The Working Blues

I like coding, figuring out problems, creating new things from nothing.  I love that! To me, it’s like dressage. Everyday is a new challenge, a new problem to solve. Some days are frustrating and you feel stupid, and other days a light bulb will go off and everything falls into place. But what I love most about being a programmer (and a dressage student) is that everyday is an opportunity to learn more!

But lately…..


I’ve been asking my employer for the past six months for a promotion to senior developer. I am treated (same level of difficulty and workload) as if I am a senior developer.

Three months ago, my boss told me that in order to get the senior developer title, I had to be “Team Lead” of 4 other developers (two of them are senior developers – who never had to be team leads to get the senior title). There are no pay raises, and no extra’s, for this dubious honor. Lots more responsibility, more hours, a ton more stress, etc. And best yet, this does NOT guarantee me a promotion. I won’t even know for another 5 months (next review).

So, the point is… my training has suffered. I have no tolerance for even an iota more of stress or frustration. I end up either skipping going to the barn, or when I do go, Ava and I just wander aimlessly around the fields and down the roads.

On the plus side, I’ve discovered that highway traffic doesn’t phase her, and neither do large combines, gravel trucks, cows, big white signs, geese, or dogs that run at us barking their fool heads off.

But tree stumps are HORSE EATERS!!!!

Exercises – Counter Canter

Counter canter is a naturally engaging exercise, which also increases straightness in the canter.

Counter canter aids are similar to the aids for half-pass (toward leading leg). When counter cantering to the right (horse is on the left lead turning right), the riders left leg stays at the girth and the right leg stays behind the girth, along with the riders right hip, to make sure the haunches stay wrapped around the left leg. Avoid over-bending the neck with the inner rein, or using so much outside leg that the quarters are pushed out of line towards the rail.

Two very good USDF Symposium video’s:

USDF 1993 National Symposium – Counter Canter and Lead Changes
USDF 1994 National Symposium – Exercises in Canter; including Half-Pass and Counter Canter


1. To strengthen for preparation of counter cantering: Use canter/walk transitions. This engages the horse, and allows the rider to get the horse more collected. Use Canter/walk transitions on a decreasing circle. Decrease the size of the circle and then make the transition. Keep the outside rein firm, the inside rein soft. The smaller the circle the softer the inside. Keep decreasing the size of the circle, smaller and smaller, and then ask for walk.

2. Shorten the canter strides for a few strides on the long side. Use the outside rein, keep the inside rein soft. The riders inside leg keeps the momentum with rhythmic presses. Shorten stride a few strides and then let the horse back out into working canter.

3. Shoulder fore in counter canter toward the leading leg. Have to come off the rail some to give the horse room to do the shoulder fore. Helps straightness, and helps to teach the horse acceptance of both reins.

Clinic With Lilo Fore – Gymnastic Exercises
Start with a 20-meter walk circle to the right at B; when you return to the track, pick up your canter on the right lead, and continue on the circle. Now do some transitions within the gait: a few strides of medium canter, then shorten the stride, then back to medium again. Hold the more collected canter a little longer than you think he can comfortably handle it (keep your reins quiet, say “steady,” and use a touch on his butt with your whip). In the medium canter, use frequent half-halts to encourage him to balance himself, instead of letting him use your hands for support, in the longer frame. When you return to the track at B, continue cantering on the right lead while you change direction through half of the arena and turn to the left. In the new direction, flex him toward the counter-lead; on the short side of the arena, turn left down the far quarter line (halfway between the center line and the rail). As you come down the quarter line in counter-canter, don’t so much think of the half-pass as let him think of it while you gradually go back to the rail on your right in counter-canter. (No need to push him sideways; the shape of the exercise and your leg aids will carry him. Just use a little less rein and you’ll go there.) When you get to the rail, walk, straighten him, pick up the left lead; then do the exercise in the other direction beginning with a big circle at E.

Developing the Canter through Counter Canter:


I can’t get the farrier to come out.  Ava needs her feet done, and I feel completely at the mercy of someone else’s whims. *sigh*

We’ve started working on half-steps. It’s an exercise that helps increase Ava’s engagement. I’ve struggled a bit with Ava because she isn’t progressing the way she should if you follow the training scale correctly. I understand the building blocks and why those are in place. The problem is, Ava’s a bit backwards.  What has worked best for Ava is to teach her first how to engage, then we can work on relaxation and rhythm. Then we can ask a bit more engagement, and go back to finding rhythm and relaxation. Otherwise, she flounders. She scares herself silly and dives onto her forehand. She is utterly convinced that she’ll wipe out. So we teach her where her weight should be first, then we ask for more energy.  Instead of asking for the energy and then shifting it backward. It works for her. I wouldn’t recommend this for other horses, but apparently Friesians (and Friesian crosses) need the engagement first before they can really balance themselves under the weight of a rider.

Anyway, the half-steps…. Wow, that is cool! Take this with a big grain of salt, but it’s kind of a precursor to piaffe/passage.  Plus, it has really highlighted some straightness issues, and my restrictive wrists (Why am I so tight?).  To say I am even close to doing these well, is a total lie.  We utterly suck at it currently. However, it’s helping my timing, and really increasing my awareness of how/why to use my core to control forward movement.  It also really improves Ava’s suspension in the trot afterward.

Eventually I’ll capture our attempts on film and post it for you to see. So far, all I’ve gotten on film are a couple of ugly first steps and a lot of blank wall shots. hahaha.

I’ll post more on this later. I’m still gathering information at this point. If anyone who reads this blog has more information on half-steps, feel free to post a comment. 🙂  I’d appreciate it!

July 21, 2012 Show

This was a local GMO show, not a recognized USDF rated show.

First Level Test 1
Score: 65.586%; First place out of 9 riders.

First Level Test 2
Score: 62.703%; First place out of 9 riders.

First Level Test 3
Score: Eliminated (would’ve been 65%. Lesson is: Memorize my tests.)

Champion High Point & Champion High Percentage

Put that in your hat

My instructor told me this week that I’ll be a demo rider for the USDF “L” Judges certification program. I was elated! Woo Hoo! I could see Ava and myself smoothly floating through the test, our form perfect, our gaits elastic, and our hearts happy… Innocent, soon to be judges, merrily marking down 9’s and 10’s.

** cue inspiring theme music **

Bern say’s, “You can’t get upset, or take it personally, when they make harsh comments.”



Wait a second…. You mean I have to wear my big girl panties? Crap! I’m not even sure where those went.

AND no crying?! They’re going to make me cry? What am I signed up for?



Ha! I love it!

Challenge accepted…. 😉

I am a worrier!!!! Aaaaaahhhhhh!

I dread moving Ava. New routines, new pastures, new pasture mates. I worry! I am such a worrier. Ugh!

On the other hand… Barn drama at the old barn is super high. I’ll be glad to remove that from my life. I try not to participate, but… Sometimes I get sucked in. Then I hate myself for participating. Yuck!

Oh, speaking of that.. The last three barns (not including the one I’m moving Ava to now) I’ve looked at said upfront that barn drama wasn’t tolerated. Then as soon as those words leave their mouth, the next sentence is about some boarder they’re unhappy with. Haha. Seriously, they didn’t even stop to breathe between the “no drama” and “omg, this one boarder…”. Hahaha!

Gotta love the horse world. Never a dull moment. 🙂


I finally had my saddle re-flocked. I knew it needed it, badly, but I delayed because I thought it’d cost a ton and mean I couldn’t ride for a week. I was so wrong. It cost $50 bucks and took them 15 minutes to do! Now I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

I had my first lesson since the re-flocking last night. I wish I’d gotten video. Mostly because I’d like to see what it looked like. It felt like we were effortlessly bouncing through clouds. Her trot was throwing me so high that I actually felt like my feet were above the saddle flaps. I don’t think they were, it just felt really bouncy!

And her canter had some tremendous hang time.

She felt… Fancy. Like those million dollar horses with the massive trots.

The best part… I could actually steer off my seat correctly. I’ve spent the last six months sliding off the right side (that saddle was really crooked). I was throwing my poor horse off with how poorly my weight was distributed. I feel bad now. I thought I was compensating well, but I wasn’t. And Ava didn’t hang on the right rein like she has been.

I’m really geeked about this! I bet we’ll really start to improve now. I can’t wait!