Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lots of Lines

The Good, the Bad and the Snuggly

I decided tonight was a long lining night. I'm not 100% sure which horse suits which of the top list best. However, all of them were snuggly.

Tucker was first and he was rip roaring ready to make his opinion about the restriction of the rein very obvious. He bucked, he bolted, he battled and in between, for the most part, he really worked his buns and rounded up into a super frame and looked great! He was on the snaffle, by the way, so the bit was not an issue. The biggest training problem is that he still wants to drop too low into the contact when he decides to escape it. When he doesn't do that and settles himself into the contact in a soft acceptance, he is super! He just needs to get in the right spot and stay there.

Which is exactly what Toby does, so I suppose it will happen with Tuck in time. Training, training, training. Need I say it? Toby was practically perfect....again.

Which led to Chance as the bad boy of the team. Well not actually bad, but definitely the most unsteady of the trio. My ultimate goal was to simply get one full circle on the left rein without his head bopping up or down or all around. Once I finally had that, I put him on the right rein and started all over again. It started off well and then went completely haywire with head tossing and rearing.

I finally stopped him, suspicious that he had gotten his tongue over the bit. Sure enough, he had. I took the bridle off, put it back on and shortened the cheekpiece by one hole so there was less room for his tongue to repeat the error, and then sent him back out on the circle. At that point, we had some simply lovely work at the trot and not too bad work at the canter.

I don't think Chance is really a bad boy, though. Some of it is habit, some of it is finding his balance, some of it is confidence and a small portion is attitude. Like so many horses, if it becomes difficult he will try an evasion, but he is really pretty easy to correct. He doesn't hold an argument very long and really seems quite pleased to be told he has done something right.

All in all, in the end, I had successful sessions with everyone. Carrots all around and a good look at the sky as it clouded over hinting of the possible rains to come.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Three for Three

And Every Ride a New Adventure

OK, so I had to match Caroline. Truth be told, the weather forecast for the next week plus is not looking too good, so I really needed some saddle time.

Toby was closest to the barn so I headed out for him, but when he saw me coming he trotted off, making it quite clear he wanted no part of me. I didn't help that I'd already fed supper so his tummy was full. I'd gone to the inspection station to get my car reinspected with its new windshield wipers and gotten stuck there when the computer system went down for about a half hour. So when I got back home, I really felt I needed to feed The Boys.

Instead of chasing Toby, I collected Chance who was quite delighted to come to me. I rode him for about 20-25 minutes in the arena, working on bending and trying to get him to stretch to the bit. He wasn't quite as good about the stretching as he has been, likely because he's had so many days off, but the bending is so much better and is definitely staying better each time I ride.

I finished up practicing halts on the center line. It took me about five before I figured out that I must have been weighting my right seat bone too much so that he was continually stepping to the right at the halt. Once I rebalanced myself and put some more weight on my left seatbone that he finally stopped pretty straight.

Toby reluctantly let me catch him finally so I rewarded him with a nice back massage and a 20 minute hack in the woods. He was as happy as could be stopping at nearly every little tree to grab huge mouthfuls of leaves and then, at the edge of the field, taking a nice graze on the lush grass out there.

Tucker didn't come when I called, but he stayed put to be easily caught. I had decided to try him in the double bridle. He really played with the two bits for quite a while, trying to figure out what the extra metal was all about. He was a little sticky to go at first, but not too much more than usual when he is uncertain. I first worked him exclusively on the bradoon (Snaffle) trying to encourage him to take hold of the bit as he was too light to the contact at first. It didn't take too long for him to settle in to that. He wasn't as good as he is on his snaffle alone, but he did start to work. I then picked up the curb with very light contact to see how he would react.

I am not too sure about the results. Sometimes Tuck softened to the touch of the curb, sometimes he flipped his head to escape the contact. He wasn't happy, but he wasn't cranky about it either. I think he was trying to figure things out and a little reluctant to take a little hold of the curb bit. Understandable, actually as it is an entirely new feeling for him. Once he figures out that if he softens his jaw and flexes his poll the bit will feel fine, he should get a little bolder in it. I don't plan to work him in it much yet as he really does need to be more confirmed in the snaffle, but if it helps him understand how to soften as a habit, then it will be a valuable tool.

What is interesting to me is that with Russell, PJ, and Toby the transition to the double was smooth and easy. Right now I suspect getting Tucker to accept it is going to be a bit of a challenge.

But then again, Tucker has been a challenge every step of the way. Why should this be any different?

All in all an interesting evening at Follywoods.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sunday Off

Off to a Saddle Job

After church I drove on out to the Flemington area about an hour away to help a women with an Ansur saddle she had bought on eBay. She really did get a super bargain.

She has a really cute, round black and white pinto and the Ansur is the perfect saddle for him. What we did work on was some supplemental padding to lift the saddle slightly in front. This gave it better balance for his conformation and made the saddle fit the rider better. It was a fun afternoon but decidedly time consuming.

I had already decided to give Tucker and Toby the day off after the lessons, and might have ridden Chance, but I was kind of worn out by the time I got back home, so I let him go again.

At this rate, his training will progress very slowly. Still, I am not too worried about it. There's nothing at stake and he is proving a pretty easy train, so taking my time is not an issue.

Stacie went to the young horse auction at Rutgers University where the animal science students sell their project horses every year. She had her eye on one of the youngsters, but was outbid. Perhaps, as she said, just as well. The neat thing was that, according to the newspaper, two of the students managed to buy their project horses for themselves...the way the article worded it, it seems the auction has a built in understanding that if the students want to bid on a horse they've raised from a foal, then they will definitely win it. (This kind of rigged auction is absolutely fine with me and one of the students bought her "baby" for only $1000.) Great little article in the paper can be found here: (Monday, April 28 issue if you look after today.)

It is pouring rain off and on today so I don't know what the riding will be like when I get home. I should do a little work with Chance, but if the ground is really muddy, then I need to set up the little pen again for Mr. Lose a Shoe Tucker....if the shoe is still on when I get home. *sigh*

Hard to tell, actually. It has been very, very dry for several weeks, so the water may just soak in and not create a quagmire.

More later.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

And Even More Compliments

Tucker Must Really Be Coming Along

When Gabriel started my lesson today he said Tucker looked wonderful. He said when he first saw him he wasn't even sure he was the same horse. He was even more complimentary than Patrice, I think. Tuck and I just soaked it all up.

And we had a brilliant lesson. Tuck only pulled a few of his little quirky protests, mostly, I think because he was working hard for longer than I usually work him at home. This was a full hour lesson and here, I ride him for perhaps 30 minutes most of the time. As a Thoroughbred, he really doesn't need hours and hours of work to build up muscle and strength. (Something I will need to remember with Chance who is NOT a Thoroughbred.) So, short sessions of correct work are apparently very effective in developing him in the right way.

We focused mainly on keeping him correct to the bridle and through from behind so that his trot will start to gain more quality and strength. Lots of half halts with a driving aid to get him to elevate and step under, some lateral work, and suppling circles and serpentines.

At the end of the lesson, I asked Gabriel about the flying change prep. He said the simple changes should be confirmed first. (Canter/walk/canter new lead, no trot strides between.) Tucker has almost mastered that, with the transition to walk the harder part for him, so he is just about ready. By the next time Gabriel comes, we should be set to try the changes. Actually, Gabriel will be set to try the changes, as I will not mind at all if he starts Tucker off on them for me. I will still try on my own, but since Tucker is likely to buck into them--a common reaction--I will be delighted to have Gabriel ride them first. He said that he'd have no reservations at all considering how well Tucker was going today.

Another option is to try the double bridle. I will try it out during the next week or so, and use it on a trail ride, just using the snaffle rein. Once I am sure Tucker is comfortable with both bits in his mouth, I'll test the curb a little to see how he reacts. Sometimes it's an option for a horse that sets his jaw a little against the bit like Tuck will. But, of course there is also the possibility that he will back off the bit entirely and shut down. Usually I can feel that pretty quickly, which is a good thing because it can produce a rear. At any rate, the mere fact that the topic came up proves how radically and dramatically Tucker seems to have progressed over the last few months.

Stacie had a lesson on Toby and, while I didn't see the whole thing, what I did see was super! She had Toby going really well and did some really nice half passes, counter canter, and flying changes when I was in the arena watching. Apparently, the trot work had been great as well, because Gabriel was very pleased.

I am so glad Toby has proven to be such a good horse for Stacie to ride. He will do most of the more advanced exercises easily and correctly, provided his rider gives the right aids and sits correctly. A shift in weight to the wrong seat bone will make him do a flying change or lateral exercise instead of going straight. He does not take a lot of strength to ride, but he does require tact and determination. Until she finds a new horse of her own, he is a great alternative.

I really was proud of my Boys today. Chance was left out and stuck at home, but I hope he wasn't too miserable. When we pulled up with the trailer, he was happy to see us, but not particularly frantic about it.

Might rain tomorrow. We actually do need it too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Clinic Report

Full of Pluses

Patrice Edwards was delighted with Tucker's progress. She said his whole musculature had changed and all that's left are two mucles at the base of his neck that should change as he learns to carry himself and his slightly sensitive sides--still some tightness there.

Evidently, I have been riding him right. Yea!

She was also pretty complimentary of my seat, posture, etc, although I need to learn to make my legs "softer" on the inside to accomodate my sensitive horse and to keep my elbow "heavy" and down to maintain the proper kind of contact. As well, with all of this, I have to put my seat where Tucker will have to carry me.

It's a lot to think about, but we're getting to the finer points of developing a horse here, so I can get a handle on it all.

We did a ton of shoulder-in work, getting me to position him correctly by positioning myself correctly so he had to carry me on his inside hind leg. One of the exercises consisted of shoulder-in, go straight in the direction of the shoulders, back to shoulder in, etc. doing only about three strides in each position.

We discussed Tucker's stopping, and Patrice said she has seen many horses like him. They are very sensitive souls, with a bit of "feral" blood in them which makes them very sure of themselves and not the kind of horses who can be forced into things. They will be willing partners as long as the rider is fair with them. They need to understand what the rider wants them to do and they need to be "asked" rather than "told." She said when you ride a horse like that you need to "prepare, prepare, prepare." When I told her that as a youngster, Tucker had reacted to my kicking him forward with an explosive buck and then told the animal communicator that it was because I had be "rude," she said, "Exactly. You can kick him when it's the right time, but not to force him to do something." Curious that when I spoke to Tucker the last time and said I might have to send him to another trainer, he insisted that force was not a good method of training.

Patrice thinks some of the stopping is due to that resentment--which I already figured out since it happens if I overcorrect--, some due to confusion on what he's supposed to do--in which case he kind of keeps moving but not in the right direction--, and some do to lingering physical tightness when he just can't seem to figure out how to move. I did note that sometimes I do just pick up the reins and put him in a frame and ask him to walk off because sooner or later he will have to understand that, and she agreed that it was an OK approach.

We also worked on developing the lengthened trot mostly with my seat working into that "You must carry my weight" position, so he had to engage his hind end correctly by flexing and rounding his back instead of just rushing.

On the left rein, Patrice had me hold the pommel of the saddle with my right hand to keep my "floating" elbow deep and establish a good steady contact.

She also wants me to carry my hands a little higher so I feel the rein contact on top of my fingers instead of under them, making a better line from the bit to also take the pressure off Tucker's bars.

We also lengthened my stirrups one hole and I will probably drop them again as I soften my leg more. Guess I need to ride without stirrups again for a while as that always helps.

So many little things go into training a horse. It is an endlessly fascinating experience. At least I know now that the last few months have been on the right track as far as Tucker is concerned. He is never going to be an easy ride, but he certainly is capable of good work.

I always have to laugh. Years ago, one of my trainers said, "I don't understand it. Every week you come for a lesson and your horse is always better trained and yet, you can't ride him right."

Oh well, there are "riders" and there are "trainers" and where I'm concerned, "Never the train shall meet....." *G* *sorry about that, couldn't resist.*

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Birthday Pics

Toby and Tucker in the Pasture
It's My Birthday, So I Took Pictures of The Boys

Here is Chance. He has filled out considerably over the winter. A bit too much, I think, but he is a nice "chunk" of horse. He is just a fraction over 15.2 h.

And of course, Tucker is the bay. Not good conformation shots, but he sure does look shiny and muscly. And Toby, eating. Couldn't get him to look up at all.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lunging Before My Birthday

And Why Didn't I Ride?

I have no idea. I put on my tall boots, headed out fully intending to ride.

Hiked out to the pasture with a pocket of "horse bait," and caught a chestnut ex-FEI horse. I can't say Toby was entirely pleased as I had been calling Tucker, but once I had him, I decided I'd better take advantage of it. I gave him a nice grooming and then took him out for a lunging session.

By then, I was on a roll. After working Toby, I collected Chance and put him on the lunge. What a good boy he was! No more of the pulling away on the right rein or refusing to take the right lead. He was edging towards rivaling Toby as Lungemaster of Follywoods.

Which left "Le Ruckster." (Where do all these nicknames come from?) Actually Tucker came to me at the barn door, quite interested to have some of my attention. He was not quite the lunging star mostly because once he started cantering on the right lead, he lost the "off" switch and just kept going, ignoring my commands to drop back to a trot. I had already done some trot/canter/trot transitions on the left rein--a good strength building exercise--and wanted to repeat it on the right. We finally got it nicely but Tuck's brain had definitely disconnected before that as he just kept cantering and cantering and....well, you get the picture.

I have a clinic with Patrice Edwards on Wednesday and a lesson with Gabriel on Saturday. I definitely need some saddle time.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Funday

And I Finally Got the Grain!

I feel much better now. I have eleven more bags of feed for the Boys. According to calculations, that should last about a month. However, I will be placing an order before it starts to run out so I don't have the same problem with the feed store's placing my order.

I rode later in the afternoon after the sun came back out and after I made my very first pot of homemade chicken noodle soup. I've just never been a soup maker, so I decided to use up the rest of the cooked chicken breast I had to make a nice pot of soup. Carrots, celery, onions, chicken broth, noodles and yummy spices simmered themselves into a delicious soup. I am so pleased with it. Now I have some tasty food for my lunch during the week.

Ok, that done, I finally saddled up Tucker and gave him a quick school in the arena. Mostly, I worked on just keeping him light to the bridle and nice and forward in all three gaits. I didn't wear the spurs but he still responded well to the leg. Once I was pretty sure he was settled despite the brisk wind, I took him out for a hack in the woods.

We had a lovely ride.

I rode Chance next, just sticking to the basics in the arena. I am very pleased with how quickly he is improving. He still is not steady, but he has passed the truly annoying green horse phase where he is all over the place and difficult to steer. Now it's more a matter of keeping his regular so he can find a consistent balance. His head still goes up a little, but nothing like before and more often than not he is starting to stretch into the contact.

The best part of the ride were the two canter departs. He took both leads on a cue and felt really able to keep his gait all the way around the circle.

Looking at Chance after I rode him, I realized he really has developed into a solid looking horse with good conformation. His neck has an elegant shape and line. While he is only 15.2 h, short compared to Toby and Tucker at 16.1h and 16.3h he has enough substance to make up for his height. He is shedding back to a beautiful golden chestnut and has plenty of white to make an impression.

As soon as I have an opportunity, I will take some new photos hoping to capture his good looks.

Toby decided he didn't want to do any work today, so I let him be. Instead I went out and picked some nice tasty grass for everyone as the pasture is still pretty sparse. Then I fed them dinner and mowed a bit of the lawn.

I just ate another bowl of my soup for supper and that is the perfect end to a pretty fun Sunday.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Off to See The Lady

All on An April Morn

After an aggravating morning of trying to find out whether or not the feed store had ordered my grain, I called Stacie and asked her to pick up four bags at her local feed store on the way up here. I had called that store yesterday and found out they had some in stock.

Stacie was coming up so I could go with her to look at a mare she might be interested in buying. After we unloaded the feed, we headed off out near where I used to go for some lessons and shows. The mare in question is a lovely Hanovarian, 5 years old, 15.3, so she may yet grow a little. She is a nice mover, well balanced, good conformation and seems to have a really nice attitude. Stacie fits her really well but did discover the mare is fairly green, though definitely not spoiled or badly trained. She really is a nice horse at a good price.

But Stacie has at least one other horse to look at and doesn't want to jump into buying anything unless she is pretty darn confident it will be the right horse for her. Our trainer is coming next weekend and he is willing to look at any horses with Stacie, so that's a good thing. If this mare is sold before then, we've decided it was just not fated to be, so we'll just have to wait and see.

When we got back to my house, we saddled up the Boys--Stacie on Toby and me on Tucker for a quick school. I decided to put my spurs on for the first time since October and I must say, they made quite an impression. As soon as I picked up the reins, Tucker threw a striking out tantrum with both front feet and then pulled a mini-rear in protest--While I did NOT touch him with the spur, he felt the metal on my boot and really reacted. THEN he started going FORWARD! Perhaps a little too aggressively forward, but forward nonetheless, so ultimately it was a good thing. I was very careful not to be strong with the spur but just to touch him with it if I needed to reinforce a leg aid. They really worked well and aside from a kick out or two, he stayed ahead of my leg.

I didn't school for too long. Tucker did everything I asked including some half pass in each direction at the walk and canter, some pretty good canter/walk/canter transitions, some nice reinback, some shoulder-ins and some nice bouncy canter. By then he was lathered under the saddle and between his hind legs and I still had to ride Chance. ( was kind of warm today....)

While I trotted Chance in the arena to settle him down, Stacie took Toby out to ride around the pasture. That set Tucker to whinnying to him and a little frantic trotting. That unsettled Chance enough that he forgot how to drop his head and he developed a decided "drift" towards the pasture gate. It didn't precisely settle him down, but we went out for a hack in the woods and field.

For the first part of the ride, Chance insisted on being in front, jogging everytime Toby moved up behind him. While I do find the jogging off annoying, he was easy to bring back to a walk and never really did fuss about it. When we reached a section of trail he had never been on before, he settled down and, still in front, behaved nicely all the way home.

Back in the barn, I could swear Toby was smiling. I really think he enjoys the work. I know he loves the hacks and today he had some of each.

All is well at Follywoods.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Another Shoe In

And Tucker Works His Buns

Scott was here when I got home from school.

So, some momentum lost.

He thought I came home earlier than I do, so he thought he might catch me here so I could bring the horses in since he hadn't called to say he was coming. 'Twas not to be. Instead, he had to collect Toby and Chance for their shoeing and trim. Fortunately, they were both cooperative gentlemen, so by the time I got here he was already packing up his tools to go home.

I did give him some Cosequin for Jack (glucosamine/joint supplement) and reaffirmed my belief that the holistic/acupuncture vet would be a really good option. So he may try it.

Since the Boys had been good, I fed them as soon as he left, opting to go out to do some work after dinner was digested.

I had already decided to do some in hand work, and since it is a choir night, my time was a bit limited. I put the surcingle and bridle on Tucker and took him out for a long lining session.

I started him on a small circle, close up to me, using the whip to tap his hind legs to step forward and under while he was in a short frame. He protested a little with a few bucks and at least one threatening kick, but I managed to keep out of trouble and worked him along. Then I sent him out on the large circle and really asked him to move forward in a long frame. He did some very energetic trot and canter on the left, so I brought him back into tight quarters and asked for more collected, energetic trot and canter. He looked pretty good and really had some nice carriage.

Then I swapped to the right rein and repeated the exercises. While he seems to be able to carry himself better in front on the right, I don't think he engages his right hind as easily. (That's the hock that was sore.) Still, I wouldn't say he has trouble, it's just not as easy for him. Again, he stayed very forward and energetic on the large circle and was pretty willing to work in close quarters as well.

I was pretty happy with the results but certainly do wish I were more mobile on the ground so I could do some real driving from behind on the lines. But it is not to be and I have to be content with the circle work where I can more or less stay in one place. I really think the long lining is a benefit to him and it gives me a chance to see how he is using himself.

Hate to say it again, but it was warm enough for a t-shirt again and Tuck was so lathered I had to sponge him off.

I keep pushing the weather front east across the ocean, but why it's not getting there I just can't figure.

Maybe I need to push harder.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Caught the Momentum

Everybody Had A Ride

To answer Caroline, I think Scott kind of lost heart about giving Jack anything except Bufferin...a buffered aspirin. I am hoping he may try the acupuncture vet who would, I am sure, recommend the glucosamine. I take it myself and Tucker is on it as well.

Quick Glucosamine tale. My Russell was on it years before it was even recognized by the veterinary community. Then it was known as a green mussel supplement, which was imported from Australia. The old fisherman there would clean the green mussels off the bottoms of boats and eat them. They discovered their arthritis improving and eventually a supplement was made from those shellfish. This was all back in the 1970's. Gradually glucosamine caught on for horses and now, some 40 years later is finally recognized as an effective supplement for humans.

OK, to the rides. I saddled up Tucker first. He had the usual "I can't possibly go forward," reaction to being on the bit, so I rode him a few times around in the tight frame, then let him go long to stretch out to just go forward. Then we went back to the frame. I still haven't decided how he works best. However, I am pleased to report that we suddenly had some pretty good efforts at half pass to the left at both the trot and canter. The third canter attempt came pretty quickly after I had ridden the one before almost as a leg yield. It was as if he finally understood how to move laterally at the canter.

OR....the adjustment Dr. Klayman gave him for his sacroilliac changed something. Sorry to say I didn't ride for a really long session because it was so warm that Tuck was lathered up pretty quickly. (Upper 60's)

Chance was a very interesting ride. The big surprise was that today, he was more supple on the right rein than on the left. Now, the left rein is his "falling in on the shoulder" rein and the right is the "OK, I can go round" rein. I have always found that the training process seems to shift a horse's "stiff" side from one to the other, but I've never had it change this quickly. He also took the right lead immediately and we managed three full twenty meter circles. We repeated the canter of three circles on the left as well, then ended up with some more nice trot work.

I took Toby into the arena for a short exercise session of some trot and canter. I finished each canter set with some counter canter. I found it quite easy to keep him on the lead I wanted, so I can't quite figure out what is happening when Stacie rides him, since he is very quick to offer her a flying change. She must be shifting her weight ever so slightly or giving an aid she may not be aware of. We'll figure it out. She is a good rider and more than capable.

After I rode Toby in the arena, I took him out for a hack in the woods. He was delighted because that meant he could browse on all the trees' new leaves. I indulged him and he was a happy camper.

All in all, it was another good day at Follywoods.

Lost Momentum

And the Shoe Goes On!
It was another nice day as I left school. I was a bit later than usual and I checked my phone messages before I left the parking lot. (It is illegal to use a cell phone while driving in New Jersey.)

Lo and behold, Scott, my farrier, had called to tell me he'd be there between 4:30 and 5:00 to shoe Tucker. I pulled into my driveway before 4:30, and was signing a card for a registered letter when a car horn beeped behind me. It was Scott.

I drove on up out of his way, then leaped out of the car to collect Tucker from the paddock. Fortunately he was right near the barn and quite happy to let me put a halter on to take him in for his shoeing.

I had a good visit with Scott, his assistant Kyle, and Scott's beloved Border Collie, Jack. It is so sad seeing Jack now as he is 15 years old and definitely not the young, vibrant dog he once was. He is now deaf and has some serious arthritic problems in his hind end. He used to love to play fetch when he came to my house and I have toys here for him. This time, though, he had no enthusiasm. But he did sit at my back step waiting for me to come back out of the house when I went in to change my clothes. Scott told me he is getting a new puppy once it's ready to leave its mom--a nephew of Jack, but we both know the rest of the story is still sad. Jack is a very special dog. I have sent Scott information about a really good acupuncture vet I know in the area just in case he wants to try to make Jack more comfortable with that kind of treatment. Fifteen years is a good long life for a Border Collie, and Jack has had a wonderful life visiting all kinds of farms with Scott. I'm sure he will be able to teach the new puppy all the important duties of being a farrier's dog.

After Scott left, I fed the Boys, but then I had to go vote in the local school board election.

By the time I got back home, I had lost all my "horse momentum," and didn't manage to ride.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nothing to Report

Shoeless Still Shoeless

Scott did not come, but I really didn't expect him as the promise was made by his replacement farrier. So Tucker is still shoeless.

Monday is my traditional day off for horses anyhow, so it really doesn't matter at the moment.

Besides, I have Chance to train and Toby to hack.

It's not like I am horseless despite shoeless.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

With a Little Bit of Luck

Taking a Bit of a Chance

Excuse the pun, but the straight bar bit does still seem to Chance's liking. I rode him today in it and he dropped his head from the start. His trot work was pretty consistent, and more often than not, he reached for the bit in a rounding frame.

Of course that was in between his dives away from the paddock side of the arena fence where Tucker was galloping about, bucking, and then diving at us as we passed. I had to put Tuck in his stall so I could ride safely. (Now, mind you, this was exactly what Chance had done last week--minus the dive at the fence--while Stacie and I were riding Tuck and Toby.) Today, Stacie was on Toby, who was fine, while the "shoeless wonder" threw a tantrum on the outside. Chance was not getting riled up at all by Tuckers shenanigans, but the attacks when I rode past were causing some pretty ugly swerves.

Once Tucker was nestled in his stall with some alfalfa cubes, I could settle down to some serious riding.

Meanwhile, Stacie was having a bit of an issue with Toby who kept trying to do flying changes instead of keeping the canter lead she wanted. She made a couple sharp and appropriate corrections, and Toby started to lose it. I do have to admit she did have a nice series of one tempis going along the rail, but that was not what she wanted. I told her to just relax for a bit because I could see in his eye that Toby was frazzled. What he does then is just offer his rider absolutely every exercise he can possibly think of with no sense to it at all. Unlike Tucker, who stops, he just keeps going--doing everything.

Stacie did a super job of calming him back down. Then when she asked for the counter canter again on the right lead, there it was, nicely done. Riding Toby is a challenge. It is a balance between being strong and being subtle. I only know all this from having trained him since he was two, so "I've been there, done that." Stacie did a great job.

I am happy to report that I wasn't so bad myself with Chance. After some pretty good trot work with some fairly accurate steering, I decided to canter. Well, we managed several full circles on the left lead just fine! Then we took a break and managed two good circles on the right rein. But, he broke back to a trot before I wanted him to, so I decided to try another circle on the right. Error!! I should have stopped on the better note. We had two or three strike offs on the left lead before I managed to get him on the right and complete a circle with an extra lot of effort on my part. Stacie kept reminding me to sit up, which was good advice as I tend to kind of get up a little out of the saddle when I am encouraging a green horse like Chance to GO at the canter. Essentially, we finished on a good note.

I tried putting the boots on Tucker, but the one would not fit over his shoe, so I just gave up the idea of riding him. He was kind of cute and snuggly after we were done riding, so I think he felt a little left out. Hopefully the shoe will be back on tomorrow and I can give him his just due.

To you weather watchers, it is chilling off a little here--into the 40's with the forecast of rain. April still has her fickle side, even here in New Jersey, USA.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

He's a Shoe In or Out

Rode the Fat Horse First

Don't yell at me, but it was almost too warm to ride today. Short sleeved shirt and over 70 F, with a touch of humidity because it kept threatening to rain.

I had a lot of errands to do in the morning, including going for some feed, but before I left I took the rain sheets off the Boys, as even if it did rain they would definitely not get chilled.

Surprisingly enough, they were not too dirty when I finally went out to ride.

I started off with Chance. I switched to the straight bar bit to see if it made any difference to him. The jury is still out, but he did seem far less fussy in it. He was turning well, not quite so stiff on the right rein, and by the middle of the session, he was putting his head down and offering to go on the bit a little. I didn't try any canter today as the arena had some mud puddles in some strategic places and I wasn't quite confident I'd be able to steer if he decided to dive around them. At the end, I stopped him, worked the bit until he was in a lower level frame, then trotted off for one circuit on each rein, quite pleased to find he kept his head down.

Was it the bit? Only time and more rides will tell.

I rode Toby next after a little "catch me if you can" game. I didn't ride him too hard or too long in the arena because I didn't want him to sweat up too much. (Honest, it was THAT warm.) He really does have nice gaits, with a little natural "bounce" in his canter. Then, we walked around the fenceline of the pasture to cool off.

Then, I went out to get Tucker. "Warning, Will Rogers...." (That's a line from an old TV show.) I looked down at his right front hoof shoe. Phooey.

I knew the Boys were due for shoeing/trimming, but when I called my farrier, I found out he was on vacation until tomorrow night--Sunday. So that was a lost cause. I thought Tucker would hold out until he could come, but no dice. Scott's (My farrier) stand in farrier lives up in Sussex--a good hour and more from here. He said if it was an emergency he'd come down, but I just don't think it's fair to drag him all the way down here. He said Scott could probably come on Monday to put the shoe on, so I guess Tuck has another day off. I may try to ride him with the boots but I don't know if he will go evenly with one boot on a shod foot and one on an unshod one. I do know it didn't work last time with one boot and one shod hoof without a boot.

Well, I certainly can't say I lack a horse to ride in the meantime, so all is well.

Oh, yes, Caroline, apparently the warmbloods do put on weight faster than the Thoroughbreds---that is unless the Thoroughbred happens to be Tucker the Tank!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Teeth Done

Long Vet Session

My vet was late getting here. That is a bit unusual as he is almost always on time. But apparently he was waylaid by, of all things, a computer glitch in a new digital x ray program he was using.

At any rate, the deal was Coggins tests, flu vaccines, tetanus, etc, sheath cleaning and teeth floating for everyone.

I am pleased to report all three Boys were good. Dr. Klayman knew Chance had been difficult the last time, so he gave him an extra dose of tranquilizer. It worked. Chance was well behaved for his teeth. It was a basic float and he didn't find anything serious to worry about. He did say Chance was a little heavy and he didn't want to see him get any fatter.

Included in Tucker's session was an acupuncture/chiropractic check. Apparently Tuck's sacroilliac was out but it was a simple adjustment, so that too was good. Again, Tucker was good for the floating and didn't fuss at all. Oh, yes, he could be a bit thinner too. *G* (Am I surprised??? No.)

Toby is always good for the vet, so there was no issue there either. Toby's weight was just right. Cool. One out of three isn't bad. I'll just have to watch everyone if I ever do get grass for them to eat. My pasture is pretty sparse, but the right combination of rain and sunshine could change that.

Still, everything did take time. It was over 2 1/2 hours with everything.

Dr. Klayman's assistant, Mary is wonderful and she held the horses, so all I had to do was just stand around having a nice visit.

With everyone having had tranquilzers, I decided not to ride--which is just as well as I will be going to the school tonight for the play.

Put the Boys' rainsheets back on. Nothing falling yet, but from the looks of the sky we will have at least some showers.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Heat is On

Lunging in the Dark

I was up in the 70's today and when I got hom from school, I had no enthusiasm for anything.

So, I waited until after choir rehearsal to work the Boys.

It was a lunging night. (The new ring lights work well, by the way.)

First Toby. What is there ever to say? He is wonderful on the lunge line. Except when something rustled through the woods and he took off in a bucking gallop--for about one circle.

Tucker was watching from the paddock for the whole session, and when he came in to the arena, it was pretty clear he intended to show off. His trot was nice and forward. He is not the greatest mover in the world, but he can cover the ground, so he did some good work. He was a little silly in the canter, changing pace and circle shape, but it was still a good physical workout for him.

Chance was waiting at the gate for his turn. He came out with attitude and really wanted to go. I let him start off at the canter on the right lead and he really did keep a nice pace for the entire session. He was equally good on the left and I was really pleased with his forward attitude and cooperation. I think, perhaps, that he doesn't like to be left out and really was trying to please me so I will work him more regularly.

Of the three, Toby has the best gaits, but his neck is set on too level for him to be the ideal dressage mount. Tucker has a short back which limits his suppleness and looseness. His gaits are not as good as Toby's but he has much better balance and will probably be able to collect really well. Chance has a short back, but is a better mover than Tuck. He also has a well set on neck. His limiting factor is his size since he does not have the presence Tucker has. However, as I watch him go, I really think he has a lot of dressage "possibility."

What I have is a nice little herd of horses with interesting training challenges.

My vet is coming tomorrow to do Spring vaccinations and teeth.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Off to the Theater

All the World's a Stage

Went to chiro after school to get a tune up before my neck or back got bad.

Came home, fed the Boys, caught up on some phone calls and then, headed off to the George Street Playhouse to see the premiere of a new comedy/drama by Elaine May. The show called, "Roger is Dead" is a Broadway prospect and Marlo Thomas, of US TV fame as "That Girl" was one of the leading actors.

Fun time with a very clever plot revolving around some interesting characters. I really had a good time, but as you can tell, I didn't ride.

Friday night I will be going to the school's performing arts department's annual main stage production, "Anton in Show Business." The students are headed for professional careers and the teacher is a master, so that should be a good show too.

We'll just have to see how the timing works out with the riding. The weather was certainly nice enough, so I didn't have an excuse from that end. Just a busy schedule and a clock that seems to work against me.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Riding, Riding, Over the Bounding Main

Or At Least Over the Budding Trails
Rode Tucker for a short school in the arena, again beginning with him on the bit, fully flexed. Though he did stand there at first, it didn't take a long to get him going this time.

The trot wasn't too bad and I was able to get some more forward strides rather quickly, but I moved right into the canter soon after. Typically Thoroughbred, canter is his easier gait to work and fairly soon he was offering some really good work.

He is definitely better balanced on the left rein and wants to bear down a little more on the right rein. Still, everything is improving and I think if I keep riding him this way he will figure it out, gain some good strength and find it much easier to carry himself as he needs to.

After the school we went out for a lovely hack in the woods.

I just took Toby on the hack part and he was delighted to stop about five times along the way to eat the new spring grass along the way and some tasty greening tree branches. I am quite naughty for indulging him in this bad trail etiquette, but I figure since he is semi-retired, he can have a few bad habits.

I didn't work Chance. Instead, I poo picked the arena and paddock area with him at my side, every ready to tip the wheelbarrow should I turn my back for too long. He did seem to want some special attention, but I didn't quite have the energy to work him, so the "helping me with the chores" had to suffice.

And he got a bonus of some fresh picked grass without the other, bigger boys chasing him away.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Everybody, Saddle Up!

Sunday Stacie

My friend Stacie came over to ride Sunday, yesterday. She and Toby really do get on well. Or let's put it this way, as Stacie says, Toby really does tell her how he wants to be ridden!

She had been having trouble riding his right lead canter as any shift in her body weight would make him do a flying change. With a horse as quick and sensitive as he is to the aids, the rider really needs to make clear exactly what she wants and then be careful not to change course too much along the way.

Stacie not only worked out the lead issue but also managed some really nice counter canter work on the right lead as well. Counter canter is a great exercise for both horse and rider and it focuses on the holding the correct lead with the correct aids even though you are going in the opposite direction. She really did a lovely job of riding him.

Meanwhile, I was "discussing" with Tucker the concept of really being able to go forward while on the bit. I still think this is the best approach for getting him correct. If he warms up on a long rein, perfectly happy to go forward, then, when I try to put him in the frame, he tries to drop to his forehand or tries to drag out of the contact. If he starts off in the frame, he is not happy about using his back, but the later work, once he figures it out, is better. This is, as Muriel has pointed out, more the French school than the German, but it does seem to suit Tucker better.

When my trainer, Gabriel, rode him, he adopted the slower gait cadence and worked Tucker in balance rather than forward, so perhaps it is the training method I need to work on for a while.

After the two big boys were done, I "volunteered" Stacie to ride Chance. She did so readily, though I am hoping she won't be too sore today. She spent the whole session just insisting he go forward, as he does tend to be lazy. Again, she did a super job of riding him, so I hope some of the lessons she taught stick.

Her boy, Lucky, is still lame and right now the prognosis is not good that he will ever be a riding horse again. His ankle, where the dead bone was removed, has chronic inflammation and he has developed other body issues as a result of both the lameness and the long layoff. However, she is working with a top notch acupunture/chiropractic vet who has all kinds of alternative remedies and great hopes that he can get Lucky pasture sound so he may retire in the love and luxury Stacie will give him. He really is a sweet horse who deserves it.

Meanwhile, Stacie is welcome to ride Toby whenever she wants. She may also be in the market for a new horse of her own, but she needs to take her time. She is a good rider who should have a nice horse to show. For now, "The Tobester" can fill in just fine until she is able to find something suitable and within her budget.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Head's Up

And Another Lost Day

I had a horrible migraine on Friday. Chiropractor fixed my neck and the headache started to go away, but it ended up taking until almost midnight. Yeech. Haven't had one like that in a long time.

Well, that made Friday a washout, but it was raining, so it wasn't too much of a loss.

Today, I went back for some acupunture and another adjustment so I'm fine. But I decided to just lunge the Boys.

What fun!! I set up two trotting poles and a small jump--about 2 feet high for Toby. After a flat session, I headed him for the trotting poles. He jumped them, lept into the air and bucked. After several more such crossings, I set him at the jump. Whee!! He took off like a rocket and leaped it in grand style. All I could do was laugh and keep him on the circle. He was having a rolicking good time. He would have had an inspiring career as a jumper but for his terrible tendancy to shy at new things. I suppose I could have gotten him over it, but by the time I bought him I was fairly well over the urge to jump. I did a few clinics with him and one or two shows with jumping classes, but I just didn't want to spend the time getting him over his spooks. I'm kind of glad, actually, as Russell R. suffered from front end lameness as he aged and I'm pretty sure it was a consequence of his jumping career.

Tucker moved right on out on the lunge for me. He had watched Toby's entire session with great interest--or jealousy--and apparently had decided he was going to do his best to impress me. He was lovely over the trot poles. I had lowered the jump to about 1 1/2 feet for him as I haven't done much free jumping with him. His approach is entirely different. He simply trots up to the obstacle and pops over it. His calm attitude is great. When I urged him into a canter, he cleared the jump with a good bascule and a really nice flow. I have jumped him a bit under saddle and he is far more like Russell as he is easy to sit. Toby really can pop me out of the saddle, but Tucker is smooth. Watching him, it looks as if he too would be a super jumping competitor should I ever decide to resume that kind of foolishness. (Sorry, Caroline. Sometimes one does get too old to think a lot about it, even if it is FUN!!!)

Chance was a 90% good boy as well. The 10% not so good was one rather wild pull off the right rein with a spin back to the left trying to escape. While he is definitely improving on the right rein, it is clearly not as comfortable to him as his left. He took about three tries to manage a depart on the right lead, but once he did, he was fine. He was super over the trot poles, handling the distance with ease. And, over the little jump he was relaxed and forward. It's hard to tell over such a little fence whether he had good form like his daddy does, but again, since his career is not as a jumper it really doesn't matter. I did, though, like his willing, quiet attitude about the whole thing.

I do feel it is important for my horses to know the jumping basics. To me, it is an essential part of training, and years ago, it was a requirement in dressage tests. (Bet that would separate the "men from the boys" in American dressage shows today....*G*) I do like to pop over logs and things when I am on hacks too.

However, I am not inclined to jump much anymore myself. Not only have a lost a lot of the skill I used to have, but I am not as confident in the strength of my seat and balance, especially with my bad knees. Dressage certainly has enough fascination to keep me occupied.

But every now and then, it's fun to bounce over something......*S*

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Still Sore

My chiropractor adjusted my shoulder blade and it felt better, but the muscle is still in a knot. I may ride today anyhow and it doesn't seem to make much difference how much I use the arm.

This feels like it did when I fell with Chance and landed on my right shoulder, but this time it's the left and I certainly cannot remember doing anything dramatic to injure it.

To answer Claire, the neck issue is secondary to the shoulder as the shoulder muscle is definitely pulling on my neck.

More later.

I rode Tucker this afternoon.

I am currently asking him to move right off on the bit and in a frame (French style) instead of getting him going forward first on a looser rein. (more German)

While the longer rein does encourage him to go, I am not sure it encourages him to round and lift his back. The downside of putting him into the frame to start off is that he is reluctant to go forward and feels a bit like a car with the handbrake on.

He is a challenging ride, and I have to work VERY hard to convince him to put some energy into his gaits. Since he does have a good canter, I moved into it rather quickly, pushing him with my seat, legs and taps of the whip to get him going. It took a lot of effort, but finally he began to stride off with some engagement which then carried back down into the trot.

Part of his difficulty is that he has a very short back and is very tight coupled. Thus, the muscles of his back that need to lengthen and stretch are physcially short and "loosening up" is not the easiest thing for him.

I think, that as time goes on and he gets stronger, collection will be fairly easy for him, but extensions will be difficult. He will also find flying changes easy once he figures them out.

His brain is both an asset and a fault. He is very clever about figuring out both how to do things and how to evade doing things. And, he gets very quickly frustrated when he doesn't understand something or feels I have been too "hard" in asking. He also needs to be kept busy as he can very quickly fall into a "static state" if we keep doing the same exercises over and over.

To put it simply, riding Tucker requires about as much riding with your head and with your body.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Nothing New

Shoulder Still Sore

I went for acupuncture and another adjustment today.

Didn't do anything with the Boys.

They do look awfully cute in their orange rain sheets. I rained most of the day off and on, but the sun is out now and it is close to 70 F. Maybe too hot to ride? *G*

The temps are supposed to drop to the 50's as the week progresses. But along with that will be more rain.

Meantime, I am putting heat on my shoulder and hoping it will feel better soon. I must have done something to injure it, but I have no idea what. My chiropractor worked on my shoulder blade today as well--Carolinitis?????--and that may well do the trick. It was actually more sore after the adjustment, but in a different way, so perhaps we are on to something.

That's OK. It's nice to have three horses in the backyard to just look at. *lol*