Post-absence

I’m back! I’ve been out of town for over a week due to a work trip and a weekend vacation. It was both tiring and nice at different points during the time I was gone.

My neighbor across the street walked Scarlet for me for the whole time. She rides as well and used to have an arab so she was a good choice to take care of him. It was also nice because she’s a big animal person so she sent me tons of pictures while I was gone.

Ezio was ridden by my trainer while I was away. She said he was good and she loves his walk. She said she mostly worked on being in front of the leg and bending through is ribs. I also had her to a ground work lesson as well and she worked on staying out of her personal bubble and yielding the quarters. I also had him turned out on the days where my trainer wasn’t working with him.

I’ve only been back for two days so I’ve spent some time with both of them and had one ride. Ezio seemed fine. He had a few feelings but overall felt pretty soft and listening. He always tries at least somewhat for our rides. I definitely missed barn time while I was gone.

Friends, Mats, and Shoes

7/9-7/14

My friend Holly, owner of Uno, came to ride the weekend following L’s ride. She recently got a truck and I shamelessly begged her to help me go buy mats. Ezio has dug a hole where his grain bucket is and a trench in front of his automatic waterer. We got together early and were at the store at opening buying mats. I definitely spent a fair amount of money buying 9.

We put off installing the mats until after the ride. I had Holly stuff carrots in Ezio’s mouth again as I felt like I’d seen some improvement over the last week. He definitely had no complaints about that. I warmed him up. Warmup went longer than I had expected. He was still feeling some feelings about short reins and we had two horses riding with us in the big arena. Despite that, he eventually settled down and Holly hopped on.

She’s restarted ottbs before so she knows how to ride babies. He was pretty good for her. Still up in his feelings but he wasn’t that bad. She commented that he had some similar issues she’d experienced with Ezio. She also said his canter was floaty, which felt pretty cool. She ended up staying on him for a while which meant he was ridden for an hour. It’s longer than I normally ride but once in a while won’t hurt him.

As we headed back to the crossties, we noticed he’d thrown a shoe. The same shoe. The right front shoe.

Given how long his feet were and the fact that we were six weeks into his cycle, I decided to just ask the farrier to redo him completely. I hadn’t gotten drugs yet from my vet as I thought I’d have more time. I discussed with the farrier and he said we can give it a shot and see how he does without the drugs.

The farrier comes by every Thursday to Ezio’s barn so we waited until then. That meant turnout for most of a week. I took advantage of those days to practice standing in the farrier crossties and picking up his feet. He actually did quite well there. I was able to pick up his front feet multiple times and hold onto them for up to 30 seconds. It doesn’t sound like much but that’s a lot of improvement for him.

Thursday rolled around and the farrier came by. Since my last farrier straight up ghosted me, I also had this farrier, N, out for Scarlet as well. Scarlet was actually at something like 10 weeks and desperately needed to be done. He was a bit anxious in the covered crossties but was his normal good self and fairly well balanced. N said next time he can do him in his stall if it would make him feel better.

We headed right up to Ezio after that. He was not terrible but not great. He definitely kept pulling his feet out of the farrier’s hands but he hardly tried to run away. The struggle was still centered on his front feet. N said he wasn’t that bad and since he’s four, he should only get better with more practice. He didn’t feel like we need to drug him in the future. So I’m hopeful that he will eventually be a good horse for the farrier.

I took the day off of work so I took advantage of the time I had to longe him in the round pen. I put him on the line and focused on making him move out to take advantage of the whole circle. I definitely had to work a lot to do that. You’d think going out to the wider circle and that it is easier would be enough incentive but no. The right was much more difficult that the left so I need to do this more with him. It will be a good practice for balancing on his own.

Stupid whip. Making me work hard.

Feelings~

Lesson recap from 7/8

I was on and walking around just before my lesson time so I was halfway around the arena before I noticed Ezio’s ear flick toward the gate. I looked and sure enough Trainer J was hopping up on the rail. I may be annoyed with his obsession with noticing things outside the arena but there is a silver lining there.

After getting the radio from her, we continued with our warmup. I got him settled in at the trot with serpentines and then went into spirals. I started with the right, which is his bad direction. That was my mistake. He just sped up when I tried to ask him to move out. I switched directions to see if the left would be any better. Same deal.

Trainer J had me trot the spiral into the smaller circle and then after a step sideways out at the trot, I was to transition to the walk so he couldn’t just run through the lateral work.

Ezio COULD NOT.

He had some MAJOR feelings about walking with my reins shortened. He kept trying so hard to break into the trot every three steps. He was throwing fits about having to walk. It was HARD. I definitely contributed to this because I have definitely kept my reins longer for the walk and gathered them for faster work.

We kept to the circle and any time he broke from the walk, we halted and then walked on. Once I got a few steps of walk, I was dropping the reins and then picking them back up. Then I would throw a trot transition in there and then walk some more. We eventually went out to do some serpentines with this as we didn’t want to make him feel like he was super stuck.

His only feeling about this treat was yum!

We spent pretty much the whole lesson working on that. It was a good thing to have as lesson rather than to discover on my own as being in a lesson tends to keep me calmer as I’ve got another brain in the mix. I was pretty pleased to find thing honestly. I love having issues to fix that have very obvious exercises I can work on. When I’m in lessons, I’m super happy to have homework to work on between lessons. And this one is a very easy thing to incorporate in all moments of my ride. I just have to watch out for the feelings!

Scarlet Update

I’ve been so focused on Ezio and improving our partnership that I’ve neglected to write about Scarlet much. Our routine hasn’t changed all that much. We’re still walking 10-20 minutes a day depending on the day. He’s still doing well in that fashion.

But near the end of June, he started to leave behind a lot of his bermuda. He seemed to be eating his alfalfa fine as well as his grain. I assumed that it was just due to how warm it had suddenly gotten. We’d had a good summer so far of mostly temperate weather. Low 80s for the most part. Then we had a week of high 80s-90s heat with a serious amount of humidity. We had a cool spell coming in at the end of the month so I figured I’d wait to see if that helped his eating.

Unfortunately, it did not. In fact, he seemed to just not be eating his bermuda entirely. He also, to my eyes, lost quite a bit of weight. I obviously panicked when I realized this was a serious problem. But he was still eating his alfalfa and grain. I debated for a while but then decided to call my vet. He got his teeth done in Nov and he is 25. So it might be time for him to be looked at every 6 months. She’s been quite busy lately and I believe her assistant left so we haven’t decided if that’s what we will do.

In the meantime, I got a couple of bags of bermuda pellets. I figured it wasn’t fully a problem of physically eating. Maybe its the form factor of hay versus pellets. I’ve been feeding him about three pounds or so a day of pellets and he seems to be eating those well. I also spoke to the BO and changed his feed to be a flake of alfalfa morning and night and only one flake of Bermuda the whole day. He’s still leaving parts of that flake behind but he’s usually eating 50-75%. He hasn’t lost any more weight but I’m not sure if he’s gained it back or not. Weight gain can be hard for an older horse so I’m trying to not worry in that aspect.

His behavior is still quite normal. He walks fine. He rolls when I turn him out. He even decided to be a snorty Arab when we walked by one of my barnmates getting into the trailer. He curved his neck and snort pranced the whole length of the barn, about five minutes worth. I turned him out after and it took him a whole five minutes of prancing around and snorting before he chilled. And then he rolled and cantered back across the arena to me. So despite his eating changing, he is still in good spirits. For now, I’m just supplementing his feeding and I’ll keep an eye on him with the help of my vet.

Lesson, L and Fun

Wrap up of 7/1-7/7!

I finally had a lesson happen on July 1st. No shoes were lost beforehand. Trainer J thought we had improved quite a lot since the last time she had seen him. She’s excited to be able to ride him soon. I’m heading on a work trip for a week at the end of the month so I’m paying her to make sure that he stays active while I’m gone.

We tried spirals for the first time today. We started at the trot and he was better to the left than to the right. She suggested I don’t do them more than three times each way so I’m not drilling him. She also suggested we maybe try a french link on him as he will occasionally snap his head up like he’s upset.

After that, we tried to work on the canter transition. I’ve been getting run off with instead of getting reasonably prompt transitions. Since he anticipates, Trainer J said to use that to our advantage and transition upward at a specific point on a circle each time so that the transition is prompt of his own volition. She explained that we need to break the canter down even further for him where he first step is a prompt transition, then the correct lead, then keeping going, then balanced. It was a good thing to be reminded about in regards to his abilities. He’s so easy under saddle that I sometimes find myself expecting more than he can reasonably offer as a four year old.

The ride after we practiced all of that again but we didn’t have as good of a ride. His attention kept being distracted so he was stiff and not listening to me. A new day, a different baby horse. I wasn’t too upset.

L came out to ride on the morning of the 4th. It’s the first time I’ve had any of my friends out to meet Ezio so I was excited and a little nervous. I just hoped he would be a good boy for our friend. L helped with grooming by shoving carrot pieces into his mouth while I was cleaning his front feet. I wanted to do that to try to get him to associate me holding his feet with a good thing.

After grooming, we headed toward the back arena since someone was turned out in the front one. We started with me riding and trying a nathe bit that L had to experiment with. He gave the poles a side eye but was pretty good otherwise. When I tried to canter with the nathe, he put his head down and bucked. L took video and it didn’t look like anything in the video, which I find hilarious. But he definitely wasn’t well behaved with that so I hopped off and L did a lightning fast switch to my normal bit. I got back on and cantered just to make sure he was being good.

Then L got on. She put him through his paces. He was so confused at first when she was trying to get him to march around at the walk but he eventually got the right answer. I was filming while L was riding and Ezio decided that he wanted to be closer to me. As in, he tried to run me over. I had to dodge out of the way while he just straight up ignored L. After that, he was much better for her. It was fun to watch someone else ride my horse.

The next ride of that week was unfortunately frustrating. We ended up riding with another person in the large arena. But she was a very selfish and unobservant rider. She took the inside oval and stuck to it regardless. Mostly not an issue, I can avoid her. But then I tried to take a circle at the end of the arena to practice cantering and she would either ride right through my circle or ride up against the edge. I had to keep choking up on Ezio to avoid her. I was so frustrated and he was frustrated by the end. I should have spoken up and told her to stay on her own freaking side of the arena. But I didn’t. I will do so next time.

Here are the videos of me riding that L took if you’re interested!

Back in the Saddle, Literally

Gosh. I get all caught up with my blog posts and then I fall behind again! I’m going to do my best to get everything caught up asap. I’m going to be doing these catchups in week chunks. This one goes from June 24-30th.

It felt so good to be able to ride again. I did longe him before the ride but he wasn’t all that wild so it was not for very long. He was a good boy for the ride but boy did it feel a bit weird after being off for two weeks. For the first five minutes of the ride, everything felt off. His neck sat funny on his shoulders, my hands were weird, the saddle was weird. I just felt all discombobulated.

The rest of the week we had to ride in the back arena. They were doing some telephone pole replacements which meant jackhammering into our extremely hard ground out here. Unfortunately, there were several poles on and near the barn. Ezio’s barn is basically right on the road. And Ezio’s stall is the closest to the road and one of the poles they were replacing. Poor guy.

Tongue

He did pretty good overall. A little more scooty in his stall than previously but he did great while riding. He spooked once at one of the equipment trucks driving past but it was minor compared to what I was used to with Scarlet.

There was one cool thing I found out by being in the back arena. I had initially been making sure we cantered around the whole large front arena as I was worried anything smaller would make it hard for Ezio. But the back arena is much smaller and Ezio cantered much better. It felt more balanced and there was no swapping behind. So he needs something less large in order to not get strung out. Probably not a revelation to people who are used to working with baby horses but it was for me.

A Waste

The next two weeks ended up with me waiting to get a shoe on him from my farrier. That was incredibly stupid on my part. He was out of town and implied he would get someone out there for him. Never heard from him. Followed up when he was supposed to be back. Again, never heard from him. Finally got the name of someone who comes to Ezio’s barn every Thursday and go it back on almost a full two weeks after.

So we spent two weeks carefully turning out and running him just enough that he wasn’t completely wild but not enough to cause him to be sore. He got his vaccines during this and only had a small bump on either side which was fine. Went away in a day or so.

He also decided he wanted to be a huge shit one of the days early in that two weeks and as I was leading him out of the arena and pushing the gate open, he reached forward and BIT MY ARM. I was so pissed. I bruised really badly too.

I was very pissed at him and am extremely vigilant about his mouth now. It’s very frustrating and I definitely need to figure out some good ways to add more ground work into our lives.

He was more or less normal other than that. We turned out daily and I groomed him when I felt like it. Just enough grooming so he didn’t look feral. He finally got a shoe on 6/23, nearly two weeks after he pulled it off. I may end up switching farriers since as of writing this post on 6/26, I have yet to hear back. I need a farrier who is good at communication and this isn’t the first problem. He’s been bad at communicating before but is so good with Scarlet.

Scarlet’s doing fine. He also got his boosters when Ezio did and had larger reactions to the vaccines. Nothing major still. Just larger bumps. He also got some acupuncture while the vet was out.

I think both my boys were conspiring together as mid last week, Scarlet was trying to kick at a fly and launched a forward hind kick right into the side of my knee. Luckily it was forward and without a lot of force because wow was I sore for a few days, but don’t seem to have any lasting issues. It was definitely not on purpose as he’s never hurt me deliberately in the entire time I’ve known him.

So now we are caught up. I’m bruised from both horses, made mistakes waiting on someone to respond and we now have two shoes back on Ezio so he can be ridden again!

Forward and Back

Trying to catch up on recapping (gosh I’m a terrible blogger sometimes) so this all takes place from 6/4-6/10.

I rode in the back arena for the first time since there was a lesson going on in our normal arena. Someone was free longing so I waited outside for them to finish and talked to my across the street neighbor while waiting. Ezio is so friendly that it was difficult to keep him in place as he wanted to say hi to her and to the horse she was leading at the time. He did really well once we got in the arena. He wasn’t spooky and even behaved when someone came in to longe while we were riding.

That was a Saturday and that Sunday I decided to give him a bit of a turn out to see if that helps how difficult he seems to be after days off. He wasn’t super interested in running and I’d forgotten my whip so I only ran him a little bit.

I ended up grooming him in his stall on Monday since the sprinklers tend to interfere with the time I arrive at the barn. I really have no desire to try to walk him past sprinklers where he will get suddenly sprayed on the butt. He was okay, just wiggly. During the ride he was again distracted by the lady riding and leading her horses around the property. She does it every week but it is still the most attention grabbing thing Ezio has ever seen.

We cantered a bit but he broke from the canter on both leads. I need to work more on that with him so we can figure out what helps (cantering only on straight, cantering big circles etc) so that he can get stronger. I also need to canter more when I have time to trot and walk more afterward as he begins to anticipate that we are cantering now once we do it. I was running a bit late but he was so sweaty that I knew I had to hose him off because it would be so uncomfortable for him otherwise. He sweats very easily which is a good thing, just inconvenient.

I had a lesson planned for that Friday and I was hoping to get better exercises to challenge him a bit more. He’s definitely still benefiting from the exercises we are doing, but I wanted to have a level 2 set of tools to use sometimes. His shoulders do seem to take a while to warm up where he doesn’t fall through them but that’s a strength thing. Unfortunately, he decided to pull his shoe sometime between longing on Thursday and when I went out Friday morning for the lesson. So no lesson for us.

Taking a Step Back

This next chunk of time happened to start the day my cat decided to get sick. That Monday, Ezio ended up being quite difficult.

I started grooming him normally. I asked a lady I’ve talked with to hold him so I could do his feet and it went well. He was acting spooky due to the tractor moving around, or so I thought. And then I was trying to put on a smaller girth since the 50 he has goes to holes 5 and 4 when tightened. But he bloats to start so it was difficult. And then it happened.

Ezio freaked out about something and pulled back. Hard. He’s been wearing a rope halter so he didn’t get to break away. And he freaked out so hard that my quick release knot became not quick release. I couldn’t yank at it from the front as he danced toward me and almost pinned me between the pole and him. I had to yank from the other side of the crossties and it took a few yanks to get it loose. By the time I got him loose he had managed to stretch the rope halter enough to slip his nose out of the loop. He wasn’t hurt, which I was grateful for but it was… not great.

He calmed down well enough so I gave up on the smaller girth and hopped on him for a very short ride before work. He was great for the ride but this was something that seriously needed addressing. He could have hurt himself, the ladies at the barn, me and the horses around him with his freak out. I did actually get kinda hurt. My back hurt for the next day or so from trying to move to yank him out.

He’s really cute for how frustrating he can be.

After that day, I knew I had nothing in me left to ride for a while. I had several sleep deprived nights trying to figure out what was wrong with my cat so I needed something I could work on but not do anything strenuous. So Ezio and I began some ground work boot camp for the next four days. I learned a lot about what he has and doesn’t have in regards to ground manners.

Despite longing well for the PPE, when I tried to do it, he was wild and kept turning me into a water skier. So I free longed him until he was more chill and then we tried again with just walking and a bit of trot. Over the days we didn’t do much on the longe line practice but we did practice on the end of his lead line at the walk. He improved a little but its still a work in progress.

We did a lot of hand walking around the barn. He doesn’t halt during the longing practice so he doesn’t have a great concept or respect for the verbal command. He will do it just fine when walking with him though, which is good we have at least that. He does have issues with hand walking when he has too much energy. We had a nice tantrum right next to the dressage arena once while waiting for an arena to open for turn out. There was also a lesson happening in there so I felt absolutely terrible. Luckily no one has gotten mad about any of his antics yet.

Seriously cute

He is still ridiculously mouthy. A lot of the hand walking was spent arguing with him about not biting me and not biting at his lead rope. He will also curl his head to try to nip at me while I’m grooming or standing next to him. I decided that I needed to address this and he’s no longer getting treats by hand. I don’t want to not treat him at all though. He’s very food motivated so I definitely want to use that. I’ve now got a bucket that I use while grooming and stuff to drop a treat in. Hopefully he will slowly stop associating me as a treat dispenser and he will stop biting at me.

We also tried a bit of moving his quarters away from a whip tapping. He’s very dull to it. Well, dull might not be the right word. I’ve found that he doesn’t bother responding to a cue unless he 100% knows what the right answer is. He just ignores it. So I have to be very harsh for a teaching cue and then slowly back off from there. So I had to smack him with the longe whip to get him to move. I only tried that one day and decided that it wasn’t a thing I wanted to focus on yet given that he had so much else we needed to focus on first.

Over the course of almost a week of not riding, I definitely figured out a lot of holes in his ground work. This isn’t really surprising in one way since he is an OTTB and they don’t usually come out with ground manners. But he is so, so easy under saddle that I think I was not prepared for all the holes that showed themselves over the time of working with him. I have plans for working on most of them but it will take time and me being quite clear with him. I also cannot forget that I need to work on ground work, even when I want to ride him.

New fly mask. Hopefully this one doesn’t rub him raw.

Second Lesson

There’s a lot to catch up on here. I meant to write all of this a week ago Monday but that day, our cat decided he needed to visit the ER vet and my entire week got swallowed in worry. And then as happens when you fall behind, I fell more behind. So, several catch up posts are to come. Luckily, I recently started keeping notes on every day I’m out so I’ve got references to see use for catchup.

I spoke with Trainer J about my issues with lifting his feet before our lesson. She lifted it once and said its likely to be a time and repetition thing with him. So we got on with the riding part of the lesson. I tried to show her the issue with the left turn we had been having. But of course once I had a trainer watching, Ezio was perfect.

Over a few repetitions and doing some figure eights, Trainer J identified that he was falling out over his right shoulder and said that was probably a contributor to the broken left turn. She wanted me to ride bent to the right while going right and bent to the right while going left. Not just in the lesson but do that for a while. It was nice to be able to learn this during the lesson as I really got a good handle on the feel of catching his shoulder with my right aids.

My goofball

Trainer J said she thought he was ready for smaller figures and had us start doing some smaller serpentines. He managed to hold himself quite well and she commented that he definitely wouldn’t have been able to make the smaller turns during the previous lesson. I also got a nicely ridden compliment and I was pleased with that.

She wanted to know what else I wanted to work on, maybe canter? I said that if there was something else she though we should work on, I’d rather focus on that since I knew that his balance with the canter would be better with more muscle. So we worked on our transitions again.

Ezio had gotten better than the previous lesson. Not a lot, but enough you could tell. He still wanted to slam down into the halt since putting his butt under him is hard. Trainer J had us practice transitioning to the walk and back up across the long diagonal. We do our lesson in a very large arena and the diagonal is very long. She said that sometimes the long distance helps baby horses move forward since they feel less confined.

We did a lot of transitions and they got better but he also started anticipating so I knew that I would have to be careful when working on this on my own to vary up the place that we are doing the transitions so he is listening and not assuming he knows where to go.

I love having lessons because I get so much to work with on my own time after them. I’m definitely excited to see where we go with more lessons under out belts.

Its difficult for me to tell, but I think he’s gaining some weight and muscle. ❤