Thursday, February 22, 2024

Softer

After Goggles' acupuncture appointment we were assigned some homework - some manual therapy I could use to help supplement between appointments. The first step to let him know good things are coming, loosening up a few fascial connections, and getting him used to touch, is skin rolling. 

Almost like a neck twitch, but a looser pinch, and continually moving

This is done starting close to the poll and going all the way down to the shoulder on a few different planes. He quite likes it at this point and starts licking and chewing when I start doing this. He is most sensitive up near the poll which makes sense. 

Then we move on to the muscle releases. He is getting sooooo much better about letting me do these. He's really, really smart. At first I had to just kinda do it softly and stay back out of the way of his mouth. He never really tried to nail me, but definitely wanted to turn and nip when it was a little uncomfortable. I don't know if it is more and more comfortable or if he is learning the release is coming, but he barely turns towards me now. 



Usually those two get some big sighs and releases. He got a great review at his second acupuncture appointment - she scanned him all over and only got a few areas to focus on. At the first appointment he was so uncomfortable she couldn't scan him at all. His poll also felt much better, which is definitely good news. She worked on his hindquarters a bit more and got some good stuff done there. 

Each time I start his manual therapy, he is much softer than the last. His brachiocephalicus is now loose from the get go rather than needing some time to soften and relax. Overall quite encouraging that we're on the right track. 

As we've gone back to a routine this week, we've been starting each day with the cowboy homework. This means patience on my part. We're hanging out for somewhere between 20 - 60 minutes, just hanging. 

Which is mostly him eating


And me standing, using the dried poo pile as my marker to make sure I'm not migrating as he does

But then at some point he comes and checks in with me. 

And then takes a little nap

We did our first ride back yesterday after starting his ulcer treatment. He was great. A car drove by and he noticed it, but quickly returned to focusing on me. We kept it low key with lots of stretching and walk-trot and walk-halt transitions. We didn't canter yet, I wanted to just let him succeed at everything we did. 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Hold me, I'm hurt

Alternate titles: There's our step back OR "My mom is an a**hole" - Goggles

Goggles started out the year doing SO WELL, I joked that our one step back was coming soon. And oh boy did it ever, sort of like a fall off the landing, not just a step back. It started one day when we worked in hand at the front of the property. He started out grazing, but his eye wasn't quiet. And then, then, he basically exploded. It was actually less than in the spring when we had our sessions with the cowboy, in that I didn't struggle holding onto the line, but instead he threw in some straight up hi ho silver moves. While he wasn't rearing AT me, when I was holding the line on a LARGE horse who is standing straight up, it still kinda felt like he was rearing AT me. Eventually though, he found some quietness and tried to creep into my  space to be consoled. I tic-tocked him out of my space again and eventually got a settled(ish) horse. But we basically had to start all over again as we walked back to the barn. 

A few days later, we went down to JT's. My schedule didn't line up with my friend's, so he was solo on the trailer. He is getting SO MUCH better with trailering, I figured it was about time to trial run. AND he did great! But by the time we got to the lesson? He was plumb out of spoons. 


So we got a hot, reactive baby horse. He managed walk and trot, but was launching and bucking at the canter. Woooo boy. I did still get some good tidbits, a refined half halt, and a lecture on not pulling back any more the second they have halted (::hangs head:: that I needed that, but my adrenaline was high).  But we quit before we even made it near a jump. 

Two days later, I plunked him back on the trailer, and we headed to the GY's to get his feet done. I was firm, but patient and kind with my half-halts and we did a lot of walk-halt-walk. He was actually REALLY good. Then we moved on to trot and I again was insistent that he focus on me, not the other horses, and we got some nice bendy work. Then we moved to canter. He started out with a smaller version of what he'd done at JT's, but I kicked him forward and then half-halted softly and he moved past it. We did several canter transitions each way and he was super. I popped off and told him what a good boy he was.

Ben Ben wanting some attention

Post hi ho silver rears, I had discussed with his barn owner, and she shared that he had struck at her husband while turning in one afternoon. I immediately called and scheduled a cowboy lesson at a time she could hang out and watch ASAP. 

The anxiety is high

But a few days before the scheduled lesson and a few days after his trip to the GY's, he stopped eating breakfast. He still picked at hay, but he was essentially shouting at me "MY BELLY HURTS!!!" He had no way left to say it since I had ignored all of his other behavioral cues or chalked them up to herd bound anxiety that we needed to work through. This one was like a smack in the face though. I brought out gastrogard that morning, and he ate dinner like a champ. By turnout the next morning, post second dose, he wasn't doing the anxious mouth chomping that had crept in the past 1-2 weeks. 

And now we're back to this while we're grooming

We still did the cowboy lesson, but both the barn owner and I agreed that his behavior was already 1000% better than what it had been. She is amazing and started wracking her brain thinking of the first subtle cues she had seen. She had actually noticed him holding up a hind leg while eating a week or two prior. Not full on kicking at his belly, but holding it slightly up in the air. 

So we're getting gastrogard and life is good. I have my happy, relaxed baby horse back. We aren't doing any ridden work this week, we're just hanging out and working on our ground work homework from the cowboy. One thing he said stuck with me more than everything else "Why wouldn't they be focused on their buddies? Most people show up for an hour or two a day and spend the whole time telling them exactly how to behave." So we're hanging. With the boundaries established by the cowboy, not pulling at the end of the line, not coming in to my space, but learning to relax together. When he first stopped grazing today, he oriented pointing the herd in the pasture. But then he ate some more and oriented pointing me and took a nap. And that felt better than any trip around a jump course. 

I'm grateful he is continuing to put his trust in me even though I failed him miserably. Even when his stomach felt the worst, he was still walking up to me in the pasture, happy to see me. And since he isn't much for pressed treats, and I don't always remember to grab carrots from the house, I know it isn't just about food. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

One year with Sense a Giant

Today marks one whole year of my first ever baby horse. He has been an incredibly rewarding partner, and we have both learned so much in the past year. 

Adoption picture in PA 

Arrival day - now that I know him I can see his eye wasn't just tired, but he wasn't feeling well from the travel either

THAT'S a happy eye 

And a whole hunk of a horse 

We have had quite a few adventures in the past year - his first XC school was WAYYYY more chaotic than I thought it would be, including body slamming his friend in the water. But his second school, he managed to eat a little bit of grass and function far away from Ms. GY's horse. And by the third time out he knew his business was eating grass and JOMPING. 



He also went out and did poles and cross rails at his first show with JT. This was relatively quickly followed by his first show with me. There, he exceeded absolutely all my expectations and was brave and rideable to our tiny cross rails and also functioned like a grown up horse in the warm up and at the show in general. 


After some bouncing back and forth between the GY's and JT's this year, he's settled at a farm all of his own in January. 


His softness has been a work in progress this whole year. We're on the right track with his neck and getting him softer and bending through his neck and body, but his first reaction is still tension and bracing. On the other hand, he is BRAVE and wants so badly to do the job. 

I am learning SO MUCH on our journey together. I have never shaped a horse in this way before, and it is the coolest thing to work my hardest to provide him positive experiences to help him develop into a horse who loves his job and is confident about it. 

Here's to 2024 with Sense a Giant, I can't wait to see what adventures we go on this year!! 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

January Wrap Up


This month I took a bit of a break from really trying to keep two horses progressing forward and focused mostly on Goggles. Ben chilled out some and mostly hung with his friends/caused chaos by harassing his friends. 

 

Ben

Goggles

Training rides

1

0

Lessons

2

1 jump, 1 dressage

Hacks

3 – 1 ponied

1

Ground work, lunge, long line

1 lunge

0

Flat rides

4

9

Conditioning rides

1- 20 min trot, 3x2 min canter

0

XC school

1

1

Shows

0

HJ – warm up day and 3 x crossrail courses


Goggles: 
January started with Goggles moving up to his new farm, much closer to me. This also made all of his rides my responsibility. I think we managed okay. We've spent the month working on decreasing his tether to the other horses by gradually venturing further and further from home on a cool down hack at the end of our rides. He's doing great with this, but still frets when they're far away in the field. He's also made huge strides with trailering with the help of my husband. We're not self-loading or totally relaxed still, but we are SO MUCH BETTER. 


And he had his first acupuncture appointment and got a GREAT review of how his neck was feeling from our favorite chiro vet. He's got another acupuncture session on Thursday. 

He also got out to our first under saddle show together and exceeded all my expectations by behaving like such a grown up horse. He was great in the ring too and showed just how brave he is by jumping cross rails with funky standards. 

We also had a cross country school and worked on softening his back over jumps by "riding him like he is trained". This was mentally hard for me, but we got there eventually. 

Ben: Not too much to report here, as said above, he's enjoying a bit of down time while I sort out finding my joy in horses and NOT having them feel like full time job number two. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Relationship Problems

A while back, I shared the fact that Ben couldn't seem to keep from getting ingested by the GY's horses and consequently was unhappy in solo turnout. We've come up with the magic solution for that now- he goes out solo, next to friends, at night and seems pretty content, and then is with her horses for the day. Eliminating the morning in gate hang out pre breakfast means that he gets a nip mayyybe once a month. Totally tolerable and he is extremely happy with this set up. 

Now, now friends, Goggles is the problem. And he's the opposite problem. On the one hand he's never looked this relaxed:



But on the other hand, he's also dropped weight in the past month since moving. His barn owner, who worked with Seminole to come up with a feeding plan for him before he even moved there, is ON IT. And she felt terrible when I pointed it out and compared her own pictures and came up with a whole plan. The plan involves more expense because it involves more food, completely makes sense. 

But we think part of his weight is also the fact that he paces his pasture fence during the day. He's next to her four horses, but that isn't good enough for him. With full disclosure of his prior behavior, she turned her mini mare out with him. Well. He promptly turned around to aim both shod hooves at her and then started chasing. WTF dude. You cannot pine for friends and then try to kill your friend. 

We're starting him on a calming supplement, but I'm at a loss. He does not care about food. Where Ben or Yoshi could be tempted to chill with a nice pile of alfalfa, Goggles gives no shits. In fact, orchard is his favorite, but even that has little draw if his friends go to the far side of their field (always within his view). 

A friend has very generously offered a pony mare who she says 1. Probably won't let him kick her and 2. She doesn't care if he does. But then I'd be paying his extra expensive board and paying board for a third house. All fun activities would go out the window because that would be 100% of my horse budget. Plus I don't want him to actually hurt something. 

I'm working on making his tether longer in other ways: we explore further and further down the road off property after each ride and he's constantly going places on the trailer. He's getting better at both these things. When he's in his stall he doesn't care that much about where the rest of the horses are. But he cannot consistently settle in the pasture. There are definitely times where I come out and he is eating in the back, but there are plenty where he's right at the fence staring and/or pacing. 

Anyone got brilliant ideas that don't involve me boarding 3 horses? 

His current set up is in at night with an attached paddock and out during the day. His pasture is maybe an acre and and shares a fence with a two acre pasture that her four horses share. They can never go out of sight, the pastures are both just flat grass with no trees, but they can go to the far side of the field and that seems to be when he's most upset. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

I hope that in the year to come you make mistakes

...Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something." -Neil Gaiman

Goggles and I had a dressage lesson with NDT last Wednesday. I wasn't sure if he was ready for a full lesson, but I figured what they hey, he is 5 now, she gives nice long walk breaks, and I could always stop early if he was done or overwhelmed. He loaded the best he ever has and we were on our way over to the GY's. NDT was a bit funny, I get the idea most of the folks she coaches are a bit more precious about their surroundings than I was. There was some screwing around with the sprinkler at the start of our ride and there were horses in paddocks on both sides. She protected us in the part of the ring away from the sprinkler until they were done messing with it. Meh. But the flip side was she was watching for his tension to go away. Now, I'm pretty sure the tension wasn't from the sprinkler, but it was an interesting metric to have. We walked until his walk was relaxed and swinging. Then we trotted and we trotted until his eye softened and he focused on me, not the surrounding horses. I don't think this approach would have worked even two months ago, he would have still needed his million walk-trot transitions because the tension would have manifested in quickness. But he actually wasn't running away with me at the trot, but he was tense through his back and neck. 

She had me counter bend him a little bit on the part of the circle where he wanted to fall out. She said bending interferes with turning. This helped keep me from pulling on my inside rein and letting him fall through his outside shoulder, which was pretty neat. When he reached down she actually had me lengthen my reins to him some. The alternative I had developed was leaning, so this was safer in case he tripped/did other unexpected things. Then shorten them right back up. When he popped up out of the contact, hands wide to keep an even contact. 

We did a little bit of canter, mostly her just watching us at this point, then we took a walk break. We added in some one loop serpentines and changes of rein with circles thrown in as well. He was still verrrrryyy focused on what was happening with horses around him (which in his defense wasn't just standing still, Mr. GY took his gelding into the pasture and was going for a hand gallop at this point). She said that was fine in the beginning, but he needed to focus on his job. I thought back to the show where he was actually incredibly focused on me. Hm. So the jumps gave him something to think about. So we need to make dressage enough of a something to think about that he stops sight seeing. She and I both thought that was an interesting. Her immediate suggestion was ground poles scattered around to keep him engaged, but said she'd think on it more. 

During our ring figures, we focused on big bends through his neck and body to get him to release the base of his neck. She said in 6 months my goal can be those three loop serpentines that we worked on with Ben with true bend through the first two, then left bend through two, then right bend through two, then counter bend through two. I was tempted to give up to the right before I got him truly bending and allowing me to ride his left shoulder at the same time, but she kept me honest and held me to it. 

Goggles and one of his FOUR mares he shares a fenceline with and LOVES

We then worked a bit more on the canter. He realllly wanted to throw his left shoulder out on part of the circle. NDT was confused until I let her in on the secret that that was the side of the circle we used to spin out on and exit the arena when I was trying to do right lead canter back in the spring. Then he was diving in on the next part. She again held us to the strong outside aids on the falling out part, but then wanted me to immediately shift and lift with the right rein, boot with the inside leg, and if he was still ignoring that, shove the right seat bone to the outside. She said that aid was "a bit rude" but he was being "a bit rude" in ignoring my lighter aids. We were pretty much out of Goggles at that point, so we didn't play too much with it, but I'm excited to work on that at home. 

She summarized our lesson by saying he was a lot of fun and extremely athletic, we just needed to channel his attention. Not bad feedback to hear! He spent about two minutes in one of Ms. GY's stalls and managed to knock a fan off the wall in that time. He backed away from it snorting, but returned about 0.2 seconds later to nose the other one. He definitely has a bit of that chaotic tendency in him. 

He loaded up SO WELL to go home. Ms. GY led him on and he just paused once and then walked smoothly on and let me close the butt bar. GOOD BOY! 

Monday we went adventuring again, this time to Majestic Oaks. His adventure pal was in the trailer already when he got on, and he loaded right up. 

Both boys enjoying their preferred hay- alfalfa for his seasoned traveling companion and orchard for Goggles

He mostly stood like an adult horse to get tacked up, and then warmed up politely too. He wanted to porpoise a bit when we cantered, but came back to earth pretty easily. 

We started jumping some of the entry fences after sniffing the particularly spooky logs between bushes. I was dismayed to find that the goal posts have shifted again. No longer is over/under/through the marker for a 100% grade. Now he needs to keep his back soft over the jumps (he was jumping so stiff legged behind that he scraped some bark off a natural tree jump), and he is not allowed to drag down and play afterwards. And because it isn't fair to let him play for ten strides and THEN tell him to cut it out, I must do it the stride he starts. Oh boy. No one ever said baby horses are easy though, so we worked on putting it all together. I said "I can't" to JT enough that even I was getting sick of hearing myself whining, but eventually we got there. 

It really helped when JT said "ride him like he is trained". Oh. Well then. If I ride him that way, he responds. Over the past year, we have created a horse that actually does understand leg and seat and voice and hand and behaves like he is trained (mostly). Huh. Set an expectation and he rises to meet it.



He was a star at the banks. He went quietly down the bank like it was just a tiny step down, which it was. We did the slightly bigger one too and he casually stepped off that. Good boy! Ditches were NBD too. Water he stopped at a bit, but his fellow baby horse had gone ahead and then said absofuckinglutely NOT, so it might have been better if we'd just walked up to it ourselves. But he didn't jump into his trailer buddy who was the brave leader when he did enter, so that's major progress from just a few months ago when the water moving around his legs was shocking. 


Overall two very successful outings. Even though he spent a lot of time staring into the distance at majestic, he also moseyed around on the buckle and didn't spook at anything. Well that's not actually 100% true, he spooked at something when I had just taken his bridle off and he very nearly ran me over. So that was fun. But fortunately I was being a good pony clubber and had his reins around his neck still, so he didn't get free for a frolic. Other than that though... He's just so much braver and more rideable each time we go, it makes me so delighted to think about even as I struggle with feeling like I can't actually ride him. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Liverpools and cones and trees, Oh My!


Ben and Goggles went to JT's on Friday for lessons. They both much prefer travelling with a friend in the trailer. Goggles still took a minute to load, but once on he stayed on instead of doing the hokey pokey. 

Goggles went first when we got there. Before JT came out, we spent a while walking over spanish moss clumps and sticks because he's pretty concerned about those things. He really didn't care at all until the early fall when we taught him about cavaletti and small jumps and all of a sudden everything on the ground required a lot of thought. We're getting back to the point of being casual about those things though. 

My view most of the time while "hacking" 

When JT came out, we spent a while walking loops between the standards and her small round liverpool. He is extremely suspicious of the liverpools, but each time makes progress. This time he allllmooost touched it. Then we did a forced sniff of the jumps we were going to jump - traffic cones, Christmas tree, unicorns. He thought the tree was a bit suspect when the branches moved when the wind blew. We started jumping, focusing on doing after the jump. JT purposely put us over the crossrail headed towards the fence so I had to make a decision and a turn after. 

Then we added in the spookier jumps. The first time over the tree he thought about not, but was pretty easy to direct over it instead. We strung a few together and he was SO good. He was still screwing around after the jumps, especially if he'd made a big effort over it. I was trying so hard to give him a good release, but then needed to be quicker in the 2-3 strides after the fence getting my butt back in the saddle. JT instructed me to SIT DOWN and I whined back that I couldn't when he was yanking down that hard. She said the solution is to get my butt down before he starts playing. Ah, I do see. 







Monday, January 22, 2024

Next on the Agenda

Since we skipped a December Wrap Up in leiu of the 2023 Wrap Up, let's look ahead a bit to the spring season. I'm going to speak in very general terms because I added a whole unnecessary level of stress to my life for a week by deciding Goggles needed to be doing XX level by XX date. I had managed to NOT do that for the whole first year of having him, so I was about due for that, yes? 

Goals for this spring: 
  • Get Goggles solid at loading and trailering. Unfortunately the increased frequency of trips from his new farm for farrier, chiro, lessons made for some back sliding, not forward progress as I'd hoped. He is more chill IN the trailer now, but has gotten a bit worse at loading. It makes my life VASTLY less complicated if he is a single person loader, so we're working towards that. My husband is on board and is definitely enjoying the process of thinking like a horse, so it is a pretty fun project. He's also providing the push to hook up the trailer, drive it to the farm, put the horse on it, and then NOT go anywhere. 
Skeptical faces, we got 'em

  • Do SOMETHING with each horse each week, MOST weeks. Examples include dressage lesson, jump lesson, XC school, trailering Goggles to the GY's and going for a hack, hacking Goggles off property from our home barn. etc etc. When I had my frenzied week of backwards goal setting, I was trying to cram too many things into each week in order to be ready by a certain date. Doing things with two horses is already hitting my max enjoyment of horsey-ness and that kind of planning was pushing me over the edge into treating this like another full time job with the same level of enjoyment that goes with a job. Now, I do really enjoy my job, but it's still a job, y'know? And I don't want horses to feel that same way. So long as we are doing SOMETHING other than trot or canter circles at home, we're making forward progress, and that is all I'm looking for. He'll be ready when he's ready. (Not that trot and canter circles at home aren't beneficial, but y'know what I mean? Something other than our baseline creeping forward progress towards consistency in the bridle etc etc)
  • Take Ben Ben on at least two off property trail rides with a friend. I've given up on him ever being fun to solo trail ride, but Ms. GY and I had such a great time at San Felasco, I am making it a goal to do that at least twice more before the weather and yellow flies become unbearable in late May/early June. 
  • Get Ben confident with down banks. I'm already putting half a check mark next to this one. We plan to do two more XC schools before his next show, but we've already made great progress towards restoring his confidence. 
That's it. That's all I'm putting down in writing. It's a short post. I do have a few shows marked on the calendar for Ben, but I feel like verbalizing my goal of AECs with him last year made it all the harder to take when our spring season fell apart. So these are my reasonable goals for both kids - focusing on trailer loading with Goggles, and two off property hacks with Ben, and then a weekly thing for both of them. If anyone decides to go lame, that's fine, we can adapt from there. And a lame Goggles could certainly still work on loading, so that one sticks no matter what! We'll reassess at the end of spring and see how it went. 

Forever sprinkling the xpress foto package pics throughout posts... this isn't my fave because you can't see his face completely, but look at those knees! 


Friday, January 19, 2024

Finding The One

Touch the car?!?! The chosen one, pre-oiling

I guess I have to keep the horse now since I purchased a saddle that fits him... 

Goggles and I have agreed to like a Custom Monte Carlo. This saga started way back over the summer when I decided I didn't like how my Forestier Boekelo sat on him. And after all our drama with getting the saddle to fit Ben, I was very reluctant to go with that brand again. Because they are foam paneled, each change takes 6 weeks to adjust and there are shipping costs as well as the cost of changing the panel. With this in mind, I tried out quite a few saddles from HighLine/FineLine tack. They were gracious and looked at pictures and listened to my feedback on each saddle before suggesting another. But the only thing that sat well on him was an Antares that made me feel incredibly unbalanced. Plus I live close to Ocala, the horse capital of the world, you'd, uh, think there would be options local to us. 

It's a very nice looking saddle post-heavy oil, also super light weight. Flap is a +2  meaning it is a forward flap which is perfect for my leg length (longer upper leg than lower leg)

After our Tobias trial, we had the Custom rep out to assess Goggles and me. She knows JT well and so she essentially set them on Goggles to make sure the fit was passable and then dropped off the three jump saddles she had for me to play. I was left with an 18" Envy, a older 17" Monte Carlo from a sponsored rider, and a brand new 17.5" Monte Carlo. The Envy is their new budget line. It was not my cup of tea, it just felt like it shoved my leg into the wrong position and then held it there. The 17" older Monte Carlo was too small for my leg, but I quite enjoyed the 17.5". I rode in it multiple times and jumped Ben in it. Both JT and I liked it, and it passed the tests from Frank Tobias and passed my own assessment of not sitting too close to his withers, laterally or dorsally, even without a half pad. I feel every bit as secure as in the Boekelo, evidenced by sticking with him no prob over some exuberant jumps over the weekend. It is wool flocked and has an adjustable tree so we will be able to continue to fit it to his back as he grows. 

Sorry about my lack of release good sir, leg is stable though!

The rep recommended buying a demo saddle rather than ordering brand new. She said because they are hand made, even made to the same specs it will feel different. Don't have to tell me twice lol. 

Burgundy piping isn't what I would've chosen, but I don't hate it. And it is so subtle that you really have to be looking to see it. 

Bonus is that even brand new, it was part of the demo sale, and was cheaper than my moderately used Forestiers were. The rep will come out and assess it every 6-12 months and make any needed changes. He got chiropracted on Wednesday and while his vet didn't assess the saddle on him, she did palpate his back and withers and didn't get any soreness in the area of the saddle. YAY! She also said his neck felt SO GOOD we didn't need to shockwave him!! He had good ROM and no pain in his neck even before adjustment. He was pretty locked and uneven in his pelvis and TL junction, especially on the right side, which might explain some of the right lead tail wringing and porpoising he has been doing lately. 

Monday, January 15, 2024

Goggles' Trip to the Dark Side

With the help of my husband, Goggles and I conquered the cross rail jumpers at the local hunter jumper schooling show this Friday and Saturday.



Friday we went and did the warm up. I had fairly low expectations and goals, exist in the ring, exist near other horses, and exist without running over people. We arrived a little bit before noon because that was when the weather looked best. We wandered around until we found the office and left Goggles on the trailer in the meantime. He seemed to actually have chilled out a little bit while standing on the trailer and unloaded politely. He let me tack him up as well without excessive dancing. 

Our timing in the jumper ring worked out quite well, and my husband didn't have to fight off any trainers to try to drop jumps. We were trotting around when a trainer came in.  The jumps were about novice height still, and she timidly asked if I minded if she dropped a couple. I laughed and told her she was welcome to drop all of them because we certainly were not jumping what was set currently. Then her two pony kids came into the ring, and Goggles politely continued to do some walk trot while they walked and trotted as well. He eyed a standard with leaping dolphins on the sides of it a few times as we trotted by. I warmed him up over some of the cross rails and tiny 2 ft jumps. Then we walked again, and I let him sniff the dolphins closely before pointing him at the tiny oxer set between them. He popped right over without any hesitation. He also was not doing the bunny hopping he has tried out recently as a jump technique. I was trying my hardest to give him a nice release and stay off his back for the whole of whatever jump he took. He was even allowed to canter a few jumps after landing in canter. He was polite enough and together enough to canter one more jump before having to trot again. I was on him for maybe 30 minutes total and then got off,  untacked and put him back on the trailer to head home. He loaded super on the way home and didn't need any encouragement at all.


Saturday morning posed a bit of a problem for me. The schedule that had been posted online when I registered for the show had classes starting at 8:00 a.m., but when I checked the schedule Friday evening it had the jumper ring starting at 9:30. I had to be to work by 11:00, so in spite of how close the show was, this really wasn't going to work. I called the number and chatted with a lady who was super sweet and told me to show up to the ring at 9:00 a.m. and see if they would let me go. We arrived around 8:00 a.m., and he stood tied while a horse lunged nearby with no fuss over it. 


Then we got on and moseyed up to the covered arena since I had forgotten to introduce him to it on Friday. They had kicked everybody out to drag, but we could stand underneath the very edge of it and look around at the bleachers, which is what we did. His new barn owner and her daughter had come to cheer us on. She suggested perhaps we could go into the novice arena which is an outdoor grass arena where they hold the low level hunters. There was somebody in the judges box, and I asked and they said as long as I didn't jump things I was fine to go in. He very politely walked and trotted around. Although he was a bit spooky at somebody in a different judges box who was shuffling papers around. There were also some cows in the distance that caught his attention. Overall though, he felt amazing, and we cantered both directions. To the right he really wanted to buck, so we cantered a bit more in that direction kicking him forward to stop the porpoising that was happening.


Then we headed back over to the jumper arena where somebody was flipping over the numbers set at the base of the jump, revealing the mysterious course. He also pointed out where the course maps were and said he just hadn't had a chance to hang them yet. I studied them for a little bit. There were three courses, two labeled with jump numbers and then the unlabeled "classic" course. From my (very) limited experience with jumper courses, they were pretty straight forward, mostly doing an inside, outside, inside line thing. Around 8:55 I asked them if I would be able to go in a little bit early and they said they absolutely were not ready. I resigned myself to just having a productive morning seeing the sights at the horse show, but around 9:05 they announced that there was a person who needed to go early who was going to go at 9:15 so people could walk until then and then clear the course. That's me. I'm that person! 

So at 9:15 we headed in and did the first two courses. He was super for both of them, gaining confidence as he went. Similarly, I was gaining faith in his ability to listen and let me move him around at the canter, so we did a bit more cantering. I had to come out and stare at the map for a bit before heading back in for the third course. He started to get a little rude after landing from the jumps during this course. Eventually I remembered JT's advice to half-halt once and mean it rather than continuing to mildly pull. Once I did that, he remembered his manners and stopped porpoising quite as much. 

The crossrail courses, and I think up until 2' or 2'3" were all optimum time, crossrails was set at 350 meters per minute. I obviously was not going for a specific time, but it turns out his mix of trotting and cantering put us right around the optimum time marks. We ended up with a first, second, and fourth. Not too bad for baby's second show! 


All three courses put together there. 





More important was how freaking GOOD he was. He remembered the dolphin standards on Saturday and didn't even register that they existed. He exceeded all my expectations and behaved like a whole grown up horse. Also his neck felt AMAZING after his acupuncture. 

Based on schooling the 2' jumps on Friday, he could have gone in and done that height just as easily as the cross rails. My friend who does these shows regularly graciously helped answer all my questions about the process and did ask if I was sure I wanted to enter the crossrails instead of ground poles with as exuberant as he had been at Majestic. I told her I couldn't guarantee he wouldn't be just as wild, but I was pretty sure that ground poles to 2' would all get about the same reaction from him, and I think that was spot on. He's also LARGE, so the 2' jumps really don't register much when I see them from his back. 

I am so excited for the spring with this kid. He's just the best dude and improves SO MUCH every time he's out. He was a million times more grown up than when JT rode him at Majestic for his first outing. Even Friday to Saturday was a huge difference in his ability to focus on what he was doing, not on what was going on around him. It was almost like Saturday had so many different things happening that he realized he couldn't possibly monitor it all. He got loads of carrots and praise and then was returned to his field to hang with his fave mini mare.