Monday, April 19, 2021

Round, Rounder, Roundest - USDF Clinic with Bill McMullin

Last I left off (oh you know, 4 months ago) - I was working 2nd/3rd level movements getting ready for the George Williams clinic in April.  Alas, George Williams was unable to make it (dressage emergency?), but Bill McMullin was scheduled in his stead.  Bill trains half the year out of Wellington and half the year out of Boston.  He's an 'R' judge, gold medalist, and USDF certified instructor who instructs through Grand Prix.  I had never met Bill before and went into the weekend away clinic feeling queasy and impostery.

Bill wound up being a wonderful trainer and teacher.  He was soft spoken and kind, but also very firm in his direction.  I won't lie - I basically begged him to come back to Colorado whenever he could!

So, let's get down to what we worked on:

Improving the halt/walk

  • Walk four strides, halt, walk 4 strides, halt
    • When asking for the halt sit up and STRETCH up
    • Hug him (light squeeze) with lower legs to bring his back legs forward into the halt
    • Supple before and after transition (round, rounder, roundest the three strides before the halt)
    • Hold contact once he's halted to allow him to *really* give to the bit without fussing with my hands
    • Do this in front of a mirror to check his back legs (I had no idea he was parking out so much in the halt)
    • What did this exercise accomplish:
      • It totally freed up his walk, which is Gavin's weakest gait.  Still probably his weakest gait, but it went from a 5 to maybe a 7.
      • We ended with consistently good halts with Bill called a "10 halt"
Walk to canter

  • Start with walk/halt exercise described above
  • Throw in some reinbacks
  • 10 meter walk circle with a medium walk first half of circle, collected walk second half of circle
    • to the right - almost shoulder-in
    • to the left - haunches in first half of circle, switching to shoulder-in second half
  •  Before getting back to the wall/track ask for canter (whisper the aids or risk an extravagant take-off)
  • Supple before and after transition, the tension during the transition wasn't addressed, but I think the idea is that the suppleness during the transition will come on it's own with these bookends 
  • What did this exercise accomplish:
Canter to walk

  • 10 meter circle (don't make it too small)
  • Think rein back in the canter to collect, collect, collect
  • Sit up, sit back, stretch up, breathe
  • Ask for walk as approaching wall
  • Directly into shoulder-in 
  • What did this exercise accomplish:
    • Well... we really struggled with this one, but Bill seemed to think 2 weeks of consistent work would tighten these up
    • We were able to get a few transitions that were relatively clean
    • This is a movement that we struggle with and I can't say I totally understand why - Gav just kinda blows me off and trots through the transition.  This pony can collect, so I don't think that's the issue.
  • To the right I need to think of slight counterflexion - I really think this is just helping me get actual contact on the left (outside rein)
  • To the left, he seemed happy with them
  • What did this exercise accomplish:
    • the counterflexion really helped him let go of the tension in the base of his neck, which in turn freed up his shoulder
Haunches-in/Turn on the haunches
  • No comments - I consider that a win
  • Do shoulder-in, haunches-in on the rail as prep
  • Go down centerline and then shoulder-in
  • Pick a diagonal and ride haunches in on the diagonal
  • Give on the outside rein
  • Think of wrapping him around inside hip
  • What did this exercise accomplish:

Overall - I'm so happy with how it all went.  Gav warmed up great and was game for all of the exercises.  It was a heartening experience and I hope to ride with him again! :)

Here's a video of some trot work for no other reason than I like it.
And I'll end the post with a picture of Gavin giving me the middle finger after I cued the walk to canter a bit too hard. Pony has an opinion and isn't afraid to show it. :)

Friday, January 1, 2021

2020 Recap

I'm not positive I'll stick to this whole chronicling my riding thing, but Jen at Cob Jockey suggested I get back into it and I thought I'd give it a go, it being a new year and all. :)

I figured the best way to start my re-entry into blogging was to recap the last year, the dreaded 2020.


Started off the year by traveling (remember traveling?) to Puerto Vallarta.  Successfully went whale watching. 10/10 would recommend.

Started running through the 2-1 test.  Was trying to get footage to submit an application for a clinic with George Williams.


Actually submitted my video for the George Williams clinic and bought myself a Peloton to get in better shape (specifically for riding).  Looking back, I feel like the Peloton was some serious foreshadowing for the future months where all gyms were shut down.

Still LOVE the Peloton.  Use it 5x a week.  Excellent investment in health.


Found out we were accepted into the ill-fated George Williams clinic as the second level rider (they were trying to get riders from each level).  Was also sent home from work to telecommute.  I laugh now, because at the time I thought it'd only be for two weeks.  Ha.  Hahahaha.


Was informed that the George Morris clinic had been canceled.  The barn was shut down except to trainers and other barn employees.  I was VERY sad.  Bought more sweatpants and put him into training for the month.


There was a bit of a mass exodus at the barn after it shut down (most barns in the area remained open).  This led to it reopening in May with restrictions (limits to # of riders, etc).  Gav developed a really bad skin infection on his ears in late April.  He had about three weeks off as it healed and he regrew hair.


Participated in a ride-a-test at (you guessed it!) 2-1 and scored mid-60s.  It was a great lesson and confidence builder.  The judge said he and I were absolutely ready for second.


Worked on getting stronger and sharper in transitions.  Was also so bored I learned a new way to fold my laundry and have continued to use the method throughout the year.


Went to our one and only rated show of the year in beautiful Estes Park  We showed 2-1 both days.  Scored mid/low 60s the first day and mid/high 60s the second day.  My second ride was definitely my better ride with 7s for his medium trot and 10m canter circles. I left the ring feeling a like a million bucks and just so, so proud of Gav.



Took a conformation shot of Gav and compared it to a few years back.  I laugh at how differently he's muscled now.  Very proud of how this pony has developed.


I had ordered a Custom Saddlery Icon Star in about June after I realized that my old saddle's knee blocks weren't doing me any favors.  It finally arrived late October.  It is a dream and I LOVE IT.  Gavin loves it.  Trainer loves it.  It's a great saddle for him.  Also bought a Pivo.  The picture you see is my first non-successful attempt at getting video.  I've worked out most of the issues since then.


Found out that the George Williams clinic was back on for April 2021!  Reregistered as 2nd/3rd level.  Put Gav and myself in 1/2 training, which = 2 lessons a week (1 lunge lesson, 1 regular) and one training ride for him (that I try to watch).  

Participated in a clinic with a very no-nonsense judge and trainer.  She worked my ass off at collecting Gav's canter.  It was then that I realized he didn't actually have a collected canter.  She said I needed to focus on that before ever asking for changes.

Also got this adorable baby yoda, because duh...


1/2 training AGAIN!  Gavin plateaued about halfway through the month and we switched over to working on "fun" exercises with cones and poles.  It helped me as well as I was starting to feel burnt out.  His canter is getting stronger and straighter.  Trot half pass is there and canter half pass is becoming part of the conversation (he was pretty sure canter half pass initially meant climb into the sky with his front legs).


In summary, this year has wrung me out emotionally (being a very social person it's been hard), but I'm proud of how Gav and I progressed.  I feel "confirmed" second level and ready to dip my toe into the third-level pool while continuing to refine second.

What is hard right now?

Canter half pass (lack of understanding)
Half pass to the right (he likes to drop his right shoulder).  
True collected canter (strength issue)
Walk to canter left lead (got to get him hot, hot, hot and sitting down)

What is getting easier?

Turn on the haunches 
Medium/extended gaits (I've focused a lot on canter recently, need to remind he and I both about the trot extensions)
Trot half pass (3-1 level half pass - so not that steep)
Canter to walk

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Tack For Sale!

It's that most wonderful time of the year.  You know, when you take stock of all of the tack you've accumulated over the year and realize there are some items you just don't need anymore.

All of these prices are flexible, so please feel free to make an offer! :)  Will be charging $10 for USPS shipping - if it fits into a priority box, that's what it'll ship!  If you're interested, please shoot me an email at warriorpony @ gmail dot com

First up!  Cob-sized dark brown Micklem bridle w/ a Kavalkade browband (ooh shiny!).  This bridle has been well worn and well-cared for.  Selling for $120.

Close up to show leather condition
PS of Sweden softy w/supergrip cob sized reins, also in dark brown (matches the Micklem).  These reins are wonderful and I own a different pair in black that I'll be keeping.  There' soft leather backed with rubber and stops - not too thin, but not too thick. $40, unless you purchase w/ the bridle and then $30.  Gavin chewed one of the martingale stops, but besides removing the PS of Sweden logo on one side, these reins are in excellent condition.

24" Albion leather girth - padded, dark brown leather girth w/ roller buckles and elastic on both ends.  $75

54" dark brown leathers.  I can't remember the brand, and it's not visible on them, but these are well made and well maintained leathers.  $25

And a couple of non-horsey items

New w/tags Barbour fluffy ear muffs.  Received as a gift and they don't fit my abnormally large head - a real bummer because they're lovely.  Original price $50, selling for $25.

JVC HD Everio Camcorder w/ 8 GB memory card included. $60  Works well, I just don't use it.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Conrad Schumacher clinic

I audited a Conrad Schumacher clinic this weekend.  Attached are some of the notes I made along with a *very* brief description of the horse being ridden at the time.

Young horse hoping to move to second level next summer.
  • Don't waste time - work even during the walk break
  • Turn on the forehand from walk (couldn't figure out why he wanted this)
  • Keep hands closed into fist
  • Turn the wrists for rein back - nothing with arms
  • Small flexions in canter in/out
  • Always stretch the young horse at the end of the day
4th level - stocky build
  • half pass to centerline and then medium trot (to keep rhythm in half pass)
  • was breaking to canter during medium trot across the diagonal - began halting at each short side and at x with medium trot in between.  Makes the horse listen to you and keep their shoulders up through lengthening.
  • Rider was gripping with legs and he kept repeating sit wiiiiide on your butt.  I think it was his way of saying sit on your seat bones.
  • Ride sitting trot A LOT.  Walk whenever human gets tired and then more sitting trot.  

Grand Prix - older horse/rider
  • good idea to stand w/horse on contact for awhile (that amount of time is different for training level of horse)
  • To close the door (collection), first the door has to be open (forward)
  • Don't practice tests in winter, ride for fitness
  • For suppleness - shoulder in left then right, back and forth on centerline/quarterline
Mentioned to several riders
  • patience is key, you have to get on ready to be patient
  • When you're feeling extra patient, halt in contact with your house and let them mouth the bit
  • Tap with the whip on shoulders rather than behind (unless you're going for lateral work) - this eliminates mixed signals with a pulling hand
  • in general he was very gentle with horses and riders, rewarding good behavior and redirecting any bad behavior or confusion with a different exercise

Friday, September 28, 2018

2018 RMDS Championships

I have so many words about this show that I'm almost speechless.  It gave me such horrible anxiety for the couple of weeks leading up to it and again, horrible anxiety after the fact.  I am not one typically for a lot of self-doubt or self-loathing, but I experienced it in droves relating to this show.

For all of the weirdly negative feelings I had, I also experienced a ton of fun this weekend.  Gav's breeder, Lisa Brezina, flew out with fellow blogger and cob enthusiast, Jen from Cob Jockey!  I was so excited to see both of them (and meet Jen) that I literally told anyone I could at the barn along with coworkers and non-horsey friends.  They did not disappoint!  Lisa is such a warm person and so in love with the breed that she is just disarming and completely inviting to talk to.  Jen is super helpful, friendly, a bombass photographer, and in my case awesome to bounce cob-related questions/ideas off of (her and Conner are far enough ahead of Gav and I that she's sorta been there done that with some of our problems).

Jen with Gav... I'm jelly of those elbows!

Jen was kind enough to act as show photographer (thank you, thank you, thank you!), so I not only have beautiful pictures, but also a lot of pictures where I can learn what some of my habitual issues are in my body (I'm looking at you left arm and general leaning forwardness).

The bad pictures make me cringe and I may post them at some point, but not today!  Today is about the good.
Exhausted horse and rider with our glorious big brown ribbon!
Good timing and VERY flattering ;)
Warming up - spoiler, I didn't get this trot in the test

Medium Walk - First Test, T-3

Has to be start of stretchy trot circle - First Test, T-3

Gav and his breeder having a moment

Just love this pic..

At the end of it all, I cried

I left the arena after our championship ride at training level feeling so relieved and so happy with our ride.  There were no serious "oh fuck" moments and he felt pretty damn tuned into me.  I halt, saluted, patted him and just kept patting him because I knew I was going to cry.  And I cried.  I'm a little bit of a crier anyways, but this horse is just... I don't know... he's my guy.  I'm not a perfect rider, and he's not the perfect dressage horse, but I adore him and he tried really hard for me all weekend.  He hopped on and off the trailer like a pro, he was never naughty or dangerous (even when he was a scared), he looked beautiful, and he listened to me (always on the ground, and most of the time when ridden).  I just felt so lucky, and maybe a little unworthy of him (again, the self-doubt kicking in).  

It was a great weekend with maybe not the greatest scores (62.5 for the morning test and a 63.75 for the championship test, interestingly, in the championship test the E judge scored me significantly higher than the C judge (65.? vs 62.?), but like the exhausted person I was at that point - I completely forgot to pick up my test, so that mystery will be left unsolved).

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Showing in Blue

I honestly don't know how the people who show for weeks (or for that matter just a few days) do it.  Showing is exhausting to me.  I'm getting better at it, but it's still exhausting.

Yes, I am wearing an apron
Here are some of my own personal, very amateur and slightly diva-ish/lazy tips for showing:
  1. Pay people to help you if possible!  This includes braiding, coaching, and calling (for dressage tests).
  2. Pack your trailer the day before you leave.  It's so nice to just grab the pony and go!
  3. Bring more hay than you think you'll ever need.
  4. Chug water, Gatorade, and bring lots of snacks!  Don't forget to bring some sort of protein.  You're gonna go from not hungry at all to oh-my-god-how-did-I-let-myself-get-this-hungry in two seconds.  
  5. Also bring snacks for anyone helping you.  They deserve a million cookies.
  6. When someone acts like an asshole in warmup, ignoring arena etiquette completely, and nearly runs you over several times, keep the incredulous faces to yourself.  You never know who someone's trainer is on the outside of the ring. *oopsie*
  7. Immediately upon returning home from said show do laundry!  White breeches, white shirts, white show pads clean better if not left to their own dirty devices for weeks in the back of your trailer.
  8. Always put the pony first - first to eat, first to get water, first for treats and kind words.
  9. Don't take it too seriously.
My face in ALL of these photos clearly shows that I'm taking this way too seriously ;)

Gavin and I showed last weekend and accomplished something that I had set as a goal in 2018.  It is a tiny achievement to some, but Gavin and I qualified for the RMDS championships in September at training level.  When I realized we scored well enough to advance I started to cry in the middle of the show barn aisle.  My mom thought something was horribly wrong (not a pretty crier), but I just felt so proud of him.  

Besides a lot of calling at the show (and oh boy, did he scream his head off while we walked around the grounds), he didn't put a hoof wrong.  This doesn't mean our test was perfect (hello breaking to the trot down the long side, jigging before the free walk, and general tension), but he is always game to try, and luckily he puts a lot of trust in me to get him through scary situations without him dying.  I feel very lucky to call him my horse.

We left the show absolutely soaked (it poured right after our test) with a 63.8% T-3 test, a second place ribbon, and a ticket to championships.  :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Show Day

I apparently am at a loss for words anytime I blog.  It's like I want to communicate with the blogging community, and I'm definitely reading and commenting, but when I go to write my own - I lose all words.  Very unlike me.  

Anyways - we went to our first RMDS (Rocky Mtn Dressage Society) show this last weekend and didn't totally suck!  I mean, the heat was atrocious, but I was expecting that and hydrated like I meant it.  I also braided for the first time.  I guess I would describe it in two words - painful and frustrating.  I've learned my lesson - just pay and let someone else do the deed while I clean tack or something.

Gavin was his usual self.  He was amiable, steady, and ready to blast off in the trot.  He was also tight-backed, tried to run through either shoulder, and gave a very weak attempt at the running buck in his first test.  I actually laughed as we were going along the rail.  It was such a pathetic attempt that the judge gave us a 5.5 for the canter and just noted that he had a tight back, but I know the truth.  He wanted his blasted rider off his back!

I had a great time and overall felt like we did ourselves proud in the 1-1 test (the T-3 test not so much - we were both still very tight at this point).  Anyways - without further ado, here are some pictures!    

Captain Hunch with a side of Rogue Right Arm

Thank god this is over...