Maremma Mondays

Ayla has grown up and matured so much recently. She is starting to get out of her crazy puppy stage and can now be left with the minis completely unsupervised.

I had previously just been giving her supervised or semi-supervised time with the horses because she could get a little silly with them, occasionally play bowing to ask them to play with her. I didn’t want to leave her alone with the minis in case they decided to join in with her play and got a little too rough with her. I was never concerned that she might hurt them, as she has always been very gentle with them.

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The minis enjoying their daily hour of grass.

Now, she is perfectly content to just watch and observe, peacefully surveying her domain.

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As a naturally slow maturing breed, she is finally starting to grow up. She’s still silly at times, and still has a generally goofy personality (which is something that I don’t think is ever going to change), but she is more mature now.

She seems to start to think before she acts now, and doesn’t – for the most part – charge about without thought or reason.

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“You talking about me?”

Ayla loves spending more time in with the minis, and she seems to know that she’s doing a good job, too.

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The face she makes when she knows she’s good



Following that Feeling

Today is the closing date for entering a local gold rated dressage show, and one that, for the first time in years, I won’t be going to. Hope and I have always gone to this show, and before I started going with her I took my Thoroughbred gelding, Yogi.

Throwback to one of the first shows I did at this facility

It’s a nice small show that is located conveniently close to us, but I’m just not feeling that excited urge to go to it.

Normally as the entry period approaches for a show I’m excited and looking forward to going to it. I wasn’t getting that for this show.

This particular showgrounds is quite a bit older, with the stalls being on the smaller side, and the footing in the arenas is also a little hard. The show management always ends up putting on a good show though, which is why I’ve always gone to it.

All smiles at the end of our test at this show, except for Hope, who looks like she’s falling asleep

This year I’ve decided to not go. At this point in our training, Hope and I don’t really need to go to every show to get comments on what we need to improve (with both my coaches being judges, I think I’ve got that area covered!). And Hope, despite her rather extreme interpretation of what “free”style meant at our last show, doesn’t need more experience showing. At twenty years old, she has pretty much seen everything that there is too see. Of course, I could use more experience showing. What rider doesn’t? Perhaps Charlotte Dujardin doesn’t, but that’s beside the point.

Hope has seen everything there is to see at a show, and just spends her spare time chilling with shavings in her ear

Instead, I’m planning on venturing to a new show that I’ve never been to before which takes place in the middle of August. I showed at their facility in Southlands about five years ago with Yogi at a one day schooling show, but I’ve never been to their three day rated show.

I haven’t been to Southlands since my first outing with Yogi because it’s around a two hour drive away, and since I have to go back and forth from home to the showgrounds everyday to take care of my critters at home, it makes for very long days.

The facility is great however, and the show management really goes far to ensure that the competitors have a good time.

This year I’ve finally decided to go back again. I’m really looking forward to going to this show, and I can hardly wait to get my entry in. This is the feeling I was waiting for in thinking about entering the local show. It never came. Instead, the excited energy comes rushing in when I think about the Southlands show, and I’m going to follow that feeling.



Show Recap – Accepted Opportunities

I finally have some free time to write about our last show, a week past its closure. I have frequently shown at the venue where this show took place, but I have only competed in this particular show once before. It’s a large show and is always well attended, and I had previously been scared off of attending it. Last year I accepted my apprehensions and went to the show anyway. It turned out to not be as terrifying as I had anticipated, which often results to be the case in most things.

This year I was very comfortable with going to the show. The biggest thing I noticed about this show was that I wasn’t worried about it, about how we would do or what scores Hope and I would get. I never got super stressed at shows before, but I would become a little self conscious about the big name riders and trainers wandering about the showgrounds and potentially watching me. Also, I would always be thinking about what our scores would be, and how we could improve them.


At this show, my first show in ten months, I was relaxed and had what I can best describe as a ‘screw it’ attitude. I didn’t care what our scores were going to be or how we would place, I wanted for Hope and I to improve. I wasn’t going to judge our improvement based on our scores, I would evaluate it based on how I felt we did. Essentially, I went into this show without expectations on how we would be in comparison to others.

Friday’s test, third level test 3, was clean and consistent. It was a quiet, productive ride that wasn’t overly flashy or daring. I was very happy with how Hope and I did. She had no hissy fits and was extremely obliging and willing. She wasn’t tight, she wasn’t tense, and I wasn’t worried. We seemed to be starting the weekend off with a promising start.

Touch of Class Dressage Show
June 17 2018

Saturday’s first test, third level test 2, was even better than the previous day’s test. It was very similar in parts, being overall steady and smooth, with just a flare bit more of boldness added.


Our next ride was the freestyle, which I was really looking forward to doing. It was a new floor plan choreographed to music that I had never used before from the movie ‘The Greatest Showman’.

The music is a little unorthodox because it does contain lyrics, but I feel that they’re appropriate, and the beat suits Hope very well.

As we trotted around the competition arena, waiting for the judge to ring the bell, Hope’s energy was building. I could feel that we would have that extra bit of flashy show for this ride, and just as I was starting to grin with anticipation, Hope leapt into the air and spun around at the judge’s booth just as the judge had just started to ring the bell. Multiple curse words were going through my head at this point, because I knew we had to get down to the other side of the arena to signal our music to start, but if I tuned Hope away from whatever she was spooking at she would just continue to get tense.

I let her look for a second, patted her neck, and continued down to the opposite side of the ring, with Hope showing off her new found party trick, piaffe!

I won’t go into the cringe worthy details, but things didn’t get much better from that point on. We put a new meaning into the word “free”style. Hope alternated between spooking, trying to bolt, and giving her best attempt at impersonating a llama.

We got through the test, and just barely managed to keep to my choreographed floor plan and the music. But we did it.

Me thanking the judge after our ride for sitting through our most disastrous test to date.

After thinking about it, managing to stay in the arena and both of us coming out in one piece after such an unfortunate start isn’t something that we could have accomplished a couple of years ago. I laughed a lot after we had finished our freestyle and gotten to the stalls. I don’t think I’ll ever think of “free”styles the same again, and I don’t think I’ll ever get nervous in one again, as one thing’s for certain, I can never ride another one that was worse than the one I had just done!

For Sunday’s test I was determined to redeem ourselves. I wanted to go back to a calm and clean test, putting aside any attempt at being bold or daring.

Walking to the competition ring

We managed to do just that. We had a quiet and clean test with no attempts on Hope’s part of trying to impersonate a llama or other elongated animal.


Throughout the show we had both ups and downs, but I would call every ride a success. Hope persists in amazing me in her ability to continue to teach me, even when I start to think she has taught me everything she can, especially when I think that.

She’s still Hope, I’m still me, and we’re still learning together. Despite this show having rather disastrous moments, or perhaps because of them, I consider this show to be one of the best we’ve ever had. We don’t have to come away with a championship ribbon for me to know that we did our best and that we improved together. I wouldn’t change a single moment of this show if I had the opportunity to.

Touch of Class Dressage Show 2018

Maremma Mondays

Ayla had a pretty quiet weekend since I was away at the show with Hope for most of it (a recap will be coming on that shortly). I’d love to be able to take Ayla to the shows with me, but she gets car sick after a ten minute drive, so the hour long trek to the showgrounds wouldn’t have left her feeling too perky.

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I think she’d be a great show companion dog. She loves people but is also just happy to flop down and chill. She enjoys just hanging out and watching things, and she doesn’t start whining if she’s not constantly petted and payed attention to.

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But until we’ve figured out how to eliminate her motion sickness I’m limiting her car rides to under twenty minutes. So she spent this past weekend entertaining herself for the most part.

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She’s enjoying our stretch of summer-like weather, and soaks up the sun in the mornings and then takes an afternoon siesta underneath a shady tree.

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I’m planning on giving her a bath sometime this week to help get rid of any shedding hair that hasn’t been brushed out yet. She hasn’t had a bath for several months, so this should turn out to be interesting.

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I imagine that she’ll be giving me this bugged out expression during her bath.

She doesn’t hate water, but she won’t voluntarily go any deeper into the pond than her ankles, so she doesn’t love water either. We’ll see how it goes, but I have a feeling that by the end of her bath I’ll be just as wet as she is.

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Happiness over Expectations

I read a great article on Noelle Floyd this morning, written by Annette Paterakis. It had some great tips on overcoming burnout in riding, but the point that stood out to me the most was to let go of your expectations; your expectations for your show, or for your lesson, just let it go.

And now you have this song stuck in your head.

We don’t know how any given ride is going to turn out, and trying to project lofty goals onto a ride can often result in one becoming more obsessed about the future outcome of that goal, than the present moment, your actual ride.

It is easy to become distracted by scores and placings at shows, and to make goals and expectations that revolve around them, but when we don’t reach those expectations, the resulting annoyance, frustration, and even despair can make one question what the point of riding and showing even is.

For all of my shows I have had goals and expectations, but after reading this article, I think I’ll try not having expectations. With this coming weekend being our first show of the year, I think it will be a great time to implement this new technique.


I don’t mean that I’ll go to the show anticipating for us to do horribly, I’ll just go without having any expectations for what our scores should be, or how we should place.

I won’t focus on getting a higher score, or placing above someone. Instead, I’ll focus on why I ride: for fun and for the exhilarating freedom it gives.

Here’s to no expectations, but to happiness and having fun.

Read Noelle Floyd’s article on preventing burnout in your riding here:

I remember getting frustrated so many times with my riding career as I became more focused, and, okay – a little obsessed – with my results. I wanted to prove to myself (and maybe a few others) that I was a good rider, and I needed those baby blues as evidence. I was trapped in a vicious cycle – the more frustrated I got, the more my results went downhill…

Read the rest at:

Post SI Injection – Update

It has been nearly two weeks since Hope had her SI injected, and the difference in her has been astounding.

After a first couple of ouchy days she started to improve dramatically. Her canter feels like it belongs to a different horse. It is so much more balanced, and her left lead doesn’t feel like it is hard for her anymore.

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And the only evidence I have is a tiny, fuzzy picture.

Her trot has basically stayed the same, although she does find lateral work easier now.

The change in her canter has been fantastic, but what I love seeing even more is the change in her attitude. She has always been very willing and happy to work, but after the injection she has been super obliging. She hasn’t said “no!” to anything I’ve asked, and just seems generally happier.

I’m so relieved that injecting her SI has helped and has made such a difference for her. She’s still Hope, of course, and still acts Hope-like. She still occasionally fusses with the contact, still has a tendency to go downhill, and still will visibly let me know if I’ve done something that she disproves of.

At two weeks post injection, I probably won’t notice any continued improvement, and that’s just fine with me. I didn’t think that the injection would magically make her travel more uphill, or to accept the contact 100% reliably, I just wanted to make her comfortable and to allow her to continue to teach me, which she still does everyday.

I have my fingers crossed that the effects of this injection will last the full estimated six months, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

This coming weekend will be our first show of the year, so I’m interested to see if the injection and Hope’s improved canter will result in slightly higher scores. We’ll be trying out our new freestyle for the first time as well, which is choreographed to the music from the movie The Greatest Showman. I’m being somewhat unorthodox and keeping the lyrics in the songs, but I think they suit Hope and our story. I’m not afraid of who we are, a jumper bred Appendix and a learning young rider, striving to do our best in an elite sport dominated by warmbloods and monetary influences.

An ex-jumper who snorts and stares whenever there are jumps in the arena…


Maremma Mondays

Ayla and I are two weeks into her advanced obedience classes; as slightly impressive as this sounds, “advanced” doesn’t involve anything super hard or unreasonable. It’s just more manners and general obedience to turn her into even more of a solid citizen.

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This is my best attempt of getting a decent picture of Ayla and the minis. Apparently the boys forgot to take the course in photogenic-ness, but at least Ayla aced it.

This set of classes are mainly going to focus on working in a distracting environment, heeling, respectful leash walking, and further developing skills that were learned in the previous classes.

Ayla has been wonderful in these past two classes, she’s starting to get like an old pro. I can hardly believe she is the same dog as the absent minded puppy in our very first classes who had an attention span of 5 seconds and would get distracted by an imaginary worm or a phantom bug.

And here’s a picture of Ayla in a bucket, just because.

In this weekend’s class we were working on getting her to give to pressure. It’s actually a really interesting training program that they teach, and this class reminded me of how one would teach a horse to give in to pressure. Steady gentle pressure was applied to the leash, and as soon as Ayla gave in to the pressure (i.e. stepped towards it) I released the pressure and rewarded her.

The point of this is to teach her to understand and respect gentle pressure of the leash, so that if she ever goes ahead of me while I am walking her on a leash then I just need to apply gentle pressure, which means that I’m not tugging or yarding on her leash. I found it interesting that this particular trainer actually takes the time to teach the dog how to give to pressure. I feel that a lot of other training places just teach the dog to not pull on a leash by giving the leash a tug if they ever go too far ahead without even teaching them first what pressure means.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the classes, and I’m interested to see what else we’ll learn. After these classes Ayla will officially be graduated from her obedience training. Although, I might decide to do an additional set of classes focusing on training off-leash which aren’t part of their traditional round of obedience classes. Ayla being off-leash and expected to focus on me in a field of other dogs would be very interesting. She may not listen to me at all, but I have a feeling that she’ll catch on quickly.