Zephyr Is For Sale

What a face. ;>

Our friend Nancy Morgan just spent a bundle on vet costs with her horse Tempo and finds herself in some financial straights because of the care she provided this one adored horse. Zephyr, whom I have talked about on the blog in some detail is her other horse.

It had always been her intent to own Z for ever and give him a great life by allowing him to live up to his potential. Now this does not seem possible because she simply doesn’t have the time or money to maintain a fulfilling life for two horses. After much soul searching, she has concluded that her beloved boy needs more to do in his life than run around a pasture.  So she has decided to find him a new home. I believe she is making the right decision as Z has demonstrated over the last few weeks a stronger work ethic and quickness of mind than he had shown when he first came to us.

Z is an 8 year old registered Morgan gelding tracing his line back to Figure, Justin Morgan’s famous stallion through the very typie “Government Line” of the Morgan breed. These are the horses used so successfully by the cavalry during the Civil War and in the West in battles against the warriors of the Plain’s Indians, again in the war with Spain and right up to time the U.S. did away with horses as mounts for warfare.

Morgans are famous for being bold, courageous, intelligent animals. Compact of build, they are very strong for their size with great stamina. Zephyr stand 14.3 and is built like a tank, thicker of body than the other, much taller horses standing in the pasture with him.  He has very smooth gaits and impressive speed.

Still some weight to lose but not much.

Morgans, because they are so powerful in a small frame can have issues with bending and flexing through the whithers. We have been working on stretching exercises to improve his flexibility and balance when under saddle. His condition and suppleness have improved and will continue to improve with time.

I will get some more pictures of the boy as soon as I can and post them here, but as you can from the pictures I have already posted that Z is a lovely “blood” bay with a fine head and solid build.

The price for Zephyr is $3,500, to an approved home. This is a great price for a registered Morgan of his conformation and mind, but to sweeten the deal I am offering a month’s additional training for both Z and his new owners to familiarize them with how he is trained and to facilitate a good transfer of ownership. Everyone involved wants to make sure Zephyr and his new owner will be good match and happy.

If you are interested in meeting Zephyr, feel free to contact me.

Tough Choices

Two days ago Zephyr’s owner, Nancy Morgan, called me in the morning to ask my advice about something that was happening with her other horse, Tempo. After returning from a light trail ride, the 7 year old Foxtrotter began to show signs of being in distress. He was pawing at the ground, rolling, and making odd sounds. She asked me if I thought he might be colicing. Now Colic in its most basic definition mean pain in the abdomen and is a clinical sign rather than a diagnosis. So I said “Yes, that is colic, but that could mean a lot of things.” She asked me what I would do if the horse were mine and I told her call her vet and put him on notice that there might be a real problem and then watch the horse to see if things got better, worse or just held the same. I advised to not let the horse lay down and roll.  Just laying down, if the horse is quiet about it, is not a problem in my experience, but often when they roll and thrash around they make things worse.  I suggested she keep him up and walking if possible. (I have since been informed by a vet friend that this is not a great idea for many, hard to explain reasons. She said a more simple rule of thumb is that if you think you need to walk your horse, call the vet, if you haven’t already and get them on their way.)

I did not hear back from Nancy , so when I was finished with the day’s training and riding, my wife and I drove over to check on things. When we arrived we found Nancy, Tempo and a local vet all standing together in the yard of her property.  She had called the vet out because Tempo appeared to be real pain and she wanted to get him some relief. By the time we made it out there though, Tempo seemed fine. He was bright eyed and alert and though we could see he had been sweating a lot earlier, all signs were that he was okay.  We took our leave as the vet was packing up and told Nancy we would see her out at our horses mid day next to ride with us.

10:30am the next morning we get a call asking if I could bring my truck and trailer over to pick up Tempo and haul him up to the Vet school in Corvallis. It seams he started having problems again in the morning and by the time the Vet arrived he as down again thrashing madly on the ground. The description of this sounded to me more like a seizure, but I am not a Vet. However, the one who was a Vet felt that this was serious enough that the trip to Corvallis might be in order  This is the only place available around here to get surgery for obstruction colic on a horse. By around here I of course mean a 4hr haul away.

I have hauled a few horses up for people over the years and I knew it was going to be costly, but Nancy said she had insurance for colic.  Normally the decision whether or not to make the trip in order to be able to try the surgery solution, if required, is made really hard by the fact that one very easily pays more for the treatment than the horse cost. Add to that the fact that the success of such surgery is far from assured. Weigh all this against the love the owner has for the animal and the desire to do everything they can to help.  I have seen friends agonize over not being able to afford it and being forced to put a beloved animal down when it became apparent that standard treatments where not working, so when Nancy said she had insurance I was pleased to hear it and happy to spend a day out of my life to help a hurting animal.

So I hook up the trailer and head over, and again when I arrive Tempo is up and looking around and quite calm.  But when I get close I see his has been drenched with sweat again, one side of his head is covered with mud and his has several small bloody wounds from where he was thrashing on the ground. The vet gives him another small dose of pain meds just to be sure, then we load him up. He walking right in to the trailer and looks around brightly as if to say “Cool, where are we going.”

For the next 4 hours Nancy and I talk about many thing, including the options she is facing when he gets to the hospital.  I can see she is truly torn by her desire to help her equine friend and her knowledge that money is tight, but she is determined to do what she can.  The more she talks about the symptoms the more it sounds to me less like him laying down and rolling from the pain and more him collapsing and thrashing uncontrollably.

So we get there finally, after stopping once on the way to check on him only to find him standing happily and looking for us to take him out of the trailer.  We unload and the vet starts her exam, assisted by some of the students from the Vet school there.  His weight 1175lb, temp is fine, heart rate a little high, but that is not unusual for a horse just coming out of a trailer in a strange place where people start pocking and prodding him.  The exam continues and they cover all the bases; rectal, gastronasul, abdominal tap, ultrasound, the works. End result, they can find nothing wrong.  The vet informs us that it is not uncommon for them to find nothing in colic cases. She says some horses are just really wimpy when it comes to pain and any sort of tummy ache can appear to be killing them.  Nancy, who had seen Tempo’s reactions, looks unconvinced. I am little surprised that our suggestion that it looked much like a seizure seems to be dismissed out of hand, but again, I am not a vet.

At this point in the process I head out to the truck to make a couple phone calls while Nancy waits for the surgeon to talk to her. After a while she come out and tells me that Tempo is going to be staying a few days for observation, but she looks really shaken so I press her for what else might be wrong. Turns out her insurance only covers Colic surgery and only up to 60% of the value of the horse, so the whole thing was going to come out of her pocket after all. We are talking upwards of $4,000. Keep in mind she bought the animal for $3,500.

Being the trooper she is, Nancy recovers quickly maintaining the position that she was not going to regret things and even if after a few days they never find any reason for his pain, at least then he can come home and with any luck, the problem will never return and she will have many great years with him.

All this got me thinking about how I would handle this situation if it had been Orion and I came up with four possible outcomes to consider.

1: I take extreme measures, spend several thousand dollars only to have the treatment fail in the face of serious colic event and I lose him anyway.

2: I take extreme measures, spend several thousand dollars, the horse recovers and I bring him home only to wonder if it might not happen again.

3: I treat the colic, do everything I can by way of standard treatment and end up being forced to put the animal down when it becomes clear that it is not gong to recover.

4: I do everything I can by way of standard treatment and he recovers, then I wonder about the future.

I am not going to make any sort of recommendation as to which is the best way to go or even which way I would choose myself. You might have other alternatives I have not considered. What I am recommending is that everyone think about this and discuss the options while their horses are happy and healthy.  Making the choice when your horse is laying on the ground in extreme pain will be a whole lot harder.

It is my firm hope none of us are ever faced with this situation, but experience tells us some will.

Raffona – Initial Posting

10 Year Old Arabian Mare

Raffona is a 10 year old Grey Arabian mare.  Her sire was Khabernet, son of the world famous Khemosabi

She was born at the facility where we were boarding at the time so we got to see her in her first days and for a few months after. After we moved to a new facility, I did not see her again for a couple years, until a trainer I knew began her saddle training.  I was the able to watch some of this initial training and what I noticed most about the mare was her beautiful, soft movement. Her walk, trot and canter were all just so lovely.

When she was 4, the folks who bred her decided they were going to focus on quarter horses instead of Arabians and called on me to post an ad for Roffona in hopes of finding her a new home. During the process of putting the webpage together I got to spend a little more time with her and found her to be just a sweetheart. She has always been very loving and people oriented. I even spoke with my wife about buying her ourselves, but before we decided, she was purchased by someone else.  So we said “Ah well, I guess it was just not meant to be.”

A few days later who do you guess showed up at, the facility we were then using ? Yep, Fona and her new owner Lin Robbins.  I congratulated Lin on her wise purchase, told her if she needed any help  to let me know.

It turned out this was Lin’s first horse and though she was taking ridding lessons, she was still a green rider on a green horse, so issues were bound to come up and I began working with Lin and Fona from time to time.

When Lin and her husband bought horse property of their own, they invited Nancy and I to board our horses there and continue to work with the Robbins and Fona.

With Raina Riding

Over the years Lin has become a very good horse owner and rider. Fona has wanted for nothing and has turned into one of my favorite horses ever. In return her affection for me borders on being just a little too much. ;>

We have carefully worked with her to keep her responsiveness and energy at the right level for Lin’s current riding ability and I am happy to say that today this level is actually quite high.

Raffona is a excellent general riding horse, soft, supple and gentle. I use her as an intermediate to advanced lesson horse because she is just a little too responsive for most beginners, but do sometime put new riders on her if I think they are naturally quiet.

We have just recently began her training as a Mounted Archery horse and she is taking to this as naturally as one would expect from a daughter of a several millenia of warhorse breeding.

I will post comments on her progress here from time to time.

Zephyr Update

Still some weight to lose.

Zypher has had a couple round pen sessions with Raina since my last update for him.

During the first one he showed are real reluctance to allow Raina the upper hand and it took about 45 minutes before he was willing to acquiesce to her authority.  Once he had agreed that she was in charge, at least for the moment, he was quite willing to stand quietly and allow her to touch anywhere she wanted, pick up his feet, etc. He stood perfectly still through the whole thing, only moving to follow her if she walked away.  However, when we took him out of the round pen to hose him off he started testing, just a little, right away.

These tests took the form of moving up as he was lead until he was shoulder to shoulder with Raina and trying to move off and get some grass in the wheel barrow as they passed. Both of these were subtle tests he was making to see if he could regain the position above her in the heard.  She spotted this for what it was and gently put him back in his place.

Today was his second session and things went smoother. He came around much faster this time.   He seemed much more willing to accept that he was not going to be able to push Raina around, though he still made small tests to see if she was paying attention.

Another thing I noticed is that Z started out each session VERY heavy on the forehand and by the end, while still on the forehand, he had started to get his hind end under him and pick himself up a bit more.  He still needs some stretching work done with him before I start working him on the short line, but I feel that we can begin those in his next session.

Within a couple more weeks I feel his weight will be down, his flexibility/conditioning up and his willingness to accept a lower position in the herd should allow us to increase the pace of his tune up and we should be able to being him on gaming elements by the end of September.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Zephyr’s owner is talking now about looking for a care lease situation for him, so if anyone reading these blog postings is interested, feel free to contact me.

Bella is Left Handed

So today was a very good day for Bella.

She was asked to walk, trot and canter in both directions which she did we great composure.  She is perfectly happy and balanced at both the walk and trot, even a wonderful extended trot, not at all bad for only having been ridden only a handful of times. She is far from completely balanced at the canter, but did not get upset or panic at any point.  Even without a flexing, her canter is soft and easy to sit. I don’t think she will ever have the “loft” that Orion has in his canter, but I think hers will be wonderfully soft and a pleasure to ride.

She was picking up her left lead every time it was asked for and about half the time the right lead was requested. Normal for a left handed horse just starting out, so to be expected. What was unexpected is her willingness to just step into the canter from the walk.  This bodes very well for her future training as a warhorse.

Equally impressive in her performance today was the willingness to stand quietly while other horses where being worked in the main arena area.  She stood without moving a foot while her rider watched the others and while conversation was going on.  She is already showing a mature work ethic and I could not be more pleased by it.

Now we must just work on her bending and softening her slightly rigid center line. This will will do with short line lunging, stretching and of course flexing while being ridden.

I am really impressed with how fast this mare is coming along. I was certain when I started her under saddle a few months ago that I would not be able to do much real in saddle training this year, but so far she has taking everything we have tried with her in stride naturally.

Zephyr Doesn’t Respect Women

Something I noticed about Z, when he was still at his owner’s place, was that he seemed to be a bit of a punk. He seemed to push his owner around a little and appeared to have no respect for her personal space.

Then he came to our place for a tune up on his training.  From the very first time I started handling him he was the perfect gentleman, so I thought “Maybe it is just the change of locations and that he remembers me from when I worked with him before.”  I mean most horses seem to pretty quickly realize that I am not really someone they can push. ;>

But after watching his owner, my wife and my assistant all handle and ride him before and after I had, I notice that he was fine when I am working him but quite different with each of the ladies. For me he came off my leg quickly and easily, neck reined from a light touch, pick up any gate I asked for, etc.  When any of them rode him, he would ignore the leg, cut off the arena, blow off the aids, on and on.  Basically he was a passive aggressive little pain.

Now each of these ladies rides differently. One with more leg strength, one with better hands on the aids, one with perfect balance, and so on, but his reaction to each was almost identical.  So what I feel we have here is a respect issue. He has it for me. For them, not so much. ;>

So what do with do about this.  Many trainers would tell them to get after him in the saddle. Just “force” him to listen and obey.  I approach this a little differently.

We are going to take him back to ground training.  Start over from the basics with each of these ladies working with him.  Beginning with making him stand still while being handled and touched. Then contact movement, followed by no contact movement, then on to short line spiral lunging .  In short, all the work I did with him way back when I first had him in training. The goal here is to get the same respect for each of them that he already has for me.  Once he is the habit of automatically following direction from humans of both genders, then we can go back to saddle training.

Just goes to show, each horse presents you with unique issues.

Bellatrix, a History

Bella Day 1
Bellatrix on her first day.

I had the pleasure of working with Bella’s mother some time ago. She seems to throw offspring with shorter legs and powerfully thick bodies.  They tend to be less willing to flex laterally than many horses, but bend at the poll very willingly. They start out as bold babies with little interest in humans, but as they get a little older their curiosity, which is considerable, causes them to interact more and more with the people in their lives. Eventually this makes them very willing work and eager to please.

Bella was a fine example of all these traits, as I discovered early. As she was born a month early, in our pasture, with no help from anyone, we have had the pleasure of her company from day one. I handled her from a young age and was able to begin using my “Hands-On” methods well before she was weaned. I began her round pen work at just 3 weeks of age as she had by then developed and interesting problem with attempting to kick people as she ran by them. Fortunately even at this age she had little problem being separated from mom, at least as long as mom was outside the round pen.

Balla under saddle
Bellatrix now under saddle

Before she was 6 months old she was halter trained, would stand tied, pick up her feet for trimming, vet quietly and load into a trailer happily. She did seem to have a deathly fear of fly spray for some reason and it took some time to get her over that. ;> She was also moving off of pressure but would stand and let you touch her all over. We were able to free lunge her, changing her direction and telling her which gait we wanted with verbal commands and hand signals. Basically, everything I ask of a young horse before I can put a saddle on them.

So off she went to the pasture to continue to grow with only periodic tune up sessions to help her hold on to what she had already learned.

Fast forward to late this spring when I started working the now 3 year old Bella on the short line with bit and saddle in place.  She took to it so quickly that she was had her first rider by early summer and is currently learning to walk, trot and canter with rider.

That’s brings us up to date with Bellatrix.

Zephyr Introductory Session

Mp>ZephyrI had the pleasure of working with Zephyr’s mother some time ago. She was the mare we leased to breed to the Friesian stallion to get Bellatrix.  She seems to throw offspring with shorter legs and powerfully thick bodies.  They tend to be less willing to flex laterally than many horses, but bend at the poll very willingly. They start out as bold babies with little interest in humans, but as they get a little older their curiosity, which is considerable, causes them to interact more and more with the people in their lives. Eventually this makes them very willing work and eager to please.

Both Zephyr and Bella I handled from a young age and was able to begin using my “Hands-On” methods right away, but Zephyr’s owner took him to California early on, where his training continued with other trainers.  I only this last weekend got to work with him again. He had been standing in a pasture unused for 8 months prior and was a little… shall we say, flabby. ;>

It was interesting that while in the pasture on his owner’s property he was pushy and a little disrespectful, especially in space issues. However, once he was again under my care his attitude changed markedly and very quickly.  In one session he was again the very sweet and respectful guy I remembered. He seemed to fall back into the training very readily which tells me that other trainers probably used similar methods when they worked with him.

When ridden, I found his reaction to the ported snaffle bit relaxed and automatic.  This means he bent at the poll the moment I lifted the reins and I was able to ride with a loose, western style and he neck reined easily.  He also moved off my leg readily, something he was doing a little less willingly when his owner or my wife Nancy rode him. I suspect the somewhat firmer leg I can employ helped him realize that yes, indeed I do expect him to move away from pressure. He did not flex well at first, but as the ride progressed, he did begin to bend laterally for me.

All in all, it was a very good introductory ride.  I will be focusing my future training on getting his weight down and strength up and helping him to flex to improve his balance. His walk and trot are soft and collected, but his canter is not as well balanced as it should be.  Then we will see how he takes to Warhorse activities.  Should be fun!

Orion’s History To Date

Orion at 8months

Orion came to us at the age of 7 months.

The first thing we noticed, after the fact that he looked for all the world like a llama, what with all the curly hair and silly long neck, was a near total lack of fear in the little guy.  Not just no fear of the usual things like strangers, the trailer, the new home, etc. but also the  lead line, lunge whip, me jumping up and down in a vain attempt at making him move away. In short, the colt was just about fearless.

This posed a interesting problem when it came to beginning his training. For many “Natural” trainers, round pen is often the first step in training a young horse, but is pretty much dependent on driving the horse away until the animal begins to show signs of deference to the trainer, who then allows the young horse to “join up”. In Orion’s case, this was not possible. Not only was it very hard to make him move away and drive him around the pen, but once I did manage to get him to move off, he showed no real sign of having any real desire to come back.

Just before his 6th birthday

Independent and self-possessed, he was just unlike any animal I had worked with before. I was therefore obliged to develop a completely new training form and so the Hands-On Method was born.

It was working with this horse that gave me the opportunity, nay, the necessity of trying training method I had never had reason to try before. I soon discovered that while my previous training methods worked well for most horses, there are some that it just wasn’t quite right for.  I was very pleased to discover that the methods that were successful with Orion worked much better with all horses than what I had been doing.

Orion began competing at three years of age and at six is the best horse I have ever had the pleasure of riding. He was born to be a jousting horse but is equally adept at mounted combat and mounted archery as he is as a trail and lesson horse.

As I continue his training, I will try to keep a running record here on this blog.

If you are a Facebook user, you can find Orion’s page here.

Hello Horse Lovers

Welcome to the Hands-On Horse Training Blog of Troy Griffith

With this blog I hope to document and track the training of horses in my care. Below you will see updates posted each day after training is completed. By clicking on the Categories to the right, all the entries I have posted for that horse will appear. This way you can follow the progress of each horse.

With any luck, some of you might also find some of  my “observations” useful.

Thanks for taking the time to have a look.