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Friday, July 29, 2011

Good ole Chicago weather never disappoints

Good ole Chicago weather never disappoints- will this heat and humidity ever end!?! I am writing this post to remind me how hot it can get in Chicago... because I am sure this winter I will post about how incredibly cold it gets.

Lately Gram has had a lack of butt foam. Tuesday I rode, but she was not great. Wednesday the heat and humidity returned so I decided it might be better to lunge first and then just ride for 10 minutes. She was fine, sweaty and we got butt foam, so I was happy. Last night it was again 90 at 7:00 when I arrived at the barn. After brushing for 5 minutes and then being soaked in my own sweat, I decided we would have an effortless ride of just me working my position while Gram stretched and bent. I have been doing my warm up in sitting trot lately because I tend to tip too much in rising trot... First let me say, I love to sit the trot and HATE rising. Not sure why, but I tilt forward in rising trot like I am terrified- it is odd. I like to loosen up my pelvis and hips as well as Gram's and the sitting trot in the stretch seems to work better for us. Last night my goal was to get her over her back without the running off the front legs. We have been working a lot within the gaits of forward and back.
I know Gram is working when she starts to grunt. She is so funny, it makes me laugh. Literally every step was like an oink of a pig. Last night was the happy grunt that her mom also used to do. Gram also responds well when I talk to her. She really like the "brrrrrr" noise to understand my half halt in front, but then when I add my leg she gets a little confused still. I do think it is time for a Ryan lesson, but this house closing has us counting every single penny. Maybe we will close on this house soon! Fingers crossed!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Delayed posts

Well, I have just been plain bad about the blog lately... Donnie and I are in the process of buying a house, so a lot of my spare time has been spent working on details, inspections, price quotes and etc. I am excited as it is my dream house. I keep telling Donnie that the wait will be worth it, as this is a forever home for us! I will post pictures as soon as it is officially ours!

We have had a heat wave in Chicago over the last week, so I didn't ride at all. In fact we went to the barn every evening just to cold hose the sweaty mare. She handles the heat about as well as I do, so she was happy to have the relief from work and the cold shower before bedtime. I rode her yesterday for the first time in a week. She was pretty good. We seem to have lost our "butt foam", but I am sure I will get it back soon. Half passes are coming a long well. I am still trying to figure out the secret to flying changes, as I have only gotten one clean change out of her recently. I will need Ryan to help us with that! Her canter is getting stronger, and I feel like she is shorter underneath me. I have been getting a couple of good half steps on my own, but she is still very confused about the whole situation. Our sessions normally include, a few reinbacks, grunts and then a small up in the air before she relaxes and tries to "trot in place". I still need to work on her trusting me in that exercise.

I hope to write more again this week, as we do expect some normal summer weather and not 108 with heat index :)

Monday, May 23, 2011


Finally had a lesson with Ryan yesterday and did it hurt! :)

We showed Ryan all that we have been working on, and overall, he said we have done a good job making progress; but that was at the end of the lesson. The beginning was more like show me your half passes- still not enough crossing, show me your canter- needs to be collected more, show me your transitions- still not perfect... that is why I love training with him!

The main point of everything is that we still need to develop more strength... it just takes time and more exercises. She has gained the understanding of the half halts better, and no longer runs through me, but she still needs to engage her inside hinds more. Even in the canter walk transitions we need to keep the back end under instead of stopping on the front. I knew the canter was slamming down instead of sitting, so now it is on me to get it more consistent. In our lesson, every transition had a different problem, so I feel like it definitely is a strength issue.

In the half pass I need to be mindful especially to the right when she tends to want to lead with her haunches. Basically I got an over all approval from Ryan. Hopefully we can build the strength over the next few months!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spring Evil mare is back...

I started to take for granted the fact that I have just had great rides lately... Last night Gramarye brought me back to reality. It started in the cross-ties; nasty ears, and even a kick when I reached her rear end. (Not a trying to actually kick me, but a warning kick under her belly- enough to let me know that the next one won't be so nice). The when I went to brush the other side, she about tried to smush me against the wall. Then I remembered why I loved my geldings! She was fine on Tuesday night, so my guess is that her horse cramps started yesterday... plus there is a lot of mare tension at the barn right now. One mare is about to have a baby- like any day, the other mare is attacking when you walk past her stall, so maybe Gram felt peer pressure to be witchy.

Good new was he had butt foam almost immediately. But bad news is she was ready for a fight. I thought we were just going to have an nice stretching ride, and then be done... but nooooo, she wanted to do nothing at all. So we spent time having an argument about hanging on the reins, the we had an argument about where that left hind should be (I wanted it under, she wanted it dragging behind). I spent the entire ride (45 minutes) working transitions, and then she finally gave to me. So we stretched for 5 minutes and then called it a night- however she was SOAKED! I hope our ride tonight is better!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Anniversary and the Dressage Husband

Yesterday was our 3 year wedding anniversary, so I thought I would devote sometime to the dressage husband on the blog today. My husband, Donnie, is one heck of a trooper. He takes the time to come to the barn with me at least once per week. He has come a very long way with Gram too! Donnie got thrown into the dressage husband role really. I was without a horse to ride a majority of the time we dated. In fact, it wasn't until after we got married that Gram was brought to Chicago! At first Donnie was hesitant to pet her... now, three years later he walks out to her paddock to get her all by himself!

Not only does he attend horse shows with a smile on his face, but he stands in the cold to video me so I can see how things are shaping up. He built my website, just for fun, and linked the blog because he thought it would be nice to track Gram's progress. I will say, he is learning right along with Gram :). So to all the husbands out there, that spent the time, sacricficing a real vacation for the World Dressage Masters in Wellington, fork over the money and support their wives with their love of horses- I salute you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The keys to solid warm-up = good ride even in a heat wave!

I haven't been real consistent about riding or updating the blog lately! We lost Donnie's grandmother at 94 years old a couple weeks ago. She had cancer, but we were able to be by her side until the very end. It was important family time, so I hope Gram understood :)

Last night I went to the barn. When I left the city it was 78 degrees with a nice cool breeze coming off the lake. I had actually worked from home and was able to have the windows open all day and stay very comfortable. I talked to friends in the burbs all complaining about it being too hot... I like to be cold, so I was blown away that my friends thought it was too hot and I thought it was perfect. I am not going to lie, but I got excited that perhaps that meant my body would deal with heat a bit better... Well, then I arrived at the barn, and was hit with 90 degrees and understood why everyone was saying it was hot out! I walked up to Gram, and she was sweating in her stall. I took her into the aisle and let her enjoy the fan made breeze.

I tacked her up and then proceeded to the indoor. I have found the key to our perfect warm up. I start, as I have since she came to Chicago, to just walk her on the buckle for the first 5 minutes or so. It gives us both the chance to relax into work. I normally wait for her to make her big sigh. Then I start stretchy trot, to serpentine's, and then into canter in each direction. This whole process puts us about 15 minutes from the moment we stepped into the arena. Then we walk again, but instead of on the buckle, it is more of an extended walk. Then I have been asking for collected walk, back to extended, just to get her used to me shortening and lengthening the reins in the walk. Next is is all about transitions; walk/halt, halt/trot/, trot/walk, walk/trot, trot/halt, halt/canter, canter/trot, trot/canter, canter/walk, walk/canter... you get the idea. Well, by this point she is drenched in sweat and so am I. We walk for a bit to catch our breath. I ask her for some lateral work in the walk, then ask for trot and ask for lateral work again. We work on her self carriage. Although her trot has gotten good, and the canter has gotten better, she still struggles with staying "UP" in the canter. Big horse, lots of body, hard work to keep the jump. The transitions are helping though. Now just the slightest move of my pelvis and she is ready to walk, and if my leg isn't there, she walks. :) A good problem to have!

Once we get a few really stellar moves, I normally forget to stretchy trot and go into walk (oops!). Then when the big mare thinks she is done, I normally remember that I haven't done stretching work, and pick her back up just to allow her to stretch in both directions, then we start our for real cool down, instead of the just kidding one!

I gave her a bath, and the cool water felt good for me too! Then I put her to bed and spent the drive home thinking about the progress and the keys to success. It is a formula for both the horse and rider. For me and Rushonne it was in the form of cantering right away, then coming back to trot work... with Willy it was keeping him alert and excited. For Gram it is about easing her into a relaxed frame. the warm up is probably more for me, but I think that when you can communicate with the horse in a way that is acceptable to both, the better you are set up for the ride. If I get one determined to work on something, lots of times it turns into a fight in warm up. If I just the warm up happen, we are both ready to work even if it is in the middle of a heat wave!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lightenting Crashes

We had a nasty storm last night. It had been gloomy all day long, but I really didn't think much of it when I loaded up the car with clean horse laundry, Turi and me. It drizzled my whole drive, but again it is spring in Chicago. It has been cold, but again it is spring in Chicago and completely unpredictable. When I arrive at the barn I go straight to Gramarye's stall, as I haven't seen her since last week. The barn is closed on Mondays and then last Tuesday the vet gave shots, which meant she was off Wednesday. I rode on Thursday and she was good, but then I went to Michigan to celebrate my Mother's birthday as well as my parents 45th wedding anniversary. I did ride Zion over the weekend, but that is another story. Back to Gram, she was very happy to see us, and very calm, especially considering she has pretty had about 10 days off of the last 12, our riding has been sporadic at best. After some quality time in the grooming stall, and lots of kisses and treats, it was time to make a decision. She was so good, I thought, what the heck, I will just get right on without lunging. The first 10 minutes were pretty good. She let out baby bucks and head tosses, but that is pretty normal for her if I don't consistently ride. We did walk, trot, canter in both directions, our normal warm up.
Then the big storm hit! The indoor is very well insulated so you never really hear the storms, but last night, it was as if there was not an ounce of insulation in the barn! The crashing and flashes of light it was first caught Gram's attention, then the hail came crashing into the side of the metal barn, and then the Pièce de résistance the metal doors lifted out and banged back into the metal walls. I could sense Gram's eyeballs rolling back in her head.

So I thought to myself, the smart thing to do is to calmly get off her back. So I kept talking, trying to talk over the sounds coming from mother nature as well as the barn boogie monsters. I pat her neck, and slowly leaned forward to test if she would explode. I toook my time and carefully lifted my leg cautiously, but ready to be put right back in case I needed to hold on, and then past the point of holding on positioned myself for a dismount that would hurt the least if she took off. To my shock, she stood like an old pro. Once my feet were firmly planted on the ground, I gave her a good face rub, and plenty of praise. Not a second later Gram lost it! She started screaming, the barn was also, so I couldn't really blame her. The loudest crash yet, and Gram wanted to take off. Even though she was about to lose her mind, she was very aware of where I was, and I think tried not to hurt me. Last year she would have just bolted for fear of her life and no regard for mine. Needless to say I was proud of my big girl.

I decided to let the storm pass over a bit, and then brought her back into the indoor to lunge to get some kinks out. She was good, jumped and kicked a couple of times, and then she was ready to work. Since it was a stressful night, I let her end without getting back in the saddle. We spent some more quality hand walking time, and then I put her to bed. Even though we didn't accomplish much, I was so very proud of her growth and maturity to handle herself while a huge storm lingered above us!

Friday, April 1, 2011

We like our work

Gram has been absolutely fabulous lately... I hope this doesn't jinx things! I have been getting out the barn regularly, so that probably helps. Last night she was a little wired, so I wasn't sure if that would cause our good girl streak to come to an end. To my surprise she was better than ever. When I arrived at the barn, she had a sad look, I had come right at feeding time, so she was not given her food. Everyone else was chopping away and I walked up to her stall, my heart felt for her. I gave her hay and a couple of handfuls of grain. She was very grateful, but still looked hungry. She was a big girl though and let me take her from her stall. I tacked her up rather fast, for the first time in a two weeks she was not completely caked with mud. She was very alert and even a little spooky. I took her into the indoor and she was literally afraid of her shadow. She quickly worked through it, but still felt like she might explode. Not the horse show explode from two years ago, but still anxious. She let out a couple of mini spooks and then a couple of little mini bucks in the canter stretch, but that was about it. It was more of a head down and little jumps, not a real buck... the kind that makes you giggle because it is playful, not angry.

I started to pick her up and work on transitions. I pushed a little more and asked for half steps. She actually produced a couple of nice strides without anyone on the ground, so we stretched again and took a walk break. I picked her back up and ask for half-pass and they were much better. She was lighter in my hands, and completely listening to my seat and leg. I was almost shocked at first. The transitions early on seem to be the key to getting her prepped. I do lots of trot halt, trot off again, sometimes I through in a rein back, but I am always leery of how much ask for the rein back, I don't want her to think that is what she needs to do every time, she needs to wait for my leg to go back. Lately, she has been getting a little "stuck in gears". When I first ask for the transition from trot to halt, she wants to get stuck behind my leg. It normally take a bit of gear grinding before she realizes she needs to stay in front of my leg. Normally the gear grinding takes shape in a back step, then a jump forward and up, into the trot. It is am honest mistake as far as I can tell. Afterall, I am just asking her to stop and then trot off again. :)

When then worked on our canter transitions. I am determined to start putting the flying changes on her over this summer. She was so great in the canter last night, I didn't want to stop! WE have been working on canter serpentine's with simple changes on the centerline. The first couple are normally really bad, but not last night. Like Gymnast she was sticking every landing and then departing again light as a feather in my hand. Normally she becomes more of a barrel than a feather. She is getting stronger, and really understanding her job, which makes my job with her fun. After we nailed a few simple changes into the light connection, I put her quarter sheet back on and called Turi dog into the arena for some happy dog in the sand running. Turi was happy in her dog bag with my heavy jacket draped over her. When she tried to come, my jacket stuck to her puppy harness, which caused the jacket to "move" on its own. Gram was slightly freaked, but Faible was snorting from her stall. The more Faible snorted the more Gram tried to fit into my pocket. But my big girl didn't do anything stupid, she just looked very alert... she wanted to run away, but instead stood there with faith that I would not cause something to hurt her. It was cute to witness. Gram and I then chased Turi around a bit which gave Gram time to cool down enough to be untacked and eat her dinner. All in all it was a great night, and made me love my girls just a little bit more than I already did!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Travels and such

I am about to make up for some lost time with the blog. Things have been off and on with my riding. Between work and travel, March was a rough month for me!

I will start with my visit to the Master's in Wellington! WOW, talk about being inspired. Going to the show made me realize just how much winter blah's Gram and I both had. I think we both needed a reset. So for 9 days Gram had a vacation from me! Some of the days were because of work, a clinic at the barn or Donnie and I in Florida. Watching Steffen Peter's in person was AMAZING. You could see just how important all the basics really are even in a world class Grand Prix horse. Ravel's transitions were something out of this world. The pair just made it seem so effortless. They have a harmony that is truly a sight to behold. While Ravel might not be as flashy when compared to Toto, he makes up for it all in his consistency and heart. My favorite part of the entire weekend was when I looked back at my horrible picture taking ability... I have really bad timing, but it was actually cool for the first time. Every single picture I took of Ravel and SP, was uphill, even when it shouldn't have been. I have included a few as proof:

I also discovered a new favorite of mine: Canadian Shannon Dueck and her giant mare Ayscha. Fun pair to watch schooling with Robert Dover. The mare looks like she likes her job.

She didn't score really well, but her warm up was really nice to watch.

I also witnessed Tina Konyot and Calecto V, another great pair. It seems that all the horse/rider combo's that I really liked were bonded in a special way that came through during the test.

I came back home ready to ride... well after I lunged the big red mare first! She was pretty good, just letting out a few bucks on the line, then I got on and she was ready to work. All of last week she was amazing! She was nice in the bridle and finally remembered what it meant to reach for the bit and stretch. I felt like we were actually ready for our Ryan tune up this weekend.

During our tune up, I got yelled at a lot for holding my hands too high... I blame it on my poor conformation, long torso, short arms and legs... it is really something I need to think about more. The first day Ryan asked us to do walk turns on haunches, and I screwed them up badly. The first two steps would be good, and then I would spin her around and cause her hind end to fishtail. I got yelled at some more :). By the second day I remembered how to ride them, and the yelling stopped. (When I say yelling, it really isn't yelling, I just don't like be told I am doing something wrong, so in my mind it is yelling. To those watching it is a correction made in in a very nice way.)

We worked on a bit of canter on the second day and it was all pretty good. I still need to work on developing her muscles to allow her to carry herself in the downward and not just fall. Ryan also had us work on a nice exercise in the walk. Medium walk to an extended walk across the diagonal, then halt, and walk off again thinking only of her hind legs. It helped me to help her engage. We also worked on our half steps. I have gotten into a bad habit of lifting myself up out of the saddle. I need to remember to sit in and drive her shoulders up to my hands, not life her up with my hands. All in all we had a great weekend of lessons. I am thinking that our best option though is to use this summer to train harder and maybe not show. Showing is so expensive! I would rather take more lessons then attend any shows this year. Plus I really want to have the flying changes on her and we think her strength just isn't there yet.

I wanted to end my blog entry with a funny picture. The entire time we were at the Masters, when Steffen Peters would walk by I would get gitty, like I just saw Bono :). My husband called me a dork a lot! This picture is my friend Anne and me sitting at our table for the freestyles. In the table over one and in front of us was SP and Akiko Yamazaki... so I had my amazing husband take a picture...

I look freaked out because I am in shock that he didn't have like a bodyguard protecting him from the dressage groupies (like me)! haha!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spring tease

Well we had a wonderful spring tease this weekend, followed by yet an other snow storm. Those couple days of nice weather made it all worth it! I had some really great rides on Gram over the weekend. I think for the first time we will actually be prepared for our Ryan lessons this weekend!

We worked on much of the same, half-passes, counter-canter, transitions. Sunday I asked for some half steps, they were ok but there is a lot more in her that I need to figure out how to tap into. We had two really fun rides. She was very responsive to my leg, which just shows that I need to continue doing the things that I am not a fan of like half passes. She is really understanding our walk canters to the left nicely. I still need to work on the downwards and her just dropping down on the forehand. The slight turns on the haunches is working, but still isn't a consistent 8 or 9. I would say the first one is always a 4, and then we get a 8. I am still working on building her strength to get a great upward and a great downward. We just are not there yet.

Sunday the mare was just plain angry in the cross-ties, but as soon as I got on, she went to work and again gave me a free and clean flying change! WE stretched and I called it good after only 25 minutes.

On a side note, it has been really nice having someone to ride with in the evenings, but I found out that my evening riding buddy will no longer be out with me! It has been really nice getting to know her and watching her ride her young horse. There is so much that we have in common, and at the same time I felt watching her riding and training, only helped me to improve my own riding and training! So I will miss her a great deal!

Friday, February 18, 2011


Now that we have finally had an entire week to work, things are beginning to fall into place. We had a semi- breakthrough last night. I realized that I can push her even more than I thought :) This seems to be a common trend for me lately. My baby is growing up and getting bored with my babying her. I just feel like the basics are so important that sometimes I feel like I focus on them too much, to the point where she gets bored and wants to work on tricks to be a fancy horse. She recently decided that she doesn't want to stretchy trot any longer... I went with it at first, then realized I was probably not getting her as together as I could if I could just get her to relax in the beginning of our sessions. Last night I set out to encourage the stretch. Once I got a few nice strides, I decided that then I could get to work. I worked on collection in the canter. For a brief moment, I found myself sitting in more, and not accepting her just a little effort. To my surprise instead of blowing up, she gave me more. In fact I got a bit carried away asking for counter-bend on the circle and she gave me a wonderfully clean flying change! I literally almost fell off in shock.

We worked on our canter walk transitions incorporating the quarter turn on the haunches immediately after asking for the downward. She responded really well. As I walked her out, I realized that everytime I think I am asking enough, there is always more inside of her. We have a really nice bond, so she trusts that what I ask of her isn't going to hurt (provided I never try to change her bit again). Of course it was 60 degrees yesterday so we both finished after only 25 minutes of work soaking wet, and I walk was longer than normal! It took her a while to dry, but she deserves the night off tonight.
I am just excited to go ride on Saturday! Also my parents purchased a new puppy, McCloud, a Chinese Crested that we will have the opportunity to welcome to the family!

Monday, February 14, 2011

What a difference a week makes

In the last 14 days, I have ridden 4 times... This does not make preparing for the show season very easy! After the blizzard, we then had bitter cold, too cold to make riding safe. So I lunged Gram one night in just a halter, so she could stretch her legs for a few minutes, then she spent the rest of the week bundled up like Randy from Christmas Story:

I went out to ride on Saturday and she was very good. Based on our Ryan lessons the week before, he established that I need to start asking for more in the half-pass, which means I actually have to practice them. This is when I wished I had mirrors at least across the short side of the indoor. I know I get crooked, but if I could see what I was doing I would be able to fix it myself and would be more confident in my own position. But that is why I am lucky to have Ryan coming back ever few weeks to tune us up!

Here is what I need to keep in mind:
1. no locking my left hip (when I start working too hard on the half pass I lock up which doesn't allow Gram to cross over)
2. no letting her dive... I need to keep her tempo reasonable, ok to be a little slower right now, so long as I get the cross over
3. Outside rein to the outside (Kathy lesson tool)
4. Left elbow, wrist -no more chick wings

In the counter canter I need to sit back, I tend to lean into her which makes it harder for her- sit in!

Walk-canter, canter-walk exercises. In the downward quarter turn on the haunches, to get her rocking back... again I need to be mindful of that stupid locking hip on the left!

That about sums up my homework until next week! I will hopefully get Donnie to video for a couple minutes over the next few days.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Blizzard 2011-Snowed in

Well, I haven't been out the barn at all this week, mainly because this is my street:
Our car is located in the garage to the left... yeah have been snowed in. Last night the city finally got to our little side street armed with an earthmover like tractor and a dumptruck. They were scooping up the 5ft mound and putting into the truck. INSANE. Since I haven't been riding at all, and I have a Ryan lesson this weekend, I thought I would devote this post to the insanity that is a blizzard in the city of Chicago...

And for good measure here is the barn the morning after the blizzard as sent by the barn owner:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Things that go bump in the Night

Our rides have been odd lately, some are good and some are bad. This week the trend has been hearing something go boom and Gram losing her mind. I cannot blame her as she had 3 days off, and it was so cold she probably didn't go outside much. When I got on Tuesday, she was a bucking bronco... Something in the barn made a noise and Gram went from maturing horse to ticking time bomb! Leg on her side meant leap in the air. Her back felt like a ball of nerves. Wednesday wasn't much better either. Last night we finally had a great ride... The only problem was that I heard things the ENTIRE time!
Last night marked the first time I rode with no one else in the barn. At first I thought that someone else would come, so I think that was what started me hearing things. At one point a boom happened... it sounded like someone knocking on the metal slider doors, and then knocking something large off a shelf. There were a few crashes. This of course is pretty standard in a metal building full of 4 legged creatures, but in my head I thought there was an intruder. In this instance, I was actually the one that felt like a ticking time bomb. Eventually I got over my thoughts that someone was breaking into the barn. As soon as I did, Gram and I were able to get to work. In the walk, I started with lateral work; shoulder-in, haunches-in, half pass, turn on haunches. Then I picked up the trot, I skipped the rising, but still just let her stretch over her back for a few minutes then went into canter. I tried to get more jump in the canter and then we were ready to get to work. I started asking for half passes in the trot. At first she protested, we had a conversation and the entire time I thought about how much I got after her. I tried to make it quick and then move on, and she reacted in the most positive way. She gave up her protest and we got some great half passes at the trot. I over shot the centerline on purpose in order to make sure she was listening. Then we tried the canter half pass which were actually better than the trot. My final test was to ask for counter-canter and simple changes across the diagonal. Both went well, so I called it a day and praised her for her hard work. I guess hearing things that go bump in the night aren't always a bad thing!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of getting a couple lessons from a tan Ryan. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, Gram and I were having issues as a result of my changing the bits. When I entered the ring for my first lesson, I explained to Ryan our current situation. I told him Gram was going really good, so I decided it was time to change bits... In true Ryan form, he responded with, "Well, if she was going good, why did you change bits?" My response, "Because I am not smart!" As soon as he said it I thought to myself, he is so right... why did I mess with a good thing? I guess I learned my lesson. Ryan was able to diagnose the problem almost immediately. When I would half halt and Gram would run through, I would sit in more, and really try to get her to listen, in doing so, I guess I was holding the more deliberate half halt for about a second too long. She would get mad, and fight it, then I would get mad and it would turn into this downward spiral. As soon as Ryan pointed this out, I released, and she was a happy mare. So about 30 minutes into our first 45 minute lesson, she decided she was no longer mad at me.

Before the fight was up, we did have a major melt down preparing for a canter depart. We changed directions worked on something else and came back to the canter to the right and things were much better. So point number two from Ryan, don't forget that changing the subject is also an option.

Having that eye on the ground is so important to progress. I am not a green rider, but it is like you get into a way of doing things and don't realize. I cannot tell you how many times I have told people in lessons to not hold a half halt so long. Granted, I am no longer giving lessons, but I should know better! It is kind of frustrating really. I guess the whole intent of this blog is for me to document things like this, so that while I am on my own, I don't forget. If Gram gets snippy again, this will be the first thing I think about.

On Sunday, we picked right off where our lesson left off, so we were able to accomplish a bit more. The only problem we had was near the end in the half pass work, where she tightened her back and ran a bit. We were able to work through things and end on a high note. We need to continue to strengthen in our collection, our transitions are much better, but we are still rather weak in the canter to the right.

This week will be a short week as I have to travel for work on Thursday, plus it is scheduled to be extremely cold later in the week.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The unforgiving mare- grunt

As my last post stated, I changed bits only to change back after just a few days. Saturday I gave the expensive KK French snaffle one more try, and Sunday I was back to my cheapo Korsteel loose ring... Well, Gram had not forgotten my infraction. Saturday was no ride to write home about. I had hoped that I would have better luck on Sunday after the bit change. Which leads me to my topic of the day; why are mares so unforgiving??? I think I have managed to set things back at least two weeks, for attempting to change the bit. At first, Gram seemed to approve of the bit change, and then I asked for downward transition and she tossed her head like a crazy horse. It took a while for us to come to an understanding again, and let me tell you she is a vocal horse! She grunts, moans and squeaks until she finally gives a disapproving snort like a dragon or passes gas followed by a large steaming pile. From on top of her back, I must admit it is kind of amusing. She makes an "erp, erp, erp" noise, then an "arrrrrrhhhhhh" then the dragon snort, which of course requires a stop (either in a dramatic show of her protest or a simple coordination challenge- personally I think she has a flare for the dramatic). Her mom used to humm when happy... Gram does it mostly when she is either working really hard or tired.

If she were a human she would be that girl that always said exactly what was on her mind, no matter who was around, or who she might offend. She would be the girl that would be fun to be around in moderation, but would make it very difficult to stand her as a best friend. I digress...

Someone in the tack room said it best this weekend: "A gelding will give you 80% 100% of the time and a mare will give you 100% 80% of the time." I couldn't agree with her more! When Gram wants to please, she is an overachiever, but when she is upset, me and the rest of the barn know it! We had a few mini meltdowns when she would try to run through my half halt. But once we got over that hump, things got better, but it was still obvious that she had not yet forgiven me. Hopefully, this week's training sessions will be better... Otherwise I might have Ryan sit on her to remind her how hard her life could be without me!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The woes of changing bits

I thought it might be a good idea to finally take Ryan's advise and change Gram's bit. I found a french loose ring KK snaffle in my bit arsenal that fit Gram, so I thought I would give it a try... She hates it. It has been two days, and I am about ready to go back to my cheap snaffle! She is tossing her head in protest, something she has never done before! I am asking for a continues up and out thought... trying to get a bigger, better trot out of her and continuing to make progress on the half passes. Tuesday we were dealing with the new bit, so I just tried to get her used to it. Last night, I thought it was time to put her to work. I focused primarily on the trot... we actually only cantered during our warm up. I took a very light hand approach, but added more leg support. She was still not feeling this new bit. Even the slightest bit of contact, and the head went shooting out. Needless to say, I think I am over the idea of changing bits!

Even with Gram's protest over the bit, I thought it was important to press on with developing the bigger trot. I took on the half pass in the trot, but it was a bit of a fight. Every time I half halted, she freaked out. We finally got a few good steps of half-pass without a freak out, and I called it good. Donnie's birthday is tonight, so I will be giving her a day off tonight and friday, then back at it this weekend with our old bit :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

2011 has started with a bang!  Gram is really progressing in her training.  I have been boycotting the computer for the holidays, so I will make this entry short and sweet.  Over the last couple of weeks, I got to spend a ton of quality horse time!  If I wasn't in Chicago riding Gram, then I was in Michigan working with Zion.  It was great for my horsey mental health!
First Gramarye, she has really grown up... I know I have been typing this more a lot lately, but every ride she seems to offer up more.  I am still working on getting her up and out.  I can feel a difference, I just hope that Ryan agrees with me when he is back in a couple of weeks.  Our lateral work still needs help, but for now I am practicing at the walk.  I have been doing a lot of the quick transitions to get her thinking with her hind end and we have been working a ton of circles.  The canter has really improved.  I can work within the gait now, bigger and smaller without feeling like I am a passenger holding on for dear life.  Our medium trots have also improved, she no longer trails out behind.  There is still so much inside of her that I have yet to tap.  I am just excited what she will offer up next.  Over the last week, my training rides did not accomplish what I set out to do... For example one day I said, I am going to work lateral movements today.  I got on and she was not right for that, so instead we worked lots of transitions and circles until we were good.  The next day I started with some lateral work in the walk, and went into our transitions and circles, then ended with mediums.  The third day I again started with lateral movements in the walk, then mediums and ended with one canter half pass and called it a day.  Since we did so much building on basics last week, my hope is to actually work the lateral movements in trot and canter this week... of course Tuesdays are always a stretching and suppling day, so Wednesday I should have a better update.

Zion is in training with a local eventing rider, Philippa Humphreys in Michigan.  She is doing a great job keeping him going.  He still struggles with his big canter.  He would much rather trot all day.  When I went back to Michigan I pushed him probably a bit too hard in the canter.  He likes to barrel down with his shoulder so he takes tons of back, seat and half halts. I was exhausted after riding him for two days. My mom has been progressing too.  She has really developed a better idea of the feel for things, now she just needs to work on not gripping poor baby Z. :)