Taking a Challenge

Jordyn with all her Christmas gear on her Snowney.

Jordyn with all her Christmas gear on her Snowney.

Jordyn, who agreeably trotted all over as a toddler, has been unwilling to trot since I put her up on Feather and Feather bolted away.  Jordyn went flying to the ground.

Understandably, Jordyn was not interested in trying to trot her pony again.   And the more the family has pushed Jordyn to try again the more resistant she has become.

Jordyn was spending a couple of days with us over the holidays.   We were visiting with our friend Kathy.  She challenged Jordyn to try trotting.  But this time she challenged her to count her trot steps.  She told her, “just see how many you can do!”

We got home and immediately Jo was ready to ride.  She started with some basic walking around the arena.  At one point early in the ride, Snow pulled his head and reins out of Jo’s hands. Frustrated she said, “I hate this pony!”  I got her organized with her reins and feet in the stirrups.  She looked at me and said, “I want to trot!”

I was surprised.  Somehow when Jo and Kathy were discussing this, I thought it was going to be on the lunge line.  I started to walk with her towards the lunge line.  “No, Granny, you need to trot alongside me!”

Oh, what a great idea!  I can’t think of many things I can do better than run through deep sand in cowboy boots with two bad hips.  But by God, if Jo wanted to try to trot, I would give it a shot.  I grabbed hold of Snow’s bridle and started shuffling down the long wall of the arena.  Jo was second guessing her decision but I was moving forward.

It was a pretty great scene.   Fat, white pony being virtually dragged down the arena while a little girl fearfully hung on for dear life.  Oh, and granny’s limping and stumbling along like a Friday night drunk.

But miracles do happen.  Snow started a little jog.  Jo’s eyes lit up.  And she started counting.  We made 32 steps at a trot before granny and Snow slowed to a walk ( I blame Snow).   Lauren and I both applauded her brave progress.  Then she wanted to do it again.  We made 64 trotting steps this time.  It is really pretty awesome because Jo gets so focused on counting and beating her last number, she relaxes and just trots along.

Next day at the barn, she ran to tell Miss Kathy how many steps she had taken. Jo hugged her and said,  “Thanks for the great advice!”

Jordyn’s parents and other grandparents came down yesterday to see her finally trot Snow.   Thankfully, Jo glad agreed to allow Lauren to jog beside her instead of me.  Probably, because they feared I would slip and fall and Snow would just trot right over me.  I am also thankful because this time Jo and Snow trotted 108 steps.

Jo with Lauren as she prepares to meet another challenging day on Bruno.

Jo with Lauren as she prepares to meet another challenging day on Bruno.

Lauren has been facing her share of challenges as she has focused her vacation time on getting Bruno started as sport horse.  He has been difficult and argumentative.  But she has gotten some terrific tips on how to work with him instead fighting against him.  She has learned what makes the big horse listen and do as she asks.  Today they successfully navigated a short course of jumps.  He cleared a three-foot jump with ease.  A week ago he was barely going over a trot pole.

My girls are standing up to meeting new challenges.  Kendyll got in on the fun riding along with Lauren and Jordyn.  Holiday fun!  Thanks for riding along.  Enjoy your holiday.

Snow is being a trooper!

Snow is being a trooper!

Waiting for Christmas

Sound asleep Muffy and Sneaky, waiting patiently for Christmas.

Sound asleep Muffy and Sneaky, waiting patiently for Christmas.

BrownDog sound asleep on tiny PuppyGirl.

BrownDog sound asleep on tiny PuppyGirl.

It is two days until Christmas.  The presents are bought, wrapped and waiting.  We did a pretty half way job on decorating this year.  No one will come to spend Christmas with Lauren and I.  Christmas morning we will head to Ally and Luke’s.  The tree is up but has only three ornaments, all new, one of a black poodle (surprise), one a Breyer Man O’ War ornament and one a gift from Amanda to Lauren.

Lauren has been on a riding marathon.  Since finishing finals a week ago, she has spent hours in the saddle.  Bruno went to the trainer last Tuesday.  Lauren has been traveling to ride him most days, learning with the big horse.  Then she has been coming home to ride Feather.  Today I washed seven pairs of riding pants.

It has been a good experience watching Bruno, a year after surgery, getting consistent exercise, training and work.  Asking him each day to learn a little more, seems to be working well for both of them.  Lauren has never ridden a horse as large as Bruno.  Plus, being a thoroughbred, he processes every tiny nuance of what she is doing in saddle.  Although six years old, Bruno has not had much chance to get in the ring.  He has had his downtime from the track, but not a lot of time under saddle.

Lauren was reminded that Bruno was like kindergartener.  He does not have experience in the jumping ring.  So, asking for complicated responses as they head over the jumps, is not going to work out.  But day by day, they have both learned.

Apparently, Bruno can jump!

Apparently, Bruno can jump!

After multiple days in the saddle, concluding with a good session with Feather yesterday, today was a day off.  Which was good as Lauren started the morning at the clinic with a temp of 101, a throat and ear infection.  It is cold here and after I got the stalls done and horses out, we were on the couch to stay.  Obviously, the dogs were pretty happy to keep us company in the warm room with the twinkling Christmas lights.

I hope all of you are looking forward to some wonderful holiday time with your families! We are waiting patiently for Christmas. Thanks for riding along.

Continuing Education-A Bruno Story

Mr. Kid patiently observing his student, Bruno.

Mr. Kid patiently observing his student, Bruno.

When we got home from the horse show yesterday it was only about noon, but Lauren and I (and probably Feather) were wiped out.  Horse shows involve a lot of work, long hours, painstaking patience and manual labor.  And I am just talking about my part which isn’t even on the horse.  From start of show to close, it is a kind of nervous, frenetic activity.  I love the shows but am always glad to pack up and go home.

I started threatening Lauren in the truck while we were pulling the trailer home.  “You know, Bruno hasn’t been ridden since Thursday.”  It was hot, humid and mid-day.  Lauren had been riding hard for three days.  Riding Bruno was no where on the “what I want to do next” list.  But I also knew that come evening Lauren would want to go visit her boyfriend and Bruno would have gone another day without work.

We try to work all our horses (except Kid) at least three times a week.  Feather and Bruno get four trips.  Bruno was long overdue.  Dr. Criner was due Monday and if we didn’t want a crazy Bruno meeting her at the gate he needed to be worked.  The sky was overcast and threatening.  I think Lauren was praying it would rain and she would get a reprieve from riding but the rain held off.

About 3:00 pm we headed out to the barn.  She got Bruno cleaned up and ready to ride.  I got to clean the stalls and the barn while she got started.  I had to think it through, hum, riding Bruno and falling off or cleaning the stalls in the stifling humidity.  I went with the stalls.

Mr. Kid had followed Bruno out to the arena (of, course) so he was observing Lauren’s riding in my absence.  He said they were doing okay but that Bruno was still having trouble with his left lead.  Kid said he could still pull both leads on command at age 31 and had no idea why the big, young thoroughbred was having so much trouble.  “Youth, these days,  Mr. Kid, not up to your standards!”.

This is a stock picture-NOT BRUNO.  I moved three of the poles together to create one yard wide obstacle.

This is a stock picture-NOT BRUNO. I moved three of the poles together to create one yard wide obstacle.

We had set some caveletti poles for Jordyn and Snow to work on.  I moved them up so they were each 12 inches high and grouped three together (about 36 inches across). I asked Lauren to trot to them and see if Bruno would catch the correct lead over the jump.  He did!  It worked perfectly except for the first three times when Bruno thought the better plan was to go around the funny white poles stacked on the ground.  Or the next time when he thought he would just charge straight through the poles.  All good ideas but not what Lauren wanted.  Finally, he was consistently catching his left lead each time over poles. But we always have to take it a step further.

So, we reversed him and headed him over the poles moving to the right.  Bruno’s response was the same. First, avoid the poles, then scatter the poles, but whatever you do-do not jump the poles.  It is at times like this when you have heard the stories of the OTTBs that just jumped first time out perfectly, that make me wonder if we will ever get in the show ring with this horse.  He is definitely not what I would call a natural!

It was a good exercise in that there were no jump standards to direct Bruno through, just the poles setting a foot off the ground.  Lauren had to concentrate and focus to get the big horse to the spot she needed him to be in.  I would yell, “Turn him, use half the arena!”.  I would hear, “I am, he is just not turning!”  He is not unlike a freight train that once he is set on a path, it is a little difficult to change his course.

I did remind her that except for the last few weeks, he essentially had been off work for almost a year.  He will have to learn to accept her leg, for him to learn to feel her shift in weight, the subtle pressure on the reins and what it all means.

I think the best part of the day was just how we laughed.  This big, ol’steamroller of a horse was just moving down the arena.  Sometimes he was perfect.  Other times he just totally disregarded the silly white poles and sent them flying in all directions.

I challenged Lauren that I want this horse (who has been pretty much sound for at least a month now-I am knocking on wood here) to be in the show arena doing something before the end of the year.  Sometimes you just have to put your dreams out there and then make them happen.

The next weeks and months should be telling for our Bruno.  Absolutely nothing I saw yesterday would make you bet that this horse will ever win anything in the jumper arena.  But this horse has had a way of surprising us so hang on for the ride.  It may be a bit bumpy for a while. If we can channel all the energy and spirit Bruno has to offer into a responsive horse, we will be unstoppable. Today we are still picking up scattered poles!