Late Night Champagne

Appreciate Your Professionals

Guys, I have to tell you, I’ve had a good run.  I’ve overcome a LOT of challenges and received a LOT of help along the way.  Working a horse as an Amateur is no easy feat.  From May 2013 when we brought this horse home to April 26, 2018 when we pulled in to Phoenix Farms drive, Fiz has been worked primarily by me, with the exception of that one month a few years ago when was worked by a trainer for 30 days.  So yeah… I’ve had a good run and gained SO much knowledge in this AOT experience.  Lets just say if nothing else, I’ve produced the most tolerant equine on earth.  If he can put up with me, he can conquer the world.

You’re probably wondering at this point:  What am I even talking about?  Well, a month ago, Fiz went to live at Phoenix Farm to be worked by Blair for 30 days.  Then he was supposed to go back to the boarding facility to be worked by me after we showed at Burlington.  He has just thrived there, and Blair is an AMAZING person, horsewoman, and trainer, so it’s been decided he’s staying indefinitely.  That said, there comes a time where the limitations of your knowledge, experience, and ability are keeping you and your horse from excelling.  And for the love of everything holy, you have got to learn when to say, “I need help” or “I can’t teach them anything else” and you have to be able to admit when you’ve met a roadblock you can’t get past. We’ve met that point, and I for one, am unsatisfied with being mediocre.  Fiz probably doesn’t care, but I want more for him! I want to see him reach his potential.  I 100% feel that he will be able to do so under the Phoenix Farm banner.  So I have gracefully accepted the facts, that I have taught him all I know, but that there is someone who can teach him much more, and as that happens, I’ll be able to learn too. We can all learn from others, if we’re open to it.

People, you have GOT to respect and appreciate your professionals for the exceptional job they do (that is, if it’s in fact exceptional..).  You have got to understand that they make a living doing what they do FOR A REASON.  They are experts, and work every day towards a common goal: For your horse and you to succeed.  Their success as a professional rides on your success, as the way your horse competes is a direct reflection of their work. For 30 days in, I am completely in awe of the drastic changes in this horse.  I’ll let the photo speak for itself.  We can only go up from here!

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Sometimes, Plans Fail

Sometimes, you’re just being crazy, and sometimes, you’re RIGHT.  In this case, I’d rather have been crazy and not right.  Before our show, I had a dream that I forgot essential stuff and then I got lost.  See the message below, call it a premonition.

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Well, that’s not exactly how it all went down, but I did forget an essential piece of equipment.  The driving lines!  I know, right… The one piece of equipment that connects the driver to control the horse.  Yeah, let’s just hop in the cart and hope he knows where to go!  Uh, no.  Thank God for knowing people, we were able to procure a lunge line, a snap, a cable tie, and a lot of electrical tape from Blair Cecil, trainer at Phoenix Farm and get Cindy in the ring!  Really, we aren’t above ghetto fabulous at this point, and they really didn’t look bad in the grand scheme of things.  See?

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So, after the fiasco getting him ready, we were good to go get him hooked!  Except we didn’t know that the first two driving classes were going to take over an hour as each driver went individually to show.  So there we were, in the warm up ring, for an hour before the class walking around with the cart hooked.  Poor Fizzy was rather unamused, but for the most part he behaved. By the time the class rolled around, he was rather lazy probably because he’d already been hooked and walking/trotting around for the better part of an hour.  However, he went in and did his job and didn’t act a fool, which is always a good thing.  After the class when we were unhooking the cart, I had a lady tell me “That is the calmest, most well behaved Saddlebred I have ever seen” which, is a very good compliment!  He CAN be, he definitely has it in him when it counts.  Check out Cindy’s class:

Driving Class w/Cindy

So, on to my Halter class.  I realized when I went to get ready that I had no tie.  Great!  Suit with no tie! What good is that?  Anyway, I had a plan, really, I did for this class I’d never done before.  It was to go last and do what everyone else did.  That plan did not work.  It was an epic fail, because we thought we still had time but they were calling numbers for the class so we rushed up there. We were FIRST in the ring on THIRD call for the class.  SO, there we went.  I just asked the judge “what would you like to see” because I didn’t know the first thing to do!  She had me walk him toward her, then wanted me to trot him away and around to line up “head to tail” whatever that meant.  He wouldn’t trot… then he sorta did, it was rather ugly I’m sure as he was so confused!  When the other participant lined up, I found out that “head to tail” meant parallel to the rail, haha!  So, we quickly moved to match that.  Pretty sure if the judge could have given us 8th place, she would have, even though there were only 2 horses in the class.  The photos from Bluegrass Girl Photography  turned out great!  All the photos in this post are credited to her.

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There’s one other thing… The trailer.  So, Fizzy has developed this new habit of kicking in the trailer.  He’s shredded the wall off his side of the trailer twice now.  The metal toward the bottom is now bent.  SO, in an effort to keep him somewhat safe on the way home as best we can, Cindy had the idea of Duct Taping the metal so any potential sharp edges were not exposed.  Then, we put shipping boots on him to try and protect his back legs (where the shredding occurred) even though it was 93 degrees outside.  Before you ask, yes, I stood and took pictures of the pregnant lady working-and told her, “these are going on the blog!”

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THEN, upon leaving (why does this always seem to happen to us?) we got stuck in traffic while some street sweepers decided to close the road and sweep up literally nothing.  No wonder our poor horse hates the horse trailer!  Every time he gets on it we get stuck in traffic while he has to stand back there being all hot with no airflow!

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But, we all made it back in one piece, safe and sound. I think someone was really happy to get back into his field.

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Bye Bye Winter

 

It’s been a while since we posted an update.  Now that the dreaded winter is finally behind us, there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes! I’ve been bad about sharing and I apologize to our (few) fans for not posting more.  I’ll work on that!  AOT life is crazy sometimes, and it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind!  So, let me update on what’s been going on with Fizzy.

We made it through the winter, but not without a few troubles.  Fizzy got back into the habit of “I don’t want to come in from the field” again, so he has earned himself a halter to wear 24/7.  Well, he’s actually earned himself multiples, because he likes to break them or Houdini himself out of them somehow.  Thanks to Blair’s Bits and Pieces, we’ve been supplied with several leather halters without breaking the bank.  Yay for affordable used tack and equipment!! Check them out if you need anything.  Blair is awesome! Anyway, halter on, he comes right up to you in the field, no problem and no questions asked.  Halter off, and it’s a battle where he crosses some serious lines into territory we’d rather not be in.  So, halter it is.  It’s not the choice we WANTED to make, but he made the choice for us with his behavior.

Anyway, in case you aren’t up to speed, Fiz lived the entire winter barefoot.  We went through the painful stage where he acted crippled, (tried, loved, and reviewed the Cavallo Simple Boot here), then slowly but surely, his hooves tightened, hardened, and his soles became concave instead of flat! He became sound on soft ground without shoes, and mostly sound on tougher ground.  Rocks were still a little bit of a challenge, but we managed nearly 6 months without shoes!

He got his first set of shoes for the season put on 2 weeks ago (3-23-17), gave us a big scare, then turned out to be just fine.  He was shod on a Thursday morning, worked like wonder horse Friday in his full show bridle, then turned up completely lame on Monday with nothing to understand why.  Our farrier was out of town, but another farrier checked him Wednesday and found no evidence.  By Wednesday evening, he was perfectly fine again!  I guess it could have been going so long without shoes, then having them again.

Anyway, he’s fine now (thankfully) and here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to!

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2-10-17: Pretty Sunset at the farm

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2-10-17: What Fizzy thinks of photos

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2-18-17: First drive in about 4 months. He was fantastic!

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2-24-17: Fizz’s favorite activity

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3-24-17: First ride in a full bridle in about 4 months

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3-31-17: Trying out long lining (I still stink at it!)

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3-31-17: A look at his hooves/shoes

 

Overcoming “Obstacles”

Anyone that knows me knows I truly despise cold weather with every fiber of my being.  I imagine hell to be mounds of snow, not fire and brimstone but who am I to question the bible?  Anyway… since we decided to pull Fiz’s shoes and it’s gotten colder outside, we have not really been doing a whole lot, but we have still been learning and overcoming obstacles.  Or running through them, whatever your definition of the word “overcome” encompasses.

So in this post I’m going to talk about the water obstacle.  Following our big successes lately with tarp training, I got this brilliant idea that Fizzy should learn to go through water calmly at home under controlled conditions rather than out on a trail in the middle of nowhere.  Well, what I learned is that no matter how much “control” you think you can have in the comforts of “home” and an indoor arena, you simply cannot control a horse’s reaction to things they have not done before.

Let me give you a little back story. This horse is a pig.  And by that I mean he will find the ONLY wet spot in the pasture to roll around in or stomp around in as to get himself as dirty as possible.  But god forbid you ask him to step in the only puddle around if you’re leading him.  He will avoid it like the plague and even more so if you’re saddled up and riding.  WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE????  How much sense does that actually make??  Horses…

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Anyway, so I got permission from the barn owner to set this contraption up in the indoor arena and I went forth with confidence that my execution couldn’t have been better in building this obstacle.  I brought Fizzy to the arena to introduce him to my handiwork only to find that he was not nearly as impressed as I was with my ingenious build.  We couldn’t even walk near it, Fizzy snubbed it completely.  It was complete garbage, and he was above acknowledging its existence.  I was so disappointed that he didn’t find it as glorious as I did. I am also disappointed that I did not snap any photos of my incredibly awesome obstacle in all its glory.  Here’s the jist of what it looked like and how it was made:

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Anyway, my Momma didn’t raise a quitter, so I just kept at it and finally Fizzy decided to try and shut me up by stepping in.  You would have thought I had asked him to step into shark infested waters, because he went flying backwards at the splash of water that his hoof produced and proceeded to snort and blow in that direction for the next several minutes.

Since I had put a saddle on him prior to bringing him into the arena, with the intent of eventually riding him (calmly, you know, walking like a sane normal horse) through the water obstacle, I decided maybe I could better encourage him from his back.  Yeah… well, he had other ideas about what was appropriate.  My encouragement produced a horse that charged through the water obstacle like he was riding into a war zone.  I mean, REALLY?  Is that necessary?  Whatever makes you happy Fizzy.  But at the end of the day, he DID do what I asked and he went through the obstacle.  Not with the calmness I would have liked, but he went in his own way, and he did it because I asked him to.  I can’t ask for anything more than that.

After all was said and done, he was still a happy horse in his new trail riding gear, which I did get a photo of.

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Adjusting to the “Off Season”

Our show season was cut short by a number of setbacks this year.  This, for a multitude of reasons, has been our worst show season to date only making it to one show all year and having a number of unexpected things happen to us and to Fizzy.  But you know what?  That’s OK.  You learn from mistakes, you grow through adversity, and you get stronger through struggle, so let’s raise a glass to all of that and begin to enjoy our offseason and prepare for next year.  We have some MAJOR plans for next year, and what I have learned in this whole AOT adventure so far is this:  #1, you HAVE to have a plan.  #2, Plans don’t always work out.  #3, no matter what happens, we will get through it and we will be just fine.

So, what are we doing right now?  We are goofing off, trying new things, enjoying ourselves, and having FUN.  I’ve got some really fun things to share with you guys about next year, but I have to keep it under wraps for the time being.  So I will share with you some recent events.

#1.  Fizzy, after 2 other unsuccessful off seasons trying this, has FINALLY conquered (walking across) the tarp.  In case you are interested, you can watch 7 minutes of us NOT crossing the tarp here: The day we rode the FAILBOAT.  The deep dark hole that is sure to eat him alive actually didn’t this time.  He survived.  I mean, he survived after noticing that I didn’t get eaten alive walking across it before him, and I actually was able to convince him he was still safe to WALK across it while I was riding him too.  However, I have not (successfully) managed to have him trot across it, which brings me to our second point.

#2.  Fizzy can JUMP.  Well, I mean, I already knew this.  However, Fizzy can jump despite the fact that I cannot.  Imagine this:  Trotting horse approaches black hole of death (tarp), trotting horse leaps through the air taking unsuspecting rider by surprise, unsuspecting rider lands on horses neck with no feet left in stirrups.  Yeah, I never learned how to jump a horse.  So what.  We (meaning he) got more confident going (jumping) across the death trap (tarp), but it was only a success when I stood in 2-point and basically handed him the bridle and let him do his own thing.  Which, is not only slightly dangerous, but it’s also probably not the proper method of jumping and it still didn’t accomplish what I wanted him to do (trot across it).  So, yeah.  We will revisit that later, but it sure was fun to just let him have fun and do what he thought he needed to.  Maybe it’s counter-productive, maybe not… either way, we had fun so that’s what matters.  It didn’t HURT anything, so who cares?

Deep Dark Hole of Death, pictured below:

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#3.  Bareback rides are commonplace for me now.  I mean, if we aren’t going to shows, why should we drag out a bunch of equipment and get all serious if we don’t have to?  We can still learn things without a saddle, so that’s what we’ve been doing.  Afterall, a saddle does affect the communication you have with your horse.  Without it, you can feel their every teensy little movement underneath you, which is REALLY cool.  You can feel your connection with their back and you can see how your seat affects their movement, their mouth, everything.  I happen to love it, so much that I ordered a bareback pad to help keep both Fizzy and us more comfortable when we do this.  I’ll be adding a review on that once I receive it.

That’s it for now, folks.  Stay tuned for some special news about next show season and Cindy and I’s new, what I’m going to call “project awesome” with Fizzy!!!

Sometimes, You Should Just Stay Home!

True story.  Sometimes you can make all the plans in the world, but if the stars align just right and the moon is in a funny position, pigs can suddenly fly but unicorns are stabbing them out of the sky and all kinds of other freaky crap happens.  I have a story to share with you, and it’s a story about how some days you should just listen to the first sign and stay the hell home! Lesson learned, universe!

It was a nice day outside, sunny, not too hot, not too cold, just perfect for the trail riding I had planned with Mary Jo.  Yeah… little did I know, life had some more lessons to teach me.

First of all, I am not sure I shared here the story of Fiz’s”game” with not wanting to come in from the field? Well, he wore a halter for nearly 2 months (until he broke it into several pieces) because at one point this year he decided it was fun to run away at the sight of us, presumably just to laugh at us chasing him down. Since he broke the halter, he hasn’t worn another one and he has been fine to catch, no issues whatsoever for over a month. I decide I’d like to take him trail riding, and arrange to meet Mary Jo for a nice little ride at McNeely Lake Park.  Fiz decides that’s the day to begin another round of the “game” with the running away in the field.  Hilarious, I tell ya (note the sarcasm here).

I go to his field the day of the ride, about 30 minutes before I needed to leave the barn to meet her.  He runs away like a bat out of hell. So, I run him and run him and run him until he’s tired enough to let me catch him. Then, I realized that he’d nicked his front heel with his back foot, and pulled the shoe off his front right hoof. Despite that, it barely bled and he seemed fine, so I decided to load up anyway…. NOTED UNIVERSE, I SHOULD HAVE JUST STAYED HOME.  I get it.  Really, I do.  Note to readers:  It’s all downhill from here.

Fiz and I got to McNeely about 30 minutes late and unload. Well, Mary Jo dropped the butt bar before I unhooked the trailer tie (totally not her fault, I should have had this done) and he tried to fly out of the trailer, getting STUCK by the trailer tie, and then tearing off a piece of the rubber on the side of the trailer by flailing around before I could get him loose. The tie is supposed to be one of those emergency release things, which did not work as intended. EPIC FAIL.

Get him out of the trailer, finally, and again, he’s fine. He seems in good spirits, looking around, acting nice and calm, eating grass, etc. So we decide to see if he would tie. We tied him to her trailer, on the opposite side of her horse, and stood there with him about 10 minutes while he was again, calm, and being good. I decide to go back to the trailer and get his bridle. Well, AS SOON as I walk away, he ran backwards BREAKING the damn lead and GOT LOOSE. At McNeely! REALLY??? He begins running away down the road we came in. At this point I’m thinking “Well, I hope whoever finds you will give you a good home, because obviously I’m never gonna catch you out here in the open.” At this point, I also wanted to cry, felt like I was about to have a heart attack, but didn’t have it in me to give up.  I guess that’s just not in my DNA, as I keep coming back time and again for more, no matter what!

Luckily, I had some grain in a bucket in the trailer, so I go retrieve it to try and coax him back to me. Finally catch him about 10 or so minutes later. At this point it’s like “REALLY, this day is cursed” but we’re already there so might as well keep going.  Finally get saddled up and on the trail… he’s again going along fine and happy like no big deal. Until we hit some places with rocks on the trail, then he proceeds to act as though he is completely crippled on the foot with no shoe. Well that’s terrific. (Again, note the sarcasm here).

So we turn around and head back to the trailers. We were out a little over an hour. He loads FINE. Like no issues at all. Then, Mary Jo’s horse wouldn’t load, and he NEVER has issues! So we finally get both horses loaded and all is right with the world. So I thought.

I get back to the barn, and now he’s managed to get cut up on one of his back legs also. So that’s bleeding everywhere.  I say everywhere, but in all reality it really wasn’t THAT bad.   WHAT THE HELLLLLLL????? And then he won’t back OFF of the trailer! I assume afraid because of what happened at McNeely. Dear sweet baby Jesus please help me! It took about 10 minutes to convince him he could go backwards and step down. The wall of the trailer looks as though all he did was kick at it the entire ride back home. So much for having a sane, normal horse. Or wait, did we ever?  Anyway, I doctored his leg, turned him out, and went home.

I fully expected the next day for him to be super sore, but NOPE!  He was just fine.  His cuts healed in less than 3 whole days and he is perfectly fine now, but we have not since been off the farm.  We have also purchased a set of shipping boots to protect him from those type of cuts in the future.  Hopefully the next adventure is not as… adventurous!  As always, stay tuned for more adventures of Fizzy!

The Show Must Go On

We have a horse show in less than 2 days.  Saturday, the 16th, Fizzy will show in Country Pleasure at the Hardin County Fair. Those of you who care, the show starts at 8pm, we’re in the 12th class, and the address for the fairgrounds is 5617 South Dixie Hwy, Glendale, KY, 42740.  All shameless self-promotions aside, lets move on.

I was going to save this story until after the horse show because I know my loving Mother reads this blog, and you know how Mom’s worry.  I felt this situation to be similar to that time I wrecked my motorcycle days before a horse show and did not tell Mom until after I’d ridden in the show.  I did this to prove that I could function normally,  that I didn’t somehow become a paraplegic due to some scrapes and bruises.  Anyway, she’s been informed, so I guess the rest of you can be too.  Love you Momma!

Here’s the scoop.  Why is it that every time it’s crunch time, it seems like the universe wants to rain on our parade?  I mean, does this kind of crap really happen to other people, or is it just me? First let me begin by saying Fizzy has now been promoted to certified Saint, absolutely the most perfect horse in the universe of all horses.  (This week, anyway.)  Really, I should never speak ill of him ever again, in any capacity, for any reason!

That said, here’s the reason why. We had an accident in the cart Wednesday morning. Before you gasp and go “OH MY GAWWWDDD did you DIE?” No, we didn’t.  We are both just fine, by my definition of the word! Horse unscathed, Human might have walked a little weird for a day. Anyhow, here’s what happened. Coming around a corner in the indoor arena, the cart tumped over.  Yes, I mean, flipped onto its side.  As you can imagine, it’s not easy to sit on a seat that is no longer parallel to the ground, so I bit the dust pretty hard. I’m talking arena sand in my ears, nose, mouth, and pretty much covering my body hard. Probably ate some poop too, but we’re going to pretend that didn’t happen. I admit, picturing how it must have looked playing out, I’m laughing. I am going to assume this happened because of the bent pieces I later discovered while inspecting the cart.  I KNOW it was not previously like this. Despite the hard fall, I was still was able to hold onto the lines by some miracle (rope burned fingers, aside). Dragging the cart, now on its side, I shouted out  “WHOAH” and Fizzy stopped, immediately, and turned and looked at me. He stood perfectly still until I was able to get myself together, stand up, and walk over to put the cart back on it’s wheels and unhook him from it.

He literally could have ripped the cart apart, but he listened to me without a second thought and saved both of us the grief. Thank GOD that horse has a brain, and sometimes uses it! You know, when it counts! It’s one of those things you look back on and say “how in the actual hell did we get so lucky?” when you remember those “driving disaster” videos on YouTube where all hell breaks loose and some crazy equine is running loose, wildly trying to remove the rolling object from its self. Parts flying everywhere, a wheel here, a shaft there, and people scrambling around trying to stop it from further damage while it crashes into anything in its path. In case you haven’t had the luxury of seeing one of these terrifying videos, check this one out:  Driving Class Gone Wrong.  Yeah, thankfully that wasn’t us.  Saint status, yep, Fizzy has earned it.

Anyway, here’s the culprit, I assume… now to figure out how to fix that and get back to business, since we have already established that working Fizzy with the cart more has tremendously helped him! I apologize for the crappy cell phone photos, it’s the best I could do at the time.

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The aftermath:  I’ll spare you photos of my purple hip, so be glad for that.  My wonderful and caring man bandaged me up, politely telling me I should always wear my helmet for any activity, not just riding.  He might be right, but don’t tell him that.  He also laughed (because he knew I was OK), called me “Grace” and commented on how I like to “practice falling down” as he says.  I admit it, I’m not the most graceful person to ever walk planet earth and he’s witnessed a multitude of “mishaps” I’ve had.  A long time ago, he bought me this little plush horse and named it “Bandaid” in reference to my uncanny ability to inflict harm on myself without trying. So what? the show must go on, and we will be out there Saturday night giving it all we’ve got! So come join us in the fun.  🙂

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More Trail Riding!

It has been a few weeks, but I just want to say we took Fizzy trail riding around Seneca Park.  It was loads of fun, even it it was hot as Hades outside!  Fizzy hadn’t been ridden in a few days and thought walking was optional.  He’s a character, with a very backwards mind.  We learned a few things, such as stationary silent objects such as large rocks and gazebos are not OK, they are every reason needed to move sideways, snort, blow, and try to turn around. Loud moving vehicles (fire truck with sirens blaring) doesn’t get a second look or thought. I crack up at his decision making skills, and what he chooses to be afraid of.  None of it ever makes any sense to me!  If only I could see inside his mind and know what he was thinking sometimes.  Nonetheless, he always keeps me entertained.  I do feel like he likes getting away from home to do something other than go to a show, and I anticipate lots more trail riding this fall.  Here are some photos and a short video of our fun in the park!  In the video, you can hear the siren blaring and can tell that this doesn’t even phase him!

American Road Horse and Pony Show

The first horse show of 2016 is in the books.  The first show since Fizzy completed his 30 days of professional training.  Overall, he was much improved and looked terrific.  We have not purchased photos from this show, but we might depending on how the rest of the year goes. They can be seen in this album over at Stevie B Photos: Bluegrass Select 3 Gaited Country Pleasure.  She got a few really great shots of Fizzy and I!  Better than any in previous years, partly because she’s a great photographer and partly because he looks SO MUCH better this year!

Special thanks to my Mom who got these few great shots of us on the rail!

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Things we learned at this show:

1.  Make sure to check, double check, and triple check your tack before you get on.  Malfunctions and oversights happen.  Make sure you’re good before you get on and go warm up.

2.  You have a voice, use it.  If you practice at home in speaking to your horse and giving voice commands, and he executes it perfectly that way, don’t suddenly forget you have a voice when you get in the ring.  Be understanding of why your horse may have been confused on what you were asking.

3.  When the right people are behind you, any loss can feel like a win.  We made it to the show and in the ring with the perfect cheering section, and that’s all a girl can really hope for.

4.  When you get stuck for 2 hours dead stopped on the interstate with a horse in tow, anything is fair game, such as watering your horse with blue Gatorade.  Peeing in a bucket in the horse trailer not excluded, either.

Said Traffic, at least the sunset was pretty:  trafficjam

5. At the end of the long, long horse show days, all that really matters is that you arrive home safely and have a happy horse!

Also a special thanks to Cindy for the video and commentary!

 

3 years

It’s been 3 years today that we brought Fizzy home. So, here’s a video, mostly in chronological order! There’s been a lot of challenges, learning experiences, good times, hard times, fun and frustration. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and wouldn’t want anyone other than Cindy as my co-owner in this crazy horse!

Check out our video here:   3 Years of Fizzy!

 

Update on Fiz’s training!

Fiz has been at a professional trainer since March 25th. He’s there almost through the end of April. There have been some big changes in his life during this time period. He is used to living in a pasture, and only coming in to work, then going back out. He lives in a stall the majority of the time at the trainers place. He is used to being worked only about 4 days a week. He is getting worked 6 days a week at the trainer. He’s used to amateurs who fly by the seat of their pants and lack professional training knowledge. Now he’s being worked by a professional who has a clearly defined training method and structure.

Today, April 14th, he’s been with the trainer for about 2.5 weeks. I got to ride him for the first time since he has been there. Cindy rode him on Saturday, and had a really great ride. I would like to talk about some of the things I noticed with her ride, and some of the things I learned during mine. I will also talk about some of the training advice we have gotten and how it differs from the ideas we previously had.

First, let me say this. He is much improved in several areas. Below, I’ll take you through the gaits and what advice has been offered for each.

#1, The Walk
Flat, straight, and patient. Make him walk straight up into the corners and make the arena square. Make his shoulders and his hips walk inline with each other, and make sure as you are walking to push him up to the bridle so he has to take ahold of it. Do not pull. Hands steady, and in the same spot. When he takes hold, give. Just a small release of your fingers, but keep pushing with your leg making him walk up to the bit.

#2, The Trot
A country pleasure horse needs 2 trots. The pleasure trot and extended trot. We knew this, but previously Fiz would get mad when he was asked to go faster and he would break into a canter without ever actually going faster. It’s better to have only one speed than have to break, so that’s what we used to do.  A pleasure trot needs to have energy, it needs to cover ground, but it also needs to save room for max trotting speed at the extended trot. Same principles apply as the walk, use a lot of leg, push him to the bridle and make him take hold as he moves forward. Music to my non-equitation body type and mind frame was, let your legs hit him in the sides and even flop around on him some. Apply pressure, keep him moving forward and pushing from the hind end. He is expected to move from the back to the front, pushing off his hind to give his front momentum. Always keep the whip right against his shoulder.

When you ask for the extended trot, cluck, then squeeze (don’t kick) and if he doesn’t move on, give a slight tap with the whip on his shoulder. Not a whack, a TAP. If that doesn’t do it, growl at him and tap again. He has learned that he has to move on and not break into the canter. That doesn’t mean he will never break. If he does, don’t stop! Keep cantering. Teach him that it’s more work to do the wrong thing than the right. Rest assured, he will find his trot after enough of making him go and go, and you will find the sweet spot where you have hit max trotting speed before he has to canter. If you really want to find good separation, work him at a pleasure trot, then extended trot, and bring him back down to a pleasure trot. Even if just for one rail, you try to find that max speed, really ask him to step up, then come back down to the pleasure trot. Keep the energy and the go forward all the time. Do not forget about contact with his mouth (keep this in mind at all gaits) and do not forget that reward of giving when he takes a hold on his bridle and moves on forward. Always give him that reward.

#3, The Canter.
His canter cues are more clearly defined and he is learning the expectation for getting and keeping the correct lead both directions of the ring. Previously, we thought each time he took it wrong, we should stop and ask again until he got it right. This method had taught him if he does it wrong, he gets to quit. The new method is, no matter which way he takes it, do not let him stop. Make him GO. And go, and go some more. Teach him that just because he does something wrong, he does not get to stop and quit. He’s working no matter what he does, and again, it’s going to be harder when he does it wrong.

The canter cue needs to be very clear. A slight turn of the head (bring the rail rein straight back and at the same time give with the inside rein with a release of your fingers), rail leg, and SPEAK the word “Canter” to him. Speak the word EVERY TIME you ask for the canter. Do not be afraid to be vocal. IF he runs sideways when you turn to canter, DO NOT let him canter. This is unacceptable behavior that will be punished by forcing him back to the rail and to walk straight, and patiently, until he is asked again for the canter with the clear signal. This could mean setting him up to canter multiple times, but never allowing him to actually take off. Set up to canter and then go back to straight walking forward on the rail until he doesn’t get all sideways and crooked. Then maybe trot. Do anything else so he loses the train of thought to anticipate cantering.

When cantering, he is capable of cantering SLOW.  Take back on the upward motion, and give on the downward motion.  Give and take, constantly.  And still, SAY the word CANTER, or make a “kiss” sound to him.  Make him canter straight, and do not let him swing his back end to the middle, because this makes it easier for him to swap leads.  If anything, turn his head more toward the middle so it makes it more difficult for him to swap leads or fall out of the canter.  When he does it right, don’t push the issue or make him keep on going. Maybe one or two trips around is good, then quit on a good note.  Remember, make it EASIER to do the RIGHT thing.

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Bottom line is, he’s going to make mistakes. The most important thing is to teach him that it’s easier on him to do right than to do wrong. Bad behavior is punished by harder work. Good behavior is rewarded by giving (releasing your fingers) in the bridle and getting to be finished sooner because he did everything you asked and he did it correctly.

Always ask yourself the question: “Am I training or am I un-training?” and if you are not certain, it’s probably the latter. If you can answer that you are training, follow up with “What is this teaching him?” and as long as you are happy with what it is teaching, stick with it. If you’re not, change it up. Think ahead, have a plan, and execute that plan.
Another thing we’ve been taught is that he needs to jog. And jog, and jog, and jog. The more fit he is (which is accomplished by miles and miles in the jog cart) the easier it is going to be for him to do the right things, the easier it will be for him to be able to willingly go forward and move on. We can’t ask him to run a marathon when he’s been working as a sprinter.

Check out this video clip after his first week of training.

A Short Video from Professional Training

Trail Ride Numero Dos

I read somewhere that show horses take to the trails like ducks to water, and I can honestly say that I believe that more than ever now.  We went on another great trail ride, this time at Taylorsville Lake State Park, with Mary Jo and her terrific seasoned trail horses Romeo and Cruiser.  I got to ride Cruiser, so that Cindy could take Fiz out on a real trail since she wasn’t able to go last time we went.  We had tougher trails including some rocky inclined paths, narrow paths, and trails by the road.  Our boy was a champ, and just went on like it was no big deal.  Our American Saddlebred is a perfect example of the versatility and willingness of this breed.  So before I go on running my mouth about how incredibly proud I am of our horse and the fact that he is simply amazing, I’ll just put some pictures from our ride down here and call it a day.

So You Had a Photoshoot….

Now here’s your best shot.  OK, maybe I’ve watched too much America’s Next Top Model.  I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a model and Fiz is an even less cooperative “prop” however, my fabulously talented sister in law Carter, of www.cartermwebbphotography.com still got some awesome shots of us.  It is difficult to pick just ONE best shot, but I have a few favorites as the large photos.  The others, I’ve made a gallery of smaller ones below.  Enjoy!

Hopefully soon, I will be able to take some photos of Cindy and Fiz, and I hope I can capture them as well as Carter did for me.

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Let’s Go Trail Riding!

Show season is over, but that doesn’t mean Fiz’s lessons and learning ends.  Sure, he might get worked less often and less seriously, but we still ride and have fun.  We were able to take him on his very first REAL trail ride. And by that I mean, not through a field at the farm he lives at or in the grass near an arena we are about to show or practice in.  A real trail, through the woods, in a western saddle, with other horses, and the whole shebang.

I am happy to report he was wonderful.  He was a little unsure at first, but he relaxed pretty quickly and barely spooked at anything.  I can’t wait to do it again!  Anyway, here are some pictures and a video from our ride.