Monthly Archives: February 2011

This is just wrong

Really mid 70’s to 80 degree weather and I come home to snow???? Not at all funny 🙂

We are adding some crush and run topped with stone dust to our sacrifice paddocks and thankfully they finished right before the snow arrived. However, it’s not ideal for it to be all freeze and thaw while the paddocks settle.

I will conquer the mud!

Kurt packed them down with the big vibrating roller

We put in the paddocks last year and they are the greatest thing ever for those of us with small property. I bring the horses up into the paddocks and lock them in when the fields are wet and they will spend time there when I reseed. We have a good rotational grazing system but you need to keep the horses off the wet fields if you want grass so these paddocks are fantastic. We have a nice geotextile cloth down and already had a good base so we basically just added material as the horses wear it down over time.

The horses have been hanging out in the front field and acting like total goons running and bucking. Diamond says Hi! Shady, a boarders Tb, is in the background and is also quite cute.

His face is one of those that make you smile everytime you see it. He is always happy about life.

They are all very cute but I have to say that my horse is the cutest of them all 🙂 He is so adorable but so darn annoying all wrapped into one.

Someone had emailed me yesterday that is shopping for horses. She was asking about Shoes and mentioned she had a connemara/tb that she loved. She called her horse a ferrario on wheels which totally made me laugh because I often refer to my horse as a sports car. Her description of what she liked to ride fit Shoes to a tee and if you like a conn/tb you more than likely are going to love riding Shoes because he feels a lot like one. I love getting emails from people who read my blog! I hope she comes to see him and falls in love 🙂

Trip South!!!

I headed out early Thursday morning to go visit with Allie and escape to warmer weather. I took Cool Casey down to stay and brought Shine My Shoes along with me to ride while I was down there. I figured it would be fantastic mileage for him to not only take a trip but to ride in lots of new places.

The horses settled in super quick and Allie and I hit the trails. I  got to ride Track’s protegĂ© who was a CANTER Delaware Park donation who Allie has bought for herself. He is a total blast to ride and lead the trail like he had been doing it his whole life. Allie has many thousands of acres of riding right off her farm with gorgeous sand footing. You could ride for days out there. So amazing!

We took a visit to the CANTER farm in Cameron, NC where we have most of the CANTER horses. What a cute place with various fields and lots of run in sheds. I got to visit with some of the horses that came from Delaware Park. I rode Zippy and Kiss a Monster. Zippy is such a cool horse and one of those horses who is pretty plain until you get on him and then you find yourself going OMG. The canter on that horse is just lovely and he has a super brain. Kiss a Monster aka Monster was a horse that I had here in training for several months but he was growing like a weed and we thought he would benefit from some time to grow. Wow, he sure as heck did grow and is now about 16.1 h and cuter than cute. Suzanne had remarked how lovely he was and that he felt like a big time horse (she has ridden some of the most famous upper level eventers) so that was cool to hear as I had thought the same thing. His training is all still there and he was so soft and rideable. Allie took a bunch of pics so hopefully I can post some soon.

Shoes went out on his first trail ride down there (2nd trail ride ever!) and was absolutely incredible. He has grown up so much but it was neat to see him figuring it out as he went. He started out a bit nervous as Casey was hollering and he wasn’t fond of the dog that was with us but he settled in nicely. We had some nice trots and canters and played in a big pond which was super fun. He was really proud of himself! It was 80 degrees so the poor guy wasn’t sure what to think.

We headed out for his last trail ride yesterday and there as a group of six horses so a lot to handle and he was a pro. He was even better and would happily lead or follow. We mostly walked the whole time and then at the end there were three of us who went for a lovely canter and Shoes was in the back and cantered along so nicely. I had a perma smile on my face because he has the most incredible balanced canter where he just sits so soft in your hand never pulling and is just so adjustable. What a good boy!

I made the 8 hr trip home last night and am stil pretty tired. I hate driving solo but perhaps a sign that I am growing up when I felt brave enough to make the journey by myself 🙂 Shoes looked very tired when he got home last night and he was laying down in his stall when I came out this morning. He was happy to see me and is now out eating some of the grass coming up.

The trip was great for him and I think he has really grown up. He is such an amazing horse that I am surprised nobody has snapped him up. He isn’t for someone buying their first ottb but he would be perfect for someone who is a good rider looking for a horse who is going to be very competitive in eventing/jumpers.

I’m typing from my new computer and it is quite awesome. Kurt was eager to show me how quickly it processes the video’s so hopefully I will get some new video up this week.

It’s a good morning

Is there anything better than just flying down the trails on a good Tb???? No really there isn’t 🙂 I had to give Shoes another carrot early this morning with his breakfast for being such a good boy!

As Kurt and I were riding yesterday we talked about how lucky we are to have such nice trails close by our house. We not only do we have state owned land all around our farm that we can ride directly to but also this nice trail system that is a 5 min ride from the farm. The trails are so good for babies because they are long and straight with nice sand footing and closed in by woods. I prefer to take the greenies to a place that is off the farm and a bit closed in before I graduate to the open fields. The trails are nice and wide so you can ride side by side which is excellent for getting babies confident. Kurt and Junior act as a buffer zone that I can use to give the babies guidance.

Junior, my connemara/tb, is such an interesting horse and he still puzzles me with some of his antics. I have never met a horse who is so opinionated about the way people ride. I had an old friend come out to ride and put her on him thinking he will give her a nice easy ride. Ha, nope he was a nut job. Bucking, taking off and just out of sorts. No clue what the deal was but there are just some people who appear to be good riders but ride in a way that aggravates him. He can go from a puppy dog to a nut job in a matter of seconds and it always leaves me scratching my head trying to figure him out. Is it too much leg, too much hand, a hot seat or him just being annoyed by the rider. Some people just can’t ride sensitive horses is what I think it ultimately comes down to.  Maybe it was the I said he is opinionated and I really don’t have a clue. He likes to embarrass me!

This was crossing my mind yesterday as we went flying down the trails and Kurt had this huge smile plastered on his face and at one point I said that I was ready to trot and he looked over and said he had just gotten going and could we keep going 🙂 Rock on, Kurt! Somehow the horse who was bucking like a rodeo horse earlier in the week was flying down the trail on a loose rein just loving life. Junior is an interesting horse and perhaps a horse that only a mother can love and even at that sometimes I would like to strangle him. He has the most annoying habits in the world and his whinny is so ear-piercing it can make you want to throttle him when he screams and screams for whatever reason. He has so many bad habits and his ground manners are awful despite persistent corrections. Kurt and I overlook all these things because we both really like riding him. He is almost all TB (just 1/4 connemara which gives him all the annoying habits) and we compare him to a sports car.

I really enjoy foxhunting but this year I haven’t hunted much instead focusing on riding with Kurt on the weekends. Life is always a balancing act of keeping everyone happy and I have to find ways to spend time with Kurt while getting all the work done (training horses). He really enjoys a casual trail ride and wasn’t much on foxhunting so trail riding it is. It’s nice to get out and spend time enjoying nature and having good conversation. We always feel refreshed and happy when we get back even if he is sore and complains the next few days after a long ride 🙂

There really is something about a good trail ride that makes you appreciate your horse and this morning I am feeling a sense of accomplishment in regards to Shoes. I was talking with Suzanne who is retraining the CANTER horses in NC and she remarked that she tends to enjoy the more difficult horses (as does Allie). We laughed that perhaps we are all a bit messed up in the head but I really believe it’s that sense of pride you feel knowing where you started and perhaps it’s a bit of ego boosting that happens knowing you can ride a horse that perhaps isn’t all that easy and turn him into a horse that everyone wants?

It really does fill me with pride knowing that I started with this skinny upside down necked horse who had no concept of going forward or relaxing his back. He felt like riding an inverted pogo stick and he had zero confidence in himself. Now you get on and you feel a soft rideable horse who is working correctly over the back and using the energy for good things and not bad. We aren’t out of the woods yet in terms of his occasional bouts of attitude but I really think I’m on the upswing of getting him to focus on being good and not bad. My head does get a bit big when I go for a lesson and hear that he is fancy and that he looks very light and soft. We all need to hear that we have done a good job and that someone else appreciates the horse that we have put so much time and effort into. I’m in a happy mood today and looking forward to continued adventures with Shoes.

Exactly what is needed

I’m a believer in good trail rides to teach horses how to go forward and how to canter. We haven’t been able to get out much due to weather but we are on a roll here lately.

I decided to take Shoes on his first trail ride today. Kurt always rides Junior who is an excellent lead horse. Junior will go anywhere and doesn’t mind the bouncing babies being silly. Earlier this spring, I had a lovely mare who couldn’t quite figure out the canter in the ring and we would go out and Kurt would pick up a canter and get far enough out in front of me that she decided she should canter instead of trot and sure enough a few of those rides and we suddenly had a canter. It’s an easy no fuss way of teaching young horses and making it fun for them.

I wasn’t sure what I would have with Shoes today but I was confident I had put all the right basics in and he was ready. He was amazing! He looked at things but was quite brave and really relaxed. He was a tad bit nervous when I first got on so we picked up the trot right away and just let him trot until he relaxed. I believe the best thing is always to let them go forward and don’t make them more nervous by holding them back. If you have to trot or canter for the first 10 min then go ahead and do so. Eventually, they do learn it’s no biggie and relax. He had such a lovely trot and was so soft and balanced. I just love riding him because he gives you such a great feel. Sits so nicely in your hand never pulling and a lovely soft mouth.

I wanted to work on the canter so I had Kurt pick up the canter and just followed in behind him. The first canter was just so good and he had no behavior at all. I got up in my 2pt and rested my hands on his neck and just let him go. He was so light and balanced.

On the way home, we tried another canter and he was a bit silly wanting to buck. He did a few bucks and then I gave him a good yank and he stopped and cantered nicely after that. I had Kurt do multiple transitions back and forth between trot and canter and I would follow in each time teaching Shoes it’s just no big deal and to just relax and he really figured it out. We had a really long canter and Kurt and I were all smiles.

Wow, it was just so great and Shoes was really proud of himself. Junior was also perfect and did a great job giving us a nice confidence boosting ride.

I really feel like I have a talented horse on my hands who is going to be super fancy. He isn’t the easiest horse but there is nothing complicated about him. It’s just teaching him his new job and getting him focused in on working and not being silly. With a steady program he is really going to shine. I’m eager to show him off and hope to start doing some more jumping soon.

Looking good!

The weather is finally improving and providing some much needed motivation for everyone. The sun was out but the 30mph wind gusts were not so much fun today. I started off with Diamond H who was quite good despite the crazy wind. He was looking around at things he never took a second glance at before but that was the worst the did which was impressive considering the rest of the horses today!

I brought Casey in and got him all clean up pulling his mane and clipping what I could. He really never got much of a coat and looks really good. I will give him a bath before we head for North Carolina. I would have ridden him but he was missing a shoe.

The wind has gotten even more intense and my boarder couldn’t even get her horse to go around so I figured I would just lunge shoes. He was really good to lunge and the canter looks fantastic. He no longer has any trouble cantering multiple circles very balanced and uphill. He has stopped bucking and being silly as well which is fantastic.

We tried to get some conformation pictures as well but they never come out as good as I hope. Really good conformation pictures are hard to get but you can see how much weight and muscle he has put on. He is one fancy horse and is going to kick some butt in the spring.

For reference

June 2010

Sept 2010

Nov 2010


It is supposed to be a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully not so darn windy. The wind wouldn’t be bad but the farmer left corn up right along side the ring and when the corn blows and the trees start blowing it just makes riding super difficult. The horses feel so good now that it has warmed up and the ground isn’t frozen. They just need a few good rides under them to settle down into work again.

Winter blues but a glimmer of hope

It has seemed like the month where all my computer equipment and camera’s have went on the fritz. Kurt and I tend to measure everything in terms of how long we have been married. We bought most of our equipment either before or when we got married so about 7yrs ago. The computer is outdated and has been acting up for a while now and I have just ignored it hoping it would magically get better.

Our camera and video camera are highly abused with sand, dirt, bad weather and a ton of use. Not to mention they are getting old as well. I took my camera to get cleaned and they told me our telephoto lenses was not worth repairing. Ouch! Now our video camera makes a sound of death when you turn it on.

I did give Kurt the go ahead to buy another computer. We do a ton of photo and video editing so a computer is necessary and the laptop doesn’t cut it. Let’s just say you should not give a man your credit card and tell him to buy whatever he thinks is needed. Men + electronics are like horse women in tack stores. Ouch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It better be a really awesome computer or else!

Looks like I should start looking for new lenses for our camera and I really want an upgraded camera body as well. We have a Nikon D-70 and it works fine so I suppose I should hold off. I will put that on the list of wants and not needs. We all know what that is don’t we 🙂

We are doing a few more farm improvements as well. The one thing about living in Delaware is that it is flat and low with clay soil. We built awesome sacrifice paddocks or heavy use areas to bring the horses up into when the fields are wet so we can have nice grass. I have a good rotational grazing system but in winter it’s cold, wet and muddy. We need to add more crush and run and stonedust to build the paddocks up a bit more. As they get low which they tend to do naturally as horses walk on them (they do have fabric underneath) the water begins to lay and mud is created.

I was venting to a friend yesterday about how I always feel so poor and I wonder how different life would be without horses. Growing up, my family was heavily involved with horses and I know first hand it is a 24×7 lifestyle. The difference is that I know horses aren’t where the money is so I do work a full-time job which allows me to have a comfort level in paying for all the horse expenses and our farm. In another year or two we will be completed with the farm projects and hopeful at the point where we can just enjoy it all.

Winter is depressing so I have these thoughts about how riding is a chore and not fun every winter 🙂 Seasonal depression is common for those of us without an indoor! I immediately felt better yesterday when I saw the weather is going to be warm and dry for the next week. There is hope on the horizon 🙂

Last night, Kurt and I finished up clipping Diamond H and he looks pretty cool. I gave him a chaser clip which is neat looking on a big horse. You basically make a diagonal line from the ear down the body and clip everything below. I couldn’t stand all the hair he had on him and with the warm weather coming (see, don’t I sound more positive now) he needed to be clipped. Not to mention it looks more professional. He is so good to work on and didn’t need any drugs to be clipped. Love him!

This time next week I will be heading down to North Carolina to visit with Allie. I am going to take Cool Casey down with me to leave down there. He is a lovely horse and ready to be sold but this hard frozen ground is not kind to his feet. I think he will do super well in the nice sandy footing. He is a gorgeous horse and has the temperament and personality that I adore. I need to give him a good bath, mane pulling and a minor clip so they don’t have to do that when he gets there. I will miss him and his buddies are going to be sad as he is the instigator of all the field antics. I keep telling him it is no wonder his feet hurt when he is galloping around bucking and rearing with his buddies. He doesn’t know what it means to just chill.

It’s important to make the right match

In the past several years, CANTER MA has shifted focus in the way we sell our horses. We used to sell them right off the farm with no retraining for under $1k.

I got involved with CANTER on a whim. Allie, CANTER MA’S Director, had sent out an email asking for anyone who could temporarily board some horses. I emailed and said I could take two and she dropped them off. She really didn’t know me very well at all but I asked if I could do the training and help get them new homes. I believe both of those horses sold in about 4 months and for pretty decent prices. We quickly realized people were more interested in the horses with retraining than those who we didn’t know much about.

Now we really only sell horses that have been able to at least get into the retraining program for a month. We have found it allows us to truly get to know the horse, test the horse out in various situations and figure out what type of career the horse is going to want to have. We also are able to price the horses at market value because they do have retraining and we find people are willing to pay the prices for a horse who has been in professional training and properly restarted so they don’t have to do all the first steps.

We take them out on various off the farm trips, trail riding, little shows and all those first experiences and start to figure out what type of rider these horses will fit. I have always said that one of the reasons I truly love working with CANTER is watching the horses progress during this initial training and being responsible for finding that perfect home. There is no pressure to just “sell” the horse instead it is wait until that right person comes along. We have no reason to be anything but honest. I think sometimes I am a bit too honest but if you want to know about the horses in the program it is really easy to just go and read the blogs. I try to keep a true account of how each horses progresses in their training.

I was reminded of that this weekend when I had a lovely shopper come to try out Diamond and Shoes. She was such a fantastic person and was looking for a horse that she could learn dressage on. She was coming off a pretty easy going and smaller moving type of horse. She loved Diamond’s personality and attitude but found his trot way to big for her level of riding experience. She fell in love with Shine my Shoes. You could see the minute she got on him she felt comfortable and she had a great ride on him.

I had a feeling she might be making an offer and yet deep down I knew I would have to decline knowing this was not the right horse for her. Even though she would be a great home I did not think it would work out long term. Shoes is a fantastic horse but he is also a horse who would test someone that was inexperienced and learn to intimidate them just because he can 🙂

It’s not about just selling the horse and taking the money for us. We want everyone to be happy and we don’t want horses returning back to us because we didn’t make a good match.

She was super nice and thanked me for being honest. All weekend I couldn’t stop thinking about this person and how I can see her getting taken advantage of in the shopping process. I hope she finds the right horse and I feel like I gave her some good counseling on questions to ask and how to figure out what exactly she needs.

Some of my advice was along the lines of finding a horse who would fit her lifestyle and current level of experience. I always advise someone to make a list of questions that you send when you make the initial contact about a potential horse. Tell me what you are looking for in a horse. For example, I want something age 5-10yrs old ranging from 15.2-16.2 h in the price range of under $5k. I have been riding for X years and have experience with young horses (or don’t) and have experience with Tb’s (0r don’t). I would like something that can compete at X level and also trail ride. I have my own farm and have one other horse and the horse would have X living situation.

I know my horses really well so if someone emails me what they are looking or if I know them well enough to know what kind of horse they like to ride I feel comfortable making a suggestion.

I think back to when my friend Alison was horse shopping. She had a super lovely and talented horse that reminds me so much of Shoes. She is super busy running an awesome organic farm and works a full-time job as well. Her goals were to foxhunt and trail ride and she was realistic about the fact that she sometimes could only ride on the weekends. Her horse was not suitable for her lifestyle but she spent several years and a ton of frustration trying to make it work. She sold her horse and knew exactly what she needed. She needed a Diamond H. She casually mentioned to me she was looking and I said I have your horse in my barn right now.

I knew Alison’s riding style, her goals, her farm set up and what kind of horse that she needed. The funny thing was that she told me she wanted something under 16 h and anything but a grey horse 🙂 Oh no 🙂

The horse that I had in mind for her was Top Punch. I had only been on him a few times but enough to know the horse was a total pro and had the perfect attitude for an amateur rider with an infrequent riding schedule. He had a very willing attitude and was super smart. He was 12yrs and had just come off the track but it was clear to me he was a horse who had seen it all and then some. I didn’t think he would be phased by trail riding solo or foxhunting. He didn’t spook at anything and he was quite brave about everything that I introduced him too.

She was set on not owning a grey horse but once she took him home to try him out she fell in love. She was trail riding him around her farm and having fun. I don’t think she had actually had fun out trail riding in a very long time 🙂 He took nicely to foxhunting and has become a great all around horse for her. I took this picture off facebook this morning because it made me so happy.

My mom’s horse is another good example of making a perfect match although in a million years she would never admit it simply because she doesn’t like to admit that I am right 🙂 He was the first horse that I had from CANTER. He had been starved and OMG was he ugly. We joked that the Amish were going to come looking for him thinking he was one of their horses. He may have not been the most attractive horse at that point but his brain was top-notch. He jumped anything I pointed him at regardless of how scary it was. He was a good mover and was nice and soft in the bridle. He was also one of the slower versions where you had to push him. He was good on the trails and anyone could ride him. Seemed like he was going to make a great amateur event horse. He was a cribber. I kept telling my mom I had her horse and she said I DO NOT want a cribber. I finally convinced her to come and try him out and she did end up buying him. She went from being nervous at intro level eventing to winning Novice and schooling training level. I have so much fun watching her out on him because she truly has fun and enjoys herself without worrying about what her horse is going to do. He takes care of her in ways that most horses wouldn’t. She will always say he has faults but if you look at the big picture the perfect horse is the one that you know you can head out to the event course and know it is going to do the job. This picture makes me smile because the first time he jumped it he got down there and went OMG red stuff on top but he went just a bit crooked. I asked my mom what happened and she said she just closed her eyes and prayed he would jump it 🙂

I had released this post but then had to come back and add a little something about Dixie Rumble who was the horse that got this blog started. Dixie was your big 16.2 h bag tb gelding who also started out pretty darn funky looking. You can go back and look at some of the initial posts about him but he wasn’t attractive at first. From ride #1 which happened to be the day that Allie delivered him to my farm it was obvious he had a top-notch brain and loved to trail ride. We went out across the open fields on a super windy day and he was happy go lucky. He lacked confidence and had a few quirks at first. He was also a stall walker which was a major issue in reselling him and why he probably stuck around for as long as he did. I thought he would sell quickly because he was just so sensible but he didn’t. I just kept going with him and we went out eventing and he took right to foxhunting. I had never hunted before but Dixie was the ultimate horse to show me the ropes. He went 1st flight, 2nd flight, took out guests and junior riders. He was just plain fun for me to ride and he knew his job. He had a fantastic year of hunting and then went out and did his first BN event in the rain and won 🙂 I was so proud of him! He wasn’t selling at his price so I dropped his price down and all of a sudden I had a ton of interest. Catherine had been reading my blog about Dixie and thought he sounded perfect for what she was looking for. She called and gave me the run down of what she wanted and did I think he would fit? She hoped to do some lower level eventing, trail ride with friends and just have an overall fun partner who could dabble in a bit of everything.

I thought it sounded like the perfect match and she came down and fell in love with him. She has really enjoyed him and over the past few months she decided she really wanted to event in the spring so she shipped him off to an event to refresh Dixie and at the same time she could go get some lessons on him. I have been getting really awesome reports along the lines of how the trainer loves Dixie as well as the barn staff and that her husband has realized just how happy she is. She described the high that she felt after her last lesson and just how fun and forgiving Dixie has been. It truly makes my day when I get these emails.

We have been fielding a lot of questions about why we now want the horses to come into the retraining program before they are sold and why our prices are higher. A good organization will always evolve to meet the current demands of the market. I believe we are nicely meeting the niche of those who love ottb’s but want something that has already been let down and had a professional who truly understands the TB mind doing the retraining. You can buy a horse without wondering whether it will like to trail ride, whether it will go x-c, can it handle being away from it’s buddies, does it like flatwork, will the horse go forward and accept the contact and does the horse like to jump. We can answer those questions honestly and ensure you buy the horse of your dreams. Then you will go tell all your friends how awesome CANTER Mid Atlantic is 🙂

I have become smarter

I was lucky enough to grow up in a horsey family where we always had a variety of horses coming in and out of the barn. We had lesson horses, show horses and racehorses. I had the chance to ride anything that I wanted and the lessons that I learned along the way have benefited me when it comes to training young horses.

I admit that when I was younger I didn’t have the most patience in the world and I would easily get frustrated. My mom was good at letting me learn my lessons on my own without saying much. I was 10yrs old when I got my first off the track and experience set me back for a few years 🙂 It was going pretty well until we were at pony club grounds in Middletown, Delaware and he got stung by some bees that were lurking under a metal water trough. Pony Club grounds basically have two fenced in paddocks in the middle and the rest is wide open fields. Let’s just say that horse was as flat out as a racehorse can go and running blindly. I know they were all yelling for me to bail but I was too scared to bail (ha, I still never bail!) and he just ran and ran and ran some more and I finally pointed him at the dressage ring hoping he would stop. He didn’t stop but it was enough to slow him down and I rolled off the left shoulder. He ran across the road and hung himself up in a clothes line. It wasn’t funny at the time but sure is now that I look back on it. When we retrieved him it was decided he would go back to the track and wouldn’t you know he won his next two races. My stepdad always joked that I gave him a hell of a breezing 🙂

I was pretty scared of horses that went fast after that experience so my next TB was the one I would end up owning for many years. His favorite thing to do was run backwards. That was cool with me as long as he wasn’t taking off 🙂 He came in as a training project for my mom and she hated him so somehow I got on him and fell in love and begged and begged until my parents gave in. We called him scarface as he was so beat up and thin from where he had been living. He wasn’t allowed to go out in public for a while or else people would think we starved him!

I’m not sure that I would recommend a very green rouge TB to a 13yr but it was my choice. Now that I look back on it I wish I would have been smart enough to take my parent’s up on the offer to have a really nice horse 🙂 However, I really think that the skills I learned from him can not be replaced. I learned to just flat out ride a very difficult horse. Those first few years were an exercise in patience and humility and learning to become a smarter more effective rider.

My mom was actually tormented by other parents in my pony club and people even offered horses to me. She explained this was the one that I wanted. I wish my parents would have been good and video back then because you really had to see some of the moves this horse could do. Bronco bucks, the nastiest spook and spin moves, rearing, running backward and the dirtiest stops he could create at the jumps. I thought I knew everything at age 13 but he let me know that I needed to stop being cocky and learn to ride. I could have thrown in the towel but instead I committed myself to learning how to ride challenging horses.

I got excellent help with the flatwork for a great dressage instructor where we taught him to go forward no matter what. This was accomplished with lunging him and teaching him to respond to the voice and the whip and then she would ride him and teach him the whip meant forward. Yes, many Tb’s have zero concept of forward. Once they learn how to go forward a lot of the behavior can be controlled. Easiest way to stop the bucks is to send them forward. When you have them forward you can teach them how to work into contact and use their back. This kind of focus allowed me to control the spook and spin moves to a degree. I was able to think like a horse and before they even focus on the scary object I am there saying let’s do a little leg yield over here and please don’t look at that instead lets do a spiral circle here.

My horse had been a steeplechaser but it had shaken his confidence. I worked daily to build his confidence and become a better rider over fences. He punished me for taking long spots by bucking me off on the landing. I learned to create the canter that would get me to the proper distance and how to support him off the ground and not get ahead of the motion. I am sure it is probably the reason why I still ride quite defensively 🙂 I also learned a lot about building confidence by taking baby steps. Small fences that were decorated to be scary allowed me to teach him he had to go over, heck he could even walk over them. I very gradually introduced height but the horse jumped everything like it was 4ft. Height was never the issue it was simply making him believe in himself.

A difficult horse teaches you to think outside the box and train smarter not harder. You can’t force a horse to do anything and when you do it probably isn’t going to end up real good for either of you. I used to be super competitive and it was always about the ribbons. Funny how that changes when you have such a challenging horse and you come to realize ribbons have nothing to do with sense of accomplishment. Sometimes my goal was just to be able to survive the warm up or be able to get around the course cleanly. When I stopped putting so much pressure on myself and my horse our performance improved. The most valuable tool that I had learned was how to truly think like a horse and almost get inside their head. It was about slowing everything down and making sure I had installed all the right buttons. Be humble enough to abandon plan A for plan B if that is what is required. Put the horse first and not my own goals.

I am sure this sounds like a bunch of rambling but last night I had such an interesting ride on Shoes that once again I found myself being so thankful for all the knowledge I have been able to gain by riding so many complicated horses over the years. I still have a long way to go but I love the journey.

Shoes was being a very good boy at the walk and the trot but he was also being a bit nappy. Mogie has suggested I ride him without the spurs so no spurs. I was carrying my stick though as I always find it crucial on any horse to have the tools you need. He would just randomly slow way down almost wanting to stop. I was not quite sure what was going on? I ran the mental list in my head. Sore, tack issue or being a butt head. I kept focusing on the trot and he was relaxed and the back was swinging and everything felt good.

Wouldn’t you know it all came to head when I started to ask for the canter. Each time I would ask for the canter he wouldn’t pick it up. I tried various ways and he was not interested and got nappier by as we went to the point of just stopping and kicking out. I felt myself starting to get frustrated but I slowed down my thinking and thought about how to approach the issue. I couldn’t get him forward and using the stick wasn’t working. He was getting pissed and had stopped trying.

I realized we have a lack of communication issue going on and we have lost our forward button. I asked Kurt to go and get the lunge line knowing that the best way to tackle the issue was to remind him of the forward button. Now he hadn’t done anything wrong but he simply wasn’t answering the question correctly and he was getting pissy. He is not sore, his tack fits and he knows how to canter. He just didn’t want to (well that was my opinion).

I put him on the lunge line and we did some sharp walk trot transtions and that looked fantastic! When asked to canter he was MAD. He didn’t want to canter and was making a lot of excuses. I got after his cute little butt and reinforced when I said canter I really meant canter. Buck, kick, buck, kick for the next 5 min. I would bring him back to the trot and repeat over and over again the canter transition and let him canter a few circles.

You could see him thinking and processing (probably thinking that I am a major b**ch 🙂 ) but sure enough he started to canter like a normal horse. I repeated the transition twice more and got a perfect response and then stopped him and told him he was a very good boy.

Kurt thought I was done but I said that now I had to get on and let him know that this translates to under saddle as well. I mentioned this horse is smart but he truly is that smart. I asked for the canter and he picked it up right away with no back talking and cantered three lovely circles. He got big pats and I got off and hand walked him to cool him down. That was proof enough to me that he did know what I wanted he simply had made up his mind he wasn’t going to do it. I convinced him without making a big deal out of it. I didn’t lose my temper while riding him I just went back to good old basics. I realize a big part of it is still muscling but cantering is not hard. He just wanted to be a butthead 🙂 In the perfect world we would hit the trails and just canter and canter but that would require the white stuff and rain to stop falling for at least a week or more!

I really don’t think I would have won that battle on his back but by utilizing the lunging I was able to teach him the lesson in a smarter way. I let him be hard on himself and come to his own conclusions. Keep being silly and you keep getting worked. Stop being nappy and you get rewarded and life is easier.

I really had been giving him the benefit of the doubt so in some ways I take some of the blame. I knew he didn’t have a lot of muscling so I hadn’t been getting after him for not picking up the canter when asked or for bucking and kicking out. It is our job as the rider to define the boundaries and when you ride a smart horse like Shoes is they pick up on your lack of detail.

I never was much of a fan of the lunge line at all but this year has changed my thinking. I had such a great experience learning how to teach a horse who struggled with balance in the canter how to engage the hind end on the lunge line. It seemed like one lunge session was all he needed and he completely changed. It opened my eyes up to the fact that sometimes you have to take yourself out of the equation and go back to the ground work and show them what is expected.

I cannot wait to get home today and ride him again. I know that he is so smart he is going to be really good today. I think my favorite part of working with green horses is figuring out what makes them tick and finding ways to get the best out of them.

Makes my day

I know I said I love Diamond and I really do but Shoes has a major piece of my heart. He is almost a complete opposite from Diamond which is what makes him so interesting. He has 4 shoes on so riding in the snow isn’t such a great plan but I thought I would bring him out and lunge him a little bit. The snow was soft in the ring and there is a nice base under it so it’s not slippery.

My favorite thing about Shoes is that he has the best personality. He loves people and is such a goofball. Loves to look in my pockets and is always checking out what I am doing. He was doing all sorts of goofy faces while I curried him off. His eyes lit up when I brought out the lunging surcingle. He is a horse who loves a job and thrives on a program. I feel bad that I can’t keep him going consistently enough.

I give him a warm up without the side reins and he is naturally going forward and stretching down and out. My gosh he just looks so incredible and he is so smart. I put the side reins on and you can see how hard he is trying. He is moving like a million dollars and I was doing transitions with him from the walk to the trot and he was staying soft and relaxed over his back and working forward into the contact.

I asked him to pick up the canter and wee he did a big buck and the saw his shadow and proceeded to put his tail straight in the air and do these loud snorts so loud it was scaring all the other horses yet he was completely focused on working into the contact despite the snorts and tail in the air. I was laughing hysterically. This horse is just such a character. We practice more trot to canter transitions and he still is struggling to figure out the canter but it’s coming. The trot is amazing!

I move all around the ring lunging him all over to mix it up and let him look in all the corners and of course at the barrels of death. He has grown up so much and is no longer scared although he does keep one eye on them each time he passes. I switch sides and he doesn’t even test me and just immediately goes to work. The difference in his movement is almost shocking and I am just beaming with pride.

I think what I love so much about this horse is that he is trusting, athletic and talented. He is a horse who has a really good work ethic and is going to put out that extra effort to please. He is also extremely smart probably too smart 🙂

I would say the difference in Shoes and Diamond is that Diamond is okay to just do as asked but Shoes always wants to do more the classic overachiever. This is a fantastic quality for many people however it means he is a horse who is going to thrive in a consistent program. He would hate to only be ridden once a week while Diamond would be happy with a hit or miss riding schedule.

I was just so pleased with how nice he is going and brought him in for another brushing and pulled his mane and trimmed his bridlepath and ears. I have someone coming to see him on Saturday which makes me excited/nervous and many other things. I want everyone to like my horses because I put so much work into them but more than anything because I truly love them.

One of my favorite parts of doing this job is being able to call former owner’s up and give a report. I have a really good relationship with Shoe’s trainer and many of the owner’s who have horses in this trainer’s barn. I think we have now had 7 horses come from his barn this year. I can honestly say they are a barn that doesn’t care about the money only about the horses and making sure they get the right homes. It took a lot of hard work from all of the Delaware Park volunteers to show them we are a great group but now they have fully embraced us. Shoe’s owners are the nicest people and love their horses.

I have seen his owner a few times and kept in touch but she was thrilled to hear about Shoes and know that he was doing really well. She believes he wants to be an event horse and I agree. A good home is a good home but I do think he would flourish in an event barn. She was so happy that I had called and thanked me for taking such good care of him. I was telling her about him getting chiropractor treatment and she said he will be so spoiled he won’t want to leave 🙂 Then she said if we ever needed anything to just call and if we want to do a fundraiser or anything to just let her know. Wow, how cool is that. It is just nice to know that people appreciate what we do for their horses and I know they will talk us up to other trainers and owners which only builds our reputation more and more.

This winter has really been depressing but a good session like I had with Shoes tonight can get me past the dreary weather and focused on the positive. I truly love what I get to do with all the CANTER horses and spending the time to figure out what they want to do with their life. There is nothing more rewarding than figuring out their niche and then placing them in the home that will allow their talent to grow.

Video of Diamond

Before I started working with CANTER I never really gave much thought to pedigree’s of the Tb’s that I had worked with or personally known. Now I find it fascinating to go look up the sires and dam’s of the horses that we have in our program. I was recently asking Diamond’s trainer if all the horses he had sired by Diamond were as quiet and sensible as Diamond H and he said that had been his experience. He also said they have had nice size bone and are fairly big horses. He tells me Diamond H was one of the fastest horses he had in his barn he was just very careful with him because of his size. I find it hard to believe Diamond could be fast 🙂

You can see Diamond H’s sire at I see a lot of similarity in Diamond H.

Kelly wrote a neat post about how CANTER MA currently has two horses bred by the Lake Weir FFA program. If you aren’t reading her blog you should be!

Thankfully we only got a bit of ice last night and not much more. I’m hoping I can do some riding this week. I’m starting to get real grumpy!

Here was the video we made of Diamond. Keep in mind this is only his 3rd ride since leaving the track in June and he is a tad bit ouchy on bare feet with all this hard ground. I was just letting him go forward and do his own thing 🙂 We only have one lead at the moment but not worth getting concerned with at this time with lack of fitness and muscle.

and a regular link is  I hate the way these videos come up in the small screen.