Cavesson v.s Drop, Or Remont, Noseband

drop noseband

Earlier in 2017, I switched over to a drop noseband.

Before the switch, I kept my young mare in some different cavessons, with or without flash, and with or without crank.  She seemed happier in the drop, so we’ve stuck with that almost the whole year.  Wasn’t really all that interested in switching back.

drop noseband
Miss Tiddlywinks in her comfy drop

Still, it’s important to experiment.  (Right!? I’m always open for change!)  So, recently, I did a test-ride in the regular cavesson with flash combo.

Not really a believer in it, since it touches more of the sides of the cheeks and the drop seems simpler and less intrusive.

Surprise – she was better in it!  Steadier.  The holy grail, since this mare has a specialty of being “squirmy” in all parts of her body.

Less fiddling and tiddlywinkling in the bridle is fantastic news!  Foamy flash with cookie stains is just fine…

Early Mornings, Emptier Mornings

sophisticated barns

Sweet the way that works.

The earlier, the emptier.  Never truly solo here, with two trainers and a larger clientel, but show up early enough and it’s very quiet.  Really.

upscale barn isle way

I don’t ride all that early, truly.  Too many other, things, to take care of first.  Always loving the speedier, more adrenaline filled distances, but now there’s a spring Half Marathon on the schedule too.  Reckless.  So, more time spent running.

sophisticated barns


Valiosa has been going surprisingly well.  (The minute you say that it’s all jinxed and next ride will be challenging again…)  She feels just a tad softer, a little more forward, and actually attentive to the leg aids, go figure.

Got a walk-canter transition by mistake, unheard of for her!

getting horse in front of the leg


The tweaky, tilting and definitely-NOT-throughness is still there, but less.  See it here below?  She contorts herself, pushing the shoulder out one way, folding the neck, later tilting the head left or right.

horse resisting the aids counter bending

Once that stops, I know she’s in the hand and actually applying her self a little more from behind.  Tricky part is just to get to that point.  Before she runs out of steam.  New winter goal!

Lesson – Steering The Withers

steering the withers in dressage

One week ago, finally an opportunity to work with my trainer.

When there’s not going to be a lot of instruction opportunities, you know you better hang on to every word!  (And thank you Alexis for driving all the way out to us!)

The October show was great.  Still don’ feel I have “unlocked” the possibilities with this horse.  She moves tight, and takes every opportunity to lock up, resist, slow down, wiggle the shoulders, tilt her head.  Or all of the above.

Goal for this month:  work, every ride, on riding her in a new way.  Getting the basics down, all over again, with her moving more free, preferably without much influence of the hand at all.  Starting almost from scratch all over again 🙂

Forget about fiddling with a better leg yield or small voltes for now.  Writing it here will help make me accountable.  Fingers crossed I can do this!!  So far so good…

trying to ride more forward
Today’s pics from back in July at the breeding and training farm. Better than this now..?

We spent a full hour on simply being more in tune of the leg, balancing the bit quietly in front of her, offering opportunity to lengthen the neck with the hand softening forward more often.  (Now, a week later after the session, it’s getting more difficult…)

And steering the withers.

The last one ended up being the key.

steering the withers in dressage
Check out tall Banana Man there behind, he’s catching up to big brother.

It’s tempting to want to soften her body, and bend her around the inside leg.  You do that too?  With her, just overdoing it an inch makes her outside shoulder pop out on the circle and she’ll instantly lose all forward.

So, she has to be really on the outside aids, leg and rein.  Steering just for them.  Like a bus.  Because the sort of horse she is, and because that’s where she’s at in the training again right now…

Positioning the poll to the inside more an afterthought, later, when she stays reliably in the tempo.  This is hard, because through the ride, she gets more excited, and wants to curl just one inch, letting go of the bit.  And then we wiggle, feeling lost, and it starts to feel like I can’t even ride her straight.

New mantra, steer like a bus.

Sure, this has come up before.  Of course.

But that’s how it works with dressage –  riders can’t take in the instruction until they’re actually ready.  Or, until they’re convinced  there’s absolutely no way they can continue what they’re doing now.  And that lightbulb went on for me at the last show Ω

Fingers crossed we hold on to this type of riding all on our own until next month!

dressage lesson
If you’ve got a tweak you’re working on – feel free to share it! We can’t be the only ones…?

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