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!

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.

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

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

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

TBs for All Part 3: You might as well jump

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

Stay tuned for Part 4: The Oxer!

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

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

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

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

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.