Category Archives: green horses

Two Years Ago Today

It was two years ago today that I retired Georgie as my competition horse. Man that day sucked.

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Our last event together- Training 3Day at Rebecca Farm

Being where I am now though, two years later, I almost feel like it’s ok that it happened. Don’t get me wrong. I miss riding Georgie. Especially when it comes to how safe and secure I felt going cross country.

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But, I get to see her and feed her treats every day. I can hop on her once a week and enjoy being on a broke horse. I care for her when her junior lessee is out of town, and she still uses a bunch of the tack I had for her. Honestly, she is still a part of my life on so many levels. Which is what I had hoped for when I stopped competing her.

And now I have this special baby monkey horse named June. Who is teaching me so much. And while she isn’t making anything as easy as Georgie did, I have to say, just like Georgie, she really does have a heart of gold. Sometimes I don’t verbalize how much I appreciate June and how much I love having her.

When I got Stella as a teeny tiny puppy, I kept comparing her to my senior dog Montana. Montana was the easiest dog ever, and I kept wanting Stella to be just like her. As a young dog, there was no way Stella could meet the expectations I had for her if I wanted her to be like Montana who I had had for many years. I worried that Stella was less than because she wasn’t Montana.

And look how that turned out. Poor Siri…

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The two that can do no wrong

So, while I may compare June to Georgie, or be sad that I don’t have a solid Prelim cross-country horse anymore, I realize that what I do have with June is pretty damn special. She makes me laugh and smile, but she also makes me ride well, and be incredibly thoughtful in my riding. Where Georgie was easy, June is a challenge. But it isn’t a mean-spirited challenge in any way. We probably match each other equally on a scale of who is more opinionated. And just like Georgie, she’s game for pretty much anything. I hope I can keep her curiosity and willingness intact, as they’re two things I really love about her.

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AND she looks good in purple!

So, while two years ago I was pretty much in shambles, I’m happy to report that time did heal a broken heart. Along with a sassy young mare named June.

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When Your Child is a Phenom

You’ve undoubtedly met the parent who thinks their child is a phenom. The parent can be seen speaking in a muted voice,asking lots of questions about the upcoming show schedule, taking up a lot of the trainer’s time, and always thinking one step ahead. (Forgetting that horses are fragile creatures, and that thinking one step ahead leads to heart break.) We have had a few of these parents in our barn and I just roll my eyes at them.

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But then, I got June, and I BECAME them.

Except, my “child” is a horse. Which may be better? Or worse? Heck if I know.

I worry that June has too much talent. Especially for little amateur me. But then I get ecstatic about how easy the work we’re asking of her is. I laugh at how little energy she puts into jumping a 2’6 jump. I watch her trot and  swoon. Instead of listening to what Sarah is saying as she trots her across the arena, I think “man she is going to have a nice extended trot one day.” I’m insufferable when it comes to my phenom.

But then, fortunately, reality sets in. I get on my horse and she’s inconsistent in the bridle. I can’t pick up the right lead. Hell, I can’t even get her to trot over poles without falling on her forehand. My horse may be a phenom, but we’re not bound for the Olympics with me on her back. This team is as average as they come.

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Much talent. Much Phenom.

And, what I’m learning, just as those parents will have to, is that being a phenom doesn’t just happen. It is a hell of a lot of work, and more than just natural talent. It doesn’t matter if my horse came out of the womb doing pirouettes. If I can’t harness that, and work my ass off on all the other miniscule things that are important, we’ll never get around to actually performing pirouettes.

June is the fanciest horse I’ve ever had. And by fancy, I mean, she was bred to do the job I’m asking of her.  Even though the work isn’t as hard for her as it may be for other horses, it doesn’t mean she naturally engages her abs, rocks back and is light on her forehand. It doesn’t mean I can trot down centerline, and just sit there, hoping the judge will be dazzled by my horse’s incredible movement. Nope. Sure doesn’t. I have to continue to ride every friggin step. And lets not forget, June may be fancy by my standards, but there will always be a fancier horse and better rider out there. Always.

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Weird. I ride like shit, she goes like shit

 

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I ride well, she goes well

And this may sound obvious. And I guess it is. But up until recently, I’ve been half heartedly starting my horse. Dedicated to getting her ridden, but not asking for much. If she wants to pull through my hands I let her. She wants to be inconsistent in the bridle, that’s fine. In my mind, I shouldn’t have to work as hard  because she is a nice mover and talented. Image result for ridiculous gif

I’m not a naturally talented rider. I work hard and have good horse sense, which is my saving grace. But even if I was, I’d still have to work hard. Especially with a green bean. I watched Sarah ride her the other day, and she was working, working, working. Thinking, working,thinking, working. June looked great, but it definitely wasn’t easy. Even for a pro who is literally doing everything correctly at the exact right moment. So, ya know, like, the opposite of me. I kinda check out during rides instead of staying engaged mentally and physically the entire time. And that’s gotta change.

So, moving forward, every time we enter the arena, or have a lesson, we’re working hard. We’re only as good as the work we’ve put in. If June has phenom potential, well I better not look like I’m a waste of space on her back. My dream is to one day go Prelim with her. But for now, I need to concentrate on being able to do a 20m circle in a walk/trot dressage test. Cause hell, that’s going to take a lot of work.

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First Plan of 2019: Meh

In my Plans for 2019 post, I mentioned that our first big plan was a clinic/lesson with Gary Mittleider. This was our first lesson with an instructor other than Sarah. Going into the lesson I was feeling pretty good about things? I mean, I know June is a green baby but I figured we’d be ok with what was asked of us.

But then the lesson I had prior to this clinic put me in a horrible head space. June and I have struggled with the canter going right. In this particular lesson I COULD NOT GET THE RIGHT LEAD. Like, it wasn’t happening. Left- lovely. Right-unattainable. We worked and worked and nothing. To the point where Sarah said “I don’t know how you feel but do you want” and I yelled “YES” knowing that she was kindly asking if maybe she should hop on June and try. Not surprisingly she got the correct lead immediately.

This was tough for me. Not because I was surprised, I mean Sarah is a pro with lots of experience on baby horses. But because this was the first thing I was absolutely unable to do. And it was clearly completely my issue. I MAY have broken down a little post lesson and may have said “Why am I even starting this horse? I’m ruining her!” Dramatic? Yes. But I was feeling like shit and, well, maybe head space when starting a baby horse should be a blog post of its own.

So, I knew, going into the clinic with Gary, that the right lead canter was perhaps going to be an issue. But I decided to not worry about it. So many other things to work on! Right lead canter may not even come up. Cause, you know, there are so many times in clinics when you only go left. Uh huh.

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This was the fakest smile I have ever produced

For me, the toughest part about riding in clinics is that you are part of a group. Therefore, if something isn’t going well, or needs work, you can’t just stop the planned exercise and work on that one thing. There are other people in the group who can’t not progress with the exercise because of one horse. So, lesson number 1? We’re probably not ready for a group lesson. This exercise was advanced for where June and I are currently, and therefore, we really struggled. And instead of just working on what we were struggling with (which was a multitude of things) we would kind of just move on and make it work, and IMO that’s not really beneficial.

To start the lesson, Gary had us trot a ground pole on the right side of the arena, turn left, pick up the canter, and canter over a ground pole on the other side. Lovely, simple, and straightforward. But, June was SO distracted by the ghost at the north end of the arena that when we trotted the ground pole, she then spooked right and as Gary was yelling “Straight Line!” we were trotting like drunken sailors. I picked up the canter, got her to stop looking out, and instead look to the upcoming ground pole and we cantered to it. And then June decided she needed to show off a wee bit.

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Yeah yeah June, you’re super impressive

But what was worse was that she landed, and instead of coming back to the trot, just grabbed the bit and kept cantering. So, we got reprimanded for that. And did the exercise again. Again, unable to go straight after the ground pole, but this time we did just canter over the other one, and we did come back to the trot, even though it didn’t look pretty.

After the other rider went, he asked us to do the same exercise, but going right. We were ok over the ground pole at the trot and then picked up the wrong lead; Gary hollered just to keep going. And she did this AGAIN.

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If she would just listen to me, we could actually get to jumping things meant to be jumped

So, June was distracted and a bit eager for most of the lesson which was not helping. We did that line well enough (although always on the wrong lead) that Gary did set a couple of tiny jumps. And, well, things didn’t get better.

June ran at the jumps, and I wasn’t getting her to adjust at all. She was spooky and distracted which was making everything I was asking that much harder. At one point, things really just started to unravel. We  would start by going left, and then change rein through the middle of the arena. We were asked to pick up the right lead canter, make a sharp right turn and jump a tiny jump.

It was all fine until we would change rein and get ready to canter. There were horses tied up on the inside of the arena and I knew that if I got too close to them June would probably kick them. So now, I’m trying to pick up the correct lead, which I hadn’t done once in 45 minutes, turn, AND jump.

It got worse and worse. We never got the correct lead, and trying to turn your unbalanced green horse on the wrong lead, to a jump on about a 15 meter circle? Not gonna happen. At least with this team.

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This picture gives me anxiety

And it ended up looking like this

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Do you see me kicking like a Pony Club D1??

 

June was done. She would stop about two strides out and NOT GO FORWARD. So, we took another break. And I would love to tell you that it was all unicorns and perfection after that, but it wasn’t. Gary was great- he probably was as frustrated with the lesson as I was, but he chatted with me for a while afterwards and kept reminding me that the most important thing to have when you’re riding a baby horse- is a sense of humor. Mine was lost about 15 minutes into the lesson unfortunately.

We agreed that having Sarah ride June and get the right lead canter solid was a good idea. Lucky for me, Sarah likes June. Even better, she was willing to let me take her to dinner and construct a plan for June’s immediate future. I was pretty much ready just to give June to Sarah, but instead, we agreed on a training plan, and I think it’ll work out really well. We’ll both be riding her, but I’ll be working on refining what June already knows and she’ll help the progression to new things and getting June to really understand what is being asked of her.  I’m really lucky to have such an incredible trainer and friend.

So, 2019 plans didn’t start off with a bang. But that’s ok- baby horses will never make things a linear path. Actually, horses never make things a linear path. I still love this mare so incredibly much, and I’m hopeful we’ll be less frustrated with each other after a little reprieve.

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Weather has been so nice she got to enjoy a blanket free romp in the snow!

 

 

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The Sensitive Baby

A few posts back I mentioned that somehow, despite my best efforts, I had ended up with a sensitive horse. And, surprising even myself, I am really enjoying the problem solving that goes along with starting a sensitive horse.

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I have little applicable media, so enjoy pics of when my Dad visited last week and met June for the first time

Now, here’s what I mean by problem solving, and sensitive:

This weekend, I hopped on June and she was feeling good. In front of the leg, and ready to work. I wanted to work on bend, especially going right, but I noticed she kept breaking to the canter instead of bending in the trot.

So, we did some trot/walk transitions. But, lo and behold, she continued to want to canter rather than bend.

In the past, I probably would have found this really annoying. But during this particular ride, I tried to figure out why she was breaking to the canter and how to “fix” it.

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I put my Dad to work adjusting her new blanket liner. It’s purple of course. Also, I need to do a review of the Porta Grazer!

At first, I attributed it to anxiousness. But, while she was forward and wanting to work, she was also fine to just walk, so “being anxious” or trying to anticipate the canter, didn’t totally seem to make sense to me.

I decided to really think about what my body was doing when I asked her to bend right.

My leg went on, and I asked for some right flexion.

Wait. My leg went on.Why wasn’t it on before?

I soon realized, I was asking for bend with my calf. Which prior to asking, was not on. I was putting my calf on, pretty forcibly, when I wanted to ask for bend.

So, I stopped doing that.

I asked for bend from my thigh and knee, and kept my calf from pushing into her.

And guess what? She gave me bend without breaking into the canter.

I’m a genius.

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I have zero idea why I was posing like this except that I must have known I would need an “I’m a genius” picture

So, my sensitive mare understands the difference between asking from my calf and asking from my thigh. Which means I need to get better at asking from different parts of my leg.

And despite the fact that this took a good part of our ride to figure out, she tolerated me confusing her. She tolerated the fact that I kept asking her to canter with my calf and then immediately asking her to trot. She was a very good sport about all of it. Which is all I can ask of her. My hope is, she’ll continue to be patient with me.

Although it does worry me that my horse is already teaching me things. Even though she is supposed to be the green baby… lol.

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Macy gave my Dad her typical super friendly greeting. I closed my eyes and prayed she wouldn’t bite him

So much learning with this youngster. Every ride I learn something new, and I can’t even describe how fun it is!

 

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Plans for 2019

The fact that I have a horse, that I am riding, and able to compete with, it’s beyond exciting for me. Considering the last two seasons, I either had a horse who was semi retired and not really sound enough to make plans with, or I had a horse who was too young to ride. But this year, even if none of these plans come to fruition, the fact that I have a horse I can go out and do things with? OMG I am so excited.

So, what’s the plan for the baby monkey? Well, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. I feel like this past summer and fall we worked hard to get her out and about so that this year, we hopefully can have a horse who is comfortable in new places and understands we are there to work. I plan on getting her out as much as possible this spring to new places as well. More trail riding (to help with fitness too), more small schooling shows, and hopefully lots more time out on xc.

But, because I am a Planner with a capital P, I’ve started working through 2019 month by month. Which seems like testing fate, right? But see first paragraph in this post. I am fully aware much of this might not happen. I just want to PLAN it, because that is SO MUCH FUN. Plus, she’s a green bean. Things might change drastically if she can’t handle the work I am asking of her or if she progresses faster than expected.

So, while I apologize that this post may be more for me than my readers, hopefully you’ll enjoy getting a glimpse into how I’ll be handling June’s first competition season! I also, (more for me, but maybe interesting to you?) added some notes on how I want to prepare and some expectations for each event listed.

January 2019:

1/26: Our first mounted lesson with a different instructor! We have a jump clinic/lesson scheduled with Gary Mittleider at our barn. (Grade: C)

Prep: I’ve scheduled a few more lessons in December and January than normal so that hopefully we can go into this lesson ready for what’s asked of us. I hope to work on our steering and keeping the same rhythm to the base of the jump. Also, we should work on cantering to a jump a bit more…

February 2019

2/2: NWWJS Jumper Show I’ve had to scratch from this low key jumper show twice already. Once because of June’s ulcers (it was two days after they were diagnosed and I didn’t want to make her travel) and again in January because my family are coming to visit. So, I am REALLY hopeful we will go in February. It’s about 2.5 hours away, so in the winter, weather is a variable as well. Scratched due to weather

Prep: See prep for Gary Mittleider clinic. At this point I want to be comfortable cantering fences. I’d also like to be jumping 2′? Also, I want to remember to use this jump show as a schooling experience. If she gets fast and unresponsive, it’s not above me to ask her to walk during parts of the course. Must remember this is a teaching experience.

2/9: Test of Choice Dressage Show Another in barn experience. I am hoping to sign up for BN A test. But, that means cantering. And right now, while I write this, all I can picture is how braced, disconnected and horrible our canter feels. So, we’ve got a lot of work! Scratched due to June needing her teeth floated

Prep: Beginning yesterday, start working on the canter. Just ask for forward to begin with. After you get forward, work on some connection in addition to forward. Work the canter in lessons so you can feel more and more comfortable with what you are asking of June. Also keep working on connection and June working into the bridle. She loves to jump, so dressage takes some serious patience. BE PATIENT.

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She can do dressage, it’s just a question of if she wants to

March 2019

3/9: NWWJS Jumper Show Again, lets hope we can go. If we can, maybe we are jumping 2′ and 2’3? Or two very well executed 2′ classes. Scratched AGAIN due to work travel

Prep: Lots of work over jumps and approaching jumps and maintaining rhythm.

3/23: Wasatch Ice Breaker Show One of my favorite schooling shows for the mere fact that it is well run and super laid back. I’m hoping to hop into the dressage arena for a BN test as well as do a couple of stadium rounds. I may be there by myself, so will probably ride conservatively.

Prep:  Start working on movements within the test and trying to refine them. Take what I’ve learned from the schooling shows this winter and apply that knowledge to these rounds. This will be a much larger arena, so I need to work on maintaining rhythm and keeping June in front of my leg for longer periods of time.

April 2019

4/20&4/21 Wasatch Spring Fling Show Same venue as in March, but this time they add a xc element. So, dressage and SJ on Saturday and xc rounds on Sunday. From what I remember you can mix and match, so you can jump levels higher than your dressage test etc. If you want to compete in one division, like a true derby, you can also do that. I think I will probably mix and match? I’m not sure yet where we’ll be

Prep: Well somehow, in Idaho, I’m going to have to go get out on cross country prior to this show. Luckily we have a local schooling facility. Unfortunately the footing isn’t always great in early April. So, we’ll have to figure something out. Otherwise I can enter groundpoles and just use the experience to get June out the start box and into water.

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She needs to get used to all that water splashing around

May 2019 (where things start to go full steam ahead)

5/3-5/5 Skyline Horse Trials This is a recognized event at a very inviting facility about 6 hours away. I would be going Intro. I’m not sure I want to drive 6 hours and pay to go Intro at a recognized event. On the other hand, it could be a great experience for June. On the other, other hand, schooling shows are also great experiences and I should probably re-route to those. This is really early in the year.

Prep: Everything I have been doing x 10

5/25 Chicken Event This is probably the wiser choice. A one day, unrecognized event that is about 3.5-4 hours away. Totally appropriate for us.

Prep: Feel comfortable on xc. Know what I need to work on when June and I are out there. Feel polished and prepared for SJ and Dressage. Figure out our show outfit.

5/31-6/2 Equestrian’s Institute Horse Trials If for some reason the Chicken Event doesn’t pan out time wise, I can re-route to this event. About 7 hours away, also a recognized event, would also be going Intro. But gives me more time to feel prepared.

Prep: Save my money and work my ass off. I am not going to a recognized event this far away only to have it not go great (i.e not get around xc or have June jump out of dressage arena). So, if I go, I need to feel really prepared and ready.

June 2019

6/8-6/9 Hawley Bennett Clinic Deposit has been placed and I am really hopeful we will go to this SJ clinic. It’s about 4 hours away, so another road trip for June which means I will be spending a lot of money on Ulcergard. I’ll have to see how she is feeling in May- it probably isn’t a wise choice to do a recognized HT the weekend before a clinic.

Prep: I want to be polished and prepared. Ideally, we’d be in a BN group. Which means I can jump courses at a canter, our steering is on point, and we look like a BN worthy team.

6/15-6/16 Golden Spike Recognized Event This is only on the table if the clinic and the recognized event prior to it didn’t happen. Otherwise, that’s way too much traveling for June. But, it is at the same location as the Chicken Event (this time just a USEA event) so it would be nice to come back and see how it goes a second time.

Prep: If I come to this event it means others didn’t happen. So, I need to reassess why those didn’t happen and have a good plan going into this one.

6/28-6/30 Inavale Horse Trials This one’s a pipe dream. But Inavale is my most favorite event in the entire world. So, to be able to go back and compete would make me so happy. But, it’s a 12 hour drive, and there ain’t no way I’m taking June 12 hours to go Intro. So, unless we’re rocking BN, this ain’t happening. So sad.

Prep: Um, well, in order to go to this we will have exceeded all expectations up to this point. So, keep doing what we are doing.

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So puurrtttyyyy

July 2019

I have ZERO on the table for July. Which is ok. My pony and wallet can probably use a break

August 2019

8/10-8/11 Sizzling Summer Show Same as the derby style show in April at the same venue

Prep: This will be my final show prep before what I hope is my debut at BN at a recognized show. So, we better be rocking it at this level. Or, at least feel confident that throwing money and travel time at this level is a good idea.

September 2019

9/7 Pumpkin Event  If I am going to this one day unrecognized event, it means things did not go as planned, and I am sad.

Prep: Well, clearly we had a hitch in our plans and I just need to keep working hard

9/13-15 Skyline Horse Trials Back to Utah for our first foray into BN at a recognized event. This event is fun because they have just about every type of jump on xc so you really get the xc experience. I don’t want to drive 6 hours and just jump a bunch of logs. Or maybe I do? It’ll be fun to freak out at jumping BN jumps.

Prep: We had better be: consistent (ish) in the bridle, making lovely 20 meter circles. I need to have a brave horse who has spent time on xc and understands what is being asked of her. And she needs to be listening to my aids, and I better be executing them well, in the SJ arena.

October 2019

10/13 Sawtooth Pony Club Jumper Show Another low key, home barn jumper show. I hope to have some smooth rounds and may even participate in the costume contest?

Prep: An organized round where I’m thinking ahead and feeling good in the SJ ring can only be attained if we have done our homework up to this point.

10/20 IRELAND!! After canceling the trip in 2018 because of, well, Stella, we’re headed back in 2019! Foxhunting and jumping cross country jumps to my heart’s delight!! Plus, June will enjoy some time off!

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Dublin, the original Irish horse in my life

November and December 2019

Not much on the books for these months yet. I’ll have to see where we are at and what is going on. It may be a nice time to just bring June back from a mini vacation (since she isn’t going to Ireland..) and get to work on all the holes in our training.

Looks like it’s going to be a fun year!!

 

 

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A Christmas Surprise

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you had a great holiday season and were able to spend time with those you love (2 or 4 legged!)

I spent the 24th with family, which is our tradition, which meant the 25th was a day for me to do what I pleased. And while I had plans to spend part of the day with friends, and part of the day walking Shelter dogs, I had the morning to myself.

Which meant, after a nice run, I could ride both of my favorite grey mares!

I hadn’t ridden Georgie in a few weeks, but Sarah asked me to hop on her and tune her up for an older gentleman who takes dressage lessons on her. I was happy to have the chance to hop on her!

I started with June and she was full of it. Not in a bad way, just in a baby horse way. She wanted to root and run through my hand. She wanted to act spooky at one end of the arena. She wanted to skip trotting and get to cantering.

We worked through all of it and it was actually really fun. We’d get a lovely rhythmic trot and she’d start rooting. We’d work on that and she would get spooky. Oh baby horse, so many tricks to get out of work! In the end we had some lovely moments. I love how forward she is, and honestly, love how easy the work is for her. She’s still a baby and so so green, but she clearly has so much talent and if I can harness that, I really think we can have years of fun ahead of us. By the end of the ride we were both sweating, but had accomplished a lot, and I called it a day.

Cute barn cat Willie dressed up in a red bow

While June cooled off, I hopped on Georgie. Georgie will always be my heart horse. Let me start by saying that. She is safe and uncomplicated and she and I have had so much fun together. I have so much love for her and am so lucky she is a part of my life.

Always makes me smile

But, oh my God, riding her and “tuning her up” was more of a workout than I expected. She’s gotten heavy and hard in the mouth. She’s been allowed to go around on her forehand for so long now, that asking her to go in an uphill frame with impulsion was a true test of my fitness (and hers). I spent the entire ride just getting her to come up off of her forehand. We worked on keeping her uphill through corners while not losing impulsion. I worked my butt off to get her to canter over two ground poles, two strides apart, and not letting her fall on her forehand on the backside. She seems to have lost the concept of bend, so we had a conversation about it.

By the end of the ride she was forward, bending, and somewhat uphill. I was dripping in sweat.

As we both cooled off, I thought to myself “Well, if I’m being honest, I enjoyed riding June more than Georgie.”

And if that’s not a Christmas surprise, I don’t know what is. I’m sure the next time June throws me into next week I’ll be singing a different tune, but for now, I’m really appreciating all that is baby June.

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Dressage Tests and Ulcers

Despite the fact that we had a dressage schooling show coming up, in my most recent lesson, I opted to jump. And while I have no media as proof, June was really fantastic. I gave her a day off afterwards and got a text that June didn’t seem very interested in her hay. I went down to the barn to find June in her shed with a tub of uneaten hay. Banamine was given, she was lunged lightly and fingers were crossed. She wasn’t any better the following morning, so Sarah gave her some more Banamine and I stopped by to check on her. She was bright and alert and seemingly normal. If she was colicking, it must be mild. But then, why wasn’t the Banamine working? Just as I was thinking she might have ulcers, I received a text from Sarah that said “Ya know, I think she might have ulcers and this isn’t colic.”

I drove over to the vet’s office to see about having them come out and happened to catch her veterinarian between appointments. She agreed, ulcers seemed likely. I have her scheduled to be scoped on Thursday, and in the meantime have begun her on the crazy expensive Gastroguard regime for 30 days. I will admit there was a part of me that was like “How does this horse have ulcers??? I haven’t even asked anything of her yet?”

But in thinking it through, and reading a great article Sarah sent me from horse.com (along with some others) it seems it doesn’t take much for most horses to have ulcers. And probably the biggest contributing factor to her ulcers (which at this time I can only assume are the problem) are that she is “meal fed” as my veterinarian called it. Meaning, June gets two meals a day, and that isn’t great for a horse’s gastric health. Now, I love the barn I board at. But, do I love that my horse spends hours upon hours without anything to eat? No. Especially since I grew up with horses who never had any issues with colic or ulcers and spent their days out on pasture, eating all day long. So, this is tough for me. And clearly, it’s tough for June too. But the good news is, I have some solutions to keeping hay in front of her for longer periods of time, without having to change how the barn feeds her. More on that, later.

 

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More of this please!

Having suffered from an ulcer myself this summer, I knew how painful they can be, and also, that eating actually makes them feel better. Along with Omeprazole. I also knew the meds can take a few days to work, and actually, if she doesn’t have ulcers, they would not help a bit. But, by the next day, she was already eating a bit more. And while she wasn’t her complete sassy self, she was feeling well enough to at least get excited about feeding time.  And while I had initially thought I would scratch from the dressage show, on Saturday morning, seeing as she was feeling better, I decided to go ahead and ride in the show. I mean, we were doing a walk/trot test and it was at our barn. Stress levels should remain low for all involved. I made a deal that I would keep spurs off and that I wouldn’t fight with her. We’d just go into warm up and see what mood she was in. If she was willing to work, we’d work. If she felt crappy, I’d scratch.

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So cute!

She actually felt calm and relaxed. Perhaps a little duller than usual, but with lots going on around her, she was curious, but not anxious. And she handled the little bit of atmosphere like a champ. I definitely could have been smarter about my warm up. I could have done more transitions and worked on getting her to listen to my aids. I did some work on 20m circles and trying to be straight up centerline, which was fine. But I think in general, I just need to go into warm up with a plan, rather than figuring it out when I am already on her back. Especially with a young horse. I was overly concerned with symmetry instead of quality of my gaits. Therefore, our circles were ok, but June was dragging me around, and not listening to my aids very well. Lesson learned. There is a lot of work on transitions in our future. I was also overly worried about connection, instead of riding forward and with rhythm. Rhythm before connection, Nadia. Remember that next time.

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But connection can look so pretty!

But overall? Overall I was thrilled with her. She was focused and willing and a really really good girl. I think with a better warm up plan, and using warm up wisely, I could have imporved a lot of things, but I came out of both tests just thrilled with how it went and thrilled at our potential future.

June seemed unfazed by all of it, and was completely ready for treats when we were all done. And while she never gets treats unless she is in the horse trailer or her paddock, I made an exception and was happy to see how eager she was for them.

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So, all in all, a mixed bag week. I’ll keep you all posted on her scope this Thursday. I guess at this point, fingers crossed we find ulcers? Blerg. But, as always, I have a plan in place and we’ll get through this.

 

 

 

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Out and About with a Baby Horse

Since June is only a couple of weeks back into “work” I’m trying to have as much low pressure fun with her as possible, while ultimately getting her fit enough to be back in lessons and regular work. I’m trying to mix it up a bit, a day of lunging in side reins followed by a hack around the the property.

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While the sun is setting way too early, this sunset sure was beautiful

I’ve arranged to have her turned out at least 5 days a week for a couple of hours and it seems to be making a difference in her whole attitude. Now, every time she comes out of her paddock it isn’t necessarily to go to work. When we do go to work she seems more relaxed and just…happier. I’m sure this will change if we get lots of snow, but for now, we’re both really enjoying the fact that she gets to wander grass pastures and enjoy some June time.

I’m working on increasing my confidence on her, and riding better should things go awry. After lightly lunging her the other day, I decided to ride her out on the fields surrounding the property. I have hand walked her out there lots, but as we know, ghosts are most likely to appear when we’re on their backs.

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We have an irrigation canal, which in the summer is an impromptu drinking spot for lots of critters. Usually Siri is flushing birds and digging for voles. June clearly remembers two ducks that flew out in front of us this summer and nearly hit her in the noggin. Now she gives that canal the major hairy eyeball. But, knowing it’s empty and there is nothing to fear, I made her walk as close to it as possible. She gave one very impressive spook just so I knew she was serious that it is SCARY, but we were able to walk along it quite reasonably after that.

I put my big girl pants on and even trotted one stretch. I’ve never trotted her out there alone, and guess what? It was totally fine. And even kind of fun!

Feeling brave and like we’re on the right path, I accepted an invitation to go to our local cross country course and play around while people were schooling some jumps. I figured this was a great next step. See how June would be in a situation that could mimic a show, or a clinic. I arrived later than everyone else and when I got to the schooling field, the other riders were leaving to return one student to their trailer. I lunged June around some jumps and she was calm and listening well to me. I saw that some riders would be coming back to us shortly, but June did not seem to care that we were out there all by ourselves. So, I decided to once again, put on my big girl pants and hop on her by myself, alone in the field. As I looked for a log to use as a mounting block, a horse at the trailer nearby began screaming for her friends. This got horses at the boarding facility wound up. And now the two horses returning to us were in full view. Was it too much for June? Would she buck me off the minute I got on her and start galloping and screaming?

Nope.

She let me get on, we walked around, joined the other horses, watched as they jumped some jumps and had a very grown up experience about the entire thing. In fact, June was just about perfect for the entire experience. I was really, really proud of her.

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I also had her walk up to the prelim table in the field, just to give her some inspiration for the future….

Two highlights that really sealed the deal for me:

  1. June is a bit ditchy. Once, when she got away from me in the jump field while I was lunging her, she gallop across the alfalfa field back to home. All the sudden she just slammed on the brakes and wouldn’t go any further. When I caught up to her I realized she didn’t want to cross the ditch the wheel line made. We worked on it a bit out in the field, but again, this was someone’s crop field, and they probably didn’t want my horse in it to begin with, so I kind of just filed it away for later. So, when we got to a rutted road in the field, I shouldn’t have been surprised that June would slam on the brakes. Using what I learned from a Hawley Bennett clinic years ago, I just walked June alongside the rut, just asking her to see it from both directions. Then we walked to where the rut ended, and was just a normal road and I asked her to cross. And she did. And I kept telling her how brave she was. We walked a little further and she continued to cross. Finally we got to where the ruts were quite large and ditch like, and she walked across them with ease.  Smartest and bravest young pony ever.
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    I even had her stop in the middle so I could get a photo
  2. The second moment wasn’t as exciting, but still was a great moment. I decided to leave the group a little early, as I wanted to walk June away from them and through a new part of the facility by herself. June didn’t object at all. We passed two young horses playing, some chickens, lots of farm equipment and people riding. She got a little concerned at one point, but I was able to keep her going and it was a lovely, drama free ride.
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Plus I stayed nice and warm in my new Horseware coat!

These outings are helping me bond with her as well as build my confidence. She is such a fun horse and capable of so much. I don’t want to get lost in thinking that “training” only pertains to jumping and dressage. There’s so much more to training a youngster and for me, these two outings were some of the best training rides we’ve had so far!

 

 

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June’s Mini Boot Camp

While I figured out what to do with June in the time that I can’t ride, I decided to keep my weekly lesson with Sarah and have her continue to ride June.

I’m really glad I did as it taught me so much about my pony and Sarah had some amazing progress with her.

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In their first ride together they worked on connection and balance in the walk/trot. June tends to grab the bit and pull. She evades steering. She evades contact. But by the end of the ride she was already lighter in the bridle and making progress. Sarah was looking forward to riding her again 4 days later to see what the mare had retained.

June was more supple, lighter in the contact and more responsive to what Sarah was asking from step one. She had pretty much retained…everything! Sarah was very impressed and moved on to the canter. Which…well.. lets just say our canter needs work. Especially on a 20 meter circle. June roots, evades contact, falls in, and just stops. I knew it would be a mess, so wasn’t surprised when Sarah had some serious work ahead of her.

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June’s two tactics for evading work, well three actually, are 1) grab the bit 2) just stop 3) buck/kick out. She didn’t buck or kick out at all with Sarah. But she grabbed that bit and ignored half halts. And towards the end of the ride, when she was tired, she literally just stopped moving forward and would start going backwards. As you can imagine, when a pro is riding a horse and it does this, it doesn’t go very well for the horse…

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By the end of the ride they had made some good progress and June was tired, but had learned what doesn’t work for her. She got the next day off and I got the following texts:

“I’d like to ride June again. We made such great progress and I’d like to see if she retained what we worked on.”

“June is so smart. Do you know how smart she is? Most horses don’t learn this quickly.”

“I am in love with her trot.”

My trainer wants to put another schooling ride on my horse? She thinks my horse is wicked smart? She loves her trot? Best Day EVER.

And so, after a day off, June had what will be her final ride before going out to pasture for a month while I recover. I had wanted to give her a month off after a summer of intense riding so her baby brain could process it all. I wasn’t expecting to do it now, but the timing will have to change as I don’t want to miss riding her for 4-6 weeks and then give her time off when I am better.

So, Sarah got back on her, and from their first steps together, through the end of the lesson, all I could think was “She looks like a completely different horse than she did two lessons ago.”

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She barely evaded contact. She barely pulled on the bit. She was responsive and forward (maybe too forward sometimes, but who can blame baby horse for trying a new tactic to avoid work) and she listened to Sarah far better than she had before. The ride was short and sweet. June was good, so there was no need for Sarah to drill her. She needs to learn that good behavior results in quitting time coming sooner rather than later.

I was amazed at the progress she had made in such a short time, as was Sarah. She mentioned that June made leaps and bounds beyond what is normally seen or expected. I’m not too surprised that June is a smarty pants. I think it’s why I struggle with her sometimes. I think she has strong opinions, and isn’t afraid to test me. But the good news is, she isn’t resistant to work, I just need to ask correctly. She didn’t kick out once with Sarah, despite being asked to work harder than she ever had. So, why did she buck with me? All I can think is, it’s worked for her in the past, and it’s her go to. I think me hanging off the side of her pulling on her rein, was not fun for her either, so the most rescent kick out, didn’t work that well for her either. I’m sure she’ll buck again. I’m sure I’ll fall off again (but hopefully NOT from a buck) but seeing her work ethic, how, um, FANCY she is when she’s put together and how willing she can be, I know that this journey will be fun and worthwhile.

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Show Jump Sunday

Labor Day weekend was a big one for June.  Saturday we had June’s First XC Schooling and then Sunday we had a jumper show at our barn. My plan was to do ground poles and cross rails. We hadn’t ever done a jump course before, so I figured ground poles could give me an idea of the turns, etc.

After a quick warm up, mostly in the round pen, June and I entered the arena for our first round. We trotted the poles, I let her look around a little, but really wanted her focused and turning.

We did well enough that Sarah mentioned what an organized and polished round it was.

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The barn swallows joined us

For my next round I decided to try to canter the poles as much as possible. Our turning while cantering is getting better, but still more Mack truck than Ferrari.

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I think she’s trotting here, but looking cute, so using the media

She was a good girl and it was no big deal.

So, next up, cross rails. Since this was our first jump course ever, I figured we would trot and if she wanted to canter, she could.

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It was definitely a mish mash of trot and canter, but she was forward and easy to steer and I was really happy with her!

Next up, a round where we canter the entire course!

I decided to ask for the canter in the corner before the first jump. We were going right, our less consistent direction, and June REALLY wanted to look out and run through her inside shoulder. So, we didn’t get our lead. Which was fine. We popped over jump one in the trot, and then cantered the rest of the course. Mare gets the whole “land and go on” idea, which I love.

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She got all her leads (from what I remember) for the rest of the course. And sure there was some veering, and she may have tried to run out at jump 3, but really, it was way more organized and flowing than I expected it to be.

Here’s a short video of us doing our final round

I considered entering 2′ but decided to end on such a positive note. We have lots of work to do, and jumping our first verticals in a show, isn’t going to help anything.

Overall, I was super duper happy with June. She was great about standing around, and then got right to work when we entered the arena. She did pull the “I’m not going forward” crap in between classes, when I wanted to walk her around, but she got over it pretty quickly and we walked all over the property once she understood that wasn’t allowed. She definitely has opinions, this mare.

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Not many people see me work with her day to day, so I think they were surprised to see me cantering a course, since last time I just trotted ground poles. Trainer D was there, riding a horse for a client and she was really impressed with how far June has come, which made me happy. A few other horse women I respect also commented on what a good job I’ve done with her, and their comments really meant a lot to me. There’s still so much to do, but I love the base we have and am excited to keep getting better and better.

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