Poles Poles Poles

Jack and I have had LOTS of homework this year, and in order to continue working on his shape over fences we’ve also introduced a steady diet of pole work.

Sometimes this means a whole arena set up with poles in tons of formations- trot poles, canter poles, elevated poles, etc etc. Other times it’s simply a few trot poles set somewhere accessible that we incorporate into a flat ride.

On the days where poles are the key component of our ride, you will notice that I incorporate draw reins. The whole point of working over poles is to encourage Jack to keep his neck soft and poll down (as opposed to neck tight and upright as a giraffe), and at the moment the draw reins help me to achieve that shape.

You would think, considering that Jack is a proven Training level event horse, that poles would be NBD. *sigh*… if only.

Unfortunately this is the reaction I often get from poles. See yesterday’s reaction, when we had done lots of pole work only 4 days prior:

Yes, I did get after him for this reaction. He had walked by them constantly for about 10 minutes at that point (it’s a dressage court as you can see, so they weren’t exactly avoidable) and the spook resonated to me as an evasion- so I [clearly, pointedly] reminded him his job was to go forward. After that, as you can see, he was fine. Doofus.

(Disclaimer: it is NOT my MO to kick my horse in the ribs. But lacking a bat to remind him that forward is key, this was the correction at my disposal. After he gave me a positive reaction – ie, forward – we went back to being peaceable.)

PS – can we talk about how the cat amongst the stuff and the deer mere feet away are totally ok- but the POLES are scary?!

Anyways. It’s a work in progress. Despite getting a decent spook on the initial approach, the rest of our work over sticks ends up getting easier and easier. My goal is to get him over them roughly once a week if at all possible.

I’m therefore looking for more interesting pole set ups- right now I end up just setting them up in fairly random groups throughout the arena. Anyone have anything fun that would create more positive experiences for a certain Yellow Scaredy Cat?

Executing the Plan

Last Tuesday, Jack had a chiro appointment that saw not nearly as much out as I expected, but a couple notable things needed adjusting on both sides of his neck. Then Friday we had our saddles fitted as planned, and big changes made to both my jump saddle (now sitting up much further off his withers) and my dressage saddle (which is less inclined to scooch left as much as it did, though still some).

Type-A personality at work here

Sunday we did our first proper conditioning set, which we did in the big ring at the trainer’s where there was plenty of space to work in, and where the footing was dependably good. This workout looked like:

  • 7 min walk warmup
  • 4 min trot, just working around edge of the arena
  • 2 min walk break
  • 4 min trot, incorporating some circles and working to get proper bend
  • 2 min walk break
  • 4 min trot, insisting on correct bend and staying straight through his body on long sides
  • 2 min walk
  • 5 min canter, mostly thinking about my position, last 2 minutes sending forward and back and trying to focus on just using my upper body to change speed/balance
  • 2 min walk
  • 5 min canter


At the end of this [37 min] work out Jack was heaving as expected. Granted, so was I! I very hurriedly took off his tack and got him under water as soon as possible, then in front of the fan (note to self: bring my own fan out next time so he can get both at same time). Without counting his breaths per minute, it appeared to take him 20 min to return back to completely normal breathing.

With the show this weekend there’s no point in doing conditioning, since we’re running XC and Jack will be getting a heck of a workout as is. So my plan will be to do another set like the above next Thursday, and Sunday get out to the XC field to do laps as part of our cardio routine.

was obsessed with this show as a kid, for obvious reasons

I won’t lie, doing this kind of work in the heat sucks. I’m not great in heat, and my tomato face is famous and unfortunately long lasting. But no pain, no gain, and so we will forge on in the safest way possible so that Kentucky doesn’t kill us, if we get to go.

I fully expect to roast at the show this weekend, though Jack will try out a Flair nose strip to hopefully make breathing a little easier. Has anyone had experience with those before- did you find it helpful? Any tips for putting them on??

Getting used to a 2 Horse Home

For the first time in my adult life, I have two horses. Of course this was not planned, and I’ve already gone into some detail about how mushy it makes me feel to see Foster’s sweet snoot over the door when I get to the barn. He’s still my heart horse, and just sitting in his stall and letting him lick my hands and nibble my hat does more to settle my soul than the world’s best bottle of Malbec.

Recently, an interesting side-effect of Foster coming back into my life has been how it’s effected Jack. Jack does not trend on the cuddly side, instead the more obvious opinions he shares with me are when I’m annoying him, by shoving me with his head whenever I get in reach. But since Foster has arrived at the barn, I’ve noticed Jack changing his tune a bit.

Often times, I get to the barn, and walk straight back to Jack with just a quick pat on the nose for Foster (longer snuggles are reserved for after my ride), and I routinely say hello to Jack Jack and go to get my grooming kit from the tack room. When he hears my voice, Foster will stick his fave over the gate and whicker softly to me, looking very expectantly at me from the other end of the barn (Jack and Foster are many many stalls apart). Of course this melts my heart and (since he has my number, obviously) I go give him a quick treat and return to Jack.

Jack must be a smart cookie observing all this, because now, when I go into the tack room, I’ve heard him whicker to me from the crossties.

Oh my heart.

Maybe it’s all treat related, but he’s also just seemed happier during our grooming sessions and will actually turn to me and not choose to give me a good shove, instead seeming to prefer a good head scratch while mostly closing his eyes. It’s ah-dorable.

I’ve also started teaching Jack to smile, and he is a super quick study. I also think this has helped improve our relationship, because it establishes a currency of positive reinforcement. I’ve just got to work on him not raising his head so much, since he’s so tall to begin with.

But despite his picking up on some of Foster’s cuter habits, Jack is not a fan of his painted brother. Riding together he makes exceptionally grumpy faces when Foster comes within range, making it clear to all that Foster is offensive to him in every way.

A fleeting moment with Jack’s ears forward- probably before snaking his head with ears pinned at Foster

And then last night, Jack insisted on stopping at Foster’s stall to say hello. Foster was all ‘uh, thought you hated me bro’ and then they commenced in some mutual grooming that ended in a big squeal and my pulling Jack off to his stall. But not before I snagged a whole bunch of cute photos.

I was thinking about how nice it would be if these two got along and day dreaming of all the cute photos of them together, when I walked Jack back by Foster’s stall on our way to the ring, and Foster promptly made the most pissed-off-i-hate-you face ever. Coming from Foster, that is a face I have seldom seen before. Like WTF, Foster- who knew that was inside of you?

Sigh. Maybe one day they’ll love each other.

The Country Road Brings him Home

Saturday I went to see Foster as planned, with not a little trepidation and all the options for him flipping through my head like a possessed rolodex. With me were 2 folks from my barn, who might have an interest in leasing him somehow but also were there as emotional support when the inevitable tears came.

And they did, though thankfully they were happy tears. Foster is hairy and fat, but happy, at ease, and still knows how to smile. I got to see him walk, trot, and canter on the lunge line briefly before hopping aboard for the first time in years. Despite not being quite as round and dressage-pony-esque, he was exactly the same. I was so tempted to drop the reins and canter around forever- but first, my friends had to experience the magic.

Feels like home

It didn’t take long before they convinced me to bring him home. Foster is as charming as he ever was, just as happy to trot around the arena as he is to be a couch and take a nap in the sun while we chatted. And they felt confident that between them, a lease situation could be worked out.

Plus- baby goats!

What we landed on: he would have a free lease situation, and my costs would be his monthly supplements (some Smartpak supplements so he can be enrolled in ColicCare) and any vet costs. So I contacted all the requisite people, and told them the news that Foster had a home and because of the gorgeous weather (60* in February, yes please!) I’d be picking him up in the morning.

My heart swelled as he hopped on the trailer with nary a thought, and the ride home was quiet as I’m sure he pondered what would happen next. When he stepped off the trailer at the farm, Jack was there staring down the situation- I’m sure he knows that’s “his” trailer, and to see another creature come off it was perplexing. Of course I immediately let them meet, and there was a mutual curiosity that lasted just long enough for me to snap a couple pics.

And so he’s home. He’s going to be the first face to greet barn visitors, just as he was before I retired him. I can’t wait for him to meet all the folks who have not yet had the opportunity to fall in love with him, and appreciate his kind eye and Fabio forelock. More updates to come as we begin this new part of Foster’s story. And a new chapter in mine- as I go just as suddenly from one horse to two horse family, and get to relish in seeing my old partner close by again.


Blogger Secret Santa and Small Victories

I’ve been totally remiss in blogging, and I definitely can’t forget to blog about my awesome Secret Santa gift! This is always a fun activity that I look forward to each year – Tracy does such a good job connecting folks, and I love discovering new blogs and learning about other equestrian bloggers through their descriptions!

This year was another new blog to me, and Nadia from 3 Day Adventures obviously did her research, and I simply adore this wine bag (made by also Equestrian blogger Beljoeor!) and will absolutely be rocking it at our first CT on Jan 12th!

Annnnnnd then you can pretty much NEVER go wrong with a picture of someone’s pony, and I love seeing this photo of Jack in mousepad form! It reminds me of how deliciously golden he gets and what he looks like in peak (or what was peak) condition. I absolutely treasure seeing this every time I sit down at my computer (which is to say, a lot). Thank you SO much Nadia for the sweet gifts- I love how practical these are and will absolutely be using them tons in 2019!

Isn’t he cute??? Though I prefer golden Jack to creamsicle Jack…

In other news, Christmas was a super fun time of connecting with the family, but I’m looking forward to planning 2019 and seeing what it has in store for Jack and I. A lot has changed since my last post, and I am pleased to announce that my horse no longer hates me. The bit I ordered has seen a lot of action, and I have some strong opinions on it that I will be sharing soon in a review post.

Annnnnd I’ll also be posting about those 2019 goals, though I admit I’m somewhat scared of putting them down “on paper”, so expect lots of caveats (LOTS – this being the digital way to knock on wood, I suppose) as that one comes out.

In truth, I really hope that 2019 represents a bit of a return to blogging. If my goals (wishes? outermost desires? please universe don’t jinx me) work out then there will be lots to write about!

Remember when I used to ride?

These days, this is me. Well… actually in all truth, maybe it’s more like this:


But still, all the relevant information you need to know is here:

Basically, I was on my way back from Chicago when I got the news that Jack had lost his shoe Friday. Amazingly my farrier came out and tacked it back on Saturday morning, but without the pour-in pad since homie was due to be reshod anyways. Sunday when I finally saw my pony and hopped aboard, it was evident that he was lame. Like ouchy at the trot. He needed a trim, and new shoes, badly, but since his oh-so-special shoes were not in we had to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Because in that time (meaning Monday to Friday the following week) my A team had to agree on what direction to go with his special fairy dust shoes, and then order them. Even with them being overnighted, Jack didn’t get shod until Friday- a whole 6.5 weeks into the shoe cycle, when he’s meant to go 4. EFFFFF.

Of course when he finally got shod, his soles were bruised and he was short up front. Jack’s got himself some sensitive little tootsies, y’all.


After a long diatribe to my vet about how even a week after being shod he still looks the teensiest bit short up front, I was told that it might take half a shoeing cycle to get back on track, since his going so long messed up all the mechanics of what we were trying to accomplish in the first place.

Jack’s super fancy shoes, and some mud.

So I might have just spent the equivalent of a clinic fee in farrier work, all for the pleasure of waiting for my horse’s feet to grow. Yes, first world problems, and yes, I’m whining about it. Judge me.

So that’s me. I’ve either been not here or not able to ride. My dreams of doing the Phillip Dutton clinic in December are likely crushed, and my hopes of jumping again are temporarily dashed.

At least there’s wine at the barn though… amirite?

Happy Friday!

The Journey out of Rehab

I’m breaking my radio silence today with another update on the Golden boy’s progress.

We completed all 3 IRAP injections with only one hiccup (that being he got turned out in a 5 acre field with other horses right after an injection, instead of the rehab paddock he was meant to go in- cue inner hysteria on my part). But all seemed to check out fine, and we were approved for tack walking last week.

The goal was to start at 20 minutes, and progress to 35 minutes over the next two weeks. Right now we’re right around the 27 minute mark, and I hope to be at 35 minutes this Thursday. Then we get to add in short bursts of trot, for about 15 seconds to start and building up to 2 minutes over another 2 weeks.

It’s hard to make almost half an hour of walk work interesting, but I’ve been doing my best. I found that despite only walking, homeboy still needs his inhaler before riding, and the super sticky hot weather probably isn’t helping a certain large creature get back into shape.

Then 30 minutes later, I hop on and ask him to walk forward and stretch some. It takes him about 10 minutes to really start rolling, and I try to keep up the pace as much as possible, which actually takes a lot of work at the moment. At the end of our ride though, he’s got a real tempo built, his back is swinging, and he is definitely getting a workout.

Boy you better hustle

In the last couple rides I’ve started including some slow leg yields, working on asking him to take wide sideways steps to get those hammys stretched, and introducing some lateral work to help him get straight. The vet also advised that I start to introduce some collected walk into our routine, putting him on his hind end in short bursts before going back to a stretchy walk. Which is great- because even though it’s definitely work, 35 min of just stretchy walk sounds fairly awful.

I also hope to start doing some cavaletti for the same reason- to start strengthening his hind end and get some engagement there that way. It’s walk boot camp for another couple weeks, for sure!

I can’t wait to start trotting and build up that cardio fitness. But we’re back on the right path, which is feeling great! You really don’t appreciate how nice it is to have your own horse until you’ve gone without for a couple months!

Show Recap: SPHT Stadium

After learning that we were at the top of the charts after dressage, that really put the pressure on to go clear in the jumping phases. And you know what they say… when you’re at the top, the only way to go is down. And you know what comes down? Brightly colored sticks.

The showjumping course- very friendly overall

Our warm up went pretty well, but as we now know, that doesn’t mean that Jack will go in the ring all calm and collected-like. So the plan was to go in the ring and go– forward and packaged and get him thinking straight where possible. We expected 4 to be a little sticky because it was an oxer that appeared to be jumping into the stands, and 9a-9b was giving folks trouble all day because of the astroturf filler, but otherwise thinking positive and moving seemed to provide rewarding rides.

Even though we had a rail down (dammmmmmit), this was still our best round to date in terms of how obedient and relaxed Jack was once we found a rhythm. I did have to growl at him approaching 5 when I felt him back off a bit, but that’s just kind of how Jack is at the moment so I won’t fault him for that.

Our rail bumped us from 1st to tied for 2nd- still in the ribbons heading to XC and a fun course there awaiting us as well! Tomorrow we wrap it up!

A Jack Update

Jack and I are gearing up for our first show of the year this weekend, a Combined Training event at Beginner Novice. What I thought would be a small show actually has ~25 competitors in my division (maybe they’ll split it? probably not), but I’m hopeful that we’ll be competitive. I hope I’m not jinxing myself right there.

The dressage test is pretty straight forward and flows nicely with the exception of that stupid first centerline. A enter working trot, then at X turn onto a half diagonal to M? That’s right judges, because the best way to make a good first impression is by starting to exit stage right halfway into the arena. I’ve been starting to repeat the pattern with Jack, but each time it catches him off guard. Probably because centerlines were only recently becoming an obvious thing for him, now we throw him for a loop.

Overall Gaits
Our canter transitions are starting to come along, and though there’s tension in the depart, he no longer goes totally inverted like he used to. Once in canter he is so much more balanced, and I can start to maneuver his shoulders more and more. I haven’t gotten to asking for more jump in the trot, but in general he is steadier in the connection.

No idea what height this was,?

The Fun Stuff
In my last lesson, my dressage trainer [gladly] kicked my butt, and we introduced half-pass as well as tuning our renvers, shoulder-in and haunches-in. We’ve also come back to the walk-canter departs, something we avoided in order to establish the trot-canter depart (which didn’t exist before with any quality). Jumping-wise, we’re working on related distances, getting the correct lead on landing, and not snowballing down lines in general. Fences are creeping between the BN and N level depending on the technicality.

Weight Woes
The above picture was taken December 22. The temperatures started dropping around then, and my guess is that the lack of grass, cold/thin-skinned TB part of him, and the regular work schedule just took its toll. Lest you think he’s neglected or abused in any way- Jack eats almost twice as much as any other horse in the barn. He’s a big guy at just a hair under 17h, but with the coldest months just getting started I really want him chunky. After discussing with my vet, homeboy is now on:

  • 2 flakes compressed alfalfa once/day
  • 3 quarts Pro Force Fiber 2x/day
  • 1.5 quarts Empower Boost (fat supplement) 2x day
  • 1 quart alfalfa pellets 2x day
  • Free choice orchard hay at night (~5 flakes)

And finally in the last few days he’s starting to look like a normal horse again (see below picture on right). I’m hopeful that the return of grass in the spring will mean we can back off some of the new additions to his meals, but we’ll obviously do what it takes to keep him in good weight.

That’s the latest on everyone’s favorite Barbie Dream Horse!