Focus and Relaxation

I’ve had Pax just over a month now and it has been a really different experience. I didn’t set out to get a two-year-old – I would have preferred that he had been three going on four – but when I saw him, I got that feeling that he was the one. Age be damned. But not only is he two, for a thoroughbred, he’s a bit of a young two having been born in mid-May. And while I wouldn’t call him immature in the sense that he’s overly silly, you can tell he’s a baby and he mostly has the attention span of a gnat.

So all the ground work I am doing with him is imperative to teach Pax how to focus and how to relax.

The focus is coming along though we still have moments where he’ll forget and spook himself over a stationary object or the dogs that have been walking quietly beside us for the last ten minutes. Pax isn’t nasty about anything, he just doesn’t know how to handle himself yet. To date, he settles pretty quickly and forgets even quicker.

The relaxation though? That’s been more difficult. Now that Pax knows the basics of the groundwork we’re teaching him (how to send, how to turn his haunches, two eyes & two ears), we’re starting to use that to teach him to relax. In our lesson this week, LT had me wait to release the pressure until we saw at least a small sign of relaxation in his body. I had to see a lowered head, a cocked back foot, an exhale or sigh, something to show me that his mind was slowing down as much as his body was.

We’re still figuring each other out, and I can already tell that he will not be as easy as Gus has been, but I’m having a lot of fun learning right alongside.

No Longer a Track Horse

I’m sure you are all sick of hearing about how Gus and I are handling our Novice debut and really just want to hear more about how New Kid, aka Pax, is doing. Right? No? Oh well, here’s an update anyway.

Except for that he’s had the last week or so off due to Pine Top and the holidays, I think we’re making a lot of progress. Pax is getting a lot better in the cross ties (though I’m still a little hesitant to put him back in the wash rack considering he already broke the cross ties once) and no longer thinks about kicking when I put hind boots on. He was very naughty for the farrier though, which is not at all acceptable. So we’ll be working on that.

Pax has had to learn a whole new way of going though. One where he has to mind and be respectful of people instead of doing whatever he wants.  But he’s a smart kid and he’s learning.

My big goal for Pax is to take him to the Heart of the Carolinas and do the Future Event Horse 2yo division. I don’t expect him to score well,  he’s not really what they’re looking for, but I think it would be a good experience for both of us. It gets him off property and in a show setting without a lot of stress (or at least I hope not a lot of stress!). I wish I was closer to Ocala and could go down to the FEH symposium next year to learn more but it’s just too far unfortunately and in the middle of the week.

One step at a time for the baby horse. More ground work and desensitizing this winter and then, once things start warming up, we’ll start hacking. It’s fun to have a horse that’s old enough to do some riding but still be able to focus on a lot of the building blocks.


New Kid now has a barn name: Pax!

And I LOVE this guy so much. He is so sweet and has been, so far, very willing. He definitely has baby race horse manners meaning he is just a little bit pushy and doesn’t know anything about how to behave like a grownup horse but all of these things are fixable.

Last night we had our first ground work lesson with LT. I’ve done some ground work before but have been largely self-taught which led to some mixed results. Dandy always reacted well but I’ve never been able to do much of it with Gus. He is very resistant and I just didn’t have the knowledge to get past it.

That’s where LT comes in. She is very good with her ground work and already just in working with Pax last night she has made a huge difference in how I handle the rope when asking for backing. LT noticed that when I was “marching” I was pulling, just slightly, the rope towards me and, since Pax is so sensitive, this was actually telling him to come towards me. Instead I need to be very deliberate in throwing the rope towards him. This little detail made a huge difference.

We worked on three things last night: the first stage of backing, disengaging the hind quarters, and desensitizing to the stick. I was very impressed with how Pax did although we did come to find that he’s very very sensitive. This could be a problem under tack but it’s a problem for a different day.

For the next week or so, my continued goal is to keep working on Pax’s ground work and give him all the love. I’m really liking this little horse.

Crazy Update

So many things happened today that it is impossible for me to get my head back on straight enough to write a post.

– Job. I have one. I spent almost four hours interviewing today and got the call tonight that they were offering me the position. Excellent.

– Dandy. Was such a good boy today. I had too much on my mind to give him a full work and ride but we did ground work and he is learning fast. Plus the wind kicked up hard so I wouldn’t have had time to do much riding anyway. There may be a very exciting development in the next month… Stay tuned.

– HUNGER GAMES. OMG. No words. (Except the annoying mom next to me and the 20 or so tweens in the front row who couldn’t shut up and almost ruined the entire movie). But KATNISS. CINNA. PEETA

Maybe a better post when my brain stops exploding.

Squirrely Horse

Note to self: Dandy can not go a week without working at all.

Which is something I knew but I was not in the best of places last week and, unfortunately, Dandy kind of fell by the wayside. I paid for my lack of involvement today. Dandy was an absolute pill.

The trimmer came out yesterday and Dandy did not want to hold still at all. I was sort of embarrassed, actually. First of all, Dandy has never acted like that. Second, I expect my horses to behave for the farrier, the vet, for me, or anyone else who might have to deal with him. To be fair to Dandy, LG fed late that day and I had dragged him away from his breakfast but I still do not accept this as an excuse for dancing at the end of the lead. Guess we will be doing a lot of groundwork these next few weeks.

Anyway, Leslie said that Dandy’s feet are looking really really good. The crack on his front right is growing out well and she believes that eventually it will go away for good. I took pictures of his feet today but because of his squirreliness he got his feet all dirty again before I could get pictures. So I only have his front left to show off today. More pictures tomorrow.

FL: 3-20-12
FL: 3-20-12
FL: 3-20-12

The frogs on Dandy’s front feet are expanding well but they still need some work. The left one is still a little beat up but it will get better! You’ll have to take my word for it that it was much much worse a few months ago.

Today I had a good ride once we got over the not standing still for bridling bit. It is so nice to have an arena to ride in now. Even though we had all the snow and the fields are slick, the arena is nice and dry and totally rideable in! Yay!

Before I got on we did a bunch of ground work to get Dandy’s mind back on me. We’re working on backing and paying attention on the line. Also disengaging the hindquarters. I just started that one and he picked it up within five minutes. Dandy is so smart. When I got on him we spent twenty minutes working on standing still at the mounting block. He’s pretty good but I want it to be perfect. There should be no moving until I ask for it. Next we worked on impulsion and collection at the trot. I really need LG to watch me for a few minutes. I’m really trying to get the impulsion and work on my seat at the same time. It’s hard. I think we got a few really good steps. The last thing we worked on was canter transitions. Boy does Dandy not want to get the correct lead. When we’re going to the left, he wants to pick up the right. Going to the right he wants to pick up the left. I did get the correct lead multiple times each way, however.

So over all a good ride. I also got to try my new portable speakers for the first real time. I have used them once before but that was when Dandy had just gotten out here and I was more focused on him not having a melt down that I only had it on for one song. This time, I tacked Dandy up with it so he’d get used to it. When I first turned it on he kept twisting his head around to figure out where the music was coming from.

But once he got over it, things were fine. He didn’t pay any attention to it after an initial “where is that music coming from?” Dandy even let me stop and switch playlists during the middle of our workout. These speakers have become my new favorite riding accessory. The arena is pretty far away from any sort of music so it was great having that out there to listen to. I can’t wait to try them when I’m out road hacking!