Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lesson / Show Season Prep


Due to circumstances beyond my control, Werther had a mini vacation and got the last three days off work. I could tell he was fresh when I brought him in the ring so I put him on the lunge line for a few minutes before minutes. Werther didn't buck, but he trotted around like the energizer bunny. When Werther settled at the one direction, I had him go the other way and he didn't seem too ambitious anymore so I hopped on after just a few minutes. I'm much better getting him round in his back know and on the bit, I think that piece has finally clicked in. The next big challenge is my position. I'm getting much better about having a following hand, my biggest challenge is sitting further back and deep. My leg also needs to stay straight and forward because I am so short, if it moves back, I touch the saddle pad, which makes me pretty ineffective. I'm still trying to figure out my post in the dressage saddle, I keep getting bounced on the incorrect diagonal and because my right side is so much stronger, a lot of the time I don't notice. Sarah says I need to sit deeper when I post, I hope that helps. We worked on the canter transition, I have the bad habit of pitching my body forward in an effort to make Werther go forward and he uses my vulnerability in that position to root. I need to figure out sitting back and still allowing enough with my hand that I don't catch Werther in the mouth. I think I just need time to figure this out, I feel a little rushed in my lesson sometimes, I think just a lot of practice will help. Sarah did give me a glimmer of hope today, she made a comment that I need to get him more responsive to my leg if we are going to do tempi changes, and the fact that she thinks I can get to the level to attempt tempis is huge for me. I try really hard to do what I can, and I love to compete, but at the same time there is this frustration when your body limits you from moving foreword.  I'm considering getting a disability dispensation, looking at the classification, I think I would qualify for the Para Equestrian classes at Grade IV. Another thing I talked with Sarah about today, she said horses get hotter as they more up the levels, the need to be to compete at that level. I worry too much about things yet to come, but I really do hope I can get to that upper level and some point and I'm not shut out, because I can't handle a hot horse.

Show Prep
Along the lines worrying too much, kind of having a mini-panic attack! I have two months to prep for the  show season. I got my new girth and my Mattes fleece pad, Of my list of things to do, I got my letters up (need to fix two), me registered, and I'm working on getting Werther's papers transfered. I went to the eye doctor so I can get glasses I can show in, and as soon as I finish this blog I am ordering the levels DVD. My next dover order is going to be a new whip for showing, new stirrup pads and a grab strap. Working on the test memorization, I got the book "Dressage A to X" the 20 m circle of life recommended. It is very helpful, I'm about half way though reading and just got to the chapter on test memorization strategies. Sarah sent me the show schedule which is the following:
May 9-10

Mayflower I and II (two days, two shows)

Otter Creek in Wheeler, WI

Closing Date: April 28

May 23-24

Bara Trac I and I-too (two days, two shows)

Mason City, IA

Closing date: May 4

June 6-7

St. Croix Classic

Lake Elmo, MN

Closing Date: May 19

Note: They chose this one because it is usually a VERY quiet show, not many

people go to it for some reason, AND Brightenwood needs to support Nancy Porter

at at least one of her shows.... and this fits in the schedule as at least an


June 27-28

Dressage Lite and Lite-too (two days, two shows)

Mason City, IA

Closing Date: June 4

**Parkside is an option IF anyone wants another chance at getting qualifying

scores, but the whole group does not intend on going, mostly because the new

management probably won't grant B-wood the favor of giving us the REALLY NICE

stabling location. They only had that stabling for us as a special favor last

year. The other stabling is just too far for the old ladies to walk ;) Plus,

it's only a week after the Mason City show. That's pretty tight.

July 4-5


Alpine Farm

Closing Date: June 12

July 31, Aug 1-2

Bara Trac II and II-too (three days, two shows)

Mason City, IA

Closing Date: July 10

**B-wood does not intend to go to any of the August shows (ie., Otter Creek,

Northern Lights, etc.) because qualifying scores are due by AUGUST 6. Any

scores obtained at those shows can, however, be rolled over as qualifying

scores for NEXT year.

Sept. 4, 5, 6

Region 4 Championships

Mason City, IA

Closing date: Aug 6

Sept 19-20

CSDEA Fall Festival

Lake Elmo, MN

Closing Date: Aug 31

**Scores obtained at this show can roll over to qualifying scores for NEXT


Seems pretty reasonable, but what I am panicking about is what she wrote in the top of email. She says she will be showing two horses and will only be coaching as time allows! Is this normal for Dressage? She didn't mention anything in her email about paying for coaching which I would be more than happy to do. I know you can't be at the ring, but I would like to have someone help me with my warm up. I'm going to talk with my Mom tomorrow and see what she thinks, also going to ask Sarah about possibly getting some help from Cathy, the head trainer and Brightenwood, if Sarah can't do it. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Sarah said she had a good ride on Werther Monday, she spent a lot of time on transitions and getting him lighter to the leg aids. Werther was really good for me today, he was willing to get on the bit right away, no problem even when we started out to the left which is my CP side. I actually had a bit more trouble to the right today, go figure. He didn't want to respond to my right leg and instead of stepping over and into the outside rein, he wanted to speed up and move forward. We got that sorted fairly quickly though. We moved away from circle work and did some leg yields on the quarter line to the wall which we decent. We worked on my position and the canter, which is basically, ride the exact opposite as you were told to do as a hunter and you'll be fine. Because Werther is so quiet my first instinct is to get into a half seat when I feel him slowing down. Sarah tells me, I will be in a better driving position if I sit further back and deeper, which I can understand but I'm finding myself fighting my muscle memory. The other big issue is gripping with my knee, which in fairness is also a issue with huntseat riding, but because of my CP I couldn't rely on my lower leg like a regular rider, so I adapted to using the upper leg more, with a lot of balance going to the knee. It is very hard for me to open my knee, physically and mentally. Physically, because when I had surgery on my left leg for my CP the surgeon twisted my knee cap to a "better" position because the muscles where pushing my knee cap out of alignment, so that knee wants to turn in. Mentally it is hard because I fear that I will loose my hard won balance on the horse. The only way to get better is to just keep working at it. Thanks to my barn manager and our grooms, we got the letters up in the dressage ring. One problem though, I can't read them without my glasses! I never had an issue riding without glasses with hunters because I did not need to see too much detail. Nike has these metal alloy glasses that are pretty much twistable. I'm  going to get myself a pair as soon as I get my eyes looked at for a new prescription, I think those would be pretty safe to ride in. 

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Six Months!

Today is my six month anniversary owning Werther. It has been an interesting journey. When I first got Werther, he was very attached to other horses, and a little burned out on ring work. six months ago I had not been riding very consistantly outside of lessons twice a week though my college's riding program because I had been looking for a horse for about year after we decided to retire Wesley. Since I was rusty and Werther was burned out we spent a lot of the summer taking it easy and riding the hunt trails around our farm. When I tried to start jumping again I had issues with my trainer because she didn't seem willing to work with me and put in the time to start back slow with my disability. I decided to take advantage of my huntseat trainer being gone all winter showing to try dressage. We knew Werther had been a dressage horse in the past and Sarah evaluated him as being trained up to fourth level. Since taking Dressage lessons the quality of my flat work has increased greatly and i've decided to stick with the discipline. I think there is a lot more of a chance for upward mobility for me in dressage than there ever was in hunters and in-spite of the fact that the lower levels may look easy to someone who has never tried dressage, it is very challenging. Over the next six months my goal is to show successfully and intro/training level and to make sure Werther works hard but still has a good time. Thanks for reading, I know only a small group of people have posted on this blog, I would love to hear from more of you!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I did fairly well in my lesson today. We did a lot of work on getting him more sensitive to my leg, if I am ever lucky enough to compete in a championship class whips are not allowed. Still dealing with the stirrup issue, no right hip issues today, but my left knee got really sore. The hole punch is a must for my lesson on tuesday. We also worked on getting me to sit deeper and be looser in my hips at the sitting trot and canter, it was not great, but I think I am improving. Sarah recommended I buy a grab strap to help me get the feel of sitting deeper. The most important thing I did to work on is when I am tracking left, Werther wants to lean on my inside left rein so he can trick me into putting pressure on that rein so he has an excuse to put his head up. What I need to do is give frequently with the inside rein so it is not there for him to put weight on.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Not much to report these last two days, Werther has been really good. I've been working on getting him on the bit and figuring out the feel I need. I still have a little bit of a hard time starting out between his inital resistance to work, and me remembering everything I have to do to make Werther happy. I'm doing a little lateral work, mainly leg yields to get him on the bit, but mainly focusing on my equitation. The two big things I have been working on is moving my elbows with my horse, because I have short arms I tend to lock my elbows to try and make my arms reach where I want them, and sitting deeper in the saddle. I need to figure out my stirrup issue, so I can be more stable with my left leg, I think I'm going to punch a quarter hole inbetween the half holes of my stirrup leathers and see if that does the trick of allowing me to still keep my left leg in the iron while not putting too much stress on my right hip and making me sore.  Now that Werther is really getting his act together, I have to bring myself to the next level. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cool, 100th Post!

Just a quick update, I got a few things accomplished today. I renewed my USEF membership and joined the Central States Dressage & Eventing Association which gives me a group membership to USDF. I'm not sure if I will still have get an individual membership for USDF, I will ask Sarah what she thinks on Saturday. I also ordered from Amazon, Dressage A to X which was recommended to me by 20m Circle of Life. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Happy Saint Patrick's day everybody! I took a pass on getting drunk on green beer and went out to the barn and had a lesson. Werther was pretty tough today. I think he played really hard outside with this nice weather we have been having, he was a little stiff and a bit lazier than usual. We started going to the left which did not help, because that was my weaker side, so it took a long time to get him on the bit. He was much better to the right, which is my stronger side. Sarah thinks it will set a better tone for my rides if I always start him to the right because then he will have to listen and get working right away. I'm having some issues keeping my left stirrup, ( this is my leg affected by the CP) I think I am still not used to dressage lengths and my new equitation position. I tried shortening my left stirrup a hole, but it made my right hip very sore. I think I am going to raid my Mom's tack room and see if she has an extra pair "cheese grater" stirrup pads, that might give me just enough traction to have my foot stay in place. I mainly lose it when I have to push into Werther's side to move him on to the outside rein, or ask for the canter. We cantered in a circle until I was practically dizzy today, the two main goals were to have me sit deeper in the saddle and move my elbows more. Werther was actually a little sweaty after today's ride, and I was a little tired myself. Even though it wasn't the best ride, it was nice to feel that we had both worked hard.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Planning for the Summer Show Season

I'm planning on showing with Sarah this summer, I thought I would write a little to do list for myself to see at that I need to get prepared to start showing in May.

  1. Put up Dressage letters in indoor. (ring size: 90 x 200).
  2. Get USDF levels DVD so I can watch tests repeatedly. (also practice intro level tests at home, and print out some ring diagrams so I can practice writing the tests out.) 
  3. Get my USEF membership renewed and Werther's transfered over to me.
  4. Get USDF membership for both Werther and myself.
  5. Buy Dressage show clothes.
  6. Switch Werther's bit over to the dressage snaffle, get a couple more plain white pads for showing. 
Any advice for a Dressage newbie? The showing is going to be different for me, more local than my hunter stuff because there is no ratings so to speak for classes. Also, Brightenwood doesn't bring grooms to shows. The plus side is it will be a heck of a lot cheaper than doing the hunter stuff, but it seems a little intimidating starting a new discipline. I'm also bumming that we don't get to have a trainer ring side to give you hints as you go by, but glad that we get to have a reader. I also like the fact that you get a ride time instead of having to wait around all day.

Catch Up - rambling post

I've been really busy the last couple days, so here is a recap of my last few rides. I hacked on Thursday and Friday, Thursday I could get him on the bit and round but I had trouble maintaining the connection consistently. The bright spot however, was that he was excellent with his canter transitions, I think it is because I have become so much better at keeping him balanced and collected at the the trot, so he does not rush as much into it and then root. He still wants to take a couple quick trot steps before he moves into the canter but he is not rooting really anymore, which makes me really happy. It is nice to keep my arms in my sockets! Friday was a huge step forward, I had a better trot but more importantly than that his attitude was so much better. I felt like he was actually willing to try for me, instead of me having to strong arm him into actually working. In my lesson on Saturday we worked on the frame at the trot, my position sitting and posting. Sarah says about Werther, "while a soft inside rein is important to all horses, it is life and death to him, he will not do anything with too much contact on the inside rein." We worked on leg yielding to the wall while still maintaining the roundness though his back, which were much better. We did a little bit of canter work, getting me used to the feel of really sitting the canter instead on the normal hunter half seat. I bought some full seat breeches on closeout from Dover, and Saturday was my second time riding in them, they feel a little weird, like a diaper, but Sarah says I will learn to love them. I also got to practice a turn on the forehand, which I have not done in a long time. We were using it to practice making Werther more sensitive to my leg. If he did not move over with one squeeze, he got a correction with the dressage whip until he moved over. Then we went back to leg yields and it seemed to help. We finished the lesson with stretching at the trot, which is Werther's favorite part of the lesson. I'm still getting the hang of my new leg position riding dressage, I think I finally am used to the knee rolls, but I am still not used to having longer stirrups, I still loose them a couple times a lesson. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trainer 1, Student 0

I got my butt kicked in my lesson today. My lessons make me wish I was six inches taller. I'm trying to stretch my legs down, engage my core muscles and maintain a tall upper body to help Werther balance. Meanwhile, I still have to  loosen my elbows to move my hands with the motion of the horse, while still keeping my hands low so Werther has somewhere to move into the contact, and still keep my head up and look where I'm going. I feel like I'm being stretched like gumby. Werther was so lazy, he could have very well been "pokey" to take the analogy further. We spent the majority of the time working on my position and trying to get the timing of everything right. We also worked at getting Werther to move off the leg, so he does not use his shoulder to fall in. Werther spent most of the lesson trying to convince me he could not move forward and in a frame at the same time. I kept having to give him corrections with the hip because he was not responding to my leg and that was throwing my timing off. Also, we worked on posting over the hindquarters to help Werther balance, which is difficult for me because I am used to hunter posting where you are trying to be really light and almost going off of your pubic bone. Sarah said that post farther back helps the horse to balance, which makes sense to me, if you are using the energy from their hindquarters, that should be a lot less energy that has to be created and a lot less interference with the horse. Since I have not had a video up here in a while, I thought I would offer a gumby video to refresh everyones memory, embedded video is not cooperating so click HERE and enjoy!

PS, Sarah said Werther was good on Monday, she worked on getting him to move off of his hind end. 

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Friday and Saturday's rides

The guys pulled Werther's mane for me and clipped his ears and nose. He doesn't look quite so much like a backyard horse now!

I think I must have hit bottom on my lesson on Tuesday because things seem to be improving now.  He was still a little difficult on Friday, but I was able to get him to walk around  the ring once both directions with his neck exactly where I wanted it. I rewarded him by letting him canter nice and forward and did a few lead changes, which he was very pleased about. The biggest issue I am having right now, is that Werther likes to think he cannot go forward and in a frame at the same time, and I have to convince him otherwise. Today he was just excellent, I was able to get him quickly in a frame and stay there without a whole lot of matinence.  Sarah kept telling me was to let him fill up the outside rein. The main thing is pushing him away from my inside leg, because he want to be lazy and fall in rather than stay straight where he needs to be straight and bend where he needs to bend. We did some lateral work a few leg yields and shoulder in. The shoulder in was much better, I think I have a better idea of getting my hands in the right place so I can get the bend thorough the shoulder and not overbend in the neck. We worked on the sitting trot for a little bit, that was really challenging to me, because years on huntseat riding to me I need to be tight in my leg and hold myself into position. Now, with dressage I am being told to be loose though my leg and that looseness will allow me to stay with the motion of the horse, that is a hard thing for me to trust. We worked on my seat at the canter too, I'm used to wanting to get automatically up in half seat, but I am slowly reschooling myself. I talked to Sarah about doing some shows this summer, she said they do about 2 a month in the summer and tend to stay local, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa which would suit me really well.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hack / Planning

Werther is deceptive when you chase him. First thing he does is gets down and rolls, then he kind of wanders around the ring a little bit and I really have to put in a lot of effort just to get a slow canter. The all the sudden. he takes off galloping and bucking like a madman. I'm choosing to think Werther is being smart enough to warm himself up. I warmed up on a loose rein at the walk at trot and worked on really getting Werther to move off my leg. Then I stopped and halted and did framing exersize. I got to the point today where I can get Werther to drop his head without too much effort,now I just need to figure out how to keep him there. I think my problem was I was not relaxing my feel quickly enough once I got him round. He would either pick his head right back up again, or he would not want to move forward. I took a break and cantered for awhile, he was much better today, I tired to stay out of his face as much as possible and just let him relax. I halted and did frame work a few more times and he seemed to get better which gives me hope. 

Mobile Post Attempt = FAIL repost

What I wrote this morning:

Testing mobile blog feature, slow day at work today. I had a difficult lesson on Tuesday. Werther was a little fresh and we were working on the same excersize we did last week of halting and then getting him to soften his jaw and drop his head down and walk off in a frame. It is really hard to figure out just how much hand to use without it being too much or too little. The other thing we worked on is the upward transition which we worked on in two parts. The first part was trying to make werther more sensative to my leg, he got one squeeze and after that one or more taps with the whip until he moved forward. The second part was my position, making sure I engage my core mucsles and don't pump with my body to get him to go forward. Sarah said that any pumping puts pressure on their back and makes them go hallow instead of round which makes sense. Sarah says I'm pretty much on track for someone with two months of dressage lessons, it is just really frusterating right now, I feel like I am so close to getting everything to click into place but I have this anxiety in the back of my head that my disability will stop me from being able to do it. Since we didn't do much in our lesson I went to canter when we were done and was good on the right when Sarah was there but a total snot to the left he kept moving out from under my leg when I asked for the transition and bucking. I got him settled in the end, but I am definetly chasing him before I ride tonight!