Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Horse Thinks He is a Dog...


When I am out riding John on a trail and he comes across a pile of manure, he dives his head to the ground to sniff it. It reminds me of my dog and the way she has to check everything out.

He'll stop dead in his tracks if I'm not paying attention. He even taught my friend's 3 year old gelding to do it when we accompanied them on their first trail ride.

Does anyone else's horse think its a dog?

Monday, March 28, 2011

5 Reasons My Gelding Is Fatter than My Mares...

He works twice as hard as the mares, but he is fatter than either of them. I've spent a few days thinking and a few days watching them. This is what I have come up with:

1. Both mares are bigger than he is, but I feed them all the same. Probably ought to change my feeding habits.

2. When the girls run around because a school bus drives by, John stands there and eats.

3. When the girls go visit the other horses over the fence, John stands there and eats.

4. When the girls run to the gate because I pull in the driveway, John stands there and eats.

5. I think four reasons is enough. Not much comes between John and his hay, so I guess I better come between John and his hay :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

No Two Horses Are Alike

We all know this and we all accept this fact, but I still think its important to remind ourselves of this every once in awhile.

Here is an example.

There is a theory in the horse training world that if a horse is scared of something and you let them stop and look at it, you are justifying their fear and increasing the fear response.

Okay, this makes sense. And with Secret that is true. I tried letting her look at things she was afraid of in the indoor when I boarded her at my friend's barn. She ended up afraid of her own shadow and I made myself a bigger problem to solve. I don't let her look at things anymore, I make her keep working. The theory works for her.

However, when you are riding John, if he sees something that he is afraid of, and you urge him to keep working, he is convinced that it must be a monster and we should gallop away (usually in the opposite direction) as fast as possible. If I let him stop and look, he sees that it is nothing to be afraid of (or at least if it is something to be afraid of, it gives his brain time to get back inside his body), he relaxes and then we can proceed.

Both of them tend to spook easily, but the approach to keep them calm and relaxed is completely opposite.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thank you Equitrekking!



We have our first sponsor for the 2nd Annual Summer Solstice Trail Ride! Thank you Darley Newman from Equitrekking for donating a signed copy of your book and all four seasons of your show on dvd.

Visit Darley at: www.equitrekking.com or click the link on the right side bar of my blog.

For those that haven't marked your calendars yet:

Summer Solstice Trail Ride to benefit First Descents
Saturday, June 18, 2011
9 am registration with riders on the trail by 10 am
Location: Fort Hill Farms in Thompson, CT
www.forthillfarms.com
Cost: $20 for adults and $10 for youth with pre-registration

Lunch is provided with your registration, and as always, we have great prizes - like a book or dvd set from Equitrekking!

The trail ride is a benefit for First Descents (www.firstdescents.org). First Descents provides whitewater kayaking and other outdoor adventure experiences to promote emotional, psychological and physical healing for young adults with cancer. I participated in one of the kayaking camps in Montana in July 2009 and 2010 and cannot begin to tell you how much I benefited from this experience. First Descents gave me empowerment again after cancer and introduced me to many other young adult survivors. I host a spring and fall ride every year, this will be the fourth ride I have hosted. To date I have raised $3,365 for First Descents.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Birds

On Sunday John decided he was petrified of sparrows. The small ones that perch on pricker bushes and shrubs along stone walls. They probably weigh six ounces and I am sure John could seriously injure one by swinging his tail.

However, John was convinced that they were deadly monsters and that our only safe option was for him to spin and gallop off in the opposite direction.



I didn't take him very seriously though. You see, when he decided that sparrows were deadly, we had already been riding for 45 minutes and were on our way home. We had also seen about 100 of these sparrows so far on the ride (benefit of living on a dairy farm with woods - there is plenty of wildlife).

The other problem with John's "fear" is that two fencelines of his pasture border woods - he has lots of these sparrows out in his field every day.

I think John was bored. But his solution was not something I want to "train" into him by ignoring.

So we kept circling back past the "scary" sparrows until he could walk calmly past them. We halted and I rocked his neck back and forth and then we would walk some. When we were safely past them, we turned around and headed back down the farm road to do it again.

Interestingly enough, the sparrows are not scary when we are headed away from the barn, only when we turned towards home.

He finally walked calmly past them. Hopefully when we go back out, the sparrows will not be an issue. But I'm sure he will think of something else :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Using Our Dressage Foundation


Knowing I had a busy week planned, I rode John both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. It was windy on Saturday and this is one of his favorite excuses to get tense and jazzed up.

I was certainly sitting on a coiled spring on Saturday and he felt like a "Jack in the box" at the moment right before Jack springs out of the box. I really didn't feel like springing anywhere.

In the past, my solution for these types of days has always been "ride it out." But I have discovered a few things about my horse over the years. The most important is that he does not get tired and the longer you let him stay in his wired zone, the more wired he becomes.

With my new goal of relaxation in mind, I decided to use our dressage foundation (yes, John was originally a dressage horse but he really wasn't fond of circles) to get him to relax.

I asked him to do twenty meter circles on the trail until he relaxed. He could not move forward, only do his circle. After a few minutes he relaxed. We changed direction and I asked for the same thing to the right. This is his "hard" direction, but after a few minutes, he relaxed to the right too. I let him continue forward down the trail.

When he got tense again, we would circle or leg yield, or halt and back or do serpentines. Anything but continue forward in a tense manner.

He was better on Sunday, much more relaxed with less dressage work needed. However, he pulled a new trick out of his hat...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why I Love Remi....



I love Remi because we currently live in mud city. And while all of the other horses come back into the barn looking gross and dirty, she returns and some days hasn't even rolled. There is something heartwarming about a horse that likes to stay clean!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I understand now...

I have often watched the debate between cyclists and drivers with a little bit of sympathy towards the drivers. After all, I am a driver and have never liked bikes much.

The last time I rode a bike was at Maine Morgan Horse Show in 2007. It was eight in the morning, horses were fed and stalls were clean. With nothing left to do, I decide to entertain the rest of my group by hopping on Megan's (around age ten at the time) pink bike that she named Nomar. Since the bike was named Nomar and I loved Nomar Garciaparra (former shortstop with the Boston Red Sox) I sang John Fogarty's song "Centerfield" while I rode the bike around the barns at the horse show. The people in my group were not the only ones who were entertained.

But on the road, I don't have much appreciation for cyclists, despite having two brothers-in-law and a sister who all pedal. Our roads are narrow and windy and I view the bikers as "one more thing."

Then, Outside magazine published an article in their March issue about the war between cyclists and motorists. It made me appreciate the perspective of the cyclist. Should we really blame them all for a few that make life difficult? What would drivers say if all drivers got a bad name for the few drivers out there?

I began riding again and realized the fields were too muddy and I would need to ride down the road to the dairy farm. Maybe it was reading the article about cyclists, or maybe it was that I hadn't ridden on the road in awhile, but I found myself a lot more wary about the cars out there.

Don't get me wrong, there are some great drivers in this town. They slow down, drive in the wrong lane (even on the narrow and windy roads) and smile and wave at me. But then there are others, that go whizzing by me, hit the gas when they are halfway past me and don't give me a lot of room. Thankfully, my horse is pretty traffic safe. But to all of you cyclists out there...I understand now.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I rode John around the farm yesterday. It was warm and the sun was shining, a perfect day for a ride. It was our second ride of the season.

Honestly, I am a bit shocked by how well he is behaving. Is this really my horse? We were wandering around the farm roads and I was holding the reins on the buckle (for you non-equestrians, basically this means I was holding the reins but I was not using them at all).

John was happy and attentive, looking around and walking in a relaxed frame. We stayed out of the fields because they were so wet, I rode down the road until we could connect to farm roads.

When we came across some large puddles in the road (it rained a lot on Wednesday) he walked right into them, stopped and drank from them. Now I am really not sure this is my horse! I used to coax him to drink at water stops last year and he usually didn't until the end of the ride.

I only planned to ride him for an hour so headed back towards the barn after about 45 minutes out. This is when my horse returned, turning the ride into a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

He jigged and pranced down the road, I gathered up the reins and he arched his neck. He tried trotting, I wouldn't let him. Every time a car passed, he scooted underneath himself and hollowed his body towards the road (we didn't have this problem when we road out - he didn't care when cars passed).

By the time we got to Brendan's memorial (Brendan was a local teen who crashed his car right near one of our pastures in 2006 and died), John was raring to go. A car came up behind us with a squeeky belt and he began bucking in place. I stopped him and made him stand still and then we managed to walk semi-quietly down the last stretch of road to the barn. Yes, I found my horse :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Progress?

I took John for a walk around the farm today. The fields were muddy - he was still sinking three inches in the corn field, so as soon as we could - we got onto a farm road and didn't go back into the fields.

We were walking on a farm road down by the heifer barn and something scared John. He sat back on his haunches and went to spin (which is always followed by running - his favorite "I'm scared" reaction) and I calmly said, "John, No."

He stopped, turned back in the original direction and waited for my next cue. I think we are making progress! All of the groundwork this winter was helpful.

I also think he was pretty bored with his three months off. I spent most of the trail ride walking around on the buckle. A few times I let him trot (okay, he started and I didn't bring him right back to a walk).

We walked home on the road, to avoid the mud. All in all, it was a great ride on John.

After that, I took Secret out. She was more like riding a coiled spring. I was only going to ride in the driveway for fifteen minutes, but since there was that much horse underneath me, I decided to let her walk up the road to the field and back. If she had a purpose (rather than a circle), I figured she would behave better.

Secret had not been ridden since January 7th and didn't get the benefit of lunging. But she is making progress too. When I asked her to relax, she did. The lessons we were working on in January (no, don't race back to the barn; please put your head down) stuck with her and she responded a lot quicker when I asked. And taking her for a trail walk was a much better idea than asking her to walk circles.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Goal: Relaxation




One of my major goals during the competitive trail ride season last year was to have John pulse down (reach a resting pulse of 44 beats/minute twenty minutes after completing a 25 mile ride). This was our great struggle on our rides and instead of getting better as the season wore on, he got worse. At our last ride, he would not settle down and his final pulse was a 60. Finally, ten minutes after his pulse check, he urinated for about ten minutes and calmed down.

I have been so focused on this one goal - pulsing down - that I think I missed the forest through the trees. My goal really needs to be relaxation. If he relaxes at a ride, at the vet-in the night before, stabling (whether inside or outside) the night before and stays relaxed through a ride, I might have an easier time getting him to pulse down.

For those of you that have met John, you know this is going to be a challenge. Sometimes horses do take after their people. John is a high energy horse who is always on the go, ready for the next thing.

I'm starting slow. Relax, we are headed to your stall, put your head down and chill. Relax, I will give you your grain, but put your ears up first. Relax, we're going to start the ride, but lets stand here and look around first. You get the idea and based on the pictures from last year I have included, you can probably figure out that this is going to be a work in progress too!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Reading Recommendation

I recently finished the last books in the Susan Richards trilogy. No, its not Star Wars and there are no hobbits in the books, but for a horse person they were a great read.

I read the second book first, after finding it in a used book store in Chapel Hill. That prompted me to read the first book, so I could fully understand the second book. Liking both of those, I just finished the third book. Here they are in order.

Chosen By A Horse is about how rescuing an abused horse helped Richards heal herself. It is about the remarkable journey she and this horse faced and the healing power of horses. If you only read one of Susan Richards books, read this one.

Chosen Forever picks up where the first book leaves off and explains the lasting benefits Susan received by rescuing the horse.

Saddled is the third book and intrigued me most because one of Susan's horses, Georgia, is a Morgan mare and this book focuses a lot on her. Georgia was the first horse she got and the one that prompted her to realize she was an alcoholic and to become sober. Susan is very honest about herself and talks about the joy her Morgan brought into her life.

They were all great books and I had a hard time putting them down, so if you are looking for your next rainy day read, these are worth seeking.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

First Ride After A Long Winter

I rode John for the first time in 3 1/2 months last night. Of course it had rained (hard) all day, so all I did was get on and walk up and down the driveway for fifteen minutes. But it is a start, and after the snowy winter we have had, its good to start slow.

When I originally decided to give him three months off (he got an extra two weeks due to bad weather and my busy schedule) I didn't know what to expect when I started riding again. He has never had that much time off before.

I've longed him a few times, I started in the last week in February. I jogged him in hand a few times, partly because he needs exercise (he gained some weight over the winter) and partly because he needs to practice for the vetting process at our competitive trail rides.

Two of my favorite characteristics of Morgan horses are their expressiveness and their ability to surprise you. John was standing on the cross ties in the barn aisle when I came out of the tack room carrying the saddle. His ears were perked forward and the look on his face said, "I was wondering when you were going to find that thing...its about time!" I tacked him up and got on.

We walked through a giant puddle tons of times. We did bending and circles, changed directions and walked figure eights. He pleasantly surprised me by behaving wonderfully for the entire fifteen minutes!

I also rode in my new Tipperary helmet for the first time. The jury is still out on the helmet, it was a bit snug and I could still feel the helmet on my forehead when I took it off. I'm going to play with the padding again and see if I can get a better fit.

Now I just need the mud to dry up so I can get out on a trail.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Healing Power of Horses




While I was going through chemotherapy in the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009, I spent a lot of time in the barn with my horses. My oncologist really didn't want me in the barn, but reluctantly agreed to let me continue riding.

She always marveled at how well I coped with chemotherapy. I thought chemo was awful, but in hindsight, it could have been a lot worse.

I truly believe that riding and spending time with my horses allowed me to cope with chemotherapy and recover faster. I remember days when I would put the saddle on and sit down for a break before bridling my horse, but still I rode. I remember another day, I was wrapping a front leg with a polo wrap and was so dizzy when I finished that I had to lean on my horses leg. But I still rode.

In July 2009 I attended First Descents. First Descents mission is: First Descents is committed to curing young adults of the emotional effects of cancer and empowering them to regain control of their lives by experiencing outdoor adventure therapy through kayaking, rock climbing and other outdoor adventure sports.

I went whitewater kayaking in Glacier National Park in Montana. I was awful at it, but loved it and went back in 2010.

I started hosting benefit trail rides for First Descents in the fall of 2009. To date my trail rides (we have a spring ride and a fall ride) have raised over $3000. My friends and I have a lot of fun riding for a cause and we also get fantastic support (prize donations!) from the equestrian community.

I would like to give other young adult cancer survivors the opportunity to heal mentally from cancer with horses. My horses have played a vital role in my own recovery and I want to share that.

First Descents has agreed to consider an equestrian camp, and I would like to provide them with stories about the healing power of horses (besides my own). Do you have a story to share about how horses helped you - it does not have to be cancer related. You can post your story here or email it to sfstearns@gmail.com

Thank you!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Is This Our Field?


It rained on Sunday afternoon and most of Monday. When I put the horses in at lunchtime on Sunday, their field was still mostly covered in snow.

We had so much snow this year (multiple feet of snow) that the horses have mostly remained on the plowed paths all winter.

When I put them out in the field Tuesday morning, most of the snow was gone. The looks on their faces were priceless. I think they forgot how big their pasture really was.

I took this picture when I took my dog for a walk. The brown specks are my horses, re-discovering their pasture after a long winter.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Cancer Post

Okay, its been awhile since I said anything about cancer, so here it goes.

Since chemotherapy ended, I have made a conscience effort to take better care of myself. I try to get more sleep (I did say *try*), excercise more (easily done) and eat healthier.

I went to the hospital a week and a half ago for bloodwork. Since I had a blood cancer (Hodgkin lymphoma) this is a good way to check up on me without doing a scan. My next scan is in April.

Going to the hospital brings out the worst eating habits in me. You would think that sitting in a waiting room full of people with cancer, most of them waiting to go into the infusion room would inspire healthy habits. But it has the reverse effect on me.

By the time I left, I was craving donuts. I went to the Dunkin Donuts across from the hospital (convenient!) On scan days, I crave McDonalds. I don't generally eat donuts anymore. McDonalds usually makes me feel like a lead weight has settled in my stomach. But something about the hospital makes these foods enticing. So I eat them anyway. Weird thing is, McDonalds makes me feel better on scan day.

I don't know if its my brain's way of rebelling - the hospital was the site of lots of bad things, so eating junk is my brain's personal revenge.

Or if there is something about the dyes they inject me with on scan day that makes me crave grease (the dye is pretty nasty and since I have to fast beforehand I am usually slightly green when I leave).

Whatever the reason, I have decided to let my brain win. Eating junk food every once in awhile is not the end of the world. After all, I already had cancer.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pictures of Perspective






In November 2009, I had to go in the water with John (it was cold). After leading him through the pond, I rode through. Halfway through, he leaped up and sideways onto the Jersey barriers (large cement blocks) that created the pond and used them as a bridge to walk the rest of the way out.

I spent three days in March 2010 standing in a pond (it was cold) while he got over his dislike of water. Pictures two and three were taken after the three days were over.

On a training ride in April 2010 (the first picture) we confirmed he would no longer refuse to go in water, after finding a sinkhole in the pond at Goodwin State Forest.

Water is no longer an issue, but we do have some other things we are working on this spring!

Boots or Shoes?

I will admit, I seriously considered competing in Easy Boots this year instead of having shoes put on John. He has really solid feet (they are hard - tough to break down etc) and the information I had heard and read from the barefoot movement really intrigued me. I thought I could leave him barefoot all season and just put the boots on the day before a ride and go. I knew he would need to be trimmed more often (every four weeks) but thought it might be worthwhile in the end.

My farrier was here Friday and I asked him. "Try it," he said. I told him I wanted to try the glue-ons - they don't touch above the coronary band at all. Since John had a problem with bell boots rubbing on a 15 mile training ride, this is essential.

Yesterday I got out my sizing chart and ruler that measures in millimeters. I measured all four of John's feet. Each hoof is a different size. Three hooves would require custom boots (none of the custom boots would be the same size either). One hoof, the right front, could wear a standard boot.

I called my farrier and made an appointment for shoes. While I still think boots might be a good idea, I'm not sure they are a good idea for this horse.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Conditioning

I was reading Sue Perry's column in the March 2011 issue of Horsemen's Yankee Pedlar. Her title this month was "Getting Fit For Spring." Her recommendation for the average horse was to do walk work for six days a week (at 20 minutes a day) for three weeks before introducing trot work. She also noted that it would take two to three months of conditioning to have a horse that has been on a complete vacation ready for a one day competition.

My first thought upon reading this was, how do I convince John that he is only allowed to walk for three weeks?

My second thought went back to some discussions the trail riding group has been having about conditioning on their yahoo group. One experienced rider mentioned that she took a seasoned horse (he had done many 25 mile competitive rides in previous seasons) to a ride after only riding twice that spring. He had been misbehaving and she thought she would just pull him when he got tired. He won the ride with a nearly perfect score. Her point was, horses lose their condition a lot slower than humans do. And, each horse is an individual, so what worked for her horse might not work for mine.

One thing I know for sure, I will not be able to walk for three weeks. No matter how much ground work I do :) I think it is just a matter of going slow and giving rest days. I will probably do the same thing I did last spring, one day on, one day off. And hope for the best...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New Helmet Rules

In case you have not heard, there are a lot of new helmet rules in dressage and eventing. Without getting into all of the details, the rules basically state that if you are at a USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) rated show, you must wear a helmet.

A few exceptions are made to these rules. Grand Prix riders can still wear a top hat if they want, but for the most part, everyone is required to wear a helmet when mounted.

I think this is a really good rule. In light of the accident Courtney King-Dye had that has sidelined her dressage career, we all need to be more safety conscience. In the last year since Courtney's accident, two other dressage superstars had bad falls. Both were saved from more serious injury (although a broken hip is pretty serious) because they were wearing helmets in honor of Courtney.

I haven't always worn a helmet. For years I didn't wear one. I started wearing one more regularly when I kept John at a barn that had a helmet rule. But I didn't wear one at my parents barn. Then I started giving lessons and wanted to set a good example for the kids, so I wore a helmet more often at my parents. I stopped giving lessons a couple of years ago, but I still wear a helmet.

My biggest issue with helmets is that I have an odd shaped head (at least I think I do) so finding one that I don't look like a bobblehead in is difficult. I bought one of the IRH helmets three years ago. Its a great helmet (I'm wearing it in the pictures on the blog) but I look like a bobblehead. I bought myself a Tipperary for Christmas, thinking I would be less of a bobblehead, but so far I am not impressed with how that one fits either. I look like a bit less of a bobblehead, but I think I'm going to have a headache after 25 miles on the trail. So maybe one of my goals for this year is to find a helmet that I can wear and be happy in, so that I don't feel like I have a lot of extra weight on my head but I do feel safe.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Older Than I Thought...

I noticed the stitching on the pommel of my saddle was coming undone last summer. I love that saddle. Its an all-purpose Stubben saddle. When my Aunt moved to Florida, she gave it to me. I have no idea how old it is, but I have gotten several saddles since then, and sold them all and returned to riding in this saddle.

Its the saddle I'm riding Secret in at the horse show. See the picture on the bottom of this blog.

Its the saddle I rode John in for 135 competitive trail miles last year, plus all of our conditioning rides.

I finally got it fixed. I took it to a friend's son, who is a master saddler and lives in Ashford. When I picked it up, I mentioned that I did not know how old it was, but that it was my favorite. Stuart told me that based on the shape of the pommel it was made in the 1930s or 1940s - they phased that pommel out in the 1940s. But he said the saddle was very well made, in great shape and he wasn't surprised it was my favorite.

It just proves (once again) that you don't always need the newest stuff to be happy.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Perspective

It is March and I am standing in the driveway, longing John on the one patch of decent footing I can find. There is one giant puddle at the top of the circle, but he gamely trots through it every time around.

I am feeling slightly bummed that everyone else is riding already and their horses maybe aren't quite as pudgy as mine is.

But then a word creeps into my brain, perspective.

Last March I was standing in a pond (literally) trying to convince John that he would not melt if he came and stood in the pond with me. As he splashes through the puddle on his way around the longe circle, I am reminded of how far we have come in a year.

Even though this is just the third time I have longed John, the definition is already coming back in his shoulders. His belly is already receding. My friends are right, once you have a fitness base, it will not take much to get the horse back into shape. I might be another story though!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Hair Wars

The hair wars have officially begun.

Yes, the horses have started shedding. My clothing, my jeep and everything in between has officially been invaded by horse hair.

The interesting thing about horse's winter coats is that they are not all the same. I have four horses living in my parents barn. They are all fed the same and live in the same conditions.

Lilac has enough hair for all of them combined. She is like a fuzzy bear. When I finish grooming her, it looks like a small animal has died in her stall. The next morning, she does not look like she has been brushed in ages.

John has goat hair. His body hair is pretty normal, but along his belly and on his flanks, he grows this long, wiry hair. The only good way to explain it is goat hair.

Secret has a short, thick coat. The shedding blade does not do much for her but a curry comb works wonders.

Remi has the best coat, it is sleek and shiny. Remi does not grow much of a winter coat. She never gets cold during the winter though, I think it has something to do with growing up in Minnesota. The odd part about this is, Remi has twice as much mane and forelock as the other horses combined, so we know she is capable of growing hair. However, she will be my favorite one to "shed out" this year!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Visit Sarah Brander



My friend Sarah owns April Showers Farm in Jordanville, New York. This beautiful farm is an equine retirement facility - I sent Brooke there. Brooke loves the care she receives and that she has a two acre field of grass all to herself - something I could not give her here.

Sarah is also a very talented equine artist. Several of her prints and one of her originals (a portrait of my Morgan mare Rue) hang on the walls in my apartment.

Check out her website at: www.sarahbrander.com

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Back To Work

Where did three months go? Oh, I remember now, to my new hobby...shoveling snow.

When I first decided to give John three months off during the winter I wondered how I would manage to not ride for that long.

Time flies when you are shoveling snow.

John went back to work a couple of days ago - I started longing him because he is very fat. He stood around on the shoveled paths all winter and ate and now we have to slowly work it back off.

Luckily, my parents never paved their driveway. They had a gravel driveway made and then over the years they added sand when necessary. The middle is a nice sandy area - and if no cars are around it is a perfect place to longe a horse.

The first day I longed John he was indignant that I put him back to work. He was fine to the left, but to the right, he reared, spun and tried to drag me. We worked through that, he was good and we were done. I only longed him for 20 minutes.

He had a day off while we got a massive rainstorm and then was back at it on Saturday. Much better this time, even putting his head down while he worked (occassionally) and trotting through mud puddles (he never would have done that last spring!)

This spring I am also going to practice vetting in. I always talked about it last year, but never got it done. Its a priority this year - if he can relax and behave better while vetting in (doing trot lines and circles for the vets at competitive trail rides), I think we can improve our scores simply by not digging ourselves a hole before we have even gotten onto the trail.