Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Areas for Improvement

While preparing for both tests highest level (T-3, 1-3), I thought it’d be helpful for me to figure out what I’ve got locked down and what I need to work on.

Unrelated - here are some videos from our lesson this last Friday.  Sorta gives a feel for where we are on trot/canter.
General challenges

1.       Keeping him relaxed and focused on me

2.       Keeping MYSELF from making noise (kissing, clucking, good boys, oh shit!, etc)

3.       Forward, relaxed transitions

4.       Braiding?  Just pay someone???

5.       No vomiting – on or off horse


1.       Loop from H-X-K

a.       Need to make sure it’s fluid and that the bend is there

2.       Free walk from K-X-H – we get bogged down in the walk and he gets squirmy when I’m picking him back up from a long rein

a.       Need to make sure he stays forward and relaxed

3.       Stretchy trot circle

a.       These are good, I just need to make sure I can get his focus on me in a busy show environment


1.       HA! Hahahahaha.  That’s my crazy-we-might-fail-miserably laugh.

2.       Lengthening in both trot/canter

a.       Getting there, but might need to push them a bit further

3.       Leg yield off rail to X and back to rail

a.       Need to make sure we can laterally cover the distance while remaining forward at the trot

b.       Just needs more practice, specifically in a standard size dressage arena

4.       Canter loops to X and back to rail

a.       Need to not get in his way when headed back to the rail.  I have a tendency to lean back and out when we’re returning to the rail.  This throws him off balance and often puts him back into trot.

b.       Just needs more practice, specifically in a standard size dressage arena

5.       10m trot circles/15m canter circles

a.       More practice in a standard size dressage arena

6.       In general, there is a lot of canter in this test.  His fitness is good, but we do have occasional breaks to the trot.  Need to keep him forward.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Tentative Show Schedule

Super boring post - mostly for my own planning brain
Pretending to have a treat for pics going horribly wrong

1.       Paragron Dressage I/II/III

a.       Friday, May 25th – Sunday, May 27th

b.       Colorado Horse Park

c.       Considered 3 separate shows

d.       Trailer-in, hour drive time

e.       Tests

                                                               i.      Friday:

1.       Prep (flex day)

                                                             ii.      Saturday:

1.       Training 1

2.       Training 3

3.       First 1

                                                           iii.      Sunday:

1.       No show

f.        Might only show one day**

Naughty pony playing chicken with me
2.       BV Dressage I/II

a.       June 30th – July 1st

b.       Boulder Valley Fairgrounds

c.       Considered 2 separate shows

d.       Trailer-in both days, 45 minute drive time

e.       Tests

                                                               i.      Friday:

1.       Training 1

2.       Training 3

3.       First 3

                                                             ii.      Sunday:

1.       Training 3

2.       First 1

3.       First 3

Pooper :)
3.       Estes Park Dressage

a.       August 17th – 19th

b.       Estes Park fairgrounds

c.       Considered 3 separate shows

d.       Trailer-in, hour drive time

e.       Tests

                                                               i.      Friday:

1.       Prep (flex day)

                                                             ii.      Saturday

1.       Training 3

2.       First 1

3.       First 3

                                                           iii.      Sunday

1.       No show

f.        Might only show one day**

4.       RMDS Championships

a.       September 20th – 23rd

b.       Taking Thursday – Monday off work

c.       Colorado Horse Park

d.       Championships and multi-day USDF/USEF show

e.       Stable Gav, sleep in trailer

f.        Tests

                                                               i.      Thursday:

1.       Training 3

2.       First 3

                                                             ii.      Friday:

1.       Training 3

2.       First 3

                                                           iii.      Saturday:

1.       First championships

                                                           iv.      Sunday:

1.       Training championships

Training tests: 9

Training tests at highest level: 7

First level tests: 9

First level tests at highest level: 6

Competing for/towards: USDF Rider Awards, USDF Bronze Medal First Level Scores, USDF Adult Amateur (I can dream, right?), All Breed Awards – Welsh Cob (who knows… it could happen!), RMDS Championships

Thursday, February 15, 2018


I don’t have any great way to explain what has happened with Gav and I, but for the last two weeks riding has been nothing but joyful. I actually have to force myself to stop bc... ya know... pony might be super, but he still gets tired.
His cookie face

I credit the following:
- switching from Dressage whip to spurs (steadier in contact, more association of go with legs)
- switching to the baucher (same bit as Jen and Connor @cobjockey)
- that badass lesson I had two weeks ago where I learned contact can be like holding hands for horse and rider
Second Saturday conformation pic for February (on top), January (on bottom)

Even my warmups haven’t been sucking. Idk - I feel like Gav and I have crossed into a new level of communication.

Also, if you’re looking for inspiration read The Alchemist! I just read it and my one thought throughout was my love of being with and pursuing excellence with horses.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Special Lesson

One of my goals has been to regularly lesson with a dressage instructor down the road from me, but to also branch out and try to get some lessons with higher-level instructors (S judges, trainers bringing horses up to Grand Prix and competing, etc.).  So it was with excitement, and also a little trepidation that I had a lesson with a classical dressage trainer who competes at grand prix with her spanish horses.
Me waiting for my lesson

I went to the barn about 5 hours early to get a read on her and also watch some of the lessons that were held prior to mine.  Her lessons seemed pretty cerebral.  Basically, you walked your horse until she thought you were good enough to trot, and from there into the canter.  I was definitely not going to get out of the basics with this lady.  I saw two riders never canter - just walk/trot.

Finally, it was my time to go.  The arena was packed (because of course it was), but she was able to sweet talk everyone in to always going the same direction as me, which was super helpful.  Here were the big takeaways:
Proof of lesson, and also proof that a 14.3h horse is plenty big for my little legs

1)  Engage my lats, this'll bring my shoulders down and back and hold my arms steady.  Her words - I have lazy armpits.  Need to engage the armpits.
2)  Carry the tea tray.  I know I move my hands around and I'm telling you, the action is an unconscious one.  She was like, carry a tea tray and DON'T SPILL.  She seemed particularly offended by my hands in transitions.  She's right,  I fiddle with my hands.  No more.  Always with the tea tray.
3)  If he braces (which actually, he really rarely did after #1 and #2 were installed), I really need to push him forward and don't just give away the outside rein.
4)  Reins short, hands forward.  You want to hold the contact with him like holding hands.  No loosey-goosey business of taking contact and then dropping it.  He needs to be able to rely on my contact, just like I want to rely on his.
5)  When turning at the trot, think turn, turn, turn with my upper body (like a sprinkler head turning).  Her explanation of this was that when a horse trots and his outside hind comes forward, your body automatically get's pushed to the inside.  The converse is true when the inside hind comes forward - your body will get pushed a little to the outside.  To combat this and stay steadily on the line I want to ride, I need to think of pulling my torso/upper body back to the inside when his inside hind is pushing off.    

1)  In the beat where a horse lifts up his shoulders in the canter I need to think of elongating my spine, lowering my shoulders, and lightening my whole seat.  This allows him to bring his back up in that moment.  Same is true for asking for the canter transition.  Worst thing is to push down in to the seat in those moments, thus pressing down on his back at the moment that he needs to come up in his back.  This totally made sense.
2)  Half halt from my stomach before asking for the canter (if no reaction, half halt the outside rein).  Get him to slow slightly and come back on his hind end and right at that moment ask for the canter.  This is a work in progress for me because it requires some pretty serious timing that I just don't have yet.

1)  YES!  She asked me to walk-to-canter.  I was pretty excited about that.
2)  Get him to really march forward and jazz him up.  Let him know we're about to do something.
3)  Same thing as trot, half halt and set him back a little and right then ask for the canter.
4)  This isn't a point, but we had one really stellar walk-to-canter where he just launched into the canter.  To me it felt like he bucked, but to everyone watching they said he just sat back and then really jumped into the canter.
Dog photo to break up all these words.  Look at that side-eye.  Grumpy ole dog.

Her takeaways on Gav/Me
1)  She likes that he's not "hog fat" like some ponies of his type can get.  He's fit, you can see his muscling, but he's not thin either.
2)  He's extremely willing.  I just need to ask.
3)  I'm lucky to have him.  *I would definitely agree with this*
4)  I recently stopped riding with a whip and went to spurs.  I was curious to see how she felt about my usage of them.  She said they were perfectly fine.  I'm glad because I actually prefer just riding with spurs - gives my hands less to think about.

These boots are used and abused and in desperate need of a cleaning/conditioning

Everything she had me do had a purpose and an explanation.  It all made a ton of sense to me, and also seemed to help Gav be the best pony he could be.  I left that lesson on cloud nine.  I came out yesterday (the day after the lesson) to see if I could recreate any of that magic and surprisingly, I was able to get it all again.  To me, that's the sign of a great lesson.

I can't wait for her to come back to my barn!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Second Saturday

 Two months ago, my friend and I decided to start taking confirmation shots on the second Saturday of each month.  This last Saturday was our third time taking pics and we also took some videos.  We're hoping to be able to better track general fitness, weight, training, etc.  I figured I might as well post these to the blog as well, as I've found it helpful to go back and look at prior blog posts for inspiration (inspiration such as "man, we used to suck so bad!  We don't suck nearly as bad anymore!").  So here we are for January 2018!

He looks so tiny!  He's actually 14.2 1/2!  Top is January, bottom is November.  He's leaned out since November (not surprising considering my riding program has changed pretty significantly).

WTF am I doing with my hands at the beginning of this trot video?  I'm not sure.  My left hand is and has always been a zombie, but it's really gone rogue.  Must quiet the hands!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018 Goals

2018 Goals


Not a horse, but look at this cute pugger

I’m a little late on the 2018 posts (per my standard blog behavior), but I did want to share my 2018 goals


Horse goals

1)      Qualify for RMDS championships at training/first level and compete

2)      Get my first level scores towards the bronze medal

3)      Ride 4-5x a week

4)      Monthly confirmation shots on second Saturday of each month

5)      Lesson twice a month with local trainer

6)      Lesson once a month with one of two different ‘S’ judges that frequent the area

a.       Try to get these recorded

To sum it up, my goal is to ride more, learn more, and show. 
Old man puppy boy

Personal goals

1)      Gym 3-4x a week (2 classes a week)

2)      Learn more about the CFP (certified financial planner) program

3)      Continue to slowly grow EQ Accounting (my very small accounting services business that I offer to friends, family, and equine-related businesses)

To sum it up, continue to work towards good physical fitness and to grow professionally in a direction I enjoy.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Oh Suzannah!

(much word vomit, pics of new saddle at bottom)

Sure, Christmas was 5 days before, but on Saturday I woke up with that sort of early morning kid at Christmas excitement.  It was NewSaddleFitting Day (a holiday only horse girls are aware of).  

Before I talk about the saddles, I want to talk about the method in which this saddle fitter works because I really believe in it.  

Step 1) you go to her shop and you sit in any saddle she thinks might work for your build and your budget.  She makes notes on which saddles to bring with her for the actual fitting.  This is important because it weeds out a lot of saddles that she'd otherwise have to cart around.

Step 2) she comes out and takes sketches of your horse's back.  This is done for record and she saves them for future saddle adjustments.

Step 3) She sets each saddle on the horse's back to see if the saddle fits the horse.

Step 4) You ride in each saddle that fits your horse's back.  Bam - bam - bam - bam.  This is something that I really believe in now that I've gone through the process twice.  It's a great way to quickly compare how you feel and how the horse feels in each saddle.  I always used to take one saddle on trial and then another.  This works, but I prefer trying them all during one ride.  It allows you to compare each saddle with the impression of each one fresh in your mind.

Step 5) You buy a saddle.  She doesn't do trials.  This is a bit of a bummer, but it's how she works and I get the impression that she is rarely wrong on finding the "right" saddle.

So back to today - I was so excited.  There were so many saddles to try.

-Adam Ellis Avanti 
-Prestige X-Breath, monoflap
-Prestige X-Breath, regular flap
-Prestige Passion
-Ideal Saddlery Suzannah, monoflap
-Keith Bryan Santis Boutique
-Selleria Equipe Emporio

I had sat on all of these saddles in the store and the saddle fitter deemed them all worthy of a visit to Gav's back.

We sat each one on Gav's back, and the saddle fitter sorted them into two groups (winners/losers)

Winners on Gavin's back:
-Both Prestige X-Breaths
-Ideal Saddlery - Suzannah
-Keith Bryan (would need modification)
-Selleria Equipe Emporio

Losers on Gavin's back:
-Adam Ellis (I was surprised by this as he went well in an Adam Ellis jump saddle and Jen with CobJockey rides in one)
-Prestige Passion (just no)

First up to try: Prestige X-Breath, Monoflap.  This saddle may have not got the best shake.  It felt weird to sit in a dressage saddle for the first time in two years, my stirrups were too long, and Gav was still in his early warmup phase (as was I).  This saddle had my pelvis tilted at a weird angle and that was no good.  It was uncomfortable.  After about 5 minutes we moved on to the next X-Breath.

Prestige X-Breath, Regular Flap (the favorite coming into this competition).  Fixed the stirrup length and found that I sat totally differently in this saddle compared to the monoflap.  No pelvis tilting/junk smashing going on.  We rode around in this for awhile - seemed like a winner.

Selleria Equipe Emporio - I got on and got about 5 strides away from the mounting block before getting off.  This saddle just did not work for me.  I've never felt so locked in by a saddle before, which was an odd sensation, but what really sent up the red flags was it's almost immediate junk smashing/pelvic tilting sensation. I'm pretty sure it would've destroyed my nether region at the sitting trot.  TMI, I know, but that's important to determine when trying saddles.  

Ideal Saddlery Suzannah, Monoflap - I had absolutely ZERO interest in this saddle when she sat me in it at the shop or when she brought it out and sat it on Gav's back.  It was just meh to me.  There is no denying that the Prestige saddles are gorgeous - and this saddle is no Prestige in terms of dashing good lucks, but it felt great to sit in and it felt great to ride in and it even felt pretty damn good to sit the trot in (god, I am soooo rusty at that - poor Gav).  I approved, Gav approved, and the saddle fitter approved.  And so, that's how I wound up with the Ideal Suzannah.

I didn't even try the Keith Bryan.  It wouldn't have been a great fit on Gav without adjustment, and it was an extra $1300 over the Ideal.  The choice was obvious.  I bought the Suzannah!  :) 

The next day was horribly cold, so I spent it indoors obsessing about the saddle.  I finally got to ride in it again yesterday and it was just as awesome as I remember it being the first time around.  It definitely needs some breaking in, but I think it'll do perfectly for me and Gav.


Imagine my surprise at lifting the flap and only finding this...