Monday, July 8, 2024

Short and Sweet

I discovered last week Goggles actually doesn't care about having his mane pulled. So I did that a tiny bit. 

Don't mind the side eye, this wasn't actually after pulling, he was in the stall eating hay while I did that

I also took a conformation type shot of him because I thought he was looking pretty good. Then I got home and stared at it and thought about how far he still has to go and started doubting any progress had been made and thinking that I was not in fact doing anywhere close to a passable job of developing this horse.

Then I pulled up pictures from his arrival. 

And from a year ago. 
Dappled lighting is oh so pretty but doesn't make for a great conformation shot

And I decided we were on an okay path. I absolutely wish he had a stunning topline to share. But I'm hopeful that it will come. We've just really started to unlock some quality flat work that will build it. 

Anyways, thanks for reading along for my journey of self-doubt prompted by an innocent picture. 

Thursday, July 4, 2024

June Wrap Up

Goggles: The obvious big news of the month was Goggles' super adventure at the Florida Horse Park where he decided dressage was sorta kinda chill (or he was reallllly tired from schooling the day before) and then jumped two beautiful, rideable, clear rounds. 

Photo by BNB Photography 

Every time I look at this picture I think that this is a horse for a 6 foot tall man. I'm 5'6". LOL. Photo by BNB Photography

Photo by BNB Photography

Other notable fun moments include ponying his big bro off property (in the bareback pad no less) and having a pretty nice little hack from the farm. 

Definitely no pictures from the hack itself, but a post picture

The yearling from the barn accompanied him to JT's one day when he was getting a training ride. He was VERY in love with her and VERY concerned when she left him to go explore. Whole llama here. 

Then he was spooked by the ice boots drying on the ground

But AT put him to work and still got some really nice stuff from him 

There's soooooo much body to put together at the canter

And he even did some really nice stretchy trot at the end, Good BOY!





Training rides


1 – flat



3 – two jump one flat


2 – ponied from Gogs


Ground work, lunge, long line



Flat rides



Conditioning rides



XC school


1 – FHP



1 - POP

Ben: Ugh. The experimentation in being barefoot is not going that well. He had both wraps on for all of two weeks before losing the left front and then the right front. The right front is his low foot and is the one that gets sore more easily. It also started raining which meant that his feet have started crumbling. I've started him on biotin, a Zn:Cu supplement because some reading made think that the very high iron content in our water here might be causing a relative deficiency in Zinc and Copper. I also applied Hoof Armor to his hind feet at the end of last month and they looked really pretty good until a week ago. So once both his wraps fell off, I went ahead and did his front feet. They were already pretty torn up though; I'm not sure it will stick as well to very chipped up feet, but who knows. The barn owner had a new barefoot trimmer out who she really liked, but Ben really does not have enough foot to take anything off at this moment. I'm not sure how to break the cycle either. To even put shoes back on it looks like they'd have to be glue ons right now. 

He did go for a few lunges, one ride, and the two hacks ponied off Goggles when he was having good days. So he's still doing a few things, but not much. It's REALLY FREAKING HOT so if he stuck to a normal horse schedule he'd be having a few weeks off around this time of year anyways. But as I've lamented before, he doesn't like to do that. 

I cringe posting these pictures because I know they look awful. What I don't know is what to do about it. 

Hinds look a bit better

I did give him a summer hair cut though, which I think he likes. Honestly he just enjoys being fussed over in general. 

Summer hair cut! I did it with scissors because there's no electric at the barn. It could be worse. 

Once a week we're doing acupuncture for his feet and for ulcers. He loves the attention in the stall under the fan. It certainly works well for his local muscle soreness from his feet hurting, but I don't know if it is having an effect on the foot pain itself. 

He and Goggles are also going out together mostly now. It's... okay. They LOVE having each other to hang out with, but Goggles is kinda (okay, really) an asshat. He goes after Ben for no reason. Not with real vigor, so when he's in work Ben is quick enough and gets out of the way. But when I went out of town I came back to a very bit up Ben. I split them up when I went to NC for a few days at the end of the month to try to save Ben's hide. The bites are right on that fine line between doing enough damage for me to want to separate them and just removing fur... They are happier together and go off and eat and stand in the shade and such, but Goggles is really pushing it close to the point of me separating them again. 

I don't usually post life updates here, but... (slightly graphic photo to follow)...

24 hours in the hospital for cellulitis was fun... I have extra sympathy for the horses. It didn't hurt too much unless I tried to do ANYTHING with the hand. Can't imagine how that works when it is your leg.  

Don't get bit by Chihuahuas ya'll, they seem to have teeth like a cat (small punctures with lots o bacteria) that had this whole thing swelling up within three hours and then leaking puss within eighteen. The lymphangitis running up my arm was what prompted me to go to the ER. Fortunately it turned around pretty quickly with IV antibiotics. 

To not end on a gross note, here's some NC shots. 

Young(ish) bear from the porch! Eek!

She went with me to NC because she loves it up there

But she does hate being in her carrier for the car ride, poor mittens 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

WW: Deer Demo

The boys (Ben) spotted a deer just outside the pasture fence on Monday. I was cracking up watching their boldness (or lack of) come through.

I didn't get the first part where Ben spotted the deer and went head straight up in the air to stare. But here we see Goggles proceeding straight over to the deer while Ben hangs behind. 

Goggles marching along still while Ben hangs back

Goggles reaches the spot where it was just outside the fence while Ben stays even further back. 

Friday, June 21, 2024

It's That Simple

This will be a rather dry lesson summary, but we had a few major AHA moments recently that I wanted to get down in writing. 

He's a buckskin these days, poor sunbleached coat...

Goggles and I had a lesson the Thursday before the show in which it became apparent I had not been putting my leg on him as we headed towards jumps. We started out over a small vertical and then did a crossrail oxer bending line to a vertical. Those things went well, but when we went to do the crossrail oxer the other direction with a bending line to a skinny, he ducked out. JT pointed out, rightly so, that I didn't fight for it at all. So we approached again and that time I fought for it, but he had it in his head that he was going to run out. Third try was the charm but JT still stopped us after the jump and told me I needed to add more leg. I told her that I was scared if I added like he was going to launch and buck. Obviously not a good reason to ride with your leg off, but I'm an honest person LOL. I closed my leg. He ate up the last two strides a bit flat but popped boldly over the jump and then landed porpoising and taking off. She shouted at me to stop him, which she later clarified was cheerleading for me to stop him, because I was trying so hard to stop the massive creature as he flailed around. 

We paused and she thought about it but concluded that if she gave me more bit he would be too backed off coming into the fence. I assessed and realized that I'd never truly closed my leg towards a fence with him, so perhaps he was also shocked and surprised by what I had done. This seemed to be the case because the next few times went much better. We put the whole course together which overall went quite well. The first time through he spooked at the dog oxer a little bit, but still went but then was sluggish to the next fence. JT told me to GO FORWARD, which I did, but it felt wildly fast to me. Proving she was right though, the last line, a two stride, went SO MUCH BETTER. We did the dog bending line to the vertical and two stride again and this time I put my leg on to all of it and it flowed much more smoothly. He did sort of barrel downwards in the two stride though and I managed a bit of a whoa in the middle which was much needed. We did the two stride line a couple more times, finally ending on a line through that had me wildly grinning. I closed my leg half halted a bit and holy s*** did the horse jump through the line GREAT. It felt amazing and like the potential we've thought he's been hiding in there.

Post the show, we had a very productive dressage lesson in which connection was explained to me (again). There should be a steady and even connection in both reins at all times. I've been accused, with both Ben and Goggles, of throwing away the inside rein completely when they soften. With Goggles in particular, this will not work. So, say it with me: STEADY AND EVEN CONNECTION IN BOTH REINS AT ALL TIMES. If he is hanging on one of them gentle jiggle with the fingers of that hand. It shouldn't even be visible from the ground. If he continues to hang shake a little bit more firmly, but then go back to steady and even contact. Inside leg on and he needs to move over with the amount of pressure that the leg applied. Otherwise he is holding the difference as tension in his side. He wants to stiffen in the caudal lumbar area, make sure he is moving through that area and then reward the try. At the canter steady contact in both reins, keep asking for him to move off the inside leg. For the transition, sit and ask, don't shove. If he doesn't respond then light tap as you ask. See? Easy peasy. 

Lengthy video if anyone wants to follow along. 

Two days later we had a very productive jump lesson again. He came out SPOOKY. I let his magnesium run out to see if it was doing anything. It was. More has since been ordered. But considering his general feelings about life, he was such a GOOD BOY. He was trying SO HARD. My upper body flinging seems to have improved so we worked a bit on  staying up and soft until he has fully landed. There were varying degrees of success with this because as usual that wasn't the only thing I had to think about. We focused some on straightness after the fences as well because he was starting to want to land leaning right. JT said we had JUST gotten him jumping really well and letting him get away with that would ruin his jumping style again. These are the insights that are so, so valuable. I had noticed the fairly rapid right hand turns, but knowing HOW important it was to address it ASAP is something I never would've known. Y'know? There are so many things to focus on that having the insight from the ground is invaluable. 

We ended up trotting into all the fences and then cantering the lines. Given his feelings of the day, the trot was reaaaalllly wanting to be tense and quick with a complete lack of push from behind, so I was doing a lot of bending and moving his barrel and trying to slow my own posting on the way into fences. We did a course with the same bending line as two weeks prior and it went really well. We had a miscommunication (or lack of attempt to communicate) headed down towards an oxer with square rails as the second fence in the line at one point. I didn't ride him like he was trained and so he buried himself deep to it and then smacked it. He bucked in protest and then the next time WOW did he jump it well. He then landed in a canter that again made me grin, it was round and had so much jump to it. The pieces are in there, we just have to bring them out and show him the way. For as rough and tumble of a horse as he is on the ground and on the flat, he really seems to dislike touching jumps which is pretty cool, because I could definitely see him going in the opposite direction and giving no shits about sending rails flying. 

There weren't as many earth shattering moments (ie ADD LEG) but it was a super productive lesson and one in which I was SO PROUD of him for trying so hard when he was clearly having feelings about the day. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

WW- POP Media

I got so excited to post about POP I didn't wait for the stadium video, so here it is! 

After the last fence where he threw out a lovely clean change

Photo by Lisa Madren. When the best dressage photo is the one where you're done with the test 😂

Photo by Lisa Madren. He was less impressed by the jumps since it was his second time over them, so I wasn't obligated to buy ALL the jumping pictures. My wallet is grateful. 

Monday, June 10, 2024

POP- Breaking 40!

Goggles and I tackled the starter three phase Partners of the Park (POP) schooling show at the Florida Horse Park yesterday. We schooled the XC course on Saturday and then went and competed on Sunday. 

Goggles started the day early Sunday morning in fine form. My brilliant plan to use Ben as bait on the trailer back fired when Ben loaded up politely like the good boy he is and then Goggles lost his marbles in the field and wouldn't let me catch him. I tried for a couple of minutes and then pulled Ben back off and used him as bait at the gate instead. I had an 8:25 dressage time and worked until midnight Saturday night, so I really hadn't left myself time for this kind of fuckery. Fortunately Goggles came galloping up as soon as Ben was on the outside of the gate. I caught Goggles, tied him up to the trailer while I reloaded Ben and then left Ben to eat his breakfast on the trailer while I hosed off the sweaty star of the show. Goggles did in fact think me removing Ben after he loaded was a pretty dirty trick. I don't plan to use this technique frequently, but see above with ride times and work times. I watched him in the cameras and he settled down to mostly face forwards by the time we left the neighborhood. 

Once we arrived, he hung out politely while I went and got my number. Then I brushed him off and tacked up and headed to dressage warm up. He felt kinda behind my leg, kinda tired. I do love that you can school the course the day before, especially because FHP is no joke for the levels, but it does make for a loooooong weekend. We kept it as short and sweet as possible on Saturday, but I think some of his good behavior in dressage was due to being a bit worn out. 

He was sight seeing some in warm up, but compared to the ping pong back feeling we had in warm up at Majestic both times, I'll take it! JT had me keep him on a smallish circle at the trot being gently insistent about bend. Then we did some walk trot transitions and then took a break. They let me know the two riders in front of me weren't there so if I wanted to go early I could. So we picked back up, did a quick canter in both directions that was shockingly civilized considering what our prior warm ups had been, and then headed in.

It was by far our best test to date! I was still having trouble keeping him on the rail tracking left without counter bending him, but overall it was obedient and pleasant. It was the FIRST test (of 3 now) that we did without bucking in the right lead canter, good boy!!! The free walk also remained focused for 2/3 of the diagonal. 

It's funny, the comments are a bit less encouraging now. It seemed like when we were incredibly chaotic and barely staying in the ring and performing the movements (see test one and test two) the judges were trying so hard to find anything positive. But this test just got a lot more of "needs..." which was all totally applicable, just an interesting change of tone. 

I hosed him off after the test, popped him back on the trailer relatively easily and turned the fan back on. 

Then I headed over to walk stadium. It was a nice, looping sort of course, in the arena that usually holds the dressage arenas. There was a LOT of space and it would be easy to bog down in the corners, but the jumps were strategically positioned so that if you looped just outside of other fences, you had a decent path to the next one. It was jump one, loop left to two, loop right to three then seven strides to four AB, a two stride. Then right hand loop to five, left hand turn to six, a skinny, another related distance to seven, then a left hand turn to eight, bending line to nine. 

I tacked him up and then tossed my XC vest over the pinny and attempted to get on holding a plastic bag containing his XC boots. I quickly aborted that and ended up grabbing them from the truck rail once I was on. That worked better and he only snorted at the bag a little bit, he's such a sensible creature as long as it doesn't involve things on the ground itself. As he skidded sideways during my first mounting attempt, I thought about how it would've been a super silly reason to fall and get hurt. I was mostly trying to avoid hiking over to the stadium warm up in my tall boots that feel fine while I'm riding but give me blisters within a quarter mile of walking. 

Nice shady parking spot, but a bit of a hike from the arenas

He warmed up super for stadium in spite of being in a new ring. We trotted the crossrail then the vertical. JT told me to land in two point if he was going to be soft in his back so that he stayed that way. It felt really lovely. We then trotted the oxer twice and headed in. He was a bit looky at the banners around the arena, but much better to do that during a stadium round than during a dressage test. Given how well he remembers things, I'm glad we got the chance to go jump in there before hopefully dressaging in there for a few recognized shows this fall/winter. 

Stadium can be summed up by We did thing! Video hopefully pending. We pleasantly trotted one, trotted after to change leads, then cantered two. JT had told us to trot three, so we did, but then cantered on down to four and did the two stride very pleasantly. I brought him back to the trot because he was pretty pleased with himself and rolling forward a bit after the two stride. We trotted five, landed cantering, but came down to the trot for six because it was the skinny. He flowed forward nicely to seven. Eight to nine flowed quite nicely, and I pretended we were still looping around to another fence afterwards, so it kept his focus and kept the last rail up. GOOD BOY! JT and I were both THRILLED. He was pleasant and responsive and just overall such a good boy. 

I put his boots and my vest on and then we headed over solo to XC warm up since JT had her working student headed to stadium warm up for her round. We had done the whole course in three to four jump sections on Saturday schooling, so I felt pretty confident. We popped over the roll top in warm up with a bit of an awkward distance, but he felt willing and happy, so we headed over to start. Like Saturday, we picked up a nice canter and cantered three quarters of the way to one before coming back to the trot. JT instructed me to "only go as fast as you can keep him straight" and that was our mantra for the whole course. 

Because we'd schooled it on Saturday, I didn't walk the whole course, so some of these pictures are a bit subpar. Which is kind of a shame because FHP really goes all out for starter. It is a BN course only 4" shorter. 

He popped right on over one like the good boy he is these days. He landed in a pleasant canter, so we cantered most of the way to two 

A mini triple step. Which gave him no problems at all 

See the resemblance? 

I was impressed by three when we schooled it the day before. He was not particularly and didn't give it a second thought Saturday or Sunday. 

Four was a ways away, so we cantered most of the way over before coming back to trot to pop on over. 

Then we turned left and came back to trot again to pleasantly hop over the ditch at five. He got distracted by the jumps and other stuff in the tree line to the left after the ditch as we headed to six, so I had to "get busy" to get his focus on the jump. This is what I didn't do at Majestic and JT used the phrase "get busy" when his feet slow down and that stuck really well in my head. Somehow it works better than just "add leg". If I squeeze and nothing happens, I kick. If I am kicking and his feet aren't moving any faster, I tap. He just needed a couple of kicks here to stop his sight seeing and remember he had a job and then he popped on over six, which was probably the smallest, least impressive fence on the course. 

Right hand turn to this split rail kind of thing for seven. 

Then through an unflagged water. We could've gone around but they were definitely setting you up to head through the water between seven and eight which I loved for the starter course. He had needed a quick lead in on Saturday, but with a few kicks Sunday never broke the trot, took a bit of a leap in, and then settled to a bouncy trot on through. 

Number eight, this brush roll, was 10+ strides out of the water. We did the left hand BN one while schooling on Saturday and it felt fantastic. Every once in a while I'm getting small feelings of his potential, and it's so exciting. 

I actually let him canter nine since it was all alone without distractions. 

Ten is a spooky fence and they love to put it in the tree line to add the light dynamic to it. While schooling Saturday I ended up having to "get busy" to the point that after multiple kicks I tapped him off the ground. It was interesting that unlike Ben who lands mortally offended and kind of running when he gets tapped for his favorite chip chip chip, Goggles actively responded off the ground, but then wasn't offended still on the back side. Sunday it was cloudy as we were going so the light-dark contrast wasn't as substantial. He popped gamely over with just a few kicks of encouragement. 

Another look at ten

I let him canter most of the way to eleven, this mulch table, then brought him back to the trot. He slipped back into the canter the last few strides and popped over smoothly. 

View from the back of twelve, the last fence. We cantered it on Saturday and got a really awkward spot the first time but fixed it the second time. I almost let him canter it Sunday, but I thought about how annoyed I'd be at myself if we had a run out at the last fence. He politely trotted it and landed in a canter, getting SO MUCH praise about what a good boy he was. 

We finished with one second of time from stadium added to our dressage score, good enough for 9th out of 13. I am SO PLEASED with him. He was professional and lovely in all three phases. He was FUN to ride AND, I think he had fun too!! I feel like I've spent the past nine months having more challenging rides than fun ones so to feel like it is finally all coming together and he's understanding his job and having a relaxed, fun time while doing it?!?!? It feels amazing. 

Some grass in the shade for the goodest boy

Pulling out by 11 AM, truck reading the shade temp of 81. It bumped up to 95 on our drive home. He got off the trailer an hour later just a tiny bit sweaty, not too bad.