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!)

Every Which Way

Reason showing his sweet, kind, willing eye! Please ignore the bridle that needed adjusting..

Last week was Reason’s first real week back into work and he did really well.  Prior to that we were doing light stuff and bareback riding as mentioned in our last post.  We had a couple of hacks and lunging to start week one.  I’m back to teaching him lateral flexion mixed in throughout our rides as that’s where we left off last time.  Reason is going off my leg nicely (good pony!) and is flowing right along.  He and I have come some long ways recently in our trust and understanding.  I don’t want to sound corny and say ‘relationship’ but yes, we’re coming strides in our relationship ;).

Yesterday though, I had [my first in a while], kind-of, fall off of Reason.  It wasn’t his fault really although I was disappointed in what happened.  Normally I do our riding and hacking outside of the pasture, which is where he lives with Errika.  Sometimes I’ll ride him inside the pasture, but the ground is much softer outside for regular purposes.  Both the horses are attached to each other, which poses its unique challenges.  But they have been getting really good about being apart during Reason’s ‘work.’  Reason is focused and settled in his work and Errika watches Reason leave and then returns to eating and grazing.  But yesterday my mom came along with me and she took Errika on a walk.  Reason was being fine about Errika being outside the pasture for a change, but after I mounted and he called out, I wasn’t so sure.  I kept him moving along and we briefly stopped because I could feel him starting to rush under me as we ventured a little further away.  The ground where we were walking was not safe [enough] to send him forward beyond the walk.  Then I felt ‘it’ and what went through my mind in that instant was what was just about to happen…

I felt Reason get tall and I felt him ready to blow, I knew my snaffle bit wasn’t going to stop him if he decided to take off and I wasn’t about ready to take that ride.  I began to dismount quickly as my time was seemingly running out.  Reason quickly turned around before I could get my feet on the ground, knocking me down and sending my body sideways into the ground.  I hit the hard dirt, seeing Reason’s hind feet standing still, but as soon as he realized I was off, he bolted off into a full gallop.  I watched him run and then return to the pasture gate where Errika left from.

Reason regained some bearings once he realized everything was really ok, except that his rider was no longer on him..  I managed to hop back on and continue riding, this time with Errika closer to the gate.  Reason was being good, but he was still a bit checked out, so it wasn’t really a good ride, mostly one born out of necessity, I guess you would say.

Before yesterday, everything was going so well!  But now that I have this very obvious issue in front of me.  I have to dive right in and deal with it.  I’m still figuring out how, without stressing either horses, but it’s going to inspire creativity, and of course, diligence.

Next week we head out for hopefully at least one light trail ride and a playday at the end of the week.  The playday will be Reason’s first outing to something other than a trail ride.  I was very optimistic about going before yesterday, but now I’m not sure how easy-going it will be.  The whole point of really taking Reason is to expose him to a new environment without exposing him to un-needed stress and anxiety during his first outings after the race track.  I want him to be comfortable and trusting of me when he goes anywhere no matter what may come.  The only way that will happen is if we go out and do that, but I want to do it in the best possible way for him.  (Set him up for success!)  I can’t completely write off the playday because I do think it will be just fine.  I just do not want to take him if I feel he’s going to melt-down or it be completely contradictory to what I am trying to do.  I’m hoping the following days and next week will give me an idea of if it should be a scratch or not.

Despite the fact that this post isn’t exactly what I thought it would be – up until yesterday I had some great things to write about that didn’t include the above – I am so very proud of Reason and how well he’s doing.  I’m starting to feel ‘at home’ on him.  Even after my failed attempt at an emergency dismount ;).  And in spite of everything, I am learning so much for my very talented and smart dark horse.

More soon!

Reas being silly and showing off his lovely coat!

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!

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.

Silence the World.

When the air is chilly and wind picks up and my pasture horse has enjoyed a grazing solitude for a few days, I know what I’m in for when I get to the “farm.”  Today was no different.  I’ve ridden Reason in the rain and particularly the wind.  Fast, blustery, normally would think twice about going out in, wind.  You might be thinking, just because they’re OTTB’s that you’ll be in for one hellofaride when you mount up? I don’t just say that to enhance what stereotypes exist; I say that because I’ve had people look in amazement how my horses have stood quietly when a tractor is vrooming around, or starts up, or when the wind is blowing because they did expect something different.  This could be thanks to the race track, to the environment and the way horses are handled and this is one thing I enjoy about these Off Track Thoroughbreds.  There is no reason to fret the wind.  I haven’t spent time in the paddocks, stables, shedrows or anything to say what things are like back there.  But I’m pretty sure those handlers are definitely not the kind you commonly see at your average boarding facility.  You know, the kind who decide today will just be a grooming day because the storm be rolling in?  Nothing wrong with that FYI.  Just I like horses who I can do that kind of stuff with.  And that is reason #I LOST COUNT as to why I enjoy these horses.

Today Reason was characteristically fired up.  When things get tough, the tough get going and moving we do.  In the saddle, it’s the same thing.  Press on, lets go to work buddy.  I haven’t worked with Reason enough, at least under saddle to really get to work but I do remember working with Ink and I knew it was my job to tell him where, tell him how and give him a good reason why to listen to me.  That good reason was because I was worth his trust.  He was safer with me.  I’d keep the world at bay.  And in turn he’d be there with me.

Stay quiet, stay collected and stay confident.  I’m learning this with Reason.  Heck, what am I not learning with Reason?  That would be a very,very small list.  When I rode Ink I knew that when it doubt, business out.  Ride, ride like you mean it, have somewhere to go.  Make it worth both of your efforts.  Say, “lets go,” and ride with commitment.  I loved that every time I said “go” Ink was there and was ready.  Whatever chaos or crazy world was happening around us, I knew once we clicked in got to work, the world was silenced.

When I watch Reason react to the wind and cold, I think, what can be done with all that energy and all that YEE-HAW.  To collect it up and to bottle it up to be used; there is much potential there.  When I ask and I ask right, he’ll bring it to the table and we’ll ride on it.  Rock on buddy.

For now I’m on the ground, waiting until I mount up again, wind and wild, to ride that fresh, hot, OTTB who can silence a world of chaos.