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! 


  1. He's going to be the best boy! It's nice that he's able to hack out sensibly and I like your plan of 20 minute basic flatwork combined with that for low stress

    1. I hope so! I got so lucky buying sight unseen, totally new experience for me!

  2. the trails around your barn look so pleasant! glad Gogs is being a good boy and learning the ropes of boring mundane routine <3

    1. They're pretty lovely!! Good desensitizing too - goats, cows, other horses, a nice mix of relaxing and interesting! Granted I skipped photographing the trash people have dumped in the woods, but hey, that's good desensitization too!

  3. What a good boy on the trail! I love it. We are having some issues with stumbling (more on this later) - oh baby horses

    1. I'm interested to hear what you guys are going through. Giggles looks much better after his most recent farrier visit, so I'm hoping that is/was most of our issue.

  4. The baby OTTB stage can be very boring, but sounds like you are doing a great job taking your time with it!

    1. I find myself tempted to push the most with the hacking out. Keep having to remind myself I want him to LOVE trail riding so to take baby steps with his solo rides. In the ring, I'm exhausted by 20 minutes of thinking that hard, so I have no problem keeping it short and sweet there lol