Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Six Months

I decided when I moved into the new barn and was able to get more consistent lessons and regular rides that I'd start document Gav's muscling/conformation on a monthly basis.  Here are the results after 6 months. 






Wednesday, April 11, 2018


The last two weeks have not been good to me personally.  These kind of weeks happen when you love someone (or several someones) who have substance abuse issues.  It can be very isolating, lonely, and frustrating when people you love slip away to a place where you can’t reach them, even when they’re right there in front of you. 

My thoughts exactly
I've experienced the effects of addiction so many times now in my life and within so many different relationships.  I used to cry, get angry, do anything in my power to stop the behavior, but what I’ve realized over time (and with professional help) is that you can’t stop someone who is determined to do something.  You can’t help someone who doesn’t want help.  And so, I’ve learned to provide myself with self care during these times. 

I look for ways to make myself feel good (healthy ways, if you don't include the occasional primal scream and cookie binges…).  That means spending time with friends, walking and cuddling my puppy, evening trips to Barnes & Noble for a coffee, and it also means A LOT of barn time. 

I feel the most myself when I’m at the barn.  I feel strong, capable, and in control of my life.  I can forget, sometimes for hours, what is happening outside of the arena and barn. 

It is a true blessing in my life that I found horses, horse friends, the blogging community, and Gavin. 

First signs of spring

Here’s hoping the next week looks better *fingers crossed*

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Half Halt Clinic

The Half Halt Clinic

This last weekend, I was finally able to lesson with an ‘S’ judge and local Denver trainer that I’ve been pursuing like some weird jilted lover for years.

Cooooookies Plleeeeeease
She asked me what my goals were with Gavin.  I told her I’d like to earn my bronze with him.  This is hard for me to say out in public (especially with the audit crowd listening).  I’m shy about my horse goals, mostly because I worry about others judging those goals and me/Gav. 

She asked what I thought we needed to work on.  I told her he was a very willing partner (this is the truth), and that I need to be better with my body and knowing/understanding how much to ask and when to ask.  AKA how to be a more effective rider.

She watched us go for a few minutes (transitions, change of direction, etc.).  She loved him, me maybe not so much. 

Positive takeaways:

1.       She didn’t say one damn thing about my hands/elbows/arms.  I feel like I’m finally making some progress in this area.  I think that one lesson I had with the grand prix rider who focused on equitation was mega helpful on this.

2.       She really liked him.  She must have said it once every 5 minutes.  She liked his gaits and his attitude and kept musing on why other riders in the area didn’t buy cobs. 

a.       This led to a tangent on Cardi (welsh cob superstar ;)) and how Jessica Wisdom rides the hell out of him (in a good way).

3.       She commented that I’m fine with the amount of leg and spur usage.  Just need more prompt canter transitions and he won’t be offended by my lengthy leg squeeze because it won’t be there anymore.

a.       I specifically asked her about this because I had an older pleasure rider tell me she didn’t care for spurs and that she’s noticed I leg my horse a lot.  To say I felt a little anxiety about that statement days later would be the understatement of the year.  It fucking haunted me.
Obligatory cute pug picture

Things to work on (homework):

1.       She kept asking me to sit the trot.  This is not something I do particularly often.  I like to push him into his bigger trot when we’re working and it’s a bitch to sit (see: Erika is lazy).  She said tough shit, you bought a horse with a big, bouncy trot and now you’ve got to learn to sit that trot. 

a.       Week 1: Sitting trot 10 minutes a ride

b.       Week 2 (and going forward): Sitting trot 5 minutes stirrups, 5 minutes no stirrups. 

c.       Week 3: admire my new abs of steel ;)

2.       Half halt in every corner, before every transition, after every transition, sometimes just to say ‘hey listen to me!’.  She totally called me out on my lack of half halts.  I fully admit that I never think about them, but when I actually practice them the canter transitions are much improved.  So ya know - the new name of the game is half halts.

3.       When you cue canter – he canters.  This isn’t optional.  Help him out on this by half halting before the transition, but still require canter upon cueing – not 3 strides later.  As always, this is a work in progress, but I truly believe once I install auto-half halts on myself, his canter transitions will improve dramatically.

4.       He can get a little lazy behind in the canter and lose tempo at the beginning of his canter work.  Ask for just a touch more and then follow a little more with hands at the beginning. 

5.       Work on my seat:

a.       Plug my butt into the saddle. 

b.       Relax hips and thighs. 

c.       Feel my seat bones on the saddle. 

d.       If my zipper touches the saddle, I’m clearly leaning too far forward. 

e.       Don’t stand in the stirrups at the canter.

Top - March, 2018, Bottom - February, 2018

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!