There’s No Crying in Horse Shows

A very good post by The Humorous Homesteader highlighting the difficult aspects of being a horse trainer, and how to be a better student!

the humorous homesteader

It is unusual for me to write two blogs in one day, but I felt compelled to do so because each subject needed to be explored and addressed independent of each other. My last post was pretty much me-centric but with this post I want to talk about that person behind the scenes who does her best to hold the shit show that is my show career together while working her tail off so that I don’t embarrass myself in the quest for a fifty cent ribbon. Even though this is about my trainer, I am sure that this applies to all show trainers out there.

As you may or may not know, I am a real estate agent. My job is to sell houses. My job is not baby sitter, emotional counselor, fortune teller, or sorcerer capable of making people love your home, yet these are often the expectations…

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New Addition ~ Puppy!

I am pleased to announce that a new addition has joined my little family; meet Ayla, a Maremma/ Akbash cross.

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She is a livestock guardian breed who’s job is to watch over the mini horses, and to eventually make sure that they don’t get eaten by bears or any passing cougars.

I have been thinking about getting a livestock guardian dog for a while now, as bears are a constant problem in our area, and it isn’t unusual to hear reports of cougars picking off smaller livestock. When a miniature horse from a farm about 15 minutes away from us was attacked by a cougar (thankfully the owner was outside at the time and was able to scare it off. The mini has now mostly recovered from his injuries), I started thinking more seriously into the prospect of getting a livestock guardian. I started doing oodles of research, and tried to find every scrap of information I could about them and with how to train them. Having previously never owner a dog of my own, the thought of having a puppy was a little daunting, but I felt like I was up to the challenge. Even though I have never had my own dog, I am not unfamiliar with dogs. My family and brothers have always had dogs, in fact, there has never been a time in my life where my family did not have a dog. However, this would be the very first time that I would be the sole owner, and main caretaker/ trainer of a dog. I was intrigued by the prospect, and did all the research I could to prepare myself.

A litter finally became available, and we set up a time to go and see them. We had to go to the Sunshine Coast, which is about a 2 hour drive, and a 40 minute ferry ride. I would consider myself an introvert, and I’m fairly unadventurous, so this would only the second time in my life that I had ever been on a ferry, despite living fairly close to the coast line, and having easy access to the nearby islands. This was going to be an adventure for me the moment we drove out our driveway, and headed to the city of North Vancouver to the Horseshoe Bay, having not been to that city in years.

It was a perfect day for the ferry ride, lovely and warm, without a cloud in the sky!

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When we got to the farm, nine overly excited puppies bounced up to us and showered us in licks. I had already decided that I wanted a female, so the males were put in their kennel so that I could get a better look at the females. There was five to choose from, I quickly decided against one of them for being too shy, and then another one for being too interested in attention and needy. Another pup was a little too aloof for what I wanted, so that just left two to choose between. One was a very sleek coated pup, who seemed friendly but still reserved. The fifth pup who had been snoozing under a trailer got up and marched deliberately towards me, flopped down beside me, and leaned her head against me as she tilted her head up and looked up at me. With that, I knew which pup was mine.

She was perfect on the ride home, just super calm and relaxed. Even though we got to the ferry terminal early, there was still so much traffic left over from the long weekend that the ferry filled up, and we were forced to wait for the next one which wasn’t due for two more hours. We ended up wandering about until we found a nice shaded grass area to wait in.

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She didn’t seem to mind at all, and was quite happily sniffing about, before she decided to flop down by my feet and go to sleep. When the next ferry finally arrived, we were one of the first to board. Unfortunately, however, we were parked on one of the downward ramps, which happened to be situated right next to the huge, rattling fans.

When we actually started moving we got out of the truck and moved to one of the windows that they have on the lower parking deck. Puppy seemed to enjoy looking out the window, and kept sniffing into the salty sea air as the spray from the water splashed onto the railing.

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She was perfect on the final stretch of our journey on the drive home. She sat on my lap for part of the drive and peered out of the window, and was quite fascinated with watching other vehicles drive by. Eventually she went into her crate and snoozed on and off.

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When we got home, I introduced her to everybody and the horses, and then put her in an x-pen beside the mini horses. Because she is a livestock guardian, she will be an outside dog, and with the puppies you are supposed to keep them in a separate, contained area in with or beside the livestock that they will be guarding so that they can start to bond with them. Eventually, when she gets a little bigger and more mature, she will be in the paddock with the horses, and will then also have free rein of the property. She seemed quite content to hang out near the horses, and was intrigued with watching them, although got a little concerned whenever them came right up to her fence. She soon got used to them however, and is now fine with them milling about beside her. While she settled into her new home, I started doing some more thinking for a name for her. I already had a list of potential names, but I didn’t want to decide on one until I picked out a pup. I went through the list and decided that Ayla was the one that suited her best. So now, puppy had a new home, and a new name.

The next day I started to get to know her more, and also gave her a bath, which she was surprisingly good for.

Afterwards she charged around the lawn, and I took the opportunity to take some pictures of her.

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Such a cute nose!

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Crazy puppy

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Moss is very fun to chew on, apparently

I have wanted my own dog for years now, and that wish finally came true. I’m immensely excited to start this new journey as a dog owner. Ayla is such a joy to have around, and quite the little love!

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Canada Day ~ a celebratory trail ride

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In celebration of Canada Day (and also just because I wanted to), Hope and I went on a trail ride. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Canada Day than to ride through some of trails that this beautiful country has to offer.

I went to the local equestrian park that I am very fortunate to be boarding right next to, literally. The park is directly across the street from the barn I am at, and one of the side entrances is just a minute road ride away, and since it is a very quiet street, with courteous and horse knowledgeable drivers, it isn’t a problem. As I’ve only been at this barn for a short period of time, I’ve only been to the park once before, and only for a quick 20 minute cool down. This time, I went for just over an hour to have an actual ride, and to be able to appreciate the park more and to see a greater extent of it.

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The best view in the world

For the most part, Hope was really good. She seemed to enjoy the change of scenery, and employed her time with looking at everything that she could. Apparently flowers are scary, as are downhill gradients. After we had been gone for about half an hour, she started to get a little anxious. Hope is a bit of a homebody (okay, a lot). It’s not that she’s herd bound, she just likes all of the comforts of home. She is very much so an urban loving horse, and very much so enjoys and appreciates all of the aspects of “modern” living. I am sure that she thinks forests and trail rides are simply too “uncivilized” for her. She is a princess, and much prefers the paved alleyways in and between barns to the more rustic trails (even though these trails are gorgeous, and wonderfully maintained).

Hope didn’t do anything stupid on our ride, but she wasn’t getting any more fond of it as time went on. Eventually I started working on our lateral work down the trails, just to give her something else to think about. She immediately gave a big sigh and began to settle down again. I think she was relieved to have something to do that was familiar to her, because, you know… those downhill slopes are very scary and foreign, and must be snorted at.

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In true dressage fashion, we did half pass zigzags, shoulder-in, travers, and renvers as we continued on our ride.

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I immensely enjoyed myself, and look forward to going again. I have no doubt that Hope will begin to get used to trail riding, although, I’m sure that she’ll always prefer her pristine arena, and manicured showgrounds to the trails.

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First Show Done!

Well, the first big show of the year has come to an end, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it went.

We hauled in on Thursday, which was one of the wettest, windiest, and downright most miserable days of the year. Of course, all of the indoors at the show facility were not usable, as they were all still filled with portable stalls from the two week jumper show that had taken place the week before. So, everyone was stuck riding outside, in the rain (which really was more like a monsoon). I, and several other people at the show quickly found out that our “waterproof” jackets were in fact not as waterproof as they claimed to be.

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Hope was fairly spunky for our Thursday warm-up ride, I don’t think she liked the rain (the delicate flower). However, after we worked through her bouncing about the ring like a crazy thing, she settled down into some really nice work. She was nice and forward, soft, and listening to what I was asking. I was feeling pretty confident and pleased with her when we were finished, despite the fact that we both resembled very drenched and sodden drowned rats. I spent the remainder of the day resurrecting my saturated tack, and getting everything ready and organized for my ride the next day.

I was somewhat saddened when I discover I had an early ride time. I was the first rider of the day, with my test scheduled for 8:45AM. While I realize that it isn’t super early, it meant that I had to wake up at 4:00AM in order to be at the showgrounds in time (as I live an hour away from it). I got up at the indecent hour of 4 o’clock, and trudged outside in the still black morning to feed and turn out the horses that were still at home. I left the house by 4:45, and got to the showgrounds just before 6:00; just enough time for me to feed Hope, lunge her, clean her stall, hand walk her, braid her, tack up, and then warm-up for our test. After I had gotten about halfway through this list, I decided to double check my ride time, and discovered that my time had been moved to 9:26! While the discovery wasn’t the end of the world, it was slightly annoying to learn that I didn’t need to get to the show quite as early as I did, c’est la vie. However, I suppose it wasn’t the worse thing that could have happened, as Hope actually really liked being one of the first horses to be fed. Normally she gets a little stressy when she sees other horses getting fed and going out for hand walks when she is still in her stall. Because of that, I decided to continue to get to the show at around 6:00AM for the remaining days (and I’ll probably continue to do this for future shows as well). So, I suppose that me not finding out about the change in my ride time until later wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

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An early morning hand walk and graze
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Hope staring at something off in the distance with a mouthful of grass

On Friday, Hope was really good for our warm-up; soft, forward, and listening to me. It had thankfully stopped raining, and was starting to turn out to be a very nice day. I think Hope was so relieved that she wasn’t getting pelted with rain that she was in a fairly good mood. Our actually test, third level test 3, started out really well. Our trot work was great, and she actually walked in our extended walk (not any hint of her wanting to jig)! Our canter departure was a little iffy though. She decided that she didn’t want to do it, and just swung her haunches in, eventually she did crow hop into it (which I take full responsibility for. I held her back a little too much with the curb, and she was just letting me know her opinion of me doing that). Most of the canter work went well. Our half-passes were good, and our flying change off of the left rein was clean, but our change from the right rein was late behind (again, which I’ll take responsibility for. I needed to be quicker with my inside leg). All in all, I was quite happy with the test. As I said, our trot work was great, and the problems in the canter work were simple fixes. With the first day done, I was feeling happy and satisfied.

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PC: Totem Photographs

On Saturday, I had a long wait until my ride time, which wasn’t until 4:17PM (it was our freestyle). I still chose to get to the show at around 6:00AM to feed Hope though, as she did seem to appreciate being fed early. After a seemingly unending time of waiting, I was finally able to start getting ready for my ride. I was a little nervous to ride my freestyle, as I had only ridden it one time before at a show, and had only practiced it a handful of times (due to not having a correct sized arena readily available). Hope was a little fussy in the start of our warm-up, but my coach soon came over and started working her magic with us and made everything fall back into place. Finally it was our time to enter the ring, and as I raised my hand, and the familiar music of Viva La Vida from Coldplay started to ring through the arena, I felt my nerves fall away. Our trot work was great, and we managed to stay with the music. I was also immensely pleased that Hope actually walked in our extended walk again! Two tests in a row! I was feeling pretty good about myself. Our canter portion started out well, but then I made a stupid mistake. How my floor plan works, is that I pick up the right lead canter in the corner before “C”, and then come across the “M”-“K” diagonal with a flying change, and then come out of the next diagonal, at “F” in halfpass. However, since one of the flying changes in our test from the previous day was late behind, I was quite preoccupied with thinking about them. So, I came across the first diagonal and asked for the change. I really rode it, and it was clean. I was pretty happy about that, and for whatever reason, started thinking about our next flying change, and how I need to ride it so that it would also be clean. Consequently, I went across the “F” diagonal, with a flying change. I was supposed to come out in halfpass! I realized my mistake when I reached the end of the diagonal, and had a minor panic attack. I tried not to show my horror, however, because this was a freestyle and the judge didn’t know my choreograph! I had to make quick decisions to rearrange my floor plan to fit in all of the required movements before the music ended. By some miracle, I managed to do it, and the audience, and the judge, were none the wiser. I was really pleased that, despite me messing up on the which movements were supposed to go where, we had managed a really nice test. Hope was good, and tried her heart out for me. I was also happy with the fact that I had actually enjoyed riding the freestyle. Previously, I had never enjoyed riding freestyles, I found them difficult, and staying with the music was just one more thing to have to think about. However, I actually had fun in this one, so that was the greatest accomplishment of the day for me. Finally being able to enjoy the music, and just ride.

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PC: Totem Photographs

Come Sunday, the last day, everyone was feeling pretty tired.

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A sleepy Hope covered in shavings

I was happy to have an early-ish ride time, 10:46AM, so that I could be finished and head back home before too late in the day (I pity the poor souls who didn’t ride until the very end of the show). Whereas Friday and Saturday had been fairly nice weather-wise, it was a rainy, drizzly morning on Sunday (although nothing like the monsoon we had on Thursday). However, it had more or less cleared up by the time I was ready to mount. Our warm-up went pretty well, Hope was getting a little tired of the show by then, though. Our final test was certainly a good note to end on, for it was the best ride of the weekend. We had no major problems (the only real issue was when Hope drifted off the rail in our left shoulder-in). Other than that though, Hope was superb, and it was a really solid test (if I do say so myself). And with the final salute, our show came to a close.

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Heading back to the barn after our ride.

I am thrilled with how far both Hope and I have come. We are assuredly not perfect, and still make lots of mistakes, but the most exciting part is that there is room for and the ability for improvement (the judge said so, so it must be true!). I’m eagerly looking forward to the journey ahead of us, and with where Hope will take me, and what she will teach me.

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Tbird Dressage
PC: Cara Grimshaw

Favorite Equestrian Related Quotes

I got to thinking the other day how certain quotes can inspire a person, or how someone may bring a quote to mind in a certain situation, either as motivation or to help better understand a situation. I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite equestrian related or equestrian applicable quotes.


“A horse will never tire of a rider who possesses both tact and sensitivity because he will never be pushed beyond his abilities.”

~Nuno Oliviera


“The best thing you can do for a horse that has a problem in his canter is use exercises within the canter, such as medium canter to smaller circles, which forces the horse to engage. This is how you help the horse achieve the goal you have for him as opposed to getting frustrated and then trying to force him with your strength. It is his strength he lacks, not his will.”

~Robert Dover


“When the contact is strong, the horse will be pulling with his forelimbs but when the contact is light, the horse will push with his hind limbs.”

~Blignault, South African School


“The essential premise for training is the psychological connection between man and creature. When this is lacking, the rider cannot cultivate or ennoble, but only enslave.”

~Col. Hans Handler


“When the horse and I are working together, not only should it look easy, but it should be easy, for both of us. Only in that way can we both feel happy and satisfied.”

~Kyra Kyrklund


“If you are able to take care of the basics, the movement will take care of itself.”

~Janet Foy


“Don’t take your horse’s mistakes personally. Don’t train via emotion. Feel with your heart and ride with your mind.”

~Janet Foy


“An exercise can only be successful when the rider herself finds the solution to her problem! Only then, will she be able to repeat the exercise and make it a habit.”

~von Dietze


“When you have a problem with your horse, you should solve that problem in such a way that your horse scarcely knows there is a problem.”

~Dr. Reiner Klimke


“If there is no energy, there is nothing to collect.”

~Kottas


“Every horse who is in front of the hands in behind the legs, and consequently escapes control at both ends.”

~Baucher


“Trust in the horse’s intelligence; generosity and ability bring rich rewards. Unbelief and distrust beget precisely what they anticipate: noncompliance and untrustworthiness.”

~Herbermann


“The first and last lessons are always shoulder-in.”

~de la Gueriniere


“The matter of contact affects not only the mouth, the neck and the back, but the functioning of the hind legs.”

~Froissard


“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”

~Charles Dickens


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

~Winston Chruchill


“Success is found in striving for victory.”

~Kathleen Haywood


These are some of my favorite quotes, and are ones that I often bring to mind when I find myself needing a little extra oomph, motivation, or to help solve a problem with my riding.

What are your favorite quotes? Do you have any special quote that you’ll think of when you are having an issue with your horse, or at any other time?

Touch of Class ~ Show Goals

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A couple of days ago I sent in my entries for the big gold dressage show on June 16th-18th, Touch of Class. I’ve always wanted to go to this show, but I’ve never had the guts to enter it. Even though it technically isn’t any bigger or more important than other gold shows I’ve been to, this show does seem bigger and fancier. For the past several years I’ve always gone to watch the show, but I have never actually been in it. This show is always well attended, and it usually attracts the bigger name trainers and fancier horses, hence why I’ve always been scared off of it before.

However, this year I decided to give it a shot. I thought that it would be interesting to get the comments from FEI 4* and 5* judges, and to start to get used to competing at the larger shows.

I didn’t enter many classes, because Hope typically prefers to only do one test per day. I’ll be doing third level test 3 on the first day, our third level freestyle on the second day (our first time doing it at a gold show), and third level test 3 again on the final day. I’m excited for this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve been thinking what my goals are for this show, and I’ve decided that there isn’t really one specific movement that I want to improve. We are getting a lot more consistent in our tests now, and I think that my goal now is to increase the overall quality of the entire test. I want to give all of my effort on these tests, and do the best that I possibly can. I want to give 100% of what I have to offer, that way, even if we don’t do all that well in comparison to the other competitors, I’ll know that we did our best, and gave it our best effort. I want to have fun at this show, and to be happy with the effort I put into it, and if I give it my utmost effort, I know I will be.

Epic results come from persistence and from a long haul approach. In other words, you must develop patience. Having a strategic plan gives you certainty that you will achieve your targets in the long run.

 One (maybe THE biggest) factor for epic results is actually effort.

 Putting maximum effort into what ever you do will give you the best results and highest satisfaction.

 Use every challenge as an opportunity for you to show maximum effort and your innate talent.

~Dirk Stroda

 

Blog Hop~ My Favorite Exercises

Inspired by the900facebookpony’s post on her favorite riding exercises, I decided to follow suit and write about what my favorite exercises are.

For starters, I really enjoy incorporating going forward and back on a circle, in either trot or canter (although it also works in the walk). I integrate collected, working, and extended gaits in this exercise. Typically, I start in a working gait, and then ask Hope to collect for just a  few strides, I then immediately send her forward again into either a working or extended gait. Then, I ask her to collect again, and repeat. I find this exercise really useful for getting Hope to rock back on her haunches and to really start using and swinging through her back. I like to do it on a circle because it tends to keep the exercise more controlled, plus, I can then really engage her inside hind leg. Although, I have also done this exercise going along the rail of the arena, but I don’t find it quite as effective.

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Sorry for the low quality screenshots, but they’re the only new pictures I have

Another exercise that I enjoy, is a 3 loop serpentine in canter without flying changes (so the center loop is in counter canter). As a former jumper, Hope has a strong dislike for counter canter. For the longest time, counter canter was practically impossible for us to do, but after almost two years of training and experimenting with different exercises, we can finally counter canter. This exercise was one of the most helpful for us in developing the counter canter. Since Hope has a long and somewhat weaker back, I like using counter canter to build her strength, balance, and suppleness.

Recently, in the middle counter canter loop, I have started asking for a bit of travers on the suggestion of my coach (for example, on the right lead, I would ask for right travers). This has really helped with our canter pirouettes. This exercise seems to help strengthen Hope’s hind-end and rock her onto her hocks to improve her balance. We’ll start out with the 3 loop serpentine without flying changes, and then come across the diagonal into a pirouette. This exercise has really helped Hope get the understanding of coming around her haunches in the pirouettes, and to not just leave her haunches trailing behind her.

I also find riding canter pirouettes on a square to be a useful exercise. Basically, it’s exactly how it sounds. I ride a square in the canter, and in each corner I ask for a 1/4 turn of a pirouette. Right before the corner, I collect Hope for a couple of strides, and then ask for the pirouette. After that, I send her forward, and then repeat the exercise in the next corner. Sometimes, if we aren’t organized enough to do a pirouette by the time we’ve reached the next corner, I just skip that one and move onto the following corner.

One of my most favorite exercises, my crown jewel, is doing shoulder-in to halfpass to shoulder-in. I start the exercise in shoulder-in for a few strides, and then move into halfpass for a few strides, and then finish on shoulder-in. I like to experiment with asking for Hope to really collect in the shoulder-in, maintain her current pace and rhythm, or to also have more of a medium pace in the shoulder-in. This exercise really helps to prepare for the halfpass. The shoulder-in aids in establishing the correct bend, and it also helps me to maintain enough impulsion in the halfpass. This exercise works in all of the gaits, walk, trot, and canter. Of course, when first starting out it is immensely easier to start at the walk, and slowly move up from there.

These are my main exercises that I like to do. What are your favorite riding exercises?