Here there be dragons...

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

Great wedding proposal

This made me smile :)

I have an issue with the idea of getting married as "something dumb to do" -- but other than that, this is amazing.

Athena's first HT

SO much fun with my pony today :)   Whoever knew Entry could be so entertaining?

Mum and Sasha came too!
Once again we had a very early start -- my alarm went off at 3:30.  After falling asleep shortly after 2:30.   Ummm both those times would be am.  Times that really shouldn't come twice a day!

But such is the life of an eventer so we sucked it up and off we went.  Got there with about the perfect amount of time.  I was able to check in and walk stadium before heading off to dressage.

Athena warmed up beautifully and put in a really solid test.  I wouldn't class it as spectacular -- there was nothing really brilliant about it, but there was no disaster either.  Was just a good, solid, entry level test.  And I was really happy with her :)

Pats for the pony ;)

So I went for a quick walk around cross, while my supergroom Steph took care of my horse.   The course  seemed ridiculously simple.  Had to keep reminding myself that entry is *supposed* to be simple >;-P   And then I had lots of time to watch stadium and socialize before riding.  And let's be honest - sometimes said socializing is a fun part of the day :)   Again, only possible thanks to Steph :)  I'm so spoiled!

Eventually it was time to jump.  The course was super easy and inviting.  Maxed for entry, which I was happy to see.  But compared to what we see at home that's still pretty tiny... hahaha  That being said, our last stadium round was SO atrociously bad (well by my standards anyways - we *did* technically get around; it was just ugly) that I had a few butterflies bouncing around in the warmup.    That last course she was very sticky and backed off, so I decided we were going in in attack mode.   The course was in the new and improved giant-sized sandring, so there was tons of space and all big turns to get going if you so chose.  And I chose.  She was sticky in w/u, so I revved her into the mode I would usually use in a xc w/u.  And she started jumping better.  Sweet.  Butterflies whipped into formation and sent flying.

Now you have to understand -- attack mode is not my preferred style of riding.  I generally go for overly controlled and balanced.  hahaha but you do the job that needs to be done right?  And she needed that kind of ride.  So we powered our way in (with a slight detour to let her look at a jump I knew she wouldn't care for), saluted and away we went.

Attack mode - fence 1.  Excessive much?

And I have to say, it was the first stadium round in my entire life that I would class as fun.  Yeah, it's not exactly my favouite phase :)  hahaha but oh dear.  Let's just say we found attack mode.   And the line I walked in an 8, we rode in a 5. Yes, you read that right.  I have it on video.  hahaha.  This same line I saw a pony do in 12.  And it was an even balanced 5.   Which gives you an idea of speed and stride length *g*  Sheesh.   The fence I thought she'd hesitate at, she did.   But it set her back enough that we actually got the correct number of strides in that line.  She loved it though -- by the end she was focusing on a fence and taking me to it.  If the fences had been big, it wouldn't have worked.  But as a confidence builder it was great.   She very much misjudged the last fence, but with golden horseshoes on it somehow defied the laws of physics and stayed up.  The few people I knew there with cameras all informed me I did *not* make their jobs easy.  hahaha ah well - sorry about that.  But omg so. much. fun.   N she came out and completely relaxed.  I was so impressed.
Doing something right by the end :)

We had enough time to untack and give her a quick bath and a chance to relax before xc.  I was really happy to see her drinking; she's never done that before.   Changed my clothes, tried on the new air-vest and tacked her back up for xc before heading over to warmup.  I mostly walked around chatting with people -- we weren't going to need much warmup, and clearly my competitors felt the same.   Did a quick gallop to check how she felt on the grass and that attack mode was still installed and discovered she was fine on the grass and attack mode had intensified.  hahaha So. Much. Fun.   I might regret it in the next week or two, but for today, in the moment...  Woohoo :)

Grinning like a child over our first speed-bump

"Number 67, 2 minutes" -- threw a quick 'thanks!' over my shoulder, hopped over one more fence and headed over to the start box.  5 second countdown and we were off :)   Nice easy canter to the first fence, picking up speed to the second and then settling into a rhythm to the third.  Unfortunately for us, the rhythm was more of a training pace than an entry pace.  Oops!   But since she's also not very fit, any really long run where you would usually gallop, I'd bring her back to trot.  There was also one location with a ton of pedestrians on my course, so I felt the need to slow to avoid tragedy. hahaha  And conveniently the trot sets balanced the gallops leaving us with some time faults but not nearly the mountain I'd imagined!  But what I really loved?  When I pushed her in front of my leg and half-halted, she actually came back!  Imagine that!  I don't know if it might just've been that she was tired *g*  But she really sat up and balanced.  Some of that is on video too (thanks Stephy!) so I got to see that it wasn't just my wishful thinking.  Offers hope for higher levels.  Sweet!  And basically from the moment we left the start box till the moment we crossed the finish line, I was grinning like a 10yo kid on her first xc run.  hahaha sad but true.

Balanced pony :)  Woohoo!

So yeah -- there was nothing particularly challenging or interesting in today's ride.  It certainly wasn't a ride I'd want anybody judging my abilities by *g*   But what it was, and hasn't really been in a while, was just plain fun.

Awesome day.  Fun having my mum and my puppy there.  Totally spoiled by Steph.  Got to see and chat with lots of people I don't get to see nearly often enough.  And did I mention?

So. Much. Fun.

Caledon Clinic

SO much fun at the Caledon Clinic this weekend.   Weather was *amazing* which is a huge start :)   Having taught that clinic in a snow-suit before, I can tell you that definitely makes a HUGE difference in the day *g*

Both Rowan and I had to be in dressage at 8am.  One riding, one coaching. I'll let you figure out which was which :)   So we aimed for a 6:30 load.   The girls showed up on time and got their horses fed and ready and got themselves packed.  I was really quite impressed by how organized they were.  Clearly everybody read the blog *g*   Steph and Nicole also came to help with organizing and to be on standby in-case somebody didn't want to load well and experienced hands were needed.  Everybody loaded beautifully though and shortly we were off!

I spent the morning coaching entry and pre-entry level dressage.   The first pony I taught I *loved*.  hahaha such a cute little guy.  When his rider cantered him straight at the edge with no intention of turning he gamely jumped out.  And when she panicked and pulled him back around he just as kindly jumped back in.   Coolest. Pony. Ever.  *g*   So needless to say, we worked a little on steering :)  The second round was far more successful!

Everybody else stayed in the ring.  All lessons but one focused on accuracy and rhythm.  My last student was a little more advanced and we could work on finesse :)   But for a novice clinic and the first outting of the year for most (first outting EVER for some) that was to be expected.  Lots of nerves to chill out and lots of basics to work on.  I saw a few seconds of both Chelsea's and Rowan's lessons as they were in the ring next to where I was teaching; I couldn't really watch since I was teaching hahaha but what I saw looked reasonable.  I would say they fit in very much where the girls I was coaching did -- horses a little high, some anxiety over riding a test, and managing it and getting better by the second try.  Wasn't as brilliant as they are at home of course - it never is!  But I was happy with what I saw...

Quick stop in to see how all was going at lunch time.  Steph and Nicole had everything totally under control.  No surprise but still nice to see :)  All the girls had finished xc and were pretty excited about it :)  Jack was wearing his big-boy pants.  Louis and Lissy felt the need to jump most things a few times but got over it all in the end :)   And Bella wasn't too sure about starting out on xc, but by the end she didn't want to stop!  hahaha classic.  Show season's going to be So. Much. Fun!

The afternoon I was teaching show jumping.  I got thoroughly spoiled with the nice small groups I love to teach and Brena helping me as ring crew.  I started with a training group that was SO MUCH FUN.  They had a good grasp of the basics so we could work on the fun stuff.  We focused on quality of the canter (creating the right balance of speed, balance and impulsion) and on rider's responsibility vs horse's responsibility.  They made a really serious effort and were so much fun to teach.  And the before/after divide was pretty kewl to see.  While all this was going on Rowan and Chelsea were in stadium, but I think I saw all of about one fence each.  Booo.  Fortunately lots of GRS supporters were watching so we got tons of pics anyways :)

The next group was PT and then E/PE split.  Both were fun -- I had Emily and Margaret in my last group so I *did* actually get to see a couple of my girls ride at least one phase :)  I was super impressed by how well Margaret was riding Louis -- not a single stop and he was totally eager to jump everything.  Apparently the run through the water after xc upped his confidence!  Woohoo!  Margaret had a huge grin on her face all day; super nice to see!   Bella was speedy, but Emily was doing a super job keeping her organized.

Afterwards we got everybody home and taken care of.  Everybody was thoroughly sunburnt, exhausted, and happy -- and that's exactly the way it should be :)

Overall I'd say a great start to the season!  Next stop -- Foxcroft CT on June 10.  Come cheer on the team!

Sometimes you just have to play :)

On Sunday I taught a "learn to gallop" lesson and the two girls who had never done it before were *thrilled*.  hahaha  As anyone who HAS done it can tell you, it's a reasonable adrenaline rush :)   It's one of my favourite lessons to teach because you can usually see the grins from a mile away; they appear about 5 seconds after the sheer terror disappears *g*  Later that evening Brena's Facebook post read " New favourite thing to do: gallop through an open field.  "   Which was seconded by Chelsea :)  

Well I had to laugh today as I was galloping Athena when I realized that my grin was easily as big as theirs had been -- and it's been a LONG time since my first gallop (yes I remember it -- I was still riding western then :)  But while it wasn't my first gallop -- or even the first time I've let Athena gallop -- it *was* the first time I've really *ridden* Athena's gallop.  As in, I've let her run before, but this time I asked for balance and rhythm and steady contact and all those other fun things that are required to jump at speed; as opposed to just 'burn off excess energy'.   Was fairly entertained to discover the gallop is evidently her best gait.  hahaha she had fabulous balance, even down hill, was soft, accepting contact, bendable.  Absolutely lovely to ride.   Oh and once she's fit, making time at any level she'll ever be capable of jumping is never going to be an issue  Now the only issue is we need the canter - her worst gait - to get through the other two phases before they let us show that one off!  *sigh*    

So yeah - fun evening ride :)

Caledon Clinic Ride Times

Victoria Day will be spent enjoying the awesome weather while four GRS riders practice all three phases of eventing at the Caledon clinic.

Auditing is free, so come on out -- enjoy the weather on a gorgeous country property watching horses participate in lots of lessons with a variety of coaches!   Should be an entertaining day :)  


We will be loading at 6:30am -- you should be at the barn by 6.  Bring your horse in and feed them (find the bucket with their name in the feed room).  Then groom and fly spray your horse.  Put hay in the hay nets.  Fill the water jugs (by the wash stall).  Pack your cars with all your gear.  Chelsea and Rowan also bring wraps, poultice and news paper (I have lots of poultice if you don't -- just make sure it gets packed!) as you'll have time to wrap while you're there.

I'll be there to help with loading, but busy coaching at the clinic all day.  Steph and Nicole are going to come help -- they're in charge :)   If you have any questions you can ask them; they've both ridden and traveled with me for years and been to Caledon multiple times, so they know what they're doing :)

I strongly recommend a change of shoes, a hat of some sort, sun screen, bug spray, and a lawn chair!  It's going to be a long day and there's not a ton of shade...


From Hwy #401: North on Mississauga Rd to Olde Base Line (flashing light), turn right.  Take next left, one km north on the right to Caledon Riding Club, 15747 Creditview Rd. From Hwy#10: Turn West at lights on to #12 Peel Rd. (Olde Base Line).  Go to 2nd stop sign, turn north.  Club is one kilometre north 15747 Creditview Rd.  

Ride Times:

8:00 - Rowan - DR - Ring 1

8:30 - Emily - XC - Jennifer Irwin

9:00 - Chelsea - DR - Ring 1

10:15 - Rowan - XC - Jennifer Irwin
10:15 - Chelsea - XC - Jennifer Irwin
10:15 - Margaret - XC - Jen Thompson

1 - Rowan - Stad - Jen Thompson
1 - Chelsea - Stad - Jen Thompson

1:30 - Emily - DR - Ring 2

3:15 - Margaret - Stad - Lauren Cude
3:15 - Emily - Stad - Lauren Cude

Can it stay this way all year?

I love summer.  It's really just. that. simple.

Sasha and Athena enjoying summer :)

Went for a hack this am and my horse was fairly high.  She wanted to gallop.  I wanted to trot.  We settled for a trot with so much extension I could see flashes of the blue from her boots out in front of us -- very much like when we're galloping.  Then we went back and jumped some stadium fences; best jump school I've had in *ages*.  About time too >;-P  hahaha then back to the field for some more reasonable trot sets.  All in all just a great start to the morning.

Sasha learned to swim today.  Super cute - she was soooo proud of herself.   Then kept going back in to try out her new skill -- swimming a few feet away from the edge.   I have never seen her so tired as she was tonight after that on top of her usual farm-dog day :)   By about mid-afternoon she had crashed in the middle of the barn aisle-way; the one location where she can see just about everything without ever having to move.  hahaha

Evening lessons were entertaining -- if for no other reason than I got to move around.  Started indoors with a first-timer.  Then moved to the sand ring for the grasshopper group, then to the field for the entry group, then back indoors for my adult class since it still gets dark just a *little* too early.  Fun fun fun.  Can't wait till we build some xc though!   June 3 -- mark the date!  XC jump building, spring cleanup, and potluck BBQ!  hahaha official announcement will be on GRS page and FB soonish -- prob Wednesday :)

Physician heal thyself >;-P

So I just finished posting on the GRS blog the latest in the "Traits of Improving Riders" series and had to laugh as I could so picture my coach rolling his eyes.  GUILTY!   Yes that's me.  Both with the fear of failure (really anything less than perfect has *never* been acceptable in something I care about, so why would it be for riding?) AND with the whole "well I *used* to be able to..."  *sigh*  And while I know enough to censor it -- I don't think I've ever actually *said* either of those things in my coach's presence; he's also a good enough coach to know fully well why I'm frustrated.

hahaha I guess writing can be as good a wake-up call as reading it eh?  

TIR: Is your relationship with your dreams stronger than your relationship with fear?

There have been entire books written on this.  Lots and lots of them.  By people with a lot more letters after their names than I have.  But what it comes down to is a significant portion of this sport is psycological.

Have you ever read the $700 Pony?  If not, you should.   Seriously - click the link, buy the book, enjoy it.  Two reasons -- one, it will make you laugh.  Laughing makes you relaxed.  Relaxed riders ride better.  Ergo - it's an enjoyable way to improve your riding.   Two -- cause I'm going to steal a phrase from Ellen and I feel better doing so if I've already plugged her book :)   Namely, that she routinely refers to her "trainer/therapist" -- and honestly, some days I think that is the job description.   Which may be part of why I love it so much, since psychology was definitely the only other option that was a significant alternative to starting the school *g*

So traits of improving riders -- why do kids seem to improve so much faster than adults?  They're fearless!   Seriously people.  That's all there is to it.

Riding is one of those tricky "things we have to learn before we can do, but we learn by doing" (yeah for smuggling in classical references - that'd be Aristotle folks.  Well loosely translated anyways since I never took Greek so have to take what I can get :).  I tell a group of kids to go try something; they go try it.   I tell a group of adults to go try something and they want to know every possible outcome and what to do about it and that's before they start considering what all could go wrong!

EG - Instructor: "go jump that fence"
Child: goes and jumps fence
Adult: "when should I go in my two point?
Child: goes and jumps fence
Adult: where do we take off?
Child: goes and jumps fence
Adult: how do I get him to land on the correct lead?
Child: goes and jumps fence
Adult:  how fast should I be going?
Child: goes and jumps fence
Adult: what if he stops?
Child: goes and jumps fence
Adult: what if he runs out?

Note how many fences the child has jumped before the adult has even tried it once.  So even if they've made every single mistake the adult can imagine -- they're still ahead.  Because now they *know* they can make the mistake and live through it.  AND they know what mistakes not to make.   Because they just tried it.

Fear and fear of failure are not necessarily the same thing, but they often have the same result.  One rider won't try because they're wondering what on Earth they were thinking and their heart is pounding and they can feel the blood coursing through their veins and they're wondering if it's not too late to change to a safer sport.  Like football.  Or rugby.  The other one is afraid to even try until they know every possible piece of the puzzle intimately so that they won't make a mistake.  Sadly both are seriously detrimental to improving your riding because no matter how long you think about it, the only way to learn to ride is to ride.

The second one's easier to deal with so we'll start with that -- give yourself permission to make mistakes.  "But I want to do it right!" yeah yeah well sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make a cake.   Or so those who can bake have told me anyways >;-P   Not that it's a *great* idea to use analogies involving breaking things with riding, but sometimes they fit :)   AKA it has to be ugly before it can be beautiful (ugly duckling anybody?) because, quite frankly, most of us need to learn the hard way.   You're out there to learn; which means you probably don't already know it all; which means it's totally fair to make mistakes.  And odds are really good your coach has seen them all before -- and probably made many of them! Besides, let's be honest -- mistakes usually lead to the best stories :)   I know none of my favourite stories go "yeah so I did this perfectly and then it was over."  Who would bother reading that?

A sideline to allowing yourself to improve is letting go of the ego -- if you really want to improve, you have to set it aside and let your coach tell you what you don't want to hear so you can be the rider you know you can be.  And sometimes, especially if you've been riding a long time, that's hard to do.   But remember, if you're standing on the edge of a cliff, a step backwards is progress.  It's entirely possible that the reason you haven't improved in the last five years is because you're missing a basic but critical piece.  But unless you are willing to accept that there just might be something wrong, and let your coach take you back to fill in the gaps, there will be very little improvement.  This is one of those things that is way more challenging for re-riders than "real" novice riders.  Real novice riders, having never ridden before, have no ego or expectations -- so as a result they generally learn faster as they don't get frustrated as quickly.   Re-riders often remember how it *should* work but can't quite make it happen.  Or, harder yet, never *really* knew in the first place, but memory has added a rosy hue that makes them think they did.   To improve, to get back to where you used to be -- or better yet surpass it! -- you have to let the past go and work with what you've got today.

And then there's true fear.  One of my favourite lines came from Woffard's gymnastic book -- which suggests using gymnastics to push students out of their comfort zone safely (ie slightly higher etc).  His point is that "it can be difficult to analyse your horse's performance whilst you are also concentrating on not falling off."  hahaha fair enough.  So when trying something that's going to require some bravery on your part -- putting it in a gymnastic and thereby insuring the striding is correct for your horse -- makes your odds of success much greater.

Sometimes it takes bravery just to get on.  Sometimes it's to go faster - canter or gallop.  Sometimes it's to leave the ring.   Sometimes it's to jump.  Sometimes it's to remount after a fall.  Sometimes it's to ride out a spook or buck or just plain unpredictability.   A a rider, you have only a moment to react instinctively to these movements.  And when that doesn't work, you have to respond strategically -- unfurl from the fetal position, loosen the death grip, breathe, and ride forward.   Often this means fighting your most basic impulse: to hold on for dear life and try to stop.  Too often in riding, as in life, falls are the result of holding back when you should be kicking on.   But when every instinct in your mind is screaming STOP THE RIDE, I WANT TO GET OFF -- that can be incredibly hard.   And any time you stop the ride, you stop your improvement.  Managing fear requires two things.  First - leave the ego at home.   Forget that once-upon-a-time this was easy; that just makes it harder.  Pretend it's the first time and savour it as such.  The second thing is to take it in baby steps.  I had one student whose goal for her first lesson was to get on.  It took the entire hour, and she was mounted approximately sixty seconds -- and shaking so hard it was challenging to dismount.  But she did it.  And the next lesson she got on much sooner and sat still for a while and then even braved a few steps at the walk.  And the next lesson she got on right away and started walking right away; by the end of that ride, I was allowed to step a few feet away from the horse.  Anybody starting from scratch and unafraid, the first ten lessons would've been covered in one.   But for this rider, who'd had a very serious fall more than ten years earlier, we had to put aside what she used to be able to do and break down her goal (of eventually going xc) into achievable pieces.   It took about two years - but with bite-sized pieces, she did get to do entry level xc :)   Now what the steps are and how you're going to tackle them depends on your situation.  Almost always it involves adding in the perception of extra control to the scenario.  Could be putting the horse on a lunge line.  Could be "only canter for 3 strides".   Could be "just go for a walk outside".  Whatever it takes -- STAY on that baby step until it gets boring.  Or at least easy :) Then you can be climb, jump or be pushed up onto the next step.  And eventually the item at the top of the ladder won't be quite so far away.

But the one thing YOU have to decide -- and nobody can do it for you -- is do you want to ride more than you fear?  Because if the fear is strong enough, for a while riding won't be fun.  And almost every rider I know has gone through it at some point; some of us more than once.  If you're a true rider, one for whom the passion is in the blood, you will get through it.  And if you're not, you'll find all sorts of reasons not to ride (see the excuses post below :).   And then soon you'll be finding reasons not to go to the barn...  And eventually riding will be "something you used to do".  And you won't be missing anything, because for you, it wasn't a passion.  And if you don't have the passion, you don't understand the sport.   With the little kids it's almost always really obvious.  Nerves present *often* as tummy aches.  The child will show up several weeks in a row complaining of stomach aches.  It's not that the child is making something up; they do genuinely feel ill.  But what's interesting is the reaction.  There are the kids who come in saying "I have a tummy ache, I can't ride", and then there are the ones who say "I have a tummy ache, but can I ride anyways?"  I'm sure you can figure out for yourself which is the one who will be a life-long rider.

The only two emotions that belong in the saddle are patience and a sense of humour.  If you really want to improve, leave everything else at home.

Sasha's first trip to Sammy's :)

Fun day today -- perfect weather!  That counts for a lot :)  Had an easy day lined up -- awesome working students doing the barn and only two lessons to teach.  First one was a very excited novice student who's fun to teach simply because she is always SO excited.  hahaha reminds me how it's supposed to be.   Then the second one was my working students who are tons of fun to teach and Em came to visit and join in too :)   She also had her camera so I got to play while I taught.  Which means that lesson *might've* gone an hour and a half or so.  hahaha  ah well.  These things happen.   The girls were still up for a hack though so all good.

While they were out hacking I took out the weed-eater and was pretty impressed when it started on the first try!  hahaha tackled a good section of the driveway before it ran out of gas.  Weed-eating is one of those chores that if I feel like doing something productive I'm likely to pick above most others -- get to be out in the sun, play with reasonably harmless power tools, and destroy things.  And this is a *good* thing???  hahaha as far as chores go, I figure that's not half bad.

Get back to the barn and Em and I take advantage of the perfect weather by making the first Sammy's run of the season :)   Took all our combined texting skills, but somehow we convinced Aileen to join us along the way.  Now I've been going to Sammy's with various riding people for the last 3 or 4 barns, but this was the first time I've ever taken my puppy :)   When I ordered my ice cream it came with a doggy treat.  hahaha awesome.  So we were sitting around the picnic table with both Sasha and her very-well-trained buddy Saoirse hanging out -- super training op for Sash since there were lots of people coming by and the occasional other dog.   And she was great - I was so happy with her!   And when the very cute little girl in her summer dress and flip-flops asked if she could pat the puppy, I was actually able to say yes without physically holding Sasha.  She was wiggling with excitement, but managed to keep it under control.  Woohoo!  hahaha that might be a first.  Had to laugh at one point though; we were the only ones there and I look over and Sasha's munching a puppy treat.  Ummmm ok...   And a few minutes later - another one!  It was raining puppy treats!  hahaha best. stop. ever.   The guy from in the ice cream booth was throwing them to the dogs :)

Home for family dinner (happy Mother's Day!!!) and then an easy evening with a movie playing in the background.   Pretty decent day all round :)

Do something every day for which you do not get paid.

hahaha subject line just made me laugh since that's the vast majority of my life :)  Def need to find some more students though or it *won't* be my life as long as I'd like it to.  *sigh*   So if you know anybody who wants to ride... >;-P

Ok end of that.  Today was a comparatively *very* easy day, thanks to Steph being home and taking over the afternoon shift :)

So I got to the barn today and was debating with myself about getting everything done super-fast and getting home (since Wednesdays I don't teach in the evening and my wonderful working student Kirby does night chores for me :) and actually riding my horse and getting some extra stuff done.  The debate of course being I rarely have time to ride, but I also rarely have time to get stuff done either.  So which wins out?

Well I dressed to ride.  So that's always a step in the right direction.  hahaha.  But by the time I got there I was def leaning towards get stuff done and get out.  Except that when I pulled in, the boarders' farrier was there -- which meant there was no way I was going to get stuff done in any reasonable amount of time.  Soooo - ride it is.  Sweet.

Stunningly gorgeous outside BUT - the outside ring is under water.  Tricky.  Hacking it is...  BUT it's *really* slick.  'Sok - Athena needs lots of LSMs (long slow miles) so still all good.   So by the time I had morning feed done I had myself absolutely convinced I was riding and that there was NO way I was riding indoors.

So out we go hacking -- and for the first 20 mins she was perfect.  Forward swinging walk with no hint of silliness.  Then all of a sudden she got very full of herself.  And while I *did* keep it to my plan of LSMs -- mostly walk with only about 10mins of trotting -- she never came back down.  It wasn't till *after* the ride I clued in that I pretty much ALWAYS walk her for about 20 mins -- and then we trot for a little and then we play :)  Almost unheard of for her to go out and just walk *g*   And clearly that's how she feels it should be!

I brought her back home, having dedicatedly stuck to my LSM plan and untacked her outside her paddock.  Now it may have been long and slow, but it was still *work*.  She was sweating and I expect she'll feel it tomorrow.   But sadly she hasn't figured that out yet.  If she doesn't gallop, it doesn't count!  Usually when I turn her out she meanders over for a drink and then heads out for a wander and a roll.  But not today.  Oh no.  She was shorted a gallop and she wanted to gallop!  hahaha  Fortunately unlike at GV where she did essentially the same thing, this time she waited till she was given permission :)   Pretty fun to watch :)   I watched her till she settled and I was sure she wasn't going to injure herself and then went back to work -- when I checked on her later she was *tired*.  Poor girl needs to learn to trust me when I tell her to take a break!  hahaha ah well.  Was still a great start to the day.

Mucking stalls took forever -- partially because I couldn't get motivated, partially because I had a wicked headache (weather!), and mostly because Sasha's feeling better (YEAH) but still not allowed to be active (BOOOOO!)   But she *was* a superstar in grade two yesterday so that was good.   Grade 2 requires a lot more homework than grade 1 *g*   She's in puppy high-school now.  hahaha   Anyways - Stephy showed up and took over.  Woohoo!  So I got to escape early after all :)   Went home and crashed for a bit, which combined with the storm going away made my headache leave and the end result was a reasonably productive evening :)  Well that and a solid 2h of training/playing with my puppy :)

Somehow still have about 6h of stuff that didn't get done.  Ah well - such is life eh?

TIR - Whatever your excuse is, it is time to stop believing it.

So today's Traits of Improving Riders is both one of the easiest and one of the hardest to apply.  And it makes a HUGE difference.   And that is - take responsibility for your own riding.

Some of this goes with the last post - if you want to ride, find a way to ride.  Take every opportunity to learn.  Etc etc.  I'm not going to repeat that -- you can scroll down if you'd like a review :)   But it goes beyond that.

I'm always amazed when I'm doing an assessment lesson and somebody is doing something horrifically wrong and I ask them about it and without fail "well that's what my coach told me to do".  Ok well why?  "I don't know."   And this whole scenario just makes me want to bang my head against the wall.   Now this is *not* a case of "different people do things differently" -- that is an entirely different scenario.  Different sports teach differently and different trainers may train slightly different aids, and different coaches teach with different focuses.  And for novice riders - coaches will all prioritize skills slightly differently, so students may know things in a different order than how I would choose to teach them.  None of that is wrong or bad.  And that is entirely why we do assessment lessons so I can find out where people are in their knowledge and abilities.  No, the above case is when something is - by any standard - wrong.   A couple examples I've seen a few times - downward transitions by standing up and pulling or jumping by standing straight up in the stirrups and hanging on to either the reins or the mane to stay on.  Oh dear.

Now, were they taught incorrectly?  Very likely.  And if they're truly novice riders, sobeit.  But for those who've been riding 5 or 10 or 20 years -- at some point you need to stop and consider.  If you want to improve, you have to take responsibility for your own riding.  Stop and think.  Ask questions.  Why doesn't your riding look like the pros?  If you're not sure, ask your coach.  They may be able to explain why, but if not maybe it's time for another opinion.  If everything else with your coach is amazing, it could be as simple as a clinic -- pick up the missing piece from another pro.  Whatever it takes, the responsibility is yours.

To ride effectively you need to know not only *how* to ride but *why*.  With just how, you can only really ride carousel horses.  Knowing how the aids are supposed to work is good - in theory.   Say for riding a 20m circle -- inside leg at the girth, outside leg slightly back, shoulders and hips turned the same direction as travel, direct inside rein for flexion, supporting outside rein.  Sounds good right?  Ok but what happens if you have somebody feeding your horse's favourite type of grain on one side of the circle and on the opposite side the neighbour's pet lion having a meltdown.  All of a sudden just knowing how to ride the circle isn't going to work because your circle will be strongly influenced by outside factors.  If you know *why* the aids work, you might have a hope of applying them effectively and pulling off the perfect 20m circle -- despite the lions :)   And trust me - in dressage, there are *often* lions.

Don't know why?  Lots of ways to find out :)  Asking your coach is always a good start.  Reading also a good option.

So now you know how and why, there's no excuse not to ride well...   What am I saying?  There's *always* an excuse.  hahaha but the riders who improve rapidly are the ones who tend to put them aside.   I kinda wish I had a list of all the excuses I've heard over the years -- sadly I don't remember the most creative ones :)   But there are lots of standards.  The above "well so-and-so told me so," has already been addressed.   "I'm tired/cold/hot/stiff/sore/stressed/frustrated/insert-your-favourite-excuse-here" also pretty standard.  Then there's the option of blaming the horse "he's too green, too old, too spooky, too big, too small, too fast, too slow, too excited, too lazy, not listening, listening to everything *but* me"...  And of course the tack: "it's the wrong saddle/bridle/bit/stirrups/etc".    Let's see...  Some more entertaining ones...  "The arena's too noisy", "the jumps are too colourful", "the sun is too bright", "the horse doesn't like me", "he doesn't like puddles", "my boots are too dirty", "there was a spider in my helmet!", "she was lying down and I didn't want to get her up", "couldn't find the mounting box", "I have an exam tomorrow" (ummm haven't you known that for weeks?), "I saw a mouse in the barn", "I exercised too much yesterday" or the closely related "I have to exercise tomorrow".  And the list goes on...   hmmm so how many of those have *you* said?  :)

And yes, everybody does it *occasionally* -- and when I hear a really creative excuse I'm usually fairly impressed :)   But the riders who improve the most are those who excuse the least.

But really, even with the best coaches and the most expensive horses in the world, the only person who can ultimately improve your riding is you.  The responsibility is yours.  Choose a coach who can help you, ask intelligent questions, make a point to ride as often as possible, and leave the excuses at home.

A day in the life...

So apparently I'm getting old.  Booo >;-P  hahaha after yesterday I was actually fairly tired today.   But it was perfect weather, so that helped.   Went out to the barn and was excited that a novice student who had arrived  *really* early had been successful grooming and tacking up on her own (with my wonderful working student Rebecca supervising) -- so was definitely a good start to the day.  That lesson went as well as it started with a successful first canter and a very excited rider.

Followed with my w/s lesson -- my original plan was shot down by the fact that the outdoor ring was wet, but I'd been thinking about all the fun goofy things I used to do riding and that so many students don't get to do any of them in a school setting (although *I* was in a school setting too -- but sobeit :)   Quickly filtered out all the ones that would result in bad things happening and decided on pairs.  hahaha so Louis and Bella, not the most natural of pairs, were put together so the riders could learn rhythm and pace control in the most fun method ever.  Anyways - was an entertaining lesson :)

My next lesson was cancelled and I had good intentions of getting stalls done in that time.  But the weather was good, and some moments aren't to be missed.  Tossed some tack on Athena (after a brief stall putting together a new bridle for her *sigh*) and went out for a hack with my Brena and Rebecca.  Absolutely perfect.  Sunny weather.  Perfect temp.  No bugs.  Nice relaxed walk and stretch hack.  Lovely.   And so much better than doing stalls there's just no comparison :)

Got back to the barn and Jody, who I haven't seen in *ages*, had dropped by to visit :)   She stayed till my next lesson came and the world was good :)   Lesson went well, finished stalls in record time, and actually got some more cleanup done -- just odds and ends outside that have been frustrating me cause I see them every day and they annoy me.  So always good.  And it was a valid excuse to be outside :)   Grazed my horse for a while, book in hand.  Also always a good way of enjoying the sun.   All in all today was a prime example of why I picked this job :)

Finished the day with dinner with family and *hopefully* going to be early!  Wish me luck :)

First show with Athena

First show with Athena today.  Didn't feel prepared enough for PT so only signed her up for Entry.  Every once in a while I can be reasonable *g*

As with any show we start with the basic arithmetic which calculates the key detail of how sleep deprived I'll be.  Alright well 9:36 in dressage, that means aim to be there by 8:30.  It's a two hour drive from the farm, so need to leave by 6:30.  Athena doesn't load well, so plan to load at 6.   If I want to load at 6, I need to be there by 5:15.  Means leave at 4:30.  So aim to leave at 4:15.  Up at 3:45.  Fun.  You don't have to be crazy to do this, but it helps.  Please keep that time in mind as you read this and consider yourself forewarned!

So my schedule was accurate -- after years of showing at the same locations I'm reasonably good at doing the calculations.  Except...  You may remember I recently got a puppy?  :)   She's not in the calculations yet.  Oops.  hahaha adds 15 minutes to everything *g*  But I had that figured in with the aim for 4:15 so net result was me getting to the barn at exactly the right time.  Sweet.  And as she's still recovering she was staying home, so once I was out of the house puppy calculations weren't an issue.

Went out in the dark to get my pony out of the field.  Yes you read that right.  The field.  After I bathed and braided her I turned her out. hahaha - put health and sanity above beauty.  And sure enough she came in with mud thoroughly embedded into the braids.  *sigh*  Ah well - at least the braids were still in!   Let her eat while I go hook up and pack the trailer -- there's an art to the timing :)   Then a quick groom and the bobbling of the braids and Athena's ready to go.
Athena the night before
PC - Emily Martin
Now as anybody who's been reading the blog for a while might already know "Athena's ready to go" always creates an "uh oh" moment; she's not known for loading well.  But so far she's been getting better every time -- today took all of about two minutes.  I was amazed and very excited :)   AND because of that we were now ahead of time again...

Which promptly got lost when I realized my current barn is 20 mins west of every barn I've ever ridden at -- and so we ended up again with a net result of exactly the right time.  Ok not too bad :)   Athena unloaded perfectly and took the girls on a walk around the parking lot while I went and got my number and walked the course.

Course looks good - tiny.  None of the fences were maxed, even for entry level but sobeit.  Quite slippery because it was wet grass, but I had high hopes it'd be dry by the time I jumped.  So the only actual concern was the hill -- balance isn't *really* something Athena's grasped yet and we haven't done much (read *any*) hill work...  Oh well.

So off to dressage warm-up.   And to be honest -- once I got there, I was a little puzzled what to do next *g*   You see, everything I've *ever* shown Entry level has been super-green (read barely-broke) and almost always either four years old or straight off the track.  So I'm used to dressage warm-up *really* being "get the sillies out" in an effort to get something that vaguely resembles the right gait and the right direction in the ring.  But Athena was calm.  Serious advantage to an older horse I guess.  hahaha or a non-TB.  Or a combination of both.  Foreign world here.   So I just schooled her flat the same way I would at home and she was going quite nicely.   But quiet - too quiet.  I actually had to energize her, which is far from normal.  But otherwise ok.

In the ring unfortunately she slipped in the first corner we went in and then was *very* tense in every corner.  She also seemed to feel one particular corner was really an interesting cavelleti exercise and kept preparing to jump it.  Sheesh.   But other than that she maintained her rhythm and generally did what was asked.  It was a little sticky and certainly far from brilliant, but it wasn't horrid either.  And no show ring issues which leads me to believe at some point in her history she's done dressage before.

Ok so finish up in dressage and head back to the trailer.  35 mins till we jump.  Quick brush and switch tack.  She wouldn't drink anything and was pretty much even ignoring the grass, but at least she wasn't pacing to the same degree anymore.  More just hanging out.   Got up to stadium and watched a few rounds -- fence two was coming down a lot and there were some icky spots, but otherwise it seemed ok; certainly nobody seemed to be having footing issues so I figured the grass had probably dried.

Jumped a couple w/u fences -- they were sticky.  I wasn't thrilled with them and worse - I could feel a massive bout of nerves kicking in.  Which was definitely playing with my little brain since I was sitting there trying to figure out why on Earth I was nervous when a - I never get nervous once I'm riding (occasionally on the way up or even in-between phases, but never once I'm on) and b - it was an *easy* course.  A lovely, inviting, first-show-of-the-year type course.  Tight turns were all optional -- in every case there was a nice wide option.  And the jumps were small.  Anyways - while my brain was busy analysing itself, somebody had made the w/u oxer PT height; this, of course, is technically illegal.  But that's a rule I don't entirely agree with *g*   AND it's a schooling show so why not school.   So I called the fence just as the coach went to put it back down to E height for everybody else and we had a silent eye-to-eye conversation in which she warned me it was bigger than it should be, I acknowledged and confirmed that was a *good* thing, and she agreed to leave it there for one more jump before returning it.   Well Athena cleared it perfectly.  Perfect rhythm, striding, balance.  It was beautiful.  Clearly we just need bigger fences :)

Ok go to the ring to jump our course -- but they've had ordering issues and now we're back to being several away *sigh*.   So I sit and watch for a bit, during with Athena's totally chilled.  Understand this is the horse that won't stand still even at HOME.  So I was a little disconcerted by this behaviour, but ok.   When we're one away we go canter around the w/u again and she seems good - forward and in front of my leg.  Ok, time to go.   By this point the butterflies have long since left and to be honest I'm mostly bored and just want to have my turn and get out on xc :)

In and salute, pick up our canter and head to the first fence.  And I'm fully expecting her to try to take over -- that's our usual game: she grabs the bit in her teeth and charges, and I try to convince her I'm supposed to be the one in charge.  But instead she sucked way back; I basically dug my heels into her as in "you *will* go" and she beech-balled it.  It was ugly, but we were over.   Reorganize, fix our lead, rebalance, get going again.  The "hill" that seemed so brutal when walking was a complete non-issue riding -- even with Athena's lack of balancing abilities, so other than accommodating for it naturally, I basically ignored it from that point on.   And we jumped around the course.  It was sticky.  VERY sticky.  Had lots of trot bits.  Couldn't get a decent forward rhythm for anything.  At the end I finally pushed her for a long spot just to get her moving (she usually *loves* the long spot) -- but that ended up being a very poor decision as she pulled the rail.  Stupid rider :(   I was very disappointed in myself for that.  BUT after that round, very glad I had downgraded her.  We clearly need some practice.   I watched the PT course later and it was set at actual PT height and on a normal day would've been a joke for her, but I think today it was good that we were doing the baby stuff.

But what was not good was how tired she was.   Came out and she was clearly done.  No respiration issues, but standing still and just occasionally grazing.   Which I realize sounds like normal horse behaviour, but it's not really normal Athena behaviour...  So I deem that we should probably skip xc.  Boooo :(

So take her back to the trailer to untack.  And being a good pony-clubber I leave the reins over her head as I go to put the halter on -- and she promptly wallops me in the face with her head and then throws it in the air and leaves.   Worse - she left first in slow-motion.  At just a fast enough walk that I could pull uselessly on the reins but couldn't get in front of her to actually stop her.  And then she left.  At a gallop.  With my bridle flapping between her front legs.  Frig.

Now most horses who get loose in the parking lot, run around the parking lot for a bit and then eventually stop.  But would I have a normal horse?  Oh no.  She runs out.  Ok, I think she's going up to stadium.  And she went part way there -- but did my herd animal go to the 20 or so horses in the stadium?  Nope.  She gallops on by and heads back down the hill to the trees.   Ok, maybe she's going to cut through to dressage. But when we finally get there (this is well out of sight) there's no chaos in dressage; she hasn't been there.   Follow the path in the woods till we see the very dramatic sliding stop from where her path t-boned and she wasn't sure where to go, and the galloping prints off the other direction.  Did I mention she has a *huge* stride?   So yeah, in the end we found her WAY at the top of the hill, essentially as far away as you could get from any other horse on the property. Grazing away. They'd been able to see her almost the whole time from stadium, and one of the wonderful ring crew went up to get her and got there before we did.   The bridle was thoroughly tangled around her, but she hadn't moved since she got there.

So yeah - the horse who won't leave her pony at home and is SO nappy I have to carry a crop if I want to pass the driveway back to the barn w/o turning, will quite happily leave ALL the horses and go off on her own adventure.  Only in my world.

With profuse thanks to the guy who caught her, we got her untangled and checked her over.  She seemed fine and *very* full of herself.  Trying to invade my space and/or trot away as we walked back.  As though to say "see, I AM fit enough for xc!"   I'll consider myself told.  Athena my dear, the next one is a full HT -- you'll have three phases!   But, when we got back to the trailer she parked herself and didn't move more than about an inch for almost an hour.   Standing quite happily in the sun.  Occasionally grazing.  Drank only a couple sips - not enough, but I wasn't surprised by that.

So I suspect the oddness of today was a combination of adrenaline being balanced by not feeling 100%.  Not sure what was wrong; certainly when we got home and turned her out she behaved normally in the field.  But such is life.  Loading on the way home?  Walked on like a pro.   Didn't need any extra encouraging at all.  That alone made up for the mad gallop around the property :)

Also got to see Sienna take her new rider around the PT course like the pro that she is.  She's looking in good weight and healthy and happy so that was super-nice to see.  The girl's going to have a fun summer :)

Supergrooms unbraiding Athena when all was said and done
So HUGE thanks for the day to my supergrooms Nicole and Olivia (how I got so spoiled as to have TWO amazing grooms, I have no idea - but I'm incredibly grateful :) AND just as importantly to Kirby and Brena who stayed home and took care of the barn for me during the day and Katrina who brought all the horses in for me at night, so I wouldn't have to drive all the way back.   You guys are awesome!

Oh and end result - we finished in 5th.

TIR - Take every learning opportunity

Alright so let's go with day two on the traits of *improving riders blog :)   And no, I'm sorry, this is definitely *not* going to be an every day thing!  hahaha tomorrow and Saturday I already know are fully booked.   Only getting this post because my wonderful working student Amy is doing the barn for me in the am so I don't have to be there till 10 :)   And there are only so many traits on my list (although I admit it grows at weird times - like 3am when I'm supposed to be asleep :)

*edited after fb post because I realized as I posted it that this series isn't even really so much traits of GOOD riders as traits of IMPROVING riders. I know lots of excellent riders who are completely stalled in their progress. And lots of more novice riders who improve noticeably every week. This is targeting those who wish to *improve*.

Today we're going with "take every learning opportunity" -- now you'd think this'd be a given, but you'd be amazed at how many people turn down chances to learn.

Again - there's a huge number (arguably the vast majority) of riders who are in it because it's fun and they love the animals and that's the end of it.  Maybe it's stress relief, maybe it's just the best part of your day :)   But whatever the reason, while you'd like to improve it's not necessarily the be-all and end-all of your barn experience.   And that's totally fine.  This post is not directed at you :)

But if *improving* your riding is your primary goal, take every chance you get!   For instance -- if I'm at the barn or riding around and one of my students is riding in the same area, I'll often offer them a mini-lesson.  And I pretty much always remember to ask if they actually *want* one :)   And given that I tend to attract competitive, high-motivated types the vast majority will take me up on it.  But there are several who will say no.  This used to happen often at other schools.  And that's totally cool -- I'm not offended or concerned if they'd rather work on their own or even just not work at all (see yesterday's post :) BUT I have noticed a direct correlation between those people and the ones who are likely to sit at the same level indefinitely.

And of course the follow up on that -- go to any clinics you can.  I'm always puzzled by students who tell me how important improving their riding is who don't sign up for clinics offered at home.  There is something to be learned from everybody!   Now that being said -- to my own students there are some clinicians I would recommend more highly than others, and some I might deem inappropriate based on current abilities of either the rider or the horse.  But for the most part, if somebody who knows their job is willing to teach it to you -- go learn it :)

Another opportunity I see skipped way too often -- observation.  If you're not *riding* in a clinic, why not go watch it?  Most clinics you can audit for a reasonable fee and sometimes learn as much (if different points) as the riders!   Or on a day-to-day at home basis - if you're in a group lesson and waiting your turn for something, actively watch the others go.   Don't just sit there daydreaming or thinking about what you're doing tomorrow (side note - for those with extreme nerves who sit there panicking about your upcoming turn, go FIRST; then you don't have time to stress AND you can learn from watching others after because you're not busy stressing!)   And notice I said "actively watch" the other riders.  As in not just "oh look there goes Suzy..."  But from every ride you watch pick one thing you want to steal (ie that they did beautifully) and be aware of one thing that has room for improvement.   Getting each of those out of one ride can sometimes be more of a challenge than you'd think :)  hahaha  And the more specific you are, the more valuable it'll be.  Ie - "the way she kept her leg glued in exactly the right position over the fence" is significantly more useful than "she had nice eq".  One you can mimic, the other has so many pieces it's hard to translate to your own body.  And it doesn't have to be all rider position "that was the perfect place to turn" is totally useful and valid -- it's why going last on a course makes it significantly easier; everybody else has made the mistakes for you!   Learn from them :)   Then before your turn, visualize all the things you're going to steal from the rides you've already seen and go do it. That way you get two, or three, or four lessons for the price of one.

Look at your photos and videos.   Enjoy them.  Be proud of how far you've come.  And then consider them critically -- what's the next thing you're going to fix?   And again - pick one specific thing.  "It's all horrible" is not constructive.  "I need to release more" gives you something specific to work on.  If you're not sure how to fix it, ask.  If you're not sure what to fix, ask :)   You may find the answer is something you've heard in your lessons a zillion times but never really made the connection to.

There are all sorts of ways to learn that don't involve actually riding.  Be a barn rat -- muck a zillion stalls, wrap thousands of legs, treat minor injuries, deal with high horses on a windy day -- all the behind the scenes work will make you a far better horsewoman (or man :).  And if you can read your horse better on the ground, you'll have a much better chance in the saddle.   Go to shows - any level, any discipline.  Particularly good if it's a discipline that's NOT your style of choice so long as you go with an open mind.   I try to hit Palgrave h/j and dr shows at least once/year even if I'm not showing.  And here's a hint -- if you really want to learn, lurk the w/u rings.   Remember that auditing idea?   Free auditing from a dozen different coaches right there.  And again, watch actively.  Consider what they're telling their students.  What do they focus on?  Why?  Do you agree?  Why?  Why not?   You can learn watching the competitors in the ring as well -- what makes one ride more successful than another?  Why would one rider choose one line while another chooses a different one?  But personally I prefer to lurk the warmups :)   Another way is to volunteer at the horse shows -- our competitors can always use extra hands and jump judges are needed at *every* horse trial.   Great way to learn -- watch an entire division jump the same fence.  Who does it well?  Who makes it look scary?  What was the difference between the two rides?    And lastly, read.  I have both Practical Horseman and Equus available at the barn -- open one of them :)   PH for riding, Equus for horsemanship.   Do I agree with everything that's published?  No, of course not.  But the thing is -- I know enough to know I disagree and why.   Do you?  If not - start educating yourself.

There are so many ways you can learn above and beyond your weekly lesson.   Try them out!  And if you have questions, ask :)

Sasha's surgery

My poor puppy went in to be spayed today :(

She went into the vet all happy and bouncy and trusting and I left her there with people who hurt her.   I don't think I've ever felt so horrible :(   And I'm not the one they carved open with a knife.   But how can I explain it to her?   And now she's sad and hurting and drugged.   Boooo :(   And worse -- totally forgiving.

I also realized how exceptionally attached I am to her already.   So sad to leave her there and the barn was way too quiet and not nearly as much fun without her.  And yes I stressed about her all day :(  And it did occur to me that other than being asleep I don't think we've spent more than two hours apart since she came home with me.

She's trying to be happy she's home, but it hurts too much to wiggle and run around.  Poor girl.  I def drove home as though I were driving the horse trailer -- super slow on every turn and crawling over the tracks so she wouldn't lose her balance since she was clearly too sore to lie down.   Was kinda glad there was nobody behind me; people understand with the horse trailer -- they get super annoyed, but they do understand.  But how do I tell them about the sore tranqed puppy in the back seat?  :)

And now she has to be home for four days -- I'll be abandoning her yet again.  Admittedly at home with people she adores, but still...  And then she's not allowed to run for two WEEKS.   Ummmmm it's rare for her to last two awake MINUTES without running.  I'm not even convinced she knows how to walk.  Not sure exactly how we're going to do that, but I guess we shall see...

So sad :(   Never done that to an animal before -- Sherlock came from the shelter, so he was done when I got him and Bilbo's a single-species indoor-only pet so he's not done (at vet's recommendation -- apparently anesthesia can kill bunnies).  And the horses were either already done or mares.

The only plus side of the day -- the receptionist at the vet clinic, Meagan, was *amazing*.  I wish I had an excellent paying job to offer her  (hmmmm maybe should've just left that statement at 'wish I had an excellent paying job'?  -- on a different note >;-p)   Anyways - I watched her dealing with three different people about three different topics at the same time (two live and one on the phone) and still be able to pay enough attention to what the vet and tech were doing off on the side to fill in the information they didn't have.  Took multitasking and general awareness and competency to a whole new level.  And did it all while being pleasant and not seeming stressed.  Well I was impressed anyways. :)

If you aren't dying, keep riding.

One of the amazing trainers I had the honour of training under a few years ago has recently published a book titled "How Good Riders Get Good" which discusses his views on how the external factors and choices beyond sheer riding ability make the difference between an average rider and a good one.

While his book focuses on the elite of the elite, I've noticed many of the same trends in my riders who are mostly either just starting out on their competitive careers or coming back to riding after some time off.   And over the last six months or so, some of them (Chelsea, Emily - till she moved way far away BOO -, Amy, Brena, Rowan, Kennedy...   To name a few :) have totally skyrocketed in their abilities.  The before and after is SO gratifying to see.  What interests me is what makes some riders progress so much more consistently than others.  One of the obvious factors is time - all of these riders ride at least twice/week, some as many as four or five times.  But lots of riders do that, and they don't all increase at that rate (although given the size of my school - I'm pretty happy with the percentage that do!  ;-)

So I thought I'd take a few blog posts over the next couple weeks to examine the traits that I feel make the difference in these riders.  I know which daemons I fight the most -- and I suspect most of the reriders have a more extreme version of some of the same issues *g*.   But the first step to improving is acknowledging the problem!  So have fun, consider carefully, and - as always, comments very welcome :)

For today's post, the concept is so very simple -- if you want to ride well, RIDE.   Every chance you get.  On any horse that's safe for your abilities; whether you like them or not :)    I was teaching a dressage lesson the other day and the rider was working *really* hard.  So I asked if she was dying (aka did she need a break).  "No, I'm ok."  And my immediate response: "well then, keep riding."  Which got a laugh out of her and then made me think a bit because I wasn't entirely joking.  She's one of my more determined students, so I can say things like that to her, but the idea is totally valid.  If you want to improve, you have to push past your comfort zone -- which means keep going even when it's hard.

And I'll tell you -- as one looking after a barn full of horses, 9 of which are mine -- some days it IS hard.   There are *often* days that I'm too tired or too busy to ride and it's brutal.  But almost always I drag myself into the saddle anyways.   And about %80 of the time I feel better afterwards than I did before.  I'll admit that mid-winter I get slightly less dedicated and will occasionally offer my horse to students to ride instead (and being well-trained and very determined themselves will *always* take the extra ride :) but that goes away pretty fast when show season rolls along.   hahaha Currently my horse is being ridden 6 days/week.  And she's being *ridden* -- not just sat on.  So if it has to be a short ride, that's ok -- because half an hour where Every. Step. Counts.  is always going to be far more effective than a two-hour stroll around the ring.

Now don't get me wrong - if you are *actually* sick or injured - then maybe you need a break.  Riding with one leg in a cast is not going to help anything!  But tired or sore or nqr -- maybe, just maybe, riding will help :)   I usually find it does.

And if it's too cold to ride.  Or too wet.  Or too windy (yes I've heard that!  More on creative excuses in another post :).  Or you're too tired.  Or too busy.  Then that's totally fine.  But realize that it makes you a fair-weather rider, and I've yet to ever hear of that designation being applied to one of the best.   If riding is a fun hobby to do when the world is good, that's totally kewl - and there is a LARGE group of people to whom this applies.  Love it.  Have fun.  The end.   But these are not the people these posts target.

And for those still reading - it's that simple.  If you want to ride, ride.   If you're determined enough, you can make it happen.   Make friends and carpool if you don't have a car.  There are lots of ways to earn extra rides if you lack the finances (my situation forever!)  Don't turn down any offer just because the horse isn't your favourite to ride -- every horse has something to teach every rider; if you're not learning from him, you're not listening to what he's teaching.  Any chance you get, ride.