Monthly Archives: February 2009

I love this horse!

You know how a good ride can make you fall in love all over again? I was looking back at some pictures of when Dixie first arrived and they are pretty funny to see. Man he was ugly!!!  He is now very classy and has earned a special place in my barn of horses. Of course he is for sale so he won’t be here forever but when I want a relaxing ride on the trails on a horse that I can depend on it is always him that I chose.

Yesterday, I took off work to get my back fixed. Remember that fall I took around New Year’s where I fell on my head well it hurt. Then I fell off two days in a row on the same horse this month..silly tb’s and their spin moves 🙂 Last weekend I woke up and my neck was stuck and wasn’t moving either way. Some muscle relaxers helped me but it was time for the chiropractor. I feel better already.

Dixie has some visitors coming to see him this weekend so I am nervous as always. It is fun when horses get new homes but selling them is so stressful. I want them to go perfectly so people realize how great they are but horses are horses and have their own agenda.

I tacked up Dixie and headed out to the farm land behind the farm. The wonderful thing about Dixie is you can ride him alone on the trails and he just doesn’t care. I mean really the other horses are hollering to him as we leave the farm and go through the woods to get to the big fields and he is looking but otherwise just happy to be out and about. I can walk on a loose rein just enjoying the nice weather and scenery.

My goal was to do a brakes test. My friend was commenting he was a bit strong at the last hunt so I wanted to see what I felt. Started out with a trot lap around the field which was lovely and then some soft cantering. Even though we are in a huge open field maybe 50+ acres of farmland I am doing transitions with him. Horses need to learn that just because we aren’t in the ring they still have to listen. So several trot/halts, canter to walks and various other transitions to get him tuned in.

Then came the fun stuff 🙂 There is nothing better than letting a TB really open up and gallop. Get down low to the ground and just fly across the field. If people were watching they would probably think I was out of control but I was not at all. I took a big straight away where I knew the footing was good and crouched down and off we went. Lord he can really fly and it was amazing. They get so low to the ground and it feels weird. My legs were burning!

Now he pulled up fairly well for me but I did have to stand up and do a bit of one rein and then the other rein. He didn’t at all fight me but I suppose horses aren’t going to go straight from a dead gallop right back to that bouncy canter. We worked on gallop to nice canter transitions several times. We were both in a full sweat but we would take a break which was again cool because here is a horse that I am allowing to open up into a full gallop who is now just walking on a loose rein for me. Then I would do some trot, canter and then gallop and then back to the trot.

What I found was that as we did this he didn’t become bad but he built in his idea of forward. I could walk on a loose rein but when I went back to the trot he wanted to go faster than necessary in the trot and he was tense. I found this to be very normal and really who cares because he was listening and not being bad but I do think he could use a slightly different bit because out hunting there is a lot of stop and go and if he keeps building you are going to end up hand riding more than necessary.

We did one big lap at the walk around the field to let him catch his air and then walked back and jumped a log on the trail. He got a bath and he was really happy about it.

He has this spot above his tail that is really itching him. He just got a powerpak recently so I am not sure what the itch is from but I scrubbed him and itched him to his delight and used some microtek spray on him. His mane and tail got a nice conditioning and then he went in his stall with a hay bag to dry off.

I could tell he was tired but almost a look of content in his eyes. I am not in shape for that long of gallops so I want to keep practicing some more. He is really great to practice your gallop on because he is not going to spook or get silly where some of my other horses are guaranteed to not be focusing on galloping because they are total goofballs.

Allie claims her horse Phinny is super fast so perhaps I will challenge her to a race 🙂

Sunday’s hunt

I offered my friend the ride on Dixie this past weekend for the hunt. Her horse was causing a bit of stress with a slightly puffy leg so she was wisely resting him until the vet got out.

She came over on Saturday with her two daughters to test out Dixie. We all rode in the ring and then went out on the trail ride. It is always fun for me to have people to ride with as I get lonely riding alone all the time. We had a fun trail ride and it was great to see the girls riding.

Sunday was the hunt at O’neals Farm which I think is technically in Bethel, De but close to Laurel, De so I alway say Laurel not knowing what town it really is in. It is by far my favorite fixture because there are jumps 🙂 Hunting is fun but hunting and jumping at the same time is even better. I was riding my horse, The Boppus. I hoped he was going to be good as he was a tiny bit silly the last hunt and we planned on riding first flight this time out.

Thankfully, Boppus just had the look in his eye that let me know it was going to be a good day. He got off the trailer relaxed instead of thinking he was going to the races. Dixie on the other hand was a bit on the go which was not normal for him at all.

It turned out to be a fair day of hunting. The scenting was not great because of dry conditions and wind but they were on the fox except for they were in a place where we could not get to them. Many of our fixtures have swampy areas and of course that is the favorite place for the fox to run or so it seems that way to me. Boppus was jumping so huge but it was awesome feeling. Boy he can really move and jump which is quite thrilling. He has become more rideable as he gets more experience. We did get a few long spots to the bigger coops because he was just galloping along but that was okay. He also learned to wait as he had to compact his stride to follow in behind other horses.

Dixie has become super game in the hunt field. He too jumped everything he was pointed at and my friend said he was very eager if not a bit to eager. It could be some of the feed changes I have been making and just the thrill of running and jumping.

We were out for about 3hrs and I was exhausted at the end of the day. I have been increasing the amount of riding and jumping and my body is catching up.

I need to get some updated photos and video of Dixie but my hubby has been working crazy hours. Hopefully I can get some this weekend.

The wind test

Somebody called about Dixie today and as we were talking she asked me how he did with wind as they get a lot of windy days in N.C. Well we have had some extremly windy days in the past few months some on which I ride on and others when I have determined cold + wind = whimp. I think it was the Christmas Day hunt that was so windy we were being blown sideways and it was freezing cold.

My friend Tara is home for the weekend so she was out to ride with me. We rode one set and they were good but the horse I was on was a bit silly. He is feeling cheeky right now but it makes me smile. The wind was so strong and we are surronded by open fields so when the gusts would come up it would blow right up the horses butts giving them a nice goose and pushing you sideways if you caught it the right way. We stayed on the first set and were ready for the next set.

Dixie hadn’t been out since the hunt on Sunday but that is never an issue with him. I notice he is starting to put on weight again probably due to the increased beet pulp, hay and a flake or two of alfalfa added to the daily hay ration. He is also starting to shed and he loves being curried. He about knocked me over leaning into the curry. Funny how his personality has changed so much he could have cared less about grooming when he first arrived.

When I got on him he was in a totally zen mood. I had the best ride I have had on him in the ring in forever. It could have been that I am finally getting back into shape and was really focused on my position which of course always helps the horse go well. He was soft and relaxed and even a bit slow. I notice he is a bit stiff to the right again so we did some soft bending and lateral work both directions to get him more supple in the base of his neck. Whenever he would get unbalanced I would either transition down or half halt.

He wants to pull into the downward transition which is a bit of a pain so I just focused on really stretching up with my body and using my seat and just a close of the hand. If he came against the hand keep the leg on and maintain the feel until he softened into it. He figured that out really quick so i worked on using figure eights and a transition to the walk in the middle each time then change bend and back into the trot almost thinking about leg yeilding from inside leg to outside hand.

His right lead canter was a bit unbalanced so we worked on trot, canter, trot until he started to wait for me. The left lead felt awesome and the best canter he has given me in a while.

The whole time we were riding the wind was gusting, trees blowing and lots of random noises and he was just as relaxed as can be. Just as I was getting off the cat ran up behind them and spooked them both..go figure 40mph wind gust are not scary but crazy fat grey cat running is cause for panic 🙂

Back to the ring we go

This weather we are having is a nice break to lift our spirits up. I found myself mapping out a spring schedule for the horses and everybody is getting manes pulled, baths and general trimming.

I am so excited my ring is rideable…well sort of. It is still squishy but good enough. Dixie has been so used to the trails that ring work is a bit unsteady right now. We are back to working on the dressage and there is some resistance there.

There is a bit of everything go on. For the most part he is pretty steady in the contact in the walk but when he wants to move all around I make sure to provide a steady contact. A few times he felt that slight pressure and wanted to open his mouth and pull against it. I just added leg and held my contact and when he softened so do I. Lots and lots of this throughout the ride today.

When we started trotting he was a bit stiff everywhere so I worked on spiral circles to get him moving off the inside leg to the outside rein and then I would do counterflexion and yeild back into the circle with a slight counterbend. A few times he ran from the leg but I just half halted and waited for him to soften and then I softened. Right now he is still finding that balance and I really have to watch the tempo. I find a lot of people want to really ride their horses forward forward forward but I have learned this year a bit of a different way. Yes, they go forward but you watch the balance in which they go forward. You don’t want them leaning down on you or running. When I would soften he would shoot foward and then I would have to half halt to remind him of the correct tempo and rhythm I was looking for.

Ottb’s don’t understand tempo so the riders job is to set boundaries and help them balance. He became lighter and softer as we went and I could soften without him speeding up into the trot. Lots of good stretching and a better feel in the bridle.

The canter..well that is still a bit all over. The right felt great but the left is just unbalanced. He has such a big canter stride so when he pops into the canter he wants to get flat and strung out instead of light and bouncy. I had to repeat a few times before he kept his balance in a more uphill manner. It took a lot of seat control to use my core to help him maintain the balance needed. Hold the shoulders, sit up and back, look up and sit around my inside leg to create the bend.

We need to work more on the trot/canter and canter/trot transitions this week but I was happy with how we ended. He is in his stall drying off from the bath I gave him. Just waiting for him to dry before I go out and blanket him for turnout. He was pretty happy with his flake of alfalfa when I left him 🙂

Dixie the all arounder

This weekend the weather was simply gorgeous which led to busy days of riding and cleaning up all the horses. I decided not to hunt simply because I am a bit picky about footing and we are going through the thawing stage where it is hard underneath and slick on top making for awful conditions. The fixture where the hunt was is mostly open fields with grass but I didn’t think it would be fun to ride on so we stayed home.

Saturday I rode Dixie in the ring which felt so odd to me as he has been primarily fox hunting or trail riding. I worked a lot on reestablishing the correct tempo and not doing the full out fox hunting trot. Dixie was pretty well convinced he didn’t know anything about that horrible word called dressage so we just took it easy at the walk and the trot connecting him with lots of bending and lateral work. By the end he was soft and supple and felt super.

Sunday I rode him early in the morning and it was already sunny and warm. The footing was a bit better so I worked a bit of canter in using transitions in and out of the canter to keep him balanced and working from behind. I also jumped a few single jumps putting together a figure eight pattern.

My friend called and asked if she could put her boyfriend on Dixie for a walk around. I suggested she take him out for a walk trail ride as it was too muddy on our trails for anything else. I think he has only been on a horse once before but Dixie took great care of him and apparently her horse got spooked and they did a bit of trot and canter which makes me laugh. A walk trail ride is almost never a pure walking trail ride.

I hope to get some more rides on Dixie now that the weather is clearing up and the footing will be dry.

Dixie takes a junior hunting

After the lesson the previous day I was not sure if she would be a bit nervous but she is a brave kid and was super confident she had learned how to handle him and was ready to go. We tacked up at home with our saddles on and rest of the tack in the trailer. I was riding my horse, The Boppus.

We got there and put our bridles on in the trailer and unloaded them. Dixie was calm while my horse was looking around going OMG there are tons of horses here. It was an open hunt so lots of people coming out to see what fox hunting is all about. I was really excited to introduce my student to hunting as I have enjoyed it so much I want everyone to experience it.

Off we went it was almost 60 degrees and a light breeze. Boppus was prancing and acting like a 16.3 h bundle of bounce. I felt like I was on a bouncy ball but he was behaving. I know other people might have been thinking he was being bad but bad is a relative term. He was just happy 🙂 Dixie was just going along doing his thing and she was comfortable on him.

I have not met many horses that are better out of the ring than in the ring but he is one of them. Not to say he isn’t good in the ring but he just loves trail riding and hunting and it shows. Other horses were pretty excited and he was just taking it all in. We had some really long trots in the beginning which were great for me as my horse needed to get out some energy. We jumped some small logs and it was a bit of a mess as some people weren’t jumping while others were. I think my student and I were about 4-5th back in second field. At one point in time my student wanted to jump a bigger log jump but nobody in front of her jumped it and Dixie refused. I wasn’t sure of the protocol here if she should take it again or just go around. I told her to just go around as I didn’t want to hold up the group.

He jumped all the rest of the jumps really well and at the end we had this cool run where we jumped 3-4 jumps in a row at the canter and it was awesome. She loved it and I was having fun too.

The scenting was not very good due to the warm temps and no frost overnight. I learn more about the hounds each time and why some days are not as good as others. Regardless, we had a great day of riding and it was a nice slow day to introduce her to hunting. She said she would like to go faster next time 🙂

Dixie was a star and kept her safe and did his job. He got lots of treats when he got home!

We meant to take pictures when we got back to the trailer but we both were tired and forgot to do it and had already untacked before we thought about it.

Dixie is a lesson horse??

Well not really but I invited one of my student’s out to hunt with me on Sunday so we decided it would be good for her to ride Dixie again and get comfortable with him. She had trail ridden him once before but it had been a while. She owns a TB of her own named Orion the Hunter. I actually bought him as a 3yr and sold him to her so it has been fun to see him come along.

Dixie had not been ridden in quite some time. I would say at least 2 wks if not more due to that abscess that was draining. I lunged him around on Friday and he looked sound on the straight lines but sore on the turns which was to be expected with those sore heels but I figured I would see how he felt.

I loaded Dixie up and met her at the indoor and I was riding my other horse, The Boppus. The indoor was being used so we started out to warmup around the track which was a comedy act in itself as there were icy spots and it was a sloppy sandy mess where it had thawed out. We did trot around and a tiny bit of canter. The horses were behaved but excited to be out and about.

We moved into the indoor and although Dixie was being good there was an obvious tension going on between the two of them. My student’s TB is a very slow TB so a lot of leg to get him going. Dixie is not fast but very forward thinking and you don’t need a lot of leg to get him going. Not to mention I had not had him in the ring since the end of eventing season in November. We are either trail riding or hunting so his mindset is a bit different and when you are hunting you tend to trot really big. You are moving in the trot and the canter so he was obviously a bit confused and she was doing her best to communicate with him.

I had her really start to think about controling the tempo of the trot using well timed half halts.  The hardest part about riding a greener horse and a horse with such a big stride is getting in the half halts before they get away from you. So you almost have to feel that they are increasing the tempo and stride length and catch it before it happens which takes perfect feel and timing. I had her think about over doing the half halts so that she thought she was going to walk but then she softened and kept trotting. That allowed him to slow down and shift his weight back to the hind end.

In her lessons on her horse we talk a lot about preparation as her horse is also a 6yr tb so fairly green himself. I am always talking about planning and giving the horses direction. They have no idea what you want unless you tell them. So if you want them to bend I really like to set up the change in bend with the half halt so you are first slowing them and then pushing them over. So every turn I had her thinking about half halt and then push with the inside leg to outside rein. The half halt set him up to receive the step over aids instead of being bombarded by the leg.

I also had her really thinking about being softer everywhere. Using her breathing to relax and think about stretching up tall and using her core to support her instead of her reins. Much slower posting and be quick to slow the posting anytime he wanted to increase the tempo on her.

We had gotten this all down really well and then we played with the canter. Oh boy I think we scared her parents. Neither her or I were worried..well that is not true I was a tad bit worried. Dixie has a big canter and he is still at the stage where those first few strides are a bit big and unbalanced. Hunting isn’t always the best for addressing these issues so you can imagine how this might be a bit of an issue.

She is used to her slow horse that needs a bit kick to get into the canter. The first few transitions she picked up he was off to the races. Never in a bad way but they were not sure what to do. What would happen is she would sit to canter and lots of leg. He would bound off into the canter and she would lean forward and the reins would go slack and off he would go. She didn’t understand how to get him back and was alternating one rein and another so each time she pulled one rein the other rein would get loose.

As an instructor I had to stop and think about what was going on. I know this horse inside and out and he is dead quiet so what did I think was the issue. He is still a bit green and is used to be ridden into contact in more of a dressage manner where you maintain contact from trot into the canter. She was dropping the contact and when you just let loose he just goes and she was leaning forward.

We stopped and had a chat and I explained that I wanted her to maintain the feel from the trot into the canter. All she was to think about was a slight press with the leg and sit but keep the shoulders back, strong core and maintain support on the reins. At this point hold a bit more contact than she thinks she needs.

Start with cantering down the side and stop in the corner. Yes, this was working and each transition she got better and better. Whew, much relief all around as it was a bit scary for a bit but once she got it she had it and my lord he looked amazing. She was able to canter both directions with a soft feel and using her core to hold the canter slower. Good job!

The lesson was almost 1.5hrs so she was tired and he was tired but she learned so much it was incredible. She really learned how to put a horse together and how to ride a more sensitive type of horse.

At the end of her lesson we put Jenna (another horse crazy girl who has been hanging out at my farm on the weekends) up on Dixie for some pony rides. She got to walk and trot around on him but we didn’t let her go. I don’t have any lesson horses so that is the best I can do for her right now.

Some pictures from the lesson.

You can tell in this canter picture the shoulders are forward and a bit of tight body and her hands are down with locked elbows.

Here she was saying whoa and asking him to chill it out a bit.

I think my hubby had stopped taking pictures when she had finally gotten it figured out but she did and it was really nice. Poor girl was tired but she said it was one of the best lessons she had gotten and she really understood the concept of holding her body and giving him support after the lesson.