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...



  1. OMG those piglets! Now I'm distracted. Yes to not holding up a very LARGE horse. When we got the first training videos for D, he was ridden by a very large man and could rely on him to hold him up during the canter. Too bad so sad, not anymore!

    1. I have such a hard time spotting this from the ground, but it is SOOO obvious when I'm in the saddle. Tough cookies kids, gotta carry yourself!

  2. 1. needs more photos of the ponies!
    2. innnnneresting about the shockwave
    3. that grass jump ring is legit the cutest and i'm always super jealous, esp compared to our dusty indoor meanderings at present LOL
    4. your cats belly, omg
    5. so glad both horses seem to be doing so well! tho i feel ya on the uncertainty around Ben's anxiety etc., i wonder if there are other ways to help manage and help him that don't necessarily require you being a different type of human for him

    1. Piglets aren't a good substitute for ponies??? LOL. Do you have thoughts on the anxiety? I'm totally open to suggestions. I've been successfully trying the better human thing for a week now, we'll see if the stereotypical three week mark of self-improvement is when it fades...

    2. oof i really don't know, it's so hard to sorta make any truly informed suggestions without really properly knowing the animal, his lifestyle, etc. i always sorta have a 'top 5' list whenever a horse is having a hard time, to include saddle fit, ulcers, lyme disease, dentist, hoof soreness.... and while some of that is easier to rule out than other parts... i imagine you've already kinda gone down the list.

      i also think you've written before about supplements and such that might address this, like i know people have had good luck with magnesium or calcium supplements, and Vitamin E seems like all the rage lately. charlie gets acupuncture and seems to love that. or maybe there's some sort of tack addition (like those crazy little blinder thingys that go on your bridle's cheek piece, or that titanium face mask thing that's all over social media -- but that former blogger Carly says actually works for her horse) that might be worth trying?

      i just feel like there's gotta be something other than 'irreconcilable differences' given what a cool and fancy horse he is!

    3. Definitely have gone through the first five (excluding lyme, but I did throw that out last spring and my vet said highly unlikely for him), but I do wonder how much of it is body... trauma is the current "in" word, but residual from how sore he was this spring.

      I haven't tried a calming supplement, that's definitely worth a shot. Also funny you mention acupuncture, I have thrown in the calming points before we've gone cross country the past two times because the needles are in my trailer and I put them in while wrestling studs. And we've had fantastic cross country rides... Just didn't stick in my head that that was a difference... I'll try that before we jump stadium on Thursday. Thanks!

      He is an awesome horse and I want to be fair to him too. He deserves someone who loves every bit of him, so if the answer ends up being someone who doesn't care much about inconsequential spooking, then I'm open to that, but he definitely has made a lot of my eventing dreams come true.