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.

Christmas, Puddles, and Dirt

Guess what!! The arena is officially done! Which means it’s the end of our mid winter vacation. It was probably the best Christmas present ever, and well worth the wait. It’s so beautiful and flat.

LOOK!

  • We’ve had a pretty uneventful week off which is fine since much cold, so Christmas.
  • We did have a warm day on Saturday, so I took the dude for a stroll out in the hay field to see if I could blow his mind with the far away adventure. We jumped in some puddles, lost a bell boot, and found out that my boots weren’t as water proof as I thought. I was super pleased that Eli managed to contain himself, and didn’t give me a single issue about sloshing through… whatever.
  • The lengths to which this creature can extend his neck directly upwards are comical. He’s like a furry periscope. It just keeps going up and up and up. I’m hoping he’ll use his powers for good, not evil, in the coming days.
  • He’s managed to handle the time off pretty well, until yesterday when I had the pleasure of flying him like a kite to his pasture. When he wants to, the guy can really get up there. It’s the neck, I think. Buttttt he has excuses, since the temps plummeted, he was out of work, and there were big piles of dirt everywhere.
  • It’s funny to see how he’s now at the point in his let down where he just feels GOOD. I’ve really invested my money in the places I feel like it 100% counts for these guys, as far as body work (here’s looking at you, PEMF), his gut, and his feet. We’re in a routine. We get outside. We love peppermints. He’s gone from being a wild eyed terror who bites stuff, to a quirky toddler who just wants to play (but also still sometimes bites stuff, but it’s mostly an accident now).
  • I’m still so excited about his prospects for 2019! He keeps getting better and better, and was way more than I could have asked for… and we’re not even three months in!
  • I spent most of Christmas Day snoogling with him, since I did chores that day, and so now I have feelings of excitement that you all have to listen too.
  • It could also be the gorgeous new (GREY… can’t shove me in the hunter ring now!) show coat that I got, that has me pumped up. Is there anything better to motivate you than new clothes and new arena footing?

    I think not.

    2019, we’re coming for you!

    Forced Vacation

    The facility that I work at has had a soft spot in the arena for a few days, so the barn owner decided to have an excavation company come to take a peek and see what what was going on.

    It’s ended up being that we now get a new base and footing for Christmas; the horses get a week off!

    While it’s not super ideal, I’m stoaked about the end game. Our arena is gonna be bomb when we’re done and in the grand scheme of things a week is NBD.

    It’s also been unseasonably warm (I had naked horses turned out today…) so they’ve been enjoying extra free time.

    We’re hoping that we’ll have the arena done by Sunday and everybody can be back in the game next week…hopefully sans dramatics buuut since the majority of my creatures are baby Thoroughbreds and two devilishly adorable ponies that’s probably a pipe dream.

    The other great thing is that my boys have been going out in the paddock next to the commotion of big trucks, so yay for extra desensitization. Neither seem to really give a hiccup.

    Creepers

    I took advantage of our downtime to schedule a visit from our favorite vet to float Eli’s teeth and pull a Coggins. Turns out his teeth were pretty sketchy…while the overall conformation of his mouth was pretty good, the teeth were super sharp. She’ll be back for Jake later in January, since my wallet is officially smoking and we had his teeth done in the spring.

    I also switched Eli’s three piece KK to a Waterford. We’ve had repeatedly good success with them on our other creatures, so I decided to give it a shot. I did end up buying the bit .5″ too big, but luckily Jake has a huge mouth (even though he’s a full hand and change shorter) so I’m going to recycle it to him and Eli got his own.

    We’re adding a running martingale to his set up and I’m hoping the changes will set us up for success moving forward. E officially his own gear and hook in the tack room now, so I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious. Our RRP ’19 application is in, and I have a standing weekly lesson set with my trainer…

    Here goes nothin’.

    Weekend Wrap Up

    Living in the North during the winter can be a real PITA when you’re trying to keep a horse in any kind of serious program. I’ve always had a hard and fast rule that anything under 15* is nothing more than light hack weather.

    Wednesday and Thursday ended up being pretty frigid, so everybody got handwalked… minus a few that got lightly lunged.

    Friday brought some better weather but I was so busy trying to catch up with client horses, farm horses, and lessons that I didn’t get through my normal stuff until after 6. Luckily one of the girls was there late, and agreed to lunge Eli and hack Jake so I could trade my trainer hat for my mom hat.

    I’m so grateful for my village!

    Finally, on Saturday, I got some quality barn time. After teaching a few lessons, I set my sights on Eli. We worked on more of the same… forward the first time I ask and moving away from the pressure of my leg.

    It was so hard (according to Eli), but we had moments of good boi things where he started to relax.

    We also had several moments of sass, since it doesn’t seem fair to share JUST the good moments… please enjoy my favorite from Saturday’s ride.

    Baby say…. NO.

    Sunday was spent catching up on adulting, but luckily I think that the forecast for this week looks fairly promising… so here’s hoping that we can get a bunch of good rides in before the holiday!

    Retired Racehorse Program applications opened yesterday, and I’m super excited to submit ours this week! I feel like having the entry in and (hopefully) accepted will be our first concrete goal to have… and keep me motivated!

    As for my workouts this week? They went something like this:

    Monday: Arms/Abs

    Tuesday: Abs/Cardio/Yoga

    Wednesday: Chest/Triceps

    Thursday: Yoga

    Friday: Legs/Abs

    Saturday: Rock Climbing ( <- Fav non-gym workout!)

    Sunday: Yoga

    Even if I don’t make it to the gym, I’ve been trying to do SOMETHING every day… even if it’s just a 20 minute yoga flow for me and a 20 minute hand walk for Eli. We gotta keep movin’.

    Pessoa Day

    Monday’s always end up being fairly quiet at the barn and we usually end up using the majority of the day for paperwork, phone calls, scheduling, etc.

    It also ended up being upper body day for us at the gym, followed by a few lessons and the complete body workout that is riding a Section B Welsh pony who is just coming back into work… so by the time the end of the day rolled around I was standing in front of Eli’s stall trying to muster what little motivation I had left.

    Winter is proving to be pretty rough for me. I usually ride my personal horses at the end of the work day, and it’s been so cold and dark that I just… Blah.

    A million excuses to be had, let me tell you. My other challenge is Liam. We have childcare at the farm now, but typically only until about 5-530. Which makes a 6pm ride in 20* weather a bit of a pickle. We make it work, though, usually through the help of a generous teenager.

    Thank god for Barn Rats.

    I managed to pull myself (loudly) up by the boot straps though, and dragged Eli out. I started tacking him up only to discover he has some weird crud on various bits. Most importantly exactly where the saddle sits. Rude. He seemed pretty bothered by me picking at it… but he’s still trying his hand at attempted murder to get out of work so there’s that.

    Beauty. Grace.

    Given my current situation (alone in the barn with a toddler) I almost decided to give it up for the night before my eye caught the barn’s Pessoa system hanging on the wall. I’d been wanting to work this into his work rotation anyways so now seemed like as good of a time as any. The surcingle missed the bothersome cruddy bits perfectly so we went along to work.

    At first I figured he would lose his marbles with the butt piece touching his legs, but he didn’t seem the care much. We started out to the left, which was easier for him, so he could settle into the idea and he didn’t even bat at eye.

    When we reversed, he threw several moderately impressive tantrums, but soon learned its much harder to get your point across via tantrum when you actually have to work to do it. He settled after 5 minutes or so, and gave me some nice trot work.

    We did 15 min on each side and while he wasn’t winded in the least, he was sweaty in all the right places which made me quite happy that he was working correctly in the system.

    The tongue. I can’t even.

    Today we hacked around bareback, and mostly worked on him moving away from my leg at the walk. It wasn’t our most inspiring work, but despite the fact that it was dinner time, there was a horse jumping, and his co dependent older brother was screaming his head off; he stayed pretty chill and focused on me (sort of…).

    He even let me mess with his ears from above…. whaaaaat?!

    Lesson Notes: 12-7-18

    One of the things I love about sharing our barn with another trainer is that we have the opportunity to collaborate when we need too. The other trainer in the barn is a wealth of knowledge, and having her eyes on the ground is amazing.

    I scheduled my first lesson with her earlier in the week, and was super excited to get her opinion.

    The first thing she did was hand me a pair of spurs. I’d been toying with the idea of putting them on because Eli is pretty dead to my leg. In typical OTTB fashion, they have no clue what a leg aid means… we used little baby spurs and after one particularly exciting moment in which Eli tried to avoid work via murder, he figured it out pretty quickly.

    We worked on keeping his attention by lots of changes of direction, and switching between a more active medium rising trot and a collected sitting trot to get his brain more focused on me. Johanna used an ask, tell, demand level of aid strength and Eli got to learn all about it when he decided that the sitting to rising transition was not a thing he felt like doing.  After a few “telling” aids with my spur, he decided it was easier to listen and was then pretty snappy to move off my “asking” aid.

    Once we had his attention somewhat more focused on me, we moved to introducing a bit of a bend through the rib cage in both directions. I asked with an indirect inside rein, inside leg, and an opening outside rein to help guide him. My outside leg stayed soft and just there. Oddly enough his right side was a lot harder (which is his better canter lead) and I had to resort to a lot of “telling.” He was very good at twisting his body completely like a pretzel. Head upside down to the right right, shoulder left, rib cage right, butt… somewhere back there.

    Johanna was super encouraging and patient, and was awesome about reminding me which parts of the pretzel to focus on in a given moment. The main goal was the bend away from my leg.

    After we got some good baby bends in both direction, we called it good. I didn’t want to push him much further, since I could tell I was slowly losing his brain power. He probably has the shortest attention span of any young horse I’ve worked with in a while, but I have learned that what I work on for 5 minutes the first time, I can push to 10 the next, then 15, then 20…as long as I end on a high note. He seems to shut down when I ask for more too quickly.

    I’m happy to have some homework for this week, and am hoping we can apply it to his canter work in our next lesson!

    Candy!?

    Weird Bumps

    My Jake is the king of weird bumps, lumps, and various other strange happenings. I mostly blame it on the fact that he was an auction horse and therefore we don’t have the clearest history on him.

    Since Ash and I had the VHJA board meeting this past Saturday, I was super grateful when one of our talented juniors flatted him for me, and then Sunday I took as a family day… which means Monday I walked into the barn to Jake’s left front knee-ish swollen to approximately the size of a tree trunk. Typical.

    Nothing crazy was reported to have happened over the weekend, and the swelling was right below his knee which sent me directly into a panic about a tendon issue.

    I jogged him and he was sound, so he got the day off, ice boots, bute, and standing wraps.

    Things seemed to be unswelling by Tuesday, so we did some hand meandering (walking implies we went somewhere with a purpose… we did not) and back to wraps for the night.

    By Wednesday, he was cold and totally tight again, so I hopped on him for a school during which time he completely lost his marbles and got to spend some quality time on the lunge line getting the wiggles out.

    Nothing good comes of this look… nothing.

    I hopped back on a moderately more sane creature and schooled him until we got some quiet stretchy trot and called it good. That is literally the hardest thing ever for him, since he was worked incorrectly in draw reins for a bit before I got my grubby little paws on him. His default is to curl his nose to his chest… and then he’s got me had if he decides he’s a strong, independent gelding who don’t need no stinkin’ Mama.

    Long and low and stretchy… it’s a mind blowing concept to this guy, especially after two whole days off because of mysterious disappearing leg bumps.

    All seems well with the leg now… he hasn’t taken a lame step on it the entire time so the good Lord only knows what the heck is going on. We hit him with the Magnawave today, just in case.

    Maybe he was just too jealous of his little brother getting all the attention, and needed his fair share as well. He IS used to it being all about him. As the oldest of three, I can relate.

    Here’s hoping it behaves!