Friday, December 13, 2019

Straightness

Over the last few weeks, I've been trying really hard with Banner to stay on a semi-consistent schedule. The minimal daylight hours right now do not help with our situation, so keeping the same kind of schedule we were on in the summer is just not possible, but managing 3-4 rides a week is generally doable for me. Our #1 goal right now is straightness - and honestly its more for me than him right now!

Working on our bigger trot at home

About 6 weeks ago, I fell off in a lesson. Pretty insignificant fall for the most part, but it highlighted some issues that I am having with my own body & magnified them. Banner has always been a crooked horse, and somewhere over this last year I became a pretty crooked rider too. And unfortunately we became crooked the same way! I've put a fairly significant amount of money into Banner to keep him in line, but I have neglected that same care for myself (I'm sure all of you can relate!). I used to be really good about chiropractic care for myself, but when my last chiropractor left his practice a few years ago, I didn't really keep up on it because I didn't want to find a new chiropractor. 


The fall however made me realize how crooked I was riding. And then the next lesson I had highlighted it even more, when Trainer C made me canter for about 5 minutes constantly yelling "step in your right stirrup". At no point did I make an excuse to her because I know better than doing that kind of stuff - but I remember thinking in my head "I'm trying!". It took a massive amount of effort to get straight in the saddle and I was incredibly ineffective with my aids because I had to concentrate so hard on being even in the stirrups. 


The next week was my birthday & my dad graciously gifted me a prepaid chiropractor session with the new guy that he has been using. I explained my issues to him & told him that I knew I was pretty significantly crooked, putting a large amount more weight on my left side. There was probably a fair amount of skepticism from him as I told him how I knew this, but once he put me on the scales he believed me pretty quickly! I was putting 15lbs(!!) more weight on my left leg than my right leg. 


After a fair amount of massaging and some icy-hot type gel, we finally got my lower back to loosen up enough to adjust and WOW did it make a difference. I got back in the saddle and immediately noticed how much straighter I felt. I went back the next week and I was only 7lbs more in my left leg which was a big difference! After a couple more appointments, I am definitely getting much straighter in general, but I'm still working on transferring this newfound straightness into my riding. My muscle memory wants to pull me left but my brain is trying hard to help me stay straight!


In our lesson on Tuesday this week, Trainer C commented on how much straighter I looked, which was a fantastic compliment to hear! I'm thankful for Banner for being such a tattletale about when I get crooked too! His whole way of going changes when I'm straight, and he falls apart quickly when I start throwing him off balance.


His natural jump has a tendency to have a significant angle from left to right. We often land a good foot further to the right than where we took off. This issue is something we had almost solved in the late spring/early summer of this year, but it reared its ugly little head again in recent months. I'm sure it is heavily related to my own issues, but now its a problem for B again. 

All photos from an unrelated ride at home

We are using lots of guide rails to prevent him jumping to the right and I am working very hard on my own body position to help as much as I can. It is still a big struggle for us right now, but we are working on it! At least its the perfect time to work on these kind of problems as we head into the teeny indoor for the winter - lots of work on grids & straightness for a few months!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Struggling

This is probably a theme among a lot of horse people right now - the daylight savings time/winter struggle. The cold weather & short daylight hours are brutal when it comes to doing horse stuff. Trying to squeeze in a ride in the short time after work or just accepting your fate that it just won't happen any days you work.


Lately, I find myself struggling with this adjustment more than normal. I feel more unmotivated in my riding life, and it takes a lot of effort to convince myself to rush outside right after I get home from work in order to fit in a ride after an already long, tiring day.

My nostalgia is at an all time high though lately. Memories on Facebook and Instagram are reminding me of when I first began getting back to regular lessons 3 years ago. Memories of the first ride where Banner finally got it over a jump last year.


It makes me sad that even though my horses are the most accessible that they have ever been to me by a long shot, my motivation to do more than cuddle them feels like it is at an all time low. Three years ago, Charmer lived 40+ minutes from my house, and yet I still made it out to him 5+ days a week and at least lunged him or rode him nearly every single one of those days. Now it takes me not even 40 seconds to walk from my bedroom door to his stall and I can't find the motivation to lunge/ride him 5+ days a week.


I want to get back to how excited and motivated I used to be to ride all the time! I decided to use some of my nostalgia to kickstart my motivation back. I scrolled back through hundreds of posts on Instagram and read through all of my old posts about how excited I was when Charms started going so well, because I got him in a program. I looked at all of the posts from last year where I was doing absolutely the most tedious work imaginable with Banner, and yet I still managed to climb aboard constantly because I knew how important all those long, boring days of monotonous work would be in the long run (and I was right!).


So last night, after fueling my nostalgia to the max, despite the fact that all I wanted to do was relax and take a nap, I dragged my sorry butt outside and pulled Charmer out for a light lunge. And afterwards, I felt good that I did! Despite the fact that he did have one major meltdown moment on the lunge, it was a super productive little session and it makes my heart happy to see how good he looks.


I'm trying to reignite the fire and the passion that I felt, not even that long ago. Doing some light work with my big kid helped remind me how fun even just doing something with them for 10-15 minutes can be. I've decided that my goal is to start doing something with at least one of the boys every day. Even if it just means grooming one of them or a short bareback/tackless walk around the arena.

Anyone have any good tips or tricks to help get over a funk in your love of horses and riding?

Monday, October 21, 2019

Scary Jump Show!

We had our final show of our local barn series this weekend! Saturday was supposed to be Dressage & Cross Country. The forecast for the week had not been boding well for Saturday all week, so on Thursday, they decided to call off the activities on Saturday. They didn't want to tear up the nice footing that we have the pleasure of having at the cross country field. I have never in my life been so happy to have a show called off as I was when I woke up on Saturday morning. It was pouring rain, with an intense windstorm, and we even got some hail! I could not imagine having attempted to ride in that weather. Especially not running XC on a fit thoroughbred with 30+mph winds. That is the stuff of nightmares people.

Sunday was still show jumping day! Unfortunately the massive amount of rain that came down the day before made for lots of slop in the rings, but a large percentage of the riders that attend these shows are eventers of various levels, so we braved the mucky rings. It was pretty darn cold when we first arrived, but the sun slowly started warming things up and it became more bearable.

Liverpool is nbd.

We had a brief, to the point warmup. Got some pretty solid warmup jumps out of Banner and I worked on reminding myself to not get in his way. Since this is the "scary jump" show, for Halloween, the jumps are decorated to be scary. Mostly just in fun, but some of the decorations really can freak some of the horses out since they are not something that is regularly seen at most shows.

The unfortunate first jump that messed with us all day

We started out in a 2'9" round, and we were the first ones in the ring. The first fence was a natural wood oxer. Unfortunately for me, this is Banner's least favorite jump at the show. He is always a little bit awkward about this natural jump, but especially when its the first fence, it can be tough for him. He ran at it a little bit and then backed off at the last second and we just didn't have a spot to take off. He stopped and slid into the jump. They reset it and we did it again. It was awkward and deer leap-y, but we did it. Next was a 6 stride line. Banner was still not quite settling into a rhythm, and the first jump in was awkward. We mostly fixed it by the out and he settled a bit more but still awkwardly forward and backed off at the same time.


Unfortunately, that version of him gives me a rough ride. I have to hold to one fence and then kick to the next. It is the hardest version of him to ride. One jump at the end of the ring was fairly simple, so that finally helped him settle just a bit. An outside line of a 4 to a 2. First jump in the line had a liverpool, but Banner couldn't have cared one bit about that (thank goodness! Out of anything to spook at, I appreciate that the legit show jumping thing is what he doesn't care about). The striding was a bit awkward but he jumped less like a deer. Around to the left and there is a 5 stride line. Out of that line is where the mini "jump off" part began, but since we had a stop, obviously we were done.


It was an okay-ish round, but I didn't feel awesome about it, so I decided to throw him in the 2'9" one more time. Still had a stop at that stupid first fence, but he jumped it nice and squarely on the second try. After one whole round, he finally settled into a rhythm a bit more and I finally had something to ride. Back to his nice, bold self. Perfect! That I know how to ride! I rode quietly and got nice half halts in the corners before all the fences, and felt so much more positive about that ride. Despite the stop, a few people needed to see the whole course done, so they had me finish out the little jump off section anyways!


A couple of the Halloween decorations still backed Banner off just a bit again, but thankfully no more stops, and we got some really lovely, square jumps.

We waited through a few more rounds, and that first fence was taking people out right and left. Nearly everyone stopped at it. Made me feel slightly less incompetent for also having my horse have problems at that fence.

Giving it extra room every time he did jump it

Back in for our 3'0" round. Again. Stupid stop at the first fence. Despite being frustrated about it, I decided that was going to be a battle for another day, so we backed up 3 strides, and picked up a canter from there. Beautiful jump! And a really beautiful canter through the next line! The jump at the end rode beautifully, but I got in a bit close at the first jump of the line and it kind of buried us into the rest of the distances as well. But he jumped nicely and didn't get flustered by the deep distances, so I was happy!


I lost his right side just a bit in the last line and so we jumped to the right (his typical go-to move), but he still jumped nicely for me, so I decided to quit on that round. Not a great day, but with the sloppy footing and a rough start, I took the bad with the good and decided to focus on the positives of how well my horse was jumping!

For a moment, I considered putting him in at another 3'0" round and just trying to clean up that little bit of rough stuff, and specifically deal with his issue at the first fence, but honestly, it didn't seem like I had enough to fix that it was worth the money for another round of schooling. So instead, I threw him back at the trailer for a little bit to chill and then watched friends jumping the big jumps. A few personal best rounds for them at the 3'6" height! Super fun to get to cheer on friends doing big, cool things.


In the middle of the day there was a costume contest & high jump! I'm a huge slacker when it comes to Halloween costumes, so I grabbed my Hogwarts robes at the last minute as our "costume". I almost considered making Banner wings so that he could be my thestral, but that sounded like a lot of work and I am lazy (and poor).

We all paraded around in our costumes for a bit and prizes were handed out to the super creative people (not me obviously haha). Then it was time for the high jump contest! It starts out super little (like not even 2') just so that pretty much everyone can at least try over one jump! Then it gets jacked up really quickly. There are usually 20-30 people "competing" and if we only went one hole at a time it would take foreverrrr to get everyone weeded out. It jumped up to 2'6" and then 3' and then 3'6". Banner and I tried at the 3'6" but he tipped it with his legs and it rolled off. I was still happy with him considering that is the biggest fence that I have ever pointed him at!

A really good try at 3'6"!

We waited outside the arena and watched everyone else kick butt over some big fences. 4' took out a few people, until there were only 3 riders left. At the 4'3", two riders knocked it off, so one was declared the winner! The two who rolled it off asked if they could warm their horses up a bit more and keep trying. Both of those two managed to get it up to 4'9"! The jump fell a couple times but they still finally successfully jumped the top of the standards! It was pretty darn cool to watch.


Normally, this is the point in the day where I load Banner up and we head home. But they were offering a bareback crossrails class for fun, and I decided why not? It sounded fun! I've never actually jumped him bareback before, but oh well, its just something fun to try! We waited around through the groundpoles and normal crossrails class, and then was our bareback class!

Bareback & baby jumps!

They decided to judge it like an EQ round, which I was highly skeptical of, considering I was pretty sure there was a good chance I might fall off! But instead, we ended up winning! What?! That was pretty fun. Banner got all of his leads and we got great striding through all the lines, and I was clinging to his mane for dear life (only kind of joking). I was pretty glad I stayed for that because it ended up being so much fun & it was a cool new experience with Banner!

All in all, a great horse show! I'm definitely having some horse show hangover feels this morning, but really happy with all the experience I got with Banner this year and this was a great show to finish on!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Work Hard, Play Harder

Banner and I are gearing up for our last local HT of the year! If I'm being totally honest, I was 100% going to wimp out on doing the dressage/XC part of this show, and just do the show jumping. Since B was so tightly wound at our last outing, I felt like we needed some more schooling in order to make XC a positive experience for us. But Trainer sent me a text a few days after our last lesson and asked if I wanted to go cross country for our next lesson instead of another show jumping lesson (I had told her my thoughts on likely not doing cross country at this show), and I thought about it for a moment before deciding why not! I'd like to end the year on a more positive note than our last experience was (tense dressage, wild XC, lost shoe in SJ).


In order to make for a (hopefully) nice, civil outing tomorrow, I have been doing lots of schooling rides at home this week focusing on brakes and reminding him he has a brain and he has to use it! He has been checking in really well this week so I am hopeful for a good schooling session on XC and hopefully a reasonable horse this weekend in all phases.


On Saturday evening, I managed to rope husband into taking some photos of our ride, which was awesome! I've been warming Banner up with about 5 minutes of just basic, loose walking to get his muscles warmed up and his brain tucked into his skull. Then we do somewhere between 3-5 minutes of purposeful walking, including lots of laterals. He was not particularly schooled in lateral work before I got him, and unfortunately I was a bit lax on really focusing on those earlier in the year.


In the last few months, we had some lessons and moments that really highlighted how much Banner was ignoring & blowing through some of my leg cues. He's a horse that has been crooked for a lot of his life, and he is quite comfortable jumping, flatting, and just generally living life a little crooked. Obviously I do not think that life is quite as fun.


His ignoring my leg became extra apparent in a lesson about 2 months ago where I literally did not once get a jump out of him that was straight. He always landed a little to the right (or a lot to the right) of where we took off. It was a wake up call for me that I really needed to fix! Especially because when I attempted to correct by putting some right leg on, he would simply speed up instead of moving over. Classic evasion.


Now laterals are super important in all of our rides and it has drastically improved his flat & jump work! Walking and basic lateral work, however, do not make for super fun photos. So I didn't make hubs take photos of that because boring. Important work, yes. Tedious? Also yes.

Walk quality improving all the time!

All of the lateral work is also there to keep improving the quality of Banner's gaits. Always working to keep getting him lifting up through his withers and staying light and soft in the front end! Once our warmup was done, I called hubs out to take photos! I wanted to get a visual aid as to how he was looking in our rides since sometimes you just can't totally tell if what you are feeling actually looks any different!


It is subtle, but I do think I'm noticing a bit more even pushing behind out of him, and he is uphill in 90% of the photos which feels like a really good accomplishment! I've been working on some walk to canter transitions as well, and I definitely noticed I was able to get a really uphill, collected canter out of him when we did those transitions vs just a normal trot to canter transition.

We got a good 10 minutes of photos of the ride, and then I decided to have a little fun with Banner. He had been super soft in the mouth for my whole ride and being very light so I decided to do one of my favorite things with him (which I haven't done in a long time!). Bridleless!!

Lowkey love this photo

Bridleless work may not be everyone's cup of tea, and it is not something I've been able to do much of with Charmer, but it is something that I feel quite safe doing on Banner, and its super fun when he is listening!

I tested my brakes a couple of times, and they were there. A bit rusty but we haven't done bridleless in probably 6+ months! We wandered around the arena once at the walk and Banner stretched out and enjoyed his freedom. Then we picked up the trot, and I really began to notice how well he was carrying himself without any help from me and the bridle.


It was awesome to realize how his fitness level has improved and that his way of going has changed so much even without the aid of the bridle!


We picked up the canter, and while he got a bit excited and forward, I just got up in 2-point and allowed him to cruise along underneath me. He settled right into a beautiful rhythm with a nicely uphill push.


Tested my brakes again and he came right back down for me, and we picked up the canter the other way. By this point he had settled in a little more and didn't even consider being silly. Just enjoying a lovely, happy canter. I couldn't help but smile with joy the entire time. He is just so much fun.

Just for kicks I asked for a flying change and he obliged kindly, with just 2 little strides of porpoising because life is just so much fun you guys! He got all the scratches and all the treats and all the love after being such a good boy!


Tonight, I'm going to try a ride in a waterford to see what he thinks since I'll probably try that on XC tomorrow! Hopefully he is a sane, good pony for me and we find his new XC bit!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Didn't Miss a Beat

After our little shoe incident at the last show (9/22), Banner got some time off. The first day because obviously he didn't have a shoe, the next few days because I was waiting for a brewing abscess (which fortunately never came), and then he had a scheduled vet appointment last week (10/1) for us to do his dental & then I ended up having some chiro done on him too because of the weird shoe thing.


All of these things together made for a bunch of time off. I managed to fit in a couple short lunges over the weekend and one ride on Monday, before we headed to our regularly scheduled lesson on Tuesday. I didn't have high hopes for this lesson considering he had basically 2 weeks off and a chiro session in the middle. You might think mentioning the chiro seems weird, but he always gets super... spunky after chiro. The last 2 times, we have had to spend half of our lesson reminding him he doesn't have to show us exactly how athletic he can be with his hind end over every fence. It always makes me laugh, but doesn't change the fact that bucking over half the fences doesn't make for the most productive lessons.


There is another rider, newer to this barn, that wanted to join our lesson! I happily said of course! I really like saving the $10 in semi-private lessons & my horse appreciates not having all the focus on him. We arrived to a nice little grid set up in the big ring. 2 trot poles to a crossrail, short one stride to a vertical, bigger one stride to another vertical, 2 strides to an oxer, and then one stride to either a single vertical or a pair of crossrail bounces.

We started off with just the crossrail and slowly built the jumps as we went. The first few times, Banner got forward and flat, just running through the poles that were placeholding where the jumps would soon be. I tried to help him a bit but then we got some awkward striding through. By about the 6th pass through, he remembered that he doesn't have to racehorse through the grid and began sitting down.


The second jump got put up and it was just a little 2'/2'3"ish vertical. No big deal. Then Trainer put up the 3rd fence. The cups were already set at 3', and our horses were warmed up, so she just set the pole in there. A little moment of anxiety and stress snuck up on me. We hadn't jumped in over two weeks and I didn't know how Banner would feel about jumping right back in to the big fences.

I pointed him down the grid, took a deep breath and tried to remember to take it one jump at a time. Wouldn't you know it, Banner could not have cared one little bit. He popped right through that grid like an old pro.


I couldn't help but take a moment and remember that just around this time last year, how intimidated he would be by immediately going up to a jump in the 3' range. Now, he didn't even bat an eye (even if his chicken rider panicked just a little bit).

A few more passes through that, and then went up the next jump. It began as a 3' vertical. Easy peasy. My nerves subsided and I felt confident about us crushing this grid. Then the back side of that fence came up, making it a 3'3" oxer. Oops, butterflies back for a minute. Banner was feeling super confident and bold, and now getting more thoughtful and careful through the grid. Deep breath again, turn to go in the grid and B stopped right at the first little fence. What? He seemed spooked. I looked around slightly perplexed and realized there were some kids playing behind us outside the arena. Weird, but surprised Banner cared. Then one of the other riders in the ring informed me that the kids were playing with a large lunge whip. OH, that makes more sense. Thankful that B is such a level-headed guy and stopped to tell me he was concerned, instead of bolting through the grid or being stupid.


Children gotten back under control, whip safely stored where it is supposed to, and we went for another pass at the grid. B ate that sucker up. Jumping boldly, carefully and straight. Man he was feeling good.

Finally the last fence of the grid was put up, as a 2'9"ish vertical. A few passes through, and I had to remember to not back off on the backside and follow through with him to the very end. Super proud of him and his bold jumping!


To remind Mr. Banner that he does have to shorten up even after big fences, we did do 2 more passes, changing the 2'9" vertical at the end to 2 small xrails set up as a bounce. First try, Banner took one look at those two bounces and stopped before the oxer. He knew our tricks (after all last year of grids, he knows the idea). Trainer reminded me to not. change. anything. I have a tendency to end up drastically overriding him unnecessarily. Another pass through the grid, and I felt his hesitation at the oxer. I gently squeezed with my legs and did nothing else. Wouldn't you know it? B jumped the snot out of that fence and jumped through the bounces like a rockstar.

All in all, a very rewarding lesson, and I'm a very happy horse mom to have Banner sound, happy and feeling so good again! I can't believe how educated and fun he has become. Next week's lesson is out on XC, and then we have our last HT of the year next weekend.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Horse Show Dog

Back in July, my husband and I picked up a dog! A super cute 4 month old GSD. He was supposed to get picked up by a family who ended up not being able to come pick him up, so he sat around while his breeders planned to market him (but didn't really, which worked out for us). Husband fell head over heels for this dog before we even met him. I kept a more level head until I met him and then promptly fell hard for him!

Meet Radar!

He was definitely underweight when we first got him (he was in a home with 5 other dogs and I think was getting pushed out of his food), but we have definitely fixed that. He went from about 25lbs when we first bought him to over 50lbs now!

I have only ever owned little dogs during my lifetime, and the last 2 were Dachshunds at that (they both live with my parents). If you've never met a Dachshund, let me just tell you - they are stubborn little suckers. LOVE my little dogs, but their obedience is always contingent on whether or not they feel like doing whatever you're asking.

Adorbs cookies & adorbs face

This dog has been life changing for me! He is incredibly loyal, and wicked smart, with an intense desire to please you. I kid you not, took him 6 treats to learn how to sit down. Six. In just the last couple of months, he has learned sit, down, come & heel. We are working on stay, but he doesn't comprehend why he has to stay away when he just wants to love you.

Anyways, onto the horse show dog part of this post! Since this dog is fiercely loyal and incredibly smart, I really want him to be my horse show dog buddy. I've never gotten the opportunity to have a horse show dog of my own, but obviously I've been around them constantly!

A good horse show dog must be obedient, quiet and willing to hang out alone for a while. Radar has done tons of outings to various food locations, pet stores, friend's houses, etc. We want him to be a well rounded, socialized dog.


He is kind of a chicken and barks at people sometimes but he is easily quieted and is generally a good boy when we bring him out.

I brought him to his first ever horse show a few weekends ago! 

Clearly dis is aboose
Is neglectdog

He was a super good boy. He barked a couple of times at a few people but refocused on me when I asked him to. And of course, 99.9% of horse people also seem to be dog people, so everyone was super kind and gentle with him even when he got a little worried.

We walked our whole XC course and he thought that was great fun! He's not quite confident enough in his gangly body yet to jump on the fences for me to get cute photos of that, but he does love jumping ditches with me!

He patiently waited at the trailer for me while I tacked up. Most definitely thought it was stupid that he had to be tied up and couldn't be involved in all the action, but he was a very good boy despite it!

Learning to not eat his treat until told!

Husband was meeting us at the show but wouldn't be there until like 15 minutes before my ride time, so I chucked Radar in the front part of my trailer with some food & water, and he laid down and didn't make a peep!

Once husband arrived, he got Radar back out & wandered around with him while taking photos, and Radar was quite well behaved! A couple more little barks but otherwise obedient and quiet. He had been quiet as a mouse in the trailer and didn't seem to mind being left there at all!


I brought him with me again on SJ day and again he took to the whole horse show scene like a fish to water! We didn't bark at anyone on the second day! He still thinks being tied up is dumb, but he is quiet and easy to deal with!

As a competitor, obviously you don't want to have to worry about too many things on show day. He was wonderfully easy to handle and didn't stress me out any more than I normally stress at shows. I think he is going to be a fantastic horse show dog with more time and outings! He is already well on his way in my opinion!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Everything Happens for a Reason

At the end of my last post, we left off with Banner having ripped off his shoe, and while it is now back on, we definitely could not do our lesson on Tuesday. Originally, I was planning to just cancel that lesson, since B was clearly out of commission. But with my work schedule preventing my lesson last week, and ponies need dentals next week, so cancelling this lesson would have put me out for 3 weeks. Not the end of the world, but I also was a bit sad about missing lessons for that long.

I wavered back and forth for a while on Sunday night about whether or not to cancel, and finally decided, what the heck, lets do the lesson & I'll bring Charmer! So I texted Trainer C, letting her know I would actually come, and that I was bringing Charms. He has been in off and on work for a little while, but my schedule has not been super flexible to keeping him in a program. And honestly, I tend to ride him better when I actually have a lesson or two with someone on the ground yelling at me to ride forward and not grab at his face (things I know, but quickly forget when things go wrong with him).

All photos from random old lessons/shows

On Monday, I came home from work and took Charmer out. I spent probably a good 20+ minutes grooming him because he was filthy. Finally, his coat was passable enough for me to justify tacking up. I haven't ridden him much in the last 3 weeks because I was focusing on making sure Banner was ready for this last weekend.


I threw Charmer on the lunge line and just let him trot for a while, slowly warming up those tight back/hind end muscles. He did probably about 10 minutes of trotting both ways before I saw him loosen up enough to ask for a canter. For the first 3-4 transitions either direction, he did an awkward porpoise impression as he sort of cantered/crowhopped around the circle. He settled into a decent canter after a few strides each time, and then I got a couple of nice transitions out of him each way. By this point, he had been on the lunge for probably the better part of 20 minutes, so his out-of-shape little self was pretty tired. Perfect conditions to get back on for the first time in a while haha!

I climbed aboard & really only had one goal for the ride. Stay forward. This included not pulling/grabbing if he got fast, just allowing him to stay forward in all of his gaits. A couple of walk laps to remember that we have manners and to double check that I did in fact have brakes, should we need them, and then we went to the real work. Lots of trot work, making sure I kept my leg on and kept as light of a contact as possible.

During the trot work, I did my best to keep him entertained and his mind focused. Lots of transitions, serpentines, changes of directions, circles, even some leg yielding in and out on a circle or a few steps of laterals down the sides. It took him a bit, but he checked in and was enjoying the game of "what are we going to do next?". I got a few nice canter transitions both ways as well. He is sticky in the canter, just from being stiff (and possibly needing hock injections - I'm following up with vet next week to see what she thinks), and his pelvis feels a touch rotated to me as well, but he was happy to pick up a pleasant canter both directions. The more forward I asked for, the nicer he went (imagine that...).


I had a little 2' jump set up in the arena from some work I had done with Banner a few weeks ago, so I decided to pop Charms over that a few times to see how he felt. A few big overjumps for sure, but that is his natural go-to move anyways, so I didn't think anything of it. After the 5th time, he settled a bit and jumped nicely. We did most of the jumps in trot, but I decided to throw him over it once each way out of the canter, and he was a very good boy! We quit at this point, since he was tired and had tried very hard for me.

The next day, I loaded him up for his lesson. Banner was thoroughly confused as to why I was taking Charmer somewhere without him! Charmer was a bit confused why he was the one going as well, but he loves adventures so he climbed right on the trailer, looking very excited about what was happening!


We unloaded at WSH & Charmer looked around for a moment but settled almost immediately. Even though its been over a year since he had gone there, he didn't mind at all. He travels well (perks of OTTB), and he is incredibly comfortable at that facility after years of lessons & even living there for a while.

Once I got him all tacked up, I headed to the ring to lunge him for a bit again to get some of the "first time out in a long time" willies out. This lunge session was significantly shorter than the day before. He loosened up quickly and settled in just under 10 minutes. I had to giggle just a bit when one of the workers (who has never seen him before), came over and was like "wow someone is a bit wild today". Yeah...that is not his version of wild. But I just laughed it off and said "yeah he's had the better part of the last year off".

I climbed up on him and he was definitely a bit more on edge being off property than he had been at home the day before, but he was doing his best to be good and listen to me. Immediately, I gave him jobs. He needed something to occupy his mind. So I put my leg on and got a nice marching walk from him and did some exercises at the walk, before moving on to trot and canter.

He was still just a bit stiff, but I wasn't surprised by that, and the more work we did, the looser he became. Trainer C came over and we chatted about what he's been doing (spoiler alert: not much). I told her mostly light w/t/c work and a few jumps here and there. We haven't jumped higher than 2' in a while.


She set up the circle of death, with itty bitty little 12" verticals. Charmer thought that was the most exciting thing ever, and definitely jumped the first fence like it was 2'6". A few more positive rides, and he finally started just gently popping over them. I had to remind myself over every fence to really bury my hands in his neck in order to not catch him in the mouth. He jumps super round and has a tendency to throw me around a bit, and I really wanted to not accidentally punish him if he jumped big.

Once we jumped around a bit both ways through the circle with the teeny jumps, She raised them up to about 2'ish. His tiredness & being generally out of shape really showed here, because as the jumps raised (even though still little), it made the turns in between them a bit harder for him. I really had to exaggerate opening my inside rein and use lots of outside leg to turn him around. We skipped a lot of fences because sometimes he just obviously wasn't going to make the turn, but we managed to make a full circle a couple of times.


One of my friends, who works at this barn & has known Charmer for years, rode in the ring during our lesson, and at one point called out "so um, did you drug him?!". I laughed and said no, and she responded "wow he is going so calmly and nicely, I legitimately thought it was a possibility". Honestly I totally took it as a compliment. He really was being so calm and quiet about everything, that for him, it was like him being drugged. But instead, he was just using his brain, and I am learning to ride more positively (thanks to Trainer C & a year of lessons on Banner), that he was acting this way as a "default setting".

Giving Charmer the better part of the last year off made me feel guilty at points. He's only 9yo and part of me felt like it made me a bad horse mom, but honestly it has turned out to be really good for him! It gave his body time to mature and even heal a bit (he had a tendency to be bodysore/backsore and I haven't noticed that as much since he had time off & filled out!), and it gave his brain a chance to grow up. Super happy with how he has been in the last few months as I have very slowly been bringing him back into work. Excited to hopefully continue in a semi-consistent program with him!