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Monday, December 20, 2010

Tune up!

December hasn't been a good month for my health.  I guess my body just gave up on fighting off colds and flus this season.  I had the worst cold of my life, followed by a stomach flu... The stomach flu was just a mere two days before Ryan flew back from Florida.  DOH!  So I really didn't expect much out of my lessons this weekend.  I thought Gram and I would both be rusty and just bad, and did I mention Ryan rode with Steffen Peters the day before coming back! Yeah... I thought I was in deep trouble.

To my surprise the big mare was really there with me!  Both days she started with her "I want to Buck" frame of mind, but quickly came to the conclusion that would require way more effort than she was willing to put forth.  I warned Ryan, so I think he took it easy on us on Saturday... Sunday he worked us hard.  I walked away with some really great exercises and ideas of what I should be working towards.

We worked on transitions a lot.  Gram now understands what the half halt is, but her reaction now needs to be refined.  The biggest thing Ryan pointed out, was that she tends to come shorter in front.  So I need to work on keeping her front legs out there, and worry more about tucking that rear end under.  Makes sense.  To help her understand the next piece of the puzzle I need her quick in the upward transition, she wants to power those with front wheel drive instead of rear wheel.  Ryan had us do lots of transitions down to a quick transition up. At first she hallowed her back and stuck her head up, then she started to actually think about things.  I have to be careful to give her the room she needs... Without Ryan saying this, I think I was blocking her, so this exercise was as much for me as it was for her.  The sound bite that I kept hearing from him was: "keep her up and out". Basically up in the shoulder and head and out with the nose.  Driving her into a light contact, but not allowing her to pull down.  She likes to pull down, so it is a constant effort, more than just thinking don't hold (which is also something I tend to do when she braces).  It is one of those things that I know shouldn't happen, but that doesn't always translate into I never do it! Lately, I have had to work on my mind set, I shouldn't just hold and wait for her to give.  When she was starting, this was how we learned to communicate with each other.  I asked for something and waited for the response I wanted to happen.  Now she gets the idea, so I need to tailor how I ask for things. It is very much like teaching a child a language.  You start with words, move to sentences, and we are all speaking fluently before we learn to write and about proper grammar.  Gramarye is speaking in sentences, and now I need to teach her to write.  We need to communicate on a new level, using what we have learned as a base; refine.

We had probably some of the best medium trots we have ever had.  I need to think about pushing her up, and thinking about those front legs.  Also in the downward, I need to lift her up in front more instead of letting her fall back into regular trot.  Our half passes were acceptable, I just need to continue to watch her running... more of the half pass a few steps and halt to just make sure those half halts are working and letting me control the tempo.  The canter was much better, but still needs more jump.  We also did some great shoulder-in, straight, shoulder-in, straights down the long side.  Our half steps are coming along nicely too.  Again I need to remember to keep the front legs out in front and bring the hind end under more.  EASY right? ha.  I have some good things to work on until Ryan comes back for a weekend again January 15th.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cow Mare

Last night Gram was a COW... I left my riding boots and helmet back in Michigan after giving baby Zion a tune up.  Gram is a mare and made it obvious that she felt neglected. Honestly, it felt like I was riding a 4 year old all over again.  She was behind my leg, swung her rear end at me every time I put my leg on, and was just not feeling me sitting on her back last night... I had planned on just sitting on her for a few minutes, since I am still battling the worst cold I have ever had!  I knew I was in trouble, when I started to trot and she started tossing her head.  The head toss if Gram's middle finger.  I pushed her through the head toss, only to ask for canter and get a squeal... The squeal is the worst mare noise out there, and it means that you are being punished, big time! I continued to ask for canter after the squeal and got a fast trot, head shaking, kick out and buck finally landing us in a behind the leg canter.  Not very classy- thus the cow mare title! Many cow kicks, and a nose bleed later (my nose of course), I finally had a somewhat in front of my leg mare, and I think she had almost forgiven me for leaving her... little does she know next week is Christmas and I will be gone even more! I figure December is a bit of a wash, with the holidays, cold weather and adjusting to it getting pitch black at 4:00. Hopefully, my post tomorrow won't be a COW MARE part two!

Friday, December 10, 2010


After being sick with a nasty cold/flu all week, I finally made it to the barn last night. Donnie, Turi and I made the trek out in a snow storm to visit with Gram. I walked to her stall, and in typical mare form she was offended that I had not been there sooner. She gave me a bit of "the cold shoulder" and showed me how she was able to break her halter! I tried my best to make it up to her, but I think I was falling short of her expectations! Since I am still having trouble breathing, I thought that riding might not be the best option, so I opted for lunging. I put the side reins on the first hole, so I wasn't even expecting much from her. Now, keep in mind, I haven't lunged Gram since last winter, we have however, worked with a long whip (see Spanish Gram post). When she see's the big whip, she now thinks it is time to work on half steps. Not what my intention was last night. She was already excited for too many days off, it was snowing and the temperature had dropped. She took off on the lunge trotting, not a pretty either. It took a lot of calming noises from me, and waiting for her to settle. She was stiff, so the trot was choppy and quite painful to watch! Finally, we were able to come closer to the same level. I thought it was time to push my luck and ask for a nice canter, but prepared myself, as well as the other person in the arena, for the worst. To my surprise, she gave a buck, a kick, a buck, took off for a couple strides, but then came right back down to my level. She just needed to get the kinks out! A year ago, she would have dragged me across the arena! So I was impressed with her restraint. We did the other side, and then called it a night. I just spend the rest of the night pondering my big girl's improvement. She will be shocked that she has two more days off since we are going to Michigan... Poor big mare, I will have to bring extra treats for her next week to make up for my neglect! :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A great Brithday

I have had a great birthday weekend... the BIG 3-0! yikes feels weird to type that out for the first time! Friday I took the day off of work to run errands and of course head to the barn. Gram was really good. I came to the conclusion that the more I fixate on making her supple, the worse things get. I think I start messing with her and she just gets annoyed. So I worked on half passes, shoulder-in, haunches-in and canter/walk, walk/canters. As soon as I started to ask for things, she settled right into her work.

Saturday, we had an amazing ride... I couldn't have asked for a better birthday gift from the sweet mare. When I arrived at the barn, I was greeted by this face:
How could the ride have gone badly? She was ready and very willing to work. It was the best feeling. She really amazes me more and more everyday. She has a heart of gold and she wants to learn more, and be better. Honestly, when she was a baby I was a little afraid that her crazy spookiness would never go away, but she is proving me wrong with each day. She now really trusts me, I can see it in her eye, and can tell when I am riding her, she no longer feels like a ticking time bomb. Sure she has moments where she looses it for a minute, but she calms her self back down instead of spiraling out of control. It has just been so much fun watching her grow up and develop into a real dressage horse. I am very excited for the next few years and seeing where her potential will take us.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My girl

I don't think that Gram knows that Ryan has left... She has been super lately. I think this is due in part to her not wanting Ryan to whip her into shape! She has really matured. Things go bang now, and she looks scared, but no longer tired to bust out of the crossties and take off running. She still has moments, but they are not nearly as out of control as they were 2 years ago!

The holiday weekend meant that I go to visit the barn for a few days when the sun was still out- quite a treat for me, and Gram just looks shocked when I approach her paddock.

We worked on the collection more in the canter. She is really getting easy. She does require a lot of work from my seat and leg, but once I get her balanced all I have to do is sit there. We schooled some half pass work, I still struggle with her falling a bit. So we did half-pass to a half halt, and stop if she didn't listen. Our canter walks are getting better. But her most favorite thing, is the tap, tap to the neck, because it means she turns her head and gets a treat! This week, I will try to work more lateral work and the dreaded counter canter!

Monday, November 22, 2010


I wrapped up my last regular Sunday Lesson with Ryan... Bittersweet. I get to work on homework all winter, with a once a month tune up. My pocketbook will be happy, but I will miss my regular lessons. Our lesson was actually really good. Our new stretching routine is really helping Gram loosen up before our lesson. She is really starting to like the leg stretch too. The first time I tried to stretch her legs, she literally almost fell over- *sigh* baby horse! Now she knows that once the saddle and boots are on, when I tap her leg, that means I pull it forward, she puts her head down, and straightens it, then gets a treat. What a life; I do the work and she gets a treat for not falling down. She started our lesson very loose. Nice swing in her back, stretching down with out bracing. Ryan looked surprised. We then started to pick her up, and really focused on keeping her supple regardless of where her head was set. When I pick her up, she gets a little tense. So Ryan had us working her in different frames, all trying to get the same feeling. Our biggest problem is still our transitions, she braces into both upward and downward. He started us working on trot walk. When I would start the downward, Ryan would want me to hold her in the (tempo) step that she started bracing until I she was supple, then I could proceed to walk. This seemed to really help. Now when I say hold I don't mean literally holding her, basically, I mean the tempo of the gait not he rein. After a few times of working this she began to relax and stopped bracing in the transition. We did the same thing in the leg yields and half passes. Just when the good girl thought she was done, it was time to start canter.

We worked on the counter canter- I tend to try to stay out of her way instead of help her through the counter canter bend. I took me a few attempts. There were also two other people in the arena that just so happened to be right in my way every time I attempted the movement. Not their fault at all, just bad timing on all ends! :) There is a theme in this blog lately, basically I can now push Gram harder and expect more out of her, but every time I introduce something new I do so almost too carefully. I cannot help it! She is my baby, I have seen too many nice horses ruined, so I tend to back off too much. I am learning. I just don't want a big mare meltdown. I worked with Gram's mom (Yce) after she had some bad experiences and I vowed to not let that happen to her. In the counter canter, I need to sit a bit deeper into the saddle, and help her maintain the bend. I was trying to come off her back and trying to stay out of her way, which actually made it harder for her.

Once we got the counter canter, we ended with a few walk canter, canter walks. I need to get these sharper. The first couple are always bad. We had some really nice walk canters followed by really bad canter walks. ha. Again, I must remember to sit deep, and really use my half halts to then place her in the walk, not let her fall into it.

We will continue to make the canter stronger. It is still her most difficult gait. I must watch the walk, so that it doesn't get too lateral. I must also be careful where her head and neck are placed. She tends to like to be either in stretch mode, or high up... she needs to work on being supple regardless of where her head and neck are placed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I gotta feelin'

I had a lesson on Tuesday, one of my last before I lose Ryan to a warmer climate and not to mention a horse lovers heaven on earth- Wellyland! Last year when Jen and I visited people not wearing breeches and spurs got the funny looks, not the other way around!

I told Ryan about our circles, so guess what we worked on??? yup circles! Doesn't sound exciting, but it was very rewarding. One of my most favorite things is when I get on and I just have that feeling. Like everything is in tune. I can actually anticipate the need for a correction before it is too late. Ryan would start to tell to fix something, and then he would literally stop mid sentence because he could see I was doing what he was going to tell me to do. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't happen often, but when it does I feel like I am finally making progress! About two minutes later I was brought back to reality. Ryan had us working on our half- halt so that Gram could learn that plowing through my aides is not the right answer. We first started on the straight away. Half halt in trot almost to walk and trot off again. He really wanted to see that I had control of the gaits and she was respecting my aides. Then we progressed to the quarterline; shoulder- in then big half halt and trot right off, then haunches-in, big half halt and trot off again. There was a clear change in the trot in both of those... then he added another element: the HALF PASS. Half pass, big half halt and trot off again- yeah right! Our first attempt was really just that a (poor) attempt. My favorite Ryan comment of the night "Nothing is happening... still nothing...(losing the intensity in his voice) and that is not a half halt." I of course burst out into laughter! I knew it wasn't working, I couldn't get my body to hold the half-pass position and ask for the big half halt at the same time... There was like a complete mis-firing in my riding. It was funny though because Ryan was really rooting for me, then realized I was a complete hot mess! The outburst of laughter must have helped, because the next line I actually got all the pieces to work together. We had a good laugh about that one!

The biggest challenge about dressage is no matter the rate at which you are progressing, going back to the basics can only improve the higher level movements. You never get to the point where working on a half halt for 45 minutes feels like it is a bad, boring, basic training exercise. Once you get it as sharp and crisp as it needs to be, you can improve all the "tricks". It really gave me that feeling- the feeling that I knew what we were doing, and knew exactly why we were working on it. So now of course The Black Eyes Peas is stuck in my head... I gotta feelin, that tonights gonna be a good ride.... wooo whooo! :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Saddle back

So the last week has again been busy. I guess I should be happy that I have time to blog once per week. December I will write more often (I hope). Last week again was not great. I rode Gram on Tuesday night, and it was not good, we were both stiff and just yucky. Heidi Basler, the newest addition to the barn was giving a lesson, so I tried my best to avoid them. I did a lot of work on a giant circle which revealed to me that I need to circle more! The big mare doesn't care for circles, she would much prefer go down the long side. (A side note, Donnie drove the scooter from the city to the barn to store in the horse trailer for the winter!)

Ryan rode Gram on Wednesday and then Thursday I had to work late...again. So Saturday when I went out the barn we work on suppling and just a few tricks. My parents came for a quick visit and to see our progress since the Kathy Connelly Clinic. Donnie was able to come to, so it was quite the adventure! We did a few canter walk, walk canter transitions and ran through our trot half passes and baby canter half passes (which were slightly out of control, so we did one that wasn't running and called it good). I think my elbow is getting better. Everyday I think belly of my forearm facing up. That seems to be the route of the problem. Funny, something I have struggle with my entire life, and she gives me a solution in 10 minutes... Oh to be that good!

Sunday I went to the barn solo and I had the arena to myself. Gram was fantastic. She has really gotten to like the idea of treating from the saddle. After just a few times, she now turns her head to me when she does something good, like ok Mom hand it over! When I got on, I realized that I had put the saddle on further back than normal. Previously, in my Prestige I did put the saddle back further to allow for the shoulder freedom. When I got my Schleese and met with the rep, she put the saddle rather high, so I have been trying to do the same. I must not have been thinking because I put the Schleese in the Prestige position. But once I got on, I honestly was just too lazy to move it! Well, I amnot sure if this was in my head, but Gram was awesome. Her trot was really lofty in the warm up- the canter warm up was great. There was no stiffening in her lower neck. It was a great ride. Who knows why, but I think the saddle placement allowed her shoulder to move more freely. We worked on our 10m circles. I tried my best to not help her too much. This is normally our problem, I help her to death and cause bracing. We actually got 10m circles in the canter in both directions. The left is her stronger canter, so the circles generally aren't a problem, it is the right where our 10m circles tend to be egg shaped and closer to 12m. We worked on our half passes, and then really made an effort to work on our collection and activity in the canter. I still need to remind myself to sit deep and help lift her shoulders. Overall, it is coming together really well! I just hope that I can work on the changes more over the winter. Though the plan is still to bring her out at Second level next year, so there really isn't any big rush. It would just be nice to have the option to also go third, even though that is the level that I most struggled with as I learned.

Here is our new treat stretch that we do before our rides:

Monday, November 8, 2010

A good day

So over the last week Gram thought she might want to be lame. After going out for Halloween, I decided it was better to just graze her on Sunday. That means she was on vacation Sunday and Monday. When I came out on Tuesday, she had some mysterious swelling in her left hind. It didn't seem to bother her and worked itself out after some movement. So I chocked it up to just being in the stall and the weather changing. Wendesday the swelling was back, and this time effected her movement. She ran around for the first bit taking off steps and tossing her head in the air... Now at this point I started to get concerned. But after a bit more movement, she seemed to have the off steps worked out. I continued with stretching exercises and then ended with our best canter halt yet. Thursday work kept me late, so no barn for me. Friday was shots and teeth floating performed by Dr. Nicky. This also meant that Saturday was a vacation, so the last week she was on vacation more than she was on the job. Ryan came back from Europe, so that meant a Sunday lesson. I was afraid how Gram would perform. Most of the time when she has that many days off, the first day back is not anything to write home about!

I started my lesson preparing Ryan for how bad this lesson may be... I brought up her days off, the off steps, her lion area was actually happy to be brushed, maybe the hind feet needed shoes or maybe even time to start Adequan shots. I walked for our normal 5-10 minutes, then then hesitantly asked for a stretchy trot... bum bum bummmm- she was awesome. No off steps, no leaning on me, just relaxed and swinging. By the way what is it about horses that makes them try to make us look like complete liars? I got the "Ryan look" which really is enough to make me feel like a moron without the need for words. It is like this look of confusion with a sideways glance that of course translates to me as "why are you such a freak?".

Our lesson was one of those where I felt like I hadn't missed a beat. I have been working on my crazy hands and elbows, and was feeling pretty good. During our lesson, I think I even surprised Ryan. I am getting better at re-balancing Gram from a quicker leg. She appreciates it, I am sure. If I can get my body to get the timing right we have great success. I have also started cheating on our downward. For now, I give the big half halts, then add a quiet "brrrrrrr" and she doesn't fall down. I think I will have to continue this until she understands that big half halt is a preparation for the downward transition.

We worked on our baby half pass at the canter to a counter canter, which she finally didn't break to trot! I am sure it was almost as ugly as it felt, but I was happy that she tried and had the right idea. Our trot half-passes probably could be better, but I am still struggling my own body in these. I have gotten the outside rein off to the side to encourage the crossing behind, but I have added my own lifting the hand up, which is bad and ugly! Just one more thing to ad to my list of things to remember not to do! FEI doesn't mean lift your hands way up (Feeling Elevation Inhands)! :) I know a stretch, but made me giggle to type.

Overall, our lesson was great! Just getting the feeling of the rebalance correct and really engaging Gram's hindquarters and then just the overall preparation of everything felt awesome. our lesson on Sunday made up for all the crappy riding I had been doing. I think a lot of it stems from my butt kicking at the Connelly Clinic! So thanks to Kathy for realizing that I could be pushed, and thanks to Ryan for continuing to push me!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Riding with Kathy Connelly

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of riding with Kathy Connelly. It was stressful, as there were many auditors and I have never participated in a clinic with a green horse, ad to the fact that I am rusty in my riding abilities and you get a panicked Julie. Overall, I got some great feedback. My lesson on Saturday was good. It took Kathy about a second to pick up on my bad habits. I have developed bad habits with my hands and arms. It starts with the pinky on my left hand, then the rest of the hand opens up, then the wrist folds in and the elbow drifts further away from my body. Saturday Gram started a bit lazy and stiff. She was locking up a bit on the left, but we were able to work through it. Lots of transitions, and working on sitting in more to help her get off her shoulders. We worked on shoulder in and renvers (thanks to Ryan our Renvers is actually better than our shoulder-ins!)We finished our session with one of the things we struggle with Canter to Walk. Such a big mare, it is hard for her and I both to organize all the pieces to be able to site down instead of fall. She definitely focused on the amount that I baby Gram. It is so difficult for me, because I am so determined not to push her too much and to not make her sour. So unfortunately this means that I am too careful when it comes to pushing her and asking for more! Kathy kept saying things like, you are a timid rider, but you can push for more, she can take it. She really opened my eyes in the way that I deal with Gram. For example, I ask and if I get a little of what I want, I am thrilled. Instead of asking for more, I just enjoy that she is listening! I am so concerned about making a bad experience, I lost the going for broke attitude that I think got my on the NAYRC team! So it was a good wake up call.
Sunday, I felt like I got my behind handed to me... but this was exactly what I needed. I mean no one wants their faults pointed out in a public forum. But she really stayed on me, and I felt like I was riding better. Again the root cause is me taking it too easy... preparing too long, waiting too long to ask. All things that I can change, I just need the reminders. I need to continue focusing on my left hand and keeping everything in my "balance box". Elbows at my sides, pinky's in, maintaining the contact in my hands, sitting deeper in the canter, and asking for that next degree of collection.

I had an amazing time! Kathy told me a lot of the same things that Ryan tells me, but having her tell me hopefully will make it stick! I am so glad I was given the opportunity to ride with her, and I hope to continue my learning. I am going to watch my videos tonight and hope to pick up a few things that I am sure I have not written down. One thing I must do, is tie a ribbon to my left hand to remind myself to keep it closer to my body, and maintain the contact.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spanish Gram?

So last week I had a great lesson. Donnie came along and was able to video some of our moments... In preparation for the clinic, we worked our baby half-passes at the trot and canter, medium trots, and then we ended with some half steps work. This is funny because it involved Ryan chasing us around the arena with a whip, which for me is entertaining enough... But Gram could not be topped... She handled the whip like a trooper. She was trying to tuck under behind, but still staying active. Then Ryan took the whip to the front leg to get them a bit more expressive. Well, careful what you ask the big mare! She apparently thinks that she is part PRE... Little does she know her daddy, Hilltop's Giotto is Dutch and her mom was Westphalian with some thoroughbred and then her Granddad Roemer is Westfalian. When Ryan took the whip to her front legs, the lady doth protest too much methinks... take a look:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Beautiful Weekend

Work had me driving all over the place again last week. So after my lesson on Tuesday, Ryan rode Gram on Wednesday and Thursday. I did head out to the barn on Saturday morning, with Donnie. Gramarye and I worked on stretching and just relaxing back in the saddle. I was able to get her to do a few Medium trots just for fun! We ended and I gave her a bubble bath... she enjoys this time of year. To warm for a blanket and she can get as dirty as she would like in her paddock! The more I wash her I swear the dirtier she tries to get! We have a new serious boarder at the barn, her name is Heidi. She lived and worked in Wellington for a while, so it is great to have someone of her caliber join our barn family! I am hoping that she will build a client base quickly. She has a giant 5 year old mare too, and she did young riders too! So we already have a lot in common!

Sunday was an exciting day. Donnie stayed home to work, and I dawdled at the barn all day. I love those days. Jen took her baby horse to a keuring so I was able to offer some help with loading baby! :)They are so easy to load at that age! Made me wish that I had Gram in Chicago as a yearling, so I could have done more with her! She is good about every single trailer expect of course the one I have! I will give her that is oddly shaped, but I try to make happy experiences for her. I would like to try again with a short trailer ride next weekend just to get her used to it more! I need to come up with a great treat at the end of the tunnel. My mare is stubborn, but she is also motivated by her belly. The better the treat, the less stubborn she becomes! I am looking forward to a great week of training, to further prepare us for Kathy... I think everyone in the barn is getting a bit nervous about her arrival! I just keep telling myself, she cannot be any more difficult than Conrad...right??!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back in the Saddle

My crazy work schedule is finally starting to slow down! Thank goodness, because I don't think I could take much more time sitting in a car instead of in a saddle. Had a lesson with Ryan on Thursday, which was pretty bad... not because of Ryan, but because of my lack of being in the saddle. Gram and I were both stiff. I am not sure who started what, but I had that horrible feeling when I got off. Like all the wind was taken our of my sails, how can I get that bad that quickly. So I tried to shake it off. I spent the weekend with my BFF and bright and early Saturday morning we started our joint horsey journey. First her barn. I got to yell at her from the ground, which I am not going to lie made me feel so alive with riding. When I first graduated from college, I had thought I wanted to be a trainer. I gave lessons back home in Michigan, and even had a couple of students actually show. My family and I were serious about buying a barn or the land to build a barn, but at the last second I scared myself to death. But then I thought about being in a barn all day every day and dealing with people- I mean let's be truthful here, we aren't called "Dressage Divas" on accident! Most dressage people have a bad reputation outside of our dressage bubble. There is a group of dressage riders specifically adult amateurs that only ride inside, complain about even the best footing, care, food... just about any excuse to say that their horse is bad because it is someone or something else's fault. We all know at least one Dressage Diva (DD) in our network. So I thought that making money in an office and pursuing my horsey passion as a hobby was a better fit for me in the right here and right now. Sometimes I regret that decision (like when I have a horrible ride on Thursday) and then there are other times when I am perfectly happy in my well rounded, every hour of every day booked life. At any rate, helping my friend from the ground, made me happier than a lark. Then we went to my barn and GRam was really good. Just when I think she is a different horse from a year ago, she reminds me that mares don't trust immediately, it is earned. I had my friend jump on her, and immediately remembered just how quirky my mare can be. Hand must be just right, legs must not get after her too much. In a way, I realized that just when I think I am training her, perhaps she is training me too. Like I wonder if some days she is like, "here we go again with that left rein- I told you last week you were suppling me all wrong and now you are doing it again- when will you learn silly human!" and at the same time I am thinking "Here we go again with that locking on the left rein- just when I thought we were communicating you lock up again!" Eventually though I realize that I change the way that I am asking to get a better result... so who is training who now? :)

Sunday we had the best lesson I could have asked for after not really consistently riding for a month. We worked on not locking. We worked on circles, because Gram and I start to brace. We worked on a rocking back trot, without me using the reins all from my seat and leg. Now as I type this it seems like I should know that is what I am supposed to do, but riding a green baby horse really takes it toll on your skills as a rider you must be able to turn things off and on and realize that they are maturing so you don't have to ride them like you did when they were 4 anymore. Things I wouldn't have done on Willy or Rushonne I do to Gram. Humph! Anyways, we worked our baby half-passes at the trot and canter. I need to remember in the half pass right to now lock my seat. We worked on our walk canters, and then canter trots. Big mare has a lot of moving parts it is easier for her to fall down, than sit down! We also worked on the canter activity. We are going to venture down the flying changes, so we are doing more counter canter, to really balance her and make that hind end stronger to support the act of a flying change. In a couple more weeks I am hoping to have them at least well on their way to being clean.

As we prepare for the Kathy Connelly clinic I am sure I will have more tips to remember and document. I hope to have my lesson videos posted shortly after the clinic. I am also working on my old archive of videos from back in my lessons with Conrad Schumacher... I am determined to get those videos up before the end of the year because if nothing else, that was one of the coolest opportunities I had as a young rider!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Travel for Work and Dressage

As you may have guessed, I caught a cold and then started traveling for work a lot! So that means my free time is completely gone, thus the blog has suffered! I will just put a warning out there: In September I will be a horrible blogger! But I promise to pick things back up to show our progress for the Kathy Connelly Clinic the end of October! Until then Gram and I will just have to make the most out of our times together.

I was able to get a lesson last week Sunday and Tuesday. I light bulb kind of went off for me. Gram tends to lock to the left, so I thought that meant trying to get her to give in the jaw. This was part of the problem, but not the root of it... Ryan had been trying to explain this, but of course sometimes the 10th time you are told is when you actually hear it! So the root of the problem, was her bend in the rib cage. Instead of focusing on the jaw, I needed to focus more on the bend in her body. Once this clicked, wow things have been great. When I start it is long and low in walk, canter and trot. Then back in the walk, I start with quarter turns, to really focus on moving that front end around. It has really been helping, because then when I start my lateral work in the trot, she is all set up. Now I just have to remember to not lock my outside when leg yielding.

One of the exercises that works incredibly well is to canter on a 20m circle, when crossing the centerline, trot and 10m circle in the opposite direction, then back to the 20m circle and canter again. It gets her to engage, since she is so long, her canter shows tons of promise, but takes a lot of work on her part to come together.

Aside from our hard work in the barn, I have also been going through old videos of My Willy and Rushonne. I am hoping to get some videos posted soon, we are just waiting for the right cables to transfer the actual tapes into a digital format! yes that means I am old...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

It has been a rough couple of weeks

So as the summer is starting to wrap up, that means that my job gets more demanding for the next few weeks so Gram will be under the expert supervision of Ryan Yap! To make matters worse, I have caught a nasty cold...goodbye 90 degrees welcome coughing, sneezing and freezing. Well not entirely true, we will have like 2 weeks that are perfect for riding, but I will be traveling for work. So since I haven't had too much going on on the riding front, I thought I would post some funny videos I found today as I sit on my couch, home sick :(

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Locking Left side

My lesson last night was great! It was so hot and gross that when I arrived to the barn Gram was both covered in dirt and sweaty from just standing in the cross ties! Yuck. Needless to say, the dirt turned into mud when mixed with the sweat, so she was just gross. Ryan had us work on trying to lift Gram's shoulders while working on me to not lock up especially my left side. We did more renvers than ever before, but eventually we were able to get in a couple really good trot half passes. Gram is still not strong enough to really push under herself in the canter, so the idea of pushing her haunches to the outside on a 20m circle will help her to train those hind legs. Since I struggle with my own body to the left, I think I have made this her weaker side. When I ask for a haunches out to the left, Gram tend to cross with her front legs- which is bad. I need to work on my own position to not hold the right side. Instead I have to really use my right leg at the girth, and left leg back and on; with the reins, I have to encourage her to stay traveling straight in the front. Seems easy right? ha!

At the end of my lesson, Ryan really broke things down for me. The exercises he had us doing were just as much for me as they were for Gram. I vented to him my frustrations, that I knew what he was asking me to do, I just couldn't get my left side to do what I wanted fast enough. I think I will try to ride without stirrups tonight to help loosen things up.

I almost forgot- My wonderful husband made a play list of the Lamplight rides:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It has been a while

So it has been a while since my last post. I will try to quickly explain why! I learned in my three week sabbatical from blogging that a show that is 5 days is too long for my family, me and my ponies. Zion went home after Lamplight, but that was not without excitement in the trailer. He loaded right away, but I thought he was going to bust through the side wall when we took Gram out and he had to stay! The horse show was a success for the most part.

Zion showed two days

Friday Training Level Test 1: 67.391% (Phillips) complete with screaming
Comments were Lovely horse with good future, just needs experience and confidence
Saturday Training Level Test 2: 67.5% (Lilo Fore!) no scream and a pretty blue ribbon.

Gramarye showed 4 days in a row (complete with a thunderstorm all night and a grumpy mare!)

Thursday First Level Test 1: 66.667%
Friday First Level Test 2: 67.5%
Saturday First Level Test 3: 63.714% brain starting to break down...
Sunday First Level Test 4: complete brain fry bomb!

The mare had a melt down type weekend. It was hot, we both do not handle heat well, and the thunderstorm made her extra cranky... she actually bit me when I was in her stall!

Once we got back from the horse show, I had major work to catch up on, which left me mostly unable to go to the barn, then Gram hurt her back, which was actually good timing because I had to go to Minneapolis for a conference. I got back from the conference on Tuesday night late (of course my flight was delayed) and then got hammer with catch up work! I spent most of my time behind the computer and on the phone and wasn't able to make it out fro 2 whole weeks! Thank goodness, Ryan was able to ride Gram a few times to tune her up... She was awesome when I finally got the chance to ride again! I have my first lesson since the horse show tonight. I might melt, but I am excited to prepare for the Kathy Connelly Clinic happening at the barn in October! We have to put the flying changes on Gram before then! So my updates should be interesting documenting the progress!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy horse = happy life

Overall we had a nice and relaxing weekend. My Mom came to town to ride on Saturday morning, and after about 20 minutes of arena work (for Zion and her- Gram and I only worked for a total of 5 and just walked watching them the rest o the time!) We took to the outside, to ride around a bit. It was a real treat for me and Gram because I am always the only person riding, and I am not yet brave enough to go outside on her alone... that is when the scary horse eating monsters strike! The last time I tried I ended up on the ground, and Gram ran around the farm for about 5 minutes.

Sunday we got to work a bit. Last week Zion decided it might be fun to take off half of his front foot, so he hasn't really been himself- he is a little short. I rode him on Sunday and he was ok so long as I stayed off the track where it tends to get a little hard. Gram was very willing so she had a short ride of mostly stretching.

Last night Ryan rode Zion and Gram and I had a lesson. Ryan said Zion was still a bit ouchie but better than he was last week- now I just cross my fingers that the foot grows out enough for lamplight next week! Yikes! My Gram lesson was great again. She has a new found pride about her lately. She is getting braver every day and trusting me more each day. I think she now realizes that I am not trying to hurt her with all the exercises. Don't get me wrong, she still does something crazy from time to time, but when I think of last year, it is like I have a whole new horse. She started off very relaxed last night. Our stretch was great. She still has moments where she wants to brace to the left, but that has also come a long way in a months time. We did some leg yields from the track to the quarter line to solidify the contact and engage the hing end. Then we worked again on the dreaded short trot to medium trot and back to short trot. Ryan really got after me about my diagonal lines... again. Gram tends to drift behind, especially when crossing from right to left. I have to make a better effort at not letting her hind end drift to the right. I let her drift to the right= Ryan yelling at me. As if it wasn't bad enough that her hind end is in Iowa, then instead of MXK I do an M-V and Ryan has a hissy fit :)

Our canter work was better, she is getting stronger and developing more of a jump to the right to where it is starting to feel closer to the left lead in terms of collection and activity. One thing we really like is Medium canter! Yahoooo! Once thing we don't like is coming back from said medium canter... We like the wind in our hair and that feeling of *almost* being completely out of control! Willy was the same way, so it make me smile every time. She sits down better than Willy did at her age... I need to take Gram home out on the trail and just let her gallop like Willy used to. I think in August we will head home to Michigan and bring her along so we can get a good gallop in the fields in before winter starts to set it and we are trapped inside.

Overall, Gram makes me happy. She is a pain sometimes, and lord knows the crazy amounts of money that my wonderful husband lets me throw her way. But she keeps me in shape, keeps me smiling and gives me the love that you can only get from a monster mare. She is loyal, holds grudges, gives her all and sometimes bites- she reminds me of... well.... me! :) How could you not love a vain mare annoyed by ugly wet pictures of her beautiful self:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Good day for the mare

Gram was ready to work tonight... Because she is a mare, those night don't happen very often, but when they do, they make my night! Tonight, she just wanted to work. She didn't brace, she didn't clench the bit and she felt pretty darn good. The best thing for her is when we go into canter early in the warm up. For some reason every horse I have had goes that way; so I am thinking it might be me not them. For me as I rider, I feel like I can ride the canter better than I can the trot. The trot is a lot of work for me. So maybe it loosens me up and allows the horse to trot more freely. I didn't really walk away from the lesson with one thing that stood out. The whole thing was exactly what was needed when it was needed, if that makes any sense. The canter to the right we worked on more activity as she tends to get a bit lazy behind in that direction. We got some decent jump and them brought her back to trot. Again the focus is on the engagement of the right hind. I have to remember to ride in what is a little counter intuitive for me: slight haunches-in when traveling to the left. I feel like I have drilled so much for the slight shoulder-fore I have exacerbated the problem. This is exactly why there is nothing better than a good eye on the ground. The process is so gradual, I don't realize when I have over done it. I work so hard at one piece I forget about the complex system that resides underneath.

We also worked on a nice exercise for the medium trots. Shorter on the spot trot out of the corner across the diagonal until the quarter-line, then medium trot to the next quarter-line, and back tot the shorter on the spot trot. I still need to remember to go for less bend in the leg yields, because for some reason the second I put my body into position she bends her neck- I did it I am again just not always aware! Overall the lesson was a success!

So I will end with some videos of Gramarye from when I first started working with her- you can be the judge of the progress: October 2008!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Never again will I leave a mare for multiple days...

This last week has been quite the whirlwind! As per my previous post, my job did not really allow me the time to go to the barn this week. So instead I went into my Ryan lesson on Sunday completely unprepared, and just hoping for the best. What did I get? A ticking time bomb of a mare. One thing Gram never lets me forget: mares are high maintenance!!! My lesson started, walk was fine, trot was actually pretty good, just a little fast and then seconds later there was a ticking time bomb underneath me. I asked for canter, the head went down, she gave a little toss, and I knew I was in for some mare attitude. I couldn't blame her though- I was MIA for a few days, and I had the audacity to let someone else ride her... albeit it was Ryan, but she wasn't any less displeased with me. So just my luck another lady was in the arena. I had to warn her that the next few minutes, might be frightening because Gram needed to gallop! So we galloped around a bit, digging in and kicking up some dirt, which in turn scared the big mare even more, causing her to run faster and through another head toss buck. Then we were fine and ready to get to work. We worked on straightness in our leg yields in hopes that the hind leg would stay engaged. We also worked haunches in on the circle. Our main focus was to keep her right hind from coming out behind, which meant a whole ton of work on my part. Near what I thought was the end of our lesson, Ryan then wanted to end with better canter and when I thought that would mean we were done we went to those painful, shorter stride to medium trots... I thought my abs were going to fall off. I warned him that we were both losing steam, but I think he ignored me on purpose. Payback for the birthday party I guess :)It was a great lesson, but I was sore today.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

When the job gets in the way of my riding

So tonight I am missing my lesson because my job has gotten in the way of my riding lesson! I am angry, but it is a good opportunity for Ryan to ride Gram :) More to come this weekend... Of couse I have some days off monday and tuesday and guess what? It is supposed to thunderstorm the whole time!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Tonight there were tornado sirens galore, which didn't allow me to go the barn. So instead of jumping right into the summary from yesterday's ride, I thought I would include a fun fact for today's entry.
When we bred Gramarye's dam Yce to Giotto, we then had to come up with a name that started with a "G"... So I reached to my late 90's love affair with alternative music. One of my personal favorite bands from that time was Remy Zero. They were not a mainstream band, but I had a friend that managed them and introduced me to their music. They were able to find moderate success with a few of their songs. After scouring youtube I remembered some of my favorites including, "Twister", "Shattered", "Save Me", "Perfect Memory", "Prophecy", "Hollow" and finally "Gramarye" (which the lead singer Cinjun Tate pronounces Gram-a-rye (like rye bread instead of like Gram-marie)... So your your viewing pleasure, here is Gramarye's namesake music video:

I spend the day today in pain from my lesson yesterday. I realized that we didn't have an honest free walk the entire time, and it also didn't help that it was about 90 degrees with no breeze. We worked on haunches in, center lines, leg yields and collected trot to mediums trots... The hardest was the shorter trot to the medium... Not fun for me or Gram. My legs were so tired I didn't even feel them by the end of the lesson. We ended with Canter work, where Ryan pointed out that I probably am working too hard to support Gram. She isn't heavy, but she needs me there every stride to balance and re-balance her. I need to start working on getting her a bit lighter, without having me help every stride.

I woke up in pain, and said pain continued throughout the entire day... Thanks Ryan! :p

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cowponies slide stop!

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of working with the baby Zion... He still makes me laugh, and it is a new thing each time I ride him. Poor Zion was mighty scared at the horse show, but he did learn one thing that weekend: When he goes down centerline, trot real purtty and then SLAM ON THE BRAKES! I half halted and did what I thought was going to prepare him to stop, and instead, he just slid into a halt. I busted out laughing and of course had to call Donnie over to witness this... I am sure it wasn't as entertaining watching him, as it was riding him. The second time down the centerline, I didn't even have to ask for the halt... it just happened. This was kind of a problem, since I wasn't going to stop, but again I laughed. His heart is in the right place, he just needs a bit more "street smarts".

The weekend was overall successful. Gram was great, we worked on some half-passes- so that was a new twist. She did tell me that she needed a good gallop though. During warm-up she bolted, but in a funny way. Not because she was scared, there was no big bang, she just had the need for SPEED. Again, I laughed, because the big mare told me what she needed and I obliged then we got to work.

Tonight is Ryan night... I made fruit salad. :) Next I have to work on the Lamplight entries!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Left-side angst

I had a great lesson last night. Ryan came out to the barn last night for lessons and my friend Andi was able to come out with her mom. We are really working on a new level of connection with Gramarye. Ryan gave me some new exercises, which of course took me a while to figure out what the heck he wanted me to do! As a side note, it amazing me how many exercises Ryan has up his sleeve. I would think that after working with him for so long, he would run out of things that are new... as a kudos to Ryan, he is a true professional in his work, he is continuously learning and always bettering himself as a rider and trainer. I really cannot say enough good things about him. If I had the money to sponsor him a fantastic big tour horse, I would do it in a heartbeat as I think he is just as good as Edward Gal- Ryan just needs a Totilas and I need to be a Vissar:)

At the show, we had trouble keeping the connection with the hind legs, especially in the medium trot. Gram tends to get out behind, and I am not setting her up properly. So last night we got two new exercises to practice:
1. Piaffe Square- Basically turn down the center line, at I shorten the stride, and make a 90 degree turn left towards the rail, maintain short stride and think almost like a piaffe pirouette, turn back towards center line. When approaching the center of the ring, turn right back on the center line and send the horse forward. We mirrored this in the other direction, sometimes from the same center line. It seemed to help her with her balance and to engage under instead of pushing out from behind. My attempt at drawing is directly to the left of this write up.
2. Controlling haunches on the diagonal line- Basically, this exercise is specific to our problem when crossing the diagonal line from the left to the right. I lose her hind leg, and her medium becomes uneven since her hind leg is so far behind, it had to travel that much further than the other. So I need to think smaller trot into the corner, might a tighter turn to the diagonal, all while pushing the haunches to the left without allowing her whole body to drift.

So apparently at Silverwood, Ryan noticed my funny habit with my left side. Anyone that has read my posts knows that my left elbow is the bane of my existence. That darn elbow has a mind of its own. Also, something funny happens when you go from riding in a double bridle, and taking a few years off, and then return into a snaffle especially if you already have issues like me :) My left pinky has forgotten its job! It separates and sticks straight out. He also noticed, that my left hand is opening and staying open to the left. I think my biggest mental block, is to try not to hold Gram ever! My Willy, who I love dearly, got to be very heavy. In my effort to avoid this with Gramarye, I have of course over compensated. Instead of maintain a nice contact, I am opening my entire hand and sticking my pinky straight out! I will work on these and hopefully by the end of the summer I will correct. Then that will allow me plenty of time to pick up more bad habits while Ryan is in Florida :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My new sofa saddle

I had my first couple of rides in my new saddle, and so far I love it. It literally feels like a sofa. It is soft and fits me well, and it hasn't been fitted yet. The only obvious problems that I see are: 1. I need to shorten my stirrups one hole and 2. It is a smidgen big for Gramarye right now. Good thing is that Natalie the Schleese saddle fitter will be at Lamplight at the end of July. Hopefully she will think the saddle is good and will work for my giant mare. The training rides this week have been more about me getting used to the saddle and less about Gram. So I do not have much of an update for that yet. However, I do have my Ryan lesson tonight, so I should have an update tomorrow. Hopefully, he will think that my seat isn't too bad. I have included a couple of fun videos:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Silverwood June Showshow Re-cap with videos

It was an eventful weekend at Silverwood! Zion got to attend his first horse show, and Gram got to show off that she is now a veteran.

We arrived to the show after about an hour of coaxing Zion to get into the trailer. Thursday was a schooling day, and all was well with Gram- Zion had to be lunged and he screamed the entire time- pretty much sums up his weekend. He probably doesn't have any voice left today!

Gram and I had great results at our first time out at First level. We tried new things this time around- we showed all the tests: Friday was First Level Test 1 68%, Saturday was our first time showing two classes in a day First Level Test 2 65.5% and First Level Test 3 70% we ended with First Level test 4 on Sunday with a 68%. I was so proud of my big mare. She really gets it, and I think was happy to be more challenged in the arena this year. We still need to improve, but I am excited about the progress she has made in just one year.

Here are the videos:

Zion's performance was similar to Gram in her first year- Terrified. He didn't bolt or do anything as naughty as Gram, but he did scream...a lot! He showed Training Level Test 1 with Ryan- His test marks looked something like this: 6, 4, 8, 4... and so on. The Judges remarks made me laugh "Horse seems very (underlined) green, but with training could be a very nice prospect." All true. He is very pretty and very flashy, when he is able to focus and pay attention. Not bad after just 35 days of training with Ryan and after being held back in Kindergarten.

The weekend overall was a success. I am excited to refine the tests with Gram, and really get a good idea for what Zion is capable of doing. He is very immature, and will probably always be this way. He is sweet and handsome, but not the sharpest crayon in the box.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wishing I was a Young Rider again

Normally I try to use this blog to remember my training tidbits, but today I feel the need to get some venting out about the dreaded packing for a show. Last year I entered the world of horse shows in a whole new way than ever before. When I was growing up if school was still in session for the first couple of shows, I remember going to class, and then my parents picking my up with everything packed including the horse right from the main door of the high school. One time in particular, we were headed to the Washington International CDI. I wasn't worried I was excited. I shared the warm up with the likes of Robert Dover, Debbie McDonald and Michael Poulin- Heck I was competing against Michael's daughter, Gwen Poulin among others that are now in the rankings at GP. My point is, I would just jump in the truck, knowing that everything was there... well now I know what all my mother went through to stay organized and make sure that nothing was forgotten. Now I am the one that has to pack for me, Gram, Zion, Turi- luckily Donnie can manage to pack himself! Normally Mondays are my day of rest. The barn is closed, so I eat dinner with my husband (which is pretty much the only day of the work week that happens). Instead of relaxing last night, I was tearing my condo apart in search of my stock tie pin, doing laundry and making sure I had all my show clothes sparkling white. I was up until 12:30. So this morning, I woke up with a new found appreciation for my mother- sorry mom I know I am about 30 years late with this, but OMG how did you do this and stay sane???!!!

I felt like the more I tried to organize things, the more disorganized I felt... I wrote a list, and only got the show clothes packed, sans the stock tie pin, which I will still work on finding because I hate all the others! I actually think it might be in purse, from trying to use it with a scarf or something. I will try again tonight after the barn... and hopefully I will have a happy update on the lesson and the success of finding my pin.

Monday, June 7, 2010

First Level Test Four- bum bum bummmm

I had my Ryan lesson on Sunday, which made the reality of showing next weekend set in for me! After a pretty good warm-up Ryan asked us to run throw First Level Test Four. I was nervous... I had looked at the test, and have been practicing my leg yields, but there is something scarey about actually having to make it all the way from X to the rail with a big mare!!! To my surprise we were able to make it, I don't think it was pretty, but gosh darn it we got the idea that there was forward and side ways! I was such a proud momma. Medium canter is coming along nicely too. I just have to remember that my 6 year old mare is not a young rider horse- no going for broke! It will be interesting to see how the medium canter pans out for us in an outdoor with no wall to protect us! We might be Hi- Ho- Silver away! Our stretchy trot is pretty horrid, so too bad that this has a coeffiecient, I will have to make up for that elsewhere I guess! Overall, our first time running through the test wasn't that bad. If I can pull a mid 60 out of them this weekend, I will be pretty happy. In order sad news, for the first time, since I have owned it, I do not think I will be able to figure out a way to get my beast of a tack trunk to the show :(. I am sure I will figure something out, but it is sad for me... The unexpected arrival of the baby Z has really thrown a wrench into my truck and trailer plans. My truck could handle Gram and tack just fine... but two giant horses and I think my truck might explode!

I am getting the butterfly nerves right now, and of course managed to get a stuffed up nose since yesterday :( I am hoping it is allergies, but since it has been raining I am doubting that! So I will be packing tonight, have a lesson tomorrow, then bathing the horses and packing the trailer on Wednesday. Leaving Thursday morning- and I hope that both babies will walk right in!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Saddle buying and lesson recap

This was an exciting week. I sold my Prestige Top Dressage saddle and then I found a 2006 Schleese Infinity for the right price, so I bought it! Here are some pictures. The saddle should be shipping to me this morning, but it has a long way to go. It is currently located in California- the Bay Area! It mazes me what a few Internet searches will help you to come up with. Now it is just a matter of hoping these pictures are the real pictures of the saddle I bought! Always a chance when you buy things over the Internet I guess.

I had my Thursday lesson on Gram last night. The weather was absolutely perfect. It was about 70 degrees, so warm enough to feel like we got a good workout and cool enough to not dismount and feel like I was going to pass out!

We worked on more of the same, making sure that Gram understands that I am not asking her to just put her head down. Renvers is now part of our daily warm up. once she gets really over her back, then we start to ask for the true bend. It is working, it will just be a long process. Now that we have the understanding in 20m circles and down the long side, last night we worked on more of the lateral work. We started with the 10m circle and leg yield. The next step was haunches in, shoulder in. Then it was time to work the canter. We would go down the quarter line and ask for haunches in, then straight. It was funny because Gram really missed the rail at first. She was programmed in the leg yielding work. She eventually got the hang of it.

One thing I must always remember with my uber sensitive mare, is to always try to calm her down. When she gets upset, she fights. Sometimes it is as simple as just talking to her, sometimes it is giving up. I just cannot fight back. When I fight back she shuts down on me. the one thing I love about her, is that Roemer mentality that she has... she will give you everything - but the mare part puts a caveat to that statement: if she wants to. I can feel her starting to get stressed. She, like me, is a bad poker player. First, she swishes the tail, then tightens her back, then she stiffens her neck- if she is really upset she starts "talking" a grunt, or a sneeze. Now sometimes the grunt happens when she is trying very hard without the rest of it. That is not a fight, that is more "momma, is it trying, but this big body is hard to move sometimes".

I have to remember to start her trot slower but with activity behind, because she tends to want to run. Once she is in a nice place, then it is asking her for more forward. Suppling is very important in everything, beginning, during lateral work and at the end. We ended our lesson with extended trot work, keeping in mind that she must raise in the shoulder and stay light. I really started to feel her sit, in the downward while staying light in the reins. It was a great feeling. I just hope it looks as good as it feels. Hopefully, I will be able to get Donnie to video our lesson on Sunday. Then we have the horse show next weekend! Yikes!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

By Jove, I think she's got it

Over the weekend we had a break through! Gram has finally got the idea of the lighter shoulder. It only took living in Renvers for a week. Our lesson on Sunday was finally one where I walked away feeling good. We were able to work a bit with baby half pass, simple changes in the canter across the diagonal, leg yield, medium trot, medium canter and still managed to stay light. It was a great feeling. I need to remember to stop chasing her. She tends to start running before she falls apart. We had an inside joke going. My lesson on Thursday Ryan would say "right leg...Right leg, RIGHT LEG!" so we of course made fun. Well Sunday instead of right leg I got "she's running, She's Running, SHE'S RUNNING". Always in threes! Gotta love Ryan.

So the other thing that I have gotten quite sloppy about is the riding to the letters. Boy, did I get an earful from Ryan on that. He would call out, HXF medium trot... I would ride, H to P. He would yell "That is not F!" Ride to the letter, so I would try again, he would yell when I was not lined up to X, he said I would then re-route to ride towards the correct letter. I am still not sure about that. :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Renvers Right

I have been neglecting the blog a bit lately. So to catch up on what we have been working on I can pretty much sum things up with one word- Renvers!

To help with the suddenly heavy Gram, Ryan has been having us work Renvers. Over the weekend a light bulb went off for me. I have been getting on with "guns blazing" ready to make her light in the shoulder and higher in the pole. Well, she is a mare, I should have known better and created a problem for myself. I am pretty sure that this was my doing. Sure she was probably sore one day, and I pushed to hard, but instead of relaxing I tried to force it. Well last night the light bulb went off for us both. After starting tight, after about 15 minutes, she was back to normal. Now I just have to make sure I don't get back into it with her.

As I mentioned we have been spending a majority of our time practicing renvers. Last night our lesson gave us some great exercises: On the circle to the left, renvers right until she gives, then slowly take her back to true bend. Canter and then trot landing into renvers. Hard , but helpful. Then he added a couple of elements once she was giving in the base of her neck and jaw. Center line, renvers then baby half-pass back to renvers and continue until out of room :). This was a great exercise for her. She actually buckled down and enjoyed the challenge!

So tonight I will be doing bits of the same, to prepare for my lesson on Thursday. the great news is that both Zion and Gram will head to Silverwood in June. Gram will debut at first level. Zion will debut at training level test 1 with Ryan. And the best part- the Dressage Queens will be re-united :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lighter shoulder- no horse diving please

Our lesson this week was focused again on getting Gram lighter in her shoulder and engaging her hind end more. This means she is not allowed to dive down in transitions. The lesson wasn't super high intensity, but I guess they cannot be all the time. I am working on getting my leg a bit quicker. The important exercise that we used was the following:
Walk, nice and collected- when needed engage the inside hind by asking for a couple steps of turn on the forehand. Once the walk is good, meaning active and no locking in under her neck or jaw and NO DIVING, ask for a trot. Slow is OK so long as she doesn't dive. If she dives, wait until she gives and then walk and repeat. If she is good at the slower trot, start to ask for a bigger trot maintaining the lightness. Same thing goes for the canter. It is all about making her and keeping her light.

Ryan said Zion was a bit distracted. He was very looky. Which makes sense since he is now getting comfortable, he notices what is different.

In other good news we will be bringing both Zion and Gramarye to the first Silverwood show. It is still yet to be determined who will ride Zion. The non-compete fee is the same as riding in one class, so we will sign Zi up for a ride on Sunday and school the rest of the days...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Under the weather

My Grammy bear is a bit under the weather this week. Sunday I had a great lesson with Ryan. He didn't kick me off the horse, so I thought that was a good sign. Sunday evening, I was at home cooking dinner (a yummy meatloaf and scalloped potatoes), when my phone rang. It was the barn owner telling me that Gram was lethargic, not eating and had an elevated temperature of 101. Gram's normal body temperature is about 98 degrees- which is low. Gram is also 17.1 hand mare, so food if of the utmost importance to her! Then barn owner knows this and took the appropriate steps. It is funny, because I have always told them, I would prefer to be the last one to know. First call to vet explain symptoms, then give treatment suggested by vet (most of the time Banamine), then call me to tell me what steps were taken and if I need to hop in the car and camp out at the barn to monitor. For me, I would rather them catch a colic, try to stop then call me. Her health is more important to me than being in the "know". They did everything listed above, monitored her and her temp was down to 99 one hour later and she started to munch again. The vet didn't think she was colicing, just not feeling well perhaps a cold.

I came out to the barn after work yesterday. Gram looked good. She was alert, munching on bits of hay and happy to see me. I brought her out, and said to myself that I would tack her up and sit on her- if she was lethargic I would hop off. I got on, and she was good. I only did a little walk, trot and canter. After about 15 minutes, I called it good just in case she was fighting a bug. All was fine. She is a mouthy horse, so after we were done (she didn't even break a sweat where the saddle was), she stood in the cross ties and groomed me. She does what I think is cute and what other probably find strange, she starts by muzzling my back, then licks, then muzzles, and licks. It is very sweet. After our quality time was up, I took her back to her stall, and proceeded to clean tack and pick up after myself (I tend to leave a trail!).

I was just about to leave, but I always give both Gram and Z a good night pat. I walked towards her stall and couldn't see her, I look in and she is laying down... Of course my heart begins to skip beats. While she is down, I walk around her petting her- she is looking very alert, like "hi mom I is tired but come on in!" I of course see, "why did you ride me when I was not feeling well just yesterday..." So I listen for gut sounds- there is a lot going on. I think for my benefit she also lifted her tail and passed gas. Again "mom I am fine, look I farted, everything is fine, I is just tired". Still I am nervous, so I get her up. She stands up and yawns and starts looking for treats. I took her temp again and it was normal. She didn't look uncomfortable, just tired. So I left her alone to sleep the night away. No calls this morning, so I am betting she is just a bit under the weather. Still when they cannot talk it is scary.

Ryan Rode Zion- he said he was good, just a bit stiff to his good side (the right). I am excited to see him go on Thursday and hopefully Gram will be feeling good enough to take our lesson.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

This Sunday was a double treat- Mother's Day and my Mom's first ever Ryan Yap lesson!

Now Zion is my mom's horse. He is in Chicago for the summer to get some training under his belt. Zion was born at my parents farm- he is my mother's 4th child. You know the little boy favorite? To give more of an idea of the bond mom and Zion have, my mom called me more times last week and the week before worrying about Zion than she did when I went away to college, or when I lived in Greece for 4 months. Love you Mom! In all seriousness, they have a cute bond. Mom has her own barn, and her own outdoor arena behind the house. I think the only person she has ever ridden with is me, or one of the neighbors. Mom and Dad were planning to come to Chicago, so I told mom, she should take the lesson from Ryan. Wednesday, I get a phone call. Very serious mom, trying to argue that it will be better for Zion if I ride him in the lesson. Now, I am not an expert, but I don't need help with Zion from Ryan just yet... so I tried to explain to my mom. She wasn't buying it. We had the same conversation on Thursday. Then on Saturday, once she actually got here, she agreed to ride Zion with my help. Things went well. We worked on her hands, and controlling his tempo. She did an excellent job, once we had a few laughs about how hands are not supposed to post with you.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday... We were at the barn by about 8:30am, lessons were happening, with some of the ladies at the barn. I thought it would be good for my mom to see then ride. She was NERVOUS! Pacing around, trying to come up with a last ditch effort on why she thought she wasn't worth a lesson from Ryan... As the lesson time approached, with soem coaxing from dad and MaryLou she went and got Zion and started tacking him up. She agreed that if Ryan got on him first, so she could watch she would get on once he was finished.

I walked around with her, in what Papa Leon referred to as being a protective mother hen. It was time for her to get on... Ryan was a great teacher to her- not that I am surprised, and my mom made me very proud. She rode like a champ! She listened, asked questions and even made a couple of jokes...

I didn't think they would canter- and once she started she didn't want to stop. I thought she would panic once the two other ladies entered the arena, but she just dug in and kept riding. So to my mother- I hope you had a wonderful mother's day, and I want you to know how very proud of you I am! You have done a great job with Zion and it is about time that you started getting lessons! I look forward to watching your lessons this summer.

For your enjoyment I present Paulette Kotlarz and her first lesson with Ryan Yap, on her "home grown" 2004 Dutch Warmblood gelding out of Olivia (E'Sops Fable) and by Pallas (Darwin) - "Zion":

Friday, May 7, 2010

Blow to the ego

As I mentioned in the previous post, Gramarye has become a bit heavy in the hands. I am not sure where it all stems from, I just know that one day I got on and she was locking up. It literally happened that quickly. I have been struggling to fix on my own. Last night, I had my Ryan lesson. The adjustment from being a young rider, to an adult professional in business is very difficult. The most difficult thing that I had to deal with last night was the reminder that I am not as effective as I once was... This is hard for me to even type out. I started this blog for a reason. To record the journey, my journey to once again be a competitor. Last night I got a harsh reminder that sitting behind a desk all day is very different from my days as a working student slumming around in a barn. Is it true that the grass is always greener on the other side? Because sitting at my desk I long for the days that I was slumming in a barn, taking order from wealthy women when they actually showed up to ride their 100K+ horses... I long for those days, because "the ladies" only came out once or twice a week. When they didn't show, I got to ride those 100K+ horses. Back then I disliked taking orders from the ladies, but took care of their fancy horses as if they were my own. Well, now I sit in a chair, albeit a nice Aeron chair, behind a desk (or sometimes from home in my PJ's) yearning to go back to the days when I rode 1-8 horses per day.

Last night I was struggling with Gram- not normal, but just the stage she is at in her training. But I wasn't able to use my aids in the way that I once was. I struggled for about 20 minutes. Told Ryan I was frustrated, tried once more, and then I heard the dreadful words I once used on "the ladies"... Ryan said, "Let me get on, so I can feel what is going on..." Shot through my hears and straight to my heart... I of course translated that to "God you are frustrating- why can't you just do what I am telling to, move that leg quicker, release the right rein 1 second sooner- get off the damn horse and let the expert fix the problem you created... you AMATEUR!" In other words, it sucked! Luckily the ride wasn't a walk in the park for Ryan, so it wasn't a mere 5 minutes, and get back on. It was more detailed then what I thought it was going to be. Granted, this isn't the first time Ryan got on Gram, but it was the first time Ryan said, let me get on her. He is a much stronger rider than I am, and rides many different horses. I ride one, and recently started riding two, but that is dependant on so many factors- work, husband, life in general. I am a slave to the Blackberry and a double phone toting gal. One for work, and an iphone for personal use. My work Blackberry is a like a four letter word at home. If I say I need to check that buzz, Donnie gets mad. It is hard for me to do things half assed. I work hard at work; I work hard at the barn. So knowing that I cannot fix a problem on the horse, is a hard pill for me to swallow.

One thing that will stand out for me, is that I need to work harder. I am striving to be the rider I once was- not that I was Courtney King- Dye or anything, but I at least felt effective. Last night I felt lost. But it was fun to see Ryan work the beast :) So this is my first not so great feeling post. Hopefully my post after Sunday's lesson will be better!

The exercises learned last night:
Turn on the forehand, trot, turn on the forehand back to the walk. The right needs less bend, the left needs more bend... The left needs the right to give sooner, and left leg quicker. Try not to twist the upper body and sit too much to the inside. Same in canter to trot to walk. All on the circle.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ry and Zi's first ride

Yesterday I was able to duck out of work a bit early and head to the barn to watch Ryan ride Zion for the first time. Since I do not have time to ride two during the week, Ryan will be taking over Zion on Tuesdays and Thursday, then I will get lessons on Gram on Thursday evening and lessons on both on Sundays.

Ryan is a man of few words... it probably didn't help that he had just arrived home from a week of horse shopping in Europe the night before. Zion was a little wiggle worm to start. This is pretty standard for him. After about 5 minutes Zion was ready to learn. You could see him process things... Ryan would ask for a half halt, Zion would stop, then move off, then get faster, dive to the rein a bit, then finally a glimpse of a little front end wait for the back end and try to work together. His ears were to the sides ready for his next task. The motorcycle racer canter wasn't bad- so I of course told Ryan I fixed it before he got there :) I wish I had remembered my camera! They looks so nice... Ryan with his long legs and Zion with his. They are the Ry and Zi team. They had a few moments of fancy dressage.

At the end of the ride- about 25 minutes and Zion drenched, Ryan had finished the first ride. I asked what he thought- and didn't get much. He said he is green- which is true... he said he was weak, also true because he is green. His canter needs work. He has a nice trot and he is really willing to learn- a good mind. That was it. Gotta love him.

So, then I rode Gram. She was good. We are kind of at a turning point. We have been trying to work on the connection- riding more in a second level frame. We have been working on trot halt, and instead of her wanting to fall down on the forehand, to instead sit down behind. She now understands this, but she is becoming very heavy in my hands. I was talking to Paige last night, and she pointed out it is probably a balance thing; Gram trying to figure out how she is to balance her big body. A light bulb went off in my head... I think she is dead on, I am just not quite sure how to fix. This will be the first thing I bring up in my Ryan lesson on Thursday! I thought the transitions would help her to lighten up. But they are having the opposite effect. I am sure it is something simple and my next post will be all about the ah-ha moment that Ryan walks me through.