Monday, April 29, 2013

Sunday Ride

How is it that about 20 horses boarded at Barn 2 and there could be not one person out? I rode Friday and the barn was dead so it was nice to have some people to talk to and ride with. Sunday there were a few people at the farm which was nice to see. Someone rode over from Barn 1 so she came with myself and another boarder to the big ring. We went through the woods to get there, and Spyder was looking at everything. He didn't take off when the horses from his field came galloping down to see him which shocked me!

Out in the big ring, we went to our serpentines to keep him moving and focused on listening. He was worried about what the other two horses were doing since they rode over with us, but rode around the outside of the ring when we went in. I had my spurs back so it was much easier to push him off my leg which he doesn't like to listen to. We cantered both directions, and had no kick outs... to the left. To the right, he got a good one in, but I didn't come off. I was thrown off balance, but we turned and then CANTERED the second we did changed direction. Hopefully we'll be able to work through that as it's beyond annoying! When Spyder gets tired/lazy/off balance, we do pace a bit so we'll have to figure that out, as well.

Since he was good a few times around to the right, we ended the ride with a cross rail and the wishing well jump. I like doing those so I can get a feel for his jump, and we worked on STOP right after the jumps since we have a brake now (sort of)! We rode back to the barn quietly and he was BEAT when I got off. I picked up his front foot to pick it, and his other was so weak that I was afraid he was going to fall. Geeze, I didn't work him that hard!

I had to clean out the trunk to my car so I could pack it up with things to move out of my parent's shore house. We can close tomorrow which comes as a surprise because we didn't think the man living there would every leave! He told the seller's sister and the appraiser that he was only leaving if he was physically removed. Today, our realtor went to check on the home and he was gone! WHOO! We are hoping that the walk through  goes smoothly. I am so excited that this is happening and we still have a few months before the wedding. I'm going to have a wedding/craft room set up ASAP after the move because I've been so worried about where we're living rather than focusing on this wedding! Life is hectic, but it is coming together. I have my final tonight for my first graduate course so that will lighten the load a bit! :)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Put the Clinic to Work

Today was beautiful! It was hard going back into work with it being 70 at lunch time, but I did force myself to get to the farm. I had planned to go, but I have been exhausted between grad school, planning a wedding, and closing on a new home - more info below. Can you say hectic?

Hectic was my ride today. Spyder was pretty slow, but I had to push him up to get him to work so we could practice our clinic moves. I immediately started with the brakes, and he was stopping wonderfully! From there we did some serpentines to help with steering and to get brain moving and neck stretched. We had some deer to look at, and he was great! We did a little cross rail to throw something else into the mix and to practice the stop right after it. Man he can get his rear end under him when he's tired and whoa comes out!

From there, I decided I was going to work on the canter... without spurs. I forgot my boots at "home" where I left my spurs attached. I was tired/lazy and have been running around like crazy with everything going on, but I didn't let it stop me. We cantered BOTH directions and got a bit of kicking out. What did I do? I fought like a cowgirl and thought of my Danny lesson. You want to kick out? OK, turn, quick, canter the other way! Kick again, circle and GO! I did all of this in the big ring and by myself. Ahh! It wasn't the safest way to test out my new attitude, but  it worked out.

I had no idea that one quick lesson/clinic would give me the tools to control the situation like I was. It was just a great night with a great realization.... we can work together and move forward! YAY! Happy Friday!

  • Closing Tuesday (have been living at my parent's shore house because I sold mine back in March... there is a man in the house we're trying to buy that refuses to leave so it has been delayed - Still TBD if it will actually happen)
  • Exam/class comes to an end this week (getting my master's and this is the first course - why'd I decide this was a good idea?)
  • Wedding is in less than 100 days (OMG! I need to think about it some?)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Clinic Outcome

So we had our clinic today. I didn't get there early enough to warm up, but I decided to brave riding over to the other farm. I turned down the driveway, took a breathe, and pushed with my leg. EVERYTHING was scary - the fallen tree, the marshy grass, the stones, but we made it... down the driveway. In the road, I hopped off after Spyder acted like he never saw a car before. Someone was headed to the barn to feed so she stopped and waited for me to pass her before going further since she saw him spool. Thank goodness! We went towards the barn, and OMG, there were horses in their stalls making noise! Spyder spazzed and jumped back a few times, great... this was going to go well! Then I had a sniffle which made him jump... and then we went to the mounting block.

In the ring, we did well. We walked each direction at the other farm while we waited for the instructor to finish his prior lesson. I had no idea I'd be hooking up to a microphone/speaker set to listen to Danny Warrington speak, but this is where the lesson started. I had to drop the reins while Danny held him to put on the headphones under my helmet. Man was I a nervous mess! I was already worried about how he was going to behave, and he wanted to circle and act like whatever was going on wasn't OK. Danny made note of me not trusting him when he was holding my horse with me on board, but I assured him that it was not a trust issue with him - it was with Spyder. I get nervous in situations that we've never experienced before which definitely doesn't help us out... AT ALL! We decided to head to the indoor since it's right by the ring where we started for the control factor, as we discussed that as something I need to work on.

In the indoor, the first question I had to answer was, "What is your job as the rider?" Ummm... telling your horse what to do? I had no idea. It's steering and speed... both we have NO control over, BUT I learned that I do actually have full control over it. It's my job to make sure we're doing what I want to do since Spyder has no clue, and his job is to listen. AWESOME, now what? We played a little red light, green light to prove that control is little to none. I also got asked, "Would you drive a car without brakes on the NJ turnpike doing 90 mph?" OK, I get it. We don't stop well either! Stop, back, trot, halt, trot on... all at "not fast enough" speed. AHH! I thought we knew more, but I was wrong, and we got a GREAT clinic session under our belts. So what was going to help the speed and steering? Well, LOTS of circles, LOTS of pulling back... do what I say now INSTEAD of.. oh, it's OK... you can move forward and do what you want to do. Aww, you don't want to stand? We can walk around. The key to all of this was keep him moving. He DID pull his buck/kicking out thing, and we worked through it. You want to act up, Spyder, you can turn into the wall... then you can CANTER the other way. You want to kick out that way? AWESOME, turn into the wall and canter the OTHER way. Danny kicked our butts. Within 5 minutes Spyder was listening better than he ever had before, and we had a brake. It was so fun because I didn't think I could ride like that!

After our turn, turn turn, stop, trot, stop, back, trot, canter, turn into wall, canter (aka pace), turn into wall again, he was LISTENING. Instead of running off and doing what he wanted to do, he stopped, stood, and his ears were back to listen for the next cue. WHOO! I had no idea he wasn't listening all along, but I am happy I learned how to enforce the "let's do this". We worked on serpentines at the walk to get the soft steering and neck movements which kicked our butt... so then we had to work at the trot, of course. Wow, that was a workout. I was glad that we were able to take a few breathers and leave it on a short but good note. Totally worth the experience and the sweat! I rode my horse like a cowgirl, and I'm happy that 1) I didn't fall off and 2) we did it. We'll have to practice that exercise on our own and see how that confidence changes! On the way back to the other barn, we got a nice spook so I kept with with the turn, turn turn, go, go, go, stop, turn, turn, ... OK, you get it.

This was all still without a nose band, but the cut is starting to look better and the halter is staying off in the field! Our bridle looked a bit western which is why the cowgirl came out I guess! :)
An oldie, but a goodie - June 2012 right before his 5th bday!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I rode tonight, and it was the first time since last Sunday. I was a bit nervous for the ride because I didn't know what was going to happen, but Spyder had a great attitude (excluding one kick out because he was angry to get a spur - maybe he should have moved over)!

When I got to the farm, someone that feeds asked if I had seen his cut on his face. NO?! What the heck happened when I was in Florida (for work, not fun... but I wish)? Well, it seems that his halter came off in the field (no where to be found and I walked the WHOLE thing twice and searched EVERYWHERE), and someone put a random halter on him to bring him in to eat. Since it was "regular" horse sized (he's a stb so he's got a big head), it was too tight. That, of course, wasn't going to stop him from eating so it seems like he must have rubbed of hair/skin with the buckle when chewing. My poor horse! I feel like such a bad owner having traveled for work because I have no idea how long this was an open, nasty cut! I unbuckled the halter around his muzzle and it had skin and hair all over it, gross. I put Corona ointment on it since it didn't seem to bother him and rode without a nose band. I know, I know... it's called I got to the farm, let's do it because I drove all the way here, we haven't had a ride in over a week, and we have a clinic tomorrow.

The lack of a nose band didn't bother him, and he rode off quite alarmed that other horses were galloping around after feeding time because they were out in their fields alone. Add to the mix the deer on the track, and I was a nervous mess. I know horses can sense the fear in the rider, but I couldn't help it. What if he took off? What if he had a fit or tried to head back to the barn? WELL, he didn't run off, but I do think he thought about it. We stopped on the track (per his request/refusal to move forward), and his ears were back... he wanted to go back, but we pushed forward towards the big field. I kicked and hoped for the best. The deer out there were just as exciting as the galloping horses and deer on the track so we rode in the dressage arena.

We rode on half the ring and changed up what we were doing. Figure eights are great for making him think, and they make me think about my posting so we both had a task to keep our minds off of being nervous. A few loops and he was back to the calm, lazy Spyder that I enjoy so much. I know he was feeding off of me, and that is my fault 100%. He's so good to the left so we worked more to the right. Why won't he get off that leg? It's my weaker side which causes an issue so quarter lines reenforced the "get off" and "move over." Since he reacted to the inside leg at times, he got a break from the pressure. It was great to know he sat for over a week and came back so quickly. It's a much better feeling than last year when I could get back on the very next day and not know what to expect. I feel like I can expect the same old Spyder after a few mental exercises for relaxation and calming of us both. When life gets in the way, I'm happy I have a horse that can snap back so quickly.

I am hoping the clinic with the event rider doesn't go so bad tomorrow, but we shall see! :) Below, I posted two pictures of our first "adventure" together to the other property at our barn (2 doors down). They had a jumper show, and I had just had him a few months. Somehow, we worked up the courage to ride to the other barn all alone, and this could/might happen tomorrow for the clinic. Ahh!

Also need to add that at the end of the ride, I steered towards what South Jersey calls a "hill" aka, a low rising pile of dirt, and Spyder tripped up it... coordination right there! haha

October 2011 - I only had him a few months.
Remembering how proud I was and still am! :)

Monday, April 22, 2013


I read a post from another blogger about the appreciation they have for their horse and the training that they worked through in comparison to riding a "made" horse. There are always days where I wish that I could just get on and go, but I know that we'll get there. What makes training so wonderful is knowing that you did the journey together... knowing how your horse works and what makes him happy or aggravated.

I would like to think that the reward will be greater in the end, and indeed, my horse puts up with me. We're very patient with each other and I think that accounts for the excitement and understanding on both ends. We have learned together and have a bit something extra that would be lost in the event someone else was the trainer. Riding a made horse is GREAT when you want to get on, take on some jumps, work on your form, and say you did something cool (which I need to do soon before I get really bored), but I have learned to appreciate the difficulties and the accomplishments of training.

So Spyder, thank you for putting up with me. You've made me proud! :)

March 2012 - He gets lots of new stuff!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I am away this week for work, and next week I'm going to ride in a clinic at the farm. I'm worried about it because this is going to go one of two ways. Not riding for a week doesn't make Spyder crazy, but it makes him either more lazy ("Ehh, you didn't ride me this week. I'm not moving.") or "Yay, you're back. I missed you... Let's do this!"

I'm hoping for the "Yay, youre back" attitude, but you never know. The last day I rode was this past Sunday, and if they weather is good, I MIGHT be able to get back on him Monday. The clinic is on Wednesday, and I travel for work back in NJ Tuesday and Wednesday. Hopefully Wednesday, I get finished at a reasonable hour to get at the farm and get on him prior to the lesson to get a feel for how my night is going to be. He can be PERFECT or a TEST from day to day so we'll have to wait to see how it goes.

Fear #2 - The gaited thing. The clinic is with an accomplished event rider which may not be into the fact that I have a stb. I hope this isn't the case (because I did hear his name was involved with stb's somewhere in the family), but I'm going to mention that we need to work on "normal" horse things like w/t, moving off leg, and steering. I need to work on my posture so I'm sure I'll be able to bring that into the mix, too. Hopefully we can stick to things that are going to have him cooperate and learn.

Of course I'll follow up with how the clinic went, but until then, I'll worry about it a little. Let's HOPE he is on his best behavior! And if not, let's hope we can learn from it!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Weekend

I rode yesterday and Spyder was AWESOME... to the left! Our trot was good so we moved onto canter, and we were doing so well... then the right lead came. He didn't want to go! Spyder has a habit of knowing what he's being asked to do but not caring enough to do it. I kissed and kicked which led to him kicking out - back to the old tactics. Since the left was going well, we did a few jumps and ended on the "good note" of the left/happy lead at the canter. I think we need to work on getting stronger in that direction - both my leg and his muscles (mainly his attitude).

This morning I got to the farm super early and we tried both leads again. We trotted to the left and right while we spiraled in and out to work on both steering and leg response. Again, the left lead at the canter, perfect... from the walk. Spyder knows the cue and will canter off like he knows what he's doing, but now, he is just willing at the walk. When he gets moving and breaks into trot, we push up to the canter again, and this does give him practice for the trot to canter transition due to his laziness. We'll have to just figure out the trot to canter transition from the start.

The right was a different story. From last weekend and being perfect in both directions, I have no idea what changed. He didn't want to go. Walk to canter and trot to canter weren't working. UGH! We pushed through some initial little bucks/kicking out/tripping to get out of work and got the canter a bit, but then we went back to the left to reinforce what we were even trying to accomplish. Since the right is both of our weaker sides, I think that a dressage whip should help reinforce my weak leg aid on that side. The kissing (which was called "chirping" to get him to pace in harness) just makes him angry and doesn't make him pace... which I assume is what made him a bad racehorse.

Since I have a super opinionated and generally lazy horse, it makes training "fun" and muscles ache. One day is great and another frustrating, but he is always a pleasure to accomplish something with. Today, we got stronger at the left lead, and we didn't have any kicking out or cranky attitude about it. I was even pushing him out on a circle with the inside leg and got a response. We worked through the desire to come back out of the gait, and I'd say that's progress. Looking at the good makes things a whole lot better! This time last year, we weren't even at the canter yet. :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Weather

Many times I have gone out to the farm and found my horse like this...
January 2013 - Sunbathing

Wouldn't it be nice to sunbathe all day and decide to just not get up some days? Spyder takes advantage of the warmth and always finds a high and dry place to lay. People at the farm are always joking with me because he stays so clean. He HATES mud and will only walk through it if it involves getting to food. Funnier, he won't even walk through his own poop. He'll do everything he can to get around the manure, I'm sure it looks lovely at the trot when he makes his crazy moves to pass it. 

Oh no, I'm not getting up - same day as photo above
I do love that he picks a high and dry place, and even if it rains, he stays dry in his shelter. He doesn't get blanketed like almost every horse at the farm does, and he's still fatter, cleaner, and fluffs out nicely despite the fact that I may not get out to brush him for a few days. It's nice knowing he's so happy and healthy. I just wish I got to relax like he does.

January 2012 - 1 year prior to photos above.
It's frustrating knowing that he will throw a fit if he doesn't want to do something - if only life was that easy for humans. I think we need to take lessons and learn from each other... I should try to relax and catch the sun... and he should have a little better work ethic. For now, we meet in the middle. It's relaxing to see him so relaxed when I get out to the farm for a quick lunch visit some days. Hopefully I'll get better weather to get out more often!  :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mr. Personality in Action

So there are a lot of reasons why people love their horses... or dislike them for that matter. When I didn't know if I could get through the rough "terrible 2's" stage of training, I thought about reconsidering my decision to get an untrained horse. I look back and remember the good... the training... and the personality. :)

I called this "so tubby he can't roll over" - he's got some weight on him since he's not a "race horse" and he gets to take it easy in the field most of the time. This was last June - just shortly after his 5th birthday!

Chris got me a jolly ball for Spyder, and he enjoys playing with it. This was the "test" to see if he would like it in late August 2012. Not many horses waste their time with them, but he's curious about everything and likes to "taste" everything including people.

This is what happens when he hears anything that resembles a "cookie". Plastic bags get him every time. This was in November 2012.
Found HUGE carrots at the Amish market and HAD to buy them (pictures below next to a car key for scale). He was chewing and chewing, and chewing so I had to film/laugh at him. December 2012

I was working with him on coming to the gate because the field is SO muddy in certain areas. Since he LOVES the sound of his treats, I used the container to lure him in. It only took 1 time of doing this for him to get it, but the other horses were starting to get curious a few times later. I have since stopped with the treats, and I call him. He doesn't "run" over to me, but when he hears/sees me, he comes over to the gate and waits quietly for his lead rope. Once we get to the barn, he gets treats so we don't disappoint or call all of the horses to the gate. He's even called to me after he has seen me a few times, and it's getting better! :) February 2013

INSANE that I have SO many videos, and I'm sure I have more. I should have called this post "the year of Spyder" or something of that nature, but he's just too fun to have ever even had thoughts of not being able to do it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cantering Some More

I can't believe that I am bragging about cantering like it's anything special, but to know I trained my horse with the help of instruction (can't take all of the credit) has given me quite the smile.

I rode today and the practice at the canter paid off from yesterday. Circles are going well, and we cantered to the left and right today! :) It's awesome that Spyder cares about his leads to top it off. Man do I sound boastful! I'm just REALLY happy that we're on track for where I wanted to be headed.

I did a small crossrail and the wishing well jumps keeping in mind a steady trot and steering/leg aids up to and after the jumps. It's great that they help with the canter because we'd have to decide on a direction to pick a lead and balance. He gets a bit pacey when he loses his balance or gets excited, but we're getting much better bringing the pace back to a trot or pushing up to the canter.

On to cantering again, we worked on straight lines? Yeah, "straight lines". Spyder's got his balance in a circle and has the muscles to keep moving, but going in a line, well, that's a whole other task. That will be something we have to work on as he gets a bit pacey/crooked while trying to move straight. What's nice is having him know the cue - he can break the gait, and we'll just pick it up again like it never happened.

Yay cantering! And yes, you can make fun of me for bragging about a canter. It's hard with a stb!

My sweaty cantering machine
Grazing after a great ride!

Monday, April 8, 2013


I rode a bunch last week, and this week it will finally be warm! Sunday was beautiful, but our ride got off to a bad start. Spyder got a new pasture mate while I was on him, and he wasn't too thrilled with the idea of them all galloping and going crazy in the field with greetings. When he finally calmed down with my persistent leg and not dealing with his crap, it was a great ride. We didn't want to steer at first, but we got through it and ended it with a great canter on the track to the left. No grunting and no kicking out.

Tonight, we rode in the big field with one of the first days over 60 this spring. We did about 10 20 meter circles at the canter, and he was beat - mentally because it's still pretty new and wet because he still has too much hair! Again, no kicking and grunting, no bucking.. did get some ears back, but overall, it was great. While he did have a fit in the field, I pushed through it and it seemed to work perfectly. He did it once, and didn't even think about it again. Even with a goose and a herd of deer running around, he was focused.

I'm glad that we're finally getting it to the left with the *kiss* and outside leg. His canter is a 3-beat gait which is lovely and slow, but we'll have to work on the speeds with them like we were with the trot. For now, we're just good to go if we're pushing through him wanting to change gaits. Steering with the reins is mostly irrelevant at the canter because I don't want to throw him off balance, but the seat and inside leg seem to push him out enough to get a decent circle and the ability to control where we're going a bit. I'm happy to know he gets it!

Hopefully we'll get to work to the right to get those muscles moving as the cue is becoming more apparent. SO EXCITING!!! Once we're good with circles, straight lines will be a little tougher, but with some jumps, we'll get there! Excited for more warmer weather and to be back in the saddle more often!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring has Sprung

Spring has sprung and so did my horse's attitude. I'm not going to pretend like we didn't always have a few quirks, but getting the grunt and kicking out to stop was nice. The new "hop" or explosion of energy has really frustrated me, but our last few rides were good for the most part.

I rode Tuesday, and to my surprise, I only got a little bit of sour ears. There was no grunting, no kicking out, and no hop! It was REALLY strange that he was SO good (at the canter) because we hadn't even been cantering for a lack of dry footing and positive attitude. We trotted a circle, and I asked him to pick up the canter... a "kiss" and a "kick" with the outside leg, and he acted like he knew the cue. Even more strange, we walked, and then picked up the canter. He got the correct lead as he always does, and there was no issue. It was like we've been cantering for years.

Hopefully the positive attitude will keep up with the warmer weather coming and be a fresh, happy start to what we have in store for us this season.

A few goals: keep on riding, keep on pushing through the attitude, work on the canter, refine steering, work on speed within each gait, get to the jumps, school some xc jumps, get out of the ring, and get off the farm! :)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Progress and Regress

January brought more cantering and less kicking out. One of my most memorable moments was being in the dressage ring when Spyder threw a rant. He kicked out, slid on mud, and fell down almost on his face. I somehow managed to stay on, but I think it was great for him to see what the consequences of acting up. From that moment on during that lesson, he was scared to act out.

Cantering had been put on hold because we went back to steering and bending work, but it was great to know that we had one entire lesson in January without complaints. It's very hard having an opinionated horse, but I am so glad that I have networked with enough standardbred owners to get input. I would say there was a ton of progress starting here and moving on into the other winter months.

February was a pretty cold and wet month so I didn't get to take any lessons. I didn't let the weather stop me and tried to get out as much as I could, but it was hard with the ground being frozen. There were a few rides where I was able to get on with snow on the ground, and it made me nervous at first, but Spyder didn't care about the snow. A few rides we just did some leisure rides without purpose since we had to find dry ground, and there was not a whole lot.

What was so great in January and March turned into a surprise of attitude for March. I had Spyder do an excited buck out on the track, and it was quite funny because it came from nowhere and he rode off like it didn't happen. March also brought more fits. Instead of kicking out, which we worked through at the canter over the winter, this is a new type of trick. - exploding? Spyder will jump in the air off all four feet to complain. We do work through it, but it's very frustrating because it seems to happen when he doesn't want to listen or get out a work. Feeding time makes it much more interesting and all steering gets thrown out the window.

I've networked with people saying that they have the same issues, but what do you do? Everyone in the horse world has their own advice. Ride like nothing happened vs. spur him - don't say anything and keep riding vs. yell and make a scene. For now, I make a loud noise since that's what we do on the ground when he shouldn't be doing something. He KNOWS about things that he shouldn't do (like be mouthy), but he can't help himself. He will be mouthy and then pull his head back because he knows he is going to get an unpleasant sound coming his way. This makes me nervous in the event that this is his new trick because if he wants to do it, I fear he isn't going to care of the consequence. Hopefully it's just another phase like his kicking out, and we will get through it.

I know that we got through the kicking out and a lot of the grumpiness, BUT this is going to be a new hurdle to overcome. We did get off the farm to end March, and it went pretty well. AC 4-H had a fun show, but I just went to ride around and get a feel for Spyder off the farm this season. In the ring, he listened pretty well, and had 1-1.5 of his fits, but I think I'm starting to learn how to handle it. I'm excited for what spring is going to bring! :) Need to get to jumping, but behaving is first in line.