Cali the mini horse will be Mona's guide. In Mona's words Cali represents freedom for her. Cali will be Mona's eyes.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Cali and Penny
Yesterday, my new yearling filly, Penny, arrived. I was so excited ! I could hardly stand it. My plan is to try to train this little filly and see if she can become someone's guide, or, God forbid, if something happened to Cali, she might become my guide. I know, I know, I haven't ever trained a guide, and Cali and I haven't been a team for too long. Still, I think I'm up for the challenge. Even if Penny doesn't become a guide, she could still do some other work, such as helping someone in a wheelchair or something else equally important. I'm pretty inexperienced in some ways, but I know enough about Cali and therefore horses, to say that I'm sure I can do this. Of course, I'll need some help along the way. Hence, the myriad questions I'll be posing to lists I'm on, but questions are good. Learning is good. First, let me give a little description of Penny and her lineage, as I find it fascinating. Penny's full name is IPO's Pennystock. Her father, IPO, is a three-time national AMHR champion and is in the Amhr hall of fame, and her grandfather is also a national champion. Her mother is a granddaughter of Buckarooo, a famous little stallion. Penny is a liver chestnut, which I have learned means she is a chocolate brown all over, including her mane and tail. Although Penny is beautifully proportioned, she wouldn't win in halter shows because her coloring isn't striking. Of course, I don't mind and think she's adorable. She has an Arab face, I think, and is very fine-boned. The breeder estimates that she'll be about Cali's size, and although Cali is probably the largest guide horse, I don't think Penny's size will be a problem. When I first met Penny at a mini expo nearly two weeks ago, I wasn't intending to buy a mini, I swear! My only interest was to look at tack for minis and to see babies and moms. Penny's breeder, Max White, was showing one of his mares and had brought along two mares and their foals, two precious little ones that will be a little bigger than Cali. We were about to leave when Max mentioned that he had a little yearling filly if we were interested in seeing her. Now, who could pass up the chance to see another little mini? I know Claudia, the friend I live with, and I sure couldn't, so we went out to see her. Max told me matter-of-factly that Penny was a little skittish and that she probably wouldn't let us handle her but that he'd try to see if she'd be cooperative. She didn't resist when he went to get her. This sounds really weird, but as soon as I touched her, I just knew she was mine. There was nothing else to be said. Max warned me that Penny wouldn't let me walk her on a lead rope and that in fact, she was always out on pasture and handled only for vet visits, but when I asked if I could take her lead rope, he relented. This little horse just walked with me as if we'd been doing it forever! It was amazing. Bystanders commented on it, and I was thrilled. There was a connection between us that I can't explain. It was like the connection I felt the first time Dolores brought Cali over and she walked out of the trailer and lined right up to me. I just knew this was meant to be. Anyhow, I digress. Back to my story about Penny's arrival yesterday. When Penny arrived, I took her halter and stood outside with her for a while. Whenever a car went by, she would turn and look, her ears would go back, then forward. She was also interested in her reflection in the Explorer parked in the driveway. She nickered at the little horse she saw, and I laughed at her. I took Penny into the yard for a while and just stood with her while she relaxed a bit and had some grass. I checked to see where she would and wouldn't let me touch her. Her face, back, chest, and tummy are all fine, but her legs are off limits, apparently. That was the only time she tried to kick me. Because it was raining out, I took out Cali's old raincoat, one that I'd bought and didn't fit her, and put it on Penny. It fits her perfectly. What I don't like about it is that you have to put it over the animal's head before you can fasten it, so if an animal is at all nervous, you have a problem. Also, it's a tight fit on a mini, even a little one like Penny. She did fantastically, though, as I encouraged her the whole way and was careful to make it as quick at possible. I inadvertently leaned against her a few times, and she was fine with that. Now, this is a horse that hadn't even been taught to lead, so I was astonished at just what she'd tolerate. Then I made the mistake of introducing Penny to Cali. They had met at the expo, but of course, that was on neutral territory, so all that happened was a little squealing on Cali's part and a lot of ignoring on Penny's. When I put Penny into Cali's pen, there was quite a commotion. Cali kept chasing Penny round and round, and when Penny tried to escape by running into the shed, miss Cali followed her. Penny kept whinny and ran out again. I heard a lot of crashing around, like Cali had kicked the wall of the shed. At this point, I decided to intervene. I know horses have to work things out, but Cali was protecting her turf, which meant that she wouldn't take kindly to Penny's intrusion. So I went into the pen and took Cali out. Penny had had a stressful day and hadn't pooped at all since she'd arrived, and I wanted her to get a chance to poop, pee, and maybe eat and drink a little. Cali came with me, and she got a bath, as she'd gotten muddy from running around so much. Her area is a morass right now, due to all the rain we've been having, and I wanted to take her into the house and keep her occupied for a few hours so that Penny would have some time to herself. Although Bruce, Claudia's husband, has built an extension on the shed and partitioned it for the two girls, they wouldn't be separated, as they'd have the ability to go into the shed or out if they so chose. That's why I decided that Cali had to come and stay in the house for a while. Cali was patient while she got her bath, even though the hot water wasn't on and it was pretty chilly out. Then I took her inside. At first, she wouldn't listen to anyone. She pushed past everyone, turned away when she was called, and generally made a nuissance of herself. Then I walked over to her, took her halter, and said firmly, "That's enough, Cali. You may be the boss in the shed, but here, you'll be a good girl and do what I say." Right away, she calmed down. I took her into my room and worked on some basic obedience like coming, touching my hand, lining up, and finding a chair. Then I asked her to wait, and for the next hour or so, she was wonderful. She just stood patiently by while I worked. I will say this for the umteenth time: Cal is an amazing, brilliant little horse! By the time I went out with Cali, Bruce had partitioned the shed and pen off so that each of the horses had a section of their own but could touch aroses through the fence. Both had stalls, so they would be out of the wind and rain, which made me happy. This is just a temporary fix until Bruce can open up a larger section of the yard and give the two horses more room. Hopefully, by that time, they'll get along better. One can hope, right? I fed both horses and noticed that Penny was shivering, but I thought maybe it was due to nervousness. I jave her extra hay and let her be. This morning, when I fed both horses, Penny was shivering. I think it's because she was body clipped and the weather has been cooler than normal. I took out a foal blanket that's heavier than a summer sheet but not as heavy as a winter blanket, and after I put it on her, she stopped shivering. I feel bad because I should have done this last night. Sorry, Penny. I'll try to do better.
Penny didn't eat or drink much last night, which was really worrying, so I decided to see if she'd try some of Cali's timothy hay pellets, which I use as treats when we're out. Penny is on sweet feed and alfalfa grass mix, which I don't think is good for minis, as they're too high in sugar and protein. I'm going to wean Penny off of them and get her on Cali's diet of Purina Horse Chow and timothy hay, but in the meantime, she refused to eat her grain. I was really worried about that because really, what horse will pass up sweet feed? However, when I gave Penny some hay pellets, she had no problem eating them. The funny thing is, she'll only take one at a time, chew it up, and then touch my hand for more. I guess it won't be too hard to ration her treats. I wonder if she'll be as motivated by food as Cali is. While I was out with Penny, I discovered that she really likes to be scratched. I'm not sure how I'll introduce her to clicker training, if maybe I'll use scratches instead of food at first or if that's unwise. I don't know that food is really motivating to Penny, except for grass, I think, so I'm going to have a little challenge on my hands. This afternoon, a friend and I went walking. I took Penny along just to get her used to being led and also to see new things in a controlled, safe way. She was really interested in everything and sometimes pinned her ears at new things, like barking dogs, but after a moment, her ears would go forward and she'd just walk on. She really isn't skittish at all, especially when I let her know that everything is fine. I pretend that all these new things are just routine, and she seems to pick up on my confidence. We didn't walk down busy streets, so when a car was passing us by just before we were going to cross a street, I had Penny stand, wait, and watch. She was concerned about the car and her ears went back for a moment, but she didn't startle at all. Instead, she just watched the car go by. I'm glad she's wary of cars because that's going to be important WHEN she becomes a guide. I also noticed that as we were walking, she was content to walk on my left side and just a little behind me, but when I asked her to walk beside me, she wanted to cut in front of my friend and lead. I had to get her to walk beside me again, which didn't take me very long. It pleased me that she wanted to be in the lead because I think this bodes well for her future. You want a guide that is willing to make some decisions, a guide that wants to lead the way, one that is willing to accept directions but will also take the lead if need be. This is how Cali is, and I think that's a major part of what makes her such an awesome guide. We only walked for a few blocks, but in that short time, Penny saw a mom with her two little kids, one in a stroller, quite a few barking dogs, tempting bushes and grass, and cars in driveways. We heard kids playing, people running power tools, and a few cars coming from behind us. While Penny was concerned at all this, she didn't startle even once, which made me proud, as if I'd accomplished something. Then we went to my friend's yard, which had a few interesting things in it, including logs set in a circle with an opening at one end so that it looks like a fort. I wanted to see what Penny would do if I asked her to walk through that "doorway," and although she hesitated and pinned her ears for a moment, she walked right through. Then we went home, and she was allowed to relax. Granted, we were only out for about half an hour, but I think she did an amazing job. Unless I'm completely wrong (which is always possible and maybe even probable), Penny seems very curious and definitely smart. Of fwhrse, for whatever reason, she might not make it as a guide, but either way, she's a marvelous little horse, and I've fallen in love with her. When we returned, Cali was very upset. She kept marching around her area, splattering herself with even more mud. Treats cured her of her jealwhsy, though, and I hope the hugs and kisses contributed as well. Penny is an awesome horse, but Cali is my baby. I want to do them both justice. It'll take a whole lot of work, time, and love, but I'm willing to invest all that into both of them. One day, I hope to start a foundation for people with disabilities who want an alternative to service and guide dogs. Horses aren't for everyone, or even most people, but people should have the opportunity and ability to choose. I don't want others to have to save up for years for a horse as I did, even though it makes me cherish Cali even more. Instead, I want horses to someday become available to people just as guide dogs are. They're much more work than a dog, but there are advantages to having a horse, including their life span and the fact that horses, unlike many dogs, aren't clingy. They're content to go out and graze when they're done working. I like dogs and would get a German shepherd if I ever needed a dog for some reason; however, a horse suits me better. So one day, I hope to help others have the same choice I did. Again, a great deal of time, effort, and money will have to be put into this, but I'm up for the challenge. Life is about challenges, after all, and world, bring them on!