Improving The First Level Canter Lengthening.

how to lengthen the canter at first level

In theory – fairly straightforward, right..?

We’re still working on it!  At least occasionally.  Just touching on it, then leaving it alone so she doesn’t get frustrated.  Full disclosure – I’ve left it mostly alone for a couple of weeks…

Insider tips are welcome of course!


This was the canter lengthening in early July.

how to lengthen the canter at first level

Really pleased with her – straight, focused, withers are up, neck reaching out, and with a bit of power! 

The movement comment was that she needed to show more.  If you’ve scribed for a judge (DO this, it’s very educational, every time!), you know that it’s a standard comment at First Level.

It’s hard to get the lenghtenings right, without creating tension, coming above the bit, or just rushing downhill.  Or not showing any difference at all.

Some schooling practice over the summer.  With various results 🙂

teaching canter lenghtening at first level

I like how she’s sitting just a little more here.  Doesn’t mean she stayed that way, since she’d just come out of the corner here, getting started right at M.

The canter lengthening, or seriously, any lengthening, is very difficult for her.  Extensions?   Forget it.


better dressage canter lengthening
This is about where she is now.  Probably the limit for how far forward she can come with the hind at this point.  I’ll take it!

Best Way To Get Over A Bad Ride

staying positive when training is not going well

So, there was a sucky ride.

Just really, horribly, bad. No serious trouble, but, dressage it was not.

Who else here need to put themselves in trance to ride well?..  Without full attention to everything, schooling with Miss Gray goes to pits.  Frustrating.

It was one of those rides where nothing ever really got better. She was tense. Not spooky, ever. Just tense. We never followed each other, and it just felt so worthless.

grazing horse while riding
Our only good move.

There’ll be rides like this. Where all the sacrifices, money, and time spent driving feels completely wasted.  And we start to wonder if it’s really truly worth it all.  (Is it, really?)


Now, the best way to get over a bad ride:

Just come to terms with that Every Ride Is Not Going To Be Great.

Not for you.  Not for everyone else.

Everybody knows that.  Sure.  Just stings when we have to face up to it.  Right?  Just get in a cool-down, and move on.  Next time out will be SO much better!


Really. Not every ride is going to be great…

staying positive when training is not going well

Who Decides What You Should Think Of Equestrian Sport?

horse by green pond

Your flow.

Social media.

What does it look like?  Maybe an endless stream of negativity about horse sport, in just about any discipline.

Ever thought about how that shapes what you think, making your sport feel hopeless, a lost case where every one takes short cuts, or worse?

horse blogs elinor yee

After some of the larger international dressage competitions, half of  the Facebook feed seems to be about contorted necks and horses working in pain.

Heated discussions about shady training techniques.

In other disciplines – spur marks, bloody froth, draw reins, horses dying from over exertion, riding with all sorts of training gadgets, and even some temper tantrum millennial mishandling her horse in the show ring after falling off at a jump.

Should that decide what you think of modern horse sport?  Would it change if we would mostly see good training, good riding, good showing, good horsemanship?


upper body leaning in on canter circle


Just a small change of focus can really make a difference.  We do what we see others do.  We become what we do.

Trying really hard to not focus on bad riding over here, looking up to good riding.

Far from perfect, I’m trying.  It really matters what we look at.

This site is mostly safe – not much behind the vertical stuff here.  Because it shapes what we think.


horse by green pond

Maybe it’s important to you?

Focus on the good.

Hard Work Should Pay Off

collecting the canter with young horse

Doesn’t necessarily mean it will ALWAYS get better.

But most of the time, when enough energy, concentration, and enthusiasm is applied, things do get a little, well, improved.  In everything.  Right?

downstride of the canter

She can be absolutely embarrassingly difficult, then fantastic at the end.


This summer has felt like I’ve applied more than a fair share of sweat equity.  But really, if the pay off is a few seconds of absolute loveliness, who cares?!

riding in bad air quality

Inside shoulder in canter, a little less weighted now.  Yay!

Going left, she still wants to be empty in the outside rein and we struggle there since my outside aids can’t seem to be doing what I know they should be doing.

But Hey, I love this right here!

collecting the canter with young horse

September Schooling. Better?

elinor yee

Yes!  Better!

After treading water for some time, things feel looser, easier, less grindy.  Sure, that’s not even a word.  But it is now.

I think she’s getting to where she really likes the work sometimes, feeling happy and content there.  A little less “falling apart” as soon as she gets the chance.

So fun!

Here’s the photobomb for this time.

dressage in smoky air

collecting the trot

Where some horses want to come too low and you have to train hard on short moments of more elevation – Valiosa has the opposite difficulty.  She wants to go short and up in the neck.  All the time.

gray horse dressage

lengthen trot on long side

It will always be the “trick” to training well with her – getting a lower, more relaxed neck, and coming over the back.  We didn’t quite get there in these pictures (surprise), but the connection is so much better.  See?

amateur dressage

taking better pictures of dressage canter

As long as I get a few moments like these out of each ride, I’m thrilled.  Gray Mare is growing up and she can be SO much fun!

Elinor Yee

10 M Volte without hissy fits or a clamping inside calf.  It’s happening!

10 meter trot circle

Easy Barefoot Transition?

blue bell boots on grey horse

With the right horse, hoof, and set up, it really doesn’t have to be a big deal.

Most of the tips on barefoot transitioning I read up on were fairly complicated.  Or the setting didn’t apply to my situation.  Or the horse wasn’t going to do the same type of work.  (Or, you know, do much of any serious work at all…)

Thank you for contacting me and asking how we’re doing with it!!  Appreciate it!

Quick share of my story today as a follow up to last spring.  Because you asked.  And because it didn’t have the predicted outcome.

Transitioning a young dressage horse to barefoot can be pretty straightforward.  Maybe you already know that, and that’s great;  this is for the rest who would like to, but haven’t been able to pull it off (hepp) just yet.

It started out really stress free.

Adding that her hind shoes were removed a few months before the fronts.  It’s the way to go.

  • Over all, undramatic.
  • I didn’t use boots on her.
  • She didn’t have to putter around for weeks in pasture doing nothing while strengthening tender soles and heels.
  • No massive applications of hoof hardener several times per day.  Some, but no overkill.

Here’s your fine print:  I didn’t become part of the Barefoot Sect.  All inner Hoof Goddesses have to restrain themselves here.

Hooves starting out:

Some 2 1/2 years ago – Barefoot on all 4.

I liked this shape better. ↓ Excuse the goat hair leg.

Hind soles.  Gorgeous!

White line after spring grass. ↓  Still love the nice open frog.

hind hoof with no thrush


Still, as she continued training for another year and a half, her fronts showed signs that the level of work might be limited to mostly this type of work 😉
preventing lateral walk


We tried a short period with shoes on her hinds, then this last January transitioned to full barefoot again.

horse with crossed front legs

grey horse after bath


So much healthier, and of course no one’s going to miss picking muddy feet.  Or worrying about lost shoes.  Or lost winter season bell boots.  Right?

picking out a hoof

fleece top velcro bell boots

Tons of positive hoof testers later, it was clear that her fronts didn’t want to develop any concavity at all.  Farrier helped in as many ways as he could.  Trimming every 5 weeks, with me filing on my own in between to help the walls.

By May she had developed fluid in her right front, both toes were sore, she got an injection and the vet waived the red flag for that coffin bone.  I didn’t need any more convincing, front shoes went back on, and at vet recheck a couple of weeks ago she was wonderful.

blue bell boots on grey horse

So that’s your recap!  Still believe in barefoot (and she still is on the hinds, and I may cycle rest periods for the fronts too.), but within reason.  Creating an athlete, not a cripple.

Positivity Week Day 3: More Engagement

showing first level dressage

Building a swankier trot, not easy, right?

Gray mare has never had a super impressive trot.  But, it’s super comfortable!  And, a few steps here and there, there’s even that little bit more engagement from behind.

more engagement in trot

We don’t really get there during every ride, but sometimes, she can feel connected and capable for a few steps!  Never mind that it sometimes takes days to get back to the same thing.

hindlegs reaching under in trot

She qualified for the CDS RAAC at First Level, (The California North is happening next week.) but I don’t have a way to get her there to strut her stuff.

The positive spin – we’ll make it our own division at a schooling show instead.  Today!  (First Level – Imaginary RAAC division.  Open to all.)

Already on our way!  Entirely stress free, we’re taking three horses, having a good time.  Maybe I’ll go rogue – braid free, no jacket!  Immorality…

showing first level dressage