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. 🙂

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.

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!

Jumping Update & Reason.

Riding has been going really well.  I’m really getting back into a groove thanks to one very awesome little ex-racehorse and his owner who, with her years of experience and knowledge both in and out of the tack, have helped begin to mold me into a real, jumper rider.  In a couple months I’m now jumping 3’6″ with ease.   The last time I had this much fun jumping was back in my pony school days, but that doesn’t even compare to what’s happening right now.  My full jumping ability is starting to come out and I’m starting to become the rider I’ve always wanted and aspired to be.

Warm-up fence.
Cantering a couple weeks ago.
Trotting a couple weeks ago.

Reason is coming along well too.  He’s starting to open up and move forward.  I’ve started to ask for just a little stretching down and flexion here and there to keep him focused and he’s responding well.  But I truly think he’ll begin to come into the horse is really is, when we begin jumping.  He has to endure some more flat work before that starts, but at least we’re on our way.  I asked for the canter yesterday, since he was going so well, and I got the light in the front end, refusal, before he goes high-ho-silver, and backed off.  In hindsight I should have done what my friend said in response to a rearer.  But helping a horse work through rearing is not something I know how to do well, nor have I ever had any experience with a chronic rearer before.  I’ve taken my sweet time in listening, observing and maneuvering through this in a safe manner.  I’m starting to be able to predict when it’s going to happen and ultimately get to a point where I can prevent it from happening altogether, but Reason has been a bit of a loose cannon in that sense.  – It’s made it hard as he has been a more un-predictable mount.  But he’s a lot better than he used to be.  So we’ll keep working slowly but surely.  I believe in him and I know the horse inside, so I’ll just keep working with what I see down the road, and he should continue to come around.

“I raided mom’s closet. Do you think it fits?”
Reason and I two weekends ago.

So now for some fun stuff.  Here is a video of me riding Bax, the little Thoroughbred that can!  He’s a super jumper.  He’s green but he’s got GAME.  Most importantly he LOVES his job and lives for it.  Which makes the experience what it is.  What seems to be my biggest problem is the landing now.  I’m approaching the jumps much better and I’m getting all that pretty well, but the landing does need work.  For some reason I’m favoring my right leg and you can see my body wiggle to that side, therefore telling the horse to land on the right lead, which when we’re turning left, does not help.  I have to re-correct Bax for my own mistake on landing most of the time.  Other than that we’re getting better!  Hey Bax is always great, but I’m starting to pilot him much better and we’re starting to work more as a team.  He relies on me to get him to the jump and I rely on him to get us in the air.  I love him.

Whirlwind Week.

Reason!

I know I’ve been a little MIA this week.  Getting back into riding shape has been sort of, kind of, intense.  There is a big difference between riding the horse and riding the horse.  I’m trying really hard to get myself moving up and forward in my riding and be the kind of rider I want to be.  Technical, sensitive, adjustable and confident.  I say confident because you won’t see my jumping a 4’6″ course anytime soon.  Heck no, I’m just mastering the cumulative requirements to ride a 2’6″ fence again.   But I’m getting there and my friend who’s been helping me in achieving this goal to be that rider, has been nothing but perfect.  She’s honest with me, direct, but supportive.  And it’s a wonder why her horses are well-trained, well-mannered and just happy.

On Monday I rode the little OTTB again and it was great.  We finished the ride doing a triple combination, ending at a 2’7″ vertical.  On Tuesday I rode a different horse which is such a change from Bax.  The Warmblood is not super tall, but he is big bodied, has longer and larger strides and rides overall different.  He is comfortable in the opposite ways Bax is.  I love all his paces and could definitely ride the canter all day.  We did something that was challenging to both of us which started, after warming up over ground poles and such, with the “circle of death.”  – Four poles set in a circle format, which we had to canter over practicing accuracy in pace, and in steering, to make it to each pole in the center.  Then we did a small course of jumps that were aimed to help me with the jumper turns.  What fun!!  The following day I was tired and came up short in my riding.  My mind and body were not connecting.  There were minor achievements within the ride, but overall I’d chalk it up to an off day.  A day that means I’ll ride that much harder and that much better the next time.

Things have been going well with Reason.  Our tack walks are proving to be valuable assets in the early training process.  I’m able to address his issues in a much more relaxed, low-pressure environment which helps him stay checked in.  We spend some of the time walking on the buckle and other parts of the time doing things that require him to think more through patterns.  His confidence is improving and his attitude is changing too.  I think he’s also enjoying having a regular routine to predict again.  Little by little we are making progress.

A trail ride will be in the works for Reason soon too.  It stinks not having a trailer to be able to take him out on a regular basis because I know it would be really good for him, but I am thankful I do have someone who allows me to use theirs to do such things with.

I’ll have a more thorough update on Reason this coming week.

One End to the Other.

Reason and I after Sunday’s first tack walk after being legged back up.

You know when you’re riding and you feel those moments come through that for a second everything is in a harmonic, rhythm?  Every part of your body and your mind is communicating to the horse just right and in return the horse is responding by traveling in balance, in rhythm and in excellent focus.  You know in those moments that what you’re feeling is exactly right.  You feel it and suddenly you grow an obsession of sorts, of a driving force to go to that place, all the time, every-time.  Parts of my ride yesterday were like that.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like that in the saddle!

Bax picked up a nice canter and in the beginning we were cruising over a simple pole on the ground.  My goal was to stay light, stay balanced and ride the pole like it was a fence.  Eyes up, shoulders up, heels down, hand light, seat light, moving with the motion, balanced, supportive and riding in the moment.  At times the distance was off, or I was too focused on one part of the equation, that others faltered.  This is how riding works.  You diligently pursue mind and body to build an ultimate riding machine, so you can better communicate to your horse.  It teaches you to be very aware.  In order to ride that fence right, you have to have all your ducks in a row and all cylinders firing.  That’s why riding is such good therapy.  When you put your mind and body ‘there’ the horse responds with as much as you put into it.  – Some make you work harder for it, some like Bax, make you strive for it because the connection with the horse spans deeper. –  This horse loves to jump.  My friend who owns him described him as “attacking the jump.”  He goes towards it on a mission.  It’s the coolest thing to be riding a horse with as much drive to hit that fence as right as you want too.

We went on to jump a small vertical and work on more technique and played jumper with a tighter turn and therefore a smaller window for preparation and to arrange all those ducks in a row.  It was so much fun!  Then we did an in and out, with a cross rail to another vertical which was between 2’3″ and 2’6″.  The end portion was cantering to the small vertical, which was set on the diagonal, jumping the in and out and then back over the ground pole.  With this I also got to further practice the flying changes coming out of the jump, which is also so much fun.  It felt so good and I was so proud of Bax and I.

Later on in the day on Tuesday, Reason also got his chance to go out.  It was a tack walking day.   Reason was a very good boy.  He gave me some attitude in little tiny bits here and there, but that’s also him and it was over as quickly as it began.  He was very pleased with himself.

Yesterday I rode Reason for another tack walk.  I wanted to casually walk the pasture on the buckle and allow him to take us to the areas he desired.  The footing in some spots of the pasture are hard, crusty and not comfortable for the dark horse to travel over, but he knows where the good spots are.  I do too, but I wanted him to work for himself a bit.  I guided him if he ventured off, but left him alone for the most part.  I created boundaries, but gave him the door and the opportunity to make the right choice.  We had some great walking in.  The whole ride his head was low, there was not fighting, chomping or sour attitude related to the bit.  We watched as a tractor came by to mow the ditch for the county and the cows across the street once again lined up to watch their neighbor horse-friend walk around all dressed up.

Reason is such a curious horse.  Ink was much the same way and it’s something I love and encourage, encourage, encourage.  When Reason heard the tractor coming down the road, long before I heard or even saw it, he began to want to walk straight towards the fence parallel to that road.  We watched as it went by and he kept wanting to get a little closer and watch all the action.

I had only one little test from Reason, but it was needed.  I knew he may test his boundaries at one point and I was open to it.  I knew that it would be an excellent opportunity for me to further establish the guidelines (that he needs to truly become a confident, happy horse).  As we were walking in the opposite direction of the shelter, where Errika was hanging out in, Reason stopped.  I gave him a squeeze to see what he would do.  He swished his tail, I turned him in a circle, kicked and we carried on.  We didn’t have any problems after that and I think he was happy that I handled it that way and happy to see me rise to the leader he needs and wants me to be.  I allowed him to make the decision to react that way as I carried on with walking, there if he needed my guidance, but he didn’t sway.  With that I ended the ride.

Lately everything is going so well and I’m so thankful.  I’m meeting new [horse] people and reconnecting with old people and of course more horses!  I just love it!  The horses have taught me a lot about myself, who I want to be and just, life.  They truly are special creatures with amazing gifts in everything they do.  What is special, what is meaningful lies in the journey, the end goal is a reflection of it.

Horse with Heart.