The Clinic Format – Is It For Everyone?

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Not really…

How many of you doesn’t have a friend, or yourselves, that would have second thoughts about riding in a clinic format for a new clinician?

I always thought there’d be mostly good stuff with it – just come in to the experience thick-skinned, be ready to face up to some heavy picking apart, and sift through all the new information with a sober attitude.  Without being an ego baby about it.

Now I’m not so sure.

weeds in summer pastures
Sidebar – The law of finding horses in pasture: The hotter it is, the further you have to walk.

Auditing last weekend’s clinic was great.  But wow, I don’t think any one didn’t slink out with their tail between their legs.  Riders, not the horses.

I have complete confidence in my instructor.  Mixing things up with a completely new system right now would be confusing. Not sure how to process all new instructions at the lightning-speed most clinicians expect.

Then I’d fret about it too much, as I really want to please, do the right thing, or at least show an attempt at trying to do the right, new, thing.  Following this?…

So, no; this summer, with my wonderful, wicked-strange, gritty ball of a mare, clinicing is not on top of the list 🙂

If plans work out, we’ll still show up at a show next month.  Happy, confident, and ready to ride well.

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Current Riding Struggles. Plenty To Go Around

riding happy in dressage

Hey!  We’ve got some ongoing issues.

Maybe you do too?

Today, posting some of the stuff we’re struggling with right now.

Because dressage is a strange, luscious, struggle for perfection, which most of us will never fully master.  Viewed the right way, it’s demanding, fun, and forever challenging.  An enigma.  Viewed the wrong way – it’s stuffy, incomprehensible, and impossible.

Pick your way!

First off, there’s the leg yield off the long side to X.  (Here from K.)  To pull it off, there has to be just about two steps of counter flex right after the corner.

setting up for leg yield off the long side

Great start.  But then there’s the dreaded “petering out”, as we go toward X…

leg yield to centerline

Another struggle is the smooth transition from leg yield right to X – to leg yield left back to the long side.  She gets over ambitious, a bit rambling, and then, after laboring too much, you guessed it – irritated…

too much angle in the leg yield

Focus issues – retaining composure and concentration when herding-dogs start, um, herding.  I’m not serious enough for it.  Extra credit for just having fun though.  You are having fun, right?

riding dressage with border collie in the arena
Upper body position  –  still that dreaded little collapsing of the inner ribcage on the circle in canter. We all have our riding position struggles. I’ve got some big ones, and this tinier vice is not going to go away until I actually focus on it. Got some other, larger, stuff to obsess over…
rider collapsing inside ribs on circle

The serious Let’s-Get-Ugly-Right-At-C-By-The-Judges-Box-Mare issue.  Full disclosure:  this is ongoing, at any time in the arena, but mostly on the short side , where you really want to have a smooth, “Hey this is easy, look at how this just flows effortlessly!” sort of look.

She’ll push back, shorten, resist the aids, and life in general.  I try to ignore, push the hands forward, creating space and not restricting her, but we keep riding in a “hiccup” mode like this.

horse pushing back

And then it’s over…

pushing the hands forward in trot

I’m hoping the dental earlier this week will help just a bit with this.  She had her teeth done  not even 6 months ago but the vet already pointed out a few sharp edges.

We’re good to go now, and hopefully comfortable for another 9 months.  To be honest, I don’t think it will make much of a difference in her contact, but there’s always hope.  Things can always evolve and get better.

On to the next struggle – sticking point for many at the lower levels:  The perfect stretchy trot.

on the forehand in stretchy trot
Death by stretchy circle.

Nothing else to say.  Other than this movement can be lovely, and sometimes she can get it just right! ⇓

stretching down and out in trot

Next up; random twisting and wringing.  At any time!  Yeah.  Exhaustive and humbling, this is still happening.  No comment.

horse twisting the neck

When she’s good, she’s just so much fun!..

riding happy in dressage

Feel free to vent about your biggest current riding issue!


azteca mare


With so many activities, who’s got time to write…

Yes, there’s a life beyond horses, although I don’t write about it at all here.  Summing it up with the latest:  70 lovely and painful long distance miles on my shoes, and a beautiful 3 day scout camping trip to top it off.

Small wonder I’m still standing up.  Which I’m not – only non-ergonomically slouched on the couch.  Crunchy chocolate granola stuffed face.  Says on the bag you have to eat it until your mouth is scraped raw inside.  Or something like that.

riding with dogs in the arena

Valiosa finally stopped coughing and we rode Friday morning.  Pics sprinkled throughout from the happy ride in this post.  Today she was great too.  Phew!

turning on to centerline

Answers to earlier questions!

  • “Would you tell us how you became interested in blogging? Also, when did you start blogging?”

I rode other people’s horses for years.  Wonderful, but who doesn’t want their very own?  Bringing home La Prima, an American Warmblood mare was the trigger to start writing.  Horse ownership has been a dream ever since the first pony ride, decades later it was definitely exciting enough to create a little site around it.

First post went up in January 2014…  Half the posts from the first year are gone, but going forward everything is sticking around.

Never a huge blog reader myself, it has been really fulfilling, fairly easy, and I never imagined readers would reach out and be as encouraging as they have.  You are amazing!

azteca mare

  • ” What is the next step for you and Valiosa?”

Keeping expectations low, and ambitions modest, with most of everything, makes for almost no disappointment at all, and mostly small awe for how well and wonderful things are turning out 🙂

That said, now that I have just a bit more help with Valiosa’s training (We lesson 3-4 times/month instead of only once or possibly twice.  Makes a real difference!), I’m setting a long-term goal to make it through Third Level with her.  (AAAAH!) Huge, since I don’t really know how to teach it all to her…

Truly big things may not be in the stars for us – don’t have the resources for it, but we’re going to rock it in this little corner for all it’s worth!   Motivating any other adult amateur who considers themselves just “mediocre” along the way to shoot for something better!

I want to get there methodically, never just “winging” it, and want to always put her first – if it’s too much of a physical reach for her she’s not going to have to do it.  To be honest, the coolest thing would simply be to see her develop that little, tight, starting trot to something where she feels lush, supple, and powerful – knowing I brought her along to that on my own.

I ride for a wonderful trainer, planning to stay just as excited about riding as always, and to jump on any opportunity whenever it comes along!

gray half andalusian mare

  • What is V’s story? What is or was it about her that made you say I have to have this one?

Shamefully hanging head.  Not a conventional horse-shopping route.  (I just didn’t want to wait any more.  My gelding needed to retire to lighter work.)  There really wasn’t any big  -“This One!”  I hadn’t come across any other young horse that was A. Close enough, and B. Affordable.  With her, it was a pure gamble and leap of faith.

I wanted a young horse, without major conformation issues, with little to no strange-handling-history at all, at least 15.2 (which she wasn’t yet when I got her.) and a temperament where I could sort-of-safely back and train her on my own, and do fun things together with.

She’d been raised out, in a larger herd (major plus for long-term soundness.), and once they shuttled them all together, singled her out and got a halter on her, she stood still while I touched her neck.  (Everyone knows that’s all that’s required of a successful dressage horse.  Right.)

She seemed trusting from the start.  Looked very sound in a round pen.  She was not quite 3 1/2.  With her full siblings, 1 year older and 1 year younger, looking really good too, I took her home a couple of weeks later at Thanksgiving.  Christmas day she was ready for trail walks under saddle, sort of.

Maybe she just picked me?  (Ah, look at that fool, I’m going to leach off of her!)  Glad she did!

best horse blogs 2017My horse.

It’s absolutely wonderful.  Still.  Just to have one!

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Best Ride To Date


She continues to be more forward.

Posting about it last week did not jinx it .  Gray mare carries on!

Really feels as if she thinks it’s fun to put in an effort too.

Some blurries from one of those happy rides.

riding a happy horse

Yes, it makes a difference when she seems to have a blast too.

Trying to figure out just the right way  in the trot to alternate the tempo, to slow her, but stay engaged, with the seat only, and then release and come forward again with push from behind.  Also from just the seat.

riding more forward

Figured out the only way it can be pulled of right now is riding with the mouth open like a fatty goldfish, concentrated but relaxed.  Not an attractive look.  But now you know the secret.

(And also the possible reason for why later pics might be all without the rider’s head in them.)


A little too much on my part in the canter lengthening.

lengthened canter

Truly, she should go by just allowing more with the hips, this is almost jockey style.  So, we catch air instead.

all four hooves in the air

Way too speedy.  Don’t do this.  Never thought I’d be working on slowing down, but now we are.

So, she has finally been just a little more of all the stuff I knew she could be, and everything I doubted she would ever get to.  How great that is!  When it all comes together!

There was also that one hill canter, her first real trail canter, a few times out along a trail and up a hill.  Thought she’d barely keep up.  But she wanted to beat her friend – second time up she went all out with a huge engine.  Sure, I let her win.  Happy if she wants to breathe hard.


One Of Those Sick Days

elinor yee

Suddenly couch stuck.

Some cold, or respiratory thing, or some other unnecessary road-block to fun.

Not sure who ordered it.  Sure wasn’t me!  Because I’m stuck at home for a bit, today is another photo bomb.

balancing the canter in the corner

not stepping under in canter

She has both filled out with muscle just a little, and gained some more power on the trot diagonal.  It doesn’t fizz out half way anymore.

increasing tempo in trot on diagonal

gray horse cantering on long side

After babying her for so long with just short periods of sitting trot, it’s time for her to accept working like that too.

Accept is the key word there…  Her go-to move is to immediately resist as long as it doesn’t feel exactly right to her.  If I ever needed a horse teaching a more following seat and hip joint, she’s it.  So, hmmm, thank you?

collecting the trot

Stay well, and have a fun weekend!

elinor yee

Pictures As Promised

cross bred andalusian mare

Here’s where she is in the training.

Or, full disclosure, here’s where she is for 3 seconds in the training!
horse trotting through corner

The canter is really coming along, which is so encouraging!  Right now our problem is to stay within the set tempo.

Earlier, she’d rather not bother to canter much at all.  Now, she’s gotten stronger and rounder over her back, and has decided it should be done with gusto, faster and faster.  Or yeah, not-at-all-thank-you-very-much-I’m-stopping-alltogether-now.

gray dressage horse cantering

Have to regulate it just right.  Last week, that seemed like it would take forever.  She hated it.  Then Friday I tried some (almost) serpentine work just for kicks and she stayed so soft and controlled through the turn on both leads.

Thrilled with her!  Paying NO attention to transitions that time.  Would have been too much…

trotting with young horse

improving trot on diagonal

Trying to leg yield both to, and away from, the rail.  Sometimes it works.

starting leg yield with young horse

Another great thing (but at the same time challenging for now.) is a huge amount of blow/snorting during the canter.  She used to be quiet, never breathing all the way through, not truly releasing and giving the feeling she was working in it.

Several rides she’s done so much relaxing and blowing that we completely fall apart and have to start over.  Very good problem to have!  Just need to figure out how to allow it to happen and carry on, earlier.

Fun times!

cross bred andalusian mare

Gray Mare – Not Giving Anything Away For Free

cantering with new bit

On her own she’d never come up with the idea of offering a big trot.

Or an elastic one.  Or relaxed.  Or a balanced, willing, and ground winning canter.  That’d be way too easy right?  Every ride, it all has to be created from scratch.  Sometimes it feels like it would be really rewarding if she’d just be offering something voluntarily on her own 🙂

Then again, it’s really interesting to be doing this, to see where she can go. So happy to have her, if hundreds of images of the same horse wasn’t a tip-off.

training with a young horse

Living with other horses has really made her happy.  Screaming to them while under saddle is not welcome though.  As it is strictly Verboten, her latest thing is to let out a looong sort of “under-the-breath” squeal while still continuing work.

Feels like riding a female walrus, or let’s make it seal – more flattering – her back vibrating while she’s making code noises to them.  I should get mad, really, but she’s just so silly.

dressage toward second level

OK, so she’s showed well at Intro, and Training, plus the very first test at First Level.  It’s been my goal from start to bring her to Second Level.  Very lofty ideas!

I have a little bit more help now.  So happy about that!

How fun it would be to work on getting a Bronze Medal with this horse!!

Actually, someone is probably not going to let me hunt scores on their “better trained and higher level” horse, so yes, it’s going to have to be her!

cantering with new bit