Who Are You and What Have You Done with My Pony

Hi guys! I pinky promise, my training is over at the end of this week and then I can return to my regularly scheduled programming of commenting “woohoo!” on all of your posts. Rest assured that I’m sending you mental “woohoo’s” at this very moment.

So I had a crazy horse lady moment at work yesterday- someone mentioned that sneakers can get expensive, over $100 and I basically had a stroke. How can people pay that much for shoes just to run in?!?! Says the girl eying the $800 field boots. Oops.

Anywho, on to the lesson! Due to the dust, we warmed up in the indoor arena last night. I don’t mind that- we had all the doors open so there was a nice crossbreeze, and Addy seems to be more comfortable on the footing in there. Some minor work without stirrups (D’arcy, if you’re reading this please know that if you start up a conversation with Trainer while we’re posting without stirrups again, I will burst into tears) and a bunch of circles and serpentines to get us loosened up and moving.

Onwards to the canter. And Addy was soft, and balanced, and responsive, and downright slow. What?! DragonMare loping around on a soft rein?? No need to constantly half-halt?? Collecting with little effort even after a lengthening?? It was so civilized!! She hadn’t been ridden since the show, so I’m not sure if it was the mini-vacation or the almost 24-hour turnout she’s been getting lately, but she was one happy camper. Whatever the reason is, she was an absolute pleasure to ride. We still giraffe-d around during our canter-trot transitions, but there was much less wrestling going on. Love it! I couldn’t believe this was the same sassy elephant that dragged me around the show ring on Saturday.

On to the jumping. Stick with me folks, because this one is a little confusing. We changed up our courses a couple times and approached almost every fence from both sides and I was at a bit of a loss on how best to label. I’ll do my best to explain as we go along.


First thing we warmed up over g-f: trotting in to the gray vertical slightly broken to the stone wall. Instead of galloping to try 3, Addy was very happy to sit and wait for the 4! I made sure to release very generously so she would know how happy I was about her softness.

Once we did that a couple times to get ourselves nice and straight on the approach, we built up our first course: c-B-A-C-D. Long approach up to the yellow plank, over the black vertical on the wall, then come back to trot during the rollback over the green rolltop, then the diagonal line in 3 strides.

This was tricky! The long approach was pretty comfortable since we sliced in between jumps D and F, but then we wanted to get a nice balanced distance to B. Then it was a bit of a struggle to come back to a trot over the rolltop, and we had to leg up out of the corner to approach the line, then half halt to fit the comfortable 3 in. We ended up doing the diagonal line again since we picked up a bit too much steam and I half-halted much too weakly in the middle. Then I tried just B-A again so I could get a more powerful packaged canter to the vertical and watch my track around to the rolltop.

Next course! C-D-F-c-a-b. I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting at least one fence at the beginning of this course or mixing something up here, but whatever. I could be making this whole thing up, there’s no video evidence to prove me wrong. Cue evil laugh.

So the comfortable diagonal line in three, then we had to balance hard around the turn to the stone wall. We ended up slicing this a bit so we could get a nice straight track to the yellow plank instead of bending out- it was tight and we had to woah pretty hard to fit in the strides, but I liked the more direct track for us. Then around the corner to the rolltop, but instead of going into the corner we turned almost down the center-line for the approach. Opening rein to roll back over the black vertical on the wall.

Yeah, we had to try that rollback again. I held way too much inside rein and inside leg, and we got the weirdest approach to that black- almost trotting on the approach because she was so confused about where we were heading. I wasn’t prepared for her to turn so tightly so we basically jumped into the wall. On our next try I held a much stronger outside leg and outside rein to keep her straight through the turn, and legged up HARD when we approached the vertical so she would have the power to hop over it.

Next course! E-D-F-G-C-D. Surprisingly good. Up the red outside vertical, rollback over the pink vertical, then canter in to the stone wall and trot out the gray vertical, ending on the diagonal line.

A couple odd questions here: tight rollback turn and then a canter-in-trot-out line! I was really happy with that rollback, she listened really well to where I placed her on that track. Then I sat up and packaged her up really hard so we had a teeny-tiny bouncy canter going into the line. When we landed, I sat down and asked for the trot, and Addy was so super confused. Trotting in the middle of a line?! There’s something in between cantering and halting??! She was not planning on jumping the vertical out since she thought I was asking her to stop, but I managed to keep a strong leg on and boot her off the ground. Then leg up around the corner and balance down the diagonal line, which rode the same.

Such a fun lesson!! Most of the jumps stayed pretty small, but jumps B D and E were probably around 2’9″ish. The entire time, Addy stayed soft and responsive and listened so well to my leg- I think doing these more technical courses gives her something to pay attention to. Those hunter courses are just boring to her 😉 There were only three of us in the lesson including Assistant Trainer and my lesson/show-buddy, so I felt like we were able to really dig in and work hard on what we need to fix. My auto release came in super handy around these tight rollbacks- I was able to open my inside hand while we were still in the air so we could land already turning. I’m glad that I’m finally holding my leg and core more tightly so I have more options on “talking” to Addy during our rides. I’m hoping that if I can stay soft and relaxed, Pretty Girl will give me rides like this all the time!

I also wore my awesome rust-ish breeches, so those look super cool. I’ve got a breeches review coming up once things slow down a bit, so stay tuned for that!

Post-lesson sweaty smiles

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go squeal over pictures of my niece. She gets more and more perfect every day.

Chapter 3: In Which Someone Cut Our Brake Lines

I’m dashing off this show recap as quickly as possible, so I’m gonna stick with the key points (the madness is almost over! Only one more week of this infernal training).

  • Showing with a friend is actually the best thing ever. When I slept through my alarm and panicked, she made sure my horse was fed and free lunged her for a bit so we wouldn’t be late. We were able to compare notes on how best to ride the course, which we learned together. We clapped and cheered for each other, laughed about our goofs (mostly my goofs, she was an absolute flippin’ rockstar), and were able to be crazy horse girls in peace. Once we were done, we got comfy with some cider and chatted while watching some other divisions run. So much fun!
  • The outdoor ring was super huge, but all the jumps were set up kinda in the middle, so there would be a four stride outside line and then A HALF MILE AROUND THE END to a single diagonal and then THREE AND ONE QUARTER LEAGUES to the end of the ring before coming back up a different line. It was kinda ridiculous.
  • You know the song “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks? Pretty sure that was Addy’s theme song as she trucked around that ring. Or maybe “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. There was more than one occasion where I considered using any means necessary to pull up and exit the ring, because I had zero control of our speed. I ended up steering towards the jumps to use them as speedbumps so we finished all of our courses, but it was a bit insane. I didn’t feel unsafe at all, just mildly curious if she would actually jump out of the ring and never stop. Like, ever.
  • When I voiced my concerns to Assistant Trainer, she gave me the best pep talk ever. It was along the lines of, “Olivia, you’re not weak. You have muscles, I’ve seen them. Stop forgetting you have muscles and use them. Stop forgetting that you know how to ride and actually ride.” Somehow that was exactly what I needed to hear, and the rest of our rounds went much more smoothly.
  • We knocked down ALL OF THE RAILS. I was super confused since Addy almost never touches the rails, especially at shows, but we weren’t the only ones. The only clear rounds came from the ex-jumper who has a deathly allergy to knocking rails. The rest of us were bonking things out of the standards left and right.
  • Our flat class was a big ol’ LOL. It was actually going quite well until we picked up the wrong lead not once, not twice, but three times and Addy was like “WOMAN LET ME DO THIS GET OUT MY FACE” and I was like “GURL YOU GIVE ME THE RIGHT LEAD AND THEN WE CAN TALK” and she was like “FINE” and about three strides later the announcer said “Trot please, all trot” and Addy was like “NOPE LET ME SHOW YOU MY CANTER” and then we got last place. Gotta giggle at that. I only did the flat class for our 3′ division to try and get points towards a tricolor, didn’t even bother with the 2’9″ division.
  • While I was definitely not happy with my riding, I was very happy with how we ended the day. I kicked my own butt into gear and actually muscled her around instead of perching on top like a pretty little eq princess. We certainly didn’t look like hunters at that point, but I felt much more effective and confident with how she was listening to me. Seriously, we need to be in the jumpers where we can be effective without worrying about being pretty.
  • Manfriend and his brother came to watch my rounds, so enjoy their commentary in the video here. I think it’s absolutely adorable how manfriend so matter-of-factly explains things to his bro. Heads up- he is my filthy-mouthed Marine, so there are a few minor swears in there.

If you want to skip to certain spots, here’s the breakdown:

0:00 1st round 2’9″ Benefit Hunters. We had a glorious refusal right off the bat, and if you look closely around 1:01 you can see where our brake lines are cut and I lose any semblance of control. Somehow we managed 4th out of 5 entries for that class (I’m guessing the person in 5th must have refused All Of The Jumps).

1:35 2nd round 2’9″ Benefit Hunters. I was much happier with this one. Still pounding the ground like an elephant, but I felt like I had much more control here. This got us 2nd out of 5.

3:27 Working Hunters Under Saddle. Highlights at 3:56 when a dog leaped out at us and Addy could not make herself care, and at 4:45 when we went full-sassdragon. 3rd out of 3 duhhh.

6:01 1st round 3′ Working Hunters. Waiting for everyone to be out of the ring is for rated shows, this is the local circuit SON. Rail down at 6:25. Really cute chip and fence-destruction at 6:57. Brakes stop working again around 7:02. This got us 2nd out of 3.

7:20 2nd round 3′ Working Hunters. LADY GET OUT OF MY RING. A delicate knocking of a rail at 7:53. A dainty mess at 8:06. Then we did that 8-stride in a very comfortable 7-stride-GALLOP. Also 2nd out of 3. This clinched our Reserve Champion in the division, we love tricolors!

A parting thought- I realized after I got home that none of my nerves were related to the height. It didn’t even register as a concern. Apparently I’m even more comfortable at 3′ than I thought! Also, show friends are best friends.


In exponentially more important news, I have a niece!!!! She was born this morning and everyone is healthy and happy and overjoyed to share the world with this precious little girl. She’s so perfect, there are no words. I know that my brother and his wife (who is my sister in every sense and my best friend) are going to be incredible parents and I can’t wait to spoil her rotten! I’ll be waiting on permission from the new Mom and Dad before sharing pics, but I will tell you straight up that she is the cutest baby I’ve ever seen.

Twice the Lessons, Twice the Fun

Hey gang!

I want to start out by apologizing to all of you- I’m stuck in all-day training this week and next (meaning no breaks or lunch breaks), and have had some late nights taking care of things, so I’m woefully behind on catching up with what’s going on in all y’alls lives. Don’t be surprised in two weeks when you get 14 comments from me at once. I miss you guys.

But despite the soul crusher that is 8 solid hours of training, I managed to fit in two lessons this week! I think that’s why I’m still sane. I am not made for sitting for 8 hours.

Tuesday’s lesson was at 6pm and I didn’t get released from training until 5:35, so I raced over there knowing I would be late. My barn buddy is the best human ever and groomed Addy for me so all I had to do  was throw her saddle on and vault into the tack! Seriously she has such value as a human. We had a very relaxed warmup in the outdoor ring, popped over a crossrail a couple times, then headed inside. By this point I had finally relaxed from the angst of running late and we were having a good time.

Tuesday’s course!


Hokay. I’m having a little trouble remembering back to Tuesday since I’m writing this directly after my Wednesday lesson, but I’ll try. From what I can recall, the main course we worked on was 3-4-5-2b-6a. So: we start off away from home with the long approach to the brick wall. Then we come down the quarter line in a bright three, balance up the long approach to the outside vertical, and finish down the stone wall.

I won’t spend too much time on this because honestly I don’t remember the details. Oops. I do remember that we bumped the jumps up to 2’9″-3′-ish and that Addy was her usual rockstar self. I focused on sitting up straighter and deeper to the jumpers, and she was superbly adjustable. Trainer was very happy with our ride and said it was a good schooling.

Flash forward to today, which my shoddy memory has actually managed to hold on to. Trainer is out of town to attend Rolex (so lucky!), so Assistant Trainer stepped in. I’ve mentioned her in the past- I absolutely adore her. She’s no nonsense and doesn’t let anyone (horse or rider) make excuses, but is always incredibly supportive and focuses just as much on what went well as what needs fixing. So while I love my trainer, I ain’t even mad that her assistant stepped in.

Our warmup was pretty interesting- there were a whole bunch of horses in the ring so it was a bit hectic. Combined with the cooler temperatures today and gusty winds, there were a few behavior issues. Not from Addy, obviously.

One of the horses in the ring truly hates Addy, and when we got a little too close in his bubble while we were passing he proceeded to throw a hissy fit of epic proportions. That dude really holds a grudge. I felt awful that we were what set him off; I had no idea we were close enough to bug him. Turns out he hates other gray horses! AT (Assistant Trainer) hopped on him to give him a good school, and then his mom took him out of the ring. We finished warming up and started jumping!

The course was set the same as the previous day, so please refer to the same diagram for your convenience. Our first course was: 1-2a-3-4-5-6b. Up the red skinny, down the outside, up the brick wall, down the quarter line in three, up the stone wall.

What we needed to work on here was power, not speed. Addy was happy to sit back and wait to the jumps, but we needed to maintain the power as we slowed our pace so she could work with whatever distance came up. The quarter line in particular came up with some difficulty- it’s a very short turn out of the corner and the striding was a little odd. We warmed up trotting into that line in four, so it was a big open three. Or in Addy’s case, a three where we only needed to woah slightly. We used our new counter-bending tip around the corner up the stone wall and nailed it!

Then AT put the jumps up all around. Cue maniacal laughter. Our next course was: 2b-6a-3-4-5. Short and sweet. 2b was the same old vertical on the wall that we’ve done a thousand times, nothing new to see there. We held a nice comfortable pace down to the stone wall, which had been converted into a 2’9″ oxer. Then maintaining a nice steady pace up the long approach to the 3′ brick wall, and balancing out of the turn for the yellow plank to the pink oxer, which had been set somewhere between 3’3″ and 3’6″.

The last three jumps were where we ran into difficulty and had to try again. Addy tends to laser-lock on her next jump and charge it, so we tried really hard to maintain a nice steady beat up to the base of the brick wall. Then that difficult corner around to the quarter line. We did get a bit of a gappy distance to the yellow in, so I had to sit deep and hold her together so the three would be comfortable even with the oxer set high. Our second time through, we nailed it! Pretty Girl absolutely flew, it was barely a stretch for her. This is our first time jumping higher than 3′ outside of a gymnastic and it went so well!

Ohmahgah it looks so huge from this angle

Addy got lots of carrots as a reward for packing my butt around the ring and keeping such a good attitude about it. All the mares in the barn are in season, but she’s such a tank I would’ve never noticed if someone didn’t tell me. I’m the biggest fan of non-marish-mares. Love my sweet girl!

To add to the amazingness, I came home to this:

Pure bliss.

Dover was having a big sale online in addition to their tent sale, so when I saw these suckers for a steal I couldn’t say no. I’m finally a proud owner of my very own monogrammed saddle pad! The trim and monogram are both in hunter green (my favorite color on Pretty Girl) and I’m seriously SO EXCITED to give it a try. #obsessed

Also in show news: …we moved it back to Saturday. After figuring out scheduling, we’re heading back to the same place we went at the end of April to do an outdoor show. We’ll warm up over a 2’9″ course and then do the 3′ division. My lesson buddy is showing too and I can’t even describe how happy I am to have a friend there to cheer on and share our successes and defeats. And manfriend is indeed on camera duty, so I should have some cool videos to share next week 🙂 A little bummed that we aren’t going to a show offering the Medal, but there’s always next time! It’s shaping up to be another fantastic weekend.

That wraps up the end of my long winded speech. Can’t wait to reconnect with all of you once this training is over and life slows down a bit!

Wordless Wednesday- She heard me.

Taken yesterday, approximately three hours after I posted my “How to Groom Your Gray Horse” instructions. I don’t know how well you can see, but she was absolutely crusted with mud from nose to tail. I’m registering her as a dun from now on.

How to Groom Your Gray Horse

Friends, we’ve all heard George Morris explain how to groom your horse properly: curry, hard brush, soft brush, damp rag. As our High King, we must listen to his wisdom.

I humbly submit this slightly altered version- with few differences!- that has been optimized for you and the gray horse in your life.



  1. Assess the damage. There are stains, you just have to identify them. If your gray horse doesn’t have stains, then go away. But first tell us all how you did it.
  2. Marvel at the extent of said damage. How did she manage to get a poop stain INSIDE her ear?!
  3. Decide to pick hooves first. At least there’s a pretty solid guarantee that if nothing else, her hooves will be clean by the end of this.
  4. Curry all over until your arms are sore. Focus on the butt. Congratulate yourself on taking such good care of your pet unicorn.
  5. Grab the hard brush. Swish and flick motion, people. Levi-O-sa, not Levio-SA.
  6. Breathe in all the hair and dust you’ve just stirred up into a delicious dander-tornado and hack up a lung.
  7. Re-inspect for stains. They’re all still there. Seriously all of them. How did all that currying do absolutely nothing?
  8. Re-attack with gusto, fueled by rage. Arm starts to hurt as the anger fades. Start to loathe the curry comb. Ow my arm.
  9. Take a break to comb her mane. Did she actually manage to pee on her own neck???
  10. Maybe we could at least get her face clean?
  11. No dice, she rubbed her face into the clay mud and now she’s a Navajo war pony.
  12. Frantically search for options and catch sight of a sponge.
  13. Sponge and scrub at all the gross spots.
  14. Realize that somehow this is turning the dirt on her coat into mud that’s sticking just as tenaciously. Why is this mud so sticky? Is there secretly glue in the soil here?
  15. Give up entirely and hose your horse off. Use copious amounts of purple shampoo so your pet unicorn can be a beautiful glowing white. Find out that your horse has a sock on their hind leg that you never knew about.
  16. Wipe the tear from your-awestruck eye as you watch your stunningly gorgeous snow-white pony canter gracefully up a hill, framed by the setting sun.
  17. Wipe more tears as your stunningly gorgeous snow-white pony rolls around in a poop-mud slurry, taking special care to rub it deep into her mane.
  18. Get into staring contest with your horse, the smug bastard.
  19. Your horse wins the staring contest.
  20. Sigh and go home covered in white hair, dirt, mud, and Mystery Substance F.
  21. Try not to cry. Cry a lot.
  22. Repeat as needed.


There you have it, folks! A simple, easy to follow guide on how to keep your pet unicorn shining brightly in the warmer weather!

Sorry George, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

In Which We Become an Eq Team

Another awesome lesson in the books! And even better, we were able to warm up outside.

I scooted over to the barn after work and had quite a bit of time to kill, so I obviously spent that time pestering Trainer about our next show. I’m an addict. Gotta scratch the itch. I had found one in the area on the 25th (same location as our last show), but we have a junior who needs to qualify for the Children’s Medal, so we needed to find a show that offered the eq.

As an eq-lover, I immediately found a show on the 26th down the road. Aaaand they also have a 3′ Adult Medal! Apparently those classes rarely fill around here because no one cares about the eq (I live smack in the middle of Hunterland), so we’re solving that by bringing 3 adults. We’ll fill our own goshdarn classes. Goshdarnit. So if you’re in the area and want to come say hi at the Elmington Farm show out in Berryville on Sunday the 26th, we’ll be there with bright smiling faces!

I also got a special package from my awesomest ever lesson buddy; the Dover near us had a tent sale last week and I was out of town, so she was my enabler and texted me pics of everything. I am now the proud owner of 3 bottles of QuicSilver (can never have too much, amiright?) and a gorgeous pair of “Clay” TS breeches. They’re like a soft burnt orange and SO pretty. I may have also ordered a monogrammed saddle pad…they were so cheap I couldn’t resist! I got it in white with hunter green piping and a hunter green monogram, I can’t wait to try it on Pretty Girl.

All this before I even stepped in the barn!

Miss Addy was a delight to tack up as usual, and we hopped on in the outside ring. The last two times I’ve ridden out here Addy seemed a little short-stepped and this ride was no exception- the footing is quite different from the indoor and not as deep. She opened up just fine once she realized that the ground wasn’t going to hurt her tootsies. She’s been getting a ton of extra turnout lately and I could tell! Our canter-trot transitions were actually canter-trot transitions, with very little giraffing around. She was still quite peppy but also seemed more in tune with my aids, which is always a pleasure to ride.

Then we headed inside to jump! Side note- in a bizarre twist, our indoor is actually bigger than our outdoor, so we jump inside year-round. There are a couple jumps set up in the outdoor but there’s not enough room for a full course unless it’s 18″-2′. Side note over.


We warmed up over the crossrail (A) a couple times in both directions, then added the long approach up to B. We then built up the course to be: B-C-D-E-F-G. Short and sweet, but full of long approaches and a quarter line. Ouch.

The long approach to B was comfortable since we hadn’t built up full steam. Coming down towards home over the stone wall at C was a little more difficult since we were rolling by that point. I focused on swinging our path out a bit to the right so we could jump it at a slight angle right to left. This got us nice and deep in the corner so we could make the tight turn up the quarter line- even with Trainer’s warning we swung wide up the quarter line the first time through. The quarter line was a comfortable three with a little bit of a woah, and then the long approach down to the skinny green oxer. She did peek at that one a bit so I kept my leg on and kept her straight and we got a good distance right to the base. Then it was leg up the long approach to the red vertical.

After seeing my video last week I decided to focus really hard on sitting up straight to the jumps and getting rid of what Trainer calls “the Virginia Hunter Lean.” She explained to me that we go so much better when I sit deep and drive Addy to the base instead of “allowing” her up to it. She will absolutely carry me over no matter what, but when I sit and drive we get much more comfortable distances and are crazy-adjustable. She was absolutely right- I sat up straight and sat deep, and was actually able to have a much softer ride with Addy. I’ve always had the idea that if I stay light on  her back then I can soften with my hands, but it’s totally the opposite. Once I sat down and sat up, she lightened on her forehand, was more responsive to my leg, and didn’t hang on the bit. It was awesome!

Trainer also had us counter-bend around the corners, which made a super huge difference in our tracks. She told us to watch any show-jumping pair: they’re not bending through those rollbacks. They’re doing something that looks more like a turn on the haunches because they’re counter-bending through those tight turns. This was something else that clicked immediately with Addy! I stopped trying to curve her around my leg in the tight corners, and instead focused on keeping her very light on the forehand and straight in her body. She was much more balanced through the turns and it was a way more comfortable ride- no more digging out of corners.

To finish out, Trainer put the quarter line up to 2’9″-3’ish and had me do C-D-E-b-rollback out. Since I’m hoping to do the eq medal she wanted me to practice some of these tight turns.

So another long approach towards home to the stone wall which was very comfortable, then counter-bend around the corner up the quarter line (which was really fun with the jumps up!), and then collect and balance to the other stone wall, then rollback left to the rail and out.

I wish someone had gotten this rollback on video, because it felt perfect. Because I kept her nice and straight through the corner approach and was sitting deep, we pitter-pattered right to the jump so quietly! Seriously, I think that might have been the most energetic collected bouncy canter I’ve ever gotten out of her. We jumped it a little over to the left which wasn’t ideal, but since we were so balanced coming in, the rollback was very easy. Again, we counter-bent through that and behold: no bulging out.

This was a relaxed lesson and the jumps stayed pretty low for most of it, but we don’t need to jump 3′ every single time. I learned so much about how to get the best ride possible out of Addy! It’s like a little recipe:

  • Sit deep and straight in the saddle
  • Add leg
  • Counter bend through the turns
  • Release generously with hands
  • Voila! You have a soft, adjustable, fancy pony!

I’m out of town again this weekend so I won’t be riding again until Monday, but I can’t wait to get back on and play around some more with my girl.

Does your horse prefer that you get off their back, or do they like you to sit deep and drive? What are your thoughts on using counter-bend like this?

Wordless Wednesday- Tail Braiding

Not perfect, but not too shabby for my second time trying! Having trouble with starting it at the top and keeping it straight mostly. Would love any tips you might have!

What Does Trainer Say?

Recently I had a lengthy discussion with my trainer about horse care, and I was so happy to hear that we have very similar philosophies on how to keep horses happy and healthy. She also had some new perspectives for me, so here’s the rundown on what we talked about:

  • Memory foam saddle pads- Not a huge fan. She made an interesting point that when the rider is posting or landing from jumping, the foam doesn’t spring back that quickly, so it’s not truly absorbing much shock. She’s a big fan of the classic sheepskin pads, because those move with the horse and are more breathable. I’ve been lusting after an Ogilvy pad, but now I’m going to consider it more. Readers with a memory foam pad- I’d love to hear your perspective on this!
  • Turnout- horses need it. End of story. She talked about how she worked in a professional dressage barn for a while after college, and one top mare received absolutely no turnout because it would throw out her back. Read that: this horse was stalled indefinitely because they thought any movement not under saddle would hurt her, and they couldn’t risk her career. Horses are made to wander and move around all day, not stand and wait for their rider! I feel so very strongly about this. It’s one thing to stall your horse when injured to keep them from getting hurt further, but horses are simply not made to stand still all day. The more outside time, the better. Addy is a case in point: when she had very limited turnout, she was a devil pony. Now she is so level-headed. I attribute that almost entirely to increased turnout.
  • Bits- better a softer hand with a stronger bit than a heavy hand with a gentler bit. Even the mildest bit can deaden a horse’s mouth if it’s being pulled on non-stop. If the horse is not responding to the simple snaffle, try a french link. If they’re heavy on the french link, try a slow twist. My trainer’s philosophy is this: if the rider has independent hands and can be trusted to release more once the bit is changed, that’s probably the right way to go. That’s why we moved up to a slow-twist with Addy recently- I’m able to be lighter with my hands than I was with the french-link and she respects my aids more. If the rider is still going to cling to the mouth, do not make the bit harsher. It has to be a conversation.
  • Regular saddle pads- probably not causing your horse to go lame/move better. This may be a little controversial; I’ve read quite a few product reviews by fellow bloggers that feel very strongly that certain pads make their horse feel better, and I don’t want to step on any toes. Maybe I just haven’t found that magic pad yet. But I use different pads all the time with Addy, and it had never affected how she goes. Whether or not she had turnout that day, how cold it is, how hard the footing is, how floppy-potato I am, all these things definitely make a big difference. But swapping out one all-purpose pad for another hasn’t done a goshdarn thing. Trainer is in agreement- equipment absolutely changes how a horse moves, but it’s not at the top of the list of factors she checks for. The first is always the rider.
  • Showing up for work- we actually chatted about this for quite a long time, because it’s so nuanced. If a horse really hates his job, then it’s probably not the right fit. Addy loves jumping, so we jump. Some horses hate jumping, so they don’t. There’s always the give and take to figure out what a horse’s “calling” is- the discipline that allows them to shine and be happy in their work. But there are always going to moments/days/stretches when a horse does not want to do their job (humans have those moments. Dogs have those moments. Every creature has those moments where they say “won’t.”). Or they want to do their job, but they want to do it their own way instead of listening. Case example: Addy loves jumping. Addy occasionally ducks out of jumps that she finds scary. In these cases, it’s my job to give her support and encouragement that the jump won’t eat her, but in the end she is going over that jump whether she wants to or not. She knows her job quite well; she needs to show up and do it. This is a rather rambling bullet, but here’s the TL;DR version: the horse needs to like their job overall, but the rider needs to push the horse through those off days.
  • Expectations- horses will generally feed back to you what you expect. Whether that’s expecting and enforcing personal space on the ground or expecting a spook in the scary dark corner. By anticipating a spook, the horse senses that there’s something to be scared about. By not enforcing boundaries on the ground, the horse knows he can get away with being pushy. While not always the case, if we expect better from our horses then we often receive it.

Readers, please share your perspectives on any and all of these topics! We all have different approaches to horsemanship and I’d love to hear yours!

Weekend Call to Action

Hi there readers!

Instead of writing a post on something interesting, this post is going to be asking you all to share.

Here’s the deal: as you may have seen on Wednesday, I’m now on Twitter! You can find me there at my usual handle- @hellomylivia.

What I need from you: Advice. Despite the fact that my generation invented the darn thing, I really don’t understand Twitter that much. All I know is that it’s supposedly a great tool to connect with people, bloggers love it, and I now have an avenue for the occasional snarkfest.

So please share in the comments:

  1. What’s your favorite way to use Twitter?
  2. How did you learn about Twitter? Any articles, blog posts, word of mouth, anything! I need an education.
  3. What’s your handle? I’d like to follow you guys!

I’m out of town this weekend (At a lake house with manfriend, his hockey team, and assorted hangers-on; should be as ridiculous as it sounds), so I won’t be checking the comments until Monday. Please share your wisdom with me!