January 30, 2015

Fjord of the Month: Oden

As you all know, Fjords and miniature donkeys are pretty much my favorite combo. Due to this, it was only reasonable to interview Cindy from Life With Oden because she owns a gorgeous Fjord gelding, Oden, and an adorable miniature donkey named Eeyore.  Without further ado, here goes the first "Fjord of the Month" feature!

Basic info on Oden...
Nicknames (if any): None. I thought I would call him Odie, but he is definitely not an Odie.
Age: 8
Height: 14 hands
Personality: Strong, pushy, confident, slow to decide, slow to act, unflappable

Fjord horse
Oden grazing (Photo credit - Life With Oden)

How did you first get involved with Fjords and/or acquire Oden?

My previous horse was an Andalusian, and particularly as I got older, he was way too much horse for me. The last time he threw me was the last straw.

As I was recovering and contemplating that maybe it was time for me to get out of horses, I was very distressed.

During this time, I saw a YouTube video of someone riding a fat, hairy Fjord towing a couple of kids on sleds, and I thought to myself, "I could ride a horse like that!"

That was the first time I had taken notice Fjords.

When I showed the video to my husband implying that it might be nice to have a horse like that, he said, "Really? You want a horse like that?" because it was so different from the Andalusians I had been smitten with for so long.

I answered, "I want a horse I can ride and feel safe with!"

Oden arrived about six months later.

Fjord horse
The handsome Oden himself! (Photo credit - Life With Oden)
Just from your experiences owning Oden, are Fjords just like how you imagined they would be?

I bought Oden sight unseen. I thought he would be smaller, sweeter, slower, and more teddy-bearish.
He is very powerful, both physically and in his personality. When he walks up, everyone's eyes go to him.

He looks like a teddy bear, but he does not have a teddy bear personality. He very confident. Very in charge. Very quick to let me know when I screw up, particularly if I don't serve the food quickly enough.

He is not at all spooky. This goes right along with his confidence. He just marches out into the world without any concerns (or plans to stop).

He can be very clownish and silly. He likes to grab things in his mouth. The first day he was here, he snatched my gloves out of my pocket and ran off with them. He likes to stick his head into everything, including into your personal space. He sighs when he's bored. He squeals before he bolts. He's a fascinating and interesting horse.

Fjord horse
Stepping into the water?  Not a problem! (Photo credit - Life With Oden)
Do you have any long term goals with Oden (ie: showing, trails, dressage, etc.)?

I have had a long-term phobia of riding outside of my small pasture, and Oden is currently helping me with that. I still feel fear when we go out. Even on a nice, steady horse, of course things can go wrong. But I feel much safer with him than I felt with my previous horse, and that gives me so much freedom.

We have just begun a training problem called Straightness Training, which is designed to help you teach your horse collection. Like many Fjords, Oden is very heavy on his forehand. I have high hopes that these exercises will help him develop as an athlete.

Fjord horse
Oden and Cindy hit the trails! (Photo credit - Life With Oden)
What are some of Oden's quirks?

•He bites me as often as he can.

•He shoves Eeyore away from the food. I have had to rearrange my entire feeding program to ensure that Eeyore gets his share.

•When he canters, I can feel the ground shake.

•He has little interest in other horses, just in the grass they are standing on.

•Under saddle, he prefers to move with his head down lower than his knees.

Horse smiling

Did you have Eeyore before you had Oden? How do the two of them get along with each other?

Yes, I Got Eeyore about 12 years before I got Oden. My previous horse, the Andalusian, was super sensitive. When Eeyore flipped his tail, that horse would back up and prepare to flee.
When Oden arrived, Eeyore and I were both surprised that Oden seems oblivious to these kinds of signals -- whether from donkey or human.

Oden is very big, and drawn to food like a magnet. If Eeyore happens to be in between him and the food, Oden will go right through him without a thought. As Eeyore is a miniature donkey, he became very intimidated by this.

So, no, I would not say that they get along by nature. Oden is not sweet and retiring, so it is not easy for little Eeyore to deal with him. But we have all adjusted to each other.
Miniature donkey and Fjord horse
Oden and Eeyore in the snow (Photo credit - Life With Oden)

If you'd like to follow my life with Oden and Eeyore, come over to Oden's Facebook page which is "https://www.facebook.com/LifeWithOden." We have a lot of fun together!

I hope you all enjoyed this feature of the Fjord of the Month!  This feature will take place on the last Friday of each month.  If you are interested in having your Fjord featured, please email me at themoodymare(at)gmail(dot)com. 

January 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, Jethro!

I can't believe it, the little man Jethro turned a year old today.  It has been so neat watching him grow up!  Time sure does fly!

Miniature donkey foal
One week
Miniature donkey foal
One month
Miniature donkey foal
Three months
Miniature donkey foal
Four months - arriving here!
Miniature donkey foal
Five months
Miniature donkey foal
Six months
Miniature donkey
7 months

Miniature donkey
8 months
Miniature donkey
10 months
Miniature donkey and horses
1 year
Now for the head shots!

Miniature donkey foal
1 month

Leonardo Dicaprico
4 months

Donkey long ears
6 months

miniature donkey
8 months

Donkey playing frisbee
10 months

January 16, 2015

The Ultimate Showmanship Fail

Horse showing can lead to you being "that person" quite easily, whether you are on a seasoned show horse or a greenbean... the tables can turn at any moment.  Especially during showmanship.

It was a fateful day back in August 2014 at the fair.  It was my first big show, and Ypke's first show.  It also happened to be the first day of said fair.  This event took place during the first class.  Ypke and I were also FIRST to go.  That means five firsts all in under 5 minutes.  *Cue red flag*

The patterns were posted as I was leading a flipping out Ypke towards the ring.  I briefly glanced at the pattern and promptly left - another red flag.  Five minutes later I was leading a feisty Fjord into the ring, and I was first to go.  The problem?  I had no idea what the pattern was, and I had nobody to watch ahead of me.  The judge didn't repeat the pattern.  Nice!

Ypke was dancing in place, pushing into me, pulling me every which way, and I have no idea how many courtesy circles I did.  I wasn't sure when I needed to begin the pattern, so I just stood there watching the judge.  She was watching me.  We stood there for awhile and finally she just said "You can start any time." 

So pretty much...

4H intermediate showmanship pattern
This was how the pattern was SUPPOSED to go

Intermediate 4H horse showmanship pattern
This is what I did

Now, if you ask me, MY way took MUCH more skill. 
Once we got back to the line up things got worse.  We ran into a couple of horses, Ypke was seriously prancing every which way, she was tossing her head, she was pushing into me, etc.  The girl next to me gave me a sympathetic look whilst nervously laughing as my horse nearly swung into hers.  Deep down, she was probably just thinking, "YAY! LESS COMPETITION!" or "IF YOUR HORSE HITS MINE SOMEONE IS GONNA GET BEAT!"
The whole thing is on video and it pains me to watch it.  We ended up coming in 9th out of 11 and the judge's comments were pretty much just a nice way of saying we sucked out there.

4H horse showmanship
Screenshot from the video... we look okay here
To this day, I still don't know what 10th and 11th could have possibly done to score lower than Ypke and I.  The world may never know seeing as how I was too busy dodging out of the way controlling the beast to watch...

Needless to say, improving our showmanship skills is on the 2015 goals list.

January 9, 2015

Clicker Training: Mouthy Horses and Circus Seals?

This is part 2 of my experiences with clicker training
One of the biggest things that automatically sets people off about clicker training is the fact that it typically involves treats. This is partially correct. Clicker training uses positive reinforcement, though it doesn't necessarily entail the use of treats - petting/praise is another common form.   

However, I am one of the people who uses treats (to the horror of many) with clicker training simply because Ypke is very food motivated and it works well for us. Despite Ypke being a dominant, moody mare I have had little to no issues with her becoming mouthy. However, this wasn't always the case.
Mouthy pony
When I first started feeding Ypke treats she became VERY, VERY mouthy and was constantly mugging me. This is the typical response from horses in the beginning, and it scares people off from the method. I almost quit clicker training because I was very discouraged at her response...  I thought I had ruined her even more! 
After a few short sessions, Ypke realized that she only recieved treats for good behavior, and that being a delinquent gave her nothing in return. Plus, I also taught her to keep her head turned slightly away — staring at me does nothing. I have noticed many people give their horses treats for no reason, which defeats the purpose of using them for clicker training. Ypke has to earn treats, she doesn't get them handed to her on a silver platter for the heck of it. Obviously, if you give your horses treats left and right for no apparent purposes (even when they are getting grabby), you are likely to run into issues.
Horse selfie
Another common concern is that the horse becomes a circus seal (you know: does the trick, eats the fish, and "Bye, Felicia!") and does things only for treats.  People assume that if you quit using treats, the horse will quit "being good." Actually, I have noticed quite the opposite. 
The whole goal is to not use the clicker all of the time. You start out at 100% but as the horse becomes acquainted with the task, you gradually wean them off of it. For example, for training Ypke's slow jog I would give her a click and a treat just for just a couple strides of the jog. Ultimately, I kept asking for more and more strides as she got better, and the clicker was no longer needed for that task.  I sometimes still occasionally reward the slow jog just to refresh the idea.
Now, this is just based off of my own personal experiences (and is not intended to be training advice, so use clicker training at your own risk) with clicker training Miss Ypke.  Let me know what you think!  Have you ever used clicker training or used treats for positive reinforcement training?  What were your results?

January 3, 2015

Blog Hop: Your Horse's Favorite Thing

The latest installment of Beka's blog hop is...

What is your horse's absolute favorite thing?  Outside of riding!  Are there treats that instantly convert your pony into an addict or liniments that leave him yawning and chewing?  What does your horse just love to have?
Fjords love food - it isn't a secret! 
Fjord horse smiling
Ypke wants ALL the food
Ypke is a fatty, and food is her passion.  She also loves to have a job to do (specifically something that makes her think) and gets bored very easily.  Due to this, clicker training is the happy medium!  It allows her to have something to focus on, and in return for her good behavior she is rewarded with treats.
Clicker training horses
Getting a click and a treat

Another thing Ypke loooooves is when you scratch behind her ears or on her rump.

Natural horse tail
She is saying, "Please scratch my bum!"


January 1, 2015

2015 Goals

It's that time of year again - New Year's goals and resolutions.
Horse bucking

Horse Goals
Ride more consistently - School this year is fast paced and difficult, so my riding schedule is non-existent.  To be honest, I haven't ridden once since early November.  Ypke needs to see more civilization before she goes mad!
Canter - This one is simple, yet hard for me... I need to suck it up and canter on Ypke.  She is becoming more and more reliable (watch my next ride be awful after I write this...) so *maybe* that will help with my nerves.  Even if it is just a stride! 
Go on a trail ride - In the whole time I have had Ypke we have never gone out on a trail.  We've hauled to different arenas, we've ridden in a parade, we've been to the fair, and we have done obstacle courses, but never a legit trail ride.  Granted, I have never had anyone available to ride with me, and I don't want Ypke to be the only horse out there.
Get showmanship figured out - At home we are okay, I mean, we square, trot in hand, and do forehand turns alright.  Standing still, haunch turns turns, and side-passing?  Haha, nope!  At fair during showmanship I was "that" girl.  Ypke was dancing everywhere, whinnying, backing up, swinging into other horses, looking around like a maniac, etc.  I do not want that to happen again, so time to practice!
Work on upper body equitation - Shoulders BACK!  Elbows BENT!
Ride without stirrups more often.
Fjord in the snow
Blog Goals
Move to my own domain name - Let's face it, chroniclesofamoodymare.blogspot.com is waaaaay to long. 
Revamp/redesign the blog - Not a fan of the current look!