Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

What does your dog say about you?

So I found this article about dog traits and how they reflect on the owner (see here: -- and while for Sasha and I it's definitely not %100 accurate, a significant portion of it is.

But *then* I found a follow up about what your dog's *breed* says about you:

"Australian shepherds are active and thoroughly enjoy being outside. Owners of this breed enjoy playing Frisbee at the beach, going to the park, and camping outdoors. This breed has a passion for living life to the fullest and people who live with Australian shepherds are said to have a lot of friends. Aussie owners can be competitive, especially when it comes to a sports match."

Oh dear...  hahaha competitive?  Who me?  And my puppy just *might* have mastered the "go find the frisbee" command...

Ah well - at least it's outside confirmation of what I already know: I got the perfect puppy for me :)

Coaching Games

(from GRS blog)

hahaha I've been playing around with different coaching styles the last couple days -- mostly just to mix things up and keep it interesting.  Also because when you *do* mix things up, you tend to see much better results (or so I find anyways!) -- that's, after all, why I'm such a huge fan of clinics.

So Monday night I had a group where each student has one very specific eq issue over fences that's been stuck for a while -- and none of them have the *same* issue, so it's not like I can say "Watch Jane - you do the same thing..."  And I happened to have my camera handy.  And an awesome volunteer from the next class to be videographer.  So had everybody warm up and then divided into two groups based on what I wanted them to jump.  The first two riders went a couple times being filmed.  Then we stopped and I showed them each their video -- first time just watch, second + time watch with specific focus on X.  Then discuss how to resolve X.  Then go do it.   *Amazing* results.   Rinse and repeat with the other two riders.

Before when I've done video lessons with people it's always video the lesson than watch and discuss after the fact.  And occasionally I've taken still shots of people riding and discussed that with them and had them try again.  The first, while theoretically good, rarely seems to get huge results.  The second sometimes does and sometimes not.  Not sure what inspired me to try combining the two *g*  It does take time out of the lesson -- I think it's probably better suited to a clinic format where we can ride for two hours instead of one.  But I was SO impressed with the results.  Wow.   Now I'm sure it helped that it was one of my competitive groups I was playing this game with, so all the riders are very determined and reasonably athletic.  But even still.  Definitely an interesting experience.  Only catch is I need somebody on the ground since I'm *really* not good at filming and coaching at the same time.  Kinda an either/or thing. hahaha

And tonight's alternate lesson was sort of an accidental lesson so I figure a *little* leeway on formality is allowed.  hahaha I knew I wasn't going to have time to ride today -- and I usually do three horses on Tuesdays, so that's a fair amount not getting done...  Kirby was coming for a m/u lesson, so I told her if she wanted to ride one of the others she could join the earlier lesson as well or do a pr around the middle lesson (it's a private so can't put extra people in!).  So she seemed pretty excited about that idea, but then had transportation issues.  She asked if she might be able to pr *after* the lesson, which originally I wasn't so thrilled with since I kinda wanted to supervise the ride on any of the ones I was schooling -- till my brain finally switched back into lateral mode and I clued in that she could ride my horse in the lesson and do a pr on her part-board horse.

Alright so good to go -- but then she suggests that since by the end of the lesson Athena would be fairly warmed up, why don't I ride her for a bit and she'll do night check for me.   Ummmm ok :)  hahaha there's really no down side to that.  Other than that I was cold and tired, but it could be a short ride.   So I countered that with if she got Charlie tacked up and warmed up by the time I finished with Athena, she could jump a bit (we have a very strict "no jumping in practice rides" rule - so they can only jump if I'm there).

So I flatted for a bit, but was wearing jeans so really - dressage just wasn't happening.  hahaha  Decided to jump, and Kirby came in with Charlie as I was part way through.  I had the horse going nicely -- she's finally starting to balance herself and rock back instead of nose-dive.   But I was not riding particularly well.  Ever have one of those nights where you just can't get it together?  Yeah, that was mine.  But ok - teaching opportunity.  hahaha told K to evaluate (I know enough to know what I'm doing wrong :)   -- she got about half of it I'd say.  I was pretty impressed with that :)  Far better than most students do when asked to critique another rider.  So I got one that was not %100 horrendous and decided I was done; when the horse is giving that good of an effort, she doesn't deserve to have to repeat it so I can sort myself out.  And Sasha was being good but gets really concerned when I ride, so I hopped off and loosened Athena's girth and then played with puppy for a few seconds.  But then I realized just how much Athena still needed to walk.  Argh - should've ridden a bit longer.  But couldn't bring myself to do the girth back up -- that's just not fair.  So pulled the saddle off...

And decided it was a good night to ride her bareback.  Why?  I have absolutely no idea.  Can't remember the last time I did that.  And Athena is bony.  And has high withers.  And doesn't stand to mount.  And I can't vault from the ground.  Hmmmmm tricky...  But I climbed on a chair and for the first time in her life she stood rock still (probably very concerned that her feed-provider had clearly lost it) and let me less-than-gracefully mount.  hahaha

But what about the funky teaching practices?   Right.  Well while I was attempting to defy the laws of physics and get myself ON the VEEERRRRYYYY TAAALLLL horse (yeah that might be a *slight* exaggeration), Kirby was making a solid effort to warm up Charlie.   And mostly I was just going to sit and watch so she could jump (yeah right - you're not new here....) but me being me had to make a few comments...  And they didn't quite get the results I wanted -- a baby-step in the right direction when I wanted a leap.  Sooooo, knowing K prefers to see things, I deemed we would play follow the leader :)

Now when you do the coaching exam, they stress that you always demonstrate things.  Demonstrating can be as simple as walking on the ground or asking a more experienced rider to go first but somehow I don't think they ever really envisioned this one...   So I'm trotting around, bareback, horse is on the bit (cause really - would *you* want to sit a hollow trot on bony a horse with huge withers?), and I'm facing backwards so I can see how what I'm saying and doing is translating to Kirby...  And giggling the whole way.  hahaha so much for professionalism :)   But it worked!  By the end she really had it.  Only down side?  She also picked up my *BAD* habit from jumping.  hahahah sheesh.   I'll have to get her to watch one day when all is going well *g*

So after I was happy with the flat, I did actually just sit and coach properly so she could jump a bit.  And Charlie was a complete superstar so pretty happy about that :)

And random lessons learned from all this silliness:
- clear the memory card before a video lesson -- or better yet, put in the large memory card first.
- don't ride in jeans
- if you DO ride in jeans (you don't learn really fast do you?), absolutely don't do posting trot with no stirrups.  You will have rub marks in places that should never happen.
- if you are riding bareback remember that you have no stirrups
- remember also that stirrups were invented to brace off of while swinging a sword in battle.  Note that while swords are generally not involved at GRS, there *are* times when bracing is actually useful
- note that if you are going to demonstrate kicking something while on horseback (ie - the wall - ummm that actually had a purpose :) it's *really* good to be able to brace on the other side
- if you are bareback, you have no stirrups, you have nothing to brace against; it is therefore a good idea to restrict yourself to normal-old-fashioned-boring-centered-riding >;-P  
- if you feel the need to lean over and give your horse a hug, and she feels the need to stretch and put her head down, it's a good idea to sit up BEFORE the laws of physics kick in.    No stirrups - remember >;-P
- in a pinch, horses make really great pylons
- never turn down a chance for unexpected riding - it could end up being tons of fun!
- if you're having fun goofing around and teaching (yes the two CAN happen at the same time) AND you have to feed the next am, pay at least *slight* attention to the time.

*sigh* - and on that note, I'm off to sleep :)

Woohoo! GRS Riders Ace their Exams!

HUGE congrats to all the girls who passed their Equine Canada Rider level exams today!

So today was awesome.   Started with Rebecca's lesson where she rode like a pro, mastering Louis' tricky canter AND jumping well all in one day!

Then on to the exams which were brilliant!

Rebecca passed her level 1 with flying colours :)
Eve, Kassidy, Olivia and Tonya all earned their level 2.
Brena, Caelan, Chelsea, Emily, and Olivia all rode brilliantly for their level 4.

Woohoo!  Awesome job girls.

Huge thanks to my mum for invigilating the written tests and to Kirby for being my assistant and ring crew and to Paula and Rebecca for being ring crew!

After the exam Paula, Brena, Rebecca and I went hacking.  Was *amazing*!  That is, until Louis decided it was time to go back home.  Now.   Turns out Louis' quite fast when he wants to be *sigh*   And Rebecca, who's just starting to master the canter, skipped about a year of xc training and went straight to learning to gallop.  A little more exciting than we would've wished :(

But the *rest* of the hack afterwards was pleasantly uneventful and then we had a good social time just hanging out with our horses grazing in the sunlight and my puppy gambolling around.  No better way to spend the day really :)

EC Rider Level Exam Schedule

It's that time of year again!  This spring we have ten students working their way through the Equine Canada Rider Level program.  Woohoo!  This Sunday, after months of theory and riding practice, is the exam -- I'd say wish them luck, but knowing all these riders, I can tell you they don't need it.

For the riders:


$40+hst to Graduate Riding School
$20+hst to Ontario Equestrian Federation

You must also be a member of the OEF ( - if you are not, you can sign up online or print a membership form and bring it with payment to the exam to be submitted with the exam.  You will need your number for the exam paperwork.


Exams will start at 10:30am on Sunday; please be there by 10:15 to fill in papers.  The schedule after that is a rough estimate -- candidates can take as long as they need in any one phase, so sometimes things run longer and sometimes they're over super-fast :)   Bringing lunch (or at least snacks) would be a good idea!

For those doing their rider 4, your horse is to be properly turned out.  If you wish to come out on Saturday afternoon to prep (pull mane, trim relevant parts, etc) you may come anytime between 2 and 4.  You should also come early enough on Sunday to groom before the exam starts.

Approximate Schedule:

- Rider 1 and 2 written
- Rider 4 stable management

- Rider 1 and 2 stable management
- Rider 4 written

- Rider 1 followed by Rider 2 ride

- Rider 4 ride
Flat test followed by jumping

Candidate Horse List:

Rider 1: 
- Rebecca on Nick

Rider 2:
- Tonya on Nick
- Eve on Lissy
- Olivia on Apollo
- Kassidy on Bella

Rider 4:
- Olivia on Dixie
- Caelan on Nick
- Brena on Bella
- Emily on Louis
- Chelsea on Lissy

If you expect to be on the list and are not -- don't panic!  Just send me a note and I'll fit you in :)

Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success. ~ Dale Carnegie

Ok well I passed exhausted about 10 minutes ago, so consider yourself forewarned >;-P

Let's see -- it's been a pretty amazing week so far; maybe not quite as much fun as March Break (see GRS blog for those details :) but still fairly incredible.  This is, of course, in large part due to the incredible weather!   Everybody stresses about climate change, but sometimes folks change - while scary - is still good!  And 20 deg in March in Canada is pretty good :)   (ohhhhh I wonder how many people have disowned me now >;-)

Monday I took Athena out for a short conditioning hack.  I only had about 1/2h to ride as I had another appointment to get to, but still figured 1/2h was better than nothing.  Figured I'd go out and trot around the fields for a bit then bring her back home.  All good right?  Except when I asked for the trot I got a very bouncy almost-in-place would-kill-for-in-dressage type canter.  hmmmm that could be fun.  Held her back around the first couple fields then when I got to one with a little bit of a hill, gave up.  Ok fine. Go.  hahaha first gallop of the season was lots of fun :)   Fortunately (or not) horse is not entirely (and by that I mean not even remotely) fit, so after one lap flat out was back to a strong canter for another lap and on the one following back to a trot. Adrenaline level was clearly still way up, but the actual determination to run less so.  Walked to cool her out for a while which was a fun combination of walking and our super-bouncy-collected-canter again.  hahaha but I behaved myself and made her restrain herself.  Fun though. So much fun.  Really can't wait for xc.   For some reason both Tues and Wed she was reasonably tired.  Can't imagine why :)

My horses are very happy they're getting to live outside again full time.  The change in them once they get to go out overnight is almost instant.  So much healthier.  Of course it does mean lugging a lot more buckets.  Tried to hook up the water today but all sorts of fails on that one :(   Booo.  Will hopefully get everything fixed over the next few days -- it can never be easy eh?

Had *such* an unbelievably ridiculous moment today, I figured I'd share...  So was stunningly gorgeous out and thought I'd use that to get some outdoor chores done (of which there are TONS).  The water was first on the list but that having been a horrible fail, I figured I'd go for something simpler: chopping down the burrs.  Decided I'd start with the ones between Bella and Dixie's paddocks since those two mares come in wearing them fairly often.  They system was easy: cut them down, carry them to the tractor bucket, put them IN the bucket, drive them to the burn pile.  All good right?  Except there was a fatal flaw with step three.  You see, burrs don't mesh well and it's hard to squish them into one area when you're basically avoiding touching them in the first place.  So in order to balance them all in/on the tractor, I ended up with them over my head.   Still not a big deal right?  Uh huh - until one excessively large collection happened to brush my hair.  You have no idea how quickly this got horrendously bad.  *sigh*   Hair was tied back in its traditional pony-tail folded a few times over.  Burrs somehow hit the top of my head.   So stuck essentially to my scalp.    And while admittedly fashion is pretty low on my priority list, I will admit I am just vain enough that shaving my head was not a viable option.  hahaha so I'm sitting there trying to get these burrs out which are just digging deeper in, and trying very hard to keep the *rest* of my hair from getting tangled.  Wavering between foul language and laughing so hard I was almost crying.  Cause really, who DOES that?   I mean seriously - have you ever even HEARD of somebody doing that?   I eventually gave up and went and found a mirror so I could detangle it all -- and seriously was *not* an easy task.  I also understand now a little more why Sasha gets so frantic when she gets burrs on her -- they get tight and hurt.  Sheesh.  And she doesn't have opposable thumbs OR a mirror to help.  Poor girl.   But just when I was starting to wonder if I should spray some show-sheen in, I finally managed to get the last bit out.   And then decided to go home :)

So what did you do at work today?  >;-P

Day Five: Show Day!

How did we get to the end of the week already???

My day started with a lesson, conveniently scheduled *before* camp started (admittedly I usually hate that lesson time, but occasionally it works to my benefit).  Athena was not terribly interested in flat work.  First not moving; then not stopping.  hahaha she's not terribly creative in her defiance but effective nonetheless.  But given enough determination we worked through it and had an awesome canter.

Then we did some work with a single trot fence; a ground line encouraging her to get deep to the fence and maintaining the trot making her really use her hocks.  Got up to about 3'6" -- at which point she started really overjumping which is her sign she's left her comfort zone.  But the plus side is, she *used* to do that at about 2', so pretty stoked at that :)   Clearly getting stronger.  

Then it got dropped down to about 3', but a back rail put in for a not-particularly-wide oxer.  Tried that at trot which was less lovely.  hahhaa ah well.   Then we got a gymnastic built and we just got to pop through that a few times and I was *really* happy with her.  She did it confidently and well several times.  Tried to tank me through once but the 2nd vertical solved that problem.  And other than that she was awesome.  Also working on fixing the left drift and getting her to push off evenly.  It was just one of those days where the pieces finally seemed to be coming together.  Sweet.

And speaking of pieces coming together -- for Spring Training it was show day!   I gave the girls a mini-lesson on Jack, Charlie and Louis in the morning, just to get warmed up :)   Then the rest of the stunningly beautiful day was spent on show prep.  Starting with bathing the horses -- first bath of the year.  Nick fresh in from rolling in the mud :)   Got both horses bathed and shiny -- a great sunny day project.   hahaha then the girls cleaned out their horse's stall so they wouldn't roll and undo the bath and left them with coolers on to vege for a bit and dry off while we had lunch.

After lunch the girls continued their grooming project -- clipping and trimming as necessary and starting to braid.  *Starting* to braid.  hahaha I didn't allow *quite* enough time to finish!   My original plan did - but then I had them ride in the am instead.  That's alright -- they got part way done; it's the new style!   They went outside and were completely responsible for their own dressage warmup.  I was happy to see much of what we worked on this week being incorporated :)   The dressage tests were really well ridden.  Both girls improved significantly over their first effort earlier this week.  Very kewl.

Then we relocated indoors for the jumping phase.  The course was the same one they rode on Thursday so they had a bit of an advantage over traditional competition -- but the fences were a little higher today and they both had the *same* advantage.  So all good.   They were given one fence to warmup over, just as they would in competition and when they were ready each rider had their turn.

Olivia had Nick going really forward so she went first.  Jumped nice and forward and  rode the difficult turn to fence four like a pro!  Unfortunately she got going a little TOO forward and overshot the turn to fence 11.   SO close!  But she kept it together and had the presence of mind to represent at a more organized pace and finished off the course beautifully!  

So then it was Chelsea's turn and she started out with a beautiful canter, but unfortunately bent the bending line from two to three a little too shallow and went past three.   She got really smart through and  reapproached in the trot and rode every other fence very square and accurately.

Ok so with two four-fault rounds, whoever won the dressage would win the day.   While the girls cooled out and put away their horses I went to add up the dressage tests.   Yeah.  Turns out my phone doesn't have a calculator on it.  Who knew?  >;-P   Ugh.   So back to grade-school arithmetic.  Add all the numbers up.  Do it again.  2nd time doesn't match the first, but I'm pretty sure it's correct.  One more try.  Seems right.   Go borrow DJ's more talented phone.  Yes addition is correct.  The problem?  They TIED.   Seriously.  On a dressage test with 15 movements, 4 subjective marks, and scored out of 200, they got the exact same number.   So we went with the top score on the collective marks -- which Chelsea earned.

hahaha so close competition and some fabulous riding.   And the amazing weather didn't hurt either!   Overall I was pretty thrilled with our first competition camp.  While I might've liked a *few* more campers -- if only to make the competition a little bigger *g - I have to say I really enjoyed just having the two.  Got a little spoiled being able to focus that degree of attention on each rider -- you can get some really kewl results when you get to do that!  And thankfully I had awesome riders who work exceptionally hard -- the week wouldn't've worked without that!

Also super important was Rebecca who came in as much as she *possibly* could this week to do all my usual work so I could work with the girls.  AND participated in many of the lessons which was awesome.  Huge thanks for all your help this week!   

And the week wouldn't have flowed nearly so well without lots of other help too!   Thanks to all involved!   Amy who took over the day Rebecca couldn't make it.   Aileen, Kirby (x 2 - cause she's just that amazing!), Brena, and Katlyn for doing night check during the week so I could go home.   Aileen and Rebecca also did double-duty as dressage scribes during the week.   You guys are awesome!  Thanks :)

Next camp  -- August!

Day Four: The pieces come together

Woke up today to thunder and lightening.   I happen to love a good thunderstorm, so not tragic, but admittedly less good for riding.   Ah well.   Drive to the barn to find...   Sunlight!  Sweet.

Getting towards the end of the week now, and wanted to get some pretty intense lessons in, so opted to skip the practice rides in favour of longer lessons.  I decided to take a quick ride on Athena while the girls were taking care of their horses.  Had great intentions of doing real dressage, but it was nice and warm and *sunny* out - despite the ominous forcast, so I figured I had a chance of beating the weather and decided to ride outside.

Great idea -- she's been on exactly one hack so far this year.  It's crisp and sunny and she's alone -- except for the horses she can see being turned out in the distance.  Each one of whom requires a greeting and inspection.  hahaha she was, shall we say, a *little* distracted.

But, to be fair, she wasn't the only one.  I was enjoying the stunning weather when I happened to look over at the pond that was reflecting a brilliant turquoise colour -- and on it were floating two ducks.  And for some reason that totally made my morning.  It's the little things in life -- what can I say?

Eventually though we got our act together and, after *lots* of cantering and some bouncing around, finally settled into some really nice work.  And as soon as we managed that, I deemed it entirely too perfect a morning to be doing dressage, so we went out hacking :)   She bounced her way along till we got about half way around the first field and then she settled and was absolutely perfect the rest of the way.  Which is making me look forward to show season just that much more!

So I returned to the barn, totally relaxed and happy, and was excited to discover the timing was perfect -- both horses were groomed, and Olivia was just tacking up.   Took care of Athena and was ready to teach just as Olivia was ready to ride.  And since the weather was still seriously decent out, she too rode outside.  The focus of her lesson was on accuracy and effectiveness.  We practiced various test movements paying special attention to exactly where they were going and when various transitions were happening.   I think Olivia might be riding 20m circles and center lines in her sleep after today :)  hahaha but she was able to put it all together and today's practice test was a significant improvement over yesterday's.  Sweet!

Then it was Chelsea's turn -- her lesson was focused on transitions and getting Lissy a little more consistently through and in steady rhythm.  That's a lot to do all at once, but Chelsea was up to the challenge.   Lissy went from running around the ring like a sewing-machine gone mad, to a nice rhythmical stretchy trot that was consistently connected and leading really close to being on the bit.  I was really happy with what I saw.  Awesome dressage Chels!

After horses were put away we had our lunch break - once again with puppy entertainment.  Warmer outside than in so we picnicked again :)   Today's lunch conversation was course designing -- which, when given the chance to try, the girls found a little more challenging than anticipated!  With some guidance though they got a reasonable course designed and we went out to the ring to build it.  I *might've* stepped in and told them where the fences should go for the related distances -- both for safety and time saving (cause let's be honest, if it's not right, I'm the one who'll have to move it for them later >;-P)  but they got everything built and significantly faster than their first jump building attempts earlier this week.   Sweet.

Horses back in from the field and tacked up.  Arena windows open for a breeze -- how great is it that we want that in March?  :)   Course set.   Good to go.  Amy and Jack joined in the jump set and all three riders warmed up.  This time they figured out appropriate warmup exercises on the first try -- pretty happy about that.

Now in competition, at least in eventing, you don't get to jump all the fences before you do it for real -- you get three, usually very boring, warmup fences somewhere away from the competition ring, and that's about it.  We didn't have another riding area, so two specific fences were designated warmup fences and after jumping over them a few times with focus on the three Ps: pace, path, position - it was time to give the course a try.   Our course had 12 jumps.   Cool eh?   For two of the riders I'm reasonably certain that's by far the biggest course they've ever done, and pretty sure it applies for the third too (at least in recent history!).  So step one -- memorize the order of the fences.  Step two -- figure out how you're going to ride them.  Step three -- do it.

No problem.

Chelsea got volunteered to be the first victim... Ummm rider :)   Always hardest to be first -- you *really* have to know where you're going because you can't watch.  AND you have to know what you're doing because you can't see where the monsters appear for the other riders.   She gave it a really solid effort.  The turn from fence 3-4 was quite technical and they didn't make it on the first try, but she gamely reorganized and was over on the second!   Then she made it *almost* all the rest of the way around flawlessly -- the only catch was she jumped the wrong fence 11.  hahaha made the line a whole lot easier for herself :)   But I can understand that.

Olivia followed up, but wasn't quite able to learn from Chelsea's mistakes -- making the exact same one at that evil fence four!  She did, however, get all 12 in the correct order and with all the rails up.  Sweet.

Amy was clearly paying close attention, because after the first two riders she rode fence four *very* determinedly and got over it clear and straight -- beautiful really.   But then she celebrated just a little too long and pulled the rail at fence 5.  *sigh*   That'd be my classic move -- ride the difficult fence as a pro and completely miss the gimmie fence.   Ah well - she jumped around the rest of them clean and in order :)

And the one thing they *all* discovered:  jumping a course of 12 fences is far more challenging than jumping a single fence 12 times.  An important thing to note for those who want to compete -- if you're going to show over courses, you have to practice courses!   All of them felt their position and effectiveness disintegrating through the course.  Chelsea did the best at keeping it together throughout -- but she's also the rider who'll do endless posting trot with no stirrups even when she doesn't have to, so I'd say she's earned it.

What they all did REALLY well though that I was super happy about was ride accurate lines.  Lines were straight, rhythm was good, they used all their space well, no cutting corners.  Dressage came shining through the show jumping -- exactly as it should.  So I was pretty thrilled at that.

Everybody got a second try which was significantly better than the first all-round.  Clear rounds, more rhythmical and with lots more confidence.  Sweet.  Then each got a chance to clean up one thing (one was working on position, the others: number of strides in a line).  And then we could leave it on that.

All the pieces of the week starting to come together with what they'll need for show season.  And now all have a pretty good idea of what's left to work on!  But it was a ton of fun.   And sitting grazing the horses in the afternoon sunshine...  Well it just doesn't get much better than that :)

Day Three: Pick a number, any number :)

Are we more than half way through already?   Boooo - going WAY too fast!

So today we started out with our practice ride(s).  The girls are getting much better about *riding* (as opposed to going around and around the merry-go-round :); which required some minor reminding of arena rules but I was still really happy to see them venturing off the track.   

For my part, I was half intending to jump today.  I was reasonably certain I'd jump Athena, and the other two I had tentatively in the plans but on the "we'll see how it goes" category.   So I started with Jack who was on the ball today.  Right from the start he was in front of my leg and carrying himself, so I was pretty thrilled about that.   He also tensed in the scary corner, but didn't actually deviate from his line at all -- serious progress.   He was just trying with everything he had.  Which led me to feel he deserved a break from dressage :)   So I jumped him a bit -- he's very different from the horses I'm used to jumping.  To understate it *g*   Kinda like going from a Ferrari to a Mac truck.  Both have power - but they handle it differently!  So the jump exercise I'd set up involved a bending line.   And we jumped in with a beautiful lead change over the first fence, an easy 5 strides to a perfect distance, and out over the 2nd one with yet another beautiful lead change.   Sweet.   So I jumped him around a bit more playing with altering the bending line and the striding a bit and working on a wheel of death a bit.   And he was a superstar.  Did knock one rail, but after that figured out to get his feet out of the way and we were good to go.   So overall I was pretty happy with Jacksaurus today.  Gave him a big hug before I went to dismount and discovered my arms don't reach all the way around his neck >;-P  hahaha my new deciding factor for if a horse is too big for me to ride comfortably *g*

Next up was Charlie, who Chelsea had done an awesome job of warming up for me.  March break is spoiling me >;-P   He was moving forward and off the leg.  Beautiful!  So I did a little canter warmup and then jumped him around, and was amazed at how rideable he was.   Keep in mind - I teach riders on this horse all the time, but yesterday was the first time I've ever jumped him.  My schoolies jump so often in lessons, I don't want to stress them on top of that so I only ever jump them if I need to fix a problem -- and that doesn't happen often.  So I was expecting a mass-charge to the fence, but no he very quietly hopped over and cantered away.  hmmmm ok well how bout if we canter in?  Still no change.   Alright, well how about connecting a few fences into a course?   Did the bending line in 5, exactly the same as Jack.  Admittedly I didn't have time to read the paper between fences like I did with Jack, but still in rhythm and balanced and no franticness (yes that's a word!).   He does have a serious SPRING to his jump.  hahaha you can see where the power is.  But he also seems to not know entirely what to do with his feet, so he's going to spend the next few weeks doing tons of tiny fences to figure that out and then I think he'll be a little superstar.  And still the best attitude ever - he just keeps trying.

But omg what a difference in ride from Jack to Charlie.  Massive draft cross that's slow off the ground, to zippy little TB whose feet move faster than he can keep up with!   Was sort of interesting to have that much time to *think* when I was jumping Jack -- want to break down the phases?  Jump in slow motion!  hahaha but then going from that to Charlie...   Better sharpen up fast *g*

So then just to mix it up a little more, the girls took the boys to put them away and get ready for their jump lesson while I got on Athena.   Flatted her and she was a little tough but not bad and she softened pretty quickly.  Continued our daily work on canter adjustability (it's getting *much* better but still has a LONG way to go before we're competition ready).   Pretty good so jumped her around...   If you merged Charlie and Jack...  No - even then you wouldn't have Athena!  hahaha she's fast (Charlie) and super-willing (both -- can you tell I buy my horses in big part based on attitude?), but very downhill and unbalanced (two issues neither of the other two have), big and strong (Jack).  She also has Charlie's lack of body awareness -- she seems not always sure where her feet are.   However, she's also the one I've been working pretty consistently with so...   Jump her around a bit and she was being very sloppy.  hmmmm ok, let's make the jumps a little more respectable..  Crank the height up to solid PT/T range - which we haven't jumped in AGES since we've been working on total basics.  And she sharpened up into an absolute superstar.  She only tried to tank me once and even then she was back within three strides.  I was a little stunned :)  And pretty excited.   And she too did the line in a steady 5 with all lead changes.   Sweet.

So I was pretty stoked and was cooling out my horse and goofing around a bit when I noticed the girls in the viewing lounge -- sweet!  They're ready to go, we're set...  Wait...  Their horses were still in the field?!?!?  Love the view from the top of a horse :)   Mentioned that they might want to go get them since their lesson was going to start in about 10 mins >;-P  hahaha credit to them, they got them in and tacked up in record time!

Athena got a nice drink and a carrot and turned out to play with her pony and I went back in to teach the girls to do the same exercise I'd just schooled.  So all warmed up -- Rebecca with her first ride on Apollo -- and had some good ideas what should be included in said warm-up so that's good.   Then I had Olivia and Chelsea dismount and walk the line they were going to ride (Rebecca got a pass simply because Apollo's not a huge fan of people mounting).  How many strides?   Got answers of 10 and 8 respectively.   Now, given enough experience, you *could* put that many strides in by bending the line WAY out :)   I didn't tell them what I expected to see -- just let them go try it.   By committing to a number they'd remember one way or another...   So Olivia went first, and swung way out, and got EIGHT strides with Nick.  hahaha awesome.  Not way off for a first time ever walking a non-gymnastic line; combining her ride with Chelsea's answer provided perfection *g*.  Lissy did it in a trot/canter combination on the first try, and on Chelsea's second I think did it in 5 (I might be mis-remembering that though - if so, sorry Chelsea!)   Apollo did it beautifully in 6 -- complete with both lead changes!   Actually all of them were being pretty accurate with their leads.  So we discussed a bit about under what circumstances you might choose which line -- I challenged them all to get 5, which they did.  Woohoo!  Nick was just about perfect.  Then all to get 8.  Lissy got to seven, but as they were seven *nice* strides (after several tries!) we deemed that a good start.  Olivia and Nick rode it like pros - both the 5 and the 8.   And Rebecca got it with Apollo too -- snuck in that last stride with a handstand, but they *did* get it in.  And Apollo was super-proud of himself!   We're going to miss Rebecca tomorrow when she's back at her grown-up job...

So all the horses got cooled out and let outside and all the riders got lunch :)   And it was sooooo nice eating outside in the warmth and the sun, watching the horses grazing (or sleeping!) in the distance and throwing rocks for Sasha.   Ummm yes, you read that right.  It's one of her favourite games.  Yeah I don't understand it either, but it amuses her and an excited puppy is an entertaining puppy so we played her game.   Our lunchtime discussion today followed up on the goal setting from Monday and then added to it by creating a training plan.  How, exactly, are those goals going to be achieved.   So they have a template to work with and homework for tonight :)   I was pretty impressed with the goals though -- they seemed very appropriate and the general  "immediate, short, long" term concept entirely grasped.

After lunch the girls each took care of their horse's stall and then brought them back in to tack up for dressage.   Today was their first time riding a real dressage test.  Aileen kindly volunteered her time and came out to scribe for me, so they could actually get their test the same way they would in competition.  Both girls put in a solid accurate test.  I was *really* impressed.  There were some details that need some work -- the occasional mis-remembering of the test, our friend Nick could go a little more forward, Lissy could use slightly cleaner transitions.   But overall I was very happy with it.  Nick's circles were perfectly round and Lissy was even on the bit for parts of it.   Woohoo!   And, of course, we were outside!  Which just makes it that much better.  On a warm sunny day.  Better still :)

A final grooming and dinner for the horses and then time to go home.  

Day Two: Outdoor Adventures!

Day two was a fun follow up to day one.  Lots of riding, lots of playing with Sasha, and best of all, OUTSIDE!!!  Woohoo :)

We started out the day with setting fences for the jump school.   Both girls have done the "theory" of gymnastics before -- now time for the practical application of.   I suggested they build a placing pole to an x, one stride to a vert, two strides to an oxer.   And I left them to it.   Returning ten minutes later the pylons had all been cleaned up into a neat stack and two very puzzled girls were trying to think of what to do next.

hahaha well a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step right?  So a massive gymnastic starts with a pole. Put one pole on the ground.   Now what's next?   "An X"  Ok, where does that go?  There was a bit of deliberation, but they figured it out.  And put one pole there.  Hmmmm need a few more supplies to build an x... >;-P  But it did get built and with it came some confidence -- the vert was set very quickly.   The two strides to an oxer took a little more discussion, but eventually it was located in about the right place.  Only issue?  Nobody checked if the jumps lined up.  hahaha would've required a fair amount of skill to hit the center of each of those fences.   They tried for a few minutes to get the jumps to line up and were on the way, but in the interest of moving on to something more fun I cheated and told them where the jumps needed to go to get them lined up.   But all in all, once they got that first pole down it came together well.

The girls got their horses ready and the first ride of the day was on :)   We had a discussion about picking relevant warmup exercises and as a group decided on what needed to be done to prepare to jump the gymnastic they'd just built.  The focus of the warmup became straightness and adjustability.   Rebecca was doing a slightly different exercise, working on learning basic lateral work which Dixie was happy to oblige.  They got a great start on leg-yield and a solid canter.

Then it was time to jump!   D very quickly proved to be having more fun than Rebecca, so we did a quick horse trade and Olivia swapped her Nick for Dixie.   That gave R, who hasn't been jumping very long, a chance to have a quiet ride and focus on her position and gave O a chance to play a little higher and go a little faster :)   Arguably a *little* faster than she should've been going, but the giant grin on her face seemed to suggest she wasn't terribly concerned about this.  Meanwhile Chelsea was working super-hard on crazy-gluing her leg to her pony's side -- and did SUCH a good job of it, she got to break her old height record.  Woohoo!!!!

Ok so I taught a quick extra lesson while the girls took care of the ponies and did their stalls (btw - doing stalls is WAY more fun with multiple people :)   Then a lunch break, some wonderful weather, and discussion about how one memorizes dressage tests.  Homework?   You guessed it - memorize tomorrow's dressage test.  hahaha

Shortly after lunch the lights started flickering in horror-movie fashion.  Fun fun fun.  Then they went out for good.   Thankfully it was a bright sunny day out, so we didn't care all that much.  Apparently there was a tree on the hydro line -- we all went home before the power ever came back, but it made the afternoon tacking up a bit more entertaining :)

The on to the practice ride of the day with my three in training: Charlie, Jack and Athena.   Switched up today with Chelsea on Athena and Olivia on Charlie.  I started Jack again -- simply because he needs the most work *sigh*.   All three though were awesome.  I was really happy with them.  Also really happy with the girls -- they're starting to do a lot more than go around the outside :)   I saw some lateral work, some interesting figures, some transitions, and for a while Athena on the bit!   Way to go Chelsea!   As for my rides - Jack was trying really hard today.   Got some decent bending and moments of lightness.   Will never be my favourite type of ride, but I figure that's why it's almost more important that I ride him; best way to improve right?  I will *love* it when I get him to the point where he can carry himself though.  Can't. Wait.  Got on Charlie next and he was lovely.  Best ride I've had on him yet.  Still weaker right than left, but he's balancing out faster than most horses.  And just keeps trying - he has such a good attitude.   After that I got on Athena while the girls put the boys away and brought their horses back in to get ready for the next ride.  It's a stretchy day for Athena so was a nice relaxing ride that I mostly spent enjoying the nice sunny warm day *g*

Then the last ride of the day was OUTSIDE!  The first outdoor lesson since we moved to the new place.  We played a bit splashing through puddles and exploring the new ring.  Both horses were alert but exceptionally well behaved.  Neither one put a foot wrong or ever broke gait.   Not bad for first/second  (Nick/Lissy) outdoor ride of the year and on a very windy day.  And *since* they were so well behaved, I was still able to teach the lesson I'd intended for indoors.   Sweet.   The focus was on accurately riding a 20m circle and on the difference between circles and corners.  Picky details, but important in dressage.   And by the end I was seeing a noticeable difference in their accuracy.  These girls work *hard*.

By this point we were, admittedly, a little late :)   But the girls put their horses away and got their tack cleaned in a fairly impressive amount of time so that their patient parents didn't have to wait tooooo long :)

And tomorrow the games continue :)  Woohoo!

Spring Training - Day 1

So day one of spring training was fairly entertaining - or so I thought anyways :)

Started the day riding - how else?  :)   I started with Jack, Chelsea had Charlie and Olivia had Athena.  There was also a reasonable collection of birds hanging out in the arena.   Should be a non-issue, but neither Jack nor Charlie - one who dislikes sudden movements and one who dislikes noises - have been ridden since Thursday. Fun.

I knew Athena would have no problem and Charlie doesn't usually get excited till the canter, so both girls started riding at walk and trot, and I schooled Jack.   Mr Jack was having a rough day -- there were monsters in his usual corner and birds (aka evil deamons plotting the end of his world) at the other end.  Scary.  Very scary.  But eventually we came to an understanding that he *could* in-fact move of the leg and bend even WITH all the monsters.  Sweet.

So with that one solved, I promptly traded horses with Chelsea.  Charlie's turn :)   So suggesting to Chelsea she, who has never ridden Jack before, may wish to avoid the birds, I left her to her own devices and moved on to Charlie.   Olivia has ridden Athena before and was quite happily warming her up.

Keeping one eye on Chelsea to make sure Jack wouldn't take advantage of her, I started schooling Charlie; I enjoy him more every time I ride him :)   Which admittedly wasn't saying much to start, but now we're getting somewhere *g*  So we have a nice soft hunter-pony canter going -- something we've been working on (Charlie tends toward the tense-tb-bounce more than the relaxed daisy-cutter canter).  All good.  Then BANG!   Kamikaze bird slams into the corner window *just* as we pass it.  Boo.  Poor Charlie's brain jumped out his ear, and not being allowed to break gait or accelerate, bounced in place a few times  before settling back into a slightly-tenser version of our previous canter.  Good boy.

Lots of praise, get him settled again, starting to come soft again, get to the same corner and BANG!  No, not Charlie hallucinating because something bad happened last time and *might* again, it actually did!  Frig.  Not. Good.   Sometimes nature just does not help training.  So we cantered around again -- I was really not sure what might happen if a THIRD one attacked the window, but fortunately they all stayed put and after a round or two I had my nice Charlie back :)   Part of why this horse is growing on me is that while he reacts like a TB, his brain comes back comparatively VERY fast.

hahaha and after that he was going really nicely.  I jumped him around a few little fences that were set up - he's got a super cute jump.   It's actually the first time I've jumped him and I was having a lot of fun with it.  Quick and scopey - my favourite combination :)

But it was time to move on - still lots of riding and teaching to do.   So I took Athena from Olivia and the girls put away Jack and Charlie and went and got their horses ready for the next ride.  Athena was feeling pretty lethargic -- I suspect the heat is getting to her in that coat :(    I jumped her around a little and faced down her own personal nightmare...   a CAT!   You know - the same cat she sees in that ring every day.  hahaha but sitting head-on it was absolutely terrifying.  Poor girl.   Once we dealt with that minor concern, we jumped the gymnastic correctly a time or two and then she got the rest of the day off.

Put her away in time to teach both lunge lessons.   With both riders focusing on a soft following back and keeping the body alignment straight with the horse -- easier said than done sometimes!   A lot of giggling, some trial and error, and some really great results!  Sweet.

Lunch was next (yummy!) followed by puppy entertainment, SMART goal setting, and taking care of the horses.

And then...   What else?  Time to ride!   They tacked up again - jump tack this time and Rebecca joined in with Louis as well.   The focus of this set was accuracy.  Of the the three Ps (Pace, Path, Position) we were working on the first two.   A very specific path delineated by narrow pylons and no deviation from rhythm allowed.  Made a seemingly simple pole course very challenging.  There were a few pylons flying at various points, but in the end - everybody got what they were trying to do!

And in the end two happy but tired riders put their ponies away, cleaned their tack, and headed home to get some sleep before we do it all again tomorrow :)

And what did you do at work today?

So today we had *amazing* March weather -- and I spent it in the best way possible. Playing with my puppy :)

Showed up at the barn intending to do the usual combination of chores -- feed, put Sasha in viewing lounge, turn out, hay/water (although I've been spoiled lately cause my entirely too awesome dad's been doing that for me :), ride, let Sasha free, stalls, reverse the process. That's just how it goes.

But it was really warm - which meant the turnout step got seriously backed off by spending ages removing everybody's blankets. And then it was just too nice out -- so I let Sasha, who's starting to be reasonably reliable about sticking with me outside, "help". You should've seen her trotting along all proud with Jack's leadline in her mouth, Jack following along -- after giving her the stink-eye for about 2 seconds and then deciding she was harmless. hahaha sooo cute. Except after a couple strides she gets concerned about the horse following behind her and drops the rope to go off to the side *g* hahaha but she came out with me for every set of turnout, staying out of the way of the horses without running away. Which made turnout way more fun watching her bounding around.

Then with hay -- well Sasha and hay is very much like Sasha and snow. Which is a huge pita when you're actually trying to move the hay, so we drilled sit/stay and "leave it" a bit while I tried to get the hay out. But again, she stayed right at my side throwing to all the paddocks. So I was pretty thrilled about that.

Had to go to my car for something and I lost her out there. Was a *little* concerned, but she did eventually come back from wherever she was adventuring. So then I had to play stick with her for a while because I didn't want her to come to me from playing only to be grounded in the barn -- that just didn't seem like positive reinforcement at all. And while we were doing this, Dad got there and started doing waters, which Sasha loves cause he always plays with her. So I passed her off and watched them for a bit :)

Which pretty well ate up my riding time *sigh* But it was fun, and I rode Athena on her day off so no biggie to give her today off instead. Time to start stalls. It was colder in the barn than out -- which in August will be fabulous but today not so much. And I got about 1 done when my dad came back and told me it was way too nice outside and I should be sitting on the rock in the sun playing with my puppy. But there were stalls to be done. So I kept at it for a few more minutes while my much smarter father took advantage of the nice weather to play with Sasha. And then I finally clued in that stalls are ALWAYS there; warm sunny days with puppies, not so much. By the time we have reliable warmth, she won't really be a puppy any more!

So I went outside and played with Sasha. Then I sat on a big rock, sheltered from the wind, and enjoyed the sun while watching her run around with her ears flopping every stride. Absolutely no better way to spend an early spring day.

But alas, eventually it was time to re-enter the cold barn to do stalls... Except that by that time it was *also* lunch time. And instead of the boring pb sandwich I'd brought a road trip to subway was suggested. Twist my rubber arm. hahaha so we brought the food back (hardly going to leave Sasha in the truck while we sit inside!) and deemed it picnic weather. So more warm rock and playing puppy -- this time with food :)

By this point Sasha was ready for her afternoon nap (which I also thought was an excellent idea, but alas the chores hadn't magically vanished...) And Dad stuck around and helped with stalls and sweeping so we managed to still get done in a reasonable time. I had places I had to get to before 6:00 (why do things close at 6??? That just doesn't make any sense to me at all...) and had a MUST-leave-before deadline of 4. Well I made it out shortly after 4:30 -- close enough *g* hahaha classic eh? And I *did* in-fact get to both places in time, so all good. Had to cut one a little short, but not tragic.

So did anything brilliant get accomplished today? Not particularly. But everything that needed to get done, got done eventually. And more importantly - I really enjoyed it. Got to hang out with my puppy and my dad and enjoy the stunning weather while watching my horses play in the field. Those kind of moments shouldn't be missed just to get some stalls mucked. That whole priority thing again -- all work is not really the way to go.

And today was a prime example. After all, time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted time...

David O'Connor Clinic - Guest Post: Jael Lodge

So my friend Jael's horse (Bria) attended David O'Connor's clinic out in BC last week with her coach (D) piloting.  Jael's horse is of the green but super-talented variety, who - despite all evidence to the contrary - is pretty sure she's a chestnut mare.   And D's a quiet rider with a good sense of humour - very necessary to ride babies successfully!   They started in the Training group (horse can *jump* but has done exactly one starter-level event ever, so that was pretty impressive) and on day two got upgraded to prelim.  hahaha gotta love babies with talent.

For those who haven't seen David coach before, he places an emphasis on simple and correct.  And generally gets excellent results.   I thought you might like to see her notes from the clinic.   So shared with permission and HUGE thanks here they are :)


I missed the first group (E-PT) because we were getting Bria ready. And don't know anyone in that group so can't supply info!

Three additional groups:

(2) PT+ - T: Mixed group as expected at this level. OTTB who had talent and some basic schooling, Ammy learning to ride a move-up horse, kid on a packer, dressage horse mid career change who was seriously festive over small fences, and D with Bria.

(3) T+ - P: I only knew a couple of the horses here, but for the most part seemed like a very matched group of Solid T and P horses. Only exception was the one girl who looked like a solid rider, and a solid horse, but there were clearly some confidence/schooling issues.

(4) Advanced: Mixed group again - a couple of experienced horses with riders moving up (including an ex-Rolex horse with his new owner), a couple of solid campaigners coming up for retirement but whose owners wanted to do one last clinic with them, and a couple who are moving up the ranks. This group included two riders on the Canadian Developing Rider list that came out last week.

All groups started with the same exercise both days - Trot/Canter on a circle as a group. DOC used this to look at adjustability, rider position on the flat etc etc. This was a serious challenge of Miss Can't-Canter-Slowly’s schooling. But all of D’s hard work paid off – Bria looked every bit the green, but very civilized, willing, and properly schooled horse. This exercise gradually expanded to include jumps.

Comments across the board (in no particular order). And yes, reading it again it seems simple for the most part! Day 1 really instilled the concepts, Day 2 put it into practice over fences building up to a course. All the groups did essentially the same exercises (we were indoors), but over appropriate heights, and more importantly, the difficulty of the work between the fences increased significantly. The lower levels were looking for basic adjustability, the higher ones had to go back and forth between a gallop and a collected canter, on cue, while staying relaxed.

1. Favourite quote of the day: Adjustability at the canter is the ONLY thing that is tested in all three phases, and it's simply not practiced enough. Practice it.

2. The first step of the canter/gallop is the most important one. That first step dictates the quality (appropriate to level), which is better than trying to fix it.

3. Basics. Even the advanced group were hounded about the basics. No excuses are acceptable for sloppiness at any level.

4. Collection starts with the riders FEET and works its way up (I LOVED this one, and it was a great way to express something D has had me working on since I tend to grab, or forget to use my lower legs, or both). He had the advanced groups doing forward and backward, at the canter, without going to the reins at all. The visual he used on Day 2 was “use your stirrup pads to collect”.

5. For the pair headed to their first *** in Cali shortly he really had her focusing on the movement of her horse’s hips and had her match it, and then slow it down. He had a good point – because of the way the footfall occurs in the canter, it creates a “twisting” movement in the horse’s pelvis. This is the movement you want to match with your hips, and then slow it down. But it still had to start with the feet and refine the at the seat. He had an interesting suggesting of putting a saddled horse in a round pen (I don’t see why a lunge wouldn’t work though), have someone send it forward while getting above it to watch so you’re looking down at the motion. And watch the movement of the cantle. That is what you need to think about matching at all gaits. And he did say it’s unnerving when you look at it!<

6. Rein aids impact the hind. Ok, I have to admit I got lost here. With the advanced group especially he delved into the type of rein aids, when/why etc etc. But where I'm at, remembering the first part is probably all I need to think about! This is where he worked a bit with D - he made teeny, tiny adjustments and got immediate results. Good reminder just how sensitive a 1300lb moose can actually be. He had D adjusting her hand by a centimeter.

7. Building instinct is critical. You need to be able to analyse the results, but if you get too deep into analysis paralysis, you'll never get to the point of reaction. He had the two advanced groups calling out, on demand, mid-course, whether they needed to ask for more, collect, or leave everything alone.

8. To pull off the above, you have to have a relaxed state of mind. He had the riders in the second group counting strides, not to see a distance, but to settle into the rhythm in a thinking manner. AND, unlike counting to see your distance, he had riders counting both the take-off and landing steps. So simple, but you could really see the difference it made. I see a whole lot of counting in my future. >:-P

9. Sometimes you have to flip your thinking on its head. For example, the *** horse likes to barge the last two strides to every jump. Rider tries to slow him down, they fight, he barges anyways, they pull rails. DOC had her go at the horse’s preferred pace over the jump (no barge because he was already where he wanted to be). Then again, but collecting the stride the last two steps out. There was no fight that time. DOC credits it to setting up the horse in a comfortable place - the horse needs that pace to be confident. Clearly you can't jump like that all the time, so get them in their comfort zone, THEN change it through consistent schooling until the horse is confident at all the different paces (back to point (1)!!!).

10. To build on points (1) and (9), you need to build on your knowledge of your horse and their comfort zone, and adjust your ride accordingly. ie the ex-Rolex horse who is well known for being a challenging ride (hey, he ran Rolex, he gets a pass) was ridden very differently than the girl on the Jack-clone who had nowhere near Rolex horse’s scope, but has a super willing and happy attitude, and “enough” scope to get the job done.

11. Good XC should be under time (within reason, allowing for footing issues due to bad weather etc) and completely boring to watch, regardless of the level. If it’s really exciting for the spectators, you need to figure out why and make it boring.

12. Correct groundwork can be used to teach a horse both responsiveness to the rider/handler, and staying “on the job”, while also teaching them problem solving skills that they need XC. He had a horse working on a long line going in and out of weird spaces etc on request. Horse had to stay on the job as to where it was supposed to go, but had to figure out how to get itself there. In regards to the "method", he made it clear there is no magical method, there are no magical tools. He has his preferred tools (any old rope halter attached to a thick cord-type cowboy lead with a weight on the end, and a fairly stiff in-hand whip), but you use what works. Key is correctness and consistency. He also called out the fact that if you're not correct, you can get yourself in trouble very quickly. Heck, he pointed out that swinging the end of a long rope around like he does is a good way to accidentally hang yourself if you don't learn to manage it properly first!

I’m sure there’s a whole lot more, but I think my brain is capped at 12 points… ;-P

Zen Riding

So today I was reminded how riding is *supposed* to be.

Being dressage week, there's no jumping going on.  And for the vast majority of my classes this is a very important part of life as there's a fair amount of flat-work to be learned.  And credit to the riders -- all are trying *very* hard.

But what do you do with the very novice class?  The class that can walk and trot and ride all the basic figures, but they're still just starting to canter and they're a long way from riding on contact or even basic lateral work.  There're also only two riders -- making games (the way I always *used* to entertain beginner groups) less of a viable option.  

Well today I had them working on two-point with no reins.  Arms out, airplane style.  Which had both girls giggling, but also being very successful.  And when I told them to go back to posting trot, I told them they could do whatever they wanted with their arms (thinking take back the reins or not...)   Now most adults will either go back to riding with the reins, or rest their hands on their thighs or their hips.   But not these girls!  hahaha airplane style ruled for a few moments, followed by a few random stretches.  All still pretty traditional, until Eve (who's all of 10) trots by sitting super-tall, with her elbows bent, hands chest level, palms-up with her thumb and middle finger touching lotus-style, and says "I'm zen".   I *think* there was video and/or photos -- if I get them, I'll post :)

hahaha couldn't help but laugh -- and yet at the same time think how much easier my job would be if the REST of us could do that.   How much of riding fails comes from tension or fear?  If we could zen-pose our way through whatever daemons we happen to be fighting on any given day, we'd all improve a whole lot faster!

Anyways - that was followed by a whole series of silliness that rivaled my Fri night uni class for humour factor.  We had riders disco dancing and YMCA (really?!?!  How/why do they even know that?)  And for the record - our only *almost* fatality came from over-exuberant disco, proving once more that it should be forever abolished.  There were also phone calls - sans phone - between riders, a sulky teenager to offset the zen child, several air-bands of all types.   Some dances that really should be long forgotten -- pretty sure I saw some Walk LIke an Egyptian happening.   And when the Macarena broke out I was instantly transported back to highschool (dating myself pretty seriously there :).   Pretty sure there was also some rodeo riding happening with riders working the lasso -- which *obviously* led to a wild-west shoot-out, with a dramatic death scene by Olivia.  You'll be happy to know she was quickly revived to continue her way through obsolete dances *g*

Anyways - it was a lot of fun and did a very good job of reminding me how riding's supposed to be.   Remember that somewhere between the child you once were and the woman you are now is a little girl who fell in love with a horse and never looked back.  Ride for her.

hahaha me at 8 or 9 -- red boots, bouncy pony tail, huge grin, and winning the race!

If you have any pics of "little you" on horseback, please share!