Monthly Archives: May 2013

Catch Ya Later

That is the name of my latest resale project and I think it is an awesome name. He arrived from Florida (yep, bought him off a picture and short vid) and has settled right in. I suppose he thinks this is Florida with our lovely hot and humid weather.

I am not really a chestnut fan but he spoke to me for whatever reason. I am one of those people who just buys based off my gut feeling. He is 4yrs old and 16.1. He last raced in September of 2012 and has since just been hanging out. I am looking forward to seeing what he is all about.



He had a great time stretching his leg out and actually went right down the jump chute all on his own the first two times. He thought that was super fun!

I wrote a new post on the thoroughbred makeover site about how I like to do my first ride and talked about Gibs first ride.

http://retiredracehorsetraining.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=259:the-first-ride&catid=97:jessica-morthole&Itemid=393

He is coming along nicely but has a lot of typical green horse types of training issues that I can discuss.

We are taking a bunch of horses to the TB show this weekend supporting Mid Atlantic Horse Rescue. Elusive Sky is being ridden by Whitney. Amanda is going to ride Letterman, Doris is riding Ridge and I am riding Gib. We are just doing some in hand classes and very baby divisions. Sky, Letterman and Gib have not been to a horse show before so who knows what the reaction will be! We are prepared to not even show if they are too worried. We are just doing the poles and x-rail divisions so I think we can manage it but we shall see. It is going to be a very hot day so I am glad that we will be in and out before it gets to hot. I think it is important to support these shows and show off our horses (well not sure if we will show off but at least people can see them out and about).

I was going to take PJ (grey 3yr) but he has been battling a fever/infection in his gelding site. Poor guy. Letterman has been slightly ouchy as well so we are very slowly bringing him back into work. He got out on two trail rides over the weekend and boy was he beyond thrilled. He jumped some logs like they were 4ft 🙂 Um, the vet said no jumping Letterman!!!

If you happen to be at the show this weekend please come and say hi!

First entry up for the TB makeover

I think I will keep the posts containing Gib in both places. I wrote an intro to Gib over there- http://retiredracehorsetraining.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=248:introducing-cma-gib&catid=97:jessica-morthole&Itemid=393

and they are posting all the trainers entries here- http://retiredracehorsetraining.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=17&Itemid=373

Exciting News!

It has been a really good week for Kurt and I. Kurt found out he will be stationed at Dover AFB for at least a few more years which is always good news for us. Then he found out that he was promoted to Master Sergeant. He had studied so hard for that test and really didn’t think he would make it (didn’t have much time in rank or time in service for this particular testing). It was also a super low promotion rate of 18%. There were only 3,841 selected out of the 20,528 eligible. He was shocked to get the news and I am just so proud of him. He works harder than anybody to be the best at what he does.

I had also found out that I was selected for the RRTP Thoroughbred Makeover- http://retiredracehorsetraining.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=243:26-thoroughbred-makeover-trainers-selected&catid=79:thoroughbred-makeover. There are 26 of us who were selected from over 142 applicants. There is a really diverse group and I am excited to read more about the other participants.

I wanted to do the makeover to highlight the CANTER MA retraining model and illustrate that 501c groups can be a great place to horse shop. I liked the format of this particular project because it wasn’t a challenge of who was the better rider or which horse progressed the fastest. You basically are going to just show your training process and the real good, bad and ugly side of retraining Tb’s. That is the whole reason that I write this blog. It is so much fun to get to see all the steps.

I was thinking that I would go “shopping” at our CANTER farm but when the parameters of the project said that a horse could have less than fifteen rides and still be considered not to have retraining, I decided to use Gib. I need to make sure that I don’t get so busy that I can’t focus on this project (and my regular job..let’s not forget that!) so it made more sense not to add another horse to the list of horses that I need to ride. Gib only had about six or seven rides on him so we can consider him eligible for the makeover. I still have Letterman, Sky, PJ, Legend (rehabbing) and Gib in my rotation so that is quite enough already. I hope to get Sky and PJ sold but no real hurry on that. I am lucky enough to have a great bunch of girls who help me with the riding. We are going to have so much fun this summer!

We will be keeping a page on the RRTP website to chronicle the process. I may post both places but I haven’t figured that all out yet.

I thought it might be interesting for readers to see what I wrote about on my application. I am bit insecure when it comes to talking about myself but I will post it here because it is real and from the heart.

If you are a professional trainer, identify your business name if any and the services you provide My personal business is JLM Sport Horses, but I am looking to represent the CANTER Mid Atlantic retraining program that I have been involved with as a trainer for five years. CANTER was one of the first 501c programs to start a retraining program that aimed it’s focus at retraining ex racehorses. In the CANTER program it is a requirement that all CANTER horses have a minimum of thirty days of retraining before they are sold into new homes. I restart the horses with basic lunging techniques and groundwork to teach them about accepting the contact, going forward, and understanding basic voice commands. By using this method I am able to provide a sound foundation for beginning work under saddle. My flatwork is always done slowly to ensure that the horses are working from back to front with a focus on going forward and working into the contact correctly. I teach all of the horses’ basic lateral work that includes moving from inside leg to outside rein in both directions. I believe that grids and jumping should always be a part of the program for all horses even in the earliest stages of retraining because it helps them build muscles, and adds variety. We also hack off of the farm in order to get the horses used to going new places. We may just start with a 15 minute trail ride and work up from there depending on the horse’s comfort level. We will take the horses to XC schoolings, starter competitions, chases, paces, and much more depending on how long they are in the program and what is suitable for them.

My primary focus is retraining thoroughbreds off of the track for both CANTER and personal clients. I have also broke horses of all breeds, and worked on dealing with horses labeled as problem horses. I also do quite a bit of sales with great success.

 
Name and location of the farm where training will take place, including a brief description of the facilities. JLM Sport Horses is an 11 acre farm in Camden, Delaware that is specifically designed for the process of letting down and retraining thoroughbreds. The farm features no climb fencing with a white flex board on top to ensure safety in turnout. The barn includes eight stalls that all open into small paddocks with stone dust footing. These paddocks can be used for either layup or for initial transition to turnout, as these paddocks are able to be opened to allow access into larger fields. With this type of turn out setting, the horses are able to come and go as they please since the turnout is 24/7. I find that this allows horses to decide if they want to be in or out, which minimizes stress for them in an unfamiliar situation. I have lush pastures that are rotated accordingly to maintain a healthy pasture despite the small acreage. The facilities also include a 100x200ft riding ring with lovely footing that is a mix of sand and wash stone dust. In the ring is a small course of jumps which include lots of fillers at low heights for the introduction of jumping. There is also a small arena with good footing that we use for lunging and free jumping. Trails are located right off of the farm, as well as a large state park that is a 5 minute trailer ride away. The park has sand footing and trails that are enclosed by wooded land on each side, which make it a great place to introduce OTTB’s to trail riding without overwhelming them. We feed some of the nicest alfalfa hay around to the thoroughbreds to help them gain or maintain their weight and muscling. The easier keepers eat great quality timothy hay. I feed Triple Crown Senior (high fat/protein but low sugar) to the harder keepers and use Triple Crown 30% ration balancer for the easier keepers. We add fat via rice bran, Omega supplements, or Coo l Calories when needed. I have extensive experience with feeding thoroughbreds in order to add and maintain proper weight and muscling.
 
Primary equestrian discipline in which you have successfully competed: I would call myself a jack of all trades because when retraining thoroughbreds, you don’t get to pick the discipline they want to do.
 
Highlights of competition success: I enjoy focusing more on the retraining process than I do competing. I believe that there is a place for those of us who really want to do the initial 30-120 days of retraining on these horses without taking them up the levels in various disciplines. A properly restarted horse will be a horse that is able to move up the levels because all of the building blocks have been installed correctly.

A successful competition with a horse that is beginning their retraining is all about having a positive experience. Competing a young horse isn’t about winning ribbons, it’s about building confidence and ensuring the horse is happy and comfortable. I am the type of trainer that focuses on building positive experiences in every outing; making sure that I enter the level where the horse will be sure to have a good experience. My version of success is when a horse goes to a competition and is relaxed and happy about the job it is being asked to do. Most of my competing is at the very basic levels of every discipline where I am introducing the horses to their first shows. Success is when I have done an excellent job preparing a horse at home so that they know what to expect at their first show and they have a great experience. I don’t focus on perfection, only that I leave with a horse that has come away with more knowledge than they arrived with, and a positive experience.

 
Describe your experience working with ex-racehorses: Thoroughbreds are my absolute passion. I was the kid riding the young green TB in pony club that had all the pony club moms covering their eyes. It wasn’t that I didn’t have access to other breeds; it was just that I wanted to ride a thoroughbred. I was lucky enough to have a family that was involved in the racing industry. My mom ran the layup barn, taught riding lessons, and did a lot of sales of thoroughbreds. I was very involved even at a young age with restarting our thoroughbreds that were off of the track.
It probably isn’t something to brag about, but I have always had the reputation of being the person that would ride anything and could bring along a really tough horse. I really enjoyed the quirky TB’s and the tougher they were, the more determined I was to work with them. I had a lot of patience (or I was humbled into developing a lot of patience), and I enjoyed getting into the horses heads to figure out what made them tick.
I have spent the last ten years heavily involved in the retraining and resale of OTTB’s. I pride myself in developing really nice OTTB’s that have solid basics installed into them that allow any amateur rider to pick right up and go with the horses that I have retrained. I have an excellent reputation as a good trainer and an honest seller.
My work with CANTER gives me access to a wide variety of horses: quiet, hot, small, big, quirky, easy, talented, sound, sound with prior injuries, confident, lacking confidence, tough mouth, really soft mouths, and every sort of issue you can think of. Working with a diverse group of horses requires me to think out of the box and train each horse as an individual. I believe that I have a very large toolbox that enables me to be successful in dealing with horses of every sort. I am far from the perfect rider, but I do a good job of figuring out horses and teaching them to be solid citizens. I have no timeline or fixed agenda. I allow the horses to guide me in the direction they want to go, so that we work as partners. I am a quiet rider who is soft but tough when needed.
I have an excellent knowledge of what type of feed program works best for OTTB’s and allows them to build weight and muscle without having any adverse effects such as being too hot. I understand saddle fit and how that affects the performance of OTTB’s. Therefore, I pay attention to properly fitting tack so that the horse is comfortable and not hindered under saddle. I tailor my turnout situation to creating the most relaxed horse possible. I am excellent at figuring out any underlying issues that an OTTB may have and treating them to get them comfortable again. I work with an excellent farrier which is essential in ensuring we have a comfortable horse. No foot no horse! The dentist and chiropractor play a large role in my program as well to ensure optimal comfort and physical performance of the horse. My extensive experience allows me to understand how a horse’s job at the track will correlate into retraining. I can recognize when a horse is muscle sore and whether I need to back off or push through it. I believe that I do a really good job at bringing a horse along on the flat, so that they develop the correct muscles without getting sore or cranky.
I am especially good at dealing with horses with confidence issues. I have reformed horses that wouldn’t get near a pole on the ground into successful jumpers by taking my time to build their confidence.
 
Describe your experience working with racehorses. My family has always been involved in the racing industry. Growing up my step-father was the leading trainer at Delaware Park for many years. We ran a large racing stable based out of Delaware Park and we also lived on the training farm that had a track. I wasn’t interested in staying in the family business so I went off to college and currently work as an HR manager for a federal agency.
I am still very involved with running the Delaware Park branch of CANTER Mid Atlantic. I spend time making visits to the track to list horses on the website and also to network with trainers who are donating horses to our program.
 
Identify any individual, organization, farm, racing stable, business, or trainer that you expect to involve as a horse owner, sponsor or supporter if you are selected. My plan would be to shop for a horse on one of our CANTER Mid Atlantic farms. We have many lovely horses that have been donated (over 50 horses a year are donated) and are just getting their rest on the farms that board our CANTER owned horses. I would like to show that just because a horse is donated to a non-profit doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with it. Many people donate because they know that we do a great job at ensuring the future of the horses by bringing them along with proper basics which allow them to find quality homes. I could chronicle the process that I use in determining if a horse is ready for retraining and why I select a particular horse. I typically always video this process for my blog and show the horses lunging and free in the paddock. I talk about what I am looking for- feet, soundness, physical, and mental state. Also, what I look for in a horse in terms of conformation and attitude. I would represent CANTER and our retraining program. This is already a well established process that we have been doing for the past five years. I take pictures and videos of the first ride and most of the rides after. I chronicle the good, bad and ugly of the retraining process of every horse on my blog. This blog https://dixierumble.wordpress.com/ already has a very large following. I believe that the CANTER program is one of the best 501c retraining programs that exist. We take the ordinary horse that is coming out of a field after layup and turn it into a horse that is in demand because of its quality retraining. I want to show people that a quality rehoming organisation can be a great place to shop for a horse.
 
Is there anything else you would like the RRTP Board of Directors to know? I believe that I would be a great trainer for this project because even though I am considered a professional, I am just like most riders who work a full-time job and ride for the enjoyment of the sport. I don’t have any huge accomplishments behind my name but I don’t feel as though that is what makes you a good retrainer of thoroughbreds. I already have a very large following across the country who have bought horses from me because they feel that by reading the blog about the horses retraining process, they can really get to know the horses. They see me bring those horses up through the first ride to the first shows. They develop a relationship with the horses even if they have never seen them. Part of what attracts them to the horses is that the horse is being ridden by an average rider. It shows that you don’t have to be perfect and that the horse can take a joke which is very important in the retraining process! They also know that I am honest and that I care more about the right match/home than selling a horse. Nobody is perfect, people or horses. If I hit stumbling blocks along the way than I admit to it and talk about how I aim to solve the problem. That is part of what makes people draw to reading the blog. The blog https://dixierumble.wordpress.com/ gets over 150 visits a day and over 20,000 in one year.
I also believe that I am a person that values all thoroughbreds, not just the 16h TB geldings that have upper level potential. Let’s face it, most people who buy thoroughbreds are amateur riders looking for something quiet and fun. A good trainer should have as much passion for the average horse as they do the extremely fancy horse. I just love training thoroughbreds and sometimes the horses that are just plain and average are my favourite types. I enjoy reshaping their bodies and watching people be shocked by their transformation. I get as excited to teach a horse the baby steps of learning to go into contact as I do jumping a big fence. You really have to have passion for the elementary steps of training thoroughbreds, not just the glory of moving them up the levels.

Too many choices

Selling horses is really stressful for me. I am the type of person that wants to make people happy. I am always as honest as I can be about my horses and want only the best homes. I think my ultimate goal as a seller is that people simply find the horses to be accurately represented. You can’t please everybody but with the amount of pictures and video we take of our horses I do think people have a good idea of what to expect. If I don’t think a horse is going to work than I just say so right up front so I can save somebody a trip. I know how stressful it is to be a buyer as well (since I play that role quite a bit myself) so I try to put myself in their shoes and make it a good experience.

When you sell green horses you often are just going on your gut as far as determining what you think a horse will be capable of in the future. How do you know it will be able to do prelim? Well you can never say for sure but if you have a lot of experience at riding/training a lot of green horses you can develop a good feel for what directions horses may want to go. The buyer who came this weekend has a goal of prelim. I would want a horse that is uphill, forward thinking, brave, sound, good feet and has the athletic ability to bail themselves out when they get into trouble on course. Prelim isn’t necessarily big (3’6″) but for amateur riders I think it takes the right horse who wants to do the job to get you to that level. Soundness is important because of the higher speed/bigger jumps.

I had four horses to show including the two new horses who had just been gelded. The buyer is experienced, has a trainer and understands the process of bringing along a young horse. She wanted to see the two new horses who I had not even ridden yet because they just arrived and then got gelded. I had recruited my friend who just got home from college who is very light so we could throw her up for the first ride while I handled them on the ground. Sometimes the ground person is the most important person in first rides.

We started out with Gib. Gib has been with me for 2wks but had 10 m0nths of relaxation at the CANTER farm. He really isn’t ready to be shown yet but everybody has wanted to see him. I refuse to rush my training so basically he being brought along as I see fit. He thought he was retired and his body did too 🙂 He has been excellent to bring back into work but right now is a bit fussy. Too be expected when your muscles are flabby! He is learning about contact and bending. He protest a bit so right now it isn’t the prettiest picture but this is all part of training and you can’t expect anything more right now.



This was a video we did on some flatwork where I am working with him to get him to soften. He is all over the place but is wanting to make the right shape.

He is weak in the hind end and canters because he doesn’t know how to trot. All very normal for a horse in this stage of training. I can see through all of this to what he will be and it excites me. The buyer really liked him quite a bit. She thought he was super comfortable, forward thinking and had a great feel.

Next we rode Elusive Sky. The buyer had initially thought he might be the one. She actually vetted him ahead of time (yay for clean xrays!!!) but I had explained to her that he was 2 months off the track and was one that was just hitting the wall in terms of body soreness. The CANTER model is so ideal because the CANTER horses get so much time to just rest their bodies and minds!!! Makes a big difference and I have been able to see why they are all so much easier for me to retraining.

Sky is super talented and gorgeous but needs more time. He doesn’t feel as impressive as you would want him to be right now. She liked him but felt the sore back/hind end soreness. We all acknowledged that it will resolve itself but needs more time. I think that is something you have to understand when you buy horses off the track. Some take more time than others and you can’t rush the process. His ankles (both front and back) are clean. Lovely hock films. He has an old bow that ultrasounds nice. The whole horse can xray fine and they can still be body sore. Muscles can take some time to come around.

Random picture I took of him while free jumping the other day and you can just see how tight the muscles still are right now.

Next up was Mister P J. Both PJ and Lansingburgh were horses that I bought from a contact that I had great success with before. I am always nervous buying horses off of a picture. I knew nothing about them besides they appeared nice, sound and she really liked them. PJ was a cribber and while I don’t normally buy cribbers for resale he was the right color which can override cribbing. I trusted her so I sent money and hoped for the best. I hadn’t had a chance to see them move around much because they were gelded and they were just hanging out. I told the buyer she could see them but it would be their first ride and it could be interesting..ha!

I had thought that PJ would be more of a hunter. He seemed extremely quiet and he just has the looks/movement of a nice hunter. He stood perfectly still at the mounting block. I walked Amanda around the ring on him (leading him) and he was just as relaxed as can be. I turned her loose and we hoped for the best. I think all of us were a bit shocked at what came out of him. He started to trot and we all looked around at each other. Wow, just wow. He is 3yr who is 2wks post track and just got gelded a few days prior. He was just super relaxed with this big stride. Never looked at anything. Happily cantered both directions. Great steering, good brakes and just overall super nice.

He was a very good boy. Next up was Lansingburgh..we were calling him Lance. This guy struck me as an event horse just looking at him. Uphill, athletic, forward thinking and a bit more up but in a good way. I walked him around the ring first in hand and he looked at things but took it all in stride (this was their first time in the ring). He stood great for mounting but jigged a bit as we walked off. No biggie. We walked around with me leading him and he settled in. He was forward and  the type that was built on the bit. He wanted to be in the contact. He was a bit eager but was good about it. He humped his back a bit in the canter but not in a mean way. Just not sure how to balance it all yet and he almost got too round.



Amanda is not used to a hotter type of horse but she tried to figure him out and he was patient. The buyer let him walk a bit and just had him a lot more relaxed. He had relaxed as he figured out it was much easier than racing.

She couldn’t make up her mind on who she liked better. She was joking that I had given her way too many choices and just couldn’t believe that she was seeing so many nice horses. She had been shopping for a long time hauling an empty trailer all around the U.S. (not joking!) but not finding what she was looking for in terms of conformation, soundness and athletic ability. She said while she liked Gib, she was still between the grey and the dark bay 3yrs. She wanted me to offer my thoughts. Oh boy.

What would I do? I still think for me it would have been between Gib and Lance as an eventer. The grey seems more of a hunter to me and not sure if I see him as an upper level event horse. I LOVE Gib but Lance struck me as one that was going to be easier/steadier in the contact quicker. He would need more let down and time to see the world but he was likely more my sort of ride (I like more compact/shorter horses).  At the end of the day it really comes down to what feels best to you as a rider. They all are nice big horses who are sound with great brains. It was personal choice as to which felt better.

She ended up picking Lansingburgh and he left to go home with her the same day. He has settled in great and she is very excited about his future. I can’t wait to watch him progress. It was wonderful to get such good feedback on our program. Good word of mouth is everything (she had been sent to our farm by a friend who recommended us).

I have a plan of some lunging in side reins and hacking out for Gib to build his muscle. The same thing for Sky! PJ will get some time to just let down and be a horse. We may ride him lightly but he deserves some R&R. I get so excited about the process of bringing along my crew of young horses.

Don’t be scared of colts

Yesterday I taught a lesson to Ridge’s owner and boy was he amazing! You know the work is paying off when it all comes together. She was absolutely beaming and that is what makes it so worthwhile.

Jess rode Gib while I was teaching the lesson and he was really looking good. Such a classy animal! I plan on introducing the side reins to him today on the lunge line and the riding. Now that we have him settled into work it is time to start to ask for a bit more.

I had sold Ball Park World aka Slugger last week and right after he sold I got a call from my contact up in NY about two horses she had coming in. I had gotten Hope and Jazz from her and they both were amazing. She really has a great working relationship with a trainer up there to ensure a nice supply of sound but slow horses. These were both 3yr  colts who were sound but slow. One ran once and the other twice. Was I interested? Uh, man I had plans to put that money away to finish off my lunging ring but she said they were really nice horses. Kurt and I  talked it over and agreed they had to be really nice for us to do it. She sent some pictures and I agreed to buy them on the pictures. I know she knows my type and she said they would be great resale projects for me. 

I don’t get worried about horses that may not be gelded for personal projects. Gelding is a relatively easy process and most horses at the track don’t realize they have “man” parts. They can sometimes be a bit nippy but the younger one’s aren’t too bad. We can’t take them at CANTER because our lay up farms are just big fields and often mixed herds or mares nearby. I have been turning them out together and they are both super easy with great manners. Not studdish at all. Both got manes pulled, clipped up and a bath yesterday. We took some quick pictures.

Lansingburgh is simply gorgeous. He is about 15.3 right now and just stunning. Even prettier in person than these pictures. Very typey TB with a gorgeous head and neck. Really nice mover.


Mister P J is just as nice but is absolutely in a growing phase right now and is a bit butt high. He is just over 16h and I think he is going to be a big boy. He seems so relaxed and confident in himself. He is a cribber (which I knew when I bought him) but I am not really bothered by that. It can make selling harder but sometimes a nice horse is just a nice horse and you can’t worry to much. I have had a lot of cribbers so I can easily live with them but I know some people won’t.

What is interesting is that they both have really nice thick tails. Most of my young horses come in with these weedy little tails. Nice to have pretty tails. Ha, how vain is that 🙂

I just really enjoy having a farm full of nice Tb’s. We all feel blessed that we are lucky enough to ride such classy horses every day. Each horse is nicer than the next and they are all NICE!

I mean how can you not enjoy looking at this face every day? This is Elusive Sky and I just adore him.

Challenge accepted :)

I was recently filling out an application for the Thoroughbred Makeover challenge for trainers ( http://www.retiredracehorsetraining.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=16&Itemid=373) and was writing about how I truly enjoy working through all the issues that green  horses faces and developing more tools to be an effective trainer. I am the type of person that enjoys a bit of a challenge.

I sold Ridge to a wonderful person who is boarding him at my barn. I was so excited that he was staying with me because he has been one of my favorite horses. Not only is he fun to ride but he is easy to live with which is super important on my small farm. He doesn’t care about anything. You can put him with any horses. He can go out alone. He doesn’t care about friends. He is an easy keeper. He is neat in his stall (um, love that!!!). I love his personality. He is a great horse to go out and about with and great company for my babies out on trails. He is just the perfect all around horse. Anybody can ride him and you just know he is going to be safe and fun. I also really love his owner. She has been a friend for a long time and she is a great fit for our small no drama barn 🙂

His new owner is really enjoying him. We have had some awesome trail rides together which is so much fun. She can’t believe how good he is for such a green horse. Her goal is to eventually compete him in dressage at some of these Tb shows and some other local shows. The issue with Ridge is that we truly never really addressed his dislike of contact.

I would say his dislike of contact ranks right up there with Letterman but perhaps even a bit tougher because he thinks he may die if you touch his mouth. I had just started to work on it when he had got his injury and then he sat around for a while and she ended up buying him before I ever really got it ironed out.

I hate being that person that says to somebody..hey can I do some training rides on your horse? However, she was just coming back to riding and he is NOT easy. It is a classic case of a situation where things could go wrong if there isn’t a middleman to explain things to the horse so he doesn’t get confused and then teach the rider how to ask the horse. It doesn’t mean he isn’t a good horse or that she isn’t a good rider but green on green sometimes an equal black and blue.  I sort of kept quiet for a bit (hard for me….ya know :)) but I saw things going the wrong direction so then I did speak up and she was absolutely on board.

So what is the issue? Well he is complicated so it is a variety of things. He hates being touched in the mouth and is developed underneath his neck. Remember he used to look like this when he got to my farm and started in work.

Pencil neck, muscled underneath and just overall lack of muscle. If you let him go with a loop in the rein he was happy but he carried himself all yucky. Sort of like this

I sort of promised his new owner that it would all be okay and that I was absolutely confident I could get him to accept contact. Challenge accepted 🙂 Oh boy now I had to start to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

I gave some instructions to work him on the lunge line in side reins and let him get used to contact. He seems to do this very easily with no fuss. Yet add the rider and you get inverted, pissy, not going forward and every other evasion in the book. I did try to teach her on him but it wasn’t quite productive because he is HARD. I needed to feel what was going on for myself.

I start by going to my favorite bit for horses who hate contact- the herm sprenger duo. Just a mullen mouth flexible piece of rubber. He was extremely fussy in his mouth with any other bit and often times no bit is going to be a magic fix but you want something soft to encourage them to take the contact.

I don’t think he likes the flash so we took that off. Not sure he liked the spurs either so those came off. I carried a dressage whip to encourage forward no matter what.

Most of the time, I prefer to start at the halt or the walk just slowly asking them to soften to the contact but with him it was really really hard to get him to go forward. Too much feel and he would actually just stop and go backwards with his rider on so I had to really work on keeping everything loose and supple. I wanted to loosen in jaw and with him this was a complicated process. I remember in my lessons with Letterman that Kelly showed me that it can be more aggressive than you think it needs to be to get them to soften the jaw. You actually feel him just holding all the tension so I focused on not only moving him laterally off my leg (inside leg to outside rein) but also gently moving the bit in his mouth. Not a see saw but more of just a sponging type of feel. Sometimes it is more of a give and take with the elbow because he is really really holding on tight. You have to loosen them. As soon as he would soften that I would immediately soften as well. When you think contact you often think a static contact where you just hold but with this horse when you hold he pulls and boy can he pull. He can pull down, up and often straight out. He can jerk you right out of the saddle but with me he can’t pull me all around and if he tries than I just kick him forward and soften for a minute and then ask again. The timing of all of this is the tricky part and why it was so complicated to teach somebody on him. Sometimes you are soft, then strong, then you move him laterally, then you give and just keep trying to figure out what is required at each moment. I have to anticipate what he is going to do before he does it and that is hard. He has so many different evasions you often don’t know which one is coming so by the time I could tell them to fix one, he was doing another.

I was able to really get him soft in the walk so I could move to trot.

When you start to ask you get this..obviously inverted and you can just tell he is sucking back and not going forward

You have to have forward to have them pushing from behind so you can’t take too much contact that will back him off. I almost think the trot feels a bit like it is running at this point but it honestly takes that MUCH forward to get him to come to the hand so that I can even feel his mouth.

Here I am just going forward asking him to come from behind and just gently feeling his mouth.

Even though he isn’t in the contact he also is soft and not bracing which is sometimes where you have to start.

When I start to ask him to connect to a bit more of a feel I sometimes get this which is where he just pulls out and there is nothing soft about it. I will add leg so I can send them forward and then think about moving the bit to get them to soften the jaw and stop pulling forward

This is a little series all taken in a few strides which shows what this can look like

He pulls down and out and I close up the leg and sponge the hand to ask him to stay soft. This is the next moment after the pull

He has responded to my request by pushing back into the contact.

We just continued to add more and more contact until he was steady, soft and supple into the bridle by the end of the ride. His owner came out tonight to ride him and was amazed. She said she didn’t even know what to do with all the new buttons because it now feels like she has no horse in her hands (he was really stretching down). I will continue to work with him and teach her at the same time. So much fun!!!!!!!!

While we are on the topic of contact and challenges, I have to post some pictures of Letterman. You all remember how he protested about flatwork and I had to very slowly bring him along so he didn’t get super angry. Well he had four months off due to his stupid splint. He is now in his second week of riding work where I am doing about a 15 min ride. OMG, is this my horse???? Wow, just wow. I have always loved him but he is really turning out to be as nice as I always thought he could be. I have worked super duper hard to learn how to ride him and I still have a lot more to learn but I know that I am on the right track.




Ha, okay I will stop with the photos but I really am just excited. I LOVE my horse. He isn’t near the fanciest horse that I have had come through the barn but we just get along. I love the way that he feels and perhaps that he is a challenge. We all know that I don’t like a boring horse 🙂

He makes for good before and after pictures

Gib was listed for $5000 on CANTER. I was making a trip up to get Ridge and I happened to ask his trainer if she wanted to donate. She said actually she would because he was running out of conditions and she needed the stall. I sometimes get very passionate about particular horses and he was one of them. He just had the look of a horse that had all the right pieces to be a true upper level candidate.

He looked like this at the track:

He arrived in July of 2012 and just hung out for a bit. I went to see him in early September and he looked like this 🙂

Yuck! You can see they lose the overall body condition. It can be really hard to look at a horse in this condition and see past it.

The next set of pictures that I have are from February of 2013.

We can’t see his neck because of the long mane but overall body condition better and filling out. I looked at him and thought he ready for work but I wasn’t quite ready for him at that point.

Here are his conformation photos from this week.



They do slowly rebuild their muscles and I would almost venture to say he looks better than his track condition. Now we get to build some muscle and boy will he be stunning!

He was great for the first rides. No muscle obviously so he is weak behind but he feels so powerful and eager to work.

Free video-

and riding

Right now horses aren’t sticking around long. Slugger aka Ball Park World left for his new home today. Sad to see him go but his new owners are amazing people and he is going to love it there.

I said I was going to wait a bit and sell one more of mine before buying something else but a friend sent me some pictures of two nice horses so we will see how it all pans out.