Spring is finally almost upon us and Stevie is now back in action!! 
It's been a pretty boring winter, Stevie is really starting to come into his own and is gaining a huge personality that is just too funny to witness. He was starting to get very sassy in the field so it was definitely time to kick it into high gear and get focused on work before he went a little too crazy.

I was pleased to see that he was able to hold his weight over the winter, always a huge concern of mine for any horse but especially my TB's so that was a very big plus. Our first ride back was pretty eventful, he is not hesitating to let his personality shine through in any aspect of his life!! Especially for first rides back, I tend to not go into anything with a "plan" more like, see what happens, see what the horse wants to do, work with it and THEN get a game plan. Steve's idea of what he wanted to do went like this: walk half of the arena, burst into a trot for half of the arena (me: half halt, half halt, half halt....i DID install a half halt, right? half halt half halt...ignored) canter/gallop (me: half halt does not imply faster, Steve....... Steve: que? no comprende?) Class act TB right there.....but this is why Stevie is my keeper, love 'em hot!! 

Day two was much better and we progressed quite a bit almost back to where we had left off. He still has no care of flatwork, has a hair of an opinion about anything other than straight and forward, but overall I was pretty pleased that most of what we had worked on was retained. 

Our last ride we did some jumping (just a crossrail with placement poles) and that was a bit back to the basics. I remember our big moment last fall was cantering a single fence with no change in tempo...once. I think that was the last time I had jumped him, it was such a good note to end on, but it was not retained unfortunately. The bright side, jumping is still fun, exciting, and not boring or scary....downside is still my lack of half halt, there could be worse problems!!! 

Here are some photos to enjoy from day 2!
It's hard to believe that Steve has only been with me 5 months....he is such a fixture and we know each other so darn well it seems like he's been with me forever.....

Anyway, I have always tried to do this with other horses and never stuck to it but now that this is my job to train and ride, I figure I better stick to it and make a monthly habit of my OTTBs getting their confo shots done to mark the changes they go through and to have a good progress report of where they have come from and where they are going....
Luckily for me, I live downstairs from his owner/breeder, so I have tons of cute baby pics including this weanling photo. It's funny for me to see him there, because I really feel like that downhill shape has really not changed much, he just got bigger and the proportions stayed the same.

What strikes me is his topline shape in the track photo, his back is pretty flat, and he's obviously ripped, haha. So there is hope that one day he won't look like such an overgrown weanling. Not that there is anything bad to that, my last jumper Oz, we were able to get away with calling him the "baby" for probably 5 years, although he was into his teens, he had that overgrown foal look to him, long legs, no body and a total baby look about him, and it wasn't until he was almost 20 that it went away.

Obviously the one major difference is where the weight is carried and the muscle development, he's gaining this giant "hay belly" of sorts and carrying much of his weight there instead of elsewhere, which is fine for now. In the track photo all that is there is this giant bulk of a shoulder muscle, which turned to flab (july) and then slowly is starting to get defined into more sleek and effective muscle for what we want to do. His butt is starting to round out instead of being so angular which is great, but I never had any doubts about that part of this horse :)

My favorite part, and its hard to tell where his head is facing me but the transition of his neck from a straight board that has no definition up or down, to borderline ewe neck (oct) to now starting to build up some crest muscles (dec). I'm a huge fan of that stallion looking neck, so the change is awesome to see. Obviously he was way more bulked up in Oct over Dec but that is due to the "let down" that he is kindof going through at the moment. The fact that there are still some changes going on even though he is in his "let down" is great and I am looking forward to see what this spring and summer will bring!
I am realizing it has been awhile since I have updated anyone on Mr. Stevie. He is better than ever, but currently in a relax stage of his training...He is a sensitive type, although he is always wanting to do more. It's a delicate balance between doing too much and too little, either extreme will give you a big step backwards, which is not what we want at all.

When I finally felt that we were at a good point in our flatwork, I was trying to decide whether or not to do some footwork with ground poles or go back to jumping. Something told me that plain poles on the ground were not going to take me anywhere with him, so we decided to go back to jumping. He was MORE than excited to finally do jump again and had a couple of really green really crazy fences before realizing that all the flatwork we had been working on was for a purpose. We finally started cantering some fences and put together a mini course with a single fence, outside line and then a one stride to another single fence, nice straight lines and attempting to stay consistent, the fences were all about 2'3" to 2'6" so I think we are on a good track for the start of next season.

It's becoming clear again that gymnastics will help him a lot. My plan for spring is to incorporate more bounces, placement rails and gymnastics before re-approaching jumping single fences. He is still jumping well, but is missing the arc of the fence....rather, taking off normally and landing waaaay far away. I think larger fences will also help (once he has a respect for the jump he is going over, he might actually JUMP it instead of canter over it) but I am not one to want to press height to fix technical style,  I would rather have the technical set as stone lower to carry over to larger fences. Regardless, I have decided to put off any more jumping until the spring when we can get consistent and stay consistent. I also plan to build some raised cavalletti over the winter to help work on the foot work in the spring, as plain poles do not really motivate Stevie to really do much. 

In between his last couple times jumping I took him for a gallop on "the back 40" - a 40 acre square corn field that had just been cut. The footing was perfect and after our trip to Fair Hill where I "learned to ride like an exercise rider" I decided to give it a go on a real horse. I have never seen Steve be jiggy on trail, so it was funny to me that he got all into it. We started at a trot, and broke to a canter which stayed controlled until we got back to where we started again and he opened up a bit....which really was a blast, however 40 acres is not exactly big enough to really let a real race horse full out and be able to stop before reaching a corner. Nothing bad happened, no sliding feet, but he did wait to stop until the very last possible second. It was cute because the feeling underneath me was Steve saying "let me show you what I know" he totally was out there attempting to take care of me while still having his fun doing what he was born to do. 

Since then we really have not been doing too much, lots of trails and low key work, he had an intense few months, learned a lot and now earned a break. He's putting a ton of weight on and I can't seem to feed him enough hay to keep him satisfied (YAY FAT RACEHORSE!!!) I love that I can decide after a few days to just hop on, bareback or with tack, whatever and go on a nice relaxed ride with no questions asked. We are really starting to build up a team relationship which is absolutely invaluable to me. There are a handful of schooling shows coming up that I am dying to just get him on the trailer to, to school around but we will see what happens. I am more than excited for show season with him, I 
Stevie is turning into SO much fun....

We drilled flatwork, which is where I left you all....and when I say drilled I mean just established a half halt and some go commands that are just a little bit cleaner. That literally was for a matter of 10 days or so and then I got all sick with lyme and he had some time off. In the past couple of weeks he has only been out a handful of times but the time off is actually doing him some good. He is remaining relaxed and attentive and giving me some really good work and I have a blast riding him. He is willingly and easily moving laterally in the walk trot and canter and as I mentioned we have a half halt! He is also learning to stretch into contact instead of just dropping his head down, and also pick up into contact. 

I had been planning on working with canter poles in one strides and bounces and do still plan to do that but I might let him jump around a little course sooner rather than later to peek his interest again and get him back in the ball game, but we will see, we might just go for poles. 

In other news, we went on our first bareback trail ride, he was awesome.....I was not really expecting a quiet and relaxed horse but alas it's what I got, uber super! 

Maybe I can get some more photos and videos shortly....I forget if I shared with you all our dressage video, but it wont hurt to post again if so....

I think this is the question that is posing in Stevie's mind most recently - that is: what is the point of all of this useless and BORING crap you waste my life on, why can't I do that big gynmastic like the other week? 

Finally he is discovering the answer and seeing how it all ties in this week. We have been working on more structured flatwork, balance, rhythm, and overall submissiveness. In the past it has been straight, forward and as relaxed as possible but he was starting to take over a bit as he started to really like to jump...so back to the basics.

He honestly hated me for the first week I would say. He was not excited about the work and would come up with very creative evasions (he has a solid piaffe, on his own with loose reins!) many times making his own job harder...all I was asking for was a walk with a connection and we got a hot jumbled mess. Anyway, we have had quite a few lightbulb moments and now have a fairly consistent ride with the only mistakes being made where the fitness and muscle level have not quite been developed yet. 

Today started our pole work, just trotting and cantering quietly over one as a single pole and then a line of poles being very careful to make adjustments in where we went and not let his pace change within the line or on approach or depart. Sticking the poles in between standards make it "click" into place that all of this boring crap is for a reason...he know's how to jump and knows what its for, and NOW he's got the purpose behind it all. It was a great day for Steve.

Game plan from here is to get even more relaxed over the poles and keep working on our transitions as I have allowed them to get a little sloppy (because is is GREEN!) but it's time to actually work on accepting the leg and being soft...I always say a transition cannot be good until the gait itself is good....our gaits are getting there, so our transitions should be to par as well. In the potential near future we will work on striding in our lines of poles with shortening and extending and then put together bounce and one stride or two stride poles to work more on the footwork and staying balanced and straight. Eventually, and probably right in time for the ground to freeze, we can move these exercises up to real jumps and then start on putting a course together, but that won't be for any time soon! 

I am hoping to try and get some updated videos posted, 
I am taking the lazy way out this evening and will be referring you to my barn blog this evening. 

This post talks about the drastic change in way of going with the alteration of Stevie's bit for the day...I am plenty open to discussion here on the topic as well so feel free to add your input. I think it's important that we all get to learn (not to be critical and rude, of course...) but have a discussion on things like bits, training aids, and uses of all of the above. 

I would love to bore you with a repeat of the past two days rides but to sum it all up, yesterday needs to be forgotten and today can be remembered but that is how amazing the change was with the flip of one tiny piece of tack...

Read the whole blog post here
I have found that at horse farms you  see one of two things: a jump course that never changes despite the fact you can no longer see the bottoms of the standards anymore due to the accumulation of sand....and the ring that is never the same twice....at least every ten days I am switching things around, changing it up and building what suits my horses needs on that given day, but I also switch up the colors, so if a gymnastic ends with the black and grey (as below) it won't end with black and grey for awhile...this weeks gymnastic ends in blue, the line I have been working on with both of my TB's is black and grey. Long story longer, I have known this to throw off some horses, not Mr. Steve. He always struts into the arena and I can tell he notices it's different, but he brings his game face and never lets it phase him. He has been the most straight forward horse over fences that I have ever ridden, despite the fact that he is still really green and has next to no idea what this whole jumping game is.

With that being said, we have been jumping about two times per week, mixing it up with trot exercises, gymnastics, starting with lines and we even cantered our first single fence the other day....but then let me tell you what riding a hose with a BIG EGO is like, haha....any more confidence instilled in this horse and,well, I am not sure what we will get, but we shall see as I am not about to knock it out of him.

Our last jumping session (which will be our last one for potentially the season, will explain later) we started a bounce to two one strides, vertical - oxer. He was pretty green about the bounces, but it got better every time, and honestly the bigger you put the vertical at the first one stride, the beter the bounce got....We eventually built it up to a small cross rail bounce to a 3' vertical and 3'6" oxer, which despite looking huge in the arena, looks disappointingly small watching videos of us over it, and looking at the photo...

So,  reasoning behind the last jumping session is that although his jumping is getting better and better, it's his only focus, his flat work is still good and improved,  but we still have moments of, "I'm sure you know better than that as you have been in a program for way too long..." and he does, it's just when  he's brave and cocky that Steve knows best...one day when he does know best, that will be an excellent trait, but for now, we're instilling a good half halt, connection, throughness, and lots of foot work over group poles to keep his interest in the flatwork...I am anticipating a good month or so of this flatwork schooling, but it may be less. If he catches on and comes around, we'll jump again sooner, but it's come time that the questions require more flat schooling, not just straight and forward at the fences. Anyway, weather may not play in our favor, as well...but I will keep everyone posted!

3'6" never looked so small....
So you think I was kidding about Steve's ability to jump? Guess again....
He is figuring out the game with class and style and is working his way to my favorite ride in the barn. Who am I kidding? He is my favorite :)

His flatwork is coming along, not as fast as his jumping, but it's getting there. He is slowly starting to accept the bit and actually last week had been stretching down and into the bit. On occasion he gets hotter and is less apt to reach, but is still progressing. He's forward, moving off of my leg and getting to be more and more relaxed. He is no longer laying on the inside, and only when he gets tired does he travel haunches in at the canter like a silly OTTB, haha. 

I really can't push the flatwork, I really have to wait it out with him. He's quick to take offence and hold a grudge, not that he's nasty or mean or anything of the like, but he is not so quick to give you the answer you want again if you do something he isn't keen to. That's fine, really. I am having a blast and he's not dangerous or crazy, and hes still YOUNG and this is all new so, hey, whatever, it will come with time. 

Jumping, this horse is a machine. He WANTS the fences, get him even in a remote "could potentially, maybe be a line to a jump" and hes all focus, all game...he is BRAVE BRAVE BRAVE, he could give a hoot what a jump looks like or where it's placed he is going! 

Which brings me to yet another favorite aspect of this horse. HE IS CAREFUL. We were doing a grid the other day and he had a greeny moment and caught his toe on the cross rail before an oxer (in a one stride). He had a moment of "aw, man! I hit that rail" and had a half stumble on landing (to watch the video, you would hardly notice unless you were looking for it) and then stopped dead before the oxer. Now, some might be like "well he learned a bad habit, way to go" however! this was a moment of relief for me. He was being careful and making sure he was doing his job RIGHT. He didn't want to risk taking off odd and potentially not jumping well or even worse, dangerously, out of the gymnastic....so he got his pat, we circled around and went right through as if nothing had happened....and of course jumping the CRAP out of both the crossrail and oxer. 

Despite also how disorganized our canter can be, we started trotting in to and cantering out of lines, and oddly enough there is some minor adjustabilty there. It surprised the heck out of me but I cannot complain!!! 

Here is a video of two jump sessions ago.....
My goal is to potentially go to a little schooling show in the near future, let him see another farm, get off the property and experience a horse show. I don't want to add too much pressure of a crazy schooling arena, so my plan is to at least walk around a schooling if he can handle it and then do an unjudged "trip" around a course....ie. go in and trot the fences we want and maybe do a line or something, but alone in the arena to keep it all low key....I mean we'll see what happens, but that's a may
Stevie has started jumping and is taking to it like he was bred and born to JUMP! I am always impressed with his ability to adapt, learn and store what goes on. 

On his first day he figured out what was being asked and started to take me to the fences, to the point I had to "whoa" to the poles before the fence. I decided to start him with trot poles to a cross rail to enforce the rhythm and not allow for any mis steps (to help build his confidence UP and UP!). He was highly unimpressed with the small cross rail that was presented to him, so it quickly built to a decent size.   This all went on last weekend, then after a short breather we started work up again this week and today moved onto some grid work. 

Today we started with the normal trot poles to an x, then trot poles to an x with a pole one stride away on landing and then another pole one stride after that. As per usual he quickly grew bored and got relaxed and we introduced more to the equation. I like to start my OTTBs with the three elements, but build up the last element before the middle. I like to give them a breather and time to look at what is coming up, before adding more footwork. Stevie comfortably did this without hesitation and after a go in each direction we built up the middle as well. 

This horse is a jumping machine. He not once so far has stopped or put a foot wrong, jumping well every time. When we ended today, he was doing a fairly decent sized cross rail to a cross rail of equal height to a 2'6" vertical at the end, jumping the CRAP out of the end jump every time. He easily could have handled more, but to keep his jumping style fresh, and keep his mind in the game we decided to end before taxing him any more. I am excited to keep building the gymnastic up and see what he is really made of (I think it will be quite a lot!).  Today I was more impressed with his willingness and ability to keep his canter around the short turn, whereas last week he was getting a little lost (I set the gymnastics down the center so I can easily come off of both reins). He really allowed for his pace to carry the balance and the turn to come easy, a large improvement over letting the rail suck us in (As what happened last week). 

To end today, we hacked out on our wonderful trails. I took this opportunity of having a friend ride my older horse along with us in case Stevie got tense at all, he could find comfort in a pal. To my surprise, he hacked the entire time on a loose rein, led and followed and even crossed a big scary bridge!!!! 

Hopefully will get some videos of his grid work next week so I can show off to you what a superstar Mr. Stevie is becoming!

Stevie is settling in well to his new home, he has made a new friend and is enjoying his new daily routine. The bugs have been terrible, but I think that would be his only complaint. 

Our first ride in the new arena, was great. I love his ability to take in new situations and just deal. He looked around, took it all in and proceeded on as usual. We have been working a bit on body placement as it is always his inclination to throw his shoulders in around the turns. Straight and forward are getting there, the trot being much more wiggly than the canter, but there are still really great moments in every ride. 

My favorite part is that his topline is getting quicker and quicker to relax so he stretches more and more each ride. He on occasion, will soften into a frame which he carries nicely until he tires or gets bored. 

Next on the agenda is to finally try out some jumping and then hit the trails (one day when the bugs aren't bad of course!) and progressively start some hill work