Monthly Archives: November 2010

Loss of Motivation

I totally admit to being in a bit of a winter is here and it gets dark early kind of funk. I can’t even say that I can’t ride because it gets dark to early because the lights in my ring totally rock. It’s just the time of year when I feel the need to take a little bit of a break so I do. My real job is also kicking my butt right now with lots of retirements, new job postings and change going on within our organization. It’s keeping me at work late and when I’m not at work then I’m often at home working on stuff for work.

I had a lovely four day weekend and spent most of it being very lazy. Kurt and I did work on painting some of the new jumps and they look awesome! He put a really awesome stain on the wood on the rolltop and painted stones on the arch wall. I painted poles and standards and cleaned the barn.

I did do a bit of riding over the weekend and have been coming to the realization that Shoes feels like a million bucks. I’ve adjusted his grain a bit to keep me in the saddle 🙂 Now he is not at all being scary but his antics got shutdown in a hurry. Friday he was pretty good but spooking at the jumps and everything in the ring. He couldn’t focus at all. I don’t normally use draw reins at all but Saturday the wind was blowing and he was already looking for things to be scared of. Yep, I got on and had to call for Kurt to lead me around the ring…really??? Ha a good old pony ride.

I had put the draw reins on just for that reason because the little turd needed to focus. It’s not about putting his head down but more or less stopping him from scooting, spooking and spinning and getting away with it. I also took the dressage whip to enforce the you WILL go past the jumps and down the long side of the ring. We finished up our ride nicely.

I didn’t ride him yesterday but tonight he was perfect! Not even one spook or even a look and the cats were having play time out there running up and down and hiding behind the jumps. He was perfect in the barn and then just came out very nicely and walked flat footed for 10 min as we warmed up with baby lateral work and stretching. He felt so soft and flexible in his body. He is really understanding how to come forward and soften his back. He was a bit silly in the canter but hey I will take what I can get. I just adore him and he loves people. He is so nice to work around and very professional. I think he just need a little bit of direction in his life 🙂

Jacob J has been fantastic to ride and he was getting much more comfortable in the barn. We took a short trail ride to the local trail system yesterday which was his first off the farm trip. He was a bit nervous when he got off the trailer but he did absolutely nothing wrong just a bit scared. Once I got on him you could tell he was much more comfortable. Kurt, Jane and I took a nice walk/trot ride and Jacob was excellent. He lead or followed and was really happy about it all. I think he just needs to take a few more trips to realize it’s no big deal.

I have gotten excellent reports on Houndy and Mack which makes me super happy.

I’m uploading some video of Shoes from our ride under the lights tonight.

He made it

Mack left my farm at 4am Monday morning and arrived around 11am this morning. Long haul for the poor guy but he is a total pro at shipping and his new family said he settled in like a pro.

Lunging video

I only had a few minutes before I had to get my horse ready for the dressage show but here is the promised lunging video of Shine my Shoes.

This was only his 2nd time lunging so I consider this very good progress and a very smart horse. He truly enjoys having a job to do and looks forward to any attention I give him. Like his new clip job? He is one cool guy and super sweet. I rode him on Saturday and had a fantastic ride. I think the lunging will greatly benefit his understanding under saddle. He still needs to learn to come forward but we are already getting better.

Job title = Patience required

I have decided if you didn’t have patience,  teaching a horse how to lunge could make you a bit crazy. When we broke our horses on the farm (racehorses/riding horse s) we almost always taught them how to lunge and then lunge with tack on.

I’m not at all a person who spends a lot of time lunging horses but lunging has it’s purpose. I find it to be a necessary part of training any horse because it is a TOOL and you can never have enough tools. I’m bringing along a lovely 3yr for a client and the mare had 30 days put on her as a 2yr and then was just turned back out. When she arrived I went to work on the lunge line assuming she knew how to lunge. I was thinking perhaps I was missing something but her owner said she didn’t teach her to lunge and didn’t think the trainer lunged her. Ha, okay no wonder she was acting clueless 🙂

I really like lunging for three main reasons. The first reason is that lunging is a very good tool to have when you get to a show and the horse is having a major panic attack and you really don’t want to sit on their back without getting all the silly behavior out. Sticking a horse on a lunge line for one minute can tell me a lot about what their mental status is at the moment. For example, with the said 3yr she got to her first show and needed extensive amounts of lunging. She demonstrated moves that made me think I was totally OFF my rocker to consider getting on her. My trainer was scared for me and came to tell me not to worry about making my schedule times which was code for keep lunging until she stops scaring the living crap out of everyone. We lunged until she tired out and she was pretty decent to get on and ride. The next show, I gave her one turn on the lunge line and she was totally relaxed and just flicked her ears back and forth in a relaxed fashion. I knew she was good to go and I got right on up. I use the lunge line as my gauge of what is the best protocol. She recently made a first trip to the indoor and I did the same throw her on the lunge line and see what I have test. One turn around and she was again super relaxed and I got right on. Very important tool to have when training young horses and it can totally save you from getting hurt/having a bad ride/getting on and then having to get off which enforces bad = rider gets off.

Reason two is that lunging is a fantastic way to teach a horse about contact using your choice of side reins, vienna reins or the pessoa rig. I use different things based on the horse and where they are at in their training. Some horses like the 3yr filly that I am working with are naturally balanced and they figure out contact right away. I don’t even have to visit this step. Shoes is learning to lunge because he has no concept of contact at all. I find it next to impossible to ride horses that carry their head straight in the air and feel like pogo sticks. I mean really what are you teaching them if they can’t make the correct shape? By correct shape I simply mean they stretch down and out and go forward to the hand. Why spend months trotting around on a horse with it’s head up in the air. I don’t need them to go round or even be steady but I want to show them that contact does not mean go slower or backwards. Riding incorrectly just develops incorrect muscle which further slows down your progress. I spent some time this year having one of my most fantastic lessons from my trainer. She spent an hour working with me to show me how to use the pessoa rig for client’s horse who was struggling to find his hind end in the canter. One session and this horse was absolutely transformed. You would have to see it to believe it but OMG what a difference.

The final reason that I really think lunging is a great tool is that sometimes horses need to be reminded where they stand in the order of society and that as a human I am still the boss. I get to make the rules about how to behave, how to go forward, which direction to go and that my space is absolute and you don’t cross into it. Natural horsemanship or just plain horsemanship is a really important concept in working with challenging horses or young horses. Seems as though I end up with a lot of horses who are extremely smart and think it is okay to challenge me at every step of the way. I occasionally find the need to put the horse back on the lunge line and work with some boundaries and iron out the respect issues. Great tool to have for a horse that is challenging you under saddle and you think you might not win. I find by fixing it on the ground it most always translates under saddle. If the horse doesn’t understand stop, go and steering the lunge line can be my best friend in showing them how those things apply without getting in a fight while riding.

So back to Shoes and his lunging session. Shoes is a super smart and a horse who wants to be a good boy. I have just been getting him fit and making sure the leg stays nice and tight. It looks beautiful! I haven’t asked for much of anything when riding him besides straight lines and going forward. He struggles with going forward because he likes to carry his head up and his back is pretty tight. I wanted to teach him how to use his body.

I am not really sure if he has lunged before. He at first acted like he had no clue what I was asking but then figured out the circle to the left pretty quickly. He was wearing his bridle, a surcingle and side reins not attached. I lunged him at the walk and trot without the side reins first and he wanted to stop and turn around a few times but then got quite good. He seemed to know the voice commands???

Once he was comfortable it was time to put on the side reins. I adjusted them so that when his head was level there was just a tiny bit of slack in them. I put him on the circle and that didn’t seem to be tight enough as they were very loose when he raised his head. I wanted them snug but not so tight that it would make him feel restricted. You have to have them snug enough to establish the contact though. I put him back on the circle at the walk and encouraged him to keep walking forward and he was starting to stretch down. Good boy!

When he picked up the trot he went OMG which I knew he would do and he immediately came to a stop and started backing up. I gently encouraged him to walk forward and then went back to the trot once he was walking forward. It was taking him a bit to figure out why there was contact and what he should do about it. His response was to stop or go so slow in the trot that he looked like a western pleasure horse. My job was to keep encouraging the trot ON not just the trot. He would hit the end of the side reins and go NOPE can’t do it and then slow trot again. I was just very patient with him and within five minutes this guy went from upside down to slowly starting to stretch and come forward. We did some walk trot transitions letting him feel the contact in the transition. The side reins were loose when he was on the vertical but when he got way above the vertical there was a steady pressure.

He got super consistent and then I had to get cocky and think I could reverse and go to the right. Ha! Yeah lunging to the right on a horse who is just figuring out to lunge is super hard. It was more like he walked one step forward and then spun in toward me. Again..and again and again. I had to keep sending him out on the circle (keep the circle small so you can control the body) and encouraging him to go ALL the way around the circle. I had it down at the walk but he swore it was not possible to trot a circle to the right. We played with this until he got one full circle of trot to the right and I made a huge fuss out of him and let him be done. He was so good.

I’m betting he is going to be even better tonight because he is just that smart. I will see if Kurt is around to take some video.

I had a fantastic ride on Jacob under the lights. He is such a brave guy and tries so hard. He feels really good under me and I couldn’t believe how relaxed he was for his first ride under the lights. My cats like to make it interesting and at one point I was coming down the long side in the canter when one ran out from behind the jump right in front of Jacob and then ran up the telephone pole. I almost had a heart attack but Jacob did nothing more than look around like OMG what in the heck just happened there. Too funny!

I love the peacefulness of riding at night and just hanging out with my horses. I feel very thankful for all the great things that I have in my life and each night as I am riding I look around and think about how much I love my farm and the opportunities I have to work with all these neat horses.

Mack has found his new home

A few years ago, I had spoken with Debbie about Dixie when she was horse shopping but he had just been sold. I had never met her but it was one of those we know each other from the internet sort of things that is so common in the new computer and social networking age. She had read the blog and kept in touch.

She was looking for a horse that she could ride and that would also be quiet enough for her husband to ride. She initially inquired about Houndy but he had just sold. I told her I thought Mack was just as nice but even better because he is the older horse who has seen it all and then some and just has that wiseman temperament.

She flew down last weekend to have a ride on him just to make sure and liked him better in person than in his pictures and video. She did the whole beginner test of leaning forward, pulling the reins, bouncing around and just being silly and he was totally able to take a joke. He still was a bit unsure of what the whole contact concept meant but had some really nice moments.

He will be leaving at some point and she asked if I would clip him because he has the typical lived outside w/o a blanket coat and was sweating when we rode him. I was hoping he would be good to clip but knowing how wise and smart he is I figured he would be. Thankfully, he was perfect. Kurt and I combined efforts and got him all spiffy and cleaned up. He really enjoyed the attention and got stuffed full of carrots during the whole clipping process because he was being such a good boy.

Kurt has bought me some Oster Power Pro cordless clippers last year for Christmas to replace my Wahl Arco’s that broke. We HATE them. The big lister star clippers are absolutely awesome but the cordless clippers were making us quite angry. I refrained from throwing them down the barn aisle 🙂 I bought some new Arco’s so hopefully they arrive soon.

I know Debbie is going to love Mack. He has morphed into this super awesome horse with a big personality. I was telling her that when he arrived he was really shy and didn’t see much reason to like people. He was totally getting his butt kicked in the field and just couldn’t quite find his place. He is now the BOSS in the field, comes in hollering and banging for his dinner and just has this I’m awesome attitude which makes me so happy to see. That is when you totally know they are ready for their new job and want to go back to work. He raced for 5yrs of his life and that was all he knew but now he is embracing his new lifestyle. I am super excited for Debbie because this is a horse that I look forward to riding each and everytime because he tries so hard and is so smart. I will miss him but as always our goal is to find the perfect homes for them and there is nothing better than when that happens.

I will get some new pictures of him with his clip job. It could look awful today..perhaps I don’t want to take pictures 🙂 We have to clip Shoes and Jacob as they are also just to hairy to work in this warmer weather. I don’t have enough time to be cooling them all out for several hours each night so clipping is necessary. I’m all about making it easier for me to get them all ridden each night without a lot of extra steps.

An awesome Houndy Update!

Written by his new owner:

I’m finally getting around to posting a comment…get ready it will be a long one! First of all I can’t say thank you enough, Jessica, for telling me about Houndy and for your insight, knowing what I was looking for even if I myself wasn’t even sure. 🙂 I will always remember that trail ride we went on…I was giddy! I have never cantered a horse towards home with a loop in the rein not to mention his trail mate throwing in a nice buck for fun. Houndy just looked at Jr and said “Oh I better move over a tad”. I finally understood everything my friends were trying to tell me but I just didn’t know any better to understand…and I have a very hard head. I have had some great horses but nothing I could really just enjoy…Houndy is a horse I am enjoying every day. And did I say he is beautiful too! Yes, he’s green, but he has a great brain and is just such a good guy… I LOVE this horse! He really is good for me as I do have some anxiety issues…especially when it comes to trailering. Like many horse people, I had a bad trailering experience but just haven’t been able to totally get over. I was perfectly comfortable hauling Houndy because of his confidence. I even took him over the scary Bay Bridge! Of course he didn’t know he was going over a bridge but I sure did. The fact that I drove over it with a horse trailer says how determined I was to see this horse and hopefully take him home. I’m hoping to show him this spring and have come up with the show name, with the help of my wonderful friends, “Sight Unseen” as I knew I was going to DE to pick him up even though I had never even met him. Last weekend was Houndy’s first trip in the trailer after arriving to my home. I didn’t have help to load him so wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I had a few treats and just kinda walked up the empty side of the trailer…he took the treat then went in. I was so shocked it took a minute for me to register that he went in. Best of all he just stood there while I went to the back to close the butt bar. I then went to my friends house to ride in her arena. I knew this would be a test for him as her field connects to the arena and she has two mares who love to run and buck when visitors arrive. Houndy did not care that they were showing off…he was perfect! When we were done he walked back on the trailer and we went home. Houndy seems really happy living with his new friend, a 18 yo retired TB jumper named Harley in a 10 acre field full of grass. Did I say I am so in love with this horse? 🙂

Some video of the boys

This was Jacob’s first ride at my farm and I was testing out all of his buttons. Come to find out he has a lot of knowledge in there just not much muscle yet. He has a lovely soft mouth and seemed to understand that me pushing him forward into a soft contact meant for him to soften his back. I am really pushing him forward to get him to keep the softness as it is very physically difficult for a horse that is super slow and behind the leg to soften the back. You slow it all down once they understand what you are asking and have the muscle to maintain it.

You can see Shoes has no idea how to use is body so instead he is moving up and down and his back is tight which makes everything feel yucky. I am trying to push him forward but when they don’t understand how to soften the back it is often hard to even get them to come forward. I think I am going to go ahead and start him on the lunge line with some side reins and start to introduce the concept of conact and softening to him. I don’t want/need them on the bit at all. That is not the goal. Instead the goal is to just come forward and be a bit softer over the back.

I was tempted to edit the video but the point of this blog is to show what the truly look like. He can’t hold the canter and wants to switch off behind and do a bit of butt lifting (ha, casual term for a buck) to find a comfortable spot. He did have the chiro work on him and everything is fine but when they are this tight there is just no comfortable place for them. You have to show them how to use their body.

I absolutely love this part of bringing horses along!

Cute overload

I truly intended to go hunting yesterday but my horse has a minor cough and I didn’t think it would be wise to go galloping around for several hours in the really warm weather when he was already a bit not quite right. Knowing Junior he would have went full blast regardless of how he felt so I have to protect him from his own self 🙂

Instead, I actually slept in and then had breakfast with the hubby. The horses were all way down in the field hanging out so I didn’t feel the need to hurry outside. We had mapped out the day to get pictures and video of the new horses, go buy paint and make a trip to the indoor with one of the greenies in preparation for her first show in the indoor.

It was such a warm sunny day and perfect for getting pictures of the new horses. First up was Jacob. Jacob is an interesting character and we are working on figuring each other out. He has decided he loves coming in his stall to eat but otherwise he isn’t coming into the barn. The first day I brought him into the actual barn he didn’t want to come out of his stall door into the barn aisle. I got him out after a few minutes of just talking to him about how silly he was being. Then I did something stupid…yep totally my fault and I SHOULD know better but without thinking twice I put him in the crossties. Wham, backwards he went and the breakaway crossties broke (I have the velcro kind that just separate). He was quite scared and not sure he wanted to come back in at all 🙂

I went and got a shank and we spent some time marching up and down the barn, sniffing all the ‘scary’ stuff and just letting him see there were no monsters. He is smart and figured it out pretty quickly. He got his shoes on this Saturday and was ready for business. I pulled his mane and trimmed him all up. He really liked all the attention and quietly stood on one crosstie (ha, yes I’m a bit wiser now :))

My cats are very helpful 🙂

I had ridden Jacob at the layup farm but I was pretty casual about it and had basically just gotten up and did a bit of w/t/c on a loose rein without asking him for anything. This ride I wanted to see if he knew anything about contact or lateral work and suprisingly he had a pretty good understanding. He knew that when I closed the leg and pushed him into the contact that he could round his back. He is another one of these horses who is quite slow and not in a hurry to get anywhere which is fantastic for those who don’t want the hotter version of the Tb’s.

He has a really comfortable and balanced canter but he was a bit grumpy about having to get into the canter. He isn’t fit so I’m not worried about all of that right now. He will do some nice walk/trot trail rides to slowly build up his muscle again.

He has quite a thick coat on him so he got a bath and then went out and rolled right away..of course! He will get clipped here soon to make it easier on him to work and not get so overheated.

Next up was Shine My Shoes. I find it impossible not to look at him and smile. He has the cutest mischievous face on him. He was one that crashed really hard after the track and went from being a beefy type of guy to an ugly skinny horse with a cute face. He limped around and was just depressed. When I saw the light starting to come back into his eyes I knew it was time for him to have a job again and he is truly loving life..perhaps a bit too much 🙂

Shoes has a HUGE personality and is the silliest horse in the barn. He is always getting into stuff and he is always the one in the field instigating all the rough play. He has packed on a lot of weight in a short period of time and is feeling so good.

He is a horse that hasn’t at all learned to use his body and needs a bit of work on the lunge line but I’m not thinking I want to do that just yet. He has about 30 days of good tendon building walk/trot  work but you don’t want to have him playing on a small circle just yet.

He is an alert type of horse and not real focused on work yet but we will get there. It looks a lot like this at the moment 🙂

Yes, this is the scary side of the ring

It was the first time I had cantered him and he has a really nice canter but is not quite strong enough to hold it and was switching off his lead and displaying a bit of excitement.

I had a fantastic ride on my last horse of the day who is owned by a client. She is a lovely 3 yr cleveland bay/tb cross that I have had since August. It is just amazing how far she has come in her training and her ability to handle new situations. We headed to the local indoor to let her get used to the indoor before she went to the show next weekend. She was so amazing it almost freaked me out a bit 🙂 She got off the trailer and walked into the indoor where there were two horny pigeons that were flapping all about and making so much noise. She had every excuse to be silly but instead went right to work and felt absolutely incredible. It is just so exciting to watch them progress especially when you know how they first started out.

I look forward to bringing another ride on Jacob and Shoes today.

New homes and being silly

Ring Dancer was the first horse we took in on donation from Delaware Park this meet. She is an absolutely lovely 3yr 16.1 h filly who is as sweet as they come especially considering she did a very long period of stall rest for a fractured sesamoid. She found an awesome home where she will be a sport horse broodmare making pretty warmblood babies.

It has been a hectic week on the farm with lots of riding and farm projects. I had intended to get new pics and video of Mack, Shoes and Jacob J but so far that hasn’t happened. Tomorrow, I promise 🙂

It just gets dark so early now that I basically run home and feed and before I even get on one horse it is getting dark. So very thankful for my lights! I did get to spend Thur/Fri working with Shoes and Mack. Jacob J got his shoes on today so I’m so eager for tomorrow to come so I can get on him. I pulled all three horses manes and clipped them up. I think they will all need actual clip jobs but dragging my feet on that one still.

I figured it was a good time to get Mack started over the fillers that are under the jumps so we practiced in hand first which doubles as my exercise program. I trotted him in hand over all the little gates, flowers and straw boxes. At first he was totally confused and not sure he could possibly follow me over but being the super smart horse that he is within a jump or two he had it figured out. Then I got on him and trotted over all of them and he went right over. Good boy!

I had 10 min to spare last night so I brought Jacob out for the same routine. He was quite game and was really jumping right over them not just trotting. That was interesting because I couldn’t quite trot fast enough for him. I am thinking jumping with me on his back is going to be super easy.

Do you ever introduce your horse to new jumps in hand first? I find that it is a great way to explain scary concepts so that they seem simple. Horses are pretty trusting so if you can develop that trust jumping all the scary stuff becomes easy. I like to make everything scary but small enough to step over.

Speaking of jumps, I had order some new fillers about four months ago and finally went to pick them up tonight. I have rolltops, brush boxes, arch walls, a regular wall and planks. Now I just have to paint them all which I dread but since I still have the excitement factor going I should perhaps let that motivate me 🙂

I have some big news coming in the next few days. So EXCITING!

The proof is in the pictures

I have known that Mack was feeling better under me and starting to look different. Sometimes when you see them on a daily basis you can’t quite tell if they are gaining weight and muscle or if you just want to imagine they are 🙂

We always try to take pictures of them when they arrive so we can look back and be shocked. I find that sometimes it is really hard for people to look at a horse at their worst and imagine what they will look like but I have a lot of practice at it.

Mack on Sept 21


I remember our first ride was when Allie was down visiting and I went to pick up the trot and it felt like a creaky old man who couldn’t quite move his legs. He was less than 2 months into his layup and still a bit body sore and one of those horse who hadn’t learned to trot at all. He had this sort of trot/canter mix going on.

Oct 16

I have just started to teach him about contact but with horses who tend not to be the most naturally forward horses it can be challenging. I am really having to push him forward and say keep using that hind end. It can be super confusing to them at first to have someone taking contact because they think it means slow down so you have to show them that it can mean something different than slow down. He is just so extremely smart and willing to learn.

Some pictures we took of him yesterday as he started to figure out how to use his body.

Once again he demonstrated his amazing brain in the high whipping winds and cold temps. At one point, my fake christmas tree brush jump actually blew across the ring but he was not phased.

I wasn’t able to get the farrier out to get Jacob J’s shoe back on but hopefully soon. I also didn’t get pictures of Shoes as Kurt was busy when I was riding him. I will get them this week.