Blog Hop: 25 Questions

Hopping on this bandwagon!!!

1. What is the first thing you do when you get to the barn?

Tricky because my horses are at home, so the first thing I do when I get there is change out of work clothes and then bring all three in for dinner. If I’m riding that night, I leave the other two in their stalls and bring Eeyore out to the cross ties to groom and tack up. Then once the ride is over they all get put back outside for the night.

2. Is there a breed that you would never own?

Probably not a mini ever. I don’t see any point where we would need one, but other than that I am open to just about anything that fits me. I’d love to own a pair of Clydesdales one day and have a cart for them to pull. Dreams…

3. Describe your last ride?

I just posted about it, but in general it was fantastic. Eeyore got down to busy with minimal convincing, he tackled the ground pole exercise a week before he couldn’t figure out and everything was peaches and cream.

My favorite picture of him to date. Even if he was an asshat immediately after taking this

4. Have any irrational riding fears?

It is weird because most things that I am perfectly fine with out on trail with varied terrain and all sorts of uncontrollable factors simply terrify me in the arena. Like, why? There is a fence and even if the horse goes a bit too fast where are they even going to go?? Around the circle again? I think it is something about that big open space without trees and turns to stop them that freaks me out a bit. Or the fact that I am 100% responsible for everything in the arena whereas out on trail, the trail itself dictates a lot. I don’t know.

5. Describe your favorite lesson horse?

I never really rode lesson horses. My riding education was on the back of my aunt’s TWH out on the trail. My favorite was a huge chestnut with a wide white blaze and two white socks. His name was Somorrow and he was amazing. He LOVED to explore the world and always wanted to see what was around the next bend or down a different trail. He never spooked a single time in all the thousands of miles, enjoyed a good swim in the river on a hot summer day and was the best companion I could have asked for.

6. Would you ever lease out your horse?

I think the better question here is if anyone would ever want to lease one of my horses…LOL! None are super polished or easy, so I don’t think they would be hot commodities to anyone but me. I thought about it for a while when Gem was in her endurance prime. Someone who had more time to campaign her could have won many races. She was a machine at her finest. But…eh…she never cared about her record and I am a control freak and would never forgive myself if I leased her out and she came back injured, so she stayed with me. Maybe one day if Eeyore is better trained and is ready to step down but not retire fully, I will lease him out. I don’t know.

A lizard came to visit us the other day. Anything that eats insects is welcome at the farm

7. Mares: Yay or neigh?

It all depends on the specific horse. Eeyore is more mareish than Gem ever was. He has a better mare glare and more personality. She was very work like and aloof.

8. How many time per week do you get to see your horse?

Seven, but that is cheating a bit since they live outside and I bring them in for feed every day. When I boarded it was 3 times a week on average. I ride 2-3 days a week if I am lucky and the stars align. Having them at home is a life saver for me.

9. Favorite thing to do on an “easy day” with your pony?

Spa days are my favorite easy days. A full body scrub down, shampoo, conditioner and finish off with Asorbine Cool Down lineament rinse. Manes and tails included. If it is an easy riding day, some light w/t/c work to stretch the legs in the arena. Riding out in the field isn’t mentally easy on either of us just yet.

I have never seen a horse enjoy a roll as much as he does. He will even dig with his front hoof to bring up more dirt. Filthy pig of a horse

10. Conformational flaw that bothers you the most?

A long back. It is just so unappealing to the eye and in my limited experience is a big weak spot. Give me a short backed horse any day even if it gives less real estate for a saddle.

11. Thing about your riding that you’re most self conscious about?

Probably how easily I can talk myself out of doing just about anything. Does that jump that is only 2″ look a little scary? Brain says I’ll die? Then no way! I’m getting bolder and more willing to try things looking through my new orange ears, but it will take some time to become a braver rider.

12. Will you be participating in no stirrup November?

No. I did enjoy 2pointober and saw an improvement in my position with that and have incorporated more two point into daily rides, so maybe I’ll brave no stirrups in the same manner at some point.

Love his playful smooshy face and donkey ears

13. What is your grooming routine?

Eeyore is sensitive and does not like the curry or a stiff brush, so currently am using a soft brush all over and then pick his feet out, apply whatever concoction they require at the moment, apply fly spray and then tack. His mane and tail are pretty pathetic, so I leave those alone. Someday I want to get a brush set that is above TSC quality and see if I can’t get a better grooming routine that he tolerates.

14. Describe a day in the life of your horse?

Eat, sleep, play with Pete, sleep some more, eat some more. He is outside 24/7 in a large pasture with lots of room and natural shade. They move around a lot and utilize the entire thing nicely. He gets brought inside to eat morning and evening and is kicked right back out still chewing his last mouthful or else he will start to eat his wood door. Some days I ride after he eats dinner.

15. Favorite season for riding?

Fall has always been my favorite time to ride. It really is the perfect combination of weather, lack of bugs and daylight remaining to make it possible.

IT is very hard to get a good picture of anything but his very large nose

16. If you could only have 1 ring: indoor or outdoor?

I’m going to cheat here and say a covered. Honestly down here a full indoor wouldn’t really be needed since most days are nice enough to ride outside. There are cold and rainy days though that a covered would be really nice. Plus the added benefit of shade. So..covered.

17. What impresses you most about the opposite discipline (english vs. western)?

Well, I have ridden both and I must say that in general (oh boy I can already hear people getting their panties in a twist up in here) western folks have a better relationship on the ground with the horse. It seems more horsemanship and daily care is provided with western versus the english disciplines where being more of a jockey with grooms and full time care is more tolerated.

18. You have unlimited funds to buy one entire tack set for your horse, what is he/she wearing?

CWD. I fell in love with it when I rode a potential horse in the get up. Too expensive for my blood though.

He is the perfect match for the carolina red clay soil.

19. How many blankets do you have? When do you blanket?

Each horse has 1 medium weight. Gem actually also has a light weight and a fleece cooler but neither get used. I only blanket when it is below 40F with precipitation. Otherwise they have thick winter coats, plenty of forage and enough natural shelter to stay warm on their own.

20. What is your horse’s favorite treat? Favorite place to be scratched?

Stud Muffins are the biggest hit. You apparently can’t beat molasses and oats. He likes carrots too, but has turned up his nose to some other stuff I have tried. Gem only likes carrots and will spit everything else out. Pete adores mints and will suck on a single hard mint for 10 minutes of bliss. Gemmie loves the inside of her right ear scratched. She makes the most adorable face while doing it and really leans into it. Don’t touch the left ear though. Pete’s favorite is in between his front legs right between the muscles. Eeyore loves a good butt massage. He blisses out to that pretty hard.

21. Something about your barn that drives you crazy?

Hmmm….my biggest complaint at the moment is how dirty it is. The dirt floor is ok, but it is 3″ thick with loose dirt and needs scooped up and watered to take that down a hundred notches. The individual rooms (tack, feed, bathroom, etc..) have walls but no ceiling so all that dust from walking settles on to everything. It drives me crazy. Nothing stays clean for more than a day and I am very tired of cleaning my tack all the time only to see 1/4″ of dust a couple days later. The hubby is currently working on making me a new grooming cabinet in the wall by the cross ties but then his next project is building me ceilings.

Before he faded for the summer his coat was a gorgeous copper penny this spring.

22. Roached manes, pulled manes, or long flowing manes?

Gem and Pete are long and flowing. I prefer it when the horses live outside as it does provide extra protection from bugs and weather. Eeyore has a funky mohawk at the moment that I sorta love. It is partially spiky, partially floppy and all adorable.

23. Can you handle a buck or a rear better?

Ugh I hate both. I don’t think I’ve ever really ridden a horse with a true buck or rear. Eeyore likes to threaten but his rear is coming up off his front feet all of 1″ and then he thinks he was a bad ass. I’d say neither.

24. I would never buy a horse who ___________________?

Who knows at this point? I’d like to never buy another horse who has crap feet because this road sucks to go down. A horse who truly bucks or rears would be a big no. I also passed on a good horse because he was psycho in the cross ties and I have a kiddo so they must always be safe on the ground no matter what.

25. Favorite facial marking?

A big bold white blaze especially if on a chestnut face. Swoon every time.


Who Is This Horse?

Thank you everyone for the comments, suggestions and articles on my Gemmie post. The equine vet said to not worry too much and retest in 6 months as her numbers were barely elevated but that either more exercise or a grazing muzzle wouldn’t be a bad idea. So…coin toss which one comes first. Probably the dreaded muzzle to be honest. It’s easier even if I don’t like it.

Wednesday I’m usually working at the wound center trying to heal people’s massive foot wounds in spite of their best attempts to do the exact opposite of everything I say. It’s a mental battle that can be very exhausting. Yesterday though I took off for Wyatt’s kindergarten graduation and with a forecast that blissfully promised 5 days of straight up rain storms, I snuck a ride in on the Orange Butthead early on.

One happy kindergarten graduate

I set up the exact same ground pole exercise we did in the lesson: 4 trot poles exiting turning right, bend left to come back the opposite direction, exit turning left and then bed right to come through again.

Just in case you missed my horrible paint rendition the last time

During the lesson he was a bit unruly going through trying to make them into two jumps with a bounce between. Honestly, I think it was the fact that they went through a jump standard. A standard without an actual jump always blows his poor little mind. It is like he thinks “standards mean jump but there is nothing raised but standards mean jump and I GOOD BOY so I jump any way!

I didn’t add the standard cuz lazy and 1000% humidity, but I did set up the line of poles slightly off center line like she had them in the lesson.

Handsome boy

He warmed up really, really well. Only tried to pull some crap one time at the beginning and only broke to canter once for a few strides. The approach of ignoring it and letting him go as long as he remains in front of my leg is really working. He doesn’t see the point since I’m no longer fighting him and he returns to the work quickly and quietly. It is a huge change from pre lesson Eeyore.

He trotted nicely so I picked up the canter both directions this time. The canter is still a bit wild and unruly. It swings from underpowered to race horse mode with very little time spent in between but those moments in between are getting longer and better so progress is still being seen. The biggest win in the canter is that my brain is beginning to function and not just go blankly into survival mode.

I was really pleased with it so I gave him a stretchy walk break and tackled the ground poles. I really expected him to fumble through it or try to jump again but instead I got a horse who decided it was too hard to hold his head up and went through in his best attempt at being a western pleasure mount.

I adore his mane. A little floppy, a little spiky and a whole lot Eeyore.

He was easy to maneuver on the change of bends and we approached again with more forward and his head not dragging on the ground. He went over just fine yet again. I repeated in both directions one last time to confirm and then we quit.

It was a pleasant ride from start to finish which has not always been the case. I’m not sure who this new orange beast is but I do love working with him!

I’m on the books for a lesson every other Wednesday night at 8 pm at least through the summer which I think will be a nice balance between consistently getting instruction and giving me time to work on it. He may not agree, but I’ve gotten a sense from him lately that he does actually like the routine work even if he pretends he might die during it. I can handle head dropping, lagging behind Eeyore a lot better emotionally and mentally than I can head shaking, threatening to rear Eeyore. I don’t mind getting after him to move, but I get more than a little fetal when he gets a little crazy. I’m sure the 1000% humidity played a role, but in general he is becoming more and more malleable to the tasks I am asking and I am riding a whole lot better which helps too. Bring on the rain and then please stop for my lesson next week.


Blood Work Results

Remember when the equine dentist came and was concerned about Gemmie having Cushings? In her opinion, any horse over the age of 20 needs to be proven to not have it especially one that is on pasture 24/7 and is erm…a little portly.

It took a while for the hubby to get in contact with the rep from the company offering free testing, but eventually it got done and the blood was drawn for that plus Coggins. Hubby went ahead and ran the test on Pete too because he is 30 and it was free. Pete’s came back 100% normal in all regards. That guy is a tank. Gem’s, well her’s came back a bit meh. I

Facebook reminded this morning that it was 2 years ago today that Gem and I did our first and only CT

Her Cushings values all were normal, so no Cushings though right now I’d have preferred that as a diagnosis. It is really easy to manage with Prascend and the hubby can order it through work. Life doesn’t always give you the answers you want though.

While those results were normal, her insulin was at 70, normal is 40, and her glucose was up as well though I do not know that value off the top of my head. Neither were impressively high, but they certainly weren’t normal either. These results point to EMS and the recommendation was to retest in 6 months. Dusty is reaching out to the equine dentist for her opinion on the results (she was a full care equine vet before reducing down to acupuncture/chiro and dental only). In the meantime, I started my own research and picking of the brain.

I can;t wait until Eeyore and I are ready to go out and show. I miss it.

EMS is Equine Metabolic Syndrome is basically Type 2 Diabetes in horses. Increased fat cells make the body resistant to insulin so the pancreas pumps more out to get a response and serum glucose levels remain elevated. The biggest risk is laminitis. Gem is over weight but she is more like a 7.5 or 8 on the BCS, not obese like most of the ponies and horses I saw online with the condition, but she is also pretty low on the test values. In general treatment is aimed at lifestyle changes much like it humans with early and mild Type 2 diabetes: eat less sugar and exercise more.

The recommendation is for grain to be under 10% NSC and I immediately checked her bag of feed when I got home yesterday. It is 12.8% but is a ration balancer and she gets maybe 1 pound total a day. Math makes my head hurt, but after doing some figuring she gets extremely little in her feed, so we are good there. I’ve not had her hay tested, but she also hasn’t had any hay since the grass started coming in several months ago, so that is an avenue I’ll explore come the end of summer/early fall. It should be ok from preliminary research as she gets a fescue/bermuda mix and that is pretty low in general.

She wasn’t too shabby at the dressage thing

Her biggest nemesis is the grass under her feet and the fact that she is retired. Right now the grass is basically yellow straw from the high heat, constant blazing sun and no rain in weeks. It is literally crunching under our feet. A grazing muzzle may be in her future but that is my last resort. I know plenty of people use them and that is fine. I personally hate them. I hate anything on a horse’s face in pasture with others, it is a safety risk, plus they screw up their teeth something fierce. It is better than laminitis though, so we will see if I have to go down that route. I’ll do it before I let her hooves go to crap, but I think tackling her exercise and weight is a better option.

The recommendation here is to exercise 30 minutes 2-3 times a week. Get those extra…erm 100….pounds off and get the body responding to itself better. Except this is me we are talking about here and there is always an issue. Time. I barely get the time to ride Eeyore, my hopeful competition horse, ridden 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes. There is no way I can sneak in 6 rides a week total. Won’t happen. Hard stop.

She looked so pretty all braided up and in white

This is where I wish I was in a boarding situation with a big barn rat population of kids dying to get on anything that can move. It would be easy to find enough butts to w/t/c her around or hack her out (her specialty) for 30 minutes or so a few times a week. Instead I may need to get creative on finding some warm butts to do it for me. I worry about the liability and will need to check with my insurance company to see if I need to add anything to the policy to cover myself in case someone comes to ride her and gets hurt. She is pretty safe, but she isn’t point and shoot simple and you just never know with horses. Having someone come out would also only work while we are also home. We do not own a boarding facility, this is our private home, and I would not be comfortable with them coming when I wasn’t around. It will be a bit tricky, but hopefully the right person or person’s come out of the wood work to ride a horse for free a few days a week.

I believe that if I can get her back to a shape other than round, that her blood work will return to the normal range without anything drastic happening. There are two medications that can be tried but the research all highly recommends lifestyle changes first. Metformin, a human diabetes medication, can reduce intestinal resorption of glucose therefore helping reduce intake though it seems to have little benefit overall. Levothyroxine, a medication for hypothyroidism, has shown some benefit in increasing metabolism and helping to shed the pounds. Its interesting, to a geek like me with medical stuff anyway, in that there are no reported cases in hyperthyroidism with use. I would rather not go down either of those paths at the moment.

So…first we will be retesting in 6 months to see where her values lie. In the meantime, the summer grass is poor quality, she already gets no grain and what she does get in a balancer is low NSC, they are not eating hay at the moment (it is always available in their stalls but they ignore it when the grass is in), and she will be pulled from retirement much to her chagrin so she can lose those pesky 100 lbs she has gained from living the life of luxury.

We didn’t make that bad of a team

If anyone has any suggestions as to finding a rider to come exercise her a few days a week , I am all ears. Not being a part of a barn family does hurt in a lot of ways sometimes.


Putting it to the Test

Lessons can be great, but as the saying goes “the proof is in the gravy”, namely would what I learned in my lesson with AB translate home when riding alone?

Of course, as is the norm in my life, Eeyore sat for longer than I anticipated. Sunday morning I was finally able to tack up and see what I could do with what AB told me Wednesday night.

No relevant media. Instead you get pictures of our trip to the natural water slide in Brevard NC Sunday.

First off was installing forward thinking and moving from the start. No more checking the brakes with a 10 minute walk-halt-walk warm up. Get on and get moving! Eeyore was a bit up having just moved the horses out the far field for the month of June even though they were all in the barn for breakfast. I swear he is the epitome of book smart and street dumb.

It was good though. That is the attitude that makes me generally lock everything down to a crawl and that is exactly the opposite of what AB wants me to do. She wants me to feel more confident and comfortable with him in front of me and moving than rely on curling him into himself and creating a situation where he only has up to go to release his energy.

The water was a “refreshing” polar plunge. The sign said it averaged 55F but the park ranger said this time of year it is probably 45F. IT was shockingly cold.

Once I mounted, I got him moving into a marching walk. I didn’t ask for a halt one single time and instead set us up on the move. I only walked around the arena one time in each direction before getting into the trot as AB had instructed me to do.

My second big goal was to stick to the rail. I’ve always been told to use figures and changes in direction as a way to keep his focus and attention, but AB wants me to use the entire arena, staying on the rail, as a way to keep that forward momentum at all times. It also forces me to not cave in when he begins to bulge his shoulder or decides now would be a fantastic time to cut in. I haven’t been the best at sticking to my plan, so when he would do that in the past I would turn that into a circle, serpentine or change of direction and think I was doing something good. Instead I basically just taught him that he was in charge and could make the decisions.

Wyatt had the time of his life! From the first trip down his face split into a grin that never left.

By sticking to the rail, I was forcing myself to stick to my plan no matter what.

So off we went at a trot to the right along the rail. He did his patented grab the bit and duck in maneuver. I sat tall, shoulders back, knee bent and thought “nope, Trainer AB says to ignore him, keep a light but loose contact, and use my left rein to keep him out against the rail” He was none too happy with this and got a bit angry but you know what? Because I had a forward, in front of my leg horse, and because I refused to lock down and give him something to grab against, he continued moving where I wanted and it never escalated beyond some grumpy head shakes on his part.

Dusty despises cold water with every fiber of his 0% body fat being. Since I’m not as strong as he is, he got Wyatt duty to make sure the kiddo didn’t drown in the 8ft pool at the bottom.

In fact, it took only two long sides and two turns to get him relaxed and on board with the plan. Way sooner than ever before and we went on to change direction and have a lovely ride to the left. He got a nice stretchy walk break before I wanted to try the canter in the same manner.

Off to the right, I got him in front of my leg (what a concept!!) and then asked for the canter. He picked it up, but then also picked up the bit and tried to cut in to the right like a good western games horse. Except…I sat tall, kept light but loose contact, kept my knees bent under me, and used the left rein to keep him out along the rail. And you know what?? He complied rather quickly. He still loved to burst out of the turn like a race horse going down the long side, but that was manageable and only last a few circuits before he was relaxed and settled and gave me a lovely uphill, hind end powered and easy canter.

My mom came along with us too. The two of us made it down 4 times while Dusty and Wyatt went down 15!! The park rangers said most people go 2-3 times before being too cold to continue. I was proud of my boys.

I didn’t ride for very long. He was being such a good boy and I hit all my goals after about 30 ish minutes. The morning was nice and cool and he had barely broken a sweat but the ride was more for my benefit than his. I plan to lay out some ground poles again for my next ride and work through a similar exercise to what she had placed for us in the lesson with the change of bend as convincing him to nicely go where I want versus where he wants is our most difficult task on the flat at the moment. It was really nice to not only have homework to work on after the lesson, but to be able to apply it as well. I really think AB is going to be great for me.


First AB Lesson Recap

AHHHH!! So much happened, so many breakthroughs!!! I started the lesson hyperventilating and visibly shaking with nerves and ended it with a grin and a thirst for more. What more can you ask for from a 45 minute long lesson? Nothing!

The large picture view of the lesson was not earth shattering. We did a lot of work in the trot and canter, then tackled some ground poles, and ended over a tiny cross rail that was maybe 18″. But the power was in the nitty gritty details that gave me the ability to change my conversation with Eeyore and have the tools to deal with his very strong personality without it turning into a fight. Now I am addicted and want more, more, more.

Eeyore loaded up at home fine and then proceeded to try to hide in the trailer.

The burning question of the evening was how he would handle the lesson situation as a whole and that answer is a bit hard to pin down. A lot of things were different about Thursday that separated it from previous experiences and I am not fully sure what all made the biggest impact. For starters, a boy on his young pony joined us in the ring. At first, Eeyore wanted nothing more than to crawl inside that pony’s skin, but he eventually got over it and settled in to the work at hand. Second, we were not stuffed on a tiny circle to quite literally spin farther and farther out of control and were instead told to use the entire arena to my advantage. Third, Trainer AB had me work him from the get go. No more walk-halt-walk warm up. She wanted those feet moving from the time I mounted with very little time wasted in the walk. It set the tone right away. Last, Trainer AB hopped in the stirrups after watching me trotting him around. She wanted to get a good feel for him to better instruct me on what to do and it gave us both a lot if insight into the inner workings of his brain.

Things never escalated. Sure, things weren’t always pretty and her end analysis is that he is very difficult on the flat, but workable and we should make huge gains quickly, but nothing ever felt out of control to me. I think this is tricky to explain because he wasn’t magically more compliant, but instead I was given a better way to respond and therefor I never got tense and was able to keep my own brain functioning to counteract his behaviors as they presented themselves. I wasn’t stuck in a negative loop of “don’t do a” and instead could think “do b”.

I swear he actually enjoys travelling one we get going

I really think that not being stuffed on a circle had the biggest impact on the evening. I always hated being shoved on a circle even when I rode Gem. I knew the point was to use the circle to naturally force balance and a slower pace, but when you lack the skill set to have proper bend, use your aides timely, and still remember to breathe, the circle spirals out of control pretty quickly. Yet every lesson, even ones in which I jumped her, I would find myself stuck back on that infernal circle for an hour without relief. This time, I was immediately told to use the entire arena and it gave me more time to react to him and get things back under control without the worry of having to concentrate on the bend and steering. Basically, it let me be the beginner that I am.

After Trainer AB worked him a solid while in the canter, we had a chat about him. She didn’t hate him, so there was that. Her analysis was that he is used to getting his own way and he does this by being a jerk which then creates a rider who is locked down and tense. Once that happens, he is free to grab the bit and run off to do whatever he decided was more fun be that bulging his shoulder, cutting the corner, or changing gait. When she focused on keeping him on the current path and ignored his back end so that he could canter sideways if that is what he chose as long as he kept on the rail and went where she said, he quickly returned to being a normal horse as it was way more work to canter around sideways than to just comply and go where she wanted. I had the opportunity to work on this a lot and it was much easier to do than I thought it would be.

Continuing along in the flat work, Trainer AB wanted me to stop focusing on perfection which ended up being another major breakthrough. When I would ask for a down transition, say from canter to trot, I would immediately get after him for a great trot which is how I was taught in the past. She wasn’t too thrilled with this and said that I need to break it down for him more. He isn’t a baby, but he also isn’t a highly trained professional either so we need to cut him a little slack. When I would ask for the trot, she didn’t care what trot I got as long as it happened when I said. After a few strides, I was then to package him up. So it would look like this: canter-ask for trot-get a flopping limb flailing trot-praise the down transition-3 strides later package him into a good quality trot-ask for walk-get a floppy walk-praise the down transition-3 strides later get a good quality walk-loose rein. I know in the future we will need to get higher quality right away but not where we are at right now. I’m not sure if this had that big of an impact on Eeyore, but it sure took a lot of the stress off me to have that perfection taken off the table. By the time we finished the flat work and moved on to ground poles, he was really relaxed, calm and listening.

The ground poles were really funny. Honestly, by this point we were both caked in sweat and breathing hard so I was surprised we moved on to something else. She did chastise me a bit for calling him lazy. In her opinion he is not lazy and actually has a huge engine and endless supply of fuel. He is just really good at faking it. She set up 4 trot poles on the long side sorta left of center. She warned me that everyone messes this exercise up (spoiler: I didn’t!! Though I did then mess up the next one pretty bad so karma) and to not worry if I did. You can see my awful paint rendition of the exercise below. It was focused on riding away from the poles, bending right, changing bend left, riding over poles, bending left, changing bend right etc…

I know this is awful but you get the gist of the exercise. Lots of changing the bend and keeping his feet moving and brain guessing

We started heading towards the gate and he clobbered the crap out of the poles, scattering them everywhere because he was focused on where the pony was and didn’t even see the poles. We bent right, then argued going around left but I kept in mind her instructions to wiggle the reins and let him swing wide if he wants to make life harder and we got around on the path I wanted without wavering and came back through the poles. This time he turned the 4 poles into two jumps with a bounce in the middle. He charged forward, jumped the first two, landed in between 2 and 3, and then immediately jumped out over 3 and 4. She laughed and we came around to do it again. He clobbered them once again going towards the gate, stayed in the trot and didn’t argue about the exit strategy but then once again bounced over them heading back through. She told me that he is a cute jumper. I really liked how she didn’t get upset, yell or criticize me at all through these baubles and instead remained calm, pointed out the positives and had me approach again. It kept me calm and ready to try again instead of dreading the next trip around. It took about 5 or 6 cycles through but eventually he calmly and politely trotted through each way although she helped me cheat a little on the approach that he preferred to canter through by oh so non nonchalantly stepping in front of the line of poles as we came in to them and then just as slowly and non nonchalantly stepping to the side which helped break up the line for him visibly and kept me more focused because running over your Trainer is a bad thing. It was little things like that where she interjected so tiny and quietly that had a big influence and just blew my mind.

Once he went through that exercise no issues, and I was proud of myself for making all the proper turns, I thought we were done. But no. She asked where I was at in my jumping him. I explained that I like to add jumps as a reward for all the flat work but that I generally trot into them all, canter out when I feel ok, and have only done mostly single fences. She said that jumping a course would be extremely difficult on him since his flat work is so complicated at the moment. We couldn’t just do flat work between the fences since well…sometimes it takes us a while to get him on the same page. She did want to do a cross rail though to end it so she kept 2 ground poles and made a tiny cross rail at the end. We came at it towards the barn since that was his better direction over the poles and she wanted me to bend right after. Well, my brain was still thinking of the last exercise, so we cantered away, bent right, bent left and came at it on the wrong lead since I have zero idea how to get a lead change and he didn’t magically offer one up on his own. She laughed and said to just continue going around to the right to approach from the same direction, so we came around again.

Hot and sweaty at the end of a great ride

She also wanted me to ride the back side stronger which is a big weakness of mine. I get so focused on getting to and over a jump that I sorta stop riding and let the horse do whatever on the backside. Not good. The last time I approached, we hopped over the tiny cross rail no issue and then wonders of wonders I rode him away from that jump like a normal person and then turned once we hit the rail. She let us stop after that with sweat running down both our bodies.

After all of that we had a bit of a chat as to my goals and for the firs time in my adult riding life I had a Trainer tell me “you are a lovely rider and you can do more than you currently think”. She does agree that we have some issues, but she thinks they should be easily fixed with some reconditioning on both our ends and that she may not let me do an amoeba level HT instead hitting starter next spring once we have polished up the flat work a bit. She thinks he is super smart and once he figures out I won’t let him get away with his crap we will make a lot of progress together. I drove home grinning like a fool, had verbal diarrhea all over my poor unsuspecting husband, then repeated the experience to poor Emma who texted me about something else altogether and finally passed out because I was past my bed time. What a great first experience with Trainer AB!


Welcome to the Tribe, Trainer AB!!!!!!

Believe what you will, but I like to think that the Universe is on our side. There have been way too many instances in my life for me to personally think otherwise. The week after the Hunter Pace with Bette and KC, I ran into a friend at Chipotle. I hadn’t seen Barbara in close to two years and we eat at Chipotle a lot. Anyway…we got to catching up and she asked me who I was riding with these days (after telling me a harrowing tale of her last event with a separated shoulder hanging useless against her side. Eventers are a tough breed) and I told her I was in between trainers at the moment. She got real excited and told me she knew of the perfect person for me. I contacted AB and had my first lesson with her last night.

No related media so have some pretty pictures to look at in general

It was AMAZING. But…you will have to wait until the next post for those details. Today I want to talk about the overall vibe and her training methods. I’ve been on the hunt for a trainer to call my own since returning to riding in 2009. I never could find what I was looking for and was beginning to think I never would. Maybe I was just being too picky. Until I met AB. Everything felt right. Everything clicked. I know training styles and methods vary greatly and this post is not a treatise on the correct way to go about learning how to event nor is it a backhanded dis on anyone’s methods because all roads lead to Rome and all that. But for me and for this horse and in this moment in time, this is the only method that has made sense to me and I am oh so thankful to Barbara for the recommendation. I owe her a burrito or something.

My riding instruction to date has been pretty negative overall. Everyone I’ve ridden with has always focused on what not to do. Don’t pull. Don’t brace your lower leg. Don’t go around so straight. Don’t post so fast. Which is fine. I did need to stop doing those things, but not only did it give the entire lesson a very negative feel it also didn’t provide me with what to do in place of those things. Great. I’ll stop pulling but now he is zooming off or cutting the corner or doing whatever and I obviously have no idea what else to do so now I’m back to pulling and getting scolded. There was no other options provided.

Waggy thinks the ground poles are really fun sticks

I read an article several years ago about the human brain. Apparently, according to this author, the brain doesn’t register the negative such as DON’T. When you think “don’t spook” all your brain registers is “spook” and so you do. If you change the internal conversation to “walk calmly past the tree” you will. Going around and around a 20 m circle for 30 straight minutes being told “don’t pull, don’t brace, don’t etc….” was a whole lot of don’t-ing.

You know what AB never did, not a single time in an hour even when I messed up? She never said a negative word. NOT ONE SINGLE TIME. She never said “don’t pull against him” Instead she said “act a little silly up there, be loose and get him confused so he refocuses on what it is you are up to”. Instead of “don’t brace your lower leg” she said “can you bend your knee a little more to bring the leg back?”. Everything was spun in not only a positive reinforcement type manner, but with an action I could perform to change the conversation. It felt empowering instead of degrading. The end result was similar – I stopped pulling – but instead of feeling bad about my ability to ride, I felt encouraged and like I could make a change.

She had a similar approach to training Eeyore. I’m a control freak wimp and my warm up is centered around walk-halt-walk transitions until I feel like he is dialed in and listening. She wasn’t really a fan of that approach. She explained, and I will probably get this a little wrong in my translation, that in her opinion everything we teach the horse has to be with cross country in mind as that is the riskiest phase. She doesn’t want to teach Eeyore something in the arena and then have to undo that out on course. This all boiled down to one simple fact: the answer should always and forever be forward. We want to teach him that his “yes maam” should always be seen as forward momentum, looking ahead, wanting to move.

Old picture but I love him and I love this face

In regards to warm up then, she would prefer if I didn’t spend so much time teaching him to anticipate me shutting him down and instead teach him that from the moment I mount, we are going some where. So let him canter instead of trot if he breaks. Who cares? I need to control the direction and the pace, but if I say walk and he trots? Ask myself this: is he moving forward, is he going where I want and is he in front of my leg? If the answer is yes to all those, then let him go and slowly bring him back after a lap or two. In so doing, he will expect a forward ride every time. Breaks to canter from the trot? Same thing. Is he moving forward, in front of my leg, where I want to go? Then let him canter a lap or two then bring him back to the trot no fuss.

This came up again when jumping. I told her that he gets a bit rushy and that I like to use circles and halting after a jump to settle him. She wasn’t a fan of that again saying that forward is the answer. She didn’t want me to teach him to get nervous in the air or shut down wondering if this time I’m going to make him halt on the backside. Instead, she wants him going over every jump thinking about moving forward away from it on the back side. She said this all teaches him to be brave and bold out on the cross country course which is what we want in the end.

Pay attention to me!!

I’m not saying this is the only method of training an event horse or that it is even the best, but I can tell you that by the end of that lesson I had a much happier, forward and easy going gelding than I had starting it and I was a much more relaxed rider as well. The entire vibe of the lesson was uplifting and building confidence and skills instead of past experiences where I would leave dejected and questioning whether I should just return to the trails and give this whole thing up. Which was pretty magical if you ask me.

I’m sure I’m leaving some stuff out but these were the main philosophies that really stuck with me. I think she will be an excellent fit for us and I can’t wait to lesson with her again. Stay tuned for the actual lesson recap which will be jam packed with info!


Rock…….Me…….Hard Place

What do you do when you want to improve your skill set and ability?

Take lessons.

What do you do when you want your horse to improve his skill set and ability?

Take lessons.

His new Eponia bridle came and it is lovely. Rich chocolate brown with white stitching and the cob fits him well. I need a bigger brow band for his block head and I want to order a bit with smaller rings as I can’t raise the nose band any more and the bit rests on it which is less than ideal.

What do you do when the one thing that sets your horse off the most is taking a lesson?

I don’t know.

Eeyore came from a lesson barn situation and not the best lesson barn situation either. I know he had been there about a year though how intensely he was used is unknown to me. I can take some wild stabs though at how those lessons went down from some things I witnessed while there.

A larger brow band would stop the crown from being pulled into his ears. It was a lovely weekend to get two rides in in to days.

Since being home with me I’ve noticed a strange pattern emerge and each time it reared it’s ugly head, sometimes very literally, I could easily blame it on extraneous matters but the saddle fitting debacle has brought it front and center and now I have to figure out what to do in order to move forward.

You all may think I’m crazy but the moment someone walks into the arena with us and it starts looking an awful lot like a lesson is about to go down Eeyore loses his ever loving mind. I’m talking jigging, bolting wildly and at random, curling his chin to his chest, snaking his head violently around and eventually rearing. His whole body becomes rigid and it’s like he is prepared for some intense battle when all I’m asking for is a walk in a large easy circle.

How he goes when nobody is in the arena with us. Yesterday morning he was butter in my hands. SO MUCH FUN. I yelled over to Dusty and asked him to come grab some media for me. We were at the far end and Eeyore had yet to realize Dusty had entered the arena. .

It gets worse and worse the longer it goes on too. There is no talking him off this ledge. It happened when he was first with me and TrJ came to my house. I blamed his questionable soundness and the saddle. It happened when the saddle fitters came to fit him the first time. I blamed the saddles. It happened when I trailered him to TrC. I blamed the 45 minute wait for her to decide to show up. It happened at this last saddle fitting appointment and there was nothing left to blame.

This isn’t reproducible at my home rides. Sure we aren’t perfect and he throws his opinions in from time to time and our bend isn’t great and my steering isn’t always on point but he always, always remains calm. Maybe a bit defiant but always calm, cool and level headed. He doesn’t rear. He doesn’t jig. He doesn’t snake his head around in angry protest. None of it.

Then we came around and he saw Dusty standing there. Seriously its a wonder how he is able to trot froward while his head is parallel to the ground and not fall on his face. Or kick himself in the head. You can see in the last picture that he is staring Dusty down hard core and paying zero attention to me on him. Once Dusty left the arena? Back to being easy going and lovely. We went on to have a great ride with some of the best bend I’ve ever gotten.

I was so very proud of him Thursday too. He traveled well in 90F heat over 2 hours to unload at a brand new facility after hours with not another soul in sight. He unloaded, looked around and then got busy grazing. No screaming. No fuss. He wasn’t even nervous.

He stood still for her measurements to the point where she told me he was a most excellent boy. And he was! When we tacked him up, I walked him next to a picnic bench and mounted from there. As far as I know he has never seen a picnic bench before let alone be mounted by one and he never batted an eye. Just did what I asked.

Back to being a regular horse. This happens every time I try to get into a lesson with him. He melts down.

And the shittiest part is that if she had not been there I could have taken him to the jump or derby or even xc field and had a blast. The fitter went to her van to make notes while I mounted and began walking him around the empty parking field. I had decided to just ride him there for the fitting as it was grass and fenced in. He was fine. A little distracted by the sprinklers that came on, but he marched forward with a relaxed and swinging back.

We walked in a circle getting warmed up after the trailer ride and he was fine. It didn’t even cross my mind he would be anything but A GOOD BOY given his amazing behavior at home and his outing at the hunter pace. I didn’t even think about his past performances because I had blamed those all on things I have since eliminated. But the moment the fitter came walking over and said “ok, please circle to the right for me” it was game over.

He became a rigid steel beam. He curled his chin to his chest. He refused to do anything but jig or bolt. By the final time she made an adjustment and I got back on he went straight up in the air all four off the floor and I called it a night. I never even got to canter in the saddle. He was a lathered mess. She was a bit shell shocked at his behavior and tried to make excuses: the ride over, the fact he was alone.

But in that moment I knew. It was none of that. It had never been any of the reasons I thought. Had she stayed at her van everything would have been fine. I could have done anything with him. But the moment he recognized a lesson type scenario he was gone.

I told him he doesn’t deserve all the fancy gear I’m buying for him, but he does. I do adore my Orange Butthead even with his quirks.

I have been thinking about this a lot since then. I need to take lessons. I need to learn more skills and improve. I want to clinic. I want to go on adventures. I’m going to have to figure this out but it’s hard when lessons are the one thing he flips out about.

Some friends, who are probably tired of hearing me talk about this, have given me a lot of suggestions. Try a lesson using a head set and a trainer not in the arena. Try a lesson while the trainer is also mounted. Try a lesson where I’m given an exercise, perform it in full while trainer disappears, then go hang out and talk about how it went while the trainer gives treats and pets Eeyore letting him rest. Make the trainer a good safe spot.

The issue is finding a trainer willing/able to do any or all of those things. It’s useless to trailer him out to a lesson just to have him crumple in a heap and then spend the hour pleading with the trainer to believe me, he isn’t like this at home. You all have seen the videos. Lots of newbie rider errors but a calm and steady horse. I don’t have that horse with me when I lesson. And boot camp? Unless boot camp puts him in a lesson string it won’t help. Having a pro take time to ride him in an arena alone won’t do it. The only benefit would be him knowing the trainer better and maybe feeling more comfortable? I don’t know. That’s an expensive experiment I’d like to avoid if possible.

Its been an oven around here lately. The pond comes up into the pasture the horses are currently in and they are taking full advantage of the cool water. Pete and Eeyore have both come in for dinner having obviously rolled in the pond. Gemmie acts as lifeguard and is above such shenanigans.

This is not something I know how to deal with. It’s new to me. I’m going to give it my all and I have two trainers that are highly recommended by friends that I am in touch with and will hopefully be able to figure out a scenario where things don’t suck. I’m hoping to get a lesson scheduled in the next week or two, but need to discuss how to go about having a successful lesson and not a stressed out brawl which gets nobody anywhere.

I don’t know though. This isn’t a snag I was prepared to hit.