Equine

Fieldstone Recap!

Hey all!

As I’ve mentioned a few times, we were bringing a bunch of students down to Fieldstone Show Park in Halifax, MA for the June show, and since there was a spot open on the trailer, baby horse got to tag along.

All of my plans for him have been so open ended, because when he’s on, he’s great but channeling his energy and getting his brain to stay focused on one task is a huge challenge at HOME, much less a big horse show. GMHA went well, though, so I was hoping Fieldstone would too.

We left Tuesday morning and the dude hopped into the trailer like a champion and rode quietly the entire way. (Yes, we refilled the hay net… we’re not monsters!) He settled into our tent stalls, took a nap, and then marched around the grounds like it was all old hat. While his head was constantly on a swivel, he was respectful and had (mostly) full awareness of his body.

Sleepiest of lips
Checking out the Grand Prix ring

Wednesday started cool and damp, not the best horse show weather but we made the best of it, got our students settled and then got on the young horses to school. Since they have several warm up rings, we had options to stay mostly out of traffic. Eli marched up and we had a great 5 minutes of minor shenanigans but nothing out of character… until another horse cantered up behind him and he lost his marble. I had Ashley hop on him because my nerves were at an all time high, and she ended up taking him to a smaller ring where she got him to settle nicely. I hopped back on, and while he was still tense and spooky, I got him around a few times before we called it quits, and got everybody tucked in for the night in anticipation of a full day of showing Thursday…. and a trip to the SmartPak outlet!

Best. Place. Ever.

My bank account is thrilled I don’t live in MA… because I would move in.

I got my eye on you….

Turn out we got to show Thursday in the POURING rain…. POURING. I hand walked the young horses, did chores and was absolutely soaked through and shivering.

Ashley had a 3′ Open Hunter class and laid down really nice trips despite the weather and absolute slop that was the footing. The show crew worked their asses off, but it was raining faster than the rings could drain. That, combined with the amount of traffic made the conditions iffy, but they got the job done.

Eli took a bunch more handwalks, but that was the majority of the fun for him on Thursday, since we were a lot busier.

Friday brought… more rain in the morning, but the afternoon cleared up and we had students in the hunter and jumper rings, so were running most of the day. I finally got Eli out for a hack after the show was done for the day, and all was well until another horse in the warm up ran into him. We were both moderately frazzled and I hopped off, not wanting to put him in the position for it to happen again. The other rider honestly didn’t mean to, but was on another young horse who didn’t have much in the way of breaks.

We went to the lunge area, and I lunged him for about 45 minutes, and then Ashley hopped on him and hacked him around a quieter part of the grounds with great success. My brain was NOT cooperating, and I’m so thankful she was there to help me out.

After a complete meltdown to Brad on the phone, because this whole fear thing is getting REALLY frustrating, we agreed that I should try getting on him as early as possible and schooling. I checked in with the show office and was told that as long as it was light out, I could ride… so I set my alarm for 430 on Saturday and was at the grounds and mounted by 5 am.

It absolutely did the trick. We went around with no issues. Eli still looked at EVERYTHING and used all the distractions as an excuse to blow me off, but I was confident in getting after him and I got some really nice work out of him in the end. We did have one epic meltdown on the way home, when we passed the lunging ring. One horse blew up and it was just a domino effect… understandable.

Total light bulb moment, and something we will be incorporating into our show routines from now on… dating another horse trainer has proven to be helpful when we aren’t arguing about QH’s vs TB’s!

Saturday was a mostly chill day after the morning hack, with just one student in a handful of classes across two rings, so Eli got a ton more hand walks and even a visit from my folks! Eli showed his appreciation for their visit by almost running them over spooking at a storm drain, they went home and we ended up getting sent back to the barns for a thunder and lightning hold.

None of the commotion bothered the kid, who was happily stuffing his face. Hurricane winds (I’m being slightly dramatic), thunder, hail, lightning, rain blowing in sideways… none of it even so much as caused him to lift his head.. and we were in a TENT. Horses are weird.

I got to sleep off my early morning and then we were back to showing for the afternoon. Our students did an awesome job and everybody wrapped up the day feeling great.

Sunday was another really early, but really good morning with Eli being the Goodest Boi in the warm up ring, and my student with the other young horse lessoning really well. We had a quick morning, with more amazing trips from the kids (there were many happy tears) and more handwalking before we packed the crew up to head home.

One final snack run

All in all it was a great experience for Eli and I. I’ve learned a bit more about how he needs to be prepped, and he’s learning that being a show horse isn’t that big of a deal. We have a ton of homework to do before I feel confident that I’ll give him a great first trip in the show ring, but I was so pleased with how it all went.

As far as shows go, Fieldstone was great. The staff was super friendly and worked hard to make it a good show despite the constant rain. The accommodations were great, the facility was gorgeous, and the food was stellar (French toast sticks… that’s all I’m saying). The only thing I really could complain about was that the set up for lunging was horrific. The footing was a mess, and there was no fence around the area, which resulted in SEVERAL loose horses all week.

No matter what, though, I’m so grateful I have this horse in my life, and I’m so excited to see what we can accomplish together. We’re actually doing this thing!

Equine

Introducing: Fat Pete

If you follow me on IG or FB you may have noticed a new face…in the form of a rotund bay QH named Fat Pete.

Fat Pete came about a few weeks ago, in the form of a FB message from one of my clients.

My husband found these two free horses and what do you think?”

Attached to the ad was a flyer indicating that the owner had moved and was looking for a new home for her two older horses. They had been family horses for a long time, and had just been sitting in the backyard for the last four years.

I agreed to set up an appointment to go see them, after chatting with their owner, thinking one would make a good lead line horse for this clients daughter. The other would just come along for the ride as they were a bonded pair.

Unfortunately the morning that we were set to go see them, there was much chaos at the farm, which resulted in me getting a solid knock to the head and spending most of my day in the hospital.

(More on that, and minding my melon in a different post…)

Grounded for two whole weeks because of a concussion.

Ashley picked them up later that afternoon and I immediately got a text message that read, “Dude, these horses are so chill. They are exactly what we need.

Our client passed on them, so Ashley and I quickly became the proud owners of Fat Pete, and Joe (the draft cross).

The two are 17 and 18 years old and probably the best trail horses I’ve seen. We tossed the kiddos on them and they happily trucked all four of us around the hay field.

While Fatty needs a little bit of a refresher in what it means to have manners on the ground (stop screaming, dude), he’s great in every other aspect!

As a full time trainer with a barn full of young horses, I’ve sort of forgotten what it’s like to be able to hop on a fat QH and just plunk. I’m somebody who absolutely lives and breathes this industry, but relaxing on my horses isn’t much of a thing. Fat Pete IS exactly what I needed in terms of “fun” and introducing Liam to riding in a safe manner.

I think you’ll be seeing a lot more of Fat Pete around… as he seems to be able to restore a little bit of that ever elusive work/life balance for me, gives Liam a safe horse to learn on, AND makes BG happy that we’ve finally added a Quarter Horse to our ever expanding herd of Thoroughbreds.

Plus, he lets me braid his mane sooo….

I do want to add that we got lucky with these two… I don’t really encourage people to just blindly grab two free horses and hope for the best. Ashley and I are professionals with the means and knowledge to figure out any health or training quirks that might have come up and would have reacted to that appropriately.

Equine

Eli Goes to a Horseshow

Spoiler alert: he was a Very Good Dog!

Ashley and I took a few kids to the spring GMHA show this past weekend, and decided the baby horses would come along for the ride. We didn’t have any concrete plans for them, other than making it a great experience… and boy was it ever.

We unloaded and got settled into our stalls on Friday afternoon and wild horse was wild… to the point where we had to put the stall gate up because he was trying to climb out. The creature was freaking monkeying him self up and out the door because he just wanted to go see all the other horses and make friends. This horse loves friends… his friends don’t alway love him though. We’re working on it.

Since we weren’t planning on showing, he got a tube of quietex and some alone time to process all of the excitement. After about an hour he was settled and content to hang his head out of the door and watch the cars go by. We were lucky to be stabled in a quieter end of the barn sort of out of the fray of the grounds, and that helped a ton.

After giving the kids a lesson and hacking the clients horses, I took Eli out for a walk and a lunge to see what I had for a brain… it was hanging on by a thread but we decided since it was quiet, I should get on and let him see the warm up.

Conquering the scary bridge

He was good, but just barely. There was a lot of jigging around and head tossing because again, he just wanted friends, damnit! I got him around a few times, but my nerves got the best oof me, so we tossed one of our teenagers on board to see him go and he was a bit more settled. He hacked a few laps around and then we went back to his box to think about things over dinner.

He overnighted well and was sound asleep with his head hanging over the door when I got there for our leadline kid early on Saturday.

The lip gives it away. Much sleepy.

After breakfast I took him for a stroll and he was great, still looking but minimal dramatics over anything.

We got the girls through their classes and as Ashley was finishing one up, I tacked up Eli and we walked over to the warm up. He strolled around the grounds in a long rein, stood quietly while I chatted with another trainer, and didn’t lose his mind when somebody on a ranger couldn’t figure out how to get it into gear. He walked, trotted and cantered all the way around like a cool customer and I couldn’t have been happier with how he behaved.

He went to bed sleepy and we almost decided to put him in the Young’s on Sunday afternoon, however we ended up having a ring conflict with the girls so Ashley and I had to divide and conquer and we just ran out of time… he ended up chilling out in his stall most of the day, and getting handwalked every few hours before loading up and heading home.

I’m so happy he had such a great experience and he’s so exhausted today. We have the day off today, then we’re back to it tomorrow!!

I’m already excited for the next horse show, and am hoping to actually get him into the ring!

So much snoring.

“Mama hold me.”
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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.