Tag Archives: baby horse

Things I Love: Part 1

I’m pretty frugal when it comes to purchasing horse items. I’m typically two years behind “the hot new trend” as I want to see if things last, and all the hype sticks around. Therefore, when I do make a purchase, and I love that purchase (whether new or not) I feel like celebrating it and sharing my love for it. So, here are three new to me items that I am over the moon about.

1. You all may remember that Amanda C kindly gave me her Lund bridle when she upgraded to a new one. I had been searching for a bridle that would fit June and not having much luck. Her bridle was in excellent used condition and it fit June really well. In the meantime, Lund ended up sending me a pair of reins to match the bridle, which was great, as I was riding around in non matching, black reins (Horror!)

When I got these reins, I instantly fell head over heels for the entire bridle. I now had a really nice bridle that fit my horse well and as an added bonus, it had really nice leather and looked great too.

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stock photo from Lund

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Cute pony, cute bridle

The leather always looks cleaner than it is, and it’s really soft. Plus, at the price point of under $175, you honestly cannot beat the bang for the buck. Honestly, I just love this bridle. So much, in fact, that I chose to ride in it, rather than my other new bridle, to June’s first Arena Cross event.

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Ignore side eye, she loves it too!

2. IMO no bridle is show ready until it has a browband with some bling. I’ve always been unimpressed by pre made browbands, and could never find one I was really excited about. When I found out about Dark Jewel Designs, and that you could make your own browbands, I was SOLD. I now have multiple strands and multiple set ups. Amelia is great to work with and most recently really worked with me when I wasn’t sure what size would fit June and my bridle. We ended up on a cob size curved band with snaps. The great thing about the snaps is it is SO easy to remove the browband and change it out. Plus, it makes it a little bit longer so you can slip wider bridles through the sides of the browbands.

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I credit our lucky 4 leaf clover for the success we had last weekend. It’ll be our go to xc browband for a while

Dark Jewel Designs browbands range from over the top blingy to a subtle hint of shine. I have both ends of the spectrum and love them all equally. And while I really love the newest ones I have, I find myself still loving the ones I purchased a couple of years ago. They last and keep their bling.

4. My Secret Santa this year hit it out of the park. I mean Michelle got me some amazing things, including an adorable purple tote with June’s name on it and  something else I really ended up loving:

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The Tough 1 Great Grips Brush

Sure, its purple. But that isn’t the main reason I love it. I love the fact that it bends! It’s so great for cleaning legs and other parts of the horse that aren’t flat. It’s my go to brush right now. Is it fancy and soft? Nope, but it’s perfect for getting dirt and mud off. It wraps around the horses legs so you can clean both sides at once! Hello time saving tool! I just love this simple brush and am so happy I now have one!

3. My biggest purchase of the past year was my horse trailer. Going from a tiny two horse with no tack room, to a much larger two horse with a full dressing room was a serious upgrade for me. But, beyond the size, I can’t say enough good things about how this trailer hauls. Despite being more than twice the size of my last one,  my truck pulls it without an issue. Even with two horses in there this past weekend, I didn’t feel a thing and the truck chugged along nicely. It’s so spacious for the horses and incredibly inviting. I’m so happy I made the upgrade and just can’t say enough things about how much I love it.

 

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When I first purchased it. It now has a level hitch

The dressing room has four windows and is HUGE and I’m looking forward to setting it up for show season so I can sleep in there. For me, this trailer is everything I wanted, and I’m just so excited to have a trailer both June and I love.

So those are the material things I love. I have lots of stuff I like, but it isn’t worth raving about. These items make me happy, stand the test of time and in my opinion, were super solid purchases.

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Getting to Know You

The best part of starting a baby horse has to be how well you get to know them. That bond that develops between horse and rider. Sure, this can happen with non baby horses, but for me, there is something about being the first to figure things out with a horse. All their quirks and opinions.

June is the first horse I have had who is excited to see me. She’ll whinny to me the moment she sees me and has a bit of a fit when I leave her in the indoor arena. Upon my return I am greeted by a very happy horse. It’s cute. I’m glad she likes me and that seeing me elicits a happy reaction, instead of an “ugh. you.”

I feel like they both like me. Most of the time at least.

I’m slowly figuring out what June likes and dislikes. She’s pretty easygoing, but definitely has opinions.

I was reminded this week about how well I am getting to know her. She’s always been a hard worker. A “yes ma’am” type. Strong work ethic even if she’ll try to evade some things if they are difficult for her. So, when Sarah mentioned she was having some connection issues with her in her ride, I thought maybe something was off.

Omg I miss warmer weather and I think June does too

Since I was riding her in a lesson the following day I figured we would see how she did. Again, she was resistant to keep any connection, something that hasn’t been a problem. She was really tossing her head and being quite dramatic.

And then, I asked her to come up centerline and track left. She trotted a few steps, slammed on the brakes and gave her best Hi Ho Silver impersonation. Good thing she’s so compact as it didn’t really scare me and we continued on with the lesson. But this was her first time rearing.

We moved on to practicing Intro Test B for the upcoming dressage test of choice show this weekend. June got progressively worse. Head tossing became unsolvable. Then, we came up centerline for the last time. I had her trot/walk/halt at X. I kept the connection and was happy until she fell left in the halt. I put my left leg on and asked her to step over. Instead, she just reared. So, we did it again. Another rear. Third times a charm apparently because she halted and stayed straight. She got lots of praise.

But this was strange. June isn’t a horse who is naughty just to be naughty.

Sarah asked me when she had her teeth floated last. I couldn’t remember for sure, but knew it had been a while. We discussed that she may need her teeth done and that’s why she has become so resistant to contact.

She may have recently gotten a new blanket in which she looks adorable

So, the following day I called the vet and they confirmed it has been almost a year since her last teeth floating. For a baby horse, that’s probably too long.

We shall see.

My hope is getting her teeth done will solve this problem. My hope is I know this horse well enough to know something is going on to elicit this reaction.

We cancelled our dressage show entry as clearly her well being is my primary concern. Her vet appt is tomorrow so I am hopeful that my next June post confirms my suspicions and we have a happy and healthy pony again!

 

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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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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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Ulcers Confirmed

Yesterday June went in to have a gastric scope done and see if ulcers were in fact the culprit. She was not happy about having been fasted, which I found ironic, considering the hunger strike she’s been on.

I’ve never seen a horse have a gastric scoping, and while I would have preferred to have seen one done on someone else’s horse, it was still really interesting.

I’m smiling as dolla dolla bills come flying out of my wallet…

June was sedated for the scoping and once she was sufficiently sleepy, a tube with a camera on the end was placed into her nose. The tube was snaked along until it entered her stomach. At this point, air was pumped into her stomach, making the lining nice and taught, so the veterinarian could get a better view of what things looked like.

At first, things looked really good. But then the scope was snaked a little further, and we could view the opening of the small intestine. Apparently this is where ulcers like to hide. And, we found some!

See the white line at the bottom right of the picture? That should be nice and smooth. The jagged edges are indicative of an ulcer, as is the redness in her stomach lining

The veterinarian considered them mild to moderate, but in my mind, an ulcer is an ulcer. You either have them or you don’t, and if you have them, they need to be treated. So, we’ll continue the Gastroguard regiment for 28 days and see how she’s feeling.

We spent quite a while talking about management as well as how to move forward. My veterinarian felt June had experienced quite a few changes lately, so it wasn’t totally surprising that she developed ulcers. In her opinion, the best thing we can do is give her a chance to be continually eating. She said she wanted June to have the opportunity to eat for 20 of the 24 hours in a day. Wow. Now, I know I’ve mentioned that my horses growing up would do this. But that’s the joy of having horses at home. You can control things like that. It’s far more difficult when you are at a boarding facility.

A drunk June loves Sarah

So, I’ve begun researching slow feeders in earnest. And have a few ideas on which path I want to take. (But would love any yays or nays for those of you with experience with certain ones). We’ve added alfalfa to June’s diet which has shown to help ulcers and I’ll be adding a feed that also helps prevent ulcers. When she travels and is at shows she will get Ulcerguard. Hopefully, with some good management we can keep this from happening again.

Such captivating images of her stomach!

I lunged her today per my veterinarian’s recommendation to exercise her lightly and she seemed to feel good. She ate quite a bit post vet appt and seems to have a bit of an appetite back, so hopefully her meds are helping.

I’m hopeful we can get back to a consistent routine soon, and also hope our new management routine will be good for her long term!

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June’s Dressage Foundation

June’s dressage work has begun in earnest, and I thought it would be interesting to share our progress thus far.

Someone once said to me that dressage is similar to Pilates for humans. Essentially, we’re building core strength, so our horse can become more flexible and supple for whatever we are going to ask of them. If you have no core strength in either Pilates or dressage, you have no foundation, and doing anything that is asked of you is that much more difficult. And I don’t know about any of you, but if I don’t have a solid core for Pilates work, I start taking short cuts. And these shortcuts do nothing to help me become strong enough to do what is being asked of me. Again, I think this is very similar to dressage. And while some may say dressage isn’t as thrilling as jumping, I tend to disagree. While I don’t get the adrenaline rush from dressage that I do from jumping, feeling my horse work underneath me, from very simple aids, is actually quite thrilling, and quite amazing to me.

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Seeing this happen was really, really thrilling

So, June. My number one goal with her has always been to make sure she is fit enough to do what I am asking. This is why, in the beginning, I focused solely on getting miles on her. Sure, I had to work on the simplest of simple things, like go forward, woah, and turn. But we also worked on what my leg meant, especially what different leg aids meant. And then we added the trot, and I started getting her used to finding her balance with me bouncing around on her back. We began working on walk/halt transitions where she couldn’t halt in a hollow frame. Everything had to be coming back to front. This is a work in progress. As you can imagine. It’s far easier to halt, throw your head up, hollow your back and use zero ab muscles. But, with time, we are getting to where June naturally steps into the halt using her abs and her back doesn’t hollow. Is this thrilling work? No, but it is fascinating to me to see how capable she is of the work, and how all the pieces are coming together.

I’m going to refer to our old friend the Dressage Pyramid again:

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While I don’t think the Dressage Pyramid must be worked on from top to bottom at all times (some days you’re going to have impulsion without much rhythm), I do think it is really helpful when starting a young horse. For example, June and I spent weeks (and still work on it..) just on Rhythm. Getting her to walk and trot in one rhythmic pace was nearly impossible for her in the beginning. And again, when I began asking more from her, for example, when I began working on connection, rhythm went out the window as she tried speeding up and slowing down as tactics to not have to engage her abs. So, Rhythm was our goal, and some rides, continues to be our goal.

Relaxation is a funny one too. There is a reason it is near the beginning of the Pyramid. When June is relaxed and focused, we can get so much more work done. You need a relaxed horse in order to get that work from behind. In my experience, when she is not relaxed I go back to that hollow, un supple horse, who is not fun to ride.

And, we’ve just begun working on connection. I probably took longer to get to working on connection than many people do, but I don’t regret it. Especially when I see how easy it is for June, now that she has a good base of fitness, understands my aids, and she is strong enough to properly execute what is being asked of her. No short cuts for her!

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Maybe one day she’ll look as good as her Daddy

We’ve done quite a bit of work in side reins prior to me ever asking for connection on her back. Months of slowly shortening the side reins. I didn’t want to overwhelm her, or scare her, and again, I wanted her to be strong enough for the next step at all times. This has helped her get a strong core, so that, when I got on her back and asked for a leg to hand connection, it was there. At first, only for a few steps, but with each ride it is getting better and better. Two weeks ago I was complaining that our downward transitions were crap, and just recently I asked for a downward and was shocked at how she kept the connection and stepped into the transition, rather than hollowing.

June isn’t even 4 1/2 years old yet, and it is really important to me not to push her too quickly, especially since so far she has responded so well to the work at hand. And while some horses mature faster than others, and can handle a bit more pressure, I honestly don’t think I would start a horse differently than I have with her. As an athlete myself, I can’t imagine being asked to do something I am physically not strong enough to do yet. Sure, we need to push ourselves occasionally, but if we push ourselves prior to having a good foundation, that’s where I believe we start to see injuries and problems.

Obviously this is all personal opinion, and there are a hundred ways to start a horse. However, there’s no harm in seeing what has worked for people, or understanding their approach, even if it’s not the way you do things. My hope is I continue to learn as much as June during this process and we’re a capable and strong team for may years to come.

 

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How To Let It Go

June has been back about 3 1/2 weeks now, and all in all, I am REALLY happy with the progress we are making. But, as of 5 days ago, I hadn’t cantered her since her return. I wasn’t really all that worried about it, we had so many other things to work on, but then I realized I had entered an upcoming dressage show and that test involved cantering. So, the time had come to get cantering.

On this particular evening where I decided to canter again, June and I were not having the best of rides. There was a lot of miscommunication going on, a lot of unhappy pony and rider. But, because I am not the most easygoing and flexible person (I’m working on it!) I decided it was still time to canter. And so, I asked her to canter. She picked it up for a stride and broke. So, we tried again. And same result. So, I changed direction. No better luck. So, the next time I kicked her into the canter and off we went. There was nothing nice about it, but we were cantering. At about the third 20m circle she let out a buck. And while it didn’t unseat me, I did pull her up, which is basically exactly what you shouldn’t do. But, I was by myself, and scared. So, we did some trot work, and then I threw her in side reins and lunged her in the canter. She didn’t buck once

A couple of days later, I had a lesson. I let Sarah know what had happened and we both agreed we would see how the lesson went, and if we would canter. And the lesson was going great. I had a responsive horse who was trying hard and there were very few disagreements between us. And so Sarah said “when you get back to the rail, ask for the canter.”

Oh, we’re going to canter? Wait, I didn’t know. Um, ok.

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Basically my face when I heard the word canter

But, I asked her to canter. And she had the loveliest transition. So what did I do?  I sat on her back  with my knees clenched into her sides, my arms not moving, and I couldn’t get my shoulders behind my elbows if my life depended on it. Sarah was telling me to relax, bring my hands down, follow, ungrip my knees, essentially do ANYTHING other than what I was doing. And I got a little better, but then we had to change direction. And again, lovely canter transition, but I didn’t care, I was gripping and pulling and then I felt her back tighten and I just stopped her.

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Basically what Sarah looked like after me pulling up June

Which led to a bit of an exchange between Sarah and I. When I tried to explain that I pulled her up because I thought she was going to buck, and I clearly was riding like crap, and couldn’t relax and was therefore pissing her off, Sarah basically read me the riot act. Sometimes, when it’s your best friend, who is also your instructor, you can be brutally honest with each other. And essentially, she told me to buck up (ha ha ha) and that I need to get over the fear of her bucking and ride well, and don’t teach her that if she gets tight in her back, she gets to stop.

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Yeah. She’s right. But still. My tailbone is barely healed.

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So, we picked June back up, and got right back to it. Sarah was expecting June to be pissy now that she had gotten a break and I didn’t know what to expect but I vowed to ride well and be better than who I had been 5 minutes ago.

So, we did some nice walk/trot/walk transitions, and then moved on to the canter. I relaxed my knees. I followed with my hips. My arms moved with the motion, elbows unstuck from my sides. By God, I think my shoulders were actually behind my elbows, in case something went awry, but most importantly, I just let her canter. And it was quite lovely. And easy. And then we trotted, changed direction at X and did it all again the other way. We had lovely upward and downward transitions and it was all just magical. I didn’t worry about getting bucked off. I didn’t worry about anything,really, and instead I just rode my horse, and did what my instructor told me to do. Essentially, I took Step 1 in Letting It Go.

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Macy used to be spooky and reactive and I used that as a crutch as to why I couldn’t do what Sarah was asking me to do.

Now, June bucks, and I am using that as a crutch as well. But unlike Macy, this is my horse, my partner for the foreseeable future, and to have that crutch is just going to hold us back. So, I’m letting it go. And I’m going into each ride, thinking about riding well, and how I want to ride this horse, instead of “but what if?” Because “what if” has never helped anyone move forward, find inner peace, or develop a partnership with their new horse. So, here’s to a new attitude, and riding to my ability, not my fear.

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What A Week!

June got put through ALL her paces this past week, and I’ve got to admit, I am very proud of how she stepped up to the plate.

On Tuesday, she had her first lesson since returning. I had Trainer Sarah hop on her first-I wanted Sarah to have a clear idea of where June was at and what we needed to work on. Sarah worked her hard. She didn’t let June get away with anything, and while June kept trying different tactics, (which will be a post of its own) in the end, June was willing and tried hard.

And then, Sarah handed the reins to me. And all I could think was “You want me to get on her after you just worked her hard? Great. She’s going to buck me into next week.” I mean, that was pretty much the MO of our last ride. She got tired, I made her keep working, and she said “NO THANK YOU.” (That loudly..)

But I hopped on her and I got this.

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Sorry for the blurry screenshot, but you get the idea…

She went to work and really, really, impressed me. We worked for about 20 minutes and I got a feel for all her evasion tactics, but also got a glimpse of what things would be like in the future. And I am really,really, excited.

Next up was trail ride with my friend Haley and her talented and adorable OTTB Tommy. This would be a tough ride for June. Lots of hills and lots of tough terrain. It was also her first trail ride with me back in the saddle since her return. She loaded up easily (and has even been granted her hay bag back so she can eat out of that instead of a hay net) and after a quick lunge at the trail head, we were off.

She was basically perfect.

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Incredible views

She led, followed, thought about where she was putting her feet, ignored Siri running around, and even crossed a stream! I was thrilled with her.

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I hoped she was tired, because the day wasn’t over for her yet.

When we got back to the barn, Haley and I brought our horses into the indoor arena and got ready for a time-honored fall tradition.

Clipping.

I’ve clipped June’s bridle path, and de-sensitized her to the sound and feel of clippers, but this would be her first time getting body clipped. I soon realized I didn’t have an extra extension cord and that she would just have to ground tie. So, expecting the worst, I got started. And she stood there, back foot cocked, not moving for about 3/4 of the entire experience. She got a little antsy at the end, especially since Tommy was also done, so we have some finish work to do. But honestly, I clipped her head, belly, flank,and had zero issues. She couldn’t have been easier. Um, she was better than Georgie. But don’t tell anyone I said that.

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I think she likes her trace clip…

And then, to end the week, I agreed to help out with Drill Team. You may remember I did this with Georgie a couple of years ago.  It’s kind of organized insanity. Lots of horses, flags, more horses, and lots of riding in pairs.

June was a little skeptical. Not about the flags flying by her, but by horses getting too close to her. She made it clear she likes her personal space.

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Flag flying around behind her? No big deal. Horse wanting to befriend her? Skeptical.

She was, once again, a really, really, good sport for all of it. We did some “pattern” work and her biggest challenge was slowing down for her partner, a western pleasure horse who was in no hurry.

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See that paint behind us? That’s our partner who had some trouble keeping up….

I’m hopeful drill makes a warm up arena seem like no big deal.

It was quite a week for this baby horse’s brain, and I think she proved to me just how capable she is of being a big girl!

 

 

 

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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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Back In Business Part 2

When I arrived at the barn the day following June’s vet visit, I had already heard from barn management that she happily ate all her breakfast. I had relayed very specific instructions about PM feeding, but when I arrived, they hadn’t been implemented, which put me into a bit of a tizzy. But, in taking June out for a walk, to assess how she was feeling, I realized all would be well. Back to her usual antics, she immediately tried to pull me over to the grass pasture as we walked the property.

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Back to normal!

And then, as we got farther away from the barn, the wind picked up, and June started to feel a bit fresh. When the neighbor’s horses whinnied to her, she about lost her mind and began fancy prancing with her tail over her back, as if she was now a Paso Fino.

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Mom do you hear them? They are calling for MEEEEEE

While I had strict instructions to just take her out for walks for a couple of days before putting her back into work, I knew mare had some steam to blow. And rather than have her get silly in her paddock, I decided to let her blow it off in the large outdoor arena.

Oh I am glad I did

After that, I knew she was really feeling back to normal. As Amelia from Dark Jewel Designs said after seeing the video “What do you think when she does that? Yay she is feeling better or oh crap I have to ride that?”

Definitely a mix of both???? lol

Fortunately, when I rode her a couple of days later, she was a very good girl. I didn’t ask for much at all, we mainly just walked around and then picked up the trot for maybe 5-10 minutes. I had lunged her beforehand, and she was forward but not silly, always a good sign. In the trot under saddle she would reach for the contact and while it was inconsistent, I was happy she remembered a bit about leg to hand and what the expectation is.

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Thanks to Michelle at Fat Buckskin in a Little Suit I have a new barn coat to keep me warm!

I’m excited to be back at it with her and hopefully we’ll enter a schooling dressage show next month!

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