Monster Coops

Our very first cross-county schooling adventure was a blast! Also an eye-opener about what it’ll take to successfully complete the Starter level next month.

I’ve added a video of our outing, but before that… image this:

There we were, at the cross-country schooling grounds, on a blazingly hot, windless Saturday. Me, in my brand new riding tights with the belly rolls hanging out below the protective vest, and Levi looking majestic in his non-color coordinated boots and lime green saddle pad.

I naively thought that there’d be a lot more shade and a lot less… hot.

Or, just watch the vid. It’s not that long.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

I’ve now had 3 whole lessons on cross country portion of eventing. This has emboldened me to the point where I registered for my first “Derby”.

A Derby, I learned, is basically a crash course in eventing. Smash every phase into an afternoon and the survivor wins.

The Derby I’ve sign up for is in 4 weeks. God help us.

Tomorrow is our first XC schooling at a real eventing course. This is where we’ll see if Levi and I have the stomach to actually do this for real.

Tiny, moveable jumps

I’m beginning to freak about all the things I don’t know I don’t know. How much fitter does Levi need to be? How do i get him fitter? Do they give us the course before the event? If the Derby has stadium and CC combined then what is the attire regulations?!?! Sooooo many questions!!

Also.. How do you eventers keep it all in your head?! Dressage test, stadium course, and XC course! I go off course just doing 1 dressage test. 😒

I really hope tomorrow is a confidence booster for us. I feel so unsure about whether we (both green beans at jumping/eventing) are capable of this.

Wish us luck! I think we’ll need it.

First Eventing Lesson

Levi and I had our first eventing lesson last month.

My expectations for the lesson were rock bottom low considering he nearly face plants when cantering on flat ground sometimes.

I also haven’t exactly made the greatest progress on his canter over the summer. Plus, he’s not the most agile horse I’ve ridden. And sometimes he still refuses to go forward AT ALL. Add in that I wasn’t sure he’d steer (this being a rather new skill for him).

Oh, and I’ve NEVER jumped him over ANYTHING!

Not even a baby cross rail.

I assumed the lesson would be ground poles and trotting around a bit. I didn’t dare hope for much more than that.

Boy did he exceed my expectations!

Actually, to be honest, it wasn’t really the horse that was the scaredy chicken that had issues. 🙂

So, without further ado, here’s Levi’s debut as an event horse!

Finding Levi

No, really.. he’s not in the pasture.

A tree fell on the fence a bit ago and squashed the 4 strands of wire straight to the ground. Levi made his escape and I found him happily munching the (definitely much greener) grass on the other side of the fence.

This is my first “escapee” since owning this property, so of course my heart is pounding through my chest with fear. What if runs off?? What if he runs in the road?? What if…???

Joy never even tried to leave the pasture. I called for her and she came running up to the barn.

A moment later, Levi comes galloping down the fence line (quite majestically) and comes to a halt right in front of me.

We clear the tree, fix the fence, put the horses back in the pasture.

Next day, while working from home and on a meeting, I peer out my window. There’s Levi, munching grass, right off our back steps.

It takes me a moment to process this… and then rip my headphones off and sprint out the door to catch Levi.

He was unconcerned about the whole ordeal and let me slip a halter on without issues.

Another tree on fence line. But this time, it didn’t squash the fence much. Fence was still a good 3 foot high even where the tree lay on it. I was perplexed about how he escaped.

Cleaned up tree, went to tighten up fencing and realize the second from top strand had snapped. Was that how he got out? Did he just shimmy his fat bod through this narrow gap?!?!

We fixed the fencing again and I turned the horses back out on the pasture. We had just sat down on the back deck, and suddenly here comes Levi!! Trotting up the fence line – OUTSIDE THE PASTURE.

I’ve had mares on this property for 5 years, with the same fencing, and not once had any of them escaped. Not once. Even when trees fell on the fence.

I get ONE (1) gelding and he’s gallivanting around like some kind of escape artist. smh

I caught him trying to rip the chain off the gate yesterday. Grabbed it with his teeth and pulled with all his might. He is too smart for his own good.

So now we have to string up a line of electric around the fencing to hopefully keep Mr. Dora the Explorer in his home.  Hubby says I have control issue. I’m okay with that.

Unfortunately, we ordered the electric fence charger online and it’s lost in shipping currently. In the meantime, I’m giving Levi supervised pasture time like some kind of convict.

Supervised free time
Joy’s not happy with her grazing muzzle

Camel Horse

This is my… seventh? horse I’ve tried training. Varying degrees of prior training on those horses, but majority were either unstarted or very green broke.

Why is it that suddenly I have no idea how to teach Levi anything?

I’ve resorted to youtube videos.

How do you teach contact on a 10 year old horse that is dang sure the bit means pain? I’ve never dealt with this before, not to this degree.

I think I’ll have the vet out to do a thorough check of his mouth. His prior owner, my friend, had his teeth done a few months ago… but maybe something was missed? He’s not having any issues eating. The beefcake has put on about 200lbs since he got here. Never drops a lick of food. Chews fine.

I’m really struggling with teaching him that contact is not something he needs to fear.

I almost asked for ideas on FB, but I’m so frustrated by the “Did you have his anus waxed first?” type of unhelpful comments that I didn’t.

Old owner did it all. Chiro, massage, teeth, etc. and he was doing the same thing for her as he does for me.

For the last 2.5 months I’ve stayed on the path of letting him sort out his head and neck while trying to shape his body into the correct form (or as correct as I can get). He holds his head as HIGH as he can, in what appears to be the most uncomfortable position possible, and he doesn’t deviate from it no matter what.

I tried a new idea recently, thinking I’d just tell him where to put his head. Push him up into the bit and limit his forward. I was thinking if I made too high uncomfortable, and rewarded for lower/normal height, he’d realize that was his happy place. He simply ducked behind the bit. A nice false frame lacking any actual connection.

I immediately quit that.

He dropped right into a false frame, like he’d been trained for it. I don’t want to encourage that.

So now I’m back to forgetting the head/neck and working the body. I’m not sure what else to do. It’s always worked for me before. The fact that it isn’t with him is driving me nuts.

Usually by this point I can at least get a few strides of softer going here and there.

Not Levi. *sigh*

I’m stuck at this point in our training. Our leg yields are progressing okay, he’s getting better about moving off aa light aid (not great, but better), he’s getting more comfortable about moving shoulders and hips around while I’m on him, and he’s starting to understand the outside rein…. But, I’m limited when he refuses to accept contact.

He has improved some at the walk wth contact. I assume it’s because he tires himself out from the camel position at trot. He’s starting to touch the bit on his own at walk, and relax down.

Maybe he just needs more time.

Luckily, we’ve got plenty of time.

Marking Two Month Changes

Well, it’s been two months since I brought Levi home.

My little ugly-duckling is starting to look more like an actual horse. Might turn into obese horse soon if I don’t cut back on the feed. Ha!

I’m surprised how much muscle he’s put on since he’s gotten here (considering I really don’t work him very hard or long).

I chopped off his mane.

Before (from Aug 8th):

After (this week):


I think he’s starting to look like a real dressage/eventing horse! 😀

Back to the Slog

Levi was on the back burner until I finished the last show with Joy.

He had a couple weeks off.

Pulled him out, tacked him up. Didn’t lunge. Hopped on.

Meh, he was fine. A bit more balky at the start, but nothing terrible.

Now that he’s back in work he’s progressing quickly.

I broke down the idea of outside aids to him before the “vacation”. He kind of gets the general idea.

This week I introduced the concept of moving the shoulders and haunches independently of each other with baby Turn on Haunch and Turn on Forehand.

I really thought he’d struggle with the concepts a lot more than he did. Especially the moving the shoulders part. His understanding of outside aids is still really rudimentary, so I wasn’t sure if he was ready or not. He got it though. I was shocked. Haha

We’re still working on leg yield idea. We’re progressing. He’s not the most naturally gifted athlete. Stiff, crooked, unbalanced. In walk, we can now leg yield from center line to rail either direction, LY on a diagonal line, and I started the LY to decrease/increase size of circle (spiral in/out).

It’s all baby level type work with bobbles and issues. But I was really happy with how willing he is.

What else.. he still hates the mounting block. He’ll acquiesce with bribes, but he’s still pretty sure it’s “The Place Where Beatings Occur”. If i get too aggressive about making him line up and stand, he becomes a nervous wreck.

He’s not terrible about it. It’s just annoying that I can’t walk him straight up and mount. I have to guide him up into place, assure him he’s fine, allow him to assess the situation, and then I can mount. Once I’m on though, he won’t move. I have to boot him, or drag him off balance to move away. Which completely baffles me.

He’s got this really funny behavior in the pasture. I have run-in stalls and full access to pasture currently. Joy wanders out to the pasture first. Levi stands in his stall and yells at Joy to come back.

He can walk out to her. 🤦‍♀️

The Levi Saga

I cantered Levi for the first time a couple days ago. My understanding about his prior training is a bit iffy. When I first talked to the prior owner, she had mentioned that he only canters a few strides (at most) and getting anything more from him was a huge struggle. She reminded me she used spurs on him.

Combine that with the fact that his steering, the first couple of weeks I had him, was nearly non-existent and that I work him in an open environment (no fences to stop us if he decides he no longer wants to be there).. it made me leery to try upping the speed without a more solid base in place.

I finally felt like I had the basics in place to try a canter. I’ve only seen him canter 2 strides under saddle. That was all the prior owner was able to get him to canter while I was there. She did say later that he had been sent to some kind of a trainer, and the trainer cantered him. I don’t really have any more details than that.

He picked up the canter well. No theatrics. He stayed in the canter well until I asked him to turn. Then he’d drop to a trot. Kind of expected, since his balance and strength are still really poor.

He’s not exactly the best mover out there (hahaha), but he’s got a willing attitude about it all.

He can’t hardly bend to the right at all. He’s so incredibly stiff and crooked. I’ve almost got a leg-yield installed, and I’ve been spending a lot of time on trying to lengthen the left side so he can bend right through his body. He’s super happy to bend his neck instead of his body, but that just contorts him and throws him off balance.

He’s just starting to grasp the concept of “outside aids”, in a rudimentary kind of way.

I’m also trying to teach him that “contact” is not bad. He doesn’t trust me yet. I have about 8 years of his history to overcome before he’ll accept the idea of concept. I just started on this recently, so he’s still all “Ahhhhhh!” about it.

Anyway, I’m pretty proud of the fact that I could sort of steer at the canter, that he kept the canter as long as he could (balance wise) without requiring me to work to sustain it, and when I re-asked for the canter he hopped back into it as soon as he could. I was really pleased with that!

I think he’ll make a fine low-level eventer. 🙂 He sure is a lot of fun to ride, and super comfortable. Can’t say he’s my first choice with that neck, but he makes up for it with his sunny disposition and positive attitude.

Levi Update

Levi, the new horse, is doing well. He’s been here 4 weeks tomorrow.

So far I’m still working on installing steering and Go buttons. The steering has improved drastically over 4 weeks. I no longer fear we’ll go blasting out of the arena every turn.

Go button is still really sticky. Getting better. At least he’s stopped trying to bash in my face with his poll every time I ask for any forward movement.

He’s pretty fun to ride actually.

For the last 8ish years I’ve been skating through shows/clinics without washing a single horse. I wish to mourn the death of my care free show days now….

[mourning not having to bathe a horse]

I’d also like to point out that I have been long mane free for at least 2 years, and then this lug comes in with a long mane. It’s already tangled and knotted. Have I mentioned how much I hate long manes? Great for running braids, but a PITA every other day of the week. The second he’s paid off I’m whacking his mane off.

I started Levi over ground poles the past 2 weeks. Mainly because I’m bored of doing circles, but also because he has to pay attention to the ground and it seems to make him remove his head from my lap.

If his head gets any higher I’ll have to reclassify him as a giraffe.


I’m sitting in my riding pants, dinking on my phone. I really want to ride today, but I’m so exhausted. Bone weary exhausted. I feel like lead. So… here’s my shout out to all those AAs still getting out there, still riding, even when you’re exhausted. You’re my heroes, and I’ll try to be more like you.

The ‘New Horse’ Struggles

I’m amazed, and baffled, how people can consistently trail ride a horse that barely steers. I wouldn’t feel safe doing that. Especially out where anything could happen.

Basic overview of Levi:

  • He defaults to balking when frustrated or stressed.
  • He does not like the mounting block. Apparently someone whacked him hard at the mounting block, once, when he was for sale recently. Now he tries to avoid mounting blocks.
  • Doesn’t really believe he needs to give to pressure. He will eventually give, but after some opinions on it.
  • He initially resists all rein aids.
  • Any ask for the trot results in violent head throwing.
  • He is respectful of personal space, for the most part.
  • He seems willing to please.
  • He seems confused and expecting the worst from humans.
  • He is a conserver of energy.
  • Go buttons are sticky (he was being ridden with spurs previously). Im not comfortable in spurs, so I’m re-teaching “Go” to suit me better.
  • He tosses his head any time he decides he doesn’t want to do something. Glad I wear a helmet, since our heads met at one point when I was trying to convince him to stand at the mounting block.
  • He has not offered to buck, rear, bite, or kick at any time, even when I’ve pressured him past his comfort zone. (Very sweet guy).
  • After a very short head throwing tantrum, he’s pretty amendable to whatever i ask.
  • Lighter aids seem to work really, really well on this guy. Softer the better. He’s quicker to respond and more willing. Less stressed.
  • I did have to growl at him twice when his head tossing started getting out of hand. He straightened up quickly.
  • He gets the ask/reward method really quickly. Associates thing A with thing B quickly.
  • He seems a little afraid to make a mistake.
  • I get the feeling that he actually did have some semi-decent training on him at some point long, long ago… but non-riders over the years have screwed him up. I think that base will really help me get him progressing quickly.

He travels with his head up, stiff, braced, and hollow. He goes this way in the pasture too, without any rider.

He’s far more stiff to the right than the left, overall.

I think I can make some pretty good changes in him over the next 6 months. Maybe. Assuming there aren’t any underlying physical issues. My friend, who I bought him from, said he’s had chiro, teeth, and vet check done, and that his undersaddle issues were the same regardless. I want to get his teeth re-done soon though.

He does seem to relax and move better when I give lots of praise and reward for the small right answers.

My Tolouse saddle fits him nearly perfectly. I wish it fit me as well. My legs are too short for it.

Oh, I forgot… so, I’m big on giving treats during a ride. I think it’s a tool that can quickly say “Well done!” (I haven’t had any negative issues from it in 7 years). Anyway, I’m on Levi and I reach down to hand him a treat, and he freaked out. Like “What the h*ll is THAT HAND doing here?!?!?!”

I try again, and again, and again. And finally, he figures out theres a treat there and takes it. 😆

He’s all cool with treats from the saddle now. 🙂

Poor boy thought the disembodied hand was going to get him!

Last ride he was like, “Yes, I will have a yummy treat now!” Really sweet about taking it too. All lips. lol!

He’s growing on me. 🥰

Really, really hoping the canter isn’t a train wreck. I’ve only seen 2 steps of it under saddle. He canters in the pasture, but he seems to only canter directly toward me. Haha I can’t get a side view to save my life. He seems stiff and flat from the front view though. Not the awe inspiring, big air time, canter I had hoped for. Oh well, not like any of the one’s I’ve had have had great canters either.