Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reconnecting with an old friend.

There was some cosmic juju floating around my head today that made me think of a two year old I worked with at Saratoga back in 2006. I've thought about him and most of the horses I've worked with on the track over the years, but this big dude really held a special place in my heart.

Gold and Blue Box is a dark bay gelding by Outofthebox out of a hello Hello Gorgeous mare. As a 2yo, he was easily 17hh--and I know everyone says their horse is 17hh, but he really barely fit in his stall and it took a herculean effort to get on him. However, he was a complete sweetheart. A little bit of a worrier on the ground, but a total gentleman to gallop. Apart from his enormous size, I also remember him very well because he had awful warts on his nose all summer long. The assistant trainer was a believer that if you picked the scabs off and spread the blood over the other warts, it would make them go away. Well, I picked at this poor dude's nose all summer long per boss's orders and they were there to stay.

warty nose at aqueduct before a race.
Anyway, I decided to see if I could find any current information on him and where he ended up. On pedigree query, I found a name that wasn't who owned him when he was racing, so I stuck it into facebook to see if anyone came up.

Well, I got seriously lucky and was in contact with the woman who got him off the track within an hour!

what a handsome boy, right?
She said he now lives with someone else in her area as a pleasure horse/pasture puff as that's all he's really sound for. He has bone chips in his ankles and is now starting to have either back or stifle problems. Not hard to imagine in such a big boy.

Regardless of soundness issues, it sounds like Blue landed in a soft spot and now has a great home with a caring family, thanks to a woman who took a chance on him.

One more horse to cross off my list as safe and happy!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Do work.

monday's exercise, pt.1

Bobby started off lazy yesterday. I really had to work at keeping him going every single stride. But because I was asking him for more umph and power from the back half, I also asked him to start bringing the front half closer in to the back half. This is Bobby-speak for something along the lines of compression. You have to speak in simpleton terms to him. "Butt comes under, neck comes out of the clouds." It took him awhile to warm up to the idea, but he was starting to do a little real work at the end of our warm up.

We started off cantering over the poles from each way again. The first time to the left, the canter was a little too slow and he had to skiptrot over the last pole. First time to the right, he was a little fast and he was more inclined to launch over the poles instead of canter calmly through. But it only took one time each direction for us to get it and the rest of the times were great. I think he actually was a smarty pants and remembered his work from Sunday!

I set up the back pole in the picture to a little vertical. We started off to the right. First run through, he saw the jump and plowed through the poles to launch himself over. I pulled him right up, backed him a few steps, and tried again. He got a little discouraged and backed off coming in causing him to miss the distance to the second pole and have to jump a little wonky. I asked for a little stronger canter and the next few times were pretty good. Plenty to improve on, but not bad.

To the left, I kept the same set up so that we came to the jump first and then landed to go over the two poles. He got a little excited the first few times seeing that jump right off the bat, and it really all came down to the canter going in. I had to really work at finding the perfect balance of forward but not fast, and balanced but not slow. It was a good exercise for both of us and we were able to finish with a really lovely run thorugh.

His one bugaboo was picking up the friggin' left lead! He did not want to do it no matter what. Strangely, when he did get it, it was going straight on the long side. Corners and circles didn't help at all. He's apparently really good at cantering in a tiny circle on the wrong lead.

We both worked really hard for a solid hour and he was one sweaty beast when we were done. Fortunately, it was almost sixty out and the sun was starting to really blaze, so I was able to give him a bath. In February! In northeastern Pennsylvania! Of course my phone died and I didn't bring my camera so I didn't get any shots of him looking cute and fluffy and shiny as he grazed outside the mares' paddock. The three OTTB mares stood at the fence watching him intensely, though I think they were more jealous of the grass he was getting than admiring his stunning donkey ears and large giraffe withers.

Next ride is Thursday!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


I had a good ride on Bobby today after him having the day off yesterday. Hubby and I spent fifteen minutes trying to get my new half chaps on. I hate zippers. Just saying. But they're lovely and rode well. Plus, they were a closeout, so I got a brand new pair of leather Ariat half chaps for $30 flat. Heck yes!

Robert warmed up uneventfully. The above pics are how he's been going in my old AP saddle, sometimes better, somtimes worse. I'm okay with it for now.

I set up three ground poles one stride apart each. We trotted over each way several times, then trotted over the pipe a few times each way.

He got a little exuberant over the pipe jump, but I checked him pretty hard and the next time over he trotted over calmly.

Next, we cantered both ways. It was actually kind of fun to figure out what canter worked best to get him to go over each pole evenly without breaking into a trot or launching over. His tiny brain was working overtime, but I think he actually enjoyed himself, too. Plus, you can see how far his canter's come just on the fact that he can canter at all. He was pretty good about getting his leads each time if he messed up during the line, but if he missed them, he was good about doing a simple change in the corner.

Over the pipe, he was still too "jumpy" for my liking, but after a few tries, we did get it sorted out and he went over nicely. Coming from the right towards the pipe with the tiny vertical above it was where he had his melt down, so I really wanted to make a point that he can canter over it just as easily as the poles.

First time over from the right:

Equally good to the left, though he had an equal amount of errors in his trials, too.

I didn't like the way he went over the pipe the first time to the left, so I stopped him at the fence, backed him a few steps and tried again. Next time over (which of course Hubby didn't get the good times over the pipe on video!), he did it spot on. Yay for learning! Small win!

damn those chaps look hot.
...oh, and calm cantering over the demon jump!

see how uphill he is? lol!
So yay for poles! I think we're on the right track for now.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Horse compatibility

As I was fooling around on my favorites bar this morning, trying to find something to amuse myself for a few minutes waiting for Hubby to get around, I found this link on HN that I was obviously going to get around to sometime. It's about how compatible you are with your horse.

Red came first because Red will always be better than Bobby and everyone else. Red was a Dragon.

"Horses born under the sign of the dragon will be lively, intelligent, full of energy and excitable. They make great herd leaders and don’t like to make mistakes. They will approach difficulties head on and are not easily discouraged. Weaknesses include an uncontrollable moody-ness and their intelligence and excitability can cause woes for their human counterparts."

Dead on. Very smart and talented, but a little bit naughty. Sometimes very naughty. His compatibility with me, a Rabbit? "Hard going." Well, I'll say! I can't tell you the amount of times when I first got him that I'd end a ride by chucking my helmet/gloves/saddle across the tack room and tell everyone around that, "I am going to put this fucking horse up for sale as soon as I get home!" But in the end he was the best horse on the planet.

red the celeb.

Now for Bobby, a Rooster.

"Rooster-Horses are deep thinkers who are honest, bright, ambitious and capable. They are loners who also have a quick mind and an even quicker temper. They enjoy having a job and like to stay neat and tidy. Their weaknesses include having difficulty getting along well with other horses, and they think that they are always right. Rooster-Horses tend to be overly emotional at times as well."

Mostly lies. Deep thinker? I think not. He's never been particularly bright or ambitious, and he's proving to be pretty incapable of simple things like trotting over what's essentially a raised ground pole! (Can you sense I'm still holding a bit of a grudge?) However, overly emotional and a quick temper ring true, and he definitely has no idea how to hang out in a herd of horses.

His compatibility with me? "Many conflicts."

No comment.

move, you dumb mule!
bobby as a yearling.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Small Wins.

how does this even happen?
All the ponies enjoyed the warmer weather and the copious amounts of mud today, Bobby included. I walked in to find splatters all over his face and caked on pretty much everywhere else. Good thing I just washed his sheet two days ago....

Today was a much better day than yesterday. I actually didn't even want to go to the barn, but I put on my big girl pants and drove out. We waited for about forty five minutes after getting tacked up while the barn help watered and dragged the arena, which involved a lot of cursing at the watering tank spiogt thingy that didn't want to turn on. But it was worth it because we were the first ones in after it got done and the footing was killer.

We kept it short and simple to avoid any conflicts. Lots of trotting with changes of direction and circles. Nothing fancy, just trying to keep a forward, rhythmical pace. Sarah came in for a few minutes right before she left and told me, "Don't take this the wrong way, but your posture is so much better now." YAY! Small win! I'm no longer looking like I'm about to fall flat on my face. There may be hope for me being a dressage rider after all.

We started cantering when BO came in for a lesson and she called out that his canter was really coming along well. YAY! Small win! He actually wasn't yanking on my hands the whole time, nor was he going a million miles an hour in a crooked sort-of circle.

We finished our short canters each way and cooled out on the buckle. As we were walking around, BO was like, "Wow, Carly. Even his walk is looking a lot better. It's really big and swinging." YAY! Another small win!

So I must not be a total failure at ponies. I needed a few compliments to keep myself from banging my head against a wall, and Bobby need a short ride with lots of pats and nothing to fret about. Small wins for a good day!

a day in the life of bobby's bell boots.

new kitty max is settling in and spends his time talking to the birds.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Freaking the Fuck Out.

Or, Why I Really Miss Red.

bobby and ranger checking each other for cookie residue.
Today was totes gorg outside so we went up to the outdoor after I pulled Robert's mane. He was looking cute and feeling good, warming up really well.

the jump behind him is what we've been jumping the past few times
we've been in the outdoor. just for comparison. it's 2'3".
I lowered the vertical with the pipe under it to 18" so we could practice cantering a jump without taking off to it. Good exercise, no?

So all was going really well. His flat work was great, he popped over the single barrel on its side a few times with no fuss or muss. We trotted around to the vertical. I know that when he runs out, he always does it to the right, so I was keeping a firm left rein and keeping my legs on. I felt him start to hesitate, so I gave him a little more leg and instead of running out--because I had done a good job on preventing that--he made to go forward and slammed on the brakes at the base of the fence, throwing us both forward. I wrapped my arms around his neck and stayed on, but he whacked me in the face jumping back up and my crotch got slammed onto the pommel of the saddle. Hey, at least I'm not a dude.

I gave him ONE solid smack behind my leg with the whip and brought him back around. Pretty standard procedure, right? I really don't feel like I did anything wrong. I gave him all the go cues, made sure he wasn't able to duck out, and he stopped at an 18" fence that he's jumped higher a dozen times before. It felt pretty dirty to me, and I felt totally right in giving him a crack.

Well, Bobby acted like I had stood there for ten minutes and beaten the shit out of him. He was completely traumatized. I couldn't even get him to turn in towards the jump. He was leaping sideways, leaping backwards, baby rears, baby bucks, big boy spins. You name it. He was freaking the fuck out. Over nothing! I tossed my whip to the side of the arena about halfway through this meltdown just to rule it out, and it didn't make a difference. He wouldn't circle by the jump, he wouldn't go straight alongside it, nothing.

I don't know where this came from. I've never, ever used the whip as a punishment in the sense that he would get whipped repeatedly. In fact, I rarely use the whip at all. I never carry one when just flatting, and he almost never needs one jumping. And when he does, it's a tap on the shoulder or a pop behind my leg. I don't know where he picked up this huge phobia that jumping equals whipping equals getting the shit kicked out of him. This isn't the first time he's done this either. The last time we jumped the coop, he refused the first time, I gave him a pop, and we had to trot around for awhile before he was able to calmly trot back towards it.

The thing is, he's a sweet, dopey pony. I've known his sweet, dopey self his whole life. The only three times I've ever been semi out of touch with him was:
  1. When he was on the track. However, I know the person that started the syndicate that bought him and raced him. I know the trainer he was with, I know the farm he trained at. I can see him getting beat up on a little bit at the farm, this? To be so terrified of getting a reprimand that he totally shuts off his brain?
  2. When he first got retired, he was at my college getting let down and being used for a training class. I still had friends in school when he was there and I know they would have told me if he was getting abused. Handled by some retarded people, yes, but nothing dangerous.
  3. When I gave him away to Lillian. I have absolutely zero doubts that she didn't do a thing mean to him. You guys saw how much of a chunky monkey he was. He was well cared for and well loved. He didn't encounter a single thing mean there, I'm positive.
So....where does that leave us? I just don't get it. I let him walk around on the far end of the arena while I cried for awhile. I was just so frustrated. I didn't know what to do, I didn't even know what I'd done!

I decided to try to trot him over the barrel again to see if that would spark his confidence. Nope. He started doing the same thing as soon as I turned him towards it. Flying sideways and having a complete freak out about being asked to jump it. I tried several times, just keeping a calm, rhythmical trot and not changing my body at all. It wasn't going to happen.

I walked him some more to try to bring his brain back to me, then tried walking him up to the barrel. A stride out, I gave him a little cluck and he trotted and popped over. No biggie. I gave him loads of praise and pats and ended it there.

"i am scared of everything."
Sooo.....I guess from here, I go back to ground poles for forever. And then 18" cross rails for forever. And then we'll just see. I am so super bummed. I don't know what I did to wreck his brain so much. I feel like I've destroyed a perfectly good horse and I don't even know how.

National Cut In Front of Carly Day

What. The. FUCK. was with people careening in front of my poor little Saturn yesterday?! It's like every single person had it out for us! And when they got done cutting me off or blasting out of nowhere in front of me instead of waiting to pull out behind me where there were no cars, they proceeded to go ten miles under the speed limit. Of course. Really, Pennsylvania. Get it together.

aww, my little pig doggie.
I had a kick ass ride on Robert yesterday. We tooled around for about fifteen minutes at the walk and trot on a loose rein before I asked him to get to work. He was a little resistant at first, but he came along eventually. I could actually hear him de-suction his mouth when he relaxed his jaw.

We ran through three dressage tests, one after the other. BN A, BN B, and N A. I had my AP saddle on, but I wanted to give his back a little break anyway so I did all my canter work in half seat. He did every test really, really well--for him. There were a few issues: his canter was a little rushed, the downward canter transisions weren't super precise because of me being out of the saddle (they were more like half halt, slow, half halt, fast trot, fast trot, normal trot), and he got a little excited when he anticipated the second canter circle in every test. Unfortunately for him, the canter departs are at different spots in every test so he didn't guess right a single time.

However, his halts were spot on. He didn't do a single head-in-air fussy fit when I came back from walk to the trot. He was willing to move out with purpose every time I asked him to. Overall, he was just a much happier horse today. We didn't fight each other about a single thing and we both left the arena satisfied with our work.

He still needs to work on his canter, and he's not quite as connected as I'll want him to be for a real dressage test, but I finally feel like we're headed in the right direction again. I think he's going to be super happy and ready to make a big leap forward once he gets adjusted.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Damn Saddles.

Robert will still be getting his teeth done (obviously) and a visit from the chiro next month, but I think I've found the root of our problems. I rode him bareback today for about thirty minutes and he was great. Really, really great. Like, I would have been pumped if we had been in the middle of a dressage test great. I poked his back and got a teeth grinding reaction where the back of the saddle rests.

Bear with me as I make up saddle terminology. My dressage saddle had ok wither clearance. What I finally realized wass the problem is that the...gullet? is too narrow--the back half of the underside of the saddle--which is right where he's showing discomfort. The Stubben I'm using now fits him really well, but the....panels?--the part where the wool or foam is to pad his back from the concussion of my well-endowed backside--are pretty flat.

So I'm going to pull out my trusty, musty AP saddle that fits him like a dream, has hugely stuffed panels that got reflocked two years ago, and has been given two thumbs up by the massage genie. And if my butt is a little tightly squeezed in it until I can find something else that works, oh friggin' well. Maybe I'll just suck it up and buy another one in a seat size that works for me. I really want an actual jumping saddle, but it's not like we're going to be blasting around training anytime soon. An AP will work.

In other news, Bobby proved just how unsuccessful a racehorse he was yesterday by losing a race to Blackberry--Sarah's coming-twenty year old Quarter Horse. He got rolling at the end, but by that point, Fatberry could have lapped us had he chosen to. Bobby seemed quite pleased with himself regardless.

the chop job extended.
saying hello to sunny.

Saturday, I started him on half a tube of GastroGard every day for the next two weeks. I figured since I have it and I spent so much money for it, I might as well do something with it. If he starts farting rainbows on it, I'll look into ordering the infamous blue pop rocks.

Monday, February 20, 2012

APB: Jade

Jade is headed to New Holland next Monday if she doesn't find a home by the end of the week. There are two boarders that bring their horses home for the winter headed back, a new boarder coming, and a girl bringing her horse in for three months. There's no room for Jade.

She's been getting used in lessons so she's been ridden pretty consistently by several people. I don't know if the barn owner is asking anything for her or if she'd just give her away at this point. If anyone is interested in her, let me know and I'll get you in touch with the barn owner.

Jade's stats:
  • JC name "Precious Jane"
  • 15hh, 2003 bay mare. 71 starts, 5 wins, 11 seconds, 15 thirds. $204,469 in earnings
  • Last raced November 2011, came off the track in December.
  • w/t nicely, still green at the canter, hasn't refused a jump yet.

Also headed to auction is the paint baby Picasso. I think he's eight months old now. He's been gelded, had all his shots, is worked with regularly, yada yada. He's very polite to lead and groom.

If anyone's interested, let me know. Located in Benton PA. I don't have anything against sending horses to auction, but I really think Jade will make someone a fun jumper or eventer and I'd hate to see her land in the wrong hands.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Friday, Robert was quite lovely. He started off not so lovely, but by the time we finished, he was aware that he had a hind end and was bringing it along to work with him. I think all that lateral work the day before helped out big time. I was actually grinning like a fool when we got done. Somewhere in there, there is a fancy pants!

"oh, hey. what's happening?"

Saturday morning, I popped off to the barn really quick to clip him. He fell asleep in the cross ties with his cooler draped over his back and bum as I did a fifteen minute bib clip before throwing him back out. Hubby and I went up to NY to see his parents. Always a .... different ... experience.

Hubby took a bunch of videos of our riding today. I stuck the draw reins on him because I was tired and not in the mood for a fight and wanted a quick ride and my shoulder hurt. (PS, turns out I have nerve damage to my left shoulder. Sometimes it hurts really badly, sometimes it goes completely numb.)  I have no problem if you want to frown down upon me for this. I frown down, too. It was a cop out and he didn't go great.

I'm glad I got to see these though. He definitely needed more energy. He also definitely had no interest in using his rumpus, more than likely because he was in the draw reins. Oh, well. Just one more day of blah to cross off before we have never-ending days of awesomeness.

And no, he is not lame. You may note the hitchy-ness behind. Those are his stifles. When I first got him, he almost looked like he had mild stringhalt. He has gotten sooo much better. 

Tomorrow is a hack day with Sarah and Fatberry.

Also, here are pics of my dressage saddle up for sale. Synthetic, 17", medium tree. If anyone's interested, or knows someone, email me at

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Holy Weird Weather

It's raining at my house. There's three inches of snow at the barn--and still snowing like crazy. But here's where it gets weird: There were two minor accidents within a mile of the barn, but three miles down in the next town over, there was no snow to be found and I was able to do sixty the rest of the way home.

Bobby was nice and dry under his blanket, but I toweled off his neck and head. And then he inspired me in a serious way. He inspired me to show you all how incredibly intelligent he is. Prepare to be blown away.

Oh, gosh he makes me LOL. This was after he went creeping after one of the barn kitties that he likes to grope, stepped on his lead rope and couldn't figure out how to lift his head from the ground by himself.

Anyway, I stuck him on the line to try to loosen his back up before I got on him. I don't know how well it worked. He didn't seem all that different. We did about thirty minutes of lateral work at the walk to warm us up. Spirals, leg yields, serpentines, circles, spirals to leg yields, counter flexing one side and leg yielding the other, leg yielding one side and serpentines the other, yada yada. We did with ten minutes of trotting with halt-back transistions at least once around each time, then finished with a  run through of BN A. He actually did pretty well on the test. A little strong at the canter because he's not balanced yet, but actually balanced enough so that he wasn't falling flat on his face and flailing about. His halt down the middle was killer, and his free walk is starting to exist. There was a whole lot of alternating between head in the air and curling behind the bit, but every now and then he did what he was supposed to.

stop snowing! i need to be able to leave!

testing the full cheek, which is what he went in before.
no noticable difference.

my car after forty five minutes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I like Valentine's Day. Less pressure for good gifts, more chocolate. Really, what's not to like? I got Hubby a new coffee maker, a hige bag of Starbucks coffee, and I made the most delish lasagna for dinner. Hubby got me chocolate (damn right) and this kick ass shirt I've been coveting. And he even surprised me with it! Hard to do.

i can't help that i look like a super model as soon as i get up.
at least i had a bra on.

We did lots of other fun things, but first we went up to the barn to appreciate my OTTB and torture him with a baby cross country school. Very baby. He was good for the few jumps we went over. He's such a worrier, he really has to be coaxed along or he gets quite wound up and upset.

It was uneventful with the exception of one thing: The ground in front of the picket fence was slicker than it looked and he put in a half step in a sticky spot, decided against going for it at the last second, and threw on the brakes, sliding into the fence. I ended up perched on his withers with no right stirrup and both our noses inches from the ground on the other side of the fence. Awk-ward. A good example of why I'll never roach my horse's mane. He tossed me back up, I got back in the saddle, and we had a long walk to regain some confidence. The next try, he went over and we stayed away from it after that. No one got broken. Small win.

The rest of the jumps went pretty well. He over-jumped a few, but didn't refuse or hit anything.

oh my goodness, what a silly looking horse.

hey, at least we didn't part ways!

chilling out after the run-in with the picket fence.

We walked over the ditch a few times since the ground wasn't great around it, then headed back to the barn for loads of cookies.

We did a little photo shoot before he went back out to show off how handsome he can look. It's hard, but it is possible! Plus, I love my new shirt.

klassy barn attire. how i roll.

robert loves to give hugs. he will abandon food to give hugs.

watching his friends come down for hay.
Happy Valentines Day everyone! I hope you guys got lots of caloric goodies and gave your ponies ten million treats!