Looking back at Letterman

Here was Letterman on his first ride in June of 2011. Angry, wouldn’t go forward, couldn’t touch him and just overall stuck.

July he had started to learn a bit more about softening but you can tell just how weak he was all over. He could barely go forward and was still very angry.

October he started to stretch and let go of his back a bit more. He had been doing a ton of hacking and started to jump logs out on the trail. Less angry but still very stiff in his body and in his mouth.

This video was 6 months later in January of 2012. Looks like I was just working on stretching him at the canter. I can see how stiff he is in the trot and how he wants to just grab the bit and lock up but there is absolute progress. He is less angry and he is pushing from behind and moving forward on his own. Look at the muscle that he has built and the topline!

3 months later he is much steadier in the bridle, softer in the body and pushing from behind. We even jump because we have some sort of control on the flat finally!

Not long after that lesson he fractured the first splint and earned himself a lot of time off.

He came back in September of 2012 and because we could only do flatwork it was time to focus on really making him rideable. Kelly started to help us and our first lesson was just all about having him move off the right leg and not brace in the transitions. I remember her riding him and just saying how tough he was and that every time you asked him a question with the leg or the hand the answer was SCREW YOU. Anything remotely hard made him angry but I had to keep asking him if I wanted him to improve.

I worked super hard on making him straight and available in both reins and off both legs. We took another lesson in November of 2012 and he felt great. I was so thrilled with our progress. He was becoming fun on the flat! He wasn’t perfect but it sure was a lot easier and he wasn’t getting so mad when I asked him to move laterally.

We were able to foxhunt a bit and then he fractured another splint in the field and this one took forever to heal up. We didn’t start back in work until May so he had five months off. He is just now getting fit again but he did retain a good deal of the training. The canter needs fitness and I have some more work to do to now get him back into the left rein but I am excited about it.

His body has also changed shape and he is now so muscled over his topline, down his back and over his rump. He has the muscles to push and now we are just starting to develop some gears. I can ride him up or down but mostly allow him to go a bit lower and rounder because he is a horse that braces in his neck. Allowing him to stretch over that back helps with the relaxation. I honestly look forward to every ride on him and flatwork is fun. He is a challenge but it is so much fun to look back. I think he is a horse that you easily could have said hated flatwork and never was going to be rideable on the flat but I do think if you are patient almost any horse can be made better on the flat. He just had such a tough mouth after 60 starts but now his mouth is very soft. You can move him with just a touch of the finger and a whisper of the leg (most of the time). I wish I hadn’t lost almost 9 months because of splint injuries but such is life with horses.

He now has his own paddock with his stall door always open so he can just come and go. We cater to him but I find him worth it 🙂


9 responses to “Looking back at Letterman

  1. Jessica I’m interested in your summation. I’m assuming he was not in pain because you are very good about getting all the appropriate people there to rule that out. So was it a combination of weakness and attitude/personality – i.e. it was hard physically because he was weak and his personal response to requests was to be pissy?

    • jessicamorthole

      I think a lot of it was that he had raced for 6yrs and his body was very rigid. He physically was very sound and saddle fit/teeth were good. However, he hated the chiro working on him. He wouldn’t relax enough to find benefit from it. His muscles were all very tight and needed to be reshaped. Sometimes the only way you can do this is by working through it slowly. His hind end weakness was because he wasn’t used to pushing off from behind and he carried so much tension in his body. His back was tight, his neck was tight and his jaw was locked. He was angry because his body hurt and because he didn’t understand what I wanted. He is not a horse to just try without questioning you. You have to find a way to explain things to him so that he accepts without fighting. I spent a lot of time lunging him and establishing myself as the alpha. That was importantbecause he had to trust meand respect me. Jessica Morthole 302-598-6129 jessicamorthole@yahoo.com


  2. I believe horses find us; we don’t find them. Letterman was a smart guy finding you. You’re a great team!

  3. Hi Jessica – Have you ever had Letterman massaged? That was a big key to getting my Lydia to progress. Before her first massage, her back was so tight it was roached. She had some feet issues that also contributed to her muscle issues (barefoot at the time, but back in shoes now), and any sort of pain or anticipated pain, makes her tense up. She is an “issues” kind of mare. 🙂 Another big help for Lydia was a magnesium supplement (Su-Per Mag Pro). Magnesium is a necessary mineral for proper muscle and nerve function. If the body is low on magnesium, it is difficult for the muscles to relax. It is also a mineral that can become depleted quickly in times of stress. Since Lydia is a “stressy” mare, the magnesium supplement made a big difference.

    • jessicamorthole

      I think that he wouldn’t let you massage him even if you tried. He is quite violent when it comes to working on him and he is very weary of new people. I can barely massage him myself without getting kicked. He is a weird dude! Now if you could tranqulize them to massage that would be an option but I am not sure if they get as much benefits that way?

      • Start with the magnesium. You can also try red raspberry leaf (Mare Magic). It works well on geldings. 🙂 And B-vitamins can help too. I’ve fed bee pollen in the past for the B-vitamins and trace nutrients.

        A good equine massage person will only work with what the horse will let them work with. They will ease their way into the problem spots. Once the tight spots are identified, you can use moist heat to help relax those muscles before you tack up. I used towels dunked in HOT (almost too hot to touch) water, wrung them out well, and laid them on Lydia’s lower back for about 10 minutes (changing them out when they cooled). This helped a good deal in between massages.

        You could tranquilize him before the massage, but the therapist could end up working deeper than he is ready for because he would not be giving him/her any feedback (moving away, lifting a leg, ear pinning). Worth a shot to have someone out. Have the therapist work on another horse while Letterman watches. Watching another horse relax may allay his suspicions.

  4. Thanks for this. Letterman is such an intense horse, but so elegant! My horse is quite the alpha gelding, too, so seeing your successes with Letterman inspires me. He looks really good.

  5. I love your entries about Letterman. He is such a cool horse (and FANCY once he unlocks!). You must feel so proud of all you’ve been able to accomplish with him so far. He’s one who really makes you work for it 🙂

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