About this Blog

Meet my very 1st horse, Lazarus.
I couldn't wait for Santa anymore or ask one more time for a pony for my bday (after age 30 it got embarrassing). I took matters in my own hands and I finally decided to pick a pony that needed a new home. Laz found me as I contemplated with this idea. He was sweet yet very sassy, fresh off the track, Thoroughbred (OTTB).
Join us for our re-training, rehabbing from laminitis and testing all parts of mixed up horsemanship and partnership, and luck...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Desensitizing for Laz and I

It's funny, those days when everything goes right and your connection with your horse is right on.  
Well, last Friday was NOT one of those days.  
The wind was wicked and I convinced my husband to join me to go to the farm and help out due to my back pain and secretly knowing I would battle a fire breathing dragon flying around in the wind.
I took Laz in the arena for our 15-20 minute walk.  Or as he interpreted it as a blow up, side spook, eyes wild freak at EVERYTHING.  He scared me.  I felt deflated, being he is the longest I've been with one horse (18 mths now) I was upset at myself.  Growing up riding, I always leased other people's horses...so by the time I would connect, they were gone and I was on another horse.  This time, I've had Laz long enough to (in my mind) not be scared of his wily behavior and in one instant go to "He's going to trample me!"  I did eventually gain my composure and got him to walk calmly on the one half of the arena about five time before putting him back in his pasture.  I didn't want to reward his crazy behavior.  I need to learn more about what to do those instances.
So, I wanted to start with that today.  When I pulled up, he came inside to greet me. Awww..ok, major points for that.  I literally told the BO, that on Friday I thought about opening up his gate and saying "Oh..I don't know how that was left open." and letting him run free.  JUST kidding!!!! But that is how mad I was at MYSELF.  :)
So today, I told the BO "C" about what happened on Friday and how I struggled with finding a resource for what to do when he was panicking and spooking.  She is always great about 'let's do this' attitude.      
We took off his boots (he lifted his feet so MUCH better today) and started our work out in the arena.  
Scary spots first.  Jesus, I thought.  BUT..ok.
So, we walked around a few times, me leading Laz.  She reminded me on how to lead him properly and not clutch the lead line too tightly which I tend to do thinking I can control a spook.  "Just let him spook and tell him "knock it off" and keep going", she said.  He reacts from me, I know, and I have to, HAVE to be calmer and controlled and KNOW that I have resources to help me.
So we went around and came up to the scary corner, and OF COURSE, there was a loose white plastic bag.  Seriously?!?!!? But she reminded me, USE what I have for the day's lesson and IGNORE the bag.  I did, and  Laz looked at it and was fine.  
Then it came to the deep left corner again and she suggested using it as his reward time for being a good little pupil, and to unhook his lead and pat him and WALK away calming. He stayed for about 15 minutes nibbling on the grass.  Granted today was less wind, BUT there was wind as you will see in the pictures.  He was SOooooo much better today! I told her that I thought it was because I felt safe having her there as my resource and therefore I transmitted that to him.

Even her husband on the tractor served as an unknowing desensitization.  We sat on the mounting block and just watched Laz.  She said, IF he comes running back to us as his herd, let him.  He didn't, he was braver than I thought.

So, she had me walk back up to him and hook him up and walk out without over thinking it.  That is my bad habit.  
I am the "WHAT IF" girl.  
Like, what if he steps on his lead line.  "So what."  What if he spooks?  "So."
I've had a lot of bad experiences that I need to get over and start trusting my boy a bit more.  Today was good for that, and one of MANY.

 He was content and happy today

We even used the dogs catching their frisbee as a desensitizer.  Good boy Laz!

When he came up to us, and was nuzzling the BO's hair.  He defiantly feels safer with her vs me, and I've got to learn to give him that confidence.  I feel it's better than last year, for sure, but we have a long way to still go.  For both of us, we need to learn to trust each other.

She had me stand on the mounting block and drape my upper body and arms all over him.  That felt so good and he seemed to enjoy it.

The small details...no this isn't a duplicate image...one tiny difference between this shot...
and this one........listening

AND..this weekend, I finally was able to put these beautiful images of Lazarus and I into proper frames and set them up as they so deserve to be viewed.
If you don't have a poster from Juliette at Honeysuckle Faire yet..trot on over and order one.  They are insanely beautifully, graphically cool!!! 
I love being able to stare at my boy when I'm at home working.
I set the frames up in my home office, along with my Smithsonian copper horse statues that were a gift from my Uncle in Belgium, that I've had since I was a child.

Today was a great, great lesson and I'm so lucky to be somewhere that offers that kind of help.  
 I left Laz's boots OFF (Cliff ok'ed it via text,lol) to see how he fairs without them for a couple days, or more..or less, we'll see..


  1. I've learned a good deal about leading a horse that's upset. Choking up on the lead is the first habit I had to drop. I never keep a tight hold on the lead, if he really decides to run off, there is no way my little self is going to stop him.

    But what really helps is seeing it coming and fixing it before it gets to that point - getting him to think of you just as he's going to think of something else. It's amazing how early they give you signs. I don't always catch it visually, but I can feel it. It sounds like you can too.

  2. Sounds like you worked through it pretty well! I love the two pictures where only the ear moves. I need to get some photos to Juliette - your posters look great!

  3. Have I recommended Jane Savoie's book to you yet (It's Not Just About the Ribbons)? I recommend it to everyone and I forget who :) She has a great activity for you. Change your "what ifs" to "so what if." "So what if he spooks at the white bag, then I'll . . ." and think about how you will handle it. Your prepared then.

    I have started hanging white plastic bags around my paddock. Kinsey is really afraid of them too. She is starting to ignore them. Another think you can try is bring his favorite treat in white plastic bags. I know right now that would be too much for Kinsey, in a few weeks I think that I might try it.

    Good luck. . . I know how rough it is.

  4. Confidence is such a funny. Gen is such a nut job sometimes and yet I am never scared of him. The things he would do with me made other people scared of him, but I never had an issue. Phoenix has been stupid maybe 5 times and yet it took me almost a month to stop being nervous around him. I think having the BO there is great! Laz is still young and as an OTTB his world growing up was very different then it is now. Don't be so hard on yourself for having nerves! You are human! The more you can work with someone that makes you feel comfortable the better for both you and Laz. I know you will be fine, it is just going to take time.

  5. Izzy got away from me one day. She's such a wonky horse that I actually chased her with a plastic bag to catch her. Yes, she comes to the sound because she thinks every plastic bag has treats in it.

    Just a thought. And remember; it's as much human desensitization as it is horse. ;-)

  6. Laz...good boy! And you...You soo remind me of me.
    I should post about when I got the mare Washashe..,you'd think I was writing about someone else, I am sure!I was afraid of her! She was wild, wild, wild mare~
    I totally did not have any good advise till I watched a woman, I now love dearly, with her Thoroughbred Appy mare. She did almost everything off lead and that mare did so many things for her with only body movements. Pure communication!
    Wa was pushy and rude and in your face...she'd rear up if she was afraid..even online. The resident trainer told me to get a chain for her halter..you know..like a stud chain, over the nose!
    That was it...
    I asked this natural horsemanship gal...(she used not one specific person for her knowledge, but all, and what worked for her + horse) I asked her for help....
    The first lesson..she worked with Wa mare to see where her mind was..it scared Wa and she freaked and ran and bolted about..I cried later at home. But, she made a break through and stopped...told me to let her think for a day, gave me a lesson..and that mare really grasped the stuff!
    She needed a LEADER..if I did not lead- she HAD TO! Anywho, I enjoy the basics of Natural Horsemanship..Wa responds and I can always get her mind back with it too...even on weirdo windy days. It mostly has taught me...they are horses and I am human..the needs they desire..are opposite than mine and that little gem will save my life with an uppity mare!
    Ramble Ramble!

    LOVE your framed posters too!
    I JUST did mine today and have them at work..my poor clients...have to look at horses all the time!
    Keep up the good work, a great mentor is with soo much!!!

  7. Kristen! Thanks for the kind words about the posters. They really look great framed! Wow! Thank you for featuring them and linking too. You are such a great person!

    Your sweet Laz looks so good in the photos. He is filling out and re-muscling up. Your BO is completely right in what she is telling you to do to have better success with your boy. It is so much about what is going on in your head. Laz looks to you for support when he is scared. If you anticipate the bag or the wind or the corner of the ring and you are scared then, it is doubled when he comes to you for help. If, instead, you think to yourself that it is funny (not scary) that Laz is going to jump then you will convey that to Laz. I am learning to do this to on the ground. For some reason, I am confident and can sing and laugh when I am up on the boys, but if I am leading them, I forget to laugh and sing. Lately, I have been practicing this. I keep the lead loose just like the reins. I really have a hold, but the boys don't know it. Then I stop anticipating a jump or spook and if we have one, I act as if it didn't happen. It really works!

    Thanks again for the poster talk!

  8. It's true that our animals pick up so much from our emotional state...I'm not sure if that's good or bad though! Lol! At least you know you can help him to be a lot braver. I LOVE those prints Julie made for you! They look incredible in the frames, and have inspired me even more to get off my butt and order one.

  9. It's so true, they DO totally pick up on it. AND I have a hard time 'faking' it and he can totally tell. I find that if I try to occupy my mind with other things then I don't try to predict bad behavior. I do need to change my thinking from 'What if" to "So what" and start laughing about his TB moments instead of wanting to cry and feel like he's too much horse for me. He's not..he's a golden boy, I just need to work on me having the confidence to be his leader. It will happen, I just need to get there! :)
    Thanks for the advice and books, etc! All are very welcome as we learn! :)

  10. Confidence is the key to a confident horse, that's for sure. I like to see each thing that arises as a training opportunity instead of something bad. That way instead of dreading horsie issues I look forward to them.