[The Sweet Life of Axel and Cody (and Haji and Booker)!] Moving Again
I've been really horrible about keeping up with this blog lately. I think part of it is the distance between my horses and myself. But anyways better late than never, right?

Last time the horses had just gotten their feet trimmed and I'm happy to report that a month later they still look like they were trimmed last week and no one was sore from it that I noticed. The family hadn't plowed the wheat field and a lot of volunteer wheat was growing so we figured we'd turn the horses out there for a change of scenery and something to munch on.

Low and behold, a couple weeks out there and I'm pretty sure Haji gained weight. And they weren't eating much grain at that point because no one wanted to come up to the barn to eat. All the while they were still on their first bale of hay. Of course out of that whole 11 acres or so, the horses chose to stand in the one little patch of brush which meant tons of burrs.

And by "horses" I mean Haji. Though the other boys had their fair share of burrs as well.

When they needed to plow the wheat field they moved the horses back to the front pasture where they nearly finished off the first round bale. So that bale lasted them since the end of September! Guess they weren't done with the grass yet after all.

I wasn't able to make it out to Canby after that so Jeff took on the chore of pulling all the t-posts and trailering the horses over to his brother's place. There's a leak in the well so we can't leave the water on all the time which means we can't use an insulated/heated automatic waterer. And since the hose will freeze we can't really get water at all at our place so we decided to move them for the winter. The cattle pens are all full of cattle at the inlaws so Jeff's brother's place is the only place left but there's no fence. So Jeff pulled the t-posts in the dark and hand pounded them into frozen ground til his hands hurt for a week. Don't worry, I got to hear all about it ;) Not being there just compounded my worry about the horses and not being able to manage their care being so far away. It was a rough night to say the least.

So when they moved they threw out some hay from the loft and then put out a new round bale without the net which they all but finish in a week. When I finally got out to see them after Thanksgiving they were FAT, super fat. Which for Haji is a good thing, scratch that, great thing. And that's without a lot of care in feeding him several times a day. So I'm hoping he'll keep that weight on this winter. At some point someone took off Haji's blanket when it was a little warmer so I threw that back on him though he's got a nice winter coat and would probably be fine, I like the thought that he doesn't have to use his energy to keep himself warm and it'll help keep that sticky hip of his nice and warm.

So we had ourselves some more chores this past weekend and luckily the weather cooperated wonderfully. I wrapped up the wire fencing from our place (that is a super lame job BTW) while Jeff started cleaning out his brother's barn. Sunday I was able to get some time while Daniel stayed with Grandma and I went out to help. The barn was full of who knows how many years worth of manure. But between Jeff hand shoveling (I helped a tiny bit) and Joe running the bobcat they got the barn looking pretty nice.

We tied off the sides of the barn so the horses will just have access to the middle portion. That way they don't mess up the sides where the bobcat can't get and make it easier to clean in the future. Also leaves the sides for storing various random things we found in the barn.

I put the buckets on the fence inside the barn which should mean a person can enter the barn from the small door and fill buckets without having to cross any fencelines or even go in where the horses are. The buckets will be out of the snow and rain so they can stay hung up and they won't go wandering away when a horse decides to play. I thought maybe a neighbor kid could even feed but Jeff thinks that's too dangerous. Anyway it's a pretty nice set up at this point. The buckets are a little closer than I had hoped so hopefully the boys can figure out how to eat in peace and not run Haji off. When I feed them from their buckets on the ground Sunday morning they all stood nicely and ate and Haji was able to finish before Axel came looking for seconds. So that was nice. Oh! I saw Haji pin his ears and move Cody off at one point over the weekend. Yay Haji!

I think there might be a bit of mud in our future but we'll see. There was a low spot where the paddock is set up but this fall they filled it with gravel so maybe it'll be okay. They do have a cement apron on the barn as well as the barn aisle to stand in if the mud gets bad. We'll just have to scrap the aisle of manure on occasion. Maybe throw out some stray or something. I don't think it'll be as mud free as I thought our place would be but I think it'll be okay. They don't have a large paddock right now but when the ground freezes they don't do too much moving around anyways.

So we cleaned up the barn, cleaned up their paddock area and put out a new round bale with net and everyone looked pretty happy. I'm a little concerned that Haji hasn't figured out the net yet, so I'm hoping he figures that out soon if that's the case.

Sadly my hopes to see if Axel would not get swollen this winter are foiled. They had a full round bale not in a net and he's swollen up again so I guess that experiment is off. Oh well, I'd rather have fat happy horses in the end. I'm also hoping this small area will make the three horses become better buddies in the end. Maybe Haji will stick up for himself a bit more or something.

So after all my personal turmoil over the horses and their home and gaining or losing weight, I'm feeling good after this last weekend visit. I'm thinking maybe the initial weight loss Haji had was a combination of not great hay, not getting grain quite enough, and the other horses running him around too much. The hay is decent and the boys don't seem to run him around and he's getting regular grain so I think he'll do good this winter. I think I can relax now. Thanks so much to Jeff's brother for letting them live there this winter (I'm sure he doesn't mind the added bonus of us cleaning his barn either).

[The Sweet Life of Axel and Cody (and Haji and Booker)!] Always Playing Catch Up
We finally shot the gun off Booker's back. Worked in the arena for a while and shot from the ground and next to him and finally got on and shot from his back. He actually did best under saddle than he did on the ground. Next up is more work with the 22 and starting work with a 38 half and full load. We figure if we keep doing the 22 a few times each time we work with him that should keep him fresh all winter while we work him up to 45s.

I did make it out another time in the past couple weeks and do some ground work. Did some makeshift versions of the Parelli friendly game, circle game, and squeeze game. Then we spent quite a bit of time working on backing out the barn door and down the step, a little make shift trailer unloading practice really. He gets a little nervous backing out so we'll keep working on that when we can.

Pulled his shoes last week so we'll see how he's feeling as far as arena riding goes. We don't want to do too many sharp circles but now that it's almost winter we're going to be confined to the arena with not much room for straight work.

[The Sweet Life of Axel and Cody (and Haji and Booker)!] Back on the Ranch
Lots of photos in this post. Back to the ranch after having been gone a couple weeks. This time I was able to get a friend to come out and help with hooves. Cody hadn't thrown his other shoe and it took the two of us and a lot of elbow grease to get the darn thing off. It also took 3 hours to trim up all three horses but they are finally done and looking good. A little shorter than my previous farrier but since we aren't riding and it's been hard to get someone out, this is probably for the best. Now I just need to keep up on the rasping myself.

We were actually at the farm for 2 extra days so in that time I spent some time putting up the new barn door, painting it, and cleaning up the shed. Haji spent some time laying down while I worked. It was a little weird but I'm hoping he was just happy I was there and decided he needed to nap.

We also pulled up the fence from the side yard and fenced in the end of the wheat field so we could turn them out there for a while. There's quite a bit of volunteer wheat growing out there and lots of space so it gives them something exciting to do for a while. They must still have enough grass since the round bale is still not gone and it's been out there for over a month. I was expecting some exciting running and bucking when I put them out in the wheat but I guess the old guys are getting old. They did run, a little. But that was about it.

Sadly to get to the field they have to wade through a pretty decent patch of burrs and nasty things. Not that they hadn't already found enough burrs. Haji was covered. I finally went out with some old cutter thing and chopped down a path so they can hopefully avoid a few burrs.

And then I decided I would put Haji's blanket on as it's been getting pretty chilly and he needs all the help he can get saving energy for gaining weight. I made sure to moderate his introduction to Cody and Axel with the blanket on. Sometimes they freak out when they see a blanket for the first time of the year. Axel came prancing up like he was trying to impress that new purple horse. Then he realized it was Haji and things were back to normal.

[The Sweet Life of Axel and Cody (and Haji and Booker)!] Long time no see
Well I finally made it back to the farm to check on the boys. It was kind of a rough weekend. The new farrier I had found apparently dumped me with no notice what so ever. He asked to reschedule our second appointment and that was the last I heard of him. Left him several messages and never heard anything back. Is it really that hard to text me and say "sorry I don't have time for a new client, or it's too far to travel, or whatever?" Ug anyways.

So I'm out a farrier. We hadn't gotten the boys back on grain since moving them back to our place but they did have a round bale and the brother in law put the net on. Apparently there was enough grass still growing because this 6x6 bale had been out for over 2 weeks and it was less than half gone. And they had the net open (thus the hay all over the ground) so the slow feed net wasn't slowing anyone down.

But I thought everyone looked too skinny. And it was crappy weather. And the water tank was empty. It all just piled on and I was feeling pretty down to the point I was going to try and find a place to board all three of them some where.

In all reality Haji isn't much different than he has been all year. Other than putting on more fat I just don't think his body shape is going to change much. He has muscle wastage on his back and at his age and retirement I just don't see him getting that back especially since we're dealing with a roach back to start. And who knows what affect the cancer has on his system. So I think it's just a matter of making sure he's fed and happy. And boy can that horse eat. He'll eat a full bucket of grain and knicker for more. He even pushed me aside so he could get out the gate and graze in the yard. Thank goodness he's easy to catch with a can of feed.

So since I was out a farrier I was left to my own devices. I actually know someone that lives near the boys but she was unavailable this past weekend and she doesn't do shoes. Since we're so far behind in trims, I was ready to pull shoes for the winter anyway. So I was going to pull Cody's shoes myself and trim and trim everyone as best I could until I could get said friend out to help. Cody had already pulled a shoe so I only had to work on one. But I could not get that shoe off no matter what I did. On top of the fact that Cody's feet are still a little tender I decided to give up on that. I thought maybe Jeff could help but we ran out of time to even try. I think I was able to rasp the clinches off so maybe he'll throw that one easily and not do any damage in the process.

So I nipped and rasps very conservatively on Cody and put him back. I grabbed Haji and tried the same and as I was holding his front foot he went down on his knees. Ug. I didn't touch any one's back feet as they all seemed pretty okay. And I didn't touch Axel's cuz his looked really good (though long). Basically I think I gave up. Like I said, I was having an awful day. But it sounds like my next trip out I'll be able to hook up with that friend that can help with the trims.

So I did end up grooming everyone, getting all the burrs out and what not. Cody had a gash on his knee. Haji got to graze in the yard while tied to the fence. I was able to pick up more feed so now I have 300+ lbs of feed. I don't think I'll run out in the next two weeks at least. That reminds me to order more weight builder for Haji.

Jeff had been working on the tack room for me. He cleaned a bunch out (though there's a lot left to go) and put up some lights and a set of lockers and one of my saddle racks. I got some poison and mouse traps so hopefully we can get it cleaned out and sealed up a little better before I put my tack in there. I should be able to keep bridles and blankets in the lockers and my saddles have covers. I might have to add Bounce dryer sheets to my shopping list to put in with the saddles and help keep the mice away. There's also some metal medicine style cabinets so once Jeff gets those better adhered to the walls I will put all the meds and first aid stuff in there. He also built a new door so we have to get that up and paint it.

So in the end I was feeling a little better. If everyone is still happy next trip out and we can get their feet under control I will feel much better about the situation. One good thing was that Cody and Haji "shared" Haji's extra bucket of feed. Cody didn't run Haji completely off. So that was nice to see.

[The Sweet Life of Axel and Cody (and Haji and Booker)!] Ground Driving
Ran out to play with Booker a bit this week in the rain. Anyway I grabbed Booker and the rain had made him super soft. His haircoat was awesome, like someone had spray him with show sheen or something. So smooth and soft. Too bad he was caked in mud from the knees down. Heh. So I groomed quick and ignored his feet cuz yuck. Still has two shoes on though.

I brought the training surcingle with and threw that on and took him into the arena. We did a minute or two of some work on the lead just to make sure he was paying attention to me. Then I worked with the umbrella a bit for my "something old." I had a small umbrella that was one of those that pop open from a button so I did that and he backed up a step but was okay with it. Took a lot less time for him to get used to the umbrella. He didn't like it over his head at first but was fine with it on his back even when it fell off on the ground - he tried to eat it then. After it was on his back he was fine with it over his head and was mostly just trying to see it.

So I hooked up the long lines and did a little ground driving. Mostly figure 8s. At first he was confused. I had the lines on the highest loop in case he didn't like the at his sides but on that setting he was holding his head so high and just sort of spinning himself in circles so I moved the lines down to his sides and he went much better. Did well with the turns but he did not do well with the halt at all. Needs a lot more practice in the arena before he's ready for a drive down the road or something like that. Once he gets that pretty well we can attach the pool noodles to the lines to simulate shafts and when he gets that we can start him on pulling something light from the saddle horn. I dunno what yet though. If we can find that race car tire he could try and pull that, I haven't seen it in the pasture in a while though.

So then I free lunged him a bit since I figured they've been standing still for a while in the pasture and mud. He was pretty amped up, lots of head tossing but didn't seem too sore or anything. Snatched some hay from the pile in the arena ;) I decided to clean off his leg quick, I didn't scrub down past the scab though. I figured any protection against the mud would be good at this point. It could be healed under that more than we think though. We'll see if it falls off next cleaning. He had his usual treats and went back out to the paddock.

[The Sweet Life of Axel and Cody (and Haji and Booker)!] Future Flag Horse?
Today's lesson was about "flappy" things on our back. We did start with firing some blanks in the arena, a little louder than outside and Booker was a little surprised by it. Gonna do a few more sessions of that from the ground before we get on his back since he did react more than we expected this time around.

We worked a bit with a lasso as well. Swung that around from the ground and from his back to get him used to different flappy things. He did pretty well with that so we moved onto the flag. Worked with the flag on the ground on all sides before we mounted up. He was actually really good with the flag on his back. Even did some trotting with no issues.

After he trotted for a while and was used to the flag we hiked it up higher to make sure it was flapping as much as possible. Then we moved to dragging the flag down by his rear legs. That concerned him more than anything so we worked on that for a while until he settled in.

Sometime in the future we'll work on more dragging items and ground driving.

[The Sweet Life of Axel and Cody (and Haji and Booker)!] What next?
Pretty sure every time we go out to the barn, Booker thinks, "okay what next?" Which is actually our plan. We think if he's always expecting the unexpected he'll be that better of a horse because of it. He'll always be ready for something crazy and will know that none of these crazy things will hurt him. Well that's the theory at least ;)

So we popped out to the barn on Friday to do some more crazy things. Our .22 blanks have arrived so we want to work as much as possible with Booker and our revolvers and keep getting him used to that both on the ground and under saddle. Eventually we'll work up to the 45 and also figure out a way to work on the muzzle flare issue (we're thinking roman candles - stay tuned).

So we split up, one with a revolver one of us with the horse. Walked Booker and shot and he did well. Switched to walking next to him while fire, again did really well. Finally ended up one person shooting while leading and again no issues. We were going to end on shooting from the ground over his back to simulate being on his back but he was not thrilled about us even waving an arm up over his back before even firing. So we guess Booker needs a little sacking out in addition to the shooting training.

Part of our sacking out we decided should be umbrellas. What's more scary than a big umbrella? So we worked on that in the arena for a while just from the ground. He was a little hesitant about the umbrella and it seems like things on his left side are more scary (if I'm recalling correctly). I was holding the lead and N was manning the umbrella. At one point when she opened the umbrella, Booker looked very concerned and walked around behind me to hide like a little kid hiding behind his mom. It was pretty funny. But in the end he did just fine with the umbrella and got lots of praise and treats when we finished.

What's next? I have a marching band practice flag in my car right now, stay tuned ...

[The Sweet Life of Axel and Cody (and Haji and Booker)!] More Experiments with Booker
So we took a chance and put the dressage saddle and snaffle bit on Booker and took off for our run down the road last week (or the week before, I can't recall). He did really well. His brakes aren't great but actually they don't seem a whole lot different with the snaffle than they did with his usual bit. And the dressage saddle seems to fit him well so that's always a plus. He looked really nice trotting down the road, very "english." Guess this cow pony missed his calling as a dressage horse ;)

I was a bachelorette over the weekend so we met up on Sunday for some horse fun. We decided we need to go further than our usual 2 mile run. But neither of us wanted to run longer. So I suggested we use a bike. Which was definitely easier than running. First we had to introduce Booker to the bike. If you've ever ridden your horse near a bike trail you are probably aware that bikes are the #1 silent killer of all horses. Not really but since they are so quiet they sneak up on ya and before you know it you are standing next to your horse instead of sitting on his back.

So we took a few passes in the driveway to get him used to it and then set off for a roughly 6 mile ride. We swapped at the halfway point. Had a little "moment" near some pastured horses but other than that and some real jerk-offs in their "my-penis-is-really-small" pick up truck (hello search engine hits) we had a really calm ride. Lots of posting, holy cats, I haven't posted 3 miles in probably forever. Surprisingly I didn't hurt the next day.

So this week I made it out alone on Tuesday for a little ride. I didn't have a lot of time so I just tacked up (dressage saddle and snaffle) and we went down the driveway and back and forth in front of the property. Just working on our downward transitions mostly. No cantering, just trot/walk/halt. We also watched some big farm implements drive by. It's that time of year again.

Booker is well on his way to be a nice versatile and steady mount. We are either going to introduce him to umbrellas tomorrow or shoot some blanks in the .22, depends on if it's raining or not.

[The Sweet Life of Axel and Cody (and Haji and Booker)!] Relax a little, Booker
Well Mr Booker decided since he found a hole in the hay net he didn't want to give that up and took off when I came into the paddock. Luckily he didn't go far and I was able to catch him fairly easily.

I tacked, fly sprayed, and walked out to the middle pasture. I had some tagalongs but we were able to get through the gates without too much trouble. Made sure the saddle was on straight and mounted up. He stood pretty still for once (didn't want to leave the group at the gate I'm sure). So we walked the pasture to check out the footing and what not. Did some big trot circles at the far end. He wasn't settling in, was pretty "up" about it all, nothing horrible, just not a nice easy trot. I'm pretty sure he was concerned with his buddies. So I was going to work on cantering big straights but I changed my plans since he seemed more likely to ignore me.

So the plan was, walk or trot away from the gate, if he gave me a super easy trot, or if he transitioned down to a walk easily, or a good halt with out turning or wandering, then we turned around and went back towards the gate as his reward. I decided that for me at least, when I ask for a trot or a canter I want something super mellow and easy by default. I figured he's got the speed and I think if we keep light aids (which shouldn't be an issue if we work on getting him back to a snaffle) then he won't get sticky and it should be easy to let him "go" when we need it. I don't think we're going to be winning big dollars in the mounted shooting and it sounds like speed isn't necessarily the way to do that anyways. So consistency on his part and steadiness and all that I think would be more applicable to other stuff like trail riding etc.

He was getting good at the halt, I'd do voice "and whoa", then stiffen my body, then reins. Still had to do a couple tugs on the reins for halt but he was catching on and doing really well just standing there. Trot to walk transitions went pretty well too, I'd just change my body from posting to a more stiff sit and he'd transition down. I did do one canter just to see but it was pretty vertical and big so I didn't do more of that. He transitioned down pretty well though.

When I finally asked for a trot and he just broke into a super easy nice trot, I stopped him and got off. So I think that's the kind of thing I'm going to work on when I ride. That seems pretty simple and I get some variety of gait to get used to his movement. I'll just have to make sure I let him extend from time to time.

So his leg looks super awesome. I didn't clean it but there's barely a spot left of scab or whatever. Probably by Friday if we clean it there'll be nothing under that tiny scab. Then we can start putting some MTG on there and get the hair to grow back.

[The Sweet Life of Axel and Cody (and Haji and Booker)!] Back in Town
I haven't been out to the farm in a few weeks now. Last weekend Jeff and Daniel went without me and I went scrapbooking. I guess the goats and the cattle went back to their regular homes and the fence needed to come down so Cody, Axel, and Haji needed to leave their summer vacation home and head back to town. Jeff didn't think I'd approve of putting the horses in the stock trailer (actually that's not a problem, but whatever) so he and his nephew hand walked the three horses back to town. Just a mile but juggling three horses between the two of them must have been entertaining to see. The three don't exactly have the same pace. In fact Haji, the oldest and shortest of them all, walks way faster than everyone else.

But they are back in their regular home and the round bale feeder has been set up. No word yet on if they put out a round bale and if they got the slow feed net on it (hoping they don't put out the bale without it). I guess the inlaws can't quite figure out why I would put a net over the bale though I've explained how much it saves in waste alone, hopefully they'll take my word for it.

In bad news, it appears I've been dumped by my new farrier. He cancelled our appointment a couple weeks ago and never called back to reschedule. I've left him several messages with no response. The neighbors don't need any work done so I'm on my own. But it happens that someone I know that used to live in the cities now lives 30 minutes from Canby. She trims her own horses. So if I can learn to pull Cody's shoes, she's gonna hopefully come out next time I'm there and trim the boys for me. Perhaps she can school me a bit and I can do it myself eventually. And I'm hoping Cody stays sound without shoes. I still have hoof boots he can wear for riding if he isn't sore in the pasture this year.


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