Pretty Girl Photo Dump

The promised photos! All taken by an extremely talented junior at our barn- you should totally check out her Instagram @hgielloh, she posts awesome pics of her and her hunky gelding doing the big eq and super cool shows.

I know I should do what Lauren at She Moved to Texas does and use these photos in my blog posts….but I have absolutely no self control and must share them with you all at once.

face wut
oh wow such majestic
looking really not pleased about the whole “no-stirrup” thing
cute trot!
are pics when you’re in the “up” of your positing trot always awkward, or is it just me?
continued majesty.
holy crap she’s massive
seriously what a beefcake
oh wow leg looking SUPER effective here
gonna go sit on my horse couch for a little bit
ohmygosh her face is the cutest little pony face!!!!
just look at it!
by my expression, it seems that someone just told me that my mother died. y u in such pain, self?
human derping at no stirrups. horse super photogenic.
Pretty Girl being super Pretty.
those floppy donkey ears!
another sweet flop. lawlz elbowz.
taking a breather to admire how cute and relaxed and easy this pony is

Talented photog had to run at this point, but I promise it got better from there. Read my lesson recap if you don’t believe me.

Hope you enjoyed seeing more of the majestic unicorn that is the DragonMare!

Mental Health Day

What a treat for you, Dear Reader: two professional Powerpoint diagrams two days in a row!!

Yesterday’s lesson was exactly what I needed: a reminder that even though we couldn’t do Very Hard Things on Monday, there’s plenty that we’re still good at and we’ve come so SO far together.

After a lovely afternoon thunderstorm rolled through, we warmed up in the outdoor ring. The rain kept the dust down and it was beautiful soft afternoon sunshine as the sun began to set. As I was walking around to get ready, I had one of those “how lucky am I?” moments. Answer: fortunate beyond belief.

Addy is always very short-stepped in the outdoor ring and dislikes going into the corners, so I focused on holding my leg strongly and pushing her exactly where I wanted her. Once I sat deeper in the saddle our circles got much more civilized. At one point a piece of machinery nearby backfired twice (sounded like a gunshot!) and Addy twitched and continued on. Love this spook-proof pony. We also did lots and lots of no-stirrup work at the trot and canter with Trainer laughing gleefully and yelling, “I love no stirrup work, it makes me sleep better at night to make you do it!” No joke, she was downright giddy.

We popped over a crossrail in the outdoor a couple times to warm up, then headed inside to play. Here’s our course!


We warmed up over the quarter line towards home G-C a couple times. We trotted in and cantered out, so Trainer wanted us to do it in 4 strides. The first time through was great, the second was a very gappy three because I got complacent, and then we schooled through 2 more times to reinforce the 4. It’s awesome that she moves up for me, but I need to keep that leg tight and half-halt as soon as we land to remind her that a short, powerful stride to the base is our friend.

Then on to our course! We did A-B-C-D-E-F-G. Isn’t it funny how alphabetical that is? Almost like I planned it that way. So outside red 2’9″-3’ish vertical, then down the diagonal swedish oxer at 2’6″ish. Up the broken pink to yellow plank in a bending four (both 2’3″-2’6″ish), down the outside zebra-gate at 2’9″, and back up the swedish the other direction broken to the stone wall (2’3″ish) in a direct three. Nothing too big or scary for us, though the zebra gate was brand new.

Our first jump was very nice even though it was one of the bigger ones on course and out of a long approach. We’ve done this approach often enough that I know how to leg up and hold for our distance, and Addy rarely wiggles to this anymore. Coming down the swedish was actually ridiculous- we took a totally huge flier over it. Good pony for saving my butt when I thought we had another stride in there. In all honesty, I should’ve held stronger for that closer distance. Lesson learned. Our first time through we got a little gappy into the pink, so I had to sit deep and WOAH for the four, but we salvaged that and jumped out well. We came around to the zebra and I got complacent, which meant that Pretty Pony ducked out. New scary jump plus lack of commitment from the lady upstairs? She wasn’t feeling it. So I circled and came at that sucker with so much gumption! She went just fine after that. We were a little strung out to the swedish in the other direction though the distance was decent, and held for the broken three out.

We went back through and tried this again, and I changed a couple things. I still got a bit of a gap into the oxer, which got us a bit strung out for the first broken. I committed HARD to the zebra fence and we got that very comfortably, and finished up more packaged and controlled for the final broken.

Trainer had me go back and just do the long approach to the oxer to the broken four. I kept my leg on more strongly and held to the base, which set us up really nicely through the corner on landing. It made it a lot easier to get more powerful- not faster or longer, just more powerful- out of the turn to the pink, so our distance set us up for a nice bouncy four out.

One side note: Addy was absolutely jumping out of her skin over every single one of these jumps. I don’t know why she was leaping so high, but she cleared everything by a solid foot. DragonMare was NOT going to touch those rails! It made it a little more difficult to keep my balance, but on the bright side I can’t think 3’6″ would be scary anymore. We’re already jumping 3’6″ over 2’6″ jumps, how different can it be to actually have the rail there?

I was very happy to hear Trainer tell me that she was happy with how I schooled Pretty Girl. She told me that as Addy has gotten fit and as I’m asking for more and more from Addy she’s giving me a more challenging ride, and Trainer is very happy that I’m keeping up and riding actively. Then she added that when we nail a course it’s because I was thinking and making the right decisions. When we were doing crossrails and tiny jumps Addy was very auto-pilot and made all the decisions for us- which is honestly why I started leasing her. But as I’m pushing her buttons she’s giving me more to work with, and it’s getting more difficult to contain all of it. It is seriously So. Much Fun. I would much rather work hard to package and push and play with this girl and do all the fun things we do instead of having a point-and-shoot beginner’s horse. I never think of Addy as a difficult horse to ride since I’m so used to her, so it was really nice to hear Trainer say that she liked how I rode her. I have miles and miles to work on and improve, but it’s so awesome to have an encouraging trainer and the DragonMare to point me on my way!

We didn’t do anything crazy- the jumps weren’t huge and the courses were simple- but it reminded me that a few short months ago I could barely release over a crossrail, and I would’ve never been able to package Addy up for the corners and different stridings. We’re going to continue to work really hard on getting her more sensitive to my leg so we can get those turns, but I’m going to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’re going to train hard and improve and have so much fun doing it!

PS- One of the juniors at the barn took some GORGEOUS pictures on her fancy camera while we were warming up, and I’d love to share. I’m just waiting on the OK from her, so hopefully in the next few days I’ll have a post for you that’s almost exclusively pretty pics of the Beastly Unicorn!

PPS- I also got Addy a fancy new show pad for our trip to Loch Moy on the 16th. I felt really bad that I had treated myself to TS breeches and got her the cheapo $30 fake fleece pad. I snagged the Shire fleecey pad when Dover was having a sale, and was very happy when I used it during our lesson yesterday.

PPPS- Last one I promise. I told Owner Lady that I want a saddle just like hers since it’s so supremely comfortably and fits both me and Addy really well, and she may sell hers to me! It needs some re-stitching, but it would be great if I could snag it! It’s a 17.5″ M. Toulouse and feels like sitting on a cloud with my legs placed just right. I’m in love with it. Now I keep texting her that she deserves to treat herself with a saddle upgrade and does she really want to go through the hassle of consignment when she already has a willing buyer?? Keep your fingers crossed for me!

When have you had a moment where you looked back and realized your progress? What’s been your proudest horsey moment lately?

Wordless Wednesday- Rollback of Death


I should’ve put this in my post yesterday! I’m clearly a little slow. But this is the turn we were trying yesterday: jump in the first one, then tight rollback right to the rail in front of some standards that were in the way (represented by the white X). We fiddled with our track quite a bit, so these arrows really just give the gist of what direction we were generally aiming to go.

How would you have approached this exercise, both pace and track-wise? What skills would you want in your toolbox to tackle this?


Hello Dear Reader!

I promise, I’m back. Going back over every single post from the last 2 weeks seemed a little daunting, so I’m going to do the classy thing and pretend I was never gone. Rest assured that I read them all and felt your pain, joys, and ridiculous moments.

Today’s post is about the sin of pride. And anyone who has ever spent time around horses already knows where I’m going with this because of the whole horses-eat-your-ego-for-breakfast thing. Don’t spoil it for the readers who think horses are magical unicorns that poop rainbows.

Addy and I have been totally on fire lately: having awesome lessons, doing well in shows, rockin’ the new height without blinking, being Awesome with a capital A. I can even get that collected bouncy canter on command now, and my nerves haven’t made me puke yet! I must be a Very Good Rider.

In this case, it wasn’t even Addy that knocked me down a peg. It was that glorious Assistant Trainer of mine. I’m saying glorious through gritted teeth as I massage my thigh muscles and hope they’ll continue to hold me upright for just a little while longer. I’m saying glorious as I look up the maximum dosage info on the Advil bottle. I’m saying glorious as I wonder whether I should move back to the Short Stirrup classes for a while.

Here’s what happened:

I went to the barn for one of my “homework” rides after work yesterday. It was a beautiful hot sunny day, I was pretty tired from it being Monday (do I need another reason??), and Addy has been super chill lately so I figured we would do a quick flat school and leave it at that.

Addy forgot that she’s been chill lately and had a lovely time speed-trotting around the ring while simultaneously peeking at all the Big Scary Rails along the walls that she’s seen literally every day for the last few months. But no big deal, we warmed up walking and trotting around decently despite the ants in her pants. I trust her enough to know that getting a little speedy and looky is about as “bad” as she gets, and I trust my own skills enough to hold me on for whatever she throws at me. I was using a different saddle than normal which made me feel extremely insecure in my leg, but whateva. It was a simple flat hack, I had the strength the hold my leg in place for at least the 30 minutes I was planning on riding. All in all, having a fine time with the DragonMare.

Then we started cantering around, and I began playing with changes of pace- extending and collecting at different places. That’s when AT (Assistant Trainer) looked around as her lesson left the ring, and called out “I want you to hold that outside rein more strongly around the corners.”

And so it began.

Now, we’ve been trying that whole counter-bending thing with great success lately, so I wasn’t surprised to hear this. It really did help Addy straighten out instead of digging through the corners, and our circles were much more balanced. AT then had me canter a very small circle while holding that outside rein strong and HOLY MOLY LEG 4 DAYS. It was lightyears more balanced and controlled than any circle we’ve done, but it took So. Much. Leg. My reins were actually doing what they were supposed to do and acting as straightening aids, and my legs were what moved her around that track. Our goal was to move her shoulders over instead of bending. A.K.A. learning how to do the tight turns that I’ll see in the jumper ring.

“But Olivia,” you chime in innocently, with a gentle twinkle in your eyes, “That all sounds great! What bruised your ego about such a valuable learning experience??”

To which I say, jeez man let me finish, I’m getting there.

AT then looked consideringly at the quarter-line set up and told me to go through it a couple times “so she has a chance to see it.” Um, ok. I could tell she had an idea in her head that went farrrr beyond the quarter-line. We popped through that a couple times in three nice strides with no problems- it was set to 2’6″-2’9″ish so nothing of note there.

Keep in mind that Addy was still full of beans. Still no big deal and very manageable.


AT said to me “Olivia, I want you to jump in the first jump, then roll back right to the rail. Do it in front of these standards, don’t go around.” I made some sort of noise about wtf is this and she made some sort of noise about I didn’t ask for your opinion I told you to do this and then I made some sort of noise that sounded kinda like “ok.”

Attempt 1: Jump in. Hard turn righ-NOPE THAT’S THE WALL WE GOTTA GO LEFT.
Attempt 2: Jump in. Hard turn righ-NOPE THAT’S THE WALL WE GOTTA GO LEFT.
Attempt 3: Jump in. Hard turn righ-NOPE THAT’S THE WALL WE GOTTA GO LEFT.
Attempt 7: Jump in. Hard turn righ-NOPE THAT’S THE WALL WE GOTTA GO LEFT.
Attempt 8: Set up some ground poles as a guide. Approach the jump. WHAT ARE THESE POLES I CANNOT JUMP.

Time to take a break. At this point I was getting extremely anxious and tense, which led to me getting very stiff in the saddle. Poor Addy had absolutely no clue what I was asking her to do, and could feel me getting more and more anxious. So she assumed there was something to be anxious about. Nothing naughty, but there was certainly a fire under her at this point.

AT put the jump down to a crossrail and set up a few more ground poles to guide our track. Told us to very calmly trot in and make the turn that way.

Yeah, nope. We were still so super keyed up and that wasn’t gonna work.

So we took it a step further and put it down to a ground pole. Addy still bunny-hopped over it a couple times and I’m pretty sure I was still holding my breath, but we just went in circles over it until both of us relaxed and realized there was nothing to worry about. We focused on where I was placing her feet and her shoulders at the walk.

And we ended on that good note. Because even though last week our good note was nailing a full 3′ course with rollbacks, yesterday’s good note was steering correctly at the walk over a ground pole. Like I said. The sin of pride.

We have some super intense homework: lateral work. Like, metric crap-tons of lateral work. At the walk. Leg-yields and turns on the forehand to really get her sensitive to my leg and train my leg to ask appropriately. Do that until we have it nailed at the walk. Then we can try it trotting. Eventually we’ll apply that to our jumping and make those tight turns. We need to step back to those basics for a bit so that we can put the building blocks together strongly.

Some homework just for me: breathe in and breathe out. Treat every jump as a schooling opportunity with no pressure. Remember that each new trip through is a new opportunity. Believe that I can do what I set my mind to and commit.

After that physical and mental torture, I think you can all guess what I did. I asked if I could have a private flat lesson sometime soon. I think there’s something wrong with my brain.

Any tips for working on our lateral movements? How do you approach these super tight jumper turns? Any ideas for strengthening my legs? I have lots of requests for your help and opinions this week 🙂