April 2008

Me want cake!

Jasper turned 3 yesterday! It’s an important year. He’s growing up, I’m looking forward to this year. I’ll be riding him soon. In honor of his special day, I baked him a cake! NOT! I DID MAKE him a cake, though. Ingredients were oats, molasses and carrot shreds. It’s thick and goopy enough that you can mold it into a cake shape and chill. Pictured below.

My non-horsey husband, bless him, picked up the ‘3’ candle. I could barely set it down in the round pen before he gobbled it up! The cake, not the candle!


And licked the plate!



Jasper and I seem to have gotten over that hump that had me so frustrated. He is paying attention to me more and longeing is not an ordeal. It still takes a bit for him to muster up a trot for me – but I am working on it. He is a draft, after all!

Eyes on me – yeah!

To make things interesting for  Jasper instead of endless longeing, I tried some games yesterday with Jasper that came with this months Parelli dvd.

1. Push a ball
On a longe line, the goal is to get the horse to solve a puzzle, the puzzle being to push the ball. I longed Jasper in the round pen with the ball against the wall. I got him to stop as close to the ball as possible, if he went past it, turn him around and try again. At first he wanted to smell manure, and not pay any attention to the ball. Then he sniffed it. And I eventually got him to kick it for several steps. Sometimes he would push it with his nose.

Is it edible?

He was pretty good! Unfortunately Parellis do not take ~erm~ draft horses into account or the fact that they would rather crush through something like godzilla, than actually play with it. Jasper stepped on the ball, tripped  – and just kept on going. I was expecting the ball to go <POOF> but amazingly, it didn’t!

2. Games With a Gate
Longeing a horse in a circle, past an open gate. This was a good test for me AND for Jasper because it helped with my timing for keeping him going and for Jasper to keep him focused on me and what I am asking him to do. I tried this in the round pen to start and left the door open.  At a walk, I started from the other end and had him head in a circle towards the door and supposedly past it. At first he headed straight for the door and was planning to keep on going to that nice grass! He did knock me a little off balance but I brought him back in and asked for the circle again. He would walk a bit, then try to turn around and head for the door again! Uh uh, buddy. This got a lot of rope swinging to stop him from turning around and continue going. Well, he was going in the right direction now, but now he tried to cut across the middle as a shortcut to the door! More stick waving to get him OUT of my space and back on the circle. I stopped him near the open door and just had him stand there, until he focused back on me.

Me want grass

It took some trial and error but I eventually got him to calmly walk past the door on the longe line without pulling. Good boy!

3. The Pinky Test
Lead your horse around with only your pinky on his halter. It’s not about the pinky – it’s about how light your horse can be.

I would not have done with Jasper if I was worried I was going to lose my finger!  We have worked a lot on leading, backing up, turning both directions. Turning into him into a clockwise circle used to make him very defensive and he would throw his head up. Now he anticipates me, and turns accordingly and lightly. It’s a great feeling! He can still be a bit sluggish so I could not work up to a trot. I am going to work on that on a 12 foot lead.

All in all he did great and PAID ATTENTION! Since he was doing so well, I thought I would throw the bridle on him with the bit and reins attached and work on some turning with the reins from the ground. This was only the second time I had worked with him with the reins attached to the bridle.

I lightly pulled one rein while standing at the side of Jasper to get him to do some lateral flexion on each side. I had been working on this with Jasper at liberty and he had picked it up in a snap. I was worried he would be resistant with the reins and bit in his mouth – but he was amazingly light! With a slight bit of pressure on his mouth, he would turn his head all the way in to his belly on either side.

It was a little hard to take pictures while doing this!

I only did this for about 5 or 6 minutes, then took the bridle off, and he got a big hug and a cookie and happily got to graze on some grass!

First of all I am happy to report that Jasper and I are very happily back on track! More on that in another entry…

I’m trying a new video widget called Vodpod, in the right column so let me know if you have problems viewing the videos.

Jasper has shared his paddock with a pmu baby named Sammy since last summer. Sammy is younger than Jasper by about a year and a half and he has legs like a giraffe. And he is very passive. Although they have gotten along well, Jasper, herd leader that he is, is boss and can be a bit of a pain in the butt as Jasper constantly herds him.

Yesterday Michelle talked with me about putting Honey and Jasper together. Honey is an enormous Belgian draft former pmu mare that has lived beside Jasper and Sammy for quite some time now. I didn’t think it would be much of a problem. Jasper always likes to greet Honey over the fence  when we walk by and give her a playful nip, not one ounce of aggression between them. A big alpha mare type like Honey could be just what Jasper needs.

In my observations, of all the horses on the ranch Jasper is the most respectful of the crabby old mares. The crabbier the better. Heh, as many of you know, in wild herds it isn’t the stallion that is boss. Oh no sir-ee.

It’s the mares 🙂

After all, for up to a year of his life, Jasper lived with a herd of almost 100 former pmu mares and their offspring. Many of them looked a lot like Honey – old alpha types, large girls, who had probably been bred too many times in their life. Being in that situation, he was taught manners and respect from not just one mom, but an entire HERD of moms: 

‘The herd’ in Alberta in 2005. That’s me in the middle taking photos on a chilly October day.
This was only about HALF the herd!

One of the first times I laid eyes on Jasper and not surprisingly, he is first to the
hay bale! I really didn’t notice him all that much at the time, as I had so
many foals I needed to photograph.

Jasper and his mom – can you believe he was only
5 months old in this picture?!? He is starting to look a lot
like her – just bigger

After his lesson yesterday, we decided to put them in the same paddock and see what happened. I could tell Michelle wanted to be cautious. Sometimes these intros can get ugly and considering how big Honey is, she wanted to make sure I stood clear of the gate because that would be the first thing Honey would crash through, and I mean crash. This is one big girl! I saw the gate she crushed soon after she had arrived and I swear it looked like something out of Godzilla. She really is a sweet horse – but very, very protective of her food. If some of the horses in the paddocks next to hers even come NEAR the fence when she is eating, she kicks and screams and gets very angry. But her and Jasper always seemed to like each other, even though they was a fence separating them.

Well, an amazing thing happened. There were no fireworks at all. In fact, violin concertos should have been playing in the background, it was truly a romantic scene !!  4 of us just stood there oohing and aahing over how cute the whole thing was!

(See video in the column to the right of this blog post called ‘Jasper get’s a bit o Honey’)

Honey spent a few minutes in the paddock by herself, then we brought Jasper in. He
walked up to her, then stopped as she walked away. It was clear she was calling
the shots and he would have to ask if he could come up to her.

Jasper politely nosing Honey

(See video in the column to the right of this blog post called ‘I think it’s love’)  



I think I love you
I think I’m in looooove

Oh yeah, this could work

Do you think he’s smitten??

Waiting for dinner together

Dinner was interesting. Since they are both pretty bossy about their food, we expected neither would bother each other. In the picture below, Honey left her food pile and started to circle Jasper, intending to take a bit of his pile. But that was not to be, Jasper shot her a look that said ‘not a chance’, and that was that, Honey went back to her pile.  (See video in the column to the right of this blog post called ‘That’s my food’)

All in all, it seems to be a match made in heaven. They really look cute together and hey, they both have ginormous heads!

Michelle emailed me later in the evening to tell me that HONEY WAS ACTUALLY SHARING HER HAY WITH JASPER! I don’t think she could believe her own eyes. Perhaps they both realized they are Canadian kindred spirits, born from generations of pmus.

They spent the night together without incident.

All entries are in for the Equine Photography Network’s ‘Spring 2008 Equine Ideal Contest’ . If you want to drool over some fantastic photos, go have a look see and vote for your favorite. There are Professional and Amateur categories.

My fav? Hard to choose, but I have a soft spot for baroque horses and there are quite a few photos of them. In the professional category ‘Entrance of Dragon’ is just spectacular. And the guy fishing from his horse is so touching! ‘Ace and her magpie’ is also a great shot.

In the amateur category I love ‘First Snow’ – what incredible backdrop. And (big awwwww) for ‘Nap Time’.

What are your fav’s?