The joy of being an AA

Work has been killing me. 50 to 70 hour weeks for over a month. I am exhausted. Burnt out.

I also don’t get anything for all this overtime. No overtime pay, no extra time off..

I can’t even reap extra money for all this hard work. *sigh* No new brushing boots for Joy again this year.

My first show is a week away. I’m not sure what to expect.

I’m still struggling every ride with either making her too hot and tense, yet better balanced, or supple and relaxed, yet horribly on her forehand. I can’t seem to get balanced, supple, forward, and relaxed all in one ride.

We have some fabulous moments though.

Our lengthen canter (aka go fast) elludes me, but we have a very nice downward transition. She engages well under herself. It’s quite neat to feel. There’s not much length of back on a pony so you really feel the back coil and the haunches come under.

Our lengthen trot has gotten a wee bit better. More lengthen in the stride. However, we can’t hold it long. Not long enough even for a short diagonal.

You know what’s really improved? We can do simple transistions down the quarter line like nobody’s business. Not exactly a staple of dressage tests though. Super fun to ride though! Weeee!!!

Anyway, I just don’t know how this whole show will go. We’re not really ready for First Level Test 3. We’ve got the canter loops and leg yields, but no real lengthens. I can’t get a stretchy trot at all if she gets tense. It’s so easy to accidentally make her tense, and so hard to relax her again.

Since this will be her first time off property in 2 years, and only the second show she’s ever been to, I’m not expecting it to go all that well…

But… I’m hoping to take her to a few more shows this year, and I think she’ll get used to it pretty fast. She’s always had a really fantastic brain on her. Adapts well. Maybe the second show we can show off our training a bit better, or the third. We’ll see.

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First Dressage Show

My first dressage show, ever, on Joy is in 3 weeks.

I’ve been freaking out ever since I signed up for it. A combination of excited and scared to death.

I have such high hopes for our debut in public and at First level.

However, since this will be Joy’s second show (first was 2 years ago at a local open show), I’m expecting her to be tense, distracted, and spooky.

I’m more nervous that we’ll do poorly because my training sucks. This is the first horse I’ve trained solely on my own, without lessons (I did have 2 on her a couple years ago).

She is entirely a reflection of my level of knowledge. Not a trainers, not my ability to do as told, not any outside influence… mine and mine alone.

It means a lot to me that we do well.

Add on to that… I am highly competitive. So I’m bouncing back and forth between “It’s just for fun. We’ll have fun and who cares how we do!” to “Crush the competition! I must bury them in the dust of my success!”

And on top of that…

My anxiety riddled brain is coming up with ever horrible event that could possibly happen the day of the show. Pony freaks out and runs off with me, tosses me, freaks in trailer, won’t load in trailer, freaks at judges stand and refuses to go near it, etc. etc. etc..

Oh, and add in that I’ve idiotically decided I can’t buy a new show coat and will lose enough weight in 3 weeks to fit my old show coat (a goal I’m not convinced I can achieve), and we’ve got an amazing recipe for total disaster!!

Really all I’m saying is I’m a mental basket case.

Stay tuned for more “How can Mia screw this up?” adventures!!

Those rides where it all goes right

I’ve been working on walk/canter transitions the past couple of months, but our canter/walk attempts have been HORRIBLE!

I got the BEST canter to walk transition today! It was… a big girl canter to walk trans! Balanced, engaged, and she just walked forward into the transition.

I was so floored and happy I immediately hopped off and quit. I figured we couldn’t possibly top that today.

Ultimate effort from this pony!

She’s just amazing!

New photos:

As you can see, we’re still too short in the neck. I get more moments of longer neck, but not consistent (yet).

Leg Yield

Exercises to Improve the Trot

The Exercise: half-pass, medium trot, half-pass:

In trot ride round the corner of the arena and begin half-pass from the quarter marker across the diagonal. 28juneexercise

After about six strides of half-pass, straighten your horse and ask for some medium strides as you cross the X marker.

After another six strides or so, half-halt and go back into half pass again. Repeat on the other rein and from both ends of the school. 

After the half-pass, you horse should be more engaged, so this exercise could also help to improve the medium trot.

Exercises for developing thrust carrying capacity in trot:

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.

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.

This exercise highlights one of the extremes of collection, which is the collected walk required for a walk pirouette. Perfecting this will help you transition to an extended trot because the horse must remain active in the hind legs and do so with a correct bend. The pirouettes give you a moment to gather confidence, establish balance and reward the horse for thinking in the right direction.

In the process, you form the horse as you focus on the integrity of your position to maintain looseness, bend and flexibility. This allows your driving aids to flow through the horse’s back to maintain the looseness that keeps the energy flowing.

The Shoulder-in Loop Andrea Taylor

On the left rein, ride straight down the long side of the arena in a balanced trot (may be working or collected depending on the stage of the horse’s training). Shoulder-in Loop

At R, ride a half 20 metre circle to S in medium trot, thinking about creating impulsion without allowing the horse to take faster steps.

At S, half-halt and develop shoulder-in in collected trot down the long side to V.

From V to P, ride another half 20 metre circle in medium trot to refresh the impulsion, and develop shoulder-in in collected trot again down the long side to R.

At R, ride a half 20 metre circle to S in medium trot…and so on.

“Your horse may rush in the mediums and as a result stiffen and lean on the contact,” cautions Andrea. “Check that you are pushing and engaging him uphill using half halts rather than chasing him out of balance.”

You may also find that your horse feels “stuck” against the wall in the transition from shoulder-in in collected trot to the medium trot. “Make sure you are keeping the horse in front of your leg in the shoulder-in so he is ready to leave the wall exactly when you give the aid,” Andrea advises.

This exercise can be adapted to suit different horses by varying the degree of impulsion in the medium trot and asking for more or less angle in the shoulder-in. With a more advanced horse you can even add a half-pass out of the shoulder-in at E or B to the top of the centreline. Then come back down the long side and repeat the exercise from the beginning.

Dressage training on how to improve the trot with Olympian Courtney King Dye

Dressage training with Garreth Hughes, How to improve the trot

 

 

Proposed Competition

I want to see a competition where 12 riders have 12 months to train, or re-train, a non-dressage horse in dressage (no warmbloods or warmblood crosses, no imports, no purpose-bred horses).

Horses are donated, and each horse that is donated is independently valued at no more than $3,000. All horses will be at least started under saddle (walk/trot under saddle).

Each rider will be assigned a horse based on a random drawing.

Horses would be videotaped ridden at Intro or Training level at start of the 12 months.

At the end of 12 months, all twelve riders compete their horse at one of two tests: either First Level Test 3 or Second Level test 3.

Then have prizes for the rider who created the biggest overall improvements, rider who improved the gaits the most, rider who over came the most issues, etc.

And the riders who scored highest overall at the test they chose at the end of the 12 months gets prize money.

The donated horses are then sold and proceeds go into prize pot. Or, horses are donated to Jr/Yg riders who demonstrate talent.

This, in my opinion, would showcase trainer talent. You want to prove your chops, remove the option to buy the horses that are bred to excel at dressage.

We need a low cost platform for trainers that don’t have the deep pockets, but have the skills to pull out the absolute best from a horse, to really shine. A competition that would really cull the wheat from the chaff and find the best trainers.


I’m tired of seeing trainers post videos of their co-owned, $40k, imported warmbloods and then asking “Can you see how much his trot improved this year?”

No, Fred. I don’t. The thing already moved like an FEI level horse when it was 3.


The Thoroughbred Makeover is similar, but if ours allowed video submissions then it could draw in the trainers that are usually excluded due to costs. They might be able to finagle housing and training a horse for a year, but couldn’t absorb travel and competition costs.

Remove as many barriers as possible and see what kind of talent comes out of the woodwork. Make it prestigious enough to capture the attention of top trainers, but affordable enough that anyone could play.

Just saying.. I’d be far more impressed by a trainer who could take an average Qh or Morgan and create a marked improvement in it over a year than I am watching some of these incredibly gifted youngsters do the young horse tests.

Non-Traditional Dressage Horses

As a financially strapped adult who loves dressage, I wanted to highlight the fact that non-traditional horses make fantastic dressage partners!

Jeremy Steinberg – 6 year old Quarter Horse

Red Alert – Quarter Horse
2011 Adequan/USDF National Symposium in Del Mar, CA. Jeremy Steinberg Clinician
Arianna Barzman-Grennan, of Mountain View, CA riding an 8-year-old Quarter Horse, Red Alert.

Incognito: Mule
First Level Test 1 – 67+%.

GKB Coal Magic – Morgan

Heart B Porter Creek at 4th Level – Mule

Byzy After Hours – Morgan

Koheilan Tajmir P – Arab

Marshall – Saddlebred

Cardi – Welsh Cob

 

Standardbred Stallion

Do you know of others who should make this list? Drop a name (with breed, if known) or a youtube link in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

Joy’s First Real Counter-Canter

Now that I can get the haunches in at the canter, i thought I’d try a real Counter-Canter with her. Last time I tried (last year), I couldn’t control the shoulders and haunches well enough to keep her on the lead.

I was only going to try doing a bendy line from B to the far corner , but she was so easy to steer from my seat that I thought I’d go for a half circle in counter-canter.

Check out how it went (you may want to mute the sound):

She got unbalanced on the last part of the half-circle, but not bad overall for a beginning.

The left lead counter-canter wasn’t going as well. A little too weak and unbalanced to hold it around a full circle, so I’ll have to work on that. However, really thrilled that I was able to pick up which ever lead I wanted regardless of which direction I was going (she picked up the left without too many issues even though we were going to the right).

I really liked her leg-yield here:

I was just really thrilled that the canter is getting more balanced! Only took me three years!! LOL!

However, I can NOT for the life of me, put this all together into a good lower-level test ride. I tried to ride a First Level Test 1 last week, and it was shit. Couldn’t get the canter at the letter, our circles were football shaped (what do you mean that’s rider error?!?!), no lengthens to speak of, I couldn’t get a stretchy trot to save my life, etc. etc. It was terrible.

I think I’ve been too lax by not riding more precisely.

To help with that, I now have… ** drum roll **

ARENA LETTERS!!!

WOO HOO!

My wonderful husband made them for me.  They’re kind of hard to see in the pictures, but they look really nice in person.

The dressage arena is really starting to come together!! Yay!

That thing I couldn’t get

I’ve owned Joy, the pony, since 2015.   If you want to read about when I got her, go to I bought a…

Anyway… I FINALLY got her to do haunches in at a canter!!! Woo Hoo!! And it was pretty darn decent too!

Seriously, I have been working on this for YEARS. Granted, we’ve had a lot of time off over the years, but I wouldn’t have thought it’d be that hard to get this. I never had half the issues getting haunches in at a canter with any other horse.

This one.. whew.  Struggle bus.

Anyway, I was so thrilled.

Now I can start working on counter canter! Yay! lol!

Online Showing

I want to try the online show series called Better Dressage Scores.

It’s 100% online. You video your ride (as if you’re the judge at C), pay the $19.00 per test to enter, a real judge judges you, and you get the marks and comments back in an email.

You can also earn ribbons and year end awards.

Instead of “winning” based on the quality of your competition though, places are awarded based on score. So, a 70%, or higher, is First place, and multiple people can earn a first for the same test in the same show. Which is a bit different, but I like that you’re actually competing entirely against yourself and your placing isn’t determined by quality of your competition.

They have Intro through FEI levels available.

And, for all of you Western Dressage riders out there, they also have WD classes available (Intro to Level 3).

This seems like a great way to get some feedback without having to suffer through an extremely long day at a real show. Plus, if I only want to do one test, then it’s $19 total. No office fee’s, no haul in fee’s, no gas costs, etc. Total is $19.00.

Their next show is Sept 30th (entries close Sept 23rd). If I can figure out how to get markers up so they’re visible for the video, and figure out how to work through the large hole at M, then I should be all set to enter this.  I think that’ll be my goal this week – figure out how to set up lettering.

Along with power washing all the water tanks, cleaning the feed bins, cleaning tack, and continuing to fill in the giant hole in my yard.

I suppose I ought-a get off my butt and get started!

Don’t ask me how far it is

I saw an exercise online that I wanted to try with Ava and Joy. Basically a 3 loop serpentine over ground poles.

Trot the first set of ground poles, canter the second, trot the third. Then you’re set up to go the opposite way and do it all again.

I liked that it not only incorporated ground poles, but also worked on bendy lines to increase suppleness AND transitions between gaits to work on collection. Really neat exercise.

So I tried it with Ava first. She whacked every pole with her feet. Knocked them all over the first go round. It didn’t go well. I didn’t have the spacing right. Oh well. Instead, we worked on rhythm and straightness, combined with relaxation and suppleness. She did well.

I reset all the poles for Joy and tried it with her. Little dynamo perfectly picked her way through the poles at the trot. When I asked her to canter, she stepped right into it in balance. I was really happy with how it went. I didn’t have the canter pole distance right though, so we ended up trotting through those too and did transitions before and after each set.

She did really well.

I really need to get better at distances though.

This was also my first run of having the puppy tied out near the arena while I rode. He’s only 5 months, and not ready to make his own decisions yet, so he had to be contained for his safety (and mine). But, I wanted to get him used to the idea of me being on top of a horse. He did really well. Altogether it was an hour and a half of him basically being left to his own devices and he happily sat and watched, played with the kitties, and dug holes (he loves digging holes!). About the hour and a half mark and he started up with the most woeful howl you’ve ever heard.

Polar

Polar

Nothing earth shattering or awesome. Just a fun time.