Posts Tagged ‘young horse’

Learning together

I took Coco to another show this past weekend and we had a much different experience from the previous weekend. In a good way, too!

Hidden Lakes is a great little show venue near Flower Mound, Texas. They often have show series throughout the year that are great to attend if you are starting out as a rider or for young horses that need miles. Clearly, Coco fits the bill for #2. I had intended to go to more of these shows, but at our first attempt Coco was having nothing with getting on the trailer. We worked that out. Then I had a show with Sterling in Waco. Then we opted for the closer to home show we went to last weekend, so we only ended up going to the final weekend of the summer series.

We got to the show grounds at 7:30a (my ring started at 7a). I THOUGHT there were only 6 jumpers so we would go around 8:30a or 9a. I was very wrong in this regard.

When Coco gets to new places she isn’t particularly energetic or spooky, which is great. However it makes me a bit lackadaisical in getting her acclimated to the venue. On this occasion I got her tacked up and headed to the warm-up ring immediately after completing our entry at the office. She started out OK, but got more and more amped up as other horses entered the warm-up area, she started to notice horses showing in other rings and the energy of being at a show started to spark.

It was at this time that I figured out there was no way we were showing around 9a. “Then she started doing the same thing she had done the previous weekend (which she didn’t do at home all week) and offered to buck when I added leg to ask for the canter. Rather than be in a dangerous situation and scaring other horses/ponies and riders, I decided to untack and go the the lunge ring. This was the BEST idea I’ve had in a long time.

She is nothing if not beautiful!

It was a hot day and it didn’t take too long before she was showing clear signs of getting tired. Thankfully she’s a good sweater in the heat.

After lunging I led her down to our show ring to await the completion of the jumpers and get her into the ring to lead her around and show her the jumps. This was happily uneventful. At this point in her life she had never jumped anything with fill under it. No flowers or walls or really anything other than rails and standards.

There was a still a full division before mine so we headed back to the trailer to tack up (again) and get ready. I could tell when I got back on her that the sassiness was still there. The edge was gone, but not the sass. We meandered to a warm-up ring and she was clearly going to kick up at the canter again. I was about at my wits end with her shenanigans. Back to the lunge area we went , which is just a circle area of sand, but I stayed on her rather than lunge her again. We trotted, all was well. I asked for the canter, head down and hind legs go up. I sat down in the saddle, grabbed the reins in one hand, and gave her 2 strong (not hard) taps with my crop. This got her attention and she rocked back to her haunches and cantered on. YAY! A win!

We changed gait a few more times with no issues then walked a bit and changed direction. She did the exact same thing again; trot, leg on for canter, head down and hind legs up. I sat down gave her 2 strong taps with the crop and it was back to business. From here on out for the rest of the day she was awesome. Relaxed and willing to do everything I asked her to do.

Our first trip around the course was OK. She stopped at the second fence in a four stride line, but it was completely my fault. I looked down, leaned forward and forgot I had legs. The second trip was fine. No big mistakes other than a couple close spots to jumps. Same with the third trip, except I think we may have added a stride in a line, but I’d rather have a calm young horse add an easy stride than one running away with me around the course.

My goal for our hunter trips were these:

  1. Jump all the jumps
  2. No bucking
  3. Use my legs for the entire course
  4. Look ahead to help her get leads and not have to change lead
  5. Should the need arise, do lead changes

And guess what, we pretty much met all these goals! She did multiple flying changes exactly on purpose. I got so excited she got the changes, I forgot to look where I was going and she dang near jumped out of the ring!

Before this Saturday I really was having reservations about Coco’s future. Was I asking her to do the right job? Would we ever “get along? Am I wasting a nice horse that should be doing something else with someone else? I’d be jumping the gun (pun kind of intended) if I said that all these questions have been answered, but I feel 99% better about us getting along and at least 70% better that this might be the right job for her.

We didn’t place very well and I REALLY wish I had video of our trips so I could see what they looked like, but it FELT good. She felt relaxed over the fences. She was incredibly consistent in her canter. She didn’t look at the jumps. She didn’t get spooky in the ring. SHE DID FLYING CHANGES ON PURPOSE. We have another outing planned this coming weekend, then she will get a few weeks of a break from “showing”. Miles, miles and more miles are what she and I both need right now! I’m sure excited to see where we are at this time next year!

 

MARES???!!!!

Y’all. Mares. Are. Hard. We had  lots of mares when I was growing up, but only one that was ever “mine” and she wasn’t “mine” for very long because she turned out to not be very good at her job (reining) so she went to the broodmare band (makes sense, right? Notsomuch). I’ve never had a long term relationship with a mare, until now.

Coco has been at the farm for 5 1/2 years as of this September. The first year was pretty easy, but every subsequent year has had challenges of one form or another. When she was a yearling and I switched farriers I learned that she had a club foot which required surgery to fix. She probably should have had the surgery 6-10 months sooner, but that is a post for another day. Few things are as fun (insert sarcasm here) as a yearling on stall rest, but I must admit that she actually behaved quite well considering the circumstances.

Her two-year old year was actually fairly drama free, but her three and four year old years more than made up for it. I opted to breed her as a three-year-old as I’d learned from other breeders that this can be good for the brain of a young mare and it also may help their fertility when they are older if they have already carried a foal to term. Breeding went fine, but she got injured a few months after getting in foal, so we were back to stall rest and hand walking. She was a bit more of a handful this time when being hand walked.

Coco about one week before she foaled.

When she was four was when actually had the foal You can read here about the actual foaling. It was heart wrenching and awful and I don’t ever want to re-live a similar experience.

So here we are today. Coco is six and has been under saddle for exactly two years. And she is a Pain In The Ass. Backing her was uneventful, and I’m grateful for that, but the past year has been challenging. I’ve backed lots and lots of horses. At least 10 before I graduated from high school and a handful since then. Every young horse has it’s challenges, but Coco’s have stumped me more than any other horse.

She sure is pretty, though!

Last fall she started a thing with pinning her ears and kicking up when I asked her to move forward with my leg. She had been going really really well and it kind of came out of the blue, so I thought perhaps she was in pain. I had a chiropractor/acupuncturist out and she was diagnosed with ulcers. I treated the ulcers, but the behavior didn’t change. This spring I had her back and hocks x-rayed. Nothing there either (thank GOODNESS!).

I’ve learned that she needs to walk around for about 5-10 minutes before you ask her to work. If you get on and immediately ask for a trot she will pin her ears and kick out. It’s like she needs a few minutes to get her head into the game, nothing wrong with that. I’ve found that letting her stretch out and walk nearly eliminates the crankiness at leg pressure. She’s been doing lots of lead changes over a log and even gotten a few that I’ve just asked for on the flat. We have been doing some cavalletti work as well as small jump gymnastics. I can’t help but get really excited about her scope and athleticism over even tiny jumps.

Her behavior has improved in general (the kicking at leg pressure had gone away almost entirely) so this past weekend I took her to a little horse show not far from home. She needs more time off property and they offered flat classes as well as some small jumping classes. I let the show organizers talk me into doing a showmanship class, which I think contributed to her developing crankiness during the day, and she was OK but definitely irritated. By the second flat class she would NOT canter. She would only buck. Not hard and she never got me out of the tack, but she was MAD!

SO pretty!

I didn’t want to continue to fight with her in front of a crowd (they were extremely accommodating and the show was really delightful) so I scratched the over fences classes and took her home to see what was the deal. We got home, I tacked her back up (added a sheepskin Thinline pad in case it was a pain issue) and headed out to my arena to see if she would do the same thing. She didn’t. She was a perfect angel. Cantered off my leg from a walk, even did a couple flying changes over a log.

I think a few things contributed to her badittude on Saturday:

  1. She hasn’t been off property very much
  2. The other horses in the ring really jazzed her up and got her more “up” than usual
  3. I forgot to put in ear plugs before I got on and I think the loud music and announcer  contributed to her irritation
  4. She is going to try to do what SHE wants to do until I make it clear that the final answer is NO
  5. She is very smart, very athletic and young

Coco is challenging me more than any horse has before and I really think it is going to be a good thing for both of us. She’s not bad and she’s not mean, and I’m also not convinced that she doesn’t have some pain from her heat cycle that I’m hoping to get treated this week with some hormones. I plan to get her out a bunch this summer and fall to lots of local shows and venues. Time on the trailer and around new places will (hopefully) convince her that as long as we are together she will be just fine. We don’t have the trust established between us yet that we need to be successful. I feel like right now we coexist and my goal for the rest of the year is to develop an actual partnership.

Have you had a mare? Have you had similar issues? I’d love to hear from other mare owners, especially warmblood mare owners.

Coco Under Saddle for a Whole YEAR!

It is kind of crazy to think that I’ve been riding Coco for a whole year! In many aspects she should be further along in her education, but I always want to take it slowly with my young horses and let them tell me when they are ready to try harder things.

Looking, looking, always looking. You never know when a dog or a goat may come out of nowhere to eat you. Dried up brush is also very deadly.

She can officially walk, trot and canter on purpose. She mostly knows which lead I’m asking for at the canter, but we have done anything crazy like counter canter just yet. She moves off leg pressure when she feels like it. When she is focused on the killer dogs/goats/brush she will purposely ignore my aids. Maybe this is a “mare” thing or a just a “Coco” thing? She isn’t spooky when she’s away from home nearly like she is at home, which I hope is good in the long run.

Selfies while riding are hard.

My goal for her this year is to be working on flying lead changes by the fall. Once she has a lead change we will start dabbling in schooling shows. I’m hoping to take her to a couple more summer shows to do some hack classes and just get her out and about. Showing a young horse in the blistering heat of the summer can be advantageous for preventing shenanigans that cooler weather might perpetuate! I might take her on some trail rides with my foxhunting group this summer, but I’m kind of on the fence about those with her. I should probably take Simon so he is a bit more ready come hunt season.

She really is fun to ride. We have popped over a few small crossrail jumps and her talent is quite evident. Going straight is a bit of an issue, but we will start working on some cavalletti gymnastics and continue with dressage lessons to work on those skills. I have high hopes for Miss Coco Chanel!

She makes this face a lot. In her mind there is just no reason that humans aren’t perpetual treat dispensers and she’s pretty put out when that doesn’t happen!

Coco Chanel Goes to a Horse Show

I have very little media documenting the momentous occasion, but Coco went to her first horse show last weekend and she was SO good! We Horsepooled with my horsey bestie so got to the show grounds (Texas Rose Horse Park near Tyler, Texas) around noon on Friday. We weren’t showing until Saturday, so it was nice to have plenty of time to see what kind of horse I had on my hands.

The impetus for this occasion was Sterling’s quarter crack lameness after I had already committed to my barn that I was going to the horse show. I texted Trainer and asked what she thought about taking Coco. Coco is by no means ready to jump a course, but it would be great to get her out and about and see how she is amidst the chaos of a horse show. Trainer loved the idea and was excited to finally lay eyes on Coco.

The horses settled in easily and Coco’s eyes were huge taking in all the sights and sounds.

Getting to know the neighbor horses. There was little to no squealing.

After settling in her stall for a couple hours I walked her around the show grounds and in the ring where we would show. She was a bit bug eyed, but not crazy and not spooky. We tacked up and headed to our show ring for a hack and she was super star! The only thing she kind of spooked at was a rail on the ground and some of the fill from the jumps that were taken apart. Trainer was very pleased with her temperament and optimistic about her future. I was, of course, elated.

I lunged and hacked her early Saturday morning to again see what kind of horse I had for the day. She was much the same, looking around but not crazy. We got her rinsed off and primped, ready to be a princess in the horse show. Our classes went around 10a. I made the mistake of riding her in the big hunter warmup ring before our class and she got a little jazzed by the traffic, so we went down and just walked around in the grass by our ring. Our first class had 5 entries (including us) which was a nice size. Enough horses to see how she would do in traffic, but not so many that she should get crowded or have to maneuver too much traffic. We got cut off once and she broke gait in the first class, but she got all her transitions, all her leads and couldn’t care less about the traffic. Yay! We got fifth out of five, but I still consider it a win because she did so well.

We stayed in the ring for our next hack class which only had four entries and it was much the same. We broke gait in front of the judge so I knew we weren’t going to place, but she was really really good. Happy to be there, not spooky, didn’t care about the other horses.

Pretty princess didn’t want to stand still for her photo op, so this is the proof she went to a horse show!

We were entered in a couple other hacks in the afternoon, but one had 9 entries which seemed like it would be pressing our luck and when we went to the ring to show in our final hack of the day she seemed like she was on the verge of brain fry, so we untacked and went for a lunge instead. We didn’t have any classes on Sunday so I lunged her early in the morning and took her for another hack in the Indoor. We were fortunate and no one was in there with us for about 20 minutes. After a few more horses showed up to lunge we went for a walk around the show grounds. It was stormy, thundering and had rained quite a bit, which often causes horses to act a little crazy. Coco took it all in stride easily. She marched right through the mud puddles, was unfazed by the sloppy ring and seemed to thoroughly enjoy being out and about.

The prettiest Coco Chanel.

I’m thrilled with how our weekend went and can’t wait for more horse shows with Coco! I was planning to take Sterling to show in Waco in June, but he has yet another major injury (more on this later) and will likely be out for most of the first half of the summer. With this turn of events Coco may get to go to another show to hang out and do a couple hack classes. Miles are good!

Giddyup Go!

On my first ride on Coco I failed to secure resources for photographic evidence of the event. I did not have this failure on the second event! I’ve spent the past month and a half gradually working her up to the big event of her first ride. Jaguar was the first ever horse I broke to ride all by myself. The method I used with him was based on a series of videos done by Roy Yates, an old cowboy. He did copious amounts of ground work with his young horses so by the time he rode them it was no big deal. I believe his methods to be sound, humane and effective and continue to weave them into my own.

I start by teaching the young horse to lunge, then add a surcingle which teaches them to accept the girth, then a bridle, then side reins, then a saddle with the bridle, and finally I ride them. You can tell a lot about a youngster by how they respond to the first time you tighten the surcingle. A highly sensitive horse will have a much stronger reaction than a more laid back animal. Sterling was very sensitive. Jaguar was kind of in the middle. Coco was VERY laid back. She has jumped up a little bit with the surcingle on and the saddle, but she’s never full on bucked. I hope this is a good thing!

Happy girl under saddle

Happy girl under saddle

The first time getting on a horse is always the scariest part for me. You have NO idea if they are going to jump out from under you, run away, start bucking, or just stand there. Never before had I done the first ride with an English saddle, either. Both of the western saddles I have are huge and it just didn’t feel right to ride her western. She was a perfect princess. She didn’t bat an eye lash when I put weight in the left stirrup and swung my right leg over. I had to sit for a minute and take deep breaths because I was so nervous. She, on the other hand, just stood chewing the bit.

When I work with the youngsters on the lunge line I teach them verbal commands to walk, trot, canter and stop. This helps them to make sense of what I want them to do on the first few rides when they have no idea what my legs are telling them. I clucked Coco forward on our second ride and just just walked on. I use my legs, too to teach them that pressure from my legs means go forward or faster. By the first few rides she will have figured out that leg pressure means go forward. A few more after that and she will trot from my leg instead of clucking. Cantering usually takes a bit longer, but it depends on the horse.

Learning to go forward among the goat menagerie

Learning to go forward among the goat menagerie

During our second ride we trotted in addition to walking. She was a bit confused and the pen I rode her in has a lot of trees so the lack of steering was kind of an issue! I have to be mindful to reward her every time she gives to the pressure of the bit to turn or stop, but not getting knocked off by a tree limb was important also!

Learning steering

Learning steering

All in all I’m absolutely tickled with how well our first two rides have gone. One can’t get overly complacent that the young horse is going to be easy peasy during every ride. I’m sure the first time we canter will be interesting, but I’m so grateful it is going as well as it is so far. It is exciting to have something to look forward to with Coco after the bad news about Jaguar. She won’t be ready to fox hunt for at least a year, but I hope to take her on some trail rides before the summer is over.

Awkward baby horse steering

Awkward baby horse steering