Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Learning how to horse

This whole post can be summed up in two sentences: Goggles is learning how to be a good horsey citizen and use the various parts of his body. I am having to focus intensely on every single thing I do so I don't inadvertently teach him bad habits.  

Day to day: 

Each day is a lesson in being a good boy. He is generally quite happy to hang out and is very sweet. Which means I've been tempted into sharing my space with him more than I should. He wants to just creep into my space, kinda 24/7. He's like that cat video where each time you peek back around the corner, the cat is closer. Each time I turn around, Goggles is closer. On the lead, in the stall, in the cross ties. He just is pretty sure that he should occupy the same space as me. He hasn't stood on me, yet, and he doesn't physically run into me, but he's got some large feet for his large body, so that possibility alone should make me better about getting him out of my space. When I am on top of my part of things, he takes corrections well. He is not nearly as reactive as Ben is about any kind of movement, so it is easier to remind him of where he should be without getting a flailing over-reaction. 

Boy are you gangly and leggy right now! His stall is in the back right in this picture - not that it is a trained behavior, but he is a good boy about not biting other horses as they come through the aisle

He's definitely getting better about the cross ties. They're visible in the picture below this as well as above - they're right next to a solid tack room/stall/feed room on one side and then a drop off of mats or a wooden platform into sand on the other side. He moves his butt over and falls off, I move him back, and we repeat. He is very solid on standing to get tacked up and standing while getting mounted and that happened in a super short amount of time. He's so clever, you show him once and once he understands the point he just does it himself the next time. 

He also has gotten multiple baths at this point and we're getting much closer to being able to hose the whole horse without him moving or lifting a leg at the indignity of getting hosed in his inguinal areas. 

Trail riding: 

We went for our first real trail ride last week with Ms. GY on her older guy to assist. Goggles is a long legged TB so we were out in front of his 25 year old buddy the whole time. And he was just the best, bravest baby ever. 

Through the hay field

Onto the dirt road

Through the woods and over the logs - he watched Ms. GY's gelding go around the logs and stared at him like "Why am I going the hard way?" But then stepped right over! 

There are two abandoned trailers and lots of trash in the woods. He gave zero shits about it all. 

Then we saw the moos, including baby moos

He noticed them through the woods and then promptly turned towards them. I swear he would've walked right up to them if there weren't a fence. He was definitely alert and aware, but wanted to go check them out, not run away. 

His walk got better the longer we went. He got the point of STRAIGHT and was taking much longer, smoother strides by the end of it. He still tripped over his own feet plenty, because it is hard to have long legs and sight-see at the same time, and he's still dealing with slightly long toes from being overdue when he came down and being an OTTB. But it was so nice to feel him to take longer strides and also lower his neck some. 

Then we headed home!

I am a GOOD BOY!

Nice long drink after

We went out again on Monday with Ms. GY and her guy. Goggles was a bit less of a baby genius and a bit more like a regular four year old. Gogs and I started out walking past the herd in the field by ourselves while Ms. GY was rounding up her guy. And I got a lot of "I don't wanna!" feels from him. Nothing that bad, he just put a hump in his back, walked like a drunken, reluctant sailor headed down the plank, and attempted to turn back around. He got smacked a couple of times when the hump in his back evolved into actually crow hopping a bit. He considered consequences and decided he could in fact walk away from the herd. 

He was a bit spookier out on the trail too. There were cows in a different spot that led to a sideways hop and then a sign on a fence caused him to stop and wait until Ms. GY and her horse caught up and led the way for a few strides. Still nothing bad at all, just not the smooth strided total professional I had the week before. 

We trotted around in the hay field a bit, just focusing on a steady connection and rhythm. He started out definitely not wanting to be anywhere other than right with her horse or headed back towards the barn, but ended up with a few decent circles each direction. 


Farrier: I had not been present for his two appointments, but he had gotten a good report. Still, it was nice to see it for myself. He was generally a good boy. He needed a couple of reminders about personal space and putting his lips on the farrier, but overall good. He got fitted pretty open around his heels in order to encourage more growth there. Fingers crossed he keeps those on, it is a bit of a test. 

"Real" work: We are interspersing the trail riding with 15-20 minute walk-trot-halt rides. I'll be honest, I wanted to get lunging down better before moving into more under saddle. BUT... I don't have a round pen, and I was having a hard time keeping him from falling out on part of the circle and ending up with a really unfortunate neck twist while pulling on the line. I'm not proficient enough at long lining to substitute that for single line lunging without a round pen. Soooo under saddle it is, where I'm best able to deal with bend and turning. We're still doing walk-halt on the lunge because that seems SUPER useful and also much more doable than trotting.

We walk

And halt

And halt some more and then take a deep breath

I've been keeping the stress level low for our "work sessions" by staying close to his friends. If they're in the barn, then we work in the ring, but if they're in the field, then we work in the big field. If they're in the field, he still has to come in the barn to tack up alone, but then gets to go back close to them for the hard work part of things. As he demonstrated above, it will definitely be upping the ante a bit when I ask him to do some work further away from them. It seems to be a bit of a trigger for him, so we'll build up to it slowly. 

I sound pretty repetitive here, but the beginning stages of a sporthorse career for an OTTB are not super exciting. Bending is hard, particularly to the right. He would much rather lean into the shoulder and twist his head and neck than bend through his body and poll. I have to be SO straight and even myself. Then insist on a tiny bit of real bend through his neck and body and then give ALL the praise for a 10% improvement. Rinse and repeat for 15 minutes. The lovely part is that just as on the ground, he's just very sweet and easy. No inclination to misbehave, just very confused about how to bend his body. 

After a ride he makes the sweetest, most tired baby horse faces. It is simply exhausting coordinating all the parts

On the horizon: 
  • Field trips to go hack around various trails and new settings
  • Lessons down at JT's 
  • Endoscopy and chiro with our favorite sports medicine vet. Going to make sure that he is thoroughly checked over before we gradually increase the workload. 
I do kind of get the feeling at some point in his training he's going to reach the "I know better and I'm doing it my way" mentality. The combination of clever and confident just feels like that cockiness might come out sometime soon. Just gotta keep things interesting and fun so that the games he is playing line up with the games a baby sporthorse should be playing! 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Month Two with Gogmagog

First set of check-in photos on the GY's crossties!

Would you like to also grow your tail not just every other part of you??

Baby horse clearly continues to impress with his adventures jumping in hand and super exciting rides. He's just a GOOD boy. He is clever and sensitive, but also laid back. I am just enjoying the heck out of getting to know him. When he walked right up to me in the pasture the other day, my heart melted. He's got a huge field and friends and grass, and he wanted to come hang out and see what we were going to do that day. What an awesome feeling. 

He had an adventure on Monday. He is a little funny with the bit and my usual dentist can't see him until the start of May. So I hauled him down to JT's since her dentist could squeeze him in earlier. He was pretty willing to load up, but we need to work on either self-loading or a woah on the trailer, or really, both. I had to go bug Ms. GY to come do the butt bar because he would walk on with me pretty easily but then was disinclined to stand while I went around or backed out to do the butt bar. 

This was the only exciting thing

She checked him and felt like most of his mouth looked good and would just need to be rechecked in the fall. But he'd hung onto that cap and his gums were pretty inflamed around it, so it might be bugging him. She was able to grab it with hemostats and then tug while he turned his head and it popped right off. 

She also said while the tooth could cause fussiness, he is definitely in a growth spurt and that could be contributing as well. LOL. 


To help him get back on the trailer, I enlisted his big (little... LOL... since Ben is 16.3...) brother. 

Hi Ben, you are a good boy

Goggles went right on 

And then got alfalfa, which Ben really wanted

But Goggles was pretty excited about the alfalfa and didn't necessarily share

I'm just so happy with this kiddo. He comes out ready to learn and is so far the easiest (and largest...) baby ever. 

Friday, April 7, 2023

It's getting serious over here

Goggles had his second ride. 

And he was clearly excited about it

Also loving the western pony vibe on him - surprisingly the cheekpieces only have to go down one hole for him from Ben's settings

It has been really freaking hot here (91 for the high that day), and I rode around 2 pm since I saw Ben in the morning and then had evening plans. Also figured a little midday heat wasn't a bad thing for our big, exciting plans.

Honestly the hardest part of the whole thing was getting on. He wanted to back up and examine me on the side of the trailer I was using for mounting rather than stand with the saddle next to me. We worked on that for a few minutes. He then stood rock solid while I actually mounted. 

What a cute view!

Then we walked and turned and halted and turned. And repeated various patterns of that for about ten minutes. He's got really nice soft halts from voice and seat, I love it. He wants to slug along at the walk a bit, and I got tempted into nagging with the leg a few times. Big reminder to myself I'm creating the horse I might be riding for the next 20+ years... Leg off, quiet ask, then light tap tap tap with dressage whip on the bum if there's no response. Only took two repeats of that before he was stepping off well from a light leg. He's really freaking good about the dressage whip. Doesn't over react at all, but he's not dead to it either. 

He bulged a bit back towards the field where the other horses were, but not too badly. They had the courtesy (and hay piles) of staying up towards the front fence so he had good company. 

Then I got off and practiced standing next to me on tall things for a minute or two before I untacked him. 

He's learning to drink from the hose like a good Florida horse 

He's also a good drinker in his stall

In the most exciting news of all, he is now taking more than carrots for treats. He's well on  his way to becoming a spoiled rotten pet of a horse. 

He also got the GOOD BOY(TM) privilege of grazing the good barn yard grass by himself for 45 minutes till Ms. GY let everyone else in to their stalls for dinner

I'm extra enjoying the second horse thing since Ben has been NQR since the start of March. Nice to have the other creature to turn my attention to. Hasn't completely stopped my pity party though because Ben just looks so darn sad. Initially I thought it was foot soreness from sand under his pads at the start of March. But his vet checked him yesterday and found his neck was actually really sore, she thinks from some accident in the pasture. He got that adjusted and is hopefully on the upswing now. Fingers crossed it sticks this go round. 

Monday, April 3, 2023

Saintly babysitter

Ben and Goggles swapped spots last week before my husband and I took a week long trip to AZ, see the WW post about things he jumped in the GY's field. I scratched Terranova because Ben's feet were still sore from his pads, but I thought maybe Ben could get a few training rides while I was out of town. He only sorta cooperated with that plan, he was foot sore until Thursday when JT left to go to Terranova. Ah well. Meanwhile Giggles was thriving at the GY's. He became BFFs with the same older guy that Ben adores. He also asserted himself reasonably well and ended up going out with the whole herd pretty quickly. I really feel like the additional turnout is super helpful to him. He seems more mellow than he had at JT's. 

When I got back to town, we went for a walk around the hay field down the street that is GORGEOUS right now. He is actually a bit more of a pest than Ben while ponying, I think he eventually wants to challenge the older gelding for a higher spot in the herd. But he's not quite sure how to go about it. So I had to keep him better in check or else he would get obnoxious and then get a more stern reprimand. Ms GY's horse deserves an entire bag of carrots for putting up with my two goofballs. 

It was so cool watching Gogs figure things out by example. He wanted to spook at the trash can, but his babysitter was so not excited by it that he put his head down and went back to sauntering along. Same with the trampoline and flags in the hay field. He also was SUCH a good boy while I was grooming him pre-ponying - everyone else got turned out and he was alone in the barn. He did not seem to care at all. We were also working on cross ties for the first time - the GY's barn has a narrow wooden platform that the horses stand on while cross-tied. Everyone gets used to it, but it isn't the most straightforward thing for a baby horse. But he was very, very good. I did set him up for success and put him in a stall with hay while I grabbed the bridle for his buddy and my helmet. He just ate though, no calling or staring longingly out towards the other horses. Pretty impressive, sir! 

Such a cute face!!

The next day we worked some on lunging. We wandered around the arena first to ensure we weren't trying to learn how to lunge while also spooking at the scary side of the arena. He gave a few shits, but not many. He walked a few quick circles around me and then sniffed some things and found grass to eat amongst the horse eating poles, standards, and letters. Next step was the surcingle in the cross ties. He was wanting to back away from me anytime I walked beside him to groom him or to put the surcingle and pad on, so we paused to address that. His reaction to tension on the cross ties was... Nothing. Not pulling back more and not moving forward to release the tension, so I introduced the idea of stepping forward to relieve the pressure. He picked up on it really quickly. Lunging he was super for, he's starting to understand woah without turning in. He's still fairly sure tracking right is not a thing and always tries to go left again instead, but he can be convinced more and more easily each time. We only trotted to the right, he tried pulling back to the barn twice but with less conviction each time. I should've quit with just walk and woah, but we did still end on a good note with a relaxed walk and woah. This was certainly his first time lunging without the aid of the round pen and he was really super! 

Afterwards, he got hosed and played in the hose for the first time. He's gotten markedly better about hosing each time we do it. I still haven't gotten anywhere near his face though, the good nozzle isn't working right now so I have no way of easing him in to it. Post-hosing I did ask for a few more step over from the "leg" aid that we started a while ago. He ended up overdoing it in an effort to get the treat I was using and kind of spinning in circles away from me while still not understanding the leg aid. 

Plan is to keep Gogs at the GY's through the Ocala Eventing Festival towards the end of April so that Ben and I have the easiest access to lessons, training rides, and XC schooling on our somewhat abbreviated prep schedule. Then we'll see about swapping them back. I'm going to try to get Gogs back down to JT's a couple of times for some training rides during that time. But he was somewhat reluctant to load on the trailer by himself to leave JT's whereas he had hopped right on when I practiced loading him next to Ben. So I'm only going to trailer him WITH a buddy for the next few months to make sure it is all positive experiences while he's learning about the life of a performance horse.