Sunday, October 27, 2013


I arrived at the barn around noon to see Soonie standing outside in the big field, cribbing on the water trough, LOL.  There was a little misunderstanding and he was left in yesterday, but thankfully that got corrected.  We had a good flat school (spent more time dodging people in the busy ring than really getting to focus like on Friday, but he was perfect in the crowd), went for a short walk around the property to take in some sunshine, and then called it a day.  I tossed Soon back outside without his turnout sheet, as the temps were in the 60's and it was gorgeous!  Not too many of those days for the next several months, I'm sure.

How did he get so adorable?

The big man looked like he was pretty comfortable outside with the big herd.  He pretty much minded his own business, hung out by the trough for a bit before finally venturing off to munch on some hay with the others.  He is doing a decent job of avoiding crowds, but he did get himself caught up in the corner by the trough after he saw some folks by the gate.  He doesn't freak out when others come up to him, which is good, but he wants to assert himself if they come into his personal bubble.  One of the two year olds was getting a little close and Soon double-barreled him, gave a warning shot to another, and then doubled barreled another horse who turned around to give it right back to him.  Horse missed Soon (who booked it out of there!) and nailed the fence instead, which led to a scary five or so seconds while they pulled their leg out of the fence.  They were unscathed, but hopefully they learn to not kick near the fence again.  Oye.  Meanwhile, I hope Soon continues to figure out how not to get himself into, or instigate, a bad situation.  Thus far he's seemed very level headed, usually leaving himself with plenty of escape room, and meeting/greeting others without blowing up (though he did squeal like a girl when Jose came over to say hi...I wish I had caught that on camera).


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sun is shining

It was a beautiful day today.  Soon and I took advantage with another long hack down the roads on a long rein.  He is so damn easy I can't help but smile.  :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday flat update

Another Friday, another flat school update.  :) 

Started out with a long walking warmup, incorporating serpentines and asking him to really step under himself and softly change the bend as we made the turns.  This was a good thing for him, and he was really stretching into the contact right off the bat.  I did some leg yielding at the walk, and after a trot warm up (where again he was stretching pretty well for so early on), we even got some steps of leg yield at the trot!  That was a first.  I'll be playing with a lot more school figures (serpentines, concentric circles, etc) and lateral work as we progress.  Again, he's such a quick study and willing guy that I expect this will all come easily for him.  We have all winter to focus on that stuff, so no great hurry.  We'll continue to take our time and do it right.  Thus far, that's paying off in spades with him.

Canter work was outstanding tonight as well.  Transitions were a little sticky to the right (he's had several awesome right lead canter days, with first time clean transitions!), but it wasn't a huge deal and we worked through it.  He had a lovely, soft, balanced canter in both directions.  He is great when I sit down and ride off my seat and my leg - he relaxes nicely into the contact and is starting to really push from behind.  As I've said before, moments like that really make me feel like I'm on a made (well schooled) horse with lots of flatwork mileage.  Those are awesome moments to ride!  I let him stretch down in the canter toward the end, and he took all the contact all the way down to the buckle in his stretch.  It's hard to really explain, but he is just so fun, no matter what we're doing.  We ended the session with some trotting on both a shorter outline on a shorter rein, and some really long and low, deep stretch.  He felt awesome tonight for sure.  :)

And of course....IT'S PUISSANCE NIGHT!  :-D   I miss watching the WIHS in person, and tonight it's big jump night in the nation's capitol.  So fun.

(and Charlie Jayne's mare Uraya is an absolute hoot to watch...I can't help but completely lose it laughing at her bucking antics)

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Soonie did his first real gymnastic exercise tonight.  Trot poles to a crossrail, one stride to a small vertical, one stride to a small oxer.  We worked up from poles of course, but he got it pretty quickly and we added each element.  He's super honest and tries so hard.  He was quiet (too quiet!) and relaxed as usual, very ho-hum about the exciting gymnastic stuff.  Like...I don't know if my legs are really strong enough for how quiet he is, and I've always had a really strong leg.  He's lazy lesson pony quiet.  NOT complaining though! :)

In other news, day two of big turnout went well again.  He came in completely intact, and didn't walk the fenceline as much as he did yesterday.  I'll give him a few weeks to settle into the new routine and large group turnout.  If he doesn't enjoy himself out there, we'll go back to the small group, limited turnout if he honestly prefers it.  To be fair, that is a HUGE jump in term of space and number of other horses, and I know it's a big transition for him to make.  I'm just hoping he puts his Big Horse Pants on and figures out that being outside with other horses is fun.  Seeing that it went even better today, I am hopeful.  I guess we'll see!

We wrapped up his ulcer treatment, and I can officially say I'm quite sure he doesn't have ulcers (yay!).  Very fancy medication had zero affect on him, so his minor weight loss in August really was just from the stupid heatwave/horsefly invasion from hell.  And his increased cribbing was most likely due to him wearing a cribbing strap, which only frustrated him and made him do it more.  Oh well.  No more cribbing strap (he's starting to chill out on the cribbing thank goodness), his weight is good now and had started coming back before I started the ulcer treatment.  Overall, very good news and I'm happy to report I'm glad I spent the money and put him through the month of treatment just in case. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Big turnout!

Soonie went out in the big field today with the big herd!  Did not get killed.  Played nice with others.  Came in with all four legs.  I'm stoked!  :)

Sounds like he pretty much minded his own business and avoided the crowds when they came over to investigate.  Great to see that his social skills are improving.  Hopefully he continues to do well out there, so he can get his full day of turnout and socializing. 

Meanwhile, it's Washington International Horse Show time!  I love USEF Network's live feeds.  It's so nice to view Indoors from the comfort of my home and in my fleece pajamas.  Though to be fair, I'm sure I have sat and watched horse shows in person in my fleece pajamas.  I think I may have even watched WIHS in person in my pajamas...  :-/

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

[Clever blog post title]

I got nothin'.

Except a hopefully good move to get Soonie outside again all day.  Long story short, due to some construction on the farm which started a couple of weeks ago, a few of the paddocks went down, which has caused a shortage of available turnout.  Since all that started, he's been going out with a few others in either the back paddock for half the day, or in the indoor ring.  And no, a half day in the indoor never equates to an actual half day, due to people wanting to ride and the horses ending up back in their stalls after only an hour and a half of turnout.

So, needless to say I felt the need to improve his turnout situation.  Talked to the barn owner today, she was helpful, and we're going to try him out in the big herd, hopefully tomorrow.  And hopefully, he doesn't do anything stupid.  Fingers crossed!  If that's the case, he can go outside and be a horse all day, every day, just like he had been prior to the construction project.

I did show up on Sunday afternoon to ride and was completely preoccupied with that problem though, I admit.  Soon and I did our usual flat routine, and my mind was way off, somewhere outside building new paddocks.  Too bad I haven't yet mastered the skill of getting the internal problem solving/worrying/over analyzing part of my brain to shut up when I should be focusing on something else:


In other news, Soonie is still awesome and has adoring lady fans gushing over his adorableness.  He also has his hand-me-down lightweight blanket for the slightly cooler nights on.  He's toasty warm, and I have the pleasure of knowing he's the same size as Triple.  Nailed it.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saturday not-as-fun-day

- Awesome hack in the countryside on the most excellent horse in the world?  Check.
- Errand trip for wormer and last minute clipping supplies?  Check.
- Probably horrific looking yet functional trace clip?  Check. 
- Horsey poulticed and wrapped for the night?  Check.
- Owner who loves horsey, and horsey who seems to tolerate owner, but they're both maybe a little sick of each other for the next 12 hours?  Check.

 I guess I'll see tomorrow if his clip looks ok.  Can't really tell because the barn lighting is crap at night.  Oh well.  Good news is that Soon clips like a champ without drugs.  I didn't bother with a picture, but here's what he looked like on the crossties, falling asleep and getting clipped at the same time:

He also has some retained heat/swelling in his right hind after a cut got infected.  Threw some poultice on it and wrapped him for the night, which amazingly enough was way more of a workout than the clipping.  It was a battle of wills regarding him not standing correctly...he's a smart cookie.  Got him wrapped anyway, tucked him in with some extra hay and cookies, and I will enjoy sleeping in tomorrow morning, LOL.

Today's hack was beautiful and we enjoyed the nice, sunny weather.  Soon and I went out on our own this week, and the whole time he's walking along on a long rein, even with the occasional car (thankfully this time drivers minded their manners) and the wind whipping around.  He's a star trail horse.  Love him.  :)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday fun day

So today I played my first 18 holes of golf ever and had a great time!  Never knew for sure if I'd enjoy playing golf, but I can see why a lot of my colleagues have a set of clubs in their possession.  Fun little sport.

Now I'm watching the speed stake on the Pennsylvania National Horse Show's live web feed, and still enjoying the GREAT flat school Soon had this evening.  He's had five days off after the horse show, it's been cold all week, and as a result he was only slightly more sensitive to the leg tonight, haha.  He is nothing if not consistent!  He really felt awesome tonight, his trot and canter work both long and low and in a shorter outline feel fantastic.  I'm blown away by how far he has come.  :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

First horse show and photoshoot!

Soon competed for the first time yesterday in an unrated schooling class, and got second! :)  Good boy!  We warmed up, then stood around forever (typical hunter show), he walked in the indoor to jump around his eight little fences like a champ.  He got some applause and a fun little ribbon.  Very proud of my boy!

It was all about going through the motions with him.  I wasn't interested in placing (honestly, our competition were the lesson kids riding the old school horses, and yes, I only did the "hunter" class and not the equitation, as that would be a douchey thing for me to do), I just wanted him to play show horse for the day and see how he'd do.  He had been schooled around and observed the rated stuff all weekend, so today he got pulled out of the stall, stood like an absolute gentleman to be braided for the first time, and learned about the horse show "hurry up and wait" shenanigans.  All in all, he did wonderfully!  He was super quiet as always, very relaxed, and took it all in like he'd been doing it all his life.  I'm sure this is way less exciting than any of his 52 races, so I shouldn't be surprised.

Looking sharp!

Good boy, Soonie  <3

I also had a photographer friend come out that afternoon to get some great shots of us.  She was fantastic to work with and got some great moments on camera.  Here are just some of my favorites!  Photos by Ayars Photography.

There are so many more that I love, but I'll spare everyone the photo spam.  That last picture is fun - poor Soon had been braided for all of about three hours, but he thought he was dying.  I guess I braid tight still (after a five year hiatus), because he was so ITCHY! 

Retired Racehorse Training Project Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium

Here are some photos and videos from the event held last weekend in Baltimore at Pimlico Racecourse:

Day One Photos
Day Two Photos
Bloodhorse video coverage

Retired Racehorse Training Project's Facebook Page  (Lots more photos and links to articles!)

Overall, a truly great event for the Thoroughbred.  I am very happy to see this attention, and I hope it happens again and grows for next year.

Friday, October 11, 2013

One of those horse show truths...

It's just a truth of horse showing, no matter the discipline.  People get up at the ass crack of dawn, and want lunch by 10am.  Back when I showed regularly (especially the local haul-in shows where you get up at 3am to braid, load, drive...), every horse show concession stand owner was greeted by me, at 10am, staring at him with $5 bill in hand:

And when I learned that the burgers hadn't been started yet ("What are you, new!!??") and it was going to be another 10 minutes:

And as those 10 minutes passed by and felt like MONTHS:

And just when I thought I was going to die all alone in the desert of hunger, how I feel when I finally get that heavenly, greasy salvation:

Amazingly enough, it's one of those random, but favorite memories of horse showing.

Horse Show #2 - Day 1

Sleeping by the ring like a real hunter
Soon hasn't actually shown yet, but we're hosting another USEF "A" show, so he's living the hunter life right now.  He'll play on Sunday, as we're holding some unrated schooling classes after the rated competition is concluded.  Yes, after a 10 year hiatus from "A" rated hunters, I was a dummy and totally forgot how expensive it was (my USEF and USHJA memberships are expired, Soon doesn't have a USEF number and I'm not buying him one right now, will save up to get a lifetime registration next year).  Yep, $250 mostly in non-member fees for two flat classes is not happening.  We'll get all braided up and look incredibly overdressed for some unrated stuff on Sunday instead, and save a lot of money.  I also have a photographer friend coming on Sunday for what was going to be a casual photoshoot - I guess he'll be braided for that.  :)  It's worth it!  Right?  Sure.

So today Soon had a great flat school in the indoor warm-up ring, with several other horses, and then hung out by the outdoor hunter ring and schooling area.  Absolutely NO drama this time!  He walked around like he was a seasoned show horse, even with the winds whipping around at 25 mph blowing crap everywhere.  Just walked around on the buckle and slept a lot.  He even watched a few jump courses - he really seems to observe other horses, what they're doing, and it appears like he's taking it all in.  Not sure if that's true, but it's adorable.  He was so relaxed, so soft in the bridle when he was awake, and so fun.  I'm very happy that he picked up where he left off after the first horse show experience.  Such a smart, lovely boy.  :)

I wasn't lying about his "Hey I can use these crossties to hold my head up for me" trick.  Sleepy!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Couldn't help but share this little gem.  I feel like this could be Soon one day, except it would just be a regular truck and he'd be climbing all over it trying to crib on the tailgate as it drove off.

I think I found "our" song

I love music.  All kinds of music.  Pop, classical, country, some rap, I even have a favorite death metal song.  I associate personal experiences or favorite people with a lot of songs. My favorite mare's song was "My Sacrifice" by Creed.  It's still very early in my time with Soon, but I think I found it.: Christina Aguilera's Light Up The Sky.

Perfect in every way.

A night of many firsts!

Soon was AMAZING tonight!  Our accomplishments:

- First time jumping outside in the big ring
- First time jumping show fences (solid walls, gates, flowers and various filler, etc...didn't even look!!)
- First time cantering full lines
- First time jumping a course (trot in, canter out)
- First time cantering a full course

GOOD BOY!   :-D 

It was all like old hat for him.  Dead quiet the whole time, didn't peek at a single fence, just felt awesome.  He's so soft and honest to the jumps, and has a great natural rhythm.  What a joy to ride, and I don't say that about just any horse.  I'm planning on taking him in a couple of hack classes at the barn's hosted A-rated show on Saturday.  He'll be all braided up!  Just looking to give him some horse show experience at home, all I'm hoping for is a happy horse.

God bless him; Soon is exactly what I need in my life right now.  <3

Monday, October 7, 2013

"I borrowed freedom when we rode"

"They say a good rider can hear his horse speak to him,
But a great rider can hear his horse whisper.
The years he’s given me
Nobility without conceit,
Friendship without envy,
Beauty without vanity,
A loyalty without compromise.
I borrowed freedom when we rode,
The history of mankind and civilization rode with us,,
His body took the weight of mine and I was carried through.
I can still hear that whisper."
(Sam Doyle and Sean Branigan)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mo' progress mo' progress!

Another flat school, another gush about how great Soon is.  :)

Worked on creating more impulsion from behind, creating some overstep in the walk while asking for a long, low stretch across his entire topline (lifting his back).  I felt some great connection at the walk just warming up.  We did our usual flexion exercises, a light trot warmup (focusing on straight and forward, not concerned with contact at that point).  Then asked for some long/low trot work and worked in some figure eights to change the bend.  Then cantered both directions (right lead transition getting more consistent!), focusing each way on riding him from my seat and leg and allowing him to stretch down.  We had a few nice moments of stretch each way - that's a new concept for him in the canter, so I wasn't asking for a whole lot.  Closed out the session transitioning between a shorter and longer outline (aka frame) in the working trot, then stretched out at the trot and finally ended with a nice, long walk on a long rein.  Huge praise the whole way!  I'm starting to feel some really nice swing in his walk, particularly at the end of the work, though there were hints of it during the walking warm up as well. 

He learns so fast and tries so hard it blows my mind.  It helps that he's pretty athletic as well.  He is already very rideable for two and a half months off the track, and rides like he's been a sport horse all his life.  So light, so soft, so responsive.  I just can't get over how nice it is to have him ride THAT well off of my leg and into the contact.  He's great and doesn't avoid the bit at all, but he seeks it and is understanding more and more of how to go.  I'm going to start introducing more lateral work here shortly.  Admittedly it's not been a huge focus, as I have all winter to do that.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Thoroughbred Makeover Time!

Go on over to the Retired Racehorse Training Project's Thoroughbred Makeover and Symposium!  It's running 5-6 October at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, MD.  Emerald Downs (WA) is also putting on a trainer's challenge.  It's great to see events like these go on.  The more of these makeovers and/or trainer challenges, as well as TB shows and events, the more the horse gets showcased as a versatile and legitimate sporthorse. 

He "wows" me. :)

This is why I created this blog - so I can just gush about how much I love my boy, how much he impresses me and continues to try and improve, and write endlessly about how great his flatwork is.

Basically all the stuff no one wants to read on Facebook.

Long story short(ish): Soon had a fantastic flat school this afternoon.  Today is finally feeling like fall, with temps in the 50's, but blustery winds making it feel much cooler.    Thankfully though, weather changes don't seem to affect him very much, nor does wind or generally other scary things some horses like to spook at.  He was his normal self.

Yesterday I lost my focus.  I went into the ride without much of a goal, and the end result was some not-so-crisp riding on my part, and a horse that got flustered for about 30 seconds because of me.  It's frustrating because as a trainer and rider, I know better than that, and try to always have a solid plan in mind with what I want to to achieve.  Soon makes me want to be the best rider possible, and not have moments like that.  So today we had a plan, built off of yesterday's good moments, and the entire school today was forward and soft.  It's so cool when he gets round by riding off the leg - this horse truly needs no hand and it's nice to have him come up onto the bit on his own from behind.  He's feeling great in the bridle, as he's able to carry himself longer and longer as he gets stronger.  He's just so darn happy to work it makes me smile.  Definitely loving where he is in his progression.  Yes, he's still green, but his professional attitude/work ethic and the flashes of genius he shows me just makes me think "wow." 

I put his new turnout sheet on to help with the cooler temps (poor boy's ears and nose were cold when I arrived because he needed clothes).  He looks adorable in his new bunky, and I'm very happy he's not trying to rip it off like another gelding in the barn.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Third Jump School

Soon had his third schooling over fences tonight.  We focused on straightness to/over/from the fence.  It was really nice feeling him balanced between my leg and my hand.  He is giving me the impression that he is going to be super fun with more mileage.  He was very relaxed and rhythmical on the approach, as well as soft.  His confidence is getting there as well, because when the oxer went up a hole or two, I didn't change anything and he didn't change as a result.  He goes exactly the way you ask him to go - he doesn't get ahead of himself and run, but he doesn't back off.  Whatever tempo you set, he's there, and it's just a pleasant ride all around.  He is brave and willing to do whatever I ask thus far.  He is just flat out FUN to jump! 

I have to remind myself sometimes that I'm on a green horse, because he has moments where he is so tuned in and feels so damn good that I almost forget I'm on one that is just getting introduced to this stuff. 

On another note, Mr Jumper Man has shown some very nice moments at the canter between last night's flat school and today's jump school.  Back up, good push from behind with a nice elevated outline, riding well off my leg and!!  Again, moments of "hey this feels like a nice made jumper."  I can't say enough about how cool that is.  :)

Future of Horsemanship?

There have been a few interesting blogs lately about the current status of training/instruction and horsemanship in the modern American horse industry.

Who is the Future of Horsemanship in America?
Top 3 Reasons why America's Producing so Many Mediocre Instructors

Long story short, everyone has an opinion.  Mine?  Consumers want everything now, horse shows cater to lower and lower divisions/lesser skilled riders, which allow for lesser skilled trainers, and horsemanship just isn't taught or at least emphasized like it should be. 

Honestly, just give me a loose ring French link snaffle and plenty of time, and I'll figure it out.