When it becomes more then just the food…


Right now I’m working with Dante on his lunging. Unfortunately, between all the bro-haha at the barn as well as me being down from dental surgery, things have been a bit uneven this last week which I really dislike – I like consistency in training because then you see improvements.

However, this Sunday, I had husband Grenwinae to help me. He was to be on the outside of the circle and use the target stick to keep Dante going on the outside of the circle while I ‘lunged’ on the inside. I wasn’t looking for Dante to touch the target but to just bring his head down while moving forward so when that happened, I clicked.

Dante had other Ideas.

Dante KNEW that the game should be that he touches the ball – and Silly Daddy wasn’t as smart as he was.

So when I clicked, Dante came going forward still trying to reach the ball on the target stick while Grenwinae kept trying to feed him a treat (which Dante ignored until he touched the Damn Ball!).

Part of this is I have changed the game and Dante doesn’t understand that it is the Down I’m looking for. So I’m working on putting that into place by just having him standing still and asking for Down and when he lowers his head, click (without using the Target Ball Stick in the exercise).

Part of this is an interesting phenomena called Contrafreeloading. Animals that were given the choice of doing a task to gain food vs. just having access to food would choose the task. For example, a gerbil with free choice food in the cage would instead chose to push a pedal to gain food. This has been observed in many animals (and if the Wiki article is to be believed, only domesticated cats do not follow this pattern!😀 They much prefer food with no strings attached – so this must be true!).

It was rather funny to see how Dante was like “no, I do not get a treat until I touch this ball” and Grenwinae waving food at him, trying to keep up with Dante’s pace  :D

Posted in Clicker Training, Pyschology and Behavior

Gravel screenings for better drainage around the Loafing Shed

When I moved to my current location 3+ years ago I paid for several improvements – one of those was adding gravel screenings inside my loafing shed and around the run off area. The 12 x 12 Loafing Shed was then carpeted with recycled rubber stall mats (from Tractor Supply) to prevent the loss of the footing due to urine, it being scooped up with manure or the natural movement of it by the horse moving it to the outside.


This has worked well except eventually a path of water started traveling down through the middle of the paddock leading up to the loafing shed when it rained. So today more gravel screenings got delivered. I like to put these also under the water tanks and the gates for better footing for my horse but also for me – making it less muddy to close gates in the rainy spring and muddy winter.


It irks me to have my horses in mud when it rains. It irks me a lot and so even though I had to pay for this improvement ($125 on my side; Spotty’s owner paid for her side) to be done it is well worth the cost to me to have my horses walk on fine gravel instead of clogging their hooves up with mud and thrush.

The ponies and horses had a bit of excitement when the fence was down for gravel delivery and spreading and they raced around a bit together. Later, in the afternoon, Grenwinae and I went out to corral up the ponies again behind their electric tape fence so they could safely be off grass.

A bonus was that the landowner did use his tractor and level the hill of my mulch so that is a job that we don’t have to continue using muckbuckets, rakes and shovels! Yay!

Posted in Barn Design, hooves, stabling

Building the Poor Woman’s riding arena


Mulched Arena 90 x 90

For years I’ve dealt with the lack of a riding arena by just riding in the pasture. The place where I board now also does not have a riding arena and when I just had Tristan and the pony-girls it wasn’t a problem.

Now with a potential riding horse something has to be done so I’m back to building a poor woman’s riding arena or at least a small squarish area that I can lunge and work Dante on level ground.tinycarrot

When I started boarding here three years+ ago, I had a paddock area built for the ponies, but I’ve recently expanded it to a rough 90 by 90 feet in size.

My optimal plan would be to have a 4 inch depth over the current hard packed ground with a cushioning material so I could lunge, do groundwork and in-hand work, with some basic riding at a walk and trot.

To figure out the amount of material I need:

1.) convert feet to yards (90′ x 90′) = 30 x 30 yards.

2.) Multiply 30 x 30 yards = 900 square yards

3.) With a desired 4 inch depth take 4 / 36 (inches in a yard) x 900 = 100 cubic yards is needed.

If you know how many cubic yards is in a truck load or the back of your pickup etc… you can figure out how many loads you will need.


The City of Tulsa has a free mulch program; they grind up tree waste brought in by residents and give what is produced away for free – which saves on landfill deposits.

We went to check it out and while it does have some cedar (which is an allergy/irritant to horses as is Black Walnut) there isn’t much – most of it is hardwoods, pine and some Bradford Pears. The texture was pretty good too but after filling up five muck buckets (I don’t have a pickup, but an SUV), it was apparent that making the many trips for the amount I would need would take forever.

We bumped into a landscape company while there and they agreed to bring us a dumpload for $150, which was still better than a landscape supply mulch quote of $120 for mulch and $130 for delivery! Realistically, I’ll probably need a total of 2-3 dumploads total to gain the 3-4 inch depth that I really want, but it’s a start and so far is spreading rather well!




Next, using Craigslist, I found a woodworking Carpenter shop within 10 miles of the barn which was giving away free bagged sawdust (again a waste product). By adding this finer material into the coarse mulch, I’ll have an even softer surface, without spending additional money for mulch.

Check out your local sawmills and wood shops via Craiglists or contact your state Forestry office for a list of who is close to you. Legwork and phone calling could save you a wallet of cash! Just be sure to avoid trees that horses would have issues with such as Maples, Cedar, and Black Walnut.


Years ago I bought $400+ worth of mulch (grindings) to put down for a small dressage arena (marked out using cinder blocks I painted white and PVC poles) and while it helped for a short time, it wasn’t near enough to give a deep enough bedding to the hard packed ground surface.

Companies that dispose of wooden pallets as their business, chips them up to produce a mulch-like material called “grindings.” We paid only for the delivery fee as this was considered a waste product.

This might be an option in your area but I did spend a lot of time cleaning it up and picking out chunks of wood that hadn’t been chipped up or garbage; you also run the risk of nails (just being honest here) though we did not have that problem. Depending on the pallet materials you can also run into problems like wood preservatives used on the pallets or the type of wood presents a danger to horses (i.e. Cedar, Maple, Black Walnut).

Posted in Farm & Barn, fencing & arenas

Dante’s hooves get a cast wrap

Dante has rather flat, pancake feet. While this apparently is found in draft horses, his overall appearance and the size of his hooves are not particularly draft (remember he is a Morgan x Frisian).

The flatness of his sole does concern me as it means he may be having too much concussion on the flat soles (this was an issue with Z and it turned out the years of concussion had formed ski tips on the coffin bone, all of this resulted in lameness when in work).

The left fore has a nice circle forming; the right fore is more oval. The left fore has a more open heel and the left is more closed at the heel bulbs.

This shows you how the horse is working and bearing weight – what do you think is happening from this evidence? To me it appears the right fore is not bearing as much weight or is not carrying weight as evenly as the left fore.


Interestingly, when we started out the back hooves were almost worse in terms of flatness! But after two trims and supplementation (especially the California Trace for Copper and Zinc),  they have already improved. They are actually growing and shedding more then the front feet!

Horses work their legs in diagonal pairs (i.e. lameness showing in the right fore could be connected to the left hind) so Dante’s right fore (which has the oval and more narrow heels) is paired with this left hind which shows a flare (marked with the red arrow).


The right hind had lost frog due to thrush.

So after doing a lot of research about this, I’ve decided to put his front feet in hoof casts like we did Dancer. For Dancer, hoof casts give her laminitic feet relief while the tissue rebuilds inside-out. For Dante, hoof casts will provide his sole some relief, and encourage shedding sole while improving concavity. They will stay on for about 3-4 weeks before being removed.


Posted in Dante, hooves

Dante’s Cavesson ordered for lunging and in-hand work

I’ve ordered Dante a Cavesson in black leather with brass fittings that will fit his massive head!

cavesson_measures (1)

This one has a leather nosepiece instead of the metal type more commonly found which makes me feel more comfortable about using it. There are a lot of great ones to pick from, all being made in Europe, but this one looked like what I wanted and had the best price.

I ordered it with an option for bit hangers so I can use it with double reins – a pair on the cavesson and a pair on the bit – which is a great way to transition a horse from bitted to bitless.


product photo by Quinta Cavalos Verdes, Lda

I would have bought a Linda Tellington Jones sidepull but their size doesn’t fit Dante and is not designed for lunging. I’ve ridden in this sidepull at a clinic and it is really nice quality so if you are in the market and its measurements fit your horse I highly recommend this one!

I’ll be using this QCV cavesson in our lunging and in-hand work (leg yield, shoulder in, haunches in, haunches out).  After watching this video (“mind blown!”) I’m just really excited to do more with our groundwork and in hand work!

Posted in Dante, equipment, Linda Tellington-Jones TTEAM