Forward Thinking: The First Month

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.

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!

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.

A Good Day At Seneca Valley HT

This post is a bit late since I’ve been swamped lately at work and home and just haven’t had the inspiration to sit in front of my computer!

Almost two weeks ago, I took Bear to Seneca Valley HT to do the beginner novice. It was super hot and I had later ride times, but somehow I survived. We did minimal dressage warm up and the test itself I felt wasn’t our best–maybe a bit hurried in trot, but we scored a 31 to be 10th in a big open division.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Show jumping was on grass in a nice, big area, so I was able to have a bit more pace. Bear was just fine over everything and stayed very focused, but I was a bit inconsistent and took a couple of long ones and a couple of short ones. We ended up having fence two down which was in a related line. I just held the contact in my hand a bit too long as he took off and didn’t soften, so he had the front rail down of the oxer.

The fences I did get right were quite nice though, including the in and out and a bending line on the right lead from 5 to 6 and a five stride from 7 to 8.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

On the walk over to cross-country, I was feeling a bit weak from the heat–not sick or faint, just weak. I tend to avoid competing in the summer because when that happens, I feel I’m not as effective as I could be and I don’t want to let me horse down. I rallied as we circled the box and cantered a few circles as they counted us down. I think doing that works better for Bear since we can have a good, forward canter going to the first fence. With Oh So, it’s more about keeping him calm and just walking.

I have to say, nearly every fence was perfect on cross-country. It was a nice course that had us galloping the first half and then doing three fences in the woods. One was a light to dark question going into the woods and he backed off into my leg just the right amount. The other two fences in the woods were around somewhat sharp turns and he did those probably the best of all.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

He did come back to trot for the water, but he wasn’t hesitant about it and I was able to canter out.

We finished in 9th place, just out of the ribbons. I think it was a good learning course for him and I feel like he could go do novice tomorrow–it’s just me and the show jumping that needs work!

Great Meadow XC day
Great Meadow XC day

I had Oh So entered at Surefire the following weekend, but they changed the schedule on me and I had to work the new Great Meadow event nearby, so I scratched. It’s too darn hot anyways. We’ve been having an absolute heat wave lately and I’m so over it!

Last weekend was definitely crazy as I covered Great Meadow on Friday until late, went cross-country schooling at Seneca with Oh So on Saturday early, went back to Great Meadow on Saturday night, then went back the next morning. There were crazy storms on Saturday at Great Meadow and I was stuck in the press tent with a few other journalists when a mini tornado or microburst hit. It was one of the more terrifying experiences I’ve had with lightning, rain, wind and tornado warnings. It cleared for an hour and I got a beautiful shot of a double rainbow, then they evacuated the place and more rain hit as I drove home.

GRC Photo
GRC Photo

Here’s a video of Oh So schooling at Seneca. We did some training stuff at the end that’s not on there. He was great and I was pretty on point over the novice stuff. I felt like we really got our groove back, but I needed a bit more pace at the training fences.

I also had a lovely time at Bromont in Quebec, Canada three weeks ago. I had to remember a bit of my French, but it’s definitely become one of my favorite events. Next up is my big trip to the Pan Ams in July!

A Lesson In Lots of Leg

2013-11-23 08.07.35


First of all, happy Thanksgiving! While I didn’t actually celebrate it this year with dinner, I’m thankful for my friends, family and my horses, and I’m thankful I haven’t gotten bucked off Oh So yet while walking (hence the photo above!)

We’re up to 10 minutes walking now and so far he’s been okay. I’ve turned him out in a small grass paddock a few times when I’ve gotten home from work and he’s run a bit, but settled down enough to play with the minis over the fence for about an hour and a half.

One lesson I’ve learned this week with Bear has definitely applied to Oh So as he’s gradually heading back into work. LEG ON!

I find myself wanting to take my leg off in fear of Oh So exploding, but what he really needs is for me to wrap my leg around him and keep him going forward.

In my jump lesson on Sunday with Bear, we worked on trotting a cross rail with a ground pole in front. It’s only his second time jumping, and it was 35 degrees, windy and we were

Our herd.
Our herd.

in a spooky Cover All ring, so the fact that he took it all in stride was pretty cool.

Lisa was running late, so I tacked him up and walked around the ring watching the other horse and rider, which was a lesson for Bear in itself. We stood, we walked, we watched and we stood some more and he seemed fine with it. The horse we were watching was actually another OTTB who was about a year ahead of where we are, so it was interesting to watch the lesson.

Lisa set up two poles 12 feet apart for us to canter over. The turn was tight to them across the ring, so we didn’t always stay in canter, but he did a good job meeting the poles at the right spot.

She set up the cross rail to finish with and we worked on keeping him straight to it, cantering away and then coming back to trot. I had to remind myself to keep my leg on and press him off the ground/think of asking him to canter on take-off so he would actually jump. It was pretty black and white. If my leg was on, he jumped. If it was off, he trotted or stumbled over the jump.

It’s definitely a different feel for me coming from a trained horse like Oh So. My lower leg is never as good as I want it with him, but now I have something I can work on perfecting once he’s back to jumping. He doesn’t need me to tell him to jump like Bear does, but pressing him off the ground might help get a better jump.

2013-11-16 10.41.08-2

Last Saturday, I took Bear on his first trail ride with my mom and Lad, and he was great! He wanted to lead and he even stood when I undid the gate. I’m hoping I can take him out a couple of times this weekend and maybe start working on some hills.

I had the vet out to do his teeth on Wednesday because I noticed one of his baby teeth fell out, and she was able to remove another loose one and a cap on one of his molars.

In my flat lesson today, we put him in a rope for lunging, which helps him come over his back a bit more than side reins. We worked a little on bending and yielding to the bit and he picked up canter very promptly.

I’m hoping I can get some more photos and maybe a video to show everyone what we’re up to!

Spring schedule

I'm glad this winter has been more mild!

I’ve got my early schedule together for this season. Since I’m headed to Rolex on a mini-vacation and to Spain in May, it’s a little light on recognized competitions, but I think this year I really want to work on getting comfortable at the preliminary height, so I think my money will be better spent doing a few small schooling shows, in place of a recognized show. I’m going to try not to worry about placings and ribbons and concentrate more on a smooth show jumping round!

Feb. 26 – Bascule Farm jumper show
March 4 – Bascule Farm dressage show
March 10-11 – Southern Pines I (training)
March 25 – Loch Moy Combined Test (prelim)
March 31-April 1 – Morven Park Horse Trials (prelim)
April ? Combined test?
May 5-6 – MCTA Horse Trials (prelim)