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!

Polar, The Great Pyrenees

Can we get honest for a moment….

I have gotten in way over my head with training a dog that is already up to my waist at 7 months old, and is still growing…

20181021_201815 (1)

The AKC describes the Great Pyrenees as “independent thinkers” and continues on with “standard obedience training will be met with great indifference”.

That description not only seemed at odds with what others had accomplished with their GP’s, but it also left so much unsaid.

Their website included photos of well trained Pyrs like this one (appears trainable, right?):

From the Great Pyrenees Club of America Website

The Great Pyrenees Club of America’s website lulls you into a false sense of security with phrases like “Pyrs combine a great intelligence with a deep devotion to family and home” and they continue on with words like, “trustworthy, affectionate, gentle and tractable”.

But they hide that adolescent period behind a cloak of “puppyhood to adulthood is a great distance and a considerable time.”

Let me explain what this means…

Imagine all that exuberant puppy excitement and lack of impulse control in the body of a full grown German Shepard or the biggest Labrador you’ve ever seen. AND add in stubborn, smart, and a strong belief that he’s in charge.

This is the hardest breed I’ve ever raised before.

What did I get myself into?!?!

I’ve spent hundred of hours working on “come”, and yet, you can see the wheels turn as he determines if it’s really worth his while.

Usually it isn’t.

He has no issues walking away and pretending you don’t exist. After all, he was bred to be independent and work without humans.

In fact, our puppy classes were a real eye opener as to how different this breed really is. As everyone else’s puppies stared adoringly at their owners, or jumped up and down on their owners for interaction, mine laid calmly at the furthest reaches of his leash away from me.

As if to say “I know you’re there, but i have other things to do than dote on you, lady”.

I’m just saying… if you ever think to yourself “Gosh, I’d really like a Great Pyrenees!”, go find an adult Pyr to rescue (there are plenty out there) and skip the first 6 months to a year.

From the time he was 8 weeks until 6 months, his life’s goal was to gnaw on his human. With little razor teeth that could rend flesh with ease.

Luckily, it seems we’re mostly past that. We’re on to adolescence now. Oh yay…

Anyway… cute pics of Polar:

Pyr’s fold up nice for ease of storage:

More later… It’s time to take Polar for a walk!

Did I mention Pyr’s are pretty low energy? Our walks are 80% sitting/laying and staring at tree lines.

I kind of enjoy it. 🙂

Riding in the Wild Outdoors

I hopped on Joy last night for some work, but I was a bit nervous about how it would go. It was windy (which I hate), and I could hear someone cutting down trees across the street. I thought I’d try and ride anyway, and see how it went.

Joy was fine with it. During one of our trot/halt transitions I look up and there’s a guy in one of those buckets in the air, not more than 100 feet away from, us cutting down trees over the road. I’m pretty sure that should scare a horse, but Joy didn’t seem to care so I ignored it.

We were working on left bend at the trot when the neighbor’s Bobcat came down their path which butts up to my barn. I look over and see Polar (my 7 month old puppy) absolutely hysterical with fright. I had hooked him up to a post on a cable while I rode so that he wouldn’t get trampled on, and I saw him run and hit the end of the line in an effort to escape the evil machine that was rumbling nearby. He couldn’t see the Bobcat through the trees, but it was very close and very loud, and he was very scared.

So I hopped off Joy and dragged her over to the puppy to try to calm him down. It took a while because the evil machine wouldn’t leave and kept making hideous noises directly behind the treeline.

Joy was just standing there, bored.

I finally got the puppy settled down after the machine left, and went to hop back on Joy…

So far nothing had bothered her.

I was just about to swing a leg over, when Joy tensed and stared hard at the dirt path to the road. There, standing in the path, was a deer.

Deer she sees every single day.

I walked her over to the path to get closer to the deer and chase them off. Two of the deer went running, but the third just stood there staring at us. I made loud noises to try to scare it off, but it wouldn’t move.

It was unnerving me!!

I turned Joy around and headed back to the arena… except, when I looked back i swear the deer was closer than it had been!

And THAT’S what caused me to finally throw in the towel and put Joy up for the night.

A stupid deer scared ME! hahaha

Seriously, it was freaky. 😰😧

The “For Sale” lesson horse

Several years ago, I tried to take a jumping lesson at a barn I had Ava at (right after she injured her stifle).

When I showed up to the lesson, the instructor immediately started with “I have this horse for sale, and I think you should buy him”. I tell her I can’t afford the horse, and definitely not while I still have Ava. I think that’s the end of the convo and that I’m just using him for a jump lesson.

She asks me if I have my saddle, and I explain to her I only have a dressage saddle.

…it’s a jumping lesson….

She tells me to go get it and put it on the horse. So, being the good little dooby that I am, I fetch it and put it on the horse. She jacks it up too far on his shoulders, and hands me a bridle to put on him. I re-adjust my saddle, bridle the horse, and take him to the arena.

I’m with a few other riders who are learning to jump also.

Instructor tells the group to go into two point (which at that time I really had no clue how to do), so I’m trying like mad to two-point in a dressage saddle with stirrups set at dressage length.

Eventually the instructor see’s me trying to two-point and basically says “WTF are you doing? Don’t lean forward”… as if I’m a shitty rider.

Whatever.. I sit back down. We’re walking… I’m confused as to what is going on…

They go around in two-point a couple laps and then we trot some. Lovely horse, but he has absolutely no idea what seat aids mean, nor outside rein, nor really anything but pull and kick.

We go over some ground polls and horse keeps cutting the corners. Instructor is yelling at me not to let him. Uhm, sure… with what?

Eventually has me canter him. I can’t even get him into a canter. I’m supposed to sit way to the outside and do something or other with his head and kick… but the whole concept of sitting to the outside to cue for canter is so foreign that I can’t do it. We eventually get into the canter, but because I keep sitting to the inside, he keeps swapping to the off lead. This, of course, is interpreted by the instructor as proof that I’m a shitty rider.

I eventually give up and basically just sit up there like a passenger and take the berating from the instructor over how shitty I ride.

Ride ends, I untack the horse, and instructor mentions that the horse is for sale (again), and how well suited we are for each other…

I basically paid to test ride a horse for sale, that they wanted to sell me…. I never took another lesson from her again.


So last week I have a jumping lesson with the place I’ve been taking jumping lessons at for the past year. I really like this place. I’ve been happy with them.

I walked in and one of the barn owners suggested I buy one of their horses.

I took it for what I assumed it was meant as, an off hand remark, a “just throwing this out there in case you’re interested” comment.

I tell them I have no money. They suggest they’ll take a much lower offer for the horse.
I laugh and tell them even my best offer would be well below what they paid for the horse.

End of story… I assume.

Then they point me to the horse I’m going to ride, and tell me this is the one for sale.


Angry mare

I’m a little suspicious at this point…

I get her tacked up and out to the arena. She’s fidgety. Mount up, and she won’t stand still.

I was trying to control my breathing in order to fake calmness. Every other step the mare is popping me up from the tack with a half-canter step/head toss, and shying away from the far end of the arena because “scary”… I try to test out what she knows, but every light aid is met with an over-reaction.

And all the while, the instructor is telling me to shove my hands forward, don’t round your shoulders, push your hands forward, sit up, shove your hands forward….

I think the word used most was “handsy”, with the comment that I need to stay off her mouth.

I was debating throwing the reins completely away… but the mare was eyeballing the end of the arena as if a fire breathing dragon occasionally pops out from there…

“Stay off her mouth!!”

“Push your hands forward”

“Push her over with your leg”

And then the coup de gras, instructor tells me I need to develop an independent seat and stop using my hands for balance…


Riding this mare felt like this…

Or this…


When I’m used to this…


And all I could think of when the lesson ended was “Thank GOD that’s over with!”

Moral of the story is… always be emphatic when saying no to a purchase offer from a lesson barn. Lead off with “HELL NO!!” and end with “I will kick you in the junk!!”


Change in Direction

I’ve decided to sell Joy.

Joy is perfect for dressage, but her club foot isn’t suitable for jumping competitively. Plus, I’m just a smidge too heavy for her. I don’t want to ruin a perfectly lovely pony just because I want to try eventing.Joy Trot

I also don’t want to take care of three horses again. I really like just two. Two is perfect for me.

So, my goal now is to find Joy a good home. Preferably with someone who will continue dressage with her. And then I would take that money and invest it in another green-bean, project pony… one with a bit more substance to him or her so that my fat ass doesn’t completely destroy her joints and feet by having her land with tubby me all wobbly up on top of her. Maybe something closer to 14.2ish with bigger cannon bones.


Except, a part of me doesn’t want to sell Joy. She’s a ton of fun to ride. She’s got power and agility.  She’s easy to sit, easy to handle (for me), she likes people, and has no problems letting me fuss over her with a brush  for an hour (it’s my therapy, don’t judge. :p)

So… the idiotic part…

I was dinking around on Equine Now, trying to figure out how the darn site worked, and I accidentally posted Joy for sale.  I could delete the ad, but then I thought “Why? I’ll just slap an outrageous price on her and see if anything bites!!”

$8,500 outrageous. HA!

I dropped it to $6,500 after that, because $8,500 is too ludicrous even as a joke.
$6,500 is only slightly insane. 😉

I even created a web page for her: https://johnsonprojects.000webhostapp.com/DressagePony/

You have to check it out. 🙂 Super fun to create. Seriously, the most fun I’ve had building a website in ages! I was so proud of the banner video on that site.

As a side note: that’s my sandbox website. Go up a directory and it’s where I’ve been sticking my learning projects for Angular 5 and 6. All two of them. haha

I really did’t have any intention of actually posting an ad for Joy yet. I still need to get her back into working shape, need to fine tune the aids again (I’ve been lax), need to get some scores under her belt to prove she’s at least half of what I think she could be.

I’d be embarrassed if someone actually came to look at her right now.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts, for now…  I’d like to get around mid-four figures for her, but if she doesn’t sell, she doesn’t sell. It’s no biggie. I’ll just go back to focusing on dressage if that’s the case.

Life Stopped

I lost Ava. She died.

Saturday morning she was bright and cheery, demanding her breakfast. By that afternoon she was in serious trouble.  She was euthanized when the sun rose Sunday morning.

I don’t know what happened. I fed at 6:30 am, and when I went out at 1:30pm I found her down in the stall, coated in sweat, and in obvious distress.  I knew she’d been that way for a while when I saw her.

What killed me is when she saw me in the afternoon, as she was laying in the stall coated in sweat and in obvious pain… she nickered at me… an almost “Thank God you’re here” type nicker.

I feel guilty, and gutted, and depressed, and just… heart broken.

I miss her terribly.

I had the vet come the moment I saw her. We tried everything, but nothing about the situation was normal.

The vet said later that the symptoms and situation were so troubling to him that he spent several hours pouring over her past vet records and researching what he saw with Ava. At the end, the vet suggested a hypothesis of cancer.

I don’t know how much of this blog you’ve read, or if you follow it that closely, but if you do then you’d remember Ava had a grandmal seizure this past January. We never did find what caused that.  Blood work and everything came back completely normal.

At the same time, she developed some minor ataxia in the hind end. You’d wouldn’t have even notice if you didn’t know the horse, or specifically test her on it.

Lately, I had noticed the ataxia was getting worse.  Not scary worse, but the kind of degradation where you second guess yourself…. But I knew it had gotten worse.

What I also didn’t write about is that she would stock up terribly lately. Before this year she’d occasionally stock up if stalled for long periods (locked in a stall 24/7 for more than a day). Lately she was stocking up badly even with the freedom of the paddock attached to her stall. It seemed like her hind legs only ever went down to normal right after I rode her or she had been wandering the pasture for several hours.

I’d also noticed that where her jaw and her neck met, that area seemed to stick out more than it used to. My poking and prodding didn’t cause any pain reaction, so I set it aside as something to keep an eye on… but it was so slight that it was easy to fool myself into thinking it always been that size.

She started having difficulties breathing during work. I chalked it up to unfit and hot weather and slowed down our work, walked more, made it easier on her.

I’d also noticed my air fern started losing weight the past two months. I chalked it up to my awesome feed management program with the new supplements and vitamins she was getting. I was so pleased with myself that I was finally getting control over of her weight.

She started to have more frequent bouts of colic. This last colic was the third colic this year. The first one was a definite impaction at the beginning of the year, and we navigated through it without too many issues. The second was mid-summer, and it resolved itself before the vet had even called me back (why do these always strike on weekends). Then this third and final one last weekend. For a horse whose entire history included one very minor gas colic five years ago, this was way off course of normal.

She didn’t want to move as freely or as much. I’d let her and Joy into the pasture, and Joy would kick up her heels and take off, while Ava would mosey out. I chalked it up to being a more mature horse.  Occasionally she’d still give the slow trot out there, and every once in a while she’d buck and fart and gallop out.

Everything, by itself, didn’t scream “You have a big issue!”. It wasn’t until the vet brought up the C word that I started wondering about all those little things together.

It really doesn’t matter what caused it… she’s gone.  I’m happy she’s not in pain now, but God damn it fucking hurts.

You’ll think I’m crazy, but Ava used to tell me when she was thirsty. I couldn’t point to a specific thing she did, and maybe I just anticipated really well, but I’d just know and I’d go grab her a bucket of water. She’d drink it down. Which, if you know horses, if they aren’t thirsty, you can get bent with the water. This was usually when I was tacking her up, or times she wasn’t free to just go to the trough and drink.

She’d look for me every time she heard the back door open.

When I called her name when she was in the pasture, she’d nicker and come galloping to me. And she’d always stop at the last second to let me know “I could run you over, but I love you, so I won’t”. haha

She had this frustrating habit of aiming both hind feet at me when she was feeling fresh and full of sass. But she’d always leave 3-4 feet between us. Even if it meant she had to move forward a couple feet to leave that safety gap.. you could almost see her plan it out and measure distances. Used to drive me crazy that she’d kick out at me at all, but I knew she wouldn’t hit me on purpose ever. I guess that’s partly why I loved her so much… she had a wicked sense of humor.

We’d spent so much time together that she knew what I meant, in general, when I talked to her or pointed at something. I could tell her “Go to the gate” and she’d dutifully go to the gate and stand there while I finished in the barn. Then I’d wander out and open her gate to let her into the pasture. If she was nervous about something, I’d tell her what was going on, and she’d settle.

She knew “Stay”. That was her favorite trick. If you told her stay and held your hand up, she’d stand there and wait while you did whatever. This only worked if new people didn’t show up though, because new people must be mugged for any treats, as if they were pez dispensers. haha

She’d kick, and bite, and threaten, and growl… but if you stuck a little kid in front of her she wouldn’t move a hoof, and would daintily take a treat from their tiny little hands with precision.

She loved walks through the woods. You could drop the reins and just stare at the trees as they passed by and Ava would stride out down the path without fear.  I used to steer her by touching her wither on whichever side i wanted her to move away from. Granted, you couldn’t stop her that way, but we’d just wander the woods until we eventually found our way home again.

I once watched her sniff the cat that had walked in front of her, and I thought it was going to be one of those touching moments of interspecies affection… when suddenly Ava got a glint in her eye and I could see her think “I can squish you!”… and then she tried.

I remember one time at the rated show, we were in the warmup arena and this lady kept riding straight at us even though she had plenty of room to pass left shoulder to left shoulder. I had moved Ava off the path several times, but I’d gotten sick of being forced to yank Ava out of the way for the billionth time, so I gave Ava her head instead. The lady came at us… and then I swear to God, her HORSE stepped off the rail with this wild eyed look at Ava like “Don’t kill me!”. I about died laughing. All it took from Ava was one look and that gelding wouldn’t even come close to us again.

I know she despised having horses near her rear. It was a sure fire way to get kicked. But if I asked her not to, then she wouldn’t. You could park your horse right on her butt, and if I asked Ava to tolerate, she would. Saved a lot of idjits from having their horses kicked over the years. Not sure why every one assumes all horses won’t kick.

I took Ava to a clinic one time and we were both really not feeling up to par that day. Cold, wet, early. We’d been warming up in a lack-luster fashion when suddenly the gate keeper yelled that it was our turn. I lead her up to the gate to enter, and I turn to Ava and said “It’s showtime” and I swear I could see her puff herself up and put on this… this persona of “I own this”. It was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen. That transformation. And of course, she did rock it. She always did.

I decided one day, a few years back, that I was going to try riding Ava bareback. I hadn’t done it before, and I wanted to get better at it. So I hop on her in the arena. Everything was going great, until suddenly she was crow hopping and ducking her head and popping up in front like a pogo stick. By that point I’m starting to slide off the side of her…. when Ava suddenly comes to a complete stop and stands and waits for me to right myself. She toned it down after I righted myself.

I took her out to the back field one day after I hadn’t ridden her in a while. She was fresh, the weather was cool, and I was on her bareback. She saw a herd of deer and she decided we were going to gallop down a steep hill to get away from them. There we were, careening down a hill, and I can feel myself sliding up her neck with each stride. Scared the daylights outta me. I’m clutching mane for dear life, reins flapping. Halfway down the hill, and by that point I’m somehow up on top of Ava’s neck, not even on her back anymore, and I’m thinking all it would take is one hop or for her to duck her head and I’m off. Instead, Ava comes to a dead stop with her head held as HIGH and upright as she could get it until I could slide my way back to a secure spot on her back again. As soon as I right myself, she lowered her head and off we walked, like nothing had happened.

Seemed like every time I was just about to be toast, Ava saved my butt.

I used to go into her stall and scratch all the itchy spots. She’d “present” them to me. If it was a shoulder, then her shoulder was shoved into me. If it were her belly, then a giant rib cage was shoved at me. I’d scratch, she’d make funny faces, and then she’d sigh and go back to eating.

She had this crazy way of nickering when she thought you had a treat. treats She’d raise her head real high, tilt her ears toward you, and let out this soft and low wuffeling noise (really deep nicker). It was the cutest noise ever.

She used to love it if I stroked her nose. I could almost put her in a trance doing it. She’d lean her head into me when I did this and wouldn’t move a muscle.

She used to get so jealous if I touched another horse in the pasture. Didn’t matter if the horse was alpha or not. Ava would come barreling over and try to knock the other horse out of the way. Almost like she was saying “My owner! Go away!”.

Whenever we went somewhere new, or were in a situation that wasn’t the normal routine, she always tackled it like it was a challenge to over come, even if she was nervous about it. But when she finally let herself relax, she’d let out this blast of air… As if she’d been holding a big breath for a long time and finally released it all in one big, full body expulsion of air.

She always demanded that you be strong, emotionally. She never tolerated weakness from those she felt would attempt to control her. She’d test you, if you were a new person. First a snarky look to gauge your response. Did you flinch? Then the ear pin. Flinch yet? If you were oblivious to either of these signs, then she’d go in for a nip to see if you’d flinch and run then.  Your choices then were to admonish her, which she would accept as her due, or you could ignore it, or you could move away from her. If you chose to ignore it, then she’d turn around (as if she wasn’t doing anything but looking the other way) and then she’d lift a hoof and cock it in your direction. Not resting it. It was locked and loaded for firing.  You could at that point smack her, and she’d graciously take it as her due and deescalate. If you did nothing, she’d kick at you (purposely miss at this point). If you still ignored it, then it was game on and you were probably going to get kicked, bitten, and thrashed about some.  But if you admonished her, smacked her, got after her in anyway at any point during any of these “tests”, she would accept it as her due and then all “tests” were abandoned and you were okay to be around.

However, if you hit her, admonished her, or were aggressive toward her and Ava didn’t feel she did anything wrong… then it was game on. You would get the full brunt of Ava’s wrath for as long as she felt necessary to get you to leave.

Not that you couldn’t make a mistake around her. If you mistook a leg lift for a threat to kick and whacked her, she’d let it go if you apologized (apologies in the form of cookies were welcome, but you could simply change your body language back to being soft and give her a pat and she’d accept that too).

She had different whinny’s for different things. The low, deep in her throat was “I’m happy to see you”. The higher the pitch went, the more it became a “Get over here and give me food!”. The full body, ear blasting scream was reserved for the occasions when she was thrilled to see you and desperately wanted something (usually to get out of the rain).

She hated the rain. Hated it.

I used to take her to the field behind the house, and gallop her along the wood line. Her mane would whip back and encompass me. The rhythmic cadence of the canter would change into power as she lengthened her body and lowered her head. Tears from the wind streaming down my cheeks.  She loved it. Being able to let go and run. And yet, if I gave a soft ‘whoa’ and sat up, she’d slow and come back until we were walking again.

Whenever we were working on something really hard for dressage training and Ava was not quite as passionate about getting it done as I was… I’d tell her “Give me one last big try and we can quit”, then we’d start the exercise again. Over the years, Ava figured out what  that phrase meant, and eventually when I’d say it, she would… she’d give it her all after I said that. Even if she didn’t do it right, or it wasn’t perfect, we’d quit for the day and go have cookies. But it was so neat to see/feel that change. To see the depth of her grit and “try” that she had in her, was awe inspiring.

She literally stared down a falling tree when I asked her to. That’s how much this horse believed and trusted in me.

It was raining when I walked her to the pasture for the last time, to the spot where she would be put down. I wanted to cover her head, but didn’t have anything to shield her. I tried to sing to her, to let her know everything was going to be okay, but I was crying so hard I could barely force the air out of my lungs.

I failed her in so many ways….

I thought we’d be tottering around the fields in our old age, being grumpy old women together.

I miss this mare so deeply.