Picture Day


Rain drops in puddles are so relaxing.




On left – Ginger, kando, Rosie, Gigi, and finally Ava… waaaaay at the end.


Bad weather, so horses were inside.


Do you see the bird next to Ava? It hung out with us for about 15 minutes.


Rosie – new horse at barn. She had a funny expression.



Bad weather at barn, but made for a spectacular image.


There were dozens of dragonflies zooming around. The picture sucks. In real life it looked awesome.


Crow. I was trying to get a picture for my mom, but when I stepped in the pasture it took off.

Exercises to Improve Lengthens

I’ve been surfing the web looking for exercises that could help improve Ava’s lengthen/medium trot. So, for your enjoyment, here are the articles I’ve found from around the web. (excerpts included, but please read the entire article by clicking the links).

Improving the Horse’s Extension & Collection


A great extended trot exercise to improve the length of stride is to get three poles down the long side of the arena. Set them out at about 1.3m or so (that’s just a ‘normal every day working trot’, and then every day just make them a little bit longer and a little bit longer.

Developing the Extended Gaits with Cindy Ishoy


Written by Cindy Ishoy.
An exercise for developing the extended trot is to alternate between shoulder-in and medium trot. Ride out of the corner in shoulder-in for 10-15 meters, then slowly straighten and push the horse into medium trot. After some strides in medium trot, collect back into shoulder-in before the corner. As the horse becomes stronger and more trained, several transitions between shoulder-in and medium trot can be fit into a single long side. The purpose of shoulder-in here is two-fold: it is a balancing movement, so it helps maintain or recover balance after the medium trot; it is also a lateral movement with flexion, so the rider is using the exercise, rather than strength, to bring the horse back.

Another exercise is to ride a short distance in extended trot, followed immediately by an 8 or 10 meter circle, then another short extended trot. This exercise can be ridden on the long side, quarter lines or diagonals. Can also use the centre line in order to circle either left or right. The circle makes the horse come back and rebalance on his hind end. As the horse becomes more highly trained, the transition can eventually go from passage to extended trot to passage. The passage encourages a longer moment of suspension, and (correctly used) it can improve the quality of the extended trot.

Developing Extended Canter: Use a 20-meter circle. Ask the horse for five to six strides of strong working canter on the circle, then five to six strides of collected canter, before asking again for a strong working canter. I will do the exercise for long enough that the horse is working hard, because the goal is not only to develop the extended canter, but also to develop the necessary strength in the hind end for collection. I like to use the circle because it makes the inside leg work harder, and it discourages the rider from pulling straight back in the downward transition. At the moment the rider collects the horse, the inside leg should drive to the outside rein, which resists only as much as necessary to get the response. The rider must remain straight on both seat bones and in the shoulders. The more equal on both sides you are as a rider, the better your horse will go.

Another exercise is to ask for a medium canter from the beginning of the long side, then ride a 20, 15 or 10-meter circle at the halfway point. The size of the circle is dependent on the horse’s level of training. The circle makes the horse collect without encouraging the rider to use a strong backward rein aid to achieve it. I will sometimes use the diagonal for this exercise with a horse that is advanced enough to do a 10-meter circle; I begin the diagonal in extended canter, ride a 10-meter circle, then continue the diagonal in extended canter. The exercise encourages the horse to take a more impressive, uphill canter stride. I always maintain a slight shoulder-in position as I come back to the collected canter. As the horse becomes stronger, I will add more than one circle on a single long line.

Riding a Dressage Horse: The Extended Trot


Written by Arlene “Tuny” Page.

Extended Trot Transitions
Exercise for developing great collected–extended–collected trot transitions. Uses the horse’s natural desire to please and his ability to anticipate.

1. Start out in working trot, tracking on the long side of the arena.

2. Walk at the letter before the corner, maintaining a good bend.

3. Promptly make half a walk pirouette to the left, which turns you back to the same wall, facing the other way.

4. Using the lightest-possible aids, straighten your horse and transition back to the working trot.

5. Before you get to the corner, transition to walk and make half a walk pirouette to the right. Stay on the long side, heading in the other direction.

How to develop the extended trot in the dressage horse.
Repeat the exercise, asking for more during the trot on the long side. First, ask for a lengthening of the working trot and then for more extension, each time with an easy downward transition to walk and then the half walk pirouette to turn around.

Collected walk required for walk pirouette keeps the hind legs active with correct bend. Pirouettes give you a moment to gather confidence, establish balance, and reward the horse for thinking in the right direction.

To improve extension in the trot at any level, experiment with how far you and your horse can go out of your comfort zone to improve. On one end of the spectrum, how far can your horse extend? On the other end of the spectrum, how close can he get to ultimate collection?

Perfect pole work: part one


Video’s covering exercises to develop bend, balance and impulsion, and adjusting the stride.

  • Riding around an ‘arc’ of trotting poles helps you capture the bend of your horse. Riding around the inner, center, and outer parts of the arc will also encourage lengthening and shortening of the stride. Plus, it helps develop consistent rhythm and coordination in your horse.
  • Cantering around a ‘clockface’ of four poles is good for developing and maintaining bend and rhythm, teaching a horse to lengthen and shorten his stride, and instilling accuracy in the rider (invaluable for dressage tests).
  • Riding an ‘arc’ of canter-poles around a corner encourages correct bend, is a useful stride-adjusting exercise, and promotes better balance, impulsion and coordination.

Work Over Cavalletti To Create Impressive, Consistent Trot Lengthenings


Article written by Nancy Later. I snipped a lot of the beginning parts, and explanation of what you’re looking for, out.

Setup Requirements: Five wooden jump poles.

Start by spacing the poles about three and a half of your boot lengths apart. (Author uses her own boot lengths, stepping on foot in front of the other, toe to heel rather than a measuring tape. This way you always have a consistent, reliable measuring method, wherever you are.) Evaluate the distances and adjust the poles as necessary. Trot two poles until horse is consistently relaxed and comfortable.

To work on lengthens: Start by adding half a boot length to each of the spaces between the four trot poles. Approach them in the same manner as before. Practice this for several weeks before lengthening the distances again. Never lengthen by more than half a boot length at a time and don’t lengthen the overall distance by a total of more than one and a half booth lengths beyond your horse’s natural stride.

To help your horse produce the added balance and power necessary to tackle the longer distance, prepare him with two or three half halts just after you turn off the short side. Then ride forward to the poles, trying to be quiet and supple, rather than strong, in your position and aids. As he steps over the poles, concentrate on keeping him between your legs, seat and reins, without pulling on or pushing him. Remember to let him so the work.

Raised Cavalletti

Once your horse is easily negotiating the poles spaced one and a half boot lengths farther apart than his normal trot stride, shorten the spaces back to the original distance and remove one pole, so only three remain. Place the two extra poles perpendicular to these poles, one on either side, then roll them just underneath the ends of the three poles so they’re lifted a few inches off the ground (see photos).

Use the same half halts out of the turn and forward approach to these raised poles. Focus on the feeling the raised poles create in your horse’s motion without any extra push on your part. If he struggles to get over them or loses his balance, rhythm or relaxation, instead of trying to “help” by kicking or pushing him, shorten the distances by a few inches. When he’s comfortable again, practice the routine for an additional week or so before returning to the original distance. There’s no need to lengthen the distances farther than that; the raised poles are enough challenge on their own.

If you wish to read the first part, called “Your Horse Will Offer His Best Effort If He’s Confident In The Connection Of Your Aids”, you can find it at http://www.nancylaterdressagehorses.com/BuildTrust.php

Vet came out

I had the vet out to look at Ava’s legs this morning. I am frustrated.

He did flexions, hoof testing, checked the stifles, and the SI joint. He didn’t do x-rays though. Apparently I have to haul Ava to his facilities to get those done.

He said he could see that she was short striding a little on the left hind and that he didn’t feel it was related to the cut she has on the right hind. He said the cut is healing well.

He said that it is probably the beginnings of arthritis, but he wouldn’t know for sure without x-rays. So he gave me horse aspirin, told me to give that her for one month, and if she’s still off to bring her in for x-rays. Then he charged me $243.00.

I had really wanted x-rays done. I had really wanted definitive answers on what is wrong with Ava.

Oh, and to end the visit he suggested that maybe Ava was at the top of what she could do dressage wise, and maybe I should buy a new horse.  😦 Bah. Don’t tell me that! Ick! Like anyone wants to hear that crap.

I’m going to buy some joint supplement stuff, figure out what else I can do to help ease the pain (without drugging her), and put her back into basic work. I won’t do anything requiring real collection until her fitness level is back up to par.

And if in a month she’s not significantly better, then we’ll go in for x-rays and possibly the dreaded injections. Although, who knows if that’s even possible. She’ll try to kick your head off if you poke her with a needle in the neck, I’d hate to see what would happen should your head be near the leg. Oh well, we’ll see…

Not the greatest news to hear. Not the worst.

Do any of you know a way to protect Ava’s stomach from aspirin? I’m hesitant to actually put her on it. Any one have any experience with it? I’d never heard of putting a horse on aspirin for a long period of time (more than a day or two).

Inga Wolframm Equestrian Sport Pychologist

I ran across some blog posts talking about a book called “The Science of Equestrian Sports Theory, Practice and Performance of the Equestrian Rider” by Inga Wolframm. The reviews were great, and blog posts made the book sound extremely informative and helpful for dressage riders.

The book is for sale for $145 (way out of my price range).  However, she has podcasts and videos on her website that are free to listen/view.  I’ll include the links below. She also has scientific publications available if you contact her.

Inga Wolframm Bio:  

Wolframm is an accredited sports psychologist specialising in equestrian sports and providing advice and support across all disciplines and levels. She works as a senior lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Van Hall Larenstein, the Netherlands, teaching and supervising on the Bachelor Program “Equine, Leisure and Sport”. Wolframm is also a Council member of the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES).

Inga Wolframm completed her PhD on “Psychological Traits and States in Equestrian Sports” at the University of Essex.

 Podcasts: http://www.ingawolframm.com/#!podcasts/c23cn

Free Videos: http://www.ingawolframm.com/#!quotes/c20gw


Other Podcasts:

While looking for a way to add her podcasts to my phone, I ran into Chris Staffords Radio on Podbean. It includes numerous podcasts  “covering news, views and interviews from around the world of horse sports”.  The Inga Wolframm podcasts are included in the feed.


Ava’s Lameness

I’m still having lameness issues with Ava. She cut her right hock July 31st. It appeared to be healing fine.

Now it’s been several weeks. The cut still looks like it’s healing well.  The right hind appears to be moving well and she’s capable of carrying full weight on it. But she’s favoring her left hind. I assumed at first that the slightly shorter stride of the left was due to a compensation for the right hind. However, the issue grew more noticeable when I attempted to put her back into regular work.

Ava appears to be sound when lunged. When riding, the second I ask for more engagement or collection you can see a noticeable difference in stride length between left and right hind. The left hind will only step about half the distance forward as the right hind when she’s asked to collect. I can’t see any lameness in the right leg. In addition, she’s very crooked and she seems to be having a very difficult time bending right (which I read is a sign of the diagonal hind being weaker).

I have the vet coming out Wednesday this week. That was the earliest I could get him out.

I’m worried.

Bleck. I hate waiting… And this is going to be expensive. I’m not sure how we’re going to afford this. I’m hoping the vet takes credit cards. And I’m hoping we have enough credit.

Ginger The Project Horse

There’s a Thoroughbred mare at my barn that is just adorable.


Physically she’s so-so (dressage wise). I like how she naturally articulates her hocks and steps under herself. I’m curious to see how she’ll develop once I can get her a little more supple and balanced. She hints at hidden suspension.

Originally she was purchased for the lesson program the barn was going to have. Ginger was a 6 year old, unraced TB, that the previous owner had said was used as a lesson horse. I find that last part hard to believe…

At the time of Ginger’s purchase my barn had a psuedo trainer (we’ll call her DA). DA picked out Ginger and convinced the barn owners to purchase her as a “ready to go” lesson horse.

I was only running into DA maybe once a week as she finished up a lesson and then rushed out of the barn.  Until one evening I walk into the barn and find DA visibly shaken and upset. I asked what was wrong and she tells me Ginger bucked her off. DA explained how the horse had thrown a bucking fit. DA made sure to explain how huge the bucking and jumping around had been.

DA never rides Ginger again. And eventually she stops showing up completely.

So Ginger is sitting there wiith a bad rep, and a sweet face.

We (the boarders) wonder what made this horse explode. We goad one of the braver, younger girls to ride her. She rides her and nothing happens. But she does say the horse is green and cross-canters terrible.

Another boarder and I tack her up to ride her and see what she’s got under the hood. I had to put a helmet on just to pick her feet out. It took every sneaky trick I knew to get her to lift each leg.  When I pressed her side to ask her to move over she pushed so hard into me that she nearly knocked me over. So we immediately started working on the concept of moving away from pressure. Within a few minutes she starting to get the idea and we can stop her from squishing us into the wall.

The first ride I could tell she was extremely green. The horse flips her head violently if you touch the reins. When you ask her to halt, the horse locks her jaw and braces against the reins. Neither of us could get her to move at all without a whip. No matter how hard you thumped her sides she just grunted and stood her ground. She seemed like she just didn’t understand.

Fast forward a half dozen rides. This is one heck of a smart, kind, and generous horse.  We can move her butt and shoulders around from the ground with a light touch of a finger, she lifts each foot when asked (although still a bit snatchy about it), she accepts steady rein contact (mostly), and she moves forward off just a leg aid (no whip required).

We’ve already taught her leg yielding, and I can leg yield her both to and away from the wall. She picked up turn on the forehand and turn on the haunch in 2 seconds. She walk/trots quietly and is quickly picking up the idea of working evenly on all 4 legs (no more motorcycle turns).

I even tried some canter work with her. I don’t think she’s quite supple or strong enough yet to really work on it. But she let me set her up for a good depart, and didn’t cross-fire once.

So today I taught her haunches in and shoulder in (at the walk only). Took her maybe 5 minutes to puzzle out what I wanted, and how to get her feet to go there, and then she had it.

The only time I’ve seen the mare show any attitude was when she didn’t understand something. And her outburst consisted of some head tossing with pinned ears. I growled at her, she quit and went back to Ms. Pleasant.

I like this horse, a lot. She’s fun to ride and she’s sweet as pie. Nothing seems to phase her. Things are banging, chickens are flying, kids are jumping on the trampoline, and she doesn’t care. She’ll stand for hours as you bath or groom her. She likes people and wants to interact with us.

So to wrap this up… the barn owners are trying to sell her now that DA doesn’t give lessons there anymore. I don’t want the mare to go. I’m worried about her future. If she does sell then I hope it’s to someone who can help give her a happy, productive life. 

I’m hoping she doesn’t sell for a long time.


Jess & Ginger


Me & Ginger

The Sadness of death

Today a horse at the barn I board at was euthanized. The horse had colicked Saturday morning. By 9 am Sunday the vet recommended he be put down.

The boarders and I had our misgivings about the decision, but it wasn’t our call to make. I don’t know all the details, only that the owner felt it was the correct course of action.

I got to the barn right as they were putting the gelding to sleep. I didn’t watch. When he was dead, and the owner and vet had left, I went and saw him. Someone had covered him with white sheets. You could see his hooves poke out from one end. The sheet draped around his jaw and muzzle. His ears were back.

I had liked him. I used to give him peppermints and pettings when I went to get Ava from her pasture. He seemed like a sweet, middle-aged guy who just wanted to make people happy.

The knacker showed up within an hour. I don’t know what we call them here. The people that pick up the carcass. A heavy duty, loud, truck with wooden sides that were beaten and broken. It smelled like decay. On the sides of the doors it said “Rest In Peace” in bright red letters.

The driver pulled the sheets off the gelding and started attaching a chain to his hind leg. I left. I had to walk past the truck to get out. The smell made me gag.

One boarder stayed and watched. Brave soul. Afterward she came and found the rest of us huddled at the furthest end of the other barn surrounded by horses munching hay. She told us it took three tries to pull the dead gelding on to the truck. The gelding was pulled on top of the carcasses of cows and dead calves.

She had tears on her face as she described it.

His stall is empty. His things are still there. His owner left a bag with ears of corn and other treats by her tack box when she’d come in this morning. They’re still sitting there.

Not Lame, maybe?

I think… Ava may be sound. I rode her today and couldn’t feel any evidence of lamness. I checked her stride length in the mirrors and both hinds appeared to articulate the same degree and cover the same amount of ground.

It’s kind of a nasty cut on her hock, and right on the inside that flexes. I’ve been doctoring it up every day as best I can. It seems to be healing okay at this point. I’m not too worried about it, but if it gets infected were in deep shit so I’m keeping a close eye on it.

Except, Ava is tired of my poking and prodding her wound. She immediately lifts the leg and jumps away from me. I had to spend 20 minutes today just touching the rest of her leg to get her to relax.

I’m hoping I can start working her again at this point. If she’s still sound tomorrow then I think I’m good to go.

** Side note: I’m sitting on my front porch and the sounds from the neighbors house are cracking me up. They either have a crazed Gorilla ransaking their house, or some one is taking a massive poo after a bout with constipation.

I think I will go inside now….

An old video

I was looking at some old video’s I had, and thought I’d share this one (for those who haven’t seen it).

I have a headache that won’t go away. I have an impending milestone birthday tomorrow, and also have to work all day. My horse is lame so I can’t ride.  I’m about to throw one hell of a pity party, and you’re all invited!

In the meantime, watch the video and have fun.


I’m having issues… I hate issues.

For over a year now, I’ve dramatically reduced my lessons from once a week to once a month in the summer, am using a different trainer, and for 6 months a year the trainer moves out of state (no lessons at all in the winter).

I was scared to make a change in trainers, and didn’t know how the decreased lessons would affect my riding.  I’m on my own a majority of the time. What’s worse is that this year I’ve only been able to take two lessons so far.

I really want to move up the levels of dressage as far as I possibly can without compromising the health and well-being of Ava (I love this horse).  When my old trainer told me (at the beginning of last year) that my horse would never be competitive at Second Level, it really unsettled me. I was willing to concede the point, but even if Ava could never be competitive, I still knew something was wrong with our training… I just couldn’t figure out how to fix it.

It wasn’t until the Goodrich clinic last June that I realized what the holes were in our training. While fixing those, it made me rethink the entire idea of what it takes to create a successful dressage team. Which is when I decided to try a new trainer, even if it meant drastically less lessons.

But what I really want is two lessons a month year long. Not two to five a year. I’m worried my progress will be stunted.  Or worse… that I’ll ingrain some bad training into Ava before I’m able to get back for another lesson. I want to learn flying changes this year so I can work on them over the winter. I worried I’m not up to the task of doing this on my own….

What if I screw it up? What if I make it so bad it can’t be fixed later? I’ve never ridden a flying change in my life. My timing sucks. I try to hard. I frustrate Ava to no end. I don’t know how to train them, and I have no clue how to fix anything that may pop up once we start. But without changes, I’m stuck at Second… which is not where I want to be stuck at.