Monday, March 21, 2011


Thanks so much for all your kind words.  I miss Jag everyday but I also see where he has brought me.  That's exciting and a fun way to remember him.  I try to keep focused on that.

I had been really down on Ollie recently.  In a nutshell, he's been a brat.  And I've had enough!  I had to take a stand.  Starting with some round pen work.  When he's being a good attentive boy, he's good with voice commands in the round pen.  But at one point he kicked out at me, that made me send him forward round and round in the pen.  He wasn't expecting that out of me.  After that, he was a saint.  Funny how that works...

I had been having horrible problems getting him to stand at the mounting block.  He's a very clever horse and he learned to back up when you put your foot in the stirrup.  He stands nicely right up until you put your foot in the stirrup then he puts it in reverse.  I had NEVER known a horse to do that!  Forward yes - backwards no.  

I read a training article online about training a horse to stand at the mounting block.  The article assumes the horse moves forward before you are in the saddle.  The article encouraged the rider to make the horse go forward if it started to go forward while mounting.  The idea is that you make the horse go round and round the mounting block until the horse realizes the best option is to stand still at the mounting block.  I liked the logic.  So I attached a lunge line to Ollie and went to the mounting block.  Everytime he'd take even a 1/2 step backwards, I would cluck at him to go forward at the trot in a small circle around me and the mounting block.  It took him three times till he figured it out and stood like a rock.  I gushed all over him with praise and we went no where with me in the saddle.   Perfect!
Ollie taking in the action as I got on.
I felt like a million bucks because I finally got through to him!  We ended our day with that.  Good boy!  A day later I did the same thing.  He's more respectful of me but he was still testing the waters.  He got the same results. 

I also decided to try riding him once I had his attention from our other lessons.  He was a bit hot at times but for the most part he was good.  Best news of all, the barn owner introduced me to a trainer.  She teaches dressage for the pony clubbers and she owns 2 OTTB's which she says are fairly hot horses.  I think she'll have some understanding of Ollie's inner "Chuckie" side.  We start in April.

Here are a few pics from our ride - I made Matt come out to take pictures so you can see that I really do ride my horses:

Ollie having a little tantrum

Going well but it's under protest

He was absolutely lovely and best of all relaxed here!  Wish I looked as good in my form as he does - sigh!
I'm always researching online training articles and recently I came across instructions on teaching your horse some tricks.  I thought teaching Ollie and Toby some simple tricks would be fun and would also help with our communications.  So I'm teaching Ollie to "Feel Shame" and Toby to "Smile for the Camera."  Here is a picture of me working with Ollie on his "shame."
"Shame Ollie!  Shame!"
I have a treat in my left hand that he reaches for under my right arm when I give him the "shame" command.  The first couple times I had a lead line attached to his halter which I would pull with my left hand to encourage him to put his nose under my right arm.  The end result will be this

Ollie feeling shame...

Doesn't he look sweet?!  LOL!  I keep working on the trick everyday when I go to feed him.  We just started and we clearly need some practice. 

Toby was a blast to ride.  I'm so grateful I have him around so I can have just a simple enjoyable ride.  He is moving super well too.  He's having an easier time of collecting his long body and getting his legs under himself.  It gives me the itch to show him....

He's working both ends so well!

He can get nice a super stretchy after he canters

and he can hold his frame longer!

I'm so proud of his 21 yr old self!
I'll be traveling now until the end of the month for work.  It'll be my last hurrah for the USGA.  I've been with them for 20 yrs and we will be parting ways on the 31st.  I'm a bit sad about it but I know it'll give me much more time to work with my crazy Ollie.  I'm looking forward to that!

AND I can get ready for our Equine Photography Workshop Matt, myself and my good friend Alex Evers will be conducting in Lexington.  There are still a few openings if anyone is interested!  We'll be at some really cool places (Keeneland, Old Friends, Shadwell Farm, etc) AND you can meet my two guys in person too!! 


  1. AAAaaaah ....I love Toby and I miss Jag too ! Perhaps its a good thing Ollie gets a bit difficult and requires more work then we all have less time to dwell on missing Jag <3 HUGs you look great on BOTH <3

  2. They both look great. Congrats on the mounting block victory! Mounting problems seem to frustrate people more than most other issues. I get a lot of clients who need help with it. That's no small accomplishment! You should be very proud :)

  3. Ollie has the cutest face EVER!

  4. Toby looks great! I hope mine looks that good at 21.

    Good for you, working through Ollie's issue like that. I'd be watchful if that evasion comes back though. He might be objecting to the saddle fit or wants you to settle more softly in the saddle (of course I have no idea how you get in the saddle)- or he could just be a turd, but it's worth looking into.

  5. @smazourek - Ollie's saddle is a new custom fitted saddle from Albion. It fits him like a glove... the boy has no excuses anymore. I very intentionally sit quietly onto his back! And I've noticed no back pain when I groom him. He used to get irritated when I curried him on his sides but he doesn't do that anymore since his ulcers have gone away.

    He's just smart and learned what he could get away with. He's been doing his "putting it into reverse" trick since the day I got him... goof ball!

  6. My OTTB is much better in the trot after we canter, too. I've heard several reasons why (including the fact that I am more comfortable in the canter as well, which makes it easier for the horse) but it's always fun to ride after we've done a long stretchy walk and then lots of canter (circles, going forward, coming back, changes of direction, shallow serpentines, spiral in and out, shoulder fore, shoulder in, haunches out) because the trot is wonderful.

    As for standing still at the mounting block, the first few rides all I did was mount up if he'd stand still, and then I'd sit. He'd get dancy, I'd get off. Repeat. Pretty soon he figured out life was easier if he'd just wait for me. It doesn't take them long to figure things out ;o)

  7. Beautiful photos and horses - thanks for sharing!

  8. Trick training with horses is seriously fun. When my mare was lame or on stall rest (as was true a LOT of the time), we'd do trick training to keep her mind occupied.

    Try clicker training, there is a lot of info about it out there. People think it makes a horse mouthy, but if anything I had the opposite experience. Mare knew when she was getting a treat from the click, and didn't mug for treats randomly. :P

  9. @Rebecca - I may have to try the clicker training! I didn't think about the "mug for treats randomly" but I can see where the clicker would be good to prevent that from happening. Thanks!

  10. Love that last shot. You guys look great together.

  11. My sidesaddle horse is named Ollie too.
    What a fun blog!

  12. @Julie - love your blog! I'll have to add it to my list... You might like this photo from my riding instructor's wedding last August:


  13. Congratulations! I recently went through the standing at the mounting block issue with my horse, so I definitely feel your pain there. At least he went forward, not back.

    Gorgeous photos btw. I wish I had a personal photographer!

    It's also funny since my own horse is named Oliver (once in a while called Ollie), my friend's horse is Jag, and before I had Oliver, I regularly rode a horse named Toby.

  14. I can't decide which picture I like best. They're all so beautiful! Each one captures the joy and the hard work, and I just love the "shame" trick!

  15. Ollie is a cutie, that 'shame' trick is gorgeous. Can't wait to start doing all those kind of things with 'my' boy.