Monday, February 27, 2017


I have been in a bit of a funk lately, so I decided that a full on pony weekend was necessary.  I have been wanting to go on a relaxing trail ride, but the relaxing part can be pretty hit or miss with Stinker.  Saturday, I did our normal walk warm up then lunged him and since he was being really relaxed decided to give the trail ride a go.

Best ears!

I was taunting friends about riding in a tank top because I am mean like that.  There were also selfie attempts.  Not to mention the creating of a hole.  He had the dumb luck of stepping where there was a tunnel under the ground and it didn't hold.  It was a deep hole, but we were at the walk and he wasn't any worse for the wear.

We made a hole.

I decided to brave the path that I always get lost on because it is the longest (and also the least used hence the getting lost part).  It wraps around the edge of the property where the neighborhoods back up to the wooded land.  There is a nice strip of grass along a ditch and a small pond, which I always like.  I thought I was so clever and broke some branches where I typically get lost.

Ditch plus pond

I made it past that part just fine, but then I got to the area that has quite a bit of erosion and missed the path.  Once I realized my mistake, me were in a fair amount of small trees and under brush.  I tried turning us around, but didn't retrace my steps exactly and got into some soft ground.  As soon as I felt him start sinking I gave him the reins and ducked for cover.

Unfortunately, he didn't pick the most human friendly path and I caught a branch in the face.  It cut my lip and gave me a scratch that runs from the corner of my mouth down my chin (I'm going to look super classy at work).  We also went through some rather dense branches and his brow band came unsnapped on one side.  Luckily I noticed it and pulled it off before it became a trail ride casualty.\

Ear bonnet wonky, sans brow band, that is how we roll

After I gave him his head he plowed straight back to the path and was snuffling his way along.  Obviously my horse is better at directions than me, whoops.  Should have thought about that earlier.  We both came out just fine, well I had a few scratches and a sunburn.  Redhead problems.

Awkward selfie, cute pony, and mishaps sounds like a good day

It was a fantastic day even with the mishaps.  Plus he was stellar for the trail ride and only got a little nervous back by the houses.  Typically there is lots of prancing and multiple spooks, so this was a huge improvement.  He also was rideable and let me do some shoulder ins to break up the tension when he did get nervous.  Afterwards he got a bath (he did not appreciate it), but he was nice and clean for about 30 seconds.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Slow And Steady

Things have been pretty quiet with Stinker lately, because all I have been doing is trying to get him to build his topline.  I think that is our biggest struggle in the trot.  He just doesn't have the strength to carry a rider correctly in the trot.  He tries really hard, but it just isn't there yet.

Unfortunately it makes life quite dull.  There are only so many ways you can say, "I suppled my horse at the walk and then put him on the lunge and made him do transitions."  No rocket science involved, no fireworks to make writing interesting (I am thankful for that).  Just plain old steady work slow meticulous work.

I am not going to lie, I am getting quite bored with it.  But it is what he needs, so it is what he gets.  I think I am starting to see some changes especially up by his withers and in his shoulders.  Although it could be because I stare at them so much I have convinced myself that there are minute changes.

Monday, February 20, 2017


Last week was a bit of a mess.  I was leaving town on Wednesday, so I planned to give Stinker five days off while I was gone.  Monday (a week ago), he looks kind of sort of funky.  I immediately started panicking about his hind because that is what I do best.  I canceled my lesson for Tuesday and then couldn't stand myself so I lunged him Tuesday evening.

Tall girl problems

He still looked a little funky.  I decided it wasn't his hind, because instead of trotting the two poles he decided to extend and skip them a couple times.  If he can generate enough push to skip over poles, his hind probably wasn't causing problems.  I decided to contain the crazy and hope that the five days off would fix whatever was causing the funky steps.

He wasn't excited to see me :(

Today, I finally rode him after essentially a week off.  I was expecting him to be pretty fiery.  He was a little quick at times, but overall worked really well.  I walked him to get him supple and stretching then popped him on the lunge for a bit.  Whatever had been ouchy was no longer hurting/sore because he was trotting like normal without any short steps.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fly Bonnets

I think it is time to admit I am obsessed with fly bonnets.  I always thought they were dumb until I used one and Stinker stopped shaking his head all the time.  Then I began a new mission of buy all fly bonnets.  So far I have tested out three custom makers and the only manufactured one I bought has already been sold.

Magic Hat!

So far If The Bonnet Fits has been my favorite.  She always responds promptly (huge bonus because I hate waiting for responses), her turn around time is fairly quick, and while I thought her bonnets were expensive to start I have found that they are well worth the price.  Somehow I have ended up with four of her bonnets, including the magic hat and the little black bonnet.

I have a problem, but it is a fun one

My second favorite has been FUN Bonnets.  She is based in Canada, but the two major drawbacks to her bonnets are the wait time (it was 12 weeks when I ordered my bonnet) and the bonnet was heavier than I expected.  The heavier wouldn't be a big deal, except I am in the South where it is hot and humid all year round, so that limits this bonnets use to about 3-4 months out of the year.  One plus, is even with the extra shipping costs to the US she is cheaper.  I haven't used this bonnet a ton but I do think it will hold up just fine and it looks fabulous.

The fun FUN Bonnet

The third company is EDA Designs which makes her bonnets out of fabric.  I love this bonnet in the summer because I can just toss it in the washer and don't have to worry about hand washing.  Again, she is Canadian so shipping is a little more expensive if you are in the US, but her turn around time is very fast.  In fact it took me longer to decide what I wanted than it did for her to make it.  Granted I am sure I was testing her patience with my inability to make a decision (sorry), but she was always very prompt and polite in her responses.  I don't love how the fabric sits on his head, I don't know if that is because of sizing or if they all sit like this (the picture is especially bad).

EDA Designs

Of course it wouldn't be nearly as fun if I didn't have matching Dark Jewel Design brow bands to match all the bonnets.  Sadly only one made the pictures.  Whoops, I guess I will have to show that addiction at a later point.  Stress shopping for the win!

Monday, February 13, 2017


As the two year anniversery is approaching, I am having to acknowledge that our relationship has a lot of baggage.  To say we got off to a rough start would be an understatement.  The poor guy got his world turned upside down multiple times in a few months.  He got dropped off with me and I didn't know how to handle his nervousness.  Then he got sick.  Knowing what I know now about him I am sure he was hurting and struggling before I realized something was wrong.

Baby Stinker was always a hot sweaty mess.

That isn't exactly a great start to building trust with a horse that requires a lot of trust.  Needless to say when I started bringing him back from the EPM there was a lot of panicking on both of our parts. I didn't know what to do with him.  He would be fine on the ground and would always lunge perfectly, but as soon as I got on there was a lot of flailing.  I would tense and he would flail more.  It was a very vicious cycle.

Baby Stinker used to act like this when I put my legs on

Needless to say, with a lot of time, patience, and excellent instruction I have been able to break the cycle.  I still have days where I buy into his BS, but the frequency has decreased drastically.  The tricky part now is letting go of the past and riding the horse I have now.  When I get on I need to have the expectation that I can ride with my leg on and I can expect him to soften into the bridle.

This is the horse I have now

He has done an excellent job of training me to remove my leg and to ride without contact.  On the plus side he is very in tune with my seat; the other side of that is he gets totally lost without my seat.  Regardless, I need to forget the horse that he was and start riding the horse I have now.

This is a lot easier said than done.  My first instinct when he gets fussy is to remove my legs and let the reins get long.  This used to work when he would get fussy out of nervousness.  Now, he is steadier if I support him more.  Before he needed the freedom to know that he wasn't trapped, now he needs the steadiness to support and guide him.

One I can ride with a halter

In light of this, I am making this year the year of letting go and riding the horse I have.  The one I used to have no longer exists.  The horse I have is one that I can get on and know that I can use my leg and have steady contact (if I remember to ride him as such).

Friday, February 10, 2017


Since my lessons with my favorite dressage judge the focus of my rides has shifted slightly.  I now have three main goals for my rides.

  • Ride-ability
  • Immediately working over his back
  • Suppleness
The ride-ability has been improving rapidly after I was reminded that I need to expect it.  He tends to get quick and plow through my aids, but if I up my expectations and ride him without any baggage he steps up to the plate.  The remembering to ride him without any baggage is the tough part, but I am slowly getting there.

Getting him to immediately working over his back is a bit trickier.  If he gets flustered his immediate response is to shorten and pop his head up.  Plus he spends the majority of the time with his head up, so altering this response is taking time.  It helps when I remember to stay very consistent in my aids.

The suppleness is a bit of a struggle.  Lately he has been really tight in his poll, especially to the right.  In addition to that I am still having some problems with the left shoulder.  It is a struggle to get him to soften through the left shoulder and stay in the right rein.  By the end of the ride it will be good, but I would like to be able to get to that point more quickly.

I have been really happy with how he has been going since my lessons.  Hopefully, we can keep the progress moving forward and I will remember to forget the past and ride the horse I have now.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Magic Hat?

The past couple of rides Stinker has been fantastic.  I can't decide if it is because he has a new magic hat or if the new toy is paying off.  Either way, I am ok with it.

Couldn't wait to try it on

Monday, I didn't get out to the barn until evening time and it was getting dark as I was getting on.  I walked on the hills until it started to get too dark and then moved into the ring with lights.  Typically when he is by himself in the dark he tends to get a little more reactive and spooky.  His walk work was really nice and he stayed very consistent.

I hopped off and popped him on the lunge so he could trot both ways.  He was much more forward than before, but not speedy forward.  He was reaching and stretching.  To the right he still had a bit of a head tilt but it is slowly decreasing.

Magic hat!

Tuesday morning he was super.  I have been struggling in the jump field a bit.  He gets spooky and reactive and doesn't want to work correctly.  Clearly, I should know that it is necessary to be in giraffe mode to keep us safe.  He spooked himself once, and the walk got a little hurried a few times, but in general he was very steady.  He was very quiet and rideable, even in the trot.  I didn't do a lot of trot because he didn't rush and was trying to reach and stretch.

With matched DJD brow band!

Overall, I was really happy with how quiet, calm, and willing he has been over the last few days.  As much as I love his magic new hat, I am really hoping that it is the training that is paying off and he really is figuring out how to work correctly so he can start rebuilding his top line.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Picky Picky

Awhile back Stinker went on a food strike and was tossing his feed around and wasting about half of it.  We determined that it was the supplements that were causing the problem.  I made a few changes to them and he was still refusing to eat them, so I stopped putting him in his feed and started trying to mix them into his timothy.

Why eat it when you can stack it?

That worked for about a week.  Then the adventures of the traveling food bucket started and he was just tossing it around and wasting more of my money.  I decided that I would just try to get him eat the joint supplement because that is the one I deemed the most important.  That worked for about three days.

I then started trying to feed it to him post ride rather than when he was in his stall.  That worked once.  I was getting desperate, so I decided to try applesauce.  After a few test runs with just applesauce to make sure that he would eat it, I started adding that to his timothy supplement mixture.  So far it has worked for two days.  I am skeptical because today he ate all around it and left the applesauce/supplement/timothy mixture for last.

Save the best for last?

What tricks have worked for picky eaters in your life?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Some Like It Hot: The Jethro Addition

My love affair with hot horses started at a very young age.  When I was very young my parents tended to keep me on the very old and lazy horses (Twinkle and Spice), but Twinkle was getting old and the long days were hard on her so she was getting phased out.  They didn't like having me ride one horse every day, so they decided to try me on Jethro.

Twinkle (left) and Spice (right)

He was a very solid horse but he hadn't been ridden by kids forever like Twinkle and Spice had.  My mom warned me the very first day I rode him that I could NOT smack him with my reins like I did with the other two.  Keep in mind I am only about four or so my legs are pretty useless for kicking.  So rather than being exhausted in the first 30 minutes from trying to get my horse to keep up, I started using my reins (long split western reins) as a crop and would pop the mares on the butt and they would walk a littler faster.

I am sure you can tell where this is going... I managed to make it about five minutes from the corral before I forgot my mom's warning.  Jethro was lagging behind the group (4-5 adults) and rather than kick to get him to catch up, I popped him with the reins.  He jumped straight into a canter and took off down a brush covered hill past the other horses.  He was jumping some of the bushes.  I finally got him pulled up and my mom caught up with me.

Jethro is the closest one

She asked me if I was ok and I giggled and wanted to do it again.  This was just the start of the antics with this saint of a horse.  I am 100% sure he is the only reason I survived my childhood.

Another day, my parents were working in a hay field a mile or two from the house and my sister and I were at the house.  There were some hunters that stopped to talk to them.  One of the hunters asked if they knew who owned the horses that were up the road a ways.  My mom said that they owned them and asked why.  The hunter said well there appears to be a little red headed girl running them up and down the road and they were concerned because they couldn't see a saddle or a bridle on the horse.

Jethro (right) was such a cool guy

Yep that was me...I was too small to be able to saddle or bridle the horse but I could bribe him over to rocks and scramble on bareback.  He was a saint and would stop gently if I started to get off balance and let me steer by tugging on his mane.  I was in a lot of trouble that day because I had all of the horses hot and sweaty by the time they got back to the house.  I learned about cooling horses out that day.

As a kid, he was always my favorite horse and so many of my best childhood memories have him in them.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

New Toy

I alluded to my new toy last post, but I didn't have any media nor could I figure out what the heck they were called.  Thankfully my fellow tack hos helped me out and figured out that they are Lauffer reins, Phillip reins, or as I heard them Vienna reins.  Most Vienna reins are connected and hook to the girth.  In true Stinker form, he did not appreciate these and has a strong preference for the ones that are split and can connect to the sides.

Stolen from the internet, because Stinker wanted to be a giraffe and show off his under neck

He has slowly been figuring things out with the new addition.  He is still a little more underpowered than I would like to see, but I think that will improve with time.  I also noticed on Tuesday (when all the media was taken) that he wasn't releasing his right crest and was tilting his head a bit.  If anyone has recommendations for good books on working in hand/lunging I would appreciate them.

A little underpowered and twisted