Monthly Archives: March 2013

A home for Halfway and latest video

I guess I should never say anything until the PPE is done but I don’t anticipate any issues. His hopeful new owner is one of those practical sorts who said she doesn’t want to xray because he is obviously sound and she would rather not drive herself crazy by looking for little things. I always think it is nice to have two months of video provided too where you see a horse starting work and continuing on in the work. It gives you a good glimpse into how their bodies are handling everything.

Halfway had one day where he was a bit of an ass but it was the ride after that big trail ride so it could have been left over from that or he was just in a mood. I told him in no uncertain terms that he needed to suck it up and there would be no more bucking in that canter transition. I realize it is hard for him but he was taking it a bit too far.

It is all fairly normal for a horse to be hitting the wall at this point in the training. He sat in the field for over a year and is now at month two in the training. I have demanded a big more of his body, asked him to step under, organized the trot, asked for a balanced canter transition and overall just changed his way of going.

I gave him one ride where I said enough is enough and we discussed behavior. He did one buck and I pulled him up, backed him up and gave him a smack with the crop. Now normally I would just ride them forward and ignore but that was already how I had been dealing with it and because he was taking advantage it was my job to work out a new agreement. Halfway being a very smart horse has not yet repeated another buck…ah so he did know it was wrong 🙂

I had a really good ride on him last night.

I think this is his best flatwork to date. We are only two months in so I think it is an amazing difference. He is stretching into the bridle and is very softly going there. He is bending off my leg in both directions and the difference to the left is night and day from where he started. I do have to do a bit more half halts, push over and half halt again on that side to push him from the left leg into that outside rein but he totally understands what I am asking for. The canter..omg the difference in the canter! It no longer feels like he is just running around like a motorcycle. He is soft and relaxed and I can move him off the leg in the canter. The transition up to the canter while still not perfect (again you wouldn’t expect it to be at this point) is no longer running half the length of the ring to get into the canter.

Halfway prefers a certain kind of ride. My friend who rides him sometimes is still learning how to ride a horse like him. I think the important thing about a horse like Halfway is that they are more sensitive. Not what I would call hot but you have always be thinking about riding them forward into the contact and not balling them. I don’t have the best hands nor do I always ride perfect..far from it but I have learned how to shape the horse in a way that makes them feel relaxed. A lot of it is having a contact but not a “holding” contact. The hand often acts like a sponge to gently feel the mouth. It also takes a lot of feel in the body to use your legs to move them laterally and also to ride them forward but at the same time control the tempo using your back and your core to half halt and help them balance. Too much and you run and too little and you can’t push the hind legs to the bit. Horses that are sensitive find relaxation when you bend their bodies and when you ride them over their back. However, it can’t be too harsh of aids.

The biggest thing that I saw her doing in the canter transition was shortening the reins and causing him to ball up. The transition is already hard for him but if you make him feel trapped he has nowhere to go. You have to give the energy a place to go so that he doesn’t buck. If he rushes forward than so what. Let him go for a few strides and then half halt and balance it up.

She is a hunter rider and her background is just to sit there perfectly still and do nothing. She looks way better than I do on a horse but as she told me yesterday she had no clue that riding was so hard 🙂 To be an effective rider on young horses there is more than just sitting there and looking pretty. I was showing her how to move the elbow while pushing the inside leg to soften the horse. How to give the inside rein at the canter to really allow the horse to jump under with the hind legs. You can never be afraid to soften the hand! It always takes more leg to ride a green horse across the back than you could ever imagine. It is an art that I am still working on learning and hope to always be working on. It is fun to try to be better at it.

She was amazed how a few simple changes made such a big difference in the way that Halfway was going. I had her riding him more forward so that she could have something in her hand to feel. If you are riding so slow than you are just riding the front end. These guys have to go forward first above everything else and you often have to have a more forward trot in order to get them to soften.

I really love teaching people how to feel this sort of stuff. It is pretty exciting to me even if it all looks boring. She couldn’t get over how HARD it was and how tired she got. Dressage is hard which is why I think too many people give up on it. However, the difference it makes in a horse is absolutely amazing.

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Previous post = good luck

Looker walked right up to the mounting block and didn’t move an inch tonight! Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He is such a smart trust horse. I am so proud of his progress. Had a great walk, trot and canter both directions. He was searching for the contact and just felt great. He has such a great brain for a 3yr. Can’t wait to hit the trails and see what he thinks of that.

I also have a new horse that I bought to bring along as a resale project. His name is Elusive Sky. A really pretty 16.1 h 5yr gelding.

He arrived on Tuesday and actually looks way better in person and is so darn sweet. Seems very quiet. He is getting some time to settle in and then I will hop on him to see what he is all about.

Busy time on the farm!

What makes you nervous?

I think that every rider has the one thing that really makes them nervous when it comes to horses. For some it may be a bucker, a rearer, bolter, spin drop the shoulder spooker, etc. I am raising my hand to say horses with mounting issues scare me a bit.

I don’t think that this has always been the case. Growing up I practically rode anything and everything. For a brief time, I was pretty damn scared of horses that went faster than a slow canter after a death-defying experience with an ottb who took off on me when I was 10yrs old after he got stung by a bee. Riding the world’s slowest Tb who prefered to run backwards rather than forward pretty much cured that fear.

After I got out of college, I had this grand idea to buy this really pretty horse who never raced. He sure was pretty- dark bay with tons of white and a tail that every horse would die to have. I was sure that I would be able to retrain him and sell him for good profit. I bought him off a picture and this was before there was video and all that good stuff. I am sure he was broke or at least I was told he was broke.  However, he had a special move that put me in the dirt too many times. He would stand perfectly still at the mounting block until your foot hit the stirrup and then he would bronco with the best of them. I tried everything to get him past this. He cleaned my clock one too many times and I sought outside help from an excellent professional who told me they could ride him but they really didn’t enjoy it. Move him on to somebody else who was willing to take the risk. Sure enough somebody bought him from me because of his beautiful tail! He really was gorgeous.

That one horse gave me a real complex about mounting. I am now slightly paranoid but sometimes that is a good thing when it comes to horses. Whenever I get new horses in, I always lunge them first and take my time getting on them. I always have a helper for the first few times that I get on. I wear my vest. I like the farm to be quiet. I totally trust my gut and never force an issue. I am quick to realize when a horse just needs more time. If I sense an issue than I go back to ground work first.

I think horses give you a good indication of what is to come if you listen well enough. When I take them out to the ring the first time I get an indication of what they are going to do. If they are spooking and their eyes are rolling around in their head than I am not getting on (rarely has that ever happened though!) Most ottb’s are scared of the mounting block. It is totally foreign to have somebody standing over top of them. I am always a bit surprised when I stand on the block and a horse is just ho-hum about it. That is a good sign!

For those who are worried, you just take your time and lunge them around the block until they realize they are not going to die. I find that most of them this takes 10-20 min tops before they figure out it is just no big deal. They understand what happens when your foot goes in the stirrup. They don’t generally panic about that.

This is where having a good helper is totally necessary. You can absolutely get very hurt without the critical job of a person handling that knows what to do. I was reading some of the comments on Steuart Pittman’s youtube videos from the initial rides of the horses in the trainers challenge. People were sort of joking that he was making a big production out of getting on them and why didn’t he just get on (he was doing all the steps that I talked about from lunging, to laying over them, to going halfway up and then slowly over). Obviously ottb’s are used to being ridden, just get on them…um no!  Sure, they are used to being ridden but they are not used to being mounted from a mounting block, standing still and having either taller or heavier riders on them. You mess up this critical first ride and you can be digging yourself out of a hole when you scare the horse half to death.

I personally instruct my helper to stand to the side and face forward (as in ready to walk forward). If when I go up the horse shoots forward than I am going to try to balance on the stirrup and they need to walk the horse in a circle. You always turn the horse’s head into the circle which gives the rider space to dismount if needed. It puts the horses body on the outside of the circle. Placement and positioning is important.

I personally don’t ever “make” a horse stand still at first. They don’t know how to stand and it makes them anxious which can lead to an explosion. I generally can feel the horses back when I go up on them and know whether they are tight or if they are just fine. If they feel tight than I generally don’t swing over or I ask my helper to lead me forward. I wait until I feel them relax and then I lightly swing over but use my knees to hold myself and generally I don’t have my other foot in the stirrup. I want to be able to exit fast if needed. Once I do settle in the saddle than I just sit as still as possible and ask to be led forward again. I will then gently put my feet in if the horse feels relaxed. If they feel tight don’t go fishing for your stirrups. One misplaced leg in the belly and you could get launched 🙂

The importance of having a horse that is reliable to mount is huge for me. I have short legs and of course I have this little fear of mounting. I have been in a bit of a stressful situation here lately with one of the project horses that I bought for myself. It illustrates why buying a horse from the track and not seeing it being ridden can result in some surprises when you get it home.

Looker is the really cute 3yr who ran 7x and has been with me for about a month now. He got to hang out a few days and then we attempted to get on him using the mounting block. My tall skinny friend was out helping me with horses while she was home for school so I was going to have her get on and I would be the grounds person. When she stood up on the mounting block he was freaked out! Now it was wet in the ring and the sound of wet feet going up the mounting block can be scary. We worked with him for about 15 min but he honestly was scared and you could tell. Getting on him from the mounting block wasn’t anywhere near happening. I had Kurt come out and we gave Amanda a leg up onto him while I walked him forward. He was a bit worried but settled right down once she was in the saddle. He was great to ride and super-duper brave which impressed me for such a young horse.

He got another few weeks just to settle in and I was doing some ground work with him. I had lunged him and was marveling in how awesome he was doing. I finished up and was just going to play around on the mounting block for a while. I snapped the lead rope on and walked him over to the block. When I stood up there he bolted away and it took a bit for me to catch him. Well duh! Really I knew better at this point and should have not even approached it that way. I went back and got the chain shank and broke down the steps of walking up and down on the block first. In 5 minutes he was totally relaxed about me going up and down and leaning over his back. Good boy!

Next day I head back out for more lunging and mounting block work. Lunges over jumps like he had been doing it forever. Nice hind end!! He is good with me going up on the block and leaning on him and touching him all over. Then I think to mimic the act of putting my foot in the stirrup. Wow, okay horse is terrified. Luckily, I had the chain shank on and he hit the end of the rope and stood still. I tried to touch him behind the elbow a few more times and he was just super scared. It wasn’t happening out in the ring. No point in pressing the issue.  I knew he wasn’t ready and I wasn’t going to win.

Revise the plan and go backwards to baby steps. What do racehorses know? They understand being mounted in the stall. The stall also confines them so they are forced to deal with the pressure. He is NOT a mean horse so I wasn’t worried about anything bad happening in a stall (some of them would be very scary in a stall). I went in with just the halter and chainshank on. I brought in the mounting block and first lunged him around me left and right. When I tried to touch him  near the girth area he was totally running circles. I would just calmly bring him back to a halt and kept touching him. This took about 10 minutes before I could put my leg all on his body, up on his back and in front of his shoulders. Good boy!

We then followed this up with a session where we got on him in the stall. Started off the same way just lunging him around, touching him with the feet near the girth and only then did I have Whitney go up. First she went halfway up and then all the way up. He totally is fine when you actually go up on him which is great to know. We did this a few times in the stall and then took him outside. He is tougher in the larger area but within a few minutes he stood nicely.

I actually had a friend who wanted to come and see him (possibly to buy) so I figured I better actually ride him 🙂 I took him out and this time I used the corner of the ring and lined him up so he was facing out of the corner but the fence controlled the right side of his body. He was really good! Each time was clearly getting better. The next day I showed him to my friend using the same routine and it took even less time. I had a great ride on him where we did some w/t/c and popped over a little flower box. We got back on him yesterday and it took about 2 minutes for him to relax near the mounting block. Yay!

I still have to take a deep breath and tell myself it will all be just fine. He doesn’t want to be bad so this has been an easy fix. We have basically just making him realize that this is all no big deal. I think we are probably about a week away from just going right out and getting on him.

I think this particular horse could have scared the crap out of somebody who didn’t know any better. I think of those people who I know that don’t take all the little steps that I do when it comes to getting on the first time. It can result in some wild rides. Slow and steady lead me to discover the major hole in his training so I could fix it calmly which in the end gives us both confidence. Now if I didn’t have ground help this could be a bigger issue. I don’t think  I will need help here soon but it has been critical for our progress so far.

I will try to video one of our mounting sessions just to give a glimpse of what we are working at right now. He is such a cool horse and ultra sweet. I am glad that I have gained his trust so easily.

Trail ride to Wye Island

The best part (okay and sometimes the worst part) of selling horses is the interesting people who I get to meet. I have met people from all over the country, many who came across me through reading this blog. Last year, I met Rebecca and her friend Dee when they flew from Utah to try out Burg Hill. I could already tell they were my kind of people just in a short phone conversation. Down to earth, love Tb’s, understand the training process and 100% knew what she was needed in a horse. I generally can tell if a horse is going to fit when I talk to somebody and sure enough it was a good match. Burgiss now Fergus is doing great.

We had talked about them coming back and going for a trail ride one day. I was excited for them to come down but I admit to being a bit nervous about my horse selection and the weather. I knew that I could count on Junior not to scare my guests. Who else would I take? Halfway house!

I suppose you are wondering why I was worried about Halfway House. I wasn’t necessarily worried about it but the goal of any trail ride where you are taking guests who are on VACATION is to have fun and relax. Halfway can get a bit on the muscle (totally harmless) or at least he did on the first trail ride. We all know Junior is not the world’s quietest horse when other horses around him are geared up. Kurt is totally used to handling him but I wouldn’t expect others to know what makes him tick. Ridge hadn’t been out trail riding much recently but I know he is behaved.

There really wasn’t much worrying about choices because I was down to the only three rideable horses. It was cold and slightly windy but the sun was out. We tacked up at home and headed off. When we started out Ridge and Halfway were a bit peppy. I felt bad for Rebecca..nothing like sitting on a horse that you don’t know to make you a wee bit nervous. I promised her that he would settle. Halfway was feeling fairly relaxed. Both Ridge and Halfway were a bit unsure about the various swales and slopes we had to go up and down. You would ride along the road and then have to go up or down to get into the fields. They weren’t at all bad just checking it out. Junior was brave and gave them leads!

Dee loves Junior 🙂

Ridge relaxed after a bit of trot

It was a busy day out there and we passed cars, bikes, people walking, people on horses and “baby strollers.” Well I should say that Junior passed the baby stroller but Rebecca and I decided to go around the other way because it was very narrow path and there were several children and the mom pushing the stroller. One of the kids was swinging a big stick. We just decided we didn’t need that kind of excitement!

View between Halfway’s ears

Very cool trail that leads down to the water

Heading back

I have to say the boys are all quite good. It has been a long winter where they haven’t gotten out much and Wye Island is totally wide open. It often promotes antics but for the most part they were all relaxed. Halfway wanted to canter but mainly because he canters to match Ridge’s stride. Junior did let two big bucks fly on the way home because I got slightly ahead of him and it pissed him off. It wouldn’t be a good trail ride for Junior if he didn’t rip at least a buck.

We were out for about 3hrs..maybe..well my knees and my butt said we were. We were all ready to get off. We let them have some grass and then got in the truck to eat the yummy food that my awesome hubby packed for us.

I was very excited that I didn’t kill my guests and they say they had fun 🙂 It will make for a good story! Junior and Ridge were quite tired the next day. We went out to ride them and this is what we found-

He would rather jump :)

I told Halfway he could get the day off on Sunday but when I looked at the weather forecast I knew Monday was going to be out. I decided to do a light flat ride just to stretch him out. He had been working hard so I wanted it to be short and sweet. Whitney was riding Legend and Jess brought out Junior. It is fun to ride with other people and just enjoy the nice horses we are lucky enough to ride.

I have to say that I am really pleased with the progress that Halfway is making in his flatwork. He is much softer in his body and wanting to reach into the bridle. I changed back to the rubber bit (sprenger duo) and to the regular noseband because I felt like the didn’t like the kk and figure eight. I feel like I have that left side SO much softer! We continue to work on that left bend but it is drastically improved in such a short time.

I have started to ask him to have an organized canter transition. This is HARD for him. We have little bucks going into the transitions especially the left when I tell him he must bend around the left leg and pick up that left lead. This is totally normal and does go away. You can’t make a big deal out of it at this stage and truly he is collecting himself when he is doing this little buck. It is his way of making it easier on himself which is just fine. The left canter is harder for him to pick up but his easier lead. The right lead is much harder for him to engage on so he does some little hops when I encourage him to step under himself.

The great news is that there is adjustability. He is listening to the half halts and I can go forward and back with just an adjustment of my body and a close of the fingers. This is all very important for the jumping but you just have to do it slowly. I am very aware that the work is hard and that they can get tired, sore and cranky. You have to do a little bit and then back off. Slowly building them up so you don’t put to much mental or physical pressure on them.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy riding this horse. He just tries so hard to please and he is a fun ride. He gets better every single ride.

Jumping machine!

I took the day off work on Friday just to relax at home. I spent some time lunging Looker for the first time and surprise he knows how to lunge (both directions!) which was nice. No more fear of the mounting block. He also LOVES to jump and was trotting through the cavalettis on the lunge line and jumping some little jumps. Too cute!

My mom brought her two boys over in the afternoon. We rode Legend and worked with Halo in the vienna reins working on getting him to stretch down in his back a bit more.

I had a full day so I saved Halfway for Whitney to ride. She wants to show him at the TB show on April 6th since I will likely be riding Legend that day and they will all be in the same classes.

I had brought out the flowers and the brush for the jumps earlier in the day so I couldn’t wait to see what Halfway thought of it all. Needless to say he thought it was just no big deal and if anything he jumped way better. He is one that likes bigger fences and because he is so brave he is already bored with xrails.

The cat was under that jump just a minute before…

Here is a video

Such a good boy and just so brave.

He got a light day yesterday and today he gets the day off. He has been working hard and I don’t want to overdue it with him.

I got to take Legend out for his first trail ride yesterday and he was awesome!!!!! So brave and just ultra relaxed. He needs to build up his hind end so we will be hitting the trails quite a bit.

Halfway loves to jump and Ridge has a new home

I was jealous watching Whitney ride Halfway the other night over the new course. We had set up a new course with flowers, boxes, gates, grids and more and he just skipped around despite having done nothing more than jump a x-rail in the past. He just has such a wonderful attitude!

I switched the bit back to the duo as I thought he looked a bit backed off in the KK loose ring. Sometimes with these things you just have to play around to see what works and what doesn’t. His flatwork is absolutely coming along but he is a horse who needs to develop those muscles to stretch down. I warmed him up on the flat and at first he was stiff in the neck/back but I added some baby lateral work just pushing him from the inside leg to the outside rein. Wow, that stiff left side is so much improved!

I couldn’t get any sort of softness on the left before and now we are getting some consistent work where he wants to make the right shape.

I think this is his 5th time ever jumping 🙂 Wow, what a good boy!!! He is obviously still green but now instead of wiggling every which way he is looking down the middle of the fence and starting to commit. Love that!


We even cantered in the lines and we cantered coming into a line. I know that I am doing a lot of ads in the lines but right now I want him to just be relaxed and quiet and not chasing him down the lines. He has a very big GO button in there so I am trying to just let him know jumping is just another part of flatwork and not a reason to get excited and go racing around. You can always gear them up but it is hard to gear them down.

Man, I must have watched the video 20x last night and I need to rip my arms off my body. Posting with the hands like a beginner. It shows that riding has been hit or miss all winter and it is time to get back in boot camp.

Halfway  looks very cute so we shall just focus on him 🙂

I had another fantastic ride on Legend last night. Let’s just say I was glad it was getting dark because this clip job is one that needs to be hidden behind the barn for a while. Ridge and Legend spend all day rearing up and biting at each other so from neck up he has tons of tiny little  bite wounds making it impossible to clip. Not to mention he had the worst coat with this nasty matted hair that grew in every direction. I think he feels better now that he is clipped.

Halfway and Legend are so opposite which makes it fun! Legend is still so weak behind that even though I am tempted to ask him to stretch or maybe pop over some jumps, I am resisting the urge. He needs more muscle. He breaks into the canter because just pushing from behind is hard for him right now. He has such a HUGE stride! The canter is just so amazing. Wow, I could ride it all day long. We are hitting the trails this week with him. I just wanted to get him relaxed with the whole mounting block thing before we got out in the open.

When I ride him I have this running dialog in my head…wow, I really want to keep him..geez this horse is going to be a very fancy hunter…he will sell for a nice price..I need that money to pay bills..I really want to keep this horse…gosh I love this horse…omg this canter is ludicrous…this trot is huge..what a cool horse..man people will go nuts over him…I hope he jumps as nice as he moves..think Kurt will let me keep him….geez I know the goal is to sell him.

I really loved the Hope and Jazz (my last two resale horses) and while they were nice there is something really special about this one. I think he could make a top hunter if he jumps as good as I think he will. The hunter people look for a horse with that canter rhythm that just never changes and a horse that just carries themself level without needing to do much to them. I am NOT a hunter person at all but I am going to take him off for a lesson in a few weeks once I get him stronger to see if I am on the right track with him. I am sure he could do about anything but there is good money if you have a nice hunter. Especially with all the new TB shows and classes. There are big name barns looking for these nice hunters.

I got to spend some quality time with Looker working on his mounting block fear. He wasn’t a fan of people standing above him. Dummy me took him out with just a regular lead shank on and when I stood up on the mounting block he bolted off and wouldn’t let us catch him for 15 min. Added the chain shank (seriously..duh he is a just turned 3yr right off the track…I should know better!) and he became a puppy dog. He is such a cool horse and isn’t scared of anything! I jumped him over all the jumps in the ring in hand and he was amazing!!! Then we spent lots of time going up and down the mounting block and just moving the block all around him and standing over him and laying over him. He was so relaxed by the end of all this and was yawning. Oh poor boy..did that running around like a loon tire you out? Too bad! He has now figured out the cross ties and is learning about life off the track. He is really sweet and I am teaching him that treats can be yummy.

I had to laugh that while Looker was flying around the ring just getting it, Ridge was just standing there watching him. Look at that idiot! I am just going to eat my hay. I had Kurt stick Ridge in the barn thinking that may help Looker pay attention to me. Most horses may be worried about being away from their buddy but Ridge just hangs out in his stall. It did help Looker focus a bit more which was good!

Speaking of Ridge, he has a new home!!!! Sometimes things just come together like it was all meant to be. He will be a friends dressage/trail horse and is actually going to stay at my barn. I am so thrilled because I LOVE Ridge and I get riding company too.

I hope I get some interest in Halfway. I think the smaller height makes it harder but he is so cool. He wants to event and do the jumpers. He is a total sportscar! I need to advertise him on a few more sites.