September 25, 2023

Visiting Austen

Last week I took a trip out to visit Austen in DC. The reason for the trip was a bucket list concert:


Death Cab for Cutie (who I had seen before, in 2006) and The Postal Service (who I had not seen before because hardly anyone has ever seen them tour before) playing Transatlanticism and Give Up respectively, more or less straight through. Two incredibly formative albums for me. It was amazing.

but of course we also made time for ponies.

All photos by Austen.

First up, I had a Dressage ride on Bast. This is the second time I've ridden him in a couple of years, and it's always such a joy. He's safe, solid, and gives you the right answers immediately even if you're new to him and maybe not asking in the way he's used to.

Even things I really haven't ridden much of myself

For me, it was the first time I've ridden real Dressage since, well, last year when I visited Bast and Austen. I haven't ridden Dressage on Connor much since late 2021. So I'm not going to apologize or point out my positional flaws at all. They're there, but they were overshadowed by the fact that I've really made quite a lot of progress in not pulling. Like I know I've made progress on that since I started riding with CGP, but it was still wonderful to see it in photos (And I'm sure it's worse with Connor, being the old married couple that we are.)

Just me, soft hands, and a horse with a nice open throatlatch.

Later on that weekend, we took a trail ride. Mark on Guinness, Austen on Bast, and me on Chardy/Chardonnay/Charizard, who I also rode last year.

Such a good yellow horse

It's a shame that it takes an entire day of driving to get out there or else I would visit much more often! Just such a good weekend.

Horses grazing under the stars as we plane-spotted, since the farm is under the flight path for Dulles international flights.

September 14, 2023

New Run-in Shed

Truly, my only complaint about this facility to this point is the lack of run-in sheds or even trees for shelter in the fields. Up until yesterday, of the seven pastures and paddocks, only two had shelter. One run-in shed in the big field, and the very nice overhang around the barn.

Because all of the paddocks and pastures around the barn are connected to each other with gates both in between and off of the drylot + around the barn areas, we can use the big overhang around the barn for shelter for all of those fields if everyone gets along, but the North Pasture had nothing. 

Remember last Christmas when I had to keep all five horses in for three straight days purely because we didn't have any windbreaks outside for half of them in 40 below zero F weather? I REMEMBER.

The trees in the North Pasture provide some shade at certain times of day, but not enough, and no shelter from wind or rain.

This is the entirety of the farm property, and the North Pasture is labeled 1 in this photo


So I was pretty darn excited when I saw a basically brand new 10x20 run-in shed come up for sale on Facebook Marketplace for about half what a new one would be, and just a few miles from the farm. The seller accepted my offer of $2500, and a few weeks later:

I just want to lay in it and drink a celebratory beverage

I need to add some kickboards so no one gets a hoof between them, but I am so happy every time I drive up and see that standing in the field. It gives us so many more options for 24/7 turnout, which we have all been enjoying this summer and will continue to do as long as we can do it without stressing our pastures.

The roof is even insulated.

Looking forward to sleeping peacefully through summer thunderstorms next year!

September 12, 2023

First Ride Off the Leash

This horse is making me a better horsewoman.

I mean of course a near-green-as-grass baby will do that. But this one is a little different. He's so worried, but willing, so it's easy to overface him if I don't carefully think through what I'm doing and why. 

Whole family came to dinner last night

He doesn't "get over" negative experiences quickly or at all, so I have to figure out how to set him up for success with new things. "Success" looks like small asks with a clear objective in mind that is within his capabilities to get to in one session, and then patience as he realizes this new thing I've asked of him won't lead to his imminent demise. Which takes...a lot of time.

What Leah has termed his "processing ears", where after work he's suddenly like "Oh...that was it? I expected something much scarier, I'm sorry."

Last night was our first night "off the leash" as it were, and his first time in the hackamore which seems to be a better place to start with him than the bit, as I continue to put together the puzzle pieces of "what does he know and what does he not know." 

This looks a lot calmer than it felt. It felt like he was about to jump out of his skin.


  • How to go
  • How to stop
  • How to go in the right general direction that I point him with a combination of neck rein and direct rein


He's so sensitive that it doesn't take much to help him get the answers right, but he's so sensitive that we are weeks of daily riding away from this all feeling like less of an existential threat to him. But his owner is on board with the patience approach and so am I.

September 6, 2023

Riding and Lunging Encore

When he dropped him off, the owner told me Encore had spent the last 30 days with someone local, and he admitted that it didn't turn out to be a good fit.

"I mean I've walk-trot-cantered him myself, he'd occasionally scoot if he was startled, but never did anything bad with me. But [rider] made it sound like he was bad, like almost afraid to ride him. [Rider] was just too Quarter Horsey for him I think, you can't drill these Cobs, they're too smart for that."


The man has done Lisa's ponies' feet for well over 20 years; he may never have owned one before Encore, but he sure does know Cobs. He's exactly right about them being too smart for drilling.

(Remind me to tell you the one sometime about the Welsh Cob that laid down with a student trainer in college (not me!), because he was being drilled and he was too smart for that. It's a good one.)

It is actually stupid how well my Dressage saddle fits him. I think it fits Encore better than it ever fit Connor even when he was fit, and that it saying something because it was a damn good fit on Connor.

The one video I saw from "the girl" was of Encore being practically chased on the lunge with a bigger man on him, his bad eye on the inside of the circle and giving off strong prey-animal-being-hunted vibes. It gave me a sense of what kind of riding he'd been exposed to at the boarding barn, and especially with the ulcers I'm sure he had, that had to have been just a LOT for him.

I've had him 10 days and been on him twice so far. The first time, we did a pony ride with Leah leading us, and I swear the poor guy was going to jump out of his skin. Every sound I made, every motion I made in the saddle was terrifying to him. You could tell he was waiting on the other shoe to drop, that he had some negative associations with riding, but all that said, he was still a very good boy and I never felt unsafe.

But like OMG doesn't he just want to be a sporthorse!

A couple days later, we did a mounting block lesson. We got all tacked up again, and we went to the mounting block and just...stood there. Click treat for standing still. Click treat for standing still while I rub him all over. Click treat for standing still while I sit on him for a few seconds. Untack him, put him away. See? Not every time you wear a saddle do you get ridden. You could see his brain going, "...huh. Okay. This is different."

Lil fella needs to develop his butt muscles!

The next day, we lunged for the first time. This again he had associations with. I could feel him assuming he would be chased on the lunge, with palpable worry. No, we will walk, I told him over and over, until he understood and started to exhale and relax. I only lunged him on the good eye side. There will be a time to push him and lunge with the bad eye on the inside, sooner rather than later so I don't develop a one-sided horse with no coping mechanisms for his vision loss, but the time for that was not the first night we lunged, when we were trying to break those negative associations.


That's gotta be what, like a foot overtrack? By the way, he was a superstar at lunging. His voice commands are rock solid.

Last night, though? Last night I rode him again, again with a ground person although she was only there as an emergency brake, and it felt like I had a different horse. From the moment I tacked him up you could feel that he was starting to understand that the game is different with me. His eyes were softer than I'd ever seen for any kind of work before, and dare I say curious?

This one doesn't need the hillside to look uphill, lol

Last night was the first time I had a sense for what kind of riding horse I really have because so much of the fear was gone, although he wasn't completely without nerves. I could talk and laugh without him jumping the way he did the first time I rode him. I had rudimentary steering and a very good whoa. I could bump him with my legs, even pony kick him when he was fixated on something outside and wasn't listening, and he jumped, but in place.

There's a lot of power and air time in that trot. I'm excited to ride it when the time comes.


It's been such a hard thing to figure out, how much to push this horse and how much patience he needs. But that he made so much progress from one ride to another was validation that I'm getting it right with him, at least so far. He learns so quickly, far quicker than any horse I've ever had, and he's open to new experiences and changing his expectations. He won't end up being a horse for everyone, but he'll definitely be an incredible horse for someone.

August 31, 2023


To be honest, I spent the last few days wondering what I had gotten myself into. Encore was anxious, spooky, and I truly never saw him take a single deep breath. He would take this series of half-breaths but never really exhale, like a sleep apnea patient. He wouldn't even eat his grain the first night, so I didn't end up getting Gut-X into him until Monday night.

That cowhorse mane had to go (with owner's permission!) if he was going to be marketed as a sport horse.

But after two days of keeping his routine very consistent, introducing clicker training, and getting Gut-X into him, when I came out on Wednesday I had a totally different horse.

SUCH a different horse, can you believe it?

Just like his Aunt Aeres two years ago, almost overnight after starting the hyaluronic acid supplement there was suddenly a softness to his eye. He cocked a hind leg while I was grooming him in the crossties (which, two days ago he'd never been crosstied before. One of several examples I could give you of him learning things faster than any horse I've had before). 

I actually didn't plan on doing his mane last night, but as I was brushing a few tangles out after his nightly feet picking and brushing routine, I heard him exhale - fully - for the first time the whole time he'd been here. I clicked and treated, and kept going as he practically dozed under my fingers.

Don't get me wrong, we've still got quite a ways to go. He's an anxious fellow by nature, and this is all very new to him. He is attached to his underneck like it's a security blanket he won't let go of. But this whole time I've seen a thinker shining through the anxiety, and now that the anxiety has subsided just a little bit, I can see the horse he'll become with time, trust and consistency. And it's only been three days.

Airplane ears after a click treat sugar cube.

It's exciting to see him start to come out of his shell, and I can't wait to get to the barn every day and see what baby steps we're going to make that day.