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!)

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Thoroughbreds for All Event! Re-cap, Part 3-4

I have not posted the final parts of the Thoroughbreds For All Event, from the perspective of blogger, Stacey Kimmel-Smith.  Hopefully some of you have seen the final two parts through Stacey’s blog already.  But if you have not, no better time than the present! 

I just love the riding of Eric Dierks and his quiet, supportive style.  He seems to promote confidence, suppleness and relaxation in his horses.  I give props to both of them; Kerry Blackmer and Eric Dierks for their riding.  Both the horses seemed everything that OTTB riders have known for some time; willing and as Stacey says, “game.” 

TBs for All Part 3: You might as well jump

 Bruce wanted to try the horses over a few jumps (what he would do if he were evaluating a horse for purchase). The horse rescue organizer/manager reluctantly agreed to let Bruce tutor the riders/horses in jumping — they started with a single cavaletti and quickly worked their way to a vertical. For those of you just tuning in, these are just off the track horses. They show they’re game for anything — jumping into the crowd, no less. Harv would not have handled this as well as they did…

Stay tuned for Part 4: The Oxer!

 All for TBs Part 4: Two great prospects, revealed!

So within a few minutes of being introduced to poles, Bruce moves on to set up an oxer…

In the background, you’ll see a woman on a chestnut just outside the arena — this is Ready for April and Cathy Weischhoff — truly a highlight of an already enjoyable evening. A fancy athletic chestnut, 16.2, Cathy has used natural horsemanship techniques to take this horse to an advanced level in a short timeframe. She seems like a really nice lady, very down to earth, and she’s found herself a “keeper.” There is a video on young event horses where Cathy talks about Ready and his performance at an event at Rebecca Farm (with footage!). Awesome horse.

Stacey Kimmel-Smith, writer of Behind the Bit, can be found by visiting the BTB blog or contacted through email at behindthebit(at)gmail(dot)com.
Thank You again Stacey for letting us share this at Diligent Horse!

Thoroughbreds For All Event!

There are such great things happening right now for OTTB’s and that can be thanks to the efforts of OTTB fans everywhere.  From the stories to the work being done to promote them on every level is contributing to the current and future of the horse we OTTB folks love and appreciate.  I hope to see events such as Thoroughbreds for All happening in California in the near future.

Needless to say, you bet I was excited to hear about the Thoroughbreds for All Event- On the RRTP site,”Thoroughbreds For All! is an evening of education and fellowship for people who favor off-the-track Thoroughbreds combined with an invitation for equestrians to shop in Kentucky for the Thoroughbred of their dreams.”  Stueart Pittman of the Retired Racehorse Training Project, and the most recent display of the ex-racehorse proving it’s aptitude and train ability in the Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge, with New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program hosting the event, put together what was described as a combination of market and education.

Also in attendance; long-time equestrian, eventer and Olympian, Bruce Davidson, rolex 3day Veterans, Cathy Wieschhoff and Dorothy Crowell, and NARA (North American Racing Academy) executive director and instructor, Chris McCarron and racetrack veterinarian, Dr. Alladay.  With this well-rounded group, the event was sure to be successful not to mention educational.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this event possible!  It really is something special to have people come together to celebrate something they are so passionate about through something like this.  Go Team OTTB!

Fellow blogger, Stacey Kimmel-Smith who writes at Behind the Bit, is a Rolex regular and as she says, Becky a BTB friend, suggested that they attend Thoroughbreds for All while at the prestigious 4 star event last weekend.   Upon finding out that she would be attending TFA, I decided to ask her if she’d be so kind as to share her perspective on the event and allow it to be posted here, at Diligent Horse.  Thank you Stacey!

There are multiple parts to this series on the Thoroughbreds for All Event by Stacey, so stay tuned!  Below are the first two parts.

   Thoroughbreds for All: A symposium and celebration of OTTBs

One of my BTB friends,  Becky, suggested that we attend Thoroughbreds for All while we were at Rolex. I knew nothing about it but I love my own dear thoroughbred, so I signed up for the evening clinic/symposium/workshop on retraining thoroughbreds. I had no idea that the cast of speakers would be such an elite and knowledgable group, but with Bruce Davidson there, anything else was icing on the cake — and there was a lot of icing! The other experts are  notable  in the thoroughbred and eventing world and with good reason — experience, experience, experience. Their names are at the end of this article.

The evening centered around helping the audience understand the world through the eyes of an ex-racehorse, and to help us to size up the potential and best use of the individual OTTB. Someone has already summarized the event in a brief horseadoption.com article if you want to read it. I’ll cover it in a bit more detail but overall it was fun,  informal, the food was delicious, and I would have spent twice the amount of the ticket for this experience.   Bob went too, and he enjoyed it as well.

I have captured some video of the evening — it starts out a little dark but it improves, so keep watching! In this first part, we see our team of experts evaluating one of five adoption candidates presented–a former Kentucky Derby runner, Advice.

I’ll note that the horses presented aren’t specially selected; they are intended to be representative of what’s out there. While the horse presented below (Advice)  has a lot of “jewelry” from his race career, others in the group looked ready to move into hard work. Still, the beauty and quality of Advice is undeniable.


Later Cathy Wieshhoff  showed off her gorgeous chestnut TB, Ready for April. We were all drooling as she showed us her training techniques. Her horse was focused on her like a border collie, and I found a video of Cathy online demonstrating the same concepts.

TBs for All part 2: Bruce Davidson talks track horses

“I hear they pay good money for bucking horses”

In this segment of the Thoroughbreds for All symposium, we see three riders (Eric Dierks, Kerry Blackmer, and Steuart Pittman)  from the Retired Racehorse Training Challenge in an even-more-challenging situation. They each hop up on an unfamiliar, fresh-off-the-track, OTTB in a very charged situation, and they ride them. The horses are typical just off the track condition — while they’ve had a bit of let-down time, they have not been in regular horse tack, retraining has not yet begun. As if that’s not enuf, there are are probably 200 people in bleachers watching, clapping, laughing, talking–oh, and a loud microphone  with occasional feedback.

I have nothing but admiration for the riders and their coach, Bruce Davidson. You’ll hear lots of gasps and laughter because the horses are reactive (yes, there is bucking!) and the banter is so amusing. They take it all in stride, so to speak.


OTTB  EXPERT PANEL
Stacey Kimmel-Smith, writer of Behind the Bit, can be found by visiting the BTB blog or contacted through email at behindthebit(at)gmail(dot)com.
Thank You again Stacey for letting us share this at Diligent Horse!