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 🙂

This Weeks Recap on the Flat

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. 069One 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.

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Autumn Belanger Photography

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!

Precautions: Whether They’re Needed or Not

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.

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Autumn Belanger Photography

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?

A New Face in Eventing: Kaylee Blazeniak

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.

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Kaylee and Cowboy: Cassidy Fortunski Photography

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.

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Kaylee and Enzo: Catarina Roberto Photography

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…”

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@my_painted_pefection on Instagram

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.

 

 

03/21/2019: Jump School Recap

My mare can be a bit of a… butt. She likes prancing and pawing while being tacked up and lunged before our daily rides. On Thursday (03/21/2019) though, she stood there, half asleep and just stretched out on the lunge like a dressage pony (not a pony though, she’s 17.1hh).

I hopped on, had a bit of a warm up, and started her over a couple cross rails. Jumping smaller verticles and cross rails is quite agonizing on this horse. To say the least, she’s a brat. As large as she is, she knows that she can throw a fit and still get over the jump. Once she got all of her shenanigans out at the cross rails and (in her mind) itty-bitty verticals, the height got moved up a bit.

Last year, we schooled 2’6″ quite frequently and she was pretty respectful of the jumps as that isn’t a height she could just throw herself over. On Thursday though, she felt like an absolute champ, almost a different horse. The jumps were raised to 2’6″ she just jumped it as if we’d been schooling that all of 2019.

She was feeling so good that I was fine with the jumps being raised continuously. Diamond was acting like we had been schooling these fences for years. She’s only schooled up to about 3′ so when she put in every single stride perfect to a 3’2″ single, I was shocked. She was so low-key chill about the whole session, which never happens.

Once I got off and stood next to the vertical, I realized that this horse was going places. Not every horse can handle her limits being pushed after hardly jumping this month/year. We’ve been schooling good sized fences but nothing this big. She made it seem easy, like it was effortless. Every day, this horse surprises me. She’s really been shaping into a well-rounded dressage horse even though she would rather be galloping around like a chicken with her head cut off and when we jump, she’s actually been focused, not so much of a scatterbrain.

One of my favorite quotes is: “Great things never came from comfort zones.” This really wasn’t in my comfort zone and it probably wasn’t in Diamonds, but it turned out pretty dang good.

 

*Horse’s name changed for privacy reasons.