Monday, May 15, 2017

Grayson Comparison

I am alive! I have been a really bad blogger. I think I just got overwhelmed with what to write about. Life started moving too fast. I hope to catch up soon.

In the meantime I thought it would be fun to share two pictures of Grayson I took a year apart. Grayson was probably born around June 2015 making him almost three right now. He is also supposedly an Appendix Quarter Horse/Lusitano cross though he is really just a mystery rescue horse. At least that is how I view him.

I would love to know what you all think of how he is maturing, his confirmation, and what he looks like (breeds wise). Don't worry, you won't hurt my feelings -- I didn't breed him ;) He has a wonderful personality, which is what counts right? He really is one of the sweetest, most people-oriented horses I have met.

Grayson May 2016 (Almost 2)

Grayson May 2017 (Almost 3)

To me, he is looking more like a Lusitano/quarter horse and less like a TB. He was pretty gangly for a while and I was starting to wonder if he would ever fill out.

Here is another shot of him. As you can see I have been very busy the last few months ;) Look at his pretty dapples!
Grayson saying hi to his little sister!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Training wheels are coming off!

 Even though we had the hurricane (which meant no power for two days) the weather was beautiful by the time I had my lesson. AS always, we started with ground work. We worked on getting a decent working walk out of him, and she also taught me how to half halt using the lunge line. We also talked about getting insight into how he is using his back by the way the saddle is moving. She also advised me to not to move into riding until I see signs of focus and relaxation from him. He is such a stoic guy I sometimes have a hard time reading him which in turn makes me nervous.

Ride six!
The time I spent desensitizing him to my feet and legs must have paid off because he was very calm and happy as I mounted up. We spent a good amount of time on the lunge pushing for more and more trot. He was very sluggish, and kept stopping every time I said "good" thinking that must meant he was done! Definitely more whoa then go right now.

We concluded the lesson by taking him off the lunge and having him walk, trot, and halt with my aids alone. He did great! He really listens to my seat, and was still very hard to get to go forward. She had me try to trot him into the middle of the pen and change directions but we just kept loosing momentum. After realizing our hour lesson had gone an hour over we called it a day.

I have now ridden Oak two more times since Friday, both ending off the lunge cruising around the round pen (we are at 8 rides total for folks keeping up at home). He has moments of tension, but overall he seems like a happy camper. He is not very forward at this point (which I think is a good thing) and his steering is not so good. He really does feel very green. Not sure he really ever had consistent or proper training. My guess is it has been all pony rides and the "cowboying" up until this point.  Hoping that giving him an actual foundation will give him the confidence he lacks. So far, it seems to be working!

Our first trot with no training wheels!
I have asked my instructor if she would switch to lessons once a week, because I feel like we evolve so much each ride at this point, I could use more on the ground feedback. My partner has been awesome as a stand-in when she is not around, but he can't give me that crucial feedback as well as she can. Oak is also is a little wary of him, which is counter productive.

Gray's Corner

I put him in the roundpen and worked on walk, trot transitions for a few minutes. It has been months since I asked anything of him on the line. He pulled some faces, but was otherwise a good boy. I then introduced a saddle to him for the first time. We started with a review of a saddle pad which he could care less about. I then slowly introduced a saddle (Wintec with no stirrups) by letting him investigate (no you can't eat it) rubbing it on his shoulders, neck and back, and finally placing it on his back. I ended the session by taking it on and off on both sides. He did not bat an eye.

Hey mom! You forgot the pad!
I can tell by his reactions to the small amount of lunging I have done that he will be resistant to anything he deems "work" but on the flip side he is so naturally confident that introducing new things is a breeze. The three take-aways I have are:

1. Establish rules and boundaries and be consistent.
2. Don't drill him or bore him. Try to make things fun!
3. Remember to still take things slow his confidence makes it easy to skip steps, but I will regret that later!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

One step forward two hops back

Right before ride four. Looks happy to me.
Ride four kicked butt. He felt calm and forward and I got a few steps of trot both ways. We moved away from Chris pretty quickly as well. Ride five we had some regression. He was nervous and tense. I got off a few times when he felt like he might explode, and took him back to the mounting block to work on mounting. We eventually got some calm leaded steps from him and called it quits. Not sure why he was so nervous. Maybe it was us, or it was the weather (windy and overcast), or the fact that Chris had parked the truck in a new place... who knows! I know we will have a lot of days like both of these in the next few months. A few shuffled steps forward followed by some scared scuttles back. Both rides he spent a lot of time giving my outside foot the hairy eyeball again. So weird. In some ways he acts like he has never been ridden, and in others he seems like he just has a lot of baggage. I mean the foot thing sounds like something a horse that was never backed would do doesn't it?

Weather (and maybe nerves) has kept me from riding at all this week. On Monday I had a crappy day at work, and I just did not have the mental or emotional bandwidth to ride, so I hung out with him on the tailgate of the truck with a pocket full of treats and a beer (for me). We worked on getting used to my feet doing weird stuff. It was fun to just hang out with him.

Yesterday it was looking like it was about to rain when I got home so I brought him into the roundpen sans saddle and we worked through all of his gaits going both ways. His canter is coming around, but it is still not pretty, and definitely is far from relaxed. After groundwork, Chris came in and held him why I swung my leg all over his back. We clicked for relaxation. He was pretty tense at first when my foot would pop into that other eye but did not seem to care if I rested it on his butt. So odd. Either way I am hoping that breaking his insecurities down to "you can be okay with my legs and feet hanging around you" will help his tension under saddle.

I have a lesson scheduled for tomorrow, but I don't have high hopes for it, due to the tropical storm heading our way. Yay Florida!

Gray's Corner

He still has some lasting marks from the rub he got from the fly mask, and he is still sensitive there. I decided to halter him anyways yesterday so I could at least give him a proper grooming. He stood like a gentleman and was great for his feet (unlike some golden nut-jobs I know ;) ). I tried on some brushing boots I had picked up at a tack sale for him, and he did not disappoint with a little bit of adorable high stepping. Sorry no video. Gray watches us when I am working with Oak, and he is always following me around. I think he is telling me he is ready for a job!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rides two and three

I had guests all weekend, so I did not get a chance to practice what I had worked on with our coach until Monday. This time, my wonderful partner Chris was my assistant on the ground. Oak was definitely more nervous and tense the second time around. Maybe it was because Chris was not as comfortable as our coach? Maybe having Chris help instead of the trainer made me a little more nervous? Not sure. I practiced getting off and on (the saddle still worries me with its slipping!) and he seemed okay. Then I had Chris walk him off and Oak was very hesitant to move forward. He also started doing the weird kicking/stomping thing he does when he is really nervous, so I hopped off and we had a "re-do." He was much calmer when I hopped on a second time, and was better about walking with Chris. We just walked him around both directions and called it a day.

Hanging out with Oak after our third ride

Wednesday was our third ride. Chris has done some clicker training, so I suggested he practice walking Oak without me on him first and reward Oak for good transitions and for being calm and forward. Next, I had him mark and reward him for staying calm while I practiced mounting and dismounting. Oak seemed calmer. Then, I had Chris reward Oak as he had before only this time I was on his back. Only one tiny kick this time. He was much more forward and relaxed. I think using clicker training helped us all focus on the positive and relax and listen to each other. Chris said it helped him focus on what Oak was doing ride then that he could reward, which helped him stay calm. I felt like we had more of a plan, so I know my breathing was better, and Oak am sure liked figuring out what the heck we wanted from him!

I ended the session by moving Oak away from Chris with some rein and applying a little leg to cue forward myself. He did really well with it. The only new strangeness I noted for our third ride was that Oak was giving my outside foot a lot of side-eye. Before I dismounted I wiggled my feet around in the stirrups to address that a little. Definitely made him tense up. I waited until I got a little release (blinking), and I rewarded him with a pat and dismount. Overall really proud of him!

Oak is also cantering both directions now in the roundpen. He still has balance issues, and we are slowly building up strength, but he canters a little more each session. He moves off really well -- no bucking or kicking out which is great!

Gray got a rub from the flymask so I am waiting on that to heal up before I put a halter on him to work with him. It is always something with that horse! I have been playing with him at liberty in the paddock for a few minutes everyday, but I hope to really get some serious work done soon!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Oak's first ride

Put Oak's first ride on him today. We started by practicing mounting. I just got on and off a hundred times until he started to settle in. Then my wonderful trainer led us around a bit. We ended with adding a little leg and rein aids from me and her backing into more of a lunging position. We even got a few strides of trot before we called it quits.

He did amazing! There were moments of tension and anxiety of course, but over all he did wonderful. We ended when he finally started to breath, and snort showing us he was relaxing. My wonderful husband captured some photos.

First we started by playing around with getting up and down. So I got pretty silly...

dangling dangling
going up!
Look what I can do!
I am touching you with my foot!

Then I swung up and settled in...

Can see his tension here

Then we went on a pony ride...

and of course lots of rubs and treats
Good boy Oak

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

FKA Jerry: The dirt on Oak's past

A few weeks ago I pulled out Oak's Coggins in order to see when I needed to pull a new one. This is when I notice for the first time that the name listed as owner was different from the person I bought him from (most observant horse buyer in the world award goes to me) and that his name is "Jerry." Not out of the ordinary for a horse to have a different name or an unknown person on the Coggins, but it made me want to investigate further into Oak's history. So investigate I did!

I contact the person I bought him from and asked her about it. She told me the name and location on the Coggins were not from who she bought him from, and that she tried tracking it down, but got nowhere. Also, she changed his name to Oakley because she assumed "Jerry" was not his real name. Who would name a horse Jerry?

So I did some internet sleuthing and managed to track the name and address on the Coggins to a real-estate mogul (not kidding) in Florida. He also owns an Andalusian and Thoroughbred breeding farm about 45 minutes away from me.

So of course I send an email to the contact listed on the farm's website with pictures and a plea for more information on Jerry. I get an immediate response. Three responses in fact. Two from the real-estate mogul and his wife saying "Oh Jerry! We love Jerry! Yes he came from us! Our barn manager will contact you", and one email from the barn manager asking if she could call me. I say sure and quickly get a phone call.

So here is Oak's (Formerly Known As Jerry) Story as we know it now:
Jerry June 2015. Still a cutie (Picture from the Barn Manager)
 The real-estate mogul's wife loves Haflingers and they want to invest in horses, so they start off buying three Haflingers from a Florida auction (cause why not!) and buy some property to put them on. Jerry and his best friend George (Seinfeld fans?) are sold to them as broke to drive and ride. The barn manager thinks Jerry (Oak) was about three when they first got him. The Haflingers mostly lived as pasture pets being occasionally used for pony rides for the kids. In the next few years the family begins to invest in racehorses and Andalusians, and has exercise riders on staff now and they sometimes work the Haflingers (and by the barn manger's recollection treat them too roughly), but for the most part the ponies just hang out.
Jerry and George 2015. I wish I could reunite them Black Beauty style
In July 2015 the family decides they don't need the Haflingers anymore so they sell both Jerry and George. Jerry goes to someone named Sally (named changed to protect the not so innocent) who wants to use him as a trail horse. Barn Manager warns Sally that Jerry has not been worked consistently and therefore is pretty green, but Sally buys him anyways. Sally lives close by and the barn manager makes her promise to let them know if she ever needs to re-home Jerry. They always have a home for Jerry.

This is where the speculation enters the story.

  • July 2015 Sold to Sally in Central FL
  • August-October 2015 ???
  • November 2015 Bought by last owner from somewhere in Georgia sold by someone named "Taylor"
  • February 2016 comes to live with me

The barn manager swears that Jerry did not have any of his three large scars on his body when he lived with her, nor was he nervous or reactive. She describes him as laid back, friendly, and very green. I know she could be lying, but after talking with her I believe her. I also see that horse slowly coming out again in him. The person I bought him from got him from someone she described as a horse dealer/meat buyer in Georgia in November 2015.

So somehow between July 2015 and February 2016 (when I got him) he went to at least four people -- one (Taylor) a horse trader/meat buyer. In less than six months a horse can go from living the life of luxury to ending up scarred (emotionally and physically) and discarded in some slaughter pen. It can happen that fast people. Hug your ponies tight tonight, and (I know this goes without saying) be careful who you sell your horses to

And no, I don't think I will call him Jerry. ;)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Pushing Thresholds

I had the dressage trainer out to the farm for our second lesson yesterday. I showed her what we have been working on; walking and trotting under saddle on the lunge, getting used to the whip rubbing on him and being friendly, and stretches.

During our review she reminded me that I have to be consistent with my cues. She likes to use clucks for trot and kisses for canter. Speaking of canter that is where she went next. I have asked him to increase his speed and energy at the trot but I have not tried canter yet. She suggested we get canter out of him first before we think about climbing on top and I could not agree more.

The first direction we tried I got as loud as I possibly could driving him from behind and could not get a single stride of canter. Instead I got him snorting at me, so we stopped. That was obviously over his threshold of pressure and he was not ready to canter yet. We gave him a rest and tried the other side. He immediately picked up the canter going to the left, so that told us he is having some sort of issue physically picking up his right lead. I was relieved I got canter so easily on at least one side. Canter is not an easy gate for draft breeds. Bodhi took forever to be able to canter on the lunge line. We will work towards getting that right side now, and getting a more sustained and balanced canter on the left. I am glad we pushed him a little though, because he demonstrated he could handle the challenge and stayed calm, and responsive through our session ( minus the snorting I got to the right that I read is "I get it, but I can't right now").
boingy boingy boingy

Now that we were both a bit more tired and relaxed she came over and held him and fed treats while I practiced jumping around, standing on the mounting block and pulling and climbing on the saddle. He was tense at first but definitely started to shift his focus away from the silly things I was doing, and became more interested in enjoying his treats. The saddle was slipping really badly, which limited what I could do but we ended on the high note of me hanging over the saddle. Now I need to figure out how to keep that saddle from slipping!

Just hanging out, no big deal
Oak has had one heck of a week! I am really proud of him. I have to take the next week off for work, so hopefully we won't backslide too much. Grayson has also been my little shadow lately anytime I am around the barn, reminding me I have two horses and he would really like to play too!