Laura Jean's Mustang Training Adventure

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Blog Post #16 November 20, 2017

Hi again everyone, this blog post is extremely late. Sorry I didn’t get to this sooner. But here is the article Dad wrote about the underlying reason why I was not as successful as I could have been in the competition part of the mustang makeover. Below is Dad’s explanation of our core problem and where it came from.

Lessons from Mickey   -  by Ted Nicholes
Horsemanship journeys are funny things. They can take many different shapes and routes. I suppose most things we study in detail offer that strange yet for me familiar phenomenon of realizing how much more there is to learn.
I am so proud of my daughter Laura for all the effort she put into her horsemanship journey and her participation in the EMM [Extreme Mustang Makeover]. I can say with certainty she is the finest eleven-year-old horsewoman I know.
An analysis of our disappointments in the competition portion of the experience provides us with an opportunity to learn in order to up our own game. It also helps to fulfil Laura’s goal of sharing knowledge about horsemanship and mustangs in particular. This was an important part of why we chose to allow her to participate in the EMM.
As the date of the competition approached Mickey continued to perform well in practices at home.  The occasional resistance was mostly exuberance and boredom at what were now well known exercises. We knew it was time to challenge and so we introduced much more scary and difficult scenarios. We wanted him to have done much more difficult exercises than he would see in the EMM. Our thinking was that he would have mastered bigger challenges and so that by comparison the competition activities would be easy.
Probably one of the most difficult challenges we gave him at home was a push through pool noodles load into a dark two horse straight load trailer. He could not even see where he was being asked to step into. Horses are claustrophobic by nature and this was difficult for him. How I dealt with this was the basis of our failures at the EMM.  Mickey was comfortable getting in any trailer with Laura asking him gently. Once in a while she would need to back up her ask with a tell, she was able to do that successfully when needed. However, when she asked him to go up the ramp and push through into a dark trailer he refused. He backed, she kept asking, he kept backing. It was too difficult for her to maintain the ask long enough to get the job done.  So I stepped in to ‘help’ by showing Mickey he could do it. I then handed him back to her to practice. In hindsight it was too much helping that was our downfall. At the time it got the job done. Laura was able to ask Mickey to get in the trailer and they were able to practice many times. However, this approach set the stage for him to refuse obstacles in the competition and Laura not being able to correct him effectively. This mistake in approach showed up in more interactions that we as Laura’s coaches can identify in hindsight. When Mickey would show too much resistance to Laura’s instructions, or when Laura would have a lot of difficulty mastering a new task, I would step in to help Mickey and Laura get through an exercise.  In reality Mickey was learning that he could be resistant with Laura and there was no correction from her. It was counterproductive “helping”. I made the common mistake of focusing on the exercise, obstacle or trick – i.e. get in the trailer, get over the teeter totter, do the exercise. I let what I wanted him to do become the object of the session, rather than teaching the horse being the objective. The focus should have been to teach Mickey to make an effort to respond to Laura’s requests respectfully and without fear. The objective and goals of each session should have been Mickey’s response to Laura, not the obstacle or challenge. Horses are very observant and do not like to be uncomfortable. Mickey learned that when he was unsure or worried about what Laura was asking he could refuse and then a stronger leader would step in and make him comfortable. The results of this mistake in approach did not show up on a regular basis, as the results only existed when Mickey was challenged at a much higher level than existed in normal day to day training sessions.
 I appreciate Laura for doing an amazing job. She absolutely did her very best, worked hard and strived to get better.  I am also thankful to Mickey for helping us to learn an important lesson along our horsemanship journey.

This is Laura writing again now. I think we all learned a lot from my participating in the EMM. Some of the things I learned were
1) I was not nearly as good as I thought I was before starting this. I did improve a lot; my horsemanship is better than it was before Mickey.
2) Sometimes, in order to do something ‘myself’ it will be much harder, longer and more frustrating than if I have someone older and better with horses than myself help me at the time. But it will be easier in the end because you won’t have to keep working on it.
3) Meeting and hanging out with the other youth competitors was fun and an enjoyable part of the experience. That was unexpected (this was my first show of any kind).
I want to thank again, all of those who helped and supported me while I had this experience. Especially my coaches, my Dad, and my older brother and sister, Terrence and Beth.
I enjoyed being able to just turn Mickey out for the winter and he enjoyed that too.

By spring he was very tired of me not working with him and he was very happy to get back to training when I started him under saddle this summer (I am still small enough that we weren’t worried about overworking his two-year-old body).

This fall I sold him to a nice gentleman. Mickey will become his next trail horse. I was happy to get him placed in a good home and I have enjoyed being able to focus on riding my horse Hugo. Over this spring, summer and fall I completed 10 Pacific Northwest Endurance Rides in a row on Hugo, including my first 50-mile ride on November 4.

Maybe I will start blogging all over again when I have a new horse adventure starting! For now, I plan to focus on enjoying the horse adventure I am in now. That is the one with my horse Hugo, as well as the time I get to spend with the ponies around here! 

Blog Post #15 August 8, 2016

July 27 – August 7
First thing Wednesday morning, July 27, when I turned Mick out into the round pen for his morning turnout time, as instructed by the vet, he looked great. He was prancing around and looked fine. When the other horses went by on their way to the hill pasture he kicked up, bucked, and loped! I left him in the round pen while I was doing my supplements. Casey (Kathie’s puppy) suddenly ran out of the barn where he had been watching me mix supplement (he likes to snack on the rice bran and beet pulp!) and started barking. I went out of the barn to see what had excited Casey. Michalean had stuck his two back legs through bars of the round pen and was stuck on his side, his hindquarters were held a few inches off the ground by his back legs stuck through the fence! I did not dare leave Michalean like that even for a minute, I carefully lifted and fed his feet down rung by rung until both back feet were on the ground. But his legs were still sticking under the panel. I knew I should get help as fast as I could to make sure he could stand up without injuring himself. I ran in the house and got Mom and Terrence. They came running out and braced their feet against Mickey’s hooves to make sure they would stay inside the round pen while I asked him to stand up. Thankfully, he did not drastically hurt himself. He did bang up the wound site and make it bleed a little, and he was a little bit sore for the remainder of the day. So again, although he had seemed just fine that morning I wasn’t sure if Michalean would be sound the next day or not. Mom called the Mustang Heritage Foundation to talk to them about the situation with Michalean and his wound. They said as long as he could move sound and we could bandage his wound it should probably be good but the final decision would be made by MHF staff on site at the Idaho Ford Horse Park on Thursday.

Thursday morning started a big long day! First thing was to see if Mickey was okay. I ran outside as soon as I was dressed to see how he was. He looked good! I came back in the house and had breakfast. Then, I got Mickey out and Terrence and Beth coached me as I ran him through our freestyle routine. He seemed really excited to be back to work! That’s pretty unusual for him. I was surprised at how well he remembered all the exercises but he was rather sloppy about some things. His sidepass was one of his best things before the injury and it was not nearly as good now, especially one direction. I think that it is very uncomfortable for him sidepassing that way.

Terrence says he will post one of our practice videos onto my facebook page for me.

It seemed to take forever to load up all the things that I needed to bring to take with Mickey to the EMM! Finally, Mom, Beth, Terrence and I got on the road and headed to Nampa! Mickey had never ridden in the little horse trailer before and he fussed about it a little. Mom stopped about two and a half miles down the road for Terrence to get out and check on him and the trailer. Everything was okay and Mickey rode better after that check.

We arrived, found our stall, got Mickey settled in and met a couple other competitors who were in the area. They all seemed very nice and friendly. Then we found Byron, from the Mustang Heritage Foundation. He came and checked out Michalean. He had me trot him out for him and he said we could go ahead with participating in the Makeover! I found out Byron’s birthday was the next day too! That was very cool. Byron was very nice. Once Michalean was all taken care of we headed home.

Friday morning, Beth, Mom and I went over to the Horse Park. We arrived bright and early to get Michalean washed up and treated. The wash racks were pretty nice, although we had to convince Michalean that they weren’t dangerous caves. The one bad thing is that the water wasn’t cold at all. I guess that’s good for giving baths, but not good for cold water therapy on wounds. When we got back to the barns Byron bandaged him up for us. I said ‘Happy Birthday’ to him and he said the same to me!

When I put Michalean back in his stall he started pawing and chewing. He dumped over his water tub (that soaks a lot of shavings!). He hated the stall. Beth, Mom and I attended the youth exhibitors meeting. They gave us our packets which told us what order we would compete in in each class and exactly what we had to do in each class. That is when I handed in my music for my freestyle too.

We had some snacks and talked to a few other girls competing. Then I attended the information session put on by Byron. After that I felt like I knew a little more about what to expect. I was still very nervous! Byron had mentioned in the session that if your horse was not used to being cooped up you might want to make use of one of the arenas or round pens to give them some exercise. Michalean is usually a drags his behind out of bed kind of horse but remembering how excited he had been to do our routine and how much he seemed to hate the stall Beth and I thought we had better do just that! We decided to give him his supplement first. Beth was pretty concerned about how pushy he was acting as I got his supplement ready. At home it is not hard to get him to politely wait for permission to eat his supplement. This time I was glad to have Beth’s help and she had to spank him! After he ate, we took him out for some exercise. He seemed to enjoy getting to work and his attitude was much improved after that. I also had the opportunity to go practice trailer loading with some of the other girls that morning. That was cool because Michalean always loads in trailers perfectly and he backs out when I pull on his tail as a cue. After that practice session I was up to having loaded him into four unfamiliar trailers without trouble!

The first event in the weekend was the Handling and Conditioning Class. I felt like I was a nervous wreck! I was about in the middle in the order of competitors. There were several friends who had come to watch me compete in the stands. I was super nervous in the class. Michalean did not want to pick up his foot on his injured leg. He did it, but not willingly. The worst thing was that he did not load in the trailer. I was very taken by surprise by this! I didn’t know what I should do. I knew what I would do at home in a training session but I wasn’t sure if I should do that in the arena in a class. In that class we placed sixth. Afterwards Dad helped me to understand what had happened. My next blog post is going to be a detailed explanation of what were our core problems and why I wasn't able to be as successful as I had hoped in the competition weekend. Dad is helping me with that one!

Before the trail class Dad helped me feel more prepared for it. We found a good spot to practice and worked on getting ready to compete again. The trail class went great. I was very happy with Michalean. We only placed sixth but I felt that Mickey had paid attention and tried to do what I asked him.

Saturday morning Michalean was swollen around the wound area. Since cold hose for fifteen minutes wasn’t available we scooped some ice out of the cooler into a plastic bag and strapped that onto the wound area with duct tape. Twenty minutes of ice on helped a lot. 

Saturday morning seemed very long as we waited for freestyle class. I was very disappointed in our performance of our routine. We placed seventh out of the fourteen. I liked my song and the routine I had planned but Michalean refused the teeter totter. It had been going okay in practice and I did not anticipate a problem here. Of course there wasn’t really any practice for Mickey the last week, but I still did not expect this problem either! It was hard, frustrating, and disappointing. We still placed seventh in the freestyle class because some other competitors had some issues too. I re-iced Michalean as soon as we were done in the arena.
Our overall result was seventh place. 

The two days of the competition seemed short. Some of the time flew by super-fast and some of it drug by (Saturday morning!). I had two television interviewers talk to me, one from Channel 9 and one from Ride TV. The Ride TV interviewer also kept following me around and taking video of me just taking care of Mickey or whatever I happened to be doing with Mickey. That makes you feel kind of strange, I tried to just act like he wasn’t there if he wasn’t talking to me.
Overall I placed seventh. I did not reach my goal which was to be in the top three. I found it kind of strange that so many people constantly were telling me what a good job I did. It is nice of them and everything but I did not do the job I wanted to. I felt that our performance was pretty bad. Dad is going to help me write my next blog post which will be an analysis of where and how I fell short of my goals for this journey.

One of the reasons I wanted to do this was to improve my horsemanship skills. I succeeded in that goal, Dad says I have improved phenomenally! Some of my favorite memories of the last hundred and eleven days were working with Michalean at liberty. I was not good enough at horsemanship to do that before I started on this adventure! A lot of things are better for me in working with horses now, I have a lot more confidence in my ability to be a leader to different horses now.

I also wanted to help other people learn about mustang training. Through this blog, facebook, newspaper and TV interviewers I think I can say ‘Mission accomplished.’ I plan to keep my blog going but not posting as often as I have during this competition. I wish that the Extreme Mustang Makeover was going to be in Nampa next year because I would definitely try to do it again, even though it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be!

Terrence, Beth, Mom and I stayed at the Horse Park after my freestyle competition and helped me ice Michalean’s hock again. Then we had a snack out of the almost gone snack supplies and went to watch the adult freestyles. That was interesting and fun to watch. I think Terrence or Beth would do very well if they decided to compete. Beth did ask Byron if she would be able to compete in the adult division even though she would not be 18 until after the start of the competition. He said no, you have to be 18 when the competition starts to be in the adult division. After watching the adult freestyles we headed back to the stall to get everything loaded up and to clean the stall out. After we got home from Nampa, Michalean was glad to be back in his pen. We left almost everything to unload the next morning! After we got home from church Beth helped me unload and put stuff away. 

Mickey is doing well on healing up although he is very sick of being confined to a pen. Yesterday we started turning him out for exercise sessions in the little pasture with Faloth. I am looking forward to being able to let him in with the herd but I don’t want to do that until the wound is more healed. The horses in the seven go wading in muddy water and I don’t want his wound to get infected.

I still have to earn about four hundred more dollars to pay for all Michalean’s expenses through next spring. I think I will be able to meet that goal by the time the endurance ride season ends.

Now I am spending more time with Hugo than with Michalean. I hope to get him in condition for at least a couple of LD rides before the endurance ride season is completely over.
Once Mickey is healed up I plan to give him the winter off and start him under saddle in the spring.

Overall, this has been an educational and awesome adventure!  Being a horse trainer is not like just learning how to operate something. It is learning to work with and establish a team with a horse. That is very cool. 
Thanks for following my adventure! ~ Laura Jean

Blog Post #14 Monday, July 25, 2016

This week was going well. Michalean was doing well in his training and we were polishing up the freestyle routine. Michalean was doing well on that too!  Mom, Beth, Terrence, and Matt needed to pick up some hay this week. Mom asked the people that owned the property if we could bring Mickey, they were very kind and said that we could unload Michalean and work him in their arena and practice loading Michalean into their trailer. I wanted to load him into different trailers to make sure he is prepared for loading into an unfamiliar trailer at the competition.

On Wednesday morning my liberty work in the round pen session went great. It was our best liberty session ever. Terrence said of the twelve rollbacks we did nine were great. I don’t give Michalean a lot of treats but he did so well that I even gave him a treat after the session. 

The next session was practicing my freestyle routine. As Mickey was going over the teeter totter, which he has been over MANY times, he misplaced a front foot, over corrected, misplaced a back foot and in the process cut himself! Terrence helped me get cold water onto the wound immediately. He texted Mom who was almost home. She started calling vets as soon as she saw the cut. Robert Washington, (DVM of Treasure Valley Equine Veterinary) was fortunately available and fairly close. After Robert examined the wound Terrence asked him ‘Good, bad, or ugly?’ and Robert said ‘Ugly but good.’ He told us that the wound was nice and clean and that it should heal pretty well but that it might take a little more time than we have. So I may not be able to compete with him. We will have to wait and see how he heals up. Robert stitched up Mickey and bandaged him and told us to confine him to our smallest pen. He said to wait until Saturday to take the bandage off and call him to tell him what it looked like when we took it off. He said there was still a chance that Mickey might be able to go to the competition.  

The vet bill was a little higher than my estimated vet expenses fund. I will have to raise a little more money. I am only about half way on my fundraising goals anyway.

That evening we pulled the teeter totter into the shop planning to sand off ANY places that we thought could have been the place Mick scraped himself. When we inspected it we found the culprit spot. Turns out that we had missed a little sharp spot. Under ‘normal’ teeter totter use Mickey would never have had a leg near that spot but we did not notice it there or it would have been removed. It is removed now! Sam also used the grinder on the edge of the boards for me to remove those little corners. 

Mickey seemed very hot and uncomfortable on Thursday, even sweating when he wouldn’t normally be. So, I got a mister and hooked it up to the hydrant. Now he stands under it when it is hot.

I have also been trying to run through my routine in my head, concentrating on having a perfect run through. Steph Teeter told me about how she used that technique to keep herself prepared when she had her horse at the World Championship Endurance competition go lame.
Since I couldn’t do much with Mickey I focused on a couple of my weak points with him. Which happened to be the ones I could do without really working his back legs. They were ‘Smile’ and Spanish walk. His smile has gotten much, much, much better! His Spanish walk is still not as nice as I want. He did very well at it early this morning but then when I wanted to show Mom how well he did he did pretty bad! I also braided his mane. 

I have practiced the routine without Michalean on the lead. I just ran through the routine imagining Michalean was there. Terrence and Beth coached me for those sessions too. 

I used some of my time to paint the wheels on the teeter totter. I wanted to paint the boards too but Mom said no that would take too much paint!

On Saturday I took the bandage off. 

We called Robert and told him how it looked and how Mickey seemed. Robert’s instructions were to give him a little bute each day and to keep him in the pen and he would like to come see him again on Monday. Mom has dosed him with the bute each day. Now when he sees Mom come in the pen he smiles and sticks his nose way up in the air! He obviously continues to roll often in his pen and has popped the stitches in the middle of the cut. 

He seemed pretty comfortable and perky this morning when we went out for morning chores.
Today Robert came to see him. First, he looked at Mickey in the pen. Then he had me halter him and trot him out. He said that in just a few steps Mickey loosened up a lot. So he gave me new care instructions. He told me to give him two short turnout sessions in the round pen each day and to trot him for five minutes each day. Robert says I might make it to the competition! We are going to call him again on Wednesday and talk about how Mickey is doing. I am encouraged and glad that Robert came out to see him again. A big thank you to Robert for donating the follow up visit! 

It is nice to have exact instructions to follow to help Michalean recover as well as possible. As soon as I turned him into the round pen he rolled and got super dirty! Then I brushed him off.
Thanks for all the good wishes and for following my adventure! ~ Laura Jean

Blog Post #13 Saturday July 16, 2016

TWELVE DAYS!!!!!! I am really getting nervous with only twelve days left, but Michalean is doing good in his training.

 Michalean did not have any problems with the teeter totter and now we work with it everyday.

 Other recent happenings are; I have been supplementing 3 horses in the morning and 2 in the evening. Clyde (one of the horses in pens) is my ‘licker’ meaning he licks my hands after I mix the supplements.

This is funny because he used to be a very picky eater, we could barely get him to eat any kind of supplement. He is a smart boy about it and doesn’t try to nibble at my hands at all, just licks!  

Now all the horses in pens even the ones I don’t give supplements to know me as supplement girl. I like the belting dividers; they make it so much quicker compared to going through the gates!

 In our little pasture Michalean and Faloth have a great time although Faloth’s playfulness has led him to think that the fly mask itself is a great toy!
We have not found any events locally that would be somewhere I could compete in an in hand trail class but we plan to try to take him on several field trips this week to expose him to different places. He is pretty calm about stuff.
One day this week Dad had at least ten of the horses turned loose in the arena while I was in there with Mickey. We wanted to test his attention to me with a lot of distraction factored in. He did totally great with it.

We saw on the Extreme Mustang Makeover Nampa, Idaho facebook page that some of the other youth competitors are planning to reassign their mustang’s to new adoptive owners at/after the competition. So I thought about that idea and talked to Dad about it. I can see advantages to doing that but I think I would rather keep him for now though. Dad and Mom are okay with either one. I am kind of looking forward to starting him under saddle next spring. I have put the first ride on one other horse but I don’t usually get to start colts so I am excited about starting Mickey under saddle. He has had so much preparation already and since he is so big, and I am kind of small, I would start him at two and not have to wait until he is three or four. 

Blog Post #12 Tuesday July 4, 2016

This past week (or more like two) have continued to be A LOT, LOT MORE FUN!

We let Faloth (Beth’s yearling Welsh gelding) go out in the little pasture with Michalean. They are having a lot of fun together. 
I think Mickey is looking a little better (less potbellied!), he exercises a lot more with a pasture buddy. The weight tape calculation says he gained only 25 pounds in June compared to the ninety pounds he gained between April 23 and the end of May. 

Michalean got a sunburn on his nose! First we only started putting sunscreen on but we wanted to make sure he wouldn’t get any more burn. So then we put a fly mask on too. We used safety pins to attach a piece of cloth to cover his poor nose. That worked great for a few days. THEN; Faloth struck! He discovered that the nose curtain was a great toy! We can’t use it anymore, Faloth just pulls it off. Fortunately, the burn is pretty well healed. I use lots of sunscreen though. We also used Crisco to help soften the scaly burned part when it was peeling off. I could not have Mickey smile for a long time, now he is back to smiling!

I am getting nervous about the competition, just a few more weeks to go! Mom says maybe we can find a little ‘show’, or trail challenge, or play day or some equine gathering/competition to go to so I can practice the trail class part.
We did some bubble desensitizing, but nobody got pictures of the bubbles! Here is our equipment. Adam is helping me get it ready to go. 

We kind of did cowboy curtain practice too, only we used the backyard clothesline.
I am very, very thankful to my family for all their help.  I am grateful to everyone who has helped me with affording this project. Thanks for following my adventure. 
 Thank You! 
Laura Jean

Blog Post #11 Friday June 17, 2016June 17, 2016
As I have been feeling like I am struggling to make progress in our training and as we were evaluating where Michalean and I were, I knew I wanted to make better progress. So we made some changes in our daily routines and for some of our work Dad sent us back to work in the round pen. I think my biggest overall success for the week is that Michalean is taking me WHOLE LOT MORE seriously (thanks to Dad’s coaching!). I think going back to the round pen helped A TON.  Dad and Beth say it is because then I have to watch my body language better and work on my technique. I am certainly enjoying working with Mick a lot more now. I still have lots and lots of things to work on and practice but I am feeling much better and I am enjoying working with Mickey a lot more now.
There have been almost no pictures taken this week but Terrence did take a couple with his phone this morning. You can see the gnats against my jeans in this first photo, they are so bad right now! We are going through a lot of flyspray around here lately.

Dad built a teeter totter for us too which I think is pretty exciting. I am looking forward to getting to train on that tool. That photo isn't on this computer (yet) so I can't insert it here but you can see a couple of pics of it under construction on instagram, look for #laurasmustangadventure .

Thanks for reading, more news and pictures of training next week!
Laura Jean 

Blog Post #10 Sunday, June 12, 2016

There are 48 days left before the Extreme Mustang Makeover competition. That seems scary. This week we are going to try to distribute posters so more people will know about the event.This past week, we have been talking about our training progress and what I most need to focus on and practice before the competition. We concluded that “Everything!” is the answer.  We watched some videos of past youth mustang makeover competitors. I have never participated in any type of horse show so I didn’t know what to expect. The rules have a list of things you will need to do in the in hand trail class but it was nice to see film of some actual in hand mustang makeover classes. Youtube can be very helpful. We are also trying to make plans for my freestyle routine.

I forgot to put it in my last blog post, but Michalean got his sheath cleaned up. It was full of gunk/build-up from his previous life. It looks much, much better now.

Lately we were getting a little concerned about Michalean’s appearance. His belly has always been rather round. We had talked to the vet when he was out here looking at a different horse and we gave Mickey a wormer as he suggested. That really didn’t seem to affect it, in fact recently we thought it has been looking even worse, almost swollen, and I had seen him eating dirt. Mom talked to Tom Bergstrom, DVM, who recommended administering another wormer and putting him on a psyllium husk supplement intended to clear out any sand/dirt he had in his stomach. Mom and I think Michalean is already looking a bit better, but Dad says he doesn’t see a change yet. I am hoping he looks more trim soon. I am trying to make sure he gets plenty of exercise!

Dad and Beth have been able to critique and coach me a bunch this week. I know we’re making progress but there is a lot more I want to achieve.

Mom helped me to soak his hooves a couple of times. His frogs are kind of raggedy and in order to make sure they get all cleaned out and are able to develop healthy clean new growth we wanted to get any dirt out of all those cracks. We used a half water half apple cider vinegar soak. Today Mickey peeled a little strip of skin off on the front of one back legs just above the hoof. We don’t really know how he did it but Mom thinks maybe it was with one of the ragged hard little pieces of frog on the back of his front hoof. Dad kind of trimmed off the nasty edges and pieces.

This past week, I walked Michalean down the road to a cornfield and drainage ditch, just to put a little more mental stimulation in for him instead of drilling on our arena exercises. There was a piece of tarp on the dirt road which Michalean spooked at, so I desensitized him to it until I could rub him with it and wrap his barrel with it.

As things turned out, we didn’t get to go to the play day last weekend because Mom had scheduled to show our house in Nyssa that afternoon. Since Mom has not mastered the trick of being in two places at once, we missed the play day.

Wednesday was windy and cooler than usual so we gave baths on Thursday instead. Beth gave Latte a bath at the same time.

However, yesterday Michalean went in the Old Fort Boise Days Parade! We didn’t put any effort into decorating him or advertising – it was just for the training experience. Beth also rode Cookie and Sarah rode Ardreth. 

Since the equine division in this parade was very, very small, we got a ribbon for third place equine entry.

We did some more backyard de-sensitizing this weekend too.

Blog Post #9 Friday, June 2, 2016

This past week has been very busy, hot, and successful. Michalean has gotten a lot better at his tricks. Terrence helped me work with him on smiling using ice cubes to motivate him to stick his lip in the air. It was very effective. Dad has been helping me prepare to take Michalean’s lay down to the next level, where we use only a verbal cue. We are also practicing me walking around him and spanking the ground while he is laying down. 

Michalean is going to a playday this weekend for experience in public. (Field Trip #2!) We will also be taking Ardreth and Cookie to compete in a few of the events.
Michalean has been showing a lot of “puppy behavior”. He wants to play and goof off all the time instead of concentrating on the job. We moved him into a pasture instead of his pen so he now has a lot more room to run around and play.

On Tuesday, Beth helped me submit my second progress report to the Mustang Heritage Foundation. The weight tape says that Michalean has gained 94 pounds since the first progress report. I was very surprised. He definitely does NOT look like he has gained that much weight!

One of the biggest issues this week was getting Michalean to stay soft on the lead rope (not pull away from me) while he was cantering in the lunging circle. He had the same problem doing the C-pattern exercise. Dad helped us work through it, and Michalean is doing lots better! 

Today I have been making caramel corn for the City of Rocks endurance ride. I hope I have enough this time! 

Blog Post #8 Thursday, May 26, 2016

This week has again, been; practice, practice, practice! We now have 64 days left before the competition. I am feeling like it is a lot of hard work and sometimes I am struggling to not get discouraged. Dad has a way of explaining why it gets so hard when you are trying to get your horse working at a more advanced level. He says in the beginning training is like going across flat ground. It is pretty easy and fun and you cover many miles easily. But then when you start teaching more advanced things and want your horse to work at a more advanced level it's like going up a steep incline. It gets hard. Climbing mountains is harder than going across flat ground.  I work Michalean on my own a lot of the time now but Dad tries to check on me almost every day and he is still coaching me a lot and tells me what I most need is to get my technique at a higher level and to demand a lot more from Michalean. I am trying but it is really hard. Dad has been very busy and so this past week Beth coached me a few times. Beth is a demanding coach too. When I was making mistakes I did not understand what she meant when she told me what I was doing but then she showed me what she meant and how to fix it, that was helpful. She's a pretty good teacher.
We are practicing having him pick up his foot on command. I want to teach him the Spanish Walk. I have never taught a horse that, although I think Hugo would learn it easily. I also want to have him smile on command better. That's sort of a fun thing to work on. I think my favorite thing is still laying him down which I usually do at the end of a training session. I also like giving him baths, I still wish he would get shinier! I try to give him a bath each Wednesday if the weather isn't awful.

Here are some of this weeks pictures, taken by my helpful siblings, Kathie, Matt, and Sarah!

BLOG POST # 7 Tuesday, May 17, 2016

We did manage to get pictures taken this week. Either Mom or Sarah took at least a couple pictures almost every day.  This week I practiced, practiced, practiced!

                           In these two pictures I am desensitizing Michalean to new objects, in our backyard.

Some days we finished up pretty late!

Of course there is all this, everyday stuff too.

We did have a couple of ‘firsts’, one of which was working on trailer loading, unfortunately I don't have pictures from that. I will continue to practice it though so I am sure I will get some trailer loading pictures soon. 

We also went on our first field trip. Terrence and Beth took me and Michalean (and the caramel corn sales station!) out to Owyhee River Challenge near Succor Creek. Terrence put some pictures from the ORC on our instagram, look for #laurasmustangadventure. 

I have gotten a lot better at making caramel corn and now do almost all of it on my own.

There were more caramel corn buyers than I expected at the Owyhee River Challenge ride and I did not have enough caramel corn made – I sold out very quickly! I will not make that mistake again. I am making a lot more to take to the City of Rocks ride in June! 
Thanks for reading my blog,

Laura Jean Nicholes

BLOG POST # 6 Monday, May 9, 2016 (late posting!)

The past several days have been extra challenging in many ways. My three sisters, one of my brothers and I had a concert performance with the children’s choir we are part of so that was a very fun and extra busy weekend. More recently, lots of us got sick and it is harder to go train when you feel sick.

My fish, Dulaman, died last weekend too. He was a beta, I had him for a long time.

Mostly my training regimen this week has been practice, practice, practice. I am trying to do the exercises as correctly as I can. Our newest exercise we’re working on is line driving. I have never done this exercise with any horses before. It was hard to teach him that, Dad coached me through. I am lucky to have someone who is good at explaining what to do. Once Michalean understood what he was supposed to do it was easy. It’s a fun exercise to practice because we can practice it in the pasture or anywhere.

Before the weather got cold and windy again I gave Michalean his second bath. I wish he would get shinier!

With everything going on Mom wasn’t able to take as many pictures as usual so I don’t have any new and interesting pictures to show. L

Our friend Karen Bumgarner, is holding her endurance ride, Owyhee River Challenge this weekend. So tomorrow I will start making caramel corn again. Hopefully I will be able to sell a lot of caramel corn at her ride! My fund raising hasn’t been making much progress lately so I need to get back to work on that. I have raised about $382 towards my goal of $1100 so I have $718 to go.

Sorry that this post does not have photos but I will get some taken before next week so that post will have LOTS of photos to make up for it. Thank you for reading my blog.

~ Laura Jean Nicholes

Blog Post #5, Friday, April 29, 2016

Recent developments in my mustang adventure are:

I have started to lay down Michalean completely on my own. He is now good about staying on the ground as I walk around him spanking the ground or clapping. 

A bad thing about Michalean is that he seems to have a tendency to push/test fences. This worries us very much as if he ever got to a barbwire fence it seems likely he would hurt himself. He has learned lead by the foot but we have not practiced it a lot so I think he might still have a tendency to fight wire if he got into it.
I am starting to take the time to thoroughly groom him daily. Terrence helped me get him good about picking his feet up for me to clean them out.

He also gets his supplement each morning. 

He has to wait until I give him permission to put his head down and eat his supplement. This helps clarify that I'm number one.

He is on free choice hay and I have loose salt in his pen.

I have changed my schedule now for two reasons. One, I needed to match Terrence’s better so he could help/watch me each day for an hour. Two, Beth has started her class series and I am an official assistant so I have to be available at class times. I like it, it’s a fun job and I am learning how to teach students. 

One of the exercises I had a problem getting down was touch and rub hindquarters which Dad was helping me with. The way Dad helped me to get over my mistakes with Michalean was by having me practice it with Sarah as my horse. That was fun and helpful. Sarah enjoyed it too but she didn't appreciate it when I said 'Good boy, Mickey!' to her. 

This picture was also taken by Terrence, a day or two after I got myself straightened out on this one!

One of my biggest problems, and biggest improvements this week had to do with holding the lead rope. When sending Michalean out onto the circle Terrence told me I was letting Michalean run into the lead rope. Terrence said he was going to lose his energetic departure if he just ran into the lead every time. I said I wasn’t holding it in and showed him how I was holding the lead which I thought was fine. Terrence was able to show me that although it seemed like the lead could slide easily in my hand, the one direction it did not slide easily was the way I needed it to! Here are two pictures showing this happening.

After I understood the problem I was able to start working on fixing it. I hold the lead right most of the time now, sometimes I catch myself doing it wrong for a split second. Here are some of the pictures from that day after I started trying to get it better!

In this picture I think he is sending nicely but I also think I am standing too close to him.

Michalean is doing very good on sidepassing. 

One thing that I noticed this week is Hugo is getting chubby! I hope I can start spending some time riding him. Lately if I have time to ride I have been using it on lesson ponies for Beth. It is important to keep her lesson ponies tuned up and she is pretty busy giving lessons and trying to get Cookie started. 

Blog Post #4, Thursday, April 21, 2016

It has been a great week. We have accomplished many things.
Last Friday the vet (Robert Washington) was out to see my sister Kathie’s horse. While he was here he kind of looked at Michalean and watched him do his jaw working thing. Robert said that is not normal but he would not be too concerned, just keep an eye on it and let him know if it got worse or if the horse went off his feed. Michalean is still doing it but not as much.

Dad trimmed his hooves for me last weekend too.

I am getting a lot of help from Dad, Terrence and Beth. Dad coaches me a ton, and Terrence helps with coaching me during the day, sometimes Beth helps coach me too! This week the coaching and training sessions were kind of rough for me, lots of trying and not feeling like I was improving. Until today! Today Dad said I am getting lots better, and I felt like I understood his instructions better. 

I gave Michalean his first bath on Tuesday. He didn’t like the water on his withers, he liked it on his legs better. That is unusual, most of the horses I give baths to are a little more sensitive about their legs rather than their withers. Terrence put a picture of Michalean after his bath on our instagram @fabhorsemanship. He is using #laurasmustangadventure on all pictures of me and my mustang project that he posts. I will be posting often on my facebook page too,

 Yesterday we did a lot of estimating horses weights without a scale. We used a measuring tape and a formula in which you measure the horses heart girth from the highest point of their withers around their belly. You also measure their body length, starting at the point of the shoulder and taking it back to the buttock. The formula is HG x HG x BL/330 which stands for heart girth multiplied by heart girth multiplied by body length divided by 330 (except for yearlings you divide by 301 instead of 330) and the answer equals the estimated body weight. The accuracy of this system is usually within 24 pounds of actual weight according to the paper the Mustang Heritage Foundation sent me. Beth and I measured ten of our horses today. It was surprising to see that Ardreth (Beth’s Welsh pony) was only estimated at 20 pounds lighter than Snip, Ardreth being 531 and Snip 550.5. Cowboy was estimated at 1008 pounds. Our biggest horse was Flint estimated at 1068, Clyde was estimated at 1033. Michalean’s estimated weight is 610. My horse Hugo’s estimate is 731.

While we were out measuring horses Kathie brought her puppy out with us. It was the first time the horses have seen him, it was cute. 

Today I started making caramel corn to sell at the Eagle Canyon Endurance Ride this weekend. Thank you to Layne Lewis (the ride manager) for permission to have my sales station there! 

Blog Post #3, Thursday, April 14, 2016
After helping set up clinic stuff at Oreana Mom and I headed to the Boise Wild Horse Corrals to pick up my mustang. He is a yearling chestnut with three big white socks. He came from the Hardtrigger herd which is interesting to me. That means he is probably one of many wild horses that were evacuated after the big Soda Fire burn in the Owyhee’s late last summer. I was so eager to start training! But Dad said that I couldn’t start until he was home with me so it would have to wait until Monday after the clinic.  At first the mustang was a little jumpy but not as nervous as I expected him to be. He would even stretch out his nose and touch me. When we first got Hugo two years ago he was far more nervous and flighty than this one. I guess maybe because he is not half Arabian and he has probably lived in corrals all winter. Hugo was basically off the open range when I got him.
So Monday was the first day of training of my mustang.  Dad said he wanted to make sure I was safe and to help me get started with him.  Dad did a very easy gentle training session on an exercise we call 'follow me'.  Dad was able to get his hands on him and halter him without roping him. He did a little basic desensitizing so I would be able to safely handle and desensitize him myself. Taking off his BLM tag was pretty cool. I still keep thinking ‘This is so cool!’ and I also keep thinking ‘What have I gotten myself into?!’ This project is a lot of work!

These are pictures of when Dad was very calmly and quietly getting him settled down and haltered and then handing him off to me. And me taking the BLM tag off of his neck. I still did not have a name for him the first couple days – we kept calling him things like ‘kid’ and ‘big fella’ and ‘good boy’.

After Dad handed him off to me and was coaching me he said I was doing a good job staying safe but that I was not challenging him at all and that could cause me problems – Dad worked with him and I some more to help me change my style to work better with this colt. It is very different from the horses I usually work with. With my horse Hugo it takes very little pressure to get him going and if you reprimand him much or get emotional he will get jumpy and try harder and get jumpier. Our family pony Snip is very well trained but will challenge me from time to time. I have worked with her so much that she doesn’t challenge me much anymore but I get her in trouble if she does not play by the rules. This colt is kind of in the middle of them. The two things that have surprised me the most so far are; he is pretty good looking, especially for a yearling colt. I did not expect him to be as good looking as he is. Two; he became VERY pushy VERY quickly! Dad says I need to be very cautious that I don’t get in between my mustang and the fence or he will squish me against the fence (it seems to be a trick he has learned in his life in a herd). He started out very one sided and only wanting to look at us out of his left eye, until today when he switched eyes! Now he likes the right eye best.

The plan we followed this week (at least Tuesday through Thursday) was for my big brother Terrence and my big sister Beth, to coach me as I practice my technique with other horses to help me be ready to work with my mustang with the best coach ever, (my Dad), when he gets home from work. Dad wanted me to especially work on assertive body language and good technique in lunging for respect stage one.

My fund raising the last two weeks went awesome! I sold a little bit more caramel corn at the Oreana Clinic and several generous people gave me gifts to support me in the project. BIG HUGE THANK YOU’s to; Carrie Johnson, Beth Skaggs, David Baratcart, Michelle Unsworth, and Suzi Lewis!

One thing that worried me was that the colt had a nasty swollen wound on the side of his jaw. The halter scraped off the scab, Dad put ointment on it. In addition to the sore he seems to work his jaw like it is bothering him a lot. We don’t know if that is a normal yearling thing or if something is bothering him. But a vet, Robert Washington, is coming out here Friday (tomorrow) to do some chiropractic work on my sister’s horse Chloe. So we will have the vet look at my colt too. The sore is looking a lot better but he is still working his jaw.

Also, I can stop saying ‘my colt’ or ‘the mustang’ because today I settled on his name. He is called Michalean (I think an Irish name is good because he is a red headed boy). I like that I can call him Mick or Mickey or Michalean and they all sound good to me.
These last three pictures are all from today. Notice the yield the forequarters picture. Dad says that “one step equals two circles”, which means if Michalean takes one step towards me I yield his front end away from me for two circles.

Beth is coaching me here.

Dad was checking out my lunging here.

Here I was saying 'yield away from me!'

Thanks for reading my blog, I also have a facebook page about my mustang project now. You can find it at  Also, my brother Terrence is posting some pictures on instagram, look for #laurasmustangadventure

Blog Post 2, Thursday April 7, 2016

Tomorrow I will pick  up my mustang! I have been studying training videos and arena mates this week.

I have a brand new water trough  for my mustang (thank you Mom and Dad!).

Mom helped me draw a schedule so I will be able to fit in all my responsibilities. It is very useful but I am running half an hour late today!

Beth and dad are helping me plan for cool freestyle ideas for the competition. There are 111 days in between pick up day and July 29, which is both my tenth birthday and the competition day. 

My caramel corn sale stations both did well last weekend. As a total they brought in $104!  There is a clinic at Steph Teeter's this weekend and I have been making more caramel corn to have for sale at that one. I will be helping set up for that clinic early tomorrow morning, dropping off caramel corn to sell and then going to the Boise Wild Horse Corrals with Mom to pick up my mustang!

Blog Post 1

My name is Laura Jean Nicholes. I am nine years old. I just found out I have been accepted as a competitor to participate in the Idaho Extreme Mustang Makeover youth competition for 2016!

 When I first talked to my parents about applying for the EMM, they said I could do it as long as I was able to earn the money to pay for it and they said I would have to put a blog page up about it. I am required to post at least once a week about my mustang project. I like that requirement  because it seems fun to me to blog!
Sarah, my little sister, was eager to help me be able to compete. Before we even talked to both of our parents, we started working extra quarter jobs and building my 'mustang fund'.

This is me on Snip.
I have loved horses my whole life and I have been actively training for the past three years. I help out with riding and training several of our family horses and am responsible for the care and maintenance of my horse. My own horse, Hugo, is a six year old, half Arabian half  POA who I have had for two years now.  Last year I took him on several 25 mile rides and one 30 mile endurance ride. (In endurance they call those LD's for limited distance.) Another horse that I am responsible for keeping training up on is our old family pony, Snip. My first horse memories are of sitting on Snip when I was two years old. My big sister Beth uses Snip in                                                                                          her horsemanship lessons for children.

My dad is Ted Nicholes and he is the owner of Foundations and Beyond Horsemanship. That is our family business of horsemanship clinics and lessons for people and training horses. Our whole family helps Dad with that business, especially Mom, Terrence and Beth. My help is how I pay for Hugo's expenses. So I will need to earn money to pay for the care of another horse.
Me on Hugo, Dad riding a client horse and coaching me.

So here's what has happened so far; I asked my sister Beth to go to the Mustang Heritage Foundation's website and print off all the rules and forms for me. I read the rules so that I would know as much as possible about the contest before talking to Dad about it. The most expensive part of the contest is that if you are a youth your family has to actually adopt the mustang. That means you must own it for at least one year. The adult competitors don't have to adopt their mustangs, they are auctioned off after the competition.
My little sister Sarah and I started doing a lot of quarter jobs to earn money for my mustang fund.
Sarah and I drawing quarter jobs. Most of them are pretty easy but once you draw it you have to do the job even if it is a very hard one!
My brothers and sisters all want to help me take on this project so they put thirty-five dollars from our family kids jar (where all of us kids save money as a group to do fun stuff with) to help me afford to apply. To apply costs $35 dollars because you need to join the Mustang Heritage Foundation. Then if you're selected it costs $25 to adopt the mustang. Then it costs a LOT more because you have to feed it and give it shots and everything else!
After I got permission from Dad and Mom I filled out the application and asked Beth to print some trainer referral forms. That is a form that is part of the competitor application on which some persons not related to you tell The Mustang Heritage Foundation about you and your facilities for horses. I asked some of our friends to fill those out for me. I also asked Mom to email some of those forms to other friends for me.
Me filling out the application.
Mom drove me to the post office so that I could mail the application myself.

While I was waiting to find out if I would get to compete I (and my family) did some things to get ready. The MHF requires a shelter for your mustang. Most of our horse pens don't have access to a barn. We thought about building a little shelter in one of our 5 regular pens so that it would qualify but Dad said I could have the barn pen (which is our nicest horse pen!) for my project space. Matt, Dad and Kathie helped me fix up the barn pen (we had to change a little bit of the fence and the gate).
Matt and Kathie working on the barn pen.
Dad, Matt, Sam, me, Danny and Sarah - finishing up the mustang pen.
Mom helped me figure out exactly how much money I should plan to earn. It seems like a ton of money! I made a little poster about that.

Then I made a little poster about how I can work at reaching that goal.

On Monday, March 28 I got an email telling me that I had been selected! There were some more forms that I will need to fill out and use during the contest attached to the email. The first one I have already used. It was to choose what time I would pick up my mustang. Beth helped me get that form scanned and emailed in. Mom and I will go to the Boise Wild Horse Corrals and pick it up on the morning of Friday, April 8!

Today my big sister Kathie and little sister Sarah helped me make seven batches of caramel corn. We scorched one! Oops, what a waste! Not totally wasted because it is good enough to eat, but it does not pass Beth's taste test for good enough to sell. She is our expert caramel corn taste tester.

Kathie and Mom helped me to set up the sales boxes.

Our friend Karen Bumgarner is going to take my caramel corn sales station to Tough Sucker (an endurance ride) at Steph Teeter's near Oreana, Idaho this weekend. No one from our family will be able to participate in that ride because we have a clinic here this weekend. I will set up a caramel corn sales station here too. Hopefully this weekend will help my mustang fund out a lot!

Thanks for reading my blog page. Please come back next week.


  1. What an awesome undertaking. Good luck with your mustang.

    1. Thank you! I am looking forward to it. ~ Laura Jean Nicholes

  2. Oh goodie! Caramel corn! I will bring some money!

    1. It was great to see you Karen! Thanks for buying some caramel corn and jumping on the trampoline with me! ~ Laura Jean Nicholes

  3. I've done a lot of fundraising for my daughter's softball team. I highly recommend a small raffle. We use 3, $10 gift cards. $1 per ticket or 6 for $5. We sell tickets for 3 hours at a local restaurant during the dinner hour. We usually raise about $250. In your case, maybe tie a nice rope halter and lead rope and raffle it off during a clinic? It woukd depend on how many people were there. Or maybe ask your dad if he would donate a spot at one of his clinics and hold a raffle for that. I would charge more per ticket that way. We raised $2000 by raffling a shotgun at $5 a ticket. I just thought I would throw a few more ideas out there for you. Good luck! I hope to see you compete. I'm sure you will love your new mustang.

    1. Hi Mary, Thanks for all the great ideas! ~ Laura Jean Nicholes

  4. I've done a lot of fundraising for my daughter's softball team. I highly recommend a small raffle. We use 3, $10 gift cards. $1 per ticket or 6 for $5. We sell tickets for 3 hours at a local restaurant during the dinner hour. We usually raise about $250. In your case, maybe tie a nice rope halter and lead rope and raffle it off during a clinic? It woukd depend on how many people were there. Or maybe ask your dad if he would donate a spot at one of his clinics and hold a raffle for that. I would charge more per ticket that way. We raised $2000 by raffling a shotgun at $5 a ticket. I just thought I would throw a few more ideas out there for you. Good luck! I hope to see you compete. I'm sure you will love your new mustang.

  5. Great job girl! I look forward to reading about your progress. Excellent blog! If you get to the point of mailing your caramel corn, let me know. I would be happy to purchase some and pay for shipping to support your project.

  6. Hi Jennifer, Thanks for reading my blog, I would mail you caramel corn! Send your address to my email :)
    ~ Laura Jean Nicholes