Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moving Along!

Lesson # 3 for Ollie. This time I brought out my cameras to capture how he's figuring things out.

hind end action

Just look at his hind leg action in the second photo. He's so flexible and nimble!

I had been kicking myself that I didn't bring a camera last week. Ollie was light years improved from last week and oddly he was much better going to the right than to the left - we had the reverse problem last week.

In the video, you can actually see Ollie thinking out loud as he figures out what we are asking of him (less resistance to the bit and bending). By the end, I had the wrong camera going (still instead of video) but was still able to capture his "ah ha" moment. He was gorgeous!

stretching into the bit

I'm off for a business trip until the 5th so the boys will get a little vacation. However, I do hope to post something between now and then and that post will be a great surprise!

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.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Happy Go Lucky

Ollie is coming along just great. One thing I've noticed is how happy he always seems to be. He's happy to see you, happy to work, happy to greet everyone. Too bad he's still the low man on the totem pole when it comes to the herd dynamics.
Tomorrow he's going to get a lesson and so is Toby. It'll be a double lesson day for me. They both need the lesson time!
And finally, below is a photo I received from Ollie's breeders. It's his win photo from an allowance race at Great Lakes Downs. Ollie's the man!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Basic Training

Yesterday evening I went out to work both my boys. My plan was to work Ollie then Toby second. I wanted to do it this way because on Thursday evenings a girl at the barn with two Paso Fino's comes out to feed and clean in the evenings after work to help reduce her board. She comes with her dog and her young daughter who is a toddler because she can't always pay for a baby sitter while she works at the barn. Toby is an old pro with them but everything is new to Ollie.

Ollie had to be worked first to avoid her and her family. This was because Ollie, on Wednesday night, had given me his best "Bill The Cat" imitation while in a cross-ties lesson when the barn owner's dog came barreling through the barn aisle in a mad dash to the paddocks at the other end. First, the dog startled him, then the dog literally ran under his legs! Any horse would have become unglued with that! But with Ollie, and this being one of the few times he had been in cross ties, he was completely undone. I had to peel him off the ceiling (not quite literally). So while we were doing very well with cross tie training, we are now set back a bit but not discouraged. And because Ollie is learning many new things I don't want the additional worry of a small child at the barn. This girl and I get along well and we'll be able to work out a schedule where we won't cross paths while Ollie is in his early learning stages. He's a bit unpredictable and certainly a busy body showing me all of his thoroughbredness (is that a word?).

But back to Thursday. I have installed cross ties inside Ollie's stall where he feels very safe and comfortable. He was a rock star in his cross ties in his stall. I longed him with a saddle this time and he's understanding the routine. We mostly did floating circles around the arena since we were alone and that got him used to all the areas of our very large outdoor arena. The outdoor arena happens to be next to a road that is popular with bikers. He never flinched once with the sights and sounds of the bikers as they went by. Good boy! He really worked like an old pro. I was very proud of him.

I cooled him off and put him back out in his paddock with the other geldings. Then I worked Toby. Toby is a more emotionally complex guy for me. You see, while I was trying to get Ollie out of the paddock, Toby purposely placed himself between us. He was so bad that I had to bring him in first just so I could get close to Ollie! Crazy guy.

Toby and I worked in the outdoor arena as well but it was a warm evening for northern Michigan. He definitely need "more impulsion" the entire time. But he did give me a fairly good effort in the heat and some good cantering. I cooled him out and put him back out in the gelding paddock.

So who do you think ran (literally) over to welcome him back? Ollie! Ollie was so happy to see Toby! Ollie had such a friendly expression on his face - he was so cute! It was like he was saying "Wow! You came back! How did you do? Are you ok? What did you work on?" Toby, after sniffing noses with him, gave him the "hairy eyeball" and pinned his ears while he walked away as if to say "hey kid, you would have no idea what I was talking about if I were to tell you." Toby must be trying hard to be "cool" right now. Ollie was just happy to have him back with the herd.

After watching that exchange with Ollie and Toby, I know darn well they are going to be good friends. And that makes my heart smile...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Past, Present and Our Futures

I'm still blown away by the Sebright/C Bright and me connection. As a friend on facebook said it's very Jungian Synchronicity.

But it's time to get back to basics on this blog. It's about a couple horses, their histories and our futures. The past few days I had a little of all that with them.

Friday I drove to Chicago and Arlington Park for the Arlington Million. I went to the track early to catch the workouts and to see my friends that were there on the backside. First of all, Arlington is absolutely gorgeous. It is picture perfect and pristine. I highly recommend you visit if you haven't been there already. I watched some of the workouts at the track and saw the international horses working on the main track. There was a lot of french being spoken which really added to the international flavor for the day. After a little while I headed over to the backside to see my friends from Graham Motion's barn with their horses that shipped in and to visit with the Liane Davis Racing Stables.

Just guess who was the first horse I saw when I walked over to Liane's barn... Canoodler! I thought he had been sold but evidently he was not. Liane still trying to sell him so if anyone has a good lead on someone looking for a cute, sweet, nice moving 5 yr old Broken Vow gelding, I've got one for them. The owner has no apparent plans to race him and he will probably be heading over to Liane's farm while they continue to try to sell him. He's in good hands! Isn't he cute:

The rest of the day was spent shooting photos at the races which was great fun.

This shot is my favorite.

I was very excited for Ramon Dominguez and Gio Ponti. Ramon is a great guy AND he used to ride Hola C Bright when he was raced at Delaware Park. I just love knowing that kind of history about my horse.

Which brings me to Hola and his new home. He's lost a little bit of weight shipping over here so we are working on putting weight back on him which he is starting to do. Huge relief for me! He's still a little wary of things and unfortunately, there is a lot of maintenance going on around the barn which has all the horses a little spookier than usual. Things such as paint equipment and powerwashing hoses at the end of the aisle which is usually clear. So he's taking in a lot and he's doing a great job settling down and adjusting even when the other horses get a little on edge. Kudos to him!

I rode Toby this week in my lesson. Besides the fact that he broke a set of cross ties because he inexplicably decided that sponges will eat him when used to sponge him off, he's been great. I had a visitor from the Alex Brown Racing Website,which I help moderate, come in to see us. Our visitor, JudyPA, was in the area on vacation so she came out, met the boys and watched my lesson with Betsy. Toby was good but we both needed a refresher and to get his hind end engaged. He's such a long bodied horse that he needs me to help him get his front and hind ends coordinated. Needless to say, it was a lot of work and Betsy was great in teaching me how to do it. Most of it had to do with me learning to drive with his hind end and think of his front end as a hood ornament. I thought he made a good Mack Truck bulldog by the end of the lesson. Toby's future as a dressage horse is really coming along. I'm so proud of him!

Next week my lesson will be with Hola. I am alternating horses each week for now.

I'm a lucky person to have my horses, to have the opportunity to see pieces of their history in action and to have them as we help each other grow into our futures.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Twilight Zone

I have just returned from having lunch with Dr. John Sebright and his wife Bonnie. That's right - Sebright (C.Bright). Seems he's my horse's namesake and he has a home here in Traverse City, Michigan. Not only does he have a home in my town but he GREW UP IN MY HOME! What are the odds of that?! I see a horse in Baltimore, he turns out to be a Michigan bred, and I happen to own the childhood home of his namesake?! Weird. I can hear the voice of Rod Serling and the music for the Twilight Zone playing now.

The name "Hola C Bright" came about because it's how Mr. Gilmore frequently greeted his neighbor. Dr. Sebright even stayed the night for foaling duty waiting for Hola to be born. Hola was born the following night but the Gilmore's decided to name him Hola C Bright for their friend and neighbor.

The Gilmore's and the Sebright's had lost track of their horse and were happy to have gotten my card. I learned that at one point in Hola's racing career, the Gilmore's thought about claiming him back but he was too expensive for them. So they are now very happy to learn of Hola's retirement and that he is back in his home state. The Sebright's want to cheer Hola on at Horse Shows By The Bay next year too! That'll be a terrific goal for us and we have plenty of time to get there.

I heard stories about my home over lunch and we are going to plan a get together so I can show them their renovated home. I'll have to invite my neighbors so they can learn more about the people in their homes too. Sounds like a fun party.

In the meantime, I learned more about my new guy and the Gilmore's gave me a very nice win photo. Great stuff!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

First Day of School

Today was Hola C Bright's first day of school. He's learning a lot and he loves to be working again.
whose the fairest

He first learned about "the horse in the mirror" which Jag referred to as "The Scentless Bastard" but Hola seems to think "the guy might be ok but he startled me." That's a good start!

Hola is the lowest on the gelding totem pole out in the pasture but he's slowly making friends. The other horses don't hurt him or go after him, they just simply let him know he's not welcome near them when he tries to sniff their behinds.

Hola also seems good with cross ties. We put him on a longe line and worked him to see 1) if he knew how, 2) see how he moves, 3) see how fit he is and 4) just to get to know him. Wow is all I can say! He's a gorgeous mover!! Just gorgeous! Betsy was thrilled with what we saw. She said he's actually a better mover than Jag for dressage. He also seemed to be a sensible guy. No bucking, farting or yahoos while he worked. He just did his job with a startle or two from his reflection in the mirrors. Here's a video of some of his work on the longe line.

Of course I shot photos of him while he worked too. He's just such a pretty guy. He has a very dished face which is actually dented on his left side. So we refer to his right side as his "Thoroughbred side" and his left profile as his "Arab side". See if you can notice it in the photos I shot today: Hola C Bright Photos

Hola's story seems to be getting bigger and bigger all the time too. I had sent a letter to Hola's breeders a week or so ago so on Monday night I received a phone call from a gentleman who reported to me 1) he lives next door to where Hola was bred and his breeders showed him my letter, 2) he has a home in my hometown and 3) he has important information about my horse for me which he refused to tell me over the phone. All he said was that the hairs on his arms raised when he read my note about getting Hola...

We have a planned lunch on Thursday at a restaurant down the street from my home. I'll keep you posted.