Mike and I will be heading to Kentucky October 20th. We have worked hard since January to get here and I’m excited.
January 2, 2016 I started seriously training Mike. I didn’t know what he was going to want nor what he was capable of doing. One day while lunging him in the arena I set up a cavaletti. He went over it like it was easy. So, I added another cavaletti on top. He jumped it easily. I ended up stacking cavaletti up to 2’9″ and he jumped them with easy and was cute doing it.
This gave me hope that after 9 months he was now capable and willing to jump. In March when I brought Mike to our barn he wouldn’t walk over a ground pole without me leading him.
So, in January I decided to apply for the 2016 Retired Racehorse Projects Thoroughbred Makeover. We didn’t even know if we would get accepted. I didn’t wait though. Instead I started Mike off with basic dressage and flat work. Occasionally throwing ground poles and cavalleti into the mix. By the end of January we recieved an email stating that we had been accepted as a trainer in the Makeover. That meant that Mike and I had 9 months to train for something.
With the help of my riding instructor and my mother, I decided that it was best to train Mike for Show Hunter and Dressage.
As many already know, end of February I broke my foot when Mike and I went over. It was truly life shattering and a huge obstacle for both him and I. It happened right at the beginning of breeding season which made it extremely difficult. Mike was full of hormones telling him it was breeding time and he wasn’t being worked with on the discipline training.
So, when I was able to start venturing out to the barn, I cruched my happy butt down the steps, down the side walk and right into the barn. Picked up Mikes rope halter and proceeded to the back gate, where I put it on him with his help and then walked-er- crutched my way down the aisle to the cross-ties while he stayed by my side along the way. He proved to me at that moment that our bond was strong and he was no dummy.
I proceeded to groom my horse while balancing on one foot and crutches. I even picked his hooves with his help. (Who says Thoroughbreds and stallions aren’t smart) Sometimes I’d lead him to the round pen and do ground work while using my crutches and voice.
It went like this for until about the first or second week of May.
Then it was time to get back in the saddle.
Because of our accident I had lost some confidence. I trusted Mike but wasn’t sure how he would react after being un-ridden for over 2 months.
I had instilled a super thick foundation and done all the ground work, so in my head, he should’ve been pretty solid. However, I wasn’t as solid. So, I started small and simple. Dressage. Walking. Relaxing. Bending.
I set up all the dressage letters in our arena. (we have the white cones with letters). Then I taught Mike and myself the Training level Test 2 pattern. I figured that at least this was a start and even if all we did was walk it for a while, that it was better than not knowing it.
By July Mike and I were back to walk, trot and canter. We were able to stay on a 20m circle and go along the rail of the arena in all gaits. So, I decided towards the end of July to try doing a little jumping. Cross rails, of course. I figured that we wouldn’t be going over anything over 2′, so I’d occasionally put up a 2′ vertical.
Mike had a hard time at first. He didn’t have a consistent stride nor a cadenced gait. He also would get really anxious and rush even in a trot. I didn’t give up though. Just went back to basics and stayed low and stayed jumping from a trot. It wasn’t until he realized that I wasn’t very well balanced and wasn’t able to stay with him over jumps that he changed. He started slowing down a little. He stopped rushing so much. It was amazing how he figured it all out and put it all together all on his own.
Once Mike started jumping better, I had to force myself to go back to the dressage and ground poles and stretching and flexing and bending and all things dressage. It helped us though.
The above jumping photo was a still from a video taken on September 18th. The jump is 2′. The arena was muddy and slightly slippery. Mike chose to trot our improve course. I never pushed him to canter because I was happy with him going forward and jumping calmly.
On September 19th, Mike attended his first ever horse show. Even though we chose to do Show Hunter at the makeover, the only class we were able to show in at the schooling show was a 2′ jumper class. After thinking it through, I decided to do a warm-up round which we trotted. Then round 1 and round 2 were a combination of cantering and trotting. I didn’t worry about going fast or lead changes. I rode the 3 rounds like a hunter course and put no pressure on either of us. This show wasn’t about the ribbon or prize. It was about the experience. Below are 3 stills from video taken during our warm-up round.
They’re grainy but the 2′ jumps were easy. No refusals. He went over everything.
After the schooling show, I went back to basic dressage. I’d put up a gymnastic and jump a few jumps but the anxiety over cross-rails was difficult. Finally on October 5th, while using my HorseCom equipment, I was able to get Mike to jump a few small jumps quietly and calmly. October 4th we had a disastrous time jumping a small jump that was on a slight curve near the arena rail. On October 8th I placed my HorseCom ear bonnet on Mike. Connected it via Bluetooth to my phone and proceeded to play Pandora for Mikes ears only. Without my headphone or my earbuds I wasn’t able to listen along. That was alright though. I discovered on this second day of playing the Eisbrecher station on Pandora that Mike really does enjoy listening to German rock music.
You see, on October 8th, I set up a grid that Mike nor I had ever done before. This grid was not hard but would teach us and help both of us. It was X-X–II–X-X.
That’s cross rail–bounce–cross rail– 2 stride-2’oxer-2 stride-cross rail-bounce-cross rail.
The 2′ oxer was made into a cross rail oxer for the first two trips through. Mike was awesome. He was so great that he didn’t even break a sweat because I ended our session after going through the grid about 4 times total and doing flat work afterwards. Our session was about 45 minutes total and I think we walked most of it.
Today, I’m extremely PROUD of us both. We have taught each other so much on this journey. We have formed a bond with each other that is amazing. Are we going to be finished after the makeover? NOPE. Mike is only 7. I have hopes and dreams for us in the next years. When Mike comes home from Kentucky in November (he gets to stay up there until he can catch a ride back home for cheap), He will get turn-out time and lots of it. He will get lunged and basic flat work in the western saddle.
Come February we start breeding season. No shoes and plenty of turn-out time. Breeding season will end in April for him but he will be ridden and trained during that time.
My goal for us come 2017 is reining and seeing how Mike takes to a cow.
So, if you can make it to Kentucky October 27-30th. Come out and cheer us on along with the many other OTTB’s and trainers that will surely impress you. Keep us in your prayers and I will post afterwards about our time in Kentucky along with tons of photographs.