Ryker has started the first leg of his trip home to VT!  He is spending a couple days at Lancaster Stabled in Hornell, NY, before he hops back on the trailer headed home. 

Ryker was wonderful getting on and off the trailer from AU.  He was calm and quiet getting off the trailer, calm enough to get his feet done immediately!  He now has shiny new kicks (thank you Patrick Fargnoli!), and has done some intensive exploring!  We went up with his "big brother" (my personally owned, certified OTTB babysitter, training level eventer, old man, Gus).  Ryker was better than I could have ever imagined.  He was calm, forward, and responsive; willing to lead, follow, bushwhack, leave Gus, and be left behind.  We also did our first mini cross country course, composed of small logs!  He was excellent, took one bobble to figure out what I wanted, and he was game!  Jumping the first and moving forward after looking for the next log.  What a good race horse!! Can't wait to get him home and take him to a real course! 

In other news, I'm trying to think of a new show name for Ryker!  Anyone out there have any fun ideas?
 
 
Today, I have nothing BUT good news for you!
 Ryker has been wonderful, as always.  We've been doing tons of dressage work (he really is getting it!), lots of hacking and a little jumping.  I wont bore you with the nitty gritty details, but for a horse who I questioned his drive to jump, he sure has proven me wrong! (see photo below!) Now that he understands what I'm asking for, he just wants more! I don't want to push him farther than he is ready for, but he keeps eating up everything I throw at him! We've been doing quite a bit of road hacking, and finding makeshift XC jumps to play over.  He's jumped a couple ditches and walked and trotted through some big puddles.  Not to mention trotted and cantered out of the ring with other horses without getting strong, and always coming back nicely.  I can't wait to get him to VT and really get to work!
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Ryker over 3'6"
And with that, I leave you with some even more good news.  Ryker has been sold!
  I finally bit the bullet and went for it.  He is exactly the horse I've been looking for (what are the odds!), and the lack of interest in him has certainly given me the thought that maybe he is the one I should be keeping. My other OTTB project will be for sale in June.  (She is a 6 y.o., 16.1h, bay OTTB mare, see her here)

I will keep blogging over the summer, so keep your eyes open for our exciting updates to come! 
 
 
Proof that Ryker is just awesome! I can't wait to get home and really get to work! 
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Out on a road hack with Kait and her horse Ozzy!
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Oh, you know... Just grazing my crazy race horse ;)
 
 
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1st and 3rd in his two 2' Baby Green Hunter classes, placed 2nd in the hack. He finished the division as reserve champion, and placed 4th in his 2'6" jumper round!
Ryker surpassed any and all of my hopes or expectations for his first show.  He is certainly still very green, but was able to cruise around two Baby Green 2' hunter courses and a hack class like a champ. He was so patient and responsive, but he thought the hunter hack class was beyond boring - definitely not cut out to be a hunter/eq horse!.  He then stepped up to the plate for the 2'6" jumpers, after having some time to chill in his stall.  He was the same horse for every time I tacked him up and rode around through out the day, albeit a little confused (maybe he will make a good 3 day horse!).  It's a wonderful feeling to know that he wants to jump the jumps and has developed enough trust in me to go even if he isn't 100% sure. I'll let the videos do the talking, but on the agenda is more hacking out and more dressage work to get him more responsive laterally off my leg to control those shoulders! Just going and doing stuff is a wonderful tool to figuring out which gaps in training still exist. :)

2' Baby Green Hunter (rounds 1 + 2) 

2'6" Jumpers (with jump off)

 
 
Finally, we're getting back to work! 

   Today Ryker had a lunging/long-lining day.  I figured I could get more accomplished from the ground today. He is a still a little high from being stuck in his stall, and the last time I sat on him he was not 100% sound loaded.  It probably sounds funny that I would rather work him on the ground than under saddle, since most racehorses are far better under saddle than on the ground when they're amped, but I have found he is much easier to manipulate and rate from the ground.  Maybe it's my riding, or my inexperience in training, or maybe even my love for a good gallop that creates that, but I'm glad I did ground work!  The ring was a zoo today, and while we do need to get him used to warm up arenas (he hates when horses pass him going in the other direction, and by hates, I mean pins his ears and will try to bite.  It's almost like he's saying, "you're going the wrong way dumbass" which wouldn't surprise me one bit) today was not the day for that.  Today was about being focused, quiet, and relaxed on the ground.  I'd say  he was pretty good, and we got a fair amount accomplished. 
   He is looking as sound as can be, and well... I couldn't wait till tomorrow to sit on him again, so I hopped on bareback! Which after reading the first half of this post probably sounds like a really stupid idea.  Since it wouldn't haven been the first time I've gone flying off of a horse their first time bareback, I was a little cautious. That counts for something right? If it was story time I'd tell you about the big warmblood youngster, that I tried to help a friend with, and ended up enjoying what was probably the shortest bronc ride in history... needless to say, not one of my brightest ideas, and obviously the lesson didn't stick very well... but is isn't story time, and Ryker is just awesome! He couldn't have cared less, we even did a little trot (like 10 steps, but who's counting?!).   So yes, me and the crazy racehorse trotted around in a packed indoor bareback... man those OTTBs, they're just so crazy and hard to work with! ;)

Hopefully there will be photo proof soon. :)
 
 
Sorry for the lack of posts! Ryker has been out of commission for a few days due to a stone bruise... Dang those TB feet! He'll be back at it ASAP!  We're gearing up for the Alfred Open Show, hopefully he'll be good to go and well prepped in time! 

In the mean time, funny photo of the day:
 Ryker decided it would be more fun to put both feet in the bucket, not just one... He moved his foot over and stepped in   and refused to take his other foot out... silly race horse! Too bad I didn't get video! 
 
 
That's right! Ryker did his first "ditch" this week.  He was awesome, and by "ditch" I mean a big black plastic trash bag held down by two natural poles in the ring.   That is as close as I can get to jumping at ditch at the moment, but he was game and didn't pause, once he understood that he was simply supposed to jump over it. We've also conquered the "nasty pile of rocks drainage ditch," he doesn't even look at it now.  What a good race horse!   We've also started to jump colorful things and more solidly build fences in the ring (i.e. fully packed flower boxes and gates) in an attempt to test the waters in terms of jumping strange things the first time, without looking at them.  He's been very good, and we're hoping to do the Alfred Open Show if all goes well.  
(Just a reminder, he is still for sale! - He will be available in Alfred until mid May.  After that he will be coming home to Vermont with me for the summer, where I may or may not purchase him depending on how he stacks up against my other personally owned OTTB -- since only 1 competition horse is in the long term budget, he will remain for sale until I make a decision)

On another note, any one out there have any other fun cross country type exercises they work on in the indoor during the winer months? (I have a few, but I typically devote my winters to a let down, easy trot sets, tuning up our dressage, and gymnastic work)
 
 
Ryker has been absolutely wonderful the past couple weeks.  He's figuring life out... and I think he's liking the warmer weather.  We've been doing a lot of jumping, trying not to do too much, but it's hard... He's turned into such a jumping bean!  We've been working on single fences, turns, lead changes, lines and then putting all of that into a full course.  He has surpassed ever expectation I've ever had for him.   He is game, now that he seems to understand what I'm asking, he loves to jump!  There is no longer any serious hesitation to any fences, his unsureness to new fences that used to end in a stop or run out and then a re-attempt, now simply takes a little leg and occasionally an encouraging seat, for him to pop right over (whoohoo!).  
His dressage is progressing more and more as he starts to get a handle on real lateral work, moving his haunches and shoulders without getting tense and quick is hard for him and will continue to take more time, but we're progressing! He is much easier to pop right into a nice forward consistent rhythm, and is really getting a grasp on moving forward into a consistent contact.  We've been getting longer and longer periods of relaxed and forward moving gaits, the rest will follow in time!  
 I've also started working on rating his canter in the ring, getting my body used to aids he already knows from the track, and getting him used to the added leg to those aids.  Locking my joints and holding him back with my upper body while keeping leg on to keep his hind end engaged, and then allowing with my body in a more forward position to push his gait out.  It's pretty much old hat for him, esp. to the right, but I want to make sure those buttons aren't rusty when we really start doing more work outside in the field. 
  Speaking of, we have been doing some work out of the ring, and he is eating it up.  He's done a little trot and canter with a buddy - never getting strong, and coming right back to a walk (no jig, yay!).  We've also jumped our first "Cross Country jump".  We found a small little log out on the trail, and he trotted right over it, cantering away looking for direction as to where to go next.  Since we don't have any real cross country jumps to school over at Alfred, that's going to have to wait.
   That brings me to my next exciting bit of news, Ryker will be coming home with me for the summer (if he doesn't sell first)!  Not only have I fallen in love with him (surprise, surprise) but he seems to be turning into the just horse I was looking for (such luck!).  Since my Training horse is now retired to be a Beginner Novice packer (lucky old man!), I've been searching for my next ride, and on a limited budget - an OTTB is my best bet.  My other personally owned OTTB, She's and Optimist, who is also a bit of a re-sale project, and Ryker get to compete this summer for their spot as my next event horse (IF he doesn't sell before mid May) -- while I work my butt off to pay for board for three!  Both of them are talented, "Cheesey" is already turning into a XC machine after two schools at 6 years old, but since Ryker's natural movement in dressage will beat her any day, it's going to be tough. One of them will be sold this summer, so keep your eyes peeled, they're both awesome athletes!  (and don't worry, I'll keep you all updated on his adventures this summer at Triple Combination Farm)
 
 
Recap of the past week - Ryker had his most wonderful dressage ride (to date), turned 8, and conquered his first gymnastic line. 

After his wonderful dressage ride (see post below) he got the day off, followed by our first jump school in a while.   He wasn't solid going over more than one or two single fences during our previous attempts; he wasn't confident and would occasionally slam on the brakes for no apparent reason.  I figured we needed more flat work and more work with poles, and then we'd try again, if there was little to no improvement, he was simply telling me he did not want to jump.  After our wonderful dressage ride he felt like a different horse, confident to the point of  almost cocky - he was ready.  An boy did he prove he was ready!! We started with just trotting a simple Xrail, and then cantering. From there we progressed to a small vertical, and finished with a 2'6" vertical.  (just ignore his little toe catch trip... the footing on that side of the ring was pretty deep and uneven, and we went a little too far over -- On the plus side, he saved himself and didn't lose his marbles afterwards!!) 
The following day we made our first attempt at going through a gymnastic line since the week we first introduced jumping.  The first time he tried a gymnastics (about a month ago) he got in and panicked, it was simply too much too soon -- not wanting to push the issue when he was just starting out, I kept his routine gymnastic free - just slowing adding more poles after and before single fences.  This time we started with three poles, one stride apart each, and built the 1st and then 3rd obstacles up, leaving the 2nd just a pole.  The first time through he slammed on the brakes at the 3rd element, it wasn't that he didn't want to jump it, more that he didn't realize it was there, and wasn't sure what to do.  We then trotted just the 2nd pole and 3rd obstacle, and tried the whole thing again.  He went through unquestioning, and it was beautiful.  The same stop and then eventual go happened again when we built up the 2nd obstacle.  Once we conquered all three, the light bulb went off, and he started to take me through it, instead of relying on me to push him through.  We built up the 3rd to his first oxer, did it a few times, put it up once, and called it a day.

Here is the video of his first solid gymnastic work:
The next day, we repeated the exercise in the opposite direction, we wanted to repeat and solidify what we had worked on the day before, since it was obvious that he wanted to do it, and that he understood it enough to go through it well.  We started the same way, simply building the 1st to an X and keeping the 2nd and 3rd poles. Then we switched it up, putting up the 2nd before the 3rd, he slammed on the brakes.  At this point it was obvious it was not misunderstanding but he was testing the waters --he is a little bit of a trickster on occasion, I tend to forget because he is so willing otherwise...  I walked him into the line and started from the halt and from a small trot we did just the second obstacle. We then walked for a bit and started over, he went though, but it was a tough ride; the following time through was beautiful, and he was ready for the 3rd.  From here on, there were no more sliding stops, he understood the game and wanted to jump the fences. He was taking me to the first, second and third elements. Having to hold him steady to the first fence was an unbelievable feeling on him! We then put the 3rd element up because what we were giving him was obviously too easy at that point.  We finished before he was by any means taxed, but our last effort was a decently wide 3' oxer, which he made feel easy. 

Go Ryker!
 
 
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Here is to two months of hard work and patience - OTTBs really are the best!
At this point we're around two months in! Ryker is going very well, especially in his dressage work.  Yesterday I let him run around in the ring, not something I like to do, since I do not want to associate the place of play with the place of work, but he needed to move out.  The turnout, is our course, muddy... so Ryker does very little moving around when he's outside.  All that unused energy was building up, making him more an more distractible (typical thoroughbred...).  He ran, and ran, and ran - back and forth and around the ring, strutting his stuff and finally trotted over to the center of the ring, where Kait and I were watching, to say hello.  His expression was vastly different, he loves to run, and was so happy to finally have a chance to do so; when he was done he was ready to work.

He looked so content, relaxed, and focused, I made the comment to Kait, "I bet I could get some serious dressage work out of him now"... and well, watch the video :)  He is still working on getting a grasp on moving forward into the contact, I can get a little too strong in my hands and curl him up on occasion, so I apologize for that... he is so willing and tries so hard!

Enjoy a little snippet of our first "time to put on the big boy pants" dressage ride:
(Thank you Kait for your eyes and input from the ground, and of course the video!)