Monday, January 29, 2018

Derek Huget Clinic: Day 1

At her new digs - don't let the blue skies fool you... it was
bitterly cold.
Preparation for the weekend clinic began a week prior - mostly because Annie would remain at Barn C afterwards and begin her training with Trainer K. I started off by gathering and piling things together - first aid stuff, list of extra grains to be picked up, zip-lock bags, saddle pads, riding gear, etc.

Things were put into tupperware bins and labelled/tagged should they grow legs and walk, although I doubted it due to the fact all of mine and Annie's things would remain in the horse trailer at Barn C. Still, part of me was concerned about potential leaks/water accumulation so I tried to keep things contained in bins for the most part.

Saturday morning dawned and I was awake long before my alarm - taking lessons with someone I have never ridden under and on a horse that hasn't been ridden in three months probably wasn't the best for my stress levels, but I managed to make it work to my advantage by getting long before my lesson so I had time to try and relax before slipping into the saddle.

The horse trailer was buried under old, frozen snow and took the better part of 30min to dig out and clear the roof the best I could. From there, I hauled over to the gas station and put air in the tires of the truck and trailer - thankfully it appeared as though the trailer tires (except one) held their air from the last four months and didn't need much tweaking.

Staring out into the abysmal winter.
Thankfully before I drove out to the barn, I realized I had forgotten my board money at home, so turned around, picked it up and jetted out to the horses. The plan was to load hay, load Spud and drop him off at N's place, head back and grab Annie and haul out to Barn C.

Once there, I wrestled with the dutch doors of the trailer, as they were frozen shut. I ended up prying them open with a screwdriver and proceeded to stuff as much hay as I could into the one side of the straight haul (I managed to fit 15 bales, which really surprised me) and loaded all my tack and Annie's belongings (blankets) into the truck. I couldn't open any of the tack room doors, as they were frozen shut and the latches wouldn't let go, even with prying them with a screwdriver. (I hate winter). Once done (and sweating buckets) I loaded Spud in the open side. Annie was upset, but didn't pull anything stupid, which was nice to see. The haul over to N's was a mere two minute drive and I stayed there for a few minutes to make sure he'd be OK with her two horses (Flash and AJ) before hopping back into the truck and heading back to pick up Annie.

Last minute items were packed into the trailer and Annie was slightly hesitant to load, but took no more than a cluck and "In" before she stepped in and quietly waited for me to do the butt bar up. The ride there wasn't anything special - a few areas I had to slow down due to snow patches, but otherwise I was glad the impeding weather storm (scheduled to hit on Sunday) had wavered and gave me enough time to get to the barn. There was a lot of wind tho, which tried it's best to move the truck and trailer across the road, but driving slow and steady I made it to the barn in plenty of time.

Spud, at his new digs. A milisecond after
this photo, he attempted to bite Flash (who is the
herd leader) in the face. Not a good way to make a
first impression, dude!
A quick chat with Trainer K in the barn lounge and I unloaded Annie and put her in her "vacation" home - a spacious paddock with a newly built run in shed and automatic waterer. A young rider's paint gelding shared the side fenceline and the back fence runs along the pasture boarded horse's area - a few of them came to scope out Annie which caused a few squeals and head shakes.

I left Annie to get acquainted with her surroundings after showing her the waterer (which I did several more times because I'm neurotic) and throwing her some hay before going and mixing up her grain bags. Show Buddy D showed up shortly after with her mare, Riott, and stalled her in the adjoining paddock beside Annie.

Finally, it was time to get ready and I pulled Annie out. The wind was pretty fierce and my fingers froze undoing the buckles on her blanket. She was pretty impatient while being tied to the trailer and attempted to dance around to look/stare at the horses in the pasture and people coming/going. I reminded her to stand and after a few reprimands, she managed to stand and contain herself. She did try to swing her butt a few times to stare out, but was much less hurried/anxious and eventually stood with a hind leg cocked. Of course, when I moved away to put my boots and helmet on, the wiggles returned!

Cherry picked video still - what a good lady!
 While the lesson before us was finishing, which ironically enough, was Trainer K on her warmblood gelding, I took my time walking Annie around the arena before climbing aboard. She had a small wiggle at the mounting block, so I sent her backwards and asked again - she stood this time and I got on.

She felt at ease - never spooking or faltering at all the activity and sounds of the wind whipping at the barn's roof. We went through our paces and as I asked her to trot, I instantly felt the difference in her step. She felt so much more floatier and... rhythmic than before. Unfortunately, I also made the painful realization that holy shit this mare needs LEG. And legs I do not have - not right now anyways.

Being out of shape, I knew this lesson was going to be tough for the both of us, but continued my warm up and for the most part, she felt pretty good. I took the opportunity to school the canter to get any kind of sillies sussed out before Derek came back from his lunch break and for Trainer K to view/supervise should we need it.

SUCH a good girl.
 In true Annie fashion, she gave me a head fling and tail wring before popping into the canter and after half a lap, tried to hop into the canter several times/ throwing her haunches sideways and tossing her head. Trainer K gave me instruction as I rode thru it and once we reached a good point, I walked and gave Trainer K the nitty gritty on "This is what she does/ this is her M.O. for cantering" as well as the history we had last year re: swelling in the loins/bad Dressage saddle/resistance to my leg. I was pretty happy Trainer K was in the ring at the time, so she could see exactly where we were coming from and how we both respond.

I continued to warm up and cantered to the left, with a bit more success. As we were finishing, Derek came out and I introduced myself, my horse, our history, as well as talked about my warm up (he was viewing from the lounge window). He was an incredibly soft-spoken and kind man, who assured me I certainly have not ruined the horse and asked me to start off rising trot to the left.

He wasted no time explaining a tactic he wanted to use for the canter response and then started to initiate it. Essentially, he had me use my legs to ask Annie to step out - each time she stepped out and became more forward, I patted her with my inside hand and continued to ask for more until she naturally stepped into the canter. Once in the canter, he instructed me to just sit quiet and wait for her to come back on her own. The idea being to avoid a fight by using the 'canter cue' and just rewarding her for moving forward off my leg - the thought process he was on was that this was a leg pressure response vs a real "canter problem".

As we came down the long side Annie popped into canter and my saddle started to slip to the right. We started to turn and the saddle continued to slip - so much so that I ended up popping off when Annie gave me a "WTF ARE YOU DOING" and dropped her shoulder. I tumbled into the dirt and Annie was off to the races with my saddle beneath her belly.

^ Going... going... annnnd there goes Cathryn.


I hopped up, my chest robbed of air, and attempted to catch my rogue horse beast, who was now, very very scared. Several friends who came to watch jumped into the arena and after six or so laps, we were able to corner her near the letter C and as I held her, a friend unbuckled the saddle and removed it. Part of me wanted to cry, but part of me almost wanted to laugh. I mean, how is that for a start to the year?

Thankfully, Annie only suffered a very minor abrasion to her hind right that stopped bleeding by the time we had resaddled her. I'm thinking that Annie must've sucked up quite a bit with all the activity (because I have NEVER had to tighten my girth THAT much before) and once the lesson was underway...

Derek was super nice and as we re-sacked Annie out (because holy shit, the saddle just tried to kill her), he assured me it happens to the best of us. Annie, was a complete star and didn't pull any punches and as I threw her on the lunge (just to make sure the banging stirrups wouldn't cause panic) she went around like nothing had even happened.

I remounted with Derek holding the reins (I'm sure he was more nervous than I was haha), and we went back to our regularly scheduled lesson.

I'm happy to report that after the fall, we had a really really good lesson.

Mare was happy to get back to work and we had some SPECTACULAR trot work. For a horse that has only been undersaddle for a year (with an ammy as her primary rider/trainer) and out of work for four months, she tried so damn hard.

She was quite behind the leg and required a lot of support from me, but I almost didn't even care. Mare is unfit and still showed up to work and gave me some really nice moments. Derek was kind to point out my love affair with the inside rein, so we made a conscious effort to get reacquainted with the outside rein again, which proved to bring much success in lowering her poll and getting her connected with both of my reins.

A few times, I could feel real connection in both reins and it made me giddy - only to have me lose it a few steps later, haha. But the glimpses of our future were there, which was super cool for me, esp since we've been out of work for a long time. To have these successes so early in the year makes me so excited for the year to come!!

^ You can see as I ask for "more" there is some resistance there.
Not much, but it's there.

I gleaned a lot from Day 1, and to summarize some of the points:

  • Outside rein lowers the poll. Lowering her poll will help build up her back and make her stronger for the canter.
  • The canter is hard for her because she is weak. Don't worry about the leads right now, you just want to establish a forward response.
  • She is quite a forgiving mare, isn't she? (re: saddle malfunction).
  • The trot work she is giving you is LOVELY.
  • When she leaves the track or is wiggly down centerline, use your outside rein to keep her straight. If she's wiggling, it's because you have lost that outside rein support.
  • Sometimes you need to argue things out, but sometimes it's better to break things down into an easier question and build up from there.
  • You want her moving forward off your aids - when you ask her to move out, she needs to respond.
  • Be like a jockey for the canters. Just be along for the ride and let her go along.

^ Note the loose outside rein. This is both mine and Annie's
weaker side. You can see where she leaves the track because
I didn't have enough outside rein support.

The tactic he used for our canter transitions gave me a much less fussy horse and gave her a better understanding of my leg. He noted that our trot work lacked energy at some points, but was quick to forgive due to both horse and rider lack of fitness.

We didn't do a lot of crazy figures or hard questions - mostly just re-establishing the tempo, response from my aids, my position, bend, and chipping away at that canter. The fact we had so many good moments tho, so many moments that were lightyears ahead of where we were last year made me really happy.

^ Working on moving forward off the leg and going into canter.
You can see how weak she is on the correct lead.

The fall kinda knocked the wind out of my sails, mostly because omg how embarrasing, lol, but... I was proud of Annie - she went into this clinic and showed up. There are lots of things to work on, but that's exactly why we were there.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Planning Mode

Things have been quiet on the Annie front - a wild accumulation of ice rain and snow has forced us to be land-locked for the better part of two weeks. Still, we've still done ground work and even managed to get a little ride in, wherein I was super pleased with my bean who hacked out alone (and bareback) on a snowy road for the first time in two weeks! A small discussion re: standing at the mounting block and off we went - brakes included!

The very best little bean <3
Since my time has been largely devoted to ground work (or nothing at all), I ended up booking myself into a Dressage clinic this weekend with an instructor I have never ridden with before. I also don't own a Dressage saddle anymore. Or, yanno, have ridden my horse in any real capacity since November.

But no time like the present.

The clinic is two days long and then Trainer K takes over the proverbial reins and for an entire month. Updates will be plentiful though, as I anticipate to still be riding the horse every week or so. But still, the idea of handing my horse over is always troubling and worrisome - because if I can't give myself ulcers about Adult Things That Matter, it's that my horse will be a whole 50min away. I know they will take good care of her and under Trainer K's guidance, she'll do just fine. Still, it's a lot like sending your kiddo to Kindergarten. Tears will be shed when I leave her behind, I am sure. #softy

Ground-tying while I scoop manure.
Anyways... since we have yet again received a dump of snow and ice, I've been relegated to planning mode. Winter/ Snow day $$ spending is suspended this year, so planning for the events to come has kept me busy!  Unfortunately, I don't have any dates for shows for Spud, as the BC Driving committee doesn't post anything until early March. Since speaking to one of the committee members, the finalized prize lists are supposed to be making their way into people's inboxes within the next few weeks.

I tried to include lessons where I figured they would happen, but it kinda is a situation I need to plan month to month vs having set dates figured out in advance. Trainer K comes up several times a month, so there are multiple opportunities to get myself and Annie into the ring. Pending how training goes, there may be an option where Annie can get herself in the ring with a Pony Club kid during their "camps" should someone need an extra horse and I can't ride due to work or whatever. There is also a "ladies camp" that Trainer K puts on a few times a year at her home barn (5hrs away) that I am contemplating twisting Show Buddy's arm about. But, that's just kicking around in my brain - actual results may vary!

Quite happy with how she looks, given the fact she's been out of
work since November. That damn herring gut is gonna
be the death of me tho. #begone
The schedule itself will get a lot of tweaking and changes, as I do know another Dressage trainer is going to be coming up bimonthly, but the dates again haven't been set definitively so we'll sit back and watch and wait. The name of the game this year is education and it looks like there are ripe opportunities for us to pounce on!

The "legend" will be as follows:
FUN EVENTS (Percentage Days, Clear Rounds, Gymkhanas, etc). 

Derek Clinic (Dressage)
Jan 27/28
Annie Training
Jan 27-Feb 27
Karen Lesson
Feb 4
Karen Lesson
Feb 18
Karen Lesson
Feb 25
Karen Lesson
Feb 27
Anthony Lothian Clinic
Apr 13-15
Dressage Show
Apr 21
Percentage Day/ Clear Rounds
Apr 28
Apr 29
Pony Club Horse Show
May 5/6
Percentage Day/ Clear Rounds
May 12
May 13
Anthony Lothian Clinic
May 25-27
Percentage Day/ Clear Rounds
June 16
June 17
Anthony Lothian Clinic
June 22-24
Timberland Horse Show
July 13-15
Percentage Day/ Clear Rounds
July 28
July 29
Three Breed Horse Show
Aug 4/5
BVX Horse Show
Aug 23 - 26
SVFF 4H Horse Show
Sept 8
Percentage Day/ Clear Rounds
Sept 9
Annual Percent Day/ Clear Rounds
Sept 22
Annual Gymkhana
Sept 23
Anthony Lothian Clinic
Oct 6-8
Another dump of snow the other night. Ugh.
So far all within reasonable driving distance and do-able, pending work scheduling and finances (as always). Trainer K is probably the most flexible in terms of lessoning, simply because she has multiple ride times and dates available vs set clinic dates. We'll work thru it all tho and do what we can to continue to build up the pieces. The list is all but complete, as I know several clinics are in the works and haven't been made public knowledge yet!

I'm excited for the year to officially start and lessons to get under way - we have much to learn!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Just a Number

I've been thinking a lot lately about how very different riding has become for me since I brought Annie into my life. It's not like I've had to make a discipline switch or completely alter my riding style to fit my mare - it's more in regards to my way of thinking and how I approach certain issues or scenarios. I've been an equestrian for just over 15 years - 10 of which were spent on the backs of lease horses or catch rides with the intense guidance of a coach or mentor.

The last several years I started to edge out on my own, not necessarily because I wanted to, but because amenities in the area (ie coaching) became sparse and girls I had grown up riding with moved away and horses became retired. When I restarted Geronimo, a PMU gelding who had been sitting for several years, I was fortunate enough to have the guidance I needed in the beginning of our relationship. And once we were able to fit the pieces together, I tackled the remaining questions solo style.
This horse... was challenging to restart but I loved him in the end.

Restarting a horse who's sat is a very different from a 30 day "just broke" baby, though. Although, Geronimo certainly displayed more... erm... inclination for the sky than keeping all four hooves firmly planted on the soil below him. Bust still, all the training was there - the jet-fueled gallops and bucking were merely excess energy and... his temperament, haha.

Riding a green horse was... eye-opening. Not that Annie has been a naughty baby - because you guys, she has been such a pleasure to bring along. Still, the whole process can certainly make a person feel like a novice rider. But then again, it doesn't really take a doctorate to bring a young horse along (but maybe like, a few chants and a sacrificial goat offering to the Baby Horse Gods?).

Maybe if we close our eyes tight enough and pray hard enough this Dressage
test won't be a disaster lol.
All joking aside, it's been really interesting territory to dip my feet into. I feel like I've grown as a rider, as well as am more attuned to my horses and their needs in relation to their training. Of course, I was able to have some kind of experience with a young green horse when I brought Spud home and continued his driving training. But the whole aspect of driving vs riding is quite different (and let's not forget what a giant asshole Spud was).

Throughout 2017 I tried to be the best rider I could be for my horse - being meticulous in my asks and attempting to navigate this whole Bringing Up Greenie thing without much direction or interjection. We had some major successes and celebrations over the months (especially when I was able to canter a haphazard 20m circle for the first time EVER). But, as most riders know, we can be our own worst enemy. It's not to say I didn't have fun, because this was the most I have probably ridden in a very long time, what with Suzie's lameness issues and always looking for catch rides when I didn't have a horse of my own. Throughout 2017 Annie has been there, patiently waiting at the gate and ready to ride and it's been such a wonderful feeling.

It took me two years to get the courage to show Suzie at the
BVX - I tried to do the same with Annie, but fate wouldn't let me.
I did, however, have very high expectations for my mare and in some ways, it came back to bite me in the ass. A lot of the mistakes I made with Annie were primarily personal decisions - ones that I am "over" and dismiss as learning lessons. Some of them, however, were results of listening to public opinion (like our first show), and this resulted in putting myself and Annie in a Not So Good Place.

But, learning lessons and all that. 

And Annie certainly isn't worse for wear - the PTSD baggage I carry is mine and mine alone!

With the downtime Winter brings, I've been slowly able to piece together why I had such a nagging feeling of being behind the curve. I had always kind of known it, but never really admitted it to myself. 

It all boils down to age. 

Even with a sore back she's a pretty good little bean.
Annie is coming 6 this year and being the epitome of self-conscious (oh no, someone is JUDGING US ANNIE), I continuously and consciously compared myself to riders and their horses - specifically those in the same age range.

It's not only unproductive to think this way, but it is also pretty silly.

I mean, we are all on a different journey with our horses. And before anything like age comes into any kind of relevance, we have to ask ourselves some questions about the horse's previous training, living situations, and even their temperament.

So, for Annie, it may mean she is a five year old Appendix on paper, but it doesn't really give a good look into who she is or what her experience with the world is.

Can't wait to get back to this and do more jumping this year!!
Let's back up a bit here.

I purchased Annie from a woman who owns a bit of a "project horse" resale barn. She's rescued horses in the past, put time on them, and sold them to good homes. While I've never met the woman, I've heard good things about her from people who have met her and been on her property. While Annie was not a rescue, she did come from a friend of the woman's boyfriend.

Annie was supposedly born into a large ranch and from there, was purchased by a someone who wanted to keep one of his young TB's company. Fast forward to December 2016, she was brought to this woman's facility (as this gentlemen was a friend of theirs) to be broke and find a new home afterwards. When she was listed in early January 2017, she had been started 30 days prior by the woman's boyfriend (who I assume was western because holy cow mare had a pretty hard stop on her) and had only been ridden in the facility she was at.

An ad-photo Annie <3

So let me break that down.

The horse had (what I assume) minimal handling and exposure from the time she was a young foal until her late 4 year old year. She took to being a riding animal pretty easily, as evidenced by her demeanor in the sales videos. She learned the ways of being at a boarding barn and became familiar with the routine and things like the inside arena.

And then, I bought her and had her hauled 16 hours to the cold and snowy north.

Suddenly, she was living out 24/7 and hacking on icy roadways. She was being trailered to all these new and weird places with a person she didn't really know. She went to a few lessons, hacked out alone, ponied Spud, was ridden bareback, crossed streams rivers, was hot shod for the first time in her life, ridden in a halter, jumped, taken to a few shows and fun days, been to overnight shows...

And she's been a rockstar.

Looks like a Rockstar to me!
Yah, we've had some issues. Yah, she's still got a ways to go. And yah, she's physically five (soon to be six!).

But that doesn't mean anything. And for the first time in a long time, I don't care.

I'm proud of my mare. And I'm proud of me.

Mostly proud of Annie, tho haha. The path has been a winding road and I am truly grateful for the learning opportunities this sweet mare has presented me with. Baby horses can be frustrating, but the rewards reaped are just so much sweeter.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

2018 Goals

Ah, finally.

Part of me was mulling over what I wanted to accomplish, and the other part was nagging that some things may be out of our scope. Regardless, aside from staying healthy and sound, most of my goals (with Annie in particular) are just about furthering the horse's education and continuing her role as an ammy mount. Oh, and having fun while doing it ;)

I'm taking the Lessons Learned from 2017 and applying them here. The number one learning lesson being that knowledge is power and by that I mean more lessons!! Last year with having such a hectic work schedule, I wasn't able to make it to half of the clinics in the area. This year, I am determined to triple my lesson amount from 2017 (I literally took 5 lessons all year).

There are some things I haven't written down that I'm just keeping tabs on as the year goes by - soundness and health are in that category as well as ensuring her weight stays in check and she routinely sees a chiropractor and saddle fitter (now that we have one!).

2018 Goals 

  • Attend as many clinics/lessons as I can. Knowledge is power!  My "happy number" is anywhere from 10-15 lessons. 
  • In addition to clinics, attend as many "fun" days as I can. This means clear rounds, percentage days, gymkhanas, etc. Purely for exposure and as a low pressure segway into shows.
  • Solidify the basics - walk/ trot/ canter (leads), back up, TOH, TOF. Start to get more reliability in true extensions, shoulder in and haunches in.
  • Compete in 2-3 shows; I'd like to see where we stand after Annie's training in February, but my tentative plans are to continue with Walk/Trot divisions for our first show and then move up and close out the year with Training level (tentative First Level stretch goal here pending our progress!). For flat classes - pretty much the same thing. Start walk/trot and then go into a few with canter to get her used to it. And for the jumping - continuing with 18"-2' and ideally close out the year with 2'3"-2'6" hunter classes. 
  • Trail ride more - in a group and solo. I'd like to take her down a bunch of the old logging roads and haul out to the local ski-trails. There is also a Mountain Horse course 3hrs away I'd love to play around on!
  • Purchase Dressage saddle and pay off before end of the year.

  • Compete at 1 CDE/FDT at 1st level.
  • Compete at BVX and go for high point.
  • Continue to work towards a free walk and collection.
  • Work on pivots while hitched.

  • Complete CHSEP certificate program.
  • Eradicate CC debt.
  • Spending freeze on horsey things I do not need (like bridles, bits, etc). The only passable items are a set of jumping boots, a white show pad and the dressage saddle. That's it!
  • Continue to plug away at property - slowly but surely!

This year, a lot of my goals are open-ended. It's all about making Annie more broke and more confirmed in what we've been working on. The canter lead issue is something I want to completely eradicate this year, and I have high hopes that her time in training and time spent in lessons will be valuable in solving that. Once we close out February with Trainer K, I'll have more of an idea as to what direction I need to take in regards to schooling and such, which will give me a great head-start to the year.

Of course, we cannot leave out Spud tho. Since my goal to compete him last year didn't exactly come to fruition, I am hoping to make it happen this year. He knows the drill and could do very well in a CDE environment - I just need to have the extra $$ and time to get him to the events.

So there you have it - my 2018 goals and aspirations. Nothing completely shocking or coming out of left field, but tentative plans nonetheless. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

One Year of Annie

Although I signed the papers a few days earlier, I met Annie officially on January 11th, 2017. After two 6+ hour trailer rides, I finally met my newest addition to the herd and hopeful long-term partner. With Suzie being fully retired to the life of luxury, I had made the tentative goal in 2017 to find a riding horse. And not even four days into the New Year, I had signed the paperwork and arranged transportation for a certain rabicano mare to come home.

The journey with Annie has been a huge learning curve. Growing up, I have ridden my share of catch rides, but never seemed to end up on anything young and green. The closest comparison would be older horses who had been out of work for years who I brought back into a regular riding program. To take a dive into something with 30 days training (and only "confirmed" walk/trot) seemed like a huge risk and on more than one occasion, I questioned my own sanity.

Despite it all though, I'm finally beginning to get the hang of this whole "bringing up greenie". Sure, I've made a lot of mistakes, but in more ways than one I've grown as a horse-person and feel as though what I've learned through Annie are valuable lessons that needed to be taught.

Over the period of 365 days we've tackled so many different things and have had major successes, as well as some unfortunate pitfalls. But like any riding horse, it's just the natural progression of things. With what little direction we've had, I am quite pleased with the progress we've made and the things we have accomplished.

I hope you enjoy a look into our first year:

Ready for our first ride!

The canter has been... an adventure.

^ Our first schooling session at Copperside. My second WTC ride on her.
Our canter transition was.... non-existent lol.

Hacking out like a big girl in February 2017

^ Annie's first "course", haha. We had no steering, rhythm... or sense of direction lol.

Post-trailer incident
It knocked the wind out of my sails for a bit, but the redemption was so good

After a schooling session in April 2017.

^ I was quite proud I could hack her to the arena (which is
a 20min walk from where my horses are boarded) by herself
and work her without having to worry she would be nervous.

May 2017
She looks so gangly and awkward!

Hacking out with friends, and dogs in April.

^ Schooling clip from May 2017.

 ^ Our first "event" at the TSC fairgrounds where we dabbled in some Walk/Trot

Mountain Trail Course - June 2017

Our second Karen lesson - things started out discombobulated.
July 2017

But I learned we could work on "difficult" concepts like "extensions" without
worrying about breaking the horse.

We worked hard on that right lead issue with good results.

By the end of the three lessons I took that weekend, we were working
together pretty great.

In July 2017 I became excited for how things would further progress.

We did another Percentage Days - this time TL, with mixed success.

We came into our first show in July confident.

But our canter leads broke.
We managed to finish the three tests, and even left the dressage court prematurely lol.

^ Redemption came in the form of the Hunter ring where Annie laid
down some really nice and quiet classes despite our short-comings the day before.

W/T Dressage at the BVX in August.
Annie was tense and nervous, but was super rideable!

A job well done.

W/T Flat classes at the BVX in August.

^ One of our two W/T tests.

We came away with some satin, too.
^ We had some fun "galloping" down the dirt road
in September 2017.

^ Anthony Lothian clinic at the beginning of October
to get more guided instruction re: Annie's canter resistance.

^ Cantering at the Anthony Lothian clinic in October.
Lots of resistance due to some back pain, but happy with
how much more balanced and harmonic she had gotten by that point.

Still a bit of a discombobulated canter, but better!

Hacking out in November 2017

Practicing our bareback and mounting skills in November lol
December 2017 with my ponies.

Top: Her ad photo - January 2017
Bottom: January 2018
Our first year together has taught me so many valuable lessons in owning a green horse. Some most of these lessons I learned the hard way, but I am so glad Annie has always shown up to work, never once taking things out of spite. 

Some things I have learned (not necessarily in order of importance):

1. Always, ALWAYS, do up the butt bar and close the doors of a straight load before tying your horse (ask me how I know).
2. Sometimes you need to forgo the pats and treats and have a little Come To Jesus meeting.
3. Be patient - even when you don't want to be.
4. Training and riding a green horse is a lot like the tango - two steps forwards, three steps back. Don't be discouraged by the little things.
5. Set your horse up for success, esp in situations where you know emotions will be high (ie. shows).
6. Lessons (from a trainer you understand and mesh with) are so very valuable. 
7. There is pride in "doing it yourself", but there is more pride in knowing when to reach out for guidance.
8. Trust your horse - they are a reflection of their rider and mirror a lot of what we do in the saddle.
9. Do not envy other riders or other people's journeys. This journey is just for you and your horse.
10. One day from now, you will look back with pride as to how far you two have come.

Our story is still unfolding and I am still learning. I am proud of how far we've come and am excited to see how things continue to develop and how our partnership expands and grows. With a better understanding of eachother and tack that actually fits (#stillfeelliketheworsthorsemomever, #fuckyoudressagesaddlethatiloved #butdidntfitin #andneitherdidannie) we are looking at a very bright future.

Thank you for being such a good lady, Annie. Here's to another year of adventures and growing!