Sunday, July 31, 2016

New Instructor: Lesson Recap 7/24

As I've mentioned previously the barn that I had Katai at temporarily is going to be my new barn and L's instructor who I'm calling Jane is going to be my new instructor. It's really bittersweet because I really like L as an instructor and as a person. We get along really well and we've come through a lot with the pony together. She knows and gets both Katai and myself and is the first instructor I've had that seems to understand my goals. She actually wants a pony (probably a GRP) and it's fun to be able to talk top ponies with her.

Mostly she's just taught me so much and took Katai from a disaster to a really amazing and talented dressage pony. I'm sad to be leaving her and frankly if this weren't about my budget I wouldn't be leaving her. However, I'm very excited to be going to a barn where I can take regular lessons with a dressage instructor and specifically one that took L up the levels!

At my lesson with Jane this past Sunday unfortunately (fortunately?) Katai wasn't her normal self. She normally settles right in at a new barn but as soon as I pulled her in to tack her up all of the horses started running and screaming and that was just too much for her. She panicked and I had to fight with her just to get her saddle on and then she was very up when we got her to the arena. Jane was really helpful and gave great and calming advice about how to get her lunging better and once she was in a good place I got up.

She lost it a bit, more horses screaming, while I was trying to get her to stand still as I mounted but eventually I got on and as normal she was much easier to deal with. However, she was still having a pony mare meltdown and was tense and less compliant that she has been. She was also rushing badly, tight through her back, and not listening to my leg aids, just using them as an excuse to go faster. Frankly she wasn't that much better than she was when I moved to my current barn.

Luckily she got better quickly but still just wasn't herself. I didn't mention any of this to Jane since what was important was riding the pony that I had then and Jane ended up focusing more on me anyway. In our 45 or so minutes she identified a few things that I've been struggling with but didn't even realize that it was why I was struggling. The first is that I'm arching my back.

Great example of the arching
I know that I have been but it hasn't come up in lessons so I haven't done anything about it. It mainly crops up when I'm tensing up because Katai is rushing or not listening but it's sort of there all the time. When I was working with J I got waaaayyy better at this. She worked on this with me a lot and I never felt more proud of my position but of course everything else fell apart with her and I guess I wasn't quite sure what to keep from her and what to let go so this fell away along with pretty much everything else I learned when I was working with her.

The other thing that Jane focused in on is something that is completely new to me. She let me know that when Katai is losing momentum I sort of push her forward with the front of my pelvis. She said that I sort of "throw" the front of my hips at her like I'm trying to make a swing go higher. That throws my position off and, more noticeably, makes her hollow her back and throw her head in the air. I felt like a lightbulb went off and for the first time I understood why I've been struggling with transitions.

Jane had me sit into the transition, she told me not to be in a hurry to post, and keep my position more stable. Then once Katai was going nicely she had me start rising while focusing on "pulling" my belly button back into my spine. It was amazing the difference in Katai when I did this.

During the lesson I felt huge improvements but of course when I tried it on my own, once I got back from WA, I felt all over the place and Katai wasn't as inclined to listen since I'm sure I wasn't being as consistent or honestly even getting it probably. However, she still was really good and in the moments when I think I was close she felt great.

I'm looking forward to resuming lessons with J in September and until then I'll be working on my homework!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

New Barn Decision

This decision has been tough all around. I’m going to miss the people that I board with now so much and over the past couple of weeks as they’ve been finding out that I’m moving it’s been really tough saying goodbyes. I’m sure I’m going to be an emotional wreck at the end of August when I actually move. I’m also going to miss the amazing care that the BM gives Katai and the incredible amenities.

Paddocks to the right, pasture straight out
It’s also been tough to choose between the other two barn options. I’ve even gone so far as to look at a few other barns to make sure that I’m making the best decision but those two barns that I previously listed are still the two clear winners. I was having a really tough time picking one, up until I recently went to that temporary barn because that barn is actually option 2 and is going to be my new barn.

Indoor, heated arena taken in one of the arena mirrors
I can’t quite describe how I felt when I was going on a barn tour with the owner except to say that I felt like I’d come home. It’s not something I’ve ever felt at any other barn but whether it’s the fact that it feels a little like the barn that we kept our horses in when I was growing up or if it’s something entirely unrelated it was an amazing feeling.

Main barn isle, additional stalls behind me and tack room is to my right and behind me
As mentioned previously at this barn I will be able to take weekly lessons from L’s instructor and will be boarding with only one other person who also takes regular weekly lessons and is riding at 3rd level (just scored over 60% at her first ever show at 3rd level!!). Although the owner has two other horses there that she owns and there is one horse that’s there temporarily for training. It’s heated and has a heated indoor arena with really nice footing. The arena is only heated when it’s busy or if it drops to colder temps but really all I care about is a heated area to groom, once I’m moving it’s easy to stay warm.

Wash stall to the left (with the front of a tractor) and isle to the bathroom to the right
The whole place has been a horse farm for a long time and you can tell, everything is just where you need it and it’s small enough that you don’t have to go on an adventure to find the things you might need. It’s small with lower ceilings and smaller isles but so is Katai so in some ways it almost feels more comfortable. It’s a really simple set up in an L shape with the stalls along both sides of the small part of the L and the indoor as the long part of the L.

Hallway to the bathroom and small add on in the barn
It’s the smallest barn that I’ve boarded at for quite some time, I think the last time that I had this few people that I boarded with was when Katai was at our first boarding barn together with the one aged gelding where she was just on grass. I’m excited about being at such a small barn that still has active riders and yet I don’t think I’ll be competing for arena space much. The fact that the other boarder shows (very successfully) with her little Arab mare just makes it even better.

Katai in her temporary stall
The only thing that I think I’ll really miss that the other barn had is all of the amazing outdoor spaces to ride. At this barn there is a dead end gravel road but it sounds like even that can be kind of busy. I do think, however, that I’m going to make saving up for a trailer a priority especially since I’ll be saving even more money than I thought I would be. Then I’ll be able to trailer to some of the local trail systems when I want to so that will negate the lack of outdoor space here.

At the end of the main hallway with the arena gate to the left and door out to the paddocks to the right

Thursday, July 28, 2016


I LOVE when I have normal weeks and can stick to my normal riding/barn schedule. It just flows well for me and I stay motivated and am able to make progress.

Recently though it just seems like that isn’t happening at all. In face since my trip at the beginning of June I haven’t really had a “normal” week with Katai and I’m feeling it. Last week was our nasty heat wave and then trailering Katai to that other barn on Friday and then the weekend I had all sort of plan changes. This week I went to WA for work (last minute trip) on Monday/Tuesday and just got back. Being gone those days actually sort of aligns with my normal 4 day schedule (I’m still trying to get 5 fit in) but on Sunday I got a call from my BM that she couldn’t get Katai on the trailer, even drugged, so she was wondering if it was ok to leave her at the temporary barn for a while. I said yes, I’m happy having her there, the barn owner was fine with it, and I certainly don’t expect anyone other than me to deal with or try to fix whatever is going on with my pony and trailering but it just added a little stress to the beginning of the week.

Now I’m texting two different people to see if they’re going to be able to be at the barn with a trailer tonight so that I can get my pony back to my barn. I rode her at the temporary barn yesterday evening but I'm hoping that we can get her moved tonight. We may possibly be getting storms this evening which just further throws a wrench in my plans. I’m so lucky to even have a horse and have a nice barn to board at but it’s been a frustrating couple of months and I feel like we haven’t been able to make consistent progress or achieve goals the way that I was hoping for this summer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Bit More Info

Obviously not my barn but very cool picture

I’m hoping to make my decision about barns this week but thought that I’d share a little more about each because I know I always find this sort of thing interesting when reading other people’s blogs.

Current Barn
Current Barn ($760):
$600 per month for stall board
$160 per month for weekly lessons This includes a semi private paddock (the only option except for a private paddock which would cost more) and is a heated barn with a connected heated arena, outdoor arena, really no trails (although that’s getting better), nice wash stall, two amazing boarder tack rooms, THE most amazing care that Katai has ever had, really nice lounge with a fully stocked fridge including wine, beer, K-cups and a Keurig, microwave, toaster oven, and water cooler. The arena footing is amazing, the facility is very nicely looked after, they add or remove one blanket each turnout/turn in and fly spray, add fly mask etc. They do a great job at feeding time including soaking beet pulp and putting together sometimes very complex diets for each horse.

Barn Option 1

New Barn Option 1 ($535):
$425 per month for stall board
$85ish? I’d either take 1 lesson per month with the more advanced dressage instructor (who is really an eventer) or a couple with the lower level dressage instructor
$25 per month for semi private paddock (large public pen has 24/7 round bale so I need to avoid that with Katai).
This is a heated barn with a connected heated arena but that arena footing is deep and it’s quite small as it’s meant more for western riders. There is another non-heated indoor arena in the other barn on the property. There are multiple (3-4?) outdoor arenas, 1 mile gallop track, TONS of trails, lots of events going on all the time (both good and bad since it would be amazing to have the Schramms have a clinic at my barn but all of the chaos all the time might get old) and nice tack rooms. The arena footing isn’t amazing but isn’t dangerous, the facility has been operating a long time so they know what they are doing and run it as a business. Because of that there is much less individualized care but you also know that your horse will be looked after and that no stupid decisions will be made, I’m definitely trying to avoid that after the crazy barn. One of my favorite things with this barn is that the horses only come in for feeding times in the summer, otherwise they are out 24/7. I actually boarded here previously when I "fled" from J's barn and left because I was looking for that dressage show barn that I've mentioned.

Pictures soon!
New Barn
Option 2 ($430):
$350 per month for stall board
$80 per month for weekly lessons which are required to board there
This is a heated barn with a heated arena (although it sounds like the heat is only turned on during peak hours since there aren’t many boarders). There isn’t an outdoor but there is a nice outdoor “lawn” to ride on. There aren’t any real trails but this property is on a dead end dirt road so there’d be a place to go on an outdoor ride. There are large paddocks or pasture (which of course I wouldn’t do with Katai) and the owner is used to feeding horses that don’t need many groceries. I believe there is one other boarder currently and then three of the owner/trainer’s horses.

This sounds fishy from the low cost above but the instructor is actually an upper level rider capable of getting other people to the upper levels. The other boarder is currently showing 3rd on her small Arabian and I know of at least one other person that she trained up through Grand Prix as well as the fact that at least one of her horses is a Prix St. George school master that she brought up the levels herself. This is not only the cheapest option but also the best option for me being able to make progress towards my goal of getting my Bronze Medal. I wish there were more trails available (since I was originally planning on option 1 before I knew there was an option 2 and got all excited about the trail riding and gallop track opportunities) but this fits much better with my goals, both financially and riding wise.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Some Days are Tougher Than Others

Especially when you have a pony mare.

As mentioned the plan was to have a lesson with L's instructor who I'll call Jane. I had it scheduled on Friday for 7:00 but, totally my fault, never confirmed with the BM since I knew she planned on bringing horses over on Friday morning. However, when I got to the barn at 6:00pm on Friday night Katai was happily eating hay in her stall.

Worse, it was still extremely hot so I wasn't quite sure if anyone would be willing to help me move her. I texted my BM and called Jane to let her know that we either needed to cancel, and hopefully reschedule, or that I would at least be late. My amazing BM came through and lent one of the women who works at the barn her trailer so that she could haul us. Since there were other horses to go over we decided to take Katai and her paddock buddy to keep them both happy and get two horses over  rather than just one.

We loaded the other horse first and then went to load Katai. She hopped on so easily last time after my reminder about how to load that I figured she'd just hop right on. However, she decided that she didn't feel like it. We tried bribery, we tried using a dressage whip to tap her until she moved forward, we tried a stud chain (for the first time), I tried having someone else load her, and finally one of the other people who works at the barn (there were four of us working on this at this point and it was in the mid 90s) suggested that we just drug her (for the first time).

I agreed.

It really couldn't make it much worse and it's not something I've tried before. Since Katai was already upset the trainer gave her a cocktail of Dorm and Ace. She gave her a really small dose but Katai went to a very drunken happy place pretty quick and didn't seem to remember how to move her feet. Luckily she's an 800 pound horse and not a 1200+ pound horse so we were able physically push her up the ramp (thank goodness it was a ramp) and get her in the trailer.

When we got to Jane's barn I was happy to see that Katai was calm and happy and trying to nibble on a piece of hay that she'd found. Ponies...

She unloaded well with only a little bit of funnily stumbling down the ramp that may have made me giggle just a little. At that point, with my extreme level of embarrassment at the lengths that everyone had gone to just to get my pony in the trailer and near heat stroke, it was either laugh or cry. We got her settled in her temporary stall with some water and a fan on her since she was a little sweaty and then waited around for her drugs to wear off a bit so that we could make sure she was ok and get her some hay. She recovered quickly, dug right in to her hay and her whinny-er was working (it was only a little funny sounding) so she was drunkenly talking to her friends.

Clearly I didn't have my lesson that night so we rescheduled for this morning. Jane was at a schooling show with a different student so we scheduled it for when she planned to be home. So this morning I got to my barn early and watched some of the clinic on my way to my lesson. I have to say that I was expecting very little since in my experience, some big name clinicians seem to be more about shock and awe than installing good basics or working on things like straightness and getting the horses working through the back. Of course I think Janet Foy and plenty of other clinicians are amazing! But this particular clinician seemed more like someone that might focus on tricks.

However, I was extremely impressed to see that every single horse was working on filling in gaps and every single horse looked happier, more relaxed and was moving more freely by the time he was done. It was really educational to watch! He was also really amazing with the auditors and was the first clinician that I've audited that kept asking if any of us had any questions and giving us his full attention while the horse and rider took their walk breaks. He was a very good teacher and had a great way of explaining concepts. I'm hoping to go back tomorrow!

I headed out to Jane's barn and stopped for some Taco Bell (they have certified vegan fast food!) quickly before my lesson. We had been receiving weather warnings but they were pushed up from the afternoon to the morning which meant that they looked likely to hit during my lesson. I got to the barn a bit before Jane and made sure I knew where the light switches were and got my boots and helmet and everything inside so that I wouldn't need to carry it in if it started raining. Jane got there and let me know that she's not good with storms so that if started storming we'd have to call it. I agreed, it's not my idea of a fun (or safe) time to ride my horse in a new place during a severe thunderstorm.

Then it started storming. The clouds were scary and coming in fast and when the lightening started and the hail started falling we called it. I left pretty quick so that I could get home and we decided to reschedule for tomorrow morning. I can't wait and will share a recap!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Working With What I've Got

I'm starting to feel like such an adult in fact I think this post is a good example of my adultness even if the week didn't start out that way!

Yep, I'm playing it too
We're having a bad heat wave right now. Of course some of you would probably laugh because you're used to much worse heat but for us it's pretty bad. Yesterday we had 97* with 75% humidity which meant a heat index of something like 110. Today we had 96* with a slightly lower humidity so a heat index closer to 101, and tomorrow we're supposed to have very similar temps. I, unfortunately, didn't plan well and wasn't able to make it out to the barn Monday or Tuesday when the temperatures were better so that meant that I needed to try to fit in some pony time yesterday.

Sort of wishing for this right now
I ended up getting to the barn at 8:00 and planned a nice short ride, mainly at a walk, outside because there was a slight breeze. I planned to use the heat to help me out and work on getting Katai to listen when riding around the arena. Recently I've been hopping on Katai in the arena and after working her in there for awhile we go for a trail ride. It's my fault that I've been making the arena work, and outside of the arena fun but Katai has been full of herself trying to get out of the arena, very gate sour, and is not at all willing to even turn towards the arena once we leave it.

I worked her around the gate of the arena while inside, then around the gate of the arena while outside, and then rode her away from the arena and turned her around and rode her back to the arena. Despite that fact that I knew it was partially from the heat I was extremely proud because she did really, really well. We only "worked" for about 20 minutes and all at the walk other than one 1-2 minute trot that we did when she was really reluctant to go forward.

The sweat she had from being in the barn (no moving air and humid but far better than standing outside in the sun) dried and she didn't sweat at all while we worked. It was much more mental than physical. Once I was done I hosed her off and scrapped her and then she got turned out since they're going out overnight.

Tonight it wasn't even going to cool down that much so I decided to skip it. I want so much to be prepared for my lesson tomorrow but I also won't risk making her sick so Katai gets another day off. Hopefully she won't be too nuts for tomorrow.

Summertime vegan feast
Regarding other things that I'm working with, I had mentioned previously that I'd determined one of the things that is making it tough for me to be motivated. That thing is my budget. I am able to "afford" everything that I have and do right now including my biggest "splurge" which is having Katai and boarding her at a great barn. I think that I've very naively been thinking that at some point soon there would be a second income in my life. It feels silly now but I was in a longer term relationship for awhile and I was sort of thinking he was going to stick around.

I've realized recently that I don't want to add that pressure to date. I started looking at my budget and what I could adjust. There are a few things but none of them were nearly as helpful as considering cutting my boarding budget back. I ADORE my barn and I've never minded splurging on Katai and having a really strict budget with everything else. For the past few months though it's been tougher to feel that way. I've had to turn down going out to do some things with friends, skip a road trip that I'd been planning, and give up plans to find a bike. What really made the decision for me was when I felt crabby when some of my work friends invited me out because I knew it wasn't in my budget to go out until next month.

I know I've moved barns a lot but I feel like there have been a couple of "eras" in my boarding barn experience. First, my options were very limited because I was living in a rural area and was making very little so there was basically one or two options that fit into my budget and were within the area. All I've wanted ever since I got into dressage (nearly 15 years ago) was a good, dressage show barn with an indoor/outdoor arena and people with a similar passion to ride and talk with.

Miss this place
When I finally had the budget I found that barn. It was perfect, it was literally my favorite place that I've been. For example, there were three indoor grooming stalls and one space outdoors. More often than not they were all full and there were people waiting in line to tie up and groom. I loved the bustle and talking to the other dressage riders. People rode very regularly and everyone took weekly lessons plus they were all just so knowledgeable about dressage. Unfortunately this place was J's and she was way too horrible for me to stay. I did learn a lot from her and while I'm so glad that I got out when I did, I still really miss the place and the other people that boarded and trained there.

Ever since I left there I've been trying to get that back. I've found every "dressage" barn that I can in the area that fits in my budget and that I haven't been warned away from. They've all had positives but none of them have been like J's place. H found an even better place with a similar atmosphere but it's very much outside of my budget and would be a really tough commute for me.

In my search to find that place I've increased exponentially what I'm spending at each place. It's always been, and still is, "in my budget" but as mentioned above that's only if I don't have any fun outside the barn. I think what I'm getting at is that I would be more willing to make these sacrifices if I were at a barn like that but, even though my barn is spectacular it's just not the same, for anything less I just can't make myself do it anymore.

At first I was thinking of moving Katai to pasture board at my current barn but I just can't have her on grass without risking founder so that was out. I've done some looking and I have a couple of options planned. Both nearly cut my horse expenses in half but one, my favorite, would also include weekly lessons which is really important to me. The other includes a huge trail system and a few different trainers that I could work with on things like trailer loading.

I want to be clear that the only reason I'm moving is financial. I'm so, so, so excited to actually have a normal amount of money to spend on things like getting a couple of new items of clothing or going out to eat with friends :-) Obviously Katai's welfare is still my primary concern so I'm choosing the right place for her even if I lose some of the amenities that I enjoy I'll just deal with it.

I'll share more information soon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 10

My first header, just to break up the wall of text :) As a side note, I miss Myshla's little face :(

I’m also stealing this from L. Williams!

1. Do you actually always pick the horse’s feet? Always? Really?
I used to be REALLY bad about this so I count it as a huge victory that I nearly always pick hooves now. When I was growing up and we had our horses on our land in a pasture I think I maybe remembered to pick feet every 100 rides or something. I always picked after we rode on gravel but otherwise it was a crap shoot. Now I remember 99% of the time before I ride and about 90% of the time after I ride.

2. What is the biggest obstacle/reason preventing you from becoming a professional or competing full time with ease?
Money, however, I would say that I really don’t want to be a professional or compete full time so drive might be missing as well ;) I’m very happy being an adult amateur with an amazing hobby. I like that it allows me to do other things and I think that I would burn out if I did this as a profession. I like that the barn gets to be my happy place instead of where I work. If I did have more money I would board at a more competitive show barn and have more opportunities to get out there and compete. Also, I would put Katai in training with someone to work on trailer loading and transporting her so that I don’t have to deal with her mare tude as much on my own.

3. Do you think it will ever not be about the money?
I think this depends a little on which sport you’re involved in. I see this more with show jumping and hunters, and sort of with dressage. Not as much with eventing. I also think that top riders aren’t necessarily independently wealthy (like Elisa Wallace) they’ve just worked hard to get there and to find opportunities but the people who own the horses need to have money to own the top horses.

4. Was there ever a horse that you loved and really wanted to have a connection with, but it just never panned out?
Yes, the horse that I’ve owned for the longest so far was a black Perch/Arab named Loki. He was just an amazing horse, really good on trails, not naughty, and had some talent for dressage and jumping. I traded my first horse (who was nasty) for him because Loki was perfect for me. However, he never liked me and wouldn’t let me catch him, didn’t want me to pet him, etc. I tried being firm and I tried being really kind and cuddly with him but he never let me in. I eventually sold him to a women as her first horse and they got along great.

5. What is one weakness in your riding that even your trainer doesn’t pick up on, only you?
My trainer sees all and I’m sure she’s very aware of all of my weaknesses. She doesn’t always address all of them because that wouldn’t actually be helpful but any time I think I’ve discovered something to work on she’s already aware and has a plan for how we’re going to be addressing it and when.

6. What is your biggest doubt/insecurity you ask or tell yourself in your head?
Everything really! I had a rough start in dressage with J who told me that my pony wasn’t worth anything and that I couldn’t ride her because I was too big. I know that both of those things are false but it’s tough to get them out of my head and those just add to previous insecurities.

7. There is a barn fire, You are the first person to discover it and see that the roof is collapsing in slowly, and you can tell it’s going to come down any time. Do you call people first or head straight in to save the horses?
I wouldn’t go in, I’d call and see if there was anything I could do to save the horses from outside the burning building but wouldn’t put myself at risk. It would probably haunt me but that’s what I’d do. My life is just too precious.

8. What is one event in your riding career/horse/anything that you’re still not over, even though you might tell others you are?
J’s comments as mentioned above. Also my first horse instilled a very healthy fear of cantering in me since he was a bolter and a bucker. I’ve pretty much overcome that but every once in a while that fear still crops back up.

9. If you could tell off one person you just don’t like, what would you say?
I would tell the people at J’s barn to really look at how she’s treating their horses. Ask them to think about why all of their backs are tight, tense, and sore and ask why they stay with her when what she does and what she teaches is so far from what they see in “normal” dressage barns. I wouldn’t even talk to J because she is very successful with her “training” methods and that doesn’t tend to elicit change, her students aren’t necessarily all successful with her training methods and yet follow her blindly. I’d like to get them to think critically about why they are there.

10. Have you ever seen questionable riding or training practices, but let it go/ignored it? How do you feel about it in hindsight?
J’s again, there really wasn’t much I could do. I was a little fish in a pond with a very big shark. At any hint of mentioning that she wasn’t doing the right thing I would have been eaten up and she would have made sure that her posse didn’t listen to me. In hindsight I would have just left much earlier or never trained with her in the first place. Live and learn but it’s taken a lot of time and effort to erase all of the negative effects of my time at her barn and I think some of the scars won’t ever go away. I am hoping to beat all of them (her and her students) in the ring by doing much more relaxed and fun dressage with my horse and would hope that it may cause her students to ask some good questions about why they are there.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Good Riding Horse: Lesson Recap 7/17

I had a great lesson today but it was a little weird. I feel like I haven't had regular lessons in a long time. I missed my past two lessons (L was on vacation one week and I was on vacation the next) so it felt odd to be riding in one today. I've been having some great rides over the past few weeks and L was able to make some great progress with Katai last week so I was looking forward to riding with her and getting more feedback.

We started off with an amazing trot!! L gave me some feedback on a few small things, that I needed to get her neck a little lower and to pause a bit more at the top of my posting, but mostly it felt amazing. After a walk break we went to working on spiral in and out at the trot and throwing in canter transitions.

I need to practice these more again. For awhile I felt like I was really getting them figured out but now I'm back on the struggle bus. Oh well, time to do more practice! Once we were cantering the main feedback I got was that I was pumping too much with my elbows. I think in an attempt to make sure I wasn't grabbing with my left hand I've been too loose which means too much movement and therefore the pumping. I was able to relax my arms and be much more soft and still which immediately meant that Katai softened. Funny how that works ;)

After another walk break we went back to working on the trot and getting and keeping Katai more in front of my leg. L has correctly identified that I tend to let Katai get behind my leg too much. We started working on turning down the centerline and then halting at X (or other letters so that Katai wouldn't get wise) while focusing on getting her to halt from a trot and to halt square. It clearly pointed out that I couldn't keep her in front of my leg at downward transitions.

It also pointed out that while my turns to the right were pretty good, my turns to the left were complete failures and I overshot the center line every time.

Finally, thanks to some great work on L's part during her past training rides, we did some amazing stretchy trot. Katai was really stretching down while still maintaining the same temp. It felt great and floaty and soft. It was really a great and fun lesson but what made it even better was the conversation we had at the beginning.

Golden State

L and I started off talking about the NDPC and she asked if Golden State had been there. Both of us really think he's amazing and L has mentioned that she'd really like one of his babies. I'd really like one too and I mentioned it but also said that while it would be really fun to breed Katai to him, it's just not something I'd do. First I think I'm the last person qualified to breed a horse and second I just don't know enough about Katai's breeding to know what I'd get. I really lucked out with my pony and think that she's amazing, but when it comes to picking out my next horse I'd rather know a bit more about what I'd get.

At that comment the BM (who did a lot of very successful breeding) said that Katai would make an ADORABLE baby. Katai is one of her favorites which is pretty cool since there are many amazing horses that board there and she started talking about how cute that baby could be. Then L chimed in with a couple of suggestions of who she'd breed Katai to and why. It's really flattering that they were talking about it but I know that neither one of them would actually recommend it. However, at that point L mentioned that it's probably good that I wasn't planning on it since she'd lost her own amazing riding horse to a breeding injury. It made me really happy to hear that L thinks that Katai is worth more as a riding horse than in being bred. I can guarantee you that a few of my friends and acquaintances think that it would be better to breed Katai to a talented horse and get something at least a little better rather than to ride her.

I don't put much stock into what those people think since I think Katai is AMAZING but it's really great to hear that my trainer thinks the same thing :)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Updates and PSA

I had this whole post done and then for some reason it wouldn't save or post. I, unfortunately, thought that it had so instead of copying it all to save it I just clicked away and lost all that work :(

At any rate my PSA is to please take pictures and videos for yourself of the bad moments. I went back through this blog and was disappointed that I hadn't done more to share the bad moments especially at J's. Katai was such a disaster there that it wasn't like I was all excited to get pictures of her worst moments. At the time I wasn't sure it was going to get any better and that was scary, but now I wish that I'd preserved more of that so that I could look back and see how far we've come. So, learn from me and capture that for yourself, even if you don't want to share it :)

For updates first I wanted to share that Friday and today I was at my parent's place to see them, my sister, and to work on my tack locker!

We added the bottom to the locker (at the far end in the picture above) and the main shelf which you can see as well. We've got a few more pieces to assemble in this main cabinet part but then the majority of the assembly will be in the door.

Making the cutouts for the polo wrap shelves
I'm enjoying this project so much! It's so great to be able to work with and learn from my dad and it's going to be fun to have something to show for it at the end of this.

I also wanted to do a show plans update. Unfortunately everything up until now has fallen through. I really hate not having a trailer and being at other people's mercy. I get anxiety when I can't trust that something like this is actually going to work out since it involves a fair amount of planning on my part and especially with the financial piece of it. It's not like schooling shows are that expensive but my budget is tight. It also takes enough for me to psych myself up for getting my silly baby horse to a show without me feeling like I'm not sure if the trailer is going to actually show up.

At this point I've decided to change my plans a bit for this upcoming weekend (which was supposed to be a schooling show) and take a lesson with L's instructor instead. I'm actually really thrilled about it, just disappointed that I'm not going to be able to make another show. It sucks but until I can get my own trailer that's sort of where I'm at.

The reason this came up this weekend is that my barn is hosting a big name clinician that has quite a few people trailering in. My BM needs several more stalls so some people, including me, have offered to let the BM trailer their horses to a barn just down the road that belongs to L's trainer. It's mainly a boarding situation but because I work with L the instructor has agreed to do a lesson with me. I'm really excited and can't wait to do this with Katai. I think it will be great for Katai's trailering experience and will hopefully be easier on her than a show but still give us the opportunity to practice working away from home.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


I think that motivation is a really interesting thing. We used to talk about it more as inspiration when I was growing up as a musician in a family of musicians but it's pretty much the same thing in this case.

As I was growing up I had constantly changing interests, like most kids I'm sure, and from one day to the next the thing that I was motivated to do could really change. I had a bunch of different hobbies and interests, had different pets, learned different things like sculpture and basically would be really, really into something for a few weeks to a few years off and on before moving on to something else. The only thing that really stuck around through all of that was horses but I never really got to do all of the things that I wanted to until recently and I think I filled in some of that want with other hobbies.

Over the last few years it's been all about horses, Katai in particular. I haven't taken on any new hobbies and have really focused on dressage and Katai as well as other important things in my life like being vegan (food, recipes, learning to make new things like brewing Kombucha etc), blogging,  spending time with friends, getting more fit, doing stuff with Veggie, focusing on my new job etc. It's been nice! It's nice to focus on one thing, its nice to not be spending money on picking up, and then dropping, a whole bunch of new things and it's all I really wanted.

So far my motivation hasn't really gone down. I've had small peaks and valleys and times where I'm just less motivated to ride but mainly it seems to be more about just laziness than anything else. However recently I just haven't been as motivated as I was and knew that something was nothing me but wasn't quite sure what it was. It's been a couple of months since I was motivated but at first I thought that the break when I was in WA for a week might help, then when I got back and got so sick of course I wasn't going to be motivated. The problem is that I just haven't been feeling like I'm really motivated and back into it even now that I'm feeling better.

In my musician family we used to talk about doing other things that would help with our motivation such as reading a good book, going to an art museum, spending time at a national park, going for a hike etc. Sometimes though it's just immersing yourself into the thing that you aren't feeling motivated to do even more that help increase your motivation. The problem is that it's tough to know which will help.

I think I finally figured out why I haven't been as motivated but I'm going to share more about that later. For now, the break last week and watching all of those talented ponies at the National Dressage Pony Cup was really good for my motivation.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Bittersweet Return

Kentucky in the early morning on the flight home.
First off my trip back home was really long. I got to the airport at 3:00am CST and didn't get back home until 1:30pm CST. There were delays due to weather, delays due to a plane needing repair, then after already taking longer than it should have I got to the airport in MN and needed to take the light rail home. Normally this is really, really easy with just one transfer from the "blue line" to the "green line" but both were shut down towards downtown Minneapolis so I needed to take the blue line for awhile, then climb on a blue line shuttle bus, then switch to a green line shuttle bus, then get on the green line and then get home. All while toting a rather large suitcase and computer bag.

Only probably was that the green line shuttle bus driver got lost, really lost. We were lost for nearly 45 minutes. It was horrible especially since we kept getting stopped at lights so the air conditioning on the bus wasn't working very well and it was hot. At any rate I made it home safe with all of my personal belongs so it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

I LOVE Kentucky and already miss being there. I'm making it a goal to get to Rolex next year so I'm hoping to be back soon :)

Gorgeous bronze nearly life sized horse outside of an antique store.
I'm also really happy to be home! The trip to Kentucky was a great beginning to my long 10 day total vacation that I've been needing so badly. I can't believe how much I got done just today on Monday and that's on the beginning. My plans for this week go something like this.

Monday and Tuesday is the Suzanne Winslade clinic at my barn. I'm not riding this time, mainly budget but also because of the KY trip, but on Sunday L raved about how well Katai did for her ride and also mentioned that her young horse was slightly lame (after being a goofball and getting a couple of big cuts on his rear fetlocks) so she asked if she could ride Katai at her lesson with Suzanne. Katai was sort of on hold since she was hoping that her horse would be sound enough for the lesson.

I had planned to audit for awhile and to watch L ride but with the chance that she might ride Katai meant riding I definitely wanted to be there. I got some grocery shopping done in the morning and did some cleaning (my roommates are pretty good for guys, but still young guys) and laundry.

I got to the barn around 2:00 and L was riding at 4:00. I watched both earlier lessons and talked to the BM and some of the other boarders. L showed up about 40 minutes early but they'd been running early so she asked for my help to get her horse tacked up while she went to talk to Suzanne to see how she wanted to handle the lesson. They decided that L would ride her horse for 30 minutes and then Katai for 30 minutes. I watched a bit of her lesson and then got Katai ready so that I could walk her and warm her up for a bit before she needed to switch to Katai.
An exciting picture of Katai's back that I need to send out for saddle fit help. I think she's looking pretty good here
I got her all tacked up and warmed up but L's horse was doing so well that she stuck with him for the full lesson and I was happy for her that she was able to ride her own horse. However, I'd handed her off and took her horse to cool him out before we realized that the hour was up so L offer to just put a ride on her. I certainly couldn't argue with a free trainer ride and although I had wanted to ride it was 75% humidity and I was dripping sweat just getting Katai tacked up and so I'd lost some of my motivation.

I quickly got L's horse untacked and cleaned up and then put him back in his stall and went back to watch Katai. Despite not being very enthused about working in the heat and still being a little tired from the previous day's ride with L Kati was really good. She listened well and only had a few minor resistant moments. Mainly she was really, really, really good! She was soft and through and was really doing a great job. L started off, after a brief trot to really warm her up, by working on transitions within the trot. She was getting some really nice lengthening and, the tough one, some really nice collected work AND she was getting it by sitting. Normally Katai loses her mind when you sit the trot because she's waiting for the canter cue (that's the only time I sit right now) but she was doing really well with it today.

Then they did counter canter!! So, so cool and she did really well especially for a second time. L was playing with that, half steps, and shoulder in yesterday during her ride and just wanted to practice it with her since she normally doesn't get to ride Katai twice in a row. I did end up hearing from a couple of people at the barn how L was raving about Katai and how she did yesterday. My little superstar :-)

Now I'm even more motivated to ride even if Katai is going to get a few days outside of the sandbox and a well earned day off before I get to do a dressage ride.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

National Dressage Pony Cup Trip Recap - Long

I'm so excited to be able to attend the NDPC again this year. I was here in 2014 as you may remember but that was with a friend (previous roommate) who was familiar with KY and is a huge race enthusiast. That trip was all about visiting and spending time in KY including going to a race, the Keenland auction etc. This year for me was all about the pony cup so I planned two days in Lexington (Friday and Saturday) with the goal of spending the full day both days at the KY Horse Park. I was so excited to fly out!

I luckily was able to get packing completed on Wednesday (despite my puppy not being very happy with me and hoping to invite himself with) which was good because I had to leave for the airport directly after work on Thursday.

He's pretty good at breaking my heart when he wants something he can't have like going along in my suitcase. Maybe next year :)
I made it to the airport plenty early thanks to my amazing roommate who got off work early to drive me in. I got some dinner at the airport and then was on my way, or at least I thought.

First my flight was delayed because of some small repair that needed to get done. Then they got us all on the plane and promptly told us that there was a ground stop in Chicago so it was going to be half an hour. That turned into an hour and a half. I knew that flights out of Chicago were going to be delayed as well but since I only had an hour to transfer to my next flight I wasn't sure if I was going to make it and was really hoping that I wouldn't need to spend the night at the airport.

Despite being stressful it was a beautiful flight to Chicago
I was actually able to make my transfer which was actually running quite late as well. It was a cute little baby plane with two seats on one side but only one along the other side. Smallest plane I've ever been in.
Chicago to Lexington in a baby plane
Unfortunately that meant that instead of getting to Lexington around 8:30pm I didn't get there until 12:30am. It also meant that the rental car I had booked through Hertz wasn't available since they must have closed at 9:00. I ended up getting a "second" rental car from Enterprise who was open which sucked but oh well, what can you do. It also meant that I got to my AirBnB pretty late and was lucky that the guy who owns the place is sort of a night owl and was able to answer my questions about how to find it, since it didn't show up on my GPS, and how to get in. It's a studio apartment which is really cool and in a beautiful historic building right near downtown.

One of my favorite ponies

I was eventually able to find it and get in. I pretty much collapsed right into bed around 1:20am and was happy to sleep in the next morning.

I did eventually get myself out of bed and decided to run a few errands before heading to the show. I had chosen this AirBnB because it had a mini kitchenette and I was hoping to save some money by buying groceries and preparing most of my own food. I found a Trader Joes and bought some groceries. After getting back, putting them away, and grabbing everything I'd need for the day I headed out and got the show right around 10:30am.

Seriously the cutest flying changes ever!

It was actually really nice and overcast, in fact I found out later that there had been rain delay's early on, and was nice to be there without the heat and the sun. I walked around to the various rings and watched for awhile and then went to find some food at the restaurant at the KY Horse Park. I found some french fries that were vegan enough ;) and found a table. At some point I looked outside and realized that it was pouring. Apparently I have really great timing!

This guy is the first dressage rider that I've ever seen with a full beard!

After I finished my lunch I stopped by the giftshop and got a really awesome plastic rain poncho and then headed back out to watch ponies again! Amazingly enough with how hard it had been pouring while I was eating, the rain stopped completely right after I headed back out to watch. Maybe the universe felt like I'd already put up with enough on this trip?

Adorable Buckskin in the warmup ring

At any rate I watched some more amazing and talented ponies and their owners. I really enjoyed watching the upper level riders and ponies but what was really fun was watching the people that are closer to my level. It was amazing to watch the 1st and 2nd level ponies and see that while the ponies that were winning were amazing and nearly perfect, there were plenty of people that were doing quiet well that have many of the same bobbles that we would have at this point. Not at 2nd level of course, I can't even imagine showing at that level yet but 1st level for sure. It was really good motivation to keep at it!

It was also fun (and sometimes funny) to hear Axel Steiner's commentary. He had a few sarcastic sounding comments but mostly was very complimentary of the ponies and their riders. If you're interested you'll be able to find the archived live stream on USEF Network this year!

Then I went shopping...

My "I probably shouldn't have bought this" face. Adorable AirBnB in the background
I did actually have a small budget for shopping and only went slightly over what I had planned. My souvenirs seem to always be riding clothes. There is the Asmar jacket that I got in OH when I was in Cleveland for my sister's college graduation, and the Kastel Denmark sun shirt that I got last time I was in KY. The purchases for this trip were a jacket from Horze and a pair of my favorite breeches from Horze that are sold out on the website. 

I've planned to get another "shell" jacket since I wear these all the time and lost my FAVORITE mountain horse jacket at some point last winter. I nearly cried over that one. I've been just wearing my Asmar jacket but it's nice to have two so that I can wash them more often. Plus it's MN, there are seriously 4-5 months of the year or more when a good light jacket makes sense. I LOVE Horze stuff as I've mentioned before but their sizing is weird. The only shirts I've ever got from them have either been too big or too small so I just don't get their tops anymore without trying them on first. In fact, this jacket was an XXS which I certainly am not but it fits great and is so adorable. The breeches are the same as the burgundy ones that I have and adore but are in a light grey with a navy blue seat.

I REALLY wanted these when they came out for my "schooling show" breeches but I hesitated and they sold out online and aren't sold anywhere locally. I saw them on a mannequin at a vendor tent on Friday and asked if what size they were. I was really sad when the shop owner said that they were a 22 which would never fit me. I let her know that I would need a 26 and she went to check to see if they had a pair in the back. She came back out with a pair but it was a 24. Since I've been losing weight and my 26s are slowly getting a little looser I decided to just try them on and although they're just slightly snug they do fit!! I thought about it a bit but did go for it and I'm so exited about finally having them!

The Fell mare from H's barn
I also met up with the owner and rider of the ponies that are here from H's barn in MN! The owner has two adorable Fell ponies and I've met her trainer who rode at the NDPC. I've actually watched her ride the gelding at the recent Janet Foy clinic at H's barn that I went to. The rider and owner were really nice and we talked ponies for awhile while we hung out in the stable isle. I found out that both ponies were showing the next day, the mare that I'd seen on Friday was showing really early but the gelding, who is showing Prix St. George, was showing around 11:30 which was very doable so I let them know that I'd be there to see him go the next day.

I got back to the AirBnB around dinner and after making some food I went on a couple of errands to get some more drinking water and other odds and ends. The rest of the evening I caught up on blogs and watched Youtube.

These two were so adorable! She rode upper level and the pony couldn't have been over 13.2 hands.
I got up fairly early this morning and after making some coffee and getting breakfast I headed back out to the horse park. I wanted to be there early and leave right around noon so that I could make myself lunch and get out of the heat and sun before it got really hot.

Lauren Chumley riding Grand Prix on Avatar's Jazzman
I saw a bunch more talented ponies and got to see Lauren Chumley ride grand prix as well as some other extremely talented upper level ponies. I also watched some more lower level tests and got to pet more amazing ponies. I knew that the Fell I was there to watch wasn't going to be out very long before his test since he has a lower energy level and they didn't want to wear him out before his class. Right around 11:20 I found him and made my way back over to his owner. She was so nice and so excited to have a fan there to watch her pony :)

The Fell gelding from H's barn with his group of admirers after a great Prix St. George test!
He did an AMAZING job especially for a pony that's just not built for upper levels. It was so inspiring and amazing to watch him put in a great and clean test. I believe he scored in the 50s which is amazing for a little guy that was brought up through the levels by lots of hard work. It was especially amazing to see his rider/trainer pumping her arms in the air and giving him lots of hugs after the test and hearing how rewarding it was after all her hard work with him. She's an amazing rider that has her gold medal and has ridden many warmbloods and yet said that this was way more rewarding then those other tests that she's completed because of all the work she's put in with him to get him here.

We all gushed over him for awhile, he'd gathered a little crowd of admirers, and then when they headed back to bathe him and get the mare ready for a breed class I left and headed back to my AirBnB. It would have been fun to stay a bit longer but I'd seen so much pony dressage and it was getting really hot and sunny and I was ready to be in the air conditioning again.

The front of my AirBnB

Downtown Lexington

I LOVE all the amazing historical, brick houses
I did a bit more exploring and now I'm planning to spend the rest of the evening hanging out here and then I'm going to head to bed early since I have to leave around 4:00am for the airport to head home. I'm so happy to have been able to be here again and it just makes me even more excited to get here with Katai some day!

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Best Laid Plans

Not sure that she wants a job as a model
I've had a lot to do before my trip and in a small amount of time. This past weekend I rode outside and went on a trail ride on Saturday. I did a lot of canter and the outdoor arena is a little deep so on Sunday I just lunged her at walk/trot/canter with the trial saddle. My plan was to climb up and do a little trot but when the saddle clearly didn't fit I just called it.

Then I drove just over an hour south to my parent's farm where I grew up. We spent time together on Sunday and then went to the county fair and watched harness racing on Monday which has been our tradition since I was little. I had a great time and it was good to see family again. I drove home Monday evening and took care of some grocery shopping and food prep for the week.

My plan was to go to the barn and ride on Tuesday and Wednesday this week since I won't be out Thursday-Sunday. Unfortunately Tuesday we ended up with severe thunderstorms and there just wasn't a way for me to make it to the barn. I think it actually ended up being good though since I got a ton done and I'm not sure that I would have had time to do everything I needed before my trip otherwise. I was able to get the Prestige boxed up, both other trial saddles packed in my car, the boxed up prestige packed up in my car, extra supplement baggies made and packed in my car, my suitcase nearly packed, laundry done and folded and a grocery list done for my trip.

On Wednesday I stopped at the post office to mail the prestige,  got both other trials back to the local tack shop, and finished packing. Of course the most important thing is that I was able to make it out to the barn to ride my girl and spend some time with her before I left her for a few days.

I'll have an update on my trip and the Dressage Pony Cup soon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Much Needed Time Off

I haven’t had much time off over the past several years. I graduated from grad school in 2010 and had been working nearly full time through my time in school. I worked full time in retail for a few months after I graduated and then went right into my career. During the last 6 years I’ve only ever had one full week off. I’ve had some 3, 4, and 5 day weekends but other than that one time I haven’t had more than 5 days off in a row. Now I finally get a chunk of time off!!

I’m leaving for KY for the National Dressage Pony Cup on Thursday afternoon and will be off Friday through the following full week. That means that I’ll have 10 full days off in a row.

I’m so freaking excited!

With that being said, I absolutely adore my current job. I’ve had great jobs in the past but I’m extremely lucky that I adore my current job and all of the people I work with. I’ll actually miss them and I know that I’m putting more work on everyone else with taking this much time off. I don’t really feel guilty (I know I need this and my productivity really needs it) it’s just that I’ll miss everyone and the purpose that my job gives me every day.

Oh well, did I mention 10 DAYS OFF!!!!!!!

Will anyone else be at the NDPC at the Kentucky Horse Park later this week? Or, does anyone that lives close want to meet up? It would be so much fun to have a blogger meetup while I’m out there!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Saddle Saga

The Prestige Lucky I have on trial doesn't fit. It doesn't fit so badly that I could see daylight through the bridging areas but, we think it's just because it's too narrow. So, I'm going to take a leap of faith and try to get another trial in a wider tree size. If it fits it will be perfect, if it doesn't, I'm going to wish that I hadn't gone for either trial but at least I'll know!

I LOVE the saddle though. It's the new Lucky Idol and it's gorgeous, the leather is amazing, I love the flap length and the seat is really comfortable for me. I'm going to have my fingers crossed until I get a chance to try it.

In the meantime at the suggestion of my trainer I picked up an Amerigo Vega from our local tack shop. I heard great things about them for ponies. This was a wide 17.5" so it was a bit of a wild card and while the shape of the tree fit really well and the point billets put the girth in the right place it was just too wide so it still slid forward (worse than my saddle actually). It's on my list since I think if I can find a 17" in a MW or M tree it has a good chance of fitting. It wasn't my favorite to sit in though so It's not at the top of my list right now. Once I've had a chance to try a different tree size in the Prestige Lucky I'm going to try a few other options.

Friday, July 1, 2016

June Goals Recap

Update to current goals:

1. Proper bend to the left – I’ve been chipping away at this all month and it’s actually getting better. At the very least she isn’t as surprised when I ask for the bend through the jaw now so she get less defensive. However, either through focus on this side or possibly saddle fit(?) she’s now struggling more with proper bend to the right

2. Stretchy Trot – I’ve been working on this a lot this month. I’m getting better at getting her stretching out but she’s still struggling with her balance a little. Once we’ve gone back into work I haven’t focused on this as much and I think with a little loss of strength she was struggling more with this last week when I worked on it.

3. Canter Transitions – These are getting way better! I’ve had a few great transitions to the right (her tougher side) but her transitions to the left are consistently  WAY better. This is a total win for my new goal setting format

4. Lateral Work – This is getting so much better!! I’ve been doing a lot of shoulder in and nose to the wall leg yield along the wall and she’s really getting it. Her balance has been getting better and she’s getting a bit better at working through and not getting tight through her back. We’re still having some rushing but that’s been getting progressively better.

5. Cavaletti Exercise – I haven’t done this one again but plan to pull it out again in the near future

I haven’t quite decided how I’m going to transition from previous goal to new goals but I think that what I’m going to do is kick anything off the list that’s going well. My goal is to get these items at a good point and then at least maintain but shift my focus to other areas. Then if for some reason I’m having trouble maintaining progress on something I’ll put it back on the list.

 New Goals:  

1. Proper bend to each direction - I honestly think this is something we should have better by this point. I’m sure if I were a more advanced rider that this would be more consistent than we have it right now. I’m going to just keep working and improving my skills at this.

 2. Work outside - I just need to get her outside as much as I can and for as many different activities as possible

 3. Do chiropractor prescribed stretches before every ride (also getting a massage book so that I can do some of this myself :)


With my current decision to move I didn't have to think that long to decide which barn I would move to if I could. The barn I'm movi...