Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Relationship Problems

A while back, I shared the fact that Ben couldn't seem to keep from getting ingested by the GY's horses and consequently was unhappy in solo turnout. We've come up with the magic solution for that now- he goes out solo, next to friends, at night and seems pretty content, and then is with her horses for the day. Eliminating the morning in gate hang out pre breakfast means that he gets a nip mayyybe once a month. Totally tolerable and he is extremely happy with this set up. 

Now, now friends, Goggles is the problem. And he's the opposite problem. On the one hand he's never looked this relaxed:

But on the other hand, he's also dropped weight in the past month since moving. His barn owner, who worked with Seminole to come up with a feeding plan for him before he even moved there, is ON IT. And she felt terrible when I pointed it out and compared her own pictures and came up with a whole plan. The plan involves more expense because it involves more food, completely makes sense. 

But we think part of his weight is also the fact that he paces his pasture fence during the day. He's next to her four horses, but that isn't good enough for him. With full disclosure of his prior behavior, she turned her mini mare out with him. Well. He promptly turned around to aim both shod hooves at her and then started chasing. WTF dude. You cannot pine for friends and then try to kill your friend. 

We're starting him on a calming supplement, but I'm at a loss. He does not care about food. Where Ben or Yoshi could be tempted to chill with a nice pile of alfalfa, Goggles gives no shits. In fact, orchard is his favorite, but even that has little draw if his friends go to the far side of their field (always within his view). 

A friend has very generously offered a pony mare who she says 1. Probably won't let him kick her and 2. She doesn't care if he does. But then I'd be paying his extra expensive board and paying board for a third house. All fun activities would go out the window because that would be 100% of my horse budget. Plus I don't want him to actually hurt something. 

I'm working on making his tether longer in other ways: we explore further and further down the road off property after each ride and he's constantly going places on the trailer. He's getting better at both these things. When he's in his stall he doesn't care that much about where the rest of the horses are. But he cannot consistently settle in the pasture. There are definitely times where I come out and he is eating in the back, but there are plenty where he's right at the fence staring and/or pacing. 

Anyone got brilliant ideas that don't involve me boarding 3 horses? 

His current set up is in at night with an attached paddock and out during the day. His pasture is maybe an acre and and shares a fence with a two acre pasture that her four horses share. They can never go out of sight, the pastures are both just flat grass with no trees, but they can go to the far side of the field and that seems to be when he's most upset. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

I hope that in the year to come you make mistakes

...Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're doing something." -Neil Gaiman

Goggles and I had a dressage lesson with NDT last Wednesday. I wasn't sure if he was ready for a full lesson, but I figured what they hey, he is 5 now, she gives nice long walk breaks, and I could always stop early if he was done or overwhelmed. He loaded the best he ever has and we were on our way over to the GY's. NDT was a bit funny, I get the idea most of the folks she coaches are a bit more precious about their surroundings than I was. There was some screwing around with the sprinkler at the start of our ride and there were horses in paddocks on both sides. She protected us in the part of the ring away from the sprinkler until they were done messing with it. Meh. But the flip side was she was watching for his tension to go away. Now, I'm pretty sure the tension wasn't from the sprinkler, but it was an interesting metric to have. We walked until his walk was relaxed and swinging. Then we trotted and we trotted until his eye softened and he focused on me, not the surrounding horses. I don't think this approach would have worked even two months ago, he would have still needed his million walk-trot transitions because the tension would have manifested in quickness. But he actually wasn't running away with me at the trot, but he was tense through his back and neck. 

She had me counter bend him a little bit on the part of the circle where he wanted to fall out. She said bending interferes with turning. This helped keep me from pulling on my inside rein and letting him fall through his outside shoulder, which was pretty neat. When he reached down she actually had me lengthen my reins to him some. The alternative I had developed was leaning, so this was safer in case he tripped/did other unexpected things. Then shorten them right back up. When he popped up out of the contact, hands wide to keep an even contact. 

We did a little bit of canter, mostly her just watching us at this point, then we took a walk break. We added in some one loop serpentines and changes of rein with circles thrown in as well. He was still verrrrryyy focused on what was happening with horses around him (which in his defense wasn't just standing still, Mr. GY took his gelding into the pasture and was going for a hand gallop at this point). She said that was fine in the beginning, but he needed to focus on his job. I thought back to the show where he was actually incredibly focused on me. Hm. So the jumps gave him something to think about. So we need to make dressage enough of a something to think about that he stops sight seeing. She and I both thought that was an interesting. Her immediate suggestion was ground poles scattered around to keep him engaged, but said she'd think on it more. 

During our ring figures, we focused on big bends through his neck and body to get him to release the base of his neck. She said in 6 months my goal can be those three loop serpentines that we worked on with Ben with true bend through the first two, then left bend through two, then right bend through two, then counter bend through two. I was tempted to give up to the right before I got him truly bending and allowing me to ride his left shoulder at the same time, but she kept me honest and held me to it. 

Goggles and one of his FOUR mares he shares a fenceline with and LOVES

We then worked a bit more on the canter. He realllly wanted to throw his left shoulder out on part of the circle. NDT was confused until I let her in on the secret that that was the side of the circle we used to spin out on and exit the arena when I was trying to do right lead canter back in the spring. Then he was diving in on the next part. She again held us to the strong outside aids on the falling out part, but then wanted me to immediately shift and lift with the right rein, boot with the inside leg, and if he was still ignoring that, shove the right seat bone to the outside. She said that aid was "a bit rude" but he was being "a bit rude" in ignoring my lighter aids. We were pretty much out of Goggles at that point, so we didn't play too much with it, but I'm excited to work on that at home. 

She summarized our lesson by saying he was a lot of fun and extremely athletic, we just needed to channel his attention. Not bad feedback to hear! He spent about two minutes in one of Ms. GY's stalls and managed to knock a fan off the wall in that time. He backed away from it snorting, but returned about 0.2 seconds later to nose the other one. He definitely has a bit of that chaotic tendency in him. 

He loaded up SO WELL to go home. Ms. GY led him on and he just paused once and then walked smoothly on and let me close the butt bar. GOOD BOY! 

Monday we went adventuring again, this time to Majestic Oaks. His adventure pal was in the trailer already when he got on, and he loaded right up. 

Both boys enjoying their preferred hay- alfalfa for his seasoned traveling companion and orchard for Goggles

He mostly stood like an adult horse to get tacked up, and then warmed up politely too. He wanted to porpoise a bit when we cantered, but came back to earth pretty easily. 

We started jumping some of the entry fences after sniffing the particularly spooky logs between bushes. I was dismayed to find that the goal posts have shifted again. No longer is over/under/through the marker for a 100% grade. Now he needs to keep his back soft over the jumps (he was jumping so stiff legged behind that he scraped some bark off a natural tree jump), and he is not allowed to drag down and play afterwards. And because it isn't fair to let him play for ten strides and THEN tell him to cut it out, I must do it the stride he starts. Oh boy. No one ever said baby horses are easy though, so we worked on putting it all together. I said "I can't" to JT enough that even I was getting sick of hearing myself whining, but eventually we got there. 

It really helped when JT said "ride him like he is trained". Oh. Well then. If I ride him that way, he responds. Over the past year, we have created a horse that actually does understand leg and seat and voice and hand and behaves like he is trained (mostly). Huh. Set an expectation and he rises to meet it.

He was a star at the banks. He went quietly down the bank like it was just a tiny step down, which it was. We did the slightly bigger one too and he casually stepped off that. Good boy! Ditches were NBD too. Water he stopped at a bit, but his fellow baby horse had gone ahead and then said absofuckinglutely NOT, so it might have been better if we'd just walked up to it ourselves. But he didn't jump into his trailer buddy who was the brave leader when he did enter, so that's major progress from just a few months ago when the water moving around his legs was shocking. 

Overall two very successful outings. Even though he spent a lot of time staring into the distance at majestic, he also moseyed around on the buckle and didn't spook at anything. Well that's not actually 100% true, he spooked at something when I had just taken his bridle off and he very nearly ran me over. So that was fun. But fortunately I was being a good pony clubber and had his reins around his neck still, so he didn't get free for a frolic. Other than that though... He's just so much braver and more rideable each time we go, it makes me so delighted to think about even as I struggle with feeling like I can't actually ride him. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Liverpools and cones and trees, Oh My!

Ben and Goggles went to JT's on Friday for lessons. They both much prefer travelling with a friend in the trailer. Goggles still took a minute to load, but once on he stayed on instead of doing the hokey pokey. 

Goggles went first when we got there. Before JT came out, we spent a while walking over spanish moss clumps and sticks because he's pretty concerned about those things. He really didn't care at all until the early fall when we taught him about cavaletti and small jumps and all of a sudden everything on the ground required a lot of thought. We're getting back to the point of being casual about those things though. 

My view most of the time while "hacking" 

When JT came out, we spent a while walking loops between the standards and her small round liverpool. He is extremely suspicious of the liverpools, but each time makes progress. This time he allllmooost touched it. Then we did a forced sniff of the jumps we were going to jump - traffic cones, Christmas tree, unicorns. He thought the tree was a bit suspect when the branches moved when the wind blew. We started jumping, focusing on doing after the jump. JT purposely put us over the crossrail headed towards the fence so I had to make a decision and a turn after. 

Then we added in the spookier jumps. The first time over the tree he thought about not, but was pretty easy to direct over it instead. We strung a few together and he was SO good. He was still screwing around after the jumps, especially if he'd made a big effort over it. I was trying so hard to give him a good release, but then needed to be quicker in the 2-3 strides after the fence getting my butt back in the saddle. JT instructed me to SIT DOWN and I whined back that I couldn't when he was yanking down that hard. She said the solution is to get my butt down before he starts playing. Ah, I do see. 

Monday, January 22, 2024

Next on the Agenda

Since we skipped a December Wrap Up in leiu of the 2023 Wrap Up, let's look ahead a bit to the spring season. I'm going to speak in very general terms because I added a whole unnecessary level of stress to my life for a week by deciding Goggles needed to be doing XX level by XX date. I had managed to NOT do that for the whole first year of having him, so I was about due for that, yes? 

Goals for this spring: 
  • Get Goggles solid at loading and trailering. Unfortunately the increased frequency of trips from his new farm for farrier, chiro, lessons made for some back sliding, not forward progress as I'd hoped. He is more chill IN the trailer now, but has gotten a bit worse at loading. It makes my life VASTLY less complicated if he is a single person loader, so we're working towards that. My husband is on board and is definitely enjoying the process of thinking like a horse, so it is a pretty fun project. He's also providing the push to hook up the trailer, drive it to the farm, put the horse on it, and then NOT go anywhere. 
Skeptical faces, we got 'em

  • Do SOMETHING with each horse each week, MOST weeks. Examples include dressage lesson, jump lesson, XC school, trailering Goggles to the GY's and going for a hack, hacking Goggles off property from our home barn. etc etc. When I had my frenzied week of backwards goal setting, I was trying to cram too many things into each week in order to be ready by a certain date. Doing things with two horses is already hitting my max enjoyment of horsey-ness and that kind of planning was pushing me over the edge into treating this like another full time job with the same level of enjoyment that goes with a job. Now, I do really enjoy my job, but it's still a job, y'know? And I don't want horses to feel that same way. So long as we are doing SOMETHING other than trot or canter circles at home, we're making forward progress, and that is all I'm looking for. He'll be ready when he's ready. (Not that trot and canter circles at home aren't beneficial, but y'know what I mean? Something other than our baseline creeping forward progress towards consistency in the bridle etc etc)
  • Take Ben Ben on at least two off property trail rides with a friend. I've given up on him ever being fun to solo trail ride, but Ms. GY and I had such a great time at San Felasco, I am making it a goal to do that at least twice more before the weather and yellow flies become unbearable in late May/early June. 
  • Get Ben confident with down banks. I'm already putting half a check mark next to this one. We plan to do two more XC schools before his next show, but we've already made great progress towards restoring his confidence. 
That's it. That's all I'm putting down in writing. It's a short post. I do have a few shows marked on the calendar for Ben, but I feel like verbalizing my goal of AECs with him last year made it all the harder to take when our spring season fell apart. So these are my reasonable goals for both kids - focusing on trailer loading with Goggles, and two off property hacks with Ben, and then a weekly thing for both of them. If anyone decides to go lame, that's fine, we can adapt from there. And a lame Goggles could certainly still work on loading, so that one sticks no matter what! We'll reassess at the end of spring and see how it went. 

Forever sprinkling the xpress foto package pics throughout posts... this isn't my fave because you can't see his face completely, but look at those knees! 

Friday, January 19, 2024

Finding The One

Touch the car?!?! The chosen one, pre-oiling

I guess I have to keep the horse now since I purchased a saddle that fits him... 

Goggles and I have agreed to like a Custom Monte Carlo. This saga started way back over the summer when I decided I didn't like how my Forestier Boekelo sat on him. And after all our drama with getting the saddle to fit Ben, I was very reluctant to go with that brand again. Because they are foam paneled, each change takes 6 weeks to adjust and there are shipping costs as well as the cost of changing the panel. With this in mind, I tried out quite a few saddles from HighLine/FineLine tack. They were gracious and looked at pictures and listened to my feedback on each saddle before suggesting another. But the only thing that sat well on him was an Antares that made me feel incredibly unbalanced. Plus I live close to Ocala, the horse capital of the world, you'd, uh, think there would be options local to us. 

It's a very nice looking saddle post-heavy oil, also super light weight. Flap is a +2  meaning it is a forward flap which is perfect for my leg length (longer upper leg than lower leg)

After our Tobias trial, we had the Custom rep out to assess Goggles and me. She knows JT well and so she essentially set them on Goggles to make sure the fit was passable and then dropped off the three jump saddles she had for me to play. I was left with an 18" Envy, a older 17" Monte Carlo from a sponsored rider, and a brand new 17.5" Monte Carlo. The Envy is their new budget line. It was not my cup of tea, it just felt like it shoved my leg into the wrong position and then held it there. The 17" older Monte Carlo was too small for my leg, but I quite enjoyed the 17.5". I rode in it multiple times and jumped Ben in it. Both JT and I liked it, and it passed the tests from Frank Tobias and passed my own assessment of not sitting too close to his withers, laterally or dorsally, even without a half pad. I feel every bit as secure as in the Boekelo, evidenced by sticking with him no prob over some exuberant jumps over the weekend. It is wool flocked and has an adjustable tree so we will be able to continue to fit it to his back as he grows. 

Sorry about my lack of release good sir, leg is stable though!

The rep recommended buying a demo saddle rather than ordering brand new. She said because they are hand made, even made to the same specs it will feel different. Don't have to tell me twice lol. 

Burgundy piping isn't what I would've chosen, but I don't hate it. And it is so subtle that you really have to be looking to see it. 

Bonus is that even brand new, it was part of the demo sale, and was cheaper than my moderately used Forestiers were. The rep will come out and assess it every 6-12 months and make any needed changes. He got chiropracted on Wednesday and while his vet didn't assess the saddle on him, she did palpate his back and withers and didn't get any soreness in the area of the saddle. YAY! She also said his neck felt SO GOOD we didn't need to shockwave him!! He had good ROM and no pain in his neck even before adjustment. He was pretty locked and uneven in his pelvis and TL junction, especially on the right side, which might explain some of the right lead tail wringing and porpoising he has been doing lately. 

Monday, January 15, 2024

Goggles' Trip to the Dark Side

With the help of my husband, Goggles and I conquered the cross rail jumpers at the local hunter jumper schooling show this Friday and Saturday.

Friday we went and did the warm up. I had fairly low expectations and goals, exist in the ring, exist near other horses, and exist without running over people. We arrived a little bit before noon because that was when the weather looked best. We wandered around until we found the office and left Goggles on the trailer in the meantime. He seemed to actually have chilled out a little bit while standing on the trailer and unloaded politely. He let me tack him up as well without excessive dancing. 

Our timing in the jumper ring worked out quite well, and my husband didn't have to fight off any trainers to try to drop jumps. We were trotting around when a trainer came in.  The jumps were about novice height still, and she timidly asked if I minded if she dropped a couple. I laughed and told her she was welcome to drop all of them because we certainly were not jumping what was set currently. Then her two pony kids came into the ring, and Goggles politely continued to do some walk trot while they walked and trotted as well. He eyed a standard with leaping dolphins on the sides of it a few times as we trotted by. I warmed him up over some of the cross rails and tiny 2 ft jumps. Then we walked again, and I let him sniff the dolphins closely before pointing him at the tiny oxer set between them. He popped right over without any hesitation. He also was not doing the bunny hopping he has tried out recently as a jump technique. I was trying my hardest to give him a nice release and stay off his back for the whole of whatever jump he took. He was even allowed to canter a few jumps after landing in canter. He was polite enough and together enough to canter one more jump before having to trot again. I was on him for maybe 30 minutes total and then got off,  untacked and put him back on the trailer to head home. He loaded super on the way home and didn't need any encouragement at all.

Saturday morning posed a bit of a problem for me. The schedule that had been posted online when I registered for the show had classes starting at 8:00 a.m., but when I checked the schedule Friday evening it had the jumper ring starting at 9:30. I had to be to work by 11:00, so in spite of how close the show was, this really wasn't going to work. I called the number and chatted with a lady who was super sweet and told me to show up to the ring at 9:00 a.m. and see if they would let me go. We arrived around 8:00 a.m., and he stood tied while a horse lunged nearby with no fuss over it. 

Then we got on and moseyed up to the covered arena since I had forgotten to introduce him to it on Friday. They had kicked everybody out to drag, but we could stand underneath the very edge of it and look around at the bleachers, which is what we did. His new barn owner and her daughter had come to cheer us on. She suggested perhaps we could go into the novice arena which is an outdoor grass arena where they hold the low level hunters. There was somebody in the judges box, and I asked and they said as long as I didn't jump things I was fine to go in. He very politely walked and trotted around. Although he was a bit spooky at somebody in a different judges box who was shuffling papers around. There were also some cows in the distance that caught his attention. Overall though, he felt amazing, and we cantered both directions. To the right he really wanted to buck, so we cantered a bit more in that direction kicking him forward to stop the porpoising that was happening.

Then we headed back over to the jumper arena where somebody was flipping over the numbers set at the base of the jump, revealing the mysterious course. He also pointed out where the course maps were and said he just hadn't had a chance to hang them yet. I studied them for a little bit. There were three courses, two labeled with jump numbers and then the unlabeled "classic" course. From my (very) limited experience with jumper courses, they were pretty straight forward, mostly doing an inside, outside, inside line thing. Around 8:55 I asked them if I would be able to go in a little bit early and they said they absolutely were not ready. I resigned myself to just having a productive morning seeing the sights at the horse show, but around 9:05 they announced that there was a person who needed to go early who was going to go at 9:15 so people could walk until then and then clear the course. That's me. I'm that person! 

So at 9:15 we headed in and did the first two courses. He was super for both of them, gaining confidence as he went. Similarly, I was gaining faith in his ability to listen and let me move him around at the canter, so we did a bit more cantering. I had to come out and stare at the map for a bit before heading back in for the third course. He started to get a little rude after landing from the jumps during this course. Eventually I remembered JT's advice to half-halt once and mean it rather than continuing to mildly pull. Once I did that, he remembered his manners and stopped porpoising quite as much. 

The crossrail courses, and I think up until 2' or 2'3" were all optimum time, crossrails was set at 350 meters per minute. I obviously was not going for a specific time, but it turns out his mix of trotting and cantering put us right around the optimum time marks. We ended up with a first, second, and fourth. Not too bad for baby's second show! 

All three courses put together there. 

More important was how freaking GOOD he was. He remembered the dolphin standards on Saturday and didn't even register that they existed. He exceeded all my expectations and behaved like a whole grown up horse. Also his neck felt AMAZING after his acupuncture. 

Based on schooling the 2' jumps on Friday, he could have gone in and done that height just as easily as the cross rails. My friend who does these shows regularly graciously helped answer all my questions about the process and did ask if I was sure I wanted to enter the crossrails instead of ground poles with as exuberant as he had been at Majestic. I told her I couldn't guarantee he wouldn't be just as wild, but I was pretty sure that ground poles to 2' would all get about the same reaction from him, and I think that was spot on. He's also LARGE, so the 2' jumps really don't register much when I see them from his back. 

I am so excited for the spring with this kid. He's just the best dude and improves SO MUCH every time he's out. He was a million times more grown up than when JT rode him at Majestic for his first outing. Even Friday to Saturday was a huge difference in his ability to focus on what he was doing, not on what was going on around him. It was almost like Saturday had so many different things happening that he realized he couldn't possibly monitor it all. He got loads of carrots and praise and then was returned to his field to hang with his fave mini mare. 

Friday, January 12, 2024

Needles for the baby horse

I set Ben and Goggles up for their coggins with one of our local vets and asked her to acupuncture Goggles. She had worked on my mare Leila for her neck pain and it seemed really beneficial, so I was eager to have her take a look at Goggles once he was up in her normal range. Plus establishing care for him with a local vet is always good. 

While we know Ben loves his needles (Part 1 and Part 2) and is actually signed up for another teaching lab in early February, I wasn't sure how Goggles would feel about them. I was positive he was not a candidate for the teaching lab regardless of how he felt about needles because you have to be relatively still and well behaved for FOUR hours and... That's not a Thing we do right now... 

But both Goggles and I were actually delighted. I love the vet, she's super practical about what acupuncture can and can't do and knows the studies, such as they are. She didn't truly acupuncture scan him to begin, just palpated. She said she felt like the more sensitive types get pissed if it hurts when you scan and then are defensive and less likely to let you treat. She did find substantial pain in his left poll and left mid-neck. He was also sore over his sacrum, but that she felt was more consistent with having a job now. Since this was the day after he cantered the circle of death multiple times, I totally agreed. 

Being a very Good Boy

Her tech was also fantastic and held him with just the right balance of entertaining him but not letting him step over the line to being rude. He was very reactive to one point on his left sacral area, so she kinda let that one go in order to focus on his neck. 

Once she had the points in she hooked up the electro acupuncture. I've never seen him be so still for so long. He truly zenned out on the low setting meant to cause serotonin release and calmness. 

Ugh, as I look at this I can see a hint of ribs he's developed since the move. But look how good he's being with the electro! 

Then she turned it up a bit to the pain relief level. He definitely felt it a little bit but then seemed to realize it was feeling good and he relaxed into it again. 

After the time was up for the needles, she showed me a few manual therapy things to do on his neck. Starting with skin rolling to get him used to being touched, then actually grabbing the brachiocephalicus muscle and pushing/lifting up mostly with the fingers in the area of the jugular groove, and doing the same with the muscle just in front of the scapula. She said he was a smart horse, he realized he felt so much better and immediately let us manipulate things that he had previously been guarding. While we were doing the manual therapy on his left brachio, he saw something in the distance and lifted his head, but had the strangest focal muscle spasm pass through, then did some big yawns and sighs. 

She wanted to see him again in 3-4 weeks, and then go to a roughly every 2 month schedule. He's due for his q3 month shockwave next week and he'll get adjusted then too. It seems like a whole lot for a young horse who still isn't doing much, but I truly think he's a special dude. We're also hoping as he builds muscle correctly we can back down on some of these things. But for now I'm so glad to have added acupuncture in, he was so good and got such instant relief from it. 

Thursday, January 11, 2024

On the right foot

Goggles part 1: Goggles barely had 48 hours to settle in to his new home before I threw him on the trailer again to go over to the GY's to get his feet done. My farrier agreed to come up to our area to do Goggles and Ben together rather than needing to bring both of them down to JT's. I was SO grateful and wanted to make sure Goggles was on his best behavior. He loaded up pretty well again with just a little brush from the broom. He unloaded and was very all over the place. Once I got on him, he was PERFECT. He walked, trotted, and cantered, and was bending and supple and just lovely. I was thinking about this later - I gave him lots of direction under saddle and very little on the ground. I just want him to EXIST next to me, not on me, on the ground, but I am realizing at this point he has no idea how to do that. He needs direction. His idea of existing is looking around, occasionally running into me with his shoulder, and just generally pulling me towards things he wants to look at and/or eat. If I direct what we're doing, I think he is completely capable of stepping up, he just needs the direction. 

Even though he had worked, I still had a few doubts about his ability to stand for the farrier, so he got a bit of ace to make him more compliant. He got his feet done, then Ms. GY helped me get him back into the trailer, which again went smoothly. 

Cross ties at his new farm

Ben: Ben and I had a jump lesson on the first Wednesday of the new year. It was his first time back over stadium fences since the Thoroughbred Expo. JT and I joked we were going to be starting fresh with everything with him, so we kept things pretty little to start. However, Ben stepped right up and although he squirrelled around to her new fillers, he still went. He did wiggle his way through the triple as well, but did the one to the one in spite of that. She popped things up a little bit and he jumped around again, this time getting a bit lazy over the jump that had a Christmas tree for filler and the liver pool. We went to do just that line again and in spite of a lovely bouncy canter, he again knocked the rail on both. She swapped it out for the square ground rail, and I about died laughing when I felt him, mid-air, actually put in effort and quite nicely avoid tapping it. We also jumped the skinny gate that he had hard core spooked at while warming up. I put my "ride it like a wedge" into practice and rode it so positively with wide hands and he didn't even chip to the base of it, good boy! We've planned on another couple of jump lessons, a couple of XC schools, and at least one schooling jumper show. We still have a solid month+ before the next HT that fit with my schedule - February Ocala. 

Emotional reset, getting ponied by his BFF

For our cross-country schooling this week we headed out to Sweet Dixie South, not a place that Ben and I have schooled before. It was a really, really cold morning for Florida, and Ben was pretty up because of it. We did some forward and back in warm up but probably not quite enough. He started out well though, feeling much more like his old confident self. Then we did the world's tiniest step down about a stride before water. He kind of dithered around at the top before going. We did it several more times until he felt more confident at it. Then we moved on to a training brush line, he ducked left both times on the first one, but it was understandable because there was a large weed growing straight up the front of the middle of the jump. We did have a run out at a novice corner, the second part of a combination a few jumps later. It was partly him seeing a dry patch of grass on the other side of the jump and partly me not getting him up enough so he was running down into my hand as we approached. Plus I think I still look at corners funny and ride them funny because of it. I just can't quite figure out the geometry. After we fixed that, we headed off to a different corner of the property and did a log with three or four strides to a down bank headed towards a lake. He did it with no hesitation. We also did the double banks at the water as well, kind of a interesting setup. You dropped down the first bank into water and then dropped down another bank into still more water. He again screwed around at the top of the first for a second. JT told me to tap him off of it, explaining that he almost dithers around at the top the bank and talks himself out of it. He's not that scared anymore. He just needs to go. We finished with the bank in and out of the ring. The top of the mound is grass, but you jump down one side into the footed arena. He did this without a second thought, good boy. Then we schooled the training and prelim questions on the top of the hill by the arena to finish. It's a pretty steep hill up and down, So the training log at the top is about beginner novice size and the prelim question is about novice, if not a little bit smaller. He did both of these great, we got it together to have his balance up the hill for a nice jump over both.

Bald eagle in one of their oak trees, so beautiful

Overall another deposit in the confidence bank for him. We're chipping away at the bank issue and are better each time. This was a new place and he went down both of the banks he questioned without too much freaking out. And he did several others without any questioning at all. 

Goggles part 2: It was Goggles turn to go with Ben on Wednesday this week. I loaded Ben up first and then headed down to get Goggles. He was really pretty good for the trailer. He paused halfway on several times, but then decided he would go all the way in. We ran into a bit of a hitch (that I had certainly seen coming) when it came to the butt bar. He knew I was headed around to close it and came out pretty quickly when I was near the back of the trailer. I snagged his lead and immediately put him right back on. He backed out again when I stepped around to do the bar, but slower this time. Right back in again, and repeat. I had a major zen moment when I realized Ben wasn't upset by this. I thought "well if this is what we do for the next four hours instead of lessoning, then this is the lesson we needed today". He backed out one more time before deciding to let me close him in. Good boy!!! Lots of treats and then I put up the ramp and closed the back doors. I had to stop to tie him because he turned his head around and put it over the top of the divider, so he lost the privilege of riding untied. 


He went first at JTs while Ben hung out. He had a bit of a conniption over the puddles all over the place, including making a choice to brain instead of flail when he realized there was in fact a lot of water already under his feet. 

Shiny puddle 

He's tricky sometimes. He really wants to be a good boy and do the right thing. Therefore I try to give him time to process and make the right choices. But sometimes he is incredibly obstinate. After he'd considered the shiny puddle above for a bit, I asked him to walk forward into it. Head went up and ears went back. This is the moment I have to steel myself and tap him. So far he's always then given the correct answer. But it feels like poking the rattlesnake. I am always a bit on edge in those moments, waiting for when his response is to kick out or something even more delightful like rear. He would be a very easy horse to get talked into not pushing much. It's so interesting to me, observing both him and my own psychology. 

Once out in the field, we did a lot of walking circles around cross country jumps to give him something to do other than stare at the lone horses coming and going in the distance. Then we tackled the circle of death. First at the trot, then we cantered both directions successfully!!! I was joking that it feels like a resolution... I'll start tomorrow!  If I skip this first jump, I will get him really truly straight and balanced and we'll start again. Ha. But we did it and it was really, really good for both of us. He only did really strange flailing things twice, both when he was getting pretty tired. His canter got so much better, and I don't think he tripped at all the whole lesson!!! 

He's going to a hunter jumper show this Friday-Saturday to do the jumper cross rails. There are three classes, so if we just do circles the first time in, maybe the second time we can jump the jumps. It will be tight getting it done before going to work, but priorities man... 

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

WW: Profesh Pole Jumper

While I was sorely tempted by a leg salad picture that Lisa captured, I ended up going with the adorable picture instead. if you want to view the whole set of pictures that made me so glad I had handed the reins over to JT. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2024


Goggles moved to his new farm on Sunday. I tried to squeeze in as much as possible his last week with JT. JT did a few training rides on him, and then I took a lesson on Friday. My husband came down to film. Fortunately he was mostly looking at the camera and didn't appreciate quite how wild Goggles was. He was genuinely spooky at a few things and then also just really wanted to pay attention to anything but what we were doing. Keeping it real, he's a LARGE four year old with lots of opinions, and more than once I've thought about full training and fully waving my adult ammy card. But at the end of the day, he hasn't ever done anything truly rotten or unsittable. And I want to learn how to bring along a young horse. Plus I have great health insurance and am relatively under paid until you look at the fringe rate. So here we are. My husband pointed out the "obstinate" look on his face. Yeppppp, he can look truly a bit mule-ish sometimes. He's got opinions and wants to express them. But that confidence is also what keeps me hopeful that as long as we channel him properly he's going to want to do the job and have a lot more bravery to go with it compared to his older brother.  

Back to the lesson, he was very, very all over the place. Definitely a "squirrel!!!" kinda day. There was a horse tearing around nearby and shrieking. Then there was a child in the distance in the field (a child who he has seen many, many times before, but y'know). 

But we channelled it and ended on some really nice jumps. The first half of the lesson was walk trot transitions and circles to keep his attention focused. The canter work was... A lot... He was pretty resistant to going forward, and I was pretty resistant to tapping him with the whip. Not necessarily the best combo because JT also didn't want me shoving him with my seat to keep the canter. We got there eventually though. I settled for some shoulder taps and he acquiesced by not bucking. 

Then we added in trot poles, and he sorta kinda acted like he'd never seen them. We made circles over them until he was just trotting them, not launching. It also really helped his focus when I was directing him around over the poles rather than just generally asking him to please participate. Then we made loops over three tiny cross rails. If he landed and was a ding-a-ling, lift up and do a 10m circle. But it was a fine balance because he was being a bit conservative over the jump and therefore doing a weird bunny hop rather than a smooth jump. Treating it like a canter transition and grabbing mane helped smooth that out (but unfortunately isn't caught on video). We ended with actually cantering a cross rail, and he was super for that. 

Overall it was a hugely productive lesson, but so challenging physically and mentally for me. Big take aways:
  • Give him something to do if he's being a fruit loop - poles, transitions, changing circle direction and size
  • The running martingale I added today was... Much appreciated... As JT said, boundaries are much needed at this stage... 
  • Be specific about where he is going and at what pace, I'm the one making the decisions
  • Go forward in the canter, but with leg or a tap, not shoving with my seat. Then he has to hold and carry himself. If he breaks pick it up again, I choose when we're stopping. 
Saturday we trialed the Custom jump saddle we've been riding in after it had a bit of flocking added. He was good, but very, very tired. Since he was not nearly as up, I was able to confidently push him a bit more forward over the jumps, so he was jumping a bit better. We did have a stop at the oxer cross rail, but we broke it down and ended up going over that confidently too. Good boy. 

Sunday I loaded him up bright and early to be at Majestic around 730. They were holding one of their schooling jumper shows, and JT had set the course. He loaded up pretty well and unloaded pretty well. I had pulled my ammy card out on this one and when JT offered to be there that morning, I answered with a resounding YES and asked if she would ride him please. She did ask that I toss him on the lunge to get any LARGE bucks out before she got on. I had him in his rope halter and offered the canter and buck option to him. He declined and opted to just trot very, very fast without moving his back. But he was still nicely responsive to walk and trot commands in spite of the obvious tension.

He's so funny now, he knows his business going places... EAT GRASS!!! And he does so while still looking really pretty tense. But since eating grass involves his head down, not sticking straight up making him roughly 20 hands high, it is still definitely preferable. 

After his five minutes lunging on the rope line, he stood tied to the trailer without giving me any doubts about whether or not he'd still be there if I ducked into the tack room to grab things. Good boy! 

Still very tall

JT arrived and we walked him over to the warm up arena. He got VERY TALL again, but was still mostly listening and not tromping on us. 

Then they went into warm up. A couple of times he considered options other than politely trotting around, but when he hit the martingale he gave to the pressure and engaged his brain cells again. JT was calm and consistent asking for circles and transitions. He went HOLY SHIT what is that the first time she pointed him at a cross rail, but then went right over it after that. So in the ring they went to trot over the ground pole piles. He was a bit shocked by being asked to trot between the ZEBRAS but again listened and gained confidence as they trotted around. 

There was a whole passel of kiddos there on ponies to do crossrails, so we eyed the warm up arena again but then opted to jump right back into the ring and go trot and canter the tiny crossrails. He was SO GOOD! You can see in the video when he lost his cantering privileges after flailing over one, but he listened to the half halts and got to do his first two stride (which they radioed shouldn't have been put up for crossrails as she was halfway through the course). 

Best of all, after they came out she asked him to face back towards the ring and hang and he stood there for about ten minutes with his head getting closer and closer to wither level. He stood tied while I untacked and sponged him off, and then he got on the trailer pretty well again. 

His big day wasn't done yet though, we drove up to his new digs about five minutes from my house. 

He explored the perimeter of his pasture first and then made friends with the mini mare and the 8 mo filly across the fence. 

Love the baby mouth

Goggles is in LOVE with the mini mare

He settled in pretty well but has had some angst when they are far from him. And when the barn owner needed to bring hers in because of some electrical work, he decided to run for a while. She brought him in at my request,  and he's now on stall board for the month rather than pasture board. We shall see if we succeed at throwing him back out in February. She's got lovely, large pastures with tons of shade, so if he could let go of a bit of his friends angst, I think he would be plenty happy out in the field. 

Monday, January 1, 2024

2023 Wrap Up

January: Overall not the most fantastic month for us. Ben ended 2022 with a severe, mystery lameness that rapidly improved over a few days. We got right back to it after that week, but he was also diagnosed with ulcers in the first week of January. We started a long chain fatty acid supplement (ResolvinEQ) along with a 28 day course of gastrogard. While we schooled well, both cross country and stadium, our third training level event didn't go smoothly. We had a solid dressage test and clear stadium round at Rocking Horse in the training rider, but then slipped into a solid oxer on cross country. We did regroup and finish the course, but with shaken confidence. 

Offending oxer on our second go at it 

February: Ben and I put the pieces back together from our Rocking Horse scare. He got studs tapped, and we resolved not to go out cross country without them. We won our division at a schooling show with a much more confident cross country round. Ben also got a little brother who quickly endeared himself to me and JT as quite possibly the best baby horse. 

What a bebe! 

March: Ben and I started the month with a confident outing at Rocking Horse where we tackled the same jump we had slid into and made it to the other side on the first try this time. Unfortunately I also learned that Ben cannot tolerate leather pads with dental molding. He spent the next two months recovering from some badly bruised feet 

Gotta buy the picture of our redemption

Goggles stepped up a bit while Ben was recovering and did some long lining and moved to the GY's where he worked on tying, bathing, jumping solid jumps in hand, and ponying on the trails. 

April: Ben continued to suffer from sore feet this month. Consequently the rest of his body also became pretty uncomfortable. We took rads and switched farriers towards the end of the month. We did get out for one schooling when we thought he was on the upswing, but that ended up being false hope.

May: Goggles started doing some big boy horse things like trailering back to JT's for a few lessons. He also learned target training and worked on being okay with being away from the other horses at home. Meanwhile Ben went through a couple different injections trying to sort out what was sore from compensating for his sore front feet. 

June: Goggles had a ground work lesson with the cowboy. We then worked on using those principles on trailer loading. He spent the first half of the month on ground work and lunging before I got back in the saddle again. Ben got put back to work under JT's tutelage. She emphasized SOFT through his ribcage and no bearing down into the hand at any point, but especially when he spooked. He also started to rebuild his fitness

Continuing to be the best baby and going for a bareback hack in the rain.

July: Goggles essentially got himself kicked out of the GY's by either kicking her horses or being eaten by them. So he moved down to JT's and for a few brief and glorious moments, we thought Ben and Goggles might be the perfect turnout buddies. They were not, however, after Goggles decided in one night to kick Ben many times. Other than kicking all his friends, Goggles continued to be the perfect baby and went out for a second cross country field trip. Ben continued his training rides and aquatredding to build his fitness. 

August: Ben had a delightful return to the show ring with two fun jumper rounds at Majestic. He then took a brief hiatus while dealing with some cellulitis, but fortunately he recovered well from that. 

Goggles got super serious with his first real jump lesson. He surprised me by being WAY less casual than he was over the logs I'd taken him over at the GY's. But still the best egg. 

September: This month marked Ben's return to being a for real event horse. We had a fun jump around a schooling show at the horse park. I also realized I needed to maintain my stud holes if I wanted to be able to stud my horse. Goggles had a couple of under saddle jump schools with JT and started showing his bravery and desire to do the job! Ben and I ended the month with our first away show ever together - novice at Stable View. It was a mixed bag for stadium and dressage, but we ended with a confident, fun, clear XC trip. 

October: Ben had some more practice in stadium, both with JT and me. He felt more confident each time out. Goggles went off property for a few hacks and for a XC field trip. He was a super boy and again really seemed to want to do the job. He also got a friend who didn't take any BS from him. 

November: At the start of the month Ben and I moved back up to training level at Rocking Horse, our old fave. We took another field trip to Majestic for more jumper practice, and he felt even better there. 

Goggles took some time off and got his neck shock waved and his HUGE fecal egg count dealt with. He came back feeling great and kept working on some of the finer points of baby horsing with JT and me. Both boys got their teeth done at the end of the month - Goggles had two incisors to extract and Ben had an overgrown/worn down situation that their dentist kept working to fix. We also started the long journey of finding a saddle for Goggles, somewhat unsuccessfully in November anyways. 

Ben and I started this month with our trip to the Thoroughbred Expo which was overall a fantastic experience. We did have a hole to patch - a scary shadow on the down bank that completely blew his mind. The rest of the month was fairly quiet between a week of overnights and some rainy weather. Goggles finished up his month with a week of training rides then a wonderful first show experience hopping over some poles at Majestic. 

Look, a whole horse!

But still a baby! 

No Christmas post, so here's the embarrassing picture of the season

Happy New Year! 

2023 was a pretty excellent year for the two bay thoroughbreds and our little fam in general. We're looking forward to a few fun adventures in January, both with and without horses. 

I hope you all had wonderful holidays and start 2024 off well!