Where are the people going? What happened to summer updates?

Summer is definitely the busy time of year for us. We both work later (no point leaving work at 4pm to enjoy 100+ heat), and get to the barn later. While my lesson schedule is pretty slow right now, I’ve been trying to get in lots of ride time. And I’ve been pretty successful.

I would write you some recaps, but it seems that I’ve forgotten since its now been a couple of weeks since I last updated. Moral of the story: Knots appears to like courses better than grids. I think my position is improving incrementally. Dressage is slowly improving. Jellybean almost went on a trail ride, but she decided to get trapped in a fence. So she has been enjoying some stall time.

The biggest craziness was the chiropractor visit with Gracie. That deserves a whole post (which Rob suggested he might write, eventually :p), but basically Gracie got adjusted and she stopped bucking at the canter. Bam. Life changing. We will see how this situation continues to progress, but Rob rode her three times in the last week, and she continues to just canter along. Great news!

There are exciting things on the radar: jumping lesson tomorrow morning. Cross country schooling at Meadowcreek on Saturday morning. Farrier next week. Knots meets the chiropractor next week. Three Brothers Jump for Life Show August 29th. Weeeeeeeee!

In personal life land, we are making a last minute move. Finalized things on Monday, and we need to be out of our house by Sunday evening. I am going to visit a friend in NC for a long weekend at the end of August, and oh ya, my job. So think of this as a short summer break from the blog, where we only update once every two weeks or so, and the pictures are sparse. We have been updating the Facebook page more often, so check us out if you need your Jellybean fixes between now and then. Picture dump:

Byron going “laundry”

New house!

Jellybean hates stall rest.


Recaps of recent rides with Knots

In bulk format again, since I seem to be able to hit this in ebbs and flows.

Knots and I met several times lately. First ride was back to dressage basics. We warmed up in the side reins on the lunge line. It was humorous to me, because every once in a while he would throw in a silly buck. He gives me the side eye when he does it. One day I’ll get a picture. Anyways, after that he was pretty good. I rode him and tried to push him into the bridle at the trot and canter. He wants to break into the next gait when I try to push him, but for the most part he is trying. He was not galloping off from my spurs! If I try to move him over, he just moves over. Sometimes not especially willingly, but he moves. And he isn’t trying as hard to root the reins out of my hands, which is another bonus.

Our next ride was a return to jumping. The 2’3″ course I set up the week before was still available, and I got ready to go. My goals were to not to have a driving seat and to get good spots (haha lofty goals…). I did ok. Knots was relaxed when I sat on my zipper instead of my seat bones. Progress!

I don’t know why I am so far out of the tack, but I don’t seem to be driving him to the base of the fence and then getting whiplash as we go over the jump. Still ugly, but improvement.

I was gone for the weekend in the middle here, and Knots’ next ride was actually with one of my students for the most part. For our lesson, the goal was to work on position and learn what it feels like when the horse responds correctly to the aids. We aren’t talking rocket science here, just horse moving off leg. So I lunged the student’s horse while she lunged Knots. After she lunged Knots (who was in a mood on the line…), I rode him for a minute and tried to demonstrate riding him into the bridle, complete with swinging hips.

Then my student rode him for a bit. She was learning about swinging her hips in the gaits and letting her elbows be more elastic. Knots was ok, he wasn’t a rock star, but he showed her that just because she used a spur didn’t mean he would run off. He also allowed her to experience riding a horse with their head lowered.

While I don’t do it often, its nice to use Knots to show students some concepts they might be having a little bit of trouble wrapping their head around. He’s up to helping about four if my count is correct.

We are officially trying to attend the Meadowcreek Schooling Horse Trials September 6th. I’m hoping to feel confident about running Beginner Novice, but goldilocks is an option also. I think we are going to school either August 1st or August 8th, depending on how things go. At that point I should be able to mail in my entry and carry on. Cross your fingers rides keep going smoothly!

Horse Shopping Advice Part II: Evaluating the horse on the first visit

So you found one.

It meets most of your qualities from the list. Maybe you even have more than one horse that made it this far. Now what? Part one talked about finding a horse, and now we’ll talk about evaluating a horse.

Remember, you are shopping for a horse that meets your personal goals. Even if you can check the other boxes, you still need a horse that can do what you like. Its hard to convince a finished roping horse he wants to be a polo pony, and a green-broke three year old is not a beginner horse. ‘Made’ or ‘finished’ horses aren’t generally for sale on the cheap. Keep these things in mind as you look at horses, especially if you have love-at-first-sight tendencies. And remember, written or spoken words only tell you so much. That’s why you need to visit!

The First Visit/Evaluation Ride:
Pack up some key tack (helmet, saddle, maybe bridle) and drive out to see the horse! Depending on your experience level, you may or may not bring your trainer/experienced friend for the first visit. Your main goals here are to see if the horse is still interesting in person.

When you arrive, watch the current owner or agent handle the horse. Is the horse friendly, neutral, or aggressive? Pay attention to what the owner chooses to do with the horse. For example, if they skip picking feet out, does the horse have good looking feet, or does the person seem worried about the horse kicking? Does the horse respect space, or is it walking all over the handler? Generally you want to see the normal routine the person has for riding the horse. This is also a good time to check the horse for odd scars, bumps and scrapes, anything that might lead to future lameness. Ask questions and learn as much as you can about the history.

Watch someone ride the horse. The owner should have someone to show you how the horse rides under saddle. Watch that person ride. Do they have quiet hands and a solid seat? Does the horse seem willing? What type of equipment are they using, big bit or snaffle? If you are buying a horse with some skills (jumping, roping, barrels, etc) ask to see a demonstration.

If you brought your trainer or experienced friend, now is the time for them to ride. They should be able to give you information on how the horse rides. How sensitive is the horse? Does it respond to general cues? Does the horse test the new rider? How comfortable are the gaits? When I am evaluating a horse for a client, I like to push the horse’s buttons and try to annoy the horse, especially if the client is a beginner. I may flop around a little bit or pull and kick on the horse. For beginners, a forgiving horse is really important. Evaluating the horse’s balance is another useful thing here. Greener horses will be less balanced, and that just means a longer road before taking a horse to an event. Some clients are happy with that, and some people want to buy something show ready.

Now is your chance! Ride the horse and decide if you like it. Put it through its paces and listen to your gut. If you want to jump did the horse go over the obstacles without much trouble? Did the sane trail horse spook at something it has walked past hundreds of times? If you didn’t bring a trainer, I would try to push the horse’s buttons as much as you can safely.

During and after riding, try to determine if the horse has any bad habits. Does it grind its teeth when working? Did you see it crib or weave? These things aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but they do matter. Personally, I don’t have a lot of interest in horses that play dirty. I don’t mind fixing respect issues or putting time into a green horse. Everyone has different things they like to fix, and budget plays in here big time.

All in all, the first visit and/or evaluation rides should give you an idea if you want to pursue this horse. Listen to your gut! If you don’t like the horse, politely inform the seller as soon as possible. Don’t waste their time on someone who isn’t going to buy. If you do like the horse, its time to make some decisions.
At this point, I would suggest trying to do a trial. Some people don’t like to do trials, so don’t be surprised if the seller is not willing. But if they will allow you to trial the horse, you can agree on terms that allow you to evaluate the horse at home. You have to decide whether you are willing to take a risk. Sometimes its best to walk away, and sometimes its best to load the horse up and see how things shake out.

What is your advice on trying out a new horse?