Sunday, May 11, 2008

The road to broke is paved with...goats?

(Disclaimer to save time: Yes, I am aware of my lack of a helmet :-) And the purple saddle is the only damn thing on the property that fits my wide load horse. And I am aware I am dressed like a homeless person. Yes, I have had the huge striped shirt since the 1980s and yes, I do think the blue fuzzy socks up to my knees above the filthy paddock boots are a nice touch. Hey, there was a person with a camera around and that is not always the case!)

All right, after skipping Thursday night because I had to run a three-hour errand, Friday night because I had a chance to work, and Saturday night because I was freakin' exhausted after moving horses around all day, it was finally time to put ride #8 on the VLC. I had decided our goal for tonight was to add some trotting figure 8's. He's trotting fairly consistently with regard to speed and staying on the wall, but particularly to the left, he drops his shoulder and really careens around the turns.

My instincts tell me to just leave him alone. It's only ride #8 and as he develops muscle and balance, a lot of this will fix itself. However, there's this little voice that tells me a lot of trainers would be yelling at me and telling me to pick up his damn shoulder now. I am telling the little voice to STFU. He is young, he is huge, and he just needs mileage with as little interference from me as possible. He trots when I tell him to, walks when I tell him to, halts and stands when I tell him to. He figured out what we were doing with cutting through the middle and changing direction the second time I did it tonight. I'm happy.

It was getting dark and of course we were getting crappy pictures in the indoor, so we decided to take him outside for some new pics. I debated whether or not I was going to actually get on outside, and finally decided to do it and walk around.

My landlord likes to use his goats as lawnmowers. I didn't notice this, because it was behind a horse trailer, but he had chained one to a tire (the usual method of goat restraint) in his backyard. Mr. Goat got wildly excited by the presence of a VLC in his driveway and bolted downhill, dragging the tire by the chain. It sounded like the Ghost of Christmas Past being chased by a crack-smoking goat. The VLC went "WTF is THAT?" and spooked.

And you know what? It was no big deal. He just ducked and scooted a bit. He stopped right away. He saw what it was. And he went right back to walking around like he was half asleep.

Mugwump wrote a great blog on the difference between being trained and broke. In answer to her question, I'll take broke any day...and that's why I'm going to be thrilled at how he dealt with the galloping goat incident and not give a crap if he's dropping his shoulder to the left. I think we'd wind up with a lot better horses if we worried more about getting them going forward and seeing the world and less about fine-tuning them before they are ready.

How did everybody else's weekend go? I need to get on the Small Spotted Gelding. I did get on my other friend's Cute Spotted Stallion yesterday, on his 5th ride. He makes the VLC look rocket fueled. We are both so lucking out with our greenies this year!


bigpainthorse said...

I can't possibly be first, can I?

Awesome job, Cathy and VLC! He sure is a handsome boy, and sounds like he's got a great mind.

Meanwhile, Big Paint Horse and I continue to work on the "stand still to mount" thing, and she's either getting it or deciding it's easier to do what I ask her than fight. Yesterday, it took about 20 minutes before she finally stood absolutely still for me to mount, but she DID do it, which was a vast improvement over last Tuesday's efforts. Today, it only took about 10 minutes. She seems to find backing up significantly more odious than circling the mounting block, so that's the technique we're using: any forward motion that comes when I'm telling her to "stand" means she has to back up, and the amount and energy of the backing up is in direct proportion to the energy of the forward movement she exhibited.

Maybe if I'm lucky, tomorrow it will only take 5 minutes ... (fingers crossed)

Princess Jess said...

Awww. You guys are so cute!

And, if I may, I must say that you LOOK like you're more relaxed. Go look at pictures of you riding Fancy a year ago and you riding the VLC now... much more relaxed. :)

I'll also take a broke horse over a trained horse. Unfortunately, I happened to end up with the opposite. A trained horse who is not very broke at all. I rode Jack on Friday and he did the startled jump at... nothing. WTF? There was NOTHING. When I asked him what the hell he was spooking at, he just sheepishly walked off and pretended like it didn't happen. I swear he gets embarrassed with himself sometimes. I think he was daydreaming as we were walking around and then startled himself back into reality.

There is much trail riding in our future before I will feel like Mr. Jack is truly broke. And even then, I'm sure I'll always be a little bit on guard....

Windsong Stables said...

He looks LOVELY Cathy. Im so impressed. I love his low head and relaxed looks. I think hes pretty cool!

On a TOTAL random side note... It looks like your reins are crossed... Am I just on glue? (Or maybe smoked some of that crack your goats are on!! LOL)

Whats with that pic anyways?

Jan said...

Yahoo! congrats on a mostly uneventful ride, may ya have thousands more of 'em . . .

Lisa said...

I'm glad VLC is less reactive than my filly. Her first spook under saddle involved her bolting and bucking like a bronc. ;) Otherwise, she has been a cake walk. Considering what a reactive personality she has had her whole life, I knew it was coming at some point. I was just thrilled I stayed on and she was able to continue working after the incident.

ellen said...

I DO like that big boy...

As for what's going on with the reins, it looks like the VLC is snorking at something that is in front of him on the right, and she is using an opening left rein to bring him back to center, so it only LOOKS like the reins are crossed --

no riding for me this weekend -- cold and blustery weather and the stomach bug. :>( Hopefully back on the CLG this afternoon, and a couple of his cohorts as well.

BuckdOff said...

I have to say that you both look very relaxed, I think that's a good thing, he really is lovely. No horses or shows for me this weekend, straight yardwork, digging out monster, green hostas and dividing them, awful...

SOSHorses said...

*Disclaimer* Despite popular opinion on this and other blogs; I believe that if you are considered grown up (which means you pay your own bills and hold down a job for said bills) then you are mature enough to evaluate the consequences of not wearing a helmet. These consequences include what will happen to the above-mentioned bills when you receive a closed head wound from falling from a height.

Disclaimer over. Now my personal opinion is that anyone under the age of 18 or who still depend on mom and dad to pay their bills should wear a helmet. Anyone who is riding someone else’s horse they are not familiar with should wear a helmet (key word here someone else’s). What this boils down to is I am thirty-ish and I do not always wear a helmet, however I do when I thing there is a high probability that I may end up planted in the dirt. I also evaluate were I am riding before donning a helmet. For example if I am working in a fresh turned arena and the footing is soft – Hell no I am not going to wear a helmet. However if I am working a practice pattern on a new barrel horse in the same freshly turned arena then yes I am going to wear a helmet because it hurts when you hit your head on a 55 gallon drum. DUH.

Now the long and short of all this is; use some judgment skills to determine what your risk factors are based on your surroundings, the age and level of brokenness the horse you are riding has for the type of riding your are doing.

EXAMPLE – very broke QH + never laid eyes on cows + team sorting event = WEAR HELMET

Green broke horse + owned by you + comfortable with personality and reactions to surroundings + riding in a familiar place = I probably wouldn’t wear a helmet either

Very broke 9 yr old QH + has been ridden just about anywhere you can imagine + training him for barrels + owned me = I am gonna wear a helmet. Reason, I don’t know how he might react to hitting a barrel and as I said before it hurts to hit your head on the 55 gallon drum.

Now this is not to say that I will always wear my helmet when working with him. Only until I feel comfortable with his reactions. We as humans cannot account for everything but we can, however weigh the consequences of our decisions. Having said this FUGLY you do not have to apologize for not wearing a helmet. I feel I can safely assume you are grown, pay your own bills, have good reasoning abilities, and by your own statements are the owner of said horse. So IMO there is no one to blame if you crack your head open should he ever have a come-a-part over a goat.

**NOTE** Emphasis placed on the being ADULT. All Children should wear helmets – REASON, we never know as parents what stupid stuff your kids are going to do when we turn our backs for 30 seconds. Like playing horse tag in the field and reaching out just a little too far and falling under opponents’ horse. (just don’t ask for more details)

Heidi the Hick said...

I'm in total agreement here.

Especially when they're keepers, we've got time to refine the rides. Good minds and manners are so much more important than perfection under saddle at his young age.

icepony said...

I'm gonna be crass and repost my comment that I buried in yesterday's section. Side note: I DID wake up this morning still grinning!

(Question: Does anyone have any tips for how to physically relax once in the saddle? I know my gelding is in his paddock right now, telling the other horses that his new owner sits on him like a clothespin! My head is saying "relax, soften", but my body is going "huh? I could get killed any second now!" Kudos to said gelding for not reacting to my stiff terror and still coming down gently on the bit for me!)

Anyway, yesterday's post:
I RODE TODAY!!!!! Okay, I'll admit that it was 1) a ride of approximately 2 whopping minutes, 2) it took me almost 2 hours of futzing around to work up the nerve, and 3) my gelding was practically BEGGING me, jeez Lady, just get ON me already!

First ride since I bought him 6 weeks ago. My knees were literally shaking. All we did was walk little figure eights, and I'm sure my poor boy was wondering when the heck he'd signed on to be babysitter to such a chickenshit, but....I RODE MY HORSE TODAY!!

Maybe I'll be able to wipe the grin off my face by bedtime...and maybe not. :)

robyn said...

Gah, I love that kind of spook--stop 'n drop. Best kind there is! (as far as spooks go, anyway)
I didn't ride this weekend--too many other things to do. I'll probably hop up a couple times this week, depending on the weather.

Justaplainsam said...

He looks great! And handled the goats very well, I know I would have had a stroke!

I want a broke horse.

I want a horse with 'stupid' buttons. I dont want to have to spend 20 min 'prepairing' to lope off. I just want to lope.

I assis. trained with a guy that has 20-30 N.youth and N.amature. at shows with him at any given time. These horses almost never spook, (they are horses after all) and all can be ridden by a decent rider. (not a pro but also not a rank beginner) These peple love there horses, trail ride when not showing, and all have a great time when they do.

Having these horses broke means that they all ride the morning of the show and get to participate in all the efforts of owning a horse. Meanwhile 'super' trainer in another barn doesnt let his cilents ride unless they are in the show ring. And then they get yelled at if they mess somthing up. How fun is that?

Magna Cum Mule Trainer said...

SOShorses- thank you for the thoughts on helmets... I'm sick of people yelling at me for not wearing one like I'm some sort of a retard that doesn't think of the consequences.
I've had injuries before, and I still make the choice to wear or not to wear one based on the circumstances.
Jumping? Hells yes.
Pokey walk around the hay fields on a sunny day with no wind? Probably not.

Back on topic- I luuuuuuurve the VeryLargeColt... love his build, love his headset, and I love it when you talk about him. I see many happy sound years because he's being trained correctly and not too soon.

hope4more said...

Looks like things are coming along quite nicely! He is such a beautiful boy.

verylargecolt said...

>>As for what's going on with the reins, it looks like the VLC is snorking at something that is in front of him on the right, and she is using an opening left rein to bring him back to center, so it only LOOKS like the reins are crossed -- <<

Yup. They weren't. It's dusk and the camera makes things blurry. He was bulging right and trying to reach down and sniff something on the ground and I was trying to re-center him and keep his nose off the ground. He still does not quite understand why Mean Mommy does not let him stick his nose in every pile of poo he sees when she is on his back...LOL. His one "stallion behavior" is the desire to sniff everything. I sincerely hope he never encounters a skunk!

Soshorses - thanks for your post. I do wear a helmet to jump. I always think it's an interesting question of which is safer behavior in practice - wearing a helmet all the time vs. using the "injury avoidance tactics" I described in my previous post. It seems to me an awful lot of those helmet wearing people get hurt a lot more than I do...sometimes I wonder if the helmet gives you a false sense of security and you get on stuff/do stuff you shouldn't? It's a helmet, folks, not bubble wrap around your whole body. Just food for thought.

Magna Cum Mule Trainer said...

Same here Fugly/VLC--
A lot of the helmet gurus I know don't do the other stuff- like evaluating the temperment of their horse THAT day, checking their saddle/rigging/bridle, checking surroundings, doing a warmup/longing in a closed area.

I'm not the greatest... I was doing something muthaeffing stupid (bareback in a halter) when I had my colossal wreck/concussion/head stitches. I don't do bareback anymore, I don't give a shit about the "connection" or what it does for my seat. I don't get on terrible horses or do something stupid because someone told me to.
I wear a helmet for jumping and english riding or if there's any doubt we might have a '3-2-1 liftoff!' moment, or if I'm on someone else's critter.
Aside from that one injury, I've been dumped lots o' times and have never broken anything else.

End soapbox- still love teh big buckskin colt.

Sagebrusheq said...

Thanks for the chuckle: you gals curse like sailors for no good reason and then use a dainty word like 'poop' when a vulgarism would be half acceptable.

Yours, bemused, S.

brat_and_a_half said...

I love my helemt, so I wear it all the time. Though at gymkhanas and fun days I do take some sick pleasure in taking it off while I on a horse infront of my junior friends now that I'm a senior :P. I don't really get why people wouldn't wear a helmet, but I've never worn a helmet that really fits badly, and mine is just an awsome fit, so I guess that's it.

On friday I sat on my coach's WB filly and she led me around. She was totally mellow. That was after me lunging her for 20 minutes. She already wears a saddle (done up tight, never had a problem), but it was her first day with a bridle and she worked with it really well, I was impressed. The thing she does is when I pressure her too hard on the lunge line (pull back because she's pulling on me), she'll turn and bolt the other way. The first time I lunged her she did it 4 or 5 times, the next time twice, and then it's been just once ever since. On friday after she did it, I ran her into the fence, and she became very submissive after that. She's licked and chewed on the lung line, but never bowed her neck before. She also didn't have the pissed submission look either, she seemed content.
I've been practicing after lunging to get her to stand at the mounting block. She learned in 2 sessions that if she swings her bum away, and I have to get off the mounting block, it's trouble. Also that she is to stand perfectly still until i tell her to do otherwise. On friday when I brought her to the block, every time I clicked her forward, she would take one tiny, 4 inch step, and when I said whoa, she was parked. I just love how fast green horses pregress. Now I just have to wait for my coach to ground drive her (because I don't have enough experience doing that), before we can get on and do some real riding. :D

Sagebrusheq said...

If I were given to casual use of expletives I would use one now to add emphasis to my dismay that no one except Ellen and me has broken away from their dream state to offer some advice to KarenV in her CURRENT predicament. Huh?


deanna may said...

I took my VLG outside for the first outdoor ride of the year and he was absolutely phenomenal. I've been feeling a little frustrated with him lately because he's been acting like a green-broke three-year-old (not really giving to contact, speeding up in random burst, slowing down/stopping at random intervals, dropping his shoulder in the corner, etc.) lately. I know it's because he had a month off and we've now had five rides since the big Month Off, and we really need to do some lunging with side-reins to build some muscle back.

So yesterday me and the VLG (and two friends with their horses... also VLGs. One's a Clyde/Belgian Warmblood/TB and the other is a Belgian/TB just like my VLG -- from the same breeder and everything) went out back. I missed riding around in big open fields so much! These Albertan winters are too long!

Sebastian (the VLG) was SO GOOD. We had a better quality trot out in the field than we did all last week while we wrestled with each other in the arena. He was soft, listening, totally sane, and completely happy. This is how I know he's an eventer, too. He belongs out galloping around in fields, not in a box inside trotting circles.

Of course, he's out of shape, so there was no galloping. We alternated trot and walk and we cantered once up the big hill, as that's actually easier for him. He was a little sweaty afterwards, not at all out of breath, and the happiest I've seen him in a while.

During the summer I have to force myself to stay in the arena and school dressage (it's the first portion of the event, and if you can come out well after dressage and you know your horse is honest and careful for stadium/cross country, you know you'll at least place!) when all I want to do is canter around outside.

It was a glorious day!

Anonymous said...

icepony - that's a toughie, relaxation. As with all animals, they can feel your tension when in the saddle. Good thing yours was nice! My only hint is to ride a LOT more and maybe, well, this may be nuts, but do some lunge work with you in the saddle, without stirrups, that sort of thing. I always liked the idea of vaulting but could never find anywhere to do it (usually it is with kids anyway, I guess). That would bring confidence and balance. And at the start of every show season, when I brought the furry one in from winter boarding, I would ride bareback until I fell off. I know that sounds really dangerous, and I suppose it was, but it somehow took the stigma away from it. Maybe it was superstition as I never fell in the show ring when I did that. I guess it was a sort of "Oh that doesn't hurt after all" kind of thing with me. And I always chose a very soft landing spot.

As for helmets, yes, we should wear them. But sometimes, you know... you don't.

Mary said...

Question...What breed is Sir Giant Motor???? Maybe I missed it, but he's built like a tank yet refined. Kind of like me ~bats eyelashes~

ellen said...

Regarding helmets: I now wear one religiously, although I never did in my Younger and Bulletproof days. Part of that is an act of gratitude for having gotten away with some of the dumb things I did as a Y&B, part of it is modeling, as no one else is allowed to ride without a helmet on my farm (as I tell my clients, it protects their heads and my behind), and mostly any more I just feel naked without one.

I got a grade II concussion last spring when I was mowed down by a rambunctious yearling and hit my head on the groud hard -- and I was off kilter for months, unable to concentrate or multi-task (both of which my job requires all day long), temporarily flunked out of my grad school because I couldn't concentrate or keep my normal 20 hour work day, and was generally Not Myself for a long time -- an experience I have no desire to repeat, particularly since even falling off my own smallish Morgans would put my head in contact with the ground even harder than falling from my own height.

I don't feel any more or less prone to taking foolish risks in a helmet -- I've come off hard enough to crack one in half when I was still riding other people's colts, and so I know they do not convey invincibility...

sarcastabitch said...

Hey guys, the VLC looks great! Rider definitely looks to be having more fun than the earlier posts led to believe. :p

For this adult-beginner (not a re-rider), the weekend was one of great strides!

I also have a three year old mall, spotted gelding. Otherwise known as fuglypinto, he went to a super trainer for "breaking". He's pretty easy going, and I dropped him off with nice manners and a good start.

I entered him in Walk-Trot Dressage, sort of to cap off his 60 days before we back off the intensity and let him grow up some more.

The tests themselves had the judges trying really hard not to laugh as I had a big grin and kept giggling at fuglypinto's "decisions". The rail on the ground got boring, so he'd step over it and hop back in...he really couldn't see a good reason to stay on a straight line, and circles were definitely in the erratic ellipse family. He did, on the other hand, halt beautifully (if on a 45 degree angle), and he moved off my leg every time. Just at a moseying took some SERIOUS prodding to coax a trot out of him at some points.

I didn't even pull our scores...while we did get to all the right letters in the right order, less than half our figures were at the right gait. Fuglypinto was an angel with all the waiting and other horses...he stood for tacking up despite the presence of much grass and distracting noisy horses. He didn't even try to call back to anyone!

Fuglypinto's draft side really shines through in his mental maturity. He just can't stay on the ball for a 4 minute test yet, but man, he did do a nice job trying.

As for me...the first video I have EVER seen of my own riding! Wow, do I ever need to hold my thighs tighter (I've started to notice that I open my hips way too much...comes from being stretched out of shape on that Clyde, I guess)...but there were a few good things about my position too, and my instructor complimented my responses to all the "errors"...she was happy that I kept my aids consistent (ask, ask louder, ASK LOUD ENOUGH THAT HE GOES) and that I released him when he responded.

As for the Clydesdale and I, we entered a fun class...costume dressage (white trash dressage, actually). It was the first class for both of us where we had to race to cones, pass other riders at the trot and canter....and she did GREAT! This is a horse who last year shied and rolled her eyes at the SADDLE BLANKET, and this year stood perfectly square as a small child handed me a trophy, and tied a big blue ribbon around her neck. Unfortunately, this mare is also quite polite, and the "musical chairs" knocked us out immediately as the pulled up her stride to let another horse move in. :)

Sorry for the novel, I thought this might be a good story for this blog.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Sarcasta - nothing like video to show you things you didn't want to know about your riding. I have discovered my equitation at a posting trot on a downhill colt is, um, hideous. Of course it doesn't help that I'm doing this in a cordura saddle with stirrups that are set weirdly far back.

I really, really, really need to find a wide tree English saddle!

Glad you had a great show with them. I love hearing about people doing fun things with their horses and not just the serious stuff all the time.

Mary - he's all QH and both parents are 15.3. Not quite sure how he got so gigantic. He eats well? LOL.

Sagebrusheq said...

Ditto on video. Especially helpful if you get to them right away when the thoughts and sensations that were coursing your teeming brain are still fresh. As with old tests I never throw them out- often tempted though.


icepony said...

TBsplease said...
icepony - that's a toughie, relaxation. As with all animals, they can feel your tension when in the saddle. Good thing yours was nice! My only hint is to ride a LOT more and maybe, well, this may be nuts, but do some lunge work with you in the saddle, without stirrups, that sort of thing.

Yeah, I'm still counting my lucky stars that he didn't use my tension as an excuse to blow...he seemed more puzzled by it than anything else! (This from a horse that is perfectly capable of spooking hard at a change in the wind direction.) As far as the lunging idea goes, it's a fantastic one and one I recommend to others a lot, but this gelding has some SERIOUS lunging issues that would put both the lunger and the rider at major risk of injury. (I'm working on it, and it's getting better, but we're a long way from where I'd consider it a safe thing to do.)

I'm concentrating on breathing. Ya know, I hear it's a good thing to do, lol!

surprisewind said...

I read your disclaimer, thought I'd see something laughable in your picture, and didn't.... so disappointing. I was expecting funny looking person and wierdness. Instead, I saw someone with questionable fashion sense riding very well on a very nice looking horse. Because of the very nice parts, my eye was drawn away from the fuzz and stripes. Thanks for nuthin'. LMAO.

CutNJump said...

He is coming along quite nicely isn't he... Proud Horsey Momma moment or six? You deserve them!

When they spook like that, 9 times out of 10 they will stop and stare and decide if running off is worth it or not. Not snatching up the reins reinforces the 'spook in place' reaction we would rather have than hanging off a runaway horse.

Let the shoulder go, focus on the big picture. Your late started well trained horse will long outlast all the others who were started early and pushe too fast through their training using shortcuts at every chance. He will have trust and confidence in you and his future riders, rather than perform out of fear. Always better in the long run.

If you feel the need to fix the shoulder though, (slow right/fast wrong) then fix it now before it becomes a habit.

Could be he's dropping his shoulder as a result of you dropping yours and leaning into the turn. Sit up straight and ask for big sweeping circles, bring your inside shoulder back and it should help increase the size and roundness of the circle.

which_chick said...

Over the weekend, I took the Dumb Pinto Pony out for a spin. DPP is not evil or mean, just inattentive and largely untrained. (She's done a fair amount of "follow along" trail work but hasn't been ridden much by herself.)

DPP and I did a solo trail ride out and back along the hard road (she is traffic safe), about four miles total. Everything went well until, coming home, we got to the field where the Big, Black Beef Bull lives with his herd of multicolored girl beeves and their babies. The BBBB does not like horses but he'd not seen us on the way out, being "otherwise occupied" at the other end of his field. On our trip back, though, he saw us. He came galloping across the field, bucking and snorting as he came. (You'd think his "otherwise occupied" status would have put him in a better mood, but no.) Clods of dirt flew in his wake.

DPP stood three inches taller and SNORTED at Big Black Beef Bull. Then she spun out and tried to head for the high ground, but I had a rein handy and spun her in a wee little circle. Twice. She came back to herself, still kind of worried, but not going to explode. Yay! (I can do spooks and this was not exceptional bravery on my part. I make no claims about what I'd have done if she had reared up instead.)

We *walked* (It took some leg and some rein contact -- the "marching walk" thing I picked up in dressage lessons came in handy.) past the snorty Big Black Beef Bull and headed home.

At home, Pony Owner was leading the pet Jersey cow (lives in the same field with DPP) across the road. DPP was convinced that this was another Big Black Beef Bull (One about half the size of the BBBB, with an udder and tidy little horns, the whole package done up in Jersey Cow Tan instead of Angus Black. Anyone could confuse the two, srsly...) and she stood tall-still again, then whirled and headed for the high ground. Sheesh, DPP, is it too much to ask for a little variety?

I spun her to a stop and I could have probably gotten her to go forward, but at that point a lime truck was barreling down the road behind us. As we were standing in the middle of the road and as DPP wasn't thinking or listening real well due to the Jersey cow occupying all three of her brain cells. I hopped off and led her out of the way of the truck. Then, with the truck gone, I got back on and rode an incident-free hundred yards home.

Someone please tell me it's OK to score this as a win even though I got off the horse when the lime truck was coming instead of riding through the problem.

Sagebrusheq said...

It's a win. no bout adoubt it.


Sagebrusheq said...

I'm pretty good about riding out or schooling every day through the year. If it rains or snows I grab a poncho and hit the trail. That is, shoot for seven and you get in five or six. But my weakness is missing three days in a row. The way I see it after that many days off you're back to catching up to the last one or two you rode anyway, so it's real easy to rationalize away a whole week, month, season. Just my way of saying why I haven't said anything about Merlin since Monday last. Ponied him up the hill for a few miles today though to burn off some grass, and the corral should be dry enough tomorrow to get back in the groove. It's about time I climbed on for the first time, you gals are shaming me into it. That will be day 8 I think, not counting today. Maybe 9, but considering the time off it might as well be 6. I'm playing it by ear but will be taking my vest with me to the corral tomorrow just in case.


fuglyhorseoftheday said...

which_chick...didn't I post the story on the other blog about the kid whose trainer thought it was a good idea to ride down the side of the highway to get breakfast and the kid's (green!) horse jumped in front of a truck and both of them died?

Enough said. I would have gotten off too. Good judgment is not the same as chickening out!

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

LOL Surprisewind!

Well, if all else fails, we'll be at a schooling show in August and I PROMISE we will dress up for that. Clean boots and helmet and everything!

>>Could be he's dropping his shoulder as a result of you dropping yours and leaning into the turn. <<

I have a long but narrow arena to work in. It is entirely possible I am leaning on my corners. I will remember to think about that tomorrow night.

I can't wait 'til he's far enough along that I can haul out and take lessons on him. That's what I'm really looking forward to! Besides, it'll be such good experience for him to go to someone else's barn and ride in a strange arena - it'll be great practice for showing!

robyn said...

Question: Does anyone have any tips for how to physically relax once in the saddle?

Icepony, I had to think about this for a while. I think it's really a matter of *awareness*. I've heard of quite a few riders "crosstraining"--ie, they do something else, like tai chi or other martial art that has a symbiotic effect with their riding. For me, it's music. I've been playing drums now for about 4 years, and am constantly struck by the many similarities betw. playing drums and riding horses. Both require solid feel, timing and balance. Both need softness with the hands and legs/feet. The way I hold my sticks is very similar to how I hold the reins--give and take, feel, etc. And--you don't need big muscles to do either one--finesse is the key instead. Really, the only difference is that the horse has a mind of its own and often acts on that (and sometimes my drumkit feels like it does too--lol!) And, to help answer your question, I cannot play an evenly cadenced double stroke with either hands or feet if I'm stiff AT ALL. So, as with riding, I'm constantly trying to be aware of any tightness or stiffness in myself, esp. hands and feet/legs. If I find stiffness, I make a conscious effort to relax. My drum teacher will get after me--"your wrists are stiff!" and sure enough, when I consciously relax my hands and arms, my hits are more even in both rhythm and dynamics.
So I think it's a matter of developing that awareness of your body, by practicing, by tightening your muscles in various groups to see how tight muscles feel--then relax them and create an awareness of how that feels. You might consider trying tai chi or similar to help you develope more awareness in and of your body.

Mary said...

Wow! Quarter? Really? Think he got switched at birth with a WB?? He's so much LEG! Ya know, I tried putting Miracle Grow in my bra and it didn't work, but I'm thinking someone put some on Sir Big Butt's Momma's boobies while he was nursing!!!!

So, I rode yesterday. However, I rode my 24 year old been-there-done-that TB gelding that has been with me since 1993. Not much to brag about although I DID have to touch 1 rein at 1 point-in-time because he saw a wonderful blade of grass that was SCREAMING his name. He didn't listen to my seat so I had to use my pinky to tell him to go the other way. The rest of the ride went the same as always. The reins hanging on his neck, my feet out of the irons just wondering around 40 acres of nothing. A deer did bolt infront of him though. All I got was a great big sign and a bit of a snorty blow out of air. I think he might of woke up a little bit for it, too.

I'm thinking my old gelding would be a great embassador for OTTBs everywhere. He's huge, fugly, but a kid could take him anywhere while on a lead line. Yet, only *I* can ride him. Okay, so maybe he's not the best one for the OTTBs but he's the best TB in the entire stinkin' world if you ask ME! And I'll put up a fight to defend that statement.

I'm going to be restarting my hubby's TB gelding but I DO have a question. He's a harder keeper and we had an EXTREMELY LONG and EXTREMELY hard winter that has left pretty much everyone's horses a bit on the thinner side. The hay quality last year wasn't very good either up here in northern Minnesota. Well, Lex has lost some muscle mass and gotten a touch underweight. I've had blood work done which came back normal, teeth done, he's on beet pulp, senior, 18% all stock sweet feed and has hay 24/7 and has been on all of this all winter long...with no change. His topline has gotten a tad boney and I will NOT!!!!!!!!!! put a saddle on him until he fills back out. I need suggestions! Also, since he's lost mass, would workin' him on the line help and not cause him to slow his already slow weight gain? We've always refered to him as the "Kate Moss of Thoroughbreds". He's also developed a wart like thing on his side right were the girth would lay. I'm waiting for the biopsy results now.

which_chick said...

I can't *force* myself to relax. However, I find that I do better if I have a game plan full of things-to-do so that I can work on them instead of aimlessly fretting. (I am a world-class aimless fretter.)

This sounds like "hop on and tough it out" but it's not, exactly. You're looking to gradually increase the time you spend on the horse while you distract yourself from fear by focusing on very goal-oriented training. (I'm assuming, here, that the horse is a reasonably safe ride to start with.)

First, make a game plan. Look at what things make you feel more confident (saddled/bareback, arena/outside, walking along or jogging, doing circles or figures of eight, working on a lunge line or being led, whatever). Then, generate a ride game plan which maximizes your confidence level with you on the horse. Pick an achieveable time limit for your ride. If you can do five minutes, say five minutes. If you can do ten minutes, then do ten minutes. Start where you can succeed.

With the game plan set up for maximum confidence (eg. "Going to do walk/halt transitions, collect/extend the walk, and make pretty figures of eight at the walk around these cones in the round pen, bareback, for five minutes."), get on the horse and follow the game plan. Concentrate on your form, pratice your equitation. Aim for rhythm and relaxation from your horse. Breathe. Sing, if that helps you. Chat with a buddy. Make your figures of eight pretty and round. See if you can get your horse to walk/halt off of your seat instead of off of the reins. Stay on the horse, on task, for the ride time and focus on achieving the goals.

It is best not to make one of those goals "I Will Relax" -- do tangible goals FOR THE HORSE. "Round and pretty figures of eight." "Walk ten steps, halt square for a count of five, and walk ten more steps, around the ring." "Weave this series of three cones with leg pressure instead of off the reins." "Lengthen and shorten the walk off of my seat and hands." "Be on the bit with an elastic contact." "See how big of a walk I can get from my horse." That kind of stuff. Don't focus on your relaxing. Ignore your relaxing or lack thereof. Focus on your goals. The relaxing will come on its own, in time, while you are busy working on the goals.

flying_low said...

Ice Pony,

I'm with you; all my instructors have told me that I need to relax. So, for a long time I would grit my teeth and concentrate: I must relax

Needless to say, that didn't work very well. It is still a work in progress.

But, I, too, have a question: How do I improve?

I have sometimes taken as many as five lessons a week from an excellent dressage coach and still I do not feel that I am where I want to be; and where I want to be is what I felt as a young-rider: that competent, carefree balance.

Is this even possible???


Sagebrusheq said...

Flying, et al;

Sally Swift has some excellent exercises and imaging techniques that address relaxation. You might find them helpful. I believe she's still in print. If not, there are plenty of used copies of her book around.


PS: "Centered Riding"

icepony said...

Wow, lots of input here, thanks guys!

Robyn - I agree with you 100%! I'm a figure skater, and skating and riding are the two most complimentary sports I can think of. Wanna become very aware of your balance? Try hanging out on with a pair of kitchen knives strapped to your feet, on a sheet of ice, lol! Tighten up on skates and down you go, guaranteed. I never thought to talk to myself on the horse the same way I do on skates, though. I'll have to try that next ride!

Which_chick, you're right, I get on with no plan whatsoever, other than to not get dumped. Slightly Odd Gelding (SOG) is referred to as such because I have no clue about his history, and he has some pretty bizarre and unpredictable reactions to stuff. He actually feels more "trained" under saddle than on the ground. I honestly don't know how safe he is, and I think that's part of my problem. I have no more clue of what to expect at any given moment than Cathy does with the VLC. Maybe I'll set up a pattern of cones/barrels/poles and walk them on the ground, and then make my goal to replicate the pattern on deck. Good idea!

Flying low, I do think it's possible to get back to the carefree enjoyable riding status. I believe the key is in the partnership with the horse - there MUST be a horse you can relax on and just enjoy, and if you find it, you can work your way up from there. I, of course, am not following my own advice, lol. But then, I'm comfy on just about any horse except my own, as long as I'm in an arena!

I'm gonna keep working on it, and I'll keep y'all up to date on what's working and what's not; soud like I'm not the only one going through this. The support here is a tremendous help - my first thought after dismounting was, I can't wait to tell the folks on VLC's blog that I finally got on! ;)

Equineaholic said...


Seeing as it is a TB- it could be ulcers. Take him off the sweet feed, and put him on something with high fat content.

My eventer (see profile picture) has VERY bad ulcers (they are NASTY! I had him scoped), I have to fork up $35 for a tube of GastroGaurd every day before, at and after a show. Other wise, he is on ulcer medicine he gets in his feed. I could NOT get weight on the horse until I started him on a 2 week treatment of GastroGuard/UlcerGuard. After that, he plumped up like a pony!

I also, took him off the sweet feed as it tends to a) mess w/ his brain/energy lol and b) make ulcers worse. I add to his feed an extruded feed from Buckeye called "Ultimate Finish". It is SO expensive, but you feed under a lb a day to gain weight and just a cup after he has gained weight to maintain. I just LOVE what the stuff does for my TBs. It looks like dog food btw. :D

That is the best suggestion I can give seeing as you have done almost everything else.

Sagebrusheq said...


Ahh, next to riding, skating is my favorite delight- nothing like it. We had a lot of snow early this year and being new to the area it took me some time to find some safe ice. But I found a lake where the wind sweeps the ice pretty good and got out before the big snows came. Built a fire and skated myself cripple. Not a soul on the ice except two fishermen, sort of neat to be the only one carving up the surface but sad too as I don't think it's popular here. A few miles north into Canada and I'm sure I'd have had plenty of company.


sarcastabitch said...

Oooooh! I LOVE skating. People always laugh when I tell them the only sports I watch on tv are Rugby and Figure Skating :)

Yes, I dreamed of wearing sparkly outfits and gliding around the arena...unfortunately God blessed me with the grace of an ox. A clumsy ox.

As for relaxing, I have a minor trick. It works in dancing too (tap, Irish, Jazz...yepper, I know.) Stretch out your toes, and relax them so that they fill your boot, nearly flat. A big tendency in riders is to clench the toes as you press your heel down. Ride an entire session focused on keeping your toes relaxed, ONLY. I might help. I has helped me with my leg position a lot. Also, working more often without stirrups, with longer stirrups, and on a few different horses...just builds different typesof when you get back to your "home" horse, it feels more relaxing.

quietann said...

Goats. Goats are evil as far as a lot of horses are concerned. Poor Feronia is terrified of them. So far, here's what's happened as we've passed them, or attempted to.

1. I am leading her (on foot) at her new barn, and for some reason decide to lead her down the back road where the goats live. She gets a whiff of goat and is up on 2 legs and backing like crazy. I am not equipped to Deal, so I turn her around and we go back to the barn.

2. Trainer (on foot) takes us (me up) down there for some goat desensitization. I have *never* felt a horse tremble beneath me so much. We get led past the goats, turned around and then walk with trainer past them again. Repeat, and then trainer says, ride up there 30 yards or so. and come back to me (she is standing by the goats.) Feronia is most distressed, and when a bunch of deer we did not realize were there start crashing through the brush, her brains fall out of her head. I did stay on, and we did, in fact, ride past the goats a couple more times, but my poor horse!

3. Trainer's sister-in-law, who owns the goats and the horse they live with, walks back there with us. She is carrying a bucket of grain for them, and there are no deer this time, and other than one little scoot sideways when a goat bleats at her, Feronia (who is a piglet) is more interested in the grain than in the goats.

Then we have a couple of weeks with no goat exposure, for various reasons.

4. Trainer and I go out hacking. She's on Feronia, because I've been having some, um, confidence issues (to put it mildly.) I'm up on her big old security blanket of a gelding. First time past the goats, Feronia hides on the other side of him, so he's between her and them. Second time, trainer keeps her between them and us, and Feronia is crowding against the luckily very patient gelding the whole time. Trainer now understands what I mean when I tell her that Feronia trembles like a little earthquake when she's near the goats. And we are talking about putting her in the paddock next to them for a couple of weeks, so she can just learn to Deal with them already.