Thursday, May 31, 2012

To Pull or Not To Pull

That is the question.

Pulling the mane, that is.

For my non-horsey readers, pulling the mane is a method of shortening and thinning out the mane by basically ripping out small chunks of hair out using a special comb. Yes, pulling out their hair. (Go ahead and put that in your pocket for when you need to argue that horse people are crazy.)

Having grown up doing saddleseat where the horses' manes are either long and lush or roached (shaved), the idea of mane pulling was a bit dismaying to me when I first learned about it. Years later, the idea of ripping hair out by the roots still makes me cringe.

Even though I've been eventing for a while now, because Spirit did not have a thick mane and because of her owners' preferences (as well as my own), I used scissors to keep it at a decent length. So, the long and short of it (pun intended) is that I have never really pulled a mane.

However, meet Hemie's mane.
Oh, goodness. It needs some help.

My trainer believes in mane pulling. My BFF believes in mane pulling. To my knowledge everyone else at the barn believes in mane pulling. Okay, that merits looking into then.

Step 1 - Research proper mane pulling. 
I read this article on Eventing Nation. I watched several videos on YouTube not worth linking. I read forums, grooming blogs, and e-zines. There is quite a lot of material out there about mane pulling.

There's also an idea floating around that horses can't feel their mane, or that they can feel it but don't have pain receptors. I'm not an expert, but I think that's hooey. They can feel it, and it may or may not hurt them - individual horses (like people) have different pain tolerances. Of course it also depends on how it's done. I think that the concept of horses not feeling is an old wive's tale that is easier to tell children when they ask "doesn't this hurt?".  More likely, I'd think that mane pulling is like plucking eyebrows - may hurt at first but you just get used to it after a while, and some people will always dislike it.

After all that research, I'm simply still not convinced its something I want to do. At the end of the day it's still pulling their hair out.  We're not showing yet, and even when we do start showing it wont be the "A" circuit anytime soon. But, I do want to help Hemie's mane look a little more well-kept.

I know what you might be thinking. Why not use scissors? Well, I certainly have in the past on Spirit. Scissors are objected to in the horse grooming world for two reasons:

1. Pulling the mane helps thin it out. Cutting it with scissors may let the mane stay too thick.
Too thick for what?  For braiding. At shows. Which, again, we're not doing anytime soon. Plus, Hemie has a very thin mane right now. It certainly doesn't need (and shouldn't get) thinned out at all.

2. A multi-disciplinary aesthetic preference for manes that do not have the "freshly cut by scissors" look.

Not preferred. Too "blunt."
Preferred. More "tapered."

Step 2 - Research alternatives to traditional mane pulling.
I found quite a bit. It turns out a good number of horses object to getting their hair ripped out of their heads (wouldn't you??), so enterprising individuals have created products or methods to get their in less painful ways:

1. Using old/dulled clipper blades to scruff and cut hair.
This approach was actually mentioned in the above article that promotes traditional pulling:

“Pulling” will always THIN a mane. But what about a mane that is too thin? Places like the withers are almost always wispy (thanks to blanket rubs), and often thinner near the poll since the crest isn’t as wide. For those areas, or for thin manes in general, I use an old, dull clipper blade to shorten the hair. Angle the blade firmly into the hair at the desired length, and tease it back like you would with a pulling comb (about a half-inch above/below length). This will frizz and shorten the hair irregularly within that area, looking very much “pulled” without removing the roots. As with pulling, go slowly and work small sections at a time, to avoid a blunt cut.

2. Use a Solo-Comb or comparable product.
Here's a video showing the product and demonstrating use.

3. Use thinning shears and really sharp scissors in an expert way to cut the hair but reduce the blunt-edge look.
I gave this a half-hearted attempt with regular scissors (not especially sharp, bought at the dollar store) and had minimal success. At least, *I* thought it looked "good enough," though Laurie said she could always tell that it wasn't properly pulled. Proper tools and lots of practice are needed to make this method work, though.

Well, of the 3 options I found as an alternative to traditional mane-pulling, the only one that I have the proper equipment for is #1 (namely, an old, dulled clipper blade). I'll try to get to it in the next week or so. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Feed, and lessons

Please allow me to present a photo exposé of Bohemian's daily feed. This is addition to the 4 flakes of hay per day he eats (2 meals, each of 1 flake oat hay and 1 flake grass hay):

8-quart bucket, about 1/2 filled with beet pulp (after soaking in water)

Topped with a few handfuls of rice bran.

Add a scoop of senior feed.

It's full at this point, so I mix it up and dump it in his feeder. Then I continue.

Next is about 5 to 6 cups of safe choice perform.

With 2/3 cup (2 cap-fuls) of canola oil and a "splash" of apple cider vinegar.
Optional "toppings" include mints, carrots, and apples.

I should also note that he gets an additional helping of beet pulp several days a week, courtesy of Laurie's assistants wanting the horses to keep the peace at feed times.

Opinions, comments, questions welcome.

On to my lessons this weekend. Saturday we were graced with the presence of Leigh Gray of Thoroughbred Rehab Center, Inc. who had picked out Bohemian for me and adopted him out to me. She was dropping off another one of the Luck horses, Pandora, at our barn, and she squealed in delight when she saw Hemie standing perfectly in the crossties, get longed like a grown-up, and stand for mounting like a gentleman. Unfortunately she left before we got to the jumping, or else I'm sure we'd have really knocked her socks off!

Lesson was very good. Possibly because we had an audience of several barn-mates (Hemie is quite the ham for attention).  Flat work was great - plenty of poles to keep our interest, and cavalettis at various heights. We also did our first oxer jump (2 cavalettis next to each other) and he was a great sport. We had good rhythm and didn't really introduce anything new.

Monday, Memorial Day, I headed to the barn early to clean some tack (I did my jump saddle and a quick job on my jumping bridle) and Hemie was extra affectionate. He got turned out while we waited for Laurie. It was a relaxed, casual day at the barn. We did a nice long longe then lots of walking and relaxing while Laurie played with Pandora. Then we had a good but intense lesson. Here's the recap:

  • Top priority for right now is outside rein contact and straightness - no falling out.
  • Stop caring about inside bend for now, in general. Practice rides can include a bending-right focused time - don't do that in areas of the ring where he falls out.
  • When he bounces his head around, keep more of a hold on him - zero "slack" or "bubbles" in the reins. When he gets fussy about it, keep telling him to march forward. Once he accepts contact and holds it for a bit, walk and release. This doesn't need to be maintained at all times, but he needs to learn to accept contact when asked. I need to be more consistent when asking for it.
  • As for jumping, when approaching a new-looking fence, do not use leg pressure to get him to jump over it. Even if I feel him squiggle. He's only squggly because he's nervous. Adding leg will make him feel pressured. Just let the refusal happen. 
  • However, when approaching a fence he is familiar with, I need to take more of a hold to influence his speed and ensure constant rhythm. Only grab mane when the jump is taking off.

At some point Laurie did get on to demonstrate my level of contact (inconsistent with some bubbling) versus the needed amount of contact (wide elbows, very soft and connected, zero bubbles). Hemie got a bit stuck and resentful with Laurie - a temper tantrum, she called it. Poor guy gets confused and frustrated. But Laurie stuck through it (them, I should say - multiple meltdowns) and he really was more accepting afterwards. Sometimes retraining is a hard process, but in general I have to say I'm very proud of Hemie and enjoy his (mostly) willing attitude.

I talked to Laurie about doing training rides (ie, I'd come out to watch but not ride the lesson - she'd be on him talking to me), and she said that our plan for now is going to still include me riding the lessons, but maybe have Laurie start off the ride, or hop on at parts, to help make sure he is hearing the aids correctly, but also make sure I'm learning to give them correctly. Sounds like a good plan to me. She gave me an unintended compliment by saying that I "do my homework." Its nice that she can tell that I reflect on our lessons and try to get in enough practice rides to work on it.  This blog really helps me to articulate what I'm working on. In fact, sometimes I refer back to posts before riding so I can focus on what needs to get worked on. A nice by-product.

But seriously, comment on the feed. More or less that what you'd expect for an OTTB needing 150 lbs? Similar or dissimilar to your feed? Thoughts in general.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Mysterious Pony Club

The United States Pony Club, organization cloaked in mystery, shadowed by intrigue, comparable to other notable secret societies and organizations exposed in class B- movies, such as
Priory of Sion
Illuminati and Freemasons
Skulls and Bones Yale Society

Yes, indeed, we have -in our nation- a reclusive and exclusive organization of....little girls and horses.
They even have a elite logo:

Due to happenstance/fate/kismet/the four winds/whatever, I grew up doing the fairly uncommon discipline (for Southern California) of saddleseat. My not-horsey-whatsoever parents signed me up for lessons at the barn that happened to be closest to our house - an American Saddlebred showing and training barn. As such, I did not even hear about Pony Club until I got to college. I thought it was some small local club out in Arizona that one of my barn-mates participated in. 

Slowly I came to realize the breadth and depth of this club - a national (possibly even international?) syndicate of locally based charter organizations. Like the mafia. 

Information trickled in. A mention here, a comment there. Whispers in the wind...

I keep my ear to the ground and learn that there are levels. Policies. Ratings. Rules. And by-invitation-only rallys. This is getting more secret-society-ish by the second.

Okay, okay, they have a website...but they pull the classic trick of hiding information by providing too much information. Exactly what are the levels and what do they mean? How does one get invited to a rally? The answers are either not on the site or are buried in the pages upon pages of politically correct mumbo-jumbo about youth equine education. I will continue to research...

Also, there seems to be some sort of extremely complex executive hierarchy - with Commissioners, Supervisors and other fancy titles. From what I can gather there are alpha-numeric rating systems, with D being the lowest level like academic grading. But there also are silver and bronze levels. And "H" levels. But there also seem to be quizzes and grades - like a private horse academy. It's getting more complicated by the minute!

The idea of a systematic, organized, community-based education system for young people about horses is quite exciting - something I absolutely would have loved to be involved in when I was younger. My barn had summer camps for kids and I learned about how to ride and how to tack up. But there were definitely horse-care stumbling blocks along the way that only Google could help me with (what is a sheath? how do I clean it?) back when I was 12 years old. 

Plus, I'm the kind of person who wants an A+ in everything. Including in horses. ;)  Another reason the Pony Club is so interesting. Its the only mechanism I've heard of that tests general horsemanship knowledge. Fabulous concept.

I'll continue to research and report back. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

More jumping, less ribs showing

I'm considering renaming Bohemian to "Mr. Feisty Pants" since he's been feeling his oats so much lately. On Tuesday he got turned out and longed before I showed up, so I decided to just hop on him instead of longe him again (I mean, really, what horse needs to get out 4 times in one day?). Well I won't say I regretted the decision, but next time I'll strongly consider the extra longe! He was as feisty as summer salsa, but we got plenty of work done and had fun. Lots of cantering. And the forward kind, not the up-and-down kind.

So, it's been almost a month since I've had Hemie, and we are making strides in his physique. Picture taken after Tuesday's ride.

To compare, here is a photo of him the day we brought him home: 
As you can see, the ribby situation is well in hand. Laurie and I joke that one whole rib has been covered. But really, it's more like 5 or 6.   ^_^

Last night's lesson was jump-tastic. Hemie was hot (again! sheesh!) but very willing to get down to business. We are now trotting into the arena to prevent stuck-ness at the gate (apparently common with racehorses), and he's respectful of it. First we did a circle with poles at the quadrants. We went over them or around them, changing it up so he had to pay attention. Worked on that tough right bend, and on moving forward to avoid getting stuck. All went very well. 

He already knows how to change leads, and is very flippant about his lead in the hind legs. In the canter if I ask for bend, or do a half-halt, or shift my weight, he switches leads. Very responsive. A little *too* responsive, but that will get figured out in time.

By the time I thought the lesson was over, Laurie got a mischevious look in her eye and said "he's been so good, let's let him pop over a jump or two."  Turned out to be 4 different jumps, several times each. Here they are.  =)

Small crossrail up to ground pole - working on straightness after jumping. 
We had a mini-run-out at this crossrail - he was eyeing the placing pole *after* the jump (first time we introduced that - not in picutre). I corrected by halting him immediately and turning him towards the jump. We walked over the jump and over the placing pole, so he could get a good look. Then we jumped it fine several times.

White gate, this time one notch higher than the last time we did it.

He was nervous over these plastic thingys, but a little grumbling got him over. Downhill too.

Green gate. 
 I was nervous about the green gate - definately larger than anything we'd done, and more solid-looking. She had us circle it closely for him to get an eye-full, then she had us approach at the walk and turn left (before the jump), then approach at the walk and turn right. As we approached his ears perked up, he had ZERO wiggle in his body, and a little spring in his step. Laurie and I both giggled - he wanted to jump it from the walk! We trotted up to it and he flew over it like a pro. Well, he added like an extra 6" for good measure, but he'll soon learn where the jump is relative to his legs and feet.

On a random tangent, here is a photo of my tack storage area at the barn. Everyone know's its mine by the sheer number of pink buckets. Its a nifty little set-up, large enough to hold my stuff but small enough to encourage being organized.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First XC Outing

This Sunday was Hemie's 7th birthday! To celebrate he got extra carrots in his feed. But to be honest he worked really really hard on Sunday so he more than earned it.

I tacked up and longed, an especially forward longe given Saturday's antics, then Laurie decided to hop on first. Fine by me. Kind of already answers my question from a few days ago about whether to start having training rides put on him. Answer is yes.

Hemie was a bit sassy. He got stuck several times, and was googly-eyed several times as well. Still feeling his oats, I believe. After getting stuck for like the 3rd or 4th time, I asked Laurie if she thought he was evading. She made it clear in no uncertain terms that he is not evading, as that term implies that the horse knows what to do and is being naughty. Rather, he is doing what he was taught. Racehorses are not asked to do a fast walk nor an extended trot. They slow walk, jig, trot for a little bit, then canter and gallop. IE, Hemie is interpreting cues to increase speed and motion as cues to upward transition. Okay, that makes sense. I was interpreting his frustration and confusion as naughtiness. Nope. I stand happily corrected.

Well by the time Laurie did her training ride, he was covered in sweat. We hosed him down (with saddle on >.<) then loaded him on trailer (again with saddle on >.<) for the 1/4 mile down the road to the Meadows. It was time for Hemie to meet nature - logs and ponds and hills and such.

Hemie was a little nervous at the new facility all by himself, but was a true gentleman and was very well behaved. We started off in the facility's warm up arena, and I had a mini lesson there, including a small stadium jump. Here are my main takeways:

  • Do not combine the bending-right school with any other lessons, such as getting past googly-eyed things. Tight turns are okay. Make sure I can feel the bend in the body, not just a hip swing (which he is good at).
  • USE OUTSIDE REIN for turns. Outside, not inside. Square and straight = balance (for now).
  • When approaching jump, use DIRECT REIN. Do not "close the door" on the drifting side. Laurie would rather me turn him directly and have to jump sideways than see me "neck rein" for directing him. I learned this the other day but needed to learn it again, apparently. Sheesh, self!
Then we moved into the XC area. We went directly to the pond to teach him about water. Walking through the field to get there, he was definitely tense and googly-eyed. It was mildly entertaining that he thought the flowers and trees and solid jumps were all potential threats. Guess they don't have much of those at the track!

I'm truly blessed to have a trainer with so much OTTB experience. I've read books and articles, but I really need her to tell me the same stuff in a lesson, when the actual ride is happening. Laurie has been emphasizing that he is a trained horse and that those jockeys and exercise riders do not tolerate shying or disobedience. Therefore, it is important that I keep that up - force him past those objects, just as a jockey would force him past a hot-dog vendor for the first time.

Okay, back to the water. There were swarms of bees and I was a tad nervous about getting stung (I'm allergic), but more concerned about Hemie getting stung (he hates bugs), but luckily we avoided any pest trouble. Hemie was a tad nervous, but he never got light up front and with a helping hand from Laurie and a "lead in" from her dog Zen, Hemie was soon tromping around like a pro. In fact, after a minute or so, he even liked it!

We were feeling quite accomplished for the day, but one of the owners of the Meadows reminded us that we could school stadium jumps that are out in the field. We picked a tiny little one with wooden slats so it looked a little more cross-country-ish than the standard white jumps. Unfortunately Hemie was getting nervous and trying to exit stage right. We worked on it for a bit, but there were some younger gals riding and we were kinda disrupting their flow, so Laurie just had us pick a different jump out of their way. Actually, it was a small little log, so it was technically a cross country jump. =D

We had to jump it from a walk the first time, then he tried to exit stage right again (towards home). My instinct was to try to keep in straight, but Laurie told me to turn him LEFT. She stressed that when he wants to go one way, I need to tell him to go the exact *other* way instead of trying to keep to my original course. Must keep in back pocket for future use.

We circled back and did the log 2 or 3 times at the trot. =) I'm counting it as our first cross country jump. Hooray for us!

Hemie had Monday off but I'm gonna go see him tonight, then a lesson tomorrow. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

First Fall Off

My goodness, this weekend was Bohemian-tastic! Unfortunately I don't have any new photos, but I've got stories. Boy, do I have stories.

Saturday I had a mid-morning lesson. I was excited to see what Laurie would come up with next for us following our great jumping lesson Wednesday evening. Longed Hemie and he was relaxed and obedient. Hopped on and went into the arena - he was feeling good, maybe a tad lazy. 60 seconds later he started freaking out, hopping up and down like a deer. Then he started doing a bit of a spin. Kinda like Booker T's "Spinaroonie":
Okay, maybe not exactly like that. But you get the drift. In that moment, I really only had 2 options I could think of:
1. Relax, stay cool, and hope he calms down.
2. Use some aids and try to get him to stop.

Well, I picked option #1. Yeah, I picked wrong. For whatever reason, in that moment I thought that touching is mouth or his sides would activate racehorse mode, and I didn't want to do that. Instead I felt my balance start to shift forward....then a little too far forward. Then I had another 2 options:
1. Just slide off.
2. Cling like a monkey (nod to SprinklerBandit terminology here).

Yep. I picked #1 again. For some reason I thought monkey cling might activate racehorse mode. So I slid right off and landed on my back in the dirt. I was wearing my vest so it was no big deal. Hemie promptly stopped and looked at me like "What are you doing on the ground, Mom?"  (Funny enough, I was planning to try a flying dismount at the trot today to see how he'd react. He passed the test.)

What the heck just happened? look on my face.

Laurie yells "You must have girthed him way too tight!" We check the girth - nope, not tight at all. In fact, a little loose. We were kinda stumped. Bee sting? Some other tack irritation?

Laurie hopped on and at Hemie's first sign of trouble she whipped him into a tight little circle (that horse can CROSS his hinds!!!). The verdict: he's feeling fresh, but was too obedient to "let it out" in the round pen the first time. We put him back in the pen and asked for a very forward canter. Then I got on and we proceeded to have a very interesting lesson. Here's the main points:

  • We are now implementing an ever higher level of contact, especially with outside rein. 
  • We are not tolerating head tossing - head tossing results in stronger contact until he stops, then a release. 
  • Right bend was challenging for us in one corner-pit area of the arena. Need to work on more.
  • When feeling frisky, Hemie gets "stuck" going up and down and needs to be told to move forward.
  • Interestingly, he gets annoyed maintaining the trot, and it is OK for us to canter around until he relaxes. At least for now. Picking our battles here. (Good thing trainer told me this, because otherwise I would NOT have allowed canter when he's frisky. Again, don't want to activate racehorse mode!)
  • He's not allowed to move quickly past obstacles he googly-eye-looks at. Stopping him is allowed, as is bending his neck away while also moving his shoulders towards it, but absolutely no increase in speed.
  • Ask him for more forwardness in the longe. Possibly consider trying to elicit bucks, etc. He's too good to offer them up on his own.

Hemie got some new shavings and another huge bucket of feed. I've got lots of things to meditate on and to practice!

Next post I'll tell you about our first XC schooling which took place on Sunday. =)

Friday, May 18, 2012


Here are those pictures from this past Saturday that my fabulous husband took. This is before we introduced any real level of contact with the bit. The goal was to move forward, keep a good tempo, and stay relaxed. Can you tell he was a TV star horse? I think he's rather photogenic and knows where the camera is, but then again I'm quite biased. =]

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Our First Stadium Course

I've had Bohemian for 2-and-a-half weeks, and we've successfully completed our first jumping course (trotting). Yes, there were only 3 jumps, and yes, they were so small he could have tripped over them (and he did). But it counts. And more importantly, everyone had a blast!

So here is the course. Jump 1 is the black and yellow crossrail. Then left turn to cavaletti with green flower box, then down and around to orange vertical. After we got around a few times, we did our first quasi-solid jump, a small white gate.

Jump 1

Jump 3 vertical, disassembled. No standards.

White Gate (stand alone fence after course). Jump 2 cavaletti and flower box in distance.
Words really can't do justice to just how proud and impressed I am by Hemie's willingness and attitude. He's simply a natural.  He's still googly-eyed at flower boxes and the plastic jump boxes, and we had another spook at a horse-eating bunny scuttling around in the orchards, but he is so willing to just keep going and get right back down to business. 

We are working on straightness during the last few strides to the jump. He likes to bend his neck one way, bend his body another, and cock his head. I feel like I'm riding a pretzel. With Spirit, when I felt her squiggle it meant a run out or refusal was coming and I would need to "shut the door" - ie, if she drifted right (normally accompanied by bending left), I stop it by adding right leg and half-halt on right rein to make her straighten up. Well it turns out this method (and habit at this point) is *not* appropriate for teaching an uber-green horse straightness. To get him to move his body left, I need to pull his left rein. Amazing. I'll have to work on that. Kind of embarrassing to say!

After each jump Hemie picked up the most lovely, light, uphill canter and carried himself with a bit more pride and perkiness. He understood from the pats and coos that he is just the best boy ever. 

Before jumping, we worked on him moving off the leg in both directions. He moves off my left leg much more actively than he does my right leg. Something to keep working on. We also tried seeing if he would keep his tempo when I went from solid outside rein contact to releasing both reins, then picking up the outside again. He did pretty good, but its an exercise we will need to continue. He has a good tempo and we're teaching him to keep it even with change in contact. He is naturally responding to half-halts quite impressively. 

This weekend we will have another lesson on Saturday and hopefully our first cross country outing on Sunday! I'm not saying "schooling" because I don't think we'll be jumping - just walking around out in the terrain, introducing him to water and hills and such. So far I haven't taken him on a trail ride. Not even hand-walking. The time has come for Hemie to meet nature!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our First Vertical

I didn't get a lesson this past weekend (although I did do some riding and my husband came and took pics - will upload soon!), so I took an extra lesson Monday night to make up for it.

Hemie was a bit fired up in the round pen. New procedure from commander Laurie is to be a bit less concerned with keeping him calm and more concerned about him not cutting corners in the round pen, and ensuring he respects my body language to force him to stay out in the circle. We are also working on keeping tension on the longe line at all times - a light but steady contact.

I hopped on and he was a good boy. First we did flat work, and we are also changing this up as well. Instead of just a very light but steady contact, I'm now asking for solid, direct contact with the outside rein. Its okay if his head is pointed outwards, though tugs on inside rein are okay to prevent him from getting too crooked. Hemie is no longer plunging his head downward or shifting his head around wondering where to put it - he found a comfortable place to put it, accepts light contact, although at this point there is no "shape".

He was really good about accepting a firmer contact with the outside rein. It took me a few minutes to figure out that Laurie was giving me *new* instructions, but  then we all got on the same page. For some reason its difficult for me to keep such a firm hold of his outside rein: (A) it feels crooked, and (B) it feels mean. I just have to keep telling myself that we're teaching him to hold it, but I have to show him how to do it first by holding it for both of us. He's not insulted by it, so I shouldn't be. And even if he was, that's part of training.

We also worked on on me keeping some contact during downward transitions, so as to not let his nose get even further from his body (it's already quite far - again, no shape yet at this point). He was very willing, and automatically kept his body uphill and light as a result of it. He is responding to half-halts, but I still need to work on getting him moving forward off of leg contact. I'm still clucking and bouncing my legs, although I'm using the whip to tap his shoulder a bit more. I just need to stop nagging and start telling.

We did some trot poles and he was a rockstar from the first. It wasn't long before we had a crossrail, then moved up to the vertical. At first I was very light on the reins, but then straightness became an issue, as he wanted to bend his neck and wiggle his body. We got over it with more contact, and I'm sure we'll find a better flow and balance of contact with releasing over the jump (not my strong suit - normally I either hold on too long or let go too soon).

Regularly scheduled lesson is tonight. I'm wondering if I should starting having Laurie put training rides on him in lieu of a lesson every so often. I never really did that with Spirit, but mostly because she wasn't my horse and I cared more about us both participating than in her training in general. With Hemie, I want it done *right*.  Thoughts?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Our first crossrail

Here it is.  All ~10" of glory. =]

Last night's lesson was really fun. Hemie hadn't gotten turned out, so I expected him to be a little fiery. Nope - perfectly calm and relaxed. In fact, next time I'll ride with a crop, since I was clucking like a chicken to keep him going. We longed first, of course, then did some walk, trot, and canter warm-up. 

Our first exercise was introducing him to corners. You know, those things that are part of a dressage court that are not found at the racetrack. Good thing I have a trainer, because I wouldn't have thought of that. The goal was to do a square turn rather than ask for bend. In other words, a quasi-pivot using both inside and outside rein to keep him square and straight through the turn. Here's a photo of the "corners" we created in the round jumping arena:  

Hemie was brilliant. He got the concept right away, and was a good sport even when I asked him to do it a little too "grand prix" -like, as my trainer immediately pointed out to me. Ha. We did it at walk and trot and he was a good boy - trying to do a good job and concentrating on the task at hand.

Next we did some trot poles. His little ears perked up and there was more pep in his step. The boy wants to jump! So out came the tiny crossrail and he was fantastic. The first go I was very defensive in my position so I got left behind. Thereafter I was pretty good about staying forward and grabbing a hunk of mane. =) He was lively and enjoying himself (and probably enjoying all the pats and squeals of excitement). He even figured out the concept of half-halts before the jump. I'm a proud mommy today.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Getting Settled

 Bohemian is all suited up in a fly mask and light sheet. And no, not because of flies or of slightly chilly weather, but because of his and Storm's dominance antics. I find at least 3 new cuts on Hemie every day. -_-  I really do hope they get their pecking order sorted out soon. I'm running out of corona ointment.

Meanwhile, Hemie and I are all settled into our routine. I can now ride him (walk, trot, and canter!) all by my lonesome at the barn, feeling completely safe. He is such a willing horse - I really couldn't have picked a better one myself. Indeed, I wouldn't have! I never thought in a million years that I'd have gotten an OTTB. Alas, the universe knew what was best. =)

I tried taking some photos of us. Its challenging to do the self-shot-photo when one of you has such a long face!


Tonight we have a lesson - hopefully a fun report tomorrow!

Monday, May 7, 2012

So much for phases...

This weekend was a doozie!

Firstly, we CANTERED! Under saddle. It was light and lovely and not at all race-horse-ey. My trainer about melted. I'm sure that I did.

Secondly, we JUMPED!!  Tiny little flower boxes, and then 3 poles lying next to each other with plastic supports for visual interest. He was squiggly and tentative, but very willing and we got through great.

I think that means we're into Phase 2. Maybe 3. I dunno. We're jumping!!!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Phase 1 of Retraining

It's time to come out and say it...
I. Am. Happy.
Bohemian is a sweet, willing, and oh-so-handsome horse. I smile just thinking of him. To be honest, I've had a silly grin on my face all week. I'm absolutely smitten.

Before I took the plunge I was worried about "starting all over again" in terms of not having a horse that knows how to jump, how to do some basic dressage, what cross country even is. 

Boy was that wasted worry! First of all, racehorses are very well trained. It's not like starting from scratch. We rode him on the first day. Secondly, as my friend Jess recently reminded me, when the horse is yours, every step of the journey is fun.

And she was right.  I'm enjoying every moment with Hemie. 

I've never said it on my blog before, but I've known for years that owning your horse is simply different than not owning your horse. Something magical happens when you sign your name on the dotted line. A deeper level of responsibility and connection. Anyone who has both owned and leased horses knows what I'm talking about.  It doesn't make a ton of logical sense (especially to our non-horsey husbands and friends), but it's true. I was ready to own a horse again. And now that I do, all of my reservations and hesitations have fled. It's pure enjoyment.

On to our retraining:
Bohemian is on day 5 of Phase 1, which lasts about 10 days. Phase 1 involves:
  • Longe for about 15 minutes, focusing on calmness and relaxation. 
  • Ride for about 15 minutes, focusing on calmness and relaxation, and:
    • Having some contact with the reins. Not trying to position his head, but just get him used to the rider taking a feel.
    • Keeping a steady rhythm.
    • Fairly minimal level of leg contact and pressure.
    • Get used to exercising up close to jumps, cones, sprinklers, dogs, and other obstructions.
    • Introduction of ground poles.
  • Overflowing bucket of feed. He needs about 100 lbs of weight.

He looks good in blue, no?

So far, my trainer has babysat me for each of these sessions. Tonight is my first time doing it solo. I'm not too worried.

So, what is Phase 2, you ask? I have no idea. I'm sure Laurie will tell me when we get there. =)

As to Bohemian's social life, unfortunately the arranged friendship with Storm is not working out so well. Apparently there have been some tizzies, and Bohemian has been losing. Each day I see him the Corona ointment comes out. I hope they can figure it out soon so we don't have to be bothered with stall swapping.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Names have power. Or so many ancient and not-so-ancient religions/spiritualities believe (Judaism, Hinduism, Wicca, etc).

So, time to flex our power and find the *perfect* name for this handsome boy:
Someone enjoys his new stall: a 12x24 half-covered pipe corral.

Registered Name (Jockey Club): Bohemian Spirit
Special history: Ex-racehorse used in filming HBO TV series "Luck"
Most evident personality traits: Friendly, Calm, Willing

So, there are 2 names I need to figure out for this guy:
1. Barn name. For day-to-day use.
2. Formal name. To use at shows and to register with any groups or associations.

Firstly, I really like "Bohemian" a lot. It really suits his personality. I want to keep it.

Secondly, I want to honor his movie-star past (which led him to me) by including the name "Luck" or something very much related.

So, for barn name, here are the top 3 names I've come up with:

1. Hemie (pronounced: He-Me  vowels are same sound - long E as in tree or knee). Basically its a shortened version of Bohemian that isn't "Bo."
Pros: It sounds cute. It's strongly tied to Bohemian, and by extension his laid-back personality. I can still call him Bohemian sometimes and it wouldn't be weird. Its easy to say. It's unique.
Cons: I have to give a pronunciation guide when writing. Otherwise it reads like "Hemi" - you know, the truck engine (Heh-me  first part rhymes with "bleh"). That doesn't really bother me that much - Hemi was another name I liked too. Hemi, Hemie, close enough.

2. Chance. It's masculine, is the French word for luck, and it symbolizes the unlikely situation of me getting him.
Pros: It ties to the luck concept. It has positive connotation. It ties to him being willing - he gives things a chance.
Cons: Sounds like a dog's name. My husband thought it was too much of a "human" name, though I only know 1 person named Chance and its a nick-name.

3. Boon. An unexpected stroke of luck or a windfall.
Pros: Easy to say, easy to write. Very unique. Masculine sounding.
Cons: Sounds like "Boo", which is too common. Doesn't quite go with his personality, more symbolizes my good fortune as his owner.

For now we're trying out Hemie to see how that feels for a bit. If it doesn't sit well after a few days we may have to try "Chance" on for size. But I would LOVE to know what you think! Please feel free to email me or leave a comment below (that emails me too) with your opinion. =)

As for registered name, I'm thinking:
Luck of the Bohemian
Bohemian Luck
Bohemian's Luck
Lucky Bohemian