Please Help?

Please consider not riding right now.

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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Mr. 211 in 2020

I celebrated Christmas 2019 in traditional fashion with a festive holiday ride. Bravo was still riding the bench healing from his latest hoof abscess and also too young to be reliably counted on to participate in such a wild event. My friend graciously offered her retired dressage pony, Duke, and he made a perfect Max to my Grinch.

 

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With a big smooch on the leaf, I bid Bravo a warm farewell right before the holidays so that I could spend ten glorious days with the rest of my family a few states over. His Christmas gift to me this year was to remain abscess, illness, injury, and trouble-free for those entire ten days. THANK YOU, buddy, I really needed that. Of course a solid portion of my trip home was spent thinking about Bravo but, in contrast to my trip home over Thanksgiving, none of it was spent worrying about him.

Despite 2019 being my first year as a horse owner, it was rough. I arrived back in Indiana eager to welcome 2020 and instead promptly got clobbered by a sinus infection/cold the second I stepped off of the airplane. I spent my New Years Eve snoozing on my couch rousing briefly from my cold med-aided slumber during the countdown.

I’m emerging this week feeling much better and finally ready to start 2020. This year will be BIG and there are some major changes afoot. I can’t elaborate as my defense mechanism prevents me from getting excited about things that can fall through, but regardless, change is inevitable and young horse development is always exciting.

Bravo is continuing to thrive and looks so much better than when I got him, but winter has presented a few challenges when it comes to sticking with training. The weather this year hasn’t been particularly cold but the constant rain and mud has not been helping. The fields are complete mud wallows and the horses don’t move around much during the day in the slop. Add that to an unusable outdoor arena and water logged round pen, and it means all of the boarders at my barn are sharing a 60X150 arena. Not exactly conducive to training a young horse. I have to try and avoid lesson times and busy riding times so I end up closing down the barn at night a lot. For a while I got a smidge of seasonal depression and made mental plans to just restart him again when the weather got nicer and stop beating myself up over not feeling comfortable riding him in the arena with 5 other horses. I’m feeling a little better about things now, and I’ve started working with him more during off times. Rider traffic and wet weather are still ever-present hurdles.

 

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In other news, I gifted myself a FeedXL subscription so that has been a lot of fun. After noticing that Bravo has been spooky and hot lately as well as catching wind that he is starting to get a bit of a reputation with the staff for being difficult to handle, I’ve been overhauling his diet.

These are the current facts:

  • He is no longer underweight
  • Slippery pastures mean he’s moving around less during turnout
  • Abscess recovery, weather, holidays, and arena traffic has equated to a two month long break from work
  • The barn feeds a very high alfalfa content hay
  • He has been on a rice bran supplement for weight gain
  • AND he was getting about 5lbs of grain a day

To summarize:

Bravo has been getting roughly 150% of his energy requirement everyday and doing no work. No wonder he’s hot and amped all the time.

 

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Momma! Look! I’m 5! Look, Momma! Look what I can do!

 

I stopped the rice bran and trimmed his grain down to 3lbs per day but he was still getting waaaaay too much. I am going to be trying him on a ration balancer and getting rid of most, if not all, grain especially for the rest of the winter.

He used to get:

  • ~18-20lbs 70% Alfalfa/Timothy and some mixed grass hay
  • 5lbs of Tribute Kalm n EZ
  • 2lbs of Max-e-glo Rice Bran Pellets
  • 2oz of Vitalize Alimend
  • SmartDigest Ultra
  • 2 scoops Farrier’s Formula Double Strength

He’s going to get:

  • ~18-20lbs 70% Alfalfa/Timothy and some mixed grass hay
  • 2lbs of Tribute Alfa Essentials ration balancer
  • 1-2oz of Vitalize Alimend
  • SmartDigest Ultra
  • 1 scoop Farrier’s Formula Double Strength
  • mayyyybe a Mega Mag or SmartVite vitamin supplement, if he’ll eat it

So we’ll see how he adjusts to that. Hopefully he will eat it. FeedXL is fun but definitely makes you feel like you’re a horrible horse owner when it displays your horse’s folic acid level as woefully in the red. I think some important things to remember are that many of these “daily values” are estimates and unless you are testing your hay or pastures on a continuous basis, the rest is just an estimate as well. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole. I do think approaching a minimal grain diet would potentially be a good thing for this horse. Everyone must evaluate their own horse’s needs. We’ve dealt with a lot this year and I’m still trying to find the best formula for us. If this new diet works for him, it SHOULD help balance out the extreme excess of energy and hopefully level off some of that excess hotness and spooky behavior. We will pick back up with work as soon as we are able!

Bravo thinks that my next post should talk about the overhaul that needs to happen with MY diet 😉 Don’t worry, I’ll spare you dear readers those details, but rest assured Bravo buddy, we’re in this together!