Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Brooklyn Starts Jumping

A little bit at a time, I have been introducing Brooklyn to the concept of jumping. Even though he is a smart and brave horse (and a TB), he doesn't seem to have the natural inclination to hop over obstacles like some horses (Booger) that I have trained. With that said, he's starting to grasp that when we point him at something (under saddle or on the lunge line), we want him to keep moving forward over it. I will add that for a horse who seems puzzled about why we suddenly want him to "disregard fences", he has pretty decent form!

I have been doing lots and lots of trot poles with the little guy, and that part he totally gets. He just pricks his ears, picks up his feet, and prances fancily on through.

We have also been working on building a steadier, more collected, more balanced canter. It's really coming along, and he's starting to get that slow and rhythmic is what I'm looking for.

Yesterday, we did a bunch of gymnastics. We ended by trotting in over four poles to a cross rail, followed by a bounce to another cross rail, then cantering out to the left (his weaker lead naturally, though it's getting to the point where you can't tell under saddle.) He was landing softly and cantering away without leaning on my hands, and we ended there.

I wish I'd had someone there yesterday because it would have made for a lovely video to put in his sale ad.

On Monday, I got lucky and got to the barn at the same time as one of the jumping students who has been wanting to sit on Brooklyn.

I asked Savannah if she would be interested in getting on him for me so I could get some pictures of him jumping, and she willingly agreed. I just can't seem to ride and take pictures of myself at the same time. If someone wants to get me one of these, that would help me out, kthanx.

Savannah is an excellent rider and brave jumper. Here she is with her mare, Tink (also taken on Monday):

I had Savannah warm Brooklyn up inside so they could get to know each other within an enclosed space. I had to laugh because Savannah has a very electric seat and lit Brooklyn up. He was very forward with her, and it was interesting for me to see the OTTB side of his personality. I ride very mellow and slow and relaxed, and my job is largely to calm and slow and soften young/green/remedial horses. Savannah is a jumper who largely rides made horses. The difference cracked me up. She handled him beautifully, though, and we moved outside shortly.

Savannah's dog, Mack, tagged along to the outdoor, and Brooklyn seemed to downright enjoy his company. Savannah did tell him to go lay down, and he did it, before we started any serious work. Still, Brooklyn is best described as as a horse who wants a pet. (He regularly pets Thomas, the orange tabby barn cat.)
Not bothered by the dog tagging along.
We did have some hot moments that resulted in some out take photos.
Not sure which I like better... the flagged tail or the crazy eye.
As I expected, Savannah rode right through it and carried on.

After doing some walk and trot around the outdoor, I had Savannah head for a cross rail I had already done with Brooklyn. It had some flower boxes under it, which made it wide instead of tall, but he hadn't been the least bit fazed by that when I rode him.

So, again, I ride up to these baby fences with this attitude of, "Ho hum, tritty trot, hippity hop over the tiny cross rail and mosey away."

Savannah rode in with body language that said, "We're jumping now."
So that's exactly what Brooklyn did. There was definitely no hesitation, and he looked pretty sharp.
I need to shop in a bigger fence, but I love his expression and his front end. 
I think Brooklyn surprised Savannah a bit with his athletic take off and zoomy landing. They cantered away at a pretty fast clip from that one!

So we regrouped and tried again. The second jump ended with a softer landing and Savannah let Brooklyn canter a few strides before coming back down to a trot.
As someone said on FB: Well, that don't suck.
From there, I had Savannah take Brooklyn over a different cross rail, one with louder standards that he'd never seen before. He was fine with that too.

We ran through that a few times until he was loping away from it, and then I popped it up to his first teeny-tiny vertical. That was also totally fine.

We called it quits after that, ending on a great note. I'm pretty excited to keep playing with this horse. I think he's going to be a super cute little jumper if we continue to take it slow and don't over face him. I'm doing lots of lunging with him so he can learn to carry himself without balancing a rider. Meanwhile, we'll do lots of cross rails and gymnastics with me on him.

So there you have it... this week's update on Brooklyn.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jupiter Updates

Jupiter is doing well at "college" and his owner has been filling me in. He is happy and well loved at the new farm, and they spoil him and welcome his owner. Gone are the days of her trainers teasing her for her horse being the wrong color or 'ugly' or 'not going to make it'. In fact, they just made him their horse of the week on Facebook! I'm just relieved to see them both so happy, and I hope that this will be a long term solution for everyone involved.

Still getting plenty of turn out.

Snuggles with his new trainer.

Looking like a saddleseat horse!

Feeling frisky!

So handsome.

Doing yoga in his stall.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wedding #1

Mike and I went to a wedding on Saturday. We have another wedding this Saturday. And Thanksgiving in between. It might be a little quiet around here this week. But here's proof that I'm not always in barn clothes.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Brooklyn Updates

Brooklyn has been doing very well at Cara's. He is a very different horse from Scout (now nicknamed Duncan). He is more sensitive, more athletic, and more of a thinker. The more I ride him, the more I feel guilty about him being my second choice. He really is a very nice little horse.

I keep saying little, and I've had a few people ask how little. Brooklyn is 15.3hh. He's stocky and well muscled so people think he's bigger than that. I think it's the perfect size, honestly. I just like my sale horses on the tall side because it's what's trending.

I started off by getting Brooklyn's feet done. I knew his feet weren't as nice as Scout's, but his left front in particular is going to take some work. My podiatrist told me that it looks like he's just had a long history of farrier care that didn't do much to correct his problems. His left front is downright shrimpy, and looks like someone put a foal foot on a full sized horse. The heels are really high and contracted, which leads to a deep central sulcus, and renders his frog essentially useless. My trimmer was able to correct the chipping and try to send the foot in the right direction, but there wasn't a lot of hoof to work with and it's going to be a few trim cycles before we move in the right direction. Still, I have all the faith in my guy, and after seeing what he was able to do with Dancer's horrible feet, I am not concerned. I'm hoping to have some drastic 'after photos' for comparison in a few weeks.

Brooklyn's evaluation went pretty quickly, as I expected it would.

His ground manners were not great to start off with. He came in with a shank over his nose, like so many racehorses do. At this point, we've eliminated the need for that and he leads like a gentleman. At first, he also danced around in the cross ties a bit.

At one point, I was trying to put polo wraps on him and he kept lifting his leg and tossing his head. I looked at him and sternly asked, "Did they let you dance at the track?"
"O yeah, lady. They let me dance at the track," he insisted.
"Brooklyn!" I growled.
Suddenly he stood completely still. "That's right, they did not let me dance at the track."

Now, about a month later, Brooklyn has settled beautifully into the routine. He stands calmly on the cross ties without protest for however long I need him to. Last week, a friend of mine came down to meet the horses and there were dogs running in the barn aisle while I tacked up. Brooklyn was dozing as I brushed and saddled him, and I got lots of compliments on how mellow he is now!

Speaking of brushing... Brooklyn is not a big fan of being groomed. He tolerates it, but he doesn't enjoy it the way some horses do. We've reached a compromise. If he doesn't protest when I brush him, I keep the grooming session short. He has an incredible silky-soft coat that makes it tempting to just brush and brush and brush, but I'm determined not to torture the horse. Still, he has to deal with it because it's part of being a horse.

He picked up lunging much faster than Scout did. He had a hard time picking up his left lead, which I think is conformational because of that small hoof. He took to the side reins right away. Jumping, on the other hand, did not seem to be something he was naturally inclined to do.

The first night I worked with him, we turned him loose in the indoor, just like Scout. When we set up a cavaletti, he consistently opted out. I don't think he was afraid to jump or actually disliked it. It was simply that he didn't understand what the heck we wanted. As far as he was concerned, this was a fence, and fences are designed to keep horses in... even if they are less than knee high.

After some failed attempts at free lunging, Mike took a hold of his halter and jogged around the arena with him. Brooklyn obediently followed him over all sorts of obstacles, which left some of the girls falling all over themselves.

"They love each other, you have to keep him!"
"Nope. Mike already has two horses at home that love him." (JR and Oreo.) And, "He's like this with all the horses."

I've been using ground work and lunging to trouble shoot as we go. At first, Brooklyn was the type of horse who definitely benefited from a few laps on the lunge line before being ridden, but these days I just use it as a tool. For example, doing a lot of trot-canter transitions in the side reins has helped Brooklyn develop muscles that help him pick up the left lead under saddle. I also use the lunge line to introduce new things like trot poles and cross rails.

Our first ride was not very eventful either. After two days of lunging, I just sort of led him up to the mounting block and got on. Brooklyn actually stood very still for me to get on, and waited until I was firmly situated before he walked off. Like many OTTB's, he wasn't entirely comfortable with the concept of standing still with a rider up, and there was some dancing when I first introduced the concept. These days, that issue is becoming a thing of the past too. He stands very well for mounting and dismounting, and is getting very good at doing things like standing in the ring while other horses go around or hanging out quietly while I chit chat with people. Patience, young track-hopper.

First time sitting on him.
It was only a matter of minutes before we were trotting around the ring. I was delighted at how soft, supple, and balanced Brooklyn was. He hadn't been sat on in two years, and the last person to ride him was a jockey, but here he was calmly doing 20 meter circles on a light contact.

The second time I rode Brooklyn, it was in the evening and the barn was bustling with activity. The girl whose mom eventually bought Scout was riding her little black pony mare and practicing her lead changes. She asked if it would be alright if she cantered, which I appreciated, and I gave her the go ahead.

The first time she went zipping past Brooklyn, his head shot up and his muscles gathered.
"No, Brooklyn, you're not a racehorse any more."
"I'm not?" *prance*
"You're not."
*stops prancing* "O... um... ok."

A moment later, the pony went zipping by again, and I swear, Brooklyn looked over his shoulder at me.
"So, you said I'm not a racehorse, right?"
"Alright then," and he cocked a foot and didn't even blink.

Yes! Good boy!

On our third ride, we cantered for the first time. Brooklyn picked up the right lead and you could tell right away that this was an off the track horse. He didn't do anything bad, but he had a powerful, fast canter. I half halted him and tipped his nose towards the arena wall. The second he slowed down for a stride, I praised him and made a big deal. The left lead did not exist that day, but that was alright. I had my work cut out for me. Slow the canter, strengthen the left lead, and build from there.

For our fourth  ride, Lynn was there, and I decided to try Brooklyn outside to see how he would do. As I think I mentioned, there is no fence on the outdoor. I lunged Brooklyn to let him see his surroundings. He didn't seem to care at all, despite blustery conditions.

After a few minutes, I just hopped right on, and around we went. We walked and trotted and had a short, but lovely ride. At the end of it, Lynn snapped this hilarious photo of us. I'm grinning like a fool, and Brooklyn looks like his eye is about to pop out of his head. When we saw the photo, we couldn't stop laughing. He really was super relaxed out there, but he looks like he's totally panic stricken!

That weekend, Mike came out and took some photos of us out there. We walked, trotted, and cantered around, and even though Brooklyn was pretty 'up' that day, he behaved himself under saddle.

Since then, we've just been plugging steadily along. Each ride is better than the previous one and Brooklyn is making progress every day.

He's cantering along quietly and in a balanced manner to the right for ages. I ride him haunches-in down the long side to pick up the left lead. He makes a very dramatic transition into the left lead canter, and then you can almost hear him counting strides as he focuses on holding the lead. (The first time we picked up the left lead under saddle, he came out of the corner, and threw a big, beautiful, super smooth lead change onto his right lead. I had to laugh because the change was gorgeous, but put him on the wrong lead!)

Brooklyn moves beautifully off the leg, and we have been playing with some baby leg yields. I really think this horse wants to do dressage, and I'm planning to do a lot of that with him.

We have also been slowly introducing some jumping concepts. I have ridden him over countless trot poles and cavaletti, and I lunge him over canter poles here and there. We also popped over a cross rail the other day and he hopped it gracefully and quietly, which is all I can ask for. He  may not be a naturally gifted jumper, but he does have nice, correct form over fence. (Maybe I'll even get a chance to take pictures of it some day.)

We did miss a few days of work this week because we were dealing with some thrush in that bad foot, but Brooklyn came back from the time off like he hadn't missed a beat.

I did make some equipment changes with him. The full cheek bit was too big for him. I measured and his mouth is 5". I didn't really need the full cheeks with him, and they're not dressage legal, so I went with an eggbutt snaffle with an oval piece. I also added a flash to his set up since he's playing with his tongue a lot, even in the new bit. (He is scheduled to have his teeth done ASAP.) I think there may be a new bridle in his near future, and I'm secretly giddy about having a reason to shop for tack again. Haha.

Best of all, the teenagers at the barn are practically fighting each other for a chance to sit on him. One of the girls happened to be there on Wednesday when I arrived. After I warmed Brooklyn up, I let her take a turn. I gave her a mini-lesson and she rode very well. Brooklyn was green, but very good. We kept it to the walk and trot only, but he was bendy and soft and even did some trot poles with her without putting a foot out of line.

My hope is to get Brooklyn to a point where the girls can ride him unsupervised. It would add some rides to his week without me having to make the drive to the barn. Plus, I firmly believe that being ridden by teenagers is good for horses' brains. I would also be open to the idea of a lease while we wait patiently for a buyer.

I plan to list Brooklyn for sale this coming weekend, but I'm in no hurry to let him go. He's a really nice horse and I'm excited to see where our time together leads us. If he's still around in the spring, I plan to take him to some clinics and shows and do some trail riding with him. So far, I'm just having fun with him and enjoying having a riding horse of my own again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fjord Riding

Some people dream of jumping the highest or running the fastest or scoring their best dressage score. People dream of flying lead changes, barrel patterns, canter pirouettes. Me? I just want to ride all the pretty ponies! Seriously, though, I have a hit list of breeds I want to meet and ride. Fjords sat very high near the top of that list. They're drafty and adorable, and I can't resist that mane stripe. There's no denying that they're visually very different from other breeds. Despite the fact that there's an entire herd of them at Bluestone, the breeding farm I worked at and still get my hay from, I had never sat on one.

Then Sandy introduced me to her friend, Jan. Jan has a Fjord gelding named Pedar (pronounced Peter), and she is good at sharing. Jan and I met at Sandy's birthday sushi dinner, and hit it off right away. What a nice lady! Turns out she lives by one of our favorite hiking spots, and when she found out I've been dying to ride a Fjord, she told me I had to try Pedar some time. Sold!

Last Friday, as I was driving out to Wink, Sandy asked me if I had time for a trail ride on a Fjord on Saturday morning. I called her back right away! Sandy laughed. We very rarely manage to catch each other by phone on the first try, but tempting me with a Fjord took care of that. Sandy was extra surprised when I told her I was in fact free to join them. I am almost never available on the weekends, and especially not in the mornings, but this weekend hadn't gone as scheduled and Mike was working, which left me with some unexpected free time. Scout would be vetting at that time, and I couldn't think of a better way to keep my mind of the possibilities than to go gallivanting off with friends and ponies. Also... Fjord!

We met at Deer Path Park that morning. I had hiked there with Herbie, but even though I knew that people rode there, I did not realize the extent of the trails. Both Sandy and Mike told me that the trails continued across the street and went on for miles. When Mike told me they went all the way to Stanton, I flat out didn't believe him.

When I met Pedar, I couldn't stop squealing. He was everything I wanted a Fjord to be. He was cute and snuggly and so chill! It was the windiest day we've had in a long time, but Pedar just unloaded, put his head down, and grazed.
Look how huggable!
I also met Jan's mare, Lily, a breeding stock paint who looks more half-Arab than anything else.

Best of all, I got to meet Sandy's new mare, Fina, an Arabian/Friesian cross who got the best of both breeds. She was bred for dressage, but failed out of show training. She is Sandy's new distance horse. They've already done a CDR together and I'm excited to see them on trail in seasons to come.

We tacked up then hand walked the horses past the commotion of the soccer fields and across the street to the trails I didn't know existed. Lily was a little up at first, but settled within the first mile or so. Pedar was a total saint right off the bat, and the hardest thing about my ride was reminding myself to ride on a completely loose rein. I had a hard time accepting that I could totally trust this horse I'd never met before.

Pedar was a rock star. He is sane, dependable, and the textbook definition of bomb proof. It was really nice to just sit back and enjoy a ride. No need for training or worrying. As Jan promised, this is the type of horse that you can just go out and play with. I was in love.

We rode across the giant power lines and into the woods, then climbed up and over Round Mountain. I was surprised at just how significant of a down hill there was out there. I knew there were hills in the park, but this trail was surprisingly rocky and steep.
I find his stripe mesemerizing.
As Mike had told me we would, we popped out in Stanton, and rode past his friend's parents' house. I ogled the neighbor's adorable barn, and was sad that the place seemed to be vacant. I remember seeing it for rent back when we were apartment hunting, but I guess nobody took them up on the offer. What a waste.

It's too bad we didn't plan ahead and bring money because it would have been fun to hitch the horses up front and have lunch at the general store. (Mike and I used to stop there on the bike back in the day.)

We rode up the street a bit, and Pedar was totally traffic safe, which I kind of figured he would be. Then we made a left into the Bouman-Stickney section of the trails. We did some detouring as we tried to navigate around a tiny foot bridge, but there was really no other way around. When we emerged into the big field on the other side, I was saddened to see that the pipeline is coming right through there.

We followed the trail back to the Bouman-Stickney parking lot, and Sandy consulted her map while the horses grazed. We debated just taking the dirt road back to where we came from, but a woman whose dogs were alarmed about the horses informed us that the trail head was just two doors down. A moment later, we were back in the woods and heading over the mountain again.

I tried to take a selfie with Pedar, but he wanted nothing to do with it.

The route back was different from the trail we took on the way out, and we got to see the buffalo grazing on the big hill ahead of us. When we found our way back to the power lines, we let the horses out and had a very satisfying gallop in the sunshine.

We passed the big saddlebred barn that Jupiter almost ended up at, then let the horses graze some more before we crossed the road back to Deer Path Park. I couldn't believe just how much grass there was midway through November.

Once we were across the street, we took the fitness path all the way around to head back to the trailer, just for the sake of a little extra saddle time. They have all sorts of crazy equipment in the work out stations, but none of the horses seemed to care at all.

We debated taking the river trail down and back, but decided that we'd had a good ride and this was a good place to stop. We all had places to be that afternoon, and the horses had definitely gotten a fair bit of exercise. Reluctantly, we packed it in, and I thanked Jan profusely for sharing her wonder pony with me.
Grazing after our ride.