Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm Gumby!

I have been working Hola and Toby and both are doing well. No tantrums from Hola and Toby and I are leg yielding wonders. Now they get a 3 day vacation while I head out of town for a business trip. So no lesson this week.

Part of owning a horse, well any animal, is getting to know their quirks and habits. Hola has one quirk. He's a weaver. So is Toby to a much lesser degree. Hola will throw his head around and weave back and forth about as often as Jag used to crib. It certainly is not a problem to deal with. As soon as he has to work or is on the end of a lead, he stops weaving. And he only weaves in anticipation of things such as his feed or when he's feeling good. It's his way of "self expresssion."

So I couldn't resist. I had to make a short video of Hola doing his "Gumby Dance."

Notice how easily he swaps his leads and look at that floaty trot!

I'll be back at the end of the week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just When You Think It's Going Great...

Hola C Bright

I took a lesson on Toby and had Betsy work Hola this past Tuesday.

Toby was great! He had a ton of impulsion and as he warmed up he became very round and stretchy. I love to ride a stretchy horse. A stretchy horse has such a cool feel and relaxed swinging back.

I hadn't had a lesson on Toby in a little while because I was gone one week and then when I came back Toby seemed to be ever so slightly punky. He was eating but his poops were on the loose side. So to be safe, he had the time off. Now he's back - fit, happy and healthy. He had a lot of enthusiasm for his work which was very refreshing. So we started to work on leg yields with him for the first time. Toby needs a lot of help from the rider to keep his long body balanced and when I did that he was great. He's easier at leg yielding to the left than to the right but everyone has their bad direction. We just started and next time I hope to video tape and show you our progress.

Hola was another story. He had been doing very well. He's figured out how to work on the longe line and he has been settling down both with his manners and his ground work. That is, until I said something about how good he was doing. Then he seemed to slowly fall apart but by the end of the lesson he got it back together.

I have a good friend of mine I used to play golf with often. She would NEVER say anything to me after I hit a great drive down the middle of the fairway. That is, not until I hit a good second shot when she would say, "you hit a nice drive back there." I asked her about this. She said, "You should never compliment a good drive until you've hit the second shot because what's the point of a good drive if you can't hit the second shot."

I think that's an important concept for the next time I begin thinking Hola is being good. I'll be sure to wait to say something until after he's done and not right in the middle of his lesson!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jaguar Hope (in pastel)

The hurt of losing Jaguar Hope hits me unexpectedly most times now. Sometimes I'll see some of my photos of him on Flickr that someone has "favorited" and my eyes will well up with tears. Sometimes it hits me when I'm pulling away from the barn in my car and I see his empty paddock and the bare earth from the hole where he is buried. He was such a spectacular being to me.

So yesterday I was a head case when I opened a package that arrived from the UK. It was a painting I was anxiously awaiting:

jaguar hope portrait

Just look at the detail! Ali Bannister is such a gifted artist. I've marveled at her work via Flickr where she posts. Once she knew I got the original she posted a photo of this pastel of Jag on her Flickr site. Again, I was crying at the comments and her description. What Ali wrote about Jaguar Hope is also true for me:
You know when you see something so beautiful that it moves you and you're either rooted to the spot, staring, or you rush to get as close as you can and breath it all in?

That's exactly it for me. I'm so grateful to have had him in my life and that he was shared by many others through my photos.

Needless to say, I'm thrilled to have this work in my home. Words simply cannot express my appreciation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Needed The Big Picture

It's painfully apparent that I'm the pushover and Betsy is the one who pushes the envelope with each lesson.

Just in my last post I was singing the praises of Hola marching around like a good little worker bee. I even mentioned he didn't have any protests. Then Betsy comes in and pushes his abilities just a little more. In this case, it was apparent that I do not have the draw reins at the same length as Betsy. Hola felt the bit right away when Betsy started to work him and he had to protest:

the protest

He broke the draw reins twice (once on each side) with his head twitching. He was really feeling his oats...

working trot

In that shot he was marching along on a mission! And eventually he settled down and relaxed. At that point of compliance it was time to end the lesson! Good boy!

I get excited watching him work and thinking things through. He has lovely movement and a gorgeous neck.

pretty neck

And even when he's feeling good, he has yet to ever kick up his heels or rear! Even Toby loves a good buck or two when he's feeling good at the end of a longe line.

At the beginning of the lesson I spoke with Betsy about "the big picture" regarding his training. I need help getting the "big picture" otherwise I become too anxious to move on when in fact we are not really ready. Therefore, throughout the lesson, Betsy explained to me what she was asking for and looking for from him - essentially compliance with the bit. Our plan is to treat him as if he was a green 3 yr old and train him like he's learning everything for the first time. She said she'd rather have him learn to accept the bit on the longe line because there is less chance of anyone getting hurt if he should throw a tantrum and he can learn a whole lot on the ground while simultaneously getting to know and trust us. Sounds like a good plan to me. We are not in a rush and the results have been very positive so far. He's a nervous guy when he's unsure of what's about to happen next or if he's anxious about something. Typically he begins to weave from side to side when he's anxious. It's his only vice and he does it during anxious moments such as waiting his turn to come in from the paddock for feeding time. Going slowly and spelling everything out for him with his training helps him and his anxiety. He relaxes much more quickly. As I'm working him between lessons, he's becoming more fit and the lessons with Betsy seem to be more of a mental exercise than a physical one.

After longeing him, Betsy worked him for a little while at the mounting block. Being that he was a racehorse, he was mounted most times while he was moving. Now he needs to learn to stand still while being mounted. We stood him next to one and while I held him, Betsy got up on the block, bounced up and down on it, shook his saddle around on his back and eventually she layed down across the saddle. He simply stood there and only wondered what Betsy was up to when she was hopping around on the block. We ended his lesson with that.

And at the end of it all, he always wants hug - his cutest habit for sure!

the after work hug

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekend Fun

Since our last lesson, I have taken Hola out to be worked on the longe line several times. He's a pro! He hasn't done any halts and turn in to look at me in confusion, he marches around like a good horse and he will speed up and slow down with my voice. It's funny to realize that a kissing noise really gets him to move more forward rather than clucking. I look forward to showing off our abilities to Betsy on Tuesday.

Now for my weekend adventure...

On Saturday, I had a friend come up to visit. We had gotten to know each other through working together with others to help an aging race horse get off the track. His name is Top Bunk and he earned over $575,000 racing and was, at the time running in $4,000 claimers at the age of 11. With the help of many kind, big hearted people on the internet we were able to raise the money to claim him. One of the people who helped us was a canadian folk singer named Garnet Rogers. Garnet and his wife had long ago bought a former race horse at an auction. Garnet turned that experience of buying an older "used up" race horse at auction into one of his most popular songs - "Small Victory." Here he is playing that song:

A few weeks ago, I saw a poster in town saying he was playing at a nearby art gallery literally three blocks from my home. I contacted my friends and one of them could make it to the show. She came up and spent the day in Traverse City. She met Hola and Toby and took photos of us. We also did a little wine tasting and caught a glimpse of the Schooner Festival.

Then we headed out to the concert. As we walked towards the entrance, we noticed Garnet sitting outside enjoying the summer weather and the view of the tall ships on the bay. We stopped and introduced ourselves as part of the "Top Bunk Crowd." He was genuinely pleased to meet us and happy that Bunkie is enjoying life in a pasture with his buddies. That evening he told the audience about the two of us meeting him just prior to the show and he dedicated the song "Small Victory" to us. It was very cool! He even proceeded to tell the story about Top Bunk and how his wife, Gail, and he helped us out. Then he told everyone about his horses and the mare in the song Small Victory. The mare has since passed but they still have her offspring. Garnet's wife is active with sport horses and takes care of their horses on their farm.

Here are a few shots I took at the concert:

garnet at the InsideOut Gallery

He's doing a pretty good pirate imitation in this one. I guess he was influenced by the tall ships...

pirate imitation

And just for good measure, here's a photo of Top Bunk at his retirement home near Port Huron, MI:

Top Bunk

It was a fantastic concert and I highly recommend going to see Garnet if he is in your area. Now I've got to get back into the grind of work and quit daydreaming about the fun I had this past weekend. :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

He's So Smart!

I'm lucky.

I fell into owning a very smart horse. This horse, that has been given to me (in fact both my current horses have been freebies), is cute, friendly and best of all smart! I'm talking about Hola C Bright...

He hadn't been touched since his last lesson which I video taped. I went out of town the next day after that lesson and didn't return home until this past Friday night. So he's had 11 days of being fed, stall cleaned and hanging out with the shed gang for his turnout before I did anything with him.

He didn't miss a beat.

Once tacked up and longe line attached, he trucked around in a steady trot, got himself round, and at one point he was even using his topline so well I wanted to just cry! I can't believe my luck in getting this horse!

He was learning so easily that I wanted to speed up the process! I told Betsy, "If you had your trailer here you would be taking him with you to train!" Then I got my wits about me... He won't be going anywhere for a couple of reasons. 1) I just can't afford to send him into a month of training, and 2) I want to train him with Betsy's help! That was the whole idea in the first place. I wanted a horse to retrain with the help of a good professional. It's so rewarding and my relationship with my horse will be that much more special. It may not go as quickly but I want to be a part of it.

So later today I was day dreaming about Hola's progress. His first time in draw reins he would hardly move forward, mostly sideways. Second time in draw reins he moved forward quite a bit but had the occasional "why am i going in circles?" and would stop and look at Betsy. The third time was the charm. Today he was just flat out boring to watch as he marched around in his daisy clipping way and I couldn't have been prouder! He figured out that if he gave in to the bit that it was easier on himself and if he gave to the bit and had some bend that Betsy would keep the longe line loose (reward!). Such essential and key concepts which he has now figured out. What a smart boy! What a beautiful boy! I only hope that we continue on with this kind of success.

Over the holiday weekend I went on a couple trail rides with Toby. I rode with my friend Karen who is usually gone most weekends judging horse shows. She said the most complimentary words to me about Hola - she said he'd make a great hunter horse in the ring because he's so cute with an intelligent face and good movement that any judge would automatically be drawn to him over all the other horses in the ring. That's such a great thing to hear coming from a judge! I sure hope she's right.

Tomorrow, Hola has an appointment with the equine dentist. I'm assuming he hasn't had hardly any work done on his teeth. I know he hasn't had any dental work in almost two years. Hopefully he will be easy to work with for the dentist unlike my other guy who has horrible teeth and jaw alignment... There's always something with horses.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Holiday Farm Visit

I'm back from my business trip in Fort Wayne, IN.

On my way down for my business trip I was invited to stop by and visit Holiday Farm - birth place of Hola C Bright.

I was so excited. I was going to meet up with the Sebright's again and meet the Gilmore's (Hola's breeder) for the first time at their farm. And what a gorgeous farm it is!!!

The Gilmore's are phasing out of racing and their farm is now home to many retirees and "pets." They have a couple mini donkeys, a mule named Peggy Sue, a couple 2 yr olds that were taking some time off of their training to allow them mature a bit, and a few retired broodmares and racers that are near and dear to them. They had no foals nor mares in foal. They are simply racing what they currently have and not continuing on with new young horses. Here are a couple of their retired broodmares who are about 18-20 yrs of age.

The farm is fascinating. It's part working farm, part playground, part shrine to the ones they love. I got a tour of the 300 acres and saw some but not all of the highlights. There's a random tree in the woods covered in dog license tags, an area where you can "zip line" across a stream, another area where the christmas trees are planted after christmas. There are shrines along the paths to beloved dogs that have since passed away and random signs to describe areas of the property such as "alligator alley" - remember this is in Michigan...

You just know it's a very special place to the Gilmore's. Here they both are with one of their beautiful 2 yr olds:

I'm not sure I know how to describe how I felt about learning so much of the history of my new guy Hola. I've never been able to learn so much history of one of my horses. But with this guy, I'm learning all about his racing days right down to the super huge stall he was born in. It's pretty neat!

Holiday Farm was an absolute treat to visit. The barn is an architectural gem where I could just imagine myself spending time hanging out in the hay loft (which was full of hay). Part of the barn is set up to foster puppies for a dog rescue. THANKFULLY there were no puppies there because I'm not sure I could have walked away without one. And all the stalls in the barn were reconfigured so that all of them are now double stall size. It would be a dream home for any horse!

They also keep some cattle on part of their property. As you can see in this photo, they had a soft spot for a calf they found who doesn't exactly fit with the rest of the herd:

And the nicest people on the planet have to be the Sebrights...

They gave me a tour, shared fun stories about their times on the property and complained loudly about the other day when Mr. Gilmore rode over to their home on Peggy Sue and Peggy Sue decided to leave a gift in the driveway. Meet Peggy Sue:

I ultimately spent much more time at Holiday Farm than I had intended and had a fabulous time in the process. Hola was lucky to have started out his life with good people. I'm lucky to have met them.