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Backslide

The training of baby horses is never linear and while I’ve been having a great run with Eli over the last little while, today we mostly forgot… well… everything we’ve learned to this point.

I think partially because we had a mentally challenging lesson yesterday, but mostly because we’re almost 6 and life is hard. Like… REALLY HARD.

It all started with an epic meltdown when he accidentally cracked me in the head while I was putting his boots on… he jumped backwards, hit the end of the crossties, and panicked. Then when the twine snapped the crosstie smacked him in the face.

Much trauma.

Then we somehow have managed to land a starring roll in some kind of weird seagull migration… so there was lots of thumping on the roof and seagull noises.

More trauma.

So… when I got on today and it was like sitting on the horse I brought home in October.

Straightness…nah.

Moving off my leg… nope.

Pluck around the arena on a long rein and literally do nothing… no.

Bucking… yes.

We ended up doing a LOT of lateral work at the walk, tail swishing, and zen breathing. I just wanted him to relaaaaaaax and move his body. I’m not sure what continent his brain was on, perhaps wherever the seagulls came from, but it certainly wasn’t anywhere close.

We played around with turn on the haunches to get him thinking about moving his feet and then ended the day with some long and low trot work over poles.

I AM proud of him for trying. He wasn’t being bad he just. couldn’t. focus. We didn’t get into any fights and ended on a happy note (poles are his favorite)… so for a day when the dude seemed to take a huge backslide in knowledge… he took a big jump forward in his attitude and that seems a bigger accomplishment to me with this guy.

The joy of training young horses, though, right? You ride the horse you pulled out of the stall today and keep in mind that there will be tomorrow…and the next day… and the next.

(Even if it is an insufferably adorable sass.)

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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!

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Drugs and Things

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

I actually had a week of above negative temps in which to get the child to work, and after an initially rough start… we had a great run!

We had our first lesson of the year with Ashley, and we really focused on moving off my leg (baby doth protest) and bringing him forward into the contact. Ashley and I have such an awesome relationship out of the barn, it makes our lessons that much better. She got some really nice work out of both of us.

Right now we’re really working on Eli not blowing my leg off when I ask him for something. It’s led to a few hysterics but I’m really gaining a ton of confidence with him and learning that I can ride through his baby bullshit, so now it’s no big deal.

We also played around a bit with our trot-canter transition and while there was a lot of bucking, his canter is soooo much nicer than when I brought him home. I can tell he’s gained a lot of balance and muscle in the last six months, and he’s an insanely comfortable ride.

I had also decided, a few weeks ago, that since it was getting “warmer” and Eli’s work schedule has started to get more intense, that it was time to give him a basic trace clip.

Holy shitballs was that a horrible idea. After 45 minutes, two handlers, and a lot of cussing I gave up on the whole adventure. This meant he was stuck looking like the by product of a run in with Edward Scissorhands.

”Twas bad, but the fight we were having with him was significantly worse than the clip job.

Our wonderful vets were coming out to give spring shots anyways so I decided that maybe the least stressful approach to cleaning things up was to ask them to sedate him… when I called the office their receptionist (whom I absolutely adore) laughed but agreed that that was the best approach.

They came out and gave him the first round. He got sleepy, but not really so we agreed to give him a bit more. He knocked out… until I turned on the clippers and he swung around and tried to eat me.

So we went for round 3. The dude could hardly stand up but the second I touched his shoulders with the clippers he launched his attack.

Both vets agreed that Eli was probably the most dramatic of creatures they’d seen in a while. The larger of the two grabbed hold of his halter and with his restraint I managed to clean up the clip he had. E still fought the crap out of us, but was at least too slow to do much damage.

Such drugged, no happy.

Since it was such a traumatic day for both of us (plus shots and microchip) he got the next 48 hours off except for a light handwalk and teaching my lessons with me.

I’ve ordered several electric toothbrushes off of Amazon and will be dedicating a lot of time in the next year to getting him over this whole thing. (My mother has already dubbed him Rue Paul.)

Well, in all honesty, I’m going to have my hands full over the next year just trying to develop this sock of marbles into some sort of semblance of a solid citizen. He’s becoming hands down the quirkiest thing I’ve encountered, but also easily the most rewarding so I’ll take it.

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Oh, hi!

I mostly suck.

In all honesty, though, training a green horse in winter is pretty boring.

We’ve been doing a lot of waiting for it to warm up and then riding through the silliness just in time for the temps to drop again.

Wildly frustrating is an understatement!

The most exciting news so far is that I did get accepted as a Retired Racehorse Program trainer for the 2019 “class” and from the looks of FB a bunch of my fellow OTTB friends did as well. I’m super excited to get Eli to Kentucky, and reunite with some of the people I miss!

Dats Me!

While my heart is mostly set on Eli having a job as an event horse, I’m looking closely at all of the disciplines and the questions that are being asked before I make any final decisions. So much is going to depend on how Eli handles himself on field trips, and in the coming warm months that I don’t want to make a snap decision… mostly because the atmosphere at the Horse Park is so electric and I want him to have a great experience!

He’s been coming along as well as can be expected of such a mentally immature giant who can’t stay in consistent work, and right now I’m just happy to have more than a day or two in a row where I can get on him.

Honestly… that’s it. That’s as exciting as my life has been in the past month. I’m not complaining, since it looks like I’m going to have a pretty exciting summer!

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Happy New Year…

In typical Catie fashion, this post is late.

I’m not really a huge fan of making New Year’s Resolutions because a year is a long time and with horses, hard and fast goals usually sets you up for anxiety and failure. I ain’t about that life.

My dudes rang in the New Year with a handful of really awesome rides. Eli is continuing on a really nice trajectory and I’m dying to find out if our application has been accepted to the RRP this year. Feb 1st seems so far away!

Working hard…. ish

We have a bunch of exciting new sponsors for the upcoming season, and I’m so excited to have the support of these awesome companies! Feel free to click over to the new “2019 Sponsors” tab to check them out!

Jake has been a little bit more of a challenge. He’s been going beautifully, and has really started to get the hang of working under himself consistently. I’ve been happier and happier with our rides of late, and my cajones are firmly reattached. I’m not worried about stepping up and pushing an issue when it needs to be pushed now. We’ve learned to read each other and that’s been a game changer.

We had the chiro out this Monday morning to adjust him, and he was out in quite a few places…. withers, SI, and sacrum. He had 24 hours off, and then I lightly lunged him in the Pessoa system late Tuesday night and went beautifully. Wednesday I swung my leg over for a hack and he was a mess to the right. To the left he was moderately inconsistent but it was easy to coax him into a proper frame… but as soon as I asked him to change the bend to the right he came unglued buggy horse style.

I finally settled with some long and low work on the buckle and I called it good. I gave him some Bute and since our Magnawave magician was coming Thursday morning, I figured he was just sore from the chiro. I’m always sore for a few days after my chiro appointments, so it seemed fair.

Corey came to wave him on Thursday and when she touched him with the loop, his knees practically buckled. Since he was the last horse on a very long list, it meant it was after hours for the clinic so I gave him some bute and handwalked for a bit after I finished teaching. He was never unsound, not one bit.

Friday morning the woman who works with me reported he hadn’t touched his hay a bit, so I called our vet to follow up. We decided that he was sore because he was so out, and since he had compensated for so long his brain had exploded with the new muscles.

We decided to start him on some Robaxin and lunge him super lightly over the weekend and I would check back in on Monday after I hacked him, and see where we were going to go from there. Fingers crossed he’s just sore.

He’s an anxious, sensitive dude so it makes sense. He’s not one to be stoic, so an overreaction seems fitting. He’s not a far cry from his mother, really.

I lunged them both today, and he seemed pretty happy to pluck around on the end of the lunge line and stretch. His brother, on the other hand…

Thoroughbreds, man. So much majestic.

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Wild Child

I’m going to preface this post with the common knowledge that sometimes I make poor decisions.

The arena was finished up on Thursday, but since I had family in town we had to wait to take our maiden voyage until Friday night. I made the (correct) decision to just lunge Eli. He was like a gorilla at the end of the lunge line. All limbs and exuberance.

We had the arena to ourselves so I let him play his little heart out at the end of the line while I giggled. He cracks me up, because he can’t manage to rearrange his limbs in a timely enough fashion to land the shenanigans, so it’s mostly just a lot of tripping and farting.

He had the time of his life, though, and even shocked me by standing still in his stall while I wrapped his hind legs. Usually it’s a chaotic mess of flailing because he “just wants to touch the wraps already, mooooom.”

After a relatively lazy morning this morning, I headed out to the barn to teach a tiny tot lesson, and then ride the beast. He was happy to stand on the crossties moderately patiently while I adjusted his new 5 point.

(Side note: is there anything harder than being 5’2 and having to adjust straps on a 17.1 h wiggling baby when said some of the straps are above your head? I think not.)

It was only on the walk out to the arena that I was beginning to wonder if I’d made the right choice in riding. Now is the time to mention, they’ve also been in for 2 days since all of our snow melted and now our farm is essentially a sheet of ice. And he’s 5. And he has no hair. And it’s winter. But it’s fine.

After he bolted away from the mounting block, we had a discussion about manners and I swung aboard.

I really suck at decision making sometimes, guys.

He proceeded to bounce and bolt and hop across the arena like somebody set his tail on fire. Thank god for my running martingale because otherwise I would be trying to bum a ride back from Massachusetts. We had no breaks. Minimal steering. No hamsters in sight on the wheel.

To add to the fun, the wind started to howl… while simultaneously banging the big doors on both ends of the arena.

I am honestly surprised he held it together as well as he did, and while he was boinging around like a ping pong ball, he was desperately trying to be kind so he didn’t lose me in the process.

After our 5th or 6th meltdown at X, I asked the other girls in the ring if they minded if I tossed him on the lunge line for a bit. They happily agreed, and I let the beast out to play.

After he realized he was free, he bucked and bolted and kicked and farted and just generally carried on like a loon. One of the things I’ve learned about this guy is that if he’s using his hind boots as an excuse to buck, we’re not getting much in the way of work done. We’ll get past that eventually but for now we just go with it. In order for me to push buttons, he has to trust that I’m not going to be upset with him.

Because there were two other riders in the ring who were being gracious, I got E to the point where he picked up the canter without a complete meltdown and called it good. I did hop back on and walk a few more circles to reinforce that when Mom gets off to lunge you, it doesn’t mean she’s done riding. He mostly kept it together, so I called it good before we could have another meltdown and continue to be in everybody’s way.

The good news is that I really enjoy his new set up. Changing him to the Waterford was a great choice, and the running martingale was just enough to keep the rodeo under control when shit really hit the fan. Plus the grab strap on the 5-point is a perfect handle when he goes into bronco mode.

He’s such a sensitive guy that I’m walking a fine line between setting a firm boundary and exploding his brain when he’s hot like that, but for the most part, we’re figuring it out. He’s got a great heart, so it’ll all work out just fine.