This blog is dedicated to my friend, my mentor, and the best teacher I have ever had. Without him, I would not have embarked on this amazing journey. Split, this blog is for you!
Ponderosa Misty Icon, aka "Split," is a handsome gray Welsh pony who came to me via a phone call "out of the blue" (actually Peterborough, Ontario). Our first few months together were rocky to say the least, which made me question my ability as a horse owner, as a horsewoman, and as a rider. Forty years of horse ownership had not prepared me for this little gray pony!
But we muddled through and because of Split, I have begun a journey that is both spiritual and enlightening. I hope something here resonates with you and that you'll check back now and then.
We leave you with one of our favorite quotes: "The best whisper is a click!"

Friday, July 22, 2011

We're On Our Own!

Jelly and I have now completed 4 agility classes and have earned the right to train on our own at the trainer's facility! For me, this was the ultimate gift because we can go to the field and practice, using our clicker and breaking down each obstacle into small steps. During the class we usually have at least 5 other dogs and handlers in our group and naturally the trainers would like to keep things moving. They offer a lot of help and always give positive encouragement and suggestions but in the end, we must move along quickly. Those of you who understand clicker training can imagine how that makes us feel. But I know what the trainers are up against and they're doing an excellent job! The last words Glen said to all of us Wednesday night were, "You're doing fantastic, all of ya! Great job, everybody!"
Jelly is still reluctant to approach the obstacles at any pace other than a walk and she will often stop just before the obstacle, or mid-way over/thru/under, and stand there THINKING about whether or not she wants to continue. If we were on our own, this would be perfectly acceptable and I would simply let her figure things out. It's harder when you have 5 other teams waiting their turn behind you.
So yesterday morning - before it got too hot - we went to the field to practice our agility.
I began by C/T Jelly for approaching the first little jump with a happy attitude. Then I stood on the other side of it and called her name. I held the line and just waited. Jelly looked at the jump, "thunk" for a second, and then hopped neatly over it! Yay! C/T. We did this with every single jump. The next time, I C/T every 2 jumps and in the end, she was trotting and jumping beautifully over all 8 jumps - with no hesitation and a happy expression on her face. We then practiced the "catwalk" which is 2 steep ramps with a "catwalk" in between. The catwalk is pretty high and can be intimidating for small dogs.
Jelly did some hesitating when she got on the catwalk but again, I simply waited while she looked around and considered her options. I made sure my hand was ready to grab her harness if she should decide to jump down (not a good idea!) but other than that, I just talked to her and encouraged her. Finally, she simply trotted the rest of the way along the walk, down the ramp to the bottom. She immediately sat for her treat, grinning as only Jellybean Beagle can do!!!
Thank goodness for the power of the click! Here's a quote from my grandfather's favorite author. I think it rings true for many of us:

“Change your thoughts and you change your world” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Have a great weekend, everyone and stay cool!! Oh - and look for new photos here soon because I just bought a CAMERA! Yay! Click and treat for me! Get it? Camera? CLICK? Oh.....never mind! :0)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Animals Do The Darndest Things

Anyone remember the old Art Linkletter show, "Kids Say The Darndest Things?" (Yes, I'm old. We've already established that fact. LOL) Well, I've discovered that animals DO the darndest things! (They also SAY the darndest things but that's a subject for another day.)
Tuesday Split and I went for a walk around the property (on line) and he was very interested in everything as always. He discovered some things on the lawn that shouldn't be there like my brother-in-law's bright green cooler that had suddenly "sprouted up" on the lawn or my husband's pitching net.......He walked right up, sniffed them, licked them and then turned to me, asking, "That's not supposed to be there, right?" So were moseyin' along, la la la, when suddenly Split snorted, jumped 3' sideways (away from me - he's a good boy), and stood there, neck arched and nostrils flared because there it was.....the big, the rusty, the faded green, hole ridden, black-tired monster.......THE WHEELBARROW!!!!! Dear lord, that horse has seen that same wheelbarrow every single day for 5 1/2 years and suddenly it's out to kill him. For a nanosecond, I too, was startled because I couldn't figure out what the heck had caused such an intense reaction and then..........I saw the wheelbarrow. I had to burst out laughing! I marched over to it (still holding the lead rope), touched the side of the barrow and said, "TOUCH IT!" (Targeting - don't leave home without it!) He trusts me so he tippy-toed forward, snorting slightly, and grazed the edge of the wheelbarrow with his nose. He drew back in surprise, snuffled, and stuck his nose right back on it again. I clicked and treated and then Split - clever boy that he is - figured, "Aha! The wheelbarrow! I got clicked and treated for THAT? This is gonna be good!" And he proceeded to touch that wheelbarrow with his nose over and over in rapid succession, each time looking to me - the vending machine! - for a treat. ha ha ha I c/t him a few times and then said, "Alright. Enough of that." The rest of our walk was great fun. We played, "Can You Match This?" I would walk slowly and see if he would match me; I'd speed up, stop, back up, etc. Great fun and it puts us both in the mindset of "I'd better pay attention here" so we really tune in to each other's body language.
Animals........they do the darndest things!
I googled quotes from Art Linkletter and found the following. For those of us who are clicker trainers, it's PERFECT:

I've learned it's always better to have a small percentage of a big success, than a hundred percent of nothing.
Art Linkletter

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Buck - A Movie Review

OK. I used to watch Siskel and Ebert. I can do this. I mean, how hard can it be to watch a movie and then report your thoughts to your adoring public? Well, harder than I thought....
My daughter Katie and I treated ourselves to a matinee yesterday and went to see "Buck" the bio of Buck Brannaman. I'd read a review in the "Preview" section of our local paper and it included a brief interview with Buck himself, talking about the movie. According to that article, Buck is pleased with the results of the filming and editing and has seen the movie 4 times himself! That seemed like a pretty good indication that it was a movie worthy of my $7.50 so off we went.
Three words: I LOVED IT. Is Buck Brannaman perfect? No, but then who among us is? (Well, there are those who THINK they're perfect but I don't like them and they're no longer my friends! LOL) But I found myself hanging on his every word because they rang very true to me. He talked about how the horse is a mirror of ourselves and sometimes we don't like what we see lookin' back at us. He talked about mutual respect, about how anger shuts down communication between horse and human, and - wonder of wonders - he told the people in his clinic that it's NOT JUST ABOUT THE HORSE!!! People interviewed for the film included Buck's family and friends, the riders in his clinics and - may I say one of my favorites - Robert Redford. At one point Buck was faced with a disastrously difficult horse and I won't give away what happens but when he lit into the owner about taking responsibility for her own life, telling her that she should take a good, hard look at HERSELF, I found myself biting my fingernails to keep from crying. Because I know how that human felt but I also realized that Buck was being 100% honest and I've had to take a hard look at MYSELF - much closer than I wanted to - in order to become the person my animals love and respect.
There's some very disturbing footage of "horse training" from the 40's or 50's and it's not pretty and I wanted to stand up and scream, "STOP IT!" How far we've come!
Go see this movie and take away from it whatever you will. The quote I most remember is from a woman who was talking about "horse whisperers" in general. She said that most trainers like Buck Brannaman are, as human beings, more sensitive than others; many of them are "tortured souls on some level" and that's why they identify so deeply with the horses. I intend to go see this movie again!

Your horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see… sometimes you will. ~ Buck Brannaman

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Typos......Free Entertainment!

I love a good typo! I have this uncanny ability to find them and they always make me laugh. It's like free entertainment. I've decided to start sharing them with others and if you find any, please share them with me!!
From the internet today:
While the nation's third largest city was recovering from the sudden storm, much of the rest of the country was experiencing stiffing heat
Do they mean "stifling?" I thought you only got stiff if you were really cold....or dead...or..... (don't even GO THERE, you perverts!! LOL)
The other day WRGB on line ran an article about swimming pool installation scams. They ended with the line, "Many home owners have seen their planes end up in the deep end."
I couldn't resist....I had to email them and ask, "Were they PONTOON PLANES?" I never got a reply. Not even a "thanks for pointing out our error." Apparently they don't share my delight at finding others' mistakes.
Because I'm hearing impaired, I rely heavily on closed captioning to understand what's being said on TV. My favorite, all-time typo occurred during Hurricane Katrina. The reporter kept talking about "buckling asphalt" (I could hear that and the photos helped) but the closed captioning kept scrolling "bucking ass fault." I finally had to change the channel for fear I would pee my pants laughing!!
Send me your favorite typos!

The wastebasket is a writer's best friend. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

I guess these days it would be the delete key, huh?

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's Not All About Me

Saturday was blistering hot here in the Great Northeast. I've learned to cope with the inevitable......When I work outside, I take out my hearing aides so that when I get over-heated, I can just grab the hose and "water" myself (without killing $4,000 worth of hearing appliances). It's so hot that I dry very quickly and I'm cool for at least 10 minutes. Sometimes I wear nylon shorts and a t-shirt and if I feel like I'm getting over-heated, I just take off my work boots and socks and jump - fully clothed - into the pool! Then I get out, put on the boots and socks and carry on.............
But the heat brings grief and misery to my animals, too. Poor Jelly is mostly black and even when she's in the shade, she gets hot very quickly and soon starts baying, "Moooooom! Let me iiiiiiiiiin!" I turn on the ceiling fans for her and she conks out on the sofa to snooze the hot day away. Poor Jingle the mini donk tends to collect flies on her skinny little legs so I have some wraps I fashioned for her to keep them away. She doesn't sweat the way Split does. She protects herself by scratching out a dust pile with her sharp hooves in the paddock and then she gets down and rolls in it. The dirt protects her body from the fly bites - pretty much. Split, on the other hand, is totally traumatized by flies. He sees them as his deadliest enemy and even when painted with fly spray, he will twitch and kick and swish his tail and bite at himself. Sometimes, he'll even come flying in from the pasture 5 minutes after being let out, whinnying, "HEEEEEELP!" Usually I take pity on him and toss him some hay inside the nice, cool barn.
Saturday the bugs seemed particularly ravenous and as I started to open the gate to let the horses out, Split was biting at his left flank and trying to reach under his leg. He stomped his foot hard and twitched and bit at himself. I could see a huge horse fly biting at his belly and tried to shoo it away but it was very persistent. I finally just opened the gate and Split took a few steps and then stopped and literally stretched his left leg out behind him. He stomped, he turned and bit under his leg again and snaked his head around. Danged fly! My husband had asked me to check the electric tape in the pasture because he'd taken some down in order to mow out back - he wanted me to "eyeball" it to make sure he'd gotten it all back up on the posts again. Split had stopped to graze so I just moseyed past him - as I've done hundreds of times - and continued out into the pasture. A few seconds later, seemingly out of nowhere, he blew past me, bucking and kicking out at me!!!! I was stunned and angry and let out a, "HEY! Don't you EVER kick at me!" This was highly unusual and I was offended! I was pissed off! Split wasn't listening. He was too busy running in a circle, snaking and shaking his head - yikes! And then he stopped and began frantically biting under his leg again. Aha. It was the flies.....It wasn't about me at all. I could see several large horse flies attached to his underbelly, near his sheath and I reckon I wouldn't like that either!! I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And clearly no kick had even come near me but it had startled me to see that left hind coming out in my direction and I took it as a personal insult. I walked over to Split and skritched his withers and reached under to shoo the flies away. He was grateful and nuzzled me. I apologized - several times.
How many times, I asked myself later, have I been guilty of punishing an animal for what I perceived as a personal insult when the animal was simply reacting to stress or anxiety or pain in the only way they knew how? It didn't have anything to do with me personally (unless I unknowingly inflicted the pain!) but I took it that way. I would get angry and blame the animal and immediately shut off any effective communication between us. Split taught me an important lesson on Saturday: IT'S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU, SILLY HUMAN. Did he make a mistake by kicking out in my direction, thereby placing me in danger? Well, I don't know about that. He was in pain. He was trying to get away from it. I'm not sure he even realized I was standing there at that point. Sometimes accidents are just that.......accidents. But I like to think that Split knew exactly where he was when he kicked out - he knew he wasn't going to harm me. He never has.....never will intentionally. My husband told a friend just yesterday, "That pony doesn't have a malicious bone in his body." Sigh.........yeah, it's not always about me. Silly human.
I always look for a quote to stick here or there in my blog and today I found one that I really like but it has nothing to do with the blog. It just made me laugh and think, "Hmmm......If ol Frank were only alive today........" I think I may be one of those "fools."
"I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters."
- Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1959)