Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Jumping

We're going to make it
You know that moment when you just want to shout "He gets it!" and you're all warm and fuzzy on the inside? The last time I felt that was when Courage was prepping for his XC clinic and he figured out that he was always supposed to go over the jump in front of him.

And then there was Sunday. We were in the midst of the fun photoshoot for the Dream Horse Studios contest and I pointed Courage at a little crossrail. I felt him slow down and look at it. I was just beginning to wonder if he was going to slam on the brakes when his front end lifted off and we were jumping over the tiny jump.

Actually jumping. Folding his knees and taking off, landing in balance and cantering away.

I was so proud of him. Of us.

He jumped four tiny crossrails, each one nicer than the last, before we called it a day.

Monday we tried again, this time over a little course. Courage seemed to know he'd gotten something right. He regressed a little and tried some stuff he hadn't even thought about in a while--wiggling, stopping, and leaping--but it wasn't mean or naughty. He was just re-establishing that he knew what this was all about.

And he jumped.

He landed cantering, expressing his enthusiasm. I got him pointed in the right direction. I even got him calmed down to the point that we could trot a crossrail without going airborne on the landing side.

I wanted him to accomplish some specific goals that day, so I put a more experienced hand on the reins and watched my little man canter over his first jump. Jump his first related distance.

He did them with vigor and panache. I felt all warm and glowy as he completed a little course with cantering and a vertical and a line. I don't want to push him, so we let him end with that.

And then we jumped Wednesday. It's like a switch has flipped in his brain--no more awkwardly collapsing over the first jump and then going "O HAI THIS AGAIN."

He is the best at jumping me out of the tack
Instead I pointed him at the first little crossrail and he locked on and went for it. He was jumping, just like the past couple of times. We were forward and confident. I started stringing a mini course together--the second jump in the line, the crossrail on the diagonal, around the corner to the vertical. I stayed light in the saddle with my hands wide. I didn't grab him and I didn't scoot him with my seat.

Courage LAUNCHED over the fence. I came flying out of the saddle and landed in a heap on him. My feet were somehow still in the stirrups on the other side as I just barely got him turned away from another jump he'd decided to do.

We laughed and laughed and told him what a good boy he was while I got myself put back together. Despite my discombobulation, he'd landed in balance and didn't even offer to do anything naughty.

I hopped him over another crossrail to make sure he hadn't scared himself, but he jumped it like an adorable little hunter and cantered away softly. I couldn't wipe the ridiculous grin off my face. Heck, it's still there.

He gets it. He still has plenty to learn (so do I!), but he's taken another big step forward towards being a sport horse. I'm so proud of him.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dream Horse Studios Contest!! (plus review)

Dream Horse Studios Carnivale Boot Review

Rocking the C-rage style
As most of you probably noticed, I'm a total tack whore who loves trying new things. I have a wide variety of boots to suit my very different and very picky horses.

I was thrilled when Lauren, the super-nice owner of Dream Horse Studios, reached out to me to see if Courage and I would be interested in doing a review of her Carnivale open front boots. They're standard jump boots with a twist--lovely blue patent leather with a soft black calfskin lining and stud closures on black elastic.

Yes I did just say blue patent leather.

Design and Construction

Still in the plastic!
I tried not to squeal when the box showed up at my house and promptly set up an epic photo shoot to test the boots out. They were neatly wrapped up and smelled amazing right out of the box. I did everything but put them on and prance around the house.

The white stitching is tight and even. The calfskin lining is soft and smooth--no funny edges or uneven patches touching my horse. There are easy to clean--just a simple wipe down. The stud closure looked sturdy enough to handle the demands of every day riding.

Stud closures aren't the most flexible option--there are 2-3 options for how tight to make them. That said, the Equifit T-boots utilize the studs and are massively popular. I've neer had stud closures before, I wanted to know how they would work for a variety of horses with different legs.

Patent Leather Boots in Action

Photoshoot time!!

The gang
We were working with a full set of horse sized boots--open fronts and hinds.

In addition to Courage (16.1 OTTB, medium bone and cannons), we had Diva (17.0 OTTB, big bone, long cannons), and Vegas (15.1 paint, medium bone and short cannons).

Yeah Vegas!
First they went on Ms. Vegas, the completely adorable and awesome paint mare owned by Alyssa at Four Mares, No Money. Vegas is super competitive in the local open shows and has won some serious swag.

She is definitely a candidate for the cob sized boots. The front boots went on her just fine, but her 15.1 self was just too petite for the full size hind boots. That said, she was demonstrating some of her english pleasure/pattern moves and did a couple of jumps in the boots. They didn't move at all and she was perfectly happy.

Diva looking fancy
Next up with the supermodel--all 17 leggy hands of her.

Diva is all legs and built lean, but she has lots of bone. Both front and back boots fit her comfortably. The boots seem to be cut just right--they weren't too tall for Vegas, but they were still perfectly respectable on Diva.

It did take me a couple of tries to get them on right. For reference, the top strap on the front boots goes straight across. The bottom two straps cross. It's perfectly intuitive and fairly obvious when you look at the construction, but somehow I kept messing it up.


Might as well put three rides on the boots for their first day. I put the full set on Courage. He has had mental issues with back boots in the past, but he seemed ok with these.

We had an excellent ride, walk/trot/canter and a few jumps. Courage wasn't bothered by the boots at all and when I got off, they hadn't moved around or caused him any problems.

Plus, they looked totally cute.

At $90 for a full set, they are an excellent value. Even a set of cheap synthetic boots will run you close to that, so I say you might as well have some fun and order a cool color in patent leather. Blue isn't the only available color--there is quite a range available on the website.


The Calypso boots. Pretty sure I need them too.
Remember how I said Lauren is super nice? Not only did she send me a set of boots to review, but she's also giving another set away to a lucky reader!! Here's the deal: go to the Dream Horse Studios website and look around. Come back and comment on this post with your favorite product. Your comment enters you in the random drawing for a winner. For an additional entry, share the contest on your facebook or blog and let me know you did it.

Entries close on Monday, November 4th (2013) at midnight, so you have a full seven days to enter and spread the word!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Happy Friday!!

Anya the Barbie horse
I had my first (light) ride back on C-rage today after a fun escapade with a Barbie horse in the hills yesterday!

I could go on and on about how fun it is to ride an edurance Arabian on a trail ride, but it's Friday and OMG I HAVE SOMETHING EXCITING TO SHARE NEXT WEEK!!!

Hold on to your horses.

Ha. I can't believe I never made that pun before.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Best at Time Off

He is the best at turnout
Between the bodywork lady and the farrier and the BO, we have worked out a plan of (in)action for Courage. Best guess is that he did something creative and awesome in the pasture which jammed his shoulders up.

Oh Courage.

He's taking a few more days off to get himself re-aligned. To help his muscles relax from their current state of spasm (ouch!), he got some bute today.

Here comes the cookie monster!
I think painkillers are a great thing when you're in pain, but I use them very sparingly, both for myself and for my horses. I guess my thought is just that if something hurts, I want to know about it and not push through it instead of drug accordingly and just keep going. I know that's it's not necessarily a popular mindset and I have to temper it with the fact that I'm pretty young and have limited aches and pains at this point in my life.

That said, my policy on anti-inflammatories is that they can be given post-exercise as needed. I do not bute in order to ride or pop painkillers to run. If I see the need to give a horse bute after exercise, then they get the next day off, provided they are in a situation with enough turnout to stretch their legs. If exercise is causing the horse to need drugs, then the situation needs to change. I don't see pain killers as a regular part of daily life for horses or humans.

That's a big part of the reason that Cuna is retired--given the right injections and enough drugs, he probably is passably sound to jump around 2'6" or so. I just don't believe in doing that to a creature. If drugs have to mask his pain, then shouldn't I be listening to his body instead of my desires?

Too adorable not to share
Is that just just me? Is it because I don't understand the aches and pains of growing older? How does everyone else use bute/banamine/advil/ibuprofen?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Progression in Trot, Take II

Since Courage is closing in on being a whole three months off the track, I thought it would be fun to look at what a mere 90 days can do to a horse. 

Baby C-rage
August 2013

Courage was days off the track when this was taken--I don't think it had even been a week. I love this shot because it showed me what he had the potential to do. I mean, I'd never really seen him trot intentionally until he came home.

His neck is actually a little lower than was the norm at the time and his movement is a little more upward than forward, but it's still a lovely shot of a lovely horse.

Local circuit C-rage
September 2013

After a month of work, Courage has made some big leaps forward. His neck/head are dropping down to a more acceptable range and the whole picture is much more relaxed. His tail is lower, his action is more forward.

This pretty well represents where we were at the time. He was trying to figure out what I wanted, I was trying to figure out what ride he needed.

Training level C-rage
October 2013

Two months in! Courage is starting to understand contact and forward. His muscling is changing around and I'm finally figuring out what tack to put him in. (Seriously. Different saddle and bridle in every pic!)

He is moving forward and starting to figure out what his topline is for. This isn't his "100% confirmed always only ever" way of going, but it's becoming the norm. We're figuring life out.

It's really fun for me to lay this out side-by-side and see the changes we're making. I get too hung up on the day-to-day or the fact that a real trainer would move him along a lot faster than his ammy owner (me), but the truth is that we're both having a blast and he's definitely made some changes.*

*Though apparently I have a problem with looking down. At least my hands aren't in my lap!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Bump in the Road

The best at posing
Last week, I focused on riding effectively. I held contact, rode Courage forward, and didn't let him lean out his shoulders. Not surprisingly, he gave me some really quality work. We slipped in a weekend ride, I got two of the best trot transitions that he's probably ever done.

Then he took Sunday off and we picked things up again today. We started strong--his walk was the best it's ever been. I did very little and he was giving me nice work. We could bend both ways and move off my leg and steer very accurately.

I was elated. We stepped up into the trot with a totally decent transition that I only prepped for just a few strides...

...and there was just the tiniest hitch in his get-a-long.

We dropped back to walk, and he felt fine.

He is the best at time off
Up to trot (another nice transition), and it was more defined. Redheadlins said it looked like left front. I pulled his boots off, checked his legs, and picked his feet. Nothing was immediately apparent. No heat, no swelling, no rubs, no rocks.

I hopped back on without his boots to see if it was a rub problem, but no dice. Definitely off when asked to make a tight left hand turn. Pretty much fine on a straightaway.

Oh Courage.

His farrier will be out to check on him soon and he gets bodywork later this week. He's also taking a little time off to recuperate. I guess it's decent timing, since I am absolutely slammed this month, but I hope he feels better soon. He's just so much fun to ride!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Micklem Competition Bridle Review

I'm sure most of you have noticed that Courage is sporting his very own Micklem Competition Bridle in havana. I was torn between it and a fancy figure eight, but I ran across this one in his size and my color on facebook, so it came home.

Micklem Competition Bridle
 List price: $189.95
What I paid: $150 (noted: these hold their value ridiculously well)

Why a Micklem

I was interested in the Micklem design for several reasons. I like the idea behind it, of fitting a bridle to the horse's face. I like the mechanics of it--it does make more sense biomechanically than a traditional plain cavesson bridle. I've also seen them popping up around the sport horse world more and more frequently. Sure, it could be a trend, but there was one easy way to find out if Courage wanted to get in on the trend.

An adorable Courage face
Up until this point, Courage had gone in a couple of Cuna's bridles. None of them fit him well. He probably went best in the figure eight, but it fit him most poorly. He spent most of his time in the crank/flash on Cuna's dressage bridle.

That was partly because it worked for him, but mostly because it was the only bridle that actually got small enough to fit his tiny head.

Courage looking cute

Design, Sizing, and Quality

When the Micklem arrived, I looked it over thoroughly. Despite being used, it was in excellent condition. The rings that hold the jaw strap and the nose strap on are sewn in to the bridle with nylon, which makes them much more durable. The leather quality is ok. It's sturdy and workmanlike, certainly not the dreamy luxury of an Antares (swoon!!), but it isn't nasty and plastic. I'm actually quite curious to see how it does with regular care--it's a little dry right now.

As for sizing... well, if you've ever looked these up on the internet, you quickly realized that the sizing information available was pathetic and useless. Here's what I can tell you.

Izzy with the bit clips
The people on the internet are correct--there's really no way you can measure this bridle that compare to a normal bridle. The browband? Given that those are changeable, not a super useful number.

That said, my mare wore a full size bridle and could sneak into an oversize. She wore the horse sized Micklem in newmarket with no trouble at all.

Courage, who is too small for Cuna's horse sized bridles, fits perfectly into the cob size.

That said, if you are in doubt, GO UP A SIZE. Seriously. Courage has the tiniest, narrowest, daintiest little face, and the nose strap is on the second hole. We tried this bridle on a 15.1h TrakehnerX, and it wouldn't buckle.

A note on the bit clips: I had these for Izzy's model. They were completely useless. I mean, maybe if your horse just happened to be the perfect size and you just liked how plastic looked on their face, maybe they would work. For the rest of us, if you want the bit more stable, use a full cheek or baucher.

The Micklem in Use

Now the important part: does it work? 

That depends on what you mean. It absolutely functions as a set of leather straps that hold the bit on my horse and facilitate riding, but I doubt that's what anyone is asking. 

Courage has been mouthy/busy, particularly when he was bored, stressed, or distracted. He went in a big shadow roll with his mouth tied shut on the track for a reason. That said, he wasn't presenting with any extreme/unexpected problems. He wasn't a compulsive head-rubber, he didn't seem agitated after rides, nothing like that.

I knew when I put it on him that it wasn't magical--he wasn't going to learn to go into the contact and carry himself just because he was wearing a new bridle. 

All that said. 

I think it works for him. He is noticeably quieter with his mouth and happier in his work than he was in a normal bridle. He doesn't fight me as much about taking contact and he doesn't crank his mouth open and lean on me. He still has other evasions. He twists his head and giraffes around and does normal green horse things. 

Honestly, I wasn't expecting the Micklem bridle to make any difference whatsoever, but he's definitely liking it and going better than he was before.

Final Thoughts

If your horse is happy in a normal bridle, there's no reason to switch over. As I mentioned, I had one of these for my mare and it didn't make one iota of difference in the way she went.

If you don't like how it looks... well, it's not for everyone. It's definitely distinctive and it doesn't work on many faces. Courage has a long, narrow face that does well with some business filling up space. Cuna would look downright silly with this much "stuff" going on.

It's not the magic bullet, but it works for us.

So... the tack 'ho at rest? I guess I don't get to keep hunting for my Antares after all. Courage is a Micklem Man. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

On the Crazy Train

Despite my better efforts, life is totally spinning out of control right now. Nothing bad, just feeling completely and totally overwhelmed. Like "I can't deal with checking my email" style overwhelmed. It's not fun.

Which made this afternoon particularly nice. The weather was perfect, high 60s and sunshine. The trees are changing to red and gold.

Dust dapples
Courage came out just great, very quiet. He's getting a little bit fuzzy right now. Not quite enough that I want to clip yet, but more than plenty to hold dust. I had to laugh when I saw this:

Yes. His dapples are made of dust. I don't think they really show up on his actual hair, but there must be a different texture to hold the dirt in that pattern.

Fall ears
Since we've spent the past two days pushing obedience and contact (and since I seem to have citizenship on the crazy train), today was supposed to be easy and low key, so both of us could unwind.

I opened all the gates to the pastures and we just hacked through them on a loose rein. Big swooping turns, no contact, just walking and taking in the season.

After a while, we both took a deep breath. We watched the neighbor horses play. We looked at the far borders of the back field. We took turns choosing where to go.

And it was lovely.

A softer look, usually for footwear
When I went to put him away, I finally had a chance to take my time. I put dressing on his hooves, did his stretches, scratched his ears, and fed him cookies. We tried on a different sheet, even. I think it looks quite dashing--the color really suits him better than Cuna.

I even took the time to finally clean my much-abused tack. I used to be so good about cleaning it every day, but there hasn't been time.

I love when the barn is like this. A place to slow down and take a deep breath and smile again before returning to the craziness of life. It leaves a little sunny, happy place in my soul that I can go back to when everything else feels bleak.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Testing Boundaries

It was bound to happen sometime.

I made it to the barn in the late afternoon. It was perfect fall weather--sunny and warm with a cool breeze blowing and gorgeous colors just starting to appear.

Courage met me at the gate of his field and dozed off in the cross ties. All was well until I put him out on the line for his once-weekly lunge. He walked and trotted, but when I asked him to canter, he had a mini explosion. Hm.

This pony would never be naughty
Not a huge deal--cantering on the line is still new for him and I'm not crazy about lunging. I take him back to basics that he's comfortable with--walk/halt/walk/trot stuff and he moves well enough. It's the same in the opposite direction. He isn't taking pressure well, even when he's the one applying the pressure.

Still. He looks happy enough, so I put the line away and hop on. After some initial silliness, he stands to be mounted. Then he's leaning through both shoulders and tuning me out and not moving off my leg and giraffing around looking at things that never usually bother him.

Well, that's enough of that. It's time to step it up. I start by insisting that he goes straight. I keep that contact, regardless of whether he giraffes or roots. I push him forward, and wouldn't you know, he gives me some of the nicest work I've ever gotten. We do walk/trot transitions on serpentines and I insist that he hold his line without falling in. He's still a little looky/spooky.

Arena time
I want to just call it a day in the arena, but I refuse to create that same fear I had with Izzy. I will not let myself be confined by the imaginary safety of arena walls when I'm on a perfectly nice horse.

So I open the gate from his back and ride to the field. The water tank is tipped over. He takes a step back.

No. Not on my watch. Izzy did that and I hated it every time.

I kick him forward. He can stop and have a look, but there is no backwards movement allowed. After a few seconds, I ride him past the offending tank and he keeps it together.

Hacking around the field with airplane ears a month ago
We're just walking a lap around the field. The wind is whipping through the trees on the far edge of the field now, but he's never been a spooky one. I'm caught completely off guard as he leaps forward. I catch him with my hands, but then he pogos straight upward. Shit! I hear my instructor in the back of my head, "Give him a place to go. Kick him forward. Give him something to do."

Forward march! Trot on. He's behind my leg, but it's the thought that counts... Shit! We pogo again. This time he's light in the front end. High on the list of things I hate. "KICK HIM FORWARD," shouts my remembered instructor.

Right. Forward.

He tries to leap again, but I'm ready this time. "You can do all those things you just did in the arena out here," I inform Courage. "Ain't nobody got time for this." I push him forward, hold the contact, and insist that he go absolutely straight. I don't take behind my leg for an answer and I insist on quality transitions.

And wouldn't you know, he responded. When he relaxed, I walked him back into the arena and let him stand while I patted them. Then I thought "I don't want this to be his safe place."

So I rode him back into the field. We stood in the scary place on a loose rein and I patted his neck, then slid off his side.

As we walked back to the barn, side by side, the BO says, "You did get off intentionally, didn't you?"

Yes. Yes I did.

It was still a perfect fall day. Courage was testing his boundaries with me, and it went well. He learned about me, I learned about him, and everybody came away with a positive experience.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Courage in Action


First off, I want to do a little comparison.

This is Courage, still on the track, the night before he came home. He is racing fit and looking fabulous. He is tucked up like a greyhound with an under-developed neck and he's on high alert.

Contrast that with a conformation shot from last week.

We're looking at the same horse, but he's completely changed in just two months.

His neck is thicker, he's put on weight, his tail is growing, his shoe job is different and he carries himself differently.

His winter coat is substantially darker than his summer look--from almost buckskin to bright bay.

He's still gorgeous and his muscling is going to change plenty more as he works more and more correctly. I knew he'd look different, but these side by side images totally blow me away.

Now, a little look at how he's working these days.

At the trot! Ellie takes a mean trotting picture, regardless of whether she's shooting grand prix dressage or mules. That said, I love this shot of Courage!

He's starting to figure out how to be the best at trotting. We have moments of relaxation and forward and the moments are starting to last longer and come more frequently.

Sometimes it's hard for me to see his day-to-day progress, but shots like this absolutely capture the horse he's becoming.

Fall colors
Our canter is coming along, too. I haven't pushed the issue too much, because I think it's better to let him figure life out in his arena comfort zone (the trot) instead of trying to force him to do something in the canter. He's balanced and rhythmic and the rest will come in time.

That said, the better he gets walking and trotting, the more comfortable he is trying things in the canter. It is absolutely KILLING me to not be cantering fences with him right now, but it's more important to get him relaxed and confident than it is for me to play with his perfect naturally-uphill canter.

So polished
I'm running a delicate balance right now--Courage is more physically able to go forward now than before, but because it's a new concept for him, he isn't quite comfortable at the rhythm I want. I can push him constantly to go forward, but then he gets tense and resists the pressure. I don't want that.

For now, I'm trying to gradually increase his comfort zone. He is the sort of horse that likes to go forward and he loves the chance to earn praise. I'm working to build on that. I get him soft and balanced where he's comfortable, then ask for a little bit more. He only sustains it as long as he's comfortable. I only ask him when he's balanced and I don't punish him for losing his balance or slowing down.

It may be slower than cramming him into the frame I want and spanking him forward at every opportunity, but it seems to be working for him. He comes out willing to work and he's slowly making progress.

He's got this
I have so many beautiful pictures to share, but this post is getting a little long. Let's just look at one more. Since Ellie was on hand with a camera, I really wanted to pop Courage over an oxer and see what he gave us.

We built it up gradually--poles, then crossrail, then added the back bar.

The little dude never even blinked. Here he is, cantering across his first-ever oxer. I thought he'd look at it a little or overjump the first time or you know, react.

But no. I should have guessed--he is the best at oxers. ;) We measured it when we were done. At a whopping 2'2", it was the biggest thing he's jumped so far.

What a guy. It's hard to believe that he's just two months into his new life. Nothing we've done is earth-shattering for the average trained horse, but for an OTTB fresh off the track, I'm thrilled. What does a non-racehorse do after two months of training anyways?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Equine Photography

Taking pictures of horses is really tricky thing to do well. The photographer has to be a horse person to understand what he or she is looking for and to capture the equine at just the right moment, but they also have to be a consummate artist. There's a difference between a picture of a horse and THAT picture of your horse. You know the one. It captures your horse's look, his personality, his spirit, and shows him to the world in the same way that you see them.

For Cuna and I, it's always been this picture. It captures our partnership and the balance we brought each other. It captures his enthusiasm for his job and the joy he taught me to have. It showcases his big brown eyes and tiny little nose with the darling white snip. I love everything about this photo.

It could only have been taken by someone who knew us both. Ellie is a long-time friend of mine. She walked with me through all the struggles of the past couple of years. She was a Cuna partisan from day one. She really captured our journey together, from the early pony-nosing days to confidently jumping big fences to laying down some kick-ass dressage.

She went with me when we hauled Cuna to the vet this spring. She's been by my side while I've dealt with having to retire the red horse that taught me to love this crazy sport we do. He's the sort of horse that makes everyone around him love him more, and through the whole journey, I think Ellie has come to love him almost as much as I do. 

How cute are they??
Since she's been crucial to our whole journey together, it was only right that we do a shoot with the two of them. I'm holding out hope that maybe next summer she can ride him. For now, here's the one and only Cuna Matata with Ellie, his personal photographer and second biggest fan.

His winter coat is coming in. He's like a snuggly teddy bear right now, although he was a bit miffed that we screwed up his daily routine. Nevertheless, he is as adorable as always.

My time with Cuna feels way too short. There was so much more that he and I were supposed to do together before he retired. I can't change the demands his body is making, but I am grateful every single day for the incredible photos Ellie took to document our journey together.

She's given up so much time and energy and invested her talent into our partnership. She's really captured the heart of how I see Cuna and who he is to me. The shots she took are not just "horse pictures". They're a piece of artwork that encapsulates an ongoing and complex relationship in a single frame.

No Cuna shoot is complete without one of these

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Doing What We Do Best

Rocking the Micklem
Fun day! C-rage's first personal bridle (ever) showed up and I was beyond excited to play with it. I found a steal on a used Micklem bridle, so I went that route for now. I've had one before, but for a totally different type and size of horse.

My initial impression was that this is the first time I've actually put something on his head that fit. I also think that he has a great face for it. I think they're kind of hit and miss stylistically, but Courage's long, narrow head takes the busyness of a figure eight or micklem really well.

Naturally, I threw on our super classy sparkle browband that I love. I even changed the bead string for fall. :-)

Looking good
We skipped the lunging and went straight to some basic flatwork. There is nothing magical about a new bridle--the little dude is still learning to go forward into contact, but we found a lovely compromise today.

Well... that is, he sort of started rooting the reins out of my hands and stretching down to the buckle while still trotting uphill. I'd like to find a middle ground, but this is better than going around like a giraffe, so I'll take it for now.

Like a little badass
And then we jumped!! Truth: we haven't jumped in probably a week just due to random stuff, so I was a little nervous headed to our first fence. It was a baby crossrail and I totally overrode it. He jumped the snot out of it and landed going forward. I had this tense moment of "OH NO HE'S GOING TO BUCK ME OFF" (random Izzy flashback), but he just cantered nicely.

I love this horse.

He's got this.
After that, we trotted around and popped over everything I'd left set in the arena. Baby x, bigger x, little vertical. I thought he might be a little wiggly or weird about it, but I swear he's already looking for his fences and saving my butt.

As you can see, he's also not that impressed by our baby x any more. Bugger is just cantering across it. I certainly don't want to scare him by moving up to quickly, but I think it's safe to say we can throw in some more verticals and bump the heights up a little bit.

Oh, and maybe add some complexity--baby grid, anyone? I'm getting excited.

Just the biggest vertical we've ever jumped
I'm trying to mix it up and keep his jumps busy so that decorations are never scary or surprising, but when you two-months-post-track OTTB is this awesome, it's hard to be concerned.

I mean, I'm not trying to brag, but I'm still surprised by how great the little man comes out, He's here to work, he wants to be the best at his job, and he gives me 110%, every single time. He certainly has an opinion and likes to mouth off, but at the end of the day, he wants me to be happy with him.

What more can I ask?

Challenge is ON!
Oh, and there's this. After JUMPING ALL THE THINGS, redheadlins and I two pointed around the arena and chatted. I was on a loopy rein, he was totally relaxed. Unfortunately, we don't have pictures of me leaning off his side to take pictures of Lins and her ride from a better angle.

Little man is a stud.

I guess I just don't understand when thoroughbreds get a bad reputation. Sure, there are stupid ones, but I've spent most of my riding life in the irons on one TB or another. They are the hardest working and most generous horses and they always want to please. I'm sure my experience is biased by riding awesome horses (since you can't all have a Cuna), but I'd take Cuna, Courage, or the OTTB I grew up on over any warmblood I've ever ridden any where. Thoughts? Crazy OTTBs out there to contradict me?

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