Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pick a freaking temperature CO!

CO has been all over the place lately.  Monday it went from 61F to 31F in the course of an hour.  Last night it was 8F and today it was 50F.  Ridiculous.
Places I would rather be right now include Ambergris Caye, Belize

Last night I went to the barn just to turn him out and put his warm blanket on.  Then had to stop there again this morning (thanks J for taking care of that!) and pull his blanket so he didn't broil today.

It was so damn cold last night that my fingers could barely manage the blanket clasps.  Fawkes was unphased.  He had a grand old time running around like a manic in the turnout.  Bucking and snorting and running.  It was quite cute.

Tonight it was jumping lesson again and a repeat of Sunday's work.  I can tell how great this is going to be for me, but man, is it not exciting to work on eq things and rhythm.  The biggest points tonight were to keep the bend in my knee at all times - including while posting, cantering, and over fences.  My two point is pathetic.  I haven't worked on it forever, and it shows.  We also worked on me being straight.  While this is a pipe dream and will probably never happen, it is good to try.

Fawkes was a rock star.  While not necessarily so over fences, he is in general a super honest horse.  Do it right, get the right answer.  Do it wrong, get angry donkey response.  R is keeping the jumps relatively low and simple while we focus on getting my crap together so Fawkes is just eating it up.

Probably time for a bath now, as being correct is both hard and painful.  Love it!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jumping lessons and equitation torture

After managing 5 days in a row of riding, I didn't even get to the barn again until this morning for my first jumping lesson at the new place.  Thanks work, feel free to stop eating into my play time any day now.  

Although I did also sneak in a showing of Spamalot, which I do not regret at all. Love Monty Python.

Barn cat wonders why I thought an early Sunday lesson was a good idea
 
Anyways, horse stuff.  Got to the barn this morning early because I thought it would be wise to run him after not riding for several day.  Managed to get to his run just as they were graining him.  Of course.  Nothing quite so fun as standing around in 20 degree weather watching your horse eat but I wanted his good will so I allowed it.

Giraffe horse shows off his skills at getting above the bit
Did a quick turn out in the ring and then there was a lot of excitement tacking up as morning barn is very different than evening barn and Fawkes doesn't appreciate change.  Ack! A tractor!  On no, someone is dragging the ring!!  What the crap is that guy doing with that bucket???  Etc.  By the time I got him into the ring he was frazzled and I was irritated.  Not the best start.

Luckily jumping trainer, R, was unphased by silly orange horse antics and helped us both relax.  Since it was our first lesson, she pretty much just wanted to see where we are and start working on the little (unending list of ) things that I can improve. 

 For example, I ride with my hands pretty low.  She wanted my hands higher, which Fawkes immediately took as a cue to stick his head as high as possible.  So we worked on me keeping my hands higher and Fawkes still realizing it is his job to stretch over his back into the contact.

It is a different way of going for both of us, so it will take some getting used to, but besides being a little confused Fawkes didn't object so that was good.  
I like how he is moving here, he looks soft and relaxed

We rock the pile of poles test
We did canter work and incorporated  trot poles, and then started going over some little jumps.  

Oh yeah, and it turns out I have basically been telling Fawkes to jump the poles with my body and if I am quiet instead he just goes over them nicely.

Boooooo.


I liked pole jumping horse.

Continuing the theme started by my last jumping lesson (at the old barn), we focused on my position over fences.  R's way was to tell me to think about keeping more bend in my knee, and I like that mental image so I will practice with that.  
I don't even know what is happening here, but it is pretty funny.

Fawkes was utterly focused on his job by this point and was really trying to do as asked.  He was also definitely happy to be jumping again even if he was less thrilled by R's requests that we maintain a rhythm and don't just run at fences (also something that came up at the last lesson).  

TB's do it better and faster

By the end of the lesson, Fawkes and I were both very tired.  I am not sure how minor position adjustments take so much out of me, but they really do.  Quick video of us going down the line.  I messed up going in, but we got it together to get out at least.

video

Very happy with the lesson, I think I rode well and Fawkes was able to come back to me after a rough start.  R really likes him and I liked her teaching style, so hopefully we can stay on a positive path.  And start jumping a little bigger.  Maybe one day even ride outside!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

5 Days in a row

I feel like I have earned my "Horse Power" riding badge this week.  Or at least my "Powered by a Horse" badge since I rode for the 5th day in a row today.  Fawkes probably wishes I had spent more time powering my own ass around and leaving him alone but alas, that is the fate of the pleasure horse.

Hello forgotten flake of alfalfa, I know just what to do with you. Oh, shiny object!

Today was probably the most fun we have had in a while. Jumps are back in the ring and we were able to play with poles.  He got super excited to jump the poles.  Locked on every time and actually jumped them instead of just stepping over.   Did his cute little super fast nose flip when we stopped to take a break because he was so happy.  Lead changes all over the place.  Fun bending lines with changing up the striding in between, varying take off spots, everything I could think of.

I think 4 rides in a row of flat work have broken him.  He was way too eager to please.

Dressage loves him much more than he loves dressage

I truly think, as strange as it is, that dressage is one of the main things that has helped him come to love jumping.  Not through strength and suppleness and all that jazz, but as in "Holy Crap, please let me do something ANYTHING other than go around this stupid ring in a frame before I self terminate.  Jumping?  OK, I will take it!"
Who tries so hard over the tiny fence? Adorable Fawkes
Last night's ride was another repeat of changes of bend, leg yields, canter transitions, and turns on the haunches so I was content to let him just play around tonight.  His breathing seemed back to normal so I was much relieved on that front.  Overall a great night just enjoying my horse.  Here is to more of that!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Human - 1, Horse - 1/2

I am not sure that score is fair, but I am the one with the fingers and there were no unbiased judges present so I am making the call.

Had my first after work visit to the barn today and it was a ghost town.  Someone was leaving as I got there and that was it for other people.  Heaven!  Just what my misanthropic tendencies needed.  I decided to let Fawkes run in the indoor before riding (come on Daylight Savings Time, momma wants to ride outside in the evening).  This is where the competition began.

There is a gate that closes the indoor entrance and Fawkes decided that doing sliding stops into the gate would be So. Much. Fun.  I was not a fan and pulled a jump standard over to the gate. Like so:
This is a horse that snorts at flower pots, surely this will prevent him from running at the gate, right?

Right?

Ass
At least it made him slow down when he ran into the corner.  That is why I am calling it a partial victory.  If only he would use his powers for good instead of evil.

Broke out the black tack and hopped on.  I came in with a vengeance as I wanted to use engaging work to prevent any random spookiness.  Lots of walk/trot transitions, leg yields, circles, serpentines, and turn on the haunches.  Attempts at getting him to stretch down, again with varying success.  Will definitely need to get into that with the new trainer.

Did trot/canter/trot transitions which Fawkes hates and I love.  It makes his canter so collected and fluffy.  Fluffy is possibly not an appropriate dressage term, but that is how it feels.  Then tried walk/canter transitions which we both loathe.  We have only started mixing them in a couple months ago and I think they made Fawkes' brain completely explode.  He just does not understand why he would do this stupid thing.

Glowing eyes of love 
Since progress has been so nonexistent slow, I started incorporating a few into every ride.  Sometimes, he is all over it.  Sometimes he acts like I am asking him to fly to the moon.  He is absolutely masterful at squeezing 1.5 trot strides into the transition which is irritating, but I have been ok with that to date.  However I am not ok with the walk/trot/flail/canter transition.  Although if that ever is added to a dressage test, y'all can just give the neck ribbons to us, because we have that one down.

Not even sure dressage does neck ribbons.  But I digress.

Tonight was one of those "impossible, mom" nights. He rushed, he flailed, he went sideways, he counterbent, he did it but picked up the wrong lead.  OK, fine, I will take the blame for those and he gets praised no matter which lead at this stage of the game.  We finally got a good one each direction and I called it quits.  In paranoid horse owner world, his breathing was sounding vaguely funny the whole ride.  Nothing was apparently wrong but he sounded almost congested. Hoping it was nothing.

He was much improved in the scary cross ties tonight.  Yay!




Sunday, February 16, 2014

Settling In

Not much exciting going on at the moment.  I am giving Fawkes time to learn his new surroundings and taking things slowly in hopes of giving him a positive impression of his home.

Looking kind of chub while watching the neighbor move his tractor.
People often ask me if he is a QH, I can sort of see it here. 
Unfortunately, Fawkes tends to be fine in new places to start and then slowly get worse over time.  Something traumatic happens (you know, a bird flies by, a kid forgets to yell door, etc) and then he is nervous at that part of the ring forever.  I haven't quite figured out how to make something ok again after it scares him.

However, so far so good. Saturday night I got the barn and it was basically empty so I took the opportunity to turn him out in the indoor to let him explore on his own.  He checked the whole place out and even went over the poles on the ground all by himself.  I tacked him up and hopped on for a few minutes.


That poor neighbor will never
do anything in peace ever again.
He was VERY nervous in the grooming stalls.  I am not sure what about them bugs him but he danced the entire time he was in there.  He doesn't like being groomed to begin with so that doesn't help him relax.  I just tried to keep his time there short but positive and got on.  We walked and trotted both directions, did some circles and went over the trot poles and then I got off. He was relatively relaxed so I wanted to reinforce that mentality.
Want this sign. And it is a decent beer too


Today was much more crowded, although nothing overwhelming.  He was still unhappy in the grooming stall, even with a horse next to him and several in sight.  My sad little hope that his nerves were based on being alone last night were quickly dashed.  Sigh orange horse.  I am going to start grinding xanax into your feed.


Got to meet the other hunter trainer at the barn.  This place has two and in my oblivious mind, I would like to ride with both.  I have received mixed messages on whether this will be ok or not.  So for now I am going to take a few lessons with both and see whom I like better.  Anyways, it was good to be able to observe him teaching.  Fawkes was a little more tense today but held it together much better than he used to.  He spooked at a ray of light coming under a door, but it was a half hearted spooking effort, which I appreciated.


To keep his mind busy I did lots of transitions and kept going over poles.  My least favorite rule at the new barn is that you cannot jump outside of lessons.  This will probably be ok long term, but I hate being told I can't take my horse over a stupid cross rail by myself.  On the plus side, there are many many things to work on over poles.  We messed around with getting the stride in a 5 stride line while trotting in.  This horse has an amazing step for a little guy.  He had no problem whatsoever with getting a beautiful 5 the first few times and then I actually had to hold him to prevent the 4/launch.  The lesson horse was cantering in and getting the same 5.  I was happy with the under saddle stuff.

A nice meta picture of a photo of Fawkes racing that was given to me.
Blinders AND a shadow roll.  I did this to myself.
Untacked and walked him around the property to let him explore his new home.  There was an awful lot of snorting and some prancing and jumping sideways.  It was all a little exaggerated and ridiculous and quickly got on my nerves.  I mean, there is no reason to jump almost on top of me because a car starts backing up 40 feet away.  Just keep repeating: I love this horse and accept his flaws.  As he (sometimes) accepts mine.



Hopefully will get at least one lesson in this week and jump.  Really want to get back into a program.

Did end up skiing yesterday, so with that and two rides I am pretty sore.  Think it is time for this:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Horse Relocation Success

Peeping out the trailer window
Moving day went about as smoothly as possible.  Fawkes loaded with a minimum of fuss.  He isn't terrible at loading, but he doesn't just walk right on.  He usually puts his front feet in, decides, haha- nope, and backs out.  Then he dances for a minute, snorts, and walks on.

Today was pretty much par for the course.  The new barn is only a few miles away so it was a short trailer ride and then we were there.

There was a quick bit of drama (it wouldn't be horses otherwise, right?) when we were starting to open the trailer and a nearby kid shut his finger in a car door and started screaming bloody murder.  Fawkes made the obvious deduction that he didn't want to be anywhere that children were being taken for organ harvesting and started freaking out.

Luckily the kid was ok and taken in for some ice and Fawkes realized we hadn't just delivered him to his doom.  We took him to his new run and while he was a bit jumpy walking around he handled it really well.  He has gone to 3 horse shows now so I think he is starting to relax some about going to new places.

I chose to put him in a shed run at his new place instead of a stall, although we will have to see how that pans out. Feeling a little guilty making him live outside in Feb after being stalled since the fall but his mental state generally seems better when he lives outdoors.  And that is what blankets are for, right?

He quickly greeted his new neighbor and settled in to his hay.  I went back tonight to check on him and give him ulcer preventive meds, and he was fine.  Tomorrow is a ski day but hopefully I will get a quick ride in at night to let him check the indoor out, then Sunday we will get to work.



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cattle Dog Interlude

Got to the barn relatively early tonight and then barely made my lesson on time due to the 8 coats of mud I had to scrape off of the pony.

Love the warmer weather, not so much in love with the glue-like mud.  And I swear that Fawkes finds the muckiest place in turnout, lays down, and puts serious effort into grinding that stuff into his coat.  It is annoying trying to clean him off, but also kind of funny.  Yeah, scraping mud out of my horse's everywhere amuses me.  I am a simple creature.

Had a dressage lesson tonight and he was very good.   Focused on shoulder in and some counter canter work.  Auto changer no likey counter canter.  Which is why dressage trainer tortures us with it. The weather was a bit crazy as the winds kicked up like a tornado was trying to form.  Doors banging, walls vibrating, even the wall mirrors shaking.

And spooky horse snorted, rolled his eyes, and then did what I asked.  No ducking, shying, or spinning.  It was a small orange (and mud) colored miracle!  I love when he concentrates on the job instead of just reacting to his surroundings.

Anyways, it was a rough day at work today and I kept watching this video J took of Maya the other night to distract me:

video

Maya is our 3 year old border collie/cattle dog mix.  She loves to run and run and run and chew on the other dog and run and chase the cat and run.  And run.  End result is that she is often filthy and needs a bath.  Maya has a strict moral opposition to baths but obediently suffers through them.  Once she is unleashed from the tub the fun begins.  I can only assume she thinks she can rub the clean back off.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why does riding with a new trainer feel like going on a blind date?

I wonder if it is just me or if everyone else gets nervous about riding in front of a new trainer.  I always feel a little awkward, like I am worried about representing my previous trainer, horse, and self badly.  With all that baggage I am dragging into the lesson it is amazing if I can ride at all!

So cute it hurts.  
That being said, it was a very good lesson with the new jumping trainer.  We didn't do anything overly complicated as the main idea was to see how we got along as student/teacher in case I don't like my new barn and want to come back or just decide to train with her on occasion as a trailer in.

She was very complimentary of Fawkes, which is of course the fastest route to my heart.  I take an inordinate amount of pride in this horse since a) I am not confirmation expert but I have always liked how he was put together and b) I have put the literal blood, sweat, and tears into transforming him from retired field fatty into the well muscled beast he is now.  His vet, saddle fitter, and chiro have all told me how evenly muscled he is which is likely a combination of good genetics and also my hard damn work.  So yeah, I get a little smug when people say how good he looks.

Fancy trot
Flat work was a bunch of transitions while posting and in two point, with some sitting trot thrown in to torture me and a little lateral work to torture Fawkes.  Trainer says she is generally a bit of a drill sergeant on flat work which is awesome because I am inherently lazy.

Then we went onto trot poles that she gradually built into trot poles to a bounce.  Since Fawkes was being brave we were able to focus on pace and my equitation.  Which translates to not letting Fawkes alternate between sucking back and rushing and trying to get me to correct my rounded back (sigh, that will probably never be fully solved) and the fact that I get my butt way too far out of the saddle.

Guess which one of us was easier to fix?

Case in point.  Back isn't terribly round here but why on earth do I feel the need to jump ahead? Not impressive.  However, his neck use here is yummy.
For Fawkes, it was mostly just half halting before the poles and re-enforcing the half halt with an actual halt sometimes.  Then keeping my leg on through the poles so he didn't lose momentum.  For me, it was much harder.  Trying to focus on sinking my weight into my heel and not lifting out of the saddle over the jump.
No seriously, it makes my teeth ache how cute he is
 And at the same time she would say to "pull my belly button down towards his neck" to keep the back flat.

There was definitely some progress.  And what I love about having pictures is that I had a chicken wing elbow thing going on tonight that I didn't notice while riding.  Will need to keep that in mind next time.  Also interesting looking through the photos is that I seem to have an easier time riding correctly when he doesn't over jump.  When he puts a larger effort in, I seem more inclined to jump ahead.  Need to think about the causality there.  Maybe me jumping ahead makes him over jump....

 
Back definitely better, butt still too high. And get me
some blue cheese for those chicken wings!
Another thing to put on the list.  Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed with how much I need to get better at, but mostly I really love the challenge. This sport is fun for me because no matter how many years I ride there is still so much to do! And because when I do finally get something right, Fawkes almost inevitably improves as well.  Most likely thinking "Finally, that stupid girl started helping me instead of asking me to compensate for her mistakes.  Now get off and get me a carrot."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Rockstar Dressage horse

Pre-Fawkes, dressage and I did not have a positive history.  I learned to ride hunter/jumper style (ish.  I am not saying I was doing it right) and I was very happy in that world.  I dabbled in eventing, but treated the dressage test as something that you just had to do in order to go play cross country.  Contact?  Who needs it?

Who needs contact?  This guy.  Also, at this time (Feb 2012) he needed ulcer treatment and a lot of calories.  Sheesh.

Still miss this mare.  She was incredible.
In college, the perfect hunter I was half leasing also started getting dressage training and her sweet attitude took a nose dive.  She didn't like trying to come into a frame, she hated stepping under herself, and in hindsight, I think she had some physical issues that made really trying to use herself difficult.  Her confirmation probably wasn't helping her either.  She was super happy toting people around 3' courses on a loose rein and to this day, I still am not sure why her otherwise great owner pushed so hard for that mare to do dressage when she didn't enjoy it.  Regardless, the mare I had jumped 4' on, trail ridden by myself, and jumped really frickin scary things on - picnic tables, drops, water jumps, hanging logs, ditches, etc - soured about life and stopped enjoying everything once she started doing dressage and I blamed the entire sport. Yes, I know that is silly now but it made sense when I was 20 and knew Everything.


Then a few years later, I boarded at a dressage barn for a year.  Maybe I should capitalize that.  A Dressage Barn.  Even though it wasn't technically dedicated to any specific discipline, it was clear who ran this place.  The riders bitched about the jumps, the low quality horses (you know, anything not an imported warmblood), and pretty much everything else that separated Us from Them.

When I overheard an argument that started about whose husband made more money and ended with whose Porsche Boxster was fancier, I understood what the term Dressage Queen meant.  I didn't even know people like that really existed.  I didn't even know what a Boxster was.  It still looks like a typo.

Anyways, all that background is to point out how amazing it is that I now really enjoy dressage lessons.  This is fully due to my awesome trainer's efforts and a horse whose default way of moving I affectionately refer to as "The Giraffe"

One of our first rides, and this was actually a low headset for him at the time. My lack of dressage acumen (and sore need for dressage lessons) is painfully obvious
Dressage has been amazing for Fawkes and I think he really enjoys it now.  Although he would never admit it.  Yesterday, we had a dressage lesson and he was fabulous. He tackled his nemesis Shoulder In, and even knocked some Shoulder Outs out of the park.

We spent the early part of the lesson getting him rocked back and off his forehand with lots of transitions.  Getting heavy in front is his newest evasion (previous evasions included head flipping and curling) and quite possibly my least favorite.  But hopefully we are nipping it in the bud, as it didn't take long to get him in balance.

Fawkes saying "I won't" May 2013.
We then moved on to shoulder in and out.  Shoulder out was a new concept to both Fawkes and I, but he took to it without blinking.  That is not our normal - new ideas typically involve a lot of stamping, kicking, snorting, threatening to rear, bucking, shoulder bulging, dropped shoulder spinning temper tantrums.  But he surprised me.  He was quiet, accepting, and did exactly as asked.  I am not going to lie.  It scared me.  Is he sick? Dying? A pod horse?  And it continued throughout the lesson.  We have just started working on lead changes.  Fawkes is an auto changer, the very first I have ever ridden.  I am not sure if this is true of all auto changers, but he does not appreciate being asked to change leads and he doesn't care when I want the change.  He never cross fires and will always swap right before the corner.  So in his mind, this is a done deal, perfection has been achieved and to be honest, I don't disagree with him.  My dressage trainer begs to differ and thinks I should also be allowed to request a change at specific times.

Craziness.

Did I mention Fawkes harbors a lot of resentment for our dressage trainer?  Things like this are why.

So we have introduced the concept of me requesting a change.  This is hard for me as well since it requires being in balance and I am naturally happily crooked.  But damn if we didn't get 4 (four!) changes out of 5 yesterday that were when asked or within a stride.  On that note, I got off  him and took him to his dinner.  Good pony.

He rewarded me today by biting me in the shoulder blade while I was tightening his girth.  Ingrate.

One coming to jesus conversation later, I had an obedient horse again and we had a short ride where we mostly focused on stretching down into the contact.  Giraffe-y/periscope-y/sight seeing type horses apparently object to stretching and dropping their heads but he was pretty good about it.  J didn't get any really good stretchy shots, but I swear it happened.

Yay a picture from today.  Trying to encourage the stretch.  It is a work in progress.  Like everything about us.
I am also really focused these days on trying to keep the bend in my elbows with thumbs up and steady hands.  I cannot for the life of me figure out what I want to flap my overly straight elbows in the breeze with flat hands, but I am determined to fix it.  Fawkes clearly appreciates it when I get that shit under control.

Overall a very successful weekend.  Might be a couple days until I can get to the barn again but I have a tentative lesson scheduled with the new jump trainer Wednesday night so that should be interesting!


Friday, February 7, 2014

Barn guilt

I always end up feeling guilty when I can't get to the barn for whatever reason or when after a long day I just don't have the energy to ride.  Fawkes is not the kind of horse you can just jump on and play around.  This is a big part of the reason I love working with him, but it also means I can't phone rides in. I have to be present and attentive or he will pull some spook and spin crap and I will eat dirt.  Therefore, even though the weather finally thawed today and even though I got out of work at a reasonable hour, I just can't muster the energy to ride.

And I feel crappy about it.

Why though?  Fawkes doesn't care.  He doesn't have a particularly great work ethic and he isn't the most human oriented horse in the world.  He also is not much harder to ride after a week off than he is after a day off so that isn't going to make life any harder.

I think it is because we live in an area where there isn't much turn out so I feel responsible for getting there and getting him out of his stall.  I also feel like I am wasting money and his life when he just sits around.  The money question is valid, but his life?  My brain is just being deliberately idiotic.  I mean, exhibit A:

Not exactly the face of a horse begging to go out and work.  Actually, this is his "PEPPERMINTS?!?!?" face
He far prefers the days he gets to just hang out and eat.  With a couple minutes of running thrown in for good measure.  So I just need to put my big girl pants on, process the guilt, and move on.  I will definitely be riding this weekend, so I can see if Fawkes is going to make a liar out of my above statement about being fine after time off.  That is how horses work, right?

We lost our jumping trainer recently to changes at the barn, but I will get a dressage lesson in this weekend and then next weekend we are moving to our new barn with 2 different jumping trainers to choose from!  If things work out, I might even try a jumping lesson with the current barn's new jumping trainer before I leave, just to see.  I absolutely love getting different input on both my horse and my riding.




Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bad timing

Well, I might have started a blog at the worst possible time.  The weather is terrible and my job is insane.  So instead of having interesting rides to talk about, I have things like "I worked 13 hours yesterday" and "it is currently 5 degrees outside and Fawkes and I have a tacit agreement not to pretend we care enough to work in this ridiculous cold."

I did manage to get over to the barn tonight to at least lunge and let him run around.  The barn doesn't do turn out when it is this cold and Fawkes has a tendency to gas colic so I don't dare let him just sit in a stall for days.  We have spent lots of bonding time hand walking, lunging (longing? Neither looks right to me, oh well), and with me chasing him around in our years together.

So, courtesy of J, our official photographer and a man awesome enough to learn how to lunge a horse just in case I get stuck late at work tomorrow - I present somewhat blurry cell phone videos of Fawkes running.


video


video


You have to love a horse that basically exercises himself when turned out in the ring.  He is also useful to run lazier horses who otherwise just stand there and stare at you.   Sadly, we didn't capture Fawkes' signature turn out move - the buck-kick-fart.  Maybe next time.



Sunday, February 2, 2014

Introduction

About two years ago, I met this guy in a muddy field in Maryland:

In spite of his valiant effort, he couldn't get all the field's mud into his coat. Just most of it.

I had recently ended a full lease on another horse and couldn't find anything available for half lease in my area.  So the logical thing to do?  Buy an OTTB.  Errr, more specifically, an OTTB that had retired 3 years previously and been passed up by the local re-training programs for the double sins of being short (15.2hh) and a cribber.

He seemed to be enjoying his retirement

It was a pretty basic meet and greet as the farm didn't allow you to test ride and there wasn't even a lead rope available for us to mess around with.  I bribed him over with carrots, he let me touch him all over and pick up his feet and I figured - well, he's the right size for me, is not obviously damaged, and his breeder cared enough to keep him around for years after he stopped racing.  Let's give it a shot!  And we shipped him west.

What is this place?

I dubbed him Fawkes, after the phoenix in Harry Potter since he has a sort of lightning bolt shaped stripe
No seriously, what hell have you brought me to?
And thus began our adventures.  I have always had low level eventing rattling around in my brain as the ultimate goal; but knowing I bought an untrained horse accepted that I might need to be flexible to find out his place in the world.  

It has been a very educational 2 years and this horse has repeatedly taught me to throw out any preconceived notions I may have had about OTTBs, timelines, and horse training in general.  We have had lots of ups and downs from colics to severe spookiness and - the horror - the fear he might not enjoy jumping (which turned out not to be true, but we had a lot of fear to overcome to discover that).

If you jump high enough, the monsters can't reach you, right?
I have also discovered he has natural lead changes, can jump way higher than I need him to without breaking a sweat, and that both hunter and dressage judges seem to love him.  And more importantly, he is funny, smart, and keeps me on my mental game all the time.  This horse gives nothing for free, so when you get it, you know you have earned it.  The hard way.

We have worked hard, slowed the pace way down to build his confidence, and I have tried along the way to make the decisions necessary to optimize his potential and make riding fun for everyone.  And we have definitely made a lot of progress. 

First time schooling cross country was very exciting 


Sometimes I even ride reasonably well.  
We are currently messing around in the 2'6" hunter ring (Fawkes says that is the least terrifying of all the jumping options) and even dabble in dressage.  Not really sure what the future will bring, although odds are good that we will not take any sort of straight line to our destination.  I thought a blog might be a good way to encourage me to document our successes and trials.  And also to get more pictures :)  So welcome to our world, we try to keep it entertaining.