Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Rushing Back

I spent the past week in Maine and was scheduled to come home today, arriving into Orlando around midnight. By Monday this was looking less and less ideal, and I got on the phone with Delta to try to move things around. It involved a loooong hold time to talk to someone and then another looooong hold time to get the change made without charges, but other than that the experience was amazing. They offered a variety of options into Gainesville, Orlando, and Jacksonville and basically just let me pick my favorite. Then because I selected Gainesville, there was going to be an add on charge, but the first rep pushed me over to a second one who went out of her way to make it happen without a fee. This is extra amazing because Gainesville is 45 minutes from my house with 0 interstate minutes whereas Orlando is 2 hours away with a long stretch north on 75 or parallel roadways that were very liable to be clogged with people heading north away from the storm. It doesn't take much on a good day to turn 75 into a parking lot between the turnpike, Ocala, and Gainesville, so add in evacuation traffic? Guaranteed to be hell. 

Anyways, major major points to Delta for that. The customer service reps offered a variety of options and worked extra hard to make sure I didn't pay for the change. Then the flights themselves were on-time and pleasant as well. I'll definitely be intentionally looking for Delta flights in the future. Good move to make the change though, last night Orlando announced that they would be cancelling all flights after 10:30 this morning. At least that would have been before my departure so I could have lingered in Maine vs. getting stuck in LaGuardia, but still, not ideal. 

Hiked "the Precipice" yesterday morning in Acadia before heading to the airport 


You can see the metal hand rail off on the left side of the picture

It did seem a bit silly to be rushing to fly back into the state where a hurricane was about to hit. But I did leave my husband, our newly surgerized cat (sutures came out Tuesday before I left, but she's still getting tube water and meds multiple times daily), pigs, chickens, and BEN!! in Florida. So there was impetus to get home before the storm. Ms. GY has been through quite a number of storms and had the standard grain, hay, and WATER needs taken care of. But I still wanted to give Ben an extra kiss and cuddle before the wind/rain got too bad. We did a bit more than that even and had a pleasant, if a bit spicy, ride this morning before it started spitting rain.

I attached a nifty mane tag with my name and info. Just in case fences go down. Fortunately Ben's pasture mate is also the oldest, smartest horse at the farm. This reassures me that even if fences go down, he'll probably stick around and not engage in too much drama and shenanigans and hopefully inspire Ben to do the same.

And that is that. Not a whole lot else to do - we're north of the projected path, so barring any tornadoes, it is just going to be a LOT of rain and some wind. The strengthening to a Cat 4 this morning right before it is scheduled to make landfall is not exactly ideal, I'm hoping everyone in the direct path weathers this okay. 

Monday, September 19, 2022

Doing the thing at 1m

Ben and I redeemed ourselves at Majestic Oaks yesterday. Well, I redeemed myself, he did that Friday at Sweet Dixie. The Majestic Oaks jumper shows are just so low key and so fun that it is hard to stress about them. It's also the venue we go to the most. Which means that even though their standards and fill are fun (to humans) and spooky (to horses), Ben has been around their course more than a couple of times and no longer eyeballs things inside or outside the ring. 

We drove through some rain on the way and it had turned into a misting/spitting rain situation by the time we arrived, but it all cleared in time for Ms. GY and I to get on our ponies. Ben felt a little stuck and behind my leg in the warm up ring. We did a few gallops forward and then coming back to lift with power to remedy that and it was mostly fixed by the time JT got there to put us over some jumps. He only stuck to one, but felt great to the rest. We headed into the ring and did a 3' class first. 

JT described this as "ride him like you don't like him much." She said it won't always have to be this way, but for now, he NEEDS to learn that he MUST go over the jump, so when in doubt, spurs in and ride forward. He sucked back a bit, in a way only I could feel, to the one stride. So spur in and a growl and he went over it smoothly. Maybe some of that feeling was my own one stride demons coming to haunt me? Either way, we got it done. 


And then took a short break, jumped a larger oxer in warm up, and went back in for our meter round. And we did it!! The rails were times that I needed to stretch up and balance a bit more while maintaining the forward, but that will come with time. By the last line of a two stride to a three stride, I felt like he was trustworthy and I did stretch up and balance better in that. 


It felt really good to go out there and get it done. I am not a worrier exactly, but it did shake my confidence to have our failure at Sweet Dixie, so this felt like putting another deposit in the bank for both of us. 

Next up is a bit of a break for him while I go out of town, and then back to it for a recognized training at Ocala with JT the second weekend in October. If I had not been planning on a week long trip, I would have tried to see if I could make it work for that, but Ocala is spookier in stadium and NOT messing around on their cross country, with some pretty challenging combinations out there. It will be good for both of us to have JT take him around there. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

A legit grown up horse

Pico has had two surgeries and three hospital stays in the past 2 weeks for a stone in her ureter. So I've been a bit absent. Fingers crossed this time she is home sticks. 

Saddle pads make the best cat beds, so I've flung a bunch around the house

But... in the mean time... Ben has been doing AWESOME! 

Photo by Lisa Madren

He and JT had a CLEAR cross country round at training level last weekend!!! He was first after dressage with a 30.2. Could have been higher, but 8:06 AM + foggy, damp morning = really slippery dressage on grass. Which meant being conservative in the lengthenings to keep everyone upright. Stadium made me VERY glad I was not the one on him. He was a bit surprised by the height of the first one and had a green rail there. Things went along fairly smoothly till he tried to NOPE out of the second in the two stride. JT was RIGHT THERE and told him to do his damn job. My husband was watching and said "She was already tapping him a second before I even saw him hesitate." Yep, that's the timing that is needed! He had a rail on the next one because he went AHHHHH a bit after being told to step up and get it done. 

Cross country he looked AWESOME around. Looked legitimately very fun and I wish I had been riding him there. 

He had a chill week and got some chiropractic done and then went back to Sweet Dixie today. He and JT jumped around the 1.0m just fine. JT casually introduced me to Karen O'Connor while I was setting fences for JT and Ben in warm up. And then Karen said he was a really nice horse. Fan girl moment over, but I do love Ocala. A couple other trainers commented on how nice his trot was. A lot of external validation this morning for sure! 

JT said he might not have taken a breath at all in the first round. The second round looked much more relaxed. Both were still smoother than at Majestic, he is learning his job.


Plan is for me to take him in the 3' then the 3'3" at Majestic on Sunday if I am feeling up to going. 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Lesson time

JT and I regrouped post-not moving up to 1m. We decided she would take Ben around his first couple of training level events and then I'd take the reins back. Just so when he asks "Will I, won't I?" the answer is a definite YES. The first show they're doing together is going to be at Majestic in a week. 

She was going to jump school him on Monday, but she threw her neck out that morning, so asked if I had brought riding gear. Something in my head had told me to, so I did have my own stuff with me. The lesson overall went super well. Early on he opted out of the second jump in the one stride. I pulled him to the side because he was definitely going to crash the second jump with his NOPE. JT then said that we were going to do the one stride the rest of the lesson. I got reprimanded once when I chased him the last three strides to the in and felt him almost stop because I had scared him by shoving him AT the jump. But other than that, it was great. She put it up and up and up and we kept going through it. She messaged me after that it had ended up at intermediate height. I thought my eyes were bugging out of my head at it the last few times through... 

The last couple of trips we did the one stride in the opposite direction and then turned through the two stride as well, also set SOLID. The first trip through in this direction, we got a tight spot to the in and I had to boot him in the middle. The next time though, he fought for getting out over the second jump without needing to be booted. 

JT said that is what we are trying to instill - the desire to FIGHT for the jump and FIGHT for getting it done. He's got talent enough to jump from not perfect spots, even at 1m, so I don't need to worry about getting it wrong and him not being able to do it. 

Friday she took him schooling at Majestic. It was SO FUN to watch! 

He's got the most earnest face!! <3 

They tackled the rest of the training level course that we didn't last time, including the up bank combo shown part of above. He was trying very, very hard the whole time. JT said we had maybe made our point about doing the dang thing and he was now trying to be the best boy, but with some anxiety about it. She did a lot of scratching his neck. One of the major (and many, LOL) differences with our riding was how quick she could flip between a DO IT NOW to good boy, you're fine, it's okay. This applied to half halting while galloping and going over fences. As an example, she halted him a couple of times from the gallop in warm up. As soon as he stopped it was reins loose, scratching neck. He tried to move without being asked, immediate woah, then as soon as feet stopped, immediate back to scratching neck. She repeated this four times without an ounce of impatience until he finally woahed and took a breath and could stand there. Same thing out over fences. If he looked hard, it was DO IT NOW! and then as soon as he responded "yes ma'am", it was GOOD BOY, well done! Timing man, it's hard. 

She said he was much better than when she was riding and jumping him right when he was coming back into work. I can feel it myself too, he's much straighter and we're getting the right, forward spot to jumps more and more often, but it was nice to hear that as well. 

I'm SO excited to be horse show mom on the 10th. I work till 2 am the night before; it is really just as well I won't need to be thinking and riding. I can (probably) manage to get him all tacked up properly without much sleep, but making riding decisions without much sleep? Not the best. 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

August Wrap Up

 In August we had 23 rides including 

Off property adventures... 

  • Novice CT at Majestic Oaks - getting back into the swing of things! 
  • An unsuccessful attempt to move up to 1m stadium
  • very successful XC schooling at Majestic Oaks
  • 4 jump lessons and 1 dressage lesson with JT at her place 
Trail pony adventures... 
  • A total of 5 neighborhood trail rides
  • 1 with a friend the whole way, 1 where we left our 2 friends partway through and STILL were super good 
  • 1 where we got absolutely drenched and nearly struck by lightning and he was SUPER in spite of all that 
Body work... 
  • Ben volunteered as an acupuncture demo pony and LOVED IT!!
  • My BFF equine vet came to stay with me for a long weekend and adjusted Ben and he also loved that
Ben also has a slightly adjusted living situation. Like Yoshi, Ben was getting chewed on, so now he goes out with only Ms. GY's older horse and they are best friends. Ben sticks close to him, lets him be in charge, and scratches him, which is really all anyone could want in a friend.  

September we have planned... 
  • Majestic Oaks 3 phase with JT at training level on Sept 10th 
  • Chiro appt with his usual vet and a check to see if he needs his hocks injected on Sept 12th 
  • Possibly a stay with JT? I'm going to Maine for a week to visit a friend and Ben may go to her place for a week of training. But it includes a weekend the barn is going to an away show, so I'm not sure if we'll end up doing that or not. 

We are also ending the month HAPPY and SOUND. So grateful for that. 

Spotted this "friend" meandering around AFTER I'd spent a solid 20 minutes swimming at the springs the other day... glad I still have all my toes! There was another smaller one close by. This one was about 1.5 feet long from head to tail! 


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Local Champions Tour

Ms. GY and I signed up for the Local Champions Tour schooling day on Friday. I consulted JT after our schooling at Majestic last week about what classes to sign up for. They offer classes by the 0.1m, so had 0.9m and then 1.0m. Continuing the theme of taking my goal of qualifying for AECs at training level seriously, JT told me to sign up for both the 0.9m and the 1.0m. Deep breath and then click. 

I felt a bit better about this after our Tuesday lesson where we ONLY put two strides in the two stride line. Ben has also developed that feeling of "This one? Or that one?" both out cross country and in stadium. It's really cool to feel the change. That same question he asked as we jumped up the bank out of the water to the wedge I could feel him asking in our lesson Tuesday. As we made a turn to a line, he asked about a different jump we were swinging past. Good boy!! It's a lot more comforting than this "will I? won't I?' shenanigans that he was doing to begin with. Spoiler alert, I ruined that feeling. 

The 0.9m didn't start until 12:15, aka it was bloody hot. Ms. GY and I jumped second and third. We both had only taken a couple of warm up jumps because the warm up was horrifying. Side note - why da FUK can you jump jumps in both directions in H/J warm ups???** (Noted, this is not typical, thank goodness!!) Seems like a horrible idea. Ben jumped around overall quite well. Maybe a bit more forward and less lifting up than we should have had, but he jumped around clear and felt confident. 

Then we stood. And stood. And stood some more. I should have gotten off of him and loosened the girth, but I thought it wouldn't possibly take that long (Mistake #1). When there were about 3 rides left in the 0.9m I warmed up again (Mistake #2). Ben was jumping great, feeling confident and forward to the built up oxer in the warm up ring. 

But then the organizers did the waiting for two riders to take their sweet time, so two rides turned into 40+ minutes. This is a thing I know (and hate) about jumper shows. It had just been a while since I was reminded of this point. One of the riders was actually horrifying, and I am kicking myself for not speaking up. There were fireworks trying to get the horse into the ring. Then fireworks in the ring. For a funky distance or a missed lead change he would yank the horse's nose to his knee and whip and spur. The horse was then rearing because it had no other place to go. Not only did no one say anything, but he was allowed to add on another round chock full of the same behavior. I wrote an email to the organizers, asking what mechanisms were in place to prevent this kind of behavior, since clearly none were, at least not on the schooling day. I know hosting shows is a major undertaking, so I feel bad calling them out, but the behavior in the ring crossed from questionable, maybe the horse is just really difficult, to clearly abusive and spurred on by the rider's temper. 

Finally that rider was done and they reset the course and Ben and I went in. I didn't want to go back into warm up because it was roughly five million degrees and warm up was super busy again (mistake #3).  He jumped one, but knocked the rail. He jumped two, but again knocked the rail. Three was a short 6 stride line and we'd gotten there funky at the 0.9m and got there at the same short distance this go round, so he stopped. We circled around and jumped it. He stopped at 4 once. We managed to get over 5, 6, 7,  sending who knows how many rails flying (I kinda checked out mentally, mistake #4). He stopped at 8 and jumped it on the second try. 9AB was a one stride and he jumped in, but stopped at B. At that point JT's assistant trainer called me out of the ring. She got on and hopped him over a warm up jump 2-3 times and then we hosed him off. 

I feel awful, I should have spoken up for my horse. He and I are BOTH new at this level, and this was not the set up to try 1.0m. The course looked BIG to my eyes - Ms. GY, JT's assistant trainer, and I all though the 0.9m looked more like training level and the 1.0m looked like modified. But they were using a measuring stick while setting, so that may just be what my eye feels is big. Going into the ring thinking "Wow these look big" is not ideal. And it was 90 degrees and I'd been on the horse for 1.5 hours. Hard for both him and I. It felt like he was asleep to the first two, lost confidence because of the hard rails, and I wasn't there to give him the confidence he needed. I should have called it quits after it became apparent we were going to stand around in the heat for that long. Our warm up felt excellent and was still a big step for us. I was too focused about sunk costs though and thinking about the fact that I had already paid and that we had already waited x number of minutes to go in. 

Ms. GY and JT's assistant trainer assured me this wouldn't ruin his confidence. I'm not positive on that point right now, but I suppose time and more positive jump schools will help. I do think the next time he moves up to 1.0m it will be with JT. He's not a horse you can be anything but 100% confident on, and I don't have that at the 1.0m height right now. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

Well done, Ben! #2

Ben is really becoming quite a trail pony. I unintentionally put his progress to the test on Saturday when I HAD to ride after work. HAD to because I really, really needed a meander around the neighborhood on my pony after a fairly trying day of clients and emergencies. It was a bit dark in one direction, but all the rain for the past week has missed our little corner of the world. I assumed that storm on the horizon would be the same. We set off down a new (to Ben) route that brought us into a little stand of pine trees. Ben handled a rude man in a pick up truck flagging me down to ask if it was "[my] horse that was crapping on the road" and basically yell at me even though it wasn't me (totally could have been except Ben poops pretty early on in rides, thereby avoiding the paved roads). Ben is sensitive to emotions and I was tense because the man was being pretty rude and aggressive. He also handled cows and donkeys in a pasture in stride. He started a bit when we walked past a kiddy pool in the woods, but his startles are sometimes turning into some curiosity after an initial spook and he did indeed sniff the kiddy pool closely before continuing on. When we turned around and went back by he was much less spooky. We made it back to the edge of the pine trees and then I realized we were in trouble.  

We looked back down the main road and there was a line of white coming towards us. I thought perhaps we would hang out in the woods for a bit as the thunder and lightning picked up. Ben was really fairly accommodating to that request other than almost walking me into a banana spider web. But as the thunder continued he got a little antsy. I peeked out again and realized it was likely going to be raining for a while and we weren't exactly in a great spot there. We headed down the main road (the paved one that he was not crapping on) at a walk with the wind blowing rain sideways. It kept getting in his ears and he definitely looked at someone's tall hedge row and thought about tucking behind it, butt into the wood. Stupid human kept him going forward though. We hit the GY's dirt road and picked up a trot and trotted along with rapidly flowing water all the way back to the house. He stared at a river of dark colored water as it joined a lighter one, but other than that was really extraordinarily brave. Once we hit the barn he whinnied to his friends, but then enjoyed a handful of carrots in the stall. We were both completely and totally soaked, but at least the lightning hadn't gotten us. 

Overall he handled the whole thing WAY better than I could have ever asked. I wouldn't have blamed him for bolting, refusing to go forward, etc etc. It was crazy out there and he listened well and was extremely brave. 

I wasn't sure what that was going to do for his overall progress on trails, but we went back out today (with a blue sky) after working in the ring some and he was great. A little bit more rushed/antsy on the way home than he had been, but after a trot home in a torrential storm, I really don't blame him. 


We had a kinda fun day in the ring today. I had been feeling like I'd been drilling him and wanted to do something lighter and different. I started with the resolution that I was NOT going to pull on my right rein even if we ended up outside the arena because I couldn't figure out how to turn without doing that. That part went really well, and shockingly, he turns without pulling on the right rein...  

For our exercise, I set up a triangle of ground poles: 


and just played over them. He is really, really clever about his feet and adjusted on his own to hit the poles right in any direction I took over them. Doing circles at the tips of the large triangle was a bit of a work in progress, they had to be pretty small circles to fit them as figure 8s over one point then the next. 

I wasn't sure if canter was going to work, but Ben made it feel easy. We didn't canter through, there wasn't really space for that unless I uber collected him and that would defeat the purpose of my vaguely fun, not drilling, ride. Instead we jumped each corner as a tiny wedge. He was super and stayed on exactly the line I put him on and extended or collected his own stride to make it work really nicely even when I took a line that made the corner fairly wide. 

It's hard because when he is spooky I feel like I have to dictate each stride he takes, otherwise he chooses to bulge away from something and quickens the pace. But he's an event horse and needs to be able to select safe options as well since I'm definitely wrong a lot. Like I need to be able to dictate the line of travel, but he selects how to put his feet on that line? I haven't quite sorted out more thoughts on this, but I think today was definitely a good exercise in letting him work things out on his own and he showed me that he can do that really, really well.  

Leaving his buddy to come say Hi! 


Friday, August 19, 2022

Well done, Ben!

Ben and I schooled at Majestic Oaks today. OMG he was AWESOME!!! I had some quiet fears that we would be back at square one from February where he tried to stop at a telephone pole sized log. But he did not go back to square one, not even close. We tackled the training water combination and training ditch combination and he rocked them! 

We warmed up and then started circling over the entry, then BN, then novice, then training warm up jumps. We got a fantastic, forward spot to the orange and green striped training coop. We got a tight spot to the wedge a couple of times, but as JT said it felt honest, the long spot would've been really really long, so he was being careful by fitting the extra stride in. 

We headed over to the ditches next and did the BN ditch then N half coffin. Then we did the T ditch by itself headed away from the other jumps and he was great. He stuttered on the way back through, not at the ditch, but at the many logs after it that caught his eye, but we made it over the log still. We did it once more with a similar, but less dramatic result, and then took a break while Ms. GY went through a few different options. The next time through I really focused on riding forward and positive and it went so much better, he powered over the ditch and then did the 3 strides to the log after, good boy!! 

Next we went to the banks. We did the N house to bank, then came back down the T bank and made a wide loop over the T brush roll top and then the T/P down bank. I was pretty nervous about the brush roll top, it seemed every bit a max training jump. We had decided to jump it uphill. It was flagged downhill from the show last weekend, but it was fairly early in the day and JT and I were worried about the wet grass/pine needles/slipping factor coming down it, especially if he decided to celebrate after. So uphill to it we went. He seemed a bit surprised on the take off stride and knocked it with a hind leg, but it again felt very honest and like he was trying hard to do the right thing. 

We finished on the water, first cantering in and jumping up the smallest bank. I knew JT was going to point us through the training line after, so I rode that up bank thinking about jumping a jump a few strides after. He kinda tripped coming out of the water though, but he's really a quick and catty horse, so it didn't feel like much. Next we went through the water and then out over an airy roll top about two strides from the water's edge. He was a bit spooky coming up to it, but still went. As I patted him after he spooked/lept over dead grass where a jump had been sitting. Closest I came to coming off all day! Then we took a break while Ms. GY schooled through. JT and I both felt that he really benefited from his thinking time at the ditches, and it seemed similar at the water. 

Then JT pointed us through the whole training line - starting with a duplicate of the brush roll top from near the banks, turning right over the airy roll top into the water, up the training bank, and then 3 strides to a wedge with brush on top. He jumped the shit out of the roll top. It felt AMAZING! We turned, on the wrong lead, but JT shouted to ignore it, and came down over the airy roll top into the water. As we went up the bank I felt him ask if we were doing the wedge. I said yes, and he said okay and went forward beautifully to jump the wedge. GOOD BOY!!! 


Ms. GY and I were both THRILLED with our ponies this morning. They both did everything we could have asked (and more than I knew we were going to ask) with confidence. It was such an awesome morning, I'm pretty convinced JT is the world's best trainer. She gets just as happy and excited about these good positive schools as we do. 

Ben got hosed a couple of times, ice boots on for 10 minutes, and then we trailered home. I've set a goal of icing him after every hard work. He's 12, and I would like him to be sound for a long time to come. Ten minutes with the boots on was a very reasonable amount of time to hang out, let them cool off, and clean up the rest of our gear for the ride home. 

On the topic of soundness, we put him back in pads when he got his feet done on Wednesday. His farrier felt his feet looked great and he didn't necessarily need them. I don't disagree, but after his abscess saga from this spring/early summer, I would love to do everything I can to prevent that. He also said the only downside was $. If $50 is enough to help decrease the risk of the woe is me spring, I'm happy to spend it! 

We're signed up for the schooling day at Sweet Dixie South next Friday. Doing a 0.9m and 1.0m round. I asked JT which I should sign up for and she said one of each. I told her 1.0m sounded big and she sent me the above picture. No guarantees we won't crash through a two stride, but I'm going to try to keep the positive feeling we had today! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

WW: Majestic Oaks - photos + video

 

Photo from Lisa Madren Photography

Screen grab from the video because I love his canter and focus here! 


And a few dressage video screen grabs 







Sunday, August 14, 2022

Majestic Oaks - Novice CT

Ben gave me a bit of a scare Saturday morning. He'd had a tiny cut on the inside of his right hind on Friday. In true horse fashion the lower half of his hind leg was hot and swollen Saturday morning. I cold hosed it during his pre-show bath and then gave him a gram of bute and wrapped it up for the trailer ride. One year ago, I scratched Yoshi out of this show because of cellulitis, I'm beginning to think it is cursed. But as one friend pointed out, this is also horses in Florida in August. Another, who has had a couple frustrating shows and plans that weren't, suggested that if no one ever planned things with horses they'd stay sound forever. Quite possibly! 

In any event, Ben felt sound when I got on, so we headed over to warm up. 


When I arrived there was only one person in front of me in spite of there being 20 minutes until my time. JT had offered to come warm us up, but my dressage was well before her other students were going so I told her we could probably figure it out. This let her stay at the farm and get a few more things done before heading over. I did struggle for a minute because I haven't used the reins I put on that bridle before, so I wasn't sure which notch to hold. I felt it out though and we had a decent warm up. I focused on trying to ask for bend through his body and neck and trying not to pull on my inside rein.


One of JT's students was dressage ring steward and came and recorded us! 


It was a solid test and the judge agreed for a 25.6. I LOLed at the short change of diagonal (HBF) where a box is drawn around B. I definitely changed on the long diagonal. But also did that in April when we rode this same test and didn't get called out on it then. Reading for detail is not my strong suit 😂

After we left the ring I felt something flapping on my left boot and realized I had ridden the whole time with the boot only zipped up to mid-calf. Oops. I changed and put my boots on in the backseat of the truck and meant to finish up zipping it once I got out. At least this was just a schooling show? 

Ben kept it together to the edge of the warm up arena and then started calling for Ms. GY's horse that we had come with. He is who he is, but he's also a professional when it counts!

Buddies hanging out and eating hay

I hosed him off and tucked him back on the trailer with his friend and then walked the stadium course and watched a few rounds. It was a nicely forward riding course. When I tacked back up and headed to warm up it looked really crowded and there were 9 people ahead of me so we took a walk around for a bit. Then JT coached us over a few jumps. He felt great, really moving up to the right spot with no sticky chips. I could see the spot 4 strides out and ride confidently forward to it. We only did about 4 warm up jumps because he was going so well. 

That feeling did fall apart a bit in the ring though. One through three were pretty great. The forward six strides from one to two rode really well. Three and four were okay, but five was a two stride combination. I mean, we did it, and the jumps stayed up, but it wasn't particularly pretty. Six contained the Majestic Oaks box filler that spooks a decent number of horses. He spooked at it, but still went, so I can't complain too much. The rest of it was a bit of a blur. I decided I should probably start riding again around seven, and he trusted that and took the bigger spot to eight where I promptly got left behind. Nine he chipped again. Still a work in progress though.
 
Ms. GY did her round and then we loaded up and were home by 3:30. Ben and I ended up first in our class of four! 

Pictures are dumb, let me eat grass

Thank you, this is much better 


We also rescued this LARGE lady/fellow from the road on the way home... 
He refused to be hustled out of the road... guess that's the way life works when you're a giant rattlesnake

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Bleck

This morning I picked up Ben's saddle and walked out the tack room door to put it on him. Then something with lots of legs ran up my arm which was holding the saddle. So I naturally threw the saddle on the ground and this: 

Internet photo, but you get the idea

skittered away from me. It vanished before I could stomp it. The saddle seemed unharmed just a bit sandy. 

Then I picked up Ben's front foot to stretch his leg out. It had apparently taken refuge under his front foot and since my leg was the closest thing, started up my leg. While Ben was in the middle of his downward dog stretch. Since it was on my half chaps and not my bare skin I kept it together till he finished stretching. Then I shook it off my leg and stomped it. 

Anyone else have nasty barn bug stories??? 

In college I woke up to one of those on me. I told my roommate who was terrible about cleaning up food and eating in her room that she needed to not leave food sitting around. She proceeded to tell me cockroaches are actually really clean bugs. Totally not the point. Totally don't care how clean it is. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

F*** around and find out!

JT had a new course set for this Monday's lesson. As I was hacking Ben around the field while Ms. GY finished up her lesson I was eyeing the line of one strides thinking that they looked suspiciously not in a straight line. Sure enough, the 4 cross rail 1 strides were on a gentle curve that could be ridden in either direction! Spoiler alert, we didn't die in them and it was actually super fun! JT had named the new course "F*** around and find out!", set intentionally to get us all thinking more quickly. 

Ben warmed up feeling GREAT! He felt supple and responsive and I think is SO happy that I am (mostly) not pulling on the right rein. He's finally starting to trust that and supple from my leg rather than stiffening to brace. Probably his chiro and acupuncture last week aren't hurting that either... 



We played with forward and back at the canter. JT was emphasizing keeping my back moving even when trying to collect the canter. I asked how to half halt with my abs while doing that and she said "bear with me, we're going to go a little woo-woo but it will all make sense." She explained that basically she half-halts with her abs in the trot, but in the canter it is a ball of energy in the hips. When you extend the canter, that ball of energy moves bigger and hips move bigger. When you collect that ball moves in a smaller area, much more subtle, but still moving. We tried the canter one more time to put it into practice and the first time I asked him to collect he immediately lifted up and collected. I actually shouted out "THAT is so COOL!" It's our homework to keep playing with that feeling - the foundation for canter-walks later. The half-halt from the abs will be the downward transition itself, but the canter in place feeling with the hips holding that bouncy ball of energy in a smaller area is how you get the canter to make that transition from. 

After our warm up cross rail, we got sent through 3 tiny cross rail bounces. He sucked back a bit at the first, but figured his feet out. Then we came the other way over them to a 4 stride oxer. We then turned right to come into the left curve of four one-stride cross rails (side note, I always struggle with how I'm going to write the number of jumps then the striding of the jump... is there a better system?). It went super smoothly, makes sense, he wants to drift left anyways. We came back through the one strides with the right bend and still managed to make it flow pretty well. It was just plain FUN to ride. 



Then we repeated the bounces to oxer to one strides and added a left turn to another oxer, bending line left six strides to another fence, bending line right five strides to the oxer that had come after the bounces. Holy cow! The whole thing just flowed so nicely. JT's one correction was to get my work done in the six stride bending line earlier. I had kinda f'ed around for the first two strides then remembered to sit up and ride. 

We then started with the one stride line, the left bending line, then right bending line, then added on a two stride to a four stride slightly angled line. He just powered right through the two stride and felt great. I sat up and lifted him up and the four stride flowed really well too. 

She asked if I felt like we needed to do the two stride line because there would probably be one at the show this weekend (decided to do the Novice CT on Saturday at Majestic). Since we have epically flailed and failed in those before I said I wanted to. He was sticky and tight on the in and so we had to launch and scramble for the out. She had set them at training height though, which I think threw my eye off a bit. We still sat up and did the five strides to the next jump though. She had us come back through and we got the same tight spot in. He was much more willing to go forward that time though. We took a break and then did it a third time. I got the exact same freaking short spot, but that time without my having to push for it, he stepped up and lengthened his stride so the out felt better. Good boy Ben!!! 

Tight in

Powering out - picture admittedly looks better than this felt

It is crazy to think 3 weeks ago we were flailing around and I felt like it was going to be months before we put ourselves back together. 

Friday, August 5, 2022

Needle Adventures

I volunteered Ben to be a demo horse for the acupuncture course running right now at the Chi institute. It's only about 30 minutes away from us, so that is what we spent this morning doing. He loaded easily and travelled okay. He still does much more shifting around when he's stuck in the straight load position than when he had the box stall. He looked around a bit when we arrived, but settled right down as soon as he had a cluster of adoring fans. It was a mixed animal group, so some of the students did not have much horse handling experience. There was one instructor and five students working on him. 

The first half of the morning was identifying the points on the list for the students to learn today. He was a very good sport as long as someone was paying attention to him. 

He LOOOOOOVED the attention

And was very relaxed

In spite of FL being awful hot right now, it was pretty pleasant under the covered arena with some of those "big ass fans" running

He actually did a lot of yawning and licking and chewing along with a couple big stretches, hind leg out behind, hind leg up under, and whole body cat stretch. It seemed like the pressure from the students' fingers on the points was doing him some good. Or he just was enjoying hanging out in the cool with his person. I didn't realized how much he has identified me as his person until I handed him off to run and use the bathroom. As I left he tried to follow and when I came back, he put his eyes on me as soon as I came out of the bathroom door. So adorable. 

He was an incredibly good sport for the whole thing. He was pleasantly patient for the people trying to pick up his feet by randomly pushing on his knee and then dropping the whole foot. He let them palpate points on the medial stifles and on the ventral abdomen cranial to the sheath. He did not love when they counted ribs to find certain points, but he expressed that by moving away from their poking, not too dramatic at at all. All around very good boy. 

We took a 20 minute break after point ID time and then started on an accupuncture session when we got back. First they asked some questions like:
"does he like other horses?" yes
"does he prefer the sun or shade" shade, but honestly what horse doesn't right now...?
"has he ever been aggressive towards humans or other animals?" nope, he is the very nicest person
"what are his faults?" spookiness! 

Those answers combined with the fact that he came back from the break bright eyed and bushy tailed and perturbed that he was not the center of attention at that moment, got him identified as a fire type. The instructor said before the break she would have called him an earth, but after he was a bit... brighter. He wasn't being bad at all, but he was trying to stuff his whole face into each students space, one by one, and get them to give him scratches or let him obsessively lick their hands. 

They also looked at his tongue and mouth. His mouth was deemed a bit dry - no surprise there and probably explained by the fact that he apparently sucks at drinking while travelling. I need to start bringing gatorade or something because even water from home didn't coax him into drinking during the break. His tongue was called pale with a bit of purple. 

Then the instructor scanned him using the round end of a pen to run over specific points. It was pretty cool to watch and hear the descriptions. She was careful to specify that points can be local soreness or can indicate problems in distant places. She also showed scanning an area that didn't contain any points so that could be used as a negative control. He was pretty relaxed with the control area, she said not a typical TB. He was positive to a number of his bladder points over his lumbar area. She said it was pretty highly unlikely he had problems with all those corresponding organs, so it was more likely local soreness. He was positive to his right front foot points, makes sense given the TWO MONTH abscess saga. He was also sore all down his back on his left as opposed to just the lumbar area on the right. He was negative to both hocks and stifles which was nice to see. 

Then they came up with a plan and started taking turns putting in needles. He was SUPER for it. 



He was so good he even got hooked up to the electroacupuncture, which the instructor said she normally did not do the first time. 


Hooked up the electroacupuncture to cross the sore area of his back on this side (aka the whole thing) 

After he was unhooked, she scanned him again and he was much less reactive. I'd seen this with Zinger back in the day, but it was really cool to see Ben enjoying it and benefiting as well! Overall a fun, if a bit long, morning. 

If you are local to the area, these labs are open on a first respond to email basis for horses that are well behaved. You also get a free herbal supplement (Ben's instructor selected Qi Performance for him - I need to pick it up the next time I work in Ocala). They're pretty flexible about it, a few of the horses this morning were not loving the needles themselves, but as long as they are well behaved for the touching part of things, it doesn't seem like the coordinators minded too much (with the exception of the horses they recruit for the exam portion). 

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Jump and turn

Ben and I had another jump lesson on Monday. We started by walking over the liver pool on a loose rein, the same approach JT uses for ditches. When he hesitated and I urged him forward, she told me he was allowed to hesitate. He was not allowed to turn away or back up, but he could pause and think about it. After he was actually stepping in the liver pool she added a rail and we trotted back and forth on a loose rein until it was NBD. We've jumped the liver pool before, but he has certainly spent a lot of time spooking at it while not jumping it, so I think breaking it down like this for him probably gave him more confidence than just flying over it because that's what he is supposed to do.

Then we moved on to a slightly wider version of the right "S" turn from last week. Which actually went better this time around, I was focused on pushing him through the turn not pulling. From there we moved to a left hand roll back then right bending line to a two stride. We landed on the right lead after the first jump and took WAY too long to trot to swap leads. He does flying changes, but about half the time they are not clean, so we're trying to only do simple changes. This theme of taking WAY too long to trot continued throughout the lesson. I am the problem here, I still am struggling to SIT the F down after the jump and ride. I was much better about adding leg than last week, but butt in the saddle and shoulders back is still totally a work in progress. The second go of the wonder bit (turns out that's not what it is called, see the end of this post) and figure 8 felt great still, so I'm currently shopping. Just enough lift to help me get him back much easier, although clearly I still have to ride so that we can do a trot transition... 

After the two stride line, both of us were kind of off in la-la land, him shooting forward a bit and me not asking him to do any differently until, oh, I don't know, 10 strides later. So after going through the first short course a couple of times, JT added a 90 degree left turn after the two stride line to her unicorn jump. I gave her quite a look and she said she was sure we could do it. What do ya know, actually having to do something rather than yahoo around, I sat down after the two stride and turned and he responded and we did it! He loooooves to spook at the unicorn jump and she added a left hand rail to prevent the left drift, so he sucked back a few strides out, but leg went on and he powered forward. We did it again to smooth it out some and it went really well. So then she added a right hand turn to a one stride line. The first time through I choked a bit, but again he went forward and took care of it. So the second time I helped him out more and actually sat up in between the fences and supported. 

We had repeatedly gotten funky distances to the two stride though, I didn't quite trust he was going to go from the long spot, so I was holding to the chip. JT paused for a minute to describe seeing distances. You spend the first part of a turn building the canter you want to jump out of, but by the time you are finishing the turn, your eyes are glued on the top rail of the first fence and you are finding the distance and then riding to it. That riding to it may mean adding a bit of power to move up to the longer spot, or sitting up and compressing a bit (still with power) to the tighter spot so that neither spot is that much of an adjustment the last two strides. Before she told me this, I would have sworn to you that I was staring at the top rail of the in jump the WHOLE time. But... yeah... totally was not. When I did do that, it was SUCH A DIFFERENCE. Like, I saw my spot and I rode him confidently forward to it. WOAH! I guess I'd been flipping back and forth between the in and out jump and also not just using "soft eyes" and peripheral vision to see around the turn, but flicking back and forth to ride the turn. 

I think in a horse like him that needs confidence from his rider, feeling that difference in me made a huge difference in him. I can also only assume that it builds confidence to get it right rather than be kicked forward into the wrong spot. 

Overall, it was an awesome, confidence building lesson. He felt great and I made some major improvements from last week. He was doing so much less of the left drift as well, it was reassuring. JT had mentioned last week she didn't know if it was weakness, habit, or.. and kinda trailed off... yeah, I don't want to consider if it is a soundness thing either, thank you! So it was great to feel that as he is getting stronger, we are able to correct it, meaning it is most likely strength, habit, and bad riding. 

There is ZERO media though, boo, I still need to start getting Ms. GY to whip out the camera to record some. JT is pretty good about getting some when she can and is remarkably talented at filming and coaching (and driving a golf cart), but obviously usually focuses most on coaching rather than filming! 

I'm going to try to make it down to JT again on Friday after Ben is a demo horse for an acupuncture lab. And then Ms. GY and I are planning on going again next Monday. After that we'll try to get out to Majestic (still unsure if this will be the CT or just schooling their stadium ring) and then do the Sweet Dixie schooling days at the end of the month. 

As I started shopping for the bit right after posting this, the term "wonder bit" was not giving me at all what I wanted. A thorough browse through Dover and harassing of JT tells me that it is actually a Nunn Finer Oval Link Shaped Mouthpiece Cartwheel bit (dunno why I didn't come up with that on my own). I'm not sure why/when I decided it was called a wonder bit, but the beauty below with the mouth full of a name is now on its way to me.  



Monday, August 1, 2022

July Wrap Up... Ben'Jammin Style

July struggles...
  • Where oh where has our horsey brain gone, oh where oh where could it be?? But we came up with a plan to get him back to his prior self that includes returning to full night turnout and then full turnout at the GY's, chiro, training rides, and gastrogard.
  • Very sore back at our chiro appointment on the 8th... possibly related to saddle fit? In true horse style, the saddle that looks like it fits better (dressage saddle) is the one that made him sore. 
  • Thrush in right front and right hind foot. Cleared up with "today" mastitis treatment.
July successes... 
  • Being back under saddle AT ALL! 
  • On the 9th we had a FANTASTIC ride. Probably a combination of being back in my jump saddle, acquiescing and letting him be in the ring not the field, and starting Gastrogard.
  • Front shoes back on! He was also negative to hoof testers all around on both front feet before getting the shoes back on. Thank you keratex and easy boots! 
  • Both saddles adjusted - channel made more narrow. But the dressage saddle still doesn't make him happy, sadly. 
  • Training rides with JT. In which she discovers he needs grids like woah. And likes to hold his breath and spook when leg is put on. But also says he is a NICE and scopey horse. And that training and even prelim shouldn't be a problem for him... 
  • Moving back to the GY's. I love JT and love her barn. So does Ben. But a 5 minute drive is... 9x better than a 45 minute drive. Especially in the summer. Especially when her barn is on the way to work so for miles driven it makes sense to go straight to work from JT's. My coworkers are probably grateful too. 
15 rides, the majority of them being walk/trot hacks. 2 lessons, one of which was a train wreck, welcome back to jumping. The other, the very next day, went much more smoothly. 

JT had a number of training rides while she had him for 9 days while I was out of town. 

A name change... just made it official with USEA this morning, I'm going to compete him under his JC name of "This Way To Heaven". Ben'Jammin is a fantastic name, and he'll always be Ben. But I LOVE that he is a super fancy TB and would like him to be more easily recognized as a TB at shows. And that's a pretty excellent JC name.

Looking forward to August... 
  • Possibly a CT on 8/13, but more likely nothing show wise until 8/26 when we plan on going to a jumper schooling show 
  • Cross country schooling for the first time back since April! 
  • Decisions about where Ben will be living
  • Hopefully continued forward progress as a big, brave trail pony! 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Turning into a trail pony?

Ben was the BEST horse yesterday for a walk around the neighborhood. He walked ON THE BUCKLE for most of the ride. He only spooked once at a squirrel and quickly regained his composure. 

I'm not sure what happened, it was about 93 degrees, hence the walk only ride, and also day 6/6 for rides. And he's going out with the whole 5 horse herd at this point so maybe he's worn out from new social interactions. But in any event, I have never been able to just hold the buckle and have him walk with a loose, swinging back out on trails. 

Tacked up, about to head out, his mane looking much more civilized than it actually is right now

At least we were mostly in the shade while we rode

Walking past a house with geese and goats without batting an eye

He gave the cows a long hard look, but kept his feet moving forward. The look didn't escalate into a spook in place like he has sometimes done. 

I am so so happy with this, I've been trying to turn him into a solid trail pony since I got him (because what else do you do with your fancy new event horse). 

Friday, July 29, 2022

In which Ben is surprisingly adaptable

Ben moved to the GY's on Tuesday after our jump lesson. It had been in the works since I purchased him, but his ::ahem:: lengthy abscess saga had delayed it. I LOVE JT and Ben LOVED being there. But it is 45 minutes from my house. We may yet spend some of the fall or winter with JT so that we can be in twice weekly lessons or training rides, but for the heat of the summer, we're settled back in at the GY's. With my late night work schedule, being able to get up at 9 or 10 and be at the barn 5 minutes later is awesome. 

Ben loaded right up into his fancy box stall trailer. He came to me really good about loading then went through a short phase of needing a tap with a dressage whip, but now that I have made the trailer suit him, he is back to walking right on. He eats hay when we're stationary, but I'm pretty sure he travels slanted backwards, like the general internet says horses prefer to ride. 


When he arrived, he didn't even have his back feet off the ramp before he was head down in the grass. NOMS. We put him out in the 8 acre field and left everyone else in the barn yard. He was remarkably sane. Everyone in the barn galloped around like loons, but he did some trotting, a brief canter, and then mostly ate grass. 

Introductions to others + to electric fence 

My friend said he looked blue roan in this picture... You too can have a blue roan if you mix sweaty bay with sugar sand! 

Grazing after our ride yesterday

He went out by himself Tuesday and then got introduced to Mr. GY's horses on Wednesday. They made an adorable little herd of bay TB geldings. He had been by himself in the small pasture overnight, but last night apparently decided he was part of the herd and started pitching a fit when the others went out front. Ms. GY put her gelding in the barn yard to keep him company. Initially her gelding was charging at Ben over the fence, as he does with new horses, but Ben was not impressed especially on the other side of the fence. By the morning, they were scratching withers over the fence. 

This morning they went out together and there was ZERO drama

We added Ms. GY's other horse to the mix this morning and again there was very little drama. Her horse mostly just wanted to sniff Ben's butt. Mr. GY's older gelding was pushing Ben around a bit, but he doesn't do anything more than pin his ears. 

We're going to put Mr. GY's younger TB back into the herd tomorrow, then they will be one happy herd all together. We took him out for the intros this morning because if anyone is going to start running, it will probably be him. 

Overall Ben has been SUPER good here. There's a lot to look at and neighbors through trees doing things, so I was expecting him to be a bit up, but he has been really very focused. We took a short trail ride today to the hay field to do a trot set. He was PERFECT for that. It did take us... 3 times as long as it should to walk back up the 8 acre field to the barn. We had started out tacking up with Ms. GY and I think he was looking for her horse the second we got back in the field. We just did a lot of turning around when he started to prance down the field and then a few halts until he could actually sigh and relax. 

In annoying news, my dressage saddle STILL makes his back sore even after several adjustments. Everyone agrees it looks great on him, but his back disagrees. So just working in the jump saddle for the time being.