Season Recap: Show 6

Some shows you have more to blog about than others. This wasn’t one of them. The ponies were good. The End.



Nothing very exciting happened at show number 6. There weren’t any break through moments, or lessons to be learned. Both Gracie and Riley had a consistent show here at Warwick, and picked things up from where they’d left off the past weekend at the London Hunt Club.

We had just gotten over a week of rain there in London, and although they had done a great job at grooming the rings for the show, they still had to close off a portion of the Modified ring. Not only did this mean for tighter corners in an already smaller ring, but they had used things like antique BABY CARRIAGES and DUCKIES to close off the arena. While I spent the morning whining to myself about the end of the world as we know it, I was dumb-founded when both of the ponies waltzed right past the danger zone with little to no drama. Huh. Sorry, false alarm everyone.

So, in some big ways the babies had somehow grown up a bit on me, and they kindly kept their cools in the scary corner so all I had to worry about was straightness to the next jump, minus the drama. Gracie got some low calls over fences while Riley was still out of the ribbons. This show forward I decided to hack Gracie myself, and one of our Adult Amateur riders took over Riley in the hack for me for the remainder of the season. The ponies each got good prizes in the hack, Riley coming out with a 3rd in a bigger division than usual.




Season Recap: Show 5

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. I had my best round yet, and my worst rounds yet. To sum it all up, we had hit our next major learning curve. 

Going by the original show schedule had we not had 2 show cancellations, this show would have marked the half way point through the 2015 season. It was the first and only show on this circuit where the rings were on grass at the lovely London Hunt and Country Club. Both of the show rings were a good size with minimal changes in elevation, and besides one scary cross country jump on the size of the ring, there was not a lot for the horses to spook at.

Gracie started the week off with another great hack division with good prizes. Next she had some competitive rounds with Coach in the hunter development, and even got some great lead changes in.

On to day two, the rest of the Sunday team were away or had chosen to skip this show. Since my division started first in the morning, we had expected to be done and out of there in no time. Wrong. This show being on grass, the horses were moving out more than usual and not surprisingly pulling shoes. Gracie and Riley managed to avoid a trip to the farrier’s booth (riley doesn’t wear shoes, and Gracie has 4) but that didn’t stop everyone else from losing a shoe right before the last group of horses were jumping, or right before the hack class.. So we were there a little longer than we had anticipated.


First up in the Modified Child/Adults was Riley. We had decided to finish the last half of the season in this division as he had an easier chance of qualifying or getting a ribbon here than in the open division he started in last show. These jumps were only a bit higher at 2’9, which I regret looking back on the season now. Riley does not have the same natural jumping abilities as Gracie does, and while I know he still loves to jump, he would have done better this year if I had kept him at the 2’6 height. This was my best show with him, probably because he wanted to move out more on the grass, allowing him to carry himself better and not be as launchy over the 2’9 jumps. These were all things we would be working on this winter. I had some great trips for the point I was at with this horse, we did make the lines easily, and I was able to keep him straight through the lines meaning we landed most of our leads, but not all.

11701199_800686386718185_6639201130534765519_nThis horse wants to be balanced and get lead changes, but another thing we will be working on this winter is getting him to move over off my leg without accelerating forward and to finish the lead changes without kicking out. He hacked great with me for the hack class, and we got a 2nd.


On to Gracie. My warm up trips and my first 2 rounds were less than stellar. Gracie was extremely quiet today, which I was not used to. While she was being lovely and soft (and extremely patient) I was not holding my leg on during that last step to the jump and following through with the distance that was right there in front of us EVERY time. For some reason I just wasn’t trusting my judgment with her today and felt she was behind my leg, therefor I was reluctant to make that final bid to the distances I was seeing, and still felt that we weren’t going to get there. After a pep talk from Coach after every trip, I finally went in for my last round of the division with the attitude that I had to go for it. And we did.

Although it was a bummer about the lead changes, we still had accomplished so much in this round – mentally and visually – that this was still one of my proudest and most memorable trips of the season.


I chose to hack Riley at this show, so Gracie was hacked by the head groom and got a good hack prize too (Riley was stunning on the grass and we beat her in the hack). So after the good, the bad, and the ugly, it rounded up to be a great learning experience for me in the show ring, and for laughing it off out of the ring.

Season Recap: Show 4

Scary banners everywhere! Whatever will the ponies do!?


For this show I decided not to enter Gracie into the Hunter Development with Coach (for real this time!). On day one I had one of my best rides on Gracie in the Hack Division, with some good ribbons and tied for Reserve Champion (it came down to a “stand – off”, and either they didn’t enjoy the calcified lump consuming the inside of her kicking leg, or they gave up on trying to get a look at her as she flopped around like a fish while the “stallion” next to us stood like a stud) which we lost in conformation.


For day two, this meant Gracie would be going fresh into the big ring for our division. While she was 100 times braver to the jumps this show, she pulled off some spooking at the banners hanging on the perimeter of the ring, which made setting up her straightness for lead changes or landing our leads especially difficult.. Other than a few malfunctions, this was our best show yet.


The Derby! Sure enough, as the sun set on the horizon at the time the show was finally winding down, the big ring finished the show off with the $1000 Hunter Derby. This derby was less competitive than the day before as it was only mainly my Modified division and the pony kids, so even with our lead issues, Gracie and I were sitting in 10th for the Derby with a 64 before the last pony rider went into the ring. This adorable white and pink nosed small pony had a stellar round landing them in one of the top placings and was well deserved – Gracie and I would rather save our Derby placing for a better round from us anyways. Instead, we watched the victory gallop, cheered for my barn’s two ponies and childrens hunter that had landed a placing (and in our large ponies’ case, won the Derby!), then headed back to the stalls to get ready to go home after a successful weekend.


Riley and his posse

And I can’t forget about Riley! For Riley’s Trillium debut into the hunter ring we were testing the waters in the Developmental Hunters at the 2’6 height. Riley had been unbelievable for his first time to school off property earlier this year in a less hectic indoor setting, but we had no idea how he would react at a full blown horse show. At this show one of the main warm up rings was indoors. On either long side were the horse stalls, separated from the arena by open fencing. This proved host to many distractions in our warm up, but was a good introduction to what we would face in the show ring out where the rest of the show was happening.


In the ring for our first warm up course, Riley stopped at the first jump (I will have a post about this and the video soon). I knew right away that this was not how the rest of our day was going to go; I had felt him become unsure about the jump a few paces out, and I had failed to back it up with enough leg. This was certainly not the end. I had him stopped square in front of the jump at this point, then nudged him forward encouragingly until we had comfortably closed the gap between our parking spot and the jump. We turned and did a big circle, then made it over the jump. Into the line of the next jump I had gotten jumped out of the tack and didn’t recover quick enough to get him straight to the out of the line, and we were buzzed out. The following video is our next time into the ring for our 2nd warm up course.

As you can see, we did not make the lines, we did not jump round and beautifully, but this first trip around was one of my proudest moments of the season with this horse. The three judged trips to follow brought forth some other errors and were not judge-able, but we continued to make it around, and I could feel this horse’s confidence growing every time we went back into the ring. We finished his day off with a 5th in the hack against some pretty decent competition. In all it was much more than I could have expected of him at his first horse show.


Guess Who’s Back!

Riley is back! The Riley we know and love is back in action! But don’t worry folks, he’s still got the sass.

rileyIt has certainly been an interesting month for Riley and I.

We had made nothing but progress up until February where we experienced our major setback.

I’m going to start by acknowledging that the sub-arctic temperatures we had been experiencing for the last little while have finally lifted to acceptable winter going on early spring temperatures. I truly believe this was the main reason behind Riley’s issues this month, and I’m so glad it seems to all be behind us now.

For the last week I have finally gotten Riley back into a safer mindset where I am finally able to incorporate a riding crop back into our warm up. Before last week Riley was not capable of being encouraged by riding aids without risking him going up and rearing every time I pushed him too far – during this stage all I could do was lunge him before getting on him, and while mounted nag him into walking forward and stay off of his face for the entire process. This week when I added the riding crop I could tap him behind my leg when necessary to get him moving up into a trot or canter transition without causing a big ordeal.

At this point there is now only a fight to get him going at the beginning of the warm up, and once he has lost the battle he gives up and we can get on with our ride without any more major arguments. I am thrilled with this progress and know if I continue to hold my ground and keep my leg on during the beginning of the ride that the habit will die fast and be gone altogether before I know it.

This week Riley was back into his lesson program and we went right into the warm up exercises and did a few courses both lessons this week. The nice thing about this horse is that he has no issues with the jumps themselves. So long as we work things out in the warm up and he has given up his fight, he is soft and willing to go to the jumps every time.

I’m so glad to be back on track with this horse, and I know this setback will only add to the reward at the end of my first season with him.

The Devil is Bay

Horses are frustrating. But what would the sport be without hardwork, sweat and tears.. okay horse but can we maybe skip the hardwork when the temps are below 0.. and the sweat and the tears??


So Riley has been on a pretty great streak- I’d almost forgotten his asshole qualities and tendencies to stop dead and have a melt down. Yep, almost forgot.. but it only goes up from there.

Since coming back from my vacation my bay pony has been nothing but the devil. He has tried everything he can to get out of work during every ride for the past 2 weeks. He stops. He romps. And boy does he rear. And then after his fit he may lope around, soft, but not much faster than he would prefer to go. Then just when you think he might be back to normal he would stop dead and go at it again.

I had spent the last 7 months building up a work ethic for this horse, so after a few months of finally having him in the mindset where he was enjoying riding and ready to learn, this setback couldn’t be more disappointing.

So, why has this happened then? My original diagnosis was that this was the first time he had fallen out of his regular riding routine, and he was being naughty by trying out what he could get away with. Well it’s 2 weeks later and he has yet to give it up, so that on it’s own is not likely.. so what else do we have to consider? Well, he has recently transitioned into being on indoor board after living out most of his life. It has been frigid and disgustingly cold. He was recently clipped for the first time during the midst of winter. And the list of excuses and what ifs could go on. These are all factors I will have to take note of with this horse to remember in the future as I get to know his quirks.

What I can conclude from these past 2 weeks is that everything I’ve taught him is still in there, but what this horse needs from me right now is to go right back to basics. Knowing this, his first step to recovery is getting rid of the timelines. Yes, it would be great to be ready to show in April, and I would have liked to get him off property in March, but for the time being all future plans are cancelled. I need to worry about the now.

For the next how ever long this is going to take, Riley and I are back to our original riding routine. I will need to lunge him before every ride to get him moving forward and gaining back some respect from him. When I do ride him I need either my coach or someone capable in the arena or on the ground to help get him moving and not giving him the chance to stop and rear. I need to expect respect and cooperation during our ground work, but while riding him I need to be more encouraging and nagging in order to keep myself safe but still start breaking his naughty habits.

As disappointing as this seamed, I can’t help but compare this situation to when Gracie was injured. I always said that Gracie took one for the team, because by putting herself out of commission for awhile it actually got me starting Riley in lessons and therefor beginning his jumping career. I had been frustrated with the way Gracie felt after she was back into work again, and much preferred riding Riley for awhile. Now that Riley is the one who has seemingly self destructed, it only makes sense that he would be returning the favor in letting Gracie have her time to shine and take her place back as the favourite. Wow guys, I have enough room in my heart for both of you, get your heads in the game and lets get ready to horse show already!

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?

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