Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Get it done!

I look two lessons with a new trainer yesterday, and I found her absolutely delightful.

I also haven't sweat that much since... I can't even remember. Maybe the last time I did Bikram Yoga. It was pooling in the crook of my elbow and dripping down my forearm which was SUPER distracting.

I took extensive notes after the lessons and had meant to type them up for y'all but then I left the notes at the farm, so we'll go from memory.


  1. When Tango leans on me, I have to leg yield through it rather than half-halt or do a transition because it's more important for him to improve his lateral balance at the moment than for it to be pretty
  2. If he doesn't move his rib cage over the second I ask, I have to get after him for it rather than letting him take his sweet time to figure it out
  3. I need to ask for about 1000% more suppleness during transitions by being absolutely certain he's bending his body and even asking for the transitions out of a leg yield or shoulder-fore
  4. I have to keep him WAY more forward than I have been because "we aren't practicing for the western classes here, are we?"
  5. My primary homework with him is to get him really bending properly at first, and then work towards getting really good, very supple three loop serpentines. Because we can totally trot that pattern, but he comes above the bit sometimes during the change of direction and when he stays on the bit he doesn't bend as much as JM wants me to get him to bend.
  6. I also need to change his saddles out because the one I've been using apparently doesn't fit at all. I really thought it did, which is why I'm a bit perplexed. But I will trust trainer and fiddle about with other tack until I find something better. 
  1. I can't let her change me. When I feel her get tense, I cannot pull my legs off her and sort of wait for her to settle down. She needs to accept my aids. This means a lot more sideways work than I've been doing. I felt like I spent the whole hour trying to send her off on leg yield after leg yield.
  2. Particularly in the warm up, I should walk a lot more rather than going straight to doing my transitions. And not what Kat's tricked me into, which is a walk on a long rein for a few minutes, then gathering her up and going straight to our transitions. I need to ask her to bend, and relax to my leg, all without her little jog/jig thing. 
  3. When she goes to rear, I've been bending her first one way and then the other, but JM wants me to bend her one way and put my leg on her until she crosses her hindquarters over. 
  4. My primary homework with Kat is to get her out of the arena. I need to get her to accept my inside leg and outside rein in the arena, and out on the road, and on the trails, and... etc etc etc. Basically JM thinks that Kat's spending too much time asking "WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!?!?!?!" and not enough time listening to what I'm telling her. Good bend & accepting my aids will help her to listen to me. 
  1. I need to sit up, sit back, and tuck my pelvis under more. And then hold it. Keep my core engaged, and sit up and in a place of power. I'm allowed to half-seat for jumping, but basically if I do that I don't get to put my butt in the saddle at all. She wants me to practice every time I touch the saddle, I sit up, back, and in what needs to be my "home" position. I felt like I was leaning backwards. I need photographic evidence because she says that I was "just barely upright"
  2. My elbows need to stay next to my rib cage
  3. I need to stop this very bizarre habit of bringing my hand across my belly when someone says "MORE BEND SERIOUSLY" to me. Like, what even?
  4. I need to stretch my hips more because the length of stirrup I apparently should be riding in feels about a foot longer than comfortable for me.
  5. I also have been assigned a lot of sitting trot. (Dear god why.)
  6. I need to come out of the barn with a plan, and then ride the plan. She wants me to sort of ignore the horse I'm dealing with and just keep worming my way towards the plan. The plan with Kat is that she can walk and trot and canter in a long and low frame. And that's it at the moment. The plan with Tango is that he goes where I navigate him with proper bend at all times, and that he goes in a properly light 1st level frame all the time. He needs to build muscle and I give him too many breaks. 
This lady is super funny. She not only coached me through a lot of (admittedly basics but man I really needed it) stuff but she kept me laughing while doing it. And then telling me to focus because I was laughing. She used the little headset to talk to me while riding and my absolute favorite moment came while I was riding Tango. 

"Bend right. Bend right. Bend right. Kate, GET IT DONE WHEN I SAY SO!" 

I've never had a trainer watch me not do what they were asking and then call me on it. Usually trainers wait for me to gather myself, or repeat the command thirty seconds later, or something. 

I thoroughly enjoyed it! 

In non-block of text news, we got a new pony on Sunday. Her name is Gingersnap.

She's a 7 year old Connemara pony for a kid that just turned 9. 

Right now she pretty much only has a walk/trot in her, so she's in training until she can jump things safely with a kid aboard. 

She has the super cutest ears. 

And she's very sweet.

And I adore ponies. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

In which Kat transforms into...

a regular old advanced lesson horse.

Watch these videos, and tell me if you can see how hard I'm working.

I'm pretty certain it appears that she's been doing this for a million years and it's me with the bad hands and skinky legs that she's teaching.

Eesh! But goodness gracious do I love her.

This weekend was a great one for lessons, I felt like everyone rode spectacularly which is always a good feeling. I also cantered Tango on a 20 meter circle while I held onto the buckle, which I do believe is a feat to write home about.

I'm taking a lesson with a new dressage trainer today which I admit I'm a little nervous about. I hope Tango and Kat behave well enough that the lady agrees to come back if I like her.

Friday, March 27, 2015

F. Scott Fitzgerald: What to worry about

This letter to his daughter gives a bit of insight into his parenting, and it seems a good list of things to worry about. The rest of it, well... I often ask myself what I'm really aiming at, so I can't say I disagree with the man. I hope you enjoy it. This letter was originally published in the New York Times in 1958

"AUGUST 8, 1933
I feel very strongly about you doing duty. Would you give me a little more documentation about your reading in French? I am glad you are happy– but I never believe much in happiness. I never believe in misery either. Those are things you see on the stage or the screen or the printed page, they never really happen to you in life.
All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare’s in which the line occurs Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds…
Half-wit, I will conclude. Things to worry about:
Worry about courage
Worry about cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship…
Things not to worry about:
Don’t worry about popular opinion
Don’t worry about dolls
Don’t worry about the past
Don’t worry about the future
Don’t worry about growing up
Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don’t worry about triumph
Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don’t worry about mosquitoes
Don’t worry about flies
Don’t worry about insects in general
Don’t worry about parents
Don’t worry about boys
Don’t worry about disappointments
Don’t worry about pleasures
Don’t worry about satisfactions
Things to think about:
What am I really aiming at?
How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:
(a) Scholarship
(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?
(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful intrument or am I neglecting it?
With dearest love," (sic)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Unfocused rant & a Fox N' Horn show

This goofy horse has lived with me for only two weeks now - I'm certain I will get to know her much better as time goes on. But I have this vague discussion of learning how horses think, about applying fundamental principles to many horses brewing in my head, and so I'm going to write at length here and see if anything comes out.

First: you can apply a great many anthropomorphic discussions to any horse you ride. Let me do that for a moment. Kat is: opinionated, difficult, stubborn, self-assertive, argumentative, and touchy. She is also: funny, whimsical, playful, farcical, and entertaining. I enjoy riding Kat because I sense a keen intelligence and conversation in everything we do, I rarely feel legitimately unsafe despite her antics, and something in her personality keeps me laughing. Do these words help me to identify the things that she doesn't understand? No. But they do highlight two sides of my mental attitude towards her behavior.

From a training (somewhat less anthropomorphic) standpoint: she doesn't truly understand/accept the leg & rein aids. She guesses right most of the time but since she doesn't really, truly, fundamentally understand, she reacts with combative flight responses some of the time. This means she is not habituated to the sensation of the leg against her body, she has not habituated to a light, steady contact. This means that sometimes when I place my leg on her to ask her to move forward, she leaps forward, and sometimes she backs up. Sometimes when I close my fingers on the reins she will stop, and sometimes she will accelerate. My job is not to scold her for this, because it is my belief that she doesn't understand. My job is to perform about ten million transitions with her until she allows my leg to rest quietly against her (she's habituated to my leg) and that an increase in pressure results in a calm yet immediate forward transition.

This will take time. This will require that I pay careful attention to the consistency with which I apply my aids. Kat having the training she does, she has a vague understanding of a lot of things. And she's smart enough to put things together very quickly. And test me. This is also going to require me taking more lessons than usual in order to prevent Kat from training me.

Which means that even if we've been schooling the walk/trot transition for a while and I shift my weight to prepare to trot & she trots, we have to go back to the walk. She isn't allowed to guess, she must learn to wait for the aid. And that way the aid will be the same every time. And this consistency will allow her to relax into her work, mostly because her world will become predictable and reliable.

I just wanted to highlight these moments from the video above.

My mental attitude and consistency will be hugely challenged by her. I often let horses get away with their anticipation, and allow small inconsistencies to creep into my riding. But Kat is highly perturbed by these changes, for whatever reason.

Second: Kat is teaching me so much and I'm so grateful to her for that. She's reminding me that I must be painstaking and careful, she's reminding me to ride both by the seat of my pants and from deep thought. My ride-a-buck is also improving dramatically.

Third, and unrelated to this rant: I took three students to Fox N Horn's show at Thorson's Arena this weekend and we had a phenomenal time.

Everyone was polite, the courses were well-laid out, and there wasn't a tremendous amount of traffic. The warm-up ring was large.

My kids placed in almost every class they rode in (even against a LOT of other horses) and I'm pretty sure they all learned something. I'm really happy with how it went and we'll definitely be attending the next one.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Jumping things!

I got the DVD of my rides from Fresno and promptly pulled the stadium jumping one off the DVD so I could put it up and share it!

We had a lot of fun! They look like little jumps from this angle, and Bert definitely makes them feel small (if we ignore those moments where out takeoff point was... heinous.)

Kat's coming along, day by day. I'm longeing her in a chambon to try to get her to stretch and despite a few sessions, she's not really "getting" it. At the walk she's a boss, and sometimes at the trot she'll stretch down really well, and then she'll be irritated by something (who knows what, she is a mare after all) and throw her head up. Then she'll start to canter with her head straight up in the air. I remind her that we're trotting, and she'll trot very slowly until she remembers to stretch down to release the pressure. Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but she simply doesn't get it yet, I think.

The other day another trainer watched me school her and was very encouraging about just working on getting her to relax into her gaits. She's very uptight and aware. We had some great trot work and I went to canter on a 20-meter circle and we bucked the whole circle probably four times. I don't really feel bothered by that right now, but soon I'm going to start to expect fewer strides of buck and more strides of canter.

Tango has been transformed into lesson horse extraordinaire of late. He's given w/t lessons to a handful of kids, w/t/c lessons a few times, and he's just generally been a doll.

I can't get over how cute my horse is.

I jumped her around a pretty simple course I'd had up for my kids. I know, there's the whole slow and careful progression thing to keep in mind, but it's so easy for her and so fun.

A video posted by kel (@kelequestrian) on

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Katarina BSH

I went to ride her as a "project" horse, not because I was really looking for another horse but because of my insatiable curiosity and desire to ride all the pretty horses.

She was pretty horrid the first time I rode her. Forward wasn't in her vocabulary, unless rushing and heavy is forward. Then she'd get really light up front (baby rears, what fun!). When I got off to longe her, she bolted and slipped and cut herself. Then when I tried to get her to settle down, she reared all the way up in front of me. When I got back on, I finally started getting through to her, and at the end of the ride we had a few moments that were just stupendous. They just felt amazing.

And I thought, well, maybe I should ask to ride her again.

The second ride went better, there were no baby rears or other crazy silliness. And I knew I was in love with this goofy horse. Between the trot that once it was stable felt like we were floating and her habit of violently shaking her bit up and down when she's bored, I just felt like I could connect and talk with her. No, it doesn't make sense, but such is the heart.

I sent a message to her owner being honest about my inability to afford her / the second horse at the moment, but in a few months when summer camps rolled around, if she was still for sale, I'd love to purchase her.

She called me back almost immediately and we talked for a while about it, and she agreed to take payments on Kat because Kat's been waiting for her person and it's time she have a home.

I picked her up on Saturday.

My first ride with her on Sunday was not particularly acrobatic, but definitely flighty. There are horses living at the far end of the arena and every time they made a noise, Kat would slam on the brakes and stretch her tiny ears wayy up into the sky. We worked through it and she started to settle in.

I even popped her over a few crossrails just to see how she'd handle it.

Monday was a great day, we spent nearly an hour trying to teach her to shorten and lengthen her walk to help facilitate relaxation, then trotted over some poles.

Yesterday there was a great hullaballoo at the farm including a loose arabian, a trailer driving too close to the arena, and people trying to load into the trailer down by the barn. Kat either wanted to prance about or stare aggressively at the whole process. She settled down by the end, after a bit of discussion.

I'd brought Lucy, and Lucy likes to run in laps around the arena. So we'd trot around and get to the point where Lucy met us, and Kat would jump and trot really fast and say, "OH MY GOD!" I'd half-halt and remind her that we have to stay trotting quietly. The second time around the same thing happened. The third time, she sort of fake-jumped. It was as if she was trying out, "Oh my god?" to see if she could get away with it. Then she settled into ignoring Lucy, as it's supposed to be.

Katarina is by Hall of Fame and out of Strike Bound, a dutch approved TB mare. She spent six months in training with Katie Hoefs-Martin and has then spent a while in part time dressage training at home. She once went to a Buck Brannaman clinic and moved cattle. She's never really jumped, so I will be bringing her along with the goal of eventing her.

I'm so. freaking. excited, guys!

Monday, March 9, 2015

KHM Dressage: Results & Homework

First of all - what a great show. It was beautifully run, and even though I got lost in the GIGANTIC Gilroy Gaits, it was such fun. The kids & I had a great time.

Tango was pretty good at this show. No stepping on or otherwise running down people on the ground, which is a pretty nice bonus. However, he didn’t really feel like paying attention to his rider. Not in a dangerous or bolt-y sort of way, just looking at all the world and uninterested in anyone or anything.

I don’t have video for Training 2 and Training 3, but I will provide a summary of how the tests went: not very well. He was still stiff to the right from whatever had made him lame earlier in the week, so that impacted us a lot. I also struggled to create accuracy in the test, and that’s never a good thing for your scores.

I learned from Training 2 that our halts are still awful when we’re not at home (sigh) because we had zero immobility. Our medium walk is a little too tense and I need to ask for longer steps. We also need to alternate our work more. At home I often do my trot work (shoulder-in, leg yields, spirals, corners, circles, etc) and then move on to the canter work. I first get him balanced on a circle, then we do straight lines and corners and our baby half pass and whatnot. I need to split it all up more and ride with a LOT more transitions to get his attention and keep it focused on my.

I learned from Training 3 that Tango’s haunches fall all over the place when I don’t keep them in line. Shocking, hey? Anyhow, so if I remember to actually ride my horse we’ll do a lot better next time. We also broke gait out of the canter not once but twice, leading me to confirm my belief that I forgot how to ride. I also got the “careful not to perch” comment in the rider position box, so... that’s a good thing to work on.

I apologize for the weirdness, but it's annotated with the judge's comments. If you can even see me, hah hah.

Diva went along to this show and did FABULOUSLY for her first show ever. And I mean seriously amazing. Super proud. & C rode Tango and even though she's little and he's big they did very well together. We came home with a lot of homework and that's a wonderful thing!

 Gotta love some ribbons, hey? ;)

Oh, and I have a new horse. Yup. Have a photo:

What'd the judge say about perching...?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Where have I been?

I don't really know! I just woke up earlier and realized I quite miss my blog.

Isn't that a bit silly? I could just, you know, write on the blog.

Anyhow! Big stuff guys, big stuff going on.

First: Tango and Diva are hitting their first show of the year on Saturday. Just a simple schooling dressage show but it's Diva's first show ever (ever!) so it could be very, very exciting. Or not. Let's hope for not.

Second: Tango is mysteriously a bit off. He's 100% sound at the walk and trot, no head bobbing or short striding or wiggling or stiffness or... anything, really. And at the canter to the left. But the canter to the right feels like a train wreck, and he doesn't really want to pick it up. I honestly don't know why, or what it is. *sigh* horses are ridiculous. He's been feeling so significantly better each day that I want to see how he's feeling Friday before pulling him or taking a different horse in his place.

Third: There's a new horse coming to the farm on Saturday. She's an Oldenburg, and an Art Deco grandbaby. Yeah people, we're moving up the fancy scales here. I'll write more about her tomorrow.

Fourth: Ride On Video posted my cross country video!

Fifth: In order to bring this new horse to the farm, I'm interviewing for a job at a tech company in the area. I'm excited about the new horse, but also feel like I'm giving up/failing for having to take a normal-person job to help cover the new expenses. Bleh. Personal demons suck.