Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dressage Lesson

I had my first lesson with Sarah today. I was nervous, so I got ready really early and was on and walking around by the time Sarah got the barn. We started out at the walk, making Werther move forward without me having to cajole him all the time. Sarah had me practice having my legs hang loose at his side, which is weird for me, because with hunters you never want your leg to swing. Sarah also had me significantly shorten my reins and take a much bigger feel of his mouth than I am used to. Werther didn't really mind, but it was new to me. It took me awhile to figure out the placement of my elbow, I'm still not entirely sure if I have it right, but from what I understand, you want a straight vertical line, and to have your elbow act like a hinge, but not push it forward like it hunters. I am also used to compensating for short arms by straightening out my elbows. We moved on the trot, Sarah had me work on a circle which I spiraled in and then would leg yield him out to a larger circle. I have to make sure Werther does not cheat and that he uses his whole body when he leg yields and not just his neck. We did some walk trot transitions to help get Werther lighter to leg and to give me a chance to practice upwards transitions with more contact. I'm used to giving when I move into an upward transition, with the hunter mentality of making sure you don't punish the horse for moving forward. I also working on sitting on seat bones like a dressage rider, and not my crotch like a hunter rider, especially in the forward transitions. We moved on the canter transition, which was really good on the right lead, but he was still a little resistant on the left, and even offered a little buck, but he finished well. I'm happy with how things went, and I feel like I have new tools I can use when I am hacking by myself. 

Monday, December 29, 2008

Rest In Peace, T.J.

This morning my Mom's horse T.J. was euthanized. T.J. was only six, but he had Lymes disease which had gone neurological and he was very lame. Mom tried to keep him as a pasture ornament, but he just was not happy without a job. It was the right thing to do, but it still makes you feel sad. Sarah rode Werther today, she said he was a little stiff which probably caused by lack of turn out and riding because of the holidays and icy conditions. Sarah said she did a lot of lateral work, leg yielding, shoulders-in, ect. to get Werther supple. Then Sarah had Werther trot canter transitions to stretch out his back, and do a collected canter to help build muscle in his hind end. I have a lesson with Sarah tomorrow, I am excited to start working on flat work for it own sake and not just a necessary precursor for jumping. I think this is going to make me a much stronger rider. 

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Update

I got the gift of strep throat for Christmas, so I have not been out the barn for the last few days. My Mom was kind enough to turn Werther out in the indoor today and let him run around, she said he was wild. I was going to try and have my first dressage lesson on Saturday, but I'm putting it off until early next week and hopefully Sarah can ride Werther again on Monday. Happy Holidays to my readers!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I got to barn just as they turned Werther out today. This was bad luck on my part because Werther was really mad he had to come in and even though he had hay in his stall, he was spinning and rearing to look for his friends. I took Werther into the indoor and chased him, he ran pretty hard and was a little less neurotic as a result when I groomed him and tacked him up. I had to have help to get Werther to stand when I mounted because he was still distracted, he was a little tense when I started riding him but he settled down when we started trotting. Just as I started to canter, Andre came in with Tryst and he got distracted and tense again. I went back to the trot again for a little bit and then finished out my canter which was okay. Werther was pretty good about picking up his leads today, and he was lighter on the forehand as we cantering and did not root as much when we started.  I didn't see a dramatic change with the new bit, but I think it is an improvement over the old one.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dressage ride

We changed Werther's bit today per Sarah's suggestion. We changed from the traditional french link snaffle on the bottom to the cooper loose ring french link with a ball center. Sarah came out and rode Werther today. I liked the way she rode him, she had him nicely framed up, but she didn't have a death grip on the reins and he wasn't over flexed so his head was at his chest like you see some dressage riders do. Werther was really good for her, Sarah said he was one of the nicest horses she has even ridden, which made me feel like a proud mother indeed. Sarah even had tempi changes, and she did not spurs on. She thinks somebody must have put in a lot of dressage training on him in the past because she had Werther doing movements up fourth level. She loved how soft he was in the mouth, but did say he could be a little more responsive off the leg. I'm really excited to take some dressage lessons now, it's really nice to have a horse that knows all of these things, so I can really work on becoming a stronger rider.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Busy Barn Day

I met with the dressage trainer today, Sarah (not to be confused with Dr. Sarah, our vet). She is a year older than me and is in her second year of full time training. I was putting on Werther's bridle when we she got there and I she went out the indoor with me to watch me ride. As I got on Werther, he knocked over one of the heavy post caps as he was going to crib on the viewing area railing which made a large thud on the floor. Werther was good and didn't flinch response was "well, I guess he's not spooky" which was pretty funny. My Mom was hacking Spike, and I think Werther was excited to have another horse in the ring because he was a little fresher than usual (aka a normal horse quiet). Sarah works mainly out of Brightonwood Farm which is not too far from us. The object of having Sarah coming out today was to have her observe me and Werther and how we work together and to discuss my goals. I pretty much did a routine hack, but I threw in a couple extra simple and flying changes since I have been struggling with the canter transition. She was very complimentary of Werther, she said he looked like he was very elastic (especially for 15!) that he had a very nice canter and good flying lead changes. She had the suggestion of his getting his hocks done to help with his rooting, but he had them done on November 4th. We also talked about bits and Sarah recommended changing to a french link snaffle with a ball instead of a flat center piece Werther currently has. I talked to her about my goals, which is to basically up my game on the flat and get stronger. If everything works out, Sarah is going to ride Werther once a week and give me lessons twice a week. The only thing I am concerned about is that she seemed a little bit timid about my disability, but I think after a few lessons and developing a relationship with her I can convince her she does not have to treat me like I am made of glass. I've run into that problem with trainers in the past, they get afraid to push me even though I tell them I like to be challenged and I perfectly capable of telling them when something is too much and I need to step down or change something. After Sarah left Mom and I went to Anoka to pick up Wesley after he had his tumor vaccine shot. I learned that they actually inject the vaccine into the lymph node, which is really interesting. Mom drove the trailer into the indoor so she and Andre could practice loading with Violet and Beckham, two of our young horses. Violet was a pill but Beckham was great. Dr. Sarah is coming tomorrow to give horses shots so they are leaving the trailer in the indoor and having those two practice loading and unloading a couple of times for the next three days.
Wesley with Mom waiting to show the young'uns how it is done:

Violet, checking out the scary horse eating ramp:

Beckham with Chloe in foreground:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hair Cut

Werther was getting too hairy so the guys clipped him last night. The poor guy looks kinda dorky, we left his legs and neck hairy so the parts of him not covered up by his blankets would not get too cold when he goes outside.

I turned Werther out in the indoor first to see if this new state of undress would inspire any freshness, which it did not. Dr. Sarah was at the barn this morning doing hock injections for the horses going to Thermal and she drew blood to check Werther's iron and magnesium, which were low when we did the blood-work on the pre-purchase exam. He has been on red cell and a magnesium supplement, so hopefully that will have improved. After all that I did not have much time to ride and we just had a very quick hack. Werther was good picking up the canter initially, and I did a flying lead change each direction which is easy for him, but good for me to practice.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You want to go outside?

It was so cold this morning that the horses were not turned out until 10AM and brought in at 1PM. I was just getting on Werther as they were starting to turn out and he was less than pleased that he was still inside. He was not too bad, he just would not stand for me to mount him and had his head up in the air like a giraffe half the time we were trotting before he settled. Decent canter transitions, I got it on the second try with my weaker left leg and the first try with the left lead. I finished out our ride with some really big figure eight circles. I did one at the posting trot, then one sitting, then one at the canter. he started to anticipate a little at the sitting trot circles, he just started to root in the circle. I did get some very nice simple changes from him with the canter circles though. I heard back from the dressage trainer, I am meeting with her on Thursday. I hope it works out!

Monday, December 15, 2008


It was -6 when I got the barn this morning. You would think Werther would be grateful to come into the barn which we keep heated to about 50, but he still was upset that he was the only horse in the barn. I got Werther a flake of hay which placated him while I got him undressed and his boots on to run around the indoor. Werther didn't gallop too hard today, and he was very quiet when I rode him for having three days off. It was so cold today that it actually sucked the energy out of all the horses, instead of making them fresh. I was really happy with his canter transitions, he picked up both leads on the first attempt. I took advantage of this weeks course not being set up yet and did some serpentines at the sitting at posting trot. Werther was much better about not getting worried and anticipating, but I did find he wanted to cut in on that last stride before the turn, so I really had to work on holding him with my leg and not fiddling with my hands. Put a call into one potential dressage trainer for this winter, I'm waiting to hear back from her.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I moved last week and I finally got internet hooked up in my apartment so I can updated my blog! Werther has been good, he is adjusting to our new schedule, I go to the barn in the mornings now. He does not like this as well because I am usually riding by the time Mom and Andre get to the barn so Werther has to be in the barn by himself. Mom brought in Mike Hennigan last week to do a jumper clinic with her and Andre. I watched, I really liked Mike's training style. He was a really good professional trainer. I wish Andre was a better teacher, but sadly she just really does not have that ability. She can teach to the horse, which is good when you are not doing the basics, but I really need the basics right now. I really need someone like Mike who can teach to the rider. Mike did see me ride Werther and he thought Werther was really cute, which made me happy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


My Mom and I picked up Wesley from getting his tumor vaccine injection at Anoka equine before going to the barn to ride. I got a picture of him on my phone of the camera we have in the pick up truck to watch the horses in the trailer. It made the hour long drive entertaining.

My ride was OK. Werther was fresh and lazy at the same time if that makes any sense. He had a ton of impulsion at the trot but I still had trouble getting him to pick up the canter. I tried something new today, I knoted my reins at my Mom's suggestion, (not super tight) to keeep him in a little bit of a frame during those first couple canter strides so he would not root. It worked pretty well, but I got a little nervous because he had a ton of impulsion at the canter, and with the reins knotted he was framing up very nicely and went into his dressage horse mode and did a lovely extended canter. I was just nervous because I could feel all the power underneath me and I could really tell that he wanted to let loose and gallop but was being too polite to bolt forward. Mom left the ring with Stoli when I started to walk and Werther got really wound up being alone in the ring, all his muscles were tense and his head was up in the air like a giraffe. I'm really struggling right now, becuase my trainer Andre just is not helping me. She is good at riding the horses but she is not a good teacher. I tried to get advice from my Mom, but she is an amateur and while she was a professional and taught at one point, is busy with her own horses. I'm trying to arrange a Dressage trainer for when Mom and Andre are at HITS and the Oaks so I can work on my flat work. I'm just frusterated with my situation right now, I miss college where I had three compentant trainers to choose from who were all more than willing to help me and they had the experince teaching lessons so I always felt confident.

Tuesday's Ride

Now that all the grass is frozen Werther is more than willing to barter a horse cookie for coming inside. I'm grateful, I like to spend as little time as possible outdoors in Minnesota winters. All of the energy Werther spent on Monday finally caught up with him and he was super quiet. I'm really happy to have such a smart horse, while I was trying to hack Werther my trainer Andre was on Vinny and he flinging himself around like an idiot practically doing airs above ground because he did not like the light streaming in from the indoor windows. Werther and I just sat at the other end of the ring and watched Vinny until Andre got him back into a more civilized state. Vinny's drama may have upset other horses but Werther could care less. Werther was super slow at the trot, I had to cheat a little and use the stick just to get him to wake up enough to move into the trot. I was able to get him to canter, but he was still really lazy so we did not do too much and I did not want to give Vinny an excuse to have another tantrum. I did not go out the barn yesterday, Wesley had to go to Anoka for his next tumor vaccine injection. Malibu had his surgery yesterday, Dr. Bob said it went very well. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving vacation before and after

This is an update of the few days before I left for Thanksgiving vacation and the day after I got back to get everyone up to speed.

Before: Werther had Friday off and I hacked him on Saturday so we decided he did not need to get chased in the indoor on Monday. If the horses get two days or more off in the Minnesota winter, we like to turn them out in the indoor for a short time and chase them so they can run around because with the ground frozen outside they tend not to do much in their paddocks and get wild.  Saturday all the jumps were out of the ring because the guys were going to water, roll, and drag the ring for the next week so I decided to practice serpentines. I alternated between sitting and posting trot so I could practice my diagonals which I have a hard time feeling because of my CP my right side is so much stronger than my left. He got a little nervous doing the serpentines, he was really anticipating, and I think he might have thought we were going to train on him for flying lead changes. When I did go to canter, I decided to use all the freeded up space in the indoor to practice making a shorter turn down to quarter line and he was definitely anticipating a lead change there on the straight line, so instead of letting him worry about it, I just encouraged him to go forward and relax. Monday we decided not to chase him and he was very good, the course for that week mainly consisted on two jumps on the center line and two on the far quarter line so I decided to use the available space in the front of the ring to do some figure eights, but I could only to two before he started anticipating what we were doing so I stopped. Monday night my friend Chelsey from college had come to Minnesota to spend Thanksgiving vacation with me, we went out to the barn together on Tuesday which was really fun. I hacked Werther, than let Chelsey get on a do a little walk/trot work (Chelsey and I rode together in college). It was really fun to see someone else ride Werther, and since Chelsey rides mainly at a rescue facility these days, it was night for her to ride a horse that was really fit and well broke. 

After: Chelsey came out with my family to our home in Arizona for Thanksgiving vacation, we got back Sunday night and she left yesterday morning. I went to the barn that afternoon. Werther was so good to catch today, I used to have a lot of problems catching him, but he came up to the gate today before I even got to the paddock. Werther had Thanksgiving vacation off so I turned him out in the indoor and chased him. He ran around like an idiot and did some turns at top speed that would have made a barrel racer proud. He was so cute when he was finished running, he was at the far end of the indoor and I called out to him, then I turned around to get his halter and set down my whip. As I was walking away, he lets out this big whinny and trots up to me with this worried look on his face, "don't leave me Mom". Werther was good when I hacked him, I was surprised to find he still had energy when I got on him. I was rusty on the canter transition and had some issues with Werther rooting at the first stride of canter, but I was happy that even though he pulled the reins out of my hands I was able to stay balanced. My Mom and I were on our way home when Andre called me, one of our barn cats was hurt. Mom and I turned around and we took Malibu to the vet, Dr. Bob x-rayed it and he has a high humerus break. He was never outside of the barn and it did not look like a dog bit him, so we don't know how he broke it. We think he jumped from something high and fell. We left him at vet and he is scheduled for surgery on Wednesday or Thursday to put a plate in.