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.
Well, here’s an update, since I’ve been lacking in my writing activities.
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!
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.
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.
Today was day three of the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event. Although I don’t follow eventing closely, I do always pay attention every spring for when the horses are displaying their discipline in Dressage, galloping and jumping, intimidating (well, to someone like myself) solid fences on cross country day and showing their maneuverability, amongst other things, during show jumping during the final phase of the event. Three day eventing has always been an interest for me and it’s definitely my sport of choice when it comes to horses.
Kentucky looked beautiful and picturesque for this years event. Back in California, the weather is similar and the only thing that could make it better is if I had some grounds resembling that of the Kentucky Horse Park ;).. The sun is shining and the horses are enjoying a much slower lifestyle than the horses at Rolex. Reason munches on grass instead of galloping across it and stands for his own photos, not from completing a complex four star cross country course, but because he’s enjoying the victorious feeling of getting to munch on the tall grass that he’s been eyeballing for some time.
Reason is doing good and he’s been carrying the bit well, during his light lunging sessions, since his dental work on Monday. I have yet to hop on him, as he got his feet trimmed and came up sore. The field has gotten pretty dry, crusty and hard which has not helped the situation either. Poor guy can’t seem to catch a break. He should be ready to go early next week and then we begin lots and lots of tack walking. But we’ll see. Thankfully we have two big fields to hack out on so we won’t get too bored too quickly with the walking..
I’m very excited to begin back under saddle with him. After his dental on Monday I really came away with a relief and I’m optimistic for the future. He’s such a good boy with a good, very trainable mind. Lets go Reason!
Yesterday Reason and Errika had their stint in the dentists chair. Reason loaded up in the trailer only with minor coaxing this time. But then again it was the trailer that he likes and has always willingly loaded up into. Without having my own trailer to practice loading, I’m thankful I do have access to the trailer that all my horses have prefered to ride in. When we left the clinic, Reason loaded up without a second thought. If I could buy this trailer or one just like it, I would. I love it.
When we arrived at the clinic, Reason hopped off the trailer sweaty. He is not the happiest hauler. He stands quietly, but he gets nervous. When I got him I was told he likes to ride loose. Although he doesn’t ride loose in the trailer now, I do give him the whole back slots of the trailer to himself. He always backs up the the rear corner against the door and the right-side window and stays quiet. When it’s time to unload, he usually walks forward and waits patiently for me to get him out and he proceeds ever so cautiously to step off the trailer. Thankfully our trip was short. I’m guessing that Reason will be a happier hauler once he goes in and out like it’s just another day at the office. A routine of regular trail rides and things of that nature. He has only been hauled by myself twice, since I’ve had him, both for different purposes.
Once at the clinic both the horses were good and relatively quiet. Errika hauls well, but isn’t one to take easily to new places. Unless of course she has a buddy with her. In this case the two horses kept each other grounded and comfortable. It was peaceful and quiet at the facility, which only aided in their ability to stay relaxed.
Reason went first and Errika kept him company tied on the opposite side of the large stall. (I’d like to mention here I do not like to enable a situation where horses are reliant on each other, “herd-bound.” However I do feel like horses should have the chance to be horses, especially horses like Errika who are in their retirement and should enjoy the company they love and are happiest with. There is nothing I like to see more than my old girl grazing in the pasture accompanied by her “man.” Like-wise Errika has been great company to keep for Reason. Errika has helped Reason in many ways and he is a happier horse because of this. When Reason goes back into real work, they may be separated and Errika may have a new friend in the place of Reason, but it will be for the benefit of Reason’s growth. I want a well-rounded horse who can travel with and without company etc. Everything is done with a balance in mind and the horses comfort in mind and body, so it will be a well thought out flow of adjustment when the time comes for Reason to possibly move on to a new living situation.)
Reason has a “typical 6 y/o mouth,” the vet said. With the exception of some good sized hooks at the very back of the mouth which required the use of hand-tools to really get to. The vet drugged Reason carefully and conservatively making sure to build upon the sedation as necessary. It seemed as though Reason needed a bit more sedation than initially thought. Even when the vet began the venture into the mouth, it was discovered that Reason was almost over-riding the drugs as he displayed overly sensitive reactions to the work being done. The said work being done was gentle, careful and conservative and I felt at ease with the whole procedure. Besides Reason’s hooks and the tiny over-bite, he has a normal mouth and the vet discovered nothing directly that would be causing the swelling I described. As the vet worked on Reason it was noted that the big horse is pretty sensitive all-together and that there was certainly a possibility that Reason was/is sensitive to the bit.
I’ve thought about what I witnessed and what I’ve noticed yesterday during the appointment and also over the course of time I’ve been trying to figure everything out. To me it appears Reason IS in fact sensitive in the mouth (as with almost every other part of him) and that could have contributed to the pain I’ve been sensing with him. The vet also put in “bit seats” which makes me wonder if this could have been where most of the problem lied. Cheek flesh, sensitive soft tissue, can get pulled back when pressure is applied to the bit and can be inflicted by the fore cheek teeth (in addition to pressure on the tounge). Knowing how sensitive Reason was during his dentistry and under sedation, makes me believe that when the bit was even sitting in the mouth it could have been causing discomfort. The vet recommended a rubber bit to try as well.
Trying to put together the puzzle to get Reason through this and pin down the source of pain, has not been easy. Horses can’t talk and we must rely on our senses, in addition to a more in-depth sixth sense as it seems, to communicate and hear what they are trying to tell us. All along I’ve known something was wrong in my gut but had to take my time and be patient and listen closely. In the beginning I didn’t listen to my horse like I should have and only listened to one aspect of the whole big picture. In fact I do believe that Reason’s reactions (rearing, bucking) were to pain and discomfort and really are not related to training. I truly believe he is a wonderful, great horse with a good head on his shoulders. But as sensitive as he is, I think that is why he had the reactions he did, where maybe another horse may have only exhibited head tossing or gaping of the mouth. In addition to the discomfort, I became hesitant of doing much with Reason as I was unsure if it would cause him pain. He sensed this in me and knew he could all avoid the pain itself and the pain causer (me) with dominance. Well, now that I’ve had two professionals in different fields address him from different perspectives, I do have a clearer, better understanding of what is going on and how to change the outcome.
I have taken away a lot through this whole ordeal and have learned a lot as well. That’s what it’s all about, right? Lots of learning.
Today visiting Reason, he seemed happier, quieter and wasn’t trying to ‘tell me something.’
I think it’s safe to say that chapter has ended and a new one is beginning. Such a relief.
I didn’t write anything last year, but I’m writing something this year. Two years ago today I lost Ink, my very special horse who taught me a boat load in the short span of the near 5 years that I had him. I have moved on and made my peace with the past, but I still miss him and do wonder what things would be like if he was still here. Shortly after his passing I saw Doves on numerous occasions and in odd places. But it was the Hawk that stuck around and who comes about even now, that I am reminded of him and comforted by his never-ending presence in my life. Ink started it all. I miss you my big beautiful horse.