Monthly Archives: June 2012

Bling starts in work

I shouldn’t say that he hasn’t been in work but I haven’t ridden him besides my intro ride when he arrived. I rode him and then decided he needed both time to adjust to his new life and some groundwork to get him going a bit more forward.

Bling came to the Mid Atlantic area from California in 2010. He raced until 2011 when he then had a very small bow (I can’t even really see it) and was retired. When I picked him up at the farm I was told that he was going out for about an hour a day but he was terrified of the other horses. I brought him home and indeed he was pretty scared of other horses with no real social skills. Although it sounds strange, this is often the case with horses that are well-bred and in race training because they don’t get turned out with other horses or turned out at all.

I did turn him out and every time another horse looked his way he ran the other direction. It was pretty funny and one of those things that you just have to let be. You feel bad that he is so scared but I was sure he would figure it out. While he adjusted, I didn’t want to add to much into his already stressful adjustment period. I did some lunging just to get him going forward as that seemed to be a bit of an issue when I rode him that first time. We worked on voice commands and transitions up and down. He is super smart and picked it up right away. I also worked with him in the ring while others rode to see how he acted with other horses in the ring (didn’t mind it). I’m happy to report he has now learned how to socialize with other horses in the field. I think he will always be the lowest in the pecking order but he can be in the same area as another horse without thinking he will die 🙂 I call that progress!

We have also been working on teaching him that fly spray will not kill him. Junior (Kurt’s horse) has never gotten over his fear of spray bottles but Bling seems to be a bit smarter in his learning and now if I show him the bottle he is okay. Hey, spray bottles aren’t always something a horse gets used to at the track.

Bling is one of those horses that is absolutely gorgeous in person but I can’t seem to capture that quite yet in pictures. He is big at 16.3 1/2 h and wide with a big chest, barrel and butt. He also has nice big feet! After I got on him for the first time, I decided to buy a taller mounting block!

Isn’t he pretty!

He was very bored during our photo shoot. I couldn’t get him to perk up enough..he’s a bit too quiet 🙂

Right now he doesn’t have a lot of muscle. He has been let down for about 8 months but most of that has just been hanging in a stall. I imagine he will really fill out and come uphill more as he muscles.

There is a video of this 2nd ride but I think I will hold it for now and show it a few weeks from now for a good before and after. I am reminded that most people don’t quite understand how these horses look when they don’t have any muscle. My mom called to tell me she saw the video and was sure there was something wrong with this horse 🙂 Um, no he is perfectly sound just overall funky at the moment. Totally normal! He canters like a dolphin 🙂 You sort of think he is bucking but he is not. He is quiet and sweet without a mean bone in his body. He just was ridden a bit strangely at the track from what I can tell and he doesn’t have much muscle. I think that understanding these horses goes a long way in designing a training program.

After this ride, I changed him to a herm sprenger duo bit which is just a really thin flexible rubber bit to encourage him to be a bit more up and out and that really helped. Trail riding him is on the agenda to really get up, out and forward but the weather is making it impossible and our bugs are so horrible that riding in the woods is not an option. I will get him out in the open fields soon. Right now I am riding him with two whips which sounds silly but it really works to help keep them straight and forward. You think that racehorses all know how to go forward but most of them have NO clue! Steering..well they run around in a circle at the track but truly moving off the leg well that doesn’t come installed either. He is a big horse and I have short legs so right now we have to iron out the aids. It is pretty funny to watch.

When I rode him the 3rd time my friend was riding with me and she couldn’t get over how nice he moved. Everybody remarks how long his hind legs are and when he canters you feel his hind legs reach way up under. Very comfortable canter but a weird motion. I think he is going to move really nice once he gets some muscle.

I came home early the other day to get some more pictures/video of Love and found him with a nice slice right around the back of his heel on the coronary band. He is ouchy! Vet was out yesterday for some other things and said he will be just fine in a few days. Oh well it’s too hot to ride anyway.

Love goes for his first xc school

On Saturday, I had the best ride so far on Love. He is getting so much stronger in his body and I am really getting him looser in terms of bending in his neck and body. He felt soft and supple which is major progress from where we started. He was also relaxed in his back and neck and allowing me to move him laterally off my leg.

He still is struggling in the canter transition in terms of picking it up in a balanced fashion but that will come in time. I can’t believe how good is canter is feeling right now compared to the gallop he used to do 🙂

We decided to go for a xc school on Sunday because the weather was just so darn nice. You can’t waste a perfect day! I have only jumped Love a few times but he is quite brave and I figured we would just take it one fence at a time and see how he did. We had another rider come with us on a really quiet horse to give company to the horse who wasn’t jumping.

We went to Oldehope Farms which is the best place to school the babies. They have tons of small jumps and because it’s in one big field the horses don’t get overwhelmed worrying about losing sight of their buddies.

We got there before my mom arrived so we just got him off the trailer and let him eat some grass. I was happy with how relaxed he seemed. He stood quietly to be tacked and was just generally very relaxed. I got on and he felt good. We started our warmup and my mom decided to lunge her guy so I was riding as she was lunging. I was actually a bit shocked at how professional Love was about getting right to work. He didn’t look around and he was way more relaxed over his back than I even thought he would be. He couldn’t quite canter on the circle which is sort of normal at first for these guys. It’s a lot to look at and he was thinking too hard to organize himself. I don’t press it because it’s all about making it stress free for them at this point.

My mom wanted to start in the main field which is intro fences and up (2’3 and up). He is brave but I wasn’t sure how he would feel about the height. We picked a nice baby log and went from there. He felt confident the whole time and eager to please. Yes, he didn’t jump with perfect form over everything but I don’t expect them to at their first time out. He didn’t have any issues with the height. He absolutely loved the banks up and down and didn’t even hesitate at the ditch. He left the group without any concerns and he happily waited. He wasn’t too keen on standing but didn’t do anything worse than walk in big circles.

What I was most happy about was that he was really rideable the whole time. On our first few trail rides I had been working to install some half halts and teach him that we had to trot in balance not 100mph. He was getting the message and this outing showed that he is really figuring out how to balance. He doesn’t spook at anything and he is just so brave.

Kurt only took a few pictures and focused on video so that potential buyers could really see him in action.

Here is his video where you can see how he warmed up and how we progressed around the course. I like to just take my time the first time out so they can really process everything that is being asked. Slow and steady makes for a good experience.

Trail rides aren’t just for goofing off

I often write about how Kurt and I just go out and goof off on the trails sometimes racing each other at a gallop. That stuff is fun to do but not really part of my training process. If it isn’t going to undo my training than there is always a time and place for having fun but I think that the first few trails rides are absolutely critical in a horses training.

I have a few rules:

-I only go with a super good lead horse who can handle things if my horses has a total meltdown. I don’t want to worry about another horse or rider when I’m trying to concentrate.

– I only ride with somebody who absolutely knows that I’m sitting on a very green horse and can control their horse at all costs. Sounds silly but it is so important that things go well. 9 times out 10 these ottb’s are awesome on the trails but having a reliable horse out with you makes for positive experiences.

-have the right equipment. Have your stirrups adjusted before getting on and girth tight. You may be on a horse feeling good and won’t have time to adjust for a while. Helmet, vest, neck strap, martingale. I don’t always ride with a martingale but a martingale is excellent for situations where a horse may react and want to evade the bit leaving you out of control.

– enough bit to have brakes. I rarely ride outside of the ring with anything different from I have on in the ring but sometimes it is necessary. No shame in it if needed. I would rather teach a horse to half halt than have my arms pulled off.

-pick a straightforward trail with good footing and just plan a short ride for the first few times. The horse will be stressed even if they don’t show it. Make it short and sweet to reward good behavior.

– Let the GO FORWARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Worse thing that I see people do is try to hold the horses making them a tense mess. If I get on and the horse wants to go then I go. I try to just trot but if I have control than a canter is fine. Most of the time they will improve but holding them doesn’t help so let them go. This is why you must have a reliable horse out with you. A horse that can stay back off your butt and give you some room to trot and canter up if needed. I often just get off the horses back and get in 2pt with my hands down and let them go a bit and then bring them back.

– teach the horse something. Don’t just go out and ride around. Work on transitions, leg yields and installing half halts. I do work my horses into the bridle if needed to keep their attention. Hacking out is the best way to start teaching a horse to come forward into the hand a bit. Use that forward energy! I want my horse to focus on me so I try to pick landmarks where I’m going to transition between gaits. I hate riding with people who just trot a million miles an hour. Half halts..install them. You will be thankful for them later 🙂

Love had his 2nd trail ride today and was so much more relaxed. Got off the trailer and stood quietly. Just took it all in like he knew he had been there before and it was no big deal. He walked for a good 10 minutes just relaxed as can be. I did use a different bit (called a wilke, wonder bit or beval bit by some- He has no intentions on going anywhere on me but he doesn’t have half halts installed yet so I needed a bit of help. This is just a bit more to say hey listen up without being harsh. I also use a running martingale.

When I pick up the trot he wants to just go quick so I would do a lot of transitions and he quickly was focused on listening to me. Good boy! He never looks at a thing out there which is awesome. We also did our first canter and he was great. I had Kurt just stay back and give me some room in case he got nervous but he was really soft and relaxed in the canter. He just doesn’t know how to use his parts in the trot just yet. That is coming along but he has to be shown that he can slow down, push from behind and relax his topline not just pull himself along with the bottom of his neck.

He was getting attacked by deer flies and bombers and he didn’t mind that at all which is excellent! We go on a trail where you ride out and then turn around to come back so I always know a horse is good when we turn around and they don’t turn into complete asses. They know they are going back to the trailer so you can really gauge their behavior on the way home. He was very relaxed and not in a hurry. I don’t canter on the way back to the trailer in these first few rides. Again just making sure I’m training good behavior and not bad. I liked that on the way back he was walking along on the buckle. He is so smart and just figures out the purpose of all these things quickly. When he got back home he was very sure he deserved a bunch of treats. Funny to see the horse who wouldn’t eat any treats begging for them.

Forget the flatwork- Let’s jump

I’m pretty sure that is what Love would be telling me on a daily basis 🙂 He is coming along on the flat but he really likes jumping. I’ve only jumped him about 3x but he is already trotting around little decorated courses. I think he would canter the jumps too but we lack that thing called steering.

His canter feels great undersaddle so it gives me lots of hope that the trot will come. He has a big ground covering canter that makes me think he would really gallop around a xc course.

I was laughing at this picture which must have been a canter transition. He treats it like he is coming out of the starting gate and then I remind him that we are no longer racing and he throttles it back a bit.

I let him go for a stride or two not wanting to pull on his face

On the 2nd lap his balance is better.

Lots of new muscles

Here is a video of him jumping his first course ever. Smacking myself for pulling him up to the trot in that line…dumb! No clue why I didn’t just go for the canter out instead of pulling on him. Sorry Love!

My mom had joined me with her horse, CMA Hold that Halo. This is Halo a year ago today!

From this past weekend

Halo has turned into a tank! He is about 16.1 ish and wide. Check out how much his neck has changed. I am a total believer that horses necks really can change but pictures don’t lie. I should have taken a side conformation of him w/o tack for my before and after page. Next time I will.

I also got to see her ride CMA’s Flint Hill who is going better than ever. He was my first CANTER horse so he is pretty special to me. He has been an awesome horse and hopefully will do some training level events this year.


Raymond to Chicago, Love jumping courses & Morton

Let’s start off with Morton. Who is Morton? Well that would be CMA’s Mort Robbins 🙂 I had him here at my farm in training and he was being vetted by ULR Lauren Kieffer. Sound the day before the vetting but lame on his stifle during the vetting. We are thinking he must have slipped in the field or something. Horses….go figure. We gave him some time off and then because we knew he was so awesome he went down to NC and was sold to Will Faudree who buys a bunch of horses from us. Will then sold him to Lauren Kieffer 🙂 Ha, love the way this all worked out. Mort was one of my favorite horses and a horse that just gave you that feeling that he had all the right stuff to be a big time event horse. He is now competing Novice and here are some pictures of him at his last event where he finished 3rd in a big division

Raymond is sold to a blog reader who lives in Chicago. I never say never until they actually leave but I have no doubts this will all work out. He has somebody else waiting for him if for any reason it doesn’t work out for Carolyn. The person second in line would be Areutrue’s new owner who has informed me that his wife may just be taking over Artie 🙂 They are so in love with Artie that they would like another just like him. I am sure something else will come along for them but I was happy to hear that Artie is winning everybody over.

I think I’m still smiling from my ride on Love last night. Earlier in the week he went on his first trail ride. He was super brave and happy to be on an adventure. He is a bit forward thinking not in a silly way but just a big trucking trot. We need to work on half halts 🙂

Last night, I was working on mixing some jumping into our flatwork and he is just so brave about the jumps. He loves it! He seemed so relaxed about it all that I jumped the brush box and rolltop and he didn’t even blink an eye. He is scopey over a fence and just gives me a great feeling. He was so relaxed just jumping and cantering away. He is really figuring out that riding is fun now.

I want to get him going a bit more in the ring and then we will go xc schooling. I just know he is going to be a star. I adore this horse and how hard he tries. He is so smart and very brave. When I get his flatwork better I think he is going to really be fancy. Just need a bit more time. We are holding off advertising him just yet so that I can get a bit more of a foundation under him. While he is really quiet and behaved, I do think he has a bit more of a forward button compared to some of the other horses that I have gotten in. His reaction to things that make him nervous are to trot really fast. Right now he’s not quite soft enough in his topline so when he gets going our brakes are less than ideal. It can feel a bit like he is running off with me at the trot 🙂 Riders with experience would have no trouble dealing with this and I absolutely guarantee this is something that training fixes but he wouldn’t be for somebody that doesn’t know how to really use a good half halt at this stage of his training.  

I think this natural braveness and confidence that he has is going to make him a really good event horse. I am having so much fun with him. He learns at lightning speed and just seems so eager to please. He is such a sweetie in the barn. I really can’t believe the turn around that he has done.

I will get some updated video of his jumping this weekend.

Products that I Love

With three horses on stall rest, I have recently come up with a new must have product. Nibblenets!

I have slow feeders outside in each paddock and I absolutely consider them essential to any farm. Keeps the horses eating 24×7, keeps paddocks clean, less hay wastage and perfect for those who inhale food. I actually find they eat the same amount of hay because they can’t waste it.

I had tried to find hay bags that worked and were easy to deal with but before I got the nibblenets I really didn’t find anything that I liked. The nibblenets are made out of a heavy canvas which has so far (knock on wood) held up super well to very heavy use for the horses. They are easy to fill and I can stuff two huge flakes in there or three small flakes. I like that they have a buckle at the top so you can tighten the top down enough that the horses can’t reach in from the top and cheat at pulling out hay.  The horses were pissed at first but now just dig right in and pick at them for hours. It keeps the horses on stall rest entertained all day so they don’t just finish their hay quickly and stand their angry while I am at work. I also like that it keeps the hay from getting stirred all around the stall and mixed into the bedding. Letterman likes to do laps in his stall so hay mixed in with his sawdust makes a mess.

I also have much love for Cavallo boots- I have these in several different sizes and they are mission critial when horses lose shoes, get abscess or even riding on rocks. Right now I am doctoring up a guy with an abscess and I just wrap the foot and throw the boot over so that he doesn’t mess up my bandage. Super easy! If a horse throws a shoe that I use the boot until the farrier gets there so I can prevent the foot from breaking up and getting bruised. They are so easy to put on and have held up to heavy use.

These are just two products that I have been glad to have over the past few weeks.  


Part 2- Raymond’s new pics and video

Raymond is one of those horses that just improves by leaps and bounds every single ride. He is so smart and I find him to be an easy ride because he is naturally soft in his body. He is really filling out and muscling up. My farrier was out yesterday and couldn’t believe the difference in the boys. He also had high praise for their feet! Raymond and Love are both blessed with really nice feet with good wall and nice angles. They have grown a ton of foot since their first set of shoes.

I can’t always see the difference in the horses because I see them on a daily basis but when I started to look at the pictures I was really quite happy with the difference.

Here is the video. He is really starting to be able to stretch and work from behind. I can’t believe how much better the overall balance feels to me.

He has really come a long way. I wanted to make a jumping video but he was tired so I will save it for another day.


What a difference

I had to go back and watch the video from 2 wks ago of Love and compare it to what I am feeling/seeing now. Big difference. Just look at the difference in the canter! When I would pick up the canter before he was off to the races with his head in the air and he felt so tight. Now he is relaxed and wanting to soften.

His head is all over the place at the trot but physically the work is hard for him so it will take some time but he is on the right track!

5/14/12 video

Video from yesterday

Kurt was commenting that the underside of his neck is so thick from going so inverted for so long. He is wanting to go low/behind but right now that is all that he has muscle to do. It will take some time to reshape the muscles but we are on the right track.

Instead of running around at the trot I can now put leg on him and the canter is way different. I wasn’t ready to advertise him for a new home because when I picked up the canter he really wanted to go. Not scary but just no real balance. Now I really feel that the canter is becoming adjustable and he is relaxed.

He just tries so hard to please. One of the most willing horses and I have so much respect for him for not being bad when he had the biggest excuse (his broken tooth) to be bad. He just loves people and has done a 180 in the personality department. I can’t believe how relaxed and happy he has become. He is putting on weight and muscle and is going to be a tank. I think he is still growing as well. Right now he is about 16 1/2 hands.

Tiny bit of a topline starting to emerge

More pics and video later of Raymond.

Dressage whips are important

I haven’t been doing as much of the riding on Raymond as I should because he is the easiest in the barn so I can pawn him off to everybody else to exercise. Exercise and true training is a different thing though so I realized I really needed to get a bit more serious. I had noticed that he was just really stuck in the trot with other people riding so I picked up Mr. Dressage Whip. Ha, I will tell you he didn’t even consider not going forward 🙂 Such a smart boy! I refuse to work that hard when I ride so installing that forward button is necessary.

I don’t mind horses who take some leg because most people prefer them to the hotter type but it is really important to have a horse that is going forward when you are teaching them how to stretch over the back. You can’t just ride the “front” of the horse and pull them into a frame. They have to push from behind into a steady contact. I knew he was ready for this because he is getting fitter and stronger.

I worked a while at the walk just doing a nice marching walk and some baby lateral work asking him to yield to the pressure of the contact. He fussed, pulled and gave a lot of excuses but there were some great moments. Then we went up to the trot and we gave every evasion in the book- rushing, breaking to the canter, leaning, pulling, rooting, going super duper slow and just general confusion. I think this is always the hardest part of babies because you have to be strong in your position. I just kept him marching forward and kept my elbows bent and the contact steady. When he pulled then I kicked. If he came above then I raised my hands and followed him there letting him know the contact stays the same. Very methodical just softening every time he softened as his reward so he could figure out what I was asking him to do. He was able to hold it longer and longer.

By the end of the ride he was a different horse. I sure wish I had some video but I will do some this weekend. He is a lovely mover and is so smart. He figures things out so quickly. I can guarantee the next ride is going to be easier than the last. He is so flexible and just gives you a really nice feel.

I have been working on the same thing with Love as well and you guys are just not going to believe the difference when I get around to posting some video. He is going like a different horse. I was so proud of him on the last ride because his whole body has changed as he has started to work from behind, reach with his shoulder and soften his topline. He is a really athletic horse and very athletic. I think he is going to surprise everybody with his transformation. Getting him to bend has been the challenge because he is pretty stuck in his body but he is starting to figure it out. When he gets it then it feels great.

I find that lunge whips are as important as dressage whips. I’m a type of person that believes forward is absolutely the #1 thing that you must install on all horses. Let’s just say that my experience has shown that if you don’t have forward than you are likely setting yourself up for failure especially if you have a naughty horse 🙂 They have to learn to respect the voice, legs and whip. You have to be able to go forward to ride them down. I can always take a horse that wants to be a bit simple and use a bit of flexion and bending to get them to focus but if you can’t go forward than it’s hard to do those things. Furthermore, if you have a horse who wants to buck, prop, rear, spook than you must be able to send them forward.

Bling is an interesting horse because he is just so relaxed but also has a hint of I’m scared running under the surface. I did some free lunging/jumping with him and he was pretty well convinced he could not go over the poles. Combined with his general lack of forward under saddle I decided to go back to groundwork.

I have been doing lunging sessions with him and really working on voice command and getting him to go forward when I ask him to. I have had to use the whip in a sharp manner sometimes giving him a sharp tap but he has to respect that I really mean GO. I use my voice first. Then repeat and then sharp whip. I will do the same under saddle so he needs to learn what is expected now.

He figured it out pretty quick but he is just sort of a lazy type. I think that will change. I put out a cavaletti and started walking him over that in hand. He would stand in front of it looking confused. Not necessarily scared but he did tremble so I think maybe he was. He is a bit hard to read because he doesn’t look worried but he could be internalizing. I walked him over in hand and then lunged him over at the walk and the trot. Then I made it a bit higher and he stopped again very confused but then walked over.

I began to walk him over all the jumps in the ring in hand and it was a bit of a chore. He just didn’t want to go so I had my lunge whip and I gently tapped to keep his feet moving. If he stopped in front of the jump square then I stopped tapping. That was his safe place. Step around and he got tapped gently on the hindquarters to bring him back square to the jump. Then I would give him a minute to think but if he didn’t walk over then I would start gently tapping again.

He got more confident as he went but I think that this is going to be part of our routine for a while. I don’t think he is scared of the jumps but worried about the mechanics of how to move his feet. Sounds silly but that is what I see. Groundwork will be essential to building his confidence.

He is such a sweet horse. He is by the same sire as Mort Robbins (unusual heat) and Mort was the same sort of horse. Super sweet but took a while to install some work ethic. I just saw that Mort now called Morton placed 3rd in the Novice division at Virginia Horse Trials with Lauren Kieffer. Go Mort!!!!!!

Bling is even bigger than Mort at 16.3 and just wide in the body. He is so kind and follows me around like a big dog. He likes humans way more than he likes horses 🙂 He is still scared of the other boys. Whenever they come near him he runs the other way. Poor Bling. I was thinking maybe because he came from California he never learned social skills. He is doing better but biggest whimp in the field that I have ever seen.

This weekend is going to be picture and video day so that I can get these horses advertised (Raymond and Love).

I also brought home Gavilan Peak from the layup farm because he is working a nasty abscess. He needed some stall rest to help him heal up. They were sad to see him go because he is the farm favorite. I totally see why. So sweet and just perfect to work on. This guy is pretty interesting because he is really small for a TB. He is 15.1ish at the withers but 14.3 at the back. Despite being small he won some races. I think he is growing right now but he will still be a small horse (he is a 4yr). He is really athletic and I think he will make a nice event horse for somebody wanting something smaller. He was called “my little pony” at the farm being the small guy in a field full of big ottbs. You can’t help but to want to cuddle with him.

Busy at the farm!