A stiff dressage lesson

Oats was just not there yesterday unfortunately. We had a private due to our other lesson partner’s horse with a cough, and Oats warmed up stiff and resistant and kind of…Stayed that way. It was definitely a bummer, but we ended up breaking down the steps to get the lovely, soft bending horse that I am used to having!

Is this too much to ask for? Right now, YES! hahah

Step 1: Leave the trot alone and go back to sitting trot quietly bending in a big bend in small circles.

Step 2: Trot/walk from the sitting trot to walk transitions. The key here is to keep a very deep headsets and relax over the back.

Step 3: Canter is from sit trot, deep bend, and when it falls apart, then ask for a trot transition BEFORE it goes. Sit the trot down, and bend deeply. Keep riding through the transition.

Our right lead was actually not bad, but the left certainly didn’t improve that much. We had a few moments of ‘yes thats it, that is the canter I wanted!!’ but we couldn’t keep it at all. And our downward transitions on the left were…Not good.

And I am trying to figure out how to get more weight on Oats. Time for new hay I think, after discussing it with both trainers this week. I upped his Equi-Cal to the max last night (after weighing it on Becky’s food scale) and I have a phone number for a new hay guy with better hay. I will call him today!

And we go through a LOT of Equi-Cal now. Like…a bag a week! it’s nuts! Have to go and get more next week even. I have, of course, like three freaking bags of All Phase still and none left of Equi-Cal, because that is all Oats was fed for the past 12 years! ARGH.

I miss my chubbier Oats, and I want him back ūüôā He was never really chubby but he was at a healthy weight and I didn’t feel his poor spine bones all the time when I rode him bareback.

Go for the gallop? When Oats learns it’s easier to trot instead of canter…

Dressage lesson last night and I faced it with a biiiittt of trepidation.


Was he going to be a looney-tunes?

Was he going to cooperate?

Was he going to put up a stink?

Who knows!

After a week off in horsey paradise, one rough ride in the ring, one good ride in the field, I wasn’t sure ‘which horse’ I’d have under me yesterday. We warmed up outside and he was actually fine, our right lead was kind of non-existent, but as I would find out later, that was an isolated incident…

We moved indoors to combat the dust but that wasn’t really a better solution either (my dirt tan was WAY better than my real tan by the end of the ride…). We worked on lateral work, where he was a bit fussy but fairly cooperative. Sometimes when he ‘gives’ it’s like ok HERE I’m GIVING YOU WHAT YOU WANT…And he tries to sort of snatch the reins out of my hands and bring his head down. And I have to be fine with him, somewhat rudely, ‘giving’ to me and to not punish him for it- it’s¬†compliance,¬†albeit¬†with a bit of ‘tude.

We then worked on forward with contact. The -with contact- part of the ride wasn’t really happening, so I let that go and worked on forward. That meant that¬†every time¬†he got fussy and wanted to kind of hop into a canter, I …let him. And I¬†galloped him like I meant it. Every time.

No getting off easy this ride, holy god it was a cardio workout and a half.

So, our ride consisted of GALLOP…working trot, can’t stick the working trot, back to GALLOP…back down to trot, still can’t keep the trot, GALLOP…On and on and on. Karen did explain that with this exercise, you have to mean it, and mean it consistently enough for the entire ride. The idea is to make the thing you want- the forward, contact trot, the easy game, and the thing the horse keeps offering (canter) the really hard work.

It also meant a lot of hard work for me!

He got the picture by the end of the right on both reins at the trot, still a bit of an uneasy truce with the contact and forward pieces, but we did make progress. I think with the week off, he was kind of like, wellll…..

She did say that his canter is looking much better (we only spent like, half our entire lesson in canter…ugh! So tired.) and his lateral work is really sharpening up!

Good ride, Bad ride, Ok ride?

So, I was expecting a good ride on Sunday- after all, I had a fairly decent jump lesson on Friday (I wasn’t expecting to, I was feeling tired and put-upon by life, basically…) and I had cancelled the show I was riding in on Saturday. Wasn’t feeling 100% after getting rear-ended on Wednesday, and then the person I was going to haul with bailed, soo…Yeah.

Wish it was summer!

So, at least he is cute?!

But anyways, I took Saturday off after originally planning to show in a small jumper show. Spectated at the show instead, and helped my husband out at his first Gut Buster run.

So when Sunday rolled around, I was actually expecting some decent things from Oats! I was planning on doing some of the same course I worked over on Friday, from the gymnastic to a few other jumps. Oats…had other ideas.

He was A TWIT!

He was stopping constantly when we were going large, slamming on the brakes and trying to backpedal. Snorting and anxious. Head in the air, ears on a swivel. Could NOT get him to go around the ring like a normal horse at all. I was like WTF IS GOING ON?

It was ridiculous, I was pissed.

It was hot, and I was just hoping for a break. Just one freaking break.

We worked, and worked, and worked, and then worked some more. We took breaks so he could investigate the ‘spooky areas’ that immediately became even MORE spooky the next time we went past them, despite him grazing calmly in them. We went around and around, fought, and it was just so …frustrating.

We did end up doing the small gymnastic and a few jumps, and he was very good over the gymnastic, funny enough, being spooky and on fire for the entire ride led to us getting the¬†exact number of strides each time! Didn’t even have to push for then?! Go us?

We ended on a pretty ok canter to the right, where I didn’t fight him about his head in the air and tilted left..I was like, let’s just do this.

I rode him back up to the barn and he spooked. Hosed him off, led him down to the field and he spooked. ARGH.

Who replaced my horse with a blithering idiot?

I decided that because my week previously was not super consistent with riding- maybe this had something to do with Oats being a total moron to ride? So, I went out yesterday (Monday) to sort some of our issues out.

I went in with a different schedule- no jumps, no nothing I *had* to do…Just feel him out, see how it goes. No real agenda.

And the ride ended up being a real no-agenda ride. We walked large for loops and loops. I let his walk mesmerize me a bit. He did want to spook and stop and backpedal at first, but I let the reins loop, sat steady, and just walked. And walked. And walked.

Once that was not exciting, or scary, or spooky, we trotted. And then spent the entire ride, probably like 45 minutes, at the trot. Strong trot, slow trot, sitting trot, hunter-hack trot, easy trot, circles at the trot. Anytime I felt like he was starting to blow past my hands, throw his head in the air and try to fly around, we circled calmly as a reminder. And then circled again, and then circled again.

He required a lot of these reminders, but that was ok. I could wait it out.

And that was our entire ride.

Jump jump jump! Lesson update (now with 100% more outdoor!)

That’s right, feast your eyes…

The beautiful outdoor. Photo courtesy of Sarah C.

The beautiful outdoor. Photo courtesy of Sarah C.

We’re back in the outdoor and enjoying every moment of it! It officially opened this week for lessons and so Oats and I rode in it Wed and Thurs (lesson day). He was a bit foot-sensitive, so he is getting shoes next Thursday to help him out.

And I have to say that while I LOVE riding in the outdoor and it feels soooo nice to get out in the fresh air and out of the dusty coal-miner tin can (indoor), riding/jumping outdoors is tough! I felt tired, very tired. After jumping 1 course, I was out of breath, and felt weak. And I am no slouch in the workout dept., I  mean I am racing a 10k this weekend after all and have been racing all winter, ha.

We started off dealing with the right-bend issue at the trot, then the canter (this issue would resurface throughout the lesson, because I am apparently incapable of dealing with more than 1 thing at a time when jumping- and it very quickly becomes THE JUMP!).

Then, we worked over a small gymnastic, x-rail to 3-stride small vertical, and then added in a small bending line to a pink x-rail- then vertical because Oats found it very easy. And then we brought it all together into a mega-course [felt mega to us, because there were 10 whole jumps in it!]. We did the course twice, and I had the option of doing it a 3rd time but wimped out – was feeling tired and kind of weak- but next time..oh next time, I’ll woman up and I’l do it!!

I was quite pleased with how the course went, the jumps were small and manageable except for one oxer on the diagonal that started to eat my soul…Ha. Oh and the line that I bungled EVERY time we went over it. By the time we’d get to it, I’d be tired and start kind of….not riding…so¬†instead¬†of the good 6 strides, we’d chip, land in a heap, and pull out a weak 7-strides. Both times! Gah!

Sorry Oats!

I’ll figure it out next time haha. So, straightness and bend were problems…my position was pretty good, and the gymnastic and for the most part, other bending lines rode very nicely!

Installing the ‘go’ button NOT the ‘eject’ button??

Today’s recap is going to be about the clinics I watched with Jan Ebeling and my lesson yesterday on Oats (hence the ‘go’ button not ‘eject’ button. He gets those confused, apparently. Or maybe I do?).

Jan is funny, erudite and very nice. His clinics were forward-focused (funny it was definitely the theme of the entire weekend- how do you fix riding/horse problems? MORE LEG LEG LEG! (as per every clinician, all weekend.)

I am starting to see that a BIG problem in my riding is that Oats is not forward off my leg, and let’s face it- not at all broke to the leg very well.

Hm…definitely something I have either caused, or let happen through laziness/attrition/ not wanting to rock the boat too much.

Jan was very interesting to watch- he schooled riders to ‘push’ and then ‘let go’ when they got what they wanted from the horse. He believes strongly in warming up and transitions through the gaits- big trot, small trot, then walk, then trot. If your transitions are unschooled, your other work will suffer.

He also was a big believer in FORWARD to the downward transition, rather than letting them ‘schlump’ through it.

Check him out here

He is fair and very kind to the horse/riders combos. His big takeaway is to be flexible, and be fun about what you’re doing- it’s not ALL bad. Ha.

(He should have seen Oats yesterday!)

So that take me to Oats, naturally. He felt sucked-back and pissy on our first ride on Monday, that I sort of solved by cantering immediately over poles and working over crossrails instead of doing the usual walk-trot-canter warmups. That worked pretty well actually.

Except on Tuesday, our challenging lessons with Karen Brain, his sucked-back pissyness was definitely on display.

It was interesting (and frankly scared me and wigged me out) we are in a BIG grey area. Oats is finding other behaviours- rather than straight out bucking- to get around what I’m asking. So…instead of forward trot with bend, he’s trying to canter. Sometimes throws a buck- in all fairness, he only did that one yesterday to the left. It’s not all ‘bad’ but it’s also not all ‘good’…It’s just…there.

He’s trying these other behaviours, and Karen felt like he’s slowly getting ‘there’ but bringing up these other attempts to see what he can sort of get away with. So, I guess I can’t punish him for trying??

It was funny though and SO EXHAUSTING when I was like, forward-trot-bend and he’s like…canter-suckback- neck in air. He does this funny ‘prop’ up when he was trying to canter and it felt like when he tries to launch me, so I got kind of grabby…which is the wrong response. I had to ‘fix’ it by either circling, or letting him canter but really¬†working the canter- left bend right bend left bend right bend. He doesn’t just get to cruise.

Over and over and over and over…

We did circles, oh, did we ever do circles. I felt dizzy!

Then our circles weren’t forward enough (jesus lady, I was getting tired at that point haha) so Oats thought a circle meant a chance to suck back again. ARGH.

My butt and leg cramped up. We were soaked in sweat. It was frustrating, I got annoyed and kind of mad, and Oats was just barely, grudgingly, giving me what I wanted. PHEWWW.

(oh and you should have seen our ‘discussion’ about picking out his hooves nicely before my ride. Apparently Oats feels like he should be allowed to snatch his hind hoofies away from me, rudely. I had another idea about that !!! Nothing pisses me off more than that. Frig!)

I am feeling sore today and think I will give him a day to think things over (and I need a break to go for a run maybe).

Horses. Why does it always feel like 1 step forward and then 3 steps back???

Drive well, sleep carefully: Oats updates

So this weekend wasn’t a lot of Oats-riding, as you may have guessed. I had a good jumping lesson on Thursday, and then took Fri-Sat off and rode on Sunday.

fancy dressage Oats

fancy dressage Oats

Sunday Oats was good, we rode in the outdoor, but I wasn’t. I was having trouble breathing, and it felt like my whole chest was constricted. I was gasping and having the hardest time catching my breath, it felt like a mild case of ‘getting the wind knocked out of you’ but it was like, the whole ride? Scary! My hands were shaking and I just kept trying to breathe.

So, despite his rider having an apparent asthma attack, Oats behaved himself and we trotted a few fences, and cantered and then I had to stop and slide off, because I was fairly sure I was going to faint and fall off.

Indian Summer

Indian Summer

Monday, I went to ride and poor Oats’ eyes were swollen shut. The return of the flyborne eye-infection! ARGH. I cleaned the goop out of his eyes, put polysporin eye cream in them, and put his fly mask back on. No riding for me on Monday.

Ouch poor Oats.

Ouch poor Oats.

Tuesday we had our lesson with Karen Brain and Robin. And it was intense. Not physically¬†challenging, as sometimes they are, but just…Jesus. Oats was NOT HAVING IT. He was upset, pissy, rude, bucking, stalling out, humping his back up…All in the name of progress, ha.

What was it that had him so flustered? Well,¬†surprisingly¬†it was mostly walk-trot work, we barely even cantered! We worked on holding a bend, and asking for the horse to go with just a ‘tap tap’ from the whip. No pump, no legs, nothing else. Body relaxed, a sack of¬†potatoes¬† but they had to GO and they had to BEND. This was mindblowing for Oats.

He would go, and his head would fly up! He would resist! He wanted to go faster! He didn’t want to bend anymore! Buck! Backwards! Stall out! Pull!

We fought for awhile, but at the end of the lesson (after a lot of hissy-fits) he was licking, chewing, shaking his head, and blowing and snorting. It was obvious that he was holding a TON of mental tension during the exercise, and was letting it go after.

He was really sweaty after too, and I wasn’t. More proof that the tension he was holding made him work harder. Karen cautioned us that this kind of work was very hard for a pony like Oats (who is used to doing his own thing) and to not practice it without supervision.

No worries there- yikes, it was so challenging that I would not want to do it on my own anyways. The risk of screwing up is too high for us, on this kind of work.

Down a well of intensity

Well, not literally down a well, though my husband was a month or so ago!

In a well

In a well

I had a lesson with Karen and Oats yesterday, and MANNNN he was pissy! Fired up! Cranked! Kicking out! Ready to go! (not quite but as much as Oats gets).

I was like…WTF? Pissy, kicking out, etc etc etc. I guess the fall season really agrees with him, hahahahahah. That was the most forward he has been in months. Months!

So, we worked with what we had. Lots of gallops in the indoor, bringing him back, extreme bend, and when he wouldn’t bend, lots of circles to get the bend. Ideally, we wouldn’t ‘take him back’ too much and stifle his newfound energy because for Oats, being fired up is a good thing. So, we circled. Lots of circles.

And we tested his obedience to the bend/aids by getting the bend and his head down, and putting more leg on or a swift tap tap with the crop. Head flies up? NOT obedient to the bend! Get back to it.

Soooo it was a long and busy lesson with Oats charging full speed ahead, which is quite unusual for him. Twice I thought he bucked again but in reality one of those was a very good walk-canter transition, and another was a flying lead change left-right that felt very much like a buck.

The good? Karen doesn’t let me buy into his drama when I’m like ”Oh noooo he’s bucking again!!” she’s like, well that one was a kick out, not a buck, or that was just a good bum-first transition, not a buck…AKA nothing to see here, move along!

He was testing me bigtime with the kick-outs though. He pulled that move last week in my jumping lesson too. She said that is normal, he is trying to see what he can get away with before he gives up and goes ‘okay mom, we’ll do what you want.”

So, I just have to keep at it, and the fun part? The more forward he goes, the less chance he has to really rev up into a big buck. Mostly forward? Can kick out to express himself. VERY forward? No room at all for a buck or a kick out. It’s all in the gallop! Though I was still wimping out a bit when she got me to get after him. In the back of my mind was he’s going to buck you off!! So I wasn’t as strong as I could have been.

So, we worked on maintaining/keeping/controlling his expressive energy into circles instead of stifling him. He hates being stifled and for a slow pony, we have to be very careful we don’t get into that loop.

Very interesting ride. I was pondering it for hours after we finished. Oats was so tired, his lower lip was hanging down. He looked like an old man horse, hahah.

Personally, I’ve been feeling kind of angsty. I know last week I said I needed a ‘win’ and I’m still feeling like this. Usually that feeling goes away after a week, but right now…September just feels like one big long losing streak. Not ‘technically’ but emotionally.

Sigh. I am still in a well of intensity.


Oats is a mini-me!

Oats is a mini-me!

Cute photo of Oats and my trainer’s horse Donato grazing in the field this week. He is so tiny compared with giant Donato! Adorable!

Good thing he’s cute too, because man, he was a SHIT yesterday in my lesson. Sucked back off my leg, leaning in to the right, diving at the canter, BUCKING? GRrrrrrrr.

I was pissed off, bigtime. We have a really nice, good hard working lesson on Tues, he gets Wed off for both of us to recover and he’s done a 180 and turned back into a little shithead pony. ARGH.

We were jumping and he just couldn’t bend, didn’t want to go, etc etc. I got too high with my hands, and they got VERY busy. It’s funny, when things go sideways I always get like ‘do more!’ more with my hands! Which I think is sometimes a bit of a reaction to him being a turd (high hands= stability when he bucks, and oh, he does!).


We got a miserly *few* good jumps, out of stride, engaged and forward and a few lousy ones.

I was mostly frustrated and annoyed. What’s with the bucking, the Jekyll-and-Hyde attitude? Jeesh, ponies! ARGH.


Riding is always simple, never easy

Riding is always simple, never easy

Love this photo, it’s how I feel in the summertime! I want to do everything- and nothing- all at once.

My ideal day? Ride Oats, do some jumping outdoors, go for a good long run (10k again?) and then grab an iced coffee or a cider and relax at the beach and read a book.

I frequently fall asleep at the beach- though after looking at my idea day, I’m not exactly surprised haha. There’s something so hypnotic about the sound of the wave, ambient noise of people talking near, but not that near, and the smell of hot sand, cold salty water.

Had a lesson last night- moved back to the indoor b/c the outdoor was quite hard, and I was worried about making Oats sore and sour after doing two straight days outdoors. You have to work up to riding fully outdoors and we are not quite there yet.

So we worked on bending, canter bend/counterbend with lots of breaking back to trot- oops! And leg-yield at the trot- transition to canter when we ended the leg yield. Was not a fantastic ride, but it felt more ‘thorough’ like we had lots of sort of chew over, rather than a YEAHHHH jumping ride that you feel exhilarated about.

Sometimes I go for the ‘easy win’ of a rush of good feelings in a jumping lesson, because the leg-yield/bend/transition/shoulder-in lessons are tiring, and you don’t get that WE CAN DO IT feeling…It’s much more subtle, and can get lost on me when I’m searching for that endorphin rush.

Riding isn’t necessarily about endorphins though, haaaa. Well, I did ride in the outdoors on Tuesday and it was much improved, and we cruised over a fence that caught my eye- unfortunately it was set up just to have a jump ‘set up’ and not necessarily for jumping! There was a pole a few feet tossed behind it, that I only saw when we were like, over the jump. Ooops!~ Luckily Oats is a nifty little fellow and handily saw the pole, jumped the jump and hopped over the pole, only tinging it slightly with his hooves.

Apparently the jump we hopped over was almost 2’6” and I didn’t even really notice- it’s funny, but the jumps in the outdoors seem less intimidating that indoors. It’s like they seem less significant when placed in a larger arena? Not sure why that is.