Schooling Before The Show

Last minute training before showing tomorrow.

Valiosa has been going so good lately!  She’s incredibly patient, really, while I figure out just how to get her to the sweet spot…

Main take away from June:  Short reins, to get her engaged enough (Mine are always slipping out longer, often as soon as the contact ends up feeling too heavy.) but then the hand has to be much quicker and softer.

dressage show practice

Really tricky, but I can tell that the secret is right there, hiding, behind half halting enough, softening, and not holding.  She’s not the type of horse to offer anything at all if she’s being held.

Block her just a little through the seat bones (Hello, that’s me every day!), the hands, or the shoulders, and Countessa Cream Chunk just moves like a stock horse.

Can’t remember ever riding another horse that would give so little back, if it’s not “just so.”  Still, so hard to let go while having just the right contact.

This is where all the non-dressage readers shake their head and just go “You’ve lost it, say what?!  How complicated can it be?”

flea bitten gray
This awesome feeling horse probably won’t show up tomorrow at the show, but it’s great to know it’s in there! 🙂 Have a fun weekend!

Maintaining Training, Solo

Friday last week was the last ride of a month of continuous training.

I’ll miss it – it’s been so nice to have help and finally get a feel for how good she can really be.

schooling with trainer
Very happy with both my coach and Valiosa here.

We wrapped up what would for us normally have been some  5-8 months of training’s worth, into 1.  Very beneficial.  Worth it all the way.

Now, time to face all the things that’ll fall apart by solo training.  Half of it might happen just over the next two weeks.  🙂

schooling dressage

To make up for that a bit, I had one lesson this week, and two scheduled the week following.

After that, it will be mostly up to me to figure it out all over again, how to get her to move soft, forward, and most importantly, into the hand...

riding alone

gray horse in canter

Señora Sesame Seed, behaving.


at halt

If two is a pair, three is a party.  So fun!

Here we go – figuring out a way back to this all on our own..!

riding with eyes closed

The 5 Stages Of Dressage Show Panic

The Dressage Show – months of lessons and hours of practice at home all lead up to this.

The perfectly groomed horse, the spotless rider (Oh please!) and the effortless warmup.  For some, it’s actually more of a really sweaty, overexciting, super-draining day, with more feelings of feverish distress than “elegance.”

If you’re getting ready to trot down the Centerline, the following list of Stages of Panic is a great preparatory cheat sheet.

did such a fun job earlier this spring with her article The 7 Stages of Panic When Your Trainer Raises the Fences on Eventing Nation.  Here’s a brazen knockoff of her idea from a dressage perspective.

1*. The “No Biggie” Stage.

At first arrival, things seem just peachy.  The energy at the showground is a little higher than for a normal schooling day, but it’s fairly quiet and seems like a smallish, easy show.

Rider’s attitude at this point:  Whatever. No biggie, you’ve got this.

dressage show panic

2*. The “Ehh, Ummm” Stage.  
Somehow all the horses look much more polished, together, supple and powerful as soon as you get in the warmup arena.  
Rider’s attitude at this point:  Well, this is interesting. Are you sure all these pairs are showing at our lower level?  Hmm, we’ve still got this.  Totally.  Just warm up as usual, never mind the passage over there.
horse show nerves
3*. The “I’m Out Of My League” Stage
Slooowly, a bit of panic starts creeping in.  Issues from earlier schooling rides are popping up.  And they’re bigger now.  Maybe it’s time to reconsider showing at this level..?  There’s just no way you’re ready for this, you can’t even go straight.
Rider’s attitude at this point:  Is my horse going be a complete tense ball like this the whole test?  Man, yes, she’s going to be all tense!  We’re 45 seconds out from the bell ringing and I know for sure she’s going to be tense.  Just half halt…  soften…  half halt…   
Wait, what’s a half halt?
4*. The “Why Did I Sign Up For This?” Stage.
Your horse seems to completely forget everything you’ve practiced for the past several months.  (Or make that a year.)  Staggering on to the centerline just strides out from halting at X, you’re so busy trying to go straight while also questioning the sanity of showing a completely untrained horse, everything else is blurry and there’s NO breathing going on.  
Rider’s attitude at this point:  I’ve obviously overestimated my skills.  10 years, and there are no skills.surviving dressage shows
5*. The “Just Do It” Stage.  
Making the turn at C, there’s no turning back.  Half shocked you’re still on the horse and actually know the next movement, fake confidence or not, you’re all business.  And it’s happening!  
Rider’s attitude at this point:  Make the best of this situation!  You’re doing it!  Ride like no one’s watching, but better. 🙂  Forward!

Go out of your comfort zone!

Thistle Thursday Heat

The kinds of heat.

Of all the hundred different kinds of snow, there are only about five different kinds of heat.

First, the kind of heat that’s welcoming.

Balmy, wavering, not entirely convincing.  Beneath it all, there’s a promise of 10 degrees cooler at any time.  As soon as it’s past 6 pm, a small shrill around your shoulders in a thin tank top.

thistle dressage

Next, there’s beginner heat.

Fooling any winter hardy to think it’s actually hot.  Sweaty, over-warm, super-hot, how-can-we-go-on?!-kind of heat.

It’s the heat you think you’re in when just visiting someplace warm from up north, realizing it’s only May…

riding outdoors

The third type of heat is where fingers sort of puff up, legs feel heavy, wet hair dries in 10 minutes, and anyone who has a choice plunges into a pool.

riding in thistles

Quick break in the heat study – how awesome is Valiosa here?! For every crazy difficult ride, this makes up for it all.


more forward horse outside

The fourth kind of heat is the humid type.

Drenched, dripping, breathing heavy, after just picking out four hooves and grooming.  Clothes clammy while tacking up, strange green growth pops up on the barn wood and on any tack almost overnight.

Georgia, Missouri, Florida – any place else you live inside a sponge?  Walking feels like moving in molasses.

horse in thistles
Marquise Muffin Top and prickly thistles.

The fifth kind of heat – The dry, lizard-like hotness with birds gaping, panting, with open beaks.

Exterior walls radiate heat, steel shelters are like little ovens, even in the shade inside, and metal burns to the touch.  No cooling even if the air moves.

Wind is a hairdryer down the throat, eyes crackly from no humidity at all.

We’re not quite there yet – this year has been the easiest spring/summer.

Gray mare, being a little gem!

riding on uneven ground

Gray Horse Overdose

There was this handsome visitor.

Such a gorgeous PRE.

gray pre stallion

Gray horses nestle their way in once you own one.  It’s what they do.  At first, no early sign of addiction.

Then, you find yourself taking pictures of other gray horses…

gray andalusian stallion

Maybe there is a problem…


Tomorrow – Thistle Thursday!

Come back to see what that’s all about 🙂 gray horse in thistles

riding in thistles