Introducing Imam (Eee-Mom)

Ok….so I’ve vague posted enough but there was a reason. I wanted to make sure things would work out before posting about it.

Last fall Wyatt buddied up to Trainer AB while they stood at the finish line of the JBF HT. Apparently during their time together he asked her to find him a pony and she was happy to oblige (after getting my approval of course).

Eating takes at least an hour which has made us change our daily routine significantly to fit it in. It’s worth it though. He already has gained a little weight and looks better.

I started getting texts with various ponies during the fall and into the winter but none were what I wanted. Mostly they were all too young, too expensive or too fancy. My 7 year old needed a half dead, mostly lame, senior citizen who has been there and gotten the shirt to prove it.

Then Trainer asked the owner of the farm she leases about an older Arab gelding that was not being used but was a saint of a horse. They said no, the horse was used from time to time for young family members and friends to hop on. There was another gelding though, even older and slower, who we could have for free if interested.

The kid has better posture than I do

He seemed a bit too far in the other extreme: ancient doesn’t begin to describe him and he hadn’t been ridden in a long time. Trainer agreed to hop on him and try him and then Wyatt came out to try him after my lesson Saturday, hence the boys coming and getting media.

At first, I thought no way. Imam is an easy 200lbs underweight, he has teeth that have never seen a dentist, rain rot dominated his back and sides and he had a distinct resemblance in both looks and personality to my Gemmie. When Trainer tried to ride him past a pile of wood and he reinvented himself 100’ in the opposite direction, my body flinched in memory of all the times Gem did that to me. Wyatt did not need to learn how to ride that.

Meeting the herd.

But then he asked to try him and the moment he got on Imam’s entire personality changed. He melted. He went anywhere, past anything, through whatever. He tolerated his face being pulled on and his back being bounced on. He stopped on a dime and Wyatt was smitten.

Still, Hubby wasn’t sold. He didn’t want another horse and he surely didn’t want this one that ate 12lbs of a special blend of feeds a day and still was a walking skeleton. When Imam was loaded on the trailer any way, the Hubby glared at me and drove home in silence.

Eeyore angry devoured his entire hay bag on the ride home. Usually he doesn’t touch his hay in the trailer

Things were made worse when we made a trip to the tack store the next day for a blanket (can’t have him shivering off the rest of his weight) and ended up coming home with a new halter, riser pad and uh….a lovely like new Kincade cc saddle for Wyatt.


But then it all got better when Wyatt hopped on Imam Sunday afternoon and giggled the entire time. He walked then dug in and trotted. He bounced and laughed all over the place and Imam collected better than Eeyore and took excellent care of Wyatt. He went over ground poles then asked to “jump like Mommy”

A good horse

I raised two poles about 6” and he went over those. Imam tripped a bit and Wyatt ended up on his neck. Imam stopped dead and waited until Wyatt sat back in the saddle then went back to work.

He rode again Tuesday and trotted the entire time. A spicier horse would be in the next county but Imam just picked up a nice little trot and put up with the erratic steering a 7 year old is capable of. He trotted over the ground poles and did the cutest tiny hop over the raised pole which is now the highlight of Wyatt’s life, according to him.

Ready to conquer the world together

So…welcome Imam. A 14 h Arabian gelding of indeterminate age, over 30 being the closest we got. The dentist is coming out soon to address his teeth. I’ve spoken to a nutritionist to come up with a feed plan that includes more calories and fat and less bulk because he also has a short gut from past colic surgery. He fits in Gem’s old dressage bridle and bit and has his own pad to keep the weight off his spine. He has fit in perfectly with the herd and is enjoying access to grass for the first time in decades.

That’s a grin I’d do anything for

Doing Some Thinking

An hour long truck ride sitting next to a fuming husband who isn’t speaking to you at the moment gives you some time to think. And think I did.

What’s amazing to me about the human psyche is the constant and subconscious shift in baseline expectations that occurs in the back ground. Without some serious effort and perhaps a blog chronicling the path from A to B, it is easy to feel stuck or even a back wards slide that doesn’t truly exist.

The black pipe barely registered in my brain. Last summer? It caused an existential crises.

On the truck ride home from the lesson, I pondered my own changes in “normal”. I started to ride with Trainer AB on May 31, 2019 and this was January 25, 2020, basically eight months later. With an average of 3 lessons a month that comes to 24 lessons and at 45 minutes a lesson that equals 18 hours of instruction. Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things given that over 5,000 hours passed during those months. But I ramble.

That very first lesson, I pulled in shaking visibly with nerves. Eeyore had taken an hour to load at home with the aid of the Hubby and he unloaded anxious and sweaty. I barely held it together to get on him, he barely held it together to stand at the mounting block. We made it a time or two around the arena with several melt downs on both our parts before Trainer had me dismount so she could try him out. She had a lot of good insights before I got back on and tried again. We did a few ground poles at the trot which he leapt over and galloped away from.

Tackling this jump was fun not fear inducing

My most recent lesson? He self loaded in his own fashion with just me and a lunge line (no more dressage whip needed yay!), traveled relaxed and unloaded with a sigh of regret of his life choices that led him to this farm on this gorgeous winter day. We warmed up on our own then got right to work on the 20 m circle working on increasing his roundness, rhythm and bend before turning to the jump course you all saw on many video clips earlier this week.

And while I left feeling a tad frustrated at still needing told to sit up and not let him drag me down and while he still got a bit rushy and we did have a run out, well thinking on it good and hard we have come a damn long way.

Love his sassy tail as we canter away from the jump. Also note his happy forward ears

As we neared home and the Hubby started talking to me again I put together a mental list of all the behaviors I now take for granted that were once major training issues:

– Trailer loading, relaxed travel, unloading calmly

– Standing mostly quiet at the trailer to be tacked. He still throws anything he can get his mouth on but that is who he is. This also includes standing still when being bridled and not running away as he did our first outing.

– Entering a new arena without having a nervous break down or screaming for other horses. I don’t recall the last screaming fit he had which used to be the soundtrack to all our rides at home or away.

– Warming up calmly. The warm up used to be half the lesson and I needed the help. Now? I’m expected to warm up w/t/c on my own with input only when something comes up. The instruction is saved for the “real” work.

– Ground poles get trotted or cantered over without a fuss. No more rushing and no more leaping over them. Also in this is his ability to go through standards that have no poles. That used to blow his mind completely and he would jump through the standards regardless.

Sure, all those things are basic skills any riding horse should have, but Eeyore wasn’t capable of those simple feats back in May. We have silently moved past those and on to other exercises/skills. It’s so easy to think about what we still aren’t doing right or what flaws in my position still need addressed because my brain has shifted the baseline expectations as we have progressed together as a team. I don’t stress about loading in the trailer because it is now an expectation that he will get on the darn thing when I ask without needing to recruit an army battalion to help me. I no longer slip his halter off beside the trailer in an open space with butterflies in my stomach because I expect him to stand still and take the bit.

While I still asked her to lower this, her refusal to do so made me shrug and laugh versus curl into the fetal position

It’s an interesting mechanism of thought processing. What used to be an issue is now barely a thought. The hope is that in another 8 months, sitting up and staying in 2 point longer after a jump will also become second nature, barely thoughts and Ill get to be frustrated about something new.


Media Overload :)

Saturday was an amazing day for two reasons, but this post is about the first. The second will come later. Yup, vague posting at its finest folks.

I have so much stinking media from this lesson it makes my heart happy. Not only did I finally manage to not screw up my Cambox and figure out how to edit the 15 minute videos into smaller chunks, but the hubby was also present and got video from his perspective, so now I have video proof both ways! Since I normally have no media, this overload is amazing and unlikely to happy again any time soon, so I’m going to let the media do the talking for me today.

After the flat work part where we worked on the 20 m circle forever trying to achieve bend, roundness and geometry, we started over a simple cross rail, 5 strides to a vertical exercise off a left hand bend.

The first time didn’t go so well.

And from another perspective….

But we rallied and made the 5….

Another perspective….

We did this exercise several times to perfect the feeling of moving him up or holding him back while counting the strides to make it happen. Then we moved to an exercise off a right hand bend: a cross rail, 3 strides to a vertical. Of note I left this out of the video because I don’t like putting other people not he internet but when Trainer AB gave us this exercise and pointed out the vertical I said “after you lower it a peg” to which she reasoned with a quiet “no, I like it like this”. Ugh.

But it was no big deal and we made the 3 strides the first time.

From the ground view…

We still did it a few times to get a good feel, but then it was on to our Grand Prix course of four jumps: a skinny gate, a vertical over a black pipe, a “giant” brush box between two ramps, and then a low but very wide over. In her telling of the course she called it a “giant brush box” and I told her that language like that isn’t tolerated. HA!

I was made to do just the brush box twice more because a) my line to it was screwy and b) she really wanted me to get used ton being bold over fences even when they scare me.

Eeyore was mostly a good boy. He has gotten over his early ride temper tantrums, finally learning that it doesn’t get him out of work and instead results in more work. However, he is now trying to play exhaustion which I find more annoying and harder to deal with. He was a spicy devil at home tacking up before loading and continued to be a bit of a handful for the warm up. Then when I put him on the 20 m circle, he gave up on life and acted like he couldn’t take another step ever again.

While it is a new frustrating habit, at least it shows that he is growing and trying new things. Someday he just may learn to go with the flow. Maybe. When he is retired.


Use Your Brain

It took me more years than I care to admit to train my brain to not shut off on the flat. I’m still a more reactive versus proactive rider than I’d like, but I’m a heck of a lot better than I used to be when basically my brain would go on vacation as soon as my butt hit the saddle. By the time I retired Gem, I had gotten fairly good at reading her subtle body language cues that informed me she was about to slow down or speed up, cut a corner or hollow and with that early warning system I could then proactively shut whatever she was about to do down and keep us on the trajectory I had planned.

I feared the lesson would be canceled due to soggy footing everywhere, but instead Trainer had me meet her at a local covered for the day.

Eeyore is a little harder for me as he tends to not really pre plan his actions and instead is a tad ADD about the whole thing. I haven’t been riding him for as long and he is a bit more erratic. I’m getting better at it on the flat and am finding myself catching him before he hollows or cuts a corner or slows down or speeds up before he actually does it more and more often these days.

This, however, all flies right out the window once we start jumping and my brain reverts to heading off on the cruise ship to hang out with a martini on the pool deck.

Trainer AB is done with allowing me to do this and so our lesson last weekend was focused on getting me to actually ride while jumping. To this end we began with an exercise that annoys me in its simplicity while being extremely difficult for me to replicate well. A simple set of two ground poles set at 5 canter strides. The goal was for me to count the strides out loud and be able to tell her what I felt and how I countered it after each pass through.

We are trialing a new to us pessoa bit. Trainer AB educated me on her choice of this bit adn I really liked her thinking. Eeyore seems to like it. Nothing magical but it is doing the job we wanted it to.

It was hard. We’d come in too hot and get 4 strides then I’d over compensate the next pass and shut him down to get 6 strides and only realize it after it was too late to make the adjustment between the poles. It was a great way to get my brain functioning though and by the time I was able to get 5 strides both directions, I was was getting the hang of thinking and riding at the same time.

From there we did basically the same thing only with a cross rail 6 strides to a vertical with the same goals: count the strides, influence the horse to make the striding, then tell her what I did. I’ll tel you that the first time I came in and actually felt him being too slow, put my leg on and got those 6 strides?? It felt freaking AMAZING. I was grinning like a fool. I felt my brain kick in, made a decision and got it done. Wow.

After that she had me run through a course twice before calling it a day.

And because I failed yet again to get my Cambox to capture anything but the sky, here is a pic of my two girls snuggling in the sunshine

I learned a lot this lesson. Like A LOT. One of the biggest points for me was to pick up my canter way earlier coming into the exercises/course. I tend to pick it up only a couple strides out because I worry a long approach will allow him to get on the forehand and rushy. However, with only a few strides before the fence I don’t have enough time to get him into any sort of rhythm or balance and found myself fighting to get what I wanted all the way to the base. When I picked the canter up way earlier, sure he could get rushy and on the forehand, but I still had time to influence and change that so we could approach the fence the way I wanted which in turn led to a much nicer effort.

Also, brain – keep working!!!! I generally rode into the exercises way better than out of them. It was like my brain punched the time clock then headed straight to the water cooler to gossip. This perpetuated my feeling of not being in control and that leads to my jumping fears. When I settled down and rode, added leg when I needed or re-balanced and slowed when needed, everything not only rode better but I felt more in control of what happened and that grew my confidence as we went around.

Yet another wonderful lesson in the books and a lot to continue to work on. Hopefully the weather dries out and I can sneak in another lesson soon.


2020 Baseline

Trainer AB was able to come out over the weekend for my first lesson in way too long. We had others scheduled but it always poured down rain causing them to be moved. This has been a very wet and warm winter so far and while my arena remains a thorn in my side, the footing stays rideable even under 6″ of water which has been my salvage.

There was a lot to talk about since I hadn’t seen her since the last HT. I’ve been waffling a lot about what is best for us as a team – full training, more lessons, her riding him in shows, not showing at all, etc…and trying to really hone in on what I want from horses. It boils down to a few things:

  • Have fun – if it isn’t enjoyable it isn’t worth doing. Scary sometimes, yes. Hard work, for sure. But at the end of it all, it must be fun.
  • Improvement– nobody likes to feel stuck in a rut. Riding the same backwards ways and working on the same issues gets old, fast. I don’t have any bar I’m striving for here. No set height of jumps or level of competition. What I really want is to feel like I’m a better rider than I was 2 months ago, 6 months ago, 1 year ago.
  • Flexibility -Spontaneous plans are the only way I function. I texted Trainer Saturday afternoon to set up the lesson for Sunday. I signed up for the last HT three days before it ran. I don’t have a ride calendar and I don’t pre plan my rides at home. It works for me to decide to enter a jumper show the night before or morning of. However, this means that I have to have a versatile horse who is in shape enough to tackle these last minute shenanigans readily and happily.
Unrelated media. My sister-in-law snagged this photo of Pete while she was in town. I want to frame it and put it in the tack room.

With all that in mind I have decided against full training for Eeyore. It isn’t needed for the above and goes against some of them directly. Trainer and I talked and I do want to keep showing. I like the challenge and I find it mostly fun. My confidence stems a lot from knowing my horse will do the thing. To that end, I am officially signing Trainer up to ride Eeyore at Windridge in February. Seeing him tackle all three phases with her will help me realize he can do this and that will make me a lot braver in the saddle.

For the lesson itself, it was pretty eye opening in all the ways I never expected it to be which is pretty par for the course for Trainer AB.

Farrier came out on NYE which meant that I could be there for the first time in a year. I loved the look on Eeyore’s face as the hot shoes were placed.

Right now the focus is on getting Eeyore to carry his own head and to understand that rein aids can mean a lot more than “slow down”. A lot of the flat work goes like this:

Eeyore pick up your head. I’m not carrying 1500lbs in my hands

Oh, you want me to slow down, I’m down with that

No, I want you to balance upfront and continue to move. I’m not talking to your feet.

Oh, so this is hard. I’ll just curl behind the bit and suck behind your leg. Then you can’t yell at me because I’m still technically moving and I’m not leaning.

Nope, you can’t do that either

It is hard work for him and me both as it requires my body and mind to do 1000 different things all at once and after just a few circuits around a 20 m circle I find myself out of breath. I will say though that it is getting easier and better for both of us and we are able to get some really good circles before it falls apart. The canter was the most balanced it has been to date as well.

My homework since the last lesson has been to sit up. After hearing trainer repeat “sit up, lean back” a million times in one hour, I declared that she would never have to tell me that again. Or at least not so much. As such, I’ve been working diligently on my upper body not only being more upright, but also being independent of my lower body so that when I give a cue I don’t tip forward. The hard work paid off as not only did I not have to be told to sit up one single time, I also got a lot of praise from Trainer for my stability and position. Wahooo for little wins!!

We finished with the flat portion of the ride and I thought we would move on to jumping, but Trainer had other plans. Remember the whole “needs to be fit and healthy to do the spontaneous activities I get us up to?” part of my life with horses? Yeah…well I’ve failed him miserably on that score and Trainer has a plan for me to fix it. My biggest pasture is pretty perfect for conditioning work. Not only is it plenty big, but it also slopes from right to left and from front to back. She wants me to work up to 10 minutes of canter work up and down that pasture after each ride.

She also snapped this beautiful shot of Waggy

To this end, she had me spend the second half of the lesson out in the field. As soon as we left the arena I tensed. Eeyore can be a giant asshole out in that pasture. It is the only time I have fallen off him – when he lawn darted me at a walk in that field. Trainer gave me a look like “grow a set and go do it” so I set off to trot up the hill. Eeyore immediately had an epic hissy fit. He bucked. He reared. He attempted to bolt away. He went sideways. He jigged. He did everything but be polite and follow directions.

Ah…so now she saw this side of him. She told me she was happy to see this because then she could be there to help me through it and better understood my anxiety about her conditioning plans for us. She set me on a small 15 ish m circle around the water trough to the left. Eeyore bucked and insisted that he would rather go in the barn where Gem and Pete were. She told me to a ) actually sit in the saddle instead of being tense and hovering and b) make him do it even if that meant he went around with his nose touching his butt the entire time. When we went towards the barn, he would speed up. When we went away, he would slow down and try to turn back towards it. I was to ignore all of this and make him do what I wanted. It took about 25 circles before he started to listen and then we repeated it to the right. it took less time and then we did a huge circuit of the entire pasture with her walking beside me. She got her steps in that day.

We manged to finish on a good note with instructions to begin with 5 minutes out in the field at the end of every ride. Once he behaved at the walk, introduce the trot then the canter then work up to 10 minutes. I’m not sure how long that will take, but I will do it.

This horse has opinions about everything

You know, I’m not sure what Trainer thinks of Eeyore. I’m not sure she would ever tell me to sell him, but I also don’t think she would be all that sad if I did. Her biggest issue with him is his lack of obedience. His opinions that turn into action. While we were fighting over working in the field, she told me “He doesn’t get to have an opinion about this. He needs to learn that when you tell him to walk or trot in the field, he just does it. No questions asked. No temper tantrum thrown. If he wants to squeal under his breath, fine, but he does what you say”

It is something she has told me before and something I am working on instilling in him, but this too will take time. For now, I have my homework and will work hard at it until I get to set up time with her again.