Monday, October 30, 2023

Narrative evaluations

Sorry ya'll, text dense post with ramblings about our latest lessons... 

Goggles: Goggles got his neck shock waved last week and it made him a LOT happier. He has always been a chill 4 YO, but he's VERY relaxed now. Not so relaxed that he didn't BOLT when we were walking past the scary new house that materialized out of nowhere (seriously, it did... prefab home delivered on the property...) and the wind caused the black tarp under magic house to flap like crazy... But, I digress, he stopped pretty easily, and that was a very legit spook. His relaxation is evident in the barn and cross ties in particular. He had been kinda... fussy in his stall or the crossties with an agitated head bob or twist and that is gone with the shock wave. 

He wasn't particularly expressive while he was getting shock waved, but after his vet finished, he turned his head all the way to one side, all the way to the other, and then looked like a Cheshire cat. 

Positively smiling

So under saddle, he's much better able to bend correctly through his neck now. It's been an education for me too... aids are a little lifting, jiggling inside rein to get him up off the shoulder a bit, then inside leg. The outside aids are pretttyyyyyy darn passive. Too much outside rein and he still gets confused at this point. The outside rein just exists there softly and the outside leg doesn't really do a whole lot either. Too much inside leg too soon and he literally can't listen to it. JT said that horses (and especially baby horses) ignore aids when they are too unbalanced to respond or they are too panicked. He's not the panicking type, but boy had I felt the too unbalanced to respond part. It felt like I could pony club BOOT him with my inside leg when he was down on the inside shoulder and STILL nothing would happen. But lift a tiny bit with the inside rein first and then magically the inside leg works again. COOL! 

If he dives down, which he does, then the outside rein engages and shakes him up and off of it and then goes back to passively existing. And we're getting some reallllyy nice, soft, correct work this way. He is very weak when it comes to working correctly, so he can't hold it that long, but when its there, it is really nice. The canter is naturally really nice, but again it's sooooo hard for him to hold it and he would really like to be held up instead. I know I've said it a million times, but he is LARGE, and we do not want to create a horse that needs to be held. I have never enjoyed the "man's horse" type horses that take soo much leg and hand. Gotta be accountable kiddo!! 

We broke up a couple days of flat rides with a jump lesson last Monday. We did a "semi-group" lesson with one of the training horses. Goggles was AMAZING!!!! He was really getting the idea of soft and flowing. We went back and forth at the trot over a plain crossrail until it was relaxed. I went back to counting ONE-TWO-ONE-TWO-ONE-TWO with my posting up to the base, which I found with Yoshi really helped me keep the trot rhythm with my body and not let him slip into canter. It had the same effect with Goggles. He still needed a half-halt a few strides out, but then was mostly not rushing the actual cross rail. And he was landing in a really cute canter. I was doing a LOT of circles to keep him steady and soft. 

In between his turn, he was either watching the other horse go or eating like it was his job. He takes snacking VERY seriously now and is delighted by going places to do things when there is good grass to eat.

After the cross rail we moved on to an oxer (jk they were all cross rails and will be for quite a while, but some had filler!). This one he actually looked at the most and did that  classic baby wiggle towards. It is kind of in the shade of a tree, so the light hits it a bit funny. He still went though. We then strung the two together with a circle in between if needed. Then we added in the rocks as filler under a cross rail, and he was so good. JT had us walk up to the rocks at the start of the lesson and sniff them. I hesitated a bit because he is pretty sure when he's pointed at stuff he should jump it, so he did kind of lurch around like he thought I was asking him to walk over it. And while it was very small, it was a bit wide and if he'd gone to be a good boy, it would've been a super awkward launch. But he seemed to understand after a second and sniffed the rocks in a spooky, snorty way. He sniffed them repeatedly until he relaxed and started eating the grass between them. When we approached the rocks at the trot, he popped right over! No wiggle, just a cute (albeit exuberant) jump over and a nice canter after. He did the same thing to the unicorns under a cross rail, and we hadn't even gone to sniff those. 

Rocks! Just add a Goggles popping on over.. 

He did start playing and humping his back a little bit on his way between the unicorns and the rocks, so we did several trot-walk transitions and circles to keep him soft and focused, and he responded beautifully. He is just the most fun, I am grinning every single time I ride him. 

Ben: Ben popped around with JT in the irons on Wednesday. She took him to the POP show on Sunday, so we wanted her to get some time with him before that. He was a very, very good boy. She said he felt great and much stronger than when she'd last ridden him in August. She said I'd been doing a good job, but he felt pretty anxious as well. Full disclosure, this made me kind of anxious as well. I spend.... 5-10% of the time I am with Ben vaguely annoyed with him. It's the same things I've said before - the spook at the same jump panel that we've walked past and worked around fifty times - the spook at the hose on the ground in the same (I know it's not the exact same spot for the hose and that's WHY he cares) spot - those kinda things. And Ben is a VERY sensitive horse. And I'm sure can tell that I'm annoyed even if my actions aren't different, the feel of them is. So he deserves someone who can just laugh at the spook, move on, and not harbor that annoyance for the next 2 minutes. Since JT said he felt anxious, I've spent more energy on telling him he is great and praising him for the things he isn't doing (ie ignoring a crow flying up very close to his face while trotting). But I am human, and I'm not sure if I can always be that person for him and if it is fair to him those times when I am not the person he needs me to be. Things to consider... 

Friday we went out for a short and sweet XC school at Majestic. We popped over a few novice jumps and then did the training coffin (brush roll top three strides to a ditch, quite a few stride bending line to a wedge) and training water (roll top a few strides from the water, through the water, up bank out, gallop on through a left hand turn to a brush roll top, three strides to a down bank) and then called it good. He was being fantastic. He did DERP at the novice pallisade, but it is a pretty spooky jump and I couldn't tell if the ground dropped away on the other side either, so his 8 extra strides before take off made pretty decent sense to me. He also never felt like he wasn't going, he just wanted A LOT of extra time to look. 

Then he sealed his GOOD BOY status by being JT's mode of transportation to go get her nail pullers from the trailer when the training horse she was riding twisted his hind shoe and stood on the clip. Ben also politely trotted beside the golf cart she picked up on the way back. Then he and I hung out on the ground and supervised her kiddo while she finished up the lesson for the other student. Since he had such a busy week, and we're headed to Rocking Horse this weekend, I wanted to just do what we needed to do and save his legs and feet as much as possible. He munched grass, followed along when he was supposed to, and was just generally the delightfully pleasant person that he is. 

No pictures of XC Ben, but here's our piglets...


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

You can't ride two horses with one ass

AKA how's the time commitment of two horses going?

After several swaps of horses, first in March and then again in late July, Ben is living with the GY's and Goggles is living at JT's. They both have settled into pretty good routines. Ben goes with the herd during the day and then by himself or with his trusty old friend at night. It seems like he gets bit in the mornings at morning turn-in, so by eliminating that possibility, he's at the rate of one bite or less per month, which is very tolerable for his increased happiness at being with the herd. Meanwhile Goggles has found the enforcer he needed in his life and is on night turn out (~16 hours) in a big field at JT's. 

This means he is in during the day, the better to eat his three LARGE meals and pick at his alfalfa like only a picky, young, growing TB can. Things will change again in January when Goggles will move up to be closer to me, but until then, this is working for everyone. 

So how is it going time-wise? I have been prioritizing Ben as we plan our move back up to training level. He gets 5-6 rides a week. Usually one is a lesson down at JT's and I also lesson on Goggles that day. I have started taking short cuts on some days - ie tack doesn't get cleaned every day, the bit gets rinsed and billets get wiped down and then we call it good. Fall is making that a better choice too since there's not a thick layer of sweat on every leather good. I've also started calling a lunge a reasonable light day for Ben. He lunges REALLY well. He wants to be a bit lazy, but responds to the positioning of the lunge whip quite well and is easy to motivate without making him anxious. I've been using it to work him near the spooky areas of the ring on days I don't have time for a ride. 

Ben's week: 
  • Conditioning ride - 20 min trot set + 2x3 min canter sets 
  • 2 dressage rides, one with 20 min stretchy trot tacked on the end
  • 1 jump lesson
  • 1-2 hacks or 1 hack and 1 lunge

Goggles? Well, he's getting 1-2 training rides or lunge sessions a week with JT. I usually do one lesson, then one other ride on my own and I try to do one hack a week. Then, filling in the gaps, my good friend down there who will ride him most weekends. Weekends are when I have the least amount of time typically since my work shifts are longer those days and my husband is off and it is sometimes nice to spend time together rather than spending every moment living and breathing horses. 

Goggle's Week: 
  • Lesson - flat or jump
  • 1-2 training rides or long-line sessions, although we're moving more and more to rides with just an occasional long-line to reset his brain when needed
  • Hack - on-property solo or off-property with a friend
  • Flat school 
  • 0-2 rides with my friend, usually if she rides him he'll get 1 less training ride or I won't flat him that week
The cuddliest kiddo

His ears look ridiculous and I love it 

Honestly? Even with toning down tack cleaning for Ben and having soo much help with Goggles, two horses in work and a job is a lot. I don't have any secret hacks to save time. I haven't suddenly found more hours in the day either. 

In January, Goggles will be moving to a farm right down the road from my house, equally as close as Ben. Which means a decrease in drive time and also means they can keep each other company on the trailer ride down to JT's for once or twice weekly lessons. I do think if they were at the same barn it would be mildly more efficient, so depending on how things pan out at the farm Goggles will be moving to, I would consider moving Ben there. Unfortunately though moving Goggles means losing training rides and my friend's rides on Goggles. In addition to the wonderful time she's been putting in on Goggles, we go for once a week hacks and it has been super fun to have someone to go out and explore with on the baby horse. 

Truly though, Goggles doesn't need to be working more than four days a week to be a good BN horse. We're just doing intensive boot camp right now to get the most benefit from his time at JT's. And don't worry, he's still gotten an entire week off here and there to rest and digest what he's been learning. And sure as I post this, one of them will decide to be unsound, and I'll be back to having no problem sorting out time for the both of them LOL! 

So, those of you with 2+ horses in work... any secret time-saving tips? How do you prioritize your week? 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Kick one more time

Ben and I did a training stadium round on Saturday. On paper it looked pretty good, one rail and no time faults. It didn't feel great though, with one big miss and chip at an oxer at three where I felt like I was about to nose dive into the jump. Shockingly that wasn't the rail we took down though. The rail came at a six stride line that I didn't find enough pace through, but still pushed for the six at the last second. This lead to him characteristically chipping, but uncharacteristically really wolloping the jump on his way over/through. That's what happens when I don't stretch up and support the bad distance! 

Basically I needed more pace throughout and didn't come up with that until the last four fences. This is better than our first attempts at training level height in August of 2022 when we had multiple stops and rails, but still kind of frustrating that I seem to have forgotten what forward feels like on this horse. "Kick one more time" is the mantra JT and I had come up with that seemed to work - when I feel like he's forward enough, get a smidge more pace and then that's actually forward enough. 

We had a great jump lesson on Friday before the show where he felt fantastic and was jumping out of his skin and playing afterwards. It is possible he ended up a tiny bit sore from that which meant I needed much more leg than I had on Friday. 

We've got more lessons planned and an outing for him with JT in the irons, like I mentioned after our rough round at Stable View. Fingers crossed some time in there I remember that he needs to feel FORWARD. (Hmmmm consistent theme between my horses... I struggle to get them forward - Ben - or let them go forward - Goggles)

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Wednesday Walks: Goggles' turn

A friend and I have been trying to take Goggles and her TB for a weekly hack. So far we're hitting roughly every other week, but that's alright! Two weeks prior I didn't get any pictures because Goggles had been off for five days prior and her horse hadn't left the property since June. So he was passaging and Goggles was being "wild". Turns out his "wild" is just vigorously shaking his head, grunting, and occasionally flailing with a front foot. But we only walked the 1/4 mile to the stop sign at the corner and then turned around in the interest of self presevation.

Last week, he'd worked the three days prior and was actually the brave leader. Her TB was still a bit genuinely wild, but that is who he is as a person. I was SO proud of Goggles though, he was SO GOOD. 

We hacked out from JT's barn which is in a very horsey area. The shoulders tend to be nice and large and people are generally respectful. But the roads are 45+ mph so there's a little extra pressure to be a somewhat good citizen and not jump sideways in the vicinity of cars. 

After crossing the larger road, on a slightly smaller side road. Such pretty views. 

Looking around while they lead. 

Patches of mowed grass have slowly evolved back into not being a thing after being a THING for a bit when he was learning about jumping. 

Beautiful pre-dusk sky. Goggles scoping out jumps in the distance 

These big ole oaks are my favorite thing. This was on the way back. There is a HUGE field off on the right that recently sold. Today the gate to that field was OPEN... we plotted... surely they wouldn't mind if we went for a little gallop in that... 

Goggles was power walking home at this point. He was kind of sticky going away from home, but he was mostly being the brave leader, so I totally get it. 

He was taking snacking very seriously. I felt like I was about to get pitched over his head a couple of times. He also feels about 18 hands tall when he does this, the ground is sooooooo far away. 

Back with his friend who promptly told him to get out of his space and came to ask me for treats. 

Bonus Ben photo. He was down at JT's so he could get his hocks injected the next day and I was hand grazing him while waiting for my friend. He grazed for a while then came pretty close and took a nap behind me. This isn't the first time he's done it, but it was the first time I captured it. He's a HIGH alert horse, so it makes me so flattered that he trusts me enough to nap with me as his herd. 

He was stalled overnight, so I kept him wrapped to protect that cellulitis leg

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Goggles goes cross country- take 3

Goggles went for his third cross country trip on Monday. His first trip was fairly exciting, although not intended to be. His second trip had a lot more chill to it. And this trip? Kiddo knew from the start that we were there to EAT GRASS!! And took that job very seriously. It was great to have him just chill in between things that we were doing. 

The jumps themselves... Man... I required a lot of hand holding to hold his face less. I posted the highlight reel on social media. But the full 15 minutes of JT teaching me to let go of the horse's mouth are in the YouTube video. 

Basically, going forward feels semi out of control. And so I held and pulled. Which made him get a bit punchier each time. We finally de-escalated this cycle by doing a circle between two logs. Having the next to aim for as I went over one helped me focus on just riding him and letting him go forward because we were headed somewhere. And the pattern helped mellow him out a little bit too.


He was quite good over the ditch. The first time I didn't have enough purpose in our walk, so he paused for a minute, but then went with just a little encouragement.

Water was the best he's ever done it as well. He followed his friend in the first time, but then was a delighted water buffalo and drank a lot of the kind of gross looking water. We did the little tiny step up out of the water, and the little tiny step down onto land with a quick right turn into the water afterwards. Basically prepping him for an actual drop into the water.

He was so wonderful the whole trip. From his chill grass munching to his bravery with lots of sights to see, I could not be happier. I have a TON of learning and work to do and am so grateful to have a coach like JT to help me. Left to my own devices I'd definitely have him cranked down way too much and he'd be unhappy because of it. With her help her ended up feeling so confident and happy out there. 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Truck and trailer upgrades

I made a few simple upgrades to the truck/trailer set up recently. One is so simple I have no idea why I didn't do it years earlier... 

Seriously. This little thing is amazing. It came in a two pack, so Ms. GY got the second. Trailer is always perfect on the first try. I had gotten pretty good at the side to side part (provided I could back the truck STRAIGHT to the trailer and didn't have to hitch up at an angle), but the front to back help is incredibly useful and the side to side is pretty useful. It has a magnetic bottom and the truck is aluminum, but it sticks to the base of the ball in the truck bed. 

First try thanks to this little tool. Angles are weird here because of the carport where the trailer lives has a steep ramp in that the truck is still on when hooking up...

The next upgrade is more for my... comfort? And less a necessary, life-changing thing. 

For Ben, I pretty much know what he does in the trailer - worry, not eat hay, and stand wide behind while leaning on the back. But Goggles has made the whole thing rock in pretty interesting ways, so I'm curious to see what goes on while he's doing that. The camera charges with a USB plug or cigarette lighter. The screen has to be plugged in to either the USB or the cigarette lighter to run, it doesn't have its own battery. Because the trailer is aluminum, I used the provided sticky magnetic strip and attached that high up on the front wall of the horse area. I was unsure if it was going to be strong enough because Ben lives down a washboard lime rock road full of potholes, and then our main road (5 miles to the next turn, 55 mph speed limit) is also really terrible. The county is due to resurface it in 2024, thank goodness. It was pretty interesting to see that they really don't get that shaken up by the bumpy road. The suspension in my truck is quite stiff, so it seems almost worse in the truck than in the trailer. Anyways, I really put the sticky/magnetic pad to the test and it held up beautifully.

It has infrared cameras so you can see what they're doing even when it is dark out

Then you get color during the day! Pretty good picture quality for something relatively inexpensive

Ben enjoying his box stall. He does travel slightly better solo. Travelled slanted forward the whole trip this time. 

Any truck and trailer items you can't live without? I carry a first aid kit and a trailer aid for changing a flat as well, but those are less exciting to talk about. 

Friday, October 13, 2023

Stable View Photos

Looking oh so handsome


If you are in Aiken, you must go to vampire penguin. It's like snow was the best description I got before eating it. And that is the best description I can give. But it's delicious snow. 

We all stayed about 20 minutes from the grounds and the boys got turnouts. It was so nice. 

Ben enjoying his turnout

Then we get to the pro photos. I had such a hard time choosing. Liz Crawley Photography did such a wonderful job and it is a beautiful venue. I love the greens of the trees and jumps with Ben's dark coat. 

Close to the end of the stadium course when we had gotten ourselves together and he was jumping well.

No touchy the brushy. Good boy, Ben. The lighting in this shot was just perfect. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Wednesday Walks: ponying with a view

So I didn't document one walk with Goggles because I was too busy riding him. He was fresh, his buddy was fresh, there was piaffing going on from his buddy, and lots of head shaking "wildness" from him. It didn't progress any further than that, but I was unclear on whether or not it was going to, so it didn't seem wise to bring out the phone. 

But I did manage to pony Ben and take pictures! We did the same basic neighborhood loop as last time with a bit of road time added on.

Ben = thrilled. Ms. GY's saint = unenthused. 


Ben has NO concept of personal space. He merrily walks almost on the other horse and only moves a bit when he gets told to F off. 

Down the same dirt road as last time

But then we turned the other direction on the main road

The tractor ahead on the left caused a little anxiety for saintly pony horse. He doesn't see that well AND it is new. 

Both of them observing

Do you feel reassured if I touch you? I feel reassured! - Ben

To the right is a 40 acre plot that was planted pines until recently. They were all cut and now we're getting to watch how things regrow. 

Ben = delighted still. Friend = unenthused, still. 

The field across the paved road is the reason I won't go this way solo. There is a donkey that lives in there that gets a huge kick out of galloping up to the fence and terrifying Ben. Ben is looking for him right now. 

The donkey doesn't run up while we're facing the field. I stood like this for a while, waiting. But as soon as we turned and started walking back, Ben spun into his friend because the dang donkey galloped at the fence. 

Ben wanted to touch his friend still. His friend's ears are pinned, but Ben does not care. 

Instead of going through the hay field, we went down the little lane by it. It is one of my favorites because there's no vehicle traffic so the sand doesn't get very deep. 

Hard to snap a selfie with me and Ben in it. 

Hopefully soon I'll have some more exciting views. It finally feels like fall, so it is time to go trail ride out and about!