A Little Long

It’s not going to be perfect – it’s December – you want to make all the mistakes now to prepare yourself for show season.

A late tuesday lesson post.

My ponies are actually wonderful. They have been brave to the jumps and so trusting. They accept the mistakes for what they are, mistakes, and don’t hold them against me.

Today the bay and I were pushed a bit out of our comfort zones. Not only were the jumps raised (by “raised” I mean a whomping 2 foot, 6 inches) but the bending lines and short turnes were enough of a test. I had to keep him on pace and keep him straight to get a good distance to these jumps, especially the oxers. So of course our lesson didn’t run without a few glitches. Video coming soon.

My riding issue is that I let the mistakes start to stress me out and am disappointed when I can’t achieve perfection. This lesson I was able to let myself relax, eventually, and pull through for my horse.

My biggest anxiety on course was the bending line of the in of the outside line with a left bend to the diagonal oxer. I had the hardest time getting him straight to the oxer and he was drifting to the right while making his turn. At first I was worried about how we didn’t have the perfect distance to the oxer as a result of our straightness issue, and instead of kicking through it and getting over the jump anyways I would pull him up. So I pretty much had to stop doing that and just get over it! By turning my head sooner and looking for the track I succedded finally and completed the second bending line bending to the right much easier. He didn’t even hold it against me. Good boy. Looking forward to learning along with him this winter.

So the grey had her first lesson back also today!! All we expected of her was to go over a few small jumps, mostly at the trot, while keeping her calm and controlled. She was super and remembered everything from before! By the end she though trot jumps were dumb and she was fitting in a canter stride before every jump.


Morning Thoughts

Reflect on the past. Remember how far you’ve come. Know how far you still aim to go.


Waymark Farms

Really missing this horse this morning. So instead of filling my thoughts with sadness and regret I decided to reminisce in the year we shared together, and remember where I am now because of it.


This long legs, four white sock wonder was a total hack star. He was an absolute joy to hack. Before my divisions I would watch some of the other equitation flat classes to see what I could expect to be asked by the judge for my division later. I’d get excited when I saw them asking for collected canters and extended trots – the extensions were our specialty.

Our first show of the 2014 season we came home champion of our division. Our first course was absolute perfection. That first course would be what I aimed for every time I entered the ring the remainder of the season. I never did have another course that could even compare to it the remainder of the season, but I realize that was because our partnership grew and we were becoming consistent, therefore a good course had later in the season never stood out as much as that first perfect course always would. That first champion ribbon we brought home and starting us off at the top of our division was a real confidence boost. Thank you Simba for that.


JD Leap into Spring

Simba was a little bit.. spooky sometimes. We had a few disaster runs the first half of the season in the transition from indoor to outdoor shows, but the mid-season results were nothing less than rewarding once I learned how to handle him on his bad days.


Iron Horse Equestrian


Parish Ridge Stables

The remainder of the season flew by on a high note with Simba performing at his absolute best every show while I was tweaking little things about the ride on the way. The competition grew fierce as the final shows were on us, and the top 4 placings were very close. We went down fighting and ended with a 4th place finish in the standings of our main division, and were mere points away from 2nd place in the hack division, instead we came out with a solid 3rd overall; another 3rd place standing in the Equitation Medal and 7th in the very competitive Adult Flat Equitation.


Championships 2014


Year End Awards 2014

Our week at Trillium Championships at Palgrave was a week to be remembered. The little Arabian kept his potato head in check and pulled his hack socks up for a week full of ribbons and heavy emotions.


Hack Division – Trillium Championships


Modified Adult Hunter Classic – Trillium Championships


Modified Adult Hunter Classic – Trillium Championships

Thank you Simba. See you soon.


Love Always,



Look it’s Gracie! She raced as Dragon Wave at Woodbine Race Track.


Get the reference to her show name Wedgewood? Her pedigree includes China Ruckus.. Bone China.. China Dagger.. Notice they all have “China” in them, right? Plus she is a dapple grey horse with blue tones.. so the first thing that comes to mind is Wedgwood fine china pieces right!?


See the resemblance?


How did you chose your horse’s show name, or stable name?


He’s a Wild One

Adaptability from the horse, and rider adaptability come hand in hand. Simply ride the horse you have that day, not the one you had yesterday or the day before.


Today the bay one was just wild! He was just not comparable to the horse I had had the past few weeks, and riding this horse in the lesson proved to be a bit more challenging this time around.

Instead of floating the reins and taking a half seat to the small jumps I was needing to spread my hands a bit wider apart and focuss on keeping him straight in the approach to the jumps; he was just not being as easy going about everything.

The goal for the green hunter horse is to teach him how to be adaptable. The way we as riders and trainers achieve this is practice, and of course allowing the horse to make mistakes so they can figure out how to get themselves out of them. Perfection can’t be expected all the time. When you are taking your horse down a measured 6 stride line, and you are a little long to the in of the line, the best thing for your horse would be to sit back and get them to wait as you continue cantering out of the line. If you cause your horse to get a little deep to the out of the line, great, teach them to use their hindends to get themselves out and over the jump. They slam down the rail when they try to jump out of the deep? Even better, now they will jump a little better next time as they attempt to not make the same mistake and take a rail out.

Now, if the goal for your green horse is to make them adaptable to any situation, then it makes sense that you as the rider must also be very adaptable yourself. You are riding a thousand pounds of unpredictable animal; the chances are that not everything will go as planned and routine every time. Yes, the rider must be able to train their eye to see a distance, move up or wait to the distance, and stay on the straight track to the middle of the jump – but they must also be able to do this no matter what horse you are riding that day. On a warm summer day you may have an easy going horse who needs to be ridden forward with more leg. On a windy cold day you may have a fresh horse who needs to be asked to wait and collect their step. And of course the horse you have that day can be subject to change at any time too! Your forward horse may listen to your aids and back off, leaving you to recognize that and soften your riding to allow them to go quietly through their course again and not be constanly restricted. In all, the rider must listen to their horse and ride the horse they have under them.

With the bay horse being forward in our jumping lesson I had to know when to bring him back and school him, and when to then relax and let him continue until the next correction was necessary. Usually I would bring him back to a quiet walk for a few steps if he picked up the wrong lead after the jump, and then ask him for the proper lead again. (Simple lead changes with quiet downward transitions to walk are asked of him until our canter transitions are balanced and precise.) Today, downward transitions were also used when he rushed and became unbalanced on the landing sides. Circles before continuing on track to the jumps were also used today when he was no longer straight in the approach to the jump. When he was listening to my aids, I changed pace and softened my ride to reward him and let him continue.

With all the corrections needed while riding my energetic horse today, the hardest part was knowing when to stop correcting and let it flow on – but that’s just more practice had for me and my adjustability as a rider.

What are you and your horse each working on to become more adaptable in your riding? What kind of horse have you been riding this week?

Happy Hour

Success is measured in progress, progress only comes with practice, and the best way to practice is to practice patience.


This Tuesday was a great lesson. Why was it so great? Because I let it be a great lesson.

Step one: I did my homework. I schooled my horse the day prior to my lesson. In our schooling we did work with transitions, moving off my leg, and straightness, thus producing engagement from my horse.

Step two: I arrived to the barn with plenty of time to tack up my horse and start warming him up before my scheduled lesson time.

Step three: I stepped into the ring with a positive attitude, and maintained this positive attitude throughout my entire ride.

Step four: When presented with a problem I stayed calm, identified a solution, and then changed something in the pattern. When that wasn’t enough I reevaluated, and went off again to try it differently. Maybe just a smaller tweak was necessary this time around.

Step five: I was able to accept and celebrate the accomplishments of the hour with my equine partner, thank my coach, and leave the ring knowing i had learned another lesson.

I had done all I could have in preparation to set my horse up for a sucessful lesson. The bay couldn’t have responded better to my efforts! He was everything I could have asked of him; he was brave, committed,  willing and accepting. He waited when I asked and jumped out of the deep to the best of his greeny abilities. He moved forward down the lines when I asked for the 12 foot canter pace. Most importantly my horse adapted to different situations and approaches to the jumps with trust that everything would be alright, he was just expected to get to the other side. He was a happy horse tonight.

As seen in the videos, the bay went down the lines and took whatever distance to the jump that we were presented with. After going up and down the lines we also moved onto a small course, which we cantered with simple lead changes! So proud today.

What do you do to help prepare you and your horse for your lesson?

Last Week’s Recap: Lots and Lots of Poles

Adjustability is not something the green horse comes across naturally – this element of the horse’s rideability to do with pace is achieved over time with lots of repetitive jumping and pole work exercises. For this week’s exercise, we worked on adjusting the distance between poles by changing the track we take, whilst keeping our green horses on the same steady pace.

My lesson schedule usually consists of bi-weekly lessons every Tuesday and Thursday; my blog posts on my lessons will therefore be published in two parts every week. While not every lesson will be executed perfectly, I can still gather up the wise words of my coach to reflect on. I can look at the good, where to improve, and the next step to then decide what I need to be working on in my flatting before my next lesson.

Let’s recap what went down last week.


Poles Set-Up

So I’m going to focus on the pole work exercises from last week and overlook the jumping portion all together. Step one of the exercise focused on poles 1 and 2 in the diagram. For the first track, the goal is to fit in as many strides as possible. To make this possible, we need to ride the longest track from point a to point b. By coming off the track to the first pole sooner we are aiming to ride straight towards the back wall before continuing the turn to the second pole. (see Track 1 – added strides diagram)


Track 1 – Added Strides


Track 2 – Eliminated Strides

The next step is to now go over the pair of poles in the fewest number of strides possible. This will be done by staying on the track for longer, and looking for a very direct line to the second pole in the sharp turn off the track. (see Track 2 – eliminated strides diagram)

Now, after practicing each of those tracks over poles 1 and 2 a few times on both reins, poles 3 and 4 can then be incorporated into the exercise.


Poles Exercise – Added Strides


Poles Exercise – Eliminated Strides

The entire exercise can be done with the maximum number of strides, or the minimum number of strides. This can be done by simply changing the track exactly how it was ridden with poles 1 and 2, only now pole 3 is added. The track between poles 3 and 4 is a straight line, and therefore the striding cannot be adjusted by changing the track, only by changing the pace.

Whilst this week focused on track, pace was also added into the end of the exercise. Strides can be added into the straight line between poles 3 and 4 by lengthening the horse’s stride, as can strides be eliminated between the poles by shortening the horse’s stride. Ideally this should be done only by changing the length of the horse’s stride, and the horse should not drastically slow down to add the strides, nor shoot through the line at top speed to take away any strides. This is where the repetitive pole work comes into play, because the adjustability of your horse’s stride and of the rider’s eye only comes from consistency. The important thing I have to constantly remind myself to do is to accept imperfection, and to always celebrate little improvements – or on other days celebrate any consistency you are accomplishing that you may have been struggling with a week prior.

So, how did the bay do last week?

I will start by boasting about how willing he has been to try any task I have been throwing at him. He is absorbing everything up like a sponge and is a pleasure to work with! Me, my coach, and his owner are thrilled with his progress.

We tackled this exercise with expected results from a green horse like him – keeping him straight on the different tracks I wanted to take took some practice, we were bulging out, sometimes we cut in – but the next time around I would always change something about how I was riding to deal with the different issues that we were experiencing.

In comparison to the ideal 12 foot canter for a horse, the bay is comfortably on about an 11 and a half foot canter (sometimes 10 and a half!) so the goal is to get him to reach out and forward in our warm up. He naturally has a more higher head carriage because of the proportions of his neck, and has a habit of falling behind your leg, hallowing his back, and curling his nose in towards his chest to evade your contact on his mouth and the bit. It is then a balancing act (by that I mean I need to stay balanced on his back, and not allow myself to tip forward and let my hands balance on his mouth!) to keep him moving forward off my leg and giving him the freedom to begin to reach his nose down and forward into the contact of the bit, and begin to carry himself. So to get that 12 foot hunter canter from him I need to constantly be thinking forward, balance, release, forward, balance, release. Easy enough right? This will be the baseline of our winter training.


Riley and I doing the trot poles at my barn’s Fun Day in November

What kind of things have you been working on in your lessons lately, and what do you usually like to work on in your winter flat work and schooling? (other than trying to stay warm, brr!)

Meet the Bay

And then there was Riley – a 6 year old 16h dark bay crossbred gelding. The mutt.

The bay came into my life this summer as a horse I was just riding to help the owner get him into a regular riding program. He was inconsistent, sassy, and had a TERRIBLE work ethic. With patience and a lot of trial and error he gradually began to get better, and became a much happier and willing horse under saddle. It just so happened that the grey being doomed to stall rest for a month kick started Riley’s eureka moment when I started using Riley in my lessons. Bitter sweet at the time, everything worked itself out for the better and now I have found myself with two little project ponies on my hands.riley