Category Archives: horses

What Macy Didn’t Teach Me

Macy taught me so much in our year together. She taught me how to ride a bolt. How to ride a spook, How to ride a spook into a bolt.

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Usually I was good at riding the spook bolt. This time not so much

But she didn’t teach me how to ride a buck. Which, at the time, I really appreciated. But now, I could have used some practice.

Because for the third time June bucked me off.

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Yeah, I still love her though

Our lesson was going so well. We were working on connection. We were getting her to flex at the walk and trot. Then, we moved onto the canter. And we worked on some more connection, but also getting her to go forward on a 20 meter circle, and not having her run out her shoulder when we were at the open end of the arena.

She was getting tired. This was to be expected. She hadn’t worked this hard before for this long. She had been great so far. But this time, when I asked her to canter she was so incredibly behind the leg, and I could tell she really did not want to. So, I gave her a whack with the dressage whip.

And she responded with a double barrel kick that unseated me and threw me forward and then sideways. Unseating me freaked her out and she squirted forward. And I started falling off, but growing up a foxhunter taught me to never let go of the reins (who wants to walk miles home??) so I kept pulling on the left rein and she freaked out and well, I fell on my ass.

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When I stood up, there was Georgie , who was also being ridden in the arena. I looked at her and said “God I miss you.”

What’s the worst thing about falling off (when you’re totally ok)? Getting back on. It really is. Or, maybe the next day is the worst part. All I know is, I landed on my tailbone and my ring finger on my right hand did not want to bend. But despite the pain and the blood from ripping my fingernail back, I got back on and got back to work. I knew the faster I got what needed to be done, done, the faster I could go ice my hand.

June was really good. We did some more cantering, in both directions and my tailbone was on fire, but luckily we didn’t have to work long, since she was responding to everything I asked of her.

So, welcome to the world of opinionated mare babies? Maybe I’ll get better at sitting a buck. Maybe third time’s a charm. God I hope so.

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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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June’s First Cross Country Schooling

It’s a funny thing, prepping to school cross country on your own horse after not having done so for way too long. I was convinced I would forget something, and put my safety vests in the car the night before just to make sure I didn’t forget them. Then there was the task of deciding what June needed to wear. I haven’t bought much for her, so was hopeful Georgie’s xc boots would fit her (they did!) and that she would be fine in her D ring snaffle (she was!). Once I checked and double checked that we had everything, the excitement was palpable.

We went to school with Sarah and Rapid, which I appreciated, as I wasn’t sure we were ready for a group environment yet. Keep in mind, we’ve cantered in the open twice? Three times? And she has never done the “go do something then come and stand here for a while” routine, which is what you do with groups. Plus, I had no idea what she would think of all the jumps, and all the open space, and I really just needed to see who this horse was when put to work in a new environment doing new things.

I started with lunging her (duh) and she was so calm and relaxed we quickly moved to jumping over some obstacles. She handled these incredibly well. Really didn’t look at anything, even as we progressed from logs to a “picnic” table,  red branch looking log thing, A frame, hanging logs, etc.  Again, she was being so good, I hopped on her and we got to work under saddle.

The goal for the day was to build confidence, but also for me to get a glimpse of what she might be like on cross country. Who knew if she would even want to do this, and one thing I must have, is a horse who is willing to get from one side of the fence to the other, safely.

We started by trotting and cantering around the field. She didn’t get spooky or weird as we trotted and cantered away from Rapid, into the shadows, and up and down a teeny hill. In fact, she kind of liked the exploring, and she had her ears forward, ready for what was next.

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Just taking in the sights…

I continue to be in love with this horse’s canter. I have never had a horse with an uphill canter, nor did I ever put much thought into why it was important. But then, when I rode Rapid for the first time, I was like “Woah. This is like a totally different experience.” The best part is that you just feel the power from the back end surge forward and instead of falling down they come up. Have you ever driven a sports car? Hit the gas and felt the front of the car lift as the back powers it forward? It’s like that. It’s amazing. Ever since I rode Rapid’s canter, I knew I wanted an uphill horse. And thank God, June does not disappoint. She isn’t strong enough to keep that canter for too long, but it’s there, and it’s going to make things so much easier moving forward.

From there we moved on to trotting over logs. Super simple, super FUN. Our goal was to see if we could get June to land in the canter. No problem. She was eager to do so. She was bold, honest, and everything I would want her to be for her first outing!

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wheeeee

Now, don’t be fooled. I’m making this sound easy and perfect. It wasn’t. I was thinking “steer, steer, leg on, steer, SUPPORT,SUPPORT, steer” the entire way to the jump. June was being honest and brave, but it didn’t mean I just sat there and hoped it would happen. It was a lot of work, a lot of figuring out what works best, but in the end, it honestly went great and I think both of us had a good time!

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Love everything about this!

Since I didn’t want to over jump her on her first outing, we headed over to the water to see how she would be with that. Sarah was going to school Rapid, so June and I would have a little break and she could just check things out. I made the mistake of hopping off of her, so I could film Sarah. And I say mistake, because June thought me getting off and standing with her for 20 minutes meant we were done. She wasn’t really excited when I got back on her. She got tight in her back and a little sour. So, I hopped off, lunged for a few minutes, asked her to lunge through the water (which she did) and got back on. She  without hesitation walked into the water and walked around.

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But I never got that relaxed, easygoing, horse back. She continued to be tight in her back and sometimes refused to go forward in the water. I wouldn’t give her her head, as I didn’t want her to buck, so the entire experience wasn’t as low key as I was hoping. I got a little stiff, she got a little stiff, and I expected it to go south. It didn’t. It went ok. In fact, in looking at the videos, I think she was less likely to buck than I thought. I think she was just figuring out the splashing, she wanted to drink (which she later did), and she didn’t love the feeling of wet boots in the water.  At one point she just started pawing and pawing and pawing in the water and would NOT move. I was legit scared she was going to lay down and almost hopped off, but Sarah was like “Nope. Stay on.” And she grabbed June by the bridle and pulled her out of the water. Then she looked at me and said “THAT was being a pony.” Meaning, she was just being a brat. So, the good news is, she isn’t scared of the water. She didn’t buck me off. We need to work on me being confident but smart when she pulls these shenanigans. Actually using my dressage whip to get her moving forward. I knew from the get go she was going to test me. Now I need to have the answers.

We walked back to the trailer on a loose rein and all in all I’d say it was a great experience. I’m so excited to get back out there with her!

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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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Bridle Shopping

It’s tough with a baby horse to put money into things they may outgrow or not need anymore. Well, let me re-phrase that. It is hard for ME to put money into things June may outgrow or no longer need. She’s wearing Georgie’s Kool Coat this weekend at the show despite it being way too large. I’m waiting for her to fill out and get some muscle before  making a dressage saddle purchase and I’ve been piecing together tack for her to wear in our day-to-day rides. While I solidly believe fit is important, that’s about where my investment has ended in her tack.

I don’t currently have a show worthy brown bridle for her, so when prepping for the FEH class I asked Sarah if she had one I could borrow. And lucky me, she did! A really pretty Schockemole bridle that she got in Ireland. It was a cob size, but I feel like June’s horse size bridle is a bit on the large size, so wasn’t too worried about fit. Well, it wasn’t until I tried to fasten the noseband that I realized this bridle was not going to work. Pretty much everything fit except the noseband. It wasn’t close to being large enough.

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Luckily, Sarah had another bridle I could try. Only problem? It’s navy. (Yes she has a navy bridle. I didn’t even know such a thing existed.) And while I will be riding with my navy saddle pad, I was REALLY hoping to have June wear a brown bridle with her brand new, beautiful, Dark Jewel Designs browband. Amelia from DJD was even kind enough to get it to me in time for the competition! But adding a brown browband to a navy bridle just isn’t gong to work. I decided a nice, clean, not put together mishappenly bridle is the priority. So, because I really, really, want to show off her new blingy browbands, and have a show worthy bridle, I’m looking to you blogosphere! Help me find a bridle! Here is my must have list:

-dark brown

-jumper bridle

-up to $200

Yes, that is my list. But I really, really need to stick to that budget because I still have a lot of things I am trying to pay off, like Stella’s surgery…. So those beautiful Vespucci bridles are not going to be considered. I’d be up for a used bridle if you have a nice one, but it would have to be in show worthy condition.

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A Schockemohle contender…

Let me know what you love, what to avoid and help me get June looking her best!

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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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Habits

Since I’m not doing much riding with June just yet I’ve taken the opportunity to ride a couple of the lesson horses at our barn. Mostly I just hop on them when Sarah is out of town and they’re not being used for lessons, but could use some exercise. No matter which horse I ride, my habits are right there with me. It’s nice because I can work on them. Work on my position and try, desperately, to break my bad habits.

There’s one habit that follows me on whatever horse I ride and quite honestly, I am not willing to break it. It’s a habit I actually think has served me very well over the years.

You see, I talk to horses.

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What’s that you say? I have hay in my forelock?

When I’m on their back, I’m a talker. Like, not all the time, but a fair amount. It served me really, really, well with Georgie. For one thing, when we started going Training, and neither of us had jumped cross country at that height, I could have been up on her back, just not breathing. Instead, I made sure I was breathing by talking to her as we cruised around. There were lots of “good girl” and “woah” and sometimes me blithering on about what was next. It kept me breathing but it also kept her engaged with me. I’d see her ear flick back. As time went on, it was totally routine. When we were out on course together, I was always communicating with her. I actually think she really enjoyed it. It seemed to be what she expected and it relaxed her a bit.

Ingrid Klimke actually spoke in an interview about how she is constantly talking to her horse while she is out on cross country. And while I can’t find the interview, I remember she made fun of herself a bit, referencing the fact that she is not a quiet rider. Instead people are surprised to hear her talking as her horses fly over jumps. Her reasoning is much the same as mine.  Think about it, we’re ALWAYS talking to our horses. We’re asking them to move over, get out of the way. We cluck at them, ask them to whoa, and tell them how amazing they are. They’re used to our voices.

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One of our ridiculous barn cats

With June, so much of our relationship is based on verbal communication. She is so used to my voice. And, now that I am riding her a bit, I’m teaching her what “woah”means as well as what a “cluck” means. I assume my habit of talking to her while I am on her back isn’t going to stop as we progress in our training.

With the school horses I ride, if they offer a good behavior, they’re sure to get a “good boy.” If they spook at seemingly nothing, they get a “Seriously?” But they also get lots of verbal reinforcement as we go about the ride.

It’s a habit I can’t see myself changing, and one I’m actually quite happy I’ve got. What about you? Are you verbal with your horses when riding? Or do you tend to be the silent type?

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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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Georgie’s New Beginning

I’ve been meaning to post about Georgie for some time now. But June has kept me busy and filled with content. So, here is the update you’ve all been waiting for. 🙂

I spent much of March riding Georgie, assessing soundness while I asked more of her and got her fitter. The hope was that she would be able to be half leased by a junior rider and she would be able to handle the increased level of work. During the month I went from questioning Georgie’s future to feeling comfortable with her going into work again. It’s amazing what some fitness work and consistency can do for a horse.

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She still refuses to pose for pictures. EVER

When Sarah returned from California the beginning of April I could confidently say I felt Georgie would enjoy getting back to work and doing 2′ to 2’3 jumping with a junior. Sarah had the perfect student in mind and, well, now they’re paired up and Georgie is being half leased.

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Obviously this is hard and weird and sad for me. But don’t worry, I put some stipulations in the lease (cause I can do that, as her caregiver, I guess) and it states in the lease that either Sarah or I can ride the mare once a week to assess soundness (or give her a tune up ride). Despite how strong and sound she was feeling in March, I still worried that the mare would have issue with being ridden regularly. But having ridden Georgie this past week, I can lay those worries to rest. She felt great. I took her for a walk/trot and then just let her gallop, because she was begging me too. It felt great to be back on her and feeling her want to gallop.

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Plus we got to ride with Tommy , who happens to be Georgie’s boyfriend

And while sure, this ride was supposed to be for Georgie, it helped me so much too. When I ride/work with June, I have to be thinking all the time. There’s never really any down time. It was the same with Macy. With Georgie I could just relax and enjoy it. Letting her gallop around the field reminded me why I love riding so much. Why a partnership with a horse is such a special thing.

I still hope June has half the heart Georgie does. I love watching her new rider love on her and I hope she appreciates just how special a horse she is. I’m so glad she is still at my barn, still in Sarah’s care, and that I’m able to watch over her and ride her as well. Oh, and as an added bonus, she is housed right next to June. She has already figured out that for every treat June gets, she gets one too.

So, here’s to a great new life for Georgie, and her teaching another rider just how special a horse she is.

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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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