Saturday, January 31, 2009

I have the best aunt ever!

The final verdict on the saddle with Sarah was once again too tight on the withers, so it was a no go. We did not ever canter in our lesson today just did a ton of trot work getting Werther to really connect. This week when I hack I need to incorporate using a counter bend and 10m circles as way to get him in a frame and putting weight in my outside rein. The exciting news is my Mom talked to my aunt Karen and she is going to send me ALL her dressage tack!!!! I'm so excited, a regular dressage bridle, a barely used double bridle, girth, and a TRILOGY DEBBIE MCDONALD SADDLE!!! This saddle is amazing, and I'm praying like all get out that it will fit, Karen did not know what size it is. Karen also said I should come and visit Debbie's barn, River Grove. Karen rides with Debbie's husband Bob in the jumpers, and did a little bit dressage with Debbie with her old horse, Zack. I'm trying to study up on good Dressage equitation, and Sarah recommended I watch Courtney King and Steffan Peters. I've included two videos for your viewing pleasure:

The trials of trying a saddle

Thursday I went to the tack shop and picked up another saddle to try, a Canterbury again but a medium tree. It says it is also an Equation, but this one in different from the one I previously tried. It has recessed stirrup bars which I have never used before, and the inside flap of trial saddle #2 has a master saddler brand, so I think it may have been a semi custom job. The twist on saddle #2 also felt narrower, which I really liked. The first day I *tried* to ride in these test ride stirrup leathers they gave me that are supposed to prevent damage to the saddle. These things were so beeping long I had to wrap them and could not get the right length to save my life. So much to Werther's pleasure we did not ride too hard, I ended up abandoning the stirrups and mainly working on my sitting trot and working on his connection. Today I rode with the stirrups from trial saddle #1, I figure that the saddle is already used and what the tack shop does not know won't kill them. The stirrup length was much better, but because of the recessed bars on saddle #2 they were about 1/2 an inch too long. The stirrups were already wrapped and on the top whole and I did not want to mess with them so I just canter a little bit and worked mainly on my trot again. I did a lot of shoulder in and leg yield to working on Werther's frame and maintaining a consistent connection. He did really well, put up a little fight after our walking break, mainly sticking his head up like a giraffe, but I was able to work him though it. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Monday and Tuesday Update

Sarah said her ride on Monday was good. I talked to her while I was at work and she said they worked on a lot of transitions to work on building Werther's muscle. She said that in the collection he wants to shorten his neck to cheat his way out of using his hind end, so she worked on lengthening his neck in the collection and making him use his hind end. (that makes sense right? I wrote down a few notes from our conversation). Werther tested Sarah a little, she was working on haunches in with him at trot and he slowed his pace down, Sarah initially let him because she thought he was doing it because he did not have the muscle, but she tried to haunches in again after she cantered and was able to do the exercise with much more impulsion. Our Lesson on Tuesday went really well, we started out with a loose rein walk and trot and gradually increased the impulsion and feel at the trot. Then we did some leg yields on a circle and worked on making him bend, but not too much, he has a tendency to want to over bend. We asked for the canter and he was good about his leads and I worked on my position. Next we worked on the sitting trot and we did some shoulder ins working on making Werther have a straight neck but still maintaining the angle. My sitting trot in getting better, I still need to put my shoulders further back. At about this point in the lesson, Werther decided he was bored and started fake spooking at the door to the ring. I'm really glad I didn't let it rattle me. We spent some more time at the sitting trot and I worked on maintaining my contact (Sarah: "You will hold that outside rein come hell or highwater!") . I got all the way around the ring with a really nice, forward, connected trot, I was very proud of my self. We let Werther walk and have a long break, when we went back to work he was pissed, he thought he was done. So Werther and I worked at the trot with shoulders fore, and shoulder in on the circle until he accepted the bit again and was going around in a nice frame and we quit with that.

I don't know about you Silly Pony, but I'm having difficulty with my saddle shopping. Sarah and I decided the one I've been trying isn't going to work for the long term, it is too wide and does not sit well on his withers. It works with padding, but I would rather have something that fits well enough I don't have to worry about it. So now I am looking for a 17 1/2 or 17 inch used dressage saddle with a medium wide tree. I'm hoping to keep it to about a grand. I'm going to call the local tack shop that is on the way out to my barn tomorrow and see what they have. If they don't have anything, I am going to get this shop in White Bear Lake to ship me one to try.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Friday and Saturday's rides

So my farrier Scott was on the other side of the state on Thursday and could not come out until Friday to put on Werther's shoe. When I got to the barn on Friday night I decided to turn Werther out in the indoor and chase him before I got on to be safe since he had an extra day off and I was riding alone. I'm awfully glad I did, because Werther ran and bucked like an idiot. He was still puffing a little when I got him tacked up and got on. I spent some extra time at the walk so Werther could catch his breath and I practiced switching hands with my Dressage whip. I rode in the Dressage saddle I am trying again, I think with the extra day off it was hard. I just felt like I could not get myself in sync with Werther, especially at the posting trot. I did some leg yields which were pretty good, but I had a hard time maintaining his impulsion. The Shoulder-in however, I was very happy with. I worked on my position at the sitting trot and canter, and I felt much more connected and in sync than at the posting trot. I ended with a sitting trot on a loose rein while still maintaining the frame, and Werther had really nice forward trot, and I just need to work on getting that trot when I have more contact. In my lesson on Saturday we spent the majority of the lesson working on my position again. We did some shoulder-in off the wall as well as the quarter line, we worked on making sure Werther still had a straight neck, but maintained plenty of angle in the shoulder in. At the sitting trot and canter the key equitation thing we worked on was me maintaining a loose long leg, that is weighted in the feet and not in the heels. With my seat we worked on keeping in the saddle, but allowing it to flexible enough to accommodate the horses side to side motion at the trot. We also worked on loosening my lower back and opening up my hips, which is very counter intuitive coming from a huntseat background. I've always had to work at keeping my shoulders back, but Sarah wants them even further back than my hunt seat trainers, and of course, there is the challenge of every discipline quiet hands! I got a really nice connection with Werther at the sitting trot, but he was going really slow. Sarah was OK with that, she said we can build on getting the impulsion out of him. I really like training with Sarah and I think she really likes giving lessons, unlike Andre who I think views giving lessons as a necessary evil so she can ride horses. I think it is especially fun for Sarah to work with someone close to her age, she said all of the boarders at the barn she works with are 50 plus with exception of her and her younger sister. They actually refer to themselves as menopause manor! We are still not entirely sure on the saddle, the lady who owns it wants a grand for it, and it may be a little close to Werther's withers. We are going to try it with a different pad next week, and she is going to bring another saddle so I have a base of comparison. I definitely don't want to rush into a big purchase like this. 

Aside: Little barn updates, Callie went back to Crooked Willow on Thursday and Dr. Turner came out and gave Wesley his tumor vaccine. We also got in our shipment of paddock cakes, which the horses would gladly murder for! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I got a call at work today, Werther pulled a shoe. Farrier should be out tomorrow and it should be fixed in time for me to hack after work. It does not stop me from having an acute anxiety attack about it though. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I tried a dressage saddle today:

It is a used Canterbury Equation, which has been collecting dust for one of Sarah's clients who has moved on to another saddle. I've never heard of this brand, anyone have experience with it? My legs are so short we had to wrap the stirrup leathers, but it seemed to fit Werther and myself. It also did not seem like too dramatic a transition from my huntseat saddle which was nice. Today in my lesson we worked a lot on me and less on Werther. I spent some time doing our usual warm up getting used to the new saddle and I also rode with a dressage whip for the first time, so I had to get used to that. We worked on my sitting trot and my seat at the canter. When I sat the way I was supposed to, Werther got really nice and round with a really steady contact, Sarah said that the way the dressage saddle is built encourages that roundness. We also worked on giving with my elbows so the horse feels comfortable maintaining the contact, I'm still not entirely sure if I have the motion right. He did not have any issue stumbling today, he must have just been really lazy yesterday. Sarah let me keep the saddle to try for a few days and she knows of a couple more for sale she is going to let me try so I can have a better understanding of what works for me in a dressage saddle. Also, I had a hard time switching hands with the dressage whip, I bought it home to practice and I think I am getting better at it, but any tips or ticks would be helpful.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sarah's Ride

This is from the message Sarah left me:

"Werther was pretty good today. He was not as energetic as last week but I forgot my long Dressage whip and I think maybe that was the difference. I worked on Werther's collect canter quite a bit, and I did lots of transitions to the canter from the walk and trot. I was trying to get his collected canter more energetic and I found that if his neck is a little longer he is a little less uphill but he has better energy and vise versa. What I think I need to do is play with going back and forth between longer neck with impulsion and and shorter neck with less impulsion, and work on getting him a little more jazzed. I did some tempi changes to see if I could get him excited, and he was not excited today, but the tempi's were pretty good. I did practice half steps, which are piaffe like steps a little bit to try and get him a little quicker on his feet and little excited, but he was still kind of sleepy, so it was not quite as good as last week. Also, he stumbled a few times at the walk, not any huge trips, but it was like he was not setting his right front down squarely."

Ellie in: I'm really okay with him being lazy, I would much rather have a horse that I have to work to create energy with than struggle to contain it. It lowers the risk level significantly for me with my disability. I don't know what the tripping was about, it was 20 degrees today which is like a heat wave to our horses compared to last week, so I bet he played really hard outside today and was just being extra lazy and didn't feel like picking his feet up. I have a lesson tomorrow so Sarah can watch him from the ground, and if he still has that little stumble we'll evaluate further and I'll probably have Dr. Sarah come check him out. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I had my lesson with Sarah this morning. All the horses were turned out and Werther had to be brought in early, so I was worried he was going to be obnoxious, but he was actually quite good. We started our trot work really focusing on getting Werther moving forward, Sarah told me I should go much faster than I need to since he is generally a very quiet horse and we need to get him motivated. We got him going forward at the trot and did some collections and extensions, and some leg yield and shoulder-in. However, I had a hard time getting him to canter as Werther decided the extended trot was a much easier option and much more fun for him. We got him cantering and he was pretty good, he only rooted once, and it was half hearted at best. Next Sarah had me do some no stirrups work, and we did some stretching exercises for my hip flexor at the walk. Next we moved on to the trot which was really hard for me, with hunters we always use no stirrup work as a leg strengthening exercise, but Sarah wanted me to loosen my leg and open my hip angle, which was very counter intuitive. Sarah said if I can sit Werther's trot, i'll be able to sit just about any trot. We finished with Sarah lengthening my stirrups a couple of holes to a more dressage-y length and we did some canter work, which focused on me keeping my butt in the saddle and not getting up in half seat. I asked Sarah how long Dressage stirrups should be, and her answer was very interesting to me. She said the length of the stirrup often depends on the training level of the horse, like with a green horse she would have her stirrups slightly below the ankle bone, but with a very well trained upper level horse you can have them longer but they should not be so long that you are not able to post properly. We finished with a nice loose rein trot. I'm looking into getting a Dressage saddle, I asked Sarah if she had any clients with saddles for sale, I'm hoping to bypass paying a commission mark up at a saddle shop for a used one. She said she actually knew of a few and would bring them over for me to try.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I was a little apprehensive about riding today. It was our fourth day of sub-zero weather with horses only getting some turn out in the indoor. To be safe, I put Werther's boots on and turned him out in the indoor and chased him until he seemed pretty tired. I got on and he stood quietly, which was a fairly good indicator to me that Werther had sufficiently tired himself on. I was relived to find that I had to encourage him into an active walk. I picked up a trot with light contact to let him stretch out and warm up a little before getting down to work. I started get him motivated by doing some serpentines at the posting trot. Then I moved on to doing some leg yields on a circle and an extended trot down the long end on the ring. By this time my left outside hip flexor was getting pretty tight a so I let him walk on a loose rein about half way around the ring. I picked up the trot again, preparing for Werther to complain about going back to work but he was very good. Next I did some shoulder-ins down the quarter line and I practiced shortening Werther's stride on the short end of the ring and getting him to bounce his trot up. I picked up the right lead and I remembered to use my inside leg, so Werther was very good about the canter transition. However, my hip flexor started to tighten up again so I did a circle and made him stop and walk again. I anticipated that Werther would be bad about picking up the canter after his break but Werther was very good. He did not even try to root. I did a few more circles and trot canter transitions and I also practiced an extended canter down the long side. I transitioned downward to the trot again and let him trot with a loose rein while still maintaining the frame. I changed direction and increased my contact again and cantered on the left lead doing the same exercises. He was good this direction too, but he was a little more hesitant to pick up the canter on this lead. I finished with a loose rein trot and he stayed in a really nice frame, I almost did not want to stop. I a day that had the odds for a good ride stacked against me, I am really glad Werther was so good! My favorite change about taking Dressage lessons is that I felt like I had a plan for my flat work, instead of deciding what I wanted to do on a whim. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pic spam!

Bad cell phone pictures of Wesley and Werther playing in the indoor. It was -20 F without windchill and the horses have only been turned out in shifts in the indoor for the last 3 days.

Monday and Tuesday Update

Recap of Sarah's ride on Monday:

"Today, I did I fair bit of canter work and some hind end strengthening exercises. Such as transitions from medium canter to collected canter, some canter pirouettes and a little bit of canter half pass, as well as some zig zags in the canter half pass. I also did a fair bit of trot work, transitions from the collected to the medium trot to a little bit of piaffe and little bit of passage. Then I worked on the canter transitions some more and I did some stretching with him. He was really pretty good, except the cats were playing in the pile of jumps in the indoor and they knocked over some poles and he took of galloping and bucked a couple of times but I got him back, but I think it is good you lock the cats up when you ride."

Ellie in: I think it so cool that Werther can do all of this advanced Dressage work, and I am really excited to do more with him! 

Tuesday lesson: We continued  a lot of the work we started on Tuesday, more shoulder in work at the trot and we also worked at going back and forth between an extended and regular trot. We added in some serpentines to help get Werther moving. We worked on the canter transition, the hardest part for me is remembering to ask with my inside leg. I also need to work on my hands, something Sarah said that was very helpful to me was that "the outside hand creates the frame, while the inside hand creates the bend". We stopped at let Werther walk and rest for awhile about three quarters in to the lesson. We went back to working on Canter transitions, and Werther really tried to test me again, balling up and do a little crow hopping but not a true buck. He gets mad when he thinks he is done and has too see if he can intimidate me into not making him work anymore, so taking that extended break and going back to work is a good mental exercise for him and something I want to incorporate into my hacks. After he was good with canter transition we finished by rewarding him with an trot on a loose rein while still maintaining the frame, Werther's favorite part of the lesson. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Snow Pads!

I got a picture of Werther's new snow pads, he was too fidgety for me to get his newly naked hind feet. The shoe has a borium coating and borium studs. I had my lesson with Sarah this morning, we did not try out the Dressage whip, maybe on Tuesday, I am curious to try it. We did walk trot warm up focusing on getting Werther moving forward and on the bit. We moved on to canter transitions, which were pretty good, he did not root today, but he was a little slow to pick up the canter. We did trot canter transitions and worked on maintianing the impulsion I got from the downward transition from the canter to the the trot. Next we worked on the shoulder-in at the walk and canter. I have not done a shoulder-in in a long time but Werther was really good. The biggest struggle was maintaining his impulsion after going straight after the shoulder-in. Sarah told me to imagine getting Werther to use his energy to bounce up instead of taking a longer stride. We took a break a did a few more trot cater transitions and I got my best trot out of him yet. I was able to let my reins go really long and Werther still stayed on the bit in a beautiful frame and he was really round in his back. Sarah also taught me how to do shoulders-fore which will help me when he locks his jaw on the long side at the trot. We gave him a really long break and did a few more sholder-in at the trot. Sarah wanted to see how he would behave after a long break, he did need quite a bit of encouragement to wake up but he was very good. This lesson went much better than Tuesday, I hope we continue with this kind of progress.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Thursday and Friday

I'm doing a quick paraphase of the call Sarah left me about her ride on Werther yesterday:

"Werther was really good yesterday. I worked a little bit on canter departs at the walk and the trot. I carried my long dressage whip and I think he responded a little better to that [than my huntseat crop], I may bring it and have you try it on Saturday. I worked with Werther on some strengthening exercises at the trot to build up his hind end, a little bit of shoulders in, haunches in, and half pass. I also played with transitions from working trot to collected trot. I think the stronger I can get his hind end, the less likely it is he will root with you. Then I played with the collected and working transitions and the canter and finished working on flying changes, trying to get him morse sensitive to the leg, which is going to help you with the canter transition."

Ellie back in: This all sounds like good training practices to me, if any  Dressage person has an opinion, I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Today's ride: Today was my first day riding at the barn totally by myself, no others riders or groom. I called my Mom to let her know I got there and was going to ride. Werther was good tacking up and stood quietly when I got on, thank goodness. He was a little tense going down to the far end of the ring, it is slightly darker, and the heater makes noises, but he didn't act on his nervousness. I practiced an active walk and taking a feel, he was pretty good about the bit at the trot but fought me and locked his jaw especially on the long sides at the trot. However when we did our leg yield circles at the trot he was much better about the bit. Werther was most excellent at the canter, he picked up his leads right away, had a ton of impulsion, was really moving off his hind end and was very accepting of my hand. It was a little bit nerve wracking to feel (and be in control of) so much power underneath me. I let him walk on a loose rein, and we finished without incident. 

Shoes: Scott came and did Werther, we decided to pull his hind shoes for the winter, Mom thinks if his feet hold up alright, he will have an easier time in the snow. In front, we did shoes with boreum and full snow pads. I'll post pictures tomorrow, I did not have enough battery to do it today.

Orvis pics:

Orvis is not even two yet, next to our 15 hand something three year old. 

Orvis's knee that got kicked before he left for Minnesota.

Last thing: I'm still nervous about riding by myself, any advice from anyone who rides alone on a regular basis would be greatly appreciated. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Today was my first day riding after work. I got to the barn at 5:30, it was very quiet with the six horses gone to the show. I'd also never been to ride at night, which was strange. Werther was not ridden on Monday because Mom and Andre were packing the trailer in the indoor for Thermal. I thought about chasing him in the ring but I decided against it, since Sarah would be on hand to help. Werther had never been in our indoor at night, but what turned out to be a bigger problem was the barn cats. Without the dogs to chase them, the cats were running wild in the indoor and Werther was already a little fresh, so he was using as an excuse to act spooky. But when he actually leapt away from the cats and did a little canter jig,  he had to stop immediately to itch his nose on his leg so I could tell he was not too scared. We started out with a nice forward trot and he was being very good about the bit. However, when I went to start my canter on a circle he rooted so hard, I thought he was going to drag me out of the ring for a minute. Sarah got on him after than and he even fought her a little when she first made him trot. She made him do a lot of lateral work and really focus as well as a lot of transitions before I got back on. He was still really fighting me on the canter transition, and put in a little buck when I got after him about balling up and trying to root. Near the end he gave up his temper tantrum and we did get some nice transitions. Sarah thinks he was testing me to see if he really had to do the new level work we are putting him in, and that he may have had a more timid rider in the past the would have been intimidated by a little attitude so he could get his way. With the little snit he was in tonight, this seems like an accurate assessment,  and while it was not a good ride today, I'm glad I was able to convince Werther I'm not a pushover. The chestnut baby from the last post came just as I was leaving, he is a huge, he is only 2 and a minimum of 17 HH. Of course, Orvis got kicked the day before he left and his right knee is big, I'll post picks on my next trip out.

A question for any Dressage rider who might be reading: Sarah was trying to explain to me when Dressage riders ask for a canter transition they rock their hips while using the leg to encourage the horse to move up and forward and I'm not sure I'm getting what I should be doing, can someone explain this to me in a different way?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Comings and Goings

Stopped by the barn today to say hi to the horses and for Mom to drop off stuff to go in the trailer for Thermal. I said goodbye to Jingle Belle, my Welsh Pony broodmare pictured here:
Due to the current economic situation, my Mom has decided to stop breeding in addition to letting the boarders go last spring and privatizing the barn. Jingle Belle is going to Grand Central Ponies, which is run by my stepdad's cousin Robin Greenwood. Her farm is the Ritz Carlton of pony barns and was even featured in an article in the Chronicle of the Horse recently, so I know Jingle Belle will have a good home. My Mom's Holstiner broodmare Callie is going back to her previous home at Crooked Willow Farms in Colorado. Callie is pictured here:
We also have a new horse coming, my Mom got a new two year old Holstiner colt in on trade for Callie from Crooked Willow. My Mom didn't like his barn name that he had, I think his new name is going to be Orvis but it is yet to be decided. He is pictured as a baby here:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Riding Lesson

I had my second lesson with Sarah today. It was a frantic scramble when I first got to the barn, my Mom had to get the trailer out of the ring from yesterday and Werther had to be chased since he missed going out yesterday. I was just walking him to ring as Sarah got there though, so I wasn't late. Today we worked on Werther accepting contact (Werther in: "really? Do I have to?"). The hardest thing for me was maintaining even contact with the outside rein, especially on a circle, I am used to using an opening rein with my outside hand when getting a horse to bend. Werther kept trying to see how much he could get away with, he much preferred to stop or slow down instead of go forward into the bridle. It may be a long time since he had to do that, but Werther knew darn well what we asking, he just was really testing to see if he had to do it. We did canter transitions and I had some trouble getting the left lead, Werther wanted to do his extended trot instead or on the circle pick up the right lead at first. When I came down from the trot to the canter, we had a lovely trot which got the frame and contact I was going to achieve earlier and I was able to get some nice canter transitions from that trot. As Sarah said: "He finally remembered he likes this", which I think is true. Sarah and I think it will be a good idea to use that canter transition, when he starts to get lazy about getting forward and on the bit. Aside: The other really interesting thing I took away from the lesson was the micro management of the bend in the neck in the circle, which is something that does not really come up when you ride in hunters, but it makes sense that you don't want to bend his neck more than he bends his body. 

Friday, January 2, 2009


No riding today, the AV guys had the truck and trailer in the indoor because they were hooking up the new camera system in the new trailer for the drive to Arizona where Mom and Andre will layover for awhile before going to thermal. Since I did not know this was happening and I was already at the barn I brought Werther inside and gave him bath. Giving a bath to a horse in Minnesota in January seems a little counter intuitive, but our barn is heated to 50 degrees, I had the heat lamps on and the hot water running, so Werther was quite comfortable and I was practically sweating. Werther looked much better after getting his bath, it was nice to see his socks white again. I put a scrim and cooler on Werther and left him in the wash stall under the heat lamps to dry, he was so pissed he was inside, he would not stop pawing and had his head flung up in the air. When he was about 90% I stuck him in his stall with hay net and his attitude improved by leaps and bounds. 

PS. We got Werther's blood work back and his iron levels are now within normal range but his magnesium is still low. Has anybody else had a horse with this problem? Werther gets really good alfalfa hay and we have him on a magnesium supplement. 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Werther got the first day of the new year off, but I did get a chance to ride him on Wednesday. I went to the barn in the morning and it was -10 degrees when I got there so the horses were still inside. They were just starting to turn out as I was finishing tacking up so Werther started to get a little antsy. In between just having a lesson and not riding during the holidays because of my strep, I was really stiff so I had one of the guys hold Werther for me while I mounted. I took a feel of Werther's mouth and worked on getting him moving forward off my leg to get us both into dressage mode. He was good with the contact at the walk, be he got a little giraffe-y at the trot because by then he was the only horse in the barn. I should have done more circles to get him supple again more quickly. I did the spiral in leg yield out exercise from my last lesson, I was good leg yielding to the left, but it is much more difficult for me to go the right because I have to use my weaker left leg and I have harder time feeling what is going on underneath me. I practiced walk trot and trot canter transitions, to help get Werther more sensitive to my leg, and to get myself in the habit of keeping my fanny in the tack when I ask for an upward transition. He was very good picking up the right lead today, and more difficult with the left. Werther stayed on the bit and in a very nice frame while we canter and didn't root once, which made me really happy. Werther was a snot when I was untacking him though, he took off before I could get the cross ties snapped and trotted to the end of the barn to see where his friends were. For the new year goals for riding for the new year is to get really good on the flat with these dressage lessons, I want to be able to at least do a second level test by the end of the year. The second resolution is that once I get better on the flat, to start jumping again. What are your horse related (or not) goals for 2009?