It’s Hard to See the Forest Through the Trees

Do you ever get that feeling like you’re just missing something? Maybe it’s right in front of your face and you just can’t see it? Yeah, me too. Since Duke got here in July, and even before that, my goal with him has been to get us to a (real) show, under saddle, IN A SUIT, all up in front of the public and NOT embarrass ourselves. We have hit roadblock after roadblock (he had an abscess that took forever to heal, I had surgery that put me off for 6 weeks, WINTER, mud, etc). It’s so easy to become frustrated and sit back and say we’ve gotten no where. The wheels of progress turn so slow, and the winds of change are barely blowing.

However, I cannot in all honesty say we have not made any progress. While the progress sitting in the saddle isn’t as noticeable as I wish it were, and we still have quite a way to go to be ready to hit the show ring, there are other areas where the level of progression is much more noticeable. On the ground, he is a different horse. I can put a brush to his face without him running backwards. I can put a blanket on without him running sideways. I can work around him without fear his teeth will take a chunk out of me when I’m not paying attention. I can use a mounting block. He still hates anything being sprayed on him, but we are working on it. He might squat a little but he no longe3r becomes a crash test dummy who would slam himself into anything around just to try and get away.

I have never dealt with such an incredibly sensitive horse in my life. So, what do you do when you have a horse that is so (over) reactive to literally every move you make? You just don’t react. You keep going. You take it slow, but you make it a point to continue on. Don’t panic when they panic, just keep going like nothing is happening. It’s just not your turn to have a meltdown. And it probably never will be.

I can’t say this is the way to go with ALL horses, but with Duke it has proven to work. After MONTHS of flailing my hands around his face, dropping things on purpose, kicking things all around him, touching him with any oddball thing I may be walking through the barn with (a broom, a rake, a pitchfork, a feed bag, a shavings bag, a giant rolling magnet, you get the point) he finally just stands and looks at me like I’m the most ridiculous human on earth with most things. He doesn’t shake in fear, he doesn’t run backwards or sideways or anything else. If I happen to drop something next to him, I don’t have to worry he might take me out on the way to getting the hell out of there, or that he will break the crossties trying to escape his fate. He stands there, 98% of the time. None of us are perfect, I’ll take 98%.

I go by the rule that if you spook at it, you get to wear it or be by it or look at it so you can realize it isn’t scary. It may take a few days of seeing it, being touched by it, etc. Some people might think this is cruel, and to those people I ask: how else are you desensitizing your horses? How are they supposed to understand something isn’t going to hurt them if they aren’t exposed to it? If they are not physically shown there is no harm to come from being “brushed” with a broom or “ridden” by a bag? Or whatever else. Please. Enlighten me. I’m always open to new ideas. Everyone has good ones, and I’m ready to hear them. However, this is what is working so far on my extremely sensitive guy, and he’s no worse for wear. Until a better alternative is offered up or discovered, I will stay the course with this. Do I annoy him? Probably. Is he safer to work around (and even ride) because of it? Absolutely. Does Fizz look at me like I’m a horrible human for “torturing” his brother? Nope. Been there done that is probably laughing from the other side of the divider.

Anyway, just because you can’t see progress every single day doesn’t mean progress isn’t getting made. When you feel you’re in a rut, take a look back at where you were a month ago, 6 months ago, a year ago. Don’t focus on today, yesterday, and the frustrations you may feel in each moment. Don’t look at your end goal and think about how far you have to go still. It can make it seem hopeless, believe me, I get it. Instead, focus on where you came from, where you are, and where you want to be. Adjust along the way if necessary. Look at the big picture. See the whole forest (all the little hurdles you’re jumping on the way), not just one tree (your end goal). It’s OK to trip. It’s OK to stand still and evaluate. It’s OK to proceed with caution. As long as you’re not going backwards, you’re doing all right.

I’m Afraid of my Pizza Cutter

You read that right. I’m afraid of my pizza cutter. Laugh all you want, but you’ll understand the relevance if you keep reading. Years ago, I got a fancy new Pampered Chef pizza cutter. One of the first times I used it, I made a mistake in taking the cover off and it sliced the bejeesus out of my finger. I maybe should have gotten stitches, but I’m a stubborn fool and pretty much felt like since the finger was still attached, it was fine. It took weeks to heal, kept busting back open and bleeding-fingers are the worst place to have cuts. I think about that literally every time I use the stupid thing now though, and it’s been probably over 10 years. I think about how it cut me, but I still use it. I have come to understand my mistake and that if I use it correctly it won’t cut me anymore. I learned from my past experience. I moved on.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is a blog about horses, why is this lunatic telling me about a stupid pizza cutter? I’m not here to read about how she doesn’t know how to appropriately use kitchen tools. Well, my misguided use of kitchen tools isn’t really the point here. The point is, fear from past experience is a real thing. When you are afraid of something, it affects your decision making and it alters your future choices. Sometimes permanently. Horses are not different in that regard. Helping your horses learn to move past or work through the things that “cut” them in the past, the things they fear in the present, or both, is what training horses is all about. Help them to learn. Help them to move on. We just have to try our best to maintain good judgement and hope we do not become a thing that “cuts” them too.

Horses are inherently flight or fight animals. They have an instinct built in that tells them if something is scary, to just run away as a first resort. If they can’t run away, their next instinct is to fight. The hurdle for us as trainers (or in my case, an amateur just trying to do what I can) is that we must find a way to teach horses that the things they think are scary, are actually not. To build a rapport with that animal so that they know you are not asking them to do things that will put them in danger. My opinion may not be the most highly sought after opinion on horse training, but I think this starts with trust. If your horse does not trust you, how can you expect it to “walk through fire” simply because you asked it to?

Exhibit A, I offer you Duke. He is absolutely not the bravest creature that ever walked this earth. Bless his heart he’s afraid of his own farts. I do think he is very talented and very special, and because of that, he was pushed to be something great before he was ready. Since he has a very high flight instinct, he was labeled a jerk, a no count asshole, difficult, and those are the nicer terms. He was not given the time he needed to mature, and some horses just take longer (cough cough FIZZ). Since he has arrived at my house, I have spent quite a bit of time offering him love, patience, and understanding. I have spent time learning his favorite places to be scratched, rubbing on him, telling him he’s a good boy, and making him feel safe just being around me. It’s been more than a month and we still have good days and bad and I expect that will continue. Possibly always. However, I did this with Fizz when he first came into my life and that horse WOULD walk through fire for me if I asked him to. Back then, I was just so happy to have a horse of my own that I enjoyed spending time “hanging out” with him, I didn’t realize this would be invaluable to our relationship as horse/human. So, I feel this is an important step to take with Duke also.

I can tell his attitude is slowly changing. This isn’t to say that he wasn’t ever offered love or understanding, but having someone spend that extra time just being near him, working around him in a way that shows them your intentions don’t need to be questioned, maybe doing things that are not quite “normal” just to give a reference point for trust. You may not think so, but that is also training. For example, I have “brushed” Duke with a broom several times. At first he thought I was coming to beat him to a bloody pulp. Now, he thinks it’s fun and tries to eat the broom. I drop things around him on purpose. He has stopped reacting to this now. I put strange things near where we work on purpose. He eventually stops snorting and running sideways. I am not gentle in the way I move around him, I am clumsy and flail things around and make a lot of noise simply to show him noise isn’t the enemy. Does he still react? Yes, but it is a simple head raise and ears pricked forward and maybe a slight body twitch as opposed to a running backwards or sideways, into whatever is in the way or over whoever is in the way like it used to be.

Yesterday, we did ground poles in long lines. I walked him back and forth and he walked right over them with me beside him on the first try. Not even a slight side step. Then I left his side, went into lining him as I normally would, and asked him to move over them without me. You would have thought the things grew legs and were standing up ready to take him down. So I went back to his side and we did it together. We had to keep going over and over them, with me gradually moving away each pass. By the end, he was going over them on his own. I wouldn’t say gracefully… but give him a break, it was his first try. He did good enough, he tried and that’s all I can ask of him. But it showed me something, he trusts me. He thinks if I am there doing it, he is OK to be doing it too (at least from the ground). It showed me that I need to work on his confidence, and that if I am asking him to do something alone, it is still OK to do even if I’m not right there.

Horses do talk to you. You just have to know how to listen.

Hay in my Hair and Sweat in my Eyes

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since I pulled the trailer into our driveway with my boys in tow.

Since we are honest folk here at Twisted Sisters, I’m going to lay it out nice and clear for you. If you are a person who dreams of owning a horse and keeping it at home, and also believes doing so is full of nothing but butterflies, rainbows, and unicorn glitter, you are sadly mistaken and living in a dream world. Come back down from the clouds and join the rest of us here in reality. If you are perfectly clean and look like a million bucks all the time, you’re probably doing it wrong.

That aside, it is still in all reality, a dream come true for me. I take pride in hosting my horses in clean stalls, making sure they are fed, and that they always have clean water. If that means I pick stalls every time I walk by and see a pile of poo, so be it. I have that luxury where I didn’t used to and I am grateful for a life that has given me this opportunity. So I will do all the things and I will be happy that I have that luxury. A lot of folks do not. A lot of folks would love to. Some are happy to pay others for the dirty work, but I’m not that kind of gal. I have always dreamed of a life where I could be intimately involved in every detail of my horses care and I FINALLY have that opportunity. I would venture to say most truly hardcore equestrians dream of a life where they can spend it day in and day out doing all the “horsey” things, even the dirty ones. Either way… here’s my experience and things I have learned so far as a first timer having horses at home.

Helicopter Mom: Apparently, that’s me. I installed a camera to spy on the boys. I check it incessantly. If I wake up during the night, I look at it. If I hear a noise outside, I look at it, if I am working or busy and can’t walk outside just to see if they are OK, I look at it. I mean, in the last 2 weeks I have looked at the camera like I believe at any moment either horses legs may detach from their bodies or some other horrific thing might happen. What do I find? Them munching away on hay, looking outside, or laying down sleeping. Perfectly content with life. OR I find Fizz rubbing his tail, and I can scold him through the talk feature on the camera. Both horses now think God talks to them, below is them listening-they don’t know it’s just little ole me.

Hay: I am pretty sure there will never again be a moment in my life where I am not wearing hay as an added accessory to my outfit. It’s itchy and it gets in places no one should have hay, ever. How does it even get there? Does it grow legs and crawl to really weird spots inside your clothing? Just, how?? Also, if you like to watch your money turn to poop… Just look at your horses happily munching on hay.

Sweat: It’s summer here in Kentucky. It’s HOT and it’s HUMID. I spend a lot of time outside and always have but when you’re working with horses it seems like the heat is amplified 10 fold. I can’t explain why. My eyes have never burned so much as in the last several weeks. I think I’ll keep this as opposed to frozen fingers, but still. I am pretty disappointed I’m not skinny yet after all of this sweating. The universe owes me an explanation on this.

Poop: So much poop. Like, I realize they are large animals and I have worked jobs where stall cleaning was a part of it (back in college and as a kid) but there is SO MUCH POOP. Literally they are poop factories. How did I not remember this? And I feel for all of you who have barns full of horses because just these two create so much!!!

Dust: There is literally so much dust. I use a combination of pellet bedding and bagged shavings, which I had read this combo was supposed to be low on dust. I would like to know what definition of “low dust” is on the internet because this is not it. Therefore, I have been researching this. Evidently, I need to “water” my stalls. Um, excuse me? I don’t even water my flower beds. Those things need to live off the water God gives them or they don’t survive well here. Somebody send help.

Crisis: If you think you’ll never feel like you are in a crisis, just give it a minute-one will come and your little fantasy bubble will have been popped. If you have thought about it and planned for every crisis you could think of (like me) and think you know how it will go, just know it goes nothing like you thought it would. Also know that of all the crises you could think of, the one that will happen is something you NEVER thought of. There’s a back story here I might visit later, but my first “crisis” was experienced and it is over now. Bless my husband, my friends, and my very lovely Vet for putting up with me. I probably worry way more than I should.

Bills: There are just SO many bills. Hay, grain, bedding, vet, farrier, supplements, and the list goes on and on and on into eternity. Some bills can be more than you expect, by a LOT. You might think about finding a street corner to call your own, but in the end you’ll do whatever it takes to make sure your horses are healthy and happy. Even if that might mean eating ramen and never leaving your house again.

Help: Having help is CRUCIAL. I can’t say this enough and to those of you out there doing it by your very lonesome, what kind of super hero DNA do you have and where can I get some of it? Or are you just an alien with weird superpowers I can’t even begin to imagine? Because I would NOT have made it even these last few weeks without my poor non-horsey husband who has gotten a very rude intro on how to restrain a contrary horse, how to work a twitch, and some of the other unpleasant things things that come with being around horses. He has also been learning how to pick stalls and he does so without even being asked. BLESS HIM. Ladies, a lot can be said for a man who isn’t into horses but cleans stalls without asking simply because he knows YOU want your horses living in the cleanest stalls in America. I would also not have survived without my Mom, who comes over simply to make sure I don’t die while working these creatures. She’s a saint.

Work: Having horses at home is work. I work a real big girl job. I spend every other amount of time doing things for the horses and the dog. What exactly is this “spare” time everyone speaks about? Who exactly in this world gets to “sleep in” because yeah, that’s not a thing here (for me). Everyone else is taken care of before me. I am the last to eat, the last to be clean(ish-you know, because hay exists…), and I’m fairly certain the horses stalls are cleaner than my house. I can barely manage to do something as simple as boil noodles and slap sauce on top for dinner most days. Dishes left in the sink? Oh well, maybe I’ll get to those tomorrow. Or not. As long as the 4-leggeds are taken care of those dishes can sit another day. Paper plates? Meals that don’t require silverware? Even better. Sign me up.

LOVE: These animals have so much love to give. They make me laugh daily and they fill my heart with so much joy despite all of the above. I truly enjoy simply watching them exist day to day. Every person has good day and bad days, and I believe all creatures do. Our job as humans and facilitators of these animals is to make sure their days are all as good as possible, and understanding that they too, have days that are “off” and they deserve our compassion and understanding. No one, and no animal, is perfect all day every day. These horses (and our Dog Dixie) give me a break when they know I’m having an off day. They offer me peace and acceptance, despite my shortcomings. The least I can do is offer them the same.

It’s ALMOST Time

LONG post alert, so if you’ve wound up here prepare yourselves. If you’re not willing to stay a bit, please pass on by to other content!! If you’re invested enough to read this whole thing, bless you!

I have dreamed of having horses at home since I was a little girl begging my parents to house a horse on their little 3/4 acre lot as a 6 year old. While that dream never came to fruition, here I am a 38 year old “little girl” a week away from my childhood dreams coming true. I have literally put blood, sweat, and tears (plus some, ok lots, of swear words) into this place for good measure. It’s been a process, and I have to say building outbuildings on this property has been one of the most trying “adventures” of my life. I have laughed, I have cried, I have cursed (a LOT). I have juggled obtaining permits, hiring contractors, contractors not showing up, having major delays, getting inspections, doing physical building, making hundred of phone calls, and trying to keep my husband from divorcing me over this whole process (I kid, I kid) but really… it’s been crazy to say the least. It has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination. But I do think it will be worth it.

So lets talk about the emotional overload that is going through my head right now as someone who has never had horses at home. This is a subject so many horse people experience and yet, few really talk about it. I realize that being the primary caretaker of horses is work. I realize that it’s a labor of love. I am no stranger to doing hard things, but if I am being real and honest, it is a little bit terrifying to know I currently rely on someone else, who provides food, water, stall cleaning, training, and everything in between to my 2 horses… and soon all of those responsibilities will fall on me. Soon, 2 living breathing, very large and complicated animals will rely solely on me for their every need and overall wellbeing. In theory (as a horse person for the vast majority of my life) it sounds easy, but I’ve never been one to pull the wool over my own eyes.

I will have to procure hay, grain, and bedding and make sure it’s constantly available. I will have to clean stalls. I will have to make sure they are fed and watered. I will have to schedule vet appointments, farrier care, and any other care needed. I will have to make sure broken things are fixed and that every environment the horses are in is the safest it can be. Ya’ll, do I sound crazy for thinking those will be the EASY things? I have to WORK these beasts, continue their education, make sure they are upstanding citizens of the equine world. Basically ALONE. I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a little overwhelmed thinking about that part.

Back when I was working Fizz as a new AOT, I LOVED every second of the planning but lets be honest. I had zero idea what I was actually doing as a “trainer” and I flew by the seat of my pants most days. Looking back, I thank God every day that I ended up with such a smart, intuitive, and TOLERANT animal. That said, I feel like I have grown and I have learned a lot since 2013, and myself and both boys are better off for it. I have gained friends in this industry who have a wealth of knowledge that I have been able to tap into. I have people I can turn to for help now that I didn’t have back in 2013. How lucky am I? How lucky are my horses?

So lets talk about fears as the complete vulnerability of a “new” horse parent exposing everything for the world to see is something I have not run across. I’m not sure if people just don’t talk about this publicly or if I am that crazy overthinker who can’t stop “What Iffing” things to death. I’ve been riding and showing for a long time and I have cared for other people’s horses in the past. My first year of college was spent taking care of a farm of Friesians and Andalusians. But they were not on my property and I did morning feeding and stalls, and afternoon riding. I was not their one and only sole caretaker. I am not exactly a “new” horse owner, but being “new” to caring for them 100% of the time still comes with some real fears.

Fears about training 2 horses as an AOT, and doing it basically alone:

  • What if they regress with an amateur “trainer”?
  • What if I fall off and they get loose?
  • What if I can’t get them hooked to the cart for exercise?
  • What if there is an accident?
  • What if I have problems I can’t figure out?
  • What if I can’t work them enough?
  • What if I don’t do the right things? Or do the right things, the wrong way?
  • What if I get hurt and can’t exercise them?

Fears about keeping horses:

  • What if they get injured?
  • What if I don’t notice if something is wrong?
  • What if I can’t get what they need (hay shortage, etc)
  • What if I can’t be here?
  • What about vacations?
  • What about emergencies?
  • What about holidays? (4th of July and massive fireworks being shot off for weeks on end comes to mind)
    • What if I can’t get them calm?
  • What if I can’t get a vet here for emergencies?

These are things I can only think of off the top of my head as things I’ve thought about previously and had concerns about. However, as an overthinker, a planner, and a “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” kind of person I have taken steps to prepare for most of these and ease my mind to the best extent that I can. Some things will just have to fall into place after the horses are here, we have a routine, and I see that my incompetence isn’t actually as bad as it is in my head a lot of the time. I mean honestly I don’t give myself enough credit. Not to toot my own horn, but I am stubborn. I am tough. I am resilient. I do not give up and I do not lay down and sulk in my own deficiencies. I get up and I research and I ask questions and I strive to do better every day. In my opinion, there is no other option when such smart, also resilient, and talented creatures are relying on me to not only survive, but to thrive. So, lets go through the list again, this time with some answers.

  • What if they regress with an amateur “trainer”?
    • Keep doing things you know work
    • Have resources and don’t be too proud to contact them
    • Be humble enough to own your mistakes and do better next time
    • Don’t beat yourself up. Most horses are resilient and forgiving.
  • What if I fall off and they get loose?
    • Put up barriers on the property to contain them as best possible
    • Duh, ride better, don’t fall off (ha!)
  • What if I can’t get them hooked to the cart for exercise?
    • Teach them to stand quietly until you ask them to move
    • Ground work is just as important as other work
  • What if there is an accident?
    • Accidents happen, have a plan in advance
    • First Aid kit (horse and human)
    • Vet #
  • What if I have problems I can’t figure out?
    • Again, don’t be too proud to ask for help or bounce ideas off someone else.
    • Have a network
  • What if I can’t work them enough?
    • You can only do what you can, and it will have to be enough
    • Set your priorities and make a clear, easy to follow schedule ahead of time
    • yes it requires thought, but it’s important so DO IT
  • What if I don’t do the right things? Or do the right things, the wrong way?
    • If something isn’t working, change it
    • Try new things. Everything great was once just an idea.
    • Ask someone to watch you, give you tips or correct you
    • LISTEN when someone corrects you
  • What if I get hurt and can’t exercise them?
    • Then you ask for help. Remember your circle and keep them close. Support them on their journey, and offer help when they need it and they will, (should) support you too.
    • Otherwise, have (for us: create) a turnout area and let them be horses!! They may not make training progress, but they’ll survive and be happy.
    • If turnout (at home) isn’t possible, arrange for alternative care off property.
  • What if they get injured?
    • Keep vet information handy
    • Read up and have a good base knowledge of basic care for wounds, etc
  • What if I don’t notice if something is wrong?
    • know you can’t be there 100% of the time
    • make sure you know warning signs for common problems
    • know your horses “good” vitals and keep what you can documented
      • Temperature (Average horse should be between 99-101F)
      • Heart Rate (Average should be 36-40 beats per minute)
      • Respirations (Average should be 8-15 breaths per minute)
      • Gut sounds (A mixture of grumbles, tinkling and roars. There is no rhythm but you should hear a sound every few seconds)
      • Capillary refill (should be 2 seconds or less)
      • Hydration (If you pinch your horse’s skin it should return to lying flat within 1-2 seconds. The longer the skin stays pinched up before flattening, the more dehydrated the horse is.)
  • What if I can’t get what they need (hay shortage, etc)
    • Have a standard supplier
    • Have a backup supplier
  • What if I can’t be here?
    • Have a backup plan and arrange alternative care as early as possible
  • What about vacations?
    • Plan early, book a house sitter or arrange to take your horses off site as soon as you set dates
  • What about emergencies?
    • Keep all emergency contacts in an easily accessible location
      • Veterinarian (all contact information including emergency numbers)
      • Farrier
      • Insurance Agency (If horse is insured) to include their 24 hour line
        • details about insurance coverage
  • What about holidays? (4th of July and massive fireworks being shot off for weeks on end comes to mind)
    • Discuss with Veterinarian and have a plan IN ADVANCE (medication, ear plugs, stall fans, music, whatever it is)
  • What if I can’t get them calm?
    • Don’t doubt your abilities to handle a crisis
    • But for real, also don’t live without some reinforcements.
      • Make sure you have something from the Vet (Ace, etc) or otherwise (calming cookies, calm n cool paste, etc) and you know how to administer it incase you need to.
  • What if I can’t get a vet here for emergencies?
    • Get annual exam done so you are on file with local veterinarian and eligible for emergency/after hour calls
    • There is always the option to trailer to an emergency clinic
    • Again, know basic care and make sure you have basic items on hand to use/administer if needed and know what is appropriate for most basic situations.

So there you have it, me in all my uncomfortable vulnerability. Ew. Anyway, I wonder if any more experienced horse keepers have anything to add here? Words of advice, encouragement, knowledge to share, etc. I’m sure there is a lot I am not covering or not thinking about and I’m sure so many other things will pop up over time. I haven’t really talked extensively about this among my small circle, but I am sure if there is anything I need they will have my back.

Overall, I am excited beyond words and I can’t wait to have my boys home with me. So, if you’ve made it through this entire post, congratulations for your exceptional patience, haha, and enjoy these photos! I will make a post eventually on the barn build and how much of an experience the whole process has been! Maybe after I’m happily caring for my horses and the frustration from building has gone to the wayside and I can recollect the process without so many swear words.

Sometimes Maybe it’s YOU

Ya’ll. Again, it’s been a while since I posted here. Things are ever changing and ever evolving and I constantly re-evaluate the horsey things in my life and wonder if I am making the right decisions. Sometimes I regret not making certain decisions sooner. Sometimes I think I suck, and sometimes I think I am a genius. Everyone has their days I guess. But here’s some facts for you.

I am what I would call an experienced rider. I like to think I can hold my own and I like to believe I can handle a tough mount and enjoy a good one with ease. BUT, when I watch a select few others ride my horse and NOT have the same problems I had, I started wondering if it was just ME. SO, a while back (maybe about a year or so-has it really been that long?) I decided to start working with a riding instructor. As an ADULT. Who has been riding since I was 6 years old. She comes to visit Fizz and I and she gives us lessons together. Sometimes she schools him, which is GREAT for both of us, but mostly she coaches while I ride. Do I consider myself a failure because of this? HELL NO.

I consider myself a badass. You know why? Because sometimes it IS YOU. Sometimes you need to be humble and you need to admit that regardless of your experience, you do not, and will not ever know everything. Others have had experiences that can help you. Others have knowledge to share. You need to be open to accepting their knowledge, to learning from them, and to reaching a new level of potential you maybe never knew existed within you. And you know what? IT FEELS GOOD.

That moment when you’re sitting on your horse and you have a ride like you’ve never had before. A ride where you don’t struggle with things you used to struggle with. A ride where you don’t fight with your horse. A ride where you realize for the first time in YEARS, your horse is HAPPY. All the puzzle pieces are there, and you made them fit together. Maybe you don’t have a perfect ride consistently, 100% of the time. BUT, you did it and you FINALLY realized that you’ve moved past the hurdles that once stood in front of you and you didn’t trip and fall on your face trying to jump them.

If something is not working, CHANGE IT. Get help. Keep working, keep training, both you AND your horse can benefit from it. I mean, even professional sports teams have coaches. This is just like that. Go out and DO WORK ya’ll. Respect and appreciate your coaches and learn yourself something. Your horse will thank you. YOU will thank you. That’s all for today, I’ll report on other news soon! ❤

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.


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.

Show Season is coming, SOON!!!

So, our first show is less than a month away.  KASPHA May Classic, we will be showing Friday night in the Novice Rider Country Pleasure and the Novice Country Pleasure.  Novice is defined as not winning more than 5 blue ribbons at a rated show, which, neither Cindy, I, nor Fiz have.  Don’t judge us, it’s a very competitive sport!!  Anyway, we have begun serious training to prep for show season, and show shoes will be put on very soon, prior to show numero uno. The winter hair has been shaved off and the shedding blade is being used before and after every workout. We are very excited about show season this year!  In the mean time, enjoy some random videos of Fiz from this winter.  

Science Behind Training Aids?

We have visited training aids and their uses before under here, and have talked about the use of light chains and other devices on horses feet as a method of helping develop a desired gait.  Again I want to state that there has been a lot of controversy over the use of these and some people call it cruel.  I disagree, noting that proper use of devices can be safe, and also beneficial and helpful in training.  I recently read an article on associating “leg weights” with rehabilitation, physical therapy, and assisting with building muscle.  A study has been conducted proving that the use of such devices indeed do not harm the horse.  I could have told you that, but there’s never really been any documentation to back this up. Now, there is!

Read the article on and see for yourself!  Leg Weights And Rehabilitation.

That said, I reiterate that you MUST apply the chains/weights correctly or you are going to cause your horse harm.  Do not apply them so tight that they dig into your horses skin, and don’t apply them so loose that they get stuck around your horses hoof/coronary band/heel bulbs.  They should freely move around the top of the coronary band and pastern, but not so much they sink down and get stuck.

See there, us Saddlebred people are not so cruel to our horses after all with our training aids.  Most of us actually pamper our horses and treat them better than we do ourselves.  We live for their well-being and safety.  Just remember that!

It’s a new day

After a really long weekend, Fiz and all of his stuff have finally gotten settled in at his new home at Hunters Brook Farm.  At Hunters Brook, many things are going to be different from his old home.  Instead of being out on pasture 24/7, only getting fed hay in the mornings in winter, and not having an option of being inside, there are many new amenities we will enjoy at the new farm.  Fiz will be fed as much hay as he wants to eat, he will be fed grain twice daily, he will be inside in a stall during bad weather, he will be outside as much as possible when the weather is nice enough, and he will enjoy working in an indoor arena as well as outdoor.  He will have complete full care, and he deserves it.

He will also be surrounded by many other animals that he did not get to see at the old farm.  There are chickens running all around the farm.  There are also goats, cows, and mini horses.  He seems most interested in the chickens and the goats.  Once the farm owners see his personality, they will decide who they should try and turn him out with.  Hopefully he will find some friends on the farm. I am sure there is at least one horse on the farm that he can get along well with.  He needs interaction with other horses, and it will be very good for him once a good match is made!

We are very happy about our decision and look forward to spending more time at the new place.  So far we have been very pleased with them.  They purchased the hay we bought at the old place, and they let us bring our cabinet full of Fiz’s stuff (bridles, saddles, harnesses, and equipment) and our jog cart to the farm.  We are grateful for the new farm and are happy we found such a nice place for our boy to live.  We are very happy he is getting the daily attention and care that he is very much deserving of and we are looking forward to seeing if and how this type of care will change his appearance and demeanor.  I am sure there will be plenty of pictures in the future of him at his new home.

It’s a new day, a new adventure, and a fresh start.  Again.  It’s a good thing.  🙂

Here are some pictures of Fizzy at his new home!

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Dental Day!

Most people don’t realize, horses need dentists too.  Their teeth never stop growing, and the way they eat causes their teeth to develop jagged edges and different issues, making bridling and riding them painful if it’s not taken care of.  It also makes chewing difficult if the teeth get really bad.  Horses with bad teeth will not be able to chew well and they can lose food out of their mouths, causing them and their owners to have to work much harder to get the amount of nutrients needed to maintain a healthy weight.

We wanted our guy to be pain free, and have no excuses to be angry in the bridle or develop any weird issues due to trying to compensate for his mouth hurting.  So, we had a dentist come and float his teeth.  It’s called floating, but it’s essentially filing down all the jagged edges where the teeth are smooth and even inside the mouth.  Equine dentists also remove teeth that are troublesome.  Fiz did not need any teeth removed, but his teeth were pretty sharp.  Dr Adrian Robertson of Bannon Woods Equine came and floated teeth for us. Here she is with her assistant, working on Fiz! Fiz thanks her for his smooth, pain free mouth and so do we!


What a weirdo

This horse is SO funny.  He has such a personality.  He is the sweetest, most affectionate horse.  However, he does some really weird things sometimes.  I’m not exactly sure why, but he throws his head back to where his neck and head are literally in a straight line.  I have never seen a horse do this before in my life.  He does not do this when you ride him, only when out in the field or in a stall and sometimes while standing in crossties.  Pay attention, one day, you might catch a glimpse of this craziness!!!  Check it out below.   Seriously!?!  What is this!?!?!


*****UPDATE*****  We now have VIDEO evidence of this strange quirk our horse has!!!

First Western Ride

JUNE 6, 2013.  Primarily Saddleseat girls, we don’t pretend to know much about anything having to do with western. However, we were able to get a western saddle rigged up on Fiz and we each got to take him for a spin! He seemed receptive to everything, and didn’t mind the squeaky western saddle all too much.  Doesn’t he look good in teal?  

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Happy One Month

After we had Fiz for one month, we decided to take a comparison picture to evaluate his condition.  In the month we have had him, he’s been given the world, considering he is the only horse we have to worry about.  He has had personalized care, private pasture, hay, grain, and veterinarian care.  A picture speaks a thousand words, so here is that comparison shot.  In the bottom shot, you can still see where the hair is growing back after it was shaved to do an ultrasound on his “bulge” that we had previously written about.  He is on the right track to where we want him to be. 🙂