2014 – The Year in Review

Here’s a video of Ava’s journey from when I bought her to this year.

Avandarre Training Overview from 2011 to 2014:

2014 in Review

This has been a year of extremes for Ava and I.

It started off slow due to the artic cold and massive amounts of snow we had last winter. I had some negative people in my life that were good at causing drama. And my work life was a constant series of missed deadlines.

The snow melted, I cut the nay-sayers out of my life, and I got a new boss who set realistic deadlines. Things got better after that.

But I had felt like I was treading water with training Ava. I hadn’t had a lesson from September to May. I had feared that I was getting worse instead of better.

My first lesson of the year was May 16th. My fourth lesson total with the new trainer. I had worried I would embarress myself with my bad riding and poor posture, but other than adjusting my elbows and some reminders to sit back, she said I was fine. The lesson went great. Ava was a rock star. And, as it is every time with this trainer, I had a ton of homework and new exercises to play with.

My first show was May 24th. A schooling show. My nerves almost got the better of me. My normally placid mare was strung higher than a kite. But in the end, we got it together and our scores were respectable. We were even able to show a touch of that fabulously bouncy trot Ava can do when she’s swinging through correctly.

Our success at the schooling show helped convince me that a rated show might be doable. I signed us up for our first rated show in July. I focused on training from May to July.

In July, I was convinced I would bomb out at the rated show, but it was a massive success. I met a ton of wonderful people, we used the new LQ trailer for the first time, and I learned that I need to exercise more if I want to keep moving up the levels. It was so much fun and I couldn’t wait to do it again.

August 1st, Ava cut her right hock and was gimpy on it. I gave her time off for the cut to heal. I started planning out next year’s show season and goals. I started getting really excited about being competitive at the regional level and competing at Regionals next year. And who knew, maybe even nationals would be attainable for us?

USDF announced Betsy Steiner as the clinician for the USDF Adult Clinic series. 2015 would be my year to get in on this. I knew Ava had the training and ability to make the cut to get in. I wanted to ride in it badly and started getting things ready so I could enter as soon as it opened.

August 15th and Ava was lame on the other leg. Called the vet out and he diagnosed it as arthritis and left.

Over the next two months the lamness came and went. Some days were fantastic. Other days, Ava would be so lame even non-horsey people could tell. I believed it was arthritis and only rode Ava on days she was sound. I didn’t give Ava any pain medication for fear that masking the pain would cause more issues down the road. I wanted to know if it hurt so I could back off.

In September I had a lesson with my trainer again. Ava was, as usual, a rock star doing half-passes, collected work, and working on true medium trot. Ava felt like a million bucks, and offered up her fun bouncy trot. She showed no signs of lameness. My dreams of Third level and flying changes were just within reach.

By October 1st Ava was lame all the time at the trot. She wouldn’t pick up the left lead canter at all. I stopped riding her. I took her to a different vet who diagnosed it as a menuscus tear. I put Ava on stall rest for November without any improvement. In December I turned her back out to pasture.

December I learned Ava won Series Grand Champion at Waterloo. It covered all nine rated shows and we won over warmbloods. I still pinch myself to see if that was a dream.

December 30th: Ava’s new career is pasture puff.

I’m hoping by March we’ll have a couple thousand set aside to purchase a new horse. I really want the Farasi mare, but she’s 4,800 and there’s no way I’ll have even half of that saved up before spring. Everything is in flux at the moment, so I’m not sure what is in store for the coming year. Hopefully it goes better than this year.

New stall for Ava

My husband has been building a new stall for Ava at my brothers house. I thought I’d share some pictures of the progress, and brag about how awesome my husband is.

Cleared out space for the stall:








The back of the stall has a sliding door to the pasture that will be left open so Ava can come and go as she pleases.

The stall is turning out so much better than I had anticipated. I can’t wait to see it finished. My husband is awesome!

Side note: Why is it that some people can have horses for years turned out in pastures with broken fences, nightshade, branches laying around, old fence posts with nails laying around… and their horses never once get hurt. But turn mine out in an immaculate paddock alone, and she’s lame for life?!? Must be Murphys law in play there. :/

Series Champion!

I won Series Champion for Second Level at Waterloo!!

There were 9 rated shows for 2014, and I won Series Champion for the entire year! Woo Hoo!


I’m still walking on cloud nine.

This was my first rated show in 20 years, riding a grade horse  I was told to sell because she’d never be competitive at Second Level… and….  I won. I won! I can’t believe it. It’s taking all of my self-restraint not to skip down the hall singing ‘I won’ over and over.

It never even occurred to me that I’d be anywhere in the running for this.

I wonder if I get a ribbon, or if it’s simply the “honor of knowing” type award.

Also, I’d like to point out that Reserve Champ, Andrea, was riding an Oldenburg.
Just saying… 😉


If you want, you can read about my first rated show by clicking the links below:
Rated Show – Part 1
Rated Show – Part 2
Rated Show – Part 3 – Videos & Score Sheets


Jump lesson

I made the mistake of asking the barn owner how much the 4 year old gelding was selling for. He’s cute. His name is Matt. How droll. Ha.

I signed up for a lesson from the jumping instructor at my barn.

I used to jump when I was young. I took lessons for maybe a year, maybe two. I can’t remember now. I remember falling off a lot. I remember it hurt.

But the other day I’m watching a young girl jump and I wanted to ride so badly that I just blurted out “Can I take a lesson?”.

I wanted the lesson partly because it feels like a complete departure from dressage and all the ruined dreams. A way to reconnect with horses that doesn’t involve goals or hopes or dreams. Just me and an unfamiliar horse.

Lesson day, and my barn owner tells me to saddle up Matt. She suggests I use my saddle. I didn’t want to, but it fits him fine so I use it.

I think she’s trying to sell me the horse subversively.

Jokes on her… I can’t afford him. Hahahaha

Riding around she tells me to trot him down a line of ground poles. I’m scared. She keeps yelling at me to release the death grip on his mouth. I try, but as soon as I release I get scared and clench.

A few times over the poles and she tells me to canter him. I can’t figure out how to get him to canter. She tells me to sit to the outside. I try, but nothing happens. I feel like this is my first time riding, ever.

Finally get a canter and she tells me to go over the poles. I’ve never cantered poles before. Not more than one anyway. I’m freaking out so I close my eyes. Horse goes over them like ‘Yeah. Whatever’.

I’m thrilled to still be alive. I want to do it again. She let’s me go over them a few more times, but each time I lose the canter half way through. My arms flap, my legs bounce. I ride like crap and don’t care.

The lesson ends and I’m so happy. Barn owner keeps implying I should buy the horse without actually saying it.

It was fun.

Poor me – my self-pity party

(Begin whine)

I’m so frustrated! I just spent two days moving hay to clear out a spot to build a stall in my brothers barn. Moving hay wasnt so bad, but the barn was so trashed that we spent an hour clearing out a spot to put the hay. I’m tired. My back hurts. And I’m sick of having everything fall apart as soon as I get my hopes up.

My husband is pointing out all the wood we’ll need  for the stall, and calculating costs.  Basically, we may have enough money by March to finish the stall. That’s assuming no other bills pop up.

I have zero money to buy a rideable horse. I can’t buy a new horse until Ava is moved. The zipper on my half chaps completely broke yesterday. My riding boots have more holes in them than a freaking drain. My helmet needs to be replaced. And my vacuum cleaner is broken.

AND… to top off a wonderful day, I suddenly lose vision in my right eye. One minute I’m talking to my sister-in-law, and the next second she’s missing half her face. Then everything turns all sparkly  and I can’t see shit out of my right eye. I had this happen 7 years ago, and went to every opthamologist and neurological opthamologist specialist available, and no one found anything. They said it was migrains. So I’m doubtful that wasting a ton of money on more tests will accomplish anything. But it’s more money I DON’T HAVE!

All I keep thinking is… what’s the point? Even if we move Ava I can’t afford the purchase price of a new horse. I can’t even scrape together $1,000.  I can continue  riding Ellie, but she’s 45 minutes away and is costing me a fortune in gas.

We still have to fix the fencing at my brothers place,  buy stall mats (cement floor), buy a feed tub, and purchase grain and hay for Ava.

I give up. I can’t even afford one horse. I’m f’ing going blind. I knew this whole dressage thing was a pipe dream to start with. I’m over it. Over everything. I quit. I’m going to go live at the mission and be a half blind bag lady the rest of my life.

(End whine)

Ellie the Lease Horse

I hope you haven’t forgotten about Ellie. I’m still riding her, but she did have a week of no riding while I dealt with work and depression about Ava.

The last few rides have seen an improvement, I think.  She’s getting better at seeking contact at the walk.

At the trot, I’ve found that if I let out the reins at the beginning of the ride she’ll start searching for the bit. She didn’t before. I was really nervous about giving up more rein to see how far she would stretch out and down at the trot.  I’m starting to trust the horse more, but I still don’t know her that well so I was nervous. She responded much better than I had anticipated. She had moments where she honestly stretched down and released her back some. She also had moments where she lost her balance, but she let me rebalance her without freaking out and curling her chin to her chest.  I need to get her to push more from behind and level her balance (front to back) out more, but it’s a start. It’s hard when they’re just not strong enough to use their backs for very long.

And after the stretchy trot, she gives a big rib expanding, flappy nostril sigh like the weight of the world just lifted from her. She seems looser and more mentally relaxed from it too.

I’ve introduced shoulder in and haunches in this week (walk only). She previously had some shoulder-in training, but she’s insisting that she’s had none. Ha. The little faker.

When I rode her Tuesday, I was playing around with haunches-in (walk) down the rail. It started out with her bouncing between my left and ride aids. When she couldn’t escape that way, she tried stopping. So I bopped her with both heels (she had dug in at this point).  I swear you could see her gears going on how to get me off her. I have no desire to push her past her comfort level right now, so I straightened her out, of haunches-in, got her thinking forward again, then circled and re-established the haunches in. That seemed to work. I definitely don’t want to start a fight I’m not sure I could win, so I figured it’s better to just go forward and get her out of the balking mentality first. She did better on the next attempt.

What I found interesting though is that after the balky little tantrum and re-establishing the haunches-in, she had so much more swing in her back at the walk. She felt freer through her body. It didn’t last very long though.

I do want to add… After riding the horse for three week, I don’t think the curling, hiding from the bit thing, is the owners doing. The mare is wound tighter than a drum. And it seems like (I may be wrong) that the horse is attempting to protect something that either hurts, or used to hurt. I’m not quite sure yet which one it is.  <– the owner vetted the living daylights out of the horse a year ago for a back issue. Nothing was found, but this is why the horse hadn’t been ridden in a year. She isn’t exhibiting the problems she had a year ago, so it’s either healed or is only exacerbated by collected work.

However, the horse has some nice training training on her.  You can ride this horse completely off your seat. She has an amazing leg yield with just a slight shift of weight. I can turn her on a dime by rocking my shoulders back and shifting my weight in the direction I want to go. She’s very weight sensitive and light to ride.

I don’t know… We’ll see…. I really like this mare. She’s smart, sweet, has an opinion, but is ultimately a people-pleaser. She internalizes her fear until she’s a wretched mess of clenched muscles, but she’ll let you convince her things are okay as long as you don’t let her behavior affect you. And she tries extremely hard to do what you ask. When she doesn’t understand she gets very frustrated, but she’s super easy to ride if you break things down for her in small chunks.

Horse Shopping

I’m looking for my next dressage partner. I thought I’d take you along on my horse shopping adventures. Maybe we can find a good fit for me out there.

Check out the horses below, and then take the poll on which horse you would choose from this bunch.

The best so far:

Vessel Seven – $2,000
Breed: Thoroughbred (raced)
Age: 6
Height: 15.2

He seems downhill from this pic. I looked on another site and yup, he’s very downhill. But his canter is cute and he looks like a trooper.


Marshmellow Martini– $1,500
Breed: Thoroughbred (raced)
Age:  4
Height: 16.2
Mild old bow.
Video: No video available.
I haven’t seen video on him. The old bow concerns me. And he’s tall. Not sure he’ll fit in my trailer.


Farasi – $4,800
Breed: Thoroughbred (unraced)
Age: 5
Height: 15.2
Youtube: http://youtu.be/3nqqS7kJzEQ

I really, really like this one.


Araffi – $5,500
Breed: Friesian/Arab
Age: 4
Height: 15
Youtube: http://youtu.be/YI7x_pqNsTM

Meh. Not a very good bum. Has the Arab butt.


Gala – 3,500 Canadian
Breed: Dutch Harness Hackney X
Age: 6
Height: 15.2
Youtube: http://youtu.be/86KTZk5QrFY
I like this one even though I think the leg action is a bit much. I like how when she jumps into canter she starts from behind.


Select the horse you like best: