Joy the Wonder Pony

Rode Joy last night. I had low expectations.  Mainly because I currently don’t have any goals for her…  other than I’d like to canter around in some semblance of balance and with the the correct bend.  

We’re headed into winter where riding will probably cease from December to March.  Next spring I’ll freak about how we’re no where near ready for even Training Level… STILL

I found if I shorten my reins to the point where I feel like there’s 2 inches left, then Joy feels more connected in the bridle. As if too much slack leaves too much room to squiggle and question. 

We’ll see how this works long term.  Doesn’t appear to be hurting anything, yet. I still can’t get a true connection from hind legs to bit yet.  I feel like i’m getting really close at times,  and other times we’re no where near it.  I think I’ll need professional help to achieve it.  Hopefully I won’t have ruined her too badly by then. 

I’ve been working on developing left hind strength.  A big Thank You to Alli Farkas for the suggestion.  It seems to be working!! I have some research on exercise that I’ll post later. 

Another thing I found that helped was if I do trot work on the box and kick her hind end over when going to the left that she is better able to pick up the canter relatively straight.  I have to do shoulders going to the right.  The haunches continually shift way left when going left.  The shoulders pop left when going right. If I don’t kick her butt over going left,  then she gets in her own way and bucks. 

Every issue I have right now is straightness related. Some rides I never get even slightly straight.  Some rides I do.  When she’s straight and pushing from behind I get a wonderfully soft,  balanced canter in either direction.  It feels awesome. It feels like a big horse canter.  It feels very uphill and adjustable. When she’s not straight … It’s an utter wreck.

We’re usually not straight.  😂 

I have no idea how the canter actually looks when she’s balanced.  I can’t seem to pull it off when I video myself. I’m just going to keep pretending we look like Charlotte and Valegro cantering around being magnificant. ;) 

This little pony is a try-er though.  She might get frustrated,  but she doesn’t quit on you.  She keeps trying.  She doesn’t blow up,  she doesn’t refuse, she just expresses her confusion and if you break it back down then she’ll try again.

I love that about her!

Posted in Dressage Training, Joy | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Super Awesome Day

Yesterday my work day was going terrible.  Nothing worked.  My computer was slogging away at simple tasks,  people were yelling wanting me to work faster,  I couldn’t get anything to work.. It was terrible.  A thoroughly wretched Monday. 

I get home and hubby is sitting in the garage with the dogs waiting for me (which always brightens up my day).  I give him a peck on the cheek and run inside to change into riding pants,  then outside to the barn.  I figured I’d ride Ava while I had some daylight left,  then clean stalls (since the barn has lights). 

But when I got into the barn. . . . 


Hubby cleaned the stalls,  turned Ava out into the big pasture,  swept the barn,  and dumped the poop! 

I have the most amazing hubby ever!! 

Not one to pass up a gift,  I grabbed Ava,  tacked up,  and we headed off to the fields behind us.  

I had a blast! 

We trotted through the twisty,  winding trails in the pine trees.  We watched two deer run beside us.  We galloped through the field and raced up the hills.  

It was AWESOME!! 

Ava seemed to enjoy it also.  Her normal “I don’t wanna go above a walk” sulky behavior dissappeared and was replaced with a high energy,  raring to go mare! She was responsive,  light,  and full of pep! 

Best day in a long time! 
All thanks to my wonderful husband! 

I swear,  there’s no amount of stress a good gallop can’t get rid of. 

Posted in Ava, Trail Riding | Tagged | 3 Comments

No Stirrups November,  or Too Lazy to Use a Saddle

It’s suddenly November,  it’s beautiful out,  I have no time,  and I have a bareback pad.  

The perfect excuse for not using a saddle fell into my lap…   No Stirrup November! 

Nearly everyday I hop on either Ava or Joy using the bareback pad.  Not both.  My thighs can’t last through 2 rides a day.  I can barely walk after one ride.  

First day,  I hop on Ava after not riding for 2 weeks (work got in the way).  A crazy deer and amped up horse had me desperately clinging to mane as we jumped/bolted down a steep hill.  I have no idea how I stayed on.  It was close,  one more hop and I would’ve been a goner.  

Next day i ride Joy AFTER I lunged her.  No canter work.  We’re working on 1/4 walk pirouttes.  Just playing around.  I have to get the left shoulder under her to be able to stand her up right. Once straighter she is a dream to ride. I pushed my hands out in front,  she met them,  and we flowed.  It was sweet for a moment. A moment here,  a moment there.  Most of the inbetween is crap still.  Did a few steps of bastardized half steps.  She’s learning not to get so stressed when pressured. 

Following day,  ride Ava.  Every other day.  Tried to walk past scary deer encounter spot (with bareback pad,  no saddle)  and Ava is AMPED!!  Scared me.  We made it past,  but I haven’t gone that route since then.  ‘Cause I’m a chicken.  

Joy ride following day.  No expectations,  just testing straightness,  half halts,  go forward off light aid.  She’s so incredibly easy to sit the trot on. She spoils me. 
Ava is so horrifyingly bouncy.  I can sit it with some modicum of elegance for about 10 strides.  After that I’m grabbing mane and begging Ava to walk before I fall off.  If I get her super straight and connected,  then her trot smooths out.  It is still an ab workout from hell.  When her head jerks up and her back hollows,  its like riding a jack hammer.  It hurts! 

Take Ava out to back field for ride with bareback pad.  Trotting down the path like a boss! Walking toward the big hill and Ava’s head shoots up and she slams the breaks on.  Sometimes a short looky-loo and she’ll get over it.  Nope.  She spins to go the opposite direction.  I pull her back.  She zigs left,  zags right.  I push her forward.  I’m starting to get scared,  so i sing… loud and completely off key,  with made up nonsense.  But,  she settled and we made it to the top of the hill without any histrionics!  Yay! 

I hope the deer hunters are entertained. 

Every ride in the bareback pad,  and I can barely walk afterward.  Legs like jello.  I don’t feel stronger yet.  I really need to do no stirrups with saddle. It would be far more beneficially,  but…  I have to put my riding pants on and saddling takes at least a whole 5 minutes. ;) 

I’m so lazy! 

Jessie injured herself while I was away for work.  She’s such a good old gal.  I wanted to make sure she ate the antibotic laced grain fully every meal,  so she got to hang out in the middle of the barn and eat.  She’d finish and calmly walk back into her stall.  Love this mare! 

Midway through November and the temps are starting to dip into freezing at night.  It’s not as warm during the day.  

I don’t want winter to come!  

Ava and I did some walk half-pass. We haven’t attempted that in 2 years.   I also realized if i just pretend to put my legs on (but don’t touch her)  and put my weight where it needs to be,  she automatically takes whatever shape I was going for (i.e. Haunches in).  She’s definitely a less is more horse.  Less leg,  less rein,  and she becomes more responsive. I always forget and have to relearn this every week or two,  but then i use it on Joy afterward and we always make progress when I employ the less is more approach. Why I keep forgetting this is beyond me…

I hope your No Stirrups November is going well!  Leave me a comment with your experience,  or goals,  for this month! 


Posted in Ava, General, Humor, Joy | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Dressage Exercises for the Horse



Robert Dover: How to Start Half Steps

Debbie McDonald Introducing the Half Steps in Dressage

Catherine Haddad Schooling Half steps with Robert Dover and Debbie McDonald


Charlotte Bredahl- Baker: Collecting the Canter

George Williams: Exercises to Develop the Collected and Counter Canter


Emile Faurie – What is bend and how to achieve it


How to Do Travers or Haunches In

George Williams: Shoulder In to Renvers (Haunches Out)


George Williams: Haunches In On The Circle


Laura Graves Teaching Canter Haunches In on the Circle


Laura Graves: Teaching Leg Yielding Off and On Rail


Dressage training with Laura Graves, Focus on More Freedom In The Shoulder


Emile Faurie – Riding correct shoulder in


George Williams: Exercises to Develop Leg Yield Into Half Pass


George Williams: Renvers to Travers (Haunches Out to Haunches In)


Paul Belasik: Understanding Lateral Movements in Dressage


Incorrect Bend:

Robert Dover: Managing Incorrect Bend

Posted in Dressage Specific, Dressage Training, ELearning | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Left Lead Canter

I almost biffed it. 

Lost my stirrup. 

Not the most elegant rider. Ha!

She’s not trying to be naughty. Alright, maybe a little… but she thinks when I say “Good” it means immediately stop. So I tapped her with the whip. She didn’t appreciate it. 

It’s the only times she bucks… when I tap her with the whip. I didn’t do it hard, just wanted to get her attention quickly as soon as she broke to trot… didn’t quite go as planned.

I lunged her today. I want to see if I can help her balance better without being on her. I don’t have any side reins. I’m a little leery about using side reins anyway. I haven’t used them since 1992.

Were you even born then? 

It was that long ago….

I’m not sure I remember proper usage. I need a refresher course.

So I used cavellettis. Went suprisingly well, considering it’s rainy, cold, windy. My hubby is using the chainsaw to cut trees down near the driveway (above the arena and just out of sight). Lawn mower with cart is being used to drag brush past the arena. Lots of noise, lots of reasons to be a spastic idiot.

She was amazingly unaffected by the crazy pile of brush lumberingly slowly pasy her in a cart, nor did the chainsaw affect her. It’s always the cats. haha

As soon as I asked her to trot over the cavallettis she settled down. Then we worked on trying to canter over them. Wasn’t really working, so I modified it to trot through, pick up canter, trot through, pick up canter… etc. That worked rather well even though they were spaced for canter. 

It was very tiring for her, so I didn’t lunge very long. 

She has a nice canter to the right. Almost balanced, good reach, even footfalls. 

The left is like a drunken duck trying to play hopscotch. 

She picks up the right lead going left, then does a flying change/buck to switch leads. 

Sometimes she does a flying change, comes to an immediate halt and rears. It’s a movement of beauty and grace, and makes me think higher levels work is attainable with her…. in the far future. And then she nearly falls on her face picking up the left lead again. 

I think making her think about her own feet and how to balance herself is what she really needs right now. I can’t seem to help her undersaddle to the left. She lets me help her to the right, but not at all to the left. She locks her jaw, barrels down on the bit, and speeds off in a forward falling spree of “Get it over with!!” canter. 

Any suggestions on youtube videos, or articles, for proper use and technique of side reins? 

Posted in Dressage Training, Joy | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Back to Riding

Knock on wood, but both Ava and Joy are sound again. 


The new farrier has both of their hooves nearly sorted out again. Joy’s still a bit odd on the club foot, but it’s growing in really well. And her back feet look a million times better than they did in June.  

Ava still has another 2, maybe 3, months of hoof growth before all signs of laminitis are gone, but we’re close to resolved and she’s comfortable romping around again. 

I started riding Ava again about 3-4 weeks ago. Only walking and only short rides. I’m still leery about the stifle injury flaring up, along with wanting to avoid stressing the laminitic fronts. I’d been doing short walk rides in the back field. There’s a nice big loop along the outside of the field. Full of straight lines with two small hills on either side. I can do half or a full loop depending on how the horse feels. It’s a good track to work on strengthening stifles. 

I tried lunging Jessie last week. She first pulled the “I have never lunged in my entire life and have no idea what you’re asking for!!” approach. I know she’s been lunged before. 

I finally got her going around, but she would only trot (regardless of whether I wanted her to walk or not) and then pretended she didn’t know what “Whoa”, “Ho”, or “God Dammmit, Stop!” meant. 

I finally got her stopped and she looked at me like I had personally betrayed her deeply and wounded her to the core emotionally. 

I only lunged her for like a minute, total!

I made a big fuss about what a good girl she was and put her back in the pasture. Next thing I know, she’s huddled in the furthest corner of the pasture, facing away from the barn, apparently sulking about the abusive treatment. (not really, but it kind of seemed that way).

On the plus side, she still moves like a horse half her age. 

To be kind to her senior joints, I’ve been taking her for walks around the back field instead of lunging. She seems to really enjoy the walks. 

During one of Jessie’s walks, I decided to walk her home beside the pasture (next to Ava and Joy).  I’d been babying both Ava and Joy up until that point… but after the extreme show of agility by both of then – the wild cantering, and the beautiful extended trotting, I realized that neither were in any pain.  Joy’s ability to perform a canter prioutte on the spot and Ava’s extended trot really solidified it for me. 

Next day, I took Ava to the back field and spent some time trotting and cantering. She still has just the very slightest hitch to her gait, but in other other respects she felt great. Willingly (too willingly!) moved forward. 

With Joy, she’s reverted somewhat to being less secure away from the pasture. Our first jaunt out, I had to hop off and lead her. I would feel shame about that, but Joy’s just insecure. She needed her confidence built up again. Next time out was thousands better until we got to the extremely terrifying black bog of water! All she has to do is walk around it, but she freaks. So I hopped off and we spent some time hopping around next to it (we aren’t going through the bog. Thats just gross). Third time, and Joy was the quiet, sweet trail horse I had earlier this spring. Even willingly walked past the bog pit (she gave it the hairy eyeball though).

Joy’s arena work is good, although severely unfit. We’re just working on stretching longitudinally and laterally at this point (she gets so tight!). I was just happy she wasn’t a hot mess of anxiety and nerves considering I hadn’t ridden her in 3 months. 

I started asking for just a short bit of canter by the 5th ride. Joy wasn’t happy with it.

That was the extent of her rebellion though. One outburst, and she settled right back to work. To be fair, she only bucked when I tapped her with the whip. 

Other pictures of our daily lives:

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Adventures in Vaulting

Ever since I watched a vaulting demo this past spring I have really wanted to try vaulting. Not only does it look like a ton of fun, but I also read it can help improve your seat and balance on a horse (which I’m always looking to improve).

Learn what vaulting is by clicking this sentence.

So last Saturday I decided to take the plunge. I was nervous. Really nervous! I went by myself. I felt out of place. I felt too old. I felt too fat. I was worried I’d make a fool of myself, and that I’d have preteen girls laughing manically at me if I fell off a horse attached to a lunge line. I fretted about it the entire hour drive to the place.

I had called ahead to ask what to wear. I wore the comfy yoga type pants, loosely fitted t-shirt, and tennis shoes that the lady recommended I wear. I felt oddly dressed for a riding lesson…. it felt so wrong with tennis shoes on!

When I got to the place, there were 3 young girls talking to the instructor. I fervently hoped they weren’t all staying for the Open vaulting session. I was in luck. Two of them left. The remaining girl, a powerfully built young lady, was going to be my guide for learning the movements on the barrel.

I was taller than my guide – an unusual occurrence.

The instructor asked the young girl (from here on out designated as M) to run me through a short warm-up and then show me the barrel exercises. M took off around the arena at a brisk pace. She mercifully slowed when she realized I lagged behind. We did one lap, and as I wheezed my way back to the front of the arena, M stopped and waited.

M hopped up onto a barrel with ease. I dragged a chair over to my barrel and clumsily heaved myself up. She ran through 5 moves for me to practice on the barrel. I watched intently and then set about replicating them as best I could.

After a very short period of time, my young barrel guide got bored and began doing handstands and intricate airborne dismounts from her barrel.

I did not try to replicate these.

Before I knew it, the instructor walked in leading a big, stoic looking gelding adorned with handle bars (I will figure out what these are called).

The instructor had M jump on the horse first. And by jump, I mean from the ground. Did I mention M is shorter than me? I’m short. I’m 4’11”. This teeny little kid bounced onto the back of a 16 hand horse from the ground. How freaking cool is that?!?!

M said she’s been vaulting for 3 years now. While I was there, M and the instructor were working on M doing around the world standing up at trot and canter. Then M practiced hand stands as the horse trotted and cantered. It was amazing to watch. I could’ve watched all day.

Then it was my turn.

They let me use the mounting block (Thank GOD!). The gelding was kind of a lumbering dude. The massively thick pad they use on his back made him feel extremely wide.The handle bars were very sturdy, and almost felt like a roll cage in front of me. It felt really safe.

At first the instructor just had me do the 5 exercises I practiced on the barrel at the walk. Basically, sit normal and hold your hands at shoulder height. Then stand on your knees (put your hands wherever). Then turn to face backwards (that was really disconcerting to me. Getting turned around was easy, but seeing the world move away from you was weird). Then you lay your chest against the horses rump. And final move was to sit sideways on the horse and jump down to land facing in the direction of travel.

Those were pretty simple at the walk. I think a lot of us have done some semblance of all of those at one time or another.

Except, then the instructor had the horse TROT!!!

The standing on your knee’s was pretty easy. Smooth horse. Nice flat, consistent trot. I still had a hard time letting go of the handle bars though. That instinct for self-preservation was strong. I felt balanced. I felt like I would be fine letting go… but I had to really concentrate and make my hand let go. lol!

The instructor even let me try some of the moves at the canter. I did let go of the handle bars while standing on my knee’s but I misjudged the stride and started loosing my balance at one point. Kind of scared me! I thought I was going to fall off. I didn’t, but really made me aware of how high up I was. After that the instructor let me try “The Flag” pose. It was SO AWESOME!!

Flag pose is where you have one knee on the horse’s back and the other leg straight out behind you. One arm on handle bar and the other straight out in front of you.

I successfully completed that pose (not elegantly, but I got ‘er done), and then the instructor brought the horse back to a walk and I dismounted. I was shocked how wobbly my legs and arms were after that. My shoulders especially were tired. It took a lot more upper body strength then I had assumed it would (for the low level of difficulty for the poses I did). It’s not like I was doing hand stands, or holding myself up with my arms. It was mostly sit and kneel stuff.
Anyway, I totally enjoyed it and can’t wait to go again. It’s something I would highly recommend to at least try once. Most of the vaulting facilities I’ve researched offer beginner friendly classes, you don’t need to buy any special clothes, the classes are reasonable priced (even for poor folk), and adults are welcomed. I never once felt self-concious once the lesson started and even the 8 year old made me feel welcomed. So give it a try sometime!

Posted in Vaulting | Tagged , , | 5 Comments