Category Archives: happiness

Expectations

At a coffee shop yesterday, a horse acquaintance asked me “Is June everything you hoped she would be?”

I looked at her and paused. I had so many thoughts of June flash through my head. Jumping xc for the first time, going on a trail ride for the first time, jumping for the first time, cantering for the first and second time, trotting for the first time off the lunge line.

Is June everything I hoped for? I have no idea. We’re so barely at the beginning of our partnership, how can I quantify it? How can I say yes when I have barely scratched the surface with this horse.

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Has June exceeded my expectations for bringing along a baby horse? Has June taught me so much in our short time together? Am I madly in love with her?

Absolutely.

Those are easy to answer.

She’s growing up so fast, and some days, it’s hard not to ask more and more from her. But I love the approach we’ve taken, slow and steady wins the race, right?

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We had another short xc outing last week. Just another water outing, to see if I could get her more comfortable in the water. Or, get me to be more comfortable on her in the water.

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She was great. Once again, we made progress far more quickly than I anticipated we would.

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So, here’s to a mare who so far, has exceeded all expectations.

 

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Jump Progress

Now that the FEH class is behind us, Trainer Sarah has been having us work on our jumping a bit more. June is taking to it incredibly well, and I like to think she rather enjoys it!

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She can clear a cross rail!

The progress has been really fun. Over the past month or so we have gradually begun to add to what June can do over jumps. We started with groundpoles, moved to a grid (groundpoles to a cross rail), then a single cross rail with placing poles on either side, and today we linked two cross rails together, only one with placing poles! It was basically our first course! And, last week, I lunged June out in our jump field over solid obstacles. Including the ditch! So, she’s getting experience with lots of different jumps.

It’s kind of amazing how things progress with baby horses. I was saying to Sarah how it isn’t linear, and you always have to expect the unexpected. For June and I, this unexpected set back has been our struggle to pick up the right lead correctly. We struggled and struggled with this in our last lesson. I  just couldn’t ask in the right timing, June wasn’t doing me any favors by dropping her shoulder while looking to the outside. So, I spent two days with her on the lunge line, trying to figure things out. Trying to apply what Sarah was telling me and figuring what might work. And, lo and behold, I got her to pick up the correct lead on the lunge consistently. But, all that trying got June a bit anxious and she started to canter even when I didn’t ask. And always on the incorrect lead. So, we’ll stop lunging at the canter. We’ll take that off the table until it is no longer a big deal anymore.

I took what I learned lunging her and applied it under saddle today. I was ready to have to ask, then ask again, then ask again, for the correct lead, but June picked up the correct lead the first time I asked. I took my time, made sure I was ready to ask and wouldn’t you know it, it was no big deal.

We cantered a full course! (It was 3 jumps but the excitement was as if it was 12!)

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Also, there are moments where this mare’s canter is dreamy. Those moments are fleeting, but I can’t wait to feel it more often once she is stronger!

Of course, her canter can be long and strung out, she doesn’t always keep the canter, getting her to steer to the jump (and over it) can be a task in itself, so nothing looks “pretty” yet. But, to be honest, after my last lesson, I was elated with where we were at. June is getting stronger and more rideable. She can hold her more compressed canter for longer. We’re both figuring this shit out, and it is so fun and so exciting!

We have our first xc school this Saturday followed by a jumper show Sunday. I’m hoping to enter cross rails and maybe canter some of the jumps. Can’t wait for all the adventures that await us!

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This is us, galloping off into the future together…

 

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June’s First Trail Ride: aka June Can Buck

In my human mind, trail rides are like when your teacher tells you you’ll be watching a movie during class. You’re like ” sweet! Easy class!” I mean, what horse wouldn’t love a trail ride? You get to hang out with friends, not work, and munch grass.

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Look at that view! Who wouldn’t enjoy that view??

But that was my human mind. I didn’t really look at this from the perspective of an equine. June doesn’t know what a trail ride is. She knows she was trailered about 30 minutes to an unknown location where there were no other horses other than the one she trailered with. We’re in the middle of nowhere. She knows her mother didn’t lunge her, even though she lunges her before every ride. She knows that her mom got on her and expected her to walk out into the unknown forest.

And she responded by launching her mom into outer space.

I’m not making excuses for her. Launching me 1 minute after I got on her back, is not ok. But, since she is a baby horse, I am trying to figure out where I went wrong. And all I can think is it was a bit too much out of her comfort zone.

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Sure, this looks like fun… but not really

We did complete the trail ride. Despite a hard fall, I lunged the snot out of her, and then walked with her out the trail. I rode for about 1/2 the ride and for those moments, she was great. But I was sore, and defeated, and my confidence was blown. So, I didn’t ride her over stream crossings, and when I felt she needed a break I walked along side her. But we completed a 3.6 mile trail ride in the Idaho wilderness.

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Look at me riding my horse on a trail! Also, maybe I shouldn’t have brought Siri along to run around her?

And because I have an amazing friend, and I knew I had to conquer my fears of getting launched on trail rides, I asked Sarah if she would be up for another trail ride the following day. And so, the following day, we loaded the horses up, and gave it one more shot.

And this time, I lunged June.

I left the dog at home.

I didn’t ask any more of her than I do back home in the arena.

And she was foot perfect.

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And I look pretty happy!

She looked around and took it all in, but happily followed Rapid into the Idaho wilderness. This was somewhere she had never been, and she was okay with that. I asked her to lead on the way home and it was ok- she led for a bit, but was clearly a bit unsure. So, we let Rapid lead again, and I rode home on a loose rein.

Was it the perfect first trail ride?

Hell no.

But it ended well, and I am less sore than I was. I learned that keeping her routine as solid as possible is important for her. She wants to be lunged before I ride her no matter where we are. Skipping that, and asking her to be perfect somewhere new, wasn’t fair.

So, June can buck. I knew that. And I need to keep that in mind next time I want to hop on her and do something new. That seems a small price to pay for a horse who otherwise has been fantastic.

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Fraggle Friday: Stella Milestones

Today marks two months from Stella’s first seizure.

When that seizure happened, I hoped I had one month, prayed for two months, with her. I heard brain tumors grew quickly, and 1-2 months was a reasonable prediction for how long she would have.

Stella had back surgery on April 10th. On that day I hoped she would make it through surgery and regain some mobility. I hoped she could walk on her own again. I never expected her to walk up stairs or run. At 14 years old, I kept my expectations in check for what this dog would be able to do.

But apparently I forgot it was Stella who had back surgery and a brain tumor. Stella, the dog who I joked, if she were a human, she would be a multi sport Olympian. This is not a dog who is going to sit around and let anything stop her.

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This photo was taken 7/13. Clearly she can run…. PC:Nate Liles

And, so, a summer of adventures began. And, because it was summer, our adventures have involved a LOT of time in the water.

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Amazing weekend trip to Stanley, Idaho. Stella hadn’t been in the water yet this summer, and I worried she would have trouble. She didn’t.

On this trip to Stanley, Stella realized she felt GOOD. She took off down a trail thinking that’s the way we were going. Bring that she is basically deaf, and totally independent, I ended up running after her down the trail for 5 minutes when it became clear she was not coming back to me.

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She’s still one of the strongest swimmers. Siri does her best to keep up

She still loves to play fetch, although sometimes she can’t actually see the stick once I’ve thrown it into the water…

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Ready to fetch!

And to be honest, some days are better for her than others. Yesterday she just wanted to sleep. It’s been hot and smokey so I pretty much feel the same way. I’ve stopped thinking “is this your last day?” every single day, and instead am just enjoying every single day we have together.

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Siri is really good at convincing Stella to cuddle

It’s been an incredibly fun summer with her, and I am so thankful I get to continue having her in my life!

 

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Using What I Know

Things with June continue to progress quite nicely. I have to say, under saddle, so far, she has been amazing. We’ve been riding at the trot on our own quite a bit and I am getting more and more comfortable with all of it.

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We had a wedding at the barn this weekend, which essentially just meant it was completely chaotic there. I wanted to ride June one of the three days that the wedding prep was going on, so decided I would take her out to the field and ride her in the jump school corner. I figured I would see how she was on the lunge line and take it from there.

Well, she was perfect on the lunge, even with the new footing that had been put down and the fact that all the jumps were askew around the edge of the footing. After about 15 minutes of calm lunging I decided to hop on her.

Now, keep in mind that we are about 100 yards from the barn, there isn’t a fence, and I still ride June in a side pull, so if she wants to bolt back to the barn there is really no stopping her.

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She enjoyed the view

I hopped on and we calmly walked around for about 10 minutes. She was so calm I decided to ask for the trot. And we trotted around calmly and happily, changing direction and having a grand old time. Baby horse exceeded my expectations for sure.

So, while our under saddle and ground work seem to be solid and moving in the right direction, June’s ground manners are pretty horrific. Specifically when I have her tied and am grooming or saddling her. She seems to think that any time a person comes up to her it is to give her treats, so she immediately throws her head at you. (I rarely hand feed her treats, but her owner/breeder was basically nothing more than a treat dispenser to her, and she has not forgotten that people=treats.)  I can’t groom her without her throwing her butt and/or shoulder around and pinning me between the post and her body. She can’t JUST STAND. And she’s not much better on the cross ties. She moves constantly and will move backward and forward the entire time. Ironically, she is great to bathe. Stands there perfectly, but she cannot stand still otherwise.

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The beginning of the temper tantrum

I understand she is a baby. And Sarah has even said that as she grows up she will become more patient. But yesterday she pushed me past my limit. I tied her to the rail while I cleaned up and she began pawing. Hard. And then kicking out. And throwing her body left and right. Once I was done cleaning I knew I couldn’t reward her by un-tying her, so I hung out while she had a temper tantrum. And it got worse and worse. I hid just outside the indoor arena to see if it subsided if I wasn’t in view, and it didn’t POUND, POUND, KICK, was all I could hear.

So, I came back inside, untied her and made her move her feet. Re-tied her. No difference. We did this a few more times. She was now lathered in sweat, and it had been about an hour. All she had to do was stand. But she was giving that a big fat nope.

I got her to stand quietly for 5 seconds, called it a day, did ground work the entire way back to her pen and left über frustrated.

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She and Stella did go for a nice walk together though!

And then, that night, I awoke at 2am and couldn’t fall back asleep. And that’s when it came to me- an idea to work on June’s behavior while tied.

Clicker Training.

This is not a new idea to many of you. So I won’t get into all of the theory behind it. But I will say it is a GREAT way to mark a behavior you like and get animals (and people!) to understand what you are asking. Maybe June just needs to understand what I want, as well as get rewarded for when she does something correctly. Now, my one hesitation is that I will have to hand feed her treats. But, she only gets a treat post click. She only gets treats when she does what I ask. She will soon learn (I hope!) that she doesn’t get treats just becuase she mugs me for them. I’m a bit nervous about this, but I think it’s worth a shot. I have a clicker, plenty of treats, and I think small increments of training this way may be super beneficial. And while no one would say my dogs are incredibly well behaved, I did clicker training with both of them, and it worked well. I could eventually wean them off the clicker, and treats, so maybe I can do the same for June.

I’d actually love any thoughts you have on the topic- am I setting us up for success? Or for complete disaster?

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On Being a Laid Back, Type A, Personality

I am fully aware that my title contradicts itself.

But it’s truly who I have become. Especially when it comes to “show season”

When I was riding Georgie, I would have my show season set by January. I knew what I needed to do if I wanted to qualify for the 3 day,  knew what clinics I wanted to participate in, and had a good sense of exactly how my season would go.  Planning gives me a sense of peace and relaxation.

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Also peaceful and relaxed

But then Georgie injured herself, and ever since I have not had a single plan work out.

The plan to compete Macy at a recognized event fell through at least twice.

And more recently, my FEH plans with June have gone askew.

But I think one of the most important things Macy taught me, in preparing for a baby horse, is to throw all plans out the window. And somehow, this lesson from Macy (like many others) is absolutely invaluable.

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Thanks Macy!

I am so incredibly laid back about all my June plans it’s like I am a different person. (But still the same person, because I love MAKING plans. I’m just okay with said plans not being what actually happens)

This laid back attitude reaches from my daily training of baby horse to future of baby horse and everything in between. When I found out that the Spokane event wouldn’t be holding a FEH 4 yr old class this May, (where I planned to go watch so I knew what I was getting into for Rebecca), I re-routed myself to NY to see family and deliver Peekaboo to her new home. When I found out Rebecca Farm wasn’t holding any YEH or FEH classes this year, I felt relief, as I could now speak at a conference and not have to figure out how I would fly there from Montana and get June home without me. And, even when I found out that the FEH class that I was hoping to attend this fall was happening AFTER championships (therefore making qualifying for championships obsolete as it’s not like I can go next year), I kinda shrugged and while bummed, knew there is a good chance I won’t qualify for champs, so no big deal.

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She’d probably have a better chance of qualifying for champs without me…

But, in case you’re worried about who I have become, and worry that I have turned into some apathetic, non caring human, fear not. Sarah noticed there was an event being held in August we’d never been to. It was holding both YEH and FEH classes. After emailing them to confirm they would hold a FEH 4 yr old class, I decided this was the new plan! Sarah and I would go, me with my 4 yr old, her with her 2yr old. Not only do I get to take June to a show, Sarah is coming and we can make it a quick “vacation” of sorts! So, not having plans, may actually work out for the best!

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Still so adorable

And if these plans fall through, that’s ok too. I can re route once again. All plans are up in the air, and changeable. And weirdly, at this point in my life, that’s totally ok.

 

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Alone Time

If you read my blog and that of SprinklerBandits you may get the feeling we have two of the most amazing, lovely, easy as can be, young horses. And, while I actually think this is true of Zoebird, I’m going to let you in on a secret about June. She isn’t perfect.

I know, you’re shocked.

I will say, before talking about all the things she needs work on, that she is actually a great baby. When she knows what is expected of her, she is happy as can be to do what I am asking. I’ve had few problems with her in work actually, most of the baby moments seem to be happening when we are just standing. This mare CANNOT just stand.

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But she’s so cute when she’s in my space!

Now, I know that’s pretty normal for young horses. I thoroughly enjoyed Amanda’s post about the Tree of Knowledge. June needs a Tree of Knowledge, or a Thinking Pole, or whatever else you want to call it, SO BADLY. Baby horse cannot stand tied, or next to me, for more than 3 seconds without beginning to paw incessantly. It used to be only when I left her alone. But yesterday, as I was talking to a woman who has worked lots and lots of baby horses, June got right in my space and then just started dancing and pawing in the 10 seconds I was speaking with this woman. Let’s just say that didn’t go over well and maybe I was called out for letting her do that. (There are very few people I will allow to question my baby horse training, this woman is one of them). June got an impromptu lesson on just standing still. And I began to hunt the farm for somewhere, anywhere, that I can high tie June.

Our other issue is that she really doesn’t like to be alone. At all. So, I’ve been forcing alone time on her. Sometimes I stick her out in the outdoor arena, where she can see other horses, but she still gallops around whinnying and has a fit. Other times she goes into the high sided roping arena, where she gallops around and has a fit. The first time I stuck her out on grass, she had a fit and missed out on enjoying her pasture time.

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Mom, please save me from this hell

She’s getting better. Which is good. But there is still a bit of a struggle every time I put her out and leave her. Which, she will have to get over, because I have plans for her this fall that involve travelling by herself.

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Also, in an exciting twist, these two have become besties, but more on that later…

I keep reassuring myself that this is just baby horse antics and ALL MOST baby horses act like they’re wearing hind boots for the first time EVERY TIME YOU PUT THEM ON FOR 1 MONTH. I have a lesson this Thursday and while I am eager to show Sarah all our skillz under saddle, I also can’t wait to ask her about 100,000 questions about certain behaviors I am working on with June and if my approach seems to make the most sense.

So there you go, June isn’t exactly perfect. But she’s still my most favorite baby horse ever.

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It’s All Good

So, before I wax on and on about June, let me say this. She isn’t actually perfect. She can be pushy and impatient and sometimes tries my patience. She has serious opinions and I know I am not getting a quiet, easy, horse.

But, that said, she’s pretty amazing.

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I mean, the cutest!

The best part (in my opinion) about baby horses, is that everything is new. There is no having to retrain them, so when they pick up on something, you’re like “OMG YOU’RE THE SMARTEST HORSE EVER!!” Because, they are learning much more quickly than you’d expect. Or, at least, than I would expect.

Last week I had my first lesson on June. It was the first time I rode her in a saddle and it was the first time she was ridden outside of the round pen. She was good, in that she would woah 80% of the time and go about 80% of the time when asked. She would get a little confused, and we’d let her work it out, but she definitely needed some direction and guidance.

Three days later I rode her again, this time in the round pen, since I was alone and she wouldn’t have someone guiding her. She remembered most of what we had done and was so much more responsive. Her woah was much more solid as was her go. She even turned! I was blown away!

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Getting her to accept ANYTHING on her hind legs has been a work in progress and probably our biggest struggle. But now she lets me put on boots without any fuss. One day we’ll try for shipping boots. One day.

And then today we did some groundpole work on the lunge line. Did she do everything perfectly every time? Nope. But she was willing and learned and figured out so much on her own. I didn’t always give her the best line to the poles and it was ok, she would trot through them and get it done. And at the end, when I gave her the option of hopping over an 18″ jump, she happily showed me that this was all a piece of cake.

I feel as though once we get a solid partnership, one where we both trust and understand each other, the sky is going to be the limit. I leave today for a cross-country adventure with Peekaboo, and I know I will miss this baby horse so much. It’s so fun to be excited to go the barn every day. Even if all our homework is just to lead from the right side, or get her comfortable with walking by the ditch on the property. Baby horses are the BEST. Or, at least that’s how I am feeling this week 🙂

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Actual Pics of Me on June

So, I realize I was all “I’m not going to ride June until she’s 4” and that is still 2 months away. But baby horse has progressed so far and well with her ground work, I was kinda like “Well, its time to hop on her.”

So one day I did just that. Sarah saw me walking her out to the round pen with my helmet in my hand and just said “Let me know when you’ve safely dismounted.” I figured the less of a deal I made about it, the less of a deal it would be.

So, I worked her in the round pen and she was her fantastic self.

I sided her up to the rail, and played around with throwing a leg over her, and putting some weight on her back. Then I removed her rope halter, put my other halter with reins attached to it  on her, and brought her back over to the rail.(I don’t have a side pull and #stellasurgery prevents me from buying ANYTHING not absolutely necessary).

I sided her up, and slid on. We stood there for a moment or two. Then we walked around the round pen a few circles, worked on turning, and called it a day.

It was the least dramatic and most exciting thing ever.

A few days later I decided to try again. This time I worked on shifting my weight a bit when we were walking and asking her to woah. She got that figured out quickly, so we did some more walking around and turning. With lots of just looking around and hanging out.

And on Kentucky 3 Day cross-country day, I decided to take a risk myself, and have her walk around the property with two other horses.

She was great! At one point, we were leading, and I asked the other two riders if they wouldn’t mind taking the lead since we don’t really know what we’re doing and they were like “But you have the best behaved horse!”

Apparently I picked the wrong two horses to go hack with.

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They were fun to ride with and DID end up taking the lead…

June got a little tight in her back on the way home, and I could tell she was feeling a bit frisky as we made the last turn to home. So, instead of making a big issue of it, I hopped off, turned her away from home and had her walk over some ground poles and a log that were set up in the jump field. The other two horses left and she was fine with it. I then hand walked her back to the barn with no issue.

I should note that I was riding bareback in running leggings and sneakers. If things had gone sideways I would have fallen off easily. But June hasn’t been ridden in a saddle since she’s been back, and I didn’t want to introduce that the day we went out of the round pen. I have my first lesson with her Thursday so I’ll be putting a saddle on her once or twice before that lesson (I have been doing this all along) so that when I get on her for that lesson she is at least comfortable with the saddle and remembers it’s no big deal.

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So many pics of her trotting…I know

The groundwork I’ve done with her has done exactly what I wanted. I’m so confident around her on the ground and feel like I know her so well, despite only having had her in my care for 5 months. I’ve learned so much about her and am really loving the horse I have. If she understands the question, she tries her hardest. It’s when she doesn’t understand that she “acts out.” And even her acting out is short lived and quite minimal. When she acts out, my first question is always “what doesn’t she understand?” And I LOVE trying to figure it out with her. She’s been forgiving of my training flaws and seems eager to see me when I come to her paddock.

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First IG pic of me on her back

That said, she’s got a strong personality and opinions. I need to work on things like her getting in my space and being a bit more responsive, but she’s still young and I think those things will refine themselves with work and time. I’m excited to start working with her and Sarah so I can have homework and continue in the right direction.

The other day Sarah said to me “Remember, she’s only in kindergarten,” and that really struck a chord. Kindergartener’s have a short attention span, they have temper tantrums, and they can be easily scared by harsh teaching. On the other hand, they’re curious, eager and very forgiving of what life throws at them. For June, I think exposing her to new things continues to be of the utmost importance as well as “having conversations” about what is expected of her. I’m looking forward to going slow with her, letting her tell me when she is ready for the next challenge. I think this mare has lots of potential and I can’t tell you how excited I am about the partnership progressing and for her to show me what she is capable of!

 

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June’s First Week Back

I really can’t express how impressed I am with this mare since she has been back.

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So pretty!

I figured in her first week we would take it a bit easy, and on Day 2 I brought her in for grooming and she was great.  I then put her in the round pen to see what, if anything, she remembered. Mare was 100% game and not only did she remember things, she had an attitude of “ok, now what would you like?” I’d had an issue with her not wanting to be caught  from her field last summer and so Trainer Dana had me work on teaching her to come towards me when I opened my arms, with lunge whips in each hand. If she went sideways I’d keep her from going anywhere with the whip. If she squared to me, I’d slink a little, avoid eye contact and invite her to come towards me. One step forward and pressure was released, I backed up as she came forward. It worked amazingly well, despite my  not believing it would and June never had an issue with being caught again.

On this day, I thought I’d see if she remembered any of that. I only had one whip, but I opened my arms, took a step back and June walked right up to me.

I think the best decision I made was to send her to Trainer Dana prior to letting her rest all winter. Clearly she has retained that info and is ready to move forward.

Day 3 she got off because Stella had surgery and I was in Boise. I took advantage of being unable to work her and had her get her spring vaccinations.

Day 4 we did a little round pen work, a little grooming, and then I took her to the obstacle course. As always with her, if she understands the question, she is game to do her darndest. In a few instances I got in front of her shoulder, which she thinks means whoa and we had some difficulty walking over the bridge or teeter totter. But she did everything I asked, when I asked correctly, and  her favorite is still climbing on the tires.

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What’s the big deal, mom?

Day 5 it was lunging in the indoor arena. I decided to throw some trot poles down as well as the liverpool. I walked her up to the liverpool and we walked over it with zero hesitation. This was a physically demanding day for an unfit pony. Lots of trotting, walking and trotting over the liverpool on the lunge line, and figuring out where her feet are through the trot poles. I could tell she was getting tired when she stopped and looked at me. I urged her forward and she literally threw her head and squealed! Then totally trotted forward. I appreciate the sass almost as much as how quickly she acquiesced.

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I like to watch her trot…

Day 6 she got her teeth floated. And I took advantage of the drugs and trimmed her bridle path, fetlock feathers and butchered her tail a bit. Whoops!

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She’s kinda a lightweight

Day 7 I brought her into the indoor and we worked on standing politely while being groomed, she wore front shipping boots and hind xc boots and we walked around. She was not happy about the rear boots so I left them on while I saddled her and walked her around the barn with her saddle on and stirrups swinging around. She didn’t protest about any of it.

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More tires, please?

I’m pleasantly surprised by how much she grew up this winter and how great her attitude is. We’ll begin taking lessons in May, so in the meantime I plan on just de-sensitizing her to as much as possible and getting her fit enough to begin work under saddle. It’s been great having her back, she brings much needed happiness to each day.  I’m thinking this will be a fun summer together!

 

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*TBA*

An amateur eventer's adventures

Cob Jockey

An amateur eventer's adventures

She Moved to Texas

An amateur eventer's adventures

Guinness on Tap

An amateur eventer's adventures

Equestrian At Hart

adventures in riding & life

 Clover Ledge Farm

An amateur eventer's adventures

Viva Carlos

An amateur eventer's adventures

Horsemanship 101

Leprechaun Lane Training Center's Guide to Horsemanship

ridingwithscissors.wordpress.com/

Horse humor and the musings of a weenie adult eventer

May As Well Event

Here's To Not Following Your Own Advice

A Yankee in Paris

No animals were harmed in the making of this blog...

Horse Listening

Horses. Riding. Life.

EquiNovice

Becoming a student of horsemanship.

Chronicles of a "Mini-Pro"

Celebrating the incurable addiction which is being an equestrian

A Horse For Elinor

Dressage On A Dime

Charley's Angel Eventing

Just a High Schooler Living for Jesus & Ponies