I never know when a new horse is going to show up at the barn. Stryker turned up a couple months ago, unexpected by everyone, but fits right in.

Story goes, our barn manager had been planning for a long while to get a thoroughbred to race, got one all picked out, picked up, and then the barn he had fell through. So, Stryker came to live with us. Now, the new addition to the barn is finished, and he’s got a nice huge stall to  grow into. He’s just 18 months in the first picture, and such a cute baby.

He’s already growing and filling out. He’s got a really good head on his shoulders, takes everything in stride, and is more excited to see someone coming with his halter than he is to see them coming with treats.

I can’t wait to see how his life goes.




groundwork for littles

I’ve started teaching the seven year old how to work Midas in hand. It was time. We’ve practiced leading before, and it’s always been a bit of a struggle for her to not run ahead, or perpetually circle left because she wasn’t comfortable with how close he is when you lead properly.

He’s docile as a lamb in hand, and dutifully follows her no matter how hard she tries to get away. She has, however, made great strides. Becoming accustomed to being close to such a large animal, and learning how to maintain her space.

I started teaching her more complicated things, like yield the haunches, just last week. Groundwork is how I became a  better rider and gained Midas’s respect under saddle, why should it be any different for the child half my size?

It’s already made a difference in her and we’ve practiced twice. She is much better at leading all of a sudden, much more confident handling him on the ground by herself. I immediately started giving her more to do–like buckling the girth, snapping on and off the reins. I let her take his halter off, too. That was rather entertaining. Midas would rather watch a little kid jumping for his head repeatedly than put it lower (not that he made any move to lift it out of reach because something was jumping at his head.)

My hope, is that it will translate to him paying more attention to her when she rides, and also her having even more calm and control.



I stumbled on some old pictures while looking for something else the other day. Oh Midas, memory lane! Before Midas, I rode and trained a cremello gaited large pony, and rode a retired show pony. Midas wasn’t the sole focus until 2013.

2011: Midas loved the Minstrel. Picked him out from afar and decided he was the nicest one of us. But…he still gave the Minstrel a plenty hard time. I wonder if he reminded Midas of whoever started him.



2012: This was the day I learned to bridge my reins. I’d heard of it before, even been taught what it was, but never before had I really learned to do it. It was also the day he took off with me. Down a hill. Bucking. In front of like forty other riders whose horses did not bolt. I did not fall off. I rode the rest of the ride without incident (though, not without r.i.d.i.n.g. every single step).


In his defense, this little looker was taking all my training focus.



From this picture, it’s hard to tell that this is very same summer Midas dumped the Ham three times the same day. I believe this is the same summer we started doing Clinton Anderson’s book. aug-2828-2

He was a different horse in a halter in the saddle paddock. That’s always a good indicator there is much more going on than there appears.

2014: The year of Clinton Anderson’s Downunder Horsemanship. Ground work, liberty work, the one-rein stop, cruising, all finally starting to solidify and show real results. We also started jumping with all this new found partnership. Midas and I went to a dressage show. He bolted out of the ring and I jumped off (stopping him in the process) in our first test. In our second, we got a ribbon. Judge commended us for staying in the ring this time. I also start bringing random people to the barn and feeding them to Midas. I mean…teaching them some basic ground work and letting them ride him. As part of his training to be nice to humans, regardless of their skill level. This is a very difficult lesson which we are still working on.


The spring started with huge promise–we were cantering in the ring in a halter, Midas was happy, I was fairly fit. Midas was loving liberty work, and very good at it. We had a good outing working crowd control…and then I broke my foot (not at the barn) and I was sidelined for the summer. I rode vicariously through the Ham until fall, when I had to re-learn how to ride like a rider and not a hunt seat model. It was a rough set back.

2016: We got back on our feet, caught the groove again. Mostly. We train more seriously with jumping, having finally made jumps no big deal. I get myself dumped a little jumper show, and the Mice start to come riding again. Such a juxtaposition. Jumping 2.6 and crowhopping like a green OTTB off farm, patiently babysitting littles on farm.

2017: I start pursuing riding bridleless with more deliberate steps. Who would have thought THIS picture would ever be possible:


still riding

There has been quite a lot going on in life, and there haven’t been any big excursions with the horse–but I AM still riding and working with him. In fact, we’re working on canter, and we appear to have gotten over another behavioral hurdle.

It’s unclear how much of the problem was him, and how much was me, but regardless, we conquered it.

There was an occasion, several years ago now, on which he bolted while I was riding bareback in the big field. Without stirrups, I was afraid to do a one rein stop, and I wasn’t 100% sure I could sit out his abrupt stop at the gate. So I decided to jump off.

After that, Midas decided he was terrified of one of the solar generators and water troughs on the way out to that field, and we had several big fights about passing it.  Big fights that ended with us standing its general proximity without bolting, typically. I decided to leave it alone for a while. He walked past it freely when turned out in the big field, or the very pasture the trough watered. Obviously, the trough wasn’t the issue, and we might as well sort out our issues in a setting that involved less spinning.

Also, fighting about it wasn’t getting me anywhere.

So, we worked on other stuff.

Midas is a pretty fantastic ride in the ring, and we’re working cantering in the ring vs cantering in the wild. His bad behavior is location based, so it is now definitely time to start after locations.

Finally, I had an idea. We started with halt in the ring. We would start with halt in the field, too.

So I walked him into the field, and halted him before he could do anything. Head high, he shifted around. Waited. Tried to leave. Waited. Tried to leave. Then caught on. It took MUCH less time than the first time, all those years ago.

I let him eat grass, then asked him to walk forward again. He was immediately wound up. We halted before he could go far, and he couldn’t eat until he was standing quietly. We repeated this until we were well past the trouble spot. He was so distracted by his desire to eat grass, that he didn’t fuss at the trouble spot. In fact, he wasn’t at all interested in walking back to the barn, he wanted to keep doing the exercise so he could eat more grass.

A few weeks later, alternating bareback with saddle work, I tried the field again. This time, we just walked out.

No fight. Not even a hint.

We walked out, did a big circle around the middle of the field, stopped for grass, walked back.

We’ve been out a few times now, I usually take him there to cool out after ring work. And I’m so excited that I can take him into our old trouble field to cool out after ring work. He walks relaxed, happy, alert.

I’ve done a good job not getting spooked that he’s alert and we’re out and about. I think, maybe, we’re building another layer of trust between us.

I feel like we could actually leave and go on a trail ride without having a melt down. Of course, we’d both want to get a good run in.

This picture is from last week, it was a cool morning, I didn’t have time to ride but I was stopping by to pat noses. And the noses energetically brought themselves to me. I used to have to do a poor man’s join up every single time in the fall. What a change.


the reiner inside

We made a discover in my most recent riding lesson: Midas was a western horse once.

It started because I was picking up the reins to show my trainer what Midas can do with the bitless bridle. He was in a very agreeable mood, so I was quite surprised when he immediately backed in a tight circle the moment I picked up contact. He does this now and then, I find it mysterious, and sometimes frustrating because I wasn’t asking him to back–at least in the English fashion.

My trainer, being a trainer and also on the ground, began to suspect. That was a western move, she said. So we tried it a number of ways, halt, drop the reins, pick up the reins, see what he does. Then, try again, holding the reins lower. We tried a number of different things, and uncovered that when I pick up the reins, hands high, he backs. Depending on factors I haven’t quite isolated, it triggers a backing pattern–where he backs quickly and swings his bum left and backs some more. Sometimes in an entire circle if I don’t drop the reins. Now, experimenting, we tried out and out neck reining in loop de loops at trot and he handled great. Like, we even did a little bit of that spinning maneuver.

Good heavens, I have a reiner. Before he fox hunted, he did reining or maybe cutting.

Now, I haven’t ridden western seriously since I was 9 and just learning to ride. I have trail ridden western, so the reining world is just something I’ve watched with fascination. But now I have a lot of reading to do.

Another interesting discovery in this lesson is that he exhibits tendencies of a horse who washed out of being a driving horse. I was describing his keen distaste of having things in his blind spot, and also his aversion to the lunge whip. These are features which, if he hasn’t already washed out of driving, he would. Considering that when we were out at a show last someone wanted him for their carriage, I would say there is a good chance he may have already washed out.

How many lives have you lived, horse? And no one scratched behind your ears or under you mane to say hello?