Today, Jean-Luc and I had an opportunity to test ourselves through everything we have been working on since fall. Honestly, I didn’t realize how many different pieces we’d been bringing together until now, and (as usual) I am one proud horse momma.
The list looks a littlw something like this:
(Scale: 1 = No Progress | 10 = Mastery)
1. Stand in place when I walk away - aka ground tie - 45%. He does this fun this now where I point and say “Stand” and he knows, like a child being scolded to not pic up another muscle!
2. Side pass - 40% (however on ground work I’d put us around 65%)
3. Come to me when I call you in the field from the barn - 75% (This one he knows for sure it just departed on his mood)
4. Stop on a dime - 95% - the breaks are great with this one.
5. Get that 2nd gear gait to happen when asked for - 75% - we are close here. The gait itself needs work but that’s another ask.
6. Proper body carriage - 25% - we have a ways to go here, however, Jean-Luc does understand the ask for sure. The polls in this picture and side reins have helped Jean-Luc learn where his feet are immensely.
7. Lunging and changing directions (this is a rider cue / syncing up thing) - 80% - we are nearly perfect but not enough times to make believe it yet.
8. Working in general when horse buddies can not be seen - 85% I am really happy when we are alone now, but, when other horse buddies are close he falls to pieces.
9. Standing still while being brushed - 50% - I feel like this is a new slip. It’s annoying and i can’t quite pin point where it started happening. It is much worse when getting ready in a group though.
10. Touch the head - 45% - Jean-Luc has never been a fan here. He is much better than he used to be, but he just doesn’t like it. I’m thinking it is a trust thing, and something to do with a prior life experience.
So there tou have 10 things Jean-Luc and I have focused on since April. Feel free to leave tips/ trainging suggestions or just fun stories of your adventures below!
Some days the last thing a girl wants to do is "look pretty." While it's great to get up and feel like you're at your best, often "your best" can be exhausting. One of my favorite things about being a horse momma is the fact that Jean-Luc doesn't give two shakes about things likes weather or not my hair is brushed, my pants are clean, my boots are polished or if I decided to hide my Roseacia today under a pound of a cover-up.
Happiness in life, when you toss out a few things, tends to boil down to simplicity. This time of year the flakes are beginning to fly. Jean-Luc and I are doing little more together than things a 12-year-old girl might do with her first horse, and that's fine by me. In fact, is seems rather appropriate. Enjoy time with the ones you love the most, right?
What are you doing to celebrate the season with your equine loved ones?
It was the last day of November. Jean-Luc and I had been working extremely well together on our side pass and simple teamwork. We’d been such a team that last day I felt we should just have an “easy” day. I wanted to pick up my new horse partner, aka Dad, and my newest little man, Teddy, the beagle-mix, and head out to the barn. Dad and I were going to catch up, while Teddy was introduced to all things “barn” and Jean-Luc ate some delicious grain and apples. We were going to brush Jean-Luc. I was going to show off a few of his new moves, and that was it.
That was the plan. Short. Simple. Sweet. However, that was the last thing that happened. . .
I looked down to see my horse was starting to cough.
“It’s okay boy,” I said. “What’s wrong? You’re fine.”
But he wasn’t fine, and I didn’t know what was going on. Soon Jean-Luc started to cough harder and twist his neck. “This isn’t good,” I said aloud to my father.
I immediately look Jean-Luc to the indoor arena where I could walk him around. There he began to get wobbly as if he would fall over to one side. Not knowing what to do I began walking with him in slow circles?
My limited horse medical knowledge had me thinking perhaps this was some kind of colic, and that seemed to be the right thing to do. I would later come to learn that Jean-Luc was experiencing a very bad choke.
People say you often don’t know how you’ll react to something until it actually happens? Well, I am not proud to say that my reaction was essential “Deer in the Headlights.” I just kept moving, but little else. I felt helpless as I watched my 1200 lb critter painfully toss up his grain multiple times. My cell phone had no service, and I was too afraid to stop moving to get to some.
I yelled at my Dad, please Call Bitty #3! He promptly did, however, she was in the middle of her own mini-family emergency and unable to assist. After about 30 min, LIZ showed up and came to my rescue. After she parked her car, I’m sure she could tell I was a bit freaked.
“I think I need help,” I told her.
She quickly came inside to see what was going on and Jean-Luc took that opportunity to lose his lunch out of his mouth and even his nose.
“We need to call the vet, now,” she stated. Her manner was direct, concerning, and exactly what I needed to hear to bring me back down. I’m sure she could tell I was scared. This was my kid here. He couldn’t tell me what was wrong. And unlike many, Liz knows that about 15 years ago I lost my first horse in a freak accident that we still aren’t entirely clear on what went wrong (likely colic).
In no time at all, she was on the phone and I was informed that it would be an emergency vet visit, but they could be out immediately if I wanted. The Vet on the other end of the line was very gracious, and upfront about what the bill would be. They also gave me the option to wait to see if it would pass if I wanted.
I did not want to wait. Again, after losing a horse to an unknown cause, the last thing I wanted to do was lose this one to a stupid mistake like waiting to call the vet.
While I waited for them to arrive, Liz talked me down and I believe sympathized with what I was going through. I did as the vet suggested and strongly stroked Jean-Luc’s neck to encourage the blockage to pass.
Before I knew it, Allegheny Animal Hospital was pulling in the driveway. By this time, Jean-Luc was not making the awful suffocating noise he had been and I was thinking I may have called the vet out for nothing? Sure enough, the bugger passed the blockage after nearly an hour.
Regardless, I consider their visit worthwhile since we got a full physical (something I wanted to be done soon anyway), and I was able to learn one on one about “choke,” and what that means for a horse.
For example, I had no idea a horse could still breathe for several hours if they are choking. Nor did I know what would happen if Jean-Luc did not pass the blockage on his own. Apparently, he would need to be sedated and the blockage would be removed with a tube that goes up to his nose. This is not something a vet ever wants to have to do, I was told because it makes it harder for horses to pass a future choke.
Eventually, after a somewhat pricey yet well worth it, vet bill Jean-Luc was released back into the herd. My dad knew how concerned I was and even went out the next morning while I was at work to take a few photos of him munching on grass and roaming the fields.
Future feedings have been changed to a mash indefinitely and per the vet’s recommendation a much heavier grass-based diet. You haven't heard much about Jean-Luc in the past few days either because I felt a few days off wouldn't hurt (And I've been working a second seasonal job). It was honestly an event I never care to relive.
The following morning, I was at work when I ran into Bitty #3. She apologized for not being there and understanding how nerve-wracking something like that was. Together we were able to laugh it off by simply saying, “Ah the joys of being a horse mom!”
The third day out, I went later in the afternoon. I had plans to do a little Christmas shopping so I was surprised when I was able to even get to the barn. This day was my favorite day I called to Jean-Luc in the field.
The herd was adjacent to the barn and past a small swampy area. I’m not afraid of a little mud and I don’t mind crossing the swampy, mini creek, buuuuuut if Jean-Luc is five feet closer, on the other side it’s nice. I called to him the same way I had been for the past month and knew HE KNEW what to do. He started pacing back and for at the mini creek like he wanted to cross.
“Yes!” I yelled back. “Yes, you can do it!”
I then reasoned with Jean-Luc saying, “Look, man, either one of us is going to have to come across that swamp-mud or both. Let’s make one, dude?”
Much to my surprise, he leaps like a cat tossed out of a building, with all four feet in the air. It was not graceful, but it was high. Sprung out like a stuck pig, his front hooves cleared the mud, but his end absolutely did NOT make it.
Jean-Luc and I did the same groundwork we’d done the previous day and I could tell he was really getting it. Though I really wanted to try things under saddle, I felt day three should really solidify the things we’ve done thus far.
The fourth day in a row Jean-Luc was truly nailing our groundwork. I was feeling pretty good, and proud of the bond we’ve created. I tossed his saddle, one I’m really starting to love/break-in, and his new…wildly patriotic pad on him. With not a single soul around I lined Jean-Luc up at the fence and asked him to step right with a leg yield. At first, he did nothing. Then, I gave him small nudges with my heel. Before I knew it he was stepping both front and back legs over top each other.
I wanted to shout, “Look! Look! Did you see that!?” But alas, it was just the two of us. However, after soaking in the smile, I simply enjoyed a feeling of pure joy and elation. We’d done it. Jean-Luc side passed under saddle for the first time since we’ve been together.
We practiced, facing the fence, up and down at least three or four times on both sides. Then I un-tacked and tossed him back into the field. Unlike most days, he stood with me for a few moments, as if to say, “Thanks, Lady Who Feeds Me that was fun!”
Tonight, the weather was beautiful, and I was stuck in a Continuing Education Class required by my new job. Adulting - sometimes it likes to poo poo on the things we would rather be doing, but alas, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds. #BoldlyGO!
On the final morning up at EJ’s Stables, I knew I had some time to start thinking about what Jean-Luc and I would do for our post-trail adventure. While plowing through a few Pins on Pinterest I was reminded of the training pin’s I’d set off to the side.
As I scrolled through, I wanted to find some fun groundwork that both Jean-Luc and I could get excited about again. There it was – Side Pass! My goal for 2018 includes attending at least one competitive trail event, thus, learning to side pass is a must.
According to trainer Don Blazer, “The key to a great side pass is "pushing" never "pulling" the horse into the direction of travel. Only western horse’s do a true "side pass", meaning they move laterally without any forward movement. All other horses always have some forward movement when moving laterally.”
Though I use a ton of Clinton Anderson techniques to teach Jean-Luc, the video I liked, because it was quick, came from here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm8-6P5MWAA
Upon our return from the Greenbrier River Trail Jean-Luc had a few days off, mainly due to the fact that it was Thanksgiving week, and well… family. Finally, the day came when I could get out to the barn, though. Most people would call me crazy, however, a fellow horse enthusiast I follow on Instagram ( @nickavenue ) has been posting about his work/fun in similarly cold weather.
“If he and his horse can get out and find some small fun in this, then well, so can Jean-Luc and I!” I thought.
After pulling on my riding-like Roxy Gor Tex Ski pants, my favorite winter jacket (made of recycled Mountain Dew bottles), and hat most lumberjacks would be envious of, we were ready. It was nineteen degrees Fahrenheit.
Because it was so cold outside I wanted to start simply by loving on Capt. Ponycard. When I arrived the horses were close to the barn in the back field – somewhere they rarely go. After hopping out of my Jeep I walked into the tack room to grab a few of the new treats I’d purchased last week for Jean-Luc. I was really excited, thinking these would be a new favorite for him – they’re carrot AND apple, which he loves.
Well, let me tell you something – I was wrong! After rushing outside I called out to Jean-Luc, and he actually came to me in the field. This is something else we are working on, and he’s starting to really like coming to see me.
“Good Boy!” I cooed at him. “You are such a good man.”
I opened my palm to hand him the oven baked cracker. He promptly gobbled it up in his mouth, munched, spit the thing out on the ground, farted and ran off back to the herd. Gobsmacked, I just stared into the morning sunrise. Jean-Luc eats anything…I mean it, ANYTHING. I couldn’t be too upset, in fact, I was simply in shock and laughed. Sorry, DuMor, I know you’re not the BEST brand, but your treats must be REALLY BAD!
I tossed the rest of the treat on the ground and then walked over to where Jean-Luc stopped in the field. He was still great and didn’t try to run or anything. He just ensured I knew, those treats will not be going anywhere near his mouth again.
Together, walked back inside the barn, feet, and hooves crunching under the frost covered grass. I queued up a few of the episodes I’d missed lately of a horse podcast radio show I used to listen to every day prior to my new job – Horses In the Morning and set work brushing and loving on Jean-Luc. You would the voices of the hosts would be distracting, however, I think he likes listing to talks shows as much as I do because Jean-Luc seems to get extra calm while listening.
I brushed until my toes started to really go numb and burn, then I figured it was time to move more. I kept it simple walking my very clean horse to the fence and started our backing up work. Since this was Day 1, I kept it short and simple. We backed straight up and down along the fence line for approximately 15 minutes or five times on each side. Jean-Luc, like nearly every horse, was great one side and had one side you’d think he forgot his brain on.
After that, that was it. I walked him to the gate and turned him loose. I think he was a little confused because there was no “pomp and circumstance,” if you will, to end our day together. That in and of itself made me chuckle. I could tell he was thinking, “That’s it?...Okay, BYE!”
Fortunately, I was able to get back to the barn the following morning at the same time. The temperature was a whopping ten degrees warmer and we repeated the exact same lesson as we had the previous day with one new step – point your body sideways and take one step/cross over in the front and back. Happily, I saw some minor improvements in his speed when backing up, and it didn’t take long for him to understand how to step.
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.
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