Monday, April 11, 2016

Thank you

Thank you for the condolences on Bodhi. It means a lot especially because I have been gone from my blog for so long. I have really missed reading all of your blogs, and the introspection I got from keeping one of my own. With three new horses I have a lot of material. I don't think I want to write about other horses here. This blog feels like Bodhi's only. I am going to keep it up for now because I would like to come back and tell some of his stories I never got to.

 In the meantime I am writing in a new blog:

I plan on writing about our trial and tribulations at our brand new farmette (~ 5 acres). We are trying to fix it up, grow food, and keep three horses. All of it is brand new to us.  So far, I have been writing about my training sessions with our two new untrained horses - Grayson a yearling Lusitano cross and Oak an eight year old Haflinger gelding. Hopefully I will see some of you there and on your own blogs.

Thank you,
Molly - AKA Golden the Pony Girl

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

We said goodbye

I lost my best friend on January 14, 2016 at around 3 pm EST. Bodhi was first diagnosed with equine multi-nodular pulmonary fibrosis in November 2015. We managed his symptoms and pain well in December, but the new year brought a secondary infection, and rapid deterioration. The last week was the worst, trying everything to make him comfortable and to bring back his appetite. We thought if we could just beat the infection we could give him a few more months. More diagnostic tests however revealed that the lesions had spread far quicker then we had anticipated. He just did not have any more healthy lung tissue left.

Everyone I know has lost a horse they loved suddenly to colic or an accident, but I really hope that I never encounter EMPF again. It is an exceptionally awful disease.

I wish I had told more of his story before it was over. We have done so much I never shared: hunter paces, obstacle clinics, crazy trail rides, and dressage shows. He learned to do his Spanish walk under saddle, and his own version of downward facing dog. I always thought I had more time to pick up on this blog, that I had more of our journey to document.

I have been really struggling with his loss. I know he was special to me because I have had him since he was two, he was the first horse I started and trained on my own, and he has been with me though several life changes (marriage, graduate school, 4 moves, 4 jobs). He was more than that though. He was my buoy. He has kept me afloat though several recent traumas in my life. He is one of the reasons I am even still alive. It is hard getting up knowing he is not there to greet me, and it is painful every time my mind wanders to him (as it does every 5 seconds) and to have the repeated realization that he no longer exists. I know I have my memories, but right now they are of little comfort.

I have a garden, a husband, 2 dogs, and now 3 horses (long story) to tend to, so I have to get up-- I am just not too thrilled about it. I am hoping blogging again will re-kindle my love for horses and training. I am going to try to write regularly again if not here then somewhere.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bodhi's Sick

Bodhi is sick and it is not fair. He is only 10 and he probably won't be around for his next birthday in June. The vets have given him 3-6 months. He has equine multi-nodular pulmonary fibrosis.

I had so many plans, and I felt like I was finally getting there. We finally bought a farm, and Bodhi and I are living together for the first time. I was finally going to get back into riding. Into competing. Into at least growing as a horse person. I had always thought that Bodhi would be the pony my kids rode... if I have any. This is not fair at all.

Remember this post? I got that baby. His name is Grayson. I bought him thinking I had my solid rock to support me. Now I am going to be raising this crazy baby without Bodhi's support and influence. Definitely not part of the plan!!

Most of all though I can't imagine loving a horse as much as I love Bodhi or ever working so well with another horse. I have not even ridden another horse in about 5 years. He has always been my one and only.

I would like to start blogging again. I miss everyone's stories, and I definitely could use the support. I will give it a try. For Grayson.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Its a learning curve

Ok ok not horse related but training related so bear with me. 

My new job involves working with a dog. Pretty cool huh? I thought it was perfect but it has been quite an adjustment however. It is one thing to work with animals as a hobby and quite another to to rely on one for your livelihood
Ok so I actually have two working dogs. One well trained dog that has been doing the job for several years and one green dog literally straight from the farm. I call him my not so working working  dog (or NWWD for non-working working dog).The NWWD has had to go back to kindergarten so to speak. He came to me with the appearance of knowing absolutely nothing.

It has been a frustrating experience for me and I felt like I was getting nowhere with him. So I started a training spread sheet (I know I am a serious nerd). It includes the date, how long we work, what we work on and where we work. I also rate the session from 1-10 on our performance. This process has really given me great prospective on the learning process! I highly recommend starting your own spread sheet if you feel overwhelmed, plateaued, or stuck. If anyone is interested in talking spread sheets or wants help tracking their work with their horse let me know. I happen to really enjoy designing this sort of thing. My email is

So I have made a graph here of our session dates and the ratings I have given each session a 1-10 rating with 1 being 100% distracted and 0 response to cues and 10 being 100% correct response. Does the pattern look familiar (see the graph above of a textbook learning process graph)? I have only just started this documentation process I look forward to having several months of data so we can really see the learning process in action!! SO Cool!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Happened?

Ok so I have been a bit of bad blogger..... But I have been busy graduating from graduate school and moving BACK to Florida. Long story.

I have two questions to anyone out there:

Where did all the blogs I follow go from my Blogger home page?

Anyone know of good boarding barns in the Tampa area?

I hope everyone is well! I wish I could have all my blogs back :(

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New research-- Horses need friends too!

I wanted to highlight a recent paper that has just been published in the Journal of Ethology examining the interactions among a managed population of Sorraia mares in Portugal.

File:Sorraia.convex profile.jpg

First of all Sorraia is evidently a rare (endangered)  breed of horse that is indigenous to Portugal. They were re-discovered in the 20th centurary and there are re-establishment projects in the works. Check out how lovely they are! evidently they are most often grullo (wikipedia)!

The research project examined affiliations among the mares comparing them to the reproductive status, relatedness, age, and dominance of the individuals. An affiliation is defined as a "long lasting relationship between two mares which are reflected in spatial proximity and participation in affiliative interactions, such as mutual grooming" We all have seen this--- domesticated horses (mares and geldings)sometimes preferentially hang around one horse in particular. We catch them grooming each other etc... We make comments like "Beau and Magic are such buddies".

This study found that kinship (relatedness) did not significantly affect these affiliative relationships and that individuals tended to spend more time with others in the same reproductive state. They found these friendships were relatively stable as well but their strength decreases after foaling. I don't know about you but I am seeing many parallels between horses and humans in this respect. :)

I think this research highlights the importance for equine friendships. So what could we learn from this research? Maybe we can all try and be more cognisant of these lasting friendships in our horses when we are moving them around between pastures and between barns etc. I know I have moved Bodhi several times now forcing him to loose several close friends. This of course can't always be helped but if we pay attention to the natural bonds in our horses then we can reduce their stress by not unnecessarily splitting them from their good friends.

Also for managers of breeding facilities it seems this paper highlights the importance of keeping brood mares together especially when they are pregnant. It seems they form the strongest bonds.

Here is another article summarizing the paper

Filipa Heitor and Luis Vicente 2010. Affiliative relationships among Sorraia mares; influence of age, dominance, kinshop and reproductive state. Ethology, 28, 133-140.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

problem solving

Sorry for the lack of action here at GPG. I am in the middle of writing my thesis and I have had little time for anything else. I will hopefully be back soon though at full force!

Bodhi and I are doing very well. I am now taking dressage and western riding lessons! In between lessons I sharpen what we have learned from the instructors by having a shaping session with the clicker. It is amazing how much we are getting accomplished considering we have just a few hours a week together. I feel like we are really training smart now. I will be going to a multi-day clinic with trainer Shawn Seabrook in the beginning of May. I will have to write about that as well!

Now I wanted to share a funny anecdote about Sarge the cat:

Sarge and I were in a battle of wills. See I wanted to feed everyone (Stella the dog, Pele and Sarge, the cats and Brie and Truffle, the rats) at 8:00 pm every night. Sarge thought he could convince me to feed him earlier if he just tried hard enough. So that meant when I get home from work and start working at the computer he starts his cat antics--- meowing, scratching at things and sometimes even pawing me on the shoulder! The more I said no the more he dug in. You have to admire his persistence! I am sure everyone with cats understands just how persistent they can be!
I had no idea how to stop this behavior until I started thinking about an anecdote given in Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor. This story was about a dog that would not stop scratching at the door if I remember correctly. The crafty caretakers decided to use a conditioned stimulus to solve their problem. They hung a towel on the door and let the dog into the room every time he scratched. Then, they alternated having the towel on the door and off the door and only let the dog in when the towel was on the door. Soon the dog learned that his request for admittance would only be heard when that towel was on the door. They made sure to have the towel on the door sometimes giving the dog the chance to ask and they finally got a good nights sleep!
I love this story because it gives a creative solution to reduce a behavior without punishment and it also gives the animal a voice. That dog was obviously frustrated his requests to come in the room were not being heard. By teaching the animal when it is appropriate to ask for something it really reduces their stress and your stress. It is a win win.

So back to Sarge the cat--- I wanted to do something similar to the dog and the towel but what? I know he naturally loved to paw and scratch at everything. So I decided to make Sarge a sign that he could paw when he would like to be fed. The first night I put it up I kept an eye on him as he did his evening antics and sure enough he just happened to paw the sign! I said good! and immediately got up and fed everyone dinner. Amazingly, it only took him a few nights for him to understand the game! Now I put the sign up at around 6pm. He can choose when he would like to be fed from then on. He will nap on the couch, stretch and walk up and tap his sign when he wants to be fed-easy as that. Sometimes he wants to be fed even before I put his sign up. He walks up and looks for his sign and when he does not see it he just goes and lies back down. Amazing! I know we are both happier. Sarge is an intelligent cat and he must of felt so frustrated when I ignored his attempts to communicate. Now that he has an outlet he seems more content.

Here is a video of Sarge patting his sign to get his dinner!

Have you solved any human-animal conflicts in a creative way? I would love to hear about it!