Monday, 17 December 2012

Merry (horseless) Christmas

Hi everyone!

It's been a while since I've posted - lots of personal life stress, and trying to get established with a new job haven't left much space for blogging, and I've been off riding since the 2nd week in December, since I'm spending the month in FL working to try to keep board and car insurance paid for another few months till the new job stars paying off in the new year.

Up in Canada, the yucky season has started, and Felix's energy level has skyrocketed again.  Keeping him just a little over blanketed to keep his back warm helps a good deal - but it's an attest to my comfort with him. This is the 2nd winter we've been through together, so I know what to expect more now.  As per usual, longing is a dismal failure, so it's pretty well just get on and roll with whatever he wants to throw at the rider.

He's also a little more spooky in the winter, between the arena noises (thank you snow crashing off the roof at the exact wrong time!), and the imaginary boogeymen in the corners. 

Before I left, we were doing more jumping inside - and surprise surprise, he's been pretty much 100% fine again.  We're still doing small stuff, and he's still a little iffy with the scary stuff like planks, but it's getting better and my confidence is returning.

He's with Sandy now for the month, and I'm hoping she'll do some jumping with him while I'm away. She's only riding 2x a week, and being as she's a fair bit taller then I am she'd have trouble jumping anything too big with him, but little scary things and grids should be A-OK.

Anyhow, I'll be back in January, hopefully with a little less stress on my plate and back to posrting more interesting things!  Till then, have a great holiday no matter what you celebrate, and give your ponies a holiday treat for me!

Sunday, 23 September 2012


Felix and I had a lesson last friday.  In a lot of ways it was great, and in others heartbreaking for me.

His dressage couldn't be better.   So long as I get my inside leg on enough, everything else just arrives. It's perfect. Also, we seem to be over the spooking nearly 100% now, which is good.

As for jumping - that's another story.  I know it's me - because he's capable.  I just am too nervous and choke up on the reins, which creates the overjumping problem I'm trying to avoid at best - but more often just causes him to slam on the brakes.   So, we've been demoted to poles and 6" high crossrails untill I'm comfortable with that and then we'll move on.  At some point I'm going to have to have a jumping lesson on one of the more trained jumpers in the barn, but for now it's endless small stuff - of every type. I'm going to make up some 6" high "flower boxes" and stuff over the winter - and we'll see how that goes. I have to admit I'm a bit frustrated and upset with myself for backsliding so much - but all I can do right now is carry on and fix it.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Maybe I have my good horse back?

I've been on and off traveling for work, so Felix has been in a holding pattern with 2 rides a week from my coach when I'm not around, and fairly light work when I am home.  Showing is probably not in the cards for the rest of this year, though now that I have started off on a new career it should be on track for the 2013 season.

He's slowly getting over his spooking issues that started this spring.  He still does a little bit in the indoor arena, mostly near the doors weather open or closed.  It's just a step or two towards the center of the ring, and a little bit if disconnect with the rider.  These "spooks" I have been just ignoring and pushing through, with focus on keeping him engaged the next time around.  The bad ones are the occasional small rear and attempt to change direction - these ones earn a spanking, as even if he is honestly scared it's hardly an appropriate reaction.

He will be getting his teeth done in a few weeks - we had to swap him over to a boucher in the meantime, which has completely fixed the headflipping that pointed to the tooth issue in the first place.

We've not jumped anything bigger then a small X or logs on the ground since June, because my legs are like limp noodles.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Felix VS the black tube

Came back from 2 months away working on Tuesday, and went out for a ride.

There were 2 TINY little jumps in the ring, so I figured "why not?".  Unfortunately one of them had been set up specifically as a "scary jump" by my coach for another student. It was just a 12" high vertical with a piece of black corrugated pipe behind the ground line - but apparently this was SUPER scary.  On top of that, I got ahead and didn't use enough leg.  This resulted in me falling off at the foot of the jump, and Felix not wanting to go anywhere NEAR it. I was able to get him over a different jump a few times after the fall though.

I got back to the barn, told my coach I fell off, and she immediately knew why, and said "I was going to warn you, but didn't think you'd be stupid enough to try to jump on your first day home".  Clearly she underestimated just how stupid I can be sometimes! 

Today we had a lesson to fix it. First we set up a pole, and then a small jump in the same spot. Then we took down the jump and had him walk/trot over just the tube.  This was exciting, as my coach had to lead him over the tube a couple of times.  We left it off there though, as I was tired, and it was good progress.

It's hard when you know you have a keen little pony, it's tempting to just go have fun.  I've even seen people do this before (a friend of mine did it with an XC ditch years ago).  Yet, I didn't apparently LEARN from it!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

PSA - now in bumper sticker form!

Going into spring, there are often car/rider accidents. This year was a particularly bad one, ending in the death of both horse and rider in our area.

I know when I'm in traffic, I get bored - so I read people's bumper stickers.  I now know my other motorists have an honour student, golden retrievers, and often their political leanings.  So, time for all of the riders out there to get the word out - by putting one of these on their bumper!

As you can imagine, this is specifically for my area, however if this takes off I'd be willing to do graphics for other areas. Just got 100 printed, hope they get snapped up right away!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

It's been a while

Unfortunately not much to report.  Felix is still at home with my coach, and doing VERY well.  I got a week or so of riding in near the end of April before leaving for work, this time on a fairly grueling schedule away from home again.  I'm lucky if I can even keep my excersise up while I'm away - nevermind ride this time! 

I promise you all, I haven't forgotten you :)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

How to properly read a dressage test.

OK - so we've all been at a schooling show where the test that you've supposed to use has been changed. If you're anything like me - you can't memorize a test in minutes,so what do you?

The obvious answer is to get a reader. But unless you've got a good friend that also rides dressage and happens to be at the show, there's no promises the person reading for you will do it in a way that you can follow the test.

Here are my personal hints and tips for both the reader, and the rider in this situation.

For the reader:
If you had the test ahead of time, verify with the office (or the scribe) what test is being ridden. If different, make sure your rider knows.

Read Clearly, and loudly. I have a short, sharp "arena voice" that carries which helps a LOT. Unfortunately if it's dad or a male helper reading the test, it's likely to be harder to hear. If they can use a slightly higher pitch this often carries better.

Read ONLY the test, and read the full instruction - nothing more, nothing less. Yes, it's redundant to say "working trot, rising" over and over but do it anyways. Do not insert words or further explanation. At a recognised show any instruction other then what is written on the test is grounds for elimination. It is however appropriate to repeat an instruction if it looks like your rider didn't hear you.

Watch your rider while reading. Give them lots of notice of the next movement - at LEAST 2 letters ahead of the movement to give time to prepare. Try not to give a new instruction during a transition unless you have to, better to give the 2nd instruction ahead of time then too late (for example if you have a "A - Left Lead Canter, followed by B - Circle Left 20m - you'd read these 2 together before the rider gets to A - because once they pick up canter you're not going to have time to read the entire next instruction before you get to B. Also, read the first instruction after the bell has rung, and before the rider arrives at A.

If you're rider gets off course, try to wait for the judge to ring the bell before you read further. After the bell - simply re-read the next instruction. The rider needs to work this out on their own, if you try to tell them "no, no, Left rein and then pick up at A" you're coaching them and they could be eliminated.

If you've never read a test before - try to watch another (good) reader first. A person's coach is usually a good choice because they know how to read well. Another good bet is if there is someone that's read for several other riders.

A note for parents - I know you want to help your kid out, but if you're not confident get help first. I promise you you'll feel worse if you were the reason your kid didn't ride a good test. I've seen people rapid fire read the entire test aloud while the rider is still going down the center line. If there is an experienced reader handy, ask if they'll read for them, then watch and learn.

For the rider:
You have a reader because you aren't confident in the test. Verify that your reader has the right test, and then just follow the instruction. Discard what you practiced at home and just follow the instruction. You'll feel foolish if you ignored your reader and started riding a different test.

Realx, breathe, and have a good ride!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Sometimes it is "just the horse"

Here's some conclusions I came to while riding Ellie this morning:

She's a crabby witch of a mare that spent 12 years as a trail horse. She's got no work ethic at all, and has been allowed to get her way FAR too much, and she's SMART!

Here's how a ride with her went the first time I rode her: great till she gets to the gate, then, she's done. When you try to steer her back out that's where the fun begins. She'll cow-kick, crowhop, wring her tail, and carry on - that is until you give her a little swat with the whip, then business as usual until you get to the gate again. It took me 5 or 6 rides to really get her going well, now she tries her tricks ONCE, and then gets right to work - and is she ever a lovely little thing. I convinced the owner to switch her from a curb into a snaffle, and she moves like a perfect little dressage horse now. honestly, if I could afford another one I'd probably buy her.

You could have spent a year with this horse trying to fix her "pain" issues (if she were mine I'd probably have her in a different bit for other reasons, but the plain snaffle is 100% better then the curb!) and gotten nowhere. All she really needed was some stiff discipline. Apparently she's still a nappy little witch with the lesson kids, so she's still for sale - but I expect she'll be bound for a better home now that we know she's a good horse as long as she gets good riding.

I still think that 90% of bad behaviour, especially out-of-character behaviour is related to something being a little "off", but in this case acting somewhat naughty is actually in character but undesirable. In Ellie's case, she had years of training that "if you scare the human you don't have to work", so this is what she does.

This is where the advice to just ride through it really comes to mind. The first time Ellie and I really had it out she was pretty determined that she was NOT going to work, and I was determined that she was - and if that meant we were going to circle the arena in a crow-hop rather then canter, then that was how it was going to be... I was in a western saddle, I'm not going anywhere! Then, the lightbulb went on that she had to be nice for me, and all is well in the universe.

You have to always keep in mind that most horses don't care about working. Sure, they can enjoy it while they are doing it, and some horses have better work ethic then others - but they'd equally enjoy sitting in the pasture all day eyeballs deep in a round bale. It's up to the human to convince that horse she's prefer to work nicely.

It's the good horseman that can look at a situation and be able to figure out why the horse is being a pill, and make the call as to weather it's a dicipline issue or a physical pain issue. It's a fine line, because there is nothing worse then beating a horse for telling you it hurts.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

I think people are finally starting to see the light!

Or at least manage to find the COTH message boards when they google "horse care" and such.

I've been riding at an adorable little lesson barn in Florida this past month, as I've been here working. This morning as I was untacking a new student and her mother showed up. I overheard the following conversation with the BO:

"We were wanting to get (daughter) her own horse, but after doing a bunch of research on the internet I decided we have NO idea what we're doing - so I want (daughter) to take at least a year of lessons first before we go out an buy her a horse. Before doing the research we were thinking we should get her a young horse - which I now know was totally the oposite, and we also have a lot of work that needs to be done to the property to get it ready, so a year will give us time to replace the fence and build a shelter."

I wanted to run over and give this woman a huge hug. These are responcible horse owners in the making, and I hope to see more and more like her!

Little bit about the new place by the way - total diamond in the rough for me. It's a small and reasonably new facility, they just opened about 9 months ago. The BO is somewhat inexperienced but responcible young lady, that has pulled together some ex-trail horses to teach beginner lessons on.

The little mare I chose is a 14.2 hand crabby paint that spent too many years in a trail string, but with a little persistence she's got some nice work in her. She bucks, and is nappy but in a controlable way, so this is giving me valueable time just riding through bad behavior without getting scared or panicky. Here is what miss Ellie looks like :)

I've got another 2 weeks with her - I'm hoping to leave her with a few more basics that will help this lady with her lesson program.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Why riding is like Star Wars

Today we have an entry from a guest blogger - my good friend and trainer Heather Campbell.

She recently participated in a Dressage clinic with Eddo Hoekstra, and had a great time, as well as some realizations that really apply to all of us.  Below is a copy of the letter she sent to Eddo the day following the clinic:

I want to share with you a few things. Everyone in the barn thought you were the best clinician they had ever worked with. Everyone took something home with them. I was very pleased! Even the Barn owner wanted to sign up at the last minute! You were great with everyone. Thank you. :).

It was nice to have you over for the weekend and I spent some thought on our discussions about showing and the state of the horse world. When you asked me why I quit showing well It took my session with you at the end of the day and another 12 hours of thinking to put my finger on it exactly....although I think I already knew.

Ready (this should almost be a published article).

Riding is Like Star Wars.

When I was talking with you over breakfast and then we were having our session, I felt like young Luke Skywalker. You are Yoda. Balance. Feel the force.
Its so easy to go to the dark side, to bully crank and push our horses, and so much harder to just let go and wait for everything to balance worry about myself let my horse have a say land let great things happen. (moment of brilliance).

I realized at that moment why I quit showing. As a professional I was expected to go in the show ring and win. Often this is rushed by the owner of the horse. (Right now the people who own the Vanner keep asking me WHEN I am going to get on him) Well I just got him Friday he doesn't know me and I don't know him I like to take my time so we have a relationship based on trust. He is 3. I want him to feel confident and happy. It seems that in today's world the emphasis is on winning and money. Quantity not quality. Its a shame.

Anyhow thanks. The reason I quit showing is because I like to win and especially when faced with a paying client...who is expecting more, I will cheat. I will use the methods I know to quickly get the result (and marks) I need. I don't hurt my horses but at the end of the day their opinion is not considered I'm not riding true. I quit because I want to be a Jedi master. I want to take the time and Not take short cuts, Id rather work now on what we did and keep reminding myself to just balance and be quiet. So I can get more input in June from both Walter (Zettle) and hopefully yourself. More then I want to show and win ribbons.

I needed that.

(See it sunk in)
Oh yes and if you have been under a Rock somewhere and not seen Star Wars..Well you should watch it.

This is of course the lovely horse that Heather was riding (though the pic is clearly from the summer).

Big thanks to Heather for allowing me to post her letter on our blog - I found it insirational and hope you do as well.  

Monday, 20 February 2012

Moved without a hitch

And Felix is settling into our new barn well.  He's been there for about 4 days, and is starting to calm down.

We're having to go back to scratch as far as standing to be tacked up, as the new barn has crossties which he'd only ever been on once before.  So far I am thrilled with the new place, I get to see my coach nearly every day, and the care couldn't be better.

Yesterday I got a call that he had a swollen shut and runny eye.  I went out to take a look, and couldn't really see a cause of the swelling myself.  The vet came out this morning, and we have a diagnosis of conjuctivitis, with instructions to ointment it with BNP and have him wear a fly mask with something to block the sun for a week.

The only good thing about the eye thing is that it did not happen at the old barn, as it would have likely gone entirely unnoticed.

Sandy will be starting to ride him this week while I'm away working, so hopefully he'll learn some things from her by the time I'm fully healed and back to riding as usual!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Broke my hand

Sorry there's been no updates in a while guys, I had a minor accident about 10 days ago that broke a bone in my hand, so I've not been up to typing. When the cast comes off I'll be back to posting as usual.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Fingers crossed

I may have my old pony back.

Felix and I have had a rough month, as he started spooking quite badly at everything - and generally having bad attitude, complete with bucking and flinging his head around constantly.

Wednesday I finally had it with the shennanigans, and put him in side reins. I'm not a huge fan of longing, but I figured if he ran into the side reins every time he flailed with his face, he'd learn.  We did about 40 minutes of longing - this took longer then expected due to the fact that you have to pay extra attention to him on the right rein or he'll stop and get wrapped in the longe line. By the time we were done all I felt like he was up to doing was a ridden cool-out at the walk, which was uneventful.

Then, he got 4 days off. I was not feeling well, and the winter weather does not inspire me to do much more then sleep.  I got back out there today, he got a short longe session - then I got on and it was 100% back to buisness as usual.  One of the young riders from the barn, Bailey got on him and hopped him over a few Xes. This also went very well - I'm going to try letting her ride him while I'm on vacation next month.  There are a few of the kids I really wish I could take with me when I move and she's definitely one of them.  It'll be amazing to have the arena to myself though!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Only a month away

Untill moving day for us! 

Felix will be going to Sandy's farm around the 15th of Febuary, which means we'll have acess to hacking again - YAY! It'll be nice to be in a quieter place with less lessons to work around and less unexpected noises outside the arena.

We had a good ride yesterday and today, in spite of it being absolutely frigid, I'm working out what he needs for a successful ride this time of year.

First of all - Longing is required. I THINK it's because since the ground froze they're not moving around as much, which adds to the kinda scary spring in his step if I try to just get on and ride as usual.
Second - There is no reason we have to use the whole arena.  If he's getting distracted by the stuff at the end of the ring, it is entirely OK to put him back to work by peeling off onto a circle, or cutting off the end all together, as long as it is done deliberately with nice bend, flexion, etc.

Anyways - this seems simple, but it's a breakthrough for me. 

Friday, 13 January 2012


Last weekend we participated in a clinic at the farm - all in all, it was pretty dismal, the only thing I learned was that falling off doesn't really hurt so much as I imagine! I'm not going to name the clinician, as I was not terribly impressed with her.  I felt like she'd make an amazing regular coach, but not worth it for a one-off clinic.  Fortunately it was vastly cheaper then the Jessica Phoenix clinic, so I didn't feel it was too much of a waste.

We started off with a lot of just flatwork, with leg yeilds in either direction as I usually do.  The clinician spend a lot more time on flatwork and jumping on everyone's horse then I'd normally prefer, but it was good for me, as Felix has been a spooky moron the last few weeks and she did help me out by getting him over it.

We moved on to gridwork, which is where it got a little hairy.  Felix is a nice jumper, but he's the type of ride you have to push for every stride.  If you take your leg off, he's going to loose rythym.  That's just how he rolls.  Anyways, we were instructed to do poles in two-point.  This is OK, as we've been practicing this so he'll do it well for Sarah.  As soon as there was a jump there he just died though, then we tripped on the 2nd fence.  He recovered - and I was left hanging off his side like a monkey.  Has we been on course I probably could have climbed back up into the saddle and continued, but I decided it was just too much work and let go.  On top of all this, he was also running out due to the fact that I can't ride as effectively without my seat.

I did managed to get him through the excersize - but I was not impressed with being ignored when I mentioned that he was not normally jumped with a rider in two-point before the fence.  He's not dirty - but he's smart. If you leave the door open, he's going to go through it... that's just how it is.

Anyways, the rest of the day went without incident - and I did get a complement on having excelent leg stability and position so that was kinda nice!

There is some other news to share next week - I just don't want to post it on the blog untill certain people have been notified.

Other then that, it's getting friggin COLD here. I'm going to try to suck it up and ride anyways tomorrow, hopefully I won't turn into a total popsicle!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Improve your riding through better undergarments....

I’ve always been a naturally “over endowed” girl, I normally wear a 34DDD. 
Over Christmas I finally broke down and bought a couple of the Enell sports bras that have been highly recommended by the girls on COTH and a few other places. Managed to get a set of 2 on Ebay for $75, which is about half for reg. retail (yay!).
I’ve had about 4 rides in them since then – and they are absolutely AMAZING. The first lesson I had back there was a lot of “your upper body is much better today” from my coach. This was mostly because I was not hunching from the weight of the “girls”. It’s improved just about everything in my riding at least slightly, from my sitting trot, to jumping position, to hands and everything.
It’s not entirely sunshine and roses – the band felt a little restrictive when I first put it on, but they are actually supposed to fit that way. As I got used to the fit though I notice it less and less, so hopefully I’ll be able to make it all day at a show in it. It’s also not a fashion statement. You wouldn’t want to wear a V neck, and they do give you serious uniboob, but I’ll take both of these to improve my riding through better undergarments!
Anyways, just thought I’d share as the topic has come up on here a few times, and well no one else understands!
As a side note, I had a lesson this afternoon. It was very hectic because of school still being out for the kids, but I do think we had an OK ride even with all the spooking and nonsence. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

It's -20 here...

And i've been totally uninspired to ride this week.  I'll be paying Devan for a few rides this week, then we have a Paige Lockton clinic on the weekend we'll be riding in (I'll be dragging my sorry self out to the barn tomorrow - saturday for sure.