Thursday, February 28, 2013

Time to move on

Alex ended up getting two days off instead of the one I had planned, but honestly I was just too worn out yesterday.  Today was another cold dreary day that turned into a cold dreary night.  Despite the weather I was ready to hit the barn tonight after a crazy day at work.  I fully expected Alex to be a little wild, but he surprised me by actually being a little affectionate and sleeping in the cross ties.  Even better surprised me again by being an absolute gentleman for our entire ride!

I raised the cross rail a hole and changed out the poles so he could see something new.  Alex is so enthusiastic about jumping that his first jump over the cross rail is usually his best.  He's such a smarty pants now that he starts jumping lazy if I make him jump back and forth over the cross rail too many times. 

Looks like it's time for a new challenge.  Tomorrow I'll have to start setting out more standards and making it look like a grid.  I'd love to have him started through a grid of cross rails by the end of the weekend :-)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

So far, so good :-)

Yesterday Alex went back to work after a well deserved Sunday siesta.  We started out lunging which turned out to be a good thing, because the gremlins in the corner were playing with the curtains and Alex was spooking at it repeatedly.  After about 25 minutes on the lunge, he finally gave up.  I didn't do a ton of flat work since he'd already done a lot of work on the lunge.  He was very good, nice both directions at the trot and really solid canter depart to the left (the right was much better, but still needs work).  I decided not to belabor my point and move on to our cross rail which had been raised a hole since Saturday.  Alex was such a star, we went very forwardly right over, nice and round and even cantered away a few steps.  He's best to the left, but he improved by leaps and bounds to the right which made me very proud.  Alex was proud of himself too, he got so excited in between treks to the jump that he became a little bit of a "hot potato."  I'm fine with that though, because it means he likes jumping :-)

It's hard to explain, but I know you riders will understand, he has such a nice comfortable jump when he hits it right.  Even though he's green, he feels very solid underneath me.  So excited to start adding to our gymnastics.  Tomorrow, I'd like to raise the cross rail maybe one more hole and get him going really forward both directions.  Then it will be time to add another cross rail to the gymnastic.  Don't want to rush him, but I do think he gets bored once he figures something out, so don't want to move along too slowly.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

And... JUMP!

I have been so busy over the last few days there has been no time to update the blog. 

Alex had his feet done on Wednesday and my farrier said they looked great which was a huge relief.  Since he had just had his tootsies done, but I didn't want to lose two days in a row, I just lunged him in the surcingle.  Despite his newly minted shoes, he worked completely sound, which was also a relief since he was always a little ouchy after shoeing before the abscesses.

Thursday and Friday we did LOTS of work on the flat (necessary because he was a little wound) and tripped over more tiny small cross rails.  Overall they were very productive rides so I was happy.

Saturday was a big day. I decided it was time to actually jump a real cross rail. The hubby came to take some more video for me and his parents were there to watch which was also a big deal, since my parents-in-law have never seen me ride Alex. I won't go on about it, I'll just let the video speak for itself :-)

Alex was so good, and I think he really enjoyed himself with is fantastic.  I really want him to love jumping  Obviously I'm a nerd for having so much fun with the video editing software, but I was having so much fun!

Tomorrow it's back to work and hopefully more jumps.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Letting go is the hardest part

Yesterday night we had some rain literally "blowing" in so it was quite windy out at the farm.  This made for lots of monsters lurking in the indoor.  Alex's flat work was better in between the moments when he was scooting out from underneath me to escape the monsters. 

In the middle of my ride last night (I'm usually alone, thus time for reflection) I started thinking about how important it is to be able to let go.  Our natural tendency as humans, when we are scared, is to tighten up the reins and turn our legs into a vice grip, holding on for dear life.  Our horses interpret this as "holy sh**! my rider is freaking out, time to flee!"  A panic reaction by the rider does nothing to reassure the horse.  Now instead of looking to you for guidance and reassurance in a scary/unfamiliar situation, they return to their instincts which inevitably tell them to flee/escape at the first sign of trouble.  In order to reassure the horse you have to be able to take a step back, ask for a stretch and let go even if you think he/she might spook again.  I see this as the ultimate balance of trust.  You show the horse there's nothing to be afraid of by letting go and asking for relaxation and the horse shows you he/she trusts you by obliging.  The ability or inability to let go can make or break the rider/horse relationship.

Obviously this is easier said than done.  When Alex is in one of his moods where he's looking for anything to spook at, I even have moments where I think twice about allowing him to fully stretch for fear of losing control.  But if I don't allow him to stretch, he can't relax and so we never correct the problem.  Fortunately, last night even though there were monsters aplenty, I was able to let go and Alex was able to accomplish a fair measure of relaxation in his flat work, even though it wore me out to get him there :-)

We also had another first last night, our first tiny jump.  No I am not kidding, this might have been the world's smallest cross rail.

He tried to stop at it once and got a spanking then tripped over and banged it a few times, next decided he would just pick his feet up higher, but still treat it like a trot-pole and finally jumped it, letting out an unceremonious groan on the landing.  Overall considering the start to our ride, he really was pretty good about it and I was very pleased.  Next time I think we'll go up a hole and see if we can't get a little more "jump" going. 
It's been so  many months since I jumped anything, this is very exciting!
Alex had today off and tomorrow he gets his feet done, so we'll just work on the lunge.  Back in the saddle Thursday, we'll see how the jumping goes :-)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weekend rides

Saturday I had high hopes for our ride, even brought my friend out to see Alex's progress.  Since he'd had a day off and it was only about 30 degrees, I decided to lunge him just to be safe.  Jeez were my instincts dead on!  Alex showed off his wild side on the lunge, bucking, spooking at the noises made by dirt hitting the wall.  It was quite a show after three weeks of near perfect behavior.  The ride was "rushy," but I wanted to keep the progress going so we continued with Exercise #6 - A Grid of Trot-Poles  and moved on to Exercise #16 - Trot-Poles on the Circle

The exercises went well with the exception of one time when he stepped around one of the poles on the circle because I wasn't paying attention.  Oops!  So the ride wasn't terrible, he just was not quiet.  It was bound to happen, he is a TB after all.

Sundays are usually an off day for Alex, but since there was so much "exuberance" on Saturday, I thought it might be a good idea if we had another day of work.  Although it was still a cold day, it was a better ride, not so much rushing and he only tried to run away from gremlins twice.  Our major accomplishment for the day was adding jump standards to the grid of trot-poles.  Of course in his natural fashion of always surprising me, he could have cared less about the standards.  Go figure.  Here's a link to the video,

when it actually shows up in the YouTube/Blogger search, I'll have it right here on the page.
Hope everyone had a great weekend :-)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Equine Valentine

Alex after tonight's ride

Hubs and I had agreed to have our Valentine's Day dinner tomorrow when we could cook and enjoy without work the next day.  So I spent some quality time with my equine Valentine tonight :-)

Unfortunately the arena had just been watered (read over watered), but not dragged, so it was a little slick.  I knew this would mean we couldn't do any canter work, since he has just barely started to balance himself when the footing is good.  But I was antsy to move on a little bit and decided we'd just go straight to four trot-poles and see what happened.

Alex started off a little wild... hoping around and being fussy, so I had to work him through that and remind him that I'm in charge.  Once he gave up trying to run the show, it was time to move on to the trot-poles.  There were a few stumbles, a little rushing, but no hesitation and he finally figured it out in both directions.  I know everyone says this about their horses, but he is so darn smart!  Hopefully this will transfer to jumping.... fingers crossed.

After the poles I went back and did a little more trot work, which was really very good.  I would even say there were a few moments of "on the bit."  It was a little bit of a rough start, but the ending more than made up for it!

Tomorrow Alex will have another day off.  Saturday I want to try the trot-poles again and maybe another exercise.  It's supposed to be quite cold here, which will make me want to hibernate, but hopefully we can still get some things accomplished.

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The buck stops here

I love this cartoon... I try REALLY hard not to do that to Alex.  I am seriously cold natured, but I fight my urges.  Today we had a couple hours of snow, and I have to admit I was fretting a little bit about the fact that Alex only had on is turn-out sheet.  He does have his full coat (this being his first winter north of Florida I didn't think it was fair to clip him and he's really not shaggy), so he was fine :-)  After the snow, it warmed up 10 degrees and everything melted.  Welcome to Kentucky!

Last night we started our ride pretty well.  He was a lot less amped than he had been Tuesday night which was a plus and there weren't quite as many gremlins.  What was really awesome was the canter work.  No bucks!  This isn't a first, but it is a first since we started back into work and it was so nice.  His balance was also better which is another big plus. 

After the flat-work, we moved on to Exercise #6 - A Grid of Trot-Poles

The book suggests that you start with poles A & D and then add poles B & C once the horse is comfortable.  Since Alex had already trotted confidently over poles A & B when I set them up to make the chute for Exercise #1, I decided to set up poles A, B & C.  He did them really confidently, no hesitation, but he did tap/step on the third pole at least once in both directions.  This may have been my fault, the distances might have been a little tight, we'll adjust next time.  It will take some time for me to gauge his natural stride.  Overall I'm happy with how he handled the new challenge.  Soon it will be time to start him over jumps.  I hope that he's going to like jumping just as much :-)

Tonight was Alex's night off, and we will go back to work on Thursday.  I think we will stick with three poles again and I will try to get the distance right.  If that goes well, we'll move on to four poles.  I have to admit I'm a little excited about that... who would have ever thought I'd be excited about trot-poles?!

Monday, February 11, 2013

A day without lunging

Last night I decided to skip the lunging and go straight to the riding...I wondered if this would be "interesting" since he had yesterday off.  Honestly, he was a little amped up, saw a couple gremlins but was much better than I expected.  His flat work was not as calm and quiet as Saturday, a little rushy at the trot but he still did a lot of really great stretching.  The canter continues to slowly improve although there are still a few bucks when he feels like it get gets too difficult.  It will take time for him to gain the strength to walk, trot and canter in self-carriage.  I'm very happy with his steady improvement. 

We also did Exercise #1 - A Chute of Poles
It went pretty well, I even got a few nice halts in the chute.  Then I decided since the poles were set at about the right distance, I would trot over them.  He totally surprised me with lovely bouncy steps and didn't even tap the poles the first time through trying to find his footing!  Tomorrow I'm going to try adding and hopefully we'll work up to the four in the next exercise. 

I do have to say that he is showing signs he might be a little bit of a rusher when it's time to start jumping.  Looks like we'll need lots of grid work :-) 

Then I gave Alex a bath (it had been warm enough for him to be out naked) so he's be clean to go back into his nice clean sheet.  I really hate this up and down weather, it makes for a lot of wardrobe changes.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Consistency is lovely

Saturday was another good day.  Alex was pretty darn good.  He's really getting into his trot work, so much so that he's getting a little rushy at the trot once he stretches down.  Hopefully once he learns to use his back and gets strong enough, this will translate to lengthening and suspension.  I see it in him, it will just take time to develop.  Canter was better too, only about one buck, which is a big improvement.  He's also starting to have enough strength to reach down and stretch at the canter which is super exciting! 

We also finished up with Exercise #2.  He did so much better with the pattern and not over exaggerating the step over the pole in both directions.  Success!  Next ride we will probably be moving on to a new exercise.

Finally, I wanted to post a link to video for Alex's work from last Thursday.  You'll be able to tell that he is still learning and we have a long way to go, but I can't believe how much he has already progressed since getting back into steady work!

Enjoy :-)

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Not too much to report tonight, just that Alex was a very good boy.  I decided to lunge him, since he'd been off for a day, but I really could have just gotten on and ridden.  Fortunately for both of us, there were not nearly as many boogie men lurking in the corner of the arena, so it was a quick lunging session.  Our "pre-ride" time might have been even more brief if I hadn't stopped him in the middle to fuss with his front feet because I was just sure he was taking some bad steps.  Of course nothing felt out of the ordinary, but after these abscesses, I am so paranoid that I scrutinize every movement....yeah, I know... "obsess much?"

Once I got in the saddle, he seemed fine, but honestly, it is taking some time for me to feel what his "normal" trot is going to be.  We had so little actual riding time before our abscess detour that I am still finding his normal.  I think a lot of what I feel is not any lameness, but just him not being very forward, resisting by taking a short step/hop here and there, gawking at the occasional phantom or whatever. 

Anyhow, tonight as predicted we did a new exercise, Exercise #2 - The Round Figure 8 Over a Single Ground Pole
Although he was pretty good about it, I think we might end up doing this one again, since our figure 8's were not great and we need to work on some timing/rhythm.  I am still excited that he seems to be enjoying these new tasks.  Again his stretching and overall willingness in the bridle were much improved tonight.  Still a few bucks at the canter, but he will come out of that once he gets a little stronger and can balance himself more consistently.  Progress makes me very happy :-)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Grown-up horse days

Tonight the weather was much more pleasant, which meant Alex and I had a lot more company at the barn.  I had a moment where I considered just lunging him and calling it a day... so glad I didn't!

Even through we waited for there to be room in the indoor, there was still another horse/rider combination already working.  I started Alex lunging and he actually went right to work without any nonsense, which is a first when he has company in the arena.  "Hmmm," I thought to myself, "this is interesting."  By the time I was done lunging, the other rider had left the arena, so we didn't get to work with another horse while I was in the saddle.

Since Alex had gotten very comfortable with first few exercises from 101 Jumping Exercises for Horse & Rider, I decided to make a change and set up  Exercise #5 - Two Trot-Poles

There was never even a moment's hesitation, he just trotted through from both directions like it was no big deal.  He didn't even tap either of the poles trying to figure out where to put his feet, just confidently trotted over.  FANTASTIC!  Looks like we'll be moving on to another exercise next time out.  I think he's starting to put it together, because it wasn't just the exercise that went well, it was his flat work too.  MUCH more relaxed and pleasant. 
Tomorrow I'm giving Alex a well deserved day off and we'll get back to work on Thursday :-)

Something New

Saturday morning I woke up to slightly snow covered roads, not to mention I'd been out a wee bit late the night before, so I opted for a lazy morning hanging out at the house until things cleared up a bit.  Early afternoon I piled on some layers and headed out to work Alex.  This would be three days in a row of riding and I was really hoping to see some progress. 

Overall he was much better about the potential boogie men that he sees from time to time and finally settled into some decent "baby" flat work.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we've been working over a trot-pole.  When I was first starting serious jumping with Gryff, I picked up 101 Jumping Exercises for Horse & Rider by Linda Allen & Dianna Dennis, and have found it to be a great resource.  I'm really trying to give Alex a strong foundation for jumping, so I am really taking my time with his basics.  It has been good for me too, gives me time to reinforce, correct some of my own habits over non-scary obstacles.  I've started Alex through the basic exercises from the walk and trot.  Lately we have been working on:

Exercise #4 - The Single Trot Pole in Two-Point Position

*There's no diagram for this one, it's just trotting back and forth over a trot pole in two-point*

Exercise #3 - The Long Figure 8 Over a Single Ground Pole

(the * = focal points)

Although he was a little hesitant about the pole at first, he has quickly gained confidence.  He is now being a little "rushy" to get to the other side, as if he is saying "yeah, I got this, let's get going!" and seems to "perk up" when trot-pole work starts.  Hopefully this enthusiasm with continue when I change to another exercise :-)

*Please note: these are reproductions of the diagrams in the book. I didn't want to violate copyright laws.  Sorry, I know they aren't as pretty :-)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Attack of the Killer Barn Cat!

Yesterday was a frigid one here in Kentucky at least by my standards, though I am admittedly cold natured.  It didn't get above 23 degrees all day!  I feel bad complaining about that when my family in Minnesota is dealing with negative temps :-)

I decided that it was time to start trying to reintroduce "poles" into Alex's routine, so I put one in the middle of the arena for us to trot back and forth over.  After a little lunging warm up, we started our ride.  Although he was better than the day before he was still so anxious looking around, finding boogie men in all the corners.  It took a lot of stretching and trotting to get him even remotely relaxed.  The first go at the trot pole was interesting.  The first time he hop/jumped it, then he tapped it a few times trying to figure out where to put his feet.

As with most green horses, his canter is where we really struggle.  It's gotten and is getting to much better on the lunge, but with me in the saddle he's still learning to balance.  We were cantering around to the right, doing pretty well avoiding/getting over the potential boogie men, when all the sudden Alex turned on the jets.  For a moment I was even startled, because his back dropped out from under me, his head shot up and I felt like I was riding an ostrich!  In the midst of yelling whoa! and trying to get him stopped, I realized an orange cat had been running along the platform in the indoor next to the arena and had scared the living daylights out of him!  I couldn't believe it... a CAT! All that panic over a CAT!  His bravery is severely in question :-)

After getting him settled back down, the rest of the ride was fairly uneventful.  A couple more passes over the trot pole, without any taps, and I called it a day.  We had worked hard, but I was sweating more than he was!

It is worth noting that when I went out to put hay in Alex's paddock before I went home, I realized yesterday's hay was still there, untouched.  He was in all day since it was cold... that explains a lot.