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Programs and Growing Up

I hope everybody had a great Easter weekend!

It’s finally, FINALLY warm! Which means not only have I been able to get Eli in a consistent program, I’m not freezing my ass off while we’re doing it!

We’ve made some changes to his outfit, and in return Eli has made a few huge leaps over the last couple of weeks, in terms of his maturity and willingness to get down to business.

First, we swapped his bit out from a D- ring Waterford to a 4 in 1 from Stubben… and it’s been magical. He’s 100% willing to go forward into the contact with minimal drama. He’s straight, relaxed, and stretchy. 10/10 would recommend.

Second, I’ve ditched the spurs. He gets leg pressure now and that we have to move away from it. It was time to dial it down and it’s worked wonderfully. I will add a baby spur when we’re working on our canter transitions when I need a bit more “oomph” (it’s HARD to sit on our butt) but I’m looking forward to taking that away as well.

I also exchanged my crop for a dressage whip, and that has mostly solved our inability to go forward once we got tired. I can feel him start to balk and a quick tap on the tush usually solves the problem. It’s the same as when he has a brief moment of ignoring my outside leg. It’s given me the ability to gently send him forward without having to take my hands off the reins; therefore allowing me to help keep him straight at the same time. He’s still mad green and the more help he can get right now, the more secure we are when learning new things.

Finally, we’ve added bungees in 80% of our rides. Eli really physically blossomed this winter with the help of the Pessoa system, and I think he’s a horse that likes things very black and white. Adding the bungees to our routine has really helped him figure out how to work properly, and believe it or not he seemed to really enjoy them. I’m not big on gadgets or bandaids, but these have really helped him understand.

I’m still struggling with a lot of anxiety about really asking him to go forward in the canter, and he’s really stepped up to the plate and taken care of me… which neither Ashley or I ever expected from him. When we brought him home it was very much every man for himself… now we still have our fair share of baby moments but he’s always right there. There were a few moments in a rather trying lesson this past Sunday where most other horses would have planted my ass in the dirt… but Eli just tolerated it.

This past week has made me feel a lot more confident in the fact that we’re showing next weekend for the first time this season.

While I originally was aiming to put him in the Hopeful’s, I want to come away from the first show of the season utterly bored… so we’re just doing a simple walk/trot class on Saturday with possibly adding a hack in the Young’s on Sunday. That’s it. I feel 100% confident in the plan and know we’re both going to come away happy.

I want this season to be about fun experiences for both of us, we can step up to challenges next year, but I want to come out of this season and head into the RRP with a relaxed, confident young horse that I’m having fun on.

I do sometimes feel a little bit of guilt, taking it easy this year. After all, I am a pro and the majority of the other kids his age are already popping around the 2’6 and higher.. but at the same time it’s not about everybody else right now. It’s about getting back to me so I can give this dude the best ride possible, so those feelings are usually pretty fleeting. He has no concerns about what everybody else is doing, so what does it REALLY matter?

I have no timeline with this guy, and it seems to be that maintaining that attitude with him is benefitting both of us and I want to keep my relationship with Eli solid!

He’s come a long way already from the anxious, kinda asshole-ish, wing nut of a racehorse that I brought home 6 months ago and I’m proud of him and of myself… and I’m excited to keep on keepin’ on!

Plus… I mean, I have the world’s most adorable groom that Eli just adores, so really we’re stuck with each other now.

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Slow but steady

Oh look, it’s your once monthly post!

Before I even say anything else, I’m happy to report that baby horse jumped several whole 18″ crossrails, with absolutely 0 dramatics.

He’s now discovered that jumping all the jumps is super fun, and then promptly lost his privileges by throwing the most epic of tantrums when I asked him to (gasp) trot on the rail and NOT jump all the jumps… like… he was so stuck that I had to have one of the girls GIVE ME A PONY RIDE DOWN THE LONG SIDE BECAUSE IT WOULDN’T MOVE.

One thing I did notice, is that he feel super safe over the jumps. I rode with a longer rein because I had no clue what was going to happen, and didn’t want his first real experience to be putting in a big effort just to have his mother accidentally bonk him in the mouth. While he was wiggly and a little confused (what do you mean I have to lift my feet?!), he took me right to everything and I never felt like he was going to do anything nasty… which is always a great feeling. I’m excited to start putting things together and get him rolling out cross country! I think he’s gonna love it and I’m hoping it’ll help us find his go forward button.

I can’t help but laugh, at this point. It’s safe to say my nerves are mostly gone, when it comes to picking fights with him. His brain is so, so immature still that it just explodes or quits when he gets tired… which is often since straightness is haaaaard especially when you just want to piss off out of the door and Mom won’t even hold your head up for you.

The injustice is REAL.

Straightness is abuse.

We really struggle with the H-E-K long side to the left, since the arena door is directly across. I REALLLLLLY have to start pushing him around the corner because all he wants is to blow through his shoulder to drift towards the door. I either get a slamming of breaks when I attempt to straighten or lots of kicking at the amount I have to drive him forward. Once we get to E, it’s all fine again and he’s straight and relaxed.

To the right, he’s fine… everywhere else to the left… it’s cool.

Baby horses are weird and tantrums are what they are. It helps that my nerves are mostly over it at this point, and I give exactly 0 shits about anything other than getting him over himself. It’s just moderately annoying.

But he sure is cute!

Now that the weather has started warming up, I’m excited to get him working in the outdoor. I think a lot of our problem is that he’s bored being trapped in the arena. Our pastures are straight mud so turnout has been limited. Lucky for E, his mother is at the barn all day long, so he gets plenty of chances to get out of his stall, but there’s nothing like turnout. While it looks like we’re going to be stuck in a bit longer still, I’m excited for the chance to change things up a bit and school him outside.

We’re still tentatively aiming towards our first show in May, since it’s at home and will hopefully be relatively low key.

The goal is to get him around the 2′ Hopeful Hunters, but I’m staying flexible and if he’s not ready, we’ll find a smaller schooling show to bop around before we head to GMHA in June.

No pressure, dude!