Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh, Mother Nature...

So the show today was a no go :( We got all ready in the morning, dug out the trailer, loaded the horses and ended up getting stuck down the driveway in snow that hadn't quite been plowed yet. Unloaded the horses to try and get the trailer unstuck which proved unsuccessful and by the time it was all said and done we had already missed the morning schooling and there was no way we could show without schooling the course first. Such a shame and I was so disappointed but with all the snow we've had lately, we knew this might happen. Oh well, what can you do, huh?


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Form=Function: Finding the "Neutral Position"

Today was really a break-through ride for Johnny and I today. In preparation for the show this weekend I set up a small course of jumps to let him jump around a bit and see where we were at...he hasn't jumped a full course in a really long time and my biggest worry for this weekend is that he's just going to loose his focus.

He was quite fresh starting out. He really has only been hacked once since last Friday because I have been sick. Our ride started off with quite a bit of "dolphin-ing" and leaping in the air at the canter, but I've learned that if I just sit back and slip Johnny the reins he finishes playing much quicker when he realizes that he's allowed to. This was a big realization for me, the fact that Johnny isn't one of those horses who like to be "mirco-managed" around the ring...a big change from Emmy who needed you there for her all the time.

Anyone who rides knows that, as riders, our trainers are always stressing to us the importance of "position" on our horses. With my first trainer (whom I occasionally still take lessons from) I got the dressage aspect of position infused with her unique interest in the mechanics of horse and rider working as one. In the early stages of Johnny's training, we benefited from her lessons because Johnny had so many physical problems to overcome. My first trainer helped me to understand the use of my body as his physical therapist, helping him to balance backwards when he wanted to just throw his weight forward and fall into a running trot. For a harness horse who has only ever known to throw his weight forward into the harness, the concept of lifting the shoulder and rounding the back can be very intimidating.

When I came to college and started riding with M, I began to understand more of the hunter aspect of position...of what she called a "neutral position" in which the rider did not interfere with the horse's natural movement and in doing so, allowed the horse to move freely underneath the rider. This was a concept that I understood well in theory, but could never quite transfer over to my rides with Johnny. Granted, I rarely rode Johnny under the watchful eye of trainer, and although I soon learned how to best influence his trot, I could not find the same happy medium in canter and I could rarely find it to a jump, because I rarely saw a distance on him. If I micro-managed, we chipped. If got into my half seat and left him alone, we went long. There seemed to be no in between. For a long time, I attributed it to his green-ness over fences. His own inability to judge the distance to the jump, his lack of athletic ability and maybe just lack of experience to adjust his stride. In reality, that was only part of the problem. The main problem was that I couldn't find that neutral balance where I could best let him do his job.

That is where today's ride comes in. It was a real break through for Johnny and myself. For Johnny, he LANDED HIS RIGHT LEAD CANTER OVER THE JUMPS (over the jump on the diagonal he landed the right lead every time and he landed it once off an oxer on the quarter line, then another time landed in a cross canter and did a SIMPLE CHANGE to the right lead! WOOOHOOOO!!!!) For me, it was learning to stay out of his way. We cantered into a two stride and literally hit perfection...we got the perfect distance to the first jump, two perfect stride between, a perfect distance out and then landed in a well balanced canter on the back side which he held for two entire laps around the ring. I finally realized the true meaning of a neutral position on him where I just let him do his job. Johnny is happiest on a longer rein, with me an a three point position...not quite sitting, but not quite a half seat, with a supportive, hugging leg. From this position, we can do anything...including simple lead changes! He cantered his right lead so much willingly too! It was one of our best rides to date and I think we learned a whole ton from it too!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Short Update

Today was a bit better on the "illness battling front." I couldn't sleep at all last night because I was coughing so much...luckily I only had two classes today. Tomorrow is killer as far as class load goes :( I plan on going to be at like 10 pm tonight.

As usual, I forgot to take my camera to the barn today, so I didn't get a picture of Emmy's leg nor any video of Johnny. Em's hock was swollen today, but not super hot and her lower leg didn't have any filling so that was good. I let her and Johnny outside in the paddock for a bit while I cleaned stalls and refilled water buckets. E tacked up Emmy to walk her around while I hacked Johnny. We didn't rider for super long but we did do a lot of canter work and got simple lead changes across both diagonals which was VERY exciting! I also cantered him around a lot on his left lead and worked on sitting back and just letting him take the reins a bit. He wanted to actually stretch down more when I kept my upper body back to help him balance (bad hunter rider habits...I need to play dressage queen for a little bit!)

Emmy looked good at the walk for  I had E trot her two laps in each direction. She didn't seem lame at all, but she also had two grams of bute in her, so I'm not going to push it. Her cut did look a whole lot better today though. I cleaned it out again after E got off her and bandaged up her leg.

Hopefully going to go some pole work with Johnny tomorrow. I think it's time to have him start cantering a single pole off the right lead and see where we are at with his balance in that direction. I'll let you know how that works out o.0


Monday, February 22, 2010

Minor Mishaps

After a lovely weekend in New York with my boyfriend I came home thinking that I was going to get down and dirty a) working out ( a gym! GASP) and riding my butt off to get ready for IHSA Regionals on March 14 and b) whippping Johnny into shape for the ICTA schooling jumper show this weekend.

Of course, none of those things have happened. Over the weekend I had the feeling that I had a bit of a cold coming on and I unfortunately ran out of my Singulair medication which I take daily for asthma....not a very good combination but I thought "it will be fine...I'll be alright without the meds until this weekend when I see my parents.


I woke up this morning feeling a little like I got hit by a bus. My throat was tight and full of gunk and I simply just felt awful. I turned off the alarm and went back to sleep through both of my morning classes. A hot lunch of chicken noodle soup made me feel better and so I went to the school barn for my Hunter riding class and IHSA practice. Bad idea #2...I almost DIED in Hunters. We were working on some exercises at the canter and I seriously thought I was going to have an asthma attack. My lungs felt so swollen (you didn't even know you could feel like that did you?) that I couldn't get any air in at all. My friend L rode up to me to make sure I was alright. I told her no and excused myself early to walk my horse out. After class I told M that I was going to sit out on IHSA practice tonight and she responded that she though that was a good idea.

Afterward I went to the barn thinking that I would just lightly hack Johnny because I didn't want to ride again, but Johnny hadn't been ridden since Friday and desperately needed to be worked. I was brushing him while E brushed Emmy when suddenly she start yelling "Kate...Kate...KATE!" I walked halfway down the aisle and E was standing pointing at Emmy's left hock which was DRIPPING with blood. Back into the stall Johnny went and Emmy left a blood trail down the aisle as we walked her to the wash stall. At first, I could not get her hock to stop bleeding...wads and wads of gauze and paper towels were all over the floor covered in blood. Finally I got it cleaned out good and washed  up...I had to cut away a piece of her flapped open skin with scissors because it was literally handing off her leg by a thread of skin. By the time I got her cleaned up and bandaged up it was going on 9pm and too late to do anything with Johnny and I was so mentally and physically drained from the day that I just wanted a hot bath and a cup of tea. I did free lunge him around the arena for about 15 minutes, but it just let him get some yahoos out. *Sigh* hopefully tomorrow will be better. I'll take some pictures of Emmy's leg. I have no idea how she cut it. There is nothing in her stall and the paddock is fenced with that flexible Ramm fencing which is basically like rubber...there is nothing to get caught on because you just bounce off it!

And speaking of pictures, here is a photo of Johnny's new jumper boots for this weekends show. I got them on sale from Dover for $20!!

Nice huh?
Keep you all posted.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Perfect 10

My gelding must be sick or something.

Johnny has been so amazing the past few days that I don't even know what to say. It seems like all of the sudden, things are finally starting to make sense to him. All of the endless repetition of catering to his "special" Standardbred needs is finally paying off! He LOVES his right lead canter only took 6 months to get him to do it, but now it's all he wants to do! Granted, we occasionally still have a few Standie moments where he flings his head up and tries to do his running trot, but generally speaking, he would much rather canter now! Today, I set up a one stride on the long side with poles and then three raised 9ft bounce rails at the short end of the ring (by the "spooky" door!) We started off just warming up trotting and bending, trotting over the one stride poles (which, by the way, he isn't throwing in super short steps right before anymore! woo!) and then some left and right lead canter on the flat. Once he was sufficiently warmed up and listening, I started him in canter over the one stride poles. We did those a few times and he got really perfect striding to them each time! After that, I got him settled with a little walk break (cantering + poles/jumps makes him super excited) and then started working over the bounce rails. We began off the left and I let him trot in with me in a two-point and a light contact. I tried to use just my legs to steer him and let him figure out the rest with his head. I won't lie, I was totally expecting him to just trot through them the first time (yes, you can trot through a raised bounce exercise...9ft between each bounce = two trot steps between each rail) but instead he trotted in over the first one and then CANTERED out and bounced the last two, kept his canter on the back side and cantered in a low frame down the long side. Needless to say I gave him huge pats and rubs on the neck! We did the exercise a few more times and he repeated the same thing :)

After a little walk break again I decided to try going to the right, fully anticipating that we were just going to trot the exercise. Johnny is a little less laterally correct to the right (go figure lol) so it took a little more correcting to keep him straight over the exercise but he also trotted in CANTERED the last two bounces and then CANTERED ON THE RIGHT LEAD down the long side! THREE TIMES!! I just about died!

Another walk break and then we finished off with left lead canter into the bounce exercise. The first time through we both kind of botched it up. Johnny wasn't exactly paying attention and I wasn't exactly super clear with where I wanted him to go (sometimes I forget that he's not Emmy and can't read my mind like she does...) The second time through was better and the third was perfect :) I was sooo proud of him today!

This weekend I am going to see my boyfriend up in New York so E will be hacking him Saturday and Sunday will probably be his day off. Next weekend we are hauling down the road to LEC for our Jumper Schooling show! It's going to be Johnny's first time in the jumpers so this next week we are going to get down to business!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Aspiring Goals

Tonight I jumped Johnny a bit :) He was really great! First we worked over a single cross rail on the center line with a 9 foot take off and landing rail. Of course the first time he saw the landing pole he totally freaked and stabbed his legs into the ground and then flung them out like an idiot. This is his usual reaction...every time we've ever done work with landing poles he can never figure out what to do with his feet, but after the first time over it, he really figured it out! He wasn't stabbing his legs into the ground or flinging them back up off it, but instead he was smooth and collected :) He even landed in a good canter a few times, and cross cantered a few more times, which I was fine with...he's still learning to balance himself.

After that, I moved the jump to the quarter line and made it a low vertical which we trotted and cantered over. The first time we trotted over it he totally knocked down the rail, but I seriously think that he was finally just so relaxed jumping that he wasn't even paying attention. The second and third times we cantered over it. The first time over it at the canter we were about two strides out and I knew that we were going to get a suupppeeerrr long spot. I knew that Johnny wasn't so good at working out a chip, so I just kind of kicked him and held on. He LEAPED over the jump, in actually a very smooth long spot, landed in canter and carried on like nothing had happened. I brought him to it again, this time rating him a little and we got a really great jump, landed in a quiet canter on the back side and continued down the long side. I let him end with that, as he had been super well-behaved :)

Lately, I've been looking into some info on the Standardbred National Horse Show and I really, really, REALLY want to take Johnny to it. I've weighed out some of the costs from last years prize list and I've come to the conclusion that it's going to take a lot of money to get there, but I feel confident that we actually have a chance at bringing home a national championship in maybe the adult equitation, or maybe even hunter under saddle. I went through last years pictures and based off of them I have made a list of things we need to work on to be up to par with the competition. I REALLY want to make this happen, but if we do go, we're definitely going to WIN :)


Monday, February 15, 2010

Apple Cider Vinegar in Horses?

In my Equine Health class last week, one of my college classmates brought up the fact that she gives her horse apple cider vinegar. "Vinegar?" I thought, "what a strange thing to give a horse..." It wasn't until I was browsing the other day on the Big Dee's website ( for a cough remedy for Johnny that I found this breathing remedy. The listed ingredients were simply honey, apple cider vinegar, alcohol, menthol, eucalyptus oil and lemon juice. After seeing that, I decided to do some more research on the use of apple cider vinegar in horses. Here's what I found:

One website claimed that

Benefits of adding ACV to your horse's diet include:

*Promotes healthy joints.
*Enhances skin and coat health.
*Balances the horse's pH.
*Boots immune system health.
*Helps to dissolve calcium deposits
*Improves urinary tract health.
*Stimulates proper digestion.
*Helps horse to resist internal and external parasites.
*Contains beneficial enzymes.
*Flushes the body of toxins.
*ACV has natural antibiotic properties.
*Helps to calm a nervous horse.
*ACV makes horse blood unsuitable for insects, and acts as a repellent.
 *May help improve and relieve arthritis.

Here is some more interesting information:
Dr. Jarvis, the Vermont country doctor who popularized the use of apple cider vinegar (ACV) in his book Folk Medicine, found that a horse would chew the wood of his stall because the wood contained potassium.
Experimenting with calves, he found that they would not chew the wood of their pens if ACV was added to their drinking water, since apple cider vinegar is an excellent source of easily absorbable potassium and other trace minerals.

For horses, recommended dosage rates vary from 1 cup (250 ml) of ACV for every 50 gallons (190 liters) of drinking water all the way up to 1 cup (250ml) for every 6 gallons (23 liters).

For a horse that will not drink the water in a new location, a commonly used tip is to add apple cider vinegar to the unfamiliar water.

For a healthy horse, use 1/4 cup (60 ml) of unpasteurized ACV on his feed grain per day. Dilute the vinegar 50/50 with water before adding to the feed.

Because of its potassium and associated trace mineral content, this feed supplement is invaluable for mares coming up to foaling and it is also beneficial for older horses with digestive difficulties or arthritis. 
Thrush and other foot fungus infections can be greatly reduced by a regular spray or soak application of apple cider vinegar to the soul and frog of your horse’s feet. By making the hoof area more acidic, fungus is no longer able to grow well there.

A general horse hoof soaking solution can be prepared by adding 1/4 cup (60 ml) of apple cider vinegar to one gallon (3.8 liters) of water. The vinegar application will, at the same time, speed up the healing of any other foot infections or bruises your horse might have.

ACV also has anti-fungal properties and is particularly effective on ringworm. Rub in thoroughly two or three times a day for several consecutive days. This is especially useful for ringworm infections that are too close to the eyes to use a copper wash.

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

Another site also sings praises about ACV use in humans as well:
Mix Apple Cider Vinegar with water and raw honey or nectar for a refreshing morning drink; the honey is also beneficial to your immune system and provides energy.
  • Smoothes skin texture and tone.
  • Promotes a healthy immune system.
  • Improves digestion and helps expel body toxins.5
  • Can help soothe neck, shoulder and back pain.6
  • Raw Apple Cider Vinegar helps clear skin irritations, like acne & contact dermatitis.7
  • Helps with weight control – Raw Apple Cider Vinegar taken before meals will speed up the metabolism.8
  • Can be applied shoulders, neck and forehead to feel rejuvenated (only for 30 minutes per session and shower after).
  • Raw Apple Cider Vinegar has even been known to help relieve the symptoms of constipation 

REFERENCES listed on

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits & Multiple Uses.
  2. Apple Cider Vinegar, by Cathy Wong,
    Apple Cider Vinegar History (Part 2), by Wanda Barras.
  3. Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar, by Lata Batra.
  4. Apple Cider Vinegar History (Part 2), by Wanda Barras.
  5. Apple Cider Vinegar Cure Research Blog.
  6. Apple Cider Vinegar History (Part 2), by Wanda Barras.
  7. The Secret Behind Apple Cider Vinegar - Multiple Uses for Every Day Maladies.
  8. Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar, by Lata Batra.

Other references used in this post:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A weekend at home

This weekend I elected to stay behind and not go down to OU for our last IHSA horse show of the regular season. Because I had already pointed out of Intermediate and was now in Open, I wasn't necessarily needed as a point rider and it was much easier for me to stay and take care of John and Em instead of trying to find someone to take care of LEC was hosting a hunter/jumper show this Saturday and Sunday and I needed to work the hunter day for my Management of EQ Activities class. Friday was a late night...I didn't get out to the barn until almost 9:00pm and then didn't get home until midnight. By the time I showered and got into bed it was almost 1:30am. Saturday, J and I worked the hunter show. There was a super low turnout because of the weather so the show was over by 2pm which was SUPER awesome. After that I went to the barn and rode both Emmy and Johnny. John and I worked through his dressage test on a light draw rein so that I could work his inside shoulder a little better through the corners. He was amazingly good :) Maybe we will be ready for either the ICTA schooling show or a South Farm combined test? After him I rode Emmy, who was also good :) Stiff in her old age, but she loosened up and stretched down into her fabulous little hunter frame that she was once so good with.

Today J, L, and I went back to up to the LEC barn to watch the jumper show and to take care of J and C's horses. The show was going really well until one rider missed a SUPER tight turn to an in and out and crashed through the fence. Her horse, in an attempt not to step on the poor girl, tried to jump over her but there were poles flying every where and there was just no place for him to put his feet. In a last attempt, he leaped and kicked out with his hind legs just as the rider was starting to move as if she was going to get out. The sound of his hoof colliding with her helmet was the most sickening sound I've ever heard in my life. His hoof nailed her helmet and the rider fell back down and didn't move. I remember thinking "oh my god, she's dead" as the entire arena seemed to gasp at once and jump to their feet. For a second everything was silent and then the girl started screaming.

There was so much commotion so quickly, people running into the ring, someone grabbing the horse and about 4 people on walkie-talkies calling for an EMT and another 4 on cell phones calling for 911. It was absolutely terrifying. L, J and I all ran down into the ring to let the ambulance come through. The poor girl was rushed away to the hospital on a back board. I have no idea what happened after that....but I'm praying that she's alright. please keep her and the family in your prayers!

I have since vowed to never ride with a naked head again...not that I do very often, but there are times when I get laxed and just jump aboard without one. Not anymore! Her helmet saved her life! I hope that other riders take this warning and pay heed to it...after watching such a thing like this I won't ever ride without one!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Punisment Must Fit The Crime

From the time I was a little girl, I was always told that you had three seconds to correct a horse or else he would not associate the correction with the behavior. The correction had to be quick, brief and fitting for the misbehavior. In short, the punishment for a misbehavior had to fit the "crime" committed and neither be too harsh or too soft for the situation.

Having said that, I am a very, very patient person when it comes to training my horses. I've been working with unbroke and greenbroke horses since I was 13 years old and over all of these years I have cultivated my patience and learned what is acceptable for horses at a certain training level and more importantly, what isn't.

Johnny has been testing my patience for the past couple of months. Ever since he first came to school, he's been apprehensive about the garage door at the end of the arena (note that there are garage doors at both ends of the arena, but just one bothers him) He walks past it just fine. He has examined the door itself and all of the jumps piled at the end of the ring numerous upon numerous times. He's not actually afraid of any of it. He would sleep there if you let him, but tracking to the left, he refuses to bend into that corner. His aversion got worse after winter break, but with weeks of work he has finally learned to bend into the corner and walk and trot. For weeks and weeks, I've been working on getting him to bend through that corner at the canter, and each time he drops his shoulder and tries to run off.

Last night, my patience ran thin. After him bolting away from the door every time when I put my inside leg on, I finally lost it with him. I cantered him past it again, nicely applied my inside leg, massaged the inside rein to supple his mouth and opened the outside rein a bit to give him somewhere to go. What did he do? Drop his shoulder, spin away from the corner and BOLT off down the long side.
No. Way.
Like I've said, I'm super patient with my horses. I don't like to punish them when they are trying to be good, but that was just the problem with Johnny. He hasn't been really trying at all. Instead, he was starting to jeopardize my safety when he spun and bolted all the time. I've put up with it for months with forgiving corrections, but not anymore.

When he bolted I slammed my heels down, sat back and pulled-reined his face. Instead of stopping, he flung his head up (almost breaking my nose...thank god for his standing martingale) and tried to take off AGAIN. I spun him in a circle to the inside where he flung his haunches out and tried to jump sideways. I corrected him with my legs and made him stand quietly. Then I turned him across the ring and circled back around past the door. AGAIN he bolted. I slammed him to a stop again, this time backed him up halfway across the ring, then let him stand quietly. Circled across the ring and tried again. He bolted. This time, I wasn't nice about it. I pulley reined his face, spun him, slammed my inside leg into him and actually yelled at him to "get over!" and half passed him to the rail. I was not happy. He wasn't scared, wasn't being pushed too hard or too fast, he just wasn't listening. At all. The next time past the door I literally had to "dressage" him past the corner to make him bend and keep the rhythm of his canter. He definitely knew he was in trouble. I finally made my point and the next time he cantered past the door quietly, bending nicely to the inside.

E was riding Emmy while this all happened. As I was walking Johnny out (we went back to trotting for another 20 minutes to reward him and quiet him down) I asked her if she thought I had been to harsh with him. "Kate," she said "you've been nice to him for 4 months now. He bolted and almost just broke your nose. It's ridiculous. He's not scared, he canters finds all the other corners just fine. He was disobedient to you legs, seat and hands. Basically he just said "eff you" and took off every time you asked him nicely." She made a good point and helped to reinforce my thought process. Hopefully we won't ever have this problem again, but this time, the punishment definitely fit the crime.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Long Weekend

This weekend was super long as we hosted our last IHSA show of the regular season. On Saturday I drew one of our really great equitation horses, a bit Level 5 jumper named Skye. He's a tough ride over fences but about as smooth as silk on the flat, plus he's really well schooled! I won my last Intermediate Equitation class and pointed out of my current division and into the Open Equitation (the highest level of IHSA) qualifying myself for our Region 1 Championships which our school will host on March 14 :)

Sunday I elected not to show to give our horses a little less work, and instead schooled jump horses in the morning and flat horses in the afternoon. One of our best IHSA jumpers threw one of my team mates into a jump in the early schooling and broke her hand, so M asked me to get on her. I was a little nervous because I didn't want to get hurt, but spooking is what I'm good with and as soon as I got her cantering I knew it would be alright. I rode her through the Open Eq. course with all of it's roll backs and bending lines and really had a good time. She never looked at anything. When it came time to school flat horses, M specifically asked me to jump on my favorite little horse Cruz and other then one minor little spin away from the wall he was an angel as well. Our team was Highpoint Champion on Saturday and Reserve Highpoint on Sunday! We are still currently leading the region in points :)

Emmy and Johnny didn't get worked a whole ton this weekend so last night they were both a little crazy to ride. I rode 6 horses in total yesterday and wrapped 32 legs! Today, all of my riding classes at the barn were canceled so I got a nice little (and well deserved!) break!

Here are some photos of my schooling Cruz :)
This is one of our Open riders schooling Rambell, he's my dressage horse for class and also one of my favorites:


Friday, February 5, 2010

Jumping Star!

I jumped Johnny yesterday and he was excellent! We haven't been doing much work over fences lately...hardly any at all actually, but he was so good! I set an outside line down the rail that rode in a perfect three stride with a short diagonal vertical which could be ridden in a bending line to one of the jumps in the line. John was SO GOOD! He landed his right lead a whole bunch of times (down the line too!) and then we came in to the short diagonal off the left, jumped it and landed the left lead, did a bending line to the out of the 3 stride which he jumped like a champ and then landed his RIGHT lead when I turned him in the air! YAYY!!! He's finally getting it!!!!!