Saturday, February 28, 2009


I was definitely a little rusty today after being gone last weekend at Thermal and Sarah missing our lesson on Tuesday. Even though I wasn't very happy with how I rode, Werther was really good, which was really nice. He did not test me too much and was easy to get on the bit today.  Sarah said the saddle fit him really well so I get to keep it! For me it could be a little bigger in the seat, and I've never ridden with knee rolls this big, so it screwed up my leg a little now that I finally got my stirrups at the proper length. Sarah thinks that once I get used to having not so much bend in the knee as I do in hunters. Those two thing definitely are not deal breakers considering I am getting such a nice saddle for free! I'm really excited that it fits Werther so well, he is moving so much better though his shoulder and his lateral comes much easier. I think he is also more willing to be round though his back and connected because he is so much more comfortable. Today we worked on the frame and my position. I had a hard time with my hands today, but at least now every time I did something wrong with my hands I felt it right away and I could try to fix it as soon as possible. While I did get Werther going in a nice frame today, he kept wanting to over bend I struggled with keeping his neck straight.  The good thing is that I am starting to have my automatic reaction to him overbending is to correct him by taking a stronger feel of my outside rein. Another big step for me in my thinking today is that contact is starting to feel much more comfortable than loose rein. My old horse Wesley could not stand anyone messing with his face and I got very used to just riding in two point almost on the buckle the whole time. Wesley knows his job very well, and took a strong exception to anyone trying to tell him how he should be doing. Werther is a much more demanding horse, he knows how to do all this stuff but tries to spend most his time trying to convince me he doesn't not know what i'm asking him and I have to be very firm and precise until he gives in. My favorite thing we did today was sarah had me halt, maintain a tight outside rein and suppling the inside rein until gave in a dropped his head down. Then I would get Werther to bend his neck exercise slightly to the inside until I could just see the corner of eye. The final part of the was to get his neck straight again and get him to walk off and eventually trot while still maintaining the frame. I think this will be a good exercise to incorporate into my hacks. 
Something else Sarah said that was interesting is that any horse I ride is going to likely want to overbend though the neck because my legs are always going to be weaker than my hands. 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thank Goodness for Indoors

I got off of work early because we are having a pretty major snow storm, 5-8 inches. My friend Carrie and I braved the roads in her SUV and we both went to our perspective barns to ride. Carrie used to be a boarder at our barn, but after Mom privatized she moved to barn about 10 minutes away. I rode in the new saddle again today, I put on these 53 inch Prestige leathers I bought and my Herm Sprenger stirrups with the off set eye from my jumping saddle.  I guessed the stirrup length which is never good,  I went up two holes after I started trotting and the still felt too long. Werther was very easy to get on the bit today and did really well in his lateral work, I think he is liking the new saddle. Sarah still has to approve it, I may cry if she says it doesn't work. I struggled a little bit with the canter transition, I think it was mainly because the stirrup length was off it made me more prone to try and balance with my hands which pisses Werther off. Carrie came in just as I started cantering on the left lead and Werther lost his focus, but I was able to get him back and we had a really nice canter in a really good frame. I don't think I will be able to make it out to the barn tomorrow because I can't find a ride out there, I wish I could get one more ride in before my lesson but I will just have to hope for the best on Saturday. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Quick Post Before Bed

Going to Thermal this weekend was fabulous, I loved watching the world cup qualifying class and seeing Stoli in his new life as "hunter boy" for my Mom in the A/Os. My stuff from Aunt Karen was at the barn when I got there today. I did not have a lesson because Sarah was not feeling well. She rode Werther on Sunday and Monday and said he felt really good, he even got up enough ambition to throw in some playful bucks. She worked a lot with him on transitions. I was not in the mood to deal with any hijinx after a few days off so I turned Werther out in the indoor before I rode him, he had a good time rolling and galloped around and got a few bucks out. I just did a light hack in Karen's saddle, it is amazing. It is a high profile Albion SLK. I don't know if it is clear from the picture, but the pommel is higher and more cut back than a regular dressage saddle, which I think alleviated the problem of shoulder tightness we were getting with the other saddles I tried. Even up to the last hole the stirrups were still very much too long for me, but I felt really secure in the saddle's seat. This thing has some of the biggest knee rolls I have even seen, I'm not sure how that will affect my position. The cantle is also very high, I had trouble swinging my leg over to get out! Karen sent a couple different pads, I tried the EA Mattes pad with sheepskin lining that sits on the horse's back where the saddle goes and that seemed to work well. 

Saturday, February 21, 2009

couple more pictures

Hard getting good shots with the cell phone but here are a few more from today.

Andre getting ready to hack Violet, I love her bling brow band!

Tryst getting ready to hack, not showing this week as he was a little sick last week.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Few Horse Show Pictures

Spike and Hootie playing across the aisle.
Side profile of Stoli's tail braided for the A/O Hunters will try and get a better pic tomorrow.
Me and Stoli waiting for him to jog.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The training wheels came off today, I rode without the rein aids. I was much better with my hands today and as a result Werther was really good today. It took a minimal amount of time to get on the bit and even after our walking break he did not put up too much of a fuss. I feel like a made a big step forward in my Dressage education today. We just trotted today but my goal was to memorize the feel of Werther being on the bit and in a frame. I still need to work on keeping my outside hand lower and taking a stronger feel with that hand, the hunter rider in me wants to be soft and give with that hand. My Aunt Karen shipped off her tack today, I should get it by next week! I am taking a long weekend and getting out of this terrible Minnesota weather and I am going to watch my Mom and Andre show at HITS Thermal. I will try and take lots of pictures for you guys!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sarah's Ride

I didn't have work today so I went out to the barn to watch Sarah ride Werther. I wanted to take pictures but I couldn't find my real camera and the cell phone camera just could not cut it. It was really helpful to me to watch Sarah ride. I don't have much experience with Dressage apart for watching the olympics. I was able to watch Sarah's position especially her hands, and see where Werther's neck should be when he is on the bit. We talked about what Sarah was working on with Werther, and her challenges when she rides him. Sarah worked  on getting a quicker reaction time off of the leg aids. She said he was more dull on the left side, which is the side that is effected by CP. She did half steps with Werther as well and is working him up to a full passage. She also worked on getting his canter more uphill and dynamic. One of Sarah's challenges when she rode Werther was getting him to overcome that intial resitanece and getting him to go to work. This made me feel better because this is my main challenge with Werther, abeit he testes me a lot harder that he does Sarah. Sarah has to work on keeping her hands soft with Werther as well. She said that Werther has the most sensative mouth out of any upper level horse that she has ever ridden and if you get too much in his face he shuts down and she sometimes struggles with how much hand to use. If you ask for something correctly and firmly Werther will do it right away. Sarah said he is almost so push button that she has trouble timing her aids right, especially for the flying change. We also talked about Werther in general, we think the reason he was sold to be a  big EQ horse is that while he is able to perform the movements, he is not quite flashy enough to be super successful at FEI level, and his quietness would make it a more difficult ride at that level. At some point I may have to do some soul searching a decide if I want to continue with Hunters or just do Dressage. Werther may not be a Grand Prix horse for me but if he can take me all the way to fourth that is a lot to learn. I feel like Werther is a horse that doesn't seem challenge when you first ride him, but as you continue things get more and more nuanced. I think he will teach me how to be a really good rider no matter what I decide to do.  

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I had my lesson with Sarah this morning. Werther was really good, he was very easy to get on the bit today. We spent the whole lesson trotting and working on the frame with a little bit of lateral work. The two really important tips I learned today is to have the same amount to bend in a corner that you would in a 10 m circle. The other key piece we worked on is getting the bend I want and then immediately softening my hand so Werther has to carry himself and maintain the bend. The way Sarah put it is that once you get the trot, you don't ask for the trot every single step. This especially helped in the shoulder in, me placing the shoulders were I want them and the letting Werther maintain the shoulder in. After our walking break he did protest about getting back on the bit and going back to work, but that was improved too, in the time that it took him to give up and the intensity of the protest was less. There is a clinic for low level riders at Brightonwood with a local dressage judge tomorrow, I want to go watch if I can get a ride. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday and Friday

I decided I need to add some more pictures to this blog so I took this one while I was cooling Werther out today.  I think it looks kinda cool, it would look better if I had something nicer than a cell phone camera. Werther was a little bit difficult on Thursday, he actually "ran away" at a very controlled canter. I was working on the canter transition and he was anticipating and started cantering in the corner after I changed direction. I could not get him back because I had the rein aids in and it was too spongy when I tried to pull back. I just ended up dropping my reins and circling and he got the idea. Today he was pretty good. He only rooted once at the canter, and I was able to get him in about 75% of frame I wanted. I had some really nice moments now I just need to maintain it. I can keep a nice frame throughout a whole lesson now once I get him connected, I just need to be able to do it by myself. I got some awesome leg yields today though which made me really happy because it felt like I was at least making some progress.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I had my lesson today. Sarah rode Werther yesterday with the rein-aids still on my bridle. Sarag thought Werther went well in it, but it worked a little too well for her, she could not get the check she needed for the lead change and the passage. Werther was very good for me today, we worked mainly at the trot on the frame and leg yield. I have to relax my upper arms so I don't brace my hand against the motion at the trot. I need to have a low and steady contact with the outside rein and a soft, low and opening inside rein. I was much better in my leg yields today, I was able to use them properly as a tool to push Werther into the outside rein and make him frame up. I'm still struggling a little with the canter transition, I am getting the hang of using my inside leg to ask for the canter instead of the outside rein. If I don't keep Werther's stride collected and forward before I ask for the canter he uses his advantage to root or get in a buck if I get after him.  My homework for this week when I hack is to make sure I do not use the inside rein to balance, which is a bad habit I have from trying to accommodate my poor balance because of my CP. 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Saturday's Lesson

Things were much improved in Saturday's lesson. We tried these rein aid things my Mom has. It really seemed to help. We spent the entire lesson just doing trot work and working on keeping my hands quiet. Sarah said I was good with my hands 90% of the time but in that 10% when I would have a little bouble the rein aids helped to absorb the shock so Werther could keep working and not use it as a reason to get pissed and stop. The leg yields and shoulder ins when better, I think I am getting a better feel of what I am supposed to be doing. Even though you have all this pressure on the reins, Sarah says that I really should not be using my hands much at all. I am also working on relaxing my elbow, something you need to a lot of in Dressage than in Hunters.  I have short arms, so I also have to bring my hands up a lot higher than a traditional position allows, but that way I don't lock my elbows in an effort to put my hands down lower. 

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thursday and Friday

Things did not improve after my lesson on Tuesday. I went to the gym on Wednesday, I am working on incorporating some forearm strengthening exercises into my weight training to hopefully help me quiet my hands while still maintaining the level of contact I need to. On Thursday Werther was a total brat, he was heavy on the forehand and would not use his hind end. He rooted in the canter transition, and kept swinging his haunches out in the shoulder in. I spent a long time at the trot trying to get him on the bit and round but he really wasn't having it. Eventually some 10m circles did the trick, but he kept on pretend spooking out of boredom and I would loose the connection. Today before I rode I chased him in the indoor and made sure he was tired out, I'm not really amused with his shanagans. He rooted the first two times I tried the canter transition but then we got some really nice ones. I also got some decent shoulder ins out of him today, but I had trouble getting a really good connection with him. He kept chewing the bit and had a slight roundness about him but not enough to call it a true frame. Eventually I got tired and decided it was better to quit for the day. We will see how my lesson goes tomorrow. 

Aside: Do you twitter? I am playing around with it. My user name is ellieandwerther, let me know if you are on twitter or you know of any good horse feeds.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Monday and Tuesday Update

Sarah said Werther was good on Monday. She did a lot of canter transitions with him and worked on sharping his response to the flying lead change aids. She ended doing a little work on the passage with Werther, she said it seems like somebody started to teach him the movement but never quite finished. He gets the hesitation in the trot step, but has not quite figured out the airtime piece to it yet. Before I heard that I had basically won the tack lottery thanks to my Aunt Karen, I had ordered a saddle to try from a shop in White Bear Lake, a Stubben Tristan this time. It came today and I thought I would try it for my lesson. Werther pinned his ears and made faces when I put on the saddle, but I wrote that off as him complaining about me swinging the saddle over without the stirrups run up because they are wrapped. When Sarah and I checked on the ground, the saddle fit seemed to be OK, but when I got on and felt under the saddle, it felt a little tight on the withers. We started out with some trot with a light an gradually increasing the contact. Werther was a little spooky, but it was more of a bored spooking, than a I am actually scared of something spook. We decided to give Werther some work to do, since obviously he needed a harder task. Sarah had me ask for the canter, and he bucked repeatedly. 
We did the transition several times until he did it properly. We decided that the saddle was putting too much pressure on his withers, so we switched back to the one that I have been borrowing. Werther, the delicate flower that he is, was pissed for the rest of the lesson and I had a really hard time getting a connection with him. Overall I feel like I am becoming a much better rider these past few months with Werther, and I am glad that Werther's antics didn't phase me when they would have upset me before but I don't feel like I rode very well today. We worked on the leg yield at the trot on the circle and Sarah had me work on keeping Werther's neck straight and not letting him cheat by falling in with his shoulder. She also had me work on using less hand a more leg. This was really hard for me because we started out leg yielding to the right and I had to use my left leg which is the one that is effected by my CP. Automatically my brain wanted to go to using my hand, but that wasn't getting the result I needed. I need to to work more at using my dressage whip as a way to supplement the weakness of my left leg. Sarah's next big project for me is working on quieter hands, because Werther actually has quite a sensative mouth, and any jostling of the bit he wants to hold himself away from it. Which is why she thinks my ability to get Werther into a good frame right now is hit and miss. I guess this means more bicep and tricep work at the gym, as well as just really working on my mental awareness of what I am doing with my hand while I am riding.