Tuesday, August 18, 2009

He's Such a Thoroughbred

He's such a thoroughbred...

Ollie, that is. Today was Tuesday lesson day with Betsy and this time I had two lessons from her. One with each of my guys. Toby and I are working on cantering. He's such a long bodied horse that getting him to engage his hind end while at the canter can be challenging simply because when he does engage his hind end, it acts like a catapult and throws me out of the saddle. It's a real challenge for me to sit back with his canter and not get catapulted into that awful 2-point position I'm constantly fighting myself from doing in the first place. Baby steps for both of us.

My visitor from last week video taped my lesson with Toby so here's a little bit of our canter work in both directions (and me lamenting at the end of the video how smooth Jaguar Hope was to ride at the canter...)

After my lesson with Toby, which went rather well for both of us, it was on to longe line training with Ollie. Ollie is showing his true thoroughbred nature. He's always busy. He lacks some basic manners and occasionally tries to run you over when you lead him out or try to keep him in the wash rack, etc. This is going to be a daily lesson with the two of us now - "Respect me when I'm leading you and stand when you're asked to stand." Working on this will also help him with cross tie training.

Today we put draw reins on him when we longed him. We had to make a redneck version of draw reins out of baleing twine but it worked like a charm. We tied one end under his belly to his girth and fed it between his front legs and up through the ring of his bit and tied the other end to the saddle billets - we did this on both sides. We made it fairly loose to start. It was so loose he barely felt it and therefore had no reaction to it. So we tightened it up slightly. Just enough so when he moved forward from behind he would feel contact with the bit. Wow! Contact with the bit and moving forward for him was a novelty. It took him a little bit to figure it out going to the left. It took three times as long for him to figure it out going to the right. He had one tantrum and threw his head up which broke our redneck draw reins but that's the beauty of the redneck draw reins! We wanted them to break if he got into a fit (we also had them tied with quick release knots). We easily repaired the draw rein and continued on with the lesson. He eventually was moving forward very well at the trot and accepting the bit contact. BIG LESSON LEARNED FOR THE NEW GUY!

I started out handling him but when he was struggling with understanding what was being asked, I handed over the controls to the expert. He was a handful with many stops and starts and standing in a "I refuse to move" position. Betsy was excellent at communicating what she wanted from Ollie and worked in baby steps to get him to where she wanted him. It took her a long time but at the end he eventually understood what we were asking of him.

In light of this, Betsy and I discussed that between now and next Tuesday I will be mostly working him on his manners when being led and not so much on longeing him at this critical point in his education.

He has a lot to learn and today's lesson was huge! It was great fun to see him progress.


  1. I can see what you mean about Toby and the canter. My Huey is very short backed, and his canter has always been full of "jump," which is the "catapult" feeling you are talking about. Sitting up, down, and back (if that makes sense--I hear that from my instructors all the time) will take care of some of that engagement problem for you, too. You will feel more secure sitting up, you'll be on your seat bones when you sit DOWN, and because you'll be driving from your seat and stomach muscles, you'll be "back" where you can be more effective. Great fun, this journey, isn't it? ;o)

    And dear Ollie--The Kid :o) I have said that racehorses live a thousand lifetimes on the track but they are like foals when they are off the track and find an entirely different world out there. What I love about TBs is, they are so full of "try" and once you have helped them channel all that "1400# childlike exuberance," you'll have the best partner in the world when it's all said and done.

    That's been my experience, at least. Keep up the good work and the pictures and all.

  2. I think Toby and I will get much better in a short time. We are just now working on our form at the canter. I have to say I'm having an absolute blast learning all that I'm learning in dressage. Inside I feel like a much more competent rider! I love dressage...

    As for my "kid." He really is an exuberant kid. He is very much full of try but he's also insecure so he's constantly looking to you for help with everything. I think this will be good in the long run with his training. Hopefully he won't be the kind of guy that tries to figure out my next move for me. Only time will tell. So far he's doing well and the good thing is that even with this seemingly simple lesson, he ended up learning a boatload.

    I'm also happy that he's learning a whole lot without a rider on his back. This will only make it easier once we do get on his back. AND we have lots of time so we will be patient with him!

    And at the end of it all, he was still happy and seemed proud of himself once he figured it out. He has a great positive attitude. I love that!

  3. Wendy,
    Over the past few weeks I have read through this blog and...wow, what a journey you've been on. I am so sorry that you lost your lovely boy so soon, but at least he had the best couple of years that any horse could ask for.
    While nobody can ever know exactly what you've gone through, I can certainly empathize. I, too, lost my Thoroughbred this past February due to an extreme case of colic, and then lost my dog in May to osteosarcoma. I miss them both terribly, but I try to focus on the amazing times that I had with them both rather than the loss.
    Your new guy Ollis is quite the looker! (Although, I am very biased towards greys). Best of luck to both of you.
    P.S. What kind of camera do you have?! Your pictures are gorgeous!

  4. Wow! Frizzle! I'm so sorry for you. We certainly can empathize for one another. I try to focus on the positives too but sometimes I just simply miss them. and there's nothing wrong with missing someone you loved.

    Ollie is a cutie. He's been fun and interesting in a different way than either of my other guys. Which is great! I'm sure he's going to give me some great stuff to blog about!!

    I shoot with a Canon 40D. It's my camera lens that really make the shots. I spent a small fortune on all my lenses. And just so you know, I do shoot professionally and you can see some of my work on Flickr or at Eclipse Sportswire. I'm pretty honored to be included with the group of photographers at Eclipse Sportswire. They are some of the most talented in the equine community.

  5. Wendy, you and I share long-backed horses. It certainly does make it more challenging for them - and us! Your core strength is crucial to keeping your position, and accessing it will help you not only to stay in a better position on Toby but KEEP your seat on Ollie once riding commencing and he throws those fun baby moves at you! The best exercise I know for identifying your core muscles so you can more readily access them during riding is this: while your horse is standing still and you are sitting in the saddle, put the open palm of one hand on your abdomen and the flat back of the other hand opposite it on the small of your back. Then imagine pushing your hands apart. THAT is engaging your core. The trick is to do that all the time you're riding -- and breathe at the same time. Ask me how I know . . . .

  6. Wendy,
    Thanks, I look it like this - animals bring so much joy into our lives that it makes the pain worth it. Lately, I have spent a lot of time browsing the CANTER websisite and dreaming...I will have another one someday (hopefully in the not-too-distant future). Ya just can't find a horse with as much heart as a Thoroughbred!
    Oh, and I looked at your photos they are phenomenal! You could give up your day job, they're so good. :-)

  7. Wendy..a fellow Michigan TB lover! :)
    Love your blog..I just started mine and am having such fun. Your horses are such athletes and are stunning..keep up the good work!

  8. Hi Wendy, I inadvertantly stumbled on this blog and watched your lesson on Toby.
    There are times in the video he tracks up very well, lovely horse.
    I bought a new TB less than a week ago. He also has a very long back. He had an injury to his side, so I have not been able to ride him yet, but I'm wondering what your doing in terms of conditioning and suppling exercises with your guy.
    My horse is completely unfit.
    I think he could move as well as Toby with some conditioning.
    Please tell me about your training regime with this guy. Thanks! =)

  9. Hey Jenn - I'm not sure what to say in regards to your new horse! Let him get better and eventually ease him back into riding. With Toby we just pushed him a little bit more each week in our lessons and his fitness level just kept getting better and better.

    It ultimately boils down to knowing your horse's limits. Kinda like getting yourself into a fitness regime - you just push a little more and a little more until you realize you've become pretty darn fit!

  10. i am so pleased to see tbs getting a second chance .... but please wear a riding hat i cant belive your riding a thoroughbred off the track with out a hat i have worked with race horses for 27 yrs and i dont even ride my daughters pony with out a hat.... please wear a hat ... good luck keep up the good work....