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Recapping 2019

I had many great horsey experiences in 2019!  I am really pleased with how the year went overall; nothing is ever perfect, but both horses are sound, happy, and healthy, which is really what matters to me.

Some of my 2019 goals were met easily or with lots of hard work, and a few of them were utter fails haha.  C'est la vie! Let's recap!

Happy, health, sound
Both mares are doing well in this regard!  Dreamy will be 29 this year, and while she definitely shows signs of her age at times, she overall looks and acts much younger than she really is!  Ellie has really matured this year, filling out as well as mentally becoming more comfortable in her own skin.  As she will be eight this year, I feel like we have moved through the baby phase.

Continue lessons with Beth and Babette
This goal was met and then some!  I took almost weekly dressage lessons with Beth and monthly jump lessons with Babette. Thanks to the Morgan Dressage Association scholarship, I was also able to attend two clini…

Breakthroughs in Bending (and a Solo Trail Ride)

So, none of this is exactly groundbreaking or exciting information, but I think it shows just exactly where Ellie is right now in her training.  She continues to be a good egg and tries so hard to be a solid citizen, which is great.  She has her fleeting baby moments, but it is clear that she is starting to trust me and herself more and more.  We had some breakthroughs in our lesson this past weekend and she had her first solo "real" trail ride.

After such a stellar show, she had Monday off last week.  Generally, I give her Mondays off anyway.  On Tuesday, I came out with what I now see as ridiculous expectations of her, and she was being really looky in her first ride this year in the ring.  I mean, we just won two Intro classes so clearly we are now Olympians haha.  I nitpicked at her, she pretended she didn't know how to bend, and mostly we just aggravated each other.  I didn't even try the canter and focused on leg yielding and turn on the forehand at the walk, because that was about as much as we could muster.

The cutest
Wednesday and Thursday she was much more relaxed and I cooled my jets.  We had two decent productive rides, and we worked on prompt canter departs.  I still struggled with getting her to bend, and I could not seem to support her properly.  The wheels didn't totally fall off as they sorta did on Tuesday, but I knew we had some work to do.  Friday was a crazy afternoon and I opted to give her the day off, knowing we would work hard on Saturday morning at our lesson.

Beth honed in on two things immediately during our lesson this past Saturday: bending and my posture.  I love that she was able to do so without me even saying anything.  Watching the video from the show, I could not BELIEVE how much I was leaning forward and heavy on my thighs.  I can make all the excuses in the world but I need to fix it.  And the bending issue was obvious; Ellie is being asked to carry herself properly and she's pretty sure she'd rather not thankyouverymuch.

We had a really great ride and Ellie had to work hard, but it was GOOD work without any fussing or nitpicking.  I was being too active with my inside hand trying to ask for bend; instead of just using an opening rein and supportive inside leg, I was using an opening rein and squeezing/jiggling/basically using too much aid.  And my opening rein was getting too far downwards, if that makes sense.  I don't want to ride this horse incorrectly, and I certainly don't want to fall back on riding her front to back just to get her in a "frame".  I'd use an opening rein, Ellie would resist, I would jiggle the rein, she would resist can see where this was going.  Beth is magical, I swear and totally helped us fix this.

First, I had to sit the hell up.  She didn't exactly use those words, but I am haha.  She talked about thinking of sitting on the pockets of my pants (if I were wearing jeans), which is something I have been told before and works for my brain.  So she would often just say "pockets" and I would sit up.  I am pretty much just going to have this word in my brain from now on while I ride.  

When we started working on her bend, Beth asked for my phone so she could get a video for me (love that she remembers I am a visual learner).  Sadly, I have left my phone in the trailer, so she took a video on her phone and texted it to me.  Therefore while the quality is poor, the visual and the audio helped.  And because the quality will only lower if I upload to Vimeo, I'll just quote her instead.

Think about keeping your right elbow on your right hip.

Ahhhhh, that helped me think about where to put that inside hand, to not throw it away or get picky with it or move my opening rein too far downwards so that my arm is nearly straight.

You can bend her around your right leg at the same time.  That's allowed.

Hahaha, it is funny that I know this in my mind, but sometimes most of the time I ride Ellie with my aids just too quiet.  Not to say I need to dial it up several notches, but it is OK to ask her a little "louder" if needed.  And louder doesn't mean more force.  It just means I might need to put my leg ON her while she is understanding what I am asking instead of merely using my leg as a suggestion.

Bend her around that right leg.  That's ok (when she would raise her head to avoid proper contact).  I love this because Beth doesn't expect perfection and is always saying to just ride through it and it will get better.

When you touch that right rein, she should soften and bend her neck, not throw her head in the air and go left. If that is her reaction, you need to correct it by bending her MORE.  And then when she softens, you just reward her by being present and maybe telling her good girl.

And then what'll happen is you won't need such a big correction, because she will learn what it means.

BINGO!  Ellie totally started to understand what I meant and how to bend properly, not just do the sort of fake it thing that was causing us stress earlier in the week.

And I had to remember to do this EXACT SAME THING IN THE CANTER.  See, for years, having ridden Standardbreds who needed "room" in the canter transition to actually pick up the gait, wherein I basically threw away the contact, I HAVE TO maintain this connection and bend for Ellie.  She won't pick up the correct lead if I throw away the connection and counterbend her (duhh).  Yes, I had to do that with Dreamy but I need to retrain my own self to ride Ellie correctly.  It was amazing when I actually rode correctly and she was connected properly in my aids and through the bend.  Imagine that!  

Our ride on Sunday was a bit of lovely trot warm up and then I asked her to canter.  BOOM.  Correct canter lead THREE TIMES in each direction because I rode her correctly.  It was pretty much amazing and then I decided despite it only having been about 20 minutes, we were going to hack out in the field.  Ellie was happy because she got to do her big trail walk.  Instead of just staying in the Christmas tree fields and the tiny loop of trail, I opted to try her out across the street through the real trails on the neighbor's property.  It was essentially her first real solo trail ride.
so happy and brave!
Ellie was SO HAPPY and curious to be out and about.  She marched along like she knew where she was going, past the neighbor's huge firewood log pile, a broken hay wagon, huge boulders, a weird wooden structure out in the woods (looks like a boat dock, but I don't really know haha.  Dreamy and Snappy always gave it the hairy eyeball). I was actually incredibly surprised at Ellie's bravery.  There was a huge puddle which she happily splashed through and an actual moving stream, which she also crossed without issue despite the neighbor putting logs across the best crossing spot at some point since last fall.

We were out about 45 minutes total and it wasn't until we were going back across the road to our side that she realized she was alone haha.  She screamed a couple of times and was definitely feeling lost and alone in the world, but she held it together quite well.  I was waiting for jigging or spinning or any type of nervous behavior, but it never happened.

We have another dressage show coming up and I signed us up for a XC jumping clinic at the end of June, which is exciting!


  1. Yay Ellie!

    I was surprised the first time I took Gwyn on a solo trail ride. We had to trailer out and everything and she was just happy to be out and doing something other than ring work. It was a huge confidence boost for both of us!

    1. Yes! Sometimes it is surprising how well they take to something you think will be an issue.

  2. Yesss there's nothing like that productive lesson feeling! And solo trail rides? Sign me up! You guys have so much going on, how awesome 🙂

    1. I am so glad I have convinced myself that horse money should go towards lessons more than showing this year haha. It is really awesome to have such great help. And hopefully she will as brave the next time we venture out!

  3. Best baby horse! Excited to hear how she takes to XC!

    1. I am hoping she is as brave as she has shown so far!

  4. What great feedback! I love the way she talked you through it and your comments in regard to the feedback.

    I know the "pockets" thing well! That's C's main homework from last week for myself. POCKETS POCKETS POCKETS. Must sit back on pockets.

    1. POCKETS is pretty much my life mantra right now haha. I'm with ya!

  5. she's such a good pony. That lesson sounds awesome.

    1. I am so glad I was able to get in with Beth. She's the best!

  6. ohhh XC Jumping clinic! That will be fun. I am glad Ellie is learning so much now that dreaded winter is over :) what a good girl she is. Oh and too am victim of using one rein more than another to try to bend Remus and losing that battle :) HA POCKETS!

    1. I am seriously so excited to bring her to the XC clinic. My regular babysitter cannot watch the 2 year old that day, and I am slightly worried haha. I have so many bad habits from riding Standardbreds for so long lol. Ah well.

  7. I have the hardest time trying to sit on my damn pockets

    1. Same. My body really just wants to be a hunter rider and stay in three point forever, but my heart wants to do dressage. It's a true struggle haha.


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