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ME Morgan Benefit Show - August 10, 2019

I had not been planning to bring Ellie to this show, but an email had gone out to members a few days prior that entries were a bit low.  So in order to support the club, we headed out to Pineland Farm the morning of August 10, for what promised to be a gorgeous summer day!  All photos that I am in were purchased from the show photographer!
I always think these types of shows are going to be fine, but at the end of every single one of them, I always remember why I should stick with dressage and eventing haha.  That is not to say there is anything wrong with open shows or the club that runs them; this is just not the type of showing we do well at because she's not a "show horse".
The show was held at a gorgeous facility that boasts both large indoor and outdoor arenas.  They chose to have the show indoors with warm-up outside, which is fine, but Ellie was not a fan of the indoor.  One corner was open to the large and echo-y storage area where they had set up the secretary…

Week one with Ellie

Ellie has started to settle in well here at Clover Ledge.  I admit I was worried about taking her from the only home she has ever known, the farm where she was born, but despite her nervousness, she has a great brain.  Ellie likes to overreact to things at first (typical young Morgan haha), but she quickly regains her composure.  I am sure that as I develop a relationship with her and she trusts me, she will become even more brave.  However, she is a redheaded Morgan mare (haha), so her initial overdramatics might always be there!  ;-)

The first few days I just groomed her and took her for walks.  She was nervous and looky on the crossties and spooked at everything in the barn yard (the sound of the cattle, the dump trailer, the wheelbarrow, the gate to her pasture, her shadow, the wind...haha).  She didn't want to lift her hooves to be picked, and she almost kicked out on her hinds.  The first night she didn't want to enter the barn; even though she REALLY wanted to be inside with Dreamy, she just couldn't bring herself to enter.  I totally understand that some of that was from the sound and smell of the cattle, as she couldn't SEE them, but she knew something was there and they were probably dangerous.  She screamed a bit during turnout and Dreamy would answer, but only on the first day, so her subsequent days of screaming were met with nothing.  That was almost too much for Ellie to bear.  

Ellie: DREAMY!  DREAMY!  OMG!  Why are you ignoring me?  I am all alone in this world even though I can see you!

Dreamy: Holy moly, just shut your trap, young'un! (Dreamy purposefully turns her back and ignores Ellie)

We took several different walks around the yard the first few days, then out in the ring and down into the Christmas tree fields.  Once put to "work", Ellie was much happier.  It was as though she was relieved to have something to do that she understood and felt confident with.  She has decent manners (when she is calm), and easily moved away from pressure, halted and stood, and went over the ground poles.  She definitely wasn't at all like the easygoing Standardbreds off the track I have become accustomed to over the past fourteen years since I have first owned Dreamy.  I had a huge reality check that brought me back to 1993 when I first owned Sparky, another redheaded Morgan mare!


My Standardbred mares were afraid of the Christmas trees at first, but Ellie was like, "What? They're trees!"How funny the difference between horses raised on the track versus those raised on a Maine farm...! 
It would have been very easy at this point to become scared of Ellie.  She is definitely an opinionated mare but she also knows that she is supposed to behave (and I think she genuinely wants to behave because she is super sweet).  She just doesn't always know how to handle her emotions appropriately yet (hmmmm, reminds me of my two year old child!) and some things she has never been exposed to so she is SURE it will eat it.  And she would very easily overpower and walk all over someone who is afraid of her.  So, once she realizes that I am the one in charge and I am not worried or upset like she is, she calms down.  But the trick is to stay calm and not react to her dramatics, which is something I am good at.  And of course, while I admit I felt slightly discouraged at first, I had to remember that she had only been with me for a few DAYS, so it was going to take time.  I have found that once you gain a mare's trust, you have it forever (unless you screw it up yourself LOL).  And there really is no timeline with this horse.  Yes, there are certainly things I would like to have in place by spring, but right now is the ideal time to just bond with her and get some basics ironed out without the self imposed pressure I put on myself when show season is starting.


This view never gets old!
It is funny because while I am certainly NOT a horse trainer or any type of professional, I do have some way of instilling confidence in a horse.  I never really would have said this about myself until a local clinician stated it.  I had brought my young horse at the time, Reva, to a clinic seven years ago, and he told me at the end of the session that he didn't believe me at first when I said she was brave.  He figured she was timid and I was being naive, as she immediately spooked at a crossrail near the audience when she entered the ring.  He was happy to admit he was wrong, and felt she was confident because I was confident.  I thought that was a huge compliment and still do.

Now that I am back to my school teaching job and the sun goes down at 7:15 (instead of staying light until 9pm!), I had to settle for grooming sessions after dinner this past week.  But this was actually ideal because it forced me to take my time and not tack her up to ride immediately.  Once we get into the school year routine, I will aim for two weekdays and two weekend days of riding (or other types of "work") and then either just groom or let her be the other nights.  

After Saturday and Sunday of being a bit "up" on the crossties (as in, I didn't take off her lead rope just in case), she was excellent on Monday night.  While I know my dressage saddle needs to be adjusted for her, I crossed my fingers that my Stubben wide jumping saddle would fit and figured I ought to give it a try.  I bought it for Dreamy, and it mostly worked for Snappy with a pad (she was a MW), yet because of Ellie's round shape, I figured it would work.  And thankfully it looks great!  I will still have my fitter look at it, but unlike the DK saddle that can be totally customized to Ellie now and as she grows/changes, I am hopeful I can keep my Stubben for her.  She was a bit annoyed about being girthed up, but I chalked it up to her nerves, and thankfully she has improved each time I have tacked her up.  

I also took the time to introduce her to clippers, and while I don't use them for ears or whiskers, I do like to clip bridlepaths.  I had no idea if she had ever seen them (come to find out she hadn't ever) but I figured not, as her current bridlepath had been clearly cut with scissors.  The first night she was like "OMG DANGER but I know I am supposed to behave, so I will stand here quivering".  I just let her sniff the clippers and turned them on near her to see.  The next night, she was even better and I was able to rub the clippers on her shoulder, neck, and up close to her ears.  But I didn't push it.  By Wednesday, she was totally fine with them and I was able to stand on an overturned bucket (safety first LOL!) and clip her tiny bridlepath.  I didn't do the longer Morgan bridlepath because I really like her long, crazy mane haha.  

On Saturday, I figured it was time to get on her.  I groomed and tacked her up easily.  I started off with a little lunging, even though I am not really fond of drilling a horse around and around and around in a 20 m. circle on a line.  However, I figured this would work well for a couple of reasons: it would give her a chance to get the silliness out without me in the saddle, I could check out her w/t/halt cues, and it is something she knows well so gave her a confident place to start.  She started off by being distracted by Dreamy moving further out in the adjacent field to graze, but she worked through that pretty well.  She definitely knows how to lunge and her walk and trot cues are solid.  She was a little flaky about halting and wanted to turn directly towards me when she finally stopped.  She improved with a few repetitions.  There was no bucking or silliness, though she did lazily canter a few strides while trotting.  It was no big deal at all.  I almost didn't get on her because she still seemed more distracted than I wanted for our first ride, so I continued to ask for transitions and make her think.  I worked with her on the lunge longer than I initially planned, but it paid off.  We walked around the mounting block a little (she seemed unfazed by it) and then I climbed aboard.

I didn't know what to expect but I certainly didn't expect her to REFUSE. TO. BUDGE.  Hahaha I was like, ummmm I thought you were trained w/t under saddle, silly mare!  She acted as though she had NO idea what I wanted, so I called my husband over to lead her around a bit for me.  She seemed to either remember how to go with a rider on her back or she figured it out quickly (maybe the barn staff omitted that she's only been ridden on the lunge line??  Who knows and honestly whatever, it doesn't matter LOL).  She was still pretty sticky, so the first ride was mostly about going FORWARD and attempting to stay straight as she was like riding a wet noodle.  A very drunk wet noodle.  We even did a little trot in each direction and I called it a day.  Ellie was certainly not easy, but she showed improvement and did what I asked.

First ride!  I have no other photographic evidence other than the between-the-ears view!  The one small downfall of keeping horses at home LOL!  No barnmates to take photos.
After we finished and I untacked her, I hosed her off because it was warm and little fatty mare got sweaty.  She stood fairly well to be hosed off but it is something to work on.  I know a lot of people sponge horses off, but I think hosing works the best and I do expect my horses to stand.  It will just take time.

Our second ride was 1000x better the next day.  She was much more relaxed, paying more attention to me, and she seemed to remember the routine.  I only lunged her for a few minutes.  She halted more quickly when asked this time and stayed straight on the circle instead of diving in towards me, which was really the only sticking point in her lunging education.  I will eventually phase lunging out completely once I think she is comfortable.  Perhaps I will teach her the cue to canter on the lunge line as well, but that will come in time.  Again, no rush with this horse.


This time, I wrangled my thirteen year old son into coming out at the end to snap a few pics.  
This time when I mounted up, she decided she remembered how to move off my leg.  She was still noodley, but much less so, and we worked on staying straight and bending.  She is definitely GREEN but she tries hard to do the right thing.  We trotted much more this time, and I feel a bit relieved that things improved so much the following day.  Not to say I expect training to move quickly, of course, but I was happy to see that she did have the basics installed that I was told she did after all.  Being such a lightly started five year old is not a bad thing, and I am sure once we start working on a much more consistent basis than she's had before, she will learn easily.



Sunday was also the first day I turned her out with her leather halter.  She is still wearing a fly mask because the bugs will be relentless until we get a good hard frost, so at least she is not totally naked and free LOL!  She seems to be respecting the fencing, which is a combination of vinyl rails and three strand electric wire/white tape (where we haven't installed the vinyl yet because $$$$$$).  

So far, so good!  I am so excited about this horse!  :-)

Comments

  1. ahhh she is just so freakin cute! sounds like she's got a great brain in there too and will be quick to come around as you show her where you want her to be. love the pictures too!!!

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  2. i am so so excited for you and she looks adorable and you look GREAT ON HER! I cant wait to follow you on this journey! kudos for picking a good one !:)

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  3. What a cutie. She seems like a good girl and I'm sure she'll settle down.

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    1. Oh yes, in her own time and on her own terms haha! ;-)

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  4. Aww, cute girl! Congrats! I'm a big fan of horses knowing how to hose; I learned a long time ago that I can't actually sponge off a horse without getting soaked. (Not a whole lot better with the hose, but at least there's a chance I'll only hit other people and not myself...)

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    1. LOL I hear you! I also don't think I do a great job with a sponge (and esp. after owning a jet black horse I learned that any leftover sweat made her coat become bleached out! Hence the spraying like crazy with a hose!)

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  5. It sounds like she's off to good start. Morgans are brave and also sensitive and you seem to be a good match for her.

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