Friday, April 12, 2024

First Forays

While Goggles has technically been to two "shows", one was a very casual jumper show and the other was an equally casual HJ show. Which meant that his Wednesday trip to the Majestic Oaks Schooling Show felt like his first real show as an eventer in spite of the fact that we entered a combined test, not the full three phase. 

With Ben as his emotional support animal, Goggles relaxed on the way there and ate hay. He chilled on the trailer while I checked in and then was relaxed while I was tacking him up. 

Dressage was objectively not good, but subjectively I was thrilled. We warmed up focusing pretty exclusively on tempo. I generally tried to keep him bent the proper direction, but that was about it. He squealed a few times, his trademark "I'm being wild!!" move and hopped around a bit a couple of times in the canter, but otherwise was relatively chill. There are two areas to warm up at Majestic: to the left and right of the in gate to all 4 dressage arenas. Most people form a crowd to the left, so even with Ben who handles traffic pretty well, I usually go to the right. Goggles and I had that space almost all to ourselves with just one other horse doing a few circles. I gave us about 30 minutes to warm up, but realized about 20 minutes in that it was about 10 minutes too long. He'd hit a plateau in improving in relaxation and more work was just going to make him tired. Fortunately they were running early, so we headed in. He gave the barrel at A that marked the ring number a wide berth, but wasn't spooked by the judges car or the woods behind the judge which was great.

I really like the entry test and much prefer it to the days of riding intro C for starter. We had a few moments of relaxation on our left trot circle. The left lead canter was a canter, so that was a win. The free walk had good over track the whole time, but pretty limited stretch, given how many things he wanted to look at. The right trot circle was again okay with a few nice steps. The right lead canter quickly devolved into bucking for about a quarter circle, but he did come back to the trot reasonably. Our final halt was a bit rough and crooked, but again, it happened. He walked a quarter way out of the ring on a loose rein getting lots of praise before he picked his head up and squealed and I had to pick up contact again. I expected around a 45 and we ended with a 41 with our only 4 being the bucking right lead canter. 

The judge was so positive and constructive, I love her comments. I also would hate to think how it would've gone if I wasn't ALREADY thinking so much about tempo hahaha. 

After dressage I wandered over to stadium and looked at the course. The map still had an option for 7, which at least for the N and BN was a liver pool. While I definitely was not planning on choosing the liver pool, I was even a little concerned he might spook badly enough at it that he'd have a run out at the regular 7. I planned to trot his right side near it before starting and then ride positively and confidently AT MY JUMP and tell him to DO HIS JOB. My slight mental anguish turned out to be unneeded because they removed the whole thing for entry. 

By the time I went to tack up for stadium, Goggles had decided Ben was his BFF. Ben did not help the matter by screaming for Goggles from the trailer, so warm up was a bit spicy. JT's assistant trainer arrived and I said "We'll see how this goes". She helped us through a super productive warm up in which Goggles proved he is in fact trained. While pushing the already kinda bouncy horse further forward was the last thing I wanted to do, we did it. Then we jumped and he was shockingly civilized. AT (Assistant trainer) told us "He has to do two things in the ring - jump all the jumps and come back to you after". And wouldn't ya know, he did those two things! Without even a second thought about the standards or things around the arena. GOOD BOY!! 

Overall a very successful first outing as an eventer. There are CERTAINLY a million things to work on, but when are there not, y'know? He tried soooo hard for me though and proved that he is in fact a little trained. He did not launch and buck after a single fence! I was very proud of how his brain managed to function even when he was internally (and sometimes externally) screaming for Ben. He also got some good eventer show mileage in by learning how to chill in the trailer. 

I'm tentatively planning on the POP schooling show in May for our first 3 phase. They do XC schooling the day before, so it would be great to let him see all the XC jumps (and function out in public) before doing them. 

Out of three, but a FOD for our first eventing outing is pretty great. Please excuse the reuse of this picture, it's just so dang cute I had to. 

Friday, April 5, 2024

Fix It Forward

I have no pictures of me riding, but a few from his training ride and some randoms sprinkled in to break up my text wall. 

Monday Goggles and I headed down to JT's for our first lesson in... a while... we last lessoned on February 29th. We had a grand total of two lessons in February. Compared to my prior usual schedule of once weekly lessons, this was quite a change. We did get down to JT's once in March, but it was for a training ride. The lesson in February that prompted the training ride in March was a bit disheartening. We were tackling the liver pool which has spooked him for a looooooong time. But he would.not.stop. bucking after going over the jump. He felt wholly untrained pretty much the whole ride. 

Goggles being a pest, ft. DAPPLES!

Then our chill school at Sweet Dixie also involved some bucking after fences, although much less. More concerning, there was a solid refusal on his part to a BN cabin that I thought was within our capability. It was spitting rain and the ground was WET, and I didn't press the issue. 

He was a bit much while tacking up. Not actually anxious, just READY TO GO!

But... but... the lesson Monday was AMAZING!!! We started with changes of direction and bend while warming up. She was really pleased with the trot, but in the canter wanted more forward and wasn't having me stick to just circles. She had me doing a 20m circle or two and then cantering him straight down the long side. She said to make the canter quality and fix it by going forwards. It occurred to me I really haven't cantered this horse in a straight line in a loooong time if ever. Part of lining the body parts up especially in the canter is MOVING forward. It helped straighten out some of the twisting he wants to do. We've made the trot SO much better, now time to focus on the canter more.

We moved on to jumping a cross rail back and forth and he was quite agreeable. Then we moved to the liver pool. He has met the liver pool in many forms now and has grazed at the edge of it while I've stood on it. The lesson in February was when we told him to get over it with the aid of JT snaking the lash on the lunge line on the ground behind me, gradually getting closer. He needed this again on Monday, he stopped about six strides out and started to say Hell NO. But then he went. And with a lot less drama after. She instructed me not to let him pull me down towards it as he approached. I have to be giving over the jump, but letting him lean his shoulders and neck down at the ground right before jumping isn't actually useful. I focused on keeping my shoulders up and counting our trot tempo, the same one we've been practicing this whole month. It worked really well and I was still able to release pretty well and go with him over the fence. It was even easier to go with him from my shoulders back and up position than if I was really tipped forward as he stretched down to sniff/stare at the fence. 

Next we tackled the minion painted barrels. Again, about six strides out, he slammed on the brakes and tried for sideways. She didn't have me jump it from a standstill because it was an oxer x-rail over the barrels, but we turned and re-approached and she snaked the whip behind him and over he went. We hopped that back and forth a few times before stringing together a course of four fences including a red, white, and blue panel gate. She was nearby in case back up was needed, but he popped over after just a hard look on the way in. The last two fences were unicorns to the minions on a bending line. I let him keep cantering after landing from the unicorns. He thought about exiting, but it was pretty easy to direct him over the minions. We did the whole course one more time and just added on a left hand turn after the minions to a crossrail with new X filler under it. He popped over that with no hesitation at all. GOOD BOY!!! 

JT and I were chatting and think a few things really came together in the lesson. One is that as I've said a few times now, I have gotten MUCH more exacting in my aids and expected responses. Another is her assistant trainer's training rides on him. She is a great rider and it is really helpful regardless, but I think her jumping him at the GY's where he is more relaxed and he's going over their less exciting jumps is also really helpful. My impression is that it is allowing him to really figure out how to use himself athletically in a lower stress environment, so he has that basic foundation to fall back on when things get more exciting. He's jumping soooooo much better and is therefore much more comfortable to ride. It is also really helpful for me to watch these rides because she does such a great job communicating with him up to the jump then staying out of his way over the jump but then immediately landing and asking him to do something. I also just had a much more relaxed mindset than last lesson where I ended up frustrated that he wasn't further along. And guess what? Not being frustrated about something makes for a much more productive time with more learning opportunities for BOTH of us. 

He was being absolutely WILD before I loaded him up to go to the GY's the morning of his most recent training ride...

He did stop at this the first time, but went nicely the second


Looking really nice

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Wednesday Walks: Watermelon Pond

Ms. GY and I loaded up Goggles and her 25 year old (who has ponied Goggles before and who is Ben's BFF) and headed to Watermelon Pond on Saturday morning. The parking lot was empty, which is normal, but confusing, given how gorgeous the day was. Goggles was mostly good to tack up, some dancing around, but overall brain was engaged. Then we set out. We did about an hour walk and he was the best boy. 

And lookie! Dapples!!

He pretty quickly took the lead with his long legs and power walking

He was the most secure when we were in a bit of woods actually 

He got a bit nervous about a fallen log by the trail and had to give up the lead

But then he TWICE did a nasty head snake out to bite Ms. GY's horse. The second time I whacked him pretty firmly with the crop and yelled at him and made him take the lead again. Up front he was too focused on his surroundings for shenanigans, but behind her horse he felt comfortable enough to screw around. Rude.

There are a bunch of baby long leaf pines to the left. They planted 11,000 recently in Goethe. They take forever to mature, but it's cool that eventually we'll have some of the longleaf forests that used to cover most of northern Florida

Someone was shooting on a nearby property and he spooked a bit the first time and had to walk behind his "friend" again, but the second go round he barely flicked an ear in that direction, smart boy.

Shooting was happening directly to our left. The sandy tracks here mean it isn't great footing unless it has rained recently. But it rained Tuesday and Wednesday, so it was just about perfect. 

Pretty field of sorghum. Ms. GY and I carefully passed my phone back and forth to snap this picture and managed to keep Goggles from ingesting her guy. 

Beautiful live oaks and Spanish moss

Home stretch! We passed another couple of fallen logs that he looked at. I made him step over the last one and he did it with no drama, good lad. 

Back home, best boy!!! He was superb. I used the elevator bit and running that he's been jumping in, but didn't need either. It was the perfect beautiful morning for a lovely walk, the best way to introduce trail riding, I think. 

Monday, April 1, 2024

March Wrap Up

Both boys had a pretty good month this go round. It's a BEAUTIFUL time of year, perfect temperatures, once a week rain, great riding weather. 

Sneak Preview of Goggles FIRST trailered-to trail ride

And I just love this picture and the colors, so here it is a second time




Training rides





1 – trailer loading



1 – Watermelon Pond

Ground work, lunge, long line

2 – lunge

3 – trailer loading, 1 liverpool in hand

Flat rides

7 – including one with my friend


Conditioning rides





1 – gymnastic at home

XC school


1 – Sweet Dixie



1 – warm up day at HSITP

 Goggles: I didn't realize till I made the above chart, but I didn't have a single lesson on Goggles this month, but he did get three training rides. It was a bit of a change up since he's been "home", but I think it was hugely beneficial. He did have 15 rides this month, so I definitely accomplished my goal of stepping it up in terms of consistency with him, in spite being out of town for 5 days and sick for a large part of the month (the pretty weather makes it much easier to ride while under the weather). He responded nicely to the increase in work load again and is becoming much more fun to ride overall. 

He's entered into a CT at Majestic on April 10th. Fingers crossed we do both phases, but either way it will be a good learning experience! 

Ben: Ben did a bit more this month and I think his new part-time partnership with my friend will be great. She's an excellent rider who is getting back into it after a brief hiatus. I'm hoping to get him back down to JT's to restart jump lessons again, for his and my benefit, at the end of the month once he's got a bit more fitness. 

I slipped a bit on his acupuncture at the end of the month, but I'm going to keep it up for April. It was also really helpful for some local back soreness that he developed (who knows how when he's galloping from one end of the pasture to another and levitating and standing on his hind legs while playing with his friends LOL). 

Just the most handsome dood

Friday, March 29, 2024

The Daily Grind

So my excuse for blogging this go round is I have been sick more in the past month than I have in the past ten years. Started with food poisoning, a terrible first, and then COVID, also for the first time, at least symptomatic, and now some other viral funk that I got from my BFFs kiddos while having an otherwise lovely visit with them. Work has also been tossing more than the normal level of "extras" my way, which is fun... there should be a benefit to it in the end, but it feels an awful lot like I'm doing a lot of busy work for no return currently.

I'm toying with the idea of moving Ben to Goggles' farm so they can hang out together because Goggles is still kinda stressy away from his friends. His belly is happy, and we've been having some really good rides, but he does not like being alone in his field. Since he's happy barefoot behind, I might give them a chance to be together. TBD. 

Goggles had about a week off when I went out of town and came back better than ever. He did some really great trot-canter transitions and worked very hard at staying up off his inside shoulder in both directions. We ended with a walk up to the front of the property and along the road. 

These fools galloped up to the fence behind us and all he did was a bit of sideways trotting

The mini donkey was running laps around the horse and Goggles did a great job keeping his cool in spite of that. There was definitely some heart pounding under my leg, but considering the situation that also included a trash can lid flapping in the wind, he was super brave. 

The next ride was equally delightful with some really soft, lovely trot work. The focus on slow , consistent tempo means we're sometimes lacking impulsion and push, but we can add those back in soon. He was even braver by the donkey, enough so that I was brave enough to pull out my phone to snap a picture. 

Herro! Friends?? 

Absolutely gorgeous Florida day

He got a training ride last week at the GY's from JT's assistant trainer. She came up to teach the other boarder at the GY's and we planned to have her hop on Goggles. It had been several months (at least December) since she rode him last. 

He was such a good egg. If you watch the video, at one point he sort of awkwardly hopped the in with a bit of a canter stride not a real jump, then he politely did the quiet 5 down the line. Another time he got a good, big jump in and then did an easy 4. I was very proud to see him make good choices about both without flailing. The assistant trainer said it was the best he'd ever felt. A good reminder that we are making progress. She'll be out to ride him again this morning, and I'll video some more then. 

She does such a great job being giving over the jump with him

For our at home rides, we're chipping away at the very basics still, but making them quality. I'm being very exacting about his tempo and bend, the best tidbits I took away from watching Peter Grey teach. And he's delivering, we've had softer transitions and no shenanigans in the canter lately. Another tidbit was taking eight strides instead of three to do down transitions and slowing down as you ease into it. It was really cool to watch Hillary's horse lift her back through the transition instead of drop, and I think I'm achieving that same result with Goggles. We've also started playing with baby stretchy circles at the trot. He's got a really darn nice natural free walk (time will tell if that delivers at a show with things to look at), but has definitely wanted to fall on his face when we stretch at the trot. We've been doing little bits of that with Peter's method of bend, give, praise, repeat. He's getting much better at being able to keep a steady tempo. Sometimes I end with letting him slip into a nice long rein walk while keeping the stretch the whole time, sometimes I pick him back up a little bit before asking for the walk. 

I feel like we had stalled in progress because I hadn't moved the bar, and I hadn't been at all consistent about riding him in January and February. JT and I have also been having a tough time lining up our schedules lately (ie the past two months), so I haven't had the consistent lessons to force me to continually demand a slightly higher quality, more consistent response. But watching the Peter Grey lessons gave me a new focus and a new way to work on things that has been super useful while I haven't been able to get to JT. 

I would LOVE to be done being sick, and if that works out for me, the plan is a lesson Monday morning at JT's farm, then a schooling Wednesday at Majestic over their stadium course. We're entered in a combined test the following Wednesday. I may yet scratch the stadium because the idea of a whole 2'3" course right now is pretty iffy. But we'll go and dressage and at least visit the stadium warm up. It will be a learning experience either way. Compared to Leila and Yoshi, he has NOT been an easy horse to get going. I think it will all be worth it in the end, but I have to not fall prey to internal and external comparisons. The past few months have been a bit of me dealing with that emotionally as well as trying to keep his emotions happy and still end every session on the ground or in the saddle with him feeling like a success. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

This and that

Insert long list of work, life, etc etc reasons that I've sucked at blogging. But we'll skip all that and just do a bullet format list of what we have been doing lately.

We've been doing things - not a lot of photos of doing said things, but I at least remembered to take a few pre-photos...  

  • Horse Shows in the Park schooling day - Goggles bopped around the baby hunter ring and was super and rideable. He did try to take a bite out of the fake flowers and then pull one of those panic-and-forget-I-can-open-my-mouth moves and spin in a circle bucking like a bronc for a few seconds till he dropped the flowers. I dismounted and we had a mini sack out session with said flowers. He then went on to jump them just fine, but I didn't give him the option of taking a bite again.

Grown up boy taking in the scene

"I feel like I'm in a tree..."
  • Trailer lesson with the cowboy. Honestly trailering has been a big burr in our joint side. I wanted the cowboy's take on it. It wasn't... magic.. and unfortunately he said there are "get tos" and "got tos" and said no more get tos until he was comfortable. I'm still mulling over that advice. At this point trailering deserves a whole long post of its own. 

Feelings. So MANY feelings. 
  • Liver pool at the GY's. We had a lesson at JT's where we tackled the liver pool. I forget whether or not I wrote about that here, but he's been so DRAMA about the dang thing we decided he needed to just DO IT. He's done A LOT of standing around next to it and watching me tromp across it. He did it, but it came with some theatrics. I jumped on the opportunity to have another exposure when we showed up at the GY's to get his feets done and it was set up in the arena. He was a super good boy and hopped over it in hand enough that he started eventually realizing he could put a foot on the tarp and didn't need to launch. Also, both his farrier and I are really happy with him barefoot behind again, yay! 

  • XC schooling at Sweet Dixie Monday morning. He trailered very quietly next to his friend and got off the trailer looking like all his brain cells were installed. We definitely got rained on. He historically has felt pretty negative about doing anything in the rain, so it was good to get this out of the way. He was a little head flingy to start, but got over it pretty quickly. As far as the actual schooling, he went in both waters with just a little bit of time dithering on the shores and popped over a handful of logs. He's now jumping in Ben's elevator XC bit and the little bit of extra brakes is perfect. 

See, very relaxed, right off the trailer LOL (and no he wasn't about to pee)

And to finish, a random assortment of photos
Ben is rocking the dad bod a bit too much right now 

Goggles fave activity is to hold the hose in his mouth and water board himself while vigorously flinging his head and soaking everything around him. I'm NOT allowed to hose his face, but he can fling water everywhere, thems the rules. 

Dapples and dad bod

Goggles walking the fine line between enjoying the fan and causing chaos with his face and the fan while his feet were getting done

We let the pigs till the garden this year, they were delighted

Monday, March 11, 2024

February Wrap Up

Almost to the point where it seems silly to write a wrap up. But here we are. The first week of March was A WEEK. Neither one of them did enough work to make a chart make sense. Ben worked five times, Goggles eight. Hardly a program for either one. But such is life. 

Such a vivid rainbow

Ben: kiddo worked roughly once a week and was a bit bored. He caused a lot of chaos in turnout, but, knock on wood, kept his shoes on for it. We started once weekly acupuncture for ulcers. My friend shared the points with me, and we're giving it a go. 

He loves his needles

In exciting news for his boredom, a friend is coming out to ride him this week. Hopefully it will become a consistent thing. 

Looking pretty handsome in spite of the lack of work

Goggles: He had a bit of a busier month, but still only worked 8 times.

We did get our zen back though

Following a slightly frustrating lesson that turned into a training ride and getting to watch Peter Gray teach Amanda and Hillary, I changed up my approach at the end of the month. As Peter Gray put it, short bursts of quality work. I started riding with a metronome in my pocket and being very exacting about his response to my leg and rein aids, mostly the ones that say get off your inside shoulder. Bend and tempo are the MOST IMPORTANT things. Lots of breaks and lots of praise, but he knows what is being asked, so 10% and then nothing more is no longer good enough. What do you know, this makes him much better overall and stops his squirreling around in the canter. 

He was a super good boy for his solo Majestic trip! 

There's a nice horse in there! 

I am so proud of how casual he is about ditches. What a good boy. 

My goal for March with both of them is to get back into more consistent work. Three times per week minimum ideally. And I'd like to take both of them out XC at least once each. Hopefully the rest of life will cooperate!