Sunday, August 28, 2016

Baby Steps

Had some very fun first steps in getting more involved with the Thoroughbred retraining program as well as our veterans program here...we have a military couple who are interested in helping to organize and get programming together.  I met one of them this weekend and I'm excited to work with them.  Their energy and enthusiasm is wonderful, and gives me renewed interest in making this program useful to our local military community.

I've also been assisting getting one of the TBs started over fences.  I love working with green beans, I love working with horses that need a slower approach to a solution, and I love being a part of the team here.  Baby jumper stuff is fun for me, and the farm owner sure seemed pleased to see the mare go.  She had a rough start after the track; ended up in a bad training situation and inherited a bunch of issues as a result.  So we're focusing on staying soft, encouraging contact, and building off the little things.  She's super sweet, tries hard, and is proving to be very forgiving in overcoming the defensive mechanisms she had to develop.

Good girl Baby Girl!

Also had a great jump school with Soonie this morning too.  We have a two-day jump clinic next weekend, so I wanted to be sure to put him over everything today.  He jumped wonderfully - I really felt like we had most of our mojo today.  He jumped well from the base, felt the same from the smaller stuff to the larger stuff, and I had just a blast with him.  We had a very forward three stride to a one stride that I did not attempt last time we jumped as the entire line was set up...I figured because it was so forward it might be a problem for him to take the whole thing.  So instead I had my helper put the first jump of the one stride down and rode the one-to-three (pole, one step to the vertical, three steps to the oxer)...first time through he put a stride and a half inside the in-and-out and then we rode a more conservative four strides to the oxer.  I figured that would happen, and came around for a second pass only much more forward.  I closed my leg and sent him, and he nailed the one stride to three.

We put the whole line up and he went down the three-to-one well enough despite the forward pace.  I do seem to have an issue getting him truly forward enough for open lines like that, so we need more of these exercises.  But bottom line, I'm very happy not only with how he went today, but that I made the call to put one of the fences in the one-stride down to simplify it beforehand.  Soon is awesome if he's confident in how to answer the question.  But if he's confused or lacks confidence he will stop.  I thought this would help him figure it out with less pressure, and I'm glad my instincts were right.  It helped to lead to a wonderful jump school and a happy horse.  :)

Happy Horsey

Sunday, August 21, 2016


So many reasons why I'm excited...Soon's weight is looking better, his topline is back after a couple weeks of more focused work, and he's going like a star right now.  I'm getting much happier eating salad and grilled chicken/turkey every day, and I've been running and hitting the gym (weights specifically) regularly the last three weeks.  Starting to see some results, and this will only help my riding.

Turns out Potential New Trainer has Stephen Bradley and a known dressage trainer at her facility several times a month, so it looks like I'll have easy access to some excellent training/clinic options here very shortly.  I'm seriously considering going to the Stephen Bradley clinic at the end of the month.  Not feeling completely prepared for that (lack of regular jumping), but if my barn owner is going anyway and we sign up for an easier group, we should be perfectly fine.  We have a two-day jump clinic at home mid-September anyway so this could be a good opportunity.  It's supposed to be a little cooler this week, and if so I'll do more of our poles on the ground/gridwork routine this week to prepare for a potential lesson next weekend.  I'll try to get a jump school together while I'm at it.

And extra exciting news is that it looks like we'll be RIDING WITH LINDA ZANG next time she's available in town.  I can't adequately explain my emotions at the thought of riding with a Guru so let's just say:

On another note, we hopped around the XC stuff at home and took on the big roll top for the first time...he rolled to it in a beautiful, forward/open canter, and took it right in stride.  I felt him lock on to it and he felt LOVELY.  He felt great all day over the jumps and really seemed like he was happy to be out of the sandbox and doing something more fun.

He's so goofy when he's pleased with himself

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Making Changes

I'm completely distracted and singing Black Stone Cherry's "The Rambler" on loop so this post is going to be absolute Squirrel Trash, but here it goes...

Immediate Life Changes
I've needed to get serious about life for awhile now. I spent the last year in a job that completely owned me and I had no control over my schedule.  So now I have a little less stress at work and more control over my schedule (and no man to distract me), it's time for me to buckle down.  I'm simplifying my diet (eating cleaner) and getting back in the gym regularly - I need to be fit for work, but also because it will only help my riding.  I'm finally making weight training a thing (I'm usually a calisthenics girl).  I've also rediscovered trail running, and being out there surrounded by nature makes it a hell of a lot more fun than running on roads or the treadmill.  It's playful and enjoyable and I am totally beat afterward!  It pushes me without me knowing it.  That alone has me psyched about getting back in good shape.  I just hope to really stick with it this time.

I mean seriously, how is this not fun?
On the horse front, I've decided that I want to progress more with Soon.  I've reached out to friends and found a great trainer in the area who should be a great resource for regular dressage and jumping lessons.  She also regularly hosts clinics with bigger names, so that's great.  I'd like to do lessons twice/month to start and go from there.  I'm still not interested in competing, but I would very much like to ride with local greats like Jim Wofford, Linda Zang, Stephen Bradley, Joe Fargis, etc when they offer clinics, and right now I feel very unprepared to just go to a clinic having been without regular training for a year.  Soon is going great and was a star in last month's jump clinic, but it certainly showed that I need to work with someone who can challenge and inspire.  So while I don't care about showing yet, I do want to tap into more of Soon's potential, as I know this horse has a lot of ability, and discovering it puts a huge smile on my face and only reminds me of how fortunate I was to find this horse in the first place.  I have been content to putz around the farm (and I do enjoy just spending time and enjoying my horse), but I also enjoy learning and growing and would like to get back to jumping bigger stuff as I know this horse can do it.

...when he is, you know...awake.

Not big at all, but you get the idea
In the meantime I've decided to put my Big Girl Pants on and get more focused with Soonie's training schedule and actually act like I used to train horses for a living.  I'm getting back in to 4-5 day rotations with hill sets, pole/cavaletti work, flat schools, and jump schools (in the ring and XC) woven in there regularly.  He jumped around okay the other night for not having been over anything in the ring in about a month, but I could tell we were both rusty so we've done two pole/cavaletti schools in the last couple of days.  I think these are useful in building his confidence in finding where to put his feet, to read and think through a situation, and it is just plain more interesting for him than straight dressage schools.  I changed it up today and added two raised poles to make him think a little, and he went through it like a champ so I'll continue to build off this by creating more complex grids.

He also did the canter poles like a champ.  We've not done a ton of them, especially lately, and I need to work on getting him more forward and moving freer, so these are a big help in helping encourage that bigger, more forward canter as well as getting him more confident in deciding where to put his feet. 

I got so serious about being more dedicated to riding that I actually got up at 0345 on Tuesday morning to ride before work.  Why?  Because it's balls hot here and neither Soonie or I enjoy it, and prefer to work when it's cooler.  And it was.  And I'm so grateful for that flood light Bill installed, because it was still dark for most of my ride.  It was a great start to my day and Bubba really seemed to like working that early, but betting up at that hour is just plain uncivilized.

But we got to scope out the new tractor in morning light so that's good?

Long Term Life Changes (maybe)
I've also begun to seriously consider a major life (career) change and moving to central Kentucky.  I've loved KY since I first visited in 2009, and the more I think about it, the more I'd love to get a stable civilian career in that area, still probably in the defense field or other Federal agency, and be able to ride in and enjoy the Kentucky horse country.  I've been thinking about what I really want to do with my life, and it's no longer to be married to my current career and die with shiny high rank on my shoulder.  More and more I keep thinking I want to help horses, and what better place to help horses (Thoroughbreds, especially) than Kentucky.  This has been pretty much the ONLY thing I've thought about the last few days because a very good friend of mine runs her boarding/training operation in the Lexington area, and is looking at buying a new farm to move her operation to.  Photos of the property, video of her driving the tractor....all of it makes me think "IMMA GO THERE NOW"... I could get a cushy civilian gig and work 8-4:30, then go help her school retired racehorses in the evenings/weekends and ride Soonie in the bluegrass....I MEAN REALLY WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE ABOUT THIS SCENARIO.

How I feel about the idea of moving to Kentucky
That's still just in the dreaming phase, but over the next year or two I'm going to be fleshing out that plan (and another couple of potential options).  I do not want to get back into training/riding full time as I don't have the back or energy (or interest, really) for it anymore, but working with young horses and retraining TBs for fun in my spare time in the horse capital of the world sounds like an absolute dream, no matter what my day job is.  I want that.  I haven't wanted anything this clearly in awhile and I think that says something.

Meanwhile, I'm focusing on the small changes I can make now, and I hope to make time to work more with the TBs we have in training at the farm and giving the owner a hand with her new projects.  I can still make a difference, but do it here.

The view in Maryland is pretty damn great too

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Buy your very own (potential) Soonie!!!

No, mine is not for sale.  But one of his relatives is!

Tenmor - War Horse for Sale (CANTER Illinois)

He's a 10 year old Indiana-bred by Tenpins, with 75 starts (Stakes winner!) and over $200K in career earnings.  He seems like a sweet guy in his photos and videos (sadly, not much information in the ad itself).  And although he's blind in one eye, I would be willing to bet with his racing history, if he's half as personable as Soonie is, this horse would be a superstar for someone.

Again...if I could afford to keep more than one horse, I'd be tempted to snatch him up just because.  He has Soon's eye, his face, similar movement and history (although way more successful at the track).  I hope he finds a soft place to land.  If he's anything like Brother, I'm sure this horse is sound, sane, professional, multi-talented, and ready for his person to come along.  We're rooting for you Tenmor!!