Back In The Tack!

About 10 days ago I decided to get back on Oh So, and so far it’s been going better than I expected. The surgeon didn’t exactly say no, he just wanted me walking 100% first and asked if I could wait until the end of August. I stifled a laugh. If I wait any longer I won’t be able to get to any shows this season, so the sooner I can start the better!

I’d say I’m about 85% back to normal and I just tend to get stiff walking if I’ve been sitting. My range of motion and strength is not quite there yet, but I feel fairly normal when walking once I’m loosened up. Going down stairs is a bit of a challenge, mostly due to calf pain and some pain/stiffness on the inside of my right foot, and that’s been manifesting itself when I ride too.

There were no fireworks or fanfare on the day I got on. In fact, no one was around but the barn owner’s son, who was working on his car. But at about 12 weeks since my accident I wanted to at least try to get on and see what happened.

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I created a custom mounting block by putting the three-step block against an overturned Rubbermaid water trough, and climbed up. I should preface by saying I started lunging Oh So about 10 days before just to get him going and see how he felt. I’ve avoided longing him over the years because of his tendon issues, so it took a few tries for him to remember to stay out on the circle, but he got it pretty quickly and even wanted to play a little in canter, which was hilarious.

I longed him the day I got on just to be safe, and the climbed aboard. He pretty much felt like nothing had changed!

Over the last two weeks I’ve played around with warming up without stirrups, then taking them up, doing some posting trot, doing some canter, taking a break and dropping them, then repeating.

I’ve felt some mild pain, more like discomfort, around the plates and on the inside of my right foot, which has been giving me trouble going down stairs. Overall though, I think it’s just going to be building up endurance, mine and his.

I’m not really riding firmly with my lower leg due to discomfort and lack of strength, so I’m not able to help him in the downwards transitions as much as I’d like, but we’re getting there. Cantering is much better, and I’ve even done some trot poles.

It might be ambitious, but I feel like I’ll be ready to do a dressage show by mid-September. That’s my goal. I’d like to try jumping or at least riding in my jump saddle next week to see how I feel. If I could make it to a couple of events this fall I would be thrilled.

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Thomas comes home tomorrow. I’ve been visiting him a few times a week and watching Dusty ride him. I finally got to see him off property this weekend at Morningside, and he definitely seemed to go better there. He still needs to look at jumps before he goes over, but once he gets the idea he’ll go. He popped up and down the bank a few times and went into the water no problem. Dusty and I discussed that he just needs to learn about where to put his feet or he gets worried. I sense a lot of gymnastics in his future.

Last week I tried a new farrier for him, and I thought he did a good job. It was a quiet, calm experience which is what he needs since he tends to get worried about things involving his feet.

My hope is to utilize some of the things Dusty’s been doing to get him used to things under him and around his feet. Unfortunately he had a minor mounting incident at Morningside where he backed up quickly, but didn’t take off. I’m sort of at a loss as to what to do. It seems so trivial that something like mounting could cause me to want to sell him, but it’s going to be on my mind for a while unfortunately. Even if it happens once out of 100 times, I now realize what could happen.

I suppose I’ll have to learn to ride that out if I want to keep him, but I just can’t afford to get injured again. He is so sweet on the ground and wants to try under saddle, but something upsets him during the mounting process. I will be riding alone the majority of the time, and it’s just scary to think about not having any help.

My friend Meghan will be riding him a bit while I continue to get stronger, so I’m hoping to use the extra time to bond and do some longing and ground work.

Money is extremely tight right now with medical bills and a lack of a roommate, but I hope to have a chiropractor out to look at his back and make sure there are no signs of something like kissing spine that could be contributing to the issue.

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One of my favorite shots from Great Meadow.

Otherwise it’s been a pretty quiet month, which I needed. I covered the Great Meadow International as my first assignment back and hobbled around, but it was nice to see all my friends again.

I fulfilled a bucket list event when I went to Montana for Rebecca Farm. It was pretty incredible. The jumps were works of art and the scenery and weather was to die for. It was a lot to cover NAJYRC and the FEI divisions, and it was all kind of a blur, but I did find an evening to go to Glacier National Park to take a breath.

While I only scratched the surface of what there is to see at the park, it only inspired me to go back again. Now I have a few more weekends before the fall season picks up again with the AEC, Plantation Field, Fair Hill and then my rescheduled vacation, which I desperately want to go on since I had to miss it because of my accident.

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A Thomas Update And Good News From The Surgeon

I haven’t said much about Thomas since my accident, mostly because I’ve only been able to see him a handful of times on the weekends, but also because I’ve had a lot of thoughts floating around in my ahead. Unfortunately I’m a chronic over-thinker, as evidenced by my last post, which is the worst thing I can be in this situation.

I’ve found that just not thinking about him is helpful, which sounds awful and is completely against my nature! I can’t control what’s going on with him, which is hard, so I just don’t even think about it. But I know he’s in good hands with Dustin and Michelle Craig at WestWind Farms in Upperville, learning all about the world.

He’s gone to a couple of local schooling facilities with a group of horses in the trailer and by all reports has been getting on the trailer fine and standing to wait his turn and when he’s done.

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Thomas on May 21.

He did his first cross-country schooling a couple of weeks ago, and went up a bank, through water and over some little logs following another horse. He even left the group to go back to the trailers with no problem. Hopefully I can go watch him soon.

On the flat, Dustin’s been working on getting him to bend in all three gaits, and each time I’ve gone out he’s been more willing sooner to stretch downwards, first in trot and now a little bit in canter. He still wants to fall in on his left shoulder naturally, but it’s getting better.

He needs to learn to relax, so Dustin has been taking him for long hacks and working in the field a bit.

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Thomas on May 29

 

He did have one similar incident to mine with the mounting block where he started moving and felt the mounting block under his feet and got upset, so Dustin let him sleep with the mounting block in his stall for a few days, then had a helper move a short pole under his legs while he walked so he’d have to get used to having his legs get a little tangled up. He worked him over piles of random poles too, and when I saw him after that one weekend I was a little surprised to see him so sensitive to trotting over single rails and small jumps, but he had to take a step backwards to go forward as they say.

He’s going to stay through early August so I can get back in the saddle with Oh So first, then I’m hoping I can get on him at Dustin’s under supervision to see how it goes.

I was finally able to stand up close to him this week without my wheelchair, and he seemed friendly, but I wonder if he even remembers me? He definitely seems like a different horse, and it’s only been 7 weeks or so. I’m hoping as I get back to the office in the next week or two that I can visit him more often and start bonding again.

I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about him, so for now I’m going to keep him. He’s just overly sensitive and will need a lot of time, which is the exact opposite of what I wanted, but so it goes. Slow and steady wins the race. It has definitely become a new learning experience for me. Hopefully I can take some of the groundwork techniques from Dustin to use in the future.

As for my recovery, I was surprised to get permission to start fully weight bearing last week. My X-rays looked good, so I’m on the move with crutches and ankle braces that look like lace up high tops. I was also given permission to go to Rebecca Farm in July, so I’m super excited about that.

Great Meadow is first though, and I know I’ll probably be a bit lame, but there’s going to be less walking there. I’ve got a few weeks to get my endurance and strength up. I’m mostly just sore at the end of the day, and stiff in the morning. I’ve started outpatient physical therapy in Leesburg twice a week, so that should get my mobility back.

I’ve been able to groom Oh So a bit standing up, and we’ve both been enjoying that. Here’s some photos from the last few weeks!

 

 

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Finding A Purpose

I just passed the three-week mark since my accident, and I’ve had (way too much) time to reflect on what happened and what’s next.

Since I began riding as a kid, I’ve never gone more than two weeks without being on a horse, and now I’m looking at mid-July for the next opportunity.

Unable to weight-bear for now, I feel like a totally useless blob. I’m unable to groom (except one side of the minis!) or bathe the horses, or mess around in the barn. I can’t exercise, go shopping, visit with friends in person or travel.

I feel like I’ve lost purpose without riding in my life. Each day blends into the next, and I just feel like I’m wasting time. All I’m able to do is work, then stare at a screen some more, either reading a magazine on my iPad or watching TV. I’ve taken to eating my lunch outside and sitting in my wheelchair in the barn while watching my mom feed and turnout the horses but that’s all the horse time I’m getting.

I’m such a type A, always-busy kind of person that having all this time is no fun! I plan my life by the hour. Before my injury I was actually getting mildly burned out with traveling so much, but I’ve realized I thrive on that. I’d much rather be standing out in the freezing cold rain at Jersey Fresh than sitting on my butt in the house.

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Dusty riding Thomas on May 21.

I’ve had time to think about what I want to do with Thomas, and I’m just not sure. I went to see him at Dusty’s last weekend, and he was settled back into living in a stall for half the day. He worked on stretching him in walk and trot under saddle and did a little bit of canter. He said he’s been hacking a lot and just getting him to learn to relax. When I saw him go he looked quite tense, but I’ll give him that considering he’s in a new place with a new rider being asked to do hard things like bend his body much more than I ever would have thought to ask.

I’ve found that unfortunately with boarding and my budget, there’s always one thing that you have to sacrifice, and for me that’s hacking. I have access to two gravel driveways that make for a 20-minute loop, but I’ve been hesitant to do the whole thing on my own. And it seems Thomas is the kind of OTTB who needs a lot of hacking to learn to relax…see my conundrum?

Luckily I have two friends that will be moving in on June 1 so I’ll hopefully be able to have some help, especially when it comes to getting on.

If it was up to me, I’d do one to two just-hacking days per week. I’ve alway tried to vary Oh So’s work days, but he’s at the point now where although he loves hacking, if I can’t for a week, he’s fine.

Before the accident I was getting increasingly frustrated about not having regular flat lessons wth Thomas. With Bear and Oh So I got regular lessons so I felt like I had guidance, confirmation I was doing the correct thing, and most importantly, a plan.

I’m often told to believe in myself more than I do, but I still believe I need help. Ironically, Heidi, who isn’t able to travel to me right now, had made some time to come do both horses on the day I fell. That would have been my second flat lesson in 5 months, which thinking about it is insane. But Lisa didn’t think he was ready to start traveling yet over the winter, then I got busy with traveling, and it was never “the right time” either  because of weather or taking Oh So to a show.

I don’t feel super upset that I can’t see Thomas right now, but I am pretty unhappy that I can only see Oh So a couple of times a week and that I don’t have anyone to keep him moving on a regular basis. He tends to get in trouble/become feral when he’s not messed with most days. Plus, who knows how many more years I have with him? He’s being going great this spring, and now this!

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Thomas and Dusty working on bending.

I’m not sure why I don’t feel that way about Thomas…I think part of it is that I know he’s in good hands and being ridden every day. But I almost feel like if I just let Dusty sell him now, I wouldn’t be too upset over it. I just don’t have that emotional attachment yet. To be honest, without flat lessons, I was feeling kind of lost and unmotivated. The first year seems to be the hardest part of training an OTTB, and a lot of it is just going through the daily grind of tension, trying to stay on or survive a spook, and without guidance, I wasn’t happy.

It was nice when I visited him. He was certainly more friendly to me than Oh So, who was being fussy and probably thinking, “Who is this amateur (my mom) grooming me, and when do we get going?”

He put his head down, and I fed him tons of carrots in his stall. I didn’t want to scare him too much being in the wheelchair!

I thought we’d gained trust in each other before the accident, but now I don’t trust him. If I decide to sell him when he comes back, I’ll still have to ride him, so I might as well keep him right? Otherwise I’d have to start over and potentially go through all of this again, bringing my next horse up from the start. It just seems silly that something as trivial as mounting could cause this apprehension from both of us, especially when we haven’t even begun the hard stuff like his first cross-country schooling or his first oxer.

If I don’t sell him, then I wonder, will I be scared getting back on the first time? How long will it take for this to all become a distant memory? Will I always look at him as the horse who did this to me?

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Lucky and Oliver have been keeping me company.

If he’s an overthinker/worrier and I am too, does that make a good match? Do I want to deal with tension and the frustration again like I did with Oh So in the dressage? Or do I need to just get over myself, buck up and deal with it?

He’s obviously a quality horse, but how slow will I have to go? I’m not in a huge rush, but he is now 8, and I told my trainer I didn’t want to take two years to get to beginner novice again, but it looks like he’s going to take more time. I’ve been literally aching to compete on a regular basis since Oh So got injured in 2013, and every time I come close, something comes up with his soundness. Maybe I’m just antsy because I interview so many people about how easy their horses were to bring up the levels. Maybe they’re lying to me about the hard parts?

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Rocky enjoys nibbling on my boots.

I miss the thrill of competing, and I think I tend to thrive on regularly showing so I can improve myself by getting into a rhythm. I just feel like I’m hanging on by a thread here, and I’ve felt that way for awhile, even before the accident.

What’s really killing me is Facebook. Seeing photos of how amazing people’s weekends are and what exotic place they’re traveling to makes my heart really tinge with sadness and envy. I’m mad about missing my vacation, and I’m mad I can’t be out enjoying my horses. I should stay off it, but literally, what else is there to do?!

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Oh So is not happy about this situation.

So here I sit (literally because I’m unable to stand), waiting to start walking and hoping I can make it to Rebecca Farm and Great Meadow in July. I’m slowly ticking off the days, one by one.

Highs and Very Low Lows

Sitting here on a hospital bed in my parents’ living room, I really can’t believe what’s transpired over the last four days.

I just got back from a great trip to Rolex on Sunday night and got a text from my dressage  trainer telling me she could make a rare trip to my barn to do lessons with both horses on Wednesday afternoon.

I finished work early and was super excited to have a lesson with Thomas, considering we’ve had one flat lesson since I bought him.

I decided to do him first, and did out usual routine tacking up and going out to the arena. I haven’t been lunging him a lot lately, and he’s been going well under saddle. We’ve had two outings, one more successful than the other, but that’s OK.

I went to get on, and he started moving off, so I stopped him, turned him around and walked him back up to the mounting block. Heidi stood by his head to distract him and I put my foot in the stirrup. No sooner was I on that he whipped backwards, half rearing, and then he took off crow hop bucking.

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I remember seeing the saddle below me and thinking I was coming off backwards, but somehow he got me off to the right. I heard some crunching, and knew I’d done at least one of my ankles, but Heidi and I weren’t sure how I fell. I must have landed on my feet and collapsed because nothing else hurt, and my helmet didn’t even have dirt on it. He continued around the arena bronc bucking until his hind ankle boots came off. WTF?

I thought my ankles were just sprained, but then I couldn’t get up, so we called the ambulance.

It was discovered that I have two broken ankles, and I underwent surgery on Thursday to put screws and plates in. I’ve never broken a bone in my life, let alone had surgery. Why did I have to do both?!

Of course, as it seems to be the case with my horses too, the doctor said my injuries were highly unusual.

So now I’m faced with a difficult few months. I have to be cared for completely by my parents, who thankfully don’t live too far away, but I’m essentially on bedrest for at least 2 weeks.

I’ve had to cancel my big European vacation later this month that I’ve been saving up for since last year, I’ve scratched Oh So from his dressage show this weekend and need to find someone to keep him going a little, and I’ve decided to send Thomas for training for two months. I’ll also be missing a few upcoming work trips in which I really needed the overtime pay.

I really have no idea what set Thomas off. I thought we had moved past the mounting issues, but if he’s going to react that violently, then I don’t think I want to deal with it. Hopefully we can get that sorted out while he’s away, but I’ve lost whatever fragile trust I had in him. He’s very sensitive, and I’m sure he didn’t mean to do what he did, but it happened, and I’ve been badly broken because of it.

Before all the drama, Oh So and I had a lovely ride at the Loch Moy Starter Trials. I was so excited to try for a full show season this year, now I likely won’t be getting back in the saddle for 12 weeks!

I’ve never been out of the tack that long, and this is by far the most serious injury I’ve ever had, and I am not looking forward to wasting half of my summer. So, I’ll be a little pouty and whiney for the next few weeks. I hope I’ll be able to see the silver lining in all of this, but right now it pretty much just sucks.

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GRC Photo

Out And About (And An Abscess)

Spring has finally spring in Virginia, and I’m ready to start competing and getting Thomas out and about!

After my last post, I took Oh So to Morven Park to see Dr. Adams assuming we’d get his hock or stifles done.

Upon flexions though, he was very good from behind and mildly positive on his right front ankle. He had some mild inflammation there that Dr. Adams thought was some minor arthritis, so we injected that and a few areas in his back behind the saddle where he palpated a bit sore.

The good news is his left front ankle and the areas around his windpuff and deep digital flexor tendon sheath flexed 100 percent negative! Dr. Adams admitted he was a little nervous to see him considering our last appointment he was not feeling positive about his overall soundness and ability to continue competing, but he said he looked better than ever. He’s gained 100 pounds since August too thanks to a good feeding program from my barn owner.

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Valerie Durbon Photo.

I entered Morven Park with the assumption that it would be wet and we might not be able to run cross-country, and unfortunately a ton of rain on the Friday before meant the footing wasn’t going to be ideal for him. Any other year I would say the footing was pretty darn good for Morven, especially by the time I would have gone on Sunday, but there were too many spots of concern on course for Lisa to want to risk him.

I’m bummed it became an expensive combined test, especially considering we were leading after show jumping!

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GRC Photo.

He was a little up as we headed down to the dressage warmup with atmosphere, but as soon as I picked up the reins he went to work. He was a little tight as we got to the main arena and started trotting around, but I tried to stay as relaxed as I could. He can be forgiven for being a bit tense for our first outing of the year! Unfortunately he got me again in our free walk and anticipated the medium walk and jigged, so there will be some dressage schooling shows in our future to get that under control again.

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GRC Photo.

I was remarkably relaxed for show jumping, and we warmed up quite well actually. He was jumping big and I wasn’t picking! The round was quite good–no picking, no rails and he got all his leads because I wasn’t ducking. I was really pleased considering we’d had a bit of a tough lesson the week before. Not bad, just the fact that he didn’t want to sit and rock back over the jumps. We ended up putting some ground rails in front of a few of them to make him wait, but I counted on him backing off the jumps at the show.

I decided against entering MCTA in May because everything is on grass and it can often be wet. Such is life these days for us. Instead, I’m going back to Morven to try my hand at a recognized dressage show.

The last time I did a recognized dressage show I had Palais and was in the junior division, so it will be interesting to see how we stack up. I’m expecting it to be tougher for sure, but maybe we can win a TIP Award?

We’re doing First 2 and 3. I’m hoping two tests in a day will get him a little more rideable in the ring. If that goes well there’s a recognized show at Loch Moy in June that would be fun to try.

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Not sure what’s going on with my leg here, but it’s not slipped back, so that’s good! GRC Photo.

Next up for us though is the CDCTA schooling day on Saturday and the Loch Moy starter trials next week.

Thomas has been going well, but unfortunately at the end of March I felt some funny steps from behind. I did a couple of days of bute thinking it was because he had run around a lot one day when I was there, and then he came sound and had a great lesson with Lisa that weekend.

My farrier came on the 29th and he was sore on his left hind foot and heel in particular, but the farrier thought it was the way his alignment and gait was as he’s been working to correct it.

He was still sound until last week when he was not wanting to walk on it. While I was away at The Fork my barn manager’s farrier came out and found an abscess. I’ve been soaking it this week, and my farrier comes tomorrow, so fingers crossed we can put a shoe back on because I’m home for two weekends in a row, and it’s time to get him off property! He’s also bored and ready to get back to work so I’ve been trying to mess with him in one way or anther every night. We’ve groomed, hand grazed he’s helped me set up jumps in the ring!

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Tiny jumps! GRC Photo.

As far as travel, I’ve since been to the Carolina International and The Fork since my last update. Carolina is always lovely, and the weather was perfect. I got some great photos too, but I was really envious of those who got to ride the training course. The Carolina Horse Park is one of my favorite venues, and I really want to go back and compete.

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The Fork derby field.

The Fork was held at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, and it was my first time there. Let’s just say it was definitely better than driving to podunk Norwood, N.C.!

I’m not sure I totally agree with the main venue’s courses. Many of the lower level jumps were set in the arenas and in a derby field, although I found myself thinking it would be the perfect place for Oh So because you can guarantee the footing will be good! But it just didn’t feel like eventing to me.

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Carolina International.

The brand new three-star course was pretty cool though. It was open and gallopy and the footing felt like carpet. They’ve barely scratched the surface of what the World Equestrian Games’ course will be, and it was exciting to be there to watch it christened. I loved my photos too!

Now I’ve got a couple of weeks until the big one…Rolex!

Here’s a few photos I took of the boys with my nice camera recently. Oh So’s in his ugly phase right now, but once his summer coat comes in, he’ll look great!

Slow and Steady

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Thomas and Oh So hanging.

I’ve had Thomas for just about three months now, and we’re slowly making progress in his re-training.

He’s proven to be very willing, but also a little weary of new things, so we’ve had to be creative in introducing him to jumping and just going slow. I feel like we should be further along at times, but then I have to remind myself I’ve only had him for three months. We’re still learning to trust each other, but we had a good breakthrough in my lesson last Thursday.

After initially teaching him to pick up his feet and actually jump (where he was a little oblivious to the whole thing and happy to do it) he’s now realized that it can sometimes be hard and scary, so I’ve been working on keeping him straight to canter and trot poles first, then just trotting to small verticals with a ground pole or cantering tiny cross rails.

I’m still trying to decide whether he’s spooky or just scared of/inexperienced towards random objects like the flower boxes or blocks in the ring, so I try to move stuff around a few times a week. Sometimes even just trotting between two sets of standards that have boxes can cause him to spook or fall in on a circle if he thinks he’s being aimed at something, so before we pointed him at a jump with something under it, Lisa suggested we try lunging him over things.

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Oh So schooling a few weeks ago. 70 degrees in February!

I have plenty of practice with that since I used to jump my minis in hand all the time! We set up a few things, and I led him over them for a couple of days, then she came for a lesson, and when we aimed him at things, he went! We ended up doing a little course of trot jumps with blocks under them, and he was very good.

I’ve never used that type of training technique, but I’m thinking it’s going to be useful when we start to introduce cross-country jumps.

I’m just still learning to trust him and be firm enough with him, but also sympathetic. I’m a little frustrated that I can’t afford as many flat lessons as I want because most of my budget is going towards jumping lessons with him and Oh So as I took towards trying to compete a bit this spring. I haven’t taken him off property yet, which is making it difficult to get a flat lesson.

I had Heidi come out once, but she doesn’t travel much, so I feel a little aimless, and I just don’t want to mess him up or slow our progress. The most important thing she said is that we insist on bend now, so I’ve been working with that, and it almost immediately improved his right lead canter departure. He gets it on the first try almost every time now. But now going left he sometimes gets the wrong lead, which Lisa says is a common thing while training an OTTB.

The left side is obviously the most difficult right now, and he seems to breathe a little heavier or hold his breath going that way, either because it’s hard or because he’s focusing.

I think I’m going to have to start doing some reading to remind myself of the basic training scale and come up with some exercises, but it really helps to have eyes on the ground to give me something to work on and look forward to and to come up with a program. I also hate doing flatwork in my jump saddle, but a dressage saddle is not in the budget right now. I know I need to trust that I can do this, but being the perfectionist that I am, it’s really hard to do that.

On the ground he’s starting to trust me a little more, and now walks up to me most times when I go to get him in the field instead of running away. He’s very food motivated and has expensive taste, so it’s carrots only right now!

We just had a moderate snow storm, so we’ll have to keep waiting to get him off property until I can ride a few days in a row and it’s not crazy windy and cold. Timing is everything!

Oh So has been feeling a little stiff from behind, so I’m going to have him injected next week. My guess would be stifles, but we’ll see. Don’t tell him, but he’s entered at Morven in the novice the first week of April! Unfortunately I decided not to enter Morningside this week for a combined test because I’m not sure when I’ll be able to ride again, but we’re hoping to get to an indoor this weekend if the snow hasn’t melted.

Since my last post I’ve been to Red Hills, which was a lovely warm weekend in Tallahassee, Fla. It’s such a different vibe there because the local community is so involved, so there are  a lot of clueless spectators, but it’s great to give the sport more exposure.

I’m off to one of my favorites next weekend, Carolina International, then The Fork.

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Beauty at Red Hills.

 

Forward Thinking: The First Month

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First ears photo!

It’s been just about a month since I bought Thomas, and while the winter weather hasn’t been cooperating much, we’ve accomplished a lot in the rides we’ve been able to get in.

We started with lunging, and he picked up on that pretty quickly, so maybe he’s been taught that before. He sometimes wants to cut in on the circle a bit, especially to the right, but he’s accepting the side reins and really stretching down steadily once he’s been working about 10 minutes. He doesn’t try to stop and turn in, and he’s responding very well to voice commands.

Lisa and I have worked with him on mounting, and he’s been doing really well. He’s been standing stock still when I get on and walking off quietly. We had a very deep freeze and snow about 10 days ago, and I wasn’t able to ride for a whole week, which was torture! I had Lisa come out and help me on the first day back this week, and we were able to fit in a ride before it got dark. He did very well, and we even cantered over our first pole!

But the next day, I had to ride at night under the lights. He’s been fine with it so far, but I think I took for granted that maybe he would be a little spooky after a week not riding at night. I lunged, then went to get on, and he tried to walk off towards the pile of jumps that the mounting block is next to in the middle of the ring. I steered him away from it, but in the process of doing that and trying to stay off his back a little and also not lean forward, I lost my balance and grabbed my neck strap, and I think I touched the reins too. He went backwards, then forwards and somehow I flipped off over his head! I’m not sure exactly how it played out, but I can say the reins were all the way over his head, and I’m sore all over!

I can now say I’ve fallen off at the walk! We both scared ourselves I think, and after I caught him I walked him around a bit and got back on. He was a little freaked out, but we did our usual trot and canter after we calmed down, and he was fine, if a little on edge.

So, lesson learned. Hand walk some more at night before I get on and bring carrots to the mounting block. He definitely wants to please, but he’s still a race horse with some baggage.

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First trail ride!

As far as under saddle work, he’s really understood trot poles quickly. Lisa has set up little courses with sets of raised poles on half circles around the ring, and he’s felt his way through a few times, but overall he’s working hard and understanding that he might need to shorten his step before the first pole and how to bend while also lifting his leg.

We’ve cantered a total of about five times, and he’s already starting to understand the aid to get into canter and is taking fewer steps to get into it. The left lead is solid obviously, and the right lead isn’t too hard to get, but he usually needs a few tries. He’s stayed in a nice, steady pace and hasn’t tried to run off. We’re starting to do large circles, and he’s softening to the bit nicely.

Lisa and I took him for a walk outside the ring before the big freeze and he seemed to enjoy it. We walked through the woods and down the driveway. I wish I had more places to hack, but unfortunately I only have a long gravel driveway and a short trail through the woods.

I’m not sure when we’ll start jumping or trailering out, but I’m happy with the progress we’ve made. I think the next step is two canter poles in a row!

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Working hard!

Oh So has been doing well. I’ve been working on his tough right to left change by trying it out of counter canter. I had a lesson with Heidi two weeks ago and we worked on obedience and balance by asking for the counter lead on a circle. We both found it a little difficult, but when we came out of the corner, asked on the long side, then turned across the center of the ring at B, we got the left change.

I’m going to continue to work on that at home until I can go see her again. We’re having more winter weather this weekend (why does it always have to come when I have a day off?!), but I’m hoping to get him out somewhere to jump tomorrow.