The Somewhat Disturbing Audience

I hopped on Joy to play with a few of the exercises I had found. She was extremely distracted from the get go, looking for things to spook at, tense, tight, and amped up.

I went through the normal warm-up routine and was getting frustrated that I couldn’t get her attention on me.

As we’re trotting across a short diagonal, I look up and see a doe staring us down from less than 20 meters away.

She was standing in the clearing between the arena and the woods, next to the small drive we use to access the back yard. Just standing there… watching us… seemingly at ease with the situation, with no intention of moving.

I tried to ignore her. I tried to get Joy to focus on me again.

Nope.

Let me tell ya, it’s not easy to ignore a strange animal staring at you. It leaves you a little unsettled.

And Joy wasn’t having any better luck ignoring the doe than I was.

I stopped Joy at the edge of the arena closest to the deer.

Me to the deer: *sigh* “Do you want to learn dressage too?”

Doe: No answer

Me: “I’m looking for a new eventing partner. Do you like to jump?”

Doe: sidles closer to the woods.

Me: “Come on, I bet you’d be a fantastic eventing mount. We could go far!”

Doe: slinks into the woods and hides behind a tree.

Apparently she isn’t keen on eventing.

I really thought that was the end of it. And then I realize the doe is watching us from the treeline. She hung out there the rest of my ride.

I swear to you, it really seemed as if that doe was enjoying watching us.

I’m expecting to go one day and find that doe in my arena practicing dressage moves.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Riding this mare felt like this…

Or this…

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When I’m used to this…

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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!!”

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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.