Monday, January 31, 2011

Fancy Schmancy

Many many big ups and thank-yous to Denali's Mom for the awesome new banner she so generously donated to Miles on Miles. Most of us know her and love her for good reason:) She's made me a proper blogger, finally!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Sweet Free Lunging Phenom

Miles demonstrates his flawless free lunge "Whoa".

What a good boy I have.

I went out to the barn today, just wanting to fart around and maybe have some fun in the snow. I know I'm a big baby (access to an indoor arena will do that to you), but I haven't really ridden in the snow in years. Still, it's so inviting, all sparkly and white and undisturbed.

No, I didn't ride today (again, baby). I did, however, lunge the Best Thoroughbred In The World (trademarked) in the indoor over ground poles. He was so awesome I took his cute butt outside to the pristine, snow-covered outdoor ring and let him loose.

I really thought he would just walk around so I could make sure he was on solid footing (it felt good to me but I'm not a barefoot horse), maybe roll and we'd be done with it.

He was fantastic, as you can probably guess by now. He walked, trotted, even threw in a few canter strides, all while keeping a nice circle around me. I even got him to halt on the circle. Who taught him this?? No me! Such a good boy. Next time, I'm riding him out there. And you all will hopefully tell me how brave we are and not roll your eyes in boredom. At least where I can see you.

Oh, forgot to mention-I did get a snippet on video:) MAD SKILLS, I tell you. The horse, not me-I can't believe he did all this with no lunge line and no whip.

Miles, for his part, doesn't know what the big deal is. He's always known what a good boy he is. I think I annoyed him with all the fuss I was making.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"I'm Not A Thoroughbred Person..."

That's what I used to think, and I probably even said it out-loud occasionally. Of course, I've since re-evaluated this position, and I've even written a blog post to dismiss the notion. It would be really easy for me to say I was just a "Chamie" person (my first horse, a QH/TB, or appendix Quarter Horse), or an "Ebony" person (my first full TB) or a "Miles" person (no descriptor needed;). Their breeds were incidental.

For the longest time I've had this idea in my head that I like calm horses. Very sane. Not unpredictable-a horse you can have fun with. Certainly ex-racehorses are the last thing that come to mind when you're looking for a horse you can count on to keep you safe.

Well, I'm here to tell you that's wrong. Hear me out.

First of all, the fact that all 3 of the horses I've owned in my life were TBs or half-TBs should say something about my level of ignorance and denial. The reason for such denial is this-I'm not a confident rider. I know, none of us are supposed to admit that, but there it is. I work on it everyday, and you know what? So do lots and lots of other riders. I have no hard facts whatsoever, but most of us have had bad falls, injuries, or at the very least real scares in our work with these large beasties. The fear, if you want to call it that, is always there-something bad could happen.

Of course, that doesn't stop us now, does it? ;) Just because I have a nagging in the back of my head reminding me of my mortality doesn't mean I don't absolutely love riding. It's a weird push-pull; life is short, so do what you love and live in the moment. Then the old survival instinct kicks in.

Naturally, then, one might conclude, "Well, if you're going to ride, and you don't have all the confidence of let's say, Lucinda Greene (eventer extraordinaire), perhaps you should at least ride a horse that decreases your chance of death". I hear this attitude everywhere, from various places on the Internet to some people I board with. Give me a good old Quarter Horse any day, they say.

To that I say you take your Quarter Horse, I'll take my TB. While I may not be brimming with confidence, I can usually fake it when things get a little hairy and I really need to, for Miles' sake. My TB may be a little spooky at times, but he has never offered a buck or a rear under saddle. After he settled into the routine at the barn, which took him about a month, he has been nothing but a gentleman to deal with on the ground. More than that, he has been a delight to work around, and to work with. His heart, and his try, are something I've never encountered in any horse I've ever ridden. He's so happy when he knows he's been a good boy. He loves to work, and to learn new things. While he can be lazy, I can always fix that by engaging his big TB brain with something interesting. I've never used spurs and never done more with my whip than tap his shoulder. I've had him for over a year now, and without a trainer we've progressed and improved together.

And you know what? He's not the exception. While of course I think he's special and amazing, most TBs are more like him and less like...whatever it is that "non-TB" people think they are.

Is he sensitive? Absolutely, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I have to be a good rider to ride him well. That same sensitivity, I believe, is also the reason we have bonded so well. We can read each other's needs to a certain extent and react accordingly. That sensitivity is also what keeps us safe in certain situations. I can't wait to see him in the woods-no, that's not a joke:)

Is he flighty and spooky occasionally? Sure. Still, it's very rare for him to spook, so rare that it's an event to blog about when it does happen. I've also found that I actually prefer this to a horse that offers a cow-hop or a buck when they don't feel like working on any given day. I honestly don't think Miles has ever considered such a thing-the only time I've seen him buck is when he's feeling good on the lunge (or he has sheath issues, ha ha).

Thoroughbreds, and OTTBs in particular do indeed have their own idiosyncrasies and quirks that other horses may not. Said another way, I don't think any other breed has their heart, their try, their love of "work"-why would you want to ride a horse that would rather be in the barn or their pasture? I dig the fact that Miles looks forward to hanging out with me, and he really is happiest in regular work. TBs require a light hand and a quiet ride, and experienced leadership above all. So, maybe they're not for everyone. Still, I wouldn't have This One any other way.

Yeah, I've used this pic before. Still, I loves it. Also, it was about 60 degrees warmer back then, siiiiigh.

Edited to add, in the harsh light of day: This post reads an awful lot like "Quarter Horses suck, TBs rule!" Sorry about that. I love me some Quarter Horses, really. This is a pro-TB post, not an anti-anything post.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

To The Clinic We Shall Go (assuming we're thawed out by then...)

Right now, Michigan Winter is basically making all of us her bitch. It's been like, a high of 18 with a windchill of 5 and a low of 0 the last couple days. We're supposed to have one more day of this ridiculousness before we're back up to balmy highs in the mid 20s. Miles is currently wrapped up in 2 1/2 layers, and I'm still worried about him being cold. He's been utilizing the shelter in their pasture quite a bit though, so I'm sure he's ok. It's just literally bone chilling out there.

Pretty sure is was about 3 degrees when I took this. Mr. Regal quickly turned into Mr. Giant Nostril Who Craves Treatings, as seen below.

Thus, I haven't been able to ride AGAIN since my last post. Even if I wanted to brave the cold, it's just not safe to walk Miles from the barn up the small but super ice-y hill to get to the arena. Cripes, he was slip-sliding just walking across the driveway from his pasture to the barn, and so was I. I would just feel awful if something happened walking him up there, so we will have to wait until we either get more snow to cover the ice or we get a thaw, le siiiiiigh.

I've still been going out and feeding him his beet pulp/alfalfa mash and trying to do as much as I can with him in the barn-stretches and whatnot. Ah, speaking of, remember how I was super gung-ho about teaching him the Spanish Walk? Yeah, we're putting that on hold. Mr. Smarty Pants is now lifting a leg every time he sees me with a treat. He's not pawing (yet) but I really don't want to turn him into a's an annoying habit and not cool. So, if and when we resume training on this particular trick, I've decided to do it in the arena only, never in the barn. Stupid smart Thoroughbred!

Finally, in "It's about time!" news, Miles and I are going to be getting our first official instruction, hooray! My barn is having Cheri Theis, USDF L Judge out to do a clinic. I've never heard of her but she has a pretty impressive background, and people seem to speak highly of her. If you know anything else about her feel free to email me. I think this will be sooooo helpful to Miles and me. The clinic isn't until the end of March, so that will give us time to thaw out and get in regular work, and hopefully try him in either the Myler bit or a bitless bridle. I'd love to get feedback on my position, work on our transitions, particularly canter transitions and the right canter depart. If any Michigan peeps are interested in trailering in, lemme know and I'll send you the details.

Anyway, that's the big blah blah update for now. There's just not much to say when you're basically going out to the barn to feed your horse and that's it. Though Miles likes it. He likes it a lot.

Miles Giant Schnoz hypnotizes you into feeding many treatings....cripes, how can you NOT look at that thing!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spooking Stanley

What do you get when you work an OTTB after a week and a half of nothing?

Well, first you get a horse surprised you are placing things on his back. "A saddle pad? Another saddle pad? A Saddle? Now a GIRTH, are you mad?! I don't even get to finish my treatings?!?"

Then you get a totally forward, feeling good horse. Oh my, was he forward. Also sound as a pound, which I just loooved. His gaits looked great on the lunge. I couldn't resist trotting him over a tiny cross rail a couple of times; he looooved it. Very full of himself, but nothing naughty. Here goes nothing, I thought, as I mounted up.

Yeah, he was still forward...and it was lovely....most of the time. Was he supple and bending and listening? Maybe not as much as I would like. Still, any day I can get that amazing Working Trot is a good day. We had beautiful, brief moments of "on the bit" work (yeah, we are still in the hackamore, but he was a powerhouse behind and I could feel that recycling of energy in my hands). Again, after so much time off-and let's be honest, not super consistent work even before that-I knew we would have some issues. Oh, but I want to feel that trot again;)

He also...spooked. Which is so not like him. I sorta knew something was coming, only because he was so "wired". Also, our entrance to the indoor arena has moved, and the "new" entrance has all new sights for him to gawk at (note to self-close door next time). His spook was pretty mild-sort of a hind-end scoot with his head in the air, and he came back right away. Still, it was out of nowhere, not even NEAR the stupid door, and there was no noise that I could hear.

So not a big deal, right? No, it shouldn't be. Still, when he scooted, I did the exact opposite of what I should have. While I didn't curl into a fetal position, I did pull back on those reins (both of them). Ugh. Luckily he didn't hold it against me, and he still came back. I would really, really like to erase that reaction from my brain, though. He was on a loose rein, at the walk when it happened, so I doubt I even made that much contact. Nevertheless, I guess it's time to work on those one rein stops, if only for my benefit. I don't want to do that if and when I ever ride him in a bit again.

After the spook we still went on to have some lovely work. I've got food for thought, though, no doubt.

Still, just for tonight, I'm going to savor the feeling of that wonderful trot, and be thankful to have such a wonderful horse to offer it to me.

Edited to Add: Ow Ow Owww...Imma be sore tomorrow. Lo, am I out of shape!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Super Stylish Blog...If You Say So!

First thing's first...thank you to Denali's Mom and JJ (and now Gabriella, Ruffles and Laz's Mom!)for this:

Thank you, ladies. Apparently, I am to thank those that awarded me, post 7 things about myself, and award 15(!) other people.

I'm going to bend the rules a bit. First of all, everyone on my "Favorite Blogs" list to the right are deserving of this, and a lot more folks I follow are I'm not going to list just 15-I don't like to ruffle feathers, and I really can't choose-I love y'all:)

Also, instead of listing 7 random things about me, I'm going to list things that I've been up to lately.

1) Not riding. Ugghhhhhhh....I hate it. It has either been super cold or super snowy or both, OR my husband and I have been taking little mini vacays (see #2). It's not like it's been forever-maybe a week and a half, but I still feel awful. I have been going out to the barn to see Miles and feed him his beet pulp/alfalfa stew, and lunge him sometimes, but I haven't ridden in waaay too long. The good thing? That this is a rarity. This time last year I would go weeks without riding and it would be no biggie. Still, I don't want to go back to that. I would like to remedy this tomorrow, though of course another cold snap is on it's way, grrr.

2) Kyle and I went to Traverse City this weekend to take advantage of a free night at Great Wolf Lodge, free massage (see #3) and shop. It was a great time, even though it was just over a weekend. I discovered a wonderful little tack shop called Red Hare Tack and Togs (I couldn't find a website but this is their Facebook page). Miles got a beautiful, padded white show saddle pad (which is taunting me b/c I can't use it!!!). It's super well made and gorgeous, with piping around the edges, for 20 buck. Are you kidding me?? It's the best pad I've ever gotten for that price! So nice. Never you mind that I already have way too many saddle pads.
Also, while in the city, a certain kind and generous and awesome Ms. Wendy who writes From Racehorse To Showhorse donated some really nice, very lightly used stacker standards for our quest to conquer the cross rail jumping world! Thank you, thank you Wendy!!

3) Oh, my sweet massage. So, something I haven't written about yet on this blog is that I have been having lower back pain...some days nothing, other days it really, really hurts. I knew it was something muscular/skeletal, because it felt fine when sitting or laying down, but if I started to power walk (as I do when I walk the dogs) oy, the pain would almost knock me down some days, and it's definitely gotten worse. So, Kyle and I went to Living Light Massage on Saturday, and my masseuse told me it was my sciatic nerve. This tiny bird of a girl who can't have weighed more than 110 lbs proceeded to pound that damn nerve into submission for an hour. It hurt like hell at some moments (though of course the massage was wonderful overall), and afterward she told me what stretches I should be doing. Today? It feels like a million bucks, no joke. I was sore as hell immediately after she was done but my back didn't hurt like it has been. I hope it lasts, but she did recommend regular massages for that area. Hmmm, I could live with that:)

4) My barn has scheduled twilight shows for June. I never did get Miles and I out to any of them last summer (I had good reasons, I swear! Although I can't remember them now...). Still, I'm excited to get him out there and show off our mad skillz. Or at least, our pretty white show saddle pad:) There also may be a clinic coming up by one of the judges in the area that I would LOOOOVE to go to. Actual instruction?!? Sign me up!

Ok, 4 items, 7 items, what's the difference? ;) This is what I've been up to. Yeah, the winter, mid-January doldrums are in full effect, there's no avoiding them. Still, this time of year, I find if I can focus on the next day, and the things I'm looking forward to, that helps me get through whatever present muck I have to trudge through. Happy winter, y'all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

U Read This Now! Vol I

There is so much excellent writing out there on horses, OTTBs, training, riding,, so, so much. In fact, I am currently overwhelmed by how behind I am in reading all this good stuff. It's too bad because I love it..I literally get giddy when I have a couple hours to just sit down and peruse the internets and get caught up on everyone's adventures and thoughts.

When I stumble upon something that I really, really love, I'd like to start sharing it, even though I know a lot of us all read the same blogs:) Still, if you haven't yet, u read this now by TB at X. It's really wonderful and captures so much of what I believe at my core, and want to say about working with horses and training but have not an ounce of her writing (or riding!) ability, not to mention her experience. Here's proof, from her post:

"You will not learn to train a horse until you have been humbled by many horses. Until you accept this, you will continue to make the same mistakes and continue to only work with “stubborn”, “stupid”, or “problem” horses. The most difficult horses have the most to teach you… but you have to let them."

Right?!? Chills...and that's just one nugget of wisdom among many.

So, there is my bloggy recommendation for the day. I know some people do like, buttons and other kitchy things (which is cool!), but, um, I don't.

Miles also wants to make it very clear that he is NOT a "stupid", "stubborn" or "problem" horse, in case there is any confusion.

Milez iz a gud pony and haz nuthing to teach u. Mite az well give treatings insted.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Snow Pony

In lieu of any action shots or video (and it may be awhile; we had a whopping high of 15 degrees today and expect the same tomorrow), I've still been itching to take pictures of my boy. Today was just beautiful, despite the cold. There was a light snow falling, so I took the Goldens out to the barn and clicked away. Nothing too exciting, but we had a grand time anyway.

The dogs are so, so nutty when faced with large beasts. Neither of them really know how to act appropriately, though they try to stay out of the way for the most part. Sammy did feast on waaaay too many stray alfalfa cubes this time. I have a feeling that's not going to jibe well with his already sensitive digestive tract, sigh. They did have fun though.

I fed Miles outside where the dogs were more comfortable and could run amok as they pleased. Lately, though, he's been less than thrilled about eating his beet pulp/alfalfa mash, wet or dry. Still, his weight is good, and he eats his grain and hay with gusto, so I'm not going to worry about it just yet.

Of course, no food is ever completely rejected.

Miles is no longer amused, if he ever was.

Compromise with semi-forward ears.

Random Golden antics capture his attention.

Happy to oblige my request for one cute profile pic. Thatsa my boy.

One more for good measure. I wish I could photo-shop the giant crane-thing out in the background, but there it is.

Now for something completely random...for Christmas this year, I asked Kyle to take my 27 year old teddy bear (named-wait for it-Teddy) somewhere for cleaning and repairs. My poor faithful companion was flat as a pancake from using him as a pillow for about 10 years as a kid, with multiple stitching issues. He also didn't smell too great, poor boy. Anyway, the lady Kyle took him to specializes in doll restoration but does everything, apparently. Including dressing up Teddy free of charge with no request to do so.

OK, OK, it's cute. Weird, but cute. Most importantly, he smells much better:) Good thing, because he's the one relic from my childhood that's here to stay. He sleeps in the bed and everything:)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An Even Wee-er Update

...Just to say that Miles cantered his first jumps today-both directions, on the lunge, a tiny vertical and a cross rail, in fine fashion I might add. I just love this horse.

Maybe our last "crash boom bah" session was actually a good thing, because he never touched the rails this time, and was careful yet totally confident. The first time I pointed him at the jump while he was cantering, I admit I held my breath, yet he took everything in stride with his ears up-a very happy boy. That first jump was maybe 12"-pretty sure he cleared it by at least 2 feet:) Yay for lunging first!

Ever wanting to conserve his preshus energy, however, the next 3 canter jumps (I alternated trot/canter to avoid any silliness) were gorgeous and cleared by totally reasonable heights.

How did I get so lucky? What a good boy. I rode as well, and he was equally wonderful. I'm going to stay at a trot under saddle for a little while while he figures out the obstacles in front of him and focus on straightness and rhythm (we're also still working on that frigging right lead canter, ha ha). I'm a proud mama tonight-I'll try for pictures/video this weekend:)

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Wee Update

Miles has been moving better than ever after my last post. What a relief...I think he was just having an off day when I posted last, for whatever reason. He does have sizable "racing jewelry" on his ankles, so it's to be expected I suppose. I may start looking at giving him more support via nutritional supplements (SmartPak Senior or TLC, anyone?), at least during the winter months.

I did indeed get a lot of riding/lunging in this past weekend, and lo, it was awesome. Yesterday, after 3 days of riding, we played with more ground poles and tackling our first (very small) vertical on the lunge. Poor boy-the first couple times he gave it a big look and picked up his feet accordingly (keep in mind, the jump was maybe a couple inches higher than the tiny cross rails he was so comfortable with). Then I placed a pole in front of it-Crash Boom Bah! Poles were flying, standards fell over, it was a disaster; OK, in truth I laughed my butt off. He was such a good boy though-he didn't bolt away, spook or anything. He was just very...confused. Unfortunately, he was less than confident on our next go-around after I re-set everything. He hesitated right before the jump, sort of stopping in mid-air, and then LAUNCHING his big butt over the jump.

I praised him big time for going over, but also realized that he probably doesn't need to face something new every session we have, no matter how competent he is at what we're currently doing. It's quite alright to keep doing cross rails for now, and ground poles all by themselves, or ground poles leading up to a teeny tiny cross rail. It's too easy to take advantage of his enthusiastic, game nature, and that's the last thing I want. I don't want him worried ever at this stage if I can help it, and it's way too easy to push for more than he's ready for, particularly on the lunge. Good lesson for me.

In short, Miles is still sorting out what his body needs to do when presented with obstacles in front of him, and I need to respect that and give him time. He's figuring out striding, take off spots, straightness, how high to lift each foot, all that good stuff. Although nothing we've done is over 18", it's still very, very new.

If we do this right, we should be here in no time~

Oh, I kid, I kid. Honestly:)