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Picasso Moon has been laying low over the winter.  He was 3 years old when I got him, so 2010 will be his 4th year.  I decided to give him some space to grow and learn what it means to be a horse. Fitting in with other horses has caused Picasso some problems in the past.  The foster home where he was living when I first met him wanted to adopt him, but he could not get along with the other horses there and was getting beat up regularly.  Understanding space and respecting the space of others has been his quandary both with his equine companions and with humans.  Coming from a rescue background as Picasso did, it is doubtful that he was allowed to interact with other horses naturally.  When he first arrived here, he got himself into some conflicts when he would try to groom another horse and bite too hard. Despite the consequences, he didn’t seem to modify his behavior.

Initially I paired him with Chansyk, and older mare who I knew would correct his behavior, but not hurt him.  She had been a mom a few times in her life, so I thought she would be a safe bet.  And she was.  When Sage was still part of the herd, I put Picasso Moon into the pasture with Chansyk, Sage, and Beau.  I thought it would be a nice safe balance of energy.  Sage was taking care of Beau at that time and Chansyk was not paired up with anyone.  The  mares allowed Beau and Picasso to meet under their suppervision.

Beau wasn’t too thrilled with the new arrangement, but he spent most of his time with Sage, so it didn’t matter too much.

Things changed for the pasture mate dynamics when Sage passed away in Oct.  The weather was getting cold and wet and the horses tended to huddle around their shelters.  Picasso was not welcome once Chanysk took charge of caring for Beau.  She saawPicasso as a threat to her role as the protector of Beau.

Picasso’s behavior was not improving.  He was not getting the horse interaction he needed.  Picasso was getting hard to handle in hand on the ground while he was being lead to and from his pasture.  One day he was so difficult to handle that I was ready to send him to auction myself.  At that point I decided to turn  him over to a “higher authority”… and I don’t mean God.  I put him in the pasture with Azure, Jaspar, and Robin and decided to let them determine his fate.  He need some behavior modification.  Picasso Moon had been on a few trail rides with Azure and Robin and had proven himself trust worthy in those situations.  Picasso likes to lead and is very sound minded, rarely spooks at anything, and can lead them safely around trail obstacles.  They had trailered together peacefully and I hoped that would set the foundation for a positive pasture situation.

Picasso Moon took on his new situation with gusto.  He was quick to let the others see he was a force…

Jaspar seemed under impressed by Picasso’s dramatics. Jaspar is not one to waste a lot of energy.  He knows the ways of the wild horse and keeps his energy reserved in case he has to head for the hills quickly. Jaspar is interesting as the group leader.  He is not mean or controlling by force.  Usually, all he needs to do is give a horse a “look” and they get the message.  Picasso is not used to such body language. But he will learn.

When Azure and Robin arrived, Picasso is quick to greet them.

But Azure is tall and not intimidated by the greeting.

I think Azure recognizes a kindred spirit in Picasso Moon. When I first got Azure he was much the same way.  He too was out of a rescue situation and had little training. He didn’t know much about being a horse among horses either.  Topaz, Sage, and Jaspar had to teach him.  So things are coming full circle.

Picasso is getting to learn about bantering among horses and learning to feel safe and respected among peers.  He know where his place is now and has found a real home.  A place where his spirit is matched.

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Trip To The Park

When the sun is out this time of year, it means stop what you are doing, load up the horses, and head to the park for a ride.  You never know how long it will be until you get another chance!

Picasso Moon loaded into the trailer with Azure and Robin just like he had done it a million times.  In reality, it was his first time.  But not much phases this guy, he is like an old pro at some many things a lot of horses struggle with and he is just about to be 4 years old.  He trailers like a dream.  Azure kicks his front foot against the trailer wall and sounds like a prisoner trying to get out.  I always hate hauling Azure through town because people who don’t know horses probably think he is being tormented.  Actually, Azure is eating hay and I think he just likes the sound of his hoof making music on the trailer wall.  Picasso Moon rides like a pro… and quietly.  I thought he might hesitate to get into this small a space with horses he only knows across the barn, but he didn’t care.  The hay was good.

Picasso Moon is borrowing a saddle from Jaspar right now.  You wouldn’t think those two horses could share a saddle since Jaspar is built like a tank, but they actually have a lot in common in terms of the length of their backs and shoulders.  Both need a really short skirted saddle with rounded edges.  Jaspar’s breast collar needed some holes punched in it to make it short enough for Picasso Moon, and the girth size is much different:)  Picasso got saddled and waited patiently for me to finish up things around the trailer before we took off.

Picasso Moon was born to ride the trails!  He took off to lead the way right from the very beginning.  Robin and Azure have been to this park many times, so I thought Picasso would defer to them, but nope… he was going to lead the way.  Brave pony!    Azure and Robin were perfectly happy to let him go to the lead.  It reminded us of that old cereal commercial with “Mikie”… let him try it.  Anyway Picasso led like a champ.  He crossed all the bridges without hesitation, lead past the scary blue plastic tree starts (all the newly planted trees have about an 18” blue plastic canister type thing around them for protection and there are areas of the park where it looks like a field of blue plastic), around fallen tree stumps (Azure is sure that cougars live in those fresh tree stumps so he was happy to send out Picasso Moon first), and all the other trail obstacles of winter.

Since Picasso Moon is still quite fresh to being ridden, I let him make the decisions about walking and trotting.  He is actually a fast paced walker when he is focused, so Azure and Robin could move at a comfortable pace.  Picasso Moon reminds me a lot of Azure on the trail.  They both are very independent and not too effected by things around them.  Although Picasso Moon did have one sideways jump when a bird flew across his path just in front of him.  The Blue Heron sitting in the pond was ok, even when he took off, but that little bird who flew straight in front of him was a different story.  But one spook hardly rates a mention.  Fortunately we didn’t see any deer or elk.  The park has a herd of elk that live in it, we hear about it all the time, but have never actually seen them first hand.  The trail signs show pictures of elk and that is the closest I would like to get to them

When I am trail riding Picasso Moon, it is easy to forget he is so young and so new to riding.  He doesn’t have a ton of steering, but he moves off of my leg pretty well.  When he is trotting if I want him to stop, pulling on the reins doesn’t mean anything to him, so I just have to let out my breath and stop moving myself and he goes back to the walk.  We have gotten a few strides of canter in and they are so smooth.  It took Azure a long time to be comfortable carrying weight and cantering, so it surprises me a bit that Picasso Moon doesn’t hesitate.  All his gaits are nice to ride.  He may be short, but he is well built.

What a great ride we had.  We couldn’t have asked for a better first trip to the park.  Glad the weather broke long enough for us to seize the moment:)  Wish there were more pictures!  This last one was taken with an iPhone.

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Welcome home Picasso Moon!

Where is Sage when you need her?  I bet that is what Picasso Moon is thinking.  He went to school a couple of days after her passing away and the dynamics of the herd changed a lot since then.  Sage was always the horse who welcomed new horses and made the others accept the new herd member by befriending them. Sage was a horse that horses liked.  She wasn’t the “alpha” mare, she was the popular, friendly girl. Whenever Azure or Jaspar would go off to school for example, Sage would mediate their return to the herd.  She was not a fighter.  Most of the time she would simply stand in a position  that defuse potential bantering between the herd and the returning horse. I saw Sage do this so many times over the years I had her that I know it wasn’t a fluke.  I’ve never seen a horse behavior authority talk about a horse like Sage.  The alpha mare gets all the press.  Yet herds need a horse like Sage for balance.

Chanysk is the “alpha”  mare of our herd.  Since Sage  passed away, Chansyk has taken care of Beau and becomes his eyes and guardian.  She takes her new role very seriously and it works for Beau.  The return of Picasso Moon signals a readjustment for the herd. When Chansyk realizes that a new comer has entered her guardian area, she is called to action.

Alpha mare in full glory.  Note the expression on her face and the intensity she conveys.

Picasso takes the hint and relocates to another part of the pasture.  Chansyk moves pretty good for an old girl!  She is 26 years young.  Generally, she can’t be bothered by most things. But an invader in her eyes must be put in his place.

The amazing thing to watch during this whole process was Beau.  Somehow he was able to follow Chansyk around the pasture.  I don’t know how he did it. He used to have a hard time finding Sage when she would walk off when he didn’t realize.  Beau would call and call to Sage trying to find her and she would just let him struggle until he found her again.  But with Chansyk, Beau was moving around the pasture with her as if he could follow her.

Chanyk never let Beau struggle or feel lost in the process of monitoring the pasture and making it clear to Picasso Moon where he was and wasn’t welcome. She would take Beau up to a rocked area he would recognize and stand with him for awhile to let him relax a bit.  But she kept a careful eye on Picasso the whole time.

Picasso Moon is a pretty low key guy, but he has trouble understanding boundaries with horses.  Maybe because of his background.  When Azure first came to be with me, he was just out of a rescue situation too and  he didn’t know how to be a “horse” with other horses.  He was constantly getting himself in trouble.  Jaspar had to teach him the “way” of the horse.  And Sage was there to watch over him.  Picasso Moon will have to learn about interacting with horses too.  While Chansyk seems tough on him, she is a good one to help him learn.  While she might chase him, she wont hurt him.  I expect at some point when she is sure that Beau is safe around Picasso Moon, she will let him closer.

Picasso Moon did have some time to relax and do a bit of yoga while he was in the pasture today.

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Heading For Home

Picasso Moon returned home from school last night.  He had a 3 hour trailer ride, but handled it like an old pro.  Ate is hay and relaxed in the trailer. When he got home, all the other horses were already in the barn eating dinner.  Picasso unloaded and walked right in to his new stall without a care in the world.  He is a very confident soul these days.

Before we headed for home, I got another chance to ride him.  Dave rode his sister Trinity. We went down the road and around Dave’s neighborhood.  He lives in a place where most of his neighbors have horses and share riding spaces.  It is pretty cool.  Picasso got a lot of exposure to other horses as well as other neighborhood critters like the wild turkeys who live down the way.  Picasso has awesome gaits.  He is so smooth under saddle.  He is short, but you don’t realize it when you are riding him.  I got to canter him for the first time and it was fun.  After the ride we loaded him in the trailer and headed for home. Picasso learned a lot at school.  Now it is up to me to keep him going.

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School Is In Session

PicassoPicasso Moon has been busy this past month.  He went off to boarding school with Dave, his trainer.  What a star he has been.  Dave says a trainer rarely gets a chance work with a horse like this because he is so easy and fun that usually people try to start the horse on their own.  From my perspective, a horse like Picasso Moon needed a great start from someone who would appreciate him and set a solid foundation on which to build.

Usually, I like to have my horses started in the summer so I can be there a lot and be an active part of what is happening, but Picasso Moon was ready to go to school now, and there was an opening, so I let him go.  I have been able to get phone updates, but last week on the holiday was my first chance to go and see him for myself.  We also took the opportunity to haul his sister, Trinity up to Dave’s as well.  She has a promising possibility for getting a home of her own and Dave was willing to work with her a bit before hand.Siblings

Picasso Moon and Trinity posed for a photo together.  They haven’t seen each other in quite some time, so they took the opportunity to pose together for a few family photos.  Trinity is 4 years old and Picasso Moon is 3 years old.

Picasso is the outgoing, bold personality and Trinity is the shy girl.  Picasso will walk right up to you and say hello, or walk into a new place and check it out as if to say yes or no to “I could live here”.  Dave said the first time he put a blanket on Picasso Moon he felt like he was dressing a prince in his fine robes.  Picasso Moon stood quietly and elegantly as he was dressed.    Trinity is the one who will stand on the outside of the group and watch for a bit deciding if it is safe to join the group or not.  Once she decides to join, she is a very kind and soft soul, eager to please.  Both horse have a desire to “try” when asked.  The grand-sire to these two is Spider’s Co Co Jo, and I  have been told that his bloodlines make for very cooperative and smart horses.  Picasso Moon and Trinity would prove that statement to be correct.

Picasso Moon got a chance to show off to his big sister while I was there.  Picasso has been under saddle now for about 30 days and has taken on the role like an old pro.  Picasso Moon is very confident and willing to go places on his own and explore his world.  Dave has ridden him on a variety of trails around his house and trailered him to near by arenas for some experiences.  Picasso Moon takes all of it in his stride.

During his time at school, Picasso also held a few “try outs” with some other people to see if he would prefer a different owner than me.  Everybody falls in love with him, so I let him explore his options.  In the end, he has decided to come back to our place to live.  But it was great for him to have a chance to be ridden by a few people and see what that is like.

He also had the opportunity to be the lead horse for a new horse that had come in for training and “pony” the new horses around the Saddledplace.  He liked that job very much. So when Trinity arrived at Dave’s Picasso Moon was all set to show off to his big sister.    So Dave saddled up Picasso Moon and they got ready to take Trinity for a walk around the place.  It was great to see Picasso Moon so confident and calm about doing whatever he was asked to do.  He is a very sure-footed horse.  The terrain they walked on included gravel, roads, and some hill climbing.  Picasso Moons just takes his time and decides the best route to take.

At first Trinity wasn’t too sure she wanted to be that close to her brother, she remembers how playful he can be… but Dave’s reassuring hand let her know it was safe, so she decided to come along with them.

Follow-Us Greetings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t long before Picasso Moon and Trinity were off exploring the place.  They almost look like a match set walking down the road together as Picasso Moon confidently leads the way.  Picasso Moon has the smoothest gaits and it looks like his sister may be the same.

Road-

DownThe-Road Up-The-Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And after Dave was finished showing off on Picasso Moon and getting Trinity used to the place.  It was my turn to take my first ride on Picasso Moon.  It was sooooo fun. We went down the road towards the neighbors, horses ran up to us along the way, a car passed us, there were wild turkeys in the area, Picasso Moon didn’t care about any of it.  He just walked along like none of it mattered to him, because it didn’t.  He was doing his thing in the world and whatever happened around him wasn’t going to bother him. What a great horse his is… not only great looks, but a great mind as well.

Me-Riding-Picasso

Picasso will stay at Dave’s for  a couple more weeks.  The timing to go pick him up from school will need to wait until the Thanksgiving break.  While shoppers flood the stores looking for great buys, I will head up to Dave’s to get Picasso Moon and bring him home.  And I will know, I got the best deal of the season:)

Cropped-profile

And for another lucky person, Trinity is waiting….

Trinity

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Once In A Lifetime Moment

First-Ride Picasso’s First Rider

Well of course the day doesn’t start like this, but sometimes it fun to know the ending before hand! Colt starting is one of the most amazing times in a horse’s life.  It seems so special  to be part of seeing and creating that moment for a horse.  The first impressions of a lifetime.

Picasso took his first few steps under saddle with Dave Williams aboard.  Dave brought Jaspar home from a summer of training and we held a little clinic at our place to work with Picasso and a couple of other horses.  It took under 2 hours to get Picasso to this point.  He was sooooo ready it made things go smoothly.   He’s only 3 years old so this isn’t the start of daily training rides.  The goal was to get him used to being saddled, have someone on his back, and let him get a taste of balancing a load, so to speak.

Picasso began to get ready for this moment with his ground work.  He is  learning to move off pressure and to follow a leader who gave directions from a place other than in front of him.  He is learning to have ropes used to wind and unwind him at a stand still.  He began to develop an understanding of moving from a feeling of energy and direction throuMoving-gh our lead rope activities.  One could argue that being chased around the pasture is moving off the feeling of energy, so he already knew that coming into the training process.  So what is the difference?  In my mind, nothing.  Training is about channeling his horse knowledge into behaviors that suit human purposes and create an environment that is safe for both horse and human to interact in.

Once Picasso was responding to directional information it was time expose him to a new sensation.  A horse blanket on his back.

Blanket-1

Blanket-2Not such a big deal… Picasso checks things out from another angle.

Picasso has takes the blanket on his back in his stride.  During this part of de-sensitizing him, Dave made sure to approach Picasso with a blanket from both sides… remembering that the left side of the horse and the right side of the horse are two different creatures.  They may look like one to humans, but anyone who has ridden a horse one direction without a spook and then turned around to come back the exact same way only to have the horse spook, knows what I mean.  Both sides of Picasso were ready.  Next step… the saddle.

Saddle-1

This is the point where things can start to get fun.  Thinking back to natural horse behaviors, the next steps are not surprising.  It’s just a matter of how long they last.  Picasso was curious about have the saddle attached to him and on his back.  You could see his brain checking for danger… it would be only natural to try and get a cougar off his back and the question in Picasso’s mind had to be one of determining the predatory nature of that saddle.  I’ve been to several colt starting clinics and people always seemed surprised when the next few moments after the saddle goes on for the first time inspire a bit of jumping around.

Buck-1

Buck-2

Moving with something on his back for the first time is a new feeling for Picasso and trying to figure out how to go forward yet still be balanced is a feat in itself.

Up-Not-Over

After the Picasso stopped jumping around and was ready to stand still with the saddle on, the next step was getting him used to having stirrups bump against his sides and things slide across him behind the saddle.  This was all done from the ground before stepping into the stirrup.  Part 2 involves stepping up into the stirrup and just standing their as Picasso figures out what is going on.  At this point rubbing his sides and behind the saddle also help to get him used to the sensations of what a rider might do.  It everything looks good, part 3, swing the other leg over and mount.

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First-Steps

Picasso was ready for his first mounted steps.

Finding-Balance

Dave was in the saddle and I was on the ground with a flag to help guide Picasso as he took his first steps.  My role was to provide energy if Picasso was  stuck or to help change his directions as he learned to feel the rope on his sides and face directing him.  Picasso was interesting in the processes and studies his role carefully.  The goal of this training session was to expose Picasso the saddle, carrying weight, and learning to move off of pressure/guidance of the ropes.  He did very well.  And he looks pretty cute under saddle!

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Communication

CommunicationIt was tempting to just let Picasso hang out in the pasture an fatten up.  He has been through a lot for his age and I thought about leaving him alone for while to grow and get to know the other horses.  But there was a look in his eye that said differently.   Picasso had been alone for a while.  In a way, he had learned to survive by being invisible.  I felt like he was wanting to get started in “school”; to start learning a new way of being; to start participating instead of hiding.  He had come to me to start developing his potential so he could show the world he is more than a “small stunted horse”.  And he has already gotten stronger in a couple of weeks and begun letting his personality surface more.  Inside is a “spark plug” ready to fire.

Picasso has dealt with pressure in his life, mostly in the form of survival.  As his life goes forward pressure will take on a new meaning.  We all learn to “give” to pressure.  What does that mean?  We learn to move away from pressure, like if someone is on your right side and pushes your shoulder to the left, you move away and the opposiHorse-to-Horsete would be true if someone switched sides.  And we learn to lean into pressure, like when you get a great big hug from someone you like.  Horses teach each other this concept very quickly.  In the picture of Picasso and Jaspar out in the pasture, it is clear from Jaspar’s face and body that Picasso needs to give to Jaspar’s pressure. Clearly, Picasso wishes Azure would give to some pressure as well.  The notion of moving away from pressure or into pressure is something horses teach each other early on.

Picasso-Azure Communication

Communication involves a lead and a follow whether it is in conversation or action.  As the interaction continues the roles may flow from one to the other in a seemingly seamless manner, but in order to overcome inertia, someone has to lead.  Picasso had been in halters and lead ropes before I got him, but he didn’t truly know what it meant to follow a lead.  He sometimes gets himself in trouble with the other horses because of this.  Picasso follows to be with a leader whether the leader is horse or human.  Sometimes he ends up running into his leaders from behind.  The lead-follow relationship is hard to wrap your mind around sometimes to sort out what really needs to happen for connection to be there between the two.

DirectionFor me, the distinction begins to get clearer when I put on a lead rope and halter on my horses.  When I take Picasso to the pasture in his lead rope he “follows” behind me, but he is not taking and sort of specific leading information from me.  We are traveling the same direction, but as two separate parts.  Picasso knows how to do this well.  What he doesn’t know how to do is follow a lead when the lead is not in front of him.  Picasso and I learning to communicate as a lead and follow now with the use of the halter, lead rope, body positions, and energy.  It is challenging for Picasso to follow directions from a distance.  He wants to be right on top of his lead.  Getting his directional ground work in place is important for moving onto what will later become the communication between a horse and rider.  He is a very smart and willing partner to work with and makes our time spent developing our lead-follow relationship rewarding.  As Picasso learns more about this lead-follow relationship, his self-confidence will develop along with his trust in people.

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