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!
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).
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
Since my mare has been injured, I’ve been riding my lessor’s other OTTB, Ike. He’s a six-year-old ex-racehorse that had professional event training straight off the track. He’s a joy to ride but of course, has his quirks. He thoroughly enjoys pulling on you and is by far the bounciest horse I’ve ever ridden. Last Sunday (3/31/2019) we had a lovely jump session where we schooled some bigger fences, so he got a ‘break’ this week with only dressage rides. One of the things I was pleased with was our (re)introduction to flying lead changes. I took a bit of time out of my ride on Monday (4/1/2019) to work on preparing Ike for full-blown lead changes by cantering a circle (or two), trotting across the diagonal, then picking up the other lead on the new circle, going in the opposite direction from the first. I first saw this exercise when it was used by Holly Lenahan with her horse, Fiona. It looked like a good exercise so when I tried it, I was quite pleased with the fact that it was: simple enough but it still required some thinking.
During Thursdays ride, I worked on basic dressage work and a few trot poles. Our basic work was mostly just responsive transitions as well as walk to canter transitions. It took quite a bit of work for Ike to come back to me as soon as I asked though. He’s still young so I don’t expect it to be perfect but, he’s a smart horse and can sometimes let his brain move to fast. The trot poles were an interesting one. He jumped them. A lot. But after a while, he seemed to get the hang of not becoming a bunny.
The last ride of the week happened Saturday. Ike and I worked on some canter sets and just had a fun, low-key chill ride. We tooled around and popped over a couple of poles, ditching the agenda led to a great ride!
I was texting the woman that I lease my horse from and we were anxiously discussing the recent EHM outbreak in a surrounding area. I was supposed to ride one of her OTTBs in a jump lesson on Sunday (March 31st) but we decided against trailering the horse out for it. He hadn’t gotten his vaccinations yet this year and we didn’t know if he would come into contact with the virus at the facility we were planning on going to.
If you don’t know what EHM is, it’s short for Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy. It’s a neurological disease (associated with Equine Herpesvirus infections) that damages the blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord (United States Department of Agriculture). The most common form of Equine Herpesvirus or EHV is highly unlikely to kill a horse, but it could cause an abortion or other respiratory issues. 30% to 50% of horses with EHM though will die (Warren). EHM, better stated by UF College of Veterinary Medicine, is the neurological form of herpes, spread by horse-to-horse contact or contact with any contaminated surface.
Since the facility we were planning on going to does show regularly as well as host shows regularly (they had one in the past couple of weeks), we decided to cancel the lesson. I would instead have a nice, chill jump school at home. It wasn’t worth risking, especially since the horse we were going to take hadn’t gotten his spring shots yet. When in situations like this, you need to ask yourself (whether your horse is vaccinated or not): Is it worth it?
Not everyone can be a rising star in the prestigious sport of Eventing at 15 years old, but Illinois native Kaylee Blazeniak is living that dream with Caballo Oscuro, better known as ‘Zi’. Along with Zi, Kaylee owns two other horses: her childhood best friend, Cowboy, and her sale project, Enzo. She spends six or seven days a week riding her own three horses as well as her trainers’ horses.
Kaylee hasn’t had an easy time getting herself to where she is now though. She started competing at age nine with her pony Cowboy, who she trained herself, in Hunter/Jumpers. She was 12 when he was retired due to being diagnosed with Navicular Syndrome, that’s when Zi came into her life. He was supposed to be her grandmother’s horse but ended up being too dangerous. Kaylee made the decision to ride Zi until he was sold, but he wouldn’t sell.
She put every ounce of her time and energy into working on helping him understand the questions he was being asked instead of just shutting down. Between the winter of 2016 and the fall of 2017, they attended a couple shows and events together, never coming home with pleasing results. The winter of 2017 brought lots of hard work, Kaylee and Zi were finally starting to click. In an interview with Kaylee, she says, “I felt as if the work was paying off. I started to love him.”
Spring of 2018 brought many steps back though. Zi began stopping again and refused to jump, but Kaylee decided to give him one last chance at Fox River Valley HT. Something switched in Zi, maybe he knew that that was his last chance, who knows. At Fox River Valley they came in fourth place in the novice division, leaving Kaylee prouder than ever before. Things were starting to look up again.
A few short months after that, Zi and Kaylee came in fourth again at Champainge Run. A month later, they won the Novice division at Cobblestone HT. Shortly after, they went to Sundance Farm HT where they finished fourth. Their last event of 2018 was at Silverwood Farms. It was their first training level debut and they came in second. Kaylee was over the moon with Zi, he was finally becoming the horse she knew he could be.
Together, Zi and Kaylee qualified for 2019 American Eventing Championships and ended up coming home with both a silver and a bronze medal. This put Kaylee as one of the top Novice young event riders in Area IV. Kaylee says, “From my 2 years of owning Zi I have learned so much about life. He is so much more special to me than the ribbons won and the titles we have to our names. He is my heart horse and my partner of a lifetime…”
In the future, Kaylee hopes to keep eventing Zi and to make 2019 a full year of at Training level. She sees a future with horses and can’t wait for her incredible journey with her supportive parents & top-notch trainers to continue.