Monthly Archives: January 2012

Lesson day for the horses

I came down with a cold that was kicking my butt and although I felt horrible I was determined that I was riding in some lessons with Mogie who had come up from Aiken this weekend. I thought I would ride Letterman and Areutrue but Letterman had gotten kicked in the gaskin earlier in the week so I hadn’t been on him. He looked ouchy on Thursday but not lame so he had been getting the bute/cold hose therapy. I packed Letterman, London, and Areutrue on the trailer and figured I would sort it out when I got there.

I decided to ride Areutrue first as he is always such a good boy and he wouldn’t use up all my energy. I realized this was his first off the farm trip and first time in an indoor but of course he walked in there like he owned the place. I walked a lap in hand while the lesson finished up and he was just checking things out but never even seemed nervous.

Mogie commented that he didn’t even have a spook in him. He is just so professional about his job and goes right to work. He’s a horse that was probably ridden in a yoke at the track so he wants to tuck himself into a frame but he travels a bit up and down instead of out. I’ve been getting him to uncurl at home and today we worked on  the same thing. Trying to get him to stretch out a bit and even sending him a bit more forward than necessary so that he uses his shoulder more freely.

His canter is still a bit weak and steering him is hard because he wants to come behind the bit but that takes time. He’s really willing to learn and tries so hard. He has a fantastic canter and a really good balance. It just takes a bit time to get them strong so they can balance, bend and come up all at the same time.

I looked and I rode him for the first time on December 9th!! He has less than 2 months under saddle being ridden 3-4x a week and he’s doing so well. I could go on and on about how much I like this horse. He has the best brain in the world and he’s just so sweet. You can feel him thinking so hard and trying to figure out what you are asking. He never gets flustered. I was amazed that despite being in a totally new place he stood perfectly still to get tacked up, mounted and untacked. He’s just such a good boy. He also did not care that the other horse left and he was in the indoor all by himself. I didn’t even know the other horse had left.

Here is his video-

I decided I would hop on Letterman and see how he was feeling.  Ha, um he was feeling full of himself. He had never been in an indoor and when I went in they were jumping courses so he was extra keyed up. The one thing about Letterman is that although he appears intimidating he would never do anything scary. I feel safer on him then I do walking him around so I just got on. He was being silly about things like the muck bucket in the corner but that is totally Letterman. If he wasn’t looking at stuff then I would be worried 🙂 He was quite good until the horse left the indoor and then he threw a fit. We boinked around a bit, he hollered and tried a few little manuevers to go back to the in gate. They are all very mild which is excellent so I just redirected his anger into a positive directions.

My mom joined me for the lesson on her young horse and we both sort of experienced some issues with OMG my new BFF is at the other end of the ring I have to go down there or I will die..please let me go down there. It’s a good experience to get horses in new situations like this so they can learn that they will survive.

Mogie hadn’t seen Letterman in a long time and was really impressed by how far he has come. I am still really working on bending to the right. He loves dropping his right shoulder and laying on that right leg so it’s lots and lots of leg yields. He’s very smart and tries hard which is all that I can ask for out of him. I tend to ride him less than all the rest of the horses so half the time I’m amazed he’s as far along as he is so I’m just thrilled with him. He was super excited that he got to jump. He tried his little drop his shoulder move and we almost took out Kurt which was funny!

I need to be softer in between the jumps but he’s still very looky and you can see how he’s sort of doing this little prop thing which is weird but no worries.

I was absolutely feeling crappy after riding both horses so I decided to just lunge London. I could barely breathe and I was exhausted from being sick.  It was also his first off the farm trip and if you aren’t prepared to ride well then you shouldn’t ride. He was a bit on edge but when he went out to the outdoor ring he was really good. There was so much to see and nobody around so I thought he was quite brave. I lunged him through this big puddle and he thought that was fun.

I’m proud of all my boys.

Jumping on the lunge line

I was determined to capture London’s second session of conquering the black barrel on the lunge line but the weather wasn’t very cooperative. We got snow and yesterday the ring was frozen solid. Today it finally warmed up so we did a short little session in the slop. I did a brief little warmup and he was listening very nicely. You can see in the video we warm up over just a little cavaletti oxer and then I slowly bring him closer and closer to the barrel. Even though he’s jumping the part that joins the barrel and cavaletti he still wasn’t sure about jumping the middle of the barrel. What I was really impressed with was that it only took him less than a minute to get on board with the jumping the barrel compared to the 5-10 min of arguing he did the first session. I can’t really get behind him to encourage him forward because he will just jump that wing that I have on the side of the barrel so I encouraged him to go over the cavaletti and then back to the barrel.

After we warmed up we made a bigger oxer jump about 3ft and he was really good! It’s super hard to steer them and I don’t like how they have to turn so much but it’s not like I’m going to drill this whole lunging over jumps thing. I doubt I will use it again now that he’s gained confidence but it’s  a tool that I can break back out if needed. I love how good his instincts are despite being absolutely green to jumping. He prefers to add to the base which is a good thing. He had gotten bored so not super tight with his knees but the jump is pretty plain and if you pause it you can see how nicely he uses his body. He was very proud of himself and got lots of treats 🙂

Getting inside their head

I was reading a post that Suzanne wrote on her CANTER blog- where she talks about good old natural horsemanship but not the carrot stick kind. I figure I work with upward of twenty ottb’s a year which isn’t a huge number but is still a lot of different horses. Each horse is so different and part of the challenge is getting inside the head of each horse to figure out what makes them tick. Some are just so easy you get on and go.

There are some horses that come in and I find them to be practically unbroke. You get on them and wonder how in the heck did they get them around the track?? No steering, no forward and just a total lack of understanding of all the aids. Then others are so broke you sit up there and wonder if somebody was giving them dressage training at the track.

Each of them has a different personality and work ethic. I have to figure out what kind of program works best for each of them. Do they need to go back to basics first?

I have always been a person who loves to read. I have so many horse books in my home library. I love watching educational video’s and youtube videos of clinics. Growing up I never really learned much about groundwork. Yes, we had to lunge for pony club so I knew the basics but I didn’t use it a whole lot. I was reading some posts on the Chronicle of the Horse about the wonder pony Teddy O’Connor and his owner teaching him to jump using the lunge line. I emailed her and got some really cool information. I took that and sort of ran with it using it on Dixie Rumble who was the horse I was training at the time. He lacked confidence over fences so the lunging really helped him learn his footwork without worrying about the rider. I find that you can regulate the speed and tempo more on the lunge line than you can free jumping.

I decided that I would work with London Lullaby teaching him to lunge over some scarier jumps. London is an interesting horse to describe because I would say that he is very quiet and sensible but at the same time can be a bit defiant. You have to remember he ran as a 2yr but has just hung in a field for two years. He doesn’t understand WHY HE MUST work. We have installed the forward button and are now working on the concept of trusting that I make the decisions in our relationship 🙂

We have been riding past those damn black barrels in my ring for several weeks but he still looks at them like they are the devil. I knew if I just presented them to him as a jump it wouldn’t go well. I figured they would be perfect to incorporate into my lunging exercise. The black barrels are off the rail in the ring so I put a single cavaletti on the rail so that the black barrels and the cavaletti made one long 20ft jump. I started by warming him up on the lunge line. It was dark and cold and he pretended he didn’t know how to lunge which meant he kept wanting to pull out on the circle as he had to move away from the barn. I was pretty sharp with him there because he knows better. I kept him on a very small circle so I could control his body by keeping him closer to me. We had that down pretty good.

Then I started by lunging right in front of my jump line. He was not really bothered by that. I then walked him in hand over the cavaletti. When I tried to lunge him over the cavaletti he was pretty sure he couldn’t possibly do it. He just didn’t know the answer to the question. I was patient and had to be quick to step behind him and encourage him. If he backed up I resumed lunging him in a small circle letting him know the answer was to go forward. Always go forward. If he was going forward he didn’t get any sort of behavioral correction. He really figured it out and you could just see him thinking. He was jumping it so nicely. Then I added another cavaletti in front making it a little oxer and he was simply gorgeous over that. I slowly inched him to where the barrel jump and cavaletti joined and he was great.

BUT….when asked to jump the center of the barrels he was all sorts of angry. He swore he couldn’t do it. He backed up and tried to go every direction but where I wanted him to go. I had a pole on the far side of the barrel so he couldn’t escape and I was using that as my block. A few times he popped right out of there. I don’t suggest doing this unless you are really experienced because it can get a bit hairy at times. Totally normal! I just kept patiently lunging him over the part where the cavaletti and barrel joined and then moving him back towards the barrel. If he refused then I made him circle and jump again. He figured out he was creating more work for himself and then jumped the barrel like it was no biggie. This horse is a stunning jumper. He’s so tight with his knees and very careful.

We took a little break and I told him how smart he was and I swear he looked at me like he knew just what I was saying. He really is a super smart horse. I then asked him to go over just two more times to make sure he had it down. Now I wouldn’t say that he is at all scared of the barrels but the barrels allow him an excuse to protest. He has to learn that we must work past our fears/dislikes. In just one session he learned a lot about moving away from the pressure, keeping his feet moving even when unsure and respecting his handlers space. He felt more confident after he was able to figure out the answer to the question.

I will continue to work with him a bit on the lunging over fences because I think it will allow for me to have more success undersaddle. With horses that want to challenge you it’s often much easier to address the issues on the ground. I had a student with a horse that absolutely wouldn’t drop down off the banks out xc. They had tried everything they could think of with no success. We spent a good month going xc schooling and we had instant success using a lunge line and whip. We would do it in hand first and then put the rider up. We never went out xc schooling without those tools. The minute he started to refuse we would start to lunge him. By the end of the season he was jumping banks like a pro. I think he wasn’t scared but he had picked his battle. We simply found a quiet effective way to work around it without getting him more upset or causing him fear. When he would get worried he would find understanding in the process that we had taught him.

I wouldn’t at all say that he’s not a brave horse because I think that he will be but he is a horse that wants to questions things and I have to work ahead of him to explain how to answer the questions that he may have with proper responses. If left to his own devices then I can see how he would not be progressing.

Areutrue is the exact opposite because he is 100% trust of the rider. You can feel him thinking..mmm does she really want me to jump that…well okay if she says so then I will. I know that London will get there but he will need a bit of time and he has to learn to trust.

I will try to get some of this work on video because it really is cool to watch them. I have so much fun with them. I also used this on Letterman a few months ago and it made a huge difference! He was refusing everything and after one session of lunging over jumps he figured out the answer was to jump. He learned he could just walk up and pop over a 2ft jump without it biting him 🙂

Kurt has been working lots of hours at work and the weekends so I haven’t been able to video the horses. His work project will be over next week so hopefully our time will free up. I want to get the horses to the indoor for some practice and then pick out some local shows to do this winter.

Letterman and London showing off

I have been shouting to the world that Letterman is a different horse but I haven’t had any video to prove that he really is. Well check out the improved version of Letterman. Far from perfect but a long way from where we started.

I only get to ride him 2-3 days a week so he’s not really in shape but I’m happy to see that he is feeling good in his body.

The weather has been hit or miss lately so I have been inconsistent with riding. I got on London on Monday and realized that perhaps I should lunge. He wasn’t doing anything bad but he felt a bit balled up like he just couldn’t go forward. I just stuck him on the lunge line for 5 min and he took a deep breath and then was just fine. It was cold and very windy so I don’t blame him for feeling good. You can’t expect a horse to be perfect if you aren’t riding on a consistent basis.

I have been trying to figure out bitting on London. I was using a herm sprenger duo which is thin flexible rubber bit but I’m not sure he loved it. I thought that I would try something else so I rode him in an eggbutt jp with an oval piece in the middle. He’s really super soft in the mouth and if anything he is a push type of ride. He is built very correctly with a neck that comes uphill out of his shoulder so the work should be easy for him in time. I’m not trying to ride him in a frame but I do want him to come forward into the hand working from behind.

I can already see a huge difference in him because he is now figuring out to go forward and he’s starting to stretch into the contact. I’m working on really pushing him from inside leg to outside rein. He overbends a bit going right and not enough bend going left. Some of his protests are me making him move off my left leg.

He has went from not being able to hold the canter at all to now cantering circles and a few laps around the ring. He is testing his boundaries out a bit with the leaning just trying to find his balance. This is very typical for a young horse and my job is just to keep the contact so he can’t pull through it and add leg. Lots of leg 🙂

He is figuring out the jumps nicely..I totally can do a better job letting go of the contact a bit more to the fence. I’m trying to steer too much with my reins and not going forward enough. I’m always working to improve and it’s never fun to watch yourself on video..yuck!

I’m super impressed with London because he has less than 30 rides on him and he had just been hanging in a field for 2yrs. This is going to be a heck of a horse. He just has the feeling of a super athletic fancy type when you ride him. I’m very pleased with his progress and how quickly he picks everything up.


Sometimes I think that it’s hard to fall more in love than I already am with Areutrue but he just keeps impressing me. We just introduced the concept of jumping to him last week and he’s been pretty ho hum about it. Nothing has phased him at all. Tonight, we added in the brush jump (brush box filled with a fake christmas tree) and the black barrels. These are two fairly spooky jumps. Not big jumps but a lot to look at for a horse that is brand new to jumping.

Wouldn’t you know he just trotted down to each jump like he has seen black barrels and fake christmas trees as jumps every single day of his life. No fuss just trotted right over with his cute little ears pricked forward looking for more things to jump. He even kicked sand all over the barrels and didn’t care that the noise was scary.

He’s just such a willing horse who is always eager to please. How could you not love him just a little bit more for being so perfect. I’m itching to get him out on cross country. I have to figure out a way to make this happen if possible. The weather has been great and the footing is still good.

I love working with these horses. How lucky am I!

What does 30 days get you?

I enjoy writing this blog because it makes it easy for me to look back on the progress of each horse. I’m often asked what 30-60 days gets you in terms of training on an ottb. London and Areutrue are at the 30 day mark. Both are w/t/c and jumping small courses that include fillers. They have hacked out and have been introduced to the basics concepts of flatwork. I’ve taught them to lunge and they have been lunged in side reins or vienna reins.

I have gotten to observe how they handle scary things like the black barrels in the ring or the four wheelers and gunshots that are constant background noise on the farm. What do they think about being introduced to different jumps in the ring? How about contact? You teach a lot of concepts in 30 days.

In 30 days, I can tell you an extensive amount about a horses personality and what type of rider they will require, what type of career they would do best in and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

I took a short video of Areutrue yesterday. It’s a bit rough because there were people looking at both horses so I’m doing a quick w/t/c jump to show what the horses know.

Areutrue is a very cool horse. He’s the type that is very content to just relax but when you ask him to go then he’s all for going. I love his little ears pricked forward over the jumps just trying to figure out what to do. Sure he’s not really jumping in any style but that will all come. He’s been more than willing to jump all the little stuff and right now he does not have enough muscle to ask him for anything more. I am always trying to be careful not to overdo it because they aren’t that fit.

I think people will overlook Areutrue because he’s a bit older but I can picture him going right out and jumping around cross country easily. He is a horse that is always dependable and fun. Flatwork seems to come naturally. He’s super soft in the bridle and wraps right around your leg. I enjoy every ride on him because he tries so hard. He’s very quiet and sensible but he has a go button and a very good stop button. If he has come along this quickly with minimal riding in 30 days that I can only imagine what he will be like with more time/training under him. Right now his feet are a bit unbalanced but again that is something that will be easily fixed with some good farrier work.

I was very impressed with London yesterday as he was ridden by three different people. For a horse that had just been standing in a field for close to 2yrs he has come along super quick. He hasn’t had as many life experiences as Areutrue but he has a great attitude and a super brain. Very nice gaits and he really jumped yesterday instead of just stepping over. Watch out for him in another 30 days. He’s going to knock your socks off!

I actually haven’t even advertised the horses officially just showed them to a few people who have read about them here. We want to wait a bit longer and give them some time to get going so we can really show them off. If this nice weather continues maybe I can get them out for a little cross country schooling. Riding in t-shirts in January is a real treat. I hope this nice weather continues.

London starting over fences

Something that I like to do with young horses is just walk them over fences both in hand and when I am on them. Especially spooky fences that are set at low heights. It teaches them to just be relaxed and happy about the jumps so they don’t feel the need to overjump or be worried about new things.

London popped over a little x-rail a few weeks ago on his first or 2nd ride but since then we have just been trotting some poles and then I would casually walk him over the little gates, brush boxes and flower boxes in hand. At first he was not quite sure how to do this and wouldn’t go but now he just walks up and pops over. I’m sure a lot of people don’t teach young horses to jump this way but I’ve had a lot of success with it. It allows you to control their shoulders so you don’t teach them that stopping is allowed. I will also do a bit of lunging over jumps when I can. It allows the horse to really think about what they are doing without a rider being involved.

Yesterday, we trotted a little baby course for the first time and it was his first attempt at trotting the gates and flower box jump. He’s a bit green but very game. At this stage, I don’t worry about how they jump. I just want them to be relaxed and quiet. I try to go in there on a soft rein and stay out of their way. I could have sent him a bit more forward after the jump but we will get there.

I had my absolute best ride on Letterman in terms of flatwork. I’m hoping to get some video of him today to show him off. He feels amazing! He’s a very good reminder that it all comes together in time. You have to take them out of the ring to build up their muscle and allow them to get strong first. Once they develop the muscles then boom the flatwork is suddenly easy for them. He is just so damn fun to work with and he really tries hard. One thing that I have done is to add a standing martingale. I was watching some of the coverage on the USEA annual meeting where Phillip Dutton said he uses standing martingales on his young horses. He said something about it reminding the young horse of where they need to be without the rider bugging them. Letterman always has had this annoying habit of flipping his head all around for the first 15 minutes of the ride. The standing martingale doesn’t bug him at all when he’s just going around normal but when he wants to do all his head flipping it reminds him that perhaps he will get a couple of jerks in the nose if he keeps it up 🙂 I should have put it on months ago but it’s always about learning something new so I will be using my standing martingale a bit more often for those who need it. Setting boundaries is a very important tool in schooling green horses.

Out to get everybody ridden on a beautiful morning.