Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It’s done.


I’ll keep it short; I’ve sold Joey. 

I believe it was the right thing to do for him and for me – he will love his new home were he can dink around as a pleasure horse – bush bashing and larking about.  He’ll be able to mooch all he wants!

I sort of thought that I’d feel relieved.  But I don’t.  At least, if I do, it’s buried by sadness.   I didn’t expect the sadness….

I really bonded with him in a way that I haven’t bonded with a horse in a long time.  I think it’s because in his own crazy way, he did actually need me, and needed to trust me.

We had forged a bond of trust which turned out to be stronger than I realized.  And I am so very sad that we weren’t right for each other right now. 

I don’t regret selling him, I just wish it hadn’t been necessary.  I miss him. 



Friday, September 13, 2013

Fun on Copper

Ya’know what?  I am seriously enjoying Copper at the moment… 

Today’s ride goals where to do more leg yields at a walk and try them at a trot and to school shoulder-ins as I didn’t think he got those last time. 

I won’t go over all the ride – it must get too long and boring to read those sort of accounts all the time, so here are the highlights in bullet form.
  • His leg yield at the walk is really getting good, his leg yield on the right rein is better than the left.  I think at one stage he might have done a half-pass instead of a leg yield because I forgot to apply my outside leg for forwards so he just went sideways! 
    (> o <)
  • He can do a shoulder in on both reins now.
  • We didn’t get to do a trot leg yield – he tends to get VERY over-excited in a trot and just falls apart, so we just did spirals until he soften, lifted his back and regulated his pace.
  • We have an ok-ish canter.  It wasn’t as balanced as it can be but he did soften at the canter and start to slow down which leads me to….
  • We did a left rein canter leg yeild! (inside track to outside track between B and M) He did fall into a trot as soon as we reached the outside track – partly because it’s hard work that he hasn’t done before and partly because I think he was surprised that a). I even asked him to do that and b). that he could do that!  It was kind of funny.
  • He can actually hear my seat aids much better than I thought he could.  I finally figured out the correct seat aid for forward (more on this in a later post) and used it to good purpose.  He gets very excited when a seat aid is used to ask for a trot, he immediately assumes I’m asking for a canter, but with practice he’ll realize what I am asking for and be calmer in his depart. 
  • He will also stop from a seat aid – I stretch up and sink my heels down and he does a lovely halt.  Not all the time of course! But he does know what I am asking, now it’s just a matter of getting the 100% response rate.
  • I love figuring out how to ride inside leg to outside rein; from our gorgeous I collected up the reins, wiggled my outside finger and felt him rock back onto his hocks waiting for my next aid! Ohmygoodness- it was beautiful!  It’s the first time I have ever felt anything like that, and I love that it came from my poky old Standardbred who could never be a dressage horse!
So that’s the run down.  Fairly long after all that – lol.  I did try!

See ya,

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Horses & I


          To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few short years, a horse can teach a young girl courage, if she chooses to grab mane and hang on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is mightier than the tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling off, having one's toes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a horse show is an admirable feat for any child. For that, we can be grateful.

           Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle or a computer, a horse needs regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty and smelly and up off the couch. Choosing to leave your cozy kitchen to break the crust of ice off the water buckets is to choose responsibility. When our horses dip their noses and drink heartily; we know we've made the right

           Learning to care for a horse is both an art and a science. Some are easy keepers, requiring little more than regular turn-out, a flake of hay, and a trough of clean water. Others will test you - you'll struggle to keep them from being too fat or too thin. You'll have their feet shod regularly only to find shoes gone missing. Some are so accident-prone you'll swear they're intentionally finding new ways to injure themselves.

           If you weren't raised with horses, you can't know that they have unique personalities. You'd expect this from dogs, but horses? Indeed, there are clever horses, grumpy horses, and even horses with a sense of humor.. Those prone to humor will test you by finding new ways to escape from the barn when you least expect it.

           Horses can be timid or brave, lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing. You will hit it off with some horses and others will elude you altogether. There are as many "types" of horses as there are people - which makes the whole partnership thing all the more interesting.

           If you've never ridden a horse, you probably assume it's a simple thing you can learn in a weekend. You can, in fact, learn the basics on a Sunday, but to truly ride well takes a lifetime. Working with a living being is far more complex than turning a key in the ignition and putting the car or tractor in "drive."

           In addition to listening to your instructor, your horse will have a few things to say to you as well. On a good day, he'll be happy to go along with the program and tolerate your mistakes; on a bad day, you'll swear he's trying to kill you. Perhaps he's naughty or perhaps he' fed up with how slowly you're learning his language. Regardless, the horse will have an opinion. He may choose to challenge you (which can ultimately make you a better rider) or he may carefully carry you over fences - if it suits him. It all depends on the partnership - and partnership is what it's all about.

           If you face your fears, swallow your pride, and are willing to work at it, you'll learn lessons in courage, commitment, and compassion in addition to basic survival skills. You'll discover just how hard you're willing to work toward a goal, how little you know, and how much you have to learn.

          And, while some people think the horse "does all the work", you'll be challenged physically as well as mentally. Your horse may humble you completely. Or, you may find that sitting on his back is the closest you'll get to heaven.

          You can choose to intimidate your horse, but do you really want to? The results may come more quickly, but will your work ever be as graceful as that gained through trust? The best partners choose to listen, as well as to tell. When it works, we experience a sweet sense of accomplishment brought about by smarts, hard work, and mutual understanding between horse and rider. These are the days when you know with absolute certainty that your horse is enjoying his work.

           If we make it to adulthood with horses still in our lives, most of us have to squeeze riding into our oversaturated schedules; balancing our need for things equine with those of our households and employers. There is never enough time to ride, or to ride as well as we'd like. Hours in the barn are stolen pleasures.

           If it is in your blood to love horses, you share your life with them. Our horses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and whisper our hopes into their ears. A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, a sheltered place where life's true priorities are clear: a warm place to sleep, someone who loves us, and the luxury of regular meals.  Some
of us need these reminders.

          When you step back, it's not just about horses - it's about love, life, and learning. On any given day, a friend is celebrating the birth of a foal, a blue ribbon, or recovery from an illness. That same day, there is also loss: a broken limb, a case of colic, a decision to sustain a life or end it gently. As horse people, we share the accelerated life cycle of horses: the hurried rush of life, love, loss, and death that caring for these animals brings us. When our partners pass, it is more than a moment of sorrow.

          We mark our loss with words of gratitude for the ways our lives have been blessed.. Our memories are of joy, awe, and wonder Absolute union. We honor our horses for their brave hearts, courage, and willingness to give.

           To those outside our circle, it must seem strange. To see us in our muddy boots, who would guess such poetry lives in our hearts? We celebrate our companions with praise worthy of heroes. Indeed, horses have the hearts of warriors and often carry us into and out of fields of battle.

           Listen to stories of that once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made and challenges met. The best of horses rise to the challenges we set before them, asking little in return.

     Those who know them understand how fully a horse can hold a human heart. Together, we share the pain of sudden loss and the lingering taste of long-term illness. We shoulder the burden of deciding when or whether to end the life of a true companion.

  In the end, we're not certain if God entrusts us to our horses--or our horses to us. Does it matter? We're grateful God loaned us the horse in the first place.

         ~ Author Unknown

Found on Amy’s blog Slow and Steady Smiler Wins the Race, it sums my sentiments exactly!

See ya,


Monday, September 2, 2013

Quick Notes on Joey


After trying out some lateral work with Joey, I have discovered that he is very stiff and ‘straight’.  He doesn’t seem to be able to move his hindquarters sideways as easily as Copper does, and I can feel a lot of stiffness through his back, which would explain why he ‘locks’ up his shoulders a lot!

I’ve been so focused on forwards with him that I’ve forgotten about sideways and suppleness – thus the reason why circles unbalance and slow him down, and why he gets stuck on bending.  His corners are still good, which fooled me into thinking that his suppleness and flexibility where ok, but that is not the case.

He seemed to be able to leg yield a lot more easily in a trot than a walk, so we definitely have a lot of work there.  Joey can bend and flex around my leg through his spine and back – so we can do 10m volt├ęs and serpentine down half of the arena, but like I said – his hindquarters are not as activated as they need to be.

When asking for a leg yield it’s like your tapping against a wall – there’s no response and no softness.  He just doesn’t get it.  Yet!

Lots of lateral home work for him!  

And yes, the lateral walking warm up helped with our forwards and trot work.  (=_=); (Well, no duh Bonita!) Loosening up his shoulders, back and hind end meant that we could finish with some lovely forward trot and some quick walk/trot/walk for five strides/trot transitions.  He does a great stretchy trot after all that hard work I can tell you.  (>u<)

See ya,


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Thoughts on Lateral Work & Riding with the Inside Leg to Outside Rein


First off – this post on leg yields on TB at X is a really good one; in fact, I’d even go so far as to call it a must read for any beginner/novice dressage riders (I love this new-to-me blog, it’s been so helpful!).

Here’s an excerpt:

“I love leg yields. They are the most basic lateral movement, and for that reason, an incredible tool for green horses and riders new to dressage.  To do a leg yield is not real hard, but does require an understanding of a few somewhat complicated concepts.  Most people can relatively easily understand the concepts and how to do a leg yield, but then find carrying it out to be slightly counter-intuitive, which is what makes leg yielding such a great exercise. Once it “clicks” for a horse or rider, it’s like a big light bulb turns on, and from there the rest of dressage starts to fall into place.

The concepts that a leg yield requires a horse or rider to gain an understanding of mostly hinge around the use of the outside rein. When asking for a leg yield, the horse should be gently flexed away from the direction the horse will be moving in.  Alone, flexing the horse gently in either direction is not hard, but when adding the leg yield, the idea of bending the horse into the *outside rein* becomes critical. As the rider asks for the first steps of leg yield, just closing the inside leg is again usually not difficult for the rider, but riding from the inside leg to the *outside rein* is usually a light bulb moment. Then, after the leg yield is finished, straightening the horse not just by ceasing to ask with the inside leg, but also straightening with the *outside rein* is the final ah-ha!

What a Leg Yield Should Look Like:

When the horse does a leg yield, his body will move both forward and sideways, so if he is parallel to the long side of the arena, he travels a line diagonal across the arena.  Let’s say, for example, we are riding a leg yield from the quarter line (half way between the center line and rail) to the rail, tracking right. The horse starts on the quarter line, traveling straight forward, body parallel to the rail. The horse flexes gently to the right, filling the outside rein.  The rider can best influence the inside hind leg to move sideways as it is in the air stepping forward (vs when it is planted on the ground and the outside hind is stepping), so if the horse is walking, as the front left leg steps forward the next step will be the right hind, and if the horse is trotting the front left and right hind step at the same time, and this would be when to ask the right hind to step under the horses body to cross in front of the left hind. As the horse moves sideways, his body stays parallel to the wall, he maintains the right flexion and contact in the left rein. When the leg yield is finished, the rider straightens the horse with the outside rein and may close both legs to send the horse forwards.”…

And my favorite part: Only when the rider takes a hold of the outside rein can they catch the outside shoulder and keep it under the horse, straightening the horse so the inside hind will step under the horse correctly. The first time the rider pulls the outside rein and feels the inside hind leg step way under the horse’s body they usually go “Ah-ha!” and they understand what is meant by “inside leg to outside rein”.  The same thing will happen trying to end a leg yield. A novice rider will try to stop the sideways motion of the horse by pulling the inside rein (sending the horse through his outside shoulder) instead of straightening him with the outside rein, and again, this will be an “Ah-ha!” moment when the rider gets it right.”

I love this article, because even though I’ve done some lateral work with my instructor’s guidance, such as leg yields and shoulder in, this has really helped to solidify what I am looking for, as well as the correct aids, and method for fixing an incorrect leg yield.

Which in turn helps me to feel confident about trying lateral work in our schooling sessions all by myself! *gasp*  :P

And if you’ve stuck with me thus far, I want to ruminate on the results of trying this out on Copper last week.

When I rode Copper on Friday, it had rained buckets the night before and our arena was slush – all the other riding spaces not much better.  I knew I basically had to stick to a walk, so lateral work it was!

Copper has learnt leg yields so he had those down, although our shoulder-ins where a little hesitant and bulgy through the outside shoulder.  What I found really interesting was that as I really thought about riding inside leg to outside shoulder, I could feel him move into the contact and we had connection on the outside rein. 

It felt like I was sweeping my inside leg forwards and over, although I wasn’t actually sliding my leg forwards, that was the motion that I felt through my seat.  As a result his inside leg would step further underneath and across and I could feel him “filling” out the outside rein, resulting in a strong connection from his hindquarters to his shoulders – Copper was starting to lift his back and round up properly for the first time since I’ve been riding him! *ding*  That was a big “Ah-ha!” moment for me.

On a 20m circle, I could ‘catch’ his outside shoulder before it bulged out, and also any faster trot or canter strides. Usually I am one step behind him – he can pop into a canter pretty quickly, but I had him from the BEFORE the lift off from his back end!  I could also correct any over bend and straighten him out just by feeling that outside rein.

Towards the end of the ride he was as supple and soft as he’s ever been with me and I could tell he really liked it.  He was in tune with me, and really responding to the work.  I felt like I had tapped into a whole new Copper and was wondering why the heck I am trying to sell him!!  (> o <);

There is a lot more to this horse than I had previously realized – I’m not sure if it was just misguidance on my instructor’s part, but I don’t think either of us realized how much more Copper has to offer.  I know he’s not, and never will be, an ideal dressage mount.  He has a lot of prejudices stacked against him before he even does a test – just because he is a Standardbred!

But I will say this – while he is still up for sale (Hubs is pretty firm about the family taking a break from the work-heavy responsibility of horse ownership) – I am going to appreciate every single moment of riding him.  I intend to explore the possibilities that Copper has to offer for as long as I can!

See ya,


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