Tuesday, December 8, 2015

10 Ways to Prepare for Horse Ownership

 1. Drop a heavy steel object on your foot. Don’t pick it up right away. Shout “Get off, stupid! Get off!”

2. Leap out of a moving vehicle and practice ‘relaxing into the fall.’ Roll lithely into a ball, and spring to your feet!

3. Learn to grab your checkbook out of your purse or pocket and write a $200 check without even looking down.

4. Jog long distances, carrying a halter & lead rope and holding out a carrot. (Go ahead and tell your friends what you’re doing--they might as well know now).

5. Affix a set of reins to a moving freight train and practice pulling it to a halt. And smile as if you are really having fun.

6. Practice your fibbing skills, like, “I’m glad your lucky performance and million dollar horse won you first place--I’m just thankful that my hard work and actual riding ability won me second place.”

7. Practice speed dialing your chiropractor’s number with both arms paralyzed to the shoulder, and one foot anchoring the lead rope of a frisky horse.

8. Borrows the US Army slogan: “Be all that you can be”..(add to it) bitten, thrown, kicked, slimed, trampled.”

9. Lie face down in the mud in your most expensive riding clothes and repeat to yourself: “This is a learning experience, this is a learning experience...”

10. Marry money.

I don't know where this originated but it nearly made me cry I was laughing so hard so I had to share it with you guys!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Auditing George Morris

Thanks to the wonderful L. Williams I knew that George Morris was going to be giving a clinic here in California... after sussing out costs & where it was, I knew I had to attend to watch! I stole several of my students from school and we made the 2.5 hour drive to Penryn, CA which was a really good time.

Now, George Morris. Famous for many things: the author of Hunter Seat Equitation, chef d'equipe, rider in the 1960 Olympics, and master of the acerbic quote. This man is fastidious and careful. He has a methodology that he wholeheartedly believes in. He is intimidating. He is also very good.

I got a TON out of watching and listening. In no real order, here are my transcribed notes from the day:
  • Soften on the horse's mouth while making final turn to approach the fence in order to better see a distance
  • Teach your students about tack - why this bit, why this saddle, why this bridle, why these stirrup irons
  • Always (always always) lengthen stirrups after jumping
  • Stay with the horse in a light seat unless the horse is squirrely or untrustworthy before fences.
  • An exercise: 8-10 strides canter, walk, 8-10 strides counter canter, etc. Then reduce to 6-8 strides. 
  • Teach the half turn and the half turn in reverse - 1/2 turn in reverse can be developed into a turn on the forehand in motion to get the horse obedient to the outside leg
  • Boldness combats stiffness
  • An exercise: poles on the ground | <-- 4 short strides --> | (8 ft short bounce) | <-- 4 short strides --> |
    This can be trotted and cantered through - the horse doesn't change canter from rail to over the poles, is simply a collected canter
  • An exercise: from the halt, facing a fence squarely, leg go and gallop to fence (for developing an eye) "Letting go takes courage."
  • Stiffness affects timing
  • Keep your elbows close to your hips
  • Inside leg always more than outside leg, you need more inside leg in shortenings than in lengthenings
  • Mobilize haunches in/out -- in a greener horse it will resemble a leg yield with little body bend
  • An 'ordinary trot' is quiet and rhythmic
  • The hind legs must come under in downward transition to prevent falling on forehand
  • Ask 'shorter' in every stride of counter canter
  • True straightness is almost a shoulder fore
  • "You can't know it on talent" -- referring to the hours and the tuning-fork quality of the rider to develop correct gaits
  • "I don't care if you're strong - you have to get it done. But I don't want to smell any frustration. Keep your cool."
What's going to change in my teaching? The biggest and most fundamental thing GM emphasized was repetition of very basic, very quiet things. Keep your foot in the correct place of the stirrup. Keep rechecking your upper body (rein length, angle of upper body for your current task, etc). Be fanatic about these tiny things that take very little talent and many repetitions to learn. There's no excuse for sloppiness in these small things.

And I agree - I'm guilty of letting some of these things slide because I've already said them 100 times, dammit, or perhaps I'm focused on something else. But seeing how GM layers and knowing his end goal sort of drove home that I cannot allow these little things to just sort of be 'ok'.

Did my kids get this much out of it? I honestly don't know. I know that seeing the next levels of riding, that seeing impeccable turnout, that seeing the quality of ring, that seeing the inside of such a gorgeous barn, these were all excellent learning experiences. I'm excited to see how listening to a master teach for six hours will impact these kids. 

Friday, December 4, 2015


C putting him through a grid

I do not believe I have written very much about this incredibly sweet boy, primarily because he's a saint and whatever minor training issues he have will sort of even out in good time. But I wanted to at least mention him and tell his story.

After the purchase of Fynn fell apart, I kept my ears to the ground for the next lesson-horse-prospect. I saw an ad for Chente on Craigslist and thought, "that's pretty close by! How cute!" So I went out and I rode him. And I had so much fun. He is just the definition of sweet and well broke. Not a ton of balance, but he also doesn't have a ton of muscle. But he's obedient to the leg and to the hand and completely unflappable.

Partway through riding him at this place, some dude released several sheep into the arena. At one point, we ended up with a sheep sort of wedged under us, and Chente's expression didn't even change.

My first ride on him at home (8/21/2015 since I couldn't seem to remember)

He's always giving off this totally chill vibe, and he's uber patient with pretty much any rider I put on him.

The photo on the craigslist ad hahaha

Even the tiny ones below! He's sensitive enough to the aids that you never have to get after him but he's quiet enough that I can trust him with anyone. I sort of hit the lesson-horse jackpot.

He's a very honest and sweet jumper, though I don't see him having a ton of scope. But he's still got a LONG way to go strength and muscle-wise, so perhaps that will change. 

Oh, and Alyssa did the most amazing drawing for me of Chente! She really captured his sweetness.

We are currently preparing him to compete in a intro-level three day in March, so if I write further about him on the blog, we've got some background now!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Welcome to Gigi

This pretty mare came in yesterday for training - I've got 4-6 months with her, maybe more if it's going well and the owner thinks it'll be beneficial to see how far she comes. She's a 10 year old Oldenburg mare who has never really been started, so it will be very interesting to see how she comes along. Right now she's very soft everywhere, a stark contrast to Kat who remains absurdly well-muscled

I treat the first backing as a desensitizing exercise like anything else and like to get that out of the way as soon as I can. Today we did some lunging, lots of "this is how we stop like a polite horse with manners," and I hopped on her to scratch her all over and give her pats.

We'll continue with ground manner bootcamp and start introducing a bridle some time this week, ending each session with me just sitting on her and patting her lots. I want my presence to be absolutely no big deal, whether I'm on the ground alongside her or on her back.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Did you know Avicii wrote a song about dressage?

I had a discussion with a client the other day about acquiring feel for things, and I explained that sometimes you just have to feel your way through the darkness for a while.

Feeling my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
That awkward, trying to paste all the pieces back together, 'am I even doing this right?' darkness when you're trying new things with a trainer, trying to determine if you can actually feel what she saw when she said, "there! That was it!" and you sit there thinking that it felt the same. But you try again, feeling toward another 'there', guided by your trainer.

I can't tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start
 Riding is a lifelong journey, but waiting to get the training I need certainly doesn't get me closer to my goals.

They tell me I'm too young to understand
They say I'm caught up in a dream
Well life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes
Well that's fine by me
 My whole life is riding, training, teaching. I read books about training, I mostly only talk about training, and I spend the bulk of my days in the saddle or teaching people about riding. I have a lot of family who thinks that this monomaniacal focus is going to burn me out, or that I'm missing something important in my life. My best friends are my horses, and learning to serve them better by being a more balanced, more informed rider certainly isn't missing life... not by my measurement.
So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn't know I was lost
 As I've embarked on this training journey with JM and Matheo, it's only served to further open my eyes. I've been making incremental progress in my own riding for years, but JM is only serving to show me just how many holes there have been.

I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands
I hope I get the chance to travel the world
But I don't have any plans
 Many of my proudest moments have been watching my students get out there and perform to the best of their ability. I'm excited to see how far these talented riders go in their riding career, but mostly I want their education with me to serve as a grounding point for more than just learning how to ride. Also how to set goals, how to lean into discomfort, how to think about problems from many different perspectives, how to lead and how to follow.
I wish that I could stay forever this young
Not afraid to close my eyes
 I'm blessed by so many things - I'm a very lucky woman.
Life's a game made for everyone
And love is the prize

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Introducing horses to bonnets

I generally like to think of myself as a careful trainer, thinking about things from the point of view of the horse, trying to explain new exercises to the horse as carefully as I can...

And then I do things like buy Kat a bonnet in Vegas because I think it would look cute, then putting it on her, waiting about 25 seconds to see how she feels about it, and going for a ride.

She hadn't been actually ridden in almost a week (ugh the failed show) but our walk work was okay... if TENSE. There's been a lot of construction/tractor work going on and Kat was absolutely convinced that the tractor was going to reappear at any moment and eat her alive. Bend through it baby, leg yield into your fear, and just pay attention to me. Ignore the phantom tractor.

The trot was pretty good. It was inconsistent because she was trying to convince me that she had to look at everything, so I'd bend a little and leg yield some and circle and figure - 8 until she came back to me and started reaching into the bit, and then she'd get all, "the muscles in my neck have suddenly melted, please carry my face." And that wasn't really working for me so we'd ride some transitions, then some lengthenings/shortenings, then just work on like your basic half-halt until all of this was relatively round, consistent in the contact, and steady.

So at that point I'm thinking, "great! Nearly a week off and Kat hasn't really tried to kill me yet! Let's canter."

I give her the aid and she offers a LOVELY transition, totally round and quiet AND STRAIGHT (crazyyy). And then... the bonnet flaps on her face. And Kat has a total. meltdown.

The conversation looked like this:

"Kate. Something is hitting me. Let me show you." She proceeds to put her ears very close to my face while cantering (flailing?) in place.

"Uh, it's been there the whole ride. Can you not put your face so close to mine?"

"Oh, right, sorry." She brings her nose down, opens up her stride a little so we're actually going somewhere, and then feels the flapping edge of the bonnet again. "OH MY GOD KATE IT'S BACK WHAT DO I DO? DO I BUCK? I THINK I BUCK."

"No! No! Please don't buck, that's not helpful."

"Just a baby buck?"

"No, not even a baby buck."

"Okay." Kat goes back to cantering along like a normal horse. "OH MY GOD KATE IT HIT ME AGAIN LET'S GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE." And she bolts down the long side, only to run into the dreaded puddle. "AND NOW MY FEET ARE WET."

 Long story short, we worked through it to the point where I got a quiet canter in both directions, both into and out of the canter, and we called it a day. I think I'll longe her in the bonnet a few times before riding her in it again. Jeez. Horses, amiright?

I'm going to have to do a Teach me Tuesday about "matching tack" someday...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Las Vegas Nationals

This is not the exciting news y'all were hoping for. Instead, this is a post about disappointment.

It was a mess.
  1. A tree fell on the shipper's trailer, caving the roof in
  2. The shipper was unable to find a suitable replacement trailer
  3. One of the horses I was supposed to compete pulled up lame
  4. A miscommunication with the office regarding the above transportation issues led to the office assuming we weren't coming at all and completely scratching all 4 horses.
  5. This left me with a rented truck, a week off, and a completely ready-to-compete horse with nowhere to go
The horses stayed home. E & I ventured to Vegas without the horses and collected some really fun stories that I will tell you tomorrow. For now, I'm going to heave a heavy sigh and look ahead to shows in 2016. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

A week of Kat's workouts

Monday: I just lunged Kat because when I was done lunging her I got a phone call from my mom and got very side tracked and ran out of time. Whoops.

Wild pony says, "what? This line isn't to show off my acrobatics?"

Happy rider after a super fun schooling session

Tuesday: Lunged before riding and man I'm glad we did - we had some really crazy pony moments! But the ride itself was a complete delight. I've been working on lengthening and shortening the canter off my seat and she was light, round, and sensitive to my aids. At the end of the session I popped over one fence and left it there because she took it like an old pro hunter - quiet, balanced, almost bored. Hopped off and lots of pets for the pony.

I saw this dog on Instagram (@lor_jagger_kiko) and instantly fell in love with looking up all the #headtilt photos. SO CUTE

Wednesday: We went for an adventure walk that involved a hardcore spook at Brio, prancing past the goats, and straight refusing to walk past the Nature Academy set-up in the woods. The hills were good, she stayed under control, and she broke a sweat. Winning!

Thursday: Off - farrier/vet visit. When the farrier saw Kat he asked, "has she grown?" Apparently her muscling has changed enough for him to make several comments about how good she looks!

Kat adamantly DID NOT WANT me to take a photo of her new sheet

Friday: After a warm up of walk-trot transitions, leg yields, and some counter canter, I rode through a 2-stride set at 2', then changed it to a 1-stride and started raising the rails. We finished at 3'6" with just two airy verticals off both leads and she felt unbelievable. She stayed completely turned in to my seat, connected over her back, quiet through the combination, and quiet after the fences. Totally a steady-eddy. I crossed my stirrups and ran through training test 2 and 3 while practicing my sitting trot (especially in the downward transition from trot to canter, ugh, so hard) and when I took her down to the barn she was barely sweating. Uhm. Horse. Please don't be so fit, it's frightening.

Lucy as a puppy was the CUTEST

Saturday: A flat school where after the warm up I crossed my stirrups and worked a lot on her connection through the transitions. With JM on Matheo I've been doing a LOT of work on turning the transitions into suppling and gymnasticizing exercises rather than just tests of obedience. It's way hard for me, but also very good. Kat likes to suck behind the leg in the halt/trot transition (or even walk/trot, honestly) so it was really good to focus on halting and bringing the hind legs further under her body and then stepping into the trot rather than lurching into it. Really good balance and I definitely felt sore (45 minute no-stirrup ride + a lesson with JM + 7 hours of teaching lessons in one day makes for a tired Kate). Super proud of my mare!

Sunday: This session was all about turning! And bending! And balance, and staying in front of the leg, and all the other pieces I'd been working on. We didn't work for very long, maybe 30 minutes. The only new thing that we hadn't done earlier in the week was a very shallow serpentine up the centerline at the canter. Mostly turning every two strides to get her really attuned to my seat for guiding her shoulders.

I also found this Pomeranian that looks like a fox on Instagram (@quincyfox) and I want to snuggle it

Stay tuned for Las Vegas updates this week - will do my best to keep you posted as to how the adventure is going! I can't wait - my horse has never felt better.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Kathy Kusner

I bought a copy of Hunter Seat Equitation for $1.00 at a local used book store and started flipping through it when I got home and was stopped by this photo of Kathy Kusner:

The focus between her and her horse is absolutely unbelievable. I love looking at this photo and spent a lot of time examining it for things I liked. Jesus, that horse though!

And then I got curious about this rider, and did some research.

Kathy Kusner was born March 21, 1940. Her mother was a teacher, and her father, a member of the air force. They had very little money so she worked as a groom for her riding time - in the 1950's, most grooms were black men at a time when segregation was still enforced. These men she worked alongside couldn't ride the horses in competitions, couldn't get food in diners, and more. This sparked a dislike for discrimination of any sort that has spanned her entire lifetime: she founded an organization called "Horses in the Hood" which sponsors riding lessons for inner city kids who couldn't otherwise afford to ride.

She rode anything that she was allowed or invited to ride, so she ended up riding for horse dealers, trainers, and for people who weren't as talented riders as her. She describes it somewhat casually, "eventually I was riding better horses until I was riding one of the best in the country."

She loved racing horses, and in 1968 successfully sued the Maryland Racing Commission to allow her to become the first female licensed jockey. After receiving her license she traveled the world and raced horses all over - she says, "it was like a freak show, I drew big crowds. That was really fun because I wasn't used to getting decent mounts. As I shouldn't be, as I shouldn't have been getting good mounts, because I wasn't as good as the other jockeys."

Mind you, 1968 was also the year she rode in Mexico at the Olympic Games, so it was a busy year for her. Trailblazing women's rights in horse racing and representing her country as a show jumper.  

Her three best horses were thoroughbreds and came to her with a reputation for being difficult.

She rode Untouchable in two Olympic games and says that he was the best horse she ever rode. Standing only 16.1hh, he had the flight and scope of the best thoroughbreds. But he was hot and temperamental, often jetting sideways before jumps and making it nearly impossible to ride for a planned distance.

When Alberi came to Kathy, he was an inconsistent stopper. By taking him all the way back to the beginning and re-starting him over fences, she was able to quit him of the habit and went on to ride to many championships with him.

I couldn't find the whole story on Unusual but did pull this great quote from the Maker's interviews with her:

"I was just riding for anybody, the most raggedy-rough horses.... So I did develop skills that a normal person riding well-schooled horses wouldn't have needed." She later laughs and says she's glad about growing up not in a privileged family because she was allowed to run free.

The thing to take away from Kusner's success (or at least what I'm going to take away from this) is that you have to develop a sense of what is and is not possible with each horse through lots of experimentation and tact. She developed that horse sense by riding for lots of difficult horses and playing with them, trying to bring out their best.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Funny

Shamelessly stealing this post idea from L. Williams, enjoy this priceless video:

Bretts first Grand Prix
Going to a competition? You might recognize Brett Kidding's thoughts as he's riding his first Grand Prix at the Dressage Convention ;) Have a nice Sunday!
Posted by TRTmethod on Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sunday's Schooling

I had the above set up in the arena for lessons on Saturday, so out of laziness I schooled it with Kat.

We started with four trot poles set about 5 ft apart and focusing on very square turns to and from the poles, making sure I had a nicely forward trot and allowing the poles to set her back a little bit. I then raised alternate ends of the trot poles so she really had to lift her legs. She was unthrilled the first time and casually leapt over all of them before returning to the trot, so I rode in a very slow trot to the poles the next time and she started to figure it out.

Then we looped around the jumps as shown. They were set very low (12") to start, focusing mostly on keeping a straight path to the jumps, a quiet lead change over the fence, and maintaining our tempo around the ends of the arena. After it was good and consistent, I raised both up to 2', and repeated. Then I set one to 2'9" (I know, slow progression, right?) and left the other at 2' and looped around the exercise enough to see how she felt over a slightly bigger effort.

Once I felt like she was totally warm, on my aids, and ahead of my leg (which could be the subject of an entire extra post. This mare has really been struggling with staying in front of my leg), we switched to just jumping the oxer. I again focused on swinging the shoulders around the hindquarters, setting her up well for the effort, and actually releasing. Because... I have serious release issues right now.

After two good efforts at each height I'd dismount and put the rails up. I don't like jumping above 3' often in my arena because the footing is a touch hard, but it's really good for Kat to see big jumps once in a while. The above is the highest we went and the first rail she pulled.

Being a super careful mare, she only had to learn that lesson once.

Kat put in very consistent efforts, and she's learning to use her head and neck better as I'm learning to half-halt with my body so I'm less afraid of her just taking off with me after the fence. I love that we're getting to a point where I can sit in her and add leg and she'll move up, rather than back off when I really sit down on her. Getting there, one day at a time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wherein I meander around various topics

With Vegas National coming up, I've been putting myself under a tremendous amount of pressure. I want to be riding my best to represent the horses as well as possible. I want to learn everything I can from JM in order to serve the horses. I've been thinking and re-hashing each of my rides so thoroughly that I feel I can recite every step to you of Kat's last few training sessions. 

This has been good, as the horses are going very well. This has also been bad as I think that I'm reaching the upper limit of what I'm mentally and physically capable of for the time being. I was supposed to ride Kat today but instead groomed her and pat her and put her away. 

Omeprazole for stressed mare!

It's funny because I want to document the good things (see photo below) and yet know that what I find most valuable in this blog is the procedural writings. Or perhaps when I dig into my processes and write it up.

The past 60 days have been a whirlwind: a new horse purchased and brought into full training, a new horse purchased and unloaded completely lame (sound now, thank god), moved into a new house, officially ended a long term relationship, plans kicked around and finalized for a trip to show in Vegas, several new clients in the mix, etc.

I've also been studying Brene Brown's book Rising Strong. She writes about the process of putting yourself out there, being vulnerable, putting your best effort forward. This most recent book is about being face-down in the dirt and getting back up. It feels ridiculously poignant for me at the moment: how do we come out of this stronger, kinder, more compassionate? How do we push ourselves to the point where every moment feels tremulous and uncertain and still be forging a stronger rider, trainer, mentor?

Basically my favorite shirt ever

I'm feeling my way through it. Just carefully. 

James Clear published an article about how research shows that writing about your values is a more powerful mood-balancer than simply writing about what's good. 

Robin Sharma wrote about the greatest people he's ever met and how it's a call to live more intensely.

Thank god for focused dogs

All this rambling to write this: I'm learning so much right now. I'm playing with bend and balance and tiny canter-in-place and finding the limits of each horse's strength and flexibility. I'm trying to open up to my clients and let them know that look, I'm struggling right now, but I'm more committed than ever to making sure that every day you have more tools to help you improve. Every day we can take one step closer to our ultimate goal.

And this adorable pony who makes this face every. single. time. you squeal "AREN'T YOU ADORABLE" at him

Thursday, October 15, 2015

4, 3, 2, holy crap horse!

I set up an oxer on the rail and did a lot of dressage in today's ride with Kat - we're doing much of the same thing I'm working on with Matheo in order to integrate it better. Can you lengthen? And stay light and connected? Can you shorten and come more through? Can you yield off this leg? How about this one? Can you lengthen the canter and shorten?

These are normal questions, yes, but the 'yes'es I'm giving her have to be much higher quality these days...

back at RDLA where the footing is so beautiful and eyecatching

Anyways. So there was this oxer on the rail at about 3'3 and every time she felt balanced and on my aids I came around and I took the fence. The first four times (I'm not kidding you guys) I started counting down, 4, 3, 2, and then she'd just HAIL MARY JUMP IT. So the first time, okay, fine, she wasn't ready or sitting enough. But the second time? No half halts? Really? The third time? Are you even capable of riding? Is your eye functioning? The fourth time I finally got unseated enough to actually have to ride to the stupid fence so we had no flyers after that.

A nearly-accurate representation of today's jumping efforts...

Despite my dubious riding it really was a lovely ride - her counter canter is getting very strong and balanced and the connection is getting very honest and over the back.

I posted a teaser yesterday but I'll write more about it today: The Las Vegas National Horse Show... back in August I rode a friend's horse at the JK Presents show at Woodside.

Guyz. This ground is beautiful. Imma stare at it.
 She recently had surgery, but still really wanted to attend Vegas National in November, so she approached me about riding for her again. It's a very good opportunity, so I agreed, and as part of bringing me along we worked out a way to enter Kat.

And that's the abbreviated version of how Kat and I are headed to Vegas! We're entered in the 0.90s, the 1.0s, and (shh please don't tell Kat) a single 1.10 class since she's been jumping so VERY spectacularly. We also have a VIP table for the FEI World Cup Saturday night... I'm totally dying I'm so excited about that. Kat and I have a bit of work to do to get ready. I'm confident in my wicked talented little mare, and I can't wait to see how it goes! I promise lots of photos of completely random things: horses I don't know, stalls charts, trainers coaching, warm up fences, and my horse's ears.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When the opportunity presents itself

From just learning to jump

to becoming a real competitor

and now on to Vegas

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fall Festival - Sunday

Sunday was collectively our best show yet. My clients rode really well, we were tacked up, warmed up, knowing our courses, we just pulled the whole thing off really smoothly as compared to other shows with the lot of us.

Kat was a machine. Even thinking back on the experience makes my heart feel light and chest constrict a little. Where did this horse come from?

Good god Kate what is happening with your hands. Say it with me now, slowly: release. Re-lease. Re- leaaaassseeee. But check that mare out!!!!

Kat and I had a few discussions about distances in the 0.70ms because the fences were small enough that she could just LAUNCH herself places and land in relative balance which I was not cool with. What's a half-halt? But we came out of the optimum time class with 74.4 seconds (the optimum time was 74 seconds) and just kind of laughing - we cruised through at a pretty good clip but I managed to take such long paths while we discussed the nebulous half-halt that we rode it in great time. The rider immediately after me rode it in 74.6 with a MUCH more aggressive track but he had this adorable hunter canter going on so we held onto first for that class.

We went in for the speed round and I experienced one of my favorite sensations. The buzzer goes off and I ask for a bit more power to get the horse front of the leg and then half-halt it down a touch before approaching the first fence. That's standard - what's incredible is when the horse responds with that super-coiled, "okay, I'll wait with you." feeling. We rode the speed round in 55 seconds, which I felt was pretty good. We're not balanced enough yet for the crazy inside turns, but I didn't even want to ask for them. I wanted her to have a very good experience.

I ran over to the dressage ring to do a little bit of coaching and I harassed GingerPony's rider through a more intense warm-up than the day before, really asking for the most suppleness we can get from Ginger so that her test rode a little nicer.

Just look at Kat's expression. She knows she's incredible.

Back on Kat for the 0.80s and two more clear rounds - I thought long and hard about adding her to the 0.90s since she'd done so well at that height the day before... but I realize that there will always be more shows and we could end feeling like partners and knowing what an incredible job she'd done or I could push her further and potentially damage that feeling... So I called it a day.

And then I did something stupid: Kat earned champion in the 0.70s and reserve champion in the 0.80s, and I decided I wanted a photo with my horse and all the ribbons. (Ugh, ego, right?) We hung a ribbon on her bridle and she shook her head a lot and tried to bite at the ribbon, so I suggested we just hang the ribbons on the rein.

Kat said HELL NO when one of the ribbons touched her shoulder and started rearing up and spinning around. I tried to dismount smoothly and ended up twisting my knee pretty badly when I landed. (stupid.)

And Miss Diva did admirably. She still didn't put any clean rounds in (silly mare) but gave us a lot of things to work on. She's just so ridiculously lazy over fences that she touches them all the time. I love her calm attitude but very much so want her to sharpen up. We'll get there. Grids! More grids! All the grids!