The Kokals, of Horse Tenders in Greenfield NH, are among stars in a new award-winning film, Wild Horse Wild Ride.
Story is that John Lyons personally congratulated them on their methods of natural horse training during the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge. The Kokals work with rescued mustangs at Horse Tenders farm, and have graciously allowed Granite State Carriage Association to hold drive/ride outings there in recent years.
This should be a film worth going to Concord NH to view!! Red River Theatre, Sept. 27, 28 and 29. Other viewing locations on the website Wild Horse Wild Ride.
Recent comments on Peaches’ posts about hoof abscesses lead me to share these videos with you.
The Swedish Hoof School has made videos showing precisely how the horse’s hoof functions: the hoof wall flexes outwards under weight-bearing, and retracts when the weight is removed. This creates a natural pumping action with each step which circulates blood through the hoof and lower leg… and, more importantly, returns the blood back up the leg to the heart.
Horses are often referred to as having five “hearts” because of how their hooves pump blood. The hooves and legs are kept healthy, AND heal faster from injuries, when blood is freely circulating. Horseshoes nailed onto a hoof decrease the flexibility of the hoof wall and thus limit circulation and interfere with foot function. To me this is self-evident.
Photo of illustrative video showing how parts of the horse’s hoof function. Swedish Hoof School on youTube
See this principle very graphically illustrated in the Swedish Hoof School’s videos. Be forewarned, these videos are NOT for the squeamish or weak of stomach. In some videos they use a hoof from a very-freshly-expired cadaver to make their demonstration.
That being said, I do encourage you to watch these, as they are highly informative.
Winter is when I do most of my portrait paintings commissioned at PortraitsWithPets.com. Here are the ones since late fall of 2010, with reference photos I worked from, along with my own and the clients’ comments on them…
Rocky and Cocoa
Two horse friends and stablemates, composed into a single portrait
Frances L. comments on Rocky and Cocoa:
I just received the portrait and it’s even more beautiful in person! I think my favorite part is Cocoa’s face/her eyes– she has such a distinct look in her eye and expression and the painting captures it perfectly.
Reference photo for Rocky. Many of Rocky’s photos showed he loved to jump. However, in order to pair him with Cocoa in a portrait, I chose to use a photo where the two horses could show interaction with each other and appear related in their poses. I painted out his halter.
Reference photo for Cocoa. This was the only picture of Cocoa I received. Fortunately it captured her unique expression.
Sandy– Loyal Attention. Rescue dog and well-loved companion for many years now.
Bob R. comments on Sandy:
It just arrived about an hour ago. I think it’s the best one yet. We’ll appreciate it for years to come.
Reference photo for Sandy.* I took several poses, and the client felt that this one was best of her expression. As well, Sandy’s favorite place is up on a couch or chair like the other family members.
Hershey (with his best friend), retired Thoroughbred racehorse
Reference photo for Hershey. This was the mom’s favorite, and an excellent pose. I took the girl’s eyes from another picture so that she would be looking out to the viewer, and I added in Hershey’s muzzle and ear based on other photos provided of him.
Moon Over Manhattan (Manni), Belgian warmblood/Trakhener hunter-jumper
Reference photo for Manni. Though other photos showed closeups of Manni’s head, I felt this one had the best expression to work from. Removed the halter.
Ingrid P. comments about Hershey and Manni:
I am happy I selected you to do this… The portraits arrived and are wonderful. We are very pleased with both. I will do word of mouth advertising because they are that good.
Thanks for capturing the personality of our horses.
Sweet Elli Girl, yellow Labrador, memorial portrait
Paula T. comments on Elli:
My portrait came and it’s everything I had hoped it would be. Thanks so very much!!!
Reference photo for Elli– the only photo provided, Elli loved to swim. I chose to crop out most of her body to focus on her face, and I removed the detail from the pool bottom so it wouldn’t distract from the interesting water patterns which framed the dog. The client wanted the dog’s collar left in the portrait, saying she could still hear the jingle of the dog tags.
*All reference photographs were provided by the clients, except for Sandy’s photo, which was taken by me.
A Kindle Ebook entitled Khalifa, written by Rod Rogers, shows my daughter Emmie on our mare Willow’s Bask, in a painting I did of them in Arabian costume. The artwork is from a few years back, newly-revised by me to add the banner she holds now on the cover art.
Enjoy this story of a girl in olden times in the deserts of Arabia… sorry I can’t tell you more about the story because I haven’t yet read it myself. But the cover sure is intriguing!
These are a few recent commissions which are not yet on my website. The reference photos I worked from are shown too. Please visit my website PortraitsWithPets,com to see how I hand-create digital paintings, thanks!
High Wheels– memorial horse portrait painting for Kerri L., using watercolor media
reference photo for painting High Wheels
C.J. and Coop– portrait painting for their grandmother, using oil media
reference photos for painting of C.J. and Coop
Star– horse portrait painting for Bob R., using mixed media
reference photos for painting of Star
Zara– dog portrait painting for Suzanne R., watercolor media
reference photos for painting Zara
A Secret Shared– horse portrait painting for Mariel V., oil media
reference photo for painting A Secret Shared
We Three Kings– horse portrait painting for Michelle R., mixed media
reference photos for painting We Three Kings
Oxygen– horse portrait painting for Brooke K., mixed media
reference photo for painting Oxygen
The Herd getting through another winter…
Early fall snow flurries, a taste of what’s to come! (mid-October)
Ice storms seem inevitable these days
People with horses at home have to plow and shovel twice as much as most other folks!
We spread small hay piles all around, and they wander all over looking for every morsel.
If they can get to tree limbs, that keeps them busy too… but this winter we have blocked them away from the trees by using temporary fencing.
I just had one of my photographs published in a photography, art, and literary ezine, illustrating a poem by Robert Bly.
Check my horse photo out here: The Water Tank, Winter poetry by Robert Bly.
The Ezine is Grey Sparrow Journal.
A sad mishap to Thor, PLUS some training updates from FjordNewbies… WARNING, there are a couple of graphic pictures here!
See FjordNewbies’ previous posts to read about how she went overnight from having ZERO horses to owning THREE and ONE-HALF HORSES, and follow Sive’s new baby Thor’s birth and his progress to date.
My horses have always had a large salt block in the paddock for 24/7 access. When we started separating Sive for her impending foaling, we installed a wall holder for the smaller salt bricks in her stall. The holder has two metal edges on each side that the brick slides into. After Thor’s birth, we kept it there so he and Sive could have salt when we stalled them at night.
As time went on, we opened all the stalls up to all the horses. Apparently, one of them had slid the salt brick halfway up the holder, and Thor must have been licking the salt brick and one of the other horses may have shoved him out of the way. His lip was sliced open on the metal edge of the holder. We came home one late evening to find this:
Thor’s injured lip…
At first glance, we thought he had bitten his tongue off, but then realized it was his lip. Emergency call brought the vet out at 1:30 am for stitches.
The vet put in dissolvable stitches, which went away about a week later, too early to properly seal the lip. So the vet came back out and put regular stitches in. We still have the stitches in, as it does not look like the lip completely healed back onto itself, so she’s going to look at it again the next time she comes out. Poor guy was such a trooper about it. The night it happened, he was just munching away at hay, oblivious that half his lip was hanging off his face. We’ll keep you guys updated on what the vet suggests for the next course of action. Note: salt brick holder was immediately removed, and I would strongly suggest they not be used.
Dangerous salt brick holder, foal’s-eye view.
The rest of the news is much more positive!
After several months of giving Sive 24/7 hay and 15 pounds of grain a day, it became apparent that she was having a very difficult time keeping weight on while nursing. We discussed with the vet, and she suggested we wean at 4 months. This would give Thor time to transition before his gelding at 6 months, and would allow Sive to gain much needed weight before winter.
Separation area for Sive during weaning
We put a gate up between the two stalls in the interior of the shelter, and Mark put some temporary fencing inside the paddock to allow Sive to have her own space, and still have an area for Thor, Kirsti and Bjorn. We began the weaning process by separating Thor and Sive all day, then putting them together again at night. Other days, we kept them together during the day and separated them at night. This went on for about week. Then near the end of August, we just never put them together again. And we waited for the chaos to begin. And we waited…and we waited.
As far as I can tell, Sive was more than ready to have Thor leave her side, and Thor had a strong enough relationship with us, Kirsti and Bjorn, that he really had no issues with the weaning. The first 24 hours he was a little mopey, and stood along the fence (which you can’t really see in the photo, but has small square wire mesh between the wood boards), so he could see Sive and talk to her/smell her, but he could not nurse. He spent most of his time eating hay, though.
Sive’s bag became very full, and about 24 hours after the weaning, “sprung a leak” and milk squirted everywhere for most of the day. Her legs were soaked. After that, the bag started to dry up - we had stopped giving her grain/pasture and she was only getting hay. Within a week, her bag stopped filling. About a week after that, we introduced grain (she gets 3 pounds a day) and has been steadily gaining weight. She needs to gain about another 50-100 pounds to be where we would like her, and Thor is doing well on his grain and hay (last time I used the weight tape a couple weeks ago he was at 400 pounds).
Sive, post weaning
Interestingly, before we weaned Thor, he was quite rambunctious, nipping at Kirsti and Bjorn behind the back legs, on the face, trying to mount them from the side and putting his front legs over their backs. Now Kirsti and Bjorn were very patient with him and never retaliated since Sive was never too far away and they knew they’d be in big trouble if they even looked sideways at Thor. I’m thinking that once Sive was no longer in the immediate area to protect Thor, he decided it might be in his best interest to stop - he is such a gentleman now. Much more mellow. He’s been doing great with his ground work, picking hooves is no problem, he stands tied for grooming, and leads well for us.
When we had mentioned to people (some horse people and some without horses) that we were having a foal, their response was the same. Shock and stern warnings that we were in for a lot of trouble raising a foal. From our experience so far, it has been much easier training Thor than it has been retraining Kirsti and Bjorn! Now I could imagine that if a foal was left on pasture for months at a time and then brought in to train, it would be difficult. But we worked with Thor almost every day for about 15 minutes or more since birth. I am really looking forward to his future years, as I am quite sure he is going to be way ahead of where Kirsti and Bjorn are now at ages 5 and 6.
[Connie's NOTE: Raising our own foals also made for easy training, simply because we DID handle and teach them things daily from Day 1. IMO, so long as their mom is tractable and well-trained, the baby is perfectly happy to go along with mom and do what she does. The only thing difficult with foals was trying to keep them from hurting themselves, which somehow both of them still managed to do!]
Thor’s first trailer ride:
With winter coming right around the bend, we wanted to make sure that Thor had a couple rides in the trailer before next spring. Our intention was to do it with Sive as his trailer companion, but that just never got around to happening before the weaning. Since Bjorn has gone out a couple times lately for lessons, we thought the next time he went, Thor could tag along. We did a trial run on Monday, led Bjorn and Thor out of the paddock to the trailer. We loaded Bjorn first, so Thor could see what the end goal was. We had hay loaded into the front of the trailer and a bowl of grain on Thor’s side of the trailer. After leading him to the entrance, we just let him sniff around and take his time. Within 5 minutes, he had sniffed his way to the grain and was in. We shut the back door and let him hang in there with Bjorn for about 10 minutes. Then we took Bjorn out, leaving Thor in the trailer.
Thor (on the right) with Bjorn in the trailer
and without Bjorn!
He became a bit anxious at first, calling to Bjorn, so we led Bjorn around the trailer to the side door where Thor could see him. He calmed immediately. We walked Bjorn further and further away from the trailer, but as long as Thor could still eye-ball him, he was fine.
Friday we took him with Bjorn to Bjorn’s riding lesson. He did great while the trailer was in motion (something we hadn’t practiced yet). We parked the trailer where the side door opened to the riding ring, and Thor sat there contentedly munching hay for over an hour while Bjorn had his lesson. Mark stayed by the trailer keeping Thor company too. After Bjorn’s lesson ended, we led Thor out of the trailer and into the ring, so he could become familiar with the area. We then loaded them back up, and headed for home. A very successful first trailer ride indeed! We plan to try to squeeze in at least one more run before winter.
Training Updates on Fjords:
We’ve been with Bjorn a couple times to riding lessons, and this week was our first time saddled and actually riding. The first time we were working on ground work. Our instructor rode Bjorn first, and he did really well. I had saddled him up and rode him at a walk several times this spring in our small paddock area, but he had not been saddled up in such a big riding ring before. He stood relatively still for mounting (we can work on that a bit), and walked and trotted.
Bjorn’s riding lesson
He would definitely rather stop than take off, which is fine with me - while I’m relearning how to ride I’d rather have to egg him on than hold him back. He seemed quite relaxed and didn’t balk at what we asked him to do. He definitely needs some fine-tuning and has some things to learn, but I am please that he’s not ill-mannered and difficult to work with. Kirsti might be a different story, and she’s going for her first groundwork lesson soon. Mark will also be on the search for a saddle for Sive.
Growing the paddock
We are working on extending the paddock area for winter, now that we have 4 horses instead of 3. By snowfall, Thor and Sive should be able to be back together, so we will remove the temporary weaning fencing to create one much larger area.
Thor and Bjorn enjoying a gorgeous fall afternoon! We are still wondering if Thor is going to stay such a light color (his face seems to be much more grey and his coat is almost white, with just hints of brown here and there) or if this is still just his foal color and he will turn more brown like Bjorn.
Some friends are selling the last of their Fjord horses, and they no longer have a need for their cart (pictured below). The cart has shafts for a single horse or a pair, and we are also getting custom made pair and single biothane harnesses fit for Fjords. Our goal is to start working on driving next summer with Kirsti and Bjorn, so hopefully we can find a training cart soon!
convertible cart (for single or pair)
WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING F.N. JOIN US ON FUTURE GRANITE STATE CARRIAGE DRIVES!!]
My most recent pet portrait has just been finished. She is a black labrador named Zara, lying in the shady grass underneath a blossoming tree, surveying her domain.
Shared here are the painting and some of the stages in its development. A few of the reference photos I used are below, which were provided by the client.
This is Zara’s mixed media portrait, created using Corel Painter’s natural media paintbrush tools and a Wacom digital tablet. For visual effect, I frame her face by the sunlit grass in the background and the tree branches at top. The composition echoes and complements the lines of her body.
Because she is lying in the shade, and because she is a black dog, I add yellow, blue and purple tones in her body to liven up her coloring. These same colors are carried into the rest of the painting to tie it together.
It’s so hard to show the detail in these small websize reproductions…
Detail of the tree blossoms… I kept them suggestive with loose brushwork, using splashed-on diffuse colors behind more defined areas, and contrasting the interplay of sun and shadow. This was so fun to paint!
First roughout sketch in colored pencil and chalk effects
Colors blocked in roughly in pastel chalk textures– the added colors will enliven highlight and shadow areas.
Starting to develop Zara’s head and body with digital watercolor brushes.
Close to finishing, detail refinements to come.
Below are the main photos I used for reference:
Zara lying down
A facial reference shot
Another shot provided by Zara’s owner…
The “Mother’s Day tree” in blossom (it is in bloom on Mother’s Day every year!)
There are more artworks (dogs, horses, cat portraits, horse art prints) on my website portraitswithpets.com
Many horseback riders find it difficult to imagine themselves driving a carriage horse. So did I many years ago. Having been a trail rider for many years (8 plus?) when Hubby first suggested we find a driving horse, I definitely wanted to learn about driving but found myself concerned about decreased control with nothing but a pair of reins in my hands. I could no longer feel the horse’s whole body underneath me, and I missed that sense of instant feedback when the horse became either tense or sluggish.
That’s me on the right on young Glendale; Fio our exchange student from Colombia is at left on Willy, and Horse Gal on Gilford is in the middle. (Photo in June 2008)
So I usually rode when Hubby drove. I rode Willy mare both ahead of Abby (put to the Meadowbrook cart) or behind her, or beside her if the trail or road permitted. I learned all I could about driving from friends who coached us and from books on the subject. I rode in the cart and ponied my mare behind. I ponied both our boys as foals at Willy momma’s side, following the cart. I took the reins and drove Abby at times, and because Abby was very steady and well-trained, she was easy to drive. We drove Abby for 6 years; gradually I became more and more comfortable being behind a horse.
Hubby and I continued to learn more and more about pleasure driving. He drove more often than I did (because he loves it so much) and I served as “groom” keeping an eye on safety considerations, jumping out to “head up” the horse at rest stops, being ready with a crop in my hand at times for working through a couple of issues that Abby went through.
Yet it wasn’t until our first baby horse Gilford was old enough to start learning to drive that I felt really involved. Because I was helping to raise the boy from Day 1, his harness training just proceeded naturally out of all the other ground training and handling we were giving him, so I took charge of it. Because we had had him since birth, I was already well aware of how to read his body language and certainly had a long history with his behavior patterns, so I was not at all uncomfortable to drive him. We began riding him too about the same time, and he sort of became Hubby’s horse to ride because he was larger and stronger than his momma Wil to carry Hubby.
Moi again with Gilford in harness just this past September…
Two years later came baby Glendale’s turn to start driving training, and, just like his brother Gilford, he took to it like a duck to water. Interestingly enough, young Glen showed more of his mother mare’s personality traits than did Gilford, so I’m sure I connected in a stronger way to him. Glen’s training progressed so easily, and he gets along with his big brother so well, that we have been able to hitch them together as a pair in Glen’s first full season of pleasure driving.
At this point in my own driving career, I still “allow” Hubby to drive the pair most of the time. He has had a lot of practice by now. I am able to coach him when he wants or needs advice (and sometimes even when he doesn’t!) because I have a better knowledge of how to get horses to “use” themselves properly so that they will develop athletically. I spent a great deal of time studying under-saddle techniques while Emmie was schooling horses, watching her and also observing dressage and eventing. Hubby continues to fine-tune his driving skills (see Coached by Lisa Singer, Pair Driving Champion).
Today I feel comfortable in a carriage with our OWN horse(s) pulling. I could not say I would be terrifically comfortable behind someone else’s horse that I did not know or have a history with; I would have to know and trust the driver quite well. I have heard too many horror stories of carriage driving wrecks, which have the potential to be much more serious than riding wrecks. I suppose that is how it is with any carriage driver; developing a history with a horse and knowing how he is likely to behave makes it much easier and SAFER to drive him, providing an increased level of confidence for how to avoid or manage an emergency situation.
So for me, desensitizing training of the horse, plus preliminary riding or otherwise exposing him to lots of different situations BEFORE driving him, would still be very important. One other thing I would do with any “new” driving horse (based on my own experience) is to satisfy myself that that horse had done open bridle training, so I knew he would not likely be scared simply by catching sight of the carriage behind him.
See Ground driving horse training step-by-Step
also Driving horses pairs training, step-by-step
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