Friday, March 7, 2008

Baby Boomer Dreams - Dandy's Story Chapter 2

Chapter 1

Sometime during that first year of starting groundwork on the Arabian horse, my husband built some trail obstacles for me out in the pasture. Wouldn't you know it, Dandy and his brother Aidol were out there trying to help.

The two horses were busy picking up the cut boards, the hammer and other tools and the bag of nails, anything they could get into as Dave tried to assemble that gate and bridge. Nothing scared either of them, not even Dave shooing them away. As a matter of fact, the more he tried to get them to leave the closer they came convinced it was all part of the game.

As Dave was nailing the boards onto the deck of the bridge, Dandy was walking up onto that brand new deck. The goofy gelding was putting his nose right down close to see what Dave was pounding. The horse is lucky he didn't get bopped in the muzzle with the hammer.

Next thing you know there's 2 year old Dandy standing on top of this half built bridge. He sniffed over each side while waiting for Dave to apply another board. That's where he stayed until Aidol chased him off wanting his turn at the game. So Dandy came up behind Dave and began rifling through his pockets.

Onto the gate and Dave had the same kind of problems. The horses wanted to be included in the project. They flung the cut boards around and played with the hinges and slide. When that stuff got boring they went back to annoying Dave. I swear by the time he got both projects done the man was half dressed by horses tugging at his clothes.

Once Dave was finished and left the pasture, both horses had been up over and through about every direction possible. They were pretty sure the new toys were there for their enjoyment. Is it any surprise I began doing in hand trail with Dandy?

Arabian horse shows don't usually have trail in hand classes. The only Arabian show I know of that offers this class is the Egyptian Event. There's not much chance I'll ever be showing there because I'm not breeding Straight Egyptian horses, but the thought of teaching Dandy to do trail in hand seemed like a smart thing to do.

I figured if I could control the horse from the ground, it would be a lot easier to control him once I was on him. So I started off with an "L" shaped obstacle made out of railroad ties that would work as a back through or to sidepass. I built a water box with railroad ties and a tarp. I had cones and barrels that I could use to do figure 8's, serpentines and cloverleafs. With my bridge and gate, I was set to go.

Right from the start Dandy loved doing trail. It was all a big game and he loved the added attention. I could spend hours out there teaching him how to move off my cues.

Usually when he wasn't getting something, it turned out to be me. I wasn't asking correctly. I had a copy of Horse and Rider in my back pocket that I'd pull out to see which way I should be tipping his head and where the cue should be on his side. Of course, the article was written for ridden trail, but it didn't take much to translate it to the ground cues. The result was a horse that grew softer and softer about pressure on the lead and pressure on his side.

Even with those two years of working the horse from the ground, I was worried about getting on the Arabian gelding for the first time. I had no idea how much this in hand trail work added to his condition, balance or to his understanding to my use of cues in the saddle. Had I known I would have a supple horse with great steering and a wonderful "Whoa!" button, I probably would not have been so concerned.

Before I even attempted that first ride, I had read every article or book I could get my hands on about that first ride. I had seen John Lyon's with his round pen reasoning and starting a horse in a weekend. I had so many conflicting ideas I just decided to go with what seemed best suited to Dandy and my.

Not having an enclosed area made getting on the horse for the first time not the best idea in the world to be doing at home. So I joined the Tacoma Unit of the Washington State Horsemen. That membership for $150 and 8 hours of volunteer time each year gave me a covered arena and access to a round pen. The only drawback was I couldn't ride whenever they had scheduled events. That included club nights three nights a week.

I clearly remember that first ride just like it happened yesterday. I hauled my horse in my little tin can size trailer the half hour trip. Tied him to the trailer (which I had not taught the horse how to do ahead of time!) and saddled him up. Then I headed for the round pen shaking like a leaf.

I swear my heart was in my throat as I put weight into the stirrup for the first time. I banged and slapped the stirrups with the horse just standing there. I tried a bit of weight and the horse didn't budge so I swung up into the saddle and mounted the horse for the first time.

No one was there except for Dandy and me and I was petrified. Dandy just stood there quietly waiting for me to tell him what to do. The horse couldn't have been more relaxed if he was on drugs. I was the one that needed the drugs but Dandy wasn't the least bit bothered by my fear.

To be continued............

Part 3
The top picture is Dandy and I when he was about a month old. The next picture is that of thind instigator brother of his, Aidol.

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  1. I thought you might like to know that I have just spent the last 3 hours reading your blog! You are a fabulous writer. It's been so wonderful to read your story! Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. LOL MiKael-- Dandy sounds like a great guy! I guess it is really true what they say about Arabs being "pocket ponies". Poor Dave! Glad the "kids" left him SOME clothes on.... talk about a Kodak moment there...hehehe..

    Your trial course is an excellent idea. I have been wondering what to do that would help Sonny (and other reahb horses) and that might just be THE perfect toy for us all!
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. WOW! Dandy sounds like an amazing horse and that you did everything right by him!

  4. So, I'm not the only one who shakes like a leaf! I went through the same thing with Gunner after he recovered from EPM.

    I love the Rhythm story and now I'm in love with Dandy as well.

  5. LOL! Sounds like the first time I "rode" Diago! I know...Diago was MUCH more relaxed and calm than I was! :) Can't wait to read more about Dandy!!

  6. kim, welcome and thanks for commenting. It's always nice to meet new folks.

    mrs mom, who knew back then I would need pictures for a blog, so another Kodak moment missed. lol

    The purpose of my trail course was to rehab the ring sour show horse I had bought. I wanted him to have something else to think about going around in the arena. It totally changed his attitude. There's a great story there as well. lol

    beth, well I won't go so far as to say I did everything right by him. I kina stumbled into this because of his curiosity.

    kathy c, nope, you're not alone. I don't shake nearly as much now but I still shake some.

    Dandy is a special horse, that's for sure and quite a character.

  7. You were writing about my mare and her "whatcha doin?" curiosity last night! I was cleaning her stall but she had to be .right. there......I lost several sifters of manure because a shoulder, nose or chest was in the way!

    The first time I got up on Paige she stood fine for mounting but then backed up over and over and over trying to "get where she belonged" as I was "behind her" somewhere. Poor baby had been so reinforced by seeing me next to her she needed help learning to listen when she couldn't see me.

  8. I love those pesky curious horses.

    I hope my stallion just stands around and takes his first ride like he's been doing it for years. There are some parelels here lol. I've spent the last two years just getting him healthy. Last summer I started putting the saddle on him, he could have cared less. This summer we ride. I'm scared to death, but I have faith in my boy. :)

    He'll be 4, a little late for his first ride, but he's healthy and happy now, so we're gonna do it. I will have people on hand at the time though, just in case.

    I can't wait to hear more about Dandy. I've been waiting to hear his story.

  9. Wow MiKael, you are so brave! I'm really impressed. I dream of starting a horse by myself one day, but it will be awhile before I gain the confidence/competence to do it.

    Dandy seems like a really nice horse. That's such a cute story about him "helping" to build the bridge and gate. It's also nice that you have a handy husband to help you with your equine addiction!

    I really think your blog is helping people see that Arabian horses aren't as a breed necessarily hot or spooky. I'll admit that I kind of thought that before I started reading your blog last year. But now I remember all of the nice Arabian horses I've met over the years, and realize you're right! They aren't wild, snorting beasts. For every hot Arabian, there's also a quiet Arabian - just like any other breed.

    Thanks for writing your blog - I enjoy reading it every day. Can't wait until tomorrow!

  10. That pic of you too is so sweet!

    As I was reading I literally felt my heart start to beat faster lol.

    I can't wait to hear what comes next!

  11. I agree, there is always a nervous moment getting on any horse the first time, no matter how much groundwork has been done. You never know what they are going to do!

    I got on Kaswyn the first three times in an empty stall with no buckets. At first I just draped my body over the saddle, and when it was clear that he wasn't upset I swung my leg over. We walked in circles both directions and then I just sat there giving him lots of pats and praise. It worked out really well because I knew he couldn't get any speed up in the stall. We went from there to being lunged in the ring. He was a champ. :)

  12. What a great story! I love it when the horses try to participate in what's going on in the pasture. My old grade mare used to do that to my Dad when he would be out in the pasture working on something. Even cleaning out the septic tank she would be right on his elbow!! Thanks for the story and bringing back some fun memories!

  13. Dandy looks eminently huggable

  14. he was such a beautiful foal!!!

    love the photo, he looks like he is preening :)

    Dandy sounds like the BEST horse ever to train...

  15. holly, yes, I love those curious attitudes. lol

    lady of chaos, I hope all goes well on your first ride and all of those after it.

    haffiegirl, I'm glad that my blog is helping you remember what you already knew about Arabians. I think lots of times the myth gets perpetuated just because people get so used to hearing it they forget about the good ones they've seen.

    inkeq, funny, my heart was beating faster too, just remembering that time. lol

    dressagemom, I know a number of people who get on a horse in the stall for the first time. I'm afraid after the wreck I had with Reflection that's no longer something I'll try. I learned the hard way I had a false sense of security in there. That's where I really got hurt was in the stall.

    midlife mom, I'm glad you have such a great memory. That's pretty cool.

    kahless, I have so many pictures of me hugging that foal even I get bored with them. lol I guess he must have been irresistable to me.

    barngoddess, I think he really likes being hugged. He always seems to find a way to hug me back.

  16. I may not always comment, but I always read your wonderful blog.
    I learn so much from your excellent 'hands-on' experienced writings. THANK YOU!

    By the way, Dan must be a great man of patience and humor with all the horses getting in his business. haha!

    I love that photo of you and Dandy as a colt.
    You seem like a pair even then.

  17. That top picture is so cute!