BIG Changes

Some monumental changes are coming down the pike for EquiNovice and her trusty steed! We are taking this show back up to the Northland!!!

Next month Bravo and I will be leaving southern Indiana and moving up to Minnesota. I somehow managed to get a new job during a pandemic and although the risk of change was great, I am very excited to take on a new challenge.

 

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I have been out of the twin cities horse circle for nine years now and a lot has changed but I have found what I hope is a great new barn for Bravo with opportunities for training that weren’t available to us currently. Somepony is ’bout to go to bootcamp. Maybe he can think of it this way: we will both be starting new jobs together! I’ll be learning how to be a Product Manager while he is learning how to be a RIDING horse.

 

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Logistics have been quite tricky during this time and I am still trying to pin down shipping for Bravo. I called Brook Ledge and they just said they couldn’t do that haul. Bummer. I’ve been in contact with some more local shippers- one up in Minnesota and one from Indiana thinking they might consider a point-to-point trip where they can at least pick-up or drop off at home base. Shipping Bravo might be the thing giving me the most anxiety in all of this, so any happy success stories would be very welcome!! Bravo hasn’t loaded in a trailer in a year and with the limited contact I’ve had with him for months now because of Covid-19, he’s reverted to some not so great ground manners. He’s not terrible, but he’s not easy anymore. There’s also the fact that long haul shipping is in big semi trailers and my barn can NOT accommodate that rig and the main road to the barn can barely accommodate a vehicle of that size so I am wringing my hands trying to solve this puzzle of where I could trailer him and have the shipper pick him up. And, of course, how I am possibly going to coordinate that with my own move. Sigh… much anxiety.

 

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It will be sad to leave my friends and my barn mates here. Made worse by the fact that I can hardly say a proper goodbye and am forced to tell even my closest friends my news via zoom. In many ways I feel like I’m leaving in secret in the middle of the night but that’s just how it has to be right now. I try to let people know as I have all of my “lasts”. Bravo had his “last” chiro adjustment yesterday and in a couple weeks will have his “last” farrier visit. Moving is crazy in general, or maybe I’m just kind of oddly sentimental, I think about how the same person has cut my hair here for the past nine years and I guess I’ll just have to call and leave a message for her? She, of all people, has faithfully listened to me bitch about job frustrations or how bad I am at dating for almost a decade and I can’t even book one last appointment to share my news!?!? grumble grumble.

 

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First world problems abound! Mostly, I am excited, hopeful, and grateful. Getting through this next month will be stressful but then it can start to feel like opening a new chapter. The best thing about the blogging community is that we can keep in touch with each other wherever we are! I can’t wait to share Bravo’s travel story and new digs with you all when we both get settled.

 

 

 

 

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Yes, it’s a sacrifice and no one will even pat you on the back for doing it. You’ll never know in the end how much of a difference your choice made. But you can take comfort in knowing that by making the decision to NOT ride right now, you are CHOOSING to help in a crisis. Recreational riders who continue to ride might not be hurting, but they are not helping.

Please consider helping. We all need your help.

 

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If you can, sit this one out for your fellow man.

Back in the Game

Bravo has been knocking it out of the park lately in so many ways. A few weeks ago we hit a snag due to some less than ideal pasture conditions, an excess of energy, and too much lunge line exuberance. Multiple fixes helped smooth out these issues and even though nothing could be done about the pasture conditions, we have been reaping the benefits and really making progress since making some changes.

I returned to our roots with a groundwork refresher, per Tracy’s suggestion, and closed down the barn a few nights so I could allow Bravo some free time loose in the arena. He responded well to the groundwork but surprised me by not getting wild at all when I turned him loose in the arena. There were much less theatrics than he had been delivering on the lunge line.

 

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Fun with props

 

Heeding Austen’s advice, I have completely omitted lunging and took a chance that he would keep a better lid on the crazy while being ridden. It worked!! He has been perfectly well behaved ever since. We can revisit lunging when the round pen finally drains (probably sometime in June…at the this rate). Can’t say that I miss it from our pre-ride routine but I do want him to know how to do it and behave. We did make it out to the round pen one day when there wasn’t standing water and I got to take another update shot. I love looking at these and seeing how he is changing.

 

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1 year difference, top is most recent

 

He saw the chiropractor and I think that may have helped make him more comfortable while working. It feels so amazing to have the “problems” that we have now under saddle. He has always been great for the walk but had been pretty resistant to trotting and we hadn’t cantered since I bought him. Now, our “go” button is working much better and he only takes exception to being asked to trot the first time in the ride. His resistance is nothing major- a head toss or running out through his shoulder. As his strength improves and he adapts to consistent riding, I’m confident this will fade, too. The newest issues are leaning and running through his shoulder while trotting and not yet understanding a cue to move laterally. We are cantering a little but he is lacking strength and coordination. He has been stumbling behind occasionally especially in the down transition so we will take this slow.

 

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Always up for a walk

 

The best part about all this progress is I think we are officially ready to start taking  lessons together! He has been ridden by my friend in three lessons so far, but he and I have yet to take our first lesson.

For documentation purposes, here’s a list of what’s going well and what needs work:

What’s Working

  • He’s so chill- he doesn’t spook at the crazy arena pigeons
  • Doesn’t mind the radio playing in the arena
  • He reacts but doesn’t overreact to the whip
  • Forward and responsive to the leg (most of the time)
  • He did really well with three other horses in the arena, multiple times
  • No bolting, bucking, or ear pinning
  • Swinging, forward walk is default

What Needs Work

  • Standing still at the mounting block (he doesn’t walk away, he moves his hip away)
  • Lunging
  • Focus- very short attention span
  • Whoa (a bit swap helped, but I want him to react to my seat/tone)
  • Accepting contact
  • Beginning lateral work- moving away from one leg
  • Steering
  • Shoulder control- bulging and leaning everywhere
  • Balance especially in transitions

 

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The magnesium supplement seems to be helping, too

 

My diligence and patience with him is finally paying off right now. We feel ready to consider the next level, which, in our case, is actually tackling some of the things listed above! What fabulous “problems” to have, all things considered…  YOU GUYS! We have RIDING problems to fix. 😀

 

 

Lunatic Lesson Pony

My friend C took her first official lesson on Bravo last week and although things started out rocky, they ended very well.

 

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I lunged him before her lesson and he was insane. Our trainer even left the arena for awhile because he was so ill-behaved on the lunge line. He bucked, squealed, bolted around and mostly ignored the small, unimpressed human clinging to his face via a kite string from the center of the arena. He’s completely forgotten how to lunge like a normal horse.

I am having to sort out some facilities issues at the moment as well as balancing training philosophy. I wouldn’t say I’m juggling these two very well and half of me still thinks waiting until spring to get going again is just fine for both of us. The main issue is that there are way too many horses at my barn. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in barn traffic which would be totally fine if everything else about the facility remained consistent. The horses are turned out everyday, rain or shine, and the paddocks are like an acre for 4-5 horses. Naturally, these paddocks are complete mud pits this time of year and we have had a very mild, wet winter. The horses mostly just stand around all day in mud halfway up their cannons and then come in to their stalls at night. The past several times I have taken Bravo into the indoor arena he has been a completely unruly fire-breathing dragon.

 

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Uh, I’m sorry, you want me to run around in this!?! 

 

I totally get it- but I don’t know what to do about it. There is one spot on the entire property with footing dry and safe enough to allow a horse to move and that is a 60×150 indoor arena shared by all boarders and haul-ins. This is frustrating when you are trying to train a young horse. I do not want him to keep bolting around and playing on the lunge line but there is no other option. The round pen and two outdoor arenas are completely waterlogged and unusable for the next 3 months and he may as well be standing in his stall all day for all the movement his turnout allows. It is against the barn rules to lunge when there are people riding and it is against the rules to turn your horse loose in the arena if anyone else is even on the property.

These rules and conditions seem to be literally only working against me because everyone else who is able to ride their trained horses rides whenever they please. I’m not particularly interested in climbing aboard an out of control, 17.1hh greenie, just to have to weave in and out of four other horses in the arena every night.

Thankfully my friend C is not as much of a weenie and despite being a full witness to Bravo’s lunge line antics, she still chose to go through with her lesson. They worked on steering and getting Bravo to balance himself better into turns. She rode him quite well and he did behave much better under saddle than he had on the lunge line. She is either really brave or really desperate because she asked to ride him again this week in her lesson.

 

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I’ve popped him on a calming supplement hoping that might take a little of the edge off, but I really don’t have a good fix for my current situation. For everyone’s sake I need to be able to give him an outlet for his energy without him picking up the notion that arena=always be crazy or lunge line=free for all.

Any ideas?

 

Bringing up Bravo: Ramping Up

Bravo’s new diet is going well and he seems to be a little less on edge. Despite the ridiculous weather around here the past month, Bravo is sound. So, it’s time to get back to work training this little guy to become a trustworthy riding horse!

 

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I have only been able to free lunge him in the round pen one time in the past two months due to weather and he was pretty distracted and unruly. A friend of mine offered to help me out with Bravo and even ride him in some of her lessons. She is a very talented rider but does not have her own horse so it is a great exchange with mutual benefits. I wanted to get together with her and tag-team ride Bravo at some point so she could get an idea of  where he is right now in his training. I was open and honest about how green he is and left it up to her to decide if it would still be worth it to her to ride him in some of her paid lessons.

 

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We met up at the barn last Friday and I reminded her how feral he was so we decided to play it by ear. I started out lunging him and he was WILD. Staying in a circle around me was not a concept he was familiar with anymore. He played a bunch and every time I asked for a trot he would ramp himself up to a canter and threaten to bolt away and squeal and buck. Eventually, he settled a bit and held a nice trot and started listening to my commands. My friend asked me when the last time I lunged him was and I told her that I haven’t lunged him in the arena in at least two months. We both agreed that given that scenario, he really was being quite a good five year old. She was definitely still game to get on so we got everything adjusted and she climbed aboard. It’s a lot of fun watching your horse be ridden by someone else- nerve-wracking- but fun. He had one moment as they were starting where he thought about playing while under saddle. He didn’t really do anything but he squealed and she just calmly urged him forward and he knocked that shit right off. I breathed a tentative sigh of relief and realized I had been holding my breath.

 

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She handled him so well and we kept it light and easy. He is still a very green bean, unsure in his rapidly changing body, but he tried hard and took care of us both during our rides. He’s quirky and wiggly but I know with consistent riding he’ll improve quickly. I’m super grateful for the help and I am also committing to ride him more consistently this year. Even though I know there will be a whole lot of ugly to ride through, I was bursting with pride watching my friend ride him. I can see flashes of the horse I hope he grows up to be when he really learns to carry himself.

 

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