Monthly Archives: August 2008

Lesson report- Trip to Vince Dugan’s

I have been wanting to get up to Janice Dugan for a lesson for a while but my schedule had gotten a bit crazy. I love my lessons with Janice and it seems like I have been riding with her for the last 10yrs or so. I lesson with various people in all disciplines but Janice is a master at giving you great exercises for young horses over fences.

Dixie handled the indoor like a pro. He was looking around at all the very scary jumps but very relaxed overall. Not jumpy or silly and very good about going to work. I had a nice walk and trot to get warmed up and he was bending around my legs and willing to soften into the bridle. His trot work has gotten much stronger.

She asked a bit about him and I told her he is lovely, quiet and coming along nicely but struggling with the canter which of course ties in with the jumping. She watched us canter and immediately broke out some exercises for me to do with him. Basically she saw a good quality canter overall but he is strung out all over. He either pulled me out of the tack in the canter or brought his head up and braced against me.

First exercise was to canter around a jump twice on the right lead. Come across the middle and take a trot step and canter twice around the jump on the left lead. She likes the term “fluffy canter” basically meaning the horse needs to canter themselves based on the hind end. Lift and let go and use your leg to lift their spine. He was all strung out today partially because he is nervous so when he is looking around everywhere he can’t concentrate on the canter. She had me halting in the middle of the figure eight sharply really using my core to get the transiton down to make him listen and compact his body. Halt and take a step and then canter. He thought this was way hard 🙂 Suprisingly, as we went along his right lead canter was amazing. What in the heck???? That is horses for you and I find that this happens.

The next exercise she had me do was pick up the left lead and canter down the long side. At the jump halt. Turn right into the fence (clockwise) so when you end up facing the other way they push off with that outside hind and you canter back down now on the right lead  and again halt and then turn left into the fence and repeat. This exercise basically sets you up for the transition. He started to get the hang of it all!

Onto jumping. I know Janice so well by now I can tell you the exercises but I always seem to forget them at home. Start out 9ft pole to x-rail. Dixie did his traditional one stop and I got yelled out. Don’t let it happen stick your stomach out feet in front of you and push him over it. He still didn’t go but I got the message and came back and gave him a stronger ride. Some people might say he is not brave but I would disagree. I think he is careful and young and at times he just needs to process what is going on. Once he jumped it all was good.

You can see how hard he is studying it all. My job is to create a fluffy uphill trot coming to the jump and ride him right to the pole and then soften. Don’t help him out at all but just stay still and add leg across the jump and as he lands. Eyes up, heels down and following hand. Support him to the base and don’t lean in before he leaves the ground. She calls this being brave because it is darn hard to trot right down to the base of the verticals we ended up doing and just do nothing.

She slowly raised it up and he was really jumping roundly with his knees up and lots of scope. It felt amazing!!!! Go Dixie Go! This is my favorite part of training greenies because I know it is all coming together for him in this past month and he has developed scope and form over his fences where he had none before.

I also got told to start raising the height of the fences because he is ready and needs the bigger fences to make him pay attention to his form. Start working that height into the grids and slowly add it with the rest of the fences on course.

The next exercise is one of her favorites for helping a horse develop a canter to a jump. She has a single jump set up on the bottom of her ring which you have to jump off a turn. She wants you to turn to it early out of the turn using your outside leg to push the outside hind around the turn. Keep making the canter “fluffy” by leg to hand. Lift and let go keeping the balance uphill. Simple exercise but oh so hard to canter around a big circle and find the distance. We first trotted the jump and then cantered away.

This is him going what?? But I kicked him over check out my flying left elbow. Green horses sure do make you ride pretty 🙂

Keeping him cantering is still a struggle right now because he is not packaged up enough but we are getting there. I was able to get a few jumps off the right and a few off the left from the canter. It does really help to keep pushing around the turn with that outside leg so you are riding the hind end of the horse.

The final exercises were doing some of her brick boxes. I first jumped the grey and then turned right and came across the brick box. He was super about the solid boxes..I really think it is all the poles that make him stop and stare. We then jumped down the outside line and turned right and went across the diagonal of boxes. He is jumping nicely but still struggling with the canter.

All of these things just take time but he shows me all the time that he has the athletic ability and brain to do anything you could ever want. Her indoor is open on the sides with fields of horses around it. There were horses that came in and out of the indoor with us and he kept his focus the whole time. He tried so hard to do anything I asked of him. Everytime I ride him he jumps better and has a better canter.

I have some video so I will post some later. I have lots of homework to do with him.


Snap, Crackle, and Pop

Last night, Dr. Susan Mende of wolf creek equine, came out to give the horses some chiropractic work. I love watching her figure out what issues a horse has without even telling her much about the horse. She noted that Dixie was very locked in his neck and she bet he was stiff on his right side. Ha, exactly! He was a bit worried about everything she was doing but just the day before he had a vet poking him with needles so I think he was a bit guarded. Indy’s Wolf also got worked on and I think he loved it. She noted that he was very stiff in his back and did a lot of work on him. I bet he is going to feel better.

Where is the rain!!!!

Lumps and Bumps

Late last week Dixie came in with these two lovely “things?”

My guess was they were hemotomas but no idea what he did or how he did it. The one on the neck looked like an abscess from a shot but it had been 2+ weeks since I had given him Dex for his hives. I painted the bumps with DMSO and Cortisone and they reduced slightly. I had the vet out for another horse so I wanted her to take a look at them. My mom had me all freaked out that it was a joint capsule in his knee and OMG how could I be so calm about it all. Having young Tb’s over the years you see it all and my panic level is very low.

The vet also thought they were hemotomas. Maybe he fell down on his knee and then hit his neck on something? She drained the one on his knee (ewwwwww) and a good deal of fluid came out but it was clear. She explained that because the fluid moved all around and traveled to the areas that had less pressure you could tell it was a hemotoma and not something more serious. The one in the neck did not drain any fluid but she took a little bit of yucky stuff when she pulled back with the syringe. She wants to look at it under the microscope to view the white blood cells which would indicate an infection of some sort.

Dixie was well behaved for all the prodding with big needles. I am fascinated by all the neat things vets get to do. I always wanted to be a vet so whenever I have the chance to watch new things and increase my education I take advantage. I have to keep painting these with the dmso/cort mixture and do a sweat on his knee using the dmso/cort and a knee sweat.

I had a great ride on Dixie last night. I am starting to get really excited because it is all coming together. I now feel a horse who is steady in the transitions and doesn’t rush back into the trot coming down from the canter. I can yield him away from my legs and he doesn’t rush or pull. We have an established right lead and the right lead canter becomes better balanced each ride.

My next focus is getting him to canter to the jumps. He wants to break to the trot and when I push him forward we really get all strung out and it looks a bit ugly. I am not too worried about this because it is an issue of strength and confidence for him. He wants to slow down and look at the jumps especially the first jump in the line. If the jumps are close together I can get him to canter out of the line but keeping the canter all the way around is not there yet.

We took a ride around the farm and he really enjoyed that. He makes me laugh because he is a horse that is very aware of his surroundings. He is not at all stupid about anything but he notices it all. He likes to stop and look and then he will walk on. It is almost like he is telling me hey check that out over it safe?? Okay, good to know I will walk on now.

He will be going up for a lesson with Janice Dugan this week. I am not sure if he has seen an indoor before so that should be fun. She has tons of jumpery jumps so it will be good exposure for him.

Trip to jump scary jumps

In the midatlantic area we are experiencing another dry season and right now the ground feels like concrete. Dixie had a week or more off with his shoes and I haven’t done much hard work at home because my ring is grass and it is a bit unfair to ask them to jump much on this ground. I feel bad enough when they run around in the field on this ground.

We headed over to my mom’s to jump her jumps. She had a new course set up. The outside line was liverpool to a green pipe (sorta like a rolltop), diagonal was brick box to gate, outside line a 2 stride with flower box and around to the other diagonal of planks to the big black pipe.

A student of my mom’s who has been thinking about buying another horse keeps hearing how nice Dixie is. She was there and couldn’t believe how quiet and relaxed he was. He ground ties and falls asleep while I am tacking him up. Walks in the ring full of jumps and surrounded by horses in other fields and just goes to work.

His flat work is better and better each ride. I am happy with how that right side is feeling and his canter right was much nicer. There is a big difference in the right canter vs left canter. The left canter is collected with tons of jump and the right is flat and a bit on the forehand. I know that will all come together it just takes time.

Left vs Right

Of course it helps if I don’t follow him down there with my body 🙂 He wants to fall in and lug down on his right side so it takes lots of work on my part to stay centered and use my half halts to keep him in balance. I half halt and then he breaks to the trot or runs when I put the leg on.

They all wanted to see him jump so I just went right to it which suprised him a bit. He stopped at the first x-rail and then he figured out what we were doing and went on about his business. The only thing he really looked at was the brick wall. I came around to that and he just stopped and snorted and then wanted to get up to it and sniff it. I showed it to him and he came around and jumped it just as nice as can be. I like that he will figure it out and then come back bravely but not jump so high over it he would rocket you out of the saddle.

He still wants to trot in his courses before the fences. I can add the canter coming out of the lines but around the corners he is struggling to keep the canter to the fences. I need to be more serious about making the canter happen and not just being okay with the trotting although if that is what he is comfortable with then I am okay. He likes to slow down and process things which I would rather him do than rush around.

Some video from the jumping.

Getting serious about small rings

There is nothing like a show to motivate you into working harder. In my case it is a bit to late for that but the dressage test we did at Loch Moy gave me a bit of a wake up call. At the farm I lease we have a huge huge grass field/ring where all the jumps are. I tend to ride there all the time or in one of the horse pastures if we are not out on the trails. We are lucky to have tons of trails right off the farm even if we live in the flat State of Delaware where hills don’t exist. I like riding in the open and when in my big grass ring I don’t focus on the size of circles we are doing or making everything precise. Wow, that became apparent when I felt like our steering was way crazy at the show. Of course a green horse who is looking at the PVC dressage ring and the judges stand with huge eyes was a factor in our lack of precision but we needed to buckle down.

At the barn we renovated the small round pen into a ring the size of a small dressage arena but it is slightly smaller in width because we ran out of space. There is a mix of stone dust and sand footing in there and I was working all the horses in there when I had my broken wrist and I first returned to riding and wanted to make sure they didn’t buck me off 🙂 You ride in this ring and all your faults become front and center. Who knew 20 m canter circles could be so hard..more like 18 m in my ring so even harder!

I need to drag the ring since we now have grass and weeds growing in there but I took the boys out there last night anyway. Dixie was looking around and the cats running in and out of the wood provided some extra excitement. I worked for ten minutes at the walk suppling him both sides and doing neck stretches. He is much stiffer on that right side but I wanted to hold that rein at the halt and have him yield to it. He is such a smart boy and figures it all out so quickly. We did leg yields all over the ring at the walk and shoulder fore. Some turn on the forehand in the corners. He was so soft in my hand and stretching down. He is fussy about me using my leg to move him over when going right. If I push his body left he wants to resist and pull but I need to maintain my feel no matter what he does.

We moved onto the trot and to the right it felt very unbalanced. The turns come up fast in this small ring so any time he wasn’t balanced enough and I was not accurate with my half halt we did not have any bend around. I worked on setting each turn up with a half halt and asking him to slightly yield out. He picked that up quickly. When I ask him to move over he wants to rush and lose his balance confusing leg with forward. I either transition down or apply another half halt.

I started working on serpentines and figure eights through the ring really focusing on my position and making sure to be perfectly straight and tall with my shoulders. Don’t lean in the turns and watch that I don’t let him pull me out of my positon. If he loses his balance and falls on the forehand don’t follow with my body but half halt and reestablish the proper rhythm in the trot.

Our canter to the right felt so good. He has a lovely canter and I enjoy knowing where that canter once started. Cantering our 18m circles is darn difficult so we would canter a circle and then go down the long side. This revealed some other issues basically showing we looked drunk. We would come out of the circle and then aim straight and he would fall all over the place. I really had to keep that outside rein and support with the inside leg. Shoulder needed to be tall and elbows bent.

He has gotten excellent with his right lead now and although we cantered our 18m circles right they were not all that balanced. I think I am pleased anyway because truthfully this is way hard for him and we got a much better canter even when he was working on finding his balance.

I know I say it all the time but I really love this horse. He tries so hard for me and he has such a great work ethic. No matter what happens he never gets upset and he doesn’t overreact. I make sure to take frequent breaks and praise him because I know how hard the work is. He has such a worried eye on him which makes me laugh because he does silly things. He acts all scared and then you tell him it’s okay and he believes you. There is something about that in a horse that makes me feel like we are partners.

Today we will work on a little jumping and then take a hack afterwards.

Nike Air Shoes for horses

Dixie took a short break after his event due to a lost shoe and me waiting for my most excellent farrier to fit me in.  Dixie needed some help with his feet so I switched him to my other farrier who is much more expensive but well worth it.  Mike is a farrier that is in high demand on the eastern shore and despite the fact that he now only lives five minutes from me it can take up to a week for him to fit me in which drives me nuts but good farriers are nonexistent in these parts.

Dixie had a few cracks starting up his feet from not being balanced. His heels were low and toes a bit long which was putting pressure on the quarters. Mike brought the toes back under and added pads (frog pads) with equipak and copper sulfate under them. The copper sulfate helps to kill the bacteria or keep it out and the equipak is a cool gel type of filling under the pad which helps to absorb concussion.  The quality of Dixie’s feet is good they were just not balanced correctly. Partially my fault because I try to save CANTER as much money as possible and the other farrier is cheaper. He is a good farrier but his technical skill is not as good and we all know Tb’s are prone to the long toe and low heels so you do not address it more problems will arise.

Dixie is loving the new shoes especially the pads on this harder ground. He still has a bit of leftover skin funk and mysterious swelling in his right knee which I am sure is irriation from the bites. I have ridden him twice since he got the new shoes on and he loves them. I feel that he is more free in his shoulder and willing to stride out. We need rain in the worst way right now so I am taking it easy since the ground feels like concrete.

I notice that Dixie is really starting to feel a bit spunky. Of course it’s Dixie so this does not result in any bad behavior but he is more reactive to my leg and wants to look around for things to spook at. I have increased their grain a bit due to the dying grass so I am monitoring his change. He also had a week off due to the lost shoe and I am telling you he really thought he was hot stuff after that show. It is amazing how a x-country course can build confidence in a horse. He was strutting his stuff and I had to gently remind him that I was boss and there were rules he needed to follow not running all over in the trot and going weeeeeeeeee in the canter.

I have a few goals I want to accomplish with him this week. The main goal is establishing more stretch in the trot. I am going to lunge him in the vienna reins before I ride him and keep reminding him he can really stretch his back. He is good at “faking” it.  The other goal is cantering more fences although I need to be cautious on the hard ground not to overdue it.

I can’t wait to get home and ride on this gorgeous 80 degree day. It was chilly this morning!

Dixie’s first event

Dixie headed off to Loch Moy to compete in his first event which technically isn’t a full event but close enough. They have a short course format where you ride your dressage test and then head out on cross country to jump a combination of cross country and stadium fences. I was also riding Morethanalittle, a former CANTER MA owned horse, competing in his first event.

My morning started out early! The boys had a bath the night before and trailer was packed. I arrived to find Dixie’s legs looking like stovepipes and hives all over. More bute and a bit of dex hoping he would be okay. 5am we loaded the up. Dixie decided hind shipping boots were not his thing so I figured fine no point in arguing this early in the morning. They walked right up on the trailer.

I was running late as usual so not much prep time for dressage for Dixie and he needs it. Mick stood on the trailer like a champ! Dixie was a bit star struck by everything but so behaved. Heading down the center-line he had to stop and stare at the judges box and then he got a bit panicked and mimicked a giraffe on crack for a while. We didn’t get very close to the sides of the ring because they were evil and he wasn’t about to take the chance that they would bite. However, he got both leads and listened well. I really was overall happy. It’s a first test and his first time seeing so many horses, a judges box and a dressage ring. Not to mention there were ponies…and he handled the evil ponies without even a second glance.

Throw him back on the trailer and get mick off who is basically sleeping and eating. Hard to believe he has only been in training for 2 months and has only done 2 field trips. He was about as cool as a horse can be in this situation. Walked around on a loose rein and stood perfectly still just taking it all in. It seemed like it took forever for them to get going so he was a bit tired by the time we did our test and did not feel like cantering. I had to give him a big kick which pissed him off and he let me know for the second half of the test that he was not all that interested in this stupid white box. He was a tiny bit afraid to get up to the sides and our steering was a bit questionable at times. We made several huge circles as he drifted all over the place but the darn horse is just so fabulous it amazes me.

Okay, 15min to get both of them to the jumping portion. I decide to jump Dixie first and have Kurt walk Mick up to the start so I can just switch horses.

Dixie was hilarious…shaking, puffed up so big and just scared but doing his best to keep it all together. His worst reaction is a big trot. I didn’t walk my course so walked down to talk to Liza and get the details. He was anxious but behaved. I was super surprised when he jumped right over the warm-up fences without his typical oh my god there are jumps what should I do phase. Nope, he just skimmed over the x-rail and then the vertical and off we went.

The course was a scary log decorated with some sort of branches and he looked but jumped from a slow shuffle trot which was excellent. Trot to another plain log for fence two. Long canter down the field and then turn right. You had to go down a hill and there was a bright yellow stadium fence with flowers. He thought this was super super scary but shuffled over it. Big pats. Cross through the flags for fence four. Head up and down a hill for fence five. Another log for fence six, then you could go through the water which he went right on through. He was in the zone now. Out of the water over a log with flower pots under it. It was a bit scary but he did well over it. The last fence was another yellow stadium fence with flowers. Go dixie. He started out very scared but was so respectful and cantered on a loopy rein in between. He tries so hard for me and I just love him for that. He knows if I tell him it’s okay then I won’t lie to him and he tries. He came off the course feeling totally confident and like a rock star.

Throw the tack on Mick. They are waiting on me so they can start the next division. Mick was a bit rattled and wanted his buddy bad. I had to get on using a jump and that was quite funny getting a 4yr tb to stand next to a huge jump so I can get on. He did after a few minutes of me explaining to him that he was not going to die. He was just watching everything going on and was a bit shell shocked. He had a few mini-stunts but nothing major. He jumped the heck out of the warm-up jumps. Wow, that was awesome. I thought he might be reluctant to leave the group but he was really good. He was behind the leg to the first jump but jumped way up over it. Good boy! Second log was better. He took a huge dislike to the bright stadium jump but I think it was more because he was shocked to be jumping going down a hill and having no buddies in sight. We cantered along like hunters all the way to the little up/down bank. Then headed off to jump another log which he really jumped nice.

Mick loves water but seems suprised to see it when I am riding him. He didn’t want to get in and I was polite at first but then gave him a few good move on smacks and he said um..yeah I was going lady chill yourself already. Apparently, his face was hilarious when in the water. He gets in the water and seems shocked he is actually in there and wants to get out. He takes these funny steps. He is so cute. We walked out of the water and then picked up our trot and jumped the flower pots.  He is still a bit looky so he slows down and then really rounds his back. Fence 8 was the bright colored stadium jump. He was totally cantering to it and then said oh crap it’s that evil yellow jump that I saw out in that other field…no way not doing that. I kicked him and said get over this now and he jumped but we were very close to the standard and I caught it with my foot taking the whole standard down. He thought nothing much of all of this and just cantered through the finish line happy as can be. What a good boy!

Dixie finished up the day in second place and they had MIck down for an elimination but we protested with the judges. He never stopped at that stadium jump but I did knock it down with my foot as we hit the standard. I know he was super but I don’t want the Big E by his name.

Our centerline was quite funny as he did the stop and stare

Oh my gosh white sides are so scary…help!!!









Some relaxation

I am not sure if Allie has anymore jumping pics of Dixie. There was no official photographer and my hubby was to busy handling horses and watching my tack for me.

It is wonderful to have such lovely horses. I was telling Allie that you really begin to appreciate horses with such great brains after you have dealt with some bad ones. Both horses loaded/unloaded easily. Stood on the trailer alone when their buddies left (compared to my own personal horse who finds it amusing to jump out the people door..don’t ask 🙂 ). Handled a busy warmup ring. There were all sorts of distractions from a noisy cart driving around to weedwhackers near the warmup ring for jumping. Despite being nervous neither horse did anything scary and were totally willing to do whatever I asked. I feel like they are ready for BN but it will be beneficial to do a bit more schooling/showing at the lower stuff until I can feel them confident from start to finish. No point in rushing them just to jump bigger fences. I know the height is easy for them but the BN fences were a bit more than I feel they are ready for when I looked at them. Fence 2 was a big house that was quite intimidating so I want to make sure they are confident before competing at that level. I will plan on doing some more schooling in between and figure out what the next competition should be.