Friday, August 22, 2014

Red Nugget Perfection

I have 11 days of freedom left before I am succumbed to the perilous life of desk jockeys. Summer hasn't been all fun and games, getting licensed has been a BITCH, but I am pretty grateful for a job that pays actual real person money!

Also been really nice to have the freedom to ride whenever I please.

Really getting anxious about what will happen when my days are spoken for from 7am-6pm.

What I'm most worried about is keeping this big boy in constant work once my free time becomes essentially nonexistent. He's been improving in massive strides (haha equestrian humor) and I would hate to staunch that progression as he comes into his 6th year, with show season looming ahead in spring.

I already am exceptionally lazy and have to force myself to get outside in the humidity and ride the beasts. What happens when I'm exhausted from early mornings, the commute, being on the phone all day and other office fuckery?

Winter is no joke. I don't know about you, but as I get older, my tolerance for winter wind, sleet and snow gets lower and lower each year.  Virtually nonexistent. NO amount of vests and carhartt's make me want to venture outside and ride. GEORGIA I WANT TO BE IN YOU.

I was EXTREMELY spoiled in MO with a pretty warm, covered indoor arena with decent footing. Most days I would get off Yankee sweating and it was no issue to ride.

Here, I have a nice muddy field. Not exactly conducive to schooling dressage. Forget jumping alltogether.

When Yankee was a wee lad he spent all winter hacking out and learning the basics, like stopping when I ask & steering without careening. Luckily B has all that mastered already, so hacks would really only keep him in mild work. Not what I need.

I have another post about my winter plans, but what I really wanted to show was some more Bacardi progress! Last post was his weight, this time its his flatwork.

We had a huge breakthrough about 2 weeks ago with half-halts. His brain just all of a sudden made connections to inside leg-outside rein-supporting inside rein/outside leg and what a half-halt actually entails. Like sitting on your ass and stop plugging away with your forelegs.

Please, ignore my sexy faces in all photography. 

Learning half-halts through bend
 I added figure-8s and 3-loop serpentine's to our flatwork repertoire and at first he would blow out his shoulders in the turns and take off in his little racehorsey giraffe trot. AKA, losing balance and freaking out about it.

After extreme patience on my part, and a weeks worth of flat rides, with consistent application of cues, he started to make the connection. I also made a discovery. He needs a HUGE amount of outside leg through turns, in exact coordination with half-halting so as not to confuse him to "go faster". Like, a lot more than a normal horsebeast. Like, all the way from hip, through thigh & calf contact down to heel.

Last week he gave me two BRILLIANT rides and on Tuesday it was the same thing. I can't get over the work ethic this guy has. (Sadly I haven't ridden since Tuesday because work stuff and torrential rain.)

SEXY trot
Working well through his back and moving forward with energy (look at those neck muscles!)
With Yankee, I never had this amount of progress in such a short amount of time. We continuously had backslides in training and more frustrating rides than productive ones. Bacardi just progressively builds and gets better each ride, a little at a time. IMO, it has to do with the difference in temperament. Bacardi has always been steady & calm. Sure, things scare him and those spooks are explosive, but he isn't a "nervous" animal in general. Yankee is definitely HOT. Always. He's obedient, but at a moments notice he will catch fire and fly. Like, if jumps are present. Or, I ask him to gallop. But he NEVER spooks. And once he's learned something he will do it. But, it takes longer for him to learn. Always interesting the difference in OTTBs across the board.

I also tried a little somethin' last ride and asked for a wee bit more of a trot. He gave me this...

I was so caught off guard by the power push that I fell back! What a good lad! It is so important the babies understand what leg means in addition to half-halts and that they actually RESPOND to it.

Trot work definitely improving by leaps and bounds!

We still have work to do in the canter. His normal gait is brilliant, but hes still on the forehand and a little behind the vertical. In time, with strength, this will improve.

At first glance, this looks pretty good. I always take note of toplines though. This one is not engaged and through. You can actually see the U shape from withers to croup. While this is in the "down stride" of the canter, he should still be more lifted in the shoulders. Also, I don't have a still of it, but his foreleg (RF) continues to land BEFORE his hindleg (LH) which indicates he's still leading with his front end. He is also sliiiiightly behind the vertical, but hasn't broken too far in the neck yet. Granted, this is me nitpicking, just the fact that he canters CALMLY now is an exceptional win!

This is a little better. His shoulders look more lifted and his back is more engaged through the bridle. AKA withers higher than croup. I LOVE the reach he has with his hind end, but he's still landing front first (in this still, his RH is juuuust touching the ground while his LF already is weight bearing). Still a little behind the vertical, and just a touch more broken in the neck. BUt again, this will improve!

The biggest win on this baby has been his transitions. When I first rode him he was ALL over the place at the canter. Crooked, legs flying everywhere and GOOD LUCK getting the correct lead the first four times.  Right lead was impossible in general. Both up & down transitions were messy and hard to ride. He would brace in the bridle, fall over and run sideways in all transitions. Now he's soft through most down transitions, great up into the trot, and even up into the canter he's gaining more and more balance. Left lead canter he gets the first time I ask, and about 75% of the time we get right lead on the first try. Good boy! I tried to upload my damn video but it worked all night and still was only at 49% this AM. Maybe one day.

Here's a link to my short instagram video I uploaded yesterday of one of our down transitions. Truly a huge win!

I feel so fortunate to come across a young horse with naturally brilliant gaits. With Yankee, his trot is lackluster and his walk is worse. Luckily, I won with his canter. But its taken 8 years to get him to sit back at the trot. Worth the work though!

As a final note, I added a social media button in the upper right corner of my page, so if anyone feesl the urge to stalk me on Facebook, or follow us on Insta, the links are at the top! Also, I finally updated the "About" pages at the top of the blog!


  1. You can see that you are really putting a great foundation on him. I love these progress reports!

  2. Yay baby OTTBs!! They are so fun. Glad you are enjoying your free time--hopefully the grown up paycheck makes up for losing it here soon. Heck, maybe then you can board or haul in to a place with an indoor.

  3. He is looking really great, and you have such a nice dressage seat = jealous. So much potential there!

  4. I just love your dog hahaha. Yes... Winter is coming *sad face* But good excuse for riding in blankets and halters. Love it! Anyway, work sucks. :( Can't we just ride ponies all the time. :/

  5. Love baby OTTBs--yours looks fantastic!