Much like a recent news cycle, it happened. Shortly after coming off of suicide watch (obvi way too early), and being left alone for longer than he should’ve…
…Let me back up a bit. After P’s trip to Trainer B’s on September 2nd, the next day we went for a relaxing hack around the farm…where he, of course, twisted a hind shoe off (HOW?).
So that got him out of work on September 4th, then he had his tootsies done September 5th and later that day I rode him in the jump arena for 45 minutes, where he was perfect. Then September 6th he had his teeth floated, which earned him another day off. Leo & I went to Trainer B’s September 7th, which got him another day off, as I had familial duties to attend to when we got back. September 8th I didn’t ride at all, so when I arrived at the barn after work on Monday, September 9th, I was ready to tackle riding both horses that day and being productive.
The vet came out yesterday and blocked his feet, which instantly improved everything, so she took some x-rays of his feet and declared him thin-soled and needing pads stat.
Then she made a comment about his hind end and asked which leg it was that had the injury. And when pressed, said the possibility of reinjury was in the back of her mind because he seemed sore. But then said of course he could be sore because of THIS:
That’s where Leo decided to kick P this past Sunday afternoon, after spending 30+ minutes in the arena alongside each other with no issues. Why? No idea. P was literally minding his own business with Husband and Leo turned himself 180 degrees specifically to kick him. So then I had to hand Leo his ass because sorry, I don’t do kickers. P has never kicked a horse a day in his life and (for once) did nothing to deserve it.
So P is on Bute for a couple of days with walking under saddle, and getting pads next Monday. And then we’ll re-check the hind to make sure nothing is amiss there. So in the meantime, I’ll be mildly freaking out. NBD.
I’m running like a week behind here. The struggle is real right now.
When I was at Trainer B’s a few weeks ago, I mentioned my saddle fit woes with P and that I was concerned that perhaps it didn’t fit Leo either. I showed him how I put the saddle on- up pretty forward, then pulling it back until it settled, and he noted that it was still sitting too far forward on Leo’s shoulder and to pull the saddle back even further. Since P has massive shoulders as well, he said to try it with P and see what happened.
That’s the first normal trot I’ve gotten out of him in a year.
Almost like he was trying to tell me something with this:
Yeah, I suck.
So we had normal rides all that week, which led to him getting on a trailer to Trainer B’s with Leo on Labor Day. His first trip back there since July 2018.
Leo went first, while P stared at us from the stall at Trainer B’s that we stuck him in, weaving back and forth like a psycho. Apparently he thought all my threats to leave him with Trainer B had finally come to fruition, because when it was his turn, he turned into a looney toon while Leo walked away and into the stall without so much as a backwards glance at P.
He leapt besides me as I led him up to the arena and turned into a giraffe when he spotted people, yes, PEOPLE, daring to also be on the grounds. When I first got on, I felt like I was on a ticking time bomb, as he was so jacked up.
He started off just trotting around like a jackhammer, and we worked on flexing him one way, then the other, to get him to use himself properly so he could start to rebuild some muscle.
And while his canter is not nearly as smooth as Leo’s, at this point I will take P’s canter transitions over Leo’s.
But I’ve always had to work pretty hard to sit P’s canter. He’s a great galloper and it’s so easy (and fun) to just get in half seat and zoom around, but sitting always has me feeling like I’m being tossed around like a salad. For the longest time I thought it was me, until I started riding other horses and having no issues. Sorry P, it’s not me, it’s you.
I’m sure much to P’s sadness, he won’t be frequenting Trainer B’s as often as before, but it was great to have someone who knows P evaluate him and give me some homework. P’s quite a bit more advanced in his training than Leo, but not in as good of shape as Leo is. So both horses are doing a bit of the same thing for now, with P just a few steps ahead.
And Leo? Leo got to go work in the big boy dressage arena and start to put together elements of a test.
And while there was some giraffe-neck happening, he tried his best to cram his long, gangly body into 20(ish) meter circles, though he was sure to let us know it was VERY VERY HARD.
Then the next day, both boys went out on a 40 minute hack- Leo went first and we had an uneventful time. After riding sure-footed P for years, who has always handled changes in terrain like a champ at any gait, Leo feels so awkward and gangly, and definitely struggles a bit more. So I try to get him walking and trotting up and down the hills in the pastures at least 2x/week.
Then P went out for his 40 minutes and at some point torqued his hind shoe off. Hands up if you’re shocked. No one? Yeah, me either. After taking him to Trainer B’s, BO and I put him on suicide watch , though, so I guess this was nothing in the grand scheme of things.
And, because I don’t have media of it (which sucks, because it was SO.GOOD.), a quick recap of Leo’s trip back to Trainer B’s this past Saturday where two things happened:
I fell off him for the first time. I’d been dreading falling off him because he strikes me as the type who’d get freaked and run away. So as I’m falling, all I’m thinking is NOOOOOO, because Trainer B’s arena isn’t fenced in. Clearly I’ll never catch the horse. Imagine my surprise when Leo just stood there like a statue, looking perhaps a little perplexed. What a relief THAT was to get out of the way. And I clambored back on, then we continued on with great success (and I sat up when we turned after jumps after that).
We jumped 2’6″ jumps over and over (Leo’s first time jumping a vertical over 2′ and anything over 2’3″), and it was all over the crazy fillers that P would’ve (and definitely has) stopped at.
Including THE gate…want to know how nervous I was trotting Leo up to the gate? You might ask: why in the world would a plain, nondescript tan gate have me so twisted up inside?
Since then Leo has had 23 rides at home and been to Trainer B’s 9 times for lessons, and in my opinion, has come such a long way. But the real test was going to be heading back to Carolina Horse Park for the War Horse schooling day/horse trial, because there’s A LOT going on there.
Friday morning we headed to Trainer B’s for a lesson (in which he was perfect), then left straightaway for CHP. My friend was showing there with her trainer and another client, so I stalled with them, and we had another friend coming in to help out, so a really fun group of day drinkers support.
Leo settled in nicely, then I went to go hook up my trailer in the campsite with the plan of hacking him around the grounds when I got back. Of course as soon as I got back to the barn the heavens opened up and it poured and stormed for about an hour, and I saw my chance of riding slipping away. I was sort of desperate to get on him, though, as I figured my best shot at a calm(ish) ride would be that evening when 1) It wasn’t super crowded, and 2) He’d already been worked that day. So as soon as it stopped downpouring, I tacked him up and we headed out.
It was still sprinkling, there was a bunch of lightning and thunder, the wind had picked up and the temperature had plummeted, but the horse was PERFECT. A little tense, but didn’t put a foot out of place, even when someone came cantering head on towards him. We lasted about 20 minutes before the storms came rolling back in for real and it became a little insane to be out there.
The next morning it poured some more, so everything became a sloppy, disgusting mess. It was the pre-horse trial schooling day, and my instruction from Trainer B had been to get him into the water complex, and also to get him over a few of the tiniest baby jumps IF he was handling everything well. There was a lot of excitement on the grounds, as it was a frigid 70 degrees after 90+ degree heat for the entire summer, and many a call of “Loose Horse” could be heard around the venue.
So when I got on at the barn and walked him past mucho madness to meet everyone at show jumping and he DIDN’T melt down, I was so proud. He did have one moment when a couple horses came at him, but it was more of a “We gotta get out of the way,” spook than anything else. Unfortunately, my friend’s horse and the other client’s horse were having a rough go at life, so our XC schooling time got pushed back while the trainer could get on those guys for their schooling rounds. I ended up walking Leo across the street and just hanging out, letting him soak in the insanity that is XC schooling, and walking/trotting him around the field. AND HE WAS PERFECT. Yes, this is going to be a theme here, guys.
By then everyone else was there, so we followed along while they jumped, because my main mission was water. He stood still while everyone jumped, and didn’t even flinch when a whole group of horses came charging around the corner and up the hill towards us like the cavalry (with the trainer hollering behind them NOT to do that). The only time he got upset was when we were in a little straightaway with woods on either side and my friend cantered off on her horse. There was much sideways motion and llama neck while I convinced him we weren’t going with them, but once they got back, I decided to trot him over the glorified groundpole that is the Green as Grass jump and he had no issues moving away from our group to do just that.
Then we popped over a tiny coop, and on approach he was much more interested in the flag laying in the ground, and did a little pitter-patter with his tooties before popping right over.
But came right around and did it again.
And the water? Oh…a non-issue.
Then we hopped over a couple more little things:
And then finally strung together a mini course…and he was an angel.
Heading back to the barns, I almost got off to walk him because I figured he might get a little anxious crossing the road and going through the trailers and barn madness, but my curiosity to see how he’d handle it all won out, so I stayed on. And we ended up splitting off from the group with one of the other clients so she could go back to SJ warmup and tackle those jumps again, and Leo this time was perfectly fine with the chaos. I got off him so we could be the client’s jump crew and he followed me around like a puppy dog, and stood like a statue while she jumped. You better believe he got praised like he’d just jumped around Rolex Land Rover for how incredible he was.
He was so good I almost let Husband peer pressure me into entering the actual competition the next day.
And the next day, despite being cooped up in his stall most of the weekend, was perfectly calm to walk around and graze, while I watched some dressage warmup and SJ rounds.
And while I know that there’s still a long way to go, this outing really bolstered my confidence in his brain…not to mention I had SO.MUCH.FUN.
I had two massive grant proposals due on Friday the 16th and on August 5th the building my office is in informs us that they’re replacing the AC unit and will be closed from August 13-19. No access whatsoever. So for me, the grant proposals had to be completed by Monday the 12th, which had me working 12 hours a day at the office, then bringing my computer home at night to keep working.
So I’ve been working from home this last week, which meant THREE trips to Trainer B’s for Leo, and BOTH horses getting worked every day. It’s been MAJIKAL.
Leo’s been coming along well, and I’m learning a whole new way to train an OTTB other than the “get on, ride, hope it works out” method of trainers past. It’s seriously been eye opening and with the help of P, I’ve been practicing using all my aids in a more coordinated fashion, timing my release of pressure, and just getting stronger in the saddle and on the ground in general.
Unfortunately, besides doing the back-to-basics stuff on P (reining back/halting off seat/bending, etc), P has most decidedly not been doing all that well. He’s been acting up in any gait other than walk: yanking his head down, going sideways, popping up on his front feet, a la:
So my first thought was that the ulcers are back. Makes sense, right? He’s had quite a life for the last year, inflicting trauma after trauma upon himself, and been on plenty of meds. So I called the insurance company and set up an appt for the vet to come scope him next week.
THEN…a few days ago after my ride on him, I noticed a small, hard bump at the base of his wither on his spine. I pressed on it and he didn’t flinch or move away, so I shrugged it off and when I came out the next day, it was gone. Rode, and it was there AGAIN after the ride. I figured maybe bug bite? Maybe it was there before the ride and I didn’t look hard enough? So I went out the next day, looked closely for it, felt his spine and there was no sign of it. Okkkk….rode for 40 minutes (hard to make yourself stay on that long when you feel all he wants to do is fly away out from under you), untacked and the bump was DEFINITELY there. I wish I’d taken a picture of it, but alas…nope.
So I Googled and read a few places that if the saddle is causing pressure somewhere, it can cause fluid build up somewhere else.
Then I went out yesterday, put the saddle on P with no pads and it seemed just fine. Even contact, no rocking— looks great. UNTIL I ran my hand down inside the front of the flap and MY HAND GOT STUCK.
We don’t have a plethora of saddle fitters in the area, nor do we have any local tack shops, but I contacted the rep of a fairly newish brand I want to try, and I’m going to get in touch with a local part-time fitter who has worked with BO and some of the other boarders.
My dear Volty has been amazing, and the thought of not riding in it makes me want to cry, but I feel like maybe this time, wool flocking is the way to go.
So we’ll see what happens. For now, Volty seems to be fine on Leo, though I’m not sure how long that will last, as Leo is changing shape somewhat. But I would also like to be able to ride P, and clearly Volty and P simply do not mix anymore. The ideal situation would be to get a saddle that fits both horses in a way that I could customize it further to each horse with a half pad. But damn, I’m seriously not looking forward to trying saddles. I’d rather get a new house than a new saddle.
Tomorrow (well, today, as I’m scheduling this to be published in the AM) Leo and I head BACK to Trainer B’s for the 4th time in 8 days.
And then Leo and I are going to Carolina Horse Park this weekend for some hanging with friends and *possibly* some official XC schooling. Because…
…we are tentatively planning Leo’s eventing debut!
Ah, Husband. Some of you have SOs who knew full well the crazy they were getting themselves into when they decided to date/marry you. That’s not the tale Husband gets to tell.
When I met Husband, I was finishing up college and at that point hadn’t ridden a horse in about 7 years. Horses came up from time to time in conversation, but as I figured my horse days were long behind me, it wasn’t a main focus.
We dated, I graduated college, we got married, I started my career, he re-enlisted in the Marines, we bought a house, we had a kid…something was missing but I didn’t know what it was.
Then about 3 years after we first got married, one August day in 2010, I walked into a public speaking course, hating life because public speaking, while necessary for my job, was something I dreaded.
But as introductions were made, one stood out to me- a girl who said that for fun she rode dressage.
Now, I’d lived in NC at that point for 4 years and I’d never heard of anything remotely horsey, never even seen a horse trailer, so hearing the word “dressage” after 10 years was startling. But we talked, she invited me out to her barn to meet her horse, and 5 minutes after patting the ol’ guy’s neck, I decided I NEEDED my own horse. Stat.
Problem was….Husband was deployed to Afghanistan. He was infantry, so wasn’t on a base and could only communicate via letters (which took WEEKS to go back and forth) and the occasional phone call from a satellite phone. Sat phones were the bane of my existence during deployments. They only worked for outgoing calls, so I was at the mercy of waiting for him to call 24/7, and they were so unreliable that you never knew if you’d get 30 minutes or 30 seconds. So when that # flashed on my screen, I answered and without even a hello said, “Hey, I want to get a horse.”
But he said to go for it (because he had NO IDEA what he was encouraging), so a week before he arrived home, I’d purchased Jester for $700 w/delivery included, a basically unbroke 9 year old Paint/TB cross gelding. And Matt came home after a 7 month deployment at 6 AM, we took some pictures and immediately headed to the barn.
Husband later admitted that he assumed having a horse was pretty much like having a dog that lived somewhere else. Sorry, Husband. I didn’t even really know what I was getting us into.
Because the area was so decidedly non-horse friendly, I had no trainer options and instead, relied on Husband videoing on our camcorder so that I could later upload the video to our desktop computer and compare my videos to pictures and videos of professionals. THEN I would write notes of what I needed to work on, drag Husband BACK out to the barn the following day, and he’d simultaneously video while reading me my notes.
And he did it all. Every time. No complaints. Even though it was mostly stuff like this thriller below- 2 minutes of counterbent trotting along the rail.
He came to my shows and cheered the loudest of anyone when I won a walk/trot class (I KNOW, that was what was AVAILABLE, ok?).
He agreed to trade in one of our cars in order to get our first truck. And a month later when we went on our annual family vacay to Michigan, agreed to take one of the days he could be spending at the lake to go buy a horse trailer….then drive it 17 hours home.
Then when I found a quasi-dressage trainer that was the closest available, Husband would drive 1.5 hours one way with me to video. And if the sun was in the way, he freaking BLOCKED THE SUN (1:11 of the video).
And when we decided to go for Kid #2, Husband respectfully requested that I not ride, as it made him nervous. So I agreed and, having wanted to try Jester in eventing anyway but not having facilities anywhere nearby, sent Jester to a trainer a couple hours away to introduce him to dressage arenas and XC fences. Unfortunately, a pasture accident a month into training left Jester with an irreparable broken leg, so Husband drove me the 2 hours to say goodbye.
And a few weeks later, these momentos arrived, courtesy of Husband. I had no idea he’s gotten any of Jester’s tail hair, and he said he didn’t tell me because he didn’t want to upset me further.
A few months later the Tiniest Dictator came into the world and shortly after, we packed up and moved to the Charlotte area, using the horse trailer for storage, as I was horseless.
But not for long, because while I was sort of looking, sort of not, our anniversary was coming and Husband had plans. He knew which one I wanted based off of how much talking I did about this horse so…
And resumed his Husband duties of videoing every excruciating trot circle and canter transition, still with no complaints. But this chapter is where he started inserting his own commentary (you know what I’m talking about if you follow me on IG) into most videos.
He makes me laugh when I hear a ridiculous accent:
He has the ability to make you sit on the edge of your seat. Will they make it??
Sometimes he ran into things:
He’s videoed more BN dressage tests than I can even give him credit for. And usually I wouldn’t even watch the video- I’d grab a screenshot or two and forget the rest.
And, oh yeah, he’s Super Dad. Usually while he’d be videoing, he’s also be wrangling control over a 6 year old and 1 year old. More than one dressage judge has heard him threatening our kids with bodily harm if they disrupt my test.
He continues to be baffled by the fact that I only want horse stuff for birthdays/special occasions. But he’s compliant.
P loves going to shows with him because he knows Husband brings food.
And I love him going to shows because he’s an excellent…
The last 3 Father’s Days have fallen on horse show weekends..
And there was that one year that we spent his birthday at Windridge and not only did he NOT complain, he came out for the dressage/SJ day to video in the pouring rain, and THEN he said that my winning the event was the best birthday present (which is insanely cheesy, can not possibly be true, but 100% how Husband is).
When I said I wanted to buy a hammock so I could sleep in the horse area of my trailer at shows instead of stay in hotels, he found me a turquoise one.
Then when I decided that sleeping in a hammock was NOT for me (after one night) and said I wanted AC in my dressing room, he took my trailer to the shop.
THEN when I wanted the dressing room insulated so it held heat/AC better, he bought all the materials and got to work.
He’s even gotten in front of the camera a few times to help solidify our nonstop contest winning. It all started because I really wanted those free Kastel shirts but the contest was geared specifically for men. Luckily I have Husband.
It did take a *tiny* bit of convincing, though.
And that led to him playing the part of “Crazy Pilgrim” in our Triple Crown contest submission (which, of course, we won). Husband is at 2:18 in the video.
And most recently to our submission for some free Coat Defense, which…we won.
And been a co-conspirator on other crazy videos we’ve done, like “Game Day:”
Because everyone should test to see how their horses handle getting beaned by a football.
He did the AM handwalking for me while P was on stall rest (and after this terrifying video, underwent an intense course on how to properly secure a rope halter):
And through it all has videoed pretty much everything- with his own twist, of course.
He rushed to the barn when P created the Foot Hole and offered more than once to do P’s midnight eye meds so I could sleep; and when I agonized over the mounting vet bills and seemingly never-endingness of the eye ulcer, he just said we had to do what was right for P.
Every year for P’s birthday he buys decorations. The 2 years I was in KY over P’s birthday, he took the kids out and they sang him Happy Birthday and gave him treats.
When I was in Nashville for a bachelorette party, Husband went to the barn and surprise-FaceTime’d me from P’s stall.
Then I had this INSANE idea to get ANOTHER horse.
And Husband said, “Go for it.”
So I did.
And Husband was there when I arrived back from DE with Leo in tow to video and snap some pictures.
And he’s still videoing the most boring things ever with his most expert commentating.
And I still have yet to hear him complain. Love you, Husband!
When I first thought about adding a second horse, I was concerned about a few things, mainly my perpetual shortage of time. P has always been a 6x/week horse and there were days where I had to rush to get him ridden between work and familial obligations. It’s especially time consuming when you board at an amazing barn with amazing people that you just want to talk to.
But now that I’ve had 2 horses for a little over 8 weeks, I’m loving where I’m at mentally.
Despite the fail pictures/gifs that I routinely post, I’m very much a perfectionist. And exclusively riding P was hard because the only thing P is consistent at is being inconsistent. I’ve joked many times that owning P was the equivalent of owning at least 5 horses, since P is definitely a quad-polar and you never knew which personality you’d get on any given day.
When P was initially laid up and I started riding other horses (shoutout to especially S, B & C!!), initially I brought a lot of baggage along each ride. I anticipated stopping at jumps, spooking, running off…all things that weren’t really there. And it took awhile for me to stop projecting P on these other horses (it also taught me to appreciate the really good things about P, like ground manners, trailer loading and his gait adjustability). But I learned some new tools and how to separate rides on different horses instead of treating them all the same.
And that was something I desperately needed to learn before bringing home my very own blank slate. I can’t imagine getting on Leo and riding him the way I ride P. It would’ve been disastrous.
When it was just P & I, P had the power to make or ruin my day. If we had a bad ride, or even a bad part of the ride, I’d lament that I was clearly the worst rider in the world and clearly P was just terrible and clearly I should just never ride again. I’d dwell on it, vent about it to long-suffering Husband, think about it….yes, I’m aware of the ridiculousness.
But Sunday I realized that no longer seemed to be the case, so I’ll use that day as an example.
Let’s start with a snippet from Leo’s most recent lesson we had on Sunday- first, justlook at that flying change and adjustability and try not to swoon:
Right now we’re working a lot on suppling Leo using inside aids and it’s so cool to feel the lightbulb click on with him. He’s not the most naturally relaxed horse and he gets a little antsy when he doesn’t understand something, but he tries so hard, which is all I can ask for.
While the transition leaves A LOT of room for improvement…
…The canter itself is insanely nice.
Even when he jumps the groundpole:
So needless to say, while it wasn’t perfect and everything didn’t majikally fall into place, the lesson on Sunday left me feeling practically giddy over the progress Leo (and I) have made. And when we got back to the barn I pulled P out for his 4th ride of the week- the first week since FEBRUARY that he’s been ridden more than one day of the week.
And…P was less than pleased at this obvious testament that his year-long hiatus was over.
And while one-horse-KC would’ve been distraught that my ride of the day was spent on the back of Free Willy and not on *real* riding, two-horse-KC let it roll right off her back because she don’t need no Pilgrim to make her happy anymore.
For me, that’s a HUGE win. The mental part of riding has always been my nemesis. If things didn’t go to plan, I was a mess. And we all know how well horses and plans mix…
But because everything hinged on the one horse I owned and rode, I put too much pressure on myself and on the horse. Which surely didn’t help us get further any faster.
So while I’m still a work in progress, on Sunday afternoon, when I found myself laughing about P’s shenanigans instead of overthinking, I realized that FINALLY…I might just be on the right track.
It’s so strange to be back in the land of wi-fi and horses. I left July 5th for a week-long family vacation in Michigan, which involved 64 of my closest relatives packed into 4 small cabins on a lake. It’s a yearly thing, but thanks to Husband’s educational/employment endeavors, we haven’t been in the past 3 years. It was great to see everyone we don’t see throughout the year, as we’re scattered around Chicago/Virginia/NC, but a week of no horses is way too long! Thanks to the lack of wi-fi and basic internet connection, I couldn’t even get my horse fix through y’all’s blogs, so I’ll be stalking them throughout the day to catch up on what I missed.
The day before I left, Leo and I went up to Trainer B’s and a boarder came with me to get MEDIA. And she picked the perfect time to come, as Leo was the most amazing ball of amazingness.
We started with a bunch of work on the flat, getting him to relax. When he lets go, man-oh-man, you won’t want to go against him in dressage. Homeboy has some serious fancy pants he occasionally flashes.
Then we trotted a bunch of poles, which he’s done quite a lot, then over a teensy x-rail.
Then with one half of the 2nd x-rail up:
Then TWO x-rails. Hitting the big time here.
Then Leo’s first vertical!
We did that a few more times, then headed out to the XC field for some real fun.
First up was the ditch. Trainer B has 3 levels of ditches in a row. You can start with the log with the dip behind it, then graduate to the faux ditch with the sand/pole, then next to that is the legit ditch. We started by walking around it both ways, then trotting over the teeny log before coming around to the middle faux ditch. I sat in the backseat, just letting him have his head and encouraging with my leg and he hesitated for a split second but DID NOT STOP before popping right over!
Then we went the other way, with no issues.
Then threw in the flamingos just for fun.
Then went to the water. Leo’s been in both of Carolina Horse Park’s water complexes, but this was the first time he’s seen the dyed turquoise water. And he clearly didn’t trust it once he saw it, so we spent a few minutes doing laps around the edge, getting closer and closer…
…Until he decided we miiiight not be trying to kill him, and oh so gingerly stepped in:
Then we just walked in and out from all different sides until there was no hesitation and called it a day!
Then Leo promptly got a week off while I was gone, and decided he didn’t need hind shoes.
So we’ll spend this week getting back in the swing of things before heading to Trainer B’s on Saturday to see what’s next!
Thanks sooooo much for all the kind comments and commiserations! It was definitely a low point in life with P, and I’m pleased to report that it’s been 11 entire days since P’s last vet visit. He did try this out:
But AGF slapped some epoxy right on and said to ignore it.
Despite being med–free for 6 days now, his eye continues to remain wide open and as far as I can tell, the pupil isn’t dilated anymore. The vet had said it could take 2 weeks for the Atropine to wear off, and it’s been 11 days, but he’ll continue to wear the eye patch on his fly mask until Friday anyway.
Leo had an insanely long weekend. It started Thursday, when I attempted the right lead canter. Up until then, I’ve only cantered him 3x, and only to the left. He has an incredible canter and is so adjustable, you forget he raced just last month…until you try to steer him, that is.
This was the first canter. I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing with my body other than I had in my head that I was conveying relaxation and trying to stay as still as possible. The next time I cantered him I experimented with sitting in the saddle and making small adjustments with my body, which resulted in an incredibly uphill canter that of course was NOT caught on camera #FirstWorldProblems
But the right lead canter was a much different beast. He bolted into it, then bolted around the arena, almost careening into jump standards and the arena fence. Then to the left was as quiet as a mouse. Luckily we were heading to Trainer B’s the next day, and he fixed errrrything. Hallelujah.
Saturday was a local-ish schooling CT/Jumper show that I had planned on taking Leo to just to hang out, but I ended up coercing my BO into entering with a client’s horse so I’d at least have something interesting to watch. So Leo got back on the trailer with a new friend, and we spent a good 4 hours just hanging out in the atmosphere. He learned horse shows = ear rubs and treats, and was relaxed the entire time.
Sunday it was BACK on the trailer to go BACK to Trainer B’s, to make up for lost time since Trainer B has selfishly been competing (and winning) on his own horses. We started in the main arena just waking over poles of various heights, then headed to the dressage/gymnastic arena where (drum roll) Leo and I “jumped” for the first time! I mean, as much as a 16.3 hand horse jumps a cross-rail.
Then we headed to the XC field and as nervous as he felt the first time he saw all the crazy jumps, he was super brave about stepping over the log back and forth a zillion times, and we called it a day.
We’re heading back there Thursday (and I miiiiight have company, which means MEDIA) before dear Leo gets the week off while I head on family vacay. I think he was just glad to get a day off of getting in the trailer.
Welcome to another installment of the hit new series, “Leo Survives…” You can view the pilot episode, “Leo Survives…His First Lesson” here.
In the week and a half between these posts (I’m SORRY, Michele, there just haven’t been enough hours in the day), Leo’s had 4 more rides and a play day in the arena puddles, since there are NEVER puddles in the arena. Our rides are quite boring, as they are currently just a bunch of walk/trot/halt transitions and learning to steer. He has pretty good natural balance, but he’s also still very track tight and carries a LOT of tension in his back/neck/jaw.
So our rides are fairly low-key with lots of serpentines, figure-8s, circles and some lateral work to loosen him up. When he relaxes he goes into this absolutely lovely natural frame, but when he’s tense, he’s like riding a giraffe stuck in quicksand.
Here’s a video of his 7th ride- it’s SUPER boring, but I’m posting it anyways, so I can reference it in the future.
And here he is playing in the puddles. No hesitation and he seemed to quite like the water!
And over a pole!
He got new front shoes and back shoes put on, so I’m hoping that helps him get more comfy with using himself, the way it did for P.
He’s now been off the track for 30 days, so naturally it was time to take him to a show. And because P-Bug still needs round-the-clock eye meds, he got to come along as well. First time off the farm for something besides a vet visit in a year!
We went along with Trainer B and the team to Carolina Horse Park’s War Horse Event Series. It definitely wasn’t my first choice for his first show, as it’s really a lot of atmosphere to take in, but it was also my only shot at taking him to something like this for the next couple months, so we went to get it over with. He and P did well on the trailer ride, which I was absolutely FREAKING OUT over. I’ve never trailered two horses together and was absolutely petrified they’d fight or get injured one way or another, but we all arrived intact and the 2 boys stood on the trailer sharing hay while I got their stalls ready.
I took Leo out for a walk around the grounds and we did a lot of standing and staring into the distance. He didn’t seem to care about the normal spooky stuff, like banners, tents, flowers, decorations, etc, but it seemed as if he were trying to find the track. And…CHP happens to have one. Sort of. It’s grass and I’m not sure it’s really used anymore, but it is there and while I’m not 100% certain that’s what he was looking at, he sure was intent on staring in that direction.
He was good about the stall and spent his time with his face mashed into his hay bag. It definitely helped that P was there as a calming presence, as he’s always been good about being off-property and has been to CHP a bunch of times. The only tense time was when my friend played the track sound and Leo DEFINITELY remembered it.
Then we did it to P, who tried to eat her phone.
Saturday was when it would get chaotic. This event series is unrecognized and Saturday is always their schooling day. For an additional fee you can school dressage/stadium/XC and because of this, the barns are nearly always at full capacity (192 stalls), with even more people trailering in for the day. Even P lost his damn mind the first time I came here for this horse trial back in 2017. It’s the reason I would’ve preferred to have gotten Leo to a smaller show at least once before coming here, but alas, the timing was not meant to be so sorry kid, I’m throwing ya into the deep end of the pool.
Trainer B wanted us to come out on XC that morning, but it would’ve cost me $100 just to walk/trot around the field (we clearly weren’t going to jump anything), so I opted to skip that and instead take him around the areas we had been to the evening before. But then I got brave and we wandered closer to the XC fields, which are across the street from the rest of the venue. And when no one stopped us, we walked further down the lane so he could see both sides of the XC course. Then Trainer B and some clients came up and Trainer B said to follow them around as long as we could on the XC course. So…we did.
While there was much prancing and jigging sideways, he handled it better than expected. I can pretty much assume he’s never been in the woods, let alone when there are horses/riders flying around corners and leaping over things, and you can hear so much but not see everything. He went right into both water complexes with no issue and at the very end, after being out 1.5 hours, hopped over a little log with no fuss and Trainer B declared him a jumper.
Sunday was the show so I couldn’t do much, as everyone had pretty tight ride times so there was much helping/videoing/cheering to do. But at the end, Leo and P loaded right back up into the trailer, and were clearly happy to be home. P took off and galloped around his field a few times and Leo walked 5 ft and stuck his face in the grass.
This week will be pretty low-key, as Trainer B is heading to NJ for a horse trial, but I’m tentatively planning on taking Leo to a local hunter show this Saturday to hang out again. Which, after this weekend, should be a piece of cake.