Monthly Archives: April 2008

She raced??

I specifically remember Allie telling me when she met cryinginthechapel it was obvious she didn’t want to be a racehorse. I think she only ran two times but I haven’t looked up her record but my guess is she was slower than slow. Not to mention how these horses race without having the basics installed always boggles my mind. She is a solid 3yr who is so thick and obviously still growing. She will probably finish out at 16.1 or maybe bigger but I am always wrong so I don’t try to guess.

I have been riding her in my small ring and taking her out to the big ring to let her see the sights. She is not too interested in the jumps and shows a great mind. She looks but no real reaction. We brought her buddy otu the other day and as I rode the buddy we let Bunny eat some grass. Nope, not interested and wanted to trot around so we had to hold onto her. When it was her turn to be ridden I found myself wishing I had brought my whip down. Could she really get any slower? She is very relaxed about going around the ring. The steering well somebody forgot to install that but she was great about letting me kick her around the corners. I look like a little kid kicking a fat pony when I ride her. We did some trotting and cantering around. I could get her to canter down the long side but that was about it 🙂

She is such a sweet girl so I can’t wait to see her get a home where she can receive lots of attention. She got her new shoes on this week (still had her racing plates on) and the farrier loved her. He thought she was a quarter horse 🙂 She stood with her lip drooping until it was time to go back out.

Jumping report

Ah, jumping babies a source of endless amusement. I fully admit I tend to focus more on the flat than the jumping and we have done a lot of trail riding with Dixie. The jumping..well a few x-rails here and there which he had all figured out. Time for some more serious stuff. My husband loves to watch me jump the babies so he can laugh at me when they do stupid stuff or I look stupid. I love him for that because it reminds me just to relax and have fun.

Dixie let me know he was getting bored with the smaller jumps so I wanted to bring up the height and jump some oxers. We had jumped some scarier stuff at the small heights and he felt good over that. I started out with just an x-rail…boring he said!

We made it a vertical and jumped that a few times. He acted a bit suprised and jumped awkwardly the first time over the vertical probably because it looked different. Then we made it an oxer. That impressed him. As for comment 🙂 It looks like he really thrusted off the ground and twisted his back a bit so who knows what i did?

His expression was funny and you gotta love the legs. I do not even judge a horse when they are first starting to jump because they just have no clue as to where the parts are supposed to go. The next jump was better and I managed not to fling myself up the neck.

Jumping goes hand in hand with the flat work and as the flat work gets better and he gets stronger behind the jumping will improve. He was a bit worried about what to do and wanted to rush away from the jumps so we just landed and came to a walk on the straight line.

In between horses for the farrier I lunged dixie in the ring over some barrels and smaller jumps. I am learning to embrace ground work more and more with some of the horses I have. Dixie is a horse I would probably never do ground work with because he is just so easy but when short on time it is a great way to build confidence and see how the react. I lunged him both directions over some poles and then made an x-rail which he just stepped over. Then I made a jump with three barrels all laying on their side and put a pole on the last barrel to keep him from running out. He trotted up to it and gave it a good look and then lauched himself over and cantered away fast..gotta get out of here that was scary! Then he came back around and refused it. I find sometimes when they do jump it so big the first time they scare themselves. I let him walk up and look at it and then next time he jumped it w/o a second thought and was very soft over it. It was time for me to switch horses for the farrier but that was a fun 15 min of work.


We have stretching

What a great week it has been for Dixie. It’s a little over a month and he is coming along faster than even I had imagined he would. One of the main goals of my flat work with young horses is to teach them to stretch low and long and really seek the contact. Dixie came with a nice feel in his mouth but he was very stiff over his back and laterally and would not go any further than just a tiny bit of roundness in his neck.

Teaching a horse to really stretch is something that can take time and might need to be done with side reins/vienna reins until they can understand the concept. Dixie had a good feel in his mouth but just didn’t have enough strength in his hind end at first so the basic work we have done has really helped him. I am a strong believer in lots of trails, low jumps and trot work to build strength and of course nice stretchy trot work for the babies. Each ride Dixie has started to stretch more and more. One of the reasons I find it hard to get him to stretch is that you have to provide a bit of resistance in the mouth and teach them to yeild. His reaction to the rein pressure combined with leg was to open his mouth and pull against it.

I start each ride at the walk doing very simple bending and suppling exercises and repeating the concept of leg to hand until he softens and starts to relax his neck. Then I move onto the trot. Finding the proper trot rhythm is hard when they don’t want to come into the contact. I posted a video critique on one of the dressage forums and some people said more trot and others said less. I always do what I think is best for the horse and with the Tb’s I am a believer in slowing it down first because they tend to run from the leg you must first slow it down and teach them leg means over and then once you teach them that it seems like the concept of stretching and relaxing will come next. Dixie is not always reactive to leg but he did not want to come into the contact and when I asked for more trot to push him to the receiving contact he ran around all out of balance. Okay, that won’t work let’s try slowing it down and doing slow slow trot. Mmm..yes there he is starting to supple in his neck and then I could finally start pushing him to the contact.

I could have done a dance today because when he finally let go of his back and started to seek out my hand the trot was fantastic. His shoulder began to reach and the back was swinging under me. I could have ridden for hours 🙂

The canter is still a work in progress. I think it is harder for him to engage the hind end at the canter and come into the contact but each ride we get more. I think today was the first time I even had him slightly round in the canter. He still struggles to the right but again I consider that very normal for where he is in his training. He will even out with more trail work and strengthening work on the flat.

If you want to see pictures of how he has progressed you can check out his full album here-


Riding in the rain and random thoughts

Saturday was a gorgeous day for riding and my friend was visiting so we decided to tack up Indy and Dixie for a trail ride. We discovered that Dixie was not to fond of the hair that I was currying off Indy and he exited the barn 🙂 I promised my friend he was perfectly quiet to ride..don’t worry (famous last words right).

We headed past the redneck village through the woods. Then we exited out of the woods and walked across a short section of road where there is a bridge. We got up there and heard something coming. A golf cart passed us going as fast as a golf cart could go. I tried to wave to them to slow down but they looked at me like I was crazy. Neither of the horses even cared and we walked over the bridge which is a different color. Dixie picked up his feet really high but went right out. Then we head up a hill into the fields. We did a lot of trotting and cantering and the horses were super. My friend could not believe the difference in Indy who used to be all about the short quick strides. We easily trotted and canter alongside Dixie. She quickly fell in love with Dixie and thought he was so comfortable (he is) and well behaved. Both horses took turns leading and at one point neither Dixie or Indy wanted to go past this one section of woods. I think maybe there was something in there. I have learned to just trust we went through the farmers wheat a bit (don’t tell) and then made our way back to the woods. It was a great ride and with the warm weather both boys got hot. 80 degrees in April is not easy to adjust to.

Yesterday, I got out to the barn and it was lightly raining. I had went to a clinic on Sunday so the other horses didn’t get ridden. I wanted to ride Dixie first (he is the easiest of the bunch). I get on and walk down to the ring. The rain has picked up a little bit and as I make the first turn in the ring going back towards the barn a wall of rain and wind hits us. Dixie is a saint and although I can tell he is thinking I am crazy he shakes his head a bit and goes on. The rain is now really coming down and there is water running off the brim of my helmet. I am already soaked so I figured I might as well finish my ride. It took him about ten minutes to relax and as soon as I had a couple nice trot circles and changes of direction we trotted back to the barn…I don’t know why because really I was already wet but it was fun.

There is something about Dixie that just makes you want to ride him. He can be strange in the barn almost like he is waiting to be scared but when you are on him he is confident. He is my go to horse right now when I want to have a ride that will make my smile. My personal horse, Junior, also fills this role but he can have a bit more drama. He probably would have had a hissy fit about riding in the rain. Matter of a fact at our clinic this weekend he started squealing and prancing when he got rained on. He was offended that he got wet..especially his ears! 

The rest of the week looks great weather wise so I am excited. I have a few field trips planned for the horses and maybe a hunter show for Dixie this weekend. I really hope I can get people to come and see Indy. He wants a new home with his own person. I think maybe people aren’t interested because he is small?? Small but cute with a super mind and lots of mileage for a cheap price. I want him to find his person because I always feel guilty not being able to give him as much personal one on one time as he wants.

Video overload

It took me long enough but I now have video of Dixie and new pics! Dixie has gotten the word that jumping is fun and is now jumping around some baby courses mostly at the trot but we might canter out of a line if it feels right. He is slowly starting to get softer on the right side with lots of bending and suppling exercises. I think he is developing a topline..well the start of one anyway 🙂

Overall, he is much stronger and starting to push off better from behind. His canter is still weak and strung out but as he develops his muscles I am confident that will sort itself out. He likes to pull me out of the tack at the canter especially if I ask him to soften or add leg.

His jumping is quite amusing because he is all over the place so it takes a lot of channeling to keep him straight. Let’s see if this video works?

Um, great illustration on what not to do! Nice horse for saving me 🙂

Eventually we get it right

Since I am on a video roll here is some video of Indy, Klondike and Allie’s cool mare.

This is our cute little mare who I call bunny because she is missing the tips of her ears (they got frostbite when she was a baby). This was the second time I had been on her in my small ring that is less than 20m wide. It’s always fun piloting the babies around in there but they can’t build up any steam which is a good thing. She was really good for being pulled out of the field where she has just hung out for a month. I will keep putting mileage on her until she sells. She went out to the big ring to be lunged today and found it very exciting..didn’t help that her buddy would not stop screaming!


Indy goes x-country schooling

I currently have two other CANTER horses besides Dixie who are in training. Cryininthechapel is a lovely 3yr tb filly who is a solid girl at 16 h. She has been able to just hang out and be a horse for a month and will now start getting worked into the program. I got on her and walked her around this weekend and she was just as nice as can be. It was too muddy to do anything else but walking was perfect for the first ride.

My other project horse is Indy’s Wolf. Indy is a 5yr 15.2 h tb who has been in training for five months now. It’s hard to really describe Indy because his personality is just so funny. He loves to eat above everything else and he has a love of life that makes him a joy to work with. He came to my place after hanging out in a field for over a year and went off to his first show with less than a month of training and jumped around in the scary indoor like it was nothing. We didn’t have much steering or brakes but I was simply stunned at his good nature. We even warmed up on the racetrack because the outdoor was frozen. Freezing cold weather, strong winds and lots of horses did not phase Indy. Indy marches to his own beat. Since his first show we have spent time working on the buttons that did not come installed. Some horses are easier than others and although Indy is quiet he did not come with knowledge like Dixie did. He liked to trot 100mph…then he would break into this cute little canter but it was all over the place. I have worked to install brakes, power steering and some sort of rhythm (okay, well this is still a work in progress). Indy is always heading off the farm to various places and he enjoys going on field trips.

Indy makes me giggle when he jumps. He gets so excited and will start throwing in random lead changes trying to figure out what is coming up next. He tries so hard to please and has a nice jump when he allows me to tell him something. I was really excited to get him out x-country because I knew he would love it. I ride him out on the trails by myself and he is super. He is very dependable in all situations which I can really appreciate.

I brought two horses down to frying pan park to ride with Kelly and Allie. Indy got off the trailer and had to start out by himself. He stood quietly to be tacked and just looked around at the people walking and they hay wagon driving around. We went to the ring to warm up and he was forward but listening. I trotted to the first x-rail and I think it took him by surprised because he came up to it and hit the brakes. I could have better prepared him with a bit of a tap of the whip behind the leg to get his attention but normally he is good so I didn’t expect that. No issues on the second attempt. Then we headed out to find some baby jumps and warmed up over the logs. I walked over a small one first so he could understand what I was asking and then came back at the trot. We added in a little line of logs and he couldn’t keep his canter because his mind was too busy processing everything. No biggie..I would rather him break to the trot than run to the jumps.

Allie and Kelly joined us and we headed off to the water jump. Now Indy is used to big puddles of water in his field but lately he has been protesting water on the trail. The day before we had to have a little discussion about going across a little baby stream that was on the trail. His response was to back up and he was not scared but testing me. I had to give him a couple pops with the crop behind the leg and after a few times he walked over like it was no big deal. I thought since we had ironed that issue out the day before that the water jump should be simple. Ha, wishful thinking. Indy and Klondike stood and stared at the water. Allie brought her horse to give them a lead but they weren’t budging. I had given him a couple taps with the whip but those didn’t register. I sat and thought about how I wanted to handle it. Was he scared? Did he understand the question? Was he just being a brat? Yes to all of the above. So I got tough and gave him a couple repeated hard smacks with the whip until I felt him jump forward. Then I immediately softened and rewarded for the forward motion. I let him stand and then asked him to go forward again. As he backed up I repeated with the whip until he came up and sniffed the water and walked in. Getting tough with a horse isn’t always the right response but I know him pretty well and he was just testing me out.

We stepped in and out of the water and he splashed around. Good boy! We all headed off to the next question which was the ditches. The baby ditch had a lot of water surronding it so we chose to start with the novice ditch which had water in it but not around it. Indy came up to it and jumped huge. Next time he stepped over it…gotta love the babies 🙂 We then went and walked over the baby ditch which they all went right over.

We rode around looking for more baby jumps but did not find much we wanted to do. The next obstacle was the drop down into the water jump which just had puddles in it. The drop down only 3ft wide maybe and located between two logs. Indy did not know what to do here. He started backing up and Allie was coming around to give me a lead when all of a sudden he leapt into the complex. I am talking jumped straight up in the air and landed on all four feet in a heap. Good thing I am used to some crazy jumps because I felt like I got shot out of a slingshot. We all sat and laughed over the cuteness that is Indy. He is just so cool. The next time he had it figured out and stepped right now. We also walked and trotted up the drop.

We went through the woods looking for more logs. We found one that looked appropriate but Indy simply was not up to the task. I presented him a few times and got after him a bit but realized he was mentally and physically done at this point so I didn’t force the issue. He was good and it was not the right time to make him do something. We jumped one of the tiniest log and I let him be done.

We are hoping to find Indy his forever home with somebody who wants a horse that is more like a dog. He is still a work in progress but he is safe, fun and dependable. His personality keeps you looking forward to going to the barn everyday.


Pick up sticks

I am sure there are many people who also ride alone but is it not the worse when your horse knocks down the jumps and you repeatedly have to get off and fix them? I guess your horse learns to be patient for mounting but it is enough to drive me crazy.

Dixie has progressed to jumping little courses of x-rails which include the scarier jumps (flowers, fake trees and a baby liverpool made out of a blue tarp). He has built up his confidence but his lack of understanding sometimes shows when he get so focused on the front legs that he forgets the back legs. I have some pretty solid jump poles but he has not figured out that hitting them is not ideal so I have to get off and fix them. Gotta love the greenies 🙂 I am very pleased with his progress and am happy to see that he is getting braver as we go. The jumps are still very low at the moment since there are still times when he doubts he can jump the scary things. We walk right over if we have to and then come back in the trot. I keep the trot active and remember to keep my hands low and wide to channel him between them.

He has such a nice canter that we have added in some lines where we trot in and canter out. He is fairly straightforward to ride and wants to please which I enjoy. I love to work on the gymnastics but I have to save those for when I have a ground person to help me slowly build them up.

Yesterday, I took him out on a nice hack around the farm, through the woods and into the fields near the farm. It’s nice to have a horse with a great brain that you can ride out by yourself and not have to worry about having any issues. He looks at things but I love the way he thinks. He will stop and look and then maybe back up a few steps. I let him stand and then ask him to move forward and almost always he is happy to move on. We had to cross a lot of water on the trails and he could have cared less about that.

I have noticed that he has become more forward now that he has shoes on and probably because he is now getting fit and his muscles are stronger. I found myself not paying as much attention to the trot rhythm as I should and he was getting too quick. He objects to the half halts at this point because I have not had to use them until now. Another little thing I notice him protesting is the downward transitions. He likes to lock his jaw, open his mouth and pull. I do my best to keep the leg on and move the bit to keep the jaw soft in the downward. I am also getting tougher and not letting him trot so long after I have already asked him to come back. Tough love but necessary 🙂

Free jumping

I had read about free jumping and had watched the videos on-line of the stallion inspections where the horses were free jumped but had never tried it myself prior to this year. I had always boarded my horses at facilities that had very large rings where it was next to impossible to build a chute and get enough people to make the horse think that going through the chute would be a good idea.

We have a small ring- about the size of a large dressage arena that works really well for free jumping or free lunging if necessary. Many people use free jumping to judge the talent of a horse but my favorite reason to use free jumping is to avoid having to deal with all the awkward first baby jumps:) The horses learn how to place their feet and use their bodies without having to worry about a rider. I have a very talented horse right now that belongs to me but he can’t seem to figure out how to use his head and neck over the jumps making us both uncomfortable. I set up the chute for him last night and thought that Dixie could really benefit from a session or two since he is also still very worried about the jumps and not sure how to handle himself.

I put boots on him which made him do the funny walk 🙂 We brought him out and walked him up and down the chute several times over the pile of poles. He was pretty good with this. Then we let him loose to trot around the ring and warm up he was pretty excited and not sure why we were turning him loose. He cantered around doing flying changes and eventually settled back to a trot. Working the chute can be challenging if the horses don’t want to go. We set it up so the horse comes through the corner off the left and there is a chute that channels them down the jump (pile of poles in dixie’s case). Once they enter the chute my husband is at the head of the chute and I am standing outside but in the middle. Dixie took a great dislike to the poles when asked to trot by himself and turned around and wanted to book it out of there. We gently encouraged him down and his came up to the poles and then backed up…okay not getting it. So I trot him back and forth over the poles in hand. No problem with this. Try again and he does trot over this time and does a big leap and canters to the bottom of the ring. Good boy! He comes around again and wants to turn around but Kurt was there to stay behind him enough that he figured straight was the better way. We let him walk and just relax and then made a baby x-rail. He went over but not very good form. Ideally, I would have liked to add poles 9ft in front but he was still uncomfortable with just the baby jump so I didn’t want to scare him. We will slowly work him up to doing a bit more. They never really show any form in the beginning because they are too worried about people with whips, the chute, the jump and being let loose.

I love watching how a horse approaches the exercises. Each horse is different. My horse, The Boppus, starts out leaving really long and then by the end he is jumping in good form. Junior, my hot little connemara/tb, wants to gallop around like a idiot and I have to made it complicated enough that he slows down and thinks about what he is doing. My older horse will jump anything you put up in the ring and you don’t even need to use a chute…good to know years of training has paid off.

Earlier this year I had broken my wrist and we had Yellow Tavern ( a CANTER horse) who we wanted to sell. I couldn’t ride so Allie asked me to get some video/pics of him going through a chute and just see what his form was like. It was my first time really setting up a chute and I had my wrist in a sling so it was going to be interesting. My husband loves to work with the horses in the ring and watch them jump so I printed out the directions and let him set the chute up. I have never seen a horse catch on so fast as Tavern did. I had ridden him a few times before I got hurt and I knew he could jump. I had jumped him x-country and brought him home and jumped him over everything in my ring and couldn’t get the smile off my face. Watching him figure out the jump chute was amazing.

He came out of the corner sized up the jump and had it figured out in two seconds. We never had to encourage him simply direct him to the chute. It was hard not to do too much because there seemed to be no limit to the scope he showed. I had even thrown a fly sheet over a big oxer and he cantered down to it like he could have cared less. Then I tested out his mind by using a tarp and then tried him over barrels. All the same where is the next jump. My husband took a picture of him free jumping the first day and when we viewed it at home we couldn’t believe the jump he had- the panels are 6ft.







I think Dixie will catch on fast as long as we take the time to build his confidence. That seems to be the key with him (well really all horses) but if he gets scared by something he is reluctant to try it again which is what is happening with the jumps undersaddle. He might hit a pole or jump oddly and he scares himself. He’s not being bad he is just confused. Some horses catch on right away but he isn’t one of them:) I am sure he will figure it out soon enough.

This weekend we plan on creating a mini cross country course in one of our pastures that has the pond. The pond has a few shallow parts so we use that for water training and are also a few natural ditches. I will move the coop, the black pipe and several other jumps out there to make it feel like an actual course. My friend Alison and I had fun using the pond for water training last year which made me think of making the a little course in there. You will have to dodge the geese but that will just add to the excitement!

Goats/Geese mixed with ottbs= ???

Dixie has recovered from his cold and is feeling much better. I did manage to make a video with the new video camera. It looks really good on the camera but for some reason the video is jumpy when you try to watch it on the computer so it is hard to edit.  We bought a new video card thinking that might help but so far no luck. I am predicting another trip back to best buy to see if they can help us troubleshoot. Technology is not my speciality!

It’s always amazing to me how horses can feel so much better after a few days off. Sometimes as riders we worry about missing days of training but when horses are developing all new muscles a few days off can really help them feel better. On the first day back to riding it was apparent that Dixie had forgotten the barn was a cool place to hang out. He has no issues relaxing in his stall but when placed in the cross ties he becomes very nervous. I am thinking he is claustraphobic but really I don’t know. Kurt and I were giving him a good curry and he was enjoying himself until Kurt dropped his brush. You have never seen a horse run backwards so fast…very impressive. He stood there waiting for me to catch him and then we finished brushing him with no further issues. Have I mentioned how much I love my cross-ties?  Yes, they do let the horses go pretty easy when they pull back but I would rather they be able to get loose and not have to worry about something worse happen.

He is always confident when I am riding him so it’s interesting to see the difference between his nervousness in the barn to his confidence when being ridden. Many horses have anxiety when they have to go away from the barn and ride out in the open. I currently am working with two horses that have meltdowns when asked to go away from the barn and leave their buddies. Dixie does not seem to care which hopefully means that eventing will be fun for him and easy for me 🙂

His right side is getting stronger and he has learned how to bend to the right. I have been wearing spurs when I ride him to help him understand how to move over. You can also use a dressage whip to tap the hind end over but sometimes this creates more anxiety. I have very short chunky legs so the horses sometimes tune me out. A little spur can really help them understand without me having to contort myself like a pretzel. The good news he has now found his right lead!!!!!!!! Always exciting when they start to pick up both leads equally. His canter gets better every ride and I can’t wait to start cantering jumps. He has a canter that should allow the distances to be found fairly easily. His rhythm never seems to change so jumping from the canter should be fun. We have been working on some baby grids. I love the old 9ft pole to an x-rail and then add a 9ft pole on the backside. Great for teaching them how to use their bodies and eliminating the worrying about the distance. I shorten it up a bit for him because he is still so worried he’s not reaching with his stride and we are trotting on the approach.

Our riding has been uneventful until this weekend when the GOATS arrived. I did mention how the farm I lease always seems to have some sort of chaos going on right? The kids have now gotten goats to show at the fair this year. Very cute white goats with lead ropes attached to them. They are located right at the end of the path I need to ride/walk down to get to the ring. There is really no other way to get to the outside ring so we have to deal with the goats. The goats find the horses very interesting and as I start walking down the path they come cantering over with their lead ropes trailing along. You have never seen horses wheel so fast to run back to the barn. I have attempted to ride some of the horses by the goats. Both of my horses are handling the goats pretty well (Boppus could care less while Junior gets as close to the fence as possible and piaffes his way past). Dixie wanted no part of the goats. I was walking him down in hand and he would prop and wheel. It took about five minutes of baby steps to get him even with the goats. I stopped and let him see them, eat some grass and tried to get him to walk up closer to them but he wanted no part of that. We had a good ride so I thought I would try to ride back past the not a smart idea. We did some backwards running, spin moves and more. Did I mention his field is right across from the goats? Perhaps it is the amount of noise these goats make that scares the horses. My life should be very interesting for the next month or so while the horses get used to the goats. The geese have also been trying their best to get me dumped off. Have you ever heard geese take off in the air?? There always seems to be two or three geese wondering down this path I need to go down. When geese feel threatened they love to sorta waddle a few steps making you think they will go the other way and then all of a sudden they start to flap their wings and do this hovering/flying maneuver which is so noisy the horses freak out. Great fun to be sitting on a horse when they decide to fly right up in front of you. They like to do this one at a time too…so it’s three times you have to sit through whatever freak outs the horses can come up with. Some horses live in the field with the pond so it’s no big deal. Dixie doesn’t seem to mind the geese or the guinea hens so hopefully the goats will become second nature too.

Sometimes I wish for peace and quiet but these distractions really do work out for my benefit. I once attended a new starter trail at Carousel Park in Hockessin, Delaware. The facility is gorgeous and they had built all new x-country jumps, a lovely stadium course and the dressage rings were nice.  When I went to pick up my packet I noticed they had set up the two dressage rings right by the ponds. The geese did not get the notice that there would be a show going on and I would swear they were deliberatetly flying over the dressage ring just to get a laugh. As I rode around the ring to begin my test we got bombarded by several geese who were defending their territory. Our training with geese sure came in handy that day! I don’t think the other riders were so lucky 🙂