PSA: A few months ago, I moved all of my blog posts about Miles from public to private. Yesterday, I changed them back to be widely available. I apologize for any inconvenience (and for bombarding your blog feed)
It’s been quite some time since I talked about Miles on my blog (remember that big, chestnut gelding I own?). Well it’s finally time to let ya’ll in on what’s been going on. Brace yourselves, it’s a little bit of a saga.
While things started a little bit before this, I believe the real catalyst for our issues was when Miles went lame in July. He had over a month of stall rest, plus a month of slow rehab and I think he really enjoyed his vacation. I don’t think he wanted to come back to work (or at least, any difficult work). Of course, that’s just me anthropomorphizing, but regardless, his attitude was horrendous — as in, bucking me off over crossrails. It was a hard blow to realize that the horse I’d been confidently competing at 2’6″ now wouldn’t jump crossrails like a gentleman.
Luckily, I have a great team behind me and we quickly came up with a plan. We changed the way I rode Miles on the flat, and my BFF/working student Nichole started riding Miles over fences. I also picked up the ride on Moiya, who helped me regain some confidence. I won’t lie, all through September and October, my rides on Miles were really challenging both mentally and physically. They weren’t fun — they were work. But I saw improvement both with myself on the flat and over fences with Nichole, so I remained hopeful that it would all work out.
The Breaking Point
Then during a flat ride in early December, out of nowhere, Miles pulled his go-to evasion of throwing his head down and bucking. I was very close to falling off, and would have if he hadn’t just stopped on own. Luckily, Nichole was riding with me that day and was able to get on and school him for me. But I was scared and I spent the entire month of December really upset. I cried over Miles more than I’d care to admit and I discussed selling him. At the end of the month I had my first lesson over fences with Miles since July. And we trotted crossrails, while I cried. I had absolutely no confidence in my ability to jump this horse, and I was 75% convinced that he would be bad and buck me off. But he didn’t. In fact, he didn’t set one foot wrong the entire lesson.
One Last Chance
After a break for the holidays where I focused on spending time with family, I decided a change had to be made. Originally, I wanted to give Miles all winter to shape up. But I couldn’t keep going on the way I was. No horse is worth my happiness, and I wasn’t happy. So I told myself enough was enough — no more training rides, no more excuses. I got the go-ahead from Trainer to change his bit and Miles went back to his regular “owned and maintained by amateur owner” program where I rode him on the flat and in lessons over fences.
Monday was our last lesson of the month of January, and I’m both elated and ecstatic to announce that Miles is off probation and staying right where he is.
Welcome Back, Miles
We’ve worked on extension and collection on the flat, with lots of different ground pole exercises. We’re even working on lateral work, to control the shoulders and haunches. While he still has some grumpy and sassy moments, all of our equipment changes (whip and spurs for every ride, plus a two-ring elevator bit), have made it manageable. I have more tools to say “FORWARD, NOW” and I have just enough leverage to pick him up when he gets heavy on the forehand, or ducks his head a little bit.
Three weeks ago we did a three stride line of ground poles to a (short) four stride line of poles that was perfection. Two weeks ago we jumped a 2’3″ vertical perfectly — a little bit of a gappy distance, but I kept my leg on solidly and Miles perked his ears and jumped super cute. Yesterday I had trouble feeling the pace and got left behind twice, landing in a heap, giving Miles the perfect opportunity to misbehave and dump me on the ground. But he didn’t — he just kept cantering and didn’t try anything bad.
Miles and I hit a really rough patch and everyone thought I’d sell him (including Trainer), but thanks to an amazing team we worked through it. Miles gets to stay and we’re going to keep working on getting back up to jumping 2’6″ courses.