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!

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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. 🙂

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!)

A little bit of This and That.

Reason and I on his second trail ride, in early August. He was such a champ!

I haven’t written in some time now.  (One day I may be doing something interesting to actually write a blog post that doesn’t consist of, ‘haven’t been doing much riding lately…’)

Reason is doing great and looks great too.  Both the horses have been a little less enthused about their dry grass pasture, missing the green lush one of the winter and spring, but as the winds change and the air gets colder yet again, the green will soon be here.  Just a little longer kids!  The horses did have a pasture guest for a short period of time, which they both loved.  Reason became quickly attached and took the 20 year old gelding under his 6 year old wings.  It was cute and we all miss the little horse!  The horses settled back into life with just the two of them just as quickly as they invited the other horse, so no stress or worries in that department.

Reason has been maturing so much and is such a different, but same, horse than he was 2 years ago.  He’s outgrown his baby face and his baby antics and is coming into quite the gentlemen.  He’s always had some great qualities, but also some challenging ones as well, that have made the journey a little tough a times.  He’s incredibly smart and can be liked to a genius child who could either do wonders for the world, or.. He was a horse who verged on the ‘maybe’ and ‘no’ category with hints of ‘YES!’ but things were not easy.  He is getting into the ‘YES’ horse I have known was always inside of him and to watch his expression change has been wonderful.

Unfortunately, as the usual theme, I have not been riding.  Again, no riding space with appropriate footing I’m comfortable working him on on a regular basis,the horses pasture has made our riding experiences low-key.  Very low-key.  It’s actually been nice in a way because what riding we do, is walking some trotting, bareback in a halter.  I play with him and just keep moving forward to help him ease into the horse I want him to become without any pressure or worries.  As the days go by, I keep thinking about all the fun things we could do and what I need to do to get us there (horse camping, getting into jumping and Dressage, take him neat places, teach him to do the Spanish walk under saddle, passage and piaffe.. Go to clinics in all different disciplines. So much!).  I want to take him to a low-key play day soon, just to be in a new place and do fun, simple things without putting him into a stressful environment I know he is not ready for at this point.  I want him to be confident and happy and once we get there, we can go anywhere!

Reason all buckled up for safety!

 

 

Reason on his Way.

Reason stepped it up today.  Instead of completely focusing on smooth walk to trot, halt to trot transitions and staying in front of the leg, I added in some work to help him stretch; go long and low and follow my hands.  I felt a couple really cool things through doing this.  One of which was Reason’s total, ‘this mom, this mom?’ attitude towards the whole thing, a lifting back and push from behind instead of the regular shuffle in the front end.  Hello, awesomeness!  How cool!  He was looser in his jaw and following my hands wherever I put them.  Stretch down, come up a bit and more on the vertical – he did it all!  I was so proud and I felt the inner Dressage horse coming through.  The moments were little bits at a time, but that’s the start and if he’s already taking to the concept this quickly, I’m sure things will move steady in that regard.  I think one of the best things besides ‘that’ feeling where you feel the horse ‘connect‘ physically, was also the connection mentally.  Reason was into what we were doing.  He hasn’t been really impressed with anything lately where riding is concerned, not that I really blame him, so the fact that he was so willing and so focused, only added to the overall goodness of the ride.

Reason today moving forward nicely. You can see some push from the hind end and a lightness in the bridle.

I felt Reason matures little bits at a time as we move on.  He becomes less resistant and less ‘no’, and more willing and accepting to learn something new.  He’s been a tough cookie when it comes to his mental perspective and ideas of things he shouldn’t and should be doing.  If I can gather the parts of him that are willing, happy and brilliant,  find ways to break through the wall he has up, I will eventually get through to the horse on the other side.  That horse if you will, is always right there, but yet not.

Overall Reason has really lightened up in his attitude too.  He’s a happy horse who’s blossoming into mature gelding instead of a silly colt.  I love the silly colt, but it’s time for him to grow up now.

He’s such a lovely, light, beautiful mover too, I just would love to see it come forward under saddle!

The Mysterious ‘Challenge’

Yesterday I ponied Reason off of Errika.  In her usual self, Errika was a bit more excited at the idea than Reason was.  Who is the young horse here?  It was questionable at times.  Reason was great and enjoyed doing the ponying, but got bored quickly, so I added in ground work, ground tying and other things all from Errika’s back which was fun and also got Errika to relax as well.

I have some other news to share, but I’m waiting to share it.  All I can say is that for the past year and almost a half out of the near two years I’ve owned Reason I’ve been confronted with some interesting ‘challenges.’

Reason and I haven’t done much in the way of training under saddle since I began doing more than tack walking during bringing him back under saddle since he bowed at the track.  We’ve dabbled, but nothing ever stuck.  We had help, but nothing went the way it was supposed to.  In the beginning I was confronted with many ideas from various people as to what it could have been, what could be going on.  Maybe it was me?  Maybe it was tack?  Maybe it was..something else?  I had professionals address him mostly from the training side.  Maybe because he was an OTTB and that immediately brought up training concerns in people’s eyes?  I took in opinions and thoughts on what exactly what may have been going on.  I took in my abilities, my lack of abilities, anything and tried to determine the source.  To the no, frustrating, pull-my-hair-out, avail.

I remember when Reason would rear under saddle.  I remember how it felt.  It wasn’t to be bad it was to get me off and I knew exactly why.  He was in pain.  But I couldn’t pin-point the pain.  I tried other saddles, I tried different saddles (Dressage, close contact, western, even bareback, with and without a pad).  Nothing worked.  Nothing changed.  I rode in a halter, noticed a change but still, something was off. 

I remember watching Reason in the round pen, flipping a biscuit.  He would rear, buck, kick, roll and paw frantically.  This wasn’t right.  Someone told me that to them it appeared he needed to just run.  Maybe?  But no, it wasn’t that.  Although maybe a symptom of sorts, it was not the source.  The behavior he was exhibiting was not that.  It was abnormal to a healthy, happy horse, which he clearly was not.  Sometimes when I was with him in the round pen, watching him and trying to figure out what to do, I felt as though he was checking out into flight or fight mode and I was just an object that he sometimes didn’t see as he made his way all over the round pen trying to, what appeared to be, get rid of whatever was bothering him.  At times I felt my safety was a concern and that threw more sticks in the spokes as far as theories.  But again, that was not it.  Reason would rear up, head between his legs, and strike out, as if something was irritating him related to his head.  Over and over again theories, ideas, but no answers.  No real answers.

I now think I know what is going on and that my gut and hunch was right all along.  Obviously there is a somewhat long road ahead towards resolving this mysterious challenge (to me) that has been plaguing Reason and I’s progress but nevertheless the thought of a resolution to all this, is exciting.  More on that later, but for now, I just wanted to give an update.