Thursday, July 30, 2009

Last Friday's Hack

I'm trying to get everything up to speed before I head out to Mason City on Friday. I rode in the indoor on Friday so I could practice in the dressage arena again. I made him march right away from the mounting block and he actually had really nice impulsion for me the whole ride. Probably still not as much as I need, but a much better start. When I went to canter he swapped going to the right and had an epiphany, or more accurately, a "duh moment". I thought to myself, why is it I don't have as much trouble with this when I go to the horses shows either in the warm up ring or riding the test. I figured out that when I am riding alone, I am focusing on making sure his neck is straight, and looking down, instead of looking at where I am going, like I am supposed to. We did Werther's neck stretches and turn on the forehand steps, then finished up by riding Training Level Test 3. The circles in the figure 8 and the half circles were a little wonky, but I was happy with the rest of it. The stretching circle we finished on was particularly nice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PIC-SPAM: Photos from Alpine

EDIT: Blogger cropped images, click on picture to see the full thing. Second time training level over fourth of July weekend. My position is cringe worthy, Werther looks great as per usual.


Here are the videos from the Stillwater show in June. I should be getting the training level dvds and will put those up when I get a chance.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I started out today in Werther's stall doing carrot stretches. He is getting much better at the side to stretches, but he still has a hard time holding the low stretch. It was really nice tonight so I rode Werther in the outdoor. I got on and thought about making Werther march off right away, like he did after Sarah got on him in my lesson on Tuesday. Werther didn't respond to my calf, so I tapped him with my whip and he broke into the trot, I brought him back down to the walk and he lost about half of the energy we had gained. I spent some time trying to get a really forward walk and maintain the longer frame we worked on in my lesson. Again I struggled with the either or, I kept getting my frame or the impulsion. Rather than have both be poor quality the whole ride, I decided to focus on the impulsion. If I can just establish the impulsion I need and have Werther keep it, then I won't have to work as hard. Once I got a decent walk, I moved on the the trot work. He was especially resistant to maintaining impulsion in my circles, he really wanted to use them as an excuse to die out on me. By the end of my trot work I was getting some quality impulsion with a nice frame, but it took way to long to get there. In the canter transition I really focused on keeping my outside hand down and I had some nice transitions. I started out the right and I had a swap while I was playing with my rein contact, figuring out what I need. Werther's canter to the right felt very put together and his neck felt pretty straight, but I struggled to get the amount jump I needed. When I switched to the left lead I had the opposite problem. Werther had awesome impulsion but I was really struggling to package him. I felt like I could get each rein to work independently, but I was struggling to get them to work in sync. I feel that I was relying too much on my inside rein to steer, which should not be happening. Then when I softened that rein, I wasn't sitting deep enough to back up my outside rein with my inside leg, so I struggled with my steering. I finished up by letting Werther walk and catch his breath, then I did his neck stretches, and some steps of turn on the forehand to stretch out his hips. His turn on the forehand was really good today, even with my left leg. Werther is such a smart horse, I think he is really starting to understand what I want, even with my weaker leg. It gives me hope for the impulsion issue, if he can understand my left leg when I want a turn on the forehand, he can certainly understand when I want him to go forward. I have to be more vigilant about not letting him get away with being lazy, ever. He is to learn that it is not on option in his playbook.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


It was so nice to see Sarah after our missed lesson on Saturday, we both felt like we had not seen each other in an age. We rode inside today because the weather was being a touch unpredictable, and I need to use the dressage ring to get back into test riding mode. Sarah came out on Monday and rode Werther. She said Werther felt more supple, and she spent some time in a slightly longer and lower frame to stretch his top line muscles. We started by developing energy at the walk, a little squeeze with the calf and then loose legs. When we had a good level of impulsion, Sarah had me take a feel of the bit and frame Werther up but encourage him to keep the length in his neck and not curl up. Once we had the impulsion and the contact at the walk established, we moved on to the trot work. This is where I started to struggle, Werther was really testing me, trying to be either round or forward and not both. I was getting moments of correctness, but nothing consistent, and Werther kept ending up behind my leg. Sarah had me jump off and she hopped on Werther. One look at Werther and you could tell what he was thinking, "Just joking guys, give me back the other lady, she doesn't make me work as hard". Sarah started with Werther like I had, making him give her a really good walk before moving into the trot. She made Werther give a nice trot, and did a few trot canter transitions before handing the reins back to me. she couldn't have ridden him for more than five minutes but the difference was marked. Right away moving off of the mounting block I gave a little squeeze with my calves and he marched off for me. We repeated our initial exercise of establishing the walk and the trot. Once we had a good trot going we moved up to the canter. Here I struggled a little. I wasn't clear enough in my transition aids, and Werther kept offering extended trot rather than canter. Sarah said part of that was Werther, he was feeling really good today, very loose and swinging in his back, so he offered the extended trot instead because he is really good at it, and it was less of an effort for him to give a really good extended trot than a quality canter. Sarah said something really interesting that people often had the impression that horses should be working their back muscles all the time, but the back should never be tense. Instead the back should be loose and swinging and the strength should come from the horse engaging his core abdominal muscles. I kept trying to sit back and keep a good contact with my outside rein but when Werther wouldn't pick up the canter right away I would get out of balance and lean forward and throw my reins away, which unbalanced Werther, so it was all very cyclical. I got a little bit of really good canter, but in a effort to keep up my connection I would balance too much with my hand and not back it up enough with my leg and Werther would break. By the time we finished I felt I was getting comfortable using more leg, and really dressage subtle leg, not cowboy leg. We finished on a stretching trot circle, I had a totally had a brain lapse when we first started, but our second attempt was better. I getting the hang of keeping contact on the outside rein even when it is super long.

New Blog Award!

Thanks to Overanxious Horse Owner and few others who gave me this award:

I think this award is very appropriate for me. My main reason for blogging is that it keeps me honest. Outside of shows, I never get to watch any other dressage riders so it can be a challenge to keep my progress or set backs in perspective. By blogging, I force myself to reflect on every single ride. What was my plan? Did I achieve my goals? What is my strategy for the next ride? I'm really happy to have such a nice group of readers who give me encouragement and support.

5 things about me
1. I'm interning at a research library for a multi-national corporation and I'm studying for the GRE so I can get my masters in library sciences.
2. In addition to riding four days a week, I go to the gym three days a week. Yesterday, I did 100 pounds on the squat machine.
3. Next three movies in my Netflix queue: Reprise, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation and The Order of Myths
4. I was in a very old riding secret society in college.
5. My family travels a lot, the most interesting place I have been is Antarctica.

Passing it on to five blogs:
1. SRG is a new blogger, and also a para dressage rider.
2. New weight loss blog of long time reader Rebecca.
3. Heather is currently going through some challenges with her horse, but is handling it really well.
4. Because I am a big Dr. Who geek.
5. Design blog, sometimes a little too modern for me, but has some really neat ideas.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


A small brag, I'm really happy. I found out the other day that I have all of the scores I need for the USDF Training Level Rider Performance Award. I have only showed training level over 3 shows, two one day shows over one weekend and one weekend long show. The scores scores I used:
65.375% Training 2 Judge: Fatima Kranz
63.929% Training 2 Judge: Marlene Schneider
62.609% Training 1 Judge: Janet Hannon
60.000% Training 1 Judge: Dinah Babcock

Friday and Saturday's rides

Woot! Finally catching up. I couldn't get out the barn on Thursday so Werther had a extra day off. I started out by grabbing some horse treats and we did Werther's carrot stretches in his stall. He was very excited about the treats, so it was hard to get him to wait and hold the stretch. I did some warming up, and then did the stretching exercises from my lesson on Tuesday. The neck ones were fine, but the turn on the forehand steps are a challenge. I spent the rest of the ride working on our frame and connection, finding that sweet spot where the head falls from the shoulder, and I have Werther forward enough that I can allow the trot to come through and just enjoy the ride. At the canter I'm just working on keeping the neck straight and suppling, so the connection isn't stiff. I ended on doing stretching trot circles, which were OK. I'm better when I have someone watching me and telling me when I need more bend, energy or stretch. Saturday, Sarah was away so I just hacked. I did all of Werther's stretches then I rode though Training Level Test 3 and Test 4, which we are showing next weekend. I still had them memorized fairly well, but made one wrong turn in T-3. Werther's impulsion was much better in the trot and canter, but I need to work on his walk and I need to work on my figure 8 and the half circles in T-3.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tuesday's Lesson

Sarah rode Werther on Monday and she said he was particularly tight in his back. The main goal of the lesson on Tuesday was to get me used to doing some exercises that will help Werther with his suppleness. We did a little walk trot canter to get Werther warmed up first, the Sarah had me come into the middle of the ring to do some suppling exercises. We started by doing a series of small circles with almost no outside rein contact, asking him with a soft inside to bring his neck over by my knee, but not for too long, think about as long as you would hold a stretch doing yoga. Then we did some steps of turn on the forehand each direction to help stretch his hip muscles. Going to the left was very hard for me in the turn on the forehand, Werther is not particularly sensitive to leg to begin with and the turn on the forehand has to basically come entirely from the leg, and that is my weaker side. We went back to trot and canter work, which was much better after doing those stretches and then ended by doing quite a few stretching circles. It was really hard work, you can't let up at all in that movement yet for him, you have to keep on asking, but it kept getting better and better.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Saturday's Lesson

Saturday we started out by working on stretching Werther's back. It was a nice day so we were in the outdoor ring. Sarah set up a grid of poles to walk though. My job was to make sure Werther kept his energy though the poles and stayed in a frame. It is really weird maintaining contact through poles like that, even over ground poles my first instinct is to release. The rest of the lesson we spent working on impulsion. We started out by getting Werther to the correct level of impulsion then I have to go into "neutral" with my body, soft following hand and no leg whatsoever. As soon as Werther starts to loose energy I squeeze once with my calves and if he does not respond come with the whip, but as soon as he starts to carry himself again I go immediately into neutral position. Werther's reward for doing his share of the work is that I will leave him alone. We did that exercise at the walk, trot, and canter. I think I am starting to get it, it really helps my position to be able to have effective smaller corrections at my disposal and Werther feels more balanced, especially at the right lead canter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thursday's Trail Ride and Friday's Hack

Thursday we went on hack with my Mom on Stoli, and my Aunt Karen who was in town visiting on Tryst. It was really fun to have Karen meet Werther in person, she follows my blog, and was nice enough to give me her dressage tack for Werther. We took the boys out for a nice leasurely walk around the property, the gnats were bad in some places but other than that the boys gorged themselves on the pretty purple alfalfa blooms. I cut the ride a little short and went in the outdoor ring and practiced some transitions. Mom bought Werther a grazing muzzle, to help combat him wrecking the fence with his cribbing, Werther was pretty displeased. Friday I hacked outside and spent some more time on transitions from sitting to two point and loose legs. I definitely need to shorten my stirrups until I get the hang of this new balance.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lesson last tuesday

We rode outside on Tuesday. The main goal of the lesson was to work on getting me to use my calf more and Werther to respond to my calf pressure. Once I got a a foreword moving reaction from him, I have immediately go to "loose legs", Werther's reward for going foreword is that I leave him alone. With my disability I tend to find my thigh a more stable point of balance, but that isn't going to work if I want to move up the levels. We spent a lot of time transitioning between two point and sitting or posting. I could get plenty of weight in my heels when I was in two point, but I found myself loosing my balance in the posting trot. This is definitely a long term project, it will be a lot of work but worth it in the long run.

Alpine Recap

I thought I rode well, but this was a really tough show and the judges were scoring everyone very conservatively. Particularly the judge I had for 3 out of 4 of my tests. Sarah also told me she is partial to very hot horses, which is definitely not Werther's wheelhouse. On the bright side, Werther had his own fan club by the end of the show, the ladies working the rings loved him, and a couple trainers even came up to Sarah to tell her what a nice horse her client has. (:

Training Level Test 1 Judge: D. Babcock
1. 6 Balanced halt, right of center line after
2. 6 Little unsteady, maintains energy
3. 6 Transition should be clearer
4. 6 Needs better balance
5. 5 Crooked off rail
6. 6 Should maintain more energy
7. 5 Must develop more stretch and energy
8. 6 A little unsteady
9. 6 Could have better balance
10. 6 Needs better balance
11. 6 Needs better balance
12. 6 Little unsteady
13. 7

Gaits 7
Impulsion 6
Submission 6
Rider 6 underline effect of aids a little unsteady

60%, 4th place

Further remarks: Try to sit up straighter to develop better balance, from seat and leg - talented pair with lots of potential.

Training Level Test 3 Judge D. Babcock ( first time showing this test)

1. 6 not straight
2. 5 too much bend, unsteady, small
3. 6 needs better balance
4. 6 hollow
5. 5 behind riders leg, sluggish
6. 4, turned at E not 1/2 circle
7. 5, lateral tendency
8. 4, must develop more stretch and longer frame
9. 6, needs more activity
10. 7
11. 6, a little hollow, needs jump
12. 5, half circle unbalanced
13. 6, needs more release and consistent cadence
14. 6, needs energy

Gaits 7
Impulsion 6
Submission 5 circled attention, confidence, ease of movements, and acceptance of bridle
Rider 6 circled effect of aids

Horse a bit less energetic in this test, also you are falling in on half circles.
56.4% 3rd place

Training Level Test 4 Judge: D. Babcock
1. 6 needs more energy
2. 6 could show more suppleness
3. 6 a little crooked
4. 6 a little labored
5. 5 becoming unbalanced and ___ corner
6. 5 sluggish
7. 5 very tight in back, needs stretch
8. 6 bending well, but needs energy
9. 6 a little labored
10. 6 needs energy
11. 7 better balance
12. 6 unsteady
13. 6 stretch OK some resistance into contact
14. 6 little unsteady

Gaits 6 lateral walk
Impulsion 5 desire to move foreword, elasticity of steps, suppleness
Submission 5 a little behind the leg and should bend better
rider 6 effect of aids
57.2% 6th place

Training level test 2 Judge M. Schneider
1. 6, straight fairly round resistant proceed
2. 7, round & steady
3. 6, straight & steady but ___ corner
4. 7, fairly balanced
5. 6, steady pace, unsteady lead
6. 6, on shoulder at transition
7. 7, fluid transition, fairly good accuracy
8. 6, needs more activity and stretch
9. 6, needs rounder
10. 6, resisted transition at C
11. 7, round and steady
12. 7, straight and steady
13. 7, prompt and balanced (our problem lead!)
14. 6, steady pace, unsteady lead, needs to return to track at B
15. 6, against hand
16. 7, straight, round

Gaits 7
Impulsion 7 (whoo!)
Submission 6
Rider 6

Remarks: Nice gaits! Needs quieter connection! Nice coping by rider!
63.929% 2nd place

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Catching up!

This last week was crazy after going to Mason City and prepping for Alpine. So I'm going to do a quick recap to get everybody caught up. Werther had the day off on Monday and I had a lesson on Tuesday. We worked on energy, position, and circle size. We did a lot of transitions to work on getting Werther to move more off of the leg. We also switched my whip to my right hand, even though my left leg is weaker, Sarah thinks it will be more effective if I am using the whip in my stronger hand. For my position, it is just a matter of sitting up and back, not dropping my left shoulder and keeping my hands down and following at the walk and canter and allowing Werther's energy to go forward. We practiced getting Werther to go forward, shaping with the leg, and then the hand. It is also important that while he is moving quickly, it always feels like he should be able to give you one notch more of energy. For the circles, we just worked in the dressage court and practiced cantering a lot of circles, making sure I hit the track exactly were I need to. I went though Training 4 with Sarah, it went fairly well. Werther had the day off on Wednesday and I went though both tests 3 and 4 when I hacked him on Thursday. We really need to get the RSVP letters for the ring at home, I was having a lot of trouble doing the figure 8 in test 3 without them. I also had a little trouble with the half circles, and the turn to X to halt at G.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Horse Show Recap

Busy week with family in town so I am playing catch up. I survived my first time riding training level, I ended up with two seconds on Saturday and a third and a fourth on Sunday. I didn't have any swaps which I was worried about, but I did have one break from canter to trot in two tests but I was able to correct it. I'm just going to write the scores and comments, you can look at the tests here.

Saturday Training Level Test I (Judge: Fatima Kranz)

1. 7, nice entrance
2. 7, center >
3. 6, > jump
4. 5, broke, corrected
5. 6, fell into trot
6. 6, early
7. 5, > energy
8. 7
9. 7, center (something illegible, better I think)
10. 5, labored
11. 6, > energy
12. 7, steady
13. 8, nice turn, nice halt

Collective marks
Gaits, 7
Impulsion, 6, lacks at times
Submission, 6, circled lightness on forehand wrote needs more bend
Rider, 7,

Judge drew a smiley face and wrote fairly steady

Total 63.478%

Saturday Training Level Test 2 (Judge: Fatima Kranz)

1. 8
2. 7, steady
3. 7, steady
4. 6, > forward
5. 6, could be bigger circle
6. 6, came off track
7. 7
8. 7 ( first time getting a 7 at freewalk definitely his max at the walk, I was really excited!)
9. 7
10. 7
11.7, steady
12. 7
13. 6, > forward
14. 6, small circle
15. 7, straight
16. 7

Collective Marks
Gaits 7
Impulsion 6 could be more at times
Submission 6 not always steady in ...?
Rider 6 circle sizes

Judge drew smiley face

Total 65.357%

Sunday Training Level Test I (Judge: Dolly Hannon, tough judge and painfully accurate)

1. 7, straight, try to keep hands quieter to trot
2. 7, good energy, fill out circle with his leg
3. 6, sit up and back for better balance
4. 6, rider needs balance in canter and less rein
5. 6, willing horse, needs better balance
6. 6, too strong in reins and walk loses rhythm
7. 5, walk looses rhythm and needs more strech
8. 7, fairly willing
9. 7, good energy, try to keep hands quieter
10. 6, feel your leads don't look
11. 6, tends to drift in on circle but fairly willing
12. 7, fairly smooth
13. 7, not quite straight but well maintained

Collective marks
Gaits, 6, walk varies
Impulsion, 6, underlined suppleness in back, wrote walk needs suppleness
Submission, 7
Rider, 6

"What a nice horse! Try to keep your hands steadier & sit up, look up + feel your canter leads - when you look down it effects his balance"

I'm not gonna lie, I beat myself up pretty hard when I got this test sheet back. This is all stuff I am working on, sometimes I feel like I have too nice a horse for my riding ability.

Total score 62.609%

Sunday Training Level Test 2 (Judge: Fatima Kranz)

1. 7, nice halt
2. 7, center more
3. 7, steady
4. 7
5. 6, not centered
6. 7, straight
7. 6, lost jump
8. 6, needs more
9. 6
10. 7
11.7, center more
12. 7
13. 5, more jump, broke (my left hand crept up and I lost my steering, wanted to avoid taking out the wall)
14. 6, not centered
15. 6, needs more jump, fell into trot
16. 8

Collective Marks
Gaits 7
Impulsion 6 needs to stay more foreword for higher scores
Submission 6
Rider 6

Judge drew smiley face
Total 63.929%

I was a little disappointed after this show, but it is a new show this week, and i've been working on impulsion, circle work and position, so hopefully I can up my game a little for some slightly higher scores.