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Wentworth Hunter Pace - June 6, 2021

After Margaret and I had such a fun time at the fall hunter pace, we opted to go again this spring! This time, while I rode Rejoice again, Margaret rode her horse Jester and had a friend ride Ladyhawke. All Kennebec Morgans!! Jester and Rejoice have the same dam and Jester and Lady share the same sire. Unfortunately instead of a lovely late spring day, we had one of the first intensely hot and humid days of the year. It was definitely a bummer, but the ride was mostly in the shade of the woods and we had a great time!  most of the fences were 3' coops but we found a small log and this hay to jump haha Until we didn't. 😑 We brought along a third friend who rode Margaret's older mare, Ladyhawke. She's a good rider but hasn't known Ladyhawke for very long and didn't realize how much of a cranky boss mare she could be at times. She kicked Jester right in the front leg just about halfway through the ride, and while the cut itself ended up not being a big deal in the

Well, it only took two years....

My horse is a rock star. I know, I know, I say that all the time. But seriously, Dreamy has been absolutely wonderful to ride lately. It is certainly due to a combination of things, least of which is my training skills....LOL! I am no professional, never will be, and sometimes despite the fact that I hear the same thing over and over, my body and mind just CANNOT seem to coordinate its efforts. And seeing as no one else has ever trained her (minus the 10 minutes Susanne Hamilton rode her in a clinic in 2008...), it has taken SO much longer to get her to where she is today than where she could have been if I had my instructor ride her for me. But where is the fun in that? I can say that I trained my horse. She is going so well right now, and I did that. I created this horse under saddle......all the good and the bad! But mostly it has been very, very good.

So what is so awesome lately? Well, she is finally starting to accept the bit and stay connected at all times! This is HUGE! For Little-Miss-I-Hate-Contact, who gets so fussy with her bit, this is huge. And her neck is starting to show it...her muscles in her crest are finally completely filled out. They still have a bit to go, but I remember asking my instructor last year how I could get those muscles to fill out...she said that as I rode her properly in the bridle, the muscles would develop. And they finally are!

Also, she is totally nailing her canters in BOTH directions! The left lead has been great this year, with decent transitions and a lovely three beat, upward (for a Standardbred) rhythm. She will never have an upper level worthy canter, but that is OK with me. And the last few rides, she has been cantering well on the right lead. WOOHOO! I have found that if I do a few "squares" at the walk, then leg yielding in both directions at the trot, then leg yield from the quarter line, hit the corner, and ask for the canter, she has her inside hind well underneath herself for a nice transition and a very nice canter. Obviously in a dressage test, or hunter ring, I cannot replicate that exact movement, but I CAN do it in the warm-up and then in the ring ask for a few small steps of "leg yield" before I ask her to canter.

This exercise is really NOTHING new. We have been working on this for the last two years. But for whatever reason, this year it is working perfectly. :)

And I have been doing a TON of conditioning this spring. I really kicked it up a notch, and treated her like an event horse, like I was taught years ago, rather than staying in the ring and obsessing over the canter. I think last year especially, I was so worried about the canter and wanted it SO BADLY, I overlooked doing intensive conditioning and just drilled her. I know I did. I knew it was wrong, I knew I should get out on the trails and use the hills all around me, I KNEW IT. But I could NOT give up my relentless pursuit of the canter!

UGGG! :*(

So this spring I said the HELL with that. The stress of doing rated USDF is behind me, having done that last year. I really think that was what was driving me last year, seeking that elusive 60% at Training 4. OMG, I am doing NEDA! OMG, I am going to UNH! OMG, there are horses piaffing in the warmup, OMG, OMG, OMG......Instead of riding my horse correctly and doing what I knew was right, I just drilled her and drilled her. I wanted to have a breakthrough and I never really did.

This spring, I smartened up. I set up my cavaletti to strengthen those stifles. I forced myself to ride outside of my "ring". I used the hills....a lot! I did an entire month (March) of long slow distance work (when I really wanted to just CANTER, CANTER, CANTER! LOL!). I set up a chiropractic visit with Dr. J for April 2. I invested in a Mattes pad to balance my saddle (and the saddle fitter is coming tomorrow!). I worked on my core strength this winter. I was ready!

And Dreamy is starting to really understand all of the dressage basics. I know when I can finally find a time to schedule a lesson (life is way too busy and it sucksssss!!!!!!!), Judy will see a difference. It is APRIL for crying out loud, and my horse is moving better than she was last October after an entire season!

Also, I have found that I don't have to used my aids so strongly. There was a time when I think I worked harder in the canter then she did. I mean, I would ask her to canter (back in 2008...) and I would literally pump my body and seat to keep her going. I would throw away the reins, almost like, "Oh yay, you are cantering! Go, go, go!" rather than sitting up and balancing her, asking her to stay soft and supple in the bridle, half halting, etc. etc. Last year when we started doing walk/canter transitions, I asked SO hard with my outside leg she would pick up the wrong lead! She never does that! But I was overdoing it.

Finally I forced myself be QUIET this spring. I wanted to really see how "much" aid I needed. And lo and behold, my horse is more sensitive than I want to think! LOL! I KNOW this, but sometimes putting something into practice takes time for me. I seriously must be the dumbest dressage rider ever! LOL! Instead of fussing with her mouth, all I have to do is think "close my fingers" and I will squeeze the reins. Combined with my seat, and OH, there, she rebalances. I think about "whispering" with my outside leg for the canter, and OH, THERE, she rocks back into a nice canter.

And today, she was so light and happy, I asked for a simple change between two twenty meter circles. I figured, this is something we STRUGGLED with last year, and she might throw up her face and pace and be completely idiotic. It was worth a try. There is no use NOT challenging the status quo. I set her up between my legs, hands, seat; got a lovely trot; asked for the left lead first, since this is her "good" lead; sat still and "whispered" for her to trot....

She stayed light while I moved her haunch over and got that right hind underneath her body, right at X, then again lightly asked for the right lead......OMG she DID IT! She actually did it without yanking on me, falling on her head, pacing like a maniac....etc. etc.!!!! So I tried it three more times and she was magnificent. The last time she started anticipating it, so I did just a few trot figure eights the remind her that sometimes we can just trot and not HAVE TO canter.

The best part is that I was able to do the left lead canter on a much small 12-15 m. circle. I have found it is easier to think about "moving her shoulders" and she stays up, rather than "motorcycling" around the tighter bend. It was great!!! Just because I can tempt fate, I tried asking for the canter from the walk. She did it once perfectly, so I stopped. Always better to end on a good note.....and NO MORE DRILLING! I just cannot do it. I cannot let horse shows cloud my good judgment about TRAINING a horse!

Tomorrow the saddle fitter is coming, so besides the small amount of riding I will do for her, Dreamy will have the day off. But you watch, the next time I ride her, she will probably forget all this good stuff......LOL! Nah, I think she is starting to be able to use her body correctly and it feels so much better. :) I gotta remember, what is the BEST thing that could happen.....???


  1. You can't see me, but I'm standing up and applauding for you.


  2. Very cool stuff! Thanks for sharing all the wonderful details of how things are working so well!

  3. Yay yay yay for you and Dreamy!! It's so rewarding when all of that hard work pays off! You and Dreamy make a great pair :)


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