Once in a Lifetime

I do occasional volunteer work for the USDF Region 2 Director (few hours a month, not much).  It makes me feel like I’m still a part of the dressage community. Makes me feel like I’m contributing in some small way.

Anyway, a month or so ago the organizer for the Charlotte Dujardin clinic approached the Region 2 Director about advertising for the clinic at the end of September.  I happened to see that the organizer was offering free tickets in exchange, so I may have pressured the Director to follow up on that.

Totally altruistic! 😉

No really, I had good intentions. The plan was to give them away to the people who volunteered to help out at the Region 2 Championship show. Unfortunately we didn’t get the tickets in time.

Then we tried to give them away to people who would volunteer to work the Annual Convention.

No takers.

So there we were… sitting on four free tickets, for an event in just a few days.




The Region 2 Director asked if I wanted two of the tickets.




But I’m broke. Capital B – Broke.

I don’t think I can afford the gas down there. It’s a 5 hour drive. The clinic doesn’t end until after 9pm. It’s a 5 hour drive back. I can’t afford lodging. I can’t afford gas… I can’t afford this. I shouldn’t go! 

I decided instead that I would ask one of the up-and-coming, local, dressage trainers that I really admire if she’d like the tickets. I emailed her and waited.

As SOON as I hit send.. my heart sank. I immediately regretted it. I was depressed. The whole world sucked. My life sucked. I hated everyone.  [insert extreme self-pity here]

Ha! I didn’t realize how badly I had wanted to go until I realized I couldn’t go…

And of course, the lady responded in less than an hour. Yes, she’d love to go. She’s thrilled. Great opportunity, etc…

Of course she wanted them.

I couldn’t go…

[extreme sad face]



BUT, she only needed one ticket. Not two….


No way!!!!

Now the whole world is a magical place! I’m ecstatic! There are rainbows and unicorns dotting the fields. I’m on cloud nine!!

Yeah… I guess it meant more to me then I thought it did.

So, I’m going. It’s still a 10 hour round trip drive for basically a 4 hour clinic. It still means I’ll have to sleep in my car or drive home through the night. It still means we probably won’t be able to eat for a month (I could stand to lose weight anyway). But….

I GET TO GO TO THE Charlotte Dujardin clinic on Friday!!

Something like this is once in a lifetime for me.

[Eminem’s Lose Yourself theme music  playing in the background]

Free tickets, a location I can drive to within a day, AND I already had the day off from work.  It’s fate! Haha

So, Yay! Woo Hoo!




Broken Ponys

I have no idea what happened,  but both Ava and Joy went lame within days of each other.

The real reason is because I had an event I wanted to take one of them to this coming Saturday. I was really excited about it too. Like, extremely.

Since I didn’t care which mare to take, they obviously both had to go lame. Spoiling the owners fun would’t work unless they successfully went lame in tandem.

Farrier suspects abscess in Joy,  but couldn’t find any pockets.  He wasn’t sure with Ava.

Actually, my big fear was laminitis again.  I don’t think it is though.  Both mares are lacking the heat,  pulses,  etc. Appears to be only one foot in both.  And they had no issues holding either hoof up for farrier on hard concrete.  So,  I think, knock on wood,  that it’s not the dreaded L word.

Ava however is feeling frisky enough to set up a barrage of kicking at the wall. She’s obviously mortally wounded and at deaths door.

Farrier packed Joy’s hoof with drawing salve last Friday. I didn’t see any difference in the hoof/dressing a couple days later, but she’s moving around better. Not totally sound, but not three legged lame either.

Edit to Add: I let both mares out in the pasture last night.  Ava drops,  rolls,  gets up and pushes off into a gallop,  farts,  aims a big buck right at me,  and immediately crashes flat on her side. 😂 She jumps back up,  shakes the dust off,  and casually strolls out toward the field like she meant that.  I might have been more empathetic toward the fall if she hadn’t been aiming her hind feet at me when she lost her balance.  Little snot.  Apparently no harm done.  A minor ding to her massive ego.  😁

Did I link my last video of Joy (for those of you not subscribed on youtube)? If not, here it is:

I have bending issues to the left on both my horses. I’m 99% sure it’s me, but STILL not sure how to fix it.  Example: the walk pirouette left.. had a really hard time wrapping her around my left leg (didn’t really accomplish it).

The Death Wish

I’ve had this wild thought in the back of my head for several years now of trying eventing.  

It’s insane.  I’m petrified of jumping.  

It took me 2 years to get comfortable with ground poles.  I spent the first 3 months of of trotting over one ground pole with my eyes clamped shut every time we got close to it and praying until we were over it.  I still can’t canter over one.  

I’m a chicken. 🐔

But,  a mere 2 years later,  and I can now ride 3 or 4 trot poles in a row with my eye’s OPEN,  at least 60% of the time.   😂 

Anyway,  a few weeks ago I went to a local 3 day event to watch.  My real reason was to assess the jumps,  the riders, etc.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,  but fear and other priorities have always held me back.  

When I scoped out the event,  the course looked awesome.  They had this great beginner level course set up that was literally small logs on the ground.  The riders were so freakin’ nice.  I stopped a few people to ask where to go,  or where not to stand,  and everyone happily helped. Just super nice people.

But,  what I really liked…  All the horses were Normal.  A bunch of unknown origin ponies,  a lot of TBs,  several drafty looking crosses.  The riders ranged from the super athletic looking ladies to the large bottomed,  flabbier,  older adult looking riders (they looked like ME!!).  

So,  I thought,  why not?  I can try it once.

Better than always wishing I had and regretting it when it’s too late. 

So I signed up for jumping lessons.  

Then utterly freaked because I don’t have the money.  So i texted everyone I knew asking if they needed work done in exchange for $40. 

I’m pathetic.  

Now I need to find an extra $40 every two weeks over the winter.  Aarrggh! 

I don’t think my friends and family are going to employee me enough to support my riding issues.  

If only I could get overtime pay for overtime work (thank you salary rules 😡 grrr). 

I’ll have to figure something out.  I’d really like to try just one event. At least to know I conquered my fear and made a dream a reality.  I’m never going to be an upper level dressage rider.  Nor do I have the money to afford rated dressage shows.  But competing in one beginner level,  local,  3 day event is something I could cross off the bucket list. 

I may need to start selling blood to make this happen though.  😯

There’s got to be someway I can earn an extra $80/month…

Hunter Clinic

As a poor sap who really doesn’t understand “Hunter land”,  i was a bit lost on the intricacies of the clinic.  However,  man,  was I impressed when the clinician made them all do basic dressage work to start off.  It was nice to see that good fundamentals are fundamentals for everything.  

You know what really shocked me…  Each group lesson was 2 hours long.  

My horse would’ve died.  

I would’ve died.  😂 

Makes me recommitted to doing more endurance work with my horses.  Not that I’ll probably ever do “Hunters”, but mine are exhausted after 20 minutes.  Kind of pathetic after watching these machines go for 2 hours straight. 

Anyway,  first group I watched was rather disheartening.  Didn’t seem able to steer,  stop,  or go.  It was like watching kamikaze fighters dive bombing fences. Scary,  yet mesmorizing. 

Second group was much better.  You could actually see shortening and lengtheing strides,  balancing the horse,  etc.  One of the riders had the most to die for flying changes I’ve ever seen in real life.  Just amazing.  None of the late behind,  shuffle change,  weirdness I sometimes see passed off as flying changes.

Oh,  they even had a few older riders in the mix.  That was cool to see.  One older lady’s chestnut got a bug up its butt and decided to hop,  buck,  around.  That little lady stayed glued to the saddle.  Quite impressive to see.  My heart was in my throat watching it though! 

Hunter world, to me, is a crazed land of perfectionist insanity that both fascinates and appalls me.  😁 

It was interesting to watch the clinic. A lot of good stuff talked about.  Applicable to any horse rider.  I actually learned a few things,  so that was cool.  And as always,  I’ve gained a deeper respect for the difficulties my sister disciplines face.  

Best part EVER… not a single freaking auditing fee!!  *cough* dressage people *cough*  Anyone who wanted to come and learn was welcome to watch.  Even a naive fool like me was welcomed. 

So there I was,  dressage rider,  watching a hunter clinic.  😀

It was fun and educational! 

Catch-Riding 5

Last installment of the “Catch-Riding” saga.

The horse that won’t go…

Read parts One, three, and four here (part two says nothing).

The owner was there for this ride. In addition to the owner, there were several other helpful ladies in the arena who each had a suggestion on how to ride the horse. I don’t think I went more than 2 steps with someone suggesting I do something different (kick, turn,  etc).

To be honest, it was.. uh, stressful.

Riding someone else’s horse in front of them, while feeling judged by half a dozen people who keep calling out how to make the horse actually move… it’s really not as much fun as it sounds.

I don’t think the were actually judging me, it just felt that way.
I think they were trying to be helpful.

Anyway, I had the same issue of getting the first trot of the ride. It wasn’t quite as bad as the previous ride, and I successfully worked through it (once the horse was convinced I really meant it, again). After that, he got right down to work and motored along like he was enjoying himself. He actually seemed more willing to keep going without reminders this ride. I didn’t even need to use my legs except to remind him for bend or capture the outside energy on a turn.

The owner suggested I do several walk/trot transitions, which I had assumed would exacerbate the balking issue, but those worked great at making him sharper off the leg.

Reminder to self:  Transitions done correctly really do work!

I felt like I was gaining more control of the entire outside of the horse this ride.  Less drifting.  We went were I pointed him and he wasn’t escaping (too much) out the outside.

He felt like he was more honestly powering from behind,  and reaching into the bit (not honestly accepting it yet,  but wasn’t backed off of it).

He was really fun to ride once he was motoring along under his own power. I find it so weird that the horse has such an aversion to forward at the beginning, and yet acts like he really enjoyed working once he got going.

I’m still confused how they consistently get him forward, so I asked the owner again how they made him go.  Like, what special tricks did she have up her sleeve. She responded with that’s why they use spurs.  I think it was a glib response, but then she made the comment that I must have calves of steel since he was going without spurs for me (I don’t actually have calves of steel. More like jello.). I still really want to see one of his regular riders ride him so I can pick their brains while they’re working through his issues.

I was really stressed with all the eyes on me this ride…  I didn’t ride very long and was glad to get off.

After the ride, I got a bit of the ‘barn drama’ from the cast and crew that was there that day.  I wanted no part of that discussion. Ha! It made me glad I don’t board anymore.

I told the owner after that ride that I couldn’t come out as much anymore,  but if she wanted a one time a week rider than I’d be happy to help for another month (it’s a 45 min one way to drive to ride her horse).  She didn’t pursue that option.

However,  the owner did graciously offer to let me take lessons on her horse if I wanted.  I think that’d be fun,  and beneficial, but…. I’m having severe cash flow issues now.  Of course no one believes me when I say I’m broke,  so it’s always interpreted as “don’t wanna”.  I guess it makes sense.  I mean,  who doesn’t have an extra $30 lying around?  Oh right,  this girl…  😕🙁

I really want to see owner and the other rider ride this horse now.  What do they use to snap him out of his “I don’t wanna”  moments.  Learning new tools to resolve this issue could be really useful in the future.

All in all, a massive learning experience and I’m thrilled I had a chance to learn from this horse and his owner and other rider.  Plus,  just being able to sit on a horse of this caliber was a dream come true!  I did find that my self-confidence,  or lack of,  really hindered me in this experience.  I felt out of place and lacking (my own issues at play). I had a hard time staying focused and not being worried how others saw me.  It’s something I’ll have to keep working on.

Catch Riding 4

The horse that won’t go.

See: Catch Ride and Catch-Riding 3

Note: This occurred a while ago, but I left the timeline as is since it follows the other post. 

It’s been 3 rides now,  and I can honestly say I’ve never met a horse that I had so many issues about just GOING FORWARD.

Pre-ride tack up

Last night I rode (our 3rd ride), and although he was a tad bit better,  we still had two rather big fights. Both were related to the very first trot of the session.  After that,  he seemed more amendable. I’ll get to that later.

The Box Exercise at the Walk:

The good stuff: i was able to do a semi-reasonable rendition of the box exercise at the walk when focusing on the shoulders only.  He wiggles.  He drifts.  He thinks half-assed is good enough, but when more precision was requested he complied.  I couldn’t get anything at all the ride before this because I had zero “Go”  buttons at all. This time he at least kept walking and he allowed me to turn with my thigh and outside aids better.

The bad: There was very limited understanding of moving the hind end,  and he has limited understanding of the outside rein.  And he seemed resistant to crossing his hind legs.

In the saddle, when i ask for leg-yield on the wall,  he takes short, kind of hopping strides if crossing the left over the right. For the box exercise, he took short steps to cross his hinds. When I’m on the ground and ask him to move his hind away and cross he does so with big, sweeping strides.   Seems to be an ‘in the saddle’ issue. Still unsure if it’s pain or simply a balance/strength issue…

Halt/Walk Transitions:

The good: i was able to get the walk from the halt with a light aid even next to the door where he got stuck and utterly froze the first two rides.

The bad: the strike off to the walk is still lackluster and without true energy.  He sloths his way around,  exerting the least amount of energy possible.  He falls into the walk and ambles.

Walk/Trot Transition:

The good: after the initial issue of picking up a trot for the first time,  his walk/trot transitions became better.  He became more workman like in his attitude,  less belligerent.  A couple of the walk to trot transitions were actually decent and had some energy.   Like Training Level decent…

I have no delusions that “workman like” attitude will roll over to the next ride.

The bad: my first ask for a walk to trot transition,  he planted,  raised his head,  and humped his back with a definite “No”. I pulled him off balance to the side and got his feet moving at the walk again,  I asked for trot again lightly,  nothing. I asked harder and SAME FRIGGIN’ response! Utter No.

Finally I turned him sharply,  booted him hard with both heels,  and popped him lightly with the whip (I was really expecting a big buck).  He lurched into a sort of jog trot,  so i petted him up and told him he was good and let him walk again.   Asked for the trot again lightly, and after that it was fine.

I’m still not a hundred percent sure this is truly a behavioral issue and not a pain response. OR, he had pain that’s now gone, but is still expecting pain… His reactions seem over the top to me.  He apparently has had several medical issues in the past that would’ve caused him pain, but he’s got a really good owner who has gone to great lengths to ensure he’s healthy and pain free now.  So why is he still acting like he’s going to die if he moves?

Leg yield:

The good: he let me move him with just a weight aid both ways after the first one. No calf or leg needed at all (he’s incredibly sensitive to seat).

The bad: he’s drifting his hind behind him.  Bare minimum of crossing behind.  He becomes resistant when attempting to half-halt the outside rein in order to realign his front and back. Assuming it’s not pain/injury related, then I think the hind end drift will decrease once he understands the hind-end box exercise  and outside rein.  And i also think the wall leg-yield will help him limber up more and increase his understanding of outside rein and inside hind.  He wasn’t “bad”,  he’s just not correct. Maybe his other rider has tricks that work better for him. I was operating on path of least resistance, or… however I can trick him into working correctly without hitting his “I won’t” wall.


The good: His second and later responses to a light canter aid were prompt.

The bad: I could not get the canter the first time.  He wouldn’t even give a wrong response.  I got no, zero, nada, nothing response.  He just trotted along like nothing else was being asked.  I assumed it was me. Could be my balance was off,  or he felt unbalanced and refused.  I changed direction, tried to get him as balanced as I could and I asked again. He picked it up no issues. All other trot/canter transitions were great.

All downward transitions were horrendous. I don’t know what his downward transition buttons are. I can’t really half-halt him to set him up, and he doesn’t push into the bridle as a forward thinking transition, so every downward trans looked like a camel. Unbalanced and ugly.  I’ll have to ask his riders next time I see them how they cue for downwards.

My Very Amateur Impressions:

He’s very stiff through his ribs and back.

His right side appears to be less able to stretch when going left,  I think.  Probably because his left hind is weaker than his right.  He seems right dominant.  Stronger on that side.  Tighter muscles.

He slipped on the footing twice at the end of the last ride.  This is super footing, so it’s not a footing issue. Both times the left hind seemed to just spin out from under him.  I’m suspicious something else is going on with him…. Perhaps it’s simply weaker and he was overly tired?

And, either I really suck, or his training level is more on par with Training Level than what I had assumed. I never know though.. I know I’m not the best rider. I’m passable, decent, but compared to some I’m like a toad sitting on a log. I’m really dying to see his other rider and owner ride him sometime. I would love to know if it’s my riding that’s the issue, or it’s the same for everyone.

I bribed him with a couple of treats this ride. When he put in a bit of effort I gave him a small treat.  I was trying to use walk as a reward, but wondered if I could reach him faster by using both a walk break and a small treat. I know some frown on this, but I’ve always used bribes for Ava and Joy while riding. Didn’t hurt Ava’s test scores any.  This horse just seems so… resigned. Not that I really blame him. Who wants to work out? Not me. If I were a horse, I’d be that jerk pony that won’t go above a walk while little kids kicked furiously at my sides. HAhaha

Catch Riding 3

Note: I wrote this a while ago. This wasn’t last week, but I left it in there for timeline info.

I rode the horse that I’m catch-riding last Wednesday (my last post where i was super excited).

See Catch Rider part 1 here.

The owner works a lot, so she was having a lady at the barn ride the horse a couple of times a week to keep him fit and to help train him. The other rider at the barn broke her foot and can’t ride for a while.

The owner had arranged to have the lady who normally rides him there to give me a mini-lesson on him. I was warned he’s very tricky to ride.   Emphasis on that because I’ve heard that phrase more this week than i have my entire life.

Short back story:  I spent several years as a working student for a dressage trainer who gave me every badly trained, untrained, or tricky horse she got in to ride.  The ones that reared constantly,  the buckers,  the never been sat on before,  the hot heads,  the crazys…. Anything the trainer didn’t want to fall off of,  she threw me up on to it (frankly,  I loved it!)

So when the owner suggested I take a lesson on him with his other rider,  I mentally poo poo’d the idea. However,  I won’t pass up help if given. They know the horse,  I don’t….

Post ride


That ride on Wednesday was a horse who was…  I guess the best way to describe it (in hindsight) is “lacking forward”.  He was always against or behind my leg.   Even if I booted him hard it was a subdued response.  Half hearted. The most I got out of him with a firm boot to the ribs at a walk was a big “I’ll buck you off if you do that again” message.

It was difficult to keep him straight.  I had no outside rein.  He escaped out the shoulders on every circle. No real bend. He felt crooked.  Like he tilted toward the right.  It made me feel like i was slightly off center.

He’d go in “frame”  if you placed your hands dead center and didn’t move,  but he never felt connected. He never felt like he reached for it on his own,  nor that it was there due to energy from behind.  It was just a headset.  He looked ok,  but it didn’t feel right.

The most I could get out of him was a change of direction or a 20 meter circle with lots of drifting (no outside aids to stop it). Anything beyond that was beyond my skill level to pull out of him.  I really felt like I could barely control the turns.  I almost ran into the other lady riding even though the planned path would’ve given her a wide berth.

He went better with the lady’s suggestions,  but I still felt like i was riding half a horse. Half power,  not using his body, stiff back, and backed off.

They said they normal wear spurs with him,  and carry a whip.  I’m not against spurs,  but I personally hate wearing them (hurt my ankles, I suck at using them).

I went home feeling defeated and confused,  and wondering how I was going to ride him the rest of the week (I barely got him to go last time).  I wasn’t sure i could ride him.  I wasn’t sure I wasn’t going to go out and end up sitting on a horse that would refuse to move at some point and no solutions. I knew I couldn’t force him to go if he didn’t want to. He made it clear he’d fight fire with fire at one point.  And the tips the lady gave me hadn’t made any difference in his response to the leg anyway.  Spurs weren’t going on my feet.  The whip made barely any effect. Heels were so-so….

I felt a defeated…  I’ve ridden just about every type of horse imaginable,  and this one,  the one that i was so excited to ride,  was going to be the one that showed me how inept I was.  *hang my head*

Thursday i went out to ride him again.  I do have some tricks I can try.  Joy had sticky feet when i bought her,  and now she’ll go like a bat outta hell if I nudge her.  Figured I’d do my best,  and if I couldn’t get him to go without kicking every two strides then I’d let his owner know I wasn’t a good fit for her horse (hate to make things worse).

Naive optimism helps me tackle a lot of life’s problems.  😉

So Thursday I start off with some simple leg-yielding along the wall.  I normally like to use the box exercise,  but that made him die out more.  The wall leg-yield started poorly.   He gave a lack luster effort.  Bare minimum.  No energy at all. I was trying very hard to be precise in my aids.  Lot of release to ensure he gets the point that when he goes off the light aid then he gets rewarded.

He was tapping out my ability to be uber-precise with leg aids.

He perks up a bit by the 5th one,  where I’m being very deliberate in the light aid cue, with a stronger cue to back it up if ignored,  then leg off immediately if he responds in the slightest. He starts to feel a bit more limber.  A little bigger walk.  He starts to feel a little bit more responsive to the aids. Nothing major.

I had just started trotting when another lady comes in.

I look like ass trying so hard to keep him going,  so I make a joke about still trying to find his “buttons”.  She offhandedly tells me that every time he shows a bit of belligerence,  turn him.  So,  I do…  Turn,  turn,  turn,  turn,  couple of double taps hard with my heels on his ribs one time when he slowed during a circle once and…


Suddenly i had an engine under me!

A big motor!

He powered himself around after that.  We trotted and cantered,  did some normal leg yields toward the rail.  I could start to half-halt with the outside rein finally.  I felt like i could steer with my seat fairly well (he still drifted more than i wanted).  He wasn’t exactly “connected”, but I felt like he was more honestly finding the bit instead of just holding his head in a frame.

I dropped him back to walk and I could feel his back swinging under me this time.

I let him catch his breath for a while,  then thought I’d try to recreate it again now that he’d rested for a bit.

I asked him to pick up the trot with my seat.  He popped into it.  He didn’t try to stop at the door like he always does,  he kept motoring along under his own.

We had some lovely working trot going.  I caught bits and pieces in the mirror,  and desperately wished I had someone to video tape it.

So..  What i learned is that no matter the age,  size,  or training on a horse,  the old standby of shifting their weight to move their feet works (maybe a well timed reminder to solidify the idea doesn’t hurt either).

And wiggles,  shoulders,  and contact issues are almost always a result of lack of true forward.  That horse was easy to ride after he was in front of my leg.

I’m going back out tomorrow. I’m more optimistic about it now.

Hopefully i can recreate it again.  There seemed to be some discussion amongst the barn riders that one trick may work one day,  but not another.  Like i said,  they’ve told me repeatedly that he’s tricky to ride.

To be honest,  after Wednesday’s ride,  my only goal was to not make anything worse.  I’ve only got this ride for a short period of time.  His old riders will be healed up and back on him again soon.

It’s my understanding that the lady who gave me a mini-lesson is able to pull out of him some semblance of First or Second Level work… or, at least, they said they started flying changes with him.  As I see it, my only job is to keep him fit and give him some lovin’ until his normal riders are fit again.  The lady that’s riding him now (not the owner,  but the one that gave me a mini lesson)  has shown through Intermediare 2.  I’m just a lower level rider.  I’ll leave him to the experts once they’re healed.  In the meantime,  I’ll have fun riding him.