From BONES TO BUCKLES
THE DIARY OF SWEETIE,
RESCUED JUNE 21, 2015
This is an on-going chronicle of the rescue of a 20+ year old mare and her life life with me, The Girl on Horseback!
JUNE 21, 2015 Aged buckskin mare on Craigs list.
I prevailed upon Barbara Cannon to go with me this morning (June 21 2015) to see an old buckskin mare that was advertised as a kid horse.
Thanks again, Barbara. I didn't want to answer a Craigs list ad alone.
The mare appears to have decent teeth, they think she's about 20. No matter, at my age the age of a horse isn't too relative. haha
I decided to rehab this little mare. :-)
She is very thin so you can see everything bad and everything good about her. I think the good outweighs the bad.
I rode her before buying her. She's very quiet. Who knows, with feed and worming she may change, but hopefully not.
I'll need to teach her to back up, but I never met a horse I couldn't quickly teach to back.
So I have a project horse that hopefully will be one I can tour the city of Sanctuary on, like I have done with every horse but Lynx :-)
This is the photo they had on Craigs list. Thin as she is, I still see a pretty head, nice slim neck, plenty of muscle, no blemishes other than what may or not be an old injury on her back, and an old wire scar on her front leg. Her spine has a raised area just before her rump. But maybe with some weight gain, that won't be noticeable. She lets all feet be handled, rode easily away from the other horses.
I won't have a lot invested in her, so if she turns out to be another one to give away, it won't break the bank. :-)
They called her Beauty, I'm calling her Sweetie ...
I asked them to deliver her to my house, which they about 2 p.m. She had two strange little areas of sweat, not normal sweat at all.
She is very head shy about her mouth. I'm going to rub her face and lip area until she gets over that.
. . .
JUNE 22 - Easing Sweetie onto Equine Senior, Horse Chow 100 and alfalfa hay. I have given her a tube of Ivermectin paste because I'm sure she is wormy. I also have given her a B12 shot as her appetite is not very good and she's listless.
JUNE 23: Sweetie got her first bath; she is coming into heat. I've made an appointment with Dr. Craig Sweatt to come Monday, June 29. I want her checked over and I am slightly concerned that she might have anhidrosis.
JUNE 28 - Sweetie is already picking up some weight. She also seems to be sweating normally. Her heat is raging.
JUNE 29 - Dr Sweat examined her thoroughly and says she appears to have all or most of her teeth. He recommended adding Red Cell supplement and corn oil to her rations, plus giving her the 5-day Panacur Power Pack wormer. The Galvane's groove is gone from her incisors so she is at least 20 years old, but he pronounced her in good condition other than being skinny.
JUNE 30 - By now I have Sweetie on 6 quarts of feed three times a day, plus a lot of alfalfa hay. This is day two of the 5-day wormer.
I was able to give Sweetie her tube of powerpack wormer this morning without help. She is definitely getting better and more trusting about me messing with her mouth.
Her sweat pattern seems to improve every day.
I am giving her a lot of grooming and fly spray and every time I mess with her I ask her to back up 3 or 4 steps. She's getting the gist of that. I want her backing well on the ground on voice and pressure before I start asking her to back while in the saddle.
JULY 1 - Sweetie is out of heat.
JULY 7 - I led Sweetie down the street to the pastures where goats and guard dogs are kept. I wanted to see how she would react to the dogs running the fence and barking protectively of the goats. Also the goats come to the fence when the dogs do. She was fine with it until one of the dogs came from behind her. She leapt forward, but didn't jerk out of my hand, turned and looked and I let her see him. I stood around a good while letting her graze on the grass in the bar ditch next to the goats and dogs.
I need to work on her staying out of my space and standing still. She was crowding me from time to time as we stood in the ditch near the dogs.
She is backing in the halter better though.
Also I loaded her in the stock trailer with no problem. I will load her again and have alfalfa hay in it for her.
JULY 10 - I wanted to see how my saddle would fit. I had no plan to ride Sweetie much, but did want to at least get on and ride a little bit, so I saddled up. I put my sidepull bridle on her. I have the feeling she needs to be bitless, since she seems to worry about her mouth getting hurt.
Even though she is under 14 hands, I am not going to put stirrup weight on her skinny back, so I use an old concrete well pad for mounting. It took several tries but I finally got Sweetie to stand at the concrete block while I got on.
She tensed up, so I sat there and rubbed her and talked to her. Then I rode her at a walk in circles both directions. She seemed to figure out that I was not going to hurt her mouth with the side pull. She stopped well, but head came up. So I sat there and talked to her and rubbed her. Then rode at a walk more. Also asked her to back one step at a time with success. I figured that was a good start.
I want her total trust; when I get it and she's relaxed and head down all the time, then I can try taking her to places where she might spook. She does respond well to direct rein with the side pull.
She's shedding almost all of her hair on her back where I have brushed lots and lots of dead skin and hair away. Worming will do that and she will grow new hair and healthier skin.
I can pretty much handle her mouth now. She tries to take it away if I put my fingers in but I have actually rubbed her gums.
JULY 14 - Today I put a lot of alfalfa in the feed bin of the stock trailer, tied the gate open, and led Sweetie in several times.
Since Lynx has always refused to get in the trailer on her own, even to get feed, I decided to turn her in with Sweetie and leave them with access to the hay in the trailer. I checked on them periodically and for most of the day Lynx was walking around looking in at Sweetie, who was enjoying hay.
By evening though I could tell that Lynx had been in as well. Making progress with Lynx as well as with Sweetie
JULY 16 - Today I rode Sweetie. She has gained a lot of weight and is feeling very good.
She is sweet, calm and only knows direct rein, how to stop and stand pretty good, and is learning to back up tho not great yet.
It will be fun to train her to leg aids and other things to make her a great trail horse. It'll be like training a very gentle and calm two year old. win win
This is 100 degree weather in Texas ...
It is really not so bad out in the shade when there's a breeze. I rode in my shaded pen and it was pleasant, actually.
Sweetie is perfect for me: I love to train horses and she's like a very very gentle two-year-old that knows almost nothing. She's backing up fairly well now; next will be learning to side pass.
When I rode up the hill to the trailers and the sun was hitting her neck and shoulders, the gold sheen was amazing. She's getting truly beautiful.
And it turns out I don't really need the contour pad I'd bought for her skinny back; it's is really too large anyway. My Ryon saddles fit her well, as I expected, so I'll just be using a regular pad or Navaho blanket.
She's really giving me some needed motivation and fun :-)
JULY 17 - Sweetie is in heat ... right on schedule and this time it is a normal Season, not the raging one of last month.
I'm taking her to the shade of the stock trailer every morning for grooming, and while there I'm working on getting her to step over when I apply pressure to her side. She's improving.
I decided to use a stiff brush this morning to brush away dried salty sweat. She wasn't too happy about it but stood ok while I did her body. But when I started down her foreleg, she jerked her foot up when the brush got below her knee. She was really touchy about it and even squealed a little.
I put that brush away, got my rubber brush and went back to work, lower legs and feet and all. No problem. She just doesn't like the stiff bristles on her lower legs. I learned something new about her J
JULY 27 2015 - Rode Sweetie on hill and in pen. Didn't get much side pass from her back, only a step or so in the back. But got movement from ground. She got impatient and kicked her belly twice when I was asking her to move over with my fingertips/fingernails ... slapped her and said NO! each time. She's definitely feeling better and more independent altho still very loving. She did throw her head once in the pen; I don't know if it was a protest or a fly. No problem tho. Leaving off alfalfa hay, feeding 3 scoops a.m., 2 midday, 3 at night.
AUGUST 4 - Have ridden Sweetie three days in a row, working on backing up and moving off leg. Backing better now, beginning to move off leg a little. Does well from ground but not from saddle yet.
Continuing to see weight gain. Rump beginning to look level across rather than a V.
AUGUST 5 - Riding Sweetie at daybreak to avoid the heat is working very well as my physical therapy. My back and hip are much better when I ride, even though I'm only riding at a walk.
From the ground Sweetie backs with head in good position. Still tenses up from saddle but does back pretty well.
AUGUST 10 - Continuing to ride every morning at daybreak to help my back and hip and to avoid heat. Sweetie gets better and better. She's beginning to neck rein now; I've gotten her moving off my leg better; forward motion as she does, but that's how it all starts. I need to spend more time on her than I do; she anticipates the gates and going to trailer. But until the weather breaks some, it's about all I can do before things heat up with the sun.
AUGUST 13: I'm now riding Sweetie up onto the hill and over the poles. Now and then sounds or movement startle her. I can see she will need seasoning to such things. When it isn't too hot to do it, I'll lead her around the neighborhood, over to the acre to visit Dealer and Tim, etc.
AUGUST 15 - The work with moving Sweetie off my leg is paying off. She will now move over to the fence most of the time, and is not trying to forward as much as she did a day or two ago. Her back up is pretty good, but she still raises her head whie backing. Eventually I think she will drop her head and relax but not yet.
Yesterday's comparison photo:
MONDAY, AUGUST 17 - We took Sunday off, I slept all day. Today was an Aha day for Sweetie so far as backing and moving off my leg are concerned. Much easier and more willing. Head is still up when backing but not as tense, it seems. I didn't notice tongue lolling in the backup but again I was not really looking.
photo of me on her finally!
FRIDAY, AUGUST 21 - Sweetie is getting better with leg aids all the time. I both opened and closed the little gate into the pen from her back this morning. She still sometimes gets confused and moves into my leg instead of away, but most of the time she gets it right.
Backing still has a head position problem. I think if she will finally relax and lower her head, break at the poll, she will be comfortable and like it. She will do that from the ground:
backing from ground she holds her head in perfect position.
From saddle she tenses the neck and raises the head.
GAME PLAN: Maybe back her up from saddle. Get off and back from ground. Immediately get on and back from saddle. Repeat until she relaxes in the saddled backup.
SEPTEMBER 4 - Resumed riding yesterday after eye lid surgeries on Monday. I have ridden every day but 4 since the first week of August ...
Today I rode the hill and pen and asked for lateral movement; one hiccup: moved against leg. recovered. asked for and got some side passing sort of at the fence.
Loaded in gooseneck 3 times; great going in and coming out.
Put hoof boots on; no reaction at all to that.
Sept 12 -- Her back up is getting very good; slow but good.
September 14 -- Sweetie is so eager to swing to the fence that she sometimes gets signals crossed and goes into my leg pressure rather than giving to it. Most of the time she gets it correct tho.
September 15 -- Rode Sweetie out in the pasture at Jeanne Knapp's, into the stock tank, through trees, over wooden bridge, through cones, everywhere. Great day on her.
September 24 -- Sweetie was a tad leery of a neighbor's bumper and headlights from a truck lying by his workshop, but we walked circles by it until she relaxed and stood by it.
We walked back and forth on that property letting her get used to the barking dogs with the goats across the street in a pasture.
Then we came home and worked a bit, closing the big double gate with semi-sidepassing. Not beautiful but got the job done.
I'm progressing very slowly with SWEETIE/BEAUTY, introducing her to things at a snail's pace because I want her as solid out in the world as she is here at home. In past decades, I would have already been all around the neighborhood; I'm sure she's safe. But I don't want any setbacks so slow goes the two old ladies. haha
I have her moving off my leg nicely most of the time. And beginning to cross a little in tight circles. Again, slow and lots of repetition and change ups. It definitely takes longer to train one in her 20s than a two or three year old, but she is learning.
Also yesterday we worked on trotting in big circles. She had no clue about trotting with a rider before I got her, so the first few trots were just gangly down a swerving straight-away. But yesterday she got somewhat more collected and we did some pretty good circles, big and small both ways. I think a few sessions and she will settle into a jog at last.
She only plow-reined when I started riding her. Now she neck reins pretty well, is responsive to very light direct rein and stops easily. And backs up! That is a BIGGIE, because she wouldn't even back from the ground at the start back in June.
Yesterday when I asked for a stop, she did and automatically backed up the two steps that I've been asking for on every stop..
This is a mare that has probably spent most of her life having foals and being a leadline horse for kids.
I've gotten in more riding on her and on Lynx in the past 60 days than I had in the past year~ hahaha
Having this project with Sweetie has given me cause to ride and work with her regularly, which has given me renewed energy and confidence. This past week I worked with Lynx, overcoming her anxiety and inattention, and even rode her in the open at a Western Dressage Clinic, then in their arena working among other horses on dressage circles and gaits and movements with markers. My lack of confidence is gone. I'm back!
SEPTEMBER 27 2015 - Sweetie and I ventured out for an early Sunday morning tour of my community, Sanctuary, Texas. She saw a lot to look at and remained calm and happy. This is my favorite way to ride, all around our little community. It's heaven to once again have a horse that is pleasant to do this with.
By now I have Sweetie moving off my leg both directions. I can do a side pass using both hands with a lot of give and take.
EARLY DECEMBER, 2015: ACTHA Competitive Trail Challenge in Azle, Texas. Very cold morning, in the thirties. Arrived about 8 a.m. Sweetie and I competed in the Scout Division. Very fun day. Sweetie did every obstacle, although backing through barrels took a little more time and effort than it could have, and the side pass over the log altho completed, wasn't perfect. But considering how green she is to everything, I was ecstatic with how she did.
When prizes were given out, Sweetie TOOK FOURTH PLACE IN SCOUT!!!
What a long way she has come in under six months!
JANUARY 9, 2-16 - TEETH FLOATING. With Dr. Tommy Thompson and professional equine dentists worked on Sweetie and Jeanne's horses, and others at Jeanne's place. I told them Sweetie was 0ver 20 years old but I didn't know how much over. Checking her teeth the professionals figured she's closer to 30 than 20, so we are giving her an approximate age of 30. They expressed pleasure that she is in such good condition.
JANUARY 2016, RANCH TRAIL RIDE. Sweetie was the perfect trail horse out on a local ranch, where we jumped a deer, saw cows, crossed a creek, and more. We were riding in a small group of five. Wonderful day.
FEBRUARY 2016, Sweetie will now side pass a log both ways; will side pass and stand to have gates open and closed. She had figured out we would side pass over my telephone pole, and would begin immediately when I stepped her across it. So I have worked on just stepping over with front feet, then standing still for several minutes, then either walking on or sidepassing, interspersing those commands so that she doesn't anticipate and do it on her own. She's a fun horse to train.
FEBRUARY 20, 2016 - TRAIL OBSTACLE PRACTICE at Marcy Thrasher Blakeley's place at Springtown, TX. Our Weekday Wranglerettes were there in force, Barbara Cannon and Mandy, Jeanne Knapp and Bo, Teresa White Pollock, Sheryle Gasparini and April, and me with Sweetie.
The only two obstacles Sweetie was reluctant to do were the 4 sided cowboy curtain and the small ditch with water in it. After some coaxing she finally did both of those. Since she did so well, I have entered her in another competitive trail competition, this one at Younger Ranch on February 27, 2016.
Sweetie's first time on teetertotter bridge
Beverly, Jean and Barbara
Watching the others
FEBRUARY 24, 2016 - Reflections on this experience with this remarkable little old rescue horse. When I purchased her June 21, 2015 my only hope was that I could get enough weight on her to ride her around my neighborhood. Never in my wildest imagination did I even consider that someday she would compete in anything, much less organized trail competitions. Now she has one under her belt (December ACTHA) and is entered in another one February 27, just 3 days away. What an incredible journey this has been and IS with this aged mare!
When I started riding her and realized that she was totally untrained except for lead line, I determined to work with her to get her to back up, and move off my legs, two critical things that I expect of any horse. I took things slowly with her, as mentioned in earlier entries to this Diary, and she has been willing all the way.
This has been one of the best 7 month periods in my life. I'm happy!
FEBRUARY 27, 2016 - Competitive Trail Clinic, Younger Ranch, Azle, TX. Sweetie made a wonderful run in her trail class, placing second out of somewhere between 15-20 entries. I didn't get to see everyones run, but a beautiful teenager girl bested us for first. She had to have had a spectacular run. Hopefully I'll find some photos on the web site of the folks who put it on. They did a good job.
FEBRUARY 28,2016 Fear of being Beaten!
I rode Sweetie today to work out any soreness she or I might have had from our four hours of saddle time yesterday. I had allowed Lynx and Tim to be out in the area with Sweetie, and as I rode Sweetie to the training pen, Lynx threatened to run past us into the pen. I didn't want her in there, so I fanned the ends of my long reins at her to signal her to stop and move away.
It terrified Sweetie who almost went into a fear panic. I sometimes get reminded that along the way in her long life, she has obviously been very mistreated and hit, especially about the head. Working with getting her trust, and showing her that I will never hit her, even now hasn't totally eliminated that extreme fear reflex.
I dismounted after closing the pen gate to keep Lynx out, and just walked leading Sweetie and not looking at her, while swinging my reins in circles until she quit thinking they might hit her. Another trust session.
I first became aware of her fear of being hit, while sitting on her outside Jeanne's round pen, watching Natural Horseman Lanny Munden work with a horse. When Lanny had to strike the ground hard with his longeing whip to reinforce a turn around it made a loud pop/thump. Sweetie jumped sideways, forcing me to catch her up to stop her.
It was very clear that she was scared to death of getting hit. I would imagine she's had beatings in her life. That is so sad, and I work constantly to show her that she will never be mistreated again.
Today after shutting Lynx out of the pen, I worked Sweetie on doing some trotting. We have come a ways with improving it, but she still struggles with the confusion. The people I got her from said they had made her lope once time, in spite of the fact that she barely knew how to be ridden, much less be steered.
I do want her to develop a willing and decent trot so that when we enter, if we ever do, a walk/trot trail class, she can trot.
This mare is perfect at a walk but we are going to get a good quiet, happy trot too, eventually. She's better now, even better after trotting quiet circles both directions and each way around the pen in today's session. She has a rough trot that should get smoother as her stride lengths become more consistent.
Trotting her really gives me an aerobic workout, which is probably good for me!! J
APRIL 2, 2016 - OBSTACLE CHALLENGE, KTEquineVentures at Younger Ranch: Sweetie did a very good job on the obstacles, including some she had not seen before. Good enough to win FIRST PLACE in Pleasure Division, and a buckle for me.
Thinking back to JUNE 21, 2015, when I got Sweetie: My only objective was to see if she could be brought back to health and then ridden around my neighborhood as my gentle saddle horse. Never once did I entertain any thoughts of her EVER competing in anything. That was never in the picture. In fact, in December when I took her to her first obstacle competition it was only because it was a cold December day and I just didn't want to deal with my other horse, Lynx Lasan, who has been my competition horse. I thought it was time to take Sweetie away from familiar surroundings and see how she would ride, anyway. So for her to place in that first competition was a huge surprise. You just never know where the road less traveled might take you!
MAY 2017 with Teresa and Nator at Open Show, Azle, TX Spring 2017.
AUTUMN 2017, Arena trail obstacle competition at Western Star Cowboy Church. Sweetie and I continue to be best pals.
SPRING 2018 UPDATES
UPDATE ON ME
My health has taken a severe downturn in the past year or so. Fatigue, weakness, anxiety, aches and pains galore and more. In January I had sinus surgery, long postponed and much needed.
In May I had a week of physical therapy for severe stenosis of my lumbar. Not wanting surgery for that, Dr. Myers will refer me to a pain doctor for injections later this summer.
PRIMARY health concern just now, is a diagnosis in March of Hyperparathyroidism, something I had never heard of. Referred to Dr. Hecker, an endocrinologist, I have been through a battery of scans and tests which confirm the Hyperparathyroidism diagnosis. I am in JUNE waiting for the referral to a surgeon.
In addition, I need a knee replacement but have opted for injections every 3 months instead.
My 81st year is a year of challenges!
I have over time developed what to me is irrational fear while riding. Not of riding itself, but fear that some unknown, imagined thing might spook my horse and maybe I would come off or lose control. Irrational!
Turns out, this kind of irrational anxiety and fear are symptoms of Hyperparathyroidism! So there is hope.
Meanwhile I am riding but mostly keeping to fairly enclosed, familiar areas just for my own comfort.
My goal is to be back to confident riding by autumn 2018!
Spring Flowers in our paddock areas
AUGUST 2, 2018 three weeks post-op from Parathyroid surgery, feeling great, started riding again about 2 weeks post op.