Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dirty Girl

Tessa was actually dirty when I went to get her cleaned up before the saddle fitter arrived.  She's the cleanest gray horse I've ever owned so it was funny to see half of her face covered with a large mud splotch. She got a good curry and it all came off thankfully.

Trying to take pictures of the new saddle that show how glorious it is, is futile.  I mean, it just looks like a dressage saddle.  My saddle fitter threw in a free Back on Track pad for us, which is really really nice.  The leather on the seat of the saddle is super cushy but the sides still need to be broken in.  And the billets are stiff too, which makes girthing up fun.  The pony already knows how to blow herself up three sizes.  At one point we were girthing her up and Tessa put her tail straight up in the air.

"What's she doing?", the saddle fitter asked.

"She's sucking in air wherever she can get it" quipped Laila, Tessa's other rider.

Laila has been riding Tessa for me on an as needed basis.  She's a super good rider and really likes Tessa.  She's also much cheaper than a trainer AND she's willing to do things like help clip her back feet and get her used to the wash rack.

Here's my training question of the day.  Tessa gets big giant chunks of disgustingness in her teats.  The last few days she's been going around whipping her tail between her legs or holding it straight up.  She is very polite about letting me clean out her butt and bits under her tail, but when I even get back behind her belly she lifts a leg.  I'm afraid to keep my hand there because she kicks up at her belly.  I worked a bit today on just resting my hand there and if she snapped her leg, I gave her a smack.  She got better, but I was nowhere near her teats.

Laila tried to get some of it out by having our trainer hold up a front leg while she went back and worked.  Even with a front leg up though, Tessa is an athletic girl and does her best to kick out anyway.  So we got some of the stuff out, but not enough.  I really need her to let me get in there on a regular basis and clean it out.  I have to do under her tail every few days or the build up gets nasty, so I can only imagine how her teats must be.  Every time we've cleaned them (only three or four times over this last year) she has had giant chunks come out.

Does anyone have experience with this?  Suggestions on an easier way to do it?  I know that I can (and will) spend every day moving a teeny tiny bit farther in, but I can't wait another year for her to get okay with this.  How do you teach your horses to let you touch them ALL over.  And how do you stay safe?  Tessa is very uncomfortable around her hind end and still gets defensive about it.  I don't want to get kicked.  She's come a long way in the past year.  She used to kick whenever you'd go near her hind legs.  She now will let you brush them and pick them up and only tries to snatch them away occasionally.  So, we have made progress, but I really want to help her discomfort with the stuff that I think is lurking in her nether regions (did I really just say that?  Yes, yes I did. It's like Mommy Bloggers talking about poop.  I can't help it.).  Any insights you guys can give me would be great.  Or stories about mares who had similar problems.


  1. Instead of a smack when she kicks, treat when she doesn't. Start just outside her leg, then slowly work to the udders. I did it via clicker training but, it will work without the click. She'll get the idea that kicking doesn't get a reward while standing nicely does. Oh, I also say "whoa" as I place my hand. If you do it patiently and regularly you should get there within a week.

  2. TTouches!

    After riding (or grooming, when she is more relaxed) Basically start where she is comfortable and work your towards her scary zone, do not be timid or worry about being kicked. be confident. You want firm strokes (or ttouches) (not little tickley ones) Gauge her comfort level, when she starts to get tense (but before she acts up) work your way back towards her comfort zone, repeat until she is relaxed but don't be too goal oriented, it might take a couple sessions. Verbally praise her when she is standing nicely.

    You could do under her tail first and scratch her dock (many mares like that) and take you other hand on her thigh and just rest it there. When picking out her back feet make circles like you are drawing with the toe, good for relaxing hind legs. Don't do the snatch and grab motion, that makes a horse defensive, work into touching an area, stay relaxed and remember to breathe.

    Teat crud usually isn't awful, take your time getting her used to it, if you get her to trust you messing around back there she will quickly figure out you can itch her in places she can't reach. Joy used to be awful with this but once she figured out I could scratch those itchy bug bites she loooooooooves it.

  3. OMG SADDLE!!!! so excited for you. please tell me it's magical because mine it somewhere in the production line!!!

  4. Stay consistent and work both sides. I agree with Camryn, use treats or clicker when she stands quietly. Try not to back away from her negative reactions, hard I know, but she will learn no reaction will stop your action. It has really helped us with our colt. Good luck.

  5. Love the saddle!!! Sorry, no ideas on your training issue, but once again, love the saddle!

  6. Thankfully, my mare will stand while you clean her teat crud off. I have always had geldings and she is my first mare, so it was like, six months into owning her before I ever thought to check her teats. Oops! They were very cruddy (and also slightly chapped)! I got as much off as I could, and to prevent future cruddings, put on a good layer of bag balm. I've been doing that once a monthish after I clean them, and I think she's pretty happy about it!

    I agree with Nicole about the no reaction helping to correct bad behavior, that would have been my suggestion as well. :)

  7. The saddle looks lovely! I know you and Tess will love it. Riva's girthiness has disappeared with our new saddle and girth.

    I, too, need advice on teat cleaning. Will be checking back on what other bloggers comment!

  8. I was gonna say I'm SOO happy to have a gelding and be free of "teat cleaning"...then I remembered there's other far deeper regions on the boys...

    Unfortunately, I don't have teat-advice to offer, but will counter the "treating" suggestions with maintaining your "smack" correction. However, when she's behaving nicely, I'd say rub her gently, speak softly saying she's a good girl, release the pressure (move away from her hind end), and if you want THEN treat her (or just pet her, which is equally nice!).

    BUT any time she goes to kick or threaten or pin an ear even, SMACK. I'm sorry to say, but my opinion is that horses learn respect from the smack far more then they learn respect from a treat. She should NEVER raise a leg at you, and being a dominant type, very headstrong mare, I think she'd fare better with this type of "dominant mare" correction (Hey, I'm the leader. Don't you dare kick me) vs. the submissive "Oh please don't kick me. Here's a pretty treat for you". Last time I watched horses in a field, the dominant mare didn't approach the lower one who's threatening to kick her with an apple and beg for mercy. : P

    Too much dog training I guess. The problem with treats are that they only work so long as the animal wants them. When they don't, you lose your control.

    Just my opinion. Like I said, no mare, no teats. : P

    P.S. LOVE the new saddle!!! Now let's see YOU in it!

  9. One of the best ways to get a horse comfortable is to desensitize them with a rope. You swing it at wherever the scary spot is, and don't quit swinging until she accepts the touch, then give her a break. Wash rinse repeat. Don't be afraid to let her move, but make sure you aren't chasing her. Follow and swing, but try not to escalate the pressure. Pretty much all the nh guys do some form of this desensetizing, so you might be able to find more info or a video on youtube. LOVE the saddle :)

  10. So many good ideas! Thanks folks!! I haven't had much time to work on it this week and since I *am* afraid, I might pawn this job off on someone else for a little while. There just isn't a way for me to stand back there while she fusses and not feel afraid that she's going to kick me. I have some braver friends though and I think I will offer them lunch in exchange for a little help.

    Oh- and Gingham. The saddle has so far been magical. Hard to girth up with stiff billets, but I'm still pretty sure there are now rainbows coming out of our butts and that Tessa has sprouted a horn. It's that good of a saddle! So far, totally worth the wait.