Saturday, December 31, 2011

Great strides

This morning I was updating photos on Starbuck's Facebook fan page and got to thinking about how very far we've come this year...  So I wanted to revisit them with a month by month summary:

  • July: 

I notice Starbuck for the first time; her paddock is across from my friend Virginia's horse Coco's paddock and she's pointed out to me as "that German filly" since her mother was a Hannoverian.  She has duck feet and is dirty, skinny and top-heavy, with her head and neck visually overpowering the rest of her body.  After I spend a little time with her once or twice rubbing her and hand-feeding her some apples and carrots, she starts to nicker to me when I walk by and watch me when I'm with other horses.  So I ask Marina about her and am told that she was purchased as one of a set of several horses and that they don't have time to train or do much of anything with her, that they tried to bring the farrier out to trim her hooves but she was too panicked to let him and that they were hoping to sell her.  To help out Marina, I start grooming her in hopes of improving her appearance and do a little work teaching her to give to pressure from the halter, lead quietly, be showered and stand tied without pulling back.

  • August:
I get attached (surprise!) and Marina suggests that I buy her and train her myself, quoting a ridiculously affordable price and assuring me that she'll help me along every step of the way.  I mention this to my husband, who offers to give her to me for my birthday.  After thinking long and hard about my capabilities (emotional, economic and otherwise) and considering other options like leasing a more experienced horse, I couldn't resist the temptation and on August 15th, Starbuck was officially mine (and this blog is born)!  In August I start to teach her to longe and get better at leading.  While longeing on one of the first days Starbuck bolts and runs over me, pushing me down and stepping on my foot.  It's a good wakeup call and I start paying way more attention to our movements and defending my space.  It's the first and last time she's run over me so far.
  • September:
We get lots better at longeing and start working over cavalletti.  We also do lots of sacking out starting with a dressage whip with some cloth tied to the end, then with a plastic bag and finally with a saddlepad... We work on longeing using the saddlepad and a surcingle to get her used to the feel of the girth and use a lead line to simulate a bit and teach her to open her mouth on cue.  We also continue leading work, upping the anty by first exploring the "scary" parts of the stable yard and then walking to a nearby orange grove in the company of other horses.
  • October:

This was a big month for us: I was able to lift and pick out Starbuck's front hooves, we put on the saddle for the first time, Starbuck got her teeth floated and we really improved our transitions on the longe line.  I also get a bridle and D-ring snaffle bit and put it on Starbuck for the first time, which took some getting used to!  I practice rubbing her and leaning over her from on top of a mounting block and putting more and more weight in the stirrup.  It was the first month where I could realistically think about riding her and at the end of the month I made up a list of goals planning to ride her in November.
  • November:
We take advantage of a rainy day to sack her out with an umbrella, we keep improving our longeing and I was finally able to lift and pick out all four hooves.  I finally bite the bullet and build a roundpen, where we do lots of work at liberty and I feel like I really start to gain more respect.  I watch some Clinton Anderson videos for new control-and-respect gaining exercizes and notice the benefits immediately.  Once I feel like I can control where she goes on the ground 95% of the time, I work up the courage to get on her back for the first time; first just leaning with my belly over the saddle and putting all my weight on her, then by being led around the round pen in this position by my friend Salvador and finally getting all the way on and being led by Marina!
  • December:
Starbuck is bit by bit gaining the skills to be my dream horse and I hope to be gaining the skills to be her dream owner.  After a major backslide the first crisp and windy week of December when she started acting like a crazy wild thing again and dragged me over one day while longeing, she got even better and started paying way more attention to me in our groundwork training sessions, working on transitions, small and large circles, ground driving through figure eights, cavaletti patterns, ground tying and more.  She is also finally calm enough about having her feet handled to have the farrier come out and trim her hooves, I find a lovely synthetic English saddle for sale for a pittance and I start riding her once or twice a week.  She now more or less understands the leg cue for transition from stop to walk, can maintain a walk with continued intermittent leg pressure and works at a trot with some help from the ground.

All in all a year full of progress and lessons learned; here's hoping that next year will be just as wonderful!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Photos

Today I want to highlight the gorgeous photos of Flickr-er Moyan_Brenn who has found and immortalized some incredible landscapes and horses in his travels.  These photos are from Sibillini, Italy and Monument Valley in the US and I just love the colours!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


It's been a month or two since I last looked at my short- and long-term goals so I wanted to revisit them and see how I've done and it turns out that we're pretty much on track!  The only thing we haven't accomplished on time is riding at the canter, but considering that both of us had to take some days off due to clumsiness I think all in all we're doing fabulously.

Here are the new goals, you'll see that I've added two skills (hobbling and dragging an object) which I think will be good to know; at some point I'd like to learn to drive a sulky or small carriage.  And even if we never do, hobbling and dragging are still excellent skills for confidence building and so she doesn't freak out in case we get tangled up in something (wire, vines, twine, a lead rope, whatever) on the trail.

This week: 

  • To be able to maintain a walk with minimal "nagging"
  • Transition from walk to trot unassisted
  • Lift front legs to minimal pressure on rope (hobble training)

Next week: 

  • Canter in roundpen
  • Walk and trot in big arena
  • Hold front legs up to pressure on rope (hobble training)

This month:

  • Transition from trot to canter unassisted
  • Maintain walk and trot with minimal "nagging"
  • Lead from pressure to front legs on rope (hobble training)
  • Start learning to walk next to dragging objects

Next month;

  • Ride in Orange grove and around stable grounds
  • Wear and tie up to a hobble
  • Drag an object in hand while riding
  • Stand tied to halter for several hours

Next four months:

  • Take Starbuck on a two to three hour long trail ride
  • Ride calmly and correctly at a walk, trot and canter
  • Teach Starbuck to trailer load calmly and take her on her first short trip
  • Stand tied to hobble for several hours
  • Wear a harness and drag an object from it

1 year:

  • Make consistent 4s and 5s on the entire report card
  • Be able to take Starbuck on all day trail rides
  • Make small jumps and do basic dressage work

2 years: 

  • Take Starbuck on the Camino de Santiago, the Menorcan Camí de Cavalls or to Gredos for a five day trip
  • Ride Starbuck in some kind of show

In the meanwhile, these are some things we're not doing as well as I'd like that we can work on in our free time:

  • Head down cue (from ground and mounted)
  • Standing still and ground tying
  • Sidepasses from ground
  • Halterness leading
  • Sending through narrow spaces
  • Trailer loading
  • Bridling
  • Flexing at poll
  • Groundwork (driving, sending, bending, transitions, etc...) at the canter

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Training Vid Tuesday

You may have seen in our latest video that Starbuck moved off as soon as I got on her the other day.  Since I'm having trouble maintaining forward movement I don't want to correct her on it just yet, but in the next couple of days I'll have to correct her if I see that it becomes a habit.  So I checked out some videos on the subject and particularly liked this one, from  Basically the idea is that if your horse wants to move when you put your foot in the stirrup, you make her move but just a little more and a little faster than she wanted to (making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard).  Likewise, if she moves off when you mount just back her up a few steps (yeah, in our case we'll have to learn to rein-back first!).  Anyhow, here's the video:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fifth Ride

Today Starbuck and I had our fifth ride, she's so very very good that I think I'll take her out to the big arena next time, maybe with my friend Virginia on her horse Coco leading the way.  Although we still need help to transition up to the trot and I'm still having to nag her to keep moving forward, I'm thinking that being in a more open space will help her feel less claustrophobic.  Her trot is SOOOOO comfortable, once we're solid on the cues and maintaining momentum I can tell that even a seated trot on her will be marvelous :D

The other biggy today was that at one point she kind of spooked and broke into a canter for a couple of strides, so at least now she knows that she can canter with me on her back.  And like I told my friend Belén who was helping us out in the middle of the roundpen, every time she slows down to a walk or stop on her own is just another opportunity to practice upward transitions!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Presents

My husband gives the best gifts ever.  Really.  For example, he made a lifelong dream come true by giving me Starbuck for my birthday this year, and always picks out something I really want or need, even if I'm not aware of it yet.  But pickings have been kind of slim lately and we had talked about skipping Christmas presents altogether this year, so I wasn't expecting anything extravagant.  Silly me!

Up until now I've been recording all the videos for this blog on my phone and either relying on friends to take videos or lodging my phone between branches of orange trees.  So when I opened the present I found under the tree and found a GorillaMobile flexible cellphone tripod I was superpsyched!  I've actually thought once or twice about trying to find one but hadn't mentioned it and am really impressed at what a thoughtful present it is. But as soon as I started trying it out, he said something like "Wait, it doesn't fit your cell phone perfectly, try this instead" and gave me another giftwrapped box... thinking it would be another version of the tripod I opened it and lo and behold it was a Samsung camcorder!  Wow!!!  It's got 65x zoom and all kinds of settings and it's really light weight and red... I love it!  And it works perfectly with the Gorilla flexible tripod, so no more bugging passersby to record training sessions :D

So as soon as it had a decent charge on it, I headed out to the stable.  One of the kids at the barn had asked me to ride his horse Gladys while he was out of town for Christmas, so I took her out and saddled her up: I don't want to get completely out of shape riding-wise, so I've been trying to ride at least once every week and a half or so.  Wow was it obvious she hadn't been out of her paddock in a while-- she had LOTS of energy!  She was also a little freaked out by someone else riding her and tried to see what she could get away with-- lots of head shaking and going too fast and she even got a few bucks in before I got her head up.  But it was fun and my back sure feels better-- I don't know why but cantering seems to do me more good than a chiropracter!  I also took a very long video of our ride to see how I can improve my seat (I need to keep my lower legs further back and NOT BOUNCE!!!) which I'll probably upload to Youtube but won't torture you with here.

Finally, I took Starbuck out for what I planned to be a fairly low-key session of longeing over some cavaletti poles, working on holding a circle and paying attention to what's beneath her feet.  But the dogs were barking, I had chosen the "scary" side of the arena and the wind started gusting, so it ended up being anything but chill.  In the end we got some good reps in, so I'm happy.  Here's the video, taken with my NEW CAMCORDER held in place by my NEW TRIPOD!!!

Hope you enjoy, merry Christmas everyone!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Today we started the day with a candy cane, to celebrate Christmas Eve.  I broke it up into little pieces and left it for her to find with that prehensile upper lip of hers... sooooo cute!  I also gave Barn Kitty some treats:

Afterward we did some on-line groundwork-- working on Parelli's Circle Game to teach her to keep moving without having to constantly remind her, then some direction changes and transitions, then lateral flexion and yielding hind- and forequarters.  She's getting really good at yielding, today I tried driving with the end of the rope instead of applying direct pressure and she didn''t skip a beat.  We also worked on our figure eights... which I think is more of a challenge for me to communicate what I want then for her to do it!

After all that and a good long rest while working on ground tying, I took her into the round pen and mounted up!  Today I practiced mounting and getting down from both sides, so if I ever need to mount her from the off-side she won't freak out.  At first we just worked on moving forward from leg cues (keeping her going is still a major challenge) and after a while of that I kicked it up a notch by asking her to trot.  I DID eventually get a couple of strides of trot out of her but couldn't get her to repeat it, so my friends Ivón and José Luis helped me out a little.  Hopefully soon I can teach her the cue and we don't need an assistant, but I can't complain-- this is only the fourth time I've ridden her after all.

Sometimes she gets a little pissed at me for kicking her, pins her ears and then turns around and looks at my foot, it's super funny but I try to act all outraged so she won't try to bite my foot at some point and then I'll have to get really serious.  Hopefully she'll figure out that if she just moves forward, the pressure and then kicking will stop.  I try to be all discipline but she's just sooooooo good!

Here's a video at the walk:
And again at the trot:

Friday, December 23, 2011

'Fraidy Cat

As much as I absolutely hate to admit it, I have some fear issues with horses.  I've fallen off, lost control and been bit, kicked and trampled enough times to know that injury is a given-- the only wild card is how serious.  I'm also discovering that my 30-something year old body is not as resilient as my teenage body was, and falls which I once would have classified as anecdotal now develop into weeks or months of nagging pain and unsightly swelling.  On top of everything, I've set out to do something-- train a green filly to be a 100% dependable, bombproof trail horse-- that I honestly have no idea if I really can do and which many people with a lot more horse experience than me have advised me not to try.

So yeah, I have to deal with some fear.  In a lot of ways, this is good, basic survival mechanism stuff and I sure am glad I'm not as death-defying as I was at 18.  But from time to time I'll notice that I don't really feel like working on the "spooky" side of the arena, or walking Starbuck past the barn stallion when she's in heat and he's feeling studdy.  Or we'll take a few too many "vacation" days without actually working.  And when I really start soul-searching, I'll figure out that it's not usually laziness, it's fear.  Fear of her spooking and running away, of the stallion breaking out of his paddock, of either of us sustaining a disabling injury, of not preparing her well enough, of losing my motivation... even of what people might think when they see us doing an exercize that's not going as planned.

This type of fear camouflages itself as laziness or apathy and leads to procrastination, excuse-making and justification.  It's insidiously demotivating, since it's oh-so tempting to tell myself that I've had a long day at work and that she could use some rest anyway to get out of a workout on one of those days where I'm sure all those invisible horse-eating monsters will abound.  But admitting that I don't want to work with her because I'm afraid... well, that's not so acceptable.  Not to mention that it sets a horrible example for Starbuck, who needs to be exposed to as many "scary" situations as possible as often as possible by a calm, responsible leader.  So how to deal with it?

Well, I think the first step is acceptance.  I need to accept that there are some things I'm afraid of and admit that some of these are perfectly valid.  After that, I need to set an internal alarm so that every time I say "Oooof, I really don't feel like doing so-and-so" I look deep inside myself to see if my reluctance is really motivated by fear, and decide whether that fear is rational or not.  And when I recognize my inner 'fraidy cat, I need laugh at myself for finding one of my own personal invisible monsters, go ahead and do what I didn't want to do and then make a note to do it again, and again, and again.

In other words, I need to sack myself out the same way I do with Starbuck: figure out what freaks me out and then keep doing it until I'm no longer phased by it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays

...from my family to yours!

"May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmasses be white (or green!)"

From Sarah, Sergio, Starbuck, Empanada, Bocata and Leia

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Training Vid Tuesday

Another tradition I want to try out is publishing a weekly video from a trainer I respect and admire which can help me and anyone else become a better horse(wo)man.  Today's is from Julie Goodnight's HorseMaster TV Show and focuses on how to teach your horse a cue to lower its head.  This is useful in so many ways, from beginning to get collection to calming your horse down after a plastic bag monster has attacked it.  So enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011


What a long and full Sunday it's been... This morning, Starbuck and I were doing some transitions on the longe line to warm up and see what kind of mood she was in in hopes of riding her later on.  But right when I asked her to canter, she slipped and tumbled over onto her side, landing heavily on her hip.  Turns out that the arena had been watered to keep the sand from flying away in the wind we've been having and the spot I had asked her to canter in was all slippery... oops!  Here's a photo of her all dirty, poor baby!

When she got up I noticed she was limping a little so I asked my instructor if we should turn in or keep working and she said to do some flexibility exercises like small circles, figure eights and walking over ground poles, then let her rest a while.

Well, we had never done figure eights before so Marina graciously showed us how; the idea is for the human to do the following:
  1. Place two markers about 6 feet apart on the ground in front of you.
  2. Stand between the markers but about 3 feet away from them without moving your feet.
  3. Drive the horse away around one of the markers.
  4. Bring the horse back toward you, then send it away around the other marker.
  5. Bring it back toward you and reward with a moment's rest and rubbing :-)
At first it was really hard!  Especially for me just to coordinate my movements and not run around more than her, and for her to calm down enough (after the fall she was kind of jittery) to pay attention, but in the end we got pretty good at it!  The video is taken after trying it out in the morning, then giving her (and me) a couple of hours of rest at lunch and then working on it some more in the afternoon.  She's a little distracted because the kids were playing soccer on the other side of the arena, and I was definitely slacking way too much on the "rest and reward" front (you can tell she gets frustrated because I keep forgetting to tell her she's doing good), but otherwise I think we did pretty good!  And it's a new, low key exercise we can do to spice up my often-boring lesson plans-- always welcome to both of us :-)
In the end she wasn't even limping, I think she was just kind of sore from the impact but I'll check again tomorrow to make sure there's no swelling or hotspots anywhere and I was sure to make her bed extra cushy this evening so she can lie down and sleep in comfort.  It's true I didn't get to ride this weekend like I wanted to but I still think we accomplished a lot: yesterday we worked in the roundpen in extremely windy weather (I figure every time we work together when something "scary" is going on without anything bad happening to her she'll be a little more trusting) and today we learned to do figure eights... maybe I can ride again one day at lunch time this week.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

'Tis The Season

That is, 'tis the season to feel guilty about not sending out Christmas Cards to my family and friends!  It's become a holiday tradition for me to plan to send out Christmas Cards and sometimes even buy the cards and the stamps (one year I got as far as actually writing on one or two of them), but never actually get them in the mail and this year is no different!  So I guess I'll have to beg my husband to drag out the camera, grab the not-so-jolly cats and pose in front of our cheesy Christmas tree, then e-mail the photo to everyone with our holiday wishes hoping that they'll assume that snail mail from Spain to the States is too prohibitively expensive to send.  Although this year we add an element of technical challenge to the endeavor: I somehow have to photoshop Starbuck in with us!  We'll see how it goes...

At any rate, for the upcoming years I've been scouring the web for the best horsey print-your-own greeting cards (also perfect for Facebook felicitations!).  Here you go:

Winter Holidays:

Valentines Day:


Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Photos

Today I want to start a new tradition-- with so many gorgeous horse photos out there on the internet and so many gifted photographers, I'm going to try to dedicate one post a week to highlighting one photographer's work.  Today I want to show some of the photos of The Family Dog on Flickr who is in the Netherlands and has some amazing photos of Fresians silhouetted against the sunset.  Enjoy!


Anthem of the sun

It takes two to tango !

Promised Land


Singing winds , crying beasts

eternal sunshine

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


No, I'm not talking about the internet.  I headed over to the stable today on my lunchbreak and decided to try saddling Starbuck up and riding her again, this time without anyone longeing or leading us.  So after about 20 minutes of roundpen work I hopped up onto her back and away we went... or not really!  It turns out that without someone on the ground moving her around, it's really hard to get her to move forward.  Which I had read like a million times but still wasn't so sure... everyone else seemed to be worried about how I would be able to stop her, but in the end that was SO not the problem: she just wanted to stand still.

So how did we do it?  At first I had my friend Virginia "leading" Starbuck around the pen but without any line, just moving her off with body language.  Then we tried just cueing her to move with increasing pressure: 1st a light leg squeeze, then a light kick and vocal cue, then medium kick and vocal cue, then hard kick, vocal cue and a slap with the rope on the neck.  But that wasn't working very well, so we tried walking in circles (horses have less balance to the side so it's much easier to get them to move to the side than forward and back) and then straightening up, which worked better but still not 100%.

Finally I remembered something I think I read in one of either John Lyons' or Elisabeth de Corbigny's books: you get them to yield the hindquarters left, then right, then left again, then right again but bending less and less each time until they walk forward.  With this I really was able to get the meaning of the leg cue across to her, and for the last 5 minutes or so she consistently moved forward with either a squeeze or a light kick.  During the ride I only used a leadline attached to a rope halter to steer, but at the very end of the ride we worked on giving to the bit with lateral flexion right and left.  I think maybe three more rides and I'll start using the bridle more than the halter, but I want to get some good impulsion first-- I hate lazy walkers.

The whole way back to work I was BEAMING, I really feel proud of myself and of Starbuck for reaching this goal-- and without any broken bones (knock on wood).  I know that we still have a loooooooooong way to go, but for me this is a huge step in the right direction.  And the best part is that she seems to be mentally 100% comfortable with me on her back and not "sour" at all about it.  I have to make sure not to screw that up by pulling on her mouth or not releasing pressure when she responds to a cue... lots of old "lesson horse" habits to break.  But that's a whole 'nother story.

I apologize in advance for the video-- it's really long since it encompasses the entire ride, and unfortunately my "tripod" is an orange tree where I don't have a full view of the roundpen, so there are lots of gaps where we're not even visible.  If you're interested, just kind of skip around until you see some action.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How do I love thee...

How do I love thee today, Starbuck...
Let me count the ways:

  1. You came to me when I called your name and stuck your nose right into the halter.
  2. You didn't balk at the turn towards the arena.
  3. You lifted all four feet easily and didn't try to snatch them back from me while I picked them out.
  4. You stood quietly like a big girl while I was tacking you up and didn't fuss about the cinch.
  5. You paid attention to me while longeing and listened to all my cues.
  6. You stood ground tied for a whole minute while I walked around you and hung out at the end of the line.
  7. You were nice and relaxed while I mounted you and moved forward eagerly at the walk and trot while I was on your back, even though it was difficult for you to balance carrying so much weight.
  8. You make me so unbelievably proud of you every single day we spend together and constantly show me how my capacity for trust and love just gets deeper and deeper.
Thank you Starbuck for a wonderful day!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011


I have to admit, I wasn't planning to put a blanket on Starbuck at all this winter, hoping that her furry coat, metabolism and her hay-filled, three-sided shelter would be enough to keep her warm.  I mean, we're not exactly in Siberia here.  And according to the folks at, that should be the case as long as it's not raining or windy.  But apparently rain takes away the coat's ability to insulate the horse's skin from the cold and the wind sucks away body heat, which I noticed when we were sacking out with the umbrella-- it wasn't even that cold (I was just wearing a normal hoodie and a slicker) but she was shivering and obviously miserable about the temperature.  So I started thinking it would be nice for her to have a blanket only for rainy or even snowy nights this winter (yes, apparently it does snow here on Mallorca from time to time).  So great, another expense, right?

But my amazing friend Virginia, proud owner of Coco, has once again come to the rescue!  Coco has outgrown her old blanket and Vir got her a new one yesterday, handing me down the old blanket.  We tried it on Starbuck yesterday and it's a little big but otherwise perfect for my girl!!!  So here she is, modelling it:

And here are some helpful links on blanketing (or not):

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


This morning the swelling in my knee had gone down and I could bend it without much pain so I decided to head out to the barn.  Since I have a horseback ride along the beach in Cala Ratjada planned with some friends this weekend I didn't want to risk hurting my knee again, I decided to do something a little more low-key than usual.  I've noticed that Starbuck tends to balk at the corner where she first sees the arena and tying posts, so we just practiced coming and going past that point over and over again, stopping every now and then to graze as a little reward.  In the end she wasn't balking at all, but I'm interested to see if it's enough to keep her from doing it in the future.

I also got out the new saddle and took a photo of Starbuck modeling it; I think it looks pretty good!  It'll look even better once I've finished cleaning it and greasing all the leather parts, I can't wait to use it to ride Starbuck :-D

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Good news, Bad news

Today I have good news and bad news.  Not really bad news, just bad enough to screw up my routine for the next couple of days, which is frustrating since I'm on holiday!!!!! :-(  But I guess that's the way it goes.  So which do you want first?  The bad news, you say?  Well too bad for you, because I uploaded the good news photo first XP

Good news: After very nearly spending 280€ on a no brand, imported from god-knows-where but pretty and new trail saddle, I got a call this morning from my friend Virginia whose dressage teacher was selling her all-purpose, synthetic English saddle.  For 30€!  With stirrups and girth included!  So obviously I was interested and when they got to the stable, we tried it on Starbuck-- it doesn't fit her perfectly but with some of the filling removed it'll be fine-- and checked it out and I ended up buying it!  So now I have my very first saddle :D :D :D  And I can still buy Christmas presents!!!  Here's a photo of it, when I get around to taking photos of Starbuck with it on I'll post them too.
Bad news: First of all let me set the stage, this morning was one of those crisp, windy, sunny winter mornings that horses like so much, and the barn retirees (four 25+ year old horses who aren't ridden any longer) were grazing next to the arena.  I was longeing Starbuck in hopes of riding her afterward when Ronnie, one of the oldies, suddenly decided he wanted to make friends.  So he ran up with that playful trot horses do and Starbuck reciprocated, completely forgetting about me.  She ran off, I forgot to let go of the longeline (when oh when will I learn that I CANNOT hold her!?) and I fell forward, bashing my left knee into the ground.  It swelled up so much that I finally went to the doctor and had X-Rays taken just in case, but it's nothing but a bump.  Hell of a goose egg, though:
I guess I'll be taking it easy for the next few days... when will I be able to ride Starbuck again?  I feel like at this stage we're regressing, although Marina says that this is a natural learning curve, that horses always go from good to bad to better to worse to not-so-bad to best and Starbuck's just in the "worse" part...  I know also that the weather plays a part and that all the horses in the barn are acting up (just look at old Ronnie pretending to be a foal) but it sure is frustrating to lose her attention in that way and as a result have our training put on hold for a few days.

But in a way it's a good thing because now I know it's something I really need to work on before there's a serious wreck; and it's better for these things to happen and get fixed on the ground rather than from the saddle.  And if she's in the low part of the learning curve then hopefully there's nowhere to go from here but up!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


The other day my friend René helped me try a western saddle on Starbuck for the first time, he's been kind enough to let us borrow it so I'll probably use it to ride her one of these days :-)  I actually think western saddles are really comfortable and give a lot more support to their rider than an english saddle, they're just too heavy for me to want to use it every day.  But she looks great in it anyway!!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Barefoot Beauty

Lately Starbuck has been getting much cooler about me lifting her hooves, so I finally decided she was ready for the farrier to give her her first hoof trim.  So I called a farrier, Xisco, who I've seen working before with other horses at the barn; I chose him because he's really calm and takes his time in order to make it a completely stress-free experience for the horse, because the hooves he works on are nicely formed and healthy and also because he doesn't mind explaining what and why he's doing.  But even so I was worried about Starbuck behaving herself, so I got to the barn early and did some roundpen work with her before Xisco arrived.

As it turns out I had absolutely nothing to worry about-- Xisco was really patient and let Starbuck get used to the idea of him doing wierd stuff to her hooves, and Starbuck just went along with it apart from lots of curiosity and a little bit of resistance at first.  The farrier said her hooves were healthy and correctly formed except for that she's a little toed out.  He took some extra height off the outside quarters to compensate but recommended that I shoe her.  At first I had planned on not shoeing her until I started taking her on long trail rides and using boots for at least the first year, but I guess I'll do some more research...

The best part was that since Starbuck stayed calm and unstressed the whole time (at the end of the session she had her head down and lower lip totally relaxed while Xisco rasped her hind hooves!), I know that every time she gets a trim she'll be even calmer!  What a good, brave girl!!!  At any rate I wanted to immortalize the moment; so here are the photos: