Quiet, Cold and Rainy.

Reason is completely settled in his new location.

I was initially worried and felt more guilt than I’d like to admit when I made the decision to separate him from Errika, his pasture mate for about 4 years.  More importantly, I was worried how Errika was going to adjust. At 31, I was considering leaving them be for as long as she was around, opting to not rock the boat when it came to her comfort.

After much thought, I made the choice, feeling like it was the right time and it was going to be just fine. Errika and Reason had an equine neighbor join their two-some over the fence this past Spring (or was it last year?), and they both took a liking to her. With this added element, I figured Errika would turn to the other mare during the transition. That’s exactly what happened to my relief.

In fact, even with it’s challenges (nothing to do with Errika), both horses are doing well with this change. Reason is enjoying the new place, has made new horse friends and took no time at all to relax in what is an active but quiet environment. Errika now has a large pasture all to herself, and with winter arriving, green grass it sprouting welcoming a long-awaited and cherished grazing season. A large shelter now all to herself, we plumped up with lots of wood chips for the winter, I think Errika is enjoying this new set-up all about her.

So far I haven’t gotten to begin a real program with Reason. I wanted to give him time to adjust and then I had to take my time adjusting to this new routine and a painful start with a new pair of tall boots. I could barely ride 10 minutes without my toes going numb and my calves pulsing in pain.

We’ve gone on one trail ride (which was awesome!) with a bunch of family dogs, trail ridden around the property and started on what seems like an uphill of getting back into shape for the both of us.

Entering the Fall

Oh man, wow it’s been a while! How I’ve missed writing on here. I felt no real stories to share worth really writing about since riding has been pretty much MIA for quite some time. But things are changing….!

I’m not a weekend rider, I’m not a pleasure or trail rider per se. I don’t want to go showing every weekend, and shows aren’t exactly where I’m headed. I’m a program builder, goal setter, horsemanship, constantly learning, growing and training type of rider. I like bringing along horses and bringing my self along. Challenging myself and always, always training. I utilize the sand box, the trails and never forgetting to have fun as my tools. I love the escape riding gives me from the rest of the world, which can be inevitably stressful at times. I love the feeling of connecting with these large animals through the aids. I love the feeling of a horse lifting it’s back under saddle, or the feeling of the horse pushing through from behind. I love hearing and watching the rhythmic, metronome-like  beat of the trot. I love riding on crisp, cool, fall days. Foggy days, foggy nights. Freshly groomed arenas and riding in an outdoor two days after rain. I love the sight, the sounds, the feelings and the beautiful horses. When I’m not riding, I feel lost. I feel distant from something that brings so much joy to my life.

I haven’t ridden in an arena for a couple years, consistently. Which means, I don’t get to enjoy or build a program that I really want. I had to be mindful of footing and the impacts on the entire body of the horse. One thing I did get to do, was take a break to appreciate what I’ve had. I got to see my horse relax in a pasture. It made me humble, taking a break. So many people take riding and horses for granted and this break made me sure that I wasn’t going to be one of those people. I wouldn’t forget the cost, the time and dedication it took and takes to have horses in my life.

Now the time has come! I’m getting back to riding after this long break! Reason and I will be back at a barn, able to re-start where we left off.

Ironically, my last pair of breeches fell apart and so did my tall boots, when I rode last. Which means, in order to get back on the horse, I have get some new gear… I’m starting fresh again!

An Update!

Well, here’s an update, since I’ve been lacking in my writing activities.

Reason and I!

Reason has been doing great! We have a new jump saddle coming (arriving today!) because my old saddle unfortunately does not fit. It’s been OK to get him going at best, but it’s time for something new and improved. I’ve never owned a new saddle, nor have I ever had one as nice as this one. I’m anxious to try it! Besides that, Reason has been hopping over baby jumps and learning more in the way of Dressage. He’s also get hind shoes put on for the first time since I’ve had him. He was doing fine with just fronts, but with the added work and jumping (and less than ideal footing), I just feel as if he’s not using the hinds like he should to propel him over the fences and push from. We’ll see how he likes them.

One notably different thing about Reason since I’ve had him is his mental maturity. Before when he’d get even the slightest overwhelmed in all his sensitive, hot horse body, he’d react strongly and often tip-off the deep end. As time went on, the reactions dissipated.  Under saddle he is a star, listening to me and me to him. On the ground he’s keeping himself together – Now he’s staying calm, relaxed and diving deeper into the work than ever before. In my head I imagine riding him through a course of jumps; the picture of balance, relaxation and focus.  I go into each ride imagining the horse I hope to develop him into. I’m pretty happy with his consistent upwards progress. I’ve often heard of, “one step forward, two steps back” when training young horses, but a good trainer in my mind is one who is constantly adjusting and flexing through the very moment in which the horse is being trained, those following and those before. I truly believe if you hone your skills, observe all the little changes and pay close attention to how the horse is reacting and communicating, you can always step forward.

I’ll be taking Reason to his first schooling show soon. Besides his buffer outings to play days, this will be his first real show experience. He’s been to these grounds before, and responded so well to being there, that I feel going into it I’ll have a nice, supple, happy horse throughout the show. My only goal is to use this as a tool and time to test how he’s really progressed and move on. Reason is a very mentally sensitive animal. If he has one bad experience, despite the large numbers of positive, he holds onto it strongly. It’s been a challenge to always be careful about how and what he’s presented with so as to make sure he comes out of each experience for the better. Pushing him through difficult things must be done and needs to be, but it’s how it’s done that matters.  Love my horse!

State of Education

It’s been a long time since my last post, though things haven’t really been going on much from the more obvious outside view.  I’ve been striving to improve my life, it’s direction and passionately, diligently pursuing it.  One of my commitments is to bringing Reason’s talents and our work together to fruition.  For me as a rider and his trainer, it has been somewhat a dance.  We go forward, back, side to side, sometimes beautifully, sometimes wondrously.  Tumultuous is a good word.  He’s been a tricky partner at times and my dedication and finesse in riding have really been tested and pulled to forefront.  But, he is my ultimate educator and I feel like the more I ride him, the more I learn, the more my hunger to be better, my passion to be immersed in the education, is increased.  (And the more I ride, I learn to sit his antics, and keep us focused).

ReasonVroom

Last week we finally tilled in a rough riding area in the horses’ pasture.  I think the only way this could get better is if the area was actually built on a base, with some all weather footing and oh, maybe a nice hedge around the perimeter ;).  We also brought in a few logs for our growing cross country jump collection and hopefully I’ll be painting my weathered and unruly jump standards here soon.  The footing isn’t perfect, but both Reason and I are pretty conscious of it and it does the trick for now.

Speaking of education.  I want to ride lots of horses, work around them and in addition to that, be around people who can offer their own knowledge to help me go forward in my riding.  I take my equine education seriously (but with lots of humor, fun and a positive face) so I can get good.  I want to face my fears, challenges and be successful.  Riding horses is not only to be successful over jumps, performing a Dressage test, or retraining young Thoroughbreds (for me), but also helping in being a success, balanced person all around.

Last year I also started my own business.  It’s still a baby, and there is lots of growing to do, but how perfect, how right it feels, I know it’s here to stay.  Who knows what’s going to happen, or what direction it will go, but I feel so at home in finally finding a niche, for finally finding something that makes me so happy to do (besides riding and horses of course).  It’s been a goal for me to be a successful business woman, and also a successful rider and I’m seeing both come together.  Both are helping each other, a ping pong effect of good things.  I know now exactly what I want in my life, which is such a good feeling when for so long I felt unsure.

So with everything I’m pressing forward, creating my own path and am so happy and so excited.  I’m taking every free bit of time I have and using it to be around horses and further my education.  I have a few opportunities to get closer to horses and dive more into the game.  And Reason, he’s doing better everyday.  I’ll have more posts soon. 🙂

Moving the Mind.

(Left: Ink and I in 2007.)

Back in the late spring of 2010, Reason came into my life.  When I pulled down the drive-way, peering through Matt’s truck windshield, the rain drops disguising the very tall black figure up ahead, I was already decided that I was taking this horse home.  It was on curtails of losing my big bay gelding Ink, who stole my heart and began my love affair with the Thoroughbred, less than a month before.  I was unsure of what my ‘life with horses’ had in store for me.  It seemed that the life I had known so clearly before was no longer recognizable.  I was lost without Ink.  For the last four years I spent my days, weeks and months focused on Ink’s care and training and then it was gone, feeling almost as quickly as it began.  He was so much to me, a true ambassador for the Thoroughbreds to come in my life and he left a painful gap.  I couldn’t have had a better teacher than Ink and that I am always thankful for.

When I was able to get close to Reason, then an unnamed, unknown, dark bay gelding who seemed to tower over us, his head high up in the air, I was taken by the same presence that had me so in awe when I saw Ink for the first time at Thoroughbred Friends.  He saw me, but he didn’t.  The tall, sleek, horse was grateful that I was there, looking on as I should have but he had no real interest in me.  I wasn’t offended that he didn’t care for this human standing there; I almost sensed it was a rite of passage in a way.  He was too grand, too cocky, to care for his handlers, and I knew this well.  I liked this horse.

Ink was so proud and came strutting out from his paddock the first time I saw him on one very hot summer’s day.  Tall and strong, he was kind to let me handle him, but had little care for me.  When the handsome bay came home, he almost seemed disappointed.  Disappointed he was no longer at the race track and running anymore, no longer the king of the shed-row it seemed.  It was evident during those first few months, when he sulked around appearing a little embarrassed and depressed of where he ended up.  – A boring barn, taken from a job he clearly loved.  Ultimately it was my older Arabian mare who took Ink under her wing and helped him kindly move into his new life at a slower pace.  He became her “man” and helped him return to the confident, proud horse that I knew was inside of him.  Ink had a job again.

What Ink Spot did for me was more than I can write about at one sitting, but one thing that keeps repeating itself is how he helped me learn, to listen in.  Just listening to what the horses need and what they want and tirelessly pursuing that.  Ink needed someone to believe in him and bring that winner back, even if it meant never returning to the race track.  I had to listen and I had to pull myself up to the challenge in order to make this difference and to bring the real Ink back.

Ink in all his big bodied, 16.2hh stature, threw his body around quite a bit and challenged my abilities as a handler.  Often times I felt like I lacked enough knowledge or strength to truly do something positive for this horse, but he kept telling me in his own ways what I was doing wrong and what I was doing right – “keep at it kid, ” he always seemed to say.  So I did.  And when things were right, they were very right.  He would lower his head to my feet, let me rest my head on his and let me stand there and hug him despite his macho steel exterior and his obvious disgust (but truly utter love, of affection that he tried to hide.)   I helped him and he helped me.  In the end I was able to stand under the golden shadow of one incredible horse that was more honest than anyone or anything I had ever known.  He’d read anyone within eye-shot distance so well, that by the time you got to him, he’d have you completely figured out, whether you liked it or not.   He’d know exactly who you were, what baggage you carried and what you thought of him.  Some people didn’t like that much…  I loved it.

Reason, in his unique way, has tested me quite a bit.  Where Ink was a dependent horse under saddle, which graciously and happily would carry a rider, Reason was the opposite.  Reason was a baby who not only had a streak of naughty in him at times, rather cheeky, but also was seeking love and wanted it despite his antics.  He sought for attention, sometimes in the wrong ways.  He would follow me around, but I’d have to watch my back.  He was the kind of horse that would play with you like you were another colt and always seemed mischievous.  I’d be lying if I didn’t wonder at times if he would ever give me all his brain all the time.  He showed signs of great sense, but then great levity and wonder.  He took a lot of work in different ways and creativity.  The big baby horse always went to quite a degree of intensity in his reactions to things, where as other things he treated like he’d done and seen a million times.  It was an unpredictable path for a while.  I asked for help on multiple occasions to figure out what was going on and still wonder why certain things happened despite my real effort to question myself and dissect every aspect of him.

Despite some set-backs, Reason is now right where he needs to be.  Living happy, comfortable and with the same mare that helped Ink transition back in 2006.  Errika of course, has given Reason confidence he appeared to have lost or possibly always lacked.  Not sure which.  Now he moves around, no longer a bumbling colt ill-equipped to grasp the world around him, but growing into a mature gelding with the confidence and respect we all wish to see in our horses.  He’s turning into a solid citizen I feel I could send out into the big world and not worry about.  I couldn’t be happier for him and am thankful always to be learning, to have had the opportunity to own him and to be under his continuous tutelage.

During October and November we attended our second Dressage clinic (one of many more I hope), second play day simply for the purpose of schooling, and have gone on a handful of fun trail rides that Reason enjoys very much.  Come January we will be back to arena work accompanied with the exploratory freedom of the trails, and then we will proceed to begin jump training (yippee!).

Inevitably, we may end up in the Dressage, jumper or 3 day ring because Reason just may have the talent to do one or all of those independently at some point.  Who knows for sure yet, but it will be up to him to decide.

Brave and Careful.

I took Reason to ride at the arena on Tuesday evening.  The last few days have been warm, Tuesday was no different reaching into the 90’s.  Where in the world did 90 degree temperatures come from, in the middle of October, no less!?  I am no fan on the heat (long time readers know this well), so I waited until around 4 in the evening to trailer the horses over to ride.  There were two other riders there already.  It was nice to have some company and new things for Reason to look at.  The people had dogs (which make Reason nervous when he can’t walk right up to them), so it was a good time to school him through the distractions.  All this exposure he’s been getting as of late has been so good for him!

The ride was pretty good.  But it was more just working Reason through the surroundings verses getting down to work.  I wanted to get some canter stuff in there as I was anxious since having help on Saturday with that.  It was important for me to get right down into the hard stuff and face it head on, then to just casually work into it.  The first canter departs were OK.  Reason tried to get light in the front but it’s so far from what it was ever before, that I just have to push him through to the other side.  I have to open the canter up, pushing him through a door, to get him to the other side so he can actually relax within the pace and not bunch up.  Once I give him that direction and I can feel him go “through” it’s smooth sailing.  I have to also remind myself to be light, but settle as soon as I get him going.  I have a tendency to continue to push him and drive unnecessarily with my seat which sends mixed signals and doesn’t convey the relaxation I actually want.  My two largest things are those; getting Reason to flow into the canter depart and for myself to be quiet once he’s there.

After addressing the canter, I just wanted to work on Reason coming over his back to finish the ride.  Very much like the canter, he will be stiff and rigid until you push him ‘through’.  Once he’s ‘there’, he loves it and will work with you in that place and try to figure it out.  I tried to get long and low, to get the hind engaging, to get the shoulders up, anything, but it was so far between because of the distractions.  Going left was especially hard.  It’s definitely his un-favorable side.  He was not moving away from my leg and his neck was stiff.  There was no bend.  Everything felt seemingly flat.  I kept asking, but Reason was getting mentally tired.  He just wasn’t working with me and as I kept asking, he kept distancing.  So I stepped it back a notch, did some non-nonchalant trotting and walking and called it a night.

There was a lot of action for Reason to handle, even though he did well.  I could have done better as a rider, but hind-sight is 20/20.  I’m not sure how I would have handled the ride differently, or what I would have done differently, though I am constantly thinking about it.  Overall I was happy to just get that cantering in there!  Oh yea and that Reason is an awesome loader now!  He hops right in and out of the trailer.  He’s also hauling better and coming off the trailer with less nervous sweat.  Now he knows fairly well that where-ever we go will be something new and exciting.  Yay for huge progress in that department!

To end the night, I un-tacked Reason and took him to the trail ‘obstacle’ area to explore some of the stuff there.  One cool thing – a horsey teeter-totter!  Reason stepped right on without a second thought.  He did try to jump off of it, instead of walk across it, but after a couple of times, he walked all the way, and it tipped downward and he stepped off.  He’s pretty darn brave, getting confident and as always remaining careful.  Jumping may very well be in his future.

Education Odometer – First Outing

Reason enjoying breakfast before the day started at his first Play Day.

Reason hit his first, real trail ride Sunday.  Well first real one with some actual hills, rocky crossings and narrow paths.  I guess that’s what constitutes as a ‘real’ trail ride, anyway.  This was his 3rd time being out for this type of ride.  This particular park has Frisbee golf on a majority of it’s smaller property.  Being Sunday, I was expecting to see a lot more people than we’ve encountered before and some golfers.  Matt thought it was going to be interesting with that added element.  But I wasn’t worried about it and figured Reason was going to fare well.  Reason loves people and being around them and I think is more comforted by the sight of people just enjoying a good time, so the Frisbee was a second thought.  It was, no big deal.  We hit the trail with another couple.  Reason was in company, though the two guys rode ahead of us on their mares, leaving my friend and I riding together on our geldings for most of the ride.  Reason got nervous when Errika was too far ahead, but it was great for Reason to 1) ride with another horse, 2) trust me to get him through being some distance away from his mare.

During our short ride, Reason wasn’t exactly a calm cucumber, especially (and what I generally think it was) because Errika was lead horse and Reason was trailing behind.  He’s attached, really attached.  But his head was on straight, so I just sat up there and enjoyed the company and scenery giving him space and not crowd his already thinking brain.  He relaxed as the trail ride was coming to an end.  For his first time riding out with company and in a new place, I was proud of him and it’s just another trip we can add to his education odometer!

Reason and I on our Sunday trail ride with friends.
Me on Reason and Errika guarding one of his ribbons.

Last weekend Reason went to his first playday.  Like I wrote before, I thought this would be a great first outing to a kind-of show, type environment.  Some horses may need a buffer like this and others may not.  We aren’t in any rush to do anything or get anywhere, and I’d rather take my time to make sure he’s brought along with the wellness of his mind as top priority.  Reason does in fact need this buffer, although I think it’s most in part due to his attachment to Errika.  Actually I think Reason and I are being cheated out of seeing how things have changed because the focus is on not leaving his herd mate anywhere we go.  I don’t get a chance to see how he’s truly grown with that extra influence.  But I can see beyond that to a degree, and I do see a much more confident and stable horse than I’ve ever seen before and so, I will just go with the herd dynamic flow at this current point in time.

Reason and I head out to do his first ever [slow] pole bending pattern.
The playday went well.  It was a friend’s birthday so Reason was able to hang with a whole new group of horses he’d never seen before.  He was well-behaved and loved being in the sights of horse and human affection.  We had many compliments.  People loved the big dark horse!  We had adults and little girls coming up and asking about him.  I was proud to tell them he was in fact and off track Thoroughbred and this was his first ever ‘event.’  One of the ladies who put on the show said she was “impressed” with what I was doing with him.  I was thankful to just be there, on my horse and to let people get up close and personal with him.  We were a little bit out-of-place with all the western gear and looked more like we were ready to hit the jumper ring, but everyone was really nice and accepting.  I love being in a place with such nice people just wanting to have a good time!

The warm-up was slightly sketch.  I didn’t have a chance to lunge Reason.  It was a cool, brisk morning and he was a little fresh.  He was a little wondrous about the sudden ‘paddock’ we entered.  I felt him jolt a little underneath me as we made our way into the large outdoor.  The arena wasn’t bustling as your typical schooling ring would be.  Being that first time, in that new place, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect nor wasn’t sure how Reason was going to react initially.  One of the reasons I think going to a lower-key event such as this one, was a perfect introduction to the new world of ‘paddocks’ and rings and the world of showing.  I felt Reason get light in front when I to asked him to go forward.  He was reluctant to leave his mare, Errika.  Although she stood calmly at the fence.  I wasn’t sure if he was going to hold it together completely.  When things aren’t always on his terms, especially in these situations, he has tendency to get frustrated and will try many tricks to get through it, in his own way.  I wasn’t sure if the rearing tendency was going to, rear its ugly head or not.  It didn’t, but Reason did scoot and hop about sometimes.  I used my little box of tools to deter it even though at first I was nervous about the possibility of having to school through rearing.

Another shot of Reason enjoying breakfast. Handsome guy!

I know I shouldn’t have been nervous, but I was and I couldn’t help it.  I tried really hard to buckle down and focus my attention to the sights and sounds around me. –  The noise of crunching as we trotted along, the sand footing beneath us.  The cool air.  The lofty and floating trot Reason was doing (boy did that feel great!  I can’t imagine how it looked.)  The reins resting on my pinkie finger.  My leg sitting quietly against Reason’s barrel.  Eventually as best I could, I just lulled myself into a rhythm and went along with the ride.  Nothing in particular was being asked, just that he travel forward and in a somewhat large circle at one end of the arena.  Periodic halting and other things to put some emphasis on the braking and steering system.  It wasn’t soon into the warm-up that Reason put on the ritz and just went.  And boy did he.  The trot I was feeling was something out of a fairy tale.  Probably the unrefined floating, free trot you like to see in an upper level Dressage test.  Man I want to relive that trot over and over.  It’s the same trot I’ve seen him do freely, showing off in the pasture, but have never gotten to ride.  Now I can say I’ve had a glimpse from in the saddle!

Reason going back up through the pattern.

We went around poles for the pole bending class.  Reason has never done this, but we walked and did some trotting through the pattern.  I was able to use this class to bounce him off different legs as the pattern required.  It was actually really neat to do that with him.  It will be definitely something I incorporate with his training here and there.  Nothing like adding in something totally from left field to keep things from becoming monotonous.

Reason and I also did barrel racing (without the racing).  This was totally weird to him, going around barrels and such.  But he looked once, and just went.  Most of his focus was on not leaving Errika.  The mere fact that he stayed with me through all this and didn’t throw me or just handle the situation his own way, was the most important thing to me though.  I felt like he was listening and trying really hard to be good in what was occasionally a stressful and confusing situation for him.  My job was just to sit there, put my heels down, stay relaxed and guide him along.

What’s he thinking?

It was a great experience for Reason.  I don’t think we could have started his future showing experience on a better foot.  It was a great test, a great schooling opportunity and he was set up well for it.  I was proud of him and thankful to have been apart of it.

We are planning on riding in a real arena a couple days a week now on a regular basis, trail riding and attending another playday at the end of the month.  More exposure and more fun!
Here is a video during the end of the day.  I was trying to get Reason to just chill some more and eventually walk without the need to break into the trot.  (Yes, I am on the wrong diagonal.  I rarely pick up the right one when I’m not paying attention to my equitation.  Sorry for the shaky video.   You have been warned if you get motion sickness!)