Saturday, April 30, 2011

1st Lesson: Success!

I'm a Big Boy now

As scheduled, Ben and I had our first lesson today with our dressage trainer.

Our focus: FORWARD

Ben, being so green, just didn't quite get the whole leg on --> go forward concept. While he'd respond to my leg, he kind of felt shy to it- or just unknowing.

So with eyes on the ground, my trainer and I focused on getting him moving, for longer than 10 steps at a time.

It was really tough at first. Ben was like ???? He was also wearing me out.

So we decided to use a riding bat - the short little crop, that I could use to tap him, on his shoulder, when he didn't respond to my leg.


I was able to keep my position, and send him forward in a non aggressive kind of way. If he didn't respond to my calf, then i tapped him, literally tapped him on his shoulder, kind of like how someone might tap you on your shoulder to get your attention. That was all he needed to figure it out, so it seems.

So once we had a working cue, we used it to keep him going. First few times we made it 1/2 way around.  Then soon enough we made a lap. Then a couple. Then a few. I was so happy when we got to the point where I was asking for the downward transition, and not just stopping because he stopped.

We also had some canter- which was funny because that wasn't what we were asking for at all. I just wanted him to go forward- and he did, but he did so at a canter, not the trot. Trainer coached me through- just get forward, don't worry about which gait it is right now.

YAY first canter! LOL

We ended on a really good note- trotted about 3 laps to the right, and *I* asked for the walk. You should've seen Mister Ben- so proud of himself. He hardly sweated, it wasn't tough work, but he sure was proud of himself.

Bonus: Trainer thinks he's cute! I'd have to agree.

Enjoying some post-lesson grazing

Friday, April 29, 2011

New Game?

You know, I've had some quirky horses...but really, Ben takes the cake in so many ways. I'm not sure what he's trying to do half the time he's doing it. And really, I should learn to keep a real camera on me at all times because ya never know when he might pull one of his stunts.

He had a new one today, called: Back-Over-The-Mounting-Block (And stand there with it between your legs).

Doin' great!

Hmm lets try this side

I really don't know what he was doing, but he sure had me in stitches laughing at him.

When I was done laughing and trying to document the moment with my crappy cell phone camera, I took him to the grooming bay, and ended up tacking him up too. I figured we should prepare for our lesson tomorrow.

Into the arena to free longe a bit. Then I decided, what the heck, let me get on and ride. So we rode around. We encountered scary sound number 5,384: the churn of the hot walker. He was actually really good- he wanted to tune in to listen, but he didn't lose it. Instead we kept working.

Lots of walk/halt and some trot. Tomorrow I'd like help in keeping him going at the trot- right now I get like 5 steps and then he peters out, and we do it all over again. He hasn't quite figured out I want him trotting allll the time. So our trainer will help us with that, likely by helping me keep him going from the ground.

Ben also got his tail washed - wasn't too impressed with the washrack, but he tolerated it, though was fidgety. He got lots of extra grooming and we even clipped the bridle path and all the long goat hairs on the underside of his face left over from winter, which were making him look more like some kind of prehistoric yak and not a cute lil standardbred. Ben clips REALLY well. He's obviously had it done before, and could care less.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lesson On Saturday? Totally Possible!

Rest up, Ben- you've got an exciting Saturday planned! Dressage Trainer/Therapist is coming for a lesson- and if I can get our crap together, Ben is going to be the equine participant.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring Day with the Mares

Ben got a much deserved day off and spent it with my 2 mares.

Mares? What Mares? ROLLING!

Mares? What Mares? GRASS!

OHH, Those mares

Heirarchy...Ben officially low man on totem pole

Walk On!

Yesterday Ben had another 1st- being ridden in the arena with other horses.

I wanted to get him going under saddle, but with a distraction, such as following horses, after our saddle incident. I didn't want it to become a "thing" for him. I don't think it did- but I will say he had to re-learn standing still for the mounting block. Could've been that there were other things to look at, or remembering our last experience...or it could've been that he just didnt want to stand there, LOL.

Once I got on and off a bunch of times, I then got on, stayed on, and we played follow the leader with the other horses.

We practiced halting and going forward, speeding up the walk, and keeping our distance from other horse butts.

It was a really nice experience!

Friday, April 22, 2011

More Fun

I don't know why I feel so compelled to write about my every interaction with Ben. I think I do it mostly because I enjoy looking back months or a year later, to see where we were. So onward I type.

Ben and I got to play a bit again today. He was VERY quiet on the ties- no ants in the pants. He was quiet for polowraps. Quiet for grooming.

He was pretty good for bridling too. We're still not 100% there, but he is MUCH better about it. It will just take more practice over time.

Longeing- he had energy- trot trot trot and he wanted to canter a bit. When he wants to canter, I let him canter, and I praise him for it, and we work on it- trot to canter transitions, keeping the canter once he has it, etc. However, if I get the feeling that it won't be a good canter day, I dont even bother asking. His canter is of no concern to me right now, its more just the commands, and the balance, at the trot, that I am looking for.

He did get pretty dang sweaty- he was overhearing a round penning session- the whip cracking in there got him amped up a bit. He continued to listen to me, but he'd get distracted by that- snorting the whole time.

By the end his friends came in the arena too- so we got to cool out with them.

I think this weekend I'm going to try riding him again, if I can find the saddle/girth combo that will work. I have some ideas, and I'm itching to try those. But no promises, because I generallly dont ride horses with ill fitting tack- just not worth it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Farrier Visit!

Ben's 2nd trim happened today. Has it really been 8 weeks already?!

All in all, things are looking great- though we did find an old abscess track in the left hind heel, and a bruise on the frog in the right front.

Keeping on trying to catch those runaway toes, but the new hoof coming in at such a better angle- when it grows out (uhh 1+ years) he's going to have great shape to his hooves!


I worked Ben last night. He was super fidgety on the ties- mostly because people were coming in and out and well, THAT is exciting, right?! He just had to keep his eyes on that.

He got wrapped up with polos and off to longe we went. He was really good, albeit a bit energetic! He petered out pretty quickly though, just in time to share the arena with his friends.

We hung out watching other horses longe and be ridden, and then stood him in a line, as if he were at a show. He was fidgety at first- mostly wanting to go say "hi" to the others, but he settled after a couple of corrections. Then he decided he wanted to roll, which also required corrections, LOL. Finally he got the idea that he needed to just stand there.

Probably the funniest moment of the night was asking him to walk over poles laying on the ground. Did you know trotting poles eat tall, bay standardbred geldings? Neither did I. The best part was that after he had his first snort at the poles, he did not hesitate to go over them- though he did SAIL over them from a dead stop. Like a deer. LOL. Turned around and did the same exact thing the other direction. Oh Ben. After I got over my laughter, we actually worked on it, and by the 4th time he realized that the poles won't take off his legs or chomp his belly- so he was able to walk over them quietly.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Total Change of Attitude

Yesterday was the first time I got to see Ben after our vet visit- which was on Thursday. I noticed a dramatic change- and even those around me did too.

Ben has always been fairly quiet, and easy. No one has had any major problems wit him, and in general he's been a joy. But I had been starting to notice some little things come up- the head tossing being one of them, being spookish here and there, a little nervous in his stall, etc. He was also doing this thing where he couldn't make up his mind- he'd put his head down as if he wanted you to pet him, but then he'd quickly take it away before you have the chance to touch him.

I attributed most of that to his age, feed, lack of work, and lack of movement when he's turned out, the combination of things that could make a horse a little bit extra spicy this time of year. But now, I'm thinking differently.

Yesterday, I got my sweet, loving gelding back. Ben was so calm and cuddly- he WANTED to be pet all over his face, he really wanted to be groomed, and he was very quiet for it all. The barn staff mentioned that the last couple of days he's been chewing better too. Overall, he seemed much more comfortable in his skin, and around people. Very confident, happy, and solid- just like your typical standardbred. I feel like I got my horse back, a horse I didn't fully recognize that was gone.

He's never been naughty while working, or even just particularly naughty in general. He has shown some signs of discomfort or even just stress about things- like bridling, and then the whole girth/saddle issue I posted about a few days ago. All these things we've worked through as training issues, and while in the back of my mind I suspected some discomfort at the root of it, never full attributed the behavior to that. In truth, his dental issues were likely causing him pain and stress, and as a result I was seeing small behaviors come out that were his way of coping/responding to it, behaviors that were completely opposite of his general nature. So the result was that I had a nice, quiet horse that was acting out here and there. Working through it reminded him of his manners, but never really solved the problem.

Its like we didn't even realize what was missing until it was there.

So, once again folks, listen to your horse.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Early Birthday Present

Uhh, so Ben's Birthday is actually tomorrow, LOL. I swear I'll get it right next year.

That said, he got his birthday present early: vaccinations, 2 wolf tooth extractions and a float. I'm sure he's not thrilled-  but he was actually very good for the whole ordeal. A few hours later he was definitely seeking comfort in the form of me holding his head in my chest. So I stood there, stroking his neck and telling him what a good boy he is.

Maybe next year I'll get him something he might actually want!

Happy Birthday Ben!

You are officially 3 years old today!

Friday, April 8, 2011


Yesterday I had a bit of a scare with Ben. Nothing bad happened- we're both fine. But something bad could've happened. And Ben saved us.

Our play time started as usual- grooming and tacking up. Ben was great for all that. Side note: he's finally shedding a bit more! YAY

I grabbed a girth I do not usually use because the one I most often use was still wet from the previous use. It is a nice girth, and fit Ben, and he didn't object at all.

So we went on with our business- rather than use the sliding side reins, I tried the normal side reins with donuts. I had a sneaking suspicion that the sliding reins were confusing. I think I was right, because Ben responded really well to the regular ones- and even gave me the most fantastic lifted, floaty trot- I was in awe of it.

Then came riding time. Ben stood very still for me to get on, but when I got on, he started to get very fussy. I started to feel like I was sitting on an awkward ball. Ben wasn't happy about something, he was frustrated, maybe even being naughty, and I could feel the situation was going escalate to something bad.

So I managed to get him to halt, he was fussy even for that, and I hopped off. I immediately started doing in hand schooling- to see if he needed to vent some sort of frustration. he didn't. Hmm. So I brought him back to the mounting block and he started fussing again.

I put my leg in the stirrup iron, and went to mount up, and it happened: my saddle slid completely around on him. He didn't budge- no spooking or anything. I've had that happen 1 time before and it did not end well, for me.

Needless to say, I was a little shocked. I undid the girth, re-positioned the saddle, and girthed up again. I did the girth up slowly, and got to the point where it was in theory tightened enough- and i physically could not tighten it anymore anyway.

 I went to get on, Ben fidgeted, and it slipped again.

Ben was trying to tell me something was wrong. And something was wrong- that saddle was unstable, and unsafe. It was worrying him, rightly so.

So, the moral of the story: Listen to your horse.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bridle Day

What a disgusting day in Western Washington. Ben was a muddy, wet, gross mess- even after being inside for a couple of hours. He dried as much as he was going to, so i pulled him out and decided to work on a few little things, rather than ride.

First thing: cross tying. He's been very, very good at this. Today, however, there were horses being ridden in the arena, behind him, and I know how he gets insecure about those noises he cannot see. Today, though, he was great!

Second thing: Polo wraps on all 4 legs. Now that we've practiced with boots all around, today was polo-wrap day. Good boy for standing and letting that happen.

Third thing: spray from the bottle. LOL. He was ok for that until about his rump. Then he got nervous. But he's such a people pleaser he just stood there, kind of shocked still, and let me do it- holding his breath. Note to self: do this regularly from now on.

Fourth thing: Bridle work. Read Below.

While Ben seems to love his star scratched and his ears massaged- he isn't very fond of the rest of his face being touched. He just avoids it, and moves away when you try to touch him. One can imagine this might be a bit of a problem when trying to bridle him....he's a very tall horse with a high neck set and can put his head up much higher than I can reach.

So, I thought today I'd dedicate as HEAD DOWN day. I've already laid the foundation of this in the halter, but I hadn't yet introduced the concept while dangling the bridle near his face. So- thats what we did. Head down, massage, lots of good boys- I think he actually started to like it, because he was putting his head down faster and faster at each try, and leaving it longer and longer, even when I released him. He also loves verbal praise. It was actually quite endearing, my heart is all squishy with love just thinking of his cuteness.

When we got that far, I introduced handling the bridle near his face in a gentle, respectable, quiet way. He totally figured it out. So I praised him a bunch of times, and after he was reliable with that, keeping his head down letting me rub my hands and bridle on his face, i bridled him. He was great. Lots more praise.

From there we did some longeing- Ben had lots of energy tonight! He wanted to show me he has been working on his canter in his spare time- boy has he gotten better at that, lol.

Lots of cool down walking- he did not get nearly as sweaty as he has in the past, so I think he's getting in shape, finally!

I then did some in hand work in the bridle- bending and flexing. I think I got him to understand my request to the right- it is difficult for him to do, but he did try.

Once done we practiced with the bridle on/off/on/off and then called it good.

More spray bottle action, more nervousness- but he took it like a champ. He's got tomorrow and likely Wednesday off. Thursday thru Sunday will be more fun for us.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Ben and I graduated today. Gone are our round pen days- hello big wide arena!

He was really great. We walked, trotted, did halts, changes of direction. At first he didn't quite understand that leg on= move to the next gait. So I started small- I would put my leg on and the second he moved out, I'd praise him. Soon he tried the trot. He got tons of praise. So we did that a few times, just enough for him to really understand leg= go forward. Then we tried the other direction, to the right. He is much stiffer to the right, so we worked on bending a bit, but I could feel it was very tough for him. So note to self- more in hand work to go with under saddle work. He understood the leg cue to the right, but it was tougher for him. One time he did try to kick out. I growled at him, and I could feel him tense and then release. He never tried it again after that.

We ended on a nice relaxed walk. He got tons of praise, and then I untacked him and let him loose to roll.

Here is Ben's guide to rolling, in 3 easy steps.

Step 1: Find your perfect spot:

Step 2: Lay down and grind dirt into coat

Step 3: Get up and repeat on opposite side :)


Ahh I love Duct tape!  Our barn is relatively small- we have only  a handful of boarders- but we use different trainers, go to different events, hold different events, etc. So I decided to make a calendar today on the whiteboard just outside my tack room. I even color-coded it by event- green for lessons/arena use, pink for haul-outs, purple for misc barn events. YAY for being organized!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

We Won!

Ben won a raffle yesterday at our local tack store. Of course, I had to enter us- I thought he'd like to win either Back on Track wraps or new boots. We got the call this morning- we won gift basket number 17- the Nunn Finer boot package!

Thx Gift Horse Saddlery, and Nunn Finer!

P.S - LOVE that they included a can of sticky spray- I was just complaining about my saddle's leather being too slick even with full seats- LOL!