Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Eponia Bridle For Sale!

I've hinted at this several times, but it's finally time to publicly admit and let go. That's right, Pig's beautiful basically new Eponia Gatsby bridle does not fit Bast. And so, I am offering it up for sale. (NOTE: BRIDLE IS NOW SOLD. Thanks to everyone for your interest!)
Fit this old man like a dream, though.
As you remember, I reviewed this bridle favorably over the summer. I loved it, and found it very flattering on Pig. It ended up breaking in really well, and I was heartbroken when it didn't appear to fit Bast.
Seriously not a great look.
While the bridle itself looked good on him, the fit of the full size was atrocious on Bast's wee little head. Just like the rest of him, his head is pretty much large pony sized. The caveson that fit Pig so beautifully was comically huge on poor Bast.

So obviously I did the only thing I could do... I bought Bast his very own Gatsby bridle in cob size. And? It's perfect.
Seriously, a brilliant fit right out of the bag. He gets so many compliments.
In fact, I can't get enough of his face in this pretty thing... Plus, the flash attachment has been oh-so-useful for Sir Learning About Contact.
So, are you sold on this bridle? Want one of your own? Now is your chance, and I'm offering Pig's barely used full size for sale at a blogger special price (in other words, cheaper than I have it listed on Facebook).


This beauty here could be yours.
Eponia Gatsby Bridle in black with black padding and silver buckles
Size: Full (fits most thoroughbred - warmblood types, is very adjustable)
Included: Flash attachment, rubber/web reins, champagne crystal browband, and original bag
Price: $165 + shipping SOLD
Bridle features well padded anatomical monocrown, as is all the rage these days.
Flash can be completely removed, or attached inside or outside of the caveson, giving you complete customization.
Interested? Comment or email me at [cheerful chestnut at gmail dot com]

Monday, November 27, 2017

Training Progression of Bast: Part 1 Lunging

I knew from the day Bast got off the trailer I wanted to make sure I chronicled what it felt and looked like to ride and work with him. From my time working with Guinness, I know how hard it can be to even remember what the daily struggles were in the old days. Having something to point to showing our improvement makes it much easier to plot the path forward and celebrate the achievements of today. With that in mind, here's a glimpse at some of Bast's first work.
Photo by Liz Stout
Bast figured out the basics of lunging very quickly. Verbal commands for gaits were solid after day one, and he had a great halt. In fact, he was so good with the basics, I sent a text to his breeder to ask if he'd been lunged in his training. She wasn't positive, but said she didn't think he had been. Good pony!

We did basic lunging in a rope halter only for a few days, gradually adding in more "stuff". This was for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted him to get used to a different routine from the track. Tacking up with me means a different type of workout. His time on the track was extremely stressful for him, and I wanted to break that routine to start. (Note: not all racehorses are like this. He seems to have been especially sensitive and stressed out by life as a racehorse.)
Fancy prancin'!
Photo by Liz Stout
At first we worked only in the round pen, but eventually used the time lunging to get Bast used to working in different locations. While always tense in a new place, I realized if I could keep his attention on his job he would relax and be fine. I also found out I needed to use boots/wraps to keep him from clipping himself in front or brushing behind when he would invert/scoot. Leg protection all around is definitely a need for this little guy until he builds more body awareness.

I added in loose side reins on a surcingle first. When I lunge with side reins, I like to put a rope halter over the bridle. This keeps the horse from being confused by tugs on the bit when he's working with the reins. I felt it also gave me better control.
Pictured: Rope halter over bridle. Side reins not yet attached.
I actually kind of hate side reins and feel like they are mostly useless when it comes to teaching a horse about contact and the bit. However, they're a tool I have and thus one I thought I would try with Bast. Needless to say, I don't think they necessarily contributed anything to his development. I'm sure if I worked with them more we could achieve the right effect, but I'm not convinced a horse that goes into side reins actually translates into a horse that goes into contact. Mostly I used them to set boundaries on how high he could put his head in the air or twist away from me to try to leave the circle.
... because throwing his head in the air and attempting to leave the circle was definitely a thing he was trying. Related. Why was I not wearing gloves? Srsly.
Eventually I added in tack to see what he thought of my dressage saddle and stirrups flying around. Turns out he didn't care a thing about either.
Stirrups banging around while you lunge? Bast says "NBD folks!"
I won't lie, early lunging was really easy. Again, I'm not a lunging pro. I almost never used it in my training with Pig (because Pig refused to balance himself on the lunge and it got ... interesting), though I have used it with other young horses and OTTBs in the past. Even though basic, this work taught me a little about Bast's mind and work ethic.

Early on I learned that picking a fight with him on an issue without clearly explaining it to him would end with a panicked horse who was totally checked out. (Learned this when I tried to get him to move out away from me on the circle and he turned and fled.) I have to be careful getting his attention back when he's focused on other things (mostly other horses), because he'll go into fight or flight mode and can quickly decide things are terrifying and panic.
"Who me? Panic? What?! Never!"
Photo by Liz Stout
I also realized that he was terrified of other horses moving around him. Another horse cantering in the ring would leave him scooting forward or shaking. The first day I hand walked him in the indoor while a few other horses were riding, I had to make myself a human anchor lest we both quickly exit stage left.

However, not all the learning was negative (though I think there's a ton of value in learning the weakest spots early on in training, as you can turn them into strengths with enough work!). Bast's quick brain was evident, and the fact that he is a curious and energetic learner. When he understood what was asked and was paying attention, I was able to put on quite a bit of pressure with success. These two things I knew would stand me in good stead as we developed a relationship.
"I am the smartest! Also, is that horse being walked to that turnout field over there so it can be murdered?! Because I am pretty sure there's some horse murder about to happen!"
Note: No horse murder happened.
And that panicking about other horses? He got over that pretty fast. By the next day, he was able to be walked around the ring while strange horses trotted by. A week later and cantering didn't send him spooking and scooting away. In a month he was calmly being ridden around while multiple lessons happened around him. This continues to get better, and has proven to me that he is learning and improving all the time. It's also a big reminder of where he started and how far he's come.
Photo by Liz Stout
While I haven't lunged Bast much at all since I began riding him, I have done a ton of work in hand with him. I have some lunging ideas in mind to try over the winter to see if I can help him create even more relaxation in his work. Fingers crossed! I don't see lunging ever being a big part of his education, but I think it's a valuable skill for many reasons and a good way to evaluate a new horse's reactions in a safer way.

What do you think? Do you use lunging a lot? What are the values you see in lunge work?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Eight Years Ago

Eight years ago, I was perched in the car with my stomach in knots. I'd never vetted a horse before.

Eight years ago, my mouth quietly struggled out the phrase "would you take this much for him?"

Eight years ago, my hands were clammy with excitement and nerves. I'd never arranged horse delivery before.

Eight years ago, this chestnut creature backed off a trailer and into my life. I'll never forget holding his lead for the first time.
I was so excited.
I thought today it would be fun to do a little comparison. A before and after of Guinness. Especially now that I'm starting over again with another horse, seeing how far we were able to come is really special. Thus I give you...

Our pre-purchase ride:
Full video
And our best schooling ride of 2017:
Full video
This horse is amazing. We have both changed so much, for the better. We both required so much improvement from each other, and held each other so accountable for our work. I had no idea when I bought him what we would become, and I'm not sure I could have believed we had it in us.

Eight years ago, I made the best decision to take a chance on his iffy ankles and intense attitude. It's a decision I would happily make 1000 times again.