Equine, RRP ‘19

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?!

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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!?
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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!

Equine, RRP ‘19

Go Time!

It’s officially past Dec 1st, which means it’s on like Donkey Kong for Eli so we can be in contention for the ’19 RRP. Trainer applications open Dec 15th.

For the non-horsey types reading (hi, mom!) the RRP is the Retired Racehorse Project. It’s held in KY in the beginning of October and is a great way to showcase what these awesome horses can do. Part of the rules is that the horse cannot have more than 15 rides before Dec 1st. Since the last recorded work/race cannot be before (for example, for this year) July ’18, this levels the playing field for all the competitors.

They have several different disciplines from trail to dressage, but Eli and I will (hopefully) be accepted into the Eventing portion of this adventure.

I wanted to make sure we stayed well under our maximum amount of rides, so while I did hop on straight off the track to evaluate the dude’s mind and soundness… he’s been enjoying the last three weeks or so doing mostly nothing but eating.

Sorry, bro.

Luckily I had the presence of mind to pop him on the lunge line before swinging a leg over, since it was ALSO only about 20* for the first time in a week and a half. Wild baby was wild. Until he wasn’t.

Turns out being fat means the wind comes out of your sails a lot faster than normal.

There was a lesson going on in the indoor, so to avoid any unnecessary collisions, I hopped on and then we watched.

Take notes, you heathen.

Eli happily stood patiently during the entire lesson, which was somewhat shocking to me, and I was super grateful to the trainer and rider in the ring who let us hangout.

After the lesson was finished we headed to the rail to see how spunky he was going to be… I’m fairly convinced I’m going to have to rechristen him as the Elephant because it was a bit like trying to squeeze frozen toothpaste out of a tube.

He was more interested in the other horse schooling, and the flowers, and jumps, and poles, and -insert thing here- than actually trotting in a straight line. He never actually spooked at anything. He just had to touch it all. It was like trying to get my toddler through the grocery store when he insists on walking “by me, no mama!” (Alone).

At this rate we’re going to have to petition for a western pleasure class, since slow and stretchy seemed to be our jam. Judges be damned if none of it was actually in a straight line.

I’ve also started kicking my own butt into gear at the gym and in the kitchen. *sob* Good bye deli pizza… hello smoothies.

I’ll share my workouts as I go, so I can hold myself accountable and share some of the things I’ve been doing to develop my own damn self into the athlete I expect my horses to be.

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Unlearning

So much of the process when getting horses like I do, is spending a ton of time figuring them out. I have made 100% of my own horses my entire life, and I seriously enjoy the process. Both the boys right now are lovely, quirky, creatures. Figuring them out has been like a puzzle to me. Jake especially, since he has a significantly more sordid past than Eli does.

Problem child.

I recently stumbled across a quote on Pinterest that made me do some soul searching about how I think about my process.

Much of what I do is transforming these guys into solid citizens, so they can move on to good jobs (except Jake, he’s around forever). I am constantly wondering why they aren’t learning this or that or the other thing… and this quote is really helping me to switch around my internal dialogue when it comes to some of their quirks.

Eli with his head shyness. He doesn’t need to learn to let me touch his ears… he’s already tried to learn that and was led astray. He needs to unlearn that I’m not going to misuse the trust he gives me to force him to do something.

Magnawave has helped SIGNIFICANTLY!

Jake, with his bucking. He knows how not to buck. Now that we finally have a solid reason behind it, (he’s cold backed) and a plan to help him; it’s now on me to help him unlearn some of the habits that have been created while we were figuring it all out.

For my mental process, at least, it’s much easier to think of it as unlearning some of these quirks than it is to think of it as retraining. Maybe I’m just an eccentric duck, but it seems to be working with both of these monsters much faster than when I just tried to train them not to do something. Then it seems like an actual transformation instead of just fixed.

I’m going to trust them both that they can unlearn just as quickly as they learned and I will (eventually) have two wonderful, fun, solid citizens!

What do you think? Retraining or unlearning?

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Snow Day!

Hey there,

It’s totally no surprise that it snows in Vermont, but I think that no matter how old I get I will always be excited for the first real snow of the season. I happened to wake up to it today, and couldn’t get my clothes on fast enough to get to the barn.

The first gallop through fresh snow is kiiiiiind of what I live for in the winter. The horses love it too, so everybody is a bit frisky. Luckily snow also makes for a soft landing. 😉

I hopped on Eli bareback and took him for a spin around the outdoor, and I’m not sure who enjoyed it more! I’ve been working a TON lately so this was a great way to give myself a mental break and just have fun with the big guy. That balance is SO important.

Our barn has also started hosting twice monthly Wine n’ Ride type of events and it’s been a super fun way to socialize with other adults and unwind.

The local corner market even started stocking some fun wines in horsey themes for us!

The community surrounding this farm is absolutely amazing, and I’ve really been enjoying getting to know everybody. It’s so tight knit. The type I only thought existed in novels. My lunch trips to the local deli to catch up on the gossip, and realizing I’m starting to know who is who on the road has really been awesome. People even ask after Bug when he’s not with me!

It’s so comforting to know that on my drive in today, even though it was sketchy, I had a list of people I could call if I got into trouble. It makes me excited to move even closer in the next few years, and really blend with these wonderful people! I’m excited for Bug to grow up as part of the community and let this be his life as well. The stability is a blessing, and something I didn’t realize was missing when I was growing up.

I hope to enjoy many, many, many more snow days in Charlotte. I think having the local gossip to catch up on will make the winter go by much quicker than it usually does, that’s for sure.

Equine, Family

Settled

Hey there!

Long time, no blog. I’ve honestly missed it! I love to write, regardless of who’s reading.

The good news, is that it’s been for a good reason… we’ve moved! We loved our life on the farm, but I can say that we’ve settled really well into our new townhouse. I never quite realized the weight of all the memories I had on the farm until I spent my first night at the new place. Despite the chaos of boxes and baskets, there was a certain calm that allowed me to sleep sounder than I have in a long time. The prospect of starting fresh and making my own memories here with my crew has me excited for the future.

We still have an amazing yard for Bug and the dogs, but now we have sidewalks for running on, parks for playing at, and neighbors to socialize with. We’re so much closer to all the things that make life easier, but still off the main road enough to keep things quiet and safe.

Combine our new home, with taking another big step in my equestrian career, and you’ll see what else has been keeping me busy as well!

Last month, as we were in the middle of house hunting, I was planning a trip to NY with my boss. She’d found a lovely OTTB prospect at Finger Lakes and asked if I’d make the drive up with her. I was absolutely game… then while scrolling through the listings to find her new guy I *happened* to stop on a handsome bay gelding with a huge shoulder.

On a whim, I reached out to his trainer to see what the deal with him was and the pieces clicked into place quicker than I expected, and I sent Ashley a text the morning of VHJA Finals asking her if we had one more spot on the trailer because I had *accidentally* ended up with another horse.

We were going to be there anyways…

I added Eli to my string based off of less than a 5 minute conversation with his trainer, and a handful of pictures. He was one of the best choices I’ve made in the industry in a while, and is quickly proving himself a superstar! I don’t want the blog to be overwhelmed by all his updates, so feel free to give his FB page a “like” if you want to keep updated on his progress!

LB has been continuing to rock his life as a barn baby, and while we have moments where I wish I wasn’t waiting on a daycare spot to open up, I’m genuinely happy I get to bring him with me on a daily basis. I can’t think of a better life for him even though the days can get pretty long.

I’d love to do a whole post on how we make it work (snacks…the key is snacks), because this life really is pretty amazing.

I’ve been so proud of Bug’s ability to just go with the flow through all of this upheaval. He’s such an independent, flexible kid who is always game for an adventure; no matter where it might take us. I can’t really ask for anymore than that.

So, with that I’m going to sign off for now with the hopes that now that we have internet, I can get to writing on the regular!

Peace,

Cathleen