We have liftoff!! Pogo has finally started jumping and is going EXTREMELY well(not that anyone should be surprised by this, as we have seen in his free jumping videos, haha) He is very quiet and likes to wait to the base, he does a great job of waiting all the way to the fence and sorting out where he and his body needs to be.

This is where my theory becomes a little bit controversial, but so far, it has worked for me on the handful of horses that I have started, retrained and taught to jump. As you may notice in my videos, generally I am in two point on a very loose or loopy rein. On this horse (and most greener horses) I can usually get away with this and will. Granted, this position is "precarious," being up on their neck, basically leaving every opportunity open for them to do something silly, and never say never of course, but I do have faith that I have instilled the go button and his own confidence that he will keep going. 

I also try and stay out of the equation as much as possible and allow for the horse to just figure out where he needs to be. With Jolie, I think this made her a bit opinionated and bold, but I would honestly rather work with a horse that is more forward and bold rather than one that is backed off or always searching for the riders help. My thinking is that if you are always training a horse to look for your command, you are in a way signing yourself up for trouble. As the saying goes, we are all human and we all make mistakes. If your error in judgement allows for the horse to make a mistake, you put both horse and rider in danger. However, if the horse can think on it's own what he needs to do and where he needs to place his feet in order to be safe, chances are these self preserving animals will get themselves (yourself included) out of the situation. 

As I introduce more half-halting and flatwork, I will obviously work this into jumping and working with striding in lines, but for the beginning, jumping is foreign enough without adding the complexities of the rider being in the way, so this is how I choose to work. If I do anything it will be to add leg and encourage the forward motion (as obviously forward is key and the whole point for success)
Obviously, this is boring (and almost every effort so far, with the exception of cantering flower boxes has been recorded and posted) but as mentioned previously, boring is good.

Our goals for the rest of the month include: working on the introduction of a half halt, doing more canter poles, and eventually elevating to small bounces and one strides, and by the end of the month hopefully schooling horse show fences with gates, brush boxes, flowers and the like. I do not anticipate this being a problem but time will tell. We are hosting an IHSA english show at the end of this month, so it will be the perfect occasion to get the boys out for a taste of a show and to school in a show like setting. (at least prior as the warm up gets a little bit crazy, especially for our babies!!)
Pogo has been going really well and is making good progress. Nothing eventful, which we all can probably say we like, or at least admit that it's refreshing.

Today we tried out a standing martingale to help "clean up" what is becoming our high-headed canter depart. I have been being lax so as not to discourage the forward momentum to the canter and thus, not fussing over head placement. He is unfortunately starting to take advantage of that, SO time to go to work!

As always, when I come into the arena I turn my ipod on....first song to pop up was "8 second ride" and I was seriously hoping that was NOT an omen, and it wasn't. Our trotting started out as per usual: connection, no connection, stretch down, connection, no connection....although not consistent, it was better than we started initially.

Our canter departs got better and I worked more toward asking with a correct bend and outside leg instead of letting the lead just happen. He took to this well and displayed the most beautiful left lead canter, and the right lead although sloppier is coming right along. We did some single canter poles which he did not even think twice about as well. We took a break in between where Pogo out of nowhere decided to fill both of my reins with a connection and stay! At the walk and the trot....EUREKA! We've got it...aaand back to canter, SUPER...back to trot, took a little bit to regain the connection, probably because he was tired, but we got it re-established and ended on a good note!

See, boring but productive!

So bummed to go write my post for TODAY to find that yesterdays didn't save for whatever reason. So, I will start all over again and then continue with my big step for today :)

Due to some arena time being available when it normally is not, Tesla and I took the opportunity to set a chute and get some free jumping done with the boys. I was not entirely sure how it would pan out, as Pogo is still figuring out his body and where all of his legs go, but I think it is safe to say that we were all very pleasantly surprised.

We started out on a lunge to get warmed up, and he surprised me by being very relaxed, despite all of the "new" looking surroundings. He also popped into the most perfect and balanced canter with no effort at all. We then proceeded to handwalk through the chute where Pogo followed very confidently and then moved up to a jog in hand where still he followed confidently without batting an eye.

Then it was the big moment, time to go alone and canter....No issues, figured out the striding and was perfect. We slowly started to build up from a single crossrail, to two, then three, and then introduced a vertical and then an oxer to finish.  He did take the opportunity to not go down the chute when people were waving the whip and were in front of him, an honest mistake for a baby, but a clear indicator that well, if he doesn't HAVE to, maybe he just wont :) There was no over jumping and every move he made was willing and confident. He met each fence at a proper spot and adjusted himself well in between each element.

The most interesting part was that each element was being built, he watched intently what they were doing. Almost like trying to figure it out on his own before being in line to it so he was well prepared to do his job. This one is a brave, honest, and willing! little guy who is definitely going to excel in the hunters and is handy enough to be a potential derby horse.

Onto what today brought us:
Free jumping helped the canter SO much! Today we worked more on accepting the bit and worked some on leg yield and shoulder in at the trot before proceeding to canter. Again, leads were a non issue, as was the depart. I mean, he is far from being the next Jersey Boy (yet) but for a first depart (I know we cantered before but not for the sole purpose of cantering as this was) it was more than I could have asked for. I had tops four strides of slight disconnection and finding our feet, but then settled into a lovely, rhythmic canter and slowly dropped our head down into as much of a frame as could be desired for his level of training. I was pleased at how comfortable he was just loping around, not a care in the world.

I do think that the free jumping exercise helped with today's results as he was more challenged to find his feet at a canter with jumping, so carrying the weight of a rider and just loping along was easy for him. I am excited to keep up with our work and to see what this little guy is made of.

There will be links to videos of the freejumping and cantering posted soon!!

Alas, you can never have the exact training plan for any horse written out and follow it exactly day to day...Today was one of those days.

Of course I ended my last entry with Pogo not being "ready" to canter, and well, today we cantered. However, the goal was not to canter, make it pretty, etc. it was to get forward motion without a fight, fuss, or making the horse crazy. Pogo generally has a great attitude, but if he doesn't feel like doing something, you can tell. I don't want him to hate life so, I am trying to work with him to move forward (literally).

Our trot work has been coming along, however his trot to the right was awesome, and to the left was lacking, he just would lay on my inside leg to the left and suck back. Along with sucking back, he would shorten basically every muscle in his body, and the more you asked for forward the more tense he got about it, to the point where he would almost just hop up and down (nearly cantering in a teacup stride). A great instructor I know told me once, "never ride a green horse, baby horse, clients horse, or your own without a stick. It's better to have it and not use it than to wish you had one and really need it." So true to this instructor I have been carrying a crop at all times, never having to use it. So today I tried the "flick" that jockeys do, just laying it on his side, even a tap to no avail (only slight irritation with the tap, irritation is NOT my goal)...So, we attempted a canter...

Pluses and minuses to this situation: Plus -> leads are a non-issue (both directions, I did push my luck just to see). Luckily my confidence building exercises on the lunge line with picking it up stuck. We struck off balanced, and forward and eventually leveled out to a pretty nice, relaxed and controlled canter on a loose rein, both directions.

Minuses -> mentally, a neutral move: he wanted to do more, but I don't think he expected that and if horses can think in retrospect, probably not one of his most brilliant "I want to do more" ideas. Physically, he is not fit enough to really hold a good canter. I guess this goes in with "physically" the boy is still growing, is quite down hill and isn't the most nimble. I think he is still trying to figure out where his feet are and how to keep them organized with a rider on his back.

Biggest Plus (and desired result achieved!) Both trot directions had a much better quality to them after the canter, including being softer into the bridle (w0w, there is a hind end pushing back there!) stretching down and accepting my leg to move forward and away from the pressure. We got a few steps of leg yield to the rail and trot and at the walk was able to carry a shoulder in for most of the long side and leg yield to and away from the wall, both directions.

From here, Pogo has earned two days off to let his lesson sink in (I am not sure how I calculate this, its just the feeling I get or a subconscious mathematical equation that takes everything into account, multiplied together and divided by .483,  haha). He will resume on Friday with potentially another lunge line lesson and resume to riding over the weekend...but as we all know, plans may change!
Pogo has had some time to just relax and figure himself out lately. I have not been pressing riding too much as now the arena is getting busy and not everyone is so kind to realize the needs of a green horse. Instead, we have been working on cantering on the lunge line, so we can be prepared and hopefully balanced enough to carry a rider when the time is right.

Our first attempt at cantering, wasn't much; just picking up the proper lead, swapping off and trying to go across the arena and change direction. Now that we are understanding the concept of staying on a circle on the lunge line, cantering is easier for him. He does on occasion pick up a wrong lead or swap off, which is not a big deal to me. I know that 1. thoroughbreds like to be balanced and 2. leads have not been important up to this point in his life. So, I allow a circle or so of the "wrong" thing and calmly go back to trot, allow for him to settle and try again. I don't want to blow his mind or make him frantic that he is "wrong" because, he really doesn't know what the heck is going on! To the right, you can see him thinking all the while cantering, "one, two, three, one to three, I know I have four feet, are they all together? Is this right?" before finally settling into a rhythm and then allowing it to be natural. 

A lot of the troubles also I think lie in that he is not totally fit, of course there is some residual muscling from being racing fit but from November until the second week of January, he has been sitting in a pasture. For Pogo being as young as he is (And quite high in the rump!) allowing him to find his feet, and get comfortable in the gait prior to adding a rider will be very important for him. I would like to think by the weekend we will be cantering under saddle but only time will tell. For now, I can just imagine what it will be like, as the small bits he gives me are slow, relaxed, rhythmical and balanced...

Also! As a reward for his brilliant first week, he is on the schedule for a massage compliments of Thunder Crest Equine Massage this afternoon :) 
Today was cold and rather uneventful but I wanted to post because it was a good day. All we did today was lunge, but it was a good evaluation of just how far we have come in such a short time. From our first time being led around the arena and NEVER ever wanting a person on the off side, even just standing we were able to walk, trot and CANTER for the first time on a lunge line this morning. 

Pogo has been working very hard so, in my eyes, this was a good way for him to just relax, get exercised and think "hey, life is pretty easy!" I will be the first to admit that there is nothing better than making progress with a horse, and it can be so addicting to say "hey, look what we can do!!" BUT that isn't always what is best for the horse. We all strive for improvement, but even if you just take a step back and go back to an earlier exercise or something simpler you can see just how far you have come and also see an improvement in that exercise in itself.  And today wasn't perfect, there were moments where he was tense at the trot to start (it was SO COLD!! who could blame him) and there was some swapping of the leads at the canter, but we were able to stay on a circle, maintain forward momentum and relax in each gait.

It was great to see an improvement over the last time and also see what I should look for to be improved in the future. Patience, patience, patience is KEY...

I am midweek in my first week of classes, and "surprise" all of them are that the barn so I can further my knowledge of the horse industry. I am enrolled currently in Western 4, and first thing we were watching a training video by Craig Johnson, "let it rein" or something to that effect. I am always willing to learn more, and am rather open minded to all training methods. All horses are different, sure they all have four legs, two eyes, cute, disproportionately small faces in comparison to their body, freakishly small feet for the mass of everything, BUT somehow, not every horse can go well in a snaffle, and not every horse will need a mikmar, running martingale, breastplate, etc. So, I do feel that it is important to take in everything you can because you never know when that horse will come you and your methods don't work. IF there was only one way of doing things, there wouldn't be so many successful trainers out there with a strong and supportive clientele base.

Anyway, back on topic - a lot of what Mr. Johnson had to say was great. Lines such as "move the feet, move the horse" so simple yet, why didn't everyone come up with that? And although he is a reiner, his methods too can be used on any horse. SO this morning Pogo was learning a bit about yielding to leg pressure and magically similar exercises arose - the "imaginary roundpen" and getting the haunches to swing out and away from the leg. All very helpful things. We were also starting to work a bit on accepting contact, which is a bit different from english to western, EXCEPT that ideally the outside rein should turn the horse in english, ie: neck reining. 

Anyway, I wanted to share Pogo's success in starting to yield to leg aids and learn about what that big piece 'o rubber is sticking in his mouth AND make my instructor/coach/fearless leader proud (note to Kristen: however notice I did NOT use the term "disengage the hind end" I just can't do it, but that's what we were working on)
Today was yet another big day for Pogo - We attempted the trot undersaddle, and it was a huge success. 

Back when I was working with my first fresh OTTB (in less than perfect conditions, and I think I was only 16 or 17, no guidance) it was just get on, and be as good of a team as possible. It was in the breeding shed of a breeding farm and eventually when I trusted he wasn't going to kill me we graduated to the 1 acre pasture, 5 acre, etc. Anyway, open space was my friend as it was the only thing I could think of to get this horse to move on and accept leg. My thought process was: the horse knows how to run, give him the opportunity he will figure it out. We actually never even got to a gallop stage (much less a canter) and to this day this horse was the QUIETEST horse I have ever dealt with ..Since then (and that long struggle with getting all four feet moving) I have learned A LOT about groundwork and how it makes life so much EASIER.

Now with Pogo, we do the whoa and go exercises from the ground. I make what I am asking clear, not confusing and accept the one answer: cluck once, maybe twice = forward moving feet, not sideways, not backwards only forwards. Troubleshoot: one cluck isn't clear = I do once louder, and then resort to making a noise such as tapping my leg with the excess lunge line, usually that is enough. "Whoa" in a clear tone is all four feet stop moving. A more subtle "whoooooaaa" or "eaasssyyy" I use for transitioning gaits. Once I carry this over to a lunge line, I will use for upwards a cluck and "walk on" or "trot on"  or later "Caaanter" 

Now reasons for today's success: Pogo is confident on the ground, however with an english rider with longer legs on his back (as opposed to his jockey), this is all foreign domain. I am first able to ensure he remains relaxed, just by taking it slow and being encouraging but also by carrying the voice commands over to riding and associating them with the leg and seat, gradually allowing him to accept the aids. For now, he whoa's just off the voice, a very good trait!!

Looking back and comparing the length of time I accomplish a trot under saddle between the first horse and Pogo, I would say it happened in the same amount of time, if not faster with Pogo. I wouldn't be surprised if the first horse described was confused, slightly frustrated but Pogo definitely was not and although tentative as it was somewhat new, he was confident in what was being asked. 

Yay for a successful ride!! Looking forward to many more to come from our brave, quiet and level-headed little dude! 
Well, it's been a very exciting week for both Pogo and me. Lots of desensitizing and getting to know each other. We started off the week with some in hand work; "whoa" and "go" - not hard......going to the left. Going to the right, was an adventure of course. We started with just leading on the off side and travelling right and eventually got to lead the lead line out a bit for some mock lunging.

 I introduced group poles ASAP, that is not something I want to be foreign when jumping and cavalletti come into play. He was very cute when he saw the pole on the ground...he sniffed it and then proceeded to curb stomp it, like "hey, what IS this??" but alas, other than that, our lives are uneventful (which is how we like them). 

I'm trying to build suspense, are you dying to know what happens next? Probably not but keep reading :)

So lunging, fine at the walk and trot, but holy uncoordinated canter. We have a beautiful half circle, lead change, counter canter, run into the wall but that's about it. I wish we had a roundpen....Anyway, in an effort to not make a big deal out of  this (cantering CAN wait...if he believes it or not, he is capable) I decided to work with standing at the mounting block and just being patient (as his track name implies, this was not hard EITHER!) so...day after day of boring stuff, what's next?

Hopping on, which is what we did. Today we successfully walked in both directions around the arena by ourselves...yay us. "whoa" and "go" ground commands steadily at work from his back we even could stop, wait, walk on. Of course, probably the most mentally straining 5 minutes of his life, EVER so we didn't push it farther than putting in a circle in both directions and calling it a day. 

This day honestly came sooner than I thought, as Pogo plays the "aww shucks I'm a baby" card 90% of the time. In reality, he is an easy going creature with a good brain and is ready to start learning more. Our game plan from here is to investigate the jump course tomorrow(from the ground) and attempt at some sidereins to learn a little more about bit acceptance. So very excited for #1 having survived(there were not even any fireworks so this is basically an empty statement) and #2 accomplishing a lot in a little bit of time.
Props to Poggio!!!
Now that classes are winding down for the semester, I finally have a little more time on my hands (at least until I actually start studying for finals) and managed to take some time out of my day today to go and see mr. Pogo at his let down barn.

He has come really far from his life on the track - Once a scrawny little thin skinned man, now a hairy, hay-bellied beast...can't forget that he is covered in burrdocks as well and clearly enjoying his turnout time :) With that being said, he never really had the track mentality, I am not sure he spent enough time there to really understand what it's all about. It was great to come into the barn walk into the stall and instead of seeing this wide-eyed creature spinning circles and attempting to buck (which he never actually accomplished successfully) he was sleeping, head down and upon my arrival buried his head in my chest (and not to bite, either!)

One of the many things I have learned from my older TB gelding, Ozzy, is that persistence is key - I bought him when I was 11 years old, and he was DEFINITELY not the best match for me (he was practically feral, just off a round-up out west when a ranch closed down or so the story goes) Anyway, I annoyed the crap out of him - the last thing he wanted was this little girl kissing him and hugging him and climbing all over doing the baby talk, etc. the typical little girl and her pony stuff. Now, however he is the most tolerant creature, and although he would be embarrassed to admit he enjoys the smothering (or at least tolerates it, for me).

Long story longer, I try and implement the same "little girl" tactics on every horse I work with...luckily for me at this point, Pogo loves the primping and pr0dding (it took 20! minutes of careful yanking to clear his gorgeous forelock of burrdocks, and he took it like a champ!) and of course the good scratching under his blanket. He was good about picking his feet, and working around him loose in the stall and even responded to poll pressure. All is going great in Pogo-ville, can't wait to start him doing real horse stuff!

Pogo 12/11/11 - About to turn 4, he's a bit awkwardly built...hopefully that will change with work and proper muscling