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Wizard Ride 67; JR Session 23: The Death Star

April 2, 2009


Wednesday, 4/1/09

Two honey-colored eyes, two black-tipped ears, and a loud nicker greeted me when I arrived at the barn tonight. Wizard is learning the routine- I administer Ulcergard and feed him a tub of Alfa Supreme while I work with JR. There is a theory that feeding alfalfa before a ride can help settle a horse’s stomach if he’s suspected of having ulcers. The alfalfa is also good for building muscle and adding weight, plus Wizard eats it like it’s candy.

JR had an easy night. I longed him outdoors for about 15 minutes and walked him for 5 minutes. I wormed him with Equimax and put him to bed.

Sarah showed up and I began my riding lesson. We warmed up at a walk on a loose rein. We then trotted on a large circle. Wizard began to stretch down with his neck, which is a good thing. I clutched the reins with my hands whenever his trotting tempo increased, which is a very bad thing.

“Drop your reins and let him trot on the buckle,” said Sarah the Trainer.

“Ergh,” said Sarah the Student, as she made a pathetic attempt to loosen the reins.

“Trust him and ride on the BUCKLE. Seriously. He doesn’t WANT to rush and he’ll stop rushing when you are balanced.”

“What if he gets really fast?”

“You’re riding a CIRCLE…”


It took several rotations on the circle before I could reliably trot Wizard on the buckle without my hands getting a mind of their own and fiddling with the reins. When I finally sat up, loosened my shoulders, and rode with my hands on the buckle of the rein, a funny thing happened: Wizard relaxed, lowered his head, and trotted smoothly. And when Sarah asked us to walk with me just using my seat, another funny thing happened: he walked. The beauty of the independent seat. If only I could keep my shoulders this straight and aligned all the time.

Just for fun, Sarah asked me to ask Wizard for a canter on a circle. I asked him, but he simply flattened his ears and trotted reallllly fast. Sarah smiled and we moved on to our next exercise. It’s going to take some mental gymnastics to get Wizard to canter with balance and relaxation. So far, we have our best luck using trot poles and cross rails.

After more work with bending and trotting on contact on figure 8s and serpentines, Sarah set up a series of trot poles on a circle. It looked kind of like a star, except there was an angled pole in the center.


First, we walked the circle. Then, we trotted to the left (the direction that is easiest for Wizard). Before I began trotting, the pattern looked fairly simple. I’ve ridden it many times before with Alibar and countless lesson horses. But a green horse with a good trot stride made it feel a little like a video game, riding him straight to the center of each trot pole, keeping the bend of the circle, and staying out of his way as he trotted over the poles. The first few rounds were u-g-l-y. Once Wizard figured out the pattern and I figured out my rhythm while I stayed out of his way, we got exponentially better. But then the star became the Death Star… we had to make a left turn after pole F and trot over pole G. It required me to stay OFF Wizard’s mouth and really use my leg to engage his inside hind leg. After we trotted over pole G, we kept trotting past the poles and circled outside the line of poles until we established a good rhythm to the right. Then we trotted the poles to the right. I remember reading somewhere that just because a horse can do something to the left does not mean he can do it to the right. Sometimes horses need to be trained the same behavior in both directions. This was very true on our little star. Again, we took a few awkward passes to develop rhythm and balance. I could hear Wizard really working hard on this task. His respiration increased and I saw a little sweat on his neck. This was the hardest I’ve felt him work since I started riding him. I was very pleased that his sweat dried as soon as we were done with the exercise. He was sweating from effort, not nerves. It’s really enjoyable to ride a horse who can focus on a task and who tries so hard to do well.

After our star circle, we took a walk break while Sarah set up a little line for us. I could tell that Sarah had the goal in mind of developing my seat and getting my shoulders back where they should be. The trot poles/jump line was in the direction of the barn/gate so I needed to keep my seat in order to prevent Wizard from rushing. It consisted of three trot poles, followed by two teeeeny cross rails. They were small enough that we could walk over them (and we did).


We trotted the combination a few times. Wizard was forward and responsive, but he was beginning to speed up at the trot. Sarah warned us that she might ask us to walk or halt during the line. We trotted in, ready for her signal. She asked me to halt him after the trot poles and before the first X. We did it :^) Next time through, she asked us to walk before we even got to the trot poles. Next time through, she asked us to walk for just a fraction of a second, then trot on, like an exaggerated half halt. The last two times through, she did not ask us to walk or halt at all. Wizard was listening, waiting for my signal, as we trotted through. I was balanced and focused. The last time through the line, Wizard broke into a canter between the two cross rails. I was instructed to let him canter anytime he offered it so I did. I did a good job of staying out of his way, and we were done. Another great lesson!

I untacked Wizard, wormed him with Equimax, put Novlasan on the bite mark on his throat (hey JR, WHO do you think might have bitten Wizard on the neck???), applied Thermaflex to his legs, and gave him a good grooming. And I have the day off tomorrow and the forecast is good so I’m hoping for a daylight ride outdoors :^)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Lori permalink
    April 2, 2009 8:40 am

    Sarah, please forgive me for the unrelated question…but do you sell your photos as prints?

    P.S. Is spring ever truly going to get here to the PA/NJ area? I’m beginning to doubt. :O)

    • April 2, 2009 11:40 am

      Hi Lori,

      Any question is always welcomed! Yes, I do sell some prints. You can contact me through my website (Contact page) on and I can go over what I offer.

      Today feels pretty darned close to spring to me! Sunny with a high of 60… I’ll take it!

      – Sarah

  2. oregonsunshine permalink
    April 2, 2009 2:18 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    Lori’s comment had me thinking. If you’re ever coming to Portland Meadows, let me know! I’d love to meet you in person and maybe you could meet Casey too!

    I talked to Tasha the Trainer yesterday about Casey and the possibility of ulcers. It’s something we’re considering as a possibility. At the moment, Casey is getting a flake of alfalfa at night, but none in the morning before working. Maybe switching that around will help too. Thanks for your help and explanations about ulcers!

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