Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Bragging on baby

Baby horse and I are having a fantastic week. We went to Naked Horse Farm yesterday with Ms. GY on her horse, my friend on her four year old WB, and my other friend on her six year old Belgian. It was such a wonderful group that fit together in ways I hadn't even anticipated. We all had a fantastic time. My baby horse spent the first half of the time hard core missing his new BFF (Ms. GY's horse who he had trailered with). He kept it together though and only did one little capriole out of frustration that he was being forced to walk and trot circles instead of merrily following her horse around. Also who the heck is this four year old who can steer and make circle shaped circles??? Especially at a new place! He did have a couple of moments where he was focusing so hard on her horse in the distance he was shocked to be near a BIG jump. But overall he was super about all the new sights and jumps. 

Ms. GY then obligingly led us all into the water. Goggles was delighted to get to be close to his BFF and did a much subdued version of the dance he did last time at Majestic Oaks. I also managed to navigate well enough that we did NOT body slam anyone this go round. My friend's four year old calmly joined us in the water, no one has told him that he's four, so he's the most chill creature. She's also done a TON of in-hand work with him and it shows. 

Saintly 4 YO's ears, Goggles on the right, Belgian in the middle, and Ms. GY on the left

After we played in the water, Goggles and I headed off on our own to look at ditches. We were far from Ms. GY at this point, but he was doing his darndest to focus on me. He nonchalantly hopped the smallest ditch a few times and then tackled the middle size like it was NBD. We popped over a few logs on the ground and he VERY politely did not use that as an excuse to bolt back to Ms. GY's horse. GOOD BOY!!!!!!! 

JT couldn't join us, but said she'd be thrilled if he grazed some and trotted a few logs. He was completely disinclined to graze at the beginning, but by the end as we meandered up and down the crater learning about hills, he stopped and ate a few bites. He also got quite tired using his butt walking up the steepest part and paused there to eat, much easier to access grass on an uphill LOL

Goggles telling Rose how much he looooooooves her, saintly baby horse and Ms. GY's horse minding their own business on the right 

I was going to give him today off, but Ryan got called in to work, so I was left at home with nothing to do before work, so I headed out to see the baby. We kept it short and sweet since it was 93 degrees, but we found the shadiest are of the pasture and did about 3 trot circles each direction moving shoulders left and right. After a walk break, we made a right hand trot circle and then I sat and asked for canter. Then waited with my feeling of inevitability. He tried SO HARD to give the correct answer and picked up the right lead. We did TWO WHOLE CIRCLES without spinning out of them to the left. WHATTA GOOD BOY!!!!! We quit on that after about 12 minutes of riding. 

I got SO lucky with this horse. He's just such a good boy and wants very badly to figure out what he is supposed to be doing. He's curious and sweet and smart. 

Monday, July 10, 2023

The perfect passenger

Alternate title, "we must not take counsel of our fears"

Goggles and I have been struggling with the right lead. He will pick it up after 3-4 tries, but then we careen out of the ring/corner of the field where we're working, flail left, do a flying change, and then have to be reeled back in. I told JT about these struggles. So during our lesson she got on to see if the right lead canter was a struggle because he couldn't do it or because he didn't understand. She got him to pick it up right away and then repeated it 4-5 times. "His right lead is going to be better than his left! He just didn't understand." And then I got my directions - sit back, but don't shove, left leg back, tap on the left shoulder with the dressage whip, and wait. Have a feeling of inevitability both about the right lead canter happening and then staying on a right circle. Don't fight, but have 100% certainty that these things are going to happen. Once he is in the canter "Be the perfect passenger" aka a little leg to keep him forward, but no shoving with the seat, just gently being present. 

The next ride at home was around 1 PM. I picked the best corner of the pasture, wooden fences on two sides, and we went to work there. There was a momma turkey and a bundle of babies across the fence. Goggles acknowledged their presence and then kept working. WHAT A GOOD LAD! We warmed up with the same exercise we'd started at JT's - moving his shoulders back and forth on a circle. Half the circle moving them right, half the circle moving them left and so on. Then we attempted the right lead canter. He picked it up right away and then started bucking. Ahem. I pulled him up, swallowed hard, told myself these are the choices one makes when one buys a four year old, and then tried again. This time he picked it up right away AND didn't buck, but then struggled mightily to not spin out of the circle. We failed and he turned left at the fence, did a flying change, and bucked. We repeated that, almost exactly once more. Then FINALLY, I looked the direction I wanted to go, not AT the fence, sat back, and used my outside aids. And he turned!!! We did a right lead canter circle!!! GOOD BOY!!!!! 

I'm pretty certain I almost got heat stroke from that. But we did it! 

He'd had quite a few rides in a row, so the next day I put him in the rope halter and we played over the ditch and a few jumps in the field and worked on woah. He was so happy and pleased with himself. I then put him in the ring and asked for the right lead canter. He picked it up right away and managed a circle on the line. GOOD BOY! We repeated that about three times and then called it quits for the day.

Then he had three days off. This morning we were back at it. He started out like a four year old who had had three days off. So we did less moving shoulders and more walk-trot-walk-trot-walk-trot.... etc etc. We started with the left lead when we cantered. He was mostly good but threw in a few bucks for funsies. I did a better job of being the best passenger and ignoring the squirreling around under me. At one point he did a left to right flying change, so that's fun that that is there too. Once he settled, we switched directions and went right. He picked it up immediately AND we did a full right circle. Hooray!!!!!! Sooooo many pats and good boys and I hopped off  as soon as we made it back to a halt. I'm hoping he will be less fizzy tomorrow so we can keep working on that. 

Look who it is! Full post coming later on the pedigree report BreedRideEvent did! 

Ben and I had a lesson both mornings this weekend. That and full work days are why Goggles had the whole weekend off (also more coming later on two horses in two spots). On Saturday, JT warmed him up and then I got on. On Sunday, I started out with him. She's out of town this whole week, so we're moving back towards me doing more with him. He MUST keep his body soft and moving the whole time. We've sloooooowweed things down a lot so that he can't use speed against us to stiffen and brace through his mid-section. But the slow is not a slug feeling, it is a soft, bouncing, supple feeling. 

His walk warm up is a lot of leg yields, baby half pass, shoulder in, and haunches in. To the right I FINALLY got the feel. Left rein to slow the left shoulder down, then right leg to move his barrel over. If he doesn't listen, spur in to say MOVE your right hind, keep your shoulders straight to the short side. It is soooo hard for both of us, but also soooo good for both of us. Funny how that works. Once he is softly doing all this at the walk, then trot. If he spooks at things, slooooooooow the trot down. Post like molasses, dragging my butt out of the saddle with very little energy. Take the energy down. And do 8m circles by what he is spooking by, turning back towards it each time, until he is not spooking at it anymore. Leg yields to and from the rail, sloooowing it down so it is correct and he is moving OVER with his hind leg, truly crossing it. Baby half pass by going down the quarter line, pointing his face towards the rail, then keeping his shoulders pointed at the short side, and moving the hind legs OVER. 

Canter he has to be allowed to move forward, I have to supple my elbows more to follow. But again, be the perfect passenger. Don't drive with the seat.  Use leg to help him move his back. To the left, I needed to move his shoulders a little left with my right leg forward. Then move his barrel to the right with my left leg in a mid-range position. Then his back moved my spine in an S shape as the canter flowed. Lots of shoulder fore on the left lead. If he gets tight and running and bracing, 10m circle. 

The WHOLE time he can have the weight of the rein and one ounce more. Nothing more than that. 

He's pretty bummed that my threats of him becoming a pasture pet were apparently empty threats

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

June 2023 Wrap Up

This is the first month where both boys have been doing things. Hooray! I'm playing with a new format for monthly wrap ups to concisely capture two horses. 




Training rides





Cowboy- ground work




Ground work or lunge



Flat rides









Ben: Ben has spent, and will continue to spend, a lot of time with JT. We're trying to get his body back into shape and also trying to correct some bad habits that have developed. He is not allowed to be anything other than butter soft and light. She's told him what for a few times over spooking as well. He can stare and worry, but bolting is unacceptable and results in HARD work with a very soft, moving body. He's done a lot of baby half pass towards scary objects. He can stiffen and hold a lot easier in the leg yields, so baby half pass it is. This has made him much more pleasant to hack as well. 

What's next? Continuing 4-5 days on 1 day off, rinse and repeat. His days on include training rides, lessons, walk hacks, and aquatred. Continuing monthly chiro adjustments to check in and maintain his alignment. 

Rocking the dad bod and a few hives

His favorite past time is visiting the babies and squealing at them. They are the only horses who take his squeal seriously. He would LOOOOOOVEE to go out with them.

Goggles: Looking back at the calendar, Goggles spent the entire first half of the month (truly, the first time I got back on him was the 14th) doing ground work and lunging. I think it was hugely beneficial because we have had pretty solidly wonderful rides since then. Funny the way that works. He did some of his first real (2'3") jumps under saddle this month and hopped a few cross rails in the ring. He is not at all fussed about the jumping. Our biggest challenge emotionally is still working away from the herd, which I think is part of his trailering anxiety as well. He has come SO FAR on the GY's property and now can and will work anywhere no matter where the other horses are. But confidence and calmness on hacks off the property is still a work in progress. He was VERY BRAVE and good when we went out with Ms. GY and her guy, but by himself has a tether to the home base/other horses and gets anxious once we get a certain distance away. I'm working on slowly increasing that distance. I want him to LOVE trail riding and since he is naturally much more confident than Ben, I think if I move forward properly, he will. 

What's next? Solidifying the right lead canter, continuing to develop confidence off property, continuing to work on loading and travelling well. Maybe a few field trips to XC spots.

Wondering why the heck he was moved from NY to FL

"You can't sit with us" (if you're not a bay TB gelding)

Monday, July 3, 2023

Slow is Smooth

Goggles has taken many steps forward and a few steps backward. After our cowboy lesson we had some of the best, most settled lunging he has ever done. He was tuned in and relaxed. I could see him playing with how to use his body to make the 20m circle work for him. He generally was coming up with the right answers. Slightly slower, more uphill balance, softening through his body and neck. And then we back slid. I stood with Mr. GY that day, lamenting the unintended canter circles and holes dug in their ring from a few bucks. He suggested more ground work before lunging. "But we DID that" I whined. He glanced at me "Are you still DOING that?" 

So I gave the baby horse a break and went home and settled myself. Then went back out to the farm at lunch time and stood at the gate. Goggles is well trained (he's trained us well?) and comes trotting or cantering up when someone stands at the gate around that time of day. I let him eat lunch, then put on gloves, his rope halter, and the 22' line, and went and stood in the shade in the ring. He walked circles for a solid 5 minutes, much longer than it took him to settle and connect in the past. Hrm. Then he did. Then we practiced the other blocks of moving his shoulders and haunches and having him stay in line with me, responding to my body language. Good boy. 

Our next lunge session I started with more ground work. We then went back to the barn and popped on his bridle and surcingle and headed back to the ring. I honestly was not sure how the two types of training sessions were going to connect; the "gear" is different and the goal is different. The cowboy ground work is more mirroring and in line work whereas lunging is sending him out around me. But he was markedly better. More settled, more balanced, more in tune. 

In other areas we seem to be figuring our shared goals out much more smoothly. We took a hack with Ms. GY on her guy and had a grand time. He (re)learned that he likes puddles and enjoyed splashing in them the whole ride. He led most of the way, including around some areas we had never been before. When we got back we trotted a few circles in the field and then I pointed him at a few of the log stacks he's jumped in hand. He popped right over the first, cantering softly away. The second I took for granted, and he elected the swerve around route. I chastised myself and pointed him back at it. He hopped it much bigger, but again cantered softly away. We did that one twice more to solidify it and then called it a day. Definitely a successful first few jumps! 

We also made it back down to JT's for a lesson and she confirmed what I'd been feeling: he's come a really long way with his balance and steering. It was really, really nice to hear her positive feedback. He is my first restart project since early college, so I am living in perpetual fear of screwing him up while I'm muddling around unsupervised.

Last week was a trailer intensive week. The GY's went out of town so I took the liberty of housing my trailer in the arena for the week and putting Goggles on it multiple times each day. I wasn't going for closing the butt bar, I just wanted him calmly going on and then staying on until I asked him to back off. 

Florida summer chic (aka my treat pouch got moldy and I haven't yet cleaned it)

I went back to straight ole bribery, sans target. Just holding a carrot in one spot until he stepped forward to grab it. Repeat with another carrot two feet further in. The first time we made it all the way in he did realize he'd crossed his fear line and went backwards more quickly than I would have liked. The second time I took smaller steps coming in. And then he ate several carrots while all the way in before I asked him to back out. 

When we went to JT's I did use ace for the trip down. He was much more peaceful while driving. I didn't repeat it for the return trip home, 4 hours later, but he was still SO much quieter back there. Hopefully the chemical aid helped his brain relax and have a positive experience that will continue forward. 

So that's the baby horse update. I'm still just over the moon thrilled with (almost) everything he does. He's just sweet, sensible, and really wants to learn how to do the right thing. (He did break his stall door the other day, I wasn't over the moon with that, but he's a large baby horse and things happen. Although none of us know exactly what did happen, he didn't have a mark. Everyone was in under the fans, and he's not spooky so I don't think it was an accident. So hopefully he doesn't make this a pattern!)