
It took the better part of an hour with help from my hubby and dad to get the broken halter off of him.  While my dad and hubby were of great assistance, I am concerned about Bill’s reaction to them.  There is no other way to describe it than he was terrified.  I don’t want to leap to the conclusion that he was abused or mistreated by men.  After all, Christy’s husband Rick lead him onto my trailer at the auction that day with no problems.  But he litterally was trembling anytime my dad or husband approached him. 
So, even though Bill has had some training and has been a trooper up until now, I’m starting over from scratch.  I did some research and found some ideas that I think will help.  There are lots of training blogs about working with mustangs, and gaining their trust.  There are also lots of articles about working with rescues.  I’ve combined some things that made sense, and I’m giving clicker training a go. 
Session 1 went like this.  I waited until close to Bill’s dinner time, knowing he’d be hungry.  I went out in his pasture armed with grain and an ink pen that makes a nice clicking noise.  He turned and looked at me, so I clicked.  He took a step forward, clicked again.  Stood.  Waited.  Seems like forever, then he turns away.  As soon as he moved away from me, I made him trot.  The good news is that he trots sound, and if he does have any standardbred in him, he has a nice trot and canter.  Bill isn’t a spunky one and tires of work quickly.  He stopped and faced me again.  Click click.  Takes a step towards me.  Clickety click.  Walks up to me and takes grain from my hand.  Clickety clickety clickety the whole time he is approaching and eating the grain.  The reward is 2-fold…if he comes to me he gets grain and also does not have to work.  If he retreats, he has to work.  Bill’s getting this quickly.
Session 2 just builds upon this.  He is coming to me reliably in just 2 days.  This evening I held the halter in my hand while I gave him the reward.  In the next sessions I will ask him to touch the halter as a target to get his reward.  Eventually I am hoping to have him actually put his nose in the halter to get his reward, and then voila, catching him will be as easy as click, click, click.  Yes, it sounds so simple, but it is going to take time and patience.  I’m OK with that.  It’ll take as long as it takes.  I think by combining the positive reinforcement/clicker training with the negative reinforcement of making him work a little when he retreats from me, he’s getting the idea.  There won’t be any skipped steps or any agenda for Bill.  I definitely want to take my time with him and do this right because I do think once he learns to trust he’s going to be a super nice little horse.  As always I’ll let you know how it goes.
Have you had success gaining a horse’s trust?  Have you used clicker training, or taught a hard-to-catch horse to come to you?  I’d love to hear your stories/tips/advice.  Thanks for checking in, and now I’ll leave you with some pictures. 

It’s been a week! October 6, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — danandbill @ 3:02 pm

Just a quick update.  Sorry no new pictures yet.  This weekend was sunny and warm so the boys got a bath.  Dan stood like a champ after some gentle correction, again reaffirming my belief that at one time he was a nice horse.  Bill, well, I think this may have been his first bath ever.  Not because he misbehaved, but more because he had that wide-eyed look, not to mention dredlocks in his fetlocks and more grime than I’ve ever seen on a horse, even after a good roll in the mud.  Fortunately Bill doesn’t prance around or act silly.  He’s just leery and suspicious of everything, but a gentleman about it all.   

I tie mine with a blocker tie ring and a rope halter.  I swear by these things.  I first saw them on a Clinton Anderson program on RFDTV.  I’m not a big fan of a lot of the “natural horsemanship” stuff, mostly because I think a lot of them spend so much time on groundwork which does not always translate into rideability.  But I’m sold on the blocker tie rings.  Bill leaned back a couple of times, but not terribly hard…just not sure of the hose and what I was doing.  It could have meant a broken halter or cross-tie, but instead, all I had to do was encourage him to step back up and continue on my way.  He will definitely need a more thorough scrubbing but I’m taking small steps.  Do the Amish bathe their horses?  I have no idea.

Bill got ventipulmin to help clear his airways.  As a vasodilator, it also causes relaxation in the intestinal tract (smooth muscle) which resulted in the largest pile of manure I’ve ever seen.  Seriously, when I saw it, I expected there to be an elephant in my pasture.  His “hay belly” is subsiding.  Even though he looks “fat” in the pictures, he really is undernourished.  His hindquarter muscling is not anywhere near what it should be, and the hay belly can be and often is a sign of protein deficiency.  His muscles are tense, and now that he is eating better I am probably going to add some E-Se-Mag to help with that.  He was initially dewormed with a dose of Safeguard.  I can’t wait to give him something more aggressive but its important to approach with caution to avoid big problems.  I am convinced he is carrying a big worm load.

Dan has actually visibly improved in just one week’s time.  The deep groves of his spine have begun to fill in.  His “poverty lines” (those lines that appear on the buttocks) are starting to fade.  He has a very long way to go.  I am amazed that his coat still has a shine to it, and I can’t wait to see what he looks like all filled out.  Feeding him has also been an exercise in caution.  Google refeeding syndrome if you’ve never heard of it.  Starved horses (and humans) have a reversed Krebs cycle…their body begins to burn protein after fat stores have been exuasted.  Unfortunately, it takes almost as much energy to convert protein to energy as is produced.  It also depleats phosphorus, magnesium and potassium stores which can lead to cardiac arrest if and when carbohydrates are reintroduced too quickly or in too large a volume.  This is why alfalfa hay is best for starving horses (the nutritional and mineral profile are closest to what is needed).  When feed is introduced, lower-starch options are best, and oats which are high in phosphorus are helpful.  I’m usually a big fan of Triple Crown Senior, but I’ve been using a Kalmbach feed with oats (and higher phosphorus) for this reason.  There is so much to know/learn about feeding horses, and I am lucky that my husband who operates a feed mill is great about keeping up on the research and information, and also has lots of great contacts out there to answer his and his customer’s questions.

Thanks to those who are following along, and I would love to hear from more of you.  Have you had an ex-amish horse?  A rescue?  Maybe you’ve been thinking about rescuing?  I’d love to hear your comments!


Vet and Farrier Day October 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — danandbill @ 2:21 am

The boys met the farrier this morning.  I am fortunate to have a top-notch farrier (www.fairhillforge.com) so I knew the boys would be in great hands.  Just as I thought, Dan’s feet didn’t prove to be too bad.  That’s a good thing considering the rest of him is a mess.  I knew Bill needed a lot of attention and since he’s not 100% about picking up his feet I was worried that we might have to work with him in phases.  There was no reason to doubt…Matt got all the shoes off and gave him a trim.  Even though Bill is probably used to being trimmed in stocks, I’m lucky that my farrier is patient and willing to work with ones that need a little work on their manners.  Bill wasn’t bad, just not quite sure about the whole thing.  With amish shoe jobs, the goal is to keep the shoe on, often by using nails that are too long or using more nails than other farriers, so getting the shoes off was no easy task.  A big thanks to Matt!

Next was the vet appointment (www.equinehorsevet.com).  Again I’m lucky to have a good one there too.  Unfortunately, due to Bill’s respiratory infection and Dan’s sad state, the vet felt more comfortable waiting 2 weeks to vaccinate and do the castration.  That’s OK with me, as I don’t want to jump the gun and risk an infection due to suppressed immune function.  He did take a gander at their teeth, and agreed that Bill is probably in the range of 10 years old, and Dan is 17-20.  He also confirmed that Dan has some major dental issues going on and may require removal of several teeth.  Unfortunately that may mean laying him down, and he is definitely in no shape for that.  Since he is able to eat his hay and feed just fine, dental work will wait probably until November.  We got meds for Bill’s runny nose and called it a day.

With an arctic blast of air on the way, I didn’t think Dan could wait for me to order a blanket online so I went to the local tack shop, which can be hit-or-miss.  In his size was either a purple camoflage blanket, a teal one or red and black, so I went with that.  And one for Bill too so he doesn’t feel left out.  And new red halters to match for both.  And a really soft brush for Dan’s bony body.   And…this is why I don’t go to the tack shop.  At least I’m doing my part to keep the economy afloat!

The boys are still very much attached to each other.  Dan is very friendly and always comes to greet you at the fence.  He’s actually a little pushy and needs work on his ground manners, but I almost feel bad getting after him since he looks so pitiful.  Notice I said almost.  🙂  I’d feel even worse if he had bad manners that kept him from getting adopted, so I correct him, gently.  Dan’s muzzle, ears and bridlepath were clipped not too long ago.  I really wish there was a way to know where he came from and how he wound up on a path to New Holland.  There is no way to ever know so I just give thanks that my path intersected his in time.

Bill is a little different…very leery of everything.  I don’t want to cast any stereotypes since I know little about the amish, but he does seem like a horse that was used for work and work only.  What he needs is his own horse-crazy little girl to dote on him.  I can see him now, with purple glitter painted on his hooves, and hearts stenciled on his rump.  Yeah, he needs some work first but I think he’ll get there.  I also think he is in some pain, with his lumpy tendons, rub marks and those high heels.  He doesn’t think much of the 2-legged variety yet, but all he needs is time and patience.  He’s got a good mind and I can tell already that he doesn’t have a mean bone in him.  He sticks by Dan like he’s his bodyguard, and shares his grain with him.    Totally not what I expected from a stallion. 

Even though I have hot water in the barn, the drop in temperatures means that baths may have to wait a couple of days.  Bill will get his meds 2x a day, and I’ll have to be careful that he doesn’t associate me with being the big bad medicine lady and become hard to catch.  That would sure be easier if he liked treats.  Thanks for checkin in again, and I threw in a pictue of my other horses…they complained that Bill and Dan are stealing the limelight.  😉