Ruby 2015 12 December

This is me as I type this story.

Trish earned her keep with her end-of-November pep talk because she helped me re-center myself. Gary is with me on December 1 as I groom Zena and clean her feet where Ruby can watch from her stall. I return Zena to her stall and bring Ruby out. she pops up and flails her hooves toward me. It is a bit unsettling but I quietly walk her to a nearby black hay tub and ask Gary to stand on the far side where he can safely hold Ruby's lead and the dog bone. Ruby expends her energy on the rubber bone while I brush her, clean both front feet completely, and lift both back. Well, that is better.

I separate Sara and Sparky into the smaller west pen and put three large piles of hay very far apart in the larger east pen. I release Zena and Ruby, and then Allie. Allie trots boldly with her tail high in the air to an available pile. It is like she is saying, "I can take any pile I want, but I think I will just take this one." Ruby leaves Zena's pile just long enough to canter a mini-threat circle between the two piles before returning to her mom. They appear to be quiet for at least the next hour, before I head up to the house but, when I bring them in for lunch, Allie has frothy white sweat between her buttocks. It seems that there has been activity of some sort while I was gone...

None of the three want to go into their stalls. Zena aggressively sends Allie to the far end of the arena. She and Ruby are wearing halters so I can easily walk Zena into her stall. Ruby is at this end of the arena and Allie is down at her end - the two of them having a visual stand-off. I attach a lead to Ruby but she wants to rush me. I use my wicky-stick to make her stay out of my space and lead her into her stall at rope's length. Allie still does not want to go into her stall, but she is a sweetheart and I walk her in with a simple neck rope. When I mention this to Judy, she tells me she wants me to use horse chakra on Ruby. What is chakra???

Trish comes today and spends an entire hour with Ruby - who crowds her, nips at her, and rears at her - clipping her shoulder. Ruby nips. She does not bite. She has never bitten. Trish suggests we just stand still and deal with the crowding and nipping. She reminds me to rub-scrub ruby's muzzle incessantly whenever she tries to nip. When Ruby stands still, we count - get as high as twenty-two seconds. Each time she stands for at least another second, Trish gives her a verbal reward and petting. I ask Trish whether she is available to come the next day - two days in a row. I don't have a lot of money to expend; but I need to put this belligerence problem to rest.

In the afternoon, ruby walks into her stall nicely. I put one treat in her tub. Later, she walks nicely on the lead to the water tank - about thirty feet. I put out toys so she can play - a blue plastic gallon pitcher, a soaking book, and her red ball on one of the blue fifty-gallon drums, and a tarp spread out smoothly on the floor. When I return, I find ...

the pitcher and the ball are on the ground and I cannot find the soaking boot anywhere!

Oh, there's the boot.

She had dragged the tarp over it.

In the evening, she will not go into her stall until all four of the other horses are in theirs - then she goes in nicely. What is with that? I am wishing that Allie was not here. I truly want to care for my friend during her recuperation, and Allie is a good horse that I have known for years and, surely, Ruby is going to have to meet other horses. But, the timing is bad right now.

The next morning, Trish suggests that we lead Ruby with a fence between us. The new exterior fence that is enclosing both pens is five feet all. But, the old divider fence between the two pens is just four. We tie Zena in the east pen before bringing ruby out. Trish leads Ruby the thirty feet from her stall to the gate and aims her into the west pen. As she walks along the east side of the fence line, lead rope in hand, there are many nip attempts followed by incessant muzzle rubbing. There are a couple of pop-ups. But, the fence makes it easy for Trish to remain both safe and calm. Ruby fusses when I take Zena back into the barn - which is silly because she usually could not care less. After putting hay out, we tie Zena and Ruby to a sturdy telephone pole that used to be part of the divider between the east pen and the outdoor arena. (When we put up the new fencing, we took down the dividing fence between the east pen and the outdoor arena, making it one larger pen. We left the posts to use in riding maneuvers.)

We now bring Sara and Sparky out before untying Zena and ruby from the pole. This is not a perfect day - but it is a good day compared to yesterday. I leave the toys out again, and lay a white barrel on the box. When I return in the afternoon, I find ...

She has knocked the toys off the barrel,

and rolled the barrel off the box.

After afternoon graining, I put Allie alone in the west pen. I lead Ruby from her stall to the water tank which straddles between the two pens. Allie is standing on the other side of the gate, but Ruby stands quietly as I unclip her lead from her halter. And, she is good in the evening. I think it has been a very long day for her.

Gary and I try to replicate yesterday. He takes Zena into the east pen while I lead Ruby along the fence line. There is a crisp, cold breeze that makes all the horses a bit spunky. Ruby pops up more than yesterday, but plays with the lead rope much less. (She's always trying to grab at the rope as close to her head as possible. I think she is after the noise of the clasp on the halter ring.) I only have to rub-scrub her muzzle four or five times. I so hate to admit this but, when Ruby pops up, even though she is on the other side of the fence where she cannot hurt me, and even though I should be learning better, I instinctively yank repeatedly on the lead as ... what? ... punishment! I so should not do that. Now, I need to walk her back along the fence line and around into my side of the chute before releasing. I hold her on a loose line with distance between us because I am afraid of her popping up. I'm also afraid of her rushing me. When she comes around, she prances around a whole lot more than I would like. But, why shouldn't she? She has no reason to believe that I will not yank on her again. I tie her to the telephone pole, put the hay and other horses out, and release Zena and her from the pole and their leads.

Before heading up to the house, I spread the tarp over the tractor tire in the east pen.

Up at the house, I download articles on dominant horses that reinforce what I know I should not have done, that support what Trish has been saying, and that describe the relationship i want. i decide that ruby and I both need an emotional break. It is the only way i can rebuild her (and my) trust. When I return to the barn, I see she has pulled the tarp off the tractor tire.

She started to pull the tarp off from this side;

then pulled from the other side.

In her stall, I ask for and receive small back-ups. I remain quiet all the while. But then, she walks out of the stall door before I ask and more quickly than I would like. I feel a small moment of panic but, when I ask, she follows me back into the stall. I then come out while she stays in. Then, she comes out when I ask. I unclip her halter and let her join the other girls.

When I return for evening feed, I see that she has finished removing the tarp from the tire.

In the morning, Ruby walks into Sara's stall, with Sara already in there. And, Sara just stands there! What's with that? After walking ruby into her own stall, she backs all the way to the back of the stall after just four quiet requests. I spend time in the barn and around Ruby during the afternoon and evening - but do not ask anything of her. I spread the tarp over three car tires in the east pen.

Three sand-filled tires

Three tires covered

Three tires uncovered! Mind you, the other three horses have absolutely no interest in this tarp.

Much happens between us the next day. I hold Ruby's dog bone over her stall's half-wall to play pick-it-up and give-to-me. She picks the bone up twice. On the second quiet request, she backs all the way to the back of her stall. When I open the door, she attempts to come out, but stops when I ask with my hand on the lead snap. I then release the pressure and quietly ask her to back - and she does. I walk her the thirty feet to the water tank and release her to join the others. With everyone out eating hay, Ruby comes back in and takes one of my gloves off the blue mounting steps. She trots around, shaking it in her mouth - but, then, she begins to eat it! If swallowed, it would mean emergency surgery at MSU - which I cannot afford and which she could not stand quietly for a long recuperation. I have to go after her for my glove. Fortunately, she drops it on her way out. I retrieve my manure pick and clean the four stalls at the near end of the arena before heading down to clean Allie's. To my surprise, Ruby is standing in Allie's stall, checking out the grain tub. It is a big stall - 12 x 16 - so I roll the barrow in after her and pick. When I move her out of the stall, she tries twice to walk back in. Both times, she backs when I ask; and finally turns away. Before heading up to the house, I leave a white canvas tarp over the outside gate and later take a video of her pulling it off.

This gate no longer has a purpose. It used to separate the chute from the outdoor arena. I left it up to use for riding maneuvers.

At lunch, she gives me a nice back in her stall, a nice stall exit, and a  nice stop, In the evening, she does not want to back initially, but then does. I ask her to stay back for the first time - for just a second.

A frosty morning walk on the ten acre path with Skipper

In the morning, Ruby is standing at her stall door, waiting to go in. Remember, they are always outside and only come into their stalls for grain. She is the first one in to get her treat. After eating, she backs nicely in her stall. five minutes later, I give her an independent treat - one that she has not had to earn. I put Allie, Sara, and Sparky outside and close the arena slider. I put two small piles of hay twenty feet out from the stalls and thirty feet apart from each other. I open ruby's stall door half-way and ask her to back. I open it further and ask her to stay; and then to come out. We walk to the first hay pile and I leave her there with her twelve-foot-long lead attached, while I let Zena out of her stall. Ten minutes later, I quietly pick up the end of Ruby's rope and lead her to the other pile. Ten minutes later, I lead her back to the first pile.

A little while later, with the lead still attached, Ruby wanders to the far end of the arena. Her toys are in the storage area behind a ten-foot gate. I get the white barrel out and sue's red ball-and-rope. Ruby plays with the ball a bit, then starts chewing on the edge of the upright barrel. It is standing between us, which is good because, when I attempt to pet her, she tries to chew on me. When I ask her to back off, she does not comply. I realize at this point that she is most likely thinking I am part of the ball and barrel play. I tell myself she is trying to play, not argue. Unfortunately, either way, I am in a potentially dangerous position. But, Allie's unlocked stall gate is behind me, so i have an escape should I need it. When I increase my energy, asking her to back off, she comes around the barrel such that I am forced to move my feet in order to keep the barrel between us. I really do not want to move my feet. I use more aggressive arm waves and my wicky-stick to move her off; but I do not raise my voice (which is hard for me - the excitable child). She backs off but also pops up and around - maybe seven feet from me. She starts to come back - clearly not in supplication - and I use my switch to keep her from approaching. She hops back again and I purposely let the rope follow her without restraint because i am not looking for a fight. She looks at me for a moment before returning to her hay. I casually walk the length of the arena, passing her on the way to the tack room. She watches me. Five minutes later, I return, pick up her lead, and stand quietly by her and Zena for a few minutes. I then quietly lead her to the other hay pile where I remain, petting her.

Ever since meeting Trish, she has been encouraging me to use treats as positive rewards. For the past three days, i have been putting a treat in Ruby's grain bin after she goes into her stall. But, I have been saying that I cannot see the sense in hand-feeding a nippy, aggressive horse. It is clear from the video's I have watched that Chuck Mitzlaff uses treats profusely with his horses. I send Trish an email saying, "yes, if you think it is the right thing to do, I will start using treats."

In the afternoon, I put a treat in each horse's grain bin after they go into their stalls. I put afternoon hay out for my four horses before leading Ruby from her stall to the water tank. I unclip her lead and, as she walks out to be with the others, I walk back in to set up a CD player such that it will send music out to the pens. When I return into the outside pen to consider the volume, Ruby leaves her hay and walks to where I am standing near one of the pipe rings I have surrounding my trees. She is not being aggressive but, after her behavior toward me yesterday, I do not trust her coming right up to me. How has our relationship gotten to this pint? Clearly, the onus is on me. I do not believe she was the first one to lose trust in the relationship. It was me. I am well aware that I have trust issues with my human relationships. Standing near the tree ring now, I am quite sure she is just interested in playing. But, I still need to protect myself. I have to ask reasonably strongly for her to back away - using both my hands and my switch to cause effect - and she keeps trying to return. I so wish she would just come to me and let me pet her. But, I can tell that is not what she has in mind. i do not want to back away so, when she retreats even just a little, I walk farther around the ring toward the arena. Zena comes over and moves Ruby away. I am not sure whether that was something intentional - or if she was just being curious. When I reach the chute between the pen and the arena, they both come into the arena. but, Zena is between me and Ruby as they walk past. Thank you, Zena.

I want to turn the music off, so I walk into the storage area at the far end of the arena. Ruby follows me but I have closed the gate behind me. I have the white canvas tarp draped over a large and tall wooden box that keeps the dust off the CD player. Ruby finds the sight of it a bit overwhelming, and leaves with Zena. But, a couple minutes later, she races back in and right down to the gate. I just stand on the inside of the gate. She makes a small effort to lip-nip at my sleeves, but a little rub-scrubbing moves her head away. We stay there for ten minutes. I then sit down in the dirt, still safely on the other side of the gate. She becomes totally flummoxed - looks at me high, looks at me low, tries to squeeze her muzzle through the gate bars. This goes on for a good ten minutes. Sara comes in to see what is going on but, surprisingly, ruby moves her out of the area. As Sara heads toward the corner to drop manure, Ruby bites her on the butt - not hard. Sar makes a small effort to return to the gate but, then, decides not to question Ruby and walks back outside. So, it is just ruby and me again. She trots off, bats the hanging Jolly ball once, pushes the red ball off the wooden box, then trots back to my gate, messing with the chain that keeps the gate closed. Really? She messes with the gate chain? What's with that? She sooooooo wants to play! She is not a mean horse! She just has this INCREDIBLE play drive. She is begging me to play. I so feel for her - living with a bunch of old women.

A slobber covered mirror in the arena - clearly Ruby's art.

Zena comes back in and Ruby follows her out. I so feel for parents with strong ADHA kids. Whether or not it is right - because I do not know - I now understand why they resort to Ritalin and other restraining drugs.

When I get back to the house, I shoot off another email to Trish. I tell her that Joan - my trail riding buddy - warned me against imprinting Ruby when she was newborn. Joan is a good person, a great friend, a beautiful rider, and a fair and honest horse handler. Before retiring, she owned a small Morgan breeding stable where she raised foals and took at least two horses into regional western pleasure championships. She warned me that imprinted horses do not make good saddle horses. Well, I am thinking they would not make good show horses because much of what we ask of competition horses would not be tolerated without the threat of punishment. But, I am looking for more than a show horse. I want a wholly conscious companion.

The horses enjoying breakfast. Allie is in the west pen by herself.

Even with the fence, Allie can be near the other horses.

The following Saturday, I meet Sue and Joan for lunch at a local restaurant, where I - as hard as it is to do - admit my struggles with Ruby. Sue, a retired trainer of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, admits that she is experiencing the same struggles with her Chessie puppy - who happens to be the exact same age as Ruby. It is an earnest conversation. Joan tells us that Hadley, her seven-year-old trail mare, was a terror when she was young. Joan birthed her - literally pulled her from her mother - and was her primary handler. But, she said she never had a foal who was an confidently assertive as Hadley. She said that Hadley liked to be scratched and got to a point where, when Joan was in the field scratching her - and then would stop - Hadley would paw aggressively at her. By the time Hadley was a yearling, Joan had had her fill. She planned to enter Hadley in the Morgan Futurity, but knew she could not have her ready. So, she called a friend and told her to bring three people to help load Hadley in a trailer to send off for training. She says she does not remember how long she was gone but, when she came back, she was obedient. I asked Joan what they (the trainer) did and Joan said, "I have no idea. I didn't want to know. But, it worked." At the time, Joan was using her older mare, Brie, as her trail mount. So, she kept Hadley at a local competition stable where they could keep her conditioned for show. But, Brie died this past winter, so Joan sent Hadley - now around seven years old - off to a trail-riding trainer in Lansing. I am not sure what all he did, but she came back trail sound. Joan says she knows that he left her tied for hours at a time. She admits that, every once in a while, Hadley still comes at her - not fiercely - but. So, the behavior is not gone - it is just repressed. And, I doubt that there is a truly deep partnership between them. Joan is quick to say, "Well, you know, horses are not really very bright." Right now, Hadley lives at the show barn where she is always waiting in a stall when Joan arrives.

December 9 is a great day. Trish and I have a conversation about what she had read in the book I gave her, "Beautiful Jim Key," before we enjoy a very good hour with ruby. We teach her to turn her head away before receiving a treat. Trish brought small chunks of carrot for Ruby, while I use apple bits with Sara - whom I taught to turn her head a year ago when I was introduced to chuck Mitzlaff's program. Trish has high expectations. She waits patiently until ruby turns her head for no reason, and then gives her the treat. Ruby catches on surprisingly quickly, with small head turns to her right. Within a half-dozen treats, Trish raises her expectation. She wants a more pronounced turn. We agree that i will repeat the exercise at lunch and dinner; using three treats for three good turns before giving the hand-wipe / all-down signal.

Our second morning exercise is to back up. Ruby has become quite amenable about backing up two or three steps in her stall; and staying until I ask her to come forward. I only ask her to stand quietly for a couple of seconds. At the stall door, Trish and I attach a lead rope to each side of Ruby's halter - like Amanda and I had done earlier in the summer. We spend the next twenty minutes walking Ruby around the arena - one of us on her left and the other on her right. When she attempts to play with her lead snaps, we do not reprimand. She walks, stops, and backs repeatedly. We then ask her to go into her stall by herself - without either of us leading - and we put a treat in her bin.

We take Zena from her stall and, in front of ruby's stall, brush her briefly before cleaning all four feet. We repeat the process with ruby, who will now lift her feet when I ask "pick up your foot," without my having to prod or squeeze her leg. Trish holds the lead and lets Ruby play with her dog bone while I briefly brush her. I clean both her front feet completely. She earns a "B' for her lift on her back left; and an "A" for her back right. For those of you who are not horse handlers, in order to clean the back feet, one needs to move in under the leg so that it can rest on the handler's thigh. i am not sure I am ready to do that with Ruby, but the hesitation is probably more my problem than hers.

At lunch, Ruby does as well with her treat training as she had at the end of her morning session and, at dinner, her head turns are as pronounced as Sara's. Maybe, the star event of the day is that, after I have the evening hay out, and have walked Sara and sparky to the pen, I return for Ruby. As usual, I open the door half way and attach her lead.But, as soon as I start to open the door wider, she backs up and stands quietly. I do not have to ask.

I find black rubber in Ruby's manure pile. She has been messing with the cover to the water tank outlet.

I secure the rubber behind a block and shove a heavy board up against it.

See how heavy the board is.

 

As I have said before, good weather in our part of Michigan often extends to near Christmas. On December 11, it is sunny and forty-five degrees. Trish and I have a very good, and personally exhausting - for me at least - session with Ruby. We have set a new parameter for combining words with treats. if we say, "thank you" or "good girl," she receives that verbal reward but not a treat. If we say, "Yes!" she gets a treat. Verbal rewards are for when she does something small, or that she knows well, or when she sort of heads in the right direction with a new task. Treats are for when she does something new to our satisfaction.

We tie Zena to the telephone pole so that she will be within site of Ruby. With a led on each side, we walk Ruby inside the east pen, including weaving through the three tires, walking over the sit-upon log, and at least considering stepping into the tractor tire. I step into it twice and reward myself with pats and 'good girls.' Ruby offers a couple small pop-ups. Trish thinks they are more about wanting to play with her lead clip. At some point, I say that I am becoming emotionally exhausted and, I am therefore guessing that Ruby might be emotionally exhausted, too. She is certainly not physically exhausted! Back in the barn, we pick Zena's feet in front of ruby's stall. While I pick, Trish notes that Ruby is completely engaged in watching. When we bring ruby out, I tell Trish that I have not eaten breakfast, and maybe I am too light-headed to work with Ruby's feet. I hold her lead and let her play with the dog bone while Trish picks. Ruby is good with both front feet, allowing Trish to clean them with the pick. We decide to use treats on her back feet; but that causes her to lose interest in the rubber bone and just look for the treat. This is the first time we are using treats outside of the stall. Until now, we have only used them to reward her for walking into her stall and for turning her head. I give her a "C-" for her effort in picking up her back feet today. Trish will not be back until Wednesday; and that is when Bill will attempt his first real Ruby hoof trim.

At afternoon graining, I think, hmm, well, Ruby is not as smart as I thought. only three horses are in the arena. As Sara, Sparky, and Zena walk into their stalls, I worry that ruby is caught up in the divider fence outside. But, I hear a whinny from the far end of the arena. It seems that, when Trish put Allie out, she did not close the swing-gate on her stall. ruby apparently wandered in and the door, which swings both ways, swung closed behind her. I am guessing it was hanging inside the stall and, when ruby went around it to investigate Allie's grain bin, she pushed the door aside - and closed. But, it is not latched. All she would have had to do was bump it and it would have moved enough to let her know she could push it open. But, she did not. She assumed she was trapped. I am surprised. I do not know how long she ha been in there - anywhere up to four hours. When I open the gate, she shoots straight down to her own stall.

In the evening, everyone is wonderful. They all turn their heads to the count of four before receiving their treats. Well, Zena only made it to three. When Ruby backs in her stall and I say, "yes!", she gets her treat. when I bring her out on her lead, I turn her around and slide her door closed before releasing her. This is a first.

This morning, I find that that heavy board has been pulled away from the wall! What would motivate her to do that!

I add a fifty-pound salt block to the mix!

When I open ruby's stall door in the morning, she offers a great "back." She even stays back in hopes of a second treat. And, she walks quietly through the chute to the pen. As I remove her halter, she has a fleeting thought about nipping my shin, but decides against it. In the evening, she backs in her stall without the lead.

December 13 is cloudy but sixty degrees - in December! At breakfast, ruby turns her head w-a-y to the right to ask for her treat. She backs all the way to the back of her stall and stays there, hoping for a second treat. upon exiting the stall, I ask hr to turn around so i can close the door. I lead her through the chute and unclip her at the opening to the east pen. At lunch, she is equally amenable. I am quietly thrilled that she is learning fast. but, on a daily basis, she is still rambunctious enough that I would really like to lead her with a partner and two lead ropes at least every day - if not two or three times a day. but, I have not yet found someone who has time to come over often. So, I am limited to once or twice a week with Trish.

I use a toilet bowl brush to scrub the water tank, and keep it on a hook in a narrow area between the pen fence and the arena wall. Now, how did she even notice that brush, and why did she think it would be cool to throw it in the tank?!

On December 14, Gary offers to help. I brush and clean Zena's feet in front of Ruby's stall; and then we repeat with Ruby. She picks up each of her front feet on verbal request, and allows me to clean them. when she thinks about pulling one away from me, I murmur, "hold..." to encourage her to keep it up. I have not been offering treats for front feet. I get a bit of resistance when I ask her to pick up her back right, so I go to the back left. There, she lifts well and receives a "yes!" and a treat. I then return to her back right, and she lifts it and earns her treat. I still do not attempt to hold her back legs on my thigh; and I do not try to actually pick her back hooves clean.

Every day is getting better. Ruby backs in her stall without a lead and waits for her treat. She leads out well, turns a circle to the right so I can close her stall door, and walks quietly through the chute to the pen. She has returned to being polite in the pen. I can walk among the horses without her ambitiously coming at me. I am not sure how to say that. Ambitiously? Aggressively is too strong a word. To say, comes at me with great curiosity, is too weak. I pet each of the girls before going in. I have not raised my voice or my body language since December 3 or 4. today is the 15th, and her last really wary approach toward me was on December 7.

Today, Ruby is seven months old. Where has seven months gone? Bill gives Ruby her first official trim,. Trish is here for support. We hold Ruby on both leads and let her play with her rubber bone while Bill trims. Ruby is GREAT! We are all thrilled. We make a video of the back right trim. Trish returns the next day. It is her last visit before Christmas. We both have busy holiday schedules; but I am also running broke. I need another source of income, but do not want to start offering riding lessons again because the schedule would be too restraining. I would like to Air B&B the apartment in the second story of our house. It would be a great stop-over for people bringing horses in from Canada. For decades, we depended on the extra four-hundred dollars the apartment provided but, in his retirement, Gary does not want people coming and going.

Trish and I lead ruby over the wooden box, the teeter-totter (for the first time!), and a half-foot-high caveletti (jump pole). We take a video of her second attempts at the box and teeter-totter. We again walk her over the caveletti before asking her to back over it. She stops twice when her hind foot bumps it but, on the third attempt, she backs slowly all the way over. No fussing. I twas clear to us that she thought it through. Back in her stall, we begin to teach her to "touch" by holding a clipboard in the air. Trish holds it at various places - higher and lower - in front of her. Ruby quickly catches on.

In the evening, I test whether she has grown into her pink yearling halter. she has been using Sparky's black rope halter. As expected, she just wants to chew on all that nylon coming over her face. But, when I put a treat in the palm of my left hand, she puts her head through for it; giving me no trouble.

Ruby's yearling halter.

The next day, I ask Ruby to touch the blue mounting steps. She does not respond immediately, but manages to brush it briefly with her muzzle. I return her to her stall and bring Sara out for demo's. Sara does a great back, and perfect touches while Ruby watches. Sara wants to climb on the wooden box for another treat. I tell her not to step up, because i do not want ruby climbing the blue mounting steps. I bring Ruby back to the steps for more touches. Her response is still not great but, when i am done cleaning the pens, she comes back in from the hay piles to the little slider between the arena and the tack room to ask for more treats. I have to tell her "all done" by wiping my hands together many times before she gives up and wanders back out.

I spend essentially no time in the barn for the next couple of days because I am tied up with some very nice family Christmas parties. when I return on the third day, Ruby's "back" in her stall earns her an A+++. I do not have to ask anymore. My touch on the door triggers her back. I ask her to touch the blue mounting steps. She makes good on the third attempt and earns a pleasant C+. But, the next day ... I ask her to touch a spiral pad, the blue mounting steps, the black tub, and my sleeve. She does VERY well. I place the evening hay next to the wooden box, set the blue  mounting steps on top of the box, and sit to enjoy quiet time with Zena and Ruby as they eat their hay. I hand-scrub mud that has dried on their coats before heading up the house.

On December 23, Gary makes a video of all four horses touching the spiral pad, red ball, blue pitcher, and my sleeve. Sparky has trouble with the exercise, but Sara and Ruby are great. Zena, not bad at all. For the first time, I ask Ruby to put her head all the way into her pink nylon halter before i give her a treat. she starts to put her head in, then pulls back out, maybe ten times, before she complies and gets TWO treats. I think we get it on video?

It is Christmas Eve. Ruby accepts her halter more quickly - maybe just five tries before she agrees to my slipping it over her head. Treat. I put a halter and lead on Sara and hop up on her bareback. We walk around the arena and out into the pen. I then ask Sparky to walk inside the arena for her touch session. She touches the wall, the black tub, and the red gate. She gets the gate quickly. She is catching on. On the way out, she heads for, and walks over, the teeter-totter on her own for an extra treat. Ruby touches the blue mounting steps and the red ball. The ball is laying on the floor and I tap it with the end of my switch as I ask her to touch. She has to put her head down in order to comply. We then walk over the teeter-totter, although we have to attempt four tries before she walks it straight. At lunch, I walk her from her stall to Zena's with just a neck rope. In the evening, I enjoy a pleasant feed, sitting with Ruby, giving lots of kisses.

Merry Christmas! Ruby suffers many tries before accepting her halter. I walk her maybe forty feet inside the arena on a loose lead. Today, I am not carrying my switch for protection. she touches the ball, blue mounting steps, and wall before walking with me to Zena's stall.

In the afternoon, when I bring her out of her stall and release her at Zena's stall door, she instead turns and walks over to pick up Sue's ball! I just have to give her a treat! There is a full moon tonight and the air is still. I hay the horses outside.

The day after Christmas, Gary and I go to a matinee movie - CONCUSSION - starring Will Smith. it is about the National Football League's horrendous lack of consideration for its players. it is no wonder we cannot get professional horse breeders and trainers to feel compassion for slaughter horses, when these NFL owners and trainers have no compassion for humans. They are not even just strangers that are being slaughtered on a battle field - which is bad enough. they are men that they know - whose families they know - that they work with day in and day out for years.

In the afternoon, Ruby stands quietly on her lead for thirty seconds. in the evening, using Sue's ball, I encourage her to differentiate between "touch" and "pick up." She gets it - but only because I hold the ball in such a way that she can only touch it. I then put it in her grain bin where she can get at the rope to pick it up. She drops it on the floor. I ask her to pick it up, even coming into the stall to encourage her as I ask. But, she does not understand. I try to get Sara to pick it up out of her own bin; but that was a WAY no way. Sara does not get it whatsoever.

on December 27, I ask Ruby to touch a white plastic tube-shaped horse supplement container, a white bucket lid, a one-foot-long 2 x 6 board, and a rolled up comforter. Yep. She knows "touch." On the 28th, with Gary holding, I clean all four of her feet. With the hoof pick! All four! First time. A happy end to 2015! Judy arrives from Traverse City to Visit Allie - and me. It is always enjoyable to visit with Judy.

Judy and Allie

On the 29th, I ask ruby to pickup Sue's ball. She touches it and I say, "no, pick it up." She picks it up and I treat her with a "Yes!" I take it from her quickly before she can drop it while saying, "give it to me." She complies and gets her treat.

The next morning, I find a sixteen-foot section of the old fence that divides the two pens busted out. I can only wonder what happened during the night. No one shows signs of injury. Judy is still sleeping and, with her rotor cuff surgery, would be of no help anyway. I break apart and drag out the old fence, and find what I need to repair it on my own. I should have had the guys replace this divider when they installed the pen's perimeter fence last fall. I do little with the horses for the next few days because I am spending much time visiting with Judy. Whenever we manage to meet up, we always have a lot of news to share.

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