There’s Never Going to be a Right First Horse.

When googling “what is the ‘right’ first horse for me?”, you’ll never come up with an answer. You can rephrase the question and write it differently as many times as you want, but you won’t ever come up with an answer. This is because of the one simplicity that humans are forced to accept: diversity. We love the thought of the concept but deep down we tend to be afraid of the fact that we’re all different. Whether you can accept the concept of diversity or not, it’ll always bite you in the butt when it comes to shopping for either a lease horse or your own mount. 

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I’ve run into this issue when being faced with the fact that the woman I lease from wants us to either buy or full lease Diva. I’d love to buy her, but as a minor, I can’t legally do that. Because of this, the decision is not only up to me but also my mom. I love her to pieces but she keeps telling me that full leasing is a bad investment (I get that) and buying isn’t really an option. She thinks Diva is a safety hazard, the incorrect first horse, and won’t have an attitude change. In reality, I’ve dedicated almost a year of my life to this horse and can fully and completely tell you that all three of those things are not true. Most people wouldn’t click with her, but in some weird way, I do.

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I know others have felt my pain and will continue to. The only piece of advice I can give is that you’ll never find the ‘right’ first horse but you will find a horse that you click with. The horse you end up with is going to have issues and you’ll find bumps in the road. It won’t be easy but those are just hills that you need to get over.

Off the Injury: Ride #7

(I know that recently I’ve been writing a lot about how Diva has been doing, but here’s another update.)

On Saturday (5/18/2019), there was finally a let up in the endless rain and I was able to fit in a ride on Diva. This was only the seventh time I had ridden her since her being cleared by the vet. I love this horse with all my heart and seeing her start to really improve her flat work just makes me beam.

Anyways, I started out by lunging Diva in our Pessoa Training System. I do this to get her warmed up and her head in work mode. After 15 minutes on the lunge, I took off the system and mounted up. I walked and trotted tons before starting to work over some trot poles. Diva was well behaved and stretching/going into frame so I figured I would ask for a canter. I started on the left lead to maintain her relaxed disposition (it’s her preferred direction). She picked up the canter beautifully and I let her canter for a bit before coming back to walk and switching to tracking right.

I had her trot quite a bit to make sure that she was staying balanced and relaxed. After five minutes or so she offered me a right lead canter and of course, I took it. It was a tad bit rushed in the beginning but after a while, she became relaxed again. I let her canter some more before dismounting. It was mostly how nonchalant Diva was about everything that surprised me. She hadn’t a care in the world and acted as if she was able to act sane all the time.

Here’s some comparison to show her progress:

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5/18/2019

 

 

 

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10/22/2018

Morale of the story, Diva is coming back strong and I’m beyond proud of her!

Off the Injury: Ride #6

Sometimes all horses need is time off, or an injury I guess. Their brains get to reset and be horses for a bit while you cultivate a plan to make them the most responsive and reliable horse you know how to create. In my case, my mare got just over a month off (34 days to be exact) due to two different injuries. The first being an infected puncture wound between the Long Pastern and the Proximal Sesamoids. The wound didn’t hit any tendons or anything like that, but the week it happened we got loads of rain. This made everything muddy and the cut got infected (Cellulitis), even with constant cleaning.

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The second wound happened a few days after Divas leg swelled like a balloon. The day before the vet was coming out to look at her leg, Diva cut herself on a fence, resulting in a three in long Laceration wound in her side (between her flank and withers but in the middle of her). 13 stitches, stall rest, and 4+ weeks later, the vet cleared her for riding again. I wanted everything to be super chill and very low pressure when I started riding her again. Personally, I think that approach has worked more than anything I’ve ever done with this horse.

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Before she got cleared to ride but was able to spend some time in the pasture, I restarted her on groundwork. I worked on keeping her balanced on a circle while stretching/working through her back in both walk and trot. When she was cleared to ride, I decided we would go bitless until she was solid enough to handle a bit. I had my sixth ride on her last night and the past six rides have been everything but awful: they’ve been perfect!

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Diva now knows how to walk and/or come back to the walk. As crazy as that sounds, this horse couldn’t walk nor could she come back to the walk, now she can. I acted as if I was restarting her straight off the track and it showed her that she was able to actually horse correctly. She can also now trot in frame or stretching without me constantly bugging her. To add to that, Diva can also canter on both leads. It’s not pretty and she needs a bit of help on the right lead, but other than that she’s been absolutely perfect. I think her having some time off to just horse was quite beneficial in showing everyone that she’s not a total crackhead 🙂

“But why bits?”

It’s been over a week since I uploaded my last article. I’ve had no motivation to write whatsoever until this happened.

I was sitting in the passenger’s seat of my mom’s car and we were chatting about horses. I was filling her in on how I had emailed the USEF about changing their rules on bitless dressage. My mom looks at me, while she’s driving, dead in the eye and goes, “What is the point of bits?”

I stumbled over my words and tried to collect my thoughts before letting out a bit of a giggle. What is the point of bits? Equestrian run over questions like this all the time because they’ve always been comfortable without an answer. I looked at her and said, “Well, it’s just like a hackamore, for direction and to request softness.”

That was not a question anyone should’ve had to think about. I use a bit every day, like most equestrians, yet couldn’t answer the simple question of “Why?”. I found this whole conversation quite interesting and figured I’d share it on here. What’s your opinion?

An OTTBs First Ride Back After Stall Rest

Over the past four weeks, my OTTB has been on stall rest due to an infected cut on her leg and a 3-inch gash across her barrel, just left and a bit lower than her flank. Her leg swelled before she cut herself resulting in an extra couple days off. She cut herself the day before the vet was going to come out and ended up having two more weeks of stall rest and a third week with light turn out. The day she was supposed to get her stitches out, the vet had an emergency and couldn’t get out for another week. Finally, yesterday (4/26/2019) Diamond got her stitches out, yay!

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Autumn Belanger Photography

Now that she’s all healed up, the vet cleared her for riding today (4/27/2019). I went out to the barn, super excited. She was practically falling asleep when I brought her up from the field and took a fat nap while I tacked her up. Currently, I’m experimenting with bitless dressage so I got her into our Pessoa Training System (a lunging aid that encourages the correct form and build up of topline muscle) with her just in a halter (a side pull).

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Autumn Belanger Photography

Anyways, she was lunged in a halter then I rode in the halter. It went better than I expected honestly. Yes, there were some rough parts where I could’ve ridden better, but for her first ride in over a month, it was pretty dang successful. For anyone that has had to deal with a high anxiety/energy horse that just wants to work, you never know how the first ride back will go.

 

Jill Treece: The +R Journey

Jill Treece, better known as JETequitheory by her followers and subscribers, is a 20-year-old, Arkansas born & raised, eventer and +R trainer. About six months ago, she found Positive Reinforcement or +R when her mare, Zoë, had to have emergency colic surgery and couldn’t be ridden for an extended period of time. Her journey into this new training technique has not been easy though. As an acclaimed YouTuber, Jill had to face the public and their opinion. In an interview, when asked what she struggled most with while starting +R, Jill says, “The public reception has probably been the most difficult thing honestly. I’m still new to this & learning as much as possible. Not everyone is open to new things and the switch from competitive eventer to +R trainer was confusing, I think, for a lot of people.” As time has passed, more of Jill’s followers have begun to accept the idea of her just enjoying Zoë and trying something new.

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Even with how negative the public has been towards Jill, she has still inspired many to think about using a more positive training approach. I’ve personally been watching her for over two years and since she started her +R journey, I’ve started mine too, learning a great deal from her videos and podcasts as well as the books and articles she has recommended.

About four months ago, Jill announced that she had been accepted for the 2019 Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) with a horse named Make it Work aka “Mac”. The four-year-old gelding is her boss’s horse, but Jill has been given the opportunity to train him in +R and compete him at the 2019 RRP.

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Even with many ups and downs in her +R journey, Jill has still managed to push through and encourage people to be open to change. She is currently working/living on her bosses farm and training OTTBs/rescues to be level headed riding horses while still going to university to pursue a major in Psychology. She thoroughly enjoys her work and continues to spread positivity to the online equine world with her great sense of humor and open mind.

 

4/14/2019: Dressage

I had a great ride today. It wasn’t perfect but it was productive. Ike had some baby moments (I mean, he’s six) but it was still a good ride. We worked on leg yields and adjustability, two key things for an event horse. He tried his hardest to understand what I was asking and did a pretty good job.

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I tried to stay away from being on a circle the whole time. We worked along the fence line, moved out across the diagonal, and went over a couple trot poles. These exercises are all things you’d find in a dressage test, preparing him for show season. I wish I knew a better way to explain the feeling because it just felt so natural. He was being such a gentleman. I would sit the trot for long periods of time and have him leg yield away from the fence and then back to it. Simple yes, but for this horse that can let his feet move his brain, it was a big step. I love riding these green ex-racehorses, it’s such an honorable and educational experience 🙂