Excerpts from lesson

This is from the lesson last weekend. We almost look decent at points… then it goes straight downhill at the canter. HAhaha


The shoulder-in’s were not very good.

Actually, the canter has improved quite a bit. We’re not flying around the arena. I could steer. We got the lead I asked for all but once (my fault, she was bent wrong). I didn’t have to whack her to go into the canter (well, I tapped her once), and she was picking it up from a leg aid/seat cue (no kissing cue).


Another two years and we might be ready for Training Level! HA hahaha

Crossing Hurdles

We’re on the cusp of June, and I still don’t have Joy hauling yet. I’m disappointed in myself and my lack of progress. It’s my fault. I’m scared/nervous to take that next step (actually haul her). Joy’s ready, I just need to make that leap.

So disappointed in myself.


New goal… take Joy on trailer ride around the block this weekend.

I’m already anxiety riddled!!


This next part is probably not interesting, but I wanted to write it down for my own benefit.


I’ve been riding Joy rather consistently, but I’m not sure how to recap it.  I had hubby take video the end of April, and video a week or two into May, and I realized I had turned Joy into a nervous ball of tension by focusing on canter and canter departs so much. So I backed off on that. I’m working on bending and trying to get her equally bearing weight on all 4 legs (instead of loading the left more than the right). A lot of leg yield to the right with oomphf to get her to evenly distribute the weight. But mainly bending. I’m having a heck of a time with the bending. I don’t know if it’s because she’s so compact, or so crooked in her body, or her rider suckers (probably that one), but wow.. it’s a long, slow slog, Every Single Ride, to get her to loosen up and bend through that short little back of hers.

Because of this, I reintegrated Shoulder-In and Haunches-In to the program. Still at the walk. These seem to really help her overall. Not only does it make her think about what she’s doing (she’s got an active mind), but it also seems to relax her while focusing her.

I also introduced Shoulder-In to Renver at the walk. And by golly, she got it after the third attempt. I thought it would blow her mind, but nope… she handled it like a pro. That one seemed to really help her suppleness through her body. Her walk afterward was much bigger and more swingy.

I’ve just started introducing SI/HI in trot again the last two rides. I played with it a bit last year, and earlier this spring, but it was not good. Last ride though, she gave me a few nice strides both directions. It felt like it was easier for her, like she could hold the bend and the forward better. It wasn’t as stilted. Nothing I’d want to show anyone yet, but it’s getting better.

I did notice that in Haunches-In to the right she was tilting her head (both walk and trot) quite dramatically at times. She doesn’t seem to do this going left. After trying everything I could think of to fix it, I finally stumbled on counter flexing her just slightly, and that seemed to help. Then we went back to true flexion and her head stayed fairly straight. I’m not sure if it was a symptom of losing her outside shoulder some, or if she just needed to release her poll a bit, or maybe counter flexing caused me to release the death grip I had on the inside rein. Not sure…

The other thing I tried with some success was when going to the right, I was circling Joy in every corner and her left shoulder kept escaping (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little). So I tried a fellow bloggers idea of holding that outside rein a bit stronger, really steady, and then really pushing her into the left rein with the inside leg. We struggled with that for a few corners, I was about to junk the idea and move on when suddenly it worked. She bent! The shoulder stayed under her, she quieted her chomping, and she navigated the circle smoothly. We moved on to something else after that, but I’m hoping I can duplicate the results again next ride. I’m worried about using this technique again though because I’m not entirely sure I understand the why of it. I’ll have to research it some more. I can get too strong, and this technique could totally play into my need to death grip the reins.

All of this bending work helps Joy’s trot. We start off pretty pathetic, but towards the end her trot feels a lot nicer. A bit more impulsion, she’s not rushing, she feels more balanced and like she’s finding it easier to carry me. Oh, and she’s able to respond quicker to the seat/leg aids. Which, duh! but, sometimes I have to crawl my way to the answers…

Having said all of that… I still really need to get that canter tuned up, refined. Heck, I’d settle for sort of balanced half the time. I keep hoping that the stronger and more supple I can make her, the easier that canter will get for her. But the other half of me is like “Canter will only get better if you canter!!”. Yet, cantering really gets Joy nervous. I don’t blame her. The arena is up/down and on a slope, she’s not balanced, we’ve no room to go straight at any point in the arena… it’s really hard for her. I may have to bite the bullet and take her out back to the field to canter on a straight line. The main issue is that *I* get nervous out there, by ourselves, cantering next to the woods where the deer like to crash through the brush and send Joy skittering in the opposite direction.

Oh, I almost forgot… we’ve also been playing with walk pirouette. Sometimes we get a few steps that are nice. Most of the time I bungle it. She gets the idea of it, but we lose momentum because she’s not really in front of my aids yet. I was happy that she understood the idea of what I was asking for. She tried, and she didn’t get frustrated or upset about it. So that was good. I can’t find a good happy point of being “in front of the aids” and relaxed. We’re either FORWARD to the max and super tense, or no go button but relaxed.

Other than that… we’ve been a few trail rides. Joy surprised me one particular day by throwing a mini-tantrum when I asked her to leave the other horses (to go home). She literally jumped straight up into the air with all four feet. The neighbor who saw this said we got about a foot off the ground. I figure if the pony can toss herself and my fat ass into the air that high, then she might make a decent dressage pony yet. Of course, after that we couldn’t just go home and quit, so I took her back out to the field behind the neighbors house and worked on a big forward trot with connection (which surprisingly she gave me), then I took her home and worked her a bit more in the arena trying to find that sweet spot of long and low yet connected (still super iffy on this. Not going so well). Our following trail ride was a very calm experience, and Joy had no issues leaving her buddies once it was time to head home.

Last thought…  Joy is deathly afraid of the big, black muddy puddle on the edge of the neighbors property. Not that I blame her, but it’s not like I asked her to walk through it.. I just wanted to walk PAST it. Instead, she threw herself backwards at light speed and we almost crashed down the embankment behind us. I think she’s afraid of the water. I already know she hates black earth, but combine black earth with water and Joy loses her shit. So yesterday, we had a dark, water logged, muddy puddle in the yard and I made Joy walk through it several times. It took me jumping around in it like an idiot for a few minutes before Joy joined me, but she finally did. Not sure Eventing Pony is in Joy’s future….maybe… we’ll see.



Monday, Not Monday

I’ve been trying to write this post all week. There’s just not enough time to get everything done. Actually, I was going to do one post a day, but I couldn’t even get one post done this week. haha

I found out Joy doesn’t like being saddled from the off side. It didn’t even occur to me she’d have an issue with it, but when I went to toss the pad on from the off side she just about jumped out of her skin. Ha!

I have video. It’s long. It’s boring. It shows how much my riding has degraded.  😉

Video was taken this past Sunday. Notice we only get the left canter lead.

On Monday, I got three strides of stretchy trot out of Joy. I was shocked!!  This is the first time I’ve gotten her to really stretch her neck almost all the way out at the trot. Occasionally (rarely) she’ll give me a little bit, usually she’s just a knot of tension, so this was a big deal when it happened. She’s gotten so she’ll reach down at the walk, but I’ve been really worried about ever being able to get it at the trot.

I rode Joy briefly Tuesday. Mainly walk work. I wasn’t feeling very good.  We got three strides of beautifully bent shoulder-in. It felt amazing. I immediately hopped off. I figured there was no where else to go but downhill after that. Of course when I rode her Wednesday… couldn’t get anything to even remotely resemble a shoulder-in.  It didn’t matter what I tried, it wasn’t going to happen.

On Wednesday we cantered. And we picked up the correct lead.
It was not pretty.

We have difficulty with the right lead.  Joy’s butt is chronically canted left and I had to basically pull her head left, and then ask for the canter.

Like I said… not pretty.

Honestly, I was just pleased that I had the guts to ask for the canter. I don’t feel as secure with the bareback pad as I’d like. It’s fine for tooling around on, but if Joy tries some crazy stuff I’m going off in a heart beat. And I’ve seen Joy pull some crazy stuff when I ask her to canter on the lunge line.  That image plays through my head every time I think about asking her to canter when I’m on her back.

She has yet (*knock on wood*) to try anything naughty while I’m on her. I’m not sure why I psych myself out so much over nothing.

Wednesday was also the first time Joy shied hard. Sometimes she makes me think of those cutter/cow horses. Anyway, before I knew what was going on, we had some how gotten a foot closer to the ground and we were facing the other direction. And just as quick everything was back to normal.

Oh, I nearly forgot. I took Joy for another ride around the outside of the pasture and a bit through the field, all by herself, and she did great. She got a little anxious, briefly, here and there, but nothing major. We passed some “scary” objects too. Things that used to make Joy really nervous. She didn’t even care.

Yesterday I rode Joy over to the neighbors house and (drum roll….) home without any issues. Previously, I could ride Joy over, but once we got there I couldn’t leave unless I hopped off and led her home on foot. But yesterday, I was able to ride her all the way home. It did take a little bit of persuasion to get her away from the neighbors barn, but it was just a wiggle of my legs, and once we were about 15 feet away Joy started happily walking back to my place.

I can’t believe how much I lucked out finding this pony. She might not have been quite what I was looking for, but she’s definitely what I needed right now. She’s always so much fun to work with, and she’s so happy to be doing whatever you’re doing… I’m really thrilled that I got her.

Finally had a Lesson. Woo Hoo!

I can’t remember now, but I think this is my fourth lesson with Roz Kinstler. I hadn’t had a lesson since September of last year and was expecting a lot of criticism about my position. Other than adjusting the bend in my elbows, and a couple of reminders to sit back during the canter, she said my position was pretty good. (Yay!)  I didn’t capture it on the video below, but when I was warming up I had my hands too far out in front of me which left very little bend in my elbows. Once I added more bend, Ava seemed so much happier about connection.

One disclaimer: I couldn’t get Ava to load to get to the lesson. I lunged her for an hour until she grudgingly decided she’d get on. By that point she was blowing hard and sweat was dripping down her legs (it was 47 degrees out). Then she had a two hour haul to the lesson, and because it took so long to load we only had about 15 minutes before the lesson started. I know that’s not very fair to Ava, but I can’t cancel a lesson a couple hours prior without paying out the nose. Anyway, to say she was tired by the time we started the lesson is an understatement, but she gave her all when I asked for it. This is the most infuriating and yet awe inspiring horse I’ve ever owned.

Overview of Lesson: http://youtu.be/efTXA_GnJLo

The canter work was sub-par. We do a lot better in our daily riding. Whenever she’s tired that left lead canter just goes to shot. I could barely keep her in it, and she kept breaking whenever I had the tiniest imbalance in my seat. The right lead canter was better, but I’ve seen her go much better than this on a normal day.

Our shoulder-in’s started out rough. I’m not good at them. Shoulder-in to the left has always been hit or miss, mostly miss. We did a few of them, and then Roz told me to touch my thumbs together as that would help me use the outside rein more effectively. It was like light and day with how well Ava performed the shoulder-in. You can see it at 5:43 in the video. As soon as I touched my thumbs together it was like Ava went “Thank GOD, lady!”  At 5:40ish in the video she’s kind of flat, 5:43-5:44 I touch my thumbs together and suddenly she was bouncy with oomphf. It was really neat to feel.

Then at 6:30 you can see Ava finally can use herself correctly in the shoulder-in and her gait and movement really got fancy at that point.

Let me say though… for some reason the thumbs together is really hard for me. Maybe because I actually have to ride with my seat at that point. Haha.

At one point in the lesson Roz calls out to use my right knee to turn. “I have a right knee?” Low and behold, Ava turned better once I started using it.

Oh, also, I think the thumbs together and right knee will help with the left lead canter too. In hindsight, I think part of the problem I was having with her during the left lead canter was that I wasn’t supporting her enough with the outside aids and she has a tendency to blow through the right shoulder anyway.

At 6:46 in the video Roz had me try shoulder-in to Renver, which is part of the Second Level Test 3 movements. I thought I understood what that was, but I’m glad she thought to go over it with me. She had to explain it to me like three times AND have the other girl riding demonstrate it for me (after which I was still confused). My original idea was that it was shoulder-in, and then you shove the butt over. Which caused all kinds of issues. Reality (in hindsight this is really simple) was I just changed bend to the opposite direction without touching the butt. I’m pretty sure I can over think this until I mess it up.

My best attempt was at 7:05 (shoulder-in), and then 7:14 Renver, and back to shoulder-in (7:18). I was trying to take 4-5 steps between each to set her up and allow her to make the change in bend.

Other side: 8:07 shoulder-in and then 8:13 renver. You can see the bend better from this angle.

The great thing about this exercise is it really made Ava more conscious of the outside aids. Turning the outside aids into the inside aids, and then back really helped Ava understand how to use her body better to stay balanced and between both aids. I think this is really going to be a great exercise for Ava this year. Normally when I do shoulder in she tends to knuckle down on the outside shoulder. This exercise is a good way to get her off it while still getting the benefits of the shoulder-in.

After 8:28 is just video of me trying to sit the trot and showing how much Ava tosses me around. This is why I wanted to buy that thinline pad for her. As much air as I catch between strides… it was really making me feel guilty about how her back was feeling.

Up’ing the Stakes

My last lesson with Roz, and also in my last lesson with Pam, I was told repeatedly to increase the level of difficulty on Ava — greatly. That we need to be working at a much higher level than we are. So lately I’ve been trying to abide by that. It’s hard. I get stuck in ruts, or I can feel Ava is crooked but can’t fix it and end up stuck on 20m circles the entire ride. I know that isn’t the answer, but sometimes I just get sucked back into the same pattern I’ve been stuck in for the past couple of years.

This week I have a new focus on changing up the exercises, working at a higher level, and focusing on keeping the horse energetically forward through the movements. Monday, after the warm-up, I worked on haunches in and shoulder in down the long side.   They were setting up jumps in the arena, so I used those as points for 10m circles. And on the last quarter, or half, of each 10m circle I made sure I asked for more forward into the haunches-in or shoulder-in.

After I had good forward on those exercises, I worked on half-pass across a short diagonal (trying to avoid jumps). I’m not sure if I had quite the bend I needed for those. During my lessons both Roz and Pam said I didn’t have enough bend in the half-pass. It felt okay to me, but I’m not sure if it was correct or not. The problem I did have is that I should’ve used more half-halt on the outside to help her stand up better. We had some balance issues and I think that would’ve helped. I didn’t think of that at the time though.

They weren’t the best half-passes I’d ever done, but I was happy they were pretty forward. At least they were much more forward then the one’s I had been getting previously. And from everything I’m learning, the entire exercise has to incorporate enough forward in order for the gymnastic benefits to really be seen.

Also during the last lesson with Roz, she had me focus on the quality of our canter/walk transitions. Right now they are on the forehand and floppy. We’re focusing on encouraging more engagement in the downward transition. She also had me ask Ava to back up  until I felt her hips tuck and back lift. I’ve had to be careful about it so Ava doesn’t associate it with some kind of punishment, but I think it’s helping. We had two really good canter/walk transitions, but also her trot started out more engaged after the few back-ups we did.

Ava’s really been improving drastically since June. The middle of this summer we couldn’t even do a few steps of half-pass at anything close to a working trot. We snail crawled across the arena.

I have my last lesson with Roz November 1st, and then she won’t be back in Michigan until sometime in spring. So I better make the most of October as I can.

Roz Kinstler Clinic

I participated in the Roz Kinstler clinic today.  My brain is overloaded! Next time I’m bringing a note book and writing this stuff down. Just listening to Roz teach the other riders was fantastic.The back story on Ava and my start to the day: Ava refused to load. Tried everything. Last November Ava was walking onto the trailer without batting an eyelash. Not today. Today, she didn’t want to. My ride time was at 9:00 am, and I’m almost an hour away from where the clinic was at. At 8:39, Ava finally loaded. I was very lucky that my trainer offered to switch ride times with me so that I could still participate in the clinic today (Thank you so much, Bern!).

The Ride:
It started off getting Ava convinced that I could hold the right rein and move her shoulders over when going right. Roz had a great tip/tool of raising the inside hand about 2-3 inches higher than the left hand and then basically holding it in place. Kind of a “I am here, you deal with it” hold. Normally if you try that kind of hold on Ava, she tells you flat out that she’s just not going to tolerate it. But (and I asked Roz why it worked), it appears that raising the hand doesn’t feel as constrictive to the horse, and the horse will more easily accept the holding without fighting it. While doing this though, I had to bump her shoulders over in the corners while keeping the nose ‘peaked’ to the right. I especially had to prepare for the corners, and anticipate the problem and correct it before Ava fell in and lost her balance. So it took a lot more thinking ahead and planning each and every corner, circle, everything. I had to prepare before the corner, and ask for bend with the inside rein while squeezing with the inside leg (at the same time).

To the left, I found out that I lose her shoulders because I bring the outside rein over the shoulders. I actually had to hold my right rein quite far out to the right (felt weird) in order to not cross the withers while doing a ten meter circle. However, by doing this it allowed me to actually use the right rein to half-halt and control the outside shoulder. The other really difficult problem I was having was cooperation between the reins. Squeeze left – give right, squeeze right – don’t pull with the left. and then sometimes squeeze both reins to slow the front end. I could feel it when I was riding, but I am definitely not explaining it well. I’ll play around with it more this week and try to find a better way to describe how it works and why.

After getting Ava more even between the aids, we played with shoulder in for a bit. These were the easiest, smoothest, shoulder-in’s I’ve ever ridden. It was like water flowing. Felt amazing. We would do a Volte (haha, that made me feel so upper crust when she called it that) into a 10 meter circle, using the circle to develop good bend in the horse. Keeping the horse’s nose pointed in the direction you wanted her to go in, then slide into the shoulder-in.

Roz had to throw in some harder stuff (I guess we did pretty darn good up to this point), and she asked me to ride a shoulder in, half-pass to the quarter line, then shoulder-in down the quarter line. To be honest, I frazzled out a bit here. So the first attempt was shoulder-in to a diagnol trot across the arena. HA. Second time, and we nailed it. That was awesome! That was the first time I’ve ridden a half-pass and it just flowed. I always try to force things too much, and the fact is, it’s all about setting the horse up so that they CAN do the movement.

Our canter work was not as wonderful as I would have liked it to be. Ava has a great canter, but she’s a spaz about it. I swear that horse thinks she’s going to slip and fall at any moment in the canter. She gets so tense, and then rushes, and… ugh. It’s gotten a lot better over the past year, but definitely a week area. During the canter, Roz wanted to see more engagement from the horse so she wanted to see a slower canter with good rhythm (the rhythm is very important). We were able to do that, but while executing our 10 meter canter circles, Ava kept quitting on me. Roz suggested that I bring her right back to a walk and then immediately canter off again instead of tapping her with the whip to keep her going. The idea being that Ava tends to rush, and instead we want her to think engaged. Bringing her back to the walk helps get that idea across better. Ava felt it’d be fun to pull me from the saddle during our downward transition (embarrassing) and Roz helped me with that. As a result, our upward transition was more from behind then it had been, and we had a much better quality canter.

Overall the clinic was fantastic. The time flew by, and although I was exhausted (it’s hard to sit Ava’s trot) it was a ton of fun!

Other tidbits from the clinic… I’m paraphrasing:

* Push the horse into the contact, but not past it. – I found this one enlightening because I’ve tried to push Ava into the contact, and ended up without any contact before. Roz went on to explain that there’s a fine line where you can squeeze your horse up into the contact, but past that and the horse will run through the bit. I think the underlying idea is that you can rush the horse too strongly forward, the horse loses balance, and can no longer carry himeslf. So in order to balance, the horse will drop the contact (since he can no longer use his back and hind end to power off of)

* put the nose where the horse is going – ironically, this seems so low level, but even the Second/Third level riders had issues with this. I did learn that unless the nose points where you want the horse to go, then the outside rein to steer with doesn’t work. For instance, I was trotting a ten meter circle, and Ava was aimed straight down the center line. I half-halted the outside rein (thinking to bring the shoulders over) and instead of turning we went straight. For Ava, Roz suggested I place the nose in the direction of travel, and then use the outside rein to straighten her neck (on the long side). That caused Ava to place more weight evenly on the front to legs instead of diving off to the right.

A few of the riders were having problems with their horses trying to pull their arms out. One of the things Roz said (for that rider) was to lock her elbows to her hips while performing the exercise. That way when the horse yanked the rider used her position to solidify her arms without pulling back. The horse tried yanking about 3 times, realized the contact wasn’t going away, and quit. It was really neat to watch.

Oh, and she had one rider ride a medium trot across the diagnol straight into a half-pass at X, and OMG that was the most awesome half-pass I’ve ever seen in real life. What a difference in quality it made.

There were a ton more, but I’m utterly exhausted and I’m going to bed.  I’ll post video soon.