Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 81

It's the official countdown.  We received word from the Mustang Heritage Foundation that the event is officially on (we were unsure because of the EHV-1 outbreak).  I hope many of you will come to cheer Marley and all of the other mustangs on as they show off what they have learned on June 10th and 11th (Friday and Saturday), then the sale is June 12th.  Hopefully, June 12th will be the day that Marley becomes mine, but I'm still trying to not get my hopes up.

Photo by Steve Heller

Speaking of Marley coming home with me, Marley has a bank account that anyone can deposit into!  It is a 1st Bank Account under the name "Marley the Mustang", which is a club account.  It will be available for access after 4:00 PM mountain std time tomorrow (June 1st).  I am the signer (Lauren Kolker) and it can also be looked up with my name.  I only ask that if you make a deposit, please email me a mailing address so that we can send you your thank you gift, and keep you up to date on Marley's adventures.  Also, please remember that if you make a donation of $150, you will receive a free photo session with Katherine Payne which includes 5 free digital prints!  Katherine's sessions alone are $350, so this is a great opportunity!

Now, for the exciting bit.  Marley was phenomenal today.  I worked with him on and off for about 4.5 hours ( I put him back in his stall twice for a breather, and turned him out once for some time alone outside).  I started out with some tarp work.  I have learned that there will be a lot of flags, noise, and very distracting people at the event, so it became urgent for me to habituate Marley to these things.  When Sean was out the other day, he showed me how to start introducing a tarp to Marley without overloading him.  I worked on this yesterday, but only with a folded up tarp on Marley's neck, so we didn't get very far.  Today however we had a big breakthrough!  Marley stood calmly while I rubbed the folded tarp all over him, including his legs.  Soon he was practically falling asleep, so I unfolded it, crinkled it, and even flapped it over his back.  He stood quietly, head down and relaxed.

Good boy Marley!



"Hmm, this is a little scary"
Next I decided to challenge him a little more and put the tarp on the ground.  I made sure to anchor the corners down with rocks and dirt, but it still made a lot of noise when Marley stepped on it.  He stood with one foot on the tarp and looked at me wide eyed as if I had gone insane.  I patiently stood on the tarp and asked for him to come forward, and as soon as he relaxed I rewarded him.  Even though he didn't technically move, it was a huge improvement from head in the air, whites of his eyes showing, and leaning back on the lead rope.  He immediately understood and within seconds placed his second foot onto the tarp.  Again I rewarded him and talked to him and walked forward.  This time, he followed me, apprehensively, but followed none-the-less.  I made a big deal about it and told him "good boy!" over and over, and wouldn't you know it, he followed me without hesitation at least 10 more times over the scary tarp.  I'll continue to work on this, but I was really happy with where we finished today.

"Ok, fine, I'll follow you"
Later on I got on Marley for some flat work.  Immediately I noticed that I felt somewhat comfortable in my long stirrups, so this was already an improvement.  We went through all of our exercises, spending a lot of time on transitions from walk to halt, halt to walk, walk to trot, trot to halt, etc.  We even got a really nice canter transition, which I left as the only one for that day because I was so happy with it.

Marley wasn't done yet though (we are on crunch time!).  After a short break I set up a small gymnastics grid.  For the first time through, I left all of the jumps as trot poles except for the final one which was set as a small cross rail.  Once Marley gave me a clean jump and landed in a canter, I added the second jump to the bounce.  Marley hasn't seen a bounce yet, so I thought this might be a problem for him.  He didn't even hesitate though, and he actually jumped both fences, landed in a quiet canter, and acted as though he had seen it a hundred times.  I was happy and finished up here.

Photo by Steve Heller
I can't believe we are have just completed our 81st day together.  I honestly feel like it was yesterday that this shaggy little horse trotted up on to the trailer and into my life.  

Shaking off after a good work out and a nice bath!

Day 80

10 days to go...

Photo by Steve Heller

Photo by Steve Heller
Boy 90 days sure does fly by.  I can't believe I just spent my 80th day with Marley.  I have come to the realization, WE ARE NOT READY!! I'm getting really nervous.  Between the weather and the EHV-1 outbreak, Marley has never seen a cow, never been in an indoor arena, and has only hauled off the property once.  Aside from these not so minor details, I feel like we are not where we should be in terms of our required maneuvers.  I know that we can only do our best, but it's really intimidating going up against trainers who have worked with tons of these horses and have a much better idea of what to expect than I do.  I am so proud of Marley and how far he has come in these last couple of months, but I know I'm biased and I just hope it's good enough to get us through the competition with some dignity.

Photo by Steve Heller
Ok, so other than my anxiety about coming to the end of this thing, Marley did really well today.  I tried to remember all that Sean showed us yesterday on the ground to help with Marley's balance and responsiveness, and I think I did pretty well for my first go at it.  Marley was really cued in on my body posture and I even was able to back him up without any lead line pressure, but by simply lifting my shoulders and chest towards him.  We also worked on some lateral work on the ground, and I see that he is improving in this area. 

Round pen work with Marley to start of the session
Photo by Steve Heller

Photo by Steve Heller

Photo by Steve Heller
When I rode Marley I worked on lots of circles and disengaging is front end and then his hindquarters.  He stayed really soft and was responding well, but I had to constantly remind myself to relax my legs and stretch them down.  At the trot I struggled with the longer stirrups, so I dropped the reins and tried to focus only on me and following Marley's rhythm.  He has a really bouncy trot, and once this competition is over and I bring him home (see I'm thinking positively) I am going to put a lot of hours in working without stirrups to gain better core strength.  I think this will really help us develop a more fluid, soft sitting trot.

Loose rein turn on the haunches
Photo by Steve Heller

Oh yeah, and I also rode around bareback for a little while.  I don't really think there is anything more rewarding than comfortably riding bareback on a horse that less than 3 months ago was wild. 
Photo by Steve Heller
Photo by Steve Heller

Photo by Steve Heller
I didn't ride for too long as Marley was responding really well and I didn't want to push him since this was our first day implementing some of the new techniques we learned.  Our good friend Steve came out to take photos today, and since he has never ridden a horse, we figured a wild mustang would be a good first place to start.  Marley was such a good boy and stood quietly for Steve to get on, and even posed for some pictures.  If I didn't know any better, I would think that Marley loves the camera, because he always seems to ham it up as soon as you point one at him.

Steve riding Marley, his first time on a horse!
Marley's looking pretty worried about this... Oh wait, that's him falling asleep.

Mike took Marley for a spin too, and it was great to see how much more relaxed they both were this time around.  Mike remembered everything I had taught him from his lesson the other day, and they looked great together walking around confidently and quietly. 

Photo by Steve Heller




Photo by Steve Heller

Marley being cute.  As usual.
Photo by Steve Heller

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 79

What a day!  Sean Davies, another EMM trainer (except one who has a lot of experience!) came down to Denver to meet Marley and I!  He literally spent hours working with the both of us, refining some things and giving us lots of tips and exercises to work on.  Marley was such a good boy and it was awesome to watch him think through everything and improve.  I also improved, and have my work cut out for me to strengthen my legs up a bit more because I rely too much on my stirrups.  I already knew they were kind of too short, but Sean had me drop them about four holes, and needless to say I definitely struggled.  It made such a huge difference though and I'm going to stick with it.

After working with Marley for over 3 hours (including ground work) you would think he'd be pooped and not wanting to even move, but he wasn't.  Marley was so soft and responsive through his transitions and turns, and his balance improved tremendously.  It was really cool.  I'm so excited to build on this now, and Sean definitely gave us A LOT to think about.  We'll take it one step at a time and hopefully make some good progress as we are coming down to the wire here and still have a lot of ground to make up.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 78

Another great day of training with Marley and I'm finally feeling like we are getting somewhere for the first time in weeks.  Please weather, hold up for us until the 10th, we have a lot of ground to make up!
 
video

We are continuing to work on improving our lateral work and Marley is really starting to understand the cues and the difference between them (we struggled with this at first).  Mike took some video of us, working and it definitely isn't perfect, but it's an improvement and I'll take it! ----update---- I can't get the entire video to upload, for some reason the only part that will upload is the beginning which is backing, as you can see.  I've been messing with it for over and hour, and I can't get it to play.  It's a longer video so I'll try to edit it tomorrow and cut it down to see if I can get it up.  In the meantime, here is Marley backing up!

video

I also brought back the simple lead changes as Marley wanted to rush across the middle of the arena on his forehand, so this really helped.  We need a lot of canter work, I'm hoping we can continue to build strength and endurance to help with his balance and softness at the canter.  Our steering has at least improved at this gait, and he hasn't missed a lead in a few rides.  I was very happy with the work we did today, and since Mike had his first Saturday off in months and was able to join me, he received his first ever riding lesson! 

video

I know, I know... learning how to ride on a horse who is also learning??  Not always the greatest idea... but Marley is really comfortable with Mike and any time he was a little confused, he just stood still.  What a good boy, and not a mean bone in his body.  For Mike's first lesson we worked on body position, relaxation, and following movement and most importantly (especially when riding a horse who is in training) how these effect the horse.  We didn't get passed the walk today, but I never put a lunge line on Marley and by the end of their ride Mike was able to walk forward, turn either direction, and halt all by using his legs and body.  No pulling on my mustang's mouth allowed, and Mike did a great job absorbing everything I was throwing at him.  

I will also be updating Marley's wish list each day to let people know where we are at.  Thank you everyone for your continued support, I hope in two weeks Marley can become a permanent figure in our lives and I may continue to write about his progress and adventures. 

Marley’s Wish List

*5 40lb Bags of Beet Pulp (one bag every 2.5 months)

*Farrier services – every 6 – 8 weeks

*De-wormer - Donated by Dominika Nawrot

*Vaccinations - Donated by Dominika Nawrot

*1 Yearly Dental exam/teeth float

*Coggins Test

*Monthly Board @ 300.00 per month

*Emergency Vet Fund

Friday, May 27, 2011

Marley's Wish List


Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

Here we are with 13 days left before we head up to Fort Collins for the Extreme Mustang Makeover event.  Has it really been almost 90 days?  I knew saying goodbye to any horse was going to be difficult, but I’ve done it many times before, and it has always seemed to work out, but saying goodbye to Marley will be completely different.

All horses have a history, and most of them include several homes and people moving in and out of their lives.  Most of the time they leave a special mark on the people they end up with and enrich the lives of the people who love them.  Why is it that when we get a dog, we commit to caring for it indefinitely, yet a horse is bought and sold numerous times during its lifetime?  Sometimes it is in the best interest of the horse to move on, sometimes it is in the best interest of the human.  Sometimes a match is perfect just the way it is, which is why I want to keep Marley, forever. 

Keeping Marley was never part of our plan.  Sure, those of you who know me will probably roll your eyes and say “could have seen this one coming” but Marley is not my first project horse, and we are definitely not in the position to be acquiring any more family members, especially big expensive equine ones, but then, I’ve never been one for taking the easy route. 

As most of you know by now, I’m a student with a year left before graduation, and keeping a horse is not written into the budget.  About half way through this process, I started getting suggestions to solicit sponsorship for Marley to enable us to keep him for the next year until we can undoubtedly provide for him on our own.  With some help, I developed a “wish list” for Marley, though it was never published, partially due to pride, and due to us constantly going back and forth as to whether keeping Marley would be good for Marley.  I can answer that with a resounding yes, and truly hope that those of you who have followed our progress would agree.  With less than two weeks to go before Marley is auctioned off at the EMM in Fort Collins, I am officially launching our better-late-than-never campaign to allow Marley’s forever home be right where he is. 

For starters, one of our greatest supporters and lifelines through this process has been Katherine Payne of Katherine Payne Photography.  Many of you have enjoyed her photos and videos of Marley, and she is generously donating a free photo session which includes 5 digital files for every $150 donated to Marley’s wish list.  Katherine’s sessions are $350 before prints, so this is an awesome opportunity to have some great photos taken of your own horse or family while helping us reach our goal!

I am in the process of setting up a bank account in Marley’s name, though at this time any donations to Marley’s wish list are free-will donations only, and are not tax deductible.  All of Marley’s sponsors, private or business, will receive a gift representing Marley and his journey courtesy of Katherine Payne Photography. 

Marley’s Wish List

*5 40lb Bags of Beet Pulp (one bag every 2.5 months)

*Farrier services – every 6 – 8 weeks

*De-wormer

*Vaccinations

*1 Yearly Dental exam/teeth float

*Coggins Test

*Monthly Board @ 300.00 per month

*Emergency Vet Fund

In the coming week, I will be visiting horse related businesses who if are interested in sponsoring Marley will be listed on our blog and Facebook pages as a sponsor.  If anyone knows of businesses who may be interested in donating products or services, please feel free to contact me or have them contact me directly, my email is on the right hand side of this page. 

Marley’s donations will be used strictly for Marley, and receipts and bank statements will be available for any of his sponsors upon request.  I will also continue to blog about Marley’s progress and our adventures should we bring him home in two weeks.  We will strive to promote the adoption of mustangs to help enrich the lives of those left in holding facilities. 

Thank you everyone for your continued support in following our progress and for your encouraging words as we come to the end of this 90 day journey.  Regardless of what happens, whether we are able to keep Marley or not, this has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  My only hope is that one horse, out of thousands still left in holding facilities, is better off for it.  For all of the horses who have left their own mark on me as an equestrian, none has touched my heart like the little dread-locked wild horse we have come to know as Marley.  

Day 1 - Very wary
Photo by Forever Yours Photography

Nothin' but Love
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

Days 75, 76, & 77

Day 77

Another great day of progressive training with Marley!  Today I wanted to focus on some of our pattern work required at the competition, along with beginning lead changes. 

I set up a pole in the middle of the arena to serve as a marker for Marley both for simple and flying lead changes.  Within a couple of minutes, Marley was very reliably giving me a simple lead change across the diagonal of the arena within 3 trot steps.  This is a huge improvement for us, and we are really beginning to make progress at the canter. 

After a short rest, I started asking Marley to pick up his canter as he went over the pole.  He was a little confused at first, but eventually figured out that we trotted a couple of strides before the pole, then picked up our opposite lead as we went over.  Marley figured this out really quickly, so I asked him for a flying lead change to see what he would do.  He was a little bit confused and changed just his front the a few strides after the pole, and I rewarded him for the effort.  We trotted, picked up the correct lead, and tried it again.  This time, Marley gave me a clean flying lead change and I made sure he knew I was VERY happy with him.  Tons of praises later, I decided to call it a day. 





Day 76

I had a really fun day with Marley today!  We did a lot of hard work, expanding on the lateral movements we started yesterday and then finishing with some transition exercises.  His canter is slowly getting better, it's sometimes difficult to not want to pull him together, but he is still developing his own gait.  The more I let him move out and work on riding with my seat and leg and allowing him to have his head, the better his transitions and balance are. 

After a tough work out, I decided to take off Marley's saddle and get on him bareback.  There was no one around so it was the perfect day to just play around in the arena.  We walk, trotted, and cantered both directions, something we have never done before bareback!! It was so much fun, Marley was so relaxed, it felt great to just have fun. 

Riding a wild horse.... Bareback!


Day 75

Today was dedicated to lateral work.  I started on the ground with the clicker, building on some foundation work I've already started with Marley.  He was understanding fairly quickly so I transitioned with the clicker to under saddle. 

Most of the new training we did today was at the walk, and I was very pleased with how Marley came back after a day off and immediately went into learning something new.  Marley can be a little lazy, so I was very surprised when he very easily transitioned from a cue given on the ground to a leg cue.  He stayed very soft and was really responsive moving from side to side.

We finished the day with some canter work which is still our worst gait.  He is still not incredibly balanced at the canter, though it is improving slowly but surely and I'm hoping it will all come together before the 10th.  If not, he will at least be well on his way.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 73 & 74

Day 73

Today Jake came out to see how Marley and I were doing and to give us some pointers, especially for our western training.  It was a great morning and Jake tacked up Marley completely without my help, which Marley was pretty unsure of.  The training was great for him though, and by the time Jake was ready to get on, Marley had accepted that Jake wasn't such a bad guy after all.

It's always great to see someone else get on Marley, but it's especially great when that person is a great trainer like Jake is.  He was impressed with how far Marley had come, but he also helped me address some holes and areas of our training where we were lacking.  Marley took everything in stride as Jake challenged and pushed him, and it was incredible to watch.  I'm so proud of my little mustang.

Photo by Katherine Payne Photography
After Jake got a feel for Marley, I got on and Jake helped me with some of my insecurities with training in western tack.  It was really fun and I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but some of the exercises REALLY helped Marley with his responsiveness and relaxation.  I'm going to be riding in the western tack all week, so stay tuned and hope for no rain!! (Or at least light rain).

Day 74

So much for no rain.  This morning we had a huge storm roll through, and regardless of rain, I will not ride in lightning.  Another day off for Marley, but I'm hoping to be able to get on tomorrow and work on all of the new things Jake taught us.  We had such a great ride yesterday and the day before, and it's just so frustrating to be set back by the weather.  I would kill for an indoor right now!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 69 - 72

I've gotten behind again on updating so I'll get you back up to speed on how Marley (and the weather) is doing!

Days 69 & 70

I'm grouping 69 and 70 together because they were equally terrible.  Still, the rain had not stopped, the barn was once again completely flooded.  I am not exaggerating, and just to give you an idea of how bad it really was, Rebel, the barn manager, had pumps set up in the arena and the round pen and built trenches for the water to drain through.  Marley and I worked both days in the drive way doing lateral work from the ground.  I also spent many hours trying to keep the shelter area of Marley's stall as dry as possible.  I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but I'll take that awful wind back!  I feel like a drowned rat!

Day 71

FINALLY a sunny day!  The arena was far from dry, but thanks to Rebels tireless draining and dragging, it was ride-able.  Marley was a mud ball, so before I even attempted to clean him up, Mike and I got the work out of our lives shoveling hundreds of pounds of mud out of Marley's shelter and dragging it all to the manure pile.  It took both of us to move the wheelbarrows through the mud, but after a few hours we had made enough progress to put some gravel down to give Marley some solid footing.  We may have looked insane to some of the people who were watching, but I really think it made a huge difference for Marley, and it at least will give him the ability to choose whether or not he will stand in the mud. 

Next step, hose Marley down.  He didn't need a full on bath, but I at least wanted to hose the mud from his legs and clean up his tail a little bit.  Mike has also been looking forward to getting some photos with Marley, and has been dressing up "cowboy" for a week in preparation.  I wont say any more about that, but Katherine snapped some photos, enjoy!

Carrot?
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

Photo by Katherine Payne Photography
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography






Yes, he did grow that mustache just for this....
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

Whoa there wild horse
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

So, while the Mike and Marley photo shoot was highly entertaining, the arena was finally dry enough for us to actually get some work done.  Marley was pretty rusty, so I spent a lot of time walking through all of our warm up exercises.  Marley was much stiffer than he usually is which I thought was simply due to his lack of routine and training these last weeks.  Because of this, our goal was to end the day with a quiet, relaxed, and responsive horse.  Sounds simple right?  Well, it took 45 minutes, but we got there and I left it at that.

Practicing some ground work after our ride
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

Day 72

Another beautiful day and Marley and I are back on track.  Please Colorado, give me some good weather these next couple of weeks.  I do not want to go back to the rain, mud, and most importantly, no riding. 

When we arrived at the barn today, Marley was curled up in his shelter taking a mid morning snooze.  Mike and I tiptoed up to his stall and Mike snapped a picture before we woke him up.  He had his nose smushed into the ground, it was so cute.

Fast asleep with his nose in the dirt


When I came around the corner and said Marley's name, he startled a little bit, but stayed laying down and nickered.  We spent some time rubbing on him and talking to him while he woke up, but he still never bothered getting up on his own.  It wasn't until I put a halter on him and asked him to come with me that he groaned, stood up, and stretched. 

Our ride today was awesome, Marley was back to his old self and was soft and responsive.  We worked a little bit on our canter transitions, but spent most of the time on lateral work and moving away from my leg in either direction.  I'll try to bring the video camera out in the next couple of days as we try to make up for lost time.  I'm optimistic though and hope we catch back up. 

Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 68 - Stormy Day

Photo by Katherine Payne Photography
Well, I'm grounded once again as the rain just keeps coming down in buckets.  I went out to the barn today to do what I could with Marley's pen in an attempt to keep his shelter dry.  When I got there it was raining, but after about 30 minutes it turned to a severe thunder storm complete with hail and a tornado warning.  Of course, I had no idea about the tornado warning, so I sat in Marley's shelter with him for about two hours.  The rain on his shelter mixed with the consistent booming thunder was deafening, and a couple of times Marley flinched noticeably and even jumped sideways once due to close lightning strikes and the successive crash of thunder.  Most of the time though, I sat in the corner and Marley snoozed with his head hung, chin resting on my knees.  While I would have loved to ride today, and we REALLY need the training time, it was nice to sit with Marley during such a miserable day.  While I can't be sure, I think he enjoyed my company.  I know I enjoyed his. 

Day 67

By some miracle, the arena was actually dry enough to ride today, other than the few puddles here and there.  I spent a lot of time warming up and going through lots of little exercises since Marley has had so many days off.  He's such a good boy though, and came back without skipping a beat. 

Just as I finished setting up some ground poles and started our canter work, there was a loud crash of thunder and within seconds it was pouring rain.  ARGHH!!! I need an indoor!

I got off of Marley and he was very good while I pulled all of his tack off and tried to get everything out of the rain.  Within two minutes we were running at a fast trot back to his shelter together, and we both stood there until the rain lightened up enough for me to go back to my car.

I was happy to get some riding time in, finally, even though it ended up getting cut short.  I'm a little worried about how much rain we are supposed to be getting in the coming days, but I'm hoping it doesn't turn the arena into a lake as before.  We are coming down to the wire and Marley and I have made virtually no progress under saddle since Abbe Ranch due to weather.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 66 - Still no riding, but lots of playing!

I was really looking forward to riding today.  I knew it was going to be nice, so I waited until the afternoon to head out to the barn in hopes that the arena would be at least ride-able.  Much to my dismay, it was still a slick, muddy mess and another day of ground work and some play was on the agenda.

We made the best of it though and decided to spend the day playing in the sloppy, wet arena!  Marley was unsure of how to properly play in the mud... so I showed him.

Handsome even when he's muddy
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography


Standing curiously at the water, but unsure of what to do next...
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

Teaching Marley how to get the most out of playing in puddles... this is a very important life skill, by the way...
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

 "Ok... I'm watching..."
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

"Ummm is she for real?"
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

"Yep, she's definitely nuts"
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography


"Ok, I'll humor her.  Is this how you do it?"
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

"Oh I get it!"
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

"THIS IS AWESOME!  Look. How. Muddy. I. Can. Get!"
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

"That was fun, what next?"
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

Marley's step up behavior.  First with a halter and lead rope....
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography
 
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

...And then on voice command only.  GOOD BOY!!!
Photo by Katherine Payne Photography