Friday, May 19, 2023

Non-linear progression

Goggles had his second under saddle lesson a week ago. He'd been... fizzy since we cantered under saddle the week before. We cantered at home once and then he was continually offering that and not offering to steer. 

We meandered out to JT's field, fairly chill, and hung out with her on another horse while she watched a training horse work for a few minutes. Then they both went back in and we were left ALONE. We walked the circle of death exercise, cavaletti on their lowest setting, to give him something to focus on and then headed into the ring. He didn't bat an eye at the mats on the way in this time, good boy! He was however high pitched calling every so often and did hump his back and carry on a little bit to express how he felt about being left. 

When JT walked out she asked how he had been since our lesson the week before. I described the feeling and she asked if he felt that way now. YES! Her response was "Okay, perfect, today we deal with that." I <3 her. So we dealt. She said we were going to do a million walk-trot transitions, and we did. We also got 4 cones marking our circle so that we could not meander around the ring. 

Walk ten strides, trot ten strides, rinse and repeat. The cue to walk was voice "WOAHH" slightly more volume and definitive ending to the word than the settle, low pitched, calming "ho-oohhh" (pardon my lack of phoentic spelling), shoulders back, stretch up, close the knee and thigh. If that doesn't work, one short bump with both hands, then release. If that doesn't work, then turn inside the larger circle and do a small circle until we are walking. Then lots of praise. Then trot. And again. Then we took a break. 

When we started up again, when we had to turn to a smaller circle to get the walk, we would change directions through the circle. He started balancing himself and getting straighter, it was magical. 

Part of my difficulty of replicating lessons at home is that I have too much time to think when JT isn't telling me things. Like my internal dialogue gets shushed by her input during lessons, but it is running full blast while at home. "His neck is so twisty, how do I straighten that, (helpfully pulls on inside rein) maybe he's got cervical OA, maybe this is just the way he is and he's broken. I'm breaking him more... etc etc etc" It is not that he is perfect in lessons, in fact that day was a great lesson in dealing with non-perfect baby horse. But I have less time to spiral out of control about how everything is awful. And instead we fix it, but by riding him properly, forward and off the inside leg. 

We practiced that walk-trot circle the next day, briefly, and it was there! Enough so that we cantered. And then did a few more walk-trot transitions after. With the realization that I needed to mostly stay out of my own head it went much better. 

A few days later we went cross country "schooling" for the first time. Aka we met a friend at Majestic Oaks and walked around. He was super about almost everything. He took a bit getting his toes wet and then had several panicky moments once they were wet because the water was moving under him. He did body slam his friend once doing this, so I caved and stood in the water while he danced around until he got it sorted out and stopped dancing. Down side, I had wet boots and half chaps for the rest of the ride. At least I hadn't brought my tall boots out for this ride. 

He did the BN ditch like it was NBD. We looped parallel to it, showing it to him with both eyes, for maybe 3-4 loops till he stopped acknowledging it, and then we stepped over it. Super good job. He also walked over a few entry fences - a coop, a log, and something else that I forget. He did want to kick up his heels a bit after these, I needed to just push him forward but was feeling a little tentative and didn't do a great job of that. He also stepped up and down banks without a second thought. Good boy!! Overall, very pleased with him. He was brave and forward. Regulating between things and overall was a bigger deal than any of the jumps/ditches/banks themselves. 

Since he pulled a shoe at some point during this adventure (since I'm a dope and forgot to put bell boots on him), I took him out in hand to the hay field near the barn to work on emotional regulation away from his friends a few days later. It was pretty interesting, he was fine when we first got out there, but when I stopped to let him graze, he kind of realized he was alone and didn't have a specific job to do to keep him occupied. So he trotted circles, cantered circles, and pulled and bucked and threw in a couple of rears for good measure. All out of my space, so per the cowboy, just let 'em do it (also what on earth would you do to stop it). The few times he came into my space, he tick-tocked back out of it just fine even when he was on high alert. He also changed directions on his own and did some self-inflicted work tracking right, cool that he wants to stay even-ish. Eventually he settled, heaved a sigh, and started grazing consistently. He got a softer look in his eye, and I hope realized that he can be fine away from friends. I hope he also had the realization that temper tantrums don't actually get you what you want. 

He kept staring off and screaming. This isn't pointed towards home, I'm not sure if someone else's horses were responding to him, but I couldn't hear any. He's a little ribby, the GY's and I are still learning how to feed a growing baby.

But he did settle down and graze

And I grazed on blackberries

I only bell booted the foot that still had the shoe on. He looks pretty cute in green!

Next week he goes to JT's for a bit of a boot camp while I'm out of town for 5 days. I need to write a Ben update too. He had a great recheck on Wednesday and is going back to work, thank goodness. 

Monday, May 15, 2023

Trailer training

Giggles isn't quite the magical loader that Yoshi was from the get go, so we've set to work figuring it out. He also had that concerning habit of going in then flying back out at warp speed. Not great, especially given his height. It made him pretty likely to wack his head on the trailer roof at some point. Also concerning to try to do a butt bar behind a horse who wants to fly backwards if you're not quick enough. And I love my trailer overall, but I hate that the butt bar involves dropping a pin through the bar to anchor it in the middle of the trailer. It's not particularly quick and means you have to be directly behind the horse to do it up. 

JT's method involves a "witch's broom" that is laid against the hindquarters with gentle pressure. It tickles them into moving forwards, I guess. When there is forwards motion it is removed. If there's backwards motion it is kept on the hindquarters with the same pressure, moving back with him. 

Pulled our Christmas cinnamon broom from the burn pit to serve witch's broom duty

This method is effective and not particularly dramatic. But it's a two person enterprise and still felt like the wheels might fall off semi easily. Especially since not much alarms baby horse so the idea of him becoming desensitized to the tickly broom did cross my mind.

So I started target training. Partially to help with trailering and partially because he's become a bit too pushy with carrot stretches. Not everyone can be the saint Ben is on the ground. Giggles picked up targeting shockingly fast. Like less than two minutes fast. He initially was a bit spooky about the target but that dissolved rapidly. 

I touch it here

And here

I repurposed my trailer hook up aid for his target. Figured I'd always have it when I was trying to load. We did one session "loading" the target and the tongue click that goes with it. Then I set out to use it on the loading. Ideally I probably should've done a few more loading sessions, but the trailer was at the barn and hooked up and I didn't have anything to do that day. 

Key points: no agenda for the day and lots of high value treats (carrots not the usual coin shaped cookies). 

First session:

We targeted into the trailer one step at the time. He spent a lot of time sniffing parts of the trailer, sometimes looking like he'd checked out while his nose was pressed up against the side of the trailer wall.

Sniffing the divider, ignoring the target for the time being


I generally tried to keep him from backing up, but obviously when a large creature goes back there isn't any stopping it. But this time I actually could stay in the trailer, hold the lead, and then reel him back in to where he had been before. Then do lots of targeting and treating at that point. He did actually also seem nervous about backing up and so we took lots of time doing that too, at my request. Reassuring him he did know where his feet were. Targeting backwards didn't actually work. He just did some neck flexions down when I tried to ask for the back up by moving the target to his chest. So that was a traditional ask with the lead and hand on chest. 

It took about 30 minutes until he was in. I hooked up a bucket of grain to the front and he stood there chowing down while I walked around the back of the trailer. I didn't do up the butt bar but I talked to him from behind.

Grain bucket hanging. He also closely inspected the fan.

Good boy!

Then we backed out slowly. Successful day one, and so low stress. I had switched to a chain over his nose for loading to try to keep people safe from the backwards motion, but in the end this was in a plain lead and was so much safer. 

Second session:

This session was actually loading him up to go to Majestic with a friend and her 4-year-old horse. It took about 30 minutes again, but he was calm and slowly moving (aka not flying backwards even when he backed up) the whole time. I'm not sure how the next round will go, because he thought the trailer actually moving, especially without a friend, was a pretty dirty trick. On the way home, my friend led him in while I used the witch's broom method. Once again, he was pretty calm about the whole thing and didn't try to fly backwards out of the trailer. I didn't try the target on the way home because my friend had to be at work before too long so I didn't want to take all her time or risk being stranded there all day if he decided he didn't want to go on after she left. 

More on the actual cross country itself later, but suffice to say I'm super excited about his future, he was incredibly good and brave!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Big firsts!

Last week Goggles had both his first real vet visit and his first under saddle lesson! This week he got to work around a few other horses DOING things for the first time at home.

Giggles met our favorite chiro/sports medicine vet on Thursday. We started with scoping him. He had an unauthorized party in the hay room about 630 the evening before when Ms. GY's horse let himself and Giggles loose. Soooo his stomach still had a decent amount of hay in it unfortunately. He had a few grade 1 squamous ulcers though, some a bit longer, she said more like rug burn vs pinpoint deep burns. He'll get a month of 1/2 tube of GG daily.  He's been on the Smartpak Smart GI ultra since I got him so that we can participate in the Colicare program. He also gets soaked alfalfa cubes every day. I'm hoping those two things plus GG when we travel will be enough to prevent reoccurrence. 

Then he got adjusted when he was just a smidge still sedate. He was out in his right poll and very tight in his lumbar. That was exactly what I'd been thinking. He really wants to twist his poll right and not actually bend his neck right. He has been making progress though at actually bending and this should help a lot too. He also gets pretty sore in his lumbar area after a ride. That should improve as he gains more fitness. She said as they build topline they don't have to lay down as much tight fibrous connective tissue to stabilize the area. 

The next day we headed down to JT's (more on the how later...) With Ms GY and her guy. He was definitely a bit up on arrival, but very manageable. He marched right out to her arena and braved the scary black mats on the way in pretty darn well. We went over them a few times till it was less exciting. Then walked around the field some, walked over a little log that actually turned into a hop over a little log, walked around the grass dressage arena, then went back in to the arena for our lesson. 

At the trot I got counselled on inside leg to outside hand (again). Especially to the right he sometimes needed a little encouragement by laying the dressage whip on the right shoulder. Hands should be kept wide, leading the nose around to the inside. If he is laying on the inside rein and clenching, add in a little wiggle to shake him off the inside hand. NEVER cross the neck with the inside hand. Oops on that one. I didn't even realize I was doing that attempting to steer. JT got as stern as she ever gets emphasizing that crossing the neck was WRONG. She also told me not to mess with the walk too much. Just get a light connection and go forward. Do tons of transitions. Tons of direction changes. Reward for 15% effort. 

We worked on the trot for a bit and then took a break and then we cantered. And I GRINNED!!! OMG, he has a nice canter!! I didn't realize I'd been harboring anxiety about potentially having a crummy canter until I felt it. It was so nice. Tips: don't over think it or over prep. Just trot-trot-trot then outside leg and outside hand to lead him out a bit. Then go forward in the canter. Sit and really go forward. It will feel like too much and too fast, but don't choke him up, let him move forward. Right lead took a few tries, ended up succeeding with dressage whip in outside hand laid on shoulder again to keep him from popping through it and picking up the left lead. LOTS of praise both during and after. 

He was TIRED afterwards. What a good boy! As JT said, not physically out of horse, but mentally DONE. We've got another lesson tomorrow, I'm so excited. 

Yesterday he had a BIG adventure at home. Ms. GY had a few friends over to ride. We tacked up and hacked around the big field while they were riding. I am definitely going to take him out XC for the first time in hand. Multiple horses cantering around and jumping things got him a bit frazzled. Nothing bad, but he was barely keeping a lid on his excitement, I could feel him kind of bubbling, so we quit after a few laps of loose rein walk. Good boy again. 

Monday, May 1, 2023

April 2023 Wrap Up - In duplicate

I haven't so much had to figure out the formatting of how to wrap up the month for two horses in one post because Ben hasn't been doing anything worth writing about. We actually did go XC schooling and had a jump lesson and a dressage lesson, but he's not quite been himself. Sore in parts of his body from compensating for sore feet, although that wasn't always completely apparent to us. It really came to a point last week when he went dramatically lame on his right front, a frog bruise from the welded in plate that was trying to protect his feet. We've switched farriers, have some new foot rads, and I think have a plan. But in the interest of not wallowing, I haven't been blogging about it much. 

Current regimen of icing and then epsom poultice or magic cushion

His farrier recommended putting the bagged kiln dried shavings in his stall to help dry his feet. Especially since it finally started raining here and now it's monsooning basically every day. I'm really not complaining though, when we get to doing things again, the ground will be much more forgiving. Ben was SO pleased and helped distribute the shavings and then had a delightful roll in them. At least he's finding joy somewhere since it is certainly not in icing his feet. 


Sooooo, let's talk about da bebe horse! He comes out each time better than the last. And time off between rides doesn't seem to matter much to him. He had: 

  • A field trip to JT's to extract an incisor cap 
  • One trail ride getting ponied off of Ms GY's older guy 

  • SIX lunging sessions - WOW! I did not realize we had lunged that many times until counting on my calendar just now. He got better and better each time and our last session he actually trotted a few circles where he did a generally circle shaped circle
  • FOUR rides off our home turf. I hesitate to really call them trail rides because they were pretty short, but anyways, four rides away from where he lives. The first two we had company, the last two were solo. The first solo one, we just went down the driveway until we encountered a rather large snek. But Gogs was SO GOOD! None of the nappiness about leaving the herd. The last one we went solo again and actually opened the gate out ourselves. We walked past the hay field and almost to the corner. When we turned around, he thought maybe we should trot home. I told him no, he tried one more time, and then settled for a power walk with his nose almost on the ground. Weird, but okay! 
Beautiful red rat snake wasn't interested in moving, so we gave and turned around

Before we got to the snek

Solo and pretty far from home, staring at cows

What a lad, Goggins! 

  • FOUR other under saddle rides at home. Today was technically May, but I have to brag on him. I put out two trot poles in the ring and was using them both as trot poles and as a focus point to figure 8 through. The first day we did it, it was HARD to aim through them. Steering is very difficult. But today we worked on it again and he was SO MUCH BETTER! We haven't cantered, either under saddle or on the lunge, although Ms. GY did offer to scoop me up today if I wanted to try it LOL. I don't think it would go that way, we just don't have the steering or light connection that I want before moving on to a canter. His trot is ALREADY improving so much though. He really wanted to kind of... bounce up and down through his shoulder, but not in a fun suspension way, more of a pogo stick way, but he is already getting so much smoother and better at going FORWARD not up and down. 
I am enjoying this phase SO MUCH. He is clever and relaxed and just such a good boy. It is so much fun teaching him how this whole thing is supposed to work and watching the wheels turn. Each time he seems to remember exactly what we worked on last time and starts right where we left off. I am endlessly impressed with him, in case the raving up until this point hadn't made it clear. 

This Friday we're going to JT's with Ms. GY and her guy. I'm so excited to get some under saddle help with him!