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!! 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Two Years Already...

It's been 2 yrs ago today.   A lot has happened and I miss him ALL THE TIME!  There is no denying it.  He was my absolute dream horse.  He was smart, freaky good looking and a dream to ride.  Admittedly we were having our issues in communications around the time he passed but I like to think of that as a relationship building experience.  :)  I'm also thrilled that he's still sorta hanging around and showing up in various places such as the cast/crew cap for the movie War Horse...  Way cool!

I don't want to dwell too much on his passing but I do enjoy looking back once in awhile.  This is my favorite video because I put so much of our daily routine into it.  I felt silly/stupid making it but now it's my favorite video.

Now I'm off to work my current project. As cute as he is, he'll never hold a candle to Jaguar Hope...


but he's special in his own way!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Everything is So Fresh In Spring

I finally got on my guys yesterday (Sunday).  It was a gorgeous spring day!  My horses felt that spring air and were, well... uh...  "fresh."

Toby was great.  I enjoy riding him so much.  Ollie, on the other hand, was higher than a kite.  He had so much energy and wanted to GO so badly.  I felt that IF I could get him to whoa, I would let him have his go.  But I just had a feeling he was all about bolting if given an opportunity.  So our trots could rarely go down a straight line without him crab trotting.  We circled and serpentined our way around the arena.  He's crazy good about listening to your seat when it comes to steering and whoa.  After I rode him and cleaned him up, I took both my guys out - together - like I always do.  Ollie just couldn't help himself, he bolted as soon as I opened the gate.   He took off with halter and lead line still attached.  He threw himself down on the ground for a roll then took off towards the other horses.  Toby, the good horse, stood by my side and was a perfect gentleman.  Once Toby was undressed, he trotted over to the automatic waterer.  It's the only water he likes to drink.  Ollie saw him going in the opposite direction and he high tailed it over to him.  Ollie was at a flat out dead run.  He made the current Kentucky Derby favorite, Uncle Mo, look slow!  Ollie had his halter on and lead line flying in the wind behind him.  Everytime his lead line hit him he'd buck.  Eventually he stopped and everyone went to grazing the newly green grass.  I walked up to him and Toby.  Ollie gave me this look that said "Phew!  Glad I got that out of my system!"  And he wasn't even breathing hard.  What a knucklehead!

I went home very disappointed, wondering if Ollie would ever get some sanity.

Matt listened to me and told me to be patient.  And to get my mind off of my disappointment, he took me over to Old Friends to shoot some photos of Sea Native and Ball Four. 

Sea Native hanging out at Old Friend Equine Retirement
If you read our photography blog, you'll know that I kinda messed up on an earlier attempt to photograph Sea Native... 

Sea Native at Old Friends
Sea Native at Old Friends
Ball Four is a great thoroughbred race horse who was now racing in low level claiming races.  With the help of many, Old Friends was able to get him off the racetrack and give him the retirement from racing he deserved.    He looked fabulous for a horse that won more than $700,000.
Ball Four retired from racing thanks to Old Friends supporters

And since I mentioned it in my last blog post. Matt and I did go out and get pretty pictures of foals on Saturday. We had such a nice weekend! 

This one particular filly really wanted me to be her playmate:

A little filly at Crossroads Farm
A little filly at Crossroads Farm
She wanted so badly to see my camera settings
 More later...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Say Ahhhhh!

hola and toby - so proud of my boys...

Toby and Ollie had the dentist come out and float their teeth.  I used an equine dentist that was recommended to me by the barn owner.  What a great guy!  I swear he's a horse whisperer.

No tranq's were used and he filed using hand tools.  Toby had always been tranq'd and power tools were used for the filing.  Toby resisted it as much as possible under those conditions.  With our new dentist, he became more relaxed and I bet he felt better not having as many restrictions with his head.  The only manipulative tool that was used was a speculum which he released and took off often to help the horses comfort.  He talked in a comforting voice to my horses and he sympathized with Toby and his past experiences.  I think Toby understood that this guy wasn't going to hurt him. 

I hadn't thought about these things before but the dentist mentioned that the power tools will cause a tooth to get hot as they file it down.  It's also easy to file down too much at once which can cause mouth pain.  I recently had 6 fillings done and I was very understanding of mouth pain!  A horse, when tranq'd can't tell you when he's feeling pain.

So I was sold on the no tranq, hand tool method of equine dentistry.  Oddly, the next day at the feed store I saw an issue of Holistic Horse which was doing a special segment on equine dentistry.  It was a very good read!

Toby and Ollie have very similar mouths.  In fact they are almost exactly alike.  Both of them have the left side of their faces caved in a bit and their jaws are offline by about a 1/2 inch.  I've been diligent in having Toby's teeth worked on each year and it shows.  His mouth was in fairly good shape even though he had a few ulcers.  Ollie had some big hooks in his back teeth because his jaw goes up rather quickly.  We had the hooks filed down and the subsequent waves smoothed out.  Even though he's not "old" I'll have to keep up with his teeth too since he's out of alignment.  Once a year should be a good target.  

I haven't ridden them since they've had their teeth done (a week ago now) but I'm sure the bit will be a little more comfortable in their mouths. 

Tomorrow, Matt and I hope to shoot some foal pictures at a couple of farms.  Keep your fingers crossed for the sun to come out!  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm An Excited Rider and Other Cool Things

My horses and I have been having the best time lately.  Toby is always so fun for me.  He and I are definitely like peas and carrots.  I fit him so well when we ride.  In his old age, it takes a bit before he warms up but when he gets going he offers up some nice forward, round and stretchy movement.  We're both out of shape so building up our endurance as our goal.   Ollie has been a blast for me as well.  His trust in me has increased so much.  He's happy and best of all he has been very sane.  No more Geoffrey Giraffe looks with no steering.  He marches around fairly straight (read no more sideways movement), he offers up a lovely round although I'm not pushing for round.  My focus right now is on a nice relaxed steady tempo.  If he gives me a pretty frame then he gets added gushing.  He has a sensitive ego and loves it when I tell him he's a rock star.  I'm just excited beyond words with his demeanor and attitude.  I feel like we can really move forward with our riding!

We've had some serious rainfall the past few days so the footing all around is slick.  No riding but I'm not too worried about it.   It's just part of Spring.  Sunday it was super humid and in the 60's.  No rain but it was too warm for my guys in their super heavy winter coats to do much riding either.  They were sweating from doing nothing in a field!

Matt, Amos (our dog) and I went on a mini adventure with our cameras instead.  Amos was the happiest about this hike

We took him on a test drive of going off the leash.  We were a bit nervous about it since we got him because he had been lost in the woods and found by my brother-in-laws house near the Kentucky River.   Thankfully Amos made us proud!  He would scout the trail ahead for us and come back full tilt to let us know it was safe.  ;)   He was all about staying with his "pack."   Good puppy! 

On our way back from the hike we swung by the barn to take care of the boys.  We saw the cutest new born foal at the farm we always pass - the farm that has the white thoroughbred filly.  We found out the foal was only 10 days old and Limehouse is her Daddy

And this time we got to meet the dam of the white thoroughbred filly.  What a cool looking horse!

She is appropriately named Icing (not sure of her full registered name) and she is by Marquetry.  Look at Marquetry's legs.  He has the coolest markings too!

Tomorrow my guys are getting their spring shots and Wednesday the equine dentist is going to take a look at them.  Busy time!