Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Better Day

I ordered him a fancy show halter with a name plate last week. In cob size. He refused to put his ears forward in the pictures without the tag. I ended up putting the buckle on this side down one more hole, and called that good. His everyday halter is full size and on the tightest holes, and this show halter is cob size and on the biggest holes. I had to buy the horse that's between sizes. But he's oh so handsome!
I was so flustered by the end of Monday that I used an early out to leave work 2 hours early. I was supposed to have a lesson Monday evening. However, Trainer was concerned about the footing because of the rain. That's totally fine! Monday's lesson was going to be teaching him to jump, and I'd like good solid footing for that.

His shoes got reset yesterday, and the farrier made a couple tweaks to the breakover point because Penn has just been clumsy about his front feet and trips on level ground a lot. I held him because he just can't be trusted to stay in the crossties, and you gotta be nice to your farrier. We had a good laugh about Penn. He freaks out over clippers, but doesn't freak out over the grinding wheel that the farrier uses... it makes really loud noises, sparks, and smells because of the sparking. Oy.

I took him out for a hack around the hay fields and decided to just have fun with him. I always liked cantering/galloping Mikey up the grassy lane between the hay field and road and I hadn't tried that with Penn yet. He's so quiet. I asked for trot and canter and he was like, "Ok, I'll lope along like a hunter. Can I stop now?" We had a lovely quiet ride. And he didn't trip over his own feet once on the uneven ground (I'll have to tell farrier!).

He's so quiet that I even took video of him with my cell phone. While cantering. Good baby horse!

I took him back to the barn and decided to mess with the clippers again. I made a plan based off of everyone's suggestions from my last post (thank you!!!) and Trainer's suggestion of closing one of the barn doors and having him learn to cross tie with his butt against the door.

Cross tied! With both cross ties! I felt brave, haha. Pre-clipper training.
First thing I did was my prep work. Close both barn doors. The aisles are 60' long and 12-14' wide. That's a big enough play area, and he can't leave the building. I also left his fuzzy boots on. Gotta protect the legs from themselves. I clipped the chain to his lead rope and put it over his nose. I pulled out the clippers and got them set up halfway down the aisle (conveniently where the plug is!). I just set them down, no turning them on yet.

Second was practice giving to pressure. I asked him to give to the chain, and he immediately lowered his head until his nose was level with his knees. Good boy. I asked him to give again, and lower his head further. He was like, "WTF MAN!" and jerked his head up and thought about backing and rearing, cranked himself for jerking his head up, and then thought better of it and just stopped. I asked for him to give again, and he did- nose even with his knees. I asked to give lower again, and he answered correctly this time with some lick and chew and almost touching his nose to the ground. I had him bring his head back up, then asked him to move directly away from me and then towards me (like 4H showmanship turn on the haunches, but I only wanted a step or two from the shoulder). Repeat all of the previous steps. He became very tuned in to what I wanted. I barely needed any pressure on the chain to ask for any of it. Good boy.

Third, I took my lashless dressage whip and asked him to walk with me and turn small circles around me while staying forward. I didn't even have to touch him with it. A bare flick in his general direction got him moving. If I actually touched him with it he'd shoot forward and past me or move his body away from me. Good boy. For now I'll take forward past me. When he'd do that, I'd just bring him around in a full circle around me and then reset him next to me.

Fourth, I stuffed my zocks with several handfuls of horse cookies. The nugget ones you can get from tractor supply. I set the container on a stall far away from the clippers so I could restock in peace if necessary. I didn't have pockets and zocks are really good cookie holders. And the nuggets are perfect tidbit treats.

I finally brought him back to the middle and picked up the clippers. He went to go backwards, but at the barest pressure of the chain and a small flick with the whip, he held his ground even though I was way too in front of him. Yay for good programming- chain pressure meaning give and whip meaning forward. I was pleased that I could apply both from in front of the girth line and he'd still respond properly.

I held up the clippers, he was like, oh ok, and let me rub them all over his front end. Nose, face, ears, poll, cheek, neck, shoulders. Perfectly happy with it.

Throughout the rest of our endeavors, I made sure the clippers stayed near the wall so he was free to swing his body around to either end of the barn as an appropriate escape.

I finally turned them on. He wasn't as surprised by them as Sunday, but he did go to go backwards.
However, I didn't have to correct a thing. He engaged the chain slightly and gave to it. Instead of going backwards, he weaved. He was so nervous, but he knew he couldn't leave, so he just weaved his body back and forth. I never felt more than a slight pressure on the lead rope. Good boy. He kept reaching his nose out, but getting scared and then weaving some more. I put the clippers on the floor (yay for dirt floors!) and gave him a cookie for standing his ground.

I turned him away and led him to the end of the barn where I made sure he was tuned in to me and the whip by doing a couple circles in walk. Then we walked past the clippers (him between me and the clippers, so we were tracking left around the aisle). I walked with a purpose, he tried to, and when he fell behind I flicked the whip and he trotted to keep up and get past the clippers. Small amount of pressure and he gave and walked. I turned him at the other end of the barn, then passed with me between him and the clippers as a "break". Turn around, repeat many times.

He tried several different answers: slowing down, running past, shoulder into my personal space (I actually hit him with the whip for that one- he never did it again). We kept going until he was willing to walk past it while only keeping an eye on it but traveling straight for the most part. Cookie time!

Next was stopping him next to the clippers, then asking him to move forward again immediately. I didn't want him to have a chance to think about backing up from the halt. Good boy and more cookies. Next was stand next to them and linger. Good boy and more cookies.

He got several breaks by standing at either end of the barn away from the nasty clippers.

I eventually led him directly up to the clippers, and fed him treats as he got closer and held his ground. I picked them up, and he was very interested in them, so I kept feeding him treats when he'd reach his nose out. He eventually bumped into them, but it didn't seem to surprise him, so more cookies. It became a 'touch the clippers, get a cookie' game. Good boy.

The most surprised reaction he gave me last night was when I turned them off. They make a louder click noise, and he jumped and stepped back, but found pressure and came forward on his own again. Cookie.

I rubbed them all over his head and neck again, then more cookies.

He got to be done at that point. More than enough good work. I put his sheet on (it continued to rain last night) and put him outside with his friends. We'll repeat later in the week and again next week, and maybe in a couple weeks I can actually trim him!

Monday, September 28, 2015


I'm going to whine here for a minute.

I'm so paranoid about not messing Penn up, and not letting him get away with anything (within reason due to his lack of training!), that yesterday I had a bit of a let down. Well a lot of a let down.

Stupid clippers.

I'd already been meh about our rides last week- nothing awful about them, but nothing wonderful either. The canter continues to improve without any giraffe moments. The trot... it's becoming more giraffe like. How?!?! I had a better ride Thursday where I did quite a bit of insisting that he be round, that he bend, that he pay attention, and that no, he can't run off in trot. It really did wonders and I got some of the best canter work yet. Friday's ride in jump tack was almost a disaster. I don't like flatting in jump tack.

So anyway, I had a few minutes to kill (problem 1) on Sunday, so I pulled out my clippers because Penn's bridle path was too long, and his whiskers needed to be trimmed for the show next weekend... and I always clip 3-5 days before.

I showed him the clippers. No big deal. He was interested. I turned them on a couple feet away from him (problem 2) and he promptly left the barn. He backed up quickly, hit the end of the cross ties, paused (thinking about the fact that he should respect them), then broke them (fear overtook training), and flew backwards out of the barn. He proceeded to continue leaving by ducking around the side of the barn (I had turned off the clippers and set them down by this point and was walking after him).

I caught him (he was giving me the hairy eyeball because he knows breaking out of the cross ties is bad), he got his scolding, and then back into the barn. I retied the cross tie, then unhooked him from it. No reason to continue breaking it. I put the chain over his nose (it helps stop the flying backwards) and held up the clippers again, not running. He pulled the lead rope out of my hands (thank goodness it's a ten foot rope), but the chain did it's job and he cranked himself. Cue rearing (problem 3). I cranked him for that until he wanted to keep his feet on the ground.

Back up to the cross ties, again, not tied in. I brought the clippers back up, not running. Repeat fear induced response. Repeat cranking for standing up on two feet.

Back to cross ties. This time he had a look at the clippers before jumping away, but only a step or two while keeping all four feet on the ground. When I asked him to step back up, he tried to run past me. What the hell horse? I mean, I'm happy it wasn't backing up/rearing. That's fine. I just brought him back around and reset him in the cross ties.

He mouthed the clippers (fine), I rubbed them all over his head and neck and ears and poll and he just didn't care.

I should have just stopped there. But instead, I held them way away and turned them on (problem 2 again). He stood his ground for about 3 seconds, before doing a whole body quiver and trying to leave by flying backwards and then walking on his hind legs when he hit the end of the line. I really fucking hate that. Stupid rearing crap. He's going to flip over because he's in such a hurry to fly backwards and he's got shit balance. I can walk forward and crank him so he doesn't pull against me and pull himself over. What I really need is someone behind him with a whip or something to get him forward again. Sorry, we're delving into cowboy land I'm sure, and I'm probably making some of you cringe. I don't care that he's afraid of the clippers. I care that his immediate answer to not being able to leave is rear. There's no pondering another option. He goes to it immediately.

Eventually he wouldn't get too far from me, and I'd force him to give to the chain and walk back up to the cross ties with the clippers running. He got very brave towards the end, and stood there with them running. He was quivering, the poor thing.

It was all going well until a mare decided he was within reach and bit him on the side of the head. Of course, he flew backwards, and I tried to keep up with him because that one wasn't his fault. I brought him back and away from that stall. A friend had arrived by that point and we both told him good boy, and she rubbed his face and praised him as he stood there with the clippers running a few feet away. I turned them off, let him sniff and mouth them, and rubbed them all over him again.

I wizened up and stopped there. I put him away, but I can't help but feel I lost that battle. I know this is just a baby horse learning step, and with a whole lot of time and slow work, the clippers will be no big deal.

Has anyone out there dealt with habitual rearing? I'm not interested in putting him in his stall and attempting to clip him- I feel like that's a super bad idea to corner him. I'm also not interested in making him flip himself over. He slipped on some grass and fell on his side when we were trying to load him to bring him home, and that stopped the rearing, so I imagine it would probably work, but that's too dangerous. I would rather not sedate him because one- if he does freak out while sedated he WILL fall down, and two- I don't like relying on sedation for anything. It's not always available and that's what they did to load him in the past and it didn't work in helping him to load. Any other suggestions would be nice.

I'm seriously getting a rearing complex. I dread loading him on the trailer Friday. All I can see is him walking on two legs because he doesn't want to get in. I just don't know how to reprogram this learned behavior. I'm super pissed at whoever taught him that in his past. He goes to rearing too quickly. Someone in his past opened a can of worms and never closed it, so now I have to.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Total Saddle Fit is Awesome and Saddle Hunting Gives Me Ulcers

The Jaguar with the 24" TSF girth.
Neither fit this horse.
FYI, the black things under the irons are felt and vinyl snap on saddle protectors.
The Jaguar's leather is so soft (even after 2 years of use) that the irons and pads leave permanent dents in the leather if they're set directly against the leather. Not cool!
I decided to contact Total Saddle Fit because Penn needs immediate relief from his current girth situation.

I told them that I bought a 24" girth last December, and my horse unexpectedly passed away in August. I have a new horse, but he needs a 20" girth, but I was afraid to buy another one because he's going to be getting a new saddle and he's still filling out, so I didn't want to end up with two girths that don't fit him, but he needs immediate relief from his current girth. I then asked if they had any used stock or if they did trades.

I've always heard good things about TSF's customer service, and they really delivered here. They said that they don't usually do exchanges this far out from the purchase date, but they'd make an exception for me. They asked me to ship them my girth, our email thread, and a note with my address and what size girth my horse needs. Then they'll send one of their gently used girths back to me. I don't know why, but it made me want to cry because they were so willing to work with me on it. I guess I never expected them to offer a trade; I figured I would have to buy something. I'm really touched that they're willing to trade. They earned major points in my eyes and I have no problem telling people how awesome they are. Starting here.

Total Saddle Fit has a great product, and are incredible as a company. Their customer service is excellent and so is their return policy, so no excuses for not trying one of their products. If you think it might help, give it a try!

I will be buying a 44" brown long girth from them in the next few months. Absolutely. They earned it.

Penn will have one of these. I'm loving the upper D rings for our 5 point breastplate.
But back to the dressage girth: I need to very carefully decide if I want a 20" or 22" for Penn. I think I want a 20". When I put the 24" on him, I could just barely get it tight enough before the leather under the billet keeper interfered with the saddle pad, and 2" smaller really doesn't seem like a lot of difference. I almost think I need an 18", however as he fills out, I know that will go wrong. I'll put my 24" back on him and check it's fit one more time.

I also contacted two other people: my local tack shop and Trainer's CWD rep.

I paroozed CWD's website and panicked because they only show one dressage model on their site, and I didn't like the description. That's when I contacted my local tack shop and asked them to contact their Stubben rep and see if he can send them a Euphoria trial saddle, preferably a wide tree. When I talked to him last week, he said that he didn't currently have one, and sometimes it takes several weeks to get saddles from the reps because they have to take them to saddle fittings. So basically, my tack shop could have it next week, or in a month or more.

It has bling. I'm digging it. But in the black crystal, not the clear.
From Stubben's website:
The Euphoria is the result of extensive consultation and testing with leading riders in the Dressage world. The extra deep seat incorporating the new "Free Move" technology, is combined with our patented NT spring tree. The narrow twist, which is particularly appreciated by female riders, together with our special padding, make for a very soft and extremely comfortable seat.
The new "Maxi Fit" wool pad provides for a large contact area on the horses back whilst at the same time providing excellent clearance for the horse's spine. In the area of the shoulder muscles, the pad is cut back, thereby allowing optimal movement and length of stride. The special V billets ensure ideal distribution of pressure when the saddle is girthed. 
Good leg position is ensured by the high anatomical pommel and the knee rolls which are padded in super soft leather. The stirrup leather loops are discretely set with black Swarovski crystals which give the Euphoria it's particularly elegant appearance. Various colour crystals are available to add that touch of individuality.
Then I used Facebook to contact my Trainer's CWD rep. I asked her if she sold monoflap saddles or if the website was right and it was just the one saddle. She said she has 3 dressage monoflaps with customize-able blocks, and we're working on setting up a time for her to come to the farm during Thanksgiving week.

I want to get him a saddle ASAP. Logic says I am a dressage rider, I can't dressage in a cross country saddle.

But then reality knocks and says: winter is coming. You won't get to USE your new saddle much since you don't have an indoor. He also won't be filled out properly for it yet... because he's a baby horse and is still gaining weight and muscle. But he's only going to get so broad- not like Mikey who suddenly grew a topline when I figured out how to work him properly. Penn is already working properly, and he graduated to the XW tree in my jump saddle (I've found Pessoas run small though), so how much wider can he possibly get? He's still 75% TB. I think he'll have a little whither and spine no matter what. Trainer seemed to think he might be done filling out by next spring. I have to find out how flexible size-wise both of these brands are if he does beef up more.

It also takes time for saddles to be made. CWD needs 3 months minimum. My Jaguar needed 3 months. I imagine Stubben is the same. I'd like to start showing in March/April, so I have to have it ordered no later than November/December, which doesn't leave me much time to get it figured out. I hate saddle shopping. It's going to give me ulcers! I think ideally I'd like to have a saddle in mind in the next few weeks, keep riding him and building his muscle, he'll keep putting on weight the way Trainer is feeding him, and the have the appropriate rep come out and properly size him in November or December and get a saddle ordered! I don't know if it works that way, but I feel like that should be the way to go.

Ack. I hate saddle shopping.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tuesday's Ride

I had a better ride on Penn Tuesday night, however one thing is clear:

Penn HATES my dressage saddle. I set it on his back and he pinned his ears. I did up the girth, and he pinned his ears and shook his head. He wasn't girthy when I test rode him, so all I can think is that he doesn't like my saddle or he doesn't like the synthetic Ovation girth I got him (Ovation Airform Chafeless Dressage Girth). Maybe he's a leather only kind of boy, maybe not.

He's not sore- I ran my fingers down his spine like I used to do to Mikey and he doesn't flinch away or flick an ear. By the way, he does enjoy Vetrolin. Which is good, because Mikey loved it and I have a lot left.

I'm going to try riding him all the time in my jump saddle... which was not made to flat in because it's a cross country jump saddle. If I'm going to actively use it, I'll probably order the TSF long brown girth in a 46". That's only because I find myself pulling the saddle way up his shoulders to make the girth sit in the proper groove, and I don't want this little guy to have any excuses to be girthy.

Anyway, Penn's antics Tuesday night were mostly of the "I feel good" variety. He had a couple moments where he ducked his chin into his chest when he thought we were going to do the spiral in and out exercise, and he spent more time than I would have liked going around like an unbendable giraffe, however he was sort of on task and listening. I trotted him over some single poles, and he thought that was neato.

His canters both directions were good for an out of shape baby horse. To the right he was looking for the bit without being heavy and willing to give me some bend. To the left, he picked up the correct lead for the most part and let me dictate a circle size without leaning.

We had another schooling moment in the cross ties when we were done. I reached down to get him a mint, and as soon as he heard the paper crinkle, he was pulling backwards in the crossties and in general being a spoiled brat. I put the mint back, picked up his boots, and smacked him on the butt again like Monday night to make him move up in the cross ties. He had a hurt look on his face but quieted down. About two minutes later he was still quiet, so I reached down and got him a mint, and he didn't move a muscle, and he took it very daintily out of my hand. He was still sulking.

I'm glad I have a good answer now to his backing up in the crossties BS. His boots won't hurt him and I bet they make a louder noise than any hurt they inflict. Mikey would back in the cross ties too, but he wouldn't hit the end of the cross tie and freak out and break them. He used them as a constraint of where his body was allowed to be. I'm only hard on Penn about it because he does have a habit of backing up and breaking the crossties, and the habit carries over under saddle too. His first answer to not wanting to do something is back up/threaten to rear. I also want to be able to trust him in the crossties- I could leave Mikey for hours (not that I should!), and he'd still be there when I came back. Penn... I'm not sure he would still be there 15 min later. He's a smart cookie, he'll figure it out.

Tuesday made 3 days in a row that he walked up to the mounting block and stood properly! Hopefully the 'walk up to the block, swing my butt away from it or back up' days are over. I make sure to praise him and give him love, then get on and away from the block in a super timely fashion so I don't spoil the moment.

I'm still impressed that this young horse hasn't bucked or crow hopped under saddle. I know it's coming though, what with the cool weather and based on what I felt Monday. I also know that there isn't going to be much power behind it unless he manages to stop dead and then do it.

"Who me? I would never be naughty!" :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Meh Ride and a New Saddle A LOT Sooner

Let's start with more adorable cats. Suffer! ;-)

Due to the cool temps, this was the scene at my house Monday morning as I worked from home.
Open windows, a breeze, full sun. Cat heaven.
My two girls watching the birds.
Penn and I finally had a meh ride. Don't get me wrong, our rides before haven't been completely butterflies and rainbows, and there wasn't anything terrible about Monday's ride. There were a couple worrisome points and I'm not sure how to fix them (ie stop them dead in their tracks... give me enough time to screw Penn up and I'll get it!), so I'm sure I'll be having another lesson here soon.

So Trainer took down the dressage arena for the season (I may have whined at her because I love the box and it gives me a focus of where to ride to/from in a huge baseball field) and dragged the arena until it was fluffy (yay!). I think Penn respects walls (no matter how small) very well, and maybe it was a combo of the evening ride time and a lack of walls, but he wasn't keen to reach for the bit, and he even got a little bold on me and found another forward gear.

I figured I would do easier trot work to settle him, like just going around the arena and working on the straight shallow loop, then a bending shallow loop. I found quite a bit of resistance on the left side of his body. When we started with him, he only wanted to bend left. Now he only wants to bend right!

So I added back the spiral in and out, and that little sucker was either doing his best giraffe impersonation or curling his chin into his chest. Now I know how to fix both of these: I need to send him more forward to push him to the bridle with steady hands, except I tried that and he's off running with his head up or chin tucked. I think this is where the dressage trainer that started him ran out of ideas. In all of his videos she let him run on the forehand and trip all over himself in trot and canter. Trainer and I watched the videos and we were like, for the love of all that is holy, HALF HALT PLEASE! So Penn started learning the half halt as soon as he got here (it works well now off the seat!). I think she never got him off the forehand because he went to tucking his chin and she didn't know what to do with it.

I ended up doing some trot work from sitting trot because I can manage it better, but I don't think Penn appreciated that. I only did it in the spirals so I could set him up properly for canter. I had a lot of trouble getting left lead canter, so obviously there's some crookedness that's happening that I can't put my finger on. Once I got him into left lead canter, I fought to keep it going for more than half a circle, but it was in general good. To the right was fantastic. But every time I'd bring him back to trot, he'd tuck his chin and run off. In sitting trot, I could get my half halt done and leg on and he'd come back up and look for the bridle, but that can't be my go-to answer, he's not ready to carry a rider at sit trot.

Monday was the only time that I felt like he might get naughty- he stopped looking for the bridle and was tense, so I automatically read that as "I'm ready to explode" which of course, he wasn't. I think he was just frustrated too.

I tried asking him to flex at the poll right and left in the walk- there was a lot of resistance to the left with that too.

Maybe he just needs a day off? I don't know. He'll have off Wednesday and Thursday this week due to my work.

I took him back up to the barn after a halfway decent left lead canter, and he continued to be a little snot in the cross ties. He either stands there, or breaks out of them by flying backwards. Monday night, he kept purposefully stepping backwards. I eventually hit him in the butt with his fleece boots when he'd start taking backwards steps. He'd move forward immediately and had a sad face of "ohhh, you caught me!"

I think my saddle might have a lot to do with these issues. He's not fond of being saddled, but he doesn't complain with more than an ear flick. Monday, he complained. I did up the girth and he was snatchy with his face. Ears back, head up. I asked trainer to let me know when the CWD lady will be out to fit her new saddle, because I want to talk to her about options and try some saddles. Especially options that can be tweaked at the end of next summer if he fills out a ton more. I think he's also a good candidate for a Total Saddle Fit Girth, which I do have, but it's Mikey's 24" and Penn needs a 20" right now. For me to get the billets in the right spot for the girth to be in the girth groove, I'm pulling my saddle WAY up his shoulders. Jump saddle is like that too, by the way. I seem to remember the TSF girth eliminating some girthy horses' issues in the many reviews online. I'm hesitant to buy another one now though, only because I don't know what size I'll need (20" or 22"), depending on how the billets sit on my new, undetermined saddle and the fact that Penn is still filling out. Le sigh. I'm sorry Penn :( Maybe we'll just do work in the jump saddle. You liked that one! I don't want to ruin his good attitude or make him girthy, which is why I'm willing to take the plunge now before I'm really financially ready for it.

The horses went out with sheets on Monday night. Sad. It was a cool night with a chance of rain. Trainer didn't want them left in, but didn't want them getting rained on when it was so cool. She's becoming a softie! But I like it. I'm a blanket person, sorry! But for the last 7-8 years, I've also shaved my horse every winter so I had to replace his hair. Mikey was strange- he got cold easily, yet would sweat up a storm with all his winter hair (or without), so I body clipped him and then put a million layers of clothes on him to make sure he stayed warm.

This is Mikey's size 78 Tipperary Sheet. Le sigh. It's the smallest 78" in Mikey's blanket collection.
The rest of the clothes are going to be so big on Penn, but I am not buying new clothes! Mikey's are in great condition and are a nice quality! That and I have 2 hoods and 5 active use blankets and 2 backups!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Smartpak Order

Thanks to Sprinklerbandit's last post about show shirts, I ordered some new ones from Smartpak this morning. I'm super pumped, people had really good ideas in the comments, so I took a look. I'm hoping one of the ones I ordered will be right, and then I'll send the others back.

I currently have a long sleeve cool max Romfh shirt with mesh on the underside of the sleeves. I love it- its stretchy but see through, so I wear a white tank top under it, but it stops my very sweaty self from sticking to the inside of my coat. To be honest, I feel cooler riding with long sleeves under my coat than I have with any of my short sleeve shirts. But, it's not very flattering without the coat.

Behold! The white whale (not a dig at my weight, just the sheer amount of white!).
Not helped by my too low boots and hair coming out of my hairnet! Both have been updated.
Even small amounts of striping and a thin black sparkle belt don't work. I still need a wide sparkle belt!
Can I also say that this is one of my favorite counter canter pictures of Mikey?
So at one person's recommendation, I looked at the Essex Classics Talent Yarn Shirt - Shortsleeve shirt. They recommended the long sleeve, but I have a long sleeve shirt that I like, so I ordered this shortsleeve version with a blue/tan grid pattern inside (now sold out).

A Plain Jane White Shirt. But not see through and it has short sleeves.
I think it'll fit me alright, but it's not really what I'm going for. I don't want to look like a white whale on my horse. This just doesn't have anything to break up the white, but it'll serve in a pinch if it's a bazillion degrees and I have a 2pm ride time. I melt in the sun and heat. It was something Mikey and I excelled at together: melting.

I continued my search on Smartpak's website since I'm already going to be ordering one shirt, may as well order another, and came across this beauty, the Equine Couture Sportif Technical Shortsleeve Shirt.
Love love love! No white whales!
I love it. It comes with Navy or Tan side panels, and it comes in sizes bigger than I need! Holla! Sorry, big boobs and riding don't mix well. I ordered this in two sizes, both with Navy panels because it will match my ear bonnet:

Mikey got to sport his fancy ear bonnet once in public.
I know if you show without a coat at a recognized show, it has to be a solid colored shirt... so I'm hoping this shirt will be ok. It is only white and navy, but it's color blocked, but the color is under the arm, so I feel like it's still conservative enough. I think I've seen similar shirts at recognized shows without coats. And I think it will be very flattering on me. Plus if someone at the in gate deems it inappropriate, I can just toss my coat on over it, no bigger. Thoughts?

I also ordered Penn his customized show halter, the SmartPak Soft Padded Leather Halter. I wasn't going to take the plate off Mikey's, and Penn is already using Mikey's every day leather halter. Smartpak is having a 25% all Smartpak brand tack, so the $97ish padded halter became $75ish. Not a huge win on price there, but enough to make me order it.

I ordered the Havana/Havana color, with a plate, in Cob size.
Penn might be able to wear a horse size on the smallest settings, so I decided to try cob instead.

Ohhhhhhhh I found a vest I like! And it comes in a size I can wear! And is PRETTY!!!! So, anyone have $190 laying around? And does anyone know if vests like these are legal in USDF/USEF competitions? If they are... well, umm, I'm sending back all the shirts and buying this.


I want the vest. It has a bit on the lower back where it "pulls" the fitted shape. Drool.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Hum Drum Weekend (Picture Heavy)

Penn's next few outings are planned! He's going to a schooling hunter show to do the flat classes, then the next day haul to a different farm to partake in a hunter pace! Very exciting! Poor guy, he's going to be tired at the end of the weekend. That'll happen Oct 3/4. I do wish there were more dressage shows close to me so we could go do that!

I spent Thursday and Friday working at home so I could keep an eye on Sophie after she was spayed. She has internal stitches that will dissolve and glue on the skin over her belly incision. She wasn't cooperating with the Elizabethan Collar or the keeping quiet rule, so I was worried she'd open her belly up while Husband and I were both gone for the day... then we'd come home to a very upsetting situation... So I'm lucky enough that my boss is an understanding pet person and let me work from home those days. I got a bunch of cute pictures of all the cats while I was home, so... suffer my kitties' cuteness.

Penny sleeping in the tunnel fish. #fishatethecat
Nickels giving me sleepy eyes from on top of the cat carrier.
Sophie and Penny show up in the fireplace's reflection. Just noticed!
Sophie playing with an ice ball. They all like it, but they mostly enjoy drinking the ice water.
Penny inside the fish. I love this picture.
Everyone having sleepy time.
Sophie snuggles with Penny...
... and she snuggles with Nickels too :-)
Saturday was a barn day for me. I was taking care of the horses all day... morning bring in and feed, ride Penn, take the 4* horse Cody for a walk(!!!), evening feed and turnout, stalls, prepping for the next day.

Penn had a nice work Saturday morning. I started with some of our straight line work from the other day, and then finished by using the spiral in and out to find the canter. His canter is really coming along. He has trouble picking up the left lead, but if I sit the trot a half circle before and into it, he gets the correct lead. I think it's a balance problem on his side, and my inability to fully affect the trot when posting. Obviously when he starts cantering, if the trot was balanced, the canter is much better. If the trot was only so so, the canter is like a motorcycle leaning into a turn.

Each time I work him, the canter is a little bit better balanced. He still doesn't have the strength to maintain it for long, but that's ok. He's only been back to work for a month and a half and we've only been working the canter in earnest for a week.

After Penn was done and put away, I took Cody for a walk. He's too funny- I got on him, got settled, and off we went. I wanted to get a bunch of ear shots of him, and I just like giving horses pats on the neck as we walk. Every time I would move to get my phone or pat his neck, he'd pin his ears and lift his head and neck! It was almost like he was saying, "Be quiet up there minion! This is MY walk, you're only here because I can't go by myself!" He's such a cocky SOB. In his world, Trainer is the only one he has to really listen to under saddle, and the rest of us are just minions to do his bidding. Don't get me wrong, he's extremely well behaved and has excellent ground manners. You do have to have a vague idea of what you're doing if you're going to ask him to work, and your riding ability directly correlates with how long he'll tolerate your shenanigans. As he gets fitter, the people who can ride him dwindles to Trainer, and maybe me when he's not Rolex fit. He can generally be walked on the trail by almost anyone. Anyway, he's just a very cocky boy, and while it makes him a difficult ride, it's what gives him his bravery on cross country.

The Cheese!!!! Aka Cody, haha.
I tossed the horses out a little early because it was cool and breezy, cleaned stalls and set up water and hay for the next day and I was out of there!

I was not smarter than the hose. The hay on the ground is from me dropping bales from the loft... and I hadn't cleaned it up yet cause I hadn't cleaned stalls yet, and the last thing I do before leaving is rake. But now it's wet hay bits.

I got to use a whole bunch of my new tack on Sunday! I put the XW tree in my jump saddle. What a difference! The saddle fits much better now. I also put my new brown web reins on my brown jump bridle and we used that bridle to trail ride. Penn used his new 44" girth, that conveniently has a D ring for my five-point breastplate has a clip for the between the legs strap instead of a girth loop! I've been using a girth loop attachment with that breastplate for years because none of my long girths have D rings. I love using new stuff.

A very dirty Penn (he took a dust bath as soon as I put him out- he was spotless before then!). He's oblivious to the two mares next to him giving him and each other the stink eye.
Normally the mounting block isn't a source of stories, however, Sunday it was! Penn and I have been battling at the mounting block for the duration of our relationship. Our block is a huge wood thing that does not move, so the horse has to line up to it. Penn is willing to walk up to it, but at the last step he swings his butt out and then I have to correct him and move him over. Sunday, he just about climbed on top of the block. He got as close to it as humanly possible (like, whacking his left knee off the front corner...) and he crept up to where he needed to be, and squared up (I always make sure the horse is close to square before getting on so I don't pull him off balance). No moving his hind end sideways. Lots of pats for the good boy.

Penn was a lovely, sensible, and brave boy. He was happy to lead our ride (with just one other horse, Leader), and bravely went through the puddles and ditches first. He walked quietly on a long rein near the buckle. Three of the farm dogs came with us, and they were crashing through the woods and running past the two horses and he didn't give a rat's patooty about it. He just pinned his ears at them and if they lingered in front of him, he'd reach out to bite them!

I tried to get him to show off the brown bridle. But you can see the new web reins.
He even stood his ground when the dogs flushed out about a dozen turkeys! They ran across the trail, then took flight and flew around over us. If you haven't seen wild turkey's fly, let me tell you, they are not graceful, they're noisy, and more than one horse I've known has lost their cool when it happens. Not Penn. He was like, "What's that?" and calmly watched them fly all around. They did spook 22 yr old Leader a little bit!

It was a touch windy walking the road home.
A good quiet weekend for all!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Tack Shops and Lesson

One of our local tack shops is going out of business and is selling their stock off at 50%. I didn't really need anything, so naturally I had to go check it out.

I got: 1 pair of FITS performax full seat breeches in Stone with Black patches, 1 pair of FITS tights (with the pebbles instead of the full seat deer skin patches) in black, 1 pair of zocks that remind me of a pink giraffe.

Penn got: a 44" double elastic synthetic/gel brown girth (I've been using a 46" that belongs to trainer for my jump saddle, I hate double elastic but they didn't have a 46" that I liked), new web reins for the jump bridle (we haven't used it on Penn yet, but my current reins are rubber web and awful), fly spray, and tack conditioner.

What I really needed was the Pessoa XW saddle plate for my jump saddle. Penn is filling out so much- he's outgrown the wide plate I had in for Mikey. But alas, this tack shop never carried Pessoas, so they didn't have the plates.

So what to do? Well it meant I needed to go to my usual tack shop! I went there Wednesday afternoon. I picked up a plate and another set of black web reins. Penn so graciously chewed our current reins when I wasn't paying attention at cross country schooling... They're not in danger of breaking, but they're ugly looking now (plus they were missing a rein nub anyway). My usual shop had them marked down for some reason (owner didn't know why either), so they were a great price. So now I have a set for shows, yay!

A Stubben rep was in the store yesterday, and I talked to him about the Euphoria saddle and asked if he had one with him (he didn't) but he can send the shop a trial saddle when I'm ready to shop for a new dressage saddle. Which, by the way, is super annoying because I love my Jaguar and it's in pristine condition. Yet Penn continues to defy his mostly Thoroughbred breeding and is filling out so much that the Jag is too narrow for him in the shoulder. It was meant for a thoroughbred type with high whithers and a broad back. Penn has the broad back, but his whithers have filled out and it just isn't sitting right on him anymore (not that it ever did). I can alleviate some of the fit problem by using a fleece half pad to lift the whole thing up and then I can slide my hand under the front panel easily. Come March, I'll be saddle shopping. Yuck.

I'll look at the Euphoria saddle, and then talk to CWD. Trainer has a sponsorship with them, so the rep is out anyway. I'm really only interested in monoflap saddles, and nothing that promises to "hold you in". The only thing that should be holding me in is my bra! Anyway, so I got used to nice things... so we're of course looking at $$$$ for a new saddle. I know now that the Euphoria isn't a monoflap, but I like the description anyway.

Monday night, Penn and I visited Mikey's  grave.
I told him that his big brother is there, keeping an eye on us.

I was able to lesson and go to the tack shop because Sophie got spayed last Wednesday, and because of the drop off/pick up times, I needed to take some time off work... so I just took the whole day!

Sophie mewing in the car when I picked her up. She was ready to go home!
Penn was really good in our lesson. Trainer asked what I wanted to work on, and I asked her about the canter. I hadn't touched on it that much because it was either balanced or running and motorcycling and I was having trouble fixing it.

We started with spiral in and out in trot from a 20m circle to 10m and back. I had to pay attention to how much I held with my inside hand... I had a hard time getting my inside leg on him at the girth to get the bend when the circle got down to 10-12m. It's easier for me to do in sitting trot, but Penn isn't strong enough for that yet.

When Penn would find his balance and bend, he'd fill the rein properly and the contact would become very elastic. He's actually able to hold that for more than two steps, and the spiral in and out helped him. We'd spiral out 2-5m each time I asked for it, in a move over NOW step and then hold it steps.

We did a couple in and out each direction before touching on canter. We added canter by spiraling in to 12m or so, finding super bend and elastic contact, spiraling out slowly, then as soon as we hit 20m, strike off in the canter.

What became immediately apparent is you can't apply inside leg to outside rein to get bend, it just makes him run off at this point in his training because he doesn't understand. That and his outside hind leg kind of goes off into la la land. He doesn't understand how to balance himself on the circle and keep moving. I forget how my trainer phrased it, but she basically said someone just tried to slow him down and never balanced him in canter. He doesn't move that fast in canter, he just has a BIG canter.

To the left: Think straight on a curved line to fix the balance issue, then spiral in and out between 15m and 20m. This is his worse direction. Change the bend from straight to true bend and back again every few strides, and spiral in and out.

To the right: Same thinking of straight to true bend, but hold it to an 18m circle or so. This is his better direction and it mostly needs balance and strength.

I'm not supposed to spend much time cantering on a full 20m circle, only because since his motion is so big, his outside hind leg is off in Siberia, and those things combined make him tend to fall out on his circles. I knew this from his videos- he was being ridden in a 20x60m indoor arena, yet his rider seemed to find 25-30m circles to canter him on. He needs the 18m circle to remove the wall aspect of the arena to force him to find the outside hind and stand up.

We only did one canter each direction. By that point the half hour was up and so was most of Penn's butt muscle power.

I rode him again Thursday night and did a 15-20 min repeat of lesson. He wasn't quite as on as he was in lesson, but he was a little distracted by another horse lessoning and I'm sure he was tired still from the day before. He was still good. I ended up sitting a trot spiral to the canter because he was getting speedy and counterbent and tucking his chin into his chest/shortening his neck. I helped him get his trot work together, found elastic contact, asked for canter and had the best left lead canter yet! Pats for the good boy.

I learned a couple things about him this week: He really doesn't like other horses near him when being ridden- he pins his ears and snakes his face out. He's such a pushover the in field, yet he's willing to bite other horses while under saddle! He isn't bothered by other horses leaving the outdoor and ends up left by himself. If anything, he's much better riding alone than with a friend! He also enjoys going for his rides in the morning rather than evening (tough luck buddy, I work 5 days a week!). I don't think that has to do with leaving his friends in the field, he's quite happy to come with me. I think it just has to do with the time of day/shadows/sounds etc.

Speaking of happy to go with me, I had to leave him in the cross ties to check out the tractor for this weekend (I'm the help on Saturday), and he stood very quietly and we never heard a sound from him, until I walked back into the barn aisle and he saw me and nickered at me. OMG, all the feels and love.

First successful horse and human selfie. I never was able to get Mikey in one!
Plus my helmet hair. Should have put my ball cap back on.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Well not really, make that "Puddles, Trains, and Quads".

After over a month of little to no rain (it spit on us a couple times), we finally got rain. A lot of it. 2-3 days of it. The ground needed it so badly- everything is dying around here.

So rain meant it's time for Penn to find his water wings... because he's AWFUL about squishy or wet or puddled footing. I guess that's what happens when you're only ridden inside, but I don't get it- the horse lived outside for 6 weeks before I bought him, and I'm sure sometime in his 6 years of life he's been out in a wet soggy field. Though, I've noticed that he keeps himself quite clean, so I'm guessing he just doesn't like wet and soggy. Too bad!

I dedicated an entire weekend to it. Sorry Penn! Not like we could do ring work anyway- the outdoor was too slick for more than a walk.

I'm breaking the post up into each day- Fri, Sat, Sun. The trains and Quads are on Sunday if you want to skip ahead!

Friday Penn went down to the outdoor. My plan was just to ride him around and practice what we did in lesson before the real rain started, however there was a huge puddle in the arena so I made a beeline for it and we got started.

Penn wanted nothing to do with that puddle. He immediately went to, "I don't want to, I'm going to rear!" and backing up. One thing I'm trying to squelch in him is the tendency to rear. Whenever something happens that he doesn't like, he threatens to rear. He's not balanced, so if he does manage to leave the ground, he's going to fall down (he managed to slip on grass and fall when he was causing a scene about getting on the trailer- he did stop leaving the ground after that).

He's so sweet and smart- rearing is totally out of character for him (he even does it with ears forward and a kind eye!). Sometime in his past life, someone let him get away with it. The one thing I've learned is you have to be smart about what you do. If you open a can of worms, you damn well better close it in the same ride or handling session, otherwise you're going to end up with a monster and a huge problem. Someone let him win a fight when he reared, and he's so smart that he latched on to rearing as a way out. He goes to it immediately- there's no considering doing what I want or looking for something else. I have a zero tolerance for dangerous behavior- biting, kicking, and rearing included. Horses are too big to do things like that. So we had a bit of a cowboy moment or two while we discussed keeping our feet on the ground and moving forward.

I'd walk him with a purpose towards the puddle, he'd slam on the brakes, head up and very light in the front end, threaten to rear, attempt backing up. Cue seat bones to dig in to stop the backward, then left hand out to the side and pulling back to my knee while cracking him on the butt with the whip to break the rear and get his feet moving again. We'd go round and round in almost a turn on the fore until he stopped resisting me. I'd give him a second to think, then reapproach the puddle. On the plus side, we only had 3 or 4 rounds of this before he decided that he could march through the puddle (quite literally- he was bringing his knees up to his eye balls). Lots of praise, walk a big circle, come back around. We had a few more discussions about the puddle, but eventually he gave and got in the puddle with minimal prodding.

I didn't really care how he went through the puddle, as long as his feet ended up in it (not hard- it's about 8 ft wide and 20ft long), and didn't stop or duck out. So he then decided to hop and jump in the puddle (think super collected canter right before a Lipizzaner does a capriole) in an effort to run through it (my seat blocked him so it ended up in hoppy motions). He eventually started dragging me towards it in an effort to run through it, so we had to have a discussion about trying to bolt too. Poor horse, gotta try everything wrong first.

Eventually he relaxed and realized that the puddle would not eat him, that yes, he must go through the puddle no matter what, and that he could be a round gentleman and walk and trot through it (round being a super plus and totally not expected of him!). I made him stand in the puddle for several minutes. He lost interest in it and watched the other horses in the ring work and eventually cocked a hind leg and waited for me to let him know he could move on. Good pony.

Something I learned is to trust my seat- if I had too much rein contact and he questioned, I could set him off. I had to learn to trust my seat to keep him forward and legs to keep him straight so that my hands could be super super soft. This is the first time I've dealt with a rearing problem myself- Mikey just didn't rear and it's something I wouldn't touch. However, Penn is mine, I didn't feel out of control, and my trainer was there teaching at the other end of the ring and was keeping an eye on us.

We had a lovely work after the puddle work was done. He was through, quiet, round, and pushing. It was great. I had an incredible right lead canter that everyone just stopped and watched and went "ooooooo!" Oh little horse, the things you're capable of! So fancy.

Dirty horse! The sand was an inch thick on his hind boots, haha!

It was raining Saturday morning. So I went to the barn to ride Penn in the rain and search out puddles! I rode him through every puddle on the property that I could find. The yard has several tire rut low spots from the trailers coming in and out, so we had our first battles there. There's 5-6 puddles right by the barn, so we worked up there until he was willing to go through those without a fuss.

I went down to the outdoor, and there's a tire rut low spot on the road that's about 30ft long and 3ft wide, and I made him get in that one too. That was almost an epic battle- he locked his neck so I couldn't pull the left rein to break his rear, so he backed himself into the elephant ears and almost over a drop into a little drainage stream. I had to get creative to break the rears. He did leave the ground once. I felt it coming and that there was nothing I could do, so I put my hands halfway up his neck and put my full weight over his shoulders. HA! Being overweight has one big advantage. When you're riding a horse who's just not that strong, you can put rears back on the ground. His front end came flying back down and he plunged onto his forehand. He did not try it again. I did win the battle and he had to walk back and forth through the puddle until he did it willingly and on a loose rein.

I finally got to the outdoor and we went through the puddle from Friday again. No questions asked, he marched right through. I rode him all over the jump field because the footing can get squishy and he hates that.

We went back to the road, went back through the tire rut puddle a couple times before venturing up into the hay fields to look for more squishy footing to walk through. I went back to our original problem spot in the hay fields- it's a tire rut squishy puddle in the grass. Penn marched right through like it wasn't even there. I took him to the gate in front of his field (which has a large mud bog in front of it), and forced him to walk through it. No problem. I had schooled it in hand Friday night until he could walk through it by himself lunging around me... he may or may not have caused a scene for the girl who brings horses in in the morning during the week... he ripped the lead rope out of her hands in an effort to not walk through it.

I took him BACK to the tire rut puddle and made him stand in it for a while before finally allowing him to go back to the barn.

This picture brought to you by Penn, standing in a freaking puddle.

Sunday morning we went on a trail ride down to the river with two other ladies and their very trusty horses. To make a long story short, Penn was awesome. He marched right through all the puddles down there, leading the way! He wasn't always sure of the puddles, but all it took was a soft hand and driving seat and he'd try and that's good enough for me for now.

We have to cross train tracks to get to the river trail. Luckily, we use gas well roads to get there so the gravel is built up around the track, so no need to convince the horses to step over a metal rail and onto a railroad tie, then repeat back onto the gravel. Just walk over the gravel and step over the metal like it's a pole. We weren't sure if we heard the train coming, so we crossed and went on our way. After we crossed, sure enough, the train came. Horn tooting and all. While Penn was unsure of the train, he didn't do anything dumb and was happy to keep walking away from it.

Walking down the river trail. Rooster is leading the way!
Sometimes we see bikes, people, and dogs on this trail.
On the way back to the gas well road that goes back up the mountain hill, we heard the train coming. No problem, we'd just go a loop around the field, then double back and cross after the train.

Walking back towards the railroad tracks to go home. I have no idea how the picture got so turned. It's perfectly level where this road is.
We turned around and started walking back towards the tracks and were within sight when, sure enough, the train applied it's awful screechy brakes and stopped.

Killing time. The train stopped. PUDDLES!
One of the ladies took her horse all the way up to the train to see if we could see the last car. If we could, we were going to try to cross behind it since we have no way of knowing when it would get out of our way. She couldn't see the end of it, so back she came.

At this point, some quads came flying up the trail. Penn handled it really well. The noise didn't bother him that much. He really just wanted to go over and touch them! We moved out of the way so they could pass since they were such a hurry... and they went up and sat next to the train. I hate sharing the trail with them. They also ride up the road that we ride to the outdoor, except they FLY up and down it. I don't understand. The public road goes through the barn's 130 acres, but don't you still have to respect the land owners? Esp since you're right next to their house? And they know horses spook and that it's a horse farm. The BO has held the quads and called the police so many times for them whipping around past the house and near the horses. They almost hit Mikey and me last year when they whipped around a blind curve and gunned it past the barn... Except I knew they were coming and tried to get out of the way without stopping Mikey (he was just about in melt down mode so standing was a no-no). I screamed profanities at them (they were still moving forward!!!) and was screaming at them to stop while I tried to keep Mikey from bolting/rearing. Anyway. My baggage is not the point here. Penn was great when they popped out from behind the tall grass.

We eventually heard the clicking of the cars as the train started moving again. Only to hear the brakes shortly after as it came to a stop. AGAIN.

Penn making friends with Leader.
I took Penn's lead rope with me because I didn't know if he was going to be dumb, so I wanted something longer than my reins.
Rooster sitting sentinel.
Eventually the train got going again, but backwards from the way it came. There were two engine cars making a ton of noise. We hurried up and crossed the tracks as soon as the train was out of sight. I've been down there a ton of times and have never gotten stuck like that! There's no other way back up to the farm without going out to the highway and walking that back, or walking the river trail into town and having a trailer pick us up there.

Penn was great though, he never spooked at the train or got upset by it's many noises. And he stood like a gentleman while we waited. He got quite an eyeful on Sunday, between puddles, trains, and quads!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Penn's First Lesson

Ok guys, I am constantly impressed by Penn. He is so smart and quiet. Even his baby moments aren't that bad. I just can't get over how confident he is in the world even though he hasn't seen much of it. He takes new things in stride for the most part.

Aside from needing more dressage training, I've learned the following:

1. He knows how to ground tie fairly well. I don't trust him to stay, but I can put him in the aisle and grab his bridle from the tack room a few feet away, or I can set him outside and he doesn't try to walk away or eat grass while I'm washing him or tacking him up (this was helpful when I couldn't tie him to my trailer when we went XC schooling).

2. He is not keen on cross ties, but he's getting better. He hasn't broken out since the first week he was here. I spent a week ground tying him, then I used one cross tie (tied with baling twine to the wall) and his lead rope looped through the ring on the wall for the other (NOT tied to the ring). I'm putting the end of the lead rope through the ring, then wrapping it loosely back on itself so it offers resistance if he moves his head against it, but if he were to lose his shit, it would give. I'm not confident enough in him to use two ties right now, but we have time.

3. He doesn't like being sprayed with the hose at first, however if you spray his mouth, he drinks and then plays mouthy games with the water, quiets down, and you can spray him everywhere and he doesn't move an inch. Even in the face. He closes his eyes and turns his ears back, but puts his face down and into it. He doesn't understand sponge baths though, haha.

4. He seems to really enjoy being ridden and going to work. He's very agreeable under saddle for the most part. No calling to other horses, not too many shenanigans, just baby mistakes. He tries very hard to do what I want, and he doesn't say no.

5. He has a date with a creek and/or river. He does NOT like water or soft footing. At all. That needs to be rectified IMMEDIATELY since I don't have an indoor and I'd rather fix it on my own terms. But to do that, it needs to rain so our river trail puddles properly. And it hasn't since before Mikey died, over a month ago (edit: it rained a good bit as I wrote this post, so maybe I can get a lesson down on the trail this weekend- this particular vice I'm not willing to take on alone)

6. His only other major riding issue is the mounting block and being quiet up at the barn while mounted. He'll walk up to our huge block, side step behind, I tap him back over with the whip then he stands solid until I get on and ask him to walk on. At that point, he almost panics and becomes a nervous speed demon. I tried walking him around the driveway, the yard in front and behind the barn, near the trailers, and he just about loses his shit. As soon as I get him on the road for a trail ride or to go walk to the outdoor, he settles immediately. He's going to have a day where all we do it walk and trot laps around the barn and between the trailers until he's quiet. Then I'll get off, go back to the mounting block, get on, and repeat.

7. He oozes confidence under saddle. Yes, he has baby moments where he's trying to spook, fling backwards, or shy away, but he's either doing that or confidently striding forward. He understands that the whip means move forward. One light tap is all it takes. He is game to try almost anything. I am so impressed that he can lead trail rides when he's only been ridden outside for a few weeks. I don't know if this is because I've pushed him to find a forward button and he has confidence in me, or if he's just naturally confident. I've been very careful not to put him in any situation that would damage his confidence. He's meek in the field and gets bossed around by the other horses. He cantered up to me the other night when I called for him (yes, he's awesome and comes when called), and of course the other horses came with him and tried to chase him away, but he held his ground near me and I scared them off. I can play that game- I can protect him from other horses. I did that for Mikey too until Mikey was confident enough to chase other horses away from me. So I'm going to call it that I give him confidence.

Probably the least photogenic picture I have of him. He totally did not understand that I wanted him to stop on the road and look pretty for a picture.
He had quite a bit of time off Labor Day weekend- we had scattered storms Thursday evening (none of which hit my house or the barn so I skipped riding for nothing), then I was away all weekend in Philly with my in-laws at the Temple vs PSU game (come on Penn State! You can play better than that!). I was away Friday - late Sunday. It was fun to hang out with family and see my Alma Mater play, even if we lost. It occurred to me that I now have a horse called "Penn" who I dress in PSU's blue and white (and black). Sigh, haha.

"What's over there?"
Monday I had my first lesson with him! Trainer and I agreed on half hour lessons every two weeks or so. I don't need to be babysat with him, and he's not naughty so I don't need someone watching me to make sure I don't kill myself. I do want direction and checks on my work, but I need the time in between lessons to get the work done. Everyone is pretty cool with the arrangement- over the winter when Shea just arrived and Trainer didn't have a lot of extra time, I would ride her and work on improving the quality of her trot. Trainer didn't ride her for a week, but I did ride her several times in that week, and when Trainer got back on her she was impressed at the progress Shea had made. I'm confident I can teach Penn what he needs to know on my own, so we're going to do every other week for now.

I told her how he was just sucking up everything I had to teach him- classic "your horse is a sponge" type stuff. He retains a lot of information from each of our rides and is getting better with every ride.

I also told her I'm having trouble riding him like he's a green bean. I keep burying him in the corners like I'm riding a 3rd level test. I went from extremely well schooled to not schooled at all. He lets me get him in the corners that deep because he's so happy to bend his spine, so I find it quite natural to put him that deep since he allows it, but I end up making him trip over himself because he's not ready to do that.

She remarked that he's so flexible in his back/legs/joints that he moves like a model (leg crosses in front of the other leg as the model walks forward) and he just flicks his legs around (not in a good way) so he doesn't keep to two tracks and ends up interfering a lot.

He also has a case of the "roosters". Now this won't make sense to anyone but us, but I'll try to explain: There is a mastiff puppy on the farm named Rooster who is about 10 months old. He is almost 3' tall at the shoulder, is very lean still, and is all leg and noodle back and butt. When he walks, his back swings and is bent like an S. Basically, Penn moves the same way. He has so much movement going through his back and legs with every step that he's constantly tripping over and stepping on himself. That's why we were slowing him down first and asking him to take bigger slower steps. Now we need to add some "starch" to his back. Where Mikey was a 2x4 down his back and we had trouble finding bend, Penn is a pool noodle and can't find straight.

She said to take out a lot of the inside leg to outside rein half halts and make them left to left and right to right instead. She said if you want to ride a 20m circle, ride a 20m octagon instead. Straight lines only for this guy for a while, and even then, break them up a bit. Oh, and lots of trail riding. Endless trails.

Here's some of the exercises we worked on in pictures. As we worked through them, she had me give and soften my elbows a bit when I could to help Penn learn to lengthen his neck.

So the first one is simply how to ride the corners. Ride a 45 degree line from the long side to the quarterline of the short side. That will keep us out of the corner and allow us to remain straight.

The second one is how to ride an octagon at each end of the arena and in the middle, as well as how to make the octagon into a flat sided serpentine.

The third is supposed to be a triangle with flat corners. The goal is to ride the each triangle each direction, and once more proficient, offers a suggestion on how to use it to change directions.

The fourth is a modified shallow loop. Ride the shallow loop (to X or near X, rider choice), or hook the two loops together to make a change of rein across the diagonal. Add two more flat straight lines (one on each quarterline) to make a change of rein on the diagonal more interesting.

Penn was so good- the triangle to opposite triangle really threw him for a loop and he decided he really needed to pay attention to what I was asking him to do. He tends to carry left bend no matter what, so tracking right, I need to make sure we still have right bend even though that's not what we're going for at the moment. When I asked for the change left to right, he really had to change his bend and listen.

While we're doing all this work, the goal is to: 1- simply get his front legs and hind legs working independently. Now that doesn't make much sense, does it? It's all about flexibility in between the legs. For example: A horse that seems to have both hind legs "coming out of the same hole" in canter will almost seem to bring both hind legs forward and back at the same time. It's a weak motion and the horse won't be engaging his hind end. And 2- keep the right legs on the right side of his body, and the left legs on the left side so he travels in two tracks instead of trying to cross his legs to make turns.

When he hit his two tracks and traveled straight, that boy has power!! He can only hold it for a few steps before it goes kaput, but holy cow, the power is there. Power that took Mikey until 3rd level this year to find. It blows my mind how the work comes that much easier for Penn.

By the end, he was finding a much steadier tempo that he held on his own (until he got tired and rushed), better float, better connection to the bridle, and a general throughness from his poll to his tail. Really filling in right in front of the whithers. Very good boy!

Lesson lasted just under a half hour. We went back up to the barn and met up with my weekend trail ride date, and went for another half hour walk on very gentle trails. Poor Penn, he was so tired! But I think it's good for baby horses to be tired (not sore!). He's not being run into the ground- his normal work day is 20-30 min of ring work or 30-50 min of trail ride, and he's ridden a max of 5x/week. Monday just happened to have both.

No worries, he perked up considerably when I pulled out the mints.

Time for a cat interruption! Penny and Sophie are becoming quite the pair. They're usually near each other in the house now and have no problem sleeping on me at the same time.
I rode again Tuesday even though I had a migraine from coughing like I smoke a pack a day (I don't). I rode until I felt like puking, and then called it a day. I tried to replicate lesson, but Penn had a little more on his mind than he did on Monday and wasn't quite as "on" as he was the day before. No matter, he was still good, and it was his first time down to the outdoor arena without other horses or a ground person. I'm sure he was a bit sore from our work the day before too. He had Wednesday off, and I'm going to attempt to get out tonight to ride!

Good Penn. Time to go back to the barn before I puke on your pretty neck.