Welcome to Allison Acres ~ Galt, CA ~ (209) 224-4304

The Trainer's Challenge

for the Grace Foundation

Info here

Tahoe: yearling filly, tall, appendix QH (unregistered)

Rose: 10ish year old mini mare.  UPDATE: Rose is adopted!  Congratulations Joan!

Tahoe is still available for adoption.  Her adoption fee is $800.



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(209) 224-4304

Allison Acres
13512 Alta Mesa Rd.
Galt, CA 95632
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WHOO HOO!  Tahoe and I win second place in our class at the Horse Expo!  Tahoe was awesome.  I would like to thank Tahoe very much for this amazing experience.  I also want to thank all the horses I've ever worked with for helping me learn!  And of course a special thanks to my barn help and my family and my students for all their support.

And thanks to the Grace Foundation who made this all possible!

Click here to see the results

Click here to see the newest photos of Tahoe, out in the pasture on September 22, 2010

Pics and video from our journey to the Trainer's Challenge below:

Notes on the event:  Tahoe was amazing.  The expo is busy, the stalls are small and made of tarps, the barn aisle was skinny and full of stuff, and the stalls are in a noisy concrete floor building... She took it all very well.  She did show some signs of stress in her behavior by the third day, but for her that means she actually put her nose and head on me in a somewhat "I'm annoyed" fashion.  This was the first time she had ever done anything like that, so even in her stress she is still pretty respectful.

We had some fun practice sessions but by the first competition, the obstacle course on Thursday, we had only had 15 training sessions total (and 17 by Saturday's competition, if you count the competition on Thursday as a session, which I would be inclined to do.)  We had been really really behind due to the injury she came here with.  She's all healed up now but she did require stall rest and I only started working her in earnest 2.5 weeks ago.

She did actually spook three times at the Horse Expo.  But that's an amazingly small number of spooks.  She is a fabulous horse.  I was worried the first night that she was getting colicy, because she laid down and then started sort of scooching all around, but the vet checked her and she was fine, so I guess she was just enjoying her very very deep bed of shavings that I gave her to try to protect her from the concrete floor.  It wasn't deep enough I guess because she scraped up her hind fetlocks trying to get up the next day.  I washed them (thank goodness I worked on bathing at home) and she was fine.

Then Saturday she seemed sick again; she had really bad diarrhea all day and was cranking her tail around and looking unhappy.  But she got better by the nighttime, thank goodness.  Stress I'm sure.

We had the showcase on Thursday night.  It was really fun.  She did great.  Our competition had started Thursday morning, and my group finished on Saturday.  I messed up three times: once in the compulsory obstacle course on Thursday and then twice in the individual routine on Saturday.  Oh well!  I am very competitive by nature but I really enjoyed finding that I was able to put the horse first, and I never ever ever wanted her to feel any disappointment coming from me.  Nothing was her fault!

So the details...  In the obstacle course I didn't give her enough impulsion to finish her turn around the barrel when doing the figure eights, but I disengaged her and sent her again and she was great.  I try to keep it calm so I sometimes wind up doing not enough, which I guess is better than too much.  :-)

The rest of the obstacles went very very well and just as planned.

In the individual routine, I swear, you can practice and it can go totally fine but then something goes wrong in the actual show.  Given how well our practice went at the Horse Expo and at home, I would never have guessed this would happen - but I guess that's always how it goes! 

So, our booboos in the individual routine were in front of the public, ouch.  She wouldn't send off to the left when we came in the arena, and then instead of fixing her position and then asking for motion, like I teach, I kept asking for motion, so of course I got it in the wrong direction.  She stepped over her tarp rope even, but luckily it was all easily fixed up.  We had practiced all the crazy wrong things that might happen at home and she knows when she's in trouble to just hang tight and I'll help her get fixed up.  And the second booboo was when she was standing on the tarp and I went to rub her hind legs, I had just a bit too much energy in my body and she went to move off, but she was easily stopped with rubbing. 

If you'll see the video you'll notice in the start I only sent her around one time once I got her going, and I did that because I had wasted time trying to get her going, but it wound up looking like I stopped her then because I felt the tarp she was dragging was bothering her.  I really wish I would have sent her a second time around at the walk to show her being totally calm.  That had been my plan, but I was worried I'd run out of time.

I really liked our sideways!  And she was great over the barrels.  I could have spent more time with the ball.  I think the worst thing was her not tracking up when I lead her - makes her look unhappy and sour.  I had not worked on that much at all and she is pretty slow at home but she was WAY more slow there.  In fact some of the times we were just out and about walking, I had to turn and send her up because she was lagging so far behind.  That will be the next big thing we address now that she's back home with me (since she did not get adopted.)  But I really can't complain!  She was great and I'm proud of my second place win.  :-)  First place was Maggie Metzger, and yes, she did have way more training sessions with her guy than I was able to have with Tahoe, but Maggie is very very good!  She might have beat me even if she'd only had 16 sessions like I did!  :-)  Way to go Maggie!

So here are the videos, and some pics are below.

Our obstacle course:


Our individual routine:


Our performance at the Showcase.  It was set up that we did cavaletti for one song and then the ball for one song:



Allison and I at my booth

My mom and I at my booth


Going into the arena Thursday night.


My helpers: Sarah, Stephanie and Allison.

Daniel getting some free food at the dinner that the Grace Foundation brought for us Saturday night.


PROOF!  :-)

Tahoe's stall


Daniel runs down to hug me at the end of the show.


Here is the huge crowd of us in the arena at the end of the show.


A nice pic of Tahoe and I doing one of my individual routine elements:

Tahoe, Daniel and I walking back to the barn after my individual routine:

Training Log
Entries in the training log will go from most recent to least recent.

June 5:

So, Tahoe has been defensive about her body being touched, especially her neck.  Today I had April Battles work on her and it was amazing.  She had definite issues causing her defensiveness, and it's great to get this sort of work done on horses when they are young and still soft and pliable and not set in their ways.  We took a gazillion pictures, which you can see by clicking here, and here are just a couple from the day:

Tahoe loves April!

Tahoe says "thanks, Cindi":

June 4:

Video!!!  She's doing great especially considering I have only been able to start working her over the last couple weeks due to her injury (minor laceration that developed proud flesh and required stall rest - it occurred sometime before she arrived here.)  So we've had eleven sessions total, as of these videos, and counting the session in which we recorded these videos. 

I discovered early on the manner in which she likes to be worked and she got right with the program.  Her preference is for a lot of quiet breaks and petting and lots of slow careful work.  She's only recently been able to handle trotting work without getting upset.  She is an awesome horse with a great talent for jumping!  The barrels you see her jumping in one of the below videos were set up in the arena, and when she was loose in the arena for turnout she jumped them three times all on her own!

First a pic:

Video 1: circling, standing on the mounting block, going over barrels and cavaletti:


Video 2:  Working with her "fake rider" (a couple of balloons), and some very early liberty work.

Video 3: picking up feet, trailer loading.

May 27:

The harness arrived for Rose today.  It's going to be too big for my mini, so it'll be available for sale for whomever adopts Rose.  I paid $240 for it and will sell it for $175.  The product info page from where I got it is here.

Here are her photos in it.  She was awesome for tacking up but she is still nervous about being touched, and with the blinders on, she's even more nervous about unexpected touch behind her.  Still not kicky - just might tremble or shoot forwards or sideways - so she needs to be treated tactfully until she's better.  Which definitely does not mean sneak around her, as that won't solve anything, but what I'd do to be tactful is to start with my hand up on her shoulder and rub it back and then take it away and then back to her, as opposed to just suddenly touching her from behind. 


May 26:

Tahoe and my son Daniel.  She is incredibly sweet and gentle.
Look how shiny she is now!  And she has really filled out nicely.  I wish I would have measured her as I'm sure she's grown a few inches!

Tahoe is doing great in training.  She was getting afraid of her own athleticism for a while there but she's got it down now.  :-)  It's important to let her work calmly when on the line and limit the fast work for now to just a little bit so she doesn't get overwhelmed.  I do faster work loose in the round pen or free lunging her in a bigger arena.  She is very good at staying calm and slow on the line now and doesn't feel the need to speed up to escape.  She really has laser focus and doesn't get distracted easily.  I've had my son out there running around and other stuff going on and she's really good at keeping her focus with me.

We've been working on her stepping up onto things.  She's so smart and really generalizes well - when confronted with something that she doesn't understand right away, she now offers to put her foot up on it.  It's pretty cute. 

As for Rose, since she's not in the challenge, I've felt comfortable letting others handle her, whereas with Tahoe I've done it all myself.  So Rose is working with some of my students in an effort to expand her horizons.  She is very wary and I don't want her thinking I'm her only safe human being.  She's really really good at circling and disengaging and she's getting more comfortable with being groomed.  Her main issues are being shy about being touched.  She is VERY sweet though and no matter how afraid she's been she has not ever offered to do anything dangerous or "bad" or "mean" (which to me are just human terms to easily describe unwanted behaviors that horses might have - in reality the behaviors are not bad or mean.  Horses are just horses and they certainly are not mean or bad!)

May 16:

Wow, so busy.  I've been letting Tahoe have a few days off.  She's outside eating grass and playing with goats and a donkey.  She's sharing a fenceline with two thoroughbred geldings, and she will do whatever they do.  When they rest, she rests.  When they graze, she grazes.  When they go crazy running, she does crazy running.  :-)  She's back to work tomorrow, though!

Rose is doing great.  Here are some photos of her in her "fake harness" made of tinsel.

My son loves her.  Somebody please save me and adopt her - he thinks WE are going to keep her!  Yikes!  She's awesome but I have plenty of horses already.


May 12:

Tahoe and Rose get their feet trimmed!  They were good.  Tahoe was amazing.  Rose stood on her hind legs and few times and spent the majority of her session trembling, but she didn't kick or anything like that.  My trimmer uses a grinder, which is loud and potentially scary, but almost without fail, horses are fine with it, even those who are afraid of clippers, which make a similar noise.  Here are some pics.

Tahoe was really good.  She had been very nervous about me touching her hind feet, so I was a bit concerned, but it looks like our work paid off.  She was an angel. 

At first Rose got comfortable with a hind foot up on the curb.  OK, whatever you need, little girl.  :-)

Putting her fronts on the stand wasn't too bad.


She pulled a lot with her hind feet but never even considered kicking.


It was this position that caused her to get upset and stand on her hind legs a couple of times.  She cannot take a very strong correction but I did let her know thanks but no thanks.

Rose also had another milestone: wearing a surcingle and ground driving!  She's getting pretty good.  Interestingly, she is gate sour and wants to go out the gate to the tacking up area.  "We're done now, right?"  Stopping that behavior took the most I've had to do with her to date.  She was really committed to going out that gate.  Here she is looking all cute:

May 10: 

Well, Tahoe is apparently feeling her oats, so to speak.  She is more like a typical yearling now and a whole lot less quiet and sedate.  Which is good, since it means she's feeling good, but it does add some challenge, since last week I saddled her with a bareback pad and she was totally fine and this week I had to desensitize her to it a lot to even get it near her.  I'm feeling the pinch, since I didn't know until April 25 that I could even get Tahoe for the Trainer's Challenge (since she was laid up with that knee laceration), so I had gone ahead and accepted SEVENTEEN new students for the month of May, on top of my usual 15.  So now I have 17 new students and a yearling who's now acting like a normal yearling!  Busy busy busy!

Her knee is looking great; the skin is growing to close the opening, so we've been doing some minor circling, mainly at the walk.  Although today with her new-found energy she really really wanted to trot.  So today was the first time I'd really seen her trot more than a couple strides at a time, and she has a gorgeous trot. 

She continues to practice what it means when I ask her to turn her front end away from me and go out on the circle.  Her disengagements of the hindquarters are not the greatest, but I can't push it because I don't want her jumping around too much until that knee is done.  So we're just working slowly on that.  Her closer in-hand work is still great and while she's gotten more energetic she has still never ever been upset or mad or mean.  Just a sweet sweet girl.

She's been great as far as walking over tarps, walking on the bridge and trailer loading.  She's letting me rub her hind legs now without feeling the need to circle and circle and get nervous. 

I've done a Panacur Power Pack on her and she's getting Equine Junior with a whole slew of supplements: Source, Quadra Fac 2000, Equi Omega Complex, Dynamite trace minerals/salt. As I'm sure you can imagine, as a yearling coming off a feedlot, she wasn't looking her greatest. I didn't get any pics from her first few days here but here are some I took today.  She has already gained weight!  Still ribby with a bony back, but she's improving.

Her adorable head.  :-)
Standing around in the barn.  She is GREAT standing tied where the action is.  She will paw a bit when tied farther away.  But she does not pull back or anything like that!

Her big ol' belly is getting smaller as the rest of her fills out, slowly but surely.

Here's a shot to show her ribs, for later comparision.  I don't like babies to be too heavy, but she can stand to gain some weight.

Here's a pic of her from The Grace Foundation's website, I'm assuming from last year around when they got her in:

As for Ms. Rose, she is coming along wonderfully.  She lunges pretty nicely now and ground drives.  I ordered a harness for her so we'll get working on that asap.  She is still afraid but so obedient.  She'll do pretty much whatever you ask her to do but she might be trembling while she does it!  But she's getting better, and yesterday morning she actually nickered to me when she saw me, and I wasn't even carrying feed.  :-)

April 29:  Pictures of Rose!

Learning to turn and face me in the round pen:

Today I worked on desensitizing Rose to touch all over her body with my hands and the lead rope, and starting teaching her to lunge, and continued the turn and face me work I've been doing in a stall, now in the round pen.  She is coming along nicely!

April 28:  My vet was out today so she looked at Tahoe's injury.  Her wrap had fallen down during the night so it was the first time I had seen it.  There is some proud flesh.  She treated it with a hydrogel pad and a wrap and left me some for further treatments.  She said Tahoe should be on stall rest with just some hand walking.  I talked to The Grace Foundation's vet and he concurs. 

The injury is not severe but it is on the lateral side of the knee, a place that experiences a lot of motion when the horse moves around, so it is hard to get it to close completely and the motion can cause the overgrowth of granulation tissue otherwise known as proud flesh.  She is totally sound though and won't have any lasting issues from this once we can get it to close.

So there won't be much training involving moving that I can do.  I don't do much lunging with horses of this age anyway but I do teach them to move out on the circle away from me, to turn their bodies to the left or the right as requested, to disengage their hindquarters and turn and face me, and to move on the circle for no more than two or three times around without a break.  So that sort of training will need to be on hold.

I typically do a lot of desensitization training also, and of course the key to that is that the horse might move around, so you keep up the stimulus until the horse realizes it's not going away and not being solved by her movements, and then she will eventually stop and relax, and then I stop the stimulus... So of course I can't do much of this either since she might dance around too much.  Although I did do some yesterday before I knew about her restriction and she is pretty quiet.  But the whole key to that sort of desensitization is that they are allowed to move if they feel the need, and that part I won't be able to do, just in case.   

But I'm in a good spot since Tahoe is so quiet anyway.  If she was a more nervous flighty horse who really needed to use movement to understand her training, then we'd be in more trouble.  Although I must say, she is coming out of her shell!  She has attempted to move me around with her head now twice, and today she got impatient standing with me while I was talking to the vet so she tried to paw/strike at me with the non-injured leg to get my attention.  Pretty cute.  I always view these sorts of things as opportunities for me to say, "Thank you for that offer!  But we don't do that.  Instead we can do this."  It's good to see her coming out of her shell and feeling free to express herself!  Now it just needs to be channeled.

Everybody who's seen her has remarked on how cute she is.  She is a dark seal bay, tall and elegant, probably full thoroughbred.  She's on the thin side so we'll be working on that.  I'll do a Panacur Power Pack for encysted small strongyles (Google larvicidal deworming dose to learn about the importance of this, typically yearly), start her on Source and a fat supplement, and I'll move her to Equine Junior and free choice grass hay. 

As for Rose, she is an interesting gal.  If I ignore her attempts at avoiding being caught and just wait, she stays calm and we work thru it.  But if I make a little no-no noise, just the littlest of eh eh noises you can imagine, she about jumps out of her skin and gets very nervous and more difficult.  So we'll work on her being able to feel OK with the idea that humans might not always sneak around her but that doesn't mean they plan on eating her for dinner.

My vet did say that for a pony of unknown prior care, she is in pretty good shape other than showing signs of not having had her teeth floated, with overgrown but essentially good feet, not foundered like a lot of ponies, and nicely built.  Hoof trimming for both girls will be in two weeks, after I do more work to ensure it won't be a traumatic experience for them or involve injuries to my trimmer. 


April 25:  My horses arrive!  I was out of the country on vacation during the time for trainers to pick up horses.  Then when I got back, it was raining, and the folks at Grace wanted me to wait.  Then my horse Tahoe got hurt!  Then the vet declared her OK.  Then she and a mini I'm also working with were finally able to come to my place, pretty much exactly a month from when the other trainers got to get their horses.  Let's see if I can catch up!  :-)

Tahoe is a yearling filly from a feedlot rescue.  She looks to be thoroughbred to me or maybe appendix.  She is very tall.  Seal in color with no white.  She is a very good girl, but if you look at her carefully you can see that while she allows you to do pretty much anything you want, she is wary.  She's sort of an introvert and keeps it inside and does not show her emotions.  She's not really nervous or afraid; it almost seems like she has resentment and doesn't feel safe showing her emotions.  How sad in such a youngster.  I started working today to get her to open up a bit emotionally.

We worked in the round pen and I began teaching her the cues for when I want her to move and the cues for when I want her to turn and face me.  She is pretty smart but definitely a thinker and not emotional.  She would rather just sort of wait and think versus accidentally giving the "wrong" response.  She only licked/chewed twice during the session. 

I got pretty bummed out when she did an amazing thing (disengaged her hindquarters to continue to face me when I asked, instead of just leaving) and then I was stroking her neck and telling her what a good girl she was, and I accidentally stroked a bump on her neck by the nuchal ligament about halfway up her neck that was painful for her.  What a bummer!  Right when she had done something so nice and seemed to sort of begin to think about acting pleased with herself, and I go and hurt her.  :-(

Whenever these things happen, I always talk to the horse and tell them how sorry I am, and I am sure that my current herd understands me, but with Tahoe, she sort of had a "yeah, yeah, you humans are all alike" vibe about her and didn't really believe me when I said I was sorry.  I'm hoping to show her over time that when I say I'm sorry, I actually mean it.  But of course I hope mainly to not have to tell her I'm sorry!

So then we went in the barn.  She is so quiet and so well behaved.  She keeps on ear on me at all times but still keeps all emotion off her face.  I hand fed her some treats.  Of course there are horses for whom hand feeding is opening up a can of worms, but in Tahoe's case, she needs to start seeing me as interesting and FUN.  She had not done a single even halfway teeny tiny pushy thing all day, so she can definitely benefit from some hand feeding.  At first she politely allowed me to put my hand up to her nose but did nothing, not even smelling the treats.  Then she figured out it was food.  She ate slowly and deliberately and never ever stepped toward me or brought any of her body parts near me to ask for more.  This is a bit more than just being polite - this is being emotionally shut down. 

Me, her future trainers and her eventual owners will need to keep that fact about her personality in mind when they work with her.  Her quietness is not always going to mean she's well trained or easy or gentle.  It will often mean she's not fully engaged with what's going on, and that, in my opinion, can make her miserable, as if everything is happening TO her instead of WITH her, and it can also wind up being dangerous if she gets pushed beyond her ability to handle something. 

I finished up by rubbing her all over, picking up her feet and brushing her gently.  She went into the stall as slowly and deliberately as she does everything else - perhaps her first time in a stall.  All day, seeing the other horses coming and going, and walking by them herself while they ran up to the fence to meet her, she made no noise.  No nicker, no whinny, and in fact she didn't really even look at the other horses as we walked by.  She didn't really even change her breathing.  She is a very careful girl, holding her cards close, not wanting to show any of herself.  It will be so fun to see how she changes over time.

As for Rose, the mini, she is a bit nervous and shy, and very cute.  She was put into a double stall, and my 8 year old son Daniel and I went in a few times and basically spent some time showing her that if she turns and looks at us, we will back up and be non-threatening, but if she turns away, we will walk to her.  And of course since she prefers that we back up and be non-threatening, she discovered that she should turn to face us.  But this definitely needs more work!

She likes Daniel more than me and even sniffed his hand and let him pet her.  Later I went in to pet her and she acted like it was not very fun for her but she did stand still for it.  I found a spot along the jugular groove where she almost made a funny face and told me she liked it.  Almost.  :-)  So the two horses I have are somewhat similar in temperament.  They both are not emotional, and they both are watchers and thinkers.  In Rose's case I think she's more naturally open, but just hasn't been handled very much and isn't sure how to act.  But Tahoe will take more work to let her see it's OK to show feelings. 

I'll post updates, photos and video as I have time.  I only have until June 10th, and I have one other horse in training, a suckling foal who is pretty sure he rules the world, and my 10 lesson horses to keep tuned up, and my own rescue horse, several boarders' horses to care for also, plus my existing group of 20 or so students, PLUS 17 more who just started this week.  So May is going to be a very busy month for me.  You might not hear from me until the day of the Horse Expo!  And, er, maybe my house won't be very clean.  :-)  But I'm not complaining; I love this work.


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