June 2 ~ The horses spend better than an hour out grazing this evening and come in for grain on their own. I hose the arena, leaving Ruby’s stall open so she can come out. She follows the spraying hose, so I lower it to a stream and fill the palm of my hand with water. After a half dozen efforts, she drinks from my hand.
June 3 ~ Kim and I get in a long trail ride and, afterward, Ruby plays a little red ball fetch with Kim. She is tickled. Ruby takes her last drink from Zena. Mom says, “Enough is enough!”
June 4 ~ Today is a first – Ava rides Sparky untethered on the ten acres. Sara and Kim ride ahead and I walk on my own feet at her side. In the evening, I use a large plastic leaf rake to scratch Ruby. She loves it. Sara would have freaked.
June 5 ~ Ruby is bored. While I am sorting boards at the far end of the arena, she stands on the mounting box in the center of the arena to get my attention. She has learned this from Sara – not me. I lay a canvas tarp over the half wall that separates the lumber from the riding area. Ruby pulls it over and off. None of the other horses would do that.
June 10 ~ Ruby has learned to follow my hands and body. Untethered, she completes circles around me in both directions, figure-eights around the barrels, and backs over the poles.
Old advertising for our now-retired riding school are still circulating on the Internet. A local grandfather called looking for a summer experience for his visiting granddaughter. Sara serves the purpose well, and we have a wonderful day.
June 14 ~ Sara and Kim, and Zena and I enjoy a pleasant early morning trail ride. Not far beyond the horse pen, Kim spots a deer on our path.
Such a nice summer ….
June 17 ~ Ruby lifts all four feet for me in the arena, untethered. Good girl! She circles me in both directions, walks over three poles, and backs over one – all untethered. In the evening, I mow the lawn outside the pen. I bring the tractor to a stop but keep it running, and Ruby comes to the fence to investigate. Good girl, again.
June 18 ~ Ruby is wonderful this morning. With halter and lead rope attached, she lets me lift and pick all four feet. She walks a circle to my left three times without stopping and while staying a good four feet out from me. She also walks a circle to my right, but not so nicely. We return to her stall where I then ask her to walk forward through the door and then backward back into the stall – which she does perfectly. I then line her up in front of three ground poles and ask her to back over the first pole. I do not walk her over the poles first, so she needs to think a little more about what she is doing. When her back feet reach the pole, I ask her to stop, and then to proceed backing over it. She does, wonderfully. I walk her to the wall and with her nose to it, ask her to move to her right. She steps to the right cleanly – shoulders and hips moving in unison – three times. When I move to her other side and ask her to step to the left, she becomes confused. Was she getting bored? Or, was she saying, “What? You just asked me to move here. Why do you want me there?!”
I return Ruby to her stall, bring Sara into the arena, and saddle her. With my switch in my hand for protection, I let Ruby out of her stall. She wants to chew on Sara’s stirrups and fender but I use the switch to quietly ask her to retreat. As I walk Sara, I don’t let Ruby get too close. She retreats toward Sara’s stall, so I walk Sara to the mounting box and lift myself into the saddle. As we walk and jog around the arena, Ruby watches but does not approach. When she finally comes near, I use the switch to ask her to keep her distance. She approaches Sara from the front and speaks to Sara nose to nose. I am concerned about her rearing and/or pawing; and neither Sara nor I want her clambering on top of us. At the same time, I do not want her to think that she should not investigate or walk with us – because walking with us is exactly what I want. Sadly funny, Ruby walks over and puts her front feet on the mounting box. She is jealous! I take this opportunity to dismount and return Sara to her stall. Ruby tries to chew on the saddle as I walk it to the tack room, so I return with a bareback pad, minus the girth, and let her wear that for a few minutes. I sit on the black tub surround by the horses as they eat their hay. It is going to hit 90 degrees today.
June 22 ~ I return from three days of travel to find that Ruby has not forgotten anything. We pick up hooves in the arena, circle three times in both directions, and complete figure-eights around the barrels.
June 23 ~ Zena is enjoying an evening graze by the barn while I pick manure inside the arena. Suddenly, I hear the pounding of hooves coming up from the back ten. Ruby flies into the arena so fast that it takes her the full length to come to a stop; and Sara and Sparky are not far behind! I am sure a deer would not cause such a raucous, and decide that one of them must have flushed up a turkey. But, a short time later, with the horses eating grain in their stalls, Gary heads out with Skipper and his camera. He returns with photos of four baby raccoons in a tree just a hundred feet beyond the pen. I bet it was their scampering set those silly horses on their stampede.
June 24 ~ This evening, the horses stay up close to the barn for grazing. I am wondering if they are thinking about last night’s excitement.
June 26 ~ A truly interesting morning. After graining, I take each horse from their stall and, in front of Ruby’s stall, clean their feet, ask them to stand while I walk around them, and ask them to back through L-shaped poles on the ground. I return each horse to her stall and, each time I take out a different horse, Ruby communicates via voice and body that she was expecting to be chosen. With halter and lead, I bring her out last. I lift her front left foot and, as I hold it, she turns and nips my arm – not fast and not hard, but truly unusual. I no-no her and lift a second time. She begins to repeat her nip. I huff at her, remove her halter and, using a strong wave of my arm, disgusted face, and verbiage, I tell her to “Get Lost!” Traditional training would have dictated that I punish her for these attempted nips; and that I complete the hoof picking. (“That horse just needs to be more afraid of me than of what I am asking her to do!” I let the other three horses out and go about my chores. When I am finished, I walk into the pen and sit on the log between Sara and Ruby. Within a minute, Ruby stops eating and takes three steps to touch my knee with her muzzle. I accept her apology, stand up, pat Sara, and walk into the arena. Ruby trots to catch up with me. I ask her to pick up each of her feet – this time untethered. She acquiesces with very little fussing. I ask her to stay while I walk around her, and she again acquiesces. We move off a little, and I ask her to back, before circling twice to my right for a treat; and then twice to my left. We walk over the L-shaped poles and – having never done this before – using my hands, arms, and voice for guidance, she backs through the L-shaped poles perfectly. I am thrilled! We complete a figure-eight around the barrels. I think that is enough – and I am out of treats – but Ruby is asking for more attention. So, I retrieve her halter, lead rope, and more treats from the tack room and tie her to the wall, where she quietly chews on the lead. After a few minutes of quiet visiting, I release her from the wall and remove her halter before bringing out the bareback pad with a fuzzy English girth. She mouths both before I put the pad on her back, give her a treat, and attach the girth on one side. This is the first time I’ve introduced a girth. It is too long to buckle snugly so I just scratch her under-chest, lift the girth toward its intended position, and let it fall back. Ruby steps back a couple steps a couple times and I ask her to return to me with the dangling girth bumping against her front leg. I return the pad to the tack room and bring out a small youth English saddle. This, again, is a first for her. She mouths the saddle and stirrup leathers. I put in on and off her back three times.
June 28 ~ Ruby picks up all four feet, stands in a “stay box” made of four white poles on the ground and, for the first time, pushes the big green ball between two barrels. She doesn’t “get” that the ball is supposed to go between the barrels – she just manages to get it there. Sometimes she pushes it through with her nose; and sometimes she pulls it back with her foot. I only treat her when she pushes it through. Another first – she meanders in and out of a line of cones – on the lead with me meandering with her; and then on the lead with me walking off to the side; and then off the lead with me walking to the side. I am amazed at how well she does.
My granddaughter, Crystal, is visiting today; and Kim comes over, too. The three of us ride Zena, Sara, and Sparky around the ten acres; leaving Ruby alone in her stall for the first time. Lots of firsts this month! She only emits one whinny as we leave. When we return, we put her and Sparky in the back pen, and take Zena and Sara out for a longer ride. Kim rides Zena, Crystal rides Sara, and I peddle my bike.
See you next month!