Recap of First Show

Well, we tackled and beat down the first show of the year. Got those first show nerves out of the way, I think. I hope.

I was glad I decided to trailer in the night before the show so we could ride in the arena before the actual tests. Ava’s normally a laid back lady, but she was jazzed up at that place. It felt a tad bit like a powder keg was beneath me. I didn’t feel out of control, but it did take a wee bit of convincing to stop her from skedaddling out of there at warp speed. I chose to see it as having more forward energy then we’re used to. 😉

The great parts:

Medium canter: I haven’t practiced lengthen/medium canter much.   The judge said the strides weren’t long enough, but I was actually really happy with the fact that she didn’t fall on her forehand or lose her balance too much. And I was super happy that when I half-halted with just my seat she listened and came back, all while keeping her weight more over her hind end.

Travers, Shoulder-In, and Renver: These went so much better than I had hoped.  Ava, for the most part, kept her balance well, she didn’t suck back and didn’t lose momentum (not too much). Our haunches-in to the left is our hardest way, and she powered through it. The haunches-in right should’ve been the easy way, but we lost momentum. I blame it on the scary chairs and flapping things at the end of that rail.

Collected work: Some of the collected work was fantastic. We had moments where you could start to see that beautiful trot she can do.  Her canter was better than I had dared hope it would be. She was balanced and engaged and it was easy to move her around.

TOH: The turn on the haunches at walk went so much better than I had hoped for. Ava was really jazzed up, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to maintain the same rhythm in the walk through the turn. I really had to fling her shoulders around her butt to keep up with her. We got 8’s on two of the four.

The bad parts:

She’s still tense. Especially during counter canter, but you can see it through most of the test.  I think that we’ve come a long way with addressing this though, and I’m hopeful that by the end of the summer we can show some clear improvement in this. I think she’s improved a ton since last fall. In fact, a couple of people commented to me later that she looked less tense than last year. So, Yay! Progress.

Medium Trot: This was horrible. Just horrible. We’re just at the point in training where I can squeeze a really good one out of her when everything is set up correctly, but we’re not anywhere near anything resembling consistent. And she’s not quite strong enough yet to hold a medium trot from corner to corner. We can do a few awesome strides before she loses balance. Definitely something I’m working on this summer. We lost a lot of points on those. I think I might try cavaletti work this coming month and see if I can get her used to the idea of stretching those legs out. She’s not naturally gifted with lengthens, so we’ll have to work a bit harder at them then others do… but we’ll get there eventually.

Rider issues: The rider is tense. I didn’t ride very well. I think partly it was due to nerves. I was having a heck of a time sitting the trot though. Some days it’s easy, some days I can’t sit the trot to save my life. This day was the latter. I was also too strong with my aids in places which contributed to Ava’s tension, and in several spots I was sitting way too far forward. I need to be especially aware of my upper body during the canter. There were spots where I am way up over her withers and definitely pushing her on to her forehand.


The judges comments were descriptive and concise. I agreed with all of her assessments. The weak parts she saw were the areas I knew I was having problems with. It’s always nice to know that your views on your progress line up with what others think.

I had originally signed up for all three tests at Second Level. Test 2 and Test 3 were the first tests of the day, with Test 1 following. I ended up scratching Test 1 because I was tired, Ava was tired, and it seemed so anti-climatic to do the easiest test of the level last. Plus, Ava’s a bear to load when she’s tired, and I had wanted the whole experience to be positive for her.

That didn’t work out so well though.

It took me over an hour to get her to load. It was horrible. I just don’t get what is so scary about the trailer. If I work with her at home she’ll gladly get in and out of the trailer a dozen times without an issue. Before I take her some where she’s happy to walk right on the trailer. After I haul her some where she wants nothing to do with the trailer ever again. I take her home after a disastrous episode, work with her on loading again, and she’ll pop right on after a 5-10 minute discussion and she’ll happily stand in there munching hay with out a care in the world. Once I haul her somewhere and am trying to leave again, she won’t get on without a massive, massive fight. Every. single. time.

It was a poor way to end a really good show.


Anyway.. here are the videos. I couldn’t get them to load earlier, that’s why it took me so long to post about the show.

Second Level Test 2

Second Level Test 3

When the Chips are Down

I eat them all.

Yeah, I know. I’m a tubby. Don’t judge. 😉

I couldn’t think of a catchy title.. 🙂

I have my first show of the season this Saturday. It’s also my first show since June of last year, and the second show I’ve done to in over two years.

I don’t really enjoy showing. I love watching people show, I love helping others at shows… but boy, showing is a LOT of work! A lot of work… for a ribbon. A ribbon I usually throw away or give back afterward. Because let’s face it, after the first dozen yellow and pink ribbons are proudly hung on the wall, you start tossing those in the tack trunk and forgetting them until you clean it out two months later.

Anyway… showing. A lot of hurry up and wait.

This is going to be my first real attempt at Second Level where I feel our training is up to par enough to do a decent rendition of collection. I’m excited to show off what we can do, yet terrified our performance will be sub-par.

If we perform well, and I can keep it together at the show, then I’m hoping to hit one day of a rated show this summer. Which would be so cool!

Oh, by the way, I shaved off Ava’s lovely Friesian feathers last week. She looks naked now… but she also looks sleek and powerful too. By the time I finished shaving the fourth leg I had enough hair on the ground that I could’ve filled an entire grocery bag completely. Just from mid cannon bone down. It was a lot of hair.


Finally had a Lesson. Woo Hoo!

I can’t remember now, but I think this is my fourth lesson with Roz Kinstler. I hadn’t had a lesson since September of last year and was expecting a lot of criticism about my position. Other than adjusting the bend in my elbows, and a couple of reminders to sit back during the canter, she said my position was pretty good. (Yay!)  I didn’t capture it on the video below, but when I was warming up I had my hands too far out in front of me which left very little bend in my elbows. Once I added more bend, Ava seemed so much happier about connection.

One disclaimer: I couldn’t get Ava to load to get to the lesson. I lunged her for an hour until she grudgingly decided she’d get on. By that point she was blowing hard and sweat was dripping down her legs (it was 47 degrees out). Then she had a two hour haul to the lesson, and because it took so long to load we only had about 15 minutes before the lesson started. I know that’s not very fair to Ava, but I can’t cancel a lesson a couple hours prior without paying out the nose. Anyway, to say she was tired by the time we started the lesson is an understatement, but she gave her all when I asked for it. This is the most infuriating and yet awe inspiring horse I’ve ever owned.

Overview of Lesson:

The canter work was sub-par. We do a lot better in our daily riding. Whenever she’s tired that left lead canter just goes to shot. I could barely keep her in it, and she kept breaking whenever I had the tiniest imbalance in my seat. The right lead canter was better, but I’ve seen her go much better than this on a normal day.

Our shoulder-in’s started out rough. I’m not good at them. Shoulder-in to the left has always been hit or miss, mostly miss. We did a few of them, and then Roz told me to touch my thumbs together as that would help me use the outside rein more effectively. It was like light and day with how well Ava performed the shoulder-in. You can see it at 5:43 in the video. As soon as I touched my thumbs together it was like Ava went “Thank GOD, lady!”  At 5:40ish in the video she’s kind of flat, 5:43-5:44 I touch my thumbs together and suddenly she was bouncy with oomphf. It was really neat to feel.

Then at 6:30 you can see Ava finally can use herself correctly in the shoulder-in and her gait and movement really got fancy at that point.

Let me say though… for some reason the thumbs together is really hard for me. Maybe because I actually have to ride with my seat at that point. Haha.

At one point in the lesson Roz calls out to use my right knee to turn. “I have a right knee?” Low and behold, Ava turned better once I started using it.

Oh, also, I think the thumbs together and right knee will help with the left lead canter too. In hindsight, I think part of the problem I was having with her during the left lead canter was that I wasn’t supporting her enough with the outside aids and she has a tendency to blow through the right shoulder anyway.

At 6:46 in the video Roz had me try shoulder-in to Renver, which is part of the Second Level Test 3 movements. I thought I understood what that was, but I’m glad she thought to go over it with me. She had to explain it to me like three times AND have the other girl riding demonstrate it for me (after which I was still confused). My original idea was that it was shoulder-in, and then you shove the butt over. Which caused all kinds of issues. Reality (in hindsight this is really simple) was I just changed bend to the opposite direction without touching the butt. I’m pretty sure I can over think this until I mess it up.

My best attempt was at 7:05 (shoulder-in), and then 7:14 Renver, and back to shoulder-in (7:18). I was trying to take 4-5 steps between each to set her up and allow her to make the change in bend.

Other side: 8:07 shoulder-in and then 8:13 renver. You can see the bend better from this angle.

The great thing about this exercise is it really made Ava more conscious of the outside aids. Turning the outside aids into the inside aids, and then back really helped Ava understand how to use her body better to stay balanced and between both aids. I think this is really going to be a great exercise for Ava this year. Normally when I do shoulder in she tends to knuckle down on the outside shoulder. This exercise is a good way to get her off it while still getting the benefits of the shoulder-in.

After 8:28 is just video of me trying to sit the trot and showing how much Ava tosses me around. This is why I wanted to buy that thinline pad for her. As much air as I catch between strides… it was really making me feel guilty about how her back was feeling.

Finally a Lesson!

I’m so excited! Tomorrow I have my first lesson since September. Woo Hoo!!

My last few rides have not been very good. Oh, who am I kidding… the last four to five months have been crappy riding. I’m such a dolt. Whenever I get frustrated I immediately become the worst hand rider ever. I get tense, I get frustrated, and everything becomes this big fight.

This of course really makes Ava mad, and the madder she gets the more tense she gets.

It’s just not good. I don’t like it. 

On a side note, I am so lucky to have such a forgiving and wonderful horse.

So I am really looking forward to this lesson. 🙂 The weather tomorrow is rainy and chilly, and we have a 2 hour drive over to her barn, but it’ll be worth it!

I’ll post an “after lesson” update this weekend sometime. I’ll hopefully have some video clips of it too. 🙂

Wish me luck!

Overview of the Clinic

The clinic went well. Ava loaded in the trailer easily and quickly (huge success considering last October I spent 4 hours trying to load her and never did succeed).  I had plenty of time to braid and let Ava settle in.

I’m not sure I’ve really chewed through the whole lesson and come to any conclusions yet. Overall, it was good. The clinician was focused on responsiveness to light aids, on precision of riding transitions (where horse didn’t alter the frame), and in creating relaxation in the jaw. All done with lightness and super quiet aids. He showed me a technique of doing a delayed downward transition where you slow the speed (not the tempo… if that’s the right word) until you are almost walking and then walk. If the horse dives on the forehand, throws their head up, jigs, whatever.. then immediately go back to working trot and re-establish the hind leg to bit and over their back connection. Over time you make the transition to walk longer and longer (through slowing the speed) to develop the horse’s carrying power behind. Obviously you wouldn’t do this in a show environment, only for developing better transitions. And we worked on making quiet, seamless transitions from walk to trot with the utmost lightest aids. There was a lot of focus on perfecting the transitions and quality of the gaits. Donnelly Clinic May 3 2014It was actually pretty basic stuff, but definitely great information and tools that can be applied to all riders and horses.

He loved my horse, but who doesn’t?  He was impressed I could vary her speed through my seat, and he was impressed my horse was responsive to the aids.

At one point he yells out “Man, this girl can ride!” And my trainer shouts out “I told you she can ride.”  Which embarrassed the heck out of me because the other riders, my friends, were watching. In essence they both said everyone else was mediocre… How would you feel if you’d been in the audience and heard that exchange?

I realized during the clinic that the holes I had had last year, were the same holes nearly every single other rider in the clinic had. Their horse’s were relaxed and rhythmic, but there wasn’t any energy, no impulsion, no power behind what they were doing. The horses were behind the leg. The rider would put their leg on and didn’t get much of a response. (except for the event rider). Or, they might get a quick response but the horse kind of lolly gagged around the arena at quarter power. Because of that, the horses were not developing the carrying strength, nor developing the power, they’d need in order to move up the levels successfully. Most everyone’s lesson involved just getting the horse to go forward when asked lightly and to sustain that forward energy without requiring the rider to continually ask. And the other common issue was getting the horse round, on the bit, over the back.

Overall, it was good. I’m not sure that I really felt it was worth the amount it cost, but I’m poor and $300 for 2 lessons is a LOT of money to me. Maybe if money weren’t so tight it’d be different.

Oh… last thing, I promise. Okay, so if you read earlier posts about trailering then you’d know how much angst and animosity trailering has been causing me the past few years.  I knew getting Ava on the trailer afterthe clinic was going to be tough. That is normally the time I get the most resistance from her. I led her to the trailer and we aren’t even close to it and she’s putting the brakes on already. ugh.  So I do the whole “You will lunge hard right here by the trailer, or you can get on it!”  So we lunged. Tried again. Nope. Not even getting near the door.  Lunged. Tried again.. maybe, but still not going on. Lunged. Tried again… and on she went. Just like that. Really only took about 15 minutes tops. But the best thing was I didn’t need ANYONE else to help me. No beating her with whips, no weird lunge line contraptions, no begging or pleading, no abuse, no needing 4 other people to help. Just me and a regular lead rope. It was AWESOME!!!!! I was so happy.

Dreading a Clinic, or Watch as I Make a Fool of Myself

I’m riding in a clinic today and tomorrow with a trainer from another state.

I don’t know his training style or really much about him other than he labled himself classical. The irony of the situation is not lost on me.

I haven’t had a lesson in 6 months. I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up embarresed at some point. I would’ve liked a couple lessons first, so I could at least work on something more than “sit up” and “stop curling into the fetal position!”.

Plus, I’m out of shape so I’m a bit worried how long I’ll last. $150 for one stupid lesson. I better be in shape enough to at least get a solid 30 minutes of work in. Otherwise I’ll be kicking my own behind afterward.

I’m not ready for show season, clinics, etc. I was rather enjoying the winter break. Summer kind of snuck up on me. Although, it’s only 45 degree’s so I’ not quite sure that qualifies as summer yet.

I’ll update you on how this clinic went afterward. At the moment I’m concerned my horse will kick the clinician. My main goal is to not let that happen. My secondary goal is to get the horse loaded with the least amount of fuss. We’ll see…