Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beating the heat

Photo by Katherine Payne Photography
If it isn't pouring down rain and flooding around here, it is 102 degrees and humid.  What is going on Colorado?  This has been the strangest year for weather.

Marley has moved out of his stall temporarily into a newly built shed and run to allow his to dry out and give him a dry place to stand.  With all this weather we have been having, even the inside of his shed had filled with water, giving him no dry place to escape to.  Worried about his feet, comfort, and general care, I was about to just turn him out to pasture until things got better.  Luckily for me though, a new run was built that wont be filled for another week, so Marley got a new temporary home while we fix his up and let it dry out.  While I love turning Marley out, the pasture at our barn already has a lot of horses in it, so there is always a higher potential for injury.  Marley is also really goofy with other horses, so who knows what kind of mischief he would find out there.  My hope is that one day I have a grass filled pasture with a small herd to let Marley live and run in, but right now it just isn't in the cards for us.

New to Marley this summer is the wonderful world of horse camp!! Kids from around 6 -13 years old have been attending camp weekly at Amen Acres, and Marley is a hit.  They love that he was a wild horse, they get a kick out of his clicker training and tricks, and to Marley's absolute delight, they love feeding him.  After a muddy demonstration last week, the girls spent a good 45 minutes picking grass and piling it up for Marley.  They were taking his order and feeding him everything from (pretend) "spaghetti and meatballs", "peanut butter sandwiches", and even "country fried steak".  I personally didn't know that horses ate country friend steak, but apparently a mustang will eat anything.  Marley has been great with the kids, he has been calm when they run around, he lets them pet him, and at one point we even had 5 of us grooming Marley.  Wild horse indeed.

"What would you like to order for lunch Marley?"

"Hmmm, spaghetti and meatballs you say?" 

"Ok! Coming right up!"

As far as Marley's training is going, we are finally getting back to riding as the mud dries up.  I still have him in the side pull bit-less bridle, he goes so well in it and I figure why change if we don't have to?  I trained Marley to take a bit because if he was adopted out, it wouldn't be fair to him to never have had been trained in one, and then suddenly have someone pulling on his mouth.  BUT, now that he is MY horse (I still get really overwhelmed and excited about this) I choose to keep him bit-less with as little pressure as possible.  I figure that if we put in the time now with less rein and more leg and seat, he will be a much nicer, happier horse when we decide to take our training further and compete.  Marley will need to ride in a snaffle when we do compete, which he is happy to take, but in between I'd rather not use the hardware if I don't have to.

Marley has also learned to lay down flat... or rather, he is starting to trust me enough to roll him down flat from a laying down position.  I spend time rubbing his neck and belly, which he seems to like, and as we progress, he stays down longer and longer each time.  Yesterday we even took a little nap together.  Here is a video Katherine Payne took of only our second time working on this.

...And as we have gotten better and better with this, here we are taking a nap together in the sun :)

Photo by Katherine Payne Photography

Mike has also been spending some time with Marley, and while Marley is still a devoted Mama's boy, Mike is definitely his favorite romping buddy.  We led Marley to the pasture the other day while we prepared his new stall and took him WAY out to where the grass is growing.  Marley happily stopped to eat and Mike and I walked back to the barn without him.  About 30 minutes later, Marley realized neither of us were there (and no, we didn't call him) and was immediately worried.  He was suddenly at a dead run, b-lining it back to the gate.  He jumped through the lake, and with every stride let out the most pathetic whinny you've ever heard.  Once he found himself back at the gate, he screamed at us until Mike finally gave in and went to get him.  This is why I can't wait for the day I can turn him out to pasture, to live.  I want Marley to remember how to be a horse, and not just the big lap puppy he thinks he is.  Oh well, gotta love him.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Life and Love

On our hike up the mountain... I didn't know what I was in for!
Wow what a week!!  Mike and I went hiking and fishing at Chicago Lakes near Mt. Evans in Colorado and Mike proposed while we were at the lake!  We are getting Married next summer and I could not be happier.  What a year this has been so far! First with our decision to participate in the Extreme Mustang Makeover (while I continued school full time), meeting and falling in love with Marley, training our first mustang, OWNING our first mustang, and now this...  I am so overwhelmed with love and gratitude for all Mike has done to make keeping Marley a reality.  He spends time (that he barely has) helping me with Marley because it is something that I love to do, and while I know he enjoys playing with him and all that being a horse owner entails, Mike would not be here in Colorado playing with wild horses if it weren't for me.  For that, I'm eternally grateful.  Now as I gaze down at the ring on my finger, I can't believe what a lucky woman I am.  My only hope that I will bring as much to Mike's life as he brings to mine. 

Overlooking Chicago Lakes
Back in the car after a long day

Now before I get too personal on my horse blog, I'll move on to Marley's training.  Once again, our arena is a lake and the entire barn is a muddy mess.  We didn't get too much riding in last week because of it, but what training I have done has been really progressive.  Without a timeline or strict training schedule, Marley has become even more interested in training, and we are making huge strides under saddle and on the ground.  I am able to ride Marley bareback without a bridle at the walk and trot (without a liberty wire and with only some minor steering problems) which is just unbelievably exciting for me.  I feel like I'm 9 years old again playing with my first pony, Amour, who was a saint of a mare we could literally do anything on... except go fast.  Marley's patience and affection for people continues to grow and it just gets more fun to work with him every day.  I am still working on shaping his body into collection (free without tack or ropes) which I have never done, so we will see.  So far, we aren't getting anywhere quickly, but I've seen it done, and it is beautiful. 

Driving to the barn... I didn't know I had to cross a lake to get there!
Lauren (not me) and Marley

 In other Marley news, Lauren Carpenter (my pseudo little cousin) came down to see Marley for the first time since she saw him on Day 2!  She was amazed at how much he has changed, and not only that, but she got to ride him!  Marley was.... well.... safe, to say the least.  He didn't know what to do, so he just refused to do anything but walk.  Eventually he realized that this new rider on his back wasn't any different than me (no one was going to hurt him), and he was much more responsive.  Lauren will be coming to spend more time with Marley and get some riding in, which I'm really excited for because one, I love Lauren and two, it's great for Marley to be exposed to different situations and riders. 

On June 17th we are planning on doing a little schooling show down the road, so I'll take lots of pictures and post them on Monday.  As the weather gets nicer we will be spending more time actually training with Marley, and I can't wait for everyone to see how far he has come.