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Blogs - Blogger Liz Arbittier

July 23, 2014

When The Vet Becomes The Client

I have some good news and some bad news and, as usual for me, the reveal is best done in the form of a story.

Ephraim and I went down to Kevin Babington’s for two days of education. He strolled through the barns, hung out in the busy grooming area, and stood in the ring watching others school big jumps, all sans stress.  He walked into his stall and dug into the hay.  “I have a show horse!” I thought.    

June 3, 2014

In Which Ephraim Grows Up

Fast forward six months, and things sure have changed since the day I met Ephraim. My decision to trust a stranger who was trying to save a horse has been rewarded in more ways than one.


7 weeks 1 day ago

Eph trust issues

Have you ever thought of using the methods of Monty Roberts for Eph's trust issues? He has done wonders with his gentle ways and with how the horse's mind works. He has worked in every field of horsemanship. He has taught all over the world and changed the brutal ways some countries have used to trained their horses with. I don't know if you have ever actually seen how the Amish train their horses but they can be very cruel in their methods. I have seen one video with a young horse and how they teach them to stand tied up. The man put the halter and lead rope on for the first time and then tied the rope to the rail and walked away. The young horse freaked out and fought to get lose. The man said that if the young horse breaks his neck then he was to stupid and he didn't want a horse stupid enough to kill itself.
April 18, 2014

Life Off The Farm

We did it. We survived the winter! It wasn’t without bumps and bruises but, in retrospect; it is pretty impressive how well Ephraim handled himself. Let’s recap: four months ago, he was a petrified, severely hyper-reactive, 4-year-old former Amish buggy horse who came from the warm south where he had started retraining.

February 22, 2014

My Gelding...The Mare

Stubborn, scared, brave, spooky, and willing. These are five words that shouldn’t describe one horse, but my accidentally-poetic trainer hit the nail on the head when she used them to describe Ephraim.

January 19, 2014

Channeling Walter Farley

As a veterinarian, I meet a lot of people and treat a lot of horses. I have been very lucky in my career to develop close relationships with clients, many of whom have become like family. The basis for those relationships, on both sides, is trust.


Sharon Scarborough
22 weeks 3 days ago

Another buggy horse

Thank you so much for writing down your experiences and insights as you retrain your buggy horse. My saddlebred/clydesdale cross (maybe) was apparently the flashy Sunday buggy horse, but perhaps not flashy enough as he changed careers at 6. I don't know much about his back story but he did spend time with excellent trainers to get him started on his dressage career before he came home with me. He obviously needs consistent work or slips back to worried buggy horse mode. Trust issues, spooking at illogical things but not at expected others, bridling issues, separation anxiety when pulled away from his buddies, and he eats like a hound dog! But he is the sweetest horse, ties and stands for the farrier like a dream! I thought he had "been around the block" and seen it all but not the case. Looking forward to your future blogs!
26 weeks 3 days ago


The funny thing about horses,in my experience,is that they remember the bad. Trust isn't solidified in a couple of months. In a year or two you will have a trust you can count on and you will know his trust questioning quirks and how to avoid them. Remeber trust is built, and it takes time.
25 weeks 5 days ago


Do you want your horse to excel in competition,increase energy levels,physically release stress and anxiety,have relief from soreness,improve disposition? Reiki is your solution. Horses are gentle souls who are VERY receptive to Reiki energy. Horses, like every living thing, have energy flowing through their body. Blocks in the flow of healthy energy occur from infections,injuries,emotional trauma,training issues,a change in diet. There are many factors. When these blocks go untreated it may leave some areas depleted of energy which then cause other areas to work harder. Reiki energy breaks up these blockages. Many rescue organizations for abused horses are using Reiki to help heal emotional trauma along with physical ones with great results. For more information go to
January 17, 2014

The Sunday Horse

I have to say that when I got a buggy horse, I assumed he’d be relatively bombproof. When I pass those horses on the road, I give them wide berth, watch carefully, and never see them react. I’m especially cautious at night and am constantly amazed at how focused these special horses are, to be trotting full bore on the pitch black roads with drivers buzzing by.

January 6, 2014

Three Things I Never Thought I'd Say

Three phrases I am embarrassed to admit actually came out of my mouth during my first lesson on Ephraim with Kate Hicks:

-Is my lower leg touching him? Can you tell? Because I feel nothing below the knee.

-I’d really prefer not to have to be responsible for steering today.

-Is this when we think I’m going to die?


28 weeks 2 days ago

Gosh I love these installments!

I completely understand when you said, "but my feeling of complete ineptitude in the tack had me a bit wary. I’m back from a two-year riding hiatus and, while I can fake basic competence on your average horse, Ephraim is anything but average". Training or participating in training a green horse is such an eye opener regarding your own skills. I thought I was a pretty good rider until I bought an adult-but-never-done-much draft cross. Unlike you I started on my own (without a trainer) and instead of teaching him anything I found ALL MY TRAINING HOLES! So I completely understand your leg/knee discovery LOL. On the bright side, finding these training holes while training a horse with "macro" skills, with the help of a trainer, can make you an incredible rider. I have so much respect for how correct trainers have to be to throw leg over various skill types! Oh, and I pulled one of those cracker-jack what-do-you-mean-I-can't-do-that-on-any-horse moves by trying to put on an eventer vest while aboard my "macro skills" (I am so going to use that from now on because it says exactly what I mean)horse. He popped up in front -not very high. I threw the vest on the ground. It made me giggle too! Thank you for another brilliant installment. Paula
28 weeks 2 days ago

good job

the silver lining in this... you got a peek at his jumping ability. :-)
28 weeks 2 days ago

canter transition?

how did the canter transition under saddle go? did he pop again, or was the correction to your seat/leg the cure?
28 weeks 2 days ago

Love these blog posts on your

Love these blog posts on your Amish crossover horse. Keep up the great work and the wonderful written pieces on your journey with this lovely horse.
January 3, 2014

Embarking On An Amish Adventure

New blogger and veterinarian Liz Arbittier recently purchased her first former Amish driving horse, and she's planning to chronicle their training process together for The Chronicle of the Horse.

When I took my dream job as a staff equine veterinarian at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center, I knew it meant huge life changes. I resolved not to have a horse during the transition because I needed to focus on my new job. I made it from June until August before I started jonesing to ride.


28 weeks 5 days ago

Great opening entry! I'm intrigued!

Interesting observation about Amish horses and blinders -I never would have thought about that. Do you think the tongue injury is going to affect bitting or bitting comfort? Paula
28 weeks 5 days ago

Hi Paula! He eats

Hi Paula! He eats voraciously (and is now a major treat hound) and the bit doesn't seem to bother him at all!! I'm using a comfort D ring snaffle with a lozenge and he is really happy in that but I'm willing to play with whatever he wants!
28 weeks 5 days ago


Hi Liz, You might try just ONE draw rein used lightly during his beginning training. It will do 2 things:protect your face if you scare him again and help him develop a better top line. As you are trotting, a little squeeze/release of the DR backed up by a steady leg will remind him to go forward and keep his head where it belongs. Are you asking why ONE draw rein? Two can be too restricting and if in the wrong hands can do damage. One draw rein is a gentle reminder of where his head belongs and should protect your face should he get scared again. A few weeks of quietly trotting forward with one draw rein added to your normal bridle will do wonders for both you and Eeeph. ljo
28 weeks 5 days ago


hey this is a great suggestion for building frame and top line strength and flexion. will it also help lateral flexion?
28 weeks 5 days ago

Thank you so much for the

Thank you so much for the suggestion!! That's an interesting idea. He is actually doing terrifically. Our misunderstanding was totally my fault - I went to get into a forward and light seat the way I would with an OTTB or any young horse and it totally scared him. Poor guy thought I was punishing him and it scared him to death! Now that I've realized his comfort level is for me to ride tall in my upper body at all times, he's doing great. walk, trot, canter (canter is to DIE for!) and trot poles. I'll keep your suggestion in mind for the future!
28 weeks 5 days ago

please post lots!

I used to work with STB's. I'm no longer capable. I've been looking for a way to live vicariously through someone else. :-) thank you for attempting this challenge.:-) I found driving to be closer to saddle seat than standard riding. have you considered that driving is forehand and correct canter is off the hindquarters? also canter is 'discouraged' for driven horses. so getting them to canter is challenging but the power and longitudinal flexion is.... breathtaking. :-). how is your lunging skills/sessions? does Eph pick up canter easy on the lunge? ckeck that out and see if your trainer can give Eph and you some courage building camter lunge sessions. Good Luck and let us know!!!
28 weeks 5 days ago

Hi cdmom - Eph is doing

Hi cdmom - Eph is doing great. He had been cantering under saddle at the retraining barn with no problems, I just literally scared him to death when I got up in a light seat and he hit my face with his, lol. He thought I was punishing him! He has wonderful longeing manners, and I was longeing him for a while after 'the incident' but now I just get right on. We are w,t,c and he is doing great. I'm definitely in love! Stay tuned for future blogs!
28 weeks 5 days ago

DHH- Great Athletes

Liz- Kudos for you for purchasing a Dutch Harness Horse! I have owned and shown many since I met my first ex-buggy horse 5 years ago. They are great athletes- I have evented, jumped and even won classes in Wellington Dressage Classic's with this versatile breed. I have TONS of pics, info about the breed etc if you would ever like to talk. my email is: Best of luck! Moriah
28 weeks 4 days ago

Moriah, I'd love to hear all

Moriah, I'd love to hear all about your experience with the DHH's and see photos! Especially with your former buggy horse. I will email you...or do you have them on facebook?
Louisa Shepard
28 weeks 5 days ago

Love this story!

What a wonderful story, Liz, about your rescue of Eph! You two are a perfect pair. I am looking forward to reading much more about your adventures together.
28 weeks 4 days ago

Ephie wants you and your

Ephie wants you and your carrots to visit again SOON!
28 weeks 4 days ago

Such a cool thing to do

Please update often! A horse trainer friend of mine used to re-train a lot of Amish horses. She always told me the biggest challenge she found with these horses is getting them into the right frame of mind regarding people, that often they had really never been treated like more than a piece of farming equipment (she was not trying to be insulting, she was just pointing out it was a very different way to live with horses) and that often they were overwhelmed by people suddenly treating them like they were a pet. I cannot wait to hear how you do with him!
28 weeks 4 days ago

Mirkyelf, your friend

Mirkyelf, your friend definitely is right with regard to Eph! He has a lot of trust issues which can make him panic but he has come so far in such a short period of time...he clearly loves being a pet. I spend a ton of time with him on the ground, just hanging out with him and grooming and he seems to really respond! It's amazing how much he has changed in that respect from the beginning. He is very treat motivated, now that he lets me touch his mouth and understands that he is rewarded for not-panicking, which I think is huge. Treats were definitely the bridge to trust with him. Now i can use other positive re-enforcement techniques and he understands what I'm trying to say and it's really been great! Thanks!
28 weeks 4 days ago


Hi Liz- I also purchased a former Amish driving horse and from Kelly Bauer (who is awesome!!) I bought Vitaal as a 10 yr old in April 2013 & he also had trust issues, especially quick movements which surprized me being driven in all kinds of different envoirnments, etc. He was a stallion until he was 8 so he definitely has opinions :) I have so much fun with him, super talented, great work ethic, makes me laugh every day. The hardest hurdle has been to get his neck to relax & stretch (I ride dressage). Also keeping him straight, quite a wiggle worm, lateral work is super easy for him but he evades by laying on the outside shoulder. Accupuncture & chiro work has helped alot, as well as many sweaty saddle pads. He is drop dead gorgeous, black, 4 white socks, blaze & is a can do guy but worries in new situations. Good luck with your guy, I'm sure he will progress so much as time goes on. I have learned alot about the way the Amish treat their horses, it is amazing and a testament to their temperments that they are as good as they are once removed from that life. Another good horse saved- yay!!
28 weeks 4 days ago

Mitch - SO glad you wrote!!

Mitch - SO glad you wrote!! How funny that you also found your horse with Kelly, she is a treasure. I was picking her brain again today...she is so practical and has so much experience with these guys and the answer is never quite what I think it will be, LOL. I'd love to see photos of Vitaal - can you find me on facebook? Our guys sound a lot alike!
28 weeks 4 days ago

Want to follow the story

Are you going to post pictures and follow up storieson Facebook? I would love to hear about your adventures together.
28 weeks 4 days ago

Vicki, the COTH will post the

Vicki, the COTH will post the follow ups and they also have some adorable photos of Eph (not that I'm biased). I am not sure how often the blogs will be posted but there are more ready to go!My learning curve is really steep right now so I have a lot to write about, lol. Thanks for writing!
28 weeks 1 day ago

Amish training

Liz, I love reading your blog about your new adventure with Eph. My daughter has ridden an Amish pony for the past three years and your story shares so many similarities to our experiences with Pepper (she is a black and white paint pony). Your story really hits home with us and validates so many feelings we have had along our journey of training her to be a pretty darn cute jumping pony. Not to mention one that everyone falls in love with in spite of all her challenges and distrust of people in general. I laughed when I read your story about Eph's big head. When we first saw Pepper at her owners barn, my first thought was "oh my, that pony has the biggest head I have ever seen ". One of the trainers who has helped us patiently train her thinks her big head is why she is so smart and often times too smart for her own good! She was and continues to be quite untrusting of people in general. She loves mainly one person and that is my 11 year old daughter. On yes, the vest incident you had, well, we learned that lesson too the hard way! We still don't remove jackets when on her! I can only say that she has stretched our training philosophy and everything has been slowed way down. Our motto with Pepper is patience. Also, many tears and embarrassment has been a part of my daughter's life over the past 3 years as she watched her friends at the barn ride their easy going ponies while her big headed pony was trying to run away and disrupt all activities. I must also say I have owned horses all my life and this one has touched my heart more deeply than the rest. If you were to ask my daughter if she would trade Pepper for an easy going fancy pony the exact answer is "no way!". She is her joy and has taught her more life lessons and I am so grateful she found her way into our life by way of a dear friend. Just as Eph found his way to you. We end our show season this year with Pepper winning many ribbons and often champion at the shows. I am sure Eph will bring you as much joy. I can't wait to read more and learn from journey.
Pelham Ponies
27 weeks 2 days ago

I have an Ex-Amish pony

Liz, I have a superstar of a foxhunter that is a Morgan / Standardbred cross (we think). He was an Amish cart pony until he was 6 years old, then sent to a trainer in Kentucky for resale. On a whim she decided to break him to saddle and eventually sold him to my friend as a jumper. I got him three years into his riding phase of life. He is awesome and a great first flight horse. He had trouble with steering and knew nothing of leg when my friend got him. But she schooled him in dressage which fixed that. He is bomb proof and laid back on the ground. His main quirk is that speed is his solution to every problem. If he's confused by the rider, sees a tricky jump or gets into bad footing - he rockets on. I've hitched him up a few times, and he pulled the cart like a pro. Such fun!