Monday, February 28, 2022

Sometimes Horses Suck

Or….Why I Need Two Riding Horses. 

Or…Why I Need a New Husband. Just Kidding. Sorta. 

Saturday I took Hamilton for what turned out to be an absolutely fantastic ride. More on that another day (hate it when I do that?) because this topic is more on my mind. It’s always a struggle for me to leave a single horse behind, but I also didn’t want to lock Leonard in his stall for half a day especially since all horses were going to be inside all day Sunday due to the weather. I have left him out by himself in the past no issue. Never again. 

I called the Hubby from the trail head to ask how Lenny was doing and was told “he is fine! I worked on the fence line a bit and he came over to say hello a few times”  I was relieved and able to enjoy the ride. 

Then I got home. Leonard came trotting over as I put Hamilton out. I immediately saw blood. I looked over at Hubby to ask him where on earth that came from only to get told “oh. That must have happened when he was running amok like a lunatic”. What the actual?!?! How on earth is running like a lunatic the same as being just fine!!? I very much hit the ceiling. Which did no good since the damage was already done but had I known he wasn’t “doing fine” I’d have asked him to bring Lenny inside. Ugh. 

Not my definition of “fine”

I cold hosed the leg, scrubbed with betadine then wrapped him up. The good news was he wasn’t lame but he was pretty painful to palpation. Leonard got to spend the night inside. 

Cleaned up it looked a bit better. Thankfully while it is full thickness, the deep structures appear to be intact

Sunday morning he was still not lame but the leg looked more swollen to me once I took the wrap off. I gave him some bute, cleaned it again, poured more betadine on it then re wrapped for another night inside. 

He was the perfect boy for wrapping his leg. 

This morning the swelling was significantly improved with only a little remaining right at the wound and below the wrap. The wound itself was dry. He was less reactive to palpation as well. All good news!

Almost like a normal leg. 

I still doubt I will feel comfortable taking him to our lesson tomorrow. We will see how it looks tonight. I’m hoping I can leave the wrap off and send him out overnight tonight. If not, Hammy gets to go in his place. The joys of having two riding horses! The big bummer is that the CWD arrives today for 5 days which was going to be perfect timing to have EN look at the fit, but not now. Hopefully the leg is back to normal before the trial period ends or the lady is willing to let me extend it a bit due to circumstances beyond my control. We will see how that goes. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Throwing $$$ In the Air

Not really. I'm way too cheap frugal for that kind of lifestyle. Trialing saddles sure feels like throwing my money in the air and hoping it falls in the right place though. 

Here is what happened. 

EN immediately hated my saddle the moment she sat in it Tuesday night. She said it was soooo slippery, plus she fought her leg position in it which was likely the reason she is constantly having to remind me to bring my lower leg back under me while I ride. She also said she thought it was way too wide on him which was odd since the saddle sat level and produced even sweat marks. It really needed to be about 2 sizes narrower. Hmmmm....

Reusing this picture from Tuesday of the Thorowgood T8 on him. 

She asked if I could grab her saddle from the barn to try that on him. I was happy to do so. I walked in the barn and laughed out loud when I saw what was sitting on the saddle rack under the pretty teal pad: my much beloved and longed for CWD. 

I handed it to her not thinking it would actually fit him, but then we put it on his back fit beautifully. Damn. I could hear my bank account start to weep which turned into full on sobbing when my butt hit the saddle. Oh was it comfy. Oh was it so sticky. Oh but did my leg dangle straight under me with no effort at all. She never once had to tell me to adjust my leg. Damn again. 

Now, Leonard didn't move any differently in it than the T8 so who knows if the saddle fit is really an issue or if he is Mr. Stoic who won't show when he doesn't like it. I've only had him under 2 months with the T8 the only other saddle I have ridden him in. Maybe he would go amazing in something other than the CWD? I don't know. I hate saddle shopping. 

The CWD in question

I snagged a picture of the stamp then hit the internet at home to do some research. CWD was never an option for Eeyore, so I hadn't put a lot of thought in it. (If you are wondering how on earth I love it so much then - I test rode an OTTB I fell in love with when I was looking for Eeyore back in 2018. Unfortunately he failed his PPE spectacularly but the saddle has been on my dream list ever since). I learned how to read the stamp: this particular saddle was an SE01, size 18", long forward more round flap, pro panel with 5 mm build up in front and 10 mm to the middle and back. Apparently 5 mm accounts for about a thin saddle pad thickness, so I'm not really sure how much of a difference that makes or not. 

I hit the sale pages and consignment stores. Apparently the SE01 combined with a 3C flap is pretty easy to find. The panel configuration is a whole other ballgame though. Good luck finding those exact figures, but again I don't know how much of a difference that makes in the long run. We are talking about 5 mm here. And who knows if this one fit him that perfectly anyway. We aren't saddle fitters. A new CWD is completely out of the question. Not only are they a dime a dozen used for half the price, I adamantly refuse to ever spend that kind of money on a piece of tack. I don't judge those who do, but it isn't for me. 

I probably should try to see if a CWD rep could come to me with a van full for me to sit in. I've sat in the 2Gs and now the SE01, both seemed lovely but who knows if another option would be even better. There is a known condition of decision fatigue though and honestly? If it fits me as well as Leonard well enough, it is good enough for me. I'm never going to be a pro or show much (holy shit though but I looked up a show the barn is going to and about gagged on the price list!) so eh.

He looks good in it

Anyway...I found a saddle through a consignment store that was very close to those specs. It was a 17.5" instead of 18" which I'm interested in trying since I have always ridden in a 17.5" but maybe the 18" allows my leg to sit better due to the extra room. We will see. It is the SE01 with pro panels and 3C flap too. The only difference is that it has a different panel build up with 10 up front and 5 to the middle and back. This may make it not sit as level as hers or it could mean more wither clearance. We will see. If it doesn't work I am only out the $65 shipping fees both ways. If it does work out, the price is really good compared to others online due to some surface scratching and it being a 2014 saddle, so a bit older which I am 100% cool with. 

I can't wait until it arrives so I can try it. I get to keep it 5 days so in theory I should have it for my next lesson to see what EN thinks of the fit. Fingers crossed pleased! Not only would this be a great bargain, but it would get me my much dreamed of CWD finally!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Get Off My Leg!

Tuesday night lesson night did not disappoint. When I arrived I mentioned two issues to EN that I want to really focus on right now: my arms that love to lock out straight and his left lead canter which is easy enough to get but then he falls on his inside shoulder, counterbends and roots with his nose. It isn't pleasant to ride whereas to the right he remains upright, light in the bridle and straight. 

The arms ended up being a pretty simple fix though it will take a while for it to be locked into my muscle memory. I'm not sure if this is a discipline specific thing or just another huge whole in my education, but EN said the issue wasn't actually my arms but instead my hip angle. I need to ride with a lighter seat, more closed hip angle and while not leaning forward, I need to "scrunch" up a bit more versus my very upright posture with an open hip. Once I did those things, my arms naturally became softer with a bend at the elbow and a better feel in the reins. 

I switched out his half pad/shaped pad combo for this padded black one to try to give him more wither room. It didn't make a lot of difference. 

We then went right to the main issue at hand which also, not surprisingly anymore, had nothing to do with the left lead canter at all. The root of this problem is his habit of leaning on the inside leg for support. He is stronger going right, so it is less of issue that direction however it is still there. Big boy apparently needs to start to learn to carry his own moose self around. EN asked to hop on him to get a feel which then led to me spending all the dollars I could find, but more on that another day. For now, her goal was to get him to understand that the leg is there as an aide only, not to prop his body up. 

She worked him pretty much exclusively at the walk for this work really getting him to understand that he is to stand upright on his own. I could tell it was hard work for him, but true to his amazing personality, he tried his heart out even with some pissy faces thrown in to protest. By the time she handed me the reins, he was already sweaty and tired.

OMG guys! I feel like a real grown up rider now! Not only do I use a crop but she now gave me her spurs to try as well. It made moving him off my leg so much easier to allow me to soften quicker as well. Now to order my first pair!

 Once I was back on, it was my turn to help him continue to understand how to use that body of his properly. We'd be going along at the trot then as soon as I felt him start to lean inside I was to use my inside leg to ask him to move back over while keeping the contact in the outside rein and not losing the inside bend. Of course this was then followed by me having to time it correctly to soften once he gave me what I wanted. It was hard both physically and mentally, but the reward was amazing. The times he did soften, balance and went straight without me having to hold him up or constantly remind him to get off me??? WOW. If that is the end result I'm down for it. Holy crap.    

The canter work was much the same with the addition of using a driving seat to keep his in front of my leg which solved the rooting issue. Again, it was a lot of inside leg to outside rein. 

After all that she had us go over a small course. She wanted to see his reaction to "scary" stuff, so she used a flower box under one cross rail then created another with poles that had christmas tinsel wrapped around them. He barely noticed it.  Everything is still kept as barely elevated cross rails that he mostly steps over.  Below is a diagram with #1 and 4 being a ground pole. 

My attempt to draw this on my phone. Trot 1-2, left lead canter all the way back around past 1 to turn left for 3, right lead canter back around past 2 then canter over 4, left lead after 4. 

 By this time Leonard was pretty tired, so the canter work was getting sloppy. He went over everything without batting an eye. We did manage to get the correct lead over 2 but then he was like "I know! Left lead!' after 3 since that was pretty much always the answer earlier in the lesson, so we had to do a simple change through trot but I managed to keep it going over the pole. EN had wanted me to try to ask for a lead change over the pole but a) I have no idea how to do that and b) he was tired and getting a but pissy with me. Plus the next lesson entered the ring to warm up at this point which caused a lot of distraction, so we took it down to the trot. But then he was really rigidly bracing against my leg so she had me halt him. She told me to shove his haunches in at the halt, then ask for canter. Um...that would be a halt to canter transition and I've never done that before!

Too bad! I did what she said. We cantered!!! From a halt!! Nicely!! Softly!! It marked the perfect end to the lesson. 

Both of us were tired at the end but in all the best ways possible. I continue to not only learn a ton each lesson, but walk away with motivation to do the homework between times. While I love riding the horse I currently have, the glimpses of what he will be with consistent work are....mind blowing. I simply can not wait!!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Saddle Shopping Still Sucks

Seriously. Will I ever be done shopping for a damn saddle???? Ugh. At least, knock on all wooden objects, Hamilton is going great in his endurance saddle. 

Leonard has been using Gem's Thorowgood T8 jump saddle. I know it is "low end" but I really like that saddle. While it doesn't really put you in a solid position, it also doesn't fight you either. Plus, it is the only saddle I have ridden in that I could sit the canter easily without fuss on every horse I rode in it. I like the fact that it is nice leather on the seat and knee rolls, but synthetic everywhere else because I am not kind to my tack. Plus it is wool flocked too. 

Woke up the other morning thinking the Hubby was laying next to me still. Looked over to see this guy in his place. Fluffzilla never sleep son our bed, he chooses to sleep with the kiddo so it was extra odd waking up to him. 

Sadly, while the panels are perfect for his back and the gullet contours nicely to him, giving him the perfect sweat pattern every time, the wither clearance is not good at all. He has such tall and long withers which isn't helped at all by the fact that he is skinny (omg, so skinny you guys ick but it has only been 6 weeks since I brought him home so I am trying to be patient) with no musculature. Once he gets those pockets filled in the saddle will sit up away from his withers way better, but for now it isn't working. When the saddle is on his back without the girth or pad it has 2 fingers between the saddle and his body. Add a pad and then tighten the girth plus let it sink a bit with my weight and the front goes down to half a finger and farther back under the saddle where his long wither continues, it is resting on him. It is a testament to his good natured character that he is going at all for me. 

Sadly, the T8 only comes in their high wither version in the all purpose model. I was hoping this would be simple. Why do I bother with that hope??

Those tall and more annoyingly, LONG, withers need a lot of clearance. 

I know a wither relief pad will likely be our best friend, but I also need a saddle made for his body type, which to be fair to the T8 couldn't really be any more different than Gem's conformation, which is who I bought the saddle for. It wasn't supposed to fit this type of horse. 

Honestly, I am a bit stymied this time around. I know how to look for a saddle that fits a Gem shaped horse because I had been down that road a lot. But this is almost the polar opposite. I have an HDR I got for Eeyore right before he left me, but that has way too much rock in the panels and is a seesaw on Leonard's pretty flat back. Which reminds me, I need to sell that....

Einstein had had enough of our fence project. He curled into a tony ball to sleep. Sucks when they start getting older on you. He is 8 now. 

Looking online a bit, I really started to like the Passier line as they pretty much all have a wither cut back design and drop panel. Having never sat in one, I can't just order it and hope for the best. I reached out to the rep in Aiken but she said that they "don't work like other companies with a van full of saddles to try. You have to buy one on my recommendations and then I order it." HAHAHAHAHAAH. Yeah...ok. I'm not dumb enough to go that route. All that would do is leave me with an expensive saddle that I hate or doesn't fit and no way to return or exchange it. Too many horror stories out there for me to trust that process at all. 

So unless a consignment store with a very lenient trial policy (and hopefully free shipping at least one way, darn that process gets expensive fast) has one for me to snag, I won't be looking into that brand any farther. 

Bad Kitty found the old plastic easter egg stash in the back closet at 3 am because what is the fun of finding something loud to play with in the day time when nobody is home to hear you???

I've read that Albion may work as well, but then I've also read they have a lot of rock to the panels and Leonard is pretty flat. Honestly I'd love to find another exchangeable gullet saddle so that I can widen it as he puts that weight and muscle on. I bet he will go up 2 tree sizes by the time he is done. I have no interest in shopping 2 more times.

So any suggestions for a normal sized, fairly flat backed horse with very tall, skinny, long withers? I've read that the Harry Dabbs can work well for that, but had never heard of the brand before.  At this point I'm basically going to have to bite the bullet and start randomly ordering consignment saddles I like the looks of on trial to see what may work for us, but any tips on where to start are much appreciated. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Sometimes Things Work Out Alright

 I went and visited Eeyore over the weekend. 

“WTF are YOU doing here?” - Eeyore, definitely

He is looking so so good! He has already lost some weight and gained a lot of muscle tone. No more flabby belly for him!

His coat is shining like a copper penny. In fact, they told me that they are going to need sunglasses soon if he gets any shinier. He looks so healthy. 

Under saddle he is behaving himself like a good boy. He earned the nickname Bowling Bowl on his second ride when they introduced a grid and he blew through it legs flailing. Apparently he managed to leave all the rails up somehow but nearly gave everyone a heart attack. He lost his snaffle bit after that. I rode him in the wonderbit when jumping for that reason. They have him in a rubber mouth Pelham with converters and he seems to really like it.

Looking a lot less fluffy 

I got to watch the entire lesson and he was the best behaved pony out there. He tackled a very technical course without blinking an eye. I was proud of him!

After he was done, some of the riders in the group (it was a huge lesson of 7 riders!) did a few extra rounds with the fence height raised. H (Eeyore’s rider) came over to where I was sitting in the center of the arena on a rolltop jump.

He spent a good 10 minutes snuggling with me after his lesson. I think he was happy to see me but also happy I wasn’t the one who rode him. 

Eeyore was super snuggly with me! He tried to eat my pony tail, stole my hat, got all the scratches I could manage, and eventually rested his head in my shoulder and went to sleep. I called his bluff though as he hadn’t even broken a tiny sweat anywhere on his body. 

He was having the time of his life jumping around

Everyone there had nothing but amazing things to say about him. H adores him and calls him her best friend. She is already planning to go xc and hopes to go to her first HT this summer with him. The head trainer said she couldn’t find a better horse if she tried. 

I left feeling so happy and at peace with his current life. He looks a lot healthier off grass (he is on a dry lot with another chestnut Appy named Pony who is his BFF) , he is more fit and his demeanor overall was a lot calmer and more at peace than I’ve seen him in a long time.  He is also moving beautifully. The routine, consistency and attention are doing him wonders. 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Why I Trailer Out

 I had a friend ask why I bother to trailer out to lessons when the trainer will travel to me for the same cost. There would be some pretty great benefits to staying at home:  no travel time, no gas money, save on wear and tear on truck/trailer, control of arena footing conditions and I’d never have to share the space. Plus, if she were to set up poles or jumps I could keep them up to work over all week.

But I prefer to trailer out for several reasons. 

Nap time is serious business around here. Not sure who was supposed to be the look out but neither could stay awake for the job. 

1) Hauling is a great skill. It is nice to get the horse used to being loaded up every week, head to a new place and go to work. If we do ever show, it won’t be so foreign to him to show up someplace then go ride.

2) Exposure. While it is nice to ride in the comfort of my own property, getting him exposed to a busy boarding barn with horses being worked in other arenas, feed time happening, people coming and going is priceless. If we do ever show or go to a clinic, hopefully he won’t be as bothered by it all.

Doing some major fence line cleanup in preparation for a wood board fence to be installed hopefully this month. We walked away from the clean up tractor/wagon to look at something and came back to interrupt a thorough inspection occurring 

3) Courses/exercises. While it would be nice to have a pro set my arena weekly, I don’t have a full course of jumps, fillers and fancy standards to get Leonard over. Plus, in the past with them traveling to me, it seemed like setting up a full course or grid either ate most of the lesson time or just didn’t happen because of time constraints. This way I show up, the arena is already set and we get to work.

4) Selfish reason: it keeps it as sacred me time. If I ride at home, the kid or hubby always find some reason to come interrupt to ask something that for sure could have waited until my lesson was over. When I haul out, I can focus solely on the ride at hand.

I love Leonard’s look here like “What’s your problem?!”

5) Friends. It gets lonely riding at home all by myself all the time. While I am currently in private lessons until I reach a skill level that is compatible with a current group, the hope is to one day ride with others and make friends. Happily, while I selected this barn due to location purely, I later found out that two of my friends board there. Out of the 3 lessons I’ve had, I’ve had two nights where one has stopped by to chat after my lesson which is honestly a tiny piece of heaven in my hectic week. I wouldn’t have that at home.

For now, hauling the 4 miles is worth all the benefits it brings me so I plan to keep it up for the foreseeable future. We will see what the Universe throws my way to change that eventually as nothing stays the same for long, but for now I couldn’t be happier.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Jello Legs

 Oh wow folks. Learning to ride correctly is hard! But so much fun!

Tuesday night lesson night was a doozie this week. Of course Leonard got all the compliments yet again. EN is in love with him. The coolest thing with this horse is that not only does he think about things but he also gets better as the ride goes on, not worse as all my past horses have done as they get bored in the arena. He really seems to like this job. 

His pre lesson meditation session

The biggest focus was on balance. Leonard is pretty good going right at all gaits. Going left though is a whole other story. He is stiff, prefers to counter bend and then fall in on the left shoulder. So we were going around doing the exercise from last week of trot poles, leg yield to the rail then canter. Going left was a bit of a shit show to be honest. We’d do the poles, leg yield, get the canter but then when we hit the far side of the arena he’d look right, fall onto the left shoulder and next thing I knew we’d be a quarter length of the arena in from the rail as we went down the short side. 

I stopped and asked EN what I was to be doing because when I tried to use inside rein to get the inside bend I felt we just ended up even more to the inside and still counterbent.

Which then began the hardest exercise I’ve ever done both mentally and physically. She said that Leonard needs to learn to get off my leg as right now he is basically just leaning on it. I’m going to explain this wrong probably but I’ll give it my best shot. 

It is hard to get a good picture of him. He is always making funny faces

She had us start going right. I was to turn right but I had to keep him bending left as I did it. So outside rein was steady keeping the outside bend, inside rein was to be opened wide to lead him to the right. Outside leg was to push him hard to the right. Oh man did my mind get fried trying to figure this out while getting all my body parts to do what they were supposed to be doing. It was supposed to be a circle but we kinda did more lateral movement.

Once we made the right turn, we changed bend in a very small figure 8 to do it the opposite. Keep right bend but open left rein and push with right leg to move left. 

It seemed odd to be doing exactly what was going wrong but tell you what. It worked a miracle. After we did it a few times she let us going back on the rail going left at the trot and I’ll be darned but we stayed upright, balanced and off my left leg while staying out on the rail!

Better I guess

She said we can work up to doing it at the trot then canter eventually but I’ll tell you the walk was hard enough. My legs were just about used up at this point and we still had some jumping fun to do.

After that we did a small 3 fence course of cross rails with a change in direction after each. We trotted into them all but cantered out. It was fun and Leonard did great. He started to get playful after the course with a naughty head tuck between the front legs move that EN told me to nip in the bud now before the fences go up and he celebrates harder. But even with that he is like the safest horse ever.

I’ll tell you all this. I’ve never believed in a “heart horse” before but Lenny is really making me change my mind. He is super special. It sort of scares me how much I adore him.  I can’t wait to keep working with him and see where our relationship goes together. No rush. I’m honestly enjoying the journey more than I thought was possible with really no true destination in mind. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Mind Blown: Tapping

Disclaimer 1: No pictures. I spent the entire time with my jaw on the floor. 

Disclaimer 2: I am a complete alternative method skeptic. I don’t buy into animal communicators, chi, auras and most nutraceuticals. If you do, that’s great. No judgement. I went into this fully expecting it to be voodoo horse crap. 

As far as he would go to get back on to go home. 

A friend reached out to me to teach me a new technique she learned called Tapping. She went to a clinic recently and loved it. Now, my friend is a big alternative method fan. She loves essential oils, reiki, acupressure, and has an animal communicator on speed dial. So basically the exact opposite of me. When she excitedly offered to come show me to help with Hamilton’s new trailer phobia, I was happy to see what she had. I may be a skeptic but I’m an open minded one and figured at worst I’d at least get to spend time with my friend and my golden boy. Nothing wrong with that.

We took Hamilton to the arena and she began to work. She used a dressage whip to very lightly tap him right beneath his left wither. Tap tap tap tap tap. She watched his face intently. Any recognition of a response, from just a simple blink of the eye to a more dramatic release, and she would stop the tapping to “let his brain process what just happened”.


Nope. Sorry. Not going home. 

It took all of 1 maybe 2 minutes and his back leg cocked, his nose hit the dirt and his eyes closed. He nearly fell over! Hmmm….

She was very very good at recognizing the slightest give to the stimulus and stopping for a bit to let his brain adjust   A few times he’d look back at her like “what is this black magic?”. A few other times he would nudge me like “mom!! What’s happening to me?!”

She eventually moved to a spot right behind where the saddle would stop and wow folks. His manly bits let down, his hip cocked and he let out the biggest jaw cracking yawn I’ve ever seen him give. My own jaw was on the floor as well.

An hour later we had this. He used to be great at loading until we had an incident at home when Leonard was new and got put out with the other 3 by a very well meaning Hubby right as Hamilton got to the front of the trailer. They all started to squeal and carry on, he freaked out not being able to see, reared, hit his head and flew backwards off the trailer. He hasn’t been easy to load since. My go to lunge line technique failed this day so now I’m trying another one and having my trainer with Leonard come out to help as well. 

We moved to the other side and she gave me her magic wand. I wasn’t as quick to release the tapping as she had been. I didn’t recognize the blinking and tiny lip quivers as quickly as she had but I got it by the end. The last spot was his chest which she says is the magic restart button on her horses. I was tapping lightly and he nearly fell over then stood back up, grabbed the stick and stole it!

We both laughed. Afterward he was sooooo relaxed. I’ve never seen him like that before. I’m not sure what all voodoo that was, but I’m a firm believer in it after seeing his response. She said to do it only a few times a week so I plan to add a bit in to life here and there. Her horses have been using it for long enough that she uses it in warm up before a show (she not only shows western but cleans house doing it) if her horse is getting anxious in warm up or out on trail if they seem to get tense. She will use her fingers or the end of her reins to lightly tap them until they relax.

I want to try it on Leonard too as he can be quite anxious. It will be interesting to see his response. She says that her one ranch horse doesn’t respond at all to it. Her mules love it as does her main paint show horse so we will see where it falls for mine. I can whole heartedly tell you Hamilton loves it though so I will add that into our routine.

Monday, February 14, 2022

10ish Solo Miles for Hamilton

It’s so hard for me to remember that Hamilton is only 7 and has only had 2 prior solo trail adventures with me. He is just such a darn good horse. 

My goal was 10-12 miles Saturday. We ended up just shy of that and had a nearly perfect outing on a gorgeous 70F degree day. What more could you ask for?

It’s so weird for me to experience my favorite conditioning trails from my Gem days now on Hamilton. Starting over from the start with a new horse really makes me recognize all the skills that I had taught Gem but took for granted by the end of our almost decade riding together. It’s pretty cool to start re teaching those skills again especially in a horse who has a lot of similarities to Gem though is much more level headed and doesn’t spook at every single stick in the forest floor.

I’ve never ridden across this water crossing. I prefer to hand walk across the slick rock it just seems safer 

One issue I think we are nearing the end of is water crossing. He has always led across on foot no issues but going over while mounted has been another story. I’ve been slowly working on it by leading him across on foot back and forth a few times then remounting and going over mounted a final time. It only took the very first small creek like this on this outing. The rest of them he went right through without needing led on foot first! 

He had a lot of fun splashing in the river. I’d like to figure this trail out backwards so that the water is closer to the end this summer as it warms up. Otherwise you hit water at mile 3 and then nothing the rest do the way.

When I chose Saturday’s trail it was with the thought that it was mostly flat so we could work a bit more on our pace. Hahahahah! I guess Gem had been so fit by the time I found this system that it didn’t seem hilly. Riding it now on Hamilton I saw the reality of how technical it really was. 

There are two lakes to ride by when taking the longer loop

I don’t like to trot downhills until the horse is pretty balanced. Kinda like in jumping when people say a horse only has so many jumps in them, in endurance a lot of folks believe a horse has only so many down hills in them. Agree or not, trotting an unbalanced horse downhill isn’t enjoyable or safe so we spent a lot of time walking. By about mile 5 I started letting him trot down the smaller, less steep sections as long as he listened to a half halt at the top. He seemed to start to get the idea some. 

One major tool Hamilton lacks, that Gem also lacked at the start, is how to read a trail. He goes straight regardless of where the trail itself goes which means we end up in the trees a fair bit. He also doesn’t have the best flexibility or bend yet which doesn’t help on the tight, twisting single track trails.

He had a moment with this park bench at mile 6. He sniffed it for a solid 10 minutes. At one point I thought he was going to climb up on it!

It means that I walk a lot of places I’d prefer to trot at the moment. He also likes to go one speed, as fast as possible,  and hasn’t figured out quite yet that sometimes a slower trot is better. He is starting to figure it out though. It was about mile 7 or so and there was a gorgeous single track winding section after a lot of hills that we walked. I asked him to trot and it was the coolest feeling!!!! He started to actually watch the trail, slow down and balance before a turn, then speed up again after. I could feel the idea begin to click!!!!!

We only had one oops moment that wasn’t his fault. We left our picnic bench and headed back down into the woods. All of a sudden he spooked hard. It was the first time I’ve had him spook so I was a little confused. His spook was a tensing, turning and going maybe 3 strides before I got him back. Nothing scary at all. I saw two hikers come around a bend ahead but he has seen lots of hikers before. They asked if they had scared him and apologized but I told them they were fine as I gave him large pats. 

Well then a lady up on the trail above us on a large black horse shouted down “Oh! It was probably my dog who ran up behind his back legs! Hahaha!”  Um?? WTF?! I not politely at all told her the next time I’d kill the dog myself if my horse didn’t cave his head in with a well deserved kick. She spurred her horse on and galloped off screaming for her dog.  I HATE loose dogs. I HATE people who ride on public land that is a clearly marked dogs must be on a leash and have their dogs off. You have zero control over your dog from horseback and very nearly caused an accident. Ugh. 

Finding snacks along the trail is hard this time of year

It also ruined the ride as now Hamilton was on edge for a long time, finding random crap to get worried about that has never bothered him before. We came to a spot where turning right led back in 3 miles and left was closer to another 6. He had the physical ability to go left but mentally he was done, so I went right and cut the ride a bit shorter than I planned. We came across a couple other groups of hikers with dogs on leash and Hamilton politely stood off trail while the passed us. Good boy didn’t deserve that nonsense. 

Anyway.. we made it back to the trailer in decent time for a hot day and hilly trails. I was super proud of him. Feeling the ideas start to formulate on how to navigate the trail at speed was really really cool! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Lesson Night Is The Best Night

Last night we had our second lesson. I had worked hard on our homework and felt good going into it. Hubby had taken the day off work for farm stuff so I even have media! That’s a super rare thing so be prepared for overload. 

First up was the leg yield. I’m still not very good at it but we did mange a few lateral steps so that’s a win. Below is a video of our attempt and me getting scolded for barely using the crop she gave me.

And a cherry picked screen shot showing that tiny cross over over the front legs:

Can I also point out how absolutely adorable his face is?!

EN got right to the canter this lesson. We maybe trotted once around the arena before she asked me to canter. I was proud to tell her I had practiced that at home. It paid off too as we managed to canter decently both directions!

The first time going right:

One thing she did get after me a bit about was a too abrupt down transition to trot. In all my past riding I always had to trot right now, not in 2 strides. When she said to trot I trotted but EN didn’t like how abrupt it was. She wanted me to let it be sloppy for a while, set him up with some half halts, use my voice and slowly let him come down so that he can sit into it better. 

She was pleased enough that I made it in a mostly straight ish line that we moved on to poles. 

His first couple times through he wanted to skip over them. 

He stayed so nice and relaxed though that it didn’t bother me in the slightest. In fact, nothing he did Tuesday night bothered me at all. I never once, even when the task got harder and more technical, had that ugly knot in my stomach I’ve had when riding for the last decade. 

Maybe a little too relaxed there buddy. Keep those eyes open for me!

We then moved on to the coolest exercise I’ve ever ridden. She explained that she likes to use a certain exercise to teach the horse to move away from the “fence” without teaching them to rush. This exercise is also her favorite for putting a lead change on horses too so that was a pretty cool look into our future.

She made the tiniest cross rail which Leonard never actually jumped. He is so tall he just used it as a raised trot pole, but that was fine as jumping wasn’t the point. The point was to teach me ho to ride the backside of a fence. This is massive. I have never, ever been good at riding the backside of a jump and have blogged about that before. This is what I am loving about EN. She explains everything and is actually teaching me how to do things not just throwing me into a course and then getting after me for all my faults. We are breaking things down into the finer details and I have a feeling it so going to make me such a better rider.

Ummm…that wasn’t supposed to be a trot pole there buddy. 

So the exercise. Trot up to the crossrail going right then land and leg yield left to the fence and then pick up the right lead canter. We did this with a second cross rail as well with a leg yield right then picking up the left canter.

It gave me a lot to think about and manage instead of my brain going “aaaaahhhhhh we didn’t die!” and shutting down.  She explained some more technical stuff about how it really sets him up nicely to pick up the correct lead and understand where we are headed after the fence. 

We strung the two together for a final run through and he was such a good boy. I swear my heart swelled 10x it’s size.

We wrapped it up there. She apologized because it wasn’t quite the full 45 minutes but I assured her that I’d rather stop early than push it. He had been such a good boy. I had had so much fun. It was a success in my book whether it was a full 45 minutes or not.

When we walked out she gave me the best compliment. She said that if she were horse shopping she’d buy a thousand Leonards. He is calm, but not behind the leg, not reactive and has a massive natural stride. She said our eventual issue will be teaching him to collect but she’d rather than than teaching a horse to move out to get the strides. 

I mean, who wouldn’t love this face??

I’m just happy I finally found a horse that I adore riding again. I very nearly quit riding altogether but Leonard has taught me to love it all over again. I know I said he was in a trial period and may not be a permanent family member but that trial is over. Leonard isn’t going anywhere. Not for all the money in the world.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The Difference 24 Hours Makes

It is telling that after what was a terrible encounter on Saturday, my first thought Sunday was how badly I wanted to get back on Leonard to try again. In the past with Gem and Eeyore I’d avoid them for as long as I could get away with, dreading getting back out there again. 

But Leonard is different. There is something about him I can’t quite put my finger on. 

Leonard went down for a nice roll

Sunday I grabbed both my boys. Leonard was up first. He was back to his typical amicable self. He even stood still at the mounting block which isn’t a typical skill for either of them. I started in on my homework with leg yielding to the left. It went ok. I’m not sure I’m asking right but I did feel some decent lateral movement from him a few times both directions.  

Then, even though he had been a powder keg the day before, I worked on the canter. We made it all the way around the arena! I was so so excited!!! His canter is amazing. 

Then he stopped flat on his side and didn’t move for a while though I could see his lips trying to graze while laying down

After that I called it a good ride and grabbed Hammy. He reminded me that he is not an arena horse but we managed to make it partially useful to be in there. Hammy is more my emotional support horse so I could care less what we do together. All of it is soul soothing.

Between the two rides I got a message with three videos of Eeyore being ridden at his new barn. They were highly complimentary saying he was being the best good boy ever. He looked happy to be doing things. It made my heart happy.

I began to get a little nervous because he was just laying there. He eventually got up and looked at me all “what’s your problem?” I checked on him later to make sure it really was an ADD moment mid roll and he was fine so I don’t know. Horses. 

What a difference 24 hours made for us all. 

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Too Many Emotions For One Day

 Saturday afternoon I dropped Eeyore off at his new barn. I had offered to bring him as I wanted to check out the place, look at the other horses on the property, and also so he didn’t think he was sold. I know. Silly. It was important to me though that I dropped him off versus him getting loaded in a strange trailer by a stranger. 

I’m glad I did too. I cried the entire time I led him from his pasture to the barn. Cried some more as I groomed him for the last time. Cried as we drove up. But then we arrived early and the instructor was teaching a group lesson. I sat in the sunshine and watched the mixed group of pony to massive draft cross, young girls to older women as they tackled the lesson. There was one little German riding pony that caught my attention as he was Gem incarnate in attitude and behavior. I watched as there were some stops. The trainer (who is the one leasing Eeyore) was so calm, so pleasant. There was no “smack him with the crop and get him over”. There was no “yank on him”. Only a simple “ok…bring him back around and this time keep your leg on him”. The jumps were kept low to work on the skills but keep the wear and tear down. At the very end she raised them “to height” for one last course for each rider starting with the one going Training level and lowering it for the rest going what looked like BN. It was really really awesome. 

I took going away pictures to document his condition (scruffy and fat). He also got a microchip.

By the time the lesson ended and I got Eeyore off the trailer I was feeling a lot better. I cried again as I put him in his new stall and walked off, but it wasn’t the same deep sadness. He was already surrounded by 4 girls fawning over him, telling him how cute he was. He didn’t even look towards me. It was good. The lady told me I’m welcome to visit at any time.  I can come ride him at any time too since I still own him but I told her that I really don’t want to ride my wild orange beast. I will see him though and I hope to catch him at a show to cheer him on. I think this may be a very good thing for him.

I came home and took a nap then awoke to ride Lenny. Oh man did that go sideways fast. I made a very, very big mistake upon getting home. The Hubby does morning chores, getting up at 530 am so that I can sleep until 630 am, and asked if we could try putting the remaining horses back together to make his life easier. I didn’t think it would be an issue. They had all been one big group initially and did ok. More recently, I’ve been throwing whichever OTTB wasn’t being ridden in with the others when I took the other away - Lenny got to be in with them when I trail ride Hammy and then Hammy went out with them when I took Lenny for his lesson. It was a peaceful herd.

Goofus and Galliant. Am I too old? Anyone else remember that comic from Highlights?

Yeah. Not so much now. Adding both Hammy and Lenny to Gem and Pete did not go well. Gem has always been BFF with Pete and Eeyore didn’t really change that dynamic at all. She never gave a darn about them during her heat cycles. I guess she is more a TB woman because she stirred up those two boys like I’ve never seen. Unfortunately for Hammy, who has stars in his eyes when he sees her, Gem seemed to take more of a shine to Lenny. It wasn’t a happy love triangle and Poor Pete was basically banished.

I’ve fixed the issue by separating Gem and Pete back to their own pasture, but not before I made a second mistake in trying to ride Leonard. I shouldn’t have even tried. He was funky leading him in, dancing on the end of the lead. He had ants in his pants on the cross ties. I could see his muscles quivering. Stupid me tacked up anyway.

Found this photo from a few years back. One of my favorites of Wyatt and Einstein on a hike. 

I managed to get on him by pure luck and then managed to not die by even more luck. He was not happy. Although looking back now he wasn’t that bad. All 4 feet stayed firmly on the ground, no rearing or bucking happened. He didn’t bolt. We just didn’t walk. Instead we jigged. We didn’t go straight. Instead we contorted like a pretzel. I made a goal of walking once around the arena and once we managed that I planned to get off. Only when we made it around and I asked to halt he just could not do it. It took a while but eventually I had him stopped enough to slide down. Then we worked on ground work for a long while before he chilled and I took him inside for dinner. This also displeased him as we moved him into Eeyore’s stall since that has the feed box in it. Lenny doesn’t like change very much.

Once evening chores were done, the horses were split up once again, and I made it inside it was a tall glass of Bermuda Vanilla Rum and Pepsi (what I had on hand) for my nerves. It was a day of heightened emotions for sure. I hope everything chills out and works out for us all.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Lesson Rock Star

 Eeek!! Tuesday night was so so so amazing folks! I’m having a hard time writing it up as I want to get the details down for future reference but I also just want to go squeeeeeeeee!!!! I’ll try to find a good balance. 

A local barn posted that they had openings for haul in lessons. The barn is only 4 miles from my house so I figured it was worth a shot. They focus on hunters with some jumper students as well as a good foundation on correct flatwork. According to Trainer EN “If your horse moves properly they will be happier in the work and healthier for the long term”. That is a philosophy I can get behind. 

She had an opening for Tuesday evening at 5 which is the perfect day/time for me as Hubby picks the kiddo up that day getting home around 615 ish. That means I can enjoy my lesson guilt free! I rarely do anything guilt free so that alone is a big win.

First big boy adventure for the Baby Moose

Mr. Leonard was the chosen one since Hammy doesn’t jump and Eeyore is spoken for. I admit to being quite nervous driving the 10 minutes over there. I mean, I was about to ride with a brand new to me trainer at a brand new to me facility on a basically brand new to me horse. But you know what? I told myself to get my head out of my ass and lighten up. This was a lesson, I’m supposed to learn while making mistakes and if the trainer couldn’t understand that then it wasn’t going to be a good fit.

I hopped on and the lesson got serious immediately. You know, I’ve been riding English under a trainer since 2017 (1.5 years with Trainer J then almost 3 years with AB) and I learned more in the first 15 minutes of this lesson than I had in all that time combined. It was pretty eye opening to see the holes I have as a rider.

We started at the walk and EN asked if I knew how to leg yield. Nope! Apparently now was the time to learn. So we started at the walk and you know what? Leonard already has that button firmly installed. He was such a good boy and tried to do the right thing every time! Squeeee #1.

It was harder going right but that was mostly because my left leg doesn’t exist, but still he did respond to my ask when I got it even closely in the same ball park as the correct way and feeling his body shift over was so cool! 

The only other picture I managed to take Tuesday. 

Then EN asked if I knew haunches in. Nope! We started going to the right at the walk, I asked how she instructed me to and his butt shifted easily to the inside. Leonard knows that button too! Squeeee #2!!

After a little bit of that we shifted up to trot. This is where Mr. Leonard showed his own little holes and gave me the biggest chunk of homework. Leonard is 17.1H and all legs yet when he trots he takes the teeniest tiniest little steps. EN wants him moving more naturally with bigger strides so that he can use his body normally. We worked a lot on opening up those legs, relaxing his back and stretching him out and down. The coolest part??? We moved down the long side and she asked me to make my posting bigger, faster. Leonard responded by opening up his stride. Then at the short side EN asked me to slow my posting, make it smaller. Mr. Leonard, aka Coolest Horse I’ve Ever Had, immediately came right back down to his slower, smaller trot. Squeeee #3!!!

We tried to leg yield at the trot but something is seriously wrong with my posting mechanics because it was nearly impossible for me to accomplish. Leonard was also starting to get tired at this point as we really pushed him to open up that stride and stretch his back which isn’t something he has done in the month I’ve had him at the least.

Repeat images for the win

Then the wheels sorta fell off highlighting both Leonard’s naughty side plus a massive hole in my riding. EN wanted me to canter. Long time readers know that cantering is not my strong suit. But we do need to figure that gait out so it was now or never. Most of my cantering issue isn't actually the canter, it is the transition. I get tense, I tip forward, I forget I have legs, then I forget I have reins and it all sorta goes south before we ever begin. I warned EN of this in advance. 

I set Leonard up (and actually got a compliment at my reaction to make sure the trot was good before asking!!) and asked. He picked up the absolute most dreamy canter I have ever experienced. I thought Hammy had a good canter. Not compared to Leonard. OMG. In fact, it was so light, so smooth I got yelled at for asking him to canter when he already was. I could barely tell! 

But....then it came to bright blinding light that Leonard and I have a major issue to sort out at the canter. On my side - I forget to steer. Like seriously. I focus so much on my lower body that I don't look where I'm going, have zero plan on where to even go if I was looking, flop my reins around and pray to the Universe I don't die. Its bad. 

On Leonard's side - he was tired. He didn't want to work any longer. He knew I was being a completely worthless sack of potatoes and so he made an executive decision to end this shit right now. He barreled straight to a flower box. We weren't even any where near it nor pointing at it. He turned then headed straight for it. I freaked picturing us launching over it. So I pulled him to a stop right in front of the flower box. EN sorta laughed, but mostly got after me about never, ever letting Leonard cut into the center. She said Leonard has learned from someone a naughty lesson pony trick: when tired, head to the center of the ring and stop. 

The rest of the lesson was then focused on teaching Mr. Leonard, who now insisted on always pulling towards the center of the ring at every gait, that the only time we rest was on the rail. When I'd ask for trot I'd make a diagonal slightly into the center then leg yield back out to the rail. Once he was trotting nicely on the rail he could walk. It took a bit, but he is really a naturally Good Boy who tries really hard to do what I want, so it wasn't much. 

We cantered a few more times until I could canter down the long side without losing my shit then called it a day. He was TIRED. I was ELATED. I hadn't stopped smiling from the moment we started walking at the very beginning of the lesson. I learned so so so much.

I went into the lesson figuring I'd do every other week lessons, but I left it wanting more. I WANT to learn on Leonard. I want to figure this stuff out and I want to do it as often as I can manage. For now, I'm going to do every week. It really helps that not only is Mr. Leonard safe at his core, but he also wants to do what I am asking (for the most part), has a really big heart full a try, and it also doesn't hurt that his gaits are the best quality I will likely ever ride in my life.